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pura vida

2013 March 14
by Rachel Turiel

We’re back in the Northern Hemisphere, in winter, in the 1st world, where children don’t ride bikes home from school on the highway shoulder, helmet- and adult-less. Also, where you don’t need a flashlight walking barefoot to the bathroom at night on account of the scorpions. And where fresh local fruit is no longer an explosion of tropical fireworks, but a scrabbly apple from the root cellar.

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We talk a lot in the writing classes I teach about finding different, more interesting ways to say something ordinary, but sometimes being direct works too, as in: it rained a lot, in the rainforest.

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First, you hear it, the rain tapping out a little rhythm on the leaves skyscraping above, one of which could serve as a shade for your entire truck windshield. And then water spills from the leaves, the skies, squeezing out from the very cells of everything green.

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Rio Tortuguero; there may be a brontosaurus hiding in there; smudginess due to authentic Costa Rican rain!

If you’re from a place that illustrates the word arid, this moisture—these dense inner cities of fertility—will blow the lid off your mind. Where my mind once contained prayers for snow and pinyon trees squatting on shaley hills there are now: singing toucans, leaf-gorging howler monkeys, and a new, fast friendship with a rain poncho.

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Baba and Col.costa rica5

Empty sea turtle egg – one of many after hatch out on beach.

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Atlantic coast.

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As Dan said, on one of our jungly walks, “no tree is a tree unto itself.” Ephiphytes (plants who attach to other plants, or even telephone wires, but whose roots dangle, drinking nutrients and water via air) cling like koalas to tree trunks; vines literally sink their tendrily teeth into the soft bark of trees; moss and fungi run unfettered across everything that isn’t moving.

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Pacific coast. All sun and blue skies here.

We were on a 10-day eco-tour, complete with enormous tour bus, intrepid and cheery senior citizens, and native tour guide who, in his swoonable accent made it sound exotic that because much of Costa Rica doesn’t have the septic system we’re used to, we may have to occasionally pee behind a “boosh.” He also told us not to smile at the animals, which may be seen as aggressive, to which Col replied: “but I can’t help smiling at animals,” which is reason #539 why I love him so.

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Newborn howler monkey on mama’s back.

Aside from pineapples and iguanas, Col and Rose were a huge attraction, being the only tour-goers (beside me and Dan) under 50. On our first day, Col reported that “an old girl” patted him on the head and called him “skittle bug,” which seemed like a good sign.

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The kid just found this shell lying around the tide pools.

Despite the fact that there wasn’t much room for individual preferences, coupled with long bus rides, and the fact that as vacations go, Rose regards hotel bed-jumping infinitely higher than bird-watching, the kids did so well. (The long bus rides were actually a great way to see so much of the country, which as far as I can tell contains: jungle, pineapple/banana/coffee/papaya plantations, narrow roads, roaming dogs, and very small, well-kept stucco houses. Not a big box store anywhere, even in the big city of San Jose).

On one rainy boat ride on the Rio Tortuguero, all of all binocularing on a ringed kingfisher, Rose announced, after an uncharacteristic and thoughtful silence, “at a birthday party, everyone does something. The guests bring the presents and the hosts make the cake!” Which is to say, she did just fine amidst all the hoopla over boat-billed herons and such.

And it’s worth mentioning that Rose did develop a certain fondness for the roseate spoonbills, not the least of reasons being that they’re pink, and we called them “Rosie spoonbills.”

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My parents made everything easier: firmly grabbing an ankle when Col stood up on the boat ride cutting through crocodile-rich waters; playing mind-numbing rounds of tic-tac-toe with the kids on the long bus rides; and being so happy about the kids’ happiness.

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And now, we’re home, where I turned on my computer for the first time in 12 days to find 388 e-mails (seriously; also, apologies to everyone reading a gazillion “auto-reply” responses on FB threads in which I was tagged). Dan braved his e-mail last night, announcing after a 3-second scan,”nothing from work,” before shrugging and turning the machine off.

Home is all of the clichés you can think of. We are so glad to have gone, and so glad to be back.

This morning, Dan got dressed for work, announcing, “I’m excited to go back to work.” When I asked, “what are you excited about?” he replied, “coming home from work.”




PS: Dan and I both read a fantastic book on vacation. Born to Run by Christopher McDougall. It’s about running as an evolutionarily human expression (which feels as human to me, as say, slurping up water through my enormous trunk), the Tarahumara Indians (who run insane distances in sandals while smiling and munching on dried corn), and nutty endurance races like the Leadville 100. It’s a fast, interesting read. I also read this, which was quick and lovely in a fictiony type way.

PPS: If you have any questions from my “comments closed” posts, family meetings, etc…, feel free to leave them here.

20 Responses leave one →
  1. Dawn Suzette permalink
    March 14, 2013

    Your vacation looks like it was amazing. I really enjoyed reading through the posts you left while you were gone. Amanda, habit of being, sent me your blog link when I told her we were moving to your neck of the woods.
    Looking forward to reading more.

  2. March 14, 2013

    Wow, these are amazing photos. Trying to figure out if I remember your mom, but she looks like a lot of funky, awesome Berkeley Jewish women, my mom included, who I grew up around. Anyway, thanks for sharing your thoughts and your trip.

  3. March 14, 2013

    Welcome home. Looks like a great trip. And your posts while you were on vacation were fabulous as always.

  4. Rannveig permalink
    March 14, 2013

    Wow that sounds like one great holiday! I am a relatively new reader to your blog and I have to say that I really love reading your posts!

    I have my self read Born to run and it changed how I think of running and me and my brother now run (during the sommer) barefoot :)

    Look forward to read more on your blog!

  5. March 14, 2013

    Yay! Your back and I loved a little peek into what is a dream vacation in my opinion!

  6. Andrea permalink
    March 14, 2013

    Glad you went, glad you are back.

  7. March 14, 2013

    Wow, it looks like an amazing trip. Welcome back!

  8. Chi-An permalink
    March 14, 2013

    What a fantastic trip! I’ve always wanted to go to Costa Rica, all of our family are amateur zoologists. “I can’t help smiling at animals”, indeed- sounds like what my kids would say. And, I totally appreciate your posting blogs while you were gone- I didn’t have time to miss you! I kept wondering when this 2 week vacation was going to start, I didn’t clue in that you weren’t posting those “live”. xoxo

  9. March 14, 2013

    that pic of col, with the shell – breath taking. love those children.

  10. Jane permalink
    March 14, 2013

    Loved loved loved Language of Flowers…(a bit predictable, but fun to have a Bay Area fiction experience)

  11. March 14, 2013

    Oh! Costa Rica! We lived there 5 months last winter and loved it sooo much! We are currently traveling accross the States in our trailer for a year (we are digital nomads, but Canadians). We hope to go back to Costa Rica in the next couple of years. We did not make it to Tortughero though, we loved it so in our little house along the wild Pacific coast…

  12. March 15, 2013

    Yay! Welcome home. x

  13. March 15, 2013

    Love the “old girl” comment – truly saying something ordinary in an interesting way!

  14. March 15, 2013

    okay, Costa Rica is now on my list of places I’d like to go.

  15. Melissa permalink
    March 15, 2013

    Welcome back! So glad you enjoyed the trip–I know, those organized tours are funny, aren’t they? Leeor and I did one when we went to Africa (sans kids, of course, those salad days!), and shared a bus with lots of people who were not on their honeymoon, like us. Good stuff! xo

  16. March 15, 2013

    ahhhhh sea turtle eggs!!!!! omg!!!!!!!!!!!

  17. Emmanuelle permalink
    March 15, 2013

    Welcome home :o)

    I love this picture where the sea meets the sky in a common glow, and where feral children run wild and make small yeti prints in the black sand.

    Maybe one day Col will return there as a naturalist – artist :o)

  18. March 19, 2013

    Wow, just spectacular ! What a wonderful experience to share with your children and parents and husband all at the same time! I always enjoy your wonderful way with words and fun tidbits. The Language of Flowers looks intriguing, I’ll have to look that up. Blessings to you all.

  19. January 1, 2019

    check out natural born heroes by chris mcdougall – great, great book.

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