Because why the heck not. I mean, just look at that photo…
I showed up to my new home by the water’s edge in a tropical rainforest just before sunset. Amidst chattering birds and fluttering butterflies, Nancy ran out to greet me, “Hey! Whoa, I can’t believe how much stuff you still have… I can’t help you unpack, I’m too busy with work.” She ran back inside. I began the tedious task of unpacking a car stuffed with loose items.
One by one I stacked my things in my arms and carried them inside.
I felt a burning need to get everything out of the car. In Costa Rica, it’s just dumb to leave stuff in your car overnight and expect it to be there the next day. I didn’t know then that there wasn’t any traffic by our house. We were living in the middle of nowhere, on the edge of the world.
“I can’t believe I’m hauling this crap around… but what if I need it later. Ugh don’t be so hard on yourself, it’s only one car full of stuff, but where am I going to put it??” I worry to myself as I swat a mosquito away from my face and wipe sweat from my brow.
I pulled out spatulas, hangers, almost-empty shampoo bottles. I carried it all inside to my room and stacked it on the floor.
The room had a double-sized bed with a cheap foam mattress and scratchy sheets, a wobbly bedside table, and a flickering dolphin lamp that served more as an art piece than a source of light. It had no closet or furniture beyond that. I had no furniture, either. My dogs did, though – they had beds.
The beach house was a sprawling hot box. Imagine a big dark barn, but it’s enclosed in mostly plastic construction materials with just one floor. It had one wall-mounted air conditioning unit near the top of the 20-foot ceiling that only teased us with the idea of cool air, but raised the electricity bill like it actually worked. It had 2 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, a gigantic living room with uncomfortable 90-degree angled wooden furniture, an office/sauna, and a stark kitchen with a fridge that didn’t close all the way.
My new home lacked feng shui. When Nancy and I were looking for a place, our priority was air conditioning and internet. We didn’t ask if the air conditioning worked well or what was the speed of the internet. We didn’t realize that on the beach in Costa Rica, a nice breeze was more important.
This didn’t get us down, though. It was a quick walk to the edge of the water in one of the most beautiful places in the world – Marino Ballena National Park, aka The Whale’s Tail.
We shared the coast with cows, crocodiles, monkeys, and the occasional fisherman. We sat on the porch with our bird books and identified new birds everyday. The dogs were free to roam. Well, most of them. Grandma Mocha didn’t want to go on walks. The vet said she was OK, really old, but OK.
From one beach to another
While I was living in Uvita, I got a message from a friend in another small coastal town “hey Erin. We’re having a pigtails and mustache party this weekend, would you like to come?” Despite not knowing what that was and being eight hours away, I accepted the invitation. Seize the moment. Go with the flow.
I took a tiny speed boat taxi alongside turtles and dolphins across the Gulf of Nicoya to Montezuma. After a scorching yellow school bus ride to the crossroads of Santa Teresa and a walk down the poop-smelling dusty main road, I got an ATV ride from my good friend Crystal to the most magical house I’ve ever stayed in.
“I told you words didn’t do it justice,” said Crystal, as she led me through a wooden door falling off its hinges. The whole house was artfully constructed from a gorgeous oily dark brown wood in various stages of disrepair and termite consumption. It was like stepping onto a shipwreck. A hippie pirate shipwreck.
Art covered the walls, seashells lined the beds in the gardens, and dream catchers spun in the breeze. A spiral staircase supported by tree trunks led up to a well-stocked library and yoga deck that overlooked the beach. Everyone had their own spacious round bedroom with tall hexagonal gazebo style roofs and cool salty ocean breezes.
The front of the house was open to the ocean and a small tropical garden. A river ran alongside the property. Beside it, there was a stone path leading under oversized jungle palms and hibiscus flowers to the beach just 10 meters away.
“Watch your head,” came a voice from behind. “This is a dangerous zone here – the coconuts fall quite frequently and you wouldn’t survive a hit to the head.” I sped up and seconds later heard a crack like a cannon. I glanced back to see a fallen coconut rolling off the path, split wide open.
The condemned house had plenty of opportunities for injuries – from loose or missing floor boards, to falling coconuts, to scorpions, to tree roots called pichotes that grew spikes and speared feet.
Despite all that, I managed to avoid injury until I was walking out the door on my way home to Uvita.
“OH SHIT!” I exclaimed as the 90-pound dog, Diablo, ran around my ankle in a circle. The rope he was tethered to tightened, cinching my ankle. I threw my weight on the back of the wild Mexican mutt, thinking only “I have to stop him before the rope cuts my leg!”
His dad put him in a chokehold, saving me from a bite as I unwound the rope and revealed a raw ankle. I assessed it wasn’t serious and hustled to the bus.
The rope burn on my ankle was spotted with blood, covered in dirt, and I waded it through two filthy oceans getting on and off the water taxi. I didn’t think to clean it, though, before passing out after my long travel day.
“Nancy!” I screamed after waking up the next morning to a watermelon where my ankle used to be.
“What is that?!” she yelled when she saw my ankle. There was a gaping hole. I could see the white tissue inside my ankle.
“I think I need to go to the doctor, like now,” I replied. Nancy helped me to the town doctor, who also happened to be the town rock star.
“You have a nasty staph infection. Lay down on your stomach and pull your pants down,” he commanded, colorful tattoos peeking out from under his short-sleeved doctor’s coat.
I got enough shots in my butt to make it painful to sit, plus several weeks worth of antibiotic pills, cleansers, and follow-up appointments. There was no other alternative, and while the antibiotics were saving my ankle, they were killing my gut.
A couple months later, it was time to leave Uvita. I had already pleaded with Nancy to extend our stay there an extra month. Time was up.
“Do I really want to go back to the US? Am I sabotaging my move?” I wondered as I shoved coffee mugs, pot holders, and old ill-fitting clothes into the nooks and crannies of my car. I wanted to leave it all behind.
During my time at the beach, I didn’t sell anything like I needed to. I had the car advertised for sale, but refused all offers thinking they were below low. I continued shoving things into the car, I felt like I had a duty to haul it all.
Driving back to the Central Valley, I looked over at my pups. Mali the Chihua-mutt was grinning up at me, happy to just be by my side. Mocha, however, didn’t look so good. She looked tired, too tired. She looked like I felt, done. I was too wrapped up in my own indecisions to notice that Mocha was trying to tell me something. After Uvita, I didn’t have a plan past staying with my friend Tiger for a few days. What was I going to do with a car and a car full of stuff? And two dogs?! When was I going to go back to the US? Why couldn’t I just get rid of everything? No one’s going to buy a used pot holder, come on.