Hasta Luego


A short story by Lacy Turner
(This article appeared in a little paper the Peace Corps puts out in Golfito, Costa Rica)

Rancho Cabin

Without my first sip of morning coffee the creature buzzing my ear appeared to be a tiny flying chipmunk. Or was I dreaming about Oregon? In Costa Rica I mostly dream about giant house plants. There are a few poised to eat my cabin at this moment. A hit of caffeine and a bird book later, I think my new visitor must be a Little Hermit hummingbird. I am no birder, but my daily discoveries at Cabinas Los Cocos excite me as much as a resplendent Quetzel landing on my bedpost. This morning’s sighting is particularly satisfying, because it’s my last day on Zancudo beach -- one more day starting with sun and a sea like glass. Late afternoon a storm will enter the Golfo Dulce and turn pink with the sunset. At dusk I’ve been caught on Zancudo Point in the rain. I am not embarrassed to be another crazy gringa marching and flapping her arms for exercise.

February of 1995 I spent a week at Rainbow Adventures and fell in love with the Golfo Dulce. A friend at Rainbow suggested I ditch my high pressure city job for a sabbatical. He even knew the perfect cabin for me to rent. My instructions were to contact Susan and Andrew at Cabinas Los Cocos, and stay for at least a month. On October 16, 1996, still pinching myself that I actually did this, I walked into my adorable ranchito (Lizzie, my Spanish teacher, says a ranchito is any structure with a thatch roof). My idea was to actually read the serious, philosophical books that I only dust in Portland, walk on the beach, and find myself. Two months sounded like more than enough time. (A note for those planning a similar sabbatical: Add an extra month for staring at the ocean.)

Zancudo has turned me into a morning person. I am under the mosquito netting at 9, up before the sun at 5:30. My chair is set out to get the first shaft of sunlight on the porch. A rosy stroke of watercolor usually floats over the Osa Peninsula as I prepare for visitors. The Mourning Doves are regulars, and a warbler that may have traveled from Portland. A White Hawk chased little shorebirds this week. My eyes sort through the new flowers. The oranges and reds stand up and shout in the early morning. My rule is to sit until the sun takes the brightness from the Red Blooming Ginger. Around this time Dona Gladys comes by and maneuvers me into buying the last of her last tortillas. God, I want to stay here forever!

This was not the case mid-October when it rained for a solid week. I slept on clammy sheets in a damp nightgown. My writing pads had the consistency of uncooked tortillas, maps disintegrated at the folds, and and my stuffed dog Tom glared at me accusingly. He reeked of mold. Someone told me it was the wettest rainy season in twenty years. When it finally cleared the greens were brilliant and the new bamboo shoot had grown seven feet. Then I discovered boogie-boarding is addictive. “One more good ride and I’ll come in.” Mid-November brought another torrentially wet spell, but my true love visited and rain simply added to the romance. A ranchito on the beach is about as romantico as you can get! Now for my last week the Golfo Dulce has pulled out all its bright colors. Even the tides are perfect, coming in late morning for the best boogie-boarding.

After coming to Zancudo to be alone with my deep thoughts, I am relieved to report I have met many delightful people. Walking into a soda for morning cafe and saying “Buenos dias” to everyone feels great! I love Andrew and Susan, love their friends, my cabin, the dogs, and I may have to stay here forever. Last week I realized I was showing signs of becoming a real Zancudon; I owed colones all over town. Kayaking in the Atrocha I was morally outraged when a stupid gringo did not slow his zooming motorboat down and almost capsized me. And it hurts to wear shoes.

Palm fronds sway, almond leaves flutter, and I am lulled into sadness this morning as I think of leaving. Portland is dismal in the winter. As I write this I notice one pink hibiscus poking inside my south window. Having time to dwell on this pink fact is a blessing. On the north side, a lavender orchid competes for my attention. The greatest gift of my sabbatical is learning once again to stop and notice the beauty. Dreary winters make for emerald green summers. One can hike through wildflower meadows around Portland April through August. But I had taken this for granted. Have my eyes learned to look again? I hope so.

I return home with spectacular events engraved in my mind. Driving the boat to Golfito at dawn, we scared about a hundred Ibis from a tree. They lifted off together, only feet above us, long pink bills glowing fuchsia with sunrise. Another dawn we kayaked up the Tagua Estuary. We paddled for hours without speaking, floating in thick bird song, past a whole city of arguing parrots. In front of Suzy’s Cantina I smelled the sweetest flower I have ever nosed into -- I am sure the old voodoo woman used Butterfly Ginger in her Love Potion Number Nine.

I never made it through The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying. Instead I finished ten novels and walked on the beach. The books can go back to Portland. Sunsets don’t pack well. One cloudy evening the sun went down like a strip of burning lava, and sent orange searchlights shooting up through the clouds. Some evenings I sauntered up and down Zancudo road looking at the property for sale. Buying land here is a lovely fantasy and I’ll be back to Cabanas Los Cocos soon. But for now I belong in Portland, Oregon. A radio announcer with only a little Espanol isn’t much in demand here. I would like to come back to the Golfo Dulce and stay, someday, when I find out what I could contribute.

For now I will simply concentrate on my last day. My two months here are ending like the best vacation, when you hate to leave because you’re having a great time. Yesterday a large fish body-surfed next to me in a wave. Two new hummingbirds have come by in two days. Last night I saw my first Gulfo Dulce jellyfish. They looked like new blue condoms, with special Pleasure Fringe around the top. The lizard behind the refrigerator, the one with the sensitive eyes, now appears to have a mate. This evening I’ll take even more sunset photos and visit my new friends for a last goodbye.

So did I find myself? The truth is it didn’t take two walks on the beach to figure out I was here all the time. But the person I’m bringing back to Portland feels different.

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