The day I left Santa Teresa

It was one of those days where you don´t know whether to laugh or cry at the end of it. So I shook my head and did a little bit of both as I thanked the universe for everything that had been happening to me.

“Lord I´ve got to keep on moving,” Bob Marley sung over the speakers at Casa Zen as I was signing my farewell in the hostel´s guestbook. Even though I´d met some wonderful people and learned a lot, Bob Marley reaffirmed what I already knew, it was time to move on. I hugged my friends goodbye and sadness rushed through me. Goodbye. Why did my friend, Adrian, a yoga instructor at Casa Zen, say goodbye as he hugged me? Goodbye was too definite for me. After he left, I realized I should have said ´see you later´ or ´nos vemos.´

To get to La Fortuna from Santa Teresa, I had another long day of travel ahead of me. Buses and ferries and taxis, oh my. I took the 6 a.m. bus outside of Casa Zen to Cobano. There I transferred to the San Jose bus and told the driver I was getting off at San Ramon. Because they oversold the bus I had to stand the whole ride to Paquera, where the ferry was.

When I got off the bus at the pier, I was shocked to see what was in front of me. Adrian, my friend from Casa Zen, was standing there with a huge smile and open arms. “It´s a coincidence,” he said. He happened to be taking the same ferry.

We sat together and talked the whole ride. We spent the first part of the ride making animal noises and the second part of the ride talking about death.

“Are you afraid of death?” He asked me out of nowhere. He told me that all fears stem from a fear of death. To be aware of death is to be aware of life. To live for each moment with the constant knowledge that death can happen at any moment. From that we started talking about attachments and letting go. He said that we´re like monkeys reaching for vines. We grab on to one, use it to help us on our way and then we let go. So we must be attached for a certain amount of time; we cannot be completely unnattached. We are attached to our bodies, and through our bodies we are able to express our minds. Without our bodies, we would just be floating in consciousness. In this way we cannot become deattached.

As I spoke about letting go, Adrian stopped me. “You are referring to letting go in the past tense. We have to let go in the present too. This moment that we´re having already passed.”

He showed me that letting go means letting go of small moments and not just the big moments. Letting go means being able to release every single moment. We agreed how important it is to try to let go of something everyday and then we had to let go of our shared ferry ride. We each went separate ways, but we didn´t say goodbye. We learned to say see you later.

On the next bus ride my mind was still reeling over my conversation with Adrian. I boarded the same bus after the ferry and then got dropped off in San Ramon. From there I had to take a taxi to the next bus station. While I was on my final bus to La Fortuna, a boy with long dreadlocks sat next to me. We found out that where I was going was down the street from where he was going. At the bus station, my ride wasn´t there so without my knowledge Juan phoned Rancho Margot to arrange a ride for me. I was so grateful for his kindness.

After I ate my first meal of the day at a soda, which I was so pleased to find was 500 colones cheaper than anywhere Id been, I walked back to the bus station. A man with gray-tinted facial hair, green eyes, a cowboy hat with feathers attached and a long, thin braid approached me and asked, “Are you coming or going? Let me help you with your bags.”

He lead me around the corner to Red Lava, an information center. He told me he´s on morphine for bone cancer and mentioned the book that´s being written about his life. At Red Lava, a tico teenager with short dreadlocks and lots of friendship bracelets brought my bags upstairs and hid them in a dark corner as he reassured me in perfect English, “Don´t worry, these are incredibly safe.”

Jesus, the cowboy known to the locals as Tomas, asked me if I wanted anything to drink. When I told him I didn´t have money, he said, “Ah some women never change. Come on sweetheart, I´ll buy you something.”

On the way to the supermarket he mentioned the book again and said, “Maybe you´re too young to know about the revolution in Cuba and my father. Did you look at my name on the card? I glanced at the business card he handed me. Jesus Ernesto Guevara. “Che was my father.”

For the rest of the afternoon while I waited for my ride, Che´s so-called son took me around town. He pointed out the best foods and wines to buy and ones not to buy. He picked me flowers and named each one.  He waved at everyone on the street, knew them by name and introduced me to them. Throughout the afternoon he kept making vague references to friends of his like John Lennon and Bob Dylan and referencing dirty jobs he had to do to protect people, jobs like the ones in the movie The Dirty Dozen. He said if I ever needed him, show up in town, mention his name to someone and he´d be there within minutes. When I told him my name he smiled like he knew it all along. “I knew I´d seen those eyes before. My first wife´s name was April. She was both an angel and the devil´s wife.” He said he felt like he was back in the ’70s.

Back at Red Lava I swung in a chair hammock as I continued to wait for my ride. Tomas continued to bring me flowers and he even brought me a baby rabbit. When my ride showed up, Eric, the tico teenager who worked at Red Lava, took off his neckalace that I mentioned I liked and handed it to me. “A present for you. Welcome to La Fortuna.”

When I arrived at Rancho Margot, the first volunteer I met was William. Within five minutes we discovered that he lived on the same floor as my best friend did their first semester of college at University of Nevada Reno.

“There are no such things as coincidences,” he said. No such thing as a coincidence.

Traveling Cultivates Gratitude

After a full day of travel, running right into the ocean is the most refreshing thing.

This is exactly what I did as soon as I arrived in Santa Teresa.

The day before I left Guiones a fellow Solo Bueno-er gave me his japas malas beads, Buddhist prayer beads.japas malas A set normally consists of 108 beads, which symbolize impurities and flaws we as people must overcome. 108 also represents a certain formula that involves the senses, conditions of the heart, time and emotional states. As a repetition of mantras, the beads bring focus into your meditation and prayers. I felt like they also brought certain people into my path. It could have been a mixture of the attitude of gratitude I’ve been cultivating and the angels my Mom said she sent with me, but I never took off those beads while I was in Santa Teresa. You could say they were a bit of a good luck charm.

I’d been in Guiones 12 days, and I was ready to explore the next town. Everytime I asked someone how to get to Santa Teresa, I got a different response. So I walked to the bus stop to catch the 7 a.m. or 7:30 a.m. bus. Like all the unclear answers about the route to Santa Teresa, everyone told me different bus times. “Oh the bus comes at 7. Maybe 7:30, maybe 8,” they’d say. Ticos have a different concept of time.

Before the bus arrived, a man drove by, reversed and asked if I needed a ride to Nicoya, where the bus was going. It was Ariel, a Tico I’d met days before when I spent hours playing with his kids and getting to know his wife at the pool. I instantly accepted his generiosity and was incredibly grateful for the ride and his help at the bus station, where barely anyone spoke English. The route to Santa Teresa was more complicado than I thought. Even though Santa Teresa was on the same peninsula and just south, no buses went directly there.

I was in Nosara and I was headed to Santa Teresa, yet I would have to go to San Jose and then take the ferry back to the Peninsula.

I was in Nosara and I was headed to Santa Teresa, yet I would have to go to San Jose and then take the ferry back to the peninsula.

I´d have to take a 4- to 5-hour bus ride to San Jose, change buses, take a ferry back to the Nicoya Peninsula and take more buses. I was about to board the bus and brace the rides when I heard three backpackers say Santa Teresa. They were also confused about the bus system (there isn´t really any specific bus schedule.) and were trying to find an easier route. The bus was boarding so I got in line and prepared for my long day ahead. One of the backpackers approached me and asked if I wanted to share a shuttle with them instead. So I paid $20 to share a ride to Paquera, the next bus station, and gained three German friends.

The first few nights in Santa Teresa I camped at a hostel on the beach, falling asleep and waking up to the roar of the ocean. I ate casados at traditional Costa Rican sodas with my German friends and other Europeans we picked up along the way. I ended my nights at bonfires on the beach, cheersing pura vida with each Imperial we drank and learning bits and pieces of German.

I loved camping on the beach, but because I didn´t have access to a kitchen or the proper camping cooking gear, I felt like I was wasting money at restaurants for three meals a day. I also didn´t feel completely safe storing my belongings in my tent when I wasn’t there.

I spent the next day exploring and thinking about a hostel-hop. Dehydrated, sweaty and dusty with a growling in my belly I walked into the next restaurant I saw. I was alone at a table meant for a group. A group came in. I offered them my table. They insisted I had lunch with them. It was the owner of a nearby hostel and a few of her guests. I recognized one woman from the bus who I heard say she was going to Casa Zen. Casa Zen. They were all from Casa Zen. I liked them instantly.

After our meal the woman from the bus, Erin, gave me a tour of the hostel. There weren’t any openings at the hostel, but they said to check daily. The next day I took a yoga class at Casa Zen’s open air balcony studio. The girl who first suggested I join them for lunch invited me to share her room since she reserved a room with two beds. I moved in as soon as I could.

Casa Zen is away from the dusty road and close enough to the beach to catch a glimpse of the water sparkle between the trees. When I arrived I saw a surfboard out front with the words, Casa Zen Yoga Hotel.Casa Zen

A yoga hostel. While I was staying at a surf hostel in Guiones, I kept wondering why there wasn’t a yoga hostel around. I shared this thought with a few other people. Here I was standing in front of a place I had envisioned.

My first night at Casa Zen I was serenaded by a Casa Zen regular, a Canadian with shoulder length curly hair. As he sung and strummed his acoustic guitar, people walked by and sung, ‘Welcome to Casa Zen!’

Right from the start, my experience at Casa Zen was welcoming and filled with wonderful people who each helped me along my way.

The Lounge Area

The Lounge Area

All of the benches at Casa Zen were painted.

All of the benches at Casa Zen were painted.

So many wonderful reminders at Casa Zen.

So many wonderful reminders at Casa Zen.

I had some really fun times at Casa Zen. I went to a pre-full moon party at Ranchos Itaúna, a bar right on the beach, danced and lost track of time until my roommate and I went home and couldn’t believe it was 4 in the morning.

The day after the full moon, Nate, the guitar-playing regular at Casa Zen, gave me my first card reading. They weren´t tarot cards, but they were similar. The cards I choose, or I should say the cards that chose me, resonated with me. One card was the High Lord of Gratitude and Service.

This card has arrived to help you find your true purpose today. Feeling gratitude for each moment you experience, and loving what is and what has been, will remind you that every breath you take holds a deep and profound awareness. The presence of this ally lets you know that you are on the correct path of fulfilling your desires. There are no friends or enemies, just teachers along life´s journey.

Since recieving this card, I´m trying to be as grateful as possible about as much as possible. From now on I will begin my blog posts listing things I´m grateful for.

I spent most nights at Casa Zen cooking with friends, having potlucks, playing jenga and playing card games. My group of friends at Casa Zen quickly and easily transformed into my family. I felt like I could open up to them about everything in my life and they welcomed me with  loving hearts and no judgements. They were shoulders to cry on, people who opened their arms when I needed a hug, friends to practice yoga with. We were all kindred spirits.

Ladies beach day

Potluck

card gamesIf I hadn´t met the people I met at Casa Zen, I probably wouldn´t have stayed in Santa Teresa as long as I did. Santa Teresa is basically one long street lined with eateries, hotels, and shops that parallels the beach. It was more expensive than Guiones. Most people there were vacationing and a lot of people were there to party. There were a lot of eateries with full menus in English, often no menus in Spanish. There was a plaza right before Santa Teresa in Playa Carmen, which I was shocked to see. After being in Guiones, I wasn´t expecting so much development, I guess. A plaza!? I couldn´t believe I was looking at a plaza.

I quickly realized that Santa Teresa wasn´t as underdeveloped or lowkey as Guiones. It wasn´t the typical backpackers´town. I saw shirts hanging in the windows of shops that said, ´What happens in Santa Teresa stays in Santa Teresa.´ There weren´t as many people with smiling faces walking down the street as there were in Guiones. But I learned that you can´t compare one place to another. You have to appreciate things for what they are.

I wore my japas malas beads the whole time I was in Santa Teresa. The one time I took them off, while acroyogaing on the beach, I accidentally left them behind. I only had a couple days left in Santa Teresa anyway.

I feel like their presence in my life signified a few things. The japas malas beads were another gift along the way, another act of kindness, another reminder to give, a reminder to be free of things. More importantly the japas malas beads were another reminder to not be afraid to leave pieces of ourselves behind and to share pieces of the journey as much as possible.