Pura Vida!

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Of Volcanoes and Distant Families

The Arenal volcano in Costa Rica is one of the few volcanoes on earth that are almost perfectly cone-shaped. Mount Fuji in Japan is another one.

Alas, you’d never know it, or even know it’s there. Low cloud and a persistent drizzle has all but shrouded it entirely.

It’s not active at the moment. According to those who know about these things, it’s in the middle of a 12 year cycle, so nothing is expected to happen for another 5 or 6 years.

There are lots of other things to see. Amazing wildlife, interesting flora (normally I don’t give a rip about flowers and such, but some stuff here is totally cool), neato geology and really interesting people.

Like Shayna and her husband Ryan. They’re from Texas, though they don’t have that Texan drawl.

“We got married last year but never took a honeymoon.” Shayna, Ryan and myself are in a big hot tub.

And Shayna’s bathing suit is only barely holding itself together.

She’s pretty nicely proportioned.

“Izzat so?” I ask, using much of my inner resolve not to look where I shouldn’t.

“Yea,” says Ryan. “We spent a TON on the wedding but now have the time and bucks to take a trip like this.”

I ask them what they do. “I’m a sign painter,” says Ryan, “and have just started a shoe-painting business.”

“Shoe painting”? I ask. Don’t look don’t look don’t look.

“Cowboy boots mostly.”

“I’m a massage therapist,” says Shayna. Of course you are. How could you be anything different? Don’t look don’t look don’t look.

It’s cool. Everything’s cool.

“Well Shayna, we’d better get to our massage appointment,” Ryan says. We say our good-byes and they’re gone.

Then there’s the couple from Arkansas, travelling with their two daughters. “We’re in Costa Rica for a month, then back home,” says the dad. (For the life of me I cannot recall their name.)

What about school for the kids?

“We home school our children with teachings from the bible and through the word of our lord Jesus Christ.”

“My my, look at the time,” I say and beat a hasty retreat. I should introduce them to my driver, Sammy.

Lastly there’s Henry, server at the onsite restaurant. He doesn’t have much time for idle chit-chat but he makes a few moments to tell me about himself.

“My family is in Zimbabwe,” he says. “I work here to get money to bring them here.”

“How many in your family?”

“Seven,” he says. “I need to work a long time.”

Yes you do, my friend. I cut him a healthy tip. I sincerely hope it works out for him.

And, not for the first time, I realize that I’m far from family too. A short email exchange with a nephew has me looking forward to seeing him and the rest of the family.

Believe it or not, there's a volcano in there.

Believe it or not, there’s a volcano in there.

Sammy is Very Happy

Sammy is one happy guy.

Why so happy, you ask?

We’ll get to that shortly.

Sammy was my driver between the capital of Costa Rica, San Jose, and the Arenal Manoa resort that sits in the shadow of the Arenal volcano.

But let’s back up a bit.

Yesterday I boarded an A320 in Lima, Peru that took me to San Jose.

It was not an easy flight.

Colliding warm and cold fronts plus wacky winds that result from mountain ranges made the flight uncomfortably bumpy. Now, I know that planes aren’t disastrously brought down by turbulence. Planes aren’t disastrously brought down hardly at all. Full stop.

But I don’t care how used to air travel you are. A flight like that would give the most seasoned traveller a sphincter factor of 9.5. Probably leave a new pucker in the seat cushion. I did end up with half a cup full of Coke in my lap, fizzing away.

It’s not pleasant, don’t try it on purpose.

So it was with no small relief that we landed – HARD – in San Jose.

I was met at the airport by a Camino Travel rep who took me to the Costa Rica Marriott. Swanky place.

For some reason, I was upgraded to – get this – the Presidential Suite.

The Presidential Suite. For me.

It’s huge. Cavernous. It echoed. I don’t know what the square footage might be, but I’ve owned houses that had less square footage on one floor than this suite. I could invite a dozen friends and their wives/husbands/partners for the night and have plenty of room left over to put the empties.

Next morning I was met by Sammy, my driver and guide who was to take me to the Arenal Manoa resort. “The drive takes 2 to 3 hours,” he said. “First part straight, second part like this,” and he made wavy gestures with his hands.

It seems like my turbulent ride on the plane was to be followed up with a turbulent ride in his taxi.

“I’ve been driving this road for seven years and one accident only,” he grinned. He didn’t elaborate. I didn’t ask.

So why is Sammy so happy?

“I have been saved by the lord Jesus Christ!”

Oh no. This is going to be a long drive.

The living room.

The living room.

The office.

The office.

Fully stocked bar.

Fully stocked bar.

The bedroom.

The bedroom.