As to avoid giving you a stodgy chronicle of my weekend, I’ll try to keep this brief!
We went sailing! This was the first weekend that we’ve had totally free since I’ve been here. The bounty of time was wonderful, but it also felt odd and lavish after having every single minute of our day scheduled out by someone else. They have so much for us to fit in, that I can look at the schedule and know exactly what I’ll be doing at 11:30, 2 months from today. We call it “summer camp”.
So on Saturday a group of friends and I went to Manuel Antonio, a national park on the Pacific coast. Two girls booked this sailboat for all of us. It’s not something that I would ever think of doing, but I was grateful for their planning and organization. The boat took off in the afternoon, and we reveled with our faces to the wind and watched the water pass beneath us. We ate and danced and relaxed, and then we snorkeled! I’d never done anything like that before! Before jumping in, I kept thinking, “I hope we see fish, I hope we see fish”. I plunged into the water, opened my eyes, and around me were millions of little fish—going on with their business as if I wasn’t even there. It was magical. Back on the boat, we ate fish (which felt disloyal after just spending hours with their fellow peers, but delicious nonetheless). We sailed home with the sunset.
At night, we sat on the beach and star-gazed. The stars are brighter than the moon, unlike home where it’s the other way around. Manuel Antonio, which is seems safe and touristy during the day, is a different game at night. As we sat there, drunk and high men kept approaching us until we finally felt too unsafe and left. Costa Rica has been able to stay a safe and stable country, relative to its neighbors. But we learned that this year especially, Mexican gangs have been working with local cartels in Costa Rica—moving cocaine up the South American coast to Mexico. With no standing army, Costa Rica has to rely on police, judiciary, and other preventative measures (unlike in Mexico where the president just used something like 50,000 troops to deal with their drug situation). We were told that Quepos, the neighboring town from where we stayed, is becoming a major port for these drugs—perhaps explaining the plethora of intoxicated individuals that night. It was sad to see that culture abutting the cheery unblemished “eco-tourism!” market seen during the day.
Sunday we spent hiking around the park. Inside the reserve there are private beaches, which are much cleaner and more beautiful than their public neighbors. I know I’ve talked about the water before, but every time I swim here it’s as extraordinary as the first time. I spent most of the afternoon looking for pretty shells and rocks. I’m partial to the treasures I find at the island, but I like how I find different things everywhere I go. The biggest struggle of the weekend was applying (and reapplying) sunscreen quickly enough; we’re all crispy now. But after midterms all last week, the weightless sun was just what we needed.