It was going to be the first time I saw the Pacific Ocean. As I sat in the small Costa Rican food store, I could barely taste the food I was eating; too much had happened in the last few days. My friend Serena and I had traveled all the way from Manhattan, Kansas with our Spanish class to experience the culture and environment of Costa Rica. The fact that almost all our clothes were wet and musty in our bags from riding horses in a tropical storm earlier that week didn’t dampen the mood too much, although it made dressing in the morning a unique experience. But who cared about any of that when only a few nights before we had been watching lava flow down the side of a volcano, a red sparkling line in the darkness? Granted, the mood was somewhat ruined when our teacher began yelling at a group of boys who had attempted to take advantage of the lower drinking age. The small food store had not been our first choice in lunch options, but the tropical storm that had taken place earlier that week had flooded the restaurant and made it a comfy home for a family of crocodiles. Personally I found the crocodiles charming in comparison to my memories of horseback riding.
We made our way down one of the multitudes of country roads we had been using to navigate the country. Along the way, all we could see was flooded forestland, dreary under the looming clouds. The mood lightened immediately when our tour guide told us the ocean would soon be in view. Suddenly everyone was straining to see out the windows, desperate for a good view of the crystal-clear waters. Instead, they were greeted by a brown, foaming sea. The debris from a hurricane in Nicaragua had caused the waters to muddy to the color of hot chocolate. With a collective groan of disgust, everyone sat down again.
The murky waters of the Pacific had left everyone less than willing to make it a day at the beach; however, the hotel swimming pool was as clear as ever. Before long, everyone was in the pool playing Marco-Polo, while a group of older native boys played with a small radio. Even though we were all Spanish students, our Spanish was poor and we rarely attempted to speak to the natives. Despite this, the native boys soon became intrigued with our game. Before we knew it, they were running around the pool yelling, “pollo, pollo!” or “chicken, chicken!” in response to our cries of “Marco.” We all laughed hysterically and motioned for them to join us in the pool.
In the next few days, these same boys would follow us to the beach. Gradually the waters returned to crystal blue and the sun was a blazing inferno in the clear sky. We all waded into the ocean and attempted to fight the salty current. One by one we fell like tiny dominoes in the surf, acquiring sand burns and bruises from the still-floating debris. Later, Serena and I would laid side-by-side in reclining beach chairs and grew drowsy under the hot sun, the perfect way to end our last day in tropical Costa Rica.
Several hours later I made my way into our hotel room to change out of my bathing suit. It was then that I discovered the souvenir I would carry with me for months to come. Looking in the mirror I remembered thinking, “I didn’t know skin could get that shade of red.”
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