Anna runs the lunch cafe on the beach and she has determined that we are muy fuerte mujeres. She adds that hombres are stupido burros...I don't wholeheartedly agree but then I have little knowledge of her experience with men, donkeys or otherwise. My reluctance to concur with her doesn't appear to lessen our bond, perhaps she senses a convert in the making. Tomorrow night, she tells me the jefe chef who is, judging by her emphatic military like gestures , not to be messed with, will swallow live lobster whole, twirl swords, salsa dance and flambe your shrimp as you watch! I can't wait. And she adds, wagging her finger at me, "Mrs. , jefe chef is not a burro".
Tonight though is reserved for a special meeting. I have indicated that I would like to walk down the beach to a restaurant I saw earlier in the day and have dinner. "No, Mrs." she tells me. "You need Carlos". And so tonight I am to meet Carlos who will escort me down the beach, wait for me and ensure my safe return to the security gate that leads to the resort at which I am staying. All of this to transpire under a brilliant full moon and in full view of security people who regularly patrol the beach. As a side note here I want to stress that not once, whilst traveling in Costa Rica alone, did I have any sense of danger, harassment or unease....but more about that in another postcard.
Between my fledgling Spanish and Anna's robust English, I learn that Carlos is an 'orphan' but he has a mother and father. His mother she dismisses as a drunk and the father gets the "burro, stupido" label. She tells me that he is 14, goes to school and lives on the beach under the watchful eye of the resort security people. "He's a good boy, no drugs , no drinks". It transpires that he is also the proud owner of a flashlight and he will escort me the few hundred yards down the beach to Hotel Belacor where I'll have dinner.
Another party to my dinner jaunt, Eppi, or so the name sounded, is to be dispatched ahead of time to alert Belacor of my impending arrival. So now we have Elena, Carlos, Eppi and Paulo the waiter (who made the initial suggestion that I eat at Belacor) all involved in my dinner arrangements. I am indeed connected! And so is Anna. She tells me she can get me a good deal on scuba diving, I look alarmed, "snorkel then" she suggests, "not so easy to drown". I point to my freckled fair skin and shake my head. She ponders for a moment and her face lights up. "I get you a good deal on a big hat".
She looks at the name on my credit card as I pay for lunch and points to the initial 'A". "What's that name" she asks.
"Anne" I tell her.
She throws up her arms..."Ahh", she exclaims,"sisters, we are the same".
And indeed we are sisters. Two women, working, motivating, connected. She is so fearless about speaking English, creating words from images, expansive gestures, rolling of eyes. I'm so much more timid in my venture into Spanish relying on stock phrases gleaned from 26 years of living in a border state.
She takes my right hand where I wear a thin diamond band on the third finger, she touches it and then picks up my left hand. "Espouso?" she asks. "Muerto" I tell her. She embraces me. "you lucky, you not got a bastard, you got a husband in the sky". What a wonderful image. David was an astronomer and cosmologist...he is indeed in the sky and how I regret not having the words to tell her how much her words delight me. I also regret not having sufficient command of Spanish to probe, to find out what has soured her on men. She's a vibrant, dynamic woman who runs her beach cafe with great flair and competency. "OK Mrs., you like to go dancing. Tomorrow night you come to the jefe chef's dinner, he flambe, you salsa". Another wonderful image. "You cry", she asks her hands pressed to her heart."No", I respond, " I laugh".
To further safeguard my passage along the moonlit beach, I carry in my pocket my Turkish Hex Eye...another connection, a gift from young friends of my son who recently married in my garden, she Turkish, he American. But I had no need of armatures. Carlos, flashlight in hand and a security guard at his shoulder meets me at the beach gate precisely at 7 as arranged. The guard tells me that Carlos is a good boy and he gives Carlos instructions in Spanish. Together we walk barefoot down the moonlit beach. Several couples are strolling, two children run in and out of the waves.
I doubt very much that reservations were needed. Only two other tables in the beach front restaurant are occupied. Carlos goes and sits on a deck chair. I ask him if he would like to eat dinner with me. 'Yes, Mrs.". He comes and joins me at the table. The waiter seems to know him and I gather that Carlos tells him he is working tonight as my security. The boy has beautiful table manners and between his English and my Spanish I learn that he is indeed in school but now on vacation, that he does jobs for the resort such as watering flowers and that he takes his meals with other resort employees. (And that explains his polite request for doggy bag! he'd already eaten). The food was mediocre, the night still...an invitation for flying insects, something I had not experienced to date in Costa Rica.
At lunch the next day I questioned Anna about Carlos. She tells me that she worked 11 years for Costa Rica's government caring for street children. "They don't give a damn" she says. "If you got money, you get help, you got nothing, you get nothing". This doesn't fit with conversations I've had with tour guides about the social services and education system in Costa Rica. Nor does it jibe with the images I've gathered whilst driving through rural areas. I've seen none of the abject poverty, street people, beggars, that are common to small towns in Mexico. Costa Rica is an emerging third world country and it appears to be thriving. Cell phone reception blankets the country (I wasn't aware of any dead spots) and even in remote eco lodges, internet is readily available. The young tour guides I met were fluent in English and proud of the lack of emigration from their country. "Why should we leave?" one young man pondered the thought..."we have everything, pura vida."