It's never a day at the beach in Costa Rica

I woke up early this morning, the sun shining into my bedroom.

I went to the window and part the curtains, looking out at the tree-covered mountains and, in the distance, the ocean. Ahhhh! Another beautiful day. I hear the sounds of stray dogs along the road; they are up early too, as always, looking for food.

I go downstairs and make a strong cup of coffee. I have things to do today. My best friend Alan is in town and I have promised to show him around my new home. Alan is nicest guy in the world, along with handsome and witty. He is also a natural comedian, and a very good listener. He is the kinda of guy you want to travel with...

Alan and I drive down to Jaco for a day of fun in the sun. Jaco is like most beach towns here, a single strip offering a combination of surf shops, head shops, and bars – the typical array catering to beach bums, stoners, and rich tourists searching for refugee in the beating sun. Alan wants to just sit and look at the Pacific Ocean, and that is fine with me. I love the Pacific. It is different from the Atlantic, more powerful somehow, more vast, an ocean that seems to dwarf its east coast counterpart in size and strength.

I leave him to his reverie and return to the strip, wandering through the shops and amusing myself with people-watching: the fast-talking hustlers looking for a mark, the wary locals folding their arms on
the spectacle: the pasty-faced, paunchy male tourists hoping to get lucky with a local girl.

Alan and I meet up later and sample a few of the local bars for drinks and  dinner. The food is good, but not great. When we receive the bill, it seems high; we examine it closely and discover that we have been charged for two meals we did not order or get. We call the manager over and explain the situation, but instead of being helpful and apologetic he is surly and rude.

After some back and forth, we get our money back amidst the manager’s grumblings. Goodbye and good riddance, we think, as we make our exit.

Not to worry – this mood doesn’t last – a bad mood never seems to last long in this place, and sure enough, we are having too good of a time to let this slow us down in any way.

We go to a local casino and gamble the night away. Casinos in Costa Rica are nothing like the casinos in the U.S. Here you will gamble all night using only 1000 colones (about $1.50 US) to pay your way – and on this visit I have a particularly good night, winning over $350 US; even Alan, not a gambler by any means, manages to win about $40. (At the start of the evening, Alan got 1,000 colones from the casino’s ATM, a transaction whose service charge probably cost him more than the worth of those colones! When I point this out to him he grumbles something about “stupid third world country,” and says he can’t wait to get back to “civilization.”). Naturally, the winning Americans require the casino staff to summon the owner, who has to get money out of a locked box to pay off just under $400 in winnings!

All in all, an enjoyable and very successful day in paradise!

Look for my next note from Costa Rica on the ride back to San Jose


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