Costa Rica :: Part 26 (End)

This story is being told as a series. Here’s a link to Part 1

Part 26

I don’t know what I expected from Chucho in the morning. Some of the coldness of a man thwarted, I suppose. Or indifference, perhaps. There was neither. He sat with the tour guides for breakfast as usual, but his eyes lit up when he saw me.

He looked so happy to see me that I laughed.

When we got back on the bus, my position was now rotated to the very last seat in the back. For the first time on the trip, he came back before we departed to get a drink of water from the dispenser there; a subterfuge to slip me his email address. I gave him the tip envelope that Majesta Tours had provided for the bus driver. Inside was his tip — carefully set aside since before I’d left home — along with a note I’d written the night before, telling him that I had enjoyed meeting him, would not forget him, and hoped that one day he would meet a Tica with a pretty face and a beautiful heart.

He looked at the sealed envelope and looked troubled for a moment. “Your email?” he asked. I smiled up at him and nodded. “Inside,” I promised, gesturing, and then his face lit up, visibly more excited about having my email than about whatever tip I might have left him.

He went back up to the front of the bus to get ready to start the drive.

When Ciro came through a few minutes later to do the morning headcount, he smiled and asked me if I’d had a good time. Did he mean on the tour? In Puntarenas? Last night? With Chucho? His eyes danced, and I wondered what he thought had happened the night before. It was the kind of thought that could make me angry if I lingered over it, so I didn’t. I chose instead to take the question as if it referred to the entire tour. “Yes, it’s been wonderful. Costa Rica is so beautiful,” I said sincerely, “Thank you for everything.”

The short drive Chucho had promised was full of twists and turns, not easily weathered in the far back of the bus. Fortunately it was full of planned stops, to visit local artisans, to shop, to have lunch, to visit a famous church and to tour a coffee plantation. At lunch, I sat with the same group of ladies that I had walked with through San Jose in search of flashlights at the beginning of the week. At one stop, Chucho had one of the other members of the tour take our picture together. At another stop, he came to the back of the bus again, to give me a present that he had bought for me at the gift shops. “So you will remember your time with me here in Costa Rica,” he said.

As if I could forget.

At our last stop, he asked me when I would come back to Costa Rica. I shrugged uncertainty and said, “Someday.” It came across as coy, and he was playfully disappointed.

But inside I was thinking, Never. I will never come here again.

It would have been hard to articulate why at the time. The country was beautiful. The tour had been well-managed. Our tour group had been, without exception, wonderful people that I was glad to have met. The people of Costa Rica had been so warm and welcoming and kind. There was so much about it that I would carry in my heart forever.

But even so, I did not want to ever go back, and it took me a long time to understand why. That every trip is about something — a moment, a memory, or a theme that develops out of it. Only in retrospect did I realize that in many ways on this trip, fear in all its forms had been my companion.

It was not an experience I hoped soon to repeat.

Copyright © 2010

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~ by lorakceel on May 23, 2010.

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