I’d like to take a moment to acknowledge the phenomenon of encountering exceptional people. Chemistry does not declare its arrival in the first instant. At least not audibly. But the heart murmurs somewhere deep inside, and if you listen to it, you can unveil its song. This is how I felt when I first met Fernando. How are there people with whom one jives so flawlessly? Form whom you have to explain nothing of the context of your thoughts? I have had these sorts of relationships before; that when you are in the presence of that person, you can feel the spiritual elevation you promote upon each other. This is a relationship within which the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. When two such people are together, they are better than their individual selves. I felt so inspired in his gravitational field. All truths that lay at the foundation of my being, that necessitate retreat, meditation, and other such deliberate efforts in order to uncover were accessible right on the surface of my consciousness. I found it simple to be the best version of myself around him. He is one of those people with whom my soul will hold hands for the duration of my life. These people are so rare and yet, now that I am following my heart I find myself coming into proximity with like-minded people more and more. I guess that’s part of the nature of a trip like this.
One day Fernando proposed the idea of visiting this indigenous village. “I just asked around and a couple people directed me toward this town a few hours away. I don’t know how it will go… but you want to give it a shot?” “Yes” was my immediate answer. So we boarded a bus at seven the next morning and took off for a little own called Bambu. When we got there, we went into the solitary store and purchased some locally made cheese and ice cream in a bag to suck on as we traversed the mountain ahead of us towards the village “somewhere on the top.” First we had to take a little canoe across a river… a hollowed-out tree trunk carved by the boy driving it himself. Fernando and I were lucky enough to catch up with, as we hiked, one of the members of the indigenous village. We fell in toe with him and as we walked on, he told us all about the farming culture of the tribe, its development, and it’s recently-established tourism. “Would you like me to see if I can propose the idea of eating a meal with him and his family once we get to the town” Fernando asked me in whispered in english… “YEEESSS!” again I replied. He worked his charm and as soon as we got there, Fernando split off to buy eggs, cheese, and rice. The man’s wife subsequently started cooking a meal for us all. In the meantime, the man took us on a tour of the village, showing us the recently-constructed tourist visiting houses. In fact, we crossed paths with a tour group of anglos like myself, camera eagerly snapping in hand. But thanks to Fernando’s personable nature, we managed to transcend from “outsider” to “insider” status. Suddenly I felt not like the objectifying tourist with a camera, but like a fellow friend. We sat down to dinner soon after to a meal of rice, beans, egg soup, cheese, mango, and guava juice. Cock fights ensued on the edge of the open-aired dining area. Weightless chicklets ran in gaggles across my bare feet. When we were done, a crowd of locals followed us down to the river, where we boarded another hollowed-out canoe to depart. Children ran along the riverbank to wave goodbye and we floated away. By the time descended the mountain in the setting sun and reached Bambu once again, we had missed the last bus back to Puerto Viejo. Not a problem… hitch-hiking is not an antiquated practice in Costa Rica.
I read somewhere that there is a word, in some language which I cannot recall, for the sensation of someone’s image shrinking in the rear-view mirror as you drive away. I think I am going to have this sensation a lot on this trip. I am grappling with this ambivalence: I get so attached to each task, location, person that I could dedicate the entire of my being to see it carry out in full, come to fruition. Yet I have this perpetual urge to obtain knowledge, to push the seal of my intellect. The worst place is somewhere in-between. The first people I drove away from were Lucy and Fernando. But I loved leaving them with each other. Sometimes the gratefulness I feel for the people in my life is enough to move me to tears. And I felt this as Fernando walked me, carrying my backpack and the lunch he had made me, to the bus stop. Lucy arrived soon after pedaling full-speed towards me with an arm-full of camping gear: headlamp, water purifier, hiking boots, sleeping bag. But dislodging from the security of them and the gringo haven which was Puerto Viejo flooded me with an exhilaration I could not have accessed if I stayed. Although this reoccurring moment always holds an element of fear, I am reassured by words Lucy endowed me before I left. They were words a hostel-mate had told her after telling her the story of his own travels on a shoestring: “If there is one thing I have learned from this experience, it is that money does not matter.” My drive will perpetually trump my fear. I know not where it comes from, but for it, I can only thank my creators. My pensive time between sub-destinations proceeds thus… full of a healthy fear and the thrill of not knowing.
Fernando helping row the canoe
In an indigenous kitchen: Cacao beans roast over a wood-burning stove