Aspen Princess: Even in the eye of the storm, love remains
So we went to Costa Rica just in time for its first-ever hurricane on record.
Yes, our trip was rudely interrupted when Hurricane Otto slammed into the Caribbean coast with 100 mph winds and was heading straight for us during our three precious days on the beach in Guanacaste.
Unlike anyone else in my family, I crave time at the beach somewhere deep inside my bones. And while I have resolved the whole mountains versus beach dilemma beyond a shadow of a doubt, I still desperately miss living by the ocean. I have always dreamed of finding a way to spend time in both places, but instead of fame and fortune and the luxury of a second home, I have been rewarded with the A-frame and the babe and the pug and the most loving husband I could have ever asked for, so I got the fortune part of the equation, but not the dough.
So when I do get to the beach, it’s like every minute counts.
Yet for some reason, Ryan and I have the worst travel mojo ever, especially when it comes to our attempt to reach warmer climes.
Like, there was that time on my birthday weekend when we went to San Diego and it rained for three days straight. It never rains in San Diego. When it rains, it’s like, breaking news. They literally do entire segments on local TV with these ridiculous shots of puddles and people walking down the street with umbrellas. I know this because I lived there for seven years and it never, ever rained. Not ever.
Then there was the time we went to a wedding in Playa del Carmen at one of those all-inclusive places where people literally fill up their bathtub with booze and drink out of a straw. It’s not really my bag but I figured at least it was by the beach. We go to check in only to discover Ryan’s passport has expired, which sends us on a wild goose chase to Aurora to get him a new passport. We get the passport but miss our flight, only to catch the next one and then miss our connection. We end up marooned in Houston for the night at the world’s most depressing Sheraton where we spent a sleepless night in a psychotically air-conditioned room after attempting to drown our sorrows in domestic bottled beer and tasteless food in the hotel bar.
So a hurricane was pretty much par for the course.
We were a little nervous when it started to rain so hard that we couldn’t hear the TV over the thunderous roar of the downpour on the metal roof of our beach rental. We worried about the big trees that surrounded the property. We worried about mudslides, lengthy power outages and impassable roads. What if, without power, it got too hot in the house for the baby? What if — without refrigeration — we ran out of food? What if we couldn’t make it back to San Jose where my parents had foolishly left their passports? What if a tree fell on the house?
So we lay in bed with our eyes wide open, staring into pitch blackness after the power went out and we were left with whatever battery we had left on our iPhones and no connection to the internet. I tried to listen to an audiobook, but all I could hear was the pounding of my heart in my ears.
“Are you nervous?” I asked Ryan. I’d noticed he was not yet sound asleep and snoring loudly, which is unusual. He is practically narcoleptic and can fall asleep in a fraction of a second like nothing you’ve ever seen before. I’ve literally seen him pass out in the middle of a sentence.
“Kind of,” he replied.
We held each other tight and eventually fell asleep only to wake up and discover the rain had stopped. All of our worry and stress was for nothing. The storm had ravaged the east coast, killing over a dozen people, but by the time it crossed the mountains, Otto had lost his steam.
Still, it was cloudy and rainy for most of our stay.
“This is unusual,” my brother said, explaining that the rainy season usually ends in late October. “Very unusual.”
So instead of getting the beach vacation I wanted, I ended up experiencing a side of Costa Rica I’d never seen before.
I looked into the mouth of the Paos Volcano; I felt the mist of a massive waterfall literally erase the wrinkles around my eyes at the La Paz Waterfall Gardens, where I also got to see monkeys, lions, butterflies and hummingbirds (I was too afraid to check out the snakes).
I got to be around people who are warm, open and connected to their families, their communities and their country. I got to experience a simpler life with a slower pace where technology exists but is not at the center of existence. I got to eat food that was prepared by hand with mostly local ingredients. I got to see people celebrate my baby as if he were their own. (The more I think about it, it really is sick that people here always go nuts for the pug and totally ignore the baby. Every. Single. Time.) I got to meet the young Venezuelan couple who caretake my brother’s property, who fled their country with their 3-month-old son because it’s too unsafe, because they can’t always get basic necessities like food and water.
I got to be with my baby brother and watch him fall in love with his nephew. I got to watch him become an uncle. I got to see the extraordinary life he’s created for himself in such a special place.
And during such a tumultuous time at home, it was a good reminder: love remains, and it is exponential.
The Princess still managed to get a nice tan. Email your love to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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The COVID-19 pandemic has caused untold amounts of suffering and disruption, and we’ll probably tell those stories for the rest of our lives.