The Costa Rica Memory Vault

After 2010’s raucous four-day party in Amsterdam with 30 of our favorite people, I asked nagged some of the attendees to write up what they remembered the most so that we could save them for posterity, since booze and time tend to erase some of the best moments from our memories. I love reading over that post every once in awhile, so I rounded up some Costa Rica 2012 memories, below. (Y’all know I’m a hopeless nostalgic, so my poor friends end up subjected to this activity more than most.)

The pals in Costa Rica in our matching “Sucia Treinta” birthday shirts they surprised me with.


TERP: Oh gee, how bout being TERRIFIED OUT OF MY MIND when you and Matty gave me my assault wake-up call. Or when I nearly went to the Sandanista GITMO because I was wearing a flag defaced with “that Chinese girl.”*
[Terp pauses. Then…] I’ll never forget swinging from treetop to treetop with my newfound friends. We climbed questionable ladder-stairs to the canopy of Costa Rica where goofball Sandanistas flung us down ziplines while flirting with Mon-Pon and calling me FLACO! (skinny.) Then at the end I paid them far less than we owed since I was convinced they were ripping us off… even though they weren’t.

ERICA: I think one of my favorite memories from our week in Costa Rica was the lunch we had at Eat @ Joe’s. We grabbed lunch at this beach-side restaurant whose claim to fame was their “Nachos as Big as Your Ass.” Unfortunately, the nachos were the best thing Eat @ Joe’s had going for it. After we polished off the nacho appetizer and were still waiting for the rest of our order and chalking up the delay to “Tico Time,” one of the wait staff came up to us and apologized for the food taking so long. “I don’t know what happened to your server. I don’t know if he died, or what.” Best. Excuse. Ever. A little while later, our food was delivered; well, kinda. Terp and I had each ordered grilled Mahi that arrived as grilled chicken, and Justin’s food didn’t show up at all (that didn’t keep them from charging us for his absent meal later, though!). The stinky cherry on top of it all, though, was that while we were eating our tardy meal, sewage started spilling toward us from the bathroom right next to our table. Nothing reminds you that you’re in a foreign country like late table service, incorrect or completely forgotten meal orders and a sewage spill seeping toward your table. Pura Vida, for sure.

VOGS: This was my first visit to Central America, and I experienced a variety of conflicting feelings (excellent company notwithstanding). The accommodations – cleaning staff, cook, gorgeous beach view – were ridiculous. Then you go down the hill and into and around town and the poverty is glaring, even in this lush part of Costa Rica. The service at so many places, from the restaurant that botched every conceivable element of lunch to the rental car company determined to rip everyone off, was atrocious. I believe I used the phrase “banana republic” more than once, and I’d feel like a jerk every time I said it. Every time I’d get pissed off about something I’d turn around and see myself as part of the invading white tourist hoard that turns Playa Tamarindo into an ocean playground. It was an eye-opening experience that I expect to take with me on future international travels. Maybe I’ll even make like Hu and taker a Spanish class. At least then I’d be an educated gringo.

Boarding a dodgy, semi-seaworthy boat to cross the estuary, which Brett ended up towing through the strongest part of the current. Hiking up a 45° angle to the house, faster than some of the local cabs could ascend the same hill. Loafing with a chlorine-sodden copy of Esquire (the Bill Clinton article was compulsory reading material). Basking in the evening warmth around the length of an outdoor dining table, pointing out constellations and and sharing horrifying bot fly YouTube videos with the uninitiated. Discovering the old surfer the next table over at the French bakery was not only familiar with Casa Leo Loco and its owner (“Leo Loco“), but had recorded a song about the house. Poolside/surfside conversations on politics and movies and “monos.”  The wildlife (literally) right in our backyard.

And finally:
Watching the sun dissolve into the sea from the bluff above Casa Catalina, the Sunsetter Faction of Grupo Tico decided to stage a photo or two.  We took a few timer-pics, then traded out camera duty to capture the obligatory everyone’s-inexplicably-but-casually-mid-air shot.  But try as we might, light rapidly fading behind us, the “casual” part of that formula eluded us … if the timing was right, then Justin was inevitably making some ridiculous (translation: hilarious) face. These pics are (second only to the Sucia Trienta T-shirt group photo outtakes) my favorite of the snapshots from the trip. They perfectly encapsulate the atmosphere of smart, goofy, come-as-you-are camaraderie in the house.

MONPON: The two big meals the entire group ate together were the best part of the trip, especially on the final night: after a week full of booze, sunshine, and other adventures, we enjoyed a celebratory dinner honoring Elise, but surprised her by wearing homemade t-shirts to commemorate the event. (And little did we know what trouble would follow with those things!) Not only did hilarity ensue because of the silliness of it all, but also, the evening turned out to be a reflection of our time together. Despite the various personalities and the potential for conflict from not knowing each other beforehand, the group really banded together to celebrate our friendships – both new and old. It’s not always easy to find that kind of camaraderie among such a large group of people, but I probably shouldn’t have been surprised, considering we all had one common interest in mind: sharing in the celebration of Elise.
[Note from Hu: Awwww, thanks Mon Pon! I love you mucho.]

The Sucia Treinta bday gift.

*In a near-international incident, Terpstra and Justin decided to wear the t-shirts they had gotten me for my birthday to the airport. The tees featured a defaced Costa Rican flag that showed my winking face, hot dogs instead of Costa Rican mountains, and “Sucia Treinta” instead of the country motto. The policia at the airport detained and questioned Terp, since apparently wearing the flag, much less altering it, is illegal.

Thank you a million times over, my friends. I’ll add more memories to the vault as I get them.

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