After our morning fishing trip with Captain Ron, we returned to the house to load up our suitcases. We began our journey to Tamarindo, a town of about 500 people and 100 dogs. Tamarindo is located on the Pacific side of the country and is known for great surfing, which is why I chose it. Our family had conquered all of the waves in Ohio and some moderate ones in Hawaii, so we were ready for the big waves of Costa Rica.
It was two o’clock when we started to drive to Tamarindo. According to MapQuest the drive would be about four hours. Knowing how well MapQuest estimated our drive from the airport to Arenal Lake, I had to quote from Star Wars and told my wife, “I’ve got a bad feeling about this.”
I was correct.
Darth Vader did not catch us, but we experienced something we have seen many times: road construction. However, they do not use orange barrels. They use a three-foot stick or rod cemented in a coffee can. The stick has a
yellow ribbon tied to it. At one section they even used workers. (I have met a few students who could qualify for the job of being an orange barrel.)
We arrived in Tamarindo about 7:30. It was dark, since the sunsets occur between five and six p.m. (One would think we would have learned this lesson the first time.) I reassured the family. We were going to a town and the rental agency office was programmed into our GPS.
Nonetheless, our GPS did not recognize the name of the condominium and there are no street names or addresses in Costa Rica. The directions from the closed rental agency were a little vague: head out-of-town and turn right on the first dirt road. Consequently, we had trouble finding the rental home.
We did find the police station, though. In the United States, the best place to get directions is a fire station or police station. Therefore, I stopped to ask for help. One problem: language. Only one younger officer spoke English as well as I spoke and remembered the Spanish I learned in the early 80s when I was in high school. We were pathetic. Nonetheless, the officers indicated my map was old and they showed me their 2013 map, the kind of map showing all of the businesses that had paid for an advertisement on the map. It was not what I would call accurate since it did not have every business.
The senior officer said to follow him; he knew where to go. I noticed he carried a revolver, like Barney Fife’s. Plus, he was not wearing a Kevlar vest. For some reason I worried about him. My wife and kids were very tired and hungry.
The officer led us right to the condo; however, due to translation problems we were first told that it was not the right place. The police led us to another place, talked with other people, and decided the original location was correct. I tried my best to use my twenty-year old high school Spanish to interpret the conversation, but it was not until the security guard did a motion with his hand that resembled a person opening a door that I figured out the problem. I showed him that I had a key; He looked at it and realized it was a key to a condo in the complex. Apparently, no one told him I was arriving. Now that we showed him the key, we were in like ghostbusters.
Knowing the police officer quit eating his dinner and worked hard to help us, I offered him a $20 tip, not sure if it was the right thing to do. My cop friends in America would not take money, but I also knew Costa Rica could be different. He accepted the money, shook my hand, and our tired, hungry family began to unload the SUV.
When we opened the door, a beautiful, gigantic condo took our breath away. It was as big as our house! We couldn’t wait until daylight to see what the view would be like!
What did we learn from this freshman experience?
1. It takes time to get the final result.
2. Communication is very important.
3. Different is not bad.
- Fishing with Captain Ron (thefreshmanexperience.com)
- Curves, Dirt, Darkness and Our First Day (thefreshmanexperience.com)