I can see clearly now, the rain is gone...
After 3 straight days of intense Caribbean downpours, the sun is finally making a comeback. The rain washed away our past and the sun is now rising on our future. We emerge from our beach cabin ready to explore new beaches, the farmers market, a surf competition and the jaguar rescue center.
Taking advantage of a dry morning, we head over to the farmer’s market. Lines of stands, overflowing with fresh fruits and vegetables, freshly baked goods, and funky cheeses.
The happy Tico farmers pick the best morsels, handing them to us with an appreciative smile. I appreciate them in return, in a way only a farmer's daughter can. They have planted these seedlings months ago, nurturing and raising them up to be strong and good beings, then carefully plucking them at their exact moment of perfection. Sending them off to what they hope is a good home, in exchange for a few cents, so they can nourish another as they were nourished. Paying it forward to the circle of life. Rinse, eat and repeat.
We fill our arms with crunchy plantain chips, homemade coconut biscuits, fresh pineapple and cantaloupe, three perfectly ripe mangoes, 6 avocados, 2 bright heads of lettuce, a crisp garden zucchini, and a single carrot. Our total comes to…$12. It feels like grand larceny.
Toucans grow on trees around here and we are officially bird nerds. As bright as the rainbow, they are magnificently colorful with large beaks and old souls. Seeing one in person is a chilling, life-changing moment when time seems to stop and the planet suddenly makes complete sense.
They fly into the trees in follow-the-leader fashion, one always shadowing another. Just far enough behind to observe, but not close enough to have to make small talk. They respect each other’s boundaries, as all souls should. Their movements are slow and deliberate, calculated and almost sloth-like. Their dry croaking call vibrates into the energy of the atmosphere, followed by an eerie silence. One takes off, making room for the next, now replaced by its shadow, and life goes on.
Puerto Viejo is a laid-back surfing town. A town where no one is in a hurry, except to catch a wave. A town where your cool factor is determined by the size and curl of your hair: the bigger and curlier, the more Holas and fist bumps you receive. It’s a town where everyone is all smiles and no worries. A town where Bob Marley rules and the only jerk is a chicken. A town where rasta colors dominate, reggae music fills the salty air, and lazy swirls of smoke line the beach.
Locals ask where in the states we are from. “Oregon”, we reply. We are met with a knowing laugh and a wink. Oregon has a reputation around here. A friendly, green state ahead of its time, carving the path for the rest. Mad respect mon.
Everyone in town, resident or visitor, lounges on the sand, around the Salsa Brava, waiting for a surf competition to begin. A line of surfers slowly form, just beyond the break. They hurry up and wait, for the perfect delivery. Predicting the wave before it’s born, paddling furiously to beat his co-workers, one surfer drops into the sweet spot and sails toward shore, his hair trailing a moment behind him. The crowd cheers and laughs, cameras click, someone’s shrill whistle pierces the air. For him it’s just another day at the office, high on life.
Hearing about the Jaguar Rescue Center, we decide we must go, so we load up the car with our cool neighbor friends and we each pay $20 to take a guided tour through the animal sanctuary. Our tour guide, Sky, takes us around and introduces us to all the animals.
The rescue center tries to rehabilitate injured animals to be released back into the wild, but not all animals can be returned to the wild for a number of reasons. Either their injuries are too severe, or they have become too tame and unafraid of humans, depending on them for their next meal. Some of the animals we meet are residents for life, claiming their stake and marking their territory. But most will eventually rejoin their animal society, as that is the ultimate goal of the rehab center.
All of the workers here are volunteers, and the money from the guided tours is the only source of income for the rescue center. They make sure to tell us multiple times how much they appreciate us being there and that our money helps the animals to have a better life. Everyone here shares an intense love for animals, and in return the animals thrive in the loving environment. Passion, positive energy and kindness exude from this place and it's contagious.
Pit vipers, anteaters, parakeets and toucans. Monkeys, crocodiles and frogs. Baby sloths, deer and turtles. No animal is turned away, all species accepted. They live together amongst each other, in peace and equality, all pura vida. Some wander around freely socializing with any animal or person that crosses its path, while the more dangerous and venomous creatures are safely contained.
We watch as a baby sloth is hand-fed and cuddled by a volunteer. “Um, how do you get the baby-sloth-cuddling job, and are you hiring by chance? Because I’m pretty sure I’d be really good at that….” I add baby-sloth-cuddler to the growing list of things I want to be when I grow up. Where was that option on career day?
We wind through the village of little animal homes and learn the name of each resident and his or her history. Some have tragic stories of abuse and neglect, but all share a happy ending of love and acceptance. We wrap up the tour with a sweet image of a tame and nurturing mama deer nuzzling an injured baby toucan. They greet each other with a hello and a kiss on the cheek, as if this is their usual morning routine. No discrimination or segregation here, if a deer and toucan want to be best friends, or lovers, then so they shall be. No rules, limits or restrictions. Just One Love.
Kari Pinkerton Silcox
It would be a tragedy to die, having never really lived. Which is why my husband Andy and I quit our jobs, sold our house and decided to chase our dreams. We moved to Costa Rica without a plan, and this is the story of our adventure.