solo al rodeo.

rodeo came to town last week. the locals save up all year for this week long festival. bulls from all over ready to buck off their riders and chase their taunters. for nosara, rodeo ranks up there with christmas and easter. it comes once a year, and it is not to be missed.

outside the rodeo ring is the fair. cotton candy and meat on a stick. corn on the cob and churros.

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a mechanical bull and dance club. rickety carnival rides and cheap goods for sale.

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it all started on wednesday with the kids parade and opening celebrations. it all ended on monday night with the last of the ticos cheering on the only female bull rider.

i’m here in costa rica with my friend and her sister. my friend is dating a nosara local who is the “mayor” of the town. he knows everyone. talk about a local hook up.

his company, chorotegas surf school, sponsored the rodeo. as part of this, his chorotegas soccer team (jersey pictured above) got to occupy the bull ring on thursday night. this in turn meant, we got to enter the ring as well. after signing a couple papers saying that i might die and i’m cool with that, we located all the exits and scooted into the ring.

sorry mom.

but don’t worry, i’m still alive. i played it safe and stayed near the edge. i did think about following the boys in closer, but instead of testing my running skills, i just stood in awe of the crazy ticos. grabbing the bull’s tail and horns. yikes.

it’s part of the culture. they’ve grown up around bulls and this sport. but truthfully, as i was standing in that ring amongst all the excitement and adrenaline, i felt a bit sad. that poor bull, stuck running away from these human bullies. the whole thing left me with mixed emotions.

after stepping outside of the ring, i did think i had watched enough bull riders to be a pro at it though, so i took a try on the fake one. it’s all about the whipping of the arm for balance. i’m a natural…

on saturday, we all rented horses to partake in el tope (parade of horses). hundreds of people gathered in the park for a pre-party and then boarded their horses to trot through the town towards the rodeo.

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everyone was decked out in their best plaid button down, cowboy hats, giant belt buckles, and boots. my favorite apparel.

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this self-proclaimed cowgirl was in heaven. my horse was named coqueta meaning coquette meaning a flirt. probably appropriate for its rider… she was quick and spirited but well-behaved and eager to listen. a perfect combination.

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we rode smashed in between several other horses strutting their stuff. some were well-trained, picking up their hooves in rhythm and tucking their heads. others meandered aimlessly while their riders guzzled another imperial.

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there was an energy in the air, a tradition. and we were part of it, complete with cowboy hats and horses.

solo al rodeo.

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a day in the life of (no)sara.

the dog barks and wakes us up around 6am. some days i roll over and drift back to sleep. most days i wake up and slip into my swimsuit. you don’t need much of a wardrobe here. a couple sun dresses and some bikinis that stay on in the waves. that’s all you need.

make a quick breakfast and pack my bag for the day ahead. towel, sunscreen, computer, yoga clothes, journal, book, water bottle, snacks. our house is on a hill. a hill i only like to walk up and down once per day. so i pack it all, never knowing what adventure might appear.

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slip on my havaianas and start the trek down the dusty road.

it’s dry season here. the once lush and green foliage just hangs limp covered in a layer of grayish brown dirt. my lungs feel very similar after spending so much time strolling along the main street hoping to catch a ride from some kind local.

hitchhiking works about 75% of the time, and it is always such a blessing to escape the heat and dust. ducking into an air conditioned suv or hopping quickly into the back of a pick-up truck. you get to know the people in this small town a lot quicker this way.

hola. i’m sara. do you know so-and-so? oh really? i hung out with them last night. i’m here until mid-february. you work there? oh cool. here is good. thanks for the ride. mucho gusto. pura vida.

everyone is more or less on the same main road turning off to go to the same main place, the beach. playa guiones. and that is exactly where i am always heading first thing in the morning.

down to mamma rosa, a quaint hotel off the beaten path run by three italian brothers and their sister. they flicker between spanish and italian with ease and let me use their outdoor restaurant patio as my office.

the surf shop of my friend’s tico (local) boyfriend is on mamma rosa’s property. it is a cage full of surfboards and a table and chairs. that is where the mornings begin.

unlock the cage and wax my board. sometimes my new one, and sometimes a slightly bigger board depending on how my arms are feeling from the day before. smother my face in sunblock, put my backpack in the hotel office, and with surf board in hand, stroll to the beach.

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at the end of the path, there are two huts to shelter us from the harsh sun. videographers from the various surf schools sit perched below that trying to capture the epic waves of their students.

early mornings are cool, but still warm. if you can get down to the beach by 6 or 7am, the waves are glassy and the crowds are minimal. it’s just you and the ocean awakening to the day.

but let’s be honest, i’ve only gotten there that early twice in two weeks. most days, i am there around 8 or 9am. i stretch, attach my leg leash, and head out against the crash of the sea.

by then, the rest of nosara has awoken also. there are pods of people bobbing on their boards awaiting the perfect wave. watching the sets roll in from the horizon. i am learning this language. hearing the ocean talk to me with her highs and lows. telling me when it’s time to paddle into position and give it my all. feel the board drop in and angle along her unbroken wave until i lose my balance or meet the white water crashing over my feet.

when you ask a surfer how they know when to paddle or stand up or which way to go, they always tell you to just “feel” it. helpful? not at all for a beginner. they say you need time in the water to establish a relationship with the sea, a connection with your board. and after two weeks among the waves, i can finally see what they mean.

after about an hour or two, my arms start to voice their complaints, and i ride my last wave into the shore. it’s time to go to work.

the italians joke that my office hours are 10-3. i rinse off the board and myself, put everything away, change my clothes, and plug in. there are two tables that have outlets, so i plant myself at the same spot each day. i order a coffee, open my computer, and dig into reality. but i can still taste the salt on my lips and feel the sun’s kiss on my skin.

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i could do this forever. maybe.

i sit and work hard. catch up with old clients and new. sample random bits of meals prepared by the italians. make small talk with them about the day, and thank them for their kindness. i am not a guest of their hotel, yet somehow i have become family.

i tell them about the time i went to italy in 7th grade and was so upset when i discovered there was no such thing as fettuccine alfredo. and my confusion when there were two toilets, one that looked like a mini sink. they laugh big laughs like italians do. they make great coworkers.

sometimes i pack a lunch. sometimes i go to the snooty yoga/health-oriented hotel next door and treat myself to a banana nut and cacao smoothie and spring rolls. then with a full belly, i go back to work until my eyes won’t stay open, or i decide to go to yoga.

nosara is full of yoga. there is the nosara yoga institute tucked away at the edge of town, and there are endless other classes offered at hotels on the main strip. i am trying them all on for size. after a day of surfing and working, i usually only find enough energy to track down a restorative or gentle class. it is blissful.

on days when i don’t surf, i head to the institute for some more vigorous vinyasa flow. although, if i don’t manage to hitch a ride, the 3km hike to the studio sometimes leaves me wishing the teacher would change her mind and lead a yin class instead.

then come the evenings. the sun sets around 6pm and fills up the sky with oranges and purples and pinks and blues. the ocean mirrors the sky, and the horizon disappears if you let it.

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some nights i let it engulf me and just head home, up the hill, and sink into slumber. some nights we go out dancing or gather for dinner or cheer on the local soccer team or go fishing or maybe swimming. pura vida. no matter what happens, my bed always feels welcoming when i crawl under the bright orange sheets at the end of the day. it seems to know that i need to rest for tomorrow.

for tomorrow will be just like today.

a meandering intro to pura vida.

i’ve never been on a small plane before. last time i was in nosara, i made the five hour drive from san jose international airport, but not this time. this time, i climbed aboard the daily nature air flight with five other people.

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“it’s like the magic school bus, only with wings,” my travel companion said as we psyched ourselves up to fly 45 minutes at low altitude in this crazy small aircraft.

but it was beautiful. and the turbulence coming down from los angeles scared me worse than this short joy ride. we cruised over costa rica’s landscape and ended up safely on its western coastline.

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the last time i was here was april 2012 for a week. and now i am back.

back in a town whose name is telling me: no sara. i have taken its warning this time around and finally slowed down. for that is the tico (costa rican) way…

we are parked in a villa above it all. a 20-30 minute walk to the beach, but a fantastic 360 degree view of the shore and the jungle.

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as much as the view is great, i do wish that my booking the cheapest month long rental i could find turned out a bit better. we don’t have a full kitchen but rather two electric burners that take almost 30 minutes to boil a pot of water. the internet only seems to work near our room, so the other guests (and their dogs) tend to congregate on the patio outside our window making privacy and silence nonexistent. (although there are two IT guys staying here that are trying to fix that problemo.) and as much as i love walking, doing a 3km trek along dusty roads and up a big hill to our villa more than once a day is just too much.

but don’t worry, i know. shut up sara, you’re in costa rica. (plus we move to a condo on the beach at the beginning of february.) but yes, i’ll stop the bitching now and make a note that maybe it’s worth it to spend the extra dinero now and then…

i’ve been here for a little over a week and am figuring out my daily routine. it involves three things: surfing, yoga, and work. that is all that i have on my agenda for the six weeks i am down here. and perhaps bringing my spanish back up to par. it’s gotten a bit rusty since i graduated college.

but i am not on vacation. i am here to say no, sara. i am here to stay focused on living the pura vida. a healthy balance of work and play. catching up on my writing and on my sleep. sitting still in one place for a whole six weeks. it’s magical so far.

although, the absolute main purpose of this extended stay is to learn how to surf. i figured the only way i would actually become proficient is by living on a perfect beginner beach with a gentle break and sandy bottom. so here i am.

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so far, i have been pretty good about waking up early and heading down to the beach. luckily, my friend is dating a local surf instructor who lets me leave my brand new board in his shack right on the beach. otherwise, who knows how i would have transported it from this villa in the sky every day.

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now, for a girl who grew up with lakes, tackling the ocean is a whole new feat. everyone tells you it just takes time in the water to feel the waves, get to know how they break, predict where you’ll need to be in order to perfectly drop in. so… time is what i’m giving it.

i’m losing all track of time, and spending every morning swallowing too much salt water and letting too much sand collect in my bikini bottoms.

and that is just fine by me.