“There are no words to describe that paradise.” This is what my friend Jeff (who lives in San Jose, Costa Rica) told me when I asked him about Playa Samara. It is a beach town five hours west of San Jose on the Pacific Coast. It is one of the last and best pure beach towns left whose coastline hasn’t become an advertisement for hotel chains. “You’re going to love it.”
Our itinerary from the Language School told us we were to live on the beach with a mid-twenties Costa Rican couple with two kids and a dog. The short synopsis used delightful adjectives like “chatty” to describe the family, and promised it would be a short walk down the beach to get to school. It sounded like the epitome of Pura Vida.
But when we first arrived, things didn’t look so pure.
When the cab pulled up to the house in which we were to live for the next month, my wife Alisa was a bit skeptical. “Is that even a house?” And in her defense, there were quite a few ramshackle huts sprawled around the muddy streets. Our house was in fact the nicest one there. And it was a house.
The room was cramped and the house tiny, which was to be expected. It was right on the beach, which was awesome. The house was one of about five structures built into a horseshoe shape that made up the small compound of the Gutierrez family. Our Tico mother and father weren’t in when we got there, so the grandmother showed us in. We settled into our room and went for a walk on the beach.
That first walk began what was to be our biggest hurdle: getting used to the wildlife. The first example we found of this was all the dogs. There were four or five dogs in the Gutierrez compound, and we’re still trying to figure out who belongs to who. When we went for our walk on the beach, we found mucho mas perros.
Here in Samara every dog is looking for an owner, or at least someone who will feed it. So as Alisa and I walked down the beautiful beach for the first time, a nice little brown and white dog ran along next to us and brushed up against our legs, wagging its tail.
“Oh, isn’t he cute?” Alisa asked.
“Yeah, I wonder what his name is.” The dog had a collar, and I stooped to take a look and sure enough it was right on the pendant, which said “RABIES VAC 5-10-08.”
I showed my wife. “Take a look, it’s even got his birthday, looks like ole Rabies here is about a year and a half old.”
“Aww, he’s just a puppy.”