Maybe it was the fact that I woke up to “Tangled up in Blue” five times this morning. Yes, five, that is how many times I hit snooze on this rainy Costa Rican morning that involved me dragging myself out of bed to an internet cafe to type my paper on Tica customs in a short story.
Maybe it was the fact that I watched a pirated copy of Dear John with two friends this afternoon. Though the movie was drastically different than the book, there is nothing like a chick flick to bring back fond memories of the gringos that once dominated our conversations. Or maybe it was the memory that my mother once compared my final relationship before leaving for Costa Rica to be similar to that of a wartime romance: short, intense, but like I keep saying…always with an expiration date, a point of pending doom.
Maybe it was the excessive time me and my friends have spent simply bitching about Tico guys. In the words of a girl from surf camp: “what is up with you Tico guys?” Their gringa radar has failed to keep up with their ability to know what to do with us once they catch us. Many of us, Taylor being the exception, have stories of Ticos that make us want to bang our fists on the ground and scream “uncle,” finally realizing that those damn gringo boys we left in the States weren’t as bad as we whined about.
In any event, some combination of these events led me to put in one of my increasingly rare calls to the United States of America. As I picked up the phone at 9pm (11 US time) and began to dial the only number that I use frequently here that I don’t have memorized, I heard the all too familiar noise of gunshots.
Yes, nearly nightly I fall asleep to the Spanish Harlem lullaby of gunshots. An investigation conducted by my host family a few weeks back led to the result that the gunshots come from the property behind me. “Don’t worry katie,” they said, “the guards told us that they shoot the bullets at the ground.” Umm excuse me? Yes, I feel better now knowing that a stray bullet can be ticked off my list of nightly concerns.” But what,” I persisted, ” are they shooting at?” The answer came with a shrug of the shoulders: “intruders, trespassers, whoever comes on the property.” Ah good. Good.
Between the tremors, the volcanic eruptions, the gun shots, the giant spiders that are invading and the drama, I am starting to feel like my life in Costa Rica is a social war zone.
As the phone began to ring I heard a familiar voice yell out a hello, I cursed myself for calling. “Go, Go have fun with your friends,” I begged, hearing the clamor of the bar in the background- a noise I have become on close terms with. “No, no, no! I can talk for a little bit.” Ahh, that response always sets me at ease, especially given the gunshots that had just made me cringe once again. The bar noises faded and as the conversation began I found myself craving not only the company of the voice on the other end, but that the spot from which said company came, was a short drive away rather than a not-so-quick flight. I wistfully thought of small town…fine, small city…USA, and chuckled to myself that the bar in that small city was one I wouldn’t be able to enter for four months after I got home. I yearned for winter scenes in that same small city, dinners in sweatpants at fancy sushi restaurants, long talks on self-discovery over thai, and stops at local liquor stores to pick up local micro-brews to split after a drive up empty roads towards the bright lights of a nearly empty ski mountain. Though I’m wise enough to realize much of this, if not all of it, may not still be a part of my life upon my return, you can’t help but long for what you don’t have.
As I pined for Bob Dylan songs and that Northeast landscape, I thought about all that had been talked about today. I spend a lot of time rambling about how much harder my life is here, then so much more babbling about how much easier it is, and what I think I never contemplated is that maybe my life is exactly the same. Sure, my classes are easier, but I walk a mile in pouring rain to get to them. Sure I can have fun at the clubs, but I get creeped on all night. Sure I can travel every weekend, but I fall asleep to spiders and gunshots. Jack Johnson sings “beauty will follow wherever she goes.” Maybe the line needed to be “tropical storms will outbreak wherever she goes.”. I spent a lot of time thinking my life was less dramatic here: no sorority girls to spill beer on, no phone calls waking me up at 2am begging for a ride, no fratty bullshit to deal with, no apartment drama, no…well, no anything. Hah. I didn’t realize that being in your 20s meant these things were inherent parts of daily life. I thought about Elysia’s drama with her Tico friends, and my own as well. For the record, the condensed version goes as follows: I went of four great dates for the hell of it with a Tico. I knew it wouldn’t last and didn’t want it to for a variety of obvious reasons. However, I got dumped after 4 dates under the premise that he wasn’t over his last girlfriend. This was a true statement, and I shrugged it off and moved on. When he changed his mind a few days later, apologized and explained, I once again shrugged my shoulders and accepted three more dates. Though it always was casual, I enjoyed the company. Plus he was the brother of my closest Tico friend. Needless to say, when I was dumped a second time for the same reason, I was a little hurt. I enjoyed having a consistent dance partner! I got over it, since I never really cared to begin with. However, when it was reported to me that he had kissed one of my closest friends in the program, I raised my eyebrows and said “what is up with you Tico guys?!” I quickly realized two things: (1) I can’t stand
Tico boys and (2) I can’t stand girls. My program is 90 percent female. In other words, this country is my battleground. Let me out!!
Of course these thoughts all happened in a split second, and quickly I was kicking myself again for even caring. Everything that matters to me isn’t in the country. I mean sure, Latin America matters to me in regards to the direction I see my entire life heading, but the tangible and emotional…it isn’t here, and it never will be. Everything here was a means to kill time, fill voids, and momentarily forget what we were missing from home. As I heard the thunder begin to crack on the other end of the phone line, I realized that no matter where you are, our worlds are our own forms of war zones. We are always fighting between who we are and what we want to be, between our needs and our desires, between our reality and our dreams. Oh sure, some days are tranquil and calm, but others are days where we dodge showers of bullets. We earn Purple Hearts and medals of honor, and we keep pushing forward, not really knowing it it’s the civic duty, the innate responsibility, the desire for a challenge, or simply the inner masochist in us all. Or maybe, maybe it’s that we knowing we’re fighting for the greater reward, whatever that may be.
As the raging thunder boomed all the way from Massachusetts to Costa Rica, the distant voice on the other end of the line said with what sounded like a smile: “see what I put myself through to talk to you?” Over 3000 miles south, the rhetorical question was answered with a smile. Suddenly I knew exactly which war zone I belonged in…the one I’ve been fighting for all along.
That being said, it’s time for another weekend at the beach. Sun., surf, and sand seem like a great idea to me right now!