Inspired in Costa Rica
My flight from Costa Rica arrives in Phoenix at 11:00 p.m. An airport shuttle picks me up and takes me to my car. I get in and drive home. I am exhausted and at the same time inspired. Exhausted from listening to a child cry for four hours on the plane. Inspired by the writer’s retreat I attended for seven days at the Pura Vida Resort and Spa, Costa Rica.
I approach the front door. I hear a slight whining noise. I insert the key, the latch clicks, and I open the door. Chloe, my Cocker Spaniel–long ears, short tail, and brown hair–pees on the floor. She is so excited. She wiggles her little butt and gives me sweet kisses with her tongue on my cheek. The pet sitters have stayed up to wait for me. They help me carry my bags into the living room. We agree to talk in the morning. I am exhausted. I put on my pajamas, brush my teeth, and lie down on the bed. Chloe jumps on and nestles her head next to mine. She wants to be so close. I pat her head and soon we are both gone into dreamland.
I am just beginning my writing career. I taught writing to ESL students for forty-two years. Elementary school students, high school intensive programs, business classes, and adult classes. I spent five years in Japan and five years in Mexico. I had a language school for ten years, and spent 20 years teaching in colleges and universities. Now, it is time for me to write.
The pictures of Costa Rica looked inviting. Who doesn’t want to go to Costa Rica in February? I looked at the reviews, checked to make sure it wasn’t a scam.
It’s not easy starting a career as a writer. Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest. Social media takes up so much time. I joined a memoir group in my small town. We meet once a month. I need more writing practice. I need to be inspired.
I raked through all of the writing retreats posted online. Many of them were for experienced writers. I didn’t have the confidence to register. I stumbled across Pink Pangea. The pictures of Costa Rica looked inviting. Who doesn’t want to go to Costa Rica in February? I looked at the reviews, checked to make sure it wasn’t a scam and talked to Jackie, the organizer, by phone. I took the chance and registered.
It’s 7:30 a.m. Breakfast is served at Pura Vida. Orange chunks of juicy papaya, slices of sweet pineapple, fresh watermelon carefully sliced and displayed in a straight row. Homemade bread, cinnamon, glutton free bread, wheat, freshly made in the kitchen. Fluffy yellow scrambled eggs from the chickens nearby. Oatmeal, fried bananas, pancakes, homemade jams, and quesadillas. No bacon, sausage, or cereal. A freshly prepared breakfast greeted us every morning. Coffee, herbal teas, fresh water, and fruit are always available during the day.
I wake up at 5:30 in Phoenix and I have to find my own breakfast. Where is all the fresh fruit? I look in my freezer and find frozen strawberries, blueberries, and cherries that I bought at Costco. There is oatmeal and some milk. I miss you, Pura Vida.
We are a group of twelve women. Young women with various writing skills. Some of them are writing books; others, like me, just beginning their writing journey. I am the oldest in the group and our experiences are very different. Women who had bad relationships with men, divorced, in the dating game, and happily married. I am a widow who was married to a man who I loved and respected. He treated me well.
The retreat is held at a retreat center, Pura Vida. Activities include yoga, massage therapies, excursions outside the retreat center, swimming, sitting in the hot tub. Many of the younger women choose to worship the sun at the pool and around the hot tub. I wasn’t interested. I didn’t even bring a suit. The sun has already done enough damage to my skin. Yoga is a popular activity for everyone in our group, and the other groups using the retreat center. There is a group of twenty yogis who participate in yoga seminars for five of the days we are here.
The reading sessions usually begin about 9am, and last for two hours. Everyone shares the stories they wrote the night before. We make positive comments about the readings.
The first day we meet in one of the yoga rooms. No chairs, so we sit on the floor, legs crossed or spread out in front of us. The chairs have no legs. Like the chairs I sat in for five years in Japan. Everyone is very comfortable with blankets draped over their legs. I am not as agile as the young ones. I am not comfortable. The doors to the room are open, bringing in the fresh air. The room has a huge picture window looking out towards the volcano. One day we spot a rainbow. The reading sessions usually begin about 9am, and last for two hours. Everyone shares the stories they wrote the night before. We make positive comments about the readings.
Excursions outside the retreat center include a trip to the Wildlife Rescue Center. Paulo was our tour director. He was very knowledgeable about animals and coffee. He not only led this tour, but all of the other tours. The Wildlife Rescue Center is home to animals that have become endangered. The animals are fed only natural food, the foods they would find in the forests if people had not destroyed the forests by farming. We were also led to some waterfalls.
The tour of the coffee plantation included the process of drying the “coffee cherries”. Paulo tells us, “The best coffee is sent to countries that pay the highest prices. Costa Ricans drink the cheap coffee that other countries don’t want”. He also tells us, “The people who live in the US don’t know what good coffee is because they use coffee makers which remove most of the flavor from the beans.” He also enlightens us by telling us that “espresso beans have less caffeine than the mild blends”. He gives his speeches in English, with an accent. He has a good sense of humor at times. On the Skywalk tour during a tour of the forest, a white-faced monkey was ready to attack us with a stick. Paulo said, “Come on guys, don’t take any more pictures, the monkey is ready to attack us.”
The writing retreat comes to an end. I am inspired. I am ready to go home and write. Now, I have stories to tell. I really recommend writing retreats to all writers and most of all to those who are just beginning. My next retreat will be in Switzerland in June. Goodbye Pura Vida.