Friday, February 5, 2021


Friday, February 5, 2021

It was a typical Friday morning at Playa Espadilla Norte in the small coastal village of Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica. The sun was out and some of the beach chairs and umbrellas were already occupied. The surfers were paddling out, catching the waves, and dancing on the water. I was in my usual spot—on the southeast end of the beach, under the coconut trees, away from everyone else. 

Out of the corner of my eye, I caught sight of a gringo, a tall and very pale man wearing orange shorts who looked distinctly foreign and out of place. It was clearly his first time in the area, or in the country for that matter. He was looking around when the ticos who rented out beach chairs and umbrellas immediately swarmed him. Finally, income for the locals, I thought to myself and turned to the book I was reading. A few chapters in, I dozed off, lying safe and comfortable on a beach towel in the shade of trees. 

It was close to lunchtime and I've started gathering my things when the white guy, who was then as pink as a burnt lobster, approached me. We started chatting. Weary of the long lockdown in Ireland where he came from, he decided to go on a vacation and landed in Costa Rica a few days ago. He told me that he couldn't resist talking to me because I looked so relaxed and carefree just lying there in my bikini. I replied, "I've been in the country for several months now, and I go to the beach almost every day. I've somehow adopted the Costa Rican way of life. The locals treat me like their own so I don't see any reason not to be at ease." 

He then asked me, "Do you know any other Irish guys?" "Yes," I replied, "James Joyce? Frank McCourt?" He laughed and said, "I meant normal people from Ireland." When he said "normal people," I immediately thought of Sally Rooney, a young writer from Ireland who recently wrote a book entitled Normal People and a new favorite of mine. I could've named more Irish authors—Tana French, Colum McCann, Iris Murdoch, Emma Donoghue, Samuel Beckett—but the look on his face told me that either he doesn't know them or he's not interested in them. I stole a glance at the book left abandoned on his chair, and I realized that he's more into John Grisham (not that that's bad, I quickly reminded myself). We then moved on to various topics: tourist attractions nearby, the horrific first US presidential debate, Bali, his job, the continuing protests and road blockages all over Costa Rica, and so on. 

After months of trying to converse with people in my rudimentary Spanish, it was wonderful to talk to someone who spoke English. But it's already past lunchtime and I was feeling very hungry. I bid him a quick pura vida and left him to enjoy the rest of his vacation. 


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