Searching for pleasant

My college roommate, Dianne, had a rule that we couldn't go to sleep without reporting at least one pleasant surprise culled from the day's events. College being what it was and 18 being what it was, we often struggled to remember one, and often they were minor indeed. But we always discovered something during our mental search of the day and it was a ritual that sent us to sleep on a positive note.

On the trail in Manuel Antonio NP.

This has been a week full of pleasant surprises. For starters, we finally made it to Manuel Antonio National Park. Since we'd heard both pros and cons in regard to hiring a guide we tried it first without, to see how we did. The park itself was somewhat disappointing. It's small, and despite maps posted along the main trail indicating other paths we found only one, a narrow out-and-back that led us further and further into dense jungle. It was silent, damp, and dark. No monkeys, sloths, or crocodiles crossed our path, no birds could be seen. 

Back on the main trail we occasionally attached ourselves to groups with guides but they all seemed to be viewing one of Costa Rica's 74 kinds of lizards.

Can you spot the lizard?

There was still much to enjoy, because the variety of trees and understory is mindboggling. And since we both love trees we were satisfied. Eventually the trail led to a quiet beach lined with palms. It was early and the beach was uncrowded. We took off our shoes and waded in, then sat on rocks and enjoyed the quiet. That lovely beach was pleasant surprise #1. 

When the sun got higher we moved into the shade edging the beach and sat down on a log. A raccoon looking for food immediately headed our way.  I waved my arms and said "shoo!" He kept coming. I picked up a plastic sack containing my sandals and waved that. He thought it looked appetizing and grabbed it. Standing my ground I yanked the bag from his grasp. Pleasant surprise #2. The raccoon turned away in disgust and headed for the next group of sunbathers.

Morning on the beach at Manuel Antonio NP.

From the beach the trail followed the shoreline, which made for a pleasant walk. But somewhere along the route I lost my prescription sunglasses. This was a blow, and I went home feeling unhappy with myself. Ray said, "We'll go back to the ticket office tomorrow and ask, maybe someone will turn them in." I wasn't convinced. But you surely know what's coming? Yes, someone had turned them in and there were my sunglasses. Pleasant surprise #3.

I gratefully put them on and we boarded the bus for Quepos. Pleasant surprise #4: finding a shop that sold good fruit and vegetables at reasonable prices. We've been disappointed in the quality of the fresh food here and my guess is that the best goes to hotels and restaurants and what's left gets taken by the grocery stores. The shop we found wasn't perfect, but it is an improvement on Super Joseth, and that makes us happy.

The next day Rodney came over with a locksmith and fixed our gate. It doesn't matter that the lock is in upside down, only that it no longer takes us five to 10 minutes of struggling to get the damn thing open. This was especially annoying when it rained. We knew Rodney would get it fixed but he and we weren't sure how quickly. The speedy response was surprise #5.

A few days later Rodney alerted us via email (surprise #6) that the big iguanas were on their roof if we wanted to come see them. Of course we did. He and Eric regularly feed them (their favorite food is papaya skins) and we'd been wanting to watch. Ray grabbed his camera and we trotted down to their place. The biggest lizards weren't cooperating but we did see smaller ones. Even better, we enjoyed a few hours of good conversation with our landlords.

This is one of the smaller iguanas, heading for breakfast.

Yesterday our neighbor, Dago, brought us a still-warm homemade breakfast burrito wrapped in a banana leaf: a thin egg and potato pancake rolled into a large homemade corn tortilla. A genuinely pleasant surprise (#6). His sister makes and sells them, of course, so we ordered four more.

And now I must confess that there was one rather unpleasant surprise. We were having coffee with Eric and Rodney when I suddenly realized that jar sitting right in front of me wasn't empty. 

"Is that a snake?" I asked. 

"Oh, yes," said Rodney. "Are you just now seeing that?" He picked it up and shook it. The curled snake nearly filled the jar, floating in a bath of alcohol.

"It's a Fer de lance," he said. "And actually, it was found in back of your place." Oh great. Fer de lances are deadly pit vipers; "not to be trifled with," according to our guidebook. 

Still, what's a dead pit viper when there are six pleasant surprises to celebrate? I'll take those odds any day. And if the coming week turns up any pleasant surprises for you, let me know. I promise they will be there if you look.


Correction: In my December 15 blog I erred in saying 50 percent of a workers salary goes to health care. Rodney, who regularly hires people, filled me in: Currently employers pay a 22 percent tax on employee wages and workers pay nine percent. This tax covers health care, retirement, and workers comp. Each pay period the worker also receives a coupon verifying employment. The coupon makes him or her and the entire family eligible for services. My apologies for the error.