Two Coasts and No Army, 12: Language Lesson, 5 December 2023

March 20, 2024  •  Leave a Comment

         Pura Vida is a uniquely Costa Rican expression.  Literally, it  means “pure life”, an unhurried acknowledgement of the pleasures of the moment.  The Ticos, as the country’s natives style themselves, use the phrase to respond to being thanked.  It can be a reassurance following your refusal to buy whatever is being sold, showing that the seller still wishes you well.  It can also be cited as the reason that few restaurants open early.

This iguana lingered near the breakfast café at our hotel in Quepos.

         More generally, Pura Vida describes the outlook of the population in a country that abolished its army 75 years ago: slow down, stop worrying, and appreciate the pageant occurring all around you.  Let us be kind to one another in this place of sweet fruits and sunshine, where more than a thousand species of butterflies make their home.

          Our last day at the beach was devoted to Pura Vida.  We walked beside the beach until we found a place where we could have breakfast and watch the ocean.  Souvenir and snack merchants were setting out their wares.  We sat at the table for quite a while, and still had to ask for the check.  

 

         All three of us rested during the hottest part of the day.  The humidity increased and some clouds had appeared by the time that we went to our nearby beach.  The water was warm, causing minimal shock of entry.  We dodged the waves until they started knocking me down.  Then we repaired to the hotel pool to swim as the Sun set, a vermillion orb sinking into the waves.

         Pura Vida remains undefinable, but the spirit manifests itself in myriad ways. Here are a few illustrations:

         An old school bus transformed into a restaurant

A fresh coconut drinks cart left unguarded on the sand

Hotel doors decorated with hand-carved animals and birds, with a different design for each room

A man weaving palm fronds into hats for sale 

Chifre, a traditional dish made with ingredients so fresh and flavorful that it makes you wonder if what you had been eating until you came to Costa Rica actually was food

         The howler monkeys in the trees near our beach hotel were particularly noisy at night.  I found that I did not mind being awakened by them.  I could listen to the waves while I waited for sleep to reclaim me.  Lying in the soft darkness, I would let my breathing slow as I adjusted to the rhythm of la Pura Vida.

 

 


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