You meet everyone when you travel. Well, maybe not every person you see, but it surely feels like the whole world. Like every corner of the globe is at your fingertips through another person’s eyes or their words. And every now and then, you meet someone special — that SOS. The attraction is subtle. You’re not sure if it’s really there. You’re my new friend. But could it be more than that?
The worst part of saying hello is knowing that very soon you must say goodbye. Chances are you and your SOS will separate and there will be little hope of reuniting. Those who reappear in your travels tend to be the ones you least expect. With luck, you will have both types in your life for as long as you wish.
But I’ll never forget our first kiss. Or how you asked me for that kiss. I’ll never forget how your lips felt against mine. How we both complimented each other equally on our soft bodies and figures and the way we meshed. It hurts after the pleasurable memories rush through my mind and I remember that that may never happen again. It probably will never happen again.
Love is fleeting. As are our words. And our scents and our tastes. But some day, wandering souls will find each other.
Too many men in this country, and not enough independent women. I felt eyes search me all last night at the bar (La Concha de la Lora) from men who saw a woman alone.
San Jose is dirty but at least you can find peace in the barrios surrounding the city center. This corner of heaven, where Feria Verde takes place, is quite calm. I hear birds chirping, dogs yapping, and men talking. I hear leaves caught in a cool breeze. It’s quite overcast today. Yet the green still shines.
So many cats and dogs here in the barrios of San Jose. Rather than being strays, they all seem to be part of the community in some odd way. Cats are fed and left to roam. Dogs are truly a man’s best friend here. They are the protectors and the ones who stick around. Cats come and go as they please. These aren’t new philosophies to consider. Instead, what I’m noticing, is an openness to/acceptance of an animal’s freedom. I can’t imagine an indoor-only cat in any household (unless a lonely grandmother needs a friend).
I read that Costa Rica’s environmental department has been trying to close the only two government-owned zoos and free as many animals as possible. I hear a lot of complaints about the government and their inattention to modifying infrastructure. But I still think that this country has some sort of blessing, or blind luck, because of their lack of army and their land preservation. It’s a romantic point of view I have. But that’s how stories are made, eh?
Kokua’s kitchen is wide and spacious. A handmade tile sink sits between wide wooden counters. Bins underneath are labeled as Alumino, Plastico, Papel, Botellas, and one unmarked bucket for organic compost. A thin stream of water runs from the tap with a black knob that opens and closes a valve leading to a filter. Signs are placed around the kitchen as well as the entire hostel.
Alegria Amor Paz Pura Vida
Live the life you love ♥
Nearly everything here is homemade. Glass bottles are used as decoration and candle holders. Empty paint cans are painted over, adorned with hanging shells, and turned into hanging lamps. Lamp shades are made with woven sticks. Washed out jars are turned into potpourri containers and are used as glasses in the kitchen.
Green plantains grow over the bar that faces the yard. Colorful hammocks hang between the palms. The smoking lounge is in the back of the yard with a hollow palm trunk acting as an ashtray.
Each bathroom in the hostel has its own character with surfboards, small glass jars filled with shells and soap, potpourri jars, trash cans, wooden tables.
Máximo and Fátima, the two in charge of the whole operation, use wood for every piece of furniture in the house, kitchen and yard. They rented and built the place into a cozy rustic getaway in the quiet town of Santa Teresa. The dorms and private rooms are labeled with small painted wooden boards that are labeled as Mar, Tierra, Cielo, and Fuego. The ocean is close by, with Playa La Lora and Playa Hermosa an easy walk or ride away. Reggae music can be heard wherever you go.
Santa Teresa, in the Nicoya Peninsula in Costa Rica, is a surfer’s paradise.
I’m sitting in the patio at Casa del Parque at 7:30 a.m. Sipping on a warm cup of coffee with a dash of milk. Potted birds of paradise decorate the lobby and common areas of the hostel. Yesterday, while sitting in the patio and chatting with Andre, Kenny, Milagro and Fred, I spotted a hummingbird sucking nectar from a flower on one of the palms.
The temp is cool in the morning with grey clouds overhead. The sun warms the city by the afternoon when more dark clouds carry thick rain drops that fall every day during the wet season. At night it is cool once more.
A bonsai tree propped in the center of a round table calls to me. There are no flowers. Only green leaves and the brown twisting trunk.
There are at least 30 plants crowding the edge of the cozy patio. Many are potted and some are vines that wrap their roots around the lattices and the gutters.
A shy thin Calico cat roams in and out of the property, mostly ignoring the people who inhabit it. I love how cats have the power to survive in nearly any environment totally independent from outside intervention. They ignore those who serve no purpose to them.
Mis amigos sleep upstairs in the 10-bed mixed dorm. I think I was awoken by the sunlight.
Now that my caffeine fix is complete, I’m ready to take in a new day.
I felt like a child again. Feeling lost and insecure. Admiring beauty I considered greater than my own. New experiences every day left me numb and confused.
I can remember those days when I lay out on deck half-naked in my skimpy bikini. The sound of the everlasting wake behind our great ship serves as a warm reminder within my memories. The beautiful sun blasted rays onto ourselves and the wooden deck, illuminating the clear blue pool. The image of fifty white lounge chairs underneath glistening bodies of every shade is so clear in my mind.
Lest I forget the stunning blue ocean surrounding us. On dark days the ocean turned a dirty blue, sometimes a gloomy grey. But the power of the ocean water and its darkest depths were a constant reminder of the breadth of our travels.
Every day I sunned out there on the pool deck was like a recurring dream — I was awoken only by the looming time for class or the impending weight of homework. But the stress I normally relate to those truths never came. One glance at the ocean blue left me thoughtless. There was nothing to write in that moment. Nothing to fear but the water itself. I never saw my reflection in those waters, nor that of the ship, for that matter. I only saw the white tusks of the waves…and I only heard the constant slap of water against the ship’s hull as we surged forward.
I wish Casablanca to be endowed with a large, fine building of which it can be proud until the end of time … I want to build this mosque on the water, because God’s throne is on the water. Therefore, the faithful who go there to pray, to praise the creator on firm soil, can contemplate God’s sky and ocean.
— Hassan II, King of Morocco
I’m sitting over the edge of the Hassan II Mosque in Casablanca, Morocco. It is early morning and a brisk wind chills my skin. Waves break against the rocky shore and a breeze wafts the salty sea’s potent smell. The white city lies before me — geometric designs and unique patterns permeate Casablanca.
The landscape before me resembles a crescent that encircles the straight horizon. It reminds me of the mosque’s doorways where half an oval outlines the top of the doors. The mosaics found within the mosque are handmade, with each small colorful piece stacked over the other, one by one.
I wonder how repetitive patterns affect a Muslim’s way of life versus the organic figures found in Christian art. Perhaps Muslims are more appreciative of the cycles of life and the patterns that exist among us. Christ himself is an organic figure and Christians have no hesitation in describing or replicating the image of God. But Muslims, on the other hand, do not believe in creating a figurative representation of God. This religious modesty is also reflected in their demeanor, their dress (especially a woman’s), and virtually any social construct that represents their piety.
Our driver keeps spitting. The car horns sound like they are dying, but are oddly forceful. I wonder how people survive in this country. How are they aware of what’s going on? We drive by so many cows with huge humps on their backs. I have never seen this kind of cow before. They are all allowed to roam wherever they want.
India is so big. Sadly, I am moving too much across the country; I am not staying put long enough. Five days in India with too large of an itinerary is like trying to squeeze a rectangular peg into a circular hole. There just isn’t enough time to visit all the places I would like to go without giving up a great part of the day to driving. There’s not much to see on the highway — but then again, there never is. Yet my eye is caught by beautiful colors draped around men and women amidst all the dust and dirt.
“Horn please” is painted on the back of almost every truck, bus, and car. Sunny, a tour guide in Delhi, said, in order to be a good driver here, “You have to have a good horn, good brakes, and a lot of good luck.”
October 14, 2011 – 9:15 a.m.
Early yesterday morning we drove to the Taj Mahal at sunrise. As foreigners we paid 750 rupees while locals pay only 10. The lines were sectioned in three for men, Indian ladies, and foreign ladies. We moved slowly forward until I realized that security at the entrance is fairly aggressive. It took them a while to pat everyone down and check their bags. The level of security was very similar at the airport, and even to get inside a crafts fair in Chandigarh.
When I finally walked past the entrance, I started snapping pictures of the Taj. After I took three or four, I felt like I had taken enough. My photos resembled the postcards I had seen or pictures that can be found online. I wondered what significance my photos would have, besides for my own personal memories. It seemed as though everyone was getting the same shot, which for some reason left me feeling vaguely depressed.
But I could not deny the striking moonlike glow of the Taj Mahal at sunrise.
Later that day we barely made our flight to Chandigarh from Delhi. On the plane I sat by the window and slept for most of the flight. So far I haven’t seen any of India by air because I keep falling asleep. Once we landed we searched for Jesse’s driver who picked us up in a silver Mercedes with a cracked windshield. Jesse is Nikki’s family friend who offered to take care of us if we came to Chandigarh. We thought we were going to stay in his home, but instead we were taken to a government complex called Circuit House. The guards at the gate carried military weapons.
The next day Jesse’s driver picked us up from the Circuit House. Our mission for the day was to visit the Golden Temple, the Rock Garden, and the craft market. Jessie’s driver took us to his home where we met his family. His home was beautiful. It was painted an earthy color, like the shade of red soil. We walked up a spiraling metal staircase that led to a pavilion on the second floor. The interior of Jesse’s home was also beautiful. Above each doorway was a half-circle glass-paned window, each pane a different color. I believe the order was blue, green, red. Motivational posters that I usually associate with an elementary school classroom were hung on a stone brick wall behind the dining room table. One even had Disney characters on it. But the one that really spoke to me was simply typed on computer paper. It read:
NEVER EXPLAIN YOURSELF
YOUR FRIENDS DON’T NEED IT
YOUR ENEMIES WON’T BELIEVE IT”
After we were served a delicious breakfast, we caught a bus to Amritsar to visit the Golden Temple, which is a Sikh monument. It took us five hours to get there, so by the time we arrived we figured we wouldn’t be able to do any of the other things we wanted to accomplish that day. Once we finally arrived, Sukh, our driver and Jesse’s friend, greeted us. He was easily the most hospitable guide we had all week. He led us through the chaos of cars and people-traffic as we headed to the temple. We arrived just in time for sunset. Once there he gave us a detailed tour.
The Golden Temple is huge. On the way in you drop off your shoes at a counter and walk barefoot to the entrance. Then you step through a pool of water to cleanse your feet. The whole entrance—the steps, the floor, the walls—is made of marble. Stones are etched and glued into the marble, like how we saw at the marble factory in Agra. I noticed as we entered that before people reached the first step they would kneel down and touch the marble step with their right hand, then touch their forehead, then raise their hand towards the sky in honor of God. Some would close their eyes and mumble a prayer.
The temple is beautiful. A marble walkway runs around a large pool of water in which the temple is situated. That night it’s golden hues shimmered in the water below from the vague light of sunset. Sukh led us clockwise around the temple, explaining things and showing the way. He said that Sikhism is like a combination of Islam and Hinduism, but is still very distinct.
Sukh then showed us where people come to get free meals. The kitchen employees allowed us to explore the kitchen and observe how they make the bread. Sukh explained that all of this is possible because of donations given by locals. For that sole reason the temple has been running since the 15th century.
While walking around the temple there were so many things to take in. There were a few stands that gave away chilled, clean water in metal bowls. We passed a small tent where people shed their clothes and entered the water to cleanse themselves. It was as if they were baptizing themselves, but they do it more than once. I also noticed a lot of men and women lying on the ground. Some were sleeping, some were just relaxing. It seemed like a good place to spend time. All throughout the area I could hear a man singing a prayer over the loudspeaker. It reminded me of the call to prayer in Morocco. I’m not sure if it was recorded or live. Despite the singing, the place was relatively quiet…peaceful.
Once we reached the temple we waited in line to get in. Some people were holding dry, cracked leaves in a small metal bowl as an offering. After about 15 minutes we entered. Everything was so golden and beautiful. People sat in the center of the temple, men on one side and women on the other, facing the holy men who were collecting donations. There was a large pile of bills in front of them. People would crowd around the golden railing, all trying to make their donation. They would throw in the money then kneel down in respect. Then someone behind the rails would hand them a bright orange scarf to wrap around their head. We explored the temple further, visiting all three floors. Some men sat in corners behind the railings, adorned with gold and brightly colored fabric. They read from a very large book that was entirely hand written. Witnessing such tradition that is still practiced today is almost shocking.
What I saw at the Golden Temple was a rich display of culture. There was just so much to take in that I couldn’t process it fast enough. I felt numb to it all. Sitting on the marble steps near the edge of the water, I stared at the moon’s reflection pondering this religious ritual.