Who is Manuel Antonio, Anyway?

La SelvitaAlright, so here it is, the new site! So you might be wondering, why the change? Well, the main purpose is to now make the site open to the public. On the old .mac server, the site was only available to those who were referred to the site, but it is now completely searchable and also a part of the wordpress community. Also, the old platform seemed to be very buggy and slow to load, but this one seems to be a lot more streamlined and accessible. I’ve also decided to begin uploading my photos to Flickr now, as it allows viewing of the full size images, faster loading, and also gives me a little more exposure, as I’ve begun to invest more time and interest into my photography and would like to be able to somehow use it to help me continue financing the trip down the road. While I was setting up this new site, I also added several new journal entries and I also decided to do an overhaul of most of the other sections as well, so feel free to have a look around and enjoy the new setup. I’ve postponed heading to Ecuador until early December while I finally buckle down and catch up on the many entries that I missed, so you should be able to expect frequent updates over the next couple of weeks – and on that note, here’s another for ya:

Who is Manuel Antonio, Anyway?  (note: this is a somewhat less detailed entry, so as to not violate personal privacy)
As I lay on the warm white sands, the turquoise Pacific waves ebbing and rolling only several yards away, and the gentle rustling of the palm fronds as they swished lazily in the ocean breeze behind me, I thought to myself, “so this is paradise, hunh?” Somehow, I suppose that for a moment as I had sat there in the rainy Guatemalan highlands, dreaming of tropical Costa Rican beaches and being reunited with old friends, that everything would soon be perfect. The funny thing is that just because you’re sitting in the post-card, doesn’t mean that reality just fades away and leaves you with the irresistible urge to smile and laugh all day – just when you think you’re safe and in paradise, drama rears its ugly head.
That first night, arriving at the cabana under the Pacific jungle twilight and receiving not hugs of goodbye, as I had shared with many of the new friends that I had made during my journey, but instead being welcomed into the arms of those which I had once shared my life, I felt certain that this was the beginning of one of the most wonderful and fulfilling weeks of my journey. It had been one of the most difficult decisions that I had ever had to make to have only recently in my life had the opportunity to share my life with friends that made me feel truly alive, and then to say goodbye to them. I knew that my journey was one that I had to take, but as I mounted my bicycle and headed for the border, I could only cling to the hope that these friendships would still burn true one day when I could come back to them. But now, a few short months after having received the news that Kevin and Willie would be intercepting me in Costa Rica, here we were again, and I couldn’t help but smolder with joy and optimism.
It didn’t take long for the fairy-tale to begin crumbling apart however, and although we all tried to make the best of it, and most certainly did have some fantastic and unforgettable times, there was just one detail that stood in the way of the blissful harmony that I had been dreaming of. Kevin and Willie had a history. I’d like to say that it had been a brief but torrid affair (mostly just because I like the expression), but in fact it had been several years of uncertainty as they teetered on the thin line between friendship and something more. Although in the planning stages before the big vacation the horizon had been lined with golden sunsets, sometimes a change of scenery and 24/7 exposure can change the chemistry between people a little more than expected. Plus, the bare truth of the matter is that we were all there in the Costa Rican rainy season, and it wasn’t long before we got used to the afternoon showers.
Those next few days together generally started out with the raucous chirping, rustling, and crashing sounds of monkeys as they seemed to have decided that above our cabana was their official breakfast spot, and didn’t appear to have anything better to do than hurl mangos at each other or on the roof every day at six in the morning. Then, once we had finally mobilized ourselves as well, sometimes we’d head to the pool nestled in the jungle scenery for a morning dip, fix a quick breakfast (at least when the millions of jungle ants hadn’t managed to get into the food supplies), and then get ready to head out to the beach. The bus along the Quepos-Manuel Antonio road ran every half an hour, and thanks to our convenient positioning near to its origin in Quepos, we almost never had to wait long before a pick-up. Then, after about a five minute ride up the almost insurmountable hill (at ten miles per hour), along the crest, and then back down through a shady , the lush canopy opened up to reveal the long stretch of glittering gold and emerald coastline, flanked by stands of gently billowing rainbow hued sarongs and slender, lazily leaning palm trees.
And so the days rolled by, one day climbing over the rocky outcropping at the end of the main beach to relax at the tiny secluded la Playita beach, another time heading for a morning of quintessential Costa Rican canopy touring, another day hiking through the tropical vegetation to reach the lovely sheltered bay in Manuel Antonio National Park, and on one occasion even finding ourselves running up and down the deserted main beach and romping in the breakers naked during a massive rainstorm, then hiking half an hour back up to the main road through the jungle on a roaring, flooded trail. But often the evenings told another tale. Perhaps it was the wearying effects of long hours under the Pacific sun, or perhaps just the closeness of quarters and foreign environment, but the tension mounted as the sun began to set. Often by dinner time an awkward silence had fallen over the table as things between Kevin and Willie reached the melting point, such that conversation was sporadic and somewhat uncertain. And generally, on these nights, that same mood spilled on into the later evening, whether that consisted of lounging around the cabana or heading out for a nearby nightcap.
And so, as I sat on that same bus returning to San Jose from Manuel Antonio with Kevin and Willie, I couldn’t help but think of the complete contrast between how I felt then versus how I had originally felt on the way out to meet them a week earlier. The tension had rendered almost all genuine communication to a very surface level towards the end of our stay on the coast, as each of us had avoided touching on sensitive subjects, and as I, especially, had tried to avoid placing myself in the middle of whatever other issues were afoot. I wondered where things had gone between us, and whether our friendship was really everything that I had once felt it was. A shadow of loneliness and disappointment cast across my thoughts as I wondered to myself whether there would be anything left for me back where my old life had been if even this had begun to crumble.
When we arrived in San Jose, it seemed like things were destined to end just the way that I was beginning to imagine that they were, as I would be heading off to a hostel on one side of town to meet my friend Lisa who had flown in from Atlanta earlier that day, and Kevin and Willie headed to their own hotel to settle in before their flight back to New York in the morning. Finally reaching the hostel after the two hour ride from Manuel Antonio and then the ten minute cab ride from the bus station, I was both overjoyed at the thought of seeing Lisa, but now I also felt a twinge of anxiety as to whether my excitement would indeed meet my expectations. I wondered if perhaps we would be reunited and I would feel as though I had remained at the same point at which we had left off our friendship before my journey but if it was possible that she had moved on. Or maybe it would turn out that we had both changed too much to even relate to one another any more – I couldn’t help but feel unsure.
But seeing Lisa there in the doorway as I walked in, smiling and laughing and the two of us picking back up right where we had left off, pulled my out of my anxious state of mind and back into reality. After catching up and heading out for a walk around San Jose in the cold afternoon rain, we got to talking. Although I knew it wasn’t my place to disclose all the details of what had happened in the past week to Lisa, I did still feel that void and sadness over how things had gone in Manuel Antonio, and I couldn’t help but voicing them. And what I began to realize was that, now that I was out of that other environment, and had someone to give me an outside perspective, it became clear to me that I had begun to let myself feel like the target of whatever tension I had been feeling in Manuel Antonio because I had set my expectations so high, but the truth was that it was never about me. I realized that this was just something that Kevin and Willie were going through and rather than let myself be hurt through the process, the best thing that I could do was to be supportive and unbiased to them as a friend and not let this ruin our friendships. After finally talking it all through and having the clarity of mind to pull myself out of the slump into which I had fallen, even the dismal gray rainy San Jose afternoon couldn’t keep me from feeling like myself again, and I as we trudged back to the the hostel in the fading evening twilight, I couldn’t help but smile.
That evening Lisa and I had plans to head out and meet Willie and Kevin at Bochinche, the same lively downtown bar that I had found myself at one week earlier, but this time in a completely different state of mind. Rather than walking in with my expectations built so high as to only let myself down, I walked in knowing that these really were my friends. They had all come here because they care about me, and it was time for me to stop letting myself become confused in false feelings, and instead hold onto every moment that we had together, being there for them whether in peace-time or in conflict. And so it went, that there I was, thousands of miles away from where we had all shared our lives together, this time with the best of both New York and Atlanta, and all I could think was just how lucky I was to have these people in my life, that they were all there with me in that moment, and that I had no doubt that no matter how far I went, they would still be there with me.


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