WINNERS ANNOUNCED… SEE POST BELOW!!!
This is your chance to win a FREE vacation valued at over $3,000, yes that is right $3,000! The crazy people at Costa Rican Vacations must’ve taken something that sent them into a spin and we at Costa Rica Pages caught them at the right time!! To determine the worthy winner of this luxury vacation package, we decided to host a writing contest right here on our blog. Don’t worry, this isn’t limited to professional travel writers, submissions will be judged on humor (when applicable), quality, originality and overall style.
The topic will be based around the following question, but please remember to check out the full writing prompt under the Competition Guidelines before starting:
Write a 300-word-minimum description of your most memorable vacation or travel moment and how it changed or affected you.
Descriptions of vacations to foreign lands or just beyond your own backyard are welcome, as any exploratory experience can open up new ideas, perspectives and feelings that will change you forever.
To keep the spirit of competition flowing through August, we will be choosing one winner a month who will receive a coupon for a 10% discount off any trip to Costa Rica booked through our travel partner Costa Rican Vacations. Check out their wealth of luxury vacation packages for budgets big and small for a little inspiration. [Monthly finalists will still be eligible to win the free vacation.]
The Big Prize
If you need more incentive than that, let’s take a look at what you might win! The Vacation we are offering will begin at the Hotel Alta on the flanks of a mountain overlooking the Central Valley. The winner and a guest will then travel to the Arenal volcano to stay at the luxurious lake-front La Mansion Inn Arenal for three days of adventure in and around the town of La Fortuna. Finally, you will head for some fun in the sun at the brand new Arenas del Mar Beach Resort in Manuel Antonio. Land transportation is included as well as one of Costa Rica’s famous canopy tours for two.
The vacation itself is only valid for travel in September 2008 and this cannot be changed. Flights are also not included, but these and any extension or upgrades to your vacation can be arranged through our travel partner Costa Rican Vacations. May the best submission win!!!
Scroll below to see the most recent entries…]]>
“The Journey as Destination: 48 Train Trek Across America”
has won our first ever travel writing contest!
The colorful, Jack Kerouac style tale describes one woman’s seemingly aimless New Year’s Eve journey across America to discover life in its truest form, unscripted, unplanned and uncertain. As the title states, the author described this journey and life itself as valuing just as much, if not more, than the destination. She learned to keep her eyes open around every turn and keep a positive outlook despite not knowing what to expect!
We here at Costa Rica Pages went through an extensive voting process to make sure a definite and deserving winner was determined. In the end, the entry won by just one vote!! Based on the high quality of so many of the entries received, we are listing the 2nd and 3rd place winners as well as a runner up and honorable mentions.
2nd Place: Lessons Not Learned from Books (Cambodia)
3rd Place: How I Discovered the Heart of Love (Denmark and Europe)
Runner Up: Hanging Out with Dad (Italy)
And, to prove even further the extensive amount of high quality entries, we would like to list the following as “Honorable Mentions”:
The World is Waiting
Go Take a Hike
The Heart of a Mountain
Back to Bliss
Monthly Winner for July
We are also pleased to announce that Erin Wallace has been chosen as the “Monthly Winner” for July thanks to an overwhelming response to her entry: “Brazil: How to Live and Not Just Breathe”. Erin’s entry received 54 votes and 4 comments. She will receive a 10% Off coupon for use when booking any vacation through the Costa Rican Vacations travel agency.
We want to thank you all for participating, and we look forward to sharing further details with you about our winner and her vacation experience!! Anytime any of you would like to invoke the spirit of travel within yourself, we will leave the posts up before archiving them in the future for you to come back and browse. And a final special thanks to our travel affiliate, Costa Rican Vacations, for making the Grand Prize vacation a reality!!]]>
Yes, back in January 2006 I traveled with my loving husband, my caring mother, and a few things in a suitcase to Solola, Guatemala to meet my then 6 month old son. It was and still is one of the most memorable days of my life. We left Guatemala City with a driver named Freddie. We headed for the majestic mountains, the jungles, and the ragged, jagged roads, in a rusty blue mini van.
Freddie assured us that we would not be stopped by the “gorilla” warfare that was raging up in the highlands. I didn’t care about the danger, the rusty car, or any of that. My thoughts, my actions, were all aimed for Julio. We crept through the beautiful countryside, saw the natives carrying their lively-hoods upon their heads. As they carried their weight, we carried ours up, up, up the mountain.
Four hours later we came upon a resort, a refuge, a home away from home called “Eagle’s Nest”. There, my son stayed safe and warm til the day, that very day, January 4, 2006 I became Julio’s Mommy. I will never forget the love that surrounded Eagle’s Nest and my “Little Julio”. No one could speak English, but we all could communicate as Julio was meant to be our son.
The humble caregivers brought Julio to me. No words were needed I knew then, and forever, that my life had changed, for the better, for the unknown, for the unexplainable, for destiny, that Julio was my son and I was his Mommy. Tears rolled down everyones face. We all loved him even before we met him. That day, that very day, I traveled to “Become Mommy”, the day I traveld oustide the confines of the smalltown where I grew up, changed my life forever.]]>
Future Roy (FR) / Past Roy (PR)
Future Tiff (FT) / Past Tiff (PT)
Setting: Los Angeles, CA 2008
[[Lights up on a sunny loft. Big window covered with sheet. Walls brightly colored and hanging artwork. FR sits on couch while FT fusses with a camcorder. Has problems setting it, calls FR over. Both sit on couch in front of camcorder. Remote in hand, press record.]]
FT- Hi Roy and uh, me!
FR- what’s goin on?!
FT- We wanted to make a video and send it to you guys before you left on your journey to California allllll the way from good ole DC! Aww, DC…anyways, we wanted to impart some knowledge, advice and randomness to you as you prepare for this extreme change of life. First off…
FR- We never made it to California. Unfortunately we punked out and we couldn’t leave our family and friends.
FT- Yeah, we told ourselves and everyone else that we were going to stay just a few more months and save some more money before we left, but you know how that goes. Can’t fail if you don’t try, right? So here we are…living and working in MD, wishing we were in California.
[[Long pause. FT and FR look at each other. FT slowly gets up from couch and takes sheet off wall revealing a beautiful view of SoCal.]]
FT/FR- SIKE!!! [[Laughing, murmered excitement and chatter]]
FT- Are you kidding?! There’s no way we weren’t going! Especially after telling EVERYONE that we were moving to LA, we had to go!
FR- I hope you guys know us better than that, or er yourselves better than that.
FT- I wonder if they were watching this thinking what the heck happened that we didn’t make it! Shoot, they probably knew we were lying!
FR- Yeah right! Probably. Man, it’s great out here yall! The best part though was the trip to get out here!
FT- I wonder how far back this video is goin?? Roy have you even decided that you’re going with me to LA yet? I mean you only really did decide about a week before I left.
FR- Yeah, yeah… I knew I was going with you the whole time. You already know that Roy! Sorry to spoil it, but he’s stickin with you Tiff.
FT- He’s so crazy last minute! But you already know that, or you will! And even though it’s not yall’s first road trip…this is the one we said would “make or break us”…but as you can see…
FR- We still rollin!
FT- Okay, okay enough!Back to the original reason we’re makin this video. Advice numero uno: try sitting in the packed car before you actually take off, you wanna be able to move you seat.
FR- Numero dos: Do bring medicine with you, Roy, you will get sick! But knowing you, you won’t. And DO document the entire trip.
FT- Definitely! There are so many things you may miss out on or forget if you don’t have a camcorder, camera or journal…all of which we had! They become a link between the past, present and future.
FR- Yeah because this was the start of us following our dreams, this was the definitive moment when we took action.
FT- Yeah, we packed up all of our entire 22 and 25 year old lives into a 2001 honda civic. But we had to leave a lot of things behind, shed our weight so we could be free. Roy wrote about it, actually it’s the first entry in our journal as we left Virginia.
[[Scene changes to interior of car. PR writes:]]
Gray skies fill the clouds of our hearts. Raindrops take me back to fallen tears. The tears of the mother as she lets go of her child. The tears of a child as they feel that release. All seems so new and the eyes need to adjust like coming out of the fog. And we cry like the raindrops that fall from the heavens. Sorrow, happiness, pain and love, fall gently from our faces, we cry life. And as we do so, we get closer to all that is. It was written that rain is the tears of God.
PT- I wish it would stop raining!! I think we might be driving through a tornado! Does the sky look green to you, or is it pink? What’s the color of the sky before a tornado hits?
PR- The sun is setting, that’s why it’s that color.
PT- No, there were already 7 tornadoes today or was it 7 states that a tornado hit, anyways, It’s making me anxious. I need music, is the cd player working? I swear if you work I’ll write a song for you CD player!
[[Turns on cd player. Amy Winehouse is playing]]
[[Ode To my CD Player]]
I made a promise I had to keep
cuz without my cds, I’m in some real heat.
Please! Please! I begged and cried.
You must work, music is my lifeline.
I can’t go back to cali, cali
without my biggie smalls and E.I. Nelly.
You do your best, even when it’s hard
to keep me occupied, when I’m traveling far.
I know I push you to the limit
even though you try and act timid.
You the best, baby!
Please keep playing for me!
You got the goods to share
that’s why I love you my cd player!!
[[FT and FR reappear]]
FR- Yeah, that cd player is gonna get you all the way to LA, although there will be some iffy moments. But, that’s why it’s always good to have a paper and pen.
[[Interior of car, PT reads to PR, flustered:]]
[[Yes, because once again we have fallen victim to technology. Memory is full on both voice recorder and camcorder. So see the most reliable is the pen and the pad/ and it’s so sad/ that the youth of today/ don’t follow the way/ of such a beautiful art/ the pen—extension of hand and heart/ like a continuous flow/ where no never means no/ a stream of conscious plays/ in the moonlight’s rays/ a singin lark/ in a daylight’s dark/ and a frog catches a princess’ heart/ Allow us to be free/ from mental captivity/ when there’s no barrier/ between mind and time / and what can occur?/ time as it were?/ or forever will be/ to me/ on the blank white/ that is now filled with a different light/ the mighty mighty pen/ can be your best friend/ no matter what befalls or you move towards/ your written word can be your sword.]]
[[FT and FR reappear]]
FT- Can you believe that we’re in LA?I remember when we thinking about it on our way to the Grand Canyon. Oh yeah, the Grand Canyon is way more beautiful than any of those pictures you see on postcards. It’s…you’ll see.
FR- I remember too. And it was on our way there that we had a revelation.
[[Cut to car with PR and PT]]
PR- So what do you want from this trip? [[Holding voice recorder to PT]]
PT- I want to experience the whole country. People, the environment, everything. I want to see where other people are coming from. I want to clear my head, sit and talk about what this new episode of life is. Driving has really allowed us to talk things through and also allowed me to come to terms with leaving. Leaving was such a big step that this trip—driving across country has allowed me to see the magnitude of this decision and it’s beautiful. I appreciate the opportunities we have more because we’re doing this. Some people can’t, some people don’t. I’m hoping that I can utilize…this is a very brave thing to do and we’re following through. I feel like I’m really living life. The future resides in me—in my hands. What about you?
PR- I think that this trip is going to allow me the peace of mind that I’ve needed for so long. It’s also like you said: it’s a way to deal with the decision that I’ve made. I’ve wanted to leave home since my senior year of H.S. but I never did. Maybe I wasn’t ready. Now I get the opportunity to test myself. For me, this trip has been a meditation on my life, the choices I’ve made and am making. It’s a way for me to reflect on my past and be somewhat of a fortune-teller. If you can see your past, you can read your future. I’m hoping that I can stay open and stay willing to try.
PT- Baby look. Look at the sun, it’s setting.
PR- Look at those colors! They’re setting the sky on fire. No matter how we try to document nature, it’s too much. We can’t capture this spirit out here. I’m going to strongly recommend everyone take this trip. People fail to see the beauty where [[they]] live. This spirit.
PT- I can’t even describe the extent of what I feel as I look around us. It’s breathtaking. My heart is melting. This is something I only thought was imagined by artists and painters. This is definitely one of God’s masterpieces.
[[Cut back to sunny SoCal]]
FT – I’d do the trip again. In fact, I’m just waiting for someone to ask me to drive with them.
FR- We’re definitely getting a RV. I heard you could rent one. Our next journey? How you feel about Mexico? But seriously, yall don’t need to be scared about this trip or leaving home.
FT- You’ll have plenty of time to get the clarity you’re looking for while on the road. Believe me.
FR- Oh, and don’t think that there aren’t great things awaiting you in LA.
FT- ‘Cause there are, so on that note, we’re signing off. This is Tiff.
FR- And Roy
FT- We’re out! (don’t forget febreeze)
FR- (and snacks)
“I ain’t play the hand I was dealt- I changed my cards- I prayed to the skies-and I changed my stars”
– Kanye West
I was in El Paredon, a small and isolated fishing village on Guatemala’s Pacific coast and, as I tried to assess how bad I was feeling, the events of the previous night started coming back. I remembered “Don” Rogelio, as everyone calls him, a 60-year-old evangelist preacher with thickset features, a wispy moustache and a high standing in the village. I also remembered a bottle of tequila and…a hazy recollection of promising to buy some land.
Now, as I stood tired and sober before Don Rogelio in the morning light, I also remembered that I had agreed to buy the land from him. Could I back out? Was it too late?
My concern was not based solely on the fact that Guatemala had only recently emerged from a bloody civil war that had cost 200,000 lives or that any government since had failed to consolidate democracy, reduce acute poverty or control violence, which is higher today than prior to the country’s 1996 peace accords.
I had also had bad luck on this idyllic stretch of beach ever since I had first stepped on its dark volcanic sand in October 2007. That was when I had finished early some reporting on the country’s presidential election and, faced with the prospect of a free weekend in Guatemala City, had entered the words “surfing” and “Guatemala” into an internet search engine.
Two hours later, search result written hastily on a scrap of paper, I was behind the wheel of a rented car and was heading down a road with the capital of Central America’s most populous nation safely to my back.
An hour later, I could feel the air getting warmer as I descended past the towering Pacaya volcano, through Mayan villages bustling with short women with long plaited hair and woven dresses and, finally, to the steaming coastal plains that are home to Guatemala’s sugar cane production.
An hour after that, I was kicking up dust on long and straight unpaved road that ends by a river. That is where you have to leave the car and continue by boat down a winding waterway that cuts through mangrove forests and eventually leads to El Paredon.
All this was an assault on the senses, a place so remote and so peaceful – cars are rarely seen in El Paredon and all the roads are made of the same dark grey sand as the beach itself – that going there seemed like going back in time.
But later that night, as I began to take in this timeless village with its adobe houses and roofs of palm leaves, I stepped hard and barefoot onto the aluminium base of a mosquito coil that I had left on the ground. It entered my heel up to the hilt. It also forced a speedy return to Guatemala City for treatment and stitches.
The second time I went to El Paredon was hardly better – though it was longer. Now friendly with Sandra, Rogelio and a few of the other villagers, I headed down to the water for an early swim.
El Paredon is almost spiritual at this time of day. The waves are big – sometimes eight foot high – but in the early morning and until about 10am they are glassy, crisp and clear. After that, they become choppier, less predictable and they often carry a heavy tow.
I had been in the water for about 20 minutes and was wading back when I felt a deep cut in the arch of my foot. I hobbled back to the sand but as the minutes ticked by the pain grew more intense. Within 15 minutes I had lost the feeling in my legs and then in my arms. I had been stung by a stingray.
With that history, and with a steadily growing hangover, I found myself heading to the mayor’s office of the nearby regional capital with Don Rogelio. I hadn’t considered the implications of buying land in Guatemala. Nor had I thought about the possibility of ending up only with a piece of paper and no land.
But it was too late. A call to the bank, a wire transfer and a signature later, I was shaking Don Rogelio’s hand, then shaking the mayor’s hand and wondering what being the owner of a modest piece of land in El Paredon would mean. I had no idea what the answer was and my head was still pounding. But I knew that it would be the start of an adventure and I knew that there would be no regret.
Adam Thomson is an English freelance journalist living in Mexico City.]]>
I arrived in Santa Teresa on a Sunday morning where a dear friend of mine from New York had organized a yoga retreat. Months earlier she had coaxed me into signing up. I remember at the time thinking I should conserve money and not take such a lavish trip. After all, there are a dozen studios within a two mile radius of my L.A. apartment that I could attend at a fraction of the cost. But for some reason, there was an overriding impulse for me to go. So without thinking too much, I booked my ticket and off I went.
It was lovely. From the moment I arrived I felt at home. I stayed in a beach house at the Tropico Latino with 11 others and while we joined together to flow through our asanas in the morning and evening, during the day I was left to do whatever my heart desired. Between sipping on freshly-squeezed guanabana juice, long strolls on the beach, galloping on a horse at lightning speed in the rain, or simply lounging in a hammock, I found out the true meaning of “Pura Vida.” By the fourth day I was doing cartwheels on the beach and beaming from ear to ear. So filled with bliss. Pure childlike bliss.
Costa Rica truly changed my life. It infused my soul. Not just within that one week but from the day I set foot back on American soil. I left my job of six years because it no longer brought me any joy. I also changed my career path and decided to go back to grad school to do something that I know is going to be far more fulfilling than my previous work. Essentially, Costa Rica woke me up to my life. I had been asleep for so long and could now no longer deny what needed to be done. What I wasn’t planning on was…
Seven days after returning to L.A. I was back to work. It was a normal morning. Bright and early I arose. I was beaming. I was glowing. I could still feel the dampness from the sea on my cheeks and the sun upon my face as I stepped outside my car on this gloomy, cool L.A. morn. Approaching the door I had thoughts that were related to the grumblings of my tummy. “Should I go for the danish or the bagel? Hmmmm.” As I entered the small and dingy apartment a kind of haze and hush cast over everything. All the attendants were still half asleep and making slow, deliberate movements.
It was an unfamiliar place to me so I headed for the nearest spot to sit down with my heavy bag but before I was able to reach my destination, a figure appeared to my right. I felt as though I were in a dream. He introduced himself, I did the same. Laughter was heard throughout the room at our simple little exchange. Everyone thought we knew each other. For all intense purposes, we should have. Everyone else had worked with him over the last month and a half but not me. And there was good reason for this.
After this playful exchange, I carried on as I’d planned and drifted over to the azure-colored couch smelling very unpleasantly of cats. But no matter. Something had just happened. Something had just shifted. To those surrounding us it probably appeared to have been a simple introduction. The kind that happens millions of times each day, among every culture and in every country across the globe. But, as I would quickly come to realize, this was no ordinary exchange.
One never knows when they’ll meet the love of their life. Thanks to the hours upon hours of sweat-building yoga upon the shores of Santa Teresa, I was able to be present for one of the most profound moments of my life. Completely unplanned and thank god for that. I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.]]>
I don’t know if there are actually more of these intriguing animals in Bolivia than in, say, Argentina or Peru, but there certainly seemed to be. In one rural community, there were fifteen to twenty wandering up and down the dusty main street, and my friends and I spent the better part of an hour trying to befriend them. We were unsuccessful, but I did get some good photos to share with my sister. Later while shopping in La Paz, among used toilet seats and shoe laces, we found an abundance of bizarre llama products, including llama skulls, bottled llama fetuses, llama teeth, and of course the commonplace “alpaca” apparel. Here in the markets of the highest capital in the world, my llama fascination appropriately peaked, and so I was prepared for the greatest llama adventure of all, which was to occur two weeks later.
We were taking a four day tour of the Salt Plains in southern Bolivia, driving around the wilderness, seeing the blue and red and green lagoons and other natural wonders. One day, we had llama for lunch. Cooked by our driver and his wife on their little portable stove on the side of the road with the sun shining over the majestic mountain backdrop, it was a delicious experience. I couldn’t wait to email home: “I ate llama, and it didn’t taste like chicken!”
Twelve hours later, I awoke to alarming abdominal cramping. I soon realized that if I didn’t immediately escape from my sleeping bag, feel my way out of the concrete room, down the pitch black hall, and into what I hoped was the toilet, a bad situation would become much worse. About a minute later, my body was violently ejecting the offensive llama, and I was thinking to myself, “I’m going to die in South America. Just like my aunt said I would.” There was no electricity or running water, and I had convinced myself that the tiny village obviously wouldn’t have an operating telephone line either. There was no hope. This was the end.
Except it wasn’t. I spent the remainder of the night stumbling back and forth between my bed and the toilet. Around 4am, after a particularly miserable episode had subsided, I weakly smiled as I thought, “I’m not going to die and I ate llama cooked on the side of a Bolivian road. This is freakin’ hilarious.”
Since then, whether traveling or at home, I eagerly anticipate those “I’m going to die, but not really, Mom’s gonna kill me when she hears about this, I can’t wait to tell her” experiences… though I doubt anything will ever top that one time I ate llama.
— The author is a third year university student in the United States, studying English and history. She likes being around people, drinking coffee, and traveling. When she runs out of money, she goes to Books-A-Million and reads about other people’s travels (for free!) and works in a local cafe until she can travel some more.]]>
The clock reads seven-something, then eight-something, then nine-something. The quirky manager told me the maid comes around 11. So I figure nine-ish is a good time to start my first full day in Port Douglas. Situated just north of Cairns, Port Douglas is a slow-pace, seaside city that has yet to become touristy like the Gold Coast. Many divers and snorkelers base themselves here for access to the Great Barrier Reef. Celebrities escape in its tropical hills. I’m here to relax in a hammock.
Like a bear coming out of hibernation, I stretch loudly and walk toward the kitchen. I pass the CD player. Bob Dylan? Latin Women? To my surprise Neil Young created the perfect ambiance yesterday afternoon as I refreshed in the Mediterranean-style shower. So I flip on his mellow tunes again.
Through the opened window, the melody floats into the patio where I eat raisin bread and yogurt. The room’s free coffee is stronger than I like, but I drink it and inhale the incense which is burning. The sun is barely beaming through the trees that line the mango-colored wall. The birds have silenced, allowing for the sounds of an unrushed life– peaceful quietness. Soon, my eyes are gazing at the hammock in the back. It was this cute, seclude patio in a tropical setting that led me here.
Once a low-budget motel, The Pink Flamingo is now a sophisticated adult retreat. Until 2004, it operated as a Gay resort, but now heterosexual and homosexual couples occupy the brightly decorated one-bedroom villas and garden studios. With only 12 rooms, it provides an intimate ambiance for lovers, and solitude for single travelers like myself. And in the early morning’s newness, I indulged in the tranquility.
After another long shower and preparation of a beach bag, I slip on my sunglasses and flip-flops, and stroll to Four Mile Beach. The pathway goes from manicured lawns to unkempt forest. It is spooky as the sunlight disappears into overgrown vegetation. I pause, but the ocean is calling, so I keep walking and say a prayer.
I see hairy legs readjust themselves on a 90-degree palm tree. Then I see blue– nothing but clear, refreshing blue. The beach is like a scene from a castaway movie with the smooth sand and seaweed laying beneath palm trees. The breeze is cool as the sun shines. It’s not a five-star beach with waiters angling umbrellas and serving drinks. Nor are there tons of chatty tanners and pestering venders like in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. It’s just sand, water, sky and trees — the perfect beach day.
I place my towel partly in the shade. I’m far enough to give hairy-legs privacy but close enough to keep an eye on my ideal hammock. Three palm trees bind together to create a natural hammock that encourages no worrying, no stressing. Hairy-legs is reaping all of it. For now I stretch as though I’m the yoga instructor from my DVD. Just as I am getting into my yoga groove, I notice the hammock is empty. Hairy-legs is leaving. I calmly but quickly grabbed my belongings and go to the tree.
It’s amazing here, like an unwrapped secret from god. The sun is directly above but the towering leaves angle the light so its soothingly warms me. The tree itself is perfectly sized for a reclining body. My back rests between two trunks and my crossed-legs rest on the third. I open my book. “Botchan,” a humorous tale of a Tokyo teacher living in the countryside of Japan, is intriguing, but my eye lids keep sliding south. The breeze, the ocean serenade, the soft sunlight all conspire to be my sleeping pill.
I doze for a while; then, my stomach speaks. I hop down and sit on the beach. The remaining half of my chicken Kebab is just as delicious as when I bought it yesterday on the main street.
I return to my hammock and the sun’s glow. The wind is blowing strongly but it is pleasant. I feel as though I’m Cleopatra and am being fanned by a servant. This is nice, I think. This is how life should be, well at least on a “kimochi ii” day.
Two mornings later as I’m riding to the airport, I see a quote from Da Vinci: “Simplicity is the ultimate form of sophistication.” I smile and nod. Port Douglas has given me a new kind of traveling– the sophisticated vacation.]]>
The landscape of rolling hills with flat branched trees dotting the grassy planes and the occasional sighting of a wild Zebra was jaw dropping. The girls of the GCN were even more incredible; girls my age and younger who’d been raped and abused were more opportunistic about life than I’d ever been- I found myself wanting to spend more and more time with their positive energy.
However, that time was cut short. On our 9th day, we returned from breakfast with 15 Central Intelligence Agents waiting for us at our home base. This was not a welcoming, instead, we were forced to go to the Harare Central Station for questioning about why were in Zimbabwe with cameras.
Two days of 12-hour interrogation, fingerprinting, a freezing night in a cramped, run-down jail, and an unofficial deportation later, my boss and I found ourselves in South Africa 4 days too early, with no goodbye to our new friends, but all of our film in hand. It ended in a way I’d never imagine but I don’t regret it for a second; we came away with an incredible understanding of the very highs and lows of Zimbabwe and a newfound passion to spread the word about this country and people that cannot be forgotten.]]>
“Je ne peux pas avoir des amis ici?” I asked. [I can’t have any friends in here?]
“Non, non!” He said, getting all excited already. “Il n’y a pas de rendez-vous ici! Non, non, non!”
“Rendez-vous? Comme les rapports sexuelles?” I asked. [Like prostitution?] I thought maybe he just had my intentions wrong.
“Non, non! J’appelle le police! Non!” [He’s going to call the police?] Whoa, boy, relax a minute.
“C’est pas necessaire! C’est bien, je comprends!” [Ok, ok, I get it!] Let’s try a new approach… “Est-ce que vous avoir un autre chambre pour deux personne?” [Ok, then do you have a room for 2?]
“Non, non!” This guy was going to have a heart attack on me. It was just a question. “Tu as fait la reservation pour une!! Une personne!” He shoved his thumb in my face, indicating the number one, in case I didn’t understand the concept of making the reservation for one person.
“Oui, Monsieur, je sais! Mais est-ce que c’est possible pour le changer?” [Groan, yes, sir, I know that. I just want to know if it would be possible to change.]
“Nooon!!! Tu veux avoir des rapports sexuelles, tu y va!” Screaming now. [If I want to be a prostitute and have sex and rendez-vous, go somewhere else.] Right.
“Oh la la, non, c’est bien. D’accord.” [Oh my goodness, relax man. Ok.] But now he was taking my keys from me. This guy was whacked. I convinced him he didn’t need to take my keys and went to get my bags.
“Are there any vacancies here?” a young Korean guy asked me. I rolled my eyes at him.
“I don’t know,” I said. “But good luck talking to that guy.” I threw a look at the owner, who was sitting at the desk, looking scary.
“Is he difficult to talk to?” he asked. [You could say that.] “I didn’t have much luck. I’ve got a reservation here right now but we’re going to go look for a double somewhere else.”
“Good luck,” he said. “I’ve been searching all morning for a place to stay and everywhere I go is full.”
As we left, I heard the Korean guy speaking to the crazy owner. The poor guy spoke pretty good English but no French. [Oh, good luck yourself, my friend,] I thought as we headed out of there.
Once at the tourist office, we had a (nice, normal) lady making phone calls trying to find us affordable double rooms, when the Korean guy walks in.
“I found a double at a different hotel,” he said, and introduced himself as Jun. We told him we’d take the double and he could have our single, then went back to the hotel to make the change.
“Bonjour,” I said to the man. “D’accord…je voudrais echanger ma reservation - ” And the dude goes ballistic. He rockets out of his chair and starts stamping down the hallway, muttering the whole way.
“Ca marche pas, ca marche pas…” he says. It doesn’t work, it doesn’t work. He starts throwing my stuff out in the hallway and saying I am very nice but it’s no good and to go to a different hotel then and take my friend with me.
“Mais attendez, monsieur! Mon ami - ” I begin, telling him to wait and trying to tell him about Jun and how he’ll take this room. But he just keeps muttering and repeating the same things and handing me my things.
Jun goes to try to talk to the guy and then comes back and tells me, “He won’t give me the room because he says while we were gone someone else took the room.” This, of course, is ridiculous because as far as the guy knew, while we were gone, I had every intention of keeping the room.
“Let’s just get out of here,” I said.
“Come with us,” Aaron told Jun. “We’ll figure something out together, but yeah let’s get the hell out of here.”
“Hi,” he said to the friendly, English-speaking receptionist at the new hotel. “We have a friend who’s desperate for a room. Could he stay with us if we pay the extra money for his portion?”
“Sure,” the guy said. “I’ll just charge you for the extra tax. That’ll be 23 cents.”
Your first time abroad just has that special way of teaching you about life in ways that nothing else ever could.]]>