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Published: April 23rd 2016
The bus rolled along the winding road from the Trapp family Lodge and took a right turn to the main road at the junction. I am traveling to my next destination Arenal. These were the two good days I spent in Monteverde. Zip lines were awesome. No, we won’t discuss zip line today. We talked all about zip lining in the last two blogs. Let’s change the topic here. I would like to tell you the story about a Costa Rican family who took me close to their heart and made me feel home. On the way to Arenal
We changed the bus outside Monteverde. Then we took the main Highway No. 606 through the rolling hills of Alajuela. A green carpet of nature is spread across the silent hills and pastures all around us. It was a three hours journey by the time we arrived near the lake Arenal. We all unloaded our luggage and waited for the ferry. It took us good 20 minutes to cross the lake in ferry. But it was an enjoyable journey over a tranquil lake Arenal surrounded by green rolling hills. I could see the Arenal volcano at a distance. The pandemonium
started when we reached on the other side of the lake. We boarded a small bus and all our luggage were dumped on the back of the bus. Once people boarded through the front, there was no way one could take the luggage out unless everyone gets out of the bus clearing the aisle. I knew that wasn’t going to happen. The first stop came and some tourists got out. And indeed, it was a novel way of unloading the passengers and luggage both. The passengers came through the front door and the luggage came through the back windows! My hotel Bijagua was right on the Hwy 142. The bus stopped in front of the hotel to drop me off and my luggage also followed the same route as others. Hotel Bijagua
From outside, the hotel resembled more like a house rather than a typical hotel. I opened the main gate and entered a passageway. At the end of the passageway, there is a hall and the hotel desk is at the center of the hall. I couldn’t see anyone there. “Hola”, I said looking around. An elderly lady appeared from the inside of the house and gave
me a smile, “Hola”, she returned my gesture. No, I didn’t want to give her an impression that I am a pundit in Spanish language and then make a fool out of myself. I learned my lesson in Salvatura.
“Well, I have a reservation.” I told her in plain English.
I am glad she realized that my Spanish won’t go too far and she called someone. A lady came forward to the front desk. She spoke in English and once the initial formalities were over, she came with me to show my room. Inside, there is a beautiful little garden and a small pool where some kids were playing. Hummingbirds were jumping from one tree to another. Lovely, I thought! At one side of the pool, there is a two story building with guest rooms on each floor. There is a stair at the end of the building and she showed my room on the second floor. It was a nice spacious room with all the basic necessities. At the other end of the garden and the pool, there is a community kitchen where the guests are free to cook. Obviously, it’s a family run hotel and I
was not sure of what kind of services I could expect here. Once I settled down, I came downstairs. I was getting hungry. I walked to the front desk to inquire about the eateries close by. A young man was talking to another lady near the front desk. I approached him and asked about the restaurants. The guy smiled and extended his hand,
“Hi, I’m David, and you?”
“Nice to meet you, David. Call me ‘Tab’, that would be easier, don’t go by my Passport name,” I laughed.
“That would be fine. I am from hotel Bijagua. Are you new to this hotel?” Dave’s English was fluent.
“Came just half hour ago.”
“And coming from…?” David looked at me expecting an answer.
“Originally from Canada, now from Monteverde.”
“Welcome to Arenal, Tab. Actually, you are lucky, we had a pretty bad weather for the last few days. Just got better. Anyway, what can I do for you?” David asked.
“Well, I am looking for a place to have dinner”
“You just got it.” David was smiling. I was confused. In the meantime, another elderly gentleman came to us. David introduced him
as his father, Jorge. The gentleman also spoke English, but not as fluent as David. Both David and his father seem to be easygoing people, and I started feeling at ease. I reiterated my question, now looking for an answer from either of these two gentlemen,
“Is there a place close by where I can grab a bite?”
“You know, we are inviting you for a family dinner with us tonight.” David said with a smile.
I was taken aback, but said, “Oh, I will be honoured…but may I know…umm, is there any occasion?”
“Well, today is 31st
December, right?” David continued,
“On the last day of the year, our whole family gathers here. We cook and invite friends and guests. So if you don’t mind, you are welcome to join us.”
“But you hardly know me, David. I just arrived here only half hour ago.” I was still trying to understand the rationale.
“Well, you are a guest in our hotel. That’s all it matters. We are all one family here.” Then he added, “We have invited two other guests from the hotel too.”
I didn’t know what to say. “Can
I be of any help,” I asked politely.
“As you please, no compulsion,” David’s father told me. I thought, if we are to spend the rest of the evening together, it is better that I start get acquainted. So I mingled.
“This is Caroline, my elder daughter.” Jorge introduced me to a smart lady who just emerged from one of the rooms near the front lobby. She wore a casual dress of blue skirt and a sandal. Caroline came forward and shook my hand.
“Let me guess, Thailand?” Caroline was smiling at me. This is not the first time I was called an Oriental person and I have accepted this as part of my life.
“Oh My God! I should have known. We have to talk,” Caroline was excited.
“Sure, but may I know the topic in advance, so that I can prepare,” I said jokingly.
“I want to inquire about your religion a bit,” Caroline said. I stiffened a bit. I am not a religious person myself and discussing religion is not my comfort zone.
“Actually, I was studying Sanskrit…I would like to know a little more about Bhagwat
Gita,” Caroline continued.
My jaw dropped! I had to balance myself holding a chair; otherwise I would have fallen on the ground! There she is…a Spanish speaking complete Costa Rican lady, studying an ancient language of India where I grew up and ironically, I have practically zero knowledge of it; and on the top of it, she wants to discuss the Bhagwat Gita with me, and I don’t recall when I last turned a page of that book. I was feeling dizzy!
So we discussed. No, let me correct it, - it was a monologue. Actually, Caroline spoke and I listened and I learned about the Hindu philosophy of life from a Costa Rican lady! I felt like a complete idiot. However, I was simply amazed to see her motivation.
Caroline is a lawyer by profession, but she was also studying a couple of ancient languages. She spent a fair bit of time in Beijing in an exchange program. One of her subject happened to be Sanskrit. I believe the other one was Mandarin. It would be an understatement if I just say that I was very impressed. Rather, I was overwhelmed! Live and learn, Tab, live
The guests started to arrive. They are mostly family and friends. I was loitering in the pool area recovering from the shock of my last encounter when I bumped into another lady. She is a guest like me and she was also invited to join the party. After the initial small talks, we started discussing our trips. I asked her where she was from….”You WHAT...,” This is the second time I almost fell on the ground. Of all the places in the world, she hails from Kolkata, India! Well, what are the odds that two people coming from the same city halfway across the globe and staying in the same hotel in Arenal! No wonder they say, the world is a small place.’
Soon David called us to join the crowd. We did. David introduced us to his brothers, sisters, sister-in-law…the whole family. Jorge called me and asked if I would like to help in the barbecue roast of the pork. I did with pleasure. During the whole time I didn’t realize how the evening passed. It was past midnight when most of the guests left and I found myself in the kitchen helping the family
cleaning the dishes. The next morning I joined David and Jorge for the breakfast and we had fun. So much love and friendship they gave me that I felt it is my second home. So, if anyone asks me what I loved most in Costa Rica, - what should I say? I know what you are thinking. No, it’s not the zip lining; undoubtedly, it was my opportunity of getting to know David and his family in hotel Bijagua! I was touched by the fact how quickly they embraced me as part of their family. Often I think, if we all could open our hearts in the same way David and his family did for me, this world would have been a much better place to live in. Instead, we are slowly dissolving into a world of self absorption, where we tend to love ourselves more and more than loving others. We seem to be comfortable with embracing the world of ‘selfie’ and call it a progress of human civilization! We tend to forget that life is all about sharing and giving. David, Jorge, Caroline, you all woke me up from my make-believe world of civilization and reminded me the
eternal truth, - love and friendship know no bounds.
It was almost two o’clock in the morning. I walked towards my room while musing my favourite song – “Imagine there is no country…”
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