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Costa Rica Shake & Quake

March,1991 San Jose,  Costa Rica

On my second trip to Costa Rica I experienced my first earthquake. I had hear accounts of them from my adopted sister Rachel who was living in California in the Bay Area and trying to establish herself as a free lance photographer. I had seen movies like Superman. It didn’t seem real until it finally occurred.

I was staying at the Irazu, a moderately priced hotel in San Jose. I liked it because it was close to downtown, had good tourist info and  a nice swimming pool. I had stayed there on my first trip to Costa Rica in December 1989 and was happy the price hadn’t shot up. My third day there I went on a day long cruise of the Gulf of Nicoya near the Nicaraguan border, enjoyed the sight seeing, went snorkeling, ate delicious Cerviche and Grilled Sea Bass. Back at the hotel I was tired from a long day in the sun and figured I’d get dinner then relax. It was a Friday during Lent so a great time for seafood specials. Red Snapper with Casados (Costa Rican Black Beans & White Rice) washed down with an ice cold Pilsner beer, I was feeling good, almost ready to go see what was on TV. Suddenly there was a rumble, the lights flickered, and a few people screamed. For a few seconds it felt like a scene from a disaster movie, but almost as quickly staff from the Hotel Irazu were announcing in the dining room “No need to be alarmed, this was just a little quake. It happens from time to time. Please join us outside by the swimming pool for complimentary drinks and live music until we determine that it is safe to go back inside”. I left the dining room and found a poolside seat. “There will probably be an aftershock or two”, the waiter who had served my Snapper said. “Don’t worry you be able to go back inside in a couple hours. You want another Pilsner?” “Sure” I said, “The price is right”. I was impressed how the Ticos took this all in stride. The earth may shake. Lights or services might go out for awhile, but life goes on and no reason not to have a good time. I could tell there were some good things to learn from the good people of Costa Rica. I sat back, enjoyed the cold beer and hot Cumbia that was playing, and a little before 10:00 P.M. we were told it was safe to go back in. I took the stairs instead of the elevator to my room. I noticed a five foot tall potted tree had fallen over in front of the door. I stepped over it and opened the door. When I switched on the light I could see that my shaver, toothbrush, toothpaste and everything else I had in the bathroom had flown to the floor but otherwise nothing was out of place. The cable TV was out but that was okay I felt pretty mellow from the beers. I slipped a cassette Tracy Chapman into my walkman and lay back. I fell asleep and slept soundly, despite some seismic tremors in my dreams.

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