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Fine Vibrations?

April 1st, 2015 · No Comments · En Route

En route to the beaches of Costa Rica’s Pacific Coast, Shelley Buck encounters her first suicide shower.

My husband is sick. En route to Costa Rica’s Pacific Coast, we’ve driven all day from the Central Valley in an unfamiliar diesel four-wheel-drive vehicle and crossed to the Nicoya Peninsula over an uneven bridge built recently by the Taiwanese to cement friendship with the Costa Rican people. We’ve pulled expectantly into the town of Nicoya, home to Costa Rica’s oldest church, only to find a modest adobe, not the anticipated gemlike cathedral.

Night is falling.

The town’s sleeping accommodations look rough, and I begin to get a bit scared. There’s no time to lose: Frantic tourists, we prowl the side streets, searching in vain for somewhere to stay. And we wind up here – a room in an inn set back off the street. We go around the corner to eat at a neon-lit restaurant. Afterwards, we return to the inn, travel again down its long dusty driveway, and fling ourselves into bed.

The walls are thin. In the night there are strange noises from a group of men in the room next door. I lie uneasily beside my ailing husband, wondering whether I will be able to manage the notoriously potholed Costa Rican roads in an unfamiliar vehicle if he becomes unable to drive.

In the morning, my husband is still sick. The room has a shower, but as I’m soaping up, I notice with shiver that a tangle of electrical wires is dangling above my head. I don’t know the term yet, but this is a suicide shower. Here there’s no muss or fuss about inserting a just-in-time hot water tank or other heating apparatus into the shower mechanism. Water for the shower gets hot as it flows over the sparking of a live wire. Do I feel a buzz?

My husband showers too. He is taller. His head nearly butts against the suspicious wiring. He feels a vibration for sure and exits hastily. Gathering up our things, we flee the scary room, hoping to find no one has made off with the rental vehicle during the night.

But in the breezeway, the innkeeper stands waiting for us. He has laid out a buffet – rolls, butter, slices of fresh pineapple, bananas, fresh-brewed Costa Rican coffee in a coffeepot – all on a lace-edged tablecloth. Our host apologizes for leaving us to eat and check out by ourselves, but it’s Sunday and he must be off to church. The dangling edges of the tablecloth sway delicately in the morning breeze as we sit down and pour out coffee.

The little diesel SUV is still parked in the driveway. Well fed and recharged, we take the road north, heading for the coast and the cut-off for the bumpy drive to the surfing beach at Tamarindo. My husband is feeling better. In fact, we are unusually glad to be alive.

When we get to Tamarindo, we find our next hotel has posted a warning sign for crocodiles.

©Shelley Buck Used with permission. Shelley Buck is the author of the travel memoir, East: A Woman on the Road to Kathmandu, You can read more about her travels in the Winter, 2015, edition of Narrative Magazine and in her upcoming book, due out later this year.


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