After our first dinner as a group I use the restroom and cringe as I realize I just dropped my toilet paper into the toilet. I stand up, turn around and face the toilet bowl. I pause and wonder if I really need to do this before reaching my hand into the urine soiled toilet bowl to retreive the toilet paper and correctly throw it in the waste paper basket. Habits are hard to break and I've made this mistake not for the last time. I throughly wash my hands before leaving the bathroom. The septic systems in Costa Rica are fragile, and can't handle even the paper.
At surfing school we begin with a lesson on how to carry the boards between two people. I left my shoes in a locker with my belongings so they wouldn't be stolen while I play in the ocean. Ants begin to bite my unprotected toes and a desire to itch my feet swells within me, but my hands are occupied with surf boards and we begin walking through the jungle, towards the beach. I try to ignore my itching toes while excitement and nervousness storms within me. I love the ocean, but have a respectful fear of it's power. Unlike any other time I've spent at the beach, today I get on a surf board for the first time. Secretly I figured it would also be my last, but at least I'd try it once before ruling it out as "not my thing" completely. I told myself a story that I would be horrible at this and wouldn't be able to do it and I don't look all that good in a bathing suit and I wondered if many people drown their first time surfing?
Our instructor Kevin worked patiently with three of us. After an on shore tutorial on how to stand up on the board we attached a leash to our back leg and ventured into the water. I decided to channel my inner Gidget and have some fun. If you don't know who Gidget is just google Gidget surfing movie and watch it. I learn that on a surf board, in the ocean I'm not caught in my own neurosis, I'm present fully aware of skin, the smells, the sound. I'm paying attention to everything. I look at where I am and where I'm going. I see who and what's in front of me and every time I play on a wave I get to try to stand up and see where it takes me. Falling migh be the best part. There's no penalty for failing you just fall off the board. This is so much fun, it's joy unchecked and I love it. All I want to do is get back on the board and try again, and again, and again. Over the two hours of our surfing lesson I don't think about anything aside from my desire to stand up on the board and feel the feeling of riding the wave. I feel like I've become my friends Jen and Mike's 4 year old son Logan who wants to do the same game he likes with me over and over and over never tiring of the fun. Unlike a 4 year old I eventually realize that my body is getting so tired that instead of getting better with each pop up I'm getting sloppier and it gets harder.
I've seen humming birds, geckos, large spiders and monkeys. There are bugs on everything and my attempts to keep the mosquitos away has thus far been futile. Costa Rica is a rainforest and it's rainy season which means it's been raining on and off since we arrived. The tin roof is currently being pounded by rain as I write. My body feels worn out from the two hour surfing lesson this morning and the walk around the town. My face feels dry from the sun yet greasy from the sunscreen I slathered on this morning and forgot to re-apply.
Entering Costa Rica, this retreat and the ocean for surfing requires I change my habits. It requires that I not only walk in the rain, but realize that I am the rain. I must leave my fear on the sand and get in. I work to think less and feel more, I get into my senses and out of my mind, I learn that I'm not too afraid to let the joy in. On the board there's the ocean, the waves, my body. I fall in the water and I'm baptized by the ocean released of the stories that I've told myself.