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Monday, 03 May 2010

A Lesson in Culture Shock: Getting Used to the Wildlife in and Around the House - Page 4

Written by Mateo Amaral
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“There are no words to describe that paradise.” This is what my friend Jeff (who lives in San Jose, Costa Rica) told me when I asked him about Playa Samara. It is a beach town five hours west of San Jose on the Pacific Coast. It is one of the last and best pure beach towns left whose coastline hasn’t become an advertisement for hotel chains. “You’re going to love it.”

Except in Playa Samara at four in the morning, it sounded like five of those hapless sheep were standing outside of our window groaning through megaphones for two hours straight. They say it is the monkeys that make that god-awful sound. Then the chickens and geese were awake and screaming at dawn too. Even our earplugs couldn’t keep out the roar.

And our first day of school was a haze. Scratching all the bites on our legs and arms while trying to stay awake for grammar lessons, we couldn’t help fearing the month’s worth of nights to follow. Luckily, while reading through our welcoming pamphlet, I discovered the key to our eventual happiness. The pamphlet outlined the three stages of Culture Shock, and we were prime candidates. I showed Alisa.

“This isn’t culture shock, Matt, those are cockroaches. I don’t have culture shock, I just hate insects.”

“But honey, that’s Stage 1, ‘Denial and Hatred.’”

And sure enough, it seemed like all the uncomfortable thoughts racing through our minds after our first night were nothing more than normal acclimation struggles.

“You mean the cockroaches in the bedroom aren’t bad?” Alisa asked.

“Exactly sweetie. The problem is you, don’t you see?”

Our school is beautiful, and right on the beach. It couldn’t be better. We stayed there until it got dark and had to go home.

After all the screaming and slapping noises of our first night, our Tica mom got us a mosquito net. I guess they can’t afford to replace the windows once a week. And the net has really improved things. Now we get as much sleep as we need without waking up from a swift slap in the face. Sometimes we’ll wake to find a crab climbing the net, but we flick them off and go back to sleep.

But it is amazing how we humans adapt. After a week here it seems like we’re home. You get used to the heat and the bugs. Alisa may never get used to the cockroaches, but everything else is great.

So we have settled in here in Playa Samara, and things could not be better. We are learning Spanish at a beautiful school on one of the most beautiful beaches in the world. My classroom doesn’t have a front wall, and is twenty yards from the sand. We are taking dancing, cooking, surfing and conversation lessons. I play soccer four days a week for various teams, and we almost feel Costa Rican.

Last night around four in the morning, just as the pigs, or monkeys, or whatever the hell makes that godforsaken noise, began its serenade, I was awoken by something new. The geckos were calling each other on the walls just above our heads, and the cockroaches were flying around the ceiling. The mosquitoes and moths were flapping against the net, and geese and chickens were squawking away outside, when I had what felt like an enormous, wet maple leaf settle on my back. But my days of whirling and slapping are long gone. I casually turned to find the mother crab, which I assume lives under our bed, staring at me from three inches away, clicking her claws. I gently turned and let her slide off my back toward Alisa. I thought she’d be warmer in-between the two of us. Alisa scooted over to make room, and we both fell back into a deep, pure sleep.

© Mateo Amaral


Mateo Amaral is a writer from the San Francisco Bay Area currently living abroad in Central America. He received his undergraduate degree in English Literature from the University of California at Davis and an MFA in Creative Writing from National University where he was the Editor-In-Chief of the campus Literary Journal The Gnu.  His work will be appearing in the upcoming Winter 2010 issues of The Dirty Napkin, Diverse Voices Quarterly, Eclectic Flash, Bird's Eye ReView, TravelMag, Escape From America Magazine and inTravel Magazine. Mateo is currently working on a second novel as well as a book documenting his experiences traveling through Central and South America for the next nine months. He currently lives with his wife in Buenos Aires, Argentina, but will be moving on soon. HIs website can be found at:



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Last modified on Sunday, 16 December 2012

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