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Editor’s Note, March 15 2012

Tamarindo is a beach town in northern Costa Rica, a country recently named one of the developing world’s 12 most ethical travel destinations by Ethical Traveler. Ethical Traveler is either not very scrupulous, or they simply don’t share my code of ethics. I spent spring break in Tamarindo and took a few occasions to record my thoughts. This account is almost totally unverifiable, but still: I couldn’t make this s**t up.

Mar. 11, 10:41 a.m.

The guy from the middle seat is standing behind me in the customs line in Miami. I wonder if he knows how long it’s been since I last showered. For the last two hours, I listened to him have an excruciating conversation with the girl in the window seat that touched, weirdly, on Duke basketball (middle seat guy thinks Seth Curry’s ego is detrimental to the team, bases argument on “the way he looks on the court”). I chose not to introduce myself.

My customs agent is a tan, thirty-ish guy named Richard. He has pretty clearly gotten more sleep than I have in the last 48 hours.

“What was the nature of your visit to Costa Rica?”



“I was on vacation. For spring break.”

“What happened to your face?”


“You don’t know what happened to your face?”

“It’s a long story.”

Richard looks at me with sort of a what-can-you-do expression.

“Welcome to the United States, Mr. Green.”

Customs agents are good at stamping passports, which makes sense because they’re professional passport-stampers. Richard stamps my passport with remarkable authority. Every time I try to sling my backpack over my shoulder, I wince a little bit. The skin on my shoulders is dotted with little brown scabs and is highly sensitive to temperature. I don’t know what differentiates a first-degree burn from a second-degree one.

Mar. 7, 2:35 a.m.

I look out over the second floor balcony of the house we’ve rented for the week. The house is called Casa La Palappa and I have absolutely no idea as to the mailing address. Behind me, 50 or 60 people are drinking and talking loudly; I hear snippets about howler monkeys, and old AIM screen names and the physics of opening a beer bottle with one’s teeth, all of which sound to me equally and extremely engaging. There’s loud music, too, coming from downstairs, which sounds pretty great as well. I go announce my intention to join one of the conversations by standing very close to a group of people, and speaking loudly. Tact is not my strongest suit at the mooment, but that’s a pretty distant concern. I’ve got a big wet bottle in my fist. I’m put together beautifully.

Mar. 6, 1:06 p.m.

I’m walking along the beach holding a plastic cup full of something called a Miami Vice, which is a pretty colorful amalgamation of sugar and ice and liquor. I know from yesterday afternoon that I can drink exactly eight of these plastic cups before my speech starts to slur. The rum is denser than the ice and sinks to the bottom; to preserve the uniformity of taste from one sip to the next, it’s best not to use a straw.

There are two or three plastic adjustable recliners every ten yards or so on the beachfront behind the Hotel Diria, which is the hotel where most of the white people above the age of 40 in Tamarindo appear to be staying. When you sit down or lay down on one of these recliners, a guy wearing a knockoff Boca Juniors football jersey will approach and inform you that it costs $5 to use the recliner for the day. The price is not responsive to the time of day. Cash is the only acceptable form of payment, and Boca Juniors guy does not give receipts.

A little past Boca Juniors guy on the beachfront, a small cadre of shirtless, dark-skinned guys with orange-streaked afros and board shorts past their knees solicit passersby.

“Hey amigo, surf lesson?”


“Ganja? Blow?”

Mar. 10, 5:49 p.m.

Little flickers of sunlight are visible over the Pacific for a couple minutes immediately after the sun drops below the horizon. I don’t know what causes this. Tamarindo does not appear to have a hospital or a police force; they do, however, have a pharmacy that, over the counter, dispenses the sort of painkillers that require at least two physician consults to obtain in the United States. I imagine that this is something like what the United States would be like, if not for the War on Drugs.

—Ross Green


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