In the summer of 1994, I was turning 14. My grandparents in Costa Rica had a place near the beach. It was close to where the river ran into the ocean. The river would rise and fall with the tide. On low tide, you could walk out in mud quite a ways, and on high tide, you could kayak out from their place.
Once, a crocodile was following me as I kayaked in. I remember my grandma shouting at me to come back in. Fun times.
Another time, my uncle, brother, cousin, and I took a bird-watching tour on this guy’s little boat.
The idea of going bird-watching for me as a fourteen-year-old seemed pointless. But it was the family business, so I would suffer it silently. However, when I saw the beautiful birds of Costa Rica, it was always a joy.
We drove up the river and then back down, but on the way back, the driver took us to the right instead of the left, which would have taken us back home. The driver pulled the boat up to the bank, tied it up, and we all disembarked. Then we started to march through the jungle. My uncle and cousin might have known where we were going, but my brother and I knew not a lick of Spanish.
Feeling hot, sweaty, and mosquito-bitten traipsing through the trees, not knowing where I was being led, I was not a happy camper.
But then we emerged into a clearing, and this little cantina was in the middle of nowhere. I remember several scarlet macaws on the ground, many underneath a jeep, trying to escape the rain. It was the weirdest sight to see.
We went up to the bar and were the only patrons. When asked what we wanted to drink, my uncle said, “Coke.” My cousin said, “Coke.” My brother said, “Coke.” And I said, “Cerveza, por favor!”
I had fully expected someone to call my bluff, but shortly, an Imperial (the official beer of Costa Rica) was thrust into my hand.
Even though I was dying of thirst due to the long walk and oppressive humidity, I took only two sips and couldn’t drink anymore. The beer was too gross. I gazed longingly at the refreshing Cokes that everyone else had ordered.
I only tried to be funny and didn’t expect the bartender to comply with my order. It was a good lesson for me that people would take you seriously, and sometimes you get what you ask for, so be careful what you ask for.