A Moveable Feast

A moveable feast is a holiday that is not on the same day every year. Easter, for example, is a moveable feast.

If my room caught on fire and I could only save one thing, with the absolute guarantee that everything I don’t save will be wholly and irreplaceably destroyed by flames, I’d save the notebook I kept for the 4 months I lived in Spain at 19.

From September to December, everything’s there. What I was feeling, thoughts on places I went, was going, or wanted to go — the people I met and the parties I went to. It’s the best thing I could’ve done. And it’s the only item that’d be worth saving.

Since then, I’ve kept a similar journal for each place I’ve lived after that semester abroad ended in Spain. There are 4 total.

The most recent one I kept started on April 1st, 2021 at 13:45. It would last three months and span 3 countries until it was destroyed. Here’s the first entry:

[Not edited for clarity]

Somewhere above Central America, two hours-ish until touchdown in Costa Rica.

I’ve already heard ‘Pura Vida’ once from an older white guy on the back of the plane, which is where I was sitting until a girl asked me to switch with her boyfriend, who was sitting in the middle of the plane at a window seat.

Good deal.

There’s no one in the middle and a girl from Tennesse (who I just had a brief conversation with) is in the aisle.

My preconceived notion of Costa Rica is that it’s a Level 1 destination for beginning travelers. So, I’m looking forward to that being challenged. Also, I want to know what it means to be Costa Rican from Costa Ricans themselves.

My plan is to be here until I’m accepted to grad school in August or September, but who knows. I’m hoping to sneak in trips to Panama & Nicaragua as well since I’ll be down here.

I’m set to stay at a hostel for 3 nights before I meet my host family; which I’m a little nervous for, but eh.

Currently, there are a mix of blues from the sea, coast, rivers, etc, all visibly different from above.

It’s a beautiful sight.

That’s all, for now.

16:53

San Jose, Costa Rica

You can tell a lot about a place by its parks. I’m currently sitting at a wooden bench 1/4 way up a small hill. (Travel rule remember — get to high ground)

It’s a holiday (apparently) today & tomorrow, so maybe that has something to do with it, but there are tons of people engaging in a plethora of activities across the park.

There are playgrounds, volleyball courts, basketball courts, 5 or 6 large fields, 3 or so tracks, and a wondrous view of the surrounding mountainscape.

A police station is in the center of the park, > (would people like that in America?)

And it feels like it’ll rain soon.

* * * *

Oh, and a young couple is really getting to it at a near by bench, so I’m going to finish my orange, and continue my walk to the stadium.

Lastly, find out the name of this park.

Over the next 3 months, as often as it felt like I had something to say, I’d write in the notebook. It covered my months in Costa Rica, weeks in Nicaragua, and weeks in Mexico.

Two of those weeks in Mexico were spent in a small surfing beach town in the southwest state of Oaxaca. There, on the farthest end of the main beach, is a short rock tunnel that leads through a cliff to a second, smaller, rocky beach.

The only way to access this second beach is to pass through a short rock tunnel leading to the other side. The problem is that because of the angle of the tunnel, ocean waves occasionally surge through the opening, filling it completely with water. So if the waves were high from the tide, or you weren’t paying attention, you could get smacked by a surge of ocean water.

The only reason anyone goes through this tunnel to get to the objectively worse second beach is that if you walk to the end of it, it opens up into a secluded, serene, third beach, which is worth getting to. Also, this third beach was rumored to have a section of it specifically designated as a national turtle hatchery site. The third beach is where I wanted to go. Baby turtles hatching is what I wanted to see.

So I stood face to face with the tunnel, watching the occasional wave surge through the tunnel. It felt like a video game. The surge would come, it would drop to beach level, revealing the very short distance to the safe other side, then surge with water again.

I had dressed light. Swim shorts. Wife beater. Sandals. Backpack. In the backpack: Phone, enough pesos for dinner and a beer, two pens, A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway, and my Costa Rica journal.

The water dropped. I jogged through — BAM! A wave immediately smacked me. I hadn’t seen it coming. My timing was wrong. I was soaked. Embarrassed, and laughed for even trying in the first place.

I marched out of the tunnel and passed a teenage kid who looked me up and down and asked ‘Estas bien?’

‘Si.’ I mustered, as I went to sit my now sandy ass back on the beach.

I sat for the next ten minutes. All of my items laid out in the sun to dry. The notebook had gotten wet, but it wasn’t enough to worry about. Then watched as two boys approached the tunnel, peeked their heads inside, watched the wave surge through, then decide it wasn’t worth the risk.

I felt validated until I watched them walk behind me to the cliff that separated beach one from beach two and climb a makeshift trail up and over the tunnel.

Damn.

I waited long enough to see where I needed to go, then gathered my stuff and followed their route. A short, steep, walk back down footpath and I was making way across the jagged rock-filled second beach, and onto my goal of the third one.

The third beach stretched in a straight line along the ocean as far as I could see; flanked by the rising cliffside that could provide shade if you squeezed against them. Aside from the boys I had followed, and a group of young teens huddled in a cove, the beach was empty.

It was still another two hours until the turtles were supposed to hatch. Proud that my original plan was still salvageable, and looking forward to writing about being hit by a wave, I set my items out to dry again and went to put my feet in the water.

When I looked, the wave that had just rushed over my toes was surging towards my laid-out items. I had no chance to save them. BOOM! The Hemingway book was lost instantly. My notebook was flipped upside down, drenched, and coated in sand. The bottom of my backpack, which I had hung on a small ledge, got wet. And my phone, pens, and pesos, which were stashed higher than the ledge, made it out dry.

To this day, I can still shake sand out of the crevices in the notebook. Only four pages are legible. The rest are smeared, crinkled, or ruined. In seconds, three months of written work, memories, stories, thoughts, and ideas were lost to the ocean.

I’d like to read it, to be able to get everything back, but it sits on my shelf all the same. And now, instead of remembering it as ‘my Costa Rica notebook’ and thinking about Costa Rica when I see it, I remember it as ‘the notebook I lost in Mexico’ and think about my time spent in that beach town, and in Mexico City.

And in hindsight, I appreciate that more. All it took was getting smacked by a wave. And the loss of the notebook itself.

Ressurection is the biggest theme of Easter Sunday. Otherwise known as Semana Santa, something I did not know when citing the “apparent holiday” of my San Jose entry.

I didn’t realize what a moveable feast meant when I started reading the Hemingway book either. And I didn’t realize that because Pen Sunday is published every Sunday, I will be writing on Easter every year.

But now that I do, I’ll see you next Easter.

And next Sunday too.

Solomon Imani

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Pen Sunday Weekly Soundtrack

“Leray” — Trippie Redd

“worldstar money (interlude)” — Joji

“For the First Time” — Mac Demarco

“Buzzcut Season” — Lorde

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