One of the things I will miss the most (or maybe not at all) about living in Costa Rica is something I haven’t talked about at all.  The attention.

It’s not that I want to be chatted up, or even talked to overly much, and I’ve certainly never been the type to flirt with every passing guy, but in Costa Rica it has been a fairly flattering thing.

With bat-like ears, I gleeflully listen to all the praise the world has to offer, and I don't care one bit how silly that may be.

Back in the states, it was a thrill-less picture. Sitting at a table in a restaurant, reading a book as I so often do, the only person likely to stop and talk to me is the waitress.  If I get hit on sitting in a bar it’s either the drunkest middle-aged dude in the room or the two lesbians with chin hairs and furry armpits.  I like waitresses, middle-aged men, and (even hairy) lesbians, but that’s never the kind of attention a girl finds terribly flattering.

In Costa Rica, it has been a completely different thing.  At the beach, sitting down to a meal, standing in line, on a bus, even sweatily taking my afternoon walk, if there was a guy around, he’d more than likely find an excuse to stop and talk to me for at least a minute.  I’ve done my best not to encourage that, since the first couple of months I couldn’t understand what they were saying and after that I was dating Carlos, but the attention was always there. I’m blonde and American, at leisure and not completely unpleasant as a human being and apparently that’s all it takes to be attractive down here.

But, more than the male attention (which I didn’t particularly want), I’ve appreciated the warmth of the people around me and the kind compliments I’ve gotten.  I can’t tell you the number of times in the last year I’ve been told how well I speak Spanish for being a beginner, how quickly I’m learning, how intelligent I must be to be learning so quickly, and how brave I am for traveling alone.  Those would be incredible boosts to anyone’s self-esteem, and they’re doubly so for me since my self-esteem has always been linked more to my intelligence than appearance.  And that they come from complete strangers makes them that much more lovely.  I like compliments.  I don’t always feel comfortable with them, finding myself self-consciously trying to figure out what to say in return.  But one of the things I’ve come to realize about myself this last year is that, by god, I like them.  And I’m going to miss them.

So, here’s goodbye to Costa Rica for now.  I will miss your kindness.

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