When you sign on for an exotic trip, one has a good idea that there will be a deviation from the norm. Some of these detours may take you out of your comfort zone and that’s when the fun begins. Call me an optimist, but when the going gets tough, that’s when I hope to learn something about myself.
New sights and smells abound in a new country, new attitudes about all facets of life emerge….. usually different and interesting foods …..and protocol to go with them. Then there is the organic element, microbes, sun and heat, unfamiliar farm animals and fry oil. Add to that a noisy crowd, neon and raging bulls, stifling heat and unfamiliar snack foods. That’s a costa Rican rodeo or “fiesta” and EVERYONE from miles around is there. Happening but once a year,it’s a long awaited chance for cowboys to show their “stuff”…..bulls, horses, western wear and skill. I soon realized that it’s a rare chance to “see and be seen”, a happy hunting ground for both sexes.
That’s where I found myself on one tropical night last February ,flanked on either side by my knowledgeable and excellent hosts, both veterans of these things.Wisely, we’d had several cocktails at home to bolster us before the grueling and bumpy ride to the fair grounds. Seems it is OK to drive under the influence in Costa Rica. They have bigger problems. Like fixing the roads.
The “feel’ of the place when we arrived was like a Dead concert, swarming with young people. But these kids were high on warm beer and chicharrones. That’s fried pork rinds for the uninitiated. The dust is thick, the place swelteringly hot, the smell is unabashedly of horse ,sweat and manure.
So what does one wear to these things? Why, six inch heels, skin tight jeans and a peek-a-boo top. Silly me , I’d chosen flats, linen and “not your mothers jeans”…….hmm, maybe that’s why I wasn’t getting noticed. Until I stepped up to the snack bar. THAT’S where I can strut my stuff. I’ve been told “for a lady, you sure can chow”, not the best thing to hear on date night. But amongst Central American farmers and teenagers I gleaned a bit of respect for my adventuresome spirit and awe inspiring capacity ,if nothing else. Yup, that was me, sampling the empanadas with spicy pork, chicken tamales in banana leaves, the fried rinds, fried rice and fried egg rolls (don’t ask me why, but there is a lot of Chinese food around) AND more of the local beer over ice cubes. Oh yeah. It’s a boiler maker of food.
Time for the action to begin and we enter the bull riding arena. We try to find a spot away from the loud speakers and the dust. Not too high up on the bleachers, please. I am feeling queasy even before the deafening music begins and the riders and cowboys are introduced. Folks are guzzling warm beer and munching banana chips, the smell of greasy pulled pork is wafting my way. I begin to sweat in ernest. The locals are watching with interest as their homeboys are announced. Two handsome cowboys and their shiny Pasofino horses enter the ring done up to the nines in show tack. They prance in showing off their unusual gait. The cowboys’ entertain us with their roping skills using the lariat. They’ll be the ones controlling the bull for safety when he throws the rider off.
Of course their are clowns, some really scary clowns. They help too. It’s quickly becoming like a Fellini film and the arena is beginning to spin, the crowd tilting sideways. Did I mention the very drunk college kids on spring break jockeying for position in the ring while taunting the bull? Try texting while you cheat death. They were. I learned that there is some kind of warped honor in touching the bull without getting killed. Drunk American kids! At least I know MY limits
Suddenly, it was me wishing for death as all the foreign elements of my snacky meal began to do combat. Just in time for the first bull out and the immediate and highly unfortunate goring which quickly followed. They took him out on a stretcher, not to return and I ran out right after him to wait in the car.
Not sure I ever need to view another “fiesta”, but if I do, it will surely be on an empty stomach.