At that moment, my host mom Ana’s voice echoed in my head. Americans are always on the go, but here in the tropical paradise that is Costa Rica, life is all about placidity. I surprise myself by just how tranquil I actually feel. Here I am in a place completely opposite of how I had imagined my normal New Year’s Eve. In fact, I could picture it now: my parents and sister, all asleep, having barely made it to 10:45 p.m. We always joked about how we were clearly the life of the party. To say the least, New Year’s was just another television program back at my home in Wisconsin. Yet here I am in Manuel Antonio, soaking up the wonders of a moonlit night on the beach.
Many people asked us why we would go to the beach for New Year’s Eve, as most of the parties occur in the nearby town of Quepos. Despite this, I know we made the right decision. When my friend Maddy told us that she always had the tradition back home of ringing in the New Year on the beach with her loved ones, we realized that that was exactly what we wanted to do. She said it had brought her family luck, and I am nothing if not partial to superstition. So when we arrive to see the reasons why tourists rave about this beach, we are not disappointed.
Prior to this night, I had never seen an ocean… never truly felt the rush of water against my feet racing towards me, then ever so slowly regressing back to the sparkling abyss. There was hardly a cloud in the sky that night and the moon cast its glow upon the horizon, lighting up what would otherwise be an opaque cove. I dig my toes into the sand, thankful for its silky feel. The ever-present roar of the waves, despite its newness, is comforting. Why would anyone go to the beach during the day? I wondered. The nights spent at a beach are simply unparalleled.
I hadn’t expected the evening to become any more extraordinary than it already was, but then midnight starts to draw near. There are very few tourists, as they all went to the city for the party. We are surrounded by local families who, one by one, light floating lanterns. We watch as they peacefully float into the sky, lit with the hopes of a prosperous year to come.
A rogue firework. Screams. Giggles. Merriment. Tres. Dos. Uno. ¡Feliz año nuevo!
Fireworks whir and pop as I glance around at my companions. I don’t recall a time that I have been so blissfully happy, especially in a place so foreign. I miss my family, but the hurt subsides as I look up at the moon and remember that it is the very same one I can see in Wisconsin. I close my eyes and sigh, soaking in the felicity that surrounds me.
“¡Ahhh, que tranquila!”
This piece was featured in the 2014-’15 print edition of Souvenirs.