Sunburns, Manta Rays and Multiple Injuries: Things I Learned in Costa Rica

As I mentioned yesterday, I’m back from Costa Rica and sorta tan! And by tan, I really mean more of a vanilla color. Even this shade shift takes a lot of dedication, involving hours by the pool, high-level sunscreen, and multiple magazines.

This is basically the only time I should be allowed out in the sun. At sunset.

I usually burn within 30 minutes of the first day of vacation. Almost always on just one half of my body. This trip it was my back and the back of my legs, which made my massage at the spa more of a delicate exercise in aloe gel application.

After a week (usually by the time I go home), the angry reds subside, and I finally turn a slightly less pasty version of myself. I never actually attain bronze goddess status.

This crab (well, crab remains) was trying to cross the road at the resort. CRUNCH. I think he was coming back from the beach and heading to the buffet. Crab cake, anyone?

So, since I never seem to learn my lesson on sunbathing (Can’t do it. Don’t even try. Eschew the sun, Poe.), here’s a list of other things confirmed by my recent trip.

1)  There’s never going to be “too much” reading material. I bought $45 in magazines (plus a book and another magazine at the airport on our way out) and still ran out of reading material by the time I boarded our second flight home. (For the curious, I took a UK edition of Hello, Life & Style, OK, US Weekly, Fitness, Vanity Fair, InStyle, and Real Simple. I didn’t pick up InTouch because that just seemed like overkill. I did, however, devour the aforementioned Rules of Civility, a very good book that takes place in 1930s New York high society.)

SIDE RANT: Can people please stop reading 50 Shades of Hot and Bothered in public? I’m actually really skeeved out to think that people are getting all horny while reading by the pool or even worse, on the metro. Ya’ll know it’s considered “erotica,” aka mommy porn, right? And we’re all familiar with that fact? So we know what’s up. Keep it in your bedside drawers, please.

2) All scuba places must be run by expats from somewhere. Our fine dive instructors/animal rescue fanatics at Costa Rica Diving were from Germany. Of course. Because when I think of diving, I think Germany.

Take me to the manta rays, German man.

3) The van to transport you from the dive shop must be old, decrepit and somewhat smelly. When we dove in Puerto Rico, Arnaud’s van didn’t use a key – it used a long screw driver. In Costa Rica, Harald’s van had one very hardworking and totally ineffective tree-shaped air freshener.

4)  Every dive following a manta ray sighting seems singularly unimpressive. Manta rays are impossibly cool. I was gobsmacked. We saw one on our second scuba dive on the first day. It was huge and graceful and just….majestic (like in this video). Everything after that (schools and schools of beautiful tropical fish, a sea turtle resting on the ocean floor, a spotted ray), was just kind of shrug worthy.

5) Soccer tournaments will put me right to sleep. We’ve discovered this in our own private research at home. This theory was reinforced during our World Cup-coinciding stay at an all-inclusive in the Dominican Republic. This time, the Eurocup final between Italy and Spain occurred during our trip. My soccer-loving-companion-for-eternity XFE was smart enough to suggest we watch it in a nice, cool public place with drinks and snacks and another couple who I no doubt infuriated with my incessant talking and cheering on of Spain (they were cheering for Italy).

6) Fishing will also put me to sleep. Listen, there’s a lot of downtime during fishing. It should actually be called “waiting hours for 15 minutes of excitement.” The rocking of the boat did me in. I slept much of the 8-hour trip, you know, between bouts of excitement, which included catching 4 mahi-mahi, 2 small tuna, and one very large (45 pound) rooster fish.

XFE calls this the action shot. (And yes, I wore that purple shirt and navy hat for every off-resort excursion.)
My mighty tuna. His teeth were very sharp looking and dangerous. Do not be fooled by his modest stature.

7)  I cannot for the life of me avoid self-injury. Every single entry/exit on any boat whatsoever was marked with wobbles and nerves. Even small inflatable boats that are brought right up to the beach to fetch you and take you to a larger boat (TWICE the death opportunity). Boats are so lame (except for napping purposes).

On my way back onto the dive boat, I took a non-water dive on the slippery deck in full diving gear and tanks. I banged my knee up pretty bad and caught, my ankle on a sharp metal lip. I had to bite my lip to not cry.

I also hit myself in the head with our glass patio door at one point (I was distracted by the fireworks), resulting in a red knot above my right eyebrow. Doors are so lame (except for room service purposes). And, I pretty much fell off the sidewalk every time we walked from one place to another because I was afraid of getting hit by a golf cart if I walked in the middle of the road. Sidewalks are also lame (except while riding on a golf cart and squishing crabs).

Tips for Parenting from a Beer Festival

I hate Father’s Day. And Mother’s Day. In fact, I hate any recognition holiday that celebrates traditional family structures.

father's day

When you are born, you have a 50/50 chance of having at least one decent parent. My younger sister and I struck out completely. We got crap for parents, on both sides. Our dad peaced out when I was just five years old, put in a brief reappearance when I was 14, and that was about it.

Oh, there was also a brief blip on the radar when he asked my mom to settle on his child support debt so he could get it taken off his record. Seems he wanted to buy one of his other children a house or something, and that whole pesky state-ordered debt to provide a pittance to help raise your children was getting in the way of him being a good parent to one of his later kids. I wasn’t privy to those negotiations, so I don’t really count that as contact with my father.


But my sister and I are not unique in this regard. There are lots of bad parents out there.  In fact, I saw a lot of questionable parenting yesterday at the Beer, Bourbon and BBQ festival.

festival signage

The Beer, Bourbon and BBQ festival is pretty self-explanatory. They have a bunch of tents, you get a little glass and you go around and get tastings of beer and bourbon. We tend to focus on the drinking, and not so much on the BBQ, which unfortunately, isn’t handed out. You have to pay for it. But you can’t really beat our BBQ anyway, so no loss there.

The festival used to be held way out in Maryland, but a few years back, it moved to National Harbor, which is still in Maryland, but just across the river from Virginia. (I know, northeastern geography is quite mysterious to me as well.) We went to that festival that first year, and it was a really small affair. Not very busy at all. But it has definitely grown over the past couple of years.


It was pretty packed yesterday, but still was a really good time. There must’ve 100 different beers. Our favorites were from the Kona Brewing Company. They had three beers, their Longboard, Wailua Wheat and my favorite, Koko Brown, which had a slight tinge of coconut. I think I “tasted” that beer probably four times.

inside a tent

The day was pretty perfect: It was bright and sunny, the beers and bourbons were flowing, and the redneck music was hopping. There were lots of girls in skimpy shorts, and lecherous men oogling them.  And tons of fuzzy Viking horn hats, which made no sense in the heat.

me and the chicks

But back to the parenting: We saw quite a few people, mostly men, carrying an interesting festival accessory –babies in those front carrier things.

Like this dude on the right. I didn’t take this and this actually wasn’t from yesterday’s event, but that’s the size of the tasting glasses and the happy-dad-carrying-baby motif was common.

Now, why would you bring a baby to a drinking festival? And, if you are going to bring a baby, shouldn’t you put that kid to work? Maybe get an extra tasting glass since there are two of you. Or maybe put one of those beer can hats on the kid’s head and you can go hands free.

Baby's first beer festival

I can’t imagine how many of those kids are going to be traumatized by the full roasted pigs on display. And the questionable adult behaviors going on.

roasted pig

All I know is after about 40 minutes at the festival, I had a nice warm buzz going and I would definitely not have wanted to be in charge of remembering that there was a mini-person attached to my rapidly sunburning chest.

Hell, I couldn’t even be responsible for putting on my own sunscreen.