I was looking for dinner on a balmy Friday night in Limón, Costa Rica. I wanted something different, something I couldn’t get in San José. I walked down a line of food and souvenir stands. The air smelled of salt water and chicken cooking and reggae music filled the streets with its lively beats and rhythms. I was walking with some friends when we decided on a stand that offered a meal of tacos and a coke. Perfect after a long day of travel, interviews with locals, and lectures about the region. The special was four tacos and one coke for 1200 colones. I went up and confidently ordered just that, cuatro tacos con una coca. The man at the counter looked mildly horrified after I ordered and asked me for 5,000 colones. Figuring I was getting ripped off because I was a gringa tourist, I accepted and paid. I sat and waited for my food as the man at the counter informed everyone that they were out of tacos at the stand.
I waited and waited until finally the man, who I now realized actually spoke English because of his Jamaican heritage, informed me my last meal was not going to be tacos because they ran out and so I was getting a hamburger. I looked down at the counter to see four cokes sitting and waiting for me. Horrified and incredibly embarrassed I realized what I had done. I had ordered four meals of four tacos. I bought sixteen tacos supposedly for myself. I stood there as taco after taco was handed to me. My fellow students cracked up laughing as I handed them excess tacos to enjoy. After finishing my meal we all left together with a story to muse over and lots of laughs (and tacos) shared.
While this story is very funny, it has a deeper meaning on my whole experience in Limón and in Costa Rica in general. I failed, big time, ordering those tacos. It’s not the first time I’ve failed either. My life, since I landed in Alajuela, has been a series of failures, some comical, some not so much. The thing is, that’s okay. It’s okay that I accidentally asked if there were rules under the Christmas tree instead of presents, it’s okay that I didn’t realize it’s okay, actually preferred, that I hang out in my siblings room, and it’s okay I didn’t realize that you don’t eat pork with a fork and knife here. While these are all failures, they’ve taught me something. They have taught me how human I am, how much I need to learn, and how much I need God and those he placed in my life.
Going to Limón smacked me in the face with that reality. I needed to fail, because failure is good. There are tons of people in Limón who know so much that I do not because they’ve experienced different realities than I. I am beyond thankful I got to hear the handful of stories and perspectives I did while I was there. Limón, with its ups and downs, was something I needed to experience because it showed me that even in the age where information is at my fingertips, I only know a handful of perspectives and ideas. Limón broadened my horizon and that is invaluable.