In a Country of Nature is a City Without… with Adrian Morales for Elska Magazine

I’d never been to Central America before, apart from a very unpleasant three hours in Tijuana, half of which was spent in the US immigration queue and the other half avoiding street sellers of beer, drugs and prostitutes. So when I arrived very late at night into San José Airport, i didn’t know what to expect. I collected my hire car and began the drive to the other edge of town where I’d rented a studio apartment for my stay. There was nothing remarkable – it looked a bit like that part of Miami near the airport where you feel a need to roll up your car windows and check that the doors were locked even though you’d only just checked it half a minute ago.

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I’d only be here for three days, each one packed with shoots, so there wasn’t time for much exploring. All I knew of Costa Rica was that it was famed for its nature, for its rainforests and beaches. But the capital San José showed no signs of such “tropicality”.

Skip ahead to the following afternoon when I had a chat on whatsapp with Adrian Morales, who I would be meeting later. I mentioned my confusion about the lack of nature, so he invited me to his aunt’s home on the outskirts of the city because she had a large back garden full of plants and trees. Perfect!

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I stopped first at Adrian’s house in the city and rummaged through his wardrobe. We chose a flowery top, very in style at that time, but mainly I chose it to go with this vegetative image of Costa Rica that I had in my head. We drove just fifteen minutes out of town where very quickly nature had begun to reign. His aunt’s home was stunning, reminding me of my grandparents’ house in the country. There my grandpa would raise vegetables as a hobby but with the discipline of a farmer. His strawberry patch was more a strawberry field, and his collection of fruit trees was more an orchard. I’d always imagined that I’d retire into such a house and with such a mentality, staying busy but only doing the things I loved. Being with Adrian at his aunt’s place gave me that sense of comfort that I used to feel spending weekends with my grandparents. I really didn’t want to leave.

I shall return, perhaps to do a Costa Rican issue of Elska Magazine. Or perhaps just to hang out with Adrian in his aunt’s garden.

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*Images from a story called “Southern breeze, southern trees, blood at the root, blood on the leaves”, from the song “Strange Fruit” by Tori Amos (more famously by Billie Holiday)

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