Category Archives: nonfiction

Second Official Publication!

It’s official. I am twice published! The second paper I wrote is called Si Vis Pacem Para Bellum. It is an academic paper written about the wars Lincoln and FDR fought to establish the social paradigm in which America has become accustom. Read the article here and tell me what you think below!

Officially Published – Pura Vida Wanderlust

I’ve been published! There was some miscommunication and a few changes of the guard but it’s finally live.  A paper I wrote called Pura Vida Wanderlust has been published on a website called Journal2020. I am a part of Volume V Online Edition. A hard copy should be available in the fall (Volume 6). More updates to follow. This is very exciting! Before I forget, here’s the website:

Journal2020 Volume V Online

I’m at the bottom. There’s some fantastic stories here. I recommend you take the time to read them. Thank you for reading!

Great Satan / شيطان بزرگ

 

 

Introduction

 

In 1979, President Jimmy Carter was presented with two options to retrieve the hostages taken by Iranian militants. The first option was to impose strict economic sanctions against Iran, freeze Iranian assets and expel all Iranian students and diplomats and engage in ongoing negotiations. The second option was a small-scale military intervention in an attempt to rescue the remaining fifty-two American hostages held in Tehran, Iran. The Department of State and the White House Chief of Staff advocated for increased economic sanctions and diplomatic agreements with Iran. The Office of the Secretary of Defense, National Security Advisers, Central Intelligence Agency, and the Joint Chiefs of Staff advocated for the small-scale military intervention/incursion option. The small-scale military incursion option prevailed for two reasons. President Carter’s trusted advisors assured him the military incursion, while risky, would succeed. Carter’s reelection campaign was failing and was advised by his trusted advisers that a military incursion to rescue the hostages would ensure a successful reelection campaign.

The background section will detail the events leading up to the Iranian Revolution, the storming of the American Embassy and the hostage crisis and the disastrous military rescue incursion attempt. The executive branch division section will take each policy option to be examined more thoroughly. Each of the foreign policy actors involved in either decision will be clearly defined and under great scrutiny. A visual aid is provided to separate each foreign policy option and its supporting actors. The foreign policy outcome section will begin with what policy option had won in greater detail and what bureaucratic divisions had contributed to the decision for military incursion. There will be two political reasons explaining why these bureaucratic divisions won against other bureaucratic divisions. The final section is the conclusion where I will summarize the paper.

 

Background

 

The year 1979 was a difficult year for President Jimmy Carter. The country of Iran was goaded into a revolution that would eventually alter the political landscape of the Middle East. To further understand the causes of the Revolution in Iran, one must take a brief glimpse into the history of Iran, starting with the Central Intelligence Agency assisted coup in 1953 to restore Shah Pahlavi back to power. Prior to the events in 1953, the United States ‘played a benevolent role in the great-power politics of Iran’ (Sick 7). Following the events of 1953, the United States played an integral albeit passive role in Reza Shah Pahlavi’s authoritarian government. The Iranian government enjoyed a relative level of peace for roughly a decade. The United States relationship with Iran was tentative; Iran maintained an active oil trade with the United States in exchange for western money and values. It was not until a religious cleric named Ruhollah Khomeini began to openly criticize the Iranian government, and more directly Pahlavi, to spark the flame for revolution.

Khomeini resented and denounced the Shah’s willingness to ‘westernize’ and shirk Iran’s more traditional Islamic values. Khomeini’s fiery reproach of Reza Shah Pahlavi’s government had drawn a swift, violent response from the king. Pahlavi, then obsessed with military security, dispatched his elite police force to disband the growing mob only to have the disbandment turn to bloodshed. Khomeini was arrested several times and eventually expelled into exile from Iran into Iraq. The events that occurred in 1963 would serve as a dress rehearsal for future sedition. As time passed, Pahlavi’s power and his health began to wane. Sentiment towards the ailing king began to grow hostile. Years of living in decadence and opulence introduced by western money began to take its toll on the Iranian people. Revolt was in the air.

Reza Shah Pahlavi was dying of cancer. As his world around him began to crumble. He sought temporary asylum in the United States while he actively pursued treatment for his cancer. After extreme reluctance and coercion from his National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski and Secretary of State Cyrus Vance, President Carter granted him access to the U.S. (Riedel 103). This had been the final straw for the Iranian people. On November 4th, 1979, thousands of radical Iranian students stormed the U.S. Embassy in Tehran, taking the Embassy by force and with it over 60 American hostages. The uprising took the world, and the U.S., by surprise

Sanctions were imposed, assets frozen, emissaries sent and negotiations negotiated. Six months passed with no resolution. After negotiations with the Iranian Prime Minister proved fruitless, President Carter authorized a brazen rescue mission utilizing U.S. Army Special Forces. Code named Operation Eagle Claw, the mission was intended to send the Special Forces in helicopters into Iran undetected, storm the Embassy and rescue as many hostages with minimal U.S. civilian and military casualties. The mission was executed but never left the first checkpoint. Eight soldier’s lives were lost and four more were critically injured due to a sudden dust storm created by one of the helicopters, causing it to crash into a C-130 airplane and exploding. The mission was a spectacular failure and would eventually seal Carter’s fate in his bid for reelection. Ronald Reagan was elected in a landslide victory and on Reagan’s inauguration day, the remaining hostages were released unharmed after four hundred forty-four days of captivity.

 

 

 

Executive Branch Division

 

According to McDermott, President Carter had five basic options to consider in order to have the hostages released and terminate the diplomatic stalemate (242). Of those five, President Carter and his advisors seriously considered only two. Of those remaining three options, Secretary of State Cyrus Vance supported the option of ‘do nothing’ and in time the crisis would end by itself. The second option was to mine the harbors and utilize any means necessary to restrain and reduce commerce. The third option would be a full military incursion and an all out attack against Iran. The second and third options were deemed too ‘risky’ both politically and militarily. Including the risk of the inability of not retrieving the hostages, mining the harbor and/or directly attacking Iran could influence the interim Iranian government to seek assistance from the Soviet Union (244-245).

Foreign Policy Option Executive Actors
Increase economic sanctions, diplomatic agreements; ‘wait-and-see’ approach Department of State, Executive Office of the President*
Small-scale military incursion Office of the Secretary of Defense, National Security Adviser(s), Central Intelligence Agency, Joint Chiefs of Staff, Executive Office of the President

*The head of the Executive Office of the President, Hamilton Jordan, would eventually advocate for a military incursion in hopes to both retrieve the hostages and assist Carter’s reelection campaign which faired poorly.

 

President Carter was a humanitarian president. Be it that he was a humanitarian, he would prefer to pursue peace and not war. “By the spring of 1980 Carter had tried every peaceful means he could think of to obtain the release of the hostages. He had stopped importing Iranian oil, broken off diplomatic relations…sent a variety of third parties and intermediaries to Tehran…” (Houghton 2). Carter initially pursued avenues of diplomatic negotiation, of economic sanctions and of the approach that he should perhaps wait out the disintegrating political climate in Iran. It was clear that Carter beheld the hostage’s well being deep within his day-to-day actions. Carter had originally sided with his Secretary of State Cyrus Vance. Vance was a strong proponent for a passive ‘do nothing’ executive response in hopes that the Iranian situation would resolve itself. Vance’s ‘wait and see’ proposal was briefly pursued though quickly abandoned by Carter as Carter determined that nothing could be accomplished.

Carter sought to strengthen his position by following Vance’s advocating of sanctions and open lines of communication with Iran through Algerian translators. The sanctions imposed were meant to bring pressure to European allies to follow the United States’ lead (McDermott 243). Carter had even dispatched his Chief of Staff, Hamilton Jordan, to assist with the negotiations with Iran through Algerian translators. The mirage of diplomacy, that negotiation and sanction would prevail, soon began to fade away into the desert sands and with it, Carter’s reelection prospects.

As time crawled on with the hostages no closer to liberation, Carter’s popularity and confidence in his foreign policy skills began to decline. “[I]t seems that the President cannot rely on his own image or popularity to stimulate support for military actions. For such initiatives, the President must call upon the public’s basic sense of patriotism in order to generate support” (Conover 263) Hamilton Jordan was crucial to Carter’s reelection campaign and was well aware of Carter’s downward spiral. Carter had not faired well in the New York and Connecticut primaries against his primary Democratic opponent Edward Kennedy. While Carter enjoyed an initial increase in his polling numbers after announcing a breakthrough in the negotiations, his popularity began to slip below that of his Republican opponent Ronald Reagan. Vance’s sanction proposals were met with resistance from the European allies. Vance’s failure to rally the allies began a break in the relation between the Secretary of State and the President. “…The real shift in Carter’s policy allegiance from Vance to [Zbigniew] Brzezinski came after the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in late 1979” (McDermott 248). A complete breakdown in negotiations on April 1st, 1980 led Carter to pursue the other seriously considered option: a military rescue mission. McDermott argues that the main perspectives that were examined are those espoused by Secretary of State Cyrus Vance, National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski, and [presidential assistant] Hamilton Jordan. In the end, Secretary of State Cyrus Vance resigned his position over this episode. Vance did so because he believed that the mission could not work and should be pursued because it was too dangerous (245).

 

Foreign Policy Outcome

 

It would come that two options were seriously considered. Each option was carefully revised according to variability of risk both politically and militarily. The Department of State and the Secretary of State Cyrus Vance advocated for a passive response to the Iranian uprising. Carter had sent Chief of Staff Hamilton Jordan to assist with the mediations. When this passivity failed, the Office of the Secretary of Defense, more specifically the Secretary of Defense Harold Brown and Carter’s own National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski strongly advocated for a bold and decisive resolution to the conflict. Hamilton Jordan’s efforts to rally America behind Carter’s reelection campaign began to sputter as the hostage crisis crawled on with no end in sight.

As previously stated, Carter’s reliance on Vance’s methods and efforts to encourage European nations to join in on the sanctions had begun to falter. A sharp divide between Carter and Vance began with Vance’s inability to assemble European nations to sanction Iran and culminated in the Soviet Union’s invasion of Afghanistan. Carter’s slippage in the polls instigated a strong response from Hamilton Jordan that something must be done to recover his campaign. Carter decided to pursue a rescue mission much to the disappointment of Vance but to the satisfaction of Jordan and National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski.

The rescue plan was strongly instigated by Brzezinski and facilitated through the Joint Chiefs of Staff with guidance and insight from the Central Intelligence Agency. Brzezinski assured Carter that such an audacious and complicated plan would be successful and restore U.S. prominence in the world. A successful mission would effectively ‘kill two birds with one stone’ in the sense of restoring that prominence to Carter and the U.S. while minimizing hostage and soldier casualties. “Carter would regret not listening to his own counsel” (Riedel 103). A haphazard, complicated plan was concocted by the CIA and the Joint Chiefs with assistance by the Office of the Secretary of Defense and authorized by Carter upon the negotiation failures on April 1st. On April 24th, the mission was executed but failed in a dramatic fashion, not because of Iranian intervention but a freak chain of events that led to the death of 8 American Special Forces and injured 4 more (Lu Fong 6). A successful mission would have rescued the hostages and elevate Carter far and beyond his political opponents. A successful mission would have reestablished the U.S.’s strong military prowess to the world. A failed mission would be disastrous to all parties involved, and failed it did. However, Radvanyi argues, “Operation Eagle Claw may not have resulted in the rescue of the American hostages, but it was not a total failure…Many of the recommendations prescribed by the Holloway Report were implemented subsequent operations in Grenada and Panama, with much better results in the handling of (operations security) and command and control” (38). Eagle Claw was a costly lesson learned.

 

Conclusion

 

A revolution to reset Iran to traditional Islamic values took the U.S. by surprise. Militant Iranian students led by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini took hostage American citizens. President Jimmy Carter weighed his options to rescue the hostages and seriously considered two; the Department of State and to an extent the Executive Office of the President advocated for a peaceful resolution through economic sanctions and sustained negotiations with Iran. The Office of the Secretary of Defense, National Security Advisers, Central Intelligence Agency, and Joint Chiefs of Staff and eventually the Executive Office of the President advocated for a stronger response in the form of a small military incursion to rescue the hostages. Carter chose the latter due to political pressures applied by Chief of Staff Hamilton Jordan in hopes of recovering his faltering reelection campaign. National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski influenced Carter to choose the latter as it would have reinforced the United States’ prestige. The failed rescue attempt only ensured Carter’s failure to be reelected and the United States’ reputation was tarnished. Only after Carter left office did the hostages earn their freedom from Iranian captivity despite Carter attempting viable politically and militarily risky options. Freedom came at an implicit price and cost Carter a presidency and the United States a much desired return to grace.

In Fortune and Men’s Eyes

It was four-thirty in the morning and I was running for my life. My vision was blurred and all I could see was a shadowy figure gaining. My shirt was shredded, my jeans torn, matted and sticky with blood. My vision was blurred by alcohol. My skin shimmered with glitter in the pale lighting. I took the right turn down the wrong road and found myself being followed. I was in a mysterious passageway that stretched for miles and millennia. The question in my mind was not who or why I was being chased but how. I had to chase the white rabbit. And once I did, I found myself tumbling down, down, down the rabbit’s hole to nothingness and beyond now with that burning question. How did I get here?

Opinion may vary to what would constitute a quintessential perfect, dreamy vacation. While any argument about touristic intention may be relevant, anyone could agree that tourism at its core provides to the consumer something they may not have access or be able to observe otherwise. In this paper, I will attempt to illustrate and examine an unparalleled adventure to California from Denver and back and the events that unraveled. In order to analyze the story, I will utilize the writings of John Urry’s “The Tourist Gaze,” Jack Selzer’s “Rhetorical Analysis: Understanding Texts Persuade Readers,” and Jerome Bruner’s “The Autobiographical Process.”

In Urry’s piece “The Tourist Gaze,” he writes about the observable behaviors of those who travel. People tend to fall into patterns for the sake of comfort, familiarity, etc. and they view the world through rose-tinted lenses while they travel. With considerable explanation, Selzer dives into the depths of rhetoric. Though several fields of rhetoric are cogitated and discussed, the analysis for this paper will be rhetorically contextual as defined by Selzer. This is an autobiographical account of a travel experience to California and loosely structured to suit Bruner’s autobiographical guidelines. Travelling is not about the destination. It’s not why you leave while you’re alive but how you live once you’ve left. With Urry’s potion and Selzer’s cake, we shall tumble down the rabbit hole and through the doors together.

I awoke on a couch early one morning. A lumpy couch, a globe and the television playing softly in the background were but the few possessions left to me by my ex. She had taken everything else including the ice trays out of the freezer and my heart; a visceral act that which she removed my heart, placed in a jar and arranged it atop her mantelpiece as a conversational focal point. Bruner would argue that “the “rightness” of any autobiographical version is relative to the intentions and conventions that govern its construction or its interpretation” (40). Surely she didn’t actually remove my heart; I would dead, you may be thinking. But yet here I am, free of heart and writing this. I was trapped in a tail-spin. Partying with no regard and there was no end in sight. I had spent my entire adult life with her and without her, I had no idea who I was.

It happened one night. I put in Total Recall and dozed off. A story about a man who pays for an exciting memory only to realize the memory was his reality. I awoke on that couch sometime later. It was during the scene where the salesman was delivering his pitch to Quaid. “What is the same thing about every vacation you’ve ever taken?” he asks. “You. You’re the same. No matter where you go there you are. Let me suggest that you take a vacation from yourself” (Verhoeven Total Recall). The salesman goes on to talk about implanting memories about travelling to Mars. I could neither afford memory implantation nor a Martian excursion but the movie did give me an idea. I needed a vacation. More than a vacation, I needed to escape. I had money from my tax return. Spring break was coming up. In my mind I constructed the dream. I took the globe and spun it.

I love the ocean but hate the beach. I love islands but hate travelling on a boat. I love clam chowder and fine chocolate. What city could accommodate all those things but San Francisco? I could disappear for a week and be thousands of miles away from her. I had the money to do whatever I wanted? I wasn’t about to live like a king for a day but for an entire week. I could reinvent myself. No one knew who I was. In the ‘divorce’ she got all our friends too. I knew that I played into a tourist trope identified by Gottlieb and written by Urry stating that “[what is] sought for in a vacation/holiday is inversion of the everyday. The middle-class tourist will seek to be a ‘peasant for a day’ while the lower middle-class tourist will see to be ‘king/queen for a day’” (Urry, 11).

But unlike the everyday tourist described by Urry, I wanted to avoid the quintessential tourist destinations within S.F. I did not want to put on horse-blinders and mill around Ghirardelli Square, Alcatraz or Golden Gate Park. I had my own agenda and to widen my gaze. Though I would do many things, none stand out more than my last night in S.F. “Rhetorical analysis [or rhetorical criticism] can be understood as an effort to understand how people within specific social situations attempt to influence others through language” (Selzer 281). I strolled the pier, gorged on chowder and chocolate and rode the cable cars. But I fell into the same habits as home. I drank at the hotel bar. I fell into the cliché of the man drunkenly spilling his guts to a stranger. The common message in S.F. is love and cohabitation, a message I would hear from a drag queen named Thor(a).

Thor was the Norse god bartender. He insisted that I come out with him and some friends. I accepted. I went upstairs to change. Thor invited me out. Thora picked me up, with two of her fabulous friends. The god I met was now wearing a wig and sequined black dress. Her other friends were similarly dressed. They caught me completely by surprise. I thought I was going out with a bunch of guys. I fumbled my words and apologized for giving Thor(a) the wrong impression, that I wasn’t interested in men. The three ladies rolled their eyes as if choreographed. Steph(en) responded with, “We know. You’ve got a broken heart honey and we’re here to piece it back together.” That is, if I had my heart. One beer couldn’t hurt. So I got in the car.

They didn’t serve beer at the first bar. Luminescent martinis with tropical fruit sprouting from within the rim? Check. Loud music? Check. Inability to hear? Check. I wanted to leave. Not because of the music, the drinks or the company. I wanted to go home and scrap the rest of my trip. The third passenger Regina, with her fluffy white dress and rabbit ears to match, noticed my sadness. She assembled the Avengers and away to the second bar we went. And the third. The fourth we found beer. Country, dance on the bar, ‘knock ‘em back’ type of dive. It was by the third I started having a good time. By the fourth, I was jubilant. Cohabitation is a language we all spoke. The ladies did not love me nor I them. They saw someone in need and assisted.

Steph convinced me to hop on the bar and hop I did only to tumble over the other side. A bottle of grenadine shattered under my weight. The bartender helped me up only to accidentally tear my shirt. I excused myself. I passed through the crowd out the exit. I had walked through a tunnel the day before. There was a tunnel nearby and I was sure it was the same. It was not. There’s a difference between the Stockton Tunnel and the Broadway Tunnel. I took the right turn down the wrong way down Broadway. I heard someone behind me. Saw shadows and started running. Thora was spry running in those pumps. She saw me leave and followed. She called my name then called for a cab. We exchanged our goodbyes and the dream collapsed.

And then I woke up on a couch, to a television playing softly in the background.

Pura Vida Wanderlust

University of Colorado Program for Writing and Rhetoric

Do you remember the first time you were away from your parents? I’m not talking about the first of many times your parent let you at home to deliver some mail or the first night you went to spend the night at a friend’s house. I mean completely away; in other words, isolation. I remember the first time I was away and isolated. That’s how I felt when I first travelled. From the seconds after the wheels of the plane leaving the tarmac, I had the sinking realization that I was not only leaving the state of Colorado but the United States entirely. I was on my very own island; you may as well have called me Chuck Noland. The parental units with whom I had relied upon at least on a weekly basis were going to be thousands of miles away. If I were to need anything from my parents, they weren’t there. In a plane filled to capacity with people, I was isolated and away.

My parents are the cornerstone from which I have built myself as a human being. I had decided well before my parents had that it was time for me to leave the nest. Sure I would come to miss my father’s simple but fantastic Italian cooking paired often with tiramisu and my mother’s daily rants about PTA, celebrity scandals and needle-pointing but this was for my own good. It was for my own sanity. I was constantly nagged by a sensational feeling in my heart. I could feel it pluck at the strings attached and eventually I was consumed with this burning desire. This desire had me search for anything that would soothe and cool the burning within me. I needed something pure, something that would invigorate my life and expose me to adventure. I realized that I needed to travel.

I blame Ernest Hemingway. Hemingway always wrote about what he had seen and what he had experienced. Though his main characters bore little physical resemblance to Hemingway, it was well known and discussed to death in every literature class that it was Hemingway who ran with the bulls, drove that military ambulance and he who had caught that big fish only to have sharks gnaw it away. His life was so full of travel, danger and adventure; it was so exciting for me to read about his life and accomplishments that I couldn’t wait to get started on my own. One problem I encountered was that I had no idea where to start. The second problem was the fact that I lacked the funding to leave the state let alone the country. The third problem was that Pamplona was months away, I am a terrible driver and terrified of sharks and large fish.

I figured my parents wouldn’t foot the bill. So I resorted to saving. The horror! I scrimped. I scrounged for every quarter, begged for every dime and nabbed every nickel and placed it in a five-gallon water jug piggy-bank. I even had time to pick up pennies. I was saving; saving for seemed to be an impossible budget to afford such a trip. So I managed to mostly solve the second problem. I wish I could say that I unfolded a map of the world and flung a dart at it for my destination but that would be a lie. Had I actually done that and knowing my rotten luck, it would’ve landed squarely on Pyongyang.

I heard good things about Costa Rica. There were no bulls, no wars requiring ambulances and I hadn’t planned to go fishing. Problem number three solved. In Costa Rica I had heard, they’re laid back, they don’t mind tourists and they love American money. Winner winner, chicken dinner. It was meant to be discovery-of-self trip. My parents were astonished that I was able to save a single dollar. I had enough money to survive but things would be tight. I would have to downgrade from the ramen-noodle lifestyle I subjected myself to saltine crackers and ketchup in order to afford this trip but I could manage. The plane ticket would be the single costliest part of the trip. Then one day, along came a surprise.

My father handed me a tall and slender white envelope. My father is a trickster and anything could be in that envelope. Could it be money? A plane ticket? A coupon for a ‘free’ slap to the head like it was the last time? Who knew? My father knew and by the way he was smiling, it made me wary. Then I opened the envelope and immediately dropped it in shock. My father went on to inform me that he had intended to buy a one-way ticket to Costa Rica and ‘screwed up’ at the online checkout by ‘accidentally’ buying me a round-trip ticket instead. I wore on him, he said. It was about time; sweet victory never felt so good. I wondered why he told me not to buy a plane ticket just yet.

That feeling of victory quickly faded. When the wheels had touched down on the tarmac at Juan Santamaria Airport in the capital of Costa Rica, I was in full panic mode. I had uncontrollable heart palpitations and shortness of breath despite the weak gin and tonic prepared for me by the flight attendant. Fly the friendly skies, they said. It’s funny how they never mention turbulence. My head was floating in a quinine tainted fog; I wanted to deplane as quickly and cautiously as possible without making a fool of myself. Weak drink or not, I’m still a lightweight.

Everyone around me seemed to be speaking an alien language. I could recognize and understand the Spanish and the English well enough but even then I had a difficult time understanding just about everything. Then I met the woman sitting politely next to me. Her name was Elaine. She had a house in Limón, a city on the Gulf of Mexico and came down whenever she could. The conversation was pleasant and she invited me to dinner, to get to know one another she said, once the plane landed. I gave her proposal some thought and realized she maybe meant to invite me for something more than just dinner. She was a cougar stalking her prey and found me, a young who’s strayed from his herd. I was in no mood to slake the appetite of a predator so I politely declined. I’m committed to my mission. Little did I know just how much I would learn on this mission. Upon this rock, I shall build my church and this church shall be me. It was time to figure out what I was made of.

I can speak and understand Spanish. But I spoke in that high school Spanish pacing and in that high school Spanish accent that makes me stick out pig among guinea pigs. My words were slightly slurred as I asked for directions to the main exit. Juan Santamaria Airport is smaller than Denver International. It’s still as confusing as D.I.A., but just not as big. Everything is written in Spanish save for a few pronouns. I realized quickly that despite being able to read and speak the language, I had no idea what anyone was saying. I was used to that high school Spanish drawl, that slow sort of Spanish speaking you get when you know the words but don’t know how to say them properly.

I say ¡Hola! and before I can ask ¿Cómo estás Usted? they’re asking me about where I came from, where do I need to go, what would I like to see first, my first pet’s name, favorite color, if I though the los equipos de fútbol de Costa Rica were going to the FIFA World Cup and then finally introduced himself as Alejandro.

Well Alejandro, I managed. Then Alejandro went on to talk about how he’s lived here all his life, he had a family of three including the wife, how his brother got him this job and never lets him forget about it at the weekly familia dinner. I would like a taxi, I blurted out.

Alejandro was the concierge of sorts and out of the hundreds of people milling from gate to exit and vice versa, he found me. His concierge spider-sense must have detected a wayward traveler, honed in on me and figured I needed assistance. To his credit, he was absolutely correct. He escorted me beyond the baggage claim and to the nightmarish world outside the airport. Everyone was shouting. Why were they shouting? I have no idea. I asked Alejandro why everyone was shouting. Because they’re cabrónes, he answered with a wry smile and escorted me to a taxi.

This is where Alejandro saved my life. I started walking over to a red car. To me it looked like a death trap on wheels. It looked to be a car stitched together with old car parts by duct tape and spit. As it turned out, it was a death trap on wheels but not for the reason you’re thinking. Alejandro swiftly scooped me away and politely scolded me. In Costa Rica, it is sometimes difficult to determine what’s a legit taxi and what’s a fake designed for nefarious intention. A taxi usually has a yellow triangle painted all over their car. Alejandro escorted me to the yellow triangle-painted car and I gave the driver the motel name that which I would be staying. The Kidnapper Deluxe I almost took had no triangles anywhere. Before Alejandro could slam shut the door, I gave him $20 American. I’ve never seen a man’s eyes light up before like Alejandro’s did. For what he had done for me, it was the least I could do in return.

Suddenly there was a bolt of lightning that lit up the dark and cloudy sky. Before the thunder could make contact with my ears, the heavens opened up and unleashed hell. I was within the safety of the taxi to protect me from the deluge of rain pelting everyone. For now, I was relatively safe from the rain in this taxi that reeked of an interesting combination of good incense and bad beef jerky.

Okay call me Chico, Chico said in broken English with a snaggle-toothed smile and slammed his foot on the gas pedal. The tiny engine whined and the tiny car rocketed forward and I was blasted backwards. Only after Chico took the first turn and me sliding across both seats did I realize that this taxi didn’t have any seatbelts. The cracked vinyl lining of the backseat helped arrest my slipping and sliding. I had never seen raindrops the size of quarters until that afternoon. I could barely see outside the windshield. I wondered how on earth Chico could see. In retrospect, he probably couldn’t see. There’s a saying that there are no atheists in foxholes. Well, this was my foxhole and you better know I was believin’ and I never stopped. Journey would be so proud.

¡Derecha! ¡Izquierda! ¡Alto! Chico narrated as he drove as if he was the suspect of a high-speed car chase. ¡Estamos revirtiendo! ¡Iquierda! ¡Izquierda! ¡Alto! Okay, we here! Esto no es mi motel. It was a veterinarian clinic. I could tell by the dog and cat silhouette on the sign. I told him no, this isn’t my motel again in Spanish. Chico blushed and apologized. ¡Derecha! ¡Derecha! ¡Izquierda! ¡Alto! Okay, we here! Wrong again Chico. Este es un supermercado. This went on for an hour and several more wrong stops. I was beginning to suspect that Alejandro had played me like in the movie Taken and Chico was taking me to a warehouse where they could sell me. Lucky for me, my parents had Liam Neeson’s phone number on speed dial. He does have a particular set of skills, after all.

I eventually got used to his erratic driving. I had to keep my wits about me because Chico was now pulling up to my umpteenth stop when I recognized the sign. It was my motel! Holy sweet mother of God we had finally arrived. I kissed the rain stained street and inhaled deep the throes of the alien jungle surrounding the city. I gave Chico a $10 and bid him farewell. He gave me his card and told me if I ever needed a driver, Chico was my man.

I wobbled into the clean, well air-conditioned and static lobby and plopped my passport down onto the counter. A beautiful and svelte blonde woman manned the desk and was surprised hearing a slap against her counter. An expatriate in her own right and she was an American studying at the local university. Her name is Julianna. We exchanged pleasantries before checking in. I was exhausted and wanted nothing more than anything resembling a bed. Julianna remarked that it had been a while since she’s been able to speak English with anyone so she invited me to dinner. An invitation I accepted. No feelings of being stalked this time around. I had a feeling that good food and good conversation were going to be on the endangered species list while I was there.

Julianna was an incredible cook; her room had a kitchen as it was her apartment attached to the lobby. The motel belonged to her tia. Julianna was her ward, receptionist, turn-down service attendant, chef, and pool cleaner when the pool was in season. She cooked for me ‘simplicity’: fish, rice and beans and some funny looking bananas called plátanos and some vino to take the edge off. The smells were incredible and indescribable. And for dessert, she had prepared tres leches con pasas. Made from scratch by her earlier that day, she told me. It was sweet, delicious and simple. It was all I could ask for. I was to be the only guest at the motel that night so she rolled out the frayed red carpet for me.

After the pleasant dinner and polite conversations, I was escorted to my room. When the door opened I dropped my backpack in surprise. I paid for some hay in a manger and I received the presidential suite. One hell of a bargain, I thought. Julianna bid goodbye with a wink Everything inside was huge and I suddenly felt very small. I took in everything that had happened that day as I laid down on the bed stuffed full with clouds. I sought to summarize the day in a sentence or even a few words. I started with impossible. It was impossible to condense the day into a single sentence let alone a handful of words. Then I thought about Hemingway. WWHD? Drink alcohol, bed a good-looking woman, travel somewhere exotic, write a short story about it, and win another literary prize, not necessarily in that order. I could strike one thing off that list and I started with that. This is my second strike off that list:

To travel to a destination never been explored is to experience purity in its finest form. To be consumed by experience of alienation is to invite a metamorphosis of self. Never before had I had been consumed by wanderlust. And when I did travel, I desired nothing more than to go back home. My ambitions began with boredom and bled into anxiety. Isolation in a world full of people blended well with my growing confusion and doubt. Flirtation and flattery by Elaine inflated my confidence. A terrifying taxi trip by Chico would aggravate my anxiety and created a dense, disconcerting fog around that island of mine. Wilson? Wilson!

Kindness by Alejandro and Julianna were my guiding lights out and away from this fog. There is no cure for homesickness but there are ways to ease it. Little did Elaine, Alejandro, Chico, and Julianna know how much of an effect they had on me. I had gone from becoming an appetizer for dinner, paying for a family’s dinner, compelled to provide and provided to with compassion by a traveler for a traveler.

My travels within the world at large was less about the destination and more about experience. This was what Hemingway was all about.  I wanted to be like Hemingway but be myself simultaneously. I had no idea who I was. I want to travel and subject myself to danger and adventure and chronicle it all. It took me travelling to Costa Rica to realize this. I still don’t know fully who I am, but I knew this was my start. In Costa Rica, they say pura vida, meaning pure life. Without my lust for travel, this story could not have come to fruition; I didn’t know how to live until I left home.

I wanted to leave home and when I did, I wanted to come back. I realized that balance between both worlds was the key; it was the only way to unlock the secrets of self. Pura Vida Wanderlust is my thirst for purity, for travel and for my life. If you ever have a chance to discover who you are, take it. Doubt be damned. Trust in yourself. We’ve only one life to live and this is our chance to enjoy it. So go. Find your Elaine, your Alejandro, your Chico or Julianna. Find your pura vida wanderlust within yourself.