Pura Vida!

Thursday, January 23, 2020
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Dino Dave’s Adventures

“Pura Vida!” This was the first thing my brother Chris and I learned on our trip to Costa Rica last week. “Pura Vida!” meaning “Pure Life.” The Costa Ricans used this term to say Hello, Good-bye or just to send good vibes. It is the Tico (Costa Rican) way of life. Pura Vida is an attitude, a happiness that’s difficult to describe until you have visited Costa Rica. Don’t worry about the bad, don’t stress it, life is good, “Pura Vida!” Our first day was filled with magical colorful abundant wildlife and happy people. Costa Rica is an Eden, like a rare painting in a museum that’s under the most careful care and protection. Chris caught on to the Pura Vida lifestyle right away. Whether it was the cashier at the “soda” (local eatery), our guide or a police officer Chris would yell out “Pura Vida!”

It makes sense Chris would identify with this lifestyle. About 14 years ago, my brother was hit on the head. The force of the hit burst a blood vessel in his brain causing the blood to push his brain to the side. If the seriousness was attended to right away Chris would have avoided the Traumatic Brain Injury. The good news was a saint noticed a few hours later and was able to get him to the hospital in the nick of time. The nick of time to be in a coma anyway. He laid there motionless, caught in a void between life and death. It was the furthest thing from Costa Rica and “Pura Vida.” It was more like a vacation to Chernobyl.

Our next few days of Costa Rica were filled with more tropical magic. Crocodile tours, beaches, snorkeling and plantains that tasted wonderful. Chris’s brain works differently now. For instance, we would be driving and an American song would come on the radio. Chris would spew off verses word for word along with the radio. I can’t even remember the lyrics to Happy Birthday. But late at night at the change of hotel, I would see him entering the closet instead of the bathroom. Luckily, I was up and caught him before I lost my deposit from a deposit.

He is also a former state tennis doubles champion. Now, winning state was easier for him to do than walking through an airport. “I don’t want to leave Costa Rica; I love it here!” Chris said to me as we were leaving a beach that he couldn’t walk on because the sand got in his leg brace. In the 14 years since his coma, Chris has never once complained. I complain how my life turned out every day, and even that is because of my own choices. Of course he would fall in love with a country so full of life. “Well I have something special planned for you today,” I replied.

I saw an ad saying, “Longest ocean view superman style zip line in Costa Rica!” I couldn’t resist. That ad got me. I decided to go to a zipline that was advertised a mile long and 8 stories high. The zipline spanned an enormous valley all built by the lowest bidder. I could have told Chris it was a rocket ship to the moon, and he would have replied, “Pura Vida! Let’s do it!”

As they put my zip lining gear on, I reminded the local employee it is hard to tip if I don’t make it. I stepped on the scale and it said 99. I love the metric system! Huh, I must not be fat anymore. The shuttle truck somehow made a steep climb to the top of the mountain all in first gear. I think this was the most dangerous part. As we made our way to the zipline, Chris turned to me laughing, “The guy in front of me just chickened out in front of his girlfriend!” It was true and Chris said it loud enough for him to hear it. Whether on purpose or not I don’t know.

“Donde pora vu!” Chris said to the local Tico as we put our lives in his hands. Chris was always making up Spanish words the whole trip, but he’d say them so confidently the locals would doubt their own Spanish.

The zipline had two cables side by side so Chris and I could go together. The view of the Pacific Ocean and the deep rainforest valley looked magnificent. I looked over at Chris. “You ready for this?” Chris gave a thumbs up.

That thumbs up struck my memory of the last time Chris gave a thumbs up. Fourteen years ago, as Chris lay motionless in his coma state for a few days, there was nothing our family could do. We decided to go back to our jobs as Mom and another family member could take turns sitting with Chris and live as best we could with an unknown fate of our brother. Eight motionless days had now passed and not a peep from Chris. A piece of his skull was in a refrigerator which allowed the swelling brain some room to heal.

I still remember the day, our family called it black Friday. I was up on a ladder working when my eldest brother Eric gave a call. He said “I just called to tell you that we spoke to the doctor today. She told us that Chris is not going to make it. The damage is just too severe. Maybe a couple more days, then they will have to ‘pull the plug.’” Eric continued, “the only one at the hospital that still believes is mom.” It was the toughest call to hear but it was time to prepare for the worst. The next day the doctors tried for a response one more time. “Chris! Can you hear me! Are you there Chris!” And just like that thumbs up on the zipline, Chris gave the doctor his first sign of life … a thumbs up!

We then both took off superman style down that mile long zipline. The 99kg for me was faster than my smaller brother. As we approached 60mph, at 8 stories high, I heard a shout from behind, “Pura Vida!!!!!!” Yes, Pura Vida indeed, Chris. Pura Vida!

Dave Fuqua is a Glendive native. You can find out more about him at dinodaveadventures.com . He can be reached at Makoshikadave@gmail.com.