Moments with Strangers: The Beauty of Travel

The day was hot and muggy.  My husband of about four hours and I were tired from a long day of getting ready, getting photographed, getting married, and getting away from it all via a hilarious ziplining adventure through the jungle in our wedding clothes.  We were exhausted from a day where every moment had been laid back and at the same time also hectic, but we weren't ready to go back to our lodgings just yet.

We had gotten married in Costa Rica, and it had been beautiful.  It had also been as stress-free as any wedding ever could be.  But we still needed to unwind.

destination wedding, beach wedding photos
Joey and I enjoying our fun wedding day.

Hoping to discover some hidden oasis, we drove straight past the turn-off to the house where we were staying, and kept on cruising down the road.  What we were looking for, I'm not sure.  Some sort of tucked away waterfall, with rainbows beaming through the crystalline mist, and a mermaid serving smooth strawberry daiquiris?  I don't know.  What we DID find was a small, ramshackle Tiko restaurant perched on the right side of the highway, open to the elements except for the large, palm-leafed roof.  A creaking sign advertising Imperial proved to be too tempting for us, and we pulled Snowball (our affectionately named white Jeep) to the side of the road and disembarked.

We were still in our wedding clothes, having come directly from the ziplining establishment.  Joey`s outfit consisted of khaki pants and a white pin-striped summer shirt, so he looked relatively normal. I, however, was still decked out in my white wedding gown; granted, I had shorts and a tank top underneath from our jungle canopy adventure, but still.  It didn't seem right to saunter into a Costa Rican restaurant, now acting more as a pub, in a wrinkled, shredded, dirty wedding gown.  (The ziplining adventure had not treated the dress very well, but when was I ever going to wear it again?!)

grass hut restaurant, Costa Rica buildings
This is not the same restaurant, but it looked very similar (just not as big!)

Unperturbed, I told Joey not to lock the doors yet, and then proceeded to wriggle out of my dress on the side of the road, in clear view of the Tiko restaurant.  There weren't many patrons inside, but those that were stared curiously as they watched a sweaty white girl shed her clothes in plain view. (Like I said, I had other clothes on underneath, so it wasn't that exciting of a show.)  After unceremoniously balling up what was left of my gown and chucking it in the backseat, we headed into the building.

It was very small, run by a family who lived in the back of the restaurant - the eating area was like a giant domed patio jutting off the front of their home.  It was late: there were only a few loyal customers inside drinking beer, and our waitress (the only visible person working there) must have been the grandmother of the family.  She spoke not a shred of English.

Joey and I ordered an Imperial each, and then my hubby noticed that across the parking lot, a couple of the family members were struggling to move a bulky refrigerator off the bed of a truck and inside their house.  They were trying to recruit a young, skinny girl of about 10 to help them.

"I'll go help," he told me, not wanting to witness the little girl get crushed by a 300-pound appliance. Off he trotted, and I watched with newlywed pride as he introduced himself and rolled up his sleeves jovially.

The old woman returned with our beers, and seeing me sitting alone, looked around for my husband.

"Marido?" she asked, and I, unable to understand, shook my head helplessly.  As I was mentally attempting to translate using my limited knowledge of Spanish, the woman noticed Joey moving the fridge and smiled.  She plunked down beside me at the table, and grabbed my hand.  I was just a little surprised.

Her tanned fingers reached for the shining ring on my ring finger and spun it softly.  "Marido," she repeated, tapping the ring and then pointing with her other hand to Joey.  I understood.

wedding ring photo, Costa Rica wedding
If not for those rings, I wouldn't have had my conversation with the wonderful woman

"Husband!" I said brightly, realizing this wonderful lady was giving me an impromptu Spanish lesson.  She nodded, and then pointed to me.


"Wife," I translated, and she nodded again.  (I still to this day do not know if she was nodding because she could understand my English translations, or if she was just nodding to make me feel intelligent.)

"Nosotros... uh... got married... hoy," I stuttered, trying to explain that Joey and I had just tied the knot today.

"Casado," the woman filled in, meaning 'married' in Spanish. Unfortunately, casado only meant one thing to me at the time, and that was a delicious Costa Rican dish that I often ordered at restaurants.  I instantly became confused.

"No, gracias.  No hambre." I tried to explain to her that I wasn't hungry, at the same time massacring her language. (For your information, it is 'no tengo hambre' but apparently I didn't like to use verbs.)  The lady, realizing my mistake, chuckled pleasantly.  She pointed to Joey, then to me and back again, and held my hand and squeezed it. "Casado," she repeated pointedly.  It took me a second, and then the light bulb came on.

Joey and Marti, casado on the beach!

"Ahhh, casado! Married! Si, casado! Mi marido," I said proudly, indicating Joey who was now returning to the eating area.  The old woman chuckled again, and got up.  She smiled at Joey and returned to the kitchen area in the back just as smoothly as she'd arrived.  It was like I had been visited by a mysterious Spanish-teaching angel.

Joey was tired from moving the fridge, and happy for the cool beer.  I taught him the three new words I had learned from the woman as we drank our beverages.  He was interested, but didn't seem to find the words quite as enchanting as I had.  He preferred to tell me about the family-run business, as he'd learned all about it from the sons who owned the new fridge.

Maybe it wasn't the words themselves that were so enchanting.  Maybe it was that unexpected shared moment with a kind stranger that was.  Our world, and the people in it, can be so beautiful.


  1. Wonderful story and congrats to you both on your wedding in paradise! Being fellow Canadians we also had a dream of a Wedding on a beach and were married in Puerto Vallarta Mexico which was awesome. Like yours, stress free and full of wonderful memories, and the people, like you said, were beautiful.

    1. Congrats to you both as well! Destination weddings seem to be really taking off - Joey's brother also got married in Mexico last year. And everyone there is so happy, genuinely happy, that you feel like they are part of your family and belong there at your wedding. Glad you two had a wonderful experience! :)

  2. This is such a sweet story. First, how wonderful to have a destination wedding! & then to zip line in your dress... wow! So brave. I love it! The story of you and this woman is really great. What a wonderful welcome into the married world. :) -Alexandra

    Simply Alexandra: My Favorite Things

    1. Thank you! I think about her every now and then, and finally decided to write about it. She was the cutest, sweetest old woman - so happy for Joey and I. I one day hope to return the favor to someone else and make a little part of their day all that much better!