When I was married, New Year’s Eve was a low-key event.

If we went out, we didn’t travel far because of all the crazies on the road. But this past December 31 would be my first New Year’s Eve in Costa Rica, and I didn’t want to watch the ball drop alone. So when my friend, Dalila, invited me to spend the evening with her and her friend Danny, I jumped at the chance to get dressed up and go out.

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My energy and creativity have always woken up early, so I usually go to bed around 9:00 PM – 10 at the latest. I took a nap and ate a light, early dinner so I’d be fresh and raring to go when my friends picked me up at 8:00.

I must have picked out five different outfits to wear before Dalila called and said that she was wearing jeans and a nice top. I am probably the only person, Tica or Americana, in Costa Rica who does not own a pair of jeans, so I went back to my closet to look for something dressy yet casual.

I decided on a jungle motif sleeveless top and capris, and my new black sandals with a two-inch heel. I am petite, just under 5′ tall, but I don’t usually wear heels because they aren’t comfortable, and I am first and foremost a practical person.

But this was New Year’s Eve and I was putting myself out there to be date bait for the first time in almost two decades. I wanted to be noticed, so I wore the heels.

Tico time is never exact, something that punctual people have to get used to here. My friends arrive at 9:15. We had a late dinner at Villa Rey, a Chinese restaurant in Escazu. My friends loved the food: Dalila had a tasty dish with cow’s tongue, but I longed for real Chinatown cooking. Then we headed for the Fiesta casino near the airport for live music, dancing and gambling.

As soon as we arrived on the crowded dance floor, I was asked to dance. I hadn’t really given much thought to how to dance in Costa Rica, although years ago I took one or two salsa and meringue dance lessons. I love to dance in general, and it’s on my list of things to do to take some real Latin dance lessons here.

My partner and I assumed the dance position, and I relied on his lead to show me what to do. He was a cute twenty-something years old, and I wondered if the casino paid him to dance with older single women, but I soon put that thought out of my head as he twirled me around and shimmied and shook his hips. I mimicked him, aware of a big grin on my face. I was having fun!

Dalila, Danny and I stayed in the dance area until we toasted in the New Year, then we headed over to the gambling tables. They gambled; I watched. Actually, I played a little Gai Pow, a Chinese gambling game, but after a few hands I still didn’t know what I was doing even though I won a few chips, so I quit.

Here’s how to tell I have been out of the dating scene for a long time: Dalila ran into a friend at the casino, a nice-looking man around my age (55), who spoke Spanish but only a few words of English. He kept following us around from table to table, usually standing just behind me, for two hours, but it was only after he asked me if I wanted to go to the slot machines and watch him play and I said no thanks, that Dalila told me he was interested in me. Duh! I hadn’t even picked up on it. One of my New Year’s goals is to start dating, so I will have to develop dating radar.

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I stayed overnight at Dalila’s apartment and we had a big breakfast then talked all morning – girl talk about clothes, makeup and dating in Costa Rica. I finally got home around 2 in the afternoon, made some New Year’s calls to friends back in the states, then spent three hours in the rancho (an outdoor covered kitchen with BBQ and tables and chairs) with my landlord and neighbors.

My landlord owns a finca with cattle in Siripiqui, and he had brought back some good meat that he barbecued for our New Year’s dinner. We all got to talking about real estate and this and that and we drank a lot of wine. I went to my apartment at 7:00 PM and felt tired, relaxed and a little tipsy from too much wine. All in all, it was a very good start to a new year.

Feliz Año Nuevo,

Written by Margie Davis in Costa Rica.

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