A Perfect Day
The Day I proposed in Costa Rica

A Perfect Day  
by Arlo Midgett
December 21st, 2001
Montezuma, Costa Rica
After spending a couple nights in less-than-perfect accommodations of Montezuma, we finally woke up in a hotel worthy of its $35 per night asking price. Hotel La Cascada had hardwood floors, half a dozen hammocks, and a nice little attached restaurant made it perfect in our eyes. Priority One for the day turned out to be a great breakfast of Gallo Pinto and pancakes overlooking the last part of a jungle river flowing into the sea.

After la cuenta was paid, Oksana and I decided to set off for the waterfall we'd heard so much about. Called simply "La Cascada," this is the same waterfall from which our hotel takes its name - in fact, the trailhead is right across the bridge. Oksana already had her purse and I had my camera bag. What more would we need?

The trailhead was quite easy to find. From the road we could see a Tico relaxing in a hammock behind a large pile of coconuts and a couple coolers. Of course, as soon as we approached, he was standing behind suddenly open coolers displaying all his refreshing wares - soda, water, pipas - all glistening in unmelted ice.

Oksana and I walked right on past (no gracias, no gracias). We had everything we'd need, right? 30 meters down the red, dusty, blasted path I turned to Oksana, "Water?"

"Water!" she confirmed.

I don't know what the Tico did to make the trail so uninviting for the first few turns, but it really worked. We returned to the coolers and dug out a liter of distilled water. 250 colones later (less than a dollar), we really did have everything we'd need. I'm sure that Tico was feeling quite smug, but at least he hid it well.

We set off again and this time made it past the dusty section of the trail - in about 30 seconds. From that point on, the trail opened up and, well, disappeared. While we were debating whether to climb the veritable rock wall in front of us or backtrack and look for a trail around it, a gaggle of local teenage girls chatted right on past us and up the wall. Okay. We secured our bags a little better and started up.

Luckily, it was a lot easier that it looked. When we reached the top, we could see the river meandering through the jungle ahead of us. To tell the truth, it had a striking resemblance to the upper reaches of Ketchikan Creek. And, just like Ketchikan Creek, no sign of a trail in site. Oh, well. There are worse combinations than shorts, Tevas, and warm water!

Fifteen or twenty minutes later we were still hopping the rocks on the shoreline when a guy coming back from the waterfall comes walking down a beaten path on the opposite shore. Seeing Oksana's unease he remarks, "There's a trail up here…" Duh.

Okay, so we took the trail. It really was easier from that point on. Less fun, though. And the spiders, lizards, and parrots were also harder to see…

In short order we rounded a corner to find ourselves looking up at a majestic waterfall about 30 meters high. Cooling spray filled the air and below it all was a very inviting swimming hole that instantly reminded me how sweaty I was. While Oksana was finding a place among the scattering of tourists and craft vendors (yes, even there, a 20 minute hike into the jungle), I was scanning the rocks bordering the swimming hole for good diving platforms.

It didn't take me long to get into the water. The first splash was quite cool, but nothing the body wouldn't adjust to in 15 seconds or so. I made a beeline for the spot where the water crashed down into the murky green pool; fighting the current until abruptly it changed and started to draw me towards the waterfall. But I managed to divert myself to a little offshoot of water on the left hand side that turned out to be perfect for taking a little tropical shower.

When I arrived at the sharp, black rocks that made up the sheer wall supporting the waterfall, I noticed that they contained not a bit of algae. Closer inspection and a few tentative handholds and footholds revealed that, even though the rocks were soaking wet, they weren't at all slippery. I hauled myself out of the water and climbed my way under the waterfall.

Ah, ha! Under the wall of water I noticed that thousands of snails were clinging to the rocks. Directly under the cascade they were so densely packed that it was impossible not to step on them. Fortunately, they weren't sharp enough to hurt my feet.

Standing under the water was awesome, even if I couldn't stand directly beneath the main torrent. Trying to keep the water out of my eyes, I looked back to see Oksana sitting among the tourists on the other side of the swimming hole only about 15 meters away. I had an idea. I dove through the falling water and headed to the opposite shore.

I wanted to show Oksana how cool it was under the waterfall. Earlier she had shown some hesitation about getting into the cold water, but I was fairly sure that I could coax her in. We were a little worried about leaving our cameras, wallets, and passports out in the open, but after thinking about it for a minute I had to admit that it was pretty unlikely that someone would attempt to run off into the jungle with them…

Oksana did indeed want to go check out the waterfall. I intended to join her, but I just had to take some pictures of her under the falls first. She jumped in and swam right up to the left hand wall (just like I did) but then had some trouble finding a good foothold to climb out. After a few minutes, of the local boys taking turns doing high dives from the rocks came down to give her a hand. Unfortunately, after helping her to climb a couple meters out of the water, he abandoned her. It became obvious to me that Oksana was stuck.

I tucked her camera away and covered our bags with Oksana's shawl. A quick swim against the current brought me to Oksana - and she was indeed stranded high on her perch. I set about correcting the situation.

Pointing out good hand and footholds, I had to direct Oksana with my voice raised in order to be heard over the din of the water. Gamely, my bikini-clad girlfriend worked her way to the right and ended up standing next to me under the full onslaught of thousands of gallons of water. It was exhilarating!

There we were: Arm-in-arm on the winter solstice, thousands of miles from home, in a Costa Rican jungle, being doused by warm, massaging water… Standing there, we looked out through the curtain of water at the tourists on the rocks. Was it my imagination that everyone seemed to be looking back at us with envy?

Carpe Diem

I leaned in close to Oksana and, even so, had to almost yell: "Maybe now would be a good time to ask you a question."

Barely hearing me, Oksana replied, "Depends on the question, I guess!"

"Ты выйдешь за меня?" I asked, trying to precisely enunciat the line in Russian that I'd been practicing in my head all morning long. For, you see, December 21st was our one-year anniversary of being together and I had decided today would be the day that I would ask Oksana to marry me.

"Ты выйдешь за меня?" - "Will you marry me?"

Half-way through the question, Oksana's jaw dropped and, as she looked up at me, her chin almost touched her chest. I smiled back - obviously I'd pronounced the question correctly, I needed only to wait for her answer. She considered the implications just long enough for me to start to worry (with my mind racing as it was, that was only 5-10 seconds, though.) And then… with a nod of her head (mouth still open, by the way) she made me the happiest guy in Montezuma!

In the next few minutes we kissed, we hugged, and then we self-consciously started to wonder what the tourists were thinking… You see, they'd come to see the waterfall and I felt like we were becoming the center of attention. Oksana must have had the same thought because, looking through the water, she said, "They must think we're crazy…"

Time to go.

We sidled a little to our right to find a ledge that overhung the water a bit more. Joining hands, we counted to three and jumped through the falling sheet of water. As we surfaced together, I realized that we were still holding hands. It seemed strange to me (but oh, so good!) that we'd entered that waterfall as boyfriend/girlfriend and left it with a promise to spend the rest of our lives together…

From where we had stood in the waterfall, it was impossible to tell if everyone was actually focusing their attention on us or the waterfall itself. Before our leap, I'd surveyed the group of about 20 tourists and… hey… does that guy have a video camera? Yeah! Seems that someone had arrived sometime after we'd jumped into the water and started videotaping. Hmmmm… Oksana and I discussed it briefly and decided that opportunity was knocking.

A quick swim across the pool and we hauled ourselves up on the bank near our stuff - luckily, nobody had run off with it. I dried off just a bit and then tiptoed over the sharp rocks to the spot where the guy was still videotaping the waterfall. I approached and asked, "Do you speak English?" You never know when you're traveling.

"Yes. A little." Turns out he was from Austria.

I explained what we had been doing under the falls and expressed my interest in getting a copy of the tape. He understood exactly what I was saying, but I think he felt a little uncomfortable with his English skills. Smiling, he turned to two others that I didn't know where traveling with him, and he said a few things that I certainly couldn't understand.

One of his companions spoke perfect English and she told me that they'd be happy to make us a copy of the tape once they returned home. In fact, she indicated that a third companion was taking a bunch of photos of the waterfall and that they could e-mail those to us, as well. Wow. Feeling great about the decision to approach them, I returned to my bag to get them a copy of my name and address.

When I returned to give them the information, I tried to slip in a $20 bill for copying costs, shipping and handling, etc. They wouldn't have it. Instead, they gave me two Internet addresses to contact them and wished us well (as of January 20th, though, we have yet to hear back from them.)

I returned to Oksana and so began our Day of a Thousand Goofy Grins. There was a lot to think about, a lot to talk about, a new future to warm up to. While we were still sitting on the sun-warmed rocks, the Austrian-with-the-video-camera came up behind us and indicated that he wanted to videotape us again.

"Again. Again!"

"You want us to do it again?" I asked.

"Yes. We make movie! Again!"

Uh, okay. I turned to my fiancée, she shrugged and grinned: What the hell!

So, ten minutes after proposing to each other, we did it all over again! We swam over together and even though Oksana now knew how to climb over the rocks like a pro, I pretended to show her where to find the best footholds. We took our time climbing back under the waterfall and then we had to go through the motions all over again. I leaned in close and said, "I think I said something like, 'Can I ask you a question?'" We acted the whole thing out up to, and including, the hand-in-hand jump through the waterfall. Let talk surreal, shall we?

At that point, I'm sure that the tourists thought we were crazy.

Afterwards we thanked the Austrians and they went on their way. We hung around the waterfall for a bit longer and I took some photos for the ol' Costa Rica album and website. On our way out, we decided to check out the vendors' wares. We didn't need any handcrafted lighters or pipes. No cheap bracelets or necklaces. But we did splurge and spend $1.50 on a little ring carved from a coconut. Call it a temporary engagement ring - we'll use it until we can get home and pick out a real one…

I'll not bore you with the details of the rest of our day. We searched the beach for shells, relaxed in our hammocks, had a great dinner and watched a movie. During it all, our minds kept coming back to our new future together and we would share new realizations with each other as they came to us (Where will we get married? How will Oksana's parents participate? WHEN? Green cards? Alaska Dividends? Oksana Midgett?!) That day, and for the rest of our vacation, (and hopefully "for ever after") we were happy.

As they say in Costa Rica: ¡Pura Vida!


The old bridge in front of
Hotel La Cascada

A lizard we happened upon
on the hike up the river

For those who know: Just
like Ketchikan Creek!

Sunlight filtering through
the water

A view of the waterfall

Arlo wastes no time
plunging in

Arlo swims right up to
the waterfall

A perfect place to dive

Arlo trying not to step
on the snails

The direct route

Time to convince Oksana
to go in...

...Which wasn't too hard

Oksana get's a little
local help


Finally under water!

Oksana's perfect pose

Later that night...
It may come as a surprise to my close friends and family that I'd known for over six months that I would ask Oksana to marry me. You see, our first significant time apart (since we started seeing each other last December) occurred in June when I went to visit my relatives in North Carolina. I was absolutely amazed at how much I missed her in that short week and something my grandmother once told me kept going through my mind: "Don't ever get married unless you know for a fact that you can't live without her."

I realized then that I couldn't live without Oksana. (And two weeks later she left me to spend seven, excruciatingly long weeks in Russia!)

And during the last six months I, myself, was also surprised to realize that I never doubted that Oksana would say "yes." While searching for (and finding) the perfect place to ask the big question, my only worry was in the proper Russian pronunciation -- Ti viy-desh za me-nyA?

So. This Florida-born Alaskan meets his Russian sweetheart in Venezuela and proposes to her in Costa Rica. Crazy world, isn't it? (From Russia with love, indeed!)

For those that are curious, no date has been set yet. Originally, I was thinking that we would wait until Oksana had finished her degree (December '02), but more and more it seems like the advantages of getting married this summer (August '02) outweigh the difficulties of having less time to plan it. Rest assured, you'll know as soon as we do! (Keep checking our wedding webpage -- we'll try to keep it updated)