Monday, 17 January 2011

Brief Encounters: Francisco

Francisco is tanned, has lots of freckles and when we meet, in a swimming pool, he shows me his his party trick: blowing a thin spout of water high into the air through a gap in his front teeth. He is nine years old.
He lives in Mal Pais, a "legendary" surf town on Costa Rica´s Pacific coast. He goes to school here. His parents are American, but he says he is Costa Rican, and he´s fluent in English and Spanish. He is talkative but seems a bit lonely.
The ocean is dotted with surfers from sunrise onwards, bobbing in the water and riding the messy waves. His mother works at a surf camp. He is surrounded by dudes day and night - they muss his hair, play around with him and throw him into the pool.
"Your surfing must be pretty good," I say. "I don´t surf," he replies matter-of-factly. Now, living in Mal Pais and not surfing is like living in the Alps and never skiing. I ask him why, but in reply, he shrugs and dives to the bottom of the pool. But I already know: it is Francisco´s nine-year-old way of asserting his independence, of wanting to be different from every other person in this town. I inwardly salute his confidence, and kick off for the other side of the pool.

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