My divorce papers were signed, and I had just graduated from seven years of a grueling general surgery residency in New York City. I was finally headed back home to Southern California, but first there was a pit stop. My soon-to-be ex-husband helped me find an all-women surf and yoga camp in beautiful Costa Rica en route to L.A. Luckily, my ex and I were amicable enough, and he reminded me that I had always wanted to see Costa Rica. I was, at the time, anti-men.
I lugged all my belongings from my life in New York with me, so when I landed in San José without any of my luggage, I was pissed off. I waited, complained, filled out papers with the airline and then finally headed to the van that was waiting to take me to the all-women surf and yoga camp. Peter was at the van already, apparently going to the same camp. Annoyed, I got into the van without my luggage but instead with this man who was not supposed to be there.
Once we arrived, I complained to the front desk that all my life belongings were not yet with me and that there was a man at the camp. The woman looked at me with smiling eyes and said, “Sometimes it is an all-women camp, and sometimes it is not. Your luggage will arrive. Welcome to Costa Rica.”
Over the next week at the camp, our co-ed group went on nature walks, yoga sessions and surfing lessons. My luggage finally made it to me, and I learned that every other week the camp was all-women, alternating with co-ed weeks. I unknowingly picked a co-ed week. I also learned that Peter was also divorced, had a daughter as I did, and had won a Facebook raffle that brought him to Costa Rica. He was a freelance photographer and enjoyed traveling, especially when it was paid for by somebody else. In the meantime, we both were terrible at surfing and realized paddleboarding was more in line with our abilities.
At some point, the beauty of Costa Rica brought out deep conversations between Peter and me, and I distinctly remember telling him, “I don’t believe in love between a man and a woman. I think true love can only exist between a parent and child.”
Peter’s divorce had been years prior, and he was not as bitter as I was when he said to me, “That’s too bad. I do believe in love. I hope you change your mind someday.” He also told me that he loved to hike and camp, especially in Washington where he lived, and that he could “never” live in L.A. where there were no mountains or trees.
Having grown up in L.A., I took offense at his lack of appreciation of the beauty and diversity that California has to offer. After all, depending on the time of year, we have the ability to snow ski on a mountain and surf in the ocean both in the same day. I told him I hoped he would change his mind someday and experience L.A. for himself.
We exchanged email addresses at the end of our trip, and Peter asked to keep in touch. He also told me that he had a policy of not “Facebook-friending” new people because he wanted to get to know people through words and conversations rather than superficially through online posts. I thought this was very odd, and I was convinced he had some dark secret he did not want to share. I shrugged it off.
Over the next several months, I settled into my new life as a single mom in L.A. I loved the weather and the change of pace from New York and spending more time with my parents and daughter. Peter and I exchanged several emails during this time. I described my surgical fellowship and new lifestyle, and he told me about his various travels around the world.
Six months after my move to L.A., Peter let me know that he won a second raffle that would bring him from his home in Seattle via L.A. to get to Machu Picchu in Peru. He asked if I wanted to meet for coffee.
We met, and this time I saw him with a fresh set of eyes and a more open heart. Peter wasn’t just a tall, handsome man with beautiful blue eyes. He had a kindness in his heart and a compassion for the world that I had never quite known in another person. He cared enough to donate blood regularly, volunteer at food drives and pick up other people’s trash along the beach. I found myself drawn to him in a way that was surprising and amazing all at once.
Peter left for Peru the next day, and that’s when I noticed something within me starting to crack. I felt as if a wall was finally crumbling, and a glimmer of light was seeping in.
It seemed I might have changed my mind about love.
That night I sent an email to Peter, pouring out my heart and asking if he would consider a long-distance relationship. I didn’t realize he was in the rainforest without internet, so I waited for what felt like an eternity for his affirmative response days later. I thanked him for his leap of faith and finally had a peaceful night of sleep.
A year later, we spent our honeymoon in Costa Rica, and this year will be our 10-year wedding anniversary. Peter moved to L.A. once his daughter went to college and he changed his mind about living here. For some reason, he keeps entering raffles for travel but has not won another one since we got married. I secretly hope he never wins one again. Oh, and he finally added me as a Facebook friend (no dark secrets after all!).
The author is a breast surgeon and an associate professor of surgery at UCLA. She lives in Woodland Hills. She’s on Twitter @DrNimmiKapoor.
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Source: LA Times