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149# Not about money

Updated: Jun 9, 2021

The wind blew over the silent island. Strong and steady in the valley, day and night, the wind blew. My kites needed repair so we brought only Heidi’s. Due to the trees surrounding the beach, she had to take off and land in the water. I helped her launch, and read on the sand while she rode on the water.

Deep in G.R.R. Martin’s universe, I had not noticed she was trying to land until half an hour later. I hurried waste deep in the water, caught her kite, and brought it back to shore. Heidi nagged about the wait, about how I handled her kite, about how I dropped it on the ground. I bit my tongue and returned to my book.

Since the incident in El Salvador, I lost confidence in my kitesurfing around difficult spots. I needed encouragement and Heidi’s criticism were far from it. After one too many comments, I had enough. Fuck it! I’m not using your gear, not with that attitude! She kitesurfed and I read A storm of swords, while a cold wind blew between us. We left the silent island in silence. I did not kitesurf in Ometepe.

Bahia Salinas was a famous kitesurfing bay north of Costa Rica, and nothing else. We had planned to stay one week, kitesurf every day, and live like happy hippies. I’ll fix my kites there, I thought. With my gear, I could do whatever I wanted: go fast, take risks, even set it on fire if I fancied it. No stress, no nagging, just me, the sea and the wind. Freedom.

The kitesurfing school was run by Julien, a Frenchman who used to live in Canada. Twelve years before, Julien left Montreal in a van to travel on the Panamerican highway. He fell in love in Costa Rica, married a local, and founded the school in Bahia Salinas. Since then, he ran the school and taught kitesurfing to poor kids in the community. Julien offered us his facilities and showed us a spot for the night. He was welcoming and helpful; a kitesurfer by nature.

The one guy who repaired kites for the whole bay was on vacation for two weeks, Julien said. Renting gear was $ 80 per hour; I could not afford it. Heidi offered me her gear, but with that same tone I despised, the tone of an impatient teacher scolding an annoying kid. We spent our days at the beach. Like in Ometepe, she kitesurfed, and I read.

The people on the beach were all kitesurfers on vacation. I helped them whenever needed, and returned to my book. Genuinely, they asked what was wrong, why I did not kitesurf. Some even offered to lend me their gear. I was touched but declined everytime. Punished by pride (and by a crippling lack of money), I hid in the bushes and dove in my book. From time to time I stared with envy, like the nasty kid stares out the window while the rest of the class plays outside. And I hated it.

I was craving the wind on my cheeks, the water sliding under my feet, the intoxicating feeling of speed. Like an addict on withdrawal, I watched and itched. Heidi brought me her gear, out of pity or compassion, yet always with that contempt, mistrustful attitude. The message was in her tone, in her eyes, in my imagination. My inability to kitesurf poked something deep and ugly inside me. I could not put a finger on it but I felt it all the same: a crisp cold anger marinating down there.

When it was too much to bear, I decided to rent gear from the school. Heidi was aware of my money issues. She argued it was stupid to waste money on rental when I could use her gear for free. “It doesn’t make any sense!” she kept saying, and she was right. It did not make sense. On the fourth day, I rented the gear and went kitesurfing.

It was epic. I returned happy and smiling like a dog on a ride. Back in the van, I pulled out my gear box from the trunk. Neatly tucked in were two kites, two harnesses, one bar, and one board; $ 1000 worth of gear. I carried the box to Julien and dropped it at his feet. “Take this. The kites need small repairs, but the rest is in good shape”, I said. He raised an eyebrow. “For the kids”, I added. He was touched and grateful.

I came back to the van empty handed and told Heidi what just happened. She was confused. I desperately needed money, we both knew it, and she urged me to try to sell it, at least. I donated $ 1000. It did not make any sense, but it felt so damn good!

Later, in a moment of sad introspection, it hit me. The reason why Heidi’s attitude angered me so much, and why I felt so happy to give away my gear. It was not about money. It was not even about the kids! I did it to send a message.

Heidi and I stood on opposite sides of a cliff with no bridge, and the cold wind blew colder.

Winter is coming...

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