Recently by Robert Isenberg:

I turned a corner, and there it was: The Arch. I gulped down my surprise and walked down the cobbled street, toward the strange yellow structure. Plump women in patterned huipiles perched on the sidewalk with baskets of fruit.

Robert Isenberg is a writer based in San José, Costa Rica, where he serves as a reporter, videographer and photojournalist for The Tico Times, Central America’s most respected English-language newspaper. He is the author of The Archipelago: A Balkan Passage and the poetry collection Wander, as well as numerous plays and stage works. Originally from Vermont, he spent 15 years living in and writing about Pittsburgh.

The cab dropped us off at a gas station, and we started to walk down a side street. The asphalt glowed in the early morning sun. My wife and I had never visited this part of San José, and we were too groggy to appreciate the new sights. We followed the directions specifically: 100 meters east of the gasolinera. We found the specified corner, and then we stopped and gawked.

We had expected one man and one vehicle — a Jeep Grand Cherokee, parked on the curb. Instead we found two men, wearing camouflage cargo pants and bandannas over their faces, and a Jeep half-covered in tarp. The men glanced at us. They looked like cartel hitmen. Then they went back to work, waxing the exposed half of the car.

A smiling cashier welcomed me in the lobby. His arms were akimbo. He wore a polo shirt that read, “Refugio Herpetológico.”

“Welcome!” he exclaimed in Spanish. “How are you?”

I forced a smile and forked over my 3,000 colones — about $6. He handed me a receipt and escorted me through the gift shop, toward the Refugio’s main entrance. Then he pointed to a trim young man in the corner, also wearing a printed polo shirt.

“This is Marco,” said the cashier. “Your tour will start in a couple of minutes.”

Damn it, I thought. It figures.

Robert Isenberg is a writer based in San José, Costa Rica, where he serves as a reporter, videographer and photojournalist for The Tico Times, Central America’s most respected English-language newspaper. He is the author of The Archipelago: A Balkan… More…