By Nicolas Vergara

Have you ever gazed at a cow for more than five minutes? A friend asked me ten years ago, and since then I have been perplexed about those animals, that most people identify with black & white colours and a farm. They are slow, peaceful and pensive animals, I used to think, after my first encounter with African cows. What is an African Cow? It’s the kind of cow that can manage very well high temperatures and a lack of water. If cows could drive a car, these kinds of cows would be riding camels. How do these animals survive? That is a frequent question between camels and tourists.

I saw them for the first time in Costa Rica. At first, they captured my attention just in the way of my farmer’s interest (which I developed after years of observing cows), but besides the discovery of a new species in my mind, there wasn't anything new about them.  I was visiting Costa Rica as a snowbird, and my type of bird was a Robin and the snow was just the snow: too much snow. 

One morning, I was invited to do a hiking trip with a group of germans. The idea was to travel to a place well known for the chance to see animals. The place also had a few small and hidden beaches, where we were supposed to end our hiking. It sounds like a good Idea, I said to my partner, and she agreed. 

When we realized that we had been walking for more than 30 minutes, my partner and I had a little conversation about the aim of the trip. Germans love nature, we knew that, and we also knew that when Marc —my german brother-in-law— called a trip a “very easy one” or “not tiring at all” you should take his words as a statement from one that wakes up every day at four am for not losing the opportunity to ride his bike.  We were tired and thirsty watching how the group of germans were leaving us behind, when suddenly a group of cows started to gaze at us. They were in line, with their big ears framing their black deep eyes. This is weird for a cow, we thought, and we didn't give it more attention. I had to recognize that it is a little bit creepy walking through an aisle where on one side was a wall made by cows and the other side was a landscape where other cows were coming to us. 

Before the cows started to make a circle, running around us, I thought that my partner could be feeling a little bit scared and I went closer to her. I was scared too, and we both started to analyze the situation, looking for a way to escape (the river, no, full of crocodiles; climbing a tree, no, full of poisonous snakes). When the cows started to make a circle around us, a german woman started to clap and move her arms. The result: the cows broke the circle and let us go.  The woman told us that she grew up in the countryside of Germany, and that was the reason that she knew how to manage cows. Have you ever gazed at a cow? She asked me, —No, I answered—, while I was thinking about the kind of people that came up with these kinds of questions. 

Poet Nicolás Vergara (Santiago de Chile, 1981), lives and works in Toronto.