Porque es Costa Rica

The financial and logistical issues of fixing our “new” car were forefront in my mind as I left for my first work trip back home. As many of you know, we’re bankrolling this venture by having me fly home every 6 weeks to work for 2 weeks. I was feeling pretty ambivalent about Costa Rica when I left, something many of you probably saw when we spoke or visited. I also felt a little guilty that I got to have a break from the heat, mosquitos and challenges. I knew moving to CR was going to be different from my imaginings of it and probably harder but it had been so much more. Nothing was as we anticipated. Our housing was challenging, we had changed schools and the jury was still out on the new one, we were still pretty isolated and not yet seeing ways to break into any sort of community, expat or otherwise. What the hell were we doing? This feeling was compounded when I landed in Oakland and could suddenly exchange effortless banter with any and everyone. Plus, it was SO great to see friends and family again. I was struck by all we had left behind.

I had been very nervous about the trip home. I was going to be gone for 18 days. In twelve years, I’ve never spent that much time apart from Matt, let alone from the kids. I was worried about how everyone would fare while I was away. I was worried the kids would be sad and mopey but mostly I was worried about Matt. The first full week I was gone the kids were on a break from school. This meant Matt would be alone in the jungle with the kids without school or books (something we neglected to pack!) or friends. Ahhh! Of course, I shouldn’t have worried. The kids were totally fine and Matt hung in there beautifully (of course). Matt does describe it as Groundhog’s Day with the kids at the beach, in that that’s all they did that first week. imag0770.jpg

Apparently he found peace with this repetition after several days.

imag0769.jpgI got lucky and got plenty of shifts, making the trip worth it. Additionally, I enjoyed–for the first time since becoming a nurse–what it was like to work with no distractions. It was a novelty to give my full attention to a task and not feel pulled on both ends. It was also interesting and, frankly, enjoyable to have time to myself. Every parent should have an opportunity to be an adult without children every now and then. Of course, being gone that long I did miss out on some things. Suki lost not onefirst-tooth

but BOTH of her front teeth while I was gone. She’d been working on those for MONTHS. second-toothAnd the pregnant goats, whose kids we were eagerly awaiting, all gave birth in those two weeks. 4 goats gave birth to 11 kids! Our kids were in heaven.

Even though I enjoyed my alone time, my time in the US was surreal. I was “home” but not home; there is another family living in our house. I saw many of our friends and family, but Matt and the kids were missing and I felt that absence acutely every time I saw someone who knows and loves them.  I was sleeping in my friends’ kids’ playroom and had no responsibilities other than to show up at work. The being in one palce, with my kiddos so far away made me feel as though I was actually in no place. Like I said, surreal. By the time it was time to go home, I was ready. I psyched myself up to return to the challenges of the life to which we had voluntarily committed ourselves.

My return to CR was a study in contrasts to our initial arrival. I walked off the plane knowing where I was going. I quickly gathered my bags and hailed the man from National who was waiting there for me. Though I had spoken hardly a word of Spanish in my two weeks in California, I effortlessly engaged my driver in simple conversation. Nothing felt strange. I drove the two hours home through the pitchy blackness, enjoying the cool moist air through the open windows and the sounds of cicadas. I also enjoyed the complete absence of urban sounds and lights.

Seeing Matt and the kids again was, of course, wonderful. A little clench in my heart released just to be close to them again. I was amazed at how good it felt to be back, like this was, actually, where I belong right now. I had been holding on to the first few weeks of challenges we had had and allowed them to color my thoughts of the entire experience. It was obvious to me, upon my return, that we were nowhere near where we started. Even  though we’re not totally settled, we have a better sense of where we are and where and how to get what we need. We don’t really have a community yet, but we do know a lot of people and see them constantly around town. And, to my delight, the kids’ school is better than I remembered. I can see that both of them are starting to understand more Spanish, which is thrilling. And, best of all, I found it easier and quicker to get into the Pura Vida way of life than when first we arrived.

I suspected this was the case but it became clear last night when Matt took the hour long bus ride to pick up our car from our mechanic in Nicoya. I was surprised at how quickly he called to tell me he was already on his way home with our newly repaired car. The mechanic had told him that we should sell the car as soon as possible. When Matt explained how much we had paid for it, he retracted his statement (see! a song). We laughed at that and said goodbye, knowing he would be home in less than an hour. Instead, I got a message from him 30 minutes later telling me the car had just died in the middle of the road. Apparently, the radiator hose exploded. Of course. Porque es Costa Rica. 

What followed next, though, would only happen here.  As Matt was standing on the road, a Frenchman who we are negotiating a future rental with drove by. Matt flagged him down and he helped Matt get to a nearby mechanic. The mechanics agreed to fix it right then for a reasonable price. I got a message after about an hour that the mechanics were going to get the new part. This seemed to take awhile. When Matt finally got home I found out it was because they had gone to the store to buy a new radiator hose but, of course, the auto parts store didn’t have one. Instead, the mechanic’s took the hose off their own work truck and slapped it in ours. Matt was good to go. We have no worries. We’ll get a new hose, and one that is actually the right size, soon. Pura Vida!

3 thoughts on “Porque es Costa Rica

  1. My dear Vanessa, How I admire your positive stance in sometimes really hard and disappointing situations. And the honest way you admit to your doubt, fears and mishaps. Your faith and trust that there will always be a solution for the problems you encounter and your joy about every little victory will carry you and your family safely through this adventurlous year in a country you could not have inagined. Keep us posted, sending loads of love for all 4 of you. xxxxx Marianne

    Sent from my iPhone


  2. First of all, thanks for enlightening me Vanessa, I was wondering how you kids we’re going to survive but now I see you do have a plan. Secondly, I appreciate you letting me know what to expect from Costa Rica if I should make it — the back to the basics commentary. Finally, I have to say that I admire your and Suki’s pluck about learning Spanish, the old fashioned way. My regards also to the menfolk. Love, Dad (Fred)


  3. I’m going to echo Marianne’s sentiment here. I love the honesty of your experience and your story telling abilities. I’m happy you’ve found a rhythm and seeing the smiling faces of Matt, Suki and Django are heartwarming.
    Muchos besos,


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