Moving on up

Before we moved to Costa Rica I had this fantasy in my head of how things would happen here. I assumed we would find things by meeting people and by hearing things through the grapevine. In our current beach situation I tried to make this fantasy happen by telling everyone I met that we were looking for a house. Whether through timing or chance or fate, nothing ever panned out.

We returned from our trip to the Central Valley excited and perplexed. How were we going to decide whether to move to Atenas or Grecia? Both seemed like good options and we now had met nice families in both. We tried to give ourselves time and just sit with it and see which felt better. Halloween came and went. The kids were excited and flexible about making costumes out of whatever we could put together. Mostly they were excited that I finally relented and allowed them to gorge themselves on sweets for a single night. Django actually stopped himself at some point, saying he felt sick. Lesson learned? We’ll see.file_007

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The new school year started and of course everyone was very nice and the school had big plans and everything looked more promising so we felt like maybe we could make it work here.

Matt got a tico haircut and then Django decided he wanted one too. Gel anyone? He reports feeling much cooler.

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We continued to try to find housing here Samara, in Grecia and in Atenas. We tried to figure out what to do  with our time. It’s ironic that by positioning ourselves to be open to any possibility, with the potential to move anywhere or do anything, we were actually paralyzed.

And then Niki, our friend from Grecia, sent me an email 5 days before my next trip to the States for work. She had just heard about a 3 bedroom house for rent across the street from the school we liked. The rent was less than half what we were currently paying. She told us we needed to make another trip out there to check it out. We made plans to go see it that weekend.Niki and her husband Matt offered to host us and helped arrange things with the landlord to meet up.

The house is adorable. It’s not fancy but it is very tico and meets our needs. There’s hot water in the showers only, the showers have the exposed wires that make them look suicidal but that millions of ticos use without incident. There’s a traditional pila, or laundry room, with a big tile sink and there’s a patio with a killer 180 degree view of the Central Valley. At an elevation of nearly 4,000 feet it’s deliciously cool(er). It is, essentially, my fantasy come true. Here was an opportunity to live in a traditional tico house, in a tico neighborhood, with tico landlords. We of course put down a deposit that day.When we went to sign the contract we were invited into our landlord’s home and stayed and chatted for a while. It felt like we had been presented with the opportunity to move to Costa Rica.

In some ways it has been frustrating that we couldn’t move in right away. However, the Costa Rican school year doesn’t start until the beginning of February and we are obligated by our beach lease until the end of January. I tried to focus on the logistical perfection of that. Plus, now that we had another option our place at the beach felt more like a vacation. The pressure to MAKE IT WORK had been removed. I think both Matt and I noticeably unclenched and our time here has been a lot more enjoyable for the past couple of months.image

My birthday was the day after my return from my stateside worktrip. I don’t think I’ve ever spent a birthday abroad and certainly not in the midst of what amounts to a vacation. It was a blissful day. The kids are now both at an age where they understand what birthdays are all about and they treated me like a queen. Matt baked this cake with them while I slept in. Has anyone read Matilda by Roald Dahl? The sheer size of this one reminded me of the one the Trunchbull forced that boy to eat. It was also extra delicious, made with yellow cake mix and cocoa I brought back from the States myself. 😉file_002

Suki also made me this incredible jar of art, with endless messages and drawings of love. Django contributed a drawing but this was definitely Suki’s brainchild. It might have been the sweetest gift I’ve ever received.file_003

My birthday fell on a Saturday. It felt like one of the first really, really enjoyable we’re-in-the-fricking-jungle-let’s-have-some-fun Saturdays yet. We decided to check out one of the few white sand beaches in the area, Playa Barrigona. Apparently, this beach borders Mel Gibson’s 500 acre estate. The road there is all dirt and very rough. Access requires a 4×4 vehicle most of the year. How does Mel deign to get here? I struggle to imagine him humping over the bumps with the rest of us mere mortals. Perhaps he helicopters in? In any case, the beach really is lovely and completely undeveloped. On the final stretch into beach, the 4 wheel drive really becomes necessary. It was at this point that we encountered a French couple, here on vacation, trying unsuccessfully to dig themselves out of the mud. We offered to help and struggled and slipped with them for several minutes. Just as we were about to despair a group of four tico teenagers arrived on bicycles. My Spanish failed in trying to explain “tow truck”. Finally, I just asked them if they would help us push. They gamely jumped off their bikes and with their added strength the car leapt victoriously from the mud. The shouting and clapping that ensued! The French woman went around kissing everyone, including the mortified ticos. The kids rode off to the beach and the French couple turned around and went back to Samara, not wanting to risk the road to the beach any longer. As Matt and I wiped the mud off our legs and chatted with the kids a car full of young British women rode up. We told them to be careful, veer right and not stop. They pumped themselves up a bit and then went tearing off into the mud. They interpreted our advice to not stop as advice to speed wildly and we watched with hearts in our throats as they bumped, whooped and splashed their way through the difficult section. When they made it to the other side they tumbled from the car yelling and fist pumping. Then they all immediately lit cigarettes to calm their nerves. Having watched their trajectory, we plotted our course. Going steadily, we made it through without fanfare and had a great day at the beach.

I started to really appreciate and revel in the uncluttered, unsocial nature of our weekends. This was a time to lie by the pool (while we still had one) and stare up at the clouds. image

It’s sad, but the kids really noticed when we were able to just hang out with them. Here I thought we were doing so much better with that since moving here, but there was obviously space to be even more present. We reached vacation level.

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The vacation feel was heightened by the arrival of visitors in mid-December. Our friend from California, Jen T., had been invited to Costa Rica to celebrate a significant birthday with her old friend, N.C. They arrived in Samara ready to relax. We decided to join them in this venture. It was really something to show people around through the eyes of a holiday and also great to have someone else see our living situation.

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In addition to lots of swimming and relaxing they wanted to go paddle boarding. This was something we had not yet done. What a treat to enjoy some of the activities visitors do here! We paddled out to the island that is about a mile off shore. When we arrived there was a sizeable beach and a whole tour of people. After a time the group left and we had the island to ourselves. As the tide came in the beach slowly disappeared. It was utterly relaxing.

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Even after the departure of our friends we have more or less maintained this relaxed vibe. It’s bittersweet. We arrived here 5 months ago. Predictably, right as we are preparing to leave we are finding friends, a community and a rhythm to our life here. At times this has made us question our decision to move. But we can’t escape the realities of money and language. We know we can save a lot of money simply by moving, thereby potentially giving ourselves more time to remain in Costa Rica. And there seems no doubt that for the kids, at least, they will learn far more Spanish when completely immersed. Matt and I think we have a better chance of finding more opportunities to work on our Spanish in Grecia as well. Learning Spanish is, for the most part, why we came here. So we remind ourselves of this, stiffen our resolve and continue packing.

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