Published: July 11th 2012July 11th 2012
Where we lived.
Casa Marbella is in the red circle. You can see where we were relative to beach, estuary and local restaurants.
They say "it's about the journey, not the destination". Until you book tickets to the wrong San Jose, that is, and then 'they' are suddenly all
about the destination - would you make up your minds already?
It was about 10 years ago, not long after we'd quit our corporate jobs at Microsoft, that I met a film location scout who was enthusiastically telling me about his property in Costa Rica. His description of this wild and beautiful country inspired me to spend countless hours researching Costa Rica on the internet, eventually trying hard to convince Cher that we should sell our house in Dundas and move down here permanently. She wouldn't bite of course, our kids were too young, and our roots too deep into the Ontario soil - or perhaps our feet were frozen to the ground. Besides, we'd never even visited Costa Rica! Details, details.
9 Christmas dinners later, laid out with the flu in our Dundas living room, laptops on our bellies and snot in our heads, we both got hooked on browsing Costa Rican real estate websites. Maybe it was the virus or maybe it was the rum and eggnog, but we soon started
We rented this golf cart for the last two weeks of our stay. The kids have LOVED being able to get around our little town on their own.
dreaming of escaping the Canadian winter, and more importantly, "The Harper Government", and quickly decided to make an exploratory trip to Costa Rica with the kids the following spring.
That was more than a year ago. Most of you know that
story; Air Canada's website locked me out, I ended up booking tickets to the wrong San Jose, we got stuck in Denver with no warm clothing, etc. We did eventually get to Costa Rica and had a great time exploring several areas and micro-climates. We eventually agreed that returning to the Pacific North West would be ideal and, after a few hassles trying to book a rental home, we ended up in Playa Grande at the beautiful Casa Marbella - 300 metres from an amazing 5km stretch of quiet (often deserted) beach, and backing onto a massive estuary teeming with wildlife. The occasional sound of small boat engines passing by making me feel like I'm at the cottage, and the howl of the monkeys reminding me that I'm 6,000 kilometers away.
If you've followed this blog you'll know that we've had our share of ups and downs. This wasn't surprising; from our research, we knew that MANY
Charlie's school graduation
Charlie in the background while the school principal presents everyone's graduation certificates.
people that come to Costa Rica for long-term stays end up leaving because of the challenges and inconveniences of day-to-day life. Even with our (assumed) resilience and preparedness, there was a long
period of time that I felt I'd had enough and was ready to come back to Canada.
Then finally, at about the 4-month mark, things just got easier. Yes, the truck was still breaking down and the power and internet were still going out regularly, trees falling down and blocking the roads, cell phones never working when you needed them, etc., but this all became part of the greater "Pura Vida" of life here. By the way, if you ask most people what "Pura Vida" means, they will tell you it's "Pure Life", meaning all things green, healthy and happy. But for most ex-pats that we've met, Pura Vida means, "don't count on Plan a, b, OR c or even d, e and f". If you're good with constant surprises, you'll love it here. It makes you realize what control freaks we Canadians and Americans have become and how spoiled we are - and we don't even know it.
Over the past 5 1/2 months, we've
Ella's Grade 5 Grad
Ella accepting her Grade 5 graduation diploma from Mr. Willick and Mrs. Haun.
They were really great with helping Ella settle into Country Day School.
witnessed major transformations in ourselves and in the land around us. When we arrived, the hills were dry and brown , the grasses short and yellow, the cattle and horses thin and bony. No wonder the beef was tough; if you left the dinner table, your steak would jump off your plate and into your water glass just to hydrate.
Then the rains came early and we literally danced in the rain. It was amazing to see how quickly the hills and trees around us turned bright, then darker green, the grasses growing 4 feet tall and the forest suddenly so dense we could no longer see the estuary behind our house. Simply gorgeous!
At the same time, we've seen in our children an increased confidence and worldliness. Though they may be eager to return to life in Canada, I'm sure that their friends and extended family will notice in them something different. You can't witness stunning sunsets and car accidents and daily forest fires and beautiful waterfalls and vultures eating dogs and beautiful beaches and smouldering volcanos without having something inside you grow a few sizes larger to accommodate all these new experiences. Their world is, quite
Let's just say that the kids can't wait to get back into our Kia Rondo.
literally, larger now.
For myself, it's been a roller coaster ride and much more of a challenge than I had anticipated. My anxiety attacks were a daily issue for quite a while but in the last two months I've grown so relaxed that I could easily stay on. I think that if the kids were eager to stay we would probably have extended our rental agreement and simply continued on longer. All of the hard work is done now; we finally know how to deal with life here, we have great new friends (although we miss our friends and family at home), we have good school solutions for the kids, they
have friends, we have a great mechanic (a necessity). But staying is not an option.
It's time to get back to life in Canada. We are excited to reconnect with family and friends, to swim in our pool, to see our dog Francis, holiday at the cottage, get back to our hobbies, explore Art Crawl and some of the new business and cafes that have opened this year. How will Dundas and Hamilton feel to us after living in Costa Rica for almost 6 months? Will strangers
Home from Jan 28 to July 18, 2012.
look at me like I'm crazy if I say hello to them in the street? Will we find ourselves comparing everything to life here or simply slide back into our old routines? Will it seem too fast and crazy? Will I eventually stop looking at Costa Rican real estate and file this whole experience away as a great, but complete chapter in our lives?
I will miss our new friends, the daily challenge of learning Spanish (something that we DO hope to continue at home), eating amazing food (Cafe Del Pueblo for dinner, El Huerto for pizza, Bula Bula for breakfast), our amazing house, the ocean, jungle, hills and mountains.
More than anything, I will miss this amazing feeling of being back in time. There is a level of freedom here that I can only compare to growing up in the 70's. I'm glad that Charlie and Ella got to experience it but I'm also glad that Cher and I got to rediscover the joys of living a very free life for a while; allowing our kids to explore fiestas late at night, driving themselves all over Playa Grande in our rental golf cart, drinking a beer on
If you look back to earlier posts you'll find a picture of this field on fire. What a difference some rain makes.
I have loved driving past this spot almost every day, with the distant hills in the background.
the street or in the car (us, not the kids), driving with 9 people in our truck (including three in the back with the tailgate open) without any concern over what the police might do (which is usually nothing). Managing your own risks; being able to decide for yourself what's dangerous and what isn't. There are lots of rules here too of course; they're just not enforced as much as at home.
I find myself wanting to make an immediate and firm plan to return. I sense this is some kind of psychological trap though (still being high on the drug that is Costa Rica), and Cher and I have talked about the importance of just getting home and seeing what happens. Pura Vida, whatever happens, happens. So, while we may be returning to our final destination next week, I don't believe the journey is quite over yet.
p.s. I've still got to post about our Guatemala trip and I think Cher wants to post a message from her perspective (which would be great) so stay tuned. For now though, thanks for following our journey. Your comments and encouragement were much more appreciated than you can imagine.
Hasta luego amigos!