Mixed Up Canadienses in Costa Rica

Published: February 22nd 2008
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Hot Boy in the CityHot Boy in the CityHot Boy in the City

Benjamin dealt with the heat in Santa Cruz...38 Celsius.
As the sun set on our adventure with the McLeod’s we were forced to face the bitter reality of life. After a week away, no matter where you’ve been and what you’ve been doing, going home is always a good feeling. Of course it is nice to sleep in one’s own bed and cook in a familiar kitchen but the backlog of laundry and other not so enjoyable aspects of life need to be dealt with eventually. This is especially true if the arrival of more guests is immanent and with the owner of the school emailing and calling about my response to his offer it was a stressful time to say the least.

The Offer

On the second last day of school, Victor, the owner called me to his office for a secret meeting. He explained that he wanted to expand the school from a 250 student Prepa- grade 6 school to a 500 student Prepa-grade 11 school. He told me that he believed I was the person to help him make the transition and to build the program. He asked if I was interested and what my thoughts were with respect to his plan. Of course anyone
Benny Boy BostickBenny Boy BostickBenny Boy Bostick

BBB has dubbed himself the newest rap sensation.
who knows me would understand my openness to hearing about and discussing an opportunity such as the one on the table. He wanted to know before Christmas and I couldn’t give him a response in such short notice. I stalled him by asking him to come up with a salary and benefits package that included, a job for Nataghia, work permits, a job for the recently fired Physical Education teacher, free tuition and transport for Owen and Ben, medical and dental, pension considerations, annual retention bonus and salary adjustment, and the kicker…return flights for my family annually.

I figured that given the time of year and an impending ski holiday for the owners on Boxing Day it would give me until the New Year to forget about anything but family and friends. Apparently I underestimated how anxious he was to take care of this business as on the 24th of December he offered me a decent salary by Costa Rican standards AND everything I asked for except the flights home. Given my experience with how things work in Central America I was shocked! I let the offer sit in my inbox until the 26th of December when I knew
The Cribbage ChallengeThe Cribbage ChallengeThe Cribbage Challenge

We enjoyed the evenings having friendly competition between the boys and girls.
Victor was leaving for the States and I counter-offered. In reality I wasn’t ready to commit to anything as I hadn’t really considered moving to Costa Rica permanently at this point in my life. Of course if you’ve been here you are probably thinking YES, YES, just say YES and really that is what my little voice was telling me too. However, as an adult with a fantastic wife, family, career, and other commitments in Canada the decision was just too huge to make one of my famous snap decisions. In my counter-offer I noted that I would be away in Monteverde and Samara and as a result unavailable for any negotiations or discussions regarding the matter. I also suggested that they speak with the current principal, my friend, as it was quite bothersome that they were negotiating with me and planning to toss him to the curb without any kind of notice. In reality I had been speaking with the principal the whole time and he wanted me to take the position as his intention was to quit and he would receive a better compensation package if he was fired. Victor responded to my counter-offer a couple of days
Hanging OutHanging OutHanging Out

We were hanging out
after New Year’s and he had met me in the middle but still no plane tickets. I ignored the email until the McLeod’s left and we had returned to Esparza. My plan was to call Victor and set up a meeting but he beat me to the draw and called me early the morning after we got home. The meeting was set for Thursday 9 am in his office. After some very serious consideration and family discussion we decided that we would go for it and take the job if we could accomplish some adjustments in the contract. WHOA….hold on don’t jump to conclusions this thing isn’t over yet. Our main concerns with accepting the deal were still valid and always working in my subconscious. Leaving the country to take a year off is not considered a great move for those looking to advance their careers, quitting completely is pretty much a killer for any momentum achieved through previous accomplishments. We love visiting our families and even though we’ve always lived a few hours away it seemed plausible to achieve three to five visits a year. Moving to Costa Rica permanently would reduce that to seeing family once or twice
School of the BeachSchool of the BeachSchool of the Beach

Owen works on his math skills while re-learning cribbage.
annually. A difficult thing to accept for everyone concerned…Owen and Ben LOVE visiting regularly. Money, money, money…despite negotiating a salary that would put our family income significantly higher than the average upper middle class Costa Rican it still pales in comparison with the income/savings, and retirement opportunities in Canada. Thirteen more years in Canada and an early retirement would garner me a pension that would be more than our entire family income in Costa Rica. Learning to speak Spanish, teaching, developing programming, and researching the potential to live and retire in Costa Rica partial time with a decent pension was our original intent. I have encountered other offers that are not related to being a principal here in Costa Rica that are more challenging, interesting, and can earn me significantly more than the salaries and benefits that I can earn in either Canada or Costa Rica and perhaps those offers should be the ones I am considering instead of the same thing different country opportunity.

I arrived at the meeting with Victor right on time. If I’ve learned anything about Costa Rica it is that being early for meetings is a waste of time. I waited about 25 minutes
Monkeying AroundMonkeying AroundMonkeying Around

Owen and Ben found a great natural jungle gym at Camping Mora...later there were real monkeys in these trees.
to meet with Victor and the other owner German and during that wait doubt crept into my consciousness in a profound manner. I wasn’t so sure to begin with and my suspicion was that once I accepted the position my waits for communication with the owners would only get longer. We talked numbers and options for about a half an hour and then it was up to me to decide. I told them that I was still very concerned about the timing, we were expecting four different family members for company in the forthcoming two months, and the lack of plane tickets, and that I would have to talk with Nataghia once more before committing one way or the other. I knew they expected me to accept that morning because they had a meeting with the current principal for the next day and he was expecting to get fired. As I drove home from the meeting I decided…I told Nataghia and she told me she was happy with my choice and that it was more exciting thinking about going back home than it was to be staying here for a few more years. OK, good choice Ron…keeping one’s life partner
Camping MoraCamping MoraCamping Mora

The shady spot...Jeff's tent is behind the car and Sharon's behind our big blue tent.
happy is a great thing.

The Result

With Sharon and Jeff arriving just four days after the job offer drama we didn’t have much time to second guess and we focused on readying ourselves for some relaxing times. It didn’t take long before there were a couple of tents set up in our yard and we were touring our guests around Esparza and area. Our first day trip with Sharon and Chepe, AKA Jeff, was to Playa Dona Ana and we were greeted by a troupe of White Faced Capuchins. The day was a sign of good times ahead as we were off to the secret surfing beach the next morning with my friend Henry. Both days were excellent beach days with some beautiful scenery and terrific waves to ride. Without a solid itinerary Sharon and Jeff left the planning up to serendipity. Our neighbours Enrique and Luz Marina invited us to the Santa Cruz Festival on Saturday and we decided to accept and roll the adventure into a return trip to Playa Samara and Carillo. Both beaches have camping facilities and a nice safe family vibe.

We were off to Santa Cruz early Saturday morning with
Playa Carillo at SunsetPlaya Carillo at SunsetPlaya Carillo at Sunset

Another perfect day in paradise
hopes to take in the Tope, horse parade, and enjoy some of the wonderful traditional food and music that the festival is well known for. We arrived at lunchtime and were welcome with some resounding BOOMS from the fireworks and the 38 Celsius heat. We immediately went to eat and then wandered around trying to figure out where everything was happening and when the parade would take place. Unfortunately the parade would not be happening until six in the evening so we decided to head off after going down the street to check out the bull fighting and street musicians and dancing that was on almost every block. The bull fighting was really just a bunch of half drunk or worse guys running around inside the bull ring teasing a bull that had just been ridden by another half drunk guy. It was pretty interesting but not really compared to the street performances and the locals dancing. Sharon caught the eye of one of the hot stepping local men and before we knew it she was greeted with a great cheer from the crowd as she joined the smooth dancing man with the twinkle in his eye. Check out the
Party at the CampsiteParty at the CampsiteParty at the Campsite

We grilled steak and veggies and enjoyed the evening.
video of this unforgettable experience. Mid afternoon we escaped the inland heat and sped off to the beach.

We arrived and found that the Samara camping was completely full. We headed off to Playa Carillo and had our tents set up and were at the beach to catch to last part of the day and ride some amazing waves. During the full moon the tide is significantly higher and therefore the swells too creating some pretty massive waves that had our boys somewhat tentative. Not a bad thing to be reminded about the power of the ocean. We camped the next two nights at Camping Mora for $3 a head. The campsite has toilets, electricity, and showers that can all be described as rudimentary. We heard Howler Monkeys throughout our time there and on the first morning had an up close encounter with them. At about 5:30 in the morning the view out of the screened top of our tent included a very loud and smelly Howler Monkey. After getting up and exploring the immediate area I found out why during the previous evening Sharon smelled the occasional waft of poo while we were setting up and playing cards
Los CocosLos CocosLos Cocos

We moved to camping los Cocos in Samara after two nights in Playa Carillo.
before bed. It appeared as though we were sleeping in one of the monkeys’ usual hang outs and despite being clever little beasts they weren’t using the toilets. Solution- Go to the beach. We spent the next five days between Playa Carillo and Playa Samara. We found a very cozy spot at Camping Los Cocos after two nights at Carillo. The campsites are only about ten minutes apart so the resettlement wasn’t a problem. We immediately got in the groove of breakfast, sunscreen, swim, relax, sunscreen, swim, eat, sunscreen, swim, relax, sunscreen, swim, BBQ, relax, sleep, with a few games of cribbage in the evening, for the entire time in Samara. We really enjoyed the relaxed vibe at the Los Cocos campground and the Samara area. We did have a birthday party for Benny Boy Bostick the 5 year sensation. The party featured a scavenger hunt that culminated in a pinata bashing session courtesy of auntie Sharon. It was difficult to finally leave but eventually we tore ourselves away and headed back to Esparza. Upon our return to Esparza Sharon and Jeff set up their tents and hammock and we grooved for a couple of more days enjoying tours of
Treasure HuntTreasure HuntTreasure Hunt

Ben found presents by reading the clues and exploring.
the Mesetas Land Development Project I am getting involved in, a couple of houses my friend has for sale, and we were invited to our neighbours private beach club at Punta Leona on Sunday.

The day at Punta Leona was great but it could have been better as we had a rather serious miscommunication that started the day off in madness. We started the day with everyone ready to go on time. The evening before Nataghia had been speaking with the neighbour who told her they had room for one of us in their car for the 50 minute trip to the beach. So we nominated Nataghia and everyone else hopped in the car and drove out the driveway as she headed over to the neighbours. When Nataghia got to the neighbours she asked is everyone ready and got little response as they were scurrying around preparing to leave. Nataghia waited a few minutes but then decided to go back to our house to use the washroom and then waited on our patio keeping an eye on the little white car in their driveway. A half an hour later with no indication of movement next door Nataghia went to

Ben found presents by reading the clues and exploring.
the fence to see what was happening only to find out that they had left in a different car. Probably at the same time as Nataghia’s realization the neighbour arrived at the crocodile bridge where we met and I asked them where Nataghia was as she was supposed to be with them. They thought she was with us and so without hesitation I asked if they had a cel phone to contact her and they said no. I didn’t want her waiting around abandoned so I jumped in the car and left Sharon, Chepe, Owen and Benjamin on the bridge looking at crocs and took off home. When I got home after a rather reckless high speed run… no Nataghia. Apparently the neighbour decided to use a pay phone to call their daughter and get her to take Nataghia to the bridge. So with this new information I turned back and drove back to the bridge to find those people, MY CHILDREN & GUESTS, I left sitting at a restaurant, waiting and wondering why I didn’t have Nataghia. We headed off to the gate of Punta Leona in hope of finding our host and Nataghia and there they were sitting

The press bothered Jeff and Sharon all week. It was tough to take their picture without getting shouldered.
and waiting for us. Eventually we had a great day at the beach club despite the issues that started the day as eventually I was able to laugh about it. Sharon and Jeff stayed and we all enjoyed another two days relaxing in the hammock and hanging-out before forcing themselves to head off for more adventures in ziplining and enjoying the beauty of Costa Rica. It was sooooo nice to relax and spend time with Sharon and Jeff. It was like old times at the Estevan campground when they were doing the plays there. Thanks to Jeff I now have a new and improved body surfing technique that is completely amazing. We were looking forward to seeing both Sharon and Jeff on their way back to San Jose and hearing about the adventures they found while visiting Visto Golfo and what ever other attractions they found along the way.

Additional photos below
Photos: 18, Displayed: 18


Making a standMaking a stand
Making a stand

Jeff finally had enough of the paparazzi.
Pinata TimePinata Time
Pinata Time

The Campsite at our HouseThe Campsite at our House
The Campsite at our House

I guess I understand why it was difficult to leave.
The Hammock ViewThe Hammock View
The Hammock View

Here is the view from the hammock Sharon left us.
Oh YeahOh Yeah
Oh Yeah

This is what did for a couple of days after Sharon and Jeff moved on.

25th February 2008

What an adventure !
You guys really are having quite a time in Costa Rica. It is nice some of your family members are able to travel there to see all the beautiful scenery. Keep the blogs coming. We enjoy reading about your adventure.

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