Monday, August 31, 2009

Here we are, day four in Costa Rica. Although getting here was kind of grueling—Lapis’ crate wasn’t accepted by Continental Cargo, and I had to buy a new one from them; my deodorant crystal was flagged as “very suspicious” by security, entailing a long explanation of its purpose--how you first moisten the top (I spit on it), then rub the slimy silica on your pits; at the gate in LAX I somehow managed to throw a handful of half-chewed cinnamon bun across the room, barely missing the head of a fellow passenger; on the first flight, the woman in front of us passed out and barfed; on the second flight, that woman was sitting next to us; somewhere above Central America, we saw lightning in a stupendous white-pink-gold cloud formation about, oh, 500 yards away; at San Jose airport, getting four suitcases, three carry-on bags, a car seat, a playpen, a pillow, a squirming baby, and an exhausted five-year-old through customs and out the door entailed some major creative solutioning (playing choo-choo train with luggage carts is fun!). But there was mi esposo, thank the Great Nutella Pancake, waving to us from the sidewalk, and we exited out into the balmy Costa Rican night, swapped some “Oh my god, I’m so glad to see you’s” piled into the rental car, and drove to a nearby hotel where los perros exuberantly greeted us.

Joedy picked Lapis up after the rest of us had gone to sleep, and the next morning we re-piled into the car and drove the long, hot, beautiful six hours to Montezuma. The potholes were numerous and treacherous, and we almost missed the ferry to the Nicoya Peninsula, but seeing the jungle-covered mountains loom toward us as we approached the shore, and feeling the excitement of soon being together in what might be our new home, made all the rushing and sweating worthwhile.

Then we saw a monkey sitting by the side of the road, and we stopped to make friends with it (from the car), and then it came loping up to the car, and then we rolled up the windows and drove away, quickly (it chased the car).

The second part of the drive to Montezuma seemed to take forever, and as we swerved up and around the rolling green hills I found myself sinking into a gloomy mood, wondering about the logistics of people visiting us and the logistics of getting a child to a hospital if the need arose. As we rolled on, my side of the conversation became a little one-sided:

“So, how do you think ambulances get to these faraway towns in time to save little kids’ lives?”

“Are there any, um, hospitals around here?”

“God—it sure would be a bummer if someone got into an accident and couldn’t get the help they needed!”

Joedy, well familiar with my Obsession With Possible Impending Doom, tried to get my mind off the subject of little kids getting hurt by describing the house we’d be sleeping in that night and maybe longer. The house sounded nice--it was near Lula’s school, and the AC/no-screens-on-the-windows business didn’t seem problematic to me—-and as we got closer to Montezuma the gloomy mood lifted. And then, just as dusk was falling, we smelled smoke. And then we saw smoke coming out of the hood. And then we pulled over to the side of the bumpy dirt road and opened the hood. And saw some singed wires on top of the battery. And saw that the battery had shifted to one side.

A few mud-splattered cars drove by, their occupants staring at us—-me holding Malko, Lapis poking his white snout out the window, Joedy fiddling with the purple metal bar that normally held down the battery, Lula looking for monkeys in the trees overhead, Astrid and Diablo tasting the water of a big puddle nearby—-and then someone pulled up behind us. He was very thin, dressed all in orange, and he had a French accent, and after twenty minutes of poking around in the engine he picked a sturdy stick off the ground and put it on top of the battery and shut the hood, telling us our best bet was to drive slowly and try not to rattle the car. Then, citing the “melting chocolate ice cream” in his car, he said goodbye and drove away.

After driving (successfully) to Montezuma, which was indeed beautiful, artsy-ish, and charming, we went to the house Joedy had found. It was dark by then, and the dirt road was tough. We passed a few cars, but in the ten-minute drive it became even more clear that we were headed to a remote and isolated spot, and I started worrying about accidents, dirt roads, and ambulances again.

I’m going to fast-forward a little here, because this is getting long: after a terrible night, during which I thought I heard gunshots in the distance, encountered a huge freaky black bug and crab in the bathroom, imagined monkeys attacking Lula and Malko, got very cold under the thin sheet, put on three pairs of socks, two shirts, pants, two wool sweaters, and a wool scarf, became feverish with worry, became convinced I’d caught swine flu from the barfing lady on the plane, and moaned to Joedy that there was no way we were living in this dinky little house so far away from a large medical facility.

Morning came, and then we noticed the wasps. There was just one at first, a long dark truncated thing cruising around the bedroom, pinging off the walls and getting much too close for comfort, and then we saw another and another. And then Lula started screaming. And then Joedy and I looked at each other and started throwing dog food bowls, dirty clothes, toiletries, and USB cords into the suitcases and dragging the suitcases out to the car.

The woman who’d agreed to rent us the house heard the commotion and came over, explaining that “wasps are our friends” and that if we want to live in Costa Rica we’d better accept ALL such biting, stinging, and non-obviously-cute critters. We asked her what would happen if one of the wasps stung Malko, and she put the brakes on the we-are-one-with-the-Earth speech long enough for us to pay her for the night’s stay, throw the animals in the car, and back out onto the dirt road.

Driving away, Joedy and I breathed a big sigh of relief. The remoteness, the isolation, the very rustic quality of the house, and above all the fact that all the roads in the surrounding area are dirt roads hadn’t felt good to either of us. We decided we need to find a house that’s more comfortable (with hot water, AC, completely enclosed walls, and a toilet you can put toilet paper in) in a town that has paved roads and a medical facility close by. Before choosing Montezuma, we’d thought a lot about Samara, a town a few hours up the coast. It’s more developed, with highway access, two language schools, and public and private elementary schools, and apparently rent’s a little cheaper there. The school we’d found for Lula in Montezuma only has four kids in it, and the building is as rustic as the house we stayed in; it’s a little sad she won’t be going there (we’d all gotten our hopes up about her new teacher and friends), but it looks like things will be better if we settle somewhere more comfortable and find her another school.

Yesterday we checked into a hotel in Montezuma to regroup, find another rental car, and relax a little after the recent turbulence and before today’s drive to Samara. Although our moving-to-Costa-Rica funds are dribbling away a little too quickly, and staying in another hotel seems wasteful from that perspective, yesterday was a nice day. I managed to speak some sentences in pseudo-Spanish, explaining to a lady selling bags of frozen fruit juice that Diablo is a snow dog and Astrid is a water dog, and we saw a bunch of monkeys climbing through the trees near our room. Lula is having a blast and Malko is doing fine, almost crawling and using his big meaty paws to grab at everything.

Joedy and I have had quite a few moments of wondering if bringing the family to Costa Rica was a good idea. It’s certainly been a little scary already, and questions about safety will never be far from our minds, but we’re going to try to make living here work. We’re all here, after all, and hearing Lula describe the monkeys she saw, walking among plants that look like works of art, and meeting people whose kindness is evident in the way they exclaim “que lindo!” about Malko and reach out to hold him has so far made the adventure exciting, interesting, and very much worth it.


Anonymous said...


Can't think of much else to say at this point, but am anxiously awaiting the next instalment.

papa au CapF

packofchicklets said...

jeepers and golly gee! what an entry. Vomit, and monkeys and wasps, oh my! it certainly sounds like an adventure but it's nice to imagine all the family - including water and snow dogs- being there for eachother. can't wait to hear about Samara and what you find there.

PS, you have to change your top blurb to read "Costa Rica" instead of "Southern California"...

in the meantime, i send all my good vibes radiating to you at high speeds and heavy voltage!!!!

micaela.pelao said...

Samara looks good! I cross all my fingers that you'll find something you'll like. And think maybe about investing in a mosquito/wasp net... :)

Anonymous said...

Darling Big Brave Sister of Mine! WOW want a post...
Todo su familia es muy valiente! (dogs and cat included)
I know its gonna be tough and seem scary, bug infested, and dirty but I know you will find place maybe with some looking that will be right for you. Im glad your trusting your instincts about...everything!
Im sending you tons of good successful thoughts
besos y abrazos
su hermanita

uncleremus said...


all in a days work eh????

i guess for all of you life is more than a bowl of cherries...its a bowl fo monkeys,waps, dirt roads, potholes, & the tropics!!!!

cant wait to visit!!!

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