So I realize I’ve been awful at this whole keeping-a-blog thing. I had a solid run, four to five months of consistent posts. But you know what happened? I dove into my life here. I left the limbo I had been stuck in, where every new adventure here meant a story to tell to someone back home. I no longer feel like a traveler who’s on the road, sending updates back to her “normal life,” as I’ve committed to the life I’m living here. Now that my life here is my new normal, I find it sufficient to keep in touch with loved ones, rather then to write it all down for my whole “other” life to read.
I would say this started in April. The first couple months of school were rough, man. It was my first time teaching my own class, and it was exhausting me. I had to seriously motivate my self to do anything but nap after school every day. Slowly but surely, however, I got better at my job, learned how to conserve and utilize my time and energy, and after a few months I was really longing to branch out more, make solid friends, and create more of a life for myself down here. In March, a new CrossFit came to town and I started doing that. It really helped me get out of the house, and the exercise helped add some energy into my life.
In April we had a long weekend. Some of the teachers at my school who I had become friendly with were trying to talk me into going away with them – they were going to Puntarenas for a music festival and then taking a ferry to Montezuma to camp for the weekend. It sounded so fun, but I was longing for a relaxing weekend with some surf here in Jacó. At the last minute, and after another encouraging conversation with Malinda, I decided that going to see other parts of the country and getting to know these people better would be well worth the lack of rest. Looking back, I believe it was a pivotal moment for me. To put it simply the exhaustion was well worth it. I had a blast, and the people I spent that weekend with are now my best friends here, and week after week they are a part of what make this New England girl feel so at home in a tropical country 4,000 miles away.
So now that I’m here, in this place where I feel at home in Costa Rica, I have decided to stay another year. So, let’s talk about my day-to-day life: the bits and pieces of this world I’ve created that I’m not ready to give up yet.
While I still find myself consuming cheese, empanadas, rice and beans, and beer on a semi-regular basis, I feel as though I am eating a more nutritious diet than ever before. Each Thursday night there is an organic farmer’s market. I generally spend the equivalent of fifteen dollars, and I leave with about ten coconuts, fresh kale, arugula, cucumber, tomato, onion, sweet potato, the sweetest pineapple you’ll ever find, lychee, Uchua aka gooseberries, fresh ginger and turmeric, passionfruit…. the list goes on, but that is my general shopping list and what I can get for fifteen dollars. The big grocery store in town is actually owned by Walmart, so the vegetables are largely imported and overpriced. Being on a modest teacher’s salary, I so cherish my weekly visits to the market for fresh, colorful, organic, local, and inexpensive produce.
Apart from that, I try to keep my meals based around produce. Because I avoid the main grocery store, I rarely buy meat or chicken. Only once or twice a week will I buy some fish to sautee in coconut oil, but for the most part I get my protein from eggs. Just as of recently, I’ve been buying delicious eggs from my neighbor’s hens. I was so excited when I learned they sell them. The yolks are strong and dark orange. I love eggs so I’m sure not everyone can relate, but they are fantastic. Additionally, I discovered a local farmer who drives through my neighborhood every day selling milk. He comes mid morning while I’m at school, so it’s really just a weekend treat, but nonetheless, I’m happy to support a local farmer and enjoy his rich leche.
Additionally, I’ve been making Kombucha! Growing this delicious, healthy probiotic each week is like a science experiment I get to enjoy and share with friends. There is something to be said about having living things growing in your house. And by house I mean studio apartment.
My diet is colorful and fresh, and I wouldn’t change a thing about it. Even just the coconuts I buy every week would be enough to keep me in Costa Rica. There is nothing like starting your day by pulling a coconut out of the fridge, popping her open, and chugging the cold, refreshing, electrolyte-filled sweet water.
The beginning of the year was tiresome, but now I love my job. I think additionally, it is hard to see progress in five and six year olds during the first few months. Now that we are coming up on the end of the year, all of the things they have been learning since January are coming together and these kids are making me so proud. I love each and every one of them. Each day I go in hoping to do a better job than the day before, and I can’t wait to do it all over again next year. My coworker, Ileana, has become one of my greatest friendships here in Costa Rica, and her partnership makes my days easier and more enjoyable.
A few weeks ago, we played a staff versus high school soccer game. It was during my afternoon recess, so all my kids watched. It was so fun to take off my teacher uniform for an hour and have fun with students and coworkers. Just this last week, we had a Culture Fair at the school. Each class from preschool to high school represented a different country, and we prepared for over a month. My students represented Switzerland: we rehearsed a traditional Swiss folk partner dance, studied cultural aspects of Switzerland, and sold Swiss food including potato pie, cheese, chocolate mousse, hot chocolate, apple juice, apple pie…. delicious and fun. It was so nice to see the entire school coming together in such a fun environment, with families as well.
If you haven’t already checked out this fantastic website http://www.karmatribe.com, please do so now. It was founded by my great friend Dave, a tricitizen of the U.S., France, and Canada, now living in Costa Rica. The idea is that we can create an economy based on kindness that does not require money. I help Dave with communications and social media, and whatever else he needs that I can do. I have had nothing but good experiences working with the project. Everyone that learns about the website seems so excited and eager to contribute to the initiative.
Additionally, my life here follows the same philosophy that Karma Tribe promotes. I can’t tell you how rarely my friends and I pay each other back monetarily. The economy amongst our network of friends is largely an exchange of favors.
Nature. Rainforest. Rain. Sunshine.
Scarlet Macaws. Monkeys. Sloths. Toucans…. all things I can see every day without trying too hard – right here in Jaco. Greenery surrounds me. Rain comes and cleanses away your sweat, and your stress, and your hurry. It calms and quiets down the town, almost as surely as it will calm and quiet your mind. The rainfall here is the therapy, the stillness I didn’t know I needed. Rarely do I ever resent the rain. Even when my favorite band, Cultura Profética, came to play here in Jacó and it got rained out, I still danced my way home, enjoying every minute.
I have always felt close with nature, and I’ve always found myself escaping to it. It’s just so much more intertwined with my life here. There is a single gecko who has lived above my kitchen sink for about five months. I have seen scorpions and wolf spiders in my classroom. I have seen and learned about animals that I had never even seen on the Animal Planet TV channel. While surfing, I watch schools of fish jump beside me and even little devil rays jump out of the water to soak up some sun. Yes, there are crocodiles in the ocean here during rainy season. But I can even find it in me to appreciate them. Sometimes I think we need to be reminded of our humanity a little.
Anyone who has taken Sociology 101 will tell you that people are least likely to commit suicide if they have more ties to their community. That being said, CrossFit has been yet another addition to the strong sense of community I feel here. Jacó is an interesting town in that almost everyone has an occupation which connects them back to the community. In my home town in the states, most people commute to the city or to another town to work for a company who may not have anything to do with anyone else in their town. Here, everyone I know is working at bars and restaurants, teaching yoga, playing live music, managing hotels, teaching in the schools, etc. We all have more than one reason to know each other, and we interact with one another at our places of work all the time.
CrossFit is another realm of this community for me. My friends at the gym include parents of my students, police officers from town, restaurant/bar owners, my bank teller, my dentist… I mean literally. I could go on. So yes, CrossFit is my place where I get to go release my competitive nature and work on my physical body. But anyone who exercises consciously knows that while we may be working on our bodies, we are really working on our mental health. I feel so good doing CrossFit all the time, it releases endorphins, and it is so good for me to have another network outside of my work and friends.
Other Cool Shit That Happens Here
I am surrounded by positive and progressive people. A couple of weeks ago I went to an energy healing workshop with some friends and my coworker Ileana. We learned a bit about all of the energy we carry in our spinal chord, and a five minute tapping therapy to heal issues in our lives by activating and releasing that energy. There were about eight of us in the workshop and it was such a nice union of good people. The following day, Dave, Jackie, and myself went to a permaculture event in San José, where we met more awesome people and learned about permaculture and agriculture in general.
There is awesome live music here in Jacó! Every night you can usually have your pick of live music. After participating in an open mic night, there have been a few artists who will ask me to join them in singing a song from time to time…. Which is so fun for me!
Today my friend Sarah initiated a workshop on nonviolent communication, a topic she has been studying. We talked about what compassionate communication is, and tools for how to confront hard to discuss topics from a place of non-judgement and understanding. Once again, everyone there seemed to have a strong light and we all seemed to vibrate on the same frequency. We talked about how we would love to meet up again on a weekly basis and perhaps even begin a creative writing workshop.
Aah… Surfing. How had I gone twenty two years without surfing? This sport has been so fun to learn. I’ve had both some of the scariest moments of my life and some of the most rewarding moments of my life while surfing. Whether I am just sitting on my board enjoying the scenery by myself or with friends, or if I am charging wave after wave, it is always worth it to paddle out. The sport has created a new challenge in my life and a new connection with the ocean, the tides, and the rhythm of the waves which I didn’t have before. Eventually, when I do go back to the United States, I will miss hopping on my bike, riding the four hundred meters to the ocean, and catching gorgeous waves without a wetsuit. How sweet is life on surf days.
Every Thursday night, I go to CrossFit and go straight to the market and then come home to shower and put my groceries away. My friends all have their side jobs and tutoring and yoga going on, and we all meet up at my apartment for an eight o’clock dinner, utilizing our fresh ingredients from the market. Week after week, we find ourselves repeating to each other that it is the best part of our week.
When you live abroad, your friends become your family. They are the people that you can depend on when you can’t make ends meet, when you ran out of coffee and the stores are all closed, when you need to vent about how crazy your kindergarteners are, and when you miss your biological family. Just when you feel like you are so far away from home and the people who really know you, they make you laugh so hard and you remember that there are people here that are just like you too. Who can find humor and amusement in the same things as you. Who know you better than you think they do. Who love you for you.
A good friend of mine here, Jackie, has a great philosophy on living alone. When you live alone, you need to be in a relationship with yourself. Just like any relationship, you need to work on it. Setting time aside for dinner and a movie at home by yourself is not being a lazy introvert, it is an important part of your routine that you can’t afford to deny yourself of. After all, you’re the one that you need to live with. You need to learn to love yourself. Being comfortable with your self solitarily in your home can be one of the most quietly beautiful things. While I could go on and on about all of these outside forces that make my life so great here, at the end of the day, this journey is about myself. It’s about putting myself into different situations, different elements, and seeing how I react. It’s about learning as much as I possible can while I am here – in Costa Rica, or in life. Each new day, with each new experience, I am learning more and more about myself. I’m going to quote Jackie here on her theories of life experiences and interpreting it all and say, I’m still collecting data. It’s not time to interpret the data, because I’m nowhere near done yet. As for now, I’ll continue collecting data in Costa Rica. There will come a time when I will come back to the motherland to research it all again. But for now, there are still so many friends to be made, so many waves to be caught, so many students to teach, so many lessons to be learned. There is honey to be suckled, coconuts to be drunk, there are men to kiss, and there is so much more data to gather before I’m done in the land of Pura Vida. There is pure, pure life to be lived, and I intend on doing so.
Thanks for reading.
With love that grows and grows,