I probably ought to write something with this title regularly. But at the moment life is a fuzzy blend of the surreal and the quotidian crap that comes with young children, whether you are at home or traveling.
We arrived in Herradura, Costa Rica, after a long day of travel culminating in a stressful 3 hour backroad detour because the main highway had been switched to one way (not our way) to speed tourists back to the capital after the weekend.
Our 5 year old was car sick and hysterical that it would be too late to swim. It was pitch black but we suited up and jumped right in. We ate fish tacos on the side of the pool, totally alone, looking at the stars and listening to the ocean. A big coati waddled out to see what was happening. It’s been 4 low key, delightful days since then. The kids are in heaven. The work of home is hundreds of miles away. No one is sunburned and my children are even eating vegetables.
Right now I’m snuggled in bed with my toddler asleep in my arms. An orange tabby cat just pranced across our patio. My big kid is gazing at me lovingly (I just threw a chocolate milk at him like a zoo animal to keep him happy and quiet until dad returns). Ah, there he is. My super partner just walked in all sweaty from a midday emergency drive in to Jacó to repair the busted tire on our stroller. He’s glowing with self satisfaction and showing me his treasure like a price-is-right model: organic crackers, beer, and coconut oil.
But the successful stroller repair is his crowning achievement. It’s the only place the toddler will sleep besides on me, latched on like a leech. But we’ve done enough travel that our expectations were modest when we heard the explosive sound of rubber bursting (after hauling 90 lbs worth of children around the Pura Vida gardens yesterday). Our first-world hearts raced as we skyped the bike shop (there is a bike shop!) and my nervous husband rapidly described the problem in English. There was silence, then “can you repeat the size please?” I jumped in and we switched to Spanish. 16 by 1.75 inches. A small bike? No, a stroller. He laughed with good humor and reassured us it was an easy repair and no problem. Now, it might not have been, but it was (a new tube for $2) and now it’s time to celebrate.
We are in Costa Rica! It’s a new place for both of us, though I’ve read about politics in the region and taught its history in my Contemporary Latin American Politics class for undergrads. Costa Rica is the Sweden of Central America. Most of the region has struggled under the economic and political yolk of first Spanish colonialism, then long years of US intervention in support of nasty dictators (hey, as long as they were capitalists they got our vote, right up through G. W. Bush’s support for the attempted Venezuelan coup in 2002). But gracious, we did not know what to do with Costa Rica. To the US, the 1948 civil war looked like a fight between communists and socialists and we tacitly supported the lesser of two evils. The social democrats won, phew. The military was abolished and over the past six decades of unbroken democratic governance, investment in education, health, and infrastructure has made Costa Rica a significant regional outlier. Add in several decades of state support for eco-tourism, with decent environmental regulations, and you get a country that is a pretty good place to live, work, and visit.
I’ve already shared the story of how we ended up staying at this fancy place. But I guarantee you my husband has lost some sleep over how obnoxious I’d be when we got here. But by preparing for utterly excessive excess, I’ve been won over by its demure excessive excess. I’ve successfully avoided thinking too much about how much water is used to keep this place gorgeous in the dry season. I managed to wait for the natural lesson of driving by a parched field where forest had been cleared for pasture to explain to my kid that he needed to start eating something other than hamburgers.
I am not not caring, but I’m suspending my self righteousness. This place is here and it’s actually pretty marvelous. The staff are outgoing and confident, children are welcomed everywhere and guests and staff alike dote on them with genuine enjoyment. The pools are the most fun I’ve ever had and I hate pools. All the food packaging is biodegradable. All the gardens are native plants. It’s not all white foreigners.
The beach looks unimpressive and no one hangs out there. But it’s a secret treasure of gentle currents and soft black volcanic sand. The beach pebbles look brown until you get up close and see the rainbow colors. The beach is public access and a stone’s throw from the pool is a local fish restaurant and dive where local and foreign fishermen mingle and teenagers tailgate around a makeshift grill.
If grumpy, stingy me were going to enjoy a resort, this would be it (there, I admit it, I’m having fun). I washed our clothes in the bathtub and hung them on the patio and no one cared. They don’t nickle and dime you for every little thing. They don’t care if you buy beer at the grocery store and drink it at the pool. Pura vida, as they say.
Tomorrow we leave, heading to Tulemar in the Manuel Antonio rainforest for the next leg of the trip. After some vigorous vegging, we are ready to go!