Things have been happening so fast here that I can’t keep up writing about all the events. It’s hard to believe we’ve only been here in Costa Rica for four days! Our primary goal, other than just simply getting acclimated to a new land, is finding a house to rent for our three months family travel sabbatical here in Grecia.
Yesterday began with coffee, a home cooked breakfast of farm-fresh eggs, toast, and pineapple (we finally got some groceries), and good cheer. I deciphered the washing machine to wash some laundry and then Kevin and I hung it to dry, with little Addy’s help. I had forgotten how much I love hanging laundry and what an art it is. In Belize, you would see the clothing hung around town in neat lines, clothespins doing efficient double duty holding the edges of two garments, pants upside down, and everything waving peacefully in the breeze. In a warm climate like Belize or Costa Rica, you just don’t need an energy-hogging dryer. It’s awesome.
After breakfast and laundry, we walked downtown to meet Geovanny, a Tico who helps people find homes to rent. He’s also an English teacher in one of the local schools so speaks very good English. In addition to showing us a house that’s coming up for rent, he also answered about a million questions we have about getting our life set up here.
One thing he told us that we’re pretty excited about is that often kids who are visiting for a few months will go to his school for a cultural immersion experience. If I’m understanding what he’s saying, you wouldn’t necessarily enroll your kids for the whole time, but rather they’d just attend for a few weeks to make friends, learn Spanish, and see what school is like in country different than their own. Since we’re homeschooling, this would be idea. We could continue our curriculum at home but give them this unbelievably rich cultural opportunity. It would also be a great way to connect with other kids. As homeschoolers, this sometimes becomes an issue when we’re traveling. How do you get your kid in front of another kid in some kind of context that lets them actually say hello? Not a problem with the 4-year-old, who will chatter with any other short people at the playground. But older kids have a harder time finding a way to say that first hello (or “hola” in this case!).
Geovanny was a God-send to us and really helped us feel at home here in Grecia. But we weren’t so sure about the house he showed us. For one thing, it was really far away from town—when we set out, he told us it would be a 20-minute walk but I swear it was longer than that. That’s not such a big deal for me or Kevin or the boys, but for the girls, especially the little one, walking that far on big hills under the Central American sun is just a long way. I think what would happen is we wouldn’t get to town quite as often. I don’t think this house was close to a bus stop but they told us a taxi would be a few dollars each way, which means we’d have to call a taxi and pay a bit each time we went to town. Especially if the kids end up doing the school immersion experience, this would be a royal pain the the patootie.
The house also lacked a real feeling of Costa Rica. It could have been any rental condo in New Jersey. It was sort of nice but sort of… I don’t know… soulless. I’m very big on the aura of a place and this place seemed lonely and colorless. It was also in a gated community and, although they said the residents were mostly locals, it just felt sort of closed off from the real community. The one bonus is the development had a nice pool, playground for Addy, and tennis courts, albeit at the bottom of a huge mountain. We’d definitely be developing whatever muscles you use to climb hills going up and down to the playground!
I have a feeling, if we rented that house, we would be hiding at the pool and swings and not really interacting with the people of Grecia. It’s hard to say.
So today we’re looking at three houses on the ridges of the volcano. These places are not even walkable to town; we’d have to take the bus or a taxi to Grecia. I guess we have to see the places to know for sure, but it seems like we’d have the same accessibility problem. I hear it’s cooler up on the ridges and, of course, the view is better, but would we end up hiding in our house and not integrating with the community?
We do have one option in town, so far, and that is this airbnb rental we’re living in now until at least Tuesday. The owners have told us they will rent it to us for the whole three months but at price a little higher than we wanted to pay. We are considering it, though, since the neighborhood is both really convenient to everything we need and extremely friendly (it’s mostly the same family living on the block). The house also really suits us, with three bedrooms, a spacious back porch, a washing machine, a well-outfitted kitchen, etc. It is actually a bit bigger than we even need, since it has a formal sitting area as well as a small TV area, and a dining room table we’ve never even used because we always eat at the kitchen counter. But the best thing about the house is that it’s in a location that lets us do what we came here to do—immerse in the community and learn Spanish—without needing a car. We can go to town three times a day, if we want. There’s a pool and playground a block away that’s about a dollar per person for a day pass. And, if we do send the kids to school, it would be easy to walk them there at 7 a.m. every morning.
The neighbors are really great, too. Yesterday, we went to visit the lady across the street—Loty—to ask her more about the apartment for rent she’d told us about the night before that. She took us to see the apartment but it was too small. After that, she invited us in to her house for a “fresca.” I didn’t catch what the herb was she used but it was basically a blended drink of water, lime juice, and some herb that reminded me of cilantro. She motioned to her belly and seemed to be saying it was good for your digestion. It was delicious. Loty speaks absolutely not one word of English so it wasn’t an option to cheat. We somehow struggled through a real conversation, telling her about why we are here in Costa Rica. We also told her about our time in Belize and explained how our parents had died in 2010 and that’s about the time our lives started changing. Even though we speak different languages and I’m sure things got lost in translation, I feel like we really connected with Loty. She was sympathetic and inquisitive, patient and friendly. I’d like to get to know her better and living here in this house would really let us do that.
Anyway, it’s an option.
So in an hour, we head to the bus terminal to take the bus along with Geovanny to San Isidro de Grecia, the location of the first house for rent. I’m looking forward to seeing what it’s like up there on the volcano. And, who knows, maybe we’ll fall in love with the area and not mind riding the bus or taking a taxi a couple times a day.
One thing I can say is people really make the difference to how rich a travel experience is. If we feel that the houses today are too isolated from other people, then that might help us make up our minds.
I’ll let you know what happens! Adios for now!