We Heidels, we have a gift and a curse. If there’s something we want to do, someone we want to see, something to accomplish, we go after it. Sometimes the rewards are great – and sometimes … well, read on.
Three weeks. We had three weeks in the US for Camille’s spring break, and there was a lot we wanted and needed to do. So in three weeks we managed to:
- Have an epic surprise birthday bash for Lee
- Travel to south Georgia to spend Easter with extended family
- Have playdates and dinners with family and friends
- Prepare our year-end taxes
- Prepare our first quarter estimated taxes
- Get filmed for a reality TV show
- Drive to New Orleans and back
- Take the dog to the vet
- Take the dog to the groomer
- Get haircuts
- Have 3 viola lessons
- Endure 5 different doctors’ appointments between the three of us
- See 5 concerts in 7 days
- Watch Camille be a Junior Bridesmaid in a cousin’s wedding
- Sign our house away to our renters for another year or more
- Go see a dozen or more homes for sale all over Chatham County
- Put an offer on a house
- Meet with mortgage lenders and contractors
- Choose new flooring for said house
- Choose new countertops for said house
- Have the house offer rejected
- Pack for Costa Rica
Oh, and work. We couldn’t take three weeks of vacation, so we had to squeeze client meetings and work days into all that mess.
I was reminded of a phrase one of my journalism professors used when our stories got too long and complicated. “Stop trying to shove 10 pounds of shit into a 5 pound bag!”
Pretty sure that’s what we did on this trip home.
Our last day in the US, we traveled to Atlanta to spend the night in a hotel before our morning flight to Costa Rica. We got to the hotel around lunch time, and were lucky that they had a room ready for early check in. After lunch, I crawled in bed to read. And I fell asleep. And I slept all day.
Monday, our travel day, started off perfectly. We awoke with plenty of time, had a good breakfast, and hopped a shuttle to the airport. The security lines were frighteningly long, so we were thrilled when an agent grabbed us and herded us over to the TSA Pre-check line, which was virtually empty. We were through security in a flash.
We didn’t have assigned seats for our flight, so I went to the gate agent to see if she could somehow seat us all together. Why yes, she could, in upgraded seats with extra legroom and extra snacks at no additional cost to us.
Our flight was uneventful and landed 25 minutes early. The queue for immigration was long, except we noticed one line off to the side that had only one family in it. I kept looking at them, wondering why that line was so short. They caught my eye, shrugged, and waved me over. I have no idea why no one else noticed that line, but it was our good fortune that we breezed through immigration and got our needed 90 day visa stamp.
Our shuttle driver was waiting for us, and we napped in the car as it bounced its way back to Nosara and our Costa Rican home.
I just wanted to get there and rest. To be unscheduled. Unhurried. Maybe to try to put 4 pounds of shit in that 5 pound bag for once, with a little breathing room left over.
We pulled into the driveway and I was greeted by our lovely view of the Pacific, and I felt the pressure begin to lift.
It was short-lived.
We dragged our suitcases up the stairs to the porch, and immediately became aware that a colossal vulture party had been taking place in our absence. They love our pool and they love to preen in front of our mirrored glass. And they LOVE to poop. It was everywhere, on every surface of our wrap-around porch and on all our outdoor furniture. Lee grabbed the pressure washer and got to work, breaking up large clumps of vulture poo that was gluing together bits of bone and hair.
Inside the house, there was a terrible, fetid smell. Was it the sewer system again? A quick investigation revealed that no, it wasn’t coming from the bathrooms. It was coming from the ancient refrigerator. The refrigerator that we had packed with frozen meat before our departure. The refrigerator that had stopped working.
I grabbed a trash bag and began the awful task of throwing all the food away. The smell – I can’t describe it. The meat had been in freezer packs, but the plastic was bulging and bloated from the rotten meat inside. Several packs had burst, spewing rancid meat and juices all over the freezer. Pink and brown liquid dripped from the freezer door onto the floor. I choked back vomit and tears all at once.
I used an entire roll of paper towels sopping up all the mess. I went over every surface with disinfectant. It still smelled like days-old death. Lee followed up with bleach on every surface. Still, the smell.
Finally we gave up for the night and decided we were going out to eat. We had no food, and I couldn’t be around that smell any longer.
As we backed out of the driveway, we immediately knew something was wrong. Lee hopped out to look around the car, and found that we had a very, very flat tire.
Not our first, and Lee got right to work taking off the tire. Except, it wouldn’t come off. All the bolts were removed, but the thing was jammed on. We pulled. We karate kicked it. For an hour we did everything we could think to do to get the wheel off. We sprayed the whole thing with butter-flavored cooking spray. Lee looked like a child having a tantrum, lying in the grass on his back, kicking and kicking and kicking at the tire, when it finally came loose.
I felt something in me coming loose too. After three weeks of running myself ragged in Savannah, I came home to THIS. We’d already endured four months of water shortages, lived without air conditioning in the sweltering equatorial heat, and now we had no refrigerator. And I know how things work in the jungle – at a glacial pace. Who knows how long we’ll be eating food out of small coolers packed with ice?
But I’ve learned a few things in these last 8 months. I’ve learned that I’m stronger than I thought I was. I’ve learned that living in the jungle is beautiful and challenging all at once. In our yoga classes, the instructors talk about breathing through the poses. “Yoga teaches you to breathe through uncomfortable sensations,” they say. Yes. I’ve learned to breathe.
I’ll be doing a lot of deep breathing over these next few days (weeks) until we get a refrigerator. Until the blessed rain returns in May and cools things off a bit and brings back the green, lush plants. Until water can be counted upon to flow from the faucet, anytime, day or night.
But I still love this place. Sounds crazy, doesn’t it? When we were home, Erin asked me, “Are you glad to did it, moved to Costa Rica? It sounds so hard. Would you do it again?”
And I didn’t even stop to ponder before answering. “Yes, I’m so glad we did it.”
Maybe you have to be here to understand. I recently read “Happier Than a Billionaire” by Nadine Hays Pisani and one section resonated with me. I re-read it many times. She’d just been to look at a property for sale, not knowing in advance that it could only be accessed by horseback. And she’d never ridden before, and the horses were not easy riders.
“As we travel back down the mountain, my horse takes a zigzag route, stopping occasionally to eat or have an extended toilet break. Rob’s horse continues to kick and snarl in a constant tug of war. They wait for me, and all three of us ride under a canopy of trees. A gust of wind blows and tosses little red flowers from above onto our heads. Like a royal parade, the flowers continue to shower us while we ride under the branches. Costa Rica consistently has these moments: a day full of inconvenience followed by something so beautiful you would never consider leaving.”
Preach, sister. I’ve been here long enough to have had many royal parades, and more are coming. I have faith that Costa Rica will do something so wonderful, it will wipe away the dirt and grime of our rough re-entry, leaving me feeling in love with her again.
Until then, I breathe.