Updates

We are settling into our new adventure here in Costa Rica. The bigger things in our lives are underway now, particularly our young adults’ unschooling journey. Amid the nooks and crannies of the last few weeks, we have some more mundane, but fun updates that we wanted to share.

We are now more mobile! We just got four bikes for all of us – three mountain bikes and one beach bike which we call the “grocery bike.” While in Tamarindo, we found a bike shop and got a great deal on them. This is a huge help for us since we had no other transportation and a very limited budget for car rental.

We had been walking everywhere, which is great to an extent. For some context, Surfside, where we live, is very small. It has a few fun bars, a grocery store or two, and a nice beach. Playa Potrero is the closest town. It’s about 20 minutes away and is also a small town. Playa Flamingo is bigger and has a hardware store, bank, rental car place, doctor and pharmacy, etc. It is about a 35 minute walk. Brasilito is about a 50 minute walk and Tamarindo (and surfing) is probably 3-4 hours walking.

The bikes give us convenient access not only to things like groceries but also our growing list of activities, starting with yoga. Deb and I found an amazing class in a huge cabana overlooking the beach. We go several days a week now. It’s not as challenging as P90X but it has its tough spots. We love it. And, well, you can’t beat the view!

I’m really excited about finally finding soccer! There is a pickup game in Playa Potrero Tuesdays and Saturdays. It starts late and ends when you can’t see the ball anymore. I’m the only gringo, though Deb will start going too.

Soccer here, as you might imagine, is very different from the league games we usually play in in Seattle. The group ranges in age from teenagers to someone else in their 50s besides me. Most are in their early 20s or 30s. And there are no women. The play is much more centered around fancy footwork, as you might expect. It is also very hot still late in the day and so this focus keeps the running more minimal. Of course, that’s not how I play. I play more like an American – lots of running and speed, far less on the fancy skills front. I was exhausted at the end of the game (not to mention the long walk home). But, I think I surprised a few of them. It was fun to hear a few whistles (more derision of someone who got “beat” than for the person who did it) when this 52 year old gringo beat several of the 20-somethings to the ball or took it from them and ran. J But, I’m looking at this as a great opportunity to learn the Tico way playing. Did I mention that I don’t miss the cold, freezing rain?

We found a gym in Flamingo so that Vie and I can start working out. Vie wants to start getting more toned. The bikes will make this much easier than the long walk there and back. It will be very hot working out there – so hot that they close from 12-3 every day. It should get us fit fast.

We also found some more hang-outs, each with their specialties. We initially found Maxwell’s and it is still our go-to hangout. It has karaoke Tuesdays, poker on Thursdays (yet to be tried) and the best dollar tacos on Fridays. La Perla, one of the oldest places, has karaoke on Saturdays and that’s a fun time. As an aside, karaoke seems big here. So do country songs (I better get my twang on before I try it). The Shack has really great food and gets local musicians in weekly. Our yoga class also eats breakfast there. It was started by a restaurateur from New York. On Sundays, El Coconut Beach Club has live music and dancing. We don’t go there for the food, though.

One of our most mundane, but fun activities is coming back from doing something hot and sweaty – which is pretty much everything here, including a bike ride to get groceries – and jumping straight into the pool. You can’t imagine how refreshing that is!

We’ve started finding a great rhythm here now. We’ve met a lot of fun people around town too and we see them everywhere (except soccer). It also underscores that Surfside/Playa Potrero is indeed a small town. Everyone knows everyone – and evidently everyone knows everyone’s business.

While we expect that we will mostly bike, we did have a transportation dilemma. Having no car means we can’t surf easily. Our beach really has no waves and isn’t even good for boogie boarding. Tamarindo and Playa Grande on the other hand are two of the best short wave long board surfing spots on the planet. Robert August (famous from Endless Summer) ranks Tamarindo as #1. And, Deb and I have become completely enraptured with surfing after we recently spend a few days learning to surf at the famous Witches Rock Surf Camp.

We have a budget for rental cars, but not enough to surf as frequently as we’d like. The rates also go up from $30/day to $150/a day in high season, December and January. Cars here are ridiculously expensive here – up to twice as expensive. One example: our yoga teacher is selling her 2006 Jeep Cherokee for $13,500. We can’t imagine though living here for a year and not surfing a lot. We love where we are and don’t want to move. Tamarindo is too touristy. What to do? Enter “Moose.”

Now everyone knows that if you find a dog (or rabbit, bird, etc.) that has no home, don’t name it. It is a sure sign you are going to keep it. Well, it works for cars too, evidently.

We found a car that looks like it belongs in the jungle, and that it’s been driving in the jungle for decades. It’s pretty beaten up. It has many beauty marks, missing pieces, and lots of character. We found it in a Facebook ad, took a test drive, had a mechanic check it out, and then, we kind-of named it.

moose

The picture we have here really shows Moose in his best light. Moose doesn’t have any computers (our MINI for example had 40), which means it is easy to fix. Moose is Japanese (a 1990 Mitsubishi Montero). In Costa Rica, Japanese cars/trucks are the best to own because the parts are easy to get, reasonably cheap, and the mechanics all know how to fix them. We expect to have to feed Moose many parts over time (in contrast, Jeep parts – and we love Jeeps – are crazy expensive). Moose was $3000. That’s actually less than what we budgeted for periodic rental cars, even when you add in needed repairs. And Moose comes with a mechanic, sort of. The person coordinating the purchase for the SUV is a fun Austrian mechanic named Tomas.

So, we are taking a plunge, and a risk, and buying Moose today. We have papers to transfer. In Costa Rica, that involves a lawyer. Then, Moose gets to go to the doctor and have a few things fixed. He probably needs a good bath after that as well. He’ll be our surf car. Once we have him back from the doc, add a few surf stickers, a surfboard rack, and some boards. Then, we’ll look like real surfers. We just need to get our skills on par with the look!

Pura Vida!

Vacation

We are now two weeks into our new adventure. A few days ago, one of our young adults said something about us still being on “vacation” – i.e., before we dig deep into unschooling. It was a really interesting comment in general about what we are doing and it made me think about what is “vacation” really.

Of course there is the dictionary definition, which leaves me a bit unsatisfied. We are indeed taking time away from home, school and business…but that’s only the tip of a very big iceberg. I know everyone has a different perspective on vacation, but for me, I’ve always thought about it not as what you are doing but rather what the outcome is. In my case, the outcome in vacationing I seek is rejuvenation, recharge, and perspective.

I’ve been on many trips, or “vacations”, to see relatives, to go to a wedding, etc. that were not any of those things. I’ve also been on business trips (usually overseas) in which I found all of the elements I look for. Even most date nights feel like a vacation to me in this sense. So then, am I on vacation now?

I find myself moving between vacation and non-vacation (“unvacation”) day to day, even though I’m in an incredible tropical vacation spot.

This last week has seen a lot of set up – things we needed to do both mundane and effort-intensive. We got all of our technology set up, including local cell phones and SIMs for everyone tied to their Windows IDs (at least in 3 cases), VPN service, and a new Android tablet for some freelance work Deb and I are doing. We also got our cooking staples and some other basic things before we gave up our rental car (and access to bigger super markets, or “super compros” – AKA “gringo stores”).

On the big effort front, we took a trip to San Jose, the capital, to go through the process of applying for our “rentista” residency visa. It was a long process involving first finding a place to keep the dogs (a wonderful place named Isabel’s Friends), a 5 hour drive to get there, getting photos and fingerprints for all of us and then spending some time with lawyers and forms. Fortunately, our lawyer made it as painless as possible. We ended it all with one of the most harrowing drives we’ve ever had on the way back at night with roadway construction, aggressive truck drivers, and a massive tropical downpour. Oh, and a little fog to boot.

Interspersed with all of the necessary activities on a daily basis are activities that are much more “vacation” for me. These are things like the incredibly fun karaoke Halloween we spent at our favorite place, Maxwell’s. It was very different than our typical Halloween where we prep our house for several months. We had to come up with some costumes, but Deb brilliantly came up with us going as Seattle Sounders.

halloween costa rica

Another great activity was boogie boarding at Playa Grande, one of the top surfing spots in Costa Rica – and the world for that matter. Vie and Aidan loved it. Aidan declares he’s ready for surfing now!

SONY DSC

After two weeks of settling in, it does feel a bit more like home. At the same time, we are clearly not “home.” We are starting to develop some routines and we hope to ramp this next week as we do a “warm up” with Vie and Aidan for unschooling. And with a freelance project, I’ll definitely dip back into my tech focus.

None of this detracts from the daily “vacation” activities. I personally feel rejuvenated almost every day. Every day especially brings rich opportunities for new perspectives. Stress is nearly non-existent where we are as near as we can tell, for example. Even simple activities like grocery shopping both make me appreciate what we had in Seattle and also how fun it is to be living somewhere new and different. I feel very creative and we haven’t even started unschooling yet. I even “just relax”, something that is (has been) pretty unusual for me.

This “between” state is a new experience for me. It certainly emphasizes “working to live” vs. “living to work” – something Deb and I very much believe in. I think it needs its own name. If I take a long view though, I’m sure I’ll find that the whole adventure gives me a “vacation” outcome. Getting there will be priceless in so many ways.