Saturday, September 6, 2008

Down Time

So, if you’ve been reading, you might still be wondering how we spend our weekend down-time. If you can imagine what weekends might have been like in a small Iowan town circa 1950, you’re probably pretty close.

First, we spend a lot of time visiting with Costa Rican friends. Having lived here twice before, we have developed some strong friendships in the community. Among the closest are Gerardo, who has worked for us on and off for the past ten years; Luis and Sonja, a carpenter and his wife, who have made almost all of our furniture and who have become like family to us; Warner and Yini, the supermarket manager and his wife, who have been stocking their grocery shelves with items we can’t seem to live without. They have introduced us to their families and friends, showed us the local haunts (the public swimming pool, a tilapia farm with fishing holes), and kindly explained Costa Rican customs and social norms.

The nice thing about Costa Rica is that drop-in visits are not completely frowned-upon. Perhaps it’s because telephones are still not universal, but it’s perfectly acceptable to show up unannounced, shout a few times (no doorbells) until someone comes to the door, and be welcomed with a cup of coffee. Because we live in one of the major coffee producing areas of Costa Rica, a main topic of conversation over coffee is, well, coffee – which direction prices are going, recent fertilizing fads, and how the current weather is affecting the crop.

In addition to our random drop-in visits, we do actually get invitations on occasion. There is a core group of ex-pats here from the U.S., France and Canada who enjoy good food (and drink), and we invite each other over to share anecdotes and advice, talk politics, and just to speak our native languages. Many of these ex-pats have located here for the fabulous birding in the area, and they make up the majority of the San Vito Bird Club. I (Kate) have become a proud member of the SVBC, and I’m slowly learning how to focus my binoculars to tell the difference between a bird and a leaf… The SVBC is involved in a long-term research study on migrant birds, so I have also started learning how to band spindly little avian legs, and where to blow away feathers to find well-hidden private parts.

When we first arrived in July, we were taking weekend road-trips that delivered us from small-town Iowa to the Costa Rican coastal paradise of surfers and sunbathers. It’s about a three-hour drive to the beach -- not because the distance is so far, but because the dirt roads are so crappy. On nice days, the drive is well worth it -- particularly for Luc, who enjoys jumping the waves and digging in the sand. Now that rainy season is upon us and the clouds roll in around noon every day, we’re hunkering down and staying closer to home.

As I’m writing this (on Saturday morning), Patrick and Lucas are out in the driveway in their bathing suits washing the cars. Later today, we’ll go to town to run some errands, and tonight we’ve been invited to a cocktail party with some American friends. We may not be shopping at the mall or eating at trendy restaurants, but we’re enjoying our simple life, developing meaningful relationships and feeling the stress drain out from our heads to our dirty little toes :)

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