This past weekend was a holiday weekend in Costa Rica. Here Columbus Day is called “Day of the Races” or Culture Day. It was convenient that we have Monday off of school since most of the high school kids were on a retreat with our local youth group. With the two big kids gone, and only the little one at home with mom and dad, we made spontaneous plans with friends to go to the beach for a night. The beach is so much more restful when you only have one child to keep an eye on!
Normally packing to go away even for one night is like packing for a trip to the moon. Not only must I pack for myself… which would only take about 30 minutes if that’s all I had to do… but I must also pack (or check the packing of) 3 kids. We always bring food to the beach too. We save money by eating breakfast and lunch picnic style so we can eat dinner at a restaurant… that’s a mother’s luxury. So food for 5 times however many breakfasts and lunches there will be must be packed. Then there’s all the swimming gear: boogie boards, goggles and snorkels, sand toys and diving rings, sun screen, water shoes, beach towels, and inflatables. Usually it’s all stored in one place between trips, but occasionally someone has taken things out of the stash and we must hunt down a lost pair of goggles or the bottle of SPF 85 that I bought last month. It’s never as easy as I imagined it would be when we first talked about leaving.
Then because it frequently rains at the beach, we bring things to entertain the kids during rainy afternoons and evenings. A couple of board games, a bag of Barbies, and our computers to watch a movie or two are the preferred methods of entertainment for the family. I’m just happy with my Kindle and a chair on the balcony with a jungle view.
Once we get packed into the car, the fun begins. Just getting out of the city for a while is relaxing. Seeing the mountains split by the ribbon of highway clinging precariously to cliffs facing deep, cloud filled gorges lined with combed rows of coffee bushes causes me to relax my shoulders and breath in the scenery. I love where I live. All the way to the beach there are fruit stands marking the places where little towns touch the high way. If you need a bite to eat, there are “sodas” or little Mom-and Pop diners accompanying the stands of “Mangas” and “Pipas Frias” all along the way.
Even though we’ve seen them a million times, we always stop at one particular bridge to count the giant salt water crocodiles lounging on the banks of the Tarcoles River. Then we walk back to the road side restaurant for a plate of Gallo Pinto (rice and beans) before continuing on our way to the coast. As I sit on the wooden benches watching my children sip fresh fruit juice to wash down their rice and beans, I look up to the palm frond roof and think about how much I love this life. I hear chickens and a rooster outside the door and an iguana climbs up the tree that serves as a wall for the dining area. The heat is oppressive and I’m sweating through my sarong which only makes the fresh squeezed fruit juice all the more refreshing. This is the life!
I can’t believe that I GET to live here. When I stand on the beach and take in the scope of the bay I fall in love with Costa Rica all over again. I realize that this is where some people come on vacation, but for me, this is my home. And I never want to leave.
One of our family’s favorite things about the beach is all the animals that we get to see there. San Jose is closing down it’s zoo sometime this year, because it’s pretty pointless when you can see the same animals in the wild for free. At the beach we spot howler monkeys, “titi” monkeys and white faced capuchins. Iguanas the size of dogs sun themselves along the steaming hot pavement of the road. It pays to keep your eyes on the trees, because sloths are everywhere as well. This past weekend, we spotted a Momma sloth carrying a baby on her belly. How cool is that?
I feel the stress of the last week melt off my shoulders when I consider all the amazing things about where I live. I am reminded all over again why I love living here. A weekend at the beach is just what the doctor ordered.