Yesterday I rearranged my teaching schedule in order to take my kids to the 4th of July picnic sponsored by the U.S. Embassy here in Costa Rica. It was obvious from the get-go that this was an American event because the parking lot was already filling up a half hour BEFORE the opening time. The neat line to enter was long and regularly spaced giving each family group ample elbow room… very UN-Latino. We joked that the gate was opening exactly on time. We were all Americans here, it’s exactly what we expected. No one pushed or cut in line because that would have violated the American sense of order and fairness.
It cost the equivalent of $10 to get in, but once inside the grounds the free food and drinks were plentiful. My children were chanting “Cotton Candy! Cotton Candy!” as I handed the volunteer our passports at the entrance. Our first stop was the Cafe Britt stand and the Boston Bagels stand, of course. Then at 9:15 we picked up our first free cotton candy puffs. It was a day for liberal parenting.
There were traditional picnic games like a water balloon toss, a sack race and an egg on a spoon race. There were home-made carnival games for the little ones like ring toss and bean bag toss and fishing games. Lucy came home with a bag full of prizes and candy from her raid. She’s got her Daddy’s love of games and winning. We ate frozen yogurt and cotton candy and hot dogs and drank bottled water and soda and cappuccino. I think my kids each ate 3 huge cotton candy puffs.
The highlight of the day was the ceremonial flag raising and the speeches by the President of the American Colony and the U.S. Embassador. A special guest of the day was the Embassador from the Netherlands. Apparently it’s tradition to honor the Netherlands who was the first country to support our revolution against England and the first country to officially recognize our independence.
When the brass military band struck up the chords of the “Star Spangled Banner” I choked down a knot in my throat. I was proud of my country so far away. I wiped the tears away with my finger when the Pledge of Allegiance was said. My children know both the Costa Rican National Anthem and the American Pledge of Allegiance. I looked around and saw tears glistening in the eyes of my fellow expats. Just because we live far away doesn’t mean we don’t still love our beautiful America.
It was such a wonderful day, full of traditions and classic picnic charm. I’m really glad we went. Lucy told me she would dream about the day when she went to bed last night. After I put the girls to bed, I sat out on our patio enjoying a few moments of quiet and the cool evening breeze. I prayed. I thought. I relaxed. And as I sat there I watched a storm rise up on the horizon. The lightening hopping from cloud to cloud illuminated the entire sky with a natural fire works show. God displays his majesty in the clouds. His power is fierce and awe-inspiring. I thanked God for a show to rival any fireworks in America. I thanked God for today.