It’s Not Always Rainbows and Butterflies…

…but it sure is exciting. It’s been a weird week with certainly some ups and downs, but the adventure continues:

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EARTHQUAKE!

There have been a number of earthquakes around the world this past week or so including the devastating one in Iran and Iraq with many lives lost. Our thoughts are with all of those affected and now trying to rebuild their lives. Tectonic plates seem to be shifting as many of you may have heard of the strong tremor that struck South Korea on Tuesday evening as well as another that hit Costa Rica this past Sunday night. The Tico Times article regarding Costa Rica can be found here.

Being from the midwest and northeast, earthquakes have never been part of our lives though I do remember feeling one in Boston many years ago when my computer screen was all fuzzy and we couldn’t figure what was happening.

So on Sunday night, the kids had just gone to bed and Palmer and I were relaxing. All of the sudden, we notice a loud noise and the windows and doors are rattling. I first think it’s the neighbor’s cat who likes to scratch on the windows but then realize it’s much bigger than that and for a brief second, I think it’s a big gust of wind or sudden storm, but it then quickly dawns on the both of us at the same time that it’s an earthquake. We both rush off separately to the kids rooms but the shaking soon stops and the kids continue sleeping. After regrouping and figuring out the emergency plan, an aftershock hits and we both run off again. For us, it felt strong though nothing fell off the shelves or broke and there was no damage. Neighbors did mention that their pool water was sloshing around and hanging plants were swaying, but we were certainly spared the worst of it as the epicenter was about 30 miles southwest of us. It seems that most of the country felt the 6.5 magnitude earthquake centered just south of Jaco on the Pacific Coast and it’s a fairly common occurrence here as we are located on the Ring of Fire, but I’d be okay with not going through any other tremors or earthquakes thank you very much.

HORMIGAS

Yes ants. There are lots of them here, and many different varieties from large leaf cutter ants that can eat every leave off a large plant in a day to regular looking ants to minuscule ants that appear around any crumb or dead insect inside within minutes. Well, Alice stepped on an ant hill in our yard while playing with Oscar and got ant bites all over her legs. Her poor leg is covered in itchy welts, but she seems to be dealing with it quite well despite the itchiness. There are so many different variety of insects here… so we are learning a lot about bug life here and what to watch out for. As a side note, scorpions like to hide out in our grill cover if we forget to put it back on the grill after cooking so that’s been ‘interesting.’

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Check out the leaf cutter ant highway that Oscar was entranced by.
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Pobrecita!

 

TYPICAL KID INJURIES 

Of course, with a 5 and 2 year old, we have injuries here just as we did in the states. For one thing, EVERYTHING is tiled here (entire homes, patios, restaurants, stores etc.) and it rains a LOT this time of year which means slippery ice-like conditions on the wet tile. Of course it was inevitable that someone would soon slip and take a digger, and Oscar took the prize this past weekend chasing a ball on the wet patio when his legs went out from under him and hit the back of his head on the tile. OUCH! Thankfully after some rest and some ice, he was fine. This event followed Alice falling face first into our ottoman in the living room the day before and her bottom teeth piercing her bottom lip almost breaking through all the way. Luckily, it was a clean cut and is already healed. I promise they are 100% healthy and happy!!  See?

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Afternoon rains and sunset

 

Highlights of the Central Valley

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The Central Valley of Costa Rica is located in the center of the country (surprise surprise) and is well known for its coffee production, gorgeous vistas, narrow windy roads, quaint towns and authentic villages. I think of it as the cultural center of the country, and I love that we are living in this region with that being one of the main reasons.

Here are a few towns that we’ve enjoyed exploring in the Central Valley:

Sarchí

Radiating color, Sarchí is a lovely small town nestled in the hills about an hour from San José and not far off the route to the Arenal Volcano so it’s a great place to stop on your way there or even on the way back. It’s most known for its high quality locally made furniture, carretas (elaborately painted oxcarts which were used to haul coffee beans) and artesanía (handicrafts) which make for lovely souvenirs or home decor. The main plaza contains a stately mint green colonial church as well as the world’s largest (supposedly) oxcart. Palmer and I just recently made a trip there to purchase some wall art for our home and it was a success! The Eloy Alfaro Factory just a short walk from the parque central is a must-visit. Yes, it’s a tourist trap and on the pricey side, but it has a huge selection of quality products AND it’s a historic oxcart factory which is really fascinating. The employees are happy to give you a little tour of how the machines run using hydro-power and you can even see the local artists at work painting in the back. Sarchí is a great stop for a couple hour visit!

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Okay, there is nothing ‘handmade’ about this poster, but isn’t this a cool find in Sarchí for some local flair for our walls? Oscar loved pointing out the starfruit which he’d never seen before after we found a tree and brought a couple home the other day.

Grecia

Grecia (or ‘Greece’ in English, and yes, we live in Atenas, ‘Athens’ in English) is another small town located just about 15 minutes from Sarchí so they make for a nice little combo visit. Famed for it’s red metal church (Catedral de la Mercedes) that was made in Belgium and then sent to Costa Rica, it’s a beautiful symbol of the town. It’s also billed as “The Cleanest Town in Latin America” so it’s got that going for it. And last but not least, Grecia is where you come to buy a used car in the Central Valley. Palmer can attest to that and we spent many hours visiting the numerous tiny used car dealerships (most have between 10 and 50 cars) on the road heading south out of town to find the best ‘deal’. After many test drives of cars 10-15 years old, and carrying thousands in cash in my backpack for 2 days, we finally made a decision and got it done after 20 minutes in the lawyer’s office (yes, a lawyer is required to purchase a vehicle in Costa Rica)!

Special shout-out to Café del Patio, an amazing restaurant just a block and a half off the parque central! This small and fairly new restaurant offers some seriously exquisite sandwiches and main dishes at very reasonable prices. Palmer and I both ordered the veggie sandwich made with their freshly baked bread which came with french fries and a delicious small salad topped with fresh bean sprouts and just the right amount of homemade citrus vinaigrette dressing. Of course, I always order the fresco natural de maracuyá (passion fruit juice) to go along with any meal here if they offer it. It’s seriously my favorite (nonalcoholic) beverage. Everything was FIRST RATE in quality, presentation and taste! At first we were a little confused wondering why the waiters seemed so somber and unfriendly, but we soon realized they take their food and service very serious. The chef (wearing a Cordon Bleu Paris shirt!) even came out of the open-air kitchen to ask how our meal was. We’ll definitely be back here!  (Okay, I just reread this section and wow, can you tell I’ve been doing some side hustling as a travel blog writer? Think I might need to tone it down a bit. Ha!)

Zarcero

This little town is definitely more off the beaten path and the journey along the narrow road (north of Naranjo) with breathtaking valley views at every turn is half the fun. There are lots of little roadside stands selling honey and queso palmito (locally made fresh cheese) along the route and the area is well known for its organic farming. As for the town itself, it’s lovely blueish purplish Iglesia de San Rafael, overlooks the famed Parque Francisco Alvarado, a garden-like park with the bushes trimmed into huge animals and interesting designs. It’s fun to try to figure them all out, and the kids had a blast playing hide and seek.

Barva

Another charming town surrounded by mountains, we took a drive here one Sunday and enjoyed the playgrounds on the parque central which sits in front of the imposing Iglesias San Bartolomé and strolling with the locals. Café Britt (the most famous coffee producer in Costa Rica) and Finca Rosa Blanca offer coffee plantation tours which we haven’t yet done, but it’s on the list. We did visit the Museo de Cultura Popular which is just outside of the downtown. It’s a really neat little museum housed in an old farmhouse and its surrounding gardens that is operated by the Universidad Nacional. There are little exhibits dotting the property that highlight different aspects of Costa Rican culture…from kids games to local festivals to coffee production to what a typical 19th century farmhouse looked like. It’s free on Sundays and also has an onsite restaurant that looked very nice.

This is just a taste of what we’ve discovered so far in the Central Valley and there is still more on the list – Orosí Valley and Turrialba to name a few.

It’s also a great base from which to explore the rest of the country which is a good thing as we have lots of fun trips to other areas coming up in the next two months (Guanacaste border run, Puerto Viejo and Cahuita on the Southern Caribbean coast and Tortuguero to see wildlife). Stay tuned my friends!

Weekending: Playa Bejuco

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We just discovered a new little slice of heaven after a fun-filled weekend and thought we should share. Playa Bejuco is located on the Central Pacific Coast about 2 hours from San José or 1.5 hours from Atenas (if traffic is moving – we hit a major accident and it took us much longer than expected) and halfway in between the major tourist areas of Jacó Beach and Manuel Antonio National Park. We didn’t know anything about it beforehand, but we found a place on AirBnB that looked great and was located right near the beach so we thought we’d give it a try.

And wow, we were blown away by how awesome it was – away from the big touristy beach areas, it offers an almost deserted wide and long sandy beach that is great for boogie boarding (though you still have to be careful of dangerous rip currents), shelling, making sand castles and gorgeous sunsets.

We did see a few surfers as well, but it seems that the beaches north of there are better for surfing. We joined the Ticos and pulled our car right up to the beach under the palm trees and based ourselves there for the better part of the morning. No need to lug a cooler and food, towels, sunscreen and toys a mile down the boardwalk! There are a couple small hotels, but virtually no other services except for the occasional ‘pipa fria’ (cold coconut water) or ‘granizado’ (snow cone) vendor, unless you head out to the main road, Route 34, so we brought our snacks and bevies with us. Exiting onto Route 34, there’s a little shopping complex called Esterillos Town Center which along with a grocery store and a few Tico restaurants also offers a pizza place and a middle eastern restaurant that also has live music on certain days.

We also checked out the tiny town of Esterillos Oeste also located on a beautiful beach just a few miles north of Bejuco and discovered a quaint laid-back Tico town complete with a few nice-looking outdoor restaurants, surf shops, grocery store, a few lodging options, church and soccer field. What else do you need?!

We can’t wait to go back and explore this area a bit more. Perhaps we’ll enjoy some horseback riding on the beach, a surf lesson and a day trip down to Manuel Antonio.

Pura Vida!

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Cultural Immersion 101 – Día de Independencia

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We seemed to have arrived at a great time of year as we have celebrated a number of very special cultural events in the last month. The first event we experienced was Día de Independencia which was September 15th. It is an important holiday here celebrated with parades (traditional dance troops and bands), activities in town, and special school events.

At Oscar’s school, each student brought a ‘farol’ (lantern) to school and many of them were handmade with traditional symbols of Costa Rica (casa típica, oxcart, jungle animals, etc.). The symbolism of the farol comes from a woman named Dolores Bedoya who carried a lantern through the streets of Guatemala on the evening of September 14th, 1821 to urge people to support independence from Spain. All of Central America was still under Spanish rule at that time. The message that independence was granted didn’t arrive in Costa Rica until October 13th, but all of Central America celebrates September 15th, 1821 as their independence from Spain.

We went the cheapo route and bought Oscar’s farol at the store not realizing how families value putting the time in to find (or make) a meaningful farol. Now we know. 🙂

Alice’s teachers also asked each student to bring a farol made of recycled materials. I am very proud to say that Palmer took this very seriously and Alice/Palmer WON the contest for having the farol with the most recycled materials. I think the teachers had a good laugh. It wasn’t the prettiest and the ‘theme’ was very vague, but he got the job done. We now know what we’re in for next year and working on our ideas already. Alice’s school also held a special ‘acto’ (ceremony or special event) for Día de Independencia for the families of the students complete with traditional dances, special outfits for the kids, a small parade, typical food and singing of the national anthem. It was amazing how much thought went into each aspect of the event and how passionate each of the teachers were in making it a success.

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Oscar and classmates with their ‘faroles’ getting ready to parade around school.
Scene from Oscar’s school.
Parades around the main square in town

Special ceremony at Alice’s school

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A not-so-happy Alice and classmates parading with instruments
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Mrs. Karen (director of Alice’s school) doing a traditional dance.
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Alice’s winning ‘farol’ – hahaha!

La Casa Rosada

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Our new pad!

For the first month, we were in an AirBnB house, so we waited to find something more long term until we arrived and had a better lay of the land.  Well, after much online searching and talking to people in town as well as real estate agents, we found “La Casa Rosada” about a mile from Atenas centro and with lovely views of the surrounding hills. We moved in a week ago and are adjusting well to our new neighborhood, but I will admit there was some panic after the first day when we discovered that there is no water upstairs for most of the day, I blew out the very temperamental electric shower head (the only hot water in the house) img_1774

because of said lack of water and Alice woke up covered in red marks that we initially thought was a rash but actually turned out to be mosquito bites (no screens in windows). 😦  Thankfully we’ve made some adjustments and the water pressure issue is fixed as our landlord has put in a pump so we now have water throughout the day.

We have a family with a horse on one side of the house and Oscar loves to chase the rooster and chickens that wander our yard.  We also discovered a nice playground about a half a block away so we are starting to get to know some of the families in this little area.

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Our backyard with some fruit trees (bananas, guanábana (soursop) and limón)
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Front patio and mountain views!
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Second floor views
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Our kitchen and mini fridge

 

Watching the rains come in from the front patio

Roadtripping…Arenal and La Fortuna

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We’ve been busy moving into a new house and a few visits with the doctors but things are settling down now, so I wanted to share a bit of our trip over the Costa Rican Independence Day (September 15th) long weekend. We are hoping to visit many different parts of the country while we’re here, and so this first adventure took us to the Arenal area which includes the town of La Fortuna located at the base of Arenal Volcano. I had been there a couple of times before on previous trips as it’s quite a popular tourist area, but it was a first for the rest of the family, and it did not disappoint!  It was about a 2 and a 1/2 hour drive north of Atenas along narrow windy mountain roads with beautiful vistas at each turn…though also sometimes harrowing with cars trying to pass each other on these hilly roads.  The area offers fantastic hiking, horseback riding, zip lining and canopy tours, wildlife viewing, hot springs and more!

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La Fortuna waterfall

Our AirBnB house was about 3km out of town on a dirt road with views of the volcano from our front porch. It was perfect…and our hosts Lidiana and Eddie were the sweetest couple and made sure we were making the most of our time.

The first night Eddie invited us to come watch the sloth he had rescued (which they named “bodoque” which in this part of the world roughly translates to ‘small cute round thing’) come down from the tree and eat her dinner. It was AMAZING!  Who gets to see a sloth in the wild lumber slowly from her comfy spot up in the tree down the branch and hang out directly in front of us to eat her dinner?!  I think the sloth seems a pretty good representation of the Tico culture – very chill. The kids were excited to learn that sloths only go to the ground to pee and poop so that was the topic of conservation for most of the remainder of the night. We also found a bunch of frogs and toads with Eddie’s help in our little yard (Oscar was thrilled), and he even went and found a Red Eyed Tree Frog and brought it to the house to show us.  I didn’t realize how camouflaged they are when they are not moving – we had to wake him up to see the red eyes and feet.  It seemed like we were in an infomercial for visiting Costa Rica!

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Two toed sloth “Bodoque” enjoying flowers for dinner

 

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Red Eyed Tree Frog!
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Sleepy red eyed tree frog

The next day we visited La Fortuna Waterfall and hiked all the way to the bottom and enjoyed a dip in the refreshing pool at the base of the falls. You could even see trout in the water it was so clear. I was impressed by how beautiful the park was and how well-maintained the trail was, and even more impressed that Oscar hiked back UP the 500 steps without needing any piggy back rides. Even Alice hiked most of the way back up! People, these are major milestones for us! We are excited that they enjoy hiking and being in nature…though Alice does get freaked out about ‘buggies’ every now and then.

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Our little hiker wanted a picture taken of herself.

Our last adventure for the weekend was a visit to the natural hot springs.  With the volcano nearby, there are many hot springs in the area and some beautiful hot spring resorts that you can pay to visit and enjoy (i.e. Baldi, Tabacón) hopping from pool to pool figuring out which temperature suits you best. They are super nice and most offer lunch or dinner as well so people can spend the majority of a day there. Many of the hotels even pipe in the warm water to their pools. However, we opted for the free hot springs across the street from Tabacón rather than shelling out about $100 for the four of us to spend an hour or two swimming at one of the nicer places. What a little gem this was! We went in without any expectations and found a little oasis of mostly Tico families enjoying a lazy Sunday wading and relaxing in the river that conveniently offers tons of small pools for everyone to have their now little slice of relaxation. Next time, we’ll bring lunch and some cold beverages so we can spend a bit more time there!

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La Fortuna – parque
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Majestic Arenal
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Chilaxin in the natural hot springs

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Explorer in training
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Oscar named his new friends “nippy” and “fluffy”

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Schooling around

We knew we wanted the kids to attend some sort of school in order to really immerse ourselves with the culture, make new friends and for them to learn to speak Spanish, so we had done some research before leaving the states and had one school visit set up, Green Valley School, which we were looking at for Oscar.

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Green Valley School

Green Valley is a preschool through high school, private bilingual school just outside of downtown Atenas with amazing views of the countryside. We toured the school a few days after we arrived in Costa Rica and decided we really liked the feel of it and thought it would be a great place for Oscar to attend. It took a few days for us to get him enrolled – they had to interview him and us, and of course we had to fill out all of the paperwork. Fun fun! Though most of the staff speak some English, it isn’t their first language and so everything was done in Spanish. For Palmer and I, it was an exhausting process trying to understand how it all works – where and when to pay bills (at the bank, not at the school or online), how pricing works (registration, monthly fees, activities), uniforms (where to buy them (in San José rather than in town!) and what all he would need and what size he would be and what days he wears the gym outfit (Wednesdays) rather than the regular outfit, what food he would need to bring (lunch, snack and water bottle) or should we give him money for the cafeteria, pickup and drop off and after school hours. It was at times confusing and we certainly didn’t know how it would all work out, but we also felt pretty accomplished in getting it done (and all in Spanish!) and having Oscar start school just over a week from when we arrived. Whew!

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Oscar in his school uniform

But then the first drop off was a whole other story. Tears for me and my boy of course, but he did great and always comes out smiling. Since he’s at a school now rather than a daycare center, we drop him off at the door and the teachers make sure he gets to his classroom. It was so hard for us (and still is) not going to his classroom each day and seeing the work that they’re doing and chatting with his teachers to hear how each day goes. But we do have a ‘cuaderno de comunicaciones’ which seems to be a thing here. It’s a communication notebook that each student keeps in his/her book bag and the teacher writes notes to us about anything – how he’s doing in school, scheduling changes for the week, if he got hurt at school, etc. and we can of course let them know of any issues or questions we have. It’s old school, but I like it. We also have a WhatsApp group with Oscar’s teacher and all the parents in his class so we also see photos and get announcements that way.

Overall, it’s been a great experience and Oscar is making some new friends. We met a German boy in the park over the weekend who is in Oscar’s class and they had a ball in the playground, chasing each other and playing hide and seek. We’re still learning all the kids names but it seems he starting to remember them all.

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Oscar’s ‘kinder’ classroom
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Preschool play area

As for Alice, we found a Montessori school in town that opened just in January that is perfect for her. The school is more like a daycare in that it offers care for children from 3 months old until 6 years old, though most of the kids are toddlers around Alice’s age.

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SúperKids – Alice’s Montessori preschool

The school is filled with loving teachers who are passionate about early childhood development and show so much care and love to each of the students.  Again, the process of getting her enrolled took a few days, a few visits trying to track down la directora of the school, and a few different conversations, not to mention a visit to the local emergency ambulance service across the street from the school to pay $40 in case she needs to be transported to a hospital or needs any medical services. This will cover her until the end of the year apparently. 🙂  I also loved that on the paper that mentions all the things we should bring in for her, one item said ‘colonia’ which I wasn’t sure about. So I asked what that was (believing it could not be ‘cologne or perfume’ for a baby), but alas, it certainly is. “Para que se huele bien” (so she smells good), they told me. I’ve now seen the many different Johnson and Johnson baby ‘colonias’ that the grocery store offers – many different scents to choose from for your babe.

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Alice and Miss Kimberly feeding the fish on her first day

Alice’s first day also started with tears for both myself and her, but she also comes out smiling at the end of the day and they tell us that she does very well despite some tears for the first 5 minutes or so.  After about a week, we dropped her off and she calmly walked away hand in hand with Miss Kimberly, one of her teachers. No tears! They say she is very expressive and is repeating lots of words in Spanish, and she gets so excited when she knows that we are there to pick her up.  One thing I love about her daycare – they change her diaper, clothes and put her hair in a braid or pony as soon as we arrive to pick her up so she goes home fresh!  AMAZING!  She also has a ‘cuaderno de comunicacion’ so we know what she eats, how long she slept, etc. over the course of the day.  They provide lunch (they have a cook that comes each day and prepares lunch for all of the kids) so she’s getting some good Tico food too! Every week they seem to have some sort of special activity – from a little excursion to someone coming in to give them a talk or do a special activity.  And again, the director has created a WhatsApp group with all the parents so she is always keeping us informed about things to remember or activities coming up.

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Alice’s winning ‘Farol’ (lantern like thing that all the kids either make or buy for Día de Independencia) made with Palmer’s help. 🙂 Hers had the most recycled materials!

Día del Niño (Children’s Day) happened to fall during the first week they were at school which is a pretty important day here, so both kids had special school excursions. Oscar went on a minibus to San José to watch a play about a dog (we didn’t get much info about the actual play as I’m guessing because it was all in Spanish but he seemed to enjoy it) and Alice went to Zoo Ave, a zoo not too far away that has rehabilitated a number of animals. We had no idea how they would take about 15 toddlers/babies the 20km to the zoo without strollers and lugging snacks/diapers/extra clothes for everyone, not to mention how the transport would work (we were envisioning Alice sitting on someone’s lap…yikes!), but it turns out that everyone leaves their carseat at the center in the morning, they apparently install them in the taxis or minibuses and the kids walk once they arrive.  It sounded like it all went well, but we did hear that they had to carry Alice for a lot of the time. Ha! We’re still adjusting to this new lifestyle and momma and daddy are learning to let go a bit…but also loving it as we know these are experiences that would just not happen in the states.

Final thought: I didn’t think I’d like uniforms, but they are awesome.  No need to figure out what to wear each day (and no fights about what to wear either)!

 

Taking part in the special ‘acto’ at Alice’s school for Dia de Independencia.

Photos from around Atenas

We are really loving our new town as we get to know it better each day. We are located in the Central Valley (picture rolling hills, green mountains, coffee plantations and small towns) about 30 minutes west of the airport and 45 minutes west of San José. Atenas is known for supposedly having the best climate as it’s typically around 80 every day and in the upper 60s at night.

The church
Playground in the main parque
Typical colonial building

Views from near our current house
Weekly feria

And We’re Off!

Let’s do this! We visited our storage unit on Sunday for one last drop off of a few boxes, and then finished packing our bags and making the final decisions about what was or was not going to make the cut.  At this point, anything that didn’t fit would be put on the curb.  Amazingly, I feel we did a pretty good job of the final packing and we still cannot believe how smooth the travel day went despite having had to change our flights through Houston one day before we flew due to Hurricane Harvey.  That just kept things exciting!  🙂

We flew American and used curbside check-in which was a dream with our friendly airline representative – we were totally ‘those’ people at the airport and you wonder where in the world are they going and for how long?  We had 6 checked bags plus a pack n play, 2 car seats and 6 carry-on bags!  Our flights were on time, got put to the front of the line at immigration (thanks to Alice and Oscar for that one) upon our arrival into San Jose and we grabbed a porter as soon as we got to the baggage area.  Our bags were already waiting for us, and we quickly hooked up with our transfer driver to get us to our AirBnB about 30 minutes away.  It was already dark, but we were greeted by our friendly host Forest and by 8:30pm, we were settling in our new home where we’ll be for the next month.

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One last visit to our 10′ x 25′ storage unit. bye bye stuff.
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Getting ready to head to the airport. Toys all packed or in storage = luggage fort

 

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Logan airport: whatever it takes – iPads and ‘mimis’

And this is what the next morning brought us…

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What a sunrise view – mountains, palm trees and beautiful skies
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Ring pops at 5:30am- special thanks to Lila!
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Our cute light-filled casita

Now to start exploring and let the adventure REALLY begin!

First Impressions

Hey all, so this is our first post about our upcoming adventure. So Palmer and I have decided to quit our jobs and sell our house in the Boston area, and move our family (Oscar is almost 5 and Alice is 2) to Costa Rica for a year.  Whoa…a little crazy, right?  I thought so too at first, but it’s now so exciting and we’re well on our way to making it all happen.  The countdown is on as we leave in just 11 days! Pretty surreal.

We first discovered Costa Rica as a family for a short visit in January 2017.  We spent some time checking out some authentic Tico towns in the Central Valley before heading to the Pacific Coast and exploring Manuel Antonio National Park. What an amazing few days it was – from unique mountain towns surrounded by coffee and banana plantations and beautiful vistas at every turn to the warm waters of the coast with forests filled with monkeys, sloths and scarlet macaws.  This experience confirmed our decision that Costa Rica was definitely the place where we wanted to spend at least a year being immersed in a new culture, spending more time together as a family and slowing down the pace of our hectic lives. It was of course just a short vacation, but we are so excited to experience a deeper connection, improve our Spanish, watch the kids grow and be part of a different culture, and be active members of a local community.  See below a bunch of photos from our exploratory trip.  Stay tuned for what we’ve done since January to prepare for taking the big leap!