Rain, ants & costumes

Brave Molly at Playa Negra

Brave Molly at Playa Negra

Two weeks down, one to go of Spanish classes here in Turrialba.  We can’t believe how fast it’s gone so far.  Since Erica and I are getting one-on-one instruction, we’re  in class for only 3 hours per day, but still exhausted from the effort.  It’s amazing how much progress we’ve all made (even me!!).  Dana and the folks at www.isls.com are highly recommended.  Despite a rough few days last week from Ben in protest-mode, the kids did pretty well in their classes.  It’s wonderful to see Elliott’s jump into a conversation with our host family to tell them what we did over the weekend.   Boredom in the afternoon is our greatest challenge so far with the boys.  Boredom = crazy boys = crazy parents.  The local pool at the university and a nearby park have been a blessing.


Thursday was a national holiday in Costa Rica in celebration of the annexation of the state of Guanacaste.  All schools, including our language school, were closed on Thursday and Friday.  Before heading out of town for a long weekend, we attended a celebration at Ben and Molly’s school.  The whole week their classes had been practicing traditional dances and songs.  Molly spent the prior night prancing around the house twirling the dress we’d borrowed for her for Ari and Sonia, but much to our surprise, it was Ben who actually followed through and participated in the activities.  Molly claimed to be shy and refused to leave Erica’s ankle.  Rough parenting moment.

Our long weekend plans came together literally the day before we left.  The taxi driver who takes Molly and Ben to their school drove us by van to Cahuita, on the Caribbean.  We had been researching lots of options on the east coast before settling on Nosara on the west coast ultimately for our final week in Costa Rica, so we were excited to still be able to visit, if only for a few days.  It’s about a 2.5 hour drive from Turrialba to Cahuita.  We had been under the impression that Turrialba was hot, until we dropped down off the rolling mountains onto the coastal plain.  Wow, the heat and humidity were incredible.  We stayed at the Siatami Lodge right next to Cahuita National Park. and heard the famed howler monkeys the moment we stepped out of the van.  The bungalow we rented was pretty basic but had a kitchen and mosquito nets, key!  Their coffee and breakfast that came with the rental was great!  Unfortunately this is the rainy season in Costa Rica, and we had about 5 hours of spotty sun over 4 days.  The first night we experienced the most violent thunder and lightening any of us had ever seen.  Somehow Molly slept through it all, but the boys were in our bed seconds after the first thunder crashed right overhead and shook the bungalow.   The proximity to the Park and wildlife drew us to Cahuita, but it tended to be very “backpacker” and a little sketchy in our eyes.  Lots of budget accommodation and just a gut concern on safety.   The restaurant and grocery selections were limited, so we’re glad to be spending a longer spell in Nosara later.  The rain started Thursday night and didn’t stop until late afternoon the following day, which allowed for some beach play despite the clouds.  We scheduled in a trip south to Puerto Viajo by taxi and the Jaguar Rescue Center during a particularly wet Saturday.  The rain and dark made for pretty bad photos unfortunately, but the kids loved it.  We saw sloths, spider monkeys, tons of snakes and birds.   We were escorted in the monkey sanctuary where monkeys actually jump on you!  After Elliott had one pried from his ankle and Molly’s curly hair became too interesting to the monkeys, we had to exit.   The rain let up a little that afternoon again so we could walk to neighboring Playa Negra for a few hours of splashing around, followed by lots of whining about saltwater chafing.  Wouldn’t you know that today, we had the best weather in Cahuita?  We ate breakfast and grabbed our beach gear to finally do a jungle walk in the Park to a beach to play in the sun for a few hours before heading back to Turrialba.  We spotted 3 sloths not 10 minutes into the walk, including a baby!  The ants here are crazy and numerous.  Erica and Molly both were bit just when walking.  Elliott had a monster bite into his flipflop and not let go.

Self defense bark

Self defense bark

On Saturday we pick up our rental car, say our goodbyes to the Sanchez family, and drive to Santa Ana (just west of San Jose).  We’ll arrive in Nosara the following day after a long drive amid Tico drivers.  Wish us luck.

Fun Time In Costa Rica!

At the falls

At the falls

This last weekend we went to the falls and got all of our shoes wet and it was lots of fun.  Here’s a photo of me and Ben playing by the waterfall.  We swam in a pool and played king of the mountain and built a dam.  We saw lots of bugs and I think I got stung in the ear by a bee.  My ear feels better now.  We also saw a huge beehive way up in a tree.  Our taxi driver said to watch out for snakes because if you annoy them they will bite and sometimes kill you, but we didn’t see any.  Our driver pointed out a huge fly that looked like a huge bee.  You could see its eyes.  That’s my adventure at the falls on Saturday.

Playing in the pool on Sunday

Playing in the pool on Sunday

On Sunday we went to our host family’s friend’s house for the day.  They had 4 dogs, 3 were boxers and one I’m not sure the name.  Two were nice, the others were not so nice.  The boxer girl was buff and strong and the boxer boy wasn’t that buff.  It sort of looked like a jungle.  We saw a black cow and huge fish in their lake, we didn’t get to catch any but we got to feed them.  Sonia (the owner of the ranchero) said maybe another day we could fish.  Ariana is our friend, we call her Ari.  She said we should make a chain with Ben holding my feet and me in a tube in the pool.  They had two pools.  One was freezing but the other was better.  We ate tacos with chicken, pig and cow in the tortilla. It was good.  I took some pictures of the plants we saw.

And that’s the journey of going to our host family’s friend’s house.

The honeymoon is over

…..for the kids at least.  Everyone woke up this morning proclaiming that they would NOT be going to school today.  Because that wasn’t really an option, there was a lot of squawking and complaining (all the way around). It should come as a shock to no one that everyone ended up going to school, and somehow made it though.

All three kids are now picked up by the school director in a taxi, and she drops Molly and Ben off at kinder (the baby school, as Ben likes to call it), and then takes Elliott to the language school.  Rob and I follow later on foot.  It’s about a ten-minute walk, and not too bad as we are getting to know some faces in a very small town.  The man at the candy store on the corner near our house likes to practice his excellent English, and the banana man down the street always greets us with a hearty “Bueno!”

At school, we have two coffee breaks during the morning, and now that Rob and I are in different classes (we started out in the same class), we are getting private instruction. My teacher today seemed a little surprised and put out that I felt like I could work all the way through the 2nd coffee break. In fact, many of the other instructors kept knocking on our door, “You’re not going to take a break?” I wanted to say, “I think I can handle another half an hour without a break,” but of course, I can’t say that in Spanish, so there you are.   I should also mention that our day STARTS with a coffee break.  We are supposed to be there by 9:30, but class doesn’t actually start until 9:45. 

This is the rainy season in Turrialba, and yesterday afternoon was a doozy!  I have never seen rain like that before, and we live in Portland, so I thought I had seen rain.  Tropical rain is a completely different animal, though. In a house with a metal roof, you really hear the rain, too. We had a “Sound of Music” moment when the lightening and thunder started, and suddenly, all three kids were in our room because they didn’t like the sound.  It shook the house, and I couldn’t help but wonder why people who live in a place with lightening and thunder storms like that one have metal roofs.  That’s just a friendly “wonder,” and not a judgemental “suggestion.”

Every day we’re learning more about each other, and of course, Spanish.  I told Molly today that “caballo” means “horse,” and she told me, “No, Mommy!  ‘caballo’ means ‘hair.'” Close, but not quite.  I am thrilled that in just a couple days, she is picking up so much of the language.

I wish I could tell our host family how much we already adore them.  They are wonderfully patient with us, and have shown us so much kindness.  So instead I do dishes, we keep our stuff tidy (and then Sonia comes around and cleans everything up again while we’re at school) and say “Gracias!” about a million times a day.  It’s a start, at least.

Moving Day


Movers at the house all day today dodging kids underfoot.  The Vaughn family spent our last night at Castle Ave on Tuesday night (until someday).  We move in with the Krogh’s for the next 2 nights and get some quality cousin-time in before Friday afternoon.  Flights confirmed and bags mostly packed.  Kids are either unusually cranky and crazy or beginning to act out on the unsettled nature of our life right now.  We’re hoping to reestablish a routine of sorts in a week as school in Turrialba gets going.  It’s been a massive yet satisfying project to purge and pack.  Erica and I can’t believe how fast time if moving these last few days.  We’re getting pretty anxious and hope the real excitement kicks in on the plane Friday.  Last night on the way to yet another goodbye dinner with friends, Elliott observed that we’re sure having dinner with a lot of people lately.  The goodbyes are getting tougher and frequent, but this still doesn’t faze the kids.  Rodrigo (his 3rd grade teacher) asked him if he was excited.   He said yes, but was referring to the upcoming sleepover at his cousin’s house.  Ah to live in the moment as a child.


For Real


Our next adventure is rapidly becoming reality.  The week has been a whirlwind of emotions and activity.  Last Friday was my last day of work after over 12 years at the Portland Business Journal.  I do feel like I’ve learned a lot as a manager over the last few months.  It’s probably a combination of having a weight off my shoulders and having more fun at work.  Hopefully it’s a lesson I can carry forward.  I spent a while staring my last direct deposit on my phone Thursday morning.  Last paycheck.  It’s probably a little like bungee jumping I suppose, but I’m afraid of heights.  Earlier there was a lot of anxiety, now we’re too busy to think about it.  All the worry and planning are done.  Now we finally get to act on plans made ages ago.

Saturday we had a great party with friends and neighbors and began some difficult goodbyes.  We love our neighborhood and have tremendous friends, making the next few weeks a tough time.  Sunday we dropped Elliott off at his first overnight camp in Purdy, Washington with his cousins, while Ben and Molly will stay at Camp Grandma & Grandpa in Gig Harbor for a few days.  It’s wonderful that the kids get to spend some quality time with Dave and Cathy before we head south.

Erica and I raced back to Portland to truly begin packing.  Despite beginning months ago, it feels like we’ve got days of packing and cleaning still to do.  Today we began actually laying out belongings for packing.   We’ve got a crazy assortment to consider packing.  We’ve started a “maybe” pile as we consider weight and number of bags.  More on the packing list later.  We’re cleaning, packing and organizing as we dodge potential tenants checking out the house.  (No it’s not rented yet and no we haven’t found a place in Cordoba to rent yet, but why worry!).

The kids are taking it all in stride.  Ben said goodbye to his great friend Zé the other day and neither seemed fazed.  We think the kids just aren’t able to wrap their heads around the scope and duration.  All seem so absorbed by the moment that we’re much more upset by their farewells than they are.

The movers come on 7/10!  We’re hoping to have our junk gone and stuff packed before heading north to rejoin the kids for the 4th.  Our 14th wedding anniversary tomorrow will be short on romance long on packing!