A Tale of Two Days

During our time in Argentina we have been fortunate to have very few days in which Erica and I are both at the end of our rope.  Some days it seems that nothing goes right or according to plan.    Being flexible and patient are critical,  and I like to think we’re pretty good at it, but some days it all falls to pieces regardless.  Rarely however, do we seem to have two days that are so starkly different from one another.  Yesterday was a rough day for both of us.  The sun comes up the next day and the magic is back.  A tale of two days living in Argentina:

Wednesday, March 19

Yesterday was unusually cool and cloudy.  Molly and Ben are killing us the moment they wake up.  In short order Ben and Molly both lose access to all electronics for the day.  Molly freaks out about everything from hair to shoes, is late for school and screams during drop-off.  Ben and Elliott bicker and mess around rather than buckle down with morning homeschooling.

I proceed to get my ass kicked in my Spanish class and realize I may have hit my learning limit.

Erica tries yet another new bus route to work downtown but has to abort and get a cab.  Paying cabs to get to teaching gigs is not very profitable, thus frustrating.

The boys goofing around on the walk to school grows so annoying I nearly push them into the street.  My plan to check in with Elliott’s teachers about homework fails when I first try to ask Ben’s teacher if we have bought the correct math book.  Ben has disappeared with said book to the kiosco to spend the pesos I gave him for a water bottle on candy. By the time I return the candy and collar Ben, Elliott’s class has started.

Molly and I head to the grocery store for the weekly restock.  At checkout I try yet again to ask for home delivery.  After 3 attempts the checker understands me.  When I ask if I said it correctly, she says yes.

Erica tries to pay a hotel deposit for my sister’s upcoming visit at a bank and realizes that ALL banks close for the day at 1:30pm.

Hoping for a nice day tomorrow, I vacuum the pool and proceed to break the vacuum.

While Erica’s heading to her 2nd teaching gig of the day, she gets hung up in downtown traffic since all the garbage workers are striking and firing off cannons in the street.

Molly and I head to a nearby doctor’s office to schedule health checkups for the kids before we pick up the boys at school.  After feeling pretty good about making the appointment despite my rough language, I realize I booked a time when the boys are in school.  By the time I realize my error we’re on the bus headed to school.  The bus Molly and I take from the doctor’s office completes its route before I expect it to, making us late to get the boys.  On the walk home from school, every dog seems like Cujo, ready to rip our limbs off and I start to realize I’m really bothered by the ridiculous amount of security on the beautiful houses in our barrio.

On Erica’s way home from teaching downtown, she flags her bus which slows down at the curb, and then, for no apparent reason, speeds up and drives past the bus stop without stopping.  She ends up having to wait another 15 minutes for another bus to come by.

Thursday, March 20

Today it’s a gorgeous, sunny day.  The boys start their math homeschooling today without being reminded!  Bickering is minor.  Molly awakes in a good mood and gets dressed with no fussing.  She’s dressed and delivered to school on time and with no crying.

Erica recovers the boys’ notarized birth certificates (previously missing) at their school and successfully completes the bank deposit she tried the previous day at a bank near our barrio.

The boys and I hit the pool store for some supplies and I miraculously get what I need with zero translation help from the boys.

With trepidation, I call the doctor’s office to reschedule the appointment, and am amazed that I’m able to do so with near total comprehension.  The makes my day since speaking on the phone in Spanish is one of my greatest fears here.

I’m able corner Elliott’s teacher and ask how he’s been doing on homework.  Seems he’s doing what he’s supposed to so far.  I covertly watch Ben buy his water bottle today as instructed versus candy before heading out for a quick run home in the sunshine.

Erica’s finally able to get Molly to wear her tights to ballet and dropped off with no fuss allowing her to get to work on time.

Erica’s evening English class goes well….her favorite 82-year-old-student charms Erica with her question about idioms, “Ehreeka, I don’t understand. What means this, ‘hunky guy?'”

My medicinal Fernet & Coke seems to be easing a persistent cold this evening.  The day was good.  I didn’t even explode when Ben dropped an entire bag of milk on the kitchen floor (yes, I said “bag”)!

So again we have a lesson in perspective.  It’s all still parenting, with just a few extra wrinkles to make things more interesting.  One day we feel worn down and helpless.  The next, all is well in the world and we’re living a dream once again.

Yelling and listening quietly


We arrived in Cordoba just the other morning, but some times it feels like we’ve already been here for at least a week.  After a whirl wind couple of days filled with incredible asados with friends and house hunting, we tried some sight seeing downtown today, but that was kind-of a bust because it’s a holiday.  It’s a national holiday to honor the death of Jose de San Martin who was a leader Argentina’s successful struggle for independence from Spain.  We thought that maybe there would be some fun stuff happening downtown, but I guess it’s more of a holiday where you hang out with friends and family.  Which has gotten me thinking about all this “family” time we’ve had over the past month.

Frankly, I’m exhausted.  The constant stream of questions from Ben, our middle child, is almost more than I can handle.  I know that he’s a kid who needs to know the plan; he needs to know what we’re doing next IN DETAIL, but often (honestly, most of the time), I don’t have that answer.  I don’t know exactly where we’re going, but I gave the taxi driver an address, and here’s hoping he’s going to get us there.  I don’t know exactly what time everyone will be at the asado, but we’re going to get there around 12:30, or 8, or whenever, and when everyone else shows up, they show up. I don’t know what the taxi driver’s name is, or why he’s talking on the phone while driving, or what that sign says.  I’m just trying to take it all in, too.  I do know, however, that this is just Ben’s way of making sure that everything is ok, and that his parents are in control, at least, sort-of.  All this makes for a pretty short fuse.

Put that together with the fact that we’re staying in a guest house/bed and breakfast, where the people are wonderfully kind, but our quarters are close, and unfortunately, my best parenting techniques are out the window.  Rob and I are trying to be very conscious (and at the same time help the kids grasp the concept) of the other guests, so we spend a lot of time telling the kids to “be quiet!” and “stop running!” and “don’t slam the doors!”  I have lost count of how many times I’ve said to the boys, “And what about your behavior did you think was acceptable on ANY LEVEL?!?!?!?!”  With this phrase, I hope to accomplish two things:  make the kids shut up, and use confusing enough language so the non-English speakers here will have no idea of what I’m saying to my kids.

In all of this crazy, there are amazing glimmers, though.  Incredible moments that I grab and hold onto tightly:

*Molly dancing in her seat on the plane as she listened to music with her headphones.

*Ben and Elliott watching some cartoon in Spanish, then chatting about it IN SPANISH, I’m sure, without even realizing that they were speaking Spanish.

*Molly telling our friends that her Spanish is “fantastic.”

*Ben chatting with just about anyone who works at the hotels where we’ve stayed like they’re old friends from way back.

*Rob getting us downtown on the bus from our hotel without a hitch.

On Wednesday we’re going to the boys’ school to meet their teachers and have a look around, then they’ll start school on Thursday. I’m hoping I’ll be able to keep myself together when we drop them off on Thursday, but I’m not betting on it.  This is a BIG DEAL, and I would give almost anything to be a fly on the wall and listen in on their conversations.  I promise I would listen quietly; they wouldn’t even know I was there.

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.