We had had a plan for our stay: Liam going to school with Fiona every day from 8-12:30, and Jules with the full-time, $2/hour nanny; Max and I with four glorious hours to write, practice yoga, read, sun ourselves on the beach.
We hadn’t allowed ourselves to think past our arrival. We thought it likely that Jules would take well to having a full-time playmate, if we could get ourselves out of the house and leave them alone, but a plan in Costa Rica isn’t reality until it’s actually happening. Commitments are very flexible. There was no way for us to know whether Lady really intended to come work, and when. Plus, Liam is notoriously fickle, and very, very attached to us. I had thought there was, say, a 50% chance he might agree to go to school here.
We decided on our drive down that we would spend our first day helping the kids adjust, and going to find Lady in the neighboring town; she doesn’t have a phone, so I knew we’d have to drive to her house. I figured it would take a few days for Liam to be ready to go to school, and assumed there’d be lots of details to iron out with the director.
But lo and behold, Liam woke saying he wanted to go to school on his first day, explaining, “I’ve been to school a few times, and I kind of like it.” Not about to miss that boat, we jumped aboard, hussled him off to Cobano with Fiona, spent about 5 minutes there while they introduced him, the kids applauded, they marveled at his ability to speak English, and we were off! The teachers speak only Spanish, so we left Fiona with strict instructions to translate.
We got home to find Lady waiting for us. That Khalida…she’s the bomb! We let cranky, tired ol’ Jules get comfy with her and a couple of balls, and then before we could blink, Max and I were sitting in a café, drinking coffee and tamarindo juice, and marveling at our good fortune.
What an amazing start to our journey, and I’m only at 10:30a.m.
The afternoon was typically Tico. We ate our third plate of the day of rice and beans before 1:00, and then spent the afternoon with Tico friends in Cobano, Asan’s mom and then my host family. Liam got to feed chickens, chase turkeys, pull eggs out of nests in Rosa Leda’s garage, get eye-to-eye with a pig. At Emilia’s, the host mom I lived with in ’94, I was welcomed as the Prodigal daughter…but with GRANDCHILDREN! Mere pixels on a page cannot convey the frenzied enthusiasm with which we were greeted. There were a few admonitions about not having called enough, and very stern and sincere reproaches about not staying with them, but then for the rest of the visit, the kids’ feet practically didn’t touch the floor. If you know Liam, I challenge you to imagine him consenting to have some totally crazed, shouting, Spanish-speaking woman carry him around the house, kissing him until his cheeks glistened. Most of you probably heard from across the ocean her squeals of delight when he responded “Si” to her pleas that he stay with her forever. I mentioned how I was looking forward to learning to make rice pudding from her, and Jeannette, the house-keeper, was sent to make it. We shared how excited Liam was by farm animals, and, bam, we were shoved into the car to go see Marcos’s pregnant cows (I let them drag us away sans carseats, but drew the line when Emilia tried to take Liam seated on her lap in the front seat). At the farm, the kids ran down the serene dirt road with Emilia (in her high heels), giggling as she swooped them up. Back at the house, it was coffee and arroz con leche, and some neon cereal that might have been Fruit Loops. Thankfully, no one could deny that the kids looked exhausted, and we were able to make a graceful exit. We have standing invitations for dinner, horseback riding to round up the cattle, cow-milking lessons, and visiting the newborn calf. I’m starting to wonder how five weeks could possibly be enough.
I keep writing and writing, and haven’t even touched on the beauty and remoteness of Khalida and Asan’s house, or their sweet hospitality. Roads around here are bad, and I’ve crossed many a flowing river in route to a destination. But Khalida’s 1-km driveway makes the main road look like super highway. There is no way we could do it without a four-wheel drive truck, and even in the truck, it’s nerve-rattling. If I were walking, I might feel the need for rope and a harness in places. The house is an amazing blend of natural materials, where the lines between inside and out and blurred. There is no sign of any other human visible in any direction, even though we’re up on a huge hill can see about a mile to the ocean. It’s an amazing place to be a morning person (she writes at 5:15), with the sun rising over the bay, little rabbit-sized mammals scurrying for food in the yard, and the calls of howler monkeys echoing across the peninsula.