Adios, Costa Rica

Eighteen months ago, I set foot in Costa Rica. Not as a tourist (despite what my visa said), but to make a new life abroad. My family (Alex, Monkey, and Asia the Cat) would join me a month later. One big, happy family, living less than 10 degrees latitude from the equator. Life in paradise.

Assuming the rest has gone to plan (I’m pre-publishing this entry), the moment this is visible to the world is the moment I leave Costa Rica … likely forever. It’s a bittersweet moment in my life, probably the happiest and saddest moment I can think of, really. I’m happy to go home, but I’m sad it didn’t end the way I had wanted.

There’s very little limonada in this story, unfortunately.

I had always envisioned my last week in Costa Rica as being highly administrative: tying up loose ends, getting things handed off and coordinated, so that when I took my last step from the office there would be nothing to worry about. I had done this before several times successfully, and had little worry that it would be any different.

My final project, however, ended up being nothing short of a nightmare. (I suspect my name is uttered only with several choice curses prepended and appended at this point.) Ever seen Howl’s Moving Castle? It’s a wonderful story. The namesake of the movie is a massive walking castle, assembled from a bazillion spare parts, all bound together magically. There’s a scene where Sophie throws water on Calcifer (a fire demon), which nearly kills him, and he loses the ability to hold the castle together. The castle, which walks (hence the name of the story), starts falling apart — huge chunks come crashing down as the massive monstrosity comes undone, until it’s little more that two spindly legs and a wooden platform.

On Friday, that was me. A broken castle. Murphy had decided to a very poorly-timed visit — not at all what I’d wanted. And I had to give the remains to my colleagues up north (the ones likely cursing me at this point) because I couldn’t handle the project, and the primary goal of the weekend: pack up my family, clean our apartment, and move out.

Not. Fun. (The project, thanks to the dedication of a few, appears saved.)

The apartment? Cleaned. In the end, it was a marathon session involving myself, Alex, and our cleaning lady Carmen, all scrubbing and hosing as best we could. (Soap scum and mineral build-up do not come off easily, let me tell you.) I think I inhaled so much Windex that I could clean a window by just breathing on it right now.

Jason and Jenn came by around 16:00 to pick up the crib, which we’re giving to them in lieu of shipping back home. They’ll need it for their son, who’ll be crib-bound very shortly. The Monkey no longer needs a crib, so this worked out in everyone’s favour. We packed up Dave (our car, now sold to The Hangar’s newest employee, Darrell), and trucked off to the Best Western Irazu.

I’d wanted a hotel closer to the airport. But this was the only one Angelica (our receptionist-cum-Mistress of Everything) could find that would allow cats. She made a reservation for me, too. It should have been a quick matter to get checked in.

Except that they had no record of a reservation. At all.

Like we needed any more stress. (We still had to finish legal papers for the car, close the bank account, do final hand-off with the apartment, and prepare for this morning’s flight.) No place to sleep? Priceless.

Thankfully, the Irazu wasn’t full. One room booked for two nights, one cat snuck in (just in case the pet thing didn’t apply). Dinner was at the attached Denny’s. Not ideal by a long shot, but the most relaxing thing of the day.

But I digress. (It’s hard not to digress with the events of the last few days.)

When all’s said and done, I like Costa Rica. It’s a nice place to visit. And that will likely all I ever see of it again … if I ever do, in fact, return. Just that going anywhere else for a while is unlikely, and there are so many other places in the world I need to see first. Time will tell.

In the end, this is a thank you to all those in Costa Rica who made life there bearable for us: our friends, our neighbours (the ones without the yappy dogs that I wanted to drop heavy things on, anyway), my coworkers, the people who let us in during evil traffic, the waiters at Chez Christophe and Café des Artistas who’d remember us and our usual orders on Saturday morning breakfasts, the vendors in the market who didn’t gouge us extra because we weren’t Tico, and everyone who put up with our awful Spanish without making us feel more idiotic than we did.

I’m curious to see how we feel about our life here. How it will seem in a few weeks, a few months, a few years. Will it seem magical? Will it seem little more than our regular life, somewhere else? Has it affected how we will view our activities, and how we view life abroad? I hope so. Because if I return home no different than I left, what will I have gained from being here?

Not learning anything from this experience would be the worst tragedy of them all.