20 years from Ontario

Two decades ago today, I did something immensely stupid: I left home. Literally and figuratively. Twenty years ago, I was still sleeping in my room on Gatestone Avenue in Oakville. While I had lived on my own at university, and while I was on my co-op work terms in Ottawa, staying at home was … comfortable. And as my parents didn’t object, it seemed like a good idea. Literally leaving home wasn’t the problem — I’d already done it a dozen times.
Figuratively leaving home — notably the familiarity of the Greater Toronto area, but Ontario in general — was another matter. I’d not really lived abroad, where going to my parents’ house was something I did in an afternoon. I decided to throw myself into the world without any plan whatsoever.
Twenty years on, it was the smartest move I ever made.
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A year in Canada

A year ago tonight, my family returned to Canada from Costa Rica. We had lived abroad for a year and a half, and had done our best to make a go of a new life in a new country. But it wasn’t to be, and we finally came to the reality that we had to move back home.
So, a year ago, we packed up a highly uncomfortable hour of the morning, boarded our airplane, and spend nearly 16 hours travelling north. We arrived late in the evening, with an irate kitty, to the most amazing -18C weather I’d ever felt. Within days, we’d tried to reinsert ourselves into a society that we’d — at last in some part — tried to forget.
A year later, I’m starting to forget that we ever left.
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12 things I miss about Costa Rica

It’s just shy of three months since we left Costa Rica. Many people still ask us what it’s like to be back, if we’re happy to be back, and if we’ve acclimatised yet. There’s no quick or easy answer to all of that, as we’re not dealing with something as simple as changing from one temperature to another. As anyone will tell you, moving to an entirely different country (outside of North America) involves more than a physical location. Costa Rica was more than just a place, it was a way of life, and an experience that has changed the way I live now.
Almost right away, we missed some things, though most of that was due to the roughly 40 degree Celsius shift in temperature. Other things soon made themselves known, each time with the all-too-familiar pang of loss and regret.
But like when we moved down to Costa Rica, this is just something we’ll have to get used to.
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There and back again, a Monkey's tail

This is a joke you might not understand until you’re older, Monkey. For now, it’s one many of my friends will have a good chuckle at…
You’re asleep right now, in your own room, on the mattress from one of our sofa beds. A month ago right now, you and we were standing in the immigration line, waiting to enter your country of origin, and go to your new home. I can’t say “home” the way Mommy and I say “home”, because for you, this isn’t your home. Costa Rica is more your home than here.
You still look at video of our condo in Santa Ana, and you ask when are we going home. Because that’s what you know more of. We left Canada when you weren’t even a year old. You learned to walk in Costa Rica, to swim, to talk. Almost all of your friends are in Costa Rica, you went to school there. You ask for “schoolday”, and talk about your teachers.
But you came a long way to be able to say these things, and have these memories.
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You can never go home again

When I was a kid, I heard the phrase “you can never go home again”, but never understood it. I mean, I went home every day after school, so what was wrong with that? It wasn’t until I went to university that I started to appreciate it — I was regularly amazed at how much my hometown seemed to change whenever I was away at school.
When my father died in 2002, the term gained a whole new meaning for me. Suddenly, I couldn’t even go home. My home was where my family lived, which was now only in the past. When my mother moved away, my home became a sightseeing stop.
Then I moved home from Costa Rica, to a house we own. Man, talk about change of perspective.
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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.
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T-minus one week and counting

One week from … well, right now, our plane leaves Juan Santamaria Airport, bound for Houston. If all our cards fall into place (which, so far, they are — I just hope they keep falling!), we’ll leave in good order. We’re not perfect yet, but we’re getting there.
The biggest point, really, is still the car. Sigh. Continue reading “T-minus one week and counting”

Taking a pet from Costa Rica

It figures, just when we thought we’d started to have everything figured out, we hit another snag. (There’s always another snag.) This time, it’s with Asia, our cat.
Our problem is not with Canada — all they need is a valid rabies vaccination, which we have. Our problem is not our airline (Continental) — we already have a reservation that allows us to take our cat. Our problem is with Costa Rica.
I’m so not surprised.
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Anyone want to buy a used car?

That ticking is getting louder, I tell ya.
We’re officially out of the “long vacation” timeframe, and into the “standard” two week vacation timeframe. You know this one: enough time to fly to a distant land, see two or three different places, get really drunk in a bar and get robbed blind, realise you’ve actually got a funky disease you’re not sure if you got from the food or that person you swore looked like a woman the night before…
What? Why are you looking at me like that? You make it sound like no-one else has vacations like that.
Continue reading “Anyone want to buy a used car?”

To end, this shall

I watched the setting sun
Golden fringed clouds
Mustard streaks over the horizon
I thought
This, too, shall end
I count in weeks
Soon to be days
Soon to be hours
Then minutes
The arms swirl forward
Tickticktick-twirling by
Counting out
Running down
The end of time
My time
My awful inevitability
This end, too shallow
I sit on Temporal Row
I struggle to draw out each breath
Consume my last meal
Crumb by crumb
Measure my last mile in
Dread the final flick
Things I
Have done
Wishes, dreams, chances, decisions, regrets
…if I could do it over?
To end, this shall

3 weeks remaining in Costa Rica

Today marks 21 days until we leave Costa Rica. Three weeks. We officially enter a period of time that could be a “long vacation”.
Sadly, a vacation is something we’re not going to be having. Instead, we have a lot of things we have to do. Not just here, but also in preparation for our return to Calgary. In some ways, it almost makes leaving Calgary look easy…
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Alberta communications companies suck

It’s about as official as it gets, now. We leave Costa Rica on 8 December. Which means that on the morning of 9 December, we’re going to be needing a few things. We’re trying to establish as much of that as we can remotely, so that it’s “in place” when we arrive. It just makes things easier, right?
Well, it would make things easier if we could actually set things up properly. Therein lies the problem — it’s not that easy to do! Especially when it comes to the Holy Trinity of communications services: phone, internet, and TV.
The term “rocket science” comes to mind…
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True story

As you know, I’m going to be moving back to Calgary in December. The exact timing for that is still being determined, but let’s just go with the broad stroke: we have a lot of stuff that needs to be done as part of moving back.
One of those things — rather obvious to anyone who’s ever been responsible for their own utilities — is making sure that the electricity, gas, and water are put back in our names. And there’s no time like the present to do the research about services, plans, companies, and so forth.
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Odio pasar a un nuevo hogar

I hate moving.
But you already know that.
About two weeks ago, our first lease came due. This is when I had hoped to renegotiate our lease, as I felt the rent was about 33% higher than it really should have been. (There’s a longer story to this. I might be writing it sooner than later.) That discussion went in circles before we finally ended up where we are now.
In a new apartment.
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A Moving Birthday

When we started planning this crazy little excursion to Costa Rica oh-so-many months ago, there was always the need for me to leave in advance of my family, and then come back to get them. The logistics of making everything happen were basically impossible to handle any other way. That month away wasn’t easy, which you already know. Issues of living in Costa Rica aside, the reality of being that far from my family was far more harsh than I had ever imagined.
Needless to say, when I arrived last night, I was overjoyed to see that Mi Pequeña Niña (I think I’m going to use “MI Niñita” from now on, by the way — that seems to be the prefered version of “little girl”) recognised me. You have no idea how good that felt.
Today was packing day. And also my 36th birthday.
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Starting life in Costa Rica

Think of when you went to university / college. You pack your things into a few bags, move to a new place you don’t know, into a place you think is far too expensive for what you’re getting, and then have to go out and buy all things you don’t currently have: food, cleaning products, beer, what-have-you. Your fridge is still conspicuously devoid of things, your place of living feels a little hollow, and you really have no idea where your friends are or what’s going on at any given moment.
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Alive and sick in Costa Rica

As you might have seen on my Tweets this morning, I’m alive in Costa Rica. But I’m not “well”. My daughter gave me a parting gift — a nasty head cold. Fortunately, it didn’t kick in until I arrived here, otherwise flying would have been utter hell. Such as it is, my head is stuffed with a pound or two of mucus, which is pouring out of a couple of orifices. Kept me up most of the night. Oy.
I had a better experience than Jason or Mark. Jason arrived at the airport on my flight last night only to find his bags didn’t arrive with him. Mark’s connection had issues, and got stuck in O’Hare. I had an email from him at 3:20 this morning, with a 5:45 departure. The bags and Mark should arrive just after 12:30 today.
Jason and I met with Javier this morning. Good news on the office front — we have a space to work in for the next month and a half, and we’ve started to acquire materials to construct the new office. I’m not going to go into details on those just yet — there are some things you really have to see to believe.
For now, Jason and I are cooped up in our hotel rooms (Jason’s likely to be here another night) until we can head out to get all of our paperwork signed for the condos. More than likely, Mark will be here and come with us at the time. With luck, I’ll be in my condo this evening, and the cat will finally have reign to run around a bit.

T minus 5 days

I’m beginning to know what a shuttle launch must feel like. Anxiety about what could go wrong, the knowledge that once the launch happens that there is little to do but hang on, that when you’re in orbit you’re pretty much at the mercy of your own fate.
The key difference is that my feet will (for the most part) be on solid ground. (Well, except when I’m flying.) But otherwise I’m feeling pretty wound up about what’s going to happen shortly.
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On Cats, Wire Transfers, Death, and Taxes

This moving thing is no fun. Not at all. Yes, Costa Rica is a nice country, with nice people, and we’re arranging a very nice place to live, but the act of getting there is far more work than I could have imagined. We have to sort through red tape on how to move the cat (a still on-going issue), we have to get a proper will (finally) sorted out, and then there’s the issue of taxes.
There are times when I wish this world wasn’t so obsessed with money, so moving around wouldn’t be such a pain in the ass. Sadly, greed being what it is, life is complicated.
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T minus 14 days to Costa Rica

Yeah, I’m back in Calgary, but this is only for the last bit before moving down (semi-)permanently. We have a place to live. That’s important, because it’s a place to go to. That would make this move even harder. But let’s not mistake one key detail:
There’s only two weeks left (10 business days, at that). And I’ve got a lot to do.
Among them:

  • Sell my car (and other things — a post for that is coming soon!)
  • Arrange for property management (almost done)
  • Ensure financials are sorted out (notably the bank accounts, and get a wire transfer to Costa Rica for our place)
  • Get my working visa sorted out
  • Meet with the tax guy up here (and he hasn’t set a meeting yet)
  • Ensure the renovations will be finished (they’re nowhere near done)
  • Make sure the movers are arranged (as they’ll need to clean the house out when I come back for Alex and the Wee One, herein known as Mi Pequeña Niña, or MPN for short)
  • and probably a million other things I can’t think of right now

Needless to say, I’ve got a lot on my plate. There’s a lot to do, and not much time to do it. Let the fun begin…

I'm leaving Critical Mass

I’ve been at Critical Mass for 8 years, 1 month, and 5 days. That’s a long time to be a one place. I never thought I’d be here that long. Two years, max, and I’d move on. (Heck, I was originally supposed to go with Chris to teach English in Japan. A part of me still regrets not having done that.) But my time has come. It’s time to leave.
Well, kind of leave, anyway.
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Things to do before moving

Moving within a city is a snap. It’s a lot of work, yes, but logistically it’s not a big deal. You disconnect some services, sign them up at a new location, move your phone numbers, arrange your mail, and then move your crap from one place to another.
Even within a country it’s not too bad. Similar logistics, but the distances are longer and you usually have to give up the phone numbers you had.
Moving between countries? Even harder. Never done that one before, and I’m about to find out how bad it can be.
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Thundercats are go!

The contract is signed. It’s as official as it gets until my feet stand on Costa Rican soil. Most everything was already 99% assured, but until my name appeared on a legal document, there were still a whack of questions. This puts those questions to bed.
It wasn’t easy signing that contract. Not because it wasn’t a good offer, though. It’s because it’s not about me. Even though it was.
Let me explain…
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Letting the toucan out of the coffee sack

Finally, after many, many weeks of discussion (and far more email than I’d care to think about), it’s semi-official. (Hey, it’s better than “still in the works”.) The fact that I’m moving to Costa Rica has not changed since [[Do you know the way to San Jose?|the last time I wrote about this]]. It’s just been a matter of with whom I could discuss the matter.
A few people have known beyond the Executive: Allard, Mark, Marcie, Jason (who’s going down as well), and Tamara (she’s an old friend, and I told her the night before her wedding), but I couldn’t really tell anyone else. Especially the person Allard and I tagged to replace me. (I doubt I’ll be able to publicly post this until after the client has been informed that I’m no longer working on the account.) I have to sign my new contract first.
Boy, isn’t life fun?
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Do you know the way to San Jose?

I love challenge. I love adventure. And I love to travel. If you’ve been reading this blog, you already know that.
Critical Mass is giving me an opportunity to do all three. It’s going to shake up my life a lot (not to mention Alex’s). But we’re having a lot of trouble saying “no”. They’re sending us south of the border. Really south.
Continue reading “Do you know the way to San Jose?”