Pura Vida, Costa Rica

Hola amigos!

Can you tell that my Spanish is progressing?  I am learning- not as quickly as I’d like- but the effort is there and I am able to practice most days; so I’m sure soon enough I will be able to have a decent conversation. I am managing with the present tense verbs. But ask me to use these same verbs in past or future tense and I’m fumbling all over. I guess it is a good reminder to stay present in the moment and live each day right here, right now! Google Translate is proving to be an excellent tool and one that I use often. In addition, I am using Rosetta Stone,  Synergy Spanish and when I take walks to the grocery store (about 20 minutes each way) I listen to Spanish lessons on my phone. As you can see I am bombarding myself through a variety of methods. Immersion is still the best way so I try to practice as much as I can with the locals. They are patient and forgiving as I stumble to form sentences and to get across what it is I am trying to say. One of my Spanish lessons told me to be bold and not worry about making mistakes. I have completely embraced that philosophy!

The kids are learning too. They say Hola, por favor, gracias and adios. Taio has progressed to como esta, hasta luego and his personal favorite “Pura Vida”! While the literal translation means pure life, it has a deeper meaning to Costa Ricans and many other people who have made this their country home. It also has different English interpretations such “take it easy”, “enjoy life”, “all good”, “purity in life”, “hello”, “goodbye”, “this is life!” According to a Costa Rican website, pura vida “means that no matter what your current situation is, life for someone else can always be less fortunate than your own. So you need to consider that maybe…just maybe, your situation isn’t all that bad and that no matter how little or how much you have in life, we are all here together and life is short…so start living it “pura vida style”.

Well, although we are still new to this country, we are quickly adapting to the pura vida lifestyle. We are living simply; probably more simply than most would like to! We have no car and therefore walk most places, including a 2km hike to the grocery store. We have rented a house in Uvita for the next little while. It’s a modest two bedroom house, Costa Rican style. Nothing fancy but it does the trick. It  is our outdoor living space that makes this place great. We have beautiful green grass, fruit trees and a large yard with plenty of space for the kids to play. The covered patio has a built in BBQ, a hammock, a swing for the kids and plenty of room to set up chairs, entertain and play.


 But the absolute best part is location, location, location. At only 300m from Playa Chaman, it is a mere minutes walk to the beach and Marino Ballena National Park. During the week, the beach is essentially devoid of patrons. A few people here and there, but mostly the seemingly endless beach lined with palm trees and the vast ocean to ourselves. And this is the high season. The weekend is a different story when the Ticos arrive by the busload. But even then, there is more than enough beach to go around. Uvita is infamous for the whale’s tail which is created by two beaches coming together to form this ironic whale’s tail shape. I say ironic because it is common to see whales in these waters, depending on the time of the year. When the tide is out, you can literally walk out onto the whale’s tail. I have yet to do it myself as it would be a hike from Playa Chaman with the kids. But one of these mornings, when it’s low tide, I am going to get up and go for a run and see for myself. See photo to fully understand my depiction of this interesting geological formation. We are located to the far right of this photograph.

The famous whale's tale Costa Rica

The mountains in the background are majestic, a lush green tropical forest filled with wildlife. While we haven’t seen any howler monkeys in Uvita, they are often heard in the early mornings (usually around 4-5am) along with a plethora of birds and insects. I’m no birder, but this would be a delightful place for people who are. The birds are intensely colored. Lots of yellow and green ones, black birds with red bellies, even blue birds that sort of resemble blue jays. Iguanas and lizards are plentiful and are seen regularly on our walks to the beach. A few of our neighbours have chickens so they can be found walking around the yards and roads cockle-doodle dooing! Conveniently, our neighbour Yolanda who lives right behind us has 15 chickens and through my limited Spanish I  have managed to arrange 20 fresh free range eggs twice a week (dos veces por semana). I also arranged for a fruit and vegetable truck to come every Thursday. You climb into the back of the truck, pick out all the local fresh produce you desire and pay the man. My life is complete!! We bought a giant box filled of delicious produce last week for $20. These two pieces- the eggs and the produce- greatly reduce our necessity and frequency of visiting the grocery store. As I mentioned, it’s a bit of a hike to the store, so the less we have to carry back, the better. In the few weeks that we’ve been here we have implemented mostly fresh, whole foods, while successfully removing processed food from all of our diets. Not that I ate a lot, but the kids liked their goldfish crackers and pretzels and organic Clif Kidz bars. Some of these things can be found a the store, but come at a hefty premium. So all the more reason to eliminate them, especially since there are healthier choices abundantly available. We are all enjoying the bountiful fruits and vegetables and eggs. Our one luxury is natural peanut butter which runs at about $6 for a little jar. Dark chocolate is costly too. So I’ve started making that myself using raw cacao, raw honey and coconut oil made fresh by a squatter named Jorge who “lives” down the road. I’m in heaven as it is simple to make and uber delicious. The kids find it a bit too strong so I’ll have to play with the recipe a little to make it sweeter. Otherwise, they munch on carrots, pineapple, bananas, apples, mangoes all day long. I’m seriously concerned about the amount of food they will eat as teenagers given their current consumption. Then again, they are active all day long, inside and outside, walking to and from the beach, learning educational material and Spanish. Their brains and bodies are operating in full force. This is exactly why Clinton and I pursued this dream. We are happy, healthy, filled up on Vitamin D and love. Pura Vida!

The final piece of the puzzle came into play last week. My bathing suit had finally given up elasticity on me, after months and months of regular swim sessions in the pools and beaches along this crazy journey. So I took a walk into town to purchase a new one. While browsing the overpriced merchandise, I happened to ask the girl working at the store if she knew of anyone looking for work. We were interested in employing someone to cook, clean, look after the kids and teach us all Spanish. Within minutes she was on the phone and had two people lined up. By the next day, we had arranged to meet one such interested individual. Lineth came on Monday morning for her “interview.” She is 17 so I was a little concerned about work ethic. But Clinton reminded me this is not North America and I needed to be open-minded. This sweet girl took the bus 3 hours from her home town of Buenos Aires to see about the job. She speaks no English and with our limited Spanish we invited our neighbour Kristie to join us for the meeting so that she could translate and at the very least get across what it was we were looking for. Lineth arrived dressed up and on a mission. She led the entire interview process- she outlined her background, that she would be 18 in June and had her fathers permission to work, her experience looking after her 3 year old niece, she said we would have a one week trial period at which point the three of us could decided whether this was going to work out or not. At the end, she asked if we had any questions! Imagine! I’ve never witnessed any such thing, especially not in North America with our entitled youth. So she returned the following day to begin her employment for us. She arrived at 7:45am and immediately asked where the cleaning supplies were. She went to work for the next few hours, cleaning the floors, the kitchen, cooking, spending time with the kids. I learned that she has 8 brothers and sisters. She recently finished high school and is writing her exams over the next few months and would like to go to university in the future. She has family here in Uvita that she will be staying with during the week and she’ll return to her parents home at the weekends. She worked hard all week and while I am pretty meticulous about cleaning myself, I’ve never had such a clean house before! She even scrubbed the kids sandals with a brush so clean that Taio thought I bought him new ones! At the end of the week, she asked how she did and if we’d like her to return. Si! Of course. She has been doing great with the cleaning, and I’ve been able to practice a lot of Spanish conversing with her so I am noticing a big improvement. Next step is to get her interacting more with the kids and teaching them words. It will also allow me some more time to devote to my new business venture. I’m not ready to launch just yet but working on the website, formulating my thoughts and putting together the book and program I’d like to write. Clinton continues to work on building our business in Fort Sask, along with some other exciting opportunities.

I tell ya, this is a hard life, working in paradise! So now that we’re set up, who’s coming to visit?!

Click here for more photos of mi casa roja