Friday, April 3, 2009 These first days in our adopted home of Costa Rica have been both relaxing and challenging. Paul and I were completely exhausted after the frantic pace of packing, throwing away, giving away, and recycling just prior to our travel on April 1st. Our first night here, we slept about 11 hours, and last night about 10 hours. This is the more sleep than Paul has had in many years! We fell asleep to torrential downpours on our tin roof – no quiet rain drops like we are used to. This rain is furious and loud. But we slept so deeply that we barely noticed.
It is peaceful here — we woke up to a hazy morning, roosters crowing, and a cow grazing on the hill behind our little rental house. There is a gentle breeze blowing the wind chimes, and the sound of birds everywhere. This morning, we are starting slowly. Our housekeeper came by around 8 a.m., so we started moving around then, but both Paul and Cleo (our cat) are already napping. I was tempted to nap as well, but wanted even more to capture some thoughts about our transition to life here.
What I find most challenging are those times when I feel “out of my element.” It’s not so much that we haven’t had phone or Internet service for about six days now, nor do we have a car or television…those things are temporary and do not disturb me. It’s actually nice to be disconnected for a while. What is hardest for me are the day-to-day challenges of learning the money, learning about buying mangos and onions by the kilo, and trying to understand and speak the language. These things all take time, as well as patience with myself and those around me. But there is time for all of this to unfold.
I am used to buying and preparing low fat meals, and those products are seldom available here. I have to admit that, after years following Weight Watchers, I am freaking out a little about eating whole milk yogurt, cheeses, and even 2% milk. Also, so far I can’t find brown rice, though there are mountains of white rice available to make the national breakfast of gallo pinto – rice and beans with seasonings. It will take time to adjust my meal planning and cooking, so hopefully, getting more exercise will balance out the extra calories. We will soon walk about a kilometer to the bus stop so we can go into the town of San Ramon for the feria – the farmers’ market – which is held every Friday and Saturday. The fruit and vegetables are glorious here. Yesterday, while in town, I bought two ripe mangos for 300 colones, about $.60, and a pineapple right off of the farmer’s truck for 400 colones, about $.80. I am so looking forward to shopping regularly at the feria. The food is so fresh and delicious.
Saturday, April 4, 2009 It’s a lazy Saturday morning here in our little Costa Rica house. This is our third morning in-country and we are all, Cleo included, still recovering from our transplantation into paradise. We woke to cool breezes blowing into our bedroom, and another hazy morning. Though our house has a view of the Nicoya Peninsula, the Gulf, and the Pacific beyond, we have yet to see it during the day, and in the early evening, there has been thick fog. At night though, the skies have cleared and we have been able to see the lights from the port town of Puntarenas.
Again, there are roosters crowing and a cow munching on the hillside just beyond our backyard. Right now, I am sitting on our patio in a rocking chair, just being, and writing. It is so peaceful here. I can hear birds and insects, the sound of the breezes through the trees, and the tinkling of our wind chimes. They are all whispering “tranquilo…”
There is no shopping to be done today, no trek into town, or buses to catch. We still have no phone, Internet service, television, or car, but all is well. Today we will slowly unpack another suitcase or two, read a bit, take naps with Cleo, and I will write. Later I will prepare dinner for the first time in Costa Rica. It will be an experiment, but one I have been looking forward to. Learning to cook with unfamiliar ingredients is a little unsettling, but it is an adventure that leads me away from my recipe books and into my own creativity.
Wednesday, April 8th, 2009 Today is a sad day. Our beloved cat, Cleo, died. She hadn’t eaten for a week, barely drank, and she was old and thin. After treating her for two days with IV fluids, the vet said that her condition was very grave. She would not recover. The merciful thing to do was to put her to sleep…and we did. I held her little body in my arms as the drug took effect. A friend advised that I not be there at the end, but I had to. She was my little one. I wanted her to feel my arms as life drained from her body. And as I held her, I kept telling her that I love her, and thanking her for all of the joy she brought into our lives for so many years.
Cleo was such an endearing little animal. She loved us both, and we both loved her. I sit here now, looking at her silent body, and I have a sense that she is still with me. She was our companion, friend, and playmate. She was always there to give us her abundant love, and readily forgave us when our travels took us away from her. This time, however, we took her with us on our journey to life in Costa Rica. I wonder if it was the trip that was too much for her, if things would have been different if we didn’t come. But Cleo was old, at least 15 years old, maybe more, and had failing kidneys. We don’t know her age for sure because I adopted her when she was full grown. That was 12 years ago. And every day with Cleo has been full of love — us loving her, and Cleo loving us back. We have taken pictures and videos of Cleo over the years, but none of them capture her essence, her sweet spirit. I have to look into my heart for that, and I will miss her.
Tonight, at sunset, we buried Cleo in one of the most beautiful places we know here in Costa Rica, on our friends’ property. I wrapped her in a soft blanket and placed pictures of Cleo and us in its folds. Paul dug the hole under a tree and gently laid her in it. He placed a lily on her body, then covered her with earth and Paul, David, Arden and I placed rocks on top to protect and mark her grave.
While Paul and David were preparing her grave, I sat with Cleo, wrapped in the blanket, in my arms and, even in death she comforted me as I stroked her soft, soft fur. It was at that moment that I knew her spirit had left her body, but that she would always live on in our memories. For such a little animal, she had a huge impact in our lives. I will miss her, and I am grieving, but my memory of her will live on forever.