Aug 26 2009

Welcome home…

I recently returned from a 10 day trip back to Baltimore, partially for business but also to visit friends and family and to bring back some specific items.  As the time for my outbound flight grew near, I have to admit that I was apprehensive.  I didn’t want to be away from Paul for such a long time, as he would stay here in Costa Rica.  I also knew that I would be really busy and working hard while in the States.  But in the back of my mind, I was also concerned about how I would feel about our move to Costa Rica, once back in the good old USA.  Would Costa Rica, and our little town of San Ramon, look shabby in comparison?  Would I realize that we had made a mistake; that we were giving up too much by leaving the States?

My first day or two back in Baltimore was fun…I went to stores and restaurants that Paul and I always enjoyed going to when we lived there – oh, how I wish there was a Trader Joe’s in Costa Rica!  And it was really good to see some of our family and close friends.  But I found that the novelty of visiting all of our favorite haunts wore off after the first few days, especially since Paul wasn’t with me.

I was back to working eight-hour days, not including the commute, and I was surprised at how TIRED I was.  In Costa Rica, I work four five-hour days, sitting out on our front porch, and afterwards I still have both the time and energy to go into town, prepare dinner, study Spanish, do whatever I like.  But here, back to the “grind” of a 40-hour work week, all I wanted to do was go home and go to bed!  How spoiled I had become! I had forgotten how it feels to work in an office all day with florescent lights and the steady hum of busyness and stress.

In the evenings, Paul and I would connect by Skype, and that helped, but all I could think of is how much I missed him.  However, I was a woman on a mission…I had a whole list of things to buy at Wal-Mart that either can’t be found or cost more, here in Costa Rica.  (If you want to see my shopping list, see the box below.)  I also paid a visit to our belongings packed away in storage, and tops on my list of things to bring back were some lamps (the ones for sale in Costa Rica are expensive and max out at 60 watts), my food processor, and some clothing and miscellaneous kitchen items.

So, mission accomplished and nine days after I had arrived “home” in Baltimore, I was at the airport to return to Costa Rica.  All in all, I managed to pack 117 lbs. of stuff into a trunk and a duffle bag to bring back with me.  Unfortunately, I didn’t know the total weight until I got to the airport and, by then, I wasn’t willing to give up any of my treasures.  My two “free” checked bags on Delta Airlines (at 50 lbs. max each) ended up costing me $150 in overweight charges.  I expected maybe $50, but $150 for an extra 17 lbs!  That will be the last time I fly Delta.  And it will also be the last time I fly with three lampshades, a laptop computer and a rolling suitcase as carry-on luggage…but that’s another story.

Another small (though not unanticipated) complication occurred when I checked in at the Delta counter.  I had my ticket to fly to Costa Rica, but not one to return to the U.S.  Evidently, if you fly to Costa Rica with a one-way ticket and are denied entry for any reason, it is the airline’s responsibility to fly you back to your country of origin at their expense.  While this didn’t come up when we originally moved to Costa Rica in April of this year, sure enough, the Delta agent asked me for documentation to prove that I would be welcomed in Costa Rica — and I had come prepared, thanks to the advice of some of our Expat friends.  I had brought with me copies of our Costa Rica residency applications, as well as a copy of the paperwork from the corporation we set up here.  I proudly passed them over the counter to the Delta agent, who replied that they were no use to her since they were written in Spanish…duh.   Luckily I also had my Costa Rican driver’s license with me and that was acceptable.  I was good to go.  FYI, the alternative would have been for me to purchase a totally refundable (read “expensive”) airline ticket for a return flight to the U.S., and then later get it refunded.

My flights were, thankfully, uneventful and at 9:30 p.m. that evening (11:30 p.m. Baltimore time) my plane was about to land in San Jose.  All I could think about was how happy I was to be home.  I remember being surprised at that moment… home to me was no longer Baltimore.  Home was Costa Rica, where my husband and my two kitties are, where my life is.  Our little town of San Ramon seemed to embrace me as I thought of the now-familiar streets, our friends, the ladies who work in the bakery we frequent, the vet where we buy cat food and litter, the organic market where we buy our fruits and vegetables and enjoy the best and freshest 2,000 colones lunch to be had.  So, okay, it’s not as polished as our home town in the States, but I am connected to this country and this community. This is home.  Welcome home, Gloria.

My Shopping List:

  • Natural chunky peanut butter from Trader Joe’s
  • Timer for cooking
  • Oven thermometer
  • Salad spinner
  • Clear plastic storage containers with rubber rings to keep out the dampness
  • Some specific personal care items
  • Big bottles of Excedrin & Ibuprofen
  • Molasses
  • Battery charger
  • Knife sharpener
  • Chili powder
  • Cumin
  • Jell-O fat-free sugar-free instant chocolate pudding

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