Our house is small and simple, but for this town, it’s one of the nicer houses. We have tile floor, a tiled bathroom, a kitchen with cabinets, fans in each room, solid wood doors, and glass windows. At $350 dollars a month, it’s a lot more than most Ticos in this town can afford. We are enjoying our little house, and we’re beginning to feel comfortable here. We enjoy the big field behind us that occasionally has a horse or cows in it. We love the big trees in the park across the street. We love the glimpse of the ocean that we can see from our patio, the sunset through the trees, and the sound of the waves in the middle of the night. I love the fenced yard where our kids can play freely with the neighbor boy, building houses out of pieces of plastic beach chairs, making “hammocks” out of string, trying to corral the cat that wanders through the yard, or doing whatever it is that kids do so fervently.
I love the chickens that wander along the dirt streets, seemingly free but owned by someone. I love seeing oxen carts lumber down the street, and I wonder where they could possible be going and for what purpose. Are they just a novelty, or are they actually still useful in a world of asphalt roads and cars and trucks and speeding motorcycles? I love the massive, horned, and hump-backed cattle that amble down our street sometimes. Did they get loose? Is the owner frantically looking for them? Do they know that they’re headed for a busy road just 100 meters away? What do they plan to do when they get there?
I love the beach and the deep blue sea. The strand is extensive here, and if one wanted to, he or she could walk for miles, much of it without the company of others. I love how the cobalt blue of the vast ocean contrasts against the emerald green of the jungle in this lush rainy season. I love how the warm, moist ocean air rises into towering thunderclouds, and I love the warm tropical rain that soaks one unexpectedly. And best of all, I love swimming in the sea, warm like a bath, and having the rain splatter down around me. I love the butterflies that are everywhere - on the beaches, on the roads, in the fields – swirling around, going everywhere and going nowhere.
I love that people seem to have time here. People sit on their porches and talk and spend time with others. They go for evening strolls. And I love how friendly people seem in this town, the children and the adults that is. They light up when they see our children. They love their light hair, their big cheeks and big, bright eyes. Children are a big part of this culture, and it’s a helpful ice-breaker for us. Rather than just gringos walking through town, out of place and suspect, we’re a family strolling along, smiling and saying “hola.” The ones who seem disinterested and perhaps unfriendly and cold are the teenagers and unmarried young adults. Are they simply just in their own lives, consumed by themselves and coolness, or is there resentment toward foreigners and the many challenges that we represent?
Although people are friendly, it will be a challenge moving from the casual “Hola” to meaningful relationships. Although everyone has a young child, it will be a challenge for our children to be accepted into open and carefree play with the neighborhood children. There are many barriers: Language, background, interests, awkwardness of new relationships that can only be overcome by spending time together but lacking opportunities to spend that time together. But while there are many barriers, this is a challenge that is important to us. We’re not just here because the housing is cheap. We want to sink into a community, to learn to know and to love the individuals, and to serve out of relationship.