I have fallen into a routine here. I wake up early and get to be outside first thing, walking to the garden, seeing the Turrialba volcano in the distance. In the garden, we always say things like ayy, hace sol and qué calor because it’s so hot and sunny in the mornings. We work freely, singing and laughing, but also planning about what we can do next. Planting and seeding and digging and shaping beds, shaping earth, and relishing each new milestone in the garden. Look, we have drainage, the lettuce we planted yesterday looks so good here, oh wow the culantro germinated!
I go back to the home I share with my host family: mom, dad, and triplets my age. We hang out as kids would in the United States, only with a lot more soccer. It’s usually cooler in the afternoons, often rainy. We go for walks through the rainforest to a different place each day. I’ve seen waterfalls and butterflies, birds, a tarantula, and the footprints of a sloth. They give me fruit to try and tell me facts about the trees, the animals, Costa Rica’s natural world. I’ve been so welcomed here by their friends, too, as we make jokes and secret handshakes. We went stargazing and marveled at the “montón de estrellas”, that crazy amount of stars. We laid on the ground and they pointed out the shooting stars, and this place is magic.
There are four meals a day: breakfast, lunch, coffee and dinner. I eat rice and beans, chicken, sausage, plátano, tortillas and cheese and empanadas: such wonderful foods. Everything tastes more than in the United States. I savor each bite. I drink a lot of coffee. It’s sweet and warm and easy to love. Everything here is easy to love.
People say adios and buenas when they pass each other on the street, and whistle at each other or yell ohp! to get someone’s attention. Todo bien? Todo bien! These are the simplest of greetings, but what makes them special is that here, everyone is talking all the time, checking in, because their doors are open and their friends are around them. This is such a community. All day at the house, there are people in and out, with no plans except to do what the day brings. I’ve been hiking and fishing, stargazing, seen dancing, played soccer and played catch, too, with fruit from trees in the backyard. I paint and do yoga with my host mom and she dances and sings to 80s music, asking me to translate the lyrics to Spanish for her. Her husband asks me millions of questions about the United States: what is each season like? how expensive is it to buy a home? to go to college? does everyone drive? is it true everyone has hot water in their houses?
Spanish sounds natural to me now, and it’s getting easier to understand. Some people mumble so I don’t know what they’re saying even if they talk slow. Some people talk fast, fast, fast but their words are more separated. The rise and fall of bass notes of Spanish music have become so familiar, just like the shouts amidst soccer matches and words of greeting on the sidewalk all the time. I recognize the guy on the four-wheeler that brings bread to the houses, the man that works at the supermarket, the woman who sells popsicles at her house. I’m excited to go to sleep and excited to wake up, because I’m in this place of fortunate days and happy people and there are dogs on the streets that bark and whine, and the shrieking parrot in the backyard, and the canary singing out front. The soft murmur that rises and falls with Spanish conversation.
Things in the garden have been going so nicely. Karla added fruit trees that will increase the shade in the garden and help the soil with their hardy roots. It will be exciting to come back someday and see the trees when they are bigger. Other than that, the garden contains more of the same vegetables, soon to be supplemented with younger plants of the same varieties so there is always more food to harvest.
The mornings have been hot, sunny, and clear while the afternoons have been cool and wet. We’ve planted cherry tomatoes to start in plastic cups, where they will stay until they grow big enough to transplant. People here have told me that tomatoes are fragile and they can burn easily in the sun. We’re also worried about blight and other diseases that spread fast in humidity, which is one of the biggest challenges here. I’ve been told we should use saran that covers the plants to shade them slightly and shelter them from intense rains. It’s just like the screens on windows, except plastic instead of metal, and I’ve seen it on farms nearby. Here, it shades the young coffee plants that haven’t been planted in the ground yet.
Outside the garden, I’ve been fishing again. We went to a pond hidden in the depths of a beautiful farm with sprawling ayote, sugar cane, and serene cows. We stayed until the stars came out and ate pan casero and drank fresco under a sliver of a moon. Costa Rica’s beauty never gets old, and every time I go anywhere, I’m amazed. The simple routine of this life surrounded by such marvels is the definition of contentment. For example, Sundays are for soccer. We went to the plaza in the morning and watched games until 4 pm, when we had coffee with the most delicious chocolate cake. Watched a movie, went to bed late, worked this morning, went to the hardware store, wrote a blog entry…it’s just so easy to be busy but not rushed or stressed, because I am writing this and there is a volcano outside. And a neighbor is listening to music and the clothes are hanging outside to dry in the sun. When I got to the garden this morning, I was greeted with a shout of Pura vida, Nati! and I felt so glad.