Friday, September 17, 2010

Una Semana Mas

It's funny. When I think about the past week here, I feel like we did next to nothing. The beach, the pool, the hammock, eating and eating again. But when I look at the pictures for the week I realize that we actually did quite a bit. Sort of.

For starters we found the library. Apparently, Costa Rica is not big on public libraries, particularly in small towns. Libraries in Costa Rica are where students do research, not where community members check out books (though the literacy rate in Costa Rica is quite high). However, several years ago in the pueblo of Nosara, some Americans put up the money to build a small library and it has been a huge success. Locals come to check out books, high schoolers do homework and research and use the computers, local public and private school kids make weekly or monthly field trips to the library, and, of course, the expats come for books to read when they have exhausted the supply they managed to haul with them in their suitcases.

The library itself is a lovely small building, full of light and very clean. It is certainly the only library I've ever been to where you are required to leave your shoes outside! It has about 6,000 books, including a goodly number of books in english for adults and children. Now some of you may know that I happen to have a lovely largish collection of old hard cover Nancy Drew books that I have tried without success to interest Sadie in. What she does love, however, is the Judy Moody series and, wouldn't you know it, young Judy Moody is a Nancy Drew fan. No more prodding needed. Sadie was thrilled beyond measure to find a collection of Nancy Drew books in the library and checked out two of them. Nancy now accompanies her everywhere. Even stunningly gorgeous hotels/restaurants beautifully situated on a hill overlooking where the Rio Nosara empties into the ocean. While Ian and I "oohed" and "aahed," Sadie tried to figure out why "Cloudy" (Claude) was trying to hurt Nancy and Bess and George.

One afternoon we managed to persuade Sadie to leave "The Secret of the 99 Steps" in the car while we explored a new beach. The beach was glorious in the way that beaches here can be. Green lush jungle making way to areas of smooth sand adjacent to expanses of rocky shoreline harboring critters of all sorts in tidepools of all shapes and sizes. And not a person in sight. This particular beach had a large rocky outcrop at one end which, upon further exploration, was home to thousands upon thousands of crabs. Everywhere we looked, crabs were scurrying across the rock, making the entire rock appear to be a living, moving organism. And Sadie didn't get bit or pinched or stung by anything!

In addition to books and crabs, this past week I went to school. I enrolled in Spanish class through the Nosara Spanish Institute (aka, The Only Place to Take Spanish Class). Class started at 8 am every day and was a short drive down the main road. My first day was a bit rocky. I climbed in our jalopy and bumped down the road towards the institute. Along the way a woman with several bags of stuff and a baby and a young kid flagged me down. I stopped, they all got in, and the woman said she was going to Garza. Well, I knew Garza was probably farther than the institute but I had some time and she was already in the car and she had a baby and a young kid and several bags and I didn't know enough Spanish to ask her how far or to tell her where I was going. So to Garza we went. Probably five miles as the crow flies, but the crow doesn't have to drive on these roads. At 15 miles per hour, well.... Anyway I took her all the way there and then "sped" back towards the Institute. I found the complex it was supposed to be in (only a bit late) and frittered away another few minutes asking the guard where to go. I ask him where the spanish institute is, he says he doesn't speak english, I say I don't speak spanish which is why I need to find the spanish institute, and so on. Finally someone finds me in the parking lot and takes me to class.

For two hours a day, every day for five days, I sat in a classroom and stared at the board, trying my hardest to ignore the voice in my head shouting "you'll never learn Spanish!" I was the only student and my teacher was fantastic. She spoke in Spanish the entire time. Luckily the "no, that's incorrect" face is the same in English and Spanish so I understood her perfectly. Now when the howlers wake me up at 4:30 am, I try to conjugate verbs in my head until I can fall back to sleep. Now I can easily tell women with children and packages that I cannot possibly take them to Garza. I plan to take another class the week after next and Ian will take an intermediate version (where the "no, that's incorrect" face is still the same).

We still don't really have any friends. I thought about asking my Spanish teacher for a playdate, but wasn't sure that was kosher (como se dice "kosher" en espanol?), even though she was reading a Haruki Murakami novel when I met her so I just know we could be good friends. We "dropped by" (stalked?) the house of a couple with two kids that we met on the beach, but haven't seen them since. I called another family whose number I got through the school, but that hasn't panned out yet either. Our gardener talks to us sometimes, but apparently he tends to make things up and doesn't make much sense in English or in Spanish. Ian's yoga teacher now hugs him hello and goodbye, but he pays her. And there's only so much you can engage the owner of the local pizzaria before he has to attend to other business. Starting fresh like this requires a lot of the kind of bravery that I happen to personally be in short supply of. Spiders and beetles and crabs, no problem. People, well, that's more difficult. We all eagerly await the start of school. An automatic international community of parents and kids. A place to go every day. Some structure. Field trips!

Until then, the three of us will continue to make the best of it.


  1. Wow you guys, what a journey you are on! Im impressed.
    Caitlin, you are an eloquent writer. I find myself having to go back and reread paragraphs, not because I didn't get it, but because I enjoy the way you say things. I didn't know you were such a writer at heart!
    Keep it coming, its wonderful to hear your stories! Can't get enough!

    It sure does take time and bravery meeting new people. And school makes ALL the difference! Built in like minded interesting and different people. With kids. What more could you ask for? When does it start?

    Your old friends for life are always just an e-mail or phone call away. Boy, I wish I was there to listen to howler monkeys with you in the wee hours... so exotic!

  2. Karen and I agree with David (above)... simply brilliant (and compelling).

    As we miss the sounds of the lovely Sweeney-Britton trio next door, we are filled up with smiles, laughter and joy for you guys as we vicariously experience the adventure through your LOL-inducing and eloquent writing installments!!

  3. Thanks for the kind words of encouragement! I enjoy writing the blog and would love to post more often. My goal right now is once a week. We miss everyone!

  4. Update on an old novel: "Speechless in Garza"
    Pleased to know that your (well written) blog will be a weekly exercise, slowly weaning the S/B Family Robinson from the marvels of technology. Does Sadie need a buggy-whip?

  5. Your next mission, if you choose to accept it, is to produce a movie (with Spanish subtitles) about your adventures along the lines of "Eat, Pray Love" (which I haven't seen yet, but heard about) when you return. Love the writing. Looking forward to reading the next post.

  6. Caitlin, great post! And I agree with all your are a wonderful writer. I laughed about the barefoot library, the spanish classes and the stalking of new friends! It's such a great adventure you are on! Keep it up. Can't wait to read more......