Monday, May 16, 2011

Having our mango and eating it too

Yes, we are leaving here and returning to the Bay Area as originally planned. Yes, we did spend some time considering the idea of staying for another school year, but in the end decided to stick to the original plan. Which frankly doesn't make it any easier to explain to people here. "Sticking to our original plan" doesn't mean much in a place where people come to visit and stay for decades, where changing your plans and reinventing yourself is as common as sweating in the sun and watching howler monkeys eat your mangoes.

Yes, it is surprisingly difficult to explain why we are leaving. Our experience has been phenomenal here, we have met wonderful people, live in a fabulous house in the jungle with a view of the ocean, send our daughter to an amazing school, and enjoy all sorts of incredible day-to-day experiences. When faced with the question, we often simplify the answer by chalking it up to the challenge of having to make money. We say flippantly that staying in Nosara would require a lot of ice cream and zumba classes. But the truth is we could make it work. We could expand the ice cream business, I could teach more classes, we could increase the number of properties we manage, Ian could commute to the states a few times a year for a couple of high paying corporate gigs. It would be challenging, but we could probably make it, and anyone who has been here for any length of time intuitively knows that. After all, making it work is precisely what everyone else here is managing to do.

So the economic excuse falls a bit flat. Particularly if it is Ian who is answering the question. Most observant folks would agree that his delivery is less than convincing. As he stumbles to come up with more reasons why we are leaving it becomes apparent that Ian clearly doesn't want to leave, and therefore obvious that I, however, do.

I've spent some time trying to figure out why it is that I do want to leave, despite the wonderful life that we are living here. Well, first there is the obvious - I miss my family and friends back home. In addition, I miss working. More specifically I miss working in coastal management. I love my profession, and I miss being involved with the issues that I care so much about. I miss feeling like I'm working to change the world for the better and I miss applying my skills and being rewarded with a tangible result.

Then there is the small town/big city differences. Despite loving the stunning natural beauty that I am immersed in here, I miss living in a city. I do. I miss things like cafes and museums and dance performances and restaurants. I miss the energy of a city, the way the air is charged with possibility and creativity and ideas and complexity. I miss the fascinating outcomes of the combination of so many people and so much possible input and resources. I miss people watching. I miss fashion. I miss anonymity.

Of course, what do I love about living here? The opposite, naturally. I love the experience of living in a small town - how you run into people you know everywhere you go, how you have to drive with one hand perpetually ready to wave. I love not working and having the time to spend with my family. I love that we spend Monday afternoons in an open air bar drinking cold beer, eating salty chips, studying Spanish and blogging while Sadie has art class at an adjacent table.

I love never being cold. I love how creative people are with their entrepreneurial ideas for how to make a living. I love the ceviche. I love how people understand the challenges of living in a remote place and are so quick to help one another. I love how active and healthy Sadie is, how she hasn't needed her inhaler since October. I love the feeling of driving down a dirt road in the dark just after a rain, the windows rolled down and the sound of the ocean close by. I could go on and on.

I am an expert at nostalgia. It is an art form that I work to perfect. I am nostalgic for virtually everything in my past, from every car I ever owned to every house I ever lived in. I am even nostalgic for pasts that I was too young to have actually experienced (particularly for the accessories of past decades). I am so good at nostalgia that I am able to conjure up feelings of nostalgia for the present. A sort of "pre-nostalgia," if you will. The feeling you can get when you watch your daughter surfing in the sunset, a huge smile on her face. Present moments so precious I am already overcome with emotion over how I will remember them in the future. There is a plethora of those moments here and for that I am so very grateful.

Our charge, then, is to fully live these next few months. To appreciate the present while not dwelling too much on either the past or the future. It's something to strive for at least.

It's funny. If we had just arrived here for a 2 1/2 month vacation, home would be the farthest thing from our minds. But at the end of a year long sabbatical, 2 1/2 months seems right around the corner. I know avoiding the future is neither fully possible nor fully appropriate. This week I am working on my resume. Next week we need to decide what sort of aftercare we will have for Sadie for third grade. Sometimes we talk about what restaurant we will go to first when we return. Occasionally I find myself longing for a specific pair of shoes packed away in my garage. At times we chat about the addition of possible pets or the replacement of pieces of furniture.

Most importantly, we should (and do) spend time attempting to analyze and articulate our experiences here and what aspects of our present lives that we want to work to incorporate into our lives back home. What we have learned about ourselves. What we want for our child. Our short-terms needs and our long-term desires. The potential compromises for a city mouse and a country mouse. Ways to facilitate future opportunities for "pre-nostalgia" moments. Fortunately, sitting on a deck in the jungle, watching the waves in the distance, drinking 12-year-old Nicaraguan rum and eating salty chips is an excellent environment in which to undertake such challenging work.


  1. An excellent post. I hope some day to be charged with a similar blight. Though from this end of the internet superhighway, with cafes and jobs, I can't imagine walking away from there. Enjoy the rest of your ride down there, and we will be here when you get back!

  2. Wonderful post. Full of honesty and hard decision but I smell NO regret (at least from you - maybe I'll smell it on Ian when I give him the biggest sister hug in July). We welcome you home and totally appreciate and envy your year away. To have the perspective on the world you now have is so valuable. Use it well. Kiss the monkeys for us.

  3. I so love seeing how you have blossomed in your year away. That time to think, to write, to be just who you are will never go away.

    And now for the next stage!!

    Hey, Gramma wants to do child care!