Last Friday was one of the most hectic I’ve ever managed. We did empty our house out, simultaneously packing our luggage for the trip, thanks to numerous friends dropping in to help box and bag. Of course, the chaos meant several items critical to this junket made it into the U-Haul boxes now crushing each other several thousand miles from where they’re required: point-and-shoot charger, iPad cases, HD-video camera… not trivial stuff. But we made it, and that was actually in some doubt for a few hours late that afternoon, since the car I’d reserved was at a rental office that closed at 2pm…. and I wanted it at 4pm. Still, we made LAX with plenty of time to spare.
And all the traveling went off without a hitch. Since we had one-way tickets, Delta personnel scrutinized our travel documents closely at the gate… when heading for Costa Rica, one must show proof of onward travel before boarding a plane. Truthfully, our bus tickets to Panama, printed at home a few hours before, looked like I could’ve just fabricated them, but they got us through. Border agents in Costa Rica did not check them.
We had time to buy cheap cell-phones in the San Jose (no, not that San Jose) airport before hopping the puddle jumper to Drake Bay. The kids had never experienced one of these little planes before, and it’s certainly the case that the bouncing, noisy ride, and the clouds whipping by outside the thin-skinned plane really reminded me that we are tricking nature every time we fly.
On the ground in Drake, we immediately began to benefit from the families-with-little-kids-get-some-grace phenomenon. The kids got a ride on the baggage cart and a front seat on the shuttle (though Oscar fell asleep for this… it had been a rough few days). Costa Ricans, like most Latin Americans I’ve encountered, seem universally won-over by children. To be fair, I’ve encountered this same affection at home, too; I can’t say how many free pastries Ines has racked up at Santa Barbara’s coffee shops over the past 5 years (my own solo score is 0). But this behavior is pretty universal in the Spanish-speaking world. Again, at our first stop at the beachside batido place, the kids wanted the one flavor not on the menu, coconut — so, what, disappoint the kids? Perish the thought. The dueno honed the edge of his machete, jogged down the beach, brought back a bunch of green coconuts, and served up fresh pipa… you guessed it, for free.
Anyway, we’ve been here a week, sorting out details. Our little green house is fantastic… might have the only air-conditioning in town. Birds are in a constant parade past our back porch… macaws, toucans, hummingbirds, warblers, cotingas, and tanagers in dizzying variety. We’ve found the best grocery store in town and, after a shouting match with JP Morgan Chase Bank officials, have worked out how to use our tarjetas there. There’s a little isolated swimming hole a 20 minute walk away, where we’ve been counting fish, tadpoles and frogs, blue morphos and myriad other butterflies and moths, coati, tayras, snakes, and spiders…. as well as getting some relief in the cool water from the 90F/95%RH.
Today, Joy’s on an excursion to Ciudad Neily with the town’s school director, getting uniforms and school supplies for Oscar and Ines. This is not a small trip, as it involves a dawn boat ride to Sierpe (an hour away), and a good hour-long bus ride into Neily. They’ll probably not be back tonight (it’s 50 miles as the summer tanager flies). It’ll really be worth the trip if Joy can find extra rubber bands for the kids’ Rainbow Loom! So, I’m spending the day with the kids doing math- and writing-workbooks, catching up on our journals, building a hummingbird feeder (no visitors yet), and lengthening my bird list (today: blue dacnis and golden-hooded tanager). The big beauties, the chestnut-mandibled toucans, are tough to get eyeballs on for long; the cherrie’s tanagers resident in our little cashew tree keep chasing them off.
I guess you may read into this post that we’ve been acclimating slowly. But I have been doing a little shopping for boats, though I haven’t been out on the water yet. I have several good options, but the word is that whales are sparse at the moment. And I look at securing the kids’ seats in the local school to be a major coup, a task that could have mired us in the Costa Rican bureaucracy for weeks. The path to Joy and I getting meaningful work done lies through the school, and that is also the path to familial tranquility and progress. Also, there’s the kids’ education to think of.
And let’s not forget that pushing back the frontiers of science is why I’m here! I close with a plug for myself. My crowdfunding site is up and running, with less than 3 weeks to go. I’m doing ok, about 25% of the way there, but interest seems low. On Monday, I’m going to beg local (California) radio to give the project some attention, though my school’s Marketing people are already annoyed with me… I suspect they wanted to be the first to crowdfund projects. Oh well, I guess I can’t help but step on toes, whether at home or abroad! Anyway, dear readers, let me encourage you to check out my Experiment.com site, and share it with your whale-loving, curious, and/or monied friends! Click the link below!