A year ago tonight, my family returned to Canada from Costa Rica. We had lived abroad for a year and a half, and had done our best to make a go of a new life in a new country. But it wasn’t to be, and we finally came to the reality that we had to move back home.
So, a year ago, we packed up a highly uncomfortable hour of the morning, boarded our airplane, and spend nearly 16 hours travelling north. We arrived late in the evening, with an irate kitty, to the most amazing -18C weather I’d ever felt. Within days, we’d tried to reinsert ourselves into a society that we’d — at last in some part — tried to forget.
A year later, I’m starting to forget that we ever left.
It’s just shy of three months since we left Costa Rica. Many people still ask us what it’s like to be back, if we’re happy to be back, and if we’ve acclimatised yet. There’s no quick or easy answer to all of that, as we’re not dealing with something as simple as changing from one temperature to another. As anyone will tell you, moving to an entirely different country (outside of North America) involves more than a physical location. Costa Rica was more than just a place, it was a way of life, and an experience that has changed the way I live now.
Almost right away, we missed some things, though most of that was due to the roughly 40 degree Celsius shift in temperature. Other things soon made themselves known, each time with the all-too-familiar pang of loss and regret.
But like when we moved down to Costa Rica, this is just something we’ll have to get used to.
This is a joke you might not understand until you’re older, Monkey. For now, it’s one many of my friends will have a good chuckle at…
You’re asleep right now, in your own room, on the mattress from one of our sofa beds. A month ago right now, you and we were standing in the immigration line, waiting to enter your country of origin, and go to your new home. I can’t say “home” the way Mommy and I say “home”, because for you, this isn’t your home. Costa Rica is more your home than here.
You still look at video of our condo in Santa Ana, and you ask when are we going home. Because that’s what you know more of. We left Canada when you weren’t even a year old. You learned to walk in Costa Rica, to swim, to talk. Almost all of your friends are in Costa Rica, you went to school there. You ask for “schoolday”, and talk about your teachers.
But you came a long way to be able to say these things, and have these memories.
The year past was one of the toughest ones I can remember. It’s been a year of extreme highs, some pretty darks depths; my share of awesome joys, mixed with an unhealthy dose of stress. And that’s not when you consider the economy, I might add — things are even worse when you roll all that in.
The year closed out on a more sombre note for me, in many ways. Much quieter, and I got to spend a lot of time with my family (which I cherish now, and cannot regret in anyway), but the future is a little less certain. I’m less concerned about that fact than I thought I would be, however.
Well, Monkey, we’re home now. I know it doesn’t seem like it to you, because you’ve lived in three different homes since you were born. But this house, the one in Calgary (where we’re currently adjusting to serious sub-zero temperatures and drying out) is a home we hope you’ll come to know and love.
It’s not Costa Rica. It’s not always warm. It’s not filled with the sounds of parakeets, or tropical rainstorms, or filled with Spanish-speaking voices. This is the Great White North. It’s chilly for most of the year, leaves are seen for only five months, and the only monkeys you’ll see are at the zoo. It’s going to be an adjustment for you, and for Mommy and I, too.
Eighteen months ago, I set foot in Costa Rica. Not as a tourist (despite what my visa said), but to make a new life abroad. My family (Alex, Monkey, and Asia the Cat) would join me a month later. One big, happy family, living less than 10 degrees latitude from the equator. Life in paradise.
Assuming the rest has gone to plan (I’m pre-publishing this entry), the moment this is visible to the world is the moment I leave Costa Rica … likely forever. It’s a bittersweet moment in my life, probably the happiest and saddest moment I can think of, really. I’m happy to go home, but I’m sad it didn’t end the way I had wanted.
There’s very little limonada in this story, unfortunately.
One week from … well, right now, our plane leaves Juan Santamaria Airport, bound for Houston. If all our cards fall into place (which, so far, they are — I just hope they keep falling!), we’ll leave in good order. We’re not perfect yet, but we’re getting there.
It figures, just when we thought we’d started to have everything figured out, we hit another snag. (There’s always another snag.) This time, it’s with Asia, our cat.
Our problem is not with Canada — all they need is a valid rabies vaccination, which we have. Our problem is not our airline (Continental) — we already have a reservation that allows us to take our cat. Our problem is with Costa Rica.
We’re officially out of the “long vacation” timeframe, and into the “standard” two week vacation timeframe. You know this one: enough time to fly to a distant land, see two or three different places, get really drunk in a bar and get robbed blind, realise you’ve actually got a funky disease you’re not sure if you got from the food or that person you swore looked like a woman the night before…
What? Why are you looking at me like that? You make it sound like no-one else has vacations like that.