Friday, January 1, 2016

First Day of 2016

My last few days, I had no desire to explore. The drive earlier in the week was exhausting, so other than the short jaunt down to Playa Junquillal, I stayed put and just soaked up the water, the sun, and enjoyed the moments as they came. Beach early, back to cabin to eat and relax in the heat of the day when the sun was so brutal, then back out to surf/boogie board until the sunset. After that, maybe dinner, visiting with new friends, etc. All in all, it was a relaxing and enjoyable week. I met many new people, and it is always encouraging to interact with positive and happy people. Of course they will be that way - they are on vacation in Costa Rica, but the locals going about their daily lives were pretty happy and friendly too. I was sad to leave this morning. 

On my drive to the airport, I recalled a week ago laughing as I left in my little 5-speed. Today I smiled at that memory, just a short while ago but it seems so far away. This week went by quickly but then it seems so far ago when I arrived. My skin is a bit darker, my hair a little lighter, and maybe my heart a little lighter because a piece of it is still with a family in a home overlooking Lake Arenal and another part in a sleepy little beach town on the western coast. It's hard to explain the why - it just is. Costa Rica holds a special place in my heart. Maybe it's the timing of my trips there - they were just what my body, mind, and soul needed. I don't know though, I hear it's a place that has this affect on people regardless. I will be back. Maybe one day, I'll go and stay. I'm trying to figure out how to make that happen. Or maybe work it so that I can at least spend 2-4 weeks there a year. Yeah, my soul needs that to happen.

Some more quotes from the book I read: 

"I'm discovering that doing inventory of one's stuff can really be a reflection of how happy or unhappy one is....owning less junk gives you a freedom that you don't realize exists until you have a house filled with things you constantly need to care for." (p. 54)

This is interesting as I have recently begun a quest to get rid of junk. I'm downsizing. Why do I need a 3 br house for just me? There is so much space. When I compare to my tico family's house, it's almost shameful. They are 5 people living in a house a fraction of the size of mine. And they are happy. I really don't need many things. I look at all I've acquired during 15 plus years of home ownership and just wonder why??? It's just stuff. Stuff collects dust. Dust makes me sneeze. I must get rid of the stuff. 

"I'm starting to enjoy living in a place where even my interaction with the tomato lady is pleasurable. So often, we are in such a rush we forget to show even the smallest amount of kindness to those around us, but when you value the present moment, you don't get lost with plans of the future or thoughts of what happened in the past. Buddhism calls this having a"monkey mind," a brain that cannot focus of what's actually right before you but sends you in a whirlpool of anxiety and obsessive thoughts." (p. 112)

Oh, do I have a monkey mind. All. The. Time. I think it's gotten better now that the dissertation and defense is behind me, but I still feel like I need to learn to let things go, see the positive note, and "be" in the moment where I am at any particular point in time. That's hard for me at times, but I am working on it. I think relieving myself of monkey mind will go a long ways to calming my mind and all the thoughts that are constantly running through it. That goes back to my word for this year, "Be." See previous post.

It's all a matter of perspective but growing up in America is comparable to winning the lottery. I feel lucky that I was born in the US. You don't know how bad things are until you are stuck at a Central American border. And doesn't luck play the biggest role in where we end up in life? I'm still proud to be an American but now I acknowledge that I've been given opportunities few around the world get. All because my mother gave birth on American soil. (p. 156)

I know it's not always just luck, but really it plays a huge part. It makes me wonder why I have an urge to move to a country (eventually) where the luck is not there in many communities. But then I am reminded that it's for the way of life. In spite of my good luck of being born where I was, to the family I was, it's still impossible not to be worn down by the hustle and bustle of daily life. I have it easier than most, but I am still drawn to the slower paced, laid back, Pura Vida lifestyle of Costa Rica. People are happy there. Just being there = happiness.

The longer I live here, the more I am changing. I'm opening up to people and finding something in me I thought was lost years ago. I'm enjoying myself and allowing walls to come down that I built up while working in my office. I'm learning it's still possible to have the love you've always dreamed of, and there are still people out there who are waiting and willing to be your friend. (p. 212)

I'll just say I talked to more "strangers" this week than I do in a year. Bitchy resting face did not make an appearance. Again, there's something about that place that is just enchanting. And yeah, this is a time when many people are traveling, away from their daily grind. It's easy to open up to someone when you are walking along the same beautiful beach. Of course, there were also the encounters with the ticos, just reaching out and being friendly to a relatively light skinned foreigner who stumbles badly through her Spanish. I need to learn to carry this over to the here and now. Be. 

When talking about the groundskeeper/handyman. 
Carlos has been nothing but kind to us since the day we moved in. He has suffered through our awful Spanish, .... He has shown me more kindness than I ever did to someone in my own country who didn't speak my language. It's a harsh lesson when you can reflect on your own smugness and someone else's patience. p. 226

I think working in special education has taught me a special kind of patience that is sort of analogous to this. It really goes back to showing kindness - to those who are different, who we may not understand, who we may not agree with. Just be kind. Always. Be. 

We can all reinvent ourselves if we filter through the many distractions and concentrate on the important things in life. I would like to think Costa Rica possesses some kind of magic that helped me through my own difficulties, that my transformation is solely due to this place and would have never occurred if I had not picked this country. However, I do not believe that to be true. The most important thing was my ability to recognize a metamorphosis was past due. Hitting the pause button was just what I needed. It gave me a chance to take a breath and reclaim the gratitude I lost along the way. When I finally allowed that to happen the gifts came in many forms: new friends welcoming me into their lives, kind strangers helping me learn Spanish, ..." (p. 229)
Oh I hit the pause (and rewind, fast forward, etc. buttons often). This trip was a giant pause. What strikes me most here is the healing power of Costa Rica. The magic. Maybe this could happen anywhere, but for me that place is CR. The love from my tico familia, still expressed today, the happiness, the healthiness I feel while there, just the overall state of being. Be. 

That sums up my trip. This may be the only vacation where I have lost weight. I didn't eat much and drank very little alcohol. I walked at least five miles a day. I surfed and rode the boogie board. 
Pura Vida. I'm ready for 2016. 

Pictures from my last full day and last morning. 

Surfer dude. Playa Avellanas draws surfers from all over, plus has many locals who hit the waves daily. Did I mention that I surfed? :) And after the third day, I couldn't lift my hands over my head. 


More monkeys 


It was too hot to play, so they were just vegging around.

Big bad dogs.

After the final sunset.

So beautiful. 

Much later - bonfires on the beach. This was the biggest.

And fireworks all around (bad iPhone picture).

Final morning, just a few hours after leaving the bonfire. Obligatory feet in water picture.

Approaching beach after emerging from the mangrove.

Young surfer.

I miss the waves. 

I think Costa Rica looks good on me. :) 

I hated to leave ...

But I will be back.