Thursday, September 2, 2010

There and back again. A bloggit's journey.

Amongst my blessings, I married a Tica. My wife grew up (mostly) in Costa Rica and most of her family lives down there. I first visited Costa Rica when we were dating for the marriage of my brother-in-law. Our first introduction illustrated why correct translation is not necessarily accurate. He’s quite fluent in English (was born in California) and said “Hi, it’s your brother in law!” My wife and I had been dating for almost a year and though we were a couple, no questions had been popped. The problem is that the translation of brotther in law is cuñado. However, the meaning of cuñado is less specific and pretty much means the brother (or sister, cuñada) of your girlfriend, fiancé or wife. One advantage of Spanish is that there’s an accurate word for the spouse of our cuñado—concuño.

My trip to Costa Rica in February 2002 was the first of many. The next one occurred a year later for our wedding, then a Christmas trip later that year, and multiple ones since our twin sons were born in 2005. We’ve recently setttled into an August pattern. I attend a conference in San Diego the first week of August every year. My wife got offered a job that would overlap this conference and, sadly, three year olds can’t be trusted to run the household on their own. Our solution was that I would fly down to Costa Rica, with kids, strand them there with their abuelita, and then fly to my conference. Meanwhile, Keen (back at the hideout), would finish her assignment and fly down to Costa Rica for the month of August. Work tends to be slow then and so it was a good chance for a break. Meanwhile I (back at the hideout) took care of various chores around the house that are difficult to do when you’re busy taking care of young kids. It worked out so well the first time that we’ve decided to make it an annual event.

This year, we bought the tickets early to get good fares. Then she got offered a really nice job in the Dominican Republic that overlapped the leaving date. So, we wound up paying almost as much to change three tickets ($750) as they cost in the first place ($1050). I wasn’t planning to go down, but then a piece of crusty bread took out a chunk of one of my teeth and I decided to do a dental vacation. It was the most expensive “free” sample I’ve ever had ($350 for a flight and $350 for an inlay and cleaning).

My trip down to Costa Rica was uneventful, except for nearly getting arrested. I exaggerate. A little. My suegra loves 15 bean soup, which you can’t find down there. On my way through customs, I learned something. Beans are classified as seeds. If you can grow it, you can’t bring it. Oops. I received a nice receipt for my four pounds of 15 bean soup. I’m probably on some kind of watch list now, so will be extra good in the future. Not to mention checking the list of everything I’m asked to bring in the future.They must have thought I was some kind of crazy yankee given that I was taking beans to Costa Rica. It would be like bringing oranges to Florida.

We had a short getaway before I rejoined the entire family. A good friend of mine from college came down for the wedding and stayed at a place called Cafetal. It’s an inn near Atenas, west of the central valley. We drive by Cafetal every time we go to Jacó to visit my mother-in-law (suegra) and so I suggested it for a two day getaway before I made it down to Jacó.

The inn hired a local taxi driver to pick me up at the airport. The bean incident didn’t slow me down too much and so we were on the road within an hour of my flight arriving. Traffic on the freeway wasn’t too bad and I was in a good mood as we went past our exit. Uh oh. The driver had been hired by the Inn, so he clearly knew where we were going. That meant I didn’t. And neither did Keen. As it turns out, there is Mirador Cafetal, a restaurant on the way to Jacó, and El Cafetal Inn ( The two places have a common owner and are both about 10 minutes out of Atenas. Keen caught the bus from Jacó and arrived at a closed restaurant (August is out of season). Fortunately, there was a caretaker there who called her a taxi and she arrived at the Inn without further incident. Word to the wise. Never assume you know where a place is.

Cafetal is a lovely inn. It’s described as nestled on a coffee plantation. There’s plenty of coffee plants around, though I wouldn’t describe it as a plantation. Lot of butterflies and hummingbirds too. It rained through the night when we arrived, which was perfect. After a hot, dry summer in Washington, I’ll take a cool, rainy evening. Atenas is a nice place to spend a couple of days. It’s a typical town with a square anchored by a Catholic church. We ate dinner at a local place (La Trilla). The fish was good, the chicken was excellent.

Two days later, I arrived down in sunny, warm Jacó. There’s not too much to say about the trip. I was a little curmudgeonly as I had to spend fraction of my vacation working on a paper that was due in early September. The time away was good as I’m often too distracted by day to day aspects of work to actually get the important stuff done. I wound up having a little extra time on my own as everyone else went back to San José a few days earlier than I could. I had to wait over the weekend for my inlay to array. It gave me a chance to do a bit of work and catch up on movies. I’ll have a few thoughts about the TV series Parenthood if I get to it.

Well, we’re all back home. We weren’t able to fly back together due to having to change the tickets for Keen and the twins to accommodate the DR job. It seems that even if you don’t change the return flight, it still gets repriced. So, our $150 tickets in February changed to $500 tickets in July .Once I realized what happened, I was able to move the return trip to a later flight. Unfortunately, that meant I flew ahead a couple of hours. Not too bad for me, but Keen had to race across Miami airport to catch her flight.

Well, school starts next week and so does the bowling league. I’ve got a feeling I’ll be doing more work on the league than on school.