A year ago, when we first got the idea to run away to Costa Rica for a year, the Bortmans of P.A. had already spent months planning and packing in preparation for their year-long sabbatical in Costa Rica. That’s the oddest thing, right? Planning a move to a foreign country more than 30 days in advance? But, hey, that’s the crazy Bortmans for you!

They arrived about a month before we did. Sadly, last week, just as we were returning to Costa Rica for our foreseeable future, they were planning their move back to PA for theirs. We heart the Bortmans and will definitely miss them.

Last May, after living in Costa Rica for four months and desperate for face time with a gringa, I emailed the Bs and suggested we have lunch. I’m new to this expat thing, but how long are you supposed to wait to happen upon some gringos who might turn out to be friends? From what I knew, Mark, Dara, Ari and Ellie met all my New Friend requirements: native speakers of English, a family like us, expats newly arrived from the U.S., lived nearby, Dara is over 30 so probably not into rap, and – the biggest hurdle – they were willing. We decided to meet at the McDonalds in Heredia – safe. If either of us thought the other was totally freakin’ nuts, a hasty retreat could be made.

But they weren’t nuts. Far from it. They are so completely sane, I’m in awe. And if they thought we were nuts, they hid it well. Extremely well, considering that by that time, I was totally nuts. I was so anxious for a girl-friend to talk to, I was afraid I’d grab Dara and not let go for at least an hour. If you think you are not in need of a good-friend-hug, go without one for a few months. Surrounded by good friends for 30 years, I took it for granted, then moved to a good-friend-hugless-desert… That will make you totally freakin’ nuts in about two months.

Not only did we hit it off, we had a freaky fate thing goin’ on as well. At lunch, they mentioned they were going to San Ramon for the weekend, had booked rooms at a guesthouse. We were doing the EXACT same thing. Ooooo-weeeee-ooooo. At our very first meeting, we discover we are going to spend the weekend together. Small guesthouse, our two families are the only guests… OK, that is too weird, right?

So it’s fate: we have to be friends. We spent the weekend together and have gotten together at least once a week since. Dara and I took an acupuncture course in Zapote, an hour’s drive away. Three months driving round trip every Saturday, we know pretty much everything about each other.

Here’s something you may not know about me (there’s not much left, believe me): I long to be an acupuncture doctor. I LOVE blood and guts, I watch the surgery channel when everyone’s in bed: baby deliveries, heart surgery, liposuction (that’s scary). If I had it to do over again, I’d be a doctor, not an actress. Here’s an apparently little known secret among the off-to-college-set: doctors make better money. Actually, stardom aside, everyone makes better money.

Now, acupuncture doctors don’t get blood and guts, unless you really screw it up. But it’s the closest I could get with three years of schooling and no chemistry. Over the years, real estate had been losing its allure – a frenzied market will do that to a body, just wear you out. Starting in the spring of ’05, there was that nagging income problem. So, what in the world did I want to be next?

Years ago, when I lived in Manhattan, my mom and I would attend Eric Butterworth‘s Unity services at Avery Fisher Hall every Sunday. He
told a story one day of a 60-year-old woman who wanted to go to nursing
school, but thought she was probably too old. Eric asked her, if she
went to nursing school, how old would she be when she graduated? "62," she
answered. Then he asked her how old would she be in two years if she
didn’t go to nursing school? So I’m going to get older (hopefully) no matter what I do. Might as well do something interesting.

The summer before we moved here, I seriously considered everything. I even considered nursing school, but I like being the boss so I’d hate being a nurse. I was certain of only one thing: I wanted to be involved with alternative healing. It’s a fascinating field. As you get older and decide you want to live forever, like me, its fascination only increases.

About the same time, I started having cluster headaches. (Oh really? I wonder what caused those?) I heard acupuncture could fix this so I called the two doctors in Key West, got an appointment with Dr. Maust, he stuck in a few needles, left me in a dark room for 20 minutes… and I was cured. Best $70 I ever spent on U.S. healthcare.

Dr. Maust, by the way is another one of those annoying people like Jean and Jal who remembers everything, every little tiny thing, he reads. He’s probably a member of Mensa. You’d think such smart people could come up with a better looking website. After two more visits during which he completely cured two other problems, the acupuncture fire was lit. I was thrilled to have stumbled onto my new field! I looked into acupuncture schools, found two I really like… then we moved to Costa Rica. I haven’t found a school here. Yet.

The_kidsLiving 51 years has taught me one thing for sure: the right thing always happens, even when it really, really, really doesn’t seem like it. Including having the Bortmans leave Costa Rica just when we’d bonded and knew we would be friends for life.

[The other adorable girl child in the photo is Calista Sheridan. She’s 10 and ALWAYS looks delighted. We heart her, too!]

Sheridans_and_bortmans_at_our_houseWe’d landed back in Costa Rica Monday 12/12, the Bs were flying out Monday 12/18, giving us one short week to celebrate our friendship. We saw them a couple of times during that week, but the Big Fun Day was Friday at Parque de Diversiones. We met the Sheridans there, our other new and dear expat friends, and had a blast. An excellent day topped off by dinner at the Bortmans. 

Prayer_song_1And the lighting of the Hannukah candles! Whew. I bet you thought I’d never get to the miracle of Chanukah. Me, too.

That Friday night, the 15th, was the first night of Hanukah when you light the first two candles. Which I filmed for your enjoyment. You might want to take a dramamine first. Or a seconal. Here’s the lighting of the candles, the passing out of the gilt (at first I thought she said guilt… I’m trying to cut back on that. Chocolate, I can still do.) And, finally, the miracle of Hanukkah.

We will sure miss those crazy Bortmans. Happy Hanukahh, Mark, Dara, Ellie and Ari, where ever you are in the frozen north. ¡Pura vida! Love, us.

P.S. Oh, the first picture in this post? That’s the Hermelins, Key West friends – great card, eh?

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