It’s a beautiful December 25th, 2006, here in Costa Rica, a few clouds, bright and sunny, gentle breeze. I don’t mean to rub it in, but this here’s perfect weather. Pura vida, indeed!

Robert, Randi, Jacob (15) and Willow (5) arrived last Friday for a preliminary Costa Rica visit… they are considering the expat life, to start in four years or so. Oddly enough, they are from Philly, about an hour away from the Bortmans! Only Robert has been here before, Costa Rica is brand new for his family. We decided to get together for dinner Saturday night. Since they keep kosher, they suggested we go out, but I don’t know of a kosher restaurant here (although there’s a kosher inn opening any day now). But they were going to eat out enough, right? And how hard could cooking one kosher meal be?

First, I checked in at Judaism 101, did a little study on kosher requirements. If you are going the whole kosher nine yards, you need two separate sets of kitchen equipment: one for meat, one for dairy, right down to the sink where you wash the dishes. Cutting boards, knives, stirring spoons, measuring cups… everything. (What about counter tops? Refrigerators? Oy vey.)

Two recent events made this easier from the gitgo: Jal’s mom had sent us home with new kitchen utensils and Jal just bought a brand new cutting board, neither of which we’d used. Heheheh, we can do this! Robert suggested vegetarian lasagna – perfect. We bought plastic plates and utensils, a tin throw-away lasagna pan. Voilà! A kosher kitchen. As long as you aren’t looking too closely. Our guests were good with this and, in fact, they suggested using our forks… plastic gopls are the worst!

It’s funny, in spite of all our conversations, I’d forgotten they had a 15 year old son. All I could remember was Willow, who they adopted from China. Back when my boys were little, there was a two-year period when, everyday, my mom offered to fly to China so we could have a girl… So tempting, but not do-able then. I was working too hard… blah blah blah. I was excited to meet a family who had done it!

So when their taxi pulled up and Jacob gets out, I’m like "Who are you?" Gracious, eh? Mo and Ryan were thrilled! The three of them disappeared into online game land and Willow, that party animal, fell asleep immediately in the beanbag chair. Last night, Christmas Eve, Jacob spent the night with us and got to enjoy the fireworks. Meeting my boys made Jacob’s visit. Meeting Jacob made my boys’ Christmas. A perfect match!

This morning, we returned Jacob to his family at their San Jose hotel, El Sesteo. Reasonably priced ($80/night for 2 rooms), clean, ok beds, those horrible pillows filled with balls of batting – who’s idea was that???? Word to the wise: BRING YOUR OWN PILLOWS unless you are staying at the Holiday Inn. But they had a kitchenette, a large pool, a jacuzzi, very nicely maintained garden, very secure parking, 24 hour guard, excellent location. It’s right near Sabana Park which is a beautiful place to visit during the day.

They took off this morning for The Jungle House just south of Quepos on the southern Pacific coast – can’t wait to hear how they enjoy that! It sounds heavenly.

DecorationsrusI’m still hot to go to the Caribbean side on our next mini-adventure. I need to save some turtles, then head to Puerto Viejo for a couple of days… ’cause, you know, I’m all stressed out and everything from this big holiday. All that decorating! All that celebrating. Whew. I could use a little time off.

A few days ago, I ran to the AutoMercado for bread and, just inside, was a small choral group singing Christmas carols in perfect harmony. It was mesmerizing and lit just enough of that giddy Christmas spirit to tide me over… Hope it does the same for you! Here are the words if you want to sing along. Enjoy your day, pura vida, Saratica

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