Jacob (15) and Robert (older) arrived on Sunday night. They are half of the family we spent last Christmas with. The other half, Randi (mom) and Willow (5), stayed home in NJ for girl time. The guys are spending the week based in a nearby Escazú B&B, taking day trips to Arenal, Poas, the rainforest… hanging out and seeing some of the myriad of sights within an hour or two’s drive.

You could spend a month in Costa Rica and never run out of stuff to see and do, even limited to stuff within a one to three hour drive. If you could spend the occasional night or two away, you can take in a taste of most of what Costa Rica has on offer. AND you’d spend far less than you would three weeks in Orlando. (Why would someone spend three weeks in Orlando? One would be suicidal.) DEFINITELY cheaper than than two weeks in Key West! Heck, maybe only one.

Next Sunday, Robert goes home and leaves Jacob with us, marking the official start of Camp Jungle-2-Jersey. Be still my beating heart.

When you homeschool, the first question people ask is, "What about their socialization?" We answer, "That’s the very thing we are trying to avoid." This baffles everyone at first, but – whether they like it or not – you see reason dawn in their eyes. Anyone who has kids in public school knows what I’m talking about: being socialized by thirty to fifty of a kid’s peers – particularly the boys – over half the year is not my first choice. Because too many parents are not paying attention.

But my kids need other kids. In Key West, they had a core group of four guys they hung around with after school and weekends. Four great guys and we miss them. It’s not the same here. If you don’t go to school, meeting other young people is REALLY REALLY tough here. There isn’t a park where they hang out. No basketball court that we’ve seen. The teens that we do see hanging around, like teens that hang around everywhere, including in Key West, just don’t look that welcoming.

From the day we arrived, I have written on forums, the blog, everywhere that occurs to me looking for young people, homeschooled and otherwise. Although the otherwise all have friends from school. I was told by one upfront mom that most people won’t welcome us into their lives until we’d been here two years. Because most expats leave between one and two years, nobody wants to invest the energy too early on. Very frustrating.

By this time, the boys have a couple of friends they met the two months they did go to school and a great kid from baseball, but none of them live nearby. They all live between 30 minutes to an hour away. That wouldn’t be so bad if those times were reliable. But San Jose traffic is SO bad and unpredictable, a 30 minute drive often turns into two hours. Takes all the fun out of a date, lemme tell ya.

The boys talk on the phone, email and echat. They play online role-playing games like Runescape and Ultima Online where everyone has a character s/he created, you chat, you buy stuff, sell stuff, kill monsters, sometimes each other. Totally engrossing – Hal played for awhile, tons of adults play. This is the bulk of their "social" life. But it keeps them in touch with all the Key West guys because they all play… even Jake and Brett who now live in CO. Occasionally, the boys go to the movies with a buddy or hang-out at the mall. I’m not wild about mall-hanging-out… idle hands and all that. I prefer hours online, frankly.

I used to worry about those hours in front of a blue tube. But when you meet Morgan and Ryan, they are clearly not damaged goods. They aren’t shy, they like adults, can chat and socialize. When they do get a chance to mix with others, they are excellent, not too geeky, smart, funny, at least as well educated. At least. Naive, yes. I much prefer that to the alternative.

But I’m anxious for them to have a teen adventure. One that doesn’t involved drugs or booze or sex like my teen adventures. And preferably away from the ‘rents. A couple of months ago, I started researching camps.

There are a TON of good ones, including Outward Bound weeks right here in Costa Rica and a sailing adventure that looked really great. Even one with a sweat lodge! But they are all way pricey, especially with two tuitions and airfare. Two weeks of sleeping on the ground in dirty clothes would cost $6,000 to $12,000. I’m sorry, I can give them a LOT of adventure and not wash their clothes for that kind of money. It just wouldn’t be as organized. Or safe. Sorta like a REAL adventure.

Hence was born Camp Jungle-2-Jersey: three weeks of stuff across two continents. Stuff like: on Monday morning, Jacob, Mo, Ryan and I head to the Pacuare River for a day of whitewater rafting. The river probably won’t look like it does in all the photos – last season was so dry and we are so early into this rainy season I imagine it will be quite a bit calmer. But still way fun, even if it’s lazy!

Hawksbill_turtle At the end of the day, we head to Parismina and the turtles. Vicki has arranged a homestay for the four of us, $20/night each including all meals. We’ll spend a few hours in turtle training, then spend our nights (midnight to 4am or 4am to 8am…) watching cute babyLeatherback leatherback turtles find their way to the sea AND, possibly, huge hawksbill turtles coming in to lay. We’ll be there five nights. I am so excited about doing this: I think the boys are too. They are just keeping it secret.

Next stop is three nights in Puerto Viejo . Got a $60/night rate including all taxes for a cabina with a kitchen. My friend Ana (second from the right) has horses to ride. We’ll do surfing and beach… And we’ll visit el puente, meet the founders and some of the indigenous people, perhaps even Don Candido, their medicine man. One of el puente‘s projects is documenting Don Candido’s knowledge of the local flora used for healing. This is also where organic chocolate comes from. Which we only eat for its healing properties.

On the 31st, we come home, spend a day washing clothes (10 days dirty is my limit). On the 2nd, all three boys fly to New Jersey. International travel on their own. Randi and Robert have tons ‘o city stuff in the works: Manhattan, D.C., museums, skyscrapers. Plus they live in Ocean City two blocks from the beach and right near Evan’s summer home, Evan being one of the Key West gang of four. They will even get to see the Bortmans who plan to be in Ocean City the same time!

Did we leave anything out? Besides fresh teen blood? Poco a poco… the "real" camps are still under consideration. But we live in such an amazing place with still so much to see and do, all within a couple hours drive. If Camp J2J is a success (could it fail to amuse???), we’ll do it next year and invite a few buddies. Heck, maybe go to another country… why not? Homeschooling on the hoof.

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