Maybe some of the following applies to tico teens, too, I don't know. I only know mine. Very well. As they do me, since we're together all day every single day and always have been.
In Fred's comment yesterday, he brought up points I had originally included in that post, then erased to keep it manageable. But they are all considerations on the moving pro/con whiteboard, particularly the Gringo Teen Thang. Which is decidedly pro.
We are not moving because there is something wrong with our Costa Rica life. (And you know Hal's only going back because I'm insisting!) Our Costa Rica life is wonderful and hugely satisfying on a bunch of levels. I love my house, my chickens, my view, my friends, the brujos (BREW-hose, my Thursday ladies' lunch group), speaking Spanish, the Little Theatre Group–I will miss it all very much. Plus, we're moving to a country that is not in good shape financially, morally or spiritually. Not that Costa Rica is any better off in those areas, but, as expats, we are a little detached from it here. It's not quite so personal. I know the boys feel the same way: life here is paradise in more ways
than not. It's just that the "not" is overwhelming right now.
I get Fred's perspective 100%: I hope the boys want to come back to Costa Rica someday. I know they love it here, the life is good for them, too. Right now, they are asking to go back to the states. They need to know what they are missing, if anything. They need a social life. And, as interesting as learning is in a new language, it is a struggle, they've both said so. They (and me) are ready to be on familiar turf for a bit.
They have no social life AT ALL in Costa Rica, except sharing in mine. They go to my social events, as does Hal, whether those events be 12-Step parties (yes, we party, we just don't throw up afterward) or theatre events, my two social clubs. They have a great time, they enjoy my friends and my friends enjoy them… but no teens around.
They just spent a month in NJ where they were out all day everyday: walking the boardwalk, getting junk food, whatever it is they do, in front of their computers only at night, instead of all day. Same thing happens when we go to Key West: they know few people in Key West now, but they are gone all day everyday. They walk out the door and disappear for hours. Even when school is in session in KW: at 3pm, they are gone.
Life is not like that in Costa Rica. If they had grown up here and/or had gone to public school*, they would
have a social network in place. Plus, they'd be truly fluent, would know the culture and fit in. But they did not, so do not. We have no regrets, they have gotten an excellent education! Heck, they've been with me 24/7. Jealous?
*I'm not recommending public school, in the states or here. On the
pro side, it would be great for little kids to learn Spanish and the
tico culture right from the get-go, plus they would make lifelong
friends. On the con side, besides the decidedly lacking education (in the states and here), vaccinations are required
for school and no waiver that I know of. And, if you decide to
homeschool after your child has attended public school–which means the locals
know you have school-age children at home–even though homeschooling is
technically legal, you will have a fight on your hands with PANI, Costa
Rica's version of CPS. You don't want to go there.
Making friends when you don't go to school takes more effort in the states. Happily, there are enough after school clubs and sports, particularly in a small town like Key West, that it's doable. You can triple that effort in Costa Rica and get nowhere, mostly because, if there are after school clubs and sports, the doors aren't open to expats or homeschoolers. Or we simply could not find them.
Walking out the door and looking for other teens, like they do in the states, is different, too. It's a cultural thing and I don't have a handle on it. Over the years, they've had a couple of tico friends, but those friends live an hour away. In different directions. Twice as far on the bus. Not so far as the crow flies, but might as well be Alaska when it comes to actually getting together. It's a chore and both parties give up after a few attempts.
The fact is, they are gringo teens and, even though they happen to look like locals at first glance, and even though they speak the language like pros, their gringo-ness is unmistakable to ticos after the first sentence. The one day they went for a walk in the late afternoon, the local teens at the bottom of our hill chased them back up with sticks. We have stick chasers in Key West,** too, but this was discouraging for all of us. The boys go to the mall and hang out, but they come home having talked to no one but each other. There is an intimidating cultural wall, very difficult to climb. I understand that. I also understand there is a lack of commitment on their parts to make more than a passing attempt. Got that, too.
**In the Teen Angst post, I mention trade schools and how great it
would be if there were any in Costa Rica. Turns out, there are some
really good ones here, free if you are a citizen, cheap enough if you
People who don't live here wonder why I have no tica girlfriends: I hang out with expats. As do 95% of my expat girlfriends, even long time expats. Not only is the language a barrier, there is simply no common ground, no common history, no common culture. We have a couple of grown-up tico friends with whom we enjoy sharing a meal, but I have yet to meet a woman I can relate to on a personal level. We are still aliens to each other. The same is true for teens.
To top it off, at this particular age, their choices for meeting same-age people is at a bar or a call center. The gringo teens who graduate high school here go to the states to work or to college. The tico teens who's families have money do the same. Call me a snob, but bars and call centers are not my idea of a healthy social scene for teens, whether in the states or here. Thankfully, neither appeals to the boys, either. Bars are more fun, but, ultimately, it's a dead end and they know it.
Could they go back to the states without us? I suppose so but none of us are ready for that. It's still not their first choice to
live without us – yay! In a year or two it will be, se la vie. For now, we will feed, shelter and clothe them as long as they are going to
school of some sort and working part-time jobs for spending money. Such a deal.
And, yes, I will miss my sweet girls a lot. I'm sure I can find a good home for them. But I'm not living anywhere I can't have backyard chickens. So far, all the towns we are considering allow it. Whew!
P.S. All of Robert's Niagara pix here. As well as pix from the Kazoo factory, the Corning Glass and Glenn H. Curtiss Aviation museums and Watkins Glen State Park. No moss on that old stone!!!