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!!!
Um, so it’s done then? You are setting up home base back in the states? Subletting the house here…jaw dropping.
So many thoughts going through my mind about this as I learned yesterday another family I met virtually through my blog has left as well. Dad’s still here, selling the goods then he’s off ASAP. Like Hal, dad was happy here but the family missed opportunities in the U S of A as well.
Thank-you for giving reasons why. Most who move back don’t & leaving us wondering.You, my friend will be missed.
Our paths crossed once. I hope they do again. I’ll see you when I see you.
I figured you’d be headed out about 3 months after you wrote your first blog.
First thing first. The central valley is NOT Costa Rica.It’s an illusion.
Had you moved way out to Libano, Guatuso, Chachagua, Sierpe, or somewhere else very rural, and let your kids go to public school you would not be leaving and you’d have shitloads of Tico friends.
Say high to the mericans.No “A” . They don’t deserve one.
Well put Sally! We are exactly in the same boat. We hang out mostly with the fam and you guys and a Taiwanese family. I would like to add though that it is not just Gringos that have a hard time making friends with the locals. Jeo is one of the friendliest guys I know and he has yet to find a good Tico friend in the four years we have been here. We will definitely miss hanging out with you and your fam for sure 🙂
My dear, beautiful, much cherished Sally.
I read every word you write. And have since I first stumbled across your blog in 2007 doing my random google search on homeschooling in Costa Rica when I was on my quest to move our little clan to year round summer. You’ve been an inspiration to me more than you’ll know … more than I’ve let you know.
Much has changed in my world since I first mailed you and was surprised to discover your name was Sally and not Sara. My happy marriage is now a powderkeg separation. My illusion of certainty about today and tomorrow has been quite shattered. Most of my optimism about the future has been tempered with a realism I say I don’t prefer. I liked my innocence, and it’s lost now.
Still, I have my three boys, and we continue our unschooling life, and my days are not without their pleasures … including the pleasure of observing from afar the travels and travails of you.
So you’re moving back to the States. And taking this next one step in Your Life. This is but one gift you’ve given me, in your blogging life: representing the courage to do the thing. Edward De Bono called it lateral thinking, and, before I discovered you, lateral thinking was a theory I loved, a practice I rehearsed, an idea I espoused and did my level best to live. In you, I see it manifested with pragmatism. And I’ve always loved me a goodly model of pragmatic willingness.
So thank you.
I am singing more lately. I wonder if you’ve noticed that about me in the FB newsfeed. I am muddling about with a rock and roll band … something that would shock and appall my ex, (as would some other of my discoveries since he and I split).
Anyway, I’m rambling on your virtual real estate. I just want you to know, this mama who once enjoyed your Hal’s mushy chocolate bananas, is grateful for you in her world. Keep on keeping on, beautiful you.
You are loved.
xo from Calgary, Alberta, Canada,
Interesting. Interesting indeed. Welcome back to the good ‘ol motherland. Ever read anything by Maarten Troost? He and his wife spent years working in the South Pacific and moved back after their first child was born. He looked at other expats children and noted how they seemed out of place both on Fiji and at “home,” in the US. Even college in Hawaii stressed these kids out. The phrase he used was that they were “born in the islands, but not of the islands.” Apparently, even those expat kids who lived in Fiji from birth had some of the same issues you refer to your boys having in CR.
Good luck to you in the future. Will you continue to blog?
Hey Jen, yeah, looks like it. It has been one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever made, fraught with tons of angst… was I this anxious about moving here? Probably but I don’t remember that. Like childbirth, I guess (what would I know about that???) As I told Scott (welovecostarica.com), if there’s one thing we know for sure, it’s that nothing is forever. Except family and friends.
Thanks for sharing that, Bekah, I didn’t realize Jeo would have that trouble… but of course. He’s a foreigner! I will miss you guys, but, hey, we might end up in Austin so I will be seeing your mom and dad, at least!!! And if Hal has his way, we’ll be back. Once the boys and mom are settled and I’ve had my fill of family, I can see coming back here to the quiet life…. Life is full of surprises.
Cindy singing in a rock band??? I didn’t know. I’m not on FB until late at night or early in the day so I miss a lot of stuff! I had to stop getting email notifications because I was ALWAYS on there… Good for you. I knew about your marriage, so sorry! You look fabulous, thank you for your kind words. One foot in front of the other…
Hi Alissa, no never read Troost but his words sum it up perfectly. Still alien after all these years! The boys are excited, now that we’ve made the decision. I’m thinking I will still blog… can I just turn off the faucet? I don’t know. I won’t have as much time going to school. Maybe I could at least learn to be succinct so a post wouldn’t take me all day! Thank you for the good luck wish. So far, so good.
Well, let’s get a practical matter out of the way: forwarding address. Where do we point our web browsers to get our saratica fix?
(Better reserve those domain names now!)
All seriousness aside, I wish you & your family the very best on the next part of your journey. Vaya con dios!
I wish you luck but I am sorry to read that you are leaving Costa Rica. The same reasons most people immigrate to the States seem to be some of your reasons but you seem to have a very strong need for family and friends.
I have followed your postings since 2006 always trying to get a feel for how I will fare when I move to Costa Rica juxtaposing your observations with my own. I don’t need the people connection so much as you so perhaps I will feel no urge to return. Geography and climate are what matters to me most. I can’t find anything like Costa Rica in the States.
Again, good luck. I will miss you.
So odd … I’ve always been able to make friends in Costa Rica. But I am half Costa Rican and have family there. I’m also a girl and I guess that might have something to do with it too. I love it here in Florida but I’ve never been to the Keys so I don’t know how it’s different.
I wish you and your family the best.
Yep, we’ll always be foreigners. I’m sad to hear you are leaving. You’re like my beacon, alerting me to things here that I should know, only you find out these things first. I will surely miss your presence here.
Some days I think about leaving after having lived here eight years, and then I walk the beach and remember why I came.
Best wishes to you, Hal and your boys (and pets). Love, Teri
I don’t agree with the reader that says the Central Valley is not the real Costa Rica, specially if we consider that 2/3rds of our population lives here. It’s like saying that New York is not the real US just because its a big city. I guess its more accurate to say that the “new” Escazu is not representative of the real Costa Rica but other suburbs like Tibas, Guadalupe and San Pedro are as real Costa Rica as it gets. No, its not the country or the beach but every country have those same differences. I have very fond memories of my childhood years, I had a very stable gang of around 20 neighborhood friends with whom I played on a daily basis (hide-n-seek, soccer, basketball, baseball, going to the movies, etc). We would jump over the local high school fence to play sports and we would come and go to San Jose to do “city” things. We would sit for hours watching the NBA finals (Bird J/ Kareem years) or the World Series. Yes, they were more popular here than people might think. The walks from my school in San Pedro to downtown San Jose were lovely. Those were the Wonder Years! All this me being only 12 years old.
So don’t be surprised your boys have had a hard time making friends here. My son has a lot of friends at school but only 1 or 2 “real” ones. We live on a 60 house condo and only has 1 friend and not that close. I think its how the times have changed everywhere. My old 20 childhood friends are now only “Facebook” friends along with 150 others which I don’t know how they ended up in there.
I think its great your boys can taste the US teen life specially if they want to. They are reaching the age where they can choose which path to follow and with a great mom like you they will be ok either way!
Yeah, the boys need a peer group/social life. This might help:
Sally, we haven’t spent much time together but I will miss you just the same!
Where are you off to now? I’ve been checking your blog since you left Key West. I subsequently left KW shortly after you did. Then the real estate market took a dive.
Dear Chuck – I love those names!!! Sorta keen on abroadformerlyofabroadincostarica.com… but trying to keep an open mind! Thank you.
Yes, James, nothing like CR in the states. I will miss it, no question. Can’t dwell on that now, but I hope to be back.
Thank you, Elena. I think being part tica is the magic solution to fitting in!
Thanks, Teri. I can be your KY beacon now, ok? A body needs a beacon in KY… it’s another culture ENTIRELY.
Hi Manrique, I agree that Escazú is of course Costa Rica! And if I had lived in the country, I wouldn’t have survived a year. I need this city life, and Escazú has plenty for me. I’m excited about the boys being here. I hope all good things for them!
Thanks, Kevin, I’ll be sure to alert them!
Hi Molly, I feel the same way about you. You are one of those long timers here – I’ve learned a lot from you on the forums and around!!!
Hey Mary, not sure where we will land – it’s a big country. Not in Key West – too expensive there. We shall see…