The kids and I flew down into Liberia, Costa Rica on Sunday. Since Kevin isn't able to take three weeks off of work the kids and I came down first and he'll join us next Thursday for about eleven days, then we'll all fly back to NYC together. From Liberia we were picked up at the airport and taken on a little less than an hour's drive out to the coast where the kids' school is located. Tamarindo is a little surf/beach town, which was probably a lot smaller and sleepier many years ago. Although it is still fairly undeveloped with only one main paved road and many side dirt roads, no high rises and only one large-ish hotel, it still has its share of gift shops, tour companies, restaurants and bars. You can walk from one end of town to the other in less than 15 minutes but if you ask a local (and by local, I mean one of the many expats who have started businesses here) they'll tell you that Tamarindo has become very built-up.
Shortly after we were delivered to our two bedroom condo that will be our home for the next three weeks, we had to make our way into town for the Sunday evening orientation the school puts on each week for the newcomers. The school caters to all ages wanting to learn Spanish. The youngest student here this week is three-year-old Josie and the oldest I've met is a Grandma who brought her two grandchildren, all three of them taking Spanish classes. They are staying with a local family, which is also an option. In between, the students are split up into approximately elementary school age, middle school kids, high schoolers (who either come with their family or most of them are here on their own in a dorm style situation like the ultimate sleep away camp) and then there are the adults (some of whom are the parents of the kids in camp). The school teaches adults year-round but only takes kids for the summer camp.
At the orientation (which took place at a beach bar - I just can't keep the kids out of bars) we got to meet some of the families who were already here the previous week as well as new families who had just arrived, like us. We were given a run down of the town, activities, the week's schedule and tips on what to do in our free time. People coming to the school can stay wherever they want in town but at our condo/hotel, which is also where the classes for the younger kids are held, everyone staying here is going to the school, which has made it incredibly easy for us to make friends.
On Monday morning the kids had to be dropped off at school (downstairs) at 8am. I thought that sounded too early for us to be getting up and out the door while on vacation, but I forgot about the time change. The kids and I were wide awake at 5am the first morning, long before the howler monkeys had their loud squabble in the trees outside our door. Everyday the younger kids start with two hours of Spanish "class" (which is really just playing games and having fun in Spanish). The middle and high school kids have a longer, more intensive Spanish class and then spend the afternoons in surf lessons and taking yoga daily. None of the counselors speak much English, so it's definitely immersive. Although, the Spanish abilities of the kids varies greatly. In their group, Ella and Holden probably have the best Spanish so I was worried that they might be bored. I even moved Holden from the 5-7 year old group to the 8-10 year old group with Ella on the first morning since the really small kids are all beginners. But they're having a lot of fun and I'm told that Ella speaks up a lot and is really practicing her Spanish, so I think they'll be fine. The biggest bonus is that Spanish is becoming fun again for them, something that was definitely not the case at their school in New York.
After snack on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays they go down to the beach (across the road) and go swimming. Friday they will have surf lessons. The parents are invited to show up anytime they want to watch the kids. I went down to the beach to see what they were up to, but kept my distance, watching from the shade of a tree a little ways down the beach. I don't think I've ever seen my kids happier - diving under waves, playing tug-of-war in the water with the other kids, and being tossed high up in the air, over the waves by the counselors.
|This is taken from my covert location under the tree.|
On Tuesdays after Spanish class there is always a field trip. I was pleasantly surprised to find out that parents can join the field trips, too. And you know I love to chaperone all field trips! So I tagged along on a tour of the local estuary where we saw more howler monkeys, many different birds and even several crocodiles! One of them even chased our boat, which of course was the highlight of Holden's year. I took most of my pictures with my good camera and since I'm not able to download them to this computer, you'll have to make do with the few pictures I actually take with my phone camera while we're here.
Wednesday was again beach and art project day. Wednesday night though was Spanish Movie Night, which is meant to be a date night for the grown-ups as you can just drop off your kids from 5:30-8pm. But since my date is back in New York working hard, I was invited to tag along with three couples from Austin for dinner. I forgot how much easier it is to meet people and strike up conversations when you're travelling alone. Everyone has been so nice to me and I'm constantly running into other parents in town or on the beach and getting into lengthy conversations with them. Of the couples I ate with last night, two of the husbands will leave at the end of the week and their wives and kids will stay here for another couple weeks. I've also met a couple other moms who are here before their husbands arrive, like me. Costa Rica is one of the safest countries in the world with a very low crime rate, so I have felt completely safe while here, even walking home in the evenings with the kids.
On Thursdays after Spanish class the kids go to a nearby school for Costa Rican kids as a sort of cultural exchange. They have a year-round schedule in Costa Rica so they are still in session right now. The kids got to meet local kids their age and play a game of soccer with them. Ella was intimidated before going because one of her friends who was in camp last week said that the Costa Rican kids take their soccer very seriously and are really good players. But it turned out that she and Holden had a really fun time and Ella said that Holden played really well and even stole the ball from one of the local kids. Our campers even won against the local kids. They all had lunch together and then broke open a pinata for a good sugar rush.
You may be wondering what I do while the kids are in school. So far I've started each morning with a long beach walk. However, it's really hot here. Even at 8am, right after drop-off it's probably in the 80s and gets well into the 90s later in the day with high humidity. So even a nice walk on the beach doesn't last long because really, it's just too hot. So I usually find a nice lounge chair in the shade and read for a bit. I'm on my second book already and it's only been four days. I've also spent a lot of time wandering around the town, getting my bearings. I've found the two local grocery stores and stocked up our kitchen (which much to my delight is probably three times the size of my kitchen in Manhattan, not that that's saying much). I've found the bank and figured out the ATM and exchange rate. I've discovered my favorite local coffee shop and even found a good used bookstore. When it gets too hot in the afternoons I go back to our condo and stand in the pool, reading my book. There are many yoga studios in town and I had planned to take yoga while I was here but honestly, when given the choice of being outside and walking on the beach or being inside an air-conditioned room taking yoga, I choose the former. In crowded and noisy New York City, going to yoga classes is my way to escape the chaos and center myself. Here, there's no chaos to escape from.
In the afternoons after I pick up the kids we've been alternating between staying at the pool with a bunch of other kids from camp or heading back to the beach to play in the surf, check out the tide pools or get an ice cream. Today the kids swam in the pool continuously from 2pm until dinnertime and passed out at 7:30 from exhaustion.
|Ella's buddy, Sophia|