Livin’ la Pura Vida

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“¿Qué es lo que se pierde al cruzar una frontera? Cada momento parece partido en dos, melancolía por lo que queda atrás y por otro lado, todo el entusiasmo por entrar en tierras nuevas“.

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What do we leave behind when we cross each frontier? Each moment seems split in two; melancholy for what was left behind and the excitement of entering a new land” ~ Ernesto ‘Ché’ Guevara

An earthquake, dancing on the beach and in grocery store aisles, awkward patches of sunburnt skin, scorpions, a toad in the shower, jumping off a cliff into a freezing cold waterfall, a rodeo, 4am fireworks, riding in the back of a pickup squished between foreign friends and a surfboard, paddle-boarding to the tiny island filled with beautiful hermit crabs, getting a beating from the rip tide, helmetless motorcycle rides down dirt roads, motorcycle burns, tropical rain storms, zip-lining through the mountains in Monteverde, melting into a hundred different sunsets and accumulating a thousand more memories.

The first couple of days in Costa Rica, I had a lot of doubts, and a lot of demons. The heat swallowed me whole and spit me out. I yelled at my American anxiety on the porch one Saturday morning and told it to go to hell. I wasn’t there to worry. My Costa Rican life slowly got better and better after that. Every day little miracles began happening…sloshing through the rain-forest, photographing Rio Celeste and vipers, making local friends, exploring volcanic land, wiping mud all over me and jumping into a river, salsa dancing the night away, “working” for half an hour at our favorite bar, seeing howler monkeys in the street, iguanas climbing trees, running into new friends on every street, being invited to dine with Argentinians.. feeling like I was transported there over my mushroom pizza, even sitting in my hammock on my lovely little hotel apartment patio with the fat cat napping underneath me felt like a mini-miracle. I was so alive. and I was so damn grateful. I was, to sum it up…content.

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I cried when I left. It wasn’t so much hard to leave Costa Rica as it was to leave behind my feeling of peace I found there. I didn’t cry because I wanted to stay, I cried because I didn’t want to leave.. the experience..the freedom…the pura vida. I teared up on the shuttle ride to Liberia…. then again in the airport…in the airplane. The happiness I acquired there was well appreciated and dare I say well deserved.

Coming back felt like hitting a wall. My pura vida life could only live on in my head and my heart…because to an extent, this sort of sentiment has a shelf life. Freedom like that doesn’t fit in in this city or in this North American culture. I am so happy that it re-opened my eyes though…because now I remember what it’s like to be free, now I remember that life doesn’t have to be “this way”, now I remember that I can change it again anytime I want. I remember how to find the open door.

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Lost my job. Moving to Costa Rica

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Exactly one month ago today, the school I was working at officially closed its doors. Teachers, students and parents all said their goodbyes. I bid farewell to my boss at the front desk and  walked through the parking lot to my car, breathing a sigh of relief. DONE. I was FREE. I had no plan. I had no direction and I was about to have no income. That same evening I found myself driving around aimlessly in the dark after saying I was going to go to the grocery store. I was on the verge of tears, feeling scared and lost as hell. I was excited, but I was also worried. The voice of reason was butting heads with my version of reality. I felt liberated, no doubt, but I also felt confused. What was I going to do? How was I going to support myself? What was I going to tell people when they asked me what I do for a living? The weeks following my new-found freedom and unemployment, I was getting headaches, stomachaches, insomnia. feeling dizzy, anxious and nauseous. Suddenly, I wasn’t a societal slave and it was almost like some sort of detoxification of poisons coming out of my body in strange psychological ways. I was totally stressed out.  I was running against the American current, not necessarily caring that I didn’t fit in anymore, but trying not to stick out like some sort of sore thumb in suburbia. I needed to make a plan….and quick. Destiny was giving me a get out of jail free card and I was not about to cash it in. I was going to use it… geographically.

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Several months prior to losing my job, I had been thinking about moving to Costa Rica. I didn’t tell a lot of people this, but I actually had a phone interview once with a school there while I was at work one day during a lunch break. It turned out that it wasn’t a paying job, so it wasn’t going to be possible. Nevertheless, it was still on my brain. I had visions of palm trees, tropical birds, tiny coffee shops, local slang, the smell of the ocean in my hair. While my job was on its way to permanently ending, I slowly came up with an idea, which blossomed into a plan. It took me some time, and tears, to finally sort it all out, but I felt relieved to finally have a new dream.  I’ll be moving there this week and will stay for a month and a half, partly to study and prepare for a new career move and partly to…live out loud. To live this one life we get. 

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“Traveling is the great true love of my life… I am loyal and constant in my love of travel. I feel about travel the way a happy new mother feels about her impossible, colicky, restless newborn baby – I just don’t care what it puts me through. Because I adore it. Because it’s mine. Because it looks exactly like me.” -Elizabeth Gilbert

“Perhaps if I make myself write I shall find out what is wrong with me.” ― Dodie Smith

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Dear opportunity,

When I was younger, I used to quietly wait around for you, only partially conscious of who you were and what you were about. I used to misspell your name a lot, mistaking that second “o” for a “u.” You were always so forgiving and were even gracious enough to show up often enough to remind me that you truly existed. As I’ve gotten older and less patient I have started to think that maybe waiting for opportunities is for the birds. I’ve tried to create my own. But I often feel that my own destiny refuses to let me drive. I am not in control. I might be in the car, but I am not behind the wheel, that is for sure. I’m just hoping that opportunity and destiny have a little chat soon to figure out where I’m supposed to be dropped off, because I’m getting really car sick.

Emails to an ex

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Isn’t it a bit perplexing how no answer can be the answer? I had questions burning holes in my pockets, running my battery dead to check for a response. Curiosity was breathing down my neck, threatening to do something really rash if I didn’t do something slightly bold. I told myself I was sending off a piece of my pride by reaching out, and sure enough I did. I packaged it up nice and neat, edited it a dozen times. My pride paid for the postage. Nothing boomeranged back, but this one fact still stands….i’ve nothing to regret. My ego may be dismayed, but dignity is still mine, it always has been, ever since that phone call in the alley on a dark September night in Madrid.

I think a change would do u good. And now u have no choice.

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TRAVEL/HEALTH:The last time I wrote was pre-China. I returned from that adventure-which deserves its own page really, and fell into a hole towards middle earth. My health went rapidly down the drain and my faith started to get sucked down with it. I am mostly better now (I hope).

EMPLOYMENT:On Monday, right before I went to lunch, my boss informed me that our school was closing in 30 days. My co-teacher left early. Tuesday, it was tostata Tuesday. The kids were nuts. My co-teacher left even earlier. Wednesday, it was leftoever tostata Wednesday, my co-teacher left right when I arrived, and the kids were spawns of Satan….all day long. There was no recovering from this.  The only option was to have a drink tonight…before dinner….and to make it strong. Let’s just say that aloe vera juice can be a semi-decent mixer when necessary.  Tomorrow is Polar Express Thursday aka wear pajamas to school day. Anything could happen.

LOVE LIFE: Non-existent in reality. I still go back and forth between events in the past, present happenings, and the unknown future. Each of them is battling with one another, trying to win some sort of contest. Sometimes I want them all to flunk this go-round so that they will be motivated to pass the next test that God passes out.

DREAMS: I dream of a Costa Rican shoreline. I dream of exploring Geneva with my best friend. I sometimes envision a surprise run-in with my ex in Spain. I dream of a newer car. I dream of a better bank account balance. I dream of an un-furrowed brow in heaven. I dream…of a good night’s rest. I dream, of feeling at least 80% awake and 100% alive.

Free 30 minute coffee shop psychiatry session

An older man in the tiniest sunglasses I’ve ever seen gave me some of the most positive, reinforcing and unsolicited advice today. I ordered my favorite latte, happy to finally use a coupon for such over-priced espresso, and sat down in the brown cozy leather armchair about a foot away from him. “Sit down, have a rest.” We were just two strangers, who both chose the most comfortable seats available. He made small talk at first, and then somehow dove into a very inspiring conversation about marriage, life and love solely based on surface information. He repeated himself often, which could either be attributed to old age, or to his knowledge of the power that repetition holds. He kept telling me not to over think, not to fear, not to “try so hard, he will come to you.” My future man will find me when I least expect it, and I will know it when I meet him. He told me that you cannot enjoy life if you keep thinking about what happened 12 months ago, or what will happen in another 12 months, but that you must take life day by day. He told me that I have nothing to worry about, that I am an attractive and lean girl, and that those are sought-after traits. Normally it would be creepy for an older man to be telling me something like this, but he had no ulterior motives. In fact, I felt compelled to sit there and listen to this retired psychiatrist tell me the so very obvious clues to life that are the easiest to forget. It was, in my opinion a providential encounter. My former feelings are reaffirmed.

Why I quit my job and bought a ticket to China

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Image3 weeks ago I calmly sat down with my boss and put in my two weeks notice. It wasn’t out of bitterness or irrationality. I didn’t have anything else lined up, nor have I secured anything as of yet. I think that what it really is, is my true expatriate nature, calling me, no, begging me to “sail away from the harbor.”

As irresponsible as it may seem, and truly is, to quit my job and then go to China 7 weeks later, there is, at least in part, a plan. A plan to regroup, reorganize my thoughts, and honestly…to find myself somewhere else, because that’s often where I leave myself and my heart….somewhere else. Foreign lands suit me well. I am somehow comfortable being out of place, taller than everyone else, with “another world” look written on my face. China is one of those places I have never written on any bucket list, which makes it feel a little off-limits to me, a little bit of a dare. Risky enough to undertake. Maybe irresponsible is risky’s lazy little unambitious sister….

Deep down inside, I think everybody harbors a secret desire to escape,  to RUN for the hills, and not just because times are temporarily tough, but because life often feels like a prison when it becomes mind-numbingly monotonous. Sitting in the same traffic, hearing the same songs on the radio, thinking that trying chicken fried chicken from some new chain is living on the edge, reciting and recycling the list of things and people we’ve lost, waiting for a replacement, fed up with our jobs, getting smartphone headaches. We learn to tolerate it. We learn, after years, to give up the giant dreams and go for the smaller ones that we are sure to attain. We learn, in time, to settle.

I guess the real reason I am undertaking this new adventure is because I refuse to let my life become stagnant. I refuse to be another causality in suburbia. I refuse to be so comfortable in life that it slips away from me. It’s vital to me to see the other side, to discover, to embark…

“Now more than ever do I realize that I will never be content with a sedentary life, that I will always be haunted by thoughts of a sun-drenched elsewhere.” ― Isabelle Eberhardt

Viajar es pararse al borde de un mundo y ahí ver más al siguiente.

Sitting on fences is uncomfortable. Deliberating makes me uneasy. Second-guessing and clouds of doubt keep me up at night. I pray for clarity, for trust, for peace of mind and heart. Decisions are on the horizon. My future starts now.

I don’t want to run away from anything (ok, well sometimes i do)…i want to run towards something. I’ve spent this past year trying to figure out what that something is. A man? A job? God? another country? all of the above? I’d like to say I’ve come close to a solution, but there are still several things that cloud the way. Clarity is a bus I’ve been waiting for. Liberation is the destiny.

Si alguna vez me pierdo, que me busquen en una estación de tren…

I am at a cultural crossroad. I’ve been back stateside for 10 months now and cultural boredom has crept into my life. It’s not that America is boring, not by any means. In fact it’s been quite entertaining. But I don’t feel that I have much to offer here. I don’t feel needed or obliged to stay. 

I have traveled the past two weekends in a row. It was simultaneously exhausting and inspiring. In the chapel in NH I felt incredibly motivated, kneeling in front of that tiny altar, to make plans to geographically move my life soon. To wake my soul and feel alive again. I’ve learned to sleepwalk here in Texas and it’s sad to me. I want to enjoy my youth and my life and do what I used to do….explore this huge world. 

I know God has a plan for me. I’ve been praying for a revelation. For a road map. Praying I know where to turn and when. 

“No one realizes how beautiful it is to travel until he comes home and rests his head on his old, familiar pillow.” – Lin Yutang

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3 good solid years of being an expatriate, traveling to foreign lands and giving life to a dream. Those were the days weren’t they? Or so they seem now. there’s no denying that at times I was miserable in Spain….missing familiarity, American coffee shops, my car and the ease of living amongst my native people. But I was happy to be abroad, everyday becoming a bit more española. Ordering cafes con leche, listening to my ipod on bus rides passing fields of olive trees and random gypsy camps along the highway, saying hi to certain coworkers in the little French I learned, conquering the metro, siesta time, weekends going abroad from my life abroad. I became a professional at living out of my comfort zone. I’m not sure I ever quite had one. I’ve always run solo, rarely with a pack. I look back on those years now and feel jealous of that girl….jealous of who I used to be, happy for who it molded me to be, and so so proud that she did something she said she was going to do. Props to my former self!

Moving on, to the “resting my head on my old familiar pillow” part of life. I can’t really complain much (even though i do). Life in America seems pretty natural and normal, despite spending the past several years abroad. My new “real” job is going well so far. I am once again teaching ESL, but this time to university students. (no one is throwing papers across the room. WHAT?)  It’s an intensive program and I’m still learning about all of the policies and having to grade papers for the first time in my life. At the moment I find it fulfilling though and I enjoy laughing with the students and trying to make it as painless for everyone as possible.

One vanilla latte and chocolate brownie later….finito