Driving the thirty minutes from Escazu to Atenas is like time travel. Escazu has a modern mall that is more impressive than any I’ve ever seen. It’s meticulously clean, goes on forever, and jam-packed with the hippest stores. People strut along like they’ve stepped off a magazine layout and onto a cat walk, and not all of them are chatting in Spanish. It is interesting–no need to leave the country for modern life–but that’s not why we’re in Costa Rica. We’re here for the good stuff…not the flashy cars and macchiatos, but for the sugar cane-packed 1970s Landcruisers and the local coffee, tediously filtered through a cotton pouch. Yes, what I’m talking about is the heart of the country…that quaint, perky, Central Valley charm.
Atenas is the epitome of a rural Costa Rican town, and we are fortunate enough to rest ourselves in one of its mountain neighborhoods for the next few months. We’re getting a taste of the farmer’s life–cows, horses, and chickens abound. This is the place I wanted to grow up in, and it’s just as awesome to me now that I’m raising my own children.
Here’s how we’ve been spending the last few weeks:
The animals and plant life are delightful, but the locals on this gentle hill are what makes this place extra-special. Today, my landlord’s wife brought me some ayote (a squash) cooked in honey. Another neighbor stopped at my gate with a bucket of bananas this morning. He handed me some on his way up the hill, sharing them as he went. Our new babysitter lives behind us, and she often scoops up one of my kids on her way to the pulperia (a tiny grocery store a block down from us). I admit, I do strain my neck to watch my blonde baby leave me and sometimes invent a reason to follow her down…”Oh, I just realized as you walked away with Petra that I need some chicken food! Do they have chicken food here? Yes? Oh great. Are you coming back now?” I’m slowly realizing I can trust the people around me, and I feel safe and part of the community.
I swear I didn’t intend on raising chickens on our wandering journey, but we are. I didn’t foresee myself shouting, “Muchacho!” as someone walks past with a bag full of papayas, but I totally do. We’re jumping right in to rural living in Atenas and loving every good ‘ole minute. Now, if I could only find some goats…