I am sitting in Atenas, Costa Rica, in an internet cafe on the second floor of a beautiful corner building surrounded by a balcony that wraps all the way around the outside. I can't exactly describe anything as being inside or outside, though; the buildings sort of exist halfway between. Like my house. The front door is always open, the windows are always open, and it doesn't matter if we're sitting inside or out because the temperature is always perfect. I am realizing how much climate has to do with the arrangement of life. Here, the showers don't have hot and cold options, just one setting which is roughly lukewarm and always goldilocks approved - just right. Most buildings have three solid walls and a roof for the rainy season.
I just realized I haven't conveyed my extreme excitement at being here. OH MY GOD I'M IN COSTA RICA!! Okay. Phew.
This town is indescribable. Last night I sat on the porch talking with my family while the sun set, looking out to see the lights slowly coming on in the surrounding mountains and valleys. Being in Atenas feels a little bit like living on Mt. Olympus: up in the clouds, high on the mountain, surrounded by lovely people. In my mind they're wearing togas and meddling in the lives of mere humans. The comparison isn't totally crazy, I promise, because Atenas means Athens.
My amazing family consists of a young husband and wife, their adorable four-year old daughter, and a perfect abuelita. Three generations under one roof. My house opens onto a courtyard shared by another three houses, all owned by members of the same family. In total, there are five generations living together in my 'compound.' I don't know what other word to use, but 'compound' sounds vaguely threatening. It's not. It's the best. This arrangement is so different than what I'm used to in the U.S. I see my family one or two times a year, and I'm just beginning to realize how much I appreciate having them in my life. Here, I think people grow up with that appreciation because everyone, from parents to cousins to great-grandmothers, plays an important role in the family. My Tica abuelita cooks, cleans, and looks after Jimenia, my four-year old sister, while the parents go to work and university. She only has to yell across the courtyard through the open front door to talk to her sister.
Last night we sat in the living room and looked at family photos. They told me that my Spanish was excellent, and bragged to the other members of the family about me. I think they're just being nice. I had to ask what 'facundo' meant, which is slightly hilarious, considering it means 'fluent.'
Finally, the food. The food is so fantastic, and I want to eat all the time. For breakfast we had papaya, pineapple, watermelon, eggs, bread, pinto gallo, and coffee. For lunch a few of us ate at a soda called Tio Mano. I had a papaya licuado, which is like a cross between a milkshake and a smoothie, and amazing ceviche. A soda is a little restaurant that serves food that is fresh, fast, and mind-blowingly inexpensive. My entire meal cost 4400 colones, or about five dollars. Can I please stay here forever, please? Tonight, I will eat dinner with my family and perhaps go out afterwards. Tomorrow, I promise to discuss my scholarly pursuits, but for now, my overwhelming excitement at being in Atenas will have to do.