As the previous blog stated, my dear wife had persuaded me to go to Costa Rica with her and the kids, for two weeks, while she completed her thesis for her Master’s Degree. It took almost 3 seconds (see next paragraph) for me to accept the offer, even if I had managed to insult her entire family at a family dinner three months earlier by swearing and saying that we could not afford going to Costa Rica.
But, my wife has magic powers, something she inherited from her Maya ancestors, and stared at me for just 3 seconds with her huge brown begging eyes. I stood firm and replied in a firm tone…”ABSOLUTELY!!!”. Two weeks in a tropical paradise, with all inclusive… JACKPOT …laughing and smiling, as if I had won the lottery. I must have looked a bit silly in front of her family, as I was doing the macarena victory dance, with no music, celebrating us going on holidays.
She organised the trip, as she always does, and we headed off towards the far shores of Jurassic Park territory, having a blast.
Believe it or not, it is tough being a house bound father looking after the kids, while your wife is working. Surviving two weeks in this living paradise would be a challenge that only few of us men could survive. Imagine, waking up around 08.00 (am) every morning, getting the kids ready for the enormous breakfast buffet jungle, with lurching female predators waiting for my son and then a trip to the local swimming pool with my daughter who was turning into Ariel from the Little Mermaid, refusing to leave the water – even when bribing her with make-up, Disney dresses and a horse. Somebody had to do it, so I sacrificed myself, so my wife could complete her degree. That’s the type of guy I am.
Costa Rica is a VERY beautiful country, but it is at the same time very poor. Well, it is like most Central American countries, where the poor are really poor, living in shacks, and the rich are filthy stinky rich, driving huge Hummers with tinted windows, and live in huge mansions surrounded by fences and they have guards.
We were on the West coast of Costa Rica, and my wife had to work with a local charity organisation and its main objective is to improve the empower poor children, adolescents and women in Costa Rica by promoting cultural development, educational and labour opportunities, physical and mental health, as well as social cohesion and participation.
My wife’s reasearch was mainly focussing on how women were empowered, if they were given any opportunities to be heard and what support they received. She had to work closely with a local charity organisation during her stay in Costa Rica, which of course meant leaving the comfort of the luxury resort (alone) and visit local communities.
Now, my wife is not the Lara Croft or outdoor type, so this was a huge step for her. Neither of us knew what was waiting. All she knew was that she would have to visit women in poorer communities, together with the organisation representative of course, and interview women to get an insight into their World.
The first day she ventured out, at 08.00 (am), she was dressed nicely; skirt, shirt and sandals. And, not to forget the most import accessories; Dolce Gabbana sunglasses and her Mac Air for taking notes. This was probably not the most appropriate dress and accessories for visiting these areas. Anyway, off she went, full of energy and scared shitless.
Meanwhile, I had the challenge of entertaining the kids the entire day. I had no idea when my wife would be returning and our mobile phones didn’t work in this part of the World – despite my mobile phone carrier in Ireland ensuring me that my mobile was quad-band = works all over the fecking World, except Costa Rica! So, we had no way of contacting each other and I had no idea where she went. We were grown ups and we only cried in the comfort of each others arms for less than 40 minutes, as if we were departing each other forever.
So, the kids were staring at me, demanding to be entertained, hence we visited one of the main morning attractions: the breakfast buffet. It was amazing how much time one can spend at the breakfast buffet not eating. I think I spent more time running to and from the food and our table, to please the kids, as they were all of a sudden very picky. Fruits, pancakes, eggs, bread, cereal, sausages. We tried everything. Either that, or they were just pulling my leg. Finally, one of Christian’s many in-country girlfriends arrived and chatted with him, and then he started to eat as if to impress her.
After that, we dragged our “tired” bodies to the nearest sunbed, dropped the towels and jumped into the swimming pool. We were on holidays, enjoying every minute, so the three of us made our way to the pool bar, in the swimming pool of course. Man, it was a stressful morning, so I had my Mojito to relax.
Our son has rhythm and quickly started to show off his moves, dancing to the tunes of the local band and entertaining the other tourists by the pool. He was lifting his arms, shaking the booty and clapping along. This earned him applauds and admiration from his groupies. This was starting to worry me, so I dragged him screaming back to the sunbeds, to work on our tans.
We were stuck in paradise!
At the same time, somewhere 40 miles North of the luxury resort, my wife was stepping out of the taxi, to visit some local women in their houses (shelters really). The woman was waiting for her at the house entrance, so my wife made her way across her beautiful lawn, admiring the small path of stones in the grass, only to realise that she was not stepping on stones, but dead rats to cross the lawn. I wonder how she looked and reacted when she saw the rats – if she ran screaming across the grass or jumped up on the nearest car, away from the dead rats. Either way, the locals must have laughed their asses off, seeing this posh woman coming to visit and then pass out of fear. Imagine if the rats were alive.
The first house she visited didn’t have electricity, but they still managed to have a TV, running on car batteries, and sharing the TV signal with the neighbour’s house. Diapers were being washed to be re-cycled and milk was in limited availability. I believe some of the women had to work 14-16 hours a day and their husbands had either left them, was an alcoholic or, if they were lucky, worked far away from home returning only a few times a year- if lucky.
In the afternoon, the kids and I made our way to the resort’s kids club. This was an excellent activity for the kids, and for me, as it meant playing with loads of kids and getting entertained by hotel staff. By the way, it was three girls running the kids club, so our son was again charming and smiling his way to attention. I was, on the other hand, stuck on a kid sized chair watching teletubbies in Spanish, while my left butt cheek was falling asleep!
My wife had a long day at work, so the kids and I decided to head to the resturant for some food. Buffet again? Oh well, we might as well eat some local food, have some wine and dessert, since they had made all this food anyway. It would be a shame to waste any of it.
In Costa Rica, it gets dark around 18.30 (pm), and all the nightly crawlers arrive within 20 seconds of the last sun rays disappearing. This normally results in me slapping myself frantically, trying to brush off the various bugs attempting to get their dinner (eating me). However, it also results in the area getting pitch black. All hotels have their own generators, but outside the resort, all houses are dark – no electricity. This would most likely freak out my wife.
The kids and I ran home, closely followed by the local biker mosquitoes, and I got the kids ready for bed. They didn’t need a shower/bath, as we’ve spent several hours in the pool. So it was just a matter of brushing their teeth. We jumped into bed, turned on the TV and browsed the 70 odd channels to find a kids program. We found Playhouse Disney (South American version, all in Spanish) and we relaxed from a long day in paradise.
With my Ray Meare senses, I noticed ligthning in the distance, over the mountains, and I could hear the rain breaking the surface on the lake. Rain in these parts of the World often means buckets of water coming down in less than 10 minutes, causing everything to flood. I suddenly remembered that I had clothes out to dry…you know, our bathing suits. Hopefully my wife would be in a dry spot. This made me think, where she might be and how soon she would return.
As we relaxed, the sky lit up and then everything went black. When I say black, I mean pitch black. Even Riddick (“Pitch Black” movie) would have difficulties seeing anything. Everything had turned off and the kids were scared. You couldn’t seen anything with your eyes open, which was a very weird feeling, because the clouds covered the stars and the moon. A few seconds later, the electricity came back and we cheered like mad. And, so did everybody else in the area.
BOOM! Thunder cracked along the mountain ridge and the electricity went again. Man, at this point the kids were shaking (but not crying) and holding on tight. Back then I still smoked, so I lit the lighter and we could see again. Shortly after the electricity came back again and it stayed on this time. My wife arrived 20 minutes later, looking slightly wet and pale. She obviosuly had experienced something that had worried her.
– nothing less than a culture shock, of how poor these women were and the conditions they lived under.
Remember the rats she stepped on? Well, she frantically ripped off her sandals, threw them to me and told me to desinfect them. Then she stripped down completely and said she needed to take a shower. I kindly reminded her that the blinds were NOT down, meaning everybody in the vicinity could see her naked. She hit the floor in less than 0.3 seconds, faster than speed of light and crawled like Rambo across the marble floor – her skin was screeching as it dragged on the tiles. The kids and I just stood there stunned. We stared at her and smiled. My son, little mummy’s boy, hit the floor too and crawled along side her to sympathise. If somebody looked in the windows, they would have wondered what the hell was happening.
She had two more days away from the resort, but the rest of the interviews was conducted with resort staff. In the evenings, after the kids had gone to bed, she would write her thesis, while I was sitting outside in the wilderness (porch) smoking cigarettes and drinking beers. Once in a while, she would hear me scream, but only when oversized mosquitos attacked or when giant night crawlers landed on me. Luckily, the killer iguanas slept at night and they didn’t come near the porch.
The rest of our stay and holiday as a family, can be found in the previous blog.
When we arrived back in Ireland, my wife completed her thesis and got her Master’s Degree. I was very proud that day and it makes me remember her crawling naked on the floor in Costa Rica. All the hard work she put into this.