It seems like we are surrounded by animals at the moment. I suspect that we may well attract more than our fair share of animals because the three of us wear great big bleeding hearts on every part of our bodies and I don’t see that changing. As I get older there are more and more things about animals that break my heart and sometimes I see in my head a vague picture of a mad old lady living in her little Tenterfield Cottage surrounded by as many animals as she was allowed to keep. There are dogs everywhere in Costa Rica. It is hard to tell whether they have owners or are strays, because, as far as I can tell they are allowed to roam free and most of them look relatively well cared for. We have not seen a dog yet that looks like it is suffering from neglect. We generally meet a few characters on our morning walk, the other morning we were greeted by a gorgeous puppy who bounded up to us at the halfway point of my walk. He was absolutely gorgeous and I think if I lived here, I would have taken him home until I found his owner. The only problem is that he would not leave us alone. Arch and Riss were absolutely smitten and after half an hour or so of playing on the sand and on the water I had a feeling we were never going to get rid of him.
We started heading home and he trailed at our heels. I told him to shoo, to go home, to stop, whatever else I could think of but he looked at me like I was a moron and continued trailing behind us. I suspect it was because he was a puppy combined with the fact that he was adorable that Archie started crying. “What if he gets lost mummy?” “What if he can’t find his way home?” So we turned around and went back to the half way point where he had joined us. He bounded off into the dunes and I told the kids that it was all ok because he obviously knew his way home. Ten minutes later he appeared beside us full of beans and joy that he had found us again. This time Rissie started to cry, “How could you lie to us mummy, he did not know his way home!” I inwardly die a thousand deaths when I think of what that child is going to say to me if I ever actually do anything that is really fucking bad. Christ almighty. I actually thought the puppy had gone home and I had been 100% truthful. Her accusations can cut me to the core sometimes. We returned to the half way point for that little bastard puppy three times before I told the kids that that was enough. I reassured them that he was well looked after because he looked it, he would find his way home as he knew the beach etc etc. We all trudged home rather silently with our little four-legged shadow behind us. When we left the beach I told him to shoo again and miraculously he disappeared. Crisis averted. However when we got to the end of the dirt path and steps near our apartment his cute little face appeared bounding through the jungle and both Archie and Rissie started wailing like banshees and looking at me like I was a criminal. Luckily the owner of our apartment came out muttering about strays and we were told she would deal with the puppy. Later she told me he hung around for a few hours until he happily wandered off again.
Late last week we had just hit the beach and saw ahead of us something on the sand surrounded by the black vulture like birds that seem quite common to the places we have seen thus far in Costa Rica. When we got closer I saw that it was the largest sea turtle I have ever seen in my life. My heart came into my mouth when I initially thought it was alive as I worked out how the fuck I was going to try to get it back in the water. Within a few seconds though I realised that the movement I thought I saw was the vultures pecking away at the old soul and the smell made me realise that it must have been washed up dead at the most recent high tide. There was something about this beautiful old turtle been pecked to pieces by a band of vultures that made me feel so sad, and it affected me for the rest of the day. That afternoon when we returned to the beach the turtle was gone and I only hope that some kind fisherman took him back to sea.
There are stray cows, horses, chickens, roosters and geese. Around our apartment there are Iguanas galore and I am constantly amazed by the size of their poos that are generally scattered around the footpaths in the morning. The other day the kids were fascinated by an Iguana sitting on the tree outside our front door trying to digest a dead bird that was bigger than its head. The macaws are spectacular, there are squirrels in the palm trees, cats in the street and monkeys in the jungle – there are animals everywhere.
It is funny about the little things. At the moment it is the little things that fill my heart with joy. I love getting up at dawn to walk every morning. The light is so beautiful and it is my favourite time of the day. Some afternoons we wander down to the little shop and get an ice-block that is eaten by the time we get home. I love the fact the kids love rice and beans as much as me. I love lying on the big double bed with them on rainy afternoons after a long morning on the beach and falling asleep whilst we watch an episode of Once Upon a Time. So many little things. Surprisingly enough it is also the little things that shit me to tears and it is amazing what can bring you to the edge of being a deranged psychopath. I have always claimed that there are only some people you can travel with. You might be best mates with some people but one week and a back pack later you could be mortal enemies. Travel can bring out the best and worst in people.
When planning this trip I don’t think I realised that occasionally I would need a break and that being a single parent basically means that there is no-one to step in for you. That is the same all the time, but travel tends to magnify that issue. Rissie talks non-stop. She rarely shuts up. It sometimes does my head in. It can be the most amazing sunrise, the most gorgeous morning, the most beautiful tide, morning moments should be filled with silence in my mind. Instead I have this running narrative that is combined with bouncing and skipping and splashing and flamboyant throws of the arms in the air. It is exhausting. Archie actually said to her the other morning, “Please Larissa, can I have 5 minutes of quiet time, just 5”. We then came to the agreement, that from here on in when someone needed some quiet that they just needed to say it and we would all be quiet for that time. Nobody would get cross, we would just be quiet. It also amazes me that on a isolated glorious beach that sometimes the kids can walk within millimetres of me. They walk so close that I can feel the heat from their skin. It makes me so tense that I want to jump around like Rissie screaming, “Space. Fucking Space. Please in god’s name give me some space.”
We are staying in a small one bedroom apartment so we sleep in the same room. The kids are pretty solid sleepers so that is not an issue, what is an issue for me is that when one of them goes to the toilet they turn the light on and shut the rather clunky bathroom door. I would understand if they shut the door to the bedroom as it is a bathroom that has two doors. But instead they go into the bathroom, turn on the light and shut the door to the kitchen whilst the light streams into the bedroom, usually straight into my face. It makes no sense. I want to scream out loud. “It makes no fucking sense. Why don’t you shut the fucking door to the bedroom. Why the door to the kitchen? Are you trying to avoid fucking disturbing the fucking fridge?” I rarely get to sleep after that, though the fridge always has a great night. I would like to think the shower is a refuge for me. But the kids are so comfortable about walking in and having a chat that it is no refuge. They even chuck in their togs for me to wash sometimes when they realise they did not quite get out all the black sand. The other day I was growing increasingly silent and Rissie asked me “Do you have your monthly rewards mummy?” I had no idea what the child of mine was asking me and then I realised. I was overcome by a cold measured fury and I asked her why she was asking me that. She shook her head as if I was a complete fool and said “Just because.” Naturally she was right and I was experiencing my monthly rewards. I would give her a bloody reward if she ever asked me that again.
Schooling offers a million different reasons for me to get tense and want to violently bash inanimate objects. I have always had the utmost respect for teachers and always will. Teaching is a vocation and good teachers provide a gift that is priceless for anyone who needs to learn. However I am not a teacher. I am just so glad I chose the option of Distance Education rather than Homeschooling or Worldschooling as at least with Distance Education we have a teacher, set work and a curriculum. The fact that some of the curriculum seems irrelevant and futile to me is beside the point. There are so many little things that irritate me about schooling the kids that I will maybe write a completely separate blog on it at another stage but the kids are just finishing their school work now and I am too annoyed to even contemplate it. Archie and Rissie are so different when it comes to schooling and from the moment they start their spelling words, when Rissie will quite literally write anything so she can just be finished whilst Archie will sit there for 30 minutes wringing his hands and wondering if his sentence idea is good enough to please the entire world, I want to weep great big snotty tears of frustration. I always feel a sense of elation and release when schooling is done for the day.
As of today we have been on the road for 12 weeks. When I look at where we have been and what we have seen and done it still does not quite feel real and I am immeasurably proud of myself. I still am not completely sure what sequence of events conspired to get me to this little village that we love of Esterillos Oeste. There are elements of this trip that contain some of the hardest things I have ever done in my life. There are moments when I am exhausted, weary and just plain worn out. But these are by far outweighed by millions of magical moments that will stay with me, and I hope the kids forever. This morning the beach was beautiful, after breakfast we could barely hear ourselves speak as we were battered by the most ferocious monsoon rains we have ever experienced – it was nothing short of spectacular. Next week it will be time to pack up again as we head to the mountains for a month of volunteering. Life is an adventure and as much as they might shit me to tears on occasion, I could not be closer to my little adventurers than I am right now.