We’re on sabbatical in Costa Rica for three months. We’ve been here for four days, and I’m pooped.
I know, I know. Poor me. Living at the beach, dancing merengue, practicing my Spanish, and hanging out with my kids and husband. Three months of rest, relaxation, and fun. What kind of ingrate complains about that?
And I’m not complaining, really. It’s just that I find it exhausting.
If I’m not pumped up on the adrenaline that comes from not knowing how I am going to finish the multiple projects I have going on at all times, I crash. Give me a Sabbath with nothing to do but enjoy God’s good creation and I panic. I start making lists of everything I can do to rest.
Which is precisely, of course, why I need a sabbatical, a rest from all the things I do to make myself feel important. It’s why Jeff and I chose to come to Costa Rica. In order to detox from our addictions – me to being important and Jeff to being good – we needed to be surrounded by people who understand in ways that we in America do not that they are neither too important nor too good.
Before you get nervous that I am just using bigoted code to say that Costa Ricans don’t get anything done, let me assure you that I mean nothing of the sort. They get lots done. They have a lower poverty rate than we do, top-notch, low cost health care, and thriving industries in tourism and coffee production. They get lots done; they just don’t do it the way I would. The way where I would have lots of things checked off my To-Do list so that I would know I did not “waste” the day.
Take traffic signs as an example. Well, that would be hard to do here, because there are virtually no traffic signs in the entire country of Costa Rica. No markings on most highways and not a single street sign. If you ask anyone how to get somewhere, they have to start gesturing and saying things like, ¨Turn right at the gas station with the big ball in front.¨
Fortunately, Ticos (Costa Ricans) are very kind and will always stop to help you find your way. Unfortunately, Ticos are very kind and think it´s rude to say they don´t know how to get somewhere. So they make something up.
This “system” makes me crazy. I start thinking of ways I could use my engineering degree to introduce the basics of transportation infrastructure. Then I remember that an entire country of people finds a way to get around without my help. That an entire country assumes that they will need to pull over and ask for directions – often. And that slowing down to ask for help is an okay way to live. No one here wants my engineering help. There is nothing for me to do but say thank you for the bad directions and pray that we’ll find our way there.
Let’s move on to the Tico sense of time. When we were visiting here last year, I told my Mom that we were supposed to get picked up at 10:30 for a tour. Then I told her that Ticos are not known for their promptness. Kathiana, our Tica au pair overheard me and replied, “Yes, but they know you are Americans, so I think they will be on time.”
They were twenty minutes late, and she said, “See. I told you they would be on time.”
Last week at Starbucks, I was filled with rage because the barista making my $6 cup of coffee accidentally made the drink of the customer who ordered after me before he made mine. I had to wait three extra minutes and there was pure ugliness boiling up inside me. I don’t know that Costa Rica can cure that illness, but I want to be around people who don’t demand that the world jump in lockstep with their very important schedules.
Still, all of this waiting, this slowing down, this country that values relationships over efficiency – all of this exhausts me. And I want to shout, “Let’s make some lists, people! There’s lots to do. I’m exhausted, and if we don’t pick up the pace, I’m never gonna wake up.”
Unless that’s exactly what I’m about to do. Stay tuned…