Family vacation: So glad to have gone, so glad to be back

After 10 days in Costa Rica, we’re back in the Northern Hemisphere, in winter, in the First World, where children don’t ride bikes home from school on the highway shoulder, helmet- and adult-less. Also, where you don’t need a flashlight walking barefoot to the bathroom at night because of the scorpions. And where fresh local fruit is no longer an explosion of tropical fireworks, but a scrabbly apple from the root cellar.

We talk a lot in the writing classes I teach about finding different, more interesting ways to say something ordinary, but sometimes being direct works, too, as in: It rained a lot in the rainforest.

First, you hear it, the rain tapping out a little rhythm on the leaves skyscraping above, one of which could serve as a shade for your entire truck windshield. And then water spills from the leaves, the skies, squeezing out from the very cells of everything green.

If you’re from a place that illustrates the word “arid,” this moisture – these dense inner cities of fertility – will blow the lid off your mind. Where my mind once contained “prayers for snow” and “piñon trees squatting on shaley hills” there are now: singing toucans, leaf-gorging howler monkeys and a new, fast friendship with a rain poncho.

We were on a 10-day eco-tour (a gift from my parents, who accompanied us), complete with enormous tour bus, intrepid and cheery senior citizens and native tour guide who, in his gorgeous accent, made it sound exotic that because much of Costa Rica doesn’t have the septic system we’re used to, we may have to occasionally pee behind a “boosh.” He also told us not to smile at the animals, which may be seen as aggressive, to which Col said: “But I can’t help smiling at animals,” which is reason No. 39 why I love him so.

Aside from pineapples and iguanas, Col and Rose were a huge attraction, being the only tour-goers (beside me and Dan) younger than 50. On our first day, Col reported that “an old girl” patted him on the head and called him “skittle bug,” which seemed like a good sign.

Despite the fact that there wasn’t much room for individual preferences, coupled with long bus rides and the truth that as vacations go, Rose regards hotel bed-jumping infinitely higher than bird-watching, the kids did so well. (The long bus rides were actually a great way to see so much of the country, which, as far as I can tell, contains: jungle, pineapple/banana/coffee/papaya plantations, narrow roads, roaming dogs and very small, well-kept stucco houses. Not a big box store anywhere, even in the big city of San Jose).

Now we’re back, discovering that “home” contains all the wonderfully true clichés you can think of. We are so glad to have gone, and so glad to be back.

This morning, Dan got dressed for work, announcing, “I’m excited to go back to work.” When I asked, “what are you excited about?” he said, “coming home from work.”


Reach Rachel Turiel at her blog, 6512 and growing, on raising children, chickens and other messy, rewarding endeavors at 6,512 feet.