“Where are my pants?” “Was her name really ‘Areola’?” “We gotta get Grose outta here.” “I think I’m going to follow through on our drunken deal to vomit on the bridge.”
And then we got on an airplane.
At the airport coming back. Fresh out of the ocean, and into an intense hangover.
On this day two years ago, I set foot back on Canadian soil — carrying one of the worst hangovers of my life — with the intention of staying for a while. It’s been quite a ride.
In order to look forward, it’s first necessary to look back.
“Are you sure you want to do this?” was the only utterance, phrased as a question, my mother could evoke moments after I informed her I was moving to Costa Rica. On that day, in the spring of 2010, I assured her that I would only be gone for six months with the rationale of finding myself, escaping winter, and fulfilling study abroad experiences that had up until then eluded me. Almost four years later, I returned to Canada for good.
The ice storm was a nice welcome back, three days after arrival.
375 days ago I arrived in Toronto, severely hung-over and sunburnt, without a plan or idea of what the future might entail. I wrote at the time that coming back to Canada was as much a move abroad as leaving was, and the parallels, over a year later, have proven that to be true.
Blackouts. Ice storms. Christmas. New Years. Something called a polar vortex. It’s certainly been an eventful few weeks back.
Though I’ve been back numerous times in my three and a half year absence from living in Canada, those visits differed greatly from this one. Every other visit had a specific end date; I always had a ticket back to Costa Rica. This time I don’t. That’s not to say that I’m back in Toronto indefinitely – that isn’t true – but I don’t have any definite plans to leave. This changes things considerably.
I’ve written about this before, but it’s worth noting again. When you visit home on a temporary basis, you never escape vacation mode. There’s a hard beginning, and a hard end. You know how much time you have, and hope to accomplish as much as you can within that time frame. If you don’t do one or two things, or miss out on seeing a few friends, you know you’ll catch them next time. Not the end of the world.
Today is Friday, which means it’s feria day. As I have since I’ve moved to Jacó, I will go down to the local farmers market and pick out the freshest assortment of fruits, vegetables, and other goodies that the weekly offering allows. Today is also Balut day – the designated Friday of the month in which I will head to San Jose to join the Danish boys in what’s quickly become one of my favorite evenings. And as I do almost every morning, I woke up, did some email, did some writing, and went down for a short walk on the beach. Nothing to see here.
Today is also the last time I will get to do those things in Costa Rica.
That routine that I have become so accustomed to has acted as a pretty effective shield against everyone’s most hated game of counting down the time you have left. For the last month everyone has been asking me how I’m feeling (supposedly in regard to my imminent departure and not that I have looked painfully ill – though one can’t be sure) and my answer has consistently been that I am pretty level.
I was speaking with a friend the other day about the lack of pictures the two of us take. This may not seem surprising as we are both male, but living abroad tends to bring out the desire to snap a few more photos than normal. The curiosity, then, is that neither of us has found ourselves to be in that situation even though we both definitely should be.
In terms of our lives abroad, we represent both extremes. He has just arrived to Costa Rica and I am on my way out. With him having less than 30 days in the country and me now finding myself with less than 30 left, the camera should be flashing nonstop.
As he told me of his regret thus far at his small picture count, I gave him some advice that I’m glad someone gave me when I first arrived: take as many pictures as possible. For whatever reason, it’s not in our male nature to take pictures. But now reflecting back over my time here, I’m very glad that I forced myself to take pictures in certain situations. Of course over time that regularity declines to an “only on special occasions” frequency. But in my database of pictures from the last three years, each one represents a story – and I can still remember most of them like they were yesterday.
Los Inlinguanatti en río celeste
I don’t always watch Fox News, but when I do it’s in a drunken stupor.
Whenever I need a good laugh I turn on the conservative network. Never in the morning, because that’s too much to handle before my first cup of coffee. Never at night either, as that’s not what I want to be thinking about as I go to bed. Also never for more than thirty consecutive minutes, as that becomes simply overwhelming. But for those thirty glorious minutes in the afternoon, Fox News hits the spot.
There’s something to be said for over-the-top, completely ridiculous television. I understand the need for this type of programming – and more importantly the audience it attracts. I also understand logical arguments when I hear them; I don’t often hear these on Fox News. Needless to say, I don’t schedule thirty minutes of my day to be intellectually stimulated. Rather, this blocked off period is for pure amusement.
I remember hearing about white collar and blue collar jobs. I also remember a time when I understood the difference. These days, the distinction is blurred at best.
If society deems blue collar work as something that entails physical labour and white collar as having a cubical, I suppose the best way to describe my current situation would be collarless. If we extend that metaphor, I think it’s fair to say that all of my endeavors over the last three years have lacked neck protection.
The collars analogy is just an attempt by society to insert a semblance of categorization into the workforce. I know this. But, identifying with a collar allows perspective. Knowing that you fall into one category or another enables you to distinctively see where the line between the two falls – and, in turn, to reflexively be aware what it is about you that makes you belong to one or the other.
But what if you don’t belong to either one?
Darkness. Evil. Satanism. Anti-Christian. Halloween is a disgusting celebration and culmination of all of these concepts and anyone participating should be condemned immediately.
At least that’s what the protesters I came across last night would have you believe.
These sentiments are not new; every year at this time it’s common to hear these types of thoughts no matter where you are. Perhaps it’s a little more pronounced in Costa Rica, which identifies as being over 95 percent Catholic. But, even then, those that were represented in last night’s protest are definitely the minority.
Being a native English speaker makes life easy. It is the international language. It is the language of business. Hollywood produces the world’s most famous films almost exclusively in English. Ditto the music industry. It is the “other” language that the rest of the world must learn out of necessity. If you don’t want to deal with another language as a native English speaker, you don’t have to.
Being a native English speaker also makes you lazy.
Growing up in the English speaking part of Canada, you are forced to take French classes. What you are not forced to do is learn French. The curriculum is bad. The teachers are bad. The students don’t care and there’s really no effort made to ensure that they try to care. Even as immature adolescents we could pick-up on an education system simply going through the motions.
I don’t usually do this. I am a creature of habit and thus like doing things when I say I’ll do them. This is for a few reasons but mainly it’s about organization. Without previously setting aside time to do certain tasks I would let my overwhelmingly best quality to take over: procrastination.
Up until I got my first “real job” a few years ago – though most people still tell me I’ve never had a real job – procrastination was my best skill. I practiced it. I honed it. I got better at it every day. But since I’ve crossed that mythical and mysterious line into adulthood I’ve had to put my most practiced skill on the back burner and start honing my new best skill, though definitely not my favorite, of organization.
I like to know when I’m doing something and for others to know that it will be done by a certain time. Google Calendar has really helped me with this and I can attribute much of my organizational skills to that. If you don’t use Google Calendar, you really should. *This is not an advertisement for Google. But if Google is reading (whoever that is) I’m not not listening. *