11 February 2014

Last Stop

6 February
Five months - three continents - seven countries.

Yesterday we arrived in Costa Rica. I said it looked like Kentucky (complete with Kentucky Fried Chicken, Taco Bell, McDonald's, all on the same intersection), its rounded blue mountains in the distance, its moderate development impact on the green but unspectacular landscape. This, of course, but a first impression in the central valley around San Jose, not yet into the eco-tourists' cloud forests and surf-crowd's beach scenes.

Costa Rica It's just how people told us it would be: confusing but the locals would help us finding our way. And not like some other cities where anyone "offering help" is looking for a handout. At the airport a young guy asked if we needed anything and then directed us out to the street and around the corner to where the public buses run into the city. At the bus stop an older man directed us to the right bus to catch. When we approached downtown I told the bus driver the stop we were looking for (called "Coca Cola") and he called out the stop for us. We waited till the bus emptied before struggling with our luggage, but a young man stayed behind and carried the heaviest bag out behind us. It was, as advertised, not the choicest part of town. We asked a cab driver to take us to the next bus station and he directed us instead to walk just the two blocks from where we were. Another man on the street directed us the final half block. We caught the bus to Puriscal, and again a taxi driver asked if we needed anything. We asked for a good restaurant and he showed us the way. We walked there, hesitated because there were two or three choices, and there he was, honking from the street, pointing to the right one. After a great local meal the restaurant owner let us keep our heavy luggage there while we went shopping for groceries. I offered an extra tip and he looked at me like, "You must be kidding." On the way back we saw the same taxi driver and he took us with our groceries to retrieve our bags, then drove us right to the door of our destination, with the help of directions by phone from a neighbor of our landlord. Not easy, but in the end, so smooth, because of the friendly people.

Costa RicaWe've rented a large house with a stunning valley view running 3400 feet all the way down to the ocean. Osnat had been searching AirBnB and other rental sites, with nothing attractive showing up. Almost giving up. Finally a new listing appeared, both appealing and affordable. We acted fast. Arriving here, we find the next door neighbors are from Baltimore, my hometown; they lived right next door to my school there (Friends School) - long gone by now for condos (the fate of the world).
Friends hear about the stress and strain of so much travel and opine that it might have been overambitious. Why the rush?

It's kind of a catch-22. Hurrying to find a home so we can stop hurrying to find a home. Then there's the wise crowd that says, Home is where the heart is. What you're searching for, you're missing in what is already there. Don't miss smelling the roses along the way.

What is home, then? Just a concept, an attitude? An old habit? A temporary resting place?

ItalyI've felt homesick, in a way, ever since leaving BC a month before necessary, missing the prime month of September before the subletter arrived in October. The aim was to catch the shoulder season of Europe while it was still swimmable: Croatia, Italy, Portugal. Well, it was, but so what? Were we really going to settle there someday? I swam a couple of times in Croatia, once in Italy, once in Portugal. And blew what seemed like half the year's budget in the process. Why, then? Astrocartography.

Yes, another New Age illusion. The subtle effects of planets notwithstanding, what matters is facts on the ground: language, culture, climate, economy, community. None of the European stops were good fits for us, in terms of the long term. You might say that just zipping through, three countries (plus a sidetrip to Seville) in six weeks, was hardly a fair test of what it might be to find a place to settle somewhere, make connections, test roots. But we were following our noses, guidance, intuition and resonance, in fact did land some fortuitous connections and temporary situations of grace and comfort, yet in each case felt - after an hour, a day, a week or a month - that it was time to move on.

PortugalYes, "home is where the heart is." Like the generations of settlers in cold Quebec, it's not necessary to go anywhere. Being at home happens in the moment, wherever one is: a bar, a swimming hole, a hotel room, a bus, a restaurant, a sunny terrace or rainy city street. The choice is always there: acceptance, or change. But the range of possibility is infinite, and choice remains. Stay forever? No home improvements? Change happens. Then at least it is necessary to ride with it. Follow new opportunities, gauging when the time is right. It's an ongoing game, the chessboard of life. The trick is not to take it too seriously... yet to play as if it counts; because on the earth plane it does count.

In the bigger picture, why do we need a home, if "we" or "I" is the universe itself? It's only the need of the small ego, to be surrounded by some comfortable shell a little larger than itself. But if we or I is identified instead as nothing less than the universe, all of what is, we need no such container. We are the container. Within us is all possible selves, all possible homes.
Portugal Croatia
Ecuador beehive house