When I put Bilingual Baby on the bus each morning, off she goes. I only get little snippets of what her world is like at daycare: a picture of a bee sting on her little arm and a text message saying she didn’t cry; the sound, from another room, of her singing a song to herself that I don’t recognize; little fingernails painted pink by her teacher; drawings found at the bottom of her backpack. I don’t get to greet the teachers each morning at drop-off, or ask them how her day was at pick-up.
So this week I had lunch with Jojo at her school. I wanted to get a better sense for where she went every day, for her world. To get there, I biked the twenty-five minutes down the road that, as far as I know, doesn’t have a name. I was early, so first I went to the beach and sat for about ten minutes trying to remember the view before me as if I were already gone, already back in Texas.
When I arrived at her school, some of the older kids were eating, but her class was still in free play so I got to spy on her for a while. She was completely engaged and didn’t look up once as she followed an older girl around. The girl was drawing on herself with pink chalk, and she finally stopped long enough to draw on Jojo, which is what she was hoping for. Rather than interrupt her, I started helping the director with an art project until Bilingual Baby finally found me and came over to show me her pink arm. She wasn’t surprised to see me there. I’d told her I was coming.
“Mommy.” she said, taking my hand as we walked toward her outdoor classroom, “Estoy muy feliz de que estes aqui (I’m so happy that you’re here).” We both squealed with delight.
The director of the school is British, and the yoga/movement teacher is Canadian, and the kids are a mixture of nationalities. So I was really happy to see that her three main teachers were Costa Rican and spoke only Spanish to the kids. It also made me melt to hear Jojo and the girls sitting with her explain to each other in Spanish what they had in their lunch boxes. There were at least twenty kids ( ages three and under) in her class, and I was impressed at how efficiently the teachers got them to wash hands, eat their food, and even brush their teeth. There was a painting of a giraffe on the ground and at one point, they all sat on its long neck with their hands out waiting for a squeeze of soap while the teacher counted, “Uno, Dos, Tres, Cuatro…”
Before lunch was over, the director came over and gave Bilingual Baby a present— a tiny T-shirt with colorful hand prints from her friends and the name of the daycare. As she handed it to her, the director said:
So that you will always remember your friends in Costa Rica.
After lunch (Jojo ate her entire meal), we went back to helping with the art project in the middle of the yard. I promised that if she didn’t cry when I left, I’d buy her a smoothie when she got off the bus. It worked.
We don’t have much time left in Costa Rica, but this was time well spent.
Yesterday we took Bilingual Baby with us on a surfing lesson. Often, while Jo is in school, Lyon and I sneak in a lesson. This is a part of our world here, something she hasn’t gotten to see. We’ve been going a couple of times a week for a month and a half or so. We decided that, instead of renting a car or an ATV or taking a million trips around Costa Rica, we would put our money into surfing lessons. Santa Teresa was put on the map by surfers. It’s the main draw. Literally everyone surfs. It would be weird if we didn’t try it.
Bilingual Baby said she didn’t want to go with us. “¿Porque?” I asked. “Porque una ola me va a agarrar y me va a llevar (Because a wave is going to get me and carry me away).” When I explained she wouldn’t be doing the surfing, just watching mommy and daddy take turns, she was cool with it.
It was only our second intermediate lesson. Up until now we’d just been surfing the white water, getting pushed into the waves by our heroic instructors. And, though it was hard, and we fell a lot, it was fun. I didn’t mind falling. And Lyon and I stuck more waves than not. It was pure joy. We started out on eight-foot, soft-top boards and made our way down to smaller, lighter hard boards.
Our intermediate lessons, however, have been a totally different thing. It was back to the large, soft boards for us. In these lessons we had to paddle out to the line-up (where you wait to catch a wave), through what they call the impact zone (where the waves crash on you). Ay madre mia. Our arms stopped working after like five minutes of paddling. And our sweet, doting instructors turned into drill sargents. “Paddle! Paddle! Faster! You’re going too slow! If you want to rest you have to paddle further out!” It was hard. But the handful of waves we caught were worth it.
Today, while paddling out, I saw an aqua green sea turtle pop his head up to take a look around, and in the distance (far distance), a lightening storm. To my back was the vast ocean, and ahead of me was my family sitting on a blanket in the sand. If I could just catch my breath.
The next morning we had a message in our inbox from our surf instructor:
Hi Guys – Great job today. Officially you became a surfer. You started with no experience on the white water and eventually you caught fresh waves from the line up. Was a pleasure meeting and surfing with you. Thanks for everything. See you next time. Pura Vida.