Monday, June 30, 2014

Ticos! Ticos!

April 1979--My Peace Corps group.
I never imagined it would be so long between the time I finished my Peace Corps service and left Costa Rica, and when I got back to this tiny Central American country. I'd been in country for 3 1/2 years, long enough to begin dreaming in Spanish. The group of volunteers I had trained with and who were sworn in with me at the start of Holy Week in 1979 had mostly completed service and scattered a year earlier but I'd stayed an extra year, invited to oversee a short-term project and not quite ready to close this chapter in my life.

I had lived with an exuberant family of Costa Ricans in a mountain town that was a three-hour bus ride from the capital. We didn't have Skype, we didn't have e-mail, we didn't even have a telephone. I listened on a borrowed shortwave radio as the Kansas City Royals lost the 1980 World Series, and learned of the birth of my niece via telegram.

And still...

There aren't enough words on the internet to describe the ways I loved this friendly country that was still on the cusp of discovery when I left in 1982. It wasn't just the family I lived with, although they became my family. It wasn't just the other volunteers, although they had become my family, too. It wasn't just the beaches, or the coffee, or the flowers, or the beautiful rhythm of Costa Rican Spanish, or the music, or....

I'd be back soon, I promised myself as my plane lifted off the tarmac in 1982.

But then I met Husband and fell in love. We got married and started our family, and there was never enough time or money to take all six of us to the tropics. It was 19 years from the time I left Costa Rica to when I introduced my husband and our four boys to my Tico family like a mother cat introducing her beautiful kittens.

During that trip we watched from the second floor of McDonald's as the Ticos celebrated a big soccer win over Mexico. The streets were filled curb to curb with flags and celebration, punctuated by a soundtrack of honking horns and chants. I temporarily suspended the travel policy that we don't eat in places we can eat at home--at ages 15, 13, 11, and 9, the Boys were surrounded by unfamiliarity and the chaos had gone past fascinating to frightening. They still talk about the pure joy of the locals in that moment.

I thought of that experience yesterday as we sat on the edges of our seats in front of the television, our body English and cheers keeping the Costa Ricans in their World Cup game. The Boys are scattered all over the country now, but when the final penalty kick had been taken and my adopted country had moved into the final eight of the World Cup teams, we were cheering together on Facebook and text. It was like we were back in that McDonald's in San Jose, except this time we part of the family and were joining in the chants.

Oeee, oe oe oeeeeeee, Ticos! Ticos!

I want to go back.

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