Shortly after settling into our Costa Rican apartment, our toaster became a mess of twisted nichrome wire that left bread branded rather than browned. It was hardly a hardship to have to make toast in the oven while waiting the two months for our landlord to replace the toaster, but it got me thinking about this same scenario at home: Seven-minute trip down Whitemud freeway, approximately 15 minutes inside Canadian Tire, with some “flex time” to stand and select ideal style and slot number to cost ratio.
At the beach, these things are not as readily acquired. And if you do find them, they are overly expensive because of what it costs to ship them here. (We have also been told that Guanacaste is the most expensive place to live between Mexico and Argentina.)
A “simpler” life here has meant many things, including a lighter schedule, less driving, but it has especially been defined by the availability of “stuff.”
It has meant a trip to the “Big City” of San Jose, the country’s capital, or a drive past a newly opened second-hand store in our neighbourhood can make the mouth water. It means old technologies, like DVDs, have once again become a highly coveted household entertainment item, and that finding turmeric at the supermarket is a win for the day.
It means we keep better track of our reusable water bottles because a quality one is near impossible to buy. It means we use two sides of every piece of paper. Food waste is almost non-existent in our kitchen, and we cover left-overs with plates rather than plastic wrap most of the time. We are also a one-car family this year (I know. Easy when you have two people working from home). Monetary considerations aside, it has been empowering to make do with less. I feel like I take up less room in the world, and that makes me feel good, for one reason or another.
That was largely what made Christmas a much different experience this year (aside from the +33 degrees C). There was about a third of the gifts under the tree here compared to home, and everything had a function—new swim suits, underwear, flip flops. The kids got a toy they wanted from Santa, and an amazing thing happened. They played with it for more than a day.
Simplifying relates back to my first post about finding space. When things are not as accessible or so easily acquired, it adds space, both physically and mentally to your life. We are far from “doing without” here, but we are definitely “doing with less” than we are used to. It forces you do get creative, or just go without. And more times than not, we don’t actually need whatever it was we thought we needed.
When we first arrived in Costa Rica in September 2018, I was convinced that time had slowed down, but soon figured out that feeling was a result of our environment. It contained so much less than home. We wear about 1/10th of the clothes because of heat and school uniforms. This equals less laundry. We don’t empty or fill a dishwasher. With a scantily equipped kitchen we have to clean plates, bowls and cutlery in the sink if we want it for the next sitting. We have only the toiletries we use on a daily basis sitting on the sink and no extra storage in the bathrooms. Music is at our fingertips with a “jambox” and a Spotify account. At the door, we have a pair of flip flops and running shoes each, on a shelf some paints and canvases, string, tape and felt await a crafting afternoon. And there is not much else. Less to put away, less to replenish, less to think about.
The morning our new toaster finally showed up, it was handed to us in a plastic shopping bag, and still in its box with instructions. All four of us gathered around an electrical outlet in the kitchen, with a comparable sentiment to gathering around the Christmas tree, excitedly removing the new appliance from its Styrofoam encasing. We examined its buttons and new functions, we plugged it in. “It’s like the one we have at home, except only two slots!” Chet exclaims. I pressed the button and watched the elements light up, evenly on four sides, and red hot. Even three weeks later, I marvel at my perfectly toasted bread every morning.
It’s no lie. Simple feels really good.
Quote for the day
“Good art is a way of creating a new form for a timeless message. One that reminds us to appreciate something very crucial about the human condition, something we otherwise get dulled to by living day-in-day-out.”
Book I am reading
The Lost City of the Monkey God by Douglas Preston. This amazing adventure reads like a thriller. Preston recounts the long history of people searching for Honduras’ “White City”—a place many believed was a figment of the imagination for a long time—and tells the story of how technology and perseverance led a team of scientists to find it. This is an eye-opening read about the sacrifices and consequences of digging up the past. Preston also gives a detailed account of Leishmaniasis—a life-long disease, if acquired, spread by sandflies. Ignorance was bliss.