We always felt like we had a lot of very good friends in the U.S., but they were spread around the country so we only saw them occasionally. In fact, my “best girlfriend” over the previous 20+ years didn’t even live in the U.S. at all. (She’s Canadian and we’d met when I worked in Halifax, Nova Scotia back in the mid-80s.)
So it’s been interesting for us to find that we have more friends here in Costa Rica than we did after 20 years in Maine. We’re lucky that there’s a wonderful community of congenial folks right here in the San Ramon area and over the years we’ve often gotten together for parties, lunches, outings, and just bumped into each other on the street to chat. We have other friends spread “around the country” and since it’s a such a small country, that still means we can get together now and then.
We put on a huge sit-down gringo-style Thanksgiving dinner each year at our house which has had close to 60 folks (some years it’s “small” with only about 30 to 40 people!) and a similar group of around 50 spends Christmas afternoon together every year over at Chris and Louise’s sharing some good food, wine, and a hugely fun (and funny) “white elephant” gift exchange.
So how do all these friends feel about our leaving, and how do we feel about leaving them?
As far as our friends’ feelings about our leaving — I guess I could say it’s gratifying to find that they don’t want us to go. Quite a number have — only half jokingly, I suspect — said they were hoping we couldn’t sell our house. (This is less of a joke than one might think since it’s not uncommon for folks to find they can’t sell their houses here. “Easy to buy, hard to sell” is never more true than here in CR. We’ve priced well below what we think the true value is, so we’re counting on that not being true for us!)
The ones with grandchildren of their own have, at least, been the most understanding, several even going so far as to send words of encouragement for our plans. (I was actually very touched that several people that we didn’t know all that well offered up their homes and invited us to stay with them on future visits! Heck, that’s friendship.)
As far as our leaving friends here, well, it’s definitely one of the hardest aspects of leaving. Luckily, there’s several things that really help keep it from feeling too sad.
One, oddly enough, is simply that a number of our friends have also made the decision over the past few months to go back to the states (and a few others have moved on to Panama or other places) so some won’t be here anyway.
Two, we plan to return every year, so it’s not like we’re leaving forever, never to see friends here again. For us, that’s really important. Just like our thoughts about Costa Rica overall, if we felt that we couldn’t come back, at least annually, that would definitely have an impact on our plans. Luckily, just like we learned that moving here didn’t have to be “forever”… leaving doesn’t have to be either!
Third, and certainly very helpful — we’re actually taking our closest friends with us!
When we’d been here about a year, my partner in the shipping business emailed me one day to ask me to pick some clients up at the airport. They were coming to San Ramon so it was a natural for me to do it since that’s where I lived, although it was the first (and almost only) time he’d asked me to do that.
After having delivered them to their “start-up rental” we followed up with them to help them get settled, they started helping out with the big parties we threw every month for the tour group from George Lundquist’s tour (the only folks who ever offered to do so, by the way) and gradually we became “best friends.” We discovered that we made comfortable traveling partners and just generally comfortable friends.
Over the past year or so, over our regular Skip-Bo card games, we’ve occasionally played “What if?” with Chris and Louise. “What if, for some odd reason, we had to go back to the States. Where would we want to live?” At the time neither couple had any plans to move, so it was really a sort of “parlor game” of imaginary travel, “trying out” different parts of the country in our minds. By and large, we never really found a place that appealed to us all that much.
After we made a trip to Panama in early 2011, for the first time the “What if?” game took on a new level of potential reality when Chris and Louise announced that they were going to at least investigate further and consider moving to Panama. We were shocked, but tried to be supportive. We all knew that the cost of living here in Costa Rica hadn’t proven to be as “cheap” as purported, so we couldn’t fault them for looking at a less expensive alternative. (Although we were frankly shocked that they would consider so blithely leaving us!)
It didn’t take all that much “investigation” to prove that living in Panama was significantly the same as living in Costa Rica. A few things are dramatically cheaper, but much of the ongoing cost of living is similar, you still need to be able (ideally) to speak Spanish, and the bureaucracy is the same insanity, etc. etc. When you add the cost of moving, gaining new residency, and so on, the savings — say, in the cost of a box of wine — just didn’t add up to enough to make the move pay off.
But, although nothing more was said for some months, I suspect that Chris and Louise’s own “What if?” conversations had started the train moving slowly down the tracks, at least for them.
Meanwhile, April arrived and Avila was born. As previously reported, we came away from our several weeks there with the new family with a new sense — for the first time ever since we’d left the States almost five years before — that we would want to spend more time up there. We were still generally assuming that we’d “live” here in CR and “visit” up there.
One day, when we were in the car with Chris and Louise driving to Kay’s Gringo Postres down in Atenas, Louise said, “What if we were to move back to the States, where would we go?” and the only possible answer I could offer was, “You’d have to move to Salt Lake City since that’s where we would go if we ever moved back.”
And a conversation was born.
I’d actually been thinking about the very idea myself. And, although we haven’t said nearly as much about it in other posts, we had a separate issue going on about our house. This really fits into “cost of living” future posts, but simplistically put, we had bought our house with the help of a partner, an investor, who owned a large percentage of stock equal to his share of investment.
The plan was that we would buy out his stock over time with regular payments, but because the cost of living was proving to be much higher than anticipated, we weren’t making the scheduled headway on this planned buy-out. For a while this had seemed okay, that we would be able to “catch-up” because I was owed a lot of money from my business, but lately we’d been coming to grips with the seeming impossibility of this.
So while the idea was bubbling along that we really wanted to be more a part our our granddaughter’s life, it also began to hit home that one “solution” to the unsolvable problem was to sell the house, thus being able to repay in full our friend and partner.
Hmmm…. while unspoken still for a while, the two “issues” seemed to be coming into a possible convergence.
But, back to “friends” since that is, indeed, the focus of this post (and you were wondering if I was ever going to bring it back around! Trust me, that’s a specialty of mine!!!) while the point of being with our grandchild is the strongest issue, and solving our problem of not being able to buy out our partner on the schedule planned is another significant issue, the “mitigation” of leaving all our friends behind by the prospect of taking at least our closest friends with us… well, that was a not-inconsequential factor!
So while we clearly wouldn’t be moving back to the States because our friends are doing so, I have to say I’m grateful to have them along for the ride! We’re looking forward to it together, and it will absolutely make “starting over” in a new city be just a little bit less daunting and a heck-of-a-lot more fun.
The rest of our friends here? We will absolutely miss them, deeply, and absolutely plan on coming back to visit. And just maybe they’ll even stay in touch through the miracles of email, Skype, blog comments (!), and the telephone. The ones who are moving back to the States? There’s already a plan afoot to find a “central point” and meet up for future visits.
Friends? Very important. Not to be taken for granted, and appreciated even more when life gives you situations where you can continue down a similar path together!