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on tap

After celebrating Thanksgiving close to home, we wrapped up November with a weekend visit to a beautiful part of Costa Rica neither one of us had been to previously despite its proximity to San Jose. Even as we’ve made return trips to several spots in recent months, one year into our assignment to Costa Rica we are still very much in exploration mode, discovering new destinations and continuously adding places to our list of favorites. Without making any major trips in the month since D returned from India, we have explored Braulio Carrillo National Park and San Gerardo de Dota as well as visiting Barva Volcano and several off-the-beaten-path birding hotspots in the intervening weeks.

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the lost post

D penned this post during his travel to India last month. Unfortunately, his laptop stopped charging and remains in the States, where his parents got it fixed. Having recovered the text D has written, we share it here, though with only a handful of the photos that were meant to accompany it.

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Fresh off our turtle-watching adventure in Ostinal on Costa Rica’s Pacific coast, we headed to the Caribbean side of the country for a very different turtle-watching experience in Tortuguero, where the considerably larger green sea turtles are in the midst of their nesting and hatching season. Whereas the arribada of the olive ridleys at Ostinal is a virtual free-for-all, with hundreds of turtles, birds, and tourists congregating on a small, two-mile stretch of beach, Tortuguero offers a much more reserved, controlled experience. Both were eminently worthwhile in our book, especially since sea turtles are endangered. The greens we saw in Tortuguero are considerably less numerous than the olive ridleys we saw at Ostinal, whose populations have also been on the decline. To be able to witness their egg laying and observe turtle hatchlings take their first cautious steps out of their nest before racing across the beach toward the relative safety of the ocean was a real privilege.

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November notes

After Costa Rica barely edged New Zealand in a June play-in game, a low-grade World Cup fever set in as our tiny, wonderful host country counted down to November. Days before the tournament kicked off, the presidency released an executive order allowing public sector workers to take off two hours to watch each of the team’s first two games. Our kids similarly received authorization to wear the national team’s colors instead of their school uniforms, and both kids watched Costa Rica’s first match in school in lieu of having classes. Of course, Costa Rica faced long odds even before it was seeded in a group with soccer powerhouses Germany and Spain. After ending the day on the wrong side of a 7-0 drubbing in its opening match against Spain today, Costa Rica will need to do a heck of a lot better in its next game to stand a chance of playing meaningful soccer in the final group game (smart move from the presidency to only authorize time off for the first two matches).

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another revolution

Shortly after celebrating D’s 40th revolution around the sun, we marked another occasion of some significance: the anniversary of our arrival in Costa Rica. We are now firmly into the second year of what has been one of our favorite Foreign Service assignments, rivaled only by our first foray into the diplomatic lifestyle – our posting in Kenya more than a decade earlier. As with other similar anniversaries, this one is something of a bittersweet occasion: the many joyful memories accumulated over the previous twelve months tinged with a bit of sadness by the all-too-quick passage of time. This particular anniversary is also a bit atypical due to the peculiar timing of our arrival in Costa Rica.

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mountain strolling

D’s first trip to India was pretty much all work, his itinerary packed to the gills to maximize his first visit to this country. There were weekend meetings and site visits as well as half a dozen internal flights squeezed into a two-week whirlwind schedule. D managed to sneak in some birding in the early mornings only because early morning meetings are not a really thing in India. His first day off came after two grueling, travel-heavy weeks – a brief respite before D hopped a plane to Nepal for more of the same. For D’s return visit last month, his team eased up on the pace just a bit, ceding a weekend day for “personal time” in the middle of the itinerary. D made sure this free day would fall during his time in Dharamsala, easily his favorite of the half-dozen places D has now visited in India.

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chaos that works

Over drinks that followed a full day of site visits and a work dinner, a contact of D’s in India gave words to a thought that had been slowly coalescing in D’s mind throughout his return visit to this intensely interesting and complex country. “India is chaos that works,” the man said, noting as one very tangible example how the roads are not designed to accommodate even a fraction of the vehicles that ply them and that one would expect chaos, collisions, and mayhem at every turn and yet nothing of the sort takes place. Indian roadways – where every car, motorcycle, auto-rickshaw, truck, and bus appear to be engaged in a simultaneous, cacophonous conversation – are just one example, and the man gave many more, of life working out just fine, the chaos resolving itself to most everyone’s satisfaction against all odds.

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storming the castle

“Keep straight at the Fet Lovers Sex Shop,” GoogleMaps advised unnecessarily, drawing attention to a non-landmark that has become etched in D’s mind thanks to his repeated trips to the Castillo Country Club in Heredia for last week’s invitational hockey tournament.

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flurry of activity

A flurry of Halloween activity marked the end of an eventful week and a half following D’s return from South Asia. There was Embassy-organized trunk-or-treating on Saturday, trick-or-treating in our neighborhood on Sunday, and another round of candy gathering with friends in their neighborhood on Halloween proper. S made it out to a Halloween party with friends and coworkers while D watched the kids, and even D, who is not the biggest fan of this holiday, didn’t make it through the weekend without dressing up, which was a must for the costumed frisbee game his Ultimate community organized Halloween night. We also snuck in a birding trip without the kids the previous weekend to mark D’s fortieth and celebrated the milestone birthday with a proper party at our house before the Halloween madness set in.

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perpetual twilight

Unlike his earlier work trips, D’s most recent travel lasted a mere eleven days – the exact amount of time required to completely get over jet lag after circumnavigating half the globe. In other words, as soon as his mind had finally caught up with his body and gotten over the eleven-and-a-half-hour time difference between Costa Rica and India, D boarded the first of four flights for his return trek back to the Western Hemisphere. That journey, door to door, lasted a mind-numbing 40 hours – a new record for D. He returned Friday evening, and his mind has been struggling to readjust back to this time zone ever since.

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digital dependency

In a brutally prescient short story entitled “The Murderer,” Ray Bradbury painted a dystopian future in which the titular character is committed to a psychiatric institution for “murdering” his digital appliances. Written in 1953, Bradbury’s imagined horrorscape, in which people are bombarded by a near constant  nostream of digital communication — through phones, intercoms, and even wrist watches — bears an uncanny resemblance to our actual lived reality at the present moment. Our lives have become so enmeshed with our devices and we have grown so dependent on them that we feel their unexpected loss viscerally. We speak from personal experience, having felt the sting of such loss on two separate occasions just recently.

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