Life in Atenas

Corporate Doug
Corporate Doug

Most days back in the States fell into a very monotonous routine where everything centered around work for both of us.  It felt like weekdays were a long blur and the weekends were the only times we could truly be ourselves. Due to the nature of our jobs, we found ourselves with different schedules, further reducing our available time for each other in dual +50 hour work weeks… not to mention how beat we both were after long days or business trips resulting in a struggle to not just zone out on the couch.  I think we did a pretty good job of making sure that we dedicated quality time time to each other, but looking back we certainly could have done better.

I usually had to be up early and in my office to get some work done before making it to one of my bank branches by 8:30 for a team huddle or before driving through L.A. traffic or to the Valley for a meeting.  Jennette  on the other hand didn’t need to get up as early, but found herself with late meetings to coordinate China’s schedule and running her into the evening to stay caught up.  This created extra hours on either side of the standard working hours when we weren’t with each other.  Other than weekends or vacations we never had or took time to start our day together at breakfast; and dinners usually consisted of going out to eat at a restaurant or take-out because we were starving by the time we were both home and it was too late to start cooking.  I can’t even imagine what life is like for our friends that have kids thrown into that mix! We only had a dog and had to send him to doggy daycare to help manage our schedule.

As you can imagine, life and perspective changes dramatically when you no longer have to grind it out.  One of our concerns coming in to this trip was that we would be bored or unproductive even with the couple of things that we wanted to do with this very rare time.  Now that the “shotgun” home-finding portion of the trip is done, we have had a couple weeks to settle down and find out for sure if our concerns were valid.  I am happy to report that we still fill our day from beginning to end with things that we are passionate about and there doesn’t appear to be any slowing down in sight!  We have had a couple friends ask us what we do with our days in “retirement” so we thought that a quick breakdown of what we do on a daily/weekly basis might be fun to document.

I tend to still wake up a little before Jennette which has given me an opportunity to do something that I have never had a desire to do before – run (I miss my bike!), but I have actually started to enjoy it.  Back in the U.S. I found the thought of exercise (with the exception for cycling) as an absolute chore that was usually placed well behind activities such as watching TV or laying motionless on the couch, and running specifically only happened when chased.  If I wasn’t on my bicycle seeing the world, then the odds are that I was gaining weight.  But now in Atenas,  I am in awe and look forward to running each morning, jumping out of bed with excitement to start the day. The morning weather here is absolutely stunning and serene and the views from our neighborhood are something out of National Geographic.  In the interest of full disclosure though, the hills are so steep around here that I spend as much time walking as running, but what have you…

Pre-Alarm Clock Tickle Mode
Pre-Alarm Clock Tickle Mode

By the time I get back, a quick alarm clock tickle and Jennette is up and ready to start our day together.  We spend the next hour or so making breakfast in full teamwork fashion.  The kitchen usually turns in to a two person operation with us alternating between reading the other the news from www.theibang.com, Drudge Report, and Huffington Post (now that’s balance) while someone cooks or prepares the fruit depending on what we are making that day, one of us is significantly better than the other – although my eggs are coming along nicely, I think!  After spending a lot more time in the comments section of the article than the story itself, we sit down to breakfast together.  There’s usually some interesting conversation from one of the stories that carries through to the end of breakfast.  It’s amazing how much you can learn about each other just from talking about and sometimes debating points of view in the articles.

Our yogo studio
Our yoga studio

Next up is usually a nice 45-60 minute yoga session on our patio while the sun is in full swing on a beautiful day. Luckily, I found that last two yoga mats in Atenas because it’s a welcomed part of the morning.  I am also absolutely a newbie to the yoga game so a youtube instructional video for beginners  is usually on the playlist.  I feel bad about holding Jennette back from the higher level practice, but she is very patient and it’s greatly appreciated…especially when I get a taste of some of these advanced yoga moves due to test you!

When we finish up our yoga practice I usually want to find my hammock to relax for a bit or take dip in our pool to cool off while Jennette puts some of our amazing fruit to use in a smoothie.  The rest of the afternoon is full of Spanish lessons, trading courses, reading, figuring out our website, a lot of writing, editing videos (Jennette solo for this one since I don’t seem to have the talent or patience), or doing research for side writing projects or on a new topic that peaks our interest and we want to learn more about.  It’s amazing how much you can learn when you just have an idea and start doing!

Without the amenities of state of the art appliances, a larger portion of our time is now dedicated to chores than ever before. Now that we are cooking at home 3 meals a day, only have a tiny single sink and no dishwasher, we are being forced to clean dishes manually 3 times a day!

Our Dryer
Our Dryer
Tico Washing Mashine: Left side washes and right side is the spinner.
Tico Washing Mashine: Left side rinses and right side is the spinner.

Doing laundry has also become a more manual and frequent process. We only brought enough clothes that we could pack in one suitcase each. And the washing machine we have is not the same as the ones you will find in the states. Instead of throwing a huge load of laundry in the washing machine – hit start and then go off to do something else until it’s done, we actually have to babysit the washing machine. The typical Tico washing machine here consists of 17 steps and is time consuming. We also do not have a dryer, so we have to hang our clothes outside and time everything perfectly before the rain comes.

We’ll head into town about 2-3 times a week, that usually takes up about half a day since we don’t have a car and it’s not an easy walk. On Fridays is when we make our 20 minute walk to town, backpack secured to hit the farmer’s market.  It is well documented as you do research on Costa Rica that the fruit here is amazing, and I would use a word to add more emphasis to this point if my vocabulary permitted.  Since it doesn’t, I’ll say that the fruit here is AMAZING!  The locals that we have talked to say it’s because the land is so fertile due to volcanic sediment and the fruit only has to make a short trip to the market as the fruit is ripe instead of being put on a ship to ripen on the way to wherever it’s going.  Either way, I feel as if I have been cheated my whole life.  This from someone who didn’t consider a bowl of fruit a breakfast until after the first week of being here.

The Atenas Farmers Market spans two city blocks and includes every bit of indigenous fruit to the area – which is a lot.  Along with fruit, you’ll find fresh vegetables, herbs, baked goods, meat, clothes and food stands. Friday’s have become a favorite of ours as we have a great opportunity to experience Tico living in addition to the fruit that we load up with in our backpack before a walk around town and the hike up a steep hill to our casita.  Unfortunately, I must report that our trip to town on other days for groceries ends with a $2 cab ride back since that bottled water is too heavy!  The days that we spend in town are relished by us and always include taking in lunch from a recommendation, testing our Spanish and walking around to soak in every bit of Atenas.

Hiking back from town
Hiking back from town
Farmers Market
Farmers Market
Farmers Market Goodies
Farmers Market Goodies

Before dinner we have an opportunity to enjoy dusk with a walk or run through our neighborhood…depending on our mood.  A couple laps up and down those hills and we are almost restored to our morning energy while watching the quaint little town below.  Finishing off our relaxation comes with a little meditation on the patio as the sun sets behind the mountains.  By the time we are done we are ready to sit down for dinner with a renewed self.

We have found great food at a hotel restaurant near us and where we met some expat friends from Texas, but most nights we spend making dinner at home.  Since we spent more time eating out in CA than actually cooking for ourselves, this has been a welcomed change.  I won’t go into too much detail about the differences in getting meat here compared to the U.S. (nothing is packaged here – all butcher!), but I will say that after all the work of non-Spanish speaking or metric knowing people put into getting kilos of meat, we had better enjoy it.  Also I have to say that their spices here are soooooo tasty.

Homemade Casado con Chuleta: Rice, black beans, fried plantains and pork chops.
Homemade Casado con Chuleta: Rice, black beans, fried plantains and pork chops.

Our weekday evenings in CA we used to rush around to figure out what take-out to pick up or which restaurant to go to since we were too tired to go shopping or cook, but now we pour ourselves a glass of wine and talk or listen to Ron and Fez while taking our time and having fun making dinner the way we like it.  It’s  another one of those moments that you just can’t appreciate unless you take the time to notice, and I absolutely notice and love every second of it.

After dinner, we usually will pop on the tv (it took how many words to get to “tv” as part of the day?) for one of the three English speaking channels, watch Vice documentaries on Youtube or throw a movie on Apple TV (I had to bring it) while we continue to write, update Facebook, study Spanish or take courses for trading/research until we are ready to call it quits for the day.

I can’t list all of the activities that we fill in our days with now, but I assure you that it is in the most positive sense of the word “selfish” that we spend each second… and not a second is unaccounted for.  A large part of this trip was so that we could vet out a more creative side of ourselves away from the daily routine of our jobs.  Those passions that we are following, along with an amazing country, and mixed in with a much more healthy framework has made this more than we ever could have imagined.  Not only are we following our passions, but are completely present with what we are most passionate about – each other.

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Retired Doug

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