When I last left the dear reader I was in a black mood, heading to the storage shed to fetch a machete. A thought had entered my mind; the remedy to my grumpiness was in doing something I could only do here in the jungle. I roamed our large yard, filled with towering tropical plants, gigantic flowers, and insects as big as my hand, until I found what I was looking for — a fallen green coconut. I hacked at my victim with abandon. My sword was dull and my foe was tough; only a series of full-strength overhead blows removed the outer shell. I pierced the inner fruit with a smaller knife and was shocked by the loud popping noise and spray of liquid. I poured the coconut water over ice and shared it with Kia (Tesla Rose declined). Slightly sweet, a little sour, and refreshing.
Soon after the air cooled and it began to rain. With the change in temperature, all three of us felt a sense of relief. Things weren’t so bad. We had food and a roof over our heads. We were in tropical paradise. The mosquitoes were letting up a bit, and our problems were starting to feel solvable.
Happiness comes in two flavors — the kind you feel when you get what you want, and the kind you make up when you don’t. Psychologists, with their clever tests, have determined that the two varieties are indistinguishable in quality (you can tell I’ve been watching TED videos — I actually logged on to watch the penultimate episode of LOST, but discovered the joys of Hulu don’t extend to Costa Rica).
If you, like me, are only semi (and not fully) enlightened, you’ll sometimes forget you know the trick of manufacturing happiness in spite of your circumstances. Bug-bitten, hot, foggy-headed, bike-less, in an unfamiliar place, with only the wire-from-the-jungle connecting me to civilization, I briefly forgot that the secret to happiness is (more or less) deciding to be happy. That, and doing whatever you can to influence your own fate. Of course it’s not an instantaneous switch, but I’m convinced the greater part of happiness is intention.
The next morning — Sunday — we walked to Eric Haller’s house. He made us delicious coffee — incredibly smooth — and we took a taxi into Puerto Viejo. We stopped at Gallo’s bike shop on Eric’s recommendation and bought a used mountain bike for 40,000 colones (about US$75) and attached Tesla Rose’s “iBert” bike seat. Gallo’s place only had one bike for sale, so we rented a beater for the day — transportation problem half solved!
While buying the bike, we ran into our old friend Matt Grinnell who we’d known in San Francisco, back in the dot-com boom days. Turns out he’s been living twenty minutes up the road for the last three years. We picked up some Toña beer (not great, but better than the watery Imperial) and stopped by the beautiful beachside Caracola Hotel (managed by a friend of Matt).
On the beach, with warm water on my feet, a cool breeze on my face, and a beer in my hand, I suddenly lost my need to synthesize happiness.
The concept for this experiment was to work abroad, as opposed to “go on vacation.” Kia and I both brought work (and deadlines) with us. With no childcare, productivity is currently on the low side. A good chunk of time is also dedicated to learning how to feel comfortable in the tropics (three or four cool showers a day, at least until we adjust, endless applying of various creams/repellents/antihistamines, arranging the fan to drive off the most mosquitoes, etc.). I’m really selling this, aren’t I? On the other hand there has been no shortage of sublime encounters with the local fauna; four types of lizards, two types of frogs, the howler monkeys (still only heard, but hearing them is thrilling), and of course the giant insects, which include enormous blue butterflies, 1000-watt lightening bugs, and the above-pictured Godzilla roach. I’m especially excited for Tesla Rose — it’s not everyday that a city kid needs to coax a large frog to leave their bedroom before going to bed.
We are getting some work done and delivered though, and that in itself is kind of a thrill. I’m getting paid, from the jungle. Take that, cubicle man.
I shouldn’t boast though, because my creative output has taken a hit. I’ve been prioritizing my time and willpower towards the needs of my clients, and also just getting basic stuff dealt with (buying food, buying a bike — as of today we have two). No fiction writing and no music composition for at least a week now, and I’m feeling it. I hope to give you some good news on that front by my next post.
The Mind-Blowing Bit
As I sit here in my hammock, looking out at the black night and listening to the rain and the din of a million insects, I’m shocked by how easy it was to “change it up a bit.” It was only a couple months ago that we decided to temporarily relocate to Costa Rica, almost on a whim. It makes we wonder what else I should just decide to do (on a whim). I realize that not everyone has the flexibility to do their work remotely, but are you taking advantage of whatever flexibility you do have? For the most part, I wasn’t.
So … a client just emailed requesting a face-to-face meeting. They don’t know I’m in Costa Rica for the next five weeks or so. Not quite sure how I’m going to handle this …