Whew. I’m so glad it’s over. After leaving our old house in New York on Sunday night, it was a hellish journey that lasted until Wednesday, when we finally arrived in our new rental in beautiful Atenas, Costa Rica.
It all started on Sunday when Arp picked up a U-haul bright and early. We spent the entire morning loading 9 barrels in the U-haul, packing some last-minute boxes of stuff that we decided we couldn’t live without, and doing some last minute re-packing of some of our suitcases. About an hour before we were due to leave, we discovered that we had inadvertently forgotten to pack a big container of warm weather maternity clothes and cloth diapers. In a panic, we tried to desperately rearrange some of the 8 suitcases and many carry-ons that we had already packed and weighed. It was a little stressful, as we knew that I would need the warm-weather maternity wear right away in CR.
By about 12:30 Sunday we were all on our way – Arp heading to NJ in the U-haul, and the kids, the 4 cats and I in my mother’s borrowed Prius. I was already utterly exhausted from the stress, lack of sleep, and my aching pregnant feet and swollen ankles. Although we really didn’t have a choice in the timing, I have to say that I wouldn’t recommend an international move for a woman heading into her third trimester.
We stayed with Arp’s parents in NYC for the next few days. That was stressful too. M & J were acting a bit crazy, as I pretty much expected they would. Arp and I were too busy to do much parenting at all, which made me feel very guilty. This move has been hard on us all. While we were in NYC, we had to: drive 2 hours round-trip to return the Prius, re-pack and re-weigh all the 8 bags, fill prescriptions, take care of our 4 over-stressed cats, label and ready the 2 cat carriers for cargo, call our banks to alert them to our travel plans, visit a bank to open an account and amend an old one, divert our mail, pay last minute bills, call the airline and try to confirm our cats in cargo, call the airline multiple times to confirm how full the flight was (in order to determine if one of our cats would be bumped), visit a toy store with M to buy Yo-Yos, and…ummmm…eat? I’m sure I missed something else we did there, but I think I’m blocking a lot of it out at this point.
Come Tuesday night, we were hoping to be in bed by 9pm. Our flight was leaving at 8am, so we had to be at the airport by 4am to drop 2 cats off in cargo. Can you guess what time we actually were in bed by? I think it was about midnight. The alarm was set for 3am, but I had trouble sleeping (can’t imagine why!). So I basically got about 2 hours of sleep at best. When the taxi came to get us at 3:30, I was like a walking zombie from the start. And remember, I’m pregnant on top of all this. Looking back, I can’t even believe I survived.
Once we were at the airport, things went surprisingly smoothly. The entire story of handling the transport of all 4 cats to Costa Rica is enough for an entire post, so I won’t go into great detail. But to be brief, I was pretty sure in my heart that the airline would bump at least one of our cats from the flight, which was my biggest fear. The logistics of moving 4 animals internationally is overwhelming, and was probably the hardest and most worrisome task of this move. But somehow the impossible happened, and all 4 cats did get to Costa Rica, all in one piece, and fairly easily. I’m not sure if some goddess was watching over us, if the planets were aligned, if we did everything right, or if it was just plain luck. But we all made it here: 4 people, 1 fetus, 4 cats, 8 suitcases, and 8 carry-on (we’re still waiting on the barrels).
After exiting the plane in Costa Rica, things continued to go incredibly smoothly. And quickly, too! The last time we were in CR, we kind of took our time exiting the airport. But this time, they rushed us through customs and out the door so quickly that I barely had time to change some money before jumping in the taxi. I think we were off the plan and out the door in 20 minutes. The guy who handed over our cargo cats rushed us through customs at top speed. I don’t know who this guy was, or his job title. All I know is that he carried our pets right past the x-rays, claiming he was saving us from expensive fees that would be given to us for pets in cargo. In fact, when the customs man saw our crazy family with 8 huge suitcases, pregnant woman, children, giant stuffed animals, and pets, he told Arp to just skip putting the rest of the bags in the x-ray machines. My guess is that if you look (at the same time) both innocent, and like you will make the customs man do an inordinate amount of work, it’s just not worth their effort to bother with you. In Costa Rica, I think having a pregnant woman and children in tow helps too. But either way, we managed to skirt completely by the customs man with no stamp on our passports declaring that we were bringing the large number of electronics into the county that we were in fact bringing. This is good news, because it means that we have the opportunity to bring more electronics into CR again (within 6 months, I think) if we go back to the states for any reason. Perfecto.
Once we were all in a large taxi van and on our way to Atenas, I was a little confused about the route that the driver was taking. I expected him to take the autopista. Instead, he headed into Alajuela and then west past the cemetery. Then we took the back road through La Garita, past Zoo Ave., all the way to Atenas. I would have thought the pista would have been faster, and I wonder if the driver was taking the long way in order to get a larger fare. But frankly Arp and I were too exhausted to bother asking too much. We are also not very familiar with the best driving routes as of yet, so maybe my suspicians were wrong? Either way, we were enjoying the ride in our new country. Seeing the familiar road past Zoo Ave was nice, with all the lovely places selling plants. I probably would have passed out on the ride, were it not for the occasional adrenaline rushes that occurred when the driver crazily passed slow-moving cars on the narrow road, coming mighty close to oncoming traffic. Ah….the lovely excitement of Costa Rican driving at it’s best!
When we finally arrived at our new house in Atenas (thanks to the help of our good friend Mary, who picked up the keys and showed us the way), I was very happy to be there. The house was great and the property and view was even better. The weather was sunny and hot, but with a breeze that helped to cool our hot faces. After a quick trip to the veterinarian to pick up some litter boxes and cat food, our cats were released and we all attempted to chill out for a little while.
Here’s where I admit how hard it was for me on that first day. Soon after Arp came home, I found myself starving and completely exhausted. My back was aching and my ankles were swollen more than they’ve ever been. I’d been sort of “on alert” for the last week, and this was the first moment I actually sat down to process all the crazy events that had led up to our getting to Atenas. So I had myself a really good cry on Arp’s shoulder. I had a few moments of utter fear that we had made a huge mistake. I was wondering if I’d even feel energetic and well-nourished again. All the stress of the last few months came out in that moment, and I knew that I was so lucky to have Arp to lean on. Later, when I’d had at least a yogurt and some nuts to eat, I headed outside to enjoy the view and the flowers with Arp and the kids, and I felt so much better. Still tired, but better. Costa Rica sure is a beautiful country. Who knows how I will feel a year or two from now, but right now I’m just soaking in the clean breezes and the sounds of birds waking me up in the morning, thanking myself and my husband that we had the strength to take on this adventure. Pura vida!