While walking back and forth over the tile all morning, my mind went back to my days in Costa Rica. I was nine when my father was called to preside over the Central American Mission. My mother was 33. A rather daunting calling, I believe, for someone so young.
I looked forward to what I was sure would be an adventure. That sentiment was not shared by my older siblings however. Terri was a senior in high school and Randy a junior. Both looked forward to spending their final years at Skyline High in Salt Lake City. Now they would be in a class of less than 20 in San Jose.
We attended an English speaking school called Country Day which was run by a Mennonite couple, the Bakers. The elementary school bore a close resemblance to the classic haunted house in the movies. It was an old hotel with rickety wooden steps and rotting verandas. You could bring your own lunch or order from the school. The food was cooked at the high school on a grill many roaches called home, and consisted of such nutritious choices as hamburgers, milk shakes and French fries. My classroom had walls that only extended three quarters of the way to the roof. The rest was open air, but in a tropical setting, that was never a problem –except during the daily rain storms.
Our house was an adventure. All the windows were made of slats and covered with bars. You had to pass through a gate to get to the front door, and once inside there was another locked gate (yes, inside the house) that separated the bedrooms from the living areas.
We were blessed to make many friends, although there were no other members of the church our age. Many of the people we met worked for the American Embassy or the Peace Corp. Another family owned a coffee plantation and we enjoyed going out to their ranch, riding horses and enjoying the beautiful Costa Rican country side.
And another friend, the Gants, owned a private island. Once during winter break, my sister Ruth and I were able to travel to the island and spend a week there. We spent all day in swimming suits, and for our meals ate fresh fish caught that day in the ocean, rice, and vegetables grown in the garden. And we craved terribly soft drinks. So much so that one day we sent a boat to a neighboring island to see if they had some for sale--which they did.
While just 11 and in sixth grade I met the son of the vice president of the country, who lived down the street from us. He was a senior in high school and for some reason thought I was close to his age. He also developed a bit of a crush on me (during our one time meeting) and hired a professional band to serenade outside my bedroom window at 2 in the morning. Being very young, I was not prepared to handle such a proclamation of love and spent the next couple weeks hiding from him when he came to the house or I when I saw him drive down the street.
All in all we survived several minor earthquakes, a volcanic eruption and the perverted men who came to our door to expose themselves. (Don’t ask me why, but that seemed to be a common thing to do down there.) We loved the people, and the rainy weather. (Although I had a sister complain it was so humid she was sure we all had fungus on our lungs) We loved the volcanoes in the distance and the little bread stores on all the street corners. We loved the missionaries that came for dinner and the sister missionaries who lived with us.
It was three wonderful years of my life, for which I will always be grateful. Although there were some difficult challenges, mostly our time there filled my heart with tender memories.
Two years ago I had the opportunity to go back with my husband and two of my daughters. It was so much fun to see the sights of my childhood. It was amazing all the things I could remember, and that I even found my old house! What a treat, and what great . . . joy to my journey.