THE ART OF LIVING
Often times fear of the unknown can be a socially paralyzing and unwelcomed component in the life of an expat. We’re quick in Costa Rica to pass judgment on the way Ticos seem to cage themselves into their homes with bars, razor wire, electric fences and elaborate alarm systems (that only seem to go off when they’re away for the weekend and you want to get some reading done). Here I speak of a kinder, gentler fear of branching out and making new social connections. Last night was one such example for me.
Lately I’ve promised myself that I would be more open to accept coincidence and perhaps recognize synchronistic events as part of a grander cosmic conspiracy. Now before you think I’ve lit the incense and am about to preach from the lotus position, I have only recently found that life is best enjoyed when taking a few more chances in order to nudge a blossoming variety of outcomes from the universe. I received an invitation from the good folks at Internations.org. This global community of expats, writers, travelers, bloggers, film makers, and you-name-it’s had a modest gathering in nearby Escazú where 40-odd folks who’ve recently joined the network planned to meet and interact.
Anyone reading this who knows me well would attest this stands in direct opposition of anything I might find remotely interesting. Furthermore, overcoming my general malaise of social awkwardness and fear of having to be “normal” in group settings were immediate hurdles standing tall before me. That said, I accepted and promised myself the chance to go. If it was going to get weird, I was going alone and could simply walk out. Nothing to lose.
To understand how unique this evening was you must first appreciate fish tacos. In Costa Rica there are a couple of great taco bars serving fish tacos and more in a snazzy, open-air setting. They ask you to order and pay first, which I adore in Costa Rica as I’m not stuck waiting for the bill hours after eating (another blog post on service standards another day). The salad bar is fantastically stocked and there are infinite condiments with which one can indulge their darkest culinary musings. I had invited to meet a job candidate who through seemingly sheer intention and will power managed to manifest a scenario whereby I took an unsolicited phone call at the office.
This in and of itself is simply unheard of. After a bit of negotiating we agreed to meet, on my terms, at the fish taco bar. Basically, I’m arrogant enough (at times) to assume that folks want to work for me so badly that they’ll take 2 busses and wait around to watch me eat fried fish and wax on about whatever book I happen to be reading, or my recent interpretation of the Tao Te Ching. Fortunately for both of us, I was right. We met and spoke of running shoes (reading Born To Run), Taoism, yoga, impermanence, and projects we were both working on. She spoke of a ten-day meditation retreat in Costa Rica in July, offered to teach me yoga, and be my travelling photographer through a seven-country whirlwind indie music documentary I’m plotting. Her mesmerizing Indian accent and knowledge of Sanskrit sutras left me dizzy and entranced to a point that my fish was cold and tartar sauce sat neglected, unwanted.
At the end of a delightfully strange and therapeutic lunch session I explained that I had to go meet a client and then pop over to Escazú for some get together. She immediately struck the word as timely would Paganini’s bow to a string, “Internations?” To my amazement she had been a member for years.
I went to the meet up, and spoke at length with folks I had fully expected to see. There were people who massage you with electricity flowing through odd machines, retirees looking to force-feed you their business cards, “experts” on living in Costa Rica, bloggers and more bloggers, et al. What was initially appealing was the variety of nationalities represented. I do enjoy a gathering where our U.S. friends are far outnumbered. After a few odd conversations and a feeling that everyone felt out of place (both here and in life) my new friend from lunch and her husband arrived. Being that they’re both from India, we spoke a bit of cuisine, cricket, and cosmic coincidence. At that time the guests were invited to participate in a mingling activity in which we had words stuck to our shirts and were to seek out the matching collocation. I had “global”. I went about the room staring permissively at the breasts of all the guests until a woman from Germany looked at me and indicated that we were a pair. Her tag said “minds”. We spoke at length about meditation, spirituality, languages, Taoism. She mentioned a retreatin Costa Rica in July and for which she planned to apply.
With that, I thanked her graciously for the connection, found my new friend and likely yoga guru only to say, “That’s enough from this universe for one day. I need to go home and process.” She said, “Don’t try to understand it. Just let it be.” Sound advice for anyone living in a foreign country and trying to overcome fear.