OK, winters in Northern California can hardly be described as harsh but for two people who have spent the last 7 1/2 years living in 80+ degree weather, it was quite nippy. Most days were sunny and it wasn't too bad to be out, if the wind wasn't blowing. When the temperatures dropped down into the 30s at night, it reminded us why we moved to - and continue to live in - the tropics. That's right, despite growing up in the Midwest and even enduring some time in the Chicago area, I'm officially a weather wimp. Tina and I like it warm.
One thing that occupied a good bit of our time (more than we had anticipated) was shopping. Most of this was not shopping for Christmas presents. We had a pretty lengthy list of things we needed/wanted to buy in the US. These were things that we couldn't find in Costa Rica or they were just too expensive. The list included quite a few electronics items, as well as some clothing, sports sandals, swimming goggles and other miscellaneous items. We also had about 5 boxes waiting for us when we arrived - things we had ordered off Amazon and had delivered to my parents' house. We were taking full advantage of the incredible variety and availability of products in the shopping mall that is America.
Of course, spending time with family and friends was the primary reason we made the trip. Christmas was wonderful. There were 15 of us at my parents' house for dinner, with my siblings, nieces, nephews, and the girlfriend of one of my nephews. It was fun, loud, yummy, and just priceless. We spent the better part of another day visiting Tina's brother and family, which included bowling and arcade games with his two young boys (ages 3 and 5). What a hoot!
It didn't take long to be reminded of one of the reasons we had left the Bay Area years ago: traffic. Several times we got caught in bumper-to-bumper traffic, bringing back memories of many years of commuting to work around the Bay Area. Ugh!
The craziest incident came when Tina and I went out to a very nice restaurant for dinner, courtesy of a Christmas gift certificate from my two sisters. Our waiter kept looking at me and at one point he said, "You look familiar and I'm trying to remember where I know you from." He asked if we had spent time in the Pleasanton, CA, area (about 30 minutes from the restaurant's location). I told him I lived in that area for many years. He asked if I had been to a restaurant called the Hungry Hunter. I told him I worked there as a waiter, probably 25-30 years ago. I was self-employed at the time and worked there as a side job to keep the bills paid. Believe it or not, THAT'S where he remembered me from! He worked there at the same time. Mind you, I only worked there for probably 6 months and yet he recognized me all these years later. What a memory! Once we made the connection, I remembered working with him as well but would never have come up with it on my own. We reminisced about the other folks who had worked with us - he had kept in touch with some of them for many years. It was a strange and fun "time warp." Oh yeah, the food was excellent as well.
Tina and I were constantly reminded of the contrasts between California and Costa Rica. For all of the conveniences and consumer advantages California has, we appreciate the slower and less stressful lifestyle in Central America. It has some drawbacks but we love the challenge, adventure, beauty, the people we've met along the way and the experiences we've had so far. We were looking forward to going back (and not just because of the warm weather).
Just for fun
My parents have an adorable little dog named Molly. She has a lot of interesting little quirks and "routines," as most dogs do. I happened to catch her doing her little Happy Dance after getting a treat. Check it out:
Posted by Mark