Without A Routine, Time Stands Still in The Tropics

It’s hard to believe that it’s been almost a year since I was last in Wisconsin. With the pandemic either shutting down international travel or requiring so many restrictions to discourage any non-essential travel, I find myself remembering the little things that I took for granted being able to travel home as needed. One thing that was nice was that the weather could give you a good idea as to what the season/month was. If you awoke from a coma and had no idea what season it was you could just look out the window to get a good idea.  That’s not really the case in Costa Rica though.

When people ask me why I like Costa Rica so much, one of my first responses is the weather and, in particular, not having to deal with winter. Where else can you get low 80s and sun every day on planet earth? Growing up in midwest there was always a point during the winter where I would literally lose my cool and say “This is enough, I can’t take the cold/snow/ice etc anymore. Get me out of here!”

There wasn’t much I could do about it until I got to college and decided to take spring semester off to go somewhere warm. Well, it was actually to immerse myself in a Spanish speaking country, but I’d be crazy to not have taken advantage and gone to a tropical Spanish speaking country.

After escaping that first winter, and prior to permanently moving to Costa Rica, I always got creative to come up with some kind of excuse to get me out of the midwest at the most atrocious time of year. I could never quite escape the whole winter though.  My breaking point came after going to Costa Rica for two weeks in January, only to return to negative temps and frozen pipes.  

After making the move and getting into a routine, things were perfect. Now, I only had to deal with rain or no rain for weather forecasts.  Instead of using the weather to help remind me what season/month it was, my work schedule dedicated it. I knew summer was coming because an exchange group was set to arrive. I knew it was fall because I would be in the US visiting schools or attending conferences and I knew winter was here when every week I’d be at the airport to pick up travelers that were as white as the snow from where they came from. That all changed with COVID though.

Costa Rica Frika was hit pretty hard and fast with all the lockdowns and I lost nearly my whole routine. I didn’t notice it right away, but I also lost my internal compass. My work was no longer able to keep me up to date. With the weather as consistent as it is, it was getting hard to tell what month we were in, what day it was, and even if it was a weekday or weekend. Everyday felt the same. 

This year, I spent the whole month of January in Costa Rica for the first time in 5 years. One day, I got a message from a teacher saying today would have been the day they would have arrived for their yearly trip to Costa Rica. When I got the message, I had to open my calendar as I really didn’t believe that it was actually that date. Normally, we’d be going crazy getting ready for them. The lack of activity and routine just didn’t match up with what we were reminiscing about. 

Usually, I’m freezing my butt off in Wisconsin for a few weeks in January, but this year I hung a hammock out on my deck for afternoon siestas and if it weren’t for my editor reminding me to write this article I probably would have forgotten about it. Heck, if he hadn’t mentioned how bitterly cold it was, I probably would have written about something else.

I’m sure I’m not the only one this has happened to as the pandemic has rearranged a lot of people’s routines. I’m also not complaining about not having the change of the seasons to keep up to date. I’ll take that minor inconvenience to avoid the cold. 

Due to this realization, I’m incorporating other methods to help me remember seasons and months. I’ll watch football in December to see the snow and remind me it is winter. Whenever the Costa Rican weatherperson says we’ll be getting a cold thrust (their words, not mine) I’ll know it’s Jan/Feb. Likewise, if they mention tropical waves then I’ll know it is at least June. To keep up with the days of the week, I’ll just listen for the garbage truck to come by and then I’ll know it is either Tuesday or Friday. 

Those cues should be enough to get me through until the routine picks up again. To be fair though, I should treat those two week January trips to visit family and friends back home like I used to treat my two week escapes to Costa Rica. Windburn for sunburn, snowblowing for lawn mowing and of course, Spotted Cow for Imperial. 

What’s fair…
Imperial on beach.
… is fair.

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