I never fantasized about lazy days at the beach, sloths hanging from my rafters, or pineapples that cost a dollar every day of the year.

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I never thought I’d deliver my two children in a foreign country. My dreams went more like this: a small house with a manicured lawn, a baby swing hanging from the live oak, block parties with neighbors and weekends spent at baseball games, an occasional cocktail party or black tie charity event.

Five years ago I married a wonderfully adventurous man who would turn my world upside down and inside out. Martin and I were newlyweds living in New Orleans when Hurricane Katrina flooded our house and sent us packing. We took a five week trip to Costa Rica a few months later “just for fun” according to Martin.

At the end of the vacation Martin had a job offer and a place for us to live. We moved three months later and started a new life in Manuel Antonio. Good bye jazz! Hello reggae.

The first six months were fairly easy. Everything was new. I took our adopted Golden Retriever, Lola, to the beach every morning for a walk. I learned to cook with all of the fresh ingredients, played countless games of Sudoku, lazed by the pool and had a killer tan.

I was newly pregnant which gave us the opportunity to be introduced to the medical care in Costa Rica. Martin and I were beyond pleased. My doctor was a German/Tico who spoke three languages fluently. The facilities were top notch, but what pleased me the most was the time the doctor spent with me at each visit. He never made me sit too long in the waiting room and never rushed me out of his office either.

It was like I was the only patient he had for the day. He would sit patiently behind his desk and entertain all of the questions I had. Upon delivering our son, a steak dinner for two was wheeled to my room along with a small bottle of wine. That was a touch I knew I wouldn’t find that in any hospital in the United States.

The adjustment came after our first son was born. I felt alone with a new baby; no family nearby. I had to use a calling card to call the U.S. There was no quick dial on the cell phone for the pressing questions. Where was Target? What do you mean I can’t get Pampers at the grocery store? Where was I to get the advice that a new mother needs?

The thing about living in a foreign country is that your friends become your family. My new friend, Gisela really stepped up to the plate. She invited me over nearly every day for lunch, helped me with Wilson, called just to check on me and included me in nearly everything she did. I will forever be grateful to her for the love and care she showed me when I needed it the most.

And then there were Mariana and John who captured every moment of Wilson’s first year with their amazing photographic talent. And Maree who coached me through Wilson’s first year with her great advice and gave me a book she had used for her daughter. Gisela is from Costa Rica, Mariana from Argentina, John from Virginia and Maree from New Zealand. My new family is a worldwide melting pot.

It wasn’t just the doctor who wasn’t in a hurry. Living in Costa Rica affords a simpler life where nearly everyone has more free time. Friends are often available at a moment’s notice. There is little preplanning needed. Plans for a cookout that night develop at the office only hours before. Taking the kids to the beach with the other moms only takes a phone call. Life is less structured, and I find that liberating.

The flip side of this though is that no one is in a hurry. Not the mechanic, not the taxi driver, not the repair man, not the checkout lady at the register. I have not lost my American mentality of “Hurry up! What’s taking him so long? Chop chop!” It’s called Tico Time here, and I’m still adapting.

I have heard many people say that after living in Costa Rica for awhile, they feel like outsiders upon returning to the their home country. I have not found that to be true, but I think that is because we work hard to maintain our connections there. We have high speed internet at home so we are able to use Skype. My computer is my lifeline. DO NOT MOVE HERE WITHOUT ONE!

Luckily, San Jose is only a four hour nonstop plane ride to my hometown of Dallas. The same is true for Atlanta where I spent several years and still maintain close relationships. It’s not like Costa Rica is on the other side of the world that I still call home.

Friends are curious about what it must be like to live here so when we are back in the U.S., as we are several times a year, we always have a lot to chat about. It is an attractive place to come and visit, and fortunately we have visitors quite often.

The hardest part about moving to Costa Rica for many wives is accepting it as home, especially if you are being moved by factors out of your control. I encourage you to embrace it, and learn the language and culture.

This is a beautiful country inhabited by kind hearted people. You will be amazed at the ways you are able to adapt and what you can become OK with. You will meet a very diverse group of people who bring many different experiences to the table and will certainly broaden your horizons and cause you to redefine what you consider normal.

At this point I can honestly say that I would not trade the mountains, beaches, rainforests, iguanas and mangos for the manicured lawn I used to dream of.

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Written by Mary Katharine Gill who lives in Escazu. Costa Rica with her husband Martin and their young children. If you would like to learn more about buying real estate and living in the Escazu area, please contact our Recommended Realtor Martin Gill using the simple form below:

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