Il Dolce Far Niente or being a shitty tourist in Esterillos Oeste
Updated: Feb 28
I find something so romantic about Italy and the Italian language. I am not talking about big wet sloppy kisses, wet patches in the bed or undying love sort of romance, I am talking about romance in terms of appreciation of the sheer beauty of life. I really hope that my poor little soul is not so crushed with disappointment when I arrive in Italy that it turns perpetually black. I have romanticised Italy and all things Italian for as long as I can remember. I used to fantasise about being a wife in an Italian mafia family where I had really vivid images of fabulous family dinners in vineyards, lots of red wine and making gnocchi in a kitchen with a handsome Italian who liked to rub his floury hands all over my kitchen bench. It is pathetic really. I am a few months early to be pontificating about Italy but there is an Italian phrase that sums my life up at the moment.
Il Dolce Far Niente – it rolls off the tongue like a glass of cold pinot grigio with some crusty ciabatta dipped in olive oil and balsamic. Saying it makes me feel like an Audrey Hepburn movie. The sweetness of doing nothing. How positively exquisite. I have mentioned before how I struggle standing still, of switching off and doing nothing. I am working on changing that. I have decided that Esterillos Oeste is where I will study Il Dolce Far Niente. Saying that I work every day and the kids have school work so I am a little bit full of shit really, but I am talking about all the other hours in the day.
I think we get so used to being busy. It is almost worn like a badge of honour, “God I am so busy that the only thing I have time for is to post how busy I am on my Facebook page.” “I am so busy I cannot keep up with my housework, I am a great big hot mess of a mum who can hardly brush her hair, let alone feed herself on anything but strong coffee and energy bars.” “I am so busy I cannot leave the house without my phone.” “I am so busy that I can’t possibly take the weekend off, what if work calls.” When someone asks us how we are it is more normal to respond with a sigh and a roll of the eyes, “Busy” than to say, “I am really well thank you.” It is like a competition. The busier we are the more important we are, the more vital we are and the more deranged we are. We are so busy being busy that we don’t have time for much else.
Then there seems to be this terrible fear of boredom. God forbid if we allow our kids to be bored. I know kids who knew how to use an iPad before they learnt how to speak. The fact that they are 10 and still can’t speak doesn’t seem to bother anyone, who cares when they can build a great big fuck off city in Minecraft and they have a device to alleviate any sign of boredom. I often wonder in my aimless wonderings how much magic we are losing by not allowing our kids to know what boredom tastes like so they can come up with a cure all on their own for it without using something that needs a battery.
In regards to busyness I know I am one of the worst culprits and sometimes look for things to keep myself even busier than what I am already. My house is generally pretty tidy, my washing is always put away, I spent my first week at home with newborn twins using my spare time to write thank you cards rather than sleeping. I am one of the best people at fully embracing the curse or busyness. In terms of boredom I sometimes feel like I fight to allow my kids to be bored so they can find a way to deal with it. I don’t think life should be a rollercoaster or a circus all the time. I want them to find the magic that can come from boredom, whether it be building a cubby house that becomes a princess’s castle or finding that the waves of the ocean can entertain you for hours.
Since arriving in Costa Rica, it is something I have really struggled with. The concept of doing nothing. In the States there was so much to do, I was with my dearest of friends, we were visiting NYC, Washington D.C. or some other amazing place and it was go, go, go action stations. I was like Inspector Gadget on crack cocaine. It was fabulous and I wouldn’t change a minute of it and I suspect I arrived in Costa Rica with that same attitude. There was this overwhelming feeling that there was a jungle to explore, a bus to catch, some Spanish to learn, a recipe to practice. I am in a new country for fuck’s sake and I should be doing something different every day.
A friend of mine summed it up by telling me there was nothing wrong with being a “shitty tourist” – someone who does not do much but eat, sleep and read. Saying shitty tourist rather than Il Dolce Far Niente makes me feel more Paul Hogan than Audrey Hepburn but I think the terms basically amount to the same thing.
Our first few days in San Jose were easy to deal with. The city was so overwhelmingly different to anything we had experienced so far that it was a feast of the senses. Then we had 10 days in Cabuya at the Howler Monkey Hotel and to be honest I think it took us a few days to recover from getting there in addition to starting to experience a world governed by the tides and moving at a slower pace that I was really only playing at it. Then there was the drama of the Bejuco beach shack and now we have been in Esterillos Oeste for just over a week and I am finally addressing my difficulties with doing nothing. It has taken me a while to get to the point but I have now gotten to the stage where I am relishing it. Yes, there is a whole country to explore but I don’t think I would know the country any better running around like a mad tourist and doing a million different National Parks and Activities. Right now we are living a very simple life that is governed by the tides and the rain and it has a rhythm all of its own – so it is not that I am not getting to know Costa Rica, it is just that I am getting to know my Costa Rica.
I am studying the art of Il Dolce Far Niente, the sheer bloody sweetness of doing nothing and if I achieve that for a few weeks I will be delighted.
The tides and the rains govern our days at the moment. The last two days we have had high tides in the afternoon combined with heavy rain. It has even been a little cool. So the kids and I curled up in bed and finished the latest season of Once Upon a Time whilst listening to the rain. I made my first version of Gallo Pinto which we all devoured. Regardless of the weather we walk every morning. Yesterday morning, we got caught in the heaviest rain I have ever experienced and came home drenched and mud spattered. Now that I am not madly devising plans for the afternoon our mornings seem to fly and in the afternoons we wander. On the weekend after returning from our walk, we had fruit salad for breakfast and ate a baguette on our way back to the beach. The tide was on its way out so for a few hours I sat in a tidal pool making black sand castles whilst the kids wallowed in the warm ocean.
This morning I heard the kids discussing their latest recording for their teacher on the “importance of bees”. I had to stop myself from laughing out loud when I heard them discussing the fact that if we don’t have bees then the world would have no pumpkins. Fucking pumpkins? Archie summed up his discussion to Rissie by saying, “Lucky for the bees Riss, I love bloody pumpkin.” I actually have no idea what the hell they were talking about but it made me smile.
I have always thought that you can only travel with certain people and it is a great leveller of friendship. I know for a fact that I could not travel with some of my dearest friends because I would probably drive them up the wall and carnage would ensue. The kids and I live in each other’s pockets and of course sometimes things are going to be tense and there is nowhere to hide. On Saturday morning Rissie would not shut up. Occasionally I want to shriek like an enraged banshee, “One minute, just one fucking minute of silence!”
That combined with Archie who was going through a particularly moody phase and was glaring at me made me momentarily see every single shade of crimson. Now normally if I had of had a full calendar planned I would have wanted to fix it. But I am studying Il Dolce Far Niente. So I think the kids were absolutely gobsmacked when I ignored them both and went to bed. I curled up under my sheet, in front of an open window listening to the rain and had the most delicious sleep I have had in a long time. By doing absolutely nothing, our world was set right again and after I woke I had lost the feeling that I wanted to scream and murder my children.
It is Archie and Rissie’s birthday at the end of the month. So they are going to pick an exciting excursion as their birthday present. So that means that at least in 3 weeks we will be out and about and doing the job of being a good tourist. Then we move to the mountains. In the meantime, I am incredibly busy studying my current obsession of Il Dolce Far Niente. Marga, our host has offered to take us to Jaco tomorrow to do a grocery shop so that is a big adventure. By Friday the high tide will have moved into the evening and we shall have the beach back in the afternoon. We still have not really explored the village or visited the local shop for an afternoon treat. At my little restaurant where we went on Saturday night they had some English books for sale. I might be due for a new book. I also have afternoon snoozes to contemplate.
Il Dolce Far Niente. The sweetness of doing nothing. So when people ask me what we are doing now, I am quite happy to tell them we are doing nothing. Instead of feeling guilty about it, I am temporarily turning it into an art form. Life can be so very, very sweet.