Hello. Is there anybody out there? I’m here.
I’ve had a lot of emails asking what happened to me – am I still living in Costa Rica? Did I move back to the States? I am both and did neither of those things…
I’m writing now from inside a heated airtight sterile box with perfect angles in my hometown while Winter Storm Jonas is sweeping its freezing tail over South Carolina, leaving an almost-invisible dusting of snow. I’m here overseeing the never-ending final stage of restoration on my house, which was a victim of the 1000-year SC Flood last October while I was inside of it.
I went to bed that night ignoring the persistent weathermen who had urged me repeatedly all week to prepare for a “historic rain event.” I’d been living in Costa Rica, I knew rain. I laughed it off. Historic rain event? They had to be kidding me. When I turned the lights off to go to sleep that night, the sky was dry and I assumed the historic rain would not happen.
I was abruptly awoken a few hours later by the sound of a CRASH and a frantic chihuahua mutt clinging to me. Another CRASH above my head and I thought to myself this warranted being scared, I screamed.
No more crashes as I got up in the pitch black, easing my fears. I took Mali in my arms to go outside to check and see what happened.
It was hard to see through the heavy rain and nearly impossible to look straight up as we stumbled around branches and pine needle bunches on the deck on the way to the yard for a better view. Standing in a couple inches of water, I noticed a black snaky outline on the ground between my house and my neighbors. I didn’t understand the void of light, it looked like a gaping hole in the earth. Did the rain open a crevice? Was it a colossal snake? Upon closer inspection, a branch, one of many. My eyes followed the black void up and landed on the outline of a gigantic pine tree laying on the roof, the branches now vertical reaching up to the sky and piercing the ground between my house and my neighbor’s house, the first one just inches from my bedroom.
I was thinking that I got off lucky and that tree could have fallen through the house and killed me while I walked back inside and headed to the front door to answer the frantic knocking. A wide-eyed neighbor was checking to see if I was ok. I said I was fine and we should figure this out tomorrow, while thinking it odd that he was so freaked out. I was ok, so no worries right?
With the lights still off in the house, I headed back to bed.
As I laid down, I heard the sound of water trickling, like I was sleeping next to a small waterfall. Normal in Costa Rica, not normal in SC. I turned on the lights for the first time that night and the severity of the situation finally hit me as I took in the cracks in the plaster and the sap-colored water running down every wall and through every ceiling in every room of my house. Pools of dirty water were starting to form on the hardwood floors. The bed was covered in grimy chunks of plaster fallen from the impact to the ceiling above me.
Now I wanted my neighbor to come back. A tree broke my house. What is the procedure for that? Call 911? Was this an emergency? I wasn’t hurt. Should I leave? Maybe I could still go to sleep and deal with it tomorrow. No, dumb idea, the water coming in the house was increasing, the tree could fall more. I thought “OK this I think is a legit emergency.” I called my dad to come over. Next I called 911. Then I called the insurance agency. I had to leave my house that night, immediately, it wasn’t safe anymore. We had to get back to my parent’s house before the rivers crested the roads or the roads collapsed. We just made it.
Displaced. Again! This was the theme for 2015. I left my perfect little mountain town at the beginning of the year when my friends-who-are-like-family moved back to the States. I couldn’t be there without them, it wouldn’t have been the same. I planned to move back to the U.S., I sent a few things to SC, sold everything that didn’t fit in the trunk of my car, and set out traveling. I spent most of the year bouncing around from one Pacific beach to the next, and I fell in love with Costa Rica all over again. Enough to stay?
Conflicted. I didn’t know. I stopped trying to sell my car. I continued to sell or give away the few things I still had left. By the time I finally did make it back to the U.S., I had decided to come back to Costa Rica. I wanted to spend a good amount of time in the U.S., though, with friends, family, and my grandmother. I wanted to live in my house with my roommate who had been there waiting for me all year, make some repairs, clean up the yard, and sell most of the stuff I had in storage that I really didn’t need to keep. Kind of test the waters out, too – maybe I could come back some day.
It wasn’t easy. I was greeted by an erroneous yet still stressful and bureaucratically annoying lawsuit from the city, a demanding letter from the IRS after some bad tax advice, a creepy craigslist stalker, plus a myriad of problems with reverse culture shock. And then the tree fell through my house. Oh, and I got really sick after the flood. Like could barely take care of myself for 2 months and am still recovering. 2015 sucked for the most part. I try to not dwell on these things, though, and choose to focus on what I have going on for me in the moment.
Living in Costa Rica isn’t necessarily easier, but I’ve become accustomed to its particular struggles and my body and mind crave a close connection with nature. So I went back. Now I’m in the U.S. again. I’m back and forth. I don’t have a home. At the same time I have many homes – places I love, friends and family with extra room and welcoming arms. Sometimes it gets aggravating, living out of a suitcase all the time is way overrated, but for the most part it’s OK. I still have some things to finalize and figure out before I choose a base to unpack all my bags, so I’m going with the flow until then.
Hopefully this answers the question I get most frequently these days: “Where are you living, Erin?” I don’t know. Here and there.
This uncertainty and series of crappy events has been amazing for creative productivity. I’m writing again, creating art online and painting. It’s like this creative monster has woken up inside of me and if I don’t let it play I will explode. Life had to shake things up a bit to get me back in to my artsy self or maybe the creative monster would have woken up anyway. Who knows. I’m ready for the shaking to stop now, though, please.
So I’m back. Here. Online. Here’s to making 2016 an awesome year lacking disasters and full of creating, laughter, and love!