“Badass?” questioned the Costa Rican airport official, eyebrow raised, as he stopped my forward progress through security.

“Yes,” I replied with a sly smile.

“Wait here,” he said as he left to bring over more security personnel. They gathered around me and again asked “Badass? Seriously?”

“Yes, after the bull,” I replied and laughter broke out. They were reading my tiny dog’s international transport papers. I named her Malacrianza after an infamous bull in Costa Rica known for spearing human necks and whose name roughly translates to “badass.”

The airport officials passed Mali around, cooing “Malacrianza” through tears of laughter, then bid us blessings and farewells on our journey.

Mali the chihuahua looking extra tiny in the jungle of Costa Rica

Mali does Costa Rica.

How could I leave a country full of such good-natured people? To return to a land in which airport officials search me every single time and the overhead announcement is full of threats?

At this point, I had already decided that I couldn’t really leave Costa Rica. But here I was, leaving Costa Rica. It’s like I set this plan into motion and couldn’t stop it.

BUT I’d been struggling with this decision for so long I owed it to myself to give the U.S. a try, right?

“You can always go back,” said every single person I ever burdened with my unbearable indecision.

Mali the Chihuahua in suburbia USA

Mali does Suburbia, USA.

Back in the US

“A process server just came by the house looking for you,” said my mom. I had been “home” just one day. What on earth could they want?

This brought back stressful memories of the prior year when a tenant thought she could break the lease and sue me to get her security deposit just because her brother was a lawyer. She had no case, but the bullying from her during that whole bureaucratic process took a toll on me.

You don’t even know how many times I’ve asked myself “Why can’t we all just get along?”

I thought about what to do. In the movies, when a process server is looking for you, you hide. I considered it, but I had no idea what I was hiding from. I had nothing to hide! I called her.

stuffed wild cat from the US

Wild cat sighting in the US.

“Wow it really is you then,” she said as she handed me the papers. Apparently I’m the only one who had ever called her back to schedule the serving.

The lawsuit was a mistake based on misinformation, but the city I grew up in was suing me for $110,000. Welcome home!

It took a month of bureaucratic work to dissolve the claim and I received many apologies, but my stress level increased nonetheless and I began to question what the heck was wrong with my people.

It felt like everyone was judging and all up in everyone else’s business, quick to jump into a fight. I couldn’t even drive somewhere without being judged with a horn for driving too fast, too slow, or for who knows what.

In Costa Rica, I learned to mind my own damn business, to stop finding things to complain about, and to instead find things to be happy about.

“Good morning, how’s it going?” I asked the Costa Rican caretaker who was cleaning up after a huge storm that crushed his house with a tree, broke our septic tank, and killed the power and water for days.

“Pura vida!” he replied, laughing, “We Ticos can be up to our necks in shit, but everything is still pura vida! It’s a beautiful day, there’s monkeys and birds, and I’m alive, well fed, and healthy.”

puma in corcovado national park, costa rica

Wild cat sighting in Costa Rica. Puma!!!

SO, what did I have going for me in the US?

  • Love and support from so many friends and family
  • Shelter
  • A fun old car that my uncle gave me
  • Spinach in a box that’s already been picked off the vine and washed!
  • 70mb of internet
  • The fact that I wasn’t being sued for something real
  • My health
  • My grandmother
  • A garage full of stuff that should be fun to go through …

I opened the garage and found everything was covered in mold. Everything.

I was in that garage night and day for weeks unpacking, cleaning, and organizing. I never wore a mask.

That is when the diarrhea began and my hair started falling out in clumps.

driving to the caribbean coast on the braulio carrillo highway in costa rica

Driving on a highway in Costa Rica.

After a week of this, I went to a doctor who’s known me for 15 years.

“You’re stressed,” she said over my head through glazed over eyes and a disconnected voice. “Take Adderall to get everything done and Xanax to deal with the stress.”

This is a problem. It’s like there is so much pressure to get so much done in the U.S. that no one has the time to stop and think about what the heck the doctor is actually asking them to do.

I needed help, not pharmaceutical band-aids, but I obliged anyway. It’s easy.

I took the Adderall and cleaned out that garage in no time. My family was like “wow you have accomplished so much.” Yes, thanks to speed, determination, and creeps on Craigslist.

“Don’t use Craigslist, it’s not safe. Join ZIPIT,” said my girlfriends. “It’s trusted women selling to other women.”

I was not approved to join. Apparently, I’m not southern enough or married enough or knocked up enough or who knows what. Rejected.

So I sold a table on Craigslist to a guy who texted me later that he also wanted to buy my panties. What the heck happened to you, U.S.?

Just when I thought things were calming down, I got a letter from the IRS with a bill for $5,000. I’m one of very few expats I know who actually do their taxes, but I did them wrong. There is no A for effort with the IRS.

driving on a highway in the US

Driving on the highway to my hometown, USA.

Just when I thought my homecoming couldn’t get any more ridiculous, the weathermen started warning everyone “Be prepared folks, this is going to be a historic rain event. We can’t stress this enough, it is going to be ugly.”

A historic rain event? What the heck is that? I remembered weathermen from when I lived in the US – they were always dramatically forecasting storms that didn’t materialize. But a rain event? Are they kidding? I couldn’t roll my eyes hard enough.

There was no way South Carolina was going to have any kind of disaster worse than what I’d seen in Costa Rica. I’d never heard of rain being called an event. It was a part of life in Costa Rica. We just call it “rain.”

I went to bed that night under a dry sky, confident that I’d wake up the next morning to a normal day. Little did I know, my world was about to be shattered.

This was chapter 7 in my Leaving Costa Rica Saga. We are almost to the end, and a new beginning…  Subscribe here.