On living in the open air.

5 January, 2020: In a bus in Costa Rica, watching banana plantations flash by out the window.

Banana Farm

I’m fascinated by how outside everyone lives here. I remember it from Ecuador, and Southern Spain, and France. The doors and windows are open all the time, and even when you’re in a building, the building isn’t closed. The eaves of rooves are open, sometimes protected by a screen, sometimes not. Windows don’t even have glass, in some places. If it’s open, it’s open--and chances are that it’ll be open. We walked through the Tortuguerra school yesterday, where classroom walls are solid to shoulder-height and then brightly painted trellace to the ceiling.

Patios are parts of houses, restaurant seating is primarily outdoors. They said the bugs would be awful, here, but I’ve had far less trouble than I do in my own back yard (literally. My mosquitos are horrifying.). It really is quite wonderful, and this openness is true in San Jose as well as in the National Reserve of Tortuguera. I think of all the studies we’re doing, in the U.S., about the health benefits of being outdoors, of feeling connected to nature, and I can’t but feel that it’d be impossible to not feel connected when you can feel the wind on your cheeks at the dinner table, and hear the birds outside while you’re in your shower.

Some of the students are wishing for air-conditioning. They can’t wait to be somewhere that the humidity is removed from the air, again. Feeling sticky isn’t my favorite by any means, but I can’t bring myself to want to enter a place as enclosed as air conditioning would require. I’m reminded of my childhood, when we had fans and nothing else, up until someone gifted us a window air conditioner when mom was pregnant with her third baby (a summer baby). Dad objected, afraid it would keep us indoors. Much as I thought It was ridiculous at the time there is truth to his concern. Every spring, I’m outdoors much more consistently than I am after it finally gets so hot I have to turn the air on. My kids used to whine for air conditioning far earlier in the year than I was willing to turn it on, and every summer I grieve the loss of the open air feeling in my house that comes with turning the central air on and closing the windows. Of course, my American architecture isn’t designed for open-air living. If there was as much cross-breeze available in my house as there is in Costa Rican homes, it’d take me far longer for me to turn on my air every year. Because, as much as I love living through all four seasons every year, I would live this open to the world if there were any way for me to.

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