Brasilito Moon

Costa Rica Cost of Living Update: Bag of Sun Chips that Rob and I devoured in one hour—$4.82

The Happier House recently hosted two wonderful guests, Jim and Dawn. As we were showing them around the Sunset Suite’s outdoor kitchen, Rob began a very long and tedious explanation on how to light the barbecue.

“You see here Jim, the automatic lighter switch is broken so you will have to use this Bic lighter,” Rob explained, holding up the device in case Jim has started fires in the past using only flint and kindling.

“Okay, I think I got it,” Jim replied.

“Well, you have to light it where the gas comes out underneath, somewhere in the middle.”

“Yeah, I’ll remember…”

“It’s important Jim, that if the gas is on too long, you will want to shut it off and wait a few minutes then start again.”

Rob continued rambling to our guest, even suggesting the “Righty-Tighty, Lefty-Loosy” rule of turning the propane tank nozzle on and off when I finally interrupted.

“Honey, didn’t Jim tell you he works for NASA?”

“So you’re like a rocket scientist?” Rob asked.

“Yes. My job involves dealing with jet fuel when necessary.”

Well played Rocket Man. Well played.

These types of interactions are common with my husband. I once watched him demonstrate the superior way he sweeps the floor. Explaining how not everyone has his ape-like arms with the strength and dexterity to pivot, twisting the broom ever so slightly in order to maximum crumb elimination. I was happy to let him talk since it got me out of sweeping the floor in the first place.

I was immediately impressed with Jim and Dawn because I have been a longtime fan of space exploration. When I was a kid, I wrote to NASA, and they replied by sending me glossy color pictures of the universe. It inspired me always to look up into the starry night when given the opportunity, and I live by that even to this day.

After settling in, Jim and Dawn came downstairs and gave us some awesome NASA swag: Pins of the space shuttle with one looking extra important that Rob wants to wear when we go out as if he would ever get mistaken for a rocket scientist. A mad scientist perhaps, but probably not a rocket one.

NASA Swag

If you ever wondered what it’s like to talk to NASA people, let me confirm that is as amazing as you can imagine. Jim worked on the Hubble telescope, doing something that I could only define as “tinkering.” There was a lot of science tossed into that conversation, and I sort of got lost with the full explanation, so I just imagined him with a wrench securing things called thrust boosters, all while never uttering “Righty-Tighty” when turning something off.

Dawn is an educator, and we discussed her career getting schools involved in STEM education (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics). She was passionate as she talked, her eyes lighting up as she discussed all the things NASA does to reach out and inspire others. You can always tell a good teacher by their eyes, and Dawn has blue ones that matched the color of arctic ice.

I got to share with them my favorite places in the area. I told them about Sugar Beach, a place where the tips of the waves look like tiny silver sequins in the sun’s reflection. It was there they held hands on the sand while watching an entire morning slip away.

When passing quality time like Jim and Dawn did, it’s as if you gave yourself a hard reset. Not the kind where you just restart a device, but one that erases old disrupting information. I’ve learned it’s good to purge every once in a while. I’m no longer surprised how many good memories take the place of bad ones when my brain frees up space for them.

Later in the week they took a sunset catamaran tour, and in my efforts to tell them where it is located, I said, “It will be on the right and look for… ah… you know, where boats drive into the sea.”

“You mean launch?” Dawn said. I couldn’t help but laugh, that the one word I couldn’t remember in front of NASA scientists was launch. Like I said, I frequently do hard resets, so perhaps I dumped a little too much information on my last brain purge.

Back at The Happier House, we had long talks by the pool under a sky lit up with constellations. One of the sweetest things about living in Costa Rica is there is less light pollution. You can actually look up and see thousands of stars overhead. Perfect for someone like me who constantly looks upward, and perfect for my guests whose work literally resolves around so much of the unknown that exists up there.

While staring at the moon, Dawn informed told me that you can actually see the space station when it is positioned overhead.

“You see Venus?” Jim said, pointing to the sky. “It’s going to look as bright as that.” How cool I thought, to know that I can see something we shot off into space and is orbiting our planet.

So much of what is good about the United States is wrapped into NASA. Full of believers, gifted people who think differently, like the ones who spun around in their office chair twenty years ago and said, “Hey, what about dropping a land rover on Mars and see what we find?”

I think we need more believers in this world: People whose dreams merge with interstellar stardust. Those who realize it’s a better world when we continue to explore the universe in search for answers. Individuals who understand that maybe when a kid gets a glossy picture of the Milky Way, good things will come of that.

So this week I got to meet my NASA heroes, ones that Rob over instructed on how to start a barbecue and I told where to drive into the sea. And they were as amazing as I imagined they would be.