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The Integrator Blog. News, Reports and Networking for the Business, Education, Policy and Practice of Integrative Medicine, CAM and Integrated Health Care. - Sabbatical in Central America
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Sabbatical in Central America PDF Print E-mail
Written by John Weeks   

Weeks/Kimball Family Sabbatical (sort of) in Central America

The Integrator Blog News and Reports marks a return to writing and reporting after a three year plus lay-off. Most of this time I lived in Central America with my wife Jeana Kimball, and children Lucas and Roz. We were on a semi-sabbatical.

Family in a sunny cloud forest

The time brought us all we had hoped for, and more: the experience of new culture and language, change of pace, and most important, the deepening pleasure of more time together as a family. I share the following outline and few photos to stimulate your own fancies about how to take a chunk of time away.

Home in Monteverde, 03-04

The world is large, life is short, and home office work is possible from virtually anywhere ...

September 2002-January 2003: Traveling and Home Schooling in Costa Rica

We set up a base camp in a small cabin ($160/month) adjacent to a friend’s home in the high cloud forest of Monteverde, just below the Continental Divide. Mostly we traveled the first 5 months. We home-schooled the kids from inexpensive rented rooms ($12-$35/night) as we explored Costa Rica glorious beaches – Tortuguero, Cahuita and Puerto Viejo on the Caribbean side, San Jose (where we got our movie and museum fixes), then three weeks in a rental on a beach in Playa Hermosa. Home-schooling was a great experience -- and we were all glad when it was over!

Roz with Costa Rican school friends

February 2003 – June 2004: Monteverde, Costa Rica

We put Lucas and Roz, then 7 and 10, into a school where a friend of ours was the director, the Cloud Forest School. The school has a 90% Tico student population, but was taught 80% in English. We added additional Spanish tutoring to our children’s curriculum (and to our lives). We rented homes (average price $450/month), just below the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve, with howlers and squirrel moneys not infrequently overhead, and bellbirds, hummingbirds, toucans, and the infrequent quetzal sighting. We had many visitors the first six months, then began to be more protective of our time together.

I began to work 20-30 hours a month with a client in the states, via email and internet phone. The amount grew slowly over time. Also via internet, Jeana began half-time schooling

Our rooftop view Granada
in an excellent MPH program through U Mass Amherst.
Monteverde, with its extensive gringo culture (the school’s teachers and their families, scientific community, students, tourists), proved to be a comfortable and soft landing in a new world and language for us. We still recall the Cloud Forest as a poultice for the ailments of our formerly harried, both-parents-working, US life-style.
Family who took Roz and me in when the Trooper broke down

July 2004—June 2005: Granada, Nicaragua

The next year we moved to Granada, Nicaragua, to enjoy a more rich cultural and language experience. Granada is a nearly 500 years-old colonial city of 80,000 in the Western Hemisphere’s second poorest nation, as measured in per capital income.

We splurged on our rental ($600/month), selecting a renovated colonial two blocks off the town’s central plaza. The location allowed us also to become friendly with our neighbors, local merchants, and the street kids. Lucas and Roz attended the best educational options in town: Spanish-only learning in Catholic schools, Maria Auxiliadora and Salesiano ($18/month).

With Jorge and family in their outdoor salon

Both the kids played on organized baseball teams – our daughter was the only girl in the league. I co-coached both as part of my own community emersion. A few of the parents of the other ball-players became my closest local friends, with whom I shared a little low-cost rum from time to time, loosening up the Spanish vocal chords. We intentionally stayed out of Granada's growing gringo community -- except one US-Brit couple and their two kids who owned and ran one of the backpacker hostels, The Bearded Monkey and a beautiful place an Laguna de Apoyo. My love of politics I sated with daily doeses of La Prensa, and the commentary of my very conservative neighbor, full of opinion on one side, and the Sandinista co-coach of Lucas' team, who I assisted on the other.

Over the last year in Granada my work picked up to 30+ hours per week. I continued with other consulting, visiting the States for work every 4 months or so. I also began organizing the National Education Dialogue to Advance Integrated Healthcare: Creating Common Ground. While sitting at my desk in our Granada home, I sometimes managed conference calls which included participants from Australia, Canada, the United States, and Central America. What a world!

Beach in Nicaragua, December 04

Late Summer 2005 … to the Present: Return to a Seattle

We kept our house in Seattle, renting it to while we were away. On our return, its 1930 wooden exterior and decks were in need of some patient, holistic treatment which would likely not stun the actuaries. The kids – now 10 and 13 – quickly re-acclimated, relishing life among friends in their own language and culture. Roz, who formed close relationships with both Tico (Costa Rican) and Nica friends, speaks of missing them. Lucas, more than ready to be a teen in his own culture, mainly talks of missing his spirited bass teacher, Juan.


The time away holds us. We all miss the feel of the life. We wrestle with some of our basic values choices here, now informed by our in-the-blood experience of other ways of living. We are all more aware than ever of what great good luck blesses our lives.

If you and your spouse or partner or families are intrigued by some similar urgings, go for it!


A few more photos ...


Salesiano school classroom for Lucas
Salesiano school classroom for Lucas


House of friend Maria in Granada


Back up to let our car pass, near the coast


Sojourn to Georgetown for National Education Dialogue planning mtg, July 04

The Tigritos, Roz's team in Granada

Neighborhood well

Co-coach and shortstop, both Edwins

Lucas with Volcan Mombacho 30 minutes biking from Granada

Dec 31 2004 in front of our house

Our street, facing south to Mombacho



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