Sometimes being moved abroad by your parents for a year of “intercultural living and enrichment” is a drag. Gone are your Legos, your trusty bike and your favorite picture books; familiar friends and teachers are nowhere to be seen; and suddenly your parents are demanding you speak in Spanish just to get a meal, go on long sweaty hikes in chafing swim shorts “for fun,” and join a soccer team with Central American kids who play like pros.

Even with candy in hand and cool soccer shoes, sometimes life abroad is a drag.

The Washington Post recently published my essay about the lessons we’ve learned this year from our kids’ Costa Rican soccer. Tico kids play tough in general, and their soccer–or fútbol–is beyond impressive. At first, sending my gringo kids out onto the fútbol field felt like a cruel exercise in destroying their self esteem, but fútbol has proven to be one of the great gifts of this year. I hope you’ll enjoy reading the full essay here (as well as the Post’s take on my intended message, seen in their subtitle, set above the image just below–bold!).

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Our family owes many thanks to the kids’ generous soccer coach, Edgar, whose methods we failed to fully understand in the beginning, but who has proven to be a great teacher.

Thanks for reading, and please consider leaving a comment below about some of the challenges you’ve faced while living or traveling abroad, which actually turned out to be gifts.