The story of how one woman packed up her kids and comfortable city life and traded it in for a remote Costa Rican village, and how it has changed her life.
Calm in the Chaos
Warm, enticing scents of fresh baked bread, locally harvested honey and softened butter wait for us as we enter Nancy Alvarado’s corner rambler. A fresh pot of coffee rests on the granite countertop, warming. It’s difficult not to feel completely at ease in her comforting home.
In the midst of the crowded city, Nancy has created a tranquil haven for her family, community, and herself.
Despite her family’s full schedule, she’s managed to find peace within chaos that city living can bring. An intricate balancing act, she’s found a way to let both the noise and the calm exist together.
But it wasn’t always this way, Nancy tells us. In order to find what she was missing, she had to leave her cozy rambler, her beloved city and her comfortable life behind.
It was the early 1990s and Nancy decided she could do one of three things: join the workforce, enroll in grad school, or apply for the Peace Corps. She decided upon the latter and was assigned to a remote village in Costa Rica.
Nancy also met the man who would become her husband. A professional soccer player and police investigator, Chato Alvarado came to Nancy’s rescue after her hut fell victim to looters. The two fell in love, and the rest was history.
After her service, Nancy returned home to the U.S. with Chato by her side. They were married shortly after and bought a house just outside the city.
The next two decades would be packed with work, grad school, two babies, elementary school and talks of college visits. As time passed, the Alvarados remained connected to family and friends in Costa Rica, especially two women in particular that Nancy met while living there: Laura Perez and her mother Cristina.
It would be Laura and Christina that would ultimately change Nancy’s life, and as a result, hundreds of others.
A Step Back
Hungry for a change of pace and eager for their kids to experience a culture other than their own, the Alvarados decided to take a huge leap of faith. Nancy and the kids would move back to Costa Rica for nearly a year, while Chato would stay put and continue working.
During that time, Nancy would discover the delicate balance between chaos and calm, and how to truly enjoy peace.
“I stepped away from this crazy life we live. I stepped away from it all and I really became a mom,” Nancy says.
“We didn’t have a car; we walked everywhere. And because of that, we were really able to see the beauty that surrounded us.”
After seven months, the Alvarados returned to the U.S., just in time for their daughter Ana to start her senior year of high school. But, once Nancy found the peace and calm she’d been searching for, she wasn’t about to let it go. She came to the conclusion that she didn’t have to.
Living in Costa Rica showed Nancy how beautiful the world can be if you only pay attention. This helped Nancy find the peace that her heart and mind were longing for in her everyday life.
“I see that beauty is everywhere. I see it in my kids when they play soccer, or a beautiful tree or a gorgeous sunset,” she tells us.
“By taking a step back and observing what’s around me, I’m able to feel that peace and calm once again.”
During her visits to Costa Rica, Nancy began to realize that her friends Laura and Cristina were in desperate need of a sustainable income. Large corporations moving into the area that the women lived cost them both their jobs. They both were intelligent and hard-working women, but somehow were still struggling just to survive.
Fortunately, the mother daughter duo had a hidden talent of sorts. They loved to bake, and they were great at it.
Fast-forward five years. Laura and Cristina’s talent is no longer hidden. Now, the whole village knows of their incredible baking skills through their homemade, delicious bread. An authentic brick oven, constructed on a mission trip organized by Nancy, made all this possible.
Though many would say that Nancy changed the lives of a mother-daughter baking team in a remote Costa Rican village, Nancy would say quite the opposite. It’s Lauren and Cristina who have changed her.
The Alvarados have since built another brick oven, this one in their very own yard. And in 2016, Bricks to Bread became an official nonprofit, demonstrating that a small act of kindness can make a monumental difference in the lives of others.
Drive by the Alvarado house and you might see Nancy or Chato and the kids in their yard, baking bread for their own neighbors and community, just as Laura and Cristina do for theirs.
- On October 28, 2016