Following is a story written by local expat Lair Davis. Perfectly describes how things used to get done in Key West. And how they still get done in Costa Rica:
The Adventures of Joram
He is still a young man, my friend Joram. With his wife, Ana, a woman born here in Costa Rica, he has three children, two adorable young daughters and a handsome young son of 12.
Joram was born in Israel, immigrated to Europe at a young age, and then crossed the Atlantic Ocean to settle in the United States. He immigrated for the third time more than a decade ago, after visiting Costa Rica and meeting Ana.
An entrepreneur if ever there was one, Joram has operated several businesses since moving here. Now he limits his business activities more or less to being a landlord and owner of an auto parts importation company.
A few years ago, this man in his early 40s had a massive heart attack. By necessity, he has learned to "mellow out." And he’s done a good job at it!
Joram shared with me several experiences that illuminate what it is like to live in the culture that is Costa Rica. Here’s one of them.
One day, Joram decided to repair his roof. The leaks were not too bad, but it was time to replace parts of it, so he hired a Costa Rican man to assist him in the re-roofing.
Roofs on Costa Rican houses usually are made of panels of tin bolted together. It is a fairly simple matter to replace a panel when it has rusted or begins to leak. The job does require two sets of hands, however, to manipulate the large tin panels.
Joram and his Costa Rican employee worked on the roof through the morning. They worked quickly, because Joram really didn’t know any other way of working other than fast and furiously.
As the noon hour approached, the employee indicated that he wanted to go to lunch.
"Well, certainly, he could go to lunch," Joram told me, "although we still had quite a bit of work to do. I would see him when he had returned from eating, and we would complete the job then. We would have to work quickly, but we could do it before the afternoon rains arrived."
Well, the lunch hour ended, and the worker did not return. It got later and later. Clouds begin to form on the horizon, and my house stood there with no roof on it to ward off the coming deluge.
I asked Ana, "How soon is it going to rain?"
She answered, "It’s raining over there across the hills already. It will rain here in about a half hour."
I was completely panicked. I rushed to the hardware store, hurried back home, and threw tarp over the top of the house, just as the rains began to come down.
The worker never came back all afternoon. I was furious! I gathered up his tools, put them outside the front gate, and told Ana, "When he shows up, you tell him he is fired and to go away."
Well, he finally did show up — on Monday morning — three days later! He was all full of smiles and "buenos días" and ready to go to work as if nothing had happened.
I told him he was fired, and he became all hurt and confused, wondering why I was upset. What had he done? Something had come up. He couldn’t come back last Friday, but now he had returned ready to work, so it should be okay with me.
He was baffled, and I was baffled because he didn’t understand why I was upset.
I asked my Costa Rican neighbors about this experience, and every single one of them had the same reaction: "You gringos just don’t get it!"
And they were right. I didn’t get it.
Ana explained to me that, first, it was the rainy season. A wise person would not have begun such a big job as re-roofing during the rainy season without realizing that something might happen to delay its completion and that the job likely would not be done before the afternoon rains came.
In Costa Rica, the chances are always great that "something" might come up that would cause plans to change. You must be flexible in all things in this culture.
This culture is NOT linear, things do not follow a gringo time-related order. The MOMENT is always more important than some scheduled activity, even an activity as important as a job.
Any gringo who moves to Costa Rica, or any other Latin American country, must understand the lesson of Joram’s story, I believe. You can be assured that Latin American culture is not going to adjust to YOU, so you had better be prepared to adjust to it.
And that’s the view from Lair!