Over the past 10 days or so, we’ve all been noticing aloud how normal our lives seem these days. Even though every single solitary thing about our lives has changed dramatically since January 28, 2006. Right down to the weather. We lived at sweltering sea level for 30 years. Today we live at a chilly sweater-wearing 3900′. The only wildlife we saw in Key West was marine. Unless you count scorpions, palmetto bugs and mosquitoes. OK, the occasional key deer, but they are hardly wild, living as they do fed, fenced and followed. In fact, all other animal life there was leashed, fenced or caged.

Not here. Stray dogs, for instance, abound. As a result, some of them are pretty bizarre looking. Imagine a Rottweiler head on a Chihuahua body… I do not exaggerate. OK, maybe a little. But only a little, I promise you.

And while there’s not a lot of wildlife around us, living in the big city as we do, there’s plenty of stray animal life. This morning, there was a horse, sans bridle or any other device for managing a big animal, grazing behind our house. Most days, we have cows, oxen and/or horses wandering about, grazing in our side yard, in the lot across the street, behind us. If you own a beast of burden here and they need fresh grass, I guess you just open the gate, let ’em find fresh grass, then gather them up at the end of the day if they haven’t come home on their own.

All the things that threw us when we first arrived: the narrow roads, with their many deep and treacherous potholes. Absolutely EVERYTHING about driving is different, from road quality to signage to etiquette to obeying laws (you don’t). Plus, actually being the foreigner, in the minority, being completely surrounded by Spanish, whether speaking or reading. All of that seems completely normal now, hardly note-worthy.

Most of our lives, we lived in that bustling tiny, community-rich, metropolitan, culturally and historically rich, money-rich ocean-side city in the U.S. Even though we now live in Gringo-land (Escazú) five minutes from the most culturally-rich city in Costa Rica – the bustling metropolis called San Jose – this is still country living by U.S. standards. And the fact that Costa Rica is still developing nation by all standards the world over is evident every moment here.

Yet, we feel at home. Despite my nightmare experience at customs, despite the fact I will never completely grasp the tico culture, or the politics (although not dissimilar to the U.S. and Key West as far as corruption goes, just done very differently… with something akin to pride here), we no longer feel strange.

I am puzzled why there is not more visible resentment toward gringos for coming here with our riches and living among the locals in relatively high style. Compared to ticos, even I am wealthy beyond dreams of avarice. True, we gringos hire and spend. But most ticos don’t have a car, a computer, an ipod, things we U.S. citizens take for granted. And still they are lovely, peaceful, welcoming to us. I’m so used to the Keeping Up With The Jones culture in the states, the lack of this mentality here is still surprising. I see it rarely. And I’m looking for it, expecting it.

Even the ladrones [la-DRONE-ace, thieves] aren’t particularly resentful. They are simply opportunists. From their point of view, we have so much, we will miss that computer, ipod, big screen tv, car, whatever very little. Besides, they reason, we can replace it so easily. Let’s face it, the only way they will ever have said appliance is by stealing it. If a good wage for a tico is $400 a month and a desktop computer is $1000 (imported electronics are double here)… well, even I can do that math.

Oops, I’ve wandered OT. This is the downside to not blogging for over a week. There is so much to say on so many topics, I’m having trouble drawing within the lines. But, see? Even the petty crime seems normal to us! Is that progress? We still miss our Key West friends, we don’t know if Costa Rica is our new permanent home base, if this is forever. Although that is how we are leaning. Could we give up all this? And why would we? We are 100% certain we did the right thing coming here when we did and why we did. As strange and completely foreign as it was a year ago – which seems like a lifetime ago – it feels, suddenly, so normal.

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