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.
I just loved your post. I remember returning here from not going home for over a year and “home” was not normal anymore, here seemed normal. I knew right then that THIS was home now.
The Ticos do resent us and it is pretty evident here in touristville Jaco. They are still very nice when you are nice and respectful. When you’re poor, respect goes a long way. We really have envaded them here and we all know what that feels like coming from South Florida where the north migrates.
We are rich here and it gives us a chance to make a difference, even if it’s something small, it’s a big deal to them. Respect is key though.
The crime here is something you learn to handle.
Better petty theft than some of the stuff I see on the U.S. news.
Girl, You’ve caught on real fast!
I’m sure that you are right about how things that originally were new and different when you first moved to CR now seem normal and perhaps even conforting to be around.
While I am not quite there to live full-time just yet, in the past five years as I stepped up my visits to twice a year, I have begun to notice that I am starting to miss various aspects of CR when I go back to Florida.
Also I notice that I am also starting NOT to miss various things from home (in the US). In fact it is somehow a relief to be away from some of those things while I am in CR. I surmise that this effect will increase -just as you are noticing- the longer that I stay in CR. I don’t think I will find it all that surprising. I am actually looking forward to it.
TicaTeri: The only place I noticed outright resentment was in Nosara, where the building boom was INTENSE. I can imagine, from my visits to Jaco, that it is the same there. Development brings jobs, it also brings resentment: the real money is being made by foreigners taking advantage, bringing unwelcome change and then taking the money out… I’d resent it, too.
Paul: It is such a gift to be here. See you at lunch on the 10th?
May I ask whether you brought your computer with you (and how) or did you purchase one locally? Do you have a laptop or desktop?
Hi Marika, laptops! We got our latest from Dell for just under $500 (that was before Christmas) and used one of our every-6-month $500 exemption to have it shipped here. Computers are at nearly 50% more here as they are in the states. So bring one or order and use that exemption. Every person in your family gets one. But the item itself has to be valued at under $500. You can’t order a $550 item, deduct the $500 and just pay duty on the $50…
Foreigners here (say from Europe or USA/Canada) are well accepted because its ‘cool’ to be from there. After all, we want to be like what we see on tv, with money and having a nice life with access to a bunch of stuff, Colombians or fellow Central Americans are not that well accepted as we (Ticos) consider them beneath us.
The exception to foreigners being well liked ends when any of the following happens
a) you open your mouth about politics
b) you say ugly (truthful but crude) things about how CR could improve and then you will get the “if you dont like it leave”
c)if you hire someone and then fire him/her well then you are being the ‘unfair/ugly foreigner’
You also get the ‘gringo tax’ when you pay x % more just for being foreigner, after all you guys are all ‘rich’ 😉
Off topic picture this, as you know license plates are sequential, in 1979 my dads car had a 79xxx plate, in 1990 he had a 110xxx by 2002 my car had a 460xxx …..and recently I saw a new car with a 660xxx plate….so in 4 cars we had 200k new cars (just normal cars not counting trucks/taxis or motorcycles of course)
CR…….if I can drive it there I will drive it……anywhere…. 🙂
How do you know what the ladrones who steal your computer are motivated by?
Do the have blogs they need to update?
Personally, I think they’re motivated by laziness and in some cases, substance abuse. Also, they need money to put those stupid wings and flashy wheels on their Hyundais.
Hi Wolfie, I know, so many cars, especially in Escazu where all the really rich gringos live (only half in jest, of course). I’m in awe of some of the cars I see here… Hummers, Mercedes Benz SUVs. I don’t understand it. I REALLY don’t understand sporty little sedans here. Don’t they scrape bottom on the speedbumps? And thank you for the pointers. I will take them to heart… For all the things that are different here, I wouldn’t change any of it. It’s just different. We love Costa Rica.