Category Archives: Costa Rica Culture

A Busy End To Summer Break…

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I know for most of you North Americanos there’s alot of head scratching goin on with the title of this blog. The summer school break here in Costa Rica begins around the third week of November and ends next week. The time off of babysitting has flown by. I’ll be able to extend it, though, by connecting with friends who are visiting, and I’ll actually be acting as a tourist myself.

My first visit will be with friends from my last job in North America. They’re staying at the Los Suenos Marriot, located on the central pacific…

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As you can see, they won’t be suffering too much. It’s one of the premier 5 star resorts in the country.

Then, a couple of days later a friend arrives and we have a week of scheduled touristy delights to savor.. first stop: double decker bus tour of downtown San Jose…

San_Jose-Costa_Rica

I’m really looking forward to jumping on and off the bus during the day to see sights I haven’t gotten to yet, plus share those that I love… here’s one I haven’t been to: The Jade Museum, which is supposed to have the world’s largest collection of jade objects.

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The next day is devoted to the LaPaz Waterfall Gardens, where we’ll see seven different large waterfalls, butterfly gardens, hold toucans and hummingbirds, and get alot of strenuous hill climbing back up the hill.

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Third day we’ll take a 4-hour bus trip to Manuel Antonio where the beaches in the park are supposed to be the most beautiful and clean in the country:

Manuel-Antonio-National-Park-Costa-Rica-11

The park is located at a particular geographic area called The Whales Tail:

Manuel-Antonio-Park

Fourth day we’ll begin our trek back home, stopping in Jaco for one night so my friend can go out and listen to live music and hang with the locals:

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I can hardly wait to finally begin my time as a tourist in this beautiful country. So much of these past (almost) three years have been spent settling in, really. Every three months until I get my residency I’ve been on Visa Runs (leaving the country for Panama or Nicaragua) in order to receive another 3 month stamp. So, these Runs have been my opportunity to see a little bit of the country up until now…. and to get acquainted a bit with those two other countries as well (my fave is Nica land). If it weren’t for my familia here

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and the opportunity to babysit my lovely granddaughters, I wouldn’t be as grounded as I’ve become… grounded enough to allow myself to be a tourist!

Some butterflies are gray…

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And although they are gray, they are as incredibly beautiful as those extremely colorful ones you see most often… this is a beautifully captured photo from Tom Murray I found at: http://www.pbase.com/tmurray74.

So…. haven’t been online with my blog for almost a year… and as I look back on the ‘why’s’ of that a gray butterfly came to mind. I wasn’t as vivacious, as motivated to communicate with others as I was with myself. But, it’s all good, right? Turns out that way every time… I moved three times within this last year and that plumb wore me out! And in each place I didn’t have a reliable internet connection…. but… NOW I DO!!!! Yippee, I’m Back!

I’ve been to central markets (centro mercados) where you could find almost anything you were looking for. Every mid-sized town has an indoor mercado where the fruits and veggies are enticing and endless:

centromercadoveggies

 

And to outdoor markets, called Ferias, where the focus on organic is paramount:

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I’ve been on Visa Runs to Grenada Nicaragua four times and let me tell you, I enjoy it there much more than Panama, although it’s just as hot, if not hotter.

So, I’ve been busy expanding my horizons, but primarily my time has been spent babysitting my youngest granddaughter who is an absolute pistol, and experiencing the elder granddaughter emerge with her hormones and all that jazz that accompanies a young lady developing… yikes galore! Still, throughout all this downtime I’ve had from you faithful friends, I continue to live in a small barrio with roads like this:

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And vistas like this everywhere:

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I continue to love this country every single day and wake up at 5:30 am, after most ticos have awakened, to watch the sun fill the valley behind my apartment, and the cows being delivered for the day to chomp down the chaff therein.

One of the reasons I think I’ve had this downtime was to discover a little knack for painting… purely whimsical representations:

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And to develop a deeper relationship and understanding of my Journey process, of which you can find more information here.

So, I’m alive and very well and living in a 3-bedroom typical tico apartment two blocks from my kids and on the main drag between barrios, with a store next door and a Cafe Britt Outlet store across the street…. room for you to stay a coupla days… so, come on down and I’ll show you around! More to come…

 

Living Arrangements in Costa Rica…

I just moved about a month ago. After two years in a rural setting in the mountains, I’m now in town..  in urban… in ticolandia. I’m paying less than half the rent in half the space and it’s an eye-opener. Don’t get me wrong. I like this new place, especially because it’s amongst locals and their lively lives. But I like it for alot of other reasons, the primary one being that I can save money at this place… which I need so that I can apply for Residency. Since it’s such a dramatic change, I thought I’d share with you the range of possible options for homes here in Costa Rica.

First of all, construction … concrete. It’s tropical here – hot and sweaty. For most of the country’s population, life in either the city or the country is fraught with not only the heat, but dust, bugs, next door neighbors, tin roofs and cats who like to hunt for birds on them.

Concrete construction.

Concrete construction.

I don’t know the ‘why’ of it, but concrete is not so much of a sound barrier… just sayin… My apartment is built onto the side of the owner’s home, which is behind a huge metal sliding garage door. Their house and my apartment are underneath a warehouse type roof structure. And the owner of the place built this little jewel himself. You can tell,  believe me. It’s a railroad apartment with myriad locks on the doors. Evidently at one point there were two different doors into the two primary rooms of the place, and these rooms shared the bathroom that was built between them. These rooms were rented separately. When I came to look at the place they were shocked I wanted both rooms, which turned into a living room and a bedroom… I guess there are many people who work so much here that having a room to simply crash in is common. I saw that in other places we looked at. I realized finally that I wasn’t seeing more than two rooms during our search, and no windows to outside. There is a law here that you cannot build a house that looks into another home, apartment, whatever. I’m sure that’s part of the reason why these places we were visiting were, to me, dismal. Sure, there are houses with plenty of windows here in Costa Rica, but most of them are covered. You can’t see in, you can’t see out. I’m sure this began with the idea that being in a sheltered concrete spot created protection from the sun. Another reason I was seeing smaller compact apartments had to do with the fact that I live alone, and how much space does one person need? That’s an interesting set of thoughts here in Costa Rica where familial generations live together in very tight spaces… In the US a 2-bedroom place usually means three or so people; here it could mean anywhere from 4-6. And did I mention concrete construction does not harbor secrets? No sound barriers? My place might be a bedroom with an open door in the owner’s house. Noise works both ways, and noises of all types.

But back to the original premise of this article… types of living spaces here in Costa Rica:

There are mansions here with fake lakes.

There are mansions here with fake lakes.

A colorful wooden house.... with a tin roof.

A colorful wooden house…. with a tin roof.

Adjacent homes in city/town spaces.

Adjacent homes in city/town spaces.

There's an out-of-country design influence here.

There’s an out-of-country design influence here.

Photo Courtesy of: helloimscott.com.  Family spending a day at the beach.

Photo Courtesy of: helloimscott.com.
Family spending a day at the beach.

All of these different types of places offer a living that’s comfortable in it’s own right. The European inspired designs are much more expensive, of course, since they’re inhabited by those who have considerably more money to spend than the ticos I know do. It’s the less generous spaces that intrigue me because they’re authentic to the country and the culture. I’m learning alot in this new space I’m living in and I’m proud to be sharing life in a neighborhood of diverse types of homes and living  arrangements. I feel like I’m in the soup of the country as a new spice for the rest of the folks who live around me here. It’s a responsibility I’m aware of to represent the expat in the midst of the locals.  One of these places is my new spot… can you figure out which one?

My new front door.

An exterior front door that’s actually interior.

 

Costa Rican condominiums.

Costa Rican condominiums.

Rural, colorful, along a dirt road.

Rural, colorful, along a dirt road.

There are colorful detached, concrete homes with tin roofs.

There are colorful detached, concrete homes with tin roofs.

And You Thot All Recipes Were Created Equal…

Recipe_Box_LgThere are all kinds of recipes – for food, for life, for fun, for focus, for the heart…

I’ve come across a couple of opportunities recently where I’ve used different interpretations to reflect it’s meaning….

The first thing that comes to mind probably for most of us of course, is food…

So, here’s a food recipe for you that will tickle your taste buds. You can eat this salad as a side, put it between two pieces of buttered baguette, or add snap peas, walnuts and edamame, which is my favorite iteration… here’s a pic, you can find the recipe at: http://www.yummly.com/recipe/external/Carrot-salad-with-balsamic-dressing-323350

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The next iteration of the word ‘recipe’ is one that tickled my funny bone… and could be entitled ‘A Recipe For Bewilderment’

EvangelineonKuntaAnd, hopefully not ‘A Recipe For Disaster!’

Thirdly, there is the amalgam of experience that could be encapsulated as a ‘Recipe For The Heart.’ This type of experience has often looked like this for me:

recipeurduTrying to decipher this part of my life has been mystifying cuz I’m not all that traditional by nature and certainly not by inclination… a 60’s kinda gal, independent. Walking into my house is like being inside a kaleidoscope. My house isn’t quite the Volkswagen traveling bus of those good ole days, but parts of those days still reside for me… I still miss Jim Morrison of The Doors… I enjoyed the Age of Aquarius. I continue to be a bit (LOL!) of an anarchist with sprinklings of the mystic. So there hasn’t been alot of room in me to consider compromising any portion of my identity assumed as a bra-burning radical of that age. Imagine my attempt to acquit myself successfully in a prim apron. It never happened for me.. I never crossed that divide… Until I moved to Costa Rica, and discovered ….  a recipe for family…

3musketeersWhich has subsequently relaxed my vigilance in support of anarchy, and opened up possibilities for so many more iterations of sharing and community that had been outside of my experience. The raw sensuousness of this country of Costa Rica is evidenced in so many subtle (well, yeah, sometimes not so subtle) ways here. The way people dress (or don’t). The way people honor and respect nature. The way laughter drifts through the mountains on Saturday nights… or the sound of construction workers singing while they’re putting up a house.. In so many ways the closeness, the unconditional play amongst generational family gatherings.  Just sitting in the park and watching dads playing hide and seek with their kids – so much authentic joy… it’s all just melted the emotional defenses I’d utilized while in the US to protect my need to be separate. It’s pretty impossible to be separate here. It’s a small country and it’s a different kind of lack of privacy. It’s about community here. It seems the Costa Rican recipe for joy and meaning lies within the family.

As a woman living in a fairly small tico community I am known as a loca gringa due to my single status. I’ve been here for almost two years and even the taxi drivers and the girls in the bakery ask me why I continue to be alone… How can you live without love? How can you sleep alone at night? Initially I felt kinda insulted, but the longer I’ve experienced this culture, the more I understand where these friendly questions come from. The warmth, the joy, the relaxed atmosphere got me…

recipeinspired to consider the possibility that sharing might be an adventure I’d enjoy, a far horizon I just might achieve.

 

So I decided to welcome the possibility of a …

recipeforlove

into my life… and met an Aquarian of the Aquarian Age!

 

A tall Viking-looking guy who could easily grace the cover of a romance novel. While I’m not sure at this point if he’s a marauder looking for hostages, or a friendly guy looking for a companion, the fact that this culture has melted my defenses to this reality of potential enjoyment is something akin to miraculous. And I have Costa Rica, it’s people, and my family to thank.

So… I leave you a final Recipe, and a wish for each of you reading this – that you find your heart filled with more and more love.

recipehood