After nearly a decade of an on again off again romance with Central America, I have finally decided to plant some roots here and settle down, at least for now.
Why here? I spent my eighth grade year in Costa Rica, attending middle school. During that time, I made an excellent group of friends who I’ve stayed in touch with throughout the years. In part, because each summer following that first full year, I returned to Costa Rica to work.
To gain a more worldly perspective, during College I spent a short-term semester in Nicaragua as well as a short-term semester in Spain. While the architecture and lifestyle of Spain is charming, there is also a snobbish and cold underside to the culture there that I never could shake. My host family was friendly, but not overly so. At one point they stopped feeding my roommate and me because they said we ate too much. This wasn’t a huge problem, we simply bought more food for ourselves. I’m not a complainer. While living with the family, our only meal together was during lunch, and rather than practicing my Spanish skills, we sat in front of the television and watched Formula One racing. Again, at the time I didn’t complain, but I was a tad jealous of other student’s whose host families took an interest in them. Yet, in a surprising turn of events, my host family took us out for our last meal. When they finally began asking me questions, such as “where did you learn Spanish?” they were shocked to find out that I had lived and worked in Costa Rica and that, in fact, my brother owned a travel agency. Later that night, my host brother, who was thirty-five and still lived at home, who also put a layer of mayo an inch thick on his toasted bread at every meal, informed me that he had already emailed my brother about a vacation.
This trip greatly contrasted to my short-term in Nicaragua. I can’t say that it is class differences that made my Nicaraguan family more sweet and caring, because that simply isn’t true. While my family in Nicaragua was quite poor, the attitude of Nicaraguans and Costa Ricans is simply a more amiable one than of the Spaniards I encountered. This is just my personal experience and I’m sure there are a lot of nice Spaniards out there. However, maybe it’s the physical geography, the smells in the air, I’m not quite sure what it is, but the Latin people are more at ease with life.
So why am I planting my roots here?
1. The weather- I’m a self diagnosed member of the S.A.D (Seasonal Affective Disorder), while I enjoy seasonal changes, being from the Northeast, I can’t deal with excessive amounts of cold and gloomy weather. Here in Costa Rica we have the rainy season and dry season. It’s nice to have stable weather that never gets too cold. I enjoy the rain as it makes the earth smell fresh and alive, and only lasts for a short while (twenty minutes to an hour-ish) a few times a week.
2. I’m the minority- I like being the new kid in town, and while I’m certainly not, as I’ve been here for a long time and there are many other gringos about, I do feel like I bring a unique perspective to life here.
I am constantly amused, some times annoyed, by how things work here, or don’t work. I just take it easy and enjoy the crazy ride.
3. The People- For the most part, everyone is nice here. Obviously, I can’t be ignorant to think that I wouldn’t get taken advantage of because I’m a gringa, or because there aren’t bad people here too. However, there’s a childish kind of charm to Costa Rica and the general attitude here that I hope never changes. The general populace also drives like teenagers here too, so watch out.
4. The food- que comida mas rica…I miss rice and beans or gallo pinto, when I’m away. I miss fresh fish and delicious chicken and ceviche. I suppose these are foods that could be purchased or made anywhere, but they just don’t taste as good as when you’re on the porch of a funky little restaurant, in the mountains or beach, enjoying a sunny day and taking in the environment.
5. The Geography- beaches, mountains and all so very different with in a short flight or few hours drive. Not to mention, we’re right in between Nicaragua and Panama, which also offer vast amounts of diverse climate/geography/and cultural exploration.