Not all Gringos are the same

Spanish book I brought from California
Spanish book I brought from California

I am trying not to be one of those gringos.  I’m not here to get wasted, use drugs or party until 6 am like a 16 year old. I’m living in Costa Rica first because of health reasons and quality of life and second, to own a business that makes a difference in the lives of others. Plus so many other countless reasons like meeting new people, immersing myself into a different culture and stepping outside of my comfort zone, challenging myself to do more with my life.

On Wednesday, I got a call from two friends in San Jose (Ticas) who were coming out to Manuel Antonio for the night for a work project and they asked me to join them for dinner. I was super excited.  I really love these two women.  They’re so energetic, kind and bubbly.  Plus, I always have interesting conversations with them.

We met in their hotel’s bar and had a nice time catching up.  One of the girls is fluent in English and we usually talk in English together however the other girl speaks good English but isn’t as comfortable with it (just like me with Spanish) so when I was talking with her, I did try my best in Spanish and we had more of a Spanglish conversation.

However all the ease and fun spiritedness of the evening changed when we went to dinner and was joined by one of the hotel staff.  Another woman who I’ve met before and really liked.  But as we sat down at the table, someone asked: Are we talking in Spanish or English?

I responded first and said, Let’s talk in Spanish.

The woman who speaks fluently in English asked me: Are you sure, can you really understand us?

To which I responded: No worries, I might not understand everything but it’s okay. It’s how I learn.

Then, for no apparent reason, I got a huge (figurative) slap in the face by the girl who works at the hotel.  She proceeded to go off on a tangent about how I’m gringa and of course I can’t understand because gringos only associate with other gringos and therefore I’ll never learn Spanish.

I didn’t know what to say in the moment. I was in such a state of shock. So I’d like to clear up a few things:

Like I said in the beginning of this post, I’m not here to party like many other gringos. I work every day.  EVERY day.

Within a few months of moving to Costa Rica, I had found an attorney and we started the process of getting my residency here.  While I no longer have to do border runs every 90 days because of my pending residency, when I did do them, I always left the country for at least 3 days. Those are the rules.  And I follow the rules unlike most everyone else who leaves the country for 3 hours.

Unlike many other gringos, I own a legitimate, legal business here. I pay taxes to Costa Rica. 

In my business, I hire Ticos. I am living in Costa Rica and therefore it’s important for me to give opportunities to its citizens rather than taking away jobs from them.  It is also why I would never go be an illegal worker at any business here (which was suggested to me when money was really tight).

When I go to one of my local supermarkets where I know the owner is fluent in English, I still speak in Spanish with him.

I go to the farmer’s market on Saturday’s and speak with the farmers…in Spanish.  And I look forward to my Saturday’s at the feria.

If I hadn’t been robbed twice and spent my entire savings on replacing the stolen items plus having other items break due to electrical surges, I’d take Spanish lessons.  I even have a list of names of local people who are teachers but with no savings and little income, it’s just not possible at the moment.

However, for 9 months before moving, I did take classes as it was important to me to have a basic understanding of the language before moving.

The majority of my friends in Quepos are Tico and we speak in Spanish when we’re together or texting. But I don’t see them every day or even every week for that matter. So it’s not like I’m talking in Spanish every day. I wish I was but I work from home and that limits my immersion into the language.

The gringo friends that I associate with are all fluent in Spanish and have legal residencies and businesses.

For many years in California, I worked in an industry with a lot of Mexican immigrants and I never made them feel bad for their struggles in learning the language. Instead I supported them, was mindful of the words I used and talked slower so they could understand me.

So please don’t judge me as I’m doing the best I can with limited resources and little support. If this was the United States and you were trying to learn English, I wouldn’t talk as fast as I possibly could. I would try to support you in learning the language. And I would look up to you for having the courage to try to do something different with your life.

To add insult to injury that evening, the Sopa Negra that I so wanted to order had been changed by the new chef and it now contains both bacon and chicken. And there’s nothing on the menu description to warn people of that. One of my huge pet peeves.  And the meal I did eat seems to have given me a nasty stomach bug for the last day and a half.  Or maybe it was the very long and uncomfortable 2 hour dinner that gave me the stomach bug.

Either way, here’s what I do know: Not all my actions may be perfect but I’m doing the best that I can.

Pura vida…Chrissy

Pink Bananas!!

My first vacation in Costa Rica (almost 8 years ago now!), we went on a botanical garden tour near Cahuita and it was there that I saw pink bananas.  And I’ve come across them a number of times since…never in a store…always in the wild.  They’re just so random…and pink…and I can’t explain why but they always bring a smile to my face.

Maybe it’s that they’re a little bit weird and wild…it’s just one of the many reasons that makes Costa Rica so very special.

Pink Bananas in Costa Rica

Kevin and I came across this bunch while hiking up the hill from Playa Biesanz to Makanda by the Sea.  It was the perfect opportunity to stop and take a photo (and catch my breath!).

Pura vida…Chrissy

Birds, birds and more birds

I gotta give it to the birds flying around here these days…they are some smart animals.  They know it’s crazy to stay in a place that turns cold for 6 months out of the year.  And they know the perfect place to winter is Costa Rica. Because my house is literally set against a jungle landscape, I don’t have to go very far to see (and hear) an abundance of resident and migrating birds.  From every window in my house, I can see them flying around and from the rooftop terrace, I can literally spend hours trying to find where the chirping sounds are coming from.

I’ll admit that between the birds and the monkeys, I am very easily distracted.

A few weeks ago, I posted a turquoise crowned mot-mot on my Facebook page and a discussion followed about where this bird resides.  The turquoise species is mostly only found on the Nicoya Peninsula but we do have a blue-crowned version here on Costa Rica’s central coast. I hadn’t seen one yet but then no joke…a few days later I was coming home from the farmer’s market and there was a blue-crowned mot-mot sitting on a broken branch next to my staircase.  It actually scared me a little as it’s quite a large bird (up close) and I was definitely not expecting to see it.  Of course, by the time I got upstairs to get my camera, it had flown off.  But I did take the photo opportunity to go up to the rooftop and see who else was hanging out in the trees that day.

The streak-headed woodcreeper was super fun to watch.  It smoothly “creeped” its way up the tree branch circling it around and around and then flew to the next branch and did the same thing.

About two weeks after the initial visit by the mot-mot, I was sitting on my living room sofa, drinking my morning cup of coffee when I heard a loud bang against the window behind me.  I jumped up and opened the slider to my terrace to see the blue crowned mot-mot laying on the ground.  I grabbed my shoes but when I got outside, it had flown off into a nearby tree.  I was so very grateful…I really wasn’t sure how I was going to handle this bird had it been injured or dead. If it’s not squirrel monkeys falling out of trees (read my latest blog on that topic here), it’s birds flying into my windows…I’ll say it again…life is never dull here on the Rich Coast.

Blue crowned mot-mot

Pura vida…Chrissy

Turtle Traps at Playa Biesanz

Playa Biesanz Turtle Trap

So I need to start this blog off with kudos to Kevin because if it wasn’t for him, we wouldn’t have gotten the photo of the traps.  And additional kudos since I dragged him down there when not only was he not feeling well but we also had to go at noon as that was when low tide was and the only time of the day when you can see these historic traps (which, of course, was the hottest point of the day).

Not only does it have to be at low tide but you also have to climb some volcanic rocks in order to see the “traps”.  And my rock climbing days are over ever since I slammed into a rock wall while rappelling down a waterfall.  Well, they’re over until I have health insurance again.  Then maybe I’ll consider trying out some new adventures.

So these turtle traps at Playa Biesanz are supposed to date back to the first century and the Boruca / Quepoa Indians.  To be honest, after seeing the photo, I don’t really understand how it works.  If anyone knows…please leave a comment!

And supposedly, Kevin tells me that there are also turtle traps in Tamarindo although I’ve walked that beach numerous times at low tide and never noticed any special rock formations.  Yes, there are rocks but none that seemed to be purposefully placed there!

Pura vida…Chrissy