My version of paradise

It’s been just over a year and a half now of living in Costa Rica. Here’s what I’ve learned…what I love and what I’ve learned to live with.

Let’s start with what I’ve learned to live with:

  • Your clothes will smell from June – October. They also won’t dry (unless you’re one of the few fortunate people to actually have a dryer). But even after you dry them, give them a day and they’ll be wet again. You may also find dirty hand prints on them…
  • The geckos will be your alarm clock. Mine wake me up between 5 and 5:45 every morning.  Unless the rooster wakes up first.
  • You may be told the following while on the phone: It’s really hard to hear you over those beeping noises. It will take you a moment to realize the “beeping noises” are the tiny cicadas outside. And all of your doors and windows are closed and your walls are made of concrete. Yes, they are that loud.
  • I’ve met tourists who also told me the birds were too loud. Really?  You’re kind of in a tropical jungle…is that something you really should be complaining about?  That’s like complaining that there are mosquitoes.  Or that the ocean is too loud.
  • You will live with giant cockroaches. It doesn’t matter how clean your house is. They will be your roommates.
  • You change your Oral B electric toothbrush heads not based on a quarterly cycle but instead when a gigantic cockroach decides to hang out on it

cockroach on my toothbrush

  • You will also live with ants.  And if you can’t tell if you’re having an ant infestation or termite infestation, supposedly you can smush it and depending on the smell, determine which type of insect it is. (we can add that to the list of things I never needed to learn)
  • 2 day express guaranteed insured mail within Costa Rica is not guaranteed. Don’t pay extra for this service
  • Don’t be attached to your material items – they will probably get stolen unless you live in a guarded house. Even then, the guards can be paid off. And the police are paid off so don’t bother filing a report as nothing will happen. You will also never be able to sleep through the night again without taking some type of sleeping pills. And even then you worry that by being knocked out on pills, it will make you sleep through the next robbery (which is both a bad and good thing).
  • However…you might get an anonymous phone call from someone who thinks they may have your stuff and would you like to come and buy it back? Only when you arrive, you realize it’s someone else’s camera and laptop that were stolen.
  • You might also be advised to go to the local drug dealers house and just see if they have your stuff, then offer to buy it back. This was an actual recommendation for me to do after the first robbery
  • Your housekeeper will probably show up late. Or not show up at all. And not call.
  • You will not find coconut oil in the stores. If you see someone on the road selling it, stop and buy it. There are an abundance of reasons why coconut oil is amazing to have as a staple in one’s home.
  • Mango season only runs from May – November-ish. No, they do not grow all year round here. Yes, it’s a bummer.
  • The internet likes to go out frequently, especially when I’m on a skype call.  Which is why I always keep my phone handy to use its 3G as a personal hotspot. You may also have to wander around the house trying to find the best signal. While the router never moves, it seems like somehow the wifi signal strength does.
  • The electricity will go out on occasion and unless you’re fortunate enough to have a water tank, when the lights go out, so does your access to water. Fill up a pitcher as quickly as possible. And hopefully you’re not in the shower with shampoo in your hair.
  • Also, disconnect everything from their wall sockets (I’ve learned this the hard way and have already burned out 1 router and 2 laptop adaptors).  I now have a basket of broken, unfixable items at my door.  I’m hoping if I get robbed again, they’ll just grab that and go!  But I do hope they leave the basket…I really like it. + an added bonus that it’s resistant to mold.

broken items

  • Because you never know when the electricity will go out, you also need to have all your most important technological devices charged. At all times. Buy a MyCharge and keep that charged as well.
  • A 20 year old car will cost you $10,000. At least.
  • You will miss your grocery store and cry from an overwhelming inexplicable feeling when you go into the San Jose Wal-Mart (a store you never would have stepped foot into while living in the States).

Walmart in Costa Rica

  • You might go to a restaurant and they tell you they don’t have lettuce. Or bread. Or avocados.
  • Your local market will probably not have the food you’re looking for on any given day. Stock up when you find what you’re looking for. And know that you may have to go to 3 different markets to get what you need for dinner that night. I once had to visit 4 markets just to find 3 bananas (which were more black than yellow – thankfully I was just trying to make banana bread).
  • Most of your food will need to be kept in the frig or freezer. This is because either those gross black bugs will devour it or the humidity will ruin it.
  • You tell your neighbor you have a headache and he offers you a Percocet.
  • You’re having a really bad day and your friend hands you a cookie…if you don’t use drugs, always ask what’s in the cookie before popping it into your mouth.
  • Everything is held together by duct tape and super glue – even the airplanes.

duct tape on airplanes

  • I am still trying to open a business account at the bank where my personal account is. It’s been over 6 months now of dealing with red tape.
  • You will not receive mail as you have no real address (although this could be a positive). When you send mail, it can take weeks for it to arrive at its destination (even when sending domestically). And mail that is received at your local post office appears to be sorted by hand. Welcome to the 1950’s.

Costa Rica post office correos

  • But…I recently had a package put on a bus from a cacao producer in central Costa Rica to the “encomienda” in Quepos. All they wrote was my name and city on the box. And somehow, without a tracking number or an address (return or addressee), we eventually found the box in the warehouse.  It only took two return trips (the first 2 trips, I was told it wasn’t there when I knew it was).  So on the 3rd trip, I went into the warehouse to search for it myself and the employee finally walked over to exactly where it was and handed it to me.
  • Yellow lemons don’t exist (I will keep repeating that one until I die or until lemons start being mass produced here).
  • Procrastination.  I really have no words for this other than “mañana” (re-read the cacao and bank account stories above). Your contractors will often tell you “mañana”, every day. It can be days, weeks or even months before work actually gets done.
  • Learn to accept the national motto – which you will learn is not “pura vida”. It’s “make easy hard” (pura vida does come in a close second however)

The bright side:

  • It really doesn’t rain as much as everyone thinks and we’re not in a hurricane zone. But when it does rain…
  • The weather is warm every day with only a little humidity (as long as you’re at the beach. Don’t go inland – it’s way too cold).  77F now requires me to find socks and drink hot tea.
  • The sunsets are spectacular
  • We have palm tree lined beaches and your choice of either black or white sand
  • The air is clean
  • There’s no daylight savings
  • Monday morning traffic is caused by cows, not cars.

cows in the road in Costa Rica

  • You’ll become friends with strangers as they turn into mules to bring you new items and avoid a visit to customs and their ridiculous “taxes”. That is, if your items ever actually arrive. Sometimes, they just “disappear”.
  • You can buy prescription meds without seeing a doctor. Self diagnosis can be interesting. And you’ll probably have to tell the pharmacist what dosage you need.
  • You can live near the beach for relatively inexpensive compared to other places in the world. A bonus is that there tends to be a lot of hot guys walking around with surfboards and no t-shirts. Who will also happily get you a coconut out of a tree.

getting a coconut out of a palm tree

  • You will almost always have blue skies and sunshine in the morning
  • If you can get over the noise, the birds are spectacular (over 800 species call Costa Rica home)
  • Not to mention the incredible wildlife that exists here. Costa Rica is about the size of West Virgina but is home to more than 5% of the world’s biodiversity.
  • There are so many different regions in Costa Rica to explore. Including cloud forests, rainforests (there is a difference between the two), volcanic zones, dry tropical forest (yes, I know that sounds like an oxymoron) and different climate patterns/seasons depending on where you are.
  • Over 25% of the country is protected land with an almost pristine coastline and vast jungle.
  • There will be muddy roads, river crossings and roads that become rivers (yes, this is a positive thing – not only is it exciting and adventurous but it also means there’s still a few somewhat untouched areas to appreciate)

River crossing in Nosara Costa Rica

  • There are lots of weird and interesting fruits and veggies – some I’ve never seen but have grown to like. A lot.
  • The water is safe to drink almost everywhere. **So please stop buying bottled water when you visit…We don’t have landfills for your plastic waste**
  • Markets will often give discounts if you pay with cash. Super helpful when shaving cream costs $12.
  • I have learned how to make my own peanut butter cups, vegan ice cream and pita bread. Next up on the list is pasta (I figure since my flour is frozen, fresh pasta will curtail the problem with the black bugs).
  • We grow coffee AND chocolate AND mangoes here – do I really need to say more?

Costa Rica is my happy placeYou put all of these things together, the good and the bad, and you get my version of paradise. It might not be yours. But it is mine. It is my happy place.

Sure, there are days when I feel like I’m having a total mental breakdown. But it is still 110% better than my life before in California. So I smile and laugh, knowing tomorrow is a new day. And there will most likely be blue skies, chirping geckos and fresh Dota coffee to wake up to.

Pura vida…Chrissy

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  1. Pingback: Life in Costa Rica: A look back at 2013 | Rich Coast Experiences

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