Costa Rica On The Cusp
The Fun and Challenges of Living Outside the U.S.

By Gary Davis Please Recommend This!

These are the journal entries I made as I happily continued my adventures in Costa Rica. They began in April of 2002. It is now 2011. They are not entered in chronological order and most don’t have exact dates included. You’ll see as you read along that dates are not important. And, this country being what it is, I’m sure they will continue as long as I am here to enjoy them. If you live in any country other than the U.S. you may be able to relate and chuckle or shake your head in disbelief with me as you read along.
View from my home

As time passed and the interesting experiences continued, I began to realize that every month I was creating at least one new journal entry. I had two thoughts about that. The first one was: what great fun and how interesting it is for a gringo, who is used to 60 years of the stability and “normalcy” of U.S. living. As a friend of mine, who is originally from Germany but has lived here nearly 20 years, said recently “every day there is something… it’s never boring here”. The second thought was: this is normal for here!

That means that everyone who comes here could write a journal. That explains why a certain percentage of gringo’s (definition: foreigners) stay only a couple years and then leave. One, for sure, needs to have the correct attitude to settle in and adjust to the culture and its rhythm.

Occasionally I run into a North American who has been living here a number of years but still doesn’t speak the language (much). I usually ask how that’s possible. Almost always the answer is because they are sequestered away in some “gated community” that has its own shopping area which they seldom leave and therefore English is primarily what’s spoken there. Pity

Hmmmm… kind of reminds me of the people from other countries I would meet in California who had lived in the U.S. for many years but didn’t speak much English.

So maybe not all Gringos’ have as much fun as me. You have to just dive in and live it!

Why have I settled here, you might ask. The answer to that question is simple. Have you ever been to Hawaii? I have, many times. I love the place. The climate is perfect, it’s beautiful, and if you live at the beach there, as I do here, there is no need for doors or windows other than for security reasons. Actually, I would have done in Hawaii what I did here but for one reason… Hawaii is simply out of my budget.

I remember the very first time I went to Hawaii. I loved the temperature, the fresh air (you can’t see it like in California), the humidity level, and the breezes and when I got to the hotel and walked up to the reception desk I was stunned! I realized I had not walked through a doorway!

The reception area was completely open to the outside. I said to the clerk “you mean the temperature never changes enough to need walls?” He gave me this look like “good grief, another stupid tourist” but kind of grunted a confirmation. That was when this raised in Alaska guy new he had finally found home.

When you’re a kid in Alaska and during the winter you sometimes pray that when you die you’ll go to hell so you can be warm… yes I actually did that! Even southern California, where I lived for many years after I escaped from Alaska at 16, is sometimes not warm enough.

Costa Rican beauty all around you

Let me digress for a moment and give you a good visual of C.R. Here’s how I describe it to people who have been to Hawaii. Put a blindfold on you, set you on my beach and you absolutely would not know you were not in Hawaii. The air temperature, humidity level and breezes are identical. Take the blindfold off and it’s actually prettier than Hawaii. I say to people “you know how pretty all the pictures are of Hawaii? But then you get there and of course it’s beautiful but not as pretty as the pictures because one can do great things with a camera. Well, Costa Rica actually looks like all the pictures you’ve seen of Hawaii”.

And to tell you the truth, now that I’ve had the opportunity to really explore Costa Rica, all of the above is even an understatement. C.R. doesn’t have the magnificent volcanic outcroppings like Hawaii because it’s geologically older and so those radical formations have been softened over the eons, but considering that 25% of its land area is either national park or preserve, you get a pretty good idea that there is a lot of natural beauty here. And considering that 70% of the population lives in the greater San Jose area, that means that most of the country is rural and unspoiled (except for what some developers are doing).
Great surfing right out your back door

This leads me to explain the title “Costa Rica on the Cusp”. Over the last few years it seems that developers/investors have discovered the place. There is rampant, uncontrolled development going on so who knows how much longer we’ll be able to use “unspoiled” in reference to C.R. It is truly on the cusp of major change.

But back to the main thrust of this introduction Costa Rica

I initially came here just to check the place out. I had heard good things about C.R., someone said the girls were pretty and very friendly and I had an acquaintance here that lived in what at that time was a small beach town called Jaco. So I found a Bed and Breakfast on line, made a reservation and came to enjoy a couple weeks of vacation thinking I would do what most people do on vacation in a beach town.

But here’s what happened immediately. I found the Bed and Breakfast (not an easy feat in a country that has no addresses). They showed me to my room and invited me to come up to the 3rd floor, which was their residence, for some iced tea when I was done unpacking. I walked in and again was stunned! They had no walls! No exterior walls and no interior walls except around private areas. I said “my god, this tells me three things.

The temperature never changes enough to need walls, you don’t get hurricanes and you must not have a bug problem”. They said “right”. That was it. In my head I lived here! I actually spent the next two weeks visiting as many beach areas as I could. As a matter fact, the adventures you’re about to read started with that very first trip.
Sunset Celebration

I had the good fortune of discovering Costa Rica just before major changes were about to explode on the scene.

As I recorded my experiences I was painfully/excitedly aware of the fact that the Costa Rica I fell in love with was on the cusp of a major transition. A transition from being an “emerging” country to a developed country.

I would not have the audacity to put a value judgment on the change. Some say the past was better, some say the future will be better, and the judgments put on “today” run the gamut of explicatives from good to bad.

I will leave it to you to choose your explicative. For me I only know and accept that change is inevitable. Things either change or they die. That seems to be true for all organic life. And not being very politically involved I must refrain from assuming that my wishes/desires/actions would influence change in a particular direction. In fact I have met few people who know their ass from a hole in the ground politically. It seems we only know in retrospect and even then it is “arguable”.
Plumita Pacifica

So this document is not put together in any particularly linear fashion. You can jump around from chapter to chapter reading any title that fascinates you. Each title is a story that occurred just as I have written it. They are in no way linked and as a matter of fact did not necessarily occur in the order in which I have presented them.

Some occurred just shortly before I recorded them, some I pulled from my memory much later. They say truth is stranger than fiction and it can be more comical as well as you will see as you read on. There has been no need for me to elaborate, change or enhance any of the details contained in this collection. Truth is also more fun than fiction.

I have included photos and I wish I had known I would get into this the way I did. I would have taken more photos. But mostly the photos are before any major changes occurred, with the exception of the before and after of the road to Playa Junquillal.

I enjoy the luxury of the asphalt but I suspect it will also speed the rate of change in my area. Even before it was done it caused one of my favorite restaurants to move. The good news is it only moved a coupe hundred yards and they preserved its rustic look and open wood fire cooking area in the new location.

For which I was very glad because the woman who owns/runs the restaurant serves the best pork I’ve ever had (with the exception of a good lady friend in Ca. who does a magnificent thing with pork chops) because of the way she smokes it over the wood fire and then cooks it in who knows what kind of spices again over that open wood fire.

I have enjoyed living/recording my experiences greatly. I hope you enjoy reading them!