Kat Sunlove, TheCostaRicaNews.com
Here in West Texas where my husband Layne and I are visiting my mother, it was 100 degrees at 8:00 p.m. last night, well beyond a tropical comfort level. The old saying, “You could fry an egg on the sidewalk,” is not far from true. During the day it reached a record high of 110 degrees, the maximum temperature recorded here in 117 years of recordkeeping. The forecast is for more of the same today. Any plans we might have entertained for an outdoor barbeque have been squelched, needless to say.
Good weather, of course, was one of the primary attractions of Costa Rica when Layne and I began looking to this Central American jewel for our retirement years. Our experience of living in Atenas, about an hour west of San Jose, for just over a year now has borne out our initial impression that the climate would be wonderful. So far, this holiday in the States has only reinforced that opinion. Still, as we all know, the climate in the U.S.A. is hardly uniform. Looking ahead to the next stops on our summer sojourn we see we are facing daytime highs only in the 60’s in Portland, Oregon, then nighttime lows in the 40’s when we visit friends over in Central Oregon. I’m wondering if I have packed enough clothes for all the varied types of weather we must endure in the coming weeks.
Our journeys back to the States always highlight the differences, some good, some not so good, between life in more developed countries and our existence in Costa Rica. One detail I appreciate about being in suburban America: well-marked street numbers and street signs. It is refreshing to be able to look in the telephone book, locate a business by its address and drive straight to it. Reliable home mail delivery, partly a result of definitive addresses, is also a pleasant bonus. As quaint as Costa Rican addresses sound with their “tres cientos metros norte del Restaurante Rosti Pollo, a la izquierda” (three hundred meters – or blocks – north of the Rosti Pollo Restaurant, on the left), it remains a mystery to me why Ticos don’t demand modern “direcciones” along with their up-to-the-minute cell phones and computers.
Well-paved roads and good sidewalks are another positive aspect of life in a first-world country like the U.S. As Layne and I have ventured out on our morning walks, we have noted that with the smooth paths along the Concho River Walk, we are able to risk looking around us at the parkland, trees, squirrels and other wildlife instead of always on the lookout for the next gnarly hole in the sidewalk, ready to break an unsuspecting leg. It’s also no small thing that here pedestrians have the right-of-way so we cross the street without undue nervous anticipation of a wild driver careening around the corner at us. This is not to say, of course, that American drivers are all considerate and safe. People here speed by us, run through caution lights carelessly, use their horns to express displeasure and otherwise make driving just as challenging in many ways as it can be in Costa Rica. But we do see more traffic cops around and get the sense that laws are enforced somewhat better here than in our adopted tropical land.
And of course, we have definitely enjoyed some great Texas barbeque since we’ve been here, along with some equally delicious Mexican fare. It’s such a treat to have good spicy food available rather than the inevitable Gallo Pinto (Costa Rica’s national beans and rice dish) on every plate. One local eatery, The Diner at Sealy Flats, not only offers gourmet dishes but also has a serving of live music most nights. Layne and I recently enjoyed a first-class dinner as we reveled in the cool blues sounds of Preston Shannon and his band.
Still, we would not trade our life in Costa Rica for a return to the United States. Among the many things we miss are the friendly, outgoing Costa Rican people. More than once on our daily walks Layne and I have startled another pedestrian coming toward us by greeting them in the sociable way we have learned from Ticos. In some cases, the surprised passerby would smile with pleasure and return the greeting, but in others we received a grim look of suspicion. What kind of weirdo speaks to strangers, they seemed to say.
We also miss the ubiquitous farmers’ markets in Costa Rica, crowded with vendors selling oh-so-fresh tropical fruits, garden goods, homegrown herbs, homemade breads and locally farmed meats. The farmers’ market here in my mom’s town has yet to really open for the season, currently just a small bunch of growers set up in the shade of a parking lot. In the two visits we have made, there were fewer than a dozen tables offering goods, most with potted plants, including drought-resistant varieties or cacti for this hot climate, but few edible items. There was fresh garlic and onions, two small bunches of Swiss chard, some fresh herbs in pots. We found one lady offering domestic goat cheese from her own herd in a wide range of seasoned versions. We purchased a garlic/herb variety, which was delicious on crackers or in breakfast omelets. According to my mom, opening day for the market is a big event, with huge crowds coming out for the festivities.
As Layne and I have wandered around town, running errands or sightseeing, in our conversations with locals we often mention the fact that we live in Costa Rica. Predictably, people here in this bucolic western city are amazed and awed at our audacity. They ask what it’s like living in a foreign country and naturally we are happy to share the delights of our Costa Rican retirement. Frequently, they express a longing to follow in our footsteps, to pack up and move away to where the weather is flawless, the people are happy and welcoming and life is tranquilo. That’s exactly how we find living in Costa Rica, we tell them: Pura Vida!