As I went to visit a new friend tonight for (what I thought would be) a short conversation and short “business” meeting, I received a wonderful compliment. I was meeting with Ricardo to talk about Kristie and I taking over the marketing of his little cabina and the final couple little details I had questions that needed answering. You know, like how his dog would receive guests and who would strip beds and clean and stuff like that. I brought a couple of cold beers over expecting to spend about 30 minutes and it turned into a wonderful 3 hour conversation between new friends quickly becoming old friends.
Ricardo has been living in Uvita on and off for almost 30 years. Yes, Uvita 30 years ago did NOT have a road. It was a horse and ox trail. He lived in a shack on the beach for much of the time he spent here. He is Columbian and spent his adult life in Canada and his later adult life between here and Canada. He is a well-known and respected “elder” in the neighborhood. Enough background stuff. As our conversation waffled between some business items and “back in Columbia” stories and kids and more, he finally settled in and said, “You know, keeping Gerardo running your restaurant was a good move.” <Quizzical glance from me> “You are the first Gringo to actually buy here in the flat land and make a go of it. Everyone was wondering what you were up to. But now everyone respects you and they are looking after you. You have been accepted.”
WOW!!! It was something I think I felt, but to actually hear it made me feel really good. It has fed my hunger to find what I have been seeking all along. That sense of community spirit and belonging. I felt it growing up in Grant, MI, a town of 800 in West Michigan. I felt it in the Army, especially in close knit units like the one at Scholfield Barracks in Hawaii and the wonderful neighborhood where you looked after each other’s kids and family when soldiers were deployed. But even little Grant has changed. The same house my mother has not moved from, the neighbors are strangers. The little lake community I lived in last was filled with nice people but they really were just people you had quick small talk with and waved at on the road and on the water.
This is back to basic. And I want to share it with people. But, not really. As our conversation continued he told me that he understands I have seen a vision for this area that most other Americans have not. “They cluster up on the mountain. Most North Americans seek their own kind and don’t want to venture out with the locals. They think they will steal them blind or harm them. But everyone is so accepting here, you have embraced that and it will pay off for you.” I told him I hope I don’t spoil it. I want to tell the world! This is the place, people. Life happens here and you just need to embrace it. But please don’t tell the people that want to change it. haha
If anyone read my last post (I didn’t publicize it as much because it seemed mean), this is just the next logical step. I kind of railed on my fellow expats because of their anti-social behavior and general attitude. A dear expat friend of mine in Belize explained that not everyone has the same social needs as I do. I accept that. But I reject it in other ways. I will be very specific on a couple of items.
I chatted with one of my oldest and best friends today, Clint Swinehart. He used to visit Costa Rica quite regularly in the early 00’s. One of his memories is being yelled at by some German expats that “You Americans are ruining Costa Rica!” And I think that has come to fruition. I am going to make a bunch of people mad on the Expat Facebook pages here but I really don’t care. They will just say I haven’t been here long enough and I will change my mind later. Ummm, no. I’m not that way. Recent posts have been about the cost of living in CR. And people’s actual responses have been that the cost of living is as high to live here as it is back home. They read all these posts on International Living about how cheap it is to live here but it’s just not true. “Well, it could be cheaper if I lived like a peasant, BUT I DESERVE BETTER.” OMG, really? You DESERVE better. OK, maybe you feel you have earned something. But DESERVE? Come on. You have now just become the exact thing that you complain about back in the US. “All these young kids have a sense of entitlement. I had to work for what I have.” Yep, you worked. And now you feel entitled. Hmmm… Get over yourself. You are the spoiled rotten brat that just killed all those kids in Santa Barbara. Ok, that was extreme. But, you are the reason that Costa Rica has become expensive and a pain in the ass to become a resident. It is not CR’s fault. It is yours. Your sense of entitlement has raised the bar for the peon like myself that just wants to have a simpler life and assimilate into a wonderful culture that is more accepting. But let’s brag about how we only pay the guy that cuts the grass and cleans the pool C1000 per hour.
And yes, the climate and beaches and rainforests are wonderful for me, too.
So, enough of that. I accept that I am different. I REALLY appreciated the compliment tonight. I am much happier climbing the mango tree with Gerardo and Roiner and learning how to make coconut oil with Ricardo. I enjoy chatting with my neighbors and guests. I feel a great energy when I see the smiling faces of Stephen Moreno, Felix, Carlos, Sugar, Mike and Holly and everyone on Calle Chaman. My life is simpler and happy. Our place is simple and accepting. This is where life happens. I guess I am ready to live. I can’t wait until Kristie gets here full time next month and we can LIVE together. I’m not ready to retire together. And I just never see myself as doing that. Adventure awaits.
I hope I don’t offend people. I can get upset in my head and this is my release. I accept everyone for what they are. I think most people here are warm hearted and are embracing their new lives (and some people have old lives) here.