"Please, if I die in Costa Rica, DON'T let them bury me in one of those furry caskets!"
That's the promise my girlfriend and I made each other when we passed this truck loaded with these five-foot furry caskets in the San Jose area.
I was told later, I could see all the furry caskets I desired in Pavas,
where they are made.
Tell me, have you ever seen a furry casket?
You can click on the photo for a close-up view.
Just cremate me, suck up my remains in my Rainbow Vacuum water canister, seal it and sail me out to sea.
I'm sure that's legal here.
Thursday, August 31
Wednesday, August 30
OSHA would have a field day here.
No steel-toed boots.
No Safety Meetings.
Pretty much, unregulated period.
I just renovated my house so I have no idea of the horrors of NEW construction. I do know it's common for "el trabajador" to show up for work in flip-flops and a back-pack with his lunch.
They take lunch seriously. In mid-swing, promptly at 12:00, they will put down the hammer and take their lunch time. Expect them to eat and sleep. In this brutal, coastal Costa Rica sun, I'm surprised they can make it 'till noon!
Then they're back to work until 5:00 (or later).
Some take 15 minute breaks at 10 and 2pm.
They put in 10 hour days.
They, meaning Nicaraguans and some Ticos.
The pay is about a buck-fifty an hour.
There are four houses being built on the mountain right in front
of my house, right now. A year ago, they built a spec house and it sold fast. The buyer had no clue about "Buyer Beware". He didn't even know where his property line was! The new houses are being built next to his postage-stamp size property. He returned back to the U.S. He reason for leaving was "because of the rain".
It hasn't even started raining yet. That's in Sept/Oct.
I guess he couldn't take the construction going on around him.
Everytime I see a dumptruck pull that mountain bringing more materials
for fill, I just hear, cha-ching for someone! It's hard to build on a mountain with the rain we get here.
Posted by la Macha on Wednesday, August 30, 2006
Tuesday, August 29
I love my Pharmacist. He always greets me with a big smile and is eager to help. He even told me about the 10% discount card they have for their customers. I see him at least once a month to get my meds for hormones. You don't need a prescription and they are about a third the cost in the States.
I'm always amazed at what other people are buying. Today, a guy had five BIG boxes of "Oxa-Forte" (a pretty strong pain med). You can get just about anything you want if you know how to ask for it. Once I had back-pain so bad, I went to the pharmacist for help and he took me to the back office for a shot in the bum. I didn't think they could do that but I was so grateful. I had immediate relief. Come to find out, there are a lot of "pill heads" here that depend on the pharmacy. It's totally legal. They sell many drugs over-the-counter here that would require a prescription to buy in the States. This is a tourist town so their top seller is still Viagra.
My drug is chocolate. The other day, I was at the local grocery getting my supplies when I saw these Snicker bars with almonds at the check-out. First time I've seen them in Costa Rica. I was so excited, I walked out without my groceries, just the Snicker bar. I was eating it in my car in a deep euphoria when the check-out girl brought my bags out to me. She laughed. I blushed.
I'm an addict for chocolate.
They sell Snickers with almonds at the pharmacy now, too.
Monday, August 28
If I didn't fear prison here or dying and going to Hell, I'd become a vigilante! I've lived here long enough to be sick and tired of getting robbed and hearing about others being robbed. Nothing is sacred. Even the churches have security bars and the cemeteries have walls and locks on the gates. Give me a break! Me and my boys, Smith and Wesson, would hide out in the back of the car and wait for the "rats" (robbers) to come... they will. One shot and that would teach them a little respect (and some fear).
Barely no one gets caught for robbing by the police. This town is a beach town, so we're easy pickings for the professionals that come from "Chepe" (San Jose).
For the bolder rats that come into your house, with you in there, well.... "we'll let the alligators do the rest".
(Song by Hank Williams, Jr., Simple Man)
Bocephus, I think it's the same everywhere.
A Gringo shoots a Tico here?, YOU WILL GO TO JAIL, regardless. We (Gringos) are not allowed a gun unless you get a special permit. This is a peace loving country (no army) and the President has declared he is "chopping up armory" that penetrates bullet proof vests. Only bank guards (and the like) are allowed to have them. Even the Police are not allowed these "killing" guns.
(See Tico Times newspaper about a month ago)
You know what they say, "when guns are outlawed...."
Now, mind you, most of the thefts are non-confrontational and they steal petty stuff but enough is enough. You can't take your eyes off your stuff for one minute when you're out. I drape my purse strap over my knee (if I carry one at all) while sitting at a restaurant. Too many of my friends have had theirs stolen right under their noses. When at the beach, I put my car keys in my shorts pocket so hopefully, I will at least have a way home and the keys to get inside my property. I was robbed at the beach and it did pay off. They didn't take my shorts, just my beach bag with my new MP3 player. I even saw the girls that did it but I was too far away (in the ocean). You just can't be too careful.
As a general rule, "don't trust anyone." Sad, but true. I didn't believe it either, at first.
People wonder why I have so many dogs. I've heard it SO many times, "you have too many dogs". I have too many dogs for a good reason.
They hurt my dogs...that's when my buddies, Smith and Wesson come out to play hard ball. Get ready Crocs!
Just so you know.......
I love my dogs but they are my security, too. Before the fence around my house, before the puppies were born, my car was robbed right outside my house. It was parked in front of the living room window, under the outside security light. My Brindy (pit bull) was inside the house barking wildly and trying to go through the window to get to the guy. I DID NOT let her outside for fear the guy would hurt her or she would chase him and get hit by a car. I love my dogs and a car, well, it's just a car. I can replace my stereo and Cd's but not my Brindy Girl. I think that guy knew I wouldn't sic the dog on him!
Posted by la Macha on Monday, August 28, 2006
Sunday, August 27
Costa Rican Etiquette
You can do hard time here if you are not adaptable.
No, they don't do things like we do back home.
For good reason, too, I've found. Most things don't work the same way here.
If you can be flexible, be patient, and smile - it all goes a long way.
Learn "Como esta?" or "Que tal?". Ticos ALWAYS greet each other respectfully before anything. It's the custom. Also, they kiss or shake hands as part of the greeting. "Buenas" is used too, as a quick greeting. Use "gracias" often. "Pura Vida" is used like "Aloha" in Hawaii, both coming and going. It's WAY over used, if you ask me.
Be generous, TIP. Some people are very poor here and see ALL us gringos as rich. Share the wealth - don't haggle over the price (unless of course it's a rip-off and in that case, just walk away). In the restaurants, the tip is usually included on the bill but this tip (10%) is split between ALL the staff. Tip your waiter/waitress separately. Also, tip the guy that pumps your gas. He will break his neck to make sure you get good service. And yes, they still pump your gas for you here. :)
Bring the guard a cold drink when you are leaving the grocery. He's out in the hot sun and will appreciate it. Just tip everyone (500 colones coin) and be safe.
Give respect. Let them go first when all they have is a beer to buy and you have a cart of groceries. Respect goes a long way.
After all, we are just visitors here. It doesn't matter how long you've lived here. If you look Gringo, you will always be an outsider.
Note: I'm from South Florida where people from the North, come down, get a FL driver's license, a FL car tag and all of a sudden, they're Floridians!
I DO know how the Ticos feel when they are priced out of their own land.
WE are the Strangers in a Strange Land.
Posted by la Macha on Sunday, August 27, 2006
Thursday, August 24
You don't hear this much in Costa Rica anymore.
It means "I have it all" and the ole timer Ticos still use it.
Now, everyone says - "Pura Vida" (pure life) or
"Que Mae" (what's up). I personally, wish they still
used the Con Toda La Pata - it really says it all.
They also use "Tuanis" as a greeting, but not often.
I never hear Con Toda la Pata but every Tico still remembers.
CON TODA LA PATA
There is something very amazing about Costa Rica.
Here, you realize Less is More. Material things
are nice but here you learn to appreciate the necessities
of life. When I first arrived, all I saw was what "wasn't"
here. Now, I am grateful for What Is! I have found that
I don't need the things I "needed" in the States. I've lived
here without water, electric, phone, hot water, washer, dishwasher,
ice maker, microwave, air-conditioner, a vehicle,
......and the list goes on and on.
Living without the electric and water should go under a separate post
about Buyer Beware.
You will never go hungry here. Fruits and fish are plentiful and everywhere.
Beans and rice are cheap. It's cheaper to eat at the local sodas
(restaurants) than cook at home.
Homeless?, well you can still sleep
in a box on the beach, it's not illegal here.
Not exactly the retirement home I had in mind
but at least I know here, I will be able to afford my medical care
and my living expenses. Property taxes are next to nothing.
Some days, I just gaze out at the ocean on one side of my house
and the mountains on the other side, listen to the birds,
and I know, con toda la pata.
Posted by la Macha on Thursday, August 24, 2006
Sunday, August 20
Once upon a time,
about four months ago,
I was letting my car warm up
before getting out onto the main
highway. I was just going to
the local market and my wallet
laid in the seat beside me.
It's hot as blue blazes here so
I had my side windows down to
let the inside cool off.
Out of NO WHERE, this guy walks up,
starts talking to me in Spanish about
something having to do with my tire
on the driver's side. I said "no comprendo"
and he smiled and walked off. I noticed
a separate guy walking on the road about
four meters in front of him and didn't think
much of it... until I looked down and saw my
wallet wasn't there. Now, I believe in the
good in everyone and doubted myself. I went
back into my house to see if I had left it on
the counter. Then it HIT ME,
"the distraction robbers",
it's common here. I ran back out to my car
and about that time I saw the two guys getting
into a small car pulling over, way down the road.
I saw RED ...and being the Red-neck I can be,
I took off gunning for them in my big-ass 4x4 SUV,
blinking lights, blowing my horn. It was a sight.
They stopped and the driver got out and walked back
to my car acting like he didn't know what was up.
I told him to give me back my purse or I go to the
police. He went back to his car and walked back
with a black cap concealing something. I thought
for sure, it is a gun but then I remembered
Ticos are non-confrontational.
He apologized PROFUSELY and handed me my wallet.
I checked it and saw all my i.d., credit cards,
money, everything was there.
It even had my cloth police badge that was given to me for protection.
(The kind of badge the Fuerza wear on the sleeves of their shirts)
He looked so honest and swore he didn't know the guys
in his car stole my purse. I believed him and gave him
some "reward" money and told him he'd better leave town.
I got lucky that day.
The Moral to this story is in next post entitled "Lock-down"
Posted by la Macha on Sunday, August 20, 2006
I was raised in a small town in S. Florida,
in a time that totally felt secure.
The car keys always stayed in the ignition
and the side door of our house was the door everyone used.
We never locked it. It seemed, anyone that didn't know us
would come to the front door. It stayed locked and we felt safe.
That was the 60's and of course, times changed fast.
We started locking things little by little.
Now, I am living in Costa Rica where "if you don't lock it,
you don't got it", it's gone and no one saw a thing.
Sure, I can still count how many times I've been robbed
but it's adding up and I am really careful these days!
Living here, you have to take precautions you would never
dream of in the States.
My car, for instance, has a security system,
a bar locked on the steering wheel,
it stays parked at my house
behind a 6 foot fence topped with barbwire,
four security lights plus sensor lights,
AND "a few" guard dogs! Sound paranoid?
So far, my car hasn't been robbed since I took these security measures.
The same goes for my house. I've beefed-up
the security enough that I have had no challengers, YET.
When my friends and family saw photos of the barred windows and fence,
they were horrified. They thought it looked like a prison compound.
I did too. At first, I was claustrophobic but then I soon realized,
it made me feel secure and THAT was worth it. I felt free again.
I can leave my house now and not have that sinking feeling I'm being robbed.
I sleep a lot better, too.
I used to tell the guests of the houses I managed,
"Remember where you are".
It was the best advice I could give them.
The moral to the story is....
Don't wait until you get robbed. Be pro-active.
Go ahead and act as if you will be robbed.
Everybody gets robbed here, sooner or later.
For everyone in the States wondering why would I want to
live in a place where you have to have such tight security,
I ask, why would you want to live in a place that has a
bull's eye for terrorist and false security?
Posted by la Macha on Sunday, August 20, 2006
Saturday, August 19
In Costa Rica, a REAL Tico
knows how to use a machete.
It was one of the first things I noticed
It was like being in the Wild, Wild West
only their gun holster, "cubierta",
carries their "lima" (tool used for sharpening).
Most guys hold their machete ("cuchillo")
in their hand when walking.
Those Ticos stay ready.
Others wear it holstered,
swinging freely beside their leg.
Here's a photo of a typical
'Trabajador' (where I live)
sharpening his machete.
Long pants, cut-off or rolled sleeves,
boots for snakes, a hat for the sun
and a bandanna for wrist support.
Some even sport another scarf
tied around their neck, usually red.
They like red.
I've even taken to gardening with my own machete,
it's easier than pulling weeds!
Gardening can be overwhelming during the rainy season.
I can just watch my grass grow
and the birds deliver special "droppings"
...that sprout up EVERYTHING.
I use Costa Rica's "Rambo" - it's like Round-Up in the U.S.
...A week later, all I have to do is chop
and keep my machete sharp.
(I still use my Dad's old sharpening stone I brought with me)
Who needs power tools...
A man and his machete can chop down a tree, skin a wild boar, fine-trim a hedge, build a house.... just about anything that needs doing
'down here in the jungle'.
Posted by la Macha on Saturday, August 19, 2006
Great line - Colonel Jessep, A Few Good Men.
So you think you may want to move to
beautiful, lush Costa Rica?
It takes a brave soul to "Sell off and
Sail Away" to a place you never LIVED...
Visiting here is NOTHING, and I repeat,
Nothing like living here.
I think after living here 2 years,
one is not considered a Rookie
but not a Vet yet.
After 5 years, you show some tenacity
and (hopefully) gain the local respect
and AFTER TEN YEARS,
You're a Veteran.
You deserve some sort of special Medal.
Chances are, you'll stay here forever.
Some days, I still feel like Dorothy in Oz,
clicking my heels like hell to get "home".
I'm going on my fifth year soon.
I don't get this "ex-pat" status us gringos have here.
I'm not in exile - I'm a North American (from the South) in paradise.
Posted by la Macha on Saturday, August 19, 2006