Thursday, May 31

Just Get Used To It

That's my latest mantra. (Actually, I say "Get use to it" but I was corrected)

Some days, I truly feel like this is the Land of Oz. Things are just not like they are back home and never will be. I'm still looking for the Great and Powerful Oz behind the curtain and some days... I still click my heels like hell to go back home. Slowly, I'm adjusting. The best answer, just get used to it.

This is a Spanish speaking country. If you don't know Spanish, you are probably missing out on 90% of what is going on. No, they don't have English subtitles for the local news and it is ALL is Spanish. They (not me) are on the metric system, too. Gotta get used to it.

It rains here practically six months out of the year and that you can plan on. The ground gets so saturated with water that it can present some real problems. Water backing up into your house or your roof springing new leaks is nothing compared to landslides, flooding, and such. There is no city sewage system here where I live so I expect my septic tank not to work some of the time. The mosquitoes are out in full force during the rainy season and dengue is alive and well here. Avoid getting it. It can kill you the second go around. I've had it but I didn't know at the time. Just a raging fever and delirium. I actually backed my car into my house trying to avoid hitting my new fence on the other side. I needed to go to the store for food. The boo-boo is still on my car. I survived, my house survived. I never fixed the ding on my bumper, I'm used to it.

There are no numbers on buildings. You just have to know where it is. There are barely street signs. The postman delivers mail according to the description of the location, like Casa de Verde, 100 meters Sur de Hicaco (a nearby landmark). It's very confusing and the postmen have my utmost respect. The one-way streets in San Jose are not always marked as such. Just get used to it. If you ask direction from three different people, you'll probably get three different answers. If they are Tico and speak to you in "English", make sure they know which hand is the "right" one and which one is the "left". I got directions from someone that had the two English words for right and left confused. Of course, I got MORE lost.

If you haven't done it twice, it probably isn't done correctly. That's the case here. Rarely have I had something repaired/fixed that didn't need to be "fixed" again. The most used expression here is "Si puedo", which means, yes I can. Be sure to ask if they have EVER DONE THIS BEFORE. Chances are, they haven't but they are willing to try (learn) at your expense.

Paying bills... just get used to going all over town, waiting in lines to pay bills. No one sends out notices except for RACSA (Internet) and I don't know of one location where you can pay all of your bills. The due dates are all different but I have finally developed a system after almost five years. I just remember.

There is no channel that has the scrolling program list for what's on television. Half the time I can't figure out what is coming on because they advertise it in Spanish (that doesn't directly translate) with the time being in some other country which I have no idea what the time zone would be. I usually catch a movie that is half over and never know what it was I was actually watching. I'm used to it. Also, CBS and ABC come and go. Now are the final episodes of some of my favorite programs and of course, CBS and ABC are not working. Works, doesn't work - get used to it.

The electric is unreliable. It comes and goes without notice. They have been replacing the wooden poles in my area with concrete ones and the electric would be out for half the day or more (with no warning). Due to our dry spell here, we had some severe power outages. When it rains, there is NO WATER or the water is muddy. Sure, if you wait, it will eventually come back on or run clear again. They're working on it but until then, I keep lots of bottled tap water and/or rain water and yes, just get used to it. The tap screens for the faucets, toilets and washing machine need to be cleaned often.

The largest denomination is ten thousand colones (about $20). Even big ticket items, they expect you to pay cash, like buying a car. That is a huge wade of colones when you need $20,000.00! You would think they would have something equal to $50 or $100 BUT they don't. Again... get used to it.

Prostitution is legal. That makes the demand for Gringas like me practically non-existent. It also encourages drugs, early pregnancy, disease and bad behavior on both sides and things like sex vacations exist here. I'll never get used to that. It's really detrimental to Costa Rica but they haven't figured that out yet. Ticos don't pay for sex, well, most don't.

Pura Vida time is not in real time. Manana (tomorrow) is any day but not today. In fact, manana doesn't exist, I was recently told by a Tico. Yesterday is over and past, tomorrow doesn't exist, there is only today. That is part of the Pura Vida way of thinking. When someone tells you they will arrive at 4pm, expect them to come whenever, either earlier or later, whatever is convenient to the event OR they won't come at all. That's normal. There is no day-light savings time here. It's the same time all the time. It keeps things simple.

Dodging potholes, people on bikes, and people walking in the road is a way of life here. Before all the Gringos with all the cars, they were free to do this. They still do. Drunk drivers are another issue. It could be a taxi driver, bus driver, or whomever. Here in this beach town, being drunk appears to be norm. People don't use turn signals and will stop on a dime to talk to someone walking along side the road. Just go around them and get over it.

Waiting. You will spend half your life living here waiting for things. I won't elaborate because if you live here, you know already and have gotten used to it. The days go by slow but the years go fast. You know what I mean if you really live here.

Buying meat can be a real challenge. Most stores have the meat frozen before it is sold. You should know this so you don't refreeze it. If you buy pollo entero (a whole chicken), it comes with the feet AND BEAK. The first time I put my hand in the bag and pulled out a claw, I screamed. I now know.

The poverty here can be alarming. What impressed me the most was seeing people that were dirt poor (they actually have dirt for floors) but yet they were dressed nice and clean and were HAPPY. Even the kids playing with a stick and a rock WERE HAPPY. I love the fact that they are happy with what they have because I, being a true Gringa, have come back to the basics of life living here and have learned the true spirit of
LESS IS MORE. Ticos taught me what I "learned" years ago in college.

So, the trick to living here is, yes, you guessed it.... Get used to it! (or go home)

Tuesday, May 29

When the lights went out in Costa Rica

My apologies to all for dropping the blog ball.

It all started about a month ago when I got a call from a friend who informed me that the main electrical power plant in San Jose was "terrorized" with a fire explosion and the electric may be out for WEEKS. He advised me to get up and get in my car (it was 11:30 p.m.) and go fill it up with gas (while there was still gasoline), get water and provisions to carry me through this crisis.

I was half asleep but this wake-up call put the fire under my butt! When I stopped to get gas, it was shut-up tight with an armed guard watching over. He just waved me to move on with the tip of his gun so I didn't ask any questions. I headed directly to Frutastica to load up on stuff and refill my bottles of water. At the store, my mind went completely blank as to what could sustain me for weeks without electric. I ended up with lots of cans of tuna. When I passed back by the gas station, they were open for business and the guard with the big pump action gun was still there and nodded politely. I got gas and headed home to my bunker. By the time I got home from getting all this done, my electric was back on. No terrorist. Who would want to terrorize Costa Rica anyway?
It did get me thinking about the "What Ifs" though.

Since that time, we have had many, many rolling blackouts. Mainly due to the water shortage here. No rain. The hydro plants were running dry. A natural disaster was declared so ICE could receive funding. ICE is government-run monopoly and from my understanding, cannot receive loans. To declare a natural disaster was the only way to drum up funds.

Since then, the rain has commenced and boy, has it. No more severe power outages and Costa Rica has turned back to green and lush. Now, we get set for the next six months of rain. There was practically no rain last year so everyone expects this year to make up for last, especially with La Nina present.

I've been here almost five years and I'm STILL learning. I've learned to keep food (rations) on hand, always have at least five big bottles of water, propane for cooking, plenty of candles and keep gas in my car.

My blog is called "YO-YO" for a reason. You're on YOUR OWN living here.