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)


Anonymous said...

OMG this post was a long time coming, amiga!!! Wow.
Life's not about what you HAVE but what you DO.
Take Care.
And tell us about your school...

Tica Macha said...

Yep, it's pretty wordy one huh?. The next one will be about what I have gotten use to NOT HAVING. I'm not sure what to write about working at the school. There are some real problems (in my perspective). Money seems to be the biggest problem. I love the kids and have extreme admiration for the one teacher that manages 20 kids in one classroom. PUra vida.

Tica Macha said...

"Stop on a dime" - I used that expression in my post and realized, there are no dimes in Costa Rica. U.S. coins are not accepted here.
My first visit to Costa Rica in 2000, I brought rolls of quarters with me to give nice shiny coins to kids here. I grew up watching my Dad give coins to barefoot kids on the street. I had no idea U.S. coins were worthless here.
No wonder Ticos think Gringos are stupid.
Live and learn.

Anonymous said...

I didn't know US coins weren't acceptable there. Thanks. I KNOW I'm stupid in CR. It's kind of a relief from my US job here, where I'm supposed to be the "LEADER". In CR, I've perfected the shoulder-shrugging, please-help-me-I-don't-know-what-I'm-doing and barely speak Spanish look. And usually the Ticos are kind and tolerate my atrocious Spanish. Or rip me off:). Either way, it's OK!

Tica Macha said...

Contrary to what one might think from what you hear, there are more people here that are willing to help you than hurt you.
You just have to be careful who you ask for help.
Just keep practicing your Spanish.

Ranger Beethoven said...

Yea...but don't ya LOVE IT!

I keep thinking that this is the real world. Not the contrivied, controlled, plastic one I (we?) left behind.

I thinkg you're yo-yo idea is a great one and have started to use it myself.

Tica Macha said...

My affliction with Costa Rica is a love/hate one. The country is absolutely drop dead gorgeous if you are viewing NATURE. All the other stuff ain't so pretty! Their customs make me crazy and it's difficult to know who to trust. I am still proud to be an American from the good ole U.S.A.
I don't care WHAT they say about Gringos. WE are the ones that step-up when the chips are down and offer a helping hand (gratis).
Everything has a cost here (for Gringos).

katemeri said...

We don't even have mail delivery in our beach town! How long have you been here? All these things are true, but none of them bother me anymore (after 2 years). On the rare occasion it does get to me my hubby asks if I want to go back to our old life in California. No way - I'm here to stay!

Pura Vida!

Tica Macha said...

This year, will be five years I have been living here permanently. I learned quickly to be grateful for what I DO HAVE living here. It's worth the trade-offs. Sometimes, I do wish I had "a husband" to share it with BUT,,,, Pura Vida - Teri

Anonymous said...

Great post - so true! I'm coming your way next week. I'll call first.... nos vemos!

Tica Macha said...

A compliment from my blog mentor, I'm honored. I was getting the blog blues, not wanting to write about anything. I stewed on Just Get Used to It and one day, it just bubbled out. I'm no writer but sometimes, some things just have to be said. Of course, volumes could be written on getting used to living in CR but I think I've vented sufficiently for now. Thanks for checking in on me. Teri

La Gringa said...

Are you sure you aren't in Honduras? ;-)

Almost everything you wrote applies here, too. We don't have the huge exchange rate -- it's about 19 per US dollar -- but our largest bill is a 500 lempira, about US $26.

I'm enjoying your blog and have added it to my Google Reader. Thanks for the laugh.