Category Archives: Life in Costa Rica

From the mundane to the magical — sentimental, serious, humorous and curious vignettes of Costa Rica daily life.

Happy Mother’s Day!

Feliz dia de la madre!  August 15th is Mother’s Day in Costa Rica, a day nearly as important as Christmas and Easter.   I spent the afternoon celebrating the day with wonderful tico friends, Hugo and Elia.  All the siblings in the family brought gifts for their mother, as well as for their sisters and sisters-in-law.  The men did all the cooking and serving (the food was delicious!).  Elia is a woman I respect and for whom I have great affection.  She raised her own children and those of a sister who was unable to take care for her own.  She sewed all their clothes and managed to make ends meet on her husband’s meager earnings as a carpenter.  Her children have grown to be responsible, respectful adults and they adore their mother. 

Happy Mother's Day, Elia!

Happy Mother's Day, Elia!

Some years ago, one of their daughters got divorced and moved back home with her young son.  They were welcomed with open arms.  Hugo did some remodeling to their home to make things nicer for his daughter and grandson.  Another daughter and her husband lived in a tiny apartment Hugo built behind their house.  When the parents sold their home, they built a new one on a good sized lot and the daughter who no longer had an apartment to live in, built a house on the same property.  Unfortunately, when the family moved, they moved out of my neighborhood.  I still miss them, especially when I pass by their old house — now a Chinese restaurant.  There never was a time when I’d walk by that my friend wouldn’t holler at me to come in for coffee or lunch if she saw me.  How we would laugh and laugh!  Through the years, Hugo and Elia have included me in several family events and I feel very fortunate to be considered part of their family.

Happy Mother’s Day, Elia!  You deserve it.

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Romería update …..

La Negrita was flown by helicopter to towns this past weekend to accomodate those who would have made the pilgrimage to Cartago on August 2nd.  They were prohibited from doing so by the Minister of Health who cancelled the annual event due to the threat of the H1N1 virus.

August 2nd Pilgrimage to Cartago

Due to the H1N1 virus, the annual pilgrimage – romería – to Cartago was cancelled this year.  I was told that a statue of the Virgin of Los Angeles would be carried through towns, but I don’t know if that is a rumor or the truth.  Over a million people make the annual trek to Cartago, many of them on their knees.  Without a doubt, there will be fewer sore feet tomorrow morning than there were last year!

Costa Ricans … green and happy!

Costa Rica Is World’s Greenest, Happiest Country
Saturday 04 July 2009
by: Ashley Seager | Visit article original @ The Guardian UK

Latin American nation tops index ranking countries by ecological footprint and happiness of their citizens. Costa Rica is the greenest and happiest country in the world, according to a new list that ranks nations by combining measures of their ecological footprint with the happiness of their citizens.

Britain is only halfway up the Happy Planet Index (HPI), calculated by the New Economics Foundation (NEF), in 74th place of 143 nations surveyed. The United States features in the 114th slot in the table. The top 10 is dominated by countries from Latin America, while African countries bulk out the bottom of the table.

The HPI measures how much of the Earth’s resources nations use and how long and happy a life their citizens enjoy as a result. First calculated in 2006, the second edition adds data on almost all the world’s countries and now covers 99% of the world’s population.

NEF says the HPI is a much better way of looking the success of countries than through standard measures of economic growth. The HPI shows, for example, that fast-growing economies such as the US, China and India were all greener and happier 20 years ago than they are today.

“The HPI suggests that the path we have been following is, without exception, unable to deliver all three goals: high life satisfaction, high life expectancy and ‘one-planet living’,” says Saamah Abdallah, NEF researcher and the report’s lead author. “Instead we need a new development model that delivers good lives that don’t cost the Earth for all.”

Costa Ricans top the list because they report the highest life satisfaction in the world, they live slightly longer than Americans, yet have an ecological footprint that is less than a quarter the size. The country only narrowly fails to achieve the goal of what NEF calls “one-planet living”: consuming its fair share of the Earth’s natural resources.

The report says the differences between nations show that it is possible to live long, happy lives with much smaller ecological footprints than the highest-consuming nations.

The new HPI also provides the first ever analysis of trends over time for what are supposedly the world’s most developed nations, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

OECD nations’ HPI scores plummeted between 1960 and the late 1970s. Although there have been some gains since then, HPI scores were still higher in 1961 than in 2005.

Life satisfaction and life expectancy combined have increased 15% over the 45-year period for those living in the rich nations, but it has come at the cost of a 72% rise in their ecological footprint. And the three largest countries in the world – China, India and the US, which are aggressively pursuing growth-based development models – have all seen their HPI scores drop in that time.

The highest placed western nation is the Netherlands. People there live on average over a year longer than people in the US, and have similar levels of life satisfaction – yet their per capita ecological footprint is less than half the size. The Netherlands is therefore over twice as environmentally efficient at achieving good lives as the US, Nef says.

The report sets out a “Happy Planet Charter” calling for an unprecedented collective global effort to develop a “new narrative” of human progress, encourage good lives that don’t cost the earth, and to reduce consumption in the highest-consuming nations – which it says is the biggest barrier to sustainable wellbeing.

(If you’re ready to move to Costa Rica and be green and happy, check out these options from Costa Rica Tropical Paradise Properties.)

What is with these ANTS? HELP!!!

Flip flop ready to attack.
Flip flop ready to attack.

Is anyone else bothered by invasions of weak coffee colored ants at night?  They are going to drive me over the edge!!!  As I sit at the computer working, it’s as if they’ve signed a pact to harass me.  How can they suddenly appear out of nowhere?  I’ve crawled on the floor and stared at the wall behind my desk, hoping to see them emerge from somewhere, but they must have scouts that alert them of my presence.  None appear.  The minute I take my seat again, one will go up the wall by the monitor.  How can they appear out of thin air?  My solution — admittedly not a good one — is to have a flip flop handy and smash any and all that I can and then sweep up the bodies in the morning.  These are the type of ant that destroyed my photo copier and took up residence in the microwave (turning it on didn’t seem to eliminate them), clock radio (which came on in the middle of the night thanks to the pressure of the ants, their nest and their rice-like eggs — agh!), printer and pen holder (which wasn’t even warmed by an electric current!).  Living with the unkown is maddening.  WHERE IS THEIR NEST?  WHAT ARE THEY DESTROYING?

Any suggestions as to how to get rid of these destructive pests would be greatly appreciated.

Bales, bags and bundles!

Waiting for the bundles to be opened

Waiting for the bundles to be opened

If you’ve read previous postings, you know what ropas are (stores selling used clothing and bedding from the US at garage sale prices).  This photo was taken in a ropa in San Rafael, Heredia just before the towering pile – in this case, bedding – was dumped into a waiting piscina (pool).  Piscinas are large areas with low walls/boards that help contain the piles of clothing or bedding – sort of like a huge sandbox.  As the bags are dumped, someone is alerting you on a microphone.  Most ropas have someone talking into a hand held microphone the whole time you are in the store.  The salesclerks have become so adept at their “voice over,” that they can check you out at the cash register without stopping their spiel.  Multi-tasking perfected?!

The rainy season has arrived … BOOM and ZAP!

In case you haven’t noticed, the rainy season has begun and everyone seems to have sprouted an additional appendage … an umbrella!  When you get up in the morning, you think, “Ah, another beautiful, sunny day,”  but by noon the sky has started to darken and within an hour or two, the rains begin.  These are not gentle, nap-inducing rains on the metal rooftops, but loud crashing thunderous rains accompanied by shots of lightning that make you jump!  At the first distant rumble, my cats run under the bed and I turn off the computer and unplug the cords for everything electrical that I don’t want to risk having zapped.  Phones and electricity may come and go during the duration of the storm.  If the phone is working, it may have so much static that it’s no better than having it gone entirely.  I thought summer storms in Minnesota were terrible, but they don’t hold a candle to the storms I’ve witnessed in Costa Rica. Is it because of the altitude?  At least the storms here don’t bring tornadoes with them.  If they did, what escape would there be?  Homes here do not have basements!  Since May is the onset of the rainy season, it comes on strong, but it will (hopefully) taper off as June arrives.

During the rainy season, doing the laundry becomes an issue for those who don’t have dryers.  Hanging clothes outside doesn’t work because of the humidity right before the rains and the short amount of time without rain.  Sometimes, it may take a few days for clothes to dry, hopefully, before mildew has set in.  Many homes have small clotheslines that work on a pulley system and can be raised after putting the clothes on them.  Usually the ceilings are higher in this room so the clothes are out of head-touching reach and dry in the warmer air near the ceiling.  This type of rack is very clever and handy.

If you have errands to run, it is better to do them in the morning and have an umbrella with you (they are inexpensive and can be purchased everywhere).  When the rain starts, it accumulates in the streets very quickly.  As more coffee fields are removed and replaced with buildings, there isn’t anywhere for the accumulating water to go other than the street.  If you’re walking there, you might get injured by swirling debris or step in a pothole, never to be heard from again!  Beware!

On a positive note:  The grass and gardens are coming back and the dust and dirt are no longer blowing around and into the house!