For twelve months now I have lived in Costa Rica. An annual report might be in
order. It will turn out to be more a valentine than a report.
I cannot remain so infatuated, can I? The honeymoon will end, won’t it? Already,
there are bits of life here that irritate me. Ah, but they are so few. I am still so much in love! Need evidence?
Two little La Liga fans walk barefoot down the road to the pulperia.
I suppose you might need translation. La Liga (The League) is the nickname
of the most popular soccer team hereabouts. Many folks, adult and child alike,
wear jerseys exclaiming their support for these “New York Yankees” of
Costa Rican soccer.
A “pulperia” is a small mom-and-pop grocery store. They
are found on every other corner in the country.
I am cast back to my own childhood, when I would walk down to Mrs. Smalley’s store
to gaze longingly at the chocolate malt balls (I called them mothballs), until
she would take pity on her penniless and barefoot would-be customer and with great
ceremony place two of those coveted morsals – never more or less – in his gratefully
Down the street someone left a full head of lettuce on the grate next to the drainage
pipe where the huge iguana lives. Yesterday, someone had placed a couple
of bananas there. Many of my neighbors, it appears, have adopted this magnificent
reptile as a community pet.
When the taxi drivers bring me home from my excursions into town, they carefully
drive on the wrong side of the street not to endanger our ugly beloved. He enjoys
sunning himself on the hot pavement. I fear he grows so large that no longer will
he fit inside the pipe.
Canteloupe, watermelon, pineapple and banana. And mangos! Ah yes, mangos! Every
Canteloupe, watermelon, banana and mango are some of the most beneficial foods
humankind can ingest. Incredible nutritional value in every one. Look it
I don’t know much about pineapples, but, wow, are they delicious fresh off the
There is hardly a day goes by that I don’t eat every single one of these fruits!
They are piled up high in the stalls at the community market just waiting for
me each morning. I’ve had to learn to buy enough only for one or two days. It
is not as if the growing “season” will end in this extraordinary place!
The drumming has ceased.
After more than a week of hearing the sound of drums somewhere in the distance
no matter where I was throughout the entire area, it is quiet today.
Most Costa Rican schoolkids, as everywhere in the world, long to be members of
the band. Schools here can afford few instruments and even fewer musicians to
teach, however, so marching bands tend to consist of bunches of clean and spiffily
dressed, beaming youngsters, each with a single drum, with only a few privileged
students playing glockenspiels to accompany the din.
Wednesday was the 167th anniversary of the founding of the town of Grecia,
where I live. Don Abel paid a visit, and the kids in the bands at every school
in the cant+¦n (county) have been practicing for this honored occasion.
(Don Abel is the President of Costa Rica. All in Costa Rica, including the children,
are on a first-name basis with this 71-year-old gentleman. To refer to a president
in any other manner would be considered “putting on airs.”)
What festivities! Where were my earplugs? And tell me again, when is Independence
It happens every time. Someone tosses one of those incredibly guileless smiles
my way, and my heart and soul melt.
Not everyone in Costa Rica smiles all the time. Some have taken up the customs
and manners of that dominant culture in the north. They scurry about hardly noticing
their fellow beings, with little time to speak a civil word, much less present
cordiality with a smile. Pity them for what they have lost.
Most Costa Ricans have not lost, however. They still enjoy the moment – this
very moment! Not some uncertain future moment. This one! Right now! This moment
is just fine, gracias a Dios! So they smile at you and share their joy
“Hace calor,” the taxi driver says. “It’s getting hot.”
He says it not with dread, concern, disappointment, disgust. He says it with a
smile that communicates best what I love most about Costa Rica.
The national slogan of Costa Rica – unofficial as it can be but absolutely on
everyone’s lips throughout the days – consists of two words: “Pura vida.”
Simple enough. Just right. “Pure life.”
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