New Year’s Eve and the town is going crazy. Wow, another year in Pura Vida Land. Bring on the dancing girls and put the champagne on ice!!! This time of year is a little bit of a double edged sword, because there are so many people visiting, and the place is a mad house.
Obviously, that is great for business, as all the bars and restaurants are booming, hotels and rentals are at full capacity, as everyone flocks to the beach, but it also means that it is almost impossible to move around.
Thousands of people are here, the street is packed, and there are lines everywhere from the grocery store to the beaches. So most of us that live here, tend to just camp out at our homes, hanging out by the pool, waiting for the surge to pass. I like it because it is one of the few times I actually do nothing, and it gives me the opportunity to reflect on some of the bizarre memories I have made living here in paradise. I find myself chuckling as I scroll through my mental rolodex, remembering some of the stories, but I can honestly tell you, I have no qualms.
Everyone knows I am an old Rock n Roller, and one of my all-time favorite bands is AC/DC. I read on their website about 6 months ago that they had brewed their own beer, and I looked for it the last time I was in the USA. I went to 3 different liquor stores and nobody had it. This past week, I was roaming around Coco, enjoying the wave of excitement and the mass of human bodies; soaking up the positive energy and holiday spirit; the pavement vibrating from all the music that spilled out from every single corner; gorgeous models in skin tight dresses and bikinis (no qualms with that) promoting everything from alcohol and beer to natural fruit drinks and suntan lotion, when I heard a shout out.
“Heh Amigo!” this young beautiful Tica called. “Check out this new beer.” Low and behold, there it was; AC/DC BEER. This could only happen to me. What are the odds, that I find this new Australian beer, at a street Kiosk in Coco on New Year’s Eve week? AWESOME. It tasted a lot like FOSTERS which I would expect, since it is from the land down under, and my friends and I enjoyed a 6 pack while continuing up the boulevard. Most places would never allow you to drink a beer in public while walking down the middle of the street, but Costa Rica has no qualms and neither do I.
Just recently I was driving somewhere, cooking along, minding my own business, when I started to come up on the fruit stands. I love that they sell their goods right on the side of the road, under an old wood canopy that would fall over if the wind picked up. As I passed one of the stands I noticed this hand painted sign, hanging from the post, declaring that he also repairs brakes and clutches. I had to back up. I couldn’t believe my eyes. Really? So I stop for a watermelon and can get my oil changed too? No qualms with that, only in Latin America.
Costa Rica makes people feel like Ponce de Leon and the fountain of youth. You see and hear people do things here that most normal people wouldn’t do at their age. It is true; from the moment you get off the plane here, you just feel younger, healthier and more vibrant. You have more enthusiasm and more passion, and according to Pastor Allen Cudahy of the Celebration Community Church here in Hermosa, nothing in the world is more important than PASSION. This place is special and it makes you want to relive your youth.
For many of us, our vacation became our life. But you also have to have a little common sense too and remember that you are NOT 25 years old anymore. It is probably not a good idea to take up surfing at 64 years old; maybe bridge, or painting; piano, tennis or golf; but not surfing. Then you see the guy a week later with a neck brace and a twisted knee and you want to say to him “how did that work out for you?” Lucky he wasn’t in a body cast.
The tourists are the ones that really crack me up, as it seems they do some of the stupidest stuff. I saw this guy the other day, dressed like a mannequin for Tommy Bahama Outlet standing under a tree holding up a banana. There was a troop of monkeys in the canopy and he was trying to convince them to come down. First of all, the last thing you probably want to do is have a physical confrontation with a wild animal. Second, Howler Monkeys don’t eat bananas. Do some research? Third, standing under a half a dozen primates there is only one thing that is going to happen. They are going to piss and crap on your head and personally, I have no qualms with that at all. Thanks for the show and the laugh.
It amazes me how many people get so completely blown away that Costa Rica doesn’t have any addresses. Personally, it is one of my favorite quirks of living the dream, as every trip is an adventure. Recently I was headed up to the volcano to do some exploring with some friends. We needed to stop at a store and get some bottled water but we were in the middle of nowhere. There was this man, sitting under a tree, with a piece of hay sticking out of his mouth; the stereotypical cowboy. “Señor, Donde esta la Pulperia?” He raised the brim of his hat just a couple inches, smiled to show us he was missing teeth, and pointed up the dirt road. “Go about 300 meters to the red house; Turn left.
Go down the hill to the big mango field and there is a fork in the road, stay to the right. In about another 500 meters you will see a big black dog sleeping in the middle of the road; turn left again, and you have found it.” You already know the ending of the story; OBVIOUSLY there was a big black dog in the middle of the road! Only in Costa Rica would someone know that the dog would NEVER leave the middle of the road, he is there every single day. Sometimes they use big landmarks, like the Ex-Presidents house. Of course you have to know who the Ex-President is and where he lives. Many times the landmark isn’t there anymore, but they still use it as directions, because EVERYONE knows that the big Guanacaste tree USED to be there before they made it into 22 coffee tables. Welcome to Costa Rica directions!!! I have absolutely no qualms with them at all.
I love how everything in Costa Rica is an odd number and doesn’t make sense. You go to the furniture store to buy some bar stools and they only have 3. THREE. Who buys 3 bar stools? Nobody. You need at least 4, maybe 6. So you ask them, “when are you getting another one?” and of course they don’t have an answer. I went to an Italian dinner the other night with a friend. We ordered a side of garlic bread and they brought us 5 pieces. There are two of us. Was it that much of a financial set back to butter up ONE MORE PIECE OF BREAD? If it was then just give us 4, but 5? Now we gotta flip a coin to see who the lucky one is, as I am way too old to arm wrestle you for it. Even the retail stores don’t get it sometimes.
A client of mine wanted to buy a scooter, so he could buzz around town and leave his car at home.
The local store in Coco had a huge sale, with signs and balloons and everything. SCOOTER SALE 30% OFF with 2 helmets included in the price. Now by law, you MUST wear a helmet, or you cannot operate a motorcycle or scooter, but do you think they had any helmets for sale? NOPE. Sold out. Don’t have any. NONE. So how on God’s green earth are you going to drive your scooter home today? Oh, and they don’t have any of those Neon Glow in the Dark striped vests you are supposed to wear either. The funniest ever, was when I went to buy some oil for my lawnmower. I went to the biggest store in the area, and it just so happened that they had a mower sale that day. Literally, every kind of machine you could imagine was on their showroom floor; dozens of them, lining the interior.
I told the salesman I just needed a case of oil. Sorry, we don’t have any. Go to another store. Now imagine that you went in that day to BUY a lawnmower. You spend 45 minutes with the guy going over every different product. He talks about how many blades it has; electric or pull start; do you want a leaf bag or not; extended warranties, the works. Ok, I will take the John Deere, the best one in the world; it could eat rocks, has 20 hp and 4 wheel drive; and give me a case of oil so I can mow my lawn today. Sorry Amigo. You gotta drive another 30 minutes to Liberia. You just shake your head. Even when you buy a brand new car for $30,000 they give it to you with absolutely NO gas in the car. NONE. Bone dry, with the little red gas handle light all lit up. It is so bright you actually have sunburn on your forehead. You worry you might not make it to the gas station. PURA VIDA baby. No qualms here.
A few months back, I sold one of my client’s properties for him. He wanted to be paid here in Costa Rica, as he had some other obligations he needed to tend to. So we set it up where he could go to the bank after the closing and they would disburse the funds to him directly instead of wiring it as they usually do. It was not a big sale, about $50,000 as it was just a small lot with no house on it. He was going to take $20,000 in cash, to take care of his commitments here, and then have a cashier’s check made out to him for the balance that he would take back to the USA and deposit in his bank at home.
The buyer’s bank just happened to be in Puntarenas, not here in the Liberia area. Now, if you have never been to Costa Rica, I will tell you a little secret. There are two cities that you have no need to ever visit; Puntarenas and Limon. They are our ports where all the cargo ships and containers enter the country, just like Miami or Long Beach harbors. They are filthy, and not very safe, and just like armpits, they are located on opposite sides of the country. If you never set foot there, you are not missing out on a thing.
The bank is a big open bullpen type setting, with 4 or 5 cashier windows. On the other side of the room are 2 or 3 desks where the commercial bankers operate, no different than many financial institutions back home. These cubicles are not in an enclosed office, but right out in the open for everyone to see. The nice gentleman sitting there is having Ken fill out all the necessary paperwork to get his money and his certified funds. He starts by picking up the phone and calling someone and ordering the cashier’s check. “I need draft 1 2 3 4 5 6 made out for $30,000” he quietly tells the person on the other line.
They must have confirmed the amount, because he said it again “yes that is correct, $30,000 U.S.D.” and hangs up the phone. He goes back to filling out more paperwork and asks Ken to sign something. The next order, though, is a whole different story. He proceeds to hit the speaker phone, instead of picking up the handle, and very abruptly proclaims into the phone for all to hear; “I need twenty thousand dollars in cash!” Half the bank turns their heads and looks our way. “What did you say?” the female voice replied over the intercom. “I NEED TWENTY THOUSAND DOLLARS IN CASH!” he loudly hollers. “TWENTY?” she yells? “YES!!!!! TWENTY!!!!” he screams.
The entire bank of about 100 people now know that two gringos are going to be walking out the front door with 3 years’ worth of the average Costa Rica pay. At this moment, I had a little bit of a qualm. LOL. Not only are we carrying a very large sum of cash, and about to walk out into one of the worst areas of the country, but every single breathing human being knows it. To make the story even more unbelievable, the gentleman actually counted the C Notes, right there on the desk. I couldn’t make this stuff up people.
I told Ken that I thought it was best if I went and got my truck and pulled right up to the front door and he could just come out, get in, and off we would go. What I didn’t realize is that the front of the bank, obviously because it is located basically in a ghetto, had huge concrete barriers with barbed wire on top; it reminded me of a US Embassy in the Middle East. I then noticed that the guards were carrying automatic weapons and not just pistols, and I thought to myself, this isn’t a very good idea. As I pulled my Toyota as close as I could, Ken came running out of the bank and dove into the front seat. I peeled out, tires smoking, doing a 180 in the middle of the street, and raced the other direction. GO GO GO GO GO!!!!!
I felt like Steve McQueen in the The Getaway as I was weaving in and out of traffic, checking the rear view mirror. The entire time, until we were safely out of town, I kept waiting for some banditos to pull up next to us shouting “Pull over Gringos!!! Give us all your cash!!! We want your money Hombre!!!” Fortunately, we live in Costa Rica and not Mexico, and it didn’t happen. At the time it was a tad on the hairy side, but looking back at it now, it is one of the funniest moments I have ever experienced in my life. NO qualms now.
I know what you are thinking right now; “you’ve got to have a qualm with something Mike.” I do: bad attitudes; and that is why I don’t live in North America anymore. If you remember, I did a Newsletter recently on my adventures with a family of Swedes. I actually got a nasty note from a woman, proclaiming that it was porno, and it didn’t encourage a healthy relationship with her husband. My advice to him: dump her. Another time, I did an article on health care, and I mentioned that a Canadian had sneezed on me, and gave me the flu.
This gentleman from Ontario got all bent out of shape; “why did you have to say the person was from Canada?” he nastily inquired. Because she WAS from Canada; and by the way, I visited Toronto this year, and it was some of the worst air I have ever breathed in my life. No wonder everyone is sick and has asthma. Do us all a favor dude: stay there. We all have a serious qualm with individuals like you.
People; this is Costa Rica; kick off your high heels and let down your hair. Life is too short to get bent out of shape over nothing. You have to have the NO Qualms attitude; Qualmless; and celebrate it every chance you can. Anyone who has ever been to the beach with me knows that I do my Costa Rica Saturday Night Fever Disco Dance as soon as I hit the waves. I sing at the top of my lungs “I live in Costa Rica! I live in Costa Rica! I live in Costa Rica” moving my index finger from my crotch to the sky, crotch to the sky, crotch to the sky. You will hate me for saying this but I am going to proclaim it anyway. I LIVE IN COSTA RICA AND YOU DON’T! Gotta a qualm with that? Do something about it. I mean you can blame the damn universe for all the reasons you aren’t here, but in the end it is really only up to you. If you aren’t living the life you want, you only have yourself to chide.
Finally, the New Year is here, 2016. I am so excited for the next round and another successful year. Business is cranking. Everyone wants out of the rat race. Although I am a tad hung over from the celebration I’ll pack the bags under my eyes, and off I will I go. I am looking forward to the SANDBAR Sunday Brunch; Eggs Bene’s, Massive French Toast with fresh Strawberries and Pineapples, Huevos Rancheros, Breakfast Pizza, Home Fries and Thick Cut Bacon and the Monster Burrito! Sign me up for some Mimosa’s and Bloody Mary’s too. You only live once and you can’t have any qualms. I don’t; I AM QUALMLESS.
COME ON DOWN BABY!!!
See ya soon. PURA VIDA.
Qualmless Living in Costa Rica
Article/Property ID Number 5663
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