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November 16th, 2007

Up until two months ago, my family and I were living in a contemporary three-story house on a beach in Southern California. We had every convenience available. We were only limited by our imaginations. Now, here we are in the jungle with electricity that goes out from time to time, severely pot-holed roads and surrounded by people whose lives and backgrounds could not be more different than our own.

Although I am fluent in Spanish, given that I was raised in the states, I have little in common with my neighbors. The transition has not been a smooth one. There have been things to endure and become accustomed to that nearly sent me back to the states. I would have to say that the hallmark of my frustration so far has been that nothing here functions effieciently. Nothing. If you go to a government office during its regular office hours, it may be open. But then again, it may be closed. If someone makes an appointment with you, they may show up but then again, they may not. It seems that there is little regulation here and even less consistency. It may be different in the big cities but I am living in the middle of a jungle, outside of a small town.

After spending my first six weeks here either fighting this reality or letting it upset me, I have surrendered to it. I have even begun to appreciate aspects of it. I realize that there is an abundance of personal freedom here that is completely new to me. I see things here I have never seen before. For instance, ashtrays in restaurants and hospitals! People are allowed to smoke here! People are allowed to open a little soda (cafe) on the patio of their house. Or build a little convenience store in the yard in front of their house. People are allowed to be resourceful and do whatever they can to improve their little corner of the world.

But there are also things that are absolutely not allowed. For instance, children are not allowed to be disrespectful. Can you believe it? Not to teachers, parents or ANY adult. I had forgotten that there are entire cultures that still raise children to respect adults. Since I arrived, I have not seen a single child interrupt an adult conversation. The children I have met here have been, without exception, respectful, friendly, and downright charming! Now, I’m not saying that there are no polite children in the states. After all, I have two sons who are quite polite and most of my friends raise their children well, but most parenting in the states has changed quite a bit since I was a kid. It has surprised me how much I have enjoy the Tico children in my little jungle community where we are the only ‘white’ people. Frequently when I take a walk, I will find myself accompanied by several of the children who tag along and pick flowers for me and ask me how to say different things in English. It is no wonder that the ‘Ticos’ are a charming people. They are raised to be.

So if I have traded efficiency and convenience for a culture of charming people and achingly beautiful jungles, I think I have received much more than I gave up.

7 Responses to “Trade-Offs”

  1. Tim on November 16, 2007 6:39 pm

    A truly excellent first post Nora!

  2. Kathy Apples-Gordon on November 17, 2007 1:17 am

    Great Start for Nora! Keep it up and keep it coming!

  3. Mike Cook on November 17, 2007 12:45 pm

    Well said Nora! Hang in there. There is lots to like in CR.

  4. Bob Furlong on November 17, 2007 2:16 pm

    I quite agree with the underlyiung
    > theme however if the writer hasn’t encountered any impolite Ticos,
    > children, then they have been living in a box. I am sorry to
    > observe, as a father of 4 successful American young adults, that
    > the liberal, read less discipline, manner of parenting is alive and
    > well in Costa Rica and gaining ground. This is especially true of
    > the Ticos as opposed to the Ticas, who are still held to a higher
    > standard than the football kicking boys. Bob

  5. Cindy Arana on November 19, 2007 1:59 pm

    I am glad to hear that you gave in to the change instead of resisting it; you will have a richer experience. How are your three men doing and adjusting to the new way of life?

  6. Arp on November 19, 2007 4:32 pm

    Nice experience you’ve had with the kids there 🙂 In our travels over the past month, I’ve noticed that Tico kids seem to be more polite than their American counterparts. Or at least I haven’t seen too many who have that sassy attitude that’s too common in the US, giving people out of their clique withering glances and such.

    I’ve also seen young kids who try interrupting their parents and are in the process of learning to be polite. I’ve seen kids throw hissy fits. And be shy and quiet. And run around and play. I’ve seen lots of kids just being themselves.

    An expat mom we met also said that her experience was that Tico kids were quite undisciplined. If we take hers and yours together, it sounds like Tico kids aren’t that different than kids anywhere else. It sounds like they’re all different.

    It’s been interesting how frequently my own kids (5 & 2 1/2) were smiled at or complimented. This happened way more in 1 month than happens in the US in a year, where we encounter many more people. Ticos do seem to like children, and that love can only have a positive effect.

  7. nora on November 20, 2007 10:58 am

    Dearest Cindy,
    Thanks for the comment. My men are very well, thank you. Brian has never been happier, Adrian is surfing and frankly, could be happy anywhere and Ivan is adjusting slowly but surely. I hope you and your men are all well.
    I miss you,