San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Expat Miss Lists: Readers’ Responses

HOW about that? Many of you out there got busy and answered my call for expatriate miss lists, and a whole lot more.For example, a great many readers wrote to tell me that I don’t have to miss NPR because I can get it through the Internet (one kind reader even offered to bring me some bluegrass CDs). Many residents here have Internet in their homes, but, alas, not I. I live in a mountain village where we don’t even have telephones. Yes, I could get Internet with a satellite disk, but I am living on a third-world budget and can’t afford it. Therefore, I’ll keep making a one-hour bus trip once a week to get to the nearest Internet café. However, I’d like to thank all of you for your concern.I also received a lot of questions about the hot water, so an explanation is in order. You can have hot water in Costa Rica – if you can afford it. The electricity here is extremely expensive, especially in rural areas. Another obstacle presents itself if you are renting a house, because very few of them have hot-water plumbing.Ticos wash their dishes in cold water with a special soap made for this. What most people here use for bathing is a device called a termo in Spanish and contemptuously labeled “suicide shower” by Gringos. It is an electrical device built into the showerhead that heats the water as it comes out, but it doesn’t work very well unless the water is already lukewarm. Where I live, I am lucky to get it to heat up to lukewarm.Another option for some is a solar water heater, which is not of much use here in the mountains. Many Costa Ricans (including my husband) believe that bathing in hot water is unhealthy because it opens the pores. When I tell my husband about the deliciously hot showers and baths we North Americans take, he answers, “¡Qué barbaridad!” (In my village, everyone gets up at 5 a.m., when the temperature is between 58-62 degrees Fahrenheit, and takes an ice-cold shower. It is a cultural adjustment that I, for one, can’t seem to make.)Here are some of the responses from expatriates now living in Costa Rica or from regular visitors. If you don’t understand all of them, well, neither do I.MISS: Friendly dogs • Starbucks • Fashion Island (California) • bike lanes • huge bookstores • efficient highway exits • fast transactions • many choices • excellent infrastructure • public cleanliness • Andes Chocolate • affordable alcohol and cigars (in Jacó) • used bookstores and related resources • thrift shops (with a lot more than used clothing) • American-style “drugstores” (where one can browse for everything) • natural food stores (with bulk grains and organic food) • garage sales • Waikiki shell concerts (Hawaii, of course) • the Iditarod dogsled race (Alaska) • apple cider • pure maple syrup (the real thing).DON’T MISS: Fast-paced life • pollution • hearing “like” too many times • American snobbish accent • super-size culture • high prices • miles and miles of perpendicular roads • strict police officers • stinky fish at Newport pier • rednecks • my cat • sharp Vermont cheddar cheese • Bush administration (“but I can’t seem to let it go”) • snow and cold • telephones (they live in the mountains, too) • television (really far into the mountains) • five-pound Sunday newspapers (lots of ads) • after-Thanksgiving and after-Christmas sales • fireworks • dressy clothing and shoes (pantyhose!) • income tax time • commercial holidays • crowded malls and crowded mall parking lots • billboards.HERE is a “won’t miss” list made by a person who is going to retire in Costa Rica, outlining what he won’t miss about the United States. Someone might want to straighten him out a bit about a few of the same things he might expect to find in Costa Rica:• Impatience• traffic backups• two-faced co-workers/brownnosers• Bush• Cheney• U.S. politics in general• buttons that fall off a blouse the firsttime it’s worn• incompetence• the fast-paced life of greed• watered-down fruit juiceI also received a lot of letters from people who used to live in Costa Rica and are now back in the United States. Mostly they wrote about what they miss about Costa Rica:• Christmastime and getting a tree from the tree farms in the mountains• a Spanish restaurant in San José called Segovia• breathing the air of a free country after being in El Salvador, Nicaragua, Noriega’s Panama, etc.• a good place for kids to grow up (these first four from an ex-war correspondent of the ’80s)• smiling faces as I take my morning walk• “por favor,” because we seldom say please in the United States• the smile or laugh when I say“pura vida”• rain in the afternoon• the feminine and beautiful Ticas• gallo pinto• cas (the fruit)• Bavaria beer• rice and beans• beans and riceONE reader scolded me roundly for missing anything at all. He said I should be grateful just to have the privilege of living here year-round.Finally, one of my favorite letters reads as follows: “I have shortened my list. When I lived in Costa Rica, I didn’t miss anything. Now that I’m living in the United States, I miss Costa Rica.” Amen to that, say I.

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