San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

The Story of My Parents’ Trip. . . and ‘Tia Consuelo’

It always seemed amazing to me that of all the stories I wrote for the Tico Times, the article that received the most feedback was a personal report about my parents.

In my four years with the weekly, I had the opportunity to report on Arenal Volcano s massive eruption that carved a new trench in the side of the colossus and claimed two lives; I shared the heartbreaking story of young man who fought for the right to receive AIDS medications through the Social Security System.

He would win that battle, but not in time to save his own life. I wrote about hurricanes and human tragedies, Dengue outbreaks and environmental scandals.

But it was the story about how to plan a trip for two aging and eccentric urbanites my parents that caught the attention of the public. One had a bad knee that limited movement, and the other an obsession with Diet Coke that strongly shaped our lodging choices. At that time, Diet Coke was not so easy to find.

Together we adventured in the top nature destinations of Sarapiquí, Tortuguero, Arenal before relaxing on the beaches of northern Guanacaste. Apparently this information was of more use to our readers than the news stories I sweated over late Thursday nights, before the paper went to bed.

I should have known then that my calling was in the travel industry and not journalism. However, it would take another two years for me to find my way to my current job as Marketing Director for a leading Costa Rican ecotourism company.

Today I dedicate most of my time telling people about those same places my mom and dad visited on that trip of a lifetime. I can only hope that the passion I shared with readers in that report still resonates with the people I reach out to today.

* * *

At some point during my time with the Tico, I came up with the brilliant notion that the paper needed a Dear Abby-style advice column. That in itself is bizarre (what was I thinking?), but far stranger was the fact my editor and other staffers agreed it was a good idea.

The twist? We would write it from the perspective of a traditional Costa Rican doña who would whip her foreign readers into shape with straight-talking Tico wisdom, heavy on traditional proverbs. It would be more about humor than advice, and it would highlight the cultural differences between Costa Ricans and our expat readers. Best of all, we would call her, (drum roll, please) TIA CONSUELO .

Needless to say, by the second column, this then 28-year-old Gringo was flat out of words of wisdom and desperate to learn Costa Rican sayings that would bring Tía Consuelo to life. Despite the efforts of all of my dear Tica colleagues I turned to for help, Tía Consuelo today remains buried in the Tico Times archives, never to be heard from again Gracias a Dios!

George Soriano

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