Updated: May 30, 2022
Let's face it, no matter where we live in the world most of us have likely been accustomed to certain standards in our day-to-day lives. We have comfort knowing that we have a good idea of how things work in our society and how to get things done, especially in times when we need it the most. So many things that we do might seem normal and we won't even give them a second thought because they are second nature to us. It's just a fact of life, we get accustomed to certain routines, ways of doing things, efficiencies and standards....and as ignorant as many of us are we expect these to be the norm around the globe...News Flash - things are different everywhere.
I remember growing up in the 80s (#80srock by the way) whenever my parents needed to hire an electrician my dad would (well he would do the work himself) but most people would reach onto their kitchen counter grab the yellow pages and start flipping through to find whatever they were looking for - and this seemed pretty crazy simple at the time. Who's the unlucky person updating the information in this book every year? Then fast-forward to the 2000s and all we need to do when we need an electrician is to "Google" it. It takes seconds to do and voila we've got an overabundance of options to choose from. As simple as this was back in the 80s and even more so now, it's all part of being in a certain comfort zone. We know that if we need an electrician, there's a damn good chance we kind find one in seconds and schedule an appointment all in a matter of a few mouse clicks, day or night it's super easy. Well, until you're living out of your comfort zone. Can I find an electrician in Costa Rica by checking online? yes of course. But do I really know what I'm going to get? And even more troubling, will our communication be a limiting factor. How do I properly explain the issue that I am having and what needs to happen to fix it? Thankfully right now, we still have our builder to "rely" on for issues around the house but if it wasn't for that I'm not entirely sure how I would go about getting some things done...but am sure I'd figure it out by Googling it...
Take for instance a recent experience we had with our house. One evening we were doing some organizing in the house and noticed some drywall peeling away from the ceiling...Hmmm, looks like a leaky ceiling issue. So we contacted our builder to report the issue and what did they do.... they sent the drywall/paint guy to come "fix" it. My gut told me that that likely wasn't the best person to send to deal with this problem, but I rolled with it. Sure enough the very same day that the leak was "fixed" by the drywall/paint guy we had a rain storm and the ceiling leaked again. Now the repair that he did made sense, a certain part of our patio roof needed flashing, so he bought some flashing (not enough based on having to make a trip to the hardware store to buy more) and instead of running the flashing the entire length of the patio roof they left spaces of a couple inches between the different pieces of flashing instead of connecting them all together...low and behold the spacing they left happens to be right where the leaky ceiling is - go figure. Now I don't know about you, but if my ceiling leaked in my house in Canada, my first inclination would not be to send the drywall/paint guy to come and check it out and attempt to "fix" it...Sure, send the drywall guy to take down some drywall, but.... perhaps send the roofing guy to check out the source of the leak - obviously the water is coming from outside somehow. The next day when I reported that the ceiling was still leaking the builder came back and said they would "talk to the guys"...I'm like, no, please don't talk to the guys, please send the right person to check on it and come as well so you can see....so they are now sending the roofing guy.... I’ll be damned if the roofing guy is also the drywall/painter guy...I guess we'll find out soon enough...
Long story short, the standards and expectations here are definitely different than what I've come to expect in North America, and as I'm saying this, I need to remember I'm now in Central America so things are obviously going to be just a wee bit different...and that's not a bad thing, it's just something to get used to...as long as our leaky ceiling gets fixed. It's all good, everyone has nothing but the best intentions, it's just a little weird to see how they go about doing things.
Updated: May 4, 2022
As I sit here on my patio enjoying a freshly brewed French press Costa Rican coffee, gazing at the lush, green jungle of our backyard it occurs to me that a few days have passed since I have officially been in Costa Rica for one month - holy smokes where did the time go? It feels like it was only a few days ago that I hopped on a red-eye flight and landed in Costa Rica on April 1st - maybe this is all a really bad April fools joke and I'm still in Calgary...thankfully I know it's not an April fools joke. In the month that I've been here, I've spent a significant amount of time trying to adjust to living life the way life was intended to be lived - on my own terms, no more 9-5 grind with the sole purpose of making corporate executives happy and adding to their already outrageously large bank account balances. While I agree, the 9-5 grind is a necessary evil for a certain amount of time in life, it definitely has an expiry date, or it should come with an expiry date, and no, not one that makes you work until your 65 years of age...or worse, even longer. Before anyone gets bent out of shape about those comments, let me be clear, I completely understand and respect people's decisions to work forever, some people simply love their jobs, other's need to have that set schedule, routine, purpose, or just plain need it from a financial perspective - I get it. For many years, I used to be one of those people who would get up at five in the morning, get ready for work, hop on the train to get downtown, do the penguin shuffle into the office, say hi to a few people, work harder than I should have just to please the almighty shareholders and operating ratio, just to do it all over again the very next day. As much as this thankless ritual provided for a promising career, a solid paycheque, and a "good" life, it also came with its own pitfalls, like an increasing amount of greed and materialism, poor work-life balance, less than ideal family time, poor sleeping and eating habits, just to name a few - in my opinion, all things which can lead to poorer overall physical or mental health. Anyways, enough about that stuff this blog isn't about bashing work, all I'm trying to say here is that there is much more to life than the dog-eat-dog world of working thankless jobs - if you aren't happy or fulfilled in your current situation then do something about it - life is short, make it what you want it to be, not what someone else wants it to be.
Every morning I wake up thankful for what I have, a wonderful, loving, beautiful wife, my health, and a new adventure in Costa Rica. Down here, pretty much everywhere you go you will hear the term "Pura Vida". Whether you're in the grocery store checkout line, at a local restaurant, or filling up at the gas station, you'll hear it everywhere. It's a quite simple saying that is used in many ways, but it simply means "pure life". It's commonly used here interchangeably with thank you, hello, excuse me, no worries, no problem, goodbye, to name a few. But at the end of the day the real meaning of it "pure life" is all that it needs to be. The locals here are all about living a simple, pure life. They don't ask for much, and they aren't constantly looking for more. As a matter of fact, a close friend of ours here in Costa Rica once told me, "it's not about always having more money, it's about having enough". These simple words he said really resonated with me and for years I've been trying to understand how that could even be a thing. If I can get more, why would I settle for less or just "enough". I think it will be years before I can truly understand and embrace that frame of mind. While I understand that Costa Rica is a very different country than where we come from, how could it be possible that the same drivers in life are not the same everywhere? The answer that I've come up with so far lies within their catchphrase: "Pura Vida". And this brings me back to my opening comments, "As I sit here on my patio enjoying a freshly brewed French press Costa Rican coffee, gazing at the lush, green jungle of our backyard" the awe-inspiring beauty, the simplicity of it all, this is life, the way it was meant for me, after one month in Costa Rica.
Fun Fact - Seasons in Costa Rica
Did you know.....Costa Rica has two seasons, known as the dry season and the rainy season. There really is no Fall, Winter, Spring, or Summer, it's either dry or rainy. And depending on where you are in the country, the timing of those seasons can vary a bit but as a general rule of thumb rainy season starts mid-end of April and goes through until November and the dry season is from November through until the beginning of April. These changes in seasons also coincide with when the tourism industry will be at its lowest level and at its peak. The dry season attracts tourists in flocks (mainly from December through February), as they swarm the beaches for that perfect, highly sought-after winter vacation with sunshine, beautiful blue sky, and sandy beaches. If you come to Costa Rica in those months you can expect to pay a premium for almost everything, from flights, car rentals, and hotels, to food & beverage, and tours - it's all about supply and demand. On the other hand, if you're adventurous and wish to see Costa Rica at its most beautiful time of year (which in my opinion is the rainy season), you can expect to pay significantly lower rates for almost everything (flights these days are always expensive) but hotels will be at a much-reduced rate, food & beverage will have some great bargains, and the same with many tours, and even deals on car rentals. Most importantly when it comes to both seasons, you will always be greeted by beautiful, genuine Costa Rican smiles. One of my favorite parts about going to Costa Rica in the rainy season is that it's not crowded, you can easily find yourself to be one of the only people on a beach that stretches as far as the eye can see, you can also easily be one of the only tables in a restaurant, and have your pick of front row seating for some of the most amazing sunsets you will ever see.or
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It feels like this dream has been in the works for a long time and it has been…but all good things come to those who wait and persevere...and so it begins, I‘m closing one chapter, and starting a new one, today is my last day at work after 22 years on the railroad. Some people might think we’re crazy, I think we're just taking advantage of an opportunity that many wish they had the nerve to do. I’ve learned a lot over the years and the one thing that becomes more and more evident, is that life is short, live it as though it’s the only life you have, because guess what…it is. Work hard, take chances, have fun, keep your family and friends close, and most of all, do what makes you happy. Live life without regrets and always work toward your goals.