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Jun 18 2012

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Book Review: Butterfly in the City, by Jo Stuart


Butterfly in the City
by Jo Stuart is one of the best books I’ve read on Costa Rica
. As the name implies, she is the “butterfly” and the city is San Jose, Costa Rica.

Most other books on Costa Rica are guide books about its natural beauty – waterfalls, beaches, flora and fauna – with recommendations on hotels, B&Bs, hostels, attractions, and restaurants. But this book is about how to adapt to the culture. It’s the story of Jo Stuart’s day-to-day life, of her city, and of the people of Costa Rica as seen through her eyes — the eyes of a single woman who wanted a new experience. She retired and settled here over 20 years ago, in the early 1990’s. She had been looking for a place where she could live simply, within a limited budget, and without “owning anything.” After a couple of visits, she chose Costa Rica, feeling comfortable in a country without an army, and at home with the culture and people.

Jo Stuart Loves San Jose's Pedestrian Boulevards

She tells the story of Josafinos (residents of San Jose) in particular, and Costa Ricans (also called Ticos) in general. I consider it a must-read for anyone living in Costa Rica or considering moving here, as it provides great insight into the Tico personality, way of life, values, attitudes, how to adapt, and provides many other interesting and helpful tidbits of information. I always thought of this book as an ethnography of sorts, perhaps an inadvertent one, but one nevertheless. It’s practically a reference book for me as I’ve gone to it several times for confirmation of something I was thinking or wanted to express. It’s a quick and easy read, so if you want to understand Costa Rica and Costa Ricans, read this book. (Click here to buy this book on Amazon.com.)

Although being retired is a happy condition in itself, living in Costa Rica has a great deal to do with our sense of well-being. I’ve been thinking about what I have here: a beautiful and peaceful country unlikely to be threatened by another world power, large or small, a host country whose citizens are gracious and charming, a climate that requires no air conditioning or heating, a great variety of good food at reasonable prices. These are all conditions that contribute to the good life…Yes, it is very easy to be content in Costa Rica.”         — Jo Stuart, Butterfly in the City, p. 214

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