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Dec 04 2013

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When in Rome, First Check Things Out, by Jo Stuart

by Jo Stuart

Some people are under the impression that I am an authority on Costa Rica. Anyone who has to make eight visits to Immigration to renew a cédula is no expert. (When I use the word cédula, I actually am referring to the ID card we are given as residents and that is also called a carné.) When it comes to Costa Rica, I paraphrase that popular disclaimer, “I don’t know much about this country, but I know what I like.” I think that is what people who are considering coming here — especially to live — should think about. What do I like? What is important to me?

Like anywhere in the world, if you have lots of money, you can live here very comfortably, pretty much on your own terms. But you still have values, and a world view and an expectation of people, and it’s nice to be in an environment where these are compatible. Often it is the little things that make or unmake your contentment.

I knew there were certain things I wanted in order to be comfortable. I wanted to live where bougainvillea grew (a warm climate); I wanted to be able to drink the water and flush a toilet; I wanted access to some of the things I love — music and theater and good restaurants. I wanted good public transportation because I did not want to own a car — or anything, for that matter.

On a deeper level, I wanted to experience living in a country without an army; without the idea that war is a solution. (Fighting wars are what armies are for.) Not having an army affects the psyche of a people, just as having one does. I come from the United States, where “winning is everything” is a value…Here in Costa Rica, it is the morality of war that the people are concerned with, not winning. Except for soccer and politics, having a winner and a loser is not how Ticos think. They want win-win situations. That is one reason they are so careful to avoid confrontations.”

From Butterfly in the City, page 90-91. Used with permission.

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