It’s New Year’s Eve — ¡Próspero Año Nuevo to all! — and I have a few hours of quiet time. The cats are outside being cats. Paul is in town buying some rope to hang our new hammock and some ground beef for the meatballs I will make later today. We are going to a New Year’s Eve Party later tonight, but now I find myself with some time to think and to write. We have been in Costa Rica for nine months now, and so much has happened.
For one thing, we are now legal residents – Pensionados – in Costa Rica. We submitted our applications last March, were approved in August, and finalized all of the paperwork on Thanksgiving Day, just one of many things for which we are thankful. We are happy here in our new home. We have fallen more in love with this country and its people. We are still living in our little cabin in the woods and we and our cats are thriving.
We have also gotten to know a lot of the Gringos in San Ramon and the surrounding towns and count many of them as our dear friends. There is something about sharing the Expat experience that can connect people who otherwise would never have met. There is a sense of community here that I have longed for but never really found in the U.S. I have never felt lonely here – there is always someone we can ask for advice, support, or company.
We spent Thanksgiving Day at the home of one of the couples and feasted on turkey and dressing just like home, though the turkeys and cranberries were bought at a much more expensive price than in the States as they are imported here. We shared the day with about 45 others from the U.S., Canada, Europe, and Costa Rica and counted among our blessings that we have met so many wonderful people.
On Christmas Day, other friends hosted a cocktail party and “white elephant gift exchange” at their home for about 35 of us. Everyone brought an appetizer or dessert to share, and the gift exchange provided a lot of laughs and some friendly competition. Tonight we will go to a New Year’s Eve party at the home of some newcomers to our area. They built a brand new home and have invited their new neighbors to their place, even though they haven’t met most of us yet.
We have developed friendships with several Ticos and, though the language is sometimes a barrier, we can communicate. Paul rides the bus whenever possible and has gotten to know many of the local Ticos that way. When we run into any of them in town, they greet him like long-lost kin and call him their friend. I am a little more timid but have actually had conversations in Spanish and that has been exciting for me. We have always been greeted with friendship and offers of help if we need it. They are patient with our limited Spanish and are eager to speak English if they know some.
We have learned that if we make an effort to learn their language and culture, we have a much richer experience. That makes a difference to the Ticos we have met and they appreciate that we try. So many Gringos make the mistake of expecting the Ticos to speak English and act the way North Americans would act. But this is their country and we want to be a part of their language and culture, not separate from it. And that philosophy has brought many “magic moments” our way that we otherwise would not have experienced.
It is good to be home for the holidays.