This is where I’m supposed to wish you a happy thanksgiving. I do so with the caveat that this particular American holiday doesn’t exist in Costa Rica. Or China. (When I showed my Chinese students a picture of a turkey, only one had seen one when she went to a zoo.) This past Thursday was a business day, but Friday was special: It’s Black Day, Black Friday, Black Week, Black November or just Black Sale. For, you see, even though the holiday which begat Black Friday in the US (with most folks off for a four-day weekend) is unknown, the creep of capitalism is alive and well here.
I often go to the very modern mall with many of the American chain-stores, and, at first, something seemed a little off; then I realized that very few people were carrying shopping bags. Since the stores are so expensive, with all wares imported, people like to visit the mall and walk around and enjoy the restaurants; they rarely buy anything. It is, as are the new model of successful malls in the states, a place for socializing, seeing and being seen. Your average tico can’t afford to shop there; nor, for that matter, can most expats. An item at Timberland or North Face is often double what you pay in the States. Except on Black Day, that is.
Oh, and they have a cool Cinemark in the mall as well.
We are in the summer season here, during which it rains less and gets warmer. An Uber driver told me that earthquakes portend a change in temperature. We had a 5.0 temblor on Wednesday, and since then it’s been warm and dry. Go figure.
I’ve taken to walking more and engaging people in conversations. As many of the people who work in lower-paid jobs are from Nicaragua and Honduras, I’ve been trying to decipher their accents. With my Spanish teacher, I’ve attained fluency in speaking, reading and understanding; alas, most people do not speak as clearly and correctly as my teacher. We talk about domestic and international politics and the economy, and then I get into an Uber and at times have to struggle to catch everything the driver says. But, even there, I understand about 80%. (Ah, to have a brain young enough to process new language skills.)
Whereas Thanksgiving was a non-event, I will be spending Christmas in the US. Although I’m not looking forward to traveling during such a busy time, I am excited about spending time with loved ones and doing some shopping.
A few weeks ago, I renewed my lease for a third year. I really love my place and the physical and geographic location, and an email from my lawyer advising the landlady that her planned rent increase was illegal kept my rent the same. Since most places I go are no more than a $5 Uber ride, it’s not worth buying a car and paying insurance. I simply rent a car if I need one. Also, the local exchange rate for dollars has changed; I now get 10% more when I buy things. When I first came, a dollar was worth between 550 and 560 colones; now it’s over 600. Also, when you buy things here, you can pay in dollars without buying currency at the bank. Very cool.
Another great reason to visit me in CR.