Yes, I’m here.
I came back to get vaccinated, to see my doctors and to check out places to live. It’s beautiful here this time of year, if a bit cold. I’m in a lovely condo in a gated community. And it’s blessedly quiet, which is my ultimate requirement.
Since a negative covid test result is now a requirement to enter the country, I had to get tested two days prior to departure. It was, of course, a concern that the wrong result would prevent me from leaving. However, all went well, and I realized on the plane that I was in the safest place (from covid) on the planet; every single person had tested negative within two days. While the flight was smooth and comfortable, my inexpensive first-class seat did not include coffee or tea, even upon request. I was given a box of crackers with a tin of hummus, which I felt was not satisfactory for a six-hour light. It appears that the pandemic has given the airlines an excuse to cut costs even further. But not even coffee? Yikes!
I have several doctors’ appointments to help me cope with the non-stop onslaught of old age. A few days ago, I have had a brief episode of kidney stones, and I’m seeing several specialists this coming week. Oh and, praise the lord, I had acupuncture yesterday, a treatment which I have truly missed.
By the way, if you haven’t gotten vaccinated, I think the best way is through CVS.com. It is great because it gives you the dates for both doses right away; no waiting until you get the first shot to set a date for the second. I ran a bit of a cottage industry booking vaccinations online from CR for my friends in California. For no pay, of course.
My time in Costa Rica has taught me many things, such as how to live frugally and how to be comfortable and productive while alone. I have read more books in the past few years than I have in the past 40. From afar, I’ve witnessed how dramatically American culture has devolved. Although certainly not the cause, the previous president managed to energize and highlight the rage and egotism which now pervade all aspects of our once proud nation. And now I need to find a way to reintegrate into this familiar yet very altered world.
In most cultures, the public expression of negative emotions, such as impatience and frustration, is considered anti-social and offensive; to openly display one’s displeasure at not getting what one wants is an indicator of entitlement. Just the notion that we believe that we are owed satisfaction is uniquely American, since most of the world’s inhabitants know and accept the difference between desiring and deserving. Our insisting and complaining (since the squeaky wheel gets the oil) is perceived as an obnoxious declaration of superiority over those on whom we make our demands.
Years of being the posterchild for the ugly American and the victim of quiet resentment (even when I control myself and speak respectfully in Spanish) has sensitized me to those behaviors which cause offense and misunderstanding. Although we may annoy one another when we make our respective demands in the US, we don’t take it personally; it is simply a strategy for obtaining a desired result. In cultures not based on money and business, however, all interactions are personal, and complaints are perceived to be attacks not only on the employee’s performance but on the person’s character. And I have come to realize that, regardless of how well I behave, the battle is lost; and I will never be fully accepted and respected in the lovely land of Pura Vida.
FYI: It’s still the best tourist destination I know. Just stay in the resorts and go out only with a guide. Or, live there with someone who understands and appreciates your cultural differences and can give you a hug at the end of the day.
Ultimately, I have had to confront my own tendency to criticize and inform others of their less than perfect behavior. I have realized that my frustration and anger are nobody’s business but my own, and, even here, where bitching is culturally allowed, it is not a humanistic way to treat others. We’ll see if I can apply the lessons learned and be a little kinder.
In April, I will head east to visit family. In the meantime, I continue my consulting work and I teach a few hours per week.