Quetzales are Cool

My trip has been full of adventures, some more fun than others. After a few weeks of unseasonable rain, the weather changed back to its beautiful, warm and sunny self. The condo I rented is in the perfect area, where I can walk to my gym, a market and a Starbucks.  What more could a guy want?

During my first week, I had my dental procedure done and now have to wait four months for the final stage.  I also had an appointment to renew my expired residency permit, a process which was to take up to 45 days. Of course, unbeknownst to me and my lawyer, the ministry changed things up, and I went from office to office trying to find my new card.  One person told me that there was a delay in renewals for up to two months, which would be a problem for me, since I’m leaving at the end of this month.

However, yesterday I received an email with a digital version of my visa, which makes me legal.  I was then informed that my physical card should be ready for pickup in four days.  We’ll see. If that doesn’t happen, I can still leave and return with no problem.

Every Sunday, I hang out with one of my few very good friends.  We have dinner and sometimes go to the movies.  It’s nice to feel like a normal person and actually do things in the world.  However, this dear fellow, who was QiJian’s vet, has more eclectic tastes than I.  We have seen Everything Everywhere all at Once, Antman and the Wasp, and John Wick 4. I hadn’t gone out to a movie since before the pandemic, and I hadn’t realized that my new hearing aids would sharpen certain sounds. By the second movie, I knew enough to get toilet paper from the men’s room and stuff it into my ears.

One of my students invited me to a place called Savegre, which is in the mountains a few hours outside of San Jose.  It has the cleanest river in the Americas, and people go there to hike and to dip their bodies into the water.  Since the water was very cold, I passed on that ritual. But, I did see not one, but two Quetzales, which are rare birds whose sighting is considered good luck. While in a restaurant having dessert and coffee, I heard people squealing while rushing outside. Curious, I joined the fray and managed to see two birds, which are beautiful and multi-colored, doing a mating dance. Take that, lottery winners!

I’ve also been taken to some amazing restaurants in my area. It really is the perfect place to stay, because of the proximity of so many places. If I can’t or don’t want to walk, an Uber ride is usually  under five dollars.  Escazu, where I lived last time, was beautiful and exclusive but wasn’t within walking distance of much. I plan to stay here next time I come.

Costa Rica, a small country which has to import almost everything, has always been expensive; but the prices have gone up dramatically since the pandemic, and the dollar is very weak here. Whereas I’m happy for my tico friends, who get paid in the local currency, I’ve been shocked every time I’ve converted my dollars into colones. Yikes! Also, due to the fact that the owner of my AirBnB has a different idea of what makes a place livable, I’ve had to make some unexpected purchases, such as a table to use as a desk, a chair in which to sit, and Tupperware containers to keep the food I cook fresh for a few days. I’ve been lucky that some friends saved the items I couldn’t sell when I gave up  my house in Escazu, so I didn’t have to buy lamps, trash cans and fans.  We will be having a garage sale next weekend to try to get rid of my unsold and newly-bought things.

Perhaps I’m revealing too much here, but my usual Starbucks order is a bit fussy.  I figure since I’m paying so much for a latte, I order it “no foam.”  This means that the barista actually needs to fill the cup to the top with coffee.  While in the US, I know from the weight the minute I pick it up if they actually removed the foam. If not, I give it back and they redo it.

I’ve mentioned before that Costa Ricans don’t complain (publicly) and they accept what they get. I therefore have learned not to say anything.  However, in the Starbucks here, they have a sign which says that, if your drink isn’t perfect, they will remake it.  Delighted to see this, the first time I was handed a latte with half coffee, half foam, I handed it back and asked the employee to redo it.  He was quite amused, since, in spite of the sign, nobody had ever asked him to remake a drink. It takes a gringo.

Another cultural moment came when I was in an Uber during Semana Santa (Holy Week), which is a huge holiday in this catholic country.  The driver, an older man, was listening to a guy on the radio with an awful singing voice.  I started to ask “What the hell are we listening to?” but stopped myself. I said instead “Who is singing?” He replied “Un sacerdote.” A priest. The driver was listening to a mass. Glad I checked my first impulse.

I have found in general that I’ve been treated more respectfully. One reason is that my Spanish is much more fluent and my comprehension has improved (except when listening to Venezuelans or Nicaraguans). Also, I know more people now and have more positive social interactions to balance out the negative encounters. Now I try to chalk up the cautious stares to my being “other” rather than “evil culture-destroying enemy.”  If I’m wrong, I don’t want to know.

I revisited a lovely restaurant where I had taken my brother Jay and his wife during their visit two years before he died. I still have the pictures I took of them there.

So, I’m back in planning mode as I make arrangements to return to the US, get my car and belongings out of storage, move into a new apartment, get my tires replaced, renew my prescriptions, hire someone to help me move, locate the keys to the apartment, pick up my cable box and modem, reactivate my car insurance, and get settled enough to work, all of which needs to happen in 48 hours.

No pressure.  It’s what I do.

My gym