In Costa Rica everything is incredibly vibrant. The jungle is 1000 shades of green, the sky is bright blue, the ocean water sparkles, the sand is piercing white or steaming black, the scarlet macaws are superman red, the Tico clothing and the Tico houses are a rainbow of mismatched colors. In the states everyone wears black, or grey, or dark colors. My wardrobe was mostly black. I dressed to blend in, to fade into the background, to apologize for my existence, and to remain anonymous and unseen.
No one tries to match here, and they definitely don't try to blend in. They do try to be the most colorfully dressed. You don't have to match, in fact it's better if you don't. Wear as many colors as possible, that is the motto. Present yourself to the world like you just tasted the rainbow and couldn't pick your favorite color.
The other day I was admiring a young teenage Tico, walking down the road, wearing a hot pink t-shirt, royal blue skinny jeans, and blood red tennis shoes while holding a neon green cell phone, with a sunny yellow book bag slung over his shoulder. His hair was shaped into a fake mohawk or fauhawk, with stars and designs shaved into the side of his head.
His big, brown eyes crinkle into a smile as he looks up and meets our eyes. We wave, he waves back. One of my favorite things about Costa Rica is that everyone greets everyone. Everyone waves at everyone, which reminds me of my small hometown back in Oregon. His colorful, beautiful, happy soul shines right through his neon clothing and melts our cold, black American hearts.
Even the Tico houses are bright and colorful. Pink, purple, yellow, blue, green, red, every color you can imagine. I love Tico houses and could go around photographing them all day. They are simple, bright, welcoming and comfortable. A basic structure, usually made of cinderblocks, with a living area, kitchen, bathroom and a bedroom or two, painted a wonderful blend of bright, happy colors.
Most everyone's time is spent outdoors, so there is usually a large porch with a guaranteed hammock or two strung up in the shade, next to a few comfortable, leather, handmade rocking chairs. The yards and landscaping are meticulous, as the Ticos display their wealth outside rather than in. And typically a couple of jungle dogs lounging outside in the shade, also a range of colors, as are the family of chickens that peck through the driveway. The foliage, landscaping and flowers all colors of the rainbow, and life truly does look like a painting.
Costa Rica is funny sometimes. In our 6-week-long process of trying to get internet at our house, we have ran into many obstacles. And every obstacle comes with another obstacle. I've come to the conclusion that some people around here just get a kick out of saying no. I think they make up a new reason each time. Everyone we talk to tells us something different, everyone has a different version of no, a different reason why they can't help us.
Bank statements, tax returns, marriage certificate, birth certificate, passports, fingerprints, proof of residency, and the blood of your firstborn child is all Costa Rica requires of you to get wireless internet. I always laugh as I remember the point that Andy got frustrated and said to the guys at the ICE office: "you do realize we just want to pay you for internet right? It's not like we're trying to buy drugs!"
You would think it would be easy to buy or pay for a simple service that everyone uses and needs, right? It's not like we're trying to steal it, or acquire it illegally. All we want is to be able to communicate with our families and friends online, which is our only way to communicate.
In the U.S. if you want wifi you call a company and they come to your house immediately, install everything you need, give you the router for free, and you get high speed wireless internet instantly, for a reasonable monthly rate. The internet companies in the states fight over you, and they come to you. They make it so easy, too easy. Here we have to drive two hours to an office, only for them to give us a new reason why they can't help us. Then we drive to another office, only to be given another excuse.
As I'm getting frustrated over this process, I start to realize that maybe Costa Rica has it right. They don't just hand out anything to anyone. They don't assume you are who you say you are, that you need what you say you need. They require you to prove it over and over and over. It's not like we're trying to get approved for a $200,000 home loan, we only want monthly wifi.
This reminds me, though, that after I graduated from college I was instantly qualified for a $200,000 mortgage, when I barely knew what a mortgage was. I was only making $12/hour at the time, but somehow the U.S. government assumed I was responsible enough to pay back almost a quarter of a million dollars?? And isn't this what led to the great recession of 2008? Irresponsible lenders, greedy banks, underwater mortgages that people had no business taking out in the first place?
So maybe Costa Rica has it right. They want to make sure you are a good person, with strong character, before trusting you with anything at all, even a $20 piece of internet equipment. At this point I can only stop and humbly thank God that at least I'm not trying to take out a mortgage.
gangsta jungle dogs...
We've been adopted by a couple of Tico jungle dogs recently. The other day I was home alone and heard the beginnings of a massive storm outside. Thunder boomed through the valley, lightning lit up the sky and the sideways jungle rain took no mercy on any soul.
I flung open our front door to examine the storm and I was immediately accosted by a swirl of wet fur and slobbers. Two jungle dogs hurled themselves in through the open door, whining and trembling from the thunder, muddy and soaking wet. Andy has a "no jungle dog in the house" rule, but luckily for them he wasn't home. They must know I'm a sucker for a jungle dog in need, as they tried to look extra pathetic so I'd take sympathy on them, which of course I did. I grabbed a towel, dried them off, wiped up the muddy pawprints, and calmed everyone down. Only one of these dogs actually belongs:
Pretty soon we were all warm and dry. Flaca, jungle dog # 1, made herself right at home and claimed Sophie's bed, curling up into a ball, only pausing briefly to growl at the other dogs to let them know not to mess with her or her new, cozy bed. Zorro, jungle dog #2, curled up on the rug on top of my feet and went right to sleep. Sophie gave me a pathetic look, as her bed was stolen out from under her, and instead of doing anything about it she curled up on my lap. We all cuddled together, huddled in, safe from the sideways jungle rain, hunkered down...and watched Straight Outta Compton. Cuz we keep it gangsta.
Kari Pinkerton Silcox
It would be a tragedy to die, having never really lived. Which is why my husband Andy and I quit our jobs, sold our house and decided to chase our dreams. We moved to Costa Rica without a plan, and this is the story of our adventure.