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Ticos

Posted by on September 12, 2009

Chapter 2

Tico Culture

Costa Rica, one of the most beautiful countries on Earth! National Geographic rated it the best year round climate on the planet. I agree. The country stays fairly consistent month to month, with rainy and dry seasons. Temperatures generally range from 70° to 85° F depending on elevation. The best time to visit is obviously during the dry season, which runs from December to May. I would avoid the rainy season because when it rains there, it rains! Rains can last for hours, even days, straight and are heavy (like windshield wipers are useless, rain coats and umbrellas are merely for style, and outdoor activities are impossible).

Contrary to popular belief, Costa Rica is not cheap. Over the years, tourists and expatriates have sparked a bourgeoning capitalistic atmosphere. Add to that factor the rising costs of transporting goods into the country and prices have skyrocketed. Visiting can still be reasonably affordable. However, living there can be pricey. Most expats are surprised by the steep prices for everyday commodities. Cars, in particular are extremely expensive. You will find that even an old high-mileage jalopy commands a high price.

To my great thrill, I found a diesel 1973 Series III Land Rover! If you do not know anything (as I did) about “Landies,” then stay clear of them. They are amazing vehicles. They are equally well known for their off-road prowess and their quirky mechanical engineering (remember, the British designed and built them). However, I fell in love with mine. If it were not for the invaluable help of a good friend we made who happened to be an amazing jack-of-all-trades and Land Rover expert, I would have been stranded on the roadside. I have many stories to tell of our adventures in my Series III and Oscar and I fixing it in his barn with salvaged parts, duct tape, elbow grease, and loving devotion to this icon of the automotive world.

One of the amazing traits of “Ticos” is their ability to make do with what they have out of necessity. Since they tend to not have access to the resources that we are accustomed to in the U.S., they utilize what they find around them. Oscar and I repaired my Landie by driving it over two wood boards that bridged a hole in the ground we used as a pit to get under the vehicle. When I broke a leaf spring (too much off-roading), he cobbled a new one from cannibalized parts from another old leaf spring. Here in the U.S., I would have wasted the money on buying a whole new part. I was impressed and humbled by his ingenuity. He and his family were wonderful to us.

We rented a house on the farm from the family that owned the land. They too were amazing, generous, and kind. They invited us to their home for tea and dinner several times. Francisco is an orchid enthusiast. He took us to the Costa Rica National Orchid Show. I did not know how big a deal orchid cultivating was. He schooled us in the art of raising, presenting, and judging orchids. We even met the Vice President of Costa Rica at the show!

We found this hospitable climate throughout Costa Rica. Once you get to know the people and culture, you are almost like family. We shared our lives with them and learned about theirs. It was truly a marvelous experience.

Mish and the Land Rover

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