Tag Archives: Costa Rica

Photo Impressions of Costa Rica

Everywhere you look in San Jose, the buildings are protected like maximum security prisons:CR_SanJose_5384

San Jose has varied architecture. Some buildings, like this one, are just plain weird. No, this isn’t camera perspective distortion. This building is a quarter of a pyramid. The other two straight walls have hardly any windows:CR_SanJose_5385

The Museo de Arte Costarricense as seen from the sculpture garden. Not only a beautiful building, but also a nice catalogue showcasing the country’s art styles:Museo de Arte Costarricense

 

My First Impression of Costa Rica

CR_SanJose_0319My first impression of Costa Rica is that it’s a country of high contrast. The downtown San Jose buildings are mostly old and decrepit. Everywhere there are locks, security gates, double rows of barbed wire and heavy cast iron bars on all the openings. It all gives one the impression of a poor and dangerous place. Even the Costa Ricans warned us about getting in certain taxis.

In the suburb of Escazù, however, the picture was completely different. The buildings were new and modern. There was a mall with a broad spectrum of shops including the finest names in clothing and other goods. How is it possible? Certainly, the Costa Rican with an average salary of about $550/month is not shopping there.

CR_SanJose_0338_v1I suppose it’s like any other city caught in the crisis of rising prices and stagnant wages. Costa Rica’s economy was probably inflated by expats and tourism. It helped some people become comfortably middle class, but it also increased the demand for imported products with a resulting trade imbalance and inflation. It’s quite a shock to find that the prices here are not so cheap as one expects to see in Latin America.

In spite of the poverty, in spite of the outrageous inflation, the Costa Ricans are happy, friendly and helpful. Those that didn’t speak any English were eager to communicate when we asked for help or directions in our absurdly horrible Spanish. I felt bad that, mostly, I was so flustered I forgot to say “por favor.” At least I usually remembered my “gracias.”

Physically, the city is nestled among the mountains crowned by the vapor of rain that makes this country so fertile. Even from downtown, the vista of street lamps at night reaching up into the hills is amazing. The central, merchant streets are car-free zones and there are unique buildings in surprising places. Parks are scattered throughout the city and happily without too many war hero statutes.CR_SanJose_5361_v1My favorite part of Costa Rica so far? They grow coffee here. It’s easy to find a good cup of coffee! Even the McDonalds chain here has, in many of their locations, an attached McCafe which serves almost excellent cappuccino. The worst impression so far? There’s a Starbucks in the mall. WTF?!

 

Do Costa Ricans Know Something We Don’t?

 “The Gross National Product measures everything except that which makes life worthwhile” Robert F. Kennedy

My brother, who has been reading the blog, wondered why we didn’t write about our upcoming travels. Aside from the fact that it is effort enough to keep up with travels just completed and myriad musings along the way, I really had no answer for him.

So here we are about to spend a month in Costa Rica, one of the destinations that grabbed our interest when we considered moving out of North America and settling in just one country.

I was surprised to read that Costa Rica, as far as the latest gallop world poll, is the happiest nation on the planet. It should be noted that they are doing this on one quarter of the resources typically used by the rest of the world. Their goal is to generate 95% of their electricily with renewable resources by 2014. Currently they are already generating 93% from renewable resources. Their government is the first to commit to become carbon neutral by 2021. They abolished the army in 1949 and invested in social programs of health and education. They have one of the highest literacy rates in Latin America and in the world. They also have that unmistakable Latin vibe, that social connectedness.

Costa Rica seems to have achieved unequalled happiness for its population. Ivan and I aim to experience some of the joy of this country and add some of our own. We’ll be researching just what the secret to happiness is in Costa Rica.

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