Friday, October 17, 2008

Gringo Expats

Though there are many theories on the origin of the word "Gringo", none have been proven. Regardless of the origin, a Gringo is anyone hailing from the United States (Canada is not included). Expats is short for "Expatriots" - people who are citizens of one country but are residing in another. I'm a Gringo Expat.

A friend of mine sent me an email the other day that I thought was both funny and accurate. I'll quote directly:

"...if you’re in Costa Rica it’s because you’re wanted or your unwanted. Gringos in Costa Rica fall into five distinct categories:

1. Running a scam.
2. Failed at whatever business they were in in the U.S. (e.g. real estate sales) and think they have a better shot at it in the tropics.
3. Here for the legal chicas because they can’t get them back home.
4. Here for the illegal chicas (or chicos) because they’re less likely to be caught on camera by Dateline reporters here.
5. Settled down with one chica and working in a legitimate job."

I would say, based on my experience, that these categories are listed in order of prevalence. Thankfully, and by no accident, my friend and I both fall into category 5.

¡Pura vida!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Un Mes Duro

Spanish for, "A tough month" or "a hard month". That's what October has been, so far, here in Guanacaste. Typically, October is the wettest and slowest (tourism-wise) month of the year. In short, it's just plain dead. Many of the restaurants and hotels in the area simply close because it just doesn't make sense to stay open and operate at a loss. This month has been, and continues to be, especially painful.

It started raining here on Sunday
and hasn't stopped. Even my wife, "Pura Guanacasteca" (Pure Guanacastecan), is a bit amazed at the duration of this wet spell. On top of it, we have scheduled power outages every Thursday of this month from 8AM to 2PM. So today was wet and we had no power for 6 hours (more, actually, as the power didn't come back on until 2:30PM - it ALWAYS goes off on time but DOESN'T ALWAYS come back on on time). The reason for the power outages is simple: Coopeguanacaste is replacing old wooden telephone poles in the area with new concrete or steel poles and new cable. The reason for the rain, however, can't be explained.

And, of course, the A/C in "El Rebelde", is acting up by coming on and off whenever it wants. I use the A/C to defog my windows as defoggers are useless at this latitude. The cold, dry air keeps the windshield free of condensation. It's the only time I ever use the air when I'm not in the truck with my clients. I really don't like A/C. But, of course, now when I need it, it doesn't work. Not to mention the fact that one of my rear passenger windows rolls itself down at random moments, like some amphibious ghost is sitting in the back seat. I had to override it with the control in front and kill the engine to keep it from going down on its own while out at lunch at a restaurant that was supposed to have a backup generator, but didn't, and whose kitchen was closed because one of the cooks didn't show up today and the other was smoking ribs and couldn't handle the customers - all three of us.

I seem to have solved the flooding problem at my office caused by the torrential rain, its resulting runoff and the fact that the site engineers at the construction site next to us have dammed up the channel that lets water flowing past our property flow past their property. This has resulted in the dammed up water pooling against our building and making its way into our office. My partner and I have tried to be reasonable with these guys, to no avail. We then moved to playing "good cop, bad cop" to no avail. So I took the gloves off and did what any good Tico would do - I went passive-aggressive.

I dug a small trench at the low spot of the giant pool and sloped it toward the foundation of the future bank they're building. Now all of the water they have dammed up is pouring into their construction site and filling it to the point where they have to pump it out daily. It's SOOOOOOO SWEEEEEEET!!! But, more importantly, it has solved our problem.

I'm trying to replace the roof and add a door, latch and ventilation screening on my pump house over our well. It's an unglamorous cinder block structure that I plan on painting some art-deco Miami Beach color when the inundation subsides. Am also running the cable feeding the pump underground and putting a cover over the alcantaria (concrete pipe) that constitutes the shaft of the well and supports the pump and pressure tank. I had my handyman buy the materials 4 days ago. We're still waiting for the rain to let up.

My North American clients don't understand any of this. And, to tell you the truth, it's them who make me crazy, not all of what I've described above. For me, we just make a picnic out of it all. But it's difficult to balance the expectations of North Americans buying/selling real estate from their desk chair, having spent a total of one week in Costa Rica on vacation at an all-inclusive where everyone speaks English, with the reality of daily life down here. They don't get it. Sometimes I feel like asking them, "What the f*ck ever brought you here anyway?" But I bite my tongue and joke, "Hey, Costa Rica is for pioneers, not pussies!" Not a lie. But the underlying truth is lost on them.

Explorers "opened up" the Great West of the United States. The first ones, the mountain men and fur trappers, struck an accord with the native Americans and lived together in harmony with them, mostly. But then the California Gold Rush sent waves of "white men" over the plains and Rocky Mountains and the West was "tamed". Translation: a bunch of adventurers living the good life unwittingly created inroads for weak and worthless dolts to rape the land and people, and create vanilla suburbs. At least, that's the way I see it... when it's rainy and wet and I'm feeling curmudgeonly.

Gotta check my roof for leaks. Pura vida!