Monday, August 31, 2009


Esperanza, or a town called "Hope". A friend of mine has a big finca (farm) up in the cool mountains somewhere between Santa Cruz and Playa Garza. He invited us up to see the toros (bulls) in Esperanza, not far from his finca. Esperanza is a very small and rural place. The downtown consists of a couple of houses, a soccer field and a sala (large place for congregating - in this case, bar, restaurant and dance floor). I'd say the population is less than 50 people.

It was nice to get off the beach for awhile and escape the hustle and bustle for a visit to the Costa Rica of yesterday. I picked up a group of hitchhikers on their way to the event and they actually offered me money for the ride. At the beach, they would have begged me for money after the ride. Very different world where people are proud and independent, yet humble.

We stood on the bed of my pickup, drank beers, told stories and watched the toros. It was a great day with cool breezes, lots of sunshine, cold beer and no rain. Laila fell in love with the horses and a very kind caballero gave her a riding lesson. I gave him a beer in return. He bought me one later on after the event.

(Click the following links for some Quicktime phone video) The corral was constructed on a hillside with an amazing view of the surrounding valleys and mountains. Carla hung out with her cousins while Laila, glued to me for the day, and I watched the show and clowned around.

After the event we headed to the sala and had chicharones con ensalada de repollo (fried pig skins drenched in fresh lime juice, with cabbage salad) and beers. I climbed on to the canasta (roof rack) of my pickup, kicked back in the sun with a cold Pilsen, and took it all in. I even made a few phone calls to friends back home to rub it in. It was a great day. The real "pura vida".

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Costa Rica: "So dance or get off the floor."

I saw a posting on a friend's Facebook page - a guy I really like and respect - that really tweaked me the wrong way. It read as follows:

"I don't understand people who live here for more than a few months and are still in love with this place. Being in love with Costa Rica is like falling for a really dumb supermodel. The incredible physical beauty makes for fantastic scenery and ...fabulous adventures, but then you wake up one morning, after having been there and done that, and realize that it's been months since you've had an intelligent conversation."

I posted the following comment:

"I do love this place when I can kick back with my family and the pura vida lifestyle - simple and genuine with lots of laughs. The problem occurs when I have to balance the expectations of North Americans (i.e. my clients) with the reality of every day life down here. The cool ones get it and can ride the swells and troughs. The ones who don't get it make my life here miserable. This ain't New York or Toronto. Things take time and there are cultural protocols that need to play out. It's a dance, and stepping on toes counts against you. You can't just ream things through and threaten to sue everyone and their brother if things don't play out on your North American timeline. No one gives a f*ck about your timeline. So dance, or get off the floor."

Kinda harsh, but I think his posting was even more offensive. Especially from a guy who is working here, ILLEGALLY!! No one's keeping you here, so dance or get off the floor, bro!

¡Pura vida!

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Thursday, August 6, 2009

Bahía Culebra Lounge

So now I'm in the bar/restaurant business with my wife, sister-in-law and father-in-law. The restaurant is located on the main street in Playa Hermosa, Gte., across from the fountain at Hermosa Heights - good location. My father-in-law gave his last tenant the boot for not paying rent. So we started kicking around the idea of a restaurant that serves quality tico and gringo food at a reasonable price, with each item having a unique sort of "twist". See the resulting menu on the left.

We started on a shoestring. No grand opening. We just opened the doors and started selling food and drinks. We have four tables, a TV and an iPod Boom Bucket. It's not the way a gringo would do it. But being that I'm the minority gringo and it's low season (not alot of gringos traveling right now) I'm going with the flow. You see, I'm a recovered perfectionist.

Ticos use this method for getting a business off the ground all the time. They start with nothing and slowly add improvements as the clients come and go. There's a certain wisdom to this as you minimize the risk in losing a large investment - if it doesn't work, you're not out much.

So we're waiting for the cervezería to hang the new illuminated Imperial sign with Bar y Rest. Bahía Culebra on it where the previous tennant's sign hangs. I'm having a sign made for the illuminated sign on the building with the name Bahía Culebra Lounge. Right now we have a vinyl sign tacked to the wooden picket screen around the front "porch" eating area that I've written on in permanent marker the name and menu items. We'll have a daily special blackboard hanging at the entrance, and a sandwich sign on the street. Poco a poco.

So far, we've gained a loyal following from the locals in Playa Hermosa, both tico and gringo. The gringos love the portobello mushroom taco and bratwurst w/ saurkraut. The ticos love the burgers and the fried chicken. I love them all. ¡Pura vida!