As a nation Costa Ricans are the most passive aggressive people I have ever met. As individuals they are some of the warmest and friendliest people that are a lot of fun to be around.
For me this basically sums up Costa Rica as it creates internal conflict that I have never experienced living as an expat before. I both love the place and hate it. When I am here I think about being elsewhere, when I am elsewhere I think about being here. I love the concept of Pura Vida but hate the reality of it. I love the natural beauty of the country and all the eco tourism and hate that it is a charade for the tourists while they continue to poach turtle eggs, steal shark fins and pollute their water ways with rubbish.
When people ask about why I chose to live in Costa Rica it’s difficult to explain. I can give the standard answer about beautiful beaches, gorgeous sunsets and being close to nature but the real reason is much harder to explain. There is an energy to this country that is hard to articulate unless you have experienced it and in the end I find myself shrugging my shoulders, averting my gaze like a teenager and mumbling “cos…” or “I dunno know” as my final answer.
I do love it here. I love that I can wake up to the sound of Howler Monkeys or go for walks along a great beach or go for rides down some great mountain bike tracks. But I hate that if I need to go to the bank it will take all morning to complete a 5 minute transaction, that I can’t leave anything unattended at the beach including a pair of flip flops if I ever want to wear them again and that while someone is smiling to your face they are also casing your personal and property security so they can come back later and rob you. This can make it difficult to build trust and make connections and when you are already an outsider trying to find community it can make life harder than it needs to be.
In Tamarindo on the Nicoya Peninsula where I have spent most of my time this is especially true. It is a tourist town and attracts all the positive and negatives that tourist towns generally offer. It means I get access to great restaurants offering a variety of food but it also means I will be offered drugs while walking the streets. It means there will be plenty of business opportunity to develop and expand but no body to help, guide or encourage you as they try to ensure you fail so they can succeed in obtaining the tourist dollar over you.
This constant conflict makes it a battle to remain here long term and not become jaded. If you have followed my writings for the last several months you have probably followed this journey with me. From my initial love of the place and writing as the Pink Pangea Foreign Correspondent to my last few articles on the realities of expat living to this one about my love/hate relationship with this country.
I don’t think I am alone with my struggle in Costa Rica. There are many expats who visit on holiday and never leave. Likewise there are those who come on holiday, love it so much they moved here only to find the reality of the place difficult long term and return home several months later. There are those who move here and stay and I admire them for doing so. Some do it with grace and poise after so long in the country and then others just get bitter and jaded and should really just leave. But no matter how they ended up, all came here for the same reason and I have never heard anyone articulate that. They might answer “for the surfing” or “fell in love with a Tica/Tico” but when pressed further they always trail off with the same averted gaze, shoulder shrug and unfinished sentence.
And so my time in Costa Rica has come to an end. I have spent the last few weeks thinking of Australia and I am sure once I am home my thoughts will soon turn to thinking about Costa Rica. I know I will return to this country. I am not sure when or even how but there will always be a draw to the energy here that I will always both love and hate. Until we meet again Costa Rica.