Real Estate Newsletter #24
December 4th, 2006
At Hot-Tropics we spend a lot of time helping the newly-arrived and the soon-to-arrive to get their stuff together. It’s called Relocation Advice, but, really, it’s about “stuff”.
"Can you help me with getting our electricity and water connected? Do you think a 40-foot container for our things being shipped from New York will be big enough? Which do you suggest, selling our car here in the States and buying one in Costa Rica, or shipping our car and paying the import duties on it? Where is the best place to buy furniture, or should we just have a carpenter make it? Can you help with a maid, a Spanish language teacher, a cook, a babysitter, a bank, a lawyer, an accountant, a barber, a seamstress, a beautician, a dentist, a plastic surgeon, a mechanic, a computer technician, a personal trainer, a hotel for the first week, suggestions for restaurants, a school for our three kids..? Is the water safe to drink? Are there newcomers clubs, bible study groups, poker nights, a synagogue, a Saturday farmers market that sells organic produce? Where are the street addresses in Costa Rica? Are the roads this bad throughout the entire country? Should I keep my money in colones or dollars? How do I get a driver’s license, residency permit, annual car registration, naturalization forms? Can I get all of the TV channels; can I watch the entire NFL, NBA, MLB seasons? Do I need air conditioning, a fireplace, a wall around my house, a gun for security? How do I bring in my cat, our birds, our dogs, four surfboards, my 92-year old mother...?"
How did it all get to be so complicated? I thought that people who had made the decision to move to Costa Rica from Minneapolis just wanted to leave a cold place and move to a warm, tropical place, and perhaps simplify their lives.
Isn’t there a fundamental teaching in all world religions and things spiritual, that counsels against acquisitiveness and coveting stuff?
A middle-class North American or European moves to Costa Rica and automatically becomes upper-middle class, or even upper class. We have American friends who live in houses here that are over 10,000 sq feet. My daughter plays with international children who live in homes with 10 and 15household employees. I know that their lives were not like that when they lived in Seattle, Omaha, Dallas, Atlanta, or Madrid or Milan…
As an American or European here, one just drifts into possessing more stuff than is needed. The Costa Ricans almost demand that you own a lot. They expect it of you. You are, after all, a gringo or gringa. You come from the land of plenty, where everyone is rich.
This time of year, it’s inevitable that international people here talk about this situation. And I recalled, during what seems to have been a hundred years ago, when I was a more carefree, unattached, unencumbered California surfer, prideful of how little I had, how little I needed to be “happy and free.”
I was living on one of the outer islands in Hawaii, Kauai, in a very simple little house. Sitting on the beach at Hanalei Bay, talking with, hitting on, a young lady in a bikini. There were three or four beautiful sailing yachts in the bay that day, all of them having crossed over from California during the Trans-Pac yacht race, held once a year during the summer. It was a perfect, flawless sunny day. Picture postcard perfect.
One of the yachts, a 70-ft racing ketch, was pulling up anchor and we watched and wondered where the owners and crew would be sailing to next. One of the guys standing in the bowsprit yelled towards shore, hands cupped. “Hey! Anyone there want to go to Tahiti? We’ve got crew space….!” And I was thinking…”Tahiti! Oh, god, how I would love to be that free….Just like that… To just leave everything behind and sail off to Tahiti!” And at that moment, the young lady in the bikini just cut our conversation short, waved at the guy on the ketch, and yelled back…”Sure… wait a sec!” And with that she reached behind the palm tree we had been leaning against, and grabbed a small bamboo flute that she had stashed there. In the flute was a toothbrush. She tucked the flute in the top of her bikini, spun around and flashed me a smile, said, “Aloha!”… and ran to the ocean where she jumped in and swam to the waiting yacht. Just swam off, with four seconds notice, to join a yacht crew that was probably sailing around the world for a year or two. With a flute, a bikini and a toothbrush.
I remember at that moment thinking..”I am so far from being that unencumbered, that free...”
The girl in the bikini climbed up aboard the yacht and waved from the deck. The wave and her broad smile said it all… I’ll never forget it. Especially when I feel negative thoughts about people who I think have more stuff than they really need.
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