Living in Costa Rica is a wonderful experience. There is so much that I like, from the perfect weather and green surroundings, to the friendly people and the chance to learn a new language. But after being here for almost 5 months, there are a few things I find that I miss from the United States. Nothing big enough to make me want to move back, but a few minor annoyances and conveniences I sometimes long for.
Besides the obvious family and friends, here some other things I miss:
- Public library. Sure, Grecia has a library, but it’s very small. I miss being able to search on-line through thousands of books, movies, music, and software, reserve the ones I want, and get e-mail notifications when they’re ready to be picked up or when they’re due.
- On-line shopping and delivery. I miss being able to order something on Amazon at a great price and having it arrive at my doorstep in 3-5 days. Here, there are no addresses, so everything has to be sent to the post office. And most on-line retailers don’t ship to Costa Rica.
- Variety of food. Ask anyone from Central America what they ate today, and they’ll usually tell you “rice and beans”. Yes, you can find different food in restaurants, especially in the bigger cities. But I miss a good Indian curry or a Mexican-style cheese enchilada. And while there are a lot of delicious and unique fruits here, such as guanabana, cas, granadilla, and noni, I have not seen raspberries or blueberries anywhere! Oh how I’d love some raspberries…
- Wide streets. The streets here are very narrow, usually unpainted, and sometimes just wide enough for one car. It becomes quite an adventure when a bus is coming the other direction and you have to pull off the side of the road without falling into the ditch that’s 2 feet deep. The roads are also a lot more bumpy and potholes are normal.
- Blending in. While we feel totally accepted here and everyone is friendly, we also get a lot of stares because we look so different. We’re a little taller than average here (interestingly, we’re shorter than average in the states), and we really stand out with our blonde hair. Sometimes I just want to blend in.
- Communication. My Spanish has improved a great deal since we got here and this is becoming less of an issue. But sometimes I’d like to articulate myself a little more clearly than I can in Spanish.
- Sidewalks. Whether in town or in the hills, it’s rare to find a decent sidewalk. Usually you end up walking kind of in the road, or on some bit of gravel or broken cement on the side of the road. I do like that cars have the right of way, though. Makes much more sense since they move faster and can do more damage.
- Addresses. As I mentioned earlier, Costa Rica has no addresses, and very few street names. Besides postal issues, this also makes it very difficult to find things. Directions like “300 meters north of the statue” are useless if you don’t know where the statue is. I’d love to be able to punch in an address to Google maps and get directions to it. Google Maps did add directions to their Costa Rica maps a few weeks ago, but you can only get so specific when there are no addresses. Being able to see traffic on Google maps again would be nice as well.
- Super-fast Internet. I realize that many people in the states don’t have much faster than the 2MB/sec connection we’ve got here, and it’s fast enough for most things. But for uploading and download files, I do miss the 15+MB/sec (up and down) Fiber-optic connection we had in Utah.
- Reliable Utilities. This issue seems to have mostly resolved itself, but for weeks, the water in our house kept going down to a trickle sporadically. That got annoying when we had dishes and laundry that needed to be done. The power and Internet have been reliable, though. We’ve only had the power out for a few minutes during thunderstorms.
That’s about all I can think of for now. And all of these items are far outweighed by the benefits of living here. Some can even have hidden benefits, causing us to slow down and appreciate life a little more. Whenever we get an inkling for a little more of the U.S. culture, we can always head into the big city where malls, restaurants, and large retail outlets abound.
In fact, this week I had my first Japanese food since I came to Costa Rica at the Matsuri restaurant in Santa Ana (45 minutes away) – I read about it on the Gonzos blog. I had some of the best katsudon I’ve ever eaten (even better than some in Japan). And tomorrow, we’re planning to go see a ballet of The Little Mermaid at the Teatro Nacional de Costa Rica. As long as we can find it, that is…