Contrast brings appreciation

Okay, yes, I’m aware it’s been over 2 months since my last post, and I’m sorry about that.  Interestingly, once you start “blogging” you start seeing your world through the eyes of “that would make an interesting blog post.” And that hasn’t stopped for me, even over these past 2 months of no posting.

However, a couple of months ago, I ran into a “problem” with that. Or, perhaps we could call it a “challenge.” (Ever the optimist, an “opportunity” perhaps?)

I started this blog with the belief that I could be a fresh voice in the world of ex-expats.  We’d loved Costa Rica, so had no ax to grind even though we were leaving. I thought that would make a nice “middle-ground” perspective, somewhere in between the rose-colored-glasses folks who were “selling” Costa Rica and the “it’s-hell-on-earth” disillusioned folks who seem to have an equal lack of perspective.

But despite my belief that I was writing this marvelously “balanced” view of what we’d loved about Costa Rica, and what we were now loving about being back in the United States, a couple of months ago I had two separate friends — good and dear friends — tell me their concerns that my “being so negative” about Costa Rica was going to keep people from wanting to move there, which might impact on their [current or future] house sales.

Hmmm… okay.  That brought posting to an abrupt stop.  (I did point out to both of them that I thought — given there seems to be a total of about 72 readers of my blog — I was probably not all that impactful on the state of the world of moving to Costa Rica, but still….)  The last thing I was seeking to do with my blogging was hurt my friends.

I still believe I was offering a fresh perspective that wasn’t “black or white” about CR vs. the U.S. but it seemed that everything I would think of over the coming weeks to write about would have the potential to be viewed by my friends as “more of the same.”  And they’d already expressed their concern about that “same.”

So I took a breath and paused, and thought about what I was writing.  And now, two months later, I can clearly write again about the joys of our being back in the U.S. (and, indeed, things we will continue to miss about Costa Rica) with a new-found perspective that it is the very CONTRAST of life that makes us appreciate things.

Unlike some of our friends and acquaintances in Costa Rica, we never allowed the “petty annoyances” and cultural differences to bother us. We might laughingly acknowledge some of those frustrations and differences, but never with any “personal” sense that they had a big impact on our lives.

And yet, now that we’re back, it’s impossible NOT to see things through the lens of contrast.  How can we not “contrast” the miraculous ease of the valet parking at the local university hospital with the complete lack of any parking at our local San Ramon hospital in Costa Rica.  How do you feel about having to find street parking (somewhere in the surrounding blocks of downtown commercial area) when you’re trying to go to the hospital?

And how can we not contrast the ready availability of organic food right in our local small grocery store (in a town of 16,000) with the near complete lack thereof in the largest grocery stores in San Ramon (a town of 30,000 to 70,000 depending on which statistic you pay attention t0), particularly when even the worst of the non-organic food here at least has less deadly chemicals on it than what we were likely to find in Costa Rica.

Do we not contrast the stock at our local WalMart (a couple of miles from our house) with the vastly more limited selection at the “local” WalMart (45 minutes from our house) in Costa Rica? Or our incredibly wide roads (unusually wide, even for the U.S.) with the typically narrow and pot-holed roads down there?

The simple fact is that there are, of course, lots of contrasts — and why wouldn’t there be? We’re talking about arguably the most highly developed nation in the world compared to a tiny country that only recently has left the ranks of being considered “third world.”

But, what we find, is that our 5+ years of living in Costa Rica — which, let us remember, we thoroughly enjoyed! — has had the added benefit of giving us that contrast to more fully appreciate so many things here. Things we would have taken for granted were it not for that interlude.

So, please, don’t take our appreciation of things here to be a criticism of things there.  All of those “qualities” about living in Costa Rica that might be taken as negatives, can also be taken simply as part of the challenges and adventures of living in a foreign country.

And if you don’t want challenges and adventures, then nothing I write is going to dissuade you from moving to Costa Rica — or any foreign country for that matter! — you shouldn’t even be considering it in the first place!

So, with that said, I’m back and will be posting much more often again in the future.  Stay tuned.



This entry was posted in Cost of Living, Family, Food, Health and Medical, Moving back to the U.S., Moving to Costa Rica, Things we won't miss, Things we'll miss. Bookmark the permalink.

16 Responses to Contrast brings appreciation

  1. Deanna Allen says:

    I have never felt your postings as negative. I too feel that these issues are just contrasts. I would love to move back to the US because of those contrasts. I too love Costa Rica for many reasons but a lifetime of living with more availabilities is hard to over come in a country that has never experienced the lifestyle.
    It is a pleasure to hear all about this phase in your life! Blessings, Deanna

    • arden says:

      Hi, Deanna,

      Good to “see” you here! Yes, interestingly since — until we decided to come back to the states — we’d planned on staying on forever in Costa Rica, we always chose simply not to let those challenges in CR bother us. But now that we’re back, and seeing more and more folks who are coming back, I think we can see far more clearly how the move to CR will — for many — be an “adventure” that lasts some period of time (4 to 7 years seems to be becoming typical) and is unmatched as an adventure, but is *not* destined to be their life forever and ever. And for many of us, I think that’s a change in attitude, and probably a really appropriate one. If anything, I think the idea that *most* folks will completely uproot themselves and spend the last quarter (or third) of their lives in a world so vastly different that what most consider “normal” is probably a somewhat crazy idea to start with. WE certainly accepted that craziness lock, stock, and barrel and I’m hoping that maybe, over time, more “balanced” information will help people make better informed decisions. I STILL think that many retirees (especially “early” retirees, not yet ready for medicare) will find living in Costa Rica to be a wonderful and worthwhile adventure. I think the only “problem” (if you even want to call it that) is the “expectations” that many (most?) of us came with, which I’m coming to see are probably not realistic for many. It will be interesting to see what the coming years bring (and I see the next book in my series beginning to “form up” in my mind!) We wish you guys the absolute best in your plans, particularly as you move through whatever changes are ahead for you. Keep reading, and stay in touch!

  2. Paul says:

    A note on population for San Ramon. I, like you, often wondered what the real number is for San Ramon, as 30,000 to 70,000 is oft reported.
    It’s actually very simple & makes great sense. It has to do with how the Canton of San Ramon is divided. The canton of San Ramon has 13 districts. Two of these districts are on the La fortuna side of the mountains & 11 are on our side or the “San Ramon” town side. Of the 11 districts on our side “San Ramon, the town & county seat” is one district & measures only 1.27 kilometers sq. w/ a pop. about 13000. The other 10 districts on our side feed into San Ramon for major shopping, Santiago is one such district w/about 5000 people.Our district, Santiago is 52 sq. kilometers. The other 9 districts near, around & including “San Ramon, the town” have about 75,000. With all 13 districts counted San Ramon, the canton has approx. 80, 000 people. I hope this helps.

    • arden says:

      Hi, Paul,

      Thanks — that actually *does* help a lot to clarify things. I felt like it probably had something to do with town vs. canton, but I hadn’t seen it so clearly laid out. Thanks for that. Nice to “see” you here, as always. Hugs to Gloria!

  3. Deborah Kauffeld says:

    It is not an easy thing being “out there” and exposed to the public, even if your public is only 72 readers. You write, coming from one place, and the reader reads it coming from their place which is often completely different from yours. They add their own slant, their fears, their opinions and come up with something often completely different from what you have written. The reader may not take the time to understand just what it was that you were actually saying or where you are coming from and project their feelings on to what you have written. I know; I’ve been there.

    The woman who did it to me was vicious. It was an absolute personal attack. I was floored. I read and reread my post and had others do the same while also reading hers. They, too, were flabbergasted. I got to “speak” to the woman through instant messaging and realized that her anger, clearly directed at me, had nothing to do with me at all. As we were talking, her fears and anger came to light. After our communication, I knew it was her stuff, having nothing to do whatsoever with me but that did not do a thing to change the assault I already experienced. The damage was done. I have also taken a break from being “out there”.

    You write beautifully. It sounds like peoples’ fears were stirred up by something you wrote. That is not your responsibility. It is appropriate to be sure that what is written best reflects the reality of what you are attempting to write and then it is time to let it go. Not such an easy thing. I’ve new appreciation for what it must be like to be in the public eye all the time and the thick skin that is required.

    I noted your absence and am very happy that you are back and writing again. It is your joy to communicate and no one should be able to take that away from you. I, too, loved Costa Rica but am glad to be back here in the USA. Life, for me, is easier here. Anyway, welcome back!

    • arden says:

      Hi, Deborah,

      It is interesting how even though I pride myself on being a “clear communicator” even so I find that, indeed, sometimes what I *thought* was crystal clear apparently wasn’t as clear as I thought. (Not so much with the blog, but sometimes in email instructions to folks, or something like that.) In this case, both friends were completely “friendly” about it — neither meant anything beyond just their genuine concern, but it did make me stop to “re-think” the balance between writing what I wanted and was interested in “sharing” vs. doing anything that my friends would find “hurtful.” But, enough folks have kindly said they miss my posting, and now having “thought through” and even “verbalized” the idea about “contrast” — I’m back and with a backlog of things to write about! I’m glad you’re enjoying being back — I know we sure are! — and look forward to hearing further about your adventures in Florida.


  4. Martha B. Higgins says:

    Hi, Arden! I, too, have missed your blogs and was wondering just yesterday if their absence was due to being so involved with the little addition to your family.
    Having also lived in another country, I thoroughly understand what you are saying. It is so easy to be misinterpreted. When one points out differences it isn’t to malign one or the other, simply to acknowledge the contrasts. One isn’t necessarily “better” and the other “worse”, it’s just different. People can take from it what they will.
    Don’t be discouraged, write what you think, I daresay that’s what most people want to hear.
    Glad you’re back!

    • arden says:

      Hi, Martha,

      Great to hear from you and thanks for the comments and observations. Interestingly, I think it’s those very “contrasts” that make it an exciting adventure to move to a different country — I mean, if it were really just the same, why go through all the upheaval to move?!? ;-) And we worked quite hard when we lived there to keep reminding ourselves that different did *not* mean bad, it was just different, and different is part of what we’d gone for. I’m genuinely glad to have been given the renewed opportunity to truly “appreciate” things like wide smooth roads, good customer service, and readily available organic food — it’s all too easy to take those things for granted! — so we’re enjoying those contrasts, not as a way of “dissing” what we left behind but as a way to “stop and smell the roses” of where we are now. Something it seems we should all do, no matter where we are. (In fact, I realized another post soon could easily “contrast” some of the things that we miss from there.) Nice to “see” you here, and I will be writing more often again!

  5. Mike Murphy says:

    No need to comment as others have done a good job in doing so. Have been missing you!!!!!!!! and David and Mom. It’s so important to stay positive no matter where you live or what your ciscustances are. Pura Vida is anywhere you are.
    Mike and Earl

    • arden says:

      Hi guys! So great to “see” you here. We miss you too!! But, I will say, we truly are loving be back here and appreciating so many things. Having an incredible time with the grandbaby (and really fun, too, just to be back in close contact with our daughter!) so it was definitely the right move. It’s been really interesting to watch our own “process” as we re-enter life in the U.S., and also as we see more and more folks come back. I still think moving to Costa Rica is a GREAT idea. I think the only mistake most of us made (if you want to call it that) was in thinking it would be forever. Perhaps it will be for a few, but in the end, I suspect, only for a very few. That doesn’t make it a bad idea and maybe as more of us go “full circle” it’ll help others approach it with a more realistic attitude. Certainly one of the very BEST things about our time there was our wonderful friends!
      big hugs and kisses,

  6. Saratica says:

    Hi Arden, Oh, man I hear ya! Someone (who has also moved back to the states) wrote to me a while back that my blogging had taken a decidedly negative turn while I was still living in CR. I still have to go back and re-read those last few months… Having been back in the states for a year and a half — seems like forever — we miss so much about Costa Rica. WE have such fond memories of almost every minute. I could never live there again full-time. My husband would go back in a minute.

    There are simply things here I don’t want to give up to live there. As magical as it was, a pretty near constant adventure, the Spanish was so fun to learn, the laid-backness of it all, the amazing beauty. I look forward to our yearly visits to keep residency… I’m happy where I am!

    • arden says:

      Hey, Sally,

      It’s funny since I know your *original* plan had been to just go for “a year’s adventure” it certainly isn’t so odd that you eventually chose to go back. I think part of what I’m seeing over the years is a real fallacy in most people thinking that they’ll go to Costa Rica to live and it’ll be forever. I think more and more we’re seeing that that simply isn’t going to be true for most folks. The interesting thing is that I think that’s just fine. What’s wrong with thinking of it as a grand five-year (or whatever) adventure?!? I have not a moment’s regret that we did it, and we do look forward to future visits, but I don’t see us living there again. And we’re so VERY happy, both to have lived THERE, and now to be living back HERE. (You’d gotten your permanent residency, right, so you don’t have to be there for all that *long* each year? For various odd reasons we’d not initially applied, so were still on our pensionado status, and I think you have to be there four months of each year to keep that, so we just let it lapse. We’ll go as tourists from now on.) Although we loved the challenges of learning Spanish (and, in fact, are teaching our grandbaby to speak English, Spanish, and to sign) we also really love not *having to* figure out how to do all the little activities of life in a language other than our own. ;-) And, seeing this comment from you reminds me to go back and check out the suggestions you’d made for widgets that will let people know when someone has replied to (or commented further on) their comment! Glad you’re enjoying life back in the U.S., I know we are.


  7. Deb Klipper says:

    I loved the blog. Agree wholeheartedly about the contrasts between the two countries. There are good and bad qualities in each, there are things that require humor and patience to tolerate in both countries, there is amazing beauty in both. Both have wacky government and politicians, no escaping that! When I go back to visit family, I am like a kid in a candy store, hearing and speaking only English and my brain doesn’t tire out so quickly from the hard concentration Spanish requires, shopping clearance racks in Target and finding a cool top for $3., Whole Foods, all the places and goods I loved to shop and enjoy when I lived there. The spice aisles in the grocery stores, organic produce, Boca Burgers and Morningstar sausage, which for a vegetarian, these are such a nice easy food item. I do get scared with all the cars speeding past me on the highways, when here I am comfortable going 50kph at most.
    The things I miss and can’t find here, are trivial. The missing of my grandkids, not so trivial. May come a day I need to be closer to them and can’t go another day here. Although they are in Montreal right now and I am not inclined to put up with cold weather. Love my tropical temps. You do everyone a service by being who you are, telling it like you see it and anyone who doesn’t like it, doesn’t have to read it. I have a love hate relationship with Costa Rica, but on most days, I love it, and when I hate it, I snap out of it quickly. Usually due to happy hour approaching! Take care and enjoy where you are.

    • arden says:

      Hi, Deb,

      Great to hear from you and thanks for the kind words on the blog. Yes, interestingly, since our *kids* already lived cross-country when we moved (and neither were married, much less with grand-kids on the horizon) we didn’t give much thought to the “missing family” thing. (We brought my parents with us, which also ensured visits from my brother, and the kids were much happier coming to Costa Rica to visit than going back to boring old Maine, so that all worked out fine.) Even after our granddaughter was born, for the first couple of months we just assumed we’d go back more often to visit (in the previous 5 years we’d hardly gone back at all!) but then we just saw how fast she was growing and changing, and it hit us (like the proverbial ton of bricks) that we simply didn’t want to miss out on all that. We loved Costa Rica, but we’re really loving being back here, too, so it’s all good!

      all the best,

  8. Tom Duffy says:

    Hi Arden,

    Glad to see you are back bloging again. Don’t worry what those naysayes preach. I read all of your blogs and did not see your comments as negative, but as a dose of reality. So many blogs on the internet have an agenda, and it is refreshing to read a true appriasal of the situtation. Yes, I’m sure there are many things “wrong” with CR, just as there are with the U.S. It all depends how you deal with them and don’t let them overwhelm you.

    We are going to CR in September, for our second “due dillegance” trip ( will be staying at Deb’s and Andy for some time) and still plan to move down there next year. But we have done alot of research, spoke with many, many folks living there and we are certainly not expecting Paradise. We know it will have challengers, but we are preparing for them. We will not buy, we will rent. Maybe some time at the beach, and then some time in the Central Valley. We don’t know yet.

    We also are not thinking this will be for the rest of our lives but look at it as maybe a 5-7 year adventure. I am 62 and Dina is 58, so until Medicare kicks in, maybe that is how long we will live there… who knows.

    Keep writing from your heart and say what you want to say. There are many of us out hear who appreciate your comments and perspectives. On a personal note thanks for the help you have provided me on some shipping costs. I’m sure I will be “bothering ” you again for more info.

    Tom Duffy

    • arden says:

      Hi, Tom,

      Good to “see” you here. And, yes, I don’t at all fault my friends for their comments, they were from their heart expressing genuine concerns, so it just made me “pause” to see how I felt to continue, even though some things would be “felt” by others to be negative. In any case, I feel like I’ve got my perspective back, and it’s good to be writing again. I’ll be posting soon on the fun of our first U.S. 4th of July for many years! Interestingly, our own experiences and simply watching SO many others who have decided to return, have really affected my thinking about the whole thing. I still think it’s a great place to spend time, and a very few folks may, indeed, choose to live there forever. But I suspect that number will be in the distinct minority over the years. So I think coming with the “consciousness” might be important for folks to help them make the most appropriate decisions. And certainly reaching medicare age will, I think, be an influential factor for lots of folks. We’ve only been back less than 5 months, and certainly haven’t had any “health crises” but we’ve made LOTS of use of both Mom’s and David’s medicare, for sure.

      Enjoy your trip in September!


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