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Category Archives: Costa Rica – everyday life

About the everyday life in Costa Rica: work, school, politics and social life

The other day I was talking to a friend of mine about the situation of women in Latin America and wondering which way emancipation will go. She is a Costa Rican psychologist and – as I was educated in Europe – I find it always inspiring to learn about Latin American scientific views and outlooks. Her personal experience is that she is still living in macho society and is in no way treated as an equal. Yet, admittedly, she is able to lead a more or less independent life; that is, if you consider the plain fact of being able to live alone without a husband, as independence. Well, it’s definitely where independance begins. But there is a lot to be done in terms of attitude towards women, let alone promotion of women to positions where they have a voice and influence. I’m talking about jobs and politics.

However, my friend pointed out a paper that deals with the topic and male attitudes and investigates about the reproduction of a patriarchal society in Latin America.

The paper is called “Explotación sexual comercial y masculinidad”. The “Organización Internacional del Trabajo” put the full paper online as a pdf, over 200 pages strong (Explotación sexual comercial y masculinidad pdf). I hope to be able to read it soon. But currently, I have other books on my nighttable, desperately waiting to be read…

If anyone read the paper or plans to, I’d be grateful for your sharing your thoughts. Gracias!

Costa Rica has over one million hectares of natural reserves. These have been established in the course of the 20th century by private efforts and (increasingly) by the government of Costa Rica. While these natural reserves are clearly an important touristic asset for the country, these reserves do much more for the people. They create an awareness and pride of their natural resources.

Nowadays, many Costa Rican (tico) children are taught in school the value of the rainforest and the complexity of ecological interactions. About half of Costa Rica’s children live surrounded by, at least patches of, intact nature. For the other kids that grow up in urban areas, efforts are made to put them in touch with ecology as well. But of course, this is always an organisational and logistic problem due to financial straits. (Edunamica, for instance, is a private organisation that strives to boost talented students throughout the country; these students are later taking on coaching functions. Ecological education is becoming an increasingly important issue here. But one should of course not forget that there are often more pressing everyday matters for the inhabitants of Costa Rica.)

Also for Europeans and Americans the rainforest seems like a great place to educate ourselves about ecology. But do not forget that we are always outsiders and interrupt nature’s undisturbed way by visiting. On the other hand, national park entrance fees are an important support to maintain such areas. Make sure to pay the entrance fee… Also, nature guides in Costa Rica are fabulously educated and have a lot to tell you. So if you are really interested in learning something and you want more than just catch glimpse of some monkeys, than this is well worth its while. Not only will you bring some important knowledge home, but you will also support the spreading of knowledge in a new emerging profession, which in turn will spread again more knowledge: the guia natural (nature guide) of Central American nature.

By the way, the Costa Rican Institute of Tourism makes admirable efforts to properly educate and certify these guides. Costa Rica is clearly a regional leader in these issues and tourism has profited a lot from it already.

The other day I was (like I usually do on mondays) at the Cuartel again (i did not find a more descriptive link than this one). Well, it’s been some time. I agree with these here guys in saying that “it never gets old” (http://www.costaricapages.com/blog/nightlife/bar-cuartel-san-jose-it-never-gets-old/519). That is so true! It might have gotten more touristy over the years, but honestly, who gives a damn? Maybe you want to skip it during spring break but otherwise it’s quite allright.

Anyways, my point was another one. There’s this band that plays there like once or twice a month on mondays. I keep forgetting their name (or maybe I never even knew it) but they’re playing solid latin rock cover versions and are good fun to watch. This is also where I have discovered the most effective yet cheap stage prop I can possibly imagine: A fan. That’s right a plain fan. You should see the lead singer’s hair waving in the wind when the band starts rocking. Beautiful. Okay, it sort of reminds me of a Celine Dion videoclip or something but the effect is amazing. It gives the singer a very dynamic look and also it makes you wonder how she appears so aloof while she is right in front of you. It took me a while and a few Pilsens until i figured it out.

I very much wish I could steal their idea and make it my own in upcoming shows. Only problem is my hair is too short. Maybe I should start letting it grow and get myself a stage fan in a couple of years? I’ll see.

By the way, I’m not sure if the fan was once there only to cool the people on stage down and if the band maybe discovered by coincidence that it might be a good idea to direct it on their lead singer. Still, good combination of visual effects and a cooled down stage…

I mucho recommend to you visiting that place (unless, of course, you are an american teenager on spring break. You go to Florida or something please!)

So, it was about time I should write another post after this long break. Well, only problem is I don’t know what to write about. Things are going kind of slow here at the moment, I am enjoying the heat and trying to hit the beaches as often as I can. This works out fine with me as I have been working quite hard the past months. Yes, believe it or not, even in Costa Rica it’s not always all about Pura Vida. Then again, it’s just what you make out of it. Sometimes when I get too stressed out I remind myself of where I am: exactly! I certainly did not come here to work my ass off, or to get rich… So before I work my behind off I’d rather stay off the heat and go diving somewhere, oh yeah.

Anyways, hope you will all enjoy this here weekend and all the following ones. Keep in mind not to work too much, life is too short to just strive for success and riches. And what’s more: You’ll never get there anyway. Check out the story of Sysiphos if you’re not sure what I mean. Is this how you sometimes feel? Well, then you definitely need some vacation! Or just stay off work and tell your employer you’re sick. That’s even more fun! Anyways, disfruta la playa!

All right, today its time for another topic. Tourism and stuff. I happen to live in San José, Costa Rica and dig the place very much. When it comes to Latin American capitals, San José is certainly the most pleasant one in my opinion. It’s safe enough for me to enjoy life here without having to spend my time in taxis and condos (as you might have to in Guatemala City), the climate is perfect and it’s just got the size I love. From where I live (los Yoses), I’m out of the city I 15 minutes by bike. There are plenty of day tours you can make on weekends, so if city life gets to me I always find the opportunity to breathe some fresh air and enjoy the colors of nature.

Nightlife is also interesting and it has developed a lot in past years. I suck at dancing salsa, so it’s good to have some opportunities to dance to other music (mainly electronic). On Wednesday’s, Lubnam is the place to go. It’s small and crowded on Wednesday’s, but it has great music (and good lebanese food if you’re hungry). Bar 83 is close to where I live and has an interesting alternative crowd – so does Area City.

But there’s also a hotel bar I occasionally like to hang out: the Fleur de Lys’s bar. They have happy hour on Tuesdays and Fridays with live music and an interesting crowd. Being a son of a lawyer I was always interested in legal shop talk. So because the Fleur de Lys is in the “circuito judicial” (where the courts and public attorneys are), there are lawyers and judges enjoying their after-work beer here. Not my usual crowd, but nice for a change.

It’s here that I go to know Patrick. Patrick is a Swiss that a backpacker’s called Casa Leon. It’s in the middle of the city, so any visitor to Costa Rica must enjoy the place. Recently I have managed to visit his small hotel for the first time and I liked it very much. It’s small and personal and apparently there’s a friendly crowd hanging out there most of the time. His prices are cheap, so I do recommend it for any budget traveler in Costa Rica. Patrick has been living in Costa Rica for about three years know and is married to a Tica. He is an interesting crossover between Switzerland and Costa Rica and speaks German, Spanish, French and English (these Swiss, they always speak so much…). I can only recommend you pass by there – or San José’s Hotel Fleur de Lys‘ bar, for that matter – in case you are looking for a place to stay. Patrick also offers travel assistance and will happily answer questions if you plan to visit more of the country. San José is the inevitable starting place for any trip to Costa Rica. Many travelers don’t happily spend their time here, but if you like a good night out, you will enjoy San José. Also, it’s not too bad to stay here for a bit and planning a good route before continuing to the rest of the country.

I have a friend who has been working in the tourist industry of Costa Rica for years. He speaks many languages is well-educated and knows how to handle people. For a long time it has clearly been the best employment he could find within the country. But for a couple of years now, there has been an increasing number of callcenters that were established in Costa Rica. Not only has Hewlett Packard decided to move here instead of India. Many sportsbetting and online gambling companies have moved here as well.
While I have to admit that poker, casino and sportsbets are clearly not my cup of tea, it looks like a good thing that my friend is working there now because he gets higher wages (around 700 $/month). But on the other hand, the tourist industry feels the pressure of rising wages due to the existence of these callcenters.

Well-trained Ticos (Costa Ricans) that speak two (or even more) languages no longer confine themselves to the realm of hotels and tourdesks. Instead, they spend their days on the phone, being the bookies for Yanks going after this (illegal) excitement. It’s not the most exciting job in the world, but one of the best paid in Costa Rica so far.

Now, there has also been a long debate between the US-government and the Ticos. The US have already arrested a few CEO’s of sportbets companies operating from Costa Rica, when they were transiting the United States. But this, of course, could not solve the problem. Online gambling is a huge industry with crazy amounts of money being transferred worldwide. This is clearly an attractive business for a country like Costa Rica. (Further famous gambling havens are Antigua and Curacao/Netherland Antilles).

I definitely see it as a good thing for Costa Rica to diversify its economy. I don’t have a moral problem with it either. I’m just hoping that my friend will soon be working for something he likes again and make good money too. There’s nothing worse than sticking to a job you don’t like just because it pays well. And currently, that’s the kind of jobs that sportbets create in Costa Rica.

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