GUATEMALA, NICARAGUA & COSTA RICA
I was so looking forward to Guatemala. I chose a tour that was taking me to La Antigua, the old capital. It’s a beautiful city with a huge central square and the lovely old Casa Santa Domingo, an ancient convent and temple that had been buried under tons of debris, but had been restored and today is the Hotel Casa Santo Domingo, and a wonderful example of Guatemalan architecture.
Twenty-two years ago, Jen Snyder and I went there to learn Spanish. We were billeted with families for a month and went to school each day. I was dating Don at the time, and he didn’t want me to go because he thought it was dangerous. He kept cutting articles out of the newspaper about tourists who had been murdered there. I told him to stop because he was upsetting my Mother who had come to stay at the farm while I was away. So I was really excited to be going back again.
Then the volcano happened and our tours were cancelled to La Antigua. As it turned out, I have been sick with this chest cold, and would not have been able to go anyway. The next day was a sea day and I stayed close my cabin that day also.
If you have been following the news, you know they are having political problems in Nicaragua, so this port was totally cancelled and we got yet another sea day. Again, I stayed pretty close to my cabin except for art class and ukulele lessons. Yes I am learning to play the Uke. One of the passengers on board, Jim, plays and brought an extra one with him. Several crew and passengers bought ukuleles in Hawaii, so Jim now has five students, and we are having so much fun.
We arrived in Puntarenas at 6 am in the morning in a thunderstorm. Not much rain, just lightening and thunder. I had a tour of the capital city of San Jose and found a lively town with lots of parks, and a beautiful old museum and theatre. They are proud of their bio-diversity. It is a lush country with mountains, rivers, two oceans, rain forests and our guide told us that 5% of all animals, birds, butterflies and plants from the world can be found here. They are not a rich country in natural resources – ie – gems and metals, and they grow no grains, except rice and corn.
Costa Rica has a population of around 4.9 million people. Its capital city, San Jose, has a population of approximately 300,000. It is not a huge country. It is narrow, just 120 K across between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. They are not doing as well as they were about 10 years ago. Then unemployment was 4.2 and today it is 10.5. Tourism accounts for about 30% of their economy.
They have no army. An earlier president abolished the army in order to put that money towards educating their people. Education is free up to Grade 11, and health care is covered similar to Canada. One problem they do have is the high, illegal migration from Nicaragua, their neighbour to the north. They do not pay tax on the first seventeen thousand and their pension is 62% of what they have earned while working.
They claim their coffee is the best in the world. As a matter of fact, coffee built the opera house back in the late 1800s by taking five cents per pound on exported coffee. The opera house looks like it has been dropped there from Europe. Very grand and ornate and they are very proud of it. Even the school year is set to the harvest and production of coffee.
They have a beautiful national stadium which was built and donated by the Chinese. Why? Costa Rica had a relationship with Taiwan and now they don’t. The guide said we could figure out why. How often have I written about the investment of cash and buildings by the Chinese in so many of the countries I have visited on this trip.
Costa Rica is considered one of the “Blue Zones” of the world with a very high rate of centenarian people. Maybe it is because of Pura Vide. Simply translated it means simple life or pure life, but in Costa Rica it is a way of life. Costa Ricans use this term to say hello, goodbye, everything is great and so forth. The country has been named one of the happiest countries in the world, mostly because their people don’t stress about things. They are thankful for what they have and don’t dwell on the negative. So it’s an attitude, an emotion, it’s happiness and it’s a way of life. Perhaps we should all practice Pura Vide!!