In the summer of 2013 when I was staying at Mukuni Big 5 Safaris (see my guest blog), every time something strange would happen people would say TIA. TIA is short for This Is Africa. I think Costa Rica might need something similar.
My first week here I experienced my first Costa Rican earthquake, had to stay out of my dorm room on campus because it was being sprayed to prevent Dengue Fever, watched as termites (or were they ants?) emerged every night from the furniture, to leave their corpses behind in the morning. We also had a day of scheduled electricity shut-off for the entire town and surrounding area. During the day. Not at night like I’m used to in the US. These things are all part of moving to a new place. But as you’ll see if you continue reading, these “new experiences” can wear on a person. And sometimes lead to the inevitable questions: “What am I doing here?”; “Am I crazy for doing this again?”; “Why can’t things just be the way I’m used to?”
I really like my new apartment, but as with any new place there are things to get used to. My first night I called the landlord because the shower wasn’t working. There was no hot water. They came and checked it out and told me no, it is working fine. The water was WARM not hot. But, let me back up.
So, with a very low water flow you get warm water. With a heavier flow, colder water. Okay. No problem. But then this shower head was dripping, all the time. Also, the toilet was running randomly (that I fixed on my own–thank you internet).
I was happy in my little “suicide shower”, as they are affectionately known, until the shower head appeared to be short-circuiting. It didn’t happen every day, so I didn’t think much of it. Then I noticed the lights flickered when I was showering. So what did I do? Turned off the lights when I showered–obvious, right? Finally, on Friday morning just as I was about to rinse the conditioner from my hair the shower head heater shut off, and didn’t come back on. Later that day, in my broken Spanish I explained to the landlord that it wasn’t working at all anymore. We went back and forth about when they could come and replace it, and when I left Friday afternoon I was pretty certain they were going to come Saturday or Sunday.
Upon my return home I discovered that Saturday the water would be shut off for the whole town of Santa Ana and many of the surrounding areas. What? From 7am-5pm. So, I stored water in nearly every container I could find. Just as I was finishing washing the dishes (with water heated in the kettle) the power went out. Now, this wasn’t a big deal to me, but I was about 20 minutes from attending an open house event where all the students and staff were meant to be sharing desserts in the staff homes all over campus. Luckily, as I arrived on campus the electricity came back on and we had a great night.
Saturday I got a call from the landlord who was making sure I was going to be home (YAY!!) and the guy came soon after to replace the shower head. He had to leave three separate times to get parts, but this morning I had a wonderful HOT shower with my new shower head. Don’t mind the wires…they are covered in electrical tape…That’s safe right?
And in the end, Costa Rica does have a saying like TIA. Costa Ricans say, “pura vida” (simple/pure life), as a greeting, as a way of explaining how one is feeling and as a way of reminding stressed out expats that some things just aren’t that serious. So I will enjoy my cute new neighbors and try to embrace the “pura vida”.