by Kenneth Justice
~ “Pura Vida”
Everywhere I go in Costa Rica people say to me “Pura Vida”
—) Last night the taxi driver who drove us to the hostel said to us, “Pura Vida”
—) This morning at coffee the barista said to me “Pura Vida”
—) While I was stopped on the side of the road in traffic, a guy walking alongside our rental car said to me with a smile, “Pura Vida”
The straight up translation in English for Pura Vida is “The Pure Life” and refers to the Costa Rican way of life and their passion for preserving the beauty of nature (they are one of the Greenest and most pro-environment countries in the world)……but in truth, Pura Vida means so much more to Costan Rican’s…in fact, they use the phrase to refer to just about anything that makes them happy and peaceful.
At two different café’s in the past couple days I’ve casually asked the locals if they have any desire to ever live somewhere else in the world; the answer is always a resounding “NO!”
This is a pretty striking difference in comparison to so many of us from the United States who have our heads in the clouds;
—) how many of us dream of living somewhere else?
—) how many of us dream of getting a bigger home?
—) how many of us dream of getting a bigger piece of property?
—) how many of us dream of getting a cool loft in the big city?
You’ll often see Costa Rican’s packing a family of 6 into a little car that can barely fit 3 adults….but they are happy and at peace.
Traffic in the capital city of San Jose is literally insane. Its one of the craziest places I’ve ever driven in my life. People cut each other off with no regard and they blaze through red lights without abandon…..but nobody ever seems to get upset. This is my fourth trip to Costa Rica and I have literally seen hundreds and hundreds of drivers cut off other drivers on the road; but I’ve never seen one instance of road rage…‘Pura Vida” they say.
One of my friend’s on this trip with me remarked, “I think that the Costa Rican’s simply don’t care about getting cut off….they’re just so happy to be living life and enjoying the beauty of their country that they say, “So what if another driver cuts me off….Pura Vida” ”
Costa Rican’s aren’t in a big hurry to get anywhere. If a heavy rainfall leads to a mudslide that covers the road, “We get out of our cars and visit with the other Tico’s stuck behind the mudslide” said Manuel, a guy I met at coffee this evening. Sometimes they can be stuck on the freeway behind a mudslide for hours….but the Costa Rican’s don’t get upset….”Pura Vida” they simply say, “Often times, if one of the Tico’s lives nearby he will invite us over for lunch while we wait for the bull dozer to clear the road” he said….Bosses and managers don’t give you hell if you’re late for work, in fact, very few business hold to strict time schedules of when employees have to show up.
Costa Rican’s are proud of their country. Manuel had the opportunity to spend a month in New York a few years ago, “It was very exciting to be in the United States” he said, “But I would never want to live in your country……life is too fast where you live…..us Costa Rican’s want Pura Vida”
The average Costa Rican lives in a house that by U.S. Standards would be considered ‘poverty level’…..but the Costa Rican’s do not live in poverty….they live in paradise. They love their country….they are at peace…they are joyful.
In the United States, if you want to live alongside the Pacific or Atlantic Ocean you pretty much have to be extremely wealthy. All of the most beautiful pieces of property in the U.S. are overpriced and often only available to the rich……but in Costa Rica, the poor live right next door to the rich thanks to a law that in English is translated as “Squatters Rights“. It is a way the country prevents wealthy people from buying up all the property and forcing the poor away from the coast; if a family lives on a piece of property and maintains it for a certain amount of years….the property becomes theirs by law.
Even though I have been here three previous times….its always amazing to me to see so many people simply hanging out. Whether it’s Monday or Saturday……people in Costa Rica spend hours upon hours together sitting along side the road or at café’s enjoying each other’s company.
Neighbor’s know their neighbor’s in Costa Rica……in fact, the average person knows the majority of people in their town.
The first time I came to Costa Rica five years ago I was overwhelmed with how laid back the culture is. Coming from the Midwest where it seems we are often working our lives away……Costa Rican’s are not working their lives away; they are living life to the fullest by enjoying the beauty and wonder of this gorgeous country.
It’s difficult to drive very far through Costa Rica without seeing a waterfall……its difficult to walk through the streets of a city in Costa Rica without seeing the smiling faces of children.
Is Costa Rica a global leader in technology or computer science; no. But do they have to be?
As I sit here at a café and look out at the sun setting (see the large photo I posted above) I wonder if all the stuff that us ‘First World’ nations are striving towards is really worth it……..What’s the point of all the debt we incur to get a big house, a new car, or a brand new computer……am I living Pura Vida back in the States….or am I simply going along with a culture that has lost focus on what really matters most?
I’m sitting along the ocean with my camera and a cup of coffee…….and a lot of thoughts are going through my mind…….
Categories: Drinking in the Culture