“COSTA Rica.”I still rememberthe first time Iheard that name. Iwas 7 and my dadwas telling mythree sisters and Ithat we were movingthere.It sounded soexotic, so unrealthat it didn’t reallysink in until weactually arrived atthis strange, tropicalplace where it was actually sunny andhot (we were arriving from cold, wintryEngland), bugs abounded and the food wasgross (bear with me, I was 7), I missed myMum and my grandparents and I was preparedto hate it.Fast forward 20 something years – Idance salsa and merengue like a local, mygallo pinto is as good as my Sunday Roastwith Yorkshire pudding. I chatter inSpanish just as fast as the locals and mybest and dearest friends are all CostaRicans.I still miss my family in England butbesides visiting I would never go backthere. This country is too much a part ofme now. My roots, tender and fragile whenthey arrived, have set deep in the CostaRican soil, for better or for worse, for richeror for poorer, for keeps.I ADMIT it; CostaRica has seriouslydeteriorated over theyears. The traffic growsby the minute and theroads don’t. The friendlinessand courtesy ofeveryone you met isslowly morphing intothe cold, uncaring personalitieswe find inmore “civilized” cultures.The cost of livingis high, the government,corrupt.There is nothing we can do to stop theeffects of globalization and “progress,”and I (being an old-fashioned kind of gal)wish I could just freeze things in time sothey can remain exactly as they are beforethey get any worse, but change, whetherwe like it or not, is part of life.SO instead, I go back to what I lovemost about Costa Rica – its people.The people I am referring to are not inthe traffic jams, honking and swearing,nor are they the “high class” snobs whoturn their noses up at anything “countrified,”choosing to forget that their ownancestors picked coffee barefoot, withpride.The true spirit of Costa Ricans can befound (allowing for a few exceptions) inthe locals, the ones you find tendering topulperías, sodas and small shops, the oneson corners who will help with directionsand smile like they know you and care, theones in the hospitals and the schools, publichospitals and schoolsthat is, the ones that travelon the bus and makeminimum wages yet arestill cheerful and alwayshelpful.If you look for it, thischeerful spontaneity ispresent the large majorityof Costa Ricans, if you donot see it upfront it hasprobably been repressedover the years but trystriking up a conversation,sharing a smile andin 99% of the cases youwill see their faces light up and you aresuddenly in the company of a warm, caring,sincere, grateful, human being.IN my case, I enjoy nothing more thana chat with the man pumping petrol or theperson next to me in the line at the bank orthe supermarket. It always soothes my souland helps me remember what life is trulyabout.Sharing with our peers in our basiccondition: as human beings.Most Costa Ricans, though they maylack in other departments, maintain theirhumanity – and in this time and age, that is to be admired and treasured.