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Expat anthology paints ‘Costa Rica Kaleidoscope’

January 27, 2012

An exciting new book about Costa Rica is about to make its debut. “Costa Rica Kaleidoscope: Multicolored perspectives on the reflections of culture” is a collection of personal essays, stories and informative articles whose purpose is to enlighten tourists, new residents and lovers of Costa Rica everywhere. 

Costa Rica Kaleidoscope

Written by a group of expat writers who call themselves “The Bards of Paradise,” the book is, according to the introduction, “a map for all to follow to discover the treasure that is Costa Rica.” And indeed, the book includes a number of valuable articles providing such a perspective. 

Especially insightful are the pieces by outstanding writer Michael Crump: “Wither La Humildad,” “Metaphors,” “Victor’s Vivencia” and “Peón.” Most remarkable is “Cop Stories,” where, in a rare account of cultural elements in Costa Rican police forces, Crump convinces us that “cop stories have a unique capacity for illuminating the culture.”

Equally good, because they impart such a vivid picture of life in the campo, are Carol McCool’s stories “Six Rivers to Cross,” which teaches us, given Tico paucity of information and Gringo assumptions, all the things that can go wrong, and “Terror in Escazú,” where, it turns out, monkeys are not always endearing. Best are accounts of her Sunrise Mountain Farm, in which, as a rootless expat, she poignantly asks, “Will I find a place where I can plant my fence post and watch it spread its roots and branches?” 

Then, heart-wrenching are Greg Bascom’s portrayals of a pristine Manuel Antonio before it was forever changed by an excess of tourism and construction. Delightful, too, is his rollicking raccoon story, “Pepe LeCoon,” and the charming piece “Pulgas,” a dog story with a cultural lesson. 

There are other notable pieces: Robin Kazmier, another compelling writer, provides us with the heart-stopping “River Crossing,” in which we find out just how perilous running a farm in Costa Rica can be. Lenny Karpman thoroughly informs us about everything from food to insects to health care, while Frans Lamers teaches us about coffee, biodiversity and finances. Finally, Jo Stuart gives us a touching account of her encounter with campesino schoolchildren.

“Costa Rica Kaleidoscope” is an excellent book, but it is not an all-encompassing perspective of Costa Rican culture. Its writers are expats who live on the Pacific side of the country. Costa Rica, tiny though it may be, has distinct cultural pockets. A picture of just the west-of-San José communities, as important as they may be to most expat residents, is a cultural perspective of that area only. The book lacks stories about other areas of Costa Rica, northern areas such as Arenal, Monteverde, Guanacaste and the Nicaraguan border, as well as eastern and southern areas like Cartago, Perez Zeledón, the Osa Peninsula and, of course, the ever neglected Atlantic side of the country, Limón. 

Nevertheless, “Costa Rica Kaleidoscope” is well worth the purchase. It is available through self-publishing platform Create Space at www.createspace.com/3719745 ($18; use discount code DL2XTVF7 for $3 off) or from online book dealers worldwide. The Kindle version is available from Amazon.com ($10).

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