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HomeTopicsExpat LivingCosta Rica Expat Living: A Tale of Misadventure and Resilience

Costa Rica Expat Living: A Tale of Misadventure and Resilience

Broken lines, broken strings
Broken threads, broken springs
Broken idols, broken heads
People sleeping in broken beds
Ain’t no use jiving
Ain’t no use joking
Everything is broken
—- Bob Dylan

I can certainly relate. Consider this: In a period of a couple of weeks, all of the following happened:

● My cell phone was knocked from the table, shattering the screen.
● My aging laptop’s hard drive died.
● Got a flat tire on my bicycle several kms from home
● Twisted my knee while hiking the mountains around Manuel Antonio, resulting in an ongoing,
painful limp.
● And the coup de grace, my aging Jeep Cherokee Sport broke down with transmission problems while navigating brutal mountain roads in the Drake Bay area.

It is the last one that left me a little broken, as well as temporarily broke. There are few automotive mechanical problems more financially painful than a damaged automatic transmission. We were spending the first half of Semana Santa on the family farm in the Osa Peninsula. My wife and I have a parcel there, as do her other 12 brothers and sisters.

This area of the country is the Old Costa Rica: The sun is hot, but occasional peninsular breezes bring relief. Few businesses or houses are air conditioned. Mostly simple houses of concrete, wood and zinc.

Dirt roads where everybody drives 20 mph and are careful not to hit the occasional dog sunning itself in the middle of the street. With us was our friend, who had a plano showing he had a one-acre lot in a place called Playa Ganado. He was interested in ceding us a piece of his lot in exchange for a small piece of our parcel. We dropped off our luggage and headed toward the Corcovado, in search of our friend’s lot.

We never made it. As we approached Drake Bay, I was directed down a road, across a shallow river, then into the wilderness. I drove slowly– the road worsened by the kilometer, becoming narrower, with long rocky hills to climb and descend. We were no longer within sight of the ocean. The scenery of this wild area was beautiful, but after 30 minutes of driving and seemingly not getting closer, I told our friend– who had not been to the property in some years and did not seem confident of his own directions– that I wanted to turn back.

At almost that same moment, he said he was pretty sure that we had just passed the turnoff. I did about a 12-point turn to return the other direction, then started down a road that was more like a mule track. The only two people we passed on this stretch were both on horseback. We descended slowly for several minutes, still with no coastline in sight.

At this point my wife said we should turn back and I agreed. After another agonizing set of maneuvers to get my now hot-running car righted, we started back up. I was about halfway to Drake Bay, going up a long rocky hill when my car seized up and refused to go further.

When I got it back down to level ground, I saw something– probably a seal– had failed, and my transmission fluid had seeped out, leaving a trail that looked, symbolically enough, like drops of blood. Even in this remote area, there was help nearby. In Costa Rica there is most always help nearby. A tractor charged us 20 mil to pull us to the closest village. Two of my brothers-in-law made the hour trip and helped me find a safe place to stow the car.

The next day we paid another 70 mil to have a platform truck haul it to the farm, where it sits at this moment. Back on the farm, my numerous in laws offered variations on the belief that “as bad as it was, it could have been worse”. ‘Gracias a Dios’ we didn’t break down at the bottom of the mule track.

‘Gracias a Dios’ no one died or got hurt. Broken objects can be fixed. At the long day’s end we were left with another story that will be told and retold among family.

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