Dudley Bodoh flew to Costa Rica for retirement in 2008 after an initial attempt at driving there had failed (see Part 1). Within a couple of months he had found lodging and settled into a routine that included enjoying the beach and smoking cigars. The use of cigars would end soon and abruptly when he encountered a major health problem. Fortunately, his first encounter with the Costa Rican health system proved to be positive and life-saving.
After a few months, our hero, who had become the Golden Gringo or GG, began the process of obtaining official residency. He engaged a Costa Rican intermediary that had been recommended by a friend to help with the process. The person turned out to be sometimes unethical and at other times incompetent. The process would turn out to be tedious and time-consuming and getting his residency would not happen until his approval happened more than three years later, and then only after he pursued through his own personal effort.
In the meantime GG would be required to make excursions across the border every 90 days to renew his visa, resulting in him becoming a “perpetual tourist”. This gave him the opportunity to visit several locations in three other Latin American countries and learn about the region. He would see parts of Panama, Nicaragua and an island owned by Colombia.
GG also learned about the differences in climate and environment in Costa Rica. Living in the rainforest meant not only more rain but heavier downpours. Just after learning hurricanes don’t happen in Costa Rica because it is too far south, he would experience what the locals called a fifty year storm event. That happened in 2010 and wreaked havoc on trees and telephone polls as well as washing out sizeable parts of major roads and causing flash flooding in low lying towns along the coast. Also in the first two years he would be introduced to “terremotos” or earthquakes, something completely new to him.
But most of the time was taken up with learning and experiencing the culture that is Costa Rica. He came to accept the differences between Tico/Latin thinking, based more on emotion, and the gringo emphasis on efficiency and productivity. He came to understand the people to be open, warm, helpful and kind even as they might be perpetually late and have a penchant for over-complicating simple tasks and transactions.
Within a few months of arriving in Costa Rica GG pursued learning Spanish by taking lessons from local teachers but soon realized that at the age of 65, things were different. He had made a good effort to learn French in his early thirties while living in Brussels but now he was much less able to retain what he absorbed than he was when in his thirties. Distinguishing sounds was another problem he hadn’t had before. But he wouldn’t give up and eventually GG developed a facility that allowed him to express himself adequately.
When he was not writing the Chronicles or taking Spanish lessons he would enjoy the beautiful, wild beach called Manuel Antonio and sample the food at the 50 to 60 good restaurants in the area. He helped form an association called the ROMEO Group (Retired Old Men Eating Out) and they made it their duty to evaluate at least one new restaurant per month. Tough work, but some had to do it.
GG was now settled in and enjoying retirement in paradise.
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