Category Archives: costa rica

Me pintó el camino

“Destiny painted the road that brought me here”

México, Ricardo Arjona

If I intended to keep with the “secular” tone I tend to shoot for, that’s how I would put things, but if I’m going to be properly specific (and totally honest), I’ll need to use more specifically religious language than you may be used to seeing here.

I’ve felt many times over the past months that God painted my road… starting years ago when he called me to serve as a missionary in Ecuador, when I first encountered real latin culture and learned the value of it (and got a look into some of the things we may have lost in our modernity), continuing over the past 3 years calling me to serve with the latin community in Atlanta, and more recently in arriving in Costa Rica, getting to know dear friends and living once again in a latin country.

When I received the call to serve in Ecuador I had no idea how much it would change my life. Even after serving, I didn’t understand how those years would influence the future. That missionary experience opened the door to further opportunities to serve with latin friends, over time changing the friends I have, my pastimes, the music I listen to, what I look for in my friends and in the women I date.

The Stake President that set me apart when I left for Ecuador told me that there wasn’t a day in his life that he didn’t think about having served a mission. I occasionally felt bad that I couldn’t stay the same. Yes, I remembered having served, the people I got to know, and the things I learned, but I didn’t think about it every day. Now I look at my life and find there isn’t a day of it that hasn’t been influenced by that missionary service in one way or another. Looking down the road ahead, it looks like each day will be influenced by that simple call to serve that God knew would lead to the road he’d prepared for me to walk years later.

I don’t know exactly what’s coming further down the road, but I believe I have a sense of what’s to come, and I’m excited about that future.

Originally posted on


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On Vox: My heart says “no”

As much as I may ever want to claim that I make political decisions in a rational, logical, dispassionate manner, I’ve encountered at least one in my time in Costa Rica where my emotions and reasoning are together to the point where I wonder who’s influencing who. 

In October, Costa Ricans vote in a national referendum on the Tratado de Libre Comercio with the United States (CAFTA). Their neighbors have been quick to ratify it, but as evidenced by the Monumento Nacional behind me, Central America has had its troubles with US influences in the past. (Nevermind the US backed Contra rebels, US facilitated assassinations of past Central American leaders, and other challenges to local sovereignty.)

I’ve looked over the treaty and there are provisions that I think are too broadly worded or vague and fail to protect the interests of the Central American signatories. Further discussion with friends here have uncovered other unsettling things, and frankly, I prefer not to trust US based multinational companies any more than I have to. They’ve proven too untrustworthy in the past. (Put quickly, if a corporation’s reason for existing is to make money for it’s stockholders, it’s in the corporation’s best interests to offload costs as much as possible to outside entities and exploit resources to the greatest degree possible. I wouldn’t trust a person whose entire purpose was to saddle others with their bills and take everything they can get, why should I trust a corporation with the same stated purpose?)

That’s what my heart says. My brain says many of the same kind of things, pointing to hardships in NAFTA signatory states that have resulted from that treaty (Jamaican agribusiness decimated by dumping of US products) and concerns about established institutions in Costa Rica that would be forced to change by secondary effects of CAFTA (the influence of pharmaceutical IP provisions on the use of generic drugs in Costa Rica’s social (medical) insurance).

With any treaty there are things to be gained by signing and things to be lost. My concern is that Costa Rica and other Central American nations don’t end up losing more than they gain. At this point I’m hoping to get more information about how the benefits and the costs finally balance out, and more importantly, that the Costa Rican populace will be sufficiently informed about the treaty to make an educated decision the day of the referendum.

Originally posted on

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On Vox: San José de improviso

A funny thing happened last week. After about 2 weeks back in the states, I got asked to return to Costa Rica. The coming home culture shock was basically over, I was getting settled in for a few months stateside before I could head down again… and within 3 days I’m on a plane to San José.

It’s not like I’m going to complain. Everybody knows I love it here. I’m still a bit more socially dependent on my coworkers here than I’m used to, but that will come with time and such tools of modern life as the cell phone and a better understanding of the bus system… maybe the occasional use of a car.

I’m just surprised it’s happened this way. I figured I’d be sitting in Atlanta planning the next time I could make the trip, try and figure out if I’d try to rent an apartment this time so I could have a home life and see how I face the bendito SJ traffic. Here I am, we’re working hard (the business reason I was requested is to help us beat a rather ambitious deadline), and I’m going to be here for a while (6 weeks… minus this one that’s almost over).

Not what I expected, something to be happy about, and hopefully I can get this work stuff finished up in time to have some fun with my coworkers before everybody’s night classes start up again and go play with my non-work friends before they head to the states on vacation.

Originally posted on

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On Vox: Explaining by metaphor

So… I mentioned previously that I’ve been having a tough time explaining the culture shock I’ve been feeling, that the way I describe it hasn’t made sense to people. So it’s time for a metaphor.

Let’s pretend that in your brain is a little table that holds all your basic expectations about what the world outside your door is like. Culture shock is when the expectations in those little table cells don’t match how the world outside is. The shock continues until you’re able to replace the contents of the table with things that accurately reflect the world around you.

Not perfect, but better explanation than I’ve given up to now.

Originally posted on

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On Vox: Culture shocking





Got back from Costa Rica early Friday morning and since then an interesting thing has been happening… I’m going through culture shock in my native country.

Haven’t had something like this happen since I got back from living in Ecuador for two years… thing is, I was only in San José for about 3 weeks. I didn’t expect to look around at Atlanta like it was some kind of alien land. Unfortunately, as much as I’ve tried I’ve been unable to properly describe what this feels like. Explaining logistical differences (have to drive to get anywhere vs. walking to about anything you’d need) doesn’t really do the job, saying “there’s no corner bread shop” sounds quaint, and missing latin american building construction, streets, or markets doesn’t get the idea across if you’ve never been there.

The trip was great. It was all work, but I work with some fun people. We were able to break away some for a quick game of fútbol and hit Castro’s, the local hot spot for salsa and merengue. And the occasional time out for food or drinks.


So… everybody was disappointed that I didn’t get a chance to hit the beach or any of the tourist sites. I’d have liked to see them, but it didn’t work out… my take is they’ll still be there when I get back next time. Especially if CR says no to CAFTA and its rather draconian provisions. (I’m simplifying, there’s a lot of discussion that needs to be done. Fortunately, the people of Costa Rica are generally well educated and there are plenty of discussions going on about whether to accept the Trato de Libre Comercio (TLC).

Anyway… I’m back, finally getting used to this crazy EE.UU. I live in, and getting back into the swing of things in the Atlanta office. Seems I’ve come back just in time for (fortunately thwarted) attacks in England and Scotland to happen and the typical political shenanigans in the homeland (Scooter Libby gets his sentence commuted without even a minute in jail).

I’ll miss San José for the next couple months. There’s things to take care of here before I can head back again. (Friend getting operated on mid month, need to fit in some time to visit the folks once my current project is over.) I’m looking forward to heading back, it was great to be able to work more closely with the developers… and I’m missing the casado and riceandbeans. 😉

Originally posted on

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