Here’s one woman’s approach for making new friends

When I first came to Costa Rica, I brought a word processor with me. Remember them? I had used a Mac at work and loved it but couldn’t afford to bring one with me (I thought). Within a month my processor had broken down.

But that was only one of the many mistakes I made when I first came to Costa Rica. It took me almost three years to find an apartment I loved, then an earthquake took its toll on the building, and I had to move. It took half a year to make friends.

Recently I met someone who seems to have done everything right. Carol arrived in Costa Rica less than a year ago. Like me, she is a woman alone. Unlike me, she brought her cats and her car with her.

Her first apartment, she discovered, was too small for her and her cats, but she quickly found an incredibly reasonable one with a fully equipped kitchen and laundry – and a pool. (By now I have bought two refrigerators and won one in a raffle; no pools anywhere I have lived.) But what she did that amazes me is she joined just about every club operating in the Central Valley – and there are many. She began with the Women’s Club (always a great choice if you are a woman alone here). Within that club are many “sub clubs” like the Newcomers and the Out to Lunch and the Book Club. Other social groups like the Computer Club and the Wine Club include men. There are also clubs for Democrats and Republicans living abroad, and The Little Theatre Group, to mention a few more. In my first six months here I had joined two clubs and knew perhaps 115 people by name and face.

After living here for five months, Carol held an open house for her new friends. She hired a bartender, a car parking guard and an extra maid. They were necessary because there were 120 people on her invitation list. Two-thirds were able to accept. (People come and go, often using Costa Rica as a jumping off place to visit other countries.) I wish I had done as Carol did — except for the cats and the car. I continue to not want to own anything, and Garland Baker’s recent column on the problems with property confirms my decision. Although a car, or maybe even a Segway looks pretty good to me now.

Carol also knows how to share some interesting wisdom. She mentioned a friend of hers in the U.S., a woman in her early 80’s, who was overweight and short of breath.

She tried to do as her doctor told her – walk – but said that her back ached when she did. He suggested that she go to a supermarket and push one of their carts up and down the aisles.

She chose Home Depot or Costco, I believe, and learned where every item in the store was. Her backache went away and she lost eleven pounds in the first few months.

I think that is a great suggestion. A full cart is probably even better. My back doesn’t ache, and I don’t want to lose weight, but I need the exercise. I prefer supermarkets and would not mind learning about every item they have.

I also recently became acquainted with another woman, thanks to the taping of her conversation nearly 28 years ago. I knew very little about Jacqueline Kennedy when she was in the White House because I was living abroad when Kennedy was elected. I learned that behind her wispy, little girl voice was a well-read bookworm and researcher who loved the classics and history.

One of her quotes has stayed with me. I heard Diane Sawyer say it and am not sure if it is original with Mrs. Kennedy or she was quoting someone, but she said, “It is not their military that makes a country great, it is their culture.”

Thinking back through the history I have read and the countries that have been great, I think that is true. What is also true is that women have had a lot more to do with culture than they have with the military. At least until recently.

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