Frequent visitor writes of the warmth and compassion of Ticos

I feel compelled to write to you about the time my family and I spent recently in Costa Rica. This past Christmas and New Year’s my husband and I and our three children (ages 13-20) lived two weeks of joy, fun and tragedy. Throughout our vacation and the extreme range of unexpected adventures we experienced, the Costa Rican people showed warmth, compassion and poise.

Two of the events in which we were involved were reported in the Costa Rican news: the drowning on Christmas Day near Puerto Jiménez and the escaped jaguars at La Paz on Dec. 30th. The tragic drowning deeply affected the people who attempted the rescue and resuscitation of the swimmer. Our children were boogie-boarding in the same waves as the victim who was bodysurfing and was knocked unconscious.

Despite a pounding surf and a challenging road to the local clinic, my brother, a resident of Puerto Jiménez, and my daughter, a certified lifeguard, along with the employees and owners of the lodge where we were staying, did not give up efforts to revive the drowned man. I have never seen anyone sprint so fast into the water as the Costa Rican lodge employees did that day.

At La Paz Waterfall Gardens, the employees of the nature reserve and the tour bus operators needed to take a different kind of action. Approximately 300 visitors were calmly told to evacuate the property because two jaguars had escaped from their cages. There was no panic as the visitors were efficiently guided away from the dangerous areas of the reserve. Given
the many narrow steps and paths and the variety of ages and abilities of the visitors, the cool-headedness of the employees was vital.

The situation had all the ingredients for another tragedy.

The events above would be enough to impress upon us the warm character of the Costa Rican people, but other situations we experienced confirmed it. On Christmas Eve, on the way to Puerto Jiménez, the brakes of our rental van failed. As luck would have it, we happened to be in front of a gas station in the town of Palmar Norte. Thanks to a taxi driver who saw our predicament, we were set up with a local mechanic, and within two hours we were on our way again. The taxi driver did not charge a fee for guiding us as we crept along in first gear to the mechanic’s house. “It’s Christmas!” he said. Even the mechanic did not charge extra for doing rush repair work on Christmas Eve. Another instance of excellent customer service and helpfulness came from the owner of a zapateria in Santa Ana, who because “it was on his way to San Ramon,” actually delivered a pair of handmade boots we had ordered to our B&B near Grecia.

To top off our wonderful interactions with Costa Ricans, we celebrated New Year’s Eve with what has become our Costa Rican family: the employees of Posada Mimosa. We were welcomed into their houses to ring in the New Year with dancing, food and games. As you might have guessed, we are frequent visitors to Costa Rica. We have encountered on every visit, the warmth and hospitality of Costa Ricans whether it be in Guanacaste, the Central Valley or in the Osa Peninsula.

* Ms. Börner lives in Toronto, Canada.

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