It’s a lovely morning. The clay colored robins are singing. Hummingbirds surround the feeder. Cicadas are a background hum, high-pitched and distant. Laundry is on the line, and the deck is almost clean of dog hair. A cup of coffee and a view out to the lake and hazy mountains beyond. Life is good.
The breakfast fruits once seemed exotic: papaya, mango, star fruit. You never knew what they really tasted like until you moved to the tropics. The ones you got in the U.S. supermarket were picked unripe
and shipped north. They didn’t taste like the ones on your plate now. These came from your own trees or from the local feria, and they are as close to perfect as anything you have ever tasted. Another year and the red grapefruit will ripen on your new tree. This is what we worked for, saved for, waited for: A glass of orange juice fresh squeezed from our own fruit.
Last Tuesday, I opened amcostarica.com and was struck by the first article – scams and frauds. Struck, because I have friends who were scammed, defrauded, who struggle with developers and contractors.
One such couple is still trying to get title on a property and home already paid for in full because the developer absconded to the States. They also struggle with problems of water, electricity and a leaky roof.
Other friends have electrical problems and find that the entire house is keyed to a single circuit breaker or they have a grey water system that doesn’t run into a dry well. There is a code for things here in Costa Rica, but if you aren’t watching, codes don’t mean much. Like a neighbor whose under-siding turned out to be cheap Styrofoam.
Yes, there is a language barrier for us newbies, which just means that we need to hire an interpreter to make sure things are clear. (I finally did that for one piece of work, and it was done perfectly.) It also means not investing cash without due diligence, plugging into the local expat network for information (up here it’s Facebook’s Lake Arenal Community but there are networks everywhere), going to the “Gringo Breakfast” (Arenal again) or hanging out where expats congregate and asking questions.
Yes, the slander laws are strict here, and some people are afraid of being sued if they tell you, “don’t hire Mr. X” but that’s easy to circumvent. Simply ask, “Would you recommend Mr. X or let him do more work for you?” Problem solved.
So, for those of us enjoying fruit and veggies from our own gardens, do the new expats a favor. Save that A.M. Costa Rica article or print it out. Make sure newcomers read it. And, yes, I have been scammed, too.