C.R. 2: Trouble in Paradise

By three days in the paradise of Pura Vida, Quan and I are bored and ready to go home. The place is great, the food is superb, the treatments are terrific – but we’re ready for our animals, for a movie, for more stimulation from the central aorta of life. Don’t send me to heaven; I’ll join my friends in hell.

So on the fourth day – a day off – Quan and I descend into San Jose to meet a friend of a friend who – you guessed it – rescues animals. (Quan is under strict orders that she cannot bring home any animals from this trip.)

We wait for her to arrive, watching an American mall-copy wake up – the smell of cleaning mixing with fry grease firing up in the food court, the clacking of the metal guards going up as owners arrive to do inventory, cheery girls with bouncing ponytails and super-clean shirts reporting for work, middle-aged women with more time and money then most, window-shopping ahead of time.

We all pile into Theresa’s Hummer and plumb our way through the chaotic streets and freeways of this ‘developing’ country. (‘Ruined’, more like it.) Her 19-year old daughter Holly is with us, raised her whole life here – speaking English with a combination of Spanish and a southern accent.

First stop are the stables where her horses are kept – a whole slew of Andalusians and Hanoverians, beautiful horses, well cared for and worth hundreds of thousands, as well as a few she has rescued from starvation. Most horses in this country are kept in stalls all day (fear of theft is a factor, but it shows no knowledge of how horses work) with a result that they have a life expectancy of nine or ten. Some in the stalls, particularly an old stallion with a long mane, have the saddest eyes. Another with a broken hip stands all day in pain, so someone can say, “I own a Hanoverian.” Holly knows each one, and moves from one to the other, soothing and communicating.

One is tied into his stall with a muzzle-like device to keep him from ‘cribbing’, and he tells Quan ‘Get me out of here.’ Theresa must have heard, as she immediately directs the stable-keeper to untie him and let the horse go. In the paddock, he races around, kicking left and right in glee, and stirring up the others.

Theresa’s large Spanish-modern house is dominated by a profusion of animal smells and sounds: fish, ducks, goats, a passel of dogs and cats, and then the rescued ones – possums with opposable thumbs on all four feet and the most articulate prehensile tails, a darling little squirrel who will crawl under your hair for a snooze, or, alternatively, leap three feet to startle someone else by landing on their shoulder. Angelina, the cross-eyed pot-bellied pig, looking for food, birds of various color and song, hedgehogs hiding out – everywhere you look in the wonderfully confused garden under the huge tropical tree, there’s another enclosure, another set of animals. She didn’t have any sloths, which I would like to have seen; they, as the opossums will be, have been repatriated into the wild once they are fully rehabbed.

Will repatriation be part of Theresa’s future? Like many Americans here, Theresa lives the colonial lifestyle, pretty gated away from native life here, except for the employees, who change regularly. The lot next door to her house – a few acres, completely undeveloped – is on the market for $3 million – twice the cost of our farm in Maine. This society is so unbalanced – rich and poor, neither Quan nor I have the slightest desire to follow the American / European rush to Costa Rica.

Theresa’s daughter, raised here, is headed for college in Spain. Although this country grows its own food, free trade may raise even food prices here to near American levels. Right now, greed, not revolution fills the air – Third World quality, first world prices – but Costa Rica does not seem to us to be the alternative to Amerika. Too much like it, too tied in.

One Response to “C.R. 2: Trouble in Paradise”

  1. David Lesondak Says:


    I was in Costa Rica in January and met a woman involved doing goods works there, recycling programs and such and she told me that the average Coat Rican can no longer afford to own his own home. Yet I saw so much gratitude on the part of locals who were able to get by better because of their tourista jobs.

    Its a juxtaposition that continues to haunt me

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