On this first day of 2009, I’m a happy camper. The two things I like about winter – snow & our Christmas tree – are in effect. The thing I hate about winter – frigid cold – will be a distant memory in 48 days. Last night I packed another suitcase, which will be ‘done’ once I borrow a scale from our neighbor and weigh it. Things are starting to move, and there’s a lot to look forward to – warm weather, fresh food, new experiences, new friendships and more family time.
But no place is perfect, and if you are going to make an international move, you have to take the rose-colored glasses off and go with your eyes wide open. Things *will* be different and some things will be hard to let go. An eye-opener for me last year was the tale of another family, rather similar in outlook to mine, went to Costa Rica and just had a miserable experience. They were gullible and not prepared for the realities that awaited them. I’ll probably have additions to this list after living in there awhile, but this is what I’ll miss about the US for now.
1. The library system
I use our library system a LOT, and Costa Rica has few libraries. Our local library is small and in a gorgeous little historic building, but I have access to almost everything in our library system. I can go online and request books, music & movies and get a nice email when they’re waiting for me. When I find a book I want to read, the first thing I do is look it up in the library system and add it to my list. Same thing for movies, audiobooks and, to a much lesser extent, music. Recently I’ve been really into movies – especially since the 2nd closest library is practically a video store.
The best part is the books for my children. I can’t imagine a better foundation to develop a love for reading than to let them loose at the library and see how excited they are to pick out books. Using the library saves a lot of money, but it’s especially true for children’s books. You can’t always predict what book will capture a child’s long-term imagination and which ones are worth a single read. And having the choice and freedom to explore different stories and topics is priceless.
I will probably miss the library more than I will miss family members. Seriously – I can have a quick videochat with a relative but new books are often not available in Costa Rica, especially less mainstream fare. I can mitigate this by getting an e-reader, but there will still be books that can only be acquired from Amazon. And getting new children’s books will be tough. We’ll have to keep an updated wishlist on Amazon and ask our folks to send a big box of books down once or twice a year.
2. Easy online shopping & shipping
Well, you can buy stuff online from CR too, but shipping (and occasionally customs) is a bigger expense. You can spend more to ship internationally, or use a service like Aerocasillas (where you get a US address and then the service ships it internationally). Now this is part of the lifestyle & outlook change – live more simply, live with less, etc – so it’s not a complaint. But I know I’ll miss it. Especially since I recently got into boardgames which will be much harder to come by. I suppose I’ll take it slow and enjoy what we have to the fullest, but there will be times when I wish I could order something and have it come sooner & cheaper. I doubt I can buy a sofa online and have it shipped for $1 like in the US.
3. Reliability of services
In America, if the cable company says they’ll be there on Tuesday between noon and 5pm, they will show up by 5pm on Tuesday. If they can’t, they will let you know. If they make a mistake and no one shows up, they’ll try to make nice by offering a free box of Jujubes. In Costa Rica, if the cable company says they are coming mañana, it could mean tomorrow, 2 weeks, 2 months or never. Once you actually get a service – like cable or dsl – it will work. Most of the time. And hopefully as good as advertised (there are many who say that high speed internet in Costa Rica qualifies as great dial-up in the US). I know that at some point when I need to work online, I won’t be able to and it’ll stress me out until I get used it. This is another lifestyle change to adapt to, perhaps not wasting time and using the internet when it is available for what is truly necessary. I guess it’s not all bad when you think in terms of needs vs wants, but it’ll take some getting used to regardless.
That’s my list for now. I’m sure I’ll have some more to add by this time next year – hopefully not too much more 😉