Fitting in, in P.V.
Trip Start May 12, 2009
24Trip End Sep 29, 2009
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Where I stayed
This time around, I would like to talk about topics affecting the area more generally.
Economy: This place has really been affected by everyone else's problems. With the US in recession, tourism is way down. That would be since September. Puerto Viejo is a town with many restaurants and surf shops- a tourist town. So that has really made it hard for some fringe tertiary services like massage therapists to survive. Several Americans who have been living here have had to go back to the States to make money.
When businesses aren't making money, people still have to eat. That's where you get crime. It is apparent to me that even the drug dealers would rather ply their trade than mug someone on the beach- yet that's what it has come to for many. Before arriving here, I was warned not to walk alone down the main road in this spread-out town. There have been several muggings while I've been here. IF I go anywhere at night, I ride bikes with a guy with a sharp machete.
The other two factors depressing the local economy are -swine flu and -the rainy season. The media has been scaring people about swine flu, and some vacations have been cancelled. I got an interesting reception at the int'l airport: complete with a team of masked researchers aiming a heat camera at each passenger that disboarded. Remember, the US has more cases than Costa Rica!
And it's the rainy season right now. An hour of torrential rain every other day.
Food: Along with the prices on everything, food prices are higher than they were one year ago. Yesterday night I was sitting with the manager of a local restaurant as he raised his prices a consistent 400 colones (75 cents) across the menu. He says he was not making any profit with the costs of food and his own menu prices.
Cheese and dairy are especially expensive. "Cheese is like gold dust around here", says the manager of Cafe Mango, a twenty something British blonde. Items with cheese in it were price-adjusted even higher.
People: There are many expat's around here from the United States, Canada, and Australia. The local grocery has a fabulous selection of French food. This is nice and all, though I need to move on and find a more Spanish-speaking locality!
They also speak a local mix of English, Spanish, and slang called petwa (sp) with words like queque meaning cake.
Another social issue in the country is that prostitution is legal, yet not flaunted like Las Vegas. In my opinion, it seems to clear things up around waitresses and dancers, since all job descriptions are clearly defined. However, the government has launched a billboard campaign discouraging girls to from taking up the trade.
Last, police. There are two police stations in town. One time, I actually saw police at one of them. Around here, owning a gun is good substitute for actual police response. Since police are stretched so thin, and decision has been made to only prosecute thefts of more than $250 US Dollars! I heard the story of a man who drank 30 beers in a day on the tab, then refused to pay. When the police came, they could do no more than also ask the man to pay.
And the numbers:
The number of insect bites I have on my legs
The minimum wage here for a day of labor.
Per capita income in Costa Rica
And some one liners:
+ + Overheard in conversation around town: "So I was fighting my brother for a charity event and we called it a draw, but I think I won."
+ + You know you're in the jungle when: you think twice about taking a shower because the mosquitoes are hovering nearby!