Matt CassedayShambling Through Paradise

Not as I do

shambling through paradiseSome people have noticed that when it comes to talking about daily life in Costa Rica, I am not nearly the sardonic, sarcastic, overbearing, know-it-all, gringo wiseass I once was. Part of it is age—once I hit the second half century club, with over half my life now in the books, I began gravitating more toward thoughts and activities that make me feel good, and avoiding topics that make the choler rise inside.

But there is another reason. For the past few years, I have been in the business of selling Costa Rica. I bring people to Costa Rica, and like thousands of others here, I make a living doing so. Tourism is the golden egg, and Costa Rica has adapted to this reality nicely. When I first came here almost 30 years ago, tourism was not what it is now. Coffee and bananas were bigger money makers for the country. Sometime in the mid-1990s, this dynamic changed, and the natural beauty of the country itself became the meal ticket. The bandwagon is big, and I jumped on some years ago and never looked back.

Costa Rica, my Costa Rica, my enthusiasm lays waste to that smirking beatnik lurking in the shadows of my soul… I’m bullish on our beaches, vivacious for our volcanoes, wild about our wildlife, crazy about the cloud forest…I be pimpin’ the patria baby! The exclamation point has become my favorite punctuation mark in my written correspondence. I can safely say that I have used the exclamation point more in the past 4 years than I did in the fifty preceding. Why come and enjoy Costa Rica, when you can, Come and enjoy Costa Rica!!

Sitting in my apartment in the jungle barrio, speaking to prospective clients on the phone, I rhapsodize about the wonders of Costa Rica, the song of the toucan, the howl of the monkey, the roaring rivers, and majestic mountains and shimmering sea, and hope the person I am speaking to cannot hear the roar of the unmufflered motorcycle passing by,  the shouts of my neighbors, or the song of the eggman passing, his speaker turned to 10 as he cruises the neighborhood, blaring, “Huevos, huevos! Treinta para dos mil, huevos!”

Because I want every client to have the best, and safest, time possible, I find myself applying the philosophy of “Do as I say, not as I do.” If you need a taxi while here, only use the official red ones, I tell them. Never mind that I take collectivos, paying 500 colons to shuttle between the town and the beach in any low slung aging Hyundai that flashes its lights while I wait along the side of the road. (It is my favorite type of capitalism, the basic exchange of goods and services, I need a ride to the beach, this guy will get me there for 500 colons, and will pick people up along the way until the car is full—that is part of the unspoken contract. When I exit the car at what is still called the ‘entrada Mar y Sombra’—even though the Mar y Sombra has not existed for years—I pay the driver 500 colons, and the transaction is complete).

“Use common sense” is another of my favorite tidbits of advice. The later the hour, the more things can get dicey, right? Yet as recently as last night I was out late, on the street, watching the midnight denizens, a collection of stragglers, addicts, transients, people not on too many invitation lists. Do as I say…

My mild hypocrisy, my little white lies know no bounds. All of those people I tell my clients to be wary of—the overly friendly local who speaks enough English to communicate, the overly friendly young woman hanging on the corner, the freelancer hawking drinks and tours and anything else you may want on the beach—are the people I’ve always been most interested in talking with. The seamy underbelly they don’t show you on the website!!!

There may still be a future in that type of tour company, that takes you beyond nature and adventure and into the streets. The world gets weirder by the year, and as Dr. Thompson once said, “When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro.”

Until then, I am ready to help you plan your dream tropical paradise getaway!! Sunny Costa Rica awaits you my dear and cherished clients!! You will have vacation of a lifetime!! Just do as I say…not as I do (!!)