My friend Mary calls Costa Rica opposite land.
It’s a good description because often the way things are done or happen are completely contrary to the way you’d expect.
For instance, if a Tico has his house for sale and has not had a nibble in a year, he will raise the price rather than lower it. This actually happens, according to my friend Mary’s husband, a local realtor.
These types of contrarian situations can happen anywhere, anytime and always when and where you’d least expect. In some ways, it’s part of what makes living in this developing country so alluring because life and the little things that happen in it are never predictable and consequently, never boring.
One of these moments happened the other day while I was at Scotiabank, where we have an account.
I had discovered about a week ago that my debit card was missing and realized I must have left it at the ATM when we were last there, so we drove the 45 minutes to the bank to see if it someone turned it in.
Of course, the day I made this discovery was the eve of Semana Santa, Holy Week in Costa Rica, when everyone is scrambling to do their banking and shopping before the entire country grinds to a halt for several days in religious observance (no beer/liquor is allowed to be sold and nearly every store or institution closes its doors for at least three days.)
The bank was jammed so I grabbed the obligatory number from the dispenser and patiently settled in for my turn.
About 30 minutes passed, without any new numbers being called, when an old Gringo with a young chica entered the bank and walked straight over to a bank representative and sat down and were served.
Had this happened back home, I probably would have went berserk and demanded I be served first. But being in a foreign country without a good command of the langauge has taught me a few things, patience among them. It is neither worthwhile nor productive to scream and holler and get upset over things you cannot control. So, there I sat, prepared to wait it out.
Then, the opposite of what I would have ever expected here in Costa Rica happened. An armed guard, who unbeknownst to me had seen what happened, went to a woman who appeared more official than the front counter bank officers and reported the incident.
The woman promptly called me over and dealt with me personally, apologizing for the wait and someone else being served first. More importantly, she said my card had been turned in (another unexpected happening) but had been destroyed for security. She would promptly issue me a new one, she said.
When we were done, she asked me to fill out a form explaining what happened. The bank, she said, needed my feedback to improve the quality of service. Now, if that’s isn’t opposite of what you’d ever expect I don’t know what is.
Of course, I went to the ATM shortly after that and the card didn’t work. It hadn’t been activated and by then it was too late to return to the bank and I couldn’t face another long lineup, anyway.
My friend Mary’s onto something. Opposite land. A never-ending adventure in the expected and unexpected.