One of the bonuses of retirement in Puriscal, Costa Rica, is the thriving expat community. Don’t think: gated enclave, though there are lots of them nearby. Folks here live the rural life, isolated from each other and scattered across the surrounding mountains.
Within the larger group of retirees in Puriscal, the canton, is a small band living near the city of Santiago de Puriscal. Although our backgrounds are as far flung as our politics and worldviews, we’re remarkably close. In fact, we gather every Sunday night at a local open-air restaurant to share our tiny triumphs in kitchens and gardens; interesting and unusual bird or butterfly sightings; and tales of life’s little impediments.
I’m abashed to admit that until moving here I had a scarcity of friends who didn’t share my politics. I found I got too passionate in discussions. True, there was a Republican couple among my circle of friends, but they rarely participated in heated political discussions, being greatly outnumbered. I once dated a Republican, albeit a social liberal, shocking even myself. He used to introduce me to his friends as, “My commie, pinko, bleeding-heart liberal friend.” I liked that.
More than politics, worldview provided the rubric to define someone as a potential friend. The closest of my friends back home were made in college. They’re readers, lovers of art and music, travelers, intellectuals. They’ve all moved from traditional religious beliefs to an individual spirituality. Others were fellow teachers and neighbors I met in the dog park. For the most part, they also shared in my worldview. I lived in a homogeneous world, and liked it that way.
That rigid rubric doesn’t work here. Our circle includes Republicans, Libertarians, Mormons and avid Alex Jones (the right-wing conspiracy theorist radio host) listeners. Before retiring here, they held jobs in industry, finance, medicine, as well as restaurants, and oil rigs. They moved here from Canada, and all over the States, especially the South, and Texas, a state I’ve always disdained for political reasons.
Jack and I would be bereft of friends if we chose to associate only with those with whom we agreed, so we look for common ground, and, since we’re all decent people, we easily discover the best in each other. Some of us have reasonable and respectful discourse about the state of the world, and even politics.
We’re all aware of our many and mighty ideological differences, and we acknowledge, them, but don’t let them come between us. When we have to, we take political discussions off the table, and focus on our commonalities. When all is said and done, we’re there for each other, connected in a strong network of support.
We’ve learned the benefits of extending tolerance to accept others we would have dismissed back home, and our lives have become far richer for it.