Making New Friends

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.

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About Myra

I'm retired in Costa Rica, having lived in Philly, State College, Salem Mass, and Kawagoe Japan. You might call me a career gypsy, but my last and best job was teaching English to some of the best and brightest kids in Philly. I'm new to blogging and websites, and will probably make all the mistakes there are, but now I'm sharing my writing. I moved to Costa Rica in June of 2009 with my husband Jack, my dog Buddha, and Jack's two cats, Hobbes and Noir.
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8 Responses to Making New Friends

  1. Jessie Simmons says:

    Hi Myra,

    Thanks for sharing!

    My husband and I are moving to Costa Rica in January. After a lot of research, we’ve settled on Puriscal as our location of choice! I loved reading this entry – felt like I was reading about myself. We’ve definitely got the “bleeding heart liberals that hardly even know a right-winged person” thing going on, but we’re looking forward to the collaborative expat experience you describe. We’re also really looking forward to hopefully immersing ourselves in Costa Rican culture. If you don’t mind a brief email exchange, I’d love to pick your brain about whether Puriscal would be a realistic destination for us.

  2. mary mallinger says:

    Wonderfully written, interesting, and from the heart! My sister is Marguerite Richardson and she forwarded this to me. Thanks for sharing your experience!

  3. Mireille C. says:

    I’m experiencing the adventure and community’s relationship the same as you do, Myra.
    Aren’t we luckies to live that diversity in such harmony. Cross our fingers that will stay like that for long. I like it.
    Thank you for anniversary’s lunch.

  4. Connie says:

    Great piece, Myra. I love many of the ex-pats who live around Puriscal!

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