Giving thanks, Costa Rican style |

Giving thanks, Costa Rican style

Happy Thanksgiving, kitty cats!

By the time you read this, I will be in Costa Rica with my family, visiting my crazy, ex-pat brother.

Daniel moved to Costa Rica 12 years ago. He said, “If Bush gets re-elected, I’m out of here.”

He stayed true to his word.

Let’s not get ahead of ourselves: the real reason he moved to Costa Rica was because of the pretty girls and their affinity for rich, American boys.

There also was his newfound passion for surfing, but for whatever reason, he left and never came back. And it’s possible, (though I’m probably giving him a little too much credit here), that he had some kind of foresight into the fact that the future of our country was looking a little less than stellar, though it’s hard to believe anyone in their right mind could have predicted it would be this bad.

At the very least, he could have a quality of life in Central America that would not be afforded to him here at home. In Costa Rica, he could live cheap and still be able to afford a maid, a massage therapist, and a slew of young, bathingsuit-model girlfriends

Though far be it from him to move to the beach like a normal person.

No, not my brother. He likes to think out of the box. Like, way out. Like, off the grid.

Everywhere he has lived has been extreme. In Colorado, he chose Alma, the highest town in Colorado both literally and figuratively, a town at 10,361 feet above sea level, a town that is always windy and cold, a town that is proud of the fact that its ZIP code ends in 420 which, unless you’ve been living under a rock, is code for smoking weed.

It’s the same story in Costa Rica.

He didn’t build a fat house on the beach like a normal person, a house with a pool and views and a covered porch and at least three extra bedrooms for me and all my friends.

Oh, no.

He bought a farm in the middle of the jungle and built an assortment of odd, rustic homes. There’s the “cone house,” which is made of bamboo and was designed to create a small footprint but then almost tipped over and had to be modified into what is essentially a normal foundation, only it went in last instead of first, which says everything you need to know about Daniel. Then he built a “rustic cabin” out of bricks, a 400-square-foot, one-room space with a covered porch (“terraza”) and a bodega (small motorcycle garage) and five more houses he built for buyers from different parts of the world who got a piece of the real Costa Rica for a steal.

Daniel has no interest in being near tourist areas. He’d rather go deep into country and surround himself with Ticos. He’s totally fluent in Spanish, he’s picked up soccer and plays with the local club, and he loves the ladies — the exotic-looking young ladies, the Costa Rican ladies who apparently line up to date him.

So can you really blame him?

Then he developed bad surfer’s ear that kept him out of the water. And over time, it got harder and harder to avoid the Americans whom he’d chosen to get away from in the first place. And I would imagine that when you live in a foreign country and you know it well and you speak the language that watching your fellow countrymen bumble around with their shiny, red faces, swollen bodies, pale, messy hair and bad Spanish would be painful, like when you see a sibling acting not like themselves and you know better.

So then he headed for the mountains outside San Jose, a place that was cooler and devoid of tourists. He bought a lot so steep no one believed he could build on it. He got that 4-acre parcel for a steal and has since built five houses on it—one of which belongs to our favorite cousin who came to visit and fell in love with the place. His infinity pool is going in as we speak. It’s the million-dollar view, but for a tenth of the price.

When we arrived, we were pleasantly surprised. There were the insane views, the plush green hills lined with coffee bean fields like corduroy and the active volcano in the distance spitting smoke; there were the city lights at night that sparkle on the horizon like a thousand jewels; the small town where everyone is friendly and shopping for food consists of a visit to the local butcher, the fresh fruit and vegetable stand, the bakery, and the small grocer; the bike shop where all Daniel’s friends are, serious mountain and road bikers who tackle the area’s steep terrain, where the vertical gain from the valley floor to the volcano is over 7,000 feet and there are coffee plantations with dirt trails that go for miles; and there’s the way everyone fawns over your baby, taking him in their arms like he is a member of their family and passing him around to everyone screaming “el pelo!” for “the hair!” and “los ojos azules” for the blue eyes, and screaming “que lindo, que belissimo!” for “how cute, how beautiful!” and it’s the first time since you’ve had the kid that people are making such a big deal over him, celebrating him, and making you feel like your child is a precious jewel, the greatest gift ever given to you in your entire life, and in the entire world. Something tells me these folks wouldn’t give a hoot about the pug.

And then you realize your brother isn’t so crazy, after all. This place is still pristine in ways America hasn’t been in over 60 years, and is so very, truly special.

The Aspen Princess is trying not to worry about Hurricane Otto, which is heading directly this way. Email your love to

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