A soft dusting of snow lays on the saturated ground in the backyard.  The sky is a lighter shade of grey.  Emerging buds on the maple tree wish for the sun’s warming rays as late winter turns to early spring.  A squirrel digs something out of the flower bed near the garage;  it doesn’t look like a nut.

Brewing coffee warms the air in the kitchen.  Thoughts of being in Central America next week satisfy me.  Working alongside farmers to strengthen their association’s business capacity so that they may better market/sell their products in hopes of improving their livelihoods, and the livelihoods of their families, warms me more than the smell of the brewing coffee filling the kitchen air.

A cardinal flies in, breaking up the grey with his resplendent red-ness.

While many Westerners look to Costa Rica for its sun, sand, and forests as a go-to paradise to escape from their lives, and while different surveys repute that Ticos are some of the happiest people on the planet, if you look a little closer, you might find the back story.  Over the past couple of years, the country has become the top destination in the region for sex tourism, where girls from around the world are trafficked to so that men can fly in and escape their other lives.

A country with no military, it recently has been experiencing the effects of narcotrafficking in the region. To combat it, the government has invited the U.S. military to patrol its Caribbean and Pacific waters, a move that has led to much protest throughout Costa Rica.

When the global economy took a nosedive, Costa Rica’s tourism industry took a hit.  Depending on what study you read, and how the numbers are massaged, some are saying that petty crime has increased in the past couple of years.  Others would say that it has not.  Still, the sentiment on the street appears to be that it has increased, which no matter what the numbers might say, the public perception will likely influence people/tourists more than the facts.

Over the next couple of weeks, I aim to get a better understanding of Costa Rica.  I have found that farmers the world over are great to talk to for getting a feel of what’s going on in a place.  They tend to be more direct and open, once you get them talking.  Taxi drivers are much the same way.

Two doves sit on a wire hanging over the alley.  A squirrel, maybe the same one as before, jumps around the branches of a tree in a neighbor’s yard.  The sky hasn’t changed color, but is brighter.  The coffee tastes great!

Farmer's Market in Turrialba, Costa Rica

independent writer

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