Big Willie’s Welcome to the Pueblo

Since we moved to Costa Rica in July, we’ve met many people, and our experiences with them have varied. On the beaches they are nice when they are selling something.  In San Jose, and even San Pedro, it’s like being in Chicago – everyone is in a hurry, and they mostly see you as an obstacle in their way of getting from point A to point B.  In our neighborhood, though, it’s not like that at all.  People are still impatient on the roads, but the “Pura Vida” lifestyle seems much more prevalent here.  It’s not to say people on the coast or in town aren’t “nice,” but they haven’t been overly friendly or welcoming for the most part.  When we go out near our house, people are just different.  In the last couple weeks we’ve come to realize that while we are so close to the hustle and bustle of the city, we do live in a small, close-knit community where everyone knows one another.

We’ve found a local pizzeria/bar just down the road from our house.  It sits at the corner of a building that used to house a couple of other businesses and a decent sized grocery store, but it’s the only business still open, and it’s not much to look at.  Painted red, the walls are only about three feet high which make you feel like you are still outside.  The few tables and bar stools are always full around eight p.m. or so with locals.  They serve food (including surprisingly good ceviche), but the place has a distinct bar feel, but that doesn’t stop families from stopping in for pizza.  The place has a nice laid-back feel to it, and the TV is usually on either the local soccer game or Michael Jackson music videos (Ticos can’t get enough of 80s music). It’s been here where we’ve had the chance to meet some of the people from the neighborhood; it’s also been the best place to practice Spanish.  The customers are mostly working-class people, and unless that working-class job requires them to speak English, most do not.  It was here that we met the local mechanic and bar’s biggest patron who found us our car.  We mentioned to him we were looking for one.  Five minutes later the owner of the house next door to the mechanic’s garage was pulling in the parking lot with what is now our Tracker.

This weekend we had the pleasure of meeting another member of the community: Big Willie.  From his name you can assume that Big Willie had some personality to him.  While he isn’t big for our standards, I guess he is a pretty good-sized Tico.  Anyway, Willie is a sewing-machine repairman and has been for the last thirty years.  He’d had a few by the time we struck up a conversation with him, and while his Spanish was starting to slur a bit, we were able to have as good of a conversation with him as we’ve had with anyone in Spanish since we got here – we’re making progress!  The highlight of the conversation was Torie asking him where his “esposo” was.  She caught her mistake as she made it, but it was too late.  Esposo = husband / esposa= wife.  Big Willie’s chest immediately puffed up and his muscles flexed as he adamantly told her he did not swing that way.  He gave her a hard time about that one for a while, but it was all in fun.  I think we both laughed more during our time with him than we have since we’ve been here.  In between his displays of masculinity and hitting on the bartender, he did make several genuine welcomes to the neighborhood.  It seemed as though he was truly happy we were living here, and I can’t describe how good that felt because it is hard not to feel like such an outsider here when I look and sound so much different from 99.9% of the people I see, especially considering staring is not considered rude here…

Despite our new-found sense of belonging here in the “pueblo” as Willie referred to it, we did make a day trip out-of-town to the beach Saturday.  My surfing is improving more quickly than my Spanish, but I haven’t been able to get Torie out there just yet.  Hopefully our next big excursion will be white water rafting.  I won’t lie – I think I’m more apprehensive about doing that than I would be sky-diving, but some of the rivers around here are supposed to be some of the best in the world for rafting, so we have to give it a shot.

I’ve attached a few pictures of our day-trip to Jaco/Hermosa.  The rest are here:

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5 thoughts on “Big Willie’s Welcome to the Pueblo

  1. White water rafting is SOOOO fun! I’ve only done it 2 times both in Costa Rica. You will love it! Just wear a good pair of sandals that will stay on your feet 😉


  2. Hi! My name is Christina. My husband and I are planning on teaching English abroad after we graduate in 2014. I recently have been looking into Costa Rica, and it looks wonderful. I was wondering if you had any advice for us. Was it hard for you to find jobs at the same school? Any info would be amazing. I am very happy to have found your blog. It seems like no one understands why we would want to “up and leave everything,” but we want the adventure. It it so nice to see another married couple do this!


    1. Hi Christina – So glad you found our blog. I wouldn’t say it was hard for us because there are plenty of jobs out there; however, I think we were extremely fortunate to find such a good school that has been such a good fit for us. We weren’t interested in teaching English through TOEFL or any similar companies, so we just looked at accredited international schools. The US State Dept has a good list on their website. Most schools like ours prefer at least two years teaching experience, while you can get a job teaching English with very little or no experience at all. I know there are several placement/recruitment agencies that will help you find a job (for a fee), but we didn’t use one. Our strategy was simply to send as many applications and resumes out as we could. The whole process just took a lot of luck and a whole lot of faith, but we couldn’t be happier. If I can answer any more questions, just let me know. After three months I’m not expert on Costa Rica or teaching abroad, but I’d be glad to let you know what we’ve experienced.


      1. Thanks for your reply! I think we may even plan a trip to check out Costa Rica this May, hopefully it’s as amazing as it looks! I look forward to reading more of your posts.


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