A little bit of nothing

We planned to visit the national park Wednesday but Ray, who has a sinus infection, wasn't up to it so we cancelled our guide and went to a local cafe instead. It was raining lightly when we left the house but before we reached the cafe, a few blocks away, someone opened a trap door in the sky and water poured out. It's a good thing we like this cafe because we were essentially trapped there for the next two hours. (And how happy we were that we weren't in the park searching for sloths and iguanas and monkeys and alligators through the thick veil of rain.) The Cafe Milagros is open to the road on one side so we had an unobstructed view of traffic jams and soaked pedestrians, who more often than not dodged inside for shelter. Eventually we couldn't stand the inactivity so we ran down to the nearest bus stop and took the next bus—stuffed with dripping passengers—home.

The cleaning woman had come and gone in our absence and collected her fee of $5 for two hours work. The average Costa Rican worker earns about $2 an hour. The per capital GDP has held steady for several years at about $11,000. About 64 percent of people find work in the service industry. (If this is sounding uncomfortably familiar think CAFTA.) We're told that about 50 percent* of incomes go toward taxes but I can find no confirmation in the CIA Fact Book.

A big share of those taxes go to a national heath care system which is said to be excellent and is one reason so many U.S. retirees like living here. But the low wages (and high prices) mean people must search for additional income, a second or third job, or maybe by selling goods door to door. The woman down the street opens her garage each day to earn money selling pineapples and sometimes mangos. And this morning a young man carrying a new five-shelf bookcase came by and tried to sell it. "I have rugs too," he said, but we needed neither rugs nor bookcase. I hope he didn't have to carry it far.

Meanwhile my cold has returned with a vengeance (maybe getting drenched wasn't such a good idea) so we're both taking meds and praying for the return of the sun and dryer days. Our landlord assures us this is the case but I'm not holding my breath. On the other hand, the monkeys came through yesterday and put on an hour-long show, which always lifts our mood. Life is a little boring at the moment, but the dry season is bound to arrive soon and with good health and a chance to explore more of Costa Rica. Maybe we'll even make it to the park



*I later learned this is incorrect. The current tax is 31 percent. Twenty-two percent is paid by the employer and nine percent by the employee. Proof of employment, which comes with each paycheck, is what makes one eligible for healthcare and other benefits. One paycheck covers all family members.
Mea culpa.