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(506) 223-1327          Published Monday, May 15, 2006, in Vol. 6, No. 95        E-mail us    
Jo Stuart
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Language said to be key
Individual strategies help expats adapt here

By Ambika Chawla
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Starting life in a new country brings both excitement as well as new stresses. Definitely one of the most marked stresses that one faces is learning to adapt to an entirely different cultural environment: a distinct language, food, sense of humour and surroundings.

The Association of Residents of Costa Rica estimates that approximately 40 percent of foreigners who come to settle in Costa Rica eventually return to their home country because they cannot adapt culturally. Individuals develop their own coping strategies in order to adapt to a new culture. While some develop strategies which allow them to effectively adapt, others have a more difficult time and eventually return to their home country because they cannot successfully adjust.

Eric Liljenstolpe, director of the Global Solutions Group in Costa Rica, trains business executives on culture shock in order to help them adjust to life in Costa Rica. In his view, while different cultures bring with them different challenges, there are some key coping strategies which can help foreigners successfully adjust to life in a new culture. These include: Learn the new culture; be prepared and proactive; learn your own culture; and learn about yourself.

Learn the new culture:

According to Ms. Patricia Tincher, a resident of Ciudad Colón, in order to adjust to life in Costa Rica “You have to be able to step outside of yourself and learn about the culture.”

Lijenstolpe agrees and believes that people who study and make efforts to learn about Costa Rica are better prepared and are most successful at cultural adjustment. He believes that learning the language is also key for successful adaptation: “If you don't know the language, you won't adapt.”

In order to gain a greater understanding of the cultural mores and values of a new country, one can do research through books, the Internet or asking questions to people in your new country.

Ryan Piercy, director of the Association of Residents of Costa Rica advises that before arriving to Costa Rica people should “Read — history, books, Web sites, research.”

Be proactive:

Piercy also points out the importance of networking with others. “Make new Costa Rican friends and join extracurricular activities.”  Being proactive is what it sounds like: Take action to know the new country. However, he also warns that “while networking with other expats is important, some groups are bad because all they do is complain about Costa Rica.”

Information about extracurricular groups and associations active in Costa Rica can be found on A.M. Costa Rica's news and calendar sections and magazines for expats.

Some books and resources

Some suggested reading for those wishing to understand Costa Rican culture:

The Ticos: Culture and Social Change in Costa Rica by Mavis Hiltunen Biesanz, Richard Biesanz, Karen Zubris Biesanz. 1998.

American Cultural Patterns: A Cross Cultural Perspective by Edward C. Stewart, Milton J. Bennett. 1991.

Culture Shock! Costa Rica by Claire Wallerstein. 2003.

And don't forget A.M. Costa Rica, Monday through Friday.

Learn one's own culture:

Learn one's own culture implies reflection and a deeper understanding of the baggage
which one brings to another country. According to Liljenstolpe, “we often believe that our own culture is better. This belief is embedded in our language, like when we use words such as 'developing' and 'developed' to describe cultures.” By learning and reflecting upon one's own culture, we in turn become more understanding of our attitudes and biases towards other cultures. This in turn can allow us to develop attitudes of tolerance and acceptance towards cultures different than our own, he said.

Learn about yourself:

“It is important for those planning to come to Costa Rica to ask themselves: `Why do I want to come here? What is my motivation?' and really think that through,” said Mrs. Mariana Pringle, a school teacher who has lived in Costa Rica for eight years.

Gaining greater self-knowledge and awareness is important for developing flexibility and channeling emotions associated with culture shock, such as anger, depression, loneliness, and feelings of loss of identity. Liljenstolpe said that he believes that expats who have a clear understanding of why they want to settle in Costa Rica and what their role is in their host country have a much easier time dealing with the challenges they face living in a different culture.

Culture shock for expats in Costa Rica often arrives unexpected because on the surface, life here seems very much like the culture in the United States. However,  those who have lived here for an extended time period know that Costa Rican culture is different than the culture back home.

One of the mistakes which many expats make is to invest in real estate shortly upon arrival, only to find out that they do not want to stay. Piercy advises newcomers to “put a padlock on your checkbook for six months. Give yourself a chance to live here and get to know the culture.”

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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, May 15, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 95

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Spanish navy sailing ship
visits Limón this week

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The four-masted training ship of the Spanish navy, the "Juan Sebastián de Elcano," will be putting into Limón Tuesday on its 77th instructional trip.

The ship is named after the Spanish sailor Juan Sebastián de Elcano who traveled with Magellan and took over command when Magellan was killed by natives in the Philippines. He is the first European to circumnavigate the globe.

The instructional boat was constructed in 1927 and has traveled 1.5 million miles, said the embassy. Future officers serve on the boat for six months.

Among those who served are Spanish king Juan Carlos and his son Felipe, the prince of Asturias, said the embassy.

The sailing ship visited Limón in 1974 and stopped at Puntarenas in 1983, according to the Spanish Embassy here.

The ship will be in port until May 21 and visitors may board from Wednesday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. to 5 p.m., the embassy said.

Documentary crew seeks
Costa Ricans in New Jersey

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

While many Costa Ricans are headed to Germany for the World Cup soccer championships next month, a filming crew will be headed to New Jersey to document the Ticos living there.

The film company is Latica de Película, which is seeking to round out its documentary "Mal del Patria."

The documentary seeks to explore the elements of Costa Rican identity present among those who have migrated to the United States, the company said. They are principally interested in migrants from the Pérez Zeledón and Los Santos areas.

The inaugural game between the Costa Rican national team and that of Germany is likely to bring many Costa Ricans there together to cheer, the company said.

Before they go, the documentary crew said they would like to talk to the families of migrants who still live here. They gave this e-mail address: laticadepelicula.produccion@gmail.com

A recent estimate said there were about 50,000 to 80,000 immigrants from Costa Rica in the United States and about 10,000 to 25,000 are undocumented.

Costa Rican mailing fees
have been increased

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Costa Rican postal service has raised mailing rates.

A typical letter of from 21 to 100 grams mailed to a Costa Rican address used to cost 130 colons. Now the rate is 175 colons.

A letter weighing from 51 to 100 grams mailed priority to a U.S. or Canadian address used to cost 315 colons. Now the cost is 410. The same letter to Europe that had cost 380 colons will now cost 495.

The rate increases were approved by the Autoridad Reguladora de los Servicios Públicos.

Similar increases have been made in all the Correo de Costa Rica services. The increases were published in the La Gaceta official newspaper Friday.

Trial starts today in case
of murdered journalist

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Six men will go to court today facing murder and conspiracy charges in the death of journalist Ivannia Mora Rodríguez.

One of the six is her former employer.

Two men on a motorcycle gunned down Ms. Mora, 33, while she sat behind the wheel of her vehicle at a traffic light in Curridabat two days before Christmas 2003.

The trial will be in the Tribunal de Juicio de Goicoechea, and the Poder Judicial estimates that 96 witnesses will be called.

One of the men on trial is Eugenio Millot, the former colleague of the murdered economic journalist. Millot became a suspect because Ms. Mora had recently left his Red Castle Publishing group and began working at a competing magazine. Millot was detained a few days after the murder when he was boarding a plane for his native Uruguay.

Two years ago agents detailed four Colombians. They have been identified by their last names of Serna, Cortés, López and Nieves. A man identified by the last name of Martínez also has been detained and will stand trial.

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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, May 15, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 95

Whale shark has its day with Junta lottery ticket
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Environmentalists say they are happy that Costa Rica lottery officials put a whale shark on the tickets that were sold last week.

The illustration shows a whale shark and a scuba diver. The reverse includes a paragraph about the endangered fish, Rhincodon typus, including the fact that such fish, the largest in the world, are visitors to the Isla de Cocos, a national park in the Pacific.

The whale shark measures up to 15 meters (about 50 feet) and weighs up to 10 tons. Despite its bulk the fish feeds on plankton.

The  Programa Restauración de Tortugas Marinas and the U.S. Institute for Shark Research will be tracking the big creatures via satellite around Isla de Cocos, Drake Bay and the entire Osa Peninsula, said a release from the turtle program. The idea is to learn more about whale shark migration, which may be 12,000 kilometers (about 7,500 miles).

The organization, Vida Marina of Costa Rica and the British Peoples Trust for Endangered Species are trying to put together a network to keep track of all the whale sharks in the nearby Pacific. They said they are looking for scuba volunteers.

The giant fish is not without political implications. Taiwan still allows the fishing for the creatures even though the whale shark is one of three species of shark protected internationally, the turtle program said.

The lottery is run by the Junta de Proteccion Social de San José and funds go to a number of organizations and causes. The winning number Sunday night was 067 in series 612.

Folk medicine works its way into common speech
Más eficiente que cogollito de palo seco

“Works better then a tea of cogollito de palo seco.” To understand this dicho you need to know that in Costa Rica many people still use home remedies that have been passed down for generations. Most of these remedies originated with the indigenous people who were living in the isthmus when the Spanish arrived.

These indigenous medicines often come from plants, either the flower, or the seed, or the root, and from these a tea or potion is usually prepared that is believed to cure your headache, or your heart trouble, or your lumbago, the common cold, or what have you.

In any case, cogollito is the first sprout of new leaves that appears on a tree after the first rain following a long dry season during which the palo, or tree, has lost its leaves. You may notice many short trees along the road to Jacó that are used to make fencerows. Some call those trees coyol or jocote. They lose their leaves during the dry season, but after the first rains they seem to come back to life much like trees in North America do in the springtime. It is believed that the first green of these — and many other — trees have special curative powers. So, if something is más eficiente que cogollito de palo seco, then it is very powerful medicine indeed!

My grandmother, who was an indigenous woman, was always prescribing these kinds of medicines. If you had a stomach ache, she would make you a tea of cogollito de coyol. She believed a tea made from corteza, or the bark, of the mango tree could cure diabetes. I never knew of any diabetics whom she convinced to abandon their insulin in favor of corteza de mango, but grandmother swore by her remedies like an hechicera, or sorceress.

That is, with the exception of arthritis. She could never seem to cure this malady in herself, and was always complaining of the pain it caused her.

Arthritis was the only ailment that I ever knew to send her to a “Spanish” physician. She would complain and complain for days, and I was usually the one elected to accompany her to the clinic.

Of course, as soon as we arrived at the doctor’s office, her pain would have miraculously vanished. At first this annoyed me, but then I came to realize that the mere mention of a trip to the doctor had amazing curative powers in and of itself. Whenever she began complaining about any of her manifold aches and pains all I had to do was suggest that perhaps she needed to visit the doctor in order to affect an amazing, and immediate, cure.  I began to feel like something of an hechicero myself.

way we say it

By Daniel Soto

The indigenous peoples found their remedies among the native flora of the jungles, the cloud forests, and the savannas of Costa Rica. Today, modern scientists are discovering that there are many “new” medicines to be developed from these same sources.

Much research is now being done in Costa Rica to unleash the medicinal properties of the same plants that our indigenous antecedents prized for generations for their curative powers, long before Europeans ever appeared on the scene.

Rincón de la Vieja

Though is not a dicho as such, the story of the origin of the name of one of Costa Rica’s most famous volcanos fits in rather nicely with our little discussion.

In the province of Guanacaste the volcano known today as Rincón de la Vieja.  According to legend, Curabanda, an indigenous princess, fell in love with Mixcoac, her father’s mortal enemy. When Curabande, the father of Curabanda, found out about this forbidden liaison, he became enraged and set out to capture Mixcoac in battle. When Mixcoac was finally taken prisoner, Curabande had him cast into the volcano’s fiery caldera.

Crazed with grief and sorrow, Curabanda moved to live on the mountain to be near her husband. A few months later she gave birth to a baby and, in order for her son to be closer to his father, she cast the boy into the volcano as well.

For the remainder of her life Curubanda lived near the top of the volcano. She became a very powerful sorceress, famous among the people living near the mountain for her ability to heal the sick and revive the dying. Curabanda’s hut was known as El Rincón de la Vieja, or The Old Woman’s Corner. And that is how the famous volcano near the present day city of Libera got its name.

Agents raid location they think is source of fake bills being passed here
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Agents have detained a men and confiscated 800,000 colons in fake 2,000-, 5,000- and 10,000-colon banknotes, they said.

The arrests stemmed from the capture last March 17 of two men in Atenas who were passing 300,000 in
fake money. A week earlier police arrested five persons in Zacero and confiscated 130,000 in fake bills.

Agents of the Judicial Investigating Organization made a raid Friday on a workshop on Calle 8 between avenidas 6 and 8. Also confiscated was a laser printer and paper cutters.

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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, May 15, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 95

U.S. president to give major speech tonight
Bush aide says guard at border will be in support role
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

If President George Bush decides to use the National Guard for border security duties, its role would be limited to supporting civilian border patrol personnel, National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley said in a television interview Sunday.

"It's not about militarization of the border. It's about assisting the civilian border patrol in doing their job, providing intelligence, providing support, logistics support and training and these sorts of things," he said.

Bush is scheduled to discuss immigration policy proposals in a nationally televised address tonight.

Hadley termed border security an important element of immigration reform.  The national security advisor said Bush believes the proper approach to immigration reform involves securing borders, increasing internal enforcement and establishing a temporary-worker program "so that willing employers in the United States can have access to willing workers, particularly from Mexico, and to do it in a way that is lawful."

These steps "will take some of the pressure off on the border and will allow the border patrol to focus on the things we're really worried about, which is crime and narcotics and the like," he said.

Hadley said that a temporary-worker program is not the same thing as amnesty for those who have entered the United States illegally.

Some in Washington say the illegal immigrants are criminals and border security is the only answer. Others say there is no way to deport so many people, many of whom have already put down roots in communities across the nation, and steps should be taken to give them some sort of legal status.

President Bush has been urging a middle ground. In his speech tonight he is expected to urge members of Congress to adopt a comprehensive approach that secures America's borders, while presenting illegal
immigrants already in the country with a way to remain as guest workers.

White House officials say the president has been looking at some new ideas and one is to bring in National Guard units to help with border security.
The National Guard is the only branch of the military organized on the state level.

Guard members usually serve part-time, and their traditional role has been to help their states cope with emergencies. But in recent years, Guard units have been called up for extended duty in the war on terrorism.

A few Guard members are already working to support the Border Patrol in some parts of the country, and Hadley said that support role could be expanded.

Hadley said several lawmakers are enthusiastic about the idea of deploying thousands of National Guard troops along the border with Mexico. Among them is the top Republican in the Senate, Majority Leader Bill Frist. He also appeared on television.

"I think that is the least we can do," said Frist. "Securing our borders is a federal responsibility. We need to act. We have failed miserably in the past."

But Senator Patrick Leahy, the senior Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, says he is concerned the guard is already overextended with its commitments in Iraq. He told a television interviewer more border agents should be in place, and the Guard should not be used.

Senator Leahy praised President Bush for advocating a comprehensive approach to the problem. Senate leaders say they hope to have an immigration reform bill acceptable to the White House completed in the next few weeks.

They acknowledge the most difficult part of the legislative process will still lie ahead: reconciling their version of the legislation with the tough border security bill that cleared the House of Representatives last year that makes being an illegal alien a felony.

Insulza asks for a strong commitment to fight drugs in hemisphere
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

A strengthened commitment from the governments of the Western Hemisphere is needed to fight illicit drugs and crime in the region, the Organization of American States has reiterated.

In a statement Thursday, José Miguel Insulza, the organization's secretary-general, emphasized that cooperation among all nations in the region is vital to confront the dangers of illegal drugs in the hemisphere.
Insulza said the illegal drug trade is a "regional and global enterprise supported by multiple sources, and it is imperative to join resources and tackle it with a multifaceted, regional strategy." The official spoke at the Washington headquarters during a meeting of that organization's Inter-American Drug Abuse Control Commission.

The statement comes when some officials fear that countries such as Bolivia where a coca grower was elected president might wage a less vigorous war against drugs.

Brazilian criminal gang attacks 100 police stations in Sao Paulo State
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Brazilian officials say at least 52 people have been killed, including 35 police and prison guards, during a series of attacks by an organized crime group.

Authorities blamed the gang (called First Command of the Capital) for ordering the attacks in response to the transfer of several imprisoned gang leaders to maximum security facilities.

They say gang members used machine guns, grenades and home-made bombs in 100 attacks on police
 stations and other sites across Sao Paulo State beginning Friday.  Police say they detained 16 suspected attackers and killed 14 others. Meanwhile, inmates took hostages in 36 prisons in the state to protest the prisoner transfer.

Officials said late Saturday that they had regained control of several prisons, but new disturbances were reported Sunday at 18 facilities.

Brazilian authorities say jailed gang leaders often direct gang activity, including arms and drug trafficking and prison rebellions.

Jo Stuart
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