Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Container Homes in Costa Rica

With the mortgage crisis in the USA, the collapse of Bear Stearns and Lehman Brothers, and a runaway consumer culture…. It is time once again to appreciate that “small is beautiful,” simplicity is a virtue, and living within or below one’s means helps keep life peaceful.

Costa Ricans tend to live in much smaller spaces with many generations together. You don't see baby sitters for kids or senior living for old folks, mostly just families sticking together and taking care of each other. Being alone for long periods of time or living alone is not the ideal.

Last month, The New York Times published an article about small homes gaining popularity in the USA. ("The Next Little Thing")The age of the McMansion requires a lot of $$$$ for heat or air conditioning, maintenance, taxes, mortgage etc. They interviewed some people who had achieved this American Dream and now have simpler aspirations. One of the consequences of having a large home is the isolation in a family as people spend a lot of time in their own spaces with their high tech toys.

My friend Jimmy has an interesting new project that addresses the “small is beautiful” concept. He has taken shipping containers, recycled them and retrofitted the inside as a beautiful, functional home with all the necessary amenities. Jimmy’s container homes have a practical aspect in Costa Rica where many foreigners buy land without homes. It often takes a long time before building and of course you need a place to live before and during construction. Also, there is a lot to learn about your land in a foreign country before you build that can avoid big expensive mistakes later.

Jimmy was my first ex-pat friend in San Ramon and really helped me. When I didn’t speak a word of Spanish and didn’t know the lay of the land, his friendship meant a lot to this stranger in a strange land. We went every weekend to different beaches and he opened his home to me as a place to hang out. We have both seen lots of foreigners come with big dreams yet return to their country of origin when things became tough. We have helped each other over and over to find the humor in situations that could make one crazy and frustrated. Sometimes we let each other rant and rave and sometimes we party until we forget what got us stressed.

To learn more about Jimmy’s container homes look at the property page on our website. (

Monday, September 15, 2008

Costa Rica Independence Day - September 15

Today is Costa Rica Independence Day, a festive colorful celebration. San Ramon is rocking with parades, costumes, music and general festivities. On this day in 1821 Costa Rica declared it’s independence from Spain. It is a treat to live in a country that has used it’s independence to create a vibrant democracy with no military, national health care, and education for all. It is neither dominated by a super power nor dominating events in other parts of the world. Pura Vida!

The annual celebration began on Sunday night with a children’s parade. The kids dress up in adorable traditional dress and carry homemade candle lanterns throughout the town. This replicates the scene in 1821 of people walking with lanterns from the Central American capitol in Guatemala to spread the word to Costa Rica and beyond of the declared independence from Spain.

On Monday, there is a larger parade presented by the students to amplify the celebration. The whole town is in the streets which is a beautiful multigenerational scene. I’m sure the nighttime celebration will include lots of drinking, dancing, flirting and more. Ticos know how to party.

Costa Rica has always felt like a country with a lot of personal freedom compared to the USA. Policemen are my friends here whereas they seem more aggressive in the USA. The simple act of drinking a beer in the streets is totally natural here, but would get me arrested in my place of birth. As long as you’re not violent, pretty much anything goes here in terms of personal expression.

I feel very lucky to live in San Ramon, Costa Rica. After 8 years of Bush, it’s hard not to question the direction of the US government both at home and around the world. To go from being dominated to dominating others seems like a weird way to use power.

I wish everyone in the world felt the level of freedom ringing out in Costa Rica today.