Dear Friends,

It snowed last night in New York where it is also cold and messy. I am happy to be here, even if the sun is not up yet and we might still get a little rain! Let’s be thankful for our blessings as we go out and move our bodies for health and relaxation, appreciating the beauty that surrounds us each day, even with rain.

The county of Atenas is one of nine counties belonging to the Federation of Municipalities of Alajuela (FEDOMA). The other counties are: Palmares, Sarchi, Zarcero, Grecia, Naranjo, Alajuela, San Ramon, and Poas) Last week, three of us (from CATUCA) spent two days at a workshop sponsored by the ICT for regional Chambers of Tourism and Commerce. The workshop was an excellent, enlightening and entertaining undertaking for which we were awarded a certificate of completion and a colorful manual expanding the subject matter on which we were instructed. It is my intention not to have this manual become a receptacle for dust but rather a useful guide that I will refer to and work with often.

The participants from the tourism committees and chambers of the other counties were a diverse and amusing group of professionals. They (and we) are interested in making their county a destination on the itinerary of future visitors to the country. We spent many hours listening to lectures and working on different individual and group activities in order to reinforce the material which was being presented to us. As the hours progressed, we became acquainted with our ‘classmates’ and a rapport was established with our teachers. I was often surprised by comments and behaviors coming from some members of the group, but I did my best to blame my reaction on my strict upbringing and employment history, rather than on a deficiency on their part.

One comment stands out clearly, however, and continues to perplex me. Our lecturer was reviewing basic social skills. She lamented the harsh reality that many people today have forgotten their manners. She mentioned universal courtesies that are in severe decline in our country (happily, not so much in Atenas!): greeting someone or responding to a greeting; asking for something politely; saying thank you; waiting your turn on line; being punctual; acknowledging and responding to an invitation or an email; and my favorite: following through with something you promised. At this point, a participant countered that we are entitled to our idiosyncrasies, that we shouldn’t have to change to meet a tourist’s expectation. I confess I didn’t hear what the lecturer responded for I was engrossed in my analysis of this statement.

It is difficult for me to believe that a participant in a seminar directed to the tourism sector would ignore expert advice and still feel entitled to receive an increasing number of visitors each year just because the county is mentioned in travel books. I am aghast by this arrogance and hope that it is not contagious! Atenas is still my choice. It stands apart from other counties in ways that are difficult to record but easy to experience. The potential to improve the offering we make to tourists and residents alike is within our reach. I am proud to know many people in our town who are committed and have persevered patiently year after year to bring about change. They volunteer and follow through without making a show of their participation. They are admirable and worthy of following, something I endeavor to do when I can. How about you?

Have a wonderful day and a terrific week, Marietta

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