Dear Friends,

I hope you greet this day in good spirits and good health. As I savor my coffee (you guessed, from Atenas!), I urge you (and me) to get out early and enjoy the day. There are lots of activities in San Jose (Transitarte/ which promise to entertain and delight us as they do every year. Take advantage of these summer surprises.

This past week has been a busy one for our nation’s firefighters. We have all read with sadness about the fire at Cerro Chirripó. Hundreds of volunteers have joined the effort but the fire greedily consumes hectares of land, helped by the heavy winds and scarce resources. Closer to home, part of the Roca Verde community caught fire last week which left a dark scar that was visible from the streets of our town. No one knows for certain how these fires got started. Vandalism is suspected in the first and ‘routine’ burning of garbage left unattended might have resulted in the second. We will never know for sure. In this ‘happiest’ country, we refuse to face any ugly truth directly for long.

My parents were always civic-minded individuals, prompting me to become a real part of any community in which I reside. I was always unrealistic about Costa Rica. My mother invariably tried to convince me that there were also disadvantages here that had nothing to do with the government’s budget or leaders. I could not agree with her, ever. I was filled with enthusiasm and energy every time I stepped off the airplane, even more so when I had my two young children in tow! Today, when my neighbors burn routinely; refuse to recycle; erect unsightly structures; don’t control their pets; and forget to practice common courtesy, I remind myself that roses have thorns*, but I confess I become very disappointed.

It has been futile for me to attempt to put into words exactly what it was about Costa Rica that I missed so much while I was growing up in New York. I have always believed that it was the absence of our extended family. The craving for grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins was so strong in me that I became very insistent that our children grow up surrounded by theirs. I am rewarded for my proactive efforts in this area, each time our children share news of their cousins with me. I am convinced that having an extended family nearby has allowed our children to blossom in every respect, something I applaud wholeheartedly and which makes me happy.

We have been here almost thirteen years. Although some cultural aspects have been difficult for me to reconcile myself to (routine burning being at the top of the list), I accept that gray clouds are also part of the landscape.* Costa Rica (and Atenas) continues to wrap its tentacles around my heart and I will continue to work so that others will initiate or renew their commitment to protect this tiny paradise from the biggest danger of all: apathy. In other words, I am NOT throwing in the towel! Won’t you join me?

Have a wonderful day and a great week, Marietta

* Fuiste Tu/Ricardo Arjona

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