Business in “Pura Vida-Ville”: Laying the Foundation

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Don’t ever let anyone tell you moving to a foreign country is easy…its not! All of our cargo was held up in customs for ten days, every box gone through, and god knows how many things went missing. Once it was all said and done, we got to our destination and our dream home – a 650 square foot box that was a mere 100 feet from the beach in Garza. With the lease paid three months in advance, brooms and paint brushes in hand, we were ready to make the market/deli our own.

Richard had closed the market for some six months or so prior, so once we arrived there were cob webs and a pungent moldy odor. A friendly bat who would not vacate, bugs, and things I’m not sure what the hell they were…littered the place. A huge undertaking in retrospect, but we were “living the dream” so the countless hours of cleaning, scrubbing, painting, building, and fixing were okay as we were preparing for the new “high season.” We had visions of customers coming through town in droves just to buy our custom made sandwiches and goodies.

To give you an idea of how far off of the “grid” we were at that time, the town of Garza had no telephone lines except for one at the main “soda” (Tico word for local restaurant), which typically had a line that would last for hours. There were no computers, WiFi, cable TV, doctors, banks, or ATM’s…I think you get the picture. We were on our own and off the beaten path for sure. Plus, we were so blond we stood out like a sore thumb in that town. We were like the side show attraction to all the locals…literally!

We certainly had the right idea for our market/deli. We had found an amazing butcher/cheese vendor in San Jose with prime meats that were not available in Garza or anywhere in that vicinity. You have to understand that some of the basic foods we take for granted like Lay’s Potato Chips, Snickers, real butter etc…were not only unavailable in our town, but not available anywhere in Costa Rica except select places in San Jose (5 hours inland). Marsi and I would go to San Jose and buy $1500 to $3000 or more worth of “food” and pack our little cracker jack truck we bought for a song and a dance and head on to Garza like traveling hillbillies.

We were the talk of the town…from the local people who were stupefied we would live in that market, to the ex-pats and people who were wanted on Interpol (at least it felt that way!) that lived in the surrounding areas. People would come in just to buy a Snickers bar and just a Snickers bar only. Most all of the ex-pats were on Social Security and had just enough money to buy a Snickers or a bag of REAL potato chips. It was kind of comical and sad all at the same time.

High season came and it was like someone turned on a light switch…we were kicking some butt. We had business rolling in and we were on top of the world. At this time, I contacted my brother Tyler who lived back home in Hawaii and told him to come check out Costa Rica and see what we were doing…surfing everyday and living a simple relaxed life. Tyler was there within a couple of weeks, surfboard in hand and a smile on his face.

Tyler quickly fell in love with the people, the country, the good surf, and most of all, the pura vida spirit, just as I had. He was sold that this was the place for him to be. Amazingly so that he went back to Hawaii, gathered all his stuff together, and moved back within a month! He had found some work with a gringo who had a HUGE farm a few miles south who needed a farm hand/gardener to help keep the over 500 acres in check. Just as a side note, this property is now owned by Mel Gibson.

Things were good, Tyler was working and our mini market/deli was doing okay…sustaining life for us there. Then, like a light switch can be turned on, it can also be turned off…the high season of tourists had just dried up as quickly as they had came. Marsi and I were NOT prepared for that nor had we been enlightened by Richard in advance that the slow season comes quickly and brutally. Perhaps that is why he and his wife wanted out, there were 4 months of “glory” and then nada…zip…zilch.

As the days turned into weeks of no business other than selling the basic staples of rice, beans, manteca, and Guaro to the local people, which of course we didn’t mark up as we thought that was not the right thing to do and certainly not a gesture of good will for letting us chill in their town. Marsi and I found ourselves eating our food, drinking our liquor to the point where we basically had nothing left accept each other and the grim reality that we had lost EVERYTHING in less than a year.

The only option we had was to go “home” to California and try to re-start our lives again. I didn’t want this to be my reality and I can tell you that Marsi and I drank ourselves into a stupor numerous times trying to drown out the sorrow (and embarrassment too) of having to go home like dogs with their tails between their legs. We had failed. I must say that we had so many unbelievable life experiences during that year that certainly will never be forgotten. Those experiences and memories I knew could never be taken away from us.

Once reality set in and there was nothing we could do about it, a small sense of peace came to me knowing that my brother Tyler was there and no way shape or form moving back to the states. He was there come hell or high water. There was a sense of purpose I felt, even though it wasn’t my purpose, I still felt like “well cool, at least I introduced this to my bro and he will keep the dream alive.” It was the best (and only) consolation prize I had. Little did I know that it was going to play a HUGE part later in my life.

Packed with what little we had left, sitting in the airport staring at my immediate future of having to live at my father in laws house (don’t get me wrong he is a super cool cat!) with no job, no money, and no spine…well let’s just say I’ve had better thoughts pore through my mind. My wife turns to me (and I will NEVER forget the look on her face – “should I tell him?” Yes…no…yes…) and then she tells me “baby, I’m pregnant.” My immediate reaction, “F me! Can it get any worse? Is this a sick joke?” This was all in my head of course as I smiled with great joy and wonder giving Marsi a bear hug of congratulatory size.

Wow talk about lighting a fire under my ass! Needless to say the plane ride home was a blur as my head spun from all that had just transpired within weeks. My life, my dream…turned upside down by the powers that be. Sick twisted humor.