I am back in the city of Turrialba near my country house after traveling .I prefer staying in the city most of the time. This morning I woke to dynamite being exploded in front of my hotel at 0430.It continued with horrific booms one after another. I thought it was some punks in the hotel so went looking for them and to report them to the security guard. I told him bad hombres were throwing bombs and to call the police. He kept pointing to the park and saying parque bomba. I wanted him to call the police but turns out they were in on it as 40 mins later at 0510 and entire parade of over a hundred people went by making a huge racket. Today is the 4th of July for Costa Rica and the streets are filled all day with celebrations. (see picture) I just discovered they sell no beer on this day even in bars. Boy was I disappointed. Are they trying to make people have delerium tremors or something.
I thought I would blog on how dangerous it is down here.
The question people have asked many times is how safe is it in Costa Rica? or Central America for that matter. What they really are talking about is crime.They wonder if people are getting mugged,robbed ,raped and killed up the ying yang down here. My short answer is that it is safe here in terms of violent crime provided one takes common sense precautions but that most people do not have a correct risk management mindset and over estimate the danger from crime and underestimate the danger from all other risks.
The other day Costa Rica played the United States in soccer.It was a grudge rematch because in the previous game there was some snow on the ground ,well ok alot of snow and Costa Rica was mad that they were forced to play in a snow covered field and they lost. So my friend Bill and I were in a bar which filled up with extremely passionate people who were very emotional about this game. In fact the entire city of Turrialba was focused on it. Bill said that if Cost Rica loses the game that we as Americans would not be safe and that we should definitely leave and go home before the end of the game.I disagreed because Tico’s in general are not bad asses. They dont work out with weights,they are not a violent bunch of people. Well Costa Rica started winning and Bill was cheering his ass off. I would just shake my head when they scored.The whole place was watching us. I said to Bill "Are you really cheering for Costa Rica? He said "NO" I said "Self preservation?" He nodded "yes" The toughest guy in the bar bought us drinks and said he would NOT hate us even if we win. We left soon thereafter as Bill was paranoid about being flash mobbed. As soon as we were on the street a drugged crazed looking dangerous thug (which is very unusual for Turrialba) approached us and asked Bill for a thousand colones (about $2). Bill told him he wasn’t a bank and this guy proceeded to harass us for money for a full minute more. I was much more concerned for our safety from that guy then from being flash mobbed by soccer fans.So this is an example of the opposite of my theory being true where the danger of a violent crime appears greater then one of many other dangers (flash mob) All in all there are dangers that most people don’t consider but which are much more likely then getting attacked by criminals. Things like getting sick and going to a hospital now that could be a nightmare of misdiagnosis and pain and suffering which happened to Bill when he got a very nasty disease you get from rat poop , or getting hit by a car attempting to cross the street, flying up in the air as your spine makes crunchy noises or losing your passport or having one of your two debit cards sucked up by an ATM machine that then goes blank .Then there is the risk of living 6 miles from a Volcano or being bitten by a spider or a snake. Hell ,getting bit by a dog is a very real possibility here ,
People thought I was crazy for renting a house on the worst street in Puerto Viejo and in hindsight it was a mistake as those crackheads were so damn loud and honestly that town was the only place I have felt real fear down here.One morning the second day their, it was about 6am and I was alone on the main street looking for a place to get a cup of coffee with no one around for over 50 yards. Two young guys were on the opposite side of the street and one guy up ahead on my side of the street and this guy about 20 years old signals to the other two as if to say "Look guys it’s PAYDAY GRINGO let’s get him." This made me paranoid so I just stopped and said a word I think it was Hola (hello) and just stared at him. I could not outrun these guys if they wanted to catch me so I became angry at myself for being in this situation with a small backpack with a laptop, cellphone and lots of money in my pocket so I decided that no matter what happened I was definitely going to hurt the punk who signaled the other ones. Well it turns out I passed and nothing happened. Evey day I passed crackheads and many people asked me for money but no serious crime. Where I played poker they would not let us play after 830pm because they feared an armed intrusion due to the fact that the store across the street had been robbed recently. Also the British woman who was my card dealer, who I like, told of when she was dealing at a crowded restaurant in town on the second floor and armed men robbed the poker game. Turns out that the robbers had been playing earlier and lost alot of money and were coming back for it with masks on. Back then the police did not respond in a timely manner. She also told me of being robbed the first day she arrived in San Jose by someone who yanked her bag off of her and ran, so there is crime but I felt safe in San Jose even at night. Bocas Panama was definitely safer then Puerto Viejo and has good police presence and much less pot is smoked openly. Bottom line I am more concerned about getting diarrhea or dengue fever then getting robbed but if you come down and are worried just take logical precautions such as don’t go in a cab with a driver you dont trust,have the hotel or trusted source get a cab for you. Never walk in dark empty streets or the beach at night. Don’t wear flashy jewelry. Walk boldly and alertly and look at everyone so that they know you would recognise them. Have an escape plan. Have a weapon. Here I often carry an umbrella in my left hand in a closed position 8 inches long. I can use the end of this to pommel a thug into submission. I also usually had a walking stick while walking on the secluded beach or on my dark street. You can do alot with a walking stick including playing wack a mole with a crackhead. Believe me I daydream about this stuff all day long. When I think about it I was in much more danger at my nurse job in Bradenton Fl at the mental hospital then I ever was here.I was seriously injured 6 times requiring therapy in 5 of them and even last week 5 staff were injured including 3 female nurses who were punched by strong older boys while trying to break up fights. I believe if you are driving on a highway every day you are probably at more risk of being hurt then you would be here in Costa Rica. In fact just living in the USA is dangerous to your health in ways that don’t exist here.No country is going to nuke Costa Rica but when we attack Syria you may be in danger of being nuked due to WW3.
so come on down you will be fine and safe.
ps below is a picture of a stray dog I am fond of and am trying to find a home for.