The C Word

It’s no use. As I go about daily life, I can’t help comparing Costa Rica with China.  I think it’s the general ubiquitousness of rice and infuriating bureaucracy that does it.

I feel a Top Five list coming on..

China versus Costa Rica: The similarities.

1. On getting things done: In China speak:  ‘The man with the key is not here’.  In Costa Rica speak: the man went on holiday, then the man’s phone was not working; then, the man’s computer lost the information; then, it appears the man did not fill in a form correctly. Twice. Then, form was rejected by another man in The Department of Other Important Affairs, Obfuscation and Delay; then, the man failed to return the irate calls of the woman for a month. 3 months later, after about 20 more irate calls and 5 more visits in person to the General Manager, the setting up of a bank account was miraculously achieved. The man still miraculously works there.  Thanks HSBC.

2. On getting directions. Nobody wants to let on they don’t know the way, and want to send you off happy, even if in the completely wrong direction. In China: ask three people, get three different responses. Ask for a fourth, and get a match with one of the previous three.  In Costa Rica: ask 6 people and maybe get a match.  Or maybe not.

3. On getting streetwise.  Whisky, karaoke and greasy lumps of pork are usually good social lubricants if you want to get to know people.

4. On giving opinions.  Tell ”em what they want to hear! Gets them off your back and avoids unnecessary confrontation by being too honest. Irate and frustrated foreigners are regarded with raised eyebrows, quiet consternation, and a look that says ‘you can rant all you want, but this is my country and I can still screw you if you annoy me too much.’ (see item 1)

5. On managing state affairs: why make just one department or ministry responsible when you can involve 22 others?  Perfectly reasonable way to spread the responsibility so far and wide that no-one in fact ends up making any decisions.

China versus Costa Rica: The Differences

1.  The small question of 1.3 billion versus 4 million people. And the equally small matter of a 2.2 million strong versus 0-strong army.

2. China eats monkeys (or would if there were any left). Costa Rica builds bridges for them.

3. Costa Rica is immensely proud of its democratic history.  China is immensely proud of its undemocratic history.

4. Costa Rica takes 15 years and 3 governments to build a highway. China takes 15 days and one government to build a highway.

5. Costa Rican men look passably good in lycra. Chinese men do not.

Feeling better now.

In fact, on reflection, particularly of the top 5 differences, I think it would do both countries a power of good to swap cultures and institutions for a few months. I don’t think it will make much difference to Chinese men and lycra, but we might get a fighting chance of getting roads paved over here, and monkeys might get a fighting chance of survival over there..

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4 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Al on June 17, 2011 at 3:48 am

    Love this. You are living your life, girl.

    Reply

  2. Posted by Anne Waddington on June 20, 2011 at 2:28 am

    DearLiza
    Have failed miserably to be in touch, but thoroughly enjoying your blog………..we have both made a change! My touring etc has stopped and the nappies are a plenty, it’s all going swimmingly well and i have a v easy baby…………thank God!!!! Loads of love and keep on writing. Hope all is going well.
    Anne x

    Reply

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