ON LANGUAGE AND TIME

CR“Although ‘now’ and ‘in a little while’ have very different meanings in English, here they can be expressed with the same word: ahora. Perhaps this is the linguistic root of the mañana attitude that so frustrates gringos. If you want to express the idea of ‘right away,’ you can emphatically use the word ya! Keeping in mind that ya can also be used to mean already, later, and soon. Eskimos have 26 different words for snow. Latin Americans have the same words for many different time concepts, perhaps because time is not of such vital importance to their existence.”
The New Key to Costa Rica

I knew before arriving here that Costa Rica has universal health care and no military. But I didn’t know that those things came hand in hand in their case. Having been meeting with public health officials who have worked in or around the government (the leadership) for decades, I have since realized what courage of new thought the leaders of Costa Rica possessed in 1948. In the aftermath of their bloody civil war, a revolution, they recognized that their military was harming their citizens, and they made the brave and outrageous decision to no longer have a military. In the event they needed military might, they would need to turn to friends. I don’t believe that has happened yet. Then they built their society on principals of human rights for all. Costa Rica is currently 1/4 immigrants, and most immigrants become citizens very quickly, even when many are transient. There are social ills that plague Costa Rica, as there are everywhere. But their approach to their difficulties is that life/work/health/peace is ever a destination, you have never arrived, and you face the changing world and society with steadfast commitment to principles of human rights- delivered in equity and universal.

You can feel and experience Costa Rican’s tranquilo attitude. Pura Vida is a common expression, meaning pure life, but used as a reminder that plans don’t go according to plan and so be it. I’ve seen more play, and laughter, and relaxed conversation here, from people who work very hard everyday to make the public health care system work for diverse segments of populations in diverse geographic areas. Manana is not a word of procrastination, its just another day.

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