Swimming, the Most Important Sport to Learn

This topic may seem way off base for a real estate blog, but our little town has just been shocked and saddened by a tragedy this week in which two adolescents drowned in a local waterfall.  My own children are the same ages and we are all in mourning for the loss of these young lives. 

This tragedy occurred in a waterfall that we swim in frequently.  However, I know what the reaction will be…close off the waterfall; don’t let your children near the rivers, and more.  The opposite needs to be happening; we need to make sure that every person and every child knows how to swim and how to swim well.  I have seen and heard so many tragedies with water over time, boat wrecks, rip currents, swimming pool accidents, tsunamis.  Now, I am not saying that even the best swimmer could overcome some of these acts of Mother Nature (including this one) and there are always many more factors to consider such as being hit directly on the head by objects or diving into rocks, but I am always saddened when in light of such events, one of the main things I hear is, “They didn’t know how to swim.” 

In many cultures, even ones based directly next to the sea, it is not common for people to know how to swim.  In Costa Rica, this is also the case, and yet we see people playing in the ocean who don’t know how to swim.  I have been told, “We don’t go too deep. We stay at the edge.”  What if a wave comes and pulls you further out?  What if the boat you are on goes down and you can’t get to a life vest?  Swimming is the only sport that if you don’t learn it, you could die. 

We must make an effort to get every child in swimming lessons.  In addition, it is important to teach the strength of nature.  Don’t swim in rip currents, know how to identify them, but also know how to get out of them.  Know the strength of a waterfall and which ones are fine to play under as if you were in a tropical movie and which ones are just too strong for the human body. 

I am not in any way placing blame or judging anyone in this current tragedy, but with every tragedy, we have to learn for the future.  What do we take from this?  Do we let their lives be in vain?  Do we follow our gut reaction and just close off swimming pools and all access to rivers?  My suggestion is to teach every child how to swim from the very earliest moment and also teach them to recognize danger.  Children will be interested in water.  Accidents happen. 

Giving our children the skills to at least try to avoid or survive these accidents are vital.  Sponsor a child in swimming lessons.  Our little town of Atenas, with the “Best Climate in the World” should be producing Olympic swimmers as we can swim outside, year-round.  There are lessons from Wednesday to Saturday in all hours at the local swimming pool (Balneario El Cerro) for little ones up to adults.  It’s great exercise and it can save lives.  Learn to swim, teach young ones to swim, and sponsor others in swimming lessons.  Have certifications in lifesaving techniques.  It might not have prevented this current tragedy, but it can prevent others in the future.  I plead with you all, in every town and every country, to recognize the importance of water safety and teaching swimming to our children. 

Side note:  Although I focused on swimming for children, it is never too late to learn. You never know when it could save your life or the lives of others. 

Tina Newton is half owner of Tristan & Newton Real Estate and has lived in Atenas for 17 years.   Check out their Facebook page and “like” it for more information or see the website for their listings.  Feel free to contact her for any questions about living in Costa Rica.


Get Involved

No matter where you live or how you live, the more you get involved in your community, the more connected you will feel, the better you will feel about yourself, and just think of how much can actually be accomplished.

In Atenas, we are very lucky to have a lot of people who get involved and volunteer to help.  Whether you want to help children, the poor, or animals, there is something for you.  Below are just four of the groups that are organized to help others.

1)       Animales Atenas.  This group has gotten stronger every year.  This group of dedicated animal lovers do their best to find homes for abandoned animals, castrate animals so there are fewer on the street, and rescue animals which are being abused or have been forgotten.  What can you do?  Support the foundation directly by being a member or donate money, time, or food to the cause.  They are always in need of foster homes for the animals.

2)      CATUCA.  This is the Chamber of Tourism and Commerce in Atenas.  This group puts on the large fairs such as the Climate Fair in April and the Christmas Fair in December.  They are also trying to work with the community to form a Cultural Center.  Of course, they also participate in tourism fairs to promote  Atenas and Atenas businesses.  If you like cultural activities, this is a great group to join.  You don’t have to be a business owner to be a part of this group and you can make a real difference in the direction of activities in Atenas.  The more people who are willing to help, the more activities that can be done.

3)      The Chili Cookoff.  This started approximately eight years ago as a simple bet as to who could cook the best chili.  The funds raised (just a couple of hundred dollars), went to benefit the local children’s home.  Each year it has grown and is now one of the major sources of funds for the home.  Normally held in February of each year, 2017 will be the only year that the Chili Cookoff will not be happening, but it is to gear up and expand for 2018.  The Cookoff has gotten so big that it will now be benefitting multiple organizations in the town in addition to the children’s home.  This is always a fun and exciting event and volunteers are needed year-round for planning and making it happen.

4)      Angel Tree.  This will be the twelfth year that this event has benefitted the needy children that live in Atenas.  Each year, over 300 names are gathered and descriptions of the children (age, sizes, and likes) are put on angels to be selected by community members.  It is all kept anonymous and each sponsor selects a child (or more) and purchases a gift for that child.  In December, the Christmas party is held and the gifts are distributed to the kids with food and entertainment.  Volunteers are always needed for the planning, organization, and cookie making as well as the day of the event to usher children in the door, hand out the food, and make everything run smooth.  Participating in this group can be as simple as you want by only buying a gift or donating money for the party or as involved as you would like to be directly with the planning.  Look for the trees this year at Kay’s Gringo Postres and Balcon del Café.

These are only four of the groups in Atenas and the more Spanish you learn, the more involved you can be in the community as a whole by attending town meetings, working on the water committee, recycling committee, and more.  Get involved.  Make a difference.  Feel good.

If you are interested in any of the groups above or have a specific interest not addressed, let Tina know and she can put you in touch with the right people.  Tina is half owner of Tristan & Newton Real Estate and has lived in Atenas for 17 years.   Check out their Facebook page and “like” it for more information.

Pura Vida!!

Atenas is currently going through a terrible water outage due to Mother Nature.  The hurricane level winds and rains that blew through the community caused a tree to fall on one of the main water lines that delivers water from Grecia to the central areas of Atenas.  The town is now going on the fourth day of gathering water in buckets from the large trucks which are bringing water through the town.  As I saw the reactions of the Costa Ricans, I appreciate even more this culture.  This is a very frustrating situation as they have no water for anything, not for toilets, drinking, cleaning, or showering, but the majority is gathered at the street in groups, hanging out and making the best of it.  You would think you were watching tailgating parties rather than such a dire situation.  No wonder this is considered one of the happiest places on Earth.  It’s not that everything is perfect; it’s that they make the best out of terrible situations.

What are some other traits that seem to be distinctly  Costa Rican (or “Tico”)?  Here are a few that I have found amazing, frustrating, and downright baffling at times.

1)       An acceptance of bad things.  Even though Ticos will complain until the sun goes down (and after), there is a general acceptance that bad things happen. Unlike many of us from North America who feel like we have to and should “fix” everything, there is more of an acceptance and an allowance of bad things.  It’s not common to show initiative to come up with ways to change things and there is more reliance on the government to fix it for them.

2)      Ticos tend to just avoid rules they don’t like.  They know that they government is always inventing new rules and so, for the most part, they ignore them or figure out ways to get around them. Often the rules are soon changed or become so commonly ignored that they are not enforced anyway.

3)      Ticos don’t like to say “no”.  It’s too direct.  If a Tico tells you it is “dificil” or difficult, he is saying that it isn’t going to happen.  “Maybe” is also usually “no”.  Even “yes”, often has the added “si Dios quiere” meaning literally if God wants it to be that way, which gives a way out if things don’t line up just right.

4)      When will it be ready?  “Mañana” is often the answer.  Tomorrow (which doesn’t necessarily mean the very next day).  It could be any time in the future, since tomorrow is never today.

5)      Saprissa or la Liga?  One of the things I really like about the Costa Rican culture is that people can discuss politics or soccer (the second often being of higher importance) without being hateful.  Among families and friends, it’s often common to be on opposite sides and that’s okay. There is a lighthearted “ribbing” that occurs, but it doesn’t get mean and nasty.  Wish we could incorporate this in our culture at the moment.

What do these have in common?  Avoidance of conflict.  Ticos are peaceful people in a peaceful country and those who want to make changes are sometimes seen as instigators of problems and it’s not seen as a positive thing.  As frustrating as that can be for an outside culture that feels the need to jump in and fix everything, we also have to learn to take a deep breath and feel the “pura vida”.  There is a reason why Costa Ricans really are less stressed about life.  I fully accept that these are generalizations and there are many Costa Ricans that don’t fall into these characteristics, but even most of those will laugh and admit that they aren’t very “Tico”, no arguments even there.  Pura Vida.

For more information on living in Costa Rica or to answer any questions you might have, please send an email to Tina Newton at Tristan & Newton Real Estate and check out the website and Facebook page.   Whether it is finding the home of your dreams, making an investment, or just helping you feel at home, we are here for you.