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Jennifer-Day 31- The Smell of Arrogance and Conceit

We stopped at the orphanage yesterday to talk with someone about doing a little bit of volunteer work. The woman in charge, luckily, speaks English. She’s American but grew up in Papua New Guinea with missionary parents. Her story is strikingly similar to the tale told by the vacation rental property manager in La Fortuna. He had grown up in the Congo with missionary parents. I’m not sure which place would be more inhospitable, the Congo or Papua New Guinea but on the surface it seems that the woman at the orphanage has taken the experience to a lighter place, albeit one that is rather judgmental. I hardly know her but I’m a little afraid to get to know her. She gave off quite a strong wiff of judgment against us yesterday and I’m sure there’s more where that comes from.

There is one thing that all expatriates here seem to have in common, despite their many differences. Perhaps I lack some crucial piece of information that would make sense of this commonality and make it more forgivable. It was true of expats in Mexico as well. They are all very amazed and excited about the fact that they have learned a second language. We can tell an expatriate from these Latin American countries that we are working on learning Spanish and they’ll still interrupt us in the middle of conversations that are going very well with native Spanish speakers to demonstrate their amazing proficiency with their second language. They are mostly very arrogant and inconsiderate toward us, and perhaps toward all people of their native culture.  It is rare to run into someone in the states who is so wildly without care for other people’s feelings, but when in Latin America, you can find this type of person en masse.

I can understand the desire to show off the second language to new English-speaking arrivals. Expatriates have forfeited their native culture and live on the outskirts of society. It makes them feel good to be able to demonstrate that they can do something really well and have people from “home” recognize it. But it is also frustrating to deal with it. The expatriate experience seems to be rather taxing and the people here who have relocated from the U.S. or Canada seem to be missing a few kinks. They mean well (perhaps), but by and large, our experience has been that these white folks living here are a little confused and emotionally somewhat fragile and disconnected.  When we interact with expatriates here and in Mexico, it’s like there’s something major missing from the conversation. Perhaps there are secrets? Or just a profound inconsideration toward others? Perhaps these people were never able to get the attention they needed from their parents. I’m trying to figure it out, but while I’m subject to the inconsideration, it’s hard to stay objective.

Smelly Couch in the background
Smelly Couch takes up a conceited position in the background, but smells so strongly throughout the whole room that we almost cannot stand to occupy the same space.

We moved the couch outside last night. Even after covering it with packing plastic, it still smelled so bad that none of us wanted to sit on it or even near it. When Fred, our expatriate landlord came over today, I told him that the couch was smelly. Instead of apologizing for the smell and promising to fix it, he told me to set it out in the sun. I’ve already moved the couch in and out at least two times now. He said he had another couch that we could use but rather than be hospitable, he turned the conversation against me and became patronizing.  He explained that since there had been a bucket of mop water that fell down the stairs and spilled all over it, perhaps the inside of the couch was wet and just needed to dry. In an effort to be nice I agreed to go with that theory. Obviously Fred has lost a lot of marbles over the years and I just can’t bring myself to be arrogant or conceited back to him.

And also…the freezer doesn’t freeze things and the washer leaks.

But, I am glad to be able to go for a jog in the mornings. I’m getting used to the remarkably uncomfortable bed thanks to yoga class. The lawn chairs don’t seem so uncomfortable anymore after spending 30+ days sitting in them. Cockroaches are beginning to seem normal (but still repulsive) to me.

In Mexico, I remember being very frustrated with the expatriates. They were very shallow people and many of them were only concerned about making a few bucks or showing off their Spanish-speaking prowess to the new people in town (us). A lot of our negative experiences there were perpetrated by the expatriates who owned the vacation rentals and made a special point of “showing us around” whether we wanted them to or not.

Costa Rica has a similar smell to it. One would think the expats would be friendly faces among a sea of foreign-looking people, but this has not been the case, at least not for us. Though I’m sure there are exceptions to this rule, expatriates often come across as arrogant, money hungry people with skeletons in the closet. Superficially, it seems easier to communicate with them because they speak English, but unfortunately, most of them tell lies. And frankly, I’d rather work through the difficulties of speaking with someone honest in a foreign language than someone shady who speaks fluent English.

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