Sunday, May 23, 2010
It seemed like a small world, after all, but……..
Fools rush in where fools have been before.
Just the other day (actually by now, this was not just the other day, but was the first Wednesday in May), the strangest thing happened. It was Cinco de Mayo,
and we had decided not to join some friends for the celebration at a restaurant that was holding its re-opening on the same day (Margaritas were mentioned), because the get-together was not to take place until around 7 pm. That would have meant driving both ways in the dark, and we don't really like to drive after dark around here.
At any rate, I think Blanca was sewing in the other room, and I was most likely on the computer, as per usual, when I heard a car's wheels spinning on our little road. I went to the back door, and spied a little Suzuki Jimny, with the driver's door open, and a rather tall, slender man halfway out the door. I knew this had to be a tourist because the Jimny is a very common, basic, 4x4 rental here. He shouted out a question, in pretty bad Spanish, about whether or not I knew anything about the nearby hotel (Alturas de Arenal, which figures prominently in our home address), and if I spoke English. I couldn't really make out what it was he wanted to know about the hotel, so I just said, "Yes."
He had more questions, and as it was raining a bit (we had just had a pretty good little downpour), I told him to come on in out of the rain. So, he parked, and he and his companion came on in. I told him my name, called Blanca to come meet them, and they told us they were Renny (not sure how he spells it) and his girlfriend, Camara, or Tamara (it's hell getting old), and I did not get any last name. I invited him in for a beer, as he began to tell a story that verges on nothing short of incredible.
It seems that he was last here in Costa Rica some sixteen years ago. He stayed at the aforementioned hotel up above us at that time, and got drunk one night with Don Fernando Sanchez, who was the owner of the hotel at that time. Don Fernando happens to be living in the house nearest to us, actually our nearest neighbor. We have heard stories that all of the land around us once belonged to Don Fernando, and most of it was one big coffee plantation. Then, according to the stories we've heard, the bottom fell out of the coffee market, and it all went right on out the window, for this once-rich coffee planter. When Renny last visited, Don Fernando did still own the hotel, and the land around here, however. Well, Renny told us that during that night of drinking with Don Fernando, he (Renny) agreed to buy a parcel of land from Don Fernando, that happens to be located right across the road from us. He dealt with an attorney in San Jose, for the legal end of things, and over the years has paid a lot of money to this guy to keep an eye on his property (he thought). One thing he knew is that his taxes were kept up, but he learned a few months ago, that the attorney had never transferred the land to his name in the national registry.
(Time for another lame segue, which by now, you should be getting used to dealing with, whenever I try to tell one of these stories): I think the first expats I met in Costa Rica are John and Cathy Nicholas, who own and operate Chalet Nicholas, one of the neatest B&B's you'll ever have the pleasure to visit. I stayed with them on my first visit to Costa Rica, and on at least one subsequent visit to that one. We just had dinner with them a few nights ago, so we are still very close. Cathy has been involved in real estate around here for some years, an activity that, for her, pretty much grew out of all the inquiries she used to receive from her guests. About three months ago, I received an email from Cathy with an attachment. She had gotten an email inquiry from someone in the states (we thought at the time), who said he had bought a property down our road some fifteen years ago, and wanted to know if she could help him determine what its current value might be.
So, since she figured the vague description he had provided did have to fit something close to us, she shared the message, and his attached copy of a Costa Rican property description, with me, and asked if I could figure out where his property was located. Unfortunately, the description thus provided was pretty vague (the document from the National Register did not say where the property was actually located, and, for some reason, he used feet and inches in his measurements, and we, are of course accustomed to only the metric system when talking about land here), so I couldn't even begin to guess, and I told her so. Frankly, I think I told her that supposing he could prove his ownership, without having a better idea of exactly where his property was, my best guess was that it had little value to anyone, because it was undoubtedly a good distance from electric, water, and those kinds of basics can be expensive to install, no matter what country you are talking about. Also, I speculated that he was going to play hell proving anything unless he had better documentation (like a plano, or plan) that could place the property exactly. So, we both blew it (and him) pretty much off.
Now, back to the other night, and Renny's story: The more he told me, the more I realized that he was the guy we had rather cavalierly dismissed just a few months ago (long distance, so I suppose it really doesn't count). Well, we showed them our house, and took them out to the front porch, where we sat down, and had a few Bavarias. While I never learned Renny's last name, I did learn that they live in Vancouver, B. C., and that they are here in Costa Rica because they have finished their first book (no, I never did find out what kind of book, if they mean it has been accepted for publishing, is ready for publishing, or what), and this trip to Costa Rica is a celebration of that accomplishment (however vague my idea of it might be). He indicated that he now intends to build a retirement place on his land, and he has already managed to find another attorney in San Jose who has gotten his ownership properly registered, and who he believes is going to be honest with him.
We had a great visit, as we learned a whole lot of things that we have in common, and discovered all the things that have happened to assure us that this is, indeed a very small world. I was born and raised in Washington State, in case I haven't mentioned that before, and that means that I know a bit about their home, Vancouver. Tamara's got a brother in Seattle, where Blanca and I lived when I first got out of the Army all those many years ago. She also has a sister in San Antonio, and of course, we are from Texas. Their sense of humor seemed to fit very well with ours, and Tamara said she taught school (Blanca, as you should know, was a school teacher), and she paints and writes (Blanca has done her first painting here in Costa Rica, and, hell, I'm writing right now, aren't I?).
Blanca showed off her first renderings, and Tamara gave her some pointers. Renny and I pretty much drank and talked over one another in our excitement at his story, and all the commonalities we were busy discovering. We agreed that it is truly amazing that despite the conditions under which he purchased his property, and all the many things that could have happened (and those that actually did happen) during the intervening years, he was able to find it, lay claim to it, and have that claim acknowledged. In retrospect, I wonder now why I didn't get their last names, or their contact information, but they did get all of that from me………..hope this doesn't mean that we'll never hear from them again.
Well, as I've indicated, about three weeks have come and gone since that night. I have held back on publishing this post in the hope that this guy would be in touch by now, and that I could confirm at least his identity, and perhaps a bit more of his story. But, alas, there has been no word since that night, and now I have to wonder what the heck is going on. I do know that a short time before he showed up here, the man (all I know is that his name is Ronny) who was running cattle on that property moved his cattle, and we haven't seen Ronny except in town since then. So, I guess we're left with a mystery. Maybe one day I can post an update if we ever hear from this guy again.