The Old Order Changeth…

I can’t say that I wasn’t warned…..when in a previous existence I was waxing forth on the delights of San Jose Pueblo Girl suggested that I was probably there at the right time…once the street cafes, pedestrian zones and horse drawn carriages for the tourists arrived I’d be looking back with nostalgia.

Well, some little time later…I am.

San Jose could be grubby at times but it was always full of life….people selling sweets at the bus stops; itinerant vendors all offering the same thing at the same time ( a Mr. Big somewhere in the background I used to think) from cheapo reading glasses to watches via shoes for children; fruit and veg sellers on the corners and in office doorways; knocked off mobile ‘phones on sale in the street; pirated film and music discs laid out on black plastic sacks causing you to do a hop skip and a jump to avoid treading on them; people selling lottery tickets or newspapers on almost every corner.

San Jose could be dilapidated…..but that too was part of its charm for me. Neglected treasures to be discovered on every walk.

And now what do we have?
No horse drawn carriage rides for tourists…as yet…but a street cafe has appeared opposite the Post Office, buildings are being restored and….we have pedestrian areas.
We also have yellow lines on the roads, parking places and, horror of horrors, parking ticket machines.

Tico Times

Just one look at the number of buttons is enough to daunt me….and the idea that you can have a mobile ‘phone app to use the thing turns my blood to ice!
It looks like a descendant of the Daleks and, from the reports of disgruntled users, acts like one.

It swallows your bank card – no cash payments allowed in case someone on the lower end of the municipal feeding chain – or someone with initiative and a claw hammer – gets their hands on proceeds reserved for those with electronic money transfer knowledge further up.
It spits out your bank card.
It charges you and won’t give up the ticket – probably a feature in the specifications laid down by those with electronic money transfer knowledge on the higher reaches of the municipal feeding chain.
It charges you and swallows your bank card. Ditto re specification.
It hurts your foot when you kick it.

It has forced us to clear out the garage at the San Jose house to enable the car to enter it….though it’s a hell of a performance. The garage dates from the days before 4x4s, so can take the car only if its doors remain closed.
The technique is to empty the contents of the car while still in the street – keeping a wary eye out for the meter men, the transport police tow truck and young men liable to grab a bag and run faster than you can – then lower the back seats to the floor, drive it in with the tailgate up, shut all the windows and climb out over the driver’s seat to exit via the tailgate. You can then shut the garage door and have a heart attack.
Scots blood will out.

Before these abominations you had self appointed chaps who would sell you parking tickets in the few areas where parking controls were in force. You paid the ticket and a tip and all parties were happy.
These chaps have had their livelihood taken away with no consultation….but it takes more than a municipality to keep a good Josefino down: they are now patrolling the yellow lined streets collecting the parking tickets of those leaving before their time has expired and flogging them to people who don’t want to use the Daleks.

Litter bins have been one improvement….the municipal street cleaners are super efficient….so the grubbiness is going, but so is the old way of identifying your destination – which was by its proximity to a local landmark. Thus my house was described as a lado del Escuela de Chile and al frente del American Bar.
This habit grew up because those with initiative and claw hammers had long since removed the metal street signs.
These are now being replaced (in plastic I believe) so I now live between avenidas 12 and 14 on calle 19T.
It’s just not the same.
And don’t all go looking it up on Google Earth.

The municipality is waging war on unlicensed street sellers too….much to my displeasure as the lady from whom I bought sweet peppers now has to be hunted down as opposed to being found on the corner by the Mercado Borbon – where, according to tourist guides, they all but practice cannibalism and in fact sell cheese, meat, fish and veg.
I buy my prawns there and no one has eaten me yet.

And not content with hassling those without licences, they have now started hassling those with.
Newspapers and magazines are sold from portable stands.

Diario Extra Costa Rica

The sellers have to pay for a licence to do this….but there is a problem.
There shouldn’t be, but there is.
The licence is only valid for one person…so if the holder has a hospital appointment, is not well, or merely wants to go to the loo no one else is authorised to sell from the stand.
Of course, no one has taken a blind bit of notice of this, but just recently a municipal official has instructed her staff to check identities…so if the official licence holder is holed up in the loo when her staff make a swoop he risks coming back to find his stand dismantled and taken away.
Keep taking the prunes.

But let me not forget the pedestrian areas.
The avenida central has been pedestrianised for years and it is, I must admit pleasant to be able to walk without traffic noise and on regular pavements, instead of going up hill and down dale on the other streets where each frontage owner makes his pavement to his own specifications.
We now have avenida 4 pedestrianised….and this year the old Paseo des Estudiantes has been turned into…

China Town. Barrio Chino.

This is the monstrosity erected at the entrance…together with concrete copies of one of the national treasures of Costa Rica, the pre Columbian stone spheres found over the southern half of the country.

Behind it is this:

Iglesia la Soledad.

I know which I prefer.

44 thoughts on “The Old Order Changeth…”

  1. Wow…Were these improvements inspired by Europeans (all but the China town monstrosity)? It sounds like the civic leaders may be taking their cues from France?

    1. Well, from the photographs it seems that San Jose used to look like an elegant European city….but these days it seems it’s the money grubbing they are copying from Europe – their hand in your pocket.

    1. Not when the old systems worked very well for me…..and why is it the what is called progress always seems to mean the further progression of someone else’s hand into my purse…..

  2. The village in my township is run by, let’s say, not the brightest. I’ve said it before. The only parking in town is street parking. Council wants to install meters, just as depicted. Except the parkers walk to a central location to use their debit card. As if that will happen. Extra police officers will be hired from the proceeds of the machines to issue tickets. The shop owners and restaurant owners are incensed. People do not need to eat or shop in town and why should they when faced with this. The business people have packed the last two council meetings to explain why it is stupid to do this to the only tax payers in town. Politely, let me add. Council members have actually sworn at citizens who “are against the village making some money.” Legislation (to allow the meters) requires three “readings.” The third reading is June 10th, then the vote by council. It’s a total crap shoot which way it will go. San Jose Syndrome, what.

    1. San Jose had a perfectly workable system….paid off street parking, a few areas with parking restrictions and chaps selling tickets and the rest free.
      Now shops will suffer….there’s one we go to in the Barrio Chino where you used to be able to park…now it’s a pedestrianised street you can’t to that and it’s a real nuisance to have to go and find a ticket machine and park a block away….
      Money grubbing – and incompetent money grubbing at that.

  3. I hate all this stuff in the name of progress. It’s happening here gradually. We still have the chaps selling you a parking space. I love the way they squeeze vehicles in tightly, and you leave your keys with them so that they can shuffle the vehicles about to make room for more. I would miss that if we had parking meters, and I’m sure we will sooner or later.

    We now can’t find the guys who hide in the backstreets selling tobacco from Iran…lovely stuff and very cheap…they’ve been sent packing. Shame.

    1. Progress seems to mean the same all over…think up mad schemes to make money for authority and make life more difficult for ordinary people.
      They want to put a tram service in to reduce congestion in the centre of the city….which means that all the buses from the suburbs which drop commuters and shoppers there will have to move their terminals many blocks away…..more footslogging.

  4. Progress in towns often seems to be about putting people out of work and lining the pockets of people at the top… I mean, filling the coffers of the municipality to it can pay for the needs of the town’s inhabitants (*cough*).

  5. Still, look on the bright side. Soon all countries everywhere will look just the same – same hideous Western architecture, same parking meters, same hyper-markets, same universal clothing, same genetically-modified food, same everything. We won’t need to go on holiday any more because wherever we go it will be the same as wherever we come from. Think of the money we’ll save!

        1. It won’t be safe.
          Apparently all the EU countries have legislation which allows them to take depositors’ money if a bank is in the proverbial – and can you think of a bank which isn’t?
          France has stopped people sending bank notes, money, and gold and silver coins through the post….perish the thought you might buy a sovereign or two on eBay and not pay some middleman his cut…
          I’m just waiting for EU legislation to empower the gendarmerie to raid houses to confiscate childrens’ piggy banks….

  6. merewoman has it nailed. It is so depressing to not know where you are because it all looks the same…it’s bad enough that the shops all look the same (no…are the same), but street furniture and the lack of it, has always been part of the differences between places that I have enjoyed. I find the computerised parking meters terrifying…and those that you have to log into with your registration are horrifying. I have to make 2 or 3 trips back to the car to check I’ve got it right….and then I make a mistake entering the numbers…..agghhhh. It will make us look back on those funny shaped things that you just used to put a 6d piece in, in London, and watch the arrow swing round to the 15 minute or 30 minute marker, with nostalgia.

    1. One thing is for sure. I’ll be walking and using taxis much more often when in San Jose – except now they want to cut down the number of taxi licences – all in the name of being ‘green’, of course, nothing to do with hiking the fees for those that remain.

  7. As we all know Helen, decentralisation in certain parts of the planet does not lead to higher economic growth because economic growth is much more driven by factors other than taxes and spending, e.g. increases in technological progress and improved human capital. The world over, cheap watches, cheap mobile phones and tacky street vendors jostle for space amongst the grubby paws of each social class making easy money.

  8. In their haste to mimic The Great Neighbor to The North, Costa Rica is stripping itself of all its charm, I agree. And that Chinatown monstrosity– the best way to describe it is the lage sign just inside the gates that declares, China Town is Tico Town.
    We, so far, are still located at 300 m al este Arrecife entrada de Punta Uva… the only modernazation to our address? I added, al frente poste de ICE numero 96. And there I hope we will remain. They did litter the streets in Puerto Viejo with plastic street signs, so I suppose we could be Calle 33 sies kilometes (o 151 huecos) este, mano izquerda. 😉

    1. My country address remains, happily, 2 kilometros Noreste del entrada Pulperia Los Mangos…etc..

      Why the leaders of Costa Rica can’t or won’t look to their own past and culture when pondering improvements I cannot imagine.
      Costa Rica has people capable of innovation and execution…just look at Franklin Chang…but national and civic government always look to foreign example and foreign involvement.

      I imagine: they make the equation between being like the big boys and having the same kickback system.

  9. You could always move to my part of Spain. Parking meters? You’re having a laugh. The only ticketing is done by some disabled people employed by the council, on high days and holidays, a euro an hour or a day or something. We park elsewhere anyway.

    Maybe you shouldn’t have left Europe. We are quite backwards here really. Or is that in the backwoods?

    Even Gib only has pay and display. Remember that?

  10. I don’t think I could cope with living in Europe again……I used to think we were in the backwoods in France, but the parking gauleiters infested the little local town all the same.
    At least here I have a constitutional court open seven days a week twenty four hours day and ombudsmen for government institutions…if you plug away, something gets done.
    If you raised your head in France it was bashed again down double quick.

    Yes, I remember pay and display…..

  11. I think that CR needs to stop trying so hard to catch up and be part of the “big society”. Sometimes it’s ok to be small and Central American and not like everywhere else.

    1. Indeed it is!

      Costa Rica has its own culture…it could develop its own style – but I suspect there’s more money to be made for the decision makers in buying in technology whether useful or not rather than encouraging home grown talent.

  12. Definitely depressing. But I suppose the people of San Jose like it? makes them feel more like the rest of the world.. or is it just the work of a few politicians getting rake offs, I wonder.
    The Chinatown thing is absolutely idiotic, and deeply depressing. Just the sort of drearily conventional thing that corporation-people love.

    What do you think is behind it all?

    1. Well, talking to neighbours and people on the bus they like the clean up…but the parking ticket business is very unpopular as most people had free street parking which was good for shopping and socialising.

      No one I’ve met wants the tram scheme to go forward….the bus system is a dream – cheap and efficient – and if they have worries about pollution then all it takes is to enforce pollution controls on the bus companies.

      China town is a manifestation of something much larger.
      Costa Rica used to recognise Taiwan – which in turn gave Costa Rica money for infrastructure.
      Under President Arias, Costa Rica switched its recognition to China, which, as it does for all its economic vassals, built a national stadium – using Chinese only labour.
      China is pouring money and loans into Costa Rica in an attempt to get other Central American states to recognise it, rather than Taiwan as the real China.
      In return, Costa Rica is open to Chinese business….thus China town.

      No.ordinary people don’t want it and don’t like it and the current mayor of San Jose will find it a vote loser when he stands for President next year

  13. That China Town arch takes some beating! It is vile!
    As for the garage contortions are you sure you aren’t related to Houdini somewhere along the line?

    1. A real monstrosity, isn’t it!

      Chains would be a complication too far….and I can’t say it’s easy hauling my carcass the length of the car but I’m blowed if I’ll pay to park outside my own house.
      More modern houses have space in front to park, but this is a pre car house, so I’m lucky that somebody put on a garage at some time int he fifties.

      Just think, when your hip op is over you too will be able to wriggle the length of a car to exit via the tailgate…bet you can’t wait.

        1. Tell your physio to suggest the appropriate exercises….reeling, writhing and fainting in coils just about describes me extracting myself from the car – I don’t have the figure for it!

  14. Oh dear, oh dear. It was bad enough when I got to the parking meter – but the great gate of China!? There’s one pretty similar in Manchester. And Leeds. And who knows where else.
    Shame on you Costa Rica.

  15. Given that you haven’t been in Costa Rica very long, you must feel bemused and saddened (or indeed maddened) by the pace of change (I won’t dignify it with the name of progress). I couldn’t help a small giggle at the thought of your devious way of refusing to pay for parking at home, until I tried to imagine having to get out of a vehicle like that and then I sighed and decided you’re made of stronger stuff than me.

    1. No we haven’t lived permanently there for that long…but we had been spending the winters (European) there for some time before so had had a little more time to get used to the way things worked.
      Indeed, had we not been holidaying there we certainly wouldn’t have taken a leap into the blue at our age and with my husband’s health problems.

      Out in the sticks, there’s not much change…things go on much as before: there are a few less elderly gentlemen coming to town on horseback to do their shopping, for example…but on the national scale the interference with banking by the paranoid U.S. tax authorities, the mad tax schemes borrowed from the E.U. to raise more money to waste on graft and the effort to portray Costa Rica as a ‘green’ country in order to make profits for a few from the obscene notion of carbon trading have made undesirable changes.
      After the unprecedented ‘protection’ of the President from the people in Alajuela recently people are beginning to ask what sort of training will be carried out at the new police academy to be financed by China.

      As for the garaging of the car….well, unlike other houses there is no front of the house off street parking so the garage is the only alternative to paying the Dalek: it may not be a pretty sight – even if I do have the training of my old headmistress to thank for realising that coming out head first is far preferable to the other alternative….but the bawbees stay in my purse.

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