Don't Jump to Conclusions

A part of the Costa Rican culture I have become increasingly aware of is this: It is okay to lie, as long as it helps you maintain your own personal comfort.

I've struggled with this concept since realizing the depth that it is ''sunk'' into the thinking of ticos here. Not all are comfortable with lying, but the majority are.

For example: You're waiting at a coffee shop for a friend to arrive. You arrived five minutes early and your friend told you she would be there right at 2pm... You wait... and wait... and wait. It's 2:15. You call her. She answers, exclaiming, ''Yes, I'm almost there!!'' You ask, ''How long will you be?'' She says, ''I just left my house, but I'm almost there!'' You know that her house is actually 40 minutes away from the coffee shop... so if she just left, that means she will arrive at about 3. But yet she says ''I'm almost there!'' so does that mean she's arriving in the next 5 minutes??

Time is probably the most common lie. ''I'm almost there!'' is a common cover-up for ''I'll be an hour late!''

Or when you call for a taxi and the phone attendant says, ''The taxi has already arrived,'' before he hangs up. Does that mean the taxi is already waiting outside your door? No...

So I came to a situation over the last few days where I thought a tico was lying. I have become so skeptical, so hardened to the possibility that there might be an honest tico.

My prepaid cell phone informed me I had 4 more days of service. I went to the store that afternoon and re-charged it by putting $20 on it. I thought that amount would last me for quite a while. Well, four days later, my phone was inactivated... and I was ticked. I had just put $20 on it! So I dug in the garbage for my receipt... only to discover that I had put $20 on someone else´s prepaid cell phone number... I had mixed up two of the numbers in mine, and paid someone elses. Oops.

I went back to the store and explained the situation. I put $5 more on my phone so I could re-activate it and have access to texting/calling/etc. So I called the other number that I had paid to ask if they could pay money on my phone. A far shot, I was thinking, but it was worth a try.

Well, a lady answered the phone and said, ''You'll have to make an agreement with my dad. Here's his number.'' So I called the number. Lady #2 that answered that phone had no idea what I was talking about. So I called lady #1 back to ask her dad's number again, and I had heard incorrectly the first time. So now I called this number and reached lady #3. She also had no idea what I was talking about...

So I immediately thought that lady #1 had lied to me to get herself out of paying me back the $20. I decided I would not pursue it anymore, but I was frustrated and discouraged by these lying ticos...

The next day after school, I had 4 missed calls, all from the same number. I called the number back and reached lady #1's dad. He told me that my money was in good hands, that he lived in Cartago (a poorer district of the city than where I live), that he was going to pay $10 on my phone this week and then $10 on my phone next week so that I had the $20 back.

I jumped to conclusions, and this time, I was proved wrong. There are honest people here.

Now I just feel convicted because $20 is a lot for a stranger to put on a phone... especially when people here earn $400ish dollars a month as the average salary...

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