Have you ever wondered what’s it like being a Jamaican living in Costa Rica? On our “Jamaicans to the World” Facebook Live show, Jamaicans.com founder Xavier Murphy spoke with Craig Lewars. He is a Jamaican who has been living in Costa Rica for 4 years.
Xavier: What is it like being a Jamaican living is Costa Rica? Hi, I’m Xavier Murphy the founder of Jamaicans.com and today on this edition on ‘Jamaicans to the World,’ we’re going to speak to Craig Lewars who is a Jamaican living in Costa Rica. Craig, how you doing today brother?
Craig: Doing very, very good man, very, very good.
Xavier: Good, good. So my first question to you is this, well before I go to that question, my first question is, which paat a Jamaica yuh cum fram? (Which part of Jamaica are you from)
Craig: Well, I call Ewarton St. Catherine my base, that’s my base, but I lived in St. Mary, a bush place call Preston Hill. As a seh (said) my base is St. Catherine, Ewarton but I am also a St. Mary man.
Xavier: You and I have to talk about that because my father and his family come from up Preston so we going have to talk off line about that St. Mary thing. Because, my father come from a place call Sandside.
Craig: No, that’s another bush.
Xavier: Yes, Yes another bush so we need to talk about that off line to see your connection.
Craig: Good, Good.
Xavier: Which high school? Because you know we are very passionate about our high schools. So which high school did you attend?
Craig: Well I was fortunate to have gone to the College.
Xavier: The Great Jamaica College.
Craig: Jamaica’s College. Yes, so I went there in 1964.
Xavier: Good, good, good. Now my next question to you is this one, how did you end up in Costa Rica? Tell us the story.
Craig: Okay, well my dad had a half-sister, I usually use the joke. My father is from a place called Bunkers Hill, which is where my grand-mother originated. And somehow she got involve, I don’t know how the Chinese man reach up there but she got involved with a Chinese man and she had a child. This was before she was married so she had a child with this Chinese and that daughter who is my aunt, she went to Costa Rica when she was 19. And the funny thing about it is that when she went to Costa Rica she got married to a Lewars. Her mother got married to a Lewars and then she went to Costa Rica, remember she’s not a Lewars but she went to Costa Rica and got married to a Lewars so my connection is that I have family here.
Now we’ve always been in touch, not on a regular basis but my wife and I visited here about 12, 13 years ago and we spent 2 beautiful weeks here. Didn’t see much of the place because I was really with family, but we just fell in love with the people, the little that we saw. and from then we decided that whenever I retired, this is going to be home and so it is.
Xavier: You and I have some stories there in common because again we have to talk off line because there is a story, I have a half Chinese relative that I have been trying to find myself, kind of similar to what you just mentioned.
Craig: Mine is mi aunty enuh or mi cousin (mine is my aunty you know or my cousin)
Xavier: No, no, no. So, let me ask you this about Costa Rica, what yuh (you) like about it the most? What yuh (you) love about Costa Rica?
Craig: You know, the first thing that struck me was the people, and I’m being honestly Xavier, yuh know how we Jamaicans are nice people and everybody’s just about love us. But Costa Ricans are the nicest people that I’ve met or come into contact with in all my travels. The nicest people, they are so calm, there is just something about the people and apart from the place, you nuh (know), beautiful, beautiful place and its diverse the different areas you can go and its diverse, very diverse. It’s cool in one area you can go there and you have sunshine, you know, very diverse. So that is what the people really that drew me to this place.
Xavier: You know, I can say the same thing, you and I were talking before and I said I visited Costa Rica and let me tell you the people are just so nice. I’ve travelled a lot of places and you know Jamaicans we are very nice.
Craig: Sorry Xavier, I tell you this enuh (you know) I give the example when I tell people, I say am here four years now and I’m being honest, I have never ever, ever seen any form of confrontation here in my four years. I’m not saying that people don’t quarrel behind doors or what, but I have never seen a man pointing in a man’s face or woman or confrontation. Shouting, I don’t even hear people shout. I am been honest, when you say shout, you don’t hear a man shout “Oh Johnny!” You don’t, everything is just calm and easy.
Xavier: Easy going, from I landed there I remember the gentleman sey, yuh nuh (said, you know) he finds out I’m Jamaican and he is like “Oh there is a reggae station!” boom him lick the reggae station and so it was a great experience really good experience. Other the flip side now, what is the thing you like the least about Costa Rica? And if you don’t have anything that is fine too. Yuh (you) know.
Craig:I can’t think of anything. Well there is nothing really to be honest. Nothing really. Theres nothing that I really don’t like.
Xavier: So you know Costa Rica is, you can practically call it in the Caribbean yuh nuh (you know). I’m sure you get everything that you would possibly get in Jamaica there, but there must be something that yuh (you) don’t get there. Sumting (something) you say “boy”.
Craig: No funny you said that, I live on the Pacific side, right, the Caribbean side that is where the Jamaicans settled. For example that’s where my aunt moved to. So the Caribbean side you can get the patty, mi (my) this, the jerk chicken everything. But this side now there are lot of stuff, one of the things I could not get were patties and I love my patty and could not get it this side on the pacific so that was something I missed. But I can get the Ackee from my family when I guh (go) down they can ship it send it up by bus for me so it’s not really a lot yuh nuh (you know). Cod fish (salt fish) is another thing, salt fish, hard to get. Mi (my) daughter have to post salt fish here for me.
Xavier: So is there a Costa Rican food that, yuh nuh (you know), it says, sumting (something) you really enjoy, you like, yuh nuh (you know). Is there something that they do in Costa Rica? I didn’t encounter any food that I knew was total Costa Rica but you have been there for four years, is there something that you really like?
Craig: One of the strangest things that I had to adjust to, matter of fact my wife had it for breakfast at a restaurant this morning, they eat rice and bean for breakfast and you have it with you eggs. It could be fry eggs, scrambled eggs, whatever but rice and bean with eggs and that was something that was difficult for me to adjust to because yuh nuh (you know) we eat rice and peas.
Xavier: Sunday, Sunday
Craig: Dinner food, but you get to enjoy it. Like I said, even fried, soft boiled, you would see people have soft boil eggs and they have it with the rice and bean you know. So that’s one of the things I had to get accustom to.
Xavier: So there is Jamaican descendants and probably other Jamaicans there, sound like you have visited that side, I think the town was, was it Limón?
Craig: The Province is Limón
Xavier: Before that I think it was called the Jamaica Town, I think at one point it was called the Jamaica Town or something like that.
Craig: But that was where the Jamaicans when they were building the rail road from Limón to San José, a lot of Jamaicans some of them left from Panama and came over here and, of course, you know how we stay when we go, sometime we go a place we not leaving so. No the funny thing is that along the rail road track that’s where you have a lot of the settlement cause that’s the purpose of them being there so a lot of them have built, you know, around the rail road track.
Xavier: I see, so I hear this all the time, I’m sure you may have experience that you hear Patois. So dem (they) sound like we.
Craig: Yeah. Its actually different, is the Patois but their Patois is a little bit different and it’s hard to explain you would have to hear it, yuh (you) understand? You hear dem talking Patois on the road you would know is not a real Jamaican. Yuh nuh (you know), I don’t know if it is a Spanish twist. It is not a Spanish twist but, they use the same words but just the way it come out, you can tell it’s not a real, real Jamaican.
Xavier: Okay. So when people find out your Jamaican and you’re on the Pacific side now. When people find out that you’re Jamaican, tell me the stories that yuh (you) know like a funny story or something that happen when they say listen, your Jamaican and then something else comes after.
Craig: Well the only one that comes to mind, I remember I was at this little bar El Dragon having a beer, a light skin guy was there and they were playing, they love reggae music here. and they were playing the reggae music and somehow, I don’t know if somebody was there who knew I was Jamaican but they mentioned I was Jamaican. Listen nuh (no) man, the only thing the guy left to do is, plant a big kiss. Him grab me, him hug me, him kneel down, yuh nuh (you know). He’s never met a real, real Jamaican and he’s from Limón so just the way the man carried on is like I was a god. To the point where,I came and told me wife the joke about how the guy carried on and I even had a Jamaican, I had one of those big, big Jamaican flags, I don’t know where I got it from. But I drove back to that place because I say I can imagine if I had given him that flag, I’m sure all now it would be flying on top of him house. But when I got there I didn’t see him, is me Facebook friend still so we still in touch.
Xavier: Good, good.
Craig: That’s the only thing I can remember when they hear I am Jamaican. But generally they love Jamaicans and as you know most places when you mention Jamaican they relate to the music. Because the music here especially dance hall music, which I’m not too fund of, but they love it here, they love it, love it, love it.
Xavier: So you know, if somebody was thinking of meking (making) a move and saying, I’m coming to Costa Rica to live. What would be your advice for them if they were thinking of making that move to Costa Rica?
Craig: Okay, first of all you would have to learn a little of the language. At least know how to sey (say), si and no, learn a little bit, how to communicate a bit. You have to be prepared to accept that, what I find here is hard to explain. The people are very simple, the life style can be a very simple life style, you can’t just come here and say “well I’m going to live like a big shot” and I guess because I’m speaking from the point of view of a retiree, yuh nuh (you know). I don’t know if you mean if someone want to come and set up business, that’s a different story. But as a retiree to live here you just need to learn a little bit of the language and be prepared to not to want all the fancy stuff that you have access to easily.
Xavier: All the luxuries.
Craig: Right, and another thing that you have to have here is patience, patience. Because there nothing wrong when a man stop on the side of the road, is two lanes and maybe exchange a quick word with his friends, you don’t blow, wait. When you go to the bank of course, a lot of the banks, especially in my area they have seats. You sit down and you wait, and you can wait in the bank for like 2 hours to get one little transaction done. So you need a little patience here both with doing business and also with dealing with people.
Xavier: Sounds like a day in Jamaica.
Craig: Even this morning my wife and myself were talking about, not to say they don’t value time, but if they’re coming to your place say at 10:00 even when we say Jamaican time I guess you have Costa Rican time. But the difference with those people too is that if the table is turn to them, for example, you supposed to pick them up at 9:00 and you arrive 12:00, it’s not a big deal to them, you know what I mean? That’s how they are, so patience is a big thing here.
Xavier: So I know there’s quite a few people, Americans, you see the ads a lot, retire in Costa Rica, come to Costa Rica and so on. Has that influence what you have seen in the past couple years in terms of more people coming there and build up the cost of things and so on. Tell me a little bit about that?
Craig: Yes, the cost of living or the cost of things hasn’t really gone up, but what is very noticeable is the increase in traffic. For example, where I lived I used to tell my friends when I talking. I’m coming out the gate and when you look up, you looking 300, 400 yards up, you look up no car coming you look down no car coming, yuh tek yuh (you take your) time come out, yuh (you) drive, yuh (you) don’t pass a car for more than a minute or so. Now a not saying it very busy but you do see a big difference in terms of the traffic on the road. Which is a sign that there’s more people here and also you see a lot of construction that is going on. Because this side of people to me, is the nicest side of Costa Rica. The beaches, mi sey dem have some wicked beaches enuh man (I say they have some nice beaches you know), a telling yuh (you), nice. So yes, I have seen a difference in terms of the people, traffic and so on.
Xavier: So, I’m wrapping up now but I have a question for you, I note that you’re back to
Craig the cowboy, so tell us about Craig the cowboy?
Craig: Well there’s good parts and sad parts, but this friend of mine we met at the gym and he has his own horse so he introduced me to horseback riding and I loved it. We would meet at a spot they would saddle the horses for us and we would ride to a little spot have a few beers, come back and it was good. So this time last year, I think a little over a year. Some friends were visiting from Canada and he had organized some horses to go horseback riding this particular day, and somehow the horse didn’t have in the bit I think that’s what they said, he did not have in the bit and this is one of those horses that they use in the rodeos here, so it’s a big horse, strong horse. So anyways, that’s the horse that I was on, and Xavier we went down a gradient to go on the road and the road is all gravel road. A lot of the roads here, by the way are gravel. And mi sey (I say) man, when the horse reach down to the main road if you want to call it, the hass tek off wid mi (the horse took off with me), and the funny thing is that day I didn’t have mi (my) shoes on because the sole was coming off so I had my running shoes on, so I couldn’t put my foot right into the stirrup. And yuh (you) know wi (we) cowboys wi (we) have to tuck it right into the stirrup, right?
Xavier: Yes, wi (we) cowboys.
Craig: And is mi (my) running shoes mi ave (I have) on which couldn’t go right in and when de hass tek off wid mi (the horse took off with me), by this time now one foot is out and yuh can si this is how mi going on the hass now and I couldn’t stop it and somehow I was able to turn him to the bank. Now the bank, you have the barb wire, turn him to the bank and the hass (horse) when him reach the wire, Xavier all of hear is [horse sound] and the hass turn round and teking (horse turn around and took) off again. I said mi nat going wid yuh enuh (I am not going with you, you know), you going alone so I just position myself, I mean he was going pretty fast so I literally jumped off and hit my shoulder, my hip. I still have a little, I don’t have sensation in a part of here the bump, right? So that was my experience so I said never ever, ever again. But they convince me now the other day to go back on horse so this is where the return of cowboy Craig.
Xavier: All right, last question for you Craig, if there is an attraction or somewhere that you would say, if I visit Costa Rica, go see this. What would it be?
Craig: Have to visit the hot springs, they have so many hot springs here which is nearby where the volcano is. So they have the hot springs flowing right through and they have the river, actually, river coming down from where the volcano is, so that is the main attraction I would say you have to see. And of course Zip Lining and the usual, yuh nuh (you know), you can try the horseback riding.
Xavier: I’ll come see cowboy Craig for that.
Craig: Yeah man come and hang with cowboy Craig.
Xavier: Well listen Craig, thank you very much for spending some time with us and telling us about Costa Rica. Any final thoughts, closing words about Costa Rica before we close out here?
Craig: No, well what I will do is let the people know that it’s a beautiful place and as soon as all of this is over, the COVID thing, come on down and visit. you can contact me, I don’t know have a problem if somebody contact me on Facebook asking for ideas, you know, so it’s an invitation rather, an invitation to come on down.
Xavier: Well my brother, I’m going to take yuh (you) up on that invitation I have to come back and yuh nuh (you know). So thanks again and this was some great information and some great advice and I will look out for cowboy Craig.
Craig: All right. Thanks my friend
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