To celebrate the presale release of the book South of Normal, I'm giving away a copy on Twitter and one on Facebook.
To enter to win:
1. Leave a comment on this blog.
2.Share the link to www.NormSchriever.com on your Facebook or Twitter.
I'll pick the winners from random on Monday, March 4 at noon EST, and you'll have a free autographed copy of South of Normal hot off the presses!
An excerpt from the chapter "The Streets are Paved with Honey," from the book South of Normal, due out March 15, 2013.
The police station in Tamarindo used to be in town, on the hill toward Lookout Point, but it was donated land so years ago the owner kicked them out. They moved to a one-room station in a private home outside of town, but that led to one small problem—they didn’t have any vehicles. When the police were needed in Tamarindo they had to hitchhike into town. They had guns but no one had money to buy ammunition.
As the town grew a real police force was needed to protect the tourists, so between private donations and municipal funding they managed to put enough together to buy the police force its first car. What a proud moment indeed, to have a shiny new vehicle for the police, but there was one glitch: cars need gasoline. The closest gas station was in Bellin, 20 km away, and petrol was over $6.00 a gallon. So the cops started a fuel fund by collecting donations from local restaurants and hotels. When they kicked in enough to buy a tank of gas the police force were mobile, agile, and hostile once again…at least until they got down to “E.”
By the time I got there they’d graduated to motorcycles and bulletproof vests. I saw police in town sometimes, when it was sunny out but not too hot and definitely not raining, between the hours of 10:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m., except during siesta time or on the weekends. They’d park in the shade of the palm trees in the roundabout and hang out. Thank God they were serious about stopping all of the crimes that occurred under those conditions. But they sure put on a good show of it every time you drove by the station, congregating in front for flag raisings at 6:00 a.m. and lowerings at 6:00 p.m. like clockwork. Between all the fundraising and the flag raisings, they appeared to be more of a Girl Scout troop than a police force. You might as well have put them in little brown skirts and unleashed them on the good citizens of Tama with boxes of Thin Mints.
They were such a joke that one time the cops actually got robbed at gunpoint by bandidos. Robbing the cops! I’d love to see how that went down:
“Hey, you! Freeze!” The policeman says, pulling his gun.
“Whoaa cabron! No, you freeze!” The bandido says, pulling his gun, too.
“Mae, I’m serious, now! Freeze or I’ll shoot! Don’t you see my gun?!” the policeman says.
“Well…I’ve got a gun, too!” the bandido says.
“This is your last warning and then I’m going to shoot! Don’t try me!”
“Ha! If you were really going to shoot you already would have. You probably don’t even have bullets in your gun.”
“Yes I do!” The policeman says.
“Yes I do!” The policeman says.
“Ha! Ok, that’s it. Hand over your gun, now!” The bandido says. The policeman hands his gun over to the bandido with a look on his face like he just drank sour milk. “Now, hands UP!”
The policeman puts his hands up.
“Wait a second, do you even have bullets in your gun?” The policeman asks.
“Of course I do!”
“Show me!” the policeman says.
“Shut up! Or I’ll shoot!” The bandido says.
“Liar! You don’t have bullets, either! I knew it!”
“Well…so what? Neither did you!”
“Enough of this - hands up!” the policeman says. “Give me your gun or you’re under arrest!” The bandido puts his hands up.
“Be careful threatening me, cabron!” the bandido says. “If I had a bullet right now I’d shoot you!”
“Well, if I had a bullet right now I’d shoot you in your FACE!” the policeman says.
“Yeah? Well I’m going to buy a bullet next week and come looking for you!” the bandido says.
“Next week?! Unlikely, puta! Everyone knows you can’t afford a bullet! You can’t even afford the bus to Liberia!”
“Liberia? Is that where you buy your bullets? They’re pretty expensive there, no?” the bandido asks.
“Yes, it's definitely true. Way too expensive.”
“I find they’re usually on sale up in Santa Cruz.”
“Santa Cruz? Really? I’ll try that next time, thanks,” the policeman says. “There’s a little frozen yogurt shop I just adore up there, too.”
“Wait, you mean Heladeria Ricardo? Ohhh I just love that place!” the bandido says. “I always get the strawb…”
“Strawberry!” the policeman says at the same time. “Hahahahaha.”
(They just stand there and look at each other.)
“Sooo…what do we do now?” The bandido asks.
“I don’t know.”
“Do you think it would be all right if we put our hands down, at least?”
“Yeah, that would be okay, I think,” the policeman says.
They both put their arms down.
“Whewww…my arms were getting tired. So…how about you give me my gun back and just keep yours?” The bandido asks.
“Come on…it’s hot out here, and it’s almost lunch time. “
“All right, I guess that’s okay,” the policeman says. “Here you go.”
“Thanks. Wait…no, that one’s yours.”
“Oh, yeah. Here.”
“Great, gracias,” the bandido says. “Well…I guess I’ll just go now?”
“Yeah, me too.”
“I’ll see you next week, amigo.”
“You too, hermano. Pura vida,” the policeman says. “And enjoy the strawberry at…”
“Ricardos!” they say at the same time.
Tamarindo, Costa Rica, surf, ski, snowboard, diving, pura vida, Central America, Nicaragua, San Juan del Sur, Amazon best seller, travel, adventure, backpack, hiking, sharks, Endless Summer, Robert August, memoir, fitness journey, globetrotting, perfect beach, paradise, spring break, expat, live abroad, work abroad, summer reading, around the world, great read, humor, laugh out loud, South of Normal, Pushups in the P
There are 194 countries in the world, depending on what we define as a country (Palestine, the Vatican, and several rogue or disputed states would bump that number above 200). You’ll find a whole community of backpackers, travelers, and adventurers out there, hitting the road as soon as they have a couple bucks in their pockets. It’s a rite of passage among 18-25 year olds, especially with Canadians, Britts, Aussies, Kiwis, and those from Northern European countries. I’m also seeing a surge of United States citizens ready to move to other countries over the next five years and become expatriates.
So how do we figure out where to go? Out of 194 possible destinations what is the process to put one pin in a map and pull the trigger on buying a (cheap) airline ticket to get there?
I, too, am an expat, living in Costa Rica and Nicaragua the last couple of years and backpacking around the world, so I have particular insight. It only took ten minutes for my buddy Johnny G and I to break it down, chatting at sunset on the front porch of San Juan Surf in San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua.
Ok, starting with 194 countries.
1. Obviously we don’t want to be a world traveller or expat in our own country, so that brings it down to 193. Good start.
2. We want warm weather, so that takes roughly half of the options off the table.
3. A country with a coastline and nice beaches is a must, so we’re down to South East Asia, Australia, the Mediterranean, the coast of Africa, and parts of Central and South America.
4. We want safe, or at least to avoid countries with political instability. It’s no fun making a hostage video between guys with AK 47’s wearing black pajamas. Countries with religious fundamentalist problems, revolution, and military governments are to be avoided. We also don’t want to be sitting ducks in countries with vicious drug cartel problems, so unfortunately that rules out Mexico for a lot of people, and Venezuela is off the table.
5. Broke backpackers want cheap, cheap, cheap, like the little bird goes. So I guess our $20 a day budget won’t fly in the French Riviera?
6. Life as an expat is much easier if you live within a reasonable plane ride of your home country. So the expats from the U.S. and Canada usually keep it within 8 hours due south, which means Central America, the Caribbean, and parts of South America.
7. Getting by speaking another language is hard enough, but Spanish is much easier to learn than, say, Portuguese, or Thai. So Brazil is out, though it brings a tear to my eye, because it’s too expensive now AND they speak Portuguese.
8. A lot of the Caribbean is wonderful for vacation but I hear it’s a pain in the ass to live there because of all of the hurricanes, yet alone the high cost.
9. Cuba is fun to visit but probably not the place to live, Honduras and Guatemala are dangerous as hell, and Columbia is beautiful for the adventurous but a closed society if you’re a foreigner trying to do business there.
10. Now we’re getting down to brass tacks. If you’re from the U.S. we’ve narrowed it down to a handful of countries in Central and South America: Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama, Belize, and maybe Ecuador.
Now you have some information that will help you buy a ticket for a long vacation or even to relocate. There are other considerations, of course, like if you plan on getting residency, buying property, opening a business, and access to medical care. Of course, you and everyone else will be sticking to this next thought process, so you’ll also want to hit the NEXT great place, not the place that’s popular now. It used to be Costa Rica, but now people are going to Nicaragua. It used to be Thailand, not they’re going to Laos and Cambodia.
Good luck and safe travels. Touch base with me if you’re out there in the world because strangers are just friends you haven’t met yet.
Don't miss Norm's new book,
The Queens of Dragon Town!
Norm Schriever is a best-selling author, expat, cultural mad scientist, and enemy of the comfort zone. He travels the globe, telling the stories of the people he finds, and hopes to make the world a little bit better place with his words.