This is part six in my ongoing Friday feature to regale the story of how I came to live here and why I decided to stay. If you've just joined us, I've posted four links to the previous five parts below if you'd like to catch up. I have been asked if this is a true story or if there've been any embellishments, and I'd like to make it very clear that every part of this story is in fact true with the exception of some of the names.
So I was being paid a weekly salary for essentially nothing, and as pleasant as that might seem, it actually left a pretty bad taste in my mouth. I couldn't drive because it was still three months until my court date and one of the charges was relating to a supposedly suspended license. Every Friday I would go to the law firm to pick up my paycheck and discuss the upcoming court case with the attorney that Gary had so generously provided. It was a pretty strange situation because I actually had to sign paperwork to affirm the fact that I wouldn't pursue other forms of employment. So I couldn't work, I couldn't drive, and I was stuck in the middle of a little fly poop central Florida town with a lot of time on my hands. I wouldn't go so far as to say jail would've been better, but there was definitely a sense of being cooped up.
Gary and I would communicate through e-mail and apparently he was just fine and living it up down there having just won some poker tournament. He told me that he had just bought a new office building that had about 20 condos and a call center already set up on the bottom floor. I was very tempted to call "bullshit" on just about every story he sent me, but he was technically my employer and the free lawyer and weekly paycheck sort of told me that this guy was nothing if not resourceful.
So towards the end of June I bought a bicycle and a halfway decent MP3 player and decided to spend my days exploring the country back roads and getting a little exercise. I spent a lot of time brushing up on my technical knowledge and researching whatever came to mind on the Internet as I certainly had plenty of time to do so. I got to see my son Joshua who is living in Orlando, and for once was able to give him happiest birthday I could. That child is my entire soul to this day and for all the days I will spend....
About a month passed and I had settled into somewhat of a routine of exercising and studying, it occurred to me that I hadn't had "timeout" to just focus on improving myself for many years. So I did my best take advantage of the opportunity. I studied up on everything I could think of from current world events to obscure programming tricks to finally nailing down differential equations once and for all. I also had a lot of time to think, and there was a lot going on in America at that time that was beginning to unsettle me the more I thought about it.
It had been almost 5 years since the country was attacked on that day in September, and yet the fear and anxiety simply was not letting up. It was as if the event only happened yesterday for five whole years. And I thought about the British during World War II and how they were somehow able to keep being British even as bombs rained down on them every night. And yet we were attacked only once, and it seemed like we just threw away almost 225 years of liberty and rugged individualism the next day. To uproarious applause. The "Patriot Act" as it was called, created a police state that labeled everyone guilty unless proven innocent. I got to see this mentality firsthand in the eyes of the federal agents who kept questioning me on things they fully knew didn't transpire. This wasn't the America that I grew up in, and in fact it was a mockery.
And then we started torturing people. I remember when it first was found out, and all of the major news outlets focused more on the "oops we got caught" part of issue than the staggering implication that it carried. The United States of America, supposedly one of the most benevolent and freedom loving nations ever to exist on earth was violating the very human rights treaties it had helped author. And yet no one around me cared. As long as it kept us "safe", the leaders of the country could do literally whatever they wanted. I couldn't abide by this, and I couldn't abide by the complacency and the "oh well what can you do?" attitudes by the people whose philosophical lineage went back to people like Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin.
It seemed to me at that time, with so much of said time on my hands, that sometimes I was the only person awake in a room full of sleeping people. I watched them as they slumbered, enjoying what could be called the "American Dream". And that dream consisted of acquiring as much personal possessions and wealth that you could so that you could feel better than your neighbor (who you most likely didn't know). That was it. It was all about who had the biggest house, who had the most expensive car, and who had the most stuff. And even though I was well-educated and well motivated enough to excel at that, it seemed like such a hollow and shallow existence considering the short time we have in this world. Life to me should be about exploring, educating and furthering yourself, as well as touching as many lives in a positive way that you can. It seemed like American society in 2006 ran counter to what I believed life should be about. People were more concerned with Paris Hilton's lack of underwear then things that actually mattered. It was a very saddening realization.
Sometime in July, Gary sent me an e-mail with the US based cell phone number and told me to give him a call. I was pretty sure this was going to be the phone call where he lets me go, and I had plenty of money saved so I wasn't necessarily worried, he WAS paying me for nothing after all. When I called him up, it sounded like there was a party going on in the background and a mixture of Spanish and English was flying around everywhere. He asked me what I've been doing with my time, and I was honest I was pretty much just studying and working out. He then asked me what I would be doing for the next few months and I told him with the exception of the court date, I was pretty much waiting on orders from him.
"So why don't you come down here for a little bit?" he asked. "the government down here has decided to privatize a lot of its telecom industry, and as luck would have it I'm pretty damn good friends with one of the technology ministers in the president's cabinet." he went on to say that the opportunities for IT work down there were exploding as Wi-Fi hotspots and Internet cafés were all going be allowed to go their own way as opposed to the socialized way from then on. It was literally going to be the Latin American Silicon Valley, and somehow, my crazy ass boss got his foot in the door the minute the government announced it. He had already secured a contract to set up the computer networking for most of the San Jose province's wastewater facilities. And now he was asking me to come down there (with the huge raise) and help him drag Costa Rica into its own digital renaissance.
I told him I would have to think about it...