Tropical Cancer

Tropical Cancer
(Notes From an Expat in Costa Rica)


Thinking of moving to another country?  My wife and I moved to
Costa Rica in 2011. We live on one Social Security check of $1500 a month. It’s not hard when you’re in love with the idea, but being too optimistic can lead one to make hasty decisions. If you’re not careful, this story, Tropical Cancer, may happen to you. Somewhere in the real world there’s a psychopath lying in wait to burn you then sue you for slander.

The Community referred to throughout can be any one of many communities in Costa Rica, or elsewhere. Any similarities to a community you know is purely coincidental and not my fault.

That being said, life is a balancing act wherever you live. It is, as they say, what you make it. The Fountain of Youth is in the tropics, but the GPS in your car will have you make fifteen U-turns before you find it. The fauna is fabulous, but don’t let a monkey see your nipple ring. The rainforest has the capacity to cure all your ills, if you can find your way out. But for better or worse, it’s people who make the greatest impact on our lives no matter where we are.


Mission Statement of Angry Mountain Villas

The Mission of Angry Mountain Villas is to be recognized internationally as a world-class hardly-working model for sustainable resort asylums, promoting sustainable living practices and teaching by example through on-site bok choy production, insane animal husbandry, recycling, composting, typical energy sources, permaculture design fantasies and international witness protection programs.

Angry Mountain Villas will provide a safe place for pot heads, dipsomaniacs, pill poppers, coke fiends, narcissists, hypochondriacs, Reality show producers, and a near-normal control group of people to live an abundant life with luxurious amenities including indoor plumbing, intermittent water and internet, entertainment and a large variety of exciting and educational on-property and off-property tours and attractions offered through a network of currently defunct independent business owners who strive with the world’s longest run-on sentence to create the most amazing community and fulfilling life experience on the planet for residents, hookers and guests.

And if you don’t like it, we’ll see you in court.



We learn all these life lessons and then we die, oh great.


November, 2010.

I sometimes wonder what the difference is between daydreaming and visualizing. I guess if you daydream something and it never materializes it stays a daydream, and if it does materialize one could call it a visualization of desire. Whichever it was I was doing, I saw myself walking down an artist’s rendering of a pretty path, past the pool and bar, towards the General Store. Inside was overflowing with fresh organic vegetables, herbs, fruit, fish, pacas, chicken, pork, and stuff I have yet to see for the first time. I grabbed a mango, a couple bananas, waved to the store keeper and said Thanks! and went next door to the bar to make them into a daiquiri—which I’d sip by the pool while watching—

“Babe! Did you hear what I said?” (We are both “Babe” to each other.)

“Huh? Of course. And no, I don’t think your bio-digestor stove will smell like a fart.” (Frankly, it would be handy for me if it did.) “Do you think I can throw a cacao pod in the mixer and make a frozen chocolate daiquiri?” She didn’t think so.


We were optimistic when we first arrived, eager to start a new life. We bought property but had to wait for a house in Oregon to sell before we could build anything. In the meantime, we lived in tents. “Luxury camping,” I called it, in order to sell the idea to Babe. It was rough. We’re the couple who camped in the mud for sixteen months and this is our story. It begins in March of 2011.

We’re talking about an address comprised of 780 acres of prime and sub-prime rainforest in Central America where we bought a tiny lot on a finger ridge overlooking the Pacific Ocean from an elevation of 1900 feet. The Development acreage harbors three kinds of monkeys, five kinds of cats, miles of reptiles, tons of birds, countless insects, an infinite number of ants (in all sizes) and they’re all hungry. Before ever setting foot on a property 3000 miles from California—where I lived the previous 33 years—for which I left an $11,500 deposit in a foreign bank, I already decided that this is a place, essentially, where if I go outside at night I don’t want to smell like meat.

What do I know from jungle life? My roots are in the concrete jungle of New York City. I’m a product of the 60s and 70s in sheep-ish clothing. There was a time I believed Texas was nothing more than oil wells and Louisiana was a giant swamp filled with alligators and discarded Dixieland bands. It never occurred to me the two States share a border. I am ignorant, basically, of what to expect in a tropical rainforest.

My wife and I bought into the Angry Mountain Villas community before ever having set foot in Costa Rica. We didn’t even know the country was in Central America, but were told there was great surfing here, and coffee. And sugar and pineapples. And mangos, avocados, and rum. Cigars, too. There’s no military presence in Costa Rica, where prostitution is legal and authorities turn a blind eye to smaller amounts of recreational pot. You can’t drink while driving, but your passengers can. We moved here from California’s Bay Area three months after having heard of the place for the first time, online. We were to be pioneers, the first people to move onto a private Angry Mountain Villas lot in one of the most pristine locations in Costa Rica, the Southern Pacific Zone.

Thirty-nine days prior to the purchase, Babe was glancing through a real estate website and clicked on a sidebar link to Angry Mountain Villas. Other than through some old surfing aficionados I knew, this was our first intellectual contact with Costa Rica. What you may not know is how it feels to have made a commitment such as this. There’s a bounce in my step where there used to be a schlepp (good Yiddish country song title). My head is higher and I’m smiling. The stars are aligned, numbers add up, the fung is shwell… We consulted everything but an Eight Ball and a Ouija board about moving to Central America. How can this possibly go wrong?

I have lived in one city or another most of my life (NYC, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Silicon Valley), and the internal vision I have of exotic, tropical jungles is overwhelmingly Peter Pan-like. The idea of living in such a place makes me feel, quite literally, like a young man again. The best difference between feeling like a teenager and actually being one is that you know now what you didn’t know then.

When I wake up in the morning I’m glad to be alive. Our view of the Pacific Ocean is the best on the property. I’m thankful every day we chose a location at this elevation. It’s the most comfortable. The property is serenely beautiful. The Southern Zone is as pristine, unsullied and untouched as one can find in this country. If you want the Costa Rica that’s removed from the concentrated eco-tourism flooding the north, this is the place to be. While Angry Mountain Villas has its problems, the location is inspiring. And while it’s a paradise, it’s no fairy tale.


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Copyright © 2015 MITCHELL GELLER

Excerpts, Opinions, Rants and Raves by Mitch Geller