Blue Zones

Dan Buettner worked with The National Geographic Society to identify the “blue zones” of the world.  To qualify, these locations needed a statistically significant concentration of people over 100 years of age and large populations that age well without common health problems like obesity, heart disease, cancer, and diabetes.  The common threads are diet and lifestyle.  He came up with five places in the world and the list includes Ikaria Greece, Okinawa Japan, Sardinia, Loma Linda California, and the Nicoya Peninsula Costa Rica.

Since my tiny jungle home is located on the Nicoya Peninsula, I have been searching for answers to this puzzle that appears to extend and enhance life.  The food is 100% fresh and 100% local.  Portions are small and the emphasis is on fruits and greens.  There is very little fat and the lean meats are usually served in small portions.  Rice and beans are the foundations of Gallo Pinto and the classic Costa Rican casado.

The local lifestyle is summed up as “Pura Vida.”  Simply translated, this means simple or pure life.  To Costa Ricans it is a lifestyle with total emphasis on tranquility.

Last week, I took a week long immersion Spanish class.  We had two hours of class each day and that did not include the two hours of homework required each night.  I had three classmates and they were from Germany, Canada, and Denver, CO.  During a break, I asked our teacher, Julio, to explain Pura Vida to our group.

He said, “In Costa Rica, the focus of life is on family, time, and then work.  We avoid polluting our bodies with bad food and our minds with negative thoughts.  We accept that problems happen, but do not get tied up in the outcome.  Eventually, all things work out and that is our source of tranquility.”

Max, a young German college student immediately called BS on this statement and said, “That may work for you, but when I have a problem, I want to solve it.  I do not hang out in a hammock and wait for the problem to diagnose itself.”

Julio respectfully replied, “I totally understand your need to find solutions, but what comes after the solution?  Usually another problem.  So you end up on a treadmill of always fixing things.  We feel the key to life is that when things happen, we do not let them bother us.

My Spanish still needs lots of work, but I learned more than imagined in this class.