Pura Vida in Costa Rica
After just 3 days in Guatemala, it was time to say goodbye to my family and get on a plane to Costa Rica, accompanied by a very sick Paula—I guess food poisoning strikes pretty much everyone sooner or later in Guatemala; fortunately, my stomach has become pretty tough after vomiting my heart out about a million times during my past visits. Paula had planned to take me to the rainforest upon our arrival in San José, but instead had to send her colleague Erik, project manager at Scanco in Costa Rica, to pick me up at my hotel and take me there.
Erik, the son of Scanco’s founder and CEO Jens Voldum, grew up with the company. As family and business tend to mix quite a bit in Latin America, he’s even known some of the company’s longstanding customers since his childhood days. After studying in Denmark, the home country of his father, Erik decided to go back to Costa Rica because he missed the «tico» (nickname for Costa Ricans) way of life, a way of life that finds its expression in the ubiquitously used phrase «pura vida». This literally translates to «pure life» and is sometimes described as the Costa Rican hakuna matata.
I can definitely relate to the love for Latin America. The chaos of Latin countries may not be for everyone—most Germans or Swiss would be driven mad by «tico time», which basically just means that nothing ever starts quite on time. But I personally enjoy the more relaxed way things are handled here. I have to admit though that the German in me started to surface a little when my taxi to the airport followed tico time. But in the end, I made my flight to Brazil, so here’s another argument for staying relaxed about things.
Rainforests, Waterfalls, and Beaches
With only about 5 million inhabitants, Costa Rica is quite manageable and so is its capital, San José. Most buildings are one family houses and there are hardly any buildings higher than 3 or 4 stories, simply because, so far, there’s always been enough space to expand horizontally rather than vertically. It doesn’t take a long drive to get out of the metropolitan area of San José and into areas where the landscape is dominated by agriculture and, a little further, by rainforest. Maybe that’s why Costa Ricans seem to be a little more in touch with nature than Guatemalans are. Paula, for example, is an outdoors person and loves hiking and camping, and Erik hasn’t spent more than 2 weekends in the city in the past few years, as he rather spends them on the beach. So I got to experience some nature during my visit.
As I already mentioned, my visit started out with a short tour of the rainforest. This probably sounds more adventurous than it was—unfortunately the infrastructure in Costa Rica hardly allows you to go off the beaten track. On the other hand, this is probably good for plants and animals, which occupy vast areas undisturbed by humans. And with the help of our guide, who had an amazing eye for spotting animals (it’s really hard to see anything but green here!), we got to see some birds. And I got the full nature experience when it started raining (so that’s where the rainforest gets its name …) and I got completely soaked in a matter of seconds.
25 Years of Scanco
Just like Metrohm, Costa Rican distributor Scanco is celebrating a jubilee this year: Jens Voldum, who’s originally from Denmark, founded the company 25 years ago after marrying his Costa Rican wife and moving to Costa Rica. The name Scanco stands for Scandinavian Company.
Scanco started distributing Metrohm instruments in 2004 after Jens had tried to partner up with Metrohm for a while. He had always been picky about the companies that he partnered with, wanting to sell the instruments that in his eyes were the best—and he had his mind set on distributing Metrohm equipment. «Several years in a row», he told me, «I came to Pittcon and visited the Metrohm booth and proposed to distribute their instruments. They probably thought I was crazy.» Jens’ perseverance finally paid off 14 years ago and Scanco has been Metrohm’s exclusive distributor in Central America ever since.
To celebrate its 25th anniversary, Scanco had a cocktail party last week. Employees and their partners as well as customers were invited, and I was lucky enough to attend as well. After the official part, including a brief review of the 25 years by Jens and a heartfelt thank-you speech from Guatemalan office manager José, the party really started with a live act and a DJ. And you don’t need to tell anyone here twice to get on the dancefloor.