“The great benefit of slowing down is reclaiming the time and tranquility to make meaningful connections–with people, with culture, with work, with nature, with our own bodies and minds”
— As vegetarians who eat slow and move slow, Sloths conserve their energy and live happy lives. So maybe we humans can learn something from them at this often busiest time of the year! 🙂 Or just “Retire in Costa Rica!” like me! 🙂
See my collection of sloth photos in two galleries:
Wow! Another great trip to one of my top 5 or 6 favorite places in Costa Rica, Arenal Observatory Lodge, with photos of 49 bird species , including the two new lifers for me! Plus 7 other animal species, a new birding trail (Bogarín), the waterfall, wonderful hiking trails and gardens to walk through, and the tallest birding tower in Costa Rica where this year I got lots of Honeycreepers in place of all the monkeys photographed last year, plus a repeat of my favorite room 29 and really good food! I have been so busy after the trip that it has been difficult to process all the photos, but finally done! Check them out at (or click image):
All medical appointments here are adventures, whether it is getting there or struggling with the language since everything is in español! Plus for my heart only right now, I am using the public healthcare system which here means all doctors and other staff work for the government, which always slows things down everywhere. 🙂 My October appointment had already been moved up to this November week because I was getting a new doctor.
This year they also decided to divide my appointment into two appointments, one for the EKG called electrocardiograma here with no initials used. Both appointments were last week (Tues & Thur), my first week back from a trip, already busy with the usual catch-up:
I get a taxi to the 12 noon bus to Alajuela for my 2 pm appointment which in theory I should take the 1 pm bus (45 min ride), but there are too many possibilities like bus breaking down and long lines at hospital. — I arrive Alajuela before 1:00 and with a taxi to the big government hospital a little after 1 pm, show ID & cita (appointment) to guard and take elevator to the 4th floor for Cardiology and wait in this regular line (photo below):
It is to check in for my 2 pm appointment and then realize the adulto major (senior adult) line is a little shorter and I move to it and from a chair in it I took the above photo. Both lines move very slow and at nearly 2:00 I’m the second person in line for check-in when over the loudspeaker they call my name among several Hispanic names which is always funny (Gonzalez, Rodriquez, Doggett, Rojas). And of course my name is hard to pronounce. This means they see we haven’t checked in yet and so they call us to front of line and check us in. (So why wait an hour huh?)
She sends me to Puerta nueve (Door 9) where I wait with about eight other people for our EKGs. After about 20 minutes I am called in and of course an EKG only takes a few minutes and I’m off to the front door and a waiting taxi to get me to the Atenas Bus. Not bad for free medical service!
And oh yes, now they don’t worry about communicating with each other, the technician gives me a paper copy of my EKG folded into an envelope for me to take with me to my doctor appointment on Thursday. – Now the taxi ride to bus is easy with Oscar, a nice young taxista who handles the Alajuela traffic well and I include a good tip as always (it pays off in the long run as you will see).
It was not until I arrived in Atenas that I realized my cell phone was not in my front pocket. I walk back to our bus station and the nice folks there did not find my phone on the bus, but the Spanish-only young man grabbed a high school kid to translate and long story short he dialed my phone and Oscar in my Alajuela taxi answered and suggested two options of either him driving here to deliver it or me going back to Alajuela to meet him at a place of my choice.
I chose letting him drive to me, all the way to my house mind you! I paid the fare and a healthy tip thinking all the time about how much a new phone would have cost.
Now – Why did it slide out of my pocket in Alajuela? I was wearing some new hiking shorts (almost all I wear here) and I have not yet had my seamstress sew a zipper in my front pocket to prevent the phone from sliding out while sitting. I lost a phone in a San Jose taxi in 2017 for this same reason and all my old shorts got zippers in the front right pocket then. See my 2017 zipper post. Monday or Tuesday I will take my new shorts to the seamstress for zippers! 🙂 Might be Tuesday since I have to go back to Alajuela Monday after my Spanish class to get my prescriptions! 🙂
And that is not nearly all of my heart exam adventure which continues on
Since my doctor appointment is at 12 noon and we have a 10:20 bus to Alajuela, I took it. (All other buses are on the hour and I have no idea why this one is at 10:20!) But anyway, same procedure – get off the bus in Alajuela and grab a taxi (in long pants today since phone doesn’t slide out of them). 🙂
Get to hospital only 45 minutes early this time and go straight to the old folks line and wait to be called to one of these windows to be checked in again:
Same thing happens again today. I wait and wait and I’m second person in line and they call my funny name out among the normal names. I walk up to one of those windows and she checks me in, puts my EKG in my file folder and hands it to me, explaining that I must stop first at the vitals station for temp, blood pressure, etc. before wait at Puerta dieciséis (Door 16) for Dr. Garcia to call me in. I’m given a slip of paper with all my vitals (weight, height, temp, pulse, blood pressure and one more thing). I Carry that and my file folder to door 16 and wait about 20-25 minutes which is really not bad.
My new heart doctor is a kid, looks like right out of medical school (like one I had at my private doctor’s office in Atenas once) or maybe I am just old! 🙂 He was very nice and tried to explain simply to me in English (most of the younger ones speak English) why my current EKG did not show an arrhythmia this time but I still have the condition and he is going to keep me on the same medication, Atenolol and a baby aspirin every day. Last year the doctor wrote one prescription, signed it, then made 11 more copies on his copier and printed out official-looking 12 stickers from another machine with changing numbers and stuck one on each of my 12 months prescriptions. (They are not allowed to give out more than one month of any drug at anytime.) I take these prescriptions once a month to the Public Clinic Pharmacy here in Atenas to be filled for free! Last year he even included the baby aspirin.
Dr. Garcia said they have now consolidated that at the front desk and I had to take my folder back up front and wait in line again for the front desk to print out my prescriptions and make my appointments for next year. I waited about 15 minutes in the same line when one lady called out my name again and took my folder and typed a lot in her computer, then she said (all in Spanish with a nearby lady helping me where I did not understand) “We no longer make appointments a year ahead. You must come back to the “platforma” in main lobby in March to make your appointments – so it was moved from Doc to front desk and now to main lobby in a later month – hmm. I had almost forgot about prescriptions then turned around and asked about that and she told me through the nice lady translator that I had to wait until Monday and then go to the Farmacia in the lobby for the prescriptions. She pointed to which slip I took there and which one for next March. Bureaucracy in paradise! So now I get to go back Monday and again next March 20 (which is sort of an appointment to get an appointment which I now remembered happened once before.) Maybe they think I’ll give up and not return or just die before then! 🙂
BUT HEY! IT IS ALL FREE! The private doctors here (like my GP and Dermatologist) are more punctual and provide a whole lot more services and speak English but you pay for those services! I figure my once a year heart exam was a good way to experience the local “CAJA” medical services like the majority of Ticos. Plus the private Cardiologist in San Jose Dr. Candy sent me to the first time charged much more than fifteen hundred dollars for her heart exam and her prescriptions were going to cost more than $100 a month! So I’m saving around $3,000 or so a year by using the public doctors and getting something for the monthly payment I am required to pay into CAJA as a legal resident.
Below is the Hospital Lobby where I will make my appointment in March and Monday I will go to the Pharmacy off this lobby for my prescriptions with many other people both times.
I encourage you to watch this brief 1 minute video ad that will be appearing in larger city TV markets in the U.S. and Canada this year. Then plan your trip to Costa Rica for the “Essentials of Life!” in Costa Rica! – 🙂 – ¡Pura Vida!
And for the bird-lovers & nature-lovers up north, are you aware of the tragedy of our lifetime? Nearly 3 Billion Birds Gone from U.S. & Canada – staggering! Link is to article from The Cornell Lab of Ornithology. We are destroying the earth little by little. I’m thankful to live in a small haven of nature, Costa Rica!
Even though Costa Rica does not have all the “safety net” programs of the U.S. (though free medical care & education), plain ol’ regular daily life for Ticos (and most expats) is easier here for the poor than in the states. (And that is even with CR having the highest cost of living in Central America.) I’m first motivated to say this because of the latest article in the “Live in Costa Rica” blog:
Also because I know that there are people from the States living here on no other income than their monthly Social Security check. A person can live solo here on a thousand dollars a month, though very simply. For residency (like Green Card in States) you must prove income of at least $1,000 a month. I think it would be much more difficult to live on that in the states! (And by the way, I meet that requirement by having my SS Check auto-deposited in my Costa Rica bank account. )
In fact there is a whole website & tour/conference program here entitled Retire in Costa Rica on Social Security. George supposedly shows you how to do it. (Disclaimer: I have not participated in his tour/program but like his concepts and his Intro Video!) On his site he quickly refers you to another blog/website that I know from experience helps you with specific budgeting: Retire for Less in Costa Rica. I highly recommend their newsletter/blog as the best for someone retiring here on a tight budget. It just may be my favorite newsletter on retiring in Costa Rica!
Remember that a large number of Ticos live here on less than a thousand dollars a month (even families). They do not travel somewhere every month like me nor have some of the luxuries I have, nor eat out in restaurants, but they are very happy and live productive lives in one of the happiest countries in the world. And like me, most have no car! 🙂 That is one of my biggest savings and helps me to afford my monthly travels, thanks in part to affordable public transportation!
I do not talk budget/expenses much – not the focus of my blog – but it is the purpose of the two blogs linked above. If you are concerned about affording retirement in Costa Rica, you must subscribe to the Retire for Less in Costa Rica blog/newsletter and check out the social security one.
Then come experience the tranquil life of adventure and happiness in the land of Pura Vida – Rich or Poor! 🙂
The Feature Photois a current shot of the fading graffiti on the wall behind our public college-prep high school, Colegio Liceo Atenas. It may not have been intended to represent poverty, but it seems to fit for me. 🙂 The phrase written to the left of the face, No dejemos que los niños pierdan su sonrisa. is roughly translated: “Let’s not let the kids lose their smile.” And the schools along with the Catholic Church work hard to help those in poverty, especially children. I find happy children in the poorest neighborhoods I walk through. As my grandmother used to say, “In life you do the best you can with what ya’ got.” 🙂 And that is . . .
I have always been a map person and my first two years here I rented cars for most of my trips, but found that my old habit of using maps did not work well here because the actual highways, roads, streets and houses/businesses are mostly not numbered or labeled, therefore not relatable to a paper map. Thus I always got a rent car with a GPS included that works great here and many locals prefer the free WAZE on their cell phone. But it removes your brain from the challenge of getting somewhere as the article above suggests.
Now that I walk everywhere in town, I use my brain instead of GPS to get around using landmarks like a true local. (Yeah, with cell phones you can walk with GPS too! I don’t!), Here are some typical Atenas directions using landmarks:
MY HOUSE: Take the street that dead ends into La Coope Gasolinera south until it ends at Avenida 8 (locals still call it Calle Boqueron), then left about 300 meters to the Roca Verde main gate on the right. Inside the gate go straight about 150 meters to the 3rd gate on the left, 105 Roca Verde (which is labeled).
SPANISH LESSONS ATENAS: From Central Park Atenas take the street behind the main church west about 250 meters or 150 meters beyond Pali Supermercado to a house on the left before the Lions Club and Police Station, in front of Veterinario Occidental. There is a “Spanish Lessons” sign on the gate.
OR MY LOCAL LAWYER: 100 meters south and 75 meters east of Justice Court. (Most know the courthouse, but I can add that it is at corner of Central Park near church.)
And of course all of these directions exercise my brain even more when I try to give them in Spanish! 🙂 Yep, I’m very slow at learning Spanish but learning another language is another good deterrent to Alzheimer’s! And as a walker in town it is amazing how many cars stop and ask me directions to something, usually in español. Mental exercise! 🙂
Another simple health advantage to retiring in Costa Rica! 🙂
“Remember what Bilbo used to say: It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.”
– JRR Tolkien
Electric Cars in Costa Rica?
Those considering retirement here who are also ecology-conscious will be interested to know that Electric Cars are in Costa Rica and available for those who can afford the sometimes higher cost (though one Chinese Electric Car sells for just $15,000!). For details on prices and availability see this Live in Costa Rica Blog article: EXPAT RETIREES AND ELECTRIC VEHICLES.
AND THESE RECENT TICO TIMES ARTICLES ON ELECTRIC CARS IN COSTA RICA:
For anyone considering retirement or otherwise living in Costa Rica, be forewarned that you must learn to live with the 300,000+ species of insects here on this land bridge between North and South America (with insects from both continents!). The featured image at top is of two “Jewel Bugs” or “Metallic Shield Bugs” I photographed in Corcovado National Park. Below photo I made this morning of a “Leafcutter Ant” on my terrace carrying a flower petal (bougainvillea) instead of a piece of leaf, which is common.
Many of the insects that pester me seem to come in waves; like just before rainy season the little long-winged fliers that dropped or left their long beige wings all over my bathroom, or the first two weeks of rain was the invasion of houseflies (which Deep Woods OFF doesn’t seem to affect!), and right now there are hundreds of tiny little black & green beetles on the walls, around the lights and all over me! I even got one going down my ear the other night – ugh! They don’t bite, but a bother! Too small to photograph.
My biggest deterrent to the many kinds of bugs are the Geckos that live in literally every room of my house and I think eat most types of insects. From my first day here I have tried to photograph the larger insects (some are just too tiny) and you can see my collection in the gallery named INSECTS CRunder OTHER WILDLIFE in the main gallery. There are more than 100 species of insects in my gallery and especially interesting or unusual are those in the sub-gallery Other Insects, like the above Jewel Bugs, many of which I have not been able to identify. And all of which serve a purpose in the cycles of life. Of course the most popular sub-gallery is Butterfly & Moth (81+ Species).
A Break From Blogging
For regular readers, I assume you have noticed several days without a post. Sometimes I just doesn’t feel like writing and/or in this case got focused on my old photos again as I am slowly adding them to my galleries, particularly the Pre-Costa Rica TRAVELgalleries. It is a slow and labor-intensive process that eventually I will complete. I uploaded all of my international trips first and now working on USA trips from the most recent going back. Then comes the most, Tennessee travels. And most of these are after my retirement began at the end of 2002. I have been blessed to have seen so much of the world and get to know so many cool people!
Sunday afternoon I was a part of the Board of Directors meeting for the local children’s home, Hogar de Vida. The rest of the board seemed surprised and appreciative that I am the first person to include the children’s home in my will. But I am not a very good board member because I am not fluent in Spanish, in which all business is carried on! 🙂
Otherwise I am “Living Slow” as my sloth T-shirt says!
A fast approach tends to be a superficial one, but when you slow down you begin to engage more deeply with whatever it is you’re doing. You’re also forced to confront what’s happening inside you – which is one of the reasons why I think we find it so hard to slow down. Speed becomes a form of denial. It’s a way of running away from those more deeper, tangled problems. Instead of focusing on questions like who am I, and what is my role here, it all becomes a superficial to-do list.
Based on United Nations statistics, a group ranks countries on the amount of good they do for the people living there, called the Good Country Index. You can see on the list that though not at top (like those Scandinavian countries) Costa Rica is the highest ranking Latin American country and of course ranks higher than the United States. 🙂 Photo above is one of my shots from the 2018 Oxcart Parade, Atenas.
“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”
And many of you know that Mark Twain’s spirit is my spirit. I have visited more than 60 places in Costa Rica and intend to continue until I have visited every park, refuge and reserve along with lodges and hotels that offer birding and nature adventures. The feature photo is my cell phone shot at the Beach Break Hotel in nearby Jaco Beach when the Nashville FBC Group was here.
And what is different about this week is I am going close to home, an hour’s drive away to Hotel Punta Leona with their own private nature reserve and they promise many birds including the Scarlet Macaw they provide nesting boxes for (like Tambor Tropical Resort I’ve already visited). As long as I have the promised WiFi connection I will be doing nightly posts from Punta Leona the rest of this week. Get ready for adventure near my quiet town of Atenas!
This article is about what you get for what you pay for in healthcare. Though not #1, Costa Rica is in the top 25 countries for efficient healthcare (based mostly on our public healthcare) while the U.S. is next to last with only Bulgaria being worse. Some rich expats here from the states still swear healthcare is better there and fly back for every little thing, since money is no problem for them.
The rest of us expats have found excellent healthcare here at a fraction of the cost of the states when using private doctors/services (maybe averaging around 1/4 the cost of stateside) and some of us save even more by mixing public healthcare (free though I pay a required tax for it) and private healthcare for which I must pay cash since I dropped my expensive private health insurance here. Yet it is quicker and sometimes more expedient than public healthcare. As shared in earlier posts I use a mixture of both and for private care I belong to a medical discount group called “MediSmart.”.
The most popular Costa Rica Made Cookies are called “Chiky” and come in many flavors and styles from the most popular chocolate cream-filled to strawberry, lemon, banano and even the tea-time crispy wafers. Mmmm good! The Link above is to Christopher Howard’s article and here is the English-language website of the cookie company here in Costa Rica:
OK – not a happy thought! So for those who don’t want to think about it, I have another post today on why we are happier in Costa Rica! 🙂 This is one of those articles for readers planning to retire here. Since I expect to spend the rest of my life here, I should plan for death here.
First, most expats living here will need two wills, one in Costa Rica and one in their home country. I already had a very detailed will in my home country, the United States, but now I am in the process of a slight update of it (I got rid of all my stuff.) AND creating a Costa Rica Will (which I should have done earlier). Since I own no property or even a car here (just personal effects in my house), my will is simpler than most expats living here. A house, a piece of land, a car, etc. located here must be covered in a Costa Rica Will, not your stateside or home country will. As the Boy Scout motto says:
MY COSTA RICA WILL covers everything in this country including: FIRST, MY BODY which I am donating to science at the University of Costa Rica Anatomy Department (easy for everyone else). 🙂 SECOND, ANY BANK ACCOUNTS here which for me is just one where my SS Check is deposited for housing expenses. A Costa Rica Bank account needs a Costa Rica Will. Any other money accounts a person has here would be the same. THIRD, MY PERSONAL EFFECTS here will be handled by Costa Rica law and I’m giving my son or sister 30 days to come here and claim anything they want (computer, cameras, artwork, photos, books, clothing & very little furniture). Hogar de Vida (a local children’s home) gets what my family does not claim (in person here) and/or Hogar de Vida is 3rd in line for all personal effects. They can use the stuff or sell in a yard sale as they wish. FOURTH, AN APOSTILLE DEATH CERTIFICATE(S) will be sent by my CR Attorney (or in some cases by the U.S. Embassy?) to my attorney in Nashville who will need it to execute my will there. Standard procedures.
MY UNITED STATES WILL covers everything related to me in the United States: FIRST, MY BANK ACCOUNTS there SECOND, MY RETIREMENT ACCOUNTS THIRD, MY ONE TINY LIFE INSURANCE POLICY FOURTH, DISPERSING ANY BALANCES ACCORDING TO THAT WILL
If I owned property in the states, it would be included above also. I don’t. I have greatly simplified by life in my final years. I have two attorneys (Costa Rica & Nashville) in touch with each other now so they have a plan to handle my death. When I die, it is all up to them in their respective countries. In my case they are also Executors of my two wills and Powers of Attorney, for me in their respective countries.
As a well spent day brings happy sleep, so life well used brings happy death.
~Leonardo da Vinci