Goodbye to a Good Friend

Garden Art by Anthony

This morning at about 4:00 I said goodbye to my next door neighbor Anthony who has been a special friend this last year, as he was when he lived on the other side of me during my first few months in this house (before he traveled to Spain & Morocco for 9 months). He is the single artist guy, about 8 years younger than me, who is still driven to create. He did my garden art sculpture I’ve shown before and a painting I promised not to publish. You will have to visit me to see it – another contemporary bird!

Though Costa Rica is a great atmosphere for creativity, it is not the easiest place to get lots of different art supplies, especially for his clay and tile work. So he is moving back to the states, not to his native Indiana, but to an art community in Chicago where he can get everything he needs to create including many customers which he also needs at this particular point in his life. And he plans to take classes in a world renowned tile art school there.  So I wish Anthony the best of life in lakeside Chicago and a fabulous new career as an artist in the states.

The house he was in, next door in this same compound, has already been rented and soon I will meet my new neighbor and see what adventures that will bring! And very soon I could be greeting a new landlord, as the whole compound is for sale. I met one lovely couple moving here from Houston who are considering the purchase. They are originally from Louisiana and we hit it off when they visited as “fellow southerners.” It seems that people know immediately when I speak that I’m from “The South.” Wonder why?

We will see what happens. My current French Canadian landlords will still be in Atenas part time in a smaller house, with their main house being built on a Pacific Coast beach north of Jaco. And the now vacant house on the other side of me (Richard’s casita) has a couple moving in for two months that I met through my blog and the local evangelical church, Iglesia Biblical. Change is maybe the most consistent part of life! And it always brings new experiences and new friends! Pura vida!   🙂

-o-


The Greatest Threat to the Church Isn’t Islam – It’s Us
Hoping non-subscribers to Christianity Today can get to this linked article by a Nigerian Christian. In many ways Africa is where Christianity is strongest today and there are many things Americans could learn from our African brethren! This article is a good example.

Boxes From Heaven?

Boxes picked up in the streets just as I was needing boxes to move!

Read into it what you like, but on one of my daily walks downtown I was thinking that I need to get some of the flattened boxes from the Supermercado to help me with my move on the 23rd. Though it is a lot of trouble to have to tape them back together again. Then, presto! I saw two good boxes in the middle of the street. I recklessly ran out into the street, picked them up and took’em home. This happened three times in three days. I’ll try not to read too much into this, like “God wants me to move and he provided the boxes,” but you can interpret it however you like. 🙂  Someone in Nashville told me recently that I live a “charmed life,” whatever that means, though I think it means I’m incredibly fortunate to have the life I have, to be where I am, and to do the things I get to do. “Thank you God!” (Whether you provided the boxes or not!)    🙂

Moving to a New House

Realtor photo from deck looking at similar neighbor house.

As the unofficial marketing director for Hacienda La Jacaranda (I write about it so much >g<), it may shock you that I am moving away from it. But from the first week when I realized there was some poor construction and poorer maintenance here, I have kept my eyes open for another place, preferably a house. I’ve looked at three other older ones that just were not right for me. Last week I talked with Andrew, a local Realtor, about the possibility again, as a last resort before the rainy season begins and the delivery of my shipped boxes. He pulled up this listing on his laptop and I pretty much knew immediately that it was the one, but scheduled a look inside, evaluated the pros and cons of moving, and decided last night this is the right move. If you’re into that kind of detailed evaluations, you can see my pros and cons chart below – never fool-proof but always helpful to me. Here from the Realtor web listing is the “Virtual Tour” which I don’t know how to embed, so just click the linked words below:

“Full Screen” looks best 🙂

And when I tried to copy photos from the listing, they were too small to share here except the one above, a view of my only closest neighbor from my kitchen window. On my tour we didn’t have time for me to make photos. Of course you will get photos from me later. 🙂
We start paperwork Monday, meet with owner Tuesday to sign the contract, and if all works as planned I will move in 23 April, one day before the next month’s rent is due here, and of course I will lose the deposit by not giving the impractical two-month notice. I’ve talked with the new manager at La Jacaranda and he is not angry, just disappointed. We will stay friends. I like him and I love the grounds here and may come back for photos. It is really the main thing I will miss, all the big trees with birds and monkeys! Just not my mold allergies in the musty, moldy bathrooms that will require new drain plumbing to fix, a big expensive job. 
Saturday I walked over to the house to check mileages to different places with my pedometer and try to get a cell phone photo, but of course the house gate was locked and I could only shoot from the street. This shows the large balcony deck with a killer view, outdoor dining table and chairs where I expect to eat most meals. Use the virtual tour to see inside the house and views of the deck. 
Cell Phone view from outside my locked gate. (No clicker yet!)
Notice the dry season look compared to green season look at top.

Pros & Cons of Moving to the House

POSITIVES NEGATIVES
1. New, better construction 1. Cost will increase up to $150 with utilities
2. Appears to be better management 2. Poor parking space but I have no car
3. Screens on sliding glass doors to deck 3. Not as many big trees near house as apartments and probably not as many birds & monkeys, but don’t know that yet
4. Bigger deck as extension of living/dining with second dining table outside 4. It is at beginning of complex, near gate, but on three visits, very little traffic
5. Ceiling fans in LR, BR, Office/Guest Room 5. One bathroom (but, single guy, few visitors)
6. No plumbing mold, mildew issues like my apartment will always have (1 of my allergies) 6. No air conditioning 
7. More privacy
8. Larger, more space
9. Office with desk and nice couch/futon bed
10. Kitchen better equipped, nicer
11. Washer AND Dryer in big laundry room with two deep sinks
12. Beautifully decorated! But I can add some of my art. I love their art which goes with mine. Modern nature theme.
13. Equal or better panoramic view
14. Nicer, larger bedroom (& office/guest rm)
15. Nicer, larger bathroom
16. No A/C will save on electricity cost
17. Near entrance gate helps on walking distances and it is actually 2/10 mile closer to Central Park than La Jacaranda, about same distance to grocery store
18. I can plant flowers outside & have more room for potted plants than at apartment
19. I can more safely ride a bicycle from this house and hope to rent one first, to see how it works before buying one
20. The hills are less steep than between apartment and town for walking or biking
21. Best security with guards at entrance gate and patrols 24/7, plus alarm system in house and separate gate to my cluster of 3 houses
22. He will add carport if I get a car

TMI?  Maybe I share too much information, but this blog is partly to help others considering a move to Costa Rica and full honesty can be the best help. I know that such blogs helped me before my move.

And at first, I would never have considered a move to a gated community of probably half expats, but my little nest for writing, a photography & travel base, and rest needs to be allergy-free and comfortable. This is more than I had ever hoped for and I could stay really long term here, though the contract is for just two years. We’ll see.

SORRY! I WAS WRITING THIS TO POST SUNDAY NIGHT & HIT WRONG BUTTON.
I try not to publish two posts on the same day – oh well – its done! 

Praying Mantis Sends Me Upstairs

Praying Mantis on my downstairs apartment tile floor this morning.
I had a lot more insects downstairs with no screens and close to the ground.

As I finished breakfast this morning, ready to move into Apartment 3, I looked down at my living room floor and found this lovely Praying Mantis praying for me as I make the move up to my “penthouse” apartment on the third floor. As you can see, now that I’m living a simpler life, it doesn’t take much to thrill me! Last week it was a walking leaf and today a walking twig. Tomorrow will surely have another serendipity!  🙂  And I’ll try to photograph my new view tonight or tomorrow morning. Right now is the hot afternoon and we face west. And yes I prefer the 80’s over Nashville’s single digit temperatures! It is nice to live in shorts and T-shirt! But then tonight I will sleep with windows open and maybe use a blanket.   -Charlie

Su Espacio -Your Space

Su Espacio is located in that corner building by the white pickup.
It is across the street from our only gas station in town which is part of
the largest Super Mercado, Coopeatenas – an important intersection for me!

The Spanish words Su Espacio mean “Your Space” in English and is the name of the community center where I had my second Spanish lesson today, located in the building pictured above across from the closest super market for me and the only gas station in town also owned by the super market. Like in small-towns in the States, there are sometimes monopolies by one person or company, though Coopeatenas is technically a cooperative owned by local farmers. 

“Your Space” could also be the theme for my first bus ride yesterday. I walked the 8 or 9 blocks to the bus terminal in Atenas and waited in line for the Alajuela Bus. It was packed with people standing. The 25 to 30 mile ride cost about $1.50 with multiple stops along the highway with people getting on and off. In the city of Alajuela, second largest city in Costa Rica and home of the San Jose International Airport, I get off at their bus terminal in central district and catch a taxi ($2) to Aero Casillas to deliver my last paperwork to make my Miami address work here. It was a notarized form from the U.S. Post Office saying I give Aero Casillas permission to receive and deliver U.S. Mail. One package and two letters are still in Customs waiting for this document before they will release the items. Thus I could not pick them up yesterday. A very nice clerk, the only one to speak English, said she would email me when the mail was released and ready for pickup, possibly by Friday. So I may make another bus trip soon! While in town I took a taxi ($2 again) to Walmart where I ate lunch and checked out the store aisle by aisle. It is pretty much the way I remember it from the August visit. I bought only 4 items: 2 cereals, a big towel, and ice cream on a stick, plus lunch in their cafeteria with typical Tico food. I had fish, rice and guacamole! Weird combo, I know!
After class this morning, I walked back to the apartment first so I could use my bathroom. The water line to Atenas from Grecia is broken, so no water in town meaning public bathrooms don’t work like the one at Su Espacio! Our apartments have a deep well and pump, so we always have water except from 10 PM to 4 AM when they let the pump cool off. Then I walked back up the hill to town to look at a house for rent and eat lunch. La Trilla (my plan) was closed with no water as was Antano. But fortunately the owners of La Caretta have a friend that stores water and they were still operating. I had a chicken casado (plate lunch) and met a couple from Iowa – snow birds! I then went by Coopeatenas and got three cardboard boxes for my move upstairs tomorrow. My friends from the August trip, Mark and Tina are moving to Panama tomorrow to try out that country for four months. I’m getting their 3rd floor end unit with better view, more air flow, more privacy, screens on windows, two balconies and no millipedes!  🙂 I’m literally and figuratively moving up in the apartments! And some of Phons family members are getting my downstairs apartment tomorrow night. 
So I am packing the rest of today, plus friends are picking up me, Mark and Tina for Wednesday night church. I had quit going on Wednesday night in the States, but will start again here since that is the English service each week. I’ll normally walk, but Mark and Tina wanted to be picked up because they are going to finish their yard sale at the church. Me and some of the apartment neighbors have already bought a lot of their stuff. I got the printer, desk chair, bath mats and plastic coat hangers, all at garage sale prices! I let the ladies have the kitchen stuff. The younger couple from Switzerland was so excited to find the muffin tin. It is funny to watch American and European expats function in this culture!
In addition to learning basic Spanish, I’m learning local ways to say things. Only older people still say Buenos Dias, Buenas Tardes, and Buenas Noches. Most just say “Buenas” regardless what time of day it is. So I’m learning to do that. When asked how you are (Como esta usted) and you are just “so so,” as we say in English, you say “mas o menos” which is how Rudy the caretaker answered me today. That is opposed to saying “bien” (good) or “muy bien” (very good). And the teenager on the bus yesterday saw a friend, did a fist bump and said “mae” which is like “hey dude.” This is fun! And everyone is very friendly here, maybe like small towns everywhere. A good place to be and no regular tourists because we don’t have tourist sights here. 
For those few, if any, readers who live in Atenas or are familiar with it, I should add that the rental house I looked at today is where the famous Kay of “Kay’s Gringo Postres” lives and I got to meet her and her husband Tom. They have  been here 7 years, but health issues have caused them to move back to the states near their son in Phoenix which is why the house is about to be available. It was a fun visit and would be a good deal financially and space-wise, but simply not as nice as the apartments. So we will see what happens. A younger couple from Texas bought their restaurant and still operate it under the same name. I haven’t eaten there yet because it is a further walk, but I will soon! Well, got to start packing!

The Move is Moving Along Faster!

It is like so much is happening every day that I have not been able to keep up with posting. I have buyers for my car (Dec. 19 release so money in bank that day), Washer & Dryer sold for Dec. 20 release, Office furniture and bookshelves sold and I’m letting go in the next two weeks when the buyer gets transportation arranged. In relation to that I just bought a new mega-laptop to replace my desktop which comes in next Wednesday and two days to get it setup and my desktop cleaned off for selling. Whew!

And before he gets my credenza file cabinet I have to refile everything for (A) Going to Costa Rica and (B) Going in storage. Whew again! I’m still moving books and little things to The Treasure Shop here at McKendree for about 3 more Saturdays of selling stuff though it is slowing down and is much less money.

I’m also looking at the new T5i Canon Rebel since the two I have are really getting old and worn but I will keep and use. If I get the new one I may start trying little short videos and even start a YouTube Video Channel. We’ll see.

Turrialba Volcano on a Pretty Day

And for those interested, another volcano erupted this week in Costa Rica, again not close to where I will live. Here are some nice still photos:
http://www.ticotimes.net/2014/10/31/turrialba-volcano-eruption-in-costa-rica-photos-from-the-web?utm_source=BenchmarkEmail&utm_campaign=Daily%20RSS%20Newsletter&utm_medium=email

Me llamo Carlito.

Part of the hilly rainforest I will be exploring between my house and the coast.
I shot this on my 2011 Panama Canal Cruise Excursion to Tarcoles River for a jungle river cruise. 

Today was my second Spanish Class and it looks like the Spanish name Chris Howard gave me is what my Nashville Spanish Class likes best as they are all calling me Carlito now. Fun! Just getting my feet wet in the language and I like it and our teacher Maya! By the way, Charles in Spanish is Carlos, and the closest to the Charlie nickname is Carlito, which literally means “little Charles,” which is okay with me.

The letter from Social Security arrived today, so all my papers are in order for my residential application. By next week I will send them to my attorney in Costa Rica and the process will begin.

Also today Jane and Scott came to my house to see what all I have to sell in their “Village Treasure Shop” on campus. We are no longer allowed to have yard sales because of traffic among the cottages, so the Treasures Shop is a substitute. I have so much stuff that they decided to give me a whole room in the former cottage used as the shop and let me operate it as my store each Saturday until December. I do my own pricing and they just get a percentage of whatever I make. So that is what I will be doing for the next few Saturdays. It will be kind of like an indoor yard sale one day a week. Hope to make some money!   🙂  Come see me some Saturday, beginning October 11, the Grand Opening! I’m also deciding what I will keep and put in storage during my first year in Costa Rica. A few pieces of furniture, books, art, etc. will stay here until I decide to either return to states or make Costa Rica my permanent home. If the latter, then I will ship it all to Costa Rica. As the old TV comedy soldier of fortune used to say, “I love it when a plan comes together!”

Thanks for reading my blog! And please comment or write!   -Carlito

Are You Cut Out for the Expat Life?

Copied from today’s edition of the International Living Postcard, a free daily email about living abroad. Her discussion was encouraging to me and might be to you if you are considering living overseas. Click the postcard title above to go sign up for the free emailed postcard and a free report. Be forewarned that they are also selling something in each email, but you are strong enough to resist aren’t you?

Well . . . she almost described me below, so if based on this alone, I’ll be headed overseas soon – but still vetting everything first – working on her point 7 below. And this part is fun to me! (You can read it on the IL website if you prefer.)

Are You Cut Out for the Expat Life?
By Suzan Haskins
What makes for a happy expat? This is something I think about often, because honestly…not everyone is cut out for the expat life. The rewards are tremendous and it’s a wonderful, life-changing experience, but there are challenges—and most are easy to get beyond.
From my experience (and I’ve been an expat for 13 years now), those who thrive living overseas are those who are well prepared ahead of time. They’ve done lots of research and they know what they’re getting into. Overall, they have positive, optimistic perspectives about most everything…
And they all seem to share these 7 attributes:
  1. Love of adventure. This pretty much goes without saying. If you love exploring new places and seeing things you’ve never seen before, then you’re on the right path, because that’s what expat life is all about.
  2. Appetite for novelty. Your neighbor brings you a bag of some strange kind of spiky fruit you’ve never seen before and tells you it’s good for your love life…the entire village is going to “cleanse” themselves in an ice-cold waterfall at midnight and has invited you along…at the last minute, the entire country has taken the day off to watch an important World Cup match… If you can embrace and immerse yourself in the spirit of it all, you’ll be just fine.
  3. Tolerance for cultural differences. Does it drive you crazy when things don’t happen at the appointed hour? Get used to it if you’re thinking of moving overseas. We joke that in Latin America, “mañana” doesn’t mean “tomorrow” but “some time in the future.” The thing is, priorities are just different outside the States (where my husband Dan and I are from). Instead of chasing the almighty dollar and punching the time clock, most of the rest of the world runs at its own pace. Family obligations come first and are always more important than work or money, and that’s as it should be.
  4. A large dose of self-confidence. If you believe in yourself and your ability to deal with just about every situation you might possibly find yourself in, then you’re good to go. And here I might add that you need to believe in the concept of “personal responsibility.” Trip on a crack in the sidewalk and twist your ankle… Have a reaction to the detergent used by hotel housekeeping… Forget your phone in the back of a taxi… The menu is only in Spanish… Back home, if you get hurt or, even sometimes, just find yourself in a bad mood, you can sue someone. The rest of the world is not like that. (And, of course, the good news is that it’s doubtful you’ll ever be sued yourself.)
  5. An aptitude for self-reliance. I have to laugh when new expats complain that certain products aren’t available in Ecuador, where I live. No, we don’t get some of those old favorite (and usually unhealthy) comfort foods here. We do, however, get enough of them, believe me. You do know what Half & Half is, right? It’s half milk and half cream. Pretty easy to make yourself. The Internet is full of do-it-yourself recipes and substitution suggestions. And, of course, there are overseas destinations where you can get just about every American product there is…so if that’s important to you, see point #7 and do your research about where those places are.
  6. A go-with-the-flow attitude. Everything I’ve mentioned so far has been leading to this. If you’re the type of person who can embrace the challenges and, even, find the fun and adventure in them, then you’ll be just fine in a foreign country. Laugh it off… You discover so much about yourself and then have great stories to share.
  7. They’ve done their homework. You cannot move overseas without learning as much as you can about where you are going. It just won’t work otherwise. You need to know about the culture, the weather, the residence laws, the health systems, insurance options, and much more. And to collect in one place all the documents that will be required along the way. You’ll want an idea of what your moving and upfront costs will be. You need a plan for communication with friends and family back home, and an idea of how you’ll do your banking and manage your financial life, and more. Getting all this organized before you move will vastly enhance your expat experience.
    In fact, that’s my single biggest piece of advice: do as much advance research as you can. Read, watch videos, talk to the experts, establish a lifeline to some of the on-the-ground resources you’ll need (like attorneys, visa facilitators, health care professionals, etc.), and definitely talk to other expats about their experiences.

Metaphors of Modification

Hibiscus, Luna Lodge, Corcovado N.P., Costa Rica by Charlie Doggett


Metaphors of Modification

Change blows across my life’s beach,
In hopes that it will my mind teach.
Shadowed as a lacy palm-like dream,
In my eyes, wildlife and nature gleam.
Pure life soars o’er a high canopy,
Toucans, Parrots, Macaws will be.
On colorful wings of living abroad,
In tropical places where I’ll be awed.
As many birds scan for food below,
My decision processes if I should go.
Is there “Pura Vida” where I love to travel?
Or better the old ways, thick as gravel?
A lack of money for more adventures,
Creates natural need for quenchers.
Attractive promises of cheap living,
If culture and language aren’t unforgiving.
A Jaguar stealthily finds the concealed,
Telling me an answer will be revealed.
My hunt, my choice is now Costa Rica,
Though not yet ready to shout eureka!
Tropical breeze o’er life does blow,
Whipping up wild aspirations to go.
Stirring cheaper leaves of housing and meals,
But also higher costs of tech and wheels!
A “Live in Costa Rica” Tour is secured,
So that my decision will be assured.
While arranging the leaves of pro and con,
The decision process grows like a fawn.
A monkey’s howling, my process I blog,
Until a decision, lifts the fog.
Seeking God’s will, desiring His Spirit,

“This is the way, walk in it.” (Isaiah 30:21)

Charlie Doggett, July 8, 2014

NOTE:  I started this as a learning exercise or “Try This” activity in Janet Burroway’s book Imaginative Writing: The Elements of Craft. Thanks to her for the inspiration and the more I’m sure I’ll get as I continue reading her book. My tropical metaphors may not clearly speak to my decision-making process, but as a writer I’m still a beginner and enjoy trying.

Links to Other Retirees in Costa Rica

The original post here referred you to my website and a page there I was doing on moving to Costa Rica – well, the new website doesn’t have that, but the bulk of the post was the following links which I hope are still good to help you in your research on retirement in Costa Rica.

Broad-billed Motmot near Arenal, Costa Rica on 2010 Tour
I’m reading about other people’s experiences of moving to or retiring in Costa Rica. I will try to start sharing some of them. The problem with the International Living links is that they may not let you in if you aren’t a subscriber, not sure. But there are blogs and other info about living in Costa Rica I will share along the way. Here’s s few:
  • Facebook Page of a woman who retired in Costa Rica
  • A Working Retirement in Ojochal on southern Pacific Coast which I would love if I could find an affordable rental there – It would be close to multiple rainforests and a cloud forest where I got my photo of a Quetzal + beach!
  • Living Better than a Billionaire YouTube video – Great! Younger people! (Update) Hate to admit I was caught up in the impossible illusion that I too can live like they are in their video on my SS check. Not! Well, here’s a funny and honest Rebuttal to Living Better than a Billionaire.   International Living Magazine folks also give this false impression that you can live rich on your social security check. Well, I’m learning that a reality check is needed first! Having lived in a 3rd world country before, I know the reality that money speaks there too, just like in the states. I’m learning that I will not be able to afford those beautiful views that the rich already own. So I’m lowering the expectations. (updated 7/21/2014)
  • Expat organization called Association of Residents of Costa Rica which I could use later to help me with the move, IF I move!
  • No Finality in a Move Abroad, article in Huffington Post – just one reason I will rent – I can change my mind at any time and go back to states
  • Why Are Americans Still Flocking to Costa Rica? an article on International Living site
  • AARP “Best Places” Article on Costa Rica Retirement which focuses only on the Central Valley, but it is the most popular area!