Remodeling Post Office

20150225_112625In Atenas the Post Office (la oficina de correos) is being remodeled or sort of freshened up with new mail boxes (apartados) that are not in numerical order (?go figure?!), new tile floor, new counter and paint on walls, etc.

The good rapid clerk (nice young man) no longer works there – with a new one being trained very slowly and she was the only one there yesterday when I go in line behind about 10 persons and waited more than an hour to mail one of my photo books to a hotel I visited recently. Though it is not always this slow, it kind of reminded me of waiting in line at the post offices in Nashville where I also remember some very long waits and similarly inefficient processes, especially around Christmas! Oh well, that’s life!  Así es la vida!

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A few days ago workers installing new lights – one ceiling fan still not installed! And the short line of just two people ahead of me is more typical than yesterday (below)!

 

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Waiting in line yesterday for more than an hour while new solo clerk slowly learns her job. The clerk’s ceiling fan is installed but not the one over customers yet and it was hot!

Correos de Costa Rica    (The official postal service website.)

My P.O. Box here is:

Apdo. 441-4013, Atenas, Alajuela, 20501 Costa Rica

Letters take about a week, 10 days, from the states & almost as long in-country!   🙂

Packages take longer depending on Customs.

NEVER send anything to my street address! Carrier will stick it in the fence or gate if I’m not home and it could blow away or otherwise be lost! No home mail boxes here! What’s that?  ¿Qué es eso?   And most locals don’t have mailboxes like me but use “general delivery.” Part of that line is persons waiting to pick up general delivery mail, or get passport, cédula, visa, pay property tax, etc. I’ve seen a clerk dig through 3 big mail cartons of letters looking for someone’s general delivery letter and sometimes never find it. 

“Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience.”  ― Ralph Waldo Emerson

🙂

¡Pura Vida!

Happier Than a Billionaire?

If you have been researching a move to Costa Rica you have certainly run across Nadine’s series of books, all prefaced with “Happier Than a Billionaire!” She and her husband are one example of the young adults fleeing that evil empire to the north of here and their stories here represent somewhat different and somewhat similar reasons for moving to Costa Rica and the lifestyle chosen compared to the larger group of us Americans down here who are “Retired in Costa Rica.”

I’m on her mail list for an occasional email or blog post (read her first book), but she has several other channels of communication as a tech-savvy young adult with loads of followers! And several books available both electronically and on paper which have not been exactly my style, but interesting! Her latest book sounds like her most practical one yet and thus I decided to mention it for you to check out as a possibility if considering a move here.  Happier Than A Billionaire: Picking a Town, Finding a Home, and Creating a Budget in Costa Rica is available at:  https://www.amazon.com/Happier-Than-Billionaire-Picking-Creating-ebook/dp/B07ZDK9XQJ/ref=zg_bs_159973011_4?_encoding=UTF8&psc=1&refRID=YGV6NM5FEVPW770HY0A2   both for Kindle and in paperback format.

Also google her name or slogan “Happier Than a Billionaire” to learn of more books which tell her story and to find her other channels of communication. If you are a young adult moving here (more and more are showing up even here in Atenas!) then you will benefit from following Nadine on Facebook or some other way.   🙂

¡Pura Vida!

Two Hours in Bank Today – Lessons Learned

After waiting  only a short time for a teller, she could not help with my problem, I was therefore sent to “la platforma” or set of desks with persons supposedly more knowledgeable than a teller. My problem was that I got an email, in Spanish of course, that told me the auto-debit of my TV/Internet Service monthly bill failed. Well, it was because they used my local bank debit card to get their money and this month my card was replaced with a new one to include “a chip” which also meant a new number. The teller did pay my TV/Internet bill with a transfer, so at least no disconnect for now! 🙂

After waiting nearly an hour (15th in line) for one of the three “specialists,” she worked and worked on her computer and called the cable company talking at least 10 minutes to someone there and finally used a translator on her computer to tell me in English that the only way CableTica would correct it was for me personally to respond to the email (in Spanish of course) with my new card number. They are not allowed to let the bank or anyone else speak for me! I came straight home and did that. Hope it works!   🙂   Just another little irritation of living in a modern society in any country! 🙂

But this is also another lesson in the importance of learning the local language! I’m doing much better and communicated with all in the bank in Spanish though understanding what they say back to me is more difficult!   🙂  To make me feel a little better, a French couple was at the next desk to mine and the man was going on and on about something in the French language, raising his voice and I felt sorry for the banker helping him. She too used her computer translator and a cell phone. It is disrespectful to not learn and use the local language and that was part of the reason our waits were so long at the bank!

“You live a new life for every language you speak. If you know only one language, you live only once.”     – Czech proverb

¡Pura Vida!

Being Poor in 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:

It is better to be poor in Costa Rica than the United States

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 Photo is 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 . . .  

¡Pura Vida!

“Hardships” Americans Have Here

Christopher Howard’s Blog “Live in Costa Rica” quoted a list of things from still another blog call “Tico Bull.” It is titled:    WHAT IS CONSIDERED NORMAL IN COSTA RICA, BUT NOT ACCEPTED BY FOREIGNERS

I encourage you to follow the above link to his original article and maybe get acquainted with his blog. BUT, I wanted to “update” or add my comments to the list in dark red that he copied from Tico Bull below:

The following list is a generalization, though, so obviously doesn’t apply to all Americans and Canadians.

  • Not being able to pay a bill by mail (send in a cheque). In the past, you had to go to a particular business to pay a bill, now it can be paid online or at the bank or supermarket, but no check in the mail. Through my local bank I have all my regular bills “auto debit” paid automatically except my rent because my landlord uses a different bank. 
  • Not being able to receive mail at your home, six days a week.
  • Not being able to send mail from your home, six days a week.
  • There is periodic home mail delivery in Atenas (and some other towns), but if you are not home the carrier will often just stick it in the gate and wind can blow it away, thus I have a moderately priced post office box for my mail address to avoid worrying about being home when the mail carrier comes. Plus I have a U.S. Address in Miami through Aeropost.com for some mail which I pickup at the Aeropost office in Alajuela when I am notified by email. Going there on a free bus.
  • Not having Amazon Prime. Similarly Netflix is hugely different here with not nearly as many movies included because Hollywood wants each country to pay some outlandish fee to “license” the showing of their movies in that country. Here you get lots of Spanish language movies with a limited number of usually older American films plus lots of TV shows and fortunately a lot of nature shows, Nat Geo stuff, etc. Some of it is in verbal Spanish with English subtitles available, though more is in the original English with Spanish subtitles available. My personal default setting on Netflix CR is verbal English with Spanish subtitles which helps me a little in learning to speak Spanish. 
  • Knowing that even if you order something online, there is a good chance that someone in customs will decide they want it and confiscate it. Using a service like Aeropost.com for internet orders solves that problem as they walk it through customs and have insurance on your orders. It is expensive, but most of the cost is the customs charges or import taxes. Worth the cost to me. I order everything on the internet sent to my Miami address at Aeropost. 
  • Having to pay very high import taxes on any package that gets through, including items confiscated out of it.  Import taxes & Sales Taxes are high here, but there is no income tax nor much property tax, so it kind of evens out for most people. 
  • High priced cars.  I have no car here and walk or use taxis locally and buses to other towns which are free or discounted for a senior adult. I go to Alajuela regularly by bus totally free!
  • Towns and villages that have either dirt or gravel roads. This is changing rapidly! i.e. Atenas Central is all paved, though a few rural roads out of town are still gravel. “Backwoods” or out of the way places are still not paved and the popular tourist town of Monteverde is one example, but they are paving the highway to there as we speak!  🙂
  • The necessity to have very good home security, either through iron bars at the windows, high walls, dogs, security guards, or all of the above. Americans and Canadians typically don’t wall their properties; dogs are pets; and enjoy large, plate glass windows with no need for security bars over them.  I’m in a “gated community” called Roca Verde with an entrance gate and 24 hour guard service and we rarely have a problem. I’m in a “casita” or little rent house on the fenced & gated property of a big house and I have no bars on my windows and no dog and have never activated the built-in burglar alarm. I used to leave everything open and unlocked even at night, but one evening someone walked into my house while I was there and grabbed my cell phone and left. That and a backpack being taken from the floor of a touristy sidewalk cafe in Puntarenas my first year here are my only two robberies. Common sense helps, like I lock my doors by nightfall now and hang on to my backpack. 
  • The need for women to hold their purses at all times, never putting them on a bench or a chair beside you or it might get stolen.
  • The assumption that if a repairman comes to your home, he will speak to the man of the house, rather than the lady of the house—even if she knows more about what needs to be repaired than her husband. This is changing now with so-called chauvinism frowned upon by all generations, especially the younger. There is a high respect for women and all older people. 
  • The extreme caution one must take before letting someone (repairman, employee, new acquaintance) into your home because he/she might come back and steal from you later.
  • If something is accidentally left somewhere, you can know that someone else took it. There is no going to lost and found to see if the item was turned in. Depends on the place or people there. I’ve returned to a business for an umbrella left and it was still there and once briefly left my wallet and got it back. 
  • Each culture is different. American and Canadian culture has a few things that other cultures view negatively. But there are always reasons behind cultural differences.
  • As an Italian, for example, we are loud, especially among a group of friends. Americans and Canadians love their large personal space. Costa Ricans and most Latin Americans can’t understand stand. Nor Europeans for that matter.
  • In addition, the majority of Americans, Canadians and Europeans have a level of personal honesty and integrity not always seen in Costa Rica, despite Ticos adopting much of North American and European cultures. An example of that is eating at a mall food court, but ladies won’t hang their purse or he his backpack on the back of the chair.
  • Living in a home with huge windows with no bars is unheard of, unless living in a gated community, but even then it won’t be surprising that someone will put up bars. For example, as I write this, I am looking out of my big glass window onto my yard, about 30 meters from the street. The window has bars, but I refuse to put up razor wire on the metal fence. I have dogs.
  • In closing, generalizations can be helpful, but they need to be understood for their limitations. Each culture has beauty if you’ll take the time to look, adapt and adopt the “pura vida”.  Maybe his most important statement!

Much of this sounds like a typical “negative American” who criticizes everything not American and thus really has no business living here. Most of the above is true to some degree, though the dishonesty and thievery by Ticos is greatly exaggerated and in my small town I find almost everyone to be honest and very helpful to or accommodating of foreigners. And remember that you are the foreigner, not them.   🙂

It is essential that one adapt to the local culture when they move to another place anywhere in the world and recognized that it is yourself that is “abnormal” not the locals. You try to speak the language and go with the culture and they will love you and help you in every way possible! I’m amazed at the many Americans who in the states expected Mexicans and Cubans to learn and speak English there, but they don’t even try to learn Spanish here! They become “The Ugly American” of the 1958 novel by Eugene Burdick and William Lederer.   🙂

¡Pura Vida!

VAT and Other CR Negatives

The featured photo today has nothing to do with the article, but I liked it and never found the right place to use it in all my reports on Xandari. It is a Rufous-capped Warbler peeking around a leaf in the Xandari Gardens. Now my post on both negatives and positives of living in Costa Rica   🙂

NEGATIVES

This last month we got a new tax in Costa Rica, as if we didn’t have enough, the “Value Added Tax” was passed by the legislators to replace a 13% Sales Tax on a limited number of items which in essence just expands the sales tax to almost all items and even services now, still at 13%. For example, my National Healthcare Insurance fee (based on my income) was 13% more this month with the VAT as was my meal in a restaurant last night. The Costa Rica Star English Language online newspaper had this article: Crazy New Tax Laws in Costa Rica That you Need to Know About. And remember that this is on top of one of the highest import taxes (Trump would love) making cars very expensive here. BUT, we have no income tax and one of the lowest property taxes in the world. So, maybe it evens out?

Yet Christopher in his “Live in Costa Rica Blog” had this to say recently with his biggest specific complaint being the economy of Costa Rica:

Negative Things About the “Real” Costa Rica
http://www.liveincostarica.com/blog/2019/06/negative-things-about-the-real-costa-rica.html?

Also from that blog is this interesting article, not necessarily negative, but for a lot of negative/critical Americans it is:

How Difficult is it for Retired Expats to Have Costa Rica Friends?      https://www.liveincostarica.com/blog/2019/07/how-difficult-is-it-for-retired-expats-to-make-costa-rican-friends.html

It really boils down to your attitude towards locals as an expat. One reason I liked Costa Rica better than Panama for retirement is because the retired Americans are not quite as segregated into English-speaking groups here as in Panama, nor is the country as “Americanized” as Panama, but unfortunately we do have segregation here too and some Americans who never intend to even try learning Spanish. (I’m not very good, but I try daily.)

Now as one who also tries to stay positive I cannot complete this article on negatives without at least two positive!   🙂

POSITIVES

Two stories of interest for anyone considering a move to CR or any other country: (1) About a man who came 50 years ago as a Peace Corp worker and still lives here and   (2) Another useful article on “Why move to Costa Rica?”

This link takes you to the online English Language Magazine, El Residente, for the organization Association of Residents of Costa Rica, ARCR that has articles like these in every issue. It is free for members and if thinking of moving here, I encourage you to join ARCR. They will be your biggest help when you finally take the big step! And that’s another positive!   🙂

¡Pura Vida!

 

A Timeline on Moving to Costa Rica

Over the last 5 years I have shared many details of my timeline of moving to Costa Rica, but it is always good to see someone else’s especially a couple’s and one of the best I’ve seen recently is

Our Moving to Costa Rica Timeline: All the Steps Along the Way, by Rob Evans

Version 2Now that link should take you directly to the article but if it doesn’t, then note that it is in this month’s or June 10, 2019 issue of the Newsletter from my friends Paul & Gloria: Retire for Less in Costa Rica    which link should take you to the issue of their newsletter with Rob’s article. Just scroll down to the article. And by the way, if you are seriously considering a move here, you need to subscribe to Paul & Gloria’s newsletter for so much of the little nitty-gritty practicalities and also to learn how they save money much better than me.

The Evans’ did not use ARCR like me and did a lot of other things differently. It will inspire you if you are one of my readers considering a move here. Check it out! There are many different ways to get here!  🙂

How Costa Rica Retirement Helps Me Avoid Alzheimer’s. . .

This morning’s Washington Post has this very revealing article: Ditch the GPS. It’s ruining your brain.

20160414_104320-A-WEBI 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:

  1. 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).
  2. 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.
  3. 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!   🙂

-o-

 “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.

Electric-Vehicle-Charging-in-Costa-Rica-672x372

AND THESE RECENT TICO TIMES ARTICLES ON ELECTRIC CARS IN COSTA RICA:

April 4, 2019:  Costa Rica announces charging grid for electric vehicles   34 charging stations to start off with in a tiny country is not bad! More are being added!

Dec. 29, 2018:  Clean energy leader Costa Rica turns attention to electric cars

¡Pura Vida!

Living with Bugs!

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.

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Leafcutter Ant on my Terrace this morning.

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 CR under 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 TRAVEL  galleries. 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!

20190604_111253[1]-A-WEBSunday 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!  🙂

Living Slow

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.

— Carl Honoré

How to start a slow living lifestyle.

¡Pura Vida!

 

Good Country Index

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.

I learned about this recognition from Christopher Howard’s newsletter/blog in his article More Accolades for Costa Rica.

¡Pura Vida!