Alajuela Coronavirus Adventure

Friday I went to Alajuela early for my appointment at the government hospital to get an appointment scheduled with my Cardiologist in Nov-Dec for my annual checkup (yeah, its weird to have an appointment to get an appointment), plus I had a package to pick up at Aeropost and a couple of items to get at PriceSmart.

Wow! I had not been to Alajuela since the Coronavirus scare hit and it has nearly as many cases as San Jose as the second largest city (and my provincial capital by the way).  EVERYTHING WAS DIFFERENT!

1st, to get to the hospital early enough for shorter lines, I took the 6:30 AM bus, which is usually packed with people going to work, shopping, appointments, visits, etc. There were just 5 of us passengers on the bus – scattered out one to a seat. And at the entrance to bus was a bottle of hand sanitizer.

Empty streets!

2nd, as the bus arrived in Alajuela I could immediately see a difference with fewer cars and people – some streets like a ghost town!

3rd, no wait for a taxi with few people there to use them.

4th, when I got to the hospital, there were few people out front as I was expecting by now, but I wasn’t expecting to be turned away! When I got to the door a guard was stopping everyone and I showed him my cita (appointment paper) and he rattled off several things rapidly that I did not fully understand but I think he was basically telling me “no” that “all appointments not emergencies are canceled.” Bottom line, he would not let me in!   🙂

I got there early on purpose to avoid a long wait, yet I still expected to spend an hour or more. But I spent only 5 minutes there and it was now about 7:20 AM, with Aeropost not opening until 9 and PriceSmart at 9:30. Ugh! Oh well, I drank no coffee at home that morning and had only a bowl of cold cereal, so I took my time walking about 8 blocks to the nearest McDonald’s for breakfast.

5th, I entered the biggest MacDonald’s in Central Alajuela with only one other customer inside! Like the bus, they had hand sanitizer at the counters.  I took my time with ham & eggs and lots of coffee while reading the Washington Post. At about 8:30 I began the 6 block walk to Aeropost, getting there 10 minutes before they opened officially.

6th, at Aeropost I only waited a few minutes before one of the clerks, who recognized me through the glass (I’m a regular), came out with my little package, so I did not even have to be one of their limit of 3 customers inside the store – see sign below. And the bright red & green sign reflected backwards in their window is a MegaSuperMercado, a downtown chain-supermarket across the street! The English translation of their home-made sign:  “Maximum 3 customers within the branch.” In what they call a “branch office.”   That is also the feature photo and the recommended “Social Distancing” to help stop the spread of the virus. Costa Rica is doing its part one little business at a time!   🙂

“Social distancing!” inside banks and businesses.

7th, Because of the time I saved from the hospital rejection, I had about 30 minutes before PriceSmart even opened, so I just walked the 12 or so blocks to PriceSmart which opens at 9:30. This is one way I get my exercise!   🙂   And in so doing, I walked by Alajuela Central Park which, like the one in Atenas, is closed with yellow tape wrapped all around the whole block:

“No large public gatherings” thus all parks are closed in Costa Rica!

8th, at the entrance to PriceSmart (our store like Costco or Sam’s Club) they not only had a bottle of hand sanitizer, but specifically asked me to please use it while the lady wiped off the handle of my push cart. But unlike everywhere else I had been that morning, they were full of people and at opening time! Full with long check-out lines! And still some crazy bulk-buying by the panicked!

I actually don’t like this store which is too expensive, too large a quantity of things, and not consistent in their stocking; BUT they usually have about 5 or so items I cannot get anywhere else – things I really like. (Another option might be at AutoMercado, an American-styled supermarket specializing in American brands, but their location is not as handy for me as PriceSmart, as a bus rider.)

When I got out of PriceSmart it was a little after 10, meaning I had just missed the 10 o’clock bus! In the mornings the return buses only run on the hour (tho every 30 minutes in the afternoon), so I just slowly walked the 6 blocks to the bus stop for Atenas and still had time to read a little of my new mystery book before it left at 11. Oh well, another morning is gone! But hey! I’m Retired in Costa Rica and this kind of virus-influenced inconvenience is simply part of my daily adventure! Its what you do when you are retired in Costa Rica!    🙂

“An adventure is only an inconvenience rightly considered. An inconvenience is only an adventure wrongly considered.”
― G.K. Chesterton

🙂

¡Pura Vida!

 

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It’s getting closer!

Yesterday one case of Coronavirus was confirmed in Atenas. Many of our local people commute to both Alajuela and San Jose for jobs, a natural way for it to spread from the two cities with the most cases. Country-wide Costa Rica has 75 cases now and one death. This is a real pandemic!

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New Medical Adventures

La dentista +

Over this last weekend an upper right jaw tooth was hurting when I chewed on that side. So, first thing Monday after Spanish class I go to my dentist, Doctora Karina Valerio, who speaks only Spanish, which is good for me!   🙂

Office of Dra. Karina

She checked it out and said she really needed a digital image to make an assessment and sent me to Doctor Ureña Bogantes Rodrigo, one block away, who is also a dentist along with being the only dental radiologist in Atenas with all the expensive equipment for that. And he speaks English!   🙂

Office of Dr. Ureña

He x-rayed my teeth from different angles and gave me the printout from his computer to take back to Dra. Karina, saying he believes I need a root canal. His charge was 15 mil or $26.35.

Digital Image of my Upper Right Jaw – Root Canal is needed on the right side of the bridge.

So I took the image back down the street and Dra. Karina says, “Necessita la endodoncia.” which of course is a root canal!  🙂  And she does not do those, but Dr. Ureña has someone he can bring in to do it. So I pay her only 5 mil or $8.78 for two visits and consultations. 

Then I walk back down the street to Dr. Ureña again where he calls and schedules a root canal specialist to come to his office 3 days later, this Thursday. The woman Endodontista (root canal specialist) will have to drill through the right side of a bridge for the needed root canal. Of course it will cost only a tiny fraction of what one costs in the states!   🙂  AND it is soon (3 days) AND  ¡No más dolor!  (No more pain!)

And yes, I could have gone to the public clinic for free social security dental work, but it would have taken much longer and they would send me to their  specialist in either Alajuela or San Jose for a root canal at who knows how long a wait, so I chose private care that is local (I walked to both dentist offices), and so reasonably priced, quick and with excellent service for which I’m willing to pay. While the very poor here can get similar treatment for free, just a longer wait and bus ride to Alajuela or San Jose. 

You are possibly aware that dental tourism is one of the big businesses in Costa Rica! You can buy a plane ticket to Costa Rica, stay in a hotel, have the dental work done and do a little tourist activity all for less than what a dentist would charge you in the states for the same work. Dental work prices here are about 20% of the U.S. prices. And remember that doctors and medical care here is ranked higher than that in the USA by the UN World Health Organization, but you guys do rank number 1 as the most expensive in the world on all medical care and services.   🙂     ¡Pura vida!

 El urólogo

OK, I won’t go into as much detail about the urologist here. I’m an old man you know.   🙂    At 80 everything starts malfunctioning!   🙂

But the interesting thing I wanted to report is that our quiet, peaceful little farm town does not have a urologist (or many other medical specialists), either in the public clinic or in private practice. Thus, as I do for my dermatologist, I expected to go to Alajuela for this specialist.

But now we have two new private clinics (competing of course) in Atenas who bring in various specialists based on need. In my case, Dr. Rodriquez, urólogo, comes here to Clinica Santa Sofia (photo below) once a month. While young doctors like him probably stay a lot busier by sharing their time between a big city office and probably several small town offices, it is also very helpful to us in the small towns! We can avoid a trip to the big city!  I like my dermatologist in Alajuela very much, so I probably won’t change him, but I expect all other future “specialists” to be found in one of these two new clinics here in Atenas.    🙂

Centro Médico Santa Sofía El Coyol   –   For specialists and the only complete radiology facility in Atenas including sonar which is especially good for our pregnant women!

Coronavirus

Yes, the dreaded pandemic is even here in paradise! The last I read there are 13 confirmed cases in Costa Rica.  (The first 3 were Italians who flew over for a “holiday.”) CR just cancelled 2 cruises to here  and suspends mass gatherings but has no airline travel restrictions here yet and I imagine the tourism industry will discourage such but may be necessary. And yes, this virus hurts the tourism business maybe more than any other, just like in the states!

But to indicate the virus panic we already have here, I thought I would be well prepared “just in case,” far in advance and I tried to buy some surgical masks yesterday. After visiting 3 Farmacias (drug stores) here in Atenas I learned that there are none available anywhere in the whole country of Costa Rica – all “Out of Stock” they say.    🙂   Ours probably come from China and I imagine China is using all they can make there now!    🙂

This morning I walked to my favorite supermarket for a regular shopping trip and found that they are “Out of Stock” of all hand sanitizer and Liquid Hand Soap in dispensers but had some “refill” liquid soap in plastic bags that I got 2 of. They were also nearly out of alcohol. Hmmmm.  Ticos are very health conscious and most are very healthy. So I am optimistic about avoiding the virus here. And generally I prefer avoiding crowds or many people anyway, which we must do now! So stay healthy!   🙂

“Health is better than wealth.”   ―Spanish Proverb

¡Pura Vida!

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Artistic Bike Rack?

I was in Alajuela briefly this morning and noticed something I hadn’t before, what now appears to be an older, broken Bike Rack in front of Banco Nacional. And maybe the curving red pipes spelled something with the middle letter(s) now missing? It reminded me of the art contest we had many years ago in Nashville for artistic bike racks like this that were placed all over town and I guess with the hope of more people using their bikes to help with climate change. The problem there, like here, is that it is dangerous to ride your bike on public streets the way a few people drive their cars, plus here the streets are too narrow! I really wanted to be a bike-rider when I moved here, but quickly decided it not wise/safe for an old man. Thus I walk!   🙂   And never wanted a car here!  Blue Zone people walk a lot!   🙂

Well, just another image from Alajuela, my provincial capital, across from their Central Park opposite the Cathedral.  (All Banco Nacional buildings here are placed across from every town’s Central Park opposite the central Catholic Church. Hmmmm.  Is that some kind of philosophical statement? Or what?)

For more Alajuela photos, see my Alajuela Photo Gallery. And if you live in Costa Rica — travel, walk, and look a lot! There’s a lot to see!   🙂

¡Pura Vida!

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Costa Rica by Bus

Someone recently asked me about getting around the country by bus and I think I referred them to the Bus Schedule website which lists all of the option when you type in the “From” and “To” spaces on that website with all bus companies included.

Well, I forgot about an even better help beyond schedules, the Facebook Group Page Costa Rica by Bus on which you can post a question (may have to join group first) and some of the many people who travel by bus will share their experiences and advice. And of course they also recommend the bus schedule site above. And by the way, that bus in photo above is the one I took to Turrialba.

I plan to go to a birding lodge near San Isidro del General in May, so anticipate my report on that bus experience then. I use the bus almost weekly to go from Atenas to Alajuela for many different reasons and have gone to San Jose by bus many times. Some of my other bus adventures have been (with links to photo galleries):

All of this was to simply say that you can travel on a “shoestring budget” and see a lot of Costa Rica whether you live here or visiting. Buses are cheap here! That is the way most Ticos travel! And you can do it without the Spanish language, though much easier and a richer experience if you speak at least a little Spanish.

Now, as a retiree who has made seeing all of Costa Rica my main activity, I do not do everything the budget-way and love to go the longer distances on Sansa Airlines or to places less than 3 hours from Atenas by my favorite driver here in Atenas, but I do not have a car and have basically quit renting cars because of the high insurance cost, thus seeing Costa Rica by bus is one option I still use when I consider it the most practical way. The next bus report comes in May!   🙂

“Live with no excuses and travel with no regrets”    ~ Oscar Wilde

I just realized that I did a similar post in 2017, Seeing Costa Rica by Bus   🙂

¡Pura Vida!

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Xandari Scenery

Okay – my last post for Xandari! You may get tired of seeing photos from there, but hopefully they reveal why it is one of my favorite hotels in Costa Rica! I never tire of it and hope to keep going back! And like other great places, the friendliness and helpfulness of the people there is one great reason I may not have mentioned much! And that has nothing to do with my photography library being there – they treat everyone like royalty! I highly recommend Xandari Costa Rica anytime you are here and need a hotel near the airport or better yet for a luxurious nature experience over a longer period of time. You need several days to hike, see, photograph, and do all there is to do in this hotel!

And one of my many reasons for liking it is the beautiful scenery I have grouped here in two categories. As always, click a photo to see it larger and then you can return or take the option to see the photos in that gallery as a manual slide show. Enjoy!

Xandari Vistas

 

 

Xandari Trails & Grounds

And in case you wondered why no flowers here, I did a Xandari Flowers post last week or for those from all my trips there, see the photo gallery Xandari Flowers. 

“Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts.”     ~Rachel Carson

¡Pura Vida!

Xandari Costa Rica    (hotel website)

For the photo report on my latest and third trip to Xandari see my CR Trips Gallery 2020 Xandari Nature Resort, AlajuelaNOW READY! And includes for the first time my visit to the Starbucks Alsacia Coffee Farm.:

Photo gallery of my latest visit to Xandari Resort

Or if researching Xandari, see photos from my 2 earlier trips in both galleries and in books:

2019 Xandari Birthday Week Celebration:  GALLERY   –or–   BOOK

2018 July Xandari First Visit:   GALLERY   –or–   BOOK

 

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My Xandari Villa

My third time to visit one of the most expensive hotels that I like in Costa Rica gives me a third different and bigger room/villa. I rarely show this many photos of a room, but because it is unique, I decided to this time along with the Art in My Villa, yesterday’s post.

This “room”  is called a “King Junior Suite” meaning just one king size bed in multiple rooms or spaces, a large suite or villa. They call all their rooms villas because most are in separate buildings and all are large.

From the lobby and restaurant main building, you walk through the gardens on a beautiful winding, paved path to the entrance of #5 in this case:

Private Entrance Compound

Kitchenette by front Terrace

 

Living Room

 

Valley-View Terrace

 

Bedroom

 

Bathroom

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Shower behind blue wall overlooking private garden. Toilet in separate room behind me.

This exceptional hotel is just 20 minutes from the San Jose Airport, thus a starting and ending location for many international tourists coming here, like the people I visited with this time from England, Germany, France, Canada and the U.S.

Yet they are immersed in a tropical rainforest with hiking trails, 5 waterfalls on the river, wildlife, both wild and cultivated flowers, a small farm for the kitchen, a wonderful Spa and restaurant. Some things are worth paying more for!   🙂   I do this occasionally here while other times I “rough it” in the wilderness to be closer to nature. I like both experiences! And the way Xandari combines both luxury AND nature! Plus now they house the Charlie Doggett Photography Library!   🙂   That alone makes the visit worthwhile!   🙂

Luxury is attention to detail, originality, exclusivity and above all quality.
~Angelo Bonati

¡Pura Vida!

Xandari Costa Rica

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Art in My Villa

Yes, the rooms at Xandari are actually villas or little houses, even for one person! My one-bedroom villa was larger this time and as big as my house in Atenas, with smaller kitchen but everything else bigger – but I will share photos of that tomorrow.

Now, here are some cell phone shots of most of the art displayed in my villa. Most date back to another era of art when the original artist-owners, the Broudy’s (now deceased), built the place. It is kind of a mixture of “folk art,” maybe “hippie art,” woodcraft, stained glass, pottery, and some other styles I can’t label – just unique and colorful and thus, along with the immersion in nature, gives this place its own personality.  And remember, this is just the art in my one room out of thirty-something rooms/villas (many bigger)! Plus art in the gardens & restaurant!   🙂   And I realize that a lot of people today will not like this art, but I find it refreshing & creative!   🙂

One Villa’s ART

“Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time.”

~Thomas Merton

Xandari Costa Rica

¡Pura Vida!

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Dragonfly & Squirrel

Dragonfly

This dragonfly and squirrel round out my photos of wildlife at Xandari, having already done posts on Birds and Butterflies. The latter giving me 4 new species! Dragonflies seem to interest everyone almost as if magical or “fairy-like” as butterflies, though the larger ones are easier to photograph than these tiny blue ones. See my separate photo galleries for Costa Rica Dragonflies and for Costa Rica Damselflies for more of this magic!

IMG_9526-A-WEB

 

Variegated Squirrel

IMG_9155-A-WEBAnd finally, every man’s pest, the squirrel, in this case the Variegated Squirrel, the most common in Costa Rica. But there are other species of squirrels and I have galleries on 3 of them:

 

An animal’s eyes have the power to speak a great language.

~Martin Buber

 

¡Pura Vida!

Xandari Costa Rica

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Xandari Birds

I’ve seen more birds at Xandari in the past, but 15+ is not bad for this close to the city on very windy days! No new birds for me though this second time to photograph a Rose-breasted Grosbeak shows up the “rose” color more than my earlier shots in Monteverde. And I love the way the Yellow-throated Euphonia appears to be hollering at me in the feature photo! 

Otherwise most of these are pretty bad photos which I will blame on the wind and the dense dark forest, making birds most difficult to photograph. The pair of Lesson’s Motmots are more interesting than my usual solo shots of them and that blue tail maybe the best motmot tail yet for me!   🙂

My main reason for going to Xandari this time was to install my “Charlie Doggett Photo Books Library” in the lobby of the hotel for guests from around the world to enjoy and I even got to observe some guests using the books already! Plus I just love this little nature retreat with 5 waterfalls, 4 miles of nature trails, some of the best flower gardens anywhere along with spacious villas for rooms and super-good food and private jacuzzis! A very relaxing retreat again!

Xandari Birds 2020

 

Xandari Nature Resort

“In order to see birds it is necessary to become a part of the silence.”

― Robert Lynd

¡Pura Vida!

My Costa Rica Birds Gallery

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