No – though the first time I saw these bright pink flowers on top of the cactus plant at a house I walk by frequently on my way to town, I thought is was going to be a beautiful cactus! But it seems that the owner of that house has allowed his Bougainvillea to climb over from the wall to the cactus and from a distance, the second photo, it looks like it’s blooming. And some cactus here do bloom, but I’ve not seen that one bloom yets.
Renewed Residency Today
I went to San Jose this morning to renew my residency with an attorney and 3 other American expats in Atenas. Since we were all three “Adultos mayores” or senior adults, we did not have to stand in that long line in my photo, but instead were escorted to the front of the line where we got the next available window to finish processing our paperwork (having paid in advance the fee amounting to a little over $100 USD, 66,000 colones). Then they photograph you and your new plastic card is ready in 30 to 40 minutes while you wait in an outside patio with coffee available. 🙂 Plus at the same time they email you the new (since my last renewal) electronic card that you keep on your phone and can use just like the plastic card. Getting too modern for me! 🙂 It is pictured below this Immigration Office line photo with my numbers scratched out. The actual blue plastic card is pictured in the center of the electronic one. Plus the plastic card is also electronic for card readers like on the public bus and government offices.
Playground Equipment Arrives!
And as I expected, it is very modern or contemporary and seems to be geared to preschool and younger primary school kids. My feature shot at top shows a young couple holding up their child to see the installation. Below is a shot of the workers installing the new play things and artificial turf which I guess is better than the gravel base installed earlier. 🙂 I made these shots yesterday and expect it to be several days before it is open for the kids to play on when I will make another cell phone shot of an active playground. 🙂 For new followers of this blog, this one area of the Atenas Central Park is just one of many very slow steps in this small town’s renovating the Central Park here for 3 or 4 years now. You can see all of my Park Renovation photos in the photo gallery: Remodeling Central Park Atenas.
THREE MORE PHOTOS BELOW . . .
Walking through the garden on two mornings (March 11 & 12) and I chose these shots to share in a little slide show. Rainy Season usually sorta starts the middle of April and really starts in May, but by March 12 we have already had 3 little but nice rains! So I’m glad as is my garden! 🙂
Each and every bloom is unique and beautiful to me. Enjoy walking through my garden with the slide show below and here is the only one I can’t identify, from across the driveway in neighbor’s yard . . .
My Mixed Traveling Philosophies
The main reason I gave to people back in Tennessee when I moved to Costa Rica was that “I could not afford to travel and live in retirement in the United States where everything is too expensive, especially healthcare.”
And travel into nature was then already my favorite retirement activity. I’m the only one I knew then in Tennessee who had visited all 54 of the state parks there! 🙂 Yet my favorite place for nature had already become Central America and especially Costa Rica, though I did carefully check out Panama for retirement also. So after 4 trips to Costa Rica (+3 to Panama & 3 to Guatemala), I made the big decision and moved to Costa Rica! Never for a single moment have I regretted it! 🙂
My Garden Peacock & Health Update
And of course you do know that I mean Peacock BUTTERFLY! 🙂
There are two species that I see here, the more common is the Banded Peacock that I see all over Costa Rica and shared one from last week’s visit to Xandari, but maybe my preferred is the simpler but elegant White Peacock Butterfly, Anartia jatrophae. Click that link for my gallery photos of them. They are also found all over Costa Rica, though not in the abundance of the Banded Peacock. These are the only 2 “Peacock” butterflies in Costa Rica, while Panama and south into South America there is also a Red Peacock Butterfly which is similar to the Banded but with thicker bands of red where the Banded has thinner white bands.
2023 – Slowing Down on Travel
As much as I love traveling around Costa Rica with my camera, I am slowing down a little this year for multiple reasons, mainly health and money! 🙂 I’ve lived a long and exciting life already, mostly as a high-energy person, ready at all times for the next adventure! But with much less energy after cancer radiation treatments and having three pretty serious falls last year on trips, I must “start acting my age” in some respects. 🙂
Plus, my savings have been cut back a good bit with all the cancer treatments and I’m beginning to feel the tightness of money more, so fewer trips and shorter trips is part of my plan for this year with enough “wiggle room” to add a day trip at the last minute when I feel the need. 🙂 Like the 2-night trip this week just added to nearby Xandari Resort . . .
Here’s My 2023 Travel Plans
2 nights – Xandari Costa Rica Resort, Alajuela, my #1 best location for butterflies and one of the best for flowers! It’s this week! And you can see photos from 5 previous visits by browsing through my Costa Rica Trips Galleries, 2022, 2020 (twice), 2019 & 2018. 🙂 I will be giving the resort gifts of two copies of one of my newest photo books, Butterflies!
The Hidden Art of Xandari for them to add to the only complete library of all Charlie Doggett photo books!
4 nights – Tortuga Lodge & Gardens, Tortuguero National Park. This will be my 4th trip to Tortuguero NP but my first time to this Lodge which is a sister lodge to the Monteverde Lodge and Gardens I visited in 2019 and considered a little nicer than the more rustic lodges I’ve visited here before, Turtle Beach Lodge in 2019 and Laguna Lodge in 2016 and with Caravan Tours in 2010. Tortuguero is often called “The Amazon of Costa Rica” with most nature hikes by boat and an amazing amount of wildlife from an occasional Jaguar to almost every tropical bird! 🙂
5 nights – Maquenque EcoLodge & Reserve, Boca Tapada. I sometimes call this my favorite lodge because of the large number of birds and other wildlife I’ve photographed there in the past and because they have treehouse rooms from which I’ve photographed both birds and monkeys in the nearby trees. But for the first time there I’m staying in a ground level cabin, one on the lake which may give me different wildlife photos from my room and I will be in less danger of falling down the 50 metal steps going up to the treehouse room. 🙂 You can see the photos of my 3 previous visits there by browsing through my Costa Rica Trips Galleries, or directly to 2022, 2020, & 2019. 🙂
5 Nights – Esquinas Rainforest Lodge which I’ve visited only one other time, also in the rainy season with one of my largest collections of bird photos in a 2018 visit when I was the only guest most of my days there. It is a small, quiet jungle retreat in the rainforests of Piedras Blancas National Park on the opposite side of that park from the more touristy Playa Cativo Lodge I visited last July, also for my birthday! This year is will be my 83rd birthday! 🙂 This is run by Austrians in conjunction with their university-related rainforest research station there. Being the rainy season, it will definitely not be crowded and I could be the only guest again! That would be okay with me! 🙂
6 nights – Hotel Banana Azul, Puerto Viejo, Limón, South Caribe. This is my annual Caribbean Beach vacation, staying always in “The Howler Suite” room overlooking the rainforest property and beach where I get great sunrise photos each morning plus lots of butterflies and birds and other wildlife including Sloths. It is my most relaxing place to visit and I have no pressure to do anything, plus the food is good and I can walk to most places, though they have their own tour company to take me further if I want explore afar and of course to and from the Limón Aeropuerto. I always fly there as I will also to Esquinas in July, near Golfito. My only 2 flying trips this year. Walter will drive me everywhere else I go this year. You can see my photos of 5 previous visits to Banana Azul by browsing through my Costa Rica Trips Galleries, or go directly to 2022, 2021, 2019, 2018, & 2017.
6 Nights – Hotel Savegre Lodge & Reserve, San Gerardo de Dota. And this year I will spend Christmas in another favorite lodge, in the most beautiful mountains with the 5th purest/cleanest river in the entire world – Rio Savegre! And the best place in Costa Rica to photograph the Resplendent Quetzal birds along with many others! Plus terrific food, rooms and hiking trails! See my photos from there on my 2021 Visit, plus I was in the same hotel in 2009 (smaller then) and I have visited two other lodges in San Gerardo de Dota. Mariam’s Quetzales Cabins in 2015 and Trogon Lodge in 2014, all good experiences!
So fewer trips this year, but each one comes at a time I will emotionally need it and all in places I’ve been before and really love! I’m the luckiest guy in the world to get to spend my final years living like this in the most beautiful nature places in the world! Nothing could be better for my 83rd year of life!
What Would I Do Differently?
A SPECIAL BLOG POST FOR MY SUBSCRIBERS CONSIDERING A MOVE TO COSTA RICA!
Occasionally someone will ask me such things as “Are you glad you moved to Costa Rica?” or “If you had it to do over, would you do it again?” or “Do you miss the States?” or “When are you coming home?” or “Have you ever wished you had moved to a different country?” or “If you had it to do over again, what would you do differently?”
The short answer to all but the last question is that I absolutely love Costa Rica and have never once missed the United States nor doubted it was the right thing for me! And I have not gone back, having no reason so far. Anyone who reads my blog regularly knows why this is true for me and that Costa Rica is a perfect fit for my love of nature. But before I tell you the one thing I think I did incorrectly, a quick summary of what I did correctly . . .
What I Did Correctly Before My Move Here
If you go back to the beginning of this blog in June 2014 you will see that I was pretty meticulous about the details of a move to another country and fortunately I had had the experience once before when I moved to The Gambia, West Africa for 3 years. I followed all the websites’ and individuals’ suggestion of doing my “due diligence” (a popular phrase then) which simply meant lots of research on living retired in Costa Rica and the details of doing it legally, successfully and learning what it would take for me to be happy here, etc. ad infinitum! I did that! (Except not thoroughly enough with the language part!)
Plus I traveled here 4 times before moving and checked out other countries online and in the case of Panama, visited them 3 times (a reasonable option). Plus my last trip here before moving was to take the “Live in Costa Rica Tour” sandwiched on either side of a two-day conference by ARCR on all the details of a move here, residency options, legal stuff, both private & public medical services, shipping stuff here, getting a lawyer to help, etc. And on that same trip I hired a local lawyer who specialized in expat residency and began my residency application which was made easier with still some time still left in the states so I could personally secure all the needed legal documents that would have been much more difficult trying to get from here!
So, Then What Would I Do Differently?
Just one thing! I would have made learning to speak Spanish fluently my JOB ONE! Though I had two brief classes in Nashville, I was a slow learner and not using it there, so to accomplish that . . .
I should not have made finding a place to live the first task, as I did, but I should have enrolled in an Immersion Spanish Language School for the first 4-6 months (in another town since there is not one in Atenas) where they provide a cheap rent living with a Tico family that speaks only Spanish plus daily language classes and local tours in Spanish. Younger people might accomplish this in 3 months to some degree but a slower-learning old man like me needs more time and I’m just guessing on the 4-6 months. I tried one of these immersion schools for one week in Feb. 2020, just before Covid hit us big here, and it was very helpful, just not for a long enough time. It would be harder now while paying higher rent for my more permanent housing. But I’m going to talk to them again and may try additional weeks periodically with follow-up classes on Zoom or Skype. My current teacher is not moving me forward fast enough and nor is Duolingo! I’m ready for a change in my language learning! 🙂 I will report on any change made and what progress if any I make. 🙂
So, my only regret about being “Retired in Costa Rica” is that I am still not fluent in Spanish – though I am immensely better than when I arrived here! 🙂 I speak more Spanish than maybe many of the other American expats (some don’t even try.) I do great in restaurants and traveling 🙂 and okay in the supermercado and other shopping, but I could do better and cannot handle much over the phone. Taxistas help me, so I am better there than on the public buses and the free public medicine that I should be using more is one place I can’t manage with my slow, simple Spanish – that and some casual conversations, especially with strangers, though it helps when a marketer calls on the phone that I can honestly say “Lo siento, no hablo español.” 🙂 Stay tuned for updates!
So what I’m saying is that if I had learned to speak Spanish fluently that first year, the rest of my 8 years would have been so much easier and more fulfilling!
That’s what I would have done differently!
Okay, maybe one other little thing that was not a problem when I first moved, but recently my small Credit Union in the states that I’ve been a member of for 45 years has had difficulties getting a new debit card to me quick enough or wiring money, where a larger international bank would be better equipped to serve me overseas. And I have to have a U.S. bank because my pension checks require that for auto-deposit. I’m still managing and have shifted some of my savings to my Costa Rica bank, but that is one other little detail that one considering a move here needs to straighten out, preferably before the move! 🙂
And by the way, the U.S. Social Security is more accommodating than my other pension sources, as they deposit directly into my Costa Rica Bank Account. And it was easy! I just went to the U.S. Embassy’s SS Window in San Jose and they took care of it immediately with that very next check arriving here! 🙂 Plus that became my “proof of income” for the residency application. 🙂
You may remember that I posted a photo of this poinsettia in my garden before Christmas last month (Dec. 18) with only 3 large red petals. Well, those tiny ones near the center kept growing, and I believe they will even more!
It was my indoor potted poinsettia for Christmas ’21 that I planted in the garden last January and someone told me that those potted ones would never bloom again when put in a garden. Well, maybe some don’t, but this one did! 🙂 And it just keeps blooming with a smaller flower coming in beneath this larger bloom, that I’ve been told are actually leaves that turn red. Just another fun experience with flowers and a garden! 🙂 One of those “little things” in nature that a retired old man finds joy in – while “Retired in Costa Rica!” 🙂
And I’m not finished sharing photos from my Christmas trip to Arenal Volcano National Park, but I may continue to throw in an occasional “local” blog post to keep Atenas in the news! 🙂
For more flowers, check out my Flora & Forest GALLERIES! And stay tuned for more butterflies+ from Arenal!
Christmas Everywhere in Atenas!
During the last few days of my walks around Atenas, Alajuela, Costa Rica I have been cellphone-snapping photos of Christmas decorations and the slideshow below this one shot is just a sample of many in homes and businesses. Ticos love Christmas! And it is in our Summer break from schools with graduations the middle of December and new school year starting in February. It’s also the time for family vacations with all the hotels full during Christmas, especially on the beaches. I had to make reservations for my Christmas trip a year ago to get a room at Arenal Observatory. It will be literally full! Tomorrow night (Friday) is our Atenas Christmas Parade and I’ll have photos in a Saturday blog post. A fun and happy time of year here!Continue reading “Christmas Everywhere in Atenas!”