On my round of errands this morning, one stop was at the public clinic to sign up for my Coronavirus Vaccine as one of an expected. 3.7 million to be vaccinated in Costa Rica this year, basically the whole population. It has begun all over the country as a free vaccination provided by the government with millions of doses already in country. As an older adult I should be called in before younger people and within the month the technician told me. I just wait for the phone call, in Spanish, and hope they speak slow enough for me to understand! 🙂
In an effort to include some Costa Rica Culture in my blog, I copied this from the Golden Gringo Newsletter, which is okay because he copied it from a local online newspaper! 🙂 He came here a year or so before me from the states as a retiree (younger than me) who chose to live near a beach and fishing place, Quepos on the Pacific Coast near Manuel Antonio NP. He’s a lot different than me, but I semi-follow his newsletter for his impression of things here.
And note that the original list below was most likely aimed at and/or written by young adult or teen Costa Ricans (Ticos) as a form of humor. But there is some real culture here! 🙂
Feature photo is mine of young adult Ticos in an Atenas parade (for a traditional look), but the copied stock photo above is more typical of young people here! 🙂 Below copied from Golden Gringo Chronicles:
“We’re Not the Happiest on the Planet for Nothing” 🙂
You had your first coffee before you were 5 years old. Your mom would mix it with extra milk so it wouldn’t taste so strong. She’s the reason you developed an addiction to it and now drink at least 3 cups a day. (But their also have been numerous articles in the press in recent years on the health benefits of coffee)
You don’t refer to someone as a person, you say “mae” (pronounced my). ‘Mae’ is everyone and anyone, either feminine or masculine (esa mae or ese mae). When talking to your friends, it’s not uncommon to hear the word mae at least 50 times in one conversation. (especially among teenagers, the closest modern equivalent to “mae” in English being “dude”)
You include partying in your monthly budget. It doesn’t matter if there’s nothing going on, you will find a reason to celebrate. You double your party budget if La Sele (the national soccer team) is playing that month. (in Covid times you can still watch the Sele on TV)
You don’t say 1000 colones, you say “un rojo.” (rojo, a “red” or un mil) In Costa Rica the 1000 colon bill is red in color (rojo in Spanish), so you denominate money as un rojo, dos rojos, diez rojos, and so on. For example, you say “I paid diez rojos for that ticket.” One million is “un melón,” just because it rhymes.
You use trees and house colors to give directions. From the mango tree, turn left and keep going 2 apples (blocks), it’s the third house on the right, watermelon color with a palm tree in the front. Street names — who needs them?
You know about Tico time. If someone says: “I’ll meet you at 4,” you know it probably means the person might be leaving the house at that time. Not proud of this one, but we Ticos are not exactly known for being punctual.
You say Pura Vida for everything. Used a hundred times a day to say hi, goodbye, thank you, you’re welcome, to express well-being, or to say something is good or nice, Pura Vida (pure life) is your mantra.
You eat tamales for breakfast, lunch, and dinner on Christmas and New Year’s Eve. Your mom makes a huge batch of traditional tamales for the holidays and you are responsible for eating half of them, it’s your duty.
You honed your salsa dancing and merengue skills in family reunions. Your aunt, uncle, mom, or cousin made you dance with them at all family gatherings. You might have hated it back then, but at least now you can dance.
You secretly speak Pachuca (street slang). Even though you might not use it often, you can speak it fluently. You know that tuanis means good, that mopri (a mix of the letters of primo) means mae, that the police are los pacos, your car is la nave watched over by el guachi, and your job is el yugo. En ‘toas…it’s good, mae!
Today I received the final edition of the “Retire for Less in Costa Rica” Newsletter. This wonderful couple, Paul & Gloria, are really retiring themselves now and it is about time! I have recommended them many times and they are keeping their website up for awhile, so check it out now if you haven’t before. They give the most practical advice of anyone on retiring in Costa Rica and they will be greatly missed, though maybe I will get to see them again for other reasons or socially. I hope so. They will be dividing their time between Costa Rica and Mexico which is an unusual way to retire, but very interesting.
In their last newsletter they included a summary of their philosophy over these 12 years that has not changed. I will try to copy it here:
What is the Retire for Less Philosophy?
Sometimes we tell people that we live the “retire for less lifestyle,” or perhaps we notice that others are also living in a similar way. So what exactly is it?
Conserve, simplify, enjoy. These three words sum up the Retire for Less Philosophy or lifestyle. We believe one can:
Enjoy the simple things in life
Discard some old beliefs regarding retirement
Count your cash, get your Social Security, and go where it’s cheaper
Reinvent yourself and begin a whole new, adventurous phase of your life
Look at your life differently, embrace the new culture, and try not to be ethnocentric
Scale down, live within your means, and learn to have fun, fun, fun!
Conserve energy, go green, and live without air-conditioners, heaters, dehumidifiers, and cars, as much as possible
Live without debt, reduce expenses, and reduce expectations
Save money, spend less, use less, and be satisfied with less –less is more
They will be missed and have certainly helped a lot of people retire here and elsewhere. Now I will just continue my very simple life in Costa Rica, not owning anything including a car. Zero debt. Walking almost daily. Enjoying the simple things of life in a simple country that puts people and nature above industry and money. Where nature is king and we will be carbon neutral in a year or so! (99% of electricity now.)
Okay, for you Spanish readers, yes, that says “The Twins” Waterfall and thus you may ask, “Where is the second one?” Well . . . sometimes my better judgement overrules my sense of adventure. We had already hiked about 4 km and waded across the ice cold, rock-strewn river with Bryan, my personal guide, helping me wade across the slippery rocks just to get this photo of the biggest of the twins. To see the other one we would have had to wade up a separate stream of slippery rocks to the left of the bottom of this falls maybe 50 meters. Bryan had already said “I can’t believe I’m helping an 80 year old do this hike!” He was doubting the wisdom of going further and after nearly slipping down more than once. I did too! But I was thankful that I could make the hike solo with my excellent young masked guide who was perfect for me in every way! Most of the holiday weekend crowd have gone. We have a max of 9 guests the rest of the week, so very tranquilo! Which I prefer! 🙂 And yes, I love this place! Already another favorite and I have so many favorites in Costa Rica. Here’s just a few shots of the Las Gemelas Falls Hike and notice that weird V-shaped bridge over one of the streams, like none I’ve seen before:
One of the things that drives perfectionist Americans crazy about Costa Rica is the multitude of one-lane bridges all over the country even in the cities! Look no further than right outside the main gate to Roca Verde Housing Development! Our entrance gate is on Avenida 8, better known by the little bario (neighborhood) there as Calle Boquerón. Just outside our gate going towards central Atenas you cross the little rainy season stream that goes by the cow pasture in front of my house. And of course on a one-lane bridge! Don’t know why or who influenced it, but the city of Atenas is widening that little bridge.
The concrete tubing for water flow has already been extended and fill dirt and rocks added around it and as I photographed Monday they were pouring concrete for maybe a base to something or a wall? These two school kids out of school for Coronavirus will probably soon be joining the city construction team as they sit here and learn how easy it is to build a bridge over a concrete pipe. 🙂
“If Rome had been built in a day we would have used the same contractor.”
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.
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! 🙂
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:
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 Ricaand 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
Maybe – or maybe not – just art that my second dentist (Ureña) likes or maybe a relative made. He has these in his lobby and 3 appear to be the same indigenous woman from behind but in different clothing and accessories. Whatever the story behind them, my first impression was good and I snapped photos with my phone. The other appears to be an early migrant from the Caribbean Islands to the Caribbean (Atlantic) Coast of Costa Rica, where most of the Afro-Costa Ricans live and have roots in Jamaica or other Caribbean Islands, originally brought here by Spaniards to work their banana and other farms. We have the largest Jamaican population outside of Jamaica. 🙂 Anyway, I think it is good art and I enjoy art!
“The job of the artist is always to deepen the mystery.”
And a local sense of humor at Tico Times Digital Newspaper:
Since all the people are staying at home, the native animals are reclaiming our Costa Rica parks, even Jurassic Park! 🙂 Or is that the lake in downtown San Jose’s Sabana Park?
Native animals return to Costa Rica as coronavirus forces humans indoors The Tico Times – Mar 21, 2020
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! 🙂
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! 🙂
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.
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!
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 reportis 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. 🙂
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 masksyesterday. 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! 🙂
For the last two weeks I have been adding the Spanish name after the English name on each of my 337 Costa Rica Bird Galleries, one bird at a time! My source was the fairly new book Aves de Costa Rica, Guia de Campo by Garrigues and Dean which is available only in bookstores and lodges here in Costa Rica, while the English version, Birds of Costa Rica is available on Amazon.com as well. This Spanish version is a translation of this older English version, Second Edition and is my first printed source of Spanish names for the birds here in Costa Rica. Nicaragua had one first that is bilingual! 🙂
I should add that for my English bird information I now use the more up-to-date Princeton Field Guide to Birds of Central America. My online source of birding information is Cornell’s eBird and Neotropical Birds websites. But even they do not have the Spanish names added to their articles. Wikipedia does but it is not specific to Costa Rica like the above book and my web gallery and I’m not sure of their sources.
Needless to say, this makes my web gallery of Costa Rica Birds one of the best online and the only one I know of that is bilingual, though I only have photos of 337 species out of over 900 here – so a long way to go! 🙂
“The presence of a single bird can change everything for one who appreciates them.”
― Julie Zickefoose