A Special Atenas Taxista

A taxi driver here is called a taxista and there are all ages and all kinds of taxistas with virtually all in Atenas being very friendly and very helpful. I don’t call just one driver, but the dispatcher and get a different one most times plus in the line downtown I always accept whoever is first in line – just seems fair! And most of the taxistas know me now and some mimic my southern drawl in saying my address (which many know)“Ciento cinco Roca Verde por favor.”  Of course I don’t notice me saying it any different than them!   🙂

Occasionally I get this one man who is one of the oldest in one of the oldest cars and the only one who is always playing Mexican Music on his car radio and enjoys being kidded about it. Well, the other night I got him after eating at Poco Loco and I told him again that I like his happy music! (Pleased him!)

Since the route he chose went right by Escuela Central (public elementary school), I asked if he would slow down or stop for me to photograph their Christmas tree at night. (I’ll include in a future post.) He stopped. Then when we later got to my house and I was getting out, he said, “Whoa, whoa! Necesita fotografié mi decoraciones.” He took me to the back window of his taxi for this elaborate manger scene packed full of many farm animals across the back shelf of his car along with Christmas balls and tinsel. Not a good photo with street light above, but an interesting story & man!    🙂

Merry Christmas!

¡Pura vida!

BONUS CHRISTMAS STORY (Link)

How did a continent go from shooting birds every Christmas to counting them? Discover the Audubon Christmas Bird Count – a holiday tradition that has transformed bird science. And maybe participate this Christmas?   🙂

Bienvenidos!

Welcome! is the translation for you English-only-speakers and one of the new Tico residents of Roca Verde decided that since he lives in the first house inside Roca Verde main gate he would contribute to the neighborhood with this nice welcome sign at 101 Roca Verde just across a little valley from my house at 105 (and he too overlooks the cow pasture). I can’t remember, but don’t think I have shown his welcome sign on the blog yet.

20191110_101600-a-WEB

Also inside the main gate (before his sign and at edge of the cow pasture) is the above lovely shaped tree that just lost its leaves and is renewing them now in our sort of a Spring. Walking to town this morning I walked by the tree that I have always liked the shape of and decided on a cell phone photo – above. Then I saw a Lineated Woodpecker in it that soon flew to two of the other trees as I tried to make a photo (below), but I need my big camera for birds! No good photo, but you can see what else is welcoming you inside the Roca Verde gate.    🙂    Bienvenidos!

20191110_101753-A-WEB
Lineated Woodpecker, Roca Verde Entrance
20191110_101656-A-WEB
Lineated Woodpecker, Roca Verde Entrance

“Trees are poems that the earth writes upon the sky.”
— Kahlil Gibran

Better photos tomorrow from Arenal Observatory!

🙂

¡Pura Vida!

The Old High School – Still a Place of Learning!

So what does a community do with an old high school building when it is replaced? This old high school in Atenas, Costa Rica was replaced many years ago but is still educating some of the same people as an adult education university extension school. We now have two public high schools, one a college-prep high school (Colegio Liceo) and the other a technical high school that prepares one for a job at graduation (Colegio Técnico).

The old high school building was recently repainted and I think looks nice sitting across from Central Park or on opposite corner from the main Catholic Church. It houses UNED, UNIVERSIDAD ESTATAL A DISTANCIA or “Distance University” with 45 locations across Costa Rica (see map below)!

Already one of the best educated countries in the world with free education through college, Costa Rica continues to educate its adults and make life better for everyone here! Just one more thing that makes it such an amazing place!    🙂

Locations of UNED across Costa Rica! Continuing Adult Education!

 

“There is no end to education. It is not that you read a book, pass an examination, and finish with education. The whole of life, from the moment you are born to the moment you die, is a process of learning.”     –Jiddu Krishnamurti

¡Pura Vida!

FUN NOTES ABOUT THE PHOTO:  At the corner waiting to safely cross the street is a mother with baby in stroller and primary school child in tow – a common – typical scene of this family-oriented community where almost all children walk to and from school and the younger ones with a parent.

Behind the little family is one of several “street sweepers” in Atenas who literally sweeps the streets with a push broom and picks up with a dustpan. He also empties the little street trash bins like the one beside him in the photo above. Or see my old 2015 Street Sweeper Post on this blog.   🙂

And lastly at this central point in Atenas, corner of Avenida 0 and Calle 0 you can see how much traffic there is in the middle of the day! Of course there is more at times, but generally this is a very tranquil town with more walkers than car drivers and friendly at that! Such a contrast to the big city noise and traffic of San Jose & Alajuela or the rude, tourist-congested beach towns! A peaceful little coffee farming town in the central valley of Costa Rica with the slogan of “Best weather in the world!”  “Mejor clima del mundo!”  Why live anywhere else?   🙂

¡Pura Vida!

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!

20191101_103226-WEB
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)!

 

20191104_140523-WEB
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!

Saturday Morning Contemplation

Saturday morning on the terrace!

Sleep late – breakfast on the terrace – wandering mind.

Bible reading – Jesus’s exorcism of demons.

No Washington Post on my Kindle because no WiFi – CableTica  (my internet & cable TV provider) told me Tuesday they had a problem with all current routers and would come install a new one Saturday afternoon, that’s today! With better service! And cheaper!

And it was only a 5-day wait!  🙂   Plus I will get to practice my Spanish when the cable guys come! As I did with the 2 confirmation calls which I was told in advance that if I did not understand, just press “1” at the prompt – I only understood “uno” and pressed it!   🙂

Gazing out over my vista above – what are the people in those other houses doing? Who are they? Then the tranquility of this place takes over – a vulture glides serenely overhead while the chatter of chachalacas in a neighbor’s tree draws my attention before flying off – bringing sudden quietness – stillness for just a moment.

A truck load of topsoil breaks the stillness and is soon followed by the garbage collector who stops at my “canasta” (basket), tossing the trash bags into the truck as I wave a friendly greeting to them! Soon followed by a “moto” (motorcycle) with a young man headed to work at someone’s house up the hill, possibly as a gardener or handyman?

My thoughts go back to the Kindle in front of me with no newspaper – So I decide to read a chapter or two of my current adventure book (occasionally read instead of an Agatha Christie mystery):  Thunderhead by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child. I was notified of this book because I gave a positive review of another Preston book also about archaeologists, and closer to where I live, The Lost City of the Monkey God, where they search in nearby Honduras up a crocodile-infested river for a different lost city. Terrific book!

Thunderhead is about a female Santa Fe archaeologist and her team that just floated to the end of Lake Powell, Utah (reminding me of my 2012 float trip there) and are riding horses up a canyon looking for an  Anasazi indigenous people city called Quivira. In both books the lost cities are rumored to be “cities of gold” with many indigenous myths of protection and dangers at entering the impossibly hidden cities. And already Nora has been warned by animal-skin clad humans. And my reading is constantly interrupted . . .

The low whir of a coasting bicycle passes by as another young man coasts down the hill toward our development’s exit gate.

Amidst my book reading, I go inside to look up something on the internet through my laptop’s cable connection (no WiFi remember) and find the power is off! Wow! Life in the tropics! (But power came back on in about 30 minutes.) Oh well – not that important! I don’t even remember what I was looking up!    🙂

My neighbor starts up his diesel RV motor which he likes to “warm up” (rattle, rattle, rattle) before leaving on his one or two trips a day, to the gym for exercises or to the super Mercado. He’s generally more of a “homebody” than me!   🙂  And beyond my understanding, he never travels around Costa Rica to see all the beauty and adventure!   🙂

After he roars out the gate it is peace & quiet again and back to reading and thinking about my fortunate life in this little lost corner of the world. Gazing around at my tropical plants and flowers, I realize that my friends to the north now have flowers freezing, trees changing color (which is nice!) but then losing all their leaves while I enjoy the flowers, greenness and unique plants in my year-around garden! Pura vida! Suddenly the bright song of a bird in my strangler fig tree changes my focus and woefully I can’t identify what bird.

By now I’m trying to jot down these random thoughts/activities from my breakfast and morning time on the terrace. Just a tiny sample of a couple of hours for someone “Retired in Costa Rica,” the title of my blog &website with a large collection of photos. Check out the “Gallery” of photos since “a picture is worth a thousand words! ”   🙂   And they show my Costa Rica best of all!  🙂

I thought I might walk to town before the cable guys come between 12 and 5 pm today. But more likely I will just hang out here in the peace & quiet – Now that the diesel has rumbled back into my neighbor’s carport.    🙂

AND . . . uh oh! The cable men are here early – before 12!  Todo en español – difícil! But I now have WiFi again + more megabytes they say + more channels on my TV with some new cheaper plan than what I was paying for before! Go figure!? ¡No entiendo esto!  ¡Pero pura vida!

And now I’m off to type this blog post – different from most – maybe boring – ruminations? – Saturday morning on the terrace!    🙂

 

“To gaze is to think.”

~Salvador Dali

¡Pura Vida!

Chorreras Waterfall

20191017_095055-A-WEBJust a 4 km walk yesterday morning – to breakfast(0.5 km) and afterwards directly to the Chorreras Waterfall through parts of the Hotel farmland and other scenery (1.5 km), watching employees arrive by bus, bicycle, motorcycle and walking. A pleasant walk down a dirt farm road that became rocky and steep on the hill by the river and waterfall. Then the 2 km return with a friendly dog.

As the first one to the Falls that morning I was greeted by the barking dogs and very helpful security guard, Norman, a friendly young man from Nicaragua. (Costa Rica doesn’t chase its immigrants away or put them in cages.) And as in this case, immigrants help make life better for all of us here!   🙂    I love our immigrants!  (And of course I am one myself!)    🙂

Like most Latin Americans, Norman showed a great degree of respect for my age and seemed a little surprised I was hiking in the mountains and climbing down steps to the waterfall, offering to help me of course. Evidently not many 79 year-old people are as adventurous!    🙂

We talked about the difficulties of me learning to speak Spanish and him learning to speak English. Then he shared a quote with me in both English and Spanish to encourage me in my language learning (probably someone used to encourage him), which I include in both languages at the end of this post. Great advice from a young man that I will take to heart!  “Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.”

Wow! I love living here! All the neat people! And places!

20191017_100301-WEB
My dog companion walking ahead of me here.

No rain the previous afternoon or night, thus the Falls not as full Norman said. After visiting with Norman awhile I walked back and one of the guard dogs decided to walk back with me, all the way to the Adventure Tours station, nearly 2 km, where they said he does that frequently with guests – every creature is friendly here!    🙂

Chorreras Waterfall

 

Birds on the Walk

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

Hotel Grounds on the Walk

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

Flowers on the Walk

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.

Vive como si murieras mañana. Aprende como si vivieras para siempre.

~Mahatma Gandhi     –     Given to me by Norman at Chorreras Waterfall to encourage me with my study of Spanish.     🙂

¡Pura Vida!

Hacienda Guachipelín

Quick! Snap it!

WHALES! The magic of seeing them and the difficulty of photographing! I spent 4 hours on the ocean this morning trying to do that. Not easy, but a real rush and satisfaction. None of our whales today jumped out of the water like you see in the classic photo and we were told that it doesn’t happen very often. In fact they even have some days when no whales are seen, so we were lucky to see 5 or more!

Our guide said all of these are humpback whales, though they looked like two different species to me, but maybe some are juveniles which are often different in many other species.

And we had 4 “species” of people on our boat! A group from Argentina, another group from Chili, a family from Costa Rica, and one little old man American who now lives in Costa Rica. Guess which language was spoken on this tour!   🙂

I’ll do another post tomorrow with scenery, boats, swimming and other information, but these photos are just a few of my whale photos – my reason for being here. CLICK IMAGE TO SEE LARGER.

Whales in Costa Rica

The full size versions of these photos are in my Trip Gallery for 2019 Cristal Ballena, Uvita,  sub-gallery Whales. I’m developing this trip gallery day by day during the trip. And read about my hotel at their site: Cristal Ballena Hotel.

As a matter of information, all these whales are from the south, along the Pacific coast of South America and possibly from Antarctic. They come here every July-October for the warm waters and to calve their babies.  Then in December to March we have whales coming from the Pacific coast of the States and Canada and as far north as Alaska and the Arctic and Russia. But we don’t get as many of these in Costa Rica because some go to Hawaii.

Ships are expendable; the whales are not.

~Paul Watson

¡Pura Vida!

This trip gallery:  2019-September 13-21–Cristal Ballena, Uvita

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!

“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!