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!

My 2 New CR Birding Books

On my way to the dermatologist last Thursday I stopped by a nearby Liberia in Alajuela and bought my first all Spanish bird book, Aves de Costa Rica by the now deceased ecologist Alexander Skutch who worked in the southern province of Pérez Zeledón for many years. The book is incomplete of all the many birds here, but it has the Spanish names and descriptions which makes it the only one I know about in español.

I also recently purchased a new English birding field guide that I learned the guides at Rancho Naturalista and others are using because it is more up-to-date than the older English book The Birds of Costa Rica A Field Guide by Garrigues & Dean that has been my main source of info since moving here. The newer book is bigger and includes all of Central America, published this year: Birds of Central America by Valley & Dyer. I’m still getting used to it but like it and it will probably become my new “go-to source” on paper for bird ID here and all of Central America.

It is possible that it could eventually replace the only English birding book for Panama, The Birds of Panama by Angehr and Dean.  And the two birding books for Nicaragua that I have: A Guide to the Birds of Nicaragua by Martinez-Sanchez, Chavarria-Durlaux, and Muñoz. It is my only BILINGUAL birding book which I got on my first trip to Nicaragua. Very good! But now on Amazon you can get a newer English-only book Birds of Nicaragua A Field Guide by Chavarría-Duriaux, Hille & Dean.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

These could be the last of the paper birding books for Central America with internet and cellphone apps taking over the field with the ability to update daily if needed! eBird and their app Merlin are possibly the best available electronically.

 

 

NOTE: If you live in Costa Rica, most of these paper books are cheaper at a local bookstore (Libería) than on Amazon, especially that Spanish book I just got, Aves de Costa Rica.

New Hospital Adventures

Hospital San Rafael de Alajuela, Costa Rica

Adventure 1: New Cardiologist Scheduled

It was time for my one-year checkup with my public hospital cardiologist yesterday, 27 Agosto, made by the doctor one year ago, Dr. Hernandez. In the meantime I heard around June from someone else with the same cardiologist that Dr. Hernandez (whom I really liked) had gone to Spain to study heart surgery and I would be getting his substitute whom the other person also liked very much, especially because he spoke English! So I was already expecting a new doctor, whom I learned today is Victor Andres Garcia Rojas (called Dr. Garcia) – and I will do another article below on Spanish Names using his.

Adventure 2: I Forgot Pre-appointment Blood Tests

Yeah! No good excuse! It was on my calendar that I wasn’t watching and I forgot that appointment a week earlier. The results were to be with the doc by yesterday so they would be part of his evaluation of my heart. I rationalized and said, “oh well, he will reschedule that and add to my file later. No big deal! Pura vida!”  Well, it is a big deal! Hospitals are very serious!

So I wait in the adultos major line (for old people & shorter than other line) for about 30 minutes. When I get to the desk there is suddenly a computer problem with a bunch of supervisor types coming in to explain something on the computers to all the clerks. Then finally my clerk takes my cita (appointment paper) and my cedula (ID card) and starts to check me in and I casually tell her about forgetting the appointment for blood workup. She stares at me, shakes her head and tells me she is sorry (this is all in Spanish of course) but “the doctor cannot see you without the blood tests.” Thus she makes a new appointment for me with Dr. Garcia on September 5 (Whew! I leave Sept. 6 for my Caribe trip!) Then, with multiple attempts, she explains to me that I must go down to main lobby (photo at top) and wait in line at the laboratorio for a new appointment and show them that it is needed for a Sept. 5 doctor visit. By then I remember waiting in that line a year ago for the missed appointment. My punishment for living a pura vida life!  🙂

So back downstairs to that crowd in top photo and actually the laboratory line was not as long as some of the others. I had my new lab appointment for this Friday in less than 45 minutes! This girl was not as slow a speaker or as patient with my bad Spanish and so she used her phone translator some with me, though I was understanding more of her Spanish than she thought. Language is all part of the adventure!

So now, (with all the complaints about slowness in public healthcare), I’m doing blood workup this Friday (just 4 days later!) and I see the doctor next Wednesday! Pretty fast I think! And this delay is the fault of my forgetfulness or not setting the phone calendar alarm on my lab appointment! Now I get to go back to the hospital two more times (More adventures!). And I will remember to fast 12 hours before my 6am appointment Friday!  Aren’t I lucky?    🙂

Adventure 3: Spanish Names – Why 4?

Be aware that this can be slightly different from country to country, but for the Costa Rica explanation I will use Dr. Garcia as my example:

Dr. Victor Andres Garcia Rojas

Victor = First Name;     Andres=Second or Middle Name;

Garcia=His Father’s Last Name;     Rojas=His Mother’s Last Name (maiden name)

Most people go by their father’s last name, thus he is “Dr. Garcia.” But on legal documents and other places they use all four names, like on the Cedula (ID Card) and in the hospital. Since I have only 3 names, the hospital or national healthcare program has given me a fourth name that is on all my hospital records = “Noindicaotro” as a replacement for my Mother’s last name. Interesting since it is not a word in my Spanish Dictionary!   🙂

Adventure 4: Talkative Old Man on Bus

On the bus ride back to Atenas (45+ minutes) I sat next to a very talkative man who did not stop talking and even singing the entire trip. It was mostly in Spanish with an occasional English word or phrase to show me that he knew some English. I had a crick in my neck when I got home for having my head turned to the left the whole trip. And no, what he said was not very interesting, but I appreciated his friendliness and I guess he appreciated me listening attentively.   🙂

 

¡Pura Vida!

 

 

My Calendars in Spanish

My Favorite One was free from the local Cooperative Supermarket
Featuring Atenas Coffee Farmers who make up the Cooperative.
Atenas, Costa Rica

My “Store Bought” Calendar from the mall yesterday is
“Caminos y senderos” Backroads and trails
of Costa Rica of course! I have been on the above road.
It is along the Caribe beach, Banana Azul, Puerto Viejo.
A Costa Rica Produced Nature Calendar
Hard choice of trails, trees or animals! I chose trails!

I am a very slow learner of spoken Spanish and need to surround myself with as much as possible and little things like calendars are a little help and help define where I am. Likewise I try to do most of my grocery list in español, count in Spanish, all greetings and as much conversation daily as I possible. That means avoiding gringos, especially Americans who only speak English.

Did you know that Spanish is the second most spoken language after Mandarin Chinese? Yes more people speak Spanish than English around the world and it is the second language of the United States.

-o-
An Older Slide Show of Atenas Scenes/Places
Someone walked/drove around Atenas with a video camera showing lots of people and places a few years ago. Two of the restaurants have changed and one completely closed, so definitely not current, but it is little of the local flavor of Atenas if that is what you are looking for :  
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xcTX45N4S3o

And in the right column on this blog page is a link to the most current Atenas PR Video I highly recommend!  

Integration – The Path to New Adventures

Since a copy did not work, I am linking to an article by my fellow expats and friends in San Ramon, Costa Rica who do the very helpful monthly newsletter/blog Retire For Less in Costa Rica. It expresses perfectly my philosophy about retiring in a country different from your birth country:


If you are considering a move to Costa Rica or any other country, I hope you will read the above linked article and not plan to just segregate yourself(s) with other foreigners as many Americans do. 
My Conversational English Club at a local high school.
 Atenas, Costa Rica 
I am not the perfect example of integration, but it is my goal and I am trying. Here is some of what I have done since moving to Atenas, Costa Rica 3 years ago: 
  1. Immediately got involved with language/culture studies at the local Su Espacio Spanish Atenas. I highly recommend it to anyone moving here from anywhere in the world! Though I am a slow language learner, they have stuck with me and slowly but surely I am able to “get by in Spanish” most places or have simple conversations, just not fluent yet! As we say in Spanish: “poco a poco” or step by step, or little by little. 
  2. Supplement my class studies of Spanish with two online studies occasionally: Duolingo is a free web-based language school with advertisements to cover the cost. It is very helpful and I highly recommend it. After realizing that Google Translate is not very good with Spanish, I discovered http://www.spanishdict.com/ which not only gives better translations, but has hundreds of articles and lessons on Spanish to help you. PLUS they also have an online course that competes very well with Duolingo as a slightly different approach that will fit some learning styles better, though it is not free! But well worth the moderate price! It is called “Fluencia” and you can get to it and a few free lessons from the dictionary address above. Once you do the free lessons and sign up as a student, you get a different app address. Great help!
  3. Attending church with Spanish music and sermons is a slow way to learn, but a help. The little Bible church I go to some has an English translation on the first Sunday of each month. At first that was all I attended. But now I prefer the other Sundays better and Ticos over expats. 
  4. Seeing a movie in Spanish at the mall theater in Alajuela.
  5. Watching local TV in Spanish of course! 
  6. VOLUNTEERING with local Angel Tree Project, fundraising for two schools, Spelling Bee in high school English classes, and as leader of a high school after school club for conversational English for those going to states as exchange students (above photo). 
  7. Walking everywhere (no car) is one of the best things to get me close to local people, not always communication, but communion, closeness, immersion, integration! And also . . .  
  8. Riding bus anywhere away from Atenas. I have now been on trips all over the country and it is not only getting easier, but I’m traveling like locals travel and feel integrated! 
  9. Traveling all over Costa Rica gives me more opportunities to use Spanish and meet more people and have more adventures and be a part of the broader culture! 
  10. Joining clubs: My first two years I was active in the Costa Rica Birding Club, which is an expat club of mostly rich Americans who drive their big cars all over the country for birds. I’m still a member, but more actively participating online in the local Costa Rican birding organization called Asociacion ornitologica de Costa Rica. I’ve met two local Atenas Tico birders and one has invited me to go hiking with him some weekend! A local expat club takes trips to concerts, museums, etc which has been good, but I’m hoping again to do less with expats and more with locals!
  11. My latest photo book is in Spanish! Plus most of the other books I have tried to give both the English and Spanish names for all the birds. And though my primary blog is still in English because of the audience, I also have a Spanish Blog. 



The deepest of level of communication is not communication, 
but communion. 
It is wordless … beyond speech … beyond concept.” 

¡Pura Vida!

At the Farmer’s Stove Today

El Fogon Campesino
“The Farmer’s Stove”

Genuine Tico Food cooked on a Wood Fire
El Fogon Campesino, Atenas, Costa Rica

Jason’ Quesada’s “Selfie” of Us Eating Here Today 
Our late lunch or early dinner for my two-meal day
Jason is my Spanish language tutor, practicing español at
 El Fogon Campesino, Atenas, Costa Rica 

And my new word of the day is buenísimo, meaning “really, really good” or “the best.”

A Delightful, Homey, Family-Run Restaurant
One of my favorite places to eat now!
El Fogon Campesino, Atenas, Costa Rica  


“Pull up a chair. Take a taste. Come join us. Life is so endlessly delicious.” 



-o-


And I just added another sub-gallery to my Christmas in Atenas 2017 photo gallery showing the limited “Decorations at My House” if anyone is interested. Not much since I went away for Christmas Week, but a bit of the spirit still lingers even at home!  🙂  Now it’s a New Year! 

Tamale-Making Class en Español

The meat and some vegetables were cooked ahead of time
 The kitchen of Sra. Cecelia, Atenas, Costa Rica

First, some of our Su Espacio class member ground fresh corn
to prepare fresh tortillas for our coffee break
 The kitchen of Sra. Cecelia, Atenas, Costa Rica
Felix, one of the twin boys from Germany hand-grinding yellow corn 
 The kitchen of Sra. Cecelia, Atenas, Costa Rica
Cecelia’s family members made these scrumptious corn tortillas 
which we ate with coffee grown on their farm. Delicioso!
The kitchen of Sra. Cecelia, Atenas, Costa Rica

All morning people worked on cutting
 and cleaning banana leaves to later
 wrap our tamales in.
 The kitchen of Sra. Cecelia, Atenas, Costa Rica

As with families preparing for Navidad,
everyone including kids had a job to do.
The kitchen of Sra. Cecelia,
 Atenas, Costa Rica

Washing cilantro & other spices 
from the garden outside
 The kitchen of Sra. Cecelia, Atenas, Costa Rica

Cutting up vegetables 
 The kitchen of Sra. Cecelia, Atenas, Costa Rica

Cutting up freshly cooked pork
 
The kitchen of Sra. Cecelia, Atenas, Costa Rica

Cutting up freshly cooked pork
 
The kitchen of Sra. Cecelia,
 Atenas, Costa Rica

Using a grater and sieve to make
fresh tomato juice for the recipe
The kitchen of Sra. Cecelia,
 Atenas, Costa Rica

Listening to instructions from Corinna
The kitchen of Sra. Cecelia,
 Atenas, Costa Rica

Felix & Jon take turns stirring the white cornmeal batter for tamale base
The kitchen of Sra. Cecelia, Atenas, Costa Rica

We all worked and visited all morning – A great together time! 
The kitchen of Sra. Cecelia, Atenas, Costa Rica

Finally we start putting them together!
 
The kitchen of Sra. Cecelia, Atenas, Costa Rica

A family member shows us how to wrap the final tamale.
 The kitchen of Sra. Cecelia, Atenas, Costa Rica

Soon the tables were filled with tamales!
 The kitchen of Sra. Cecelia,
 Atenas, Costa Rica

And we looked like a tamale factory!  🙂
 The kitchen of Sra. Cecelia, Atenas, Costa Rica

This was an activity sponsored by David & Corinna of Su Espacio as a total immersion Spanish activity. It was totally in Spanish, a lot of fun, cultural learning, tasty, and good use of the Spanish language!  I loved it even though my leg was hurting.

AN ASIDE: On my way walking to Su Espacio to carpool to the farm my right leg that’s been giving me trouble had a spasm as a made a big step up from street to high sidewalk and caused me to fall. I finished my trip in taxi, even though I had a B-12 shot just yesterday! I planned to go back to Dra. Candy’s office after the class where I mainly stayed in a chair. Well, near the end of class, the enthusiastic young German Felix opened the can of Garbanzos (each Christmas tamale has 2 garbanzos representing mama & papa.). Unfortunately he sliced his finger open pretty bad on the tin can. Kindly George took the boys and me with Mama Corinna to Dra. Candy’s office where Felix was treated first by the paramedic on duty this Saturday and Felix’s Papa came and picked him and his brother up to go home (their 6 week home) which is in Roca Verde not too far from me. Small world! They also got medications and/or prescriptions to avoid infections.
Then I was examined by the paramedic who called and consulted with Dra. Candy. I was given a pain shot this time and Rx’s for muscle relaxant and a gel to rub on the hurting areas of my leg. It periodically hurts very bad, especially when I get up from a long sit at desk or walk downhill! I go back Wednesday and we discuss if I need a specialist or maybe a physical therapist which they have many of here. It is a problem that has gotten worse, but I’m confident we will find a solution!  ¡Pura Vida!

And for my permanent display of these same photos see my “People and Fiestas” Gallery titled:
Tamale Making Class.  And for those who would like the recipe, here it is, just for you to make Christmas Tamales in Tennessee!  🙂  ¡Feliz Navidad!  (And good luck finding all the ingredients there!)

TAMALES NAVIDEÑOS
Related image

Ingredientes
1   paquete de MASA blanca de maíz (´´Doña Juana´´ o ´´Doña Arepa´´),
1,5Kg   de posta de cerdo,
1Kg   de papas,
2Kg   hojas de banano o plátano específicos para hacer  tamales,
0,5Kg de tocino,
0,5Kg de zanahorias,
2 chiles rojos,
1 tomate,
Achote para dar color,
1 lata grande de garbanzos,
1 lata pequeña de guisantes o petit pois,
1 rollo de culantro Castilla,
1 rollo de culantro Coyote,
1 rollo de pabilo (cuerda especial),
1 salsa Lizano,
2 cabezas de ajo,
1 rama de orégano,
2 paquetes de consomé de pollo,
2 ramas de apio,  sal y aceite.


TAMALES NAVIDEÑOS
Preparación
1)    COCINAR LA CARNE DE POSTA DE CERDO. (Doña Cecilia la prepara en la mañana temprano antes de que nosotros lleguemos).
Picamos finamente y cuidadosamente media cabeza de ajos.
Ponemos la carne en una olla con agua suficiente para tapar la carne (la carne la ponemos entera), ponemos también una rama entera de apio, la rama de orégano, y la media cabeza de ajos picados finamente.
Ponemos sal al gusto.
Cocinamos hasta que la carne esté suave.
Después quitamos la carne del caldo, la dejamos enfriar y quitamos la rama de orégano para botarla.
Mientras la carne enfría continuamos con la preparación de las verduras.
2)   (por razones de falta de tiempo, también el paso número 2 lo prepara doña Cecilia en la mañana temprano)
Picamos finamente 3 dientes de ajo.
Pelamos las papas y las picamos en cuadritos pequeños, después las ponemos (las papas) a cocinar con un poquito de agua.
Agregamos los 3 dientes de ajo picados finamente, una cucharita de achote para dar color y sal al gusto. Se cocinan al dente.
3)   Pelamos las zanahorias y las cortamos en rodajas finitas.
Lavamos los chiles y los cortamos en tiritas.
Escurrimos los guisantes y los garbanzos.
Sacar las hojitas de culantro Castilla de la ramita y NO se botan los palitos de culantro.
Conservar estas verduras crudas para el final.
4)   Partimos la carne ya fría en trocitos del tamaño a gusto propio.
Rayamos el tomate sin piel.
Picamos finamente 2 dientes de ajo y los ponemos a dorar con media cucharita de achote.
Después agregamos la carne picada, el tomate rayado sin piel y salsa Lizano al gusto.
Mezclamos bien y doramos por 10 minutos.
5)   Ponemos la masa blanca de maíz en una olla grande.
Pelamos una cabeza de ajos y la licuamos con la rama de apio que quedó, el culantro Coyote y los palitos de culantro Castilla que conservamos del paso número 3.
Colamos o filtramos el líquido y lo agregamos a la masa de maíz que está en la olla.
6)   También agregamos a la masa del paso número 5 el caldo de la carne de posta de cerdo del paso número 1.
Mezclamos y revolvemos bien, agregamos el consomé de pollo y la sal al gusto.
Cocinamos moviendo constantemente hasta que hierva. Si vemos que la masa se seca rápido antes de hervir le agregamos agua.
7)   ¡ ¡ ¡LA MASA SE TRABAJA CALIENTE PORQUE FRIA NO SE PUEDE MOLDEAR ! ! !
Posicionamos las hojas de banano en la mesa: una grande y arriba en el centro una pequeña.
En el centro de la hoja ponemos un cucharón de masa y luego agregamos una cucharada de papas del paso número 2, después una tirita de chile con una rodaja de zanahoria, 2 garbanzos, 3 guisantes y una hoja de culantro del paso número 3.
Por último ponemos un trozo de carne, envolvemos las hojas y amarramos con el pabilo.
8)   Una vez que estén armadas las ´´las piñas’’ las ponemos a cocinar sumergidas en agua hirviendo por 30 minutos desde el momento que el agua hierve.
9)   Sacamos las piñas, las escurrimos o filtramos y las comemos.
¡BUEN PROVECHO!

Home Business Sign: Language School

Su Espacio where I study Spanish
3rd location is in home of owners
 Atenas, Costa Rica

Home of David & Corinna & location of language classes
 Near public library & police station downtown
 Atenas, Costa Rica

It was difficult for them to pay rent for a house in the country and a storefront in town plus riding bus to town daily, so by moving to town to a large-enough house they can live and work in the same location with just one rent. They have one room as a classroom and could have additional classes at same time in their living room and on their covered terrace, so very practical.

And my photo gallery of Home Business Signs – Atenas

My Spanish line is ready for the San Jose bus station in the morning.

Necesito el bus a Upala, saliendo en Bijagua. Favor de por entrada de adulto mayor.

I need the bus to Upala, exiting in Bijagua. A ticket for one senior adult please.

It pays to be over 65 here (adulto mayor), giving me discounts on all buses and national parks, museums and theaters, etc. 

I emailed my self the Spanish line so I can open it on my phone and read it if needed. Or more likely I will wing it! The first sentence is easy now, and the second can be shortened to “para un adulto mayor” as I hand him/her my cedula and gold card.

The bus trip is part of the adventure!  🙂

No Official “Thanksgiving” BUT “Black Friday” Everywhere!

Thanksgiving Day is a unique American Holiday only, not here, so the banks are open here today and there are no parades or football games! BUT, tomorrow is a huge day here as Black Friday or Viernes Negro as possibly the biggest shopping day of the year here too! The malls are so crowded I wouldn’t think of going tomorrow! Even for the big sales! Not even for Star Wars which I will see next week. 🙂

We have a neighborhood chef now who prepares very good dinners to be picked up at his house Monday to Friday and today he prepared a traditional turkey & dressing dinner which I enjoyed with my neighbor Anthony along with a cranberry salad and pumpkin pie Anthony had prepared. I’m stuffed and ready to take a nap!

Our Thanksgiving turkey dinners came in decorated bags,
here on plates at Anthony’s house ready for us to eat. 

And at my Spanish Class this morning we joined with another class for coffee and homemade goodies, language games, and each of us presented what we are thankful for, en español of course! Here is my paragraph as presented this morning: 

Gracias a Dios
Doy gracias por una vida lenta y tranquila en Costa Rica. ¡También para una casa muy agradable y propietario excelente! Y para la gente amable de Atenas y muchos buenos amigos. Y muchos hermosos pájaros y mariposas.

¡Y oh sí! ¡Para el mejor clima del mundo!  
J  
Cuando me mudé aquí, yo era el único en Atenas que lo creía.
The second paragraph is kind of a joke about the slogan Atenas uses everywhere, saying “Atenas – The best weather in the world” which most locals don’t believe and often joke about. But I still sorta believe it! And definitely thankful for the weather here!
And oh yes, Hurricane Otto passed north of us with only a little more rain this morning and no major winds, so that “best weather” town of Atenas still is!  🙂 We had no flooding, power loss, trees down, evacuations, or anythingf else that was going on in the path. Fortunate again! ¡Gracias a Dios!
Read about it in La Nacion. 
¡Pura Vida!