How to Be an Expatriate in 2020

A dear friend just shared this link to an article in the New York Times that I have to re-share since it has some good ideas and information that might help those of you American readers considering living in another country. The article,  How to Be an Expatriate in 2020:

https://www.nytimes.com/2020/02/21/realestate/how-to-be-an-expatriate-in-2020.html

I might check into the two sources they referenced on transferring money from the states to another country, since a regular bank wire of money is too expensive I think. I have my SS check auto-deposited here in my CR bank account which covers my basic living and I get other money from my U.S. Credit Union via ATM here for free at my bank’s ATM which doesn’t charge me and my stateside CU doesn’t charge at that end. When you move anywhere you have to work out these little details over time. “Where there’s a will there’s a way!”   🙂

They also referenced International Living Magazine which I took for two years but found way too commercial for me and I think they are mixed up in real estate, especially in Ecuador which they push a lot, plus their gimmicky ways to get rich on the internet. Be careful of such schemes if you subscribe.

The article also mentioned some networking organizations which can be good, and the one for women sounds especially good for them. I tried the other one mentioned, InterNations, which is heavier on the younger expats in the big city of San Jose here and it did not meet my needs. One year was enough for me!

Right here in little Atenas we are getting more younger couples with children and jobs coming from the states. Some use local private schools and some home school and the rare one who is “really international” send their kids to the local public schools in español and of course they are the ones who are integrated into the community.   🙂   The young Americans here who are still working do all their work online. The internet has really shrunk the world!   🙂   Of course they are a different breed from us ol’ retirees!   🙂   But in some ways we are a community.  9 million Americans living overseas it says.

Anyway, I like to share things like this I learn about that might help you who are considering a move here or to any other country.

¡Pura Vida!

 

NOTE: This week I’m living with a Tico family in Heredia while in an Spanish Immersion Class at Tico Lingo. I will try to report on some nights about the experience. A little scary! No English for a week! But hopefully a good way to learn Spanish!   🙂

The “Trip Gallery” from my Thursday trip to Rio Tarcoles is ready to view with 35 species of birds photographed out of about 40 species seen. A good birding trip!

Language & Cable Services

New Internet & No TV!

I live in a Spanish-speaking country where it is the official language and it is needed for almost all services, public and commercial. When I lived in the States I heard many people say about immigrants, “If they want to live here, they can learn English!” And I basically agree, though I now know from experience that it is easier said than done!

“Spoiled Americans” here who refuse to learn Spanish or even learn very slow like me, have created a need for English speakers in many of the commercial customer services here, like the competitive cable services who are learning that Customer Service in English can mean more money from the thousands of Americans living here.

My first cable service here was pretty good service for a long time and by waiting I could often get English-speaking customer service if needed, but recently everything was going wrong. No TV service (which helped me decide to drop it) and frequent failure of internet and more frequently the WiFi connections. I tried repeatedly to get technical service and to change my contract to faster internet and no TV, both with my bad Spanish and then asking for an English speaker. At least 5 efforts failed with either disconnected calls or the promise of a call-back that never happened.

Thus I decided to switch from CableTica to TeleCable and when I called the new company they instantly recognized I was weak in Spanish and within 30 seconds switched me to a very good English-speaker. We set up a time for the técnicos to come out and rewire my house at their expense. I waited until they were here in the house to call the other company to cancel my services with them. (I needed the internet even if intermittent!) I called and canceled in Spanish, briefly explaining why. Within 2 minutes I received a phone call back from a very fluent English speaker (probably a supervisor) at that company, apologizing profusely for their lack of service and English-speakers, almost begging me to give them another chance, even offering 2 months free! I told him I was sorry but he was too late with my new service being installed as we spoke. Then he took my credit card number to pay him for one of their trucks to come out and pick up their TV Box and Internet Router which was cheaper ($22) than me having to return it in the city by taxi!

I now have 100 MB TeleCable Internet Service and no TV! A happy camper!   🙂   And if you are worried about my lack of entertainment, I do have Costa Rica Netflix for which I attach my computer to the TV to see those great nature documentaries and rarely a movie!   🙂   Plus I’m always reading on my Kindle a book and the Washington Post for news and Comics! What else does a guy need?   🙂

 

+ Spanish Immersion Coming!

Thus cable service became “the straw that broke the camel’s back” on my slow fluency in Spanish and I signed up for one week of Spanish Language Immersion to see if an old man can handle it and then if so I will add more. This will simply make my 2 hours a week with tutor Arturo here in Atenas more effective and hopefully greatly advance my verbal & listening abilities.

I could have used the school that meets closer at Jaco Beach with 4 hours of Spanish a day combined with 4 hours of surfing lessons a day, but decided that was probably not best for me!   🙂    So instead, I chose a school in Heredia, just beyond Alajuela, where I will spend one week as my February travel experience at about half the price of most birding trips. I will live with a Tico family within walking distance of the school where I will have 4 hours of intensive Spanish Language Classes every day along with a few local field trips using the language (I’m going for InBio and Toucan Rescue Ranch), plus the Tico family speaks only Spanish in their house, which may be where I learn the most! 🙂   The name of this school is Tico Lingo and it is just one of many all over Costa Rica – but not one in Atenas.

These schools are packed with high school & college students in the U.S. Summer when school is out! Six weeks is common for them with some doing two months straight through. I am not sure my senior adult brain could handle that much immersion, so I am trying one week and then if it goes well will more likely do more single weeks scattered over the year and not straight through. MY NEXT ADVENTURE! Last week of February! And hopefully it will motivate me to do more in my Spanish Blog, Aprendo español en Atenas and not switch to Spanish on this blog!   🙂

¡Pura Vida!

My Spanish Blog

I have a lot of new readers from around the world who may not know that I have spasmodically tried to write another blog on the Blogger.com platform in español, though never consistent in that effort. It is called ¡Aprendo español en Atenas! and if a Spanish-speaker you may want to follow it and see how elementary my Spanish really is! This blog will continue to be in English with an occasional Spanish word in bright red so you will know when I slip into español or a particular word (like tranquilo) just says something better! 🙂 The other blog is really just another effort to force me to learn Spanish! And hasn’t been very effective.

Though not exactly a New Year’s Resolution, my 5 year anniversary of living in Costa Rica plus not being anywhere close to fluent in Spanish, I am embarrassed and ashamed of myself for not working harder at it! Thus a new motivation, pushing myself to talk more in my bad Spanish with everyone locally as the best way to learn. Plus I also today started a new online brief course that supposedly helps with verbally practicing Spanish daily called  One Month Spanish,  maybe because it is 30 lessons, conversational, with online audio.

I expect it to take a lot longer than a month, but the 30 lessons will push me to talk more in Spanish locally which is what helps the most! And though I am still not very good, I refuse to be one of those Americans who says “I can’t learn it at my age.” and just not even try! I do well in basics, shopping, eating in restaurants, riding taxis and buses and even give directions all in Spanish, but have difficulty on the phone and with many fast-speaking locals in casual conversations plus medical and technical conversations. like internet customer service!   🙂

What I Would Do Different

If I were to do the big move to Costa Rica all over again:   I would not move directly to where I wanted to settle down necessarily BUT first sign up for one of the Immersion Spanish Classes in San Jose or Heredia or I think in a few other Costa Rica places like some beaches and maybe Monteverde. Learn Spanish FIRST!

For X number of weeks or months I would have taken language classes daily Mon-Fri and the school puts you in a rental-room nearby, living with a Tico family that speak only Spanish in their home, day and night, 7 days a week. In six weeks to two months most younger people are speaking Spanish! Longer for some (like me probably).  🙂

I could still do it, but more difficult now and since I don’t want to give up my Atenas rental house, I would have to pay rent for two places for however long plus cost of classes. But I’m thinking about checking out the possibility even if it means canceling some trips. I really want to be fluent in Spanish and thinking that may be the only way! My Uncle J.C. who married a Guatemala girl did that in the more famous language schools of Antigua, Guatemala. Guess I could go there, but more practical for me to learn Costa Rica Spanish where I live! Stay tuned! There may be another adventure coming!   🙂  Just thinking out loud.  🙂

Christmas Cakes! ¡Queques de Navidad!

I know, the Spanish dictionaries will say “tortas de Navidad” or “los pasteles de Navidad” but Costa Rica has its own Spanish and we call cake “queque” here!   🙂

My favorite bakery here is Crema y Nata and they got an order this year for 40 Christmas Cakes for a corporate Office Christmas Party in San Jose. I snapped a few shots of my friends there preparing some of the 40 cakes. Also there are some shots of the patio dining area where I have coffee and sometime breakfast at least twice a week. In addition to their Christmas Cake which is okay (like a spice cake with icing, fruit on top & nuts inside–not as good as Corsicana TX fruit cake in my opinion) they have the best eggnog I have ever tasted in my life – very rich! Called el rompope here!

Queques de Navidad

 

“Christmas waves a magic wand over this world, and behold, everything is softer and more beautiful.”     ~Norman Vincent Peale

¡Pura Vida!

¡Feliz Navidad!

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