What Would I Do Differently?

A SPECIAL BLOG POST FOR MY SUBSCRIBERS CONSIDERING A MOVE TO COSTA RICA!

Occasionally someone will ask me such things as “Are you glad you moved to Costa Rica?” or “If you had it to do over, would you do it again?” or “Do you miss the States?” or “When are you coming home?” or “Have you ever wished you had moved to a different country?” or “If you had it to do over again, what would you do differently?”

The short answer to all but the last question is that  I absolutely love Costa Rica and have never once missed the United States nor doubted it was the right thing for me! And I have not gone back, having no reason so far. Anyone who reads my blog regularly knows why this is true for me and that Costa Rica is a perfect fit for my love of nature. But before I tell you the one thing I think I did incorrectly, a quick summary of what I did correctly . . .

A local dancing in last month’s Christmas Parade in Atenas.


What I Did Correctly Before My Move Here

If you go back to the beginning of this blog in June 2014 you will see that I was pretty meticulous about the details of a move to another country and fortunately I had had the experience once before when I moved to The Gambia, West Africa for 3 years. I followed all the websites’ and individuals’ suggestion of doing my “due diligence” (a popular phrase then) which simply meant lots of research on living retired in Costa Rica and the details of doing it legally, successfully and learning what it would take for me to be happy here, etc. ad infinitum! I did that! (Except not thoroughly enough with the language part!)

Plus I traveled here 4 times before moving and checked out other countries online and in the case of Panama, visited them 3 times (a reasonable option). Plus my last trip here before moving was to take the “Live in Costa Rica Tour” sandwiched on either side of a two-day conference by ARCR on all the details of a move here, residency options, legal stuff, both private & public medical services, shipping stuff here, getting a lawyer to help, etc. And on that same trip I hired a local lawyer who specialized in expat residency and began my residency application which was made easier with still some time still left in the states so I could personally secure all the needed legal documents that would have been much more difficult trying to get from here!

So, Then What Would I Do Differently?

 Just one thing! I would have made learning to speak Spanish fluently my JOB ONE! Though I had two brief classes in Nashville, I was a slow learner and not using it there, so to accomplish that . . . 

I should not have made finding a place to live the first task, as I did, but I should have enrolled in an Immersion Spanish Language School for the first 4-6 months (in another town since there is not one in Atenas) where they provide a cheap rent living with a Tico family that speaks only Spanish plus daily language classes and local tours in Spanish. Younger people might accomplish this in 3 months to some degree but a slower-learning old man like me needs more time and I’m just guessing on the 4-6 months. I tried one of these immersion schools for one week in Feb. 2020, just before Covid hit us big here, and it was very helpful, just not for a long enough time. It would be harder now while paying higher rent for my more permanent housing. But I’m going to talk to them again and may try additional weeks periodically with follow-up classes on Zoom or Skype. My current teacher is not moving me forward fast enough and nor is Duolingo! I’m ready for a change in my language learning!  🙂 I will report on any change made and what progress if any I make.  🙂

So, my only regret about being “Retired in Costa Rica” is that I am still not fluent in Spanish – though I am immensely better than when I arrived here! 🙂 I speak more Spanish than maybe many of the other American expats (some don’t even try.) I do great in restaurants and traveling 🙂  and okay in the supermercado and other shopping, but I could do better and cannot handle much over the phone. Taxistas help me, so I am better there than on the public buses and the free public medicine that I should be using more is one place I can’t manage with my slow, simple Spanish – that and some casual conversations, especially with strangers, though it helps when a marketer calls on the phone that I can honestly say “Lo siento, no hablo español.”  🙂  Stay tuned for updates!

Last month’s local Christmas Celebration in Central Park Atenas.

So what I’m saying is that if I had learned to speak Spanish fluently that first year, the rest of my 8 years would have been so much easier and more fulfilling! 

That’s what I would have done differently! 

¡Pura Vida!

P.S. 

Okay, maybe one other little thing that was not a problem when I first moved, but recently my small Credit Union in the states that I’ve been a member of for 45 years has had difficulties getting a new debit card to me quick enough or wiring money, where a larger international bank would be better equipped to serve me overseas. And I have to have a U.S. bank because my pension checks require that for auto-deposit. I’m still managing and have shifted some of my savings to my Costa Rica bank, but that is one other little detail that one considering a move here needs to straighten out, preferably before the move!  🙂 

And by the way, the U.S. Social Security is more accommodating than my other pension sources, as they deposit directly into my Costa Rica Bank Account. And it was easy! I just went to the U.S. Embassy’s SS Window in San Jose and they took care of it immediately with that very next check arriving here!  🙂 Plus that became my “proof of income” for the residency application.  🙂

¡Pura Vida!

Funny Fungi

The feature photo is a “Pixie Cup Fungus” (link to Wikipedia), the second time I have seen this species (on the Cativo Jungle Waterfall Trail) with the other time being in Carara National Park near Tarcoles & Jaco in 2015, the closest national park to where I live in Atenas. The many other fungi I saw at Playa Cativo were the ones you usually see on trees and dead trees or stumps. I saw no “toad stools” or common mushrooms this trip like usual.

Pixi Cup Fungus at Playa Cativo Lodge, Golfo Dulce, Piedras Blancas NP, Costa Rica

Plus three more fungi photos from Playa Cativo . . .

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Dorantes Longtail

This Dorantes Longtail, Urbanus dorantes (Link is to butterfliesandmoths.org) was in my garden the 3 or 4 weeks ago with one of the yellows being the only two at that time. I wrote this post and then forgot about it, lost in my “drafts.” 🙂 This one is found from Argentina north through Central America and Mexico to South Texas and Florida plus the West Indies. I’m expecting more butterflies to start arriving soon or sometime in June.

Dorantes Longtail, Roca Verde, Atenas, Alajuela, Costa Rica
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This Week’s “Wildness”

“Wildness . . . has also been defined as a quality produced in nature, as that which emerges from a forest, and as a level of achievement in nature.”

~definitions.net

I leave tomorrow morning for my third visit to a favorite rainforest lodge, Maquenque Ecolodge & Reserve in Boca Tapada, which is in my province of Alajuela but in the far north near the Nicaragua border, a 3 hour drive for my driver Walter. 🙂 Read on for why this is a favorite lodge and check out the links to my two other visits there . . .

One branch of a very large lake plus they are on a big river.
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UPDATE to Chainsaw Massacre Post

I was contacted by one of the board members and assured that they did not approve the destruction of that beautiful big tree. It was the landowner’s decision and right to cut it down. You can see my updated or revised statement on the original post Chainsaw Massacre Across the Street or I am copying the revised statement here plus I edited a couple of other lines in the post:

I apologize that I blamed the Homeowner’s Association and the employees for allowing or doing this destruction of a beautiful big tree. A board member contacted me to say they were distraught also about the loss of this great tree and that the landowner is the one who decided to cut it down and he/she owns it and has the right to do so. So shame on whoever that is! Note that it was an employee that said it was cut down because of the water shortage here. I don’t know if that is why the owner cut it. Maybe I was right the first time saying they would probably build a rent house there.

The large  Higuerón Tree or Strangler Fig someone cut down to a stub.

Our board of directors work hard to make this a better place to live! Thank you!

I’m still sad! 🙁

Last Week – what’s left of the large Strangler Fig.

Chainsaw Massacre Across the Street

Last February I wrote a blog post titled “Tree by the Pasture” featuring one of my favorite trees, plus it is (was) across the street from my house in a vacant lot beside the houses on the edge of the cow pasture. Well I was quite troubled the other day when I heard a chain saw continuing most of the day Monday and continuing on Tuesday and went over to see what was happening, fearing they would take down that beautiful tree to build another ugly house, which is what they seem to be doing.

Well, below are my photos of the following 2 days of their chainsaw massacre. Will they leave the ugly stub or eventually level it?

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Cloud Cuckoo Land a Must-read for . . .

. . . lovers of stories, books and libraries – the 3 main characters in this multi-layered story of totally different people from the 1450’s all the way through 2020 and to the future in 2164, all impacted by this fictitious lost and found story by a very early Greek writer who called his story “Cloud Cuckoo Land” (in Classical Greek of course!). It touches on so many life issues and about our own future on earth that I won’t try to list them all. You move between the stories of totally different people (ages 12 to 86) affected by Cloud Cuckoo Land (the Greek novel) in Constantinople (1450’s), Bulgaria (1450’s), Idaho (1940’s to 2020), Korea (1950’s), and outer space (2164) so that like his “All the Light” book (just 2 overlapping stories) you can get confused at first (if not more so). Eventually the many complicated pieces of the puzzle start coming together and you too begin to get what all these others are getting from Cloud Cuckoo Land. It is more multi-layered than Anthony Doerr’s previous classic All the Light We Cannot See (Goodreads Reviews), but just as impactful (if not more so) and will certainly become another classic! I highly recommend both books! 🙂

Read some other Goodreads Reviews of this NY Times best seller, Cloud Cuckoo Land. Now I will simplify my reading escapes with another Agatha Christie mystery! 🙂 Rest my simple mind which is still spinning from this read. 🙂

¡Pura Vida!

WALKING PATHS of My Ancestors

MAP By Saioa López, Lucy van Dorp and Garrett Hellenthal – López, S., van Dorp, L., & Hellenthal, G. (2015). Human Dispersal Out of Africa: A Lasting Debate. Evolutionary Bioinformatics Online, 11(Suppl 2), 57–68. http://doi.org/10.4137/EBO.S33489 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4844272/, CC BY 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=50508700

All of us literally walked out of Africa at one time ancestrally and the paths taken greatly affect who each of us are. Because I participated in the National Geographic DNA Genographic Project I got a report on both my Maternal and Paternal paths out of Africa which are greatly different . . .

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Unique Insects

I didn’t actively search for insects on this trip, but as in any rainforest you can’t help but notice some unique ones! Here’s three:

¡Pura Vida!