Expat Party, A Comedy of Errors!

I greatly admire the lady with the big covered patio whom I understands gives parties regularly. That’s a great idea for us foreigners to get to know one another and create new relationships.

I got invitations to this one twice from two different sources. A widely distributed email and a call from a Tico friend with an invitation. She said our new apartment manager Hans was going and she would pick both of us up. That is when I decided to go. At least I would know two people when I got there.

The day of the party arrives and Anna calls to say that Hans can’t go because his security guard is off that night and he needs to be the security. And she will be late if she makes it at all (she never made it), but “It will be easy to find with a taxi” she says. They all know Calle Alvero (I asked her to spell it) and it is the black gate on the left and something about the end of the road. So, what the heck, it will be another adventure and I’ll just go on my own.

It is a BYOB and a snack, plus we will chip in 3 mil colones each ($6) for the pizza. No problem. I get my 3 liter bottle of Ginger Ale (the only non-alcoholic drink brought) and some pricey banana nut bread from my favorite bakery. I’m ready, so Anna and Hans will just miss eating the most wonderful banana nut bread and mixing ginger ale with whatever!

I call the taxi number saying “Necesito un taxi en Hacienda La Jacaranda, en barrio fatima, al lado de rio cajon.” Then I get the same reply as always, “En cinco minutos. Su nombre por favor?” They always say they will be here in 5 minutes and always want a name, which I guess is in case someone else tries to get my taxi? Strange thing is it actually takes right at 5 minutes every time! Small town!

I’m talking to Hans when the cab arrives and the driver doesn’t want to waste time, so I say a quick adios to Hans. Then I carefully read the address that Anna says every taxi driver in town knows. He gives me this questioning look. So I show it to him in writing on the back of an envelope. “Calle Alvareo” then added “Puerta Negra” for the black gate. He still looks puzzled and I thought that maybe this would be how I get out of going to this party that I had now lost enthusiasm for.  Then he says something like, “Oh . . . Calle Vareo.” I asked if near CoopeAtenas (which I had been told)? He responded “Si,” and we are on our way. We turn on a street near the Coope (remember that there are NO STREET SIGNS OR HOUSE NUMBERS!) and the first little house had a black gate but I said “No” and we kept going until we found a big black gate on the left near the end of the road.

We drive in the dirt driveway where there are several houses. I ask the lady at first house if this is Gail’s house? She says “No, go to the end of the road.” (so that is what Anna meant about end of road which is actually the end of their shared driveway) past other houses side-by-side in the same compound. The invitation said 5:00 but to be there before 6 if you want pizza. So I arrive at 5:45 and I’m the first one there! These expats already behave like Ticos! Fortunately Steve was right behind me, coming all the way from Sarchi! We talked and hung a white bed-sheet for Gail’s movie while others start arriving – maybe 20 total.

The first hour we stand around talking with drinks in our hands, sorta getting acquainted. Then she collects money for pizza and asks if meat or vegetarian. It arrives soon from La Finca, my favorite pizza place so far. Enjoyed the meal and table conversations. Everyone there was from Canada, U.S. or somewhere in Europe. One guy bragged about having three passports. Wow! Its all I can do to keep up with one! Another guy explains why his little Canadian-made jeep is by far the best 4WD vehicle to have in Costa Rica. Okay, I’ll make a note of that! Didn’t tell him I hope to never buy a car again. Another guy talked about spiritualism and how he went from a Pentecostal to a meditation guru. The guy from Sarchi says he is now moving to San Isidro del General in the Talamanca Mountains. Now that did interest me. That’s where I photograph the resplendent quetzal. Finally she announces that the movie is starting.

It is an Indie film winner from Argentina in Spanish with English subtitles. But she could not get the

Gail’s photo from last year’s movie party.

subtitles to work on her player nor could the 2 computer expert guys (every group has them). It seems she lost the remote for that machine and the guys say you can only go to subtitles with the remote. I watch about 15 minutes in Spanish of some criminal heist movie that I can’t understand. I go whisper to Gail how nice she is to do this, but I have a big day tomorrow and haven’t learned enough Spanish yet to follow the movie. She was fine with me going! Four others had already left! I walked the mile or so home (How would I order a taxi in Spanish to this non-address?) and then I had a nice rest of the evening. Sometimes it is harder to adjust to the expats than the Ticos!  🙂   Our parties at the apartment went better than this as did the expat potluck lunches from the little evangelical church. I’ll keep trying! And I do know several people here now! I also expect to become part of an ARCR birding group in the coming months.

See what an exciting social life I live?

Business Card, Mail & Visa Run

New business card ordered from Vistaprint with new PO Box & Phone

The palm tree business card I did before leaving Tennessee was nice but it did not have my phone number and that is what I need to share the most here! Plus the PO Box mailing address on it was for the apartment’s mail box. I receive the mail addressed to it, eventually. It is slowed by the additional layer of apartment office manager. Now that I have my own PO Box and a phone number, it was time to get a business card I can use here in Costa Rica. Note the two addresses. The first is mailing address, a box at the Atenas Post Office. The second is called the physical address. With no street signs, house numbers or other physical addresses, one needs landmarks. This is the shorter version of my description. I sometimes add “300 meters north of the blinking light on Ruta 3.” The card has a stock design again which is quicker and easier than working with my photos. Simple and utilitarian!

And if you wonder why Atenas is listed twice in mail address; well, because that is how the PO told me to write it. One is the canton and the other is the town or pueblo. Plus you will notice that Alajuela (the province) is listed first which is the way they said to do it. And the postal code is in front of the country name! Why do we Americans think everyone should do things the way we do? Plus remember that in Spanish, adjectives follow nouns. So this address order is very logical in the Spanish language and culture.

I used Vistaprint’s link to share it on Facebook, but the above detailed description is only on this blog! This is where I share everything about living in Costa Rica. Occasionally I click a link to share something on Facebook but mostly do not use it or even regular G+. 
I just got two letters from a friend in Nashville addressed to the apartments, the PO Box I gave earlier. One letter was postmarked January 14 and the other January 29, fifteen days apart! I don’t know if the delay was the post office or the apartment office. That is more than a month for delivery, 6 weeks on the first one. Some earlier mail and Christmas cards were nearly that long in delivery. I think the Miami address is quicker, but it can take two weeks, occasionally quicker. Both channels have to work with Customs Office which is another delay. Customs can open all mail, but doesn’t always. They open most boxes. I’ll be watching my new PO Box and write down the delivery times and do the same with the Miami address for a better comparison and report back in a month or so. I haven’t gotten a package via Post Office yet, so don’t know, but suspect it will take longer than Aerocasillas, the Miami address. All of these mail times are good compared to my years in The Gambia when delivery time was measured in months.

Next Wednesday I am joining a few other expats with Walter, a local tour guide and driver. He is driving us to the Nicaragua border where we cross over and then return into Costa Rica to get another 90 day Visa stamped in our passports. Because I am an official applicant for residency with a document to prove it, I don’t have to do this to stay in the country. BUT, to use my TN Drivers License to drive a car, including getting a rental car, I must have a current Visa. (My current one expires March 24.) Like in the states, one government office does not coordinate with another one. What does Immigration know about Motor Vehicles and visa versa? So they each have different requirements.

Fortunately Immigration now allows you to do it in one day where formerly you had to stay out of the country for 72 hours or 3 days. I would have done it as a vacation, but this one day trip is quicker, easier, and less expensive with all I have happening right now. We leave from the Central Park Church at 5:30 AM and will be back in Atenas by 5:30 PM. That includes stops for breakfast, lunch and Liberia to purchase an exit tax and a bus ticket from Costa Rica to Nicaragua. (Oh! A beautiful Oropendola just flew by! Camera never ready!) Well, the bus ticket is required when they let us back into Costa Rica for 90 days to prove we will be leaving within 90 days. Working the system! Probably about a $30 cost, better than an airline ticket.

Plus I have to get U.S. dollars to pay Walter and the Nicaragua entrance fees. Crazy! It is how they stay ahead of the fluctuating currency rate. But the whole day and three months of Visa will cost only about $200 USD unless I want to buy something in the duty-free shop (not). Worth it for me and I look forward to getting my first rent car here which will make the sight-seeing trips with Kevin a whole lot easier and we will get to see and do more than my usual walking, bus and taxi.

Here’s a photo of me the only other time I was in Nicaragua. We stepped off the boat from our Rio Frio Jungle Cruise to snap photos by this pitiful welcome sign with an armed guard standing nearby. I doubt the visa run Wednesday will be as exciting, but you never know!

On the Nicaragua side of the Rio Frio Jungle Cruise, 2010. 

2 Month Anniversary: Bank Account & PO Box

Boyero Monument
A National Monument to the early years work of oxcarts and their drivers
It is on the old highway from San Jose to the beaches where many saw it
as they entered Atenas, home of the Annual April Atenas Oxcart Parade.
Expect oxcart photos in April!  🙂

I arrived in Atenas on December 24, 2014, two months ago today! I celebrated in two ways:

  1. I OPENED A BANK ACCOUNT at Banco Nacional to include a debit card and electronic banking. I get my debit card and electronic account connection tomorrow along with training in how to use both (“bring your laptop”). Neat! Never got training in the states! It took nearly two hours at the bank, my local lawyer with me, stacks of paperwork, plus I still have to provide proof of income which I was not told earlier. 
  2. I GOT A P.O. BOX at the Atenas Post Office which I now prefer you to use instead of the one I gave before arriving. It was the apartment’s PO Box and works, but the apartment management has to deliver mail to me which could be another delay :-)!  Below is the exact way the Post Office asks that you address letters to me. So you understand the strange order and double-Atenas: Atenas is a pueblo (small town) in the Canton of Atenas, in the District of Atenas, in the Province of Alajuela in the country of Costa Rica. And yes, they say put the postal code BEFORE the country name of Costa Rica. Mail did get to me with the other address form, so don’t worry. And I prefer that you not use the Miami address since letters are costing me $1.50 each and I have to travel to Alajuela (the city) to pick them up. And packages via Miami require an invoice to declare the customs value (or you send me a scan of invoice). I’m not sure yet how Customs and the Post Office work together here, but I will find out! Others do get packages via Post Office. The Miami address is perfect for my internet orders which may be the primary use and for some other U.S. businesses. The U.S. Post Office now has one international postage stamp (round) that costs $1.10 for any country in the world for most letter weights. Letters can arrive in one week or four weeks, who knows why?  UPS or FedEx packages will have to go to the Miami address for now until I learn how to get them locally. Here’s my new postal mail address
Sr. Charlie Doggett   (The P.O. put that “Senor” in front of my name! 🙂
Apdo. 441-4013
Alajuela, Atenas, Atenas
How’s that for an anniversary celebration? I forgot to take my phone this morning, so no photo of bank or post office yet, but I may add those tomorrow, as both buildings are revealing. 
And if you didn’t get MY PHONE NUMBER from an earlier post, it is still 011-506-8410-9916 with the 011 getting you out of the U.S., 506 the country code, and though some instructions say use a cell phone code, don’t – it is just the first four digits of the number. The above # should work. 
Well, not as pretty tonight as all the bird photos, but that is life!

The Mailing Addresses

I don’t think I’ve shared them on the blog yet, though you may have received my new bus. card and Christmas post card with the new mailing addresses:

Charlie Doggett
Hacienda La Jacaranda
Atenas, Alajuela 20501


Charlie Doggett
PO Box 025-331
SJO 170066
Miami, FL 33102-5331

Charlie Doggett
6703 NW 7th St.
SJO 170066
Miami, FL 33126-6007

If interested in knowing, these two Miami addresses are with Aero Post or Aero Casillas in Spanish, which is a courier service helping residents of all of Central and South America to have a U.S. address which is needed for some internet orders and other purposes. They fly to San Jose (the SJO code in the address) once a week with accumulated mail and packages and take it to my nearest Aero Post desk which happens to be in the town of Alajuela in the same province as me, also Alajuela. It is also the location town for the International Airport and about 20 minute drive from where I will live.

One of the two young men who came in a truck to pick up my boxes for Craters and Freighters of Nashville today was born in Alajuela and lived there until age 7 when his parents brought him to Nashville. Now how about that for a coincidence!