Sorry! Human error! But have you sent me mail?

Part of “Pura Vida” is not getting bent out of shape when things go slowly or go wrong. That is part of the warm climate attitude or lifestyle and if you can’t adopt it, go with the flow, and live with something going wrong, you will never be happy here. That is probably one of the biggest reasons some Americans don’t make it here or they are not happy here.

If you have in the last four months to my Costa Rica PO Box, it was not delivered. Read on to see what happened to your letter.

In late February I announced I had my own PO Box and you no longer needed to send mail by way of the apartments PO Box (where I received several Christmas Cards and letters just fine). You may remember that I was proud of my own address, bragged on how much easier it was to get that than open a bank account, and even posted a copy of a business card with the new address and my phone number. Yet I never received any mail in it. But I didn’t really expect it to be used except for local and Costa Rica business.

When my health insurance policy was completed the first of April I was expecting hard copies of the policy and an insurance card for my wallet. I never got it. Around the same time a friend in the states sent me an important letter that I never received. That is when I told everyone to use my Miami PO Box address for mail from states. Well the friend had the letter returned two month later as “not deliverable” or something like that in Spanish. They emailed me a photocopy of the returned letter and today I took it to the Atenas Post Office.

The older man who had set up my box was not there (learned later he was fired). The first person, a younger man, had trouble understanding and seemed to be looking for the letter somewhere. Then he called the woman over (exactly what I needed to solve my problem – really!). She managed my poor Spanish better AND when she understood what had happened, she had the insight to go to my box 441 and look at it (from the inside). I heard the rip of tape peeling off. She came back and said “Discuple” (Sorry!). Then someone else translated her explanation: The guy rented me a box with someone else’s name still on it and did not put my name on it like he was supposed to. So the mail-sorter would not put mail for me in such a box! The guy who sold me the box evidently made other errors because he no longer works there! And now that I am adopting the Costa Rica ways, I took three months to figure it out! And I will not worry about it. But if you sent me anything important, let me know! 🙂

I just called my Pricose INS Insurance agent about my medical insurance policy and wallet card. They will re-mail it all today! (Yep! Their mail bounced too!) See! Everything worked out! The world didn’t end! Life goes on! Pura Vida!

And though it can take up to a month from the states, my local mail address will work now (they say!).

Sr. Charlie Doggett
Apdo. 441-4013
Alajuela, Atenas, Atenas

And yeah! It is not written like you do it in the states! That second line is my Province (state) first, then the Canton (county), and then Pueblo (town). Last line is the zip code BEFORE the country name. But honestly, the Miami address is still more efficient and usually here in 5 business days.

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

Aerocasillas Miami Address – “Bien, Más o Menos”

Aerocasillas Office, Alajuela, Costa Rica, 30 miles from where I live

There’s a Costa Rican saying used a lot here to mean that things are “so, so” or “more or less good” as we would say in the states. It is “más o menos” which could be literally translated “more or less.” That is my answer when asked about Aerocasillas mail and shipping through a Miami address.

There are two audiences I am writing this for:

First, If  friend or family in the states, I have now determined that my two Miami addresses should be used if sending important paper mail or a package. A friend in Nashville sent me an important letter a month ago to my local Atenas Post Office Box – it still has not arrived as of today. Sent to the Miami address, I would have received it in a week to 10 business days (so far that has been been my experience with business mail and internet order packages). Now do be aware that the time is to the Aerocasillas office in Alajuela and I may not go get it the day it arrives. Depending on my schedule, it could be a few days or week later before I go pick it up 30 miles away by bus. I have been going 2 or 3 times a month. If you don’t have my Miami addresses (one for mail and one for packages), please email me or check my website or in the future it will be included on my email signature. And I will include it at the bottom of this article. At first I suggested you use my Costa Rica mailing address because there is a cost to me for the Aerocasillas service, but I have decided it is worth the cost for real mail. No advertisements or junk mail please! And I can do just fine without Christmas Cards from my friends in the states, since each day’s arrival of letters in Miami costs me $1.50. They seal one day’s letters in a plastic bag and send it by air to Costa Rica.

Second, If you are a reader considering a move here, then you will want to at least consider the services of Aerocasillas (called Aeropost in the U.S.), the only company I know that delivers internet orders to people all over Latin America within about a week to 10 days (depending on how you have it shipped to Miami). You will quickly see that they promote internet ordering because that is how they make money! I learned about it through the ARCR seminar and from their website. They have an arrangement where packages and mail can be delivered to the ARCR office for you to pick up, but for me the Aerocasillas office in Alajuela is closer and easier for my pick-ups. And there are other locations in Costa Rica you can choose for delivery of your packages/mail that might be closer to where you live.


  1. Postal mail is extremely slow, weeks to months for delivery (see friends’ note above)
  2. Some U.S. Internet Companies won’t ship to a foreign address
  3. It could cost you as much or more to send it the slow way
  4. Speed and convenience are the two main reasons
  1. At no charge they gave me two Miami addresses, a PO Box for mail and magazines, and a street address for packages (many carriers won’t deliver packages to PO Box).
  2. As a real life example, I just ordered a pair or really nice leather sandals (what I live in here) that cost $71 through I used my Miami street address for the “delivery address” on Monday 6 April. 
  3. By Friday 10 April they arrive at my Miami address (Aerocasillas facility).
  4. Usually the next work day it is on a plane to Costa Rica. In this case it arrived in the San Jose Airport in Alajuela, Costa Rica Monday (next work day) night, 13 April. They get it through Customs quickly and pay the tax & fees for me (on my credit card).
  5. Tuesday, 14 April I receive an email informing me my package is ready to pick up at the Alajuela Aerocasillas Office. That’s 8 days from order date!
  6. Wednesday, 15 April, I ride a bus to Alajuela ($1.40 each way), walk to the office and pick up my package and I happen to have another package and two letters. 
  7. I could pay when I pick it up, but it is quicker and easier to let them charge the cost of the package on my credit card on file with them. For a breakdown of the cost for the sandals, see the next section. 
  1. Aerocasillas freight charge: $15.50  (Above the $5.48 charged to Miami)
  2. Aerocasillas Combustible 19% (?): $2.94
  3. Aerocasillas “AeroProtect” (Insurance?): $1.00
  4. Aerocasillas Customs Service: $5.00
  5. CR Customs Duties: $11.44
  6. CR Import Sales Tax: $11.40
  7. CR Sales Tax: $0.65
  8. That’s $24.44 to Aerocasillas & $23.50 to Costa Rica Government
  9. TOTAL: $47.94   (It cost 67% of the cost of sandals shipped to Miami to get them to me in Costa Rica! And that is why cars cost nearly twice as much here! Retailers pay import taxes and shipping too.)
Now do you see why I say it is good, more or less? It is very expensive, BUT, I can order things like these sandals that I could not get here in many cases or if a company ships overseas, it could take more than a month to get here and still cost as much or more depending on a company’s overseas shipping policies. And I would have to deal with Customs myself in some cases. 
In the future I will have had time to shop locally or in San Jose and may find the same or similar product at a higher price but without some of the extra costs and hassle. Someone probably has a sandal like I prefer, I just haven’t found it here yet. Cameras and supplies will be the next big challenge when I’m ready and I will try local first, even going to San Jose. 
So, do I recommend Aerocasillas for someone moving here? Short answer is “Yes” because you can sign up and get the Miami addresses for free, then limit how much you use it, if any. Like VPN, it tricks some companies into thinking you live in the states. And VPN is another article for later!

Charlie Doggett
PO Box 025-331
SJO 170066
Miami, FL 33102-5331
Phone (305) 592-7754

Charlie Doggett
6703 NW 7th St.
SJO 170066
Miami, FL 33126-6007
Phone (305) 592-7754

By the way, today I went to Aerocasillas to pick up my newest photo book Where the Yigüirro Lives, then did some shopping at Walmart, which I do occasionally whether picking up a package or not! Same for PriceSmart (Costco) shopping some. Both are in Alajuela and easier for me to get to than the same stores in San Jose. 

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. 

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! 

Why Do “Easy Jobs” Get So Complicated?

Sunrise at Tortuguero by Charlie

In addition to continuing to sell things and/or arrange for the pre-sell of items like the washer/dryer (Sold!) and the car (Sold!), I have to deal with car dealers for appraisals and struggle with unanswered phone calls, etc.

BUT the biggest issue this week was the simple email that said “click here” to upgrade your system to Windows 8.1 (from just 8). Wish I had never clicked! I spent a good bit of two days dealing with all the problems like the sound not working, all drivers needed to be updated, by me of course! Why can’t they make that a part of an upgrade? Then I googled for help on the sound first and some company, implying they represented Microsoft, wanted $200 to get my computer working correctly again. After an hour of “Live Chat” I canceled and found a true Microsoft fix for the sound and downloaded the needed drivers myself. Grrr.

Then, knowing that the address the apartments gave me in Atenas may not be permanent and will not work for internet ordered packages, I spent several days signing up for an Aeropost mailbox and street address in Miami. ARCR would have handled it for me if I wanted to go to downtown San Jose to pickup my mail and packages, but they recommended that I have them delivered to a pickup station closer to where I live, which is the Aeropost Office in Alajuela (near airport). That meant working with the spanish-speaking employees of Aeropost, Aerocasillas in Espanol. After most of a week, getting a USPS Form 1583 notarized today, I now have everything done for my two Miami addresses, except for hand-delivering the notarized form and copies of passport and driver license to the Alajuela office on my first visit.

It is too early to give these addresses out right now, but I will publicize them by the first of December and send change of address cards for Christmas Cards. And make them pretty too!   🙂

And in Spanish Class we are trying to memorize the many versions of the verb “to be” -ser. My head is spinning, but for a good reason!  🙂 And at school yesterday, my tutoring was interrupted with an awards ceremony assembly to recognize perfect attendance and good citizenship, while my kindergarteners are still learning how to write their names and the sounds of the alphabet. Slow progress everywhere this week – but good and important progress! I feel that a lot of things are starting to “fall in place” (with a lot of help!).