Patience is Costa Rican!

Your have heard me brag about the tranquility and great weather of my little farming town of Atenas – and the “muy amable” or very kind people here. But one thing that many hyper and efficient Americans don’t always realize when they move to such an easy-going society, is that to be that way means everything and everybody moves slower here! No rush! ¡Pura vida! To not adapt to this slower way means you will not be happy here. Always frustrated at the inefficiencies!

My example of this today is my efforts since Monday to pay my surgeon for the work he did. (No pressure from him.) I made arrangements in advance with my Credit Union in Nashville to move the needed money from Savings to Checking so I could easily pay with my debit card. Hospital payment was quick and easy as I had planned, but the doc requested to be paid separately. Okay.

The doctor comes in my room with his little portable credit card machine, saying he doesn’t like to wait for the hospital to reimburse him if I pay through them (the most efficient way), saying they sometimes take a full month to forward the money to him. Okay. He tries repeatedly and his machine doesn’t work or at least he blames it on the machine and not my card which had just worked for the hospital. He leaves and returns in a little while with a bigger machine he plugged into the wall (still dependent on hospital WiFi). And it did not work. He then says we will take care of it when I see him at his office later this week (Wednesday). It still did not work there. He then gives me his account number at Banco Nacional and asks that I just transfer the money to his account from my account – but that account (my SS check auto-deposit) is just for housing costs, so I still have to get the money from Nashville.

Thus Wednesday afternoon I go to the bank with my CU debit card and ask them to get the needed money from it and put into my local account so I can transfer it to the doctor’s account. Sure! The teller aims to please, and tries repeatedly (7 times – service is important!) and he continues to get “denied” or “acceso denegado.” I call Nashville and they raise the cash advance limit (I thought they had already done) and say everything else is cleared – it should work! It did not! I told the patient teller (not the long line of people behind me) that I would return tomorrow and try again. Lo siento señor, mañana es un día festivo, no estamos abiertos. And I reply, Hasta el viernes.  Tomorrow is a holiday and we are closed. See you Friday.   🙂

Well, Thursday was Virgen de los Angeles day, (patron saint of Costa Rica) with only Christmas and Easter being bigger for Catholics here, when thousands make the pilgrimage to Cartago Cathedral to touch the black stone Maria. So nada yesterday! (Click above link to learn about the holiday.)

This morning I call the Credit Union again and make sure the card is good for a large amount of cash on this day and I’m assured it is. I go to the bank with teller lines going outside onto the sidewalk and street, more than an hour wait for a teller, so I tell the guard I need the “special services desk” and go wait nearly an hour for it, but those persons are more accustomed to “different” transactions like mine and I figured they could handle it better, maybe quicker, and once I finally got to a desk, it worked very smoothly, though taking another 25 minutes to do it! Remember – everything is slower here! Why rush? But she did go ahead and let me pay my monthly CAJA (public healthcare) with her and not have to go wait for a regular teller to do that.

Sooooo . . . an hour and a half at the bank, another chapter read in my latest book (which is so, so), my doctor bill is paid AND my monthly CAJA (public healthcare) bill paid! I breathed a sigh of relief and headed home for a more relaxed weekend! Pura Vida!

And, if you are wondering, the reason I didn’t use CAJA for the surgery, is that I would still be waiting to see a surgeon and I chose not to have patience for that!  Choices and Patience! Retired in Costa Rica!   🙂   ¡Pura Vida!



Inside Basílica de Nuestra Señora de Los Ángeles Church

Waiting in line – Esperando en la fila.

Through the front window of my Alajuela bus is the line of people getting on the San Jose bus.
Like I had earlier done for my Alajuela bus with all ages and all walks of life waiting patiently.
Waiting in line is a part of life in Costa Rica; buses, banks, post office, medical services, etc.
It builds patience and patience builds character. Pura Vida!   🙂
The bus broke down on the outskirts of Atenas today and in about 10 or 12 minutes another bus was there to collect us all and on to Alajuela. We arrived 15 minutes later than expected. Not bad! In more than 2.5 years this is only the second bus I’ve had to break down and both were replaced in minutes! Our buses are on time, efficient service, nice, large and modern equipment from different manufacturers. Some are labeled “Daewood” which I think is a South Korea company, but not sure. I think others are from Europe or other Latin American countries. Affordable and efficient transportation is necessary to get people to and from work, school, shopping, and in the case of one couple I met last Saturday on the bus, to go walk in the pilgrimage to the Cartago Church.
One of our Atenas buses leaving Alajuela.
Yeh, I just missed it! But there’s one every 30 minutes in afternoon.

On our Atenas Costa Rica Info Facebook Group the other day a retiree considering a move here asked the question, “Can you actually live as a retiree in Atenas without a car?” And of course a bunch of us responded that we are doing it! I’m pleased to be going on to nearly 3 years without owning a car! And the excellent bus systems in Costa Rica make it possible to visit anywhere in the country or to other countries by bus! Plus walking is good for me.

Third Trip to Hospital Mexico Schedules June Angiogram

Locals most often describe CAJA (the government medical program) as a big bureacracy, and that is true, but it works! If you have patience!

My Atenas public doctor was limited in what he could do related to my heart arrhythmia, so he sent me to a cardiologist at Alajuela Hospital in Alajuela, our provice capital.

Three visits there gave me more tests including another EKG and a treadmill test, but Dr. Hernandez wanted an angiogram which Aljuela Hospital does not have the equipment to perform. He sends me to the biggest government hospital, Hospital Mexico in San Jose with his request for it. Over two months time I have had three very interesting visits, including with one lady who spoke very rapid Spanish and would not slow down, necessitating my rescue by a bilingual medical equipment salesman waiting in line.

Today was just an hour and a half wait in the crowded hospital cardiolgy waiting room where a doctor finally saw me briefly, giving me a piece of paper with a 2 June 2017 date for my angiogram and a promise that someone will call me to discuss the time and preparations. That will likely be an interesting phone conversation if I’m even able to complete it!  🙂  When you start living every day life here you realize how important learning the language is. I’m tired of not understanding or being bumfuzzled! Language-learning motivation!

And for after the procedure, which can include some anesthesia, I have scheduled my friend Walter Ramirez to pick me up at the hospital. Though getting there by bus is easy since the Atenas bus stops in front of the hospital!  🙂  Just don’t want to do that alone after anesthesia! Plan ahead!

Waiting Patiently . . .

. . . for the sun to bring out their new leaves. Two trees seen from my terrace.
The fog always passes. The leaves always return.

Patience is not simply the ability to wait – it’s how we behave while we’re waiting. 
~Joyce Meyer

And I’m working on patience as I do the paperwork and legwork to get my CAJA health insurance applied for. Wednesday week I go to the U.S. Embassy SS Department to get my proof of SS income. Then I take it and all my other paperwork and filled in form to the other side of San Jose and Jose Pablo Carter, my attorney, to collect my residency card and make sure I have all my paperwork correct in preparation for my July 8 CAJA appointment. Then I will see what else is needed!  🙂  It has not been easy but it will be worth it to have 100% health care coverage through my new government. Then all I will lack is a CR Driver License to get a rental car occasionally. Then no more new tourist visas every 90 days! But I am doing it at least one more time the end of June. 

The Majestic Vulture

Turkey Vulture glides over my balcony,
Hacienda La Jacaranda, Atenas, Costa Rica

The poor ol’ garbage collector gets a bad rap and he is really graceful in the sky and so beneficial on the ground! And note this cool quote from a bird book . . .

The face is ruddy and wrinkled and topped with an embarrassingly sparse cap of feathers.  Its expression is uncommonly serene and there is something about it that suggests infinite patience.  Huddled on their perches, wrapped in shabby vestments, the birds look like a group of balding monks gathered in prayer.
Pete Dunne, The Wind Masters

Spoiler alert: Tomorrow I’m scheduled to look at a new house for rent in the Roca Verde development. Downside is it will cost a little bit more and the walk to town is a little bit further, but upside is much better construction than what I’m in, better maintenance, more privacy, and I’ll still have a deck or balcony view and lots of birds around. We’ll see. I have to decide now whether I stay or move with my current contract up for renewal and some boxes ready for delivery. Hopefully this is my last big decision for awhile. You can pray that I make a good decision, not that either would be bad.

Rewards of PatienceI

The Clouds are Colorfully Lit Most Nights
But only for a minute or two – for those who patiently wait see it.

Hundreds of parrots fly over each evening.
Maybe patience will give me a good photo some day!
Hoping one will land in a nearby tree!

I’m pretty sure these are Sulphur-winged Parakeets, the size of parrots.


And my patience with Banco Nacional has started to pay off today. The first time I went I was second in line and quickly got to Ricardo who said I must have my real Passport not the photo copy I carry in my wallet. So I walked home to get it and when I got their I found it in my laptop case which I had with me at the bank! Grrrr! Old man forgetfulness? Ricardo told me to come back at 12:30 PM which I did and was again second in his line. (The line for cashiers had 37 people moving from chair to chair towards the front. Funny to watch!) But Ricardo didn’t get back until nearly 1:30! But I now have a local Debit Card in my wallet. The reason I had my laptop was that I was told he would train me in using the online banking. BUT, he said first I needed to go to one of the cashiers and buy a “token” (300 colones or 60¢) which appears to be some kind of electronic fob. I was not getting in the Monday line of 37 people, so will try tomorrow. (Monday & Friday are busiest days at bank.) Then I will take the token to Ricardo and he shows me how to do online banking on his computer. He said to not bring my laptop. Whew! It looks like it may take more than two weeks to have opened a bank account here, but there will be advantages! And tomorrow I get to play musical chairs!  🙂
In my Saturday report of the Tope de Mercedes or Horse Parade, I don’t think I told you that all the advertisements for the Tope said 12 Noon. So I show up before 11 to get a good spot along the road. It was sort of like the Gambian Wedding that started two and half hours late. Nothing was happening except the setting up of beer tents in the futbol field. I asked someone and he told me that it sort of starts at 12 but that the parade would not start until about 1:00. So I went home and returned at 12:30. The parade actually started at 3:30. I sat on a wall across the street from the Mercedes Catholic Church, watching them get ready for a wedding that (you guessed it!) started at 3:30 with people dressed in their finest trying to drive cars around the horses, let family out at church, and park the car who knows where down the road. I told a friend that was a sign of a lack of planning for the wedding. She pointed out that it was bothering me more than the people it really affected! 🙂 And that was not to mention the lack of any traffic control with cars actually driving around horses in the parade and parking along the side of the road making it one lane. Relax Charlie! Tico Time!
Will Costa Rica make me patient? Sometimes I doubt it, but after three years in Gambia I was much more relaxed and used to delays. So maybe a little more time here will mellow the control freak!