Being Poor in Costa Rica

Even though Costa Rica does not have all the “safety net” programs of the U.S. (though free medical care & education), plain ol’ regular daily life for Ticos (and most expats) is easier here for the poor than in the states. (And that is even with CR having the highest cost of living in Central America.) I’m first motivated to say this because of the latest article in the “Live in Costa Rica” blog:

It is better to be poor in Costa Rica than the United States

Also because I know that there are people from the States living here on no other income than their monthly Social Security check. A person can live solo here on a thousand dollars a month, though very simply. For residency (like Green Card in States) you must prove income of at least $1,000 a month. I think it would be much more difficult to live on that in the states! (And by the way, I meet that requirement by having my SS Check auto-deposited in my Costa Rica bank account. )

In fact there is a whole website & tour/conference program here entitled Retire in Costa Rica on Social Security.  George supposedly shows you how to do it. (Disclaimer: I have not participated in his tour/program but like his concepts and his Intro Video!) On his site he quickly refers you to another blog/website that I know from experience helps you with specific budgeting:  Retire for Less in Costa Rica.  I highly recommend their newsletter/blog as the best for someone retiring here on a tight budget. It just may be my favorite newsletter on retiring in Costa Rica!

Remember that a large number of Ticos live here on less than a thousand dollars a month (even families). They do not travel somewhere every month like me nor have some of the luxuries I have, nor eat out in restaurants, but they are very happy and live productive lives in one of the happiest countries in the world. And like me, most have no car!   🙂   That is one of my biggest savings and helps me to afford my monthly travels, thanks in part to affordable public transportation!

I do not talk budget/expenses much – not the focus of my blog – but it is the purpose of the two blogs linked above. If you are concerned about affording retirement in Costa Rica, you must subscribe to the Retire for Less in Costa Rica blog/newsletter and check out the social security one.

Then come experience the tranquil life of adventure and happiness in the land of Pura Vida  –  Rich or Poor!     🙂

The Feature Photo is a current shot of the fading graffiti on the wall behind our public college-prep high school, Colegio Liceo Atenas. It may not have been intended to represent poverty, but it seems to fit for me.  🙂   The phrase written to the left of the face, No dejemos que los niños pierdan su sonrisa.   is roughly translated:   “Let’s not let the kids lose their smile.”   And the schools along with the Catholic Church work hard to help those in poverty, especially children. I find happy children in the poorest neighborhoods I walk through. As my grandmother used to say, “In life you do the best you can with what ya’ got.”    🙂    And that is . . .  

¡Pura Vida!

Carmelina – An Angel in Disguise?

From my years in Nashville, TN USA I remember the unique “Bag Lady” she was often called as a seemingly homeless beggar living on the streets of downtown Nashville and always carrying one or more bags full of who knows what? I’m sorry I never got to know her or her story.

I was reminded of her when I first saw Carmelina in downtown Atenas, walking the streets barefoot in what appears to be a very simple and maybe dirty old dress  and sometimes carrying a plastic bag. I have often wondered about who she is, how needy, if anyone cares for her, etc. And I’ve always wanted to photograph her but too embarrassed to ask and not wanting to offend her.

Well, I just found this beautiful photo of her on a local Atenas Facebook Page in Spanish  (photo by Patricia Salazar) with lots of comments about Carmelina, mostly as an inspiration to people here for years. Check it out and if you don’t read Spanish, right click and then click “translate to English” to see about 80 different comments about Carmelina, one of the most unique persons in Atenas who in her poverty is always helping someone else, attending most services at the Catholic Church, attending all funerals with a little gift for the family, and many other acts of kindness. . .   Christlike?

“Blessed are the poor in spirit,

for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” 

 ~Matthew 5:3

¡Pura Vida!

¡En Atenas, la mejor pueblo en Costa Rica!


Thanksgiving and Angel Tree Completion

Our Angel Tree still had 6 left yesterday a.m.
but by afternoon all 6 were taken!

Friday, Saturday and Sunday I am one of about 4 volunteers staying at Su Espacio to receive the gifts as they are brought in. They are kind of trickling in with still 99 not here yet out of the 300, but Ticos do everything at the last minute David keeps reminding me – so by Monday or Tuesday most will probably be turned in (Sunday is the deadline). We have plenty of money to buy gifts for any children that are missed and until next Saturday, Dec. 5. I got more deeply involved in this than I really intended, but it has been fun with a purpose helping a lot of poor children get some nice Christmas presents – possibly the only gifts they will receive this Christmas. So a good thing! And I like to do good!  🙂

Thanksgiving Turkey Dinner at my neighbor’s house next door Thursday.
Don & Lynda on right are from Oregon & live across our shared driveway.
The lady and her daughter on left are “snowbirds” from Wisconsin
renting a house 2 doors down for 2 months. 

Snowbirds are beginning to arrive, though some wait until after Christmas. One Canadian couple I was with in the apartments are already here and will stay until sometime in January. Others will come in January. It kind of reminds me of my two years in Miami where the population increases in our summer or your winter with the cold weather residents. And I’m sorry to say that the rain seems to have stopped. We will probably get a few more showers up into December maybe, but “Dry Season” has started.

One good thing about dry season is that I won’t have to put my leather shoes out in the sun to keep them from growing mold! And I recently found a new place for mold to grow – on the sweat bands of my ball caps. They are now hung upside down to help the sweat bands air out! And I have been throwing some of them in the washing machine too! Pura Vida!  🙂

Poverty in Costa Rica

Photo by Tico Times of the slum Triángulo de la Solidaridad
with small child peeking from her home.

This excellent article, Costa Rica’s first slum tour offers visitors a different perspective on paradise, and tells about an organization, “Boy with a Ball,” that is helping to build community in the slums of San Jose and now offers tours of a major slum for tourists as a fund raiser and educational experience about community among the poor. Don’t miss the excellent video clip in it!

Poverty is everywhere including Costa Rica and like most places it is usually worse in the big city. It is also interesting to note that most of the CR poor are immigrants from Nicaragua, Honduras, and El Salvador who came here for better work opportunities than in their home countries. This is not a Global Poverty, Child Mortality Fall Sharply, According to UN.

paradise for everyone, though most are doing better than they did in those neighbor countries. Many of the low-paid house maids are among these immigrants as are some gardeners. Good news is that

Costa Ricans are mostly better educated and have the better-paying jobs. With universal health care and free education through college, there is little excuse for many Tico citizens to live in deep poverty. Immigrants on the other hand have many reasons for living in poverty. I think the fact that most Costa Ricans are very religious, have high moral standards, party a lot and are the happiest people in the world also helps! 🙂 Yet an article in this same newspaper, Tico Times, said in 2014 that nearly a quarter of Costa Ricans live in poverty.   Another 2014 article said Poverty programs enjoy success but jobs would be better. So – poverty continues to be a problem everywhere and there is no easy solution so far beyond us as individuals following the teachings of Jesus as we relate to the poor. And then, maybe that is the solution. 🙂

Tomorrow, Wednesday, 9 July, I will be on a 12 to 14 hour trip to Nicaragua to renew my visa and may not be doing a post tomorrow night! The last “visa run” trip like this left me beyond exhausted. A local tour driver takes a van load of us on this trip every 3 or 4 months. I can live here now without a visa but cannot drive a car or even get a rent car. Like to keep my options open! Once I’m an official resident, I’ll get a CR Driver License.