Welcome to our RetireForLessInCostaRica.com Newsletter!
In This Issue:
So, What’s Up with the Yeatmans? Our monthly update to answer the #1 question people ask us, “What do you DO all day?”
Paul’s Monthly Tip to Live for Less in Costa Rica: Buy Fresh Flowers
Paul’s Monthly Weather Report
Featured Article: Money vs. Time
July was another busy month, filled with visitors (both human and the flying kind), special events, a loud boom, and a new birth!
Our Yearly Visitors
Our first visitors of the month come every year, after the start of the rainy season. The Ticos call them abuelitas (little grandmothers). They don’t stay long, but their presence is felt for weeks. In fact, when they come, we go out to dinner and leave them behind. It may sound rude, but it’s just survival on our part.
So, who are the abuelitas? They are flying termites that swarm up from the ground, usually once a year, just before dusk (which is also the time I am preparing dinner). Hundreds of thousands of them swarm around the cabina, coming in through the cracks in the wood ceiling, windows, and under the door.
This year is our fourth year being visited by them, and we have learned that there is nothing to do but stop cooking dinner, stop watching that movie, stop trying to swat them because we are sorely outnumbered, and just leave. When we return a couple of hours later, tens of thousands of them have entered, died, and shed their wings and it is as if it has snowed tiny black wings all over everything. (I can hear you saying, “Ewwww, yuk! But we are in the tropics, after all!) Here’s a photo of our printer, covered with the abuelitas, to give you an idea of what we’re talking about.
When we come back home, the work begins – sweeping and vacuuming — and continues for days as their gossamer wings continue to float down from the beams and catch on the rough plaster walls. They are a constant reminder that nature cannot be contained and we are just puny humans who must adjust to its rhythms.
Visits from Friends
Our next visitors were much more welcome than the abuelitas! We always love it when our friends Dom and Alisa, who live in Escazu, come for dinner and spend the night. Dom is an Italian from Philly and Alisa is originally from the Ukraine. We met them about four years ago in Costa Rica on one of our “due diligence” trips before moving here, and we became fast friends. We were all staying at the same little hotel in Grecia.
Dom and Alisa are both great cooks and brought some wonderful marinated delights to throw on the grill. I baked bread, roasted potatoes, carrots and onions in the oven, and baked an apple crisp for dessert. We ate like kings, then slept like babies!
The following week, we invited our friend, Joe, to join us for Beach Day. Since Joe lives in Heredia and doesn’t have a car, we invited him to spend a couple of nights and ride with us to the beach. We really enjoyed getting to know him better and introducing him to Playa Dona Ana and the monkeys. His first night with us, I made pizza and we invited our neighbors, Lorca and Robert, to join us for dinner. The next day we had a spectacular beach day with lots of warm breezes, monkeys, and ample time in the water. But rather than us telling you more about his visit, Joe describes it in his article below:
If you ever contemplate moving to Costa Rica for whatever reason you will soon find that there are many ex-pats living here who are self-proclaimed experts about all things Costa Rican! Some of these people know what they are talking about but many do not and are simply passing along bad information or, having done something the wrong way, try to pass that same bad info on to you!
However, there are a few people who know what they are talking about and who can give advice out of their very positive experiences here in Costa Rica. Such are the Yeatmans! Paul and Gloria Yeatman have lived in Costa Rica for over three years and they continue to do it right; and when they don’t, they learn by their mistakes. Since I had some Skype contact with them before my move here I thought it would be great to get to know them on my new home turf.
In June, the Yeatmans visited me in my new apartment here in the city of Heredia (see last issue). In kindness, they reciprocated by inviting me to spend three days with them, one of which would be a day at the beach at Playa Dona Ana near Caldera.
The Yeatman’s live in Alto Santiago, near the town of San Ramon. They live in a casita that is nestled in the lush greenery of a tropical landscape. The “little home” is quite ample for them as it contains two bedrooms, bath, kitchen, dining area and living room. As comfortable and bright as the inside of their casita is, it is the outside that attracted me and was a terrific place to sit and have a beer, and, as we did with visiting neighbors, enjoy a good meal amid the splendor of a tropical paradise! Gloria is an exceptional cook and a wonderful baker of fine breads! It was a treat to eat pizza made from scratch and enjoy fresh bread with home-made peanut butter and honey accompanied by a cup of rich Costa Rican coffee for breakfast!
Most of all I enjoyed swapping stories with them about their move here. They are a wealth of knowledge when it comes to knowing how to do it right and they make well-studied suggestions for a successful move to Costa Rica. It was fun to talk about our residency processes. I used the same agency that they did to obtain my residency and, like them, was completely satisfied that I could put all that process in someone else’s hands and have peace of mind that it was being done well. I received my Pensionado cedula of residency in March through a process that took about 7 months from the time my required papers were gathered together and approved. This is always a great day to celebrate as an ex-pat: the day you pick up your Residency Cedula card from the Immigration Department in San Jose!
Paul and Gloria are friendly and open people, plain and simple! We had a great time together and I continued to learn more about life in this wonderful little country called Costa Rica. Paul gave me a tour of San Ramon itself and I had the special treat of going to their local medical clinic where I met his Caja (national health care program) physician, visiting nurse and pharmacist, all serving the local people of that area. Plus we had lunch at the “famous” Soda Kendy that Paul writes about, where you can get a casado for only a buck! While that looked ample enough, I opted for the $2.00 platter and was full by the time I finished my plate of rice, beans, chicken, plantains, salad, and fresh fruit juice! A visit with Paul and Gloria is not complete without eating at this little Soda in the Central Market.
Gloria and Paul really enjoy the life they have chosen here in Costa Rica and are willing to help other people, like me, to find the fullness of the experience of this wonderful country where many of us have chosen to live. If you are reading this then you have found their website and, like me, continue to learn from it. May it help you to find a piece of the good life also.
San Lucas Island Tour
We had another great day at the beach earlier in the month when we took a group of 18 people to San Lucas Island. After a 40 minute boat ride to the island from Puntarenas, we toured the former prison, now a historical site and national wildlife refuge. The island is home to howler monkeys (which we could hear up in the trees), snakes, deer, pheasants, and at least 8 species of bats (some of which we saw close up). During the tour, we saw the historic waterfront with original dock, the church, a medical building, a former office, and of course, the prison cells, complete with graffiti typical of prisons in Latin America.
After the tour, we boarded the boat and rode around to a nearly deserted beach on the other side of the island for a picnic lunch of fresh fruit, delicious arroz con pollo with salad, and warm rice pudding for dessert. We had several hours to enjoy swimming in the crystal clear water and watch schools of fish swim by and tiny crabs scuttling sideways on the beach. All in all, it was a fun and interesting day.
A Loud BOOM
One evening, while relaxing after dinner, we heard (and felt) a loud boom. My first thought was that something really close had been hit by lightening, but then I realized that it was neither raining nor thundering. It was, in fact, a clear night. We were stunned for about 30 seconds, after which we decided to go outside and take a look. We were surprised to see that a eucalyptus tree near our cabina had broken off and fallen on the roof of our porch. It fell so hard that it broke into several pieces, some of which were still on the roof.
We immediately called our gardener, Talí, who lives on-site, and he came down a few minutes later with a high-powered flashlight. He started to clear the debris immediately, but we asked him to wait until the morning so we could take photos for our newsletter. He agreed, and was back, bright and early the next morning, clearing away all traces of the fallen tree.
This is just one more reason we are happy to be renters instead of owners — all it took was one phone call!
All the Goings-on in San Ramón
There was a lot happening in San Ramón in July. First there are all of the preparations for the San Ramón Days festivities in August. It takes nearly a month to build the temporary structures that will house arts and crafts, historical exhibit, food booths, bingo, and the entertainment stages. Workmen were busy with scaffolding and logs to build the framework of the structures. They do this every year, then take it all down again after the 12-day event, which celebrates the patron saints of the towns in the canton of San Ramón.
On a couple of occasions, we walked through the Jardin de los Refranes (Garden of Thought Art Exhibit) at UCR’s Regional Museum in San Ramón. Each piece of art was made with 100% recycled materials and was created around an idea or thought, though literal translation into English can be difficult.
Here are a few pictures and my attempts at translation to give you an idea.
Right: “Campo y anchura: Aqui Viene La Hermosura” (“Countryside and Broad: Here Comes The Beauty”)
Left: “Al potro mañoso hay que apretarle la cincha y atilintarle el bozal” (“The colt must be crafty, squeeze the strap and adjust the halter.”)
Below: “Cada con su tema” (“Each with its theme”)
Here’s a link to the Museum’s facebook page where you can view more photos: http://www.facebook.com/museo.regional.sanramon.ucr
We also attended the Garden Club of San Ramon’s Exposition of Flowers, also at the Museum. Members competed in various classes and categories, including flower arrangements according to specific themes.
The third event we attended was the Festival of Folkloric Dancing, held at the Jose Figueres Cultural Center here in San Ramón. It was really a community event, with performances by five local dance troupes. The dancers were of all ages and the costumes were beautiful. This was an opportunity for them to perform in front of a small live audience, and many, if not all of them, will go on to perform on the big stage in front of thousands, during the San Ramón Days festivities in August. Here is a snippet of the highlights:
A New Birth! Awww…….
And last but not least, we celebrated a new birth in our neighborhood. Our friend and neighbor Bernal’s horse gave birth to a beautiful new foal. Mother and baby are doing just fine! And thanks to our friend Robert Carr who took the photos.
Paul’s Monthly Tip to Live for Less in Costa Rica: Buy Fresh Flowers
One of the great deals in Costa Rica is buying fresh flowers. I’ve always liked fresh flowers in my house. In Baltimore, we would generally buy flowers weekly or every other week at Trader Joe’s. They were a good deal there as well. A beautiful bunch, suitable for a vase on our dining room table would generally cost about $7, which by U.S. standards is cheap, cheap, cheap. TJs carried other, more expensive bunches, bouquets, and arrangement too. I was glad to find Trader Joe’s because going to the florist for every day flowers was cost prohibitive. A nice arrangement could easily be $30 and up. Once I spent $75 for a beautiful, large arrangement.
In Costa Rica, what I might spend $30 for in the States, I can have here for $4. Usually we spend anywhere from $3 to $5 every other week for incredibly beautiful bouquets. One of our favorites is a bunch of Stargazer Lilies with 20 or more blooms and they all open. We often add in small greens from our yard to make them even more spectacular. We’ve picked ornamental flowers and plant stems from the Cabina property to make interesting table-top displays. The cost for this is $0.
We buy our flowers at the weekly feria (large, open air farmers’ market). Since arriving in Costa Rica, we’ve purchased our flowers from one special vendor – Marlen and her husband Vincente. Actually, they have two stalls, one exclusively for flowers that Marlen runs, and a produce one staffed by Vincente.
Although she buys some of her flowers wholesale and resells them at the feria, many are grown right on their finca, located in Puebla Nuevo, outside of Zarcero at 6200 ft. above sea level (brrrrrrr). Yes, it’s cooler and rainier up, up, up there, where they live and grow their vegetables and flowers. They have no heat, and definitely don’t need air conditioning. We’ve been to their home several times and find them very interesting. They own a modest home, have two almost-grown children, and have even had foreign exchange students live with them. Like most Ticos, they seem satisfied with their lives.
Let’s see what happened on our mountain at 3950 feet elevation, four miles west of San Ramon, and 9 degrees north of the equator. Here’s the trend over the last ten months:
- October 2011: 35 inches (normal 13-15 inches)
- November 2011: 5 inches
- December 2011: 2 inches
- January 2012: 0 inches
- February 2012: 0 inches
- March 2012: 0 inches
- April 2012: 11.9 inches
- May 2012: 16 inches
- June 2012: 9.75 inches
- July 2012: 6.6 inches
We took the temperature at 6am, mid-day, and 6pm daily, as well as rainfall totals for the previous 24 hours, measured at 6am. All temperature readings are taken in the shade (just like official meteorologists do). If taken in the sunshine, the temps are usually 8-10 degrees higher. You also have to take into account the altitude — the higher the elevation, the cooler the temps. It gets warmer by about 4-5 degrees per 1000 feet as you descend in elevation.
Rain Data from July 1st to July 31st (31 days)
- 6.6 inches of total rainfall (1.4 inches on one day and 1.1 inches on two days between July 4th-10th)
- 5 days measured trace amounts of rain
- 13 days with zero rainfall
Temperature data from July 1st to July 31st (31 days)
- 6am average: 62.9°f (lowest reading was 61°f on 4 days)
- Mid-day average: 73.4°f (high of 78°f on 2 days & the lowest high of 65°f on 1 day)
- 6pm average: 65.9°f (lowest reading was 64°f on 4 days and highest was 68°f on 2 days)
That’s it for this report. We’ll continue the weather info next month.
I always tell people that time is more valuable than money at our age, realizing, of course, that we need enough money to live. It seems to me, when you are 60+, the creating of wealth becomes secondary to the time we have left on this earth. In Costa Rica, most expats pay cash for their homes and it often represents a significant percentage of their financial nest egg, be it $100,000 or $250,000. My advice is always the same: to rent before buying anything. But if you must buy, we recommend purchasing properties under $150,000 because they are both easier to buy and easier to sell.
My general philosophy is this: your time is worth something, especially if you are over 60 years of age. If you are lucky, you may have 20 years left, since the average life-span is slightly less than 80 years. Quite often, people own houses in Costa Rica and become disillusioned, for whatever reason, and want out. It’s estimated that 50% of expats leave within 5-7 years, with most of them returning to their home countries. Initially, they didn’t think they would be in the 50% who leave (and there is certainly nothing wrong with trying it out to see if it is for you). And it’s not just Costa Rica; it could be Nicaragua, Panama, Ecuador, Mexico, or even somewhere in Europe. For whatever reason, they are unhappy, they’ve changed their minds, and want out. But they’ve got to sell their house first, since so much cash is tied up in it.
I believe if you want out, you should sell your house quickly, take a small gain or loss if necessary, and move on with your life. Most people won’t do this because they want to make a profit on the house, even though it may be difficult to sell in the current economy. It may take months, maybe even years, to sell. But again, your time (I’m referring to the rest of your life-span) is worth more than money. Remember, if you are 60+, every year represents 5% of the rest of your life. So, if you don’t want to be here (there, or anywhere), what’s the point? How much is another $20K or $50K worth to you? To me, the time is much more valuable than any money you can make on a house. So I say, meet the market, sell quickly, and move on with your life.
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For those of you interested in the weather patterns in our part of Costa Rica, we have summarized Paul’s Monthly Weather Reports by calendar year. You can read the summaries for 2011 and 2012-to-date here:
- Our Weather in San Ramón de Alajuela, Costa Rica – 2011
- Our Weather in San Ramón de Alajuela, Costa Rica – 2012
Also, check out our newest posts on www.retireforlessincostarica.com:
- Two-Month Window of Opportunity to Invest in CDs
- Our 2012 Annual Cost of Living Update
- Inflation in Central America
- From 11.75% to 12.5% Interest on a 12-Month Certificate of Deposit!
- Paul’s Monthly Tip to Live for Less in Costa Rica: Save on Telephone Service
- How do you define happiness?
- Book Review: Butterfly in the City, by Jo Stuart
- ‘Tis the Season…for Mold and Mildew
- Crime Stats in Costa Rica
- Why retire outside of the U.S.?
That’s all for this month, but we’ll be back in touch soon! If you enjoy our newsletter, please share it with your friends. We hope to see you online!
Gloria & Paul Yeatman
San Ramon de Alajuela, Costa Rica