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: Live Where You Don’t Need Heat or Air-Conditioning
- Paul’s Monthly Weather Report
- iPad Digital Art Workshops Coming to Costa Rica
- The Bunkers’ Road to Costa Rica, by Tom Bunker
- Featured Article: America is No Place to Get Old In
- What Do the Happiest Expats Have in Common?
So, What’s Up with the Yeatmans?
November just flew by. For us, it was un otro mes muy ocupado (another busy month)!
Are you free to talk to 210 people??
We got a call early in the month from the folks at International Living Magazine. One of the presenters for their November conference in Costa Rica had to cancel and they wondered if we were available on the 12th to do a presentation for their 210 or so attendees. Were we ever! We didn’t have to think twice. We agreed to fill in, and spent the next three days putting together our presentation, PowerPoint slides, and rehearsing.
We talked about why we chose to retire in Costa Rica, why we picked San Ramon to settle in, and answers to the top three questions people ask us on our website:
- What’s your cost of living?
- What do you do for healthcare?
- What do you do all day?
It was a great experience and we’ve already been asked back for next year. How cool is that? While at the conference, we also exhibited on two days for the Community Action Alliance. And after the conference, a couple of the attendees hired Paul to do a tour of San Ramon. So it was a busy week!
Speaking Spanish poco a poco
We’ve also been faithfully going to our Spanish classes every week at CPI language school. It’s a big commitment, not just the four hours a week of classes and the one hour commute each way, but we have homework to complete, and we try to use what we’ve learned in conversations during the week.
To be honest, it can be daunting. I’ve had to acknowledge and confront the little voice in the back of my head that keeps whispering that I’ll never get any better at speaking Spanish. It’s just a bit of fear that I have to work through from time to time. What makes the difference for me, and for anyone else trying to learn a new language, is practice and repetition. I do enjoy language study. I find it challenging.
But it’s way too easy to spend my time checking email, Facebook, or watching TV. So, I’m trying to be more faithful in making time to study during the week instead of just doing my homework the evening before I have class again.
We had the same teacher – Kenyi — for the first eight weeks or so of our classes and really enjoyed her teaching style. We’ll miss her as we were just switched to a new instructor, Luci (but we like Luci already!)
Another Glorious Beach Day
But no matter how busy we are, we still make time for Beach Days! After being caught in the rain twice in October, we decided to wait until the end of the rainy season to head back to the beach. When we scheduled a Beach Day on the 27th, it was even more welcomed than normal since we’d had more than a week of chilly temperatures in the Central Valley. (There’s more about the weather below in “Paul’s Monthly Weather Report.”)
About 20 friends and acquaintances from all over the Central Valley showed up to enjoy the warm temps, sun, sand, and surf at Playa Dona Ana. Top that off with some great conversation, tasty food on the grill, and monkeys in the trees, and what more could we want?
Art that makes you go Hmmmmmm…
We saw an interesting art exhibit at the Jose Figueres Cultural Center by artist Mario Rojas Kolomiets. One of his paintings, entitled, “La Inminencia de la Razón,” (or, “The Imminence of Reason”) features an interesting cast of characters including President George W. Bush, Superman, Santa Claus, Hitler, God, and what appears to be Eve holding an apple, just to name a few. It’s one of the few works I’ve seen here that seems to challenge western culture. I can’t say that I’ve figured out everything the artist was trying to say but it made me think. Here’s a photo of the painting so you can draw your own conclusions.
A World of Spices
While we were in town, we stopped at one of the newest shops to set up in San Ramon and one I hope stays around for a long time. Especias and Condimentos del Mediterraneo carries such previously-hard-to-find items like fennel seeds, poppy seeds, peppercorns of various colors, vanilla beans, and saffron. They also carry a variety of nuts, salts, and spice mixes, and all at reasonable prices. As someone who loves to cook and bake, I will make it a point to buy locally and shop here frequently.
Thanksgiving Day in Costa Rica
Of course, Thanksgiving was just last week and, though we’re not living in the U.S., we still celebrated the day by eating turkey and all the trimmings. We spent the day with about 40 other folks – both expats and Ticos – here at the cabinas. Everyone brought a dish to share and we had all the traditional foods – roast turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, pumpkin and apple pies – plus chicken, pork, salads, turkey and potato empanadas, a rice and raisin casserole, chocolate cake, and banana split pie!
No one went home hungry, though some of our Tico friends weren’t used to all of the seasonings on many of the dishes. Food here tends not to be highly seasoned or spicy. We also had a chance to say thank you to Tali, the gardener here at the cabinas, who just retired. And the musicians in our crowd entertained us with an impromptu jam session and sing-along to well-know songs from our youth.
It was a hectic day, though mostly due to a couple of unexpected complications – Paul rushing our cat Tori to the vet because she was bleeding (she’s fine now) and me running out of propane just as I put my green bean casserole and my neighbor’s large container of stuffing in the oven (it forced me to take a much-needed chance to just “chill out” while waiting 35 minutes for the replacement tank of propane to be delivered). All in all, it was a very nice day spent with friends, both old and new.
The day after Thanksgiving this year marked several events:
The first is our ninth wedding anniversary. Paul and I met 10 ½ years ago and married 18 months later on November 23rd. When I think back to when we met, and then fast-forward to our lives now, it is no less than amazing to me the road we’ve traveled. We knew pretty early on that our relationship was something special. It was just so easy being with each other, and still is. But I never would have guessed that we would be living in another country or writing a blog that is read by thousands of people all over the world!
We celebrated this year by going to a belly dance exhibition at the Regional Museum, followed by a romantic dinner in town. The belly dancing performances took place in the outside courtyard at the Museum in San Ramon and the dancers were of many ages, from little girls to women in maybe their 40s. They danced in their bare feet and wore beautiful, flowing costumes in rich colors, and oh, did I mention that the temperatures were in the low 60s? It was a chilly evening and the audience was bundled up in sweaters and jackets, while the dancers toughed it out in the cool air.
Afterwards, we went to dinner at a new restaurant in San Ramon, L’Organico. We hadn’t yet eaten there but had heard from friends that the food was excellent and made with fresh, healthy, all-organic ingredients. What I didn’t expect was such a lovely atmosphere, attentive service, and beautifully presented food.
We started with a flavorful bowl of onion soup which was served with warm, fresh-baked bread. For an entrée, Paul had the Thai pasta with shrimp in a coconut curry sauce. I ordered the dorado (mahi mahi) with a crust of pure cacao and served with quinoa and slices of avocado. Both of our entrees were delicious but we saved room for dessert which we each ordered, then shared.
Afterwards, when Chef Johann Sancho came by our table to check on us, we told him how happy we were to have chosen his restaurant for our anniversary dinner. I think it’s the best restaurant in the western Central Valley for a romantic dinner, but it’s the kind of place you could also grab a coffee and cinnamon roll, meet up with your friends for paninis at lunch, or have a casual dinner after a movie. L’Orgánico is unpretentious, entirely enjoyable, and most importantly, serves incredible food. So, if you’re in the San Ramon area, make sure to plan a meal at L’Organico.
Day after Thanksgiving event #2:
Community Action Alliance’s Thanksgiving Mixer
The Community Action Alliance is reaching out to the community of Bajo Telares, an extremely poor Tico/Nicaraguan neighborhood just outside of San Ramon Central and held their Thanksgiving Mixer at Faithful Servants Mission there. The needs are many as this community consists of wooden shacks with dirt floors with unemployment rate around 80%. Most residents are surviving day-to-day. Faithful Servant Mission is a nonprofit organization organized out of Florida in 2006. It is transforming the lives of this community by intervening to break the cycle of poverty with the construction of a multipurpose Church building with an emphasis on improving the physical,educational and spiritual needs of this community. Once you see the mission work in progress, you will appreciate what this means to those it serves. Here’s a video of the event, taken by our friend Earl Balance:
Interested in helping? Volunteering your time, or making donations to this worthwhile organization are just a few of the many ways to help this great cause. If you would like to find out how you can help, or want more information, go to fsm4u.org or you can email Ashley at : email@example.com.
Day after Thanksgiving event #3:
Black Friday Comes to Costa Rica
I have to admit, this Day-After-Thanksgiving event had me a little sad. While Costa Rica has always started it’s Christmas displays early — like late October — this is the first year I noticed Black Friday sales everywhere. Viernes Negro signs and promotions showed up all over our town of San Ramon. It was just another reminder that consumerism is rapidly gaining a foothold in Latin America. I know I should’t be surprised, but I wasn’t happy when I saw all the long lines at check-out at the various stores and black balloons in the windows. I guess it’s positive in some ways — more revenue for the local stores. But it’s a lot easier to be satisfied with less and to live simply when there isn’t the big push to buy, buy, buy. And, no, I didn’t buy anything on Viernes Negro.
- Our Retire for Less Philosophy
- Less is More
- Simplicity – What is It?
- A Day in the Life
- Beach Days
- CPI Immersion Spanish School – Choose the Best
Paul’s Monthly Tip to Live for Less in Costa Rica: Choose to Live Where You Don’t Need Heat or Air-Conditioning
This is a no-brainer; you can save an easy $200/month.
One of the biggest reasons we came to Costa Rica was to “live outside.” This meant no need for air-conditioning or heat. We lived in Baltimore, Maryland before moving here and had high heating and air conditioning bills (over $300 per month during the winters). But it wasn’t just the expense – Gloria wanted to enjoy the outdoors. Back in Baltimore, we could rarely open our windows. Those days and nights when we could were a delight, but they were few and far between. We could go outside, but the mosquitoes and too-hot or too-cold temperatures prevented us from truly living in the fresh air.
Living here in the Central Valley, we are usually able to keep at least one window open until around 9:00 pm. If we’re cold, we put on sweatshirts; if we’re hot (almost never) we put on shorts. And no more shoveling snow like we had to do in Baltimore!
We like the fact that living without a heater, air-conditioner, and de-humidifier is easier on the environment. All three are large energy consumers and are largely unnecessary in the Central Valley of Costa Rica.
If we had our druthers, we’d probably move a thousand feel lower to around 3,000 ft. elevation which, to us, seems ideal. But in the 3 ½ years we’ve been in the cabina at almost 4,000 ft., we’ve gradually gotten used to the cooler temperatures.
We love living this way – no heater, no air-conditioner, less expense, less energy usage, and doors and windows wide open!
Paul’s Monthly Weather Report – November 2012 Data
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 11 months:
- January 2012: 0 inches
- February 2012: 0 inches
- March 2012: 0 inches
- April 2012: 11.9 inches (normally 2 inches)
- May 2012: 16 inches
- June 2012: 9.75 inches
- July 2012: 6.6 inches
- August 2012: 18 inches
- September 2012: 12.55 inches
- October 2012: 12.96 inches
- November 2012: 1.85 inches
Total rainfall so far this rainy season: 89.61 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.
Brrrrrr. The dry season has started early this year, with no significant rainfall since October 24th. And the Christmas Winds, which usher in the dry season, also made their appearance earlier than normal. It wasn’t a tease, though. This was the real thing. The wet season was stopped in its tracks on October 25th and we’ve only had 1.85 inches of rain since then.It turned colder, feeling like autumn in the U.S., especially when you live at 4,000 feet above sea level like we do. We even had 11 days with highs only in the 60s. On one day, November 25th, the high was only 64. It even got down to 55 one morning. With no heat, it was tough to get out from under the covers that day. Is this Costa Rica? (I can just hear you, up north, thinking, “Poor babies, you think THAT’S cold!?” We, and our friends throughout the Central Valley, piled on layers of clothing, slept under another a blanket or two, and even resorted to baking something in the oven just to warm up!
However, much of the month would have been good for the beach. Highs there were in the 80s. But we only went once and it was beautiful.
Following is our rain and temperature date for the month of November 2012:
- 1.85 inches of total rainfall ( heaviest rainfall: 0.7 inches on 1 day)
- 11 days measured trace amounts of rain
- 11 days with zero rainfall
- 6am average: 60.9°f (lowest reading was 55°f on 1 day)
- Mid-day average: 70.0°f (high of 75°f on 1 day & the lowest high of 64°f on 1 day)
- 6pm average: 63.6°f (lowest reading was 58°f on 1 day and highest was 68°f on 1 day)
December may be more of the same. We’ll see, and report back in a month.
iPad Digital Art Workshops Coming to Costa Rica
- Where: We’re hoping to offer it in three locations in Costa Rica — Atenas, Escazu/San Jose, and San Ramon
- When: During the last two weeks of of February, 2013
- Cost: $80 for the full day workshop, including lunch.
Digital artist, Mandy McMahan, leads the class in interactive, step-by-step approaches and makes using the iPad technologically approachable, intellectually stimulating, and fun.
Using the iPad as a mobile art studio, participants will create their own digital fine art works using a combination of up to 6 drawing and painting apps.
- create your own unique fine art, collage and photo altered pieces.
- use iPad painting and drawing apps both individually and in tandem
- navigate through importing and exporting source material.
- learn methods for sharing your art on the internet.
- learn how to take your art from your iPad to your wall.
All ages welcome. Materials: Any model iPad; an iTunes account and knowledge of downloading apps.
If you are interested in more details about this workshop, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sharing tools, techniques and approaches for the creation of beautiful art is one of the most satisfying things I can do in this lifetime.”
To learn more about Mandy and to see more of her art, visit her website, Mandy’s Digital Art Place.
by Tom Bunker
My name is Tom Bunker and I was born in Oshkosh, Wisconsin in 1948. I met and married Marcia there in 1973. She was born at Keesler Air Force Base in Mississippi and had moved around a lot because her father was a career Army officer. A veteran of WWII and Korea, he retired to Wisconsin as a full colonel with 30 years of service.
Marcia had recently graduated from nursing school and earned her RN license. She was working in a hospital and I was a factory worker. These were days when there still a lot of manufacturing jobs in the U.S. and a high school diploma would get you a job.
Shortly after we married, I was wanting to get a better job and talking about going back to school. With Marcia’s support and encouragement, I enrolled in the University of WI and obtained a BS in electrical engineering. After graduation, I took a job in Beloit, WI, where we lived until 1984.
We were both sick of the frozen wasteland that is Wisconsin and longed for warmer climes. I was thinking of Florida, but Marcia suggested California. I had never been there and knew nothing about it. After vacationing there, I accepted a job in southern CA. So we moved to Orange County.
Shortly before we moved, we had developed an interest in sailing and I signed up for lessons and joined a group where we could rent 30 ft. sailboats by the day. We became very active sailors and rented mostly out of Newport Beach, CA.
After gaining sailing experience and reading everything I could find about boats, sailing, cruising, and living on boats, we bought a Tayana 37 ft. cutter-rigged boat that had been cruised extensively.
A few months later, we made our first unconventional move when we moved aboard our boat in the Los Angeles Harbor. This was our first major downsizing and we sold almost everything, but made the mistake of putting many items into storage. After a couple years of paying storage fees and never using or even seeing any of the items we could not part with, we cleared out the unit and sold, donated, or disposed of the remaining items.
In 1993 we moved the boat to Ventura, CA when I accepted a new job. In 1995, after 9 years living aboard, we moved ashore and sold the boat. When we moved into an apartment, we bought 2 lawn chairs and borrowed an air mattress to get started. We started acquiring things again and eventually bought a house a year later.
Our years of simple living allowed us to save a lot of money and kept us from going into the maximum debt for which we qualified. We had long since also stopped buying new cars, and would buy late model used cars and keep them for a long time. We have no children. So with two good incomes, we were able to maximize our 401K and IRA plans and still live comfortably.
We also like to travel and have been to many locations in the U.S. as well as Spain (twice), Switzerland, Australia, Thailand, Costa Rica, Bahamas (many times), and Mexico (many times).
My job also took me to Norway and Japan. Living comfortable lives in the economic bubble of soaring portfolios and housing values, we retired early at age 57 and started living on our savings and 401K plans. Two years after the bubble burst, we faced the fact that we couldn’t afford to maintain our lifestyle. We had cut back as much as possible, stopped traveling, and still had too many fixed expenses — the greatest, by far, health insurance.
We considered moving to Mexico because we were familiar with it and always enjoyed traveling there. But the escalation in the drug war violence was starting to involve too many innocent by-standers. I started investigating Costa Rica, reading everything I could find, and joining ARCR (Association of Residents of Costa Rica). Even though we had only been here once, we thought we had a pretty good feel for what we would find. So, we sold our house and cars and sold, donated, or discarded all but 6 suitcase of possessions and, with our 2 cats, moved to Costa Rica. Our destination was a studio apartment near Zarcero that I found on VBRO.com.”
“America is no place to get old in.” Gloria uttered these words over five years ago. And this would evolve into one of the main reasons we decided to retire overseas, specifically, Costa Rica. There were other reasons to be sure, but “America’s no place to get old in” got us started and is related to our other reasons, among which were:
- Rising cost of healthcare
- Fear of terrorism
- Lack of civility in our culture
- Cost of living, in general
- We wanted to live a different, more adventurous, life
Have you ever heard that you spend 80% of your healthcare dollars in your last two years of life? Certainly, in America, with run-away healthcare costs, spending 80% of your lifetime healthcare dollars would be easy. But if you have money, you can afford good healthcare just about anywhere. And you better have a lot of money, because you might end up in a board-and-care or retirement home, and they’re not cheap either. Someone’s got to pay the $5,000 per month. Will it be you?? Will it be your kids? Will it be the government? Or do you have some long-term care insurance to ease the burden? (P.S. The monthly premiums aren’t cheap & they won’t cover you indefinitely.)
But Gloria’s statement wasn’t just a monetary consideration. It spoke more to how you’re treated, how you’re viewed by society, as an aging senior citizen in America, in a culture of youth that doesn’t seem very civil to seniors. Matter of fact, to a large degree, you’re discounted, disposable.
Gloria’s mother lived until she was 92, the last 15 years of which she lived in a retirement community of her own choosing. As she aged and declined in health, she had her daughters nearby and a son in Florida to watch out for her interests. There were many occasions when one of them had to intercede in their mother’s care, to fight for her interests and desires. Many of her care-givers were low-level healthcare workers (CNAs-Certified Nursing Assistants) who wanted to be somewhere else. Gloria, who never had children, started thinking, “Who will look out for MY interests when I’m old and frail?” The fear of being vulnerable in a setting where you’re seen as an inconvenience was frightening to her. And certainly, even if you have children, there is no guarantee that they will take care of you when you’re old.
“America IS no place to get old in.” 100 years ago, this wasn’t the case. The extended family, not just the nuclear family, was involved in daily life. And like the U.S. of years ago, in Costa Rica and much of the world, family is still number one, and respect and care for the elderly is just part of society’s norms. It doesn’t even have to be your aged relative. As a group, people here are kinder, gentler, and more respectful to the elderly.
And of course, the costs associated with aging in other countries is less too. Whether it’s hospital stays, medicine, home care, or hospice, it’s going to cost less. And because it’s less, you can hire caring, wonderful people to assist in your home far longer than you could in the U.S. That means that the elderly aren’t sent away and forgotten. They are part of the fabric of daily family life. So not only are you treated a lot better, but it’s going to cost you a lot less too.
Almost all countries in the world treat their elderly better than the U.S. Why is that? Our society in the U.S. is built on producing, working hard, and moving fast. And when you are elderly, you are no longer producing, nor do you move as fast, or do anything as fast, as you used to. As the baby boomer generation reaches retirement age, they are increasingly viewed as a drain on the system – in regards to Medicare and Social Security especially – and that is leading to a growing spirit of resentment in the U.S. towards the elderly. People are living longer now, so they have more retirement years ahead of them, many of them good years. But gone are the days of working hard until retirement, getting a pension along with your Social Security, and retiring at 65 for a life of leisure.
What have we done wrong? Was it the desire to acquire all that stuff and “raise the standard of living?” It’s so very alluring to have a lot of material possessions. Advertising does a great job of making you feel “lesser than” or like you’re “missing out” if you don’t keep up with your neighbors, the Joneses. In doing so, we forgot our families. There was a time when we cared for our parents and grandparents. It was honorable to take care of them. It was just part of life. After all, didn’t they take care of us when we were young? Guiding us through life? Isn’t it their turn, and our turn to take care of them?
Costa Rica, on the other hand, is a great place to get old in. And for all the right reasons — civility, caring, respect, and relatively inexpensive health care. Yet, many people who move to Costa Rica end up leaving within 5 years. Over 33% exit and some estimates say 50%. Now we know there are reasons, like family, grandkids specifically, that kindle the desire to return. And we know too that some who are uninsurable in the States, come here to take advantage of less expensive private doctors and hospitals, waiting patiently to reach 65 or 66 when Medicare kicks in so they can go back.
But we think one of the main reasons is that they don’t trust the healthcare system in Costa Rica. They come here with high hopes but many get disillusioned. In the World Health Organization’s ranking of the world’s health systems, Costa Rica come in at #36, one better than the U.S. ranking at #37. And people here do live a long time, as long as in the developed world. Costa Rica brings healthcare to the people through its 1,000 local EBAIS clinics. So, why is there a lack of trust in the healthcare system here? Because it’s different than what we’re used to? Because you have to wait in lines? Maybe that’s part of it. We think the language barrier is a big concern. It’s harder to communicate your symptoms and concerns when you don’t speak the language.
So, for all of these reasons, we still think it’s valid to say, “America is no place to get old in.” We’ve seen how the elderly are treated in the U.S., and we’ve seen it here. It’s no contest. Costa Rica and most other countries win, hands down.
- Raising Your Standard of Living
- Costa Rica Isn’t for Everyone?
- Enjoying the Life
- The EBAIS – Where Healthcare Starts
- My Experience Using the Costa Rica Medical System (the “Caja”)
- The Businessman and the Fisherman – A Parable for Today
By Jennifer Stevens, for International Living Postcards (used with permission)
It doesn’t matter where they came from or what they did back home—teacher, entrepreneur, dentist, secretary, taxi driver, journalist—the happiest expats we meet overseas have one thing in common: They brought their sense of adventure with them.I’m not talking dare-devil tendencies. I mean, simply, that they went overseas ready to try new things, to be confounded, to be impressed, to be surprised…I bring this up because you should know: Living overseas works best when you’re pulled there and not just pushed. If your motivation for going abroad is entirely economic, brace yourself for disappointment.”
We agree whole-heartedly! One thing we would add is that the happiest expats were happy BEFORE they moved overseas!
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What’s New on the Website
Check out our newest posts on www.retireforlessincostarica.com:
- Back on Track – Our October 2012 Budget Update
- Costa Rica Isn’t for Everyone?
- The Central Valley Town of Grecia
- Turn key Home with Great Views for Sale in Grecia-$122K
- Raising Your Standard of Living
- Book Excerpt 2 from Butterfly in the City: Give Me the Simple Life
- Ocean-View Home for Rent near San Ramon
- All-Inclusive, or Not?
- Investing and Residency
- Live and Learn at CPI Immersion Spanish School’s Student Residences
- Paul’s Monthly Tip to Live for Less in Costa Rica – Take Advantage of Free and Inexpensive Classes and Events
- Considering a “Typical Tico House”
- Our Little Lives
- Explore Costa Rica and Learn Spanish at the Same Time
- Things Happen – Our September Budget Update
- Another Reason We Chose Costa Rica – the People
- CPI Immersion Spanish School – Choose the Best!
- Getting Ready for the Big Move to Costa Rica
- Why We Chose Costa Rica
- Documents You Need to Open a Bank Account in Costa Rica
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
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