Welcome to our RetireForLessInCostaRica.com Newsletter!
In This Issue:
- Happy New Year from Costa Rica!
- So, What’s Up with the Yeatmans? Our monthly update to answer the #1 question people ask us, “What do you DO all day?”
- Moving On: Part III — Settling In and Coming Full-Circle
- Paul’s Monthly Tip to Live for Less in Costa Rica: Buy Just What You Need
- CPI’s New Online Spanish Classes
- Update: Bugs in Costa Rica
- Update: America’s No Place to Get Old In
- Paul’s Monthly Weather Report
- iPad Digital Art Workshops Coming to Costa Rica
- Paul’s New Year’s Resolution: Don’t Get the Gardener Mad!
- Featured Article: Healthcare in Costa Rica — Our Recent Experiences
- Featured Real Estate Under $150K—Cozy home in the Grecia Mountains near Nature Reserves-$145K
Happy New Year from Costa Rica!
As we look back on 2012, and forward to 2013, we feel so grateful for this journey we are on. Moving to Costa Rica, for us, has been an incredible experience. We have been warmly embraced by the Costa Rican people, have developed some wonderful friendships with Expats and Ticos alike, and are living amidst so much natural beauty that, at times, we can hardly take it all in. We are also thankful for you, our readers, and hope that we can continue to bring you informative, relevant information about living in Costa Rica. Próspero Año Nuevo!!
So, What’s Up with the Yeatmans?
Much of what we did in December, we’ve already told you: we moved from the Cabinas into a new rental house, about 10 minutes away from where we lived previously. We write more about it below in Moving On – Part III. But December was also a month of festivities – Gloria’s birthday, Christmas, and New Year’s Eve, and we didn’t let a little thing like moving stop us from celebrating!
Every year, Christmas becomes more and more festive in our town of San Ramon. There are concerts, kids games, food and churro stands, craft vendors, parades, and, of course, the decorations and Christmas Tree lighting.
We went to a holiday party at UCR’s regional museum in San Ramon – their way of thanking those who supported them in the previous year.
Early in the month, Gloria played “monkey-sitter” for our friends, Michele and Paul, whose home and Spider Monkey Rehab is just down the drive. The occasion was a holiday party for the children of Magallanes, put on by other friends, Dave and Doris, at their home. Michele and Paul both went to the party dressed as elves (who knew Paul had such great legs!) so they needed someone to stay home and watch over the two resident spider monkeys, Chiquito and Lolita. “Monkey time” is always a highlight for Gloria.
On the 15th, we had a great dinner at San Ramon’s Le Organico restaurant with friends, then all went to a concert of the Grammy-winning, Costa Rican musical group, Editus. It’s the second time we’ve heard them and this time was even better than the first. Here’s a video of one of their most popular songs:
We also attended the 2nd Annual Tuba Christmas, held this year outdoors at the bandstand in the park. It was a lot of fun and gave us a chance to catch up with folks who we don’t necessarily see regularly.
The big news, which I guess isn’t news any longer, is that the world didn’t end on Gloria’s birthday, December 21st. To celebrate her birthday, we went back to Le Organico for lunch, and afterwards went to an “End of the World Party” at our next-door neighbor’s.
The parties continued on Christmas Eve with an ornament exchange party at another neighbor’s, and two on Christmas Day at the homes of other friends. It always amazes us how full our social calendar can get. We got to visit with friends, old and new, and eat lots of delicious food, and celebrate our wonderful, expat lives here in Costa Rica.
Then there’s what we didn’t do…
No beach days in December. 😥 We had one scheduled just before our move but bowed out because we just had too much to do. It was the first month in a long time that we didn’t make it to the beach at least once. We’ll just have to make up for it in 2013!
Last newsletter, we told you about moving into our beautiful new rental house. But despite all that, it was a big change for us and our kitties, and the first few weeks were difficult, especially for me.
But I am happy to report that all is now good in the Yeatman household. We are getting settled, all of us. We’ve found places for all our belongings, amidst the furnishings and decor already in the house. We’re spending much less time wandering through the house looking for things. We’re getting used to a different kitchen, with different appliances, and a different layout. We’re beginning to form new habits so we don’t have to think as hard to do simple tasks.
But still, there are some big changes for us — good ones. One is that we get to wear shorts just about every day. It makes us feel like we are on vacation. It’s warmer here than at the cabinas, as we’re about 1000 feet lower in elevation. Yesterday it hit 86 degrees in the shade on our porch but most days it is in the high 70s to low 80s (more about this in “Paul’s Monthly Report” below.)
Another big change is what we hear throughout the days and nights. Since we are a five minute drive from the Pista, and actually lower than the Pista, we don’t have the noise of cars and trucks like we did at the cabinas. Instead, we hear the river below, the howler monkeys, the distinctive calls of chachalacas and toucans, and the breezes blowing through the trees.
As much as we LOVED eating out on our porch at the cabinas, we love it just as much in the new house, nestled in the jungle-covered hills outside of San Ramon, though it has a completely different feel. We’ve hung white twinkle lights on the porch, put our vase of fresh flowers from the feria on the table, and set out our Costa Rican rocking chairs and potted plants, all ready for our first dinner party.
Just as we’re getting settled, so are our cats. We kept them inside the house for the first two weeks but finally let them outside for the first time the day after Christmas. I have to admit, we were nervous…or should I say that I was nervous. I’m happy to say that they are being cautious as they step out into this new jungle world. There are so many new sounds, scents, and sights, and they seem to take it all in. The first day out, the ever-voracious Tori came in at dinner time, no problem, but Laura was no where to be found. We kept calling her throughout the evening but she didn’t show up, and so we worried. (Mom, if you can hear me up in heaven, let me apologize right now for the times I came home late and made you worry! I understand now!) At about 5am the next morning, Laura came up on the porch, meowing to come in. And suddenly, all those fears that she had been carried off by a hawk, eaten by a coyote, or got lost trying to find her way back to the cabina, just disappeared. So now we are being more cautious about bringing them in long before dark and making sure they are good and hungry at dinnertime!
Both cats have their favorite snoozing spots. Tori’s is in her cat carrier which we placed on the top bookshelf to get it out of the way. She gets to it by jumping from the daybed to the top ledge of the door, and from the door to the bookshelf. AyeYaiYai, what an animal! And one of Laura’s favorite places is inside the trundle bed where she can wriggle her tiny body through the gaps to hide away from the world and sleep on the cozy rugs I’ve laid out there. Both cats have also discovered that they can jump from the upstairs porch, and even one of the bedroom windows, onto the roof of the downstairs patio. From there, they have a bird’s eye view of their entire domain. Once I realized that they were able to get off the roof, back onto the porch as easily as they got on, I relaxed a little about the whole thing.
We’ve actually come full-circle regarding this house. Last New Year’s Eve, we did an airport pickup for friends whose flight got in at 10:30pm and brought them to this very house, which they were renting at the time. Since it was 11:30pm when we arrived, they invited us in for a glass of wine. We stood on the porch at midnight, watching the fireworks over Puntarenas, and toasted the New Year. Who knew then that one year later, Paul and I would be standing on the same porch at midnight, toasting both the New Year and our new home? And it was these very same friends who told us a couple of months ago that the owners of this house had just decided to rent it year-round. Thank you Michele and Paul, for telling us about this wonderful opportunity, and thank you Julie and Jamie, for renting us your beautiful house.
We’ve also come full-circle concerning our beloved cabina. It was hard leaving it, but we closed out 2012 by having dinner on New Year’s Eve at “our” cabina with our friends Lorca and Robert who are living there now. We thought it might be strange for us, going back to our former home, but seeing it occupied by other people and their stuff. We were both surprised that it wasn’t strange or sad or difficult. It was just as it should be, the home of our friends. In coming full-circle, we now have closure on our move and can better enjoy our new lives. We will always have our wonderful memories of living at the cabina, and can also enjoy visiting and seeing others create their own memories there.
- Moving On: Part I
- Moving On: Part II — Change is Hard. Really.
- Things We Love – Living Outside
- Our Services – Transportation
- Our Services – Tours
In the States or Canada, don’t you usually save money when you buy in bulk? Not necessarily so, in Costa Rica. Interestingly, the “large economy size” of many products in Costa Rica can actually cost more per unit than buying the smaller size.
There are exceptions of course. Wal-Mart is here now, the king of marketers, and PriceSmart, which do offer quantity discounts. But for us, in each case, they are 45 minutes away by car and any savings are eaten up by the cost of gas to get there. Still, we go to these stores two to three times per year, when we are in the area or have multiple stops to make. Your average food store and pharmacy, however, will not offer these kinds of savings on quantity purchases.
So, what can you do to beat the system? Do as Ticos do and purchase smaller quantities. Get only what you need, be it the super-small size or just one or two pills for that really bad headache. No need to buy a bottle of pills or large package of anything when you can buy just what you need. It’s especially true in the pharmacies, where they’ll cut out as little as one pill from a “blister pack,” if that’s all you need. Commonly, they’ll ask you “how many do you want?” and when you ask the price, they quote you the price per pill.
You’ll save a little in the food stores, too, by buying smaller sizes in most cases. For instance, buying two single rolls of paper towels often cost less than a double-pack. You don’t need to buy a six-pack of soda or beer. Here, you can buy just one bottle or can in the supermarkets and liquor stores.
Remember, in Costa Rica, the large economy size might not be economical after all, so be sure to check the cost per unit before you put it into your shopping cart.
Though we are on a one-month break from our weekly 4-hour Spanish classes at CPI, we are still committed to our language studies. One way we are doing it is with CPI’s new Online Conversation Class program.
In mid-December, we were excited to learn about CPI’s new Virtual Campus which provides students the opportunity to perfect Spanish online during the hours most convenient to their personal schedule. Approached with the same dedication to quality as their on-site program, the CPI Online classes are a cut above the rest by combining CPI’s active methodology with the latest online class technology in a face-to-face format. Learning a second language is a lifelong process and CPI wants to be there for you each step of the way.
Schedule flexibility is maximized through classes being offered in the morning, afternoon and evening. Whether you select a group class scheduled at 7pm, learning from the comfort of your home, or a private lesson at 1pm during your lunch break, CPI provides a live instructional solution to fit your needs. Additional study materials are available online where and when needed, providing the student freedom to learn at his/her own pace.
Watch this quick one-minute video for more information, then visit the CPI Virtual Campus website.
- CPI Immersion Spanish School – Choose the Best!
- Explore Costa Rica and Learn Spanish at the Same Time
- Live and Learn at CPI Immersion Spanish School’s Student Residences
Update: Bugs in Costa Rica
Remember in our last newsletter when Paul wrote, “Bugs. I have never liked bugs and it was one of my main concerns about moving to the tropics, to Costa Rica. I’m here to tell you that the bug scare was just a false alarm” ?? Well, the very night we published that newsletter, we had a furry visitor show up uninvited in our bedroom.
Our cat, Tori, was fixated on a corner of the bedroom. When I went over to check it out, I saw a tarantula the size of my fist cowering in the corner. Here’s a picture of it next to Paul’s size 12 shoes, just for perspective of how big it was. Eeeeeeeekkkkk! There’s nothing like a big, black, furry insect to make you jump into action! We quickly scooted Tori out of the room, grabbed the broom, and swept it outside onto the porch where it proceeded to climb up the wall into the crevices.
I have to say that it’s the first time in almost four years that a bug has freaked me out. We mentioned it to a Tica friend the next day and she said that we’d see lots of them here (oh, joy) but that they are harmless. Evidently, they are attracted to banana plants. Who knew?
Not totally convinced, I looked them up on the Internet and here’s what I found:
The spiders known as tarantulas are famous for being large, hairy, and poisonous. While in some places there are enormous spiders…in Costa Rica the tarantulas are not so gigantic. For having an intimidating appearance, the tarantula is quite a fragile creature and steps delicately around the forest floor habitat. It uses its front legs like antennae to feel around in front of the spider’s body, which gives the spider a stronger sense of its surroundings than the spider’s eight small eyes.
(The tarantula)…is common in Costa Rica but not necessarily commonly seen. It is nocturnal, emerging at dusk or later to mate and hunt. This primitive species of spider does not spin a web, but does dig a burrow, and never strays terribly far from home. Some live for 5 to 10 years in the wild.
All tarantulas, like all spiders, have poison, but tarantulas are relatively shy creatures and are very unlikely to bite. Most tarantulas need venom to stun their prey and defend themselves, and their bodies do not replenish venom quickly. Hence they are hesitant to waste venom unless they are threatened and cannot escape. If a tarantula feels cornered and scared, it will first use its backmost legs to flick thick urticating hairs off the back of its abdomen. These hairs sting, especially if they come in contact with the eyes or mouth. Another warning sign that a tarantula is becoming aggressive is when it rears up onto its back legs, sometimes adding an angry hiss. The spider’s fangs are underneath its head and the spider needs to come down on top of what it will bite. While the venom of a tarantula is not fatal, the bite can still be deep and painful. It’s better to just admire one where it stands.”
Admire it from a distance? I can do that!
Last month, Paul wrote about my comment several years ago that “America is no place to get old in.” In that article, he stated, “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.” We see evidence of this all the time. It’s the way people talk about their parents and grandparents, with respect instead of annoyance. Costa Rica also has the Ciudadanos de Oro (golden citizens) program which they established in 1997 to create a culture of dignity and respect for the elderly.
We recently saw more proof of this on the back of a public bus near the Airport. I think this photo says it all. The text inside the heart translates to, “Save me a seat on the bus and another in your heart.” And the text below says, “I respect the elderly. And you?” This is followed by the legal code that deals with this issue and a request for people to report any infractions they witness. Can you see this happening in today’s U.S.?
- America is No Place to Get Old In
- Paul’s Monthly Tip to Live for Less in Costa Rica: The Gold Card-Don’t Leave Home Without It!
Paul’s Monthly Weather Report – December 2012 Data
We often talk of microclimates in Costa Rica, as there are two things that greatly affect the weather: altitude and topography. This was never brought home so clearly as when we moved last month.
After almost 4 years at the cabinas, at 3950 feet elevation, we moved about 1,000 feet lower. From the cabinas, you could actually see where we’ve moved. As the crow flies, it’s about one mile, but by car, about 10 minutes and 3 miles.
We moved December 12th and, suddenly, everything was different. We knew our new area well. It was 1000 feet lower, 1-5 degrees warmer (but I must admit, it seems greater), with more sun, less rain, clouds, and fog. Our friend, Dave Brink, who used to live next door, said it had the best weather in San Ramon. Of course, it really depends on what you consider the best and what’s right for you. We’ll need to live here a year to better evaluate Dave’s remarks for ourselves.
Unfortunately, leaving our old “digs” on the 12th, didn’t really allow me to complete the weather for the calendar-year as I wanted to. None-the-less, I’ll give you what I’ve got for early December at the cabinas and we can quickly, perhaps, fraudulently split the month and compare.
Here’s the trend over the last 12 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
- December 2012: 0.10 inches
Total rainfall in 2012: 89.71 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.
Following is our rain and temperature date for the month of December 2012:
- 0.1 inches of total rainfall (that’s right, we only got 1/10th of an inch for the entire month — last December we got 2 inches)
- 4 days measured trace amounts of rain
- 26 days with zero rainfall
- 6am average: 61.0°f (lowest reading was 57.75°f on 1 day)
- Mid-day average: 72.0°f (high of 77°f on 1 day & the lowest high of 66°f on 1 day)
- 6pm average: 65.0°f (lowest reading was 62°f on 3 days and highest was 69°f on 1 day)
- 6am average: 64.0°f (lowest reading was 63°f on 6 days)
- Mid-day average: 79.0°f (high of 86°f on 1 day & the lowest high of 73°f on 2 days)
- 6pm average: 68.5°f (lowest reading was 66°f on 2 days and highest was 70°f on 2 days)
November and December are the coldest months in Costa Rica. Sometimes, I think there should be three seasons: the green/wet season, the dry/high season, and the windy season, which came early this year – on October 25th when the wind came and the rain stopped. We’ll continue the weather info next month.
- Our Weather in San Ramón de Alajuela, Costa Rica – 2011
- Our Weather in San Ramón de Alajuela, Costa Rica – 2012
- 15 Days
iPad Digital Art Workshops Coming to Costa Rica
Whether you are an artist, or simply have an iPad and a desire to learn to use it as a tool to express yourself artistically, this is the workshop for you!
- Where: We’re planning to offer it in two locations in Costa Rica — Escazu/San Jose, and San Ramon
- When: During the last two weeks of of February, 2013
- Cost: Only $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.”
A few words from Jim White:
Hi, I am Mandy’s partner and husband. I am truly excited about assisting Mandy with her iPad Art workshops.
I have been in the training and personal development business for 38 years and have worked in about 18 countries in designing and facilitating workshops and seminars focused on personal growth, leadership development and skills acquisition.
Without bias, when Mandy conducted her first iPad workshops, I was truly amazed at her technical mastery, warm teaching presence and her ability to make the iPad fully accessible. The students left the class having confidently created beautiful and satisfying fine art pieces.
Please join us for a fun few hours where you will take your artistic skills to the next level-digitally.
To learn more about Mandy and to see more of her art, visit her website, Mandy’s Digital Art Place.
In our new monthly healthcare feature, we’ll discuss what happened the previous month. Over time, we will go into detail about how the system works. We’ll cover the public system (Caja) and the private system, how to get started, and how much it costs. Most Ticos use both, as do we, but we try to use the Caja (public system) as much as possible. It’s our health care system of “first resort” and from there, everything else follows. The idea behind this new feature is to help you be more confident about using both healthcare systems in Costa Rica.
Sadly, very few expats use the Caja as extensively as we do, but for 95% of what ails you, the public system will suffice. Your first step in the Caja will be your local EBAIS (local clinic). Your neighborhood will have one (each serving about 4,500 people) at least one day a week, and maybe as many as five days, depending on population density of your district. But let’s backtrack a little and briefly go over where you actually begin the Caja process. As time goes by, we’ll go into detail about every step, but for now we’ll do a quick overview to get you started with securing your Caja card, called a carnet, and entering the system.
- Obtain residency (or be in the process of getting your legal residency)
- Go to your local Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social (CCSS) office. There will be one in your town or the closest big town in your county (canton)
- Once you’re approved, you pay your first month’s premium at the CCSS office
- Go to the hospital (or other location as instructed) to pick up your Caja card
- Report to your local EBAIS
But how do you find your local EBAIS? It’s easy. Just ask another expat or a Costa Rican neighbor. Find one who speaks English, if necessary, and he will help you locate it. Chances are, you can walk to it. This system, beginning with the EBAIS, truly brings medicine to the people and is the #1 reason why Costa Ricans live so long. Compared to the developed world, Costa Rica is a poor country but has the health demographics of a very rich one.
So what happened to Paul and Gloria in December, and how did we use the system for our healthcare? What did we get and how much did it cost? We start in December 2012 because, after four Decembers in Costa Rica, a lot happens medically for us that month.
Since I’m over 65, I have a minor physical every 6 months. It consists of weight, blood pressure, blood tests, urinalysis, EKG, and any other tests they deem necessary. These could be X-Rays, ultrasounds, or evaluations by specialists. After the results are received at the EBAIS, our doctor, Dr. Casada, goes over them with me. She’ll (that’s right, she’s a woman doctor) make recommendations and write my prescriptions for the next six months which we must get filled on a monthly basis. Our local EBAIS has a small pharmacy so I know that I’ll be at the EBAIS at least once a month. My prescriptions include medications for high blood pressure,an antihistamine, eye drops, and a fiber supplement, and the Ebais pharmacist fills them in about 10 minutes. If there’s anything out of the ordinary in my test results, the doctor will refer me to the next level of care (a specialist and/or more tests) for further review.
So, here we go!
I have an appointment set up every six months. Our local EBAIS is a short drive away – 10 minutes. Plus, if I’m immobile for some reason, the visiting nurse will stop by our house. Being that it’s January, I expect that he will stop by on his motorcycle to give me my annual flu shot. Last year, he also gave me a pneumonia vaccine when I visited the clinic to pick up my monthly meds. The visiting nurse and his family have become friends, and last year we bought tamales from him to help raise money for his church.
Wouldn’t you know it? Every time we go to the clinic, they ask for additional monies – a whole 300 colones/60 cents per person – to help pay their overhead. It’s a simple place that I feel very comfortable in. There are benches for sitting but no tables, no magazines, no television, no phones ringing. Incidentally, The Caja covers everyone for everything, with no co-pay, just a monthly premium.
Every month, we will write something about our medical experience so you might feel more comfortable. As always, we will report the positives as well as the negatives as we navigate and learn the medical system in Costa Rica. We will then share it with you, to help you make better decisions about healthcare and your retirement future.
- The EBAIS – Where Healthcare Starts
- Paul’s Monthly Tip to Live for Less in Costa Rica: Join the Caja, Costa Rica’s National Medical System
Price (US$): $145,000
Geographic Area: Grecia and Naranjo areas
Property City: Grecia
Neighborhood: San Isidro
Meters Squared or Hectares: 7000 m2
Lot Size (sq. Ft.) – Farm Acreage: 1.75 acres
Year Built: 2005
Construction (sq. ft.): 1,800
Full Baths: 2
Garage Space: 1
Property Description: This home is perfect for anyone who loves nature, and enjoys gorgeous views with privacy. Located just 15 minutes from Grecia in a private gated community this home has it all. It features a fireplace, an ADT security system, an open dining and living room, lots of big french doors that open to let the fresh air in, and a nice big flat yard for landscaping, gardening, or walking. The master suite features a bath tub, walk in closet and a covered terrace with french doors perfect for letting in the morning sun.
There is plenty of room on the big lot to build a guest house, or another home for rental income. The location is special because it is just down the road from a county park with lots of trails in the forest where armadillos, raccoons, and porcupines can be spotted. The nature reserve also is home to lots of birds including the resplendent Quetzal, and Toucanets. Granite counter tops, and Costa Rican hardwoods make this quality home a great deal!
Click here to check out our other properties under $150,000 and read about what to do before you buy.
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What’s New on the Website
Check out our newest posts on www.retireforlessincostarica.com:
- Our November 2012 Cost of Living
- Bugs in Costa Rica
- In the Mailbag – December 2012
- Off to New Adventures Aboard “Dragon’s Wing”
- America is No Place to Get Old In
- Paul’s Monthly Tip to Live for Less in Costa Rica: Live Where You Don’t Need Heat or Air-Conditioning
- Costa Rica Isn’t for Everyone?
- The Central Valley Town of Grecia
- Raising Your Standard of Living
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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