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?”
- The Vision of Casa Campo
- Paul’s Monthly Tip to Live for Less in Costa Rica: Visiting the Veterinarian
- Featured Speak Spanish Video: Speak Spanish With Your Dog
- Paul’s Monthly Weather “Report”
- An Introduction to Finca Luna Nueva
- Featured Article: Just Another Day in Paradise?
This has been a busy month, all around. We’ve been traveling to parts near and far (okay, maybe just “semi-far”) to report on some cool stuff going on here in Costa Rica.
One of the most interesting trips was to Finca Luna Nueva, located in the northern part of the Cantón of San Ramón, about one hour and 45 minutes from where we live. Though things are getting brown here on the Pacific side of the mountain range that runs through the center of the country, once we crossed the mountain and arrived at Finca Luna Nueva, everything was lush and green. For me, it was like taking a long drink of cool water when you are really thirsty.
We went with fellow San Ramon resident Trisha Spinelli who is their staff writer. Finca Luna Nueva Lodge is a sustainable eco-lodge hotel and certified organic biodynamic farm situated in the rainforest. While there, Trisha gave us a tour of the organic kitchen garden where they grow the organic fruits, vegetables, and herbs that they serve in their restaurant. We enjoyed a delicious “slow food” lunch featuring a great salad, ceviche de sandia (watermelon), fish, fresh fruit juice and local organic coffee. After lunch, General Manager, Steven Farrell, took us on a very interesting tour of the Sacred Seeds Garden. What is a “Sacred Seeds Garden?” Just watch this brief video to find out!
To see more photos, check out our Finca Luna Nueva photo album on Facebook. And if you would like to visit FLN, we’ll be scheduling some tours in the near future!
Our next visit was to Casa Campo Natural Reserve, the dream of a local San Ramon architect and his family. While in its early stages of development, Casa Campo’s goal is to preserve wildlife areas and give people a beautiful place to commune with nature. You can read more about their vision in the article below. We were there for a special open house to introduce it to the community. The mayor of San Ramon was there will her children and grandchildren. We and our friends enjoyed the beautiful mountain views, delicious grilled kebabs, and latin music. And we weren’t the only ones who enjoyed the music!
Shaking Hands with Laura C.
That same week, Paul stopped by our local EBAIS in Santiago to get his flu shot and was surprised to see crowds in town. As it turns out, Laura Chinchilla was in town! (To clear up any confusion, we’re not talking about our cat, Laura Chinchilla, but the President of Costa Rica!) She was in the area for the dedication of a new road going through Santiago. Paul actually got to shake her hand. When he came home, I asked him if he told her that we named our cat after her and he said he thought about it but decided against it 😉
One Saturday evening we went to the José Figueres Cultural Center in San Ramon to hear a guitar concert featuring the talented, self-taught, master fingerstyle guitarist Buddy Tetrault. He and his family are missionaries here locally. This is the second time we’ve heard him perform and were really looking forward to this concert. And Buddy did not disappoint! Here’s a video I took of him performing his original percussive flamenco composition, Pasión (which just happens to be my favorite!) You can visit his website for more about Buddy, his music, or to order his CD’s!
Choosing a Simple Life
One of Paul’s favorite things to do is visit with the Tico pensionados (retirees) in the Parque Central, then go have lunch for a dollar or two in the Central Market. If you know Paul at all, you know that he loves to strike up conversations with people he meets. That’s how he met Sergio, who was also eating lunch at the same soda (small restaurant serving local dishes). They hit it off, and Sergio invited Paul and I to come to his home in nearby Bolivar on Sunday afternoon.
Sergio, his wife, and two children (both in their early 20s) choose to live a simple life and try to preserve the way of their abuelos (grandparents). They grow a lot of varieties of plants, fruits, and vegetables in their many gardens, each named for a member of the family. They were so gracious to us, showing us their casa, the stream on their property, and each of their gardens. Sergio’s wife, Ana, prepared hot, rich coffee and warm tortillas with cheese and eggs for us on their wood-burning stove, followed by plantains roasted in their skins.
We visited with them for three hours, speaking nothing but Spanish. Granted, we didn’t understand everything that they said, but they spoke slowly and tried to help us when we were lost. I’m amazed that I did as well as I did! This is just one example of the Tico hospitality we have encountered here in Costa Rica. Solo bueno! (It’s all good!)
San Ramon Tope
We don’t usually write about things we DIDN’T do, but this is an exception. We wanted to go to the San Ramon Tope last Sunday but, for a number of reasons, we just couldn’t get there. So our friends and neighbors, Lorca and Robert, reported back on the day’s events and shared their photos.
What’s a tope, you ask? A tope is a parade of some of the area’s finest horses and riders. The horses walk in a very distinctive, high-stepping style and they are just beautiful.
The parade started at “the green Church that they just painted blue” (with no addresses, that’s an example of how we give directions here!), wound its way through town, and ended up at the Parque Central. There was food, music, lots of people and of course, lots of horses. But, as they say, a picture is worth a thousand words, so here are about 5,000 words worth!
A Day in Puriscal with George
And to top off our travels this month, we went to Puriscal to visit our friend George Lundquist and to see the properties he’s developing. George hosts the Costa Rica Retire on Social Security Tour that Paul and I went on in January 2008. It was our introduction to life in Costa Rica and we learned so much…it was the foundation of our “due diligence” of investigating Costa Rica for retirement.
In the last seven years, George has built 8 homes, including his own. We wanted to talk to him about his current developments as they fit well with our “retire for less” philosophy. Stay tuned for more info in our next newsletter and on the website.
This and That…
Speaking of the website, we had a hundreds of new visitors last week, thanks to Kathleen Peddicord. Paul subscribes to her “Live and Invest Overseas” newsletter and happened to email her about one of her posts. The next thing we knew, we were getting contacted by people who told us that they found out about our website from her newsletter. Paul hadn’t gotten his yet, so we investigated and found out that she had printed his comment in her next newsletter’s “Mailbag,” complete with our website URL. Cool! For about a day we felt famous!
This newsletter wouldn’t be complete without saying, “Happy Anniversary to Us!” April 1st marked our three year anniversary of moving to Costa Rica. It has been a wonderful adventure and we wouldn’t change a thing!
After our visit, we met with the owner, Gustavo Blanco, to learn more about his vision. Here is what he told us:
Casa Campo started 15 years ago as a dream for my family. We sold all our properties in San Jose to buy this place and fell in love with it, with the goal of keeping the forest intact, the water clean, and increasing the wildlife inside the property. The property is surrounded by wildlife, including birds, monkeys, and iguanas. We call this an urban farm because the location is country but also near small urban areas like Orotina, Esparza, and San Ramon. Plus we are only 30 minutes from Puntarenas and less than an hour from the Pacific beaches. Also, the San Jose International Airport is a little over an hour away. Temperatures are in the 80s up to 90, with lows in the upper 60s.
People shouldn’t have to mess with cities. In my opinion, the cities in Costa Rica are out of control, with crime, sewage, overpopulation, pollution, and heavy traffic problems. And they don’t have solutions. We wanted to leave these things behind and have a better quality of life. Here, it’s very possible to live with nature since we have all the services – electricity, potable water, telephone, and Internet. Casa Campo is connected.
Casa Campo has an ideology. It’s not only nature we are supporting but Indian culture. So from time to time, we bring in Shamans to spread knowledge about medicinal plants, massage, and how to live a spiritual life with nature.
We also have 5,000 meter lots (1.25 acres) available for those who share our dream. As an architect, I’ve been designing various terraces on the hills and the mountains to give others a property they can be proud of. I have a commitment to the trees, not to cut them, but rather build around them. All lots will have great views. The land is ready to build. The roads are ready. Drainage is in.
We are looking for a community of people who share our vision. Presently, we have one couple, in addition to my wife, daughter and me, living on the property. I can help design the house of your dreams.
A lot of Expats in Costa Rica have pets, and sometimes we need to take them to a veterinarian. In Costa Rica, the vet is a big money-saver when compared to the U.S. We’ve had cats in the States, and we always dreaded vet visits because they cost so much and were sometimes unexpected. The bill was never less than $100 for even routine things.
In Costa Rica, the vet is a great deal. There are a lot of them and they are very well trained. Some specialize in farm animals while others cater to domestic pets. Our vet, Dr. Aleona, is from Croatia. She works predominantly with dogs and cats. She’s a “one-man-band” and does all of the procedures herself. And she always allows us to go into the exam/treatment room with our pet.
We have two cats: Tori and Laura Chinchilla (named after CRs current and first female president). And they go once in a while for needed shots and care. Recently our cat Tori stayed out late and when she returned, she was sluggish…just not her usual rambunctious self. What had happened to her in the jungle? Did she get in a fight? Did she get bitten? We checked her over and couldn’t find anything wrong, but in the morning we took her to our vet, Dr. Aleona. Sure enough, Tori had a fever and was in pain. Dr. Aleona gave her two injections — an antibiotic for the fever and something for the pain. She also gave us three anti-inflammatory pills to give to Tori over the next three nights, and sent us on our way, telling us to come back on Monday if Tori hadn’t improved. Price: 9,000 colones ($18.00)
A few days later, a very large abscess appeared on Tori’s hip, so off to the vet we went. Dr. Aleona said that Tori was probably bitten by a snake or other reptile the previous week when she first showed symptoms and it took a while for the site to become infected and swollen. It was serious. This required putting Tori to sleep, lancing the abscess, draining and cleaning the affected area, then injecting antibiotics and pain medicine. Price: 12,000 colones ($24.00)
We were shocked, pleasantly shocked. Actually, we couldn’t believe our ears…we looked at each other for a moment in amazement, then we paid our bill. In the U.S., we’d be looking at hundreds of dollars, so we saved a lot!
Two days later, we returned so Dr. Aleona could check Tori and give her injections of an antibiotic and an anti-inflammatory. Price: 2,000 colones ($4.00)
If you have a pet, don’t be afraid to bring it to Costa Rica. You’ll save at the vet’s. Those LARGE, unexpected vet bills will be a thing of the past.
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. The dry season is still going strong. Here’s the trend over the last six 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
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 March 1st to March 31st (31 days)
Temperature data from March 1st to March 31st (31 days)
- 6am average: 60°f (lowest reading was 56°f on 1 day, highest reading was 64°f on 1 day)
- Mid-day average: 78.3°f (high of 80°f on 7 days & low of 74°f on 1 day)
- 6pm average: 64.8°f (lowest reading was 63°f on 5 days and highest was 67°f on 2 days)
March was warmer but our warmest month (April) is still to come. That’s it for this report. We’ll continue the weather info next month.
Paul and I were so impressed with our visit to Finca Luna Nueva this past month that we wanted to tell you more about it. We will also be scheduling day trips in the near future that will include two tours, a great organic lunch in their restaurant, and transportation (optional). To whet your appetite, here’s some additional info about this special place:
We began farming here in 1994, planting and harvesting organic ginger and turmeric, and promoting sustainable agriculture and conservation in the local community.
In 2003 we decided to take our promotion of sustainable practices to the next level by building several beautiful eco-lodges using fallen timber from the farm.Since then we have added a 50 foot high observation tower, a solar heated Jacuzzi, an ozonated swimming pool, and a handicapped accessible rainforest trail. Now you can experience the Costa Rican rainforest, learn about our farms sustainable practices and relax in our rustic yet luxurious accommodations.
Walk through well-groomed rain forest trails on our guided farm tours and hikes, eat gourmet meals prepared from our fresh organic garden produce, and witness the majesty of the Arenal Volcano.
For adventure activityenthusiasts, we are located only 35 minutes from La Fortuna, the adventure capital of Costa Rica, and home of world famous Arenal Volcano. La Fortuna is a must see destination for anyone seeking a thrill, and our experienced staff will be more than happy to schedule all of your activities and tours for you.
With 13 rooms and 33 beds, accommodations can be made for both the traveler looking for an intimate getaway as well as housing for large groups and conferences. At Finca Luna Nueva Lodge in Costa Rica you will:
- Enjoy rustic yet luxurious accommodations, an ozonated swimming pool and solar heated Jacuzzi, laundry service and transportation.
- Hike with our bilingual eco-guides through pristine rainforests where monkeys, sloths, and hundreds of species of birds and butterflies make their home.
- Be just ten miles from Arenal Volcano, hot springs, canopy tours, rafting and other exciting adventure activities.
- Visit our Luna Nueva Rainforest Spa for traditional massage or holistic wellness services.
- Enjoy fine dining — A unique Costa Rican Asian fusion cuisine, farm raised and chef prepared on site.
- View working certified organic biodynamic herbal farm and estate on our farm tours.
- Explore the Sacred Seeds Sanctuary, our rare collection of traditional medicinal plants and herbs.
- Be adjacent to the 50,000 acre Children’s Eternal Rainforest conservation area.
- We are proud members of the Slow Food International Convivia and in accordance with this philosophy we provide food products, in addition to being certified Biodynamic, that are good, clean, and fair.
Sometimes, even living here in Costa Rica, the daily grind can get to me. What, you say? Life in paradise is less than perfect? And I would have to say yes. Even here, daily life can become routine at times. Now before I write more, let me say that this is not a rant or complaint. But I do think it’s important to realize that living in Costa Rica isn’t like vacationing in Costa Rica, despite all the cool things we get to do.
Our first year here, everything was new – the towns, the people, the birds and animals, the flowers and foliage. Every day was an adventure and there were always new discoveries. But after three years, much in our daily lives is now familiar. And often, what is familiar can become taken for granted. That applies not only to events and things, but to people as well. And that’s when living in Costa Rica, or anywhere for that matter, becomes so grindingly daily.
It’s not boredom, exactly. We’re too busy to be bored. But it is a lack of appreciation for what’s right in front of my eyes and ears, and a falling into the sameness of things. Are the hummingbirds at the feeder outside our bedroom window any less gorgeous? Is the bread I bake every week any less fulfilling to body and soul? Is the fact that I can now carry on conversations completely in Spanish any less amazing? Or am I just not recognizing them as so?
I guess that continued appreciation for what is, wherever you live, comes down to noticing and being grateful for what is. And when I realize that anew, suddenly daily life becomes rich again. Once again I marvel at the little treasures all around me. I find that the grind is gone and that my bliss is back.
There are two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle. – Albert Einstein
Facebook, Twitter, & YouTube
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