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 Tips to Live for Less in Costa Rica
- Paul’s Monthly Weather Report
- Thank Heaven for Beans, Wonderful Beans!
So, What’s Up with the Yeatmans?
On September 5th, the morning started like any other. Paul was in town at the University of Costa Rica gym for an exercise class and I was at home alone in our kitchen, just me and the kitties. Then at about 8:40am, everything started to move. At first, I didn’t know what was happening. I heard a rumbling that sounded like a big truck was coming down our lane, but when I looked out the window, nothing was there. Then I realized that the whole cabina was shaking. I watched the refrigerator sway from side to side, and wall hangings swing. Earthquake! It was like being on “Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride” at the amusement park. I clutched on to the kitchen counter and ducked down until I was at level with the counter top, trying to remember what I had read years ago about how to protect yourself in an earthquake. It seemed to go on and on, though it actually lasted only 30 seconds or so.
Paul returned home shortly after from his exercise class. As the quake hit, one woman in the class saw the large lights on the gym ceiling start to sway back and forth and she yelled “Temblor!!” (earthquake!) , Pandemonium broke loose as the 20 seniors in the exercise class started to run outside. Paul was at the parking lot and in his car within minutes and headed directly home.
We were lucky. We had zero damage, not even a broken glass, and even our kitties seemed unaffected. While others weren’t so lucky, Costa Rica, as a whole, was extremely lucky that the damage wasn’t greater. The 7.6 magnitude quake occurred 25 miles below the surface and that, combined with Costa Rica’s strict building codes, kept the overall damage and loss of life low. Here’s a video of the quake and the analysis by CNN:
So, how DO you protect yourself in an earthquake? The experts say you should drop, cover, and hold on:
- DROP down onto your hands and knees (before the earthquakes knocks you down). This position protects you from falling but allows you to still move if necessary.
- COVER your head and neck (and your entire body if possible) under a sturdy table or desk. If there is no shelter nearby, only then should you get down near an interior wall (or next to low-lying furniture that won’t fall on you), and cover your head and neck with your arms and hands.
- HOLD ON to your shelter (or to your head and neck) until the shaking stops. Be prepared to move with your shelter if the shaking shifts it around.
As part of Paul’s birthday (September 19th) celebration, we decided to spend the previous day in San Jose, Costa Rica’s capital city. We wanted to attend the National Theater’s Teatro al Mediodia, featuring selections from Broadway shows and Negro spirituals sung by mezzo soprano Stacy Chamberlin. We also wanted to spend some time with Jo Stuart, known best for her weekly column, “Butterfly in the City” in A.M. Costa Rica and her book of the same name.
So we set up a time to meet Jo at her apartment and off we all went, part way by cab, and then bus to the Teatro Nacional, located in the heart of San Jose. Although a lot of expats do whatever they can to stay away from San Jose, we’ve always liked it. It may not be as beautiful as some other capital cities, but it is the place to go for the arts on a grand scale. We enjoy going to the theater and museums, just as we did back in the States, and the wide variety of restaurants and shops that just aren’t available in small towns like San Ramon.
After an enjoyable performance in that most beautiful theater, we went to lunch at Magnolia, a lovely restaurant located within a casino, accompanied by an expat friend of Jo’s whom we ran into at the theater.
We thoroughly enjoyed the day, especially getting to know Jo a little better. Though the “icing on the cake,” so to speak, was Jo’s birthday gift to Paul, a jar of her yummy “Jo’s Hot Fudge Sauce.”
In September, we enjoyed meals at several restaurants that were new to us. The first was Nazca, a Peruvian restaurant that recently opened in San Ramon. We went with friends Diana and Lance, who live in Atenas, and Diana’s sister Maddy and her husband Mike who were visiting from Canada. Though Nazca is pricier than we are used to (Paul’s famous $1 restaurant), we wanted to try it out after hearing so much about it from our friends, and after all, it was Paul’s birthday week celebration (we don’t believe in celebrating just one paltry day!) Paul ordered the Chicken Nazca and I ordered the Sea Bass with Shrimp Sauce, and both were delicious.
Our next restaurant foray was to La Casona Del Cerdo, (literally, “the large house of pork”) in Heredia. The experience was somewhere between walking into a Texas steakhouse and a North Carolina pig roast, but in Spanish! The waiters wore cowboy garb, and we were greeted by a statue of a pig next to a bale of hay with a rope and cowboy hat upon it. The ceiling lighting was right out of the old west, with lots of wrought iron, and the seating was wooden picnic tables and benches. Luckily, though, the waiter didn’t greet us with “Howdy, Pawdner.”
We had heard that the restaurant offered a good almuerzo ejecutivo (executive lunch) so we through we’d give it a try, especially as it was much less expensive than the rest of the menu. The waiter informed us that we had our choice of pork, chicken, or fish. I couldn’t help but look around, smile at him and say, pork, of course! We had a great lunch, with a big boneless pork chop, rice, salad, beans cooked with pork, plantains, and a vegetable mixture of chayote and corn. It included a limonada and dessert of either ice cream or arroz con leche (rice pudding), all for 3,500 colones (about $7) including taxes and service charge. Top that off with excellent service, both by our waiter and the parking attendant, and it was a great meal.
One thing that both restaurant experiences had in common was the torrential downpour we had towards the end of each meal. It is, after all, the rainy season in Costa Rica. All you can do is continue enjoying each others’ company while waiting out the worst of it. La Casona Del Cerdo provided a parking attendant with the biggest umbrella I’ve ever seen to walk us out to the car. Now that’s definitely great customer service! We can’t wait to go back.
Paul and I decided that, though we can usually “get by” with our Spanish, it was time for some more intensive lessons. Our friend, Joe Tursi, had gone to the CPI Language School in Heredia many years ago for a couple of weeks of their Spanish immersion classes and loved it. We went to visit the school last week for the second time and were really impressed with the lovely campus, the programs they offer, and the commitment of the staff to tailoring the classes to the individual student’s needs.
While we were there, we took our placement tests. We had to keep reminding ourselves that the goal wasn’t to “ace the test” – it was to determine our current levels of learning. Without putting our exact scores in print, suffice it to say that Paul scored much higher on the written test than I did. But, surprising to me, the placement director determined that we were at about the same level conversationally (though Paul has a much larger vocabulary than me). So, starting next Thursday, we will be taking weekly 4-hour classes together.
I have to admit, I’m a little intimidated by going back to language school. The longest I’ve ever been in a language class was two hours and I was mentally exhausted at the end of it. I want to improve my Spanish, to have the words to say what I think and feel, however this is a big commitment of time and our limited energy resources. But as my mother’s favorite chef, Emeril Lagasse, would say, “BAM! Let’s kick it up a notch!” It should be fun! We’ll be sure to write about our language lessons in future newsletters.
One of the reasons we chose to live in the little coffee town of San Ramon, besides its natural beauty, was the availability of cultural activities here. We have seen and heard not only Costa Rican artists and performers, but visiting international performers as well, brought in by the University of Costa Rica in San Ramon and other groups. Most recently, we went to see a Mexican folkloric dance troupe, the Ballet Folklórico Huehuecoyotl, which was sponsored by San Ramon’s own José Figueres Cultural Center. Paul lived in Mexico for three years, and we went there on our honeymoon, so we try not to miss anything from Mexico.
Since the radiator on our car blew that same afternoon, we decided to take the bus into town. After waiting for about 20 minutes, we realized that we had missed the bus so we decided to call a cab. Paul had left his phone at home, so we called the only phone number for a cab that I had in my phone. Unfortunately, the cab driver was off, but he was nice enough to call one for us (thanks Finlander!) and, after a comedy of errors, we made it to the performance with 5 minutes to spare.
What followed was 90 minutes of pure enjoyment, with Mexican regional music, beautiful costumes, swirling skirts, leaping and dancing, not to mention clashing machetes in one number (sometimes frightening close to important male body parts)! It totally outweighed the difficulty getting there and we were happy we had made the effort. While the dancers weren’t “professionals” in the sense that they aren’t paid — they dance purely for the love it — they were professional in every other sense and were spectacular!
I’ve been wanting to buy some raw, unfiltered apple cider vinegar “with the Mother” since it’s so good for so many things (from digestion, to improving the body’s ph balance, to lowering bad cholesterol) but have been unable to find it here in Costa Rica. I’d heard from a friend that BioSalud, the macrobiotica (health food store) at the Multiplaza carried it, so off we went.
It’s the first time in the 3.5 years we’ve been in Costa Rica that we visited the big Multiplaza Mall and it was a bit like the country mouse going to visit the city mouse. The mall was not only huge, but we found it a little hard to navigate, as we wandered around the 365 stores and restaurants trying to find BioSalud but we were eventually successful. Sure enough, they DID carry Bragg Organic Apple Cider Vinegar but were sold out. The closest we got was seeing the empty space on the shelf where it will be once restocked. Oh, well, nothing to do but check out the bookstores and have a quick dinner in the food court. It was like going on a field trip…a nice place to visit but I wouldn’t want to live there.
It was time for my bi-yearly mammogram so, last month, after getting a referencia from my doctor, I made an appointment at the hospital X-Ray lab. Five weeks later and I went in for the mammogram. After waiting about 15 minutes, they called me in, had me change into a gown, and go into the X-Ray suite. The equipment looked just like what I was used to in the U.S. The technician was professional and efficient. After checking to be sure that the images were clear, she released me and told me that I could pick up the X-Rays in 15 days. I was in and out in 30 minutes.
After an errant wave snatched Paul’s glasses back in July, and relying on his “emergency pair” with the not-so-current prescription, it was time to pick our new glasses. There was no question where we would go — to fellow Community Action Alliance member Ópticas Rosán in San Ramon.
We’ve gotten to know Gladys, the owner, and her husband, Juan Gabriel, over the years and knew that she worked out of their new location just outside of town in San Juan. So that’s where we went, in hopes that we would also see their new baby, Aurora, and we weren’t disappointed. They have a small room just off the optical store which is set up for Juan Gabriel to work online and for baby Aurora, currently nestled in his lap. All of the customers who came in while we were there “oohed and aahed” over Aurora, and were not in the least surprised at the presence of a baby here in this family-run business.
After an eye exam, Paul agonized over choosing the frames, wanting to get a more modern style, but in the end, he just couldn’t do it. He finally picked one that we all liked, similar to his previous frames. Less than a week later, his new glasses were ready. Total cost (with our Community Action Alliance discount) was 90,000 colones (about $180), including bifocals, polycarbonate lenses and titanium frames. Now let’s hope that the gods of the sea don’t take these away too!
Despite the rainy season, we were able to get in two visits to Playa Doña Ana. Earlier in the month, the water wasn’t great for swimming but we were enjoying ourselves anyway. About 11:30am, we started to hear thunder so Paul rushed to get the barbeque grill lit, expecting the rain to hold out until about 1pm or so. We went ahead preparing for lunch but before we knew it, the sky opened up and we were caught in a downpour. The beautiful blues and greens of our favorite beach were replaced by shades of gray. All we could do is sit at our covered picnic table, cover up as best as possible, and wait out the storm. When it started to calm down, Paul went to get the car and we all went to a local soda (small restaurant) for lunch, saving our picnic for dinner the next night.
Then just two weeks later, we went back to Playa Doña Ana and enjoyed a spectacular beach day, with blue skies, clearer water, and lots of monkeys in the trees. There were 11 humans and three dogs in our meet-up group and a good time was had by all. The water was great for swimming, so much so that I stayed out longer than I should have and got a little bit sunburned. But while I was out there floating in the water, I didn’t care, it was just too heavenly.
The restaurant was also open that day, unusual for a Tuesday. Usually it’s only open on weekends. But we like to bring our own food anyway, with something to throw on the grill and whatever else we feel like having that day.
On September 26th, the U.S. Ambassador to Costa Rica, Anne Andrew, spent the day in San Ramon. Mike Styles from the Community Action Alliance, coordinated the visit with Embassy staff and representatives from the local municipality, chamber of commerce, San Ramon Carbon Neutral committee, the University of Costa Rica, and other interested parties.
It was an ambitious schedule, starting with a visit to the Alberto Manuel Brenes Reserve, a cloud-forest reserve administrated by the University of Costa Rica, followed by a lunch for 20 at a local restaurant to discuss our efforts to make San Ramon the first carbon-neutral cantón (county) in Costa Rica.
After lunch, the Ambassador visited the Colegio Cientifico (Science High School) of San Ramon which is associated with UCR and is focused on technology and environmental conservation, and then ended her day with a youth development roundtable discussion and concert by the students from the local music school.
Paul and I attended both the luncheon and the concert/ round-table discussion as representatives of the Community Action Alliance. I have to admit I was a little nervous when I found myself sitting next to Ambassador Andrew during the concert!
We were delighted to finally meet Vicki Skinner, AKA “The Sarong Goddess,” who writes the popular blog “Living Life in Costa Rica” It’s chock-full of helpful information about businesses, events, news, places to go, things to do, and stuff for sale in Costa Rica. If you’re looking for it, she’s probably written about where to find it – everything from organic coconut oil to bio-identical hormones, to tropical hotels. If you live here, or are thinking about living here, you’ve got to bookmark her site.
In addition to her blog, Vicki also does house/pet/B&B sitting all over Costa Rica. In fact, we met her while she was working at the Cariari Bed & Breakfast, a little gem close to the Cariari Mall. If you are interested in learning more about her services, you can contact Vicki at [email protected]. By the way, she gives great hugs!
Since September was such a busy month, I baked mostly No-Knead Bread, but I varied it with different flavorings. One of Paul’s favorites is with sesame seeds, both in the dough and on the crust. I also made a loaf of cinnamon raisin and, most recently, cranberry walnut no-knead bread.
It only takes about five minutes to mix up the night before I plan to bake it, and requires minimal attention the next day. The original recipe was published in the New York Times back in 2006, but if you Google “no knead bread” you’ll find lots of variations and step-by-step videos. Here’s just one of them, featuring Jim Lahey, the creator of the recipe:
All of a sudden, interest in retiring for less in Costa Rica seems to have sky-rocketed. We’ve been contacted for interviews with several publications over the last month or so. The first article, entitled “Easy Living in Costa Rica’s Central Valley” was published in the September issue of International Living magazine. We did a follow-up interview with International Living writer Jason Holland, about our experiences with the Caja, Costa Rica’s national health care system, which will be in an upcoming issue. We were also contacted by a writer from Money Sense magazine out of Canada, for an article about Costa Rica as a possible less expensive retirement location for Canadians. And we have another interview scheduled for next week with Good Times, the “Canadian Magazine for Successful Retirement.” It’s exciting, but we promise to not let it go to our heads!
- Video – Paul’s Money-Saving Tip: Live at the Cabinas
- Paul’s Monthly Tip to Live for Less in Costa Rica: The Gold Card-Don’t Leave Home Without It!
- Paul’s Monthly Tip to Live for Less in Costa Rica: $1 Lunch at the Central Market
- Paul’s Monthly Tip to Live for Less in Costa Rica: Taking the Bus
- Paul’s Monthly Tip to Live for Less in Costa Rica: Eat Less Meat and More Fruits and Vegetables
- Paul’s Monthly Tip to Live for Less in Costa Rica: Join the Caja, Costa Rica’s National Medical System
- Paul’s Monthly Tip to Live for Less in Costa Rica: Buy Local
- Paul’s Monthly Tip to Live for Less in Costa Rica: Shop at Ropa Americana
- Paul’s Monthly Tip to Live for Less in Costa Rica: Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow
- Paul’s Monthly Tip to Live for Less in Costa Rica: Speak Spanish-Save Money
- Paul’s Monthly Tip to Live for Less in Costa Rica: Don’t Buy a Car
- Paul’s Monthly Tip to Live for Less in Costa Rica: Visiting the Veterinarian
- Paul’s Monthly Tip to Live for Less in Costa Rica: Visiting the Dentist
- Paul’s Monthly Tip to Live for Less in Costa Rica: Visiting the Dentist, Part 2
- Paul’s Monthly Tip to Live for Less in Costa Rica: Save on Telephone Service
- Paul’s Monthly Tip to Live for Less in Costa Rica: Buy Fresh Flowers
- Paul’s Monthly Tip to Live for Less in Costa Rica: Pay Cash and Save
But I wanted to draw your attention to Tip #11 “Don’t Buy a Car.”As you will see in this article, it’s probably the number one way to save money in Costa Rica. If you do decide to purchase a car, there are the initial expenses of the car purchase. Read the breakdown here.
So, why am I writing again about saving money on your vehicle? It’s simple – once you’ve got the car, the on-going repairs and maintenance are extremely reasonable. Take a look at our February budget. You’ll see $1,100 for repairs after a minor fender-bender, about $550 each for parts and labor. In the States, that repair, covering front lights, hood, bumper and one side-panel, would easily be $3,000-$4,000, maybe more. The lesson is, once you buy that expensive car, maintaining it should be extremely reasonable. Of course, it helps to have a good mechanic, and I’ve got a real good one. They’re like gold!
In terms of every-day maintenance, some things will cost more and some will be less than in the U.S. Generally speaking, the labor is inexpensive, while the parts can be high. Oil changes are expensive because oil is expensive. Gas is also expensive, now about $6 per gallon, however you will drive much less here than in the States. I drive about 8,000 miles a year here. Remember, it’s a small country.
Paul’s Monthly Weather “Report” – September 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 9 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
Total rainfall so far this rainy season: 74.8 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.
We’re at 3950 feet elevation and, if you look at the rainfall map above, temperatures and rainfall will be approximately the same in all mountainous areas (the green shaded areas on the map) around the Central Valley. If you were to look at the mountains outside of Grecia, for instance, and where we live, the data would be similar, so it wouldn’t hurt to extrapolate.
As you can see from the data below, September was a relatively benign month. We got the average. It was like most months in the rainy season. So far we’ve had 74.8 inches of rain, with October still to go. As you can see from the weather map above, San Ramon gets 60-80 inches of rain per year, while we, 4 miles away and 500 feet higher, receive 80-100 inches annually. The only month that tripped us up so far was April, which saw almost 12 inches instead of the normal two. Otherwise, it’s been a fairly normal rainy season.
We write about the rain a lot, but it’s the temperatures in the Central Valley which are truly amazing. Depending on your elevation, not only does rainfall vary, but so do temperatures. On our mountain at 4,000 ft. elevation, temperatures are between 60°f to 80°f all year long. Daytime highs are 73°f +/- 5°f, while lows are 60°f +/- 4°f all year long. When they say it’s eternal Spring in the Central Valley, they’re not kidding. If you want it a little warmer, head a little lower to Alajuela (elevation 3000′) or Atenas (elevation 2100′).
Rain Data from September 1st to September 31st (31 days)
- 12.55 inches of total rainfall ( heaviest rainfall: 1.5 inches on 2 days)
- 4 days measured trace amounts of rain
- 7 days with zero rainfall
Temperature data from September 1st to September 31st (31 days)
- 6am average: 61.8°f (lowest reading was 60°f on 1 day)
- Mid-day average: 72.3°f (high of 80°f on 1 day & the lowest high of 70°f on 2 days)
- 6pm average: 64.4°f (lowest reading was 63°f on 3 days and highest was 67°f on 2 days)
That’s it for this report. We’ll continue the weather info next month.
Beans are one of the healthiest foods and a staple in the Costa Rican diet. It’s not uncommon for a Costa Rican to eat them three times a day. We eat rice and beans — in our case, brown rice and mostly black beans – at least three times a week. We’ve gotten to really love them. Why, just today we went to a restaurant on the Pista and the first thing I asked for was frijoles (beans) but this time refried, along with carne en salsa, arroz Cantones, and maduras (fried ripe plantains). The price was about $6.50 for this gigantic platter, including a coke. We finished our lunch a little after 1pm, so tonight we’ll just have a snack of tamales, and beans, of course.
Costa Rica’s beans even got a mention on Dr. Oz’s & Dr. Roisen’s Real Age website. In their article on the “Top Anti-aging Foods from Around the World,” the Costa Rica national dish gallo pinto topped the list. Gloria spices up her gallo pinto with hot pepper flakes and serves it with eggs and a ham steak for dinner sometimes. Like many Costa Ricans in the Blue Zone, I want to do my part for longevity and eat lots of beans.
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What’s New on the Website
Check out our newest posts on www.retireforlessincostarica.com:
- Getting Ready for the Big Move to Costa Rica
- Happy Independence Day Costa Rica!
- Five Things You Need To Know Before You Move Abroad
- Costa Rica seems to have made great strides in 10 years
- Quit Your Job Right Now?
- Paul’s Monthly Tip to Live for Less in Costa Rica: Pay Cash for Almost Everything and Save 5-10%
- Festivities of the Patron Saints of San Ramón Parrish
- Should You Prepare Your Own Expat Tax Return?
- Why We Chose Nuevo Arenal, by Janet Bradshaw
- Why We Chose Costa Rica
- Documents You Need to Open a Bank Account in Costa Rica
- Money vs. Time
- Our 2012 Annual Cost of Living Update
- From 11.75% to 12.5% Interest on a 12-Month Certificate of Deposit!
- ‘Tis the Season…for Mold and Mildew
- Your Vote Counts: Absentee Voting Information
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