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Jun 20 2009

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Our Big Move – Part I

It has been a while since I’ve posted anything about our goal to retire in Costa Rica.  But I am excited to say that we have made the move!! My desire was to write daily during the month of March to chronicle the preparations and big move, but there was no time…I mean NO TIME.  I was still working full-time and coming home to pack in the evenings and on weekends.  We worked non-stop to cull through all of our possessions and make a decision about each one:  take it with us on the plane (and pay the exorbitant baggage fees), store it until we ship our belongings at some time in the future, throw it away, recycle it, give it away to friends or family who might like it, or donate it. An ocean of decisions that was exhausting.  Paul spent his daylight hours running around town to sell his car, drive eight carfuls of donations to the Purple Heart Thrift Center, and take multiple trips to Annapolis to get all of our documents certified, authorized, endorsed, or otherwise blessed.

Paul received his first Social Security check on February 5th and that is what allowed our dream to come true.  It won’t pay all of our living expenses, but it gives us a good base.  I was able to work out an arrangement with my employer to telecommute for 20 hours per week.  There are challenges to that however, as I am dependant on high-speed Internet service to stay in touch and access my work files.  Internet service can be somewhat unreliable here in Costa Rica, though it is getting better.  High speed isn’t available everywhere, so that will determine where we can, and can’t, live.

Another huge factor for us is that our application for residency as Pensionados was filed on March 13th. The current law requires that we have a guaranteed income (Social Security or Pension) of at least $600 per month to qualify, and we exceed that amount.  There is some active legislation to increase this monthly amount, so we were anxious to apply under the current law.  We worked with “Residency in Costa Rica” to complete this complicated process and they were wonderful.  They seem more expensive than many of the other options but their price is all inclusive, whereas the other rates we were quoted were not.  The best part, however, was the peace of mind we had with their services.  They have always been extremely responsive and helpful and for us, it was worth every penny.

So, after a frantic last week of packing and the help of family and friends who took us to dinner, packed dishes and taped boxes, we were almost ready to get on the plane for a one-way flight to Costa Rica.  Since we didn’t want to sell our house in the states just yet (just being cautious in case the move isn’t what we expect), we rented it to a nice young couple who will be working at Johns Hopkins and seem to love our house the way we do.  We prepared for their arrival, and finished packing at about 2:00 a.m. the morning of April 1st, then slept for less than an hour.  We gave our cat, Cleo, a “kitty tranquilizer,” put her in her new soft-sided, airline-approved pet carrier, and got ready to leave at 5:00 a.m. for the airport.  Our friend, Jim, picked us up, bringing a cup of strong coffee for me and hot tea for Paul.  Jim and Paul somehow loaded our eight suitcases, four carry-ons (including Cleo) into,. the car, and off we went into the darkness to get on a plane to our new lives.

Bringing a pet with you to Costa Rica can be expensive.  When we flew American Airlines on our previous trip to CR in February, we brought four large, 50 lb. suitcases to leave at the place we would be staying when we arrived in April.  Prepared to pay $80 to check the baggage, we were told that AA doesn’t charge for baggage on international flights.  So naturally, we wanted to fly with them on April 1st.  One problem though…they don’t allow pets in the cabin, and I wasn’t about to check our 15 year-old Siamese into the cargo hold, no way, no how.  So, after investigating our choices, we settled on a direct, one-stop USAir flight.  They allow pets in the passenger cabin if they fit under the seat in front of you but unfortunately they charge for all checked baggage. In the end, we ended up paying $100 for Cleo to fly as one of our carry-ons and a total of $480 to check our eight bags.  Boy, do we love our cat. She was wonky throughout the flight due to the sedative, and disoriented for the next 24 hours, but she seems to be adjusting to her new environs. She’s pretty adaptable, but she was much younger the last time we moved – and so were we.

Our flight arrived on time in San Jose, Costa Rica, at 1:30pm local time, and in one hour we made it through immigration, claimed our bags, cleared customs (where Cleo charmed the customs agent), and were in a cab to San Ramon, about 45 minutes away.  It was a smooth start to our new lives in Costa Rica.?

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