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?”
- A Day in the Life – March 17, 2013
- Paul’s Monthly Tip to Live for Less in Costa Rica: Sign Up for Skype, Vonage, or Magicjack
- Paul’s & Lance’s Monthly Weather Report for San Ramon and Atenas
- Why You Shouldn’t Move to Costa Rica
- Update on CD Rates at Coopenae
So, What’s Up with the Yeatmans?
Paul and I are continuing to take weekly Spanish lessons at CPI and, day-to-day, we keep seeing improvement in our daily interactions with Ticos. For me, it feels a lot more natural speaking in Spanish and it’s a bit less mentally exhausting. I am able to relax more, though I still feel anxious when I struggle to find the words to say what I want.
A Fiesta de Traje
To show our appreciation to the teachers and staff at CPI, we invited them to come to our new “jungle house” for a fiesta de traje (Tico version of a pot-luck). I made cocktail meatballs in sauce, black bean dip, key lime squares, and a big pitcher of green iced tea. When they arrived, they came with arms full of food – arroz con pollo, tortillas, picadillo, salads, dips and chips, plus a big cake for dessert — wine and a bouquet of sunflowers. We spent the late morning and early afternoon eating, drinking, and talking in Spanish. Marian, a friend of ours and fellow student at the school, also joined us.
Later, Paul took folks for a walk to a neighbor’s house and a few of us stayed behind to chat. I have to admit, it was easier for me to carry on a conversation with just two of the instructors than when I was trying to socialize with the whole group. Afterwards, I realized just how anxious I had been about the event. Though they did nothing at all to “make me” feel this way, I guess I was looking at it like taking final exams and I was going to have to show that I was actually learning something. Performance anxiety? Sounds like it, huh? But, despite my angst, a good time was had by all, including me.
Semana Santa, or Easter Holy Week, is one of the biggest holidays of the year in Costa Rica and much of Latin America. To some, Semana Santa just means a long weekend at the beach, as the Thursday and Friday before Easter are national holidays. Children take exams during the first part of the week, looking forward to the days off just ahead. Families pack up tents and camping supplies or make reservations at one of the country’s many beach resorts.
For others, Semana Santa is more importantly one of the holiest times of the year, marking the death and resurrection of Jesus. In many towns throughout the country, San Ramon included, the last days of the life of Jesus are recreated with dramatic processions. This year, we happened to be in San Ramon on both Wednesday and Thursday evenings and were able to witness the annual processions for the first time.
A statue of Jesus was carried on a flower-covered pallet, led by priests, marchers and drummers dressed as Roman soldiers, and an angel. The procession moved slowly, with marchers taking perhaps one step every 10 seconds, with each step emphasized by a drum-beat. A crowd lined the streets, to watch, with some of the devout on-lookers following the procession. If you would like to ready more about Semana Santa and see more photos, check out this link.
We saw the procession on Thursday evening just as we were finishing up dinner at Le Organico with new friends. As usual, dinner was delicious. I have been wanting to order the Thai Pasta with Shrimp ever since Paul ordered it on a previous visit and I was not disappointed. Unfortunately, I was in such a hurry to tuck into it, I forgot to snap a photo. I did remember, however, to get a shot of the delicious Tiramisu that Bea ordered. Mmmmmm.
We spent the long holiday weekend, including Easter Sunday, at home, working on this newsletter, playing with our cats, and just relaxing. We did have a few visitors stop by, a Tico family that we know came by on Sunday afternoon. But earlier in the day, we had some other visitors and I was able to get them on video — a troupe of hungry White-faced Monkeys:
San Jose Visit
Camera problems led us to San Jose and a visit to Canon’s authorized service center, Taller de Equipos Fotograficos, located close to Parque Morazon. It was a busy day in Costa Rica’s capital city, as most are, but Paul didn’t mind the drive. He’s one of the few people we know who actually enjoys driving in the city from time to time, and it has been a while since we visited. We left our car in a public parking lot and set out on foot. We had no problem finding the shop and left our video camera with the helpful and knowledgeable staff to be checked out and, hopefully, repaired.
Then we were off to get some lunch. San Jose offers so many more restaurant choices than our small town of San Ramon and we were looking forward to trying something different. Sure enough, just a few blocks from Parque Morazon, we found “Taste of India,” a restaurant we had seen on a previous visit and wanted to try. While they offer a full menu of Indian specialties, we chose their lunch special of a casado flavored with Indian spices. If you’ve been to Costa Rica, you’ll know that the casado is one of the national dishes, made up of rice, beans, salad, a fried plantain, and your choice of fish, chicken, or meat. This casado was no exception, but the resemblance ended there, with explosions of…well…”Indian taste.” It was served with small dishes of mango chutney and a three-chili paste to add even more heat to the meal if you so desired (Paul desired…I opted out). It definitely satisfied our craving for Indian food.
We walked back to our car, paid the attendant 1,200 colones (about $2.40) and headed home. As usual, the Autopista (Rt. 1) was packed as we left the city and traffic slowed to a crawl as we approached a toll center. But never fear slow traffic in Costa Rica, because it’s just another opportunity to shop! As usual, there was a gathering of “entrepreneurs” selling their wares in the midst of the gridlock. Need a new pair of sunglasses? No problem, just look out your car window. Feel like having a snack? There’s a lady selling sliced mango. Want to take advantage of the breezy weather when you get to where you’re going? Look, you can buy a kite just up ahead! And if the heat and traffic are making you thirsty, there ‘s a guy selling ice cold water or pipa fria (coconut water) from his Igloo cooler.
Tours and more…
As a whole, the month of March was busy for us, with Paul doing seven airport runs, a few San Ramon tours for folks considering retiring here, a day tour to Zarcero, and a group of 22 heading to Isla Tortuga.
The weather was sunny and warm the day of our Tortuga Island boat trip. The boat let about half of us off on the Island for some extended beach time, and then headed back out so the other half could go snorkeling in the clear, blue water. Lunch was grilled marlin, rice, and salad, served in a shaded area of the beach with picnic tables. There was plenty of time to go swimming, explore the island, or just chat with friends old and new.
There was a lot of bird activity that day on the island, with visits from the resident peacock and peahens, the scarlet macaws and parrots that live near the gift shop, and the myriad of other birds that inhabit the island and surrounding area. After a full day in the sun, everyone went home satisfied, tired, and happy, including us!
Two monkeys, two dogs, and a puppy
This month, my monkey-sitting responsibilities included not only the monkeys and dogs, but a puppy as well. 10-week-old Tequila is about as cute as they come! I’ve always been more of a “cat person” but I must say I’m having a great time with the puppy and the other animals.
Dinner and a Show
We’ve enjoyed dinner on our back porch with friends a couple of times this month, and the “shows” have been the incredible sunsets we’ve had this past month. At the end of the dry season, we’re ever-conscious of how dry and brown the hills have gotten. But at sunset, that is all replaced with the brilliant colors splashed across the sky. Here are a couple from March, though the photos don’t do them justice.
Down to the River
Paul has been walking every morning, routinely meeting a couple of our neighbors before 6am. Since I am not a morning person, I am still lazing in bed while he is working up a sweat. They walk down, down, down the mountain to the Barranca River, then turn around and walk back up, up, up. The other day, Paul took me down in the car to show me his route. Towards the bottom, we passed the ICE hydroelectric plant and noticed the gate was open and cars were driving in. Since we were curious, we followed. We had heard that there was a swimming hole somewhere in there and wanted to check it out. Before long, we found it, full of young people enjoying the afternoon.
We walked over to the office where we had seen Edwin, an ICE worker, drive his ATV. He had recognized Paul from the morning walks and invited us to tour the plant. He explained that this is the smallest hydroelectric plant in the country, and one of the oldest. He also said that the water levels are lower this year than in the previous six years due to low rainfall. We bounced a bit as we walked across the yellow suspension bridge to the place where they take measurements and control the water levels. I couldn’t help wondering what it would be like in the midst of the rainy season. “Come back anytime,” Edwin said. It struck me how welcoming he was. There were no worries of terrorists poisoning the water or even local teens up to some mischief…very pura vida.
A Day in the Life – March 17, 2013
It’s Sunday morning and we are finally getting some “down time.” Sounds funny, doesn’t it? Here we are, retired in Costa Rica, and we’re busy. We’re often on-the-go. The difference is that we are only as busy as we choose to be. We had a long day in the sun yesterday after spending the day on an Isla Tortuga boat trip, and the day before, Paul did an all-day tour with a couple visiting Costa Rica on a cruise ship docked in Puntarenas. The day before that, we went to Heredia for our 4-hour Spanish immersion class, and we have been busy with something or someone every day this past week.
Today, though, we choose to relax. We’re sitting on our back porch, listening to the howler monkeys in the distance, probably down by the river, noticing that they are getting closer. Will today be the day we actually see them? We are getting better at picking out the sounds of nature around us. Paul hears a woodpecker, and after consulting our bird book, finds that it’s most likely a Hoffman’s Woodpecker. And what else? Are they cicadas humming? And is that a frog, or a toucan which sounds very similar?
We can hear more than we can see through the deep vegetation, but see things, we do. There are dragonflies buzzing around, and big yellow butterflies. Our cats are relaxing on the ground below us, Laura in the Mexican Petunias where she blends in and has shade, and Tori, nosing around for interesting creatures, and then coming inside for a long drink of water. Our doors are wide open and they can come and go as they please during the day.
Paul is lazing in the hammock with a pillow behind his head, and is drifting in and out of a snooze. We are together on this breezy, warm day, and the sounds of nature all around us are like a lullaby. I never seem to tire of it, and find that I am breathing slower and deeper. In this moment, I realize that there is no place in the world I’d rather be and nothing else I’d prefer to be doing. It is peaceful, both within and without. This is the life I want, and am blessed that this is the life I have.
Paul’s Monthly Tip to Live for Less in Costa Rica: Sign Up for Skype, Vonage, or MagicJack
Communication is very important for expats today. Why, without it, I think we’d have fewer expats. The ability to communicate with those back home via Skype, Vonage, or MagicJack is the big difference between expats of 20+ years ago and today. All three – Skype, Vonage, and MagicJack – can save you lots of money over traditional phone services. They’re especially useful when you are overseas since the reception quality is high and the cost is so low. You can try to use an international cell phone, but unfortunately, it may not work in Costa Rica. On our cell phone, we can receive international calls but not make them. And while not terribly expensive, international calls can run up a significant phone bill if used frequently. That’s why we recommend Skype, Vonage, or MagicJack.
As you can see from our RetireForLessInCostaRica business card, maintaining communication is very important to us. We even have our Skype name on the back. Most people communicate with us via email, but that is only one way to reach us. Skype is really good too, since you can see each other when talking if you each have a webcam. Almost everyone we know in Costa Rica has, and uses, Skype to reach loved ones back home and it’s cheap. Matter of fact, it’s free when you’re calling from computer to computer anywhere in the world, and less than 2 cents a minute when calling someone’s cell or home phone. Inexpensive monthly subscription plans are also available. And now, Skype allows you to have conference calls so the whole family can get in on the action. They are constantly upgrading their services and it’s easy to use Skype too. If you can’t download and set it up on your computer, just have a friend do it for you. We use the pay as you go plan, funding our “Skype Credit” with $10 at a time.
We also use Vonage which is my favorite, though most expensive option at about $27/month, including taxes and fees. We even got rid of our land line while still in the U.S. and switched over to Vonage. We’ve thought about getting rid of it and just using MagicJack, but the reception is so good we’ve decided to keep it. We were able to keep our old U.S. number in Baltimore, so family and friends can readily call us. Even though MagicJack Plus would be less expensive, we still prefer Vonage for its clear reception and excellent customer service. We still have a MagicJack that we keep as a backup. Someday, we may change over to MagicJack, or just go with Skype to save money, but for now, we’ll keep it as it is. This way, you can communicate with us however is easiest for you. Alas, all three depend on a good Internet connection. Luckily, we have had good-to-excellent Internet service in CR. Currently, we use a microwave antennae system. We have a straight shot, line-of-sight connection with our provider’s tower in Puntarenas, Costa Rica, 20 miles away. Our Internet service costs about $62 per month and represents our highest monthly utility bill.
- Paul’s Monthly Tip to Live for Less in Costa Rica: Save on Telephone Service
- Shortcut to all of Paul’s Money Saving Tips
- Our Cost of Living for January & February 2013
Paul’s & Lance’s Monthly Weather Report for San Ramon & Atenas – March 2013
The rain that we had occured in the evening or early morning, between 6pm and 6am so we didn’t really notice it. The first week of March we had a cold wave. On March 3rd, 4th, and 5th, we had highs of 68°f, 62°f, & 69°f consecutively at our location in San Ramon. Generally, when it’s cold in southern Florida, it’s cold in Costa Rica. As far as the wind is concerned, the windy months — normally December and January — never ended this year. We’ve had continuously windy weather throughout the dry season.
As usual, 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 data, at our home in San Ramón at 3,000 ft. elevation, for the month of March 2013:
- .15 inches of total rainfall over three days (that’s less than 2/10 of an inch total and is the first measurable rain we’ve had since January 1st)
- 7 days measured trace amounts of rain
- 21 days with zero rainfall
- 6am average: 63.5°f (lowest reading was 58°f on 1 day)
- Mid-day average: 77.0°f (high of 82°f on 2 days & the lowest high of 62°f on 1 day – brrrrr)
- 6pm average: 68.6°f (lowest reading was 62°f on 2 days and highest was 72°f on 6 days)
To give you an idea of the difference that elevation has on temperatures, here is the breakdown of temperature data from March 2012 when we were living at 3,950 feet elevation, about 1,000 feet higher than we’re living now:
- 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)
Our friend, Lance Turlock , recorded day-to-day overnight low temperatures and daytime high temperatures at their home in Vista Atenas at an elevation of about 2700 feet. The temperatures may differ from the town of Atenas itself where the elevation is lower, or other nearby places where the elevation is even lower or higher. As is characteristic of Costa Rica in general, the Atenas region has many microclimates. A few hundred feet can make a significant difference.
- Overnight lows (about 6am) Average: 67.3°f (lowest reading was 62.2°f on 1 day & highest reading was 71.2°f)
- Daytime highs (about noon) Average: 89.4°f (high of 94.1°f on 1 day & low of 84.5°f on 1 day – there were 12 days over 90°f)
- Daytime humidity average 38.4% (range 23%-53%)
- Nighttime humidity average 80.6% (range 61%-100%)
So, who is Lance Turlock??
My wife, Diana, and I came to Costa Rica about 2 years ago after living 30+ years in the Lower Mainland of British Columbia (Vancouver and environs). Here, we live in the Central Valley near the town of Atenas. We are at an elevation of about 2700 feet. We have no need for air conditioning or heating. Overnight low temperatures are comfortably cool (low 60’s). Daytime highs can be relatively hot (high 80’s, low 90’s), but rarely uncomfortably hot. Away from the coasts, the heat tends to be a relatively “dry” heat and unlike the hot, humid, lazy days of summer which can occur in eastern Canada and the U.S.
I started to keep track of daily temperatures and humidities in order to have factual ammunition to help disabuse friends, relatives and acquaintances of any misconception that the weather must be like that of a tropical jungle.”
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
- Where We Live: Santiago de San Ramón
Why You Shouldn’t Move to Costa Rica
Recently, after one of our 5-hour San Ramon tours, our client, Steve F. said that we were not balanced enough, that we tried to sell Costa Rica and San Ramon. Granted, it wasn’t our usual tour since the only time they had available was a Sunday, so almost everything was closed. But still we had an opportunity to hook up with George Lundquist’s Costa Rica Retire on Social Security tour group for three stops. At one stop, we listened to a presentation by Mike Styles of the Community Action Alliance regarding volunteering, integration, and community involvement. At the time, it seemed like a good tour to me. And I thought that, over time, we had written about many negatives of Costa Rica – crime, inflation, etc. It isn’t our fault we love it here and want to spread the joy. But these folks were referred to us and they weren’t readers of our website, they didn’t know us. So, his comments got me to thinking. What are the negatives for some people about Costa Rica and San Ramon? Here are a few I’ve come up with:
- Costa Rica is expensive – certainly, it’s the most expensive country in Central American and one of the most expensive in Latin America (though we still save 30% over our U.S. cost of living).
- Crime Rate – It’s true, the law is weak and they often let lawbreakers off the hook (however the murder rate has been dropping, only 8.7% per 100,000 in 2012). Costa Rica is the #1 country in the Western Hemisphere, per capita, for robberies (at least they’re number one in something).
- The roads aren’t as good as other countries, including Nicaragua and Panama. True, but the infrastructure, roads included, has improved a lot during the 4 years we’ve been here.
- The towns aren’t cobble-stoned or Colonial looking.
- It’s not different enough, with little indigenous influence like Mexico and Ecuador.
- It’s not paradise (gosh, I hate that word).
- They speak another language, and I might have to learn some. It’s not like Belize which is English-speaking.
- Gas is over $5 per gallon and rising.
- Less is not more – no matter how you sugar-coat it.
- The bureaucracy will drive you crazy. They do things differently down here.
- The people here can’t think out of the box – no wonder Costa Rica is a third world country.
- Everything is substandard compared to the U.S. Can’t they do anything right?
- It’s too cool in San Ramon – this isn’t “spring-like weather” where I come from.
- There are too many Ticos in San Ramon and not enough expats.
- Hey, where are the zip lines and waterfalls?
- Where are all the expat hangouts?
- There’s no beach here, and where’s the air conditioning?
There you have it, many of the reasons you should consider elsewhere. I sincerely hope this clarifies your point Steve F. You’re right. I’ll be more balanced from now on…but I still love it here.
Our credit union here in Costa Rica recently reduced their 12-month CD rates from 12.5% to 11.25%. This, of course, only affects new CDs. Although this might be disappointing to some (like me), I still feel like I can make good money at 11.25%. You can view their presentation here.
What’s New on the Website
Check out our newest posts on www.retireforlessincostarica.com:
- Our Cost of Living for January & February 2013
- Info About New License Plates in Costa Rica
- When is the Best Time to Visit Costa Rica?
- Paul’s Monthly Tip to Live for Less in Costa Rica: Save on Car Repairs
- Meeting You Face-to-Face
- Five Good Reasons to Consider Retiring Abroad
- Healthcare in Costa Rica — Our Recent Experiences (January 2013)
- Seven Compelling Reasons to Invest in Coopenae
- Types of Costa Rica Residencies, Requirements, and Benefits
- Time to Trim the Banana Plants! – Video
- Reflections on Five Years Living in Costa Rica
- MythBusters: What’s it REALLY Like to Live in Costa Rica??
- So What Would It Cost ME to Live in Costa Rica?
- Our 2012 Cost of Living Summary
- Moving On: Part III—Settling In and Coming Full-Circle