Welcome to our RetireForLessInCostaRica.com Monthly Newsletter!
In this month’s 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 Tip to Live for Less in Costa Rica: Join the Caja, Costa Rica’s National Medical System
- Paul’s Monthly Weather “Report”
- Feature Article: Following the Beat of Our Own Drummer
- Feature Article: Simplicity – What is It?
Update on Gloria’s Injury
Thanks to everyone who expressed concern about my leg injury. I am MUCH better, and consider myself very lucky. It will probably be months before I’m fully healed but I am walking without assistance now. Poco a poco (little by little) as they say.
Thankfully, we have a great physical therapist in San Ramon who has all of the latest equipment. She was beyond helpful in not only treating me but helping us with our Spanish! In the first photo to the right, Milena is treating me with ultrasound on my twisted knee.
Milena came highly recommended by several other Gringos in our area who have used her services. I, also, would not hesitate to recommend her for any of your physical therapy needs. If you are in the San Ramon area and need her services, her name is Lic. Milena Chavarría Villalobos, her business is FisioTerapia, and you can reach her at 8863-2782. Milena also offers water aerobics classes and will tailor your workout to any physical condition you might have.
A (big) visitor from Baltimore comes to Costa Rica
The Hospital ship U.S.N.S. Comfort left its home port in Baltimore, Maryland to visit Costa Rica and eight other Latin American countries. While in Costa Rica, the Comfort provided 10 days of medical, dental, veterinary, and engineering services in the country. The photo to the left shows the U.S.N.S. Comfort docked next to a cruise ship in Puntarenas. There are more than 800 personnel, both naval and civilians, working on the ship.
The Community Action Alliance was proud to be a small part of the effort by providing bi-lingual volunteers to translate for Spanish-speaking patients and physicians and to help in any other areas, as needed. Paul coordinated the San Ramon volunteers, drove them to Puntarenas, and enjoyed his day giving out water, talking to waiting patients, and making them smile.
CAA Spanish for Medical Emergencies
Last month, the Community Action Alliance (of which Paul and I are on the Steering Committee) sponsored a “Spanish for Medical Emergencies” Workshop. It was taught by our favorite Spanish teacher, Johann Benavides of Green Mountain Academy. I (Gloria) did the preliminary research and Johann pulled together the curriculum and taught the class. 20 local Gringos learned how to call 911, describe their location and the medical emergency in Spanish. They also learned the parts of the body, words and phrases to describe symptoms, illnesses, medications and treatments. And everyone went home with a handout of everything they learned at the workshop.
You can access the materials from the workshop at this link on the Action Alliance website. The workshop, and the benefit of knowing some medical Spanish, was covered a few days later in the Tico Times newspaper. You can read it here, and don’t miss the photo of Paul, Johann, and Mike Styles, the Chair of the CAA Steering Committee, on page two.
How now Bernal’s Cows…
Even though we live just 10 minutes from town, our little corner of Costa Rica has all the sounds of a finca (farm). We can hear the crowing of a rooster in the distance, and often see the chicken crossing the road (why does it cross the road?) Our neighbor, Bernal, has a couple of cows and sweet little calves who frequently graze at the bottom of our hill. We sit on our porch, listen to their moos and stop by to visit them on our way to town.
Here’re a couple of cow pictures. The first one shows Paul, Bernal, and Bernal’s cute son, Brandon.
In the photo to your right, you can see that Paul has definitely made a friend! Wish I caught a shot with Bessie’s big tongue licking Paul’s arm!
Living in the Banana Belt
Our friends, Skip and Donna, live in the middle of an organic coffee farm, complete with banana trees. They are good at sharing the wealth, and have provided us on more than one occasion with the bounty from their trees. Here’s a photo (left) of the bananas hanging from our porch, just waiting to ripen. There’s lots of banana bread in our future…mmmmmmm.
If you’ve never seen how the bananas you buy in the supermarket actually grow, here’s another photo (right):
And later today…
I am baking a double batch of bread – today it’s cinnamon raisin. One loaf is a housewarming gift for some friends to give them at their open-house later today. Then we are off to San Ramon to take two of our customized tour clients (and new friends) to the grocery store and show them the town on their first day in San Ramon and at the cabinas.
Tomorrow we are visited by the George Lundquist tour guests to show them our little cabina in the woods and tell them about the Community Action Alliance. Then tomorrow evening, we join them in a “meet the local Gringos” dinner that is part of the tour. If you want to know what it’s like to retire in Costa Rica, this is one of the best ways to learn!
We have a few busy weeks coming up, so there will be lots of fun stuff to report in the next newsletter. Without giving too much away, Paul has found a day-long boat trip to Tortuga Island that is about half the price of one most Gringos know about. We’re excited to check it out (see photo to the left) and report back.
Paul’s Monthly Tip to Live for Less in Costa Rica:
Join the Caja, Costa Rica’s National Medical System
$42.00 per month — this is the amount we pay for health insurance in Costa Rica, and this is one of the main reasons we stay in Costa Rica.
The Caja is Costa Rica’s public health care system. The full name is the Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social (CCSS). I call the Caja the “trump card” because it’s one of the best – if not the best — health care systems in Central America. Many consider it to be one of the best universal health care systems in the world. It’s not perfect, but it’s already saving us a lot of money every month, and we are a lot more relaxed and less stressed regarding our medical futures.
Our monthly out-of-pocket medical costs are less than $150 per month, mostly for prescription drugs not covered under Caja, and including vitamins which we also purchased in the U.S. There are no more doctor co-pays, pharmacy co-pays, nor is there a large monthly premium.
In addition, all pre-existing conditions are covered.
To give you an idea about the difference in pricing of prescription medicines here, when Gloria was visiting the U.S., she checked to see the cost of buying out-of-pocket a medication she takes that isn’t covered by Caja. She compared the cost of buying the generic in the States to the name brand purchased here (the generic wasn’t available in Costa Rica). The generic in the U.S. was more than twice the cost of the name brand purchased here.
Should you desire to use the private system in Costa Rica, as we have at times and many people do, you will still save a lot of money. We have seen specialists privately for about $50 a visit and have had tests done (biopsy, ultrasound, PAP smear), all of which have been around $30-$70 each.
We’ve learned the system and we use it extensively. Gloria even had surgery here in San Ramon last year, with great results. You can read about her experience here. And you can contact us if you would like help navigating, or learning about, the Costa Rican health care system.
Meteorology was a hobby of mine since I was a little boy. I took a couple of meteorology classes in college and later, when I was in the Army, worked as an Artillery Ballistic Meteorologist in Vietnam, collecting weather data. Now that I’m semi-retired in Costa Rica, I can indulge myself in this long-held interest. Who knows, someday I might really have my own weather station right here on the mountain just outside San Ramon.
Last month we told you about the climate in Costa Rica. This month, we want to focus on the temperature and rainfall in our corner of Costa Rica – San Ramon de Alajuela – right outside our cabina, located at 4,000 ft. elevation. Right now, we are in the middle of the rainy season. The San Ramon area gets between 60 and 80 inches of rain a year. As we stated in last month’s newsletter, only 15 days of the rainy season provide 70% of the total annual rainfall. So how did July and August fare? Beginning on July 17th, we started to accumulate some hard data, taking the temperature at 6am, mid-day, and 6pm daily, as well as rainfall totals for the previous 24 hours, measured at 6am.
From July 17th through August 29th, we’ve had:
- Over 22 inches of rainfall
- Three days with 3+ inches of rain and one day with 2+ inches
- 18 days measured zero or “trace” amounts of rain
- 22 days measured more than “trace” but less than two inches of rain
Sounds like a lot of rain, doesn’t it? After evaluating the data, we asked ourselves, “Did it seem like we got 22 inches of rain these last 44 days?” The answer was a resounding “No!” It seems much less when you’re here. When it does rain, it usually rains in the afternoons, after 2pm. Mornings are often sunny, even up here at 4,000 ft., four miles from San Ramon. The afternoons provide a great time to read, nap, cook, write – any past-time that doesn’t require electricity or Internet (in a big thunder-bumper, they could go out). Most days in the rainy season are not downpours, but rather rainy days somewhat like Seattle, Washington or Portland, Oregon, with a lot of clouds, and a mix of drizzle, showers, and brief periods of hard rain.
From July 17th through the 31st (15 days), we received 4.08 inches of rain. On July 17th we received 2.5 inches (more than ½ of the total rainfall for this period). Typically in the month of July, there is a little less rain; this period is called the verania de San Juan, or “little summer,” and schools have a two week break during this period. For the first 29 days in August, we received 18+ inches total, with three days over 3 inches (accounting for half of the rainfall for this period.) Statistically, in Costa Rica, 70% of the annual rain falls on only 15 days of the year. The rest of the time, the other 180 days of the rainy season, receives about 24 inches. At the end of this rainy season, we’ll see how San Ramon measures up.
July 17th – July 31st
- 6am average: 62.4°f (lowest reading was 59.5°f)
- Mid-day average: 71.1°f (76°f was the highest, with two days at 68°f)
- 6pm average: 66°f (lowest reading was 63°f)
August 1st -29th
- 6am average: 62°f (lowest reading was 60°f on two occasions)
- Mid-day average: 72°f (75°f was the highest with the lowest at 68°f)
- 6pm average: 64.5°f (lowest reading was 63°f on two occasions)
That’s it for this report. We’ll continue the weather info next month.
We came to Costa Rica for many reasons. But we also didn’t come for lots of reasons as well. We weren’t running away from family, debt, or jobs we hated. We had jobs we liked, a great house with a fixed mortgage that we were able to pay, savings in the bank, and zero credit card debt. Most importantly, we had each other. We also had the strong support of family and friends, and enjoyed many things including going out to dinner, to community theaters, and bookstores. We loved entertaining, and our friends looked forward to our annual 4th of July cook-outs and New Years Eve parties. While we didn’t agree with a lot of what was (and is) going on in Washington, and while the threat of terrorism on our home soil scared us, we are still grateful to be Americans and for all of the advantages that has brought us.
If you’ve been reading our website, you already know some of the reasons we came to Costa Rica. We came to live a different, simpler life, with a slower pace. We came to live in another culture, a Latin culture, and to speak Spanish. We came to broaden our perspective, to experience the fact that the rest of the world does not necessarily think, live, or make the same choices, as we do in the United States. We came to live less expensively, and that definitely includes affordable health care for everyone. We came because we could afford to stop working full time and create a new life for ourselves. We came so that we would have more time to enjoy being together while we are both healthy.
Is it perfect here, living in Costa Rica? Of course not. Like everywhere else in the world, there is crime, noise, dysfunctional government, poverty, drugs, and a few not-so-nice people. While some things are less expensive, other things (like gasoline and imported goods) are more expensive. But in our experience, living in Costa Rica isn’t about perfection. We often use the expression, “well, it’s another day in paradise.” While to us it may be paradise, it certainly isn’t perfect. No place on earth is perfect. There are always trade-offs. You can’t build your dream house on the top of a hill without being open to the wind. And you can’t have tropical plants and flowers without having rain.
We choose to look at our day-to-day experiences here as opportunities to learn, enjoy, and integrate into the culture. We choose not to dwell on the aspects of the culture that we don’t like, and there ARE things we don’t like. Like with anything, you have to accept the good with the bad, but maybe you can also try to make it a better place, however and whenever possible.
In large part, I am writing this as a reminder to myself. Every day many people think about coming to Costa Rica to retire, and some of them choose to do so. Then later — months, years or decades later — some of them decide to go back to the United States, Canada, or wherever else they came from. Or they decide to try living in another country, like Panama or Ecuador. When the people who decide to move on are those close to us, our friends, I have to admit, it makes us question our decision to live in Costa Rica.
But, as hard as it sometimes can be, we need to focus on our own priorities, experience, and desires. Are we happy living here? Yes. Are we able to afford our cost of living? Yes. Do we enjoy living in a Spanish-speaking country? Yes. Are we able to do the things that are important to us? Yes. Are we having fun? Definitely. Can we pursue our dreams and interests? Yes. Do we have a strong social network and sense of community that includes both Gringos and Ticos? Yes. Do we have access to good medical care and medicines? Yes. Do we feel like we can make a difference here? In many ways, yes.
Will we live here forever? Who knows? But for now, we call Costa Rica home. We are following the beat of our own drummer and we are loving the way it sounds.
The dictionary defines simplicity as “absence of complications” or “easiness.” My wife, Gloria, thinks that part of simplicity is not being a conspicuous consumer. When we moved to Costa Rica, we wanted to simplify, to have an easier life with fewer complications and to live within our means. But you can do much of this anywhere, even in the United States, and we did.
Many people, in an effort to simplify, might move to a smaller town or to rural America, while we chose to move to Costa Rica. We were never conspicuous consumers and lived within our means, but we wanted other things too: a better climate (we’re from Baltimore, Maryland), a lower cost of living, incredible natural beauty, and a healthcare system that would not rob us of our life savings; a place with warm, friendly people and, of course, monkeys that will eat bananas right out of your hand. We also wanted a sense of adventure in our lives.
What makes it so difficult to simplify in the U.S. is the bombardment of media – tv, radio, and junk mail. All these have a way of making you feel “lesser than” if you don’t buy into the dominant consumer culture — a culture that makes you want what you don’t need. The more you acquire, the more money you need to support your lifestyle.
After having lived in both Mexico and Costa Rica, I know how to simplify your life and if you’ll take the journey with me, I’ll show you how!
If you’re up to “hard-core” simplification, I promise you will:
- Lose weight
- Lower your blood pressure
- Gain stamina
- Save a lot of money
- Eat better
- Do less
- Have more time for family
- Un-complicate your life
- Learn to be mentally satisfied with less and enjoy the things that really matter
- Not allow others to define your existence
- Become mentally tough
Next month, in “Simplicity-How to Get It,” we’ll talk about how to simplify your life. What we have, you can have too, and we’re going to show you how!! Remember, you don’t need to “retire in Costa Rica” to do it; you can do it anywhere, even in New York City.
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