Welcome to our RetireForLessInCostaRica.com 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?” Includes two new videos
- Paul’s Monthly Tip to Live for Less in Costa Rica: Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow
- Paul’s Monthly Weather “Report”
- Where to Stay in San Ramon – Vista Valverde Bed & Breakfast
- Feature Article: A Day Trip to Lovely Zarcero
- Announcing our New Amazon.com Store
- What’s New on the Website
We wish a happy and prosperous New Year to you all! We ushered in the new year a little differently this year, but it turned out to be very special. Paul had an airport pickup scheduled with clients and neighbors Paul and Michele, and I went along for the ride. After all, I can’t be without my honey on New Year’s Eve!
As their flight didn’t arrive until 9:45pm, we were on the autopista driving to the airport in the darkness and enjoying the glittering lights of the Central Valley along the way. Actually, I was doing the enjoying while Paul kept his eyes on the road. As we approached Palmares — boom & crackle — fireworks exploded directly in front of us! We continued our journey to Alajuela, picked up Paul, Michele, and their golden retriever at the airport and headed back to San Ramon. Along the way, we saw more bursts of fireworks from towns along our route.
When we arrived at their rental house, we joined them in a toast to the new year and watched the fireworks displays in the distance around Puntarenas from their balcony. It was really lovely, not just the fireworks, but sitting there wearing just light sweaters as the breeze blew through the banana plants, and the sounds of birds and insects serenaded us. It was a peaceful way to close out 2011 and bring in the new year!
Our little town of San Ramon kicked the holiday festivities up a notch this year. The municipality did a great job decorating the main street into town and the Parque Central with a family theme. They also sponsored concerts and other events that drew thousands of people to the center of town to celebrate Christmas as a community.
Paul and I took advantage of a couple of holiday events at one of our favorite places in San Ramon, the Centro Cultural y Histórico José Figueres Ferrer. The first was a performance of, believe it or not, TubaChristmas, sponsored by our very own Community Action Alliance. It was hard to imagine Christmas tunes being performed solely by five tubas, two euphoniums, and one bassoon, but it was great!
A night or two later, we went to a choral presentation by four different groups. The first was a senior citizens group which really touched Paul and I. Here’s a short video Paul made about this particular performance.
The highlight of the evening, though, was the performance by the choral group from University of Costa Rica. We have heard them on two other occasions and they were wonderful, so we knew that this evening’s performance wouldn’t disappoint. Their performance of traditional Costa Rican and international Christmas carols this evening, included a posada navideña, which is a reenactment of Mary and Joseph’s search for a place to stay in Bethlehem, the birth of the Baby Jesus, and the presentation of gifts from the Three Wise Men. We were struck not only by the beautiful voices of the the UCR choral group, but by the actors’ dramatic performances during the posada. We, and our friends Lorca & Robert, were the only non-Ticos present but we felt warmly welcomed by everyone. We are so glad we didn’t miss this special holiday event.
Tamale Day at the Cabinas
An important Christmas tradition in Costa Rica, as in many other Latin American countries, is making tamales. Usually whole families get together for the time- and labor-intensive process. Here at the Cabinas was no different as our “family” of residents and staff got together for the 2nd Annual Tamale Day. It was fun, and oh so yummy. Here’s the video:
Unfortunately, when it was time to take some final video of the steaming tamales, unwrapped and ready to be eaten, we were too busy — eating them. Maybe next year!
Bye-Bye Diego…for now at least!
If you’ve been reading our newsletters, you know that Paul shaved off his beard after 40 years and became the “bare-faced Diego!” In general, the consensus was that he looked younger without his white beard. What’s a man to do, especially when his loving wife doesn’t like how scratchy his chin has become and thinks he’s more handsome with a beard? Well, we’ve reached a compromise. For now, at least, Paul has grown it back but is planning to keep it short. Here’s a photo of him recently in the barber’s chair (see more in the “Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow” article below).
We Just Published Our First “Hub” – No More Kidney Stone Pain!
Like many people, Paul has suffered painful kidney stone attacks in the past and would do anything to prevent another one. So he followed his doctor’s orders to drink lots of water and stop eating certain foods, but just two weeks after his urologist told him to come back in a year, he ended up in the Emergency Room again with excruciating pain. Following is an excerpt from our Hub Page article on how Costa Rica healthcare ended his pain, and how it can end yours too:
A week later, I took the results back to Dr. Johnny. Sure enough, I had a stone, so he sent me to get an ultrasound (cost: $30). Yes, they confirmed, I had a 7mm stone attached to the wall of my kidney. He told me to drink lots of water and take Chanca Piedra.“Chanca what??” I asked. Before purchasing it at our local macrobiotica (health food store), we looked it up on the Internet. We found that there had been over 300 studies with positive results and no side effects. According to these unofficial studies, Chanca Piedra worked quickly, sometimes in just a few weeks, to break up the stones and allow them to pass harmlessly through the urinary tract…
I’ve never been a great believer in natural cures, but I’m a believer in Chanca Piedra. This stuff is great. I think it works — at least I haven’t had another kidney stone attack since I’ve been in Costa Rica. But I did have that 7mm stone in my kidney just waiting to grow and descend. It’s two years later, and I’m still waiting, thank God!
A great source for Chanca Piedra is Whole World Botanicals because their products are made of the highest quality, single source botanicals from the Peruvian Andes and the Amazon rainforest, and are Certified Organic. They have been in business for 14 years and buy medicinal plants directly from the local/native people who grow or collect them whenever possible and to practice fair trade with them. They also have lots of helpful information about Chance Piedra on their website. They explain the many other traditional uses as well, including gall stones, diabetes, and bladder infections, to name a few. You can read all about it, as well as the research findings and doctors’ experiences here.
Paul’s Monthly Tip to Live for Less in Costa Rica: Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow
In the States, one of the service businesses that’s recession-proof is beauty and barber services. Everyone needs to have their hair cut (okay, unless you’re bald) and since long hair is not the fashion, most people go to the beauty salon or barber on a regular basis. The same is true in Costa Rica. Ticos may live in a modest home, but when they walk out the door, they are clean, neat, and well-coiffed. Beauty is very important in the culture. Most women are always styled and color-coordinated; and the guys’ hair is usually styled and gelled.
For men: I get a haircut and a beard trim about every 4-6 weeks. My barber, Jose, who works in a beauty salon, is excellent – very meticulous, thorough, and deliberate. Good grooming is important and Jose knows it. He always trims my eyebrows, the hair in my ears, and even nose-hairs. (God knows why men grow hair in all of these weird places when they get older.) And then it’s on to a very exact beard and moustache trim. He trims above the lip, below the lip, below the nose, gives my beard a great line, and grooms my cheeks with fine clippers. My hair-cut costs $3 and the beard-trim, $1, plus, there is no tipping. The price is the price. In the States, men’s haircuts cost more. I used to pay about $10 to my local barber and, unfortunately, had to change barbers three times my last year in the States. They just wouldn’t listen to what I wanted. So what is your barber’s price in the States?
For women, the savings are even greater. My wife, Gloria, gets a cut, color, and pedicure for only $32 total (haircut: $6, all-over color: $14, and pedicure for $12). Her hairdresser, Janeth, is excellent, and in my view, the best she ever had. Her style is very today. Previously, in the States, the cost for a cut, color, and pedicure in a Salon would be at least $120. We know many expats who have paid even more than that in the States. Here, hair is really a bargain.
Let’s see what happened on our mountain at 3950 feet elevation, four miles west of San Ramon. As you will see, the amount of rainfall continued to decrease as we entered the dry season in the month of December. Although it can rain in any month, we don’t expect any significant rainfall until May.
The dry season has set in on the Pacific side of the continental divide, while on the Caribbean side, it’s one of the wettest times of the year. On the Caribbean, the rainfall is more evenly distributed throughout the year. Although, in the southern Caribbean, September and October are the dryest months.
We took the temperature at 6am, mid-day, and 6pm daily, as well as rainfall totals for the previous 24 hours, measured at 6am. As a reminder, only 15 days of the rainy season provide 70% of the total annual rainfall.
Rain Data from December 1st to December 31st (31 days)
- 2 inches of total rainfall over only 3 days, December 12th, 13th and 14th.
- 28 days measured 0 or trace amounts of rain
- 6am average: 60.2°f (lowest reading was 57°f)
- Mid-day average: 70.5°f (74°f was the highest on three days, and the lowest mid-day high was 67°f on one day)
- 6pm average: 63.0°f (lowest reading was 60°f and highest was 65°f)
December was still a mix of cloudy and sunny days; there were more cloudy days in the first three weeks and more sunny days in the last 10 days of the month. It’s usually about 4-5 degrees warmer in the town of San Ramon which is 500 feet lower. That’s it for this report. We’ll continue the weather info next month.
Vista Valverde Bed & Breakfast started with the dreams of Tom Ackley and Susan Lyons. Tom wanted to live in Costa Rica and Susan wanted to open a Bed & Breakfast. They both love to cook and it seemed like a fabulous adventure.
The result is a lovely Bed & Breakfast offering incredible views, gourmet food, and memorable experiences:
“We loved our trip to Costa Rica! Staying at Vista Valverde was the best experience we have had in a Bed & Breakfast. Wonderful hosts, great food, amazing vistas, lovely, private cabinas, an extensive book and CD lending library and so much more. We came home and wanted to return to Vista Valverde immediately.” –Jeanne and Russ, Seattle, Washington
“A fabulous retreat and a wonderful introduction to Costa Rica. Thank you for the loving hospitality & great food” –Mikey – Tulsa, OK
“We can’t imagine having a better time anywhere else in the world, the hospitality, the views, the food…!” –Sharon & David – Marietta, GA
Tom & Susan invite you to stay with them at Vista Valverde: “We are located just 10 minutes west of San Ramon, on a 4,000′ perch, with grand views to Puntarenas, the Gulf of Nicoya, the Nicoya Penninsula, and the Pacific Ocean. We offer a 1 bedroom home, a 2 bedroom home, and a guest room in our home. The accomodations are gracious and tasteful, with full kitchens, porcelain tile, great views, wifi, and more. We pride ourselves in the preparation and presentation of great local food.
If you are looking for a truly “tranquilo” experience, away from barking dogs, traffic noise from the highways, and early-rising roosters, our warm hospitality is sure to bring you back. Feel free to browse our reviews on Trip Advisor.”
Tom & Susan
Featured Article – A Day Trip to Zarcero
As you leave San Ramon (elevation 3400’), passing through San Juan towards Zarcero, you immediately start ascending. Zarcero is a mountain town, elevation 5600’ located about 40 minutes from San Ramon. As you drive up, up, you begin to see some of the most stunning mountain scenery in Costa Rica. You pass through the cloud cover of the Los Angeles Cloud forest and come out above the clouds. Looking down at them, they are like a field of fluffy whiteness, with sun shining brightly down on them. And suddenly, just a few miles beyond, you enter Zarcero. The air is brisk and fresh, and often you will see strips of clouds or mist gently rolling over the town, giving it a mystical, other-worldly feel.
It’s a clean and prosperous town, located at the crossroads between San Jose and Ciudad Quesada. Zarcero’s principle means of income are organic farming, Holstein cattle, and the production of queso palmito, ropes of mild white cheese rolled into balls. Actually, Zarcero is in the canton (county) of Alfaro Ruiz with a population of about 15,000, and is one of the smallest cantons in Alajuela province. The town of Zarcero is small, with about 5,000 inhabitants, though it seems larger as it bustles with activity, and has the look of a Swiss village.
One of the highlights of a day trip to Zarcero is the beautifully renovated Iglesia de San Rafael, built in 1895. The church is one of the loveliest in Costa Rica, a work of art actually, with stained glass windows, murals, and trompe l’oeil painting both inside and out. We were lucky enough to visit during the year-long renovation, watching artists lying on tall scaffolding, painting murals on the ceiling and gold-leaf filigree on the walls. Even though the church was closed, we were warmly welcomed by the woman in the parochial office and given a personal- tour. Gloria was even given access to the choir loft, climbing up the rough wooden steps in the rear of the church, in order to get a birds-eye view. On our most recent visit, the renovation was complete and, frankly, breathtaking.
The other must-see is the topiary garden located immediately in front of the church. The Parque Francisco Alvarado, was transformed into a topiary wonderland in the 1960s by gardener Evangelisto Blanco. Here you will see tunnels that look like kissing Hershey’s Kisses, a dinosaur, elephant, bird, monkey on a motorcycle, and other animals and fantasy creatures. During the Christmas season, there is a beautiful nativity scene set up, complete with offerings of traditional Costa Rican food and drink to the Christ Child.
Homes cling to the steep hills and terraced farming is evident in every direction. In hilly terrains such as this, farmers terrace their crops in order to take advantage of the rich, volcanic soil and prevent erosion. Zarcero has a moody climate, with its share of clouds, rain, and fog due to its elevation. Located over 2000’ higher than San Ramon, one should always bring a sweater and/or rain gear. If it’s sunny, it may be in the low 70s, but cool days are in the low 60s, and evenings can get close to 50. Remember, we’re in Costa Rica where it’s always sunny and warm, right? Wrong!
We have some Tico friends who live a little higher in the town of Pueblo Nuevo, just 5 miles from Zarcero, at an elevation of 6200’. It can be sunny in Zarcero and cold, rainy, & windy in Pueblo Nuevo, but it’s a great climate in which to grow things. In Costa Rica, most homes don’t have heaters, so the inhabitants become accustomed to the temps. On one of our visits to them, Vincente, the husband, was wearing shorts! Like almost all Costa Ricans, our friends are happy, growing produce and flowers to sell at the weekly feria (farmers market). And like most Costa Ricans, they are tranquilo, with a great attitude about life. Everything is beautiful.
Whenever we are introducing new people to our corner of Costa Rica, we always include a day-trip to Zarcero. It is a unique Costa Rican mountain town, full of beauty and wonder. Don’t miss it on your visit to Costa Rica!
We are often asked by readers how we made the decision to retire in Costa Rica. One of the first steps in our process was to read everything we could find on the topic. You can read our about our book recommendations here. And when you are ready to buy, just click on the link for our Retire for Less in Costa Rica Amazon.com Store, located in the sidebar on every page of our website. You can also buy music, DVDs, and gourmet items, including Costa Rica’s signature Lizano Sauce and Cafe Britt’s Dark Chocolate Covered Gourmet Coffee Beans. Be assured, all orders are processed securely through Amazon.com.
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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