Jul 01 2012

Newsletter – June/July 2012

Welcome to our RetireForLessInCostaRica.com Newsletter!

Paul & Gloria

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?” This month includes monkeys, pirates, and more!
  • Paul’s Monthly Weather Report
  • Featured Article: Why I Chose to Live in Heredia City, by Joe Tursi





So, what’s up with the Yeatmans?

Monkey Love

Michele with Lolita & Chiquito

Paul and Chiquito

Ever been hugged by a spider monkey? I have, and it was an incredible experience. For our friends, Michele and Paul Gawenka, it’s an every-day occurrence. Recently retired to Costa Rica from the U.S. and with all of the required permits, they started a primate rehabilitation center six months ago, fulfilling a life-long dream for Michele.

We recently visited their Spider Monkey R & R (Rehabilitation and Release) Center, located at their new home outside of San Ramon, and met their first two primate kids, Chiquito and Lolita. Chiquito is a 2 year old male who lives in the spacious, clean, juvenile monkey cage connected to the house.

Chiquito in the Juvenile Monkey Cage


Lolita is an adorable female, about eight months old, who currently lives inside the house with Michele and Paul until she is old enough to share the monkey cage with Chiquito. Both Lolita and Chiquito have bonded with their surrogate parents, Chiquito with Paul and Lolita with Michele. Both monkeys make outings to the river, where Chiquito plays in the trees to his heart’s content and then hitches a ride “home” in Pauls arms, (and Lolita on Michele’s ankle).

Gloria with Lolita

For me, the highlight of our visit, was when Michele asked if I would like to hold Lolita. “Can I, really?” I asked in amazement. And the next thing I knew (and to everyone’s surprise) Lolita climbed right into my arms. I can’t fully describe what I felt. Maternal, sure, like holding a human baby, but something else, too. It was a connection of sorts that transcended the fact that we are of different species. This sweet little creature was comforted by being in my arms. I fed her a bottle, and would have been quite content to stay there for the afternoon, but previous commitments called and we were off – though not before I offered to monkey-sit in the future!


From Paul & Michele Gawenka:


But all you need to subscribe to The Monkey Diaries, and receive our semimonthly newsletter, is an email address.

Follow orphaned monkeys Chiquito and Lolita back to the wild in Costa Rica,and learn what makes spider monkeys unique.  Did you know?

  • You can’t determine the sex of a spider monkey unless you know what you’re looking at.
  • Missing a thumb is an evolutionary advantage if your preferred mode of transport is brachiation.
  • Female spider monkeys leave home when they reach sexual maturity, but males stick around.
  • Offering someone a “pectoral sniff” is a guy thing.

We’ll never share your email address.  In fact, we pay FeedBlitz to protect it.And we’ll never ask for donations. So please…monkey up! Sign up at http://www.spidermonkeyrehab.com/index.html.”

Pirates Take the Pista

The following week, Paul and I headed out to Heredia to meet a friend who recently relocated there from North Carolina.  We left our cabina at 9am, intending to be in Heredia by 10am. But it just wasn’t to be. Traffic was at a standstill on the Autopista, also known as Route 1, the Inter-Americana Highway.  Soon we realized that the backup was being caused by pirates!

Piratas Turn Pista Into Parking Lot

These aren’t the pirates with the eye patches who say things like, “Yo-ho-ho and a bottle of rum.” I’m talking about the piratas, Costa Rica’s “pirate taxis.” There are two kinds of taxi cabs in Costa Rica, the red taxis with the yellow triangle that are licensed by the government, and all the rest. It’s a loose interpretation of the law that allows pirate taxis to operate. Usually the cars are not as well maintained, but they are usually less expensive than the licensed taxis. On this day, the piratas were demonstrating to fight legislation which could put an end to their business.  Not to be outdone, the legal taxistas also demonstrated on a different day, in favor of the legislation. The end result was two days of slow to no moving traffic on the main road to San Jose.  After an hour and a half of going nowhere, we turned around and took the back way home to San Ramon, postponing our visit to Heredia for another day. In Costa Rica, you just have to go with the flow.

Heredia Visit

We attempted our trip to Heredia once again the following week, this time with no traffic delays, and visited our friend, Joe Tursi, at his new apartment in Heredia. It was bright, airy, and beautifully done. The owner had included touches like security cameras in the public areas, small lights in the closets to help fight mildew, and beautiful granite counter-tops in the kitchen. This was one of the nicest apartments we’ve seen in Costa Rica.

Since we haven’t spent much time in Heredia, we asked Joe what he liked about it and why he chose to move there, then we asked him to write about it. You can read his answer in the article below.

The three of us got caught up over lunch at Soda Cubito, a Cuban restaurant in downtown Heredia. The food was fresh and good.  The menu consisted of mostly traditional Tico dishes with a couple of Cuban specialties. Here’s a quick chat Paul had with the owner in this busy restaurant.


Beach Day


We also had a couple of beach days in June. Now that we are deep into the rainy season, our beach days are sometimes shorter as we may leave right after lunch, but we still have a lot of fun. Paul and our friend Robert love throwing a stick into the waves for Robert’s dog, Pogo, to fetch.  And Robert’s wife, Lorca, and I spend as much time as possible in the water. We grill burgers for lunch, feed bananas to the monkeys, and just chat with friends. What a great way to spend the day!


To the EBAIS, again

I’ve been struggling for the past few months with a bout of sciatica and took a lot of anti-inflammatory pills to deal with it. Early in the month I visited our local EBAIS (clinic) to see what the doctor would suggest. She prescribed three days of anti-inflammatory injections which seemed to help some. But what made the difference was the website of The Healthy Back Institute. They say that “muscle imbalances are the hidden cause of nearly every case of back pain and sciatica.” Though they give a lot of free information on their website, I bought their “Lose The Back Pain System,” did the self-assessments and began the exercise program. While I still have some pain, I no longer need any kind of medication for it. Yeah! If you, or someone you know, has back pain — it’s a fairly common problem — just click on these links above for more information about  The Healthy Back Institute resources and products.

I wish I would have ordered it sooner because all of the anti-inflammatory medication irritated my stomach and I was off, once again, to the EBAIS. The doctor thinks it’s gastritis and ordered a lot of lab tests. But in the meantime, I’m taking meds for nausea, stomach pain, and the generic for Pepcid, and eating bland, low acid foods. Needless to say, it’s put a crimp in my cooking and baking — no more pizza parties for a while — but this too shall pass.

Community Involvement

Paul and I are both still involved with the Steering Committee of the Community Action Alliance and, on June 29th, attended the June Mixer. It was a chance to give our members and guests, about 40 attendees in all, an update about our current initiatives.  Our guest speaker was Action Alliance Member, Maria Fejervary, Founder of Salvando Corazones (Saving Hearts), a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization focused on providing programs and safe houses for young children enslaved in prostitution in Costa Rica.  It’s an issue that is too easily swept under the proverbial rug and of which most residents are not even aware. They are preparing their first safe house and are in need of furnishings, so if you are in Costa Rica and can help, or are elsewhere in the world and would like to donate funds, you can contact Maria through their website. There is a list of the items needed in the most recent Community Action Alliance Newsletter which you can read here.

Isla San Lucas Tour

If you will be in Costa Rica on July 14th and are interested, we have a boat tour to San Lucas Island scheduled for that day.

San Lucas Island was used as a prison from 1873 to 1991. Modeled after Devil’s Island, it housed Costa Rica’s worst criminals, kind of like Alcatraz with a Papillion twist. The prison is often referred to as “The Island of Lonely Men,” based on the book of the same name (La Isla de Los Hombres Solos) written by Jose Leon Sanchez, a prisoner who claimed his innocence and tried to escape multiple times.

The island is located 8 kilometers and 40 minutes by boat from the tip of Puntarenas. The former buildings of the penal island are considered “patrimonio de cultural” (cultural heritage sites). During the tour, you will see the historic waterfront with original dock, the church, a medical building, a former office, and of course, the prison cells, complete with graffiti typical of prisons in Latin America. San Lucas Island was designated a national wildlife refuge on February 12, 2001. Its 1156 acres (470 hectares) are home to howler monkeys, snakes, deer, pheasants, and at least 8 species of bats. The waters surrounding the island provide habitat for manta rays and turtles.

Another interesting aspect of the island’s history is that, from 1500 to 800 BC, indigenous groups lived on San Lucas and used it as a burial place. There are 8 known archeological sites on the island. San Lucas is one of only two islands in the Gulf of Nicoya with fresh water on it.

Our tour of San Lucas Island includes:

  • Round trip boat transportation from the dock in Puntarenas
  • Bilingual guide and entrance fees. Entrance fees are $2 for Costa Rica residents & citizens – must show a current cedula (residency card), and $10 for tourists/non-residents
  • Fresh fruit and water
  • Picnic lunch on a deserted beach (a 45 minute walk from the prison, or you can take the boat to the beach)

Pricing:  Residents – $50    Tourists – $58


Paul’s Monthly Weather “Report” – June 2012 Data

Click to enlarge

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 nine months:

  • October 2011: 35 inches (normal 13-15 inches)
  • November 2011: 5 inches
  • December 2011: 2 inches
  • January 2012: 0 inches
  • February 2012: 0 inches
  • March 2012: 0 inches
  • April 2012: 11.9 inches
  • May 2012: 16 inches
  • June 2012: 9.75 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.

Rain Data from June 1st to June 30th (30 days)

  • 9.75 inches of total rainfall (2.75 inches on one day)
  • 6 days measured trace amounts of rain
  • 7 days with zero rainfall

Temperature data from June 1st to June 30th (30 days)

  • 6am average: 63.4°f (lowest reading was 61°f on 1 day)
  • Mid-day average: 73.7°f (high of 78°f on 1 day & low of 67°f on 1 day)
  • 6pm average: 66°f (lowest reading was 63°f on 1 day and highest was 70°f  on 1 day)

That’s it for this report. We’ll continue the weather info next month.


Featured Article: Why I Chose to Live in Heredia City

by Joe Tursi

I first came to Costa Rica in 1995 to do something different. I had enrolled to study Spanish for a month at CPI Language School in San Joaquin de Flores, on the outskirts of the city of Heredia.  My Tico “father” (I was in a home-stay/school situation as part of the language program) would go to Heredia every Saturday to shop at the huge Feria (Farmers’ Market). That was my first contact with this wonderful city.  As the years passed, the thought of possibly retiring to Costa Rica became more of a reachable goal.

Heredia is the city in which I am now living.  It is a city of about 43,000 people and growing, due to the increase in clean industry such as HP and the Amazon call center located in the area.  The city is only 10 kms from the capital city of San Jose.  I take the bus there often.

Heredia is also the name of the canton (county) and the city of Heredia is one of the five administrative divisions that comprise the canton. Heredia is actually the name of one of the founders of the area back in the late 1700s. Many people call Heredia the “City of Flowers” (Ciudad de Flores). Tour guides often tell people it’s called that because of all the beautiful flowers that grow here. The truth is that the name comes from  the prominent de Flores family, a wealthy and influential family who settled here. One of the Costa Rica’s earlier presidents was a de Flores and the original de Flores house still sits on the edge of the central park.

Heredia's Immaculata Church

I have been to Costa Rica five times and I love it all. The most difficult decision for those interested in settling or retiring here is where to live; it’s all good, as they say.  It’s always a matter of personal taste.  But as for me, I was already familiar with this city and have some Tico friends in the area.  I did not want to live in a “gringo enclave” but with Ticos so that I could attempt to master this language and delve into the rich culture.  As a single person I love to be around other people, so city life is just great for me.

I start each day with an hour walk through the city, noticing something new each day.  I love to eat at the little sodas and read the paper in the parks. This is a great city as it is small and manageable for walking.  I do not have a car as of yet and the walking is great exercise for me. If you are into shopping, which I am not, there is the huge Paseo de Flores Mall just outside of town. The city is also home to 4 major Tico universities including the Universidad Nacional, so there are always plenty of young people around and lots of different restaurants to appeal to their eclectic tastes.

Heredia Hospital

I have just received my residency cedula and am a member of the health care system (Caja) and have found a doctor and dentist that I like very much.  The Hospital de Heredia is just two years old and is a beautiful and cheerful looking place.  Now a days, the famers’s feria that I used to visit with my first family is located all along the expansive street, not far from the hospital.  I go each Saturday to get the most wonderful fruits and veggies as well as eggs, fish, chicken and all that you could possibly want.


View From My Apartment

I found a brand new apartment complex of just 8 units that is on the west side of the city and has a tremendous view of the south mountains.  I can see Santa Ana from my bedroom balcony.  I am the only gringo living here and my immediate neighbors are a young couple who are physicians in the public health system.  I could not have found a better place.  The view is worth the rent! Here are my first month’s expenses for the apartment:

  • Rent: $750
  • Electricity: $45
  • Water: $6
  • TV & Internet: $60

So I will continue to grow into the city here, even as I continue to explore other parts of this wonderful country.  I also hope to visit other Central American countries now that I am settled here in Costa Rica and can use this as my center from which to branch out and explore.”


Facebook, Twitter, & YouTube

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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

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