Welcome to the May 2011 issue of 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: $1 Lunch at the Central Market
- Feature Article: But do I have to Learn Spanish?
Some months ago, I (Paul) complained to Gloria that we should go to the beach more often…at least 2 times per month, I said. We were always so busy, but I stuck to my guns. After all, we live in Costa Rica! It’s true that we live at 3,900’ elevation, but it’s only 45 minutes to the closest nice beach, complete with monkeys in the trees. Ever since then, we’ve been going to Playa Doña Ana twice per month.
It was recently certified as an Ecological Blue Flag Beach by Costa Rica’s National Blue Flag Commission. This certification means that Playa Dona Ana is one of the Costa Rica beaches which scored at least 90% when evaluated on the quality of its beach, drinking water, waste disposal, sanitary facilities, signage, tourist safety, environmental education and involvement of the community in beach maintenance.
Usually we go with friends so there’s 10-15 of us. Often, we barbeque on the grills provided next to many of the picnic tables. We generally leave about 8am for the drive to sea level, and on our way down, we stop at a grocery store conveniently located a few kilometers before the beach and stock up with food for the grill, ice for the cooler, and, of course, bananas for the monkeys.
We get there at 9am, get a good table under a palm tree, and head for the waters of the Gulf of Nicoya. Because Playa Doña Ana is only a few miles from the Pacific Ocean, good surfing waves exist. The beach next door, the Boca Barranca, used to host the “Toes on the Nose” long board surfing tournament. The beaches are separated by a rock out-cropping; it’s really more like one beach. Surfers can catch the waves on the Doña Ana side and ride them into the Boca Barranca. At the same time, the protected cove of Playa Doña Ana is a great family beach and on days when school is out, it is filled with Tico families enjoying themselves.
The highlight of Gloria’s day is feeding bananas to the white-faced monkeys which can often be found in the trees. She swears it’s a kind of cross-species communication as they meet her eyes when they take the chunk of banana from her hand, as if they are saying thank you. We always bring extra bananas to share with others who want to experience monkeys eating out of their hands.
After getting in the water for a while – with water temperatures of 80-82 degrees F – and eating lunch, we generally start packing up for the one hour trip back up the mountain to our cabina at 3900’. It may be 95 degrees on the beach but it’s 70 degrees on the mountain. Once home, we shower and get ready for dinner. We are super relaxed, even “noodley” as Gloria calls it. Gosh, another difficult day in paradise.
The Community Action Alliance…
One of the things I (Gloria) learned was important to me was the sense of community I experience living here. About four months after moving to Costa Rica, we starting attending monthly “mixers” of a newly formed group made up of mostly gringos here in San Ramon. The idea was to learn from each other, sharing ideas, resources, and solutions to common problems. Over the next six to eight months, the group morphed into what is now called the Community Action Alliance of Costa Rica and it’s become one of the things we love about Costa Rica, and San Ramon in particular.
The Community Action Alliance is a community-based, action-oriented organization focused on resolving issues and improving the lives of all residents of Costa Rica, Ticos and gringos alike. The focus is in several primary areas: Citizen Security, Economic Development, Environmental, and Education. The organization accomplishes this through identifying clear and credible resources and bringing people together to develop solutions. You can read more about it here: http://actionalliancecr.com/.
We wanted to be involved, to make a difference in our local community, and when we were asked about a year ago to serve on the Steering Committee of the Action Alliance, we both said yes. In addition to weekly committee meetings, Paul has been involved in membership, helping Tico teachers teach English, and setting up monthly mixer locations, and I have been serving as Webmaster, designing and maintaining the website. As a group, we have been able to accomplish much that benefits our community, which you can read about here: http://actionalliancecr.com/2010_year_in_review.html. In addition, we are applying for 501(c)3 status in order to be able to accept tax deductable donations from the U.S. If this is something that interests you, please let us know.
There are seven Central American Republics, Guatemala, Belize, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and Panama, and of these, Costa Rica may be the most expensive. But the cost depends more on your lifestyle than anything else. If you really want to simplify your life you will spend less than in the U.S. and Canada, so it’s ultimately up to you.
That being said, I found this little place in San Ramon where you can eat for $1.00. That’s right, just one dollar! It’s in the Central Market, right across the aisle from where I get my $3 haircut and $1 beard trim. I’ve taken several Americans there to eat, and they don’t like it!! I don’t know why. It’s true that it’s small, but it’s always full of the locals – it seems that a lot of the general population eats there. It’s seems clean, and because of a good business, I know that the food rotates there very quickly. The name of the place is Piri, on the second floor of the Central Market.
For $1, I get a small casado, a national dish, which is a marriage of a little bit of everything, including a few ounces of meat, some rice, beans, salad, and potatoes or lentils. A fruit drink runs another 60 cents. Now this restaurant will give the amount of food you want. For 40 cents more, they will increase the size of the plate, and for an additional 60 cents, they’ll increase the size yet again.
- 500 colones ($1) = a child’s plate with everything on it (usually enough for me)
- 700 colones ($1.40) = what we get when we’re hungry
- 1000 colones ($2) = a plate size that will ruin dinner (we don’t get this one)
Everyone speaks Spanish in this restaurant. We’ve been there may be 40 times and have never seen another Gringo face. We usually drop in two or three times a week to grab a quick, nutritious, and inexpensive lunch. Usually Gloria and I leave paying 2000 colones ($4.00) for a complete lunch with drinks.
So it’s possible to find those special places where food is cheap and plentiful. I think if I write a guide book on the least expensive restaurants in Costa Rica, this would be high on my list for San Ramon.
One question we often get from people thinking about moving to Costa Rica concerns Spanish. Do you need to learn Spanish? The answer is not black and white. You can certainly exist in Costa Rica without learning Spanish, and we know many Expats who do. Many young Costa Ricans are bilingual, and there is also a big push here for young people to learn English. But much of the general population does not speak English. Prior experience in charades is a great help to all of us trying to communicate in a new language!
So should you, therefore, learn Spanish? I would say yes, since it will enhance your experience significantly. Instead of just trying to communicate to get your needs met, you will be able to have conversations with the locals, get to know each other, and develop rich friendships with some. It doesn’t happen overnight, but it can happen, and it’s so worth the effort.
Now, you don’t need to become bilingual, but you should have the basics which can be mastered in just a few short months. Several months before we moved to Costa Rica, we purchased Visual Link Spanish so that Gloria could begin learning the language. She had not previously studied Spanish, so she truly was starting with the basics. She liked the course so much that we now feature it on our website. Here are the three big reasons we like Visual Link Spanish: (1) they offer 11 free lessons which we were able to try before purchasing it; (2) in the very first lesson, she was speaking in complete (albeit short) sentences; and (3) it’s about half the price of Rosetta Stone. We recommend it because we know it’s good. We were sold and you will be too. If you would like to learn to speak Spanish, Visual Link Spanish is a great way to get started. Try a free demo lesson here.
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