Oct 31 2011

Newsletter – October 2011

Welcome to our RetireForLessInCostaRica.com Monthly Newsletter!

Paul & Gloria

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?”
  • Retire for Less Tour of the Month – Tortuga Island
  • Paul’s Monthly Tip to Live for Less in Costa Rica: Shop at Ropa Americana
  • Paul’s Monthly Weather “Report”
  • Feature Article: “Less is More”




So, what’s up with the Yeatmans?

So, on October 3rd, after two and a half years here in Costa Rica, we have now become victims of theft. We saw the thief grab our property and run off with it.  Eventually, we recovered it, though it was broken with some pieces missing.

We were at the beach when it happened, just standing around talking to friends. The thief was quick but we reacted quickly too, chasing after him. We were  even able to take photos and video. Since we were able to recover our property, we didn’t feel the need to involve the police.  But we do want to publicize the thief’s picture, so our friends here locally can keep an eye out for him. Check out the video below.

Unfortunately, that was the only time we were able to go to the beach in October.  As it turned out, October was all about the weather, day after day of grey skies, mist, and rain.  We were home-bound (read more about it in our “Gringos in the Mist” articles below). Prior to October, the rainy season here was really easy…sunny mornings and some rain most afternoons.  But October…well, it was all about the “perfect storm:”

It’s common for Expats to complain about the roads, in Letters to the Editor and on Expat forums. But usually, out of the wilderness, comes a rebuttal informing the nay-sayers that the roads are actually better, much better, than 5 or 10 years ago.

Last year, in late September and early November, there were two big tropical depressions that dumped rain and destruction over Costa Rica and Central America.  For Costa Rica, all three major arteries from the Central Valley to the Pacific were closed for weeks due to landslides, sink holes and washouts. One by one, they opened, allowing trickles of trucks and cars safe passage to the communities on the Pacific. Costa Rica had received a $900 million international loan specifically for road infrastructure, and after the storms, set about repairing the roads as never before. Even in our brief three years in Costa Rica, we can attest to the fact that the roads improved significantly.

This year, like clockwork, a major storm descended upon Costa Rica and Central America to wreak havoc, but this year was different. The roads were ready, in good repair, but not for the “perfect storm.” And that’s what began on Saturday, October 8, 2011 and finally ended 12 days and over 23 inches of rain later. It was unofficially one of the longest storms in Costa Rican history.

In reality, it was two storms.  The first was a huge tropical depression that began off the Pacific Coast, moving slowly, and then stalling, dumping rain day after day. On two days, I recorded almost three inches of rain.  But it wasn’t done. A second storm combined with the tropical depression to form the “perfect storm,” long and brutal, leaving a path of destruction in Costa Rica and all over Central America.  The countries to the north, especially Guatemala, were hit hard with landslides, flooding, and death.

The second storm formed in the Caribbean, hundreds of miles north off the coast of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula. It was large and its bands of rain stretched down to Costa Rica. The last five days of this double storm recorded 4.7”, 2.9”, 1.9”, 2.7” & 2.0” of rain.  It ended on October 19th — 12 days of torrential, almost non-stop rain, 23.3 inches, proving that nature and its finicky ways are stronger than anything that man can fix, including the roads.

Despite the severity of the “perfect storm,” the damage in Costa Rica was less severe than the previous year.  I guess some of that infrastructure roadwork paid off after all.

On a bright note, we received a wonderful testimonial from tour clients Lorca Warner and Robert Carr. We’ve posted their recommendation on our testimonials page, but here is a little bit of it now:

Our dream of moving to Costa Rica is now a solid reality…All of this is thanks to you and your fabulous guidance. You are doing so much more than acting as a guide. You have saved us months of time, thousands of dollars. Your help means that we will have a successful and facilitated beginning in our new country…Our best decision was to contact you…The Costa Rica you showed us is accessible, affordable, and full of opportunity for us to build a new life and new community. You shared so much of the structure and groundwork that you have already done…You provide so much. we would strongly recommend your services as guides. If after reading the Retire For Less In Costa Rica website people feel a sense of agreement with your philosophy, they will greatly benefit from your services.

Retire for Less Tour of the Month – Tortuga Island

Probably our favorite tour is the Isla Tortuga tour in the Pacific, just off the southern tip of the Nicoya Peninsula. Lorca & Robert also joined us on a Tortuga Island tour and had this to say: “The day trip to Tortuga Island was such a great bargain. Good boat, happy crew, and all so affordable.” We offer Tortuga Island tours multiple times each month, so let us know if you would like to book a tour.  Current November 2011 dates:  11/5, 11/13, & 11/19.  Check out the 2-part video here. The tour features:

The Beach at Tortuga Island

    • Day tour leaving Puntarenas at 8:00 a.m. and returning by 4:30 p.m.
    • Great price at only $54 per person. With transportation from San Ramon (minimum 10 people), the price is $64 per person.
    • 80 minute ocean voyage each way provides great opportunity to see dolphins, marine turtles, crocodiles, fish, and maybe even a whale. You will see majestic scenery: islands, mountains, and clouds.
    • 45 minutes of snorkeling in aqua clear waters, with all snorkeling equipment provided free.
    • Fresh fruit appetizer upon arrival, followed by barbecue lunch on the beach, including non-alcoholic beverages — you can bring your own beer or wine, if desired.
    • 3-5 hours (depending on the weather) on white-sand beach to swim, explore the island, or just relax.
    • Bi-lingual tour operators.

Paul’s Monthly Tip to Live for Less in Costa Rica: Shop at Ropa Americana

Main Ropa Americana in San Ramon

Ropa Americana…need I say more? Luckily, there are Ropa Americanas located all over the country. It seems any decent sized town has one, and San Ramon has several. Ropa Americana is like a Goodwill Store in the U.S., mostly men’s, women’s, & children’s clothes, linens, purses, & stuffed animals, at cut-rate prices.  Did I say it was cheap? Most items are used, but clean, and some are new. You’ve got to shop and pick through the items, but most are sorted by size.  Like a Goodwill Store, there can be many surprises, and usually they’re good. You just never know what you’ll find.


We’ve personally purchased a denim jacket ($4), placemats, cloth napkins, shirts ($1-2), pants (3 for $4), & sweatshirts ($2). When we lived in the U.S., we rarely, if ever, shopped at Goodwill, but here it’s an adventure! So if you live in Costa Rica and haven’t tried Ropa Americana, you don’t know what you’re missing.


Paul’s Monthly Weather “Report”

Costa Rica has never had a direct hit by a hurricane, but tropical storms are expected during the rainy season, mostly lasting two to three days. This is illustrated in the NOAA hurricanes in history map. You can see that 99% of the activity is north of Costa Rica.

Hurricanes in History, NOAA

And you can see in the following graph that, overall, there are more tropical storms in September and October than at any other time of the year. Tropical storms are represented by the orange band.

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 increased in the month of October, which is one of the wettest months of the year.  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.

Click to enlarge.

Rain Data from October 1st to October 31st (31 days)

  • 36.4 inches of total rainfall
  • One day with 4.7″ inches of rain, one day with 3.0 inches, and 5 days with 2+ inches
  • 3 days measured 0 or trace amounts of rain
  • 21 days measured more than “trace” but less than two inches of rain

Temperature data from October 1st to October 31st (31 days)

  • 6am average: 61.9°f (lowest reading was 60°f)
  • Mid-day average: 68.1°f (74°f was the highest on one day, and the lowest mid-day high was 64°f)
  • 6pm average: 63.2°f (lowest reading was 60°f)

It was a cloudy month which helped keep the temperatures low.  It’s usually about 5 degrees warmer in the town of San Ramon.  That’s it for this report. We’ll continue the weather info next month.

Featured Article – Less is More

Less is more. Last month when we published the Retire for Less  lifestyle philosophy on our mid-month News Flash, we said that it was a “living document” — kind of like the U.S. Constitution and just as important 😎 — and could be amended or added to at any time as we, “the framers,” saw fit. What prompted us to add “less is more” was a conversation I had with one of our friends. I mentioned “less is more” and he quickly said, “I don’t want less.”  My reply was, “Well, I want less, but it doesn’t have to be a sacrifice.” The inspirational speaker, Leland Val Van De Wall, said that “most people think sacrifice is giving up something. That’s not true. Sacrifice is merely releasing something of a lower nature to make room for something of a higher nature.”

Paul the Monk, NOT!

Throughout our website, we often refer to “less is more” but after my conversation with my friend, I decided it needed clarification. After all, what does it really mean, and how does it fit into the philosophy of the RetireForLessInCostaRica.com lifestyle?

I always wanted to scale down and live a more frugal, less wasteful, life. I was not a friend of conspicuous consumption, even though it’s a way of life in the United States. Luckily, I married someone who felt the same way. The monastic life has always appealed to me but Gloria says I like to talk way too much for that!

When we prepared for our move to Costa Rica, we got rid of so much “stuff” that we owned but didn’t need or use. It was amazing how freeing that felt! It was an experience of “less is more.”

So, what does “less is more” mean?

  • Your choices are limited so your decisions are easier
  • Life is less complicated and more simple
  • You have less clutter to deal with so you have more “mental space” to enjoy the simple things in life, the richness all around you
  • You don’t have to meet all your goals and worry about ever-increasing productivity, so there’s less pressure and more peace
  • You do less multi-tasking, so you can be more in the moment and concentrate on one thing at a time. In the U.S., with unlimited choices for everything, it can confuse, complicate, and slow you down from making decisions because you feel you have to consider all your options.
In the U.S., we’re very used to producing.  Productivity is king. It’s a consumer-driven society that always seemed like a house of cards to me. This ever-increasing consumption didn’t seem sustainable, and it looks like it’s been proven true in current times. Take a look at your basements, garages, and attics.  If they are anything like ours were, they will be full of stuff you bought and don’t use. There’s a big difference, we are learning, between what you need and what you want at the moment.

So, play with your pet, watch hummingbirds at the feeders, enjoy a cool breeze.  Really taste the pineapple you bought at the local feria.  Smell the sweetness of flowers in bloom. Listen to the sound of falling rain.  Feel the pleasure of your body in movement when you do yoga, tai chi, or simply walk instead of driving. Enjoy all the “more” that “less” can bring.

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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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