Oct 05 2011

Newsletter – September 2011

Welcome to our RetireForLessInCostaRica.com Monthly Newsletter!

Paul & Gloria


September was such a busy month for us, it just flew by – that’s why we’re actually sending out our regular September newsletter in October.

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?”  DON’T MISS TWO NEW VIDEOS!
  • Paul’s Monthly Tip to Live for Less in Costa Rica: Buy Local
  • Paul’s Monthly Weather “Report”
  • Feature Article: Living the Expat Life


So, what’s up with the Yeatmans?


Tortuguero Canal Tour

We began the month with a three day trip to Tortuguera on the northern Caribbean coast of Costa Rica.  We stayed two nights at Laguna Lodge; it was hot and humid so we spent a lot of time cooling off in one of their pools. We went with a group of Ticos and Gringos and had a great time, but for us, it was all about the turtles.

Tortuguero is one of the most important places in the world where Atlantic green sea turtles return each year to nest. Each female, measuring about three to four feet in length, lays about 120 eggs at a time in the nest she digs in the sand with her huge flippers. Tortuguero National Park was created in 1975 to study and help protect this and other species of marine turtles in danger of extinction. The entire existence of the small village of Tortuguero is centered around sustainable ecotourism related to these turtles.

One of the highlights of the trip was the evening beach tour to watch one of these huge turtles lay her eggs and return to the sea. Since turtles are easily disturbed when they come ashore to nest, there is a “turtle spotter” program in place to search for nesting females. When they find one, they then radio back to the guides waiting quietly with small groups of people on a trail behind the beach.  The groups — about eight people each – quietly approach the nest, one group at a time, to watch the turtle lay her eggs. No flashlights or cameras are allowed but there are some GREAT photos on the ARKive website.

For me (Gloria) it was a deeply spiritual experience. Maybe it’s because I’m a woman and, on some level, I identified with this female of another species. Maybe it was standing on the beach at night, hearing only the sound of waves crashing on the beach as we stood as silent witnesses to this miracle of nature. Maybe it was seeing the round, luminescent orbs drop from the turtle mother into the nest. Maybe it was seeing an almost prehistoric creature who somehow knows to return to the same beach where she was born to lay her own eggs. Maybe it was the knowledge that only 1% of the eggs lain each season actually survive to become adult turtles, and I was watching, first-hand, this struggle of life to continue against immense odds. I guess it was all of the above.

Here’s a photo of shells from baby turtle hatchlings that didn’t make it. You can see the puncture marks from a bird’s bill in the shells.

The next day, on a beach walk, Paul witnessed baby green turtles hatch from their nests, dig up through the sand, and miraculously appear. At first they were disoriented but within a minute they got their bearings and headed toward the sea. They are tiny, just two inches long, so the trip to the water takes at least 10 minutes. It is a triumph just to reach the sea without getting eaten by a bird or animal. Once in the water, there will be other predators to threaten their survival. But at this moment, there is only celebration and joy that they have gotten this far. Here’s a photo of brand new hatchlings from the ARKive website.

San Lucas Island Tour

Just one short week later, we were able to watch another stage in this cycle of life when, on a boat tour to San Lucas Island in the Gulf of Nicoya, we saw two marine turtles mating. What are the odds of seeing such a thing, and then being able to capture it in pictures and on video to share with you?! Here’s the video:

And speaking about the tour to San Lucas Island Tour, it was fascinating! Our friend Parker said it was the best tour she’s been on in Costa Rica! It started with a boat trip through the Mangrove Forests near Puntarenas.

We saw huge crocodiles sunning themselves near the water and lots of different birds including my favorite, pelicans. Then we continued on to San Lucas Island which was a men’s only prison from 1873 until it was closed for humanitarian reasons in 1991.

We toured the grounds, buildings, and prison cells of the penal colony that is sometimes compared to Alcatraz. Prisoners sent there lived in harsh and inhuman conditions and were often tortured. The prison cell walls were covered with graffiti — signatures, drawings, and religious phrases — which tell a story of their lives there.

Here’s our video of the San Lucas Island Prison tour:

To learn more about San Lucas Island, you can read the book,  La Isla de los Hombres Solos (The Island of Lonely Men), written by José León Sánchez, a former convict for two decades who was eventually cleared of the charges, or visit this website.

& More…

Enough about our travels!  Today is a busy cooking and baking day.  I’m making homemade pizza for dinner, baking a loaf of banana bread with semi-sweet-chocolate chips, trying to perfect my recipe for Sunflower Flax Bread, making yogurt, and getting food ready for beach day tomorrow! Yummmm…

Paul’s Monthly Tip to Live for Less in Costa Rica: Buy Local

Buy local and avoid stores like PriceSmart, AutoMercado, and other stores that carry expensive imported products and throw your food budget out of whack.

Before coming to Costa Rica, we were thrifty food shoppers, spending a little over $400 per month. Our food budget in Costa Rica is $300 per month.  This savings can be attributed to more fruits and vegetables and buying locally. By that I mean, find the Costa Rican substitutes or equivalents for many of your favorite American foods and ingredients.  Sometimes the products are identical but the language barrier can stymie your search.

Gloria is writing a book covering just this area, with over 1000 categorized foods, cooking terms, and more, translated in English and Costa Rican Spanish. This Costa Rica shoppers’ helper will be out before Christmas.  Here’s just a small sample of what’s in the book:


If you avoid the PriceSmarts of the world, your food expenditures will decrease significantly. Not that we don’t ever visit these stores. We still go several times a year, and spend less every time because we’ve found less expensive alternatives.  Where we once spent up to $200 per visit, we now spend $30.

Paul’s Monthly Weather “Report”

Click to enlarge

We live four miles west of San Ramon in the mountains.  You can see the location of San Ramon on this rainfall map. Click on it to enlarge it. If you would like to see monthly regional rainfall in different areas, click here to view the interactive map. Just hover your cursor over any area in the country to see monthly regional rainfall for that area. It may surprise you!

The map shows us that San Ramon gets between 60 and 80 inches of rain. Also notice that San Ramon is near the green area, denoting more rain.  Our mountain is not shaded green but probably should be, as more rain falls here than in the town of San Ramon.

Let’s see what happened on our mountain at 3950 feet last month. As you will see, the amount of rainfall increased as we headed into the wettest time of the year, September and October. All data was taken between the 30th of August and September 30th.  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 August 30th to September 30th (32 days)

  • 20.5 inches of rainfall
  • Two days with 4+ inches of rain, one day with 3.7 inches, and 1 day with 2+ inches
  • 10 days measured 0 rainfall
  • 4 days measured trace amounts of rain
  • 14 days measured more than “trace” but less than two inches of rain

Temperature data from August 30th to September 30th (32 days)

  • 6am average: 63°f (lowest reading was 60°f)
  • Mid-day average: 72°f (76°f was the highest on one day, with two days at 74°f, and the lowest mid-day high was 67°f)
  • 6pm average: 65°f (lowest reading was 62°f)

Interestingly enough, we missed the two big rain days – 3.7” and 4.1” – we were at the beach, 25 miles away, enjoying beautiful days. In both cases, as we drove up the mountain, we drove into the rain and clouds. You might wonder why we live up high where it rains so much. Well, in truth, it rains at lot at the Central Pacific beaches too, as you can see from the rainfall map. They tend to get their rain later in the day and throughout the evening. We live high to avoid the heat and humidity. Actually, on a good day, usually in the morning and again at sunset, it’s so clear that I can see the Gulf of Nicoya from our porch.

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

Featured Article – Living the Expat Life

Gloria and I moved to Costa Rica on April Fool’s Day of 2009.  For the first three months, we stayed close to home, just trying to settle in and get our bearings.  Our lives were full of changes.  We moved into a small house for one month, then moved again into our present cabina.  We bought a 1996 Toyota 4-Runner through a car buying service.  We lost our beloved cat Cleo. We struggled to adjust to a new way of doing everything – communicating, cooking, socializing, working, and just daily living.

After those first three months, we took our first trip in our “new car.” It was a two hour drive.  Our destination: the Pelican Hotel, directly on the Pacific Ocean.  On that trip, I calmly asked my wife, Gloria, “How do you like being an expat?” I was slightly afraid of the answer as our first months had been fraught with challenges.

Her reply surprised me. “I love it!” she said. She explained to me how different it was to her from our previous life.  She loved the experience. She loved stepping out of the box and testing herself. She told me she was fulfilling a life-long dream – when she was 20, she had planned to leave Baltimore for LA to work in the film business.  At that time in her life, she chickened out. She was alone and just couldn’t do it.  All these years she thought of what she didn’t do when she was 20 – the risk she didn’t take — and this was her opportunity to make up for that.  This time, with her husband beside her, she wasn’t going to chicken out.

As I wrote this, I thought of an article written by Lee Harrison, Contributing Editor of International Living Magazine.  On the last page of every issue, Lee always has “The Last Word.” In the March 2011 issue, his “last word” ended with the following:

And when you’re living abroad you’re someone special.  To your overseas friends, you’re an adventurer…a worldly person who’s landed in their country.  To your friends back home, you’re out there “living the dream.”

When you’re overseas, you’re part of an exclusive and well-connected “club” of expats and world travelers…and that feels good.

Most importantly – no matter how long you’ve been abroad – life is an adventure.  You can spend years exploring your adopted country and culture…and if things start to feel routine, you can move on and experience the excitement all over again.

If I let that go, the adventure’s over.  And with one life to live, I’m not ready for that. Arizona? Not for me.

Lee pretty much summed up the way Gloria felt at that time over two years ago, and I’m happy to say that she still feels the same way today.

Facebook & Twitter

You can now follow us on Facebook and Twitter, so please “like” us on Facebook and and “follow” us on Twitter.

We were introduced to them just a few months ago by my newly techie friend Anne (from New York City of course) who said we must do it if Retire for Less in Costa Rica wants to be a modern, viable business.  She said it’s necessary, it’s today, you must do it! Well, two months later, we are doing it, but still not totally understanding it. I think we need Facebook and Twitter lessons!

Every day we get on and make a post and share it with the world.  I think about what to say real hard — the wording, pictures, links –in an effort to make them appealing to anyone interested in Costa Rica. I agonize over each entry. On Facebook, I recently went over the 10 reasons we chose San Ramon, and the 4 reasons we stay. It sure makes you think about what you’re writing – you’ve got to be terse and pithy.  After all, on Facebook, you’ve got to write a meaningful statement in 420 characters and Twitter’s even worse – 140 characters. And if you go over your allotted 140, it reminds you to be “more clever.” More clever? Me? Impossible!

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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