Monday, February 29, 2016

Why not Costa Rica?

It's a beautiful country with diverse forms of wildlife!
A large portion of Costa Rica is set aside as Eco-parks, not available for development. There are more gorgeous birds in this small country than I've ever seen anywhere. It is a paradise for photographers. Darling loved it and even tried to capture a photo of a huge blue butterfly, but it eluded her the entire week.

The terrain is mountainous and we enjoyed a week of meals on a veranda overlooking a fast-moving stream with (small) waterfalls. For residents of the Houston area, every small hill was a beauty and a challenge. 

The people were friendly and helpful to us. We tried to speak Spanish, but it turns out we're only good enough to be polite. We tried at every opportunity, though. Darling and I both think that we should do our best to speak the local language. We even do that at home.

The fruits and vegetables were delicious. We ate more healthy for those nine days in Costa Rica than we ever have. My salt intake was way down - Ticos don't spice their food as much as I thought they would. One of the guys at the El Tucano let me know they had "chile de la casa" which was perfectly spicy, but not salty. The chicken was good, and other foods were good. Beans and Rice ("Pintos") were the main breakfast fare, unless you wanted scrambled eggs. 

The weather was comfortable in the areas of the Central Valley that we visited. This is the dry season, though, so we have no idea what the weather is like when it rains a lot - as opposed to raining a few times each day. We did hear the temperatures on the beaches were in the high nineties (Fahrenheit), but we didn't get to the beaches.

Outdoor enthusiasts have more than their share of possible adventures. We did zip-lining in Monteverde and it was a blast. There is river-rafting throughout the country, as well as horseback riding, and hiking through mountain trails. Watch the mud in the rain forests, though.

There is a Wal-Mart in San Juan. That might not be a plus for everyone, but it appeals to me. We didn't go into the store because we ran out of time. I wonder if it looks like the one down the street.

All these positives, and yet we still don't want a second home there?

Our phone informed us the winds in the Monteverde area were at 15 mph, but we must have stayed where the wind channeled between the mountains, because it certainly gusted in the 30+ mph range while we stayed there. We love the cooler temperatures in the mountainous regions, and we loved the streams and environment, but we couldn't live in that area. For one thing, the city itself is tourist-based. Outside the mile-wide diameter of the city are roads that are just as bad as the ones in Rwanda - and that is a serious condemnation from me. We traveled with a couple we met, and they had only a two-wheel drive vehicle with only slight clearance. I had to get out five times and walk up the mountain road while the car traversed muddy ruts.

Lake Arenal might be beautiful and we might even be able to find a place we loved there, but it has bad roads also. The dwellings highlighted the poverty of the area. though the richness of the country.

Costa Rica is not a cost-effective area to live in. I don't know if the price structure is the same as in Africa - certain prices for locals and other prices for the tourists. All the tours cost (what I consider) a large sum, but that is the price for visiting, I suppose. For a one-time visit the cost was acceptable.

I did shop at a local shop and the prices were high, but what I would expect of a tourist town in the states. We studied some the real estate prices, too. Basically, Costa Rica costs about the same as the United States, and a little more for real estate than I expected.

You're not going to save money moving to Costa Rica. There are a lot of reasons to become an expat there if you want adventure, but you could get many of the same experiences in Denver, CO or Washington State.

We can grow many of the same trees in our area of Texas (and I'll be planting some soon). 

We'll visit Costa Rica again, but it no longer looks like a place to have a second home. In the meantime, I wonder how the weather is in Ireland?

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Costa Rica Expat - I think not

Or I suppose I should say "Creo que no."

Here's the background story. For years I watched Costa Rica through International Living's magazine, as expats from the United States and other countries flooded there for the good weather and beautiful surroundings. For those who managed to get there a decade ago, they probably got some good deals on homes as well.

Nadine Pisani recounts many of her adventures moving to Costa Rica in her books and on her blog post. You get a feel for what moving to Costa Rica is like and some good laughs as well, since she is a talented and often comedic author. The stories of her husband Rob are always funny. Nadine and Rob are creating a fabulous life in this little area of tropical paradise.

The country is gorgeous and the people are friendly. I know a little Spanish, but enough to be polite, not enough to actually communicate. Speaking fluently in another language is a level of skill I just don't have. Still, a lot of people spoke English and I think they appreciated that we tried to speak the native tongue while we were there.

After years of trying we finally managed to get a booking at the Hotel El Tucano Resort through one of our timeshares. Nice place, though I have to question why our timeshare cost us USD $55 apiece per person each day. That was supposed to be all-inclusive, but it didn't include any drinks aside from the juices, water, tea and coffee. Even a coke cost extra. Enough of that.

Using AirBNB, I found a well-reviewed place to stay in Monteverde for our last three nights. I was concerned about traveling in Costa Rica. I contacted Anywhere Costa Rica and Katia Q. was good enough to help with all the travel. If we travel there again, I'll use them to book the entire trip. They were just that good, and I highly recommend them. They also manage your travel plans for a number of other countries in Latin America.

So this was a scouting mission for Darling and me. Would we like to consider moving to the paradise that is Costa Rica.

The bottom line is - we think not.

We have a lot of reasons for the decision, but the bottom line is it just didn't feel like the place we need to be.

We might try other areas of Costa Rica, but the area around Lake Arenal and the mountains around Monteverde are not going to work for us.

We're not done searching yet.

And I'll work on my Spanish.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Not Running for Office

I'm not running for office, but if I were, this is what I'd say:

I don't want your money for my campaign. What I want is your vote. I'm saddened that politicians think the election must be bought. Maybe they're right, but I'd like to prove them wrong.

If you are part of what is called the one percent, I'd love to have some money for the campaign. Let's be clear, though. It isn't to buy favors. You don't need favors - the other 99 percent do. They need help, for themselves, for their families, and for their communities. Help me get elected and I'll make sure that they get heard, and that you're part of the solution.

That is, after all, what we all want. A stronger, better, more United States of America.

Why don't I hear any of the politicians say that?