The cost of playing Monopoly


No matter where you live, there are life’s ups and downs;  struggles and rewards; difficulties and eases of living. Living in “paradise” doesn’t mean it’s all rainbows and unicorns. Once upon a time, my husband  wanted to move to Florida. My family has lived there for decades, but I have never wanted to actually live there. It took my husband several visits and many years to understand why. When you go on vacation, it’s easy to think “wow, I could live here”. However, at that point in time, you are on “vacation brain”. When considering moving to another country, you have to take your “vacation brain” and convert it into “practicality brain” in order to consider the reality aspect.  When you move within your own culture or country, your location may change, but you also may experience the same “stuff”: same type of employment, same laws, same media, same government, same accesses, same basic environment and same familiarities. We have moved to a whole new culture.

Costa Rica is very much of a “make do with what you have” world. Reminds me a bit of how my parents described the 1950s or how the Cleavers, the Bradys and the Flintstones (haha)  lived. They did not rush out to buy “new ones” every time something looked worn, weathered or broke.  There are “repuestos” everywhere here. These are replacement or part stores. Some of them look like salvage and junk yards, and some are repackaged items like older model phones, chargers, coffee pots, etc. It’s a way to find pieces and parts to things you need at a reasonable price. Especially for the locals. They depend upon them two-fold: this is how many make a living, and this is how others can afford to continue to operate.  My grandparents didn’t like to “waste anything” and that is how we live here. It’s funny, but living with what you have and “making do”  ads a different dynamic to life. It takes away the stress of worrying someone is going to “ding” your car, or “break your good stuff”, or “ruin something you just spent a lot of money on” and adds the value of “I fixed it!” or “it’s working again”….values that sadly, many don’t experience anymore.

For some of us, the “making do with what you have” is due to necessity. Accessibility is the key factor here. If you are here on vacation, or are here as a retiree, you may never notice. However, if you live here and run a business and/or drive a car, patience isn’t just a virtue.  We had a mechanical issue with one of our boats. We thought that we had the spare part and hubby spent the day trying to install/replace it. After trying to install it twice and unable to get all parts to fit, we realized it was the wrong part. A manufacturer’s expert happened to be in town and took the part with him to look for  a replacement.  No luck. After two weeks, six cancelled bookings and three anxiety attacks, we are back in business. I can’t tell you how many times my hubby said “if we were in the U.S., we could’ve had that part in hours”. So yes, accessibility is the most noticeable void here. However, it’s a Catch-22. The charm of the lifestyle here is the simplicity. We don’t have fast-food chains, no Lowe’s or Home Depot, no Target, no malls or department stores…no shoe stores. There is a Wal-Mart an hour from here, but it is a dismal Wal-Mart. It is small for a Wal-Mart and it’s stocked like a cross between Wal-Mart and Costco. Not that it has bulk quantity items, but the display of the grocery and electronic sections remind me more of Costco. You don’t have all of the “American selections” and there are many things I still don’t find.

As to our boat repair, the repair team took parts of another similar part and repaired using various pieces. He and his team “made do with what they had”. Not only is a new part expensive, but shipping a used replacement part from the U.S. is very costly and also takes 1-2 weeks to get here.

Visited the pharmacy again this week and have to say I LOVE the pharmacy here. Of course, there are a few of them, but I have chosen the original pharmacy in Tamarindo and the prices are cheaper as it’s not in the “center” of town. The ability to get medicines here are great. Some are very inexpensive, and others are exorbitant. My husband’s blood pressure medicine runs about $13/month. My hormones and my daughter’s birth control pills are about $20/month. Migraine pills? No…they ARE expensive. The migraine tablets cost about $30 for two pills.  However, it is nice that the other drugs are reasonable and don’t require a prescription.  Drugs requiring prescriptions are antibiotics, narcotics and psychotropics. Most pharmacies have a pharmacist, which is technically a doctor.  The pharmacist has the ability to prescribe something you may need for you.  Purchases can also be based upon quantity needed.  That includes things like ibuprofen.  If you have a headache and only want two tablets, then you can buy only the two. If you are traveling to Costa Rica or are not a resident, the one thing you cannot get? Tamiflu. Don’t even try. Just like all countries, Costa Rica gets a limited supply and their medical system reserves the supply just for them. Dr C. (my pharmacist) says that too many times, visitors are sure they have food poisoning when they actually have the flu. Most of the flu experienced in Costa Rica is brought in from the USA.

Besides medicines, there area a number of other things you have to purchase at the pharmacy.  The pharmacies are “behind the counter everything” shops. Saline solutions, make-up, lip balm, everything is behind the counter.I went in this week looking for ammonia. I have not been able to find it anywhere. Dr. C said I probably will not find any.  No one purchases it anymore. Due to the fact that ammonia can be used as a base for certain drugs, no one purchases it anymore. The amount of paperwork the store/distributor has to go through to purchase and register the product is not worth the hassle. Pharmacies and stores here also don’t sell isopropyl alcohol…rubbing alcohol. Same reason. The alcohol sold here is an ethanol based alcohol. Yep. Tequila is 60% and Costa Rican “rubbing alcohol” is 70%.

If you’ve been following my blog, you may recall that we’ve had “water problems” in the house we are currently living. Well, not problems with the “water”, it has been more of a problem learning how things are done. The water bill, (or so I was told) is due between the 18th and 22nd of the month. Each month, I go down the street to pay the water bill at the local elementary school. There is a lady there who is available for a week after school between 4-6pm and accepts payment for your water bill (factura). Payment is only accepted between 4-6pm and only for the week she is there. She works for the local water company and creates all of the facturas in duplicate and stamps a copy for your receipt and keeps the other copy as evidence of payment. In December and January, we had a few issues: 1) Our water was cutoff as the payment is actually due on the 15th of the month; 2) we ran out of water and had to fill up our water tank in its entirety; and 3) the pool maintenance people  left water running in the runoff section of the infinity pool which overflowed hundreds of gallons of water, overbearing the pump on the tank causing it to break.  SO… this month I was expecting a wallop of a water bill. Not only the problems we have had, but add in the fact that we have a pool, it’s dry season (so wehave to water the plants now), we have a commercial ice machine, etc. So, I withdrew $150 to pay the bill. (The other caveat to the water bill is you don’t know how much it’s going to be until you get there.) As the last bill was about $10 and some change, I was prepared for a doozy.  Well….$14.50. I was shocked. Happily shocked. I can tell you…I don’t understand it, but not looking that gift horse in the mouth.

On the flip side, electricity is NOT cheap in Costa Rica. Costa Rica’s energy rates are also billed at different rates during “peak hours”. Peak hours are 10am-12:30pm and 5:30-8:00pm. In 2016, a study on the cost of electricity in Central America listed the average cost per kWh (kilowatt) as 13.48 cents, while in Costa Rica it was 18.47 cents.  Costa Rican electricity is run by a MONOPOLY, the Costa Rican Institute of Electricity (ICE). Although the largest percentage of energy consumed in this country comes from renewable resources, the priced paid by consumers for the clean energy is apparently the most expensive in Central America.  The paradox to this is that the cost of clean energy to consumers discourages the replacement of energy from oil for the automotive and industrial sectors of the country. Why is it so expensive? From what I have read, it seems to be from poor state planning (yes, there are government deficiencies everywhere) and the fact that the country’s energy is run by a monopoly, preventing competitive pricing. However, as of November 2017, Costa Rica had run 300 days on 100% renewable energy. . In contrast, the U.S. meets about 15% of its energy needs from renewable resources. The United States still relies primarily on fossil fuels, with coal and natural gas making up most of the energy market and nuclear energy accounts for about 20 percent.

So how expensive is electricity? We don’t have central A/C. I have not been in a home that does have it. Each room has it’s own unit. This is done due to the cost. We do not run the A/C during the day when we are home. Nope. Never. We live with the sliding glass doors open so that the breeze can flow through the house. If we leave home and leave the dog, we will turn on the unit in the main room where he is, but that is the only unit we put on. However, in the evening, we put on the unit in the bedroom along with the ceiling fan. So other uses of electricity are the ice machine, refrigerator, outdoor freezers (2), washer & dryer (don’t dry anything but sheets and towels) and the oven (the stovetop is gas). Our electric bill runs $360-$375/month. Basically, the same price we paid for a three-story home in Virginia with two A/C units. We continue to look for ways to economize. Regardless of the price, I am happy knowing the resources we are using are renewable. Hopefully, one day they can get the price down so this mid-life woman can more affordably keep her cool….




Life is a journey

Doing business in Costa Rica is a different animal. I’ve always been an avid “refererer” in business. Working with small businesses for almost 20 years, businesses thrive on referrals. Back in the day, advertising was a HUGE expense for small biz and they depend upon word of mouth. Word of mouth is the BEST referral because you get someone’s opinion or buy-in that you trust. In Costa Rica, businesses also depend upon word of mouth. However, if someone refers business to you, they expect their “commission”.  A referral earns you (or costs you) 20% of the sale.  All referrals are appreciated, and paying out 20% for the referral is my now my new way of having a “phantom salesperson”.

People assume it’s “cheaper” to live in Costa Rica. Personally, it is to some extent. The groceries aren’t “cheap” if you are looking to shop and buy as you did in the USA, Canada or Europe. If you are into fresh produce, yes…much cheaper. We go to the produce stand and buy 5lbs of tomatoes, a bag of onions, eggs, 2 watermelons, 2 pineapples, limes, lettuce, avocados and herbs for about $20. That’s at the farmers market or fruit & veg stand. Costa Rican coffee we get for about $3-4 a bag. I can buy enough chicken to make 12 chicken salad sub sandwiches for under $20. A bag of flour is $1. Fresh baked french bread/baguette is $.78. But..if you are buying “American style” Ice cream runs $6-10 a pint,  4 sticks of butter is $5, liquor (name brand) is exorbitant, a bag (yes bag) of mayo is $4 and a bag of shredded cheese (like Sargento..but not that brand) is about $4.50-6.00 each.  It all depends upon what and how you buy. We definitely do not eat the same here. Part of it is based upon brand availability, part of it price, and part of it is access. However, we do eat more natural foods and fresh foods at a more affordable price here.

Another visit to the bank this week. This time, to pay our Social Security obligations for our employees. The Social Security system here is called CCSS or “Caja” for short. Employees are responsible for 10.34% of their wages in withholding and the employer contributes 25%. Eligibility for social security in Costa Rica is not based upon country of origin. Those who apply for and granted residency are also covered under the Caja, providing they participate in the system. The Caja is responsible for financing, purchasing and delivering most of the personal health services in Costa Rica. It is financed with contributions of its affiliates, employers and the state, and manages 3 regimes: maternity and illness insurance, disability,  and pension and death insurance. The Costa Rican healthcare system is a socialized healthcare system and is one of the few in Latin American offering almost complete universal coverage and is financed by contributions from workers, employers and the State.  The CCSS system includes 30 hospitals (10 general, 7 regional and 13 peripheral), 500 clinics and approximately 1,000 small units (kind of like a “doc in the box”).  There is a huge medical tourism market in Costa Rica due to proximity to North America and the fact that many of the professionals here were trained in the USA.  The most common “tourist” surgeries performed in Costa Rica include orthopaedic (hip, shoulder and knee replacement), bariatric and gastric bypass, plastic and dermatological procedures and significant dentistry procedures.

As to the bank…another thing that is interesting is what I call the “senior citizen rule”. This week my ticket number (remember you pull a ticket when entering a bank like the deli counter at the grocery) I got was 73. They were currently servicing 57. So we sit. And wait. UNLESS…you are elderly. The elderly can walk in at any time (not sure exactly what constitutes as “elderly”..but apparently that isn’t me yet) and they are then the next to be serviced. Yep. It’s an awesome act of respect and understanding for the elderly…but it does make the wait a bit longer.

Costa Rica had a presidential election last Sunday. Like the States, the polling areas are the schools. Political discord is spreading throughout the world and Costa Rica is not exempt. Once upon a time, the Costa Rican elections were referred to as “fiesta electoral” and citizens flew party flags and filled the streets with music, political colors and honking. But in 2017, there was a huge corruption case in Costa Rica referred to as “cementazo” where members of all 3 branches of the government were implicated regarding Chinese cement imports. Six senior execs at a state bank were arrested and members of the executive, judicial and legislative branches of the Costa Rican government were tied to providing $30 million in unsecured loans to bring in the cement.  Some facts about Costa Rican election campaigns:

  1. Campaign season is only 4 months. Kickoff is 4 months prior to the election. Three days before election, an electoral ban does into place and not paid propaganda can be disseminated.
  2. To win, the candidate must receive 40% of the total vote. There were 5 candidates, of which none won 40% of the vote, so there will be a runoff the first Sunday in April for the top two candidates.
  3. Elections are always on Sunday
  4. Some areas of Costa Rica still enforce a “dry law” on election day where alcohol cannot be purchased until after the polls close at 6pm

So life goes on… the weather is hot and dry and very windy.  We are settling in more comfortably and I have taken my first private Spanish lesson. My teacher (who is a teacher by profession) has told me I am intermediate and no longer a beginner. Yeah!!!

I received a call last week from a dear friend back home. It was a VERY happy day for me. The three of us spend all day together working and living (hubby and daughter are here with me). When any of us are reached out to by someone back home, it really makes our day. Of course, we already have our “regular” family members we speak to, but when one of our FRIENDS reach out to us, it’s huge. That’s the hardest part of the move. The people you miss. We think about them all the time. When others reach out to us, it is very special to us. Leaving family and friends…it’s definitely the hardest part of this journey…….



The Ultimate Driving Machine, Experience…Bahahahaha

Well…it’s been a crazy, funny, difficult week. One must always look at life with a sense of humor.  Hubby and I recently did our 6 month border run. Visas are only good for 90 days while on “tourist” status, so we did our second 90 day’ish (went a bit early) run.  I absolutely dread them although this time it was much easier than the first. Technically, I didn’t have to exit until March (as I went to Florida the end of November) but having hubby on a different schedule than me would’ve been insane. I dread them because I HAVE to do them.  As I get older, not being “allowed” to have an option is more and more irritating for me. One day it seems the border run is a long way off, the next day it’s time to go. Funny thing about the passing of time as we age….it DOES fly.

We take a shuttle service that stops in 4 local areas and then travel the almost 2 hours to the Nicaraguan border.  Upon arrival, we walk up to a counter to get our voucher for paying our exit tax. The exit tax ($7) for Costa Rica is included in the price of the shuttle. After receiving our receipt, we then walk to the “exiting Costa Rica” section of a different building (about 50 yards away) and then walk about 100 yards to the Nicaragua border.  At the border, we are greeted with Nicaraguan military (Costa Rica doesn’t have one), and 2 different sentry booths with representatives that check passports and sometimes belongings as well. We then walk about 200 yards to the Nicaraguan Border Control. Upon entering, there is another “ticket booth” collecting $1 each and we then stand in line at their immigration area. Here, the officials inquire as to how long we plan to stay, where we are staying, etc and then collect $12 per person to walk through. After getting the passport stamp, we walk through to the back of the building where they scan purses/bags through a small x-ray machine before we exit the building. Ten feet from the exit door is the entrance door to leave Nicaragua where we pay another $1 per person before approaching the counter for the exit stamp. We pay another $2 each for that stamp. This part of the trip is the part that makes me nervous. I believe “technically” the  rule is/was one had to stay at least 3 days to get the stamp (and remember, I just told them 20 minutes beforehand I was coming for 3-4 days).  However, the Nicaraguan officials know now that these shuttles are just bringing people to renew their tourist visas. We then walk the 300 yards back to the Costa Rica immigration building to enter the backside of that building to reenter the country. Here is where we are required to show proof of exit OUT of Costa Rica within 90 days. Most utilize a booth (resembling a booth at a carnival) outside of the building for TicaBus. TicaBus sells tickets to those who forgot to get proof of exit. The TicaBus tickets are good for a year, and the date can be changed for up to a year from the date of purchase.  In August, I thought this would be the way to go, as I could keep “postponing” our travel date and use that one ticket for a number of border runs. NOPE. Wrong. When TicaBus extends the ticket, they do so in their system without “issuing”another ticket. Darn.  I had to buy new one-way tickets.  I bought tickets through a website called They provide an “official looking” itinerary and flight voucher for about $30 each. My husband calls me and says “Why do we have tickets to Miami?” Really? I WISH I could get to Florida for $30….

I am continuing to learn more about the banks and banking processes here (takes forever). My favorite bank that we have (the one that was a nightmare to set up) has an ATM that takes cash deposits!!!! OMG…the things that make me happy now. This will relieve at least 30 minutes of the weekly “I have to make a deposit” chores. It’s the other bank that takes at least an hour for a deposit though. I may have to online transfer from this bank to the other at times in order to maintain some sort of sanity. Avoiding sitting in or standing outside of Banco de Costa Rica for an hour or longer……..PRICELESS.  We also finally have in hand our PayPal debit card. We had this “muled” down by one of our U.S.A customers because mailing it to us here is exorbitant.  With the new debit card, the trips to the bank are MUCH more far and few between. The need to transfer money has lessened and this debit card is the greatest “gift” I have received in ages.

Now….THE CAR. Yes… I am a broken record. Just one year ago, I got my “dream car”. My beautiful brilliant blue 2017 BMW loaded and FAST. Now…the 3 of us SHARE a 1992 Mitsubishi Montero. We have experienced 7 flats since acquiring this car in September along with a new radiator in October. Correction on the flat tires. Please make that now 8. Yep…This time, a new tire had to be ordered. Let’s also correct the radiator replacement number to make that now 2. Yes…this dream car is about to get a 2nd radiator. How about that warranty from the new one in October? Oh…they have now told us it was only for 30 days. Really. We paid $500 for a $250 radiator that is now defunct….most likely from (hubby was a car mechanic when younger) poor installation. Pura Vida baby.

We drove around to used parts places looking for a replacement. Hubby not interested in paying $500 again and we found (through a friend) another one for 1/2 the price. New. (live and learn) We ordered it yesterday and were told it would be here today. Sidenote: when you “order” something here, many times you have to pay for it first. If you are not in their facility, you have to bank transfer that day. Anyway, just found out we may not get it until tomorrow…..that is Tico time.

Hubby says he’s going to sell this car once repaired. The car has been more like a scene in a comedy. Not only the repair issues…but the car itself. Radio? Nope. Headlights? Well….they were misaligned for a long time and everyone, I mean EVERYONE we passed flashed us. Took a while to figure out is was the placement of the lights.  Now the lights are realigned and level; however, they don’t always dim or brighten. Pull the handle to use your high beams?…nothing. Click the handle back and forth numerous times? Nothing. Drive another 15 minutes..and all of a sudden, the lights dim or brighten on their own. Electric windows? If you want to control your window completely, the Driver’s seat is WHERE you need to be. Behind the driver? You cannot do anything with your window from there. Behind the passenger? You CAN control your window…SOMETIMES. IF you poke REAL hard at an exact 90 degree angle…over and over banging your index finger up and down, it will eventually move. (Please also note to move this window from the Driver’s seat, you must push the button in the OPPOSITE direction of which way you want the window to move.)  Passenger window? Doesn’t go all of the way up unless you push against it and push up (unless controlling from the driver’s seat). Sunroof? Don’t try it. It leaks like a sieve during the rains. Putting the car in reverse? Well…that’s the fun part. The number of times we’ve been in a precarious position (backing out into the main road, backing out of a parking place, backing up to the beach) and the car won’t go into reverse is ridiculous. Actually, the car WILL go into reverse. Eventually. The problem is that you never know exactly when. Sometimes we sit a few seconds. Sometimes for a number of minutes. We. just. sit. there. waiting. After one of my trips to the bank, I sat with my car tailend hanging out into Main Street for 20 minutes and NOTHING. I had thought that  I WAS in reverse, because I immediately backed up (parked on an incline). As soon as I hit level ground, the car began to roll forward again. The motorcycle next to me precluded me from maneuvering forward again in order to try something else. So I sat – Me and the dog. Twenty minutes later, a friend of mine was walking by and helped me squeeze forward without hitting the bike. No, this vehicle is NOT the ultimate driving machine.

Costa Rica has been a great place to “stop and smell the roses”.  Of course there are many reasons. Possibly because the stress of corporate America is gone and we don’t pollute our heads with news, reality TV, corporate memos and the like. The sunrise daily is beautiful. The sunsets are always AMAZING. The ocean is beautiful, powerful and mesmerizing. The stars? OMG…we live outside of town and on a hill. I often feel like I could touch the stars. There are SO MANY stars…truly awesome. But do you know what else I have noticed? They must have stopped making a majority swimsuits with full backsides. Lord have Mercy..the THONGS. Yep…everywhere. I never thought of myself as prude or modest when young, but the NUMBER of young women who walk through town in flip flops and thongs is jaw dropping. I have definitely worn skimpy suits (back when I didn’t need a suit of armor) that were anything but conservative, but I did NOT walk through any town wearing only my butt cheeks and flip flops. I was always much more self-conscious. Hooray to those who don’t have the critical demons in their heads. However; the thongs are NOT as jaw dropping as the number of older men parading in what my British hubby calls a “budgie smuggler”. Cracks me up. The speedo/banana hammock/nut hut/budgie smuggler is WAY over worn in these parts.  We even witnessed a guy wearing his daily with his butt crack showing. I mean really? Daily you don’t know your butt crack shows? My apologies if you love them or your hubby/partner wears one…but if he’s not Chris Hemsworth…please wear something else.

Many of my habits/rituals are very different here vs the U.S.A…some of these include:

Morning prep is shorts, shirt, eyeshadow ponytail and flip flops

Drink a lot of coffee vs tea (Costa Rican coffee is DELICIOUS)

NEVER wear heels, NEVER use a hair straightener, NEVER wear a jacket or slacks

If I “sleep in”, it’s 6am. If I stay “up late”, it’s past 9:30pm

Family of only 1 car vs. 4 or 5 cars

Don’t watch “regular” TV any more. If I watch something I like, it’s already aired or old

I have no idea what is playing on any radio or what music is popular

Making up the bed is pulling the sheet up

We only run A/C in our bedrooms and when sleeping

I never use the dishwasher

There is little junk food in my house…and I don’t stock as much food as I did in the States

I eat a lot of pineapple, watermelon, tomatoes

I NEVER use a microwave

I can’t call an 800 number.

Let me elaborate on the last one. This one is frustrating. We keep our “USA” phones on airplane mode. I pay about $65/month to keep my USA phone number to have when I go back, to keep track of different people, to WhatsApp family and friends. I also have a Costa Rica phone which costs me (on average) $3.50/month. With this phone, we take all business calls, local calls, etc. BUT…if I have to call the U.S.A, I have to use my U.S.A. phone. This costs an additional $10 per day which isn’t bad. BUT, I cannot call 800 numbers. So, when I want or need to call an insurance company, bank, service provider of some sort…they give an 800 or 888 number..which I can’t call. VERY frustrating. If more companies offered “live chat” on their websites, life would be easier.

It’s funny how I keep a running list of things, thoughts and events to write about in my blog. The list gets longer as bigger events happen in the moment. Still loving life here. It is SUCH a change of pace. The hardest part is family overseas and knowing the difficulty of access. Technology helps ( I can’t imagine doing this 30 years ago) but does not replace having them close by. I still get emotional regularly but also love being here.  We meet people from all over the world and even then, as far away as from where they come, it seems like the world is really a small place.




The winds of change

The busy season continues (yeah!) and we are very thankful that we missed the coldest temperatures in many years that hit the eastern U.S. In the 30 years I lived in Virginia, it NEVER got as cold as it did this year.  We did have a bit of rain here in the past week which is NOT “common” for this time of year, although not a phenomenon. This is still the season of the Papagayo winds which brings wind gusts up to 30+ knots and we have had to cancel a few charters due to the weather.

My love of some of the banks (or lack thereof) has not totally changed. Let me tell you what I miss—-ATM’s that accept cash deposits. DANG. As I have explained before, when going to the bank , you get a ticket number (similar to the meat counter at Fresh Market or at the DMV).  Currently, we have a relationship with 2 banks. One of them (BAC), the lines are usually not too long, but their ATM’s don’t always have cash. BAC allows you the largest cash withdrawal of all of the other banks so I prefer their ATMs. In addition, our payroll is run through this bank.  I don’t really mind going to BAC anymore although this was the hardest bank to establish a relationship with initially.

Our other bank is BCR (Banco de Costa Rica).  I believe this is the bank that is most popular with the locals. It is not unusual to go to the bank, be given a number by the guard (who won’t let you inside if the bank is full), and wait outside for an extended period. There are 4 cajas (teller stations) in BCR and usually only 2 are operating. Inside the bank, there are about 12 chairs in the lobby and they blow the A/C on FREEZING COLD while you wait. That is, until they will turn it completely off. The A/C will then stay off  until it smells like a locker room and then the guard will turn it back on to freeze you out again. The last time I went to the local BCR, they were serving number 67. My number was 94. Yep. 94. I waited over an hour just to make a deposit. When they called my number, my complete transaction was under 2 minutes. I absolutely DESPISE going to this bank.  Hubby and I had to go to a BCR branch in Liberia last week which was MUCH MORE efficient…and comical. This branch was not using their ticket kiosk. The branch is about twice the size of the one in Tamarindo. We walked in and saw the people sitting in the chairs and took a seat. I had no idea what “the system” was, but we sat and waited. Then we figured out that when a station opened…you moved up a chair. It went MUCH faster (due to more workers), but it was like playing musical chairs. Every few seconds or minutes, you jumped up to sit down. ….So why were we at THIS branch????…

We got a phone call last week from the previous owner who happened to be in Liberia (it’s the “major” city near here where many of the government offices are, airport, “good stores”, etc. He called to tell us he had the bills for our boat taxes that were due and happy to bring them to us. What? Boat taxes due? When? Yep…they are due NOW.  Love the forewarning and the help that I suppose the closing attorney and CPA don’t help to prepare. This is the process: travel to Liberia to the Hacienda (government office); get a 4 copy document (complete with carbon papers) of your Impuestas Factura (tax bill);  take the tax bill to a BCR branch and pay them on the SAME DAY you receive your bill; fax/scan a copy of the bill back to the Hacienda…SAME DAY.  If all of this is not completed in the same day, return another day for a new bill. The bills are dated with current taxes due. If you wait a day, you accrue additional interest and apparently no one can calculate a per diem…..

Not knowing ALL of these details, hubby goes to the previous owner’s house that afternoon to get the paperwork and other some other business things. At about 3:45pm, hubby is told…”oh yeah, these bills HAVE to be paid today.” So, hubby rushes to the bank which closes at 4:00pm and arrives at 4:02pm…so can’t get in. Therein, is the reason we had to drive (about an hour drive) to Liberia to get another copy to pay on that date. The things we are still having to learn…..

When you move to another country you make a lot of observations and comparisons. Many prove to be significant learning lessons. The things I thought I would “need” while here…haven’t been so “needed”.  I wish I could have truly understood that before coming. I am rarely out of flip flops and shorts. I never wear my hair down. I rarely wear any type of make-up. The pieces of furniture we brought because I “hated to let them go” have proven insignificant in a country whose housing is almost always “pre-furnished”.  The make-up, the toiletries, some of the clothes….but how do you get rid of EVERYTHING?

When I first arrived, I viewed some of the locals here as “poor souls” who must struggle at a living. I was wrong. Yes, some people struggle and need help (as anywhere) but some of the people who “appear” to live in an impoverished style are not poor at all. Sometimes I think we have had it all wrong…at least in my eyes. Many of the Costa Ricans have everything they need. They do not live like “kings” but they have everything they need. They are devout, loving people who are dedicated to God and their families. Their families are units that function as a whole. They have a roof over their heads, food, education, healthcare and transportation (for some it is a scooter, horse, bicycle or by foot). They have everything they  need and, as a whole,  are not an unhappy culture.  I often wonder if  the reason that so many are unhappy living in the more developed cultures is because they don’t have everything they want.

I have been a contributor and player in this ugly cycle of want and continue to listen to my US friends and family still speak of the things they “need” to get their kids and what else they need to “buy” for their kids. “I only got them this 1 significant gift and they need SOMETHING else because I can’t just get them only one thing”…or “their friend had a great party, I HAVE to do SOMETHING”…often at the parents’ detriment. Who are we benefiting in these situations? The kids/friends/whoever that didn’t really “NEED” this? The parent(s) who exhaust their funds trying to please them? People all over the world are talking about the masses of young people who no longer respect so many things and the young “entitled” behaviors.  And we wonder why….. Here, you see the children  running around playing with each other, no cell phones or iPads in hand (or in an inattentive parent’s hands). The kids are expected to help their parents DAILY with chores and jobs. They all seem so much happier. I am not trying to stereotype EVERYONE into these 2 categories, but it IS an observation I have made between living in a country as grand, sophisticated and accessible as the US and living in a 3rd world country. The problems of the masses…yep…we created.

On that same note, living in a situation such as ours (new owners of a seasonal business in a 3rd world country), some other perceptions have really come to light. After spending 10 years as a single mom, it was sometimes hard to swallow when my hubby would look at certain things and refer to them as “cheap” and they were…I don’t know…$100 or so. I lost the concept of “cheap” when I was a single mom. What some deemed as “cheap”…I considered “potentially affordable”. But since married, we have shopped for various things and it was always funny what he found “cheap” (also based on how bad he did or didn’t want it). Well….we are now back to living like our 20’s!!  Remember when you DID look at the price tag of EVERYTHING to determine whether affordable or not? Yep…we are living like our 20s. Two reasons for this: 1) we moved here in the off-season so have spent 4 months spending without much income 2) some things here are NOT affordable due to the fact they were imported. I always wished I could live like I was young again….be careful of what you wish for….LOL.

And lastly…along with the winds coming in and the rains waning, the humidity has also plummeted…which originally, I was looking forward to. Well….welcome to hag hair.



The Year of Change – 2017

Well…it’s been quite the year, hasn’t it? I can’t believe 2017 is over. It’s been quite a life-changing year! Hubby changed jobs in early part of the year….we came to Costa Rica in February and by April had signed paperwork to buy what is now,  our sportfishing business. Sold my brand new car in April; sold the house in June; quit my job in July; sold almost everything else we had in July; trekked to Florida for a week or so and arrived here August 3rd. Now, just about everything in my life is different.

There was a rodeo near town last weekend. The “rodeo” (they don’t call it that, but I can’t remember what they call it) here is very different from those in the USA or Spain.  The Costa Ricans are very humane to the bulls…more so than the “cowboys”. Funny to see the riders that aren’t always “in condition” to ride a bull. Falling off…getting stepped upon…and limping off of the field. The stadium/arena is built by hand. Takes about 2-2.5 weeks to build and about 3 days to take down. Interesting to watch things constructed like “the good ole days”. No metal….everything is constructed of wood. Around the arena were carnival vendors selling various foods and wares. There was SO MUCH TRASH in the mornings…but the people cleaned up everything early and prepared for the next night of activities. People either love it or avoid it….

In December, we  had to pay our employees their “aguinaldo”. The workers of Costa Rica get 13 months of pay per year. The aguinaldo is like a Christmas bonus. The employees are paid 1/12 of their monthly wages earned January-November 30 as a 13th month payment. Whatever the total of all of those months of pay are, you divide by 12 and they receive that bonus no later than December 20th. It is paid to every salaried employee, whether employed by private company or the government. It is not taken lightly here either as it is obligatory. Failure to pay the aguinaldo brings the Ministry of Labour immediately in to intervene. The fine for not paying is anywhere from 7 to 23 months of the employee’s basic salary.

We had a HUGE frog in the house. The question we are stuck with is HOW did he get in here? He was as big as my entire hand!! Got up in the morning (I get up between 5-5:45 am on days we don’t have charters going out in the morning), and went downstairs with the dog to let him out and feed him. I go to grab his water bowl and the ENTIRE bowl is filled with a FROG. AGGHHH!! Now, I don’t mind frogs at all..(unlike my sister who is dreadfully afraid of them….I mean DREADFULLY), but this frog was HUGE. Just hanging out in the water bowl. How does THAT get into the house unnoticed? We don’t leave the doors open. We have screens when the glass doors are open. Not only that…but he found the water bowl! Crazy! Thank goodness he wasn’t in the toilet!!! I saw a small frog going down the drain of my sink one day…but can you imagine sitting on the toilet in the middle of the night and finding THAT?…. I have become much more aware in the middle of the night than I used to be….

I remember having conversations with a friend of mine in Virginia YEARS ago about men and cologne. As I was in my 40s and single, I was really curious as to why men hardly ever wore cologne. I don’t know about everyone else,  but a man that smells good is  a HUGE asset! Think about how your sense of smell dictates so much…whether you will enter a room/restaurant, whether you will eat it or throw it away, whether you will stand next to him/her or not, whether you feel nauseated or not… but it also plays a huge part in the law of attraction. So many U.S. men don’t wear cologne any more. Some of them only wear it to “hide” smells. (I remember the teenage boys in middle school who didn’t bring home their gym clothes to be washed and sprayed them with AXE instead.) Gross… not the same. Well…guess what the men wear in Costa Rica? Cologne. A LOT OF IT. I mean, they must go through a bottle a week. OMG. Sometimes I can smell them coming from 6 feet away.  It’s like they rolled around and slept in the Brut warehouse all night. As with many things…there CAN be TOO MUCH of a good thing…

TRASH. It is definitely an issue here in many ways. First of all, I never know what day they are picking up the trash. Apparently, it is different everywhere. One of the other fishing charter owners gets his trash picked up 3 times a week. There are weeks we’ve gone without a single one. Most residences have these metal bins/boxes which are on a metal stand that are at the road where they throw their trash. Most places have one specifically for that home or complex (doesn’t mean others don’t throw their crap into it). The garbage people will only take what is properly secured in a plastic bag of some sort. So if people throw in cups, or other loose objects, they are likely to stay there until you add them to one of your bags. The house we are renting does not have one of these receptacles at the end of the driveway and so we hang ours in a tree. (as the owner has done since he built the house). It has to be off the ground to not get destroyed   by the raccoons, possums, etc. Ours hangs in a tree that has 4 inch spines growing along it’s trunk and branches…so I’m guessing that is why this tree was chosen. It’s a bit unnerving to pull up to the driveway and see 4 big black plastic trash bags hanging from the tree. The owner is a single man, so I’m assuming his trash load was quite different. We are a home of 3 and also bring home the trash created by our customers on the charters. Basically,  our tree looks like a spindly tree of black plastic pinatas.  I have no idea who the trash company is, no idea when they are coming (usually Thursday),  and no idea what time of day. We were giving the yard guy $20/month to pay the trash people until they showed up at the house the end of November demanding payment for April-December. (Remember, we had just moved in the end of October.)…so much for giving the yard guy the money.

If the trash wasn’t a big enough problem, we had another experience with having no water. When the yard guy showed up on the Saturday before New Year’s  spewing off some Spanish to me about the water being turned off and me not paying the bill. NOPE. I paid it. November AND December. Mind you, here… we don’t get bills. No mail. No bills. You either look up how much you owe online (through your online banking which connects you to services need to be paid) or you go to the office of the supplier and ask how much you owe and pay it. I pay my water bill at the local school. They accept payments  between the 20th and 23rd of the month (or was indicated in written instructions from the owner) from  4-6pm. Since we move in late October, I paid November. I paid December. Saturday, when Jose (the yard guy) tells me my water has been turned off, I freak… AND I don’t understand why. As Jose speaks NO ENGLISH WHATSOEVER…I am trying my best to understand why it’s turned off. He thinks I didn’t pay. I show him my receipt.  So he walked to the house of the ladyn charge of receiving the payments at the school and comes back and tells me it’s an error. They will turn it back on by the end of the day. GREAT. It’s Saturday. Tomorrow is Sunday and they won’t do it then….Monday is New Year’s Day and the Ticos must celebrate the CRAP out of New Year’s as they have cleaned out the grocery stores and invited every family member they have to celebrate with them.

Saturday comes and goes and no water. We drive around trying to find the lady’s house where Jose went to ask for assistance. to no avail. Great. We had spent the afternoon at the beach, and the sand grit in my hair and ears feels great. Nevermind the sticky oil on my torso and the sand grit stuck to the nape of my neck and hairline.  Out of desperation, we go back to the house looking for the water meter to see if there is a valve or something we can turn on.  We find it! Hubby  looks at me and says “should I turn it on or do you think we will get in trouble?”  My response, “HELL YES turn it on”.  So, he gets a wrench and turns it on…and it starts filling up the hole and overflowing where we are…..wait…it’s not getting to the tank!?!?!?!? It looks like that “bubbling crude” coming up in the pre-empt of the Beverly Hillbillies TV show except it’s not “black gold” it’s “brown muddy water”. UGH. How the heck to get it turned off? So after much cussing, bug crawling, scooping, panic and turning of the wrench (yes…now it’s now dark outside and his hand is in this muddy hole that is filled with water and trying to close the valve)…he gets it closed again.  Well..Hell. That didn’t work. So he feels around a bit. (something I wouldn’t do in a scorpion, cockroach, tarantula laden country)Why didn’t it work? Because they have REMOVED the meter/pipe connector that ties the municipality water line to our water line. We are SCREWED. Crap. Bathing will apparently consist of a dip in the salt-water pool….ugh.

The next morning, through connections on the beach, we are told where this woman lives. We go to her house trying to figure out why they have cut us off. There are MANY days I wish I had taken 4 years of Spanish and not 4 years of French. To make a longer story short. The bills we paid in November in December only brought the water bill current to October. Yep. The owner was behind. THANKS for that. We will take it out of the rent. And the instructions to pay from the 20th-23rd? No bueno. It’s due on the 15th. PERIOD. After that, you pay late charges. After the 20th, they may cut you off. Duh. Another Costa Rican adventure….

That is how 2017 ended. What a year. As I previously stated, APPARENTLY the Costa Ricans like the New Year. The town was FILLED with people. I mean FILLED. Not just foreigners..but every land-locked 20-30 something year-old Costa Rican must’ve come to the beach ready to PAR-TAY into the New Year. New Year’s Eve morning at 5am…they were boom-boxing electronica on the beach. Dancing, smoking, drinking, gyrating. Mad house. It was crazy and difficult to get  our vehicle through the parking lot to get the supplies to the boats for our scheduled charters.  We had 2 charters heading out in the morning and we had to arrive extra-early. By 7am…the BOOM BOOM BOOM of the beat (which carried the same base-line through every tune) was about to drive me bonkers. One of our guests said they had heard it going on all night long. The beaches were PACKED. And the grocery stores utilized primarily by the locals was PACKED. We had been told that Christmas-New Year’s is the busiest week of the year..and now I believe it.  Heck, we had 17 charters in 7 days! Wall-to-wall traffic and people lined our little town…many of them Costa Ricans. The trash they produced was immense.  Hoping the trash pick-up in town is more dependable  than they are in the outskirts….




It’s beginning to look a lot like…

As everyone seems to wonder at this point of the year…”Where did the year go?” I can’t believe we’ve already been here 4 1/2 months.  I can’t believe it’s the end to another year. However,  it seems it was FOREVER ago that I had my Virginia home decorated (to the nines) for Christmas. Last year, we had 14 Christmas trees, 65 nutcrackers, outside decor, inside decor extravaganza, festive music playing, house lit-up inside and out,  tons of packages under the tree. This year, we have 2 skinny trees…one without a topper neither have a skirt… almost no ornaments, don’t turn them on…no Christmas nutcrackers…no other decorations… It just doesn’t feel like Christmas here. Christmas has always been filled with family and friends…and they aren’t here. Not to dismiss my husband and daughter, but it just emphasizes that Christmas Day will feel like any other day here.

Instead, I have chosen to view the “Christmas Spirit” differently here. Christmas means tourists in Tamarindo and tourists mean business. We have been anxiously awaiting “Season” to happen, and I’d rather have that than anything else. Christmas week is one of the busiest weeks here AND it’s the “real” kick-off for the busy season. For the past month or so the hostels and surf camps have had an increase in business. Now the hotels, boutique inns, and fishing charters are reaping some of the rewards. We are all hoping that the tourist season will be especially strong after the hurricanes in the Caribbean this year. Time will tell!

GONE is the rain. We are officially in SUMMER. Yes…no more rain…until May. I mean NO MORE. No sprinkles, showers, spitting, nothing. Crazy to imagine. All of this lush, beautiful greenery is going to turn brown. (Or they call it Golden here) With the dry season, we are now experiencing the Papagayo winds…which are tremendous. Last night, it sounded like a hurricane. We had a number of days last week that had extreme wind (which are not good for a fishing business) and we had to do some re-scheduling in order to accommodate our guests. The winds are crazy. You can wake up in the morning and there is no movement in the trees whatsoever. Two hours later, a light breeze comes flows through. Shortly after that, you are closing doors and chasing little pieces paper around your house because the gusts are huge. Lamps falling over, placemats flying through the room, margarita glasses blowing off the table… (


As it IS the “most wonderful time of the year”, this also means it is  time to pay your marchamo . The marchamo is the annual road tax that has to be paid on every vehicle circulating in the country of Costa Rica.  This tax HAS to be paid by the 31st of December or you risk fines, licenses plates being confiscated, and/or impound of your car or motorcycle. The glorious social media platform Facebook alerted me of the need to pay our marchamo.  Fortuitously,  I have joined a number of Costa Rica expat groups and saw a posting of the marchamo payment window.  There are a number of places where you can pay, but I went to the bank. Yes. the bank. Again. However, it was a very simple process. I took in a picture (on my phone) of our license plate and the teller took the money and provided me with the decal required for 2018 and a receipt. Easy Peasy.  The amount due is based upon the value of your vehicle, of which 69.5% of that amount goes to the Ministerio de Hacienda (tax department), 18.8% goes to the INS which is a mandatory insurance department/policy covering your vehicle and the 11.7% balance goes to institutional and municipality highway safety agencies.

Another new experience this past week was our first visit with a veterinarian. I reached out to one of the 2 local veterinarians that had been highly recommended. Last Sunday, my pup wasn’t himself…shaking, needy..different. On top of that, I had recently noticed some fatty tumor growing on his chest. Although not a young pup, (9 1/2 years), I wanted to make sure it wasn’t anything serious…especially after finding another small one under one of his front legs. He also has had some ear irritation. So last Sunday, I sent a Facebook messenger AND a WhatsApp message to the vet. Guess what? She responded that day! Sunday! AND made an appointment for Monday! The BEST part? She comes to YOU….at YOUR HOUSE. No kidding! She is another expat from Montana, came to Costa Rica several years ago on a vacation, met a guy (now her husband) and has a mobile vet practice. She came to us, took samples from his ear and both fatty tumors…spent about 40 minutes talking with us and then charged us…oh wait maybe THIS is the BEST part…$45. Needless to say…I love this vet now.

The recent tragedy experienced in our household has been the death of our coffee pot. Not the coffee maker/machine….but the glass pot that goes with it. I am desperately trying to not have to drive to Liberia to find one and we have spent the last few weeks trying to find a more local replacement. First, we drove to Santa Cruz to a recommended store..on a Sunday. Closed. Then, we tried another store…where our only option was to d buy a  new machine. Desperate for something, we returned to that store (about to relinquish in a purchase of the whole shebang) and the young man told me of a store in nearby Huacas that had what I needed. Yahtzee! So, the following day, we drove to Huacas. The store in Huacas…Closed. Funny..said it should be open. A man in the parking lot told me to come back Monday. Open Monday 8:30-Noon.   Monday…I drove back to Huacas at 10am. Closed. So here I sit… Somethings aren’t as easy here as they are in the States….

And now for a “head’s up” for those considering moving here. What you think may be important in the States…you probably won’t find so important here. Even personal things. Last time I got my hair cut? July. Last time I colored it? July. All my favorite make-up I bought lots of because I knew I couldn’t find it here? Stupid. Haven’t really touched it. Sometimes…SOMETIMES…I will use some eyeshadow, eyeliner and bronzer powder. Period. No foundation. No blush. No setting powder. No contour powder. Almost never on the mascara. Nope…don’t use it. Clothes? I think I wear the same 5 things over and over (feel like a guy). Sometimes, when we go out to dinner…I wear something else..but that seems to still be a rotation of the same 4 outfits. I will do anything to avoid wearing a traditional bra. Sports bra? Okay…but wearing some of the tight-fitting or traditional things worn in the USA that you are going to sweat in here….not so much. It’s all about practicality and comfort here….. but a huge tip  and recent discovery for those aghast at my lack of caring about make-up, clothes, shoes and haircolor…. If you pull your hair into a TIGHT bun on the top of your head…it pulls out a number of the wrinkles in your forehead and crow’s feet. Just a makeover tip for you….no charge.





It’s the holidays?


Well, this past week was a bit different. I left on Thanksgiving Day and flew back to the USA. I was going to visit family AND to mule back some things needed that we cannot get in Costa Rica…or get easily or affordably.  The thing I was MOST excited about bringing back was my griddle. I LOVE pancakes and they just don’t taste the same to me in a frying pan as they do on a griddle. That and some fishing stuff…and I was going to be SET.

When I arrived at the airport in Liberia, the process was easy and uneventful. As I sat down at my designated “Gate 6” (there are only a handful of gates at this airport), my phone informed me I was to now move to “Gate 3”. Most flights from the Liberia airport to the eastern U.S. seem to leave in the 1-2pm. Moments after being re-seated, the crew announces we are going to be delayed as our plane has just arrived and it needs to be serviced. (How much time do I have to connect in Atlanta?)  Literally, SECONDS later…they start the boarding process. Psych.  Must not have been a dirty group of previous passengers. During the boarding process, (as in many foreign countries), every few people are pulled aside for a more “thorough inspection”. Apparently, I won that ticket. Me? ((“Hey! (I’m thinking in my head). I’m ‘your people’ now. I live here!”)) Obviously, and possibly thankfully, they don’t hear the rant within my head. I had to take out my computer, take out my iPad, take out my phone, take out my plastic bag of liquids, take off my shoes…ugh. Sit down, swipe my palms, swipe my phone, swipe my computer bag handle…  Guess I was looking a bit shady….

Arriving in Atlanta, immigration is a breeze. The first thing I notice when exiting customs is the soldier with an AK-47 or something strapped across his chest. That REALLY felt odd to me. Costa Rica doesn’t have ANY form of military (since 1948). The country’s budget previously dedicated to the military is now used for security, education and culture. The literacy rate in Costa Rica is amazing. As of 2017, 97.8% of the people over the age of 15 can read and write. Education expenditures in the USA are about 3.5% of the GDP, In Costa Rica, education expenditures are about 7.6% of the GDP. Approximately 30% of Costa Rica’s national budget is spent on education. The students wear uniforms here in order to keep social and economic distinctions transparent.  Education is both free AND mandatory in Costa Rica.

So back to my trip….I check in at Atlanta, put my luggage back through and then pass through security. This is when I learn that apparently rhinestones and studs (which spell Hard Rock Cafe on the front of my shirt) are cause to get a feel-up from TSA. I mean FEEL UP. She rubbed her hands up and down my chest more than…. well you get the picture. All due to the studs and rhinestones…AND they are VISIBLY on the front of my shirt! Guess which shirt I did NOT wear back”?

The week in the States was awesome. I spent a number of days helping my parents put up their Christmas stuff. I’ve always I always thought it must be difficult to get into the Christmas spirit in FLORIDA. Doesn’t “feel” like Christmas…doesn’t “look” like a Christmas card. We didn’t really have “white” Christmases in Virginia, but at least it was cooler, the leaves were off the trees and you wore something besides shorts. Well….look what I did…I moved to Costa Rica.

Some things I have really missed…like the selection at the grocery store. Some things I really don’t miss….like the traffic. Observations while visiting the States…  I DON’T miss any of the restaurants; I DO miss the selections of  spices; I DO miss the selection and pricing of cleaning products; I DO miss the ease of access to these things; I DON’T miss wearing business attire (even my high heels), I DO miss AMAZON; I DO miss some of my winter clothes and boots; I DO miss our recliner leather sofas, I DON’T miss the taste of the USA drinking water; I DON’T miss the media/news; I DON’T miss driving in the USA. – While in Tampa, I drove on the interstate across town to get some items and  I was NOT comfortable! Albeit, I was also in a low-riding vehicle (Daddy’s vette)..but I haven’t driven over 30-35mph in 4 months! Felt like wuss….

So now, I’m back in Costa Rica. Christmas is going to be VERY different this year and I have VERY mixed emotions. Part of my journey back to the U.S. last week was to bring back some of my other ornaments, but I had too much stuff in my suitcases. I “muled” some items for our other fishing business friends here in Tamarindo and also wanted to bring back some spices and household things I have missed while here. For those who don’t know me or don’t know me well….I used to go ALL OUT at Christmas. Last year, I decorated our Virginia home with 14 Christmas trees, 65 nutcrackers, and various other decor. This year, I have 2 “skinny” trees I brought from the U.S., and a handful of ornaments. So other than that, some napkins and a Christmas Village item I brought from the States, that’s all I have. PLUS it DEFINITELY doesn’t feel “Christmasy” here. Heck…we are entering SUMMER.  The other REALLY difficult part of this move is not having my son around for the holidays for the VERY first time (he’s 23). I get emotional just thinking about it….

So here we are in a tropical paradise (no complaints), rains have gone, winds have picked up, no flat tires lately (knock on wood), ginormous grasshoppers have waned greatly (YEAH),  tourists are picking up, charters are picking up and we are finally getting into a rhythm….until we broke the glass coffee pot this week….now another scavenger hunt begins..   oh…by the way….I still don’t have my griddle