Saturday, January 06, 2007

Home Sweet home....in Costa Rica!

I’m back in sunny Costa Rica and I am sure glad to be here! While I enjoy visiting the United States, even if it is primarily for my surgeries (one more left and hopefully that’s it!), I think I enjoy it less and less each time. This time, during my visit was particularly interesting considering during that President Ford died, Saddam was executed and most sadly, my good friend/Godson’s brother died. I think I’ll stay away for a while.

I definitely don’t miss the hustle and bustle of the U.S. I actually tired very quickly of so many people where I was (mainly New York and Washington, DC) coming and going, traffic, noise, and more often than not, general rudeness. I know not everyone is rude in the U.S., heck I lived there for the first 40 years of my life,

I did, though, have a great time running around Washington, DC, going to some holiday parties, celebrating New Year’s Eve there and seeing friends. My Godson is working on a paper for his landscape architecture class so the pictures for this blog entry are the various sites in Washington. I lived there for 15 years, made some terrific close friends and will always remember my time there.

First things first….

What does one do when he returns home to Costa Rica? Well, there are many things but the first and most important thing is to hug my dogs Reina and Osita. I wanted to talk with them while I was in the U.S., but I still cannot understand barks (it’s tougher than Spanish believe me). When I first saw them, they were eating dinner and while they turned and took note of me, they promptly went back to eating. Nothing, and I do mean nothing, interrupts their meal time! They did eventually come over and climb all over me but they were not as enthusiastic as the last time I was gone (for two months and they were at the vet’s office). Perhaps it is because I was gone for less than a month. It could be that they are finally maturing into adults and slowly but surely breaking away from their “father.” Whatever it is, I was sure glad to see them.

The second thing one does when returing to such a stunning environment is to reaquaint oneself with the scenery. Fortunately, nothing had changed on that score. The mountains were still many shades of green and right where I left them. The valleys were deep and busy with animals and all sorts of flowers, trees and plants.

After the first two things to do upon returning to Costa Rica, the rest of them don’t seem to matter as much, except to remember to enjoy living in paradise despite how busy we may get. It is going to be busy year for me—tours, real estate, and more—but I aim to “smell the coffee” at least once each day no matter how busy I may get.

Trying again on gardening….

Last year we tried our hand at having a vegetable garden and were mildly successful. It could have been a bigger and better garden but I think our timing was off for some of the vegetables and other issues got in the way of keeping it up. This year, however, I hope it will be different, and no matter what is going on, I plan to find the time to keep it up.

I have this wonderful greenhouse that I’m starting to use again. I’ve got 35 pots with seeds in them and I’m hoping that this year—a few months from now—we’ll start to see plants ready for the garden. While I like a variety of vegetables, I’ve started out with the basics this year: tomatoes, lettuce, peppers, onions, carrots, herbs and other items I’m currently forgetting. We’ve mastered the chickens by getting up to ten eggs a day so I’m hoping the garden will provide our salad stuff. If it all works out, I suspect I will have more vegetables than I’ll need, but giving them away is part of the fun of it—or I could set up my own roadside stand—well, maybe not. Now, if I could only learn how to maintain a few cows and pigs, our farm would be almost complete. We’ll see as I have enough time doing everything else!

Dry Season?

I made some predictions in an earlier blog about the dry season being here but I was flatly wrong about that. During my first few days home it has been sunny and warm and I hope this trend continues. It’s supposed to be the dry season and I suspect it is, but I’m not making any predictions any longer. I’ll just enjoy our 75+ degree weather and leave it at that.

Thanks for reading and for your comments. More soon!

Pura Vida!

Andrew
andrew4cr@gmail.com
www.BoomersInCostaRica.com (4-day/3 night relocation/retirement tour!)
www.CostaRicaRealEstate.typepad.com (Boomers in Costa Rica blog!)
www.AngelValleyFarmBandB.com (the B&B!)

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Hola from New York City!

I am visiting New York again and will be in the area for one month. Last time I was in New York for an extended period of time—this past February—I got a bit of criticism from anonymous commentors (why not post your name?!) asking me how I could be away from the B&B for a month, particularly during the high season? It is a good question (though really not anyone’s business but mine) so I wanted to answer this question here and set the record straight.

Since I moved to Costa Rica, I’ve been back in the U.S. three times, and never for fun/vacation. I’ve only visited the U.S. because I’ve had to have series of serious surgeries to fend off a potentially fatal disease and my doctor in Costa Rica thought it would be better for me to have these surgeries here. That’s the deal. I should also mention that I have a very good manager/staff and all is taken care of at the B&B while I am gone. Now back to more fun stuff!

Being a New Yorker again….

It is very fun being here again, especially at Christmas time. The city is bustling with activity and the shoppers are out in force. I spent several hours at Macy’s today, just wandering around checking out the huge selection of things for sale. Costa Rica has a lot to offer but certainly does not have the variety of products you can get here—which is just fine with me honestly.

Each time I come back here I do go through “sticker shock” as I’m continually amazed at what it costs to live here. These days you cannot find a decent hotel for under $250/night, expect to spend $50 for dinner, and between taxis, and other items, it takes a lot to be here. However, the sites and sounds of the city make up for it and I always enjoy my time here (even with the surgeries).

I am definitely no longer a city person even though I was here for a long time. It’s just too much sensory overload and I think as I get older I’m getting used to the countryside in Costa Rica and more than that, the fact I can nearly everything I need easily in my quaint little town of San Ramon! If I can get back sooner than one month, I will!

Boomers Tour!

Alex and I had our December “Boomers in Costa Rica Tour” (www.boomersincostarica.com) for four days last week and what a terrific time it was! We toured the towns of Escazu, Santa Ana, Grecia, Naranjo, Atenas and our home town, San Ramon. We had some great meals and spent a lot of time going over how to move here, what to expect after moving here and of course, where to find affordable real estate deals. One of the best things we did was to introduce our clients to many of our friends in these towns and think our clients feel very comfortable knowing there are other people living here who are just like them. It makes the transition easier and makes them more confident in their decision to move here. The pictures on this entry are from the tour. (To see pictures, go here: http://www.travelblog.org/Central-America-Caribbean/Costa-Rica/San-Ramon/blog-110935.html)

Doing tours of the Central Valley is more fun than I thought it would be. It is a terrific feeling to have people come to trust us for our knowledge of Costa Rica and to provide them with an honest assessment of living here, and most importantly, in buying real estate here. We’ve seen so many shady developments and brokers here so filtering out these people and deals is helpful to our clients as we want them to be happy with their choices as we don’t just do the tour and walk away—they’re life-long clients and likely new friends and neighbors!

That’s it for now. I’ll have more when there is more to say!

Pura Vida!

Andrew
andrew4cr@gmail.com
www.BoomersInCostaRica.com (4-day/3 night relocation/retirement tour!)
www.CostaRicaRealEstate.typepad.com (Boomers in Costa Rica blog!)
www.AngelValleyFarmBandB.com (the B&B!)

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Misc. Ramblings

Summer is in the air in Central America

Spring is in full swing here meaning its raining less and summer is just around the corner. After a full onslaught of guests in recent weeks, things have quieted down a little in the last two weeks and that has enabled us to do some spring cleaning and to spruce up the B&B. It didn’t need much work, but change isn’t bad in this case. Terry, our new manager, has painted many of the rooms in uniquely tropical colors and reorganized the living area. His re-do definitely opened up the living space a bit and it is now more conducive to meeting other guests, having conversations, reading, or just relaxing. Since the last time we did some work on the rooms and common areas it was during the initial refurbishment of the entire B&B when first moving here, it was good to freshening things up—and painting always does the trick! We also made some curtains for some of the bathrooms. While it is nice to have large windows with plenty of sunlight coming through, bare windows are not conducive to privacy!

Road work!

The other major work we have been doing lately is on the 500-meter dirt driveway to the B&B. It’s a long road for sure and it does get abused during the rainy season, and this year was no exception (though it wasn’t as bad as last year). So I had my friend Ben, who is the top real estate developer in the San Ramon area, bring in his crackerjack crew to re-work the road including adding real drainage pipes, smoothing out the rough areas, adding a large rock base to the road in key spots, and cutting back some brush and dead trees to allow for more sunlight (and thus, enabling the road to dry more easily after rain storms). The crew is still working on it but these changes should keep the road in good condition for nearly a decade.

In other road work, I’m amazed (or maybe not so amazed) that some of the major road issues on the autopista between here and San Jose have still not been repaired. In a couple of spots, parts of the payment on the edge of the road have just fallen into the valleys below. The government is good about putting up warning cones and so on to ensure no cars go down the steep hills off the road, but on one rather large cave-in of the road, it has been several months since the road broke up and nothing has happened. Oh, well, there is not much I can do about it I suppose except to hope the road crews get to it in my lifetime.

Economic Growth in CR and good gringos (Ticos) vs. bad gringos (Ticos).

There has been a lot of chatter recently on various blogs and some comments on one of my past blog entries about economic development here in Costa Rica, gringos moving in, gringos ripping off Ticos and related subjects. So, I just want to chime in and provide my perspective, right or wrong.

I’ve heard a number of ex-pats say recently, either directly to me or through others, that “they don’t want Tico life to change” and that “they like things just the way they are.” Apparently, some people are increasingly miffed about life in Costa Rica changing, particularly in smaller towns like San Ramon, and that they don’t want economic development. My response to that is: “Has anyone asked the Ticos what they want?” I imagine there are many Ticos who also don’t want to see much change and they like their towns just the way they are, thank you very much. Change can bring many problems of course. However, there are also many Ticos who welcome change and the money and employment activities that ex-pats bring to the country. I personally do not think change is a bad thing if done correctly. If housing developments, etc., are done in an environmental friendly manner and don’t impede on what Ticos desire, then it shouldn’t be a problem. Obviously, change will occur and there is not much we can do to stop it. It just needs to be done well and in consideration of everyone’s needs.

I’m also concerned about thoughts that many ex-pats, particularly Americans are here ripping off Ticos and that is all we do. I’ve heard references to various businesses such as B&Bs, real estate ventures, retirement/relocation tours, and other businesses. Yes, there are definitely many Americans ripping off Ticos and equally, other Americans. It happens all the time here. However, there are also many good Americans here who have good businesses and provide significant value for their products or services. It isn’t good to lump them all together. As someone else has suggested, if we can all work with the good people and refer customers to other good people, we’ll all do well and ensure our reputation as guests in this country, is not ruined.

There are bad gringos here and good gringos here. There are also good and bad Ticos. I cannot count how many times items at a market came out to double their posted price somehow, or more recently how I was charged for two dog haircuts instead of one (I caught the charge well after I left) and numerous other cases. Some are innocent mistakes but others are not. There seems to be this misnomer among some in the gringo community that Ticos are these innocent people who don’t understand business, who lead very simple lives, are not interested in making money, and in fact, don’t understand much about our complex world. I can tell you that in my own dealings with them that this is not always the case. Sure, many of them are not active in business and truly do lead lives reminescent of days past, but there are also many Ticos who are sharp business people, spot a gringo a mile away, and know how to make money. So to those people who assume Ticos are all the same and claim to know their interests and ethics, take a look around more broadly. As in any open society and culture, not everyone is the same, and it isn’t helpful to lump people together, whether Ticos or gringos.

I’ve also heard recently comments such as “I didn’t come to this country for it to be like the U.S.”and “I came here to live away from America and just among Ticos” (I’m paraphrasing). The fact is, Costa Rica, while perhaps considered the “wild west” for a lot of Americans who are considering moving here, or are already here, it is not that unless you live in very small towns on the fringes of the country, or go live among the Bribri or other indigenous peoples. Costa Rica, while poorer compared to the U.S., is hardly a third world country compared to a lot of countries, particularly countries to the north on this ithmus. Ticos are heavily influenced by North America from television to clothing to the movies and more. It’s just a fact of life. If people want to live in a completely foreign culture and not see American influences (or even other Americans), then I would suggest other countries, such as Bolivia, Uruguay, or Ecuador. And, even in these far-flung places, they won’t be like they are now forever. It’s just how it is here, and around the world, for good or bad. Development will continue to occur—it’s just a matter of how it occurs—and hopefully it will be done respectfully, with everyone’s needs taken into consideration to the extent possible.

Finally, and to end my thoughts on this subject, I know many Americans move overseas for various reasons, one of which is (particularly in the last six years), that they don’t like the politics in their country of citzenship or cannot stand the administration in power. I understand this completely. However, outside of politics, I’m very proud to be an American and will always defend and support my country. We are also representatives of our country when living abroad and it is important for us to be good ambassadors for our home country.

Osita is now mulatto!

I took Reina and Osita to the vet the other day for their regular checkup. They did well and they remain in excellent health. While there, I asked the vet to bath both of them thoroughly and trim Osita’s hair. Osita has wild, thick hair that goes in all directions and hence her name, “Osita,” which is “teddy bear” in English. I thought I told the vet to just tirm her hair and clean her up a bit. Well, the vet’s assitant shaved off her hair completely! I was shocked when I went back to pick them up and Osita was mostly white with some brown spots! She really does look mulatto. Well, it will grow back thankfully. Funny, she is smaller than Reina without the hair! I’m sure she feels better too with less hair. We’ll see how long it takes for her hair to grow back!

That’s all for now. Happy Thanksgiving! We have many things to be thankful for!

Pura Vida!

Andrew
andrew4cr@gmail.com
www.AngelValleyFarmBandB.com (the B&B!)
www.BoomersInCostaRica.com (4-day/3 night relocation/retirement tour!)
www.CostaRicaRealEstate.typepad.com (Boomers in Costa Rica blog!)

Monday, November 06, 2006

On Being an Inkeeper, etc.

It’s that time of year again. In a few weeks, the rainy season should be just a memory and the next six or seven months will be filled with bright sunshine and few clouds. The bumpy dirt road leading to the B&B will become nearly dusty, the green fields surrounding us will eventually turn from a vivid, deep green to something approaching a yellowish brown, and the days will get a bit warmer. As my friends and family in the northeastern U.S. begin to settle in for winter, here we’re getting ready summer.

While it wasn’t a particularly bad rainy season, likely due to the lack of hurricanes, thankfully, in the Gulf of Mexico, waking from the rainy season isn’t unlike the arrival of spring in the U.S. It’s as if everything gets a fresh coat of paint. And, the people here seem friendlier too in the dry season (not that they aren’t already very friendly).

There are other signs that summer is coming as well. Thanksgiving and Christmas are just around the corner and there’s a definite up tick in tourists throughout the country, including here at the B&B. It is still a bit odd to me equating Christmas with summertime, however, I guess the weather doesn’t take away from the joy of the season (though I do miss at least some snow). The roads become more passable after being victimized by heavy rains, big trucks and the inevitable potholes that return during each rainy season.

Inkeeping….

At the B&B, it’s also a time of change. In addition to welcoming many new guests—and returning guests—as the season approaches, it is a time for coming out of a mild hibernation of sorts, making sure everything works, giving our rooms a deep cleaning (and in some cases a fresh coat of paint), and preparing the grounds for much more activity than in the rainy season. It’ll also soon be time to prepare yet another vegetable garden, hoping our lessons learned last year will result in a more abundant bounty this year.

The other day I had an email from someone in Colorado asking me about what it takes t room a place like ours. So, here goes. Now that I’ve had a decent amount of time under my belt as an innkeeper, including two rainy seasons, I’m beginning to discover the routine inherent in this profession. Or, at least I’ve now been able to step back and made some mental notes on what it takes to be successful. Yes, there are many things that need to done in the day of an innkeeper. Here’s a partial list:

• Try to get up before any of the guests do;
• Turn off the outdoor lights from the night before;
• Make coffee, and early;
• Prepare breakfast—varying the choices each days—and the do the dishes;
• Check guests in and out;
• Read email several times a day for reservations;
• Prepare rooms for arriving guests (or clean rooms after departing guests);
• Respond to huge array of guest requests from arranging for a taxi to planning sightseeing activities;
• Dust, mop, wipe, polish, and any other activity associated with cleaning;
• Wash guest sheets and towels—an almost daily activity;
• Shop for food, cleaning supplies and other items needed for the B&B; and
• Many other things!

In the end, however, no matter how grand or modest one’s inn, hotel, B&B, guesthouse or whatever else you want to call it is, as long as the basic things are done well, it really does comes down to how the innkeeper interacts with his or her guests. While client pays for a room and breakfast, staying in a place like ours, it’s true that they tend to come for the broader “experience,” and yes, to interact with the innkeeper. Whether its just a passing interest in the business, a burning desire to do what I’ve done, or just simply to meet new people, clients come for the people—the owners, other guests, neighbors—as much as just having a place to rest one’s body and soul.

Actually, cleaning, preparing breakfast, taking reservations and all of the other tasks involved in running a place like ours is a relatively uneventful, and possibly even mundane, series of activities. One way or another, these activities will get done, hopefully well, and they are fairly automatic. However, the “people interaction” is the singular activity one needs to have the personality for and interest in (or get used to), if one wants to be in this business. A B&B is open 365 days a year, and while there are some days without guests, you must always be “on” to run a successful operation. Now, this doesn’t mean faking your interest in one’s guests. It means that while you may be inviting guests into your home, your home is your business and you need to treat it as such. Not feeling well? Breakfast still needs to be made. Sorely need a few days to get away to the beach? Sometimes tough to schedule with guests always coming and going. Want to spend hours by yourself reading or doing something else one’s own? Not gonna happen very often.

Despite some of the negatives, running a B&B is still a terrific opportunity for anyone who wants to meet interesting people from many places, learn from others, and just take pride in providing a good service.

Other news & notes….

Osita and Reina (our terrific dogs) are about 16 months old now, and from the looks of it, they’re almost fully grown. They are still a bit raucous, but I am now seeing signs that they are finally moving from being children I inevitably have to clean up after to adults. Like humans, they’re finally sleeping through the night and they are actually beginning to follow my orders, particularly when its time to put them back in their pen. I’ve also noted they’re not chewing up everything in site! While owning dogs isn’t always easy, I’ve decided I wouldn’t have it any other way. Just seeing them wagging their tails like crazy (and even Osita moaning with joy) each morning when I first see them and feed them, is reason enough. They’re probably the best ambassadors of the B&B!

Several people asked how our new chickens are doing. We recently acquired 10 new chickens to replace the non-producing ones. I’m happy to report we’re getting on average, 8-12 eggs a day! We’re also “free-ranging” the chickens, letting them roam the property each afternoon. They definitely seem happier being able to run around the yard—and they’re great for the garden. While I don’t have a lot of prior experience with chickens, I’m finding that while they are not “man’s best friend,” by any means, they actually do appear to feel some connection to their owners. Lately, I’ve noticed them following me around as I move about the yard and they seem not to fear me.

I’m discovering things I’ve never known about animals since living here. A few days back I stopped on my out along our driveway, as I often do, to say hi to our neighbors—cows—who roam along our driveway (on the other side of the fence though!). I don’t know really know what one does with cows. With dogs, you can put your hand out and it’ll sniff you and get to know you a bit, but I just have no experience with cows besides knowing the as entrees. So, the other day, I put my hand near one cow’s nose, and sure enough, he sniffed my hand, and then, licked my hand! Cows have rough tongues!

It’s been an amazing experience these past 6-8 months preparing to kick off our Boomers in Costa Rica Tours (www.boomersincostarica.com). With several clients coming in December and through February, it is going to be terrific for me and Alex to show people this wonderful country and impart our knowledge on moving here, living here, and buying real estate here. When we assess the many things we’ve learned in our time year, even small things, it is truly amazing how much we now know (and didn’t know before getting here) compared to people in North America or Europe just now pondering a move here. We were in the same boat not too long ago. We read everything online we could get our hands on from real estate sites to online forums to books. We studied the different locations, possible businesses, types of real estate and so much more. However, once we got here, we learned what it takes to live here, and live here well. It’ll be fun to share this with others, and in particular, share out excitement about being here.

In preparing for the tours, I have been struck by how things have come together so nicely among many of us who are like minded in our small city of San Ramon. It seems, almost haphazardly, that we’ve formed a terrific network of people, all working together and all having complimentary businesses and services that feed off one another. And, most importantly, it is a network of people with businesses all of us would recommend to others without any reservations. That’s the key issue I think in living here and having a successful business: finding the right people—people with integrity—who share your passion and can help you be better at what you do.

Summer’s almost here so come on down and see us sometime!

That’s all for now. Keep your comments coming!

Pura Vida!

Andrew
andrew4cr@gmail.com
www.AngelValleyFarmBandB.com (the B&B!)
www.BoomersInCostaRica.com (4-day/3 night relocation/retirement tour!)
www.CostaRicaRealEstate.typepad.com (Boomers in Costa Rica blog!)

Sunday, October 08, 2006

A Dinner Party Every Night at the B&B!

Food, food and more food….

I must admit I do love it when I have guests of the B&B who love food, and love to cook! I do fairly well preparing breakfast, but dinner is still beyond my modest talents. This month is definitely a fun one at the B&B! We have some terrific long-term guests including Deb & Bob who are considering moving here, Reene (from my former home of Washington, DC), an architect who is here for a month working on on a land development project, and Jake, who is also considering moving here. They’re all very fun and enjoy good food. Bob in particular loves to cook as he finds it relaxing and has offered to cook for the group as often as we’d like. Can life get any better!? I think my new marketing slogan for the B&B is going to be: “Breakfast and a dinner party included every day!”

Last night’s dinner included an incredible chicken dish with perfectly cooked rice, fried onions, peppers, and….okay, I need to stop!

Most importantly, though, it’s so incredible meeting new people from all over. One learns so many new things from new people and finds out about the many perspectives on life whether it’s about moving to Costa Rica, U.S. politics, and more.

Meeting new people….

It’s been fun meeting new people who have moved to San Ramon, including my newest friends Preston and Mike. Both 22 from the U.S., they moved to San Ramon just three months ago, right after finishing college. They’ve already “turned heads” in San Ramon, partly because they outfitted their entire home with everything available from “Maxi Bodega” (a combination of Walmart/grocery store—an incidentally owned by Walmart), including, I think, even the kitchen sink! Preston (from Rochester, NY), like me, is a huge Yankees fan and my DirecTV with ESPN provided the perfect venue for watching the Yankees go down in flames in the American League Division series. Somehow, though, Preston managed to get his laundry done while here!

Already entrepreneurs, they’re working on some very interesting land projects in the area and it’s been fun working with them. They’re bringing tremendous energy and a breath of fresh air to San Ramon, and more importantly, they plan to give back to the area by donating some of the profits from their work to the local community. I’ll provide more details as the project develops and the website goes live. Should be interesting though!

Also, in my work to kick off “Boomers in Costa Rica Tours,” I’ve met many terrific people throughout the Central Valley including Isabelle and Howard, land developers/real estate agents in Atenas. They’re involved in opening an American school in Atenas (email me if you want more information) so we attended a fundraiser at “Ricks’ Internet Café” in Atenas. I think I’m getting to know the ex-pats in Atenas as well as the ex-pats in San Ramon at this point. While I love San Ramon, it’s always good to know there are great people in some of the other towns in the area.

Weather update….

I’ve been asked what the weather has been like lately in the area. I’m pleased to say that it has been terrific! We’ve been having very sunny mornings and early afternoons with only a few showers in the afternoon. In fact, it hasn’t even been raining every day! So far, this rainy season has been both warm and a lot less rainy than last year. If we can make through October, we’ll be well on our way to the dry season!

That’s all for now! Thanks for reading and for your comments! Keep ‘em coming!

Pura Vida!

Andrew
andrew4cr@gmail.com
www.AngelValleyFarmBandB.com (the B&B!)
www.BoomersInCostaRica.com (4-day relocation/retirement tour!)
www.CostaRicaRealEstate.typepad.com (relocation blog!)

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Exploring the area, Keeping Busy, and Dealing with the Government….

Zarcero and around….

This past weekend Jake (a long term guest of the B&B) and I did a one-day road trip up to Zarcero, a neat little town about 20 minutes north of me. We were both curious about the towns surrounding Zarcero as we had both been there before. For both of us, we wondered if any gringos lived in the area and if there were any good real estate deals. From prior knowledge, it was our sense that the Zarcero area was a little remote, and perhaps at little cool for most people. It reminds of the Pacific Northwest of the U.S. more than the tropics! But we explored the area with full anticipation that we’d discover at least something interesting.

Jake fortunately found a halfway decent map of the area on the Internet—well, it had at least a few of the surrounding towns noted—but certainly not all of them. The best part of the trip was just picking a road leading out of Zarcero and seeing it where it would take us. In a few cases the road ended fairly quickly and became a dirt road before long. I wasn’t willing to risky taking my often-ill Trooper on these roads. So after a few tires, we found a road we liked. I have no idea what road we go on but we did figure out that we were heading north/northeast of Zarcero and our intention was to do a loop, eventually hitting a town called Bajos del Toro, and then making our way back to Zarcero, and finally home.

The road north and east of Zarcero was a lot of fun. Even though we didn’t have wide views of the various valleys and mountains due to significant cloud cover on this day, we did get to see some amazing canyons along the way, dropping off by the side of the road for hundreds of feet. I liked this area. It felt very “untouched” and we probably saw two cars the entire town we were making our loop.

The road was remarkably well paved and maintained with concrete water gutters for such a remote area. This didn’t appear to be a heavily traveled road nor did it appear to be a truck route, because as we found out, the road became hard-packed dirt/stone after about 15 kilometers, and went right through a national forest—one neither of knew existed.

We saw many “se vende”(for sale) signs along the road and we stopped numerous times to check out property. When you are on your own, it is hard to tell what you are looking at, but we did see some incredible view properties in the most pristine of settings. The only problem, again, is that this location seems too remote for most gringos. I like it though and someday I’m going to just live out there away from everyone! No television, no Internet, no phones! (okay, I take it back—I have to have television at a minimum!).

As we got close to the hamlet of Bajos del Toro, and the rains appeared to be closing in, we came across signs for a waterfall/restaurant so we pulled into to check it out. The “Carratera del Toro” is a terrific, largely unknown waterfall and hiking trail along the road we traveled. What a terrific find—and it did indeed start to rain—to spend some time looking at rushing torrent of water some 100 feet or so high, and have a decent lunch.

The drive back to San Ramon was somewhat eventful. We saw no less than three car wrecks, two of which involved large trucks, on the ride back. That made the trip back a bit slower. Costa Rica is known for having a high rate of car accidents. I think that while people know better, they just don’t slow down enough on the many hairpin turns and switchbacks!

This is one of the best parts of living in Costa Rica: having the chance to explore new places. For a country the size of West Virginia it offers so much to do and seems so much bigger—particularly when you are on small mountain roads.

Governments are about the same everywhere….

I have to be honest and state that if CAFTA brings competition in key services to Costa Rica such as telephone, Internet and electricity distribution, I’m all for it—much more so today then perhaps—yesterday! I got a new cell phone recently and the last step in getting it set up was to get the voice mail activated. As many friends will remark, I have learned to have considerable patience living here. Some would even suggest I’m much different than the “A type” personality I was when I lived in the U.S. However, dealing with “ICE,” the government-owned electric/telephone monopoly has just about tried my patience!

For starters, the woman I spoke to over the phone said she couldn’t help me on the phone. If I wanted the dial in number and passcode for ICE, I’d have to go their offices. Okay, she was not going to help me so I was stuck going downtown. ICE ‘s office, at least the one in San Ramon, always is overcrowded and understaffed. No matter how many people are waiting, if it is time for a worker to take his/her break, then a break it is! The first time I went (yes it took two trips to get a simple code and password), there were about 50 people waiting for be helped and only two people behind the counter on the telephone side of the office. However, the people on the electricity side of the office had no people waiting when I was there and four people behind the counter! My question is: why not train the people who handle electricity issues to help with telephone issues when they are not busy and vice versa!? I guess it is too easy. When my number finally came up—I was number “C97” and when I arrived they were assisting the person who had number “E45” (huh!?!?), the man behind the counter couldn’t figure out how to use my phone or how to get to the code and password to work and suggested I come back tomorrow. Ughh!! Unfortunately, I cannot yell and scream in Spanish—something I need to learn to do I guest—but patience, patience, I know!

The second trip to ICE was more fruitful as I was only about #15 in line, and somehow my number came up after about 10 minutes of waiting, and I’m not sure what happened to the people who had numbers inbetween! So, a different worker was able to get my number and password to work on my phone. Now all I had to do is go through the menus on the phone and set up my voicemail. Well, that did work right either and will require another trip to ICE. I’ll save that for next week as I just cannot bear three trips to ICE in one week! I guess things could be worse as I could be living in Nicaragua with power cuts for six to eight hours a day in recent months!

Busy, busy, busy!

It’s weird. October is one of the slowest months for tourism in Costa Rica, if not the slowest month. In many places it rains a lot, kids back in the U.S., are in full swing at school and parents are working as hard as ever. But here at the B&B it has turned out to be a very busy month with many guests coming and going. Now why is that? I think because we are not the typical B&B mostly attracting tourists for a few nights or a week. We seem to attract all types: people here long term who are considering moving to the area, others working on projects for a month or so, and then some who just come for a few days and end up staying much longer. I did that actually when I first came to stay with Jose and was considering buying the property. Well, nice problem to have I guess. Lets hope the rest of the year is as good. Come on down and stay with us!

That’s all for now! Thanks for reading and for your comments! Keep ‘em coming!

Pura Vida!

Andrew
andrew4cr@gmail.com
www.AngelValleyFarmBandB.com (the B&B!)
www.BoomersInCostaRica.com (4-day relocation/retirement tour!)
www.CostaRicaRealEstate.typepad.com (relocation blog!)

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

I Just Cannot Catch a Break!

I decided I would head to the beach this weekend to get a little R&R because things are definitely getting busy again, starting in October for the “high season” in Costa Rica and I didn’t know when I would be able to get away again. The bookings just seem to rolling in now for the U.S. winter (which I’m thrilled about).

So, I headed to my favorite beach area Quepos/Manuel Antonio. All was going well at first: the weather was beautiful when I arrived on Friday and my favorite hotel, “Hotel Manuel Antonio” (right on the beach near the national park), had rooms—and they always give me a good rate. Friday was a good day.

Saturday was a beautiful day as well but not a good day for me and my $!#$@*^@$*!$*%^%# car! I decided I would drive down a road to secluded beach I like which is in between Quepos and Manuel Antonio. You can park right on the beach and walk over to a beautiful white-sand beach. All was going well until one of my back tires got stuck in the sand. Usually, with 4-wheel drive, zipping up and down the beach is not a problem for my usually trusty Trooper but this time it just pooped out in the sand and did not want to move (I also suspect my 4-wheel drive was not working).

Fortunately, several locals and gringos tired to help me extricate my car from the sand. One Tico, Javier, who sits at the edge of the jungle and watches people’s cars while they are at the beach, was particularly helpful. He found some rope to tie to another car to try to pull it out—the other car wasn’t strong enough however—and he watched my car while I went to get help.

I had two concerns: One, that my car would still be there when I returned and/or not stripped for parts; and, two, that I could get back to the beach with help before high tide hit and potentially took my car out to sea! On the second concern, luckily high tide wasn’t until 10pm that evening so I had plenty of town.

A terrific guy from a local real estate company, whom I happened to meet at café helped me find help in Quepos. So I went to Quepos, found the mechanic with a truck and asked for his assistance. Of course, I caught him right at lunchtime. He was more than willing to help but said he needed to have his lunch first because he had “stomach problems” and eating on time was very important (frankly, it’s likely the lack of ruffage in his diet that is his problem). In any event, after about a two hour wait, he came back from lunch and in no time we were at my car and he easily got it off the beach. Clearly, he had done this before because he brought a shovel, rope, chains and a whole assortment of tools.

By the time this whole experience was over, it was pushing 4pm and decided I’d just go back to my hotel and have a nap, hoping that evening and the next day would be much better. That night and the next day were much better except for all the rain! Luckily, I can visit the beach almost any time I want—it’s just a perk of living here!

On a more positive note….

While at the beach I was able to see a sloth very close up. There was one in a tree right outside of my hotel room no more than 10 feet from my balcony. He sat there in the tree slumbering around, eating leaves and (I think) sleeping for about 3 hours. It was a thrill to see a sloth so close up! Only in Costa Rica!

Just how do we do take off sometimes?

Someone asked me the other day about our travels to the beach, the U.S, etc., and how we manage to take off a bit, and run a B&B, etc. Well, for starters, having a business partner and a terrific house manager makes it a lot easier. For example, while Beth and I were away for two months this summer (because we had rented out the entire B&B for two months), Karol was able to handle everything for us. When we got back it was as if the house had never been rented. Our rooms looked exactly as they did before we left and the house was as spic and span clean as we had left it. Hiring well is a keep ingredient to running a business in Costa Rica and we were very fortunate to have found a “God-send” in Karol (and her husband Ernan).

Part of the joy of living in Costa Rica and having a small business with some excellent staff is the ability to take off now and again and see other parts of the country—indeed much of Latin America—and still make a little income to live on.

In other news….

This was also a very busy week as Alex and I launched our relocation tour company, “Boomers In Costa Rica.” The site is finally up: www.boomersincostarica.com. We also have a blog at: www.costaricarealestate.typepad.com.

Take a look when you have a chance! We would love to have some of you join us on our tours!

The B&B is also the proud owner of 10 new chickens! It has always been our intention to purchase new chickens and increase their production of eggs so we can be self-sustaining in eggs. We just didn’t get around to it until now. Back in June, we gave away our last three remaining, somewhat decrepit chickens to Karol’s (our house manager) mother and they’re now leading a quite life in Sarapiqui. Hopefully, the new chickens will start producing soon—we’re told it will take about one month—but if all goes well we could have up to 10 or more eggs every day. It’ll be great to use them at the B&B but I also suspect we’ll have plenty of fresh eggs.

That’s all for now! Thanks for reading and for your comments! Keep ‘em coming!

Pura Vida!

Andrew
andrew4cr@gmail.com
www.AngelValleyFarmBandB.com
www.BoomersInCostaRica.com
www.CostaRicaRealEstate.typepad.com