Jun 22, 2007

Costa Rica

The three most popular countries for retirement are France, Costa Rica, and Ireland. I'm not sure of the order of preference, but mine is obvious. We were attracted by the climate, but we return each winter because of the people.

In 1948, Costa Rica dismantled the military and applied these resources to social programs and education. The other places that have done this are the Vatican, Luxembourg, Monte Carlo, and a few small islands in the Pacific Ocean. After three or four generations of solving problems without weapons, the people have a distinctly different perspective. "Resolving Conflict Without Resorting to Violence" is a mandatory course in the elementary school curriculum. The emblem for the police is an officer with his arms on the shoulders of two small children. They travel about on foot, or two on a dirt bike. The emergency medical teams have modern ambulances.

My Medicare "B" doesn't cover me when I am outside of the USA, so I cancelled it. We have become "residente pensionados" and purchase full coverage health insurance, including dental, for $50 a month. We only pay for it when we are there. Costa Rica has the third best medical care in the world, and life expectancy is three years longer than in the USA.

We live "large" on our Social Security. By cancelling our auto insurances, Medicare "B", trash service, telephone, lowering the thermostat, turning off the water heater, using no water, and not having to cut grass, drive cars, and eating food that doesn't come in fancy packages, we save so much money that the difference in life style pays for our travel and living expenses all winter. We don't own a car there and can go to our volunteer morning jobs at the Wilson for 60 cents each. The beach at Playa Zancudo is two hours away, and we are frequently invited to join our new Tico friends for a day trip in a packed van.
"Culture shock" is going through the airport security check points when we return to the USA, and buying a huge lunch for more than $3.

pura vida!


el grillo said...

We arrive early in November and that is reported to be the most intense month. Even today, 25 Nov., it predictably rained in the afternoon. This year is reported to be drier than others, so the number of mudslides has been significantly less. Every morning it is clear and dry, but the clouds roll up from the Pacific after lunch. Since the country has so many microclimates, I can´t speak for other areas. The Atlantic side is always wetter and steamy, and has more exotic species. Some will bite! Crocs, etc. We are up at 3000-4000 ft.

agnosticrat said...

It appears at first glance that Costa Rica is a sort of Switzerland politically in the midst of central america.
Why do think this (if true) is so?

el grillo said...

There are a few theories, most of which extract a chuckle. When the Spaniards arrived and gave large tracts of land and potential slaves to their buddies, they found a land that had no get rich quick gold, etc. few flat spots to grow cash crops and a population pretty much the same as today. When enslaved they just failed to show up for work. They weren´t convinced there was much benefit from being slaves so they went home. The few Spaniards who stayed didn´t get rich, but recognized the value of marrying pretty girls and living well. Not having the same spread between rich and poor created a large middle class of hard-working, fun-loving people.
Two of the biggest problems are that the neighbors are getting envious of the superior quality of life and they have a larger immigrant problem than the USA. Also, being in the top destination for retirees causes rapid growth that overwhelms the infrastructure.
Neutrality is hard to maintain when the USA continues to supply military forces to both neighbors. Ron Reagan and Ollie North are swear words down here. The Bush family is heavily invested in United Fruit which took over from the Spaniards and made exploitation work. Ticos pity us.
Switzerland isn´t perfect either, but when you don´t invade people they don´t fear you. That gives you time to try some pretty good ideas on for size, and the extra money to make them work.

agnosticrat said...

Guess I wont ask you if you've seen the Bush twins on their way home from Argintina!

el grillo said...

My Spanish is getting better , but not good enough to read a newspaper. The only English language paper is the Tico Times, and it is a weekly. I´m sure it will mention the twins back on page 12 where the news is generally reported in a weekly rag, if you know what I mean.
Al Dia and La Nacion are a bit out of my league, but I get the idea.

agnosticrat said...

It must be hard listening to people talk in a different language around you. I would feel as though they are talking bout the fat American and the funny way he says baño!

el grillo said...

Each day is an adventure. I am of the belief that learning another language fends off dementia, which runs in my family.
I write a journal each day, with photos. I publish when I get to the Internet.
I hesitate to put my e-mail address on a blog, but most of the guys on westmichpol have it. I´ve been el Grillo for years.
My mailing list is mostly elderly cousins, family and friends. Content is detailed, for people with time to read and live vicariously.

el grillo said...

Incidentally, we laugh a lot! Not at each other, but with each other.

agnosticrat said...

Sounds great. I suffer from the lack of first hand accounts. Most of my world experience comes through a 32 inch screen. This explains my cynical views, which sometime succumb to an illogicaly romantic outlook depending if Bogart is in the house or not. I have chosen the internets as a course of treatment for now.
I am sure our president suffers from "32 inch Bogart syndrome" as well. Alas, help is on the way, as he has admitted his use of "the Google" recently.

el grillo said...

Typical of GWBII this was probably a typo. He probably meant to say he wears Goggles.
Today there are many elections in Latin America. It is exciting to watch the colored flags and the handshaking, and listen to the enthusiasm.
In Venezuela, Hugo Chavez is expected to crush his USA supported opponent. This will cause Condoleeza to claim that the unbelievable democracy in that country is not as good as in the USA. Venezuelans slept in lines last night for the opportunity to vote early and in huge numbers. Condi overlooks the fact that they have more international election observers in Venezuela than in the USA, where we could have used a few more in 2002.

el grillo said...


I'm glad that you are reading about the outside world.

Your observations concerning medical care in Costa Rica highlight two things which I will address right now.

It isn't required that all Ticos strictly receive government controlled health care, and many prefer to patronize the private offices of medical professionals who also work in the hospitals and clinics. My dentista, for example, is highly recommended and charges the same amount as the government dentists. There are obviously anecdotal accounts of terrible care by some individuals, just as in the USA (perhaps even in Hastings).

If you recognize that Hugo Chavez is making spectacular progress in Venezuela and is gaining in respect throughout the Southern Hemisphere in spite of a system that has been corrupt for years, you then have to also acknowledge that the people who are teaching his medical professionals are mostly from Cuba, and then you have to buy a hammer and sickle flag and admit that you are a Communist and Condoleezza will instruct the CIA to listen to you talk to your kids on the phone.

The fact that we are exchanging thoughts just put you on the list.

Jack Miner said...

If Tom will leave this up long enought for you to read, you will know what he did not address in his above comments.

Tom: You wrote in your June 22 posting on this blog titled “Costa Rica” that “Costa Rica has the third best medical care in the world, and life expectancy is three years longer than in the USA”. Now that folks know who you are, you are going to have to start proving some of these statements, unless in your world ‘health care’ does not include the eyes.
Maybe you will tell us Tico Times has it wrong and Venezuela is sending their citizens to CR for health care?
Sunday August 26 http://www.ticotimes.net/daily.htm#story3
The Tico Times Weekly Edition
”Costa Ricans to Undergo Eye Surgery in Venezuela
About 110 Costa Ricans left yesterday for Caracas, Venezuela, where they will undergo surgeries to repair vision problems including cataracts and pterygium, a fleshy tissue that grows over the cornea, according to a statement from the Venezuelan Embassy in San José.
Miracle Mission is a project of the Bolivian Alternative for the Americas (ALBA) that began in 2004 and is led by the governments of Cuba and Venezuela.
This is not the first group of Costa Ricans to participate in Miracle Mission – so far 300 Costa Ricans have benefited.
As part of this “mission,” a team of Venezuelan doctors traveled a few days ago to a rural community in northern Costa Rica, where they pre-examined more than 90 patients who are now scheduled to undergo surgery, the statement said.
Another 160 people interested in taking advantage of the program visited the embassy to get more information.
The program aims to help people with limited economic resources. The Venezuelan government covers all costs involved, including bringing the patients to Venezuela and returning them to Costa Rica, hospitalization, food, surgery and medicines.”

el grillo said...

Many apologies, Jack, for not specifically mentioning "eyecare" which has only once in my life been included in my USA healthcare plans.

You have made me happy by replying in the appropriate thread and not bulking up the class on reading the County Budget.

I was pleased that you pasted the article from the Tico Times to reinforce my comments about the expanding cooperation in the Southern Hemishere,
"Miracle Mission is a project of the Bolivian Alternative for the Americas (ALBA) that began in 2004 and is led by the governments of Cuba and Venezuela.

We should extend our appreciation to Evo Morales, the new democratically-elected President of Bolivia.

Considering the generosity of Chavez (Citgo) to provide cheap heating oil to the poor in the USA, perhaps Morales "mission" will extend the eyecare help to the poor in the USA as well.

The cheap shots add nothing of value to your otherwise interesting comments.

el grillo said...

I should add, Jack, that way back long before you and Ag3 joined the local blogging crowd, I introduced myself by name and limited resume. I hardly think it is necessary to repeat this horn-blowing for the benefit of my own ego.

I don't have anything to prove to you, myself, or anybody else. What you see is what you get.

I think I have adequately notified users of my blog that disrespectful behavior won't survive long here. The other blogs and newspapers need the tittilation to attract readers. I don't care if you read my stuff or not.

If you need to strut about the playground, this is a poor place to post your comments. Very few kids show up here during recess.

el grillo said...

truthseeker said...

best of luck on the house, are you allowed "happy hour" each day?


October 28, 2007

el grillo said...
Happy hour is a cultural requirement.
At the entrance to the property is a home/bar/restaurante called the Rancho Amigos, which is known throughout the Southern Zone for its outdoor rotisserie chicken.
Until the house is completed, I will be served 3 meals a day there as part of my rental agreement. Since Spanish karaoke is a big draw, along with animated Spanish dancing, I generally stay after dinner to admire and join in the festivities. This has made it possible for me to meet many of the local people who are very well-educated and worldly. I try to be on my best behavior, so I limit my intake of the cold cervesa, and pour it into a glass filled with ice, as is the custom. Happy takes longer than an hour.

October 29, 2007

el colibri said...
Jimminey: I will be checking your site often. The photos were interesting. What is the elevation there? What brands of cervasa do they have,Dos Equis by any chance? What about rum and coke or Margaritas? Can a gringo purchase real property outright or do you have to buy it with a bank as a trustee? Are the indigenious citizens Mayan? Good luck and keep in touch. Hummer

October 29, 2007

el grillo said...

It would be my pleasure to add you to my newsletter list, where I can post many more photos. I publish approx. weekly from a local internet cafe. Next week I will be a less frequent blogger (a relief for some).

I have just opened another yahoo account for shifting info from the blog world into the more secure e-mail world. So far, costajournal07@yahoo.com
seems to work O.K.,manually.

Property sales are vigorous with much gringo speculation going on. The process of ownership is slow but sure. It is required that you make some sign of improvement or residency every six months or you risk losing your property to a squatter, so merely buying land is ill-advised. I not only intend to visit annually, but have established a friendly relationship that will hopefully fend off intruders.

Dos Equis is a Mexican brew. The Tico popular brands are Imperial, which I like, and Pilsen, which tends to be poorer quality in spite of the scantily-clad calendar girls. Many imported beers are also available, and having many Canadian and European neighbors ensures a wide variety.

A uniqueness of Costa Rica, culturally, is that it is located near the end of the road as far as Mayans and Incas were concerned, so the people who live up in the mountains, etc. speak a variety of other languages. Nearest to us is a reserve of the largest indigenous grouping, the Guayami (sp)"Why Me", and one of our friends is a large owner of tribal lands and part of a "sustainable non-profit" that we are close with. Reforestation of Coto Brus is a major issue, since it was badly deforested a couple of decades back. The truly indigenous people are unfortunately discriminated against by the more "Spanish" population, and tend to keep to themselves. They add a quiet and brightly-dressed variety to the scene when they come in for supplies. They do have the facial features you would expect carved in native art.

There is also a large Mennonite community that speaks English, and it catches us off guard when we are in town, where Spanish is the norm (along with some Italian).

Rum is both a blessing and a curse. Sugar cane grows everywhere and the locals can brew their own stuff, called "Guarro" which has all the charm of our own "white lightnin' ". I suspect it is a race between brain-fried and blindness, and some guys become addicted. On the other hand, Ron Rico and Caquisque(sp) brands are very high quality and not that expensive. Rum is typically taken straight, but sometimes with canned tomato juice, or with one of the many bottled fruit juices. Beer was 600-700 colones last year (divided by 516, that is about $1.25 a bottle), including a glass of ice chips.

Bars are generally almost smoke-free, and the second-hand stuff from insecure teenagers is quickly blown away on the evening breeze. Few adults smoke (except gringos).
I should add that drinking is acceptable, but drunken behavior is not.

The real "high" is being at about 3500 ft. above sea level (1200 meters). The thumb rule is that you cool at the rate of about one degree F. per 100 meters of elevation, so we stay about 12 degrees cooler than the sea shore. The temperature doesn't vary much all year, but it rains more from April to November while we are in the USA. We are in the "premontane cloud forest" microclimate. The link to the Wilson Botanical Garden is interesting. It is only a few miles away.