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My Readers (keep) Writing!

March 27th, 2008

Good day faithful readers. Here is another addition of “My Readers Write” Here you will find a few emails that ask questions not covered in The REAL Costa Rica or this Blog.

As some of these were sent more than 5 weeks ago, I do appreciate your patience. I am just bombarded with email and even though I am selling one of my companies, I am just buried in work.

If this stuff interests you… read on!

You have lived in Costa Rica for some time I guess. Do you follow politics in the USA? Do other Americans living there follow what is going on here? What are your thoughts? Do you still vote? Who will you vote for this year?

I cannot speak for others living here. I am sure some do, and others don’t. There are both Republican and Democratic organizations here and they can assist with everything from information to registering, including how to vote from Costa Rica. One thing I have noticed is that the US looks different from afar. Maybe it is just the perspective of not being there every day. I get emails ALL the time telling me people are coming to CR to get away from the USA, George Bush, a possible President Clinton. Silly. Nothing changes. IN any case, as so many people seem interested in my views, though for the life of me I cannot understand why… I wrote something on my personal Blog covering moving here, expat life, changes and finally my political thinking for 2008. If you wish, Click Here to read it.

Hello, I have a simple question that I cannot find reference to in the blogs, forums or other sections of your web site. On your title page you state that “About 40% of those who move to Costa Rica leave within one year!” and I am unable to find facts or figures to substantiate that claim elsewhere on the internet. I do not wish to be part of that percentage and therefore wish to research it’s causes further.

Well then I am not sure you looked too hard as this is covered many times both here and on the RCR Web Site. Anyway, the source for this information is from numerous sources such as ARCR, residency lawyers, and most recently (less than two months) the person who arguably moves more North Americans to Costa Rica then all others combined. Even I was amazed when he told me that he is now moving BACK to the USA more than half of those who moved here. Truly, I care little what is stated on other web sites. RCR is about what is real here, not trying to sell Costa Rica or minimize issues. I would think for example the realtors and builders here would not want people thinking too hard about what will be their survival rate.

So why do people leave? This has not changed since I arrived here. Well maybe one new reason, so here they are:

  • People move without first LIVING in Costa Rica for at least 9 months, and preferably longer. The worst are the ones who read about CR as a paradise, then up and sell everything and move here. At least once per month, I get a sad story of someone who actually bought a home or property without ever setting foot in the country. DUMB! Some visited CR as visitors for a week or two or ten… and came away with the really idiotic notion that the tourist Costa Rica is anything like the REAL Costa Rica. Everything changes once you live here. Every single daily task or chore is different. Some love it. Many do not. You must be willing to adjust. Are you? A-Types, as I have said often, will assuredly need therapy before living here.
  • People come here for a simpler life. They have issues about life in the USA and think CR will be the answer. For the vast majority, it is not. Do NOT leave your home country thinking all will be good here. It is not. There are issues and many will affect you. You cannot not run away from yourself. If you are unhappy in your own country, I firmly believe you will be unhappy here.
  • Couples come down here, especially older couples and think all will be well. They (usually the wife first) start missing the kids and grandkids. They miss being there for births, deaths, proms, communions, and a zillion other family affairs. They think the kids will come and visit, but they underestimate travel costs and the ability of their kids (usually working and busy with their lives) to come here. They find once a year is just not enough. I have had many women tell me they felt isolated, not enough friends, nothing to do. Not speaking Spanish complicates everything socially.
  • Younger couples come with kids as they read that Costa Rica has a fine educational system and the highest standard of literacy in Central America. This is true! What is NOT understood is that the public schools here are is sad repair. They have NO money. No computers, no pool, no sports (or few) other than soccer. No after school programs. So they think “We’ll send them to the English schools”, which while they certainly offer more, are generally no match for any decent suburban school in the USA. They are also VERY VERY expensive!
  • People come and immediately buy a home. Two things happen. One, they buy in the wrong place as they have no idea about the hundreds of great places to live here. Then, of course, as they know nothing, they overpay for what they do buy. They are unhappy, want to move but can’t find a buyer and finally just sell out at a loss.
  • People buy into the concept that you do not need to speak Spanish to live here. Big mistake. You really do need to speak it, and if you do not learn it, you will feel isolated and lost. You also miss out on the entire Latin culture.
  • Associated with this are those who come here and get ANGRY because nobody speaks English except where tourists congregate. The VAST majority of CR does not speak anything but Spanish.
  • Cost of living is getting higher every day. Newbies come here, immediately buy a home near other North Americans, and then are amazed at how enormously expensive is Costa Rica. No, it is not expensive. You just moved into an area where the prices are inflated beyond all reason as everyone knows to live there you must be rich… right? Escazu is a prime example of this, but then so is EVERY tourist spot or any other location selling mostly to North Americans or foreigners. There are many, many beautiful (and SAFER) places to live in CR, but I promise you will never find them until you have lived here for at least a year and made many mini-excursions around the country.

Truly, this list goes on and if you do your homework, you will find many other posts I have written on this.

By all means DO come here! It is a wonderful place. But here is my advice. Make no changes to your life that cannot be “undone” by making six phone calls or less. Do not buy property until you are 100% sure you want to live here. Finally, do not presume that you will be the exception.

Lat, before you come, read this fine article. It is critical for all those thinking of moving here.

I enjoyed your website and really liked the candid information. I am planning a trip to Costa Rica. I am hoping you could enlighten me as to how an interracial couple(Caucasian woman African-American man) would be perceived and responded to in San Jose? Is there a better part of the country to visit?

Wow. Great question! Not sure an old white guy has any business trying to answer. I’ll try. The quick answer to the first question is… you will not even be noticed by the Ticos (Costa Ricans). Interracial relationships are common here, and while not as common as non interracial couples, I see them certainly every time I go to San Jose or for that matter any larger populated area. As I am forced to think about this, I guess I do not see them as often, in fact rarely, in the country. Saying that, I doubt anyone would take notice there as well. Might be looked at as strangers, but not because of racial issues. Now as for the other visiting tourists? I expect the same as you are viewed now… but who cares? Screw ’em. You’ll never see them again anyway.

Costa Rica is odd. While there certainly is some bias, it is nowhere as profound as in the USA… or at least the USA I left some years ago. My wife commonly refers to her Black coworkers (mostly women) as la negra, and this is common face to face and in social circles. Be very clear… this is NOT a slight of any kind. It is just how they speak. Instead of “Mary told me”, it might be “La negra said ” and this is while Mary is at the table! They do not seem to mind, but what business would I have trying to determine if a black coworker was or is offended by a white Costa Rican? Finally, remember that CR did not participate in the slave trade nor to my knowledge ever used slave labor. Therefore I guess the environment here is not as toxic with resentments.

Anyway, come and enjoy and travel wherever. You will not have problems and you will be welcomed.

My husband and I are planning on moving to Matapalo. We have six children 15, 12, 8 and triplets that are 2. Is there any English schools close to that area? I am a grade school teacher in the USA and my husband was a high school teacher. We are concerned with our childrens education as well as socially adjusting to the change in culture. It would be much easier on the children to begin meeting friends that speak English first then learn Spanish.

I am fairly sure there are no English schools there and if there are, I hope you have planned for HUGE costs so they will probably attend public school. Also, I HOPE you have traveled here extensively (living here) for 6 to 9 months at least) BEFORE making this huge move. Unless you know and consciously understand what you are subjecting your six children to, I would urge you to reconsider. I also hope you have read the section on the public schools in the main web site and understand that the public school your 15 year old will attend will not provide him with the credentials to enter college here OR in the USA.

Why would you personally not own property for yourself in Costa Rica?

I think the best way to approach this is why would I?

First, it is dirt cheap to rent a home here. Rents of $260.00 per month are not uncommon in lovely areas like Grecia, San Rmon and a hundred others. Second, is very easy to buy here but VERY difficult to sell property. This ties up capital needlessly. I can move any time I wish. Freedom.

There are no tax advantages when buying. Interest rates are quite high. I have no family or young kids. Just my wife and I. Property values are falling here in CR. There is too much building going on and those who bought in most beach areas and around San Jose have seen their property value fall. Yeah, you CAN get lucky and double your money, but those are the exceptions and not the rules. I have money in numerous funds in the USA earning 20% every year (yes this year too!). My money is available and I know of no property here increasing in value by 20% per year.

I do little or no maintenance on the home we rent. What I do is paid for by the landlord. I am long past the fixer-upper stage in my life. Been there, done that. Prefer to relax!

I could go on, but you get the point. Part of our culture is home ownership, but past a certain age, with no local family to leave it to, (and certainly my kids would find a home in CR more of a problem than a blessing), I see no reason whatever to buy here. Younger couples with families… maybe. Me? Nope.

and finally…

You and others like you need to stop covering up the fact that Costa Rica is a place of transit, origin, AND supply of young women and girls sold into sexual slavery-human trafficking. It is disgusting that you and others like you living in Costa Rica would ignore or downplay or pretend that this crime isn’t happening right under your noses! How can you extol the natural beauty of Costa Rica while ignoring the intense suffering of those Costa Rican girls sold into sexual slavery? You are not even human! You need to expose these crimes being committed in Costa Rica or you become part of the problem, if you are not willing to stand up and tell the truth, then shut your site down. It is an utter disgrace what’s happening in Costa Rica. And it is even a bigger disgrace to “whitewash” such a crime, how can you be so blind to such human misery?

I get these from time to time, and of course I wonder the obvious:

Can you read? If so, did you? Have you ever been here? Where am I ignoring or downplaying anything? What “girls sold into sexual slavery-human trafficking” are you referring to? While I am sure it happens, that has never been a problem in Costa Rica. Where did you get that?

What “crime” am I whitewashing? In fact, what crime period? Prostitution is 100% legal here. I do not encourage it. I write about it as that IS part of the REAL Costa Rica. It is not my place to tell a sovereign country how to run their country. Nor, madam, is it yours. That is the major reason (not G. Bush) that people from the USA are disliked. They try to export their ethics, values, opinions and judgments on other countries and people. Often, as now, these are absolutely wrong!

The intense suffering of those Costa Rican girls that you write about clearly shows your ignorance. They are not slaves and do what they do because they make a ton of money. In the beginning, it is possible they had no other options, but I can assure you there are no pimps or others holding them captive or telling them what to do. They are “suffering” all the way to the bank! After a very short time, most have the money to change their lives if they so chose. Some do, some do not. Make no mistake though, they are NOT poor girls.

Finally, you write, “You need to expose these crimes being committed in Costa Rica or you become part of the problem…”. As these are not crimes, I would look pretty stupid exposing them. Possibly as stupid as you look writing such a totally ignorant and uninformed email to me.

Your apology is accepted.

That’s it for this edition. See you next time. Comments welcome (except from the bonehead who wrote that last email).

20 Responses to “My Readers (keep) Writing!”

  1. cc on March 27, 2008 10:25 pm

    That just goes to show you how ignorant you really are, I am not talking to the women who sell their bodies by choice, I am talking to the sexual slavery, and human trafficking that goes on in Costa Rica all the time. It is such a huge problem that many countries have enacted laws that proscecute their own citizens for crimes they commit in Costa Rica, Bolivia, Equador, Guatemala, Panama, surely you have heard of sex tourism. Costa Rica is world famous for such depravity, and it you close your eyes then you are condoning it. It would do you good to do the research, which will prove me right. Prostitution may be legal but it is not legal to sell, buy, or abuse minors in which Costa Rica is known as the Thailand of the West because of sex tourism.
    I am not a bonehead, I just hit a sore spot with you since you would prefer to stick your head in the sand and pretend I am talking about legal prostitution when I am not. Yes I have been there and saw the bill boards that warn foreigners about the consequences of sex tourism, that doesn’t stop them though. I watched a very good Canadian documentary in which the President of Costa Rica was confronted on camera about the issue of human trafficking in Costa Rica. Stop lying about Costa Rica. It is not the beautiful place you make it out to be. Only for the very very few who are wealty, the rest live in poverty and men like you take advantage of poor Costa Rican women, many of whom wouldn’t marry old ugly men like you if it were not for your money.

  2. Tim on March 28, 2008 12:16 pm


    I KNEW that you would immediately send a comment. I have learned over the years that the totally uninformed and ignorant simply cannot find it within themselves to just shut-up and learn. Nope… like little energizer bunnies, they go on and on.

    So ONE TIME I will respond to totally your stupid comments, then no more. I am 100% sure that nothing I can say will ever make it through your dense skull, but TRY to read and understand. Then you will not appear publicly to be such a complete jackass.

    I will a admit difficulty in responding as you change subjects in mid sentence, but I will take your silliness and try to make sense with my replies.

    “I am talking to the sexual slavery, and human trafficking that goes on in Costa Rica all the time.”

    The HUMAN TRAFFICKING that you have read about (obviously not clearly) refers to Costa Rica as being a traffic route for HUMANS (not children for sex) trying to get into other countries, most notably the USA.

    The LAWS are for the prosecution of these mules, the ones who arrange these trips through CR. In all the years I have been here, I have NEVER seen anything indicating that human trafficking is an issue here. Has it ever happened? Probably, but is the norm… not at all. Other Latin American countries DO have this issue, but I doubt you will pay any attention if I told you, so I won’t! You REALLY need to learn how to read!

    Sexual slavery? Where? SEX FOR MONEY IS LEGAL. The ARE NO SLAVES here.

    …”surely you have heard of sex tourism. Costa Rica is world famous for such depravity, and it you close your eyes then you are condoning it.”

    Of COURSE I have! I wrote about it in detail in The REAL Costa Rica website. Sex tourism is HUGE in Costa Rica, and more important, it is 100% legal! As you have issues with reading, I will repeat that! **IT IS 100% LEGAL**.

    “Prostitution may be legal but it is not legal to sell, buy, or abuse minors in which Costa Rica is known as the Thailand of the West because of sex tourism”

    What a sentence! Did you proof read that?? You insist on throwing in the MINORS when discussing sex tourism. Neither Costa Rica NOR Thailand permit sex with minors. They BOTH permit adult sex tourism. Costa Rica IS known for sex tourism FOR ADULTS, but NOT FOR SEX ABUSE AGAINST MINORS! Stop lumping those together. I know you want it to be that way, but it is not.

    The nasty little secret which I have written about least least 5 times is that the issue is NOT foreigners coming here and having sex with kids. It is the Costa Rican MEN. Fathers, brothers, uncles, neighbors. It is rampant and my wife, the one who married me for my money (even though she has more than me and she too thinks you’re an idiot), can tell you of the 30-50 girls in her hospital at any one time, all under 14-15, every single one being pregnant by a male relative or neighbor.

    In all my years here, I have seen and read about SEVEN men arrested for child sex and identified as foreigners from ANY country. In comparison, I have seen and read of no LESS than 400 men arrested, all with Latin names and identified as Costa Ricans or some other nationality in Central America. I met and dated a lot of women before I married and at LEAST 70% had some story of sex abuse at the hands of a male relative.

    Incest is a national disgrace and is covered up, but make no mistake, it is NOT the foreigners doing the abusing. You want to raise an issue? Raise THAT one.

    I resent all the airport signs, in English, making it appear that those English speakers are at fault. It is a HUGE lie and leads the totally uninformed (i.e. YOU) to make ridiculous generalizations.

    “It is not the beautiful place you make it out to be. Only for the very very few who are wealthy, the rest live in poverty”

    Lady, you must be about as dumb as a box of prunes. Actually, it is a very beautiful place which is proof to me you have never set foot here as even a relatively ignorant person as yourself would have noticed the beauty almost everywhere.

    I am guessing you are site impaired as well?

    There absolutely IS poverty here. This is exactly the same poverty that is in the US. In fact in every country in the world. Yes, there is an upper class too! Just like in the US? In fact in every country in the world? But you conveniently (or ignorantly) leave off the HUGE middle class. More lack of knowledge. The middle class here is enormous, far larger than either the upper class or the poor, and they live very nice lives indeed. My wife was in that middle class. Your total lack of knowledge is truly amazing though you write as if you had a clue!

    “…poor Costa Rican women, many of whom wouldn’t marry old ugly men like you if it were not for your money.”

    Well my “poor old woman” (and she told me to tell you that age 52 is NOT old and to mind your own business!), before I EVER met her, owned and still owns two homes, property in San Ramon, property in Guapiles, and is developing an apartment complex.

    Oh, she is not using one cent of MY money.

    Sad that you feel the need to attack her as she is one of the kindest and most genteel women I have known in my life and would never dream of attacking you. She has worked at Costa Rica’s second largest hospital for 32 years, educated herself, went to UCR, has an undergrad and masters degree, raised two kids, totally without help after her husband died of brain cancer when the kids were very young.

    Lady, she is so far out of your league as to be a joke.

    Oh, and I am not all that ugly. My wife thinks I am cute!

    and finally:

    “I am not a bonehead”

    Oh, but of COURSE you are, and you have again proved it by your comments.

  3. trish on March 28, 2008 1:49 pm

    I think you are incorrect about the slavery issue.
    You say:
    *Finally, remember that CR did not participate in the slave trade nor to my knowledge ever used slave labor. Therefore I guess the environment here is not as toxic with resentments.*

    I found this website with some information on slavery issues in Costa Rica: http://qiyamahinislam.blogspot.com/2008/01/afrocaribbean-roots-in-costa-rica.html

    In fact, during my last visit to Costa Rica, I was shown checkpoints along the highway to Limon, where the government used to restrict the movement of black plantation workers on the Limon coast. The older generation of people of West Indian descent on the coast evidently has some anger toward the Ticos, although that has seemingly improved for the new generation. All I am pointing out is that this issue may be more complicated than you make it seem. It also may vary depending on what area of Costa Rica you are talking about. But I certainly would not say that Costa Rica has been completely free of racial conflicts or disparities.

  4. Frank Moessa on March 28, 2008 2:57 pm

    Wow, that lady is out of her mind. With all that’s going on in the US she is making assumptions she has no authority to speak of. I’m an American through and through but for anyone in this country to throw stones…

    Anyway, my wife and I are planning a trip to Costa Rica and we were looking into the Maquengue resort to be exact and wanted to know if you ever heard of the place and if so, good or bad?

    Frank Moessa

  5. Tim on March 28, 2008 4:19 pm

    To Trish

    Nice comment! I am not a student of Costa Rica history though I did read a brief history before I came here. It did not mention this part of CR history, though I should not be surprised as US history books leave out a TON of things. I appreciate the feedback!

    To Frank

    I have not heard of it, but that means little. There are about a zillion I do not know. Have fun!

  6. Roy Lent O. on April 25, 2008 2:48 am

    Hi Tim,
    Just found your blog. Well done! I’ve lived in Costa Rica for close to 42 years.
    Thought I’d mention that in Costa Rica slavery was legal in the colony but went out in the republic. There were few slaves here because Costa Rica was very poor in those days and slaves didn’t come cheap. Most blacks came here from Jamaica as laborers in the first banana farms in the Limon area. When I came here there was still an old law in effect that prohibited blacks from coming up to the Central Valley to live. They had to stay down in the Caribbean zone. This law no longer exists. Costa Rica does have racism but it is not obvious nor violent, and is slowly disappearing.

  7. Tom on May 1, 2008 5:12 am

    Tim, as always “great stuff”

    Keep it up

  8. Don on May 8, 2008 9:45 am

    Do any airlines fly between SJO and Liberia?

  9. Tim on May 8, 2008 6:58 pm
  10. Gloriana on May 29, 2008 2:49 pm


    I’m Costa Rican, grew up here, but lived in the US for ten years after high school (until two years ago). I agree with most of what you say, except for the following comment:

    “So they think “We’ll send them to the English schools”, which while they certainly offer more, are generally no match for any decent suburban school in the USA.”

    I attended one of those “English” schools (Lincoln School) and it is not only a match, but I’m sure provides a much better education than many suburban American schools. Lincoln school students consistently score higher than the average student at our sister schools in the US on standardized tests given to both samples. My Lincoln education prepared me more than adequately to excel at Yale and later on at my grad program at Harvard – as did many of my classmates who went to college and grad school in the US. And like Lincoln, there are at least five other schools that provide quality, bilingual education. You are right in that these schools are EXTREMELY expensive (although not as expensive as most private American prep schools). Another important matter to point out is that all these schools are located in the San José metropolitan area (except a couple that have satellite campuses in Guanacaste), so this could present a logistical problem for foreigners with school-age childeren who would like to live somewhere else.

    That said, I really enjoy your blog.

  11. Tim on May 29, 2008 3:45 pm

    Thank you Gloriana. I always welcome reports like this and I am sure others who read your comment will as well.

  12. Paul on November 13, 2009 2:15 pm

    Hi, i am thinking of coming to costa rica to study spanish for about a year, with desire to relocate at some point. Do you think it would be better and more cost effective, to arrive and then look for a suitable spanish language school, rather than enrol on a course beforehand?

  13. Tim on November 16, 2009 7:40 am

    Always best to arrive and look so you SEE what you are getting.

  14. Paul on November 16, 2009 7:00 pm

    Thanks Tim, very much appreciated advice. I would like to take this opportunity to thank you for your website.

  15. Tim on November 25, 2009 1:31 pm

    He will need to speak FLUENT Spanish and I MEAN stone cold fluent Spanish, the pass all exams then join the colegio.

    The best school is probably UCR.

    After graduation, he can expect to earn maybe $400.00 per month and work 60+ hours per week.

  16. Alexandra on May 9, 2010 1:04 pm

    If you have kids, think twice before relocating here. My kid is 14 years and sending him to a public school is not an option. His friend is 16, went to one and can’t say or write the most basic English in an online game by himself.

    At one point I briefly considered moving to the beach, but the one English speaking school charged $ 800 a month – that’s one kid. Now he is going to a German-Spanish-English school which should enable him just fine to study in either country, but at $ 500 it costs more than the apartment. Try doing that for 2 or more kids.

    Some classmates moved here from Manuel Antonio (beach, they still have the business there), just so the kids can go to school.

    When the kids are younger it might be ok, but once they pass 11 or so, eduction becomes a major issue and a cost factor.

  17. William on April 15, 2011 10:15 am

    Does anyone know if there is a exception for a legally blind person not to have to go out of the country every three months to get their passport stamped?
    thank you,

  18. Tim on April 15, 2011 11:55 am

    It makes no difference whether blind or not.

    It is NOT legal to leave CR every 90 days. Once maybe.. no problem. Over and over you risk deportation or expulsion.

    Get your residency or do not plan to stay here illegally.

    Folks don’t like it in the US and it is wrong to do it here. I call these folks NorthAmerican Wetbacks (politically incorrect intended!)

  19. peter trombetta on May 3, 2011 3:50 pm

    Everything the editor wrote in this article is the raw truth. I have been living here in a city called Cuidad Quesada and am married to a Costa Rican woman. It took me more than a year to get accustomed to Costa Rican way of life. I do speak Spanish fluently and still it took me that long. Folks if you didn’t quite understand the editors article then I suggest that you read it over and over again. It’s not easy to be a expat. Heed the warnings of the editor or pay the price. It might be a decision that you will truly regret if you do not come here first and rent and stay for a year or so before you take that GIANT step. Me, I love it here. Wouldn’t trade it for any place else. If you come here and think that San Jose is the place for you oh boy will you be sorry. Come to Cuidad Quesada and enjoy the weather, the people, the tranquity, the safety and comfort of my town. Luck to you all in your pursuits of happiness.

  20. Briar on April 8, 2015 11:37 am

    Hey Tim,
    Not to be boringly redundant, but I too love your Site and read it often – we too are considering a move to CR, but want to do our “due diligence” as much as possible first. Sooooo, here’s a question I haven’t seen addressed…

    Mi esposo y mi tiene dos hijos, 12 Y 15. (lo siento – I’m practicing ) We are 63 and 66, so taking social security. At this time we homeschool our kids. THe elder kid has some learning issues, and it has been much easier for him in a homeschool environment. So what I want to know is this – Can we homeschool in CR? I know in some countries you can be jailed for homeschooling your kids. However, in many countries it’s perfectly OK. I don’t want to take it for granted that it’s OK in CR. Do you know anything about it?
    Thanks very much for this informative Site/blog. It has answered so many questions for us already
    And before signing off, I’d like to ask you if anyone ever drives to CR from THe US using the Pan American Hwy? Is it safe to do that? We’de have 3 large dogs and the kids stuffed into the car. We were considering it as a better way to transport the dogs (if we do decide to make the move), rather than trying to use the airlines. Actually, I’m not sure the airlines will transport 3 LG dogs at once – we haven’t got what we consider completely reliable info regarding that issue. And (sorry to keep pulling up questions) do you think it would be possible to find a rental home that accepts well behaved dogs? We aren’t all that interested in the American gated community scenario, but have been thinking more in terms of a tico middle class place. That would be about our speed. It wouldn’t have to be in a ritzy neighborhood, or one with a ton of expats…just a generally safe area. We know we need to learn to speak spanish, and that’s OK. Do you think finding a place to rent under these circumstances would be possible?
    Again, THanks Tim (and Maria Luisa!)