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Dress Code Change. Shorts are OK!

January 27th, 2009

shortsLast year, I was visiting an inmate err friend at the Costa Rica nacional funny farm err Psychiatric Hospital. I drove up to the gate and requested entry, but the guard told me I could not enter because I was wearing shorts.   I thought he was joking… but no.  It was a rule. Needless to say I was more than a bit torqued at this.  I said nothing as too many times foreigners (read that as Gringos) act in a manner that 1. makes us look like a bunch of arrogant buttheads and 2 one seldom wins these battles.

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Gasoline Prices Drop Again

January 19th, 2009

OuchBetter late than never!  I wonder if there is such a thing as getting  “less screwed”.

While oil prices have dropped from the $145 per barrel levels of just a few months ago, to less than $36.00 per barrel, Costa Rica has been very slow adjusting gas prices here to reflect that decrease. Somebody is making some serious cash, and it is NOT me.  However, prices are due to come down this week.

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Earthquake Update

January 16th, 2009

paxFirst, a correction and an apology to my readers!  In an earlier Post, I stated the the La Paz waterfall was no more. This  mistake brought to my attention by a reader Mario and since verified.  Although La Paz is still running muddy, it is still there, although the damage to the surrounding area is extensive.

More and more aftershocks are hitting the same area and those still there are living in constant fear. Yesterday afternoon at least 10 aftershocks were felt areas of Sararipiqui. The smallest was 2.7 and and the largest was 4.5 (about 2 PM yesterday) on the Richter Scale.  Many could be felt here in the Central Valley.

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The Power of the Earthquake

January 14th, 2009

cloudJust how powerful is a 6.2 earthquake?

An interesting comparison was made in today’s Diario Extra, one of Costa Rica’s Spanish language newspapers. It is the equivalent (in released power) of seventeen atomic bombs of the type dropped on Hiroshima, Japan. That sort of puts it into perspective huh?

If the quake had not occurred so deep in the earth, there probably would not even be much of a Costa Rica.

Rescue workers are still on the scenes searching for more bodies beneath the millions of tons of earth. At this point, six days after the event, it will be astonishing if any more bodies are found and a miracle if any are alive.

The death toll stands at about 21.  I say “about” as different sources report different figures.

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Residency Possible via Common Law Relationship

January 14th, 2009

immigration_Costa Rica has had a problem for some time with foreigners coming to Costa Rica, marrying a Costa Rica citizen, and promptly applying for Permanent Residency.

This is a very desirable status as Permanent Residency grants the person all rights and privileges of a citizen save the right to vote. The biggie is the right to work here legally!

Of course many people come here legitimately, meet the love of their life, and marry them! Others, however, arrange marriages through lawyers and often have never even met the person they marry.  Marriages could be performed by power of attorney. This causes (rightfully) some consternation at Migración (immigration)! Disallowed from applying for Permanent Residency were those living in a common law relationship (Unión de hecho).

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Huawei Wins $235 Million 3G Phone Bid

January 13th, 2009

huaweiAs most of you know, I am generally not a  fan of ICE, the nation’s soon to be ex-communications monopoly, but although they are, as usual, about three years late,  Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad (ICE) finally gave China’s Huawei Technologies the preliminary OK for a 235-million-dollar contract to install a third-generation (3G) system for 935,000 customers in Costa Rica.

Final approval must come from the Comptroller (Costa Rica’s equivalent to the General Accounting Office) before the deal is finalized.  Huawei won in a bidding war against Sweden’s Ericcson and China rival ZTE Corporation

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Earthquake Update – Bad Stuff

January 12th, 2009

post2Now I can Blog about something really important after having to deal with that earlier time-waster.

Earthquakes never bothered me before. The house would rock and roll and everyone would call everyone to find out if they felt it.  Kind of exciting really. There was always damage somewhere in Costa Rica,  and occasionally, someone would be seriously hurt or die, but for some reason, I was detached from it. Not any more.

Latest stats look better than they are and do not tell the whole story:

Most recent death count: 14 (way down from earlier but I am not at all sure we have the final number)

Missing and presumed dead: 23

Injured: 100

These sound like low numbers… until you read this:

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At Least 30 Dead and Many Missing

January 10th, 2009

richorscaleI guess it takes an earthquake to get me online again!  My apologies for being away so long, but had some work issues that took a lot of time. Miguel will be happy though! Thanks to the others who wrote to inquire if we survived.

Those of us who live here deal with the many earthquakes.  Just a fact of life.  Those who live or have lived in California know all about it. The vast majority are small shocks (3-4) that rock the bed, make some noise and are generally not big deals.  Buildings in Costa Rica generally are built with a LOT of Rebar and concrete and most are very safe and suffer little damage. There are, however, many homes, especially in the country and areas not prosperous, that fall apart in the quakes.

This earthquake was nasty… 6.2. It was supposedly the strongest in 150 years… though I am not sure how they know that as the Richter Scale was not developed until the 1930’s.

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ICE’s Latest Fiasco

August 13th, 2008

Back in June, I wrote about ICE’s plan to discontinue the TDMA cellular phone system beginning in 2009. I had my doubts that this would happen, but I wrote about it anyway.

Some background for readers. There are two cellular systems here, TDMA being the oldest and the only one the works pretty much all of the time, and the GSM system, that should work better, but does not. In fact, it works poorly at best. Callers often get the “Try again later” message and even when there is cell service, connections are not always stable. In general, TDMA is the way to go though there are a few locations (Dominical, Nosara and Samara come to mind) where the only system that works well is a GSM phone. So you want a TDMA phone? Interestingly, there are no more new TDMA phones available in Costa Rica. Any you buy are reconditioned. Besides… there are no phones lines available anyway. Sheesh!

The plan to discontinue the TDMA system was based on ICE planned upgrading of the current GSM system to the Third Generation GSM known as 3G, a vastly superior communications system (and part of Apple’s new iPhone configuration). It is faster and offers a ton of options including Internet. Of course future success would also be based on having the towers available, etc… but that is a different story.

In any case, ICE’s plans were basically correct and once installed and the tower location issues fixed, it should have allowed for the discontinuation of TDMA and offered users a fine, though more costly, solution. Of course THAT was before ICE sent out the bids to install the new 3G system.

The bids went out and only one company bid the project, Huawei Technologies. Well that would be fine as Huawei is most certainly a capable business partner, but ICE planned a budget of $224 million and Huawei submitted a bid of $580 million. Oops! Did someone make a really big error in calculation? As ICE has a history of poor planning, this would not be a really big surprise. In fact, it appears that (though I cannot confirm this), ICE changed the bid specs in June, 2008 adding 500 terminals to the specs but expecting no increase in cost. Huh? I admit to not knowing what is a terminal… but adding 500 of anything would seem to me to be an additional expense that needed to be considered.

Of the six bidders, FIVE (like the Ericsson de Costa Rica (current provider of one of the country’s two GSM networks), Continuex S.A. (distributor of Samsung in Costa Rica, ZTE Corp. and Nokia Siemens Network) decided not to bid citing fears of not being able to deliver to ICE’s specs.

So now what? Who knows?? The $356 million difference is huge and ICE clearly will have to go back to the planning stage. It seems unlikely they will or even can accept Huawei’s bid. They do not have the funding… or maybe they do!

Just this week, ICE announced that they wish to expand services to other Central American countries. Of course those of you who are skeptics might suggest that ICE put its own house in order before planning such an expansion…. the more pragmatic might just suggest ICE forego expansion and use THAT money to get a good funcional and working GSM system.

As always… more shall be revealed!

Costa Rica Business for Sale

July 13th, 2008

As a lot of my readers know, I first came to Costa Rica to retire. Many things came together while I was back in Chicago that allowed me to do this. One day, I realized that I really did not need to work any more. I had sufficient funds that, if managed correctly, would allow me to retire and not work another day. This was not possible in the USA (too costly), but was very “do-able” in Costa Rica.

I made my plans and within six months, here I was! Retirement seemed like such a good idea at the time, but sadly, it just did not work out. After five months, I was bored to death. I traveled Costa Rica and enjoyed the life, and after a while, I just settled down near San Jose and tried to just.. well… retire. I found myself watching TV and doing nothing… and frankly, just how much Oprah can anyone watch?

Since that realization, I have started 5 companies here not including The Real Costa Rica web site, that, while not a business, takes a lot of my time. I now work about ten hours per day, but working here is most assuredly not like working in the US. In fact, it is not like working at all! I am happy with life and enjoy the work and meeting new people.

However, the hours are long and my wife, who has worked at Costa Rica’s second largest hospital for over 32 years, is now wanting to work less, travel more, and have me available far more than I am. She has the right to spend more time with me, and I told her I would cut back. I therefore have decided to sell one of my companies and make myself available to her. If you have an interest in owning a (quite profitable) business that requires about 15 hours per week to manage, read on!

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