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Well ICE ALMOST Got It Right!

March 20th, 2008

So it was maybe 5:30AM, my normal get-up time, and I am “sleeping in” with my bride. Today is a feriado (holiday) and I figure maybe 7:30 is lookin’ good.

Then, my mind starts thinking… “After so many years in Costa Rica, when has ICE (our friendly local telecommunications monopoly) EVER gotten something right the first time!”. So I reach over to the bed side table and make a test phone call.

Sure enough, ICE has done it AGAIN! They switched to the new calling plan 24 hours early!!!! I have web sites to update, both my customers and my own… notification calls… all originally scheduled for tomorrow morning. Sheesh!

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The Change to 8 Digit Dialing draws near

February 29th, 2008

On March 20, 2008, how you dial a number in Costa Rica is going to change. This not only affects those of us IN Costa Rica, it also will affect those in foreign lands who make call TO Costa Rica.

If you fall into either of the above categories, by all means read on!

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Importation of Birds – Rule Change

January 18th, 2008

I know this topic is of interest to many.  For many months, Costa Rica has forbidden the importation of birds, pet or otherwise, because of bird flu fears.

I can now say that this law has been changed and the news is good and bad.

The good news is that you may now once again bring your birds to Costa Rica.

The odd part? You may NEVER export those birds to any other country after they are here! I guess this should be called the bird version of Hotel California… You can check in, but you can never leave…

Therefore, as I have written at least 1,000 times before, if you are not 100% SURE that you will want to live permanently in Costa Rica (currently about 50% leave before first year), I would urge you NOT to bring your pet birds until you have lived here at least 6-9 months and are sure this will be a lifelong move.

For further information, I would suggest contact ARCR . I am sure members can get the hot skinny on this topic.

I’m Returning to My Roots

January 11th, 2008

When Whole Foods Market came to my town in the United States, I was ecstatic. I’d shop for an hour or two, milling over which brand of organic eggs or beef or celery or salad dressing to buy.* On my way out, I’d load three neatly packed, sturdy, brown papers bags into the back seat of my car. After awhile, I purchased the cloth bags to tote the vegetables home. I even brought back those sturdy brown bags to use again.

Then, I moved to Costa Rica. A plastic bag free-for-all. There’s no question these bags with handles are handy, and since it does rain in Costa Rica, paper bags aren’t always a good solution especially when one has to take the bus or walk home. But the other day when I came home, my AAA batteries (which are encased in plastic to begin with) were inside a plastic bag inside another plastic bag. After a shopping trip, I will easily accumulate about 15 bags. Recycycling? Remember what it was like in the 1980s to recycle? Lugging the bags to faraway bins. If you were lucky you lived by the Goodwill. That’s kind of what it is like here. I moved to a city that used to recycle, but the program stopped. Now I’m back to driving my bottles to a bin, or finding a fellow I can take them to who will gladly haul take them from me every few weeks.

There’s no place to recycle these bags other than the bathroom. For those who do not know, living in Costa Rica is much like living on a boat: you can’t flush the toilet paper down the bowl. Those plastic bags come in handy for the little garbage pail that sits in all bathrooms. But we just don’t use the bathroom enough to recyle about 30 bags a week I end up brining home. I feel like I’m drowning in the things.

But, I’m returning to my roots. While shopping for curtains, my daughter and I came across this great orange, zippy looking pull-cart. Kind of an up-to-date, stylish model of the metal cart with two wheels.

Hey! Let’s get it. It’s not in the budget, but think of the gas we’ll save by walking to the store!

We choose orange over all the other bright colors.

The next day, we walked to the grocery store. I put the grocery cart next up to the cashier and started unloading the items onto the belt. My daughter started in on her deep desire for M&Ms. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw the grocery boy pulling out little white plastic bags.

NO! Stop!

I had even brought cloth bags to pack the vegetables in. I snipped at Coco to forget the candy and dashed for the vegetables. The young man looked at me as if I was looney. In a manner of ten seconds, he’d already packed up about eight plastic bags with an average of two items in each bag. My daughter still loomed long-faced by the chocolate and the cashier was ready for money. I felt like a defensive player on the basketball court: no matter how big I spread my butt, I couldn’t keep my court safe.

The grocery boy flung up his hands, rolled his eyes (crazy Gringa!) and went back to the his bench. I paid and began taking items out of the plastic. I left a pineapple and some plantains in bags so they wouldn’t leak in the cart. It’s not easy being green. But darned if we aren’t going to keep trying. We tipped the orange cart back and started walking for home.

*You can get fresh, organic food delivered right to your door in the Central Valley of Costa Rica from the fine people at NaturaStyle.

Crime in San Jose? Take Care!

December 18th, 2007

I just HATE to write these kinds of posts. I know how blogs like mine can and do affect tourism. On the other hand, if the country continues to not support those branches of government charged with protecting the people… well then so be it. They cannot expect good press about bad situations. Perhaps the loss of tourist dollars will get them off their collective traseros!

I live here and I love this country so to write something bad just makes me very sad. Here again though, I must write about the crime that is causing serious issues in San Jose, the capital. Please note I am not writing about the whole country, just San Jose…  but for now, I must caution my readers to be very cautious if they must drive in San Jose, especially the downtown area.

The bad guys are winning.

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Safe Internet Banking in Costa Rica

December 6th, 2007

Internet FraudLately, there have been a goodly number of news articles about people having their money stolen from their Costa Rica bank accounts.

As some of you know, several of my companies here in Costa Rica are “high tech” related, especially the web hosting business where we host thousands of customers world wide. Server and computer security are paramount issues as you might guess.

So when I got a phone call yesterday asking me my thoughts about this rash of Internet bank fraud and seeking advice, I decided rather than answer her question immediately, I would BLOG about it and maybe pass on some ideas for my readers. While this relates to the banking thing, it is really germane to ANY Internet transaction that uses passwords, bank information, credit cards or ANY confidential data.

This will not be a “techy” post. I’ll try to keep it very basic so non-techies can understand what they can do (MUST do) to avoid Internet fraud.

I am sorry, but this will be a long post, but I cannot recommend strongly enough that your read this.

If this topic interests you, read on!

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Follow-up on the Exchange Rates and Banking

November 28th, 2007

I expect my readers are might be a bit tired of all these posts about banking and the revaluation of the colon last week, but things are happening here that affect (especially) those expats living here.

But, I have also received a lot of email about this topic, so here are some things I am noticing in my travels around San Jose in the past few days. I think they may be important.

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Central Bank Revalues the Colon

November 22nd, 2007

So sweet!

Back on August 12, 2007, I wrote a post entitled “The Colon Vs The Dollar – Watch your money!” In that post, I cautioned my readers that the weakening dollar could not long stand firm against the Costa Rica colon. I urged readers to move their funds from their dollar accounts (in Costa Rica banks) to colon accounts as I anticipated that the Central Bank had to act soon to bring the dollar down and increase the value of the colon.

Last night, they did just that. The colon has been revalued to about ¢497 and ¢498.39 to the dollar.

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Books and Reading in Costa Rica

November 17th, 2007

I get a fair number of questions from people who ask about bringing their books to Costa Rica when they move.

I have been fond of reading all of my life, and when I first came to Costa Rica, moving all my books (maybe 2,000 or so) was a big decision. Most were hard bound, but I had a fair number of paperbacks as well.

On the one hand, I really wanted my books but was not thrilled with the idea of packing those babies. Then, there was the cost of shipping them. Books are not exactly light, and when you are paying by the pound for an international move, you start to re-think every item in terms of its weight (cost to ship) and duties (taxes) that will have to be paid upon entering the country.

Sadly, when I was planning the “big move” there were NO Blogs to help me and very few resources other than the ARCR to advise me on the realities of Costa Rica.

If I had just know then what I know now, the decision making would not have been such a big deal, and my long term solution to reading (see below) would never have been part of my decision making. I would have brought far fewer books. That is because many of the books I brought with me are now gone.

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Trade-Offs

November 16th, 2007

Up until two months ago, my family and I were living in a contemporary three-story house on a beach in Southern California. We had every convenience available. We were only limited by our imaginations. Now, here we are in the jungle with electricity that goes out from time to time, severely pot-holed roads and surrounded by people whose lives and backgrounds could not be more different than our own.

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