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Yeah, It’s Cold but not for long!

November 16th, 2007

It is windy and cold still, but the GOOD news is that verano (summer) is coming and coming fast!

November marks the beginning of the transition from the rainy season to the dry season, and the telltale signs are almost non-stop winds and the lessening of the afternoon rains. It also is great sleeping weather! Nights are chilly and breezy and because of the constant air movement, the air smells fresher, even in the Central Valley that is occasionally troubled by smog. Days are warm, less humidity here in the Central Valley, and just going out to do choirs is pleasant. The beaches of course will continue to be hot,but there too, there is a pretty contstant breeze to keep things manageable.

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Salsa Lizano and Other Stuff

November 11th, 2007

Gallo PintoWhere can I buy that??

The first time I started to get that question was right after I posted my daughter-in-law’s recipe for Gallo Pinto. Her recipe is, in my not too humble opinion, the absolute hands-down best I have had anywhere in all the years I have lived here and the years before when I was a visitor. She got the recipe from her mom and who knows before that… but it is superb! Those of you who know me are aware perhaps that I am not exactly an amateur eater!

Gallo Pinto, the basin ingredients are rice and beans, is perhaps the most famous of all Costa Rica foods and is served mostly as a breakfast dish, but also for other meals or even as a snack.

However, it is the seasoning ingredients that make the dish!

The key ingredient in her Gallo Pinto, or for that matter a large number of Costa Rican typical food dishes is Salsa Lizano. This dark brown sauce has a pretty unique flavor, and not a few tourists have loaded up on it before returning home. The problem, of course, is that they run out! That’s when I get the emails.

So, I decided to add a small online store to The REAL Costa Rica web site that sells not only Salsa Lizano and Costa Rica coffee, etc, but a variety of other foods gifts, clothes (check out the baby clothes!) and even a Costa Rica flag.

To get to the store, just click here. Then just click on the Salsa Lizano category.

Of course there are also the usual books on Costa Rica, but I also threw in stuff like music and DVD’s as well as learning Spanish. Just for yucks, I also added references to Mexico, Nicaragua and Panama as I get a lot of email from people asking about those countries.

All stuff is shipped from the USA. Enjoy!

Questions from Readers

November 6th, 2007

I guess this is going to turn into its own permanent post as the number of emails I am getting is just crazy. So here again are my replies to some of the better requests:

Is residency required to obtain a driver’s license in Costa Ria and is a test required?

Not yet! However there is now a bill before lawmakers that requires this, and it looks like it has a good chance of passing. As your right to drive here is tied to your being in the country legally, this might spell problems for those here illegally (past their 90 or 30 day tourist visa).

Do you know if the CCSS insurance covers pre-existing conditions?

They do. I actually hope this changes and I think it must. Too many people are coming to Costa Rica with VERY costly illnesses and this places an enormous burden on the already financially strapped CAJA.

I loved your website, very helpful. I do have a suggestions; maybe you can include more information for MOPT offices, hospitals, clinics, etc; in other areas, like Guanacaste where the expat populations is very high.

The hospitals (CAJA) are listed in the Real Costa Rica. There are VERY few private hospitals in Guanacaste and the “clinics” would shock the average expat. This is why I have ranted about 400 times that if you are over 50, you should consider whether you wish to be 4-5 hours from quality medical care. Expats love that beach, but seem to forget that over 50, your chances of needing emergency medical care go way up. Even in San Jose. getting an ambulance and getting to the hospital can take an hour. Just two weeks ago, three persons died in Escazu (10 minutes from Cima Hospital) because the ambulance arrived 50 minutes after it was called. Consider this when moving here!

There are MOPT (Ministry of Public Transportation) in Liberia and Limon, but the reason I have not listed them is that I have been told my many expats that those offices cannot issue driver’s licenses and are not full service.  I’d love some feedback on this as I am getting mixed signals.

Your website is very informative. Thank you. Quick question: I have an opportunity to work in Costa Rica for a couple years (have been there several times). My wifes main objection is that she does not want to live where she cannot fluch (sic) toilet paper. Is it possible to rent homes with plumbing that can handle TP?

I was not going to answer this, but then I remembered why I wrote The REAL Costa Rica in the first place which was to debunk these generalities!

Yes, there are about a jillion places to buy or rent homes with toilets that can handle paper. This is one of those truly dumb urban legends that surface on occasion… probably based on either plumbing from the last century or places that used really cheap toilets. Also, there are some older homes where the pipes are too small. Easy to find out! FLUSH before you BUY (or rent)… something you should be doing anyway! Now if you are one of those people (read GUYS) who use about a half a roll to take care of your business, then you may have a issue.

 

old-1412.jpgHello, my name is Dave, I am the fire chief at Nancy Run Fire Department I am trying to locate one of our old fire trucks that was sent to Costa Rica some time ago, I was seen at a parade called the fiesta palmares, see photo attached, I am hoping to find where it is currently located and contact information for the department that is using it. The fire truck is a 1964 Mack, yellow in color with the above listed fire company name on it.

So here is the photo (click to enlarge)! Any of you readers able to help? If so, email him at djb2328@rcn.com

When a cable company advertises cable modem speed 4 mb would that really be 4 mb? After reading your segment on the internet I wondered if they could really deliver that speed.

Probably not. I know I have never received even close to what I pay for (2MB). First, the infrastructure is generally crummy and second, you are sharing the connect with your neighbors. Order 50% more than you need and you will probably be happy. Also, expect a fair bit of downtime from the company you mentioned in your email.

We are planning our first visit for June 2008, and would appreciate any
feedback you have on the tentative following itinerary for myself, my wife,
and our two daughters, ages 11 and 9:

June 24 depart LAX – redeye
June 25 arrive San Jose around noon and take private van to Monteverde
June 26 fun and games in Monteverde
June 27 private van to Arenal
June 28 fun and games in Arenal
June 29 private van to Tamarindo
June 30 fun and games in Tamarindo
July 1 private van to Grecia
July 2 shuttle/van to airport, San Jose – LAX

I almost never answer these questions (or even reply) as I tell people I am not a travel agent. It occurred to me though, that this is a great example of why not to plan your own trip without the assistance of a good travel agent. Let’s take a look at this.

Monteverde is about 5-6 hours from the San Jose airport and about 2 hours from the Liberia airport. Is Liberia a better option?

Next, there are few vans that can handle the truly horrible road to Monteverde. A 4X4 is required. A tank would be better! Beautiful place though for sure! I love it!

Then to Arenal? Same issue. 4X4! Lovely drive – 2-3 hours depending on roads. Go North around the top of Lake Arenal.

To Tamarindo? 3-4 hours I am guessing. Loooong drive with young kids on bad roads (until you reach the Pan American Highway.

Tamarindo to Grecia? 5-7 hours. Lose a day just driving. Good roads though and a van would be OK.

You chose some GREAT places to visit, but after counting your drive hours (about 17-20 including the trip to the airport), you should be prepared for some grumpy kids and the perhaps serious loss of some vacation time. Now if you and the kids all really enjoy driving… well then give it a shot! You’ll pass through some beautiful country.

In summary, it is very tempting to look at a Costa Rica map and make plans based on what you THINK looks close. When traveling here, plan on an average travel speed of 20-25 MPH. Sound low? It is not. A 100 mile (150KM) trip here is at least 3-4 hours if you know where you are going. Bad roads are everywhere. Just this week I informed two of my tourist customers that the Pan American highway south is closed. They had no idea and had they followed their original plans, would have lost 6-8 hours getting back on track.

There are some excellent US based travel agents who really do know Costa Rica. Sadly, the majority read the same travel brochures and web sites you do and that is not enough. I always suggest a good Costa Rica based TA as they know what is happening here.

That’s it ’til the next batch.

We have a new Contributor!

November 6th, 2007

Nora StraightPlease welcome Nora Straight who moved here from California with her husband and two sons aged 18 and 14. Half Chilean and half Mexican, it is no surprise she is Spanish fluent. She and her family live in Rio Seco which is about 15 minutes inland from Parrita, approximately 25 minutes north of Quepos.

Her bio indicates she likes Books, politics, cookbooks, travel, and knitting. It also indicates she likes chocolate. Having visited her Blog and seen her picture, it is clear that this is just nonsense. No serious chocolate lover could look like that. She probably doesn’t even sweat on the stairmaster either.

Welcome Nora! Now write something!

Susan’s Got a New Name

October 10th, 2007

Did you remember Cheers? The bar where “everybody knew your name?”

I loved that show. No, I’d say it was almost religion. (I’m being satirical here.) I didn’t miss an episode. And, I felt like a regular when I placed myself on the couch to watch it every week. I was so sad to see it go, but I forged on.

When I arrived here nine years ago, Costa Rica was my Cheers. I worked for years to develop a neighborhood, “regulars,” a system, and a routine where I felt at home. Many began to know my name.

My show was cancelled. Like Frasier, Ted, and Carla, I found myself written out of the script I had written. In other words, in a matter of very short time, I became a single mother in a foreign country, and of course as many of you know, my son has Down Syndrome.

How did all this happen so fast? This is not as important of the new
life ahead of me.

So, I’ve developed a “spin-off.” There are a few new characters in my play, and a few old familiar faces. My name has changed, but really, I’m still the same. With a few changes to the script, the stories will continue. I’m staying in Costa Rica, and “belly-ing” up to the bar for the new and exciting episodes.

By the way, instead of Susan Carmichael, you can now call me Susan Lutz.

Thanks for tuning in.

TLC Si! TLC wins 51.7% to 48.3%

October 7th, 2007

Costa Rica has decided. The answer is SI – YES to the TLC. I am so proud to be living here during this time.

Turnout was about 60% of eligible voters.

Is this good for Costa Rica? Probably, but certainly not perfect. It has always been my opinion that Costa Rica had to vote yes for the country to continue to prosper. To say no would place her in a difficult, perhaps untenable position indeed as Costa Rica must be able to compete against other`Latin American Countries.

So now the process will begin with various parts of the TLC being phased in over`the next dozen years. For sure this will not go smoothly as many will continue to fight the process to the detriment of Costa Rica and her people.

But this is an enlightened government and the leadership is strong.

Costa Rican will benefit because of the competition. The big business monopolies of ICE, CAJA and the INS will no longer be able to asset themelves to the detriment of the people.

Viva Costa Rica!

ICE Incapable of Satisfying the Internet Needs of Costa Rica

September 14th, 2007

Wow! Whatta surprise, huh? That was one of the headlines in yesterday’s La Nacion. It seems that once again, our friendly local communications monopoly has been caught totally unawares by the now 15 year old Internet revolution. Apparently, someone in the “strategic planning group” felt that the unprecedented growth of the Internet world-wide simply was not going to affect little old Costa Rica. According to this article, some 36 localities are affected to the point where new connections are very limited.

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Jacó in deep Doo-Doo?

September 10th, 2007

The unrestrained growth of Jaco has been of concern to a lot of people. More and more condos, apartments, houses are jamming the area from Jacó to Quepos. Too much and without proper planning. Couple that with the huge growth in the central valley, and you have a recipe for serious problems.Well now the piper is in line to be paid.

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BAC San Jose – A total joke! Their New Rating? ZERO

September 8th, 2007

A few weeks ago, I wrote about three banks here in Costa Rica and how they compare. You can review that post HERE if you wish.

In that post, I left readers hanging a bit regrading BAC San Jose and their policies regarding the depositing of checks from outside Costa Rica. You may recall they have this little “gotcha” policy that prohibits the depositing of any check from outside Costa Rica for the first year, a truly stupid and needless policy for most people and for businesses especially. After 18 months of 100% trouble free banking, I asked that my company accounts be allowed to deposit checks, all from the USA. Here is what I was told:

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A Blatant Plug!

September 2nd, 2007

As I got a lot of positive feedback from people interested in our weekend excursions, here is a bit of publicity for a new post: “Another Getaway Weekend with my (almost) ex-wife” to be found on my personal Blog, HisFault.

Just no other convenient way to tell RCR Blog readers about a new post.   Sorry to those subscribed to both Blogs.

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