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Costa Rica

Information on my trips to Costa Rica, I think I’ve been there twenty(?) times now. I really enjoy it there, don’t be surprised if one of these trips I don’t come back….

If anyone has any information on a job down there, I’m interested!

Written By: Gary on September 2, 2008 No Comment

Sorry, I’ve been off-line lately, I haven’t had ‘net access or felt well enough to do it (I’ve been really really sick the last few days), but I’m feeling much much better today. I’ll give you the scoop on my experiences with the CR medical system later.

I’m in Tamarindo the next few days, I couldn’t get the little hotel that I liked from last trip, Domus Kahuna, but I grabbed a room at the Best Western Vista Villas since I didn’t feel well enough to go looking for a room (wanted a safe bet); I’d normally avoid the US chains when in Costa Rica. Turns out my room has a view of the ocean and so does the pool/returant area (which also has WiFi), it’s a little bit of a hike down to the water but it’s a great view :)

This is looking like one of the top weather days this trip so far! I think I just need to take it easy for a little bit still. So I’ll drive into town and pick up a few things and then head down and check out the beach.

Written By: Gary on August 29, 2008 No Comment

Here’s a random batch of photos from the past few days in Costa Rica. These mostly have some titles or captions to go with them.

Just an assorted few that I enjoyed and I hope you will too!


 

Written By: Gary on August 29, 2008 No Comment

One of the things I’m doing this trip is attending a seminar by the Association of Residents of Costa Rica (ARCR). They offer this the last Thursday/Friday of every month (but December) for only $65. I’ve had this on my to do list for a while but it just hasn’t worked out previously, it is specifically why I chose now for this trip and not a few weeks later.

It’s pretty much what I hoped for so far a bunch of short little presentations (about nine a day). Of course everyone who does a presentation passes out their contact info, but it really is more of a presentation on the topic, not specifically selling their business (although they’re hoping). The one topic I hoped for, but didn’t really expect, was about working in Costa Rica. We have about 25 people in our group, mostly from US and Canada; mostly retirees or soon to be about five of us weren’t near the retirement range but want to relocate.

FYI: Really good snacks for break: OJ, coffee, some kind of pastry and little crustless sandwiches.

I talked to one of the people, Ray, a few times beforehand via e-mail and telephone before coming and he was very helpful.

I’d definitely recommend this seminar if you are thinking of relocating or retiring to Costa Rica.

I also used these folks for getting my driver’s license.

Written By: Gary on August 28, 2008 No Comment

I have some photos from the ferry ride from Paquera to Puntarenas uploaded.

 


 

Written By: Gary on August 28, 2008 No Comment

The proper name of the hotel is Occidental Torremolinos (Occidental owns a bunch of hotels, but I’m not certain if it’s a “chain” or what) it’s a two floor hotel built in a square (hollow in the center) with an outside pool/hot tub and some tables outside in the middle. It is a nice standard “American” hotel and it’s located just off the edge of a busy area but it’s not too busy by the hotel. The room is standard “Holiday Inn” but with nicer finishing touches it was about $80 for the night.

I walked around last night and my only real complaint is there were too many American chain restaurants (there were a lot of Chinese restaurants but not in one particular area, they were scattered all over) the neighborhood seemed fine. Lots of Internet cafe’s all over the place.

This is a boring review but I always have a hard time deciding where to stay when in big cities and San Jose is pretty big so I thought I’d offer the basics.

Breakfast is free, in a nice dining room, it had juices, fruits, some Kellogg’s cereals, scrambled eggs and some kind of sausages but a bit below a full blown buffet but as included breakfasts go, it was great. Air conditioner, ceiling fan, TV, hair dryer and coffee pot in the room. There was a phone in the room which definitely not standard in the costa areas but I guess I’ve had them downtown and near the airport. The have a few old Windows machines with free Internet off the lobby, but WiFi is $8 a day (I think it’s accessible from the rooms too). Free semi-guarded parking too.

It’s very near the big Parque Metropolitano La Sabana, if you’ve ever seen a map of San Jose it’s the huge park in the middle of town. I haven’t had a chance to go in it yet this trip, I did go in about nine years ago so we’ll see how it changed. I mistakenly stayed in San Jose my first trip, I only say mistakenly in that I just needed to spend the night until friends showed up the next day, but the San Jose airport is not in San Jose (just like the Detroit airport is not in Detroit) I should have stayed neared the airport in that case.

If I had to stay in town I wouldn’t hesitate to stay there again (and I decided to stay Friday and leisurely leave on Saturday).

Hotel Occidental Torremolinos
Calle 40 y Avenida 5 bis
San Jose, Costa Rica

Phone: 011 (506) 2 222-5266
Fax: 011 (506) 2 255-3167
San Jose West, San Jose, Costa Rica

Written By: Gary on August 27, 2008 One Comment

So I heard that the ferry from Paquera to Puntarenas was at 12:30 PM and but I also heard 1 PM so I decided I should get there by 12:30 just in case. The ride was taking me a little bit longer than I thought but I knew (unless it was full) I was going to make it. I went a few kilometers past Paquera and I was the only one on the road (everyone had been rushing past me) which made me decide that I went too far so I turned around. A few minutes later I realized I hadn’t gone too far in the first place and that it was too late for the 12:30 boat (the next was at 3 or 4 PM).

So I decided to go there and make sure I knew exactly where it was and get my ticket; then I’d go get lunch and see if there was and Internet access back in town. But when I got to the dock the ferry was still there!!! They must have just recently changed the time to 1 PM since I was one of the last cars on (I had gotten the 1 PM tine from a person, the 12:30 was from a June-December 2008 free travel booklet).

Had I realized that the Paquera Ferry was a location option in my awesome new GPS I’d have gotten there with no problem!! Duh!

FerrypaqueraSo this is how they work the queue, you get in line and they give you a “pass” that says there is room for you and you can get out of the car, buy the ticket and get back in the car (I think it was $13 for me and the car a little more than I thought it would be). When they went up to the car in front of me they must have told him to go around the vehicle in front of him so he starts to back up towards me (my car is parked and off at this point) and I’m beeping the horn like crazy (he had so much room) and he hits the brakes but he still hits me at least it was really slow and there was no damage. It turns out he wasn’t that great of a driver (at least not a stick) he had a heck of a time getting situated on the ferry.

It was the smaller ferry (the other one is way nicer and bigger) but it’s not very busy so there is lots of room in the people area (the car area is packed). It was drizzling on and off but there is (sort of) a cover up top so I’m up there, but I’m really happy it’s not a stormy ride. Looks like there might be sunshine for the end of the ferry ride!

I should get to the San Jose area in daylight so that’s a big plus, maybe even to the hotel. BTW, my hotel is in the GPS so I should not have any problem! I haven’t used the GPS for city driving yet so I can’t wait to try that.

I took some photos, I’ll try to get them posted tomorrow, the batteries are dying on the laptop…

Written By: Gary on August 26, 2008 No Comment

It was a much nicer day today! It was mostly sunny but drizzly on and off but looked stormy so I didn’t want to walk up the the waterfall (a real hike) and get caught in a storm; later I hear the water that you walk next to (through at some parts) were pretty wild so some people turned around and came back, which must have been all the rain from yesterday/last night.

I got to spend some time at walking the beach and relaxing. It was nice to not be running around too much. I just walked for a while and read and talked to some people that I’ve run into more than a few times this trip. I started to go farther up the beach but it started to rain again and since there was a (fancy) hotel on the beach so I popped in there for a deliciou$ lunch (and stayed out of the rain).

I did try to catch the sunset but it just got cloudier and cloudier as I got closer so that was a bust. But on the way I did pick up a couple of guys from Argentina on the road and gave them a lift for a few kilometers they were interesting and spoke great english. Just to be clear, they were from Argentina, not on the road from Argentina

It’s pouring out now but that’s okay since I’m inside and have nothing else to do but grab some dinner and sleep. If it’s nice I’d like to get up early so I can play in Montezuma more before I head to San Jose tomorrow.

Written By: Gary on August 25, 2008 No Comment

So this rain is making me a little crazy today. It’s been pouring on and off all day. I’d use it as a day to stay inside and catch up on the internet but it’s satellite and the rain goofs up the signal. So needless to say I’m a little bored today.

It’s to be expected as it is the “green” season but I was just hoping for a little less. Talking with a few German women in my hotel they said this is only one of three really rainy days that they’ve had and they’ve been here six months.

Although, it’s coming down insane right now and I’m in this restaurant with no walls and it’s really nice with all the rain noise and seeing the rain pouring over the edges of the roof. It’s not bright enough in most of the restaurants to read while you wait but the laptop lights itself so while it’s geeky it’s practical. Although a zip-lock bag would be more practical than the vinyl backpack I brought it here in…

I did get a chance to use faster Internet in Cabano today but it was so warm inside I didn’t stay too long or else I could have hung out there longer. I did use the internet to make a few phone calls and Mom was on-line so I got to video conference with her; for some reason it’s way more exciting to video-conference from Costa Rica than from 30 miles away.

With the rain it was too cloudy to go catch the sunset in Manzanillo, maybe tomorrow (I’ll probably go there and eat even if it’s raining).

Written By: Gary on August 25, 2008 No Comment

So Chico’s Bar and Resturant has the best Penne Pasta with Tomato Sauce and it come with a small bowl of parmesan cheese. They were too busy saturday night and the restaurant wasn’t open when I came by yesterday so I wanted to get a chance to eat this again.

Again? Yes, I had this last trip and loved it. We actually saw the waiter eating it at a different restaurant and it looked so good and he looked like he was really enjoying it so much Mark & I both tried to order it so he had to confess it was from down the street. So we came here a few days later to try it out ourselves. That’s not how I usually get my restaurant recommendations but it worked.

I guess it’s like the old barbershop brain-teaser: “There are two barbers in town, one has a great haircut and one has a bas one. Who do you go to get your hair cut at?” And you need to say “the one with the bad haircut, because he’s the one who cut the other barber’s hair (the one with the good cut)”.

I just wished they had Fresca in a glass bottle instead of the can; I really like drinking out of a cold bottle…

Written By: Gary on August 25, 2008 No Comment

One of the bad things about Montezuma is it’s on the east side of the peninsula so you don’t get any sunsets. So last night I dashed over to Mal Pais to catch the sunset; remember when I say “dashed” it might mean 5 miles an hours over some of the treacherous roads. But I was in a hurry because I couldn’t get them to bring me my “la quinta” (the check) where I had a late lunch (going faster didn’t help settle my meal).

Here’s a dozen photos of the Mal Pais Sunset.

The below map should show you where Mal Pais is. It’s near the bottom of the peninsula; you can click the “-” to zoom out an see where that fits in to the rest of the country (world). You can see Montezuma to the right and above it a little.

View Larger Map

Written By: Gary on August 25, 2008 4 Comments

So I tried to open a bank account today. Why? Because bank access in the southern Nicoya peninsula is very limited and the one bank they do have never lets me use my ATM so I thought an account might be useful. I was just thinking a few hundred dollars for emergencies and then it would be established already or if I needed money wired here a bank account would be handy (I could wire it to myself from the US while I was here, I checked with my Michigan bank on this already). I had e-mailed the Costa Rican bank (Banco Nacional) a week or two ago about this, but never got a response.

So I waited and waited and then finally I got to to wait some more. Then I asked at a different desk, because if I don’t have what I need, I don’t need to be waiting and got a very helpful guy whose english was good enough for us to figure it out. Turns out I need

  • a passport,
  • a local address / phone,
  • a few letters of refererence from other banking institutions (these made me feel like I was living in older times); they said a hotel would do for the address/phone but some coordination would have to be done since they wanted proof (like a utility bill) but what I was asking for was not unheard of,
  • a minimum deposit was $10 (obviously for emergencies that was much less than I planned).

    So I’ll get some letters from the bank and be ready to take care of these when I need to.

  • Written By: Gary on August 25, 2008 No Comment

    It was raining so hard this morning it woke me up but I think part of that was due to the noisy roof of where I’m at. It’s beautiful outside now and the early rain will help keep all the dust down. I want to go for a ride and it’s so much nicer with the windows down but the dust really ruins the ride.

    I just had breakfast in an open air restaurant down by the water. It’s a nice place but they’re really slow on the service at this place but that let me monopolize their table a little more :)

    I’m going to head over to Cabano (a central town in the lower part of the peninsula) and run some errands and then over to a restaurant on the beach in Manzanillo for dinner and catch the sunset.m

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    Written By: Gary on August 24, 2008 One Comment

    Montezuma-Beach-Pict2568The weather was amazing all day. Sunny and warm but very humid. We didn’t get any afternoon rain at all.

    But, regardless of the wonderful weather, the first thing I did this morning was find a new hotel, the other one wasn’t that great but I was too tired to look around any more last night (I did check two others that were full). I found one that is nicer and cheaper, $30 a night which includes A/C and hot water. Don’t laugh at the “A/C and hot water comment”, some hotels have 4 prices based on which combination that you would like. As long as I sleep okay here, I think I’ll stay here until I have to go to San Jose on Wednesday.

    Picture 14So after I moved I went up to the waterfalls which was a little more exciting than usual, with all the rain the current was really flowing. When I got up there to swim it was pretty quiet (in terms of people) the the falls were raging with all the extra water. I tried swimming but the current was too much for me, I’m not that great of a swimmer and certainly out of practice. Hung out there for a while, for as dead as it was when I got there, I think it got the busiest I’ve even seen it. Not the best picture of me, but it’s the only one I have of me so far.

    So since I didn’t wear myself out swimming I decided to hike it up to the upper falls. Another difference because of the rain a few recent downed trees and lots of mud. But I got up there just fine. Unfortunately, right when I got up top I dropped my bottle of gatorade! So that meant I really had to ration my other bottle of water on the way back; I usually take 3 bottles total (of water or gatorade) I was so thirsty on the way down but I made it. It fell pretty far and I’ve climb that part before (to get to the lower fall of the upper falls) but where I usually climb had loads of water running down it.

    Here’s the cRaZy spot where you have to climb down to the upper falls. This is while I was halfway down rope looking down and looking up (fuzzy), it’s really not as bad as it looks :)

    Park-Ocean-Viewfile0088Stats according to my GPS: I climbed from 97 feet altitude to 572 feet, but I actually ascended over 600 feet and it was a total of 4 miles for the round trip. (But now I need to go double-check since none of that was meters or miles and I thought I had all that switched to metric; I’m certain it was “feet”, maybe it was 4 kilometers?)

    All photos should be clickable for a larger version (but not very large, the ‘net is really slow here).

    Written By: Gary on August 24, 2008 No Comment

    For some reason I was really thinking Costa Rica was only an hour off from Michigan right now. It’s actually two hours off so that might my flight feel much much longer since I had it in my head wrong.

    Not the most exciting thing to tell you, but I keep noticing my clock on the computer is off by 2 hours so maybe this will stop me from thinking about it…

    Written By: Gary on August 24, 2008 No Comment

    I left for the Airport before 6 am and didn’t get here until 7:15 pm (9:15 my time); that’s factoring car rental time and immigration and a short stop for lunch (no other real stops) so it was a long day. I ended up renting a car because it was cheaper to rent for five days than to take a taxi and it was WAY too hot to try public transportation (taxi then bus then taxi then ferry then another 2 buses or a taxi) and I couldn’t find any kind of shuttles. I rented some little wind up 4×4 which ran really well for me. I really didn’t think the drive would be that long from the airport but it was.

    The view was beautiful for the start of the ride. But while it was great out I knew from the clouds the afternoon showers would be starting. After a while it started to rain so I thought it’d be a good time to stop for lunch since it might be a while before the next town (especially since I was starving). But then after I got back on the road it poured for a really really long time. I wasn’t concerned about the rain affecting my driving, I was worried about the road farther up ahead. I was afraid the road might get washed out on the stretch that kind of separates the lower and upper sections of the Nicoya Peninsula (between Narango and Paquera) they’re actually in different providences (or something like that). The roads weren’t too bad when I got up there, but remember my expectations were it would be “washed out” so it was still pretty bad, didn’t have to drive through any actual rivers this time (yet!).

    The sun set around 6 PM (5:54 at this location according to my trusty GPS) so I drove the last 75 minutes in the dark but it was mostly paved so the night driving wasn’t so bad but the last 4 miles were awful (as always). The rain really slowed down my total drive but I think that way isn’t optimum even if it was sunny, the other airport (San Jose) is better for Montezuma.

    I did get to see some really great scenery earlier in the day :)

    Town was really hopping, the bar they always say is the hot spot (Chico’s) was packed. But I was so pooped from my long day I went to be early…

    Written By: Gary on August 23, 2008 2 Comments

    So my Mom got me an early birthday present, it’s a portable Garmin eTrex Vista HCx GPS. This has been on my Costa Rica to do list so she asked me what I wanted at just the right time. Obviously, it’s a specific model I picked out for her and it’s been great the little bit of time I’ve played with it this past week. It’s got the color display, the compass (this is an extra) and the memory chip expansion. It’s a whole lot easier to us than I expected it was almost Apple-ish in it’s use, but there are too many buttons (it’d need a touch screen to make it a little more intuitive).

    As of right now it’s telling me we’re at 7,284 feet and traveling at 527 miles per hour (we’re somewhere south of Cuba). That’s seems a little low to me (I thought they didn’t let us use electronics until 10,000 or 15,000 feet) but maybe it’s having a hard time tracking out the window of the plane (but that’s not really my area either). I’ll be sure to upload some of the tracking info later superimposed on a map. I’ve always been into maps so it’s a fun gadget for me.

    I wanted it for Costa Rica for a few reasons:

  • the signage for the roads are awful and since some of the roads are so bad you don’t want to backtrack unless you have to.
  • When I’m hiking I’d really like to know how far I’ve wandered away from civilization and have a better idea if I’m walking in circles.
  • Maps here aren’t the greatest so maybe one of the Points Of Interest (POI) will help me find something I’ve been missing.This portable unit only has basic highways and major roads (roads like Telegraph and Michigan) for the US, it’s assumed you’re using this for specifics like hiking any you’re going to buy the topographical maps for it, but it does have exit numbers for the highways and food and gas info for those spots. I think you need to purchase the local maps for turn-by-turn directions but I never got a chance to play with that.

    In anticipation for this trip did purchase the detailed maps for Costa Rica. The unit had very limited details before that upgrade, although I think it still would have helped me orient myself quite a bit. I purchased them from www.NavSatCR.com who does about 3 updates a year and then I can purchase future years for a lot less. They actually sell cheaper 10 day and 30 day versions so if it’s just a one time trip you don’t have to invest as much, but those maps actually stop working after that time frame (I purchased the non-expiring ones). From reading around, the folks at NavSatCR seem to be the place for Costa Rican GPS maps.

    I also purchased a mount for handle bars so if I rent an ATV, scooter or bicycle it’ll help with getting around that way too.

    As I’m wrapping up writing this, we just left the air above the Atlantic Ocean and passed into El Salvador…

  • Written By: Gary on August 23, 2008 One Comment

    This was the easiest layover I think I’ve ever had. I needed to go to gate E29 and when I got off the plane I was at E31, right next door! Usually I have to traipse all over the place but I still figured I’d have a long ways to go to get food and convienently there was a great food court around E25-ish. So there was no rushing no running it’s was great. I managed to get McBreakfast, pick up a cold sandwich for the flight and there was free WiFi to do a quick check of my mail.

    And the flight? I have a whole row to myself. Actually, if everyone spread out I think every one could have their own row (out of the back 9 rows there are only 5 of us). The pilot thought it was a little bumpy for a while because of the tropical storm so it was a while before they passed out snacks but I thought it was fine.

    Written By: Gary on August 23, 2008 No Comment

    I’m always trying to loosen up my shoes when I travel so I decided to wear sandals for this trip. Then I got to security it and remembered why I never where sandals, because you have to take your shoes off (yuk!). Plus, I kept forgetting stuff in my pockets (and then my belt) so I had to go in and out through the scanner a few times stretching the experience out. At least there wasn’t anyone behind me so I wasn’t holding people up.

    The flight to Atlanta wasn’t very full, it looked really full on-line when reserving seats and the staff seemed to think it was going to be full so maybe a connecting flight didn’t make it. I moved seats and I’ve had more than enough space. My connecting flight looks really really empty so I’m hoping for 3 empty seats for a nap, I did not get near enough sleep last night.

    Curbside check-in: They were really pushing for you to just check in at the curb when I confirmed my flight. But they were so slow and it was really humid out so I decided to go inside. As I was heading in I saw a sign that said it was $3 a bag, I thought that was pretty lame to charge us if it’s helping decongest their floor traffic inside, but I guess if the line inside was long and you were running late it’d be worth it.

    Everything has been really smooth so far…

    Written By: Gary on August 19, 2008 2 Comments

    Normally when I travel I like to stay put for a few days (at least a few days) and not keep repacking and moving to another place. I personally don’t find that very relaxing and that’s generally the point of vacationing, IMHO.

    This past spring when we went to Costa Rica we (my friend Mark was with me) didn’t sit still. We moved hotels almost every night and probably saw an additional town or two each day while we traveled. Not exactly my preferred way to travel but that’s because we had a mission for this trip…

    I love the small town Montezuma, located at the south end of the Nicoya Peninsula (just above Cabuya on the map to the right), but the mission was to find some other towns that I might like. I wanted someday to spend a few months in Costa Rica, my concern was that I’d rent a place for a few months and then realize that I liked the next town over since I hadn’t done much exploring from that perspective.

    So we drove around like cRaZy checking out towns and staying different places and checking out different areas to see if there was anything I liked better. Montezuma was still my favorite but it’s definitely more isolated than some of the other towns. Tamarindo was a large town but a lot busier than I was hoping for but it pretty much had everything you need. Samara was a medium to small town that I didn’t get to explore enough. But comparatively Montezuma was a tiny town, but for some reason seems to fit me just right…

    Written By: Gary on August 19, 2008 One Comment

    So the school system in the State of Michigan has an option as part of it’s retirement plan. You can actually “purchase” up to five years of work (called Universal Buy-In) and then then when you have twenty-five years of work into the system it actually counts as thirty so you can retire five years early. Now it’s a convoluted formula based on your age, your maximum salary and how many years you have in the system; so the younger you are and the least you make they cheaper it is. Plus, they’ll take the money out of your check pre-tax dollars so you can get into this deal for as about $35 less every two-weeks (that’s $50 pre-tax). When I got in on the deal the plan was better, now they charge you interest on what you owe, so now you’re better off paying it off fast, before you had to spread it out. (Warning: if you’re bored now, the post really doesn’t get much more interesting. The part in bold near the bottom is the slightly/semi-interesting part that caused me to write this post.)

    Ors logoI recommend this plan* to people who are in the Michigan retirement system and I always mention it to the new teachers at school. The younger you are when you start the cheaper this will be; I don’t want to hear you say you can’t afford it, you can start this at about $17 a week, that’s not that much and it should really pay off in the long run.

    In my case, I didn’t hear about it until I had been in the system for a few years so it wasn’t cheap but since I knew I’d get five extra years of retirement payments so it seemed like a deal to me. I had it spread out evenly over the years I had left so it’s been getting paid down slowly.More details: If you leave the system (aren’t employed for a while by this system) they credit the years you’ve paid for and if you come back they’ll redo the above calculation with you being older, making more, having more years in system and factor in interest. This didn’t sound like such a good deal to me. Also, If you don’t actually work the 25 years, you have to wait until you’re sixty years old and it just increases your payment (or I think you can roll it in to some other kind of retirement).

    So late last year I decided I wanted this paid off work was way too stressful late last year and I felt as if I could quit at any time, so I increased my contribution quit a bit. It wasn’t going very fast so I stopped contributing to my other IRA/403b retirement-type things and put almost all of my check into paying this off (I lived off of savings in the meantime) and eight paychecks later I was done. Hopefully, putting that much in pre-tax doesn’t goof up my exemptions come tax time.

    This allowed me a few different things:

  • I don’t have to make those payments anymore.
  • I could move or take another job and not be concerned about this (if I left and wanted to pay it off it’d be one huge non pre-tax payment).
  • I could leave this retirement system for a few years and come back and this part is already taken care of.

    It was something I didn’t have to worry about anymore. I don’t like payments and since I paid it off it was something I didn’t even need to think about. I don’t even like thinking about payments, my house is really my only thing that I owe money on. Now I need to replenish the savings that I lived off of but that’s different feeling altogether…

    * I’m not a financial consultant nor do I portray one on TV (does anyone?), this is just my own thoughts on this.

  • Written By: Gary on August 17, 2008 No Comment

    The Tico Times is the english weekly paper from Costa Rica. For the last eight months I’ve been subscribing to the paper edition of The Tico Times. I’ve mentioned my Tico Times delivery issues before, it usually takes a while to get to Michigan but it’s much easier to read on paper than on the screen (they also offer a PDF subscription).

    I’ve wanted to see what’s going on in the country when I’m not visiting. I’ve been paying attention to opinion pages, letters to the editor, classifieds and more local ads. Of the five times I’ve been there it’s all been in April or between the end of November and beginning of January (and really only covering half-a-dozen different weeks) so I’ve really only seen a portion of the year while there. So I’ve been paying more attention to the non-tourist type articles; when I’m there traveling I’m generally looking more for what’s going on there at that time.

    Written By: Gary on August 16, 2008 One Comment

    So I’ve had thoughts for a plan for Costa Rica, I’ve had it for a while but haven’t specifically verbalized it very much. I think maybe the closest I’ve gotten to verbalizing it is in my 101 in 1001 list, the item that says “Decide if I might actually want to live in Costa Rica” the result has been blank but as the plan proceeds you’ll get the gist of which direction I’m heading…

    A few of these will be long posts and some will be short, some might just refer back to some earlier posts that fit in with “the plan”.

    Written By: Gary on August 15, 2008 No Comment

    I knew Costa Rica didn’t celebrate Mother’s Day on the same day that we celebrate in the U.S. but I didn’t know why. It’s celebrated on Assumption Day the day when the Virgin Mary (Jesus’s Mother) was “was assumed body and soul into heavenly glory”. Antwerp (Belgium) also celebrates Mother’s Day on on August 15th which falls on a Friday this year.

    Written By: Gary on April 27, 2008 4 Comments

    Manzanillo-CostaRica-Gary-Mark-Pict2359So on the left is my buddy Mark, I think I’ve been on four vacations with him and I think this is only the second picture of us at a destination. I’m pretty sure this is in Manzanillo, Costa Rica on the Pacific side of the Nicoya Peninsula (if not, it’s pretty close to there); it’s the fourth town from the southern tip.

    I used my cool new QuikPod to take the picture. Last time we got Carla the waitress to take the picture; it was in a little bar in Jaco that doesn’t exist any more. Since there was no one else around, QuikPod to the rescue. It’s a kind of a stick with a tripod mount and a little mirror so you can take pictures of yourself.

    Written By: Gary on April 27, 2008 3 Comments

    So Santa Teresa is supposed to be this beautiful place in Costa Rica (I’m referring to the town in the southern end of the Nicoya Peninsula) and while the beaches are beautiful (it is just sand on the ocean) so are a million other areas along the coast. The beaches are great for surfing too, that’s really the appeal for some people. I think there is a few surf camps and lots of lessons when we were on the beach.

    Santatesesa2008Img 7758But the town is mostly just a bunch of spread out stores spaced out along a very very very dusty road. You can see from this Santa Teresa Map how everything is spread out (that main road is a “city block” or two from the beach).

    We stayed at the Beach Break Surf Hotel, nothing fancy on the inside (2 beds, A/C , TV and a bathroom) but perfectly clean and functional with a nice porch (I think we got it at a good rate), I’d definitely go back. This was the hotel with the great staff that came around with flashlights when the power went out in twon. Actually, the only reason we stayed in that town was it was the day we had to backtrack because we hit the river that we didn’t know how to cross ()read that as we didn’t know where to drive to get across the river).

    I’m sure there are a few more hotels on the beach if you drive down a driveway, but I need a town (even if it’s a tiny one) to wander over to to eat and do some people watching. Some people love Santa Teresa but so far, it’s just not for me…

    But I will give it another try next trip, it is just “around the corner” from Montezuma….

    Written By: Gary on April 26, 2008 No Comment

    So on day one, we had just checked into the hotel and headed out to dinner and the power went out. The restaurant put out some candles, the stove was gas (probably propane) and they were ready to go. Twenty or thirty minutes later it was back on.

    Picture 3I know they have some power problems in the country but that was the longest one I’ve ever experienced (at least at night). I’ve never seen anything last more than a few minutes. But we had a few more as the trip went on, a few short ones and a really long one (a hour or so?). Everyone just rolls with it, it’s semi-expected, but still inconvenient (especially if hot) and as I said, I’ve been pretty lucky on my previous four trips.

    It gets really dark out there when there are no city lights even in the distance. I always keep a mini-flashlight in my travel bag, but for places where I want to be outside at night (like CR) I take a few with, so it wasn’t too much of a problem for us. The small hotel we were at did knock on doors and pass out flashlights to the rooms.

    Written By: Gary on April 26, 2008 No Comment

    MonkeybabySo driving along the side of the road somewhere in the vacinity of Playa’s Lagarto and Pitahaya (I think). There were some money’s alongside of the road. There were a dozen or so at a time but it’s really hard to see them. Here’s an animated movie of a monkey with a baby on it’s back (if that does work, try this MPEG-4 version). I’ve sen a few computers that couldn’t load the previous two options, here’s a YouTube link. I’ll animate a few of the others when I figure out a better way.

    I never knew what kind they were; they’re were darker than other monkeys that I’ve seen down there before and didn’t have the white fur on their faces.

    Why the silly title of this post? Because one of us got pooped on (and it wasn’t me!).

    Written By: Gary on April 20, 2008 No Comment

    I had such good intentions on getting more Costa Rica blogging done (especially some more photos) the past few days and it didn’t happen…

    And here I am getting ready to head out to East Lansing to catch a performance of Avenue Q so I expect I won’t get much done today either…

    Written By: Gary on April 17, 2008 One Comment

    I made it home! Flights were fine, but it was really really rushed between flights in Charlotte, NC.

    I just hit send on a bunch of posts that I wrote while I didn’t have access (or finished while in flight). I’ll try to get more stories and photos up this weekend (and possible add some photos to some older posts).

    I miss Costa Rica already, but I can’t wait to sleep in my own bed. Good night…

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    Written By: Gary on April 16, 2008 No Comment

    So there was a Sand Castle Festival in Manzanillo, we knew about it a few days in advance but we couldn’t find a single piece of information on it, looked in the newspaper and on-line. If we hadn’t seen them building stuff (platforms / shelter) for the festival a few days before, we never would have known about it (we hunted around and saw a single banner).

    Sandcastlebannerpict2366We only made it for the first day, which it turns out was kid’s day, they said it’d be busier the rest of the weekend but we couldn’t make it then. Different sand structures were built by local school’s teams (I think the team was the whole school). There were only a dozen different structures but it was fun, they kids had volleyball and soccer (and the ocean) to play with too.

    But the whole advertising thing was very strange. Even when we were there it was hard to find out more information on it. It was sponsored by one of the major banks and still was no info (this was actually a bank we went into on the trip and saw about it). There was no information in any of the local towns as far as I saw. BTW, the bank sponsorship was why there was a kid’s day, previously the sponsor was a beer company.

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    Written By: Gary on April 16, 2008 No Comment

    I lug a lot of stuff on vacation, before I left my Mom asked how much stuff I take on vacations but don’t use. I tried to pay attention this trip:

    So I took along my XO Laptop with me and didn’t use it all (this is the durable OLPC kids laptop I purchased recently). We were running around more than usual (I usually try to stay in the same place for more than a few days), so just relaxing outside and typing never really happened. The reason I purchased this computer was because it’s screen is designed for outside use and I’m tired of sitting inside in the summer when I have things I’d like to type or edit.

    I didn’t use my video camera at all, I usually don’t use it that much but I do use it a little. Once again, never sitting still for very long I just didn’t get the opportunity to pull it out.

    Even though I didn’t use them the most useless large item I brought were a regular pair of sandals. I just didn’t get around to wearing them very much. They’re heavy and take up space and I just really didn’t need them. These and the few magazines I never read could have been left behind.

    There were probably some adaptors / connectors, medicines and other little things but nothing very large (but they probably added up). The problem in Costa Rica verses traveling in other places is that you might not be able to get somethings that you might need if you don’t have it.

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    Written By: Gary on April 16, 2008 One Comment

    So I was feeling pretty great while I traveled this trip. The allergies weren’t too bad (even with all the extra dust and strange plants) and I slept great but never long enough (even the nights when I had my own room).

    But the part I really noticed was:

  • I didn’t have any headaches. For the previous few weeks I’ve been eating Ibuprofin like they were M & M’s, I actually had to cut myself off since I was starting to bruise to easily (disturbs the platelets?). But I didn’t take a single one while I was on this trip (even after hiking and taking a little spill). The only time I considered it when banged my forehead last night.
  • My neck/back hasn’t bothered me much at all, even after sleeping on all sorts of strange beds, flying thousands of miles and carrying all sorts of luggage and other junk with me. And these cRaZy roads and all the bouncing around on them and I still feel pretty good.

    So what is it about home that causes these headaches and neck/back pain? Any thoughts?

  • Written By: Gary on April 15, 2008 One Comment

    So the Automatic Teller Machines have been when I generally use for ca$h when I travel. Travelers Checks have always been a hassle. Charging always works well too, I never seem to get any related fees (or the little fees I get are pretty minimal). And the exchange rate is usually really good on the charge or ATM cards.

    But the only ATMs in the southern Nicoya Peninsula appear to Banco Nacional and they don’t like my card (but they list my network). But it might just be their machines, since those machines are pretty inconsistent: sometimes it asks me for the language, sometimes it still gives me Spanish, sometimes the network just times out and other times it gives me a useless message (like ‘you can only take out between $10 and $200 per day’, but that’s all I was trying to do).

    So going inside the banco is a trip, guards with shotguns and you walk into a decompression-type chamber (closed in while they x-ray you, and then they open the second door, imagine walking into an ultra-secure government facility). Then it’s kinda set up like the DMV (Department of Motor Vehicles) and you wait and try to communicate what you want. They have this neat system that you can phone in for live translation for English/Spanish, and when I say “neat” I mean if it worked. So after several tries, we determined that their ATM system was so crappy no one could say if it did / would / could work with the US.

    So we decided to do a cash advance instead, we didn’t know what the fees would be but we needed some more cash; not everyone takes charges and many charge premiums (and I think some discounts are because the money never gets reported somewhere down the line). This still took a while and they do everything in triplicate down there but I think it’d be hard for people to cheat the system since there are so many checks and balances.

    Once we got much more north the other ATMs took our cards just fine (I had a problem in Jaco once and I think it was the same bank but I just went to a different companies machine and it worked fine).

    Here’s the problem: Being curious of the fees of the Visa cash advance, we got on-line to check and discovered that the advance was done twice on the card, the fee was done twice and since it went over the card limit, tacked on another $39 fee. FYI, the cash advance fee was only $12.58 for $400 (and the back charged a dollar). The bank’s already been e-mailed and it’ll probably be fine from here.

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