A Happier House Update

Happier HouseCosta Rica Cost of Living Update: Black and Decker Toaster Oven—$65 (normally $30 in the US)

We’ve been busy guys, but it’s a good kind of busy. Our house is almost finished, although one would never know by the amount of workers still around. One morning I’m sure they will all be gone, but for now there are a dozen men staring through my window in the morning waiting for Rob and I to wake up.

Unfortunately for them, I am not a pretty sleeper. I am what the medical community would call a mouth breather: my jaw so gravely unhinged it looks like I’m trapping Japanese Beetles. This, combined with eight hours of drool, has the capacity to frighten even the most macho of construction men.

I open one eye and scan the crowd: the tile workers are here to finish grouting, the gutter guys are waiting for drool lady to get the ladder she unwisely locked inside the pool house, and there is always some random man to assist any of these crews. It’s an assorted bunch, but one I’ve grown to love. Continue reading “A Happier House Update” »

Results May Vary: The Matrix of Renewing Your Driver’s License

Costa Rica Driver's LicenseCosta Rica Cost of Living Update: Renew Driver’s License—$12

Imagine you’re Keanu Reeves in The Matrix. You swallow the red pill (the painful truth of reality), get shot out of a pod, and find yourself in an unfamiliar world. That’s what Costa Rica motor vehicles is like.

Rob and I have to renew our driver licenses once again, which in itself doesn’t seem like a difficult endeavor. “What can possibly go wrong?” you ask. The problem lies in the fact that I received my first license way before I got residency (you are no longer able to do that now). Consequently, the number on my license does not match the number on my residency card. This is a problem I need to rectify in San Jose. Renewing my license is starting to look like a Mission to Mars, an assignment that will ultimately have me careening back to earth in a fiery display of aggravation.

My husband should not have this problem because he went through this two years ago when he lost his license. (You may have read about his matrix experience at Costa Rica DMV in The Costa Rica Escape Manual). In that escapade, they demanded he go all the way to San Jose to fix it because they had never put his license number in the computer. But after a couple of hours, Rob was able to convince someone in Liberia to give him a new one. However, this is Rob. People generally like Rob. He’s cultivated a laid back attitude that makes others comfortable around him. I tend to emit a force field of anxiety: It’ll inadvertently zap you if you get too close. Continue reading “Results May Vary: The Matrix of Renewing Your Driver’s License” »

Irregular Beds, Irregular Husband, & the 2016 Escape Manual

The Costa Rica Escape ManualCosta Rica Cost of Living Update: Tylenol (24 tablets)—$3.00

You may be wondering if I’m still sitting on my floor. The answer to that is no. Not on the floor, but on an irregular king-size bed my husband insisted we buy.

“There’s probably just a scratch or two,” he said, after the store demanded we leave while they wrapped it up. This suspicious behavior pretty much ensured that I would have a very deliberate argument with Rob, one with the phrase I told you so, by the end of the day.

There has not been an irregular item my husband has passed up in fifteen years. Whether it’s oddly stitched shirts or pants with crooked pockets, he gravitates to anything that can possibly save him money. Garden hose with a few cracks? Nothing duct tape won’t fix. Expired vitamins? They’ll just make the body stronger.

So we bring back this deal of the century, put it together, only to realize all the wooden slats are missing. Continue reading “Irregular Beds, Irregular Husband, & the 2016 Escape Manual” »

Our Costa Rica House: Update

Costa Rica House

Costa Rica Cost of Living Update: Britt Decaf Coffee (12 ounces)— $11

My husband convinced me that we should move into our house while it’s under construction.

“How bad can it be?” he said.

“But there are no windows or doors,” I replied. “Isn’t that more like camping?”

“It’ll be exciting,” he promised. “We’re finally doing it! We’re building a house!”

So here I am, sitting on the floor. I would be sitting on a piece of furniture but we don’t own any yet. Furniture seems a little premature when there are more pressing things to purchase: steel beams and wires, sinks and toilets, and all the things that ultimately make up a house. In an attempt to keep track of our budget, I’m always trying to return something that was ordered.

“Do we need this?” I’ll ask our builder, pointing to an item on the receipt.

“Yes, it’s a breaker box.”

“Is it necessary?”

“Yes, unless you plan on not having electricity.”

“And this— meters of PVC pipe? How much does one house need?” Apparently, a lot.

But I have to give Rob credit: it is exciting living in a home that is being constructed around you. I get to wake up to an assortment of banging. I used to attempt to decipher these sounds. Is that a bulldozer? Are there people on my roof? Are there people in my room?

Today there is a crew stuccoing the house. I know this because I was taking a shower when they propped up a ladder against the bathroom window. This is a great way to meet new friends. It quickly gets all the pleasantries out of the way, and I tend to look my best with a head full of shampoo and a startled expression.

Rob and our builder ensure that with each day we are making progress. And it’s true. Every evening I walk around and see more and more things completed. What was once a mishmash of wires and paint cans is slowing becoming something more spectacular than I could have ever imagined.

Rob never ceases to amaze me, and I’m positive I could never accomplish this on my own. He’s constantly thinking ahead, and never lets a setback bring him down. He’s the first to calm my anxiety while at the same time handing a worker a cold glass of water. He’s been on top of this entire project, from the design of the gardens to the little glow-in-the-dark tiles at the bottom of the pool. His vision is certain and steadfast. He has never wavered, not in our marriage and not during this build, one of the biggest decision of our lives. I’m starting to believe that this dream can come true, and I’m starting to believe that the future will be as bright as I allow it to be.

Rob was right about a lot of things. Maybe I need to listen to him more, that’s if I could hear anything above the tile saw.

To read more about how my story began, check out Happier Than A Billionaire.

Permaculture in Costa Rica

Costa Rica Cost of Living Update: 5.3 oz Greek Yogurt— $1.25

Watch this introduction to an upcoming interview with Nikko from Essence Arenal. Nikko is a fascinating person, so look for the full-length interview in the near future.

Essence Arenal is a hostel that utilizes the principles of permaculture to grow their own food. The hostel is perched on top of a hill beside the majestic Arenal Volcano. If the views aren’t impressive enough, Nikko’s commitment to a sustainable lifestyle makes this the perfect spot to visit and explore. If you’re a yoga enthusiast, there’s no better place for a sun salutation than on his recently constructed yoga deck. While standing at the edge a warm sensation washed over me. It’s easy to see how Nikko could rediscover himself in this place. Anxiety and worries have no adhesive power here.  Layers of troubles will wilt away, one by one. Life is wonderful when not burdened by the heaviness of stress.

Nikko is an interesting fellow. He’s from Germany, grew up in Spain, and sailed to Costa Rica searching for a new adventure. After fifty countries, he fell in love and decided to call the small town of El Castillo his home. But a small town can’t stop Nikko from having big ideas. He desires a kinder, gentler world: one where our surroundings provide us with all of the nourishment we need.

“When I was designing our landscaping I thought why not grow palms and plants that you can eat? Why not be able to eat your own landscaping!” Nikko said. He also grows his own coffee. Nikko is lucky I didn’t pitch a tent right on his coffee farm.

One of Essence Arenal’s goals is to provide their guests with healthy, organically grown food on their own property. They are also committed to educating their guests on the benefits of permaculture and healthy living. Everything has a purpose. While many are quick to point out the impossible, there are others striving toward better solutions. You’ll know these people when you meet them, they are passionate and generous with their time.

I look forward to sharing more of this Building Up an Appetite episode with you. Until then you can read all about Essence Arenal in my book, Happier Than A Billionaire: The Escape Manual.