Costa Rica Cost of Living Update: Car Repairs (brake pads, brake cylinder, new horn, two new seat belts, two quarts of oil, one air-conditioning belt, brake fluid, inspection sticker and a mechanic who personally takes the car to get it) — Total parts and labor: $350
Rob and I were invited to a wedding at Flamingo Beach Resort a couple of weeks ago. I get very excited at weddings, and when I say excited I mean I cry until mascara runs down my face. In fact, I think I cry more at weddings than at funerals. I just can’t help it, there is so much love in the room (or in this case, on the beach), I get verklemmt.
To give you an idea how great I am at planning my life, I show up two days early for the wedding. Rob was even wearing a shirt void of any stains. That alone was a miracle.
It just so happened that Evan Luck from Radio Dos was at the hotel. Evan is a very popular DJ in Costa Rica, and often does his show on location in Flamingo or Tamarindo. I was on his program about a year ago discussing my first two books and the Ex-Pat show Rob and I did with Jimmy Buffett’s daughter. When he heard I was about to release my third book on November 1st, The Escape Manual, he invited me on the show to make an announcement.
November 1st is the date written on my calendar, but apparently I have scheduling issues. Who knows, this book might pop up two days earlier ready to party. I’m sure I’ll get verklemmt once I see it up on Amazon, crying happy mascara-laden tears all over Rob’s last clean shirt.
Costa Rica Cost of Living Update: Roll of Paper Towels — .93 cents
I love the rainy season: everything is green. Shades of Kelly and mint paint the mountaintops, making the hills look like one big vegetable garden.
There has been a drought in Costa Rica, so rain is as valuable as gold right now. On most afternoons you can all but guarantee a shower or two, and along with the rain comes deafening thunder. A sound so powerful, it rattles my windows and at times can feel like an earthquake.
There are many things I love about the rain, but a tree falling onto my utility lines is not one of them. There is nothing that one can do but call the appropriate authorities, and hope they come quickly. However, I got to hand it to the Coopeguanacaste Electrical Company: they were out in front of my house within an hour.
A couple of workers showed up and the younger of the two gentlemen used an extended chainsaw to cut away branches and free the lines… in the rain… while standing on top of their truck. The older man (and apparently wiser) was on the ground calling out instructions. I stayed inside, which I tend to do when large objects and high-power lines are crashing to the ground.
In the end, the trees didn’t actually break the lines, just bent my utility pole to about a thirty degree angle. I sort of like it this way. Now when I go out for a walk, I quicken my pace underneath it to maximize cardiovascular benefits.
Later that afternoon I saw an anteater in a tree outside my window. I ran to get the camera, but he was gone by the time I returned. It’s the perfect example of a typical day in Costa Rica: dealing with the stress of maintaing your utilities in the jungle to ultimately end with an anteater outside your window.
Pretty cool, rainy day.
Costa Rica Cost of Living Update: One imported Florida orange — $1, One bag of Costa Rican oranges —$1
Although we love our road trips and would take them just for the fun of it, they also serve a purpose. We started our trip when our friends (the owners of the house we rent), returned to Costa Rica for their yearly family vacation. They always welcome us to stay in the downstairs level of the home, but there is no stove and only a small refrigerator. Eventually, our diet ends up consisting entirely of potato chips and Ho-Hos.
It’s one of the reasons we only pay $150 a month rent. We have to be flexible when they arrive, and take on the role of caretaker throughout the year. Some of our duties include security, home repairs, and emergencies that may arise. I will also note that we’re responsible for wasp removal, well… Rob is actually in charge of that. It’s not that I refuse to do it, more like I’m a draft dodger sneaking into Canada. This leaves Rob playing the all time classic… wasp nest piñata game. It’s the reason I do the dishes: there is less chance of succumbing to anaphylactic shock when at the kitchen sink. Continue reading “HAPPIER ROAD TRIP— VII ( THE GRANDE FINALE )” »
Costa Rica Cost of Living Update: 15 eggs — $2.66
After visiting the animal sanctuary, Rob and I decide to drive farther south… all the way down to the Osa Peninsula. We’ve been there before and are excited to return to the place where we first saw Scarlet Macaws flying overhead: Agua Dulce Beach Resort. It’s just a five-minute drive from Puerto Jiménez, which borders the Gulfo Dulce: the bay that separates the peninsula from the mainland. It is the only resort on the beach in this area that offers air-conditioning. We book an oceanfront bungalow that includes a wooden porch. Out front are two rocking chairs, perfect for relaxing, watching the sunrise.
I slop on a ton of sunscreen and immediately head out to the beach. The sand is soft, it feels like New Year’s Eve confetti underneath my feet. Mother Nature must have known I was coming and arranged for two macaws to fly overhead. This is exactly how I remember it, and precisely why the Osa Peninsula is so magical.
The two birds vocalize back and forth with each other, using sounds that are not unlike a tarot card reader after her fifth Camel cigarette. I sit on a piece of driftwood and notice a pile of shells. Some are brown, shiny and look like tiny Godiva chocolates. Others are cracked open resembling angel wings. This country is always reminding me to revere the small as much as the big.
“I’ve scheduled a mangrove tour,” Rob says while taking a seat next to me.
“I don’t have to swim there, right?” Whenever my husband plans excursions, it’s important to inquire whether I’ll need my floaty wings to survive it.
“No, it’s just kayaking. We’ll have to leave soon so let’s get our stuff together and head out.” Continue reading “HAPPIER ROAD TRIP — PART VI” »
Costa Rica Cost of Living Update: 400ml Dove Shampoo—$7.72
I’m interrupting my Happier Road Trip posts with this one about a good friend. Donovan contacted me on Facebook after reading my books, and it’s been his longtime dream to visit Costa Rica. On the slimmest of budgets, he traveled up and down this country by bus, staying at fifteen dollar a night hostels, and eating at local sodas (tiny, inexpensive eateries).
After his six hour bus trip from Jaco, we met Donovan in Tamarindo and took him to The Club at Mar Vista in Brasilito. Donovan and my husband each grabbed a mic and jumped up on stage with the local band. They sang Hotel California, which is a pretty gutsy song to sing when you aren’t particularly sure of the lyrics. But they both did great, occasionally looking at each other for the words, which I’m sure Don Henley still does with Glenn Frey.
Donovan fulfilled his dream of visiting Costa Rica, and he did so in a way that was adventurous while not blowing his budget. As with most dreams, when he finally started to live it he feared whether it would live up to his expectations. Continue reading “PANNING FOR GOLD” »
Cost Of Living Update: Package of English Muffins — $4.90
While staying at Anne’s farmhouse, we decide to check out what’s up the steep, dirt road. We follow signs for Osa Mountain Village, a mountaintop development that advertises a restaurant and pool. And as you guys know, I can’t pass up a pool.
Just before we reach this development, we see an entrance for Osa Santuario De Animales. It’s a remarkable place with an equally remarkable owner. Many of the animals that reside here were rescued by MINAE (Costa Rica Ministry of the Environment), a division of the government that is responsible for protecting Costa Rica’s wildlife. Some will be rehabilitated and returned to the forest. Others will spend the rest of their lives at the sanctuary depending on their condition.
It’s our lucky day and we receive a tour of this center by its owner, Mike Graeber. He’s a burly man, who speaks with authority and intent. I imagine him riding motorcycles through South America, or logging in Oregon. However, looks can certainly be deceiving. He is a gentle man whose calling is to care for helpless animals that have no other place to go. Continue reading “HAPPIER ROAD TRIP 2014 — PART V” »
Costa Rica Cost Of Living Update: Package of 2 Gillette Razors— $4.30
Have you been thinking about writing a novel but never seem to be in the right frame of mind? Look no further; I believe I’ve found the perfect place to get started.
Finca Dos Rios is a lovely, rustic farmhouse located just outside of a small town called Balsar. My friend Anne, the owner, invites us down for a couple of days.
“Jorge, the caretaker, will give you a tour of the property. Are you up for getting on a horse?” The answer is no. I do not want to horseback ride again considering every time I do, I find I’m myself racing up a steep mountain or at the edge of a cliff. I can never seem to find flat ground while riding a horse.
“I’ll pass on that Anne.”
“Ok, but don’t you want to see the ancient sphere?” she asks.
“Wait, you have a sphere on your property?”
“A real one?”
“Yes, but the best way to see it is by horse.”
Oh boy, this is a game changer. Spheres are one of the biggest archeological mysteries in Costa Rica. They date back to at least a thousand years, and no one is certain how they were carved. They’re usually found by workers clearing fields, and now I have a chance to see one not in a museum, but right where it has been sitting for eons. I’ll certainly get on a horse for this. Continue reading “HAPPIER ROAD TRIP 2014 — PART IV” »
Costa Rica Cost of Living Update: 2.2 pounds of imported ravioli — $10.80
Our stay at Canto del Mar was amazing. We are ready to explore further down the coast when Kelley tells us about a place with an even bigger “wow” factor. She describes it with such passion and one thing that sticks out is that this big, beautiful house runs on solar power. It is one of the first houses in the country powered by alternative energy, and the president of ICE (the electric company) was there for its inauguration. This is a home I have to see so we move down the block to Villa Pacifica.
I know these type of homes exist, but never had a chance to stay in one. Villa Pacifica has six bedrooms, an outdoor kitchen, and a tower of towels positioned near the most amazing infinity pool. I stare out over the pool for what seems like hours while Rob runs around the house in disbelief. This place is perfect for family reunions, weddings, or just large groups of friends who love spending time together in a beautiful place. And if you don’t want to spend time together with your friends or family, three of the six bedrooms are tucked away around the side of the house. Kelley has recently completed an extensive renovation on them, and they are a perfect hide-a-way for when your drunk Uncle Benny starts his impromptu Karaoke with an empty wine bottle. Continue reading “HAPPIER ROAD TRIP 2014 — PART III” »
Costa Rica Cost of Living Update: 4.5 lbs of White Rice— $2
Dominical: The place to get a good night’s sleep
Approximately forty-five minutes from Manuel Antonio is Playa Dominical. If you are a surfer, you probably already know that this tiny, beach town is a popular for its dependable waves. It’s also a place where you can see the same animals that are up north, but with a twist. Red iguanas lounge on sunny branches over head, and Fiery-billed Toucans dine on palm fruit all along the coastline. It’s as if Dominical was sprinkled with paprika; every animal a little jazzier than it’s counterpart found in other parts of the country. Every time I’m in Dominical, I’m amazed at what I’ll see just by looking up.
The town is made up of only a couple unpaved streets, lined with restaurants and shops. I’ve never seen anyone rushing here. And why would they? This town is designed for relaxation and surfing. Continue reading “HAPPIER ROAD TRIP 2014 — PART II” »
Costa Rica Cost of Living Update: 1 Medium to Large Zucchini— $1.00
Rob and I just got back from a ridiculously fun road trip. We traveled the country taking pictures, and meeting interesting people. Every year we try to rent a house for a month and explore a different part of the country. But this trip was different. So many of you have reached out offering to share your homes, farms, or resorts with us. It made this journey even more special.
Traveling with Rob is always an adventure, even if it’s just to the grocery store. One of the things that makes me crazy is that he will bring a cup of hot coffee with him into the car. Not a travel mug, but a Winnie-the-Pooh cup. Folks, if you’ve never had the luxury of driving on a Costa Rican dirt road, imagine your brain as a maraca. Then take that maraca and toss it off a cliff. It’s not the type of thoroughfare you want when your driver is balancing a hot cup of coffee over his lap.
Inevitably, we hit the first bump and Rob’s coffee flies out of his mug, ricochets off the dashboard, and into my lap. This leaves me in a superb mood and I can’t wait for my “I’m not talking to you” silence to begin. Giving long periods of quiet resentment is a superpower I have perfected over the years. Remarkably, this power has no affect on my husband.
Continue reading “HAPPIER ROAD TRIP 2014” »