Sunday, November 3, 2013

Leaving the US and moving to Costa Rica

“Your mom has Dengue”.  A set of sobering words from my father via Skype in Costa Rica; I had already been well aware of the flu she had previous, but now suddenly the situation was more serious as she was already sick before, with a now crippled immune system.  In less than 3 weeks time, I would be sitting on a plane to give my parents a much needed hand in what many people see outwardly as a 3rd world country. 

My parents had moved to Costa Rica 3 years prior to live a bit easier as permanent resident “pensioners”.  That said, Costa Rica has some of the most consistent weather patterns in the world, beautiful beaches, socialized and for profit medicine, and most definitely there is no shortage of North American expatriates living out the remainder of their lives here abroad.  The medical systems in Costa Rica are more than adequate, but if you’re from anywhere in the Western World, as with nearly everything here, much of it operates significantly differently, and learning the ropes is better done in advance vs. learning by necessity. 

After arriving here in early October, which is the last month of the “rainy season”, my longing for the dry days ahead in November through April is now slowly becoming a reality, and the North American & European tourists are now arriving in droves to the province of Guanacaste; the North Western Coast line that follows the Pan American Highway all the way up to the Nicaraguan boarder.

North Western Costa Rica

I found out quickly, that securing a long term residence here in Costa Rica literally gets harder by the day (if you plan to rent close to November).  As the tourists arrive, the thousands of rental properties that remain empty all year, which can normally be rented for a few hundred dollars a month (depending on the size & need of course) in the off-season, can command upwards of a few thousand a week based on location & size.  I personally went from searching for a place, finding a rental, and it being already rented by the time I drove 15 minutes up the road to view the property!  Needless to say, once I found a place (a small studio apartment across the street from the beach) that was actually available; I immediately decided to go back to the rental office to discuss price.  This small studio apartment (less than 500sqft), rents for $500 USD a month + utilities long term, or if you’re willing to spend the cash up front (I do mean CASH literally), you can get a smoking deal as everything rentable can be negotiated easily, but during the high season the rates are not so easily affordable for some.    

The flat I rented dropped down to only  $350 dollars a month if I paid the entire 6 months in advance in cash, plus the security deposit.  While to some this may seem like an exorbitant amount of money to pay out considering I don’t know how long I plan to be here, there are many who will pay 5x what I am paying total to stay only a few weeks in a similar space.  I certainly don’t have that kind of money as a writer, but I’m far from destitute, and still living on the cheap in one of the most popular beach towns in the world, Playas Del Coco.  Take into account, a North American version of “cheap” is considerably different than the local “Tico’s”.  My studio apartment maybe small, but it is fully furnished, pots, pans, dishes, sheets on the bed, cable TV, and is actually better than most of the efficiencies I’ve stayed in throughout Europe, or even on the eastern seaboard of the US.   Did I mention I am directly across the street from the beach and Pacific Ocean?

My new home in Playas Del Coco

I relocated here from right outside Washington DC, and I have previously been here to visit my family; so I had an idea of what to expect when I arrived, but I’ve only been here a month, and still have much more to learn!

The locals are polite and kind beyond measure compared to many other countries I’ve visited.  That said, I’m not entirely sure that “no” is even in their vocabulary.  They would rather bring you anything, but “no” as an answer… So you can completely expect random stuff occasionally.   Even at the local grocery store I came across this "complete" cooking seasoning.  Not only is it the only one you apparently need, but judging by the size of the container it's the only one you'll need FOREVER! 

Top Chef never had it so easy! 
One thing that stands out for me personally; I am constantly trying to better my Spanish and speak their language, but the locals at the same time desperately want to practice their English.  So, what happens is, even ordering a drink, or meal can turn out to be a mixture of English, Spanish, Spanglish, but however the majority of the young people in bars and restaurants speak FAR better English than my Spanish, and when you compliment them on how good their English is, they are always very flattered, say that their “English isn’t very good”, and then say “thank you for saying so”.  My 2nd week here, I met a local “Nica” (slang for Nicaraguan) tour guide in a bar who prefaced his spontaneous conversation with me with, “I have a question for you, but please bear with me, as my English isn’t very good…” and then while I’m expecting some Spanglish; instead his vocabulary and correct grammar blew me away.  I have never met anyone in my life that says his or her English isn’t very good, and in that first sentence use the word “reciprocation”!

Needless to say, my adventure here in Costa Rica has only just begun. My mom is now mostly recovered from her Dengue Fever, and my father is back to being just as ornery as he’s always been.  Either way, I’m still around to help them out and enjoy a journey that is still very much my own to create.  I certainly have plenty to write about! 

Pura Vida!  

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