Costa Rica 3

When I returned to Costa Rica this past April 2019 I started a blog. I prefer the information it contains live here at my main site so I have imported it. I will delete it from it’s previous location on Google.

Saturday, July 20, 2019

About Last Night

Actually the entire day. It began with my upstairs neighbor Glenn Martino. He has been a huge asset for me. He has been down here for about 8 years total, and in this apartment building for 5. He retired early with a disability (bad knee), and is a former union glazier from New York City who installed windows on high rises for a living. He goes to the gym in town for PT on many mornings and I grab a ride occasionally. 

Yesterday I had him drop me at the bank. I withdrew some funds and walked to the dive shop 1km away, where I picked up my new snorkle mask.  I then walked the 1km back to the supermarket and picked up a few things. Glenn was finished with his workout and he swung by and picked me up and we drove home, making a quick stop at his favorite roadside vendor for a fresh pineapple.
Half an hour later Glenn and I got in his car and drove the 300 meters to the beach (normally a short walk for me but right after a workout he does not like to also walk on asphalt). He sat on the sand while I went in the bay to try out my new snorkle gear (I recently purchased new fins and snorkle as well). 

The first place I tried the waves were a bit too rough and the visibility not great. So we walked over to the protected side of the bay and I went in for about an hour. It was so good to be in the water, and though it was a partly cloudy and the visibility was low, just the act of floating, swimming, exploring, with my face in the water, was marvelous.

90 minutes later I was done and we drove back to the apartment house. About an hour later Glenn called to say the fishmonger was on his way up in his truck. The day before Glenn’s girlfriend, a local woman named Marcela had arranged for him to drive up from Coco on Friday. We jumped into Glenn’s SUV again, as the fisherman’s 30-year-old Toyota pick up can’t make it up our steep driveway.  We met him down on the road, and he showed us his catch; in the numerous plastic coolers filled with ice in the bed of the truck he had a large selection of freshly caught whole marlins, whole snappers, marlin and tuna fillets, fresh octopus and fresh shrimp. 

I picked out a tuna fillet (2.7 kilo) and asked for a kilo of shrimp and Glenn purchased a tuna fillet. The wife while holding her baby used her handheld calculator to determine my bill ($28, $5.70/lb) Fresh seafood delivered (almost) to our door for 1/2 price, available anytime we want, just a phone call away.

The afternoon was spent boiling shrimp and cooking some tuna in my favorite recipe with fresh lime, fresh basil, white onion and organic green beans, a bit of black pepper. Some of the tuna was cut into fillets for freezing and later use.

The day ended with some chicken soup and cold shrimp, a glass of white wine, consumed on the veranda as the sun went down over the water. As twilight came on the peaceful moment was disrupted when the next door neighbor’s kids along with some visiting kids came down to the pool and began their ruckus. I smiled and got out my bluetooth headphones and my mobile phone and put on my favorite Bob Dylan tunes, then poured myself a couple of fingers of scotch over some ice, and sat back down, the kids screaming now out of reach. I was only halfway thru the playlist and so decided to have a second drink. Though there was bit of sun still faintly illuminating the bottom of a few clouds, the stars were now out in all their brilliance. The fireflies were out as well, and there was that bit of magic that happens when alcohol, good tunes, and nature are in play together. The kids were done and had gone back inside; I felt like dancing, so I did. When the playlist was finished I blew out the candle I had lit and headed for the shower, and thence to bed. 9pm, lights out, and sleep came fast as it always does these days.

Posted by Robert Shannon at 3:08 PM

Monday, June 24, 2019

Time Standing Still

When you travel to Costa Rica in order to enter the country you are required to show a ticket (bus, airline) as proof of onward travel when you arrive at Immigration. In preparation to come down here, in March I purchased a round trip ticket out of Houston, Texas. I purchased a May 29 return flight because the June flights were much more expensive and I knew I could change it later.

As circumstances developed, it made some sense for me to use it as purchased and so on May 29th I hired a taxi and went to the Liberia airport. I prefer to split up a long days travel into 2 days, and spent the night in Houston before heading to Denver for 5 days. I was able to take care of some things which had end dates attached to them. I could have done them from Costa Rica, but I wished for the ease of doing them in the U.S. Also, I had some other flight monies that were old and I was going to forfeit them if I did not use them soon.

Today I am back in Costa Rica. I brought with me a severe summer cold, caught no doubt on the flight to Houston from the sick kids sitting behind me. Or perhaps from Davis, the 4-year-old of Chris and Theresa, where I stayed while in Denver, who had one too. Unlike the kids I kept my mouth covered while coughing on the plane.

At any rate, mine is almost gone, 16 days after it hit. It was very bad the first night and the following day, and I had to fly with it. At the TSA station in Denver they were trying out some new procedures and there was a lot of confusion. We were asked to wait while they argued. I was very light headed and sick actually, and at one point felt I might faint. The cold continued to be bad until last Tuesday. A few days later and the coughing finally being a constant, though as of today is still a bit in evidence.

But more importantly now, as of a few days ago, I am done. I have nothing more to do this year. For the first time in several years I feel I can truly stop and do nothing on any given day save what I choose to. A moment ago I was looking out at the palm trees and the hillside as I write this and I had a sense of no time passing, as I sat here yesterday and the day before doing the same thing. As there is no need for it perhaps for a while it will simply cease to exist in the normal way for me.  Time standing still.

I was watching something on TV a few weeks ago, a show or a movie. A character said a line something like “There is nothing worse than an old man who has found philosophy.” Or something to that effect. I suppose I fit that description, if only because in addition to having always had those kinds of thoughts now I sometimes write them down too.

Posted by Robert Shannon at 10:54 AM

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

And Now The Rain

For a week now we have been receiving daily rain showers. The first few were short and came as the sun went down. Now they happen earlier in the day, as early as noon, and they last longer. Yesterday we experienced several hard downpours throughout the afternoon. The hillsides visible to the south are greening up fast, from their former brown arid appearance. The water in the pool is noticeably cooler, yet still pleasant enough, and the cloud cover has provided some lovely sunsets as well as lowering of daytime temperatures. The early morning coolness has intensified and the added humidity makes it even more enjoyable.
First Rain (video)

Posted by Robert Shannon at 9:04 AM

Sunday, May 12, 2019

No More Visas Required

It is done then.

On Tuesday morning last, accompanied by my Costa Rican Immigration Specialist Laura B. Gutierrez, I finished the process, begun less than 3 months ago, of submitting my application to become a temporary resident.

We met at the Dactiloscopia Ministerio De Seguridad Pública, just east of downtown San Jose, where the police entered my identification information into the Interpol database. When the report came back clean, they took my fingerprints to put on file and gave me a card attesting to the successful completion of my background check.  We put it in with all the other needed papers and drove in my rented car over to the main Immigration building. Laura gave me verbal directions while she simultaneously checked and assembled into 2 duplicate sets all the needed documents. Let me just say it was amazing how well she knows her home turf. It was “right here” and “left here” and ‘stay in this lane” all the way across town, avoiding main highways most of the way. All I had to do was listen. Wow. 

After she consulted with the security man at the entrance, I was directed to sit in a line of chairs which was the queue outside a tiny office in the corner of the main room, where a hundred or so people were waiting to be served by 4 employees. There were only 3 other people in my line, and in about 20 minutes we were told to enter. The woman behind the desk, knowing Laura well, exchanged a few pleasantries and then turned to her computer and created a new file in the system for me. Ten minutes, a few signatures on forms, a whole lot of placing official stamps on everything, and it was done. I was handed a piece of paper that allows me to stay in the country as my file makes its way thru the system. 

Laura at Immigration, the office door to the right.
In a few months, or perhaps as long as a year (due to a large backlog), I will receive the Costa Rican equivalent of the U.S. “green card”, and my status becomes “temporary” resident alien. The only thing I will not be able to do in this country is vote in elections. All the other services normally available to citizens will be accessible by me. I will be eligible to receive a driver’s license. I will have access to the national health care system (CAJA) of clinics and hospitals for which I will pay a monthly premium equal to 6.3% of my Social Security check.  In 2 years if I follow the rules (including successfully documenting the requirement of spending $12000 per year in the country), my temporary status will be renewed once. At the end of that 1st renewal, 4 years, I will be eligible to apply for permanent resident alien status. At the end of 8 years as a resident alien I will be eligible to apply for citizenship should I choose to.

Laura’s Website

Laura and myself, after the Interpol background check
Posted by Robert Shannon at 11:11 AM

Thursday, May 2, 2019

10.32.39 N, 85.42.25 W

The sky begins to lighten just before 5am these days. I know this because I have a wonderful view of it from my bed. The windows are large and look to the west. I do not know how much the builders planned it out when siting the building but I love the way the sun does not begin to hit the veranda of my apartment until noon. There is a breeze blowing for much of the day upon this hill. Thus the mornings are wonderfully cool and that is where I take my coffee and oatmeal every morning now.

It is quiet until the neighbors start moving about. Ken from Warren, MI (who lives in #4 with his wife, 2 kids and a dog) comes out on his veranda and does yoga to some woman talking on his phone. Above me Glen sometimes turns on his tv. In Costa Rica people live with their doors and windows open most of the time, and so one learns to practice the Japanese way of not listening when hearing. But for the first hour it is mine to savor; the morning birdsong, which is quite lovely, and of course there is also the view.

The neighborhood is much quieter than I had experienced at my previous places near Samara, back in 2016-17. There is some traffic on the road below, and as is usual in Central American countries, some of the motos are very loud. But many are not, and the trucks are few, as the road ends at the beach, 300 meters from here. The best part is the total lack of roosters crowing. That alone is worth the price of admission. In both Nicaragua and Samara there were many roaming the grounds near my rented homes and at times were bothersome in their constancy. So far I have seen them in only one place. About 700m into my 3.5km walk to the supermarket in Playa del Coco, which I make once a week, they let me know with their loud cries as I walk by that they are on guard and to not mess with their hens.
                                      the view

The view. A small slice of the Pacific Ocean is visible, and the compass reading in the middle of it is 310, so a bit north of NW. Sometimes as I gaze out I picture a boat heading to the next landfall (and desire to be on it).  The total view of ocean horizon is about 10 degrees of arc, between 303 and 313. After 3 weeks here, on April 21, I was able to see the sun hit the water. As we progress to summer solstice it will continue to travel north and so for about 4 months it will be seen to disappear on the ocean horizon. Meaning for 8 months it will set behind the hills to the west.  At 16m above sea level I may be able to catch a green flash. While living in my rented house in Mexico in 2014, which was a bit higher, using my binoculars I saw it 3 times.

the first stretch of the road into town

To the town of Playa Del Coco (called just Coco) is a nice walk, and downhill. I am not yet fully acclimated to the heat. With temperatures averaging 35 celsius most of the day, and as there is shade along much of the road, I find it wise to stop halfway and rest.

the driveway to the apartment

I purchased a 10-speed beach bike in Coco my 3rd day here, but the ride uphill to home was too much for me, and I will wait another month before trying that again.

My daily regime is mostly in place. Up early, I take my coffee and tablet to the veranda and read the news. Followed by breakfast, oatmeal with yogurt, a bowl of cantaloupe and pineapple, sometimes an English muffin. Checking emails these days takes about 2 minutes. Some mornings there are no new messages in my inboxes, which has been my goal. By 8pm I am ready to write for a while. On weekends I use my adult coloring books, a form of meditation for me. At 11 I do an hour of Spanish lessons. Noon is my chosen time for exercises, ending with 30 minutes in the pool, some laps first followed by floating on my back with the help of foam tubes under my knees and head. Lunch at 1, reading and napping till dinner. The sunsets at 6pm, and I call that dinner time. Afterwards I will watch a movie or a tv show until sleep calls me, which can come as early as 8, but is usually 9, rarely later. Awake and repeat.

Tuesday is my scheduled go to town day. An hour of walking gets me there. The road leads thru older Tico neighborhoods, with homes, schools, several mini-markets, two bakeries, a pickup truck fruit/vegetable stand, one soda (a small local eatery).  I pass a pair of tallers (motorcycle mechanics), and just before reaching Coco is located a small strip mall with an Italian, a Tico-Mexican and one other restaurant in it, along with a few other shops. The road ends at a junction and turning left on the main street leads thru the tourist shops and restaurants to the actual Playa Coco. To the right are the supermarkets, bus stations, hardware stores, a post office, a barber shop, dentists and clinics, and various other businesses.

The international airport is 30 minutes east. Everything I require for my new simple lifestyle is at hand. Red taxis are everywhere and the ride home with groceries is 3000 colones, $5.

pictures of Playa Ocotal, left, center, right

Posted by Robert Shannon at 9:55 AM

Monday, April 8, 2019

A Travel Day

I received a phone call at 2am on Monday April 1st from SuperShuttle. They wished to change my pick up time from 7am to 6:30 am. I was asleep when the phone rang, and only half awake as I responded, yet I knew that it was not a request but a statement. I normally am anxious the night before a long trip, esp. one where I am flying internationally, thus being woken up a few hours before departure I was unable to go back to sleep. I hoped that the Super Shuttle call was not indicative of how the rest of the trip was going to go. Thankfully it was not.

The 31-mile ride to the airport took 100 minutes,1/2 of the time of the flight to Costa Rica, Houston Monday morning traffic being the main reason. Not too surprising I suppose, but everytime I ventured out on the 10 lane wide “free”ways of this large city I ended up stopped in traffic due to an accident. It was nice to only be a passenger on this trip.

The Southwest Airlines flight was one of the easiest I have been on. The plane was 1/3 empty. I had paid extra for early boarding so I was able to grab my first choice of seats, 23F, which has two windows to gaze out of, something I like to do. As it turned out the entire 23 row was empty when we took off, so I had it all to myself and was quite comfortable.

This is a hazy view of the Momotobo volcano located a bit north of Managua, Nicaragua.

We arrived at 1pm, and Immigration and Customs was quick and painless. Shortly after clearing in I arrived at the rental car counter across the road from the airport, and in a few minutes I was headed to the apartment. 35 minutes later Eric the owner who lives upstairs greeted me as planned and gave me the keys and a few instructions. I dropped my bags and headed back to town to get some groceries. I made myself some guacamole for dinner and with a Sam Adams lager on my table watched the sunset from the very large veranda. It was a good travel day.

the building

first sunset

Posted by Robert Shannon at 3:57 PM

Sunday, March 31, 2019


Tomorrow I will board a plane in Houston, TX and fly to Liberia, Costa Rica. This will be my 3rd trip to the country. I did a 3-week trip in 2003, then 15 months in 2016-2017. Now, I have taken steps to declare my intention to stay in the country as a “pensionado” Resident. In about 4 weeks I will drive to San Jose to submit my papers to Immigration. If all goes well in about 12 months I will receive my “Cedula”, the equivalent of the “green card” given to resident aliens in the United States.

For the first 3 months I have rented an apartment on Ocotal Bay, in the northwest of Guanacaste province, on the Pacific side of the country. I love the fact that Costa Rica has both a Pacific and a Carribean coastline. My apartment is in a building owned by Eric, a French National who has lived there for 28 years. The building is small with 6 units on 3 floors. In a few days I will give a report on my journey and the settling in process. 

A map.

Author: RJMS

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