Finding a used car and more…

On Sunday, January 12, we took our Spanish teacher Charlene out to a very leisurely lunch. We went to a Japanese restaurant near downtown San Jose and it was excellent! We have been taking Spanish Lessons with Charlene of for about two years now.  She has lived here in Costa Rica for many years and we have our lessons over Skype an hour once a week.  Charlene is an awesome Spanish teacher and both Eddie and I have learned a lot, but still have much to learn. We had to stop our lessons for a bit, but have arranged to start them up again beginning in February. It was wonderful to see Charlene again and we are excited about resuming our lessons. If you are interested in learning Spanish, you must give her a try!

Finding time to post isn’t always easy. Eddie needs the laptop to catch up on work and to look for Hilux pickups, so he gets first dibs on using it. It will be easier once our desk top makes it way here, which won’t be until early February.  So until then, I have to be patient and share.

We have been spending most of our time looking for a pickup and we have looked at five so far. They are rather hard to find especially ones in good condition, so we are fortunate to have a choice of five. On Monday, we drove to Cartago again to look at a different Hilux – a 2006.  We drove to the same parking lot at Pequeño Mundo and the owner met us there. After chatting a bit, we discovered that he is the owner of a used car dealership and this is just one of his cars there. He told us the tires were new, but when we were test driving it, he motioned us to stop at the gas station. Turned out the right front tire needed air!  So, when we returned to the parking lot, we checked out that tire and there was a huge nail in it. Eddie pointed it out the sales guy and he acted so surprised. In Costa Rica there is a lot of debris on the roads, so it could have happened recently. Since we were close to Orosi, we called the owner of the Hilux we saw on Saturday to see if we could test drive it. That worked out well and Eddie really wanted that one, but the owner wouldn’t budge at all on the price and it was rather costly.  We had to let that one pass by.

Eddie waiting to look at a car in Orosi

Eddie waiting to look at a car in Orosi

Costa Rica has a National Registry for vehicles.  All you need is the license plate number and you can check to see who owns the vehicle, accident history along with fines, taxes and liens. We looked up the 2006 and discovered there is a lien on it. In Costa Rica the lien follows the car not the previous owner, so you must be careful. Eddie has contacted our attorney about how to proceed. Wish us luck!

Costa Ricans appear to be very patient people. They don’t seem to mind waiting in line at the bank or wherever for hours on end and they show no signs of being unhappy or irritated with the wait. However, put them behind the wheel of a car and it’s an entirely different story. They are crazy people!  They weave in and out of traffic, follow the car in front much too closely, drive too fast and pass on dangerous curves with no visibility. This is a country where stop signs a just a suggestion. So watch out!  Costa Ricans really like to honk the horn and I don’t mean a little beep, they really lay on it. They honk for everything like saying hello, get moving or just noticing a pretty girl walking across the street. It’s very interesting to say the least.

Ellen cooking a great dinner in Margarita's rancho.

Ellen cooking a great dinner in Margarita’s rancho.

An Unwelcome Surpise…

Yesterday (January 10) was my birthday and we had some wonderful plans, a lovely lunch and trip to the fancy mall in Escazu. Unfortunately, those plans never happened as I was stricken with some intestinal disorder that kept me from straying too far from our room!  It was one miserable day. The culprit was most likely due to the Caesar salad I ate for lunch a day or so earlier. It was just too much for my system to eat all that greenery at once and I should have known better as I have a very sensitive system. Everyone here says that it takes time for the body to get used to new bacteria and flora. In any case, it was a surprise that I could have done without.

Today was a much better day! I seem to have recovered from whatever ailed me and was all ready to go along with Eddie to look at some used Toyota Hilux pick-up trucks.  This afternoon we drove to Cartago about an hour away from our B&B to look at the Hilux.  We stopped at a store called Pequeno Mundo in the center of town, parked in their lot and called the guy to meet up as we arranged only to find out that he didn’t want to meet there as it was a 30 minute drive for him. So, we drove another 30 minutes to a town called Orosi. It was a beautiful drive and a quaint town. Amazingly, we managed to communicate fairly well in Spanish.  After a look under the hood and a test drive up a steep road, Eddie wasn’t impressed with the truck.  It was bought in Panama and had evidence of being re-painted, which hadn’t been disclosed and was noticeable. At least it was a pretty day for a drive and we saw some gorgeous scenery.

View of Orosi from lookout from steep road

View of Orosi from lookout from steep road

Ruins in Cartago taken from the car

Ruins in Cartago taken from the car


On our way back, we went into Pequeno Mundo where we had parked earlier and discovered that it’s a discount store. It had all sorts of things from clothes, linens, houseware items to food. We bought Styrofoam noodles for the pool, plastic hangers and salsa for a total of $5. Not bad at all!

It looks like it’s going to take much longer than we thought to purchase a vehicle, so we have arranged to stay in our B&B a few days longer.  Now, we are planning to leave on Thursday for our rental house in the Dominical area, which is on the Pacific side of Costa Rica.

Residency part 2

We left Margarita’s fairly early this morning to arrive in time for our 9:30 appointment at ARCR.  A delightful young man accompanied us to Banco Nacional (one of the two Costa Rican government banks). There, he helped us obtain two accounts – one in dollars and another in colones, their national currency. It all took about an hour and there was a fair amount of paperwork. Afterwards, Eddie and I found a McDonald’s so that we could hook up to their WiFi to email our bank in the U.S. We were there for a while and the smells of hamburgers and french fries finally got the better of us and we had to order some lunch.  We did feel a little guilty eating at McDonald’s in Costa Rica.  It was a bit expensive, too!  The food tasted the same, however, I can’t say that for the Diet Coke as they substitute Coke Zero (without advertizing it) and it’s much too sweet for me. So maybe, I will be able to kick my Diet Coke habit while living here.

Using WIFI at McD's

Using WIFI at McD’s

Next stop was visiting a recommended used car guy.  He showed us a 1994 SUV that was actually in pretty good shape, but still, a little too old for us. He wanted 8K for it, which Eddie thought was reasonable considering the engine had been rebuilt.  We have a few other leads, but it looks like buying a good 4 wheel drive vehicle will take longer than we originally thought.

On our way back to our B & B, we discovered Price Smart (similar to Sam’s Club and Costco). We stopped in and purchased a annual membership for $35 and began to shop!!!  We found some good stuff.  Hope we can find a location a little closer to our rental home, which is about 3-1/2 hours away from where we are staying now.

Our Price Smart purchases

Our Price Smart purchases

Not sure what’s on tomorrow’s agenda…it will be a surprise!

Dinner at Margarita's

Dinner at Margarita’s

Residency in Progress

A change of plans today.  Instead of looking for a used vehicle, we decided to work on obtaining residency since we were able to secure an appointment with the paralegal from ARCR (Association of Residents of Costa Rica) who helped us gather our documents. We have been members of ARCR for several years. We met with her early this afternoon for about an hour.  We gave her all our documents – certified birth certificates, marriage license and police report…all of which had to be notarized and apostille from the respective Secretary of State. We did all of that before we came down. Then, we had to pay a fee to the Costa Rican government, of course.  She also registered us with the American Embassy here.  After we were finished, we met with the lawyer who will handle our case.  He will translate all our documents into Spanish, make sure everything is in proper order and then he will take it immigration to file it. Once filed, we will receive a stamped document with our case number.  From that point, it will most likely take 10 to 14 months for us to receive approval for temporary residency.

There are several ways to secure residency.  We are pursing the Rentista catagory, which means we have to prove to the Costa Rican government that we have sufficient money to support ourselves by depositing a substantial sum into their state bank. Each month, we will receive a portion of this money to live on. After three years of temporary residency, proving that we can support ourselves, then we can apply for permanent residency.  Eddie had to sign a document that states that he promised to support me financially.  I joked that he couldn’t get rid of me now!  Our lawyer laughed and in jest asked if I wanted a copy of the document just in case.

First on the agenda tomorrow is an appointment at the state bank. Good thing a member of ARCR will accompany us as we aren’t fluent in Spanish – at least not, yet.  We are working on it, though!

Hasta luego (Until later)

We made it to Costa Rica!

Eddie enjoying a beer at our B & B - Margarita's in La Garrita

Eddie enjoying a beer at our B & B – Margarita’s in La Garrita

After a day filled with delays, we finally made it to San Jose, Costa Rica! We flew through immigration and customs without any problems only to wait an hour for the rental car shuttle. Welcome to Tico time as they say here. Fortunately, it was a beautiful and warm day, so we didn’t mind the wait outside.

It was late afternoon when we arrived at our B & B (Margarita de la Garrita) which is about a 15 minute drive from the airport. We have stayed with Margarita many times and so it was much like seeing an old friend. We chatted with her and a few other guests for quite a while before unloading our many pieces of luggage from the car.  We are in our favorite corner room with a private patio.

It took a while to unpack and I’m pleased to report that everything arrived intact including all my vitamins (a three month supply), 12 bottles of various spices and hair color products! I was a little worried about the big bottles of peroxide, but they were still in the suitcase. So, I can stay blond a little while longer!

We are now enjoying a small glass of rum…we stocked up at the duty free shop before leaving the airport. We also purchased SIM cards for our cell phones, but they only work in CR. We brought our cordless phone and have it hooked up to Magic Jack so that we can call the States for free and people can call us, too, without incurring international charges. We talked with both our children tonight and it was pretty cool.

Tomorrow we plan to begin our search for a used pick up truck or SUV.

Ready, set, go!


We have been talking about this day for quite a while…probably since we decided to buy land in Costa Rica back in 2007.  It suddenly became a reality this past Spring.  In April 2013, we put our home of 22 years on the market and it sold in November.  We closed on November 22…just five short weeks after the offer.  It was quite the challenge to sort and pack our home.  We had a lot of storage space and we utilized every inch of it over the years!  Our children took most of the important things such as the family antiques, artwork and silver. However, we still donated, recycled and threw away quite a bit…car loads of stuff.

Originally, our plan was to go back and forth from Chapel Hill, NC to Costa Rica like “snow birds.”  The economy changed all that, so we had to modify our plan by staying for extended visits with family and friends when stateside.  Our daughter Jane and her long-time boyfriend Mark graciously offered us a suite on their second floor.  (They will be our home base when we are in the states – until they get tired of us.)  Our suite is spacious and beautiful!!!  We enjoy being a part of their family as well, which includes 2 goats, 2 cats, 3 dogs, 15 chickens and 2 horses  and baby horse on the way.  It’s a lot of fun!  Best of all, they don’t seem to mind us being around, for now anyway.  How great is that?

The photo above is of our 6 bags (to check) ready to go; it was taken in our suite just this morning.  (Aren’t the hardwood floors gorgeous?  Jane and Mark installed, stained and varnished it all themselves!) Jane drove us to the airport and we flew to Ft. Lauderdale on JetBlue.  It all went well except for a 2 – 1/2 hour delay and discovering that JetBlue doesn’t participate in TSA Pre-Check for which we qualify with our Global Entry, so we had to take off our shoes, etc…which was a bummer.  I think that was worse than the delay.  We won’t be flying with them again until they become participants!

Tomorrow we leave for San Jose, CR.  We will be spending a week just outside the city in La Garrita in order to buy a used pick-up and to begin the residency process.  Wish us luck!

More posts to follow…we are going to try to post regularly, so check in often.