Living in a Zoo

Last week, the White-throated Capuchin monkeys came by our place again and, of course, we always have stop whatever we are doing to watch them!  Every time they visit, they are braver and braver.  They come onto the terrace, right up to the sliding glass door and peer in at us through the wrought iron bars.  Sometimes they hold onto the bars and pound on the glass or test the screen.  We are starting to feel like we live in a zoo and we are the ones on display!


During this visit both Eddie and I happened to be fairly close to the sliding door.  A couple of monkeys had ventured onto the terrace.  I started to play a game of “hide and seek” with one of them.  I would look over the chair and then under and the monkey would try to find me.  It was really cute!  The monkeys are very curious and they seem to be pretty smart, too.

Earlier in the day, I had washed some laundry and hung the clothes on the line to dry.  Before the monkeys arrived, I had returned to the laundry room and closed the lid of the washing machine, but I didn’t slide the screened door (with bars) closed.  Lopez had his tool box on the floor and had been coming back and forth to get certain tools, so I left the door open for him.


Eddie managed to get some video of their visit.  After a bit, you will notice that one monkey left the group by the sliding door.  He was headed for the end of the terrace where the laundry room is located. (It’s only accessible from the outside.)  A few moments later, we heard a big clunk and I realized that the monkey had ventured into the laundry area and had most likely found the tool box.  Eddie stopped filming just after we heard the noise, so I mentioned to him that we should check the laundry room.  Eddie hopped up to run outside and this startled the monkeys by the door and they ran off into the trees.  As Eddie rounded the corner of the house, he saw the monkey who had been in the laundry room in the middle of the terrace holding a large screwdriver.  The monkey ran off with it and Eddie followed in pursuit clapping his hands as he ran.  The clapping noise scared the monkey just enough to cause him to drop the screwdriver in the dirt under the trees.  So, the monkeys really do take things!

The next day after this visit, Eddie and I returned from a trip to Dominical to find the monkeys on the terrace next to our dining table playing with Eddie’s two barbell weights that he keeps next to the aquarium by the laundry room.  They were rolling them around the terrace!  The weights are pretty big, so the monkeys weren’t able to roll them under the railing.  Unfortunately, we weren’t quick enough with the camera to get a photo.  The dashed off as soon as they heard us.  We wonder what they will get into next time they visit.

Getting Our Costa Rican Driver’s Licenses

This past Tuesday we drove to San Jose for an overnight stay.  Our primary purpose was to apply for our Costa Rican driver’s licenses.  We left the beach early in the morning to drive the 2 and 3/4 hour journey to the San Jose area.  We wanted to arrive early enough to do some shopping in Escazú where there is the nice selection of products from the U.S.  After checking into Hotel Louisana and relaxing for a bit, we met our friend Charlene at a Vietnamese restaurant in Santa Ana.  We had a great time catching up and the food was wonderful, too!

Enjoying dinner at PHO with Charlene

Enjoying dinner at PHO with Charlene

On Wednesday, we woke up very early – 5 a.m. so that we would be ready to catch the bus into San Jose.  We decided that the truck would be safer in the secure hotel parking lot since we had it loaded up with our purchases and luggage.  We hopped on the bus at 6:15 and 30 minutes later we got off and walked to this 1950’s style diner for breakfast.  We have eaten there several times before and the food is very good.  Soda Tapia has been in San Jose for 30 + years and has quite a history.


From there we took a cab to Cosevi (similar to the DMV back home) in La Uruca, a neighborhood of San Jose.  Everyone has to travel to La Uruca for their first time driver’s license.  (Renewals can be done at Cosevi locations in other parts of the country.)  Our first stop was to a clinic just a short walk up the street from Cosevi in order to have a medical exam, which consisted of a few questions and an eye test…a simple “read line 6” and that’s it.  The doctor did ask to see our Cedula and current NC driver’s license and he spent most of the visit imputing information into the computer.  The medical visit cost 18,000 colones (approximately $34 USD).  What a racket!


Foreigners wanting a Costa Rican driver’s license need to arrive at Cosevi between 8 a.m. and 11:00 a.m.  Cosevi is a large place and the driver’s license department is in the back area.  It’s well marked so we didn’t have any trouble finding it.  When we arrived there, we had to check in with a guard who asked why we were there.  After Eddie told him, the next question was “Have you been in Costa Rica for over three months?”  That’s the most important “rule!”  Even though we have residency, we still need to leave the country every 90 days in order to drive legally here with our NC driver’s license.  This is why it’s important to go through the trouble of getting a Costa Rican driver’s license.  Once you have it, you don’t have to leave CR every three months to drive.  But, Costa Rican law makers don’t make things easy.  In order to have a CR driver’s license, you have to be a resident and you have to let your tourist visa stamp expire to prove you’ve been in the country over 90 days.  If you get caught driving with an expired visa stamp, the fine is pretty hefty as you’re driving illegally.  It was another good reason to take the bus.

Eddie told the guard that he had been in the country over 90 days, which was true, but that wasn’t the case for me.  I still had 2 weeks to go until mine expired.  Even so, we thought we would give it a try to see if I could get my license, too.  The guard escorted us to the proper line and we sat down to wait.  There is only one cubicle designated for foreigners and there were three people ahead of us.  We were there early so it wasn’t too crowded yet, we hoped that it was a good sign that we wouldn’t have to wait too long.


The first two people ahead of us didn’t take long with the official, but the third person was there for a while.  The official was giving her a really hard time and that made us worry a bit.  Finally she was finished and the official called for the next person.  Eddie and I went in together thinking this would help.  Eddie gave the official his documentation and paperwork first.  He spent a lot of time comparing the actual passport with the copies we had brought with us.  He was double checking to make sure the the most recent entry stamp was past the 90 days.  When he was looking over all my documentation and paperwork, he realized right away that my most recent stamp wasn’t past 90 days.  He paused for a long time looking at it trying to decide what to do about it.  At some point, the official asked where we lived and Eddie told him and also mentioned that it was a long way to come, but we liked living at the beach.  So, finally, he got up and went upstairs.  When he returned, he had a copy of a different page of my passport which had an earlier entry date.  He put all his “stamp” of approval on the paperwork and sent us upstairs.   We took this as a very good sign that maybe I would get my license, too.  After waiting upstairs for a bit, we were called into an office and the official looked very official in a white shirt and tie.  Again, we went in together and Eddie went first.  This fellow also hesitated when he got to my entry page.  So, we started talking about living at the beach…all in Spanish.   We had a nice conversation about a lot of things.   He decided to overlook my lack of 90 + days and put his “stamp” of approval on all our paperwork.  Then, he explained that we had to go back downstairs to cubical #2 and if all was in order the official would give us a slip of paper to take to the bank to pay for the licenses and after that we return to #2 for a photo and ultimately our licenses.


We did what he told us to do…and while we were waiting in line for cubical #2, we started to be concerned.  The official there was very stern and she was giving the person ahead of us a very hard time.  I thought for sure that there was no way she was going to give me a driver’s license.  But, we were pleasantly surprised!   When we approached her cubical, she asked if we spoke Spanish and we replied,”yes.”  She told us she spoke a little English (in English) and we replied to her in Spanish and continued to speak in Spanish.  Not sure if that helped us or not, but she gave us her approval too.  Next, she gave us a piece of paper to take to the bank so that we could pay the 4,000 colones for each license (about $7.50 USD).  Once we did that, we went back to see her and she took our photos and shortly thereafter we had our CR driver’s licenses in hand!  Total time to do all of this was three hours.  Not bad for Costa Rica!


Here is what we needed:

  • Two copies of:  front and back of US (or other foreign driver’s license); front and back of CR Cedula; front page of passport and the page of the passport that contains the most recent entry to CR.
  • Bring along original passports so they can check the original against the copies.
  • The current entry date must be more than 3 months and 1 day from the date last entered into CR.
  • A medical exam (Dictamen Medico) is needed – mostly an eye exam, but the results (and answers to all questions) are entered into a computer and the doctor gives you a piece a paper with a code number that you give to Cosevi so that they can see the results.
  • There is a Banco Nacional next door to Cosevi  where the bill for the licenses can be paid.  Keep the receipt to take back to the office, where you will have your picture taken and then will receive your license, which is good for three years.



A Year Already!

Exactly one year ago today, we arrived in Costa Rica.  We can’t believe that we’ve been living here for a year already!  Wow, time really moves quickly…even in paradise.  This past year has been an interesting one, that’s for sure.  And, to be very honest, it has been a difficult one for me.  Adjusting to life in another country has been an adventure all in itself.  Eddie, on the other hand, adapted easily, from the moment he set foot off of the plane.  He absolutely loves it here!  That said, I do enjoy living here.  How could I not?  Costa Rica is a beautiful country!  The abundant wildlife is fantastic and the rainforests are awesome.  There are spectacular waterfalls, lush green mountains, cloud forests, hot springs and active volcanoes.  The beaches are gorgeous and the blue ocean is always refreshing.  The temperature in the Southern Zone is warm all the time…no cold weather and snow!   The locals are friendly more often than not.  During the past year, we have made some really good friends – both Tico and expat.  All in all, life here is pretty darn good!


Christmas Eve dinner with Lopez and our neighbors, Perry and Dale

Christmas Eve dinner with Lopez and our neighbors, Perry and Dale

Christmas Day dinner with our friends Toni & Gib

Christmas Day dinner with our friends Toni & Gib

Having fun at Los Chorros

Having fun at Los Chorros

This next year will be busy especially for Eddie.  We are getting closer to starting the construction of our house.  We have signed a labor-only contract with a local builder, which means that Eddie will be the general contractor.  It will be up to him to buy all the materials and make sure the builder has them when needed.  I plan to be involved too, but not nearly to the same extent, probably just the finishing touches.  In the next few weeks, we hope to receive our permits for building from the municipality.  If all goes well, we should break ground sometime in February.  We expect that it will take 8 or 9 months to complete the house, so hopefully, we will move into it before Halloween.  As we get going, we plan to blog all about the progress of our home building process.

Over New Year’s, our friend Charlene who is also our Spanish teacher and her little Maltese doggie came for a visit.  She lives in San Jose and we have our lessons over Skype.  It was so much fun having her with us!

Dinner with Charlene at The Rancho

Dinner with Charlene at The Rancho


On New Year’s Eve day, we drove to Hotel Río Magnolia to have lunch with Sally.  Sally is also a student of Charlene’s.  Sally and her husband live in Canada and are visiting their son John and his wife Maureen, owners of the hotel.  John and Maureen are part of our “Thirsty Thursdays” lunch crowd at Los Chorros restaurant.  We met them not too long after we moved here.  So, it was really a surprise to learn that John’s mother is a student of Charlene’s, too.  It’s a small world after all.

Lunch at Rio Magnolia.  L to R: Norman, Sally, Charlene, Ellen, John and Maureen.

Lunch at Rio Magnolia. L to R: Norman, Sally, Charlene, Ellen, John and Maureen.

Being that it’s a small world, remember that we are only 1,800 miles from Raleigh, North Carolina (about 4 hours flying time), which is closer than Raleigh to Phoenix, Arizona.  For you gringos in the frozen tundra…if you’re inclined to check out Costa Rica, we would enjoy having you visit us!


This curious monkey is checking us out

We found this tiny frog on the floor and at first thought it was a piece of dirt.  The text in the photo is standard 12 pt. font.

We found this tiny frog on the floor and at first thought it was a piece of dirt. The text in the photo is standard 12 pt. font.