"In America, you'll get food to eat. Don't have to run through the jungle and scuff up your feet. You'll just sing about Jesus and drink wine all day. It's great to be an American."
– from Sail Away, Randy Newman's clever slave-trade ditty
All true, so far. We're here in the good ole U.S. of A. Hal's mom was not well (she's better now), Spirit Air had tickets for $250 each = a good time to see what's up here. I guess the USA is still the same… but a few things struck me right off. Like:
- Once the shock of Naples' grandiosity subsided, it feels like we never left (Hal's mom lives in Naples)
- Cottage cheese is the best thing since sliced bread. We've eaten at least one large container a day.
- We are doing all day here what we do all day there: sit in front of our computers for work and play. Does it matter where we are?
- For all my whining about missing my buddies, we've seen and actually talked to those buddies more during our visits in the last two years than we did the 25 years before that. Ok, that's a slight exaggeration, but not far off…
- There are fewer people here who are really important to me than I thought. The really important people are in my radar no matter where I am in the world.
- Everything in Florida is flat, not a hill in sight. Except for the…
- Convoluted highways with overpasses three and four deep
- Drivers know how to merge
- Going 80mph
- Girls as tall as Morgan (6' 1")
- $2.50 tolls
- Too much English spoken
- Everybody comes to a complete stop at stoplights, then they wait till it turns green to go. What a concept.
- Country music on the radio
- All the roads have names. In Naples, they all have two-word names, like Rattlesnake Hammock Drive and Imperial Wilderness Way.
- I have not seen one guy peeing on the side of the road
- No farm animals tied up to people's houses
- No farm animals being herded through town
- No farm animals grazing along the road
- No farm animal poop anywhere
- If you don't jam on the gas pedal the second the light turns green, no one honks their horn
- Restaurants are EXPENSIVE. I will
nevernot complain about Costa Rica's restaurants.
- Even though we constantly chat amongst our expat selves over there about how civil liberties are being sacrificed right and left over here, when you are here, you don't even notice. Which is, of course, how they get away with it.
- Everyone says "cahstah" Rica, even after hearing us say "coast-ah" Rica.
Have we really been gone two years? I feel like I stepped through a wormhole. The only way I know it's been so long is that I'm different: calmer, happier. And the boys have doubled in size. Otherwise, it seems so regular to be here.
I admit it: I love Key West. I love seeing my girlfriends, I love seeing Key West so green and lush – it's finally recovered from Wilma. The houses are so pretty, the streets so whole. The town maintains a prosperous air (even though it is most decidedly not.) A pretty, sunny, familiar face.
I spent last week running around, doing unexpected business. Like I got a new property management customer, wrote an offer for a buyer on a foreclosure (plenty of those around), joined forces with a long-time REALTOR® here, met with a REALTOR® up the keys who's had a Costa Rica real estate office in Heredia for 25 years. Perhaps I will do some referral work with her.
From here on out, it's playtime. Like there is some very fine music to be enjoyed. Photo left: Skipper Kripitz, Leanna Collins and Gordy Michaels make the jazz at The Gardens Hotel on Sunday Afternoons.
I saw a local dance company's beautiful production at the Waterfront Playhouse, one of the three busy theatres here. Starting top left in the photo is Kyra and Andres (oh my God, you cannot take your eyes off Andres), then Leigh, Denis (ditto Denis) and Mary Kay. Real honest-to-God dancers.
The Robert Frost Festival starts next week. Key West is famous for its talent. I'm suddenly very aware of it and determined to enjoy as much as possible. Because, you know, I'm a singer in a geezer band now. Gotta stay up with my people.
Key West's real estate market is suffering badly and the worst is yet to come. Like a house I sold (not pictured) for $850,000 the winter of '05 is now going for $350,000. I've heard of others. "Deals" like this are just now making the Coconut Telegraph. Countrywide has $500M in loans here in Key West; $90M are in foreclosure. The snowball is at the top of the mountain. Once all these foreclosures hit the local MSM, it's all she wrote. I'm thinking the bottom will appear in the next year to two years. Unless you are a savvy real estate buyer, save your money.
"Ain't no lions or tigers, ain't no mamba snake. Just the sweet watermelon and the buckwheat cake. Ev'rybody is as happy as a man can be. Climb aboard, little wog, sail away with me."
After being stateside these past few days, a Deep Thought crystallized. I've circled this bridge before and nobody wants to hear me say it out loud, least of all my husband. It's practically blasphemy in the expat world. But here it is: Costa Rica is not cheap enough to justify how hard the day-to-day life is. Hard being mostly culture shock, roads and crime. Feeling like a target all the time is wearing on a body. As is being jostled around in your car practically every minute you are in it.
It's not all bad: I love the life there. I'm looking forward to going back. We've made excellent friends. Nothing would have forced us to think outside the income box except living where that's the only option. Besides, what would my geezer band do without me?
If I were rich, where would I live right now? I'd live in Costa Rica and travel on a whim, no contest. But we're not rich and cost of living is key: it was a major consideration when choosing Costa Rica. Yes, there are places in the U.S. cheaper than Costa Rica. Not that I want to actually live any of those places, but at this point in my life, I'll consider anything. Necessity and all that.
In a year, Key West will be affordable. The really critical thing is: I can work here. I've LOVED working the past few days. I like earning money, I like dressing up and doing my thing. I spent twelve years building a business, then just walked out. I could still walk back in – that is compelling. I guess I miss that more than I thought.
Here's something else that been eating at me lately: the boys can get jobs here. They are ready and it's not possible in Costa Rica. Probably seems like a little thing to you, but niggling at me…
Plus there's Hansa's cooking. Oh my goodness. Spicy, delicious vegetarian food. Hansa can cook and I'm always welcome at her table. Like tonight. She told me I can go on YouTube and find videos for making her recipes. While her dishes are so exotic to me, I guess they are "everyday" in India… if I cooked in Costa Rica like Hansa cooks in Key West, I'll bet our food bill would be way cheaper!
For now, I'll keep pretending I'm rich: living in Costa Rica, traveling on a whim. One day at a time. This sure seems to be working for us. Funny, every time I think this issue is settled, something comes along to rattle that cage.
"In America every man is free to take care of his home and his family. You'll be as happy as a monkey in a monkey tree. You're all gonna be an American."
Another fine blog! Love the honest perspective you give on life in CR makes me think over my future plans. We are in the same biz I am a broker in NYC, things are jut a little slower in our market…hard to figure. Although the last month was tough lets see what happens this spring/summer. Personally I am doing more(mostly) rentals than any sales of late. The “average” price for a studio in a doorman building downtown is about $2500 a month, similar one bed approx. $3300! But you don’t have to go far to see the meltdown…just Jersey or most suburbs in the tri-state area, Lot’s of inventory and falling prices. I agree that with all the bad news it feels surprisingly normal? I also agree with you that it will be about 1 year before we really hit bottom in housing and the worst is yet to come, lets hope it’s not to bad!
“Costa Rica is not cheap enough to justify how hard the day-to-day life is. Hard being mostly culture shock, roads and crime. Feeling like a target all the time is wearing on a body. As is being jostled around in your car practically every minute you are in it.” yep. you nailed it right there. costa rica is not cheap, especially for anyone who wants a LIFE. if you are willing to make the big sacrifices and live “like the ticos”, beans and rice, no car, no extra expenditures like travel or fancy clothes (okay-you can have a cell phone) then MAYBE you’ll get by cheaper. feeling paranoid of having anyTHING you own ripped off is a big reality. not if but when. and money matters aside- as a gringa, i’m tired (quite frankly) of the quiet machismo of latin american culture. ladies: if you aren’t WITH your man or communicating THROUGH your man, be prepared to be disregarded. costa rica is a wonderful place, but not without sacrifice.
This April 7 piece provides the occasion for me to ask a question that has come to mind lately.
It’s been my casual observation that several bloggers from/on Costa Rica after about 2 years, give or take a little, just stop blogging — sometimes with a farwell, sometimes not.
Do you have similar observations? If so, any theories on why this might be so?
Costa Rica is not cheap enough to justify how hard the day-to-day life is.
Maybe because I haven’t found myself hanging around other expatriates (aside from my housemate) I lack some group-think resistance to the idea, but that seemed obvious to me after about two weeks here. People actually try to deny it?
The idea of living or retiring somewhere where one can live both better and cheaper in return for giving up a few things that only matter to other people (like proximity to a physical workplace or being able to go to baseball games or rock concerts or IMAX theaters or getting DirecTV American-style) is a compelling one. Costa Rica is not that place. I have my doubts that any place is that place, though someday I might try small-town America in the South.
My housemate and I are in Costa Rica for political and economic reasons, for what it is not: the United States of America. Even the word, “expatriate,” implies just that. Immigrants seeking to remain in America don’t say they are “[insert nationality here] expatriates” — they say they want to be Americans. Americans living abroad are usually there because they have been driven out (whether for economic, political, psychological or legal reasons) that have little to do with what America “really” is and everything to do with the relentless erosion of government of the people, by the people and for the people.
Hi Keith, It’s going to be uglier here in Key West than some other places just because there was SO MUCH speculation. And the numbers are so big – by the end, everyone was a speculator. Too many people losing everything. It looks like it will happen fast, though. That would be good, just get it over with and work on getting stable. Get back to buying a place to live.
Hi Steph – all good points. If I wanted to live on a shoestring, I could live cheaply. But I didn’t move to Costa Rica to live on beans and rice without a car. (Now I’ll get called The Ugly American… I can live with that.) I have managed to avoid acknowledging right out loud just how macho the culture is, but I’m going to have to build bigger blinders to keep avoiding it. As it has penetrated my denial, it is very disconcerting. We just found out, by the way, that if the boys got a girl pregnant, they would not be able to leave the country and would have to support her entire family. I must say I LOVED the looks on their faces when they heard that. Will fear work?
John, this has been on my mind of late, too. For me, it’s because life is so normal there now for the most part, there is less and less of note to write about. On top of that, I can’t spend four + hours writing a blog post (that’s how long it takes) these days… I have to focus on an income. I miss blogging terribly, but if my mind is clouded by annoying things like working, I can’t relax to write. That’s what happens with me… One other thing is that I am not anonymous at all. NO privacy. I’ve never minded so far, but as time goes on, it becomes more of a thought. I’m going to work on making myself more anonymous just ’cause I like it that way. And I love blogging, it’s very satisfying for me.
Well, Coises, you’ve hit a nail on the head. When we arrived in CR, there were fewer expats like us. Expats were either actually on the lam or had retired here because it was actually far less expensive. I know because when I first started talking on the forums, I got lambasted for being so anti-US and assuming there were more people who felt like I did. Tons of retired military here who are still pro-US, for example.
Expats like us, who leave the US (or find themselves gone and choose to stay gone which is our story) because of the “relentless erosion of government” are the new breed. Even now, when I tell people the thing I like best about Costa Rica is that it’s not the US, they look at me like I just claimed to like chewing nails. Like I said, when you are here (in the US), you just don’t notice the erosion unless you have the time and inclination to pay attention.
I think because of the election and Ron Paul’s candidacy – even with the MSM ignoring him – more and more people are taking note of what’s going on. On the other hand, I can’t tell you the number of people who’ve asked me, “Who’s running for President again?”
The “funny” thing about an erosion of our rights is you DON’T feel it, that is until you are on the wrong end of the law! Accused of some anti-American activities etc..I occasionally go on some other blogs(one linked to this site) and there idea of American freedom is “Get Out” if you don’t love it. I really find this quite curious and so so not in line with our constitution or a real democracy. And I’m no radical, just a simple guy practicing mindfulness. “There came a time when the risk to remain tight in the bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom”. Anais Nin
What is the site you found through me? Sometimes I link to a site after finding an article or post I really liked and find later that I should have read more than the one post…
I wrote something critical on a forum about the educational system in Costa Rica and a woman wrote me back, gave me a stern talking to and said if I didn’t like it to get out. Well, my take is if I didn’t like it, I wouldn’t care, duh. But she had that same M.O.
My real tinfoil hat wearing conspiracy theorist fear is that the U.S. is so far down the being-stripped-of-our-civil-rights-ignoring-the-Constitution road, that staying to remain tight in the bud (beautiful quote) seems just too risky. One out of every 100 U.S. citizens is in jail. You can be arrested for thought crimes now (reverse sting operations where there is no actual drug being exchanged, where there is no actual 13 year old girl behind the curtain, where you didn’t actually do the crime, you really just contemplated it). You can be arrested on suspicion of a terrorist act and not allowed to speak to an attorney. The list goes on but it’s too early to depress myself.
If we came back, we would throw ourselves into working for Ron Paul – oddly, that is the really bright spot in the thought of returning. We won’t return in time, can’t afford it. We probably won’t return at all really – the thought of living under any other president is far too unpleasant. None of the other candidates talk about the Constitution. They are just as interested in keeping us down and them in the power seat as Bush has been. They simply plan to go about it in a slightly different way.
All this and I’m on my first cup of coffee. I gotta go walk! Bye!!!
Hello again, Sara.
After reading your blogs and others, I am struck by the fact that attitudes about life in CR compared to the U.S. boils down to very subjective criteria. In your case, not being fluent in Spanish and your penchant for a more citified and cultural life style may be the biggest impediment to completely enjoying the CR experience. I am guessing, of course, but I have to put my own spin on this matter because I am so focused on retiring to a piece of property I bought near San Ramon a few years ago. I make myself consider possible negatives all the time but the things that bother you don;t seem to be important to me. I don’t mind the bad roads,I am a fluent Spanish speaker and prefer living more removed from the city, especially far from San Jose.
And the things you find positive about the U.S. are for me mere periphery considerations right now and I cannot ever imagine them being important enough to me to influence any decision about remaining here.
Work is an issue for you because you are not retired. You are still young enough to feel the need to be involved in money making. The one concern I do share with you is the fact that your sons can at least work in the U.S. and they cannot do so in CR. This is a problem I am mulling over since I have a 14 year who will be 18 when we move there.
As always, I wish you well in your life in Costa Rica and I truly hope you find it worthwhile to remain there forever.
Hi James, You are right: it is all subjective. Only people who have my similar circumstance and objectives would give serious consideration to my considerations. It sounds like the things that are important to me are not to you… there are SO many expats who are deliriously happy in Costa Rica. There are things I love, things I like and things I thought would be one way but really aren’t… most notably the cost of living.
On my blog, I’d like it to be clear that I’m talkin’ about what’s happening for me. I’m not trying to preach to anyone or dissuade or persuade… just my experience. I’m glad it’s all working for you. It’s mostly working for me…!
Say ‘HAY’ to Naples for me.
Can’t say I miss it much.
If you have time, call John P. Turner.
He’s at John R. Woods. He’d love to hear
from someone coming from CR that knows me.
He’s a character! (as are you) Teri
Hi Teri – I’m on my way home, next time!!!
As far as I know what the law SAYS is that if ANY MAN gets a girl pregnant then you are to support her and the kid (NOT the entire family for crying out loud)
Also he CAN leave the country as long as he deposits a certain number of months of child support payments in advance, you would be surprised (or may be not) that people that has a lot of $ constantly try to avoid paying for the food of their offspring (imagine soccer players who make a lot of money…..and run into this issue all the time)
This is of course aimed towards preventing people from leaving their children behind, its not about holding people hostage
Simple solution, you don’t go around having babies that you don’t intend to support 🙂
btw just as you can imagine the amounts that are normally determined in court for child support/allimoney are pretty pathetic to the point that I wonder how can they actually feed/buy clothes/etc for the kid with those pathetic amounts but I digress
Hi Wolfie, Thank you for clarifying that – of course, that makes sense and I would certainly not encourage my child to leave his child behind… but I don’t want them to get in that situation. I guess I latched onto the hardest line so they would be aware there are consequences here… Actually, those consequences should be in place in the U.S.
hehe, well, if obviously see your point and your logic 🙂
you will love to know though (if you didn’t already) that here if a Mom says “HE did it” and you don’t take the mandatory DNA test…..then you are automatically the new and lucky Dad, that is one case of you are guilty unless the DNA test says you are not
I meant “I obviously see your … ” 🙂
I still operate under the silly misconception that logic works on teenagers. HA. Maybe I can just keep them in the house until they are 30… yeah, that should work.
Those BABIES wouldn’t possibly be old enough to even LOOK at other girls. You are way putting the cart before the horse, please! Mo can not POSSIBLY be 6 feet tall.
Man, they grow fast – of course you actually feed yours! That probably helps.
You have again, hit the head on the nail! We have had similiar conversations lately about the newly inflated cost of living here. Although, our whole medical thing recently re-solidified the advantage to living here if you don’t have any health insurance. But other than that, we be needing some jobs/inheritances/money falling from the sky soon.
Let’s get together some time when you are back?
Sara; Have a read through “life with Monkeys”, One minute your reading about Cookie recipes the next that Ron Paul is an anti-Semite…lol! I have been banned from posting on the blog, I felt I was being very civil considering the mean spiritness of some of the writing. Guess I was flagged for un-American activities..lol.
Jen, wait till you see these baby boys… our food bill alone puts us over the edge! We’ll talk. When I write on this topic, I think of you all, what you are thinking along these lines…
Keith: I took Life With Monkeys off the CR Blog list. She’s no longer an expat, after all, and I don’t have a So. Cal. blog list to put her on. And, not only did she talk bad about MY boyfriend, Ron Paul, she’s a neo-con. Scary that neo-con-ism is so alive and well in the US. She talked bad about all the other candidates… no mention of McCain, interestingly, pro or con. And he’s the only one she has left. Well, whatever. I’m writing in Ron Paul no matter who’s on the ballot. Thanks for the heads up.
How does Mike Gravel fit in, with his revived and still ignored candidacy as a libertarian?
Life with monkeys was nice when it was about fried tilapia. Her true colors came out when she used ‘Huckaby’ and ‘cute’ in the same sentence, blasted Hilary for sticking with a philanderer and then flew the hypocritical flag by gushing about the philandering Sarkozy. I suppose I’m not surprised that neo-conism is still breathing, but at least Bush’s approval ratings indicate that people may have come to their senses. I’m curious to see what happens after April 22…
I know nothing of Mike Gravel except that the press ignores him so I’d probably like him!!! SURELY there are more people laughing at the Decider than wishing he could run another time… But when people ask me who’s running for President, I don’t have much hope on a wise thoughtful decision being made behind the curtain. People here in Key West are HURTING. Everyone has the deer in the headlights look just before the car hits: the real estate market that was supposed to save them and give them the good life has turned on them bigtime. So many of my friends are losing everything. I mean everything. It’s really bad here. They don’t care who’s running: they have bigger problems.
It’s likely that the next administration isn’t going to be able to help all that much – it’s like trying to stop a boat from crashing into an iceberg that appeared out of some fog. And I’d wager that the Bear Stearns failure is just the first. I’ve backed off Paul a bit after Googling and finding way too much information linking him & racism. I support his views on many topics, but I’m finding it difficult to support the man himself.
Mike Gravel has been on my radar because he, along with Paul, Obama & Kucinich, were the only candidates to vote against Iraq. I’ve had that as a barometer for supporting someone – knowing that they stood against the jingoistic tide and made the right decision.
As the mother of two bi-racial children, I did enough research to be confident Dr. Paul is not a racist nor an anti-Semite nor any of the other names he’s been called. If you research the name-callers, their reputations speak for themselves. If there were any substance to the allegations, they would not have faded into the void. He would have been forced to withdraw. I did hours of research which anyone else would have to do to be satisfied. The name-callers did a good job. Too bad.
You are right about the economy: there is no stopping it. The reckoning is upon us. The problem with the remaining candidates, Gravel included, is that they will see government as the savior rather than the taker. Tax and spend to fix, that’s their cure. Which will take us further down the wrong path. Stopping spending is the only thing that will eventually take us out of this hole and maybe prevent us from total ruin. But that’s not going to happen. Too bad about that, too!
I liked a LOT of what I heard him say – which probably means that I am way more libertarian than I ever thought I’d be. But I did think it was strange that he didn’t support abortion rights. What turned me off were this and this. It’s possible that a usenet posting from 1993 can be mistakenly (or dishonestly) attributed to him, but you can’t make up stuff about his record & positions (though I’m not saying I disagree with all of them, just some). It all makes me too uncomfortable to support him.
But I do agree that taxing & spending (or reducing taxes & continued spending) won’t solve anything. I would like to see a much smaller government with more power wielded by states. It would be good if consumers cut down their spending and socked money away too, but the likelihood of either one happening is too slim.
Dr. Paul personally does not support abortion rights, but he is in favor of letting each state decide the issue, as the framers intended. Rowe vs. Wade should be overturned because it decides the issue on a federal level: un-Constitutional. Some states may make abortion illegal; I believe most will keep it legal. But I believe, no matter how I see any single issue, we should follow the Constitution. If I’m a single issue voter, that issue is “Follow the Constitution.”
Federal funding of abortions, along with a whole host of other line items, should be stopped. The U.S. government should not be funding anything other than defense and roads. I am pro-choice by the way; my husband is not. Quite an education.
If you really want to know if Ron Paul is a racist, you’ll have to spend several hours researching. There’s a LOT more than these two links! Follow every link, read about him, read the newsletters, read about the people who are writing this. You’ll read a ton of crap, but the big picture will emerge.
None of the inflammatory writing is written personally by him, all handily without a byline. Written for a newsletter for his organization and he has taken responsibility for every word. I read all the newsletters. I didn’t find it racist, just very very un-P.C. The Patriot movement does not turn me off, so I don’t have a problem with any of that either.
Dr. Paul has been in the public eye for so many years, you’d think there would be at least ONE video snippet of him saying something untoward. Or speaking at a rally. Or pictures of him with guys in hoods. Or ONE person who would step up and say, “I know from personal experience.” But there is nothing. Just snippets from printed material.
On the other hand, there are so many people, black and white, who give him their 100% endorsement, that all Dr. Paul issues are settled for me. I am 100% convinced he has more to offer the U.S. than any other candidate.
I would agree on state powers and federal funding. I would not have thought that a few years ago – perhaps even 2 years ago – but the goverment is too large, unwieldy and the opportunities for waste are legion. States can waste money too, but at least that would be limited to blowing the cash of a smaller populace. otoh – if there was no income tax and the federal government was smaller, there’d be less to waste.
I have researched RP, and those 2 links were summaried my findings. I’d like to spend more hours researching but that work thing is getting in the way. I might have some free time to dig deeper in summer, but if you have some worthwhile reading, please do email me.
btw – I had a nice reminder how some folk cling to the neocon brainwashing. A friend went to a pancake breakfast by her local Masons guild (guild? brotherherhood? cabal? club?). The members are all in their 50s & 60s and apparently every single one of them is a conservative to some degree or the other. They still serve ‘freedom toast’ and ‘freedom fries.’
Having issues decided on the state level makes them all more “touchable” by the people. The more local the vote, the more power to the people. When we retain jurisdiction, retain power over our own lives, we can control the government – that was the framers’ intent. The Constitution is all about controlling runaway government. We would also retain control of costs and be directly in charge of limiting waste. I can get in to see my city commissioner. I can’t get in to see the President. Not that I’d waste my time with this President. But that was the framers’ intent: keep it local.
Gotta run – more soon! Good topic…
Your perspective on Florida/US after being away awhile is interesting. Costa Rica doesn’t have cottage cheese? I’d die. And drivers in Florida seem sane to you now? It makes me afraid to drive in Costa Rica if I ever get to go.
It took me three months to drive in Costa Rica and I’m not afraid of anything. Except my government. The drivers here will leave you open-mouthed… Be afraid to drive – it will make you VERY careful!!!
Yeah, no cottage cheese here. It was a tragedy at first. However, we just decided to give up all dairy after reading this:
Pretty compelling stuff! For now, we will do without. Good thing – we ate our body weight in cottage cheese while we were in the states.
I skimmed that article and thought you might want to read a book in a similar vein (espousing veganism) called The China Study. I’m not vegan but I’ve cut down on meat & dairy a lot since reading that.
I was a vegan for two years. Hal says a vegan is a person who buys a box of food, throws away the food and eats the box… ha ha. Don’t know that I could do that strict of a lifestyle again, but we are the same: almost no meat, lots of beans, rice, grains, veggies. We eat chicken and fish, that’s about it.