We're livin' the life of Riley down here in lazy Costa Rica. Even without a plugged nickel to our names. How we manage this, I'll never know. But I'm not going to ask too many questions and I'm not going to look at the balance sheet. Faggeddaboudit. Specially now that we are farmers, growing our own food. Who needs money? I hope one can live on peppers, tomatoes and gladiolas…
Hal and I spent last weekend in Guanacaste. On someone else's nickel, thank you very much. And without the boys. Two whole nights, three whole days. It's nice going somewhere without them, but you know, the whole time, I'm thinking, "The boys would love this, they would enjoy that." Next time, they are coming with. They'll be moved out in a couple of years, getting jobs, sending money home… I intend to enjoy them while we still have them!
Lisa and Tom (two LTG pros) and Hal and I took Love Letters to the beach communities of Playa Hermosa and Playa Flamingo. As nice as living at the beach is (if you like sweating), there's not a lot to do there, cull-chah-wise… unless drinking and fishing are considered cull-chah? So us big-city types took cull-chah to them. Boy, were they grateful! I was director, Hal was the MacGyver/techie, Tom and Lisa played the parts. We were a hit.
Guanacaste is so beautiful, it takes your breath away. Even while you are stopped in traffic 30 minutes at a time on a congested two lane "highway" during the 5-6 hour drive to the coast, the greenery, foliage, birds, the two volcanoes you can see with the naked eye, the mountain ranges in the distance… it all takes your breath away.
Then you get to the ocean. Wow. Key West has a gorgeous landscape: all ocean, flat, forever, everywhere you look. This coast is different: waves crashing on the beach, big volcanic rock formations jutting up from the floor of the ocean. Surrounded by big volcanic rock formations jutting up from the earth. If I snorkeled, I'd be stunned I'm sure. The water is so clear, I imagine it must be ripe with life.
It's no wonder the coast in Costa Rica drew such attention during the real estate boom. It is breathtaking, exotic, peaceful, and – at least at one time – affordable. Each time I've visited a coast here, I've been overwhelmed by billboards advertising new developments. This area in particular drew developers like lawyers to a car wreck. Like Congressmen to a Las Vegas junket. Like fleas to dogs.
Which brings me to The Beast portion of our talk today. Evidence of broken dreams abounds in Guanacaste, as I've heard it does all down the Pacific coastline. In our short visit, without looking hard, we saw a dozen abandoned condo projects. Not including completed ones standing empty. The boom is over and none too soon: the landscape is littered with towers. Still far, far from being a Miami, but I'm glad it's stopped. Sorry for everyone who lost money, but get over it. I lost plenty myself, I have more friends than I can count who are now broke. Sad, but, hey, learn to farm.
I remember our visit to Nosara a couple of years ago: you woke up to howlers and birds at 5am. It was lovely all the way up to 7am when the hammers, saws, diggers and cement trucks got going for the day. Noisy and busy! Clearly that market was doomed. There was nobody around when we were there, real estate salespeople were already looking a little lost. Who was going to buy all these condos they were building at such a furious pace? Nobody as it turns out.
I'm a free market capitalist. If people want to build on land they bought, let them have at it. If they are smart about it, they will be successful and sell to people who want what they have to sell. If not, if they didn't plan, didn't stay alert, they lose their shirts. Builders who don't respect the land and the market will live to see it turn on them. The jungle will take back some of these empty towers, there is simply no other fate available.
The silver lining is that there are good deals to be had, whether buying or renting. Guanacaste is still gorgeous, the ocean is still there, still clean, the air is still good… and all just a beautiful five (or six) hour drive from the central valley.
Nice photos. But it’s especially nice to hear a mom of teenagers who would actually like to have them on a trip like that, rather than be dying to kick them out of the house! Or maybe worse, a parent who just can’t deal with them at all and then the government winds up being the parent, like the boys I work with–wonderful, fun kids (when they’re not beating up or stabbing each other, or robbing somebody, etc.).
P.S. So I got through another semester of “self-paced” Spanish at the local community college, doing it all again at the last minute, and mostly hating it. The teacher’s wonderful, but I never see her except when I’m coming in to beg for an extension or to do a whole semester’s worth of chapter & final exams in one sitting, on the last possible day of the term.
But I’ve started getting in to LiveMocha.com and I’ve got something of a pen-pal in Colombia (and maybe one in Argentina, although he’s been a bit scarce lately). I think this may be the way to go.
The Spanish thing is hard. The boys are practically fluent now they’ve been attending a local school to get their Bachillerato (the CR equivalent to a GED). Hal studies it every single day, he is dedicated and determined to learn Spanish. I need immersion. I’m going to start attending meetings (I can’t tell you what kind because it’s anonymous) in Spanish… other than that, I’m going to have to do a homestay. My Spanish is good enough now I think I could get a lot of benefit from a homestay… learning Spanish is hard!!!
Nice to read your blog once in a while (its the only blog or board I read now regarding CR). Its been 6 months now since I came back to the US and there are definitely things I miss in Costa Rica. Spanish is one of them (after working so hard to get better at it).
You can be happy there or here or even Antartica, it really depends on you. Cost of living is still a factor, but CR is not as cheap as we all think. I wonder if the real estate morale boosters there are still pretending that its still boom time. Those gringos in real estate I truly don’t miss.
You are right, ex-expat, cost of living is not so cheap here. Even though we use less electricity than ever, our bill is up over 1/3 – it gets higher every month. Our internet/TV is $150/month which is comparable to the US. Gas is way more expensive here… the only things cheaper are rent and medical care. And rents are falling so fast in the US it would make a person think twice. But we are here more for the “freedom” than for the money. Although it would be money that would drive us back.
The real estate moral boosters are no longer pretending it’s boom time, now it’s “opportunity time.” And it is to an extent. You can get a very nice brand new home in Costa Rica with low property taxes for less than $150K. I think prices will still go lower though. Here and in the US.
I’m curious: what else do you miss? What don’t you miss? I’d love to know… you can email me privately: saratica @ gmail . com. Once expats leave here, no one hears from them again. I’m dying to know what that side of the coin is like.