New Law

Laws are constantly changing in the country, especially when it comes to immigration.  The new one they have now is about the stupidest one I have seen yet.  This one even effects those of us who already have our residency.

When you are a temporary resident, like we are for the next year, you have to renew your residency every two years.  You also must pay into the medical system here for your medical insurance.  You may still purchase private health insurance if you want, but you are required to pay into the public system.  The amount you pay will vary based on your income.  My husband is a pensioner and I am his dependent, so for the both of us we pay around $100 a month.  Those of us here refer to the system as the CAJA, pronounced Ca-ha.  It can take a little while to get used to using the public system and it can be frustrating at times.  But when you have no co-pays or deductibles, I don’t complain.

OK, back to the law.  When your residency expires so does your CAJA, you have to renew your residency and then go to your local office to renew your CAJA, which is basically just getting a new insurance card.  The law that they have passed here states that you must produce a new marriage certificate for every time you renew your CAJA.  The marriage certificate must be notarized, apostled, and not more than 30 days old.  For many of us this is impossible.  My husband and I got married in Las Vegas, we eloped.  For us to get a new marriage certificate we must order it from Nevada, then have it mailed to a friend of ours in another state.  She would then have to fill out a form and send it to the state of Nevada to be apostled with a self addressed stamped envelope to be mailed to us here.  This can easily take more than 30 days considering how slow the mail is here.

Who ever wrote this law only had locals in mind.  Because there are people from over 100 different countries living here and for many of them this is impossible.  This law is going to be contested at the Supreme Court here in Costa Rica.  But in the meantime…what do we do?  We get re-married here in Costa Rica!  I spoke with my attorney here where I live, he did some digging for me to find out how he can do this legally.  Because it is technically illegal to marry someone who is already married.  But he finally found out how to get around that since we are already married to each other.  So, I finally get to have a wedding!  My husband and I got married in April and that is when we are getting married again.  I bought a simple and cute dress today, nothing very fancy.  We have a small list of friends that we want there.  And we are going to fire up the BBQ.  I am feeling young again!  Our attorney is charging us $200 to preform the ceremony, he is giving us a discount, plus we are feeding him.  I am really looking forward to this.  I still have to pick out a cake though.  Really nervous and excited at the same time.  I love my husband so much that I want to marry him again.

So, a word of advice.  Do your research before moving here.  Remember that the laws are always changing and always try to keep up on them; especially when the new year rolls in.  There is always a way around something, legally.  Don’t do anything illegal.  Go with the flow and roll with the punches.  It will be OK.  Don’t let something stress you out too much, it’s bad for your health.  Until mañana, Pura Vida!

Adventures in linving in Costa Rica

It can be an adventure to just live here on a daily basis.  I am not talking about going out and exploring the jungle kind of adventure either.  I am talking about trying to figure out how to get stuff paid kind.  Today was one of those adventures; and a long one too.

We started off going to the clinic to get a prescription filled.  I got the prescription last week and they didn’t have it at my clinic so I had to go to another one to get it.  I went on a Saturday to get it filled.  They wouldn’t fill it on a Saturday because it wasn’t an emergency, they told me I had to come back Monday through Friday.  So, I went today on a Tuesday.  It wasn’t that bad there, I think we only waited 30 minutes and there were a lot of people ahead of me.  So I finally got it and then we decided to go to the bank…that is where the adventure begins.

We get to the bank and take our number.  We note that are number is way down the line.  OK, this could take a while.  It took a very long while.  We waited two hours before being called up to the window!  By this time the husband is getting hungry.  Hungry husband means grumpy husband.  It’s normal and I still love him.  We get to the window and show the guy what we need.  It was written down for us on a piece of paper from the immigration office.  The guy looks at me and has no idea what we need.  I explain the best I can that we need proof that my husband’s pension comes here.  He finally gets it.  I ask him if he can just print out a list of the deposits, nope.  He can only print out all of the transactions.  Freaking really!?  OK, fine.  Print everything out for the past six months and stamp all the pages.  (We used this last time we renewed our residency and they accepted it, we will see if they will accept it again.)  Of course there was a charge for this.  Next, we need to pay for our declaration for our property.  That was actually very easy.  Cost for that was around $5 each.  The guy was very nice to us and felt really bad for how long we waited and apologized.  I was going to ask about doing the online banking, I think you need a special number to be able to do that here, but after being there for two and a half hours I just wanted to leave.  We take our paperwork and leave.  Next stop is the municipality building to file the declaration.

I always forget about having to fill out the one document before turning our paperwork in there.  We get to the front desk, I show the lady the papers and she helps with the other document; she was very nice.  She asked me if we needed to pay and I told I wasn’t sure but I didn’t think so.  She pulls it up on the computer and tells me that we owe for the garbage pick up.  Oh, we’ve never paid it before, but OK.  She told me we owed for the last three months of the year and it was about $16.  OK, not too bad.  So we then go and wait in a very long line where we play musical chairs.  When one person goes up to the counter, we all move forward one seat.  We were waiting in the very back when a lady at the desk looks at my husband and says something along the lines of, “Older gentleman, you are next.”  There actually is a law here that elderly and disabled are supposed to go first.  My husband is 65, so he can go first.  The lady seemed a bit rude at first, but then she lightened up and smiled.  I think she may have been having a bad day, we all were.  She puts everything through and said we were done.  But I had to tell her that we needed to pay for the garbage service.  She seemed surprised that I mentioned it.  She said we could go ahead and pay for all of this year if we wanted as well, another $60.  Why not?  This way we don’t have to worry about it.  Got that paid and we were finally on our way home for a very late lunch and some coffee.

Nothing is easy to do in this country when it comes to property and certain bills.  In many places you will notice that the left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing.  It can be very frustrating at times.  Sometimes it takes multiple trips to different places just to get one thing done.  But it makes you feel very relieved when it is over.

So, be prepared that you may have several people tell you something completely different for the exact same thing.  It happens a lot.  The laws are always changing and everybody may not be completely up to speed on what you need.  Patience goes a long way here, especially with a friendly smile.  Until mañana, Pura Vida!

My town

The town I live in is a small town.  I think there is just over 8,000  people here.  I love it, but it is not for everyone.  We are not close to the beach, we do not have a lot of other gringos here.  It’s local, and we like that.

Yesterday when I got up my not-so-smart phone decided to not work.  I did the  normal things; turned it off and on, took out the battery, and so forth.  It still wasn’t working.  So, we go down to our local internet store where my computer guy is.  I show him what the phone is doing and told him what I tried.  I haven’t even had this phone for very long.  He pulls out the SD card for me so it doesn’t get erased and then does a hard reset on it.  Wipes everything clean, there was an error on the phone.  Puts it back together and said here you go.  I asked him how much and he told me nothing.  That wasn’t acceptable to me.  I gave him 1,000 colones and he was very happy with that.  Wished me a happy new year and I was on my way.

My clothes dryer quit working…again.  This time we called up a local guy, last guy was from Colombia, to come out and take a look at it.  He took the dryer completely apart, cleaned out the whole inside of it, replaced the parts with the proper ones, put it back together, and charged us 15,000.  Dryer hasn’t worked this good since we bought it.

Walking around town the other day and I decided to go into a hardware store.  My husband is looking at me wondering what I am looking for.  I really didn’t know, just wanted to look to see if they had anything new.  They did!  Finally found the perfect ceiling fan for our dinning room.  Our rooms are very small so we had to find something with small blades on it and it had to have a light.  Not the easiest thing to find where we are at.  Turns out the guy we were working with used to live in Atlanta and knew some pretty good English.  Ended up giving us a discount on the fan.

When we first moved here we didn’t have anything and got a lot of stuff given to us when we moved into a house that wasn’t furnished.  Slowly over time as we have been getting new things we have been taking everything that was given to us and giving it to someone else who may need it.  We did that again today, had a friend come over and pick up some stuff to put it to good use.

We feel that we have been very lucky and blessed to live in the community that we live in.  We have great neighbors and great friends.  It’s not perfect, but it’s perfect for us.  That is what you have to find for yourself.  What you may like, want, and need will not be the same as the next person.  Remember that when you are looking to move here, or even visiting here.  Everyone likes something different.  Until mañana, Pura Vida!

Some advice

Here is a little advice that I have for everyone who is either planning on visiting or planning on moving here.  Some of this should be considered no matter where you live or visit.

My husband and I were down at the clinic the other day waiting on some prescriptions to be filled.  While we were sitting there the ambulance pulled up and they brought in a woman on a stretcher.  I overheard the EMT say that they needed a doctor that speaks English.  Well, I am no doctor but I do have a medical degree and could at least interpret a little for them.  We do actually have a doctor at our little clinic that speaks some English.  The woman was hurt pretty bad, she had been thrown from a horse.  Neither her, her children, or her husband knew any Spanish!  You should at least know a few basic phrases in case of an emergency.  You should be able to tell them how old you are, your date of birth, your name, if you have any allergies, and if you have any medical conditions.  If you want, you could always write these down on a card and keep it with you at all times, and make sure it is in the language of the country you are visiting.  This way, if you are conscious, you can just hand them the card.  If you have someone with you, let them know where you are keeping the card.  If you are not conscious, hopefully they will find it.  This is really good also for any country you are visiting that speaks a different language.  Also, for your date of birth, do not write it in numbers as the rest of the world writes it day/month/year; always write out the month.  I do hope the woman is OK, she hurt her hip really bad and had to be transported for x-rays.  Luckily they did have travelers insurance.  Medical care is very inexpensive here and if it something small, like only stitches, just pay out of pocket.

Now for my next piece of advice.

WATER!

Always keep water on hand.  Keep bottles of it.  We have two 6 liter jugs and several one liter bottles under the sink.  We also keep two liter bottles outside that is non-potable.  Costa Rica is a very high earthquake zone for one thing.  Also, we have lots of mudslides in the rainy season.  These two things can cause a water main to break that can take a while to get fixed.  It’s a matter of being able to access the water pipes in order to fix them.  If there is a mudslide, it can take a while to be able to reach the pipe to replace it.  Same with an earthquake.  After 36 hours of having no water at my house, it was wonderful to hear it coming through the pipes again.  We had a water main break before our aqueducts and our entire water supply was contaminated.  They had to completely clean out the tanks.  Those poor guys worked around the clock to get the job done.

Situations like the one we had can happen anywhere, anytime.  Any natural disaster can cut off your water supply.  Always keep some on hand.  One thing to remember with bottled water, it can grown bacteria.  This is why you see expiration dates on bottles of water.  If you have water in bottles that have already been opened, boil it before use.  It needs to come to a complete boil for at least one minute.

What we call brown water.  This is water that is non-potable.  We keep a lot of this water around to be able to flush the toilet.  The best way to flush a toilet when you have no running water is to fill up a bucket and then dump it down the bowl.  Also, don’t do that every time you go to the bathroom otherwise you will run out of water quickly.

I know to a lot of you this sounds pretty gross or you think you could never do this.  But you adapt and learn.  That is what life is about; learning.  I live in the country so this happens a little more often to us than those in the city.  But certain cities get put on water hours during the dry season due to lack of rain.  Water hours is when your water is cut off completely for certain hours of the day.  Now, the area I live in is very wet, even during the dry season and I love it here.

For those of us with pets, don’t forget about them.  You should make sure that you have enough water for them as well during an emergency.

The purpose of this post was to be informative and educational.  This is not just about Costa Rica, but advice for anywhere you live or travel to.  Always be prepared.  Until Mañana, Pura vida!

Do your research!

Oh, how many times have I seen people move down here and have no idea what they are doing.  They have no idea of what paperwork is needed to immigrate here.  They think they can come down here and just get a job.  It doesn’t work like that.  It’s not like moving from one state to another; this is a completely different country.  There are different laws and regulations.  Know what type of residency you want.  Know that you are not going to be able to work right away, if at all.  Pay here for work is a fraction of what it is in the US.  Also, please note that Costa Rica is the most expensive country to live in in Central America.  If you want to continue the same lifestyle that you have in the US, you will probably find it more expensive to live here.  But if you want a more simple life, without all the “stuff”, it will be less expensive.

For us, it is cheaper to live here.  Our mortgage payment is around $265, depending on the exchange rate.  We don’t use A/C so our electric bill is around $32, we also use a gas stove.  Gas for the stove is about $11 ever couple of months, you have to buy the bottle like you do for your gas grill and exchange them out.  When I am not cooking, I actually turn the tank off.  I do this so if something happens it will not leak, cat breaks the line or an earthquake hits and the line gets knocked off.  Our internet is $32 a month, and our water goes between $6-8 a month.  Our mandatory insurance we have to pay for the public system is around $100 a month; this is based off of our income as pensioners.  We also have a car payment of around $330 a month, but we got a four year loan.  Cars down here are very expensive and hold their value for years.  I have seen some beaters that are over 10 years old going for $8,000, that is with four wheel drive though.  Our groceries for the week can go anywhere between $80-125 for the two of us.  We drink a lot of milk, which is about $2 a half gallon.  I noticed at the supermarket it was a little cheaper to buy a half gallon than a gallon of milk.  We also eat a lot of cereal!  Fruits and veggies are really cheap here, which helps.  I have also never seen carrots as big as what they are here.  I can get a pineapple straight from the farm for just over $1.  Now, these prices are just for the area that I live in.  Please keep that in mind.  I live in a small town, not even close to the beach, not a lot of tourists, and very few expats.  There are less than 10 expats that live in my area, including my husband and I.

About that immigration paperwork.  You will need your birth certificates, certified and apostille.  You will need a background check, certified and apostille.  If you are married you will need your marriage certificate, certified and apostille.  If you are a pensioner, you will need a letter from your company or from Social Security stating that it is a life time benefit of at least $1,000, certified and apostille.  You will need a copy of your entire passport, you will need passport photos, you will have to be finger printed down here.  You will also need a letter, written in Spanish on why you want to live here. You will have to have patience also.  We used a small office that is not very busy, I did all of our paperwork myself without an attorney, and we had our residency in six months.

You have to maintain temporary residency for at least three years before you can switch over to permanent residency.  While you are a temporary resident, you cannot work.  You can own and operate a business, but you cannot work for a wage.  So, don’t think that you are just going to go out and apply for a job.  You can, but it’s not legal.  If you work for a company that is sending you to Costa Rica for work, that is different.  They should do all of your paperwork for you and have your work visa with no problems.

There are other types of  residency that you can apply for other than the Pensionado status.  I have not personally dealt with those so I do not have a lot of information on them.  Google is your best friend when it comes to finding information about moving here.  There is a group called the ARCR that has a lot of great information, I would recommend checking them out.  But please, do your research.  I have had people message me asking me how to get their background check because they already moved here and didn’t know they needed one.  Or people come down here and not know that since they have not applied for residency that they have to leave the country every 90 days.  Also, that 90 days is not a guarantee either.  You may get to the border and the border guard is having a bad day and decide to only give you 14 days.  It happens.  Another thing, you can drive here on your US license but only for 90 days.  You can only get a Costa Rica drivers license once you have residency.  So, if you have submitted your paperwork to immigration and don’t need to leave the country but you are driving, you will still need to leave to keep your US license active here.  Once you hit that 90 day mark, you are no longer allowed to drive on a foreign drivers license.

Do your research.  Make sure you have all of your paperwork before coming here.  Once you are here, make it a top priority to get your paperwork in to immigration, don’t wait!  There may be something that you missed and will need to get before turning everything in.  Make copies of everything!  Immigration will need a copy of everything and keep copies for yourself.  Scan it all and put it on a flash drive in case you need it again.  You never know if something will get lost.  Make copies of all your receipts for your deposits, scan those too.

Until mañana, Pura Vida!

Life’s been crazy

I know it has been a little while since I posted anything.  Let’s see where to begin.

My biological family.  I have several aunts and uncles that are looking forward to meeting me and many cousins as well.  My sister and I are talking a lot and really getting to know each other.  I am going up to the States next month to visit and meet as many as I can; it is a rather large family.  I have many aunts that wish I would just go away, and my brothers want nothing to do with me.  It’s OK because I am not going to let the negative outweigh the positive.  I was very happy about getting a family medical history and a family tree.  We have ancestors going all the way back to one of the kings of Ireland.  I also found out that we are related to the McCoy’s, as in the Hatfield and McCoy’s.  I had to laugh at that as my husband’s son-in-laws last name is Hatfield.  I found out a lot of really interesting information though, much of which I would have known earlier in life.  But it’s all good.

We had independence day here on the 15th and had a great time.  Saw some friends of ours that we hadn’t seen in a while.  Enjoyed the parade and all the drum bands from the schools.  It is so neat how they celebrate it down here.  The night before they have a lantern walk, where the kids make homemade lanterns and walk around town.  This represents when the people found out about them gaining their independence how they went into the streets to celebrate while holding their lanterns up high.  Each school has a competition to for the lanterns for each grade and the kids win prizes.  We went to one our first year here and had a great time.

About that same time we were coming home one day and seen a dog in the neighborhood that I had never seen before.  The poor girl was very emaciated.  I started taking her food.  I found out who she belonged to and after several attempts we finally got a hold of the lady.  I had a friend of mine go with me to interpret, I still stumble on some things.  We found out that the lady had been ill for the past three months and wasn’t able to work.  She had another dog also that was very thin.  We told her that we could take the dogs, take them to the vet, get them better, get them fixed, and find them homes.  She agreed.  I know this was very hard for her to do, give up the dogs, but she did admit that they needed better than what she was giving them.  We also asked her if she had any food in her house and the answer to that was no.  So, we took her to the supermarket and loaded her up for a while.  She about cried on us.  We had a lot of people come together to help out with all of this.

Today, we found the dogs new homes.  The girl went to a guy down the road from us.  He walks his dog past our house all the time and you can tell he takes great care of him.  The little boy went to a girl who is going to give him to her grandmother.  Her grandmother had been wanting a little dog to keep her company.  The dogs have not been fixed yet, but we told them that when they put on a little more weight we can go to the vet and get them fixed and we will pay for it.  We gave them the leash, collar, and harness for the one.  The little guy had  a leash and a chain.  We also gave them some dog food to get them started for today.  The dogs were both very happy to go with them.  I think it is a good match and they are close enough that we will be able to check on them.

So, a lot happened last month.  Hoping this month will be more relaxing for us.  It just seems so quiet now.  But we still have our two puppies and the cats.  Until mañana, Pura Vida!

Hoping to meet her

As many of you read my blog the past couple of days you know what has happened.  Well, I have learned more about what happened all those years ago.  But on a great note, my little sister wants to meet me!  I will discuss that later in the post.

As it turns out, my bio-mom actually had a relationship with my bio-dad.  She was in college at the time and he was one of her professors.  Oops.  The story that is being told to me was that he told her that he loved her, would always be there for her, and wanted to take care of her.  Up until she got pregnant.  That is when he told her he would take her to the hospital and pay for the abortion.  She refused, so here I am today.  From my understanding she basically had to hide from him out of fear.  So, she hid out in a battered woman’s shelter until I was born.

Now, fast forward many years.  Bio-grandmother lied to me about me causing problems between her and her husband.  Bio-mom’s husband still doesn’t know about me, she never told him.  So, I am the big dark secrete.  I told my little sis to not tell her dad as it could really cause more problems and I don’t want that.  I have her and that is all that matters to me.

Bio-mom has turned the boys all against me, telling them that I am a drug addict just looking for money to buy more drugs.  I guess she forgot how to be a good Catholic and not break the 10 Commandments, thou shall not bear false witness.  Seriously though, if I were a drug addict, I wouldn’t be this overweight.  Also, I am allergic to opiates.  We found out the hard way when I was in the hospital.  They gave me a morphine shot and the next thing I knew I couldn’t breathe and was in more pain than I came in with.  Happened again at another hospital with a different pain medication.  I am also allergic to codeine.  Even better, the smell of marijuana makes my throat swell.  So, I will stick to wine.

So, all the boys are freaking out about me, thinking I am some terrible person.  It’s OK though.  I am really not going to let it bother me.  Little sis is not buying into bio-moms lies and we are still talking on the phone and over Skype.  I have a US phone number so it is easy to call each other.  She sent me a friend request on Facebook and I waited for her to mention me on her page before I said anything or commented on any of her posts.  I let her make the first move there since she does have other family members on there.  She is a very smart lady studying law, raising a beautiful son, and doing it all on her own.  What a strong young lady.

My little sister is considering joining the military, but isn’t sure yet.  We both have a very military family, both of her parents were in and so was I.  I would like to see her as soon as possible.  I need to go before winter, as I only have two sweaters and one pair of jeans, I don’t want to freeze to death.  But I need help getting up there.  My husband and I just had to redo our entire septic system for our house and we are still paying for that.  We live on a small pension and wasn’t planning on this happening either.  I was hoping to buy the ticket soon before prices started going up.  I would like to go see her the last week of October as it would give me a lot of time to plan ahead.  I do have a go fund me page.  I have waited 40 years for this moment, and she has always wanted a sister.  Can you please help us to meet?  I just want to give her the biggest hug ever.

Thank you.  Pura Vida.

http://www.gofundme.com/hu2nann8

A very emotional weekend

These past several days have had many ups and downs for me.  I have been overwhelmed with joy, then crying my eyes out, then overwhelmed with joy again.  Let me try to explain, as this is a little off the topic of living in Costa Rica, but some does relate.

At an extremely young age, 6 weeks to be exact, I was adopted.  I had always hoped to find my biological family and find out where I came from and why I was put up for adoption.  These are normal things that those of us who were adopted want to find out.  I do believe that there is a biological desire there in our DNA for us to try to connect with those that were are physically related to.  Not all of us feel this way though; it is more common for girls than boys to seek out the biological family.

When I was 21 years old I was pregnant with my daughter.  This stirred up a lot of emotions for me and got me to think about how I could try to locate my biological family.  Before this, I had no idea where to start and back then we didn’t have all the databases like we have now making it much easier to locate people.  There was no social media back then, if you needed to find someone you had better have some money to hire a private investigator.  But, with the help of my mother, the one who adopted me, we contacted Catholic Charities who I was adopted through.  I was told that I could submit a letter to my file and if my biological mother or father had submitted a letter they would then be exchanged.  They couldn’t tell me if a letter had been submitted, but they highly encouraged me to submit a letter.  So I did.  A little time went by and I got a letter in the mail, it was from my biological mother.  We exchanged letters that way for a while until she gave me the name and phone number of her sister and mother.  Then I was able to call them.

I met my biological mother’s sister and grandmother not long after my daughter was born.  It wasn’t the happy reunion that I was hoping for, like the ones you see on TV, but it was a reunion.  Lots of information was exchanged between us, my adoptive mother was there with me also.  We all had a nice lunch and went on our way.  I can tell you that my biological grandmother was extremely upset that I was not adopted by a Catholic family.  She stated that she wanted me to be raised by a Catholic family and they is why they went through Catholic Charities.  Well, I guess God had other plans for me.  I was told that my biological mother had several other children and they could not know about me until the youngest was of adult age, and in their family that was considered to be 21.

I would send letters to my biological mothers sister and then she would mail them to her.  I did this for a few years.  My biological mother did say that she hoped someday she could hold me again in her arms like she did when I was first born.  This meant so much to me.  Then I called my bio-grandmother one day to see how she was doing.  She then informed me that I needed to quit writing letters to my bio-mom as it was causing problems between her and her husband.  Her husband didn’t want her to have anything to do with me.  Whether this is true or not, I still don’t know yet.  So, I stopped sending letters.  I still tried to stay in contact with her, bio-grandmother, over the next few years, calling every so often just to check in so to speak.  That is when I found out that bio-grandma had a mini-stroke.  I never heard from her or my bio-moms sister after that.

Out of respect for the family, I waited, and I waited until I knew that the youngest child had at least reached the age of 21.  At this point in my life, life was happening.  I was going to school full time, and working full time.  I didn’t have time for anything else.  I was so focused on my studies that most other things fell into the background.  (Except my husband and child of course.)  The day I graduate college is the same day we got on a plane and moved to Costa Rica.  It was a very rough start down here.  For a long time we didn’t have internet at home.  So I would go to town and use it at one of the internet cafes.  I wouldn’t spend a lot of time there, just check in with friends and family to let them know that we were still kicking.

We have spent most of our time and money working on the house we bought.  It was a shell at first, but we turned it into a beautiful home and we still have work to do.  Finding my biological family has always been in the back of my mind, but I had no idea how to do it now.  I tried contacting Catholic Charities again, but got no where.  Then, the most amazing thing happened this year.  The state of Ohio unsealed the adoption records.

The major problem I had was trying to get a notary for signing the document for getting my original birth certificate.  US notaries are not an easy thing to get when you live in a foreign country.  I would have to make an appointment at the US Embassy here, travel all the way there, and then pay $50.  After that I would have to mail it to Ohio with a check or money order for $20.  Well, I don’t have a checking account here and I have never seen money orders here, not even sure if they would accept one from another country to begin with.  But I had another break-through.

I received a message on my Facebook from someone asking me about my brother.  He is my adoptive brother who I grew up with, so we are not blood related.  I spoke with person on the phone for a long time and got as much information from her as possible.  I spoke to her sister as well.  They were hoping that my brother was their biological brother.  Unfortunately, he wasn’t.  They were pretty devastated, especially the younger one who has been trying for 6 years to find her brother.  I know how they feel.

The lady that first contacted me about my brother told me of the person who was helping her, she was called a search angel.  She gave me her name and I went from there.  I contacted her and gave her as much information that I had.  My biological mother’s name, maiden and married name.  Her sisters name, the number of siblings that she had, how many children she had, and where she used to live.  I had more information also that I gave her.  It was in a matter of days that she had names for me, phone numbers, and addresses.  So I decided to try to reach out.  This way I could say that I at least tried.

I started off by sending messages via Facebook to find out if they were related to my biological mother.  I know these messages would go to the other box and may not be seen for a while.  I am one of those people who check that box often as I have people message me about living down here and about the immigration process for Costa Rica.  I then decided that I would try to call.  I did try the number that I was given for my bio-mom, but it was no longer in service.  I talked it over with my husband and we decided to give it a chance and to try the number of my bio-brother.  It worked!  I asked him several questions first to make sure that I had the right family.  I did.  I can’t imagine what was going through his mind when I told him that I was his biological sister.  They still had no idea about me.  We talked for a while, he asked me lots of questions which I was expecting, and he said he would have to think things over and call me next weekend.  I am OK with that.  I know that this is a lot to take in.  After all, in this day and age you never know who might be trying to scam you.  I told him that all I wanted was a chance to know him, nothing more.

I got up the next morning and found that he had blocked me on Facebook.  This devastated me to no end.  I spent all day crying my eyes out.  I was so depressed.  My poor husband didn’t know what to do for me, but he was there for me.  He held me and kissed me gently and gave me words of encouragement.  He did exactly what I needed him to do.  Then that night I got the call that I had been waiting for, the call of acceptance.

I had sent a message to my biological sister.  She seen it while she was at work and saw my picture.  Her co-workers even said that we look alike.  So she called me.  We had a very nice and long conversation about things.  It seems like we have a lot in common.  I don’t know how long we talked for, but I could have talked for hours.  She couldn’t believe how much we looked alike and how much I look like her (our) mother.  She said there was no denying it.  I was her sister!  She called me again later and told me that my bio-mom finally admitted that indeed, yes, I was her daughter that she had put up for adoption.  I have a beautiful sister that is very intelligent.  This makes me so proud.  I did find out about a few  more medical things in the family that explains a lot with me.  It seems that certain things really do run in the family.  But I can’t wait to find out more about her and I can’t wait to meet her.

A bit more to the roller coaster.  I got a call last night from another biological brother of mine.  He was not the nicest person, putting it very nicely.  Letting me know that I am nothing but a stranger to him and why would he want to know a stranger.  I kind of feel sorry for him in a way.  From the way he went off on me it seems like he has a lot of hate in his heart, a lot of anger.  An intelligent young lady once told me, a stranger is just a friend you haven’t met yet.  I started to wonder how he ever made friends if he wants nothing to do with a stranger.  I find his reasoning difficult to understand, especially after living here for over four years now.  People here are extremely friendly and outgoing.  I walk down the street and as people walk by they say hello.  I walk into the supermarket and I am greeted with a smile, hello, and how are you.  I am often asked about my daughter and how she is doing.  I was at the clinic this morning and there was a little girl that I used to teach who told me hello, in English.  I have had kids that I taught run up to me and hug me and give me a kiss on the cheek while at the supermarket.  If you have met someone just once, the next time they see you they act as if they have known you for years.  But everyone has their own thing.  I guess I am just a people person, so living here is good for me.  I don’t like living in a bubble, I like to learn about people and cultures.  Maybe that is why I host people from all over the world in my home.  I will respect his decision of not wanting anything to do with  me.  It is not what I had hoped for, but at least I know.  I look forward to talking with my little sister again tonight.  I hope that my oldest brother will at least give me a chance now that he knows the truth.  I still have one more brother that I don’t know about, if he will or won’t.  Only time will tell.

So, I wish you all the best and enjoy each day and treat each other with love and kindness.  A smile could completely change someones day.  Until manaña, Pura Vida!

Homeless and Helpless

Two weeks ago my husband and I made a trip up to Nuevo Arenal.  It is a great little town, very beautiful, right along Lake Arenal.  It was about a two hour drive from where we live.  We dropped of two people who stayed with us for a few days in La Fortuna and then went on our way.

We drove all the way up there just to adopt a kitten.  Call me crazy, but I love animals.  We adopted a cute little black male kitten that is about 4 months old now.  We had originally named him Cotton because he was all black.  I have an all white cat named Coal and I used to have another all black cat named Snowball; I like opposite names.  I have since changed Cotton’s name to Pancake.  It just seems to fit him better.  He is such an adorable little guy with a very big purr.  He loves to play and cuddle and practice his pouncing at 3 in the morning on me while I am trying to sleep.  Needless to say I haven’t had much sleep in the past two weeks; but it is so worth it.  Almost reminds me of having a baby in the house, but not as much work.

The shelter I adopted him from is called Homeless and Helpless, they do have a webpage.  They need some help also.  Their vehicle has recently broken down and they can’t get it fixed.  They are taking a taxi, sometimes several times a day, to the vet and back.  They take several animals at a time, cats and dogs to the vet.  They really need a vehicle to be able to take care of the animals, to get them the medical care they need.  Many of the animals they take in are street animals that have been abandoned and left to fend for themselves.  They have several people that foster animals for them and they pay for that.  It can get really expensive for them and they rely completely on donations; there is no governmental help with this at all.  If you can make a donation, even a small one it would be greatly appreciated.  They spay and neuter all the cats and dogs that come through their shelter so no one can breed them once they are adopted out.  They have a go fund me page that I will share the link to.  Tell them Pancake said thanks for helping all the homeless and helpless pets.

http://www.gofundme.com/znm5p8

Pancake

He looked flat as a pancake and that name just stuck with him.

He looked flat as a pancake and that name just stuck with him.

Racism

This can be a touchy topic for a lot of people.  There is a lot of talk about it in the US, so I thought I would let you know what it is like down here based on my experiences.  Now, when people look at me they think I am a local.  I have natural black hair, brown eyes, and a natural tan.  I don’t like a normal white girl at all.  But I have seen and heard things that make people wonder and question how race is perceived here.

Racism does happen, there is no denying it, it happens everywhere in the world.  I have friends here who don’t like black people, they let me know that.  We were riding in a taxi one day and our friend was driving, we saw a black guy walking down the street and his reaction was, “Ugh, negro.”  You could tell by the look on his face that it wasn’t a good thing.

The culture down here can be a little different also when it comes to referring to someone by their race.  I spent 6 days in the hospital here and had a few black nurses there.  There was this one nurse who was black, extremely nice, and a wonderful nurse, but the other nurses would just call her, “Negrita.”  I guess if I tried to translate it to what they meant it would mean something along the lines of little black girl.  (Negrita is just little black.)  But they didn’t mean it to be anything bad, they were just calling for her.  If it bothered her she didn’t show it or let them know.

Now, if you go the east side of the country, you have a huge Caribbean influence.  There you will see more people of African decent.  The food can be different, the music, the whole atmosphere is different.  It is almost like going to another country.  If it wasn’t for everyone speaking Spanish you could forget that you are in Costa Rica and think you were on an island.

Now when it comes to racism against Gringos.  Gringo is not a derogatory term here either, it is just their way of saying either North American or European.  Again, I haven’t experienced this because I blend in.  My husband has a little but not much.  His biggest problem here is that he is half deaf and has had a very difficult time trying to learn Spanish.  We have tried many programs for him to learn but he just can’t hear them well enough.  Usually once I tell people that he has tried and that he has hearing problems, they are pretty cool with him.  A lot of people here think that just because you are from the US or Europe it means you have money.  I know we don’t have a lot of money.  So some places will try to Gringo price you.  Always take a local with you if you are unsure about the price on something.  The most this happens is when it comes to buying property or land.  Shop around.  The real estate market here is all sorts of jacked up.  I have seen nice homes sell for very little and complete dumps listed for an outrageous amount.  From my experience most people don’t mind Gringos, they like us to spend our money here for one thing and I can’t blame them; it’s good for business.  But there are always a few that will not welcome us, that is to be expected anywhere though.  In my town, we are part of the community, they know us, and they like us.  We treat them with respect and they do the same in return.

Asian people.  If you are from anywhere in Asia, or have an Asian background, you will be called Chinese.  Don’t take offense to this.  When they look at you and say Chino or China, it is their way of saying Asian.  It doesn’t matter if you are from Thailand or Cambodia, they will call you Chinese.  It doesn’t matter how many times you try to correct them either.  You will only frustrate yourself.  Just go with it.

I haven’t heard of anything bad happening just because of race.  No shootings, murders, muggings, just because someone is a different color.  But if you are pale you are more likely to get pulled over by the police.  So, all in all it’s not so bad when it comes to race.  If anything I think the tensions are less here than in the US, but we still have a long ways to go yet.  Just give people a chance, smile, be polite, and don’t take offense.  Until manaña, Pura Vida!