changing residency status

Today was a day filled with getting things done.  For starters, we finally got all of our stickers for our car.  We got the inspection sticker and the INS sticker; the INS is like a government mandatory insurance.  For our car it’s about $130 a year.  It doesn’t really cover much, I don’t even know what it actually covers.  To me it is the equivalent of just getting your plates renewed every year.  You can purchase real coverage for very cheap here.   The inspection you have to have done once a year also.  They are very thorough with it too.  It’s not just an emissions check.  If you are old enough you may remember something from some states called the safety lane inspection.  It is very similar to those.  They check everything on your car.

So, about immigration today.  When we first got our residency we were told that we needed to pay separately for the medical insurance coverage.  This is not the case.  I am my husbands dependent and should be covered under him.  So, for three years I have been paying when I shouldn’t have been.  I am not going to complain about it though.  I had emergency surgery done and so did my daughter and we didn’t have to pay anything out of pocket for it.  I was in the hospital for 6 days and my daughter just overnight.  I am sure that if we would have been in the States it would have cost more just for my daughter than what I have paid over the past three years.  So I am not going to complain.  Turns out years ago there was a mis-communication about how immigrants were suppose to pay their insurance.  It is finally getting straightened out.  But for us to get this changed I had to get a copy of our marriage certificate from immigration with all the stamps and translations.

I had originally contacted an attorney about this.  He said he could do it for $50 with no problem.  I was thinking why not.  But for us $50 is a lot of money.  So today while we were in San Carlos we stopped by immigration.  This is the office we used to get our residency and they have always been super nice.  Just always be nice to them first.  I asked the gentlemen at the counter if I could get a copy of our marriage certificate and why.  He understood and knew what was going on and got it for me right away.  It is officially stamped from the office so all I have to do is take it to my local clinic and get a new card from them stating that I am a dependent and then take it to my local CAJA office and they change it in the system and we are all set.  Nothing is ever done in the same office, it is a lot of back and forth, but that is just the way it is done here.  If you want to live here and enjoy it, you either must be patient or learn patients.

My second question I asked at immigration was about changing our residency from temporary to permanent.  I had again asked an attorney about doing this for us, he was going to charge us over $1000 to do the paperwork.  There are only three things you need to change it over.

1) A letter stating why you want to be a permanent resident

2) Make a deposit in the bank for $200 per person

3) Submit copies of your cedula card that you already have (residency card)

That is it.  We still have to pay for our new cards which is about $125 per person.  With temporary residency we pay for a new card every two years.  With permanent we will have to get new cards every 5 years.  We are definitely going this route. So, that is all there is to it.  Saving us $1,000 and doing it myself.  I did our original paperwork for residency without an attorney too.  I figure why not try it again.

We are still here

It’s been kind of crazy here lately.  The volcano has been spewing ash into the air, we finally bought a car, and I started doing some volunteer work.

When it comes to mother nature, you never know what to expect.  No matter where you live in the world, you have something to deal with.  We used to live in Ohio and dealt with tornadoes in the spring, summer, and fall.  During the winter we had ice storms.  When we lived in Colorado it was snow and more snow and then some more snow.  Oh, and blizzards.  Did I mention the snow?  We also had tornadoes there.  Here, we have earthquakes and volcanoes.  Even in the US you have earthquakes.  We are lucky with where we are though, we don’t get hurricanes.  Just this past week we had a few small quakes but nothing too serious and no damage.  Today one of our many volcanoes decided that it needed to burp really good and spew some more ash into the air.  You have good and bad where ever you go in the world when it comes to nature.  You just have to decide for yourself what you can live with.  I look at it this way, at least I am not freezing my butt off anymore.

Buying a car was an experience to say the least.  Here, cars are not cheap at all.  They hold their value a heck of a lot better than in the US.  A big reason for that is because of the extremely high import tax.  We just bought a 2002 model car and it cost us around $8,000.  We couldn’t go through a regular dealership though because we don’t have permanent residency yet.   We just reached the point to where we can change over though.  Also, for a down payment, you need at least 20% down, some places require 25% down.  So, don’t think you are going to come here and pick up a car cheap with a zero down payment like you would in the States…not happening.  If you have the money feel free to pay for it outright; it is better that way.  We just couldn’t go any longer without one, my back was really hurting on the bus, plus it was getting difficult getting on and off the bus. It is so much quicker getting to where we need to go now.  They say time is money, the bus is very cheap but takes a long time; gas is very expensive but you get there so much quicker.  Plus my back doesn’t hurt as bad from riding or driving in a car like it does on the bus.

How I got suckered into volunteering; I have a soft spot for animals and little kids.  A friend of mine asked me if I knew anyone that could volunteer one day a week to teach English at one of the elementary schools, of course I don’t know of anyone but why can’t I try it?  So here I am trying to teach kids who barely know two words of it.  Although there are a couple that know a bit and most know numbers.  I find it easier to work with the real little ones that know nothing; with them I can just start at the very beginning and go from there and not worry about them getting bored.  They are great kids and I really like them.  Although it is costing me some money.  I don’t get paid for this, it is completely voluntary and I had to buy my own program to teach from, plus I have to make all of my own copies.  I have about 100 kids I teach from pre-school to 6th grade; which means close to 200 copies a week I have to make.  Not sure how long I can keep it up, but we are going to try and my husband is a great supporter of this.  The school that I am at is in a very rural area and they are having trouble finding teachers for this school, that is why I am there.  Including me there are a total of four teachers, including the principal too, and I am only there one day a week.  I do enjoy being there though and the kids are great, they really make me feel welcome and appreciated.

Utilites

I have been seeing on different pages about the cost of utilities here in Costa Rica.  Some people saying it is really high and then there are people like me who say it is really cheap.  It depends on a lot of factors.

How big is your house?

How many people are in your household?

Do you have an air conditioner?

Do you have a clothes dryer?

Do you have a dishwasher?

How big are your appliances?

Do you leave everything plugged in when you are not using it?

I have a small house, around 613 sq ft.  Most of the time it is just the two of us, but we do have lots of overnight company.  In December we had a guest that was here for almost the entire month, my electric bill was only $32.  We do not have an air conditioner, we use fans.  I do have a clothes dryer that I use when I do laundry.  My dishwasher is my husband.  He’s a good man.  Most of our other appliances are small, our refrigerator would be considered small by US standards; but it would be average for a small apartment.  The only things that are left plugged in all the time are the refrigerator, obviously, and the washer and dryer.  When I am not using something, it is unplugged.  The reason for that, even though it is turned off it will still draw on the electrical current.  At night, I even unplug the internet modem.  After all, I am asleep and we are not using it.  Why let it stay on and waste electricity and run up my bill?  If I am not in a room, the light is turned off.  In the evening I will turn on one patio light, that is too keep the bugs outside and not attracted to the light inside.  We use all energy saver light bulbs.

When I was in the States, I started this experiment, by unplugging things when I wasn’t using them.  My utility bill dropped drastically.  They say, in the States, that by just leaving your cell phone charger always plugged in is costing you about $7 a month; that’s $84 a year.  Think about all the other things you leave plugged in when not using.  I even unplug my TV, I don’t DVR anything.  The game consul is unplugged when not in use also, think about all those little lights on them that are always on.  It’s little things like this that run up your bill.  This is for everywhere, not just here.  Just some helpful advice for you all to help you save some money, no matter where you are at.

The great debate

There is a huge debate about the cost of living here in Costa Rica.  It has been going on for a while.  Yes, Costa Rica is the most expensive country in Central America.  There is no debate about that.  Costa Rica is also the safest country in Central America to live in.  That is a fact.  You can easily look these up.  The cost of living is going to vary greatly on where you live and how you want to live.  If you live in an area that has lots of tourists and expats, then it is going to be expensive.  If you come down here and think you are going to live the same as you did in the States, then it is not going to be any cheaper.  Products imported from the States are more here than they are there.  Import taxes and cost of shipping.  Cars are more expensive here also, but we do have a great public transportation system that is much cheaper than the US, and it is very reliable.  I have used the public transit for three and a half years now.  We are looking at getting a car because of my back problems; it can be difficult getting on and off the bus for me.  Gas prices are higher here than there too; but not as high as what they are in Europe.  Right now, gas is down to around $4 a gallon, it was $5.  I know in some European countries it can go as high as $11 a gallon; so please stop complaining.

The area I live in, isn’t too bad on the cost.  You can rent a 45 m2 house for around $100 a month.  Granted, it’s not a big house, but it is a house.  With all that money you are saving you can afford to do more things around the country.  Think about it.  Big house and stay home all the time, little house and travel.  My house is around 57 m2, that’s a little over 600 sq ft.  I like it, I have everything that I need here.I have heard some people saying their electric bill is around $100 a month.  Not sure what they are doing because mine is around $30 a month.  I don’t have A/C either.  I am very conscious about my electric bill.  I unplug everything if I am not using it.  I even unplug the modem at night, I’m not using it and leaving it on just wastes electricity.  The only things that stay plugged in when not in use is the washer and dryer.  Seriously, if you unplug stuff when you are not using it, your utility bill will go down because it still draws on the power even when off.  My water bill runs under $8 a month, we don’t have a sewage system in the area I live in so that cuts back on the cost.  All we have are holding tanks.  Now the internet.  I got a slower speed internet including my home phone for $30 a month.  I have no problem streaming movies on Netflix or watching videos on youtube.  Now, if you have several people at the same time trying to watch movies and videos I would recommend a faster speed.  For us, this is fine.

The cost of food.  It really depends on what you want to buy.  If you buy local brands it can be very reasonable.  Except diary products, they are expensive no matter what.  A half gallon of milk is around $2.  I get a big bag of local brand cereal for around $5.  Fresh fruits and vegetables are very cheap as long as they are not imported; all apples are imported.  You can get three pineapples on a road side stand for around $2.  Bananas are extremely cheap here as they grow everywhere, I even have some in my yard.  Also, we have the biggest carrots I have ever seen in my life here.  Don’t waste your time and money on buying the baby carrots that are already pealed and in a bag.  Buy a real fresh carrot and peal it yourself, it doesn’t take long to do.  On average when I go to the supermarket I spend around $100 a week, I will have to go through the week and get some milk because we do drink a lot of it, but that is for three people including a carton of cigarettes.  I plan my meals out before shopping and make a list, it really helps.

So the point being, if you come down here don’t expect to live like you did in the US.  This is a completely different lifestyle.  It is relaxing and very laid back.  You need to come down here with an open mind and an open heart.  Learn the ways of the locals and embrace it.  It will be worth it.  Leave your old life behind, it’s in the past.  If you have any questions about anything feel free to ask.

Pura Vida!

It’s a rainforest!

So many people forget that Costa Rica is a rainforest.  They see all the beautiful pictures online with the beautiful beaches, and easily forget that it is an actual rainforest.  It rains, and it rains a lot at times.  Now, don’t get me wrong, Costa Rica is extremely beautiful and the people are wonderful, friendly, and outgoing.  But it does rain.  It rains more in some parts of the country than others.  We have one area of the country that has been in a severe drought and they have even had to truck in water at times.  The area I live in, I think we got all of their rain this year plus ours.  There were times that I wanted to buy a kayak just to make it across the front yard.  Any place you live is going to have its draw backs.  I have lived through blizzards and tornadoes, and let’s not forget about the ice storms.  I have been through massive heat waves and droughts.  Here, we have rain and earthquakes.  I have some friends that live out by the beach, they have had so much rain this season they were stuck in their house for over a week.  The road to where they live was a mud hole and the only way to get in and out was on horseback.  But they do have a beautiful house, they have chickens, a dairy cow, a very nice garden, and there is still always something to do.  This is a completely different lifestyle than what you are used to in the US.  It’s very laid back and easy going, unless your driving.  That is a different matter all together.  People here don’t let the rain stop them from doing what they need to do.  I still see people on motorcycles riding in the rain.  I still see people outside working in the rain, it’s a part of life here.  In order for us to have all of this natural beauty here and all of the wildlife, we have to have the rain.  Without it, this beautiful country would not be this beautiful.  I live in one of the rainiest areas of Costa Rica and love it.  Do I get tired of the rain?  Sometimes.  But then it will clear up and it won’t rain for months.  Starting in April/May is when it starts raining again.  It’s not too bad during those months, just an afternoon shower here and there and not even every day.  July can be a bear, November is usually the worst where I live.  I have gone two weeks at a time without seeing the sun.  But then one day, it just stops.

I have had people tell me, that they knew people who moved down here and then moved back to the States because they were bored.  Well, I can probably guarantee you that they wanted to live the same lifestyle that they lived in the States.  It’s a completely different country.  You have to embrace the differences here.  Learn what the locals do for fun.  Find something here that interest you.  My husband and I love sitting on our patio bird watching.  Just today, we saw at least 10 different species of beautiful birds in under and hour.  We also had an iguana in our tree, something we don’t get often at our house.  I have learned a lot about myself since moving here, like I really love baking from scratch.  I also love to cook, I never had time for doing that in the States.  My Spanish still has a long way to go, but I am trying and the locals know that I am trying and they do try to help me out and laugh with me when I can’t pronounce a word.  There is one word that I have been trying to say for about a year and still can’t say it right.  There were a few people that started to get upset with my husband because he wasn’t learning Spanish.  Once I explained to them that he is half deaf, has tried to learn, but can’t hear it well enough to learn it, they understood.  Now they are very patient with him and do there best to communicate with him in other ways.  Lots of charades.  But there is almost always something to do, if you are willing to get out there and do it.  We live in a small town, about 8,000 people.  There are tourist things to do in our area, but we are not overrun with tourism.  This helps keep the cost of living down and still give you the local, true feel of the country.  I have friends that sell Avon and my neighbor sells Tupperware.  Tupperware is a blessing down here.  It’s a happy country here, I love being here.  Just a few weeks ago we got invited to our friends daughter’s graduation from primary school.  The daughter asked us to come, loved the ceremony.  The people down here will welcome you with open arms, as long as you keep an open mind.  Just remember, it is a rainforest.

Happy New Year

So, I am not really the partier anymore; I was in bed just after 11 last night.  Didn’t get to fall asleep though for a few hours.  I didn’t mind, after all I knew it was New Year’s and people would be up really late having fun.  When midnight hit here, the fireworks were going off like crazy, all the ambulances has their sirens going, and you could hear people yelling and having fun.  They actually have a truck that goes down the main road of our town and sets fireworks off the back of it, this way the whole town can see them.  Not really sure how safe this is though.  The dog did fine with the fireworks, my cats however…every time one would go off they would jump.  They stayed cuddled up next to me all night.  I can’t really remember the last time I went out on New Years.  I usually preferred to stay home.  I have lost too many friends to drunk drivers, why chance it.  If I did go somewhere, I was there all night.  I hope that this year brings everyone good fortune and happiness.  Happy New Year everyone!

The good with the bad

I know I haven’t been keeping up on this, and for that, I am sorry.  The hubby and I sat down one night and had a very long conversation about moving and staying here.  We really have it good here.  Great neighbors, great friends who are like family.  Why leave all that just to start over again?  I have a wonderful cleaning lady that comes twice a week and does a great job.  So, here we are.  It does feel like home here.  We have been here over three and a half years now, we love it.  We walk to town and people wave and say hello to us.  Even the bus drivers will honk and wave at us, they know us.  We still don’t have a car, but that is on our list of things to purchase.  For the past several years, everything has been going into the house.  We bought it and it was a shell.  It had walls and a roof, didn’t even have a ceiling.  It was a typical Tico house.  Paid $30,000 for it.  We did take out a mortgage on it, interest rates here are very high.  But it is establishing our credit for here.  We talked to our neighbor, he actually built this house, about adding on a second story.  No problem…almost.  Where I was originally going to put the stairs, not enough room to get the height needed.  So, I moved them to the outside patio.  Yup, that is my plan.  The patio is completely enclosed, we had all of that added on, so they will be secure.  Next problem.  I have indoor cats, how are they supposed to get up and down without going outside? Simple, cut a whole in the ceiling/floor and put in cat stairs.  I think my neighbor is going to end up hating me.  I know, I am a crazy cat lady, but hey, they are my kids.  Object of this whole thing is to create a large living room in the down stairs, keep one small bedroom and the small bathroom down stairs and then put in two large bedrooms upstairs with a large bathroom.  Oh, and I get a walk in closet! We would also have a nice balcony there, which would be great for bird watching. Tico houses are usually very small.  I would like to just to be able to move around my bedroom with having to move the fan out of the way.  Right now all the bedrooms and living room are a small 10×10, and that’s it.  But, it is home to me.  We are really hoping that this works out, it will require to take out a construction loan.  Hoping to refinance, get a lower interest rate and get the home improvement loan with it.  I know that when we get done the house will be worth more than twice what we paid for it.  Have to wait for the dry season to even think about this.  It has been raining like cats and dogs these past few months, but it is a rainforest.  Prettier days are coming, we have been seeing some of the seasonal birds return, like the Golden Hooded Tanager.  They are beautiful.  We have spent weeks griping about the rain, soon we will be complaining about the heat.  Isn’t that how it always works?

A few things you should know

Well, here I go again.  We have decided to stay here, and why not?  We have great neighbors, our house payment is under $300 a month, our utilities are around $40, water is about $7, phone and internet is $40,  and we love our community.  I have a great cleaning lady that now comes four days a week.  So, we have decided to do some traveling.  Thinking of going to Scotland next year, can’t wait!

Things to know about living in Costa Rica though.  It is a rainforest, which means rain.  It also means bugs.  Lots of bugs.  If you can’t handle them, don’t move here.  We live in a very rural community and pretty much right in the rainforest.  When it rains, ants head for dryer ground, which usually means in your house.  I have lots and lots of Tupperware.  Tupperware is pretty much a must.  I keep my sugar, coffee, flour, rice, bread, cereal, brown sugar, and so much more in them.  I have a small fortune in Tupperware now.  Even with my house being cleaned 4 days a week, they still come in.  It happens, you get used to it.  The only time I worry about them is when it is the entire colony on the move.  I have battled a few colonies and won!  Termites is the one of the other ones, those bastards can be destructive!  I freaking hate termites, I think more than ants just because of the damage I know they can do.  My house is concrete, but we have wood beams in the ceiling.  We do spray every so often as a preventative measure.  Something you always need to be on the look out for.  The last thing when it comes to bugs is cockroaches.  They thrive in this environment.  It is their natural habitat.  If you see one, it doesn’t mean that your house is dirty.  They happen, nothing you can do about them.  You will see one, just kill it.  Some of them fly also!  Like I said, my house gets thoroughly cleaned four days a week and when my cleaning lady is not here I am always wiping stuff down.  I have seen them here too.

One of the other weird things about Central America, is that you don’t put toilet paper in the toilet.  It goes in the garbage can.  I know it is like this in other countries also.  We don’t have the big septic systems like you do in the States.  This took a little getting used to.  It may seem gross to a lot of you, but it’s what we do here.  If you change out the bag every other day it doesn’t smell.

So, that is some of the things that we do go through here.  But I love it.  These things don’t happened everyday or every week, but they happen.  I have gone months at a time without seeing a colony of ants trying to move in, I have gone months at a time without seeing a cockroach.  But I know they are out there.  I also have two indoor cats that help keep on the look out for certain bugs. Also, don’t be alarmed if you here a laughing sound while you are taking a shower, it is just a gecko!  I have several that live in my ceiling, they eat bugs so I love them.  It was definitely something to get used to down here, but I really wouldn’t want to live anywhere else.  My husband and I had a very long talk about things and we believe this is our best decision to stay here.  We have it great here, why give that up and start over, again?  It would be stupid.

I hope you enjoyed this little lesson from me.  If you have any questions, just ask.

New ad for the house 

 

So, I have been trying to figure out how to add the link to the ad on here, but haven’t had much luck.  I am not a full time blogger by any means.  lol  But I do have a new ad for it up, if you contact me on here I can send you the link.  It does have better pictures.  Tomorrow we have someone coming over to finish the ceiling for us and we just put in new light fixtures last month.  Oh, and I bought a new washer last month.  Remember, the house is fully furnished and we are asking $40,000.  It’s a great area with great people.  We are also a $500 finders fee to anyone who finds us a buyer.  This is payable once the sale is final of course.

Thanks.