Small town life

There are so many things that I truly love about living in a small town in Costa Rica.  But today was awesome.  The area I live in, Sarapiqui, has been having lots of rain and flooding.  Many people are displaced and in need of help.  The husband and I went out today, I really needed to get out, and took a drive.  We were mainly on a mission to go to the eye doctor for a quick exam.  We had to travel a few towns over for this, not a big deal really; but along the way we could see the river was receding in our area.  We could see lots of trees washed up along the river banks, even saw a huge tree on its side in someone’s yard.  But you could also see people sitting at a soda having lunch and taking it easy.  People sitting on their porch with their family relaxing.  It was nice to see.  We got down to Puerto Viejo de Sarapiqui, driving through town we noticed the Red Cross, there were so many people there working.  More ambulances than I have ever seen there, more people in uniform than ever before. Looked like everyone was working a double shift.  Police were out in full swing patrolling the streets.  You could see aid packages being unloaded from trucks.  It looked as if everyone was working together.  Police were talking to people on the streets, no one looked like they were in any confrontation with them either.  It was a relaxing atmosphere.

Well, we stopped by the post office and checked the mail.  Still didn’t get my package, it was probably confiscated.  Too bad, I was looking forward to making some really good chili with those spices.  After that we went to the eye doctor, she was supposed to open at one after lunch, it was 1:20 and she still wasn’t back…Tico time see previous post.  So we stopped into a soda and got a very yummy chicken empanada and a Coca-Cola.  Decided to check the eye doctor again; yup she was back.  We walk in without any appointment and ask about getting the husband and eye exam.  No problem, what’s his name and have a seat.  We wait a whole ten minutes and he is taken back and of course I have to go with him.  Poor hubby has hearing problems and hasn’t been able to learn Spanish no matter how hard he has tried.  He has really tried too.  I tell the doctor what has been going on, he had been getting headaches and thinks it is the glasses.  Well, we were right.  The doctor was very awesome, super friendly, constantly smiling.  She knew very little English, but we got through everything.  We discussed our options with the glasses and which type of bifocals he wanted.  I let her know that he really loves the frames that he already has because they actually fit him perfect and are in great shape.  No problem using them again and just getting new lenses.  The cost of the eye exam was 2,000 colones, under $4 right now.  Cost of the new lenses for lined bifocals, 17,000 colones, under $34.  We will take that!  For no line bifocals it would have been 34,000 colones, under $68.  But we are trying to save a few colones here and there.  (Last time we got our eyes checked we were in a bigger town and the cost was 5,000 colones.)

I don’t think this eye doctor gets very many gringo patients because she seemed super excited to work with us.  She has a very simple office, nothing fancy, could definitely use a paint job.  But her professionalism was above and beyond what I expected.  She used the old glasses type apparatus to get your prescription, so she is manually picking up different lenses to insert into the glasses instead of just flipping them.  This is a much harder and longer process.  Hubby loved the prescription and was reading things perfectly clear.  No shadows or blurs when she was done.  I will be going back to get my eyes checked with her soon also.  I would also recommend her anyone in this area.  She was an absolute joy to be around.  Pura Vida!


Tico Time

Now this is something that really took some getting used to because where I am from everyone is always early.  Here, we have what is called Tico Time.  Tico Time is getting things done and/or being somewhere whenever they get done or whenever they get there.  It is no specific time, they are always late.  If you invite someone to your house and you want them there at three, tell them to be there at two and they might be on time.  Ticos are never in a hurry to get things done, unless they are driving.  They are the most laid back and relaxed people I have ever met, unless they are driving.  That is a whole other blog post.  Also, when it comes to having something installed, like internet, just be patient and be prepared to wait.  They will eventually get there, don’t plan anything for the week of the appointment and plan on being close to home so you can get there when they show up.  Another thing, they will tell you mañana, which literally means tomorrow, but here that could mean next week.  Sometimes it can mean next month, or I will eventually get to it when I can.  It is almost as if time does not exist or is even important to most people.  Things get done when things get done.  You have to learn to be patient and go with the flow.  Now, there are times when this can be a serious problem like in cases of an emergency.  But don’t get angry, just relax and be nice, this will get things done much easier.  If you are unpleasant with them, they will not want to be around you and will push you away and make you wait even longer.  You can kindly let them know of your disappointment in the situation, but don’t yell, scream, or cuss them out, that will just get you kicked out of somewhere.  I have met some of the sweetest, kindest, and wonderful people since moving here.  Friends that I consider to be my family now.  You just have to remember to be patient and kind.  Every time I go out I am smiling, and they smile back.  So, until mañana, Pura Vida!

The medical system

Now, I can only comment and tell you my personal experiences when it comes to healthcare in Costa Rica.  So, keep that in mind.  Someone again today asked me to explain how our system works here and I thought I would just share a little more on that topic.  My husband and I are on the Pensionado residency status, so we pay based off of our income.  We pay just under $100 a month right now for both of us.  This covers everything, medical, dental, vision, and specialists.  We have no co-pays or deductibles to meet, no out of pocket expenses.  Then I always hear, well someone is paying for it.  Yes, we all pay for it, just like you do in the United States with your insurance premiums.  If you think that your insurance premiums are just for you, then you are sadly mistaken.  Your premiums are pooled together to help someone else pay their medical bills.  You do not just pay for yourself, you pay for everyone that is signed up with that insurance provider.  I love it when people say that they shouldn’t have to pay for someone else to have medical coverage, well, you already do.  Get over it.

People ask, can it take a while to get into to see a specialist, yes.  Just like it can in the States sometimes.  I know of one specialist in Colorado that has a six month waiting list to get in to see him.  So, it happens there too.  Does it take a while to get into see your doctor, no.  I can go in the morning and make an appointment for the same day.  If it is an emergency, I go down to the ER clinic and get in there.  Does it take a long time to have surgery, it can.  Just depends on what is going on.  Yes, I had a very long wait for my surgery, but it was done the same day.  They saved my life.  They saved the life of my daughter also.  She had to have an emergency surgery while visiting.  She was under 18, so still a minor.  There was no charge for minors, they believe in caring for ALL children no matter where they are from.  I almost broke down in tears, as we are on a fixed income and was worried about the cost.  We both had great care in a public hospital, many doctors and nurses spoke English.  I even had a doctor the other day ask me if I could teach her English because she wanted to learn.  Amazing people here.

So, how is it paid for?  This is where we help each other.  Everyone who has a job, the insurance comes out automatically, just like where you pay into medicare and medicaid in the US.  We do have a higher sales tax, like many European countries.  We do have a very high import tax also.  But, I don’t mind paying these if it is going to help my neighbor get her cancer treatment.  She is now enjoying her time with her first grandson.  She is cancer free.  Is our system in trouble, yes.  I won’t lie about it.  Could it be better, yes of course.  It is not perfect.  One thing I have noticed about being here, the money that is invested into our local hospitals and clinics through the public system is about care.  It is not about making the building look beautiful and perfect.  You can go to my clinic here and think this place looks like a dump, but once you get to know the staff you feel the love and care and the pride they take in their job.  I hobbled in the other day, I saw the pharmacist and she waved and said hello to me.  The receptionist came out and brought me a wheelchair.  So, the wheelchair didn’t have leg rests, who cares, I was sitting and off of my ankle.  I am not too picky and I have worked in the medical field in the States.  I am more concerned about my quality of care, not what it looks like.  They do keep it very clean there.  The lady who cleans the clinic, cleans all day and everyday.  She is always sweeping and mopping the floors, wiping down walls and counters, and cleaning the bathrooms.  They love to clean.  There is paint coming off the walls, no screens in the windows, only a few rooms with A/C.  But I am always made to feel comfortable and relaxed about being there.  You can have the most beautiful clinic there is, but without the care it means nothing.  I have worked in a very nice clinic in the US and the people there were ugly, they told patients lies.  They had no integrity.  I feel very lucky to be here where I am at in the beautiful country.  Pura Vida!

Back to the emergency clinic

I finally broke down and went to the clinic yesterday.  I kept putting it off for almost a week.  I have a very weak left ankle that I have sprained several times over the years.  I thought I had just done the same.  After a few days I noticed that the pain didn’t feel like a normal sprain so the hubby wrapped it up for me and I went about my business.  Then I drove Sunday morning, we have a standard shift.  Got home and was in incredible pain.  Took some ibuprofen and tried to rest it.  That wasn’t helping things.  The limping got worse which was starting to cause my right hip to hurt.  Finally I said the heck with it and decided to go.  It was in the afternoon after going to the supermarket that I really said I have to go.

We went down to our local clinic, which is very close to our house.  The doctor was already getting ready to leave at 3 pm.  This is about the normal time for the clinic to close here.  So, they sent us down to the emergency clinic that is a few towns over. Not a big deal for us.  We get there and I go up to the window, show them my ID, insurance card, and proof that we have paid the insurance.  I take a seat and in a few minutes they take me back to get my vitals and to find out what was going on.  The nurse was very nice and patient with me as my Spanish still needs improving.  I get that done and take another seat in the waiting area which is actually outside; at least it was covered.

We waited a while and the doctor finally called me back.  She was a young doctor and super sweet.  She could understand my Spanglish and actually asked me if I could teach her English.  I don’t think I could really teach an adult English; it is easier to teach kids a foreign language.  She examined my foot and ankle and decided it was tendinitis of the Achilles.  No bruising or swelling so it was obvious that nothing is broken; I also have a medical degree.  She ordered me up an injection for pain and swelling, wrote me a prescription for anti-inflammatory’s and a steroid.

We left our house yesterday around 3 pm.  We were out of the emergency clinic around 5 pm, don’t forget the 30 minute drive to get there.  So, all in all, we were probably only at the clinic for just over an hour, that included getting my prescriptions right there at the clinic too.  All clinics have a pharmacy in them, this way you don’t have to go and find one.  Total cost of yesterdays adventure, $0.  Everything was completely covered by the CAJA, which is the Costa Rican Social Security.  The cost of the CAJA is based off of your income.  We are pensioners so we pay just under $100 a month.  If you get another type of residency it is different.  I can only give you information on what it is like to be a pensioner here.

So, still got the ankle wrapped up, taking my medication like a good girl, and trying to rest it.  I keep smiling though and loving life.  Pura Vida!

Rain and more rain

Sorry it has been so long since I posted.  I finally got a new laptop and can type again!  I was actually able to find one here that was already programmed in English and has an English keyboard.  This was hard to find in the area that I live in because I live in a very rural community without a lot of other Gringos.  It is a very local community.  Also, the term gringo is perfectly fine to use down here in Costa Rica, it has no negative connotation to it.  Just if someone asks you where you are from, never tell them America.  You tell the you are from the United States, as they consider everyone on these two continents to be Americans; and they are correct.  But I am very glad to be back on here and writing again.

Well, a lot has been going on lately.  We have had some serious rain for this time of year.  I know it is a rainforest and that I have said before get used to it.  But this has been ridiculous.  But we have had widespread flooding.  Many rivers have come over their banks and taken out homes and businesses.  Several bridges and roads have been washed out too.  For a while, our community was pretty much an island.  There was no way to get out of our area.  Sunday morning I was awoken to the sound of the siren going off at 4:50.  I had one cat look at me with huge eyes and a scared look, my other cat started growling, and the dog just laid there like nothing was happening.  This is the first time I have ever heard the siren go off and it is very close to my house.  I got up and turned the radio on and heard nothing about it.  So I knew it wasn’t anything national and that it was only for local.  I stumble out of bed, in the dark, and look out the window which faces the main road.  I could see police lights and a spot light in the trees.  That is when I think I woke up enough to hear the  noise.  It was the river.  Now, we live up on a hill and back off the main road and the river is on the other side of the main road.  If I had to guess how far the river is from the house I would probably say about 1,000 feet.  You could just hear the rushing sound of the water coming down from the mountains.  All I could think of was all the people who live close to it, including a friend of mine who is from the States.  There being nothing I could do, I crawled back into bed and waited until I could call someone who could really tell me what was going on.

I did a lot of texting and calling that morning.  Found out there was a landslide up the mountain on the river and it sent a huge wave of water rushing downstream.  We had people on the way to visit us for a few nights and didn’t know if they would be able to stay or not as our water main broke.  They were quick about it and had it repaired in under two hours.  I was very impressed with that.  There was an entire community stranded on the other side of one of the bridges as the water washed out part of the road by the bridge.  As of right now there are at least 450 people in shelters in and around our canton, that is like a county in the US.  So many businesses had to close because of all the rain, tourist places were closed because of fallen trees and flooding.  It was really a scary couple of days here.  We are hoping that the worst is over.  I did see a rainbow yesterday and the sun is out now.  Our company only stayed for one night because there was nothing to do in our area with everything being shutdown.  We completely understood.  It is times like this that Facebook really comes in handy.  There are a lot of pages for our area to keep people up to date on what is happening in and around the area.  I was able to see photos and get lots of information about the outlying areas about road closures and where the worst is to help my friends get around and to pass information along to others.  Glad we are through this now.  Just hope that we have at least of week of no rain.  We need the sunshine.

The first photo is in Puerto Viejo de Sarapiqui, a few towns over from where I live.  Normally this walking bridge is 15 feet above the water, there was a bridge below that you could drive across.





These photos are here in my town of La Virgen de Sarapiqui.  The first one is where the river has washed out part of the road leaving an entire community stranded.  I would estimate there are probably close to 1,000 people who live back there.  The next two are of the Rio Saraipiqui.  This is a common river to use for rafting, but it is too dangerous now.  Normally there is a little beach on the right hand side of the second photo, that is where a lot of people go to go swimming.  The beach is gone.  On the third photo, the little island in the middle usually goes almost all the way across the river with just a little stream on each side of it.  There is normally a good 20 feet between the river and the bridge, this day there were only a couple of feet between the two.  Luckily, it is going down now and life will return to normal, it will just take a little time.  The community is coming together to help everyone out, it is like one big family and they care for each other.  It will take a long time though to get many of the roads open and the bridges repaired.  One such road they are saying it will take three months to fix and clear out because of a landslide.  Mother nature is a serious force and not to be messed with.  This river came up quick and deadly.  A simple reminder not to mess around with water and rain and to always be careful.  Pura Vida!




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