Just Another Day in Paradise...

UPDATED: Thursday, January 19, 2012 06:52 AM



2009 2010











FEB 10











3/31/09 We arrived in country without a hitch.  Perfect flight.  Sailed through Customs.  Jacqui Monacell from Your Costa Rican Contact picked us up from the airport in our new used car!  After signing ownership papers, we headed out to San Ramon and our new home.  We were invited to dinner by new next door neighbor Trish.  Great food.  Good wine.  Welcome to Costa Rica!

4/2/09 While helping me back the car down our incredibly steep driveway, Fran takes a severe stumble and is bruised from head to toe.

4/6/09 Opened our first bank account at Banco Nationale with the help of Trish.  Everything was transacted in Spanish.  A scary situation!  Later that day, I ordered satellite TV with a promised install date of Wednesday the 8th! We'll see. 

4/8/09 The boys from SKY-TV showed up exactly at 11:00 am and installed my Satellite TV.  Good news, I now have over 105 channels in which to learn even more Spanish!  Talk about immersion.  

4/14/09 Drove to the beach town of Jaco and met with a dog rescuer.  We then fell immediately in love with this 8 month old, underweight but otherwise healthy yellow lab mix. We named her Úpe (pronounced ooh pay).  Úpe is a Costa Rican slang expression that people say when they approach your house unannounced.  For some strange reason, whenever anybody hears her name, a huge smile comes to their face.

4/19/09 Our first real road trip, an 88km trip north to the Arenal Volcano.  

4/24/09 Our personal belongings have been released from customs.  ETA is about 5 hours from now.  Oops - shipper wasn't paid.  My mistake, I forgot to press the friggin button labeled "PROCESAR" that transfers the money from my bank to his.  Without that payment, I'm Shit Out Of Luck and need to wait until Monday to make the transfer.

4/24/09 Check this out... since landing in country, we have gone food shopping on the following days:  April 1,2,3,4,5,7, 8,9,12,15,17, 18, 21 and 24.  Total spent to date has been $718.  Jeez... I thought we were supposed to be saving money!  I am hoping that May will be a better month!

4/26/09 This evening, we hooked up with about thirty other gringos at the home of Dave and Arden Brink in San Ramon.  It was fun listening to all their stories, because for the most part, we all shared a common bond... the zest for adventure coupled with the absolute certainty that we can not afford to retire in the land of our birth!  Stay tuned... more to follow.  


7:00 am - I successfully made my electronic payment to my shipper.  They confirmed receipt and have scheduled the delivery for TODAY around noon or so.  I'm charging my camcorder batteries so as to capture this auspicious event. 

9:00 am - We just got word... our HOUSE HAS BEEN SOLD!  It looks like its a done deal.  All parties agreed on terms.  Now its up to the lenders to screw up the works.  Keep your fingers crossed.

2:00 pm - "Cuatro Hombres y un Camión" - translation: "Four Men and A Truck", arrive with all our stuff. The guys work their asses off and within 1 hour everything is neatly stacked and awaiting our efforts to unpack.  UGH! 


4/28/09 Fran and I spent the majority of the day unpacking boxes and trying to find places for everything.  This is becoming a monumental task because we (physically) don't have the room for all the "invaluable" things we brought with us.  I think we will be doing an in-depth assessment of all our stuff and making some tough decisions to divest ourselves of much of our crap!  
MAY 2009 - TOP
5/8/09 With house sold, I realized that the Power of Attorney I had created before we left was inadequate.  I forgot one small item... to include Fran in the document.  So with little time to delay, I got my closing attorney to create a new POA, this time making sure both our names were properly reflected on the document.  Now the problem... finding a notary here in Costa Rica whose legal status would be recognized in the US.  I decided to take the path of least resistance and just drive into San Jose and visit the American Consulate.  It was good to see the gold old flag waiving above the compound surrounded by safety barricades and very well armed guards.

Thirty minutes later the deed was done.  After scanning all the papers, I immediately went to our post office (correo) in San Ramon.  For the mere cost of only 735 colones ($1.29) I mailed the newly executed POA to the closing attorney in Charlotte.


5/11/09 Fran and I entertained our first dinner guests tonight, a very nice American couple, who, just like us, moved to Costa Rica.  I prepared an extremely tasteful stir-fry dinner using only ingredients local to Costa Rica.  The only difference in what I consumed versus Fran and our guests were the two awesome "screwdriver" cocktails made from just squeezed CR oranges.  Well to make a long story short, the oranges must have been bad because within 2 hours I was suffering badly from a case of Montezuma's Revenge.  This is nothing to laugh about.  I am one hurting puppy.  Stay tuned on further updates.  


After 6 days I had enough.  Montezuma had taken out its full wrath on this poor man's emaciated body.   I finally listened to Fran and my neighbors Trish and Ernesto.  They said "get your ass to the hospital and do it now!"  And so I did. 

Ernesto came along to help (as interpreter) which turned out to be a huge help.  We arrived at the local hospital here in San Ramon at 9am, just before the Sunday crowd of "sickies" started to crawl in. I saw a doctor (at least I think he was a doctor).  He performed a basic triage and sent me back to the ER desk.  There another doc checked me out.  Since I was fairly well dehydrated, they set me up on an IV drip of 2 liters of normal saline and some meds to counteract the nausea and diarrhea. 

Five hours later I was discharged, feeling a 1000% better.  And get this... It only cost me 19000 colones or just $33.00!

5/20/2009 It took just 131 days.  On Jan 9, 2009, we turned in all our residency paperwork to our Costa Rican attorney, Romulo Pacheco and today we received an email indicating that the Migracion, here in Costa Rica, has received our paperwork and issued us our requisite folio numbers.  Now at least we don't have to make plans to leave the country at the end of our 90 days, when our tourist visa status ends.  Next hurdle... CEDULAS!

5/25/2009 We got our real first taste of rainy season today when a warm front clashed with a cold front right over the Central Valley (where we live) and spawned an electrical show and deluge that held us in awe for several hours.  The only downside was the fact that one lightning strike struck within 100 yards of our house, tripping the huge breakers on the outside transformers.  Fortunately, ICE (pronounced "ee say"), our national electrical company, was quick to respond.  Within 4 hours, the breakers were reset and we had our power back.


One of the great benefits of loosing weight is the ability to go out and buy new clothes.  Such was the case with me and my jeans.  However, the only place to get Levi's jeans within a day's drive of where I live is at the MultiPlaza Mall in Escazu, s bedroom community adjacent to San Jose, the Capital.

But here is the funny part of the story... of the entire store inventory, the only length stocked was 32 inches - regardless of waist size!  But I needed a 30" length.  When I asked the clerk about my options, he made a gesture with his fingers indicating that I needed to trim the pant length.  And at a cost of nearly $60.00 for one pair of jeans, I was not about to trim the length. 

  • New Plan: (1) Order online from the Levi's store in the US.  Price is only $40.  (2) Ship to son in Virginia  (3) He will mule them in when he visits in August!  There is always another way to skin the cat!


It only took two months of living in Costa Rica but Fran and I finally made out first trek to the beach.  We visited an obscure piece of shoreline called Playa Tivives.  Great weather, warm water and black sand.  We had a great time and Úpe was in her element!

JUNE 2009 - TOP



Today was a big day in our long term strategy.  The chief reason we moved to Costa Rica is we could not afford to live in the US and purchase reasonable healthcare protection.  Today we applied for and was granted access to CAJA, Costa Rica's national healthcare system.  For $68 a month (covers both me and Fran), we have full access to Costa Rica's healthcare system.  If and when the time comes we need to utilize this system, we will report on it... good or bad.  But like all things health related... keep your fingers crossed we won't need to use it!  

6/4/2009 While Andy cuts his own hair with an electric trimmer, Fran refuses to let him cut her ever greying locks.  So with total abandonment, Fran visited a local "hair cuttery" here in San Ramon and got her first Costa Rican trim job.  While the lady with the scissors knew no English, and Fran knows little Spanish, effective communications did take place.  Fran did receive a pretty good haircut.  At least she doesn't look like a guard in a female prison!  Now granted, there was no shampoo, no blow dry and styling but the bottom line is... the haircut cost only $5.00 and no tip was required.   

6/5/2009 We love fresh fish and there is no better place to buy it than right from the fishing docks in Puntarenas, just 35 km from where we live.  Today we bought 2 kilos of giant Tiger Prawns for $7.00 per lb, Red Snapper at $3.58/lb and Sea Bass at $4.00/lb.  We now have a freezer filled with incredible seafood that should last us for the next 6 weeks or more.

6/15/2009 Our internet has been down for the five days.  Whenever we placed calls into our service provider, they went either unanswered or whoever did answer simply hung up.  It seems that our provider got hit with a nasty virus and was forced to shut down their system until the virus was fixed.  But here is the interesting thing... rather than be the bearer of bad news, Costa Ricans seem to subscribe to the concept of avoidance rather than passing on bad news.  Frankly, avoidance leads to exasperation which leads to violence which leads to road rage which leads to Andy having his ass thrown into a Costa Rican jail.  Fortunately we got our service back before I went postal!  


After the assholes at my internet company restored service, I still was unable to get on.  They eventually told me my router was bad and recommended I get a new one.  So I did but the friggin problem was still there.  To make matters worse, store don't take anything back so I am now stuck with a brand new, $80 router. 

After much bitching, the internet company sent out a tech guy to reprogram my router.  Something I could have done if they only called me.  Now here it is only one week later and the damn thing is down again!  Screw the internet, I still love Costa Rica.


JULY 2009 - TOP

7/1/2009 Fran turns 59 tomorrow.  We celebrated by going out to dinner with 10 of our neighbors and then back to one of their houses for freshly baked chocolate cake and home made ice cream.  July is starting out to be a dietary disaster!  

7/3/2009 We celebrated our nations birthday today by going to a good old American style Picnic in Alajuela Costa Rica.  They actually flew in real American, all beef hotdogs for the occasion.  This was the first time since we came in country that we ate a decent hot dog.  

7/5/2009 Fran and I awoke this morning at 5am to find that we have no water.  It is now 9:32 PM on the same day and we are still without water.  My neighbor Trish tells me that a water main broke yesterday afternoon and that the parts will be in Monday morning.  We were told to expect running water before noon.  But that's in Tico Time.  In the meantime, we collected rainwater so we could at least flush a damn toilet!

7/6/2009 It's now 4:00 pm.  The water has finally returned.  I feel much better now because I'm almost out of scotch!!!  

7/9/2009 Drove 3 1/2 hours out to the town of Siquirres to make reservations with Rios Tropicales for our first in a series of Band of Rafters whitewater adventures.  The trip is planned for August 5/6 on the Pacuare River.  

7/18/2009 Today, while visiting Costa Rica for a possible place to move, new friends, Harley and Sherry Schneider, dropped by the house for a visit.  Having just read a recent thread in the ARCR Forum about hard to find food items here in CR, they came bearing gifts.  Click the picture!


8/13/2009 Today marks the end of 10 great days we had with our son Mike.  This was Mike's first trip to Costa Rica and definitely not his last. Not only were our days were filled with all sorts of exciting things link shopping for vegetables and fruits at the local "feria", but we also managed to squeeze in two days of intense whitewater rafting, surfing and two days of ziplining where  where we flew over the tops of trees in the Costa Rican Rainforest.  A great time was had by one and all.

8/17/2009 August is proving to be a very full month at Casa Del Browne, not just with visitors but with the necessities of life we asked our guests to "mule" in for us.  On this date, girlhood friends of Fran, Joan and Drue, came to spend a few weeks with us and they too came  loaded with goodies including 6 pounds of Hebrew National Hotdogs!

8/23/2009 Andy is busy (at work) video taping the Ox Cart parade in downtown San Ramon.
9/3/2009 Fran needed to see an medical specialist for the on-going treatment of an eye condition.  This needed to be done right away so to avoid the usual 6-8 month wait if we opted to use the CAJA, the national health plan, we opted to simply pay for it out of pocket.  But here is the good news... we saw an incredible doctor immediately.  She spent an hour of one-on-one time with Fran.  Performed a full eye examination including a 3D-retinal scan with state of the art equipment and we paid $50 for the office visit and $100 for the 3D scan.  Without insurance in the US, this venture would have cost us over $2500.

9/12/2009 Today, Fran and I begin assisting in the teaching of English at the local high school.  We are volunteering in a program whereby we assist other teachers in "conversational English" classes.  We will be doing this every Saturday morning for the next three months.  All we need do is just talk and listen.  I think we may be qualified.  
10/3/2009 My English class is taking a field trip today out to the Monteverde Cloud Forest.  Fran and I have been invited along.  In fact,  I have given the the students an assignment.  They are to have researched and prepared to do a short 1-2 minute talk on something about the Cloud Forest.  The talk needs to be in English and I will video tape it.  Before next Saturday, I hope to edit it for presentation in next Saturday's class.  Stay tuned!  

10/20/09 The internet can be an incredible resource.  A few months earlier I met Gary, a firefighter from Arizona on the Boomers Offshore website while he was researching retirement options.  We became fast friends.  While on one of his planned due diligence trips, we hooked up for a few days and went zip lining.
11/15/2009 We traveled up to Playa Hermosa, a beach community in the northern part of the Guanacaste to visit friends and to video tape a charity dog show.  A total blast was had by one and all.  In fact, we had such a good time, Franny and I think we may have just found our new home!  After a year in the clouds, perhaps we need the beach to cleanse our spirits! 

Stay tuned... there is more to come!

11/26/2010 Thanksgiving Day in Costa Rica is no different than it is back in the States with one major exception... expect to pay a bunch more money for a damn turkey.  Our miniscule 12 pound bird cost us $45.00.  THAT'S INSANE!  But hey, we had a great time and were joined by a bunch of great folks.  VIDEO
1/7/2010 After nearly one year in the San Ramon area it is time for us to move on.  Our next adventure will take us to Playa Hermosa in the north western part of Guanacaste.  Again, we are renting a house, this time it has a pool and is a 5 minute walk to the beach.  VIDEO

1/20/2010 Departed Puntarenas Costa Rica and joined the crew of the Yacht Fiona for an 18 day sailing cruise south through the Panama Canal.  The complete story, in words as well as video, can be found here.  STORY - VIDEO
2/6/2010 I returned from my 18 day sea adventure nicely tanned and with the realization that I AM NOT A SAILOR and nor was I ever meant to be one.

2/17/2010 After nearly a year living in the wet, windy and downright cold area of Los Angeles Sur, today we moved to our new house on the beach in Playa Hermosa.  Pura Vida Baby!

2/24/2010 Sharon and Rick Rochester, friends from the old hood, became our first beach house visitors.
3/12/2010 One of the things we HATED about where we lived was the fact that we felt like prisoners in our own home.  Nobody ventured out at night because it was dangerous to drive.  But that is no longer a problem.  With good roads and lighted walkways, Fran and I are out all the time, walking the beach and hitting up small beachside bars (like El Valero) to take advantage of "half price" Happy Hour.


Receiving physical mail in Costa Rica can be a real pain in the ass.  For one thing, we have no house address so getting mail delivered is near impossible.  We solved our problem by sending all our mail to our son's house in Pennsylvania.  Once a month (or sooner), we have a SKYPE session with him where we review all our mail.  If the mail looks real important, i.e. is threatening legal action or says FINAL NOTICE, he scans the document and sends me the JPG file right through SKYPE.  I can now read it and act on it (if necessary).  Now how cool is that! 

We have found that 99.5% of all the mail he gets is crap and is pitched.  This system works for us, your mileage may vary.


Ever since we moved to the beach, friends and relatives have decided NOW is the time to visit us.  Ya think near perfect weather has anything to do with it!  March was particularly active.  We had the pleasure of hosting (from left to right):

  • Deb and Rob from Esparza (March 3/4)

  • Cathy and Lee from Atenas (Mar 11/13)

  • Sally and Len from Chicago (Mar 19/20)

  • My son Sean and his family from Pennsylvania (Mar 29/Apr 6)

APRIL 2010
4/5/10 How ironic... I just spent the last two hours zip-lining from tree top to tree top, 200 feet in the air and I received not a scratch.  But on the way out to my car, I missed the last step to the parking lot and twisted the living hell out of my right ankle.  Fortunately I was wearing good hiking boots and applied ice immediately to keep down most of the swelling.


David and Kim Newman, old friends from Charlotte NC, made good on their promise to visit Costa Rica.  After spending a few days at Arenal on their honeymoon, they popped in for a few days to enjoy the sun and surf.  Well rainy season just started and there was not much sun, but the surf was pretty damn good.

Here David shoots left on a nice little 3 footer while I  power through on my boogie board.  (bottom picture)

MAY 2010

We just increased our family by a factor of one.  Today we acquired a new dog, a two year old pure yellow lab named Ashka. 

Ashka is a loving, affectionate dog with a strong sense of loyalty.  Within minutes of taking her in, she began bonding with me and Fran. 

5/19/2010 In the June issue of International Living magazine, an article will appear which features me and Fran.  Click on the cover to read the article.  In addition, we will also be speaking at the International Living Symposium in San Jose, August 11, 12 and 13.  More INFO on that event.

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