The Adventure in Costa Rica Continues....

Published: May 3rd 2006
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Lot of cars at Angel Valley Farm B&BLot of cars at Angel Valley Farm B&BLot of cars at Angel Valley Farm B&B

Had never seen so many cars at our place!
The last two weeks have been very busy with numerous guests and many, many loads of laundry, along with stripping down rooms, making up rooms, moving different beds into different rooms to accommodate various guests and other minute details not worth getting into. April was a very good month for the B&B which is great as it is also the month of the year when the “high season” ends (either around April 15 or April 30—I’m not really sure). We’re definitely a bit tired at this point.

April has also been a fun month. We were also able to find some time to go to the beach, try some new restaurants, and most recently have our new neighbors Trisha and Ernesto stay with us. They are moving to Angel Valley/Rancho Lobo and their house is about done being built. We hope they move down here permanently soon! Remember them, as they come up later in this blog!

The mundane tasks in life….

Every few weeks or so, one realizes that life in Costa Rica is not all sitting in the hammock or swimming in the ocean. You have to work (occasionally!), shop, pay bills and in our case,

Our friend/guest/soon-to-be new neighbor, Ernesto made terrific red snapper with mango sauce one night!
greet and take care of guests, scrub floors, clean the dishes numerous times a day (no automatic dishwasher here!) and do many other tasks to keep a large home/business functioning. My latest mundane—but very necessary task—was to get my passport renewed. Yep, it has been just about 10 years since my current passport was issued. And, having worked in the airline industry and visiting nearly 70 countries in my life, it has a lot of visas, stamps and who knows what else. I even had to have pages added to my passport twice in the last five years alone.

Luckily, the trip to the U.S. embassy near San Jose is not all that difficult. It is located in a nice part of the city which is actually a close-in suburb called “Pavas,” so the drive isn’t so bad. I’m amazed that I can now find my way around the city by just knowing where various landmarks are. It’s taken 10 months but it isn’t an easy task in San Jose.

For a small country, the embassy is much larger than I thought. The building is five or six stories high and takes up almost a city block. I must admit, when I got near it, turned the corner and saw the U.S. flag atop a pole in a grassy area inside the compound (of course, there is massive security there like all U.S. embassies around the world), I had a sense of national pride come over me. Sure, living in Costa Rica is terrific but I’m still a very proud American even if I am not thrilled from time to time with the political situation.

So, I found the entrance to the consul area where visas and passports are processed. There is a saying, “membership has its benefits,” and my US passport got me through a huge line of Costa Ricans attempting to get visas to go to the US (more about that later). After I figured which of a dozen forms was to be filled out for passport renewals, I could a number and waited my turn. However, I noticed my number was 75 but the electronic sign in big red letters said “serving number 14,” and the office was to close in one hour. Well, it quickly became obvious that I’d have to come back another day.

For my next trip to the embassy, a week later, I fared much better. For one, I got to the embassy a full 45 minutes before it opened, filled out a new form (because I finally found the color-coded signs on the wall indicating which form to use, such as, “If you are over 14 years old, your passport is less than 15 years old, you are citizen, you have two 2x2 inch photos, you have U.S. currency…..then use the purple form, unless….” So, after solving for “X,” I figured out it was indeed the purple form!

I was first in line for processing and the Tico helping me from behind the 3” thick bullet-proof glass was quite pleasant—perhaps because I was his first customer of the day and he already had a cup of rich Costa Rican coffee. In any event, I learned a few things about Costa Ricans’ ability to get visas to come to the U.S. For starters, I learned that the embassy processes over 1000 visa applicants each working day—just from Costa Ricans. That’s 20,000 a month or perhaps over 200,000 a year (taking out days the embassy is closed such as holidays). That’s also about 5% of the Costa Rican population. I can only imagine what the numbers are like from countries whose citizens really want to leave.

I also learned gaining approval for a visa isn’t easy either. Are you a Tico and want to take your children to Disney World for a week? Get a visa. Need to see a dying relative in New York? Get a visa. Want to see a potential business partner in Miami? Get a visa. Have no good reason but just want to see the U.S. for a few weeks? Forget it. No matter what your plans are in the U.S., if you are Costa Rican, you must have family ties (and not even an extended family) or solid, verifiable and existing business relations in the U.S. I don’t aim to comment on the U.S. government’s tough stance on granting visas to foreigners, I am just stating that it is a tough process to get through, if you are lucky, and most aren’t. However, I was told that only a tiny percentage of Costa Ricans overstay their visa time period. I guess that while Costa Ricans are much better than Mexicans or Nicaraguans about not overstaying their welcome, the country get lumped into the rest of Latin America when it comes to extending visas.

What is funny to me is that as an American, I’ve gotten visas to visit countries that America has had strained relations with, or worse had wars with, such as Vietnam and Cambodia.

Three birthday celebrations, same person, less than a week….

Ernesto’s (of “Trisha and Ernesto”—I told you to keep an eye out for them in this blog several times—birthday occurred while they were staying with us. It is always fun to celebrate one’s birthday while on vacation and particularly in the community in which someone will soon live. Well, one night we had a fabulous dinner cooked by Ernesto. It was a whole red snapper, probably caught the same day, topped with an incredible mango sauce. I had to mention the food as it was that delicious. During dinner it was announced to us that it was Ernesto’s birthday so we put a few candles in whatever our dessert was (cannot remember!), and sang happy birthday to him. Well, apparently his birthday was not that exact day and it took “someone” two more tries to get the day right, along with two more birthday celebrations! Well, here is some proof, that in Costa Rica at least, it can be your birthday everyday! One couldn’t ask for a nicer guy to have three birthdays a year. When Trisha and Ernesto come back to live here permanently I need to remind myself and his spouse to write down his birthday so we won’t ever forget: April, 28th, 29th, and 30th!

The happy couple….

As I write this tome, we have our first newlyweds staying with us. Too bad our honeymoon suite is booked! Okay, our “honeymoon suite,” is actually a room with an “in-suite bathroom” and hot water. As Bill Maher often says, “I’m kidding, I’m kidding!” They are a terrific couple from Reno who are considering retiring here in a few years from now, got married on Saturday and the next day were on a plane to stay with us. They arrived late on Sunday night with the rest of our guests already asleep.

Monday morning at 7am the Reno newlyweds woke up to a full house of guests—about 14 total—getting ready to have breakfast. I knew they were getting married but I didn’t realize it was the day before staying with us! However, they went with the flow and have been having a thoroughly great time. Actually, because our other guests that morning are also considering retiring here, it was helpful for them to interact with the other guests. In fact, the couple is cutting their trip to other parts of the country short to come back and stay with us, realizing that the weather and “feel” of our area is what they are looking for. It’s terrific having guests like them and Beth went the extra mile by finding some beautiful flowers for their room and putting heart-shaped lollipops and Bon Bons on their pillows. We look forward to them coming back for their 10th anniversary—hopefully sooner!

Ah, yet another dinner party….

The past few weeks have seen more dinner parties at the B&B than in the entire preceding 9.5 months of living here. Actually, I think we had more than in the prior 20 years of my life! Some of them have been with friends, some with neighbors, some with guests, and some with a combination of all three groups. I just don’t know if I can keep going with all of this good food, terrific wine, sumptuous desserts, interesting conversation, highly intelligent people, fascinating stories, and lively political banter! I told Beth one day that my next job is going to be “professional hermit.” Fortunately or unfortunately, she might get the job before I do! I jest. I jest! It’s actually been fun if not a little exhausting. I’ve learned so much from other people, often very worldly people who have lived overseas throughout their lives. It provides an interesting perspective on things and certainly reinforces the idea that it is indeed “a big world out there.” It also reinforces the idea that my job is doing the dishes after dinner!

Where to sleep….or, sleeping amongst the dogs just doesn’t cut it….

One night we happily got into an “overbooked” situation (okay sort of), in which not only did Beth and I have to give up our rooms but Trisha and Ernesto (remember them!?) also had to find other accommodations for the night. Beth agreed to stay at the B&B and camp out on the sofa (and, I think, to catch up on mindless television) to wait up for our late-arriving guests while Trisha, Ernesto and I had been invited to use the apartment next door to Karol’s house (Karol is our house manager) that her mother owns. So we made our way to San Ramon that night and Karol set up the apartment just like she does with the rooms at our B&B: fresh towels near the beds, extra blankets and more.

I don’t think Trisha, Ernesto and I realized, that for starters, we’d be sharing the same room—they had the bed and I had a mattress on the floor next to them. That was no big deal however I did mention that we would all soon learn who snored and who didn’t (there’ll be more on snoring shortly). The apartment was certainly not the Four Seasons but it was clean and the “toilet area” with a privacy curtain near the headboard of Trisha and Ernesto’s bed was certainly convenient. What wasn’t convenient was the fact that Tico houses, at least in this neighborhood, have paper-thin walls. I don’t know for sure, because we were inside, but we were fairly certain that we were within the confines of a dog kennel. Just as our conversation started to die down—“Careful if you get up a night because the light switch on the wall is likely to electrocute you….”—several dogs of all types (I surmised) started barking at each other, or Lord knows what else—in unison. Trisha and Ernesto promptly put in their ear plugs though Trisha commented that it blocked out all of the dogs except the six or so chawawas (sorry, cannot spell that breed of dog for the life of me and the word processor’s spell checker isn’t helpful either!) that kept yelping as if they were on their way to someone’s dinner table.

When I fall sleep, normally after changing positions several times for about 30 minutes, I sleep so soundly that there is almost nothing that can wake me up. However, on this night, the problem was trying to get to sleep. We agreed this was going to be impossible.

After about 20 minutes of giggling at the comedy of our situation, we decided it was time to bow out gracefully and find new accommodations—and by now it was getting late. I carefully apologized to Karol for having to leave—it really was the dogs and had nothing to do with her mother’s apartment.

So Ernesto turned on the bright florescent light dangling above the room. Trisha got up from the bed and I could only think to say, “My, the lighting does wonders for you.” So, we packed out bags and headed back to the B&B unsure where we would be bunking down for the night.
At the B&B later that night….

We arrived back the B&B to find Beth camped out on the sofa. All of our guests were tucked in for the night. It was a very eerie feeling as the house was dark and no one was awake. It was also eerie because in the silence of being in the house late at night with guests sleeping, I could hear a cacophony of hums and snores coming from the various rooms. Most were very low and subtle; some were definitely not. I guess the sound of snores is much better than other sounds I could have heard.

Ernesto and Trisha decided to go stay in their new house, which was almost done, using the air mattresses they brought with them. Apparently, the only suitable room they could sleep in was their walk-in closet. I later asked them how it felt to be back in the closet—LOL! They slept fairly well except around 2am Ernesto’s mattress deflated and he didn’t feel like inflating it again. I found a spare sofa and ended up at the B&B for the rest of evening. What an adventure for all of us, particularly for Ernesto’s first time in Costa Rica. He took it all in stride though.

We’ve definitely learned that Costa Rica is always fun and always adventurous. Each day brings a new experience—often something amusing at our expense—but it is also rewarding in the great times we’ve had with new friends and guests.

Thanks for reading and keep those comments coming.

Pura Vida!



3rd May 2006

adventures and more
sorry you will be full when we are in CR in June, but we may drop by on our way to the volcano and pet Gringo and Amigo and compare some of our adventures in Asia with those in CR
4th May 2006

Ah, Andrew, now you feel the pain of working in Revenue Management. When to overbook or not overbook. Ha!!!
4th May 2006

Hola Eric, Patrick & Haley!
Thanks for all your comments! Yes, Eric, I'm learning revenue management and my system is so sophisticated! :-) I'd love to chat with you about Asia Patrick as I've spent considerable time there! Haley, email me directly about working here, etc. --Andrew
5th May 2006

Still laughing after all these years . . .
OMG Andrew, I don't know which is funnier -- the original circumstances of our trying to find a place to dormir and my missing my husband's birthday not once but twice, or your account of the whole ordeal. I have a gut feeling that life in Puravidaville is going to have a major comedic component. . . and I can't wait. But you forgot to mention that Ernesto and I were both in our pajamas when we left Karol's house, and I had taken out my contacts, so I couldn't see a damn thing! Good thing we didn't get stopped by the policia, but ahhhh, my contractor is on the police force so I guess we would've been okay. Thanks for the laughs all over again. Ciao.

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