It’s a big world, and there are transplanted Mainers in every corner of it, we’ve learned. We received an overwhelming response to our recent request to hear from Mainers living in foreign countries.
This is the first of what will be a continuing series.
— Rex Rhoades, executive editor
Brenda and I received an early retirement from International Paper and moved to Costa Rica in November 2004.
We knew that when retirement came, we wanted to go somewhere warm where we could actually afford to live on our meager pensions. We have not spent one day regretting the decision.
Although our new country lies close to the Equator and the climate at sea level is tropical, hot and humid, we chose to settle in the mountainous Central Valley area. About 65 percent of the population lives up here in a beautiful bowl-shaped valley at an altitude of 3,000 feet above sea level.
Our climate here is described as perpetual spring. We rarely see temperatures higher than the low 80s during daylight hours nor lower than the mid-60s at night. Our windows remain open 24 hours a day.
One of our hardest daily decisions is which pair of shorts we will wear when we arise in the morning. We have 12 to 13 hours of daylight every day, and this takes a little adjustment on our part.
We normally get out of bed between 6 and 7 a.m., as we don’t wish to miss any of the wonderful daylight hours. It’s nice to awaken every morning to the birds singing through the open windows.
We decided before we arrived that we did not wish to own a vehicle. The public transportation system is top-notch and inexpensive. We live 5 miles outside the second-largest city in the country in the suburb of Barrio San Jose, Alajuela. The local inner-city bus stops almost in front of our house every 15 minutes and the short ride into Alajuela Centro costs us 22 cents.
The larger city-to-city buses run out of the main terminal to almost any city. I make a twice-monthly bus run into the capital city of San Jose for various reasons, and that bus fare is 62 cents.
We try to avoid going to San Jose, though, because we must wear long pants. Although San Jose is only 15 miles away, it is 200 feet higher in elevation and can be 10 or more degrees cooler, with more cloud cover, and it rains more often.
We have only two seasons: Summer, from December to late May, when it does not rain, and winter (green, rainy) when mornings are just like the dry season but heavy clouds develop around noon and the heavy tropical rains pour down in the afternoon and sometimes last into the early evenings.
We carry umbrellas for seven months of the year in the afternoon. The temps only dip slightly during the rain, unlike Maine. We have loads of flowers 365 days a year, although different species, depending on the season.
Fruits and vegetables grow year round and are a bargain. Alajuela has one of the largest farmers markets in the country. It runs two days each week and we try to get there at least one of those days. We still don’t know what half the produce is or what to do with it if we bought some.
Costa Rica is considered a Third-World country, but we don’t think so. We enjoy wireless Internet access, cable TV with more than 80 channels, 20 of which are in English, and excellent phone service, including cell phones.
We manage our money by maintaining our accounts back stateside and living off our ATM cards. I’m certain that if we had business to conduct with a government agency or the banking institutions we might change our minds.
Inefficiency, long lines and endless red tape are major problems for us gringos. This is their country and we must remember we are only guests here.
Costa Ricans proudly refer to themselves as Ticos and we North Americans and Europeans are gringos. We have many Tico friends and a number of gringo ones, too.
Some gringos who move or visit here refuse to adapt to the culture and make very few friends. We love almost everything about our new country: the people, the customs and the culture, and we embrace the changes to our lifestyle.
To us, this is truly “the way life should be!”