Friday, June 14, 2013

Soul Searching and House Hunting in Costa Rica

We've spent the past few months searching for a new place to live. We love our current apartment, but it falls short on a few things. It's relatively small (500 sq ft), and it can feel very cozy with the three of us living, working, and playing in the same space. Also, as I look ahead to the coming months and years, Matty will start crawling and walking. Our current setup isn't exactly child-friendly, and I'd really like for him to have some green space to play in. (Unfortunately, there aren't any decent parks nearby, so if you don't have your own yard, outdoor play space can be hard to come by.) Finally, after spending some vacation time at the beach, we've realized just how hectic, noisy, and busy our current neighborhood is. It hard to go out for a relaxing stroll when you're dodging crazy motorists, pot holes, and other hazards.

We have looked at dozens of houses and apartments in the Central Valley, but, so far, all of them have fallen short. Some have very nice furnishings and ample space, but no yard. Others have a great yard,  but a less-than-ideal landlord. We've also limited our search to furnished apartments, which seemingly cuts out 80% of the rental market. Unfurnished rentals aren't an option for us right now because they don't include any appliances. In other words, we'd have to buy a stove, fridge, washing machine, etc., in addition to beds, chairs, plates, towels, lamps, and everything else (you know, all of the stuff that we just sold back in the States!)
In Costa Rica, an unfurnished apartment means BYO stove and fridge.
We recently discovered a really cute beach town in Guanacaste with plenty of rentals in our price range. But, after a little research, I was heartbroken to learn that they don't have full-service hospitals in Liberia. There are a few private medical clinics and a 24-hour public hospital, but if you need major emergency care, you'll be flown to San Jose.

Of course, you can always make the 4-5 hour drive from Guanacaste to San Jose and pray that you don't get stuck behind this guy!
After struggling with this information for a few days and doing a little soul-searching, I've realized that I'm not the kind of person who's willing to take a chance on emergency medical care. It's the same reason why I carry insurance: even though it's unlikely that I'll need this service, I still want to have it because the results can be catastrophic. Financial devastation is one thing, but when it comes to risking our health, I can't accept that.

Medical care is something that I took for granted when I lived in a first-world country. I never worried whether or not there'd be a hospital closeby to treat me if I were in a bad car accident. But the reality is that, in the developing world, you have to seek out resources and services, as it's not a given that they'll be widely available.

I guess this means that we'll be staying in the Central Valley for a while, as it's the only area of Costa Rica with higher-level medical care. At least we can enjoy our vacations at the beach!

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Drinking from the Fire Hose

My poor, neglected blog! It pains me to see how long it's been since I've posted. It's not because I don't love you anymore, I have been a little busy lately. Ok, make that very busy. As my mentor WC would say, we've been drinking from the fire hose!

Yep, this is pretty much how I feel these days!
I'm not complaining about being busy. After all, we did set ourselves up for this... moving to a new country (where we barely speak the language), having a baby, applying for residency, making new friends, developing our contract work, and trying to squeeze in a little vacation time to boot. Somehow, we've managed to juggle them all, but it hasn't been easy. Sleep and sanity have taken priority over healthy eating and exercise. I have probably eaten more chicken strips in the past three months than I have in the last three decades (thank you, Pricesmart!)

We still find time for an occasional road trip!
But, I'm happy to report that we have weathered most of the storms and are looking forward to settling into some more peaceful, relaxing times ahead. For example, Jim and I have applied for permanent residency here in Costa Rica, so we don't have to make border runs every 90 days to renew our tourist stamps anymore. Baby Matty has received his birth certificate, social security card, and US passport, although we still need to apply for a special permit to take him out of Costa Rica.

Does he look more like A) a convict, B) an old man, or C) all of the above?
We are finally starting to make some strides in our Spanish again. The first month or so after Matty was born was very hard on our brains' higher processing centers. In other words, sleep deprivation made it challenging to even speak complete sentences in English!

We've also made some recent changes to our work/life schedules. It was exhausting for both of us to try and juggle work deadlines, taking care of Matty, and sleep, so, for the time being, I've become the primary breadwinner and Jim's the stay-at-home daddy. These roles aren't exclusive, but we are each getting more time to focus and no longer have to pass the baby back-and-forth like a hot potato. What can I say? The little one didn't nap as much as we'd hoped during the day! (But, thankfully, he's sleeping through the night!)

We have one last big task looming on the horizon: finding a new rental. Our current lease is up in July, and we're looking for a place that's a better fit for our needs. I've been searching for weeks now, and while a few rentals have come close, none of them have really matched what we're looking for. Stay tuned, friends, we'll keep you posted on our search!

In the meantime, please don't hesitate to hit me up if you're interested in coming down to Costa Rica for a visit. We're planning to stay here for a while (although I can't tell you exactly which town we'll be living in come July), and we'd love to share this experience with you. There are many beautiful places that we haven't explored yet, and we're happy to meet up for lunch or even a few days of vacation. You can send us a message through the "Contact Us" link at the top of the page!