Checking and rechecking...Errors are to be expected from governmental agencies...Waiving Part B Medicare...

New sprouts on a coffee bean plant.
"Sightings from the Veranda in Costa Rica"
Although this Flame Tree appears to be sprouting bananas, these yellow pods are actually the flower prior to blooming.  Its a favorite spot for birds that stop for a visit including another variety of the popular Flycatcher.
Three weeks ago Tom contacted the Railroad Retirement Board (as opposed to Social Security or Medicare) as required for retired railway workers.  The intent was to inform them of his intent to waive Part B Medicare which would automatically kick in on his upcoming 65th birthday on December 23rd.

If he didn't do this, there would be a deduction from his pension on the first of every month in the amount of US $109 (CRC 62,113) which may vary based on certain circumstances.  Medicare doesn't provide us with any benefits outside of the US (with a few rare exceptions).

Nor do we purchase the additional "supplemental" insurance to cover that which Medicare doesn't cover.  Please keep in mind, this is a generalization.  Individual cases may vary.  Please contact Medicare via this link if you have questions.

Driving along a mountain road.
Many tourists are able to purchase "trip insurance" when they travel.  This type of insurance is not available to us on a annualized basis since we don't go on "trips" per se, but are continually moving from one location to another outside of the US.

We've spoken to other long-term travelers who've stated they have purchased trip-by-trip "trip insurance" in order to receive the benefits of the more comprehensive coverage than we have on our "major medical" annual policy.  But, this requires informing the insurance company that we are taking individual trips as opposed to living outside the US.  For us, this would be an outright fabrication.

The problem with doing this is, if they discover a traveler has been traveling non-stop they could refuse to pay a huge claim, leaving the traveler with a monstrous bill to pay out of pocket.  We chose not to "lie" to the insurance company or run this type of risk.

In Costa Rica, many homes are located beyond entrance gates.
Instead, we have less coverage that doesn't pay for doctor visits, prescriptions or vision care.  In most countries, we've found doctor visits usually run under US $100 (CRC 56,985) if not less.  This works for us. 

If we needed to visit an emergency room or stay in a hospital, have surgery or treatment, our policy covers 100% of the cost.  To date, thank God, we've never filed a claim although we're well aware it's entirely possible at some point in the future. 

Our policy provides no coverage while we're in the US which leaves us with only Medicare Part A which covers only a portion of a hospital or emergency visit.  We choose to take that risk when visiting family rather than pay thousands of dollars per year for coverage in the US we cannot use in other countries.  I hope this all makes sense to our readers. 

Arriving at the end of a paved road, we turned around and retraced our tracks.
In any case, we called and asked Railroad Retirement to send us the appropriate form to waive Part B.  This is a government agency.  They were unable to email us the single page form.  Go figure.  Instead, they stated the only way to receive the blank form was to receive it via snail mail.

So, three weeks ago, when our mailing service in Nevada received the snail mail from Railroad Retirement they scanned it and sent to us via our file in their system. We printed in on the villa's printer and Tom promptly signed it.  At that point, we used our portable scanner and sent it back to the mailing service via email. Within 24 hours the mail service had snail mailed the signed form to Railroad Retirement. Thus, the envelope would take one or two days to arrive from Nevada to California.

Yesterday, three weeks after the snail mail was sent, with our usual mistrust of any type of governmental agency and certain other types of businesses, we called to see if the waiver was processed.  Alas, not surprisingly, they had no record of it. 

With no shoulders on most roads, we've had to search for a spot like this when attempting to turn around.
A similar scenario occurred when Tom applied online to renew his Nevada driver's license.  All the documents we'd sent never showed in their email.  We'd forwarded them a copy of the email we'd sent with all the documents and still, they explained it was never seen and subsequently never processed.  Go figure.  Eventually, the second batch of documents resulted in Tom receiving the renewal.

Yesterday, we contacted our mailing service asking them to fax the document to Railroad Retirement, at an expense to us, since Railroad Retirement would allow a fax in this particular case as opposed to waiting for "another" snail mail.  Later in the day, the mailing service notified us to say the fax was sent and they received a confirmation stating it was received.

On Monday, we'll call Railroad Retirement again to confirm it's done.  One can't ever be sure without confirmation.  Over the past five years of world travel, I can't possibly describe all of the scenarios when errors have been made in handling our "business-related" transactions. 

This fast-growing tree on the coffee plantation shot up this tall in only a few years.  Variety unknown.
Antiquated systems and incompetency are often the cause of such extra work we experience in handling everything from afar.  When one dreams of traveling the world for years to come, it's always important to consider the handling of transactions of any type.

Whether we find PayPal is blocked in a particular country, have forms to be signed for financial matters, or are required to periodically change passwords. On certain accounts, they require we have a text number so they can send us a code. 

We don't have a cell phone contract with access to a US phone number that allows texts other than through Skype or Facebook Messenger for these purposes. Businesses don't use these mediums for communication. We often have to figure out a frustrating, time-consuming work-around.

Mountains are prevalent in most areas of Costa Rica.
In years to come, this may be easier but for now as we continue on our otherwise blissful journey, we remind ourselves we chose this lifestyle and with it comes a number of challenges. 

Once such a cumbersome task is re-done or completed, for a second time, we sit back and smile, grateful we figured out a solution and get back to swimming in the pool or searching for photo ops.

Happy day!

Photo from one year ago today, October 20, 2016:

In Bali, the view changed dramatically as the tide rolled in.  For more photos, please click here.

Traipsing around the town...Why visit Atenas?

This morning when I perused through our photos to see what to post, I stumbled across this funny photo showing my hands and camera in the rearview mirror while taking the photo of this rug vendor walking along the street.  Vendors don't pester passersby, asking only once if interested.
"Sightings from the Veranda in Costa Rica"
Cattle sheltered under the shade of a massive tree during a sunny morning in Atenas.
Walking through the town of Atenas is quite entertaining.  The endless array of shops lining the streets, many worn and tattered on the exterior but bustling with energetic business on the interior, creating a fascinating peek into the daily lives of "Ticos," the acceptable and unoffensive nickname for the locals.

Few tourists are to be found when walking through the town although it's reported there are about 1500 expats in Atenas of its population of about 5000.

Although an older comment, this quote from a contributor on TripAdvisor provides a good explanation about Atenas.  We can't imagine it's changed much over the past six years. (See quote below this photo).
A sign announcing a the Patron Saint Festivities from October 14 through 24. 

Re: things to do around Atenas
Atenas is a quiet town, authentic Costa Rica, and it could be used as a home base.

Many "well to do" Ticos who work in San Jose choose to live there and commute. Kind of like folks living in CT and commuting to New York in the USA.
No crime to speak of, lots of farms, some great locally grown coffee. The area produces 5 different varieties, only 3 of which are exported (they save the best for local consumption)
Personally, I really dig it. I used to live in a very busy tourist town here, when I left the coast Atenas is the town I moved to for a time, I was looking for a town that had zero tourism and found it, I then bounced over to Grecia, but now live in between the 2.
IMO an interesting choice but a good one. No tourist crowds, down to earth pricing compared to towns more tourism oriented. Not much in the way of local attractions, Poas mentioned by ex-beachers is probably one of the closer ones, the metal church in Grecia is something to see and not far away, also there is a great little central park full of green parrots in the town center of Atenas. 
If you are looking for an authentic Costa Rican experience then it is a good choice.
This is our kind of town, quiet, interesting, friendly and filled with a variety of treasures that easily keep us entertained and engaged (including many birds) during this extended 113-night stay. 

In almost every case, when we chose an extended stay over 90 days, we encounter visa issues.  We're inclined to avoid such extended stays when possible.  But, when we opt for a long stay, we do it for a reason, often to accommodate the next leg of our travels.

However, the time spent here has definitely been worth the hoopla of having to leave in nine days to fly to Nicaragua to get our passports stamped.  Besides, with our five-year anniversary on October 31st, we've usually done something special to celebrate...a mini vacation...a special night out, etc.  The two-night stay in Managua will fill the bill.
Don Juan Pharmacy where I purchased a bottle of contact lens solution for US $20, (CRC 11,401) usually priced at around US $7.95 (CRC 4,932).
We'll be back at the villa on the 30th, most likely staying in and celebrating here at the villa on our actual anniversary date on October 31st.  It will be easy to celebrate in this outstanding property which far exceeds any five-star hotel we've seen to date. 

Would other travelers be content in this small town?  Yes, in many ways.  Its central location makes it a good base for sightseeing and if one enjoys traveling on mountainous roads the scenery is exceptional as we've shared in many posts. 

Atenas is conveniently located to the airport.  There are seven hotels listed in Atenas, at this link with more in surrounding areas, some modest and unassuming and others more deluxe (none are five-star rated).  Most are well under US $75 (CRC 42,752) per night. 
We've heard parrots may be seen in the trees in the park.  We've visited several times to no avail.  We'll keep trying.
There are 39 restaurants listed in Atenas which may be found at this link.  These restaurants don't work for my way of eating but for most, they'll be ideal with fresh local ingredients and flavors commensurate with local tastes and customs.

Of course, for those interested in the privacy and convenience of a vacation/holiday villa, nothing can beat this exceptional home with three large bedrooms, each with an en-suite bath, plenty of storage space, ceiling fans and ultra comfortable beds and bedding.  We love the "screening room" with large flat screen TV, surround sound and comfortable seating.

The granite and stainless steel gourmet kitchen with a second "clean up" kitchen is over-the-top with every imaginable amenity and kitchen tool and gadget.   Well, I could go on and on but most of you have read our comments in past posts about how much we've loved this property and location.
Nothing is as pleasant as a blue sky during the rainy season.
The downsides are few in this area.  However, if dancing until dawn is your "thing" you may be better off staying in the "big city" of San Jose which has every type of nightlife one can imagine.

Although there are a number of clothing, souvenirs and "sports" shops in town in the area, if shopping is high on your list of priorities, a trip to San Jose would satisfy even the most enthusiastic shopper.  Atenas is definitely lacking in this area.

Also, for the longer stay, one must consider that its best to arrive in Costa Rica with every possible item you'll need during your stay.  Prescriptions cannot be mailed into the country, although non-narcotic items can be purchased at most of the several pharmacies without a prescription.  Keep in mind that brand names and many common doses for many items are impossible to purchase.
There are many tall trees at the central park.
Shipping supplies into the country will result in long delays due to customs with high tariffs on items that may not be worth shipping into the country with the added expense.  From what we've  been able to perceived to date, Costa Rica is very protective as to what enters their country for a few primary reasons.

One, they don't want any hazardous products entering their country possibly affecting the delicate ecological system.  Two, they prefer to sell locally grown and manufactured products offered by their own vendors.  Three, they are able to collect taxes on locally sold items.

As a result, expats, used to shopping on Amazon, for instance in their former lives, may become frustrated knowing they have to return to the US or their home country to load up on supplies. 
A water fountain at the park.
We particularly understand these restrictions when we realized I'd run out of my one of my regular prescriptions (I take three) while we were here when unable to purchase an alternative in any close proximity to the original dosage.  Thus, I am spreading what I have left, missing one pill every fourth day to no ill effects so far.  This plan will get me to Florida where my prescriptions will be waiting in our box of supplies at the hotel.

I could go on and on about Atenas and will add more information over our remaining days in Costa Rica until we depart on November 22nd. For those considering moving to Costa Rica, we'll discuss more on this topic in future posts.

Have a lovely day! 

Photo from one year ago today, October 19, 2016:
In Bali, a large visitor came to call after high tide during the night.  Check out those eyes!  For more photos, please click here.

Celebrations in Costa Rica...Cultures National Day...

This reminded me of the "Tilt-A-Whirl" at Disneyland (in my youth).  Tom remembered it as a "Sit and Spin."
"Sightings from the Veranda in Costa Rica"
The hummingbird feeder has started leaking terribly bringing bees and flies.  We've been washing the tile on the veranda a few times a day.  Today, we tossed it but hope to find a new feeder next time we head to town.
On Monday, when we went to town we were thrilled to see evidence of "Cultures National Day" which is described as follows from this website:

"Cultures National Day was once “Dia de la Raza,” a day to commemorate the discovery of America by Christopher Columbus and the subsequent spreading of Spanish culture in the Americas. However, since 1994, the holiday’s name has been “Dia de las Culturas,” or “Day of the Cultures.” This is to recognize the place of multiple, highly diverse cultures in Costa Rica’s history.

Spanish, other European, African, Amerindian, and Asian cultural influences all contribute to modern Costa Rica. And all of these cultural influences are on full display during Cultures National Day.

To avoid fast-moving cars on the street we walked down this narrow sidewalk next to the booths from the holiday festivities.
But despite the name change, the day still also honors Christopher Columbus. Columbus visited the area twice on his voyages to the New World, and he even named the coast of modern Costa Rica, well, “Costa Rica” (Rich Coast).
Car-type Merry-Go-Round for the little tykes.
There will be singing, dancing, eating, and various cultural celebrations throughout Costa Rica for days on end for Cultures National Day. But Limon Province, where Columbus once made landfall, is the centre of the celebration.

A carnival is held there during the week leading up to October 12th. You will see colorful costumes, hear marching bands, see teams of dancers dance down the streets, and much more. It is certainly a unique experience you will not soon forget."

These long corn type doughy things were being fried in hot oil.  It sure smelled good.
The celebration in Atenas is much smaller than in Limon Province.  Over the weekend we could hear the sounds of drums and fireworks which we hear many days each week, holiday or not.  The Ticos (citizens of Costa Rica) certainly like to celebrate.  We often hear music, drums, fireworks, and a variety of explosive sounds that leave a puff of smoke in the low lying clouds.
Does anyone know what these are? 
Here's a list of annual holidays in Costa Rica:

Public Holidays in Costa Rica
  • January 1: New Year Day
  • April 11: Juan Santa Maria Day
  • Good Thursday (Holy or Great Thursday, Thursday before Easter)
  • Good Friday (Holy or Great Friday, Friday before Easter)
  • May 1: Workers or Labor Day (May Day)
  • July 25: Guanacaste Day
  • August 2: Virgin of Los Angeles Day
  • August 15: Mother´s Day
  • September 15: Independence Day
  • October 12: Cultures National Day (Columbus Day)
  • December 25: Christmas Day
This vendor was frying pork skewers.
We were disappointed we hadn't made an effort to attend the festivities on their Independence Day on September 15th.  But with my continuing recovery and lack of a rental car, we decided to stay behind.  Now, as I continue to improve, we can anticipate me becoming more active in the future. 
A carnival was set up for the kids with a variety of rides.

Today, we're staying in hoping to use the pool. Yesterday, the pool guy told us to wait three hours before going in the water due to chemicals he'd used which wouldn't be until 1:30 pm.  By that time, the clouds had rolled in with thunder at a distance.  We opted to forgo the pool.
Cotton candy for sale at the food kiosk on the street.
In 10 days before we leave for Nicaragua, we plan to use all the frozen food in the freezer in the event of a power outage while we're away for two nights.  We'll leave a container on a shelf in the freezer filled with frozen water with a coin on top of the ice.

More rides on the ground of the church.
If the penny is on the bottom of the container when we return, we'll know the power had been out for some time and we'll dispose of all of the perishable items in the refrigerator.  Tom had heard about this logical method some time ago and it makes sense to us!
Have a blissful day!

Photo from one year ago today, October 18, 2016:
Handmade fishing boats at the shore, made of plastic tubing in front of our villa in Sumbersari Bali.  Click here for more details.

A special story about a precious little life..."Small Things"...

This is the video we took yesterday when a little Flycatcher hit the glass wall, was knocked unconscientious and made every attempt to recover.  This video is 16 minutes and 42 seconds so you may want to scroll through it to see the best parts.

 "Sightings from the Veranda in Costa Rica

Many times, the simplest acts of nature astounds us.
While we lived in the bush in South Africa, we did a series of stories on "Small Things" adding additional stories with new photos as time passed.  This particular topic could be relevant anywhere in the world but seems to be of most interest to us when there's an abundance of wildlife and vegetation.

Check out our first story from December 2013 about "Small Things...A world of miniature wildlife and vegetation for some astounding photos of small things we discovered while living in Marloth Park game reserve.

In less than four months when we return to South Africa, instead of our current feature, "Sightings from the Veranda..." we'll be creating a new feature entitled "Small Things..." since Africa is abundant in interesting small creatures and miracles of nature.

It would be a moot point to include "Sightings from the Veranda..." when many of the photos we'll post while in South Africa, will be taken directly from the veranda when we aren't out on safari or visiting other countries for additional exotic exploration.

Here in Costa Rica, from our high vantage point, the likelihood of small things has been limited.  Instead, we've focused on those sightings we gleaned while spending the majority of our days outside on the veranda or near or in the pool on sunny days.

There are many varieties of the Flycatcher.  This little bird flew into the glass wall, was knocked unconscious, standing in this position for some time, as it tried to recover.
Yesterday, was such a day.  Earlier in the day, we walked through the town of Atenas, stopping for photos and a bit of shopping along the way, with photos we'll share in tomorrow's post. 

When we returned to the villa we quickly put away the groceries.  With the sun miraculously still shining at 1:30 pm and with both of us hot from walking in the hot sun, we decided to get directly into the pool, sidestepping any time in the chaise lounges.

The pool water was warmer than ever.  There had been three or four partial days of sunshine leaving the water almost too warm since the pool is already heated. 

One might think it not necessary to heat a pool here during this time of year.  But, it gets very cool at night and also during the many hours of rain and clouds occurring most afternoons.  After a loss of power due to the recent storms, we could hardly stand to stay in the water more than a few minutes when it was so cold.

Yesterday, when we entered the pool feeling the ultra warm water surrounding us we figured we'd stay for some time, swimming, talking and laughing over the trivialities of our day.  No more than 10 minutes after we entered the pool we heard a 'thump" against the glass wall in the living room.

A tiny green bird had hit the glass and was knocked unconscious onto the tile floor next to the pool only a few feet from us.  As we moved closer watching intently, after a few minutes it started to move into an upright position.

Her/his eyes opened and closed periodically while attempting to recover.
Tom jumped out of the pool, grabbing the beach towel to grab the camera from the kitchen counter.  Drying my hands on his towel while still in the pool I positioned the camera to take a few photos and moments later a video. 

What if this precious little bird fully came back to life and flew away and we'd have it all on video?  This may not sound like much of an event to most people.  But to us, with our passion for even the tiniest of creatures, our hearts were pounding hoping for its recovery and the opportunity to film the entire event.

Thus, was born the longest video we've ever taken, 16 minutes and 42 seconds.  We don't expect our readers to watch the entire video.  There are moments when literally nothing is happening.  However, there are other moments that those who love nature and particularly birds, will find sweet and heartwarming.  Feel free to scroll through the video for some favorite scenes.

Last night, we played the video with the HDMI cord plugged into the TV watching every single moment with sheer delight.  Bear with us, dear readers, it's these types of "small things" that make our lives of world travel all the more meaningful.

May your day bring you a "small things" treasure to enjoy!

Photo from one year ago today, October 17, 2016:
In Bali, we worried this package was lost.  Finally, it appeared after many weeks when shipped three-day international priority.  This is a common occurrence for international shipping.  For more details, please click here.

How much have we spent on groceries in Costa Rica thus far, as compared to other countries?

Rest Ding Wong restaurant next to a souvenir shop and next, a salon in Atenas.
"Sightings from the Veranda in Costa Rica"
A parasitic plant growing from a tree in the yard.
As soon as we upload today's post, we're heading to town to shop for a few items from the pharmacy and a huge grocery list for the market.  We haven't grocery shopped in 10 days making "Mother Hubbard's cupboard" quite bare.

With only 37 more days until we leave Costa Rica, we've begun to consider the items we'll need to last until we then.  Also, we'll be gone for two nights at the end of the month for our visa stamps, leaving us with only 35 days of food and supplies required to last.
A chicken crossing the road.
After all these years we've become adept at these calculations, leaving behind basic staples such as spices, a few canned goods, paper products and laundry soap for the staff or the next occupants.

Groceries haven't been as low cost as one would expect based on the "press" about Costa Rica as being a "cheap" place to live.  In some ways, it may be more costly for us than others when we buy organic/grass-fed when possible. 

But then, we don't eat breakfast, lunch or snacks and don't buy sodas, alcohol or cleaning supplies other than laundry and dish/dishwasher soap.  Tom's been eating fruit but has decided to stop after today in order to lose the five (2.27 kg) pounds he's gained since we arrived. 
It was roads like this that cause landslides on the highway during Cyclone Nate a few weeks ago.
He'd like to lose about 10 pounds (4.5 kg) before the upcoming cruise in 38 days.  After all, we'll be aboard ship for 30-nights when the food options are tempting and readily available.  He never overeats on a cruise but adding ice cream, sugary desserts, and alcoholic drinks certainly contribute to a weight gain. 

Neither of us can afford to gain weight or our clothing won't fit.  That would be a costly and frustrating dilemma especially since we just purchased all the clothing for the Antarctica cruise in our regular sizes. That, too, would be a fiasco.  Nothing is more uncomfortable than wearing clothes that don't fit.
Corn growing wild along the guardrail.
Our grocery bill, since we arrived in Costa Rica 76 days ago is a total of US $2,364.05 (CRC 1,349,700).  We've only dined out once (for lunch) since we arrived and I never ordered when nothing on the menu worked for me. 

This averages US $31 (CRC 17,699) per day, higher than we've spent in most countries since the onset of our travels, except for Hawaii where we averaged US $47 (CRC 26,834) per day.  Even in Australia, known to be expensive, we averaged US $32 (CRC 18,270) per day.

In South Africa, we spent an average of US $21  (CRC 11,990) per day.  Do you see why we're looking forward to spending less in Africa, upcoming in four months?  Yes, it was almost four years ago and prices surely will have increased but most likely not more than 10% or 20%.
We continue in the rainy season keeping vegetation lush and green.
We're glad we've saved all of these stats on our master spreadsheet.  It's interesting and informative to review expenses in other countries as the years fly by.

Of course, this doesn't factor in the cost of dining out which we did frequently in South Africa. Surprisingly those meals rarely exceeded US $25 (CRC 14,273) including drinks and tips.  We rarely dined out in Kauai Hawaii when the cost for a good meal, with taxes and tips, was usually exceeded US $80 (CRC 45,675).
A small business along the highway.
At some point in the future, we'll share a detailed analysis of the cost of groceries and dining out, including all the countries in which we lived.  However, this may not be relevant to most travelers when my dietary restrictions play a huge role in the costs for both groceries and dining out.

Again, as we've experienced many times in the past, we won't be cooking a single meal from November 22, 2017, to around February 10, 2018 (when we expect to arrive in Africa), for a period of 80 days.  We'll be dining out during the 31-nights in Buenos Aires, during travel days and on the two cruises, 30-nights, and 17-nights.
With daily heavy cloud cover and rains its seldom it's clear in the distance.
I surprise myself with literally no anxiety or concern over "what I'll eat" dining out each day.  Somehow, it manages to work out well which is especially easy on cruises.  In Buenos Aires, I'll happily dine on those famous Argentinian steaks with a side veg and salad every night if necessary.  Most likely, Tom will do the same.

Soon, we're out the door to shop.  We'll have the taxi driver drop us off in the center of town so we can walk on this gorgeous sunny morning enjoying the surroundings, taking photos and saying "Hola" or "Buenos Dias" to those we pass along the way.
When visiting local businesses, parking is at a premium.
Happy day to YOU!

Photo from one year ago today, October 16, 2016:
Crab prints on the sand on the beach in Sumbersari Bali.  For more photos, please click here.