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In This Issue:

  1. Broken News (Wet Waifs and Tin Men, Christmas ICE in Quepos, New Bridge Opens, Coco Island Correction, Push On for More Cruise Ships)
  2. Rumble Talk (Minor Rumbling in Costa Rica, Still a Lot of Rain)
  3. ¿Que Es Eso? Department: Weasel or Raccoon?
  4. Feature: Ruminations of a Golden Expat: Part Two - Getting on With Life in Paradise
  5. Feature: Martec Industries, S.A. (A Growing Food Source)
  6. Health Stuff: You Can Call Me Chan
  7. What's-in-a-Word (Answer to Que Es Eso)
  8. ROMEO Corner (Karola's - Manuel Antonio)

Wisdom of the Ages

Nine Important Facts To Remember
As We Grow Older

#9 Death is the number 1 killer in the world.
#8 Life is sexually transmitted.
#7 Good health is merely the slowest possible rate at which one can die.
#6 Men have 2 motivations: hunger and hanky panky, and they can't tell them apart. If you see a gleam in his eyes, make him a sandwich.
#5 Give a person a fish and you feed them for a day. Teach a person to use the Internet and they won't bother you for weeks, months, maybe years.
#4 Health nuts are going to feel stupid someday, lying in the hospital, dying of nothing.
#3 All of us could take a lesson from the weather. It pays no attention to criticism.
#2 In the 1960's, people took acid to make the world weird. Now the world is weird, and people take Prozac to make it normal.
#1 Life is like a jar of jalapeno peppers. What you do today may be a burning issue tomorrow.

The Golden Gringo and the entire staff at GGC Publications (guess who that is) wish you and yours every blessing and good wish for the new year.


¡Feliz Año Neuvo Amigos!

A GG Selfie


Publisher's Corner


If you would like to read a version of the Golden Gringo Chronicles
in a narrative format, as a hard copy novel
or an e-book check it out


JUST RELEASED! Mariposa, A Love Story of Costa Rica JUST RELEASED!



gthFive hundred years before the Spanish found the American continent, (justify) around the end of the first millennium, Native Americans lived and prospered in Central America, including the land now known as Costa Rica. Truly a natural wonderland then and now, the natives were able to employ their farming skills and prosper from the rich soils, the forests filled with game, herbs, and spices, and the lakes and two oceans rich with fish and crustaceans.


Mariposa, or butterfly, is a story about two young Native Americans, each a favored child of a chief, but of different tribes. These two tribes, historically hostile to each other, lived a few days march apart in the mountains north and east of Costa Rica’s central valley.


The two natives meet by accident, fall in love and begin to plan a life together only to be frustrated by events beyond their control. The lovers are eventually drawn to a mountain volcano which is thought by many to be the home of the gods, particularly Sib'ö, the Great Spirit, who they believe had created the world.

The story as written incorporates the classic ending of Costa Rica's Legend of Zurqui, one that reflects the beauty, mystery and spirituality that is Costa Rica.


Preview the Book on Amazon.com at: Mariposa Preview
(This is Chapter 1 in its entirety)

ORDER IT HERE ($8.95):
Mariposa on Amazon.com

(Kindle Version Available - $6.99)

See All the Books by this Author Here: Books by Bob Normand

¡Acaba de publicar!

Mariposa, una historia de amor de Costa Rica (Versión en Español)

gtyQuinientos años antes de que los españoles encontraran el continente Americano, cerca del final del primer milenio, nativos americanos vivieron y prosperaron en Centroamérica, incluyendo la tierra ahora conocida como Costa Rica. Al ser en verdad una maravilla natural entonces y ahora, los nativos fueron capaces de emplear sus habilidades agrícolas y prosperar gracias a su fértil suelo, al bosque lleno de presas, hierbas y especias, a los lagos y a dos océanos ricos en peces y crustáceos.


Mariposa es una historia sobre dos jóvenes nativos americanos, los dos hijos privilegiados de un jefe, pero de diferentes tribus. Estas dos tribus, históricamente hostiles entre ellas, vivían a unos pocos días de marcha de distancia en las montañas del norte y del este del valle central de Costa Rica.


Los dos nativos se conocen por accidente, se enamoran y comienzan a planear su vida juntos, que se frustra únicamente por eventos más allá de su control. Los amantes son arrastrados a un volcán el cual muchos creen que es el hogar de los dioses, particularmente de Sib’ö, el Gran Espíritu, que creen que fue quien creó el mundo.


Como estas historias son leyendas, involucran una buena cantidad de mito, lo que deja tanto al escritor como al lector la libertad de especular diferentes desenlaces. La historia como está escrita incorpora el final clásico de la legenda de Zurquí, que refleja la belleza, misterio y espiritualidad de Costa Rica.


PEDIR EL LIBRO AQUI ($8.95): Mariposa (Versión Español)

(versión kindle disponible - $6.99)


See All the Books by GG Here: Books by Bob Normand


Broken News
(All the News That's Fit to Reprint)

Wet Waifs and Tin Men


GG gets to visit San José between six and ten times per year, mostly to meet with fellow members of the Costa Rica Writers Group where we give each other tips on how to get better at the art. I need that.


Plaza de la Cultura
Teatro Nacional in Background Left

In the last year I've taken to staying overnight in San Jose in order to spread out the seven hours of bus time required for a round trip from Quepos. I usually stay at a little hotel right on Avenida Central very close to the Plaza de la Cultura, which is the virtual center of San José. This gives me the opportunity to walk around center city and all along the busiest pedestrian-only streets in San José as well as some of the more interesting neighborhoods like Barrios Amón and Escalante.


I must confess that one of my more favorite indiscretions in San José is to obtain a double ice cream treat (chocolate almond and pistachio on a sugar cone) from the nearby POPS creamery. That gem of an emporium is located right across Avenida Central from my hotel and next to the Plaza. But all should take care walking by POPS as there is a mysterious inter-galactic magnetic force that tends to grab the average earthling and drag one into the store.


For the past several months, the surface of the Plaza has been under reconstruction. The old tiles were being replaced because they were too porous and water was leaking into the two Central Bank of Costa Rica museums located under the Plaza, causing damage. The two museums are 1) the Museo del Oro Precolombiano, better known as the Gold Museum and which houses a number of pre-Colombian artifacts and 2) the Museo Numismático, the central bank's historical money collection (just like the dollar, the colón isn't what it used to be).


When I was there in mid-November the square had just reopened and I noticed a number of niños, wet ones, jumping around in glee in one corner of the square (the POPS corner). I learned that part of the restored surface included a play area for kids and that it had some fountains where kids could walk through as the water changed color and danced, immensely entertaining the urchins.


Tin Man

What could be more fun than being allowed to hop around soaking wet (supposedly being an adult, I reluctantly refrained from joining in). Watch the short video above, left to see how much fun it is, especially when the fountains start changing colors and dancing and particularly for the little guy with his butt hanging out. Whoopee!


The next day before heading back to Quepos I was walking down Avenida Central towards the Coca-Cola bus station when I saw the dude in the picture to the right, who was completely gray all over. It's common these days to see someone dressed like this performing along the main walking street, in fact it's getting to be a little overdone and on that day a second tin man was operating only two blocks down the street. But kids are mesmerized by these actors.


To set himself apart from the others, this particular Tin Man had a live rooster perched quietly on top of his head. If I were him I'd be concerned that the rooster might deposit a present. But on the other hand, there's a potential for coq au vin here.


Christmas ICE in Quepos


OK, OK so I twisted the headline to get your attention; there never was any ice in Quepos at any time in recorded history, Christmas or otherwise, unless it was in a drink. It's Christmas at ICE. That ICE is the Instituto Costaricense de Electricidad, our national power and telecom company.


On December 2nd this year the first Quepos city Christmas tree was lit up in front of the ICE office as shown in the picture. It is a rather pretty blue thing and dominates the area around the bus station. So the Christmas season blossomed well in Quepos.


There would be more trees and many manger scenes popping up all over town. In my French tradition growing up, the manger scenes were called crèches; here they're called "portáls" (emphasis on the second syllable). The official city Christmas tree was put up in the new Plaza Bolivar - see photo right.


Costa Ricans love fiestas of every kind and there were parties and religious observations galore during the season. The fact that many workers receive a 13th month bonus during the month (called an aguinaldo) and that Christmas week is a traditional vacation for many more adds to the enthusiasm.

Feliz Navidad y Prospero Año a todo mis amigos!


New Bridge Opens


New Bridge the Day After the Dedication and Opening

Finally, the last one-lane bridge on a major thoroughfare in the Quepos area has fallen (almost literally) to progress. There are a couple of old, small rickety one-laners on the back streets of Quepos and Manuel Antonio, but there are none any longer on the main routes.


The new two-lane entry bridge to Quepos was dedicated on December 20. President Luis Guillermo Solis was supposed to attend but, as those things go, we ended up with one of the two Vice-Presidents.


When GG first came to visit Costa Rica in 2003 there were 11 one-lane bridges to negotiate between the airport and downtown Quepos; a half dozen alone in the Quepos canton (up to Parrita). Since that time, and with the advent of the new highway from Orotina to San José, the number has dropped to zero. Only if you take the old mountain road from Orotina will you still find up to three one-laners (though it is a very picturesque route if you're not in a rush).


The new bridge in Quepos should go a long way to alleviating the recent traffic backups caused by its construction that shifted traffic to alternate routes through busy neighborhoods. The new bridge also has ample walkways on both sides improving the safety level from the old bridge which had no inside guard rail on the one walkway.


OK you sophisticated city folk, laugh at us hokies making so much of a little bridge but for us this is like what the people of Brooklyn must have felt when that famous bridge was completed in the 1800's.


Another bridge situation, this one in San José, was reported on the next day: "The closing of the Río Virilla bridge on the General Cañas autopista provoked chaos Wednesday. Motorists were stranded in traffic jams for hours, and bus passengers were forced to walk six kilometers or more toward San José." (AM Costa Rica 22 Dec 2016)


How long has it been that the Virillo bridge has been worked on?


Coco Island Correction


In the December edition GG reported that the long-lost treasure of Isla de Coco, worth some $200 million, had been found (see Treasure Island Find). This was based on an article in Q Costa Rica, a daily electronic newspaper. GG didn't, however, pick up the fact that it was a spoof article intended for entertainment and not a report of a factual incident. GG apologizes for this oversight and reporting it as a factual occurrence.

So this treasure, as well as two others, is still out there for the finding by any modern swashbuckler. Aye, matey, let's after it!


Push On for More Cruise Ships

Costa Rica does not live by tourist bread alone, but it helps.


Artist's Rendition of New Container Port at Moín

A new shipping port and dock has been under construction, by Dutch company APM Terminals, under an exclusive concession. The new container port at Moín, near Limón is expected to cost $1 billion and has been under construction for over a year with Phase I expected to be complete in late 2018 or early 2019. Phases II and III will bring this 3-km (1.8 miles) long, 100 hectare (250 acres) site to roughly the equivalent to the capabilities of the port of Seattle and will easily be the largest container port in Central America.


So what do you do with the old docks that Moín replaces. Well, you turn them into a major port for cruise ships of course. The government even has one Spanish cruise company interested in making the new Limón cruise ship docks their home port. More investment will be needed to clean up and repair the old docks and make them more suitable for tourists, new bathrooms for example.


More of These Coming

In the prime docking season, roughly equivalent to the winter months in the north, let's say November to May, and in 2013-14 some 60 cruise ships docked on Costa Rica's Caribbean coast at Limón. This season the estimate of liners docking here is expected to reach 133.


Now the government is planning this move, using the old docks, that could result in doubling the current number again. The incentive for the government is simple and direct; each passenger pays a landing fee just like the airlines.


In addition, the average expenditure per tourist while they're on land is $83 in food, day trips and other activities.


That's a lot of gallo pinto amigo.


¡Solo Bueno!


Rumble Talk
(Shaky Happenings On or About the Pacific Rim)


Turrialba Main Crater with
Eroded Ash Build-Up

The real rumble action this month was in Chile where there were at least three major quakes over 7 Richter. The good news was that the tremors were centered in remote areas and no injuries were reported. With regard to earthquakes and no serious damage happened in Ticoland in December but scientists and officials are watching Turrialba as it continues to act strangely.


One of its three craters became active again some months ago and has been spewing out a great deal of ash, some of it reaching the central valley and even shutting down the main airport periodically. Scientists report that the main crater (photo), which is not the active one, has had a rise of at least 10 meters (33 feet) in its floor in the last two years.

Is that a sign of bad things to come? Nobody knows, of course.


The action in Costa Rica continues to be on the weather front, particularly rain. This has been a rainy, rainy-season and the end of it was still not clear at press time. In the north, people and the government are trying to figure out how to best use the wood from the thousands of trees that were felled by Hurricane Otto in November. Much of it is prime hardwood and how to harvest it and who gets the proceeds are the questions under debate.


Check Out Recent Earthquakes Around the World Posted by the U.S. Geodetic Survey: Today's Quakes

Search the Golden Gringo Chronicles Archives for What Interests You

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¿Que es Eso? Department (What is This?)

I'm a Good Fish
I'm a Not-So-Good Fish


This is a fish quiz.


The two candidates you need to name are pictured to the left.


If you get them both right you get the love and appreciation of all our readers as well as a "Good Job, Dude!


What, you thought there was a prize?





Answers are in the What's-in-a-Word section below.




Ruminations of a Golden Expat
(Part Two - Getting on With Life in Paradise)

This is Part Two of a two part series about some of the particulars to consider when moving to Costa Rica.

To see the first article from last month's edition, go here: Part One - Expatriot Strategizing.


In Part One we discussed how to make a personal evaluation of your situation that should be considered in developing a strategy of how best to make the move. As an organizer, GG used what he labeled "The Golden Gringo's Golden Rules", perhaps a bit splashy but it did provide a structure under which the information could be organized. In Part One, these five Golden Rules were described and explained:

  1. Recognize you're an expat and not a Costa Rican
  2. Go slow, go far, ask for help from an experienced expat and a trusted, knowledgeable local Tico/Tica and listen to them
  3. Before deciding to move here (or any foreign country for that matter) , visit the country at least three times during different seasons
  4. Try renting a temporary residence or doing house sitting for the first year before buying
  5. Set a budget and keep your financial sources flexible

Now, here are a few more:


serGolden Rule #6: Deal in the local currency whenever possible. Virtually all merchants will accept dollars but the local currency is the colón (pronunciation on the second syllable). If you have two or more of them you have colones, pronunciation on the second syllable). The symbol of the colón looks like a U.S. "cent" sign except that it has two, slanted vertical lines across the "C".


Using local currency avoids constant conversion at the store or vendor level. More importantly, if you present someone with a $20 bill or more, don't expect a favorable exchange rate like the one you get at the bank. The merchants everywhere will accept dollars but they'll round-off or give a somewhat poorer exchange rate for convenience and to protect themselves.


Also, remember that U.S. coins are verboten here and vendors won't take them because the banks don't process them. Expect likewise that you will (almost) always receive change from your purchase in colones even when you use dollars. Almost all Visa and Mastercard debit and credit cards are accepted widely in Costa Rica but be aware that you may receive a significant discount (10-15%) in some places when you pay in cash. If all of this is too much arithmetic for you, buy a cheap calculator.


gtyGet with the local currency and practice converting it to dollars until you get it. For a couple of years that was easy because the exchange rate hovered around 500 to the dollar. All you had to do was double the big number on the multiple of thousand colón notes to the left and you had the dollars. A one "mil" (thousand) note = $2, a 20 mil = $40 etc. Now that the exchange rate is closer to 560, you can still double the number but you need to take off about 10%, i.e., 10 mil x2 = $20 - $2 = $18. It's not exact, but it's close (that last conversion would actually yield 10,000/560 = $17.86). I repeat: if all of this is too much arithmetic for you, buy a cheap calculator and use it until the numbers become comfortable.


There is one notable exception to using colones. If you rent, many landlords prefer to receive their rent in dollars. The reason is simple: the colon has depreciated against the dollar historically. When I arrived here in 2008, one dollar would yield about 420 colones. Today that rate just hit about 560, a 30% depreciation of the colón since 2008. As the landlord sees it, by getting his rent in dollars he gets an automatic increase in his rent in colones to help offset inflation.


Sometimes there are difficulties in transferring money from your hometown U.S. bank to a local bank (like don't expect a check drawn on a U.S. bank to clear in a reasonable time, especially if it's in the thousands). You may also find that opening certain accounts are unavailable to you until you get a cédula (residency card). It's wise to have at least two debit or credit cards from different banks, one Costa Rican, one U.S., for safety and flexibility. Be aware also that some banks here have daily ATM dollar withdrawal limits on U.S. based debit and credit cards (these rules change frequently, so check what's current).


Golden Rule #7: To Car or not to Car, That is the Question. Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous driving or to take the bus to the sea and leave your troubles behind (I'm sorry, the ham in me just can't avoid these opportunities).


Cars are more expensive to buy, to own and to operate here than in the States. Passing the RITEVE (annual inspection) and getting your MARCHAMO (registration sticker) can add up to several hundred dollars a year even without major repairs. In addition, all cars have to be originally imported either new or used and become more expensive as a result. Somehow the Costa Rican government didn't get the email back in the Bush days about CAFTA (Central American Free Trade Agreement, the local equivalent of NAFTA) which theoretically eliminated import tariffs on vehicles from the states. Import entry tariffs of 25-50% of the book value, or even more, are not uncommon. It's often a personal negotiation with an unpredictable result.


Cars also seem to have mechanical problems more frequently here, both because the average vehicle age is older and because the moist, higher temperature atmosphere here causes a myriad of major and minor headaches due to corrosion (stuck windows, door locks etc.). Also, as it was pointed out last month, that the present cost of a gallon of gasoline here is $3.90 versus, as an example, a typical value I pulled at the same time for Florida was $2.11. That makes it 85% more expensive here.


Classic Costa Rican Transportation

Your lifestyle can determine your real need for, and what type of, personal transportation you should have. If on doing your research you elect to live in a relatively remote area (that often can be an area only a few kilometers from a major highway) you likely will require some form of personal transportation especially if you're a considerable distance off the bus route. If it's a classic Costa Rica country road, you will probably want a 4x4 or other rugged vehicle. Alternative transportation options to a car include using the public bus system (cheap) or having a motorcycle (obviously cheaper than a car) or a bicycle (super cheap, slow and, frankly, quite dangerous on these roads and streets).


But some people (certain gringos) just have to have cars, they must, it's in their blood. I know the addiction, as I had 50 years of continuous car ownership under my ample belt when I moved to Costa Rica. But after a frustrating attempt at driving my own car from Florida down here (read about that misguided adventure here: Mexico on $10 a Day), I decided belatedly and begrudgingly to sell it in the States with the intent of reinvesting the proceeds in a new vehicle here. I sold my Honda, a 10-year old Civic that I had bought new and the best car mechanically I had ever owned. Without question, it was emotional giving up that trusty friend.


Wisely, or maybe I was just chicken after the Mexico adventure and it turned out to look wise later, I decided I would wait three months after I arrived in Costa Rica before buying another car. Best damn decision I ever made. Never did get one and now have no intention to do so anymore. Being retired, I don't need a car to make it to work in the morning and I live in compact, metropolitan Quepos (yuk, yuk) where the extremities of the town are reachable in a maximum fifteen minute walk in any direction. Why not save the expense of a car when local buses are free to those aged 65+ and long hauls (e.g. San José) are 25% off. The current fare for the 3-hour Quepos-San José run for me is $5.90; a car getting 35 miles to the gallon will cost about twice that in gas alone. Once I'm in SJ, my local bus fare reverts to 0, like at home.


But what about exploring Costa Rica GG, how bout dat? Rent a car, Dorothy. If the bus won't take you there, there are plenty of car rental agencies here including the big gringo ones. I've rented a car four or five times since living here, for a few days each time and it's always nice to give it and it's maintenance problems back to the agency.


The major point I'm trying to make here is that it's wise to choose your living style first, then decide if you need or want a car or not. Don't jump at everything all at once and don't feel that you must have one.


Golden Rule #8: TRY Speaking the Language, Even If It's Difficult for You. People have varying abilities to learn a new language. I always thought I was on the positive side of average, having experienced learning a fair bit of French with relative ease when I lived for 2-1/2 years in Brussels in the seventies (I was in my early thirties at the time). But I overestimated my ability to learn Spanish with the same ease as I did then but now starting at the age of 65.


I'm now 73 and my ability to retain new information is much more limited and my ability to extract the information later also is not what it used to be. Hell, I have great difficulty extracting the right English word these days, at least extracting it in a timely fashion. When I used a word twice in my yoot, it was mine. Today it takes 4-5 uses to get the same effect. The other thing I've noticed and didn't expect is that Costa Ricans, particularly in the rural areas like Quepos, slur their words, making it even more difficult to figure out what they're saying. They ain't speaking Castillian Spanish here baby (it's kinda-like an Alabama versus New Jersey thing).


But I will not stop trying to speak Spanish, no matter what. I feel I owe it to my hosts and to myself to do the best I can. I have achieved enough proficiency to handle merchant discussions (minus technical terms) and even participate in some basic conversations. It can be fun and my Tico buddies are forgiving; they appreciate it if you try. ¡Pura Vida!


Golden Rule #9: Once You've Decided to Live here, Get Official Residency as Soon as You Can.


A Cédula

As mentioned before, if you don't get an official resident card, known as a cédula, you are doomed to be a "perpetual tourist". That means that every 90 days you must obtain a new visa, consisting of a stamp in your passport, at an official border crossing. You can go north to Nicaragua or south to Panama or through one of the international airports by way of a flight somewhere. Once you cross into the other country and then return to Costa Rica, the migración folks will give you a new stamp in your passport which is a visa for 90 days.


Technically the law says you must stay out of the country for 72 hours before they can stamp a new visa for you but that rule has not always been enforced and many people do the "renewal" process in one or two days. Violation of the 90 day visa limit opens you to the risk of deportation if you are caught and if there is an infraction of the law while you're holding an overextended visa, you will be deported. There are several variations of cédula including pensionado (a retiree, like GG), rentista, inversiones (I believe the latter two are based on investments in property).


You can also get a spousal residency, a fairly quick process, but be careful of not actually intending to be a spouse. Fake marriages are frowned upon and two of them were recently annulled by the Costa Rica Supreme Court (Sala II). That strategy can get you deported faster than you can get residency. There is a 2009 law on the books forbidding this kind of thing. Fake marriages are called matrimonios por simulación in Spanish (I get the Latin but there is a certain economy in the English as "fake marriage").


For requirements and differences in nuances between types of cédula and which might be appropriate for you, check the U.S. Embassy website (https://costarica.usembassy.gov/) or the Costa Rica Immigration website (http://www.migracion.go.cr/).


In virtually all these cases you will need to obtain two documents which can only come from your country of origin, so therefore it behooves one to get them before moving here. Those key documents (U.S. example) are 1) an official birth certificate from your place of birth and which has been certified by the Secretary of State where you were born (the certification is often called an apostille) and 2) a clean state police report (minor traffic offenses usually not a problem) also certified but by the Secretary of State where you last resided. These documents must be submitted fresh, meaning within six months of the date they were certified; docs more than six months old may be declared stale and inadmissible.


There are as many as a dozen to fifteen more items that must be submitted to the Migración department including passport-type photos, fingerprints (from the Costa Rican government's Police Academy only), translations of documents (Canadians require their entire passports to be translated to Spanish - U.S. passports are written in both English and Spanish), proof of income (current minimum is $1,000 per month and Social Security qualifies), letters of request and a few others. All of the documents and submissions except the certified birth certificate and police report can be obtained while you're in Costa Rica.


This is one area where having the trusted Tico friend or acquaintance is important. There are many lawyers, people who claim expertise and downright scam artists who will handle this process for you for a fee. GG pursued his cédula for almost two years before being surprised and disappointed by a formal rejection of my application. I was out some $500, and nearly deported, as a result of an unscrupulous, incompetent and downright unethical "immigration service" (see Gullible Travels). After that experience, I took over the process myself, with the help of a trusted local Tico helper who handled the face to face discussions and translation needs right along side me at the Migración office. Together we got the job done for about $700-800 and, in about seven months after starting from scratch, I got my cédula. Yippee! It can be done on your own without lawyers but you must understand what you're doing.


There are reputable organizations that can help also. One with a good reputation is ARCR, the Association of Residents of Costa Rica, a gringo led organization based in San José. Their current processing fee for a cédula including all fees and charges is just over $1,800. This outfit offers other services as well, such as group health insurance rates.


Golden Rule #10 Enjoy the Living Experience.

If, at the end of six months or a year, you find yourself still complaining about the rain, the heat, the prices, business inefficiencies, the slow bureaucracy, the unavailability of special gringo foods, Tico drivers and/or a host of other things, it may be best for you to move home or to some other place. If you haven't yet committed to the country with investments or built or bought a home you're still free to easily go somewhere else. Using a trial period (Golden Rule #4) minimizes repatriation problems.


Scarlet Macaws,
Costa Rican Natives

But let's say that you've done the basics, you've visited the country a few times to get a better understanding of it and its people. You only committed for renting or a temporary residence of some sort, you've learned the rules on what it takes to be an official resident here and feel comfortable on the daily living routine. And you've come to understand the gentle nature of your host people (see Soy Tico). In short, you're hooked on Costa Rica


In that case, welcome to Costa Rica!


You'll find yourself living in one of the most incredibly beautiful natural habitats on the planet. In a country smaller than West Virginia you will find over 1,290 km (800 miles) of ocean shoreline, a picturesque central spine of green mountains running from Nicaragua to Panama and a biodiversity density that is 600 times the world average. You can pick from one of at least four distinct climates (northern dry plains, southern humid and lush jungle, cool mountains - of course they're never cold enough for ice - or brisk central valleys like San José.


Sloths - We Have A
Never-Ending Smile Just for You

Get away from the big city and you'll routinely see a plethora of animals like jaguars, monkeys, coatimundis, sloths, crocodiles, iguanas, macaws, tucans, colorful frogs and snakes and a host of others. Add to those the sea creatures like whales, dolphins and an almost endless variety of fish, of both the tropical and eating varieties.


So, go slow in your transition Señor and Señora Expats. Go slow, go far, cover all your bases and enjoy an experience that only a small percentage of earthlings get to share.


¡Bienvenidos a paraiso! Welcome to paradise!

¡Solo Bueno! Only Good!




Martec Industries, S.A.
(A Growing Food Source)


hyuIf you live in a coastal community like Quepos you eventually become aware of fishing, whether it's sport, commercial or both. Unfortunately, coastal commercial fishing has been on the decline around the world for various reasons for years. Costa Rica is no exception. In place of traditional commercial fishing and to provide adequate supplies has come aquaculture, which is the raising of many types of fish and seafood in controlled farms of both fresh and salt water. The salt water version of this is called mariculture.


GG read a book recently, American Catch, which reviewed the decline of coastal fishing in the U.S., the reasons for it and what is being done about it. The book made the incredible statement that some 90% of fish sold in American markets today, both specialty stores and supermarkets is imported. Much of that comes from Asia and much of that is raised by aguacultural methods.


Martec Logo

More recently I had a conversation with Bob Miles, the president of Martec, S.A., a fresh fish processor based in Quepos. Bob, now 64, was a devoted California surfer in his twenties when he made an around the world, eight year sailing tour after which he sold his boat, moved to Costa Rica, bought a fishing boat and found himself in the business. That was in 1978 when there wasn't even a paved road into Quepos. Since then he has grown the business substantially, to the extent that it now employs about 300, making it the second largest employer in the area after Palma Tica.


Martec Plant and Headquarters in Quepos

Martec, and Bob, began with processing local catches as well as his own (and still do a considerable amount in this business service segment, including the catch from my landlady's two commercial boats). But Bob early on saw the trend towards aguaculture and embraced it.


Martec now operates a mariculture ocean farm, under a concession by the Costa Rican national government, and which is located approximately 13 km or 8 miles off the shore of Palo Seco beach near Parrita in an area called Pilas de Bejuco. (Parrita/Palo Seco is about 40 km or 24 miles north of Quepos)


Typical Design - Mariculture Pen

At Martec's mariculture operations center, there are a series of some 22, 15 meter and 25 meter diameter, open pens made of a tough material that keeps the good fish in and predators out yet allows natural ocean water with its cleansing action to pass through. The netting material often used in this industry is polyethylene terephthalate, a polymer also widely used in fibers and basically the same plastic used in beverage bottles but in a different form. The plastic has a 20 year life in this application (sorry, I digress - once a plastics engineer always a plastics engineer) and is naturally disease resistant.


Feeding the fish daily requires a considerable effort and a small fleet of boats dedicated to that service. I know because I have a friend who does it and his work day starts at 5 AM (there's just a crack of dawn at that time) and runs until 4:30 in the afternoon. The pens and the fish are inspected on a daily basis and the pens cleaned using a special net cleaning device. The company needs to watch out for any sign of a problem with the fish that can happen even in this controlled atmosphere. One fish floating on the surface, known as a "mort" in the industry, is a signal for rapid reaction.


The video to the left is a brief look at the Martec men at work in their boats at the farm (don't forget to click on the screen expander lower right in the video for the best view).


The hatchlings come from a hatchery in Guanacaste owned by Martec (in the old days, in manufacturing, we would call this vertical integration). Raising a Pacific Spotted Rose Snapper (see photo in the What's-in-a-Word section below) from hatchling to harvestable size (about 1 lb) takes about 12-14 months total, two months in the hachery followed by 10-12 months at the farm. The fish are then harvested, processed quickly (gutted but left whole) in the companies headquarters facility, flash frozen and shipped frozen.


Fish Processing at Martec

This is not a small operation. At the time of our conversation, Bob told me there were about 1.6 million fish currently in the farm, that the farm wasn't full and that they expected to raise a total of about four million fish this year. Most of this will be exported to United States markets.

Martec Shop - Quepos

Martec's client list includes Costco, Darden Restaurants (Olive Garden, Longhorn Steakhouse and more), Red Lobster, Landry's (Bubba Gump Shrimp Co, Morton's Grille, Chart House) and many others. Also stated was the estimate that Martec's international shipments would account for about 65% of all Costa Rican fish exports this year.


Martec also operates retail outlets in Quepos (in the Mercado Centro) as well as in Jacó and in two locations in the central valley at Alejuela and Escazú. In addition to their pargo (red snapper) these outlets offer a selection of other fish and shellfish caught locally. The photo left is of the shop in the Mercado Centro in Costa Rica.


Good fishing, and good eating, amigos!


¡Pura Vida!



Health Stuff
(You Can Call Me Chan)

Note: The material given in this section is offered as news information only and does not indicate GGC confirmation or denial of the accuracy of the treatment or of the efficacy of the product nor a recommendation to pursue it, nor can we or do we guarantee the efficacy of the results nor the validity of the conclusions proffered.
(How's that for a disclaimer?)

Chan the Plant
Chan Seeds

GG was wandering through a supermercado a few months ago when I noticed a packet of what looked somewhat like small, flat cloves but that were labeled "Chan". At the time I was looking for something to spice up a catch-all dish of cabbage, carrots onions and smoked ham (a quick bachelor's dinner). Since it was offered in the spice section of a supermarket I figured it was OK to try it as a consumable. I sprinkled Chan seeds on the cabbage mixture as it cooked and was surprised to find an interesting new flavor that hinted of a touch of mint and which complimented the cabbage quite well.


So I looked up what the stuff was and learned its official name is hyptis suaveolens or h. suaveolens and its common names are pignut or chan (hold the pignut, I'll take the name chan). It is a pseudocereal (acts like a cereal but is not a grass like most cereals) and a plant native to tropical regions like Costa Rica. I had seen this plant growing around this area with its delicate little pink or purple flowers (photo) and wondered what it was; now I know.


Chan as a Drink

There are other uses for Chan. In powdered form and concentrated liquid it is an effective insecticide (whoa big guy, don't put too much on that cabbage). Now I've spread a few seeds around my kitchen counter-top to see if it can dissuade those pesky (tiny) ghost ants that always seem to show up in my kitchen looking for a meal.


Another reported use of chan is in making a refreshing drink. Really? There aren't many things that serve both as an insecticide and a "refreshing drink". To make the drink, the seeds are roasted, ground and dissolved in water - I guess the roasting changes the thing from

insecticide to a refreshing drink; I hope so.


Nutritional value? "Results: Hyptis suaveolens has been shown to contain vital nutrients: proteins, carbohydrates, fats, fibre and the phytochemicals: alkaloids, tannins, saponins, flavonoids, and terpenoids which are responsible for its therapeutic use" - European Journal of Medicinal Plants

So here we have another surprise (at least to me) and wonder of our tropical jungle paradise.



Travel Quote of the Month

Overheard on an American Airlines flight into Amarillo, Texas, on a particularly windy and bumpy day. During the final approach, the Captain was really having to fight it. After an extremely hard landing, the Flight Attendant came on the PA and announced, "Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to Amarillo. Please remain in your seats with your seatbelt fastened while the Captain taxis what's left of our airplane to the gate!"



Answer to Que Es Eso


Pacific Spotted Rose Snapper

The red fish is a Pacific Spotted Rose Snapper, the same fish talked about in the article about Martec above. We called it simply a "Red Snapper" in Sarasota, Florida where I last came from but that's probably because I didn't know any better. Of course in Florida it wasn't the Pacific Ocean, it was the Gulf of Mexico and the snapper there may be a different specie altogether.


It's also known locally here as a "pargo". This fish is a common staple seafood and served in many restaurants in various dishes filleted as well as being a favorite served as a Pescado Entero (whole fish on a plate). Personally I'm lazy and I like the kitchen to separate the meat from the bones.


The other fish, the spiny dude on the bottom is a Lionfish, a pest fish. It is deemed so because it proliferates quickly, consuming huge amounts of crabs, shrimp and small fish and storing them in a stomach that can expand to thirty times its empty volume.


The spines of the Lionfish are venomous and fatal to many sea creatures which means they have virtually no predators (except man - I'm told Lionfish make great ceviche). The venom from the spines of these dudes can make you sick but there are no reports of human fatalities. Nevertheless, they're best taken by spearfishing while carefully avoiding the spines.


To read more on the Lionfish go here: Killer Fish.



ROMEO Corner
(Retired Old Men Eating Out) 

Karola's - Manuel Antonio

Location: Top of Manuel Antonio Hill, 50 Meters Down the Steep Driveway Next to Barba Roja
Hours: 7AM to 10PM, Monday to Sunday; Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner
Parking: Ample (at Least Until Los Altos Sells All Its Units), 20 Meters from Restaurant Entrance
Contact: Tel.: 506-2777-1557

Reviewing ROMEOS: Alma L., Davis H., Jerry C., Bob N.

To Review Our Rating System and Procedure, go here: R.O.M.E.O. Rating System


Karola's is a restaurant associated with the Los Altos condominium building but is open to the general public. The ROMEO’s last reviewed this restaurant five years ago in August of 2011 when it was relatively new. See that review HERE.


The dining room hasn’t changed much with the exception of the lack of padding on the chairs as mentioned below. The room is still large, high-ceilinged and rather sterile modern but with gentle and warm lighting. It still has a limited view of the Pacific if you get there before sunset (5:30). The chairs have reverted to standard Tico hard wood – I say reverted because I complimented them on having some padding in the seats in the earlier review – but that’s disappeared. The ROMEO composite score for this visit for ambiance was 4.25 out 5 sloths.


Karola’s still has a good, varied and rather extensive menu with an emphasis on seafood but plenty of options from steaks to chicken to pastas. GG settled on an appetizer (photo left) that consisted of a mold of shredded cole slaw topped with avocado slices and a good portion (8?) of small shrimp. The concoction was basted in a slightly piquant, lemony sauce that made the overall presentation and taste outstanding. Two other ROMEOS commented also on how good the seafood soup was.

All but one of us felt that the level of the main courses (a couple of chicken filets in different sauces) were good but did not live up to the creative standard of the appetizers. One dish, a “Fantasy Fish” was deemed exceptional and consisted of a filet topped with a tomato based sauce with shrimp and calamari.



Value Index = 115


The desert menu was limited to what GG has come to call Manuel Antonio Standard, a flan or brownie with ice cream, plain ice cream etc. I did sample some banana cooked in tempura batter and served with caramel ice cream which was quite good.


The ROMEO composite score for food quality was 4.25 sloths.


Service was pleasant, i.e., friendly and attentive, yielding a composite score for service of 4.5. The composite average for Ambiance, Food Quality and Service was 4.33.


The cost of my two courses and one soft drink  was $43. Our composite score for cost was 3.75$  giving a value index of 4.33/3.75x100=115.


Karola’s continues to be an above average option for a decent meal at a reasonable cost.

Golden Gringo Chronicles Novel and E-Books Now Available!

GGC Book CoverThe story of the Golden Gringo Chronicles is also available as a hard copy novel of 192 pages available through Amazon and all major online retailers. ($9.95)


Amazon link: GGC, the Book. (Kindle Edition available


Follow GG through the first six years of his odyssey in making the decision to retire in Costa Rica, overcoming the trials and tribulations of moving and obtaining residency there and the fun and experience of actually living in Ticoland.


Ride along with the Golden Gringo as he learns about the rich, varied culture of Costa Rica, the incredible bio diversity, the charming nature of the Costa Rican people and the ease with which a sometimes clueless ex-pat can assimilate into a small southwestern town on the Pacific coast.


Whether you are already a Costa Rican resident, someone contemplating a move here or just a traveler who enjoys different cultures, you will find the Golden Gringo Chronicles interesting, entertaining and informative about Costa Rica.


Part 1-150 Part 2-150 Part 3 Light


A narrative version of the Golden Gringo Chronicles is now also available as a trilogy of E-books in formats compatible with virtually all electronic platforms.

Part 1: (FREE!)
Leaving the Homeland

Part 2: ($3.99)
The Early Years

Part 3: ($3.99)
Becoming Tico, Maybe

Click on Part Number above for E-book sample downloads or click the price above right for purchase. (The best price is on Part 1; it's FREE)

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