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pam

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  1. This is an interesting topic and one that most expats grapple with during their adjustment to living in CR. Speaking for myself I can say that my first few years here were an up and down ride on the cultural learning curve and though I don't profess to have any conclusive answers to the " hidden agenda " idea I've arrived after many years at my own plausible theory . On many occassions during my learning experiences here I was stunned by the outcomes of what appeared to be hidden agendas. I most often got the " short end of the stick ". My moral compass and social mores were spinning with indignation and offense. Many years later I've realized that if I'm going to function and maintain sanity here I have to accept the fact that it's wise to assume that interactions here are often fraught with the burdonsome agenda factor and I should navigate accordingly. I give myself the benefit of doubt. Observing the Tico culture as a whole in its developing nation context I've realized that scarcity of vital and nonvital goods and services as compared to the plenty of 1st World nations often compels people to be selfserving , to be opportunists. If they want or need something they must be alert to every opportunity to procure the object of their desire because chances are that their chances are otherwise slim. And I've observed that many foreign residents after time become cognizant of scarcity as well and by necessity resort to advancing their agendas. Foreign residents often operate in a different style , somewhat more sophisticated and culturally palatable , but scarcity and the uncertainty of meeting one's needs in a developing country drive agendas on a perpetual basis here. Though the means of procuring one's ends may hide beneath the surface the fact is that having an agenda is no secret if you live here.
  2. Hi Nel , Yes, I remember you , we had some lively and meaningful discussions on John's forum. John is still a lively guy , I spoke to him yesterday. Thank you for your spells and prayers !
  3. Thank you everyone for the kind words and moral support. It´s amazing how much a sentence or a smile can mean when you´re overwhelmed and your world is upside down. People being kind and compassionate to people is what makes the world including mine go round ! Pam
  4. Hello , My name is Pam and you might have read some of my posts here over the years. I´ve been too busy to contribute lately because my husband is very ill. We live in Nosara on the Nicoya Peninsula. He has ESRD , End Stage Renal Disease , or kidney disease. He has an excellant nephrologist at Hospital Clinica Biblica who has cared for him for over a year but the doctor says he now desperately needs a kidney because he had a rare and violent reaction to dialysis in the hospital. The nephrologist has informed us that foreigners stand little to no chance of receiving a donor from the list here in CR because of course Ticos are their priority.His nephrologist at Biblica is educated in the states , speaks fluent English and performs kidney transplants here at Biblica. Biblica is accredited in the states and having spent alot of time here over the last year and a half I can say with certainty that the hospital and staff are imppecably 1st World and competant. Our health insurance policy with INS ( not the CAJA which we have but prefer not to use ) covers expenses for both doner and recipient. If anyone is interested or knows anyone who might be interested in donating a kidney we would be profoundly grateful to hear from you. You can private message me on the forum and I´ll give you my email address and any and all information you need. Thank you for reading this , Pam
  5. I can't resist : " Amen " to that ! You got that sooo right. I've never watched " Fawlty Towers " but I've got some swampland in Florida I could sell to anyone who thinks it's wise to buy property sight unseen. That's a very old and popular saying in the states describing all the people who fell for unsavory real estate deals and false advertising.
  6. Eleanor, when the economic bubble burst I thought that businesses would compensate by reducing prices , targeting new clientel and reducing overhead. As time went by and none of the above occurred it occurred to me why. Many of these business owners purchased their properties for exhorbitant prices during the bubble and they also weren't thinking outside the bubble as in what to do in hard times and how to do it. Now, they're saddled with properties in which they invested too much capital. These properties , regardless of the fact that they're not producing adequate income require constant maintainence at considerable cost. Neglect or even the postponement of maintainence here results in ongoing deterioration that can reduce structures and pools etc. to ruins in a very short time. The elements and the ecosystem are relentless. Absentee owners of establishments and vaca rentals ( tons of those ) are paying property managers , security companies , pool companies etc. on a monthly basis. And it makes no sense to me but many people are sticking to their pricey guns rather than reducing prices and at least making something rather than nothing. It seems they think that there will be a new crop of high rollers on the next plane. I'm also amazed how few people who should be following the economic news aren't doing so in order to be prepared as best they can for ups and downs.
  7. It's been terrible here too. Many of the hotel and vaca rental clients who have been coming down repeatedly for years didn't return this season. Many of them emailed the proprietors to say that regrettfully they had to stay home for financial reasons. There's not much you can do about that ! And there are now cheaper and equally beautiful destinations that are growing in popularity. Not much anyone can do about ICE either !
  8. Oldcabre , perhaps you haven't read the previous posts describing the content of " Don't Stop the Carnival " and how it pertains to the question about starting a hostel in Costa Rica. It's about a couple from the states who buy a hotel in the Caribbean who know nothing about the hotel business and nothing about the culture of chaos on the tropical island where their hotel is located. The book , though a novel , is regarded by those who work in or own hospitality businesses in the tropics as a bible of sorts because it's so true to life in the tropics. Dreamers from the 1st World fall head over heels for the laid back and exotic seductions of the tropics and then discover that pandemonium rules with an iron fist over their efforts to maintain any kind of order in their business or personal lives. When we moved to the beach town where we've now lived for many years here everybody and anybody was buying or opening cabinas , hostels , hotels , bars and restaurants. It was like a Gold Rush , all the foreigners setting up shop hoping to have fun and make a few bucks. In the intervening years the few that remain in business now are in dire straights or burnt out and desperate to get out. The " Carnival " never stops and it's had the last word with many a weary dreamer. That's my point.
  9. Paul, I'm amused to see that you found " Don't Stop the Carnival " as entertaining and enlightening as I did. I suggested it in an earlier post on this thread. When I worked in the hospitality industry in the Fl. Keys it was on every bookshelf and quoted on a daily basis. I think I'll dig it out of my bookshelf and read it again. Jimmy Buffet actually turned it into a play/musical which was performed in Miami in the 1990's , with Wouk's input of course. I had many hilarious/utterly mind boggling experiences myself in the " carnival " business in the Keys at an island resort where guests were paying $1000 a night plus meals , TV's etc. Little did they know that their French chefs were coming to blows over extension cords to the generator in the kitchen when the power went out as they prepared caviar starters and the strawberries dipped in gold leaf. Or that the toilets were being discreetly flushed by the staff who would sneak down to the beach for water under the cover of darkness when the septic system failed. The Starbucks coffee was often made with water from the pool. These are only a few of my " carnival " experiences.
  10. Eleanor , I agree that one can deduce a number of flaws or attributes of an establishment by sharp observation. I do it all the time. Sometimes these are simply a reflection of the proprietor's ambition or lack thereof but in the tourist oriented community where I live and I'm acquanted with many proprietors the existing problems that you observe have often occurred due to reasons beyond their control and that entail an accumulation of hurdles that have impeded their success in maintaining optimal appearances and service. As a local rather than a tourist I see and know about many issues that beset these establishments that the proprietors would prefer not be known to their clientel. Sharing your woes with the clientel is terrible PR and only makes the clientel uncomfortable if not loathe to return to such a depressing environment. If the proprietor is hoping to sell or lease their establishment they'd be foolish to share every grisly detail of their reasons for wanting to leave . Prospective buyers would run ! And this I believe is why so many people fall prey to the seductive dream of running a business in paradise. They have no local knowledge and local sellers aren't about to jeapordize a deal by sharing their knowledge. If however you as a prospective owner/operator have had adequate hands on experience in the business you'll have the advantage of understanding the inevitable problems inherant to the business and you'll likely also be savy enough to deduce that business is conducted very differently here. The best way to learn a business anywhere before you plunge into setting up shop for yourself is to go to work in one and learn it from top to bottom. Then you're better prepared to succeed in surmounting the obstacles in your path.
  11. Please bear in mind that substantial experience as a guest is the equivalent of no experience as an owner/operator in this ( or any ) business. No insult to you intended. What you observe as a guest is only the surface and what takes place beneath the surface is complex , dramatic and exhausting. Having had alot of experience in the hospitality industry I can assure you that your hosts go to great lengths to prevent you and shield you from seeing or even speculating about what's going on behind the scenes.They want your visit to be a seamlessly pleasant experience in hopes that you'll return and that you'll tell your friends to visit their establishment as well. Eleanor gave you a few clues ( #2 ) as to the perpetual problems that occurr on a daily basis in this business. Hostels/hotels in the 1st World ( states and Europe ) are no exception to the daily ordeals that make this a challenging business but here in the 3rd World there are all those problems and many more that could only and regularly do happen in the 3rd World. As I write there are proprietors ( foreign ) in my town who are on the verge of going broke and losing their sanity in spite of all their hard work and their enormous efforts to do everything imaginable to keep their establishments up and running. Yesterday afternoon I watched in dismay as a local foreign proprietor ( 60 something in age ) who has worked himself to the bone ran screaming in hysteria across his property ! Another establishment has just advertised its 5th new proprietor in the last 5 years and several others are also advertising new proprietors in equally rapid sucession. In every one of these all too true scenarios these people had no prior experience in the business and that combined with the often shocking and disturbing peculiarities of doing business in Costa Rica has been the last financial and emotional straw for them. I don't wish to discourage you but I do wish to forewarn you that this is not the kind of business that will afford any leisure time at all or peace of mind.
  12. If you were 20 or 30 something I'd say go for it but at 50 something you don't want to bite off more than you can chew. Running a business of any kind is very challenging here and the hospitality business is a big mouthful of hard , very hard , work even with ample employees. I know many people here in the hotel/hostel business and it's 24/7 work and alot of stress. You cannot simply expect your employees to learn or perform tasks or perform them consistently as you wish. This is a very different culture. You will have to be at the helm at all times. And learn the labor laws inside and out. There's a novel called " Don't Stop the Carnival " about a couple from NYC whose dream of owning/operating a hotel in the Caribbean turns into an unimaginable though hysterically funny nightmare. Though the book is very old it is still absolutely dead on realistic in its descriptions of the pitfalls and setbacks that beset people who have bitten off more than they can chew in a tropical country. Most of the foreign owned hospitality businesses ( hostels, hotels , bars and restaurants ) where I live fail in one or at most 2 seasons for multiple reasons the biggest ones being lack of prior experience and local knowledge. Those who've exhausted their savings end up trapped and very unhappy here . So if you go for it make sure you've got the money saved to call it quits and move on.
  13. I certainly don't wish to be argumentative here. You'll note that my posts don't address the pension issues but rather health insurance issues. In that , the former context , I see nothing unfair about my comments as they pertain to health insurance at large or their important relevance to " main street " America , small business owners and the self employed. They have an equal stake in the current crisis as do those who are not self employed. I'm well aware that there are many who abuse the health care system or fail to take responsibility for their own health. As a nurse you've seen enough of that I'm sure. There are however many people like my husband and myself who have always had a primary care physician, with or wothout health insurance coverage , and who have always considered any threat to our health a threat to our ability to earn a living. We have always promptly paid a visit to our physician or a specialist to nip any ailment in the bud or keep it under control as best we can.The cost was money well spent in light of an ailment's threat to our earning power and also because the idea of living " on the dole " and not being personally productive was abhorrant to us. There are still those of us who live by those values and there are currently amongst us many who for one reason or another have been denied access to health care for no fault of our own. My horror stories are too personal and too traumatic to revisit in a public forum but you can be assured that we exhausted every alternative to care for ourselves before coming to the stark realization that we would have exhausted every cent we worked so hard for and considerably more just to stay alive. Hence we realized that though CR's health care system is far from perfect it would work for us.
  14. Arenal Grumbler , both my husband and I were raised with your same work ethic. We worked our tails off from an early age. And there was always work if you were willing to do it. As Dana J explained so accurately and so well the times have changed . It's not so simple anymore. We don't all have the opportunity to work for an employer who is willing or able to furnish affordable policies. Those same policies often result in inadquate coverage leaving many patients destitute anyway. I know many such individuals. It's scary out there. Before he retired my husband was a custom cabinet maker. It would have been absolutely impossible for him to do business in this day and age without a cell phone , the internet or adequate transportation. If he had chosen to forego having any of the above we would have had zero clientel. One can't function like a dinosaur and even hope to compete in the 21st Century work place. This isn't a matter of one's work ethic or lack thereof it's a matter of being equipped to survive. Even a teen ager , as spoiled and naieve as they may be knows what it takes to survive now. The good ole' days of simply " bringing home the bacon " are long gone. And in fact I'm grateful to be retired. In retrospect I realize that the challenges today's working people face are far more complex and stressful than what we had to cope with. To be honest I found the NY Times article on Google news earlier in the week and didn't make a note of the author's name or date of publication. If I had a paper copy of the NY Times , which I'd prefer to the internet, I could retrieve that information for you. But rest assured , I did not fabricate that story or embellish it in any way ! The scenario she described is woefully common place. As a health care refugee from the states I know how credible it is. Like many refugees , political or otherwise , I resent not being able to return to my own country if I should choose to do so. It's out of the question unless or until some kind of humane health care reform is up and running before I die. And that's that. Though I'm still a firm believer in the work ethic it takes alot more than that to survive now.
  15. Only OIJ ( = FBI here ) is legally granted the right to investigate. Policeman cannot collect evidence , investigate or interrogate perps even when caught red handed. OIJ of course is under manned , under funded and under equipped. I agree that crime statistics here are unreliable , quite. Most tourists don't report crimes for the following reasons : they're too far from the police staion , they don't speak Spanish, they rightfully have their doubts that their goods will be recovered or the perps will face jail time and all the time and trouble will ruin their vacation. Where I live it's a long ordeal to report a crime. Alot of these robbieries might be avoided if hoteliers and tourist operations forewarned their clients but the fear of losing clientel zips their lips. Of course ,many victims resent this policy and do in part blame their hosts for not having warned them that simple measures can often prevent being robbed.
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