The Chase Is On

The chase is on…chasing Italy is moving from central America to central Europe. We’ve decided to move up our plans to Europe. Originally we thought that we’d spend a year or two in Costa Rica. Learning Spanish, teaching English, exploring near and far. We’d had plans for Nicaragua and eventually Panama. You know what happens when you make plans. They are subject to variables sometimes out of your control. We are trusting that although we had a plan, this is what we are supposed to be doing. Moving to Prague.

Moving to Prague. Why Prague and not Italy? Well it’s all about the jobs and the cost of living. Currently we both need to work and we have plans to write more for the blog and otherwise. We just need a place to halfway settle in. Moving every month isn’t good for the kids or us. A little stability goes a long way. Prague looks like it will be the place. More jobs and affordable housing. What more could you ask for… how about history, architecture, and culture. Prague has it.

So our hope that we’ll both find jobs in Prague. That these jobs don’t take up all our time and we’ll get see Prague and other places with kids. We’ll take lots of pictures and write about our adventures. And hopefully we’ll get  to Italy sooner vs later.

Prague is an awesome place to start our European adventure. Historically and architecturally intact through World War II. It’s centrally located to lots of other countries we want to visit. Germany and Italy are just a train ride away. Not to mention the rest of Europe. Our kids really want to visit the UK and my understanding is that flights to and from can be highly affordable. So that could happen.

The chase is definitely on. We are indeed chasing Italy and meanwhile we are enjoying the adventure.

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Geckos, Spiders, and Rats, Oh My!

Geckos, spiders, and rats, oh my. Geckos, spiders, and rats, oh my. Yep, we’ve seen and now lived with all of them.

Each house we lived in in Costa Rica has its good points and bad points. Some times the good outweigh the bad. Then there are times when bad points are too much to deal with. Even in Costa Rica.

I was ready for bugs and various wildlife here in the jungle and beaches of this beautiful country. What I wasn’t ready for was rats. Rats in the ceilings and walls. Seemingly having bowling or wrestling tournaments late at night and in the wee hours of the morning.

Our first house was basic. It was clean and simple. The things we missed having were a table for four to sit at and a decent couch. We had screens on 98 percent of the windows. This kept out the mosquitoes. The geckos dealt with the rest. The appliances worked and we had fans to combat the heat. We could take cool showers which helped with the crazy heat. An additional fan, a table for four, and a better couch would have made life nicer but all in all the apartment in Sàmara did all it needed to do without making us too comfortable or too uncomfortable.

Our second house was site unseen and not recommended by anyone familiar. This house in pictures looked good. Unfortunately the pictures were about 15 years old and the old girl was showing her age. The yellow house in Sarchi needed more than a coat of paint. It needed some general repair work. Holes filled. Bits replaced here and there. And paint. It definitely needed a coat of paint. Even though it was a good price, it wasn’t that good a price for all the little things that needed fixed. I’m pretty sure the additional residents were not included in this price either. The rats made their presence known within 48 hours. I was not happy. I’d seen evidence that they were around but I hadn’t heard nor seen them for the first 48. Then it was like “Animal House” with a fraternity of rats partying all night in our ceiling and our walls.

Our current house is awesome but not perfect. We have a/c and hot water. Woohoo. It’s pure luxury in comparison to the other two. We don’t use the a/c or much hot water but it’s nice to have it. It’s big enough for the four of us and 300 meters from the beach. There’s not a lot of amenities close by but we’re dealing with it. Playa Flamingo, the next beach over, is gorgeous.
We’ve seen geckos, spiders, crabs, birds, howler monkeys, praying mantis, scorpions. You know the normal stuff. Welcome to Costa Rica.

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Chasing Italy Asks Costa Rica Chica

Before we moved to Costa Rica we did a lot of online research.  A large part of that research was reading blogs and stories of those brave souls who went before us on this adventure. Two of  my favorite authors are Jen and Greg Seymour.  Jen is known as the Costa Rica Chica and Greg is Costa Rica Curious. We spent some time in the central valley, outside of the capital, San Jose, during the month of August and got to meet them both. They are an awesome couple living a great adventure in Costa Rica. After we met and had lunch I asked if I could interview her for Chasing Italy.

I’ve only been in country two months and it all still feels new. I’m still in that phase where I wish I had this or that from my former life. What’s one convenience you miss since you moved to Costa Rica?

I guess I miss convenience, period.  We knew when we moved here, that Costa Rica is not known for its “conveniences,” and I’m sure you’ve heard about tico time (sometimes it just takes forever to do one thing or to wait for something to get done, and you really just have to be patient).  Also us not having a car (which is our choice) makes things a little difficult sometimes – we have to time our schedule to catch the bus, and we don’t want to have too many bags to carry back from the grocery store.  Not a complaint at all – we are making it work for us, but sometimes convenience is something I miss.

We all have that first “Oh My” experience whether it’s a sunset or wildlife spotting. What’s your best Costa Rica memory?

We arrived in the middle of the night, and my first “OH MY” moment was the very next morning.  Our landlord had made coffee for us, we took it outside by the pool that overlooked into the central valley, and sat down to – PURE BLISS.  Here we were, literally in paradise!  It was gorgeous – the valley sloped down with beautiful flowers, trees and coffee plants everywhere.  There were butterflies and hummingbirds.  There were parrots!  We just sat there in jaw-dropping awe, hard to believe we were really here.

Since we know it’s not all rainbows and unicorns, what’s your worst Costa Rica memory?

I’m klutzy by nature, so my worst enemy here is the uneven sidewalks in the downtown area where I live.  I really have to walk with my eyes glued to the sidewalk, and holding my husband’s hand.  A couple weeks after we arrived here, we were walking into an area by a farmacia (pharmacy) in town, and there was an uneven gravel part in the middle of the walkway…  well I was looking up, and found myself totally sprawled out in the gravel – one knee totally torn up and bleeding profusely.  The good part about this, was that it was my first introduction to the farmacias here, and they took great care of me.  Sat me in a chair, cleaned and medicated my knee and sent me off with my knee completely bandaged up.  And they wouldn’t take any money for it!  The Costa Ricans as a whole are very sincere and kind people.  I tripped and fell a couple of other times too.

I like that I thought about my tripping and falling memories before I thought about my tarantula memories (yes, I’ve seen a few since being here!).  I had a severe bug phobia before I moved here, but am proud say how much better I am now (you kind of have to be, to live here!).

When did Costa Rica start feeling like home?

The first few months we were here, we stayed in a small efficiency apartment, which was great but it really didn’t feel 100% like home.  Then 3 months later, we found a great house to live in, and once we moved in – it was definitely “home”.  To be able to totally unpack our 9 suitcases, to be in our own space, to use our own coffee pot, to have a full size kitchen, etc. – it was like heaven.

From your blog I know that you love to bake and you’ve been cranking out a lot of recipes for your new cookbook, “Costa Rica Chica Cookbook.”  I know it’s a ton of work planning, writing, photographing, editing, etc. What kinds of recipes will be featured in your new book?

My cookbook “Costa Rica Chica Cookbook” was just published!  You can find it on amazon here:  http://amzn.to/1JmCnb9

The book contains some of my favorite recipes from the States, and in particular how to make them in Costa Rica (as some of the ingredients are different here).  If you’re in the States, don’t despair – I include substitutes so you can make these recipes at home too.   My book includes recipes for breakfast, pizzas and breads, hearty meals, and sweets.

All of your baked goods look so yummy. Has baking always been a passion? Does Costa Rica bring out your creative side?

I used to bake only occasionally back in the States, and I really was not into cooking at all.  I didn’t have time; with working a full time job, I was so tired when I got home and for sure didn’t want to stand in the kitchen for hours putting something together.  But now, having time and being in Costa Rica has definitely brought out my creative side.  Now, I love experimenting and cooking things from scratch!

In your opinion, what are 5 things to do or see in Costa Rica?

  • Catarata Del Toro (largest waterfall around)
  • Manuel Antonio (cool beach town with awesome National Park)
  • Osa Pennisula (jungle side of Costa Rica, not built up for tourism yet – you can see scarlet macaws and crocodiles here in their natural habitat, the wildlife is amazing)
  • Monteverde Cloud Forest (bucket list)
  • Hike Mt. Chirripó (bucket list)

 

 

Jen Beck Seymour

Jen is the author of the bestselling books:

Costa Rica Chica: Retiring Early, Simplifying My Life, & Realizing That Less is Best
Costa Rica Chica Cookbook: Stirring Up My Favorite North American Recipes In Costa Rica

When she’s not writing or blogging, she is either baking, hiking, playing piano, yoga-ing, sipping coffee, making arm candy or enjoying a glass of (boxed) wine… or yelling at her husband to come save her from a bug. She lives with her husband near Grecia, Alajuela, Costa Rica.

Follow Jen’s adventures at: www.CostaRicaChica.com

It’s My Spot (or Finding Your Place in the World)

It’s my spot. It’s where all things come together and you feel at home. Most people don’t search for home. It’s where you grew up or where you’ve spent most of your life. When you’re a dependent of military personnel, the question of where you’re from is a difficult one to answer. In my case I often have a multifaceted answer. I say I grew up on the east coast. Meaning most of my early life was in Maryland and Virginia. After college I moved to Colorado, although I wanted to moved to Washington – but that’s another story. In Colorado, I met my wonderful husband and had my boys.

But our journey was just beginning. In our seventeen years together we’ve moved a dozen times (I’m rounding down), a least three states and we’ve been to few countries separately and now Costa Rica together with the kids.

We’ve always had a huge sense of wanderlust. We’ve talked and talked for years about living abroad and seeing more of this great big world. Now we are doing what we’ve always talked and dreamed about. The kids aren’t thrilled about it, but they’ll adapt or not. They are teenagers and grumble over almost everything. We want to give them an experience greater than themselves.

Have we found our spot? Are we home in Costa Rica? Time will tell. The greatest gift our upbringing has given us is the ability to adapt and take chances. We are not afraid of trying something new or going somewhere we’ve never been before. Costa Rica has been good to us. Very welcoming people and its an easy country to love. Beautiful sunsets, awesome beaches, and tons of wildlife. If you’re a adventurer or photographer or just need a good rest then Costa Rica is an awesome place to be.

Our next adventure is always on the horizon. For us, ‘It’s my spot’ can be found almost anywhere. We adapt to our circumstances and make the best of things and sometimes we move on to the next thing.

Update: We’re taking the leap and moving to the Czech Republic. Yep, Prague. Currently interviewimg for teaching jobs and looking for housing. Are we closer to finding our spot? We’ll see.

Have you found your spot? Where is it? Comment below.
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It’s Five O’clock In Sámara

Whether you’re in Sámara on vacation or business or just passing through you might need a cold beverage about five o’clock. We didn’t go everywhere in Sámara but we explored most of it. Here are our favorite five or so places to celebrate happy hour in Sámara.

1. Lo Que Hay: This is a great place to hang out and people watch while having a beer and a taco on the beach. Happy hour here is very laid back but it’s right on the beach. I ordered a Michelada and pork taco. Kurt ordered a Pilsen and a pork taco. These were on special and they were so good. Michelada is a beer served with a glass that is salt rimmed, with lime juice and ice. Very refreshing. Especially when you’re hot and slightly coated with salt air and sand. Hang out on the beach under an umbrella. If it begins to rain just dash into the bar area for cover. The beach is amazing in the sunshine and the rain. It’s awesome to have a beach bar with great tacos and cold beer.

2. Microbar: This is a new hot spot  in Sámara. It opened while we were there for the month. It’s probably the only place you can get a tap beer. Also the only place that has at least a dozen microbrews from Costa Rica. They are still ironing out some of the details but i hear they are working on getting food in this tiny establishment.
Yes, tiny. Right next Natural Center. It’s maybe eight seats and a little standing room and taps, that’s it. But it’s awesome beer and its run by awesome people.

3. Bar Arriba: This is a sports bar. You  can grab a bucket of ice cold beer and watch the soccer match. If you do it during happy hour all the better. They have something for everyone. Except maybe wine. I didn’t see wine on the menu but I could be mistaken.
Sometimes service can be slow. But remember you’re in Costa Rica and Pura Vida man, Pura Vida. If you need another beer you’ll have to flag down a waiter or go to the bar. If you need to pay your bill just go to the bar. No big deal. Pura Vida.

4. Vela Latina: This place is a beach bar. Which means you can grab a lounge chair and enjoy a cold beverage right on the beach. Vela is an awesome place to head to to watch the sunset. Since Playa Samara faces south you won’t be seeing the the sunset over the water. If you venture toward the water an look to the right you’ll see it. Sunsets over the jungle are pretty cool. My favorite things to order here are a mojitos and Kurt enjoys the margaritas. We’ve both had ice cold Pilsens as well. Sometimes a very cold local beer is what you need after the beach. The cerviche is fabulous.
5. Coco’s Mexican Restaurant: If you’re in need of some Mexican fare on your vacation, this is the place. We went here a couple of times after class which was also after happy hour and enjoyed it. If you come for happy hour though you can get a monster margarita for a good price. A couple of those ans some nachos or pantacones you might skip dinner all together. As with most Sámara restaurants they are open air. Open air means open bugs. Do as we did and just carry bug spray with you. Especially at twilight and on the beach at night.
In addition to beer and margaritas they have shots of tequila. Fun to do with a group of friends after surviving another  week of classes. Don’t get me wrong, loved the classes, just needed to relax. Coco’s is great place to do that.

I couldn’t decide on just five so here’s an extra one.

6. Flying Taco: This fun corner of Sámara is not on the beach but has a cool laid back vibe and some gorgeous fruit trees to hang out under. Bring your bug spray because it’s the Costa Rican jungle and the bugs get hungry at sunset. They have live music occasionally and open Mic night on Wednesdays. Great tacos and ice cold beer. They might serve something besides ice cold Pilsens and Imperials but we never tried them.

Do you agree with our choices? Do you have another suggestion? Comment below and thanks.

My Favorite Restaurants In Sámara (or Where You Should Eat)

We were in Sámara for a mere month. Our goal was to attend TEFL school to get certified to teach English.  It was an intensive four week course and we passed with flying colors. In our down time on weekends or occasional evenings we would often find ourselves, sometimes with kids and sometimes with new friends, at one of many restaurants in this quaint but quirky little town. Here are my favorite restaurants in Sámara.

1. Bar Arriba: This fun restaurant has the best french fries in Sámara. My kids also enjoyed the chicken strips as well. Although they are family oriented during lunch and dinner it is a fun place to hang out watch a soccer match and have a beer or four. They have a ladies night on Tuesday and often have live music or a DJ to keep it lively. Most of the drinking crowd starts after nine so bringing the kids here for dinner isn’t too chaotic.  The hamburger is the best in town. (Some say the veggie burger at Luv Burger rules but I’m saying as far as beef burgers go, this is the place.) You can find them on FB at Bar Arriba.

2. Falafel Cafe: This was my go to for fast and fresh lunch. In Costa Rica a fast lunch isn’t always possible which is good when you’re on vacation but not when you’ve got a designated hour for lunch. Falafeño or the Tabbouleh plate are excellent choices. Hubby got tired of going here too many times in a row but admitted to it being an awesome little place to get a quick bite. It’s also fairly cheap and filling for this tourist town. You can locate them in the Nature Center part of town. You can find them on FB at Falafel Cafe.

3. Coco’s Mexican: This is a great little place to celebrate with family and friends. They serve typical Mexican fair which, being from Colorado, we crave from time to time. They also serve large margaritas during happy hour. When we finished class at Costa Rica TEFL this was where we went to get our relaxation on. They have happy hour specials like everyone else in town but they have Mexican food and tequila which was a major selling point for the hubby and myself. Kurt really enjoyed the Chimichanga and the Chicken Nachos were excellent. As with all outdoor restaurants in Costa Rica bring some bug spray to keep the bugs away. You can find them on FB at Coco’s Mexican Restaurant.

4. Sub Express: This was my kids and hubby’s second most favorite place to eat lunch. They have sub sandwiches and the boys favorite was the Italian sub. Very good and filling sandwiches and wraps. I enjoyed a few of their wraps and was never disappointed. You can also get some lunch meat and cheese to go. It’s pricey because it’s imported from the States but it’s good and worth when trying to feed two teenage boys. You can find them on FB at SubExpress

5. Restaurante Makizu Sámara: We really enjoyed our time here with friends. Kurt and I usually don’t have sushi but our friends do. Kurt had never tried sushi before coming to this place. He tried it and liked it. He ordered the Chicken Adobo and thought it was super amazing . I had Philadelphia rolls and a few bites of the sushi platter in trade for my large serving of Philly rolls. The rest of the table ordered a large sushi platter which was pretty to look at and tasted fabulous. Everyone truly enjoyed their experience. You can find this great restaurant on FB at Makizu Samara.

Honorable mention: Vela Latina, Lo Que Hay, Flying Taco, Pizzeria Paraiso. I’ll cover these restaurants and maybe more in a later post.

Sámara, A Love Letter

Dear Sámara,
I want to tell you how much I’ve enjoyed meeting you. At first I was a little nervous about flying so far to meet someone new. You never know with the internet nowadays. You could have been so pretty and fabulous on a website but horrible in person. I’m glad you are former not the latter. From the first moment I saw you I was in awe of your beauty. Or your warmth. Of the many facets of your personality.
When I first arrived your beauty and laid back nature set me at ease immediately. How can anyone not enjoy your company with such vivid colors and intriguing attributes. In fact, I was amazed that even when we first met you held me with such warmth and grace.
Not to say everything about you is perfect. It’s not but that makes it better. Our first meal together had points of bliss and some uncomfortable points as well. You are gracious host and I appreciate your effort in making me feel at home.
After our initial meeting our relationship began to develop at profoundly comfortable pace. You’d greet me on the mornings with happiness and send me away at night with sweet thoughts. Over the course of the month I began to really begin to see how easy you are to love. Thank you for all your time and effort in this relationship.
Sadly, I have to move on. I truly wish I could stay with you. Life is calling me away. If I didn’t need to earn a living or could figure out how to stay with Sámara I would. Know this, I will return and I don’t expect you to wait for me. I would love to visit you again. I hope we can part as dear sweet friends.

Love always,
Me

Corporate America Almost Killed Us

Yep it’s true, corporate America almost killed us both but we escaped. When we moved for Kurt’s promotion nearly five years ago we thought that life was swell. (Swell is a term my oldest uses prolifically and sarcastically and I find annoying). More money, new house and new life in North Carolina. In the beginning everything seemed to be going well but as time went on I began to have an eerie feeling. Then one day, nearly two years later, I get a call and the world stopped for a moment. He had been laid off. Oddly enough, that week he had an appointment for an annual check up. His blood pressure was at stroke level. Some seriously concerned nurses started reacting very quickly. Then an another appointment to check his kidneys. They couldn’t figure out why, at his age, his pressure was through the roof so they put him on meds.

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We had to make some serious decisions. Stay or move. What kind of work. He was burnt out on IT and really wanted to do anything else. So we moved back to Colorado and he started driving a truck.

Driving a truck was enjoyable for him but it was hard on family life. So he changed it up again and started back in IT. In customer service. Answering phones. If you’ve ever met my intelligent well mannered husband you’d know he absolutely loathes phone work.

Meanwhile I decided to pitch in some. Little extra money and a discount on Christmas presents never hurts. Actually, it did. I’ve worked long hours before and I’ve done some very physical labor. This was different. During the Christmas season I started working freight for a company that starts with a K and ends with ohls. It first was one or two nights, then three or four. Finally for a few weeks I was working five overnights a week. That’s when I went from not just sleeping through the day to waking up with pain in my arms. As a massage therapist I knew I had to get blood flowing and muscles relaxed to release the pinched nerves in my neck and shoulders. I’d begin wiggling my hands then arms. Doing some self massage on my neck, shoulders, and arms. This would be hilarious because if it was still too early to wake up I’d have my eyes closed trying to remain in that half awake mode.

Then it got worse. My sweet husband noticed my hand was blue. Some stretching and moving around would eventually cause it to return to normal. I’d noticed that when I worked three nights in a row this would happen. But sometimes three nights in a row would be the only work I’d get for the week. So I continued on with a little complaining on the side.

Hating his job but willing to do it because it’s a job and pays money. It’s not that good of a job. It’s not that good of pay. Then we got an out. A possibility of a new life in a new country. A possibility of Pura Vida.

More relaxed way of life is a small yet significant reason we decided to move to Costa Rica. He wants to be more laid back and I’m totally there already. Stress has a way of making decisions for you. When life becomes too stressful, action needs to be taken.  If we continue on this path our bodies would give us even larger indicators of the need for change and we both didn’t want any more health issues.

So we’re moving to Costa Rica in search of Pura Vida. And we’ll continue to dream about Italy and plan our future adventure together. I’m hoping that we’re successful in our endeavors of teaching English and that we can relax more, eat healthier, and enjoy each other for a long time. After all, we are barely in our forties and we have so much life to live, adventures to have, and experiences yet to be.

Walking in Flip Flops

 

If you move to Costa Rica be sure to bring your flip flops. Maybe two or three pairs. Everyone at the beach town Sámara seems to be tanned, toned, and flip flop wearers. This will prove to the average newSunburncomer as a daunting fact. As a pale, jiggly, flip flop wearing Coloradoan I had some work to do. As they say in Costa Rica just wait it’ll happen. Pounds will melt off either by the heat or by exercise or a combination of both. We been here about two weeks and its starting to work. Walking everywhere, eating less and more healthily change happens. Plus a few days on the beach and you won’t be pale anymore either. Please wear sunscreen because the sun is intense this close to the equator. And even if you’re  a teenager listen to your mother and wear sunscreen. Now back to flip flops. These are an absolute must at the beach. You should get the non fabric kind Samara Rainbowbecause they will get wet and then they stretch out and you’ll have a whole new problem. Walking in flip flops can be messy business. It rains here between May and November. It rains a lot. You will be soaked from a short walk home. You’ll be glad you have flip flops because they a easy to remove when you’re soaked and muddy up to your hips. I had some older super heinous looking flip flops to wear for the month I was here at the beach. They didn’t make the month. I did all I could to make them last through muddy trips to and fro until about three days ago they went kaput. No amount of MacGyvering would keep those footwear functional. I ended up giving them a proper burial. It wasn’t sad at all. So here’s my advice bring two or three pairs of flip flops. They will get messed up in the rainy season in Costa Rica so be prepared. And wear sunscreen.  

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Took the Leap and Haven’t Fallen

We took a leap of faith and moved to Costa Rica. We are still chasing Italy and we’ve made the first step in our journey. We got out of dodge, took a leap and landed in Costa Rica, a new life. We’ve been here a whole 24 hours. Tomorrow TEFL school starts for both of us. I’m a bit nervous but who wouldn’t be if they were in my sandals. The apartment we rented for the month is not luxurious by normal American standards but it’s  safe, clean, and has everything we need including Wi-Fi. We’re about a kilometer from the beach. At the beach the water is warm but it’s glorious. I’m told there’s a reef that blocks the larger animals (read sharks) from coming in to visit. This makes me happy. Might even learn to surf while I’m here.
After going to a few restaurants that were owned by English speakers we decided to head to the supermercado. It wasn’t a bad experience. Pali is a chain and they had a little bit of everything. We got a few necessities and went our merry little way. Actually we got about as much as we could carry comfortably back to the house. I did forget salt. We’ll be making a return trip today for that and probably some cold beer.
The heat is incredible. 34 degrees Celsius with a even higher heat index. For those who don’t think in Celsius, it was 98 degrees with 109 degree heat index. And it needs to rain. Currently there’s a dry spell and very little break in the heat. You hear thunder and see lightning but no rain. I hope it does rain some because a drought is no bueno.

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So today we’ll get on our swimsuits and get wet. Then we’ll have dinner and shower to cool off. Luckily we have fans to keep us from melting.
What’s holding you back? What’s your leap of faith?