Alligators 'n Roadkill

Alligators 'n Roadkill
On The Road


Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Is there something in the air over there in San Ramon?

"It does not prove a thing to be right because the majority say it is so."

Friedrich von Schiller

As I have said before, I spend entirely too much time reading and responding to online forums, mostly dealing with Costa Rica. The one that seems to have the most members, thus the most constant activity, is one associated with Yahoo, and is commonly called by initials (the real name has something to do with residing in a place like Costa Rica). If you really want to read it, I suggest you look it up. I can't honestly recommend it as truly worthwhile reading, since its moderators do so much more than moderate. I guess what I'm trying to say here is that this forum, which claims to be unmoderated, is actually micro-managed to the point of censorship. All posts are subject to review prior to the actual posting, and anything that might remotely be considered to be the least bit inflammatory (in the opinion of the 'moderator') is bounced. And, since I've already been kicked off one forum by one of these moderators, I really have to watch my P's and Q's. (and, I just have to say this: you just know a person has way too much time on their hands if they are 'moderating' two different internet forums).

To get to the point of this sad little story, here we go: A few days ago, someone posted an inquiry on XXX, as follows:

Does anyone know about home values in San Ramon? I was just there for a visit,but did not look at any homes. But, now I hear of what may be some good values. Are there any drawbacks to living in this area. Someone told me about a house
near the Musas waterfall

Now, I didn't want to say anything that might be construed as 'negative' by the censors, er, um, moderators, so rather than say what I know about the place, like the climate kinda sucks, I just decided to try a simple little referral, to someone that I believe would know, and who would be able to tell the inquirer the truth, thusly:

You might want to take a look at a web site called 'boomersoffshore.' Andy Browne, a very nice guy, began video chronicles of he and his wife, Fran's, adventure in applying for residency, preparing to move, and then, living in the
San Ramon area, for about a year.....they are no longer there, but living down at the beach......he provides some interesting insights into the good, the bad, and the ugly about that area.

I happen to maintain three or four email addresses besides my main gmail account, for all kinds of reasons, and obviously, since I follow a forum associated with Yahoo, one of them is a Yahoo address. While checking that email account a bit later that day, I found an incoming message from a person who shall remain nameless, but who obviously has some strong feelings.

(Received May 5, 1:15pm):

do you know this person? because if you watch video #33, that's my neighborhood he is talking about and the things he said were not only untrue but damaging. let's put it this way -- he left this neighborhood in a hurry lest there was a lynch mob after him. one person told him point blank "get the hell out of my neighborhood -- NOW!" we wanted to rename his website -- he is so full of himself. many people told him they were the epitome of the ugly americans, ugly gringos, and a lot of other things that aren't printable. do yourself a favor and don't promote this blowhard. i didn't have a problem with him until we requested that he either re-edit that video or take it down altogether, and he told us all to f___ [ed. Note: I really don't like the use of that word in mixed company] off -- literally -- that he didn't care what we thought and that he was telling the truth. bleeccck! there are some people threatening..............." ya da ya da ya da ya da......blah, blah, blah, blah..........

Now, as you've seen, all I did was suggest a place for the newbie to look for more information. I based my referral on having followed Andy's video productions (he's really gotten good at it) for the last couple of years. He began a video chronicle of their planned move about the same time that I began posting my written chronicle of our process. So, I knew we had a lot in common, because of that shared timeline, if you will. As a matter of fact, their move to Costa Rica was literally days from our own move. I think they had the movers at their former home in the Carolinas one or two days before or after we had movers at our former home in Texas. I believe that they actually arrived in Costa Rica as much as a month before we did, and, of course, I knew that they spent nearly one year living in the San Ramon area. That was partly because he had announced on at least one forum that they planned to rent for a year in one area, see how they liked it, and then, maybe try another part of the country.

Now, I don't see how my referring the inquiry to his web site can be construed to be any sort of promotion of anything, but this is what I have now been accused of doing. Beyond that, I felt like this was pretty strong language. "Lynch[sic] mobs," fa crissakes!? However, being the nice, reasonable fellow that I am, my reply was this:

Can't say I ever met him, but I guess what I was trying to say without hurting anyone's feelings is that San Ramon has to be experienced first hand, 'cause some folks can't take the fog and the rain......and, as I recall, Andy mentions it......

Well, I figured I have had my say, so that will be that. But, I have been wrong before, and boy, was I wrong this time:

(The next morning, this came): (May 6, 9:32am) yes, he mentions the fog and the rain, but a nice guy he ain't and there are members of my community who are going to file a denuncia against him with the ultimate goal of getting his fat ass kicked out of the country -- that's how many people he pissed off. he's an arrogant fool. we asked him to take out those comments, but he gave us all the finger. please don't promote him or what he does. some of his videos are downright stupid, and they both look like idiot gringos struggling to live in a foreign country. ugh! he's the kind of gringo who gives us all a bad name!!!!!!!

Now, this kind of bothered me, because one thing that had always impressed me in all of Andy's videos was his even-handedness, his attention to detail, and his constant disclaimers, focusing one's attention to the fact that any opinions he expressed were only his. I mean, to me, he's the voice of reason, and none of this diatribe sounded at all like the guy I have been observing. So, first I visited Andy's website to review the video in question, and there I saw that he had added an additional disclaimer to his initial information which had stated that this video deals with the question of renting vs. buying. His added disclaimer: "Examples of poor workmanship shown in this video are unique to the house in which I lived. Overall, Rancho Lobo is a fine development. The other homes in that community appear to be built to higher standards and their owners are not reporting any problems as seen in this video".

He also added a red tag to the list of his videos for this particular one, saying that one should read this disclaimer. So, after seeing his disclaimers, and watching the video in question, I sent a quick reply:

(I said): I'm sorry, I had not seen that video, but now I have, and I have to say I really don't understand what you are so upset about......I guess I missed something

Bam! Here comes another email:

(May 6, 10:58am) - - would you want some guy moving into your neighborhood and then making a video about how your house wasn't up to code, and how it would never pass inspection in the united states, or that your roads were s___ [ed. Note: don't much care for that word, either], and your this or that was s___ [ed.note: oops, there it is again], which is basically what he said. he said there were no amenities -- what does that mean -- no tennis court, no swimming pool, what? he was living in that house at the time he made the video, and the owner was trying to sell it. it did sell right after Andy Browne moved out, but basically what he said in the video just wasn't true. and it was a little drama-queenish for him to have the COO and then a big stamp clamping down on the certificate as though we are all living in shotgun shacks here. there were some people for whom their house represented their only investment and they resented that some interloper renter moved in and then made such disparaging comments. so for him to say there are no building codes here -- well, that is a goddamn lie. but then he is some city slicker who can't pound a nail, so what the heck would he know about construction in costa rica or anywhere else. it wasn't my house he was slamming; i just thought he made a total ass of himself with this know-it-all stance he took. once the criminal denuncia is filed with oij, it will go to immigration, and he won't be getting a cedula. the people who live in this community are gunning for him, mainly because they asked that he take those comments out and he flatly refused. arrogant drunk.

Wow! I guess s/he told me where the bear went in the buckwheat, huh? All you see, in all the forums about Costa Rica, and in all the newspapers – both English and Spanish, online and print – is a constant litany of complaints about the worst roads in the world! And, we all talk about it - All the time! As for observations (nay, complaints!) about construction methods and quality, that's also common here, since methods are so different from what gringos are used to. And, boy, you better believe that their electrical work sucks (they don't even know from Romex), and their plumbing! Don't get me started on the plumbing…….oh, and another thing. Andy said very clearly, in the video that was originally posted in December of 2009, that it was his intention to be moving very soon, as the end of their one year lease was approaching.

(So, I replied): I'm sorry, but I really didn't ask for this rant from you........I don't know you any more than I know Andy Browne, but I do know for a fact that he said nothing untrue in any of his videos, and he made very careful disclaimers over and for him leaving your area suddenly, I recall he announced that he would not be living in San Ramon permanently long before he ever got there!

As to building codes, and so forth, so what? My house (that I had built) has very bad electrical (and, I know because I used to be an electrician), and plumbing problems (no traps, no siphons, and no breathers on drains). So, again, he was correct in what he said.

I really don't know what your problem is, but I do know that I am going to view all of Andy's videos, and now I will recommend his web site to all and sundry.

Now, go ahead and bad mouth me all over the place.

This person wasn't done with me yet:

(May 6, 11:44am) - - our houses were built by a good contractor and we had none of the problems you describe. we have very strict building codes in san ramon. maybe not elsewhere in cr, but every stage of construction was inspected. we all discovered his video at the end of december. he was not planning on moving until april after his lease was up. the entire neighborhood ganged up on him and told him they didn't want his kind living here. he immediately started looking for another place to live and moved in early february forfeiting the remainder of his paid in full for a year lease agreement because nobody wanted him here, nobody would talk to him, and people told him point blank to LEAVE. go ahead and recommend him to all you know. CRL is the only board he hasn't been banned from. Even ARCR banned him, as did Scott. i give him less than a year before he leaves costa rica.

As I said, I have never met Andy Browne, or Fran, his wife. But, I have followed, with great interest, his work about their plan to move to Costa Rica, their efforts to obtain legal residence, and his reports of what they have encountered along the way. I have also, exchanged emails with him over the last couple of years. So, I did what seemed like the logical thing to me. I shared all of the foregoing with Andy. And, he very quickly responded. First, he attempted to post a response at XXX, essentially acknowledging my referral to him, but that was bounced, as you can see below:

Your message is piggybacked which is not allowed on XXX. Secondly it seems to be a personal reply to John and not really for the entire membership, but also has the effect of being a second promotion for your website and blog (see your post Message #xxxxxxxx of April 17, 2010).

We do allow one announcement of a new list or blog to the list, after which the member may tagline the name and URL to it when making an on-topic reply to members' questions. Your signature/tagblock, BTW, are perfectly within XXX guidelines. There is even a permitted fourth line left in it where you could add your Skype contact as I have seen elsewhere. So if you were just wanting to thank John for his kind bump of your website and blog, you of course may reply to him off-list.


I. M. Analretentive (name changed for the hell of it)


Andy had tried to post this:

Thanks for the kind words, John. While Fran and I do not pretend to be "know it all's" regarding Costa Rican life, the last 2 years hve taught us much about what it takes to retire and move to a foreign country. I feel we have developed a rather keen insight through our research and experiences that other gringos find informative and entertaining.

To set the record straight, we loved living in the San Ramon area. The first couple of month's there we experienced incredibly beautiful weather. However, renting there gave us the opportunity to see that area over the span of an entire year. For us... the weather was NOT to our liking and we moved on. But's that's the beauty of renting over buying.

Over the last year, we have received nearly a thousand emails from current and prospective expats who have seen our videos and truly appreciate the honest opinions we offer. However, no matter what you say, there will always be a few myopic pinheads who are going to take it the wrong way. Our decision to rent and not buy was the right one FOR US!

San Ramon is a great town. It has everything one could want in a medium sized Costa Rican village. There is a small and very vibrant expat community residing there and we are happy to say that we still keep in contact with many of them.

I would highly recommend anybody looking at the Central Valley as a place to move, give San Ramon and it's surrounding communities some serious thought.

Muchas gracias y tenga buen dia - Thank you and have a nice day!

OK. It is true that XXX is very specific about only one announcement of a personal blog or web site, and Andy had included (but, I have left it out of this post) my entire message in his reply ("piggy backing"). But, it is also true that what he had to say certainly looks politic to me, and should serve to quiet even the most rabid detractor (i.e., my correspondent).

For a bit more info, you should know that the laws here in Costa Rica dealing with libel, slander, and defamation of character differ greatly from the U. S. It is always a criminal matter here, and basically all the defamed, slandered, or libeled person has to do is make sure the authorities are aware of the crime (and electronic media, as in, the internet, are covered), and then, it is pretty much out of the hands of the injured party. So, basically, all gringos are warned through the print media, on internet web sites, etc., to be very careful of what they say about other people. Also, for the uninformed, a 'denuncia' is a formal complaint to the police, as in legal charges.

Finally, as to the identity of this person, you might find it interesting that Andy immediately knew who it was based on the screen name the person used both in her email, and on the forum in question. As a matter of fact, he had included a video on his website that is exclusively her speaking about her garden and the killing of leaf-cutter ants………….I won't say what number that video has, but if you look for the bug lady, you could get a glimpse of her.


  1. John, I hear you. There are those who can't seem to address what you actually said but would rather address what some inner-voice is telling them that you said, or meant to say, or whatever. Aristotle said "Man is the rational animal." Aristotle didn't have internet.

  2. Oh... and it SEEMS to me that this is all about somebody not wanting their property values to go down. But that's just my inner voice telling me what that person meant.

  3. Right. I thought I felt that there might be a worry over property values, there, too. But, who worries about property values in Costa Rica, with the economy that we have all been living with for, what, two or three years? I thought everyone was well aware that buying property here is pretty easy, but selling it is very, very hard to do.