Alligators 'n Roadkill

Alligators 'n Roadkill
On The Road


Friday, June 29, 2012

Changes coming

Heads up!  That is, if there is really anybody still reading this thing.  Changes are coming to my Blog, effective after July 17.  We are returning to Texas on that date, with no plans to come back to Costa Rica, unless/until we sell our property here.  So, since current plans are to return to live in El Paso (Del Norte), the name of this thing will necessarily change to something more appropriate to that locale.  Keep in mind that this is still based on the ramblings, musings, complaints, whining, or rants of a dyed-in-the-wool curmudgeon, who still has a few axes to grind.

don't know what to call it, but the name will indeed have to change......any ideas?

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Our Dream of Pura Vida has turned to mala vida

"There is no such thing as "fun for the whole family."  -- Jerry Seinfeld

Or, as Peggy Lee once sang, “Well, all right, OK, you win………” - - Except when she sang those words, she was talking about admitting to pretty much the opposite of what I have to admit to here and now. My admission is that we have given up on our dream of living in paradise. My admission is that what we thought was a paradise is mostly window dressing, and physical appearance, with nothing behind the curtain.

As you know by now, we came here three years ago with the firm belief that our last years on this earth would be tranquil, peaceful, smooth, totally happy, and without problems. Boy, were we wrong!

At first, as you may recall, things did actually go swimmingly. We received our personal belongings in good shape, and in a very timely manner (albeit nearly 50% higher in cost for shipping than the shipper had quoted prior to the move*). We were able to obtain a construction loan for our little house, and it was completed in only ten weeks time (although the interest rate on the loan is nothing short of usurious).

We were able to purchase a decent car with little trouble, and it has indeed proven to be well worth the (exorbitant) cost. [We paid $16,000.00 for a 2005 model Suzuki Grand Vitara XL7, in June of 2009]. We made many new friends and found ourselves with the busiest social lives we’d seen in many years. We obtained our legal resident status with only a few glitches along the way, and never had to hire an attorney during the process. We were able to have our entire front porch screened, so as to enjoy the view without being bothered by too many bugs. We were able to add both a garage/workshop and a carport to our house.

Yes, things were looking good. We received and entertained a number of visitors, both friends and family over the first year or so that we were here. We were aware that the increasing cost of air travel was having a negative impact on the family members we had anticipated entertaining down here, and that was certainly disquieting. We thought we were adjusting to the difficulties always encountered when trying to purchase just about everything in a small, backwater country. Just about anything manufactured has to be imported, so that logically means higher cost. In this particular little country, not only are manufactured items more costly due to shipping costs, but the truly ridiculous import duties make many things just out of the question. Worse, the quality is very poor because just about everything is imported from China.

What really rang our alarm bells, however, was what occurred on and around the First of March, 2011 (see my Blog entry for April 4, 2011, titled “I Fear That The Blush Is Off The Rose……..”). At about that same time, we also found out that there had been some serious overcharges on our electricity billing (that I did not Blog about until August 4 & 7, titled “Didn’t see this coming…..” – Parts I & II).

Those two events, occurring so closely together, coupled with so many other negative things that had been happening to us, pretty much led to our decision that maybe Costa Rica is not for us, after all. I mean, look at us. We first thought that this would be a place where our small pensions would go farther, and then, when the economy took such a dive, the cost of living here dumped as badly, or worse. When you consider that too many things were already too expensive here (gasoline, manufactured items of every kind, decent food), the rest pretty much took that blush right on off the rose of our dream.

We do not regret this decision, only the delay in reaching it, and its actual implementation. We cannot sell our property, but we cannot let it go, either. We cannot afford to pay anyone to be a caretaker for the property, nor can we pay the electricity, or water, or phone for someone else’s use. So, we have hopes that a young Tico couple will live here rent free, in exchange for which they will maintain the place and pay their own electric.

We will leave here – gladly – on July 17, bound for El Paso, Texas. We do not have high hopes of anything once we get there. We won’t have anything because we cannot afford to pay to ship anything back to the states, which means we quite literally may well lack the proverbial pot to piss in. But, that is OK, because we will lack the window to throw it out of, as well. We expect to rent, most likely a small apartment, if we can find one that we can afford. Our income will have to cover our mortgage payments down here in addition to whatever living arrangements we can manage in Texas.

So, even though we are leaving here, and even though the name of the Blog may no longer be appropriate, I do intend to continue to write the occasional musings of an old grouch (or, those of an habitual bitcher, as my father was wont to say) from wherever we land. We currently have no plans to return to this place, until/unless it finally sells. However, to be honest, if or when it becomes obvious that it will never sell at any price, I think we’ll be happy to just let it go………..

P. S. – I should mention that the electricity went out only once while I was writing this piece. Yeah, even after three years here, we still have power outages 3-4 times per week, lasting from seconds to hours. And, no, they are not usually associated with a lightning strike, or storm event, but just happen randomly.

*this reference is from an email I sent to Charlie Zeller, with a moving company called shiptocostarica, on 3/9/2009, his quote had been $10,465.00, and I emailed him assuring him that I would have that much money ready. His bill (prior to the actual delivery) was over $16,000.00.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

ICE Wins Again!

"No tyranny is so irksome as petty tyranny: the officious demands of policemen, government clerks, and electromechanical gadgets."  -- Edward Abbey
You may recall that we suffered considerable damage to some of our electrical and electronic devices in April, and that we (foolishly) submitted a claim against ICE for the power surge that caused it.
Well, the local administrator did finally respond to our claim in May, but I have held off on commenting on this further until now. According to his letter, which must have taken him all of five minutes time, after an “exhaustive analysis” of our home’s electrical, ICE cannot find what caused our problems. We were given three whole days in which we could appeal this decision, but we lack the funds to seek legal recourse (not to mention the patience to wait these bastards out), so they win again.
On the one hand they acknowledge that we are their clients, and every time you interact with these assholes, they always say “para sirvele,” but the last thing on their mind is obviously NOT service.
We already knew we want out of here, but now I know that I want out much more than I did before. It is simply unconscionable for any entity to be so uncaring, so lazy, so blind, so useless as is ICE. They charge more for electricity here than private or public utilities charge in the states. They remain top heavy with administrative personnel who do nothing. They own too many vehicles to cart their important administrative types around. They will do nothing without money up front. They have a large number of employees in general, who do nothing (the two cretins who performed the ‘exhaustive analysis’ at our home did nothing more than measure the incoming voltage (252 volts!), sniff the burned out capacitors of the dead power surge protector, and look at the items we showed them.
That’s right. A power surge protector! What could have burned out such an item, if not a power surge? How could anything in the house (on the receiving end) that belongs to us possibly cause a power surge?!
Now, even fifty years ago, I believe that whatever technology was extant at that time was capable of showing exactly where and when spikes or power surges occurred. Picture a big room somewhere, with a wall of meters and lights, all indicating the current conditions across the power grid. That would have been fifty years ago. Skip forward to today, and even if ICE is still that primitive, all the jerk in the local office had to do was call over to Tilaran (the county seat, and the location of the ICE HQ for power generated in this general area), and ask them to check their records for the day and time we provided to him. Any reasonable and responsible admin type in the world would have done this for a customer, upon whose continued business his company should depend. But not Mario whatever the hell his name is, the Jefe in the local ICE office. I have never in my life encountered a more unmitigated bastard than this two-faced bureaucrat.
At the end of the day, ICE, in the person of this jerk, denies responsibility, and we are still stuck with the repair costs. God save us from these people. This extremely high cost, not just for the electricity itself, but for all of the devices that have failed in the three years we have been here, has more to do with our decision to get the hell outta here than any other single event or series of events.
For those keeping score, the final is like this:
ICE – millions
Me – Nada, Zero, Zilch, double goose eggs, and 0

P. S. - His name is Mario Murillo Castro, and his title is 'Coordinador,' whatever the hell that means.  I suspect it means that he coordinates ways in which to screw customers, while deflecting their complaints, so that ICE takes in more and more, while delivering less and less.  Lou Cristie sang his theme song, many years ago:  "Two Faces Have I."