Unlike most wild animals, he doesn't seem in the slightest bit scared of people. Or maybe he doesn't perceive someone eating a banana sandwich as much of a threat. As we munch companionably on our lunches, it occurs to me you're never really alone in the jungle.
For ten months I found this position both engaging and challenging. It also served as a conduit for bigger and better things to flow into my life – some of the people I met on the job have become my greatest friends.
As my ESL students slowly grasped the concepts that I tried so hard to relay, I discovered a special type of satisfaction. Watching the proverbial light bulb spark above their heads made me feel like I had made a worthwhile contribution to both society and the future. Those kids would one day be doctors, teachers and social workers who needed English speaking skills to make their own marks on the world.
My hours were great (7:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.), and the pay was phenomenal by Costa Rican standards: $1,350 per month plus airfare to Costa Rica from the States.
Today, there is an even greater variety of teaching jobs available in Costa Rica, many with decent salaries that allow one to live in a comfortable apartment, eat well and spend two or three weekends a month at the nearest beach, volcano or mountain town.
ESL teachers seeking a flexible schedule should look for gigs teaching private lessons to business people, night classes for adults and college students, or homeschool programs for children.
If you’re looking for guaranteed hours and a more structured schedule, consider preschool, primary and high school positions in private bilingual or English-only institutions. Because requirements for work visas are often difficult to meet, it can be complicated, but not impossible, to secure a position in one of Costa Rica’s public schools.
Expect to earn $5 to $10 an hour tutoring or instructing at a local academy, and $10 to $15 an hour giving lessons to business professionals, doctors or hotel employees.
Being present in Costa Rica at the time of your job search will give you an edge over similarly qualified competitors who are still in the U.S. Showing up in person proves that you aren’t just thinking about relocating – you have already done it. If you really want to teach ESL here but can’t find anything ahead of time, be bold. Come down, make friends and set up some interviews.
Seasoned English teacher Sarah Mosley did just that. She has taught ESL in Costa Rica for two years and is currently teaching at the Green Life Academy in Playa del Coco.
ESL Teacher Interview: Sarah Mosley, age 28
1.) What originally brought you to Costa Rica? Well, I’ve been teaching for about nine years – five in Poland, two in the U.S. and almost two in Costa Rica. My American husband (then my fiancé) had visited Costa Rica and fallen in love with its beaches. It became his dream country, a place that represented the end of the “rat race” back in Europe and the U.S. We saved our money, packed up our things and took the plunge.
2.) Why did you choose to teach at Green Life Academy? First of all, the Green Life Academy has a lot of character. Everything from the billy goat mascots to the enormous playground is designed to keep students active and engaged. And the facilities are beautiful. Things like air conditioned classrooms and healthy, catered lunches create a very comfortable working environment. Secondly, Green Life utilizes the Calvert program. This is an amazing course that I believe provides a superior education compared to other schools. The U.S. government recommends Calvert for foreign diplomats and travelers who are unable to put their kids in a conventional academy. For professors like me, it makes teaching a piece of cake by providing ready-made lesson plans.
3.) Do you have a Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) or other teaching certification? No, but I do have a B.A. (Bachelor of Arts) in Teaching English from a Polish University. To teach in Costa Rica, you generally only need a B.A. in any subject, along with proficiency in the English language. But a TEFL certification is definitely helpful in terms of learning effective teaching methods.
4.) What are your responsibilities at the school? I am the teacher in charge of the 4th and 6th grades. All core subjects are integrated into our curriculum, and we often rotate teachers to keep things fresh. We also have extra activities outside of the Calvert program, like art, physical education, computer lab and drama. I teach German and music.
5.) How does your teaching salary compare to that in the U.S. or Poland? It is about the same as in Poland, and much less than in the U.S. In Poland and the U.S., I would also be getting benefits like health insurance and social security, but that would mean re-entering the rat race. No thanks.
6.) What are the positive and negative aspects about teaching in Costa Rica? There are many positive aspects to teaching here. First of all, it rarely rains. Even during the rainy season, downpours don’t begin until after school lets out. The sun is always shining, so the kids can always play outside. You don’t have to worry about entertaining them inside at recess on stormy days. Also, working with kids of different nationalities is a very positive experience. Canadians, Americans and Costa Ricans all play together wonderfully. It’s truly a beautiful thing for me.
The most negative thing about teaching here is the bureaucracy. No matter what you want to do, there is going to be a lot of paperwork required to get it done. Since it is very difficult to get your papers in order to legally work here, I find it much easier to use the ‘independent contractor’ loophole. It can also be frustrating trying to find certain materials here – specialized equipment for science experiments, and things of that nature.
7.) Have you taught elsewhere in Costa Rica? How did that experience compare? Yes, I taught at a similar school last year. It was on a much smaller scale because it was based out of a private home. The Green Life Academy is now run by those same owners, so the experience feels very similar. Being such a small operation gives the school a cozy vibe.
8.) Do you have any advice for people considering living and teaching in Costa Rica? First, [North American and European] newcomers should consider looking for American employers and a working environment similar to what they are used to. Just getting accustomed to the Costa Rican mentality can be discouraging, especially in the beginning. The different system and the fact that everything takes forever might be hard to take in. I really like working for an American-run school because everything is very structured. My bosses really listen to me and try to make things easier. They are also open to new ideas. Most importantly, enjoy it. Enjoy the nature and the incredible beauty around you. You are in Costa Rica – don’t think too much. Just focus on the Pura Vida!
|Cloud computing is a big help to tourists and expats
By Garland M. Baker
Special to A.M. Costa Rica
There is great news for expats and tourists in the cloud. Speaking of cloud computing, that is. Most expats — people of other nationalities who have made Costa Rica their home — do not have a clue what the term cloud computing means even though the concept could greatly change their lives, especially those who would like to make Costa Rica their home or at least visit the country more often.
Cloud computing is nothing more than working on the Internet using software and services that are provided on the Internet. Google is one of the foremost pioneers of these new services. Gmail, Google's e-mail service, was just the beginning of its huge other offerings in software.
Two examples in Google's menu are its calendar and document applications. However, the company offers other applications as well. Many are free and some others have charges associated with their use.
Why is this important to expats and tourists?
The answer is simple. It means one does not need to work from the confines of an office any longer or even in any physical location. The Internet, cloud computing and Software as a Service — commonly referred to as SaaS — truly sets people free.
Over the last two years there has been an explosion of services available to professionals on the Internet which allow them to work from anywhere. These new services increase as well the usefulness of smart cellular telephones, iPhones and Windows Mobile enabled phones, to enhance working from the cloud.
Many expats and tourists who live in or visit Costa Rica are some kind of professional. At least they have retired or are vacationing from some kind of work that can still use their expertise. This knowledge is marketable, and it can be sold and invoiced using the cloud. Many of these services are geared toward those who sell time rather than things, but what a great thing to sell: One's knowledge in the form of time.
Here is how to turn time into money, using the Internet and cloud computing while surfing the afternoon at Playa Guiones or watching the sun set on one of the other beautiful beaches of Costa Rica.
The major player in the cloud computing world is Google. However, new companies are emerging daily to fill in the gaps where Google is weak. This is especially true in the area of invoicing and collecting for one's billable time.
The leader of the pack in using the Internet to bill for almost anything including one's time is FreshBooks. This company was started by people billing for Internet design work, but the company has exploded into one that is changing the way people think about the way they live and earn a living.
Here is an example of this concept and the use of FreshBooks:
Joe Tourist came to Costa Rica for the weekend from his office in New York to surf the afternoon at Playa Guiones, a famous surfing spot at
Nosara. After long, hard surfing, he gets a call from a client from the United States and spends more than an hour on his cellular telephone in a deep consultation. As soon as the call is finished, Joe hits sends invoice from his smartphone, a mobile phone offering advanced capabilities, using MiniBooks, a component of the FreshBooks system, and the client is sent an invoice immediately via e-mail for the consultation.
Depending on what one sells, there are many other options available to bill for services and things using the cloud. The major players in billing professional time are Clio, Rocket Matter, and Bill4Time. FreshBooks and Harvest are the leaders in billing for other types of time-related matters and for items. All the companies are growing very fast, and their offerings are increasing exponentially this year.
Now here is an interesting quandary: Is it legal to come to Costa Rica and bill for your time using the Internet or smartphones? Tourists are not suppose to work here. Many legal residents are also restricted and cannot work legally. Is the Costa Rican government entitled to collect income taxes on revenue produced in this country by foreigners using the cloud? Interesting questions for sure. Undoubtedly, these queries will have the Costa Rican government as well as the country's tax authorities in a huge dilemma for years.
Here is a prediction. Cloud computing will be great for Costa Rican real estate values. Again, the rational is simple. People will not be tied to living in any particular place.
Costa Rica's 3G Internet system is off the ground, and it is getting better. In the next three to five years it should be great. The system works almost anywhere in the country today.
All this may sound a bit techie for some, but really it is not. It is all pretty simple stuff, and it is getting easier to use by the day. Cloud computing is here, and it is just going to get better and easier to use. This translates into more mobility for those who want to come to Costa Rica and live or have a second home here. This also translates into a bright future for the country and higher real estate value in the years to come.
Author: Jordan Salvatoriello
Are you happy? Yes you, with your plastic fantastic rain boots and your threadbare copy of Love Story. If you answered “yes,” well, you’re wrong. At least, that is according to the Happy Planet Index (HPI), a new survey calculated by Britain’s New Economics Foundation. Out of 143 countries rated in HPI for overall happiness, life satisfaction, life expectancy and ecological footprint, the United States came in at 114 just behind Lebanon, Yemen and Kazakhstan and a nose above Nigeria. Oh my.
But don’t fret. If you’re a singleton looking for your happy place, it is not beyond your reach. It’s south of the border. No, I am not suggesting Tijuana’s Zona Norte (get your mind out of the gutter), but rather Latin America, in particular Costa Rica, which received top rank as HPI’s happiest and greenest country. For singles in Costa Rica, the honeymooners are quick to engage you, chiseled surfers are a dime a dozen, the beaches are full of foreign charmers and the ocean does not discriminate.
I recently traveled to Costa Rica (hence the brief interruption to
your usual programming) to find a bit of my own happiness and stumbled
upon something equally as profound, “pura vida.” Pura vida literally
means “pure life.” The phrase is commonly used by Costa Ricans in a
variety of contexts to express their appreciation for “the good life.”
It’s an expression that embodies good spirit, appreciating the moment,
celebrating the little things, perseverance, strength and the
importance of community, all synergized in two little words. How sweet
Upon arriving on day one, we boarded a small van to take us on the long and winding drive from San Jose to Arenal near La Fortuna. Although our driver did not speak a lick of English, beyond American pop rock, and we did not speak fluent Spanish, he barely took a breath from his excited diatribe; pointing wildly at coffee plantations, sugar cane fields and preserved forest along the roadside. He occasionally stopped to toss a smile at me in the rear view mirror. I smiled back using the universal language: happy.
The low hanging mist of the late afternoon signaled the imminent rain, and everything was awash in green, with the occasional flash of stucco, wrought iron and tin; there were endless streams of bright colored clothing strung-up along the hillside to dry. Our driver inspired us to sing along with him to the radio “give a little bit, give a little bit of your love to me!” At the chorus, he would pinch his fingertips together in front of his knotted face and look at me again in the rear view, singing “just a little bit?” It made me laugh. It would be the first of many.
On day two we hiked into the rainforest via the El Silencio trails near the base of the Arenal volcano and studied Howler monkeys, sloths, army ants, viper snakes, termites and other things you do not want to touch, but are sickly fascinated by and would love to see up close. We topped off our day at the Tabacon Hot Springs where the bartenders were pleased to follow our trail, keeping wine in abundance, as we explored the thread of steam laden paths to various black and rocky pools. We laughed ourselves to tears in the dark caverns under a hot waterfall late into the night. It’s a good life.
On day three we were ready for adventure and headed up Sky Trek’s
Sky Tram to zip line 660-feet (that’s about 66 stories, folks) above
the rainforest along eight cross-sectional cables. Each cable promised
a thrilling ride lasting anywhere from 30-to-45 seconds and offered
panoramic views of Arenal volcano and lake. Being the stuff of legends,
I made history by slowing to a dead stop halfway across the first and
highest cable, too far for the staff to come rescue me. Hand-over-fist,
I unwittingly conquered my fear of heights Cliffhanger-style and slowly
pulled myself to safety – the once peaceful feeling of a bird in flight
now transformed to a jolting rush of adrenaline. Each pull of my gloves
along the wire was met with cheers of encouragement. Once safely on the
platform, my climbing belt unhooked by the crew, I was encircled by our
group, who moments before had been complete strangers in plastic
jackets and funny looking helmets, but who now hugged me, patted me on
the back and spurred me on. Costa Rica will do that to you. There are
no strangers here. You can’t help but bond together, like teammates and
comrades all here for the same reason – to feel alive through the
thrill of adventure.
Day four was a travel day. Our cab driver dropped us off at a rustic looking building that, at first glance, seemed much like a barn. We wheeled our luggage inside (no backpacking for these city girls) and tried to decipher which patch of dusty grass was to be considered the runway. Despite being forced to surrender our aerosols, leaving us with no bug spray or sun block (oh crap), we were in good spirits and ready to journey on to Quepos and Manuel Antonio. Moments later, as I was busy photographing a butterfly just opening its wings, a small 12-seater propeller plane dropped down from the sky and seemingly turned on a dime to greet us. Several chewable Dramamine and some rice and beans later, we were aboard our second puddle jumper where the vast forest and lush countryside were met with a sweep of low laying clouds. I was no longer envious of those that decided to brave the four-hour bus ride to Quepos to “get a good look at the countryside.” There was no better view than ours from the sky. It was truly majestic, if not a little nauseating.
On day five, after mistakenly ordering more fresh fruit, scrambled eggs and toast with jam than we could ever possibly consume, we hiked in our bikinis and cover-ups into Manuel Antonio National Park where the trails spilled out onto magnificent brown sand beaches. We spent the day taking turns splashing around in the waves, soaking up the rays, chasing stealth iguanas with our point-and-shoot and falling asleep in the shade. We managed to make it back to town in time to enjoy a radiant pink sunset while slurping frothy Pina Coladas, our painted toes buried deep in the sand.
On day six we arrived at Hotel La Mariposa, meaning “the butterfly.” While Capuchin monkeys seek to snatch items from your unattended beach bag, you can traverse the various levels of the hotel to enjoy the dispersed reflecting pools, hot tub and swim up bar. From the balcony of our room, you could see over the cliffs down onto the rocks and sandy shore, and all day long you are unable to tell where the sea ends and the sky begins. Dinner at Marlintini’s meant the best seafood and most delectable cocktails in town (and the owner is from Boston, go figure). Always a happy place when a mango martini is on the bar, especially when it is brought to you by a handsome yet timid Jamaican his first day on the job.
On day seven we got up early to take in breakfast over the cliffs and head out for our first surf lesson in the rough and tumble of the public beaches. Put on your leash, stay on top of the crest to make it out past the breakers and listen to your cute, little Costa Rican instructor named Javier. Javier didn’t speak a lot of English, but it was enough to get me by. His limited phrase book consisted of: “get on board” (it’s time to rock and roll); “get off board” (a really big wave is coming and you’re about to get your butt kicked); “paddle” (this wave’s got your name on it); “UP!” (stand up and surf, girl!); “you have beautiful eyes” (I would like to take you salsa dancing); and his most oft used expression, “you OK?” (that wipe out looked like it hurt). Even the red hot sunburn the day’s lesson had left on the back of our legs could not stop us from enjoying dinner out at Barba Roja, known for its amazing sunset views. We then headed out for salsa dancing with the surf crowd to live music at Bambu Jam that evening. We left Costa Rica the next morning sweaty, tired, burnt, bruised and completely exhilarated. Pura vida. It’s a good life.
Henry Miller once said “One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things.” Costa Rica provides both. So, if you are waiting for someone to come along, love your peaches and shake your tree, you may be in for a long wait. Life’s just too short to stand still and taking action is amazingly empowering. So, drop your blackberry, grab your itsy bitsy swimmies and head for the nearest exit. I promise you an experience of a lifetime.
This is our happy place, where’s yours?
Ticos are among the world's leaders in life expectancy
By Adam Williams
Tico Times Staff | firstname.lastname@example.org
You are only given one life and, though efforts might be made to prolong it, life ends in death. In the annals of history, there is one thing no man or woman has ever done, and that is to live forever.
Timelines: The lines on aged and aging faces – such as those worn by these women at Carlos María Ulloa Home for the Elderly in Guadalupe – tell unique stories of the owners' pasts. Ronald Reyes | Tico Times
The good news is that life is lasting longer in almost every country in the world.
In Costa Rica, for example, according to a recently released study by the National Statistics and Census Institute (INEC), the average life span in 2009 was 79.3 years, the highest level of life expectancy ever recorded in Costa Rica. And this increase in life expectancy was accompanied by the country's lowest-ever infant mortality rate.
In 2009, 8.84 out of every 1,000 children born perished within their first year of life. Thus, according to INEC, Costa Rica has the lowest infant mortality rate in Latin America and is among the region's leaders in life expectancy.
Not long ago, the situation was much different. In 1950, the infant mortality rate in Costa Rica was 93.8 children for every 1,000 births, while the average life lasted only 57.3 years.
Over the past 60 years, scientific and medical advances have helped prevent death and, thus, prolong life.
“The biggest success of the 20th century has been a huge decline in mortality everywhere,” said Hania Zlotnik, director of the population division at the United Nations. “From 1950 to today, every country has had a reduction in mortality. In the 1940s and 1950s, good antibiotics were discovered and people began to use them massively, including in very poor countries. As those interventions were scaled up, experts began to think that mortality was going to be totally controlled in the upcoming decades because people would no longer die from common communicable diseases.”
The ability to control such diseases – including polio, tuberculosis and hepatitis – with vaccinations has, in fact, been the primary driver in extending the average life span worldwide.
According to the U.N. World Population Prospects report, the world life expectancy in 1950 was 46.6 years, while the infant mortality rate was at 151.9 for every 1,000 births. Today, the average life expectancy worldwide is 67.7 years, with an infant mortality rate at 47.3 per 1,000 births.
But while immunizations and cures for the most common diseases have propelled life expectancy to new heights throughout the world, social factors also can contribute to the extension of one's vitality.
Teaching Oneself How to Live
Costa Rica is often lauded for its high literacy rate (around 96 percent) and commitment to education. In a country with a population of 4.5 million, 56 universities and technical schools offer an education beyond the high school level.
Though education does not directly contribute to longevity, it is generally understood that higher education translates to better health decisions.
“If the level of education in a country is at a high level, it creates a culture of health that educates people to make better health decisions,” Dr. Ana Morice, vice minister of health, told The Tico Times. “In Costa Rica, health education begins at an early age and is taught through the high school level. The commitment to health is something that characterizes this country and we know that if we want to continue to have long life expectancy and a healthy nation, we have to defend it with education.”
Morice also alluded to the health care reform legislation passed this week in the United States. Morice said she believes the strength of the health of the Costa Rican population is rooted in the health care that is available to all citizens. Access to health care via the Social Security System (CAJA) was made available to all Costa Rican citizens in 1943.
Sex education also plays an important role in longevity.
African countries, particularly the sub-Saharan nations, have the world's lowest life expectancies and highest infant mortalities. According to Zlotnik, this is a direct result of the spread of the human immunodeficiency virus, or HIV.
“We got a shock when HIV, a communicable disease, appeared,” Zlotnik said. “Some of the countries that are highly affected by the HIV epidemic – instead of having a continuous decline in mortality (as in the rest of the world) – have seen increases in mortality due to HIV and AIDS.”
According to Avert, an international organization for HIV and AIDS Prevention, in 2007 Costa Rica recorded the fewest number of deaths due to HIV and AIDS, with less than 200 people dying due to the virus. Costa Rica and Belize reported the fewest HIV-and AIDS-related deaths in Central America.
“There are many efforts made towards sex education in Costa Rica,” Morice said. “As students learn more about the risks of sex, the numbers of sexually transmitted diseases and early pregnancies are decreased. This is why the numbers of sexually transmitted diseases are lower here than in many other countries”.
Women Outlive Men
In their nationwide study, INEC found that women in Costa Rica live an average of five years longer than do men. The life expectancy of women is 81.8 years, while that for men is 76.8 years. And this five-year differential is broadening, as it is everywhere else in the world. The worldwide average life expectancy for men is 65.4 years, and it stands at 69.8 years for women.
“Some of the reasons for the longer life expectancy for women are biological and, from her first year of birth, a woman's health is usually better than that of a man,” Morice said. “Other reasons include mental and physical stress on the body, which tend to be higher for men. At the same time, some factors are environmental. We know that violence, homicides, suicides and car accidents are more frequent among men. Overall, women tend to take better care of themselves.”
Though women outlive men, the overall life expectancy of 79-plus years in Costa Rica is impressive, putting the country in the world's upper echelon regarding longevity.
Of the many things the country does well, the continued push for better education, and better access to, and quality of, health care is adding to both the quality and length of life in Costa Rica.
The first question I am often asked when meeting new people is why I
live in Costa Rica. This is also a common topic of conversation among
ex-pats as everyone is curious as to why someone else chose to move to
Costa Rica. I have compiled the top 10 reasons that I often hear.
1) Costa Rica offers the perfect climate. The Central Valley offers spring-like temperatures of around 72 degrees year round. If you would like it a little cooler, you can move up the mountain a little or if you would like it warmer, you move down towards the beach. There is no more shoveling of snow - ever.
2) Costa Rica is a stable, peace loving democracy. Costa Rica eliminated their military in 1948 and put all the money that they would have spent on the military into social programs. They have clean water, good health care and a very high literacy rate.
3) Costa Ricans believe they live in paradise. One of my favorite stories is one of our friends who was visiting was asked by Costa Rican immigration how long he was staying. He told them 10 days. The immigration official surprised our friend by shaking his head and responding sadly, "That is such a short time to be in paradise." My favorite DJ, Evan Luck on Radio Dos, always refers to the country as paradise. I smile every time I hear him.
4) Costa Rica is committed to the environment and sustainable living. According to the Happy Planet Index, an incredible 99 percent of their energy is being generated from sustainable sources. Costa Rica is the first nation that has set a goal of becoming carbon neutral by 2021 They have reversed deforestation. Forests now cover twice as much land as they did 20 years ago.
5) The cost of living is relatively low. Because of the temperature where we live, we have no heating or cooling costs. Property tax is incredibly low. Trash is collected twice a week. Water is cheap and clean throughout the country. Electricity is about the same or maybe higher if you realize you aren't paying for heating and cooling. Food depends heavily on what you eat. Imported foods are expensive, native foods are inexpensive. Health care costs are low for everyone and for citizens and permanent residents there is national health care. Education is free through college for citizens and permanent residents.
6) Good work life balance. People work hard here,
but they also enjoy life. Family and friends are important. People
take the time to be social. People talk to each other on the street,
if only to say hello and ask how you are.
7) Monkeys wake you up. Now I'm aware that may not be a selling feature for everyone, but I think it is one of the greatest aspects of living in Costa Rica. I love hearing howler monkeys. Watching monkeys is also a great pastime. Costa Rica is home to four species, the howler, spider, white faced capuchin and the red backed squirrel monkey.
8) Costa Rica has beautiful beaches everywhere. Costa Rica has beaches on both the Caribbean and Pacific Coasts. There are beaches for every need. They have packed commercial beaches with lots of activities, beaches that are great for surfing, they have beaches where the turtles nest, they have protected beaches for families with small children, beaches where you can ride horses, or bikes, beaches where you can pitch a tent and sleep all night. They have white sand beaches and black volcanic beaches. You can watch the sun rise over the Caribbean and set over the Pacific, all in the same day.
9) Birds abound. Costa Rica is home to 850 species of birds and 600 live here year-round. Hummingbirds, parrots, toucans, scarlet macaws and a wide variety of water birds are all seen here. Bird-watching is a national past time.
10) Dogs go everywhere. Costa Rica doesn't have leash laws. Dogs are often seen in restaurants and at the beach. Most dogs are very friendly and well behaved. At the Christmas Eve service a dog walked in and sat down in the middle of the aisle. No one got up to shoo him out. They treated him like he was one of God's creatures too.
Every day more and more people chose Costa Rica as a place to live or retire.
The process goes like this. Usually people come here as tourists and then fall in love with the country and its lifestyle. While others read about Costa Rica or see nature programs on TV which extol the country’s beauty and all it has to offer.
After doing their research on line and reading all of the guidebooks people then decide to make the move. They usually contact a relocation expert or take a retirement tour prior to making the definitive move. Smart individuals also attend the monthly seminar given by the Association of Residents of Costa Rica or ARCR. I include this informative seminar on my monthly relocation/retirement tours. With the information and contacts from the seminar and my tours, people now feel comfortable and have the confidence level to make the big move.
After finally moving here and getting settled in their new home or apartment, the question always arises, “What do I do now?” I am in a new country with a lot of free time and have to find out how to use it. This shouldn’t be a problem since there are hundreds of activities here to stay busy and happy. There is usually a period of adjustment where you have to get use to the way things work in your new country. This is usually the point at which the honeymoon starts to end and you begin to confront a variety of daily situations. Having network of friends and getting involved in some hobby or activity can make all the difference in world in adapting to life in a new country. Your friends will be your support and your activities will keep you occupied.
I would be lying through my teeth if I said Costa Rica was for everyone. But if you make an effort to understand the culture, go with the flow, make friends and most of all have a good sense of humor, you should be able to adjust after the initial honeymoon ends and take advantage of Costa Rica’s incredible “ Pura Vida” lifestyle.
Fifty years ago, the Pacific Coast of Central America was a wild coastal jungle. The tiny Mono Titi monkey ranged freely from Panama through Costa Rica. Today, the Mono Titi is restricted to two small, disconnected scraps of habitat, Manuel Antonio National Park, north of Playa El Ray, and Corcovado National Park to the south. Every day, the Mono Titi's habitat diminishes, and so do the Mono Titi.
During the middle of the last century, Costa Rica emerged from third world impoverishment through a national agricultural development program. Devastating deforestation made way for alien crops like bananas, rice and cattle. Developers imported their visions of a tropical paradise by erecting modern resorts surrounded by coconut palms, also non-indigenous to Costa Rica and unsupportive to native wildlife.
Thus, the Mono Titi are left with nowhere to go. They are trapped in two small islands of habitat amidst an inhospitable landscape, no biological corridor connecting them and no hope for survival without substantial intervention.
Saving the Mono Titi
Mono Titi monkeys are among the smallest primates on Earth. Weighing in at 22 ounces or so, they are unabashedly adorable and socially egalitarian. Both males and females nurture their young, and they exhibit no social class or hierarchical order. It is believed that only 1,700 Mono Titi monkeys remain. Restoring their habitat and creating a biological corridor between habitats is critical to their survival.
The Eco Preservation Society is poised to address the complexity and magnitude of this project. With proper funding, Mono Titi's habitat can be expanded and restored and we can save this tiny primate from extinction.
Saving the Mono Titi requires the restoration of a biological corridor between the Naranjo River and the Savegre River. Not an easy undertaking. The project requires removing and reversing the negative effects of non-native plants, such as deep-rooted grasses, sea almond and coconut palms. Then natural mangrove colonies must be re-established, using native varieties of mangrove, ferns and other salt-tolerant species. Ultimately, a biological corridor connecting the two separate Mono Titi habits would spare the monkeys from extinction and provide additional habitat for other indigenous Costa Rican animals.
Sufficient funding from donors, partners and eco-tourists will allow the Eco Preservation Society to restore habitat and hope to the Mono Titi monkeys.
The Replanting the Rainforests program was developed by the Eco Preservation Society and is implemented in conjunction with Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation, Rainforest Trust and TreeBankingLLC. We are presently running the Earth Day Birthday Gift to Our Planet Campaign in support of the program.
In 2009 we are rolling out is a pilot for the campaign. Starting in 2010 we will be executing a ten-year program to "Turn the Tide on Global Deforestation"
This is not a Conservation Program. Conservation is critical, but 80% of the planets native forests are gone and conservation is no longer enough.
This is not simply Tree Planting program. There are several other tree planting programs, but these programs are fatally flawed. These programs do not have control of the lands where the trees are planted and in most cases the trees are planted in areas that have a history of deforestation.
The Replanting the Rainforest Program creates Sustainably Managed Permanent Rainforest Habitats. Within these habitats both sustainable forestry and permagriculture techniques will be employed that will as close as possible mimic natural processes so as not to upset the continuity of the forest environment. The natural array of biodiversity is meticulously safeguarded, while at the same time we create the economic engine necessary to prevent the un-sustainable exploitation of the resource.
Our focus is to find under-producing agricultural lands, cattle ranches and degraded forests and restore them to more natural conditions. Our methods include analog forestry, wildlife habitat enhancement, biomass carbon negative energy production, biochar soil augmentation and edible forest gardens.
Many women in Costa Rica are delaying motherhood to pursue career dreams.
San Jose, Costa Rica - In Costa Rica, one woman will soon be president. Another is training to summit Mt. Everest.
Meet the new Ticas.
They are increasingly taking jobs out of the home and putting their careers first. Many are opting out of motherhood altogether. They are slowly rising up the corporate ladder and climbing the echelons of government.
The new Ticas are cracking the glass ceiling in a developing nation that had been a faithful Catholic, agricultural society that mostly kept women at home. In many areas, such as education levels and politics, they are reaching beyond other Latinas and even their counterparts in the rich north.
Gineth Soto almost became the first Costa Rican — male or female — to scale Everest. She already has five of the coveted "Seven Summits" — the highest peaks of each continent — under her belt. She just needs to scale Everest and Antarctica's Vinson Massif and she'll join the ranks of 34 international female "summiteers" who have made it.
"The new Ticas of today are women who are very enterprising, and they've demonstrated they can lead a country, a company, a house; they can do whatever they want," said Soto, who had to turn back during her first attempt at Everest in 2008. Now she's training for a second try.
A female go-getter like Soto, married with no children, was a rare breed a couple of generations ago. "My grandmother had 14 children and was the typical mama of those days," said the 36-year-old climber. Soto's mother had three daughters and worked hard in a restaurant to raise them by herself.
When asked about kids of her own, Soto said, "To be honest, that's not a priority right now. The plan, the dream, is Everest. I have to finish my project of seven summits."
The country is undergoing a "second reproductive revolution," said Luis Rosero, a leading demographer at the Central American Population Center at University of Costa Rica. The first big rebellion took root in the 1960s, when families began planning to have two or three children instead of seven.
Now the fertility rate has fallen to 1.9 children per woman, according to 2008 statistics. A study by the National Statistics and Census Institute predicts it will hit 1.7 in the next five years — well below the 2.1 "replacement rate" needed to replenish the population. The United States population is right on the replacement rate.
The average fertility rate for Latin America and the Caribbean is 2.3 children per woman. In the last half decade, Guatemala has averaged 4.2 children per woman, the highest rate in Latin America, according to the U.N.'s 2009 Statistical Yearbook for Latin America and the Caribbean. At the opposite end of the scale, Cuba's rate is the lowest in the region, at about 1.5, according to the U.N.
In Costa Rica, the second reproductive revolution is seeing women wait longer than ever to have their first baby, which will slow the fertility rate further still.
"Women are questioning when to have their first child. There are women in their 20s and 30s who say they don't want children at all. This was unheard of 20 years ago," Rosero said. The trend is too fresh to predict how long women will prolong pregnancy, he said, and it remains to be seen if Costa Rica will end up with extremely low fertility rates as happened in Spain and Italy.
As Costa Rica's fertility rates began to fall, health and education standards rose. Now gains are being made in improving the representation of women in business and politics.
Women grew from 30 percent of the workforce in the 1990s to 42 percent in 2008, and more than a quarter are their home's main breadwinner, according to studies by the United Nations Development Program's Costa Rica office and the official statistics bureau. Employed women have on average one more year of college education than men.
However, "women are still trying to reconcile production with reproduction," said Raquel Herrera, programs specialist at the U.N. office. Women work multiple "shifts," changing roles from breadwinner at the office, to cleaner, cook and caretaker at home, unless they have the means to delegate the housework. Ticas are still trying to change that custom, said Herrera.
And increased employment isn't translating to equal pay. A gender-based salary gap persists and, recent studies suggest, has even widened. Thirteen years ago men earned 15 percent more than women in the same jobs, according to a report in La Nacion newspaper. That number has jumped to 26 percent.
"Women tend to accept the position and the salary they are given; they don't renegotiate. That's different from men," said Ligia Olvera, a Mexican-Costa Rican economist who has researched gender issues.
The political sphere has carved a path of its own. Women gained the right to vote in 1949. Today, by law, at least one woman must appear on ballots, either as one of two vice presidents or the president, and women must make up at least 40 percent of a political party's electable posts. The government plans to make it a 50-50 split by the next elections in 2014.
A Georgetown-educated politician, Laura Chinchilla will take office on May 8 as the country's first female president. She has served as a legislator, public security minister, justice minister and vice president to the current president, Oscar Arias. She has already filled nearly half of her ministry posts, including key positions like economy minister and foreign trade chief, with women, the most female representation in a cabinet in Costa Rican history.
Soto, the climber, couldn't vote in the election because she was training in California. But she still revels in the big moment Chinchilla ascended her Everest. "The glass is broken," she said. "From now on, any girl who's born, if she wants to be president one day, she can."