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Sunday, October 24, 2010

Progress Report: Eyeglasses ✓ Hair Dryer ✓ Swimsuit ✓

         Two hours ago I was lying in the sun, occasionally swimming laps in the pool in my new hot pink swimsuit. Now there’s a torrential downpour with raindrops as big as grapes pounding through the jungle outside my office window and occasional sharp claps of thunder in the near distance. But as our landlady Odie says, the October rains are important for the rice and bean crops. Plus, that’s why things are so green here: lots of sunshine and lots of rain. Life in the tropics!
         At least Layne’s cold has improved enough that we went for a walk earlier this morning while the sun was shining. Along the way we met a Gringo couple from Chicago and their little Beagle dog, who moved to Atenas only three weeks ago after living a couple of months up the mountain in San Ramon. Although they found that town to be too cool and too large for their taste, they are quite enamored of Costa Rica in general. Like us, they are working on legal residency and have achieved the “active file” status. We got their contact information and hope to get together soon to cultivate our new friendship.
         Our big outing this week was in search of new eyeglasses for me. In Spanish, they are called anteojos, which is so amusing to me because “antes” means “before” and “ojos” means eyes. So literally, it means in front of the eyes! I’ve been wearing the same scratched up, out-of-date prescription lenses for at least three years so I was overdue. And since part of the reason for this blog is to inform my readers what life is really like in Costa Rica, I will describe in some detail my search for new spectacles.
          Last summer in California, I got glasses made while still covered by Kaiser Permanente insurance but the result was unsatisfactory so I returned them. With only a few days before our departure for Oregon, however, it was too late for Kaiser to make another pair so I got a refund and took my prescription to Lenscrafters, where they can produce glasses in an hour or so. But we were shocked to find that they wanted more than $500 for a new pair, even using discounted frames. At that point, we decided prices would surely be better in Costa Rica and we held off until our return to Atenas.
         A few weeks ago, we stopped by a local optician’s office with my prescription and were quoted a price of one hundred seventeen thousand colones or about $235, using my same frames but with top-notch progressive lenses. They warned us that although we could have glasses made for much less through CAJA, the Costa Rican universal health insurance which we have, they would not be of the high quality that I am used to. Apparently, CAJA keeps their costs down by using lower quality laboratories for such items.
         But the price seemed rather high to us so I put off making an appointment until I could talk with our trusted landlady about it. When I did, Odie frowned and shook her head no. That was too much, she said. And besides, she didn’t really trust the level of competence and knowledge of the company here. Better I should go in to San Jose to a store she could recommend. Since we needed to visit the U.S. Embassy to give Social Security our new address anyway, we headed out on the 9:00 a.m. bus last Thursday. After the brief stop at the Embassy, we walked a few blocks to Plaza Mayor shopping center where I found a great deal on that pink vestido de bano, or bathing suit, in a shop just across the from the optometrist’s office. We found it curious indeed that the cigar kiosk in the center of the aisle was filled with colorful hookah pipes since drugs such as marijuana are quite illegal here.
         Optica Vision was sparkling clean and high-tech, the doctora (female doctor) was in, the staff was friendly and with no other customers around we got quick service. Using my old frames, I was quoted a price of ninety thousand colones ($180), which sounded pretty good compared to the Atenas or U.S. prices. But after I mentioned that we were getting our pensionado status, they tacked on a 10% discount, dropping the total to about $165. They offered to have the glasses back within two days and even gave me a free pair of contact lenses to use while I would be without glasses. We picked the anteojos up yesterday and once I tried them and found the result so excellent, with the progressive lenses sharp, the anti-reflective coating clear and the prescription apparently perfect, I inquired about getting some single-vision computer glasses. I spend a lot of time at my computer and the drugstore pair I use can cause eyestrain. How delighted we were to find that for a simple prescription like that, they offered a “promocion” of only twenty thousand colones ($40) including the frame and the lens! Needless to say, we ordered a pair of those as well as a pair of reading glasses. Now I’ll be set for all my vision needs.
         On our return to Atenas by bus, we stopped by to check on my hair dryer repair, the one that was supposed to take only two days but which, at that point, had been over a week in the shop. I am happy to report that we did indeed retrieve it, fully repaired and for only 2000 colones, about $4. That’s the good news since there’s no way you could have a hair dryer repaired for that low price in the States. Thus, back home one would just sigh and head out to by a new one. Here, the new one would cost quite a lot but the repair is cheap. The bad news is that it took so much longer than I had expected. Each time I went to pick it up, the clerk on duty was unable to locate it, to the point that I had begun to worry that it was actually lost. Apparently the repairman had placed it high up on a shelf out of easy sight, leaving the other workers at a loss as to where it might be found. Finally, I happened in when the repairman was there and it was quickly returned to me with sheepish smiles and apologies for the delay.
         On a final personal note, I would like to thank all you readers for your loyalty to this blog. My page views are now well over 2600 and my audience just in the last week has included visitors from China, New Zealand, Australia, Finland, Slovenia, Denmark, Djibouti and of course, the United States and Costa Rica. Thank you so much for coming to visit this page and keeping up with our adventures in the land of Pura Vida!


  1. Hey Kat:

    That's about as good as it gets, new glasses and all. See you in Atenas next week, we're moving back!
    C&C, Skipper and Pancho

  2. Hi Kat,

    Just checking in, glad to hear all is well and that you are happy, happy, happy!

  3. @Cy - Well, how about that! Will you be living at Hazel's again? Let's get together for dinner and catch up! Our phone is the Atenas prefix plus 4920.

  4. @ Brenda - How nice to see your comment!! Thanks for staying in e-touch... ;-) Say Hi to the gang for us... and hope all's well for you and Erick.