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Sunday, October 2, 2011

Retirement Workshop Research

George points out the view at one homesite
How I stay so busy that it’s been almost two weeks since I posted here is really beyond me! This time, however, I do have a good excuse: Layne and I were away for three days last week on a Retirement Tour with long-time Costa Rica resident and tour operator George Lundquist. When we returned home on Tuesday night, we were too tired to do much but fall into bed. Transcribing Layne’s voluminous notes and going through dozens of photos in the following days was also time-consuming. Add the fact that I was on deadline for my retirement column in, then the hike into town for Friday’s feria and you get the picture that the rest of our week was pretty hectic. 

Attorney Roberto explains Costa Rican law
The bus trip with George and the other participants was dense with information, much of it not new to me and Layne, having lived here for almost two years now, but clearly valuable to newcomers Bob and Linda, a single woman named Jan and a single guy named Jay. For most of them it was their first trip to Costa Rica and they clearly gained many useful insights into what life is like here, how to rent, buy or build a home, weather patterns at different elevations in the western end of the Central Valley and expert advice from guest speakers, including an attorney, an accountant and an authority on shipping goods from the United States. Plus, George is a fountain of information, much of it conveyed in humorous anecdotes that kept us all in smiles as we traveled the roads of the country. But perhaps the best part of the trip, at least for us, was meeting so many knowledgeable expats who have learned many lessons, sometimes the hard way, but whose generosity in sharing their experiences with the group were not only educational but fun. We saw some beautiful homes and expansive views, enjoyed great food and wine at the two evening receptions and made some wonderful new friends.

Learning the features of George's "spec" house
Our purpose in taking the tour was related to our plans to conduct retirement workshops in the United States next summer. As we begin to gear up for those seminars, it seemed to us that participating in the tours that are available for potential retirees would be worthwhile research. How can we fairly recommend any of the various tours without experiencing them ourselves? Our good friends Sally and Leonard had taken George’s tour before their move to Costa Rica and they felt it was a beneficial part of their “due diligence,” so we thought we should give it a try as well. We’re very glad we did. (If you are interested in our workshops, please email me at and we’ll notify you of dates and locations.)

Another chunk of my time of late has been devoted to the volunteer work I’m doing with the Partido Verde Ecologista (PVE), or Green Ecological Party. When I first read about the group and their plans to campaign to get an environmentalist elected to the Assemblea Legislativa (Legislative Assembly) in 2014, I was intrigued and wondered if, given my extensive work in politics over the years, I might be of help to them. The magnificent Costa Rican environment is fragile and I see many instances where poor political choices now threaten the ecology of this small nation. I felt that if my experience could help them achieve their goals it would be gratifying to me and helpful in preserving Costa Rica’s stunning flora and fauna. A win-win proposition.

As volunteer work often is, it has already been far more rewarding than I had even hoped. As a first step, I introduced the key players in PVE to Daniel, my publisher at The Costa Rica News, who is also active in environmental issues. Together with Rodrigo J. Arias, the founder of PVE, and Carlos Arrieta, the chief of political action (and a former candidate for the Assemblea), we are working to increase public awareness of their platform and to attract funds and volunteers to their campaign. I would ask each of you to visit the Facebook page and hit “like” so we can generate a buzz of excitement about their efforts. In fact, if you appreciate the work they are doing, post a comment on your Facebook page with a link to theirs and help get the word out about this important undertaking. Thanks!

Kat and her new keyboard
And finally, I’m delighted to report that I have a keyboard again, an electronic piano to accompany Layne on guitar as we serenade one another in the balmy evenings. A friend here in Atenas had bought it for his wife last Christmas but she never learned to play, so it’s basically brand new. Another friend recently brought a sustain pedal back from the States for me so I’m all set to entertain. It’s great fun to have a piano available again, even if it’s only 60 keys instead of 88. I’ve been downloading sheet music and practicing scales to get my rusty fingers back in shape to tickle those ivories so lookout if you come for a visit. You may have to endure some musical entertainment!

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