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Residencias Los Jardines - Life & Times

ISSUE #188: May 12-17, 2008

Border Disaster and David, Pan.

» NOTES

When I started Residencias Los Jardines, I started writing a weekly news letter —determined to tell all the good, bad, and the ugly. I knew some readers would be interested in the construction process. I expected others might be interested in the lifestyle of two people who had decided to live outside the box. For others, the adventures of lita, the parrot and the cat took on an entertainment saga all its own.

Residencias Los Jardines is finished. We periodically have resales and rental availability. Some readers may be interested in this information.

More and more, the content will be dominated by events of our new project, "El Dorado" for short. While the future is always uncertain, I again aim to tell it like it happens —the good, the bad, and the ugly, and that is what follows.

In an effort to make the format more interesting and visually appealing and to field inquiries re. El Dorado, the news letter is now being distributed by Jan Kozak, Marketing Manager, Hacienda El Dorado. I will remain the author.

»MARKETING, WEBSITE & SALES

Web design work is still on-going. I was wrong in my last log in saying that all work was essentially done except the optional upgrades section. I just approved several additional little things which are suppose to increase the visibility of the site and the ease of distributing the news letter. We are still engaged in several conversations which could lead to a number of additional sales--possibly 7. In some cases, the ball is in our court; in others it's not.

» CONSTRUCTION LOG

Office Building: We continue to wait for the permit. 

El Dordaro Site Plan

Click here to view high resolution site plan:

http://eldoradocostarica.com/newsLetter_img/siteplan56.jpg

Fence: West fence:  we are parging the now finished walls. South central fence: we've added an additional 5 layers of block and will pour the collar tie to finish it off next week. It will then be parged as well.  We've added about 80 more truck loads of fill in this area and in the now covered quebrada area.  

Use of the Well Water: The engineer tried to pick up the D1 on Friday but was told to return on Monday. This "game" will probably go on several more times. It's a stupid game but it seems to be the way it's done.

As per what I was told the D1 will be ready this coming week. (This would be the week of May 19)

As for the MINAE concession, we are looking at about 4-6 weeks, instead of an average of 6 months.

If this comes to pass, it is the best news I've heard in a long time. However, we must remember that this is CR and construction so while I am cautiously optimistic, I'm not yet dancing in the street.

Parging the Entrance and Bldg. 1 Perimeter Wall

Entrance and Bldg. 1 Perimeter Wall


Parging Inside of West Wall


South Central Wall and Additional Land Fill


South Central Wall from a Different Perspective


» RESIDENCIAS LOS JARDINES

Website Upgrade / Marketing: Photos of  Residencias Los Jardines, the Santa Ana area and some of the houses are now available on line at http://picasaweb.google.com/gardenresidencesresort. The upgrade work is very near completion; it should be uploaded and fully operational this week. We will still be missing some info. But on houses which are neither available for sale or lease. 

This letter is posted on several electronic bulletin boards dealing--Gallo Pinto and Costa Rica Living. Each bulletin boad has an owner, posting guidlines,  and postings are review prior to display. While these two websites are different in nature, they are common in that they do not want commercial postings.  Historically, we have had very few rental vacanies and virtually no re-sales.  Now we do.  This situation is addressed in the news letter and we have worked to make it more efficient and effective by adding updated descriptions and pictures an imbedded the letter with links to further information.  We also added additinal sections--links to CR news articles, pictures and a feature article about places in and around the Santa Ana area, and an article on a different worker and a different aspect of his life to let readers know what life is like for the constructruction worker here.  All of this was designed to make the weekly posting more interesting, more user friendly, and more visually appealing.  Recognizing that the posting did include an element of "commercialism" I asked the owners of each of the bulletin boards for their assessment.  Both bulletin boards have now approved the posting although CRL had some differing opinions but was approved on the basis that it did, in fact, add newsworthy information despite it's element of "commercialism".  Both sites use Yahoo Groups for their hosting.  GalloPinto displays the pictures and links;  for some reason, CRL doesn't.  So on CRL, the posting becomes a jumble and my goal has not yet been realized there.  We're still working on how to fix this. 

Realtor Alert System: The Notice to RE agents feature of our upgrade has been implemented.  Now, whenever we have a unit for sale or lease, a notice will go to 500 RE agents linking them to the information.

Sale of Units 124 / 125:  This is in progress but has been delayed because of the vendor's moving and traveling and lost documents.  Both are now scheduled to close on June 16 after all parties have had time to review the documents and to get their respective ducks in order for a smooth closing.  In the  interim, the lawyer and I will be working towards making this happen.

Units for Sale/Lease:


Unit #103 - For Sale/Leased

Total Area (Sq Ft): 1000
Total area (Sq M): 93
Bedrooms: 2
Bathrooms: 2
Floor(s): 1
Type: Detached
Furnished: Yes 

This 1,000 sq ft., (plus parking for one car) detached, single story fully furnished home, which features two bedrooms, two bathrooms (one is en-suite), living room, dining and kitchen area and a private backyard terrace. The vaulted, insulated ceilings in the living room and master bedroom offer fresh air and cool temperatures all the time.

Read More 


Unit #109 - Available for Rent


Total Area (Sq Ft): 1506
Total area (Sq M): 140
Bedrooms: 2
Bathrooms: 2
Floor(s): 1 Story
Type: Detached
Furnished: Yes 

This single story home (1506 sf. + parking for one car) is detached, has two bedrooms, two bathrooms, home office, living room wall / entertainment center along with a built in office and a semi-private terrace. In addition, it has a vaulted ceiling in the "great" room and two skylights. The covered entrance way is suitable for two chairs located next to a covered garden area. Once through the impressive front door, you enter the "great room" which houses the kitchen, dining room, office and living room. Upon entering, there is a built in wooden hutch surfaced with granite—it matches all the built-in furniture in the great room. There is a laundry / storage room off the 2nd bedroom. It is suitable for a side by side washer / dryer set or it may be used for storage.

Read More



Unit #107 - For Sale

Unit 107

Total Area (Sq Ft):1716
Total area (Sq M):158
Bedrooms:2
Bathrooms:2.5
Floor(s):2 Story
Type:Detached
Furnished:Yes 

This 1,716 sf. (plus parking for one car) two story, detached house, with three terraces, two bedrooms (one on each floor) and upstairs master suite is a beautiful home. This home consists of two VERY large bedrooms (one on each floor) with en-suite bathrooms and a powder room, each with large closets with extensive built-ins for personal organization. The vaulted living room and ground floor bedroom ceilings as well as the master bedroom on the 2nd floor, provide a feeling of grandeur while allowing the warmer air to rise and exit through the ceiling ventilating system. There are three TVs (one in each bedroom and one in the living room.) This is a beautiful home. There is a rough-in for a dishwasher in the kitchen area.

Read More


Unit #120 - Available for Rent

Unit 120

Total Area (Sq Ft):1312
Total area (Sq M):122
Bedrooms:2
Bathrooms:2
Floor(s):1 Story
Type:Semi-Detached
Furnished:Yes 

This 1,312 sf single floor home includes a 300 sf front terrace plus parking for one car. It is an end unit and therefore attached on only one side providing ample lighting and views. The 6 inch cement demising (common) wall prevents sound transfer. This is a very nicely furnished and accented home.

Read More 

The Guard Dog: We had an offer for further training. I don't think that has happened (I've been away this week) and I don't think it will make any difference.  If he does his job, he's bound to fail. What a cannundrum to be in.

»EXPLORING SANTA ANA


PARQUE VALLE DEL SOL

Golf in Costa Rica is relatively new and some years ago, a golfing vacation would have been quite limited. Going hand in hand with the real estate boom and economic development in general, Costa Rica now prides itself with a growing number of world class golf courses created by some of the best designers from around the world. Whether you prefer having the Pacific ocean, the northwestern pampas or the mountain ridges of the Central Valley as the backdrop for your game, Costa Rica offers a wide range of options from which to choose.

Golfers at Hacienda El Dorado have access to the Parque Valle del Sol golf course located in Santa Ana. It is the first and the only professional golf course in Costa Rica open to the public in the Central Valley. The 18-hole championship golf course was designed by Tracy May in 1994 to be challenging and fair under most conditions and downright tough when the strong winds come down from the surrounding mountains. Due to its diverse layout, golfers are required to use all of the clubs in their bag throughout the game. The monthly fee for unlimited play is $285.


»MEET THE DREAMMAKERS

Luis Alejandro a.k.a. ALEX

Costa Rican, 43 years old, married to a Costa Rican, has an 11 year old daughter. The three of them live in a small apartment in Santa Ana downtown. He knew his wife for two years before they became engaged and two years later, they married.

Alex is an "albanil" by profession – everything to do with concrete block, reinforced concrete, cement work and work on structural elements. He also works as the assistant to our foreman Silias Elizondo. His wife is the sister of Carlos, our car mechanic and he met Silias while playing football on a Sunday afternoon…

Prior to working with Paul and Brian, Alex worked with another North American developer for some 15 years, which is where he picked up all he knows about construction from his colleagues. He never went to a technical school nor has he pursued formal education in the field. Rather, he learned and acquired the knowledge and skills he has now as an apprentice. He does not have a car and does not know how to drive. He travels by public bus to the job site which takes about 30 min.   

His free time he spends with his family. He likes watching TV and listens to Christian music. He stays home on holidays and doesn't remember when he took his last vacation.

His daughter is a special needs student and together with nine other kids, she follows a program designed for pupils with learning disabilities, every day from 7 a.m. to 11 a.m. In Costa Rica, such programs are implemented within the public school system.


Alex comes from what would be considered a small family in Costa Rica – he has two sisters and one brother. His wife however has ten siblings and a large extended family scattered throughout the Central Valley and in the Central Pacific region of Costa Rica. The extended family reunites several times throughout the year particularly at birthday celebrations and during the Christmas holiday season.


» NEWS FROM COSTA RICA

If your browser does not support the hyperlinks below, you can view the COSTA RICA NEWS section on our website from the following URL:

» http://www.eldoradocostarica.com/English/News/index.php

There are also new articles posted in Spanish on the following URL:

» http://www.eldoradocostarica.com/Spanish/News/index.php


May 17, 2008
Brit in Costa Rica
(X17online.com) Britney hits the beach in Costa Rica during her vacation with Mel Gibson!
  Read

May 16, 2008
Britney Spears, Mel Gibson Depart Together for Costa Rica Vacation
LOS ANGELES (FOX News) — Britney Spears and Mel Gibson, along with the pop princess's father Jamie, left together Tuesday morning for a mini-vacation in Costa Rica, "Entertainment Tonight" reported.
  Read

May 16, 2008
More Cost of Living Increases for Costa Rica
(Costa Rica Pages) Costa Rica's Water and Sewer Institute (AyA) has asked the Public Services Regulating Authority (Aresep) to approve a 19% increase in the price of water for its customers. In Costa Rica, that could mean an increase of $2 per month for the average family that consumes about 22 cubic meters of water, totaling about $13/month for water.
  Read

May 16, 2008
Costa Rica Congress Approves Telecoms Opening
SAN JOSE, Costa Rica, May 15 (Reuters) - Costa Rica's Congress has approved the opening of the Central American country's telecommunications sector to private investment in cellular phones and Internet services.
  Read

May 16, 2008
Relief for the Poor
(La Nacion) Women who are heads of family and who are living in extreme poverty will benefit from a relief program which was announced by President Oscar Arias.
  Read

May 16, 2008
A Map for Tourists
(La Nacion) Through a satellite map of Costa Rica, tourists will be able to access the most accurate information of the places they visit, as well as the ways to reach them.
  Read

May 15, 2008
Costa Rica Banks Raise Interest Rates
(The Tico Times) In response to Costa Ricans' voracious appetite for credit in recent months, state banks hiked interest rates by an average 1 to 1.5 percent for loans in colones and 0.5 percent for those in dollars.
  Read

May 13, 2008
Costa Rica Plants More Trees to Become Carbon Neutral
SAN JOSE (AFP) — Costa Rica will plant seven million trees in 2008 to soak up as many greenhouse gas emissions as it produces, in a bid to become the world's first carbon neutral nation, a top official said Monday.
  Read

» OUR LIVES

Weather: Hot and dry--somehow the "rainy" season hasn't really arrived.

Panama, "David":  This is the feature story this week. Going there has been on my "to do" list for several years.  It's now on my "done that" and has been added to my other list "never to willingly do again" list. The town is much larger than I expected and is spread over a large geographical area. Taxis or a car are required. Sidewalks exist in some areas but are discontinuous and while generally better than what exist in CR / San Jose area, are still a difficult walk. It's HOT; it's not on nor close to the beach. The town, in my opinion, does not have any particular charm or character -- (unlike Granada) -- it's just a town. 

Our hotel (Mirage) was $22 night with a good bed, AC, cable TV, and hot water.  The staff were curtious and efficient.  The hotel has no lobby, restaurant nor bar but does have a large, active casino. The large swimming pool is characterless as well; there is no greenery nor room for lounging and walking around the pool itself--just a poor design. 

After having a number of unintersting meals, we happened on the Fiesta Casino restaurant. The luncheon special included a large soda, an appetizer of soup or chicken wings, a LARGE entre--anyone of 6 different ones, and one of two desserts. Total cost? $3!!!!  AND the food was good--the meat patty in the burger must have been nearly a pound of beef (I'm not exagerating) with a decent bun and fries. The fettuchini alfredo and chicken plate must have been delicious as Lita ate the whole thing and scraped the plate. Evenings saw a different menu but equally value oriented. The only complaint was that the food was not always steaming hot but we all agreed it was decent and offered excellent value. The service was good. Lots of people eating there for lunch and dinners. The casino was always busy.

Taxis were plentiful and inexpensive. While they have no meters, they do have "zones" and within and between zones, there are supposedly standard fares; I believed we were always within one zone so the fare seems to be $1 for the first person and $.50 for everyone else. (This varied a bit but we never paid more than $4 for a ride.)

I don't remember seeing one traffic light despite the heavy traffic. Unlike CR, I didn't see one accident, no crazy driving, and virtually all the drivers were curteous in allowing pedestrians to cross roadways or allowing other cars to turn or merge into traffic.

Many of the supermarkets were open 24 hrs--why I don't know since there didn't seem to be any shift work to encourage that.

I didn't see any dump trucks which is the standard I use to measure the level of construction activity and a proxy measurement of the level of expectations for the future.  I did, however, see some small scale in-fill development--extensions to hotels, retail buildings--but no cranes nor heavy equipment.  

Prices:  People have always commented about how inexpensive Panama is. I found it difficult to make any assessment. Panama seems to be on the imperial system of measurements--pounds, gallons--so comparison to metric and using a different currency takes a lot of calculations. I did find one off-brand 50 inch LCD tv which was selling for $1,050;  I bought a 42" Samsung in CR about 6 mo. ago for $1,800.  That one I could figure out but it was an off brand--if that makes a difference. Other similar branded items didn't seem to offer as big a difference.  A roasted chicken to go was $6--about the same in CR. A beer was $1--that's cheaper than most places in CR.  Taxi's, seemed cheaper.  Gas was $4.25 - $4.50 gal for regular. I'm assuming that was a US gallon and not a Canadian gallon.  I don't know how many liters to a US gal. but it seems a bit cheaper.  The roads were probably better--David had mostly paved streets in decent repair and the main highway was in good repair but then again, so was the main road from the border to San Jose.....it was just two lanes vs. mostly 4 lane in Panama but in CR, the roadway is over very mountainous terrain so it may not be a fair comparison. Overall, we spent less than $250 for the two of us on food, accommodations, and transportation for the 5 days/4 night trip.

Boquete:  I wanted especially to see this area--about 45 min. drive into the foothills and valley. The four of us hired an AC mini van and driver-- $75 for around 4 hrs.  The area is a small, narrow valley reminiscent of an alpine setting.  I was surprised at how narrow the valley was and how small the area is--I had imagined both to be larger.  Lots of land speculation there, some new buildings. I really didn't see anything that knocked my socks off architecturally but it was an interesting tour. While not for me, I can see why some might be attracted there. Other than land speculation, the main industry is growing onions. It doesn't look like this is a very profitable occupation by the living conditions of the farmers. I noted that many of the women were still wearing traditional clothing. 

The Trip Itself:  We took Ticabus round trip. It left at 12 noon;  we arrived in David along the roadside around 9pm. Since we took our own food and picnicked along the way while watching 5 movies--4 in English; 1 in Spanish. I didn't know that Van Dame made so many... Returning was a bit different--we had difficulty determining when the bus  would arrive in David. Our information varied significantly--from 3:30am to 5:30am.  Since no one really wanted to be sitting along the Pan Am highway at that time, we guessed. We arrived at the covered bus stop around 3:45al  the buss arrived  45 min. later. The bus was freezing cold from too much AC -- we had anticipated this so had long sleeved shirts -- we survied and arrived in San Jose at 3pm. 

Crossing the Border: The main problem in the whole trip was crossisng the BORDER!!!!!! The border crossing experience is a DISASTER of which neither country should be proud. While there is a procedure, first timers doen't know what it is and it is definitely inefficient; buildings are not marked and while there are Tica bus people to help, it's still confusing. The area is not well lit, buildings not well marked, you seem to have to walk a block over the border  to government exit or entry buildings. Leaving CR--not a problem; Entering Panama, you have to buy a stamp ($1) sold on site on the Panama side, have your passport reviewed, walk to a different building, pay the $1, get a tourist visa and return to the original wicket to complete the process. Then of course, there's the customs people. Exiting Panama, all luggage is removed from the bus, sniffed by dogs, reloaded on the bus; exit visas are taken at one wicket; another wicket stamps your exit. Entering CR is a whole other story, complicated by the fact that CR Immigration opens at 6am. We arrived at 5am and waited in line until one immigration officer showed up to process the 100 or so people who had arrived. Then, of course, customs which you now wait for again. Total elapsed time, abut 2 hrs., all of which could have been done in 15 min.  

Animals:  They were glad to see us. The parrot and the little pericos are unabashed about berrating us  so Lita and and I got an ear full but they soon calmed down. Hugo did his usual--you-left-me-so-you're-going-to-have-to-work-for my-attention routine.... He lasted about 5 min. then he was on my lap enjoying the attention. Animals are great......!

Brian, Lita, Hugo, irreverent Vicka, the pigeon toed parrot, and the newbies —Chico and Chica.

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