A Birth, 2 Disasters and 2 Strikes

ISSUE #211: Oct 20-25, 2008


A Birth, 2 Disasters and 2 Strikes


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.


Sales: None this week

Website: The person in charge of website development has fallen behind the agreed upon schedule for the delivery of the Optional Upgrades section. We are holding on to his pending invoices and won't pay him for website maintenance and other completed tasks until he delivers the final (Optional Upgrades section) product. This seems to be the only option we have left to make sure this gets done.


Permit Applications: SETENA--D1--we wait and that will probably be the story until the end of January. 

Construction:  We are preparing to do three projects: (1) put in a retaining wall -- which will be the back wall of the Maya Tower; (2) complete the culvert by fixing the outlet such that it does not cause erosion; and (3) build the bridge over the stream. Preliminary design work is being prepared, which will be submitted for approval in principal.  When we get that, we will have to submit more detailed engineering drawings.  We have reviewed the submissions to build the black water treatment facility.  Technically, they were similar but several did not follow the specifications submitted. Regardless, we are focusing on one. We will, at this time, complete the few areas where the perimeter fence is incomplete as well as the stream crossings. We are in no hurry to start any of this until the weather dries up.

Water: A very humble letter is being sent to AyA asking them to authorize a study to determine the necessary technical requirements for the installation of a water service.   

Sick Tree....It's still struggling and while it should have completely leafed out, it hasn't.

Chain Link Fence: We now have the design for that structure which spans the stream.  We have planted bamboo in the "no fence" zone.  It's growing. We will plant more in a week or so. In a couple years, this will form an effective barricade.

Two Disasters:  (1)  In the location that one very large tree fell last year, we had a mudslide. The stream makes a bend at this location and the soil is sandy and the embankment is very steep--probably about 80 degrees.  It is not sustainable without a retaining wall.  However, this is in a "no build" / protected zone. At the top of this embankment is the City's roadway.  The soil became waterlogged and gave way, undermining the sidewalk we put in and the roadway. The City brought in a crew and equipment to clean out the river--something it took us 2 months to accomplish when the tree blocked the stream. The City hasn't asked us to fix the problem but we anticipate they might. We have asked our consultant to research the issue and be prepared for a submission.  Even though the City knows about this, for some reason our consultant advised that we write them a letter advising them that "they" had a problem.

(2) One of the many plastic culverts we put in the quebrada collapsed. Probably because it was not installed properly--these tubes derive their strength by having equal pressure all around them.  It looks like we goofed.  We'll replace the section with concrete pipe. 


Website Upgrade / Marketing: Photos of Residencias Los Jardines, the Santa Ana area and some of the houses are available on line at:

All pictures have now been changed to current images.

Drainage System: No heavy rains yet to test under actual conditions--continuous rains yes but no torrential downpours.

Kirebe: We see no evidence that they have done anything yet.

Internet and VOIP Phones:  They continue to work before 8 am and on weekends but at other times, not really.  We will cancel the upgrade we bought since it hasn't changed anything.  In fact, the internet has been even slower this past week than ever before.  There has to be a big gap between what we are paying for and what we are getting and the service privider seems to be responsible.

Cable TV:  AMNET is moving into the area to compete with CableTica. We are exploring connections with them.

New Birth:  A baby girl was born on Friday, Oct. 17, to a Floridian couple who came here to have a baby.  They reported a wonderful experience at CIMA.  I've asked him to write about that experience.  This is actually the second birth on site--the first one occurring about a year ago.

Corporate Year End:  As is the case with most CR corporations, Sept. 30 marks the end of the corporate fiscal year.  Analysis and comparisons of the results and the budget as well as proposals for next year and being readied.  A shareholders' meeting will be called for mid December.

Units for Sale/Lease:

Residencia Los Jardines Site Plan

Unit #107 - For Sale - $255,000 / Short Term Lease Starting Nov 1, 2008

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 - For Sale - $185,000

Total Area (Sq Ft):1312
Total area (Sq M):122
Floor(s):1 Story

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

Unit #108 - Leased/For Sale - $245,000

Total Area (Sq Ft):1716
Total area (Sq M):158
Floor(s):2 Story

This 1,716 sf. (plus parking space for one car) two storey, detached house, with two terraces, two bedrooms (one on each floor) and an upstairs master suite is a beautiful home.

This home consists of two VERY large bedrooms with en-suite bathrooms (one on each floor) and a powder room each with 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.

Read More

Unit #109 - Available for Rent - $1,550 pr month

Total Area (Sq Ft):1506
Total area (Sq M):140
Floor(s):1 Story

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


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

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

October 22, 2008
Costa Rica President Investigated for Abuse of Authority
SAN JOSE (AFP) — The Costa Rica attorney general's office said Tuesday it has opened an investigation into President Oscar Arias and Environment Minister Roberto Dobles for abuse of authority over a gold mining exploitation they claim to be of "national interest."

October 22, 2008
Costa Rica Power Monopoly Plans Blackouts for 2009
(Costa Rica Pages) Lights Out. Summer 2009 Could Mean Lights Out for Parts of Costa Rica. It is hard for me to understand how anyone could support monopolies or even think of them to be anything but big bullies. I grew up in a city where they were considered The Bad Guy - the local power and gas monopoly was hated by all for its unfair and unregulated prices, and was eventually eliminated in my teens - and consumers reveled in their right to choose service providers.

October 22, 2008
Ready for a Woman President in 2010?
SAN JOSÉ, Oct 22 (IPS) - The announcement that former Costa Rican Vice President Laura Chinchilla will seek election to the presidency in 2010 indicates that the country "has matured and is ready" to have a woman as head of state, according to some analysts.

October 22, 2008
Costa Rica President: Struck by Cupid’s Arrow
(Costa Rica Pages) For the first time in more than a year of separation, Costa Rica’s president Óscar Arias and business woman Geovanna Mendiola were at last seen together again last night. The Head of State went to a Russian Choir concert of the Sretensky monastery in the Teatro Nacional (National Theatre) with the Public Relations professional on his arm. Although open rumors had been circulating that a reunion was in the making, this is the first time the couple has made a public appearance since the break up.

October 21, 2008
Costa Rica Hosts Latin American Film Fest
(The Tico Times) Residents this week and next have the opportunity to see movies made south of the Rio Grande after the Fourth Latin American Film Festival kicked off yesterday.

October 21, 2008
Chile's Bachelet to Visit Costa Rica Next Week
(The Tico Times) Costa Rica has set a date to host Chilean President Michelle Bachelet on her first official visit here, the Foreign Ministry said yesterday.

October 20, 2008
Court Whittles Domestic Violence Law in Costa Rica
(The Tico Times) The Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court (Sala IV) late last week rescinded two articles of Costa Rica's Law to Penalize Violence Against Women, ruling them unconstitutional, citing vagueness in the wording of both.

October 20, 2008
401K Got You Down? Look South for Some Remedies.
(Boomerscape.com) The news is grim. Our presidential candidates have been saying it without exaggeration: “The greatest financial crisis in America since the great depression.” 401K plans have plummeted, and housing values have failed to recover. These are indeed very frightening times, and our leaders in Washington and Wall Street can provide no greater reassurance than our next door neighbors.

» SPECIAL: "Running a Business on Remote from CR" and "Having a Baby in CR" A First Hand Experience


My wife, Yvonne, and I had big plans in 2008 to fulfill our long time dream of moving permanently from Florida to Costa Rica. Several years ago, we invested in a sizable piece of land on the Caribbean coast near Punta Uva and have been working from a distance to develop a part of it into an ecological vacation home property, which was to be our future business.  Our intentions were to sell our home and our small Florida business, pull up stakes and move to our property and start a family. We put the wheels of change in motion….and then soon learned we had to make some adjustments to our “master plan” that would delay our permanent move. 

For several reasons, one of which was the tanking US economy, it wasn’t prudent to sell our Florida business in 2008 and make the leap. However, we already had initiated several of the elements of our plan. We sold our Florida home in 2007 and Yvonne became pregnant right on schedule last January, to fulfill the plan to have our baby in Costa Rica, where our daughter would be living out her childhood. Her birth in Costa Rica would give her duel citizenship, which we thought would be a priceless gift to our new child.

With this major element of our plan in motion, this called for rethinking and brought us to Residencias los Jardines. We decided that we would come to Costa Rica for the baby’s birth and do our best to run our business from afar while here. Then after the baby was a month or so old, we would return to Florida and hopefully our business would still be afloat, and ride out the economic storm before making our permanent move to Punta Uva. The two big unknowns were (1) having a baby in Costa Rica and (2) running our Florida business from Costa Rica. Here’s how it has worked out so far.

Running our US business from Costa Rica

Our business Graphic Exposure, Inc., is small and personal. It’s a “mom and pop” kind of thing. We provide custom screen printed and embroidered apparel for businesses, mostly corporations and restaurants, for employees and for resale. We have a small production facility in Tampa with several employees that produce and ship our products to our customers in the US and a few in the Caribbean. 

Yvonne and I have always been hands on, working every weekday onsite with our crew. Yvonne runs all aspects of the office, including receivables, payables, orders blank garments from our vendors for us to print as well as shop supplies, banking, payroll, and a host of other office type things that would drive me crazy. I deal directly with our customers, generate art and graphics for them, prototype new products and printing techniques, troubleshoot production problems, work with our staff and plan my next trip to Costa Rica. 

So how could we pull this off from Costa Rica? As it turns out, surprisingly well! Here are the tools that we needed and were able to set up:

1. A reliable high speed internet connection, from where we planned on living and running our remote office.  This we found at Residencias los Jardines. Actually, it has been remarkable.
2. Laptops that would allow us to access our office computers in Florida, via a remote access service. We settled on Gotomypc.com., which has worked flawlessly.
3. A reliable phone connection to our office, customers and vendors, that wouldn’t break the bank with long distance fees. We chose Skype, which works like a dream…and costs us virtually nothing.
4. A way to receive our faxes cheaply and reliably. We subscribed to a local (Florida) service that we forwarded our fax number to, which converts our faxes to .pdf files and e-mails them to us within minutes of receiving them. It works perfectly.
5. Some way for me to actually see our products, usually for the purpose of proofing new jobs or troubleshooting printing problems that occasionally come up. Again, Skype, which has a video function, allowing me to see in crystal clarity our products, office and personnel live, anytime I need to.

Here’s how we made the transition:

First, we shifted every function of our business possible to “online”. In many cases, just out of habit, we were still doing things the time consuming old fashion way, either through mail, or by phone. From banking to ordering goods, these days almost everything can be handled via the internet. Yvonne managed to shift about 95% of her daily tasks to the internet, which she can now do from anywhere. 

We brought in my son, Jesse, who is now 22, as our trustworthy eyes and hands onsite, to accomplish the few remaining things that we cannot do from Costa Rica. He was unskilled in our line of work, but we really just needed someone we could trust and would follow our instructions. Under Yvonne’s supervision, he collects and sorts the mail, makes bank deposits, writes a few checks, files some paperwork, and faxes to us the bills and other important documents that are still stuck with snail mail. At the end of each day, Jesse affixes shipping labels and Invoices to cartons that we print in the Florida office from our computers here in CR, and UPS does a daily pick up.  He then does our daily computer back up.

For my part, through my Skype phone and video connection, I keep in constant contact with the daily operation of the production shop. Jesse opens and closes the shop everyday and is my eyes and ears regarding our employees. I can have a video pow-wow anytime with production staff individually or together, just as if I were there. Any questions about a print, I simply look at it as if I were right there in my office doing the same thing. The only real difference is that sometimes I’m doing that poolside with my laptop via the WiFi connection. Damn sun sometimes puts a glare on the screen, but I’m working on perfecting my laptop positioning.  

Regarding customers, we forwarded our business phones and Florida cell here via Skype, and we answer the phones without missing a beat, and at no charge. Skype gives us a Florida local number to forward calls to, so it’s basically free. It’s weird that Yvonne and I can both be using Skype on different calls from our two laptops at the same time, with only one account. An unexpected advantage. The connection is so clear that no one actually knows that we’re out of the country…..and we really don’t want to rub it in.

We are fortunate that most of our business is done over the phone, via e-mail or fax. We have established customers that reorder products and that we create new products for, but with today’s busy schedules, they really don’t need or want to take their time to see me personally… which works our just fine. I receive and send art for approval via e-mail, so no changes there. I use several freelance artists that don’t live locally anyway, so this system has worked fine for me. Products that our customers want to see can be viewed online, or we send samples directly to them as we always have.

Developing new business certainly would require personal visits, but for this short stay here in Costa Rica, we can manage with the clients that we currently service. If I were to stay for an extended time, I would train a sales person for that purpose to send to potential clients.  

We moved our remote office to Costa Rica September 15 and everything has worked much better than we expected. The key to this success without a doubt has been our good fortune of finding and renting our residence here in Residencies los Jardines. Within the first 3 minutes of walking in the door, we held our breath and plugged our laptops into their system. We were up and running instantly. The comfort and security of having on premises management is also reassuring and was a huge part of our decision to use this as our office and residence. 

In the past 5 weeks, we have lost internet service about 3 times. The first time the power went out for about 30 minutes. The other times there was work being done locally on the internet cable and we were down for about an hour each time. These instances were perfect excuses to go to the pool right outside our door for a midday break.  A one hour loss of communication isn’t the end of the world for our business After all, we’re just printing t-shirts, we’re not doing pediatric brain surgery. Besides, Skype provides us with voicemail and the faxes and e-mails are all there waiting.  

So that’s it. Yvonne and I could not be happier about how this is working out. I don’t think I would try this on the Caribbean coast, because the internet isn’t quite as reliable or fast there…but here at Residencias los Jardines, our business life is Pura Vida!

Having a baby in Costa Rica

We did our homework a few years ago and found that there are many hospitals in the San Jose area that we would feel safe and comfortable with the serious and important task of managing the birth of our baby. We have friends with good experiences in several hospitals. The winning decision went to  Hospital CIMA in Escazu, a few minutes drive away. We made a trip last June for a hospital inspection and interviewed several doctors, as well as midwives. CIMA blew us away with their state of the art facility, professionalism, and staff. We settled on using Dr. Andreas Rauff for the delivery. Rave reviews from his patients and after meeting him, we felyt a great deal of confidence in him.

Years ago, I was a Fire Department Paramedic in Clearwater and St. Petersburg, Florida for some years, so with this medical background and experience, I developed a huge respect for what can go wrong and the need for top quality emergency care. My standards are very high in what I looked for as the place to have my child, and I knew what I was looking for. Believe it or not, CIMA exceeded the standards of my local excellent hospitals in the Tampa Bay area of Florida. 

Once the decision to have the baby at CIMA was solid, we began the search for a close place to live and operate our remote office. We saw several, but Residencias los Jardines was heads above anything that we saw. Here were some of our considerations:

1. Proximity to CIMA: We timed it at a casual drive from 7 – 15 minutes, depending on the time you would be traveling and traffic.
2. Security: A pregnant mom and then later a tiny newborn…yes, security was a top priority, not only for the home itself,  but our vehicle and also the neighborhood.
3. The grounds. Would there be anywhere to walk, a place to swim, get fresh air? Remember, our Costa Rica experience for many years has been the beautiful and lush tropical Caribbean coast. Could any place in the central valley give us a little daily taste of one of the things we love most about Costa Rica?
4. Neighbors. Would there be anyone nearby to help us in an emergency or just for the comfort of knowing we aren’t alone? This is Yvonne’s first baby, so going it totally alone with no family or friends would be a challenge.
5. Proximity to grocery stores, a place to by diapers and other baby things, etc.

Residencias los Jardines scored a “10” on all factors. From the close proximity to the hospital, to security, the incredible neighbors, the awesome quaint neighborhood, the local huge grocery stores……everything here was perfect for our plan of having our baby in Costa Rica.

So, as the story goes, Yvonne went into labor nine days early and she had our beautiful little girl, India,  at CIMA a week ago, October 17. Everything went smooth and absolutely perfectly. The hospital, doctors , and nursing staff were phenomenal. Dr. Rauff is excellent and we recommend him highly. CIMA even had room service to their incredible restaurant. And the food! I had one of the best steaks I have had in Costa Rica in 20 years of travel here! Our command of Spanish is horrible, but that wasn’t an issue. Almost everyone there, down to the cleaning lady spoke English.  

The hospital is everything that we wish we had in the US. Above being superior in service, equipment and a sparkling facility, the total price was incredibly inexpensive. In fact, I keep thinking they must have made a mistake. I got a quote months ago, but thought they must be leaving something out, as they always do in the States. Our total bill, including all hospital and doctor fees, was $2,400. Yvonne ended up with an epidural, which required an anesthesiologist….which was included in this bill. That’s about 25% of what it would have been in the States. For us that was important because we didn’t have maternity coverage on our health insurance back home. 

With a green light from the doctors, we brought our one day old baby back to our house in Jardines the next day. Our beautiful, well equipped house is a perfect safe place for our family. There are several neighbors, including Brian and Lita who have been so helpful and gracious to us here. We have a few nearby experienced moms lending advice and their world famous Costa Rican hospitality. Believe me, Costa Ricans LOVE children! We feel like we are among family. 

So in conclusion, if anyone reading this feels froggy, then by all means make the jump to Costa Rica! So far, we are very happy that we followed our heart and had the faith and guts to make this move. Life truly is good in Costa Rica.

Mike Humphrey


Weather: October is living up to it's reputation as being very wet. We've had several days and nights of continuous rain but no torrential downpours.

Strike 2:  Pericos (Little Parrots):  Well, Lita was playing with both of them on the outside dining table. One flew away and landed in a huge tree a full 1/2 block away. I thought this was just the end of this guy. Lita put the other one in a small cage, gathered the two gardeners together,  I oriented the  gardeners, and they trundled of on what I knew would be a fruitless and painful experience for Lita.  I couldn't handle that so I disappeared.  I returned about 30 min. later to see all three walking up the street with 2 birds in the cage. For some reason, the escape flew into the chest of one gardener who captured it and ......  I just shook my head in wonder....  Obviously I have to clip their wings--my heart can't take this any more.

Food: Our friend Terry returned and will be here through April--the longest he's ever spent. We enjoyed a wonderful spicy jumbo shrimp pasta--it was really superb. We  now have four of us who like to cook--the holiday season looks to be fattening.....  The Time Out Tavern continues to serve up good food--out of 8 people, 7 ordered fish and chips--but the grilled mahi mahi was all sold out.

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

Previous reports