Friday, March 23, 2007

House Construction and Renovation in San Ramon, Costa Rica

Building or renovating a house in Costa Rica is a wild adventure, a very different process than a non-native might expect. Janet and I are pleased and proud to be nearing the completion of the renovations to our house in El Empalme, just outside San Ramon.

The community of El Empalme, with possibly the best ocean views in the San Ramon area and it’s friendly people, has been a fabulous discovery that has been the source of many joys and an equal amount of lessons.When we found this house, we knew this was a special site. The near total renovation put us through many highs and lows.

After one year and some false starts with more than one contractor, we found our crew: Christopher, Guillermo, Jose Angel, and Victor. From that point on, things rocked on all fronts. Our crew did great work and together we created a fun work environment with trust and respect in all directions.

The house is looking and feeling great. Check out our listings page at for more pics and info.

Getting to this point had many moments of disappointment, frustration and different realities. We started this project with a clear advantage over many people who move to Costa Rica with the dream of building their dream home. I have lived here in San Ramon in the community for over 5 years and Janet has worked as an architect, real estate developer and construction manager for over 25 years. This has been a super-challenging project for both of us.

With bulldozers and hyper development transforming Costa Rica and challenging it’s infrastructure and resources … we feel strongly that preserving existing houses and neighborhoods is where our priorities and energy lies. And, we are very proud of what we and our team have accomplished.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Back in San Ramon

It’s a relief and pleasure to be back in San Ramon after 3 weeks in snowy, freezing New York State. My body was stiff, cold and never really relaxed in the cold winter weather. But more than that, the vibe is so different in my 2 hometowns. Life in the USA feels under pressure 24/7 in some way that you can’t quantify but certainly affects everyone there. My first day back in San Ramon it felt like someone took the pressure out of many aspects of life. My daily walks to town keep me balanced and living life at the proper pace. It is easy and normal to return to Pura Vida …

The daily 80-degree weather overwhelmingly affects my mental and physical well being. My neighbors and friends are not rushing around and their greetings and smiles are real and infectious. The nearly 4000 ft. altitude, daily sunshine and moderate temperatures make life easy to embrace.

Eating fresh shrimp, mussels and fish in my favorite restaurants for under $2 a plate nourishes me. For under $5, I returned from the ferria/farmers market with a total bounty of fruits and vegetables; a quality not available at any price in the USA. I got 4 cantaloupes for 75c, 2 pounds of vine ripened tomatoes for 19c, a pineapple for 60c and similar juicy bargains on mangos, spinach, papaya, etc.

Our contractors did a great job while we were away and our ocean view house is looking good and ready for sale. It was reassuring that Christopher and the crew’s actions matched their words ..working hard and working smart. This has not always been my experience in Costa Rica and we’re happy to have people we can trust.

The final word is that it’s hard to explain the differences but easy to feel them. With all the money, privilege, and material possessions in the USA, my friends and neighbors in San Ramon smile more and take the time to enjoy life and each other. I thank my lucky stars that fate brought me here and immersed me in this wonderful culture.

Thursday, March 1, 2007

Taking a Break from San Ramon

It is time to take a break from San Ramon and experience New York City and Ithaca for a few weeks. There's lots of snow on the ground and it's cold, dark and a little scary. I had fun with my 8 year old nephew Daniel in Brooklyn who seems to enjoy hanging with his uncle. I managed to eat Chinese, Thai, Japanese, Mexican, falafel, pizza, bagels and lox and every other ethnic food favorite that defines the New York culinary scene. Walking the streets of NYC and looking at the people is a fun contrast to San Ramon and Costa Rica. Topping the days off with reading the NY Times and living in English was nice for awhile. Did I mention how cold, snowy and expensive it was here?

Manana, I return to San Ramon. We left our crew to work while we were away. There are 4 contractors renovating a house, a Nicaraguan family improving the farm and Rosario and Ivania cleaning and watching our property. And then there's Oscar who drives by the farm on his tractor many times a day and makes me laugh and smile whenever we connect.

For now, my life in San Ramon and El Empalme is full to the max with work and transformation. My life in the USA is pretty much a vacation and a break from responsibility and decisions. The balance is always shifting and both lives and cultures nourish me yet also make me crazy ... kicking and screaming for the other. I feel pretty lucky but also kinda brave to live this big life.