Sunday, April 27, 2008

Bajo Caliente - San Juan de San Ramon - Recreation

One of my favorite places to spend some leisure time in San Ramon is Bajo Caliente. Locals come for many different reasons and the variety of things to do, make it special.

There is a nice swimming pool with a mesh roof for an indoor/outdoor feeling. Weekends and school vacations are busy times. I often go on weekday mornings and it feels like my own private club. There are swimming classes for children and hydro-spinning exercise classes. For people watching and socializing, the grassy hill outside the pool is filled with sexy beautiful people, catching some rays and checking each other out.

Bajo Caliente also has a soccer field. Local teams and friends rent the field for weekly games. Their friends and family cheer them on and make a nice scene.

The bar / restaurant is one of the largest in San Ramon. It is covered but open air with people of all ages. They serve bocas, small plates of food for about C1000/$2. Their wood fired roast chicken is one of the specialties along with cerviche, shrimp, fish and more.

The owner, Luis and his sons make this a family run business. Luis spent a few years in the USA working in Orlando and the Hamptons. Like many Costa Rican’s, he worked hard in the USA, saving most of his dollars to create a business in Costa Rica. While you hear so much about immigrants in the USA, Costa Ricans have a different take. The lifestyle in the USA is too fast, expensive and cold for most Ticos. They prefer to take their money home and lead a Pura Vida lifestyle with some capital for a house or business.

Bajo Caliente is a great part of my San Ramon lifestyle. It is located 5 minutes from the center of town in the community of San Juan.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

ICE - Costa Rica Telephone and Electric Service

In Costa Rica, the government has a monopoly for providing telephone and electric service. It has pros and cons and there is much debate on this changing in the future.

On the pro end, it is very affordable for everyone to have the basic services. My monthly bills are about $6 a month each for telephone and electric in my home. In the USA, my minimum can be 10 times this amount. This is a great thing to have inexpensive access for all. Universal access can also be seen in health care and higher education which is clearly not the case in the USA

The other side of government monopoly is it might take a month or even years to get phone service in some areas. The ongoing experience at an ICE office are long lines and not always the best customer service. High speed internet is rolling out very slowly in much of Costa Rica. Also, international calls are much more expensive from Costa Rica than from the USA. Thank God for Skype as a free or very cheap alternative for global communication.

On March 20 of this year, there was an overhaul of the phone system. The standard seven-digit phone number was changed to eight. A 2 is now added at the beginning of seven-digit landlines and an 8 before seven-digit cell phone numbers. The area code for all of Costa Rica is still 506 and the country code is 011. This has caused much confusion and frustration over the past month. I wondered if this was a plot by printing companies since business cards, stationary and signs all needed the phone numbers corrected.

For me the inexpensive basic services are a great thing and allow me to live in Costa Rica very affordably. In addition, there is a lesson somewhere in the need for patience and not being able to get instant anything here. Living a simple basic life is the way to go in Costa Rica.