Friday, April 18, 2014

A Hidden Gem Among Online Spanish Tutors: Learned By Me

This may sound weird, but last evening I may have been the first person on the planet to have had fun learning a new Spanish verb mode! Not only did I enjoy it thoroughly, but I learned a lot in a single session, which made me feel I'd made a breakthrough with my Spanish, which has lately languished due to my own mental torpor.

Promo code ad for Learned By Me
Click the Graphic, Enter the Promo Code ADullRoar to get a Free Spanish Lesson on the Topic of Your Choice!

Short on Self-discipline Like Yours Truly?

I don't know about you, but despite holding a post-grad degree in a complex area of study, I am not so hot at disciplining myself to learn new subjects. I try. I get the books, I crack them open, study this and that, and take some notes. Then the procrastination/guilt cycle starts and off I go elsewhere. Rinse and repeat ...

I realize I'm an experiential, hands-on learner and thus, need that added impetus of a live teacher to counter my tendencies to be my own worst distraction. That's why when Michelle Stoler, a Country Director for the Learned By Me online language tutoring service offered me a free lesson on any part of the Spanish language that I wanted, I overcame innate skepticism and jumped at the opportunity to give it a try.

Thursday, April 03, 2014

Contributing Factors to Alcoholism in Business Travelers and Expats

Stress, anxiety, loneliness and homesickness coupled with the ever present bar or pub are just a few key factors which cause some business travelers and expats alike to develop alcoholism. As someone who has extensively traveled for both work and pleasure throughout the world, I can fully attest to the reality of these pressures.  

The Risky Side of Traveling Business Assignments

Traveling for business, be it for short or long term, is not as great as it may seem. Let’s face it, going across the continent on extended flights means achy muscles, swollen ankles and jet lag. If you’re in a new environment where the local language is completely foreign to you, you’ll encounter a real life “Lost in Translation” experience. And of course, if you have a family back home, mixed emotions of loneliness, sadness or guilt may likely occur. 

That’s just the basics; there is also the pressure of the business assignment at hand, deadlines, meetings and important tasks that must be carried out. 

Apart from the obvious, business travel typically includes dinners with an unlimited supply of drinks where contracts are negotiated and relationships are strengthened. Saying “no” to a bottle of wine provided by the head boss is most likely not a wise move. Back at the hotel, you get to help yourself to the in-room mini bar or head downstairs to the lobby bar for exclusive cocktails. 

If this combination of intense pressures and stress goes ignored, it can create an unbalanced mind and body which may lead to alcohol abuse and addiction.

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

Find Your Way Around Costa Rica or Anywhere with Avenza's Geo-PDF Reader

OK, I admit I was first attracted to this Geospatial PDF stuff because 1) it’s geeky and 2) it’s free, free, free. Well, at least two frees, one for the Avenza PDF Maps app itself and another “free” for it being an Android app (it works as well for iPhone, iPad and iPod touch version 5), so I can use it on my generic tablet.

geospatial pdf map of western costa rica
Sample Geo-PDF map of W. Costa Rica
The reader is a terrific way for travelers to explore new terrain and share their finds with others. If you are an expat in a country where good maps are hard to find or expensive, or you like to get off the beaten path, Geospatial PDF is a boon.

What’s Geospatial PDF you say? Glad you asked. Wikipedia describes it thusly: 

“… a set of geospatial extensions to the Portable Document Format (PDF) that relate a region in the document page to a region in physical space …”  Plus a bunch of über-geeky junk about metadata, ISO 32000, blah, blah, blah.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Firm ranks Costa Rica amongst safest countries in Latin America

Firm ranks Costa Rica amongst safest countries in Latin America (via
March 25th, 2014 ( Consulting firm, FTI Consulting has published its 2014 Latin America Security Index, ranking Costa Rica as the safest country in Central America and one of the safest countries in the whole of Latin America.  …

Saturday, March 22, 2014

The Rolled Truck Emerges, Its Future Unknown

My hapless '88 Mitsubishi pickup, which suffered a 200 foot roll into a ravine on the finca (under mysterious circumstances), was pulled out of the creek last week with a backhoe.

During the summer months, backhoes are in demand, fixing roads, cleaning up slides from the rainy season and loading dump trucks. This one belongs to a neighbor who has a small gravel, lastre, road equipment business down in San Ramón Sur. He's the guy with the backpack, not the operator. 

Friday, March 14, 2014

Interview: Pérez Zeledon’s New Legislator from Partido Acción Ciudana in Costa Rica

This past week, I interviewed Dr. Marvin Aténcio Delgado at his home about his plans after winning a legislative seat for Partido Acción Ciudadana (PAC) in Costa Rica’s National Assembly from the canton of Pérez Zeledón. We discussed his political background, his reasons for switching parties in 2000, what PAC’s goals are and the effect on his family’s life as they relocate to San José.

Pres. candidate Luis Guillermo Solís center. Dr. Atencio far right.

Discouraged by the PLN, Dr. Aténcio Turns to PAC

Despite a busy, successful career as both a medical doctor and civil lawyer, Dr. Aténcio has maintained a keen interest in politics that he adopted from his politically active father while growing up in Volcán de Buenos Aires.

Up until the year 2000, Dr. Aténcio supported the Partido Liberación Nacional (PLN), the current ruling party. Like many Costa Ricans, he became disillusioned by the PLN’s propensity for corruption and a focus on the needs of the middle and upper classes to the detriment of Costa Rica’s poorer citizens. 

As one of three rotating directors of the hospital in San Isidro de El General, which serves the entire Southern Zone of Costa Rica, Dr. Aténcio is well acquainted with the everyday challenges of Costa Rica’s poorest citizens. Daily he deals with the deficiencies of Costa Rica’s social programs including the country’s universal health care system, colloquially known as the Caja.

In 2005, Dr. Aténcio felt he could contribute to political change by running for a diputado seat in Pérez Zeledón under PAC. In a field of 16 candidates, he missed filling a potential fifth seat by only 500 votes. This election cycle, he won handily with the help of PAC’s presidential candidate Luis Guillermo Solís with whom he closely campaigned in San Isidro.

Sunday, March 09, 2014

Guest Post: Australian Outback Family Adventure

I think it is a fair assumption that most expats share a yearning for travel. So, in that spirit, here is a guest post by Anita Reid of Brisbane about traveling the Australian Outback with her husband and two girls. Sit back in your best traveling recliner and enjoy this tale from the Land of Oz. - Casey

I have wanted to visit the Australian Outback ever since I was a young girl. Images of the vast red land fascinated me. Riding across it and conquering it, was one of my strongest childhood dreams. Although I wasn't able achieve this adventure when I was younger, I got an opportunity to visit this beautiful part of the world in my late 20s.

After planning the journey with my hubby, we packed up with our two girls and set out to share this adventure as a family.

uluru aka ayers rock in australia outback
Uluru or Ayer's Rock - CC-BY-SA-3.0 Wikimedia Commons


Our tour started with the journey to the very heart of the Outback called the Red Centre. I expected a colossal rock formation by the name of Uluru (or Ayer’s Rock) to be magnificent, but it exceeded all my expectations. I lack words to describe what I felt. We all took in the sight in awe, admiring nature's masterpiece. The kids immediately started asking if some wizards or aliens made it.

Saturday, March 08, 2014

How to Lose $6K in Net Worth Overnight in Costa Rica

Update 3/18: More evidence further suggests that the truck was actually pushed over the edge. Why? Who? We'll never know. The good news is that we got it pulled out using a backhoe and after a day of resetting tires, cutting off the top, etc. I actually was able to drive it! The drive train, brakes, frame, all seems to be in working order. Some kind of miracle that. Working on a video of the yanking out and will add it in a later post.

The subsequent pulling out with a backhoe story is here.

Early this morning, one of the neighbor's workers came walking up the driveway asking about my Mitsubishi pickup. Since I've been trying to sell it the past few months, I assumed he was inquiring as a buyer, but we were having a bit of trouble communicating based on that assumption.

He asked several times if I was OK and unhurt, which I thought rather odd. As we walked down to our bodega to look at the truck, I noticed it wasn't where I'd left it. In fact, it was nowhere in sight. He pointed toward the edge of the driveway to our left.

pickup at the bottom of ravine

My first thought was something along the lines of WTF!? That is one damn rough ravine, so I knew the truck was probably totaled even from that distance. The worker said they'd heard it tumble around 5:30 AM and they were concerned that someone had been in it, which explained all the questions about my well-being.

I haven't studied all the forensic evidence yet, but based on past behavior and the circumstances, we can rule out foul play, which means the obvious answer is suicide.

I knew the truck was distraught at me selling it for whenever I had a buyer on the hook, some little thing would go wrong with it. Yesterday, it had overheard a conversation with a fellow in town who was very anxious to get it. So, not being able to part with me, it decided to hurl itself over the edge.

The real damage below the fold ...

Friday, January 17, 2014

Winter's End and the Days of Las Patinas in Costa Rica

Anywhere in the world with cold or wet winters, the locals tend to be jump the gun near the end of that season in predicting the arrival of warmer, drier weather. In my native region of the Pacific Northwest, summer expectations fever infects the lot of us around late February to mid-March when a sampling of pleasant weather drops in for an all-too-short visit. Since in reality, the cold and wet there extends well into May, you try not to set yourself up for disappointment if you can help it.

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