Sunday, August 27, 2017

Escaping - Hurried House Hunting in Guanacaste

I've barely written here this last month for a couple of reasons. I would still be whining copiously about the food situation at the guesthouse and ain't nobody got time for that. I have no wish to keep harping on the situation.

Secondly, unless something is actually happening, like the trip to Nicaragua, or the church burning down, it's pretty mundane, and sometimes, quite frankly a bit of a downer. Get up, eat breakfast that is either pancakes, toasted bread and jam or sweet rolls. Go down to the school to use the only decent internet. Come back around noon and eat either rice and beans, or some festival of unhealthy, take a nap because you're stunned by the carbs. Afternoon - raining profusely - either go back up to the school to work on something, huddle under the covers because you are cold and watch a movie on the lap top, or take the bus into town to try and get the pile of paperwork at the bank finished linking our American bank, our Costa Rican bank, our brokerage accounts and Jim's retirement income done. Have coffee at coffee cooperative. Take the bus back. Dinner at 5 pm is usually some amalgamation of leftovers from earlier or strange burgers from the landlord's snackbar. Sunset comes shortly after dinner since we're near the Equator. More rain, read or study or crochet. Or hang out with the guys down at the coffee house. Bedtime under five blankets, shivering with your socks on and a sweater over your night gown. Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

It's mostly peaceful but rather dull. Which is what I really needed over the stress of the house remodel and packing. The school has a set of bookshelves lining the wall with books anyone in town can read. I've been working my way through them.

We've started looking for houses recently. This weekend we were in Guanacaste looking for a place near the beach. Plus, we needed to get away for a few days.

So far the house round up.... Jim's idea was to get a place in the mountains and one by the beach. Some interesting possibilities have emerged. The landlady is selling her place, the place I've been living these past two months for the sum of 11,000. Chicken feed for a property. I almost fell off my chair when I heard the price. It has a professional bakery and kitchen, an outdoor kitchen, an indoor kitchen and a snack bar with a grill, six bedrooms, four bathrooms and assorted outbuildings. It would need an upgrade to two of the baths, painting inside and out, an entire kitchen remodel and a serious dejunking of the outdoor kitchen. But the school has it booked to house teachers for some months. We could also run it as an AirBnB for the other rooms. Labor is roughly two dollars an hour here and we could easily get help in for the snack bar/bakery and to do the cleaning. It's a possibility. There is money to be made here with minimal financial investment.

House #2 is also not too far away and is a plain but nice enough house in the middle of a so many hectares coffee farm. The owner is selling the place for a firesale price, or we can rent with the rent applied to purchase if we want for roughly $600 a month. It does not need remodeling or upgrading, it's peaceful and isolated. But I know nothing about coffee growing.

House #3 in a nearby town is nice, but plain house in the middle of the town. Perfectly adequate for $350 a month. However it, like the other two, is in the cold and rainy mountain area we're in and not in love with.

House #4 we looked at a month ago near the beach in Tamarindo. It is owned by the older German couple, needs some scrubbing but is centrally located, private, American style kitchen and laundry. It's a kitchen that would give Lori Alexander a wet dream with stainless new appliances and granite all over the kitchen. It's the most likely contender. In a week we're going to stay in one of the small cabins on the property to decide if this is the place. We've had some very good meetings with the owners and really clicked. Lots of possibilities for the house and adjoining buildings. Did I mention it has a pool? We're almost certain this is the place, but Jim wants to look at a few more places. It's 700 a month fully furnished, they came down a little in price.

House #5, or as I called it - a crime scene waiting to happen. Jim found this place through one of the guys here at the hotel we befriended back last year. He told us that a house had come up for rent in his gated neighborhood of six houses in the compound. Costa Rican style he called it. I didn't have high expectations, but Jim was keen to see it because the rent was less than 300 a month.

We get there, and the small village looked gritty, unclean and unsafe. The only thing it had going for it was the bullring. But the cluster of small homes in the compound looked nice enough, so we meet the owner and go in..... to something that could have been used as  meth-cooking house on 'Breaking Bad' The furniture had rips and tears and literally all of it was stained and worn out. The kitchen table was marred with cigarette burns. When we moved to the kitchen we discovered that while there was a sink and small countertop that the countertop had cigarette burns and there were literally no cabinets, no oven, no stove, no hot water and a fridge from the Mesozoic era. And then it gets worse...

There was a air conditioner in one of the bedrooms, but stains on the walls indicating there was a serious roof leak in that master front bedroom. The back bedroom had birds in it! Probably at least a dozen wild birds flying in and out through a hole in the roof out the windows that were missing panes in the kitchen.

We moved outside to the back porch where stood in place of the small primitive washers most Costa Ricans have an old cement sink with an old fashioned wash board in the sink and a single laundry line strung around between two porch supports that had serious visible termite damage. Between the long list of things that needed repair, the filth and the electrical wires strung in crazy ways it was definitely a no-good. The owner asked us how quickly we could move in and we had to find a way to tactfully tell her that we weren't going to rent the place.

I was really shocked because in all the homes here in CR that I've been in, and we have toured more places than these to rent, these were the ones we were considering as possibles before hitting house #5, I have never seen one that is not spotlessly immaculate, inside and out. Even our damp little suite in our guesthouse is kept very clean. I took over much of the cleaning after we moved in because I could clearly see our landlady is overburdened with work, but she is constantly cleaning. Even the homes of those in our area that are poor are scrubbed daily. Seeing this place was such a surprise! It was so completely out of character from what I've seen here. They might violate every U.S. safety code when they wire up the Suicide Showers but the shower itself is very clean and neat.

Tomorrow we take the bus back to the school and our rooms, but next Sunday we'll be moving here to Tamarindo, house or not. We just have to see a few more and make a final decision. Right now we're leaning towards the German house. The only possible issues are the loud rollicking Evangelical church next door and the fact that one of the main roads runs in front of the house. We shall see.

I am eager to settle down again and resume life, cook again. Having privacy will be huge!

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