Well, it's been long enough between updates (I want to set expectations low so I can over-deliver). We spent Christmas with the in-laws in Costa Rica, here's the blog.
Costa Rica does not have a military. It's true. When I really thought about this and let it set in, it's mind-boggling coming from a US perspective. I guess they don't have anyone to attack for oil :)
There is no income tax from what I could figure from being there and a show on the Bodog.com guy who lives there. There is a 13% sales tax, tips run 10%.
Obviously the weather is beautiful. It was funny to celebrate Christmas in such a warm area. The locals celebrate with red and green fireworks! Costa Rica is becoming a big tourist destination and for good reason. They have "micro-climates" and in a relatively small area you can visit the city, a rain forest, a volcano and hot springs and the beach. And we did it all.
Highlights would be seeing rocks tumble down the volcano during the day and then seeing them glowing red and breaking up as they fell down the mountain at night. The volcano also was making an eeeeerie "'whooshing" sound, like an engine, but it really can only be described as the "breath" of the mountain. Creepy, you sure do feel small next to this powerful thing.
We also visited the pacific ocean and did some serious boogie boarding. The water is beautiful and warm. I'd guess around 75+ degrees, almost on the verge of not refreshing (which I enjoyed because I could stay in all day). Even just the 3-4 foot waves were enough to really mess you up if you wiped out.
One last pro for this entry is that in the city of San Jose you can have anything delivered. If you want McDonald's, someone shows up on a moped with your burger. AWESOME! We also had pizza hut there and both were pretty close to the U.S. Don't' eat the beef there, it's not the same and it's not good. Eat chicken.
Besides the fact that I really do appreciate all that the U.S. has to offer, there were some things in Costa Rica that would be hard to get used to. One would be that people don't flush their toilet paper. It goes in a trash can next to the toilet. needless to say in the public restrooms you really have to hold your breath. Yikes!
Also the driving in Costa Rica is CRAZY! You really have to experience it for yourself, but basically the mountain roads have cliffs on the sides with no rails, and people are constantly trying to pass uphill. In the city there are pedestrians everywhere and there is too much to watch out for. Driving in the U.S. is a piece of cake, which is probably why we can multi-task with our beverages, cell phones, Garmins and DVD players. One other tid bit, most items in Costa Rica are 2x what they are here, so cars are really expensive, so are most electronic items etc.
Speaking of the crazy roads, in Costa Rica if there is a fatality on the road (most often a pedestrian being struck) they permanently paint a symbol in the road about the size of a car (the entire lane). It is a heart with a halo over it in a box, all yellow and to some degree you can get an idea for how dangerous an intersection is by the density of these symbols. If you spend some time thinking about this it is really an amazing statement of confidence and strength, here in the U.S. we would probably prefer to act like nothing has happened.
We went though the rainforest and saw some monkeys, poison frogs, snakes and spiders. But the best thing we saw was some large gentleman on a dirt bike peddling uphill with a desktop computer on his knee bouncing up and down.