Tag Archives: Costa Rica

Colonoscopy and Other Shit

(I know. I’m still ruminating about Costa Rica even though we’ve moved on. This is more of a rant on how broken the US medical system is.)

People sometimes ask us how we decide where we’re going. In the case of our January trip to Costa Rica, the motivation was an airfare credit with JetBlue that just had to be spent before November. As it turns out, I needed to have a crown replaced and since we had to go somewhere, we thought we’d try Costa Rica for dentistry which I’d heard was excellent and inexpensive.

A crown replacement in Florida runs approximately $1500 plus whatever little extras the dentist can tack on, like x-rays and sterilization fees. Upon the recommendation of expat friends who live there, I made an appointment with Dr Alexander Mora in Escazù. This fine doctor replaced my crown for a total of $375. This was total price, inclusive of a x-ray and cleaning up the cavity that had started under the crown.

A web fare for JetBlue from Florida to Costa Rica might be as low as $400 round trip. Yes, that means that the cost of an airline ticket plus the crown is less than half the price of the same crown in the United States.

Still don’t think the medical system in the US is completely broken? I have more.

Doctors recommend that everyone get a colonoscopy at age 50 and then ten years later if the first one is clean. A colonoscopy in the US costs around $4,000. Under Obamacare, medical insurance is supposed to provide a free one at the recommended interval.

I scheduled my regular diagnostic colonoscopy when we were still living in Fort Lauderdale. The doctor, who was an hour and a half behind schedule and talking on his cell phone in the procedure room, couldn’t finish the operation. This, after horrible preparation and wasting the greater part of the day at the hospital. He had no excuse; just said that the instrument would only go about ten percent of the way. Then he tried to sell me a barium enema.

Considering that the test wasn’t done, I tried to get another one from a different doctor. The insurance company claimed that since I’d already had one, I’d have to pay for the second one.

Deena suggested I get my test done in Costa Rica because we were going there anyway. It seemed like less hassle than taking the insurance company to court.

I scheduled a colonoscopy for our first week in Costa Rica. The receptionist didn’t speak much English but the doctor did. It was way more efficient. We walked over to the hospital endoscopy clinic in the morning and were out having a delicious coffee in two hours. They gave me a printed report with internal pictures, and were even nice enough to email me the pdf at my request since we’re now paperless.

The cost of the procedure? $380.22 Yes, that’s right: You could fly to Costa Rica, be tested and have a five-star vacation with the remaining $3200 and still not spend as much as the US medical system would like you to pay.

Don’t get me started.

 

Costa Rica Rant

Tico Rico,Screen Shot 2014-02-28 at 11.15.30 AMEco this Eco that,

Justo Gusto, Coco Loco, Coco Loco  Pura Vida,

Early morning howlers, Screen Shot 2014-02-28 at 11.18.22 AM

Bird feeder fights, enterprising tourismo entrepreneurs, warm humid embrace, cloud forest downpours, majestic mountains, lush valleys, cute coati armies, warm breezes, “always use sunscreen”,

Industrious leaf-cutting ants that can spell . . . .Screen Shot 2014-02-28 at 11.38.48 AM

Panderias, Screen Shot 2014-02-28 at 11.35.54 AM licoreras, pulperias,
Let sleeping dogs lie, Screen Shot 2014-02-28 at 11.36.50 AM

Baldi hot springs ahhhhhhh!!
Naked light bulbs, no-kickplate cabinets

Free mini-Tabacon hot springs only Ticos know mini Tabacon

Bus-eating potholes, potholes

Treacherous sidewalks,  no straight level roads,  no end of lane warnings – crash,  no speed bump warnings – boom,

Earthquake shocks, earchquake tremors

(Well maybe a bit exaggerated), stolen sandals, ripe starfruit, tourists everwhere!!, single plantation micro coffee roasters, broken English, broken Spanish, volcanic sands,
Surf bodies,  
surf competition

Tasty tabbouleh & fattoush (not quite as good as Ivan’s)

McDonalds McCafe almost acceptable, Mac cafe

Jungle Jam, Medical exam

 

YAW = Yet Another Waterfalls

Is it possible to see too many waterfalls?

When we were backpacking in Brazil through the Chapada Diamantina, there were beautiful clear streams tumbling down the mountains. There were waterfalls everywhere.

We had already seen the western hemisphere’s tallest free fall waterfall. We were lucky enough to be there when an updraft created a double rainbow for us. We’d already swam in the clear pools at the bottom, or top, of some. After a few days, we were just not motivated to go off the planned hike to see yet another waterfall.

Nevertheless, when we were in Costa Rica, we went to La Paz Waterfalls. It was water tumbling down from volcanic mountains, shaded by lush growth allowing the filtered light to create shafts of mist.LaPazGardens_5787c

In another part of the downward stream, there was a side waterfalls like a mother and baby.LaPazGardens_5800

Bored of waterfalls? I guess not. Each one is a unique child of nature. We’re all human and yet so different in culture and from each other. Diversity makes the world so interesting.

 

Las Mariposas, As Borboletas, die Schmetterlinge, Motýli, Бабочки

Butterflies!

When we visited Manuel Antonio Park, we saw Blue Morpho butterflies for the first time. The back of their wings is a brilliant, luminescent blue that lights up like neon signs in the sun. They must be the Las Vegas of butterflies. Of course, it was impossible to capture in a photo while they were moving.

In San Jose, however, our lovely AirBnB host, Annabelle, took us to visit the La Paz Gardens and Waterfalls which has a butterfly garden. The Blue Morphos in captivity did not have quite the same brilliance, but they were lovely none the less. Also, in the garden, we were able to see the incredible markings on the underside of wings.BlueMorpho

Amazingly, we also saw one emerge from his cacoon.LaPazGardens_5717 LaPazGardens_5719

How do you like my hat?

Ack! Where are my minions?!
Ack! Where are my minions?!

 

 

Micro-Roaster in Jaco, Costa Rica

As some of you know, coffee is not just an addiction with me. It’s a passion. Some years back, while searching the Interwebs for a better coffee, I discovered that it was possible to buy green beans and roast them at home. I did, and never looked back.

I’ve learned that freshly roasted and ground coffee has a significantly different taste. What do I mean by “freshly”? Ground coffee begins to oxidize immediately. I’m talking about minutes here. I haven’t conducted any personal tests, but I’d guess that within thirty minutes to an hour, it’s already stale.

As far as roasting, the roasted beans often peak in flavor after resting for a day or two. After that, they start to go downhill. Five to seven days later, they’re almost finished. The flavor has changed to that bitter, tasteless, acid and acrid stuff that we’ve all come to know from almost every coffee we’ve ever had.

What makes a great coffee? First, the beans have to be picked only when they are ripe. They are then processed naturally to remove the outer fruit. The fruit is called a cherry because at the peak of ripeness, it’s dark red.

Starbucks thinks these are great beans. Most of them are not ripe.
Starbucks thinks these are great beans. Most of them are not even ripe. They buy cheap beans using exploited labor.

Deena and I had a good laugh at Starbucks (to which we are often forced while driving solely because of their ubiquity on the road) the other day. They put up this poster of their coffee farm. Notice that the coffee fruit are all different shades including even unripe green cherries. THAT is the very first reason that Starbucks coffee sucks! They don’t even bother buying ripe coffee because they can buy garbage beans (while exploiting foreign workers) for less than one dollar a pound. Yes, they do make obscene profit by selling their horrible beans for more than fifteen dollars per pound. Want to make a difference? Try buying FTO, or Fair Trade Organic coffee. It may not be any better than Starbucks, but at least you’re not exploiting poor people and encouraging the use of harmful chemicals in the world.

After a coffee is roasted, it’s best if used before maybe seven to ten days. Of course, that’s impossible unless you’re roasting small batches yourself. Or you live next to a micro-roaster. On the road, Deena and I are ever watchful for great coffee shops. A great coffee shop is one that not only has a good source of freshly roasted beans, but also has a great barista. (Making a really good espresso is another story/blog entirely!)

Jaco_5422The whole point of the above back story is that while we’re traveling, we are always on the lookout for a great coffee. In Costa Rica, many of the drip coffees, espressos and lattes were fine. The best latte and espresso however, were at La Casa del Café in Jaco, Puntarenas.

We were not expecting a small town like Jaco to have a micro-roaster. This coffee shop not only had a roasting machine in the back shed, but also had not one, but two of the better baristas we’ve encountered so far in our travels. Our first day, we met Oscar who made us a couple of incredible capuccinos. We talked for a while about coffee and roasting, and he invited us to come over the next day to watch him roast.

The next day we met with Juan, the owner of La Casa del Café, and Oscar who had fired up the roaster for a couple of batches. It turns out that Juan had purchased a small coffee plantation in the Tarrazú area some years before. He had no intention of making a business out of it, but, well, sometimes those things happen with hobbies, don’t they?

Jaco_5426The Tarrazú beans that they were roasting were consistent ripe cherries collected from one or two small farms. The greens were beautiful, almost translucent on the outside. The Tarrazú region is at an altitude of over 4000 feet. Because of the high altitude, the beans are concentrated and compact. In the industry, they’re called Strictly Hard Bean or sometimes Strictly High Grown.

When prepared as a pour-over (drip), the Tarrazú has a bright acidity with a little bit of spice and a wonderful cocoa undertone. Can you tell I’m really missing this amazing coffee?

Juan also was the one who recommended that we spend a little time in Monteverde on our way north. We’re glad he did. If you find yourself in Jaco, stop in for a great coffee and say hello.