Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Five Things To Know About House Sitting   3 comments

Much has been written about house stilling as a way to see the world.  There are books, articles and even websites, containing house sitting opportunities around the world.  Generally there is no pay for the house sitter(s) unless there are tasks other than house sitting that come with the assignment.  I once saw an assignment in the south of Portugal. They wanted someone who had service experience to care for their small inn and were willing to pay a small salary.  Most of the time what is required or expected of the house sitter comes in exchange for the ability to stay in a place without paying rent.

I, myself, am currently “house sitting” in the mountains on the Pacific coast of Costa Rica.

The house is in the mountains, just east of the town of Portalon, which lies between Quepos/Manuel Antonio and Dominical.  All three are fairly well-known for being havens for naturalist tourists,especially those that like to ride the almost constant surf that graces the Pacific shores of Costa Rica.

Nearby, there are beaches, jungles to hike, deep-sea fishing, horses to ride, rivers to raft, tree tops to traverse, wildlife to watch and endless gorgeous sunsets to see.

A paradise to live in, right?Absolutely!

Costa Rica is a hot destination place for people from all over the world.  There were 86 applicants for this house witting assignment.  There would probably have been more if the assignment was not for just over five months, August 1 until January 4. But I imagine that not many people can be gone from their lives for 5 months. Though I imagine more wish they could.  I am blessed to have sufficient income and time.  The work I do, readying my book, High School Is Not Enough, for publication can be done from anyplace.

This is my first house sitting assignment.  So, I was wide-eyed about coming here. Let me offer that the old adage, there is no such thing as a free lunch holds to be true for house sitting. Here are some things I’ve learned.

1)      There is a cost to house sitting.  And I am not just talking about the transportation to get there and back, which also is generally not paid by the people who own the house.  I am in the rain forest of Costa Rica.  The nearest store is almost two kilometers down the hill.  The nearest store with a variety of meats, fish and produce is about 25 kilometers away.  There are no buses that come up here.  I imagine taxis would come but it would be expensive and they would hate it.  You really need a 4X4 to get to the house from the main road.  I decided to bring a car (1999 Toyota RAV 4) from the United States.  The car cost me $5000.  The import tax/duty (Costa Rica is really ridiculous in what you have to pay) was just over $2000.  Shipping was $600.  And assorted registration, title and other fees were $500.  A total of $8100, without factoring in the cost of gasoline here in Costa Rica.  Now my case is a little extreme.  But seeing as though I am going to be here for over five months it was the most cost-effective option for me.  What I am offering is that transportation costs. Whether it is by bus, taxi, rental car or other means the house sitting assignment will be in another country.  Knowing what it will take, and how much it will cost, to get around should be a part of the consideration in where people apply.

2)      Get care and maintenance instructions in writing. The people for whom I am house sitting left me notes about the care and operation of their home.  I am very grateful for this.  Pool maintenance; the best time to wash clothes saving on electricity; what to do if the lights go out; which wildlife are not to be tolerated; when is trash and recycling pick-up; and more, means there is something to do every day to care for their home.  Having what needs to be done explained, explicitly, is a good thing.  I would suggest that everyone get it in writing.  It makes it so much easier.  For them to return and feel like their home has been well maintained starts with how clear they are about taking care of their property.

3)      Get an orientation.  I arrived here, to the house, at 4 p.m. on July 31.  They left on August 1.  In hindsight, I wish we had more time together.  Having an orientation is critical to successfully caring for someone else’s property. We did have time for a walk through, even practiced cleaning the pool.  Knowing where things are is really secondary to knowing what the owner really cares about regarding the care of their home.  And the way to really know that is to hear it and see their eyes when they talk about it.  This past week some “leaf cutter” ants got to the hibiscus hedge.  From our time together, I knew that this hedge was something they wanted to protect.  When I could not find the refill for the ant killing spray,  I called.  We worked it out and I took care of the ants.

4)      Get contact numbers. I am sure that every owner will tell a house sitter how to get in touch with them in care of emergency – or hedge eating ants.  What I really like that the owners did for me was to arrange that I meet neighbors, the security guards, and the owners of their development.  Those introductions told everyone that I am supposed to be here.  What they also left me were telephone numbers to the cable company, the utility company, their doctor, emergency medical services, and local police.  I hope that I will never need any of these services, but it is good to know where things are just in case.  Actually, I did make an appointment to meet the doctor.  I was getting over a sinus problem.  I also thought that introducing myself was not a bad idea.  It was not.  He gave me his cell number and made sure that I knew he was available should I need him. I liked that.  I also learned about a reliable car mechanic from one of the neighbors the owner introduced me to.  I hope I don’t need him either.

5)      Get them to show you where things are.  Generally, people want to have a certain lifestyle while they are house sitting.  Whether it is exploring restaurants, nightlife, hiking trails, beaches, museums or other activities most people travel to other countries to experience that part of the world.  I wanted to come to Costa Rica because I have traveled here a lot over the past six years.  Though most of them live in San Jose, about 3 hours away, I have friends here.  What I did not know was this part of Costa Rica.  The owners took me around, showing me other communities, the grocery story, the farmers market, the cable company office, restaurants, beaches, and more.  Having a tour was nice.  Its better when someone who knows shows and gives you the background info.

Again, my assignment is a bit unique.  It allows me to be in a great house in a country I love.  And as I consider living in Costa Rica, this works really well for me.

Aside from all of the positive things about house sitting this is a responsibility.  It is a job, a job that is paid for by barter.  One exchanges their attention and labor for the opportunity to live rent free.  Take it seriously, and enjoy.

PS. This house is FOR SALE…….

Posted September 2, 2012 by Wayne in Uncategorized

Tagged with , , ,

The Beauty of Connectedness: A Love/Friendship Letter For The Ages   5 comments

I grew up as the only child in the house, but also was never really alone.  The way it works out is that my sister is 18 years older than me and was starting her own family when I came along.  She used to like to say, our mother had a tumor that just never went away.  LOL… Our brother, now deceased, was 23 years older than me had children before and after I came along.  Our father died when I was a senior in high school.  So, after I left for college, our mother, at age 62, began taking in foster children. Not all at one time, but all together she took in something like nineteen children.  The last two that came into her home stayed until she died; like seventeen years.  They became my sisters also.  Her grandchildren, and even folks in the community, called her “Mom Berta.”  It was natural, I guess.  I think that was her passion, taking care of children and people.  There seemed to be constant streams of her grandchildren, my nieces and nephews, other family members and friends in and out of our small, sometimes very cramped house.

Most would agree, the way in which we are raised conspires to give us our sense of self and our worth.  I think because of my mother, the way I grew up, I am hypersensitive to the connections that extend to people, other living creatures and the earth, regardless of place and time.  I am passionate about, and sometimes a real sucker for, the struggles of others.  And to be honest, I prefer it that way.   The more I travel,  knowing people and their cultures, the more I believe in the connectedness of all life.

For the past five years, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Panama and Colombia have been where my interests lay.  Now as I turn my attention to my next travel adventure, China and the Philippines, I again turn to the internet learning what I am getting into before I go; making contacts that may lead to friendships; and yes, even exploring the possibilities of lasting relationships.  Yes, one has to be careful.  There are lots of people out there who use the internet to abuse and use one another.  However the internet also provides the opportunity for people of like minds to join together to make the world a better place; to share ideals, causes and to realize aspirations; and those that wish to know each other in honest and caring ways with the ability to do so.  I guess like most tools, the internet is as powerful, as good or evil, as the soul that uses it.

I recently received a letter from someone I met by way of the internet.  In the spirit of how it came to me, I offer it to you.  Please feel free to share this letter in ways that you feel inspires the spirit of our connectedness.  Let it come from your heart though.  I think insincerity would undermine the karma.  Friendship and love are essential to my soul.  To all my friends/family thank you for being in my life, and supporting me in my efforts to, like my mother, have a positive influence in the lives of others.

Dear Wayne

I’ve been thinking: if love can move mountains, true friendship – which is the widest expression of love – should be able move a group of mountains, should in fact be able to move the world! If everyone was as lucky as I am, and had a friend or knew someone like you, the world would be a much better and friendlier place.

Being able to count on your friendship makes me a more open, more sensitive person, more confident in the future of this small planet of ours. Maybe I’m dreaming, but that’s all it would take: that every human being was as lucky as I am and had a friend like you!

And you, on the other hand, would have another friend, an even more special friend; and it would all turn into an endless chain of people in search of harmony, and this feeling would be passed on to the wisest of scientists, the wealthiest of businessmen and the most cold hearted of world leaders!

Being friends with someone is not a hard thing to do, especially when that friend is someone like you; it allows the people who are closest to practice their best qualities, such as tolerance, generosity and justice, which should be the basis of every relationship.

Looking forward to meet you one day.  Thanks for coming in my life….Take care

Inspirational isn’t it?  God Bless Love and Friendship

Posted March 10, 2012 by Wayne in Uncategorized

Tagged with , , ,

Wandering About The Great Ovarian Lottery In Costa Rica   3 comments

Walking in downtown San Jose, Costa Rica after breakfast is one of my favorite things to do.  Besides exercise, walking gives me the opportunity to get into the vibe of Costa Rica city life.  San Jose is a bustling place with about three million people living in the central valley which surrounds the city.  One of the nice things that San Jose has done is to close a couple of main arteries to car and truck traffic; Avenida Central and Paseo Union Europa.  “People watching” in San Jose is like visiting a living museum of Latin America culture.  On any given day, walking the streets of San Jose, you can see people from Nicaragua, Colombia, Europe, Canada, the Caribbean and many Native Americans.  People indigenous to the region here are called Native American also.  Which make a lot of sense as the boundaries we are used to that divide countries, and states, had no currency to the natives of the Americas.  One of the things that strikes me as I walk are the number of people hustling their living.  I often wonder who they are, and how did they come to selling everything from fruit to something resembling onion rings in long tubular bags to cigars and fake Rolexes.  These people are living lives without safety nets.  A reality that is way far from anything I know.

Costa Rica is a hot tourist destination but there is not a lot of pretense.  It is more rustic, a naturalist’s paradise.  Sunday’s are family days for people in Costa Rica.  As the picture to the right shows there are many festivals and free concerts in the parks in downtown San jose.  There are many places to dance, drink and socialize in Costa Rica. You are just not going to find many New York, Miami or LA style clubs, restaurants, museums, galleries, theater or concerts.  I have found that the really great places to go dancing are like hole in the walls or in strip malls.  At Mas T’kila, Plaza Itsazu, an unlikely place for dancing – because they have no dance floor per se – a dance until the place closed party broke out around our table.  There are lots of places to eat but the vast majority of the places are in the neighborhoods where the locals eat, with prices ranging from $5 to $7 a plate or less.  Recently, four of us celebrated a friend’s birthday at a place called Matices, San Raphael de Heredia.  The bill came to less than $50, for six small plates, a huge salad (that three of us shared), an entrée, two glasses of wine, two sodas, gratuity and tax.

Like many cities and places that cater to tourists, the real story lies in the close to 30% of the population that struggle to keep pace with the high cost of housing bolstered by foreign investors and gringo property owners.  A fact not unnoticed by the Costa Rican government when they unanimously approved a luxury home owner’s tax in 2010.  The tax, levied on homes valued at more than $180,000 is the government’s attempt to generate resources supporting sub-standard housing.  Remember New Orleans, Lower Ninth Ward?  In fact, unless you seclude yourself in one of the country’s idealistic resorts, Costa Rica can be a bit in your face with the life struggles many face in Latin America.

As I walked the streets of San Jose, I was reminded of the fact that I went to college not because my parents were rich but because they were poor.  Taking advantage of the intricate system of federal, state and private financial assistance gave me the kind of choices that having an education gives people.  After college I got a job.  It was easy.  I applied to maybe three of four places and one hired me.  When I found that the job was crazier than I imagined it would be, I took my brother up on his offer to help me get started in Pittsburgh.  And within two months of moving there I had another job.  In my consciousness, in my life’s history, when I wanted an education I got one.  When I wanted a job I got one.  When I found that the $6700 a year that I was being paid was too little for the lifestyle I wanted to live, I went to graduate school.  There was scholarship help that enabled me to accomplish that goal also.

We have put higher education within reach of all citizens in the United States.  To be qualified for the work available should be a no brainer.  To remain competitive in today’s job market is within reach of all who want to better their lives.  This is a part of the fabric of the United States.  This is the privilege that goes with being a United States citizen.  This is the consciousness of entitlement that me and most of my friends grew-up with.  We are the land of opportunity.  And many of us think that opportunity is our God given right.  To take advantage of if we want, or not!

I have no frame of reference for what it is like to get up every morning and not know what I am going to eat that day.  I do not know what it is like to have to hustle my rent money, sleep on a mattress on the floor or have my children wonder why they are not watching cable television.  Walking the streets of San Jose, seeing the shanties in the hillsides, watching street vendors clean their stalls, listening to hustlers call out to potential customers to come buy their stuff, seeing the women go into the Hotel Del Ray or one of San Jose’s other less well known houses of prostitution, gives me a view of how we regard our privilege that makes me both mad and sad.

I get angry when I hear people, who have never faced a day of making the decisions that many people in this world make every day to survive.  They judge the choices others make by the opportunities they have or the choices that many of us have convinced ourselves are our God given right.  Somewhere along the line they either forgot how the west was really won or simply drank the Kool-Aid, becoming content in the unconscious rapture of privilege.

I get sad when I think of the imbalance and inequity that has become standard in the world.  My generation, baby-boomers, grew-up with the misguided notion that the world contained limitless resources.   We now know that this is not true.  For every McMansion there are hundreds of people across the globe living in horrible conditions, which perhaps would not be so bad if it were truly their choice to do so or if access to wealth and power did not covet access to more wealth and power.   The hypocrisy is that we live every day knowing, consciously or unconsciously, that the game is rigged in our favor; acting like everyone has the same opportunities as us.  We give little away.  We take way more than our share.  And we say God bless America.  I cannot imagine that God is not sad about this also.

This is the thought that I am left with as I conclude my walk.  In perhaps the most important day of our lives, the day we were born, our journey was cast.  I wonder what my journey would have been if I was born to a woman in Latin America, that had no formal education and a husband that left her soon after I was born.  I hope that my life would be in balance, healthy and full of family and friends like most of the people I know in Costa Rica.

Posted February 12, 2012 by Wayne in Uncategorized

Tagged with , ,

%d bloggers like this: