August 22, 2015 ” “Y tu, y tu” Talk about music to my ears today! (what Captain Arturo yelled when we had a fish on) Deckhand Leo would sit us down, strap us up and tend to the other 3 lines while my better half matched me sailfish for sailfish on our half day trip. 4! Talk about a million dollar day with a billion dollar woman! Couldn’t ask for more! Much respect to the two man crew who will never know how much this day will always mean to Lindsey and I! Pura Vida!”
Every time I read BJ’s post I can do nothing but smile, remembering the feelings we had that day and how magical it truly was to the both of us. We booked the fishing trip the morning before with the concierge at the Suizo. We were lucky to get on the boat we did. It had a bathroom (which definitely came in handy after about the third or fourth Imperial.) Offshore fishing is something I have always enjoyed doing. My first time out, I was hooked. Waking up at 3 am didn’t bother me. I tossed my hair up in a bun, put on my sweat pants and sweat shirt, no make-up, but was certainly bright eyed and bushy tailed. It was a private charter so we knew everyone that was going out other than the crew that helped us for the day. Our crew was laid back, drinking their choice of beverage. As we were watching the sun come up, the reels and fishing lines begin to reflect off of the water. We went out 20 miles which took about 2 hours by boat. Once we made it out to the designated spot, it didn’t take long and I had something on my line. I reeled in with all my might, having to squat down with my butt almost touching the boat floor. With each reel the fish seemed to get heavier and drag even more. The crew was able to see what was on the line and I could hear their expressions. “A shark. You caught a shark!” I didn’t know what to do, whether I should continue to reel it in or if they should cut the line. In mode of “I caught this thing, I’m reeling it in, I am going to do whatever I have to do get a photo with it”, I reeled it completely up to the boat. Slightly giggling to myself thinking THIS is what gave me all that fight?? It was a baby shark, about 4 feet long from tip to tip. I was pumped after that only hoping for something bigger on the next line. Needless to say, the baby shark was the only thing caught that day. Being the only female on the boat, I beamed from ear to ear. Once we arrived back at the dock, I carried the shark up towards the front where you measure and weigh to get my photo taken. (Thinking about it now, I wish I would have never kept that shark.) I was young and naïve.
August 22nd, waking up to the sweet sounds of howler monkeys in the trees and the birds singing as they fly ever so gracefully right above the waves of the water from side to side, flying a football fields length and turning around only to fly in the opposite direction. Everything looked happy, genuinely happy, the grass, the trees, even the squirrels. I took in every second as if it were going to be my last. Smelling the sweet fresh air, breathing like you would at an annual family physicians office when checking the clearness of your lungs. The best part was all of this could be done without even stepping a foot off of the bed. I felt like a bride on her wedding day. The sun was shining so brightly, it seemed like it was screaming for us to get up. By the looks of where the sun was, it seemed it should have been maybe 8:30 or so. We were certainly surprised to see that it was only 5:30 a.m. Refreshed and ready for what may come, we jumped out of bed, showered, got dressed and headed for the breakfast buffet that the Suizo had provided. The restaurant is located directly right behind the bar area. The breakfast each morning consists of 3-4 different types of loaved bread, bagels, fresh fruit from watermelon, cantelope, kiwi and pineapple, along with scrambled eggs and my #1 favorite.. gallo pinto (black beans and rice). We say hello to Brando as he has the first bartending shift and make our way to enjoy our first meal of the day.
**Wages, Taxes, Holidays in Costa Rica & a little information I found useful** Wages in Costa Rica are much lower than in North America or Europe. Despite a comparatively lower cost of living, nominal salaries are common in many job sectors for non-skilled or semi-skilled workers. The average Costa Rican earns between $500 and $800 a month. To compensate for such wages, the government grants employees rights to special benefits. Minimum wages are revised every six months by Costa Rica’s Ministry of Labor.
Non-Qualified Worker: $2.24
Qualified Worker: $2.54
High School Level Technician: $2.73
Specialized Worker: $2.93
College Graduate Technician: $3.37
Bachelor Degree Holder: $4.13
Master Degree Holder: $4.95
The minimum hourly wage estimates are based on the exchange rate of 507.85 CRC per U.S. Dollar. Working days in Costa Rica are classified into day shifts and night shifts. These are the minimum number of hours employees may work during a normal work week. Day Shift: From 5:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.; 8 hours per day; 48 hours per week.
Night Shift: From 7:00 p.m. to 5:00 a.m.; 6 hours per day; 36 hours per week.
Mixed Shift: Schedule includes day and night hours between noon and 10:30 p.m., or hours between 1:30 a.m. and noon; 7 hours per day; 42 hours per week.
A 45-minute break for lunch and two additional 15-minute breaks are permitted during work hours. The law allows domestic help to work up to ten hours per day and eight hours at night, with no more than 48 or 36 hours weekly, respectively. All workers are entitled to a one hour break per eight hours of work. Employees aged from 15-18 may work no more than six hours per day and a total of 36 hours per week.
Overtime is paid at time and a half, or the hourly wage plus and additional 50%; employees may require no more than four hours of overtime, for a total of twelve working hours per day. In Costa Rica, every employee is entitled to a Christmas Bonus, known as a Aguinaldo. The bonus is equivalent to one months salary, and must be paid within the first twenty days of December.
The Social Security System, known as the Caja, provides employees with free health care, sick leave, disability pensions and retirement benefits. It is mandatory for all employers to register employees to Caja. Total contributions amount to roughly 34.5% of the salary by employers, and 9.5% by employees.
Costa Rica’s labor laws stipulate that pregnant women are given one month of paid maternity leave before the birth of her child and three months after the birth of her child. The employer is required to pay 50% of the salary for four months of leave and the Social Security Admin pays the remaining half.
Employees are entitled to two weeks of vacation for every 50 weeks of employment. Vacation days may not include weekends or paid holidays, they must be regular working days. If an employee’s contract is terminated and he or she has not yet used the earned vacation time, the employee must pay the equivalent of one day’s salary for each month worked during the year. Employee cannot be forced to work national holidays. If an employee agrees to work a holiday, they are entitled to double their normal salary. Paid national holidays include:
*January 1 (New Year’s Day)
*April 11 (Juan Santamaria Day)
*Holy Thursday and Friday (Easter Week)
*May 1 (Labor Day)
*July 25 (Annexation of Guanacaste Day)
*August 15 (Mother’s Day)
*September 25 (Independence Day)
*December 25 (Christmas)
Unpaid national holidays:
*August 2 (Virgin of Los Angeles Day)
*October 12 (Culture Day)
Salaried employees are also paid for the August 2 and October 12 holidays, but wage-earners are not. Employees that are fired or laid off without cause are entitled to severance pay, which is paid on the last day of employment. A worker who is fired with just cause is paid only his or her acquired vacation days and Christmas bonus portion earned that year. Workers laid off without cause by the employer are entitled to further remuneration. For employees that have worked for a period of three to six months, they are entitled to the equivalent of one week’s wages. Six months to one year equals fourteen days for wages, and one year of employment of more entitles them to 20 days of wages. Costa Rica law requires employees to pay taxes on income earned within Costa Rica. The fiscal tax year ends October 31, and taxes must be filed by December 15. The income tax is graduated, so that those who earn more are placed into a higher tax bracket.
*Up to $5,418 USD; not subject to income tax
*Between $5,418 and $8, 090 USD; 10% tax
*Between $8,090 and $13, 497 USD; 15% tax
*Between $13, 497 and $27, 047 USD: 20% tax
*More than $27,047 USD; 25% tax
After filling our bellies with breakfast, we head back to the room to gather the items we are needing for our half day trip. Our meeting place was about 100 meters down the beach from where the Suizo was located. Walking in the sand hand in hand, we feel the suns rays beam down on our face, neck and shoulders. It must have been about 90 degrees Fahrenheit, not a cloud in the sky. Surfers sit out in the ocean waiting for the next wave to come in. Kids, some digging in the sand with their hands and toes while others play in the shallow parts of the water splashing, jumping over the waves as they would enter into the ocean water. Everywhere you looked was happiness. I found myself smiling just seeing everyone else be so happy. It was infectious. I could have pulled up a beach towel and sat there for hours. We finally make it down the beach and see several boats docked on the beach which we assumed were waiting for their days’ guests. A gentleman greeted us halfway between where we were walking in the sand and where the boat was sitting in the water. The boat he arrived on to pick us up was a dingy boat which would take us out to ‘The Outcast’, the boat we reserved for half day trip.
Really having no idea what we were going to be catching or not catching, I was laid back knowing it was all out of my control. We made our way into the water and climbed up onto the small boat. It contained 4-5 seats and a outboard motor. The tico drove the dingy boat about 50 meters out to where the fishing boats were sitting in the water. The two boats meet as the smaller one glides up to ‘The Outcast’. Two other men greet us once we make it on board. The boat has fast twin 250 Cummins and a wide 11 + beam so it was roomy and comfortable, length 27′. You could feel the energy these men exude as we pull up. Leo and Arturo. Captain Arturo has fished the waters of Costa Rica for over 20 years. He loves to fish, always works hard and wants everyday to be successful. Our trip was not supposed to start until 8:00a. m., however when we arrived at 7:25a. m. they were ready to go. I remember them saying to one another, ‘Lets go. Lets go. Lets go. We are on Pura Vida time! Pura Vida Mei!’ I remember thinking to myself, if we were back in the states and the same thing happened – I don’t think action would have been taken until right at 8:00a. m. I took mental note of how happy they were to be there, doing what they do each and every day, for others.
Located close to the deep water, Tamarindo is the perfect base with Sportfishing. Spectacular year ’round fishing for sailfish, marlin, dorado, yellowfin tuna, roosterfish, cubera, snapper, wahoo and assorted other inshore species are all accessible with a short run time. Conservation of the resource is important so they use techniques to make sure the billfish are released unharmed. With edible fish, they are happy to keep your catch fileted and on ice for the day so you can have it cooked at one of Tamarindo’s many superb restaurants. We took our seats. And with that, the motors of The Outcast were roaring and we were off.
Knowing I had eaten breakfast shortly before, I didn’t feel so bad making my way to the front of the boat to grab a beer. 8:08a. m. – The first line took off screaming. We turn and look at each other. My eyes light up. Deckhand Leo made his way to the back of the boat towards the line. We all had big smiles painted over our faces, anxious to see what was on the end of that line. B.J. grabbed the GoPro and started filming as I sit in the chair, strap up and hold the pole between my legs. Shaking and nervous, I reel with all I have. I reel it in once. I reel it in again. And before you know it, there it was.. jumping out of the water. It was a 6 foot sailfish. I could see the line was about 150 meters or so out. My skin was crawling with excitement. Here it was 90 degrees outside and I was sweating with goose bumps. I didn’t care how long it was going to take me, I was determined to not let it go and not give up. I wanted to do it on my own. The sailfish would jump completely out of the water and wiggle its body trying to do whatever it could to get off of my line. Fifteen minutes of fighting the sailfish later, I was able to get him close enough for Deckhand Leo to grab. He held onto his bill to tire it out so he would be able to lift the sailfish out of the water just enough for me to get a quick pic.
I was able to run my hand across its body just before it was released back into the ocean. ((The two main subspecies of sailfish, Atlantic and IndoPacific, range throughout the warm and temperate parts of the world’s oceans. They are blue to gray in color with white underbellies. They get their name from their spectacular dorsal fin that stretches nearly the length of their body and is much higher than their bodies are thick. They are member of the billfish family, and as such, have an upper jaw that juts out well beyond their lower jaw and forms a distinctive spear. They are found near the ocean surface usually far from land feeding on schools of smaller fish like sardines and anchovies, which they often shepherd with their sails, making them easy prey. They also feast on squid and octopus. Their meat is fairly tough and is not widely eaten, but they are prized as game fish. These powerful, streamlined beasts can grow to more than 10 feet and weigh up to 220 pounds. Individuals have been clocked at speeds up to 68 MPH, which is one of the highest speeds reliably reported in any water organism. When hooked, they will fight vigorously, leaping and diving repeatedly, and sometimes taking hours to land. Sailfish are fairly abundant throughout their range and their population is considered stable. They are under no special status or protections. The sail is normally kept folded down and to the side when swimming, but it may be raised when the sailfish feels threatened or excited, making the fish appear much larger than it actually is. They can swim 100 m in 4.8 seconds.)) We watched Deckhand Leo get the hook from the fish and release it back into the ocean. We stood, watching it swim back off in its natural habitat. My heart was pounding, head dripping with sweat, I high five B.J. I was so proud of myself for doing what I just did. I can’t remember what number fish we were on when the deckhand came down from the captains deck to check on the lines. We engaged in conversation, trying to learn about his daily life. We offer him a beer and ‘cheers’ our 3 cans together. As soon as we placed the can to our lips to take a drink, the line takes off. We quickly throw our beers down and run over to peak over the boat to see what it was. Before any of us could say anything, we hear commotion in the water and see the sailfish jumping. Each time, was like the first. It never got old. We matched each other, sailfish for sailfish totaling four each.
(To this day, I can still close my eyes and see us on that boat trolling, catching those fish.) We had so much fun and stayed busy the entire fishing trip. Before we knew it, it was time to reel in the lines and get all the fishing gear back in order for the next charter. I would have been okay with catching one but the ocean and weather were just right for us. On the way back towards the dingy boat which would take us back to the beach, we saw a 4 foot sea turtle swimming. Moving its arms up and down, slowly floating over each wave. Sea life is very beautiful, mysterious yet can be dangerous. You don’t realize how small you really are until you find yourself looking around in the big ocean. Knowing I am merely a spec on this earth really puts things in perspective. We take a quick selfie with our crew on The Outcast and climb over onto the dingy boat.
We tell the tico driver what we caught, as we are still stoked and could not believe what we were able to catch ourselves. Honestly, he was too. He mentioned that it was rainy season and should have been raining. We walk back up the beach back towards the Suizo. We say hello to our friends at the bar and continue to our room to get cleaned up. After grabbing a quick bite to eat in the center of town we head to take the beach access back to the room. We see Barrett (the beautiful red head, sorry Barrett) sitting at the bar socializing with the bartenders. We take a seat next to him, ready to continue our conversation where we left off the few nights before . He invited us over to his parents home as his mom was having two other friends coming over as well. We finish our beverages and head to the hotel room to freshen up. It was just a five minute walk on the beach from our hotel room door to his house. The waves of the ocean, the sounds from the insect species in the trees, the moonlight on the ocean.. Such calmness and peace. We walked using the light from the cell phone hand in hand strolling down the beach letting the wind blow our hair. I remember feeling like a kid, no worries in the world. All that mattered was that moment and that moment only. The concrete pathway led us to the porch of the house. Greeting Barrett’s mother and his mothers friends, we take a seat next to them around the circular table. So soft spoken, she introduces herself as well as her friends, Jackie (Jax) and Mike. We all literally drank the night away and laughed until we cried.
I wanted to pinch myself it was so surreal. The ocean lapping up and crashing on the sand. The air felt like nothing at all. Not hot, nor cold. It just, was. We played games around the table (most I had never heard of) and cris crossed conversation between the six of us. It was such a perfect evening, you could not have written a better day. After having to excuse myself to the bathroom because my stomach had its fill of mixed drinks, I knew it was time to go before I had a mess to clean up. We said our goodbyes and nice to meet you’s and headed towards the beach to make our way back to the hotel. Having such a good day, it hadn’t even dawned on me that we leave …. tomorrow. I sadly throw myself in bed, make-up and all and go to sleep. Laying in bed the next morning, BJ leans over to me and asks, “Were you there when Mike was talking to me about our business?” I hadn’t been, but knew there must be a story coming. He continues, “He asked me what we did for a living. I told him. And then, he asked me what do I want to do for a living. And I sat there, not really sure what to answer.” I remember thinking to myself what a clever question to ask. It hit us both pretty hard, in a good way. But we needed that like we need oxygen to breathe. When we were twenty years old, we had the opportunity to buy a family business. We took that opportunity and ran with it. With a lot of hard work, sweat and tears we were able to turn the business into something we had always wanted. We wanted to be known locally by everyone. Even if they don’t choose us, they know we are here. I graduated from high school. BJ got his GED. Neither of us went to college. We don’t know everything, but we know how to run a small business. If we wanted to, we could do the same things until we decide to retire or die, whichever comes first. But is that REALLY living? Not in my book and I want to do more than just exist. My mind was running and I’m sure BJ’s was too. Sadly having to pack our things we tell our friends at Suizo bye and mention that we will be back .. Soon.
Of course they chuckle and say okay, not really believing us as I’m sure they hear that way too often. Being that we rode that transportation bus from the airport to the hotel, we needed to do the same to get back. We made a stop along the way to pick up another couple to take to the airport. As the bus driver stops to open the doors, we see a small group of four hugging with a mixture of laughter and tears. I don’t know about you, but when I see someone else cry, it makes me want to cry too. I try to wipe the tears before they are seen. But too late. BJ grabs my hand and tells me everything will be alright. I had my heart on my sleeve from not wanting to leave this beautiful place. Its a heartfelt feeling you just can’t explain. And to be honest it wasn’t because my vacation was over and I’m a snotty little brat, but it’s because I felt ‘at home’, I felt aLIVE. I knew from that moment on, I had some living to do and no one else was going to do it for me. I needed a new outlook on life. I sat and thought for a few days. What am I supposed to be? What is it that I WANT to do? More importantly what is it that I could do here, in Costa Rica. We have often threw the idea around of moving to Austin when we retire (who knows when that would have been), so for us to want to do this on such a whim would become a surprise to others. After some thought, the first thing that came to mind was eating. Everybody eats, no matter what language you speak. Growing up my mother would make things in the microwave. Quite frankly if it didn’t cook in the microwave, we didn’t have it or my dad made it. I often love learning to cook from my grandmother who has taught me how to make things like sausage kolache’s or homemade spaghetti. I had my mind made up, I had contacted the school and was set to start out to my next chapter in life. I had started culinary school at The Art Institute of Houston about six weeks after our plane hit the ground back in Texas. I knew with that piece of paper, I would have more of a chance at getting a job, no matter where in the world. I got my school ID and parking pass and was ready for my first day. I was nervous but more excited knowing the steps needed to take in order to get to where I wanted to be. And with that, I started my first day as a culinary student.
(We will be forever in debt to you Mr. Mike. Thank you for your inspirational words.)