RIP my erratic HP companion

In May 2010, as I worked daily to rid myself of nearly all my belongings before heading off to Costa Rica, where I thought I would be retiring permanently, I purchased a laptop. This was to replace the desktop Mac I had because carrying a desktop on the road was not a viable option (obviously). I had never owned a laptop but it was going to be a necessity in my new life.

I forget if it was Circuit City or Best Buy where I evaluated my choices, becoming totally confused by the options and prices. I finally decided on an HP model, with 15-inch screen. It was perhaps larger than some people would choose, but I envisioned watching a lot of video on this machine and I wanted as big an image for that purpose as possible.

Now I’m not going to give the HP laptop a ringing endorsement. It did have an excellent screen, but it was heavy and there were periodic difficulties with it shutting down for no apparent reason. (I’m using the past tense in this post for reasons that will be known later.)

The first problem I encountered was shortly after my arrival in Quepos, Costa Rica, on the Pacific coast. Quepos is a very small town that was about to become larger due to a massive marina being built on what had been a nice beach. As much as anything, the marina was why I moved to Jaco up the coast after a month.

Anyway, one day without notice the laptop went dark. There was one computer shop in town and, fortunately, the owner was able to get the HP working again.

I did not encounter another problem until I moved to Croatia. On the bus ride from Zagreb to the coastal city of Zadar, where I thought I would be staying for three months, the HP went dark again. Restoring it would be my first priority and was quite the story, already described in this space. When I finally found a computer repair shop in Zadar, they turned the HP on and it magically was working again.

The HP then traveled with me to Rome and to Catania, Sicily, before we both ended up in Batam, Indonesia. It wasn’t long, however, before it went dark again. Apparently, it didn’t like the travel.

Batam has an HP computer shop and they fixed the unexplained problem once again. It was then that a new friend in Batam gave me an extra laptop he had as a substitute, eventually to become a backup. A year later, the HP went dark again and I bought a new laptop. I had hardly broken the new one in, when the HP rebooted. And then a guest stole off in the middle of the night, accompanied by both the new laptop and my Nikon 35mm. There went $1,000. But I still had the now-working HP and the backup.

A few weeks ago, the HP again went dark, was brought in for repair and was working fine. By now, I had spent maybe $200 or so on repairs.

The backup stopped working last week, and then, days later, the HP went dark again and would not turn on. I suspect it will reboot at some future date, but I had had enough of its unreliability and decided to buy another one. And this was fun.

Dewi and I went into Nagoya to the mall, where half the bottom floor is devoted to phone, camera and computer stores. I knew what I wanted inside a laptop and about what I was willing to pay, and just walked into one of the stores randomly. They did not have what I was looking for at the price I was willing to pay (up to $500).

So we tried another store next door. The price was too high by a lot. So to a third store, where I had purchased the computer a year earlier that ended up being stolen. Here I found what I was looking for at the right price (Rp 4.7 million – about $480). I gave them my credit card but they wouldn’t take it – because it is primarily a debit card and they would not take a debit card. Again, this was the same store I bought a laptop from a year earlier. I could have gone to an ATM machine but there was a principal involved here, as I had been using a debit card for four years without a problem. So I said never mind and went to the store right next door.

This next shop also had what I wanted – in fact, the exact same model I was ready to buy in the previous shop. Here, however, they were glad to take my card. And the price was lower by Rp 300,000, or $25, than the previous shop. With the 3% surcharge added for using a credit card, the total came to about the same as the base price of the previous store. A copy of Windows 8 was loaded and I was told they would transfer my data from the HP to the new Lenovo laptop when I brought in the HP (which I forgot to bring with me). They also said they would add a pirated copy of Microsoft Office.

Dewi took both computers to the store this morning and will bring them back this afternoon before she goes to work. Then I will need to spend some time setting up the new laptop. For the geeks, my requirements were 4 megs of RAM, 500 GB of storage, and 2.4 ghtz throughput.

And as for my long-time companion HP laptop, I truly expect one day when I press the start button it will come on again, just like it has in the past. But I will find it a new home anyway. In fact, my taxi guy, Eddie, has already put in a claim for his son, even though it doesn’t work. Dewi would like the backup, which is smaller, if she can find a friend who can fix it for free. And I’m sure there is someone working at Smiling Hill or Goodies who would like the HP if I offer. I’m sure both will find good homes.

I hope, though, that the new Lenovo will not provide me with as much fodder for this blog as the HP did. It’s very disconcerting to have your computer go on the fritz when you are in another country.

Saying good-bye to Costa Rica

It’s July 7, 2011, and I’ve now been living in Costa Rica for slightly more than 13 months. I leave, probably for good, in three weeks. I have other countries to visit. But what have I learned, and what have I enjoyed in Costa Rica?

First, this whole experience has been easier than one might imagine. The hardest part might have been unloading myself of almost all my possessions before leaving Florida. All I brought with me was what I could pack in two suitcases and a backpack. A few belongings were sent to my daughter for safekeeping but everything else was sold, given away or thrown away.

One of the things I encountered was the negativity of other people who kept saying, “You should visit a couple of times first before moving there.” Good advice if I was moving my entire household and car here but not so relevant given what I was bringing. My standard answer has always been, “If I don’t like it, I can pack my two suitcases and go somewhere else.” Since moving here, I’ve read about numerous people around the world who have done, or are doing, the same thing as me. I guess some people are just afraid of the unknown, and unwilling to take the risks necessary for a real adventure. Too bad for them.

I did make a mistake concerning my first place to live – Quepos. Selecting a town to live in is a hit-or-miss situation, but like I said, I could always pack up and move – which I did after one month. My second choice for a home, Jaco, was far better.

It also helps if you can make at least one good friend, which I did. Jack Ettinger has been a great help for me during my time in Jaco. I can only hope I will find similar good-hearted people to help me along the way as I visit other countries. For anyone planning a trip to Jaco, I highly recommend Jack’s restaurant, Adventure Dining, for one of your nights out. Jack’s restaurant is a truly unique experience and he makes all his guests feel like family.

I will admit that life has become boring here in Jaco. Unless you have a business to keep you busy, or have a car to travel around the country, there is not much to do. I never got into taking Tico buses around the country, and perhaps should have, but I was wary of traveling alone and “getting lost” somewhere with no way to effectively communicate. My bad. I’ll try to correct that flaw in my next country.

On the plus side, I have visited half a dozen towns/cities in Costa Rica, from big-city San Jose to small fishing village Tarcoles. I did go through the residency process, although I never finished the paperwork.

I have given out Christmas gifts to very poor children. I took a four-day trip to Nicaragua. I have learned to hand wash my clothes and dishes. The dishes I do several times a day. (I look forward to using a washing machine and dryer during my short stay in North Carolina in August.)

I will say that my health has improved while I’ve been here, mainly because I’m eating less and getting lots of exercise. I’ve lost a lot of weight, mostly because of that exercise and by reducing my meals from three a day to just two. I now walk maybe 4-6 miles every day.

I have completed and self-published two e-books, Love Letters from Mama and Mother & Son. They can be found at and, respectively. I’m working on my first novel, which, depending on my travel, should be completed later this year. My writing is the one thing I’ve had here to keep me busy.

I learned that you can’t depend on Web research to provide completely accurate information, particularly about the cost of living or living conditions. Much of what I found about Costa Rica before moving here was years-old information or strictly for tourists. Costa Rica actually is not a low-cost place to live, except for rent. It was also hard to find suitable apartment rentals online. You really have to be on the ground to do that. And you can’t depend on Craigslist for rentals; there are scam artists there who want deposits to reserve your apartment, money you will never see again.

The Costa Rican people are still something of an enigma to me. Outwardly, they seem friendly but who can tell unless you can communicate? Their sense of worth seems low and their respect for others often can be lacking. They have no idea what good service is and will often leave customers waiting for long periods before they will serve them.

There are not as many people here who understand English as many would have you believe. Having said all that, I have become friendly with a number of Ticos, even though it is difficult for us to have a conversation. The best attitude, I’ve found, is to stay humble, not act like an arrogant, or superior, American. For me, I know the difference between us is the opportunities I’ve been provided vs. their lack of opportunities.

I wish I had a better command of Spanish, although I did try to learn. Trouble is, you really need day-to-day conversations with Ticos to improve your Spanish. I did not. Or you need to take lessons. I meant to but didn’t. Knowing the language would have made a huge difference in my experience here, but my shortcomings in Spanish did not prevent me from enjoying a regular life during my stay.

What else? I’ve learned to live frugally, to buy groceries carefully (partially because I have to carry them back to my apartment a mile away), to plan bank transactions (the fees are atrocious), to prepare translations beforehand when necessary and/or possible, to pay attention to the weather and be able to adapt when the rains threaten your plans.

I’ve seen flocks of large, red macaws. Dealt with iguanas almost daily. Fought the good fight against the insects. I’ve purchased a TV and recliner – on my own. Gone charter boat fishing and gotten seasick. Helped a friend repair his restaurant. Eaten chicken at KFC and Hooters. Walked 2-3 miles each way to pick up my mail. Been stopped and frisked by police the size of teenagers. Enjoyed the company of several women. Learned that it doesn’t pay to have packages mailed to you from the U.S. I’ve embraced Internet communications tools like Skype (kenincr), Facebook ( and Twitter (@kenanderberg). I started this blog.

All in all, it’s been an experience. In fact, it’s been a whole bunch of experiences.

Finally, I plan at least one more entry to this section of my blog – a recounting of my exit from Costa Rica on July 28-29.