Living in a house under construction in Costa Rica
I told you last week that we had to move into our home under construction in Costa Rica. It didn’t matter that the contractor was still working on the reconstruction job.
Unfortunately, less than 48 hours after we moved into our new home, we were on a flight back to the States.
It was a planned trip to renew our 90-day tourist visa. This trip allowed us to keep driving legally in Costa Rica.
It was also personally necessary as my mother’s health had deteriorated even more since we moved.
My mother had been living with us for six years. We three made the decision to move here together. It was a family agreement between my wife, my mother, and I. The decision was taken in early March of 2012. At the time, mom, then 85, said the move would make her feel like a pioneer. She seemed quite excited at the prospect and we started making plans in earnest once the decision was made.
However, my mom’s health took a wrong turn in May 2012. By the time we had to make the move in February of 2013, it wasn’t going to be possible for her to make the trip. At least until her health improved.
I didn’t want to leave while the construction was ongoing. But our departure was required and a visit to see my ailing mother was necessary. So before we left for the States, I made a list of priorities in Spanish for our contractor. Also, we made arrangements for our GoDutch realtor Brooke Bishop, and Isa Jones’ husband Howard Jones, to call our contractor regularly.
We asked them to check on progress or any problems or questions. And, if possible, to find an excuse to drop by the site.
I also gave Brooke and Howard a copy of our priority list. While we were away, I checked in with them via email. We were gone for about a week. Thankfully, everything went without issue on the job site and we returned to no surprises.
Now, I should mention a bit about adjustments required to live on a construction job-site in Costa Rica. I have already alluded to the dust, noise, interruptions, and general chaos. For this, we were pretty well prepared.
However, I’d like to elaborate slightly on two things that required some real adjustment for us.
1. Starting Time
The first was their start time, 6:00 AM, every day. This made it necessary that we are up at 5:00 AM or earlier each day. We needed to be clean, dressed, and fed in time for their arrival.
Fortunately, sunrise occurred at around five o’clock. This made it a bit easier for us to get going at that very early hour. The starting hour was extremely difficult for my wife. She is not an early riser by nature. Also, she had makeup to apply each morning plus other daily domestic obligations at the start of the day.
I tried to help her with domestic duties. But as soon as the crew arrived we needed to have our contractor conferences. There were numerous questions between the contractor, homeowner, and crew members.
2. Loss of Privacy
The second adjustment was the complete loss of our privacy for nine to ten hours each day. It can be best described as living in a fishbowl.
It was easiest for me to avoid the “fishbowl syndrome” as I was actively working all day on my own list of projects. On top of that, I was working alongside the crew or driving into town to run errands, pay bills and pick up supplies.
It was really difficult for my wife. She was stuck in the house trying to stay out of the way as much as was possible. Usually, that meant to be in a room not under construction with our two dogs. My wife was a virtual prisoner in our home. As construction continued, she was never able to escape the feeling of being on display.
But it became a bit easier for her to move about the “fishbowl”. My wife is a bit of a gourmet cook. Therefore, being stuck in the kitchen was not a bad thing for her. The results of her efforts were not a bad thing for me, either.
On Monday mornings two things were added to our routine. Before beginning the day’s work, the crew would hold a prayer and thanksgiving service. About half would participate with prayers of their own.
It lasted about half an hour and, out of respect, my wife and I stopped our routine and joined in as reverent observers off to the side. I must admit, it was kind of nice and reassuring to hear our names, our house, and specific construction projects of that week being blessed.
Every Sunday night I prepared a list of items. These items either needed to be addressed, prioritized, or needed further attention.
Sometimes I added new projects that were not part of the contract. My wife and I had decided those needed to be on our contractor’s “To-Do List.”
After the “service”, our contractor and I would go over the list of items one by one. I found these lists to be very helpful to us and our contractor. They helped to keep everyone focused and informed. Also, they further defined our ideas about each project discussed and helped eliminate costly “do-overs.” I know that they really helped to keep the progress of our projects on track and even helped keep costs in check.
These Monday discussions also gave us many occasions for our contractor to ask questions, get our feedback, and bring to light potential problems and expected cost overruns as well as to suggest suitable alternatives.
Sometimes these Monday lists would require some re-design on the fly. Such was the case of the roofline of our covered terrace. My wife wanted the roof to overhang our guest room’s entrance to the terrace. The multiple levels of the existing roof prevented a simple or traditional solution.
But our contractor came up with a floating roof and metal framework that tied into the exterior walls. This provided us with exactly what we wanted.
The author of this blog, Ticonuevo, is a US expat who moved to Costa Rica. He and his wife used the services of GoDutch Realty to purchase a property in Costa Rica. In his blogs, Ticonuevo describes his own experiences of taking the step of moving to Costa Rica and getting a new life started.
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