Archive | May 2016

Internet Service in a 3rd World Country

Living outside the US, in most countries I dare say, you are constantly reminded that “we’re not in Kansas anymore”.

The residence we recently left, because it was somewhat remote, had a choice of but one provider for internet service. It was mostly good, relatively speaking, but a single megabit per second of service cost $85/month. Two Mbps cost $150. We were eagerly anticipating the new residence in Volcan where the landlord had a different provider. He was paying less than $20 for a screaming 3Mbps!

After we moved in we were disappointed to find the differences between the two were not that dramatic, in spite of online testing services verifying the speeds. Twice I called the provider to order a faster speed that I knew they offered, and twice I was told someone would call me back. No one ever did.

We heard about a new service in town. Fiber optic instead of phone line. Yes, phone lines are still used by some ISPs. But probably not in the US. It took the intercession of a neighbor to actually get someone to talk to us about ordering the service. Nice enough young man. He wrote us up on a Thursday and said the installation should take place on the next Monday or Tuesday. It was Tuesday of the following week when it actually happened.

Tapping in to the main fiber optic line.

Tapping in to the main fiber optic line.

Stringing the cable from the road to the house.

Stringing the cable from the road to the house.









We had been told that when one ISP is installed over an existing service, the new one likes to disconnect, or pull out, the older one. We were not about to let that happen. At least not until the newer service had proved itself. As it turned out, they never even tried to disconnect the existing ISP.

There were a few false starts over several hours but eventually the new service was working to my satisfaction. Time will tell if it lasts.


Back to Houston Again, Thru Costa Rica

Once again for our trip back to Texas we elected to go through San Jose, CR (cheap airfare on SWA) and once again we took a Tracopa bus from David (because we knew the drill).  This time the bus was quite new and air-conditioned.  The only thing that made the ride the least bit uncomfortable was the road, the Pan American Hwy.

The bus trip from David, Panama to San Jose, Costa Rica took a total of 8 hrs.   It was  an hour just getting  through the border at Paso Canoas, of which maybe 10 min was spent actually conducting official business.  Most of the time was just waiting around.

I took advantage of the wait time to check out the bus stations here, both for Tracopa  and Tica Bus.  Everyone seemed to acknowledge that one could leave from Paso Canoas instead of David but no one knew how to buy the tickets at the border.  I now have that knowledge.

After several hours on the road,  there was a stop of about 30 min for lunch, where one gets a first impression of Costa Rica prices.  A very basic cafeteria style lunch for two was almost $15.

After another couple hours, there was a short potty break.  And at about 7:15PM local time, we arrived at Tracopa’s St Joseph bus station, near downtown San Jose.  Another 30 min or so and a $25 cab ride put us at our hotel.   

While Jan checked us in at the hotel I went over to check out the WalMart next door.  Imagine!  A WalMart in Central Ameria.  The store was huge.  And so were the prices.  A real disappointment.  Panama is much cheaper,  but the selections are far fewer.

The Courtyard Marriott had thoughtfully placed bottled water in our room available for purchase at $3 and $5.  So it should have been no surprise that they offered a Continental breakfast for $11.  Next time we will return to the Adventure Inn.

There were a few changes we noticed at the international airport.  Jan wanted to hurry and pay our exit tax as she remembered this to be a minor bottleneck.  Turns out it’s now included int the purchase price of the ticket.  Also, the lines to get through security were substantially longer, but still modest by the standards of most airports.  As we arrived almost 2 hrs early (her idea) all we had to do now is wait.



Looks like frogs in our future

We moved into a different residence about a month ago.  Now we’re in Volcan, the second major gringo area, at least for western Panama.  It’s quite different from Boquete.  Has a more rural feel to it, although by most gringo standards Boquete is plenty rural.  Volcan is much smaller than it’s neighbor to the east and English is spoken less.  More about all that later.

The house we’re renting occupies two city lots.   Towards one end of the property there’s a small, above-ground concrete pool.


Our landlord had emptied and cleaned it before going back to the hinterland.  We planned to do something with it … someday.  But so far it’s just been ignored.  Too many other things have a higher priority.  But the rainy season is on its way.  Not quite here yet, but it’s on its way and water is collecting.  This morning I noticed, from the house, what appeared to be a frog in the pond/pool.  I meant to remove it before it drowned (?) but got sidetracked.  It was several hours later before I remembered it.  That sort of thing happens a lot these days.

When I walked up toward the pond frogs started scattering everywhere.  I counted seven.  They must have been having a good time earlier as I noticed a small plant that I had forgotten about was now totally submerged with a sack of frog eggs attached to it.  That didn’t take long!



Another view


A sack of frog eggs at the tip of the plant.

 Already there’s clumps of algae in the pond and the frogs are trying to hide in it.  But it’s insufficient to hide all seven of them.


I wondered what they will do …


… when they want to get out?










So I propped up a board to make the egress easier.  I later saw a couple of them resting on it, but so far no one seems to want to leave.

I was, and still am, concerned about some mosquito larvae in the pond.  Do baby frogs, err, tadpoles eat them?  It would seem so, but what do I know?  And speaking of eat, what in fact are all those eggs going to eat?  I can’t just leave them alone, now that I know that they’re there.   Well, Google is my friend, so I’d better get busy.