Don Memo: One of the Great Characters of Atenas

We had to make a “bread-and-milk” stop yesterday… in our case it’s a hamburger-buns-and-pepsi stop. The most convenient is to stop at the local supermarket. As I entered the store Don Memo was lugging his groceries to his car.

Don Memo (note: he didn’t slice off a finger!)

Don Memo is one of the great characters of Atenas. He runs a tiny walk-up soda in the center of Atenas. (no seating) It’s called Esquina de Don Memo (Corner of Don Memo.) Don is a casual title meaning “gentleman” the female version is doña.

He always greets me with a hearty “Hello Meester! and other pleasantries in english.

Nancy says she sees him a lot in the grocery and he never fails to wave, smile and greet her.

We stop at Don Memo’s often because he makes great sandwiches and empanadas and usually has some ready to go, it’s the Atenas equivalent to a drive-thru. We always ask what he might have as a special. Often he will throw open the refrigerator door and glance at what he has on hand and make up a special right on the spot. It’s always worth the little wait.


Don Memo didn’t see me as he loaded his groceries into his car, so I hollered out “Hello Mister!” (in english)  He turned with his big smile and said “Good Afternoon Mister.” (in english) I replied “Good Afternoon” (in english) and went on my way.

Just another day in Atenas.


Renewing Our Cedula (National ID Card) In Costa Rica – the Hard Way


We had to renew our Costa Rica national ID card (Cedula) – it expires in February. This time we did it the hard way!  We tried to do it the easy way, but a ill-prepared or ill-informed clerk at the bank kept us from being successful.  We were told we had to visit the national immigration ministry in San Jose. Here (primarily so I don’t forget when we renew in two years) are the steps we had to follow:

  • If you’re a pensionado (drawing social security) you will required to have a benefits letter in spanish – only available from the U.S. Embassy.
  • Call 1311 to get an appointment – nobody speaks english – ours was within a couple days of when I called.
  • Go to the main immigration office (which a maze of government offices with multiple doors and lines)
  • Find door number 3
  • Wait
  • If you’re over 65 years old find a guard and tell him you have an appointment. Our age allowed us to jump a line. He will ask for a copy of your cedula (make sure you have at least two copies of every document, both sides, you have to present – this will not be explained on any of the online forms or websites. You probably won’t need them, but the line for the photocopy clerk was insane.
  • Wait
  • The appointment has nothing to do with real time, it is just a relative number. eg; you will be taken after the 10:45 person and before the 11:30. So sit and wait until your name is called.
  • Wait
  • If you are a pensionado resident the clerk will ask for proof of income letter.
  • You will be asked to prove you have paid your CAJA (national health insurance) premium.
  • You will be asked to show that you have paid the fee. This was the stumbling block for us doing it the easy way, so I am unsure where we screwed up the first time. To my great relief they accepted our bank receipt. Don’t do one deposit for two people – each much be in the name of the person renewing.
  • Wait
  • Your cedula will be given to you on the spot – or it will be mailed to you for a fee.


The embassy Social Security benefits division works very limited hours. Don’t wait until the last minute to get your letter. One appointment per person.

Take a spanish speaker with you to immigration. We weren’t asked any questions that I didn’t understand, but having a spanish speaker makes this less stressful and I think moves things along quicker.

Next up: getting our CAJA renewed where we deal with a Tico on a power trip! His requirement is a Apostilled marriage license… that’s an official seal available only from the STATE issuing the marriage license. UGH.

Please stand by.

New Year’s Eve: Out With the Toad, In With the Miscue


Toadal annihilation.

2015 ended dramatically.

Our normal evening routine is for me to let Sedona and Sofi out to wander about and pee. I walk with them keeping my eye out for bufo toads because they can harm dogs if they decide to munch one.

New Year’s Eve we did it differently. Nancy let Sedona and Sofi out and shortly thereafter I heard “Mark, come now.”

As I came through the door, she was calmly herding the dogs back inside. She pointed to the steps on the sidewalk where a two-pound toad was sitting. (Similar in size to the one pictured above from an earlier conquest.)

As we discussed the plan of attack, she spotted a second equally large bufo at the top of the steps.

These Toads Needed to Be Spade

The thing about bufo toads is that even though they are ugly as hell, they aren’t stupid or blind. I knew that even though he was facing the steps I had to proceed with caution to get my killing tools – a spade and a knife on the end of a bamboo stick.

Not an easy task because to get my Toadal Annihilation tools I needed to walk within a couple of feet of Toad 1.

Here’s the challenge.


Nancy said she would keep an eye on them while I sneaked by… they are surprisingly quick when they move.

I was able to squeeze by Toad 1 without him moving until I turned around with the spade in my hand. He then decided it was time to move – hopping into a drain. Lucky for me – toadally unlucky for him – that this move made him an easy target and I pinned him down easily.

Their skin is so tough I could not penetrate it with the corner of the spade, so I asked Nancy to get the knife-on-bamboo killing tool.

By this time Toad 1 had puffed himself up nicely because that’s what they do.

It made a pleasing sound – like opening a can of soda – when I stabbed Toad 1.  Kind of a pop/fizzzzzz sound. After a few more jabs I decided it was dead enough and I picked him up on the end of the knife-on-bamboo to toss over the fence.

On to Toad 2.

Nancy had positioned herself in the driveway to keep an eye on any movement. As I crept up the sidewalk, raised the spade, Toad 2 hopped into a nearby bush. But within a short time, my experience in Toadal Annihilation paid off and he was soon flying over the fence too.

Out with the Toad – in with the Miscue.

I came inside and banged my head on a hanging lamp.


Karma’s a bitch.

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