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Educate me, SIM card while abroad.


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Headed to Costa Rica for a few weeks. 

Been told to get a SIM card for my wife's phone so we can use it while down there. Don't care about keeping in touch with the US, just local calls while there. Might use a little data for navigation, but that's it.

Want to get one now before we leave. 

I'm a bit of a luddite when it comes to this, still use a flip phone myself. But I do have a tablet for internet via wifi at our lodging.

Thanks for any suggestions.

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if only local calls and light browsing you care about, buy a sim card at the mall on your way from airport to hotel.  All the locals (movistar, Kolbi, etc) are going to be inside the mall, and all sell both burners and sim cards for phone, phone/data, or data.

Most carriers have pretty good deals on one-country service though.  Check with them first. 

Finally, if you want mobile internet but don't care about local calls so much, check with these guys. I've used them, they are reasonably good.  Call and they send a hot spot, you turn it on when you land, you have internet.  Connect your phones via wi-fi and keep it charged, no need to fuck with sim card.

 

 

 

 

 

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If you want to get it now then I suspect the path of least resistance is setting something up with your wife's current provider. You might consider a project fi account which is easy and quick to setup state side and said to work okay in CR. Here's a discussion about that: https://www.reddit.com/r/costa_rica/comments/abm64z/anyone_with_experience_with_using_google_fi_in/

 

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Why is messing with a sim card a trouble?  Get one when you arrive and leave your old one taped inside your phone case (or hers)

Typically super cheap, and zero hassle on your return to pop yours back in when you get home.  Only question I always ask is to make sure the new card covers all of the country and not local only for internet.  This question may be a hangover from services 5 years ago and long gone... who knows.

No new plans, service or anything to have to cancel or modify in the USA.

Messing with your working phone plan here in the US can be a headache once it is sorted and running.  I try never to touch it unless I need new phones. 

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Don't know about Costa Rica, but Missus BB has travelled all over, and we've both been to Europe several times.  We just call ATT in advance and they put us on a flat rate daily plan.  Way less cost than foreigh minutes.  And if we don't use it that day, there is no charge.  One time she forgot to call and the bill was a couple hundred more from the minutes.  Fortunately they agreed to reconfigure to the flat rate.  

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36 minutes ago, Windward said:

Messing with your working phone plan here in the US can be a headache once it is sorted and running.

On the other hand adequate coverage may already be included in their existing phone plan. Worth checking if it is and if the coverage gets good reviews. It can be nice to have a working phone on arrival.

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We just use our own phones with international plans through our home providers. Work pays our phone bills. Did the sim card change once in China years ago and found it to be useless, but could have been user error.  This way anyone trying to contact us from the US just calls us and it's been seamless all over the world.  Usually get a good signal as soon as we land, and corralling everyone on arrival is as easy as in the US.

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Often SIM kiosks just outside baggage claim. Aim for the main providers. Often free if you buy a few minutes of airtime. Frequently the friendly vendor will stick it in for you and, show how the local numbers are dialed, prove it works. I agree that foolishly calling AT&T, or whomever, to get a travel plan would be a very frustrating, slow and expensive option. Then calling later to cancel it...OMG...you won't do that twice.

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My Fi plan just adds 20 cents per minute to voice calling. Everything else costs the same. No setup or take down required.

Is the phone in question unlocked and GSM capable?  If not the former the sim card isn't going to work and if not the later the phone isn't going to work on the local network. If all else fails a cheap burner phone and sim bought locally should work.

[edit]

Although Fi sim cards seem to work in any phone I'm not sure you can setup an account without a Fi approved device of some sort. So, not ideal for a short trip if you don't already own one of those.

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23 minutes ago, El Boracho said:

I agree that foolishly calling AT&T, or whomever, to get a travel plan would be a very frustrating, slow and expensive option. Then calling later to cancel it...OMG...you won't do that twice.

When I did that with T-Mobile is was one easy phone call. That was a while ago. Maybe things have gotten worse? It takes zero calls to Fi for me now, so I dunno. Still, I'm not sure why you guys are assuming it's gonna be hard.

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When I travel internationally  for short stays (2 weeks or so) whether it's the Caribbean I just add travel pass for $10/day (through Verizion though I'm sure other carriers operate a similar service). This way I get all my domestic data/voice. If I'm going to be spending a few months at a time (which I haven't done in a few years) I just buy a burner phone and go that route. 

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13 minutes ago, RImike said:

When I travel internationally  for short stays (2 weeks or so) whether it's the Caribbean I just add travel pass for $10/day (through Verizion though I'm sure other carriers operate a similar service). This way I get all my domestic data/voice. If I'm going to be spending a few months at a time (which I haven't done in a few years) I just buy a burner phone and go that route. 

Good to hear it is easy. But that costs more than the flight to Costa Rica. Local burner phone would be best for OP's local calls because the friendly pickpocket and minor theft policy in CR. My opinion.

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4 minutes ago, El Boracho said:

Local burner phone would be best for OP's local calls because, the friendly pickpocket and minor theft policy just like in every poor country filled with tourists who earn more in a day than they earn in a year in CR, there are a lot of local thieves.

Fixed

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1 hour ago, NaptimeAgain said:

We just use our own phones with international plans through our home providers. Work pays our phone bills. Did the sim card change once in China years ago and found it to be useless, but could have been user error.  This way anyone trying to contact us from the US just calls us and it's been seamless all over the world.  Usually get a good signal as soon as we land, and corralling everyone on arrival is as easy as in the US.

this is what we do.  essentially you pay roaming charges up front.  x dollars gets you x minutes, x texts and x data.  

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1 hour ago, El Boracho said:

I agree that foolishly calling AT&T, or whomever, to get a travel plan would be a very frustrating, slow and expensive option. Then calling later to cancel it...OMG...you won't do that twice.

 

That's the furthest thing from reality!! Simple, easy and inexpensive.  Daily rate was maybe a couple bucks a day, unlimited minutes, IIRC...

Much easier to make a less than 5 minute phone call to ATT, than to be messing around with foreign SIM cards.  Plus, I imagine you have a different number then and family or friends might not be able to get a hold of you in an emergency.  I was in Croatia when one of my Customers here at work called, thinking I was at work.  Ironically he was from Croatia, and we chatted about it on my return.

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Daily rate with verizon is 10 bucks. I got a hold of a friend who has family down there and travels to CR often. He gets a $30 sim card that's good for 30 days. Looks like my best option.

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20 minutes ago, bmiller said:

verizon

I moved a couple of phones setup and bought from Verizon to a GSM network and they only ever kinda sorta worked. Maybe just those phones or just me. If you have problems a burner phone is an easy work around.

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Is it difficult to change SIM card in an iPhone?  Son is going to Europe for a semester and trying to figure that verses burner. 

ATT has a $70 month plan but only 2gb of data. He would eat that in a week

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24 minutes ago, burndoc said:

Is it difficult to change SIM card in an iPhone?  Son is going to Europe for a semester and trying to figure that verses burner. 

ATT has a $70 month plan but only 2gb of data. He would eat that in a week

Must be unlocked first, ATT will let him unlock if it he asks.  Has to call up, they will ask him questions, he tells them he is going overseas and needs to use a local SIM, they get his IMEI and it takes a few hours sometimes and then is unlocked. Then changing the card is as easy as sticking a tiny piece of wire into a tiny hole and removing the cover and then the sim card.

d.  

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While I rarely agree with Clean, he is right.

Keep it simple.  Get a new sim card.  Have the seller test it to make sure its ok.  Tape the original one inside your unlocked phone case so you don't loose it.

Don't go changing your phone plan if it is currently working to your satisfaction.  Others say its ok, but it is not.  This is really important.

If you travel a lot and want an international plan, fine.   A single trip?  Get a sim card.  Cheap and typically plenty of data.  And you won't be handing out your real phone number to whomever you call.

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T-Mobile has been good at no cost for Data free WiFi calling and 25 cents per minute for cell calls

Works well in France ,Spain ,Italy ,Switzerland and India 

data not fast but good enough for Uber , maps and lite email 

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3 hours ago, burndoc said:

Thanks Clean for the insight

no worries doc.  Most people don't know that your cell provider will usually unlock a phone for free or cheap if you ask the right question to the right person.  They don't advertise it but they do it.

 

 

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8 minutes ago, MR.CLEAN said:

Most people don't know that your cell provider will usually unlock a phone for free or cheap if you ask the right question to the right person.  They don't advertise it but they do it.

Soundes licke some sweete girlle frendes, I misse them terribelley.                                         :)

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OK I just ordered a card on Amazon, 5gb for $30, based on the real life experience advice of someone I know.

Had I spoke to him earlier it would have saved all your time and effort.

Thanks for the input.

 

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4 hours ago, Windward said:

While I rarely agree with Clean, he is right.

Keep it simple.  Get a new sim card.  Have the seller test it to make sure its ok.  Tape the original one inside your unlocked phone case so you don't loose it.

Don't go changing your phone plan if it is currently working to your satisfaction.  Others say its ok, but it is not.  This is really important.

If you travel a lot and want an international plan, fine.   A single trip?  Get a sim card.  Cheap and typically plenty of data.  And you won't be handing out your real phone number to whomever you call.

 

Who do you call when you are abroad who is going to rip you off by having your phone number??

 

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We buy new local SIMs whenever we hit a new country. Prepaid, it's the cheapest and easiest way if you're planning to make a lot of local phone calls. As cruisers, we often do that when we hit a place because we're talking to vendors, shops, making reservations, etc. etc.

If you're there for a few weeks on vacation and just want to be able to call each other and maybe make a couple of dinner reservations, you may do better just getting international calling on your regular phone.

If planning to buy a SIM, just make sure -

1) Your existing phone is GSM compatible and
2) Your cell phone company has unlocked it for you before you go.

If you're on a CDMA network (e.g. Verizon & Sprint) and don't have a dual-band capable phone it may not work. Though most higher end smart phones like Samsung Galaxies will support both.

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Data is a little spendy in CR.  You can get SIM cards all over. I think Claro is usually the best coverage pacific side.  Just be prepared to recharge a lot if  you use any data.  FI is a realistic option too refundable simcard at Bestbuy or get one in the mail. $50 for unlimited data, 200 countries no contract and you can keep the number via g phone if you cancel FI. One of the things we like is it almost always grabs the best tower regardless of plan.

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On 1/6/2020 at 11:57 AM, billy backstay said:

Don't know about Costa Rica, but Missus BB has travelled all over, and we've both been to Europe several times.  We just call ATT in advance and they put us on a flat rate daily plan.  Way less cost than foreigh minutes.  And if we don't use it that day, there is no charge.  One time she forgot to call and the bill was a couple hundred more from the minutes.  Fortunately they agreed to reconfigure to the flat rate.  

Check out the rates.   My ATT rate is $10/day.  If abroad for more than a few days, getting a foreign SIM card is cheaper.   I just call home using WhatsApp.

 

We  spent a month in Europe and topped up our 2-week Orange 2-week card $60 the Orange store 2 more weeks for 20 euros.  Much less the $10/day ATT rate.

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Is you phone unlocked?

Make sure you can use it with an international provider. Most US phones are locked.

It is easy to buy a sim when you arrive, you may find a cheaper provider for service.

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AT&T allows to unlock online. Of course something did not correlate between phone ID and phone number. He upgraded last year at an AT&T store.  30 minute phone service call and unlocked. Will see how it works tomorrow with new SIM card

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On 1/6/2020 at 8:18 PM, Windward said:

Why is messing with a sim card a trouble?  Get one when you arrive and leave your old one taped inside your phone case (or hers)

Typically super cheap, and zero hassle on your return to pop yours back in when you get home.  Only question I always ask is to make sure the new card covers all of the country and not local only for internet.  This question may be a hangover from services 5 years ago and long gone... who knows.

No new plans, service or anything to have to cancel or modify in the USA.

Messing with your working phone plan here in the US can be a headache once it is sorted and running.  I try never to touch it unless I need new phones. 

Agree.  I have 3 sim cards at the moment.  One for the US, one for the UAE and one for Kenya.  I keep the two not in use inside the case behind the phone along with the little pin to pop out the card slot.  I usually swap them while on approach to the destination airport.  It takes literally 30 sec and viola, cell coverage upon landing.

For CR, Buy a Movistar (or similar) pre-paid sim card with some local calls and data while at the airport or as Clean said on the way to the hotel.  It's handy to be able have local minutes to call ahead to a hotel or something.  Or if you breakdown on the road and need to call for help.  Data for the usual stuff, google maps etc.  

Easy peasy, lemon squeezy.

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Well crap, my order got lost, we leave for Denver this afternoon and fly out 0530 tomorrow.

Only option now is to get a sim card when we arrive in CR. Should be no big deal, might cost a little more. 

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6 minutes ago, bmiller said:

Well crap, my order got lost, we leave for Denver this afternoon and fly out 0530 tomorrow.

Only option now is to get a sim card when we arrive in CR. Should be no big deal, might cost a little more. 

No worries. The El Boracho trick is to always avoid the pressure and panic. If it is not trivial to get the SIM from a pretty helper at the airport. Then calmly check into your room. Then, as I always do, head for the bar or a nearby tavern. I have fond memories of the tavern across the street from our hotel in San José, CR. The boy there was happy to arrange for anything. Just for tips. Even running quick errands. I am sure a free SIM card would be no issue. Though I think he had plans for my then girlfriend's inviting attributes. Whatever.

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I'm not worried about it. I bought a decent map long before ordering the sim card. The way it's set up with our Airbnb place we need to call the caretaker when we get close to get in the place. So we'll see how it goes.

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38 minutes ago, El Boracho said:

No worries. The El Boracho trick is to always avoid the pressure and panic. If it is not trivial to get the SIM from a pretty helper at the airport. Then calmly check into your room. Then, as I always do, head for the bar or a nearby tavern. I have fond memories of the tavern across the street from our hotel in San José, CR. The boy there was happy to arrange for anything. Just for tips. Even running quick errands. I am sure a free SIM card would be no issue. Though I think he had plans for my then girlfriend's inviting attributes. Whatever.

this is a non sequitur to the tread title but this "Though I think he had plans for my then girlfriend's inviting attributes. Whatever."  reminds me of a story.  In 1989 I travelled with a close female friend (not girlfriend) down the pacific coast of Mexico from Mazatlan to Zihuatanejo and back.  This little tour saw us go into lots of local hole in the wall drinking establishments, some of which would best be described as whorehouse/bar.  Now then in local mexico there was never ANY local women in these places (whorehoses excepted, of course) so when we walked in we were the only foreigners and Cath was the only woman.  Now most local women are the product of 500 years of mixing spanish and indigenous DNA which is to say short, black hair, black eyes, brown skin.  Cath, while having brunette hair that bordered on black was 5'11 with milky white skin and blue eyes.  When we walked in these places they went fucking silent and all eyes were on Cath....for some time and then they might have shifted focus to me.  If they had "thought bubbles" those probably read "what do I have to do to you to get to her"? :P.  Now we never had any trouble in any of these places but i have to admit to feeling a bit uncomfortable for a bit just about every time!

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3 minutes ago, chester said:

this is a non sequitur to the tread title but this "Though I think he had plans for my then girlfriend's inviting attributes. Whatever."  reminds me of a story.  In 1989 I travelled with a close female friend (not girlfriend) down the pacific coast of Mexico from Mazatlan to Zihuatanejo and back.  This little tour saw us go into lots of local hole in the wall drinking establishments, some of which would best be described as whorehouse/bar.  Now then in local mexico there was never ANY local women in these places (whorehoses excepted, of course) so when we walked in we were the only foreigners and Cath was the only woman.  Now most local women are the product of 500 years of mixing spanish and indigenous DNA which is to say short, black hair, black eyes, brown skin.  Cath, while having brunette hair that bordered on black was 5'11 with milky white skin and blue eyes.  When we walked in these places they went fucking silent and all eyes were on Cath....for some time and then they might have shifted focus to me.  If they had "thought bubbles" those probably read "what do I have to do to you to get to her"? :P.  Now we never had any trouble in any of these places but i have to admit to feeling a bit uncomfortable for a bit just about every time!

I imagine Cath felt ok there...  Sort of like the antelope walking through the lions den.  True vacation with relaxing drinks at the bar.

Thought bubbles would be pretty funny.   I wonder how humans would get along if we had them.  Either really well, or horribly, lol.

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23 minutes ago, Windward said:

I imagine Cath felt ok there...  Sort of like the antelope walking through the lions den.  True vacation with relaxing drinks at the bar.

Thought bubbles would be pretty funny.   I wonder how humans would get along if we had them.  Either really well, or horribly, lol.

actually, she was bit oblivious or even flattered :D...i had to "address" the issue..."let's keep it cool"  but in fact it never really became an issue.  ignorance is bliss?  darwin was busy?

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17 hours ago, Windward said:

Thought bubbles would be pretty funny.   I wonder how humans would get along if we had them.  Either really well, or horribly, lol.

We would have wiped ourselves out as a human race >1000 years ago if we had thought bubbles. 

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So it all worked out. Got down here and asked the rental car guy where do we get a sim card. He says the walmart around the corner. 18 bucks for a claro brand card, good for a month and 5gig. 

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On 1/15/2020 at 10:47 AM, chester said:

this is a non sequitur to the tread title but this "Though I think he had plans for my then girlfriend's inviting attributes. Whatever."  reminds me of a story.  In 1989 I travelled with a close female friend (not girlfriend) down the pacific coast of Mexico from Mazatlan to Zihuatanejo and back.  This little tour saw us go into lots of local hole in the wall drinking establishments, some of which would best be described as whorehouse/bar.  Now then in local mexico there was never ANY local women in these places (whorehoses excepted, of course) so when we walked in we were the only foreigners and Cath was the only woman.  Now most local women are the product of 500 years of mixing spanish and indigenous DNA which is to say short, black hair, black eyes, brown skin.  Cath, while having brunette hair that bordered on black was 5'11 with milky white skin and blue eyes.  When we walked in these places they went fucking silent and all eyes were on Cath....for some time and then they might have shifted focus to me.  If they had "thought bubbles" those probably read "what do I have to do to you to get to her"? :P.  Now we never had any trouble in any of these places but i have to admit to feeling a bit uncomfortable for a bit just about every time!

 Chester,    

     I had similar experiences while working on a boat restoration project in the Yucatan area of Mexico in 1980. Bars were strictly for men and I had some girls come stay with me from New Orleans as well as some French tourist girls that I met in Isla Mujeres that I invited to come stay in the beach house in Progresso that had been rented for my stay. I was surprised when the French girls actually showed up but they were a lot of fun.

    As to the New Orleans girls accompanying us guys to the bars, they got the same lustful looks from the locals. Being from New Orleans these gals were real party animals and were used to such drooling assholes but to our surprise at one off the seedier establishments there were lots of muttered comments towards the girls that I may not have understood explicitly I got the gist that the girls were automatically being labeled and considered that they were prostitutes and things got really weird and the big blonde Viking girl almost took a couple of sleazy skinny heads off before I hustled them out the door. If the Big Jefe police chief had not been in the joint it could have gotten violent and he interceded when the first guy got slapped by the blonde. I didn't know it at the time but the Jefe was a 'Maricon' and was more interested in one of my buddies in our gang. Jefe threatened the rude locals and escorted us out into the street and I learned some new Mexican slang from the upset drunks as we left. They Blonde was being called a 'Marimacha' which the Jefe translated as a derogatory term for a slut who tries to act Macho by doing things that women in their culture are forbidden to take part in, drinking in bars being one of the worst offences. 

     The Jefe invited to join him in his big car to go to a private establishment with a 'better class' of patrons as he put it. I figured it would be worth buying him a few drinks and had wondered about the nice looking place that went by the name, 'La Casa Blanca'.  He said that it was pretty early to be going there as it was more of an 'after hours' place unlike the 'working stiffs' bar where we had clashed with the clientele that had to grab a couple of shots before hurrying home to their fat Mamacitas and the kids at home.

    The 'White House' was just setting up and we were the only customers and they pulled some stools off the bar and the Jefe made a fine show of introducing his new 'Amigos'. Much to my surprise the bartender would not take my money for the first round and just nodded and winked towards the Jefe who had my buddy cornered and my concerns for my friends shifted into a new gear. We all had a good time and told jokes and seastories and it was getting close to Sundown and I started making excuses for our departure as a few regulars started arriving. They were indeed a much better mannered and clothed genre but upon their arrival a flurry of activity from upstairs was followed by the entrance of several real working girls all dressed in their finest and it dawned on me that this was indeed a real bordello! I think the girls in my entourage had figured out the situation long before I did because they had excused themselves to go to find the ladies room and wandered upstairs to the delight of the staff and they had been coiffed and been 'made up' by the pros and came down the grand stairs having a blast! 

    That led to a long bizarre night and I finally begged the Jefe to give up a ride to my place late and he agreed but only after one more brandy. I asked him why the girls had been so quickly labeled as whores in the first place as the were not dressed in such a manner even you would recognize them prancing around at the moment. He said that it was common knowledge that they were my guests at the beach house and had been seen leaving that apartment in a larger compound that had a private courtyard and a larger villa as well. I asked why that should make a difference and he then asked if I knew who my landlord who lived in the villa next door was. I admitted that I had seen and briefly spoken to the little gray haired woman who seemed to run the roost but didn't give it much thought. He asked if I had not noticed all the young children that lived in the Villa with the old 'Abuela' and I told him I didn't have a clue. He then revealed that the Abuela was the Madame of the very whorehouse in which we sat drinking and that all those children running wild in the courtyard were the bastard children of the prostitutes. The whole town had been abuzz at the news that she was now importing American and French girls and I was in charge of training them in their new roles in the old ladies empire!

    

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