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Sunday, August 27, 2017

Landing at Juan Santamaria International Airport, Alajuela, Costa Rica

On Monday, August 7, 2017 we returned to Costa Rica from Houston. We were in a holding pattern for a while waiting for clearance to land at Juan Santamaria International Airport, Alajuela.

Here we are lazily circling over land and the Pacific Ocean:



From the Pacific Ocean looking towards Puntarenas province and I believe that is the Tarcoles River on the right:



Video I made of our actual landing, United Airlines flight 1096, arrived 11:35 am:



Note: If you find that full screen is unavailable, then try the YouTube link. 





Saturday, August 26, 2017

Storage Locker - Part 3

On Monday, July 31, 2017, we left our hotel in Abbotsford to drive to U-Pak Storage on Annacis Island, Delta. It would be the first time our locker had been opened in six years. As U-Pak promised, the locker had been moved from indoors to a covered place outside where we could unload our stuff. Here's what it looked like after unlocking the door. A few things had shifted around.


I had packed and wrapped the majority of our belongings in plastic storage bins, which had a number, and everything inside a bin was numbered also. This corresponded to our inventory list. We did not know at the time we acquired the locker if we would be shipping the entire thing down to Costa Rica so the inventory had to be done. That in itself was a major job but it did make things easier when asking family members what items they wanted. I just sent them the lists with descriptions.

From Monday until Friday, August 4, we drove every day from Abbotsford to Annacis Island and spent most of the day there, minus a few hours here and there for other appointments. Our plan of attack was to empty all the bins, unwrap boxed items, etc., and then refill the bins with those items being shipped to family. As each bin was filled, we took it to the UPS store in Surrey for shipping. The owner, our friend Raj, handled everything for us and the final price for shipping five bins to Ontario was quite reasonable.

We used ShredMasters in Abbotsford to dispose of paper and documents.

I had contacted Junk Squad, Inc.  prior to our trip to arrange for pickup and disposal of all items that we no longer wanted. This Canadian owned company will pick up your stuff and either donate it or trash it. They donate to over ten charities. We had quite a bit of good, useable furniture and small appliances so I imagine a lot of it will be reused. Since we had alloted just five days to get rid of everything, there was simply no time to try and sell things ourselves. After six years of not seeing any of our stuff, it wasn't hard to let most of them go. There were a few things we had hoped to bring back to Costa Rica but the four large suitcases and two carryons filled up fast so we left them behind.

What to do with all my paintings? Most were canvas on wooden stretchers, all different sizes - none of them would fit in our suitcases. The solution was to remove the canvases from the stretchers, a tedious job involving removing lots of staples, and rolling the canvases into mailing tubes. I needed four of those. Although the stretchers come apart, simply no room anywhere to carry them home. I brought back only one and am now looking for a source for stretchers here in Costa Rica - so far, no luck. I worried about how the paintings would fare being rolled but they are all in good shape. Coming home on two different airlines, the attendents graciously let me put the tubes in their closet. The overhead storage bins were not a good place for them. I had many, many tubes of high quality paint and art supplies - they came with us. 


No room for the authentic pith helmet or my desktop easel:




We finished on the fifth day, Friday, and that is the day Junk Squad arrived and the job was finally done. The next day, Saturday, we spent shopping for a few things to bring home: smoked salmon, Asian spices, clothing. We went to Canada with two large suitcases and ended up buying a third and U-Pak gave us another one left behind in an abandoned storage locker.

Comments on our trip - so happy to no longer have the burden of the locker and everything in it. The lower mainland: it quickly became boring driving back and forth from Abbotsford to Delta as, really, nothing much had changed in six years. Traffic is so heavy, especially on the freeways. Expensive: gas, food, hotels, restaurants, alcohol. Fifty Canadian dollars gave us only half a tank of gas. Depending on brand, alcohol in Costa Rica is about 50% to 60% cheaper then in British Columbia. I don't smoke, but I noticed that cigarettes are from 55% to 65% less expensive than in B.C.

Airports: mind numbing and exhausting. Do it all yourself: from shlepping six heavy bags onto conveyor belts and then off; checking ourselves partially through immigration with those crazy machines that take your picture and standing in the long, snaking lines to do so; being ordered here and there (and make it quick, please) by uniformed employees - bah! And, get this, in the Houston George Bush airport baggage carts are $5.00 USD each! And we needed two! They are free at Vancouver International. The next time I fly, it will be with nothing more then a carry on.

Airlines: All our flights were fine but - for the amount of money we paid for tickets - all we got was a packet of biscuits and water/juice/pop. We ended up buying a couple of meals on board. Six years ago, from Dallas to Costa Rica American Airlines served hot meals.

It was wonderful returning home to Costa Rica. Huge difference at the airport: all the luggage had been removed from the carousal and neatly lined up. I went to grab a couple of baggage carts. A Costa Rican porter said "no" and off he went only to return with a large wagon type carrier. He loaded all our luggage and we didn't have to lift a finger. He found a taxi for us and loaded all our baggage into it. At our house, the taxi driver unloaded everything - we lifted nothing.  It was the difference between night and day. Clearance through immigration was quick - we now get to use the Costa Rican citizens' lineup (also for people like us with residency). No rubbing shoulders with the touristas.

And this concludes my storage locker epistle.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Storage Locker - Part 2

We were up very early the morning of July 29, 2017, in order to get to the airport in time to board our flight to Houston. We had not been out of Costa Rica for over six years and I wondered what the return to North America would be like. Here are some photos of the first leg of our journey.

Ready for takeoff: 


Leaving beautiful Costa Rica:


I believe this is the coastline of Quinta Roo, México:


I think this is the Belize coastline:


Approaching George Bush Airport, Houston:


So, what were my first impressions of North America from the air and on the land? Houston was hot and humid! So many freeways, so many cars, people going everywhere all the time. Flat land.

We overnighted in Houston and travelled Houston-Dallas-Vancouver, B.C., the following day. We were not seated together on this leg but I did okay. The Vancouver Whitecaps soccer team was on board. They had successfully played in Dallas the day before and were headed home. I was seated between one of the players and a doctor from Dallas who travels frequently to Vancouver because he and his wife own a house in Whistler, B.C.

Flying into Vancouver is always a visual treat if it is a clear day - the Gulf Islands, Vancouver Harbour, the Coast mountains and so on. It was a fairly clear day, so we saw a lot as we circled around. This would be about the last day during our visit that it would be clear, due to the raging wild fires in the interior sending smoke westward. Air quality was very poor and it was hot. We could hardly see the sun and it was often a red colour.

Vancouver International Airport has gorgeous west coast Native artwork beautifully displayed in the international arrivals section. Some photos:






The airport was crowded and chaotic with seemingly endless lines snaking back and forth for passage through customs and immigration. We were happy to get out of there and collect our rental car from Budget. Off we went to our hotel in Abbotsford which would be our home for the next six days. We chose to stay outside of the city areas because of the outrageously high cost of hotels. Abbotsford was about an hour's drive from our storage locker in Delta.

So there we were, driving familiar roads after six years away. I knew almost right away that I did not want to return and live here. British Columbia is a spectacularly beautiful province but just not our home any longer. Being there felt like taking a step backwards.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Storage Locker - Part I

Last month, we made the decision to clear out the storage locker we had in Delta, British Columbia. Before moving to Costa Rica in 2011, we disposed of most of our belongings but kept some things in storage just in case we decided to return to Canada. Six years later, we decided we had no plans to return and it was time to empty the locker. 

Our locker was with U-Pak Mobile Storage located in Delta, B.C. They drop off a container at your house, you fill it up and then they come to your house to pick up the filled container and take it to their storage facility. When you want access to your locker, they will remove it from their storage area and deposit it under a large covered area on their premises. They then return the locker to the enclosed storage area at the end of the day.

Logistics: we decided to allow five days for emptying the locker, two days to get to Vancouver, two days to return to Costa Rica, and one day for shopping in the Vancouver area (hopefully). The reason we chose two days for travel each way is that there are no direct flights to Vancouver. We could have done it in one day but that would have involved changing planes once or twice, possibly hours of sitting around in airports waiting for connecting flights, not counting the flight times, and arriving late at night or even the next day. We would rather be sleeping in a nice hotel room. So our outgoing flight route was SJO to Houston, Texas, and overnighting there. The next day Houston to Dallas to Vancouver.

Cat and house sitting: we chose Vicki Skinner at Loving Your Pet House Sitting. Vicki quickly made friends with Cat. It's nice to go away and not have to worry about house and pets. We highly recommend Vicki.

Car rental: Budget at Vancouver International Airport.

For our first night away, we stayed near Juan Santamaria International Airport (SJO) in Alajuela at the Hotel Brillo Sol, as we had an early flight the next day. This is a great place to stay and so close to the airport. Very reasonable price (they prefer cash). Restaurant and bar - we had a chicken lasagne that was excellent. The property is behind a tall gate and you would not know this lovely property was there unless someone told you about it. 


Our room was to the left of the bench.



Colourful walkway.


Pheasants.


Lounge area.


Wishing well.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Please Stand By

I am currently in Canada where the high temperature was 37C today, which is far hotter then we have encountered in Costa Rica in the last six years.

Normal programming to resume presently.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Snakes, Poisonous Caterpillars and a Refrigerator

Last week, just outside our front gate, we saw a dead terciopelo or fer-de-lance. I guess it was run over by a car. This venomous pit viper is considered the most dangerous snake in Costa Rica. This is a good reminder that jungle wildlife is not so far away from us and we should not become complacent.


In the poisonous insect world, we were invaded by saddleback caterpillars. Here they are chowing down on palm leaves:


Don’t touch!!! Those spikes are urticating hair which can cause some painful skin irritations like burns. They are the caterpillars of a dark brown/beige/black kind of boring looking moth. They're called Saddleback caterpillars for obvious reasons (quote from Claudia).

Acharia stimulae
Limadodidae
Lepidoptera 

Thank you, Claudia Leon (my protozoologist friend) and my husband Lance for identifying these creatures for me. One thing we have learned by living in the tropics is ..... don't touch anything! There is even a tree that is dangerous - the machineel tree. When we visited Isla Tortuga, our guide pointed out a machineel tree and told us to stay far away from it.

Now onto inanimate objects that are not poisonous but could be harmful - in this case a refrigerator. A couple of years ago our neighbours Rose Mary and Tony gave us a refrigerator they no longer used. Our refrigerator is quite small so it was nice to have a full size one, at least for a while. It eventually broke down, wasn't worth repairing and I started using it as a pantry. Our kitchen is small so it was nice to have extra storage space.

This week, the bottom door fell off and then the top. Fortunately, neither of us nor our cat were nearby because those doors are heavy. I couldn't stop laughing, it was really funny. We were going to get rid of it but then I decided to keep it, minus the doors, paint it a dark red and it will be an unusual, quirky pantry. I've removed the ice cube maker and have started sanding the sides.

Here's the refrigerator with the fallen doors, Lance holding the freezer door:






Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Spring Cleaning Addendum

In my Spring Cleaning post, I forgot to mention that Orlando is bilingual. He is available to help with translation issues. He will accompany you to appointments that you know will be in Spanish and he can interpret for you.

His phone number is 8590-5819.

We had a bit of fun when he was at our house cleaning. It's mango season and this is the big tree on our property. It's loaded but most of the mangoes are very high up. He didn't mind climbing up the ladder and whacking down mangoes with a stick.