Search This Blog

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

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.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Spring Cleaning

We don't really experience "spring" the way people in the northern climes do. Nevertheless, our house needed a thorough cleaning so we'll call it a late spring cleaning.

We hired Orlando, who lives in the Atenas area. He used to work for our neighbors before they moved away and he helped out at our first art show (Atenas Painters Association) so we knew him.

We told Orlando the work we wanted done, negotiated a price (not an hourly rate) and he started two days later. He showed up when he said he would, and provided everything he needed (scaffold, ladder, cleaning supplies, brushes, mops, etc.). The only extras we purchased were lightbulbs and window screening (about $20 USD). 

Here is what we had done:
  • Gutters cleaned (especially important here because we do not want standing water where the dengue carrying mosquitoes can breed).
  • Entire outside of house washed, including all the wood on the underside of the overhanging roof.
  • Outside perimeter tiled areas and patio area scrubbed and cleaned.
  • Five inside fabric Roman blinds - they were removed and taken to Orlando's home where his wife cleaned them. Believe me, that must have been hard work because they were stained with mold and water marks and she returned them sparkling white.
  • All inside floors scrubbed and cleaned.
  • All inside walls washed and cleaned.
  • Wood ceilings washed and cleaned. Our ceilings are very high and this is where the scaffold came in. All the wood was cleaned and polished by hand.
  • Leaking faucet in shower repaired.
  • Water in toilet was constantly running and he fixed it.
  • Orange tree pruned and all the suffocating vines on the tree canopy removed. Now the tree is open and receives sun and moisture. Orlando is returning in a month to remove any vines that have started to regrow.
  • All basura (garden trash) removed. This included piles of palm leaves at the back of the property and up a hill. The best way to reach them was to machete a path through the bougainvillea from the road. For this job, Orlando brought in a fellow with a big truck and it took two loads.
  • Replace three window screens.
  • Replace lightbulbs - a lot of the lighting is very high up and neither of us want to climb up a ladder. I went to the hardware store for the bulbs and screening with everything written out in Spanish for me by Orlando.
  • All windows cleaned inside and out.
  • Four ceiling fans cleaned.
Orlando had a helper for four of the six days of work, in addition to his wife and the guy with the truck. Total man hours came out to around sixty. They worked hard and were always cheerful. Orlando had a work schedule in mind and always told us what he would be doing the next day so we could keep out of their way. We cannot believe the difference this work has made to the house. All the wood ceilings are gleaming. Orlando said the wood is expensive tropical hardwood and deserves to be looked after. To replace any of it would cost a good deal of money. The floors have never been cleaner or shinier. We have hired a housekeeper to come in every two weeks and I am really looking forward to this.

An interesting cultural tidbit: it was me they came to when they had questions, not Lance. So I heard a lot of  "Diana, Diana, Diana". We figure this is because women are seen to be in charge of the household, not the men. Lance was the money man but I ruled the roost. I didn't mind - I'm so indispensible!

We highly recommend Orlando - he can do anything and, as he says, if he can't do it he knows someone who can. His attitude is so positive and he works nonstop. Orlando's phone number is 8590-5819.

Here's Orlando and me - in the background is Orlando's helper and the fellow with the garden waste removal truck.


Orlando and his helper cleaning the ceilings:


Pruning the orange tree: 

The vines that were strangling the orange tree: 


The beautiful wood ceilings after being cleaned:


Outdoor ceilings after cleaning:


Everything was cleaned, even the small louvered windows:


Drying the floors:


Thursday, June 15, 2017

Motmot Survival

For the last six days we have been having our house professionally cleaned, inside and out. But that will be another blog post.

However, the windows are now so clean that a blue crowned motmot (pájaro bobo here in Costa Rica) flew into one and seriously stunned himself. Our Cat was instantly interested and Lance was quick to shut him inside the house. I picked the bird up from the ground and put him on our hedge to, hopefully, recover. It took about 20 minutes before he seemed more alert. But our Cat was still interested in what was going on outside.

We decided to move the bird to a less periouslous perch so I moved him across the street to a neighbor's hedge, where he promptly flew away. Hurrah! I've never held a motmot in my hands before.

Here's the motmot on the ground shortly after hitting the window. You can see his gorgeous colours. What is missing is the rest of his lovely tail, which looks like a metronome.


Here he is recovering on our hedge:


Here is a link to more information about this lovely bird.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Haircut, Glasses and Pizza

In the last two weeks, I have had an eye examination by an opthalmologist at Optica Centro Visual, ordered new glasses and picked them up, had my hair cut by Ingrid at Ingrid's Hair Design, and we have eaten pizza twice at the same restaurant with two different sets of good friends.

Optica Centro Visual - we have always purchased contact lenses and eyeglasses from Rigo and Rosa here in Atenas. An eye examination by an opthalmologist can be arranged at their store, which is what I did. Rigo and Rosa helped me select frames and I chose progressive lenses which are also transitional. This means I can see far, middle and close distance just by moving my head up and down, and transitional means they turn into sunglasses when appropriate. This is important for anyone living in the tropics. They are pricy but well worth it and I imagine less expensive then in Canada or the USA.

Ingrid's Hair Design - I have been going to Ingrid for quite a while now. I showed her a picture of what I wanted but, after a consultation with some other ladies in the salon, they all agreed that what I wanted done was not possible with my hair. Ingrid went on line and found the perfect cut for my wavy hair and she was right. Ingrid has scissor skills! One thing I really enjoy at Ingrid's salon is the cold water they use to wash hair ... it is so refreshing.

Photo is me with new glasses and new haircut.


Pizza: Last week, we had pizza twice at Pizzeria La Finca in Atenas. First with our friends from France - Claudia and Barry:


And, secondly, with our neighbour Sharon and her friends and ours from Washington State ... Linda and Clifford.


Both times,  Lance and myself ordered a grande sized pizza ... half with anchovies and half without. I love anchovies but Lance does not.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Happy Anniversary!

Happy 6th anniversary to us! On this day - May 31, 2011 - we flew from San Francisco, to Dallas and then to Costa Rica. We arrived at 8:30 pm. A light rain was falling. Cleared Customs and Immigration. Shoved our six suitcases into a taxi and headed for San José, where we spent ten days before heading to Atenas. Our cat, Genny, had travelled ahead of us and was boarding at a vet office in Santa Ana until we were ready to collect her. It seems every expat I have met here remembers the exact date they arrived in Costa Rica.

Moving to a foreign country is a life changing experience - challenging, exciting and so worth doing. You will discover you have organizational and planning skills not previously experienced. You will learn to cope with a foreign language; different customs and laws and regulations; unusual fruits, vegetables and other food items; medical and banking systems; weather patterns; tropical insects and animals and so much more. Sometimes this will prove very frustrating but you learn to roll with the punches and relax - a good thing. Best of all, you will come to know the people of the country you have moved to.

And as each day, month, year passes you will have become a changed person. You will have grown in ways you would not have imagined. Expats come and go here all the time. Some return to their home country for various reasons, all valid, and others leave to try living in a different foreign country. Many stay on permanently, having decided Costa Rica is where they want to be. Some are "snow birds" - escaping their winter climate for a few months of tropical warmth and they return every year, like the migrating birds.

As I write this, it is  raining - much like the day when we arrived in 2011, during the green or rainy season. For us, making the decision to pull up roots and move to a foreign country sight unseen and with no knowledge of Spanish was a great adventure and one we have never regretted. Life is short. So, if you have a dream ... try hard to make it a reality. You may discover it was not really what you wanted after all - there is nothing wrong with that - but at least you will know. 

My high school and horse days friend, and friend to this day, Liz, used to send me a New York Times crossword puzzle calendar at Christmas - she knows I really like trying to complete them. We stopped the practice because of high duty charges in Costa Rica. Every day of the year I had a new puzzle to work on and they are challenging. Here is the puzzle I worked on during our flights down here. I kept it because it was such a momentous day. It's getting tattered but I will still keep it. Pura vida!


Monday, May 22, 2017

Cat Goes To The Vet

Last week, we took Cat to Dr. Solano for a general checkup and vacinations. As far as we know, he has never had vacinations. We know nothing of his history because he just appeared one day at our house over a year ago.He was unneutered so we had that done shortly after he appeared. It was our intention to find a permanent home for him but - hah! - of course he had other ideas. So, since it appears a cat now owns us we decided he needed a checkup.

Dr. Solano is an excellent vet here in Atenas. His telephone numbers are 2446-6646 and 2446-6068. He also has a cell phone: 8995-8585 and email: His office is located 100 meters east of the ICE office (ICE being the acryonm for Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad - the Costa Rican government run electricity and telecommunications services provider).

Cat (the name that has stuck) was very unhappy in the carrier and the short taxi ride but was a good boy while being examined by Dr. Solano and his assistants. This is a cat that is outside all day, hunting and lolling around in the grass/dirt so he had fleas and no doubt worms. He stays inside at night. He needs to lose some weight so we have him on a calorie reduced diet now. Dr. Solano said Cat is built larger then most Costa Rica cats.

The treatment Cat received was: deworming, flea treatment (Frontline Plus, I think, or similar), Felocell and Leukocell shots, and feces exam. The total cost, including the consultation, was 48,050 colones - about 96.00 USD. We also bought 1.5 kg of weight reduction kibble for 9850 colones (19.00 USD) and a product to spray on furniture to kill any fleas. Pet food in Costa Rica is pricy because it is imported.

Here is the dewormed and flealess version of Cat: