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Monday, February 17, 2020

Restaurante Almendra Plant Based Cuisine

Recently we tried out a new restaurant with our friends Diane and John. It’s called Almendra Plant Based Cuisine and it’s vegan/vegetarian as the name implies. It’s near Atenas and in a really nice setting. Very good food and healthy too!

My drink - mojito - loaded with fruit.
My drink - mojito - loaded with fruit.

Lance’s beer choice.

Menu items - lots of choices.

Some of the dishes we ordered - all good.

Passion fruit cheesecake - I really liked it.

Monday, February 10, 2020

Canada/Costa Rica - Are We Traitors?

Apropos of absolutely nothing, I was recently accused of “detesting Canada so much - the country that gave you the ability to live your current life style”. This was based on the totally erroneous and inaccurate assumption that - “if there was a crisis in Costa Rica, like the corona virus (sic), massive earthquake or some other disaster, you would not want to come back to Canada?” 

First, I don’t detest Canada - this is an out and out lie. Never have I said this. To say that this is how I feel based on nothing at all is totally outrageous and, quite frankly, makes me angry.

I like to poke fun at Canada, especially Ottawa where I was born. I can do this because I am a Canadian citizen. Canada’s weather stinks - but everyone knows that. Canada is an amazing country - and many people want to immigrate there with good reason.

Secondly - our current life style was not handed to us by Canada. We both worked hard for many years. We earned the life style we are living.

Both of us paid our taxes for years and years. We still pay Canadian taxes even though we live in a foreign country. So whatever Canada may have given us, we have given back many times over. We have never been a drain on the system. In fact, not living in Canada makes us less of a burden on the system then people who live there.

It was a lot of work and planning to make our dream come true. It appears that some people feel threatened or are jealous by what we did - left the country we were born in to move, sight unseen, to a country they had probably never heard of. The fact that it was a very successful move, for us, causes them more unease. Could they do the same thing? Or do they use Canada as an excuse to never have to find out if they could or not? They wave the flag and hide their fear behind it. They accuse us of detesting Canada. That is an insult. We must be traitors.

What is so wrong with wanting to try living in another country?  To experience a new culture, new language, new food, different climate, different people ..... what does this have to do with Canada? It’s a wonderful thing to take this journey into the unfamiliar. We have come a long way and are now not the people we were when we left in 2011. You may not recognize us - our viewpoints, our world beliefs. We discarded possessions and old ways of thinking and freed ourselves. We meet people here who are cut from the same cloth. They may move here permanently, or spend a few years exploring and then move on to another country and adventure or, they may choose to return from whence they came. It’s all good.

The culture of living in the same country, the same province, the same city, the same municipality and even the same house for years on end is something I cannot understand. But that’s just me and more power to those who live this life style. It must be comforting for them and I would hope that they are doing exactly what they want to do. 

In Costa Rica there are not yet any recorded cases of coronavirus. In Canada, I read that there have been several. If a case or cases did occur here, why would I choose to jump out of the Costa Rican frying pan into the Canadian fire?

With regard to massive earthquakes, I have already experienced one in Costa Rica. It measured around 7.5 and rattled on for a significant period of time but without any significant damage. Should I fear another and decide to return to Canada for that reason ..... oh, but wait, I cannot return to Vancouver. As you know, the "big one" is long overdue.

Tuesday, February 4, 2020

Eyes on Costa Rica and Weather Records - January 2020

During January, visits to this blog were received from the following 17 countries:

There were no new countries and the overall total since November 2012 remains at 129 countries.

The following is a summary of weather for the month in the area where we live:

Compared to January 2019, January temperatures this year were a mixed bag. Average overnight low temperatures were a bit higher. Average daytime high temperatures were a bit lower. However, the hottest daytime temperature this year was lower than that in 2019 and the coldest overnight low temperature was lower than that in 2019. In fact, the coldest overnight low temperature (56°F, 13.3°C) in January 2020 was a record low for all the time we have exclusively lived in the Central Valley of Costa Rica in Vista Atenas near the town of Atenas and in Hacienda El Paseo near the city of Grecia.

With regard to rainfall, the amount in January this year was minimal and consistent with the so-called "dry season". However, there were 3 days of measurable rain (which is good for Costa Rica). Compare this with 0 days in January 2019.

January 2020 was also marked by continuing strong Papagayo winds - strong enough to blow down trees and throw around loose objects on patios, etc. These winds are nowhere near hurricane force but they are something that should be reckoned with.

Sunday, January 26, 2020

A Canadian Coast Guard Reunion in Costa Rica

I joined the Canadian Coast Guard in 1971, in Ottawa, Canada, working for Captain Bill Catinus. He was head of the Marine Casualty Investigations branch - which investigated, reported on and made recommendations on any marine accidents in Canada. At that time, the CCG was under the umbrella of Transport Canada. I had found my niche. He lobbied to have MCI moved to the Transportation Safety Board, which eventually happened.

In 1978, Lance and I moved from Ottawa to Vancouver, B.C., Canada and I transferred over to the air side of Transport Canada. Too boring, so I applied for a job at the Kitsilano Coast Guard Search and Rescue (SAR) base in Vancouver. And that’s when all the fun and good times started. My coworkers then are still my friends today, although sadly many of them have “crossed the bar” as the saying goes. I eventually went to work at the CCG hovercraft SAR base in Richmond, B.C. Before I retired, I moved to CCG Western Region HQ in downtown Vancouver.

So many stories to be told and they just get more hilarious as time passes. Recently I heard from CCG alumni Gerry Moores and Brian Wong. They were planning a trip to Costa Rica and we got together last week. I hadn’t seen them in years but it was as if time had not passed - we just took up where we left off. 

Here we are having lunch at Casa Nosstra in Grecia - me, Gerry, Brian and Lance:

They stayed at La Terraza Guest House B&B here in Grecia. The owner, Charles, kindly invited us to join Brian and Gerry for breakfast:

Some photos of the La Terraza property:

Gerry and Brian came bearing presents! Twizzlers and a cat teapot, spoon and candle holder came from Shelley (another coworker). That candle holder looks so familiar to us .... where have I seen it before? 

Shelley and Brian:

Brian and Gerry are now somewhere on the pacific coast - I know they’ll have a super time and it was wonderful seeing them again.

I worked for the Canadian Coast Guard from 1971 to 1997. On my retirement, I received this ship’s clock:

And numerous other plaques - this was one of them:

And this, and I have a good story about the “Lady Diana” title:

I acquired the “Lady Diana”, also “Lady Di”, title at the time when the real Princess Diana was front and center in the news, marrying Prince Charles. At that time, there was a fellow named Chuck at Kitsilano CG base (can’t remember his last name) and we had a plan to post ads in newspapers saying that for five bucks, people could receive a signed photo of “Chuck and Di”!! We never did it but it’s funny nevertheless.

Sunday, January 19, 2020

The Medical System in Costa Rica - Another Approach

I have previously blogged about having a fairly large basal cell carcinoma lesion removed from my back three years ago. I decided to do this so people would know some of the options one can follow when navigating the medical system here - not because I wanted sympathy. That BCC was on my back before we moved to Costa Rica in 2011. In fact, it was misdiagnosed in Canada and dismissed as “just something that occurs as you age” by a third rate Doc-In-The-Box. At that time, we couldn’t even find a family doctor - the few that were still practicing were not taking on new patients.

So about two years ago, here in Costa Rica, a red spot appeared on my upper left eyelid. I thought it was an insect bite but it never went away and it kept growing - mole? wart? A few weeks ago, Lance said “You should have that looked at, it’s quite visible”.

So I made an appointment with Dr. Fu Lin Yu Tseng, a dermatologist that Lance had previously seen for contact dermatitis. He works for the Caja in the mornings and has private appointments in the afternoons. His office is in Clinica Helenica, very close to Grecia’s hospital. He looked at my back to check for lesions - said benign, benign, benign and sprayed them with liquid nitrogen. He looked at my left eye and said, that is basal cell carcinoma - picked up his phone and got me an appointment with the eye surgeon in the same medical building.

I saw Dr. Mario Barrantes Dominguez three days later. He did a complete eye exam, looked at the lesion and said he could remove it. The surgery was scheduled for five days later.

I chose to go the private route this time because of timeliness. In Costa Rica, private medical care is surprisingly reasonably priced compared to other countries. My appointment with Dr. Fu Lin cost  CRC 50,000 (about $90 USD). Dr. Dominguez’s initial consultation was also CRC 50,000 and that included the complete eye exam.  The surgery cost was CRC 520,000 (about $930 USD) - it took about an hour. The 20,000 was for the resection and biopsy. I also had a follow up appointment the next day - no charge. The clinic has its own fully equipped operating room. Dr. Dominguez also had an assistant helping him. After removing the lesion, my left eye no longer resembled my right eye and he reshaped that one so my face would be in sync.

The stitches come out in two weeks. Meanwhile, I resemble the Bride of Frankenstein! This is a reminder to everyone - see a dermatologist once a year for a full body checkup - especially if you live close to the equator as we do. I’ve obviously been remiss in following my own advice.

You don’t want to look like this!

Sunday, January 12, 2020

Eyes on Costa Rica and Weather Records - December 2019

During December, visits to this blog were received from the following 15 countries:

The total number of countries from which visits have been received increased to 129 in December, the most recent being Seychelles identified above.  Seychelles is a group of islands in the Indian Ocean off the coast of East Africa. The location of the visit from that country was Victoria (the capital city).

The following is a summary of weather for the month in the area where we live:

When you have lived in Costa Rica for as long as we have, you become acclimatized. Higher outdoor temperatures such as 85°F and above are not as uncomfortable as they felt "up north" where we once lived. Conversely, lower outdoor temperatures such as 60°F and below now feel outright cold in Costa Rica. Up north, such temperatures often felt mild and refreshing, particularly after a long winter.

One of the most miserable weather days that we encountered so far in Costa Rica was in early December. There was 24 hour cloud cover and drizzling rain all day. The high temperature was only 70°F (rare at our altitude). With some big differences, this was reminiscent of experiences with December weather in the Lower Mainland of British Columbia, Canada and the Pacific Northwest in the U.S. The differences were that it was happily a one off day. Up north, this kind of weather can prevail day after day ad nauseam in the winter. Also, the high temperatures up north in December can often be very near or below freezing.

With regard to rain, we have now clearly entered the throes of the dry season. There were only a few days in December with measurable rain. In the coming months, that few will likely become less or none at all. The following is a summary of the rainfall amounts in our area for the entire year 2019:

A treat at this time of year is to see the poro trees blooming with their bright orange flowers.

Sunday, January 5, 2020

The Big Reveal!

I can now reveal my latest painting commission because it has been gifted to the recipient and is no longer a closely held secret. Word is that “they love it”!

Some months ago, my long time friend Judy commissioned me to paint a picture of Taylor riding her pony Sebi in a horse show. Taylor is one of the triplets that Judy is grandmother to. The painting was to be a present for Judy’s daughter, mother of the triplets.

Judy and I have been friends since high school in Ottawa, Canada. There are several of us - all horse crazy - and we remain friends to this day. So many great memories of hacking out, horse shows, pony club days - recently we have been sharing these memories and photographs. Obviously this love of all things horses was transmitted to Judy’s daughter and grandchildren.

Here is the finished commission - “Taylor and Sebi” - acrylic on canvas board:

Here it is after Judy had it framed:

And here it is in its new home in Ontario, Canada:

A couple of progression photos:

This painting was a pleasure to work on because the two subject matters were just too cute! There are rules and regulations on what a child wears while riding in a horse show. The stirrups, for example, are breakaway - designed to prevent the rider from dragging and injury. The little girls wear braids and colourful hair ribbons. So I tried to show everything as correctly as possible.

Photo reference courtesy of Anneli Tapanila;

You can see my art work here (my own art web page) and also here (Kyo Gallery, Alexandria, Virginia, USA).

Totally unrelated to my art, today we experienced very strong winds - called the papagayos. I made a short video of our coco tree blowing around in our back yard.