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Sunday, May 2, 2021

Dr. Fauci And Nancy Pelosi Are Now In Costa Rica!

Some time ago, I discovered a company called FCTRY. A friend of mine has a Ruth Bader Ginsburg action figure doll that I thought was really nifty.

So I went to FCTRY to see what else they had created. I wanted a Nancy Pelosi doll but they didn’t have one. So I kept e-mailing them (and I’m sure many others did also) and they decided there was enough interest to begin the procedure of designing one.

It’s an interesting process. First off is a Kickstarter campaign to judge the amount of interest in manufacturing a particular figure. I had to pledge the amount of the doll ($20 US). If this step indicates a large enough enthusiasm to proceed, then a figure is sculpted by Mike Leavitt, a Seattle based artist.

Eventually, all the dolls are manufactured and sent off to their new owners. I opted for Nancy Pelosi and also a Dr. Fauci action figure doll. They are not bobbleheads but their arms move up and down. Nancy came with a removable gavel and mask and I had a choice of what colour dress I wanted her to have.

Dr. Fauci came with a removable mask. The dolls are remarkably realistic in facial features, etc. They are very well made.

So welcome Nancy Pelosi and Dr. Fauci!

Click on photos to enlarge.

Sunday, April 11, 2021

Eyes on Costa Rica and Weather Records - March 2021 / Covid-19 Update

 During March, visits to this blog were received from the following 17 countries and the Caribbean Netherlands:

The total number of countries and non-independent jurisdictions from which visits have been received remains at 131. Of this number, 13 are non-independent jurisdictions.

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

Like February, March was marked by many days with high, gusty winds and no rain. Interestingly, there was one day when the Atenas region where we used to live received a prolonged deluge of rain. As the crow flies, this region is only about 6 miles / 10 kilometers southwest from where we now live.

Covid-19 Update

In my blog entry on March 15, I provided a table which enabled a comparison between Covid-19 numbers in Costa Rica, Canada and the United States. The following table provides a more up to date comparison. Those who have eyes on Costa Rica may find the continuing Covid situation to be of interest.

If you want to see how some other country is doing in comparison to those listed, then visit the website of Worldometer. The numbers for reported populations, reported cases and reported deaths can be obtained from that site. All that is then needed is some simple arithmetic.

In the case of the United States, Worldometer provides similar numbers for individual states and territories.

(Click on images to enlarge).

Sunday, April 4, 2021

Full Moon, Yigüirros and an Iguana

Recently we have been serenaded in the mornings while it is still dark by yigüirros, the national bird of Costa Rica. They are also known by the names of clay-coloured thrush and clay coloured robins.

It was chosen as the national bird in January, 1977. Its melodious song can be heard at this time of year as breeding season approaches. But a more romantic version is that it is singing for the rains to start. We are at the end of the dry season and eagerly awaiting the first rains.

It’s an unassuming bird compared to the many colourful, exotic birds in Costa Rica - but its song is lovely.

Iguanas: three species are found in Costa Rica - the green iguana (Iguana iguana) and two species of spiny-tailed iguanas, the black spiny-tailed (Ctenosaura similis) and the five-keeled spiny-tailed iguana (Ctenosaura quinquecarinata). The first two are very large; the latter smaller. My source for this information is the book “A Guide to Amphibians and Reptiles of Costa Rica”, by Twan Leenders.

It seems like everyone has iguanas living around their homes. Ours favour using a drainpipe that  runs under our laneway and out to the road. They also roam around the planted areas. We have three of them - one large male, a medium sized female and a small female. At least, I think they are females.

Well, I started feeding them small pieces of bananas. The male didn’t think much of this. The medium sized female did. When I see her around, I sit in the rocking chair under the carport and whistle. She comes a’running and skids to a halt at my feet. Recently she mistook my two fingers holding a piece of banana as an entire treat for her. I got bitten in two fingers. Who knew they had teeth?

It was just a mild bite but I’m proud to say I must be the only Miskell with a scar from an iguana bite. Last week she was shedding her skin. They do this as they grow and continue to do it all their lives. 

I made a video of our lovely songsters singing their hearts out recently in the early morning with a full moon and before the sun had risen. The second part of the video is of Lance feeding the tame iguana. You can see her skin shedding off. The background sounds you hear are cicadas.

Click on the video to enlarge.

Sunday, March 28, 2021

Second Covid-19 Vaccine Shot and Renewing Our Drivers’ Licences - Costa Rica

Last Tuesday, we received a call from our doctor at our assigned EBAIS reminding us of our 0930 appointment the next day to receive our second Pfizer vaccine shot. We are registered with EDUS on line and this is where we go to make appointments, etc.

They like you to be there about 10 to 15 minutes early and we arrived well before then. Our clinic is about a 5 minute drive from our house. After washing our hands and checking in with the nice lady guard who keeps everyone organized, we sat down on the benches outside in the shade.

Within a very short time and well before our scheduled 0930 time, we were called in to the doctor’s office. In this country, nobody minds if family members are with the patient for appointments so we had our shots together. Once I even had a Tica I just met at the clinic accompany me into the nurse’s office so she could translate for me. The needles don’t hurt that much!

Next day effects: sore arms - Lance felt like he was coming down with a cold - I had a headache.  None of these lasted very long.

We will still observe hand washing, mask wearing and avoiding gatherings but we feel we have done our part to help control Covid-19. Here is my vaccination card;

Obviously, these cards could be easily forged. Hopefully, at some time in the future, it will be possible to get a Covid-19 passport confirming that one has had the injections. Moreover, hopefully, these passports will be recognized in most countries of the world.

The other important matter that needed to be taken care of was renewing our drivers’ licences, which were due to expire on March 27th.

Because of covid, some aspects of arranging this have changed. Three things must be done in this order:

  1. Go to a doctor for a medical exam, or Comprobante Dictamen de Licencia. You don’t need an appointment - we just walked into a medical office. It’s a very simple exam - BP, eye exam (read a chart), any medical conditions, etc. The cost was CRC 21,800 each. You will be issued a código dictamen, a number assigned to you that is now in the system. The document with the number is sent to your email address and you are required to show it electronically (not a paper copy) after which you are obliged to go to a bank to pay the licensing fees.
  2. Pay the licensing fees - CRC 5,000 each. We went to BCR (Banco de Costa Rica) here in Grecia. I just pulled up the documents on my phone, the teller found us in the computer system and we were issued a receipt. Caveat: Citizens can renew their licences at BCR but we cannot because we are not citizens, we are legal permanent residents (not the same thing). The guard thought we were there to do just that and kept checking his list for our names. A nice Tica in line tried to help us (again, we are always being helped by Costa Ricans!). We made it to the teller and she knew exactly what we were there for. Paid the fees.
  3. The most difficult part - at one time you could just show up at any Cosevi (Roadway Safety Council), hang around and get your licence after you had completed the two steps listed above. Because of Covid-19, appointments now need to be made on line. For this, you go to this link. You can only make these appointments on Thursday from 0830 to 1500 (I think this is correct). I won’t go into all the details of making the appointment. You need document numbers, etc. I started at 0830 and finally got appointments at 1100. I chose the San Ramon Cosevi as it is a town not far from us. Our appointments were for the following Monday, March 22nd at 11:40 and 11:50. We got there an hour early. The nice guard looked at our (printed out) appointment letters, parked us in the correct chairs, winked at me and we were in and out of there in about 15 minutes with our new licences (good for six years), well before our scheduled times.

Sunday, March 21, 2021

Eyes on Costa Rica and Weather Records - February 2021

During February, visits to this blog were received from the following 10 countries and the Caribbean Netherlands:

The Caribbean Netherlands is not an independent country.  It consists of three special municipalities of the Netherlands (the islands of Bonaire, Sint Eustatius and Saba) located in the Caribbean.

The two visits from the Caribbean Netherlands were the first ever and appear to have come from Bonaire. They bring the total number of countries and non-independent jurisdictions from which visits have been received to 131.

In addition to the Caribbean Netherlands, there are 12 other non-independent jurisdictions from which one or more visits have been received: Cayman Islands, Curaçao, Greenland, Guadeloupe, Guam, Guernsey, Hong Kong, Isle of Man, Macau, Martinique, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. That leaves 118 sovereign countries from which visits have been received.

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

February was marked by many days with high, gusty winds. There were zero days with measurable rain despite several days with morning overcast which looked capable of generating at least some rain.

The average overnight low temperature was a bit higher than last year while the average daytime high temperature was a bit lower.

(Click on images to enlarge)

Monday, March 15, 2021

Covid-19 in Costa Rica

It has been more than a year since Covid-19 first reared its ugly head. Costa Rica has not been immune but seems to be fairing not too badly.

The following table allows a comparison as to how Costa Rica is doing compared to Canada and the United States. The numbers which appear in columns 2 and 3 were obtained from a much more comprehensive table compiled by which lists reported cases and deaths in 219 countries and territories throughout the world.  The numbers in columns 4 and 5 were derived from the Worldometer numbers.

The numbers will change from day-to-day and likely will differ at the time you read this.

As indicated, column 5 normalizes the death rate in each country to that in Costa Rica. This is done by dividing the deaths per case in each country by the deaths per case in Costa Rica. Necessarily, the normalized rate for Costa Rica is 1.

I may be misinterpreting the numbers, but the table suggests to me that if you are going to catch Covid-19 you would be better off catching it while living in Costa Rica. If you catch it in the United States, you have a 32% higher chance of dying. If you catch it in Canada, you have an 82% higher chance of dying. Perhaps on average those who live in Costa Rica with more time exposed to outside air are simply healthier than those who live in Canada or the United States. Let me know if you disagree with the math or my assessment.

If you are interested in detailed day-to-day Covid-19 statistics for Costa Rica as a whole and various regions within Costa Rica, then the La Nacion newspaper is a good source. The language is Spanish, but most browsers (Chrome, Safari, etc.) have features which enable seamless translation from Spanish to any one of a number of other languages, including English.

Our Experience

On Wednesday, March 3, Lance and I got our first of two Covid-19 vaccinations. A second dose or booster shot is scheduled for March 24. The first appointment resulted from a telephone call to Lance from a doctor at the local EBAIS healthcare clinic near where we live. We were expecting a call sooner or later but had no idea when. Under Costa Rica's universal healthcare system, it just happened - and reliably so.

We were prepared to deal with the call in Spanish, but the doctor spoke English and stressed that it was important to be "on time". As we learned later, the vaccine was the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. According to Wikipedia it needs to be stored at temperatures between −80 and −60 °C (−112 and −76 °F) until five days before vaccination when it can be stored at 2 to 8 °C (36 to 46 °F), and then at room temperature or slightly higher temperatures for up to two hours.

The vaccine is administered at room temperature where it can deteriorate rapidly if it goes unused. Prior to administration, it has to be removed from refrigeration, diluted, and allowed to warm up to be ready at the time of an appointment. The logistics are demanding. Those who are late for an appointment or are a no-show probably will not be welcome unless they have a compelling excuse. The appointment may have to be rescheduled for a later time - perhaps much later.

While in Canada neither Lance nor I ever took a flu shot because over decades neither of us ever caught the flu. Apart from protecting ourselves, we were never informed that even though we did not have symptoms we might still be carrying the flu virus and taking the shot might serve to protect not only ourselves but also others. We now understand that even if you are relatively immune to a virus (the flu, Covid-19 or otherwise), you might be infected by the virus and affect those around you. This observation was our motivation to take the Covid-19 vaccine.

More About the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 Vaccine

It may come as a surprise to many, but the research and development (R&D) leading to the production of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine was begun in mid-January 2020 by BioNTech Manufacturing GmbH, a German company. At the time, senior management recognized that Covid-19 was a serious problem having worldwide implications and not merely a fly by night issue that would go away soon enough. They initiated a project to develop a potential vaccine and tagged it with the name "Project Lightspeed". This name compares curiously with the name "Operation Warp Speed" announced in May 2020 by Donald Trump and his administration.

The Covid-19 research done by BioNTech was preceded and supported by earlier pioneering work done by Katalin Karikó, a Hungarian-born biochemist who worked in U.S. academia for a number of years without receiving the recognition she deserved. She is presently a senior vice-president of BioNTech.

While BioNTech was at the forefront of R&D, it apparently did not have the resources to develop and commercialize the vaccine on a scale sufficient to meet potential worldwide demand. As a result, it entered a collaboration with Pfizer for all countries except China. In the case of China, it likewise entered into some form of collaboration with Fosun China, a Chinese pharmaceutical company.

Sunday, March 7, 2021

Winds, Fires and Strawberries

We have been experiencing very strong trade winds for several months now. Our nights are quite cool (this morning we woke up to 59F) - which makes for great sleeping. The winds start in the morning and continue on throughout the day. The humidity is very low. Right now (13:44) it is 91F on our terrace and 84F in the shade. We get a lot of reflected light on the terrace so that raises the temperature. The wind helps us feel comfortable.

Here is a link regarding our present weather conditions.

Regarding fires - we live in a coffee and cane sugar growing area. Why are sugar cane fields burned? Sugar cane burning is carried out by farmers before they harvest the cane. It helps make it easier to process the cane by removing stalks and leaves. I have also heard that the workers who harvest the canes will not enter a field unless it has been burned because of the danger of venomous snakes. I don’t know if this is really true.

At this time of year, it is not unusual to see cane burns lighting up the night sky. However, it does cause breathing problems for some people because of the resulting smoke. We have experienced large pieces of ash landing around our house.

Last month, we woke up in the early morning to the sound of crackling flames about a kilometre away from our house. I made a video.

Strawberries! The best strawberries are grown around Poas Volcano. Every Thursday morning, our friend Minor travels to the strawberry growers and delivers a kilo or half kilo to his customers, direct to their house. We go through a kilo a week.

Here is Minor about to pick up his customers’ strawberries. They are grown under the canopy which appears in the background of this foto.

(Click on images to enlarge).