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Sunday, August 2, 2020

A Sunday Drive - Costa Rica - August, 2020

This afternoon, we decided to drive along the route we use to get to Compre Bien, one of the grocery stores we shop at. I wanted to take some photos of the local areas we travel in. Lance found the road on Google maps some time ago so we decided to investigate it. We discovered the drive to the grocery takes only 10 to 12 minutes from our home and we avoid the traffic in Grecia. However, the road is not always in the best condition. Part of it is not paved and the heavy rains at this time of year turn the road into deep ruts.

Turning left from our condominium gates:

                         You can take the high road or you can take the low road!
                                       We take the low road on the left:                               

A narrow bridge up ahead. What is the metal basket on the left? It’s where garbage bags are placed for garbage pickup. It prevents animals from tearing into the bags. Notice the lack of shoulders and the deep ditches which are designed for coping with torrential rains.

Start of the heavily rutted road. Notice the absence of deep ditches.

The road improves and becomes less narrow and more open:

Overcast this afternoon:

And here we are at Compre Bien, a very modern grocery well stocked with everything you could want and 100% owned by Costa Ricans.

We are driving home via a different route. I like the way this tree was not cut down for the road access. Instead they molded the road around the tree.

Sugar cane:

Home again. This is the resident rooster who lives at the condominium’s front gates. The guards feed and water him. He never strays away.

And this morning I made French baquettes:

Take care everyone - wear your masks and practice social distancing.

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

When Your Vehicle Breaks Down in Costa Rica

Yesterday morning, we drove to Compre Bien (a grocery chain) in Grecia to buy some groceries and supplies. That done, back home we went. As we pulled into the front entrance to the complex where we live, our vehicle stalled, stopped and would not restart.

Johnny, one of our front gate guards, the groundskeeper and one other fellow came out unasked to push our vehicle into a shady spot. 

Lance phoned Carlos, our mechanic, and was able to reach him. Carlos and his assistant arrived in good time and looked everything over. He did some tests but it was apparent that our vehicle would have to be towed to Carlos’ shop. He phoned a tow company that could pick up our car around 1:30pm.

Carlos has a special arrangement with Enterprise car rental and he booked a rental vehicle for us at the same time. If you have a car in Carlos’ shop, Enterprise offers special low rates and they deliver the rental to the shop. We didn’t know how long Carlos would need our car and we didn’t want to be without wheels.

We piled into Carlos’ car, along with our groceries, and off we went to wait for the rental vehicle to be delivered. On the way, we provided Enterprise with drivers’ licence numbers, credit card information and so on via phone to speed things up. We had to wait a while for the rental car but it was worth it as they substituted a much larger car for the one we booked but at the same price. It’s a 2020, hardly driven, Honda RAV 4. Really nice.

Here it is at our house with the Cat giving it a thorough inspection:

Arriving home, we saw the tow company picking up our Subaru so I was able to get a photo of the action. In Costa Rica it seems that tow companies mostly use flat bed trucks instead of the hook and chain trucks that I am familiar with. Here’s our vehicle heading off to Carlos’ Vehicle Hospital. 

We haven’t heard as yet what the problem is with our wheels, but Carlos is a great diagnostician and mechanic and has been caring for our Subaru for several years now.

So when your vehicle unexpectedly breaks down, you can treat the matter two ways:

Cons: My car won’t run! It’s going to cost money! What am I going to do?!! This is so inconvenient!! What about our groceries? 

Pros: Well, at least the car was polite enough to keep running until it got pretty close to our house. Lance had Carlos’ phone number and he reached Carlos right away. Carlos showed up in good time. Carlos arranged for the tow and a rental vehicle. As indicated, Enterprise delivered our rental right to the shop and we got an upgraded car for the same price as a small one.

Also, because the car is a rental (read: tourist) we are not under any constraints on the days we can drive it. We just have to obey the 5:00 pm curfew imposed because of the Covid-19 restrictions.

I think you can apply this coping mechanism to all sorts of inconvenient things that unexpectedly happen. Just make sure you always have a Plan B.

Information on our mechanic: Carlos Morera, Superior Automotriz, tel: 4033-6045/8834-1692, Grecia, Alajuela, Costa Rica.

Sunday, July 12, 2020

Eyes on Costa Rica and Weather Records - June 2020

In June, visits to this blog were received from the following 21 countries:

As with previous months this year, the number of countries for the month of June was high compared to the same month last year.

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

The rainy or "green" season continued with some records so far this year: (1) the most days with measurable rainfall; (2) the most rainfall on any one day; (3) the most rainfall in any one month; and (4) the coldest daily high temperature. The coldest daily high does not appear on the chart but it was a mere 78°F (25.6°C).

The rainfall in June involved 3 days with significant deluges. But they were peanuts compared to a friend who lives in the southern zone of Costa Rica near the Pacific coast. He reported that they had 25 inches (63.5 cm) of rain in the first two weeks of the month (Costa Rican microclimates at work).

On June 25th and 26th we got sideswiped by the Saharan Air Layer - dust that had travelled across the Atlantic and Caribbean from the Sahara Desert in Northern Africa. The highest temperature of the month (88°F / 31.1°C) occurred on the 25th and was accompanied by low humidity (26%). There was a distinctly brownish haze in the atmosphere. To a lesser degree, this lingered on the next day.

Thursday, July 2, 2020

San Ramón, Macaroni and Cheese and a Thunderstorm - Costa Rica

On Tuesday of this week, we had occasion to drive to the town of San Ramón, about 32 km away from our town of Grecia. It was a beautiful morning with clear views of the lovely countryside - hectares of coffee plants growing in neatly laid out rows on the rolling hills and dales and clear views of the beautiful countryside. There are lots of interesting towns to explore in the central valley.

Back home, clouds began gathering in the afternoon and we had an impressive thunderstorm. A made a video of it:

Our Cat likes to lie on top of our car during rain storms.

Yesterday (Wednesday), we had banking to do in Grecia and some shopping. Banco National is adhering very well to Covid-19 protocols - hand washing station outside, must wear mask, keeping one’s distance, control of how many people in bank at one time, hand gel sprayed before entering, bank personnel wearing face shields. This morning, lineups were sparse so I got my business done quickly. Then we went to Compre Bien for some groceries. We like to shop at 100% owned Costa Rican businesses so we patronize this store and also Super Rosvil.

Compre Bien also has excellent Covid-19 protocols. I’ve noticed that more and more people are wearing masks/shields compared to a few weeks ago so the message is getting out. We don’t use plastic or fabric bags - just load our goods into the cart and take them to our vehicle where we pack everything into two cardboard boxes.

We were getting low on fruit so here is what I bought. Clockwise from left: papaya, bananas, cas (aka Costa Rican guava) and dragon fruit (pitaya).

Dragon fruit is one of my favourites. The ones we find here in Costa Rica have a gorgeous red interior:

We have a cas tree in our backyard but I’ve never seen any fruit. So today I thought I would try some. This is what the cas looks like cut open. It tasted very tart! So I’ll try using it to make a smoothie drink.

Earlier this week, I told Lance that I didn’t know what to make for dinner. He replied that we hadn’t had macaroni and cheese for a long time, one of his favourites. But it had to be his mother’s recipe so that is what I made:

The recipe is so easy: boil up some macaroni - and spread one-third of it in the bottom of a baking dish (I used to use a bean pot that worked really well). Then add a layer of sliced cheddar cheese, then more mac, another layer of cheese, rest of the macaroni and the rest of the cheese. Pour over one cup of milk. I added salt, pepper and dry mustard to the milk. Cover and bake at 350F for forty minutes, remove cover and bake another 30 minutes to get that nice cheesy crust on top. We refry the leftovers for another meal with a salad. It’s a recipe that you can adapt to your own tastes but we stay with the original family recipe.

Now, moving on to the wearing of face masks during these trying times. You absolutely must wear one when out in public. Thankfully, I am seeing more and more people wearing them around our town and those that do not are becoming less and less visible. We have both plastic shields and fabric masks. My black mask is pretty boring - I was thinking of painting toucans on it but then wasn’t sure about washing it after it had acrylic paint applied. So I came up with the idea of putting pins on it:

So right now, I have on my mask a Canadian flag pin and an art deco horse pin that I found at an antique store. I’m going to switch things around with Canadian Coast Guard pins, an B-1 bomber pin and whatever else I have in stock.

Saturday, June 20, 2020

Covid-19, Costa Rica, and Other Musings

As of today - June 20, 2020 - the number of new cases of Covid-19 has risen to 69. The government immediately suspended the third phase reopening plans and we are now following restrictions that were implemented during Semana Santa (Easter Sunday). You can read about it in this issue of the Tico Times.

For us, our life goes on as normal. We just need to be aware of what days we cannot drive (Fridays and Sundays) and where we can drive to on other days. We are impressed with how Costa Rica has been and is handling this epidemic.

This past week, I had to pick up my prescriptions at our hospital’s farmacia (pharmacy). There was quite a long lineup leading from the entrance to the street and down along the sidewalk. Everyone observed distancing and most people were wearing masks. It was slow moving and I must have shuffled along for an hour. Nearing the entrance, the hospital employee who was keeping everyone in check and in the right lines asked me if I was over 65. Since I am, he wanted to move me to the Old Folks and Other Deserving Conditions lineup. I didn’t really want to move as my lineup was moving faster.

Well, as is often the case here, a Costa Rican decided to be my guardian. He patted me on the shoulder and moved me to the new lineup whether I wanted to be there or not! He let me go ahead of him - Costa Ricans are very polite, like Canadians (haha).  I apologized for my Spanish but we still managed a conversation of sorts. Yes, I live in Grecia in the Puente de Piedra area. He lives in the San Isidro area. I’m a Canadian. He drives a motorcycle. He yelled out to his friends in other lineups, “Poor English”! They all laughed. I thanked him for his help when I was leaving with my prescriptions. It is these day to day unexpected interactions with Costa Ricans that really enrich our living experience here.

On one of my Facebook Costa Rican expat groups, there was a discussion of how Covid-19 and isolation practices have seriously impacted some people’s lives. The people who are very outgoing seem to be hit the hardest. They are used to meeting friends, going to dances, socializing, meeting at restaurants and they understandably miss this.

Today (Saturday) has been overcast with some rain. Our Cat knows how to deal with it:

So, everyone, stay safe - wear your masks, practice social distancing and take good care of you and yours.

Sunday, June 7, 2020

Eyes on Costa Rica and Weather Records - May 2020

During May, visits to this blog were received from the following 25 countries*:

The total number of countries from which visits have been received has risen to 130, the most recent being Suriname identified above. The source of the one visit from that country was Paramaribo (the capital city).

The number of countries for the month of May 2020 (25) is surprisingly high. In 2019, the number for May was 14.

* In this blog, I use the word "country" or "countries" rather loosely. For example, Hong Kong identified above is not an independent country. It is a special administrative region (SAR) of China.

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

The rainy or "green" season has now ramped up - several days with at least some rain and one day with a deluge accompanied by severe lightning and thunder. Not untypically, that day began with a nice morning (broken clouds, light breezes) which continued until early afternoon. Then the skies darkened and the deluge began. More than 2 inches (2.5 centimeters) fell in the first hour, followed by an ongoing drizzle which lasted for a couple of hours.

Increased cloud cover in May led to daytime high temperatures being generally lower than those in April and overnight low temperatures being generally higher than those in April.

Sunday, May 31, 2020

May 31, 2020 - Nine Years in Costa Rica!

From this (2007) in Cloverdale, British Columbia, Canada:

To this (2011) - Playa Doña Ana, Alajuela, Costa Rica:

Which location would you choose?

On May 31, 2011, we arrived in Costa Rica. I was working on this crossword puzzle on the airplane and kept it as a souvenir.

We have lived here for nine years and have never regretted our decision to move to Costa Rica. We’ve made lots of friends, both Costa Rican and expats from all over the world. Everything is so good - the weather, the Costa Ricans, the beauty of the countryside - my list would be endless.

To move to a foreign country sight unseen is a challenge, but a good one. We have learned so much - although our Spanish is, shall we say, una pequeña cantidad de español. But we try which is what counts. We did a lot of on line research once we decided to take this leap in life. And joined many, many expat groups. We recently received our permanent residency status.

Don’t live your life in a rut!