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Sunday, July 31, 2011

Two Month Anniversary!!

It was May 31, 2011, that we flew from San Francisco to San Jose, CR, via Dallas. We left Vancouver, B.C., on May 27th, riding the rails on Amtrak's Cascades and Coast Starlight trains. This is a train trip well worth doing.

Our cat Genny was shipped from her vet, Cats at Home, in Cloverdale, B.C., flying from Vancouver to Houston, TX, where she overnighted in feline luxury, and completed her voyage the next morning, flying to San Jose, then being met there and delivered to Veteinarios Asociados in Santa Ana, where she boarded until we picked her up once we finished our business in San Jose and moved to Atenas. Many, many thanks to Angela and her wonderful crew at World Pet Travel for taking such good care of Genny. And thank you wonderful people at Cats at Home for preparing Genny for her trip. Also thanks to the staff at Veteinarios Asociados for caring for Genny after her arrival. She has adapted and settled into her new home and country very well.

What do we think of our new home? It is everything we thought it would be - Costa Rica is a beautiful country - and we have barely scratched the surface. We found a lovely home to live in for the next year; we explored San Jose for a week and it's such an interesting city, very historic. We are learning our way around on the buses - cheap transportation and a great way to meet the locals and do what they do. We are enjoying the town of Atenas, meeting our great neighbors, eating at the sodas, trying to speak Spanish, the weather is amazing, so is the bird, plant and animal life .......

To sum up, we are very happy with our decision to try a new life in Costa Rica.

Oh yes, a big thank you to all the expats who have helped us on this journey - you know who you are and we won't forget you.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Pizza Delivery

Tonight I tried to order a pizza for home delivery from a pizza place in Atenas that advertises delivery. Well, that went nowhere fast.

They didn't understand me, I didn't understand them - it was a disaster.

So we ended up eating crackers with sliced tomatoes and cheese - not a bad meal actually and perhaps healthier than pizza with the works. For dessert, we had lime sherbet that I made with our own limes.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Daily Life in Atenas

We're back to normal green season weather....rain or the threat of it some time during the day, or at night. Last night we listened to a symphony of hard tropical downpour and thunder, accompanied by a light show in the sky. Poor Genny heads for her storm cupboard at the first clap of thunder.

Since we are ex-West Coasters, we don't mind the rain, fog or cooler temperatures when they occur. I would have to say that since we arrived May 31st, we have enjoyed a lot of sun and higher temperatures. It will be interesting to see what October brings, as that is supposed to be the rainest month. We also have the dry season to look forward to come November.

It is said that if you don't like the weather where you live in Costa Rica, move up or down 100 feet and experience something different.

I'm now able to call the taxi - we use Jorge Calderon - I think he gets a good laugh out of my broken, awful Spanish and he always helps us with pronouncing words.

We have so many limes on our tree. They are semi-sweet and turn yellow as they mature and that is when they are super juicy. Fran Browne from sent me a no-fail recipe for making key lime pie. I bought all the ingredients today, except for the graham crumb crust. I'll have another look for graham crackers next week. That tree ain't goin' nowhere.

We had breakfast today at Kay's Gringo Postres - we always meet new people there. I borrowed two books from their library and enjoyed one of the best breakfast BLT's I've ever had. What a great place to share information - we found out where the best butcher shop is, where to find 40 watt bulbs for our bathroom light over the mirror, who does what and where.

 No street addresses though - everything is "200 metres up the road from ... just around the corner and head north from ... you know where that shop is, well turn left and go one block ... if you know where the candy shop is across from the park, well the pharmacy you want is right next to that ....". As someone who got lost driving from Harrod's in Reno, Nevada,  to a mall 10 minutes away and ended up in California, you can see how this is difficult for me. We keep a small compass out on the patio table so I at least know what direction north is.

We needed to buy Genny her special Hills prescription diet k/d feline renal health kibble (what a mouthful) and I thought we'd have to go out of town to find it. But, no, we found it at Medico Veterinario - directions: 50 metres west of the Supermercado Pali in Atenas. They have two resident cats and I think this will be a very good place to take Genny if she needs attention. Cats here seem to look a lot different than North American kitties - they are smaller and in really good shape.

Having big trouble with wasps and our hummingbird feeder - the wasps swarm around the feeder so much that the hummers can't feed. I need to find a different feeder - the kind that the wasps can't feed off.

Today was the feria in Atenas - I bought strawberries, green onions (huge), a big bunch of cilantro with the roots still attached which I will now try to plant, and red peppers. A special surprise was a craft fair and we took pictures of the young dancers:

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Doctors and Coffee

I have a need to see a doctor every ninety days so the time had come to find myself a family doctor in Atenas. In Vancouver, when my long time family doctor retired (and he was unable to sell his practice), it was impossible to find a replacement. Family doctors have gone the way of the dodo, unfortunately. I had to use a walk-in clinic - the doctors were great but how I hated the waits! "Come back in three hours!" and wait some more, "No, we don't make appointments".

To find a doctor in Atenas, I consulted the "Atenas Today" yellow pages and saw an ad for Linea Vital de CR. Phoned their office this morning, got an appointment for 11:00 am, and met Dr. Noguera promptly at 11:00!!

She is really nice. She spent quite a bit of time talking with the pharmacist, trying to find a substitute for a couple of my meds, was successful and I have my prescriptions in hand. I think I even know where this particular pharmacist is ... across from the central park. Cost of my doctor visit today: $40 US.

Coffee: I bought 8.8 oz. of Ateneo ground coffee produced by Coopeatenas R.L. at the SuperMercado today. The aroma is bursting through the bag. Cost: $2.50 CAD!! Can't wait to try it tomorrow morning. Coffee grown, picked, roasted and ground in the very area we live in - unbelievable.

Saturday, July 16, 2011


This morning, we saw a mot mot in our lime tree. Unbelievably beautiful. It's long tail is amazing. Of course, by the time I ran in and got my camera, it had flown away. Apparently it eats insects, lizards and fruit so I cut several limes in half and impaled them on some branches but all that has attracted is wasps.

Our hummingbird feeder has attracted what I think are rufous-tailed hummers. One of them is particularly aggressive and drives off the others.

We also have the national bird, the clay-colored robin, a great kiskadee, and rufous-naped wrens, which are the biggest wrens I've ever seen.

And, here's a photo I took of an ant hill in our backyard, the likes of which I have never seen before!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Out and About On My Own

Today I decided to walk into Atenas by myself. Ach, my feet! I really must buy proper runners.

Moving at the same pace I used on the treadmills when I was going to the gym every day in Cloverdale, I made it to the SuperMercado in about 45 minutes. Bear in mind that my shoes were crappy, the sidewalks are (a) broken, (b) non-existent, (c) covered in fallen ripe fruit, (d) chickens were walking on them, and (e) my absolute favorite - a caballista on a grey Paso Fino trotting up the same narrow sidewalk I was trotting down. I stood aside to let him pass, because that horse was kind of nervous looking and sweating but he steadied it to a standstill and waved me to pass.

I made it past without a kick to the noggin and continued on. Got distracted looking back at that horse and trying to count the beats of it's hooves on the sidewalk. There is something about the Paso Fino's movements that are very precise. I wonder if there is some hackney horse breeding in there.

Got my shopping done, checked out the CoopeAtenas coffee for sale and then hailed a taxi home -- where I soon realized I hadn't kept aside enough small colon bills to pay the taxi driver. A shout to Lance to bring me out some coins and I soon had enough to pay the driver.

Then we realized I had taken the house and fence keys with me, so Lance was essentially locked into the property unless he wanted to wade through the barbed wire fence. Oh well, it all worked out. But next time I must remember to bring our phone number with me in case I get into trouble somewhere.

You know what? My walk today beat any 30 minutes on any treadmill anywhere - the weather was perfect, the scenery was incredible, animals and birds everywhere - and I'm not paying gym fees!!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Bus to Alajuela

On Monday, we boarded the 9:00 a.m. Atenas to Alajuela bus. I still get a kick out of the window curtains - great for blocking the sun. All the windows were open and a cool breeze blew in for the entire trip, which took about 30 minutes.

Lots of hill climbing and twisty roads with steep drop-offs. Incredible views. Another thing I like about the Costa Rican bus system is that you can bring food and drinks on board. In fact, on our San Jose trip a fellow boarded selling cold pop and water and we were happy to see him. When I think back to the Lower Mainland transit system and all their rules and regulations - phooey! If the bus driver feels like it, he might have a Costa Rican radio station playing on the sound system.

The bus station in Alajuela is a large dirt field where most of the buses park. Depending on which bus you want to catch, you might board at the station or out in the field. Nice small market area as you walk into town, which takes about three minutes. We stayed in Alajuela about four hours, which included getting lost and asking directions in the police station, having lunch, and shopping at Torre del Lobo. Bought a couple of shirts for Lance but could find no shorts for me. Also bought four towels which I think are duds because they don't absorb water very well and keep pilling up even after being washed. Made in China - should have known the quality would be poor.

As everyone who lives in, or has visited, Costa Rica knows - there are no street signs! Navigation is by landmarks. Okay if you live in the town, but not so good if you are visiting. There is always a central park and a church in every town to use as your GPS.

Found a large department type clothing store - two stories - filled with clothes for everyone. Forgot to write down the name. Really needed more time to look at everything so came out empty handed.

We were very fortunate in showing up at the bus depot about 5 minutes before the Atenas bus left - weren't sure of the schedule or even the time - so we lucked out. It started raining on the way home and people started closing the windows - it got quite humid and hot inside the bus.

This morning we went into Atenas nice and early. Had breakfast at the Tres Hermanas soda ("Three Sisters"). Excellent place to eat and you can watch the world go by out on the street. Cost of breakfast for two: 5125 colones, or $9.75 CAD. For that price, we got two plates of rice and black beans, scrambled eggs with ham, corn tortillas and two big mugs of really good coffee.

After breakfast, we crossed the street to a bakery. You can smell the fresh baked goods all over Atenas in the mornings. Bought a loaf of bread and four pastries for the grand total of 1300 CRC or $2.47 CAD. Eight fresh eggs, probably laid yesterday from hens who get to run free, set us back 735 CRC or $1.40 CAD. So I suppose a dozen eggs would cost about $2.10. These eggs are terrific. The shells are really hard and the yolks are very yellow.

Here is a photo I took the other day on the road that runs outside our house of a hen in a corn field.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Exercising and Exploring Atenas

This morning we decided to walk to Atenas. It's about a 2 mile trek and, since it was overcast, good walking weather. An added plus is that it is all downhill - coming back would make me cranky if we were walking and Lance wouldn't be happy either - it would have warmed up too much for comfortable walking, especially carrying groceries. So we took a taxi home - so very reasonably priced.

I need to buy new running shoes. The ones I wore daily to the gym in Cloverdale were worn out so I didn't bother bringing them. If we are going to continue walking around here, we need the right footwear.

So we started off early and walking is the best way to see the neighbourhood. We said hola and buenos to all the Tico neighbors we passed, farm trucks were going up and down the highway, there were beautiful vistas to see, fat hens were pecking away in the yards and grass .... the two miles went fast.

If we had not been walking, we never would have found Soda y Cevichera Tita in Atenas. We were hungry and it looked interesting, so in we went. It is quite a large soda, part of which is filled with tropical plants and orchids. Local art on the walls, nice big kitchen, take out area.

Of course the menus are in Spanish. We could recognize some of the items. We know what casados are, so we each ordered the small size of pescado casados - we just didn't know what "pescado" means. Turns out it means fried fish and it was so good. I imagine the fish was tilapia since it is very common here. Came with two corn tortillas. I also ordered one of the cold, fresh fruit drinks (refrescos) which I've come to love.

It was a great breakfast, totally different. We wrote down the names of some of the other menu selections and translated them on line, so we can order something different next time. "Cevichera" in the restaurant's name refers to seafood marinated in lime juice and I definitely want to try that.

When we were in San Jose earlier this week, we ordered huevos maduro natilla which I thought was going to be like huevos rancheros but it was completely different. Lance didn't like the sauce much but at least we tried something different again.

We also discovered a barber shop today in Atenas. Since Lance will need a haircut soon, he is going to look up "number 3" on line and see if Costa Rican barbers will recognize that. I need a cut too and Magda gave me the name of a stylist in town so I will try her.

Earlier this week, by walking around the side streets, we discovered a dollar store so bought clothes pegs, a small garbage can to put Genny's used litter in, some juice glasses, etc. Also went into a vet's office - they have this crazy resident kitty living there. He was nuts, wrapped himself around my neck and purred and purred. They also sold garden supplies so I bought a hummingbird feeder and some tomato seeds.

We have found that you cannot "judge a book by it's cover" in Costa Rica. Some of the most unassuming store fronts harbour treasures inside....and if you don't explore, don't walk in the doors, you will never know what you are missing.

Friday, July 8, 2011

On The Buses - for the first time

This week, for the first time, we rode the Costa Rican buses. We needed to go to San Jose so we went into Atenas in the morning to the bus depot. Everyone here is always so helpful - the ticket vender guy told us to go across the street, which we did, and there was our bus ready to go.

The fare was less than $2.00 CAD each (and bear in mind that the bus fare from one end of this country to the other is less than $12.00 CAD). The bus was very comfortable, big plush seats, windows you can open for the air - and it was just over an hour's drive to San Jose.

We got off the bus in San Jose, dealt with our business there, had lunch, and found our way back to the Coca Cola terminal and hopped on our bus back to Atenas.

Same great bus trip back - the scenery is lovely.

Then, later this same week, we decided to take the bus into Atenas. That involved walking down to Highway 3, then walking to the nearest bus stop - it was all downhill, good. On the way, we saw a lady knocking fruit from a tree - turns out they were soursops - and she offered me some - they are really good to eat raw and also to make into fruit drinks.

We had no idea when the bus would pass by - one hour later we were still waiting. But it finally showed up and five minutes later we were in Atenas.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Settling In

Our move went smoothly. Magda ordered a large vehicle taxi for us and it arrived promptly at 9:00 am. We were at our new casa in about 15 minutes.

Genny has become an excellent traveller. She settled in pretty fast, exploring around the house. Today, our second day here, she behaves as if she has lived here forever. Because there are so many windows in the house, the constant stream of hummingbirds and butterflies going by really gets her attention.

We had hardly been in the house for more than a couple of hours when a fishmonger stopped at our gate and we bought a bag of truly large prawns from him. We suspect we paid too much, being gringos with terribly poor Spanish skills, but this is how we learn. Next up was the census taking folk, then a nice fellow offering his services as a gardener and handyman.

I have to get Jose, the gardener, to come soon. The grass is too high and the bushes need to be cut back. Also there are a lot of fallen palm fronds. Everything will be shipshape soon.

So nice to completely unpack our six large suitcases. Did a couple of loads of laundry yesterday and today. The washing machine certainly is unique. The spin cycle works so well the clothes are almost dry when they come out and finish drying fast in the sun. Lance is enjoying the satellite TV and there is a CD player plus movies available for us, and I found a stash of pocket books.

Got the stove working - turns out it was just one of the circuit breakers ... "on" actually means "off" and vice versa. Cooked some of Magda's hen eggs today - nice and yellow and the shells are super hard.

There is a bush outside the front windows with flowers that attract the most colorful butterflies and a beautiful blackish hummingbird - I haven't been able to ID it yet. Discovered a hot pepper bush and of course there are the mango, lime and orange trees.

That hammock is calling my name. Enough work for today. Here are some photos.

On the road again.

Partial view of living room. I'm going to retake photos of the inside - I should have used the backlight function.

Guest bedroom.

Washing machine instructions. Once you get the hang of it, it's really easy to use.

Washer on left, spinner on right.

Patio area, my hammock and the orange tree.

Tons of fresh and very juicy oranges.

Mango tree - it's huge. 

Our gate and casa.

Genny has chosen her chair.

Red peppers.