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Friday, August 26, 2011

Licensed to Thrill, or Kill, While Driving in San Jose

Today we went to get our Costa Rica drivers' licenses. This involves the following steps:

1. Call Jorge Calderon our taxi driver in time to get us to the 0800 bus from Atenas to San Jose.
2. Arrive in time to board bus.
3. Bus is kind of late into San Jose due to this and that.
4. Arrive in San Jose with about one half hour to have breakfast at the soda near Casa Canada that we always frequent. Gulp down breakfast and head over to our lawyer at Casa Canada.
5. Where we meet with our lawyer's assistant.
6. Who takes us to a Banco Costa Rica, to withdraw colones to pay for what comes up next.
7. Hail a taxi and go to the doctor's office.
8. Where we have blood drawn to determine our blood types, eye exam, blood pressure check and then on to the next step.
9. The drivers' license office - where we are put into a foreigner's line-up (well, you get to sit in chairs), which didn't seem to move very fast. Eventually we are all sent upstairs. In the meantime, we have been admiring the extremely high heels the Ticas wear as they traipse back and forth.
10. Once upstairs, you wait to be called to the Scary Lady's desk (in all fairness, it appears she had a really bad headache today).
11. I made Lance go ahead of me to see what I might expect. She looked at his passport and counted the months since we arrived here - so close to the 90 days when you have to get out of the country. We were under the wire but Lance got the wagging finger from Scary Lady.
12. Lance disappeared into the next office room. And I got called to the Scary Lady. No problem. Then I went into the next room.
13. Stamp, stamp, stamp documents - then we both leave with instructions to go to the bank and pay another fee.
14. Thank goodness for our lawyer's assistant - he was waiting for us, led us to the bank, we pay a fee at the special teller's office.
15. Back to the license office - present our bank fee paper - get our picture taken - wait outside - they call your name - pick up license with hideous photo of self.
16. That's it!!! We are both licensed to drive Heavy Vans, but not motorcycles or taxis.
17. Get taxi back to Casa Canada, meet with our lawyer, and pay him his fee. Shake hands, pick up our copies of Comprobante Requisitos (Certificate of Presentation) and we are good to go and we don't have to leave this country next week. It will probably take a year to get our pensionado status.
18. Take taxi back to Coca Cola bus station, board Atenas bus, arrive Atenas, get cab home.
19. Relax.
20. Best advice to other Canadians wanting to immigrate to Costa Rica: get a Costa Rica lawyer. You are wasting your time and money if you don't do this.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Banana Nana Bo Bana

Well, I did it - I figured out how to cut down that bunch of bananas I found on one of our banana trees.

Step 1: Tie pruning saw to end of extension pole used to clean ceiling fans.

Step 2: Extend pole and cut off banana bunch.
Step 3: Gloat.
Step 4: Hang bunch.....although I'm kind of thinking I cut this bunch too soon. Still, something has been stealing and eating them - I could see where the bananas have been cut off. Possums?

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Bus to Escazu

Well, that was easy. Get the Atenas bus to San Jose, get off near Casa Canada, walk a few blocks to the Parque de San Francisco de Mata and wait for a bus that says Escazu Multiplaza. Ten or maybe fifteen minutes later, we were there.

The Multiplaza is huge and this is where I'll go when I want to get a fix of North American style shopping. We got there before it opened, so hung around until it did then had breakfast at one of the many food court type eateries.

I was looking for shorts and shoes but didn't find any on this trip - think I'll have to return on my own to clothes shop. It's not really fair to drag a husband around looking at clothes although Lance was very patient.

We did find a bookstore and I finally got a birding book, a great little cookbook with Costa Rican recipes and a super cool oven timer in the shape of a hamburger.

We didn't take the bus back to San Jose because we had to stop at Office Depot and Aerocasillas first so we hailed a taxi.  I'm so sorry we neglected to get our driver's card because he was great. His English was good because his ex-girlfriend was a Canadian from Ontario and he picked up some English from her, then took courses. Puts us to shame not having started more Spanish lessons yet.

He helped us with Spanish words, places to visit in his wonderful country, asked us about Canada - I love this type of interaction - and when he asked me what I thought of his country, I had only words of praise.

We were dropped off at the Coca Cola bus station and our bus was waiting to load. San Jose is so vibrant - I really like it. Couldn't live there, but love to visit. The guy who boards the bus to sell chips, pop and water recognizes us now and brings us two bottles of aqua.

It was pouring rain by the time we arrived in Atenas but Lance had warned me to bring an umbrella, so we were fine - except I was wearing flipflops so my feet were soaked. But the rain is warm, so who cares.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Mothers' Day in Costa Rica

Monday, August 15, is Mothers' Day here in Costa Rica. I was aware that the date was different from ours in Canada (the second Sunday in May). It's a big holiday here - Dia de la Madre, Feast of the Assumption-Mothers' Day - and is a national bank, school and business holiday.

We were grocery shopping at the Supermercado Coopeatenas this morning and had much more than 10 items to run through a till. However, the very nice fellow at the 10 or less till waved us over anyway. When he got close to ringing up our purchases, he asked me in Spanish if I understood Spanish, to which I replied "poco" (a bit, ha! and that's an exaggeration), and then I thought he asked if I knew tomorrow was Mothers' Day and I proudly said "Si"!

At that response, another fellow stepped up and handed me a lovely bouquet of flowers - apparently the actual question asked was "are you a mother?" and I said yes. Well, I'm not a mother but I have a mother ... so does that count? At least I was listening to what I was being asked and trying to understand what I was hearing.

Anyway, mother or not, I am so impressed that a grocery store was making this effort to honor the mothers that live in Atenas and area. I don't know how many grocery stores in Canada do this sort of thing. Here is a picture of the bouquet I was given - and the rose smells so nice.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Freaky Giant Killer Toads

Okay, nature doesn't often throw me for a loop - I'm used to horses that step on our feet on purpose, or deliberately crush us against the stable walls just for fun. Dogs don't bite me, cats generally don't claw me, butterflies will land on my hand, cattle like me.

But the cane toads here are really scary! We already knew about the danger they pose to domestic pets - they secrete a poison that can kill an animal. One of our neighbors lost one of their three terriers to a cane toad and I've been warned about them by other Costa Rican friends.

As soon as the sun starts to set here, Genny is brought inside. She was staring intently at something near the fence line just before sunset today. I walked down to the fence and there was this giant toad sitting there. We scooped Genny up right away and brought her in, shut the doors. A few minutes later, Genny ran to the patio door meowing - looked out and that same giant cane toad was looking in at us!

He has shoulders as big as a linebacker's. He is like something out of those old time radio shows that freak me out - "X Minus 1".

So now I'm on edge thinking about those big toad eyes and the loud electrical storm we had this afternoon. I'm just going to go check the doors .....

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

This Week In Review - Even Though It's Only Tuesday

Genny caught a bird this morning - the first critter she has ever caught in her eleven years. I didn't see exactly how it happened but there she was with a pile of feathers in her mouth which she then spit out. The bird flew away, thank goodness - we sure hope it didn't have mortal wounds. She is also stalking lizards and I need to find out if any of them are poisonous.

She adores being outside - but of course it's under our strict supervision. Her Costa Rica routine is going out first thing in the morning, coming in for breakfast, going out again until around noon. Then she sleeps the afternoon away in her cupboard and goes out again for a bit before the sun sets at six p.m. It seems I spend a lot of morning hours outside in my beach chair - reading and cat sitting.

Today, I made Fran Browne's fabulous key lime pie - we've eaten half of it already. I finally found graham crackers at the Super Mercado. I love our horno (stove) - it's an Atlas with three burners and a small oven with four settings - medio (warm), dorar (grill), hornear (bake) and maximo (high). I have no idea what the oven temperature might be on any of these settings but it cooked the pie just fine at the hornear setting.

Here's how we handle our garbage - put it out in this above-ground metal box and it gets picked up twice a week. I think the raised boxes are a great idea - animals can't get at it. Every house has one of these out front.

And, here is how we get our hot water - instant heating, no hot water tank. Why pay to heat a hot water tank 24 hours a day ... I don't know why these units aren't more popular in North America.  We can take hot showers for as long as we want....never run out. We have hot water in the bathroom and the kitchen. This particular unit is about a foot and a half high.

On Sunday, we spent a lovely day with two new friends from Maryland. They'll be moving down here permanently in a  couple of years and are scoping out different areas where they might want to live.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Some Great Things About Costa Rica

  • Clean tropical sun and wind dried laundry fresh off the line.
  • Bougainvillea bushes - non-stop blooms and great security hedge - thorny like roses and they grow sky high.
  • Free orchids - they are growing on our trees and there is also an orchid plant growing out of the lawn that is about four feet high and in bloom right now.
  • Good vodka - bought a 2.1 litre bottle for $15 CAD yesterday. I don't know what that might cost in Ontario but I do know that it would cost about $70 CAD in British Columbia. Meanwhile, although he seems to be successfully abandoning the habit, Lance can get his ciggies for about $2 CAD a pack, as opposed to $10/pack in Canada.
  • Fresh pineapples.
  • Pineapple juice to mix with the vodka - recipe courtesy of Julie. I made this yesterday and it is so good and nice to know I'm not wasting anything. 
  • Tomatoes from the feria. 
  • Tomato seeds from a local tomato thrown into the ground that sprout in less than a week and grow like crazy.
  • Delicious, inexpensive meals from the local sodas.
  • Walking on the cool tiles in the house in bare feet.
  • The afternoon rain and thunder in the green season.
  • Parrots, hummingbirds and birds we've never seen before.
  • House geckos.
  • Irex dishwashing paste.
  • My favorite brand: "Bimbo".
  • Beautiful insects - incredible colors and shapes.

Monday, August 1, 2011

We're In!!

Just received confirmation from our lawyer in San Jose that we have our receipt of presentation and we don't have to exit the country at the end of August. So now we just wait for the next step - our cedulas or ID cards.

And, we need to get our Costa Rica driver's licenses this month. Our lawyer in San Jose will arrange this for us.