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Monday, October 31, 2011

Atenas Taxi Drivers Are The Best!

Look what Mario, one of our taxi drivers, left at our gate today:

Banano, papaya y pina
(I am sorry - I have a Spanish keyboard but haven't figured out how to do the accent over the letter "n" in pina)

All local, all picked today. I love papaya - when it is ripe you can spread it on hot toast like it was jam. I also love this food trading that goes on in Costa Rica and so I'll have a bag of our oranges ready for Mario and his taxi driving partner Jorge.

While I'm on the subject of Atenas' taxi drivers, I was in Atenas today getting groceries, was ready to go home and got into a cab whose driver seemed to know me but I sure didn't recognize him. He knew where we lived and finally he said, "Diego" - it was the Diego of the lovely curly locks and he looked totally different! He had shaved off every bit of hair on his head. Not just a close cut number 3, but a harsh shave. If my Spanish was better, I would have loved to ask him what his momma and girlfriend thought of that.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Bleach - A Costa Rican's Best Friend

Here in Atenas, we have been experiencing the October green season for about the last two weeks. Rain and lots of it - torrential at times - and for most of the days. My tomatoes are kaput I think but I'll just start new ones in a couple of weeks.

Doing laundry was a challenge. I have a washer, but no dryer. Because of the cost of electricity, not many people have dryers. Why bother when most of the time you can use the power of sun and wind to quickly dry clothes. The spinner on my washer really removes a lot of the rinse water.

I would hold off doing a wash until it looked like the day might give me an hour or so in the morning when I could hang clothes on the line. But they never really dried fully and so I would resort to this:

This worked not too bad. We have an area at one side of the house where a few wash lines are set up and protected under the very wide eaves but the damp air prevents much drying.

When I do washing, I always use bleach as it kills mould spores as does using cold water. We also keep a spray bottle filled with a diluted bleach mixture to use when cleaning the shower.

Got a bit of a shock the other day when I was going through clothing hanging in the closet - pulled out two suit jackets (one mine, one Lance's) and they had mould on them. We couldn't save Lance's so out it went. Mine wasn't as bad so I hung it outside and brushed the mould off. Then I let it hang in the sun and wind to kill the spores. Before sealing it up in a plastic storage bag, I'll go over the jacket with white vinegar. This closet has air vents to the outside but we still have to check our clothes frequently - live and learn.

Also discovered mould on some stored briefcases and purses. Cleaned them up and they are now in sealed storage bags - the kind you suck the air out of. We also need to get some products called Damp Rid and Dry Out for the closets and storage areas.

This is all part of living in the tropics - once you learn what to do, there is no problem. I would say it beats shovelling snow any day. Besides, the weather has been fabulous the last few days so I've done all my laundry and every bit of it is dry!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Another Tuffy Update

For those of you who may not have been following my Costa Rica blog since I started it (about a year ago), Tuffy is a stray cat who appeared in our Cloverdale, B.C.,  home backyard. We thought Tuffy was a female and also a fighter -  she had scars on her head and one broken fang. Somehow, this cat wormed her way into our home, aligning herself with our cat, Genny (I think cats are expert at this). I was only hoping she was not carrying kittens along with herself.

We all got attached to her - a lot. I tried to find out who her owners might be - delivering bulletins to over 100 of our neighbors, no response. We had her ear tattoo checked out at our vet but it didn't lead anywhere.

When it came time for us to move to Costa Rica, we knew we were bringing Genny with us but to bring another cat was out of the question. Tuffy's next move was going to be to a cat shelter.

To the rescue: my fantastic niece and her equally fantastic husband in Toronto, Ontario! Tuffy flew Air Canada direct from Vancouver International Airport to Toronto International and met her new family, niece, nephew-in-law, great nephew twin boys, and the very lovely resident cat, Rocky (aka Rockstar).

A quick health checkup trip to the vet revealed the surprising news: Tuffy was a neutered male! So I guess we need to review those wall charts showing how the sexes differ. Six months on, Tuffy is living the life of, well, Tuffy ... and here is a very recent photo of The Tuffy living la pura vida in Toronto.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Excellent Restaurants and Service in Atenas

Saturday night we dined at Pizzeria Alida's with our friends Diane and John. I couldn't find a web site for them that I could link to, but it is on highway 3, past the blinking orange traffic light, on the east side of the highway. You can Google the restaurant name and read all the reviews.

They advertise when they are open by placing empty wine bottles on a table at the entrance to the longish driveway which leads up to the restaurant. The grounds have lots of native trees and plants. The restaurant is designed in the usual style here - open sided so you can sit and enjoy a sunset, mist over the mountains or, in our case, torrential rain.

Service was excellent and we were made to feel very welcome. Tables are covered in linen cloths with linen serviettes. The dining room is large with a brick pizza oven in one corner. You can watch the pizza crusts being made and spun around in the chef's hands. All pizzas are thin crust, my favorite. There are other Italian items on the menu but pizza was what we all wanted. They also have a very good wine list.

Here is what we got for $20 CAD per person: two different large pizzas (large enough that we had take-home boxes), two appetizers and two bottles of wine. We shared it all amongst us. Everything was excellent. We were even served complimentary liqueurs at the end of dinner. Water glasses had lime slices on the rims and the straws wore little paper covers at the sipping end.

I can't imagine paying only $20 per person in Canada for the kind of meal we enjoyed that night. The cost would have been much more. I would go back here any time. We have a lot more pizza selections to work our way through.

We also met some Texans who were vacationing here and staying up at Picaflora, where the power had been out all day and they couldn't cook at home so they went out to eat. Apparently there are lots of Texans who come down here to live or to vacation. It's not a very long flight from Dallas and Houston is shorter still.

Then, on the following day (Sunday) we went into Atenas looking for a breakfast spot and decided on the Soda Las Tres Hermanas in Atenas Centro. We've had breakfast there before but what we didn't know was that they serve a kind of buffet on Sunday. This is a very small soda and the food is just great.  They offer a selection of gallo pinto, omelettes, what I thought was scrambled eggs but turned out to be potato salad, pork chops, carrots ..... hmmm, what else did I see ... oh yes, salad, chicken breast and more. We loaded up our plates and the final tally was 4000 colones or $8.00 CAD - for both of us!!!! That also included two excellent coffees and a ginger ale.

There are three tables inside, a few stools at the counters both inside and out. The kitchen is small but those ladies hustle around and produce such good food. The place was bustling all the time we were there.

Oh yes, Mario Castro was our taxi driver (tel: 8911-08-18) who, along with Jorge Calderon (tel: 8743-08-06), operate their taxi from 4 am to 9 pm every day. They are the best - if either of them cannot pick us up, they phone someone who will. The gates to the restaurant grounds were closed when we arrived and Mario phoned his dispatcher who phoned the restaurant to send someone down the lane to open the gate. Now what taxi service in Canada would do that?

Amazing - this country is amazing!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Singin' In The Rain

Not singing exactly - more like "wow! amazing!" We are finally getting our first taste of the true green season in Costa Rica. Up to now, we've been wondering where all the rain was that everyone talks about.

From June to last week, it was nothing but sunshine, high temperatures and afternoon thunderstorms with  periods of rain.

Now, it has been raining almost non-stop for about four days. If it's not a fine mist, it's torrential downpours. Maximum temperatures in the last 24 hours have been 75.7F and minimum 67.5F.  We needed the quilt on our bed last night - I've been wondering why a quilt was stored in our closet (rental house, fully furnished).

Power outages are occurring more often too - we cancelled a restaurant pizza meal the other night because the power went out and we could not call for a taxi on the house phone. Why don't we have cell phones? It's something we have to look into - but I think you cannot get one unless you have residency.

We've been curious as to why this big cement hole was right outside the back door:

With all this rain, we now know it is a drain to syphon off rain water that comes down from the back of the property, which is at a higher elevation than the house. The street gutters are huge - deep and very wide and it sounds like we have a river running beside our house. Torrents of rain are flowing down the street.

The higher elevation of the back of the property, where the banana trees are, has also been designed to control water flow with berms, thereby directing water flow out into the street gutters. It's really impressive how everything has been carefully thought out.

Soggy Acres

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Cucarachas!! Cucarachas!! la la la la la la la

Yes, it was only a matter of time before we saw cucarachas in the house - this is the tropics, after all. But I was feeling pretty smug that four months had gone by without a sighting. I'm very careful to sweep the floors every day, keep the counters clean, and make sure all food products are sealed and covered.

Until last week, when I got up in the middle of the night to get some juice from the fridge .... turned on the kitchen light and there they were. Huge. Four of them - on the counters and the floor.

Next day we bought a can of cockroach spray and started spraying in the kitchen. Seems they were living under the refrigerator as that's where they came running out of. There were more than four of course. Since then, haven't seen any more but we'll keep a close watch and spray routinely.

Apparently, these cockroaches can also fly! Ugh. I think tropical cockroaches are much larger than their northern brethren. I remember the ones I saw in Jamaica were huge also.

Anyway, insects are a fact of life here - they do good things for the environment. But cucarachas boarding with us? NO!!!

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Costa Rica Musings

This is normally the rainy season in Costa Rica, especially September and October, but this year has apparently been very dry. Coming from the Pacific Northwest, we've been waiting for all the rain to fall, but it hasn't happened - at least not to the level we were used to.

My experimental tomato crop is a success, so far - some of the plants are already producing small green tomatoes and lots of yellow flowers on the others. I threw red pepper seeds into the ground around the tomatoes and they are also coming along. Planted garlic bulbs from the feria and they are sending up green shoots which can be cut off and used in salads or pasta. I've also got some melon seeds drying to plant later.

We have banana trees at the back of the property, and two of the "trees" have produced bananas and we're waiting for the hands to mature enough to cut down. Our lime tree is just about finished producing, and the orange tree is ripening and throwing off juicy oranges to the ground.

I walked into Atenas twice this week with the wrong shoes, suffered blisters for it - have to get proper walking/running shoes.

On my last walk, a local lady who was also walking along indicated I should walk with her (lots of "walks" there). So I did, and between my so extremely very limited Spanish and her also limited English (this is after all a Spanish speaking country), we figured out this: She is from Panama, married to a Tico, she knows we are from Canada, it's important to learn Spanish, the lovely blooming plants growing wild everywhere in the fields are what we know as "Impatients", or "Busy Lizzy", we figured out we were both going to "Atenas Centro" - she was wearing those Tica high heels so couldn't walk as fast as I could.

Then as we were almost to Atenas, a car drove by and the driver beeped his horn - it seemed to be someone my walking companion knew, she indicated I should get into the car - which I did - probably foolish after the fact - but I knew the route we were driving on and my companion indicated to the driver to stop at the Pali, he did, she got out, I got out and said "gracias", she waved, he waved - and I think that is small town life in Atenas. Anyone driving a car and passing someone they know always beeps their horn.

I was on my way to the feria, and got lost - not surprising I got lost in a town with six square blocks - I get lost everywhere. Fortunately, I saw my friend Diane getting out of her car on her way to an appointment, and she pointed me in the right direction.

This weekend is Thanksgiving in Canada - so I send best Thanksgiving wishes to my family and friends back in the home land.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Where Does The Time Go ....

October already - we've been here four months. The time has flown by and we love Costa Rica more than ever.

Monday was another Beach Day and just as enjoyable as the last time. We went with Diane and John, fellow Canucks who live in the Atenas area. We provided lunch - I enjoy thinking up different kinds of picnic food to prepare. It was the first Beach Day for them so they got to meet the beach group of like minded folk.

If anyone is interested in bobbing about in the warm Pacific at a safe and clean beach and enjoying the company of really nice people, you can put your name on the mailing list here: Retire For Less in Costa Rica. Paul and Gloria Yeatman will make sure you are kept informed of activities.

One thing we have learned is that Costa Rica is a country where networking is very important. It's how you find out where the best butcher is, where to get your clothes altered, the best dentist, vet, doctor, etc., etc. Oh, and restaurants (my favorite). So there I was on Monday, floating on the salty brine, and trading info with my new gal pals. It was great.

The sea on Monday was really calm so I was less than successful trying out John's boogie board. Santa: bring me my own boogie board along with a pair of boogie board swim fins (which apparently I need).

Here's some photos of Monday's beach day - I also made a couple of videos of the monkeys but I have no luck loading videos into Blogger.

The picnic area at Playa Dona Ana.

Happy Beach Day folk.

October 3, 2011

Yum! This is what Gloria and Paul were cooking up for lunch.

Beach dog and beach cat. They don't belong to anyone and always show up for  a meal, please sir. They are very polite and well mannered. If you want to adopt a wonderful pet, help yourself.