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Saturday, December 31, 2011

Feliz Ano Nuevo

On this the eve of a brand new year, I want to thank all my blog readers, all our new and old friends in Canada, the United States and Costa Rica for being such great folks.

Thanks for helping us, for supporting us, for inviting us for meals and swims, beach days, giving great advice ... I could go on and on. Genny our cat thanks a very special person who went and visited her when she was boarding at the Santa Ana vet until we could pick her up after our arrival - you know who you are and we won't forget you.

Our first seven months in Costa Rica have exceeded our expectations - and we feel we couldn't have done it so well without our network of fantastic contacts.

Here's to a fabulous, wonderful 2012! Diana, Lance and Genny

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

A Shopping Day

Diane and John picked me up today and we went to Yamuni, a very good department store in Santa Ana. Besides clothing, they also carry linens, towels, rugs, fabrics, kitchenware and so on.

Was able to replenish my falling apart wardrobe with a sundress and a cotton top. They carry bathing suits too. Also bought three large plastic containers to hold cereal, rice, flour, etc.

Had lunch at Cow Town, a Tex-Mex restaurant, also in Santa Ana. I had the fish tacos and they were tasty. The portions are large and include sides like fries.

Across the street from Cow Town are several shops that sell pottery, wind chimes, woven baskets and so on. The shop we went into had three floors of painted and unpainted clay items. The owners' little girl graciously took us up all three floors. Ah ha! I spied a large collection of orchid pots so will tuck that information away for future use. I bought a couple of decorative items while there.

The highlight of the day was when John drove through a toll booth barrier bar because his toll booth automatic payment gizmo had run out of colones. He thought it still had enough on it to get through the toll. The sound of the vehicle hitting the barrier bar was impressive. They don't snap in half though but are designed to take hits so an attendant casually strolled out and realigned the bar, then collected the toll in cash. Vehicle unharmed.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

I Was Crapped On (Literally) - A True Story

December 22 was Beach Day and we were delighted to be going again with our friends, Diane and John, and meeting up with the rest of the Beach Day gang. We're becoming such Beach Day addicts that we are planning on buying a proper cooler like the one D&J just bought.

Anyway, we were hauling our gear to a picnic table when .... splat! .... something wet landed on my head.  At first I thought maybe it was rain ... and I rubbed my head and it was sort of sticky. Then I had Lance take a good look and he wiped it with napkins and .... eeewwwhhh .... the napkin came away all yellow and brownish.

It was monkey poop!!!!

I changed into my bathing suit and went into the ocean pretty fast so I could wash the offending matter out of my hair with salt water before it made it's way into my brain ... well, probably that cannot happen but why take the chance.  I've heard that the monkeys will pee on the beach dogs so maybe they were sending me a message ...

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas, Everyone!

Our first tropical Christmas and we both agree we are having a wonderful holiday, although every day in Costa Rica is like a holiday. We are thankful to have made many new and interesting friends who are so generous with their time and helpful advice.

On this Christmas morning, there is not a cloud in the sky, the lovely summer wind is blowing the palms to and fro, the bouginvillia bushes are heavy with mauve colored flowers and the morning bird symphony is giving us a free concert.

Have a wonderful holiday, everyone.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Atenas Festival de la Luz

The yearly Atenas Festival of the Lights was held on Saturday, December 17. This is part of the Christmas celebrations.

We went with two other couples and scored a table at Gelly's restaurant, newly renovated and beside the central park. We were right on the parade route and our server said we were welcome to occupy the table for the whole evening. As is usual in Costa Rica, the restaurant was open on three sides. The early evening was balmy and breezy, perfect for a parade.

We all ordered one of the specials on offer -  one or two burritos with greens, or lasagna with greens, and this included soda or iced tea. Then we had to try their gelato - lots of flavors and very good. Couldn't resist having lattes, capachinos and espresso and it was the strongest, most intense espresso I have ever had. The amount in the small espresso cup was more than enough for me. Lance loved it - I think he had about three and, hence, didn't fall asleep until about three (a.m.)  Final total for six people with plenty to eat and drink: 15,000 colones or $30 CAD, and that included a tip.

The two burrito option.

We had a blast that night. Watched the sun set and the activities in the park across from us. There were people selling fresh cooked BBQ, cotton candy, light sticks and so on. The parade started a bit late (natch) but who cares. It was December 17th and here we were sitting in a fantastic tropical setting in a wonderful small town and being part of everything around us.

Our view of the central park, dusk, before the parade started.
Lance surprised me with a gift of a star shaped light stick that he bought from a vendor! He knows I like that wacky stuff and it was a great hit, and not only with me but with one of our dinner companions (unnamed).

The parade consisted of different lighted floats and school marching bands. There were bands from Atenas, Orotina, Esparza and more. They were all being judged too - the judges' stand was very close to us. The kids in these marching bands are just incredible. We live close to a private school that has a marching band and when a festival is near, these kids practice hard and still do their schoolwork.

One of the floats

All the bands were great - some were small, some were bigger - but they all had their own flair, their own costumes and they all deserved a ribbon. In between the floats and the bands we saw Santa Claus (several times); Mary holding Baby Jesus and riding on a very calm horse led by Joseph and followed by the Wise Men; people throwing candies into the crowds .....

We all agreed that the very best marching band was an eclectric group that seemed to meld hip hop with ... I don't know what ... but when they set off fireworks from the ends of the glockenspiels (is that what those are?) the crowds went crazy.

Some of the bands featured drummers twirling those big, huge drums (bass drums?) around and around by the straps during part of their march.

The big finale at the end of the evening was the fireworks display, set off at the side of the Catholic church which thankfully did not burn down. A good time was had by all!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Very Busy

Into our seventh month and we have been incredibility busy socially. We are so fortunate to have many wonderful friends and making more all the time. We feel privileged to be invited into their homes and sharing meals and good times.

Enjoyed Beach Day on Monday - how could one not enjoy it. Lots of waves to body surf in, good food, good friends. I'm going to have to get some more bathing suits. Going to the beach a couple of times a month is such a great idea - we get the best of both worlds living in the Atenas area and visiting Playa Dona Ana.

See the cart in the photo? The fellow sitting in the shade operates his little business making granizados -  he shaves ice off a big block, puts it into a cup, adds powdered milk (if you want it), more ice, condensed milk and then covers the whole thing in flavored syrup - they are SO good. Cost: 1 mil (1000 colones), or about 2 Canadian dollars. I hope he is at Playa Dona Ana every time we are. Granizados can also be had at the Atenas park.

I'm still looking for a pipa guy - the vendor takes a young coconut (pipa) from iced water, machetes off the top, sticks a straw through the flesh and there you have it - a refreshing drink. I think there is a vendor in the park - just haven't found him yet.

Jose, one of our gardeners, dropped by last Saturday and we gave him his Christmas bonus. We sat around and had coffee and practiced our Spanish with him. He showed me how to better prepare pineapple tops for planting. I wasn't removing enough of the lower leaves.

We had a large bunch of bananas that were ready to be picked and he showed us how to do that too. His first method was to just punch through the pseudo stem, then he pulled one completely over with his arms. We fetched him a saw - much better. Jose has arms like a weight lifter. So he sawed the whole banana plant down and then it was an easy matter to cut off the banana bunch.

Our first tropical Christmas is only ten days away. I draped a strand of lights over the lime tree stump and that is our Christmas tree.

 I so do not miss the craziness of a modern Canadian Christmas - all that endless mall shopping for stuff nobody needs, all that money spent, people making themselves crazy preparing too much food. It used to be simpler and that is how we want our Costa Rican Christmases to be - more meaningful and involving people, not products. Of course, it must also involve good food! but that doesn't mean I have to prepare it. Lots of businesses out there do it better than I can and we're helping to support the local economy.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

The Scent of the Coffee Flowers

Last night, I noticed the most amazing scent floating through the air. It was strong, yet sweet. I thought maybe it was the sugar cane but the sugar cane grows too far away from us to get the scent.

Our friends at dinner last night told me it is the coffee flowers that are smelling so good and the coffee beans are being picked now.

We walked into Atenas this morning and for the first time I noticed a field of coffee plants en route. The beans were colored red and I could detect the same sweet smell. It gets stronger at night.


Sixth Month Review

We have been here for six months now and still feel the same way about this wonderful country as we did upon arrival. We don't regret the move for one minute.

It is so beautiful. We are meeting lots of Ticos and making new Gringo friends from all over North America. Our Spanish is coming along in baby steps but that is still more than we knew when we arrived.

We agree that Atenas and the surrounding area seems to be a perfect place to live. It has the quiet rural atmosphere that we both like yet is close enough to the airport, San Jose, larger towns, the beaches and so on. Atenas itself offers lots of restaurants, groceries, shops, and services for day to day living.

The dry season has arrived - not much rain, sunny and warm days, cool nights and I love the brisk breezes that blow most days. We have started walking into Atenas more often.

Started tomato, basil and melon seeds. Finally won the battle with the leaf cutter ants by using an organic insecticide called Omitox but will still have to keep watch that they don't set up more colonies.

We have days at the beach with interesting friends.

Plus, we can buy this brand of cheezies here: