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Tuesday, April 30, 2013

My Pineapple - Week ????

I've lost track of how many weeks Little Ani has been growing, but here's the latest photo of her. Look at the nice, big topknot!



Saturday, April 27, 2013

It's My Birthday and I'll Do What I Want

... and what I wanted to do was go to San José for an Asian food lunch and, in this case, it was Chinese food at Don Wang Restaurant. I've done a previous post on the dim sum at Don Wang, which was excellent.

This time we ordered off the regular menu and decided on the meal for three persons. Piggish I know, but we wanted to try the sea bass with vegetables and the satay beef sauce, which had two hot peppers beside it on the menu, indicating it should be a spicy dish. Also included were a Beijing salad, shrimp wonton soup, and sweet peppers filled with minced shrimps.

We also ordered two mora (berry) fruit drinks. My favourites were the sea bass and the sweet peppers filled with minced shrimp and a black bean sauce. We had enough left over for para llevar (take away) so we'll enjoy another meal each.

Service was efficient and the food arrived promptly. Don Wang Restaurant is located on Calle 11, between Avenidas 6 and 8. Now that the San José streets have street signs, it makes it much easier to find. On the other hand, all the taxi drivers can get you there.

Here's a handy tip: I carry one of those small, frozen ice packs wrapped in tin foil when going out to places where I think I might be carrying home fresh or frozen food.

The other thing I wanted to do was go to see the new Chinatown area and pick up some much needed Asian food products. We did this after lunch. Also wanted to see the new Chinese gateway into the area. It was a short walk from Don Wang and the area is blocked off to most vehicular traffic.

The Chinatown area is 12 city blocks and runs between 2nd Avenue and 14th Avenue (north to south) and between 7th and 11th Streets (west to east direction). 9th Street is the central boulevard. The area was a commercial center during the last decades of the 20th century. San José's Chinatown officially opened on December 6, 2012, and is the first of it's kind in a Central American city.

We shopped at Super Hansan and I picked up mirin, Tamari soy sauce, black bean garlic sauce, spring roll wrappers, rice paper wrappers, won ton wrappers and some frozen dumplings. I'm still looking for chili paste, and lemon grass and miso pastes. This store also carries woks, dishes, pots, some fresh vegetables, frozen dim sum items, teas, different rices.and lots more.

Taxi to the Coca Cola bus terminal and home to Atenas. A very good birthday!

The Super Hansan Store
The new Gateway to Chinatown


La Soledad Church


Wednesday, April 24, 2013

More On the Buses in Costa Rica

I really enjoy riding on a Costa Rican bus. So far, we've only done the Atenas-San José route and the Atenas-Palmares-San Ramon route.

Today, we had occasion to travel into San Jose but our business there delayed us from catching the 11:00 am bus Atenas bus at the Coca Cola bus station. The next bus to Atenas was at noon. Some time ago, my husband discovered he could get on the bus to Orotina and get off at Atenas, as Atenas is on one of the roads to Orotina.

It seems the Orotina bus runs on the half hour and, sure enough, there it was ready to go at 11:30 am. Also there was our "water bottle guy". I must get his name ... he shows up at the Coca Cola station with bags of bottled water, pop, juice, snacks and does a good trade. He knows all the bus drivers, their routes and the times they are supposed to arrive and leave. He appears to be trilingual (and maybe more) - we know he speaks English, French and Spanish. The first time we met him, he seemed to sense we were Canadians and started speaking French, a language we do not know.

He was a bit surprised to see us getting on a different bus but rose to the occasion and escorted us into the bus (which was crowded with only two seats left), "Lady, follow me", and I got a seat. Then he admonished a passenger to remove his computer case from the last vacant seat, and Lance sat down. We also got our two nice cold bottles of water and a high five. I can't imagine what the Ticos think of this but I think it raises our status somewhat from "turisto" to "maybe they actually live here".

By the way, the Orotina bus is 15 minutes faster than the Atenas bus, including a stop in Alajuela.

When lining up to get on a bus, be aware of what your position in line is. You may see people sitting on benches and not in the actual line. They are ahead of you. So be polite and kind of hang back. When the bus is ready to board, everyone knows exactly where they are in the lineup. Also, the elderly will automatically be put ahead of everyone else.

Another thing I noticed today on the Orotina bus was how both men and women gave up their seats for the elderly or those with a handicap.

One last thing: Costa Rican buses allow folks to board who are trying to raise money for various charities. They may be selling refrigerator magnets, music CD's, cards ... I've noticed the Ticos always give a few coins and so should we. The people trying to raise money work very hard. Today we contributed and got two cool cards which I am going to send to my mother, who is in a care home in Ottawa, Canada. She may no longer understand who they are from but she might enjoy the bright colours.

The Two Cards



Thursday, April 18, 2013

Clothing for the Tropics

I was searching the internet this morning for tropical clothing and came up with the usual stuff - Hawaiian style, clothes for resorts, clothes for Bali - all of it geared it seems towards the tourist. Also I noticed a lot of the fabrics are rayon or similar which wrinkles and I think might be too warm.

But what about those of us who live in tropical climates and especially in small farming towns such as Atenas? The resort clothes look very out of place. My husband, Lance, dresses like the Ticos - jeans, shirts - and is very comfortable and he fits in. We want to be respectful towards the culture here.

I cannot dress like the Ticas. The older women wear a lot of what looks like polyester skirts and tops (I even saw one with pantyhose ... too hot!). As for the younger Ticas, the shoes are too high and the clothes are too tight for me. I find jeans too heavy and too hot so I usually only wear them in the evenings or on cool, rainy days.

Having never been to Costa Rica before moving here, I brought a lot of clothing that turned out to be unsuitable but quite a bit of it has worked out fine and I am wearing them to threadbare condition. I wish now I had brought two dozen light cotton tops. Not those heavy t-shirts with too high necks, sleeves that make my arms look cut off in the middle and emblazoned with slogans or cute kittens.

I'm thinking more along the lines of pretty shirts or pull-on tops, light cotton, different colours and patterns. My friend Rose Mary said she made a special trip back to the U.S.A. after moving here, just to buy a lot of suitable clothing that she realized she should have brought with her at the beginning.

A pretty cotton shirt I ordered from Eddie Bauer in a light cotton. This is the kind of top I am referring to.

Shorts .... I could use a lot more of these, in cotton, different lengths. Skirts are fabulous for tropical countries - cotton ones but not tight. They look dressy and they are cool to wear. Unfortunately I don't have any and so they are on my shopping list. My friend Diane often wears one with a cotton top and a pair of sandals that I covet and she looks smart dressed like this.

Shoes .... I wear running shoes only when actually walking into Atenas. They don't look very good for anywhere else. Sandals .... you can never have too many of these and there are so many pretty ones available. I like a bit of heel. Flip-flops are for the beach.

I bought a pair of Clarks walking sandals in a sparkly grey material so they don't look too much like hiking sandals yet still provide good support. Recently I ordered a pair of these shoes in purple from Land's End and they are terrific with shorts or pants ... very comfortable for walking.

Dresses: I have three. This one I ordered from Land's End and it is perfect for when we go into San Jose. It was marked down to $19.99 and I see it is still on sale. With sandals, it's a smart yet comfortable outfit and I don't look like a tourist. One dress I bought at a Ropa Americana - it's a pretty tropical green print but needs to be taken in - it was so inexpensive it was worth it. My third dress is a silk Talbots which I've never worn here.

Linen is a good tropical fabric but it wrinkles and who wants to do ironing in paradise? A note here: I usually buy one size up because I don't like constricting clothes.

Bathing suits: I brought a good quality suit with me but it's in tatters now. I ordered a two piece from Land's End which is very well made and I like it a lot. But if I was jumping in and out of a pool all day, I would not want to wear it because pool water is so hard on fabric. It's great for the beach or going to someone else's pool. So what do people wear who have their own pool? Besides au naturale that is. Quick drying board shorts would be good. What about tops?

I'm hoping my readers will have other suggestions that will be helpful to those contemplating living in a tropical climate.


Tuesday, April 16, 2013

The Green Season

Here is a video I made of our first really hard downpour of rain which signifies the start of the 2013 green season here in Costa Rica.


Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Cactus Flower

Here are two photos of the flower on our cactus. This is the same cactus that my friend Diane dug up for me on one of our local trips with her and hubby John. It keeps growing and sending out new shoots and now it is flowering. You can see where it had a previous flower but I think I knocked that one off accidentally with the hose when I was watering.



Monday, April 8, 2013

Information on Costa Rica

For excellent information on the cost of living and other important things people need to know about living in Costa Rica, please go to this site (Retire For Less in Costa Rica).

Paul and Gloria Yeatman live in San Ramon, in the Central Valley. They offer sensible advice on how to live here on a budget and still enjoy everything this wonderful country has to give us. They have kept meticulous records on their spending since arriving here in 2009 from Boston. They have embraced Costa Rica - the people and the culture.

We have the same mindset as Paul and Gloria. They are super people and great friends.


Friday, April 5, 2013

Friday Morning In Atenas

I was at the gate bright and early this morning, ready to walk into Atenas. What luck, a neighbour of ours was driving there and gave me a lift. Thanks, neighbour!

That got me into town too early to go Banco de Costa Rica (they open at 0900), so I went to the Ferreteria J.R. Vargas E Hijos (J.R. Vargas and Sons Hardware Store) to buy a hose coupling. Like a lot of shops in Atenas, they open up early. This is a good place to browse in - usually I can find whatever I am looking for.

Next stop - the newly opened (two weeks ago) Del Mar Pescados and Mariscos (fish and seafood). The owner (at least I think he was the owner) speaks English and knows his seafood. I wanted smoked salmon, scallops and tilapia and got it all for 6,000 colones ($12 CAD) and I have enough of everything for six servings. He had salmon filets from Canada and also Chile. Apparently Costa Ricans are not very familiar with scallops here - I don't know why - so I am happy that I can now get them. Next time I am going to get the salmon filets. Not sure if they were Canadian Pacific or Atlantic salmon and whether they are farmed or wild.

Never knew Chile had salmon so Googled it and, yes they do, but it is farmed. I also know that some "scallops" are not really scallops but cut in rounds from white fish or rays. You can identify a real scallop by noting that the muscle strands run vertical, not horizontal.

Here's a good hint: I carry a small icepack in my bag with me if I know I am going to buy meat or seafood and am not going straight home.

Del Mar's website is http// Hours of operation are Monday to Saturday from 7:30 am to 8:00 pm, and 7:30 am to 3:00 pm on Sunday. Phone numbers are 8413-6333 and 2446-0126. They are located in store number 6 in the Centro Plaza Atenas, 50 meters north from Importadora Monge. This is the small mall across from El Rayo and Del Mar is right at the back. Please support this shop ... I don't want them to disappear!

Then I strolled over to the feria (our weekly Friday outdoor market). Atenas is small enough that one can walk everywhere. Still too early for the bank, so I walked around the market and admired everything, then sat on a bench in the shade to kill a bit of time. Back to the bank, did my business, then returned to the feria.

I bought tomatoes, green beans, a big bag of onions, lettuce, potatoes ..... and I don't think I spent more then $3 CAD. What I need to get is one of those grocery bags on wheels so I can load up at both the mercado and the feria, zip the top closed, toss it into the trunk of a taxi, and head on home. I noticed a lot of people use them, both Ticos and expats. I would buy a lot more if I didn't have to lug the bags around ... including orchids! Yes, there is a booth selling orchids, another selling potted plants and herbs, home made tamales are available, fresh cut flowers, fresh made bread and baked goods ... so many wonderful things.

Monday, April 1, 2013

First Day of Rain, 2013, Atenas, Costa Rica

April 1, 2013 - April Fool's Day - but the weather wasn't fooling me. Around about noon today, I looked out a window and said to Lance, "It's going to rain" and Lance said, "Yeah, right". And I said "Okay, let's bet on it - if it rains, you owe me a dollar". Whether that was a Canadian dollar, a U.S. dollar or a 500 colone coin was never discussed. He ended up giving me 500 colones. The reason I was excited about rain is because we have had hardly a drop since November, 2012 - absolutely normal for the dry season (aka "summer"). The fields are brown and trees and plants are dusty.

After living 30 plus years in the Pacific Northwest, I know when rain is coming. It's like the Captain of a ship saying, "It's going to blow, boys". Well, the thunder started about half an hour before the rain did. Genny the cat took to her Thunder Closet and we unplugged our computers. The electric power kept going on, off, on, off, on. And it really did rain! Here is my video to prove that it did.