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Saturday, May 31, 2014

Third Year Anniversary

On this day (May 31, 2011) three years ago, we landed in Costa Rica for the first time ever. We had decided it was time for a big adventure and so we disposed of most of our belongings in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, leaving some things behind in a small storage locker. We came here with six suitcases, holding our electronics and clothing.

We consigned our cat, Genny, to World Pet Travel. She came down here separate from us. We boarded the Amtrak Cascades train in Vancouver and were on our way. In Seattle, we got on board the Amtrak Coast Starlight and headed south to San Francisco where we spent two nights in one of my favorite cities. I had always wanted to ride the Coast Starlight - the name alone is alluring. It was a little holiday from all the previous year's planning and work to prepare for our move. Then a flight to Dallas and finally to Juan Santamaria airport in Alajuela, arriving at 8:30 pm. I will never forget how I felt on touchdown - we were really here!

We spent a week in San José, seeing our lawyer to commence our residency process, and getting to know the city. Then we picked up Genny from where she was boarding and took a taxi to Atenas in the Central Valley. Atenas was the town we initially selected as a good place to start - close to the airport, the major hospitals, an hour to the Pacific beaches, absolutely great weather. Turned out to be the right choice.

And we have been here ever since. The only sad change is that elderly Genny passed on late last year but she had two terrific years here with us. Do we regret this move? Absolutely not. It's still an adventure. We have just one more year to fulfill as pensionado residents and then we can apply for permanent residency which we plan to do.

A whole new world has opened up for us - trying to learn Spanish, other countries to visit, new cultures, new foods, new animals, plants and on and on. Making friends here is easy, both Ticos and expats. Living in a completely different country, as opposed to visiting for a holiday, is an experience that I wish everyone could experience. If you want something bad enough, you can make it happen.

Costa Rica is a wonderful country and the Costa Ricans are exceptional people. We love living in the tropics. I am so glad we decided to do this.

Here are some retrospective photos of our big adventure journey:

Aboard the Coast Starlight.
Lance perusing the lunch menu on the train.
Waiting for our taxi to San Francisco Airport, then on to Costa Rica.

Early morning, San Francisco, waiting for our taxi.
First breakfast in Costa Rica, San José.


Sunday, May 25, 2014

"Costa Rica Siesta"

This is my latest painting - a local horse dozing under a ramshackle shed, seeking some shade from the hot Costa Rica sun.

It is acrylic on canvas board, 18"x24". Reference photograph courtesy of Diane Reid.

You can see more of my art here.


Friday, May 23, 2014

German Spring Fair 2014 and INBioparque, Costa Rica

Costa Rican Flag
Federal Republic of Germany Flag

Another outing with friends Diane and John, this time to the German Springtime Fair 2014 (Feria Primaveral Alemana) on May 18 and held at INBioparque in Santo Domingo de Heredia.

The fair was hosted by the Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany, the Chamber of Commerce and Industry German Costarricense. The lineups to get into the fair were very long. Fortunately, there was a special line for Lance and myself - the senior's line! Not only that, we were able to buy tickets for Diane and John at the same ticket window although they are yet considered seniors here but their time is coming.

A note about the prices to enter the park - for non-residents it is $25 which we felt was rather hefty for tourists to pay, although every dollar spent contributes to biodiversity, conservation, educational programs and sustainability efforts in Costa Rica. For seniors with cedulas (Costa Rican I.D. cards), the entry fee is 3,400 colones ($6.80) and for adults with cedulas the cost is 4,150 colones ($8.30).

On display at the fair were German products and companies in Costa Rica, artistic presentations of German works, and typical dishes and beverages from Germany. For lunch we had bratwurst in a bun and Oettinger beer, plus we got to keep the cool beer glasses! The bratwurst was very good. I wanted to buy a loaf of bread but the lineup was just too long to make it worthwhile.

We decided to wander around the park after lunch. The trails are easy to walk (paved) and they will take you through a rainforest, a premountainous forest, wetlands, dry forest, a small working farm, medicinal and herbal gardens, a butterfly enclosure (always one of my favorites), reptiles and so on. The maze was closed for some reason, which annoyed John but then he realized the maze was only about shoulder height high so would not have been much of a challenge anyway.

There were markers with plant names but it was hard to know which tree or plant they were referring to. Apparently you can get a guide for a reasonable price and this is probably a good idea in order to have a better understanding of the park.

We saw caimans, iquanas and turtles in the lagoon and came upon a covered ampitheatre where an excellent musical group was performing so we sat and watched them for a while. Walking through the rainforest was refreshing, as we were treated to sprays of mist. We enjoyed our day there but there are a few things about the park that might be improved.

There is not much explanation for a number of things. For instance, the volcano exhibit didn't tell us very much. We figured out the moving floor area must represent an earthquake and there were volcano models that you could stand behind and have your picture taken - fun, but ..... The mushroom exhibit was cement mushrooms in the rain forest, a la Alice in Wonderland.

I think this is a good park for families and kids. There is a play area, the petting farm and lots of trails for kids to run and blow off energy. There is a restaurant and a cafeteria, neither of which we tried because we had our German lunch. Oh, and there is an ice cream parlor at the little farm.




Monday, May 19, 2014

Artist's Easel

As you may or may not know, I am a painter specializing in portraits of cattle and horses. You can see examples of my work here: Sometimes I paint dogs, cats and other animals.

When we lived in Cloverdale, British Columbia, Canada, I had a few of the cheap easels - the kind that wobble and blow over in the wind. Professional studio easels are very expensive. We didn't bring the cheap easels with us to Costa Rica.

So I have been doing my paintings with the canvases propped up on table tops, not a very satisfactory arrangement. It is also difficult to take decent photos of finished paintings for my art website without a proper support.

Enter my neighbor and friend, Pete Snyder. Pete is an artist too. He creates large abstract paintings, beautiful furniture using Costa Rican woods and his own designs, and also interesting lamps. He doesn't have a web site yet but when he gets one, I will post a link on my blog.

My other neighbor and friend, Gordon, is helping Pete organize his collections and generally getting Pete's work out there for public exposure. My contribution has been taking photographs of Pete's various creations so Gordon can catalogue them. They asked me what I wanted in return.

It didn't take me long to think "easel, I need an easel!" I found an easy design on line. With Pete's adeptness with tools and wood, he had it built within a week and delivered to me this morning. It's great. Strong and sturdy, adjustable, will hold a large canvas. It won't wobble when I am painting. He said he's going to make one for himself too. I should have had him sign mine.

Pete and Gordon delivering my easel.
Pete - Me - Gordon



Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Well Digging In Atenas

Apparently, a well is being dug in our park in order to supply water to all the park's trees and palms. That is what I have been told anyway.

Here is a photo I took this morning of the drilling rig. It's been there for about a week. There must be a lot of rock to drill through.


Friday, May 2, 2014

American Football in Costa Rica/Fútbol Americano

On Saturday, April 26, 2014, a group of us went to the Costa Rica American Football Super Bowl VI - 1st Division. The two teams playing were the Santa Ana Bulldogs (the team we were rooting for) and the Toros. The coach of the Bulldogs, Lee Coleman, lives in our town of Atenas. The team has a bulldog as a mascot - "Big Papi II" - who is at every game. The Bulldogs are also known as "the Dawgs".

The Bulldogs won 20 to 8. The Toros had been undefeated this season until this game. The game was played at Estadio "Pipilo" Umaña in Moravia ("estadio" is "stadium" in English).

The trip was organized by the informal Atenas Mens' Club - thank you Tony and Jim for all your work. We met in front of the Catholic Church in Atenas around noon and boarded a large, air conditioned bus for the trip to Moravia (San José area). Everyone (there were twenty-two of us) had brought stadium cushions, sunblock, sunglasses, umbrellas, water, snacks. We were not sure what the stadium was going to be like.

I am sorry but I do not know the name of the bus company. However, our driver was very personable, the bus was comfortable and it is so nice to let someone else do the driving, especially in the San José area, and after the game when it was dark and we were all pleasantly tired.

As it turned out, one side of the stadium has a roof so we were shielded from the sun and eventually the rain. The stadium cushions were most welcome because the "seats" are just long rows of cement.

The private league, American Football Association/Costa Rica Federation of American Football was created in 2008 and given international representation in 2010 by the Costa Rican Institute of Sports and Recreation. So, as you can see, American football is quite new here.

I had been to a couple of football games in Canada but they really didn't interest me. Our seats were high up in the stands and I never could figure out what everyone was doing - all that moving up and down the field, players piling on top of each other.

At this Super Bowl, I had a great time. We were at the 45 meter/50 yard line, about three rows up and could see all the action. For the first time, I started to understand how football is played. It's a rough game! Especially after the rain storm when the grass field became muddy and wet. The stadium is in a residential area and several footballs were kicked right out of the stadium and into the surrounding streets. They must keep a good supply of extra footballs on hand.

I'm not sure what the attendance figures were. A lot of people (Ticos) showed up later in the game. Support for both teams was loud and energetic. There were a couple of booths selling giant hotdogs, and plates of salad, pork and chicharróns (fried pork rinds) and escabeche (marinated vegetables, similar to pickles). I had never tried chicharróns before and they were pretty good. The pork was excellent.

I bought a Seattle Seahawks jersey for 2 mil (2,000 colones or $4.00), a very good deal. Here is a short video I made of the game and also some photos.



About to board our bus.
On left: our bus and our group. See how close I was to the action!