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Tuesday, October 17, 2017

They’re Here!

And we’ve been expecting them! Army ants - they have been working their way from house to house and we were next on their list. I first noticed them Sunday morning while I was outside. My feet and lower legs started burning. I looked down and there were ants everywhere and they were biting me. The bites really sting and two days later I can still feel the bites.

Army ants are called “cleaner ants” here because if they get into a house, they will clean every surface of dead or live insects, dirt, food crumbs, etc., and then leave. Your house will be spotless! You may as well go out for several hours because they will leave when good and ready. We managed to keep them out of our house this time and they headed towards our gate and the road.

Here is a short video I made of them swarming over our hedge and laneway:

Monday, October 9, 2017

Tropical Storm Nate, Costa Rica - October 2017

On Wednesday, October 4, 2017, Costa Rica was slammed by tropical storm Nate. At our house, we experienced strong winds and rain, rain and more rain overnight and all of Friday. Fortunately, we only experienced some water ingress into our house and flooded areas and mud outside. Water was surging down the road and the drainage ditches. It sounded like we lived next to a river. Our electricity and internet stayed on. Much of the rest of the country fared much worse. By Saturday, the storm had headed north and the sun came out.

Rivers were overflowing banks; houses were destroyed and families uprooted; schools were closed; roads and bridges were damaged and destroyed; farms and plantations are under water; roads were closed and many areas were/still are without electricity.

At our property, the total rainfall for the first seven days of October, 2017, was more than the rainfall in all of October of last year:

        First seven days of October 2017 = 13.29”/33.76cm. 
        All of October 2016 = 12.83”/32.59cm.

October is the rainiest month on the Pacific side and the driest month on the Caribbean side.

On October 6, the online newspaper AM Costa Rica reported at least six dead, 377,000 people without water, and 7,000 in emergency shelters. Deaths were attributed to landslides, falling trees and car accidents.

Lance prepared this chart:

Here are a few pictures taken around our house:

Blocking the back door to keep water out - sort of works!

Flooding at the front.

Lance reading the rain gauge.

Mud, mud, mud.

I also made a short video on Saturday showing the drainage ditches outside our property. You can see why they are built so deep. That is our Cat snooping around.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Life’s Little Challenges .... Stupid Parrot

Today Lance saw a small bird fall down into our yard from somewhere and our cat did also. The cat started stalking the bird. Lance said, “it’s a parrot.” This is unusual ... flocks of small green parrots fly over our house all the time but they never stop in our yard and they don’t have blue colours on them.

Grabbed Cat and put him in the house. The pretty green/blue parrot was okay, busily running up and down bushes eating whatever parrots eat on bushes. I think his wings may have been clipped because he could fly very short distances but not gain any altitude. This made us think he was someone’s pet. Plus, he wasn’t very nervous and was not with a flock.

The bird ended up across our fence on our neighbour’s property. We went next door to see if we could help the little parrot but he was nowhere to be seen. 

Walking back to our house .... with all the rain we have had recently, our short laneway was very slippery. Wearing flip flops, I did a flip flop and took a fall. Net result: one bloody knee, one pair of pants with hole and a muddy shirt ... both going in the garbage. 

One Aleve tablet .... I should be fine!

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Mexican Fiesta in Costa Rica, September 15, 2017

The Atenas Mens Club organized a Mexican fiesta outing on Friday, September 15, 2017. This is also the day that Costa Rica celebrates Independence Day. We boarded our Blue Bird bus in Atenas for the drive to the fiesta. Does anyone remember taking a Blue Bird bus to school? 

The fiesta was held at Rancho Montecito, a 260 acre working cattle ranch not too far away from our town of Atenas. The fiesta had another purpose - to celebrate Debbie's birthday, the owner of this ranch.

Somebody should interview Debbie and write an article about her, because she is amazing. She bought the huge property with nothing on it and not knowing anything about farming, ranching, cattle, fruit trees, etc., and has turned all this land into a sustainable enterprise. It's not flat land, it's mountainous. Her cattle are a cross between the Nelore breed (I hope I have that right) and Brahmas. Before arriving at the ranch house, Debbie jumped on the bus with us and explained what we were seeing as we drove along.

Tables were set up under a tent, just outside the rancho (open air dining hall) where the food was being prepared. Before long, three pairs of young dancers performed for us. This was followed by trick ropers and a mariachi band.

During this entertainment, we enjoyed excellent Mexican food served at our tables. Dessert was a tasty custard, plus the birthday cake. I also tried a Mexican tamale, which was completely different from the Costa Rican tamales. The Mexican ones are wrapped in corn husks while ours are wrapped in banana leaves and the fillings are totally different.

We had a wonderful time. Debbie is a fantastic organizer. She’s also a patron of my art work and one of my cattle paintings hangs on a wall in her ranch house.

If you are thinking of a vacation in Costa Rica, I would highly recommend Rancho Montecito. It’s beautiful.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Landing at Juan Santamaria International Airport, Alajuela, Costa Rica

On Monday, August 7, 2017 we returned to Costa Rica from Houston. We were in a holding pattern for a while waiting for clearance to land at Juan Santamaria International Airport, Alajuela.

Here we are lazily circling over land and the Pacific Ocean:

From the Pacific Ocean looking towards Puntarenas province and I believe that is the Tarcoles River on the right:

Video I made of our actual landing, United Airlines flight 1096, arrived 11:35 am:

Note: If you find that full screen is unavailable, then try the YouTube link. 

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Storage Locker - Part 3

On Monday, July 31, 2017, we left our hotel in Abbotsford to drive to U-Pak Storage on Annacis Island, Delta. It would be the first time our locker had been opened in six years. As U-Pak promised, the locker had been moved from indoors to a covered place outside where we could unload our stuff. Here's what it looked like after unlocking the door. A few things had shifted around.

I had packed and wrapped the majority of our belongings in plastic storage bins, which had a number, and everything inside a bin was numbered also. This corresponded to our inventory list. We did not know at the time we acquired the locker if we would be shipping the entire thing down to Costa Rica so the inventory had to be done. That in itself was a major job but it did make things easier when asking family members what items they wanted. I just sent them the lists with descriptions.

From Monday until Friday, August 4, we drove every day from Abbotsford to Annacis Island and spent most of the day there, minus a few hours here and there for other appointments. Our plan of attack was to empty all the bins, unwrap boxed items, etc., and then refill the bins with those items being shipped to family. As each bin was filled, we took it to the UPS store in Surrey for shipping. The owner, our friend Raj, handled everything for us and the final price for shipping five bins to Ontario was quite reasonable.

We used ShredMasters in Abbotsford to dispose of paper and documents.

I had contacted Junk Squad, Inc.  prior to our trip to arrange for pickup and disposal of all items that we no longer wanted. This Canadian owned company will pick up your stuff and either donate it or trash it. They donate to over ten charities. We had quite a bit of good, useable furniture and small appliances so I imagine a lot of it will be reused. Since we had alloted just five days to get rid of everything, there was simply no time to try and sell things ourselves. After six years of not seeing any of our stuff, it wasn't hard to let most of them go. There were a few things we had hoped to bring back to Costa Rica but the four large suitcases and two carryons filled up fast so we left them behind.

What to do with all my paintings? Most were canvas on wooden stretchers, all different sizes - none of them would fit in our suitcases. The solution was to remove the canvases from the stretchers, a tedious job involving removing lots of staples, and rolling the canvases into mailing tubes. I needed four of those. Although the stretchers come apart, simply no room anywhere to carry them home. I brought back only one and am now looking for a source for stretchers here in Costa Rica - so far, no luck. I worried about how the paintings would fare being rolled but they are all in good shape. Coming home on two different airlines, the attendents graciously let me put the tubes in their closet. The overhead storage bins were not a good place for them. I had many, many tubes of high quality paint and art supplies - they came with us. 

No room for the authentic pith helmet or my desktop easel:

We finished on the fifth day, Friday, and that is the day Junk Squad arrived and the job was finally done. The next day, Saturday, we spent shopping for a few things to bring home: smoked salmon, Asian spices, clothing. We went to Canada with two large suitcases and ended up buying a third and U-Pak gave us another one left behind in an abandoned storage locker.

Comments on our trip - so happy to no longer have the burden of the locker and everything in it. The lower mainland: it quickly became boring driving back and forth from Abbotsford to Delta as, really, nothing much had changed in six years. Traffic is so heavy, especially on the freeways. Expensive: gas, food, hotels, restaurants, alcohol. Fifty Canadian dollars gave us only half a tank of gas. Depending on brand, alcohol in Costa Rica is about 50% to 60% cheaper then in British Columbia. I don't smoke, but I noticed that cigarettes are from 55% to 65% less expensive than in B.C.

Airports: mind numbing and exhausting. Do it all yourself: from shlepping six heavy bags onto conveyor belts and then off; checking ourselves partially through immigration with those crazy machines that take your picture and standing in the long, snaking lines to do so; being ordered here and there (and make it quick, please) by uniformed employees - bah! And, get this, in the Houston George Bush airport baggage carts are $5.00 USD each! And we needed two! They are free at Vancouver International. The next time I fly, it will be with nothing more then a carry on.

Airlines: All our flights were fine but - for the amount of money we paid for tickets - all we got was a packet of biscuits and water/juice/pop. We ended up buying a couple of meals on board. Six years ago, from Dallas to Costa Rica American Airlines served hot meals.

It was wonderful returning home to Costa Rica. Huge difference at the airport: all the luggage had been removed from the carousal and neatly lined up. I went to grab a couple of baggage carts. A Costa Rican porter said "no" and off he went only to return with a large wagon type carrier. He loaded all our luggage and we didn't have to lift a finger. He found a taxi for us and loaded all our baggage into it. At our house, the taxi driver unloaded everything - we lifted nothing.  It was the difference between night and day. Clearance through immigration was quick - we now get to use the Costa Rican citizens' lineup (also for people like us with residency). No rubbing shoulders with the touristas.

And this concludes my storage locker epistle.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Storage Locker - Part 2

We were up very early the morning of July 29, 2017, in order to get to the airport in time to board our flight to Houston. We had not been out of Costa Rica for over six years and I wondered what the return to North America would be like. Here are some photos of the first leg of our journey.

Ready for takeoff: 

Leaving beautiful Costa Rica:

I believe this is the coastline of Quinta Roo, México:

I think this is the Belize coastline:

Approaching George Bush Airport, Houston:

So, what were my first impressions of North America from the air and on the land? Houston was hot and humid! So many freeways, so many cars, people going everywhere all the time. Flat land.

We overnighted in Houston and travelled Houston-Dallas-Vancouver, B.C., the following day. We were not seated together on this leg but I did okay. The Vancouver Whitecaps soccer team was on board. They had successfully played in Dallas the day before and were headed home. I was seated between one of the players and a doctor from Dallas who travels frequently to Vancouver because he and his wife own a house in Whistler, B.C.

Flying into Vancouver is always a visual treat if it is a clear day - the Gulf Islands, Vancouver Harbour, the Coast mountains and so on. It was a fairly clear day, so we saw a lot as we circled around. This would be about the last day during our visit that it would be clear, due to the raging wild fires in the interior sending smoke westward. Air quality was very poor and it was hot. We could hardly see the sun and it was often a red colour.

Vancouver International Airport has gorgeous west coast Native artwork beautifully displayed in the international arrivals section. Some photos:

The airport was crowded and chaotic with seemingly endless lines snaking back and forth for passage through customs and immigration. We were happy to get out of there and collect our rental car from Budget. Off we went to our hotel in Abbotsford which would be our home for the next six days. We chose to stay outside of the city areas because of the outrageously high cost of hotels. Abbotsford was about an hour's drive from our storage locker in Delta.

So there we were, driving familiar roads after six years away. I knew almost right away that I did not want to return and live here. British Columbia is a spectacularly beautiful province but just not our home any longer. Being there felt like taking a step backwards.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Storage Locker - Part I

Last month, we made the decision to clear out the storage locker we had in Delta, British Columbia. Before moving to Costa Rica in 2011, we disposed of most of our belongings but kept some things in storage just in case we decided to return to Canada. Six years later, we decided we had no plans to return and it was time to empty the locker. 

Our locker was with U-Pak Mobile Storage located in Delta, B.C. They drop off a container at your house, you fill it up and then they come to your house to pick up the filled container and take it to their storage facility. When you want access to your locker, they will remove it from their storage area and deposit it under a large covered area on their premises. They then return the locker to the enclosed storage area at the end of the day.

Logistics: we decided to allow five days for emptying the locker, two days to get to Vancouver, two days to return to Costa Rica, and one day for shopping in the Vancouver area (hopefully). The reason we chose two days for travel each way is that there are no direct flights to Vancouver. We could have done it in one day but that would have involved changing planes once or twice, possibly hours of sitting around in airports waiting for connecting flights, not counting the flight times, and arriving late at night or even the next day. We would rather be sleeping in a nice hotel room. So our outgoing flight route was SJO to Houston, Texas, and overnighting there. The next day Houston to Dallas to Vancouver.

Cat and house sitting: we chose Vicki Skinner at Loving Your Pet House Sitting. Vicki quickly made friends with Cat. It's nice to go away and not have to worry about house and pets. We highly recommend Vicki.

Car rental: Budget at Vancouver International Airport.

For our first night away, we stayed near Juan Santamaria International Airport (SJO) in Alajuela at the Hotel Brillo Sol, as we had an early flight the next day. This is a great place to stay and so close to the airport. Very reasonable price (they prefer cash). Restaurant and bar - we had a chicken lasagne that was excellent. The property is behind a tall gate and you would not know this lovely property was there unless someone told you about it. 

Our room was to the left of the bench.

Colourful walkway.


Lounge area.

Wishing well.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Please Stand By

I am currently in Canada where the high temperature was 37C today, which is far hotter then we have encountered in Costa Rica in the last six years.

Normal programming to resume presently.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Snakes, Poisonous Caterpillars and a Refrigerator

Last week, just outside our front gate, we saw a dead terciopelo or fer-de-lance. I guess it was run over by a car. This venomous pit viper is considered the most dangerous snake in Costa Rica. This is a good reminder that jungle wildlife is not so far away from us and we should not become complacent.

In the poisonous insect world, we were invaded by saddleback caterpillars. Here they are chowing down on palm leaves:

Don’t touch!!! Those spikes are urticating hair which can cause some painful skin irritations like burns. They are the caterpillars of a dark brown/beige/black kind of boring looking moth. They're called Saddleback caterpillars for obvious reasons (quote from Claudia).

Acharia stimulae

Thank you, Claudia Leon (my protozoologist friend) and my husband Lance for identifying these creatures for me. One thing we have learned by living in the tropics is ..... don't touch anything! There is even a tree that is dangerous - the machineel tree. When we visited Isla Tortuga, our guide pointed out a machineel tree and told us to stay far away from it.

Now onto inanimate objects that are not poisonous but could be harmful - in this case a refrigerator. A couple of years ago our neighbours Rose Mary and Tony gave us a refrigerator they no longer used. Our refrigerator is quite small so it was nice to have a full size one, at least for a while. It eventually broke down, wasn't worth repairing and I started using it as a pantry. Our kitchen is small so it was nice to have extra storage space.

This week, the bottom door fell off and then the top. Fortunately, neither of us nor our cat were nearby because those doors are heavy. I couldn't stop laughing, it was really funny. We were going to get rid of it but then I decided to keep it, minus the doors, paint it a dark red and it will be an unusual, quirky pantry. I've removed the ice cube maker and have started sanding the sides.

Here's the refrigerator with the fallen doors, Lance holding the freezer door:

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Spring Cleaning Addendum

In my Spring Cleaning post, I forgot to mention that Orlando is bilingual. He is available to help with translation issues. He will accompany you to appointments that you know will be in Spanish and he can interpret for you.

His phone number is 8590-5819.

We had a bit of fun when he was at our house cleaning. It's mango season and this is the big tree on our property. It's loaded but most of the mangoes are very high up. He didn't mind climbing up the ladder and whacking down mangoes with a stick.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Spring Cleaning

We don't really experience "spring" the way people in the northern climes do. Nevertheless, our house needed a thorough cleaning so we'll call it a late spring cleaning.

We hired Orlando, who lives in the Atenas area. He used to work for our neighbors before they moved away and he helped out at our first art show (Atenas Painters Association) so we knew him.

We told Orlando the work we wanted done, negotiated a price (not an hourly rate) and he started two days later. He showed up when he said he would, and provided everything he needed (scaffold, ladder, cleaning supplies, brushes, mops, etc.). The only extras we purchased were lightbulbs and window screening (about $20 USD). 

Here is what we had done:
  • Gutters cleaned (especially important here because we do not want standing water where the dengue carrying mosquitoes can breed).
  • Entire outside of house washed, including all the wood on the underside of the overhanging roof.
  • Outside perimeter tiled areas and patio area scrubbed and cleaned.
  • Five inside fabric Roman blinds - they were removed and taken to Orlando's home where his wife cleaned them. Believe me, that must have been hard work because they were stained with mold and water marks and she returned them sparkling white.
  • All inside floors scrubbed and cleaned.
  • All inside walls washed and cleaned.
  • Wood ceilings washed and cleaned. Our ceilings are very high and this is where the scaffold came in. All the wood was cleaned and polished by hand.
  • Leaking faucet in shower repaired.
  • Water in toilet was constantly running and he fixed it.
  • Orange tree pruned and all the suffocating vines on the tree canopy removed. Now the tree is open and receives sun and moisture. Orlando is returning in a month to remove any vines that have started to regrow.
  • All basura (garden trash) removed. This included piles of palm leaves at the back of the property and up a hill. The best way to reach them was to machete a path through the bougainvillea from the road. For this job, Orlando brought in a fellow with a big truck and it took two loads.
  • Replace three window screens.
  • Replace lightbulbs - a lot of the lighting is very high up and neither of us want to climb up a ladder. I went to the hardware store for the bulbs and screening with everything written out in Spanish for me by Orlando.
  • All windows cleaned inside and out.
  • Four ceiling fans cleaned.
Orlando had a helper for four of the six days of work, in addition to his wife and the guy with the truck. Total man hours came out to around sixty. They worked hard and were always cheerful. Orlando had a work schedule in mind and always told us what he would be doing the next day so we could keep out of their way. We cannot believe the difference this work has made to the house. All the wood ceilings are gleaming. Orlando said the wood is expensive tropical hardwood and deserves to be looked after. To replace any of it would cost a good deal of money. The floors have never been cleaner or shinier. We have hired a housekeeper to come in every two weeks and I am really looking forward to this.

An interesting cultural tidbit: it was me they came to when they had questions, not Lance. So I heard a lot of  "Diana, Diana, Diana". We figure this is because women are seen to be in charge of the household, not the men. Lance was the money man but I ruled the roost. I didn't mind - I'm so indispensible!

We highly recommend Orlando - he can do anything and, as he says, if he can't do it he knows someone who can. His attitude is so positive and he works nonstop. Orlando's phone number is 8590-5819.

Here's Orlando and me - in the background is Orlando's helper and the fellow with the garden waste removal truck.


Orlando and his helper cleaning the ceilings:


Pruning the orange tree: 

The vines that were strangling the orange tree: 


The beautiful wood ceilings after being cleaned:


Outdoor ceilings after cleaning:


Everything was cleaned, even the small louvered windows:


Drying the floors:


Thursday, June 15, 2017

Motmot Survival

For the last six days we have been having our house professionally cleaned, inside and out. But that will be another blog post.

However, the windows are now so clean that a blue crowned motmot (pájaro bobo here in Costa Rica) flew into one and seriously stunned himself. Our Cat was instantly interested and Lance was quick to shut him inside the house. I picked the bird up from the ground and put him on our hedge to, hopefully, recover. It took about 20 minutes before he seemed more alert. But our Cat was still interested in what was going on outside.

We decided to move the bird to a less periouslous perch so I moved him across the street to a neighbor's hedge, where he promptly flew away. Hurrah! I've never held a motmot in my hands before.

Here's the motmot on the ground shortly after hitting the window. You can see his gorgeous colours. What is missing is the rest of his lovely tail, which looks like a metronome.


Here he is recovering on our hedge:


Here is a link to more information about this lovely bird.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Haircut, Glasses and Pizza

In the last two weeks, I have had an eye examination by an opthalmologist at Optica Centro Visual, ordered new glasses and picked them up, had my hair cut by Ingrid at Ingrid's Hair Design, and we have eaten pizza twice at the same restaurant with two different sets of good friends.

Optica Centro Visual - we have always purchased contact lenses and eyeglasses from Rigo and Rosa here in Atenas. An eye examination by an opthalmologist can be arranged at their store, which is what I did. Rigo and Rosa helped me select frames and I chose progressive lenses which are also transitional. This means I can see far, middle and close distance just by moving my head up and down, and transitional means they turn into sunglasses when appropriate. This is important for anyone living in the tropics. They are pricy but well worth it and I imagine less expensive then in Canada or the USA.

Ingrid's Hair Design - I have been going to Ingrid for quite a while now. I showed her a picture of what I wanted but, after a consultation with some other ladies in the salon, they all agreed that what I wanted done was not possible with my hair. Ingrid went on line and found the perfect cut for my wavy hair and she was right. Ingrid has scissor skills! One thing I really enjoy at Ingrid's salon is the cold water they use to wash hair ... it is so refreshing.

Photo is me with new glasses and new haircut.


Pizza: Last week, we had pizza twice at Pizzeria La Finca in Atenas. First with our friends from France - Claudia and Barry:


And, secondly, with our neighbour Sharon and her friends and ours from Washington State ... Linda and Clifford.


Both times,  Lance and myself ordered a grande sized pizza ... half with anchovies and half without. I love anchovies but Lance does not.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Happy Anniversary!

Happy 6th anniversary to us! On this day - May 31, 2011 - we flew from San Francisco, to Dallas and then to Costa Rica. We arrived at 8:30 pm. A light rain was falling. Cleared Customs and Immigration. Shoved our six suitcases into a taxi and headed for San José, where we spent ten days before heading to Atenas. Our cat, Genny, had travelled ahead of us and was boarding at a vet office in Santa Ana until we were ready to collect her. It seems every expat I have met here remembers the exact date they arrived in Costa Rica.

Moving to a foreign country is a life changing experience - challenging, exciting and so worth doing. You will discover you have organizational and planning skills not previously experienced. You will learn to cope with a foreign language; different customs and laws and regulations; unusual fruits, vegetables and other food items; medical and banking systems; weather patterns; tropical insects and animals and so much more. Sometimes this will prove very frustrating but you learn to roll with the punches and relax - a good thing. Best of all, you will come to know the people of the country you have moved to.

And as each day, month, year passes you will have become a changed person. You will have grown in ways you would not have imagined. Expats come and go here all the time. Some return to their home country for various reasons, all valid, and others leave to try living in a different foreign country. Many stay on permanently, having decided Costa Rica is where they want to be. Some are "snow birds" - escaping their winter climate for a few months of tropical warmth and they return every year, like the migrating birds.

As I write this, it is  raining - much like the day when we arrived in 2011, during the green or rainy season. For us, making the decision to pull up roots and move to a foreign country sight unseen and with no knowledge of Spanish was a great adventure and one we have never regretted. Life is short. So, if you have a dream ... try hard to make it a reality. You may discover it was not really what you wanted after all - there is nothing wrong with that - but at least you will know. 

My high school and horse days friend, and friend to this day, Liz, used to send me a New York Times crossword puzzle calendar at Christmas - she knows I really like trying to complete them. We stopped the practice because of high duty charges in Costa Rica. Every day of the year I had a new puzzle to work on and they are challenging. Here is the puzzle I worked on during our flights down here. I kept it because it was such a momentous day. It's getting tattered but I will still keep it. Pura vida!


Monday, May 22, 2017

Cat Goes To The Vet

Last week, we took Cat to Dr. Solano for a general checkup and vacinations. As far as we know, he has never had vacinations. We know nothing of his history because he just appeared one day at our house over a year ago.He was unneutered so we had that done shortly after he appeared. It was our intention to find a permanent home for him but - hah! - of course he had other ideas. So, since it appears a cat now owns us we decided he needed a checkup.

Dr. Solano is an excellent vet here in Atenas. His telephone numbers are 2446-6646 and 2446-6068. He also has a cell phone: 8995-8585 and email: His office is located 100 meters east of the ICE office (ICE being the acryonm for Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad - the Costa Rican government run electricity and telecommunications services provider).

Cat (the name that has stuck) was very unhappy in the carrier and the short taxi ride but was a good boy while being examined by Dr. Solano and his assistants. This is a cat that is outside all day, hunting and lolling around in the grass/dirt so he had fleas and no doubt worms. He stays inside at night. He needs to lose some weight so we have him on a calorie reduced diet now. Dr. Solano said Cat is built larger then most Costa Rica cats.

The treatment Cat received was: deworming, flea treatment (Frontline Plus, I think, or similar), Felocell and Leukocell shots, and feces exam. The total cost, including the consultation, was 48,050 colones - about 96.00 USD. We also bought 1.5 kg of weight reduction kibble for 9850 colones (19.00 USD) and a product to spray on furniture to kill any fleas. Pet food in Costa Rica is pricy because it is imported.

Here is the dewormed and flealess version of Cat:


Monday, May 1, 2017

On The Buses

Last week, we rode a morning bus from Atenas to San José. We had breakfast at Soda Tapia, La Sabana, a diner from the 1950´s, that serves typical Costa Rican food for a good price. Every time we have been there, there have been lots of customers sitting inside and outside. The menu is a two sided piece of paper with all the menu items on it (in Spanish) and you check off what you want.

We both had the ham and cheese omlette which came with fried plantains and a couple of slices of toasted bread. We also each ordered a fruit drink made with mora (a species of blackberry). We always enjoy eating at Soda Tapia - the service is attentive and meals come quickly.

Later on, we took a taxi to the Coca Cola bus station. You have to specify which station you want so, for us, we tell the driver "Coca Cola para Atenas". There used to be a large Coca Cola plant here, long gone, but the name remains. We were quite early for the next Atenas bus but there was a bus to Orotina about ready to leave so we hopped on it. The Orotina bus makes a stop in Atenas - just tell the driver that's where you will be getting off because the fare will be less.

I made a video of part of our ride home to Atenas.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Vacuum Cleaner

This is the vacuum cleaner we bought for an excellent price from a couple who were leaving Costa Rica - about three or four years ago, I believe.


I can't remember the exact price we paid for this vacuum and also a large size slow cooker .... maybe around $50 USD. This is the way to buy stuff in Costa Rica ... people come and go all the time here and when they leave, they want to get rid of their things and prices are very good.

So this Electrolux has faithfully worked for us over the last few years .... sucking up cat hair, bugs, volcanic ash and more. But last week, it lost it's sucking power and it was time to take it to the appliance hospital.

One thing I have learned about living in a Spanish speaking country, when my Spanish is so so, is to Google translate what I want and write it out on a card or, in this case, on masking tape. In this photo, I have my name, telephone number and the problem: "sin succion", no suction. We went to Electro Atenas, across from the park and very close to the Santa Clara bakery. They had repaired our blown out TV a couple of years ago for a most reasonable price. When I dropped the vacuum off with them, they asked for a 5,000 colone deposit (about $10 USD).

The "29173" is their order number. I received a phone call the next day saying (I think) that the vacuum was ready to be picked up. We went there the day after, picked up the vacuum, and there were no extra charges beyond the 5,000 colone deposit. We went home, plugged in the vacuum and .... it worked! 

Today I cleaned our house from top to bottom, volcano ash and all.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Easter Sunday, 2017

Happy Easter Sunday, everyone. I pulled some prawns out of the freezer to thaw this morning, thinking that we would have them for dinner. I quickly put them back in the freezer when our neighbor Rose Mary came to our gate with a present of lots of cooked ham slices. Big thick slabs of honey ham ... so that's our dinner for tonight, along with roasted Greek potatoes and a vegetable. Thank you, Rose Mary!

Sadly, the only Easter present I had for Rose Mary was a bag of Lorsban, which is used here to destroy the vast underground ant colonies that cause so much damage. It's mixed with water (I think) in a pump type container with a wand that is inserted into the ground, and pumping action forces the chemical into the nests. We both use Byron as our gardener and he had used some of Rose Mary's supply on our ant nests so we wanted to replace it for her.


We had a lot of garden trash (basura del jardín) piled up waiting for removal, but we hadn't found anyone to do the job for us. This is what was at our front gate, the bags contain leaves, etc.:


And these bags were piled around the mango tree (the huge pile of dirt under the mango are ant hills):


A fellow on a moto stopped by this morning and eyeballed the mess and asked if we wanted it removed. We negotiated a price and this is how it was done:


He needed 5,000 colones up front to pay for gas for the truck that would be arriving, so we gave him that. We wondered if he or a truck would ever return and he was just collecting money in a novel way. But I had faith and, sure enough, in a couple of hours a truck showed up with him, another worker and a boss man. Unfortunately, the truck was not a top loader but a back loader so it made it difficult to shove everything in. If it had been a top loader, they could have compressed everything down. It was hot, dirty work. The boss man gave the orders and chatted with us. We had another round of negotiations:


Ignore "chilli jam" at the top - I think that was for some recipe or other. See the "cebolla morado"? That means "purple onion". Well, boss man noticed that part of our hedge had been stripped bare by leaf cutter ants and he told us to slice up a purple onion and scatter the pieces under the hedge. He said this would help deter the leaf cutters. I'll give it a try, can't hurt and no chemicals involved.

Anyway, they seemed happy to have the work, we were happy to have it done, and a round of handshakes and one kiss on the cheek finished the job.

Friday, April 7, 2017

April 1 to 7, 2017

This has been a good week. We've had two separate days of heavy rain - over an inch fell on each day. It has been so dry that it was much appreciated. We are going into our green season somewhat early this year compared to previous years.

Our new cedulas/Dimex (Costa Rican ID cards) arrived at our correos (post office) on Monday, April 3rd. They were supposed to be there on March 10th so just a little over three weeks late. We are legal residents for another two years.

We ordered two dinners again from Etnia Bistro Pub, delivered right to our door. This time we tried chicken saute with peanut sauce, cucumber salad with tzatziki, and pita bread - excellent.


A fellow artist is leaving Costa Rica and was selling some of his art supplies. I scored big time by buying this from him:


132 Prismacolor premier colored pencils, unused! All for only $60 USD. In Canada, just one of these pencils costs $2.20, so 132 Prismacolors would be $290.40 CAD! Now I have to learn how to use them.

I have quite a few orchids blooming right now:


Do you know what this is?


This is an orchid seed pod that burst open to release a gazillion tiny, tiny orchid seeds into the wind. They are almost like dust.