Friday, December 21, 2007

Ditch upgrade or disaster?

The past few weeks we’ve had a crew of men working on the ditch that goes past our lower house and heads into the river at the bottom of the hill. At first Patrick and I sort of panicked. We weren’t exactly sure what the crew had planned since it appeared that they were just adding a driveway into the coffee field. We were thinking someone had purchased the land and intended to turn it into a huge condo project since there would be amazing views of the valley and San Jose.

Then the crew headed further up the hill - first framing then filling the entire ditch with concrete. Friday night Patrick and I took a walk up and around the hill to check the progress of the crew. They had a few frames filled with concrete but most of the top of the hill appeared to be big massively deep holes. There seemed to be no real way the water would rush from the top of the hill through the newly created triangular concrete ditch. Most likely what will happen will be the water at the top of the hill will pool up in the deep holes and then overflow and rush everywhere but the newly intended culvert.

The really sad thing about this entire project would be the fact that the rain water flowed fine on our side of the river. The real problem was on the other side of the bridge. The ditches on that side were collapsing and the water wasn’t flowing into the river fast enough so the water would pool up and start to flood the bridge. The neighbors on the other side of the bridge were always trying to dig the ditch deeper and remove all the big stones.

Hopefully this project doesn’t screw up the water flow badly enough that it causes a flood at our lower level house. And hopefully for our neighbors’ sake, the city fixes the other side soon!

Fingers crossed!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

I loathe leaf cutter ants!

The first time I visited Costa Rica I found the leaf cutter ants amazing. The second time I visited C.R., I found a huge trail of the ants in Manuel Antonio National Park and found them amusing. Sometime after that, Patrick and Azure watched a show about leaf cutter ants on Discovery Channel and explained to me how these miracle ants take the pieces of leaves they cut back to their ant hill and use the pieces to make a fungus which they then live on for years. Patrick also said the scientists researching these ants found that their ant hills are actually massive. They poured cement into one ant civilization and continued to pour until they used tons of cement. It cured to the size of most people’s living rooms. Huge!

According to this show, these ants are important to the eco-system. I’m all for that but since I’ve been living in Costa Rica, I believe these little things are one of the most destructive things I’ve come across. They tore into my lower front garden a few months ago and stripped the whole thing bare. I definitely was not happy about this situation but I focused my attention on the upper garden and hoped that the lower garden would grow back by the time I wanted to start showing it some affection. Eventually, the lower garden did grow back and maybe even looked better than before so I happily ignored the ants. Big mistake!

These ants came back with a vengeance about a month later. The lower garden has not even been able to recoup since then. Each time a leaf grows back an ant is waiting to haul it away.

Yesterday I pointed out to Patrick an old rose bush in the front yard that I have been trying to “save”. Stunning red leaves covered the stems and the beginnings of buds peeked out. I was proud of my effort and gardening skills. Only, later the same afternoon, the entire bush had been stripped bare by leaf-cutter ants. I’m so peeved!

Then Azure noticed more leaf cutter ants carrying flower petals and stems through my newly planted upper flowerbed! Luckily, the flowers in that bed are too young and the ants are just marching thru instead attacking some plants somewhere under the car port and in the ditch. Whew!

I’ve done some research on the internet trying to find some suggestions on how to get rid of these pests. Unfortunately, no one has reliable information except for some organic pesticide I haven’t found here that uses citrus juice. Using the citrus juice theory, I started cutting limes in half and juicing them near the ants but it only causes a slowdown for a short period of time then they are back to full force garden demolition.

Can someone please help me with ideas to destroy these ants?!?

Monday, December 10, 2007

Cheap Date

I’m not surprised to find that Costa Rica has plenty of Christmas events. We took advantage of this (and socialistic government which supports the arts) and thoroughly enjoyed going to the National Theater Sunday to see the Nutcracker Ballet.

I read about the performance in last weeks Tico Times and looked forward to seeing the ballet again since I just finished reading the original Nutcracker story by E.T.A. Hoffmann. After some persuasion, Patrick agreed to drive us to San Jose and attend the ballet. So, I logged onto the Teatro Nacional de Costa Rica’s website Thursday with Azure only to find our favorite seats already taken. No surprise there but I made Azure believe we weren’t going (I can be such a sneaky mom) and then logged back on Friday morning and purchased three tickets.

I am happy to report that the theater’s website works great and makes purchasing tickets easy. The site shows a seating chart and marks seats sold in one color and seats available in another. You can scroll over a seat to see the price of the ticket then click on the seat you want to purchase. Then you enter your info and the site gives you a receipt. Actually two receipts since one if for your purchase and one is from the theater.

When we arrived at the theater on Sunday before the performance, there was a separate table with two people checking id’s and receipts then passing out pre-paid tickets. The whole process was extremely simple and the best part of the deal was that they didn’t charge any service fees. The site doesn’t allow for any discounts which meant we paid full price for Azure’s ticket but since tickets are cheap in the first place and with no service fees it still beat driving down to San Jose to buy tickets in person!

So to wrap up, we enjoyed the Costa Rica children’s ballet company perform with the Cuban Ballet company for a total of 6000 colones (just over $12). Plus $2 parking and $5 for three slices of pizza and strawberry drinks means we had a great day on the town for under $20! I love Costa Rica!

Friday, December 7, 2007

Still no white sheets

Just a quick update to my previous white sheet story. Azure's soccer game was canceled again. What does this have to do with white sheets. Well, nothing except Azure's teacher has French classes Tuesday afternoons and we had planned to speak to her after the game which would coincide with the end of French. Since there was no game, we couldn't speak to her teacher. Anyway, Heredia's central market happened to be the teacher's recommended spot to buy sheets. Patrick and I headed over there Wednesday morning. We walked the entire market twice - no sheets in sight. We finally ended up buying two meters of white fabric which cost us about $4.

Azure said that only one student actually brought a sheet on Thursday. Everyone else had fabric or nothing. Azure's piece of fabric worked out well because she only needed half and she shared the other half with a student in her class.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Who buys white sheets?

Azure’s school will be performing a play next week based on a book they have been reading about African Folklore. She doesn’t have a big part but is excited to be playing a king.

Sunday evening she told me she needed a white sheet that she planned to cut a hole in the middle so she could wear it as a tunic. She also informed me she would be painting designs on the sheet.

First of all, I don’t have any plain white sheets. Next, even if I did, I wouldn’t want her cutting a hole in it for a play that will last about 10 minutes. So, I sent her to school with the next best thing. I had an old fitted sheet that happens to be white with some large light blue flowers on it. Then I reconsidered and told her I didn’t want her to look silly. Azure agreed that she didn’t want to ruin a new white sheet and the one I sent with her would be fine.

Unfortunately, her teacher didn’t see it the same way we did and yelled at Azure. So, Patrick and I spent a few hours this morning shopping for a plain white sheet. I’m sure part of the problem is that we are unsure where locals would buy such a thing but the problem we are running into seems quite reasonable. Who wants white sheets when they can have beautiful ones that match their bedroom décor?

So, we’re off to speak to the teacher about not having a plain white sheet. Wish us luck!

Friday, November 30, 2007

Government Lawn Mowers

The purpose of today’s post happens to be more of a observation Patrick and I have made which compares and contrasts our old life to our new one.

When we lived in Minneapolis as owners of a house in the city, we were required by law to maintain our front sidewalk and gutter area. This meant mowing in the summer and shoveling in the winter and ensuring none of the lawn clippings, snow, or other debris ended up in the gutters. As a matter of fact, after living there a few years, the city started charging us (everyone) a city sewer few based on the size of our driveway (this was separate from our typical sewer usage few) to cover the expenditure of added debris in the sewer system. How rude!

In Big Lake, we lived in a subdivision without sidewalks or extra fees.

This morning we Patrick and I heard a loud whirring noise (like a chainsaw) coming from the area of our lower house. We headed up to the balcony to take a look. From that vantage point we could see four city workers with weed eaters cutting down everything and anything in site. This is the third time they have been in our neighborhood trimming our front drive. At first I thought it seemed crazy that the city does this for us, but I’m starting to warm to the idea. If they charge us for this service, I have yet to see the bill.

We have paid our taxes for the year and I’ll try to remember to cover that in a later post.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Frantic Friday - Part Two – OR- Where’s Azure?

Recap: We decided to go shopping in Escazu before Azure’s soccer game. We arrived at the school 30 minutes early to find the school closed and the gates locked. Holy …. Where is Azure?

Patrick resolves the car alarm problem but by this time he is starting to unravel. We explicitly told Azure we would meet her at Blue Valley school and not to accept a ride with anyone (the school hires a bus to take the kids to their games and they must take the bus even if their parents plan to attend the game).

I walk confidently into the indoor soccer area and ask some kids if they speak English. They point to a woman who appears to be setting up for a party. I ask her if she knows anything about a game between Blue Valley and European Schools. She confirms that she is setting up for her son’s birthday party and she doesn’t know anything about a school game. She shrugs and directs us back to the first indoor soccer place we had stopped at with sincere apologies that she couldn’t help.

By now Patrick is in a tizzy. I’m actually trying to stay calm. I keep thinking to myself that I have been in this situation before – some sort of déjà vu. We head back to the first indoor soccer place thinking we should check it out since we never did go inside. There are a group of guys conversing with the security guard so I explain our situation to them and ask if they have any ideas of other places the girls could be playing soccer. They tell us the indoor soccer place we are standing next to closed but one guy thinks there is another one about half mile down the road. Patrick and I have doubts but at this point we have no choice but to check.

Of course we never found the place down the road. Patrick is panicking. He doesn’t know how we will ever find Azure. Maybe there is a different Blue Valley or maybe they gave the coach a game location and that information didn’t get passed to us. Or maybe they are playing a different school. ETC I suggested we should drive back to the school but Patrick disagreed figuring if we arrived there and couldn’t find Azure on the school grounds then what? We agreed that our best bet would be to call the school and hope someone was still around to answer the phone – after all it was a Friday and about 30 minutes after the last class.

Here is another problem. The payphones in Costa Rica don’t take coins (they use a card you have to buy at certain stores) . We head toward the mall looking for an internet place since they typically allow you to make phone calls. We don’t see any internet places since I suppose most people in Escazu can afford to have internet at home. We do see an AM/PM (mini-market). We pull in and ask to buy a phone card. The cashier has to ask his supervisor and then says they don’t have any. What’s up with that? According to all the info we’ve read, all markets should sell phone cards. Okay, let’s not panic. We leave the car in the parking lot and run around for a few blocks trying to find a phone we can use. We even considered asking the agents and Coldwell Banker to use their phone but the office was closed. Figures! (I guess Costa Rica agents don’t work on Fridays just like in Minnesota)

I calmingly tell Patrick we should head back to Blue Valley School since it was almost 3:30. Maybe the girls really were playing there –yeah right. Otherwise, I figured we should get the security guard to call European School and find out what happened. Good plan so I thought until the guard tells us he doesn’t have a cell phone. Now what? Panic strikes!

I tell Patrick that I knew the other security guard had a cell phone. I bet he would let us use it since he knows we are worried parents. We head back over to the indoor soccer field yet again hoping it’s not to late to reach someone at the school. By now the security guard is not surprised to see us. We’re almost friends J I ask if he would call the European School for us and hand him one of their business cards. He obliges and calls them then hands the phone to Patrick (I always forget that this is still a man’s world here in Costa Rica…).

Patrick asks the receptionist if she knows anything about the girls’ soccer game at Blue Valley. She puts him on hold for only a moment and returns to say the game was cancelled. Whew! Patrick asks her if she happens to see Azure Jones to tell her that her parents just received the message and we’re on our way to pick her up.

Now to get back to San Pablo de Heredia during Friday rush hour. On a good day it takes 45 minutes! Patrick handles the traffic well but obviously we are both relieved to know where our daughter is so the panic attacks have subsided!

We actually make it back to San Pablo quickly (about 45 minutes!) and locate Azure sitting under a tree outside the principal’s office. Her principal, Ms Cristin, yells to us from her window apologizing for the misunderstanding. She said they didn’t know how to reach us but she emailed and hoped we would figure it out. She said the coach also said she would wait as long as it took for us to get Azure. We walked past the front office and waved to the coach. She immediately ran out to apologize. She said the school only had a half day and no one bothered to tell her. She called around noon to talk to the other coach and found out the game was cancelled. The other school knew all along the students wouldn’t be there. Azure’s coach says “This is Costa Rica after all… “

So, I have to wonder, what did parents do before there were cell phones????

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Frantic Friday

First, I would like to start out by stating that we don’t have a cell phone. I thought it would be easy to live in Costa Rica without a cell phone. I don’t like conversing over the phone much and my old job consisted of customer service type calls which I could do without for a while. Besides, my Spanish sucks so what’s the point of having a phone if I have no idea why the caller called and vice versa. It’s not like I’m going to call for take-out pizza, right. (Well, I have thought of that…)

Okay, on to our frantic Friday.

Azure’s soccer team had a game scheduled for Friday against Blue Valley. I recalled that my blog buddy, Jen poco loco, had originally planned to send her kids to Blue Valley so I knew that the school would be in Escazu. When we met Jen a few weeks ago, I mentioned the soccer game and asked her for directions. Surprisingly, I knew the area she mentioned so I confidently told Patrick I could get us to the school. (By the way, I’m happy we finally met Jen and her family. They are great people. Patrick and I enjoyed our chat and Azure really had fun playing with her kids. We can’t wait to get together again.)

Since we knew where to meet the team for the game this time, we decided to get some errands done first including a little gringo shopping at Hipermas and a huge hardware store I spotted nearby the last time we were in Escazu. We breezed through Hipermas noticing the store in Escazu stocks a lot more gringo style products than the one we normally shop at in Heredia. We still didn’t buy much but Patrick replaced the jack, lug wrench, and tie down which were stolen out of the car the week before. Next we headed to the hardware store across the highway. The name of the place was EPA and it happened to be very similar to Home Depot (I kept looking for Tony Stewart ) which isn’t typical for Costa Rica most hardware stores require you to know what you want and a gentleman will go in back to get it for you. I’m embarrassed to say that we loved the place. We found much needed kitchen cabinets that are more affordable that all the other stores we have shopped in and I actually like them more. I thought I would have to settle but I guess not! We also found some bamboo blinds I just have to buy for the empty windows. We plan to go back with measurements but I did end up buying a vanilla plant and some chiles for my growing garden.

We left EPA about 2:30 figuring we had plenty of time to drive to the school. We knew we would even beat the school bus since the game didn’t start until 3:30. So, we drive past the school and notice no one is there. I don’t mean that there are no people we know there; I mean there is literally no one there. No kids, no teachers, no bus drivers –wait! -there is a guard dozing on a folding chair against the fence. I leap out of the car and verify with him that this building is actually Blue Valley School (since there is no sign labeling it). Yes, it is Blue Valley. Where is everyone I ask him in my crappy Spanish. He tells me nothing is going on there until Monday. What? Where do the girls play soccer? He mentions something about down the road. I do remember an indoor soccer place we passed about two blocks down. So, we head over there. Another security guard stops us and we explain that we are looking for a girl’s soccer game between Blue Valley and European Schools. Of course he has no clue what we are talking about but like all helpful Ticos, he directs us to another soccer field down the block.

On the way to the other indoor soccer field, our car’s security alarm wouldn’t turn off (remember our previous story about this subject?). so our car locked up. Patrick had to disengage the car battery and fiddle with the alarm wires. Meantime, I walked up the hill to check out the facilities and to see if I could find either of the teams. I didn’t see any girls but the woman working the place claimed they were in the back. I walked back down the hill to wait to check things out further with Patrick.

Stay tuned tomorrow for the conclusion of Frantic Friday or Where’s Azure?

Friday, November 23, 2007

two for one day

I already published a post today but I wanted to add some photos to go with the car/theft blogs. I figured no one would realize I added them unless I put them in a new post so here is the map we tried to use for Tibas, missing stereo, and the car window (newly fixed).

Happy Thanksgiving

I realize this happens to be a day late but I’m sure all my American readers are enjoying their 4 day weekend and won’t even read this until Monday…

Since Azure didn’t receive any time off for Thanksgiving, the Jones Family spent the day at home. This was a change of pace for us since the last five years we’ve taken advantage of the school break to travel and the years previous we had always spent with family. Oh, well. I miss my family but it’s also nice to garden in mid-November when I heard it was snowing in Minnesota!

Some people have asked me if Ticos celebrate Thanksgiving. The answer, my friends, would be “maybe”. Thanksgiving really is not a national holiday here in Costa Rica (and it shouldn’t be). BUT, due to all the influence the Americans hold over the locals, some of them seem to feel obligated to celebrate especially the rich ones. Even the kids at Azure’s school teased her when she asked if they celebrate Thanksgiving. Yet we know most locals don’t celebrate.

Local high-end grocery stores offer imported turkey for about $50 per bird. (Patrick and I still can’t figure out why they don’t have turkey farms here). They do stock “turkey” lunchmeat on a daily basis but we aren’t exactly sure what type of meat it is –perhaps iguana?!? Also, some of the local restaurants cater to Americans and offer real Thanksgiving dinners for an average of $20 per person. I love turkey but given our budget we couldn’t afford the prices for a typical Thanksgiving meal and instead we settled on spicy spaghetti and delicious fresh baked garlic bread.

Anyway, if you are reading this today and you live in the US, have fun shopping on Black Friday and don’t be tempted to buy something just because the price is unbelievably low! You don’t have to be “good consumers” to have a great holiday!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Just another day in the slow lane OR how to find auto parts in Costa Rica

Obviously since we were driving around with a missing side window and it rains everyday, we figured it would be a good idea to replace it as soon as possible. Our first stop was Joel’s Used Car Parts which is right around the corner from Azure’s school and as it happens, the only place we’ve noticed for used car parts. I figured it would be too good to be true if “Joel” actually had what we were looking for - a rubber piece to hold the piece of glass into the car. The place always has several cars parked around the entrance so my fingers were crossed; guessing he must have a lot of the right parts or it wouldn’t always be so busy. Unfortunately, it turned out he didn’t have the correct part.

But, Patrick met a gentleman that explained that he knew exactly what Patrick needed and drew him a map to a place in Tibas that he usually goes to when he needs this part. Patrick appeared happy when returning to the car with the hand drawn map and said we would drive to Tibas on Friday since the drive there and back would take a while and he doesn’t like to drive in the dark. After I saw the map, I expressed my concern that we would never be able to find the correct place. Patrick, undeterred, spoke to his bus driver friend Friday morning who agreed with Patrick that there should be no problem finding this place. I still was unconvinced…

So, after dropping Azure off at school in San Pablo, we drove to Tibas and attempted to locate this mysterious auto-parts store. We stopped at many potential places and no one had the part or could make heads or tails of the map. The first place we stopped had given Patrick the name and address of a Suzuki parts store in San Joaquin de Heredia. This seemed like a likely place to find the part but we were currently way south and east of Heredia and figured we would head back that way if we exhausted our current search.

After driving around Tibas and then Santo Domingo for 2 hours we were quite grumpy and hungry. We grabbed a quick lunch of plantain chips and orange juice at Mas X Menos (grocery store) in San Pablo and headed for the Suzuki parts shop.

We easily located the Suzuki parts place a few kilometers west of Hipermas and Heredia. But again they didn’t have the part. A young guy gave Patrick a phone number for a guy named Leo that may or may not have the part. Patrick’s lunch didn’t help his mood and he was about to leave when I said that we should have the store call Leo for us since we didn’t even have a phone. I was quite determined to end this fiasco instead of prolonging it another day or more. Grudgingly, the young kid at the store called Leo. Apparently, Leo could help!

Long story short, we met Leo at the gas station in San Pablo –he actually waited for us to drive over there. Then he took us to his shop which was the backyard of his house. An associate of his directed Patrick to a store that sold the exact rubber piece he needed by the length while I waited at his house and tried to converse with Leo’s wife in Spanish. Shortly they appeared with the part and grabbed tools to install the window. A quick 10 minutes and 4000 colones ($8) later, the window was installed and looked as good as new.


The whole incident cost us $4 in parts, $8 labor, and $10 gas. The funniest thing happened to be that Leo’s shop was about 4 blocks from Azure’s school and 1 block from Joel’s where the whole adventure started!

Monday, November 19, 2007

Unlucky November in Costa Rica

I’m not sure what it is about November in Costa Rica, but this is the second time we’ve been robbed. Last year we had our backpack stolen while waiting for the bus in Jaco to take us back to San Jose. It was quite traumatic because our passports and car keys were in the backpack along with all our cameras, mp3 players, money, and credit cards.

This time (yes it happened again), Patrick noticed the passenger car door open before we headed down the driveway Thursday morning. We all knew immediately that someone had broken into our car. Patrick was furious. Azure was upset. But I didn’t really let it bother me. So, once we were at the bottom of the hill, we noticed that the thief or thieves had cut away the back/side window to get into the car. They took our Pioneer stereo (probably the only part of the car worth anything) and Patrick’s tools.

Okay, so we’ve been hit again. I’m not surprised and the best part is that the robbers were very nice about the whole thing. I’m sure you’re thinking, “what do you mean nice? They stole your things!” Yes, but it could have been a whole lot worse! They left the window intact sitting on the ground next to the car. They took the stereo out without breaking the plastic surrounding it and left all the parts in the car so it could be put back together nicely –just a hole where the stereo used to be and some carefully cut wires. They left Patrick’s jumper cables and only took some wrenches, two jacks, and some tie downs. They could have just driven off with the car or even slashed the tires and the seats. So, all in all, we were lucky.

We had the neighbors call the police for us and they came quickly. Unfortunately, they didn’t do much other than refer us to the OIJ (basically the detective department) in Heredia. Patrick headed out to report the incident to the OIJ immediately. I stayed behind just in case the thief knew we would be leaving to report the theft and then decided to come back to hit the house. Patrick was gone 4 hours and it was very nerve wracking for me but I got a lot of gardening done!

Anyway, it turned out he had to wait one hour to report the theft. Then the OIJ inspected the car and the pane of glass which they dusted for fingerprints- which took one hour! Since they dusted the car they also needed to fingerprint Patrick which took another hour. The whole scenario seems quite funny since we know this is a typical theft and there is no way the OIJ will do anything with the report let alone the evidence. But, we thought we should report it as a formality if nothing else, since we are pretty sure our insurance will not cover theft of personal items. Oh well, who needs the daily radio news anyway?

Stay tuned tomorrow for the adventure of replacing the window in the car…

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

First soccer game

Azure’s soccer team had their first game Friday. The game scheduled for 3:30pm took place at the International Christian School.

Since we had no clue where ICS was located, Patrick and I decided to follow the team bus. We arrived at European School early hoping we were in time to see the team leave. We waited and watched and never caught sight of any of the players or the coach. Finally, Patrick walked down to the bus loading area to see what was holding up the team. Apparently, both the boys and girls team were headed to ICS for a game and only one of the two buses showed up to carry the teams there. Everyone waited until finally the coach loaded the boys into any available cars and we all tore off to ICS in Santo Domingo in a long line. The bus in first place drove awfully fast for the narrow winding roads but Patrick managed to follow ok.

Even though the team arrived late and didn’t get in much of a warm up, they played much better than I expected. The day was cold and rainy but the girls handled it well which I guess made sense since most of their practices occurred during major rainstorms.

Azure played center defense the second half of the game and the other team didn’t get an opportunity to score the entire second half since the girls from the European School managed to keep the ball in the offensive end most of that half. The score ended with European School winning 6-2. Patrick and I both enjoyed the game and are excited for the next one.

We watched the first half of the boys’ game but then headed out since it was already getting dark and we weren’t sure we could find our way home. Obviously we made it home safely but we heard the boys lost their game. Better luck next time.

Azure and Patrick worked on some more defense over the weekend and Azure looked much improved yesterday at practice. We are all hoping she gets more play time during this week’s game. I will keep you updated what happens against Santa Monica at home.

By the way, I do know it is futbol here in Costa Rica but it’s so difficult for me to refer to soccer as futbol when I love American football so much!

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Bleaching the driveway-what are you crazy?

Our driveway is on an extremely steep slope. Basically, the drive up to our house is far too difficult to make not only because of the angle but also to go back down backwards is much more complicated than should be attempted for no good reason. This means, we leave our car at the bottom of the hill under the lower level car port instead of the upper one.

The hike up the hill a few times a day provides a good work out but also happens to be hazardous. Due to the constant rains, there are permanent grooves in the driveway from the run-off. From trial and error, we’ve determined that walking on the outer portion of the grooves could prove dangerous to your health. The outer part seems to be covered with something similar to slime and moss. So, to prevent major wipeouts or even pulling a hamstring, we stick to the inside of the driveway. We also make sure to keep the driveway clear of wet leaves by sweeping.

The last few months had brought so much rain that the driveway never found much time to dry and the inside part of the drive turned black and slick as oil. Finally afraid someone would end up in the hospital, I decided to scrub the driveway. I took a scrub brush and pail of bleach water outside. Then I literally got down on my hands and knees and scrubbed the driveway. Not the whole thing (that would be almost impossible for me) but the key points that we continued to slip on while walking up or down the drive.

Yes, I’m crazy but at least the driveway is now safe to walk because before I bleached the driveway there were days I felt like a sober Bode Miller at the Olympics –way out of control!

Friday, November 2, 2007

Another hurricane and more flooding

I’ve posted about the hurricanes affecting us here in Costa Rica with major rainfall. Unfortunately, the rains continue and a major portion of Costa Rica has been declared natural disasters.

Only last week Azure’s class at school held a food drive for flood victims in Alajuela. This week hurricane Noel hit flooding our own neighborhood. The newspaper reported 180-200 homes in a community of San Rafael de Heredia were damaged. The homes were all in a single neighborhood and were flooded when the storm sewers failed to remove the large amount of rain that fell in such a short period of time. Patrick and I have actually been worried these past few days but so far we have been lucky. I feel awful for all the victims of the floods and mudslides here Costa Rica.

Our own home is trenched out between the coffee plantations. We aren’t concerned about the back yard since the original builders planted trees in a terraced affect. Luckily, the planting will prevent erosion and the trenching will prevent flooding. BUT, the side of the trench on one of the sides of the coffee plantation is beginning to collapse and some small trees have fallen into the trench. So far, nothing critical but we happen to live below a huge tree that will fall right into the house IF we get much more rain and the tree loses its hold…

I wish I had taken some photos Wednesday while we were watching all the rain rush through the trenches and running into the river but all I can do is tell you about the weather. Wednesday morning I emptied our rain gauge of over 3 inches of rain - the majority of which fell in only a two hour period on Tuesday. When we left to pick Azure up at school Wednesday, I felt excited because the sun was blazing hot so I figured it would be a great Halloween. By the time we arrived home at 1pm, the sky was almost black and the rain started falling. By 4:30pm the gauge once again had over 3 inches of rain water inside. The rain continued to fall all evening and was still falling when we woke at 5:30am Thursday morning. I wasn’t shocked to find the rain gauge was full at
5 ½ inches and each new drop just spilled over the side.

Good thing the dry season will be here soon! In the meantime, if anyone feels like doing a good deed, the people here in Costa Rica could use some help. Please make donations to the Red Cross. Thanks!
This is a photo of our backyard trench.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Halloween in Costa Rica

Well, it’s officially November and I still don’t know how Tico kids in Costa Rica celebrate Halloween. Patrick and I had been debating for weeks whether or not we needed to buy candy for little trick-or-treaters. Since Azure had a school party and we wouldn’t be home most of the evening anyway, we opted not to buy any. Besides the fact that we went to Hipermas last week to buy Halloween items and they had Christmas decorations everywhere but nothing for Halloween. We purposely chose Hipermas thinking if any store would carry Halloween items it would surely be one related to Walmart - but zip!

Azure’s party was a touch and go situation since we received over 3 inches of rain from 1pm until we left at 4:30. The bridge was slightly flooded again but I was determined to get Azure to school for her first Halloween party in a new country. So, I wasn’t surprised when we were one of the first families to arrive. Even her teacher admitted some of the roads were washed out which meant the party might be a washout. But, 30 minutes later the place was packed with kids running around and parents standing in the way…

Several classes had been in charge of creating a game for the kids to play like musical chairs, piñatas, darts (ones with sharp points even!), and mazes, etc. The kids were then supposed to get stamps in their passports which could be traded in for a cookie treat.

All the kids seemed to enjoy themselves and Azure “won” 3 cookies. Of course there were some left over so everyone enjoyed the extras. We arrived home safely and I never saw a single trick-or-treater anywhere along the route there or back.


By the way, I forgot to mention Azure made her own broom for her Hogwarts costume.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Happy Halloween!

I will post pictures from Azure's party tomorrow so hang tight and don't let the monsters bite!

Monday, October 29, 2007

Making Cookies

Azure brought home a note from school last week explaining to the parents that the school will be celebrating Halloween with a party. The children are requested to bring a dozen homemade cookies with them to the party.

I read this note with glee excited for Azure since we weren’t sure if the kids here in Costa Rica went trick-or-treating or not. But at the same time I thought, homemade cookies? Very cool and against everything we have learned about the American school policies. I remember when Azure first brought home a note from school back in the States explaining that kids would be allowed to bring treats to school to share for holidays and birthdays but NOT homemade items. I had felt a sigh of relief since I hate baking but at the same time I felt sad for all those children who would never enjoy homemade chocolate chip cookies at school.

So, being Azure (those of you who know her know what I mean), we endured several days of her looking at every recipe she could find for baking cookies. Finally, we decided on a recipe of my Great Grandma C.‘s rich sugar cookies. I remember these cookies from my childhood as being thick and soft and melt in your mouth delicious. MMMM! I could only hope ours would taste as good.

After some trouble finding the correct ingredients, we were set start. We began mixing the ingredients and the mixer decided to overheat since the margarine wouldn’t soften enough. I ended up mixing everything with my fingers (which didn’t work too well). I worried that the cookies would be a disaster but figured it couldn’t hurt to bake them and find out.

Sunday we baked the cookies after allowing them to chill overnight per the recipe. Here was another dilemma since the card said to bake 10-20 minutes. That’s a huge timeframe! I set the timer for 12 minutes figuring that would be safe. The cookies appeared to be done at 10 minutes. We started singing “making cookies, making cookies” which was a twist on the song from Tim Burton’s Nightmare Before Christmas movie.

Luckily the cookies didn’t taste too bad but they definitely were not my Great Grandma’s cookies. Plus, singing that song reminded us that the movie would compliment the occasion so we watched it during dinner.

Azure enjoyed baking the cookies so much (and Patrick enjoyed eating them) that we have decided to buy a new mixer and make cookies more often. There goes my diet!

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

The guy living in the attic

I’ve thought about writing this story for several weeks now but never felt the time was right since it never really had an ending - until now. So, please indulge me on this one since it is part learning to cope with a new move and part silly story (but entirely true).

The very first week we moved into our new house we began hearing noises. Now all houses have their strange noises but some of these we couldn’t identify. First we needed to adjust to the sound of the metal roof. During all times of the days the roof makes different sounds –adjustments to the heat during the day and cool air in the evenings, fruit falling from the trees, animals scampering, etc. Speaking of fruit falling, the sound of the thud on the ground is something that still startles me!

But clearly the sound we heard one particular night appeared to be scraping from the other side of the wall close to the floor of the second level family room that we happened to be using to sleep in until our furniture arrived. The sound occurred near our heads since we were laying on the floor reading. I immediately began pounding on the wall and floor thinking that the mouse on the other side of the wall would be frightened enough to leave until we had a better opportunity to “get rid of it”. Well apparently the rodents here in Costa Rica do not frighten easily.

A few nights later while sleeping, I heard the stairs creak. Convinced that someone broke into the house I ran through the house searching for the intruder. After searching everywhere, which was easy since we still only had dirty clothes in the house at the time, I didn’t find a thing. Patrick giggled and insisted it must be the mouse. Whatever! A mouse could NOT have made the stair creak (by the way the stairs are VERY creaky when Patrick and I walk on them and not so much when Azure uses them –hint –weight).

So, that evening I determined we had a “guy living in the attic”. This guy theory would explain why we heard all these strange noises and why things were always misplaced. Especially clean clothes and cookies J

In the meantime, Patrick decided it was time to investigate the attic. I seriously was terrified for him. I kept envisioning the squirrel from the Christmas Vacation movie that attacks the family and leaps at Julia Louis-Dreyfus’s face! I love that scene yet wouldn’t want it to happen to Patrick while he was up in the attic and by rats teaming with rabies! I waited patiently outside and watched through the window. After safely exiting the attic, Patrick admitted that he found no signs of any rodents in the attic. Yet, we continued hearing scratching noises.

Finally, he decided he better put some poison in the attic. Unfortunately, we still heard noises and even though we tried banging the ceiling the noises continued. Patrick said we must have squirrels in the attic and sought to find a solution. One lady suggested mothballs. She swore that squirrels hate the smell.

We bought two boxes and Patrick headed up to the attic. By this time, I didn’t panic anymore when he headed into the attic. But, a few minutes later I thought the world was coming to an end. I looked up and Patrick had missed a step and his foot went through the ceiling just like in Christmas Vacation! Well, not quite but almost. Luckily only one foot fell through and he was okay. If he had lost his balance completely, the fall to the tile floor could have been deadly.

So, the story ends with mothballs in the attic and no further scratching. Yeah! Plus, a lot of busy work repairing the hole in the ceiling… Bonus would be that we get to pick new color paint for the living room. But that is another project for another day.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Fall Here in Costa Rica

I was under the impression that the weather here in this part of Costa Rica would be Spring-like all year round. This sounded good me. Actually to the entire family since we were anxious to leave the Minnesota winters behind us. Even Summer in Minnesota never was quite perfect with the high humidity and army of mosquitoes which made it difficult to enjoy the evenings outdoors.

Fall has always been my favorite season. I’m not sure why except that as a kid I would always look forward to playing in the leaves and of course I anticipated Halloween even more than Christmas. But I truly enjoy the weather of Fall, too. I love the crispness and the heat of the sun on my face even with the chill in the air. Some may say that Spring is the same but I disagree. So, I expected to miss the Fall season dearly.

Well, I am happy to say that this past week has been very much like the Fall I love so much. In between all the rain (1 ½ inches yesterday and 1 ¾ inches the day before) the sun has made the cool air feel wonderful (for a short period of time). I even get to wear my favorite long sleeve t-shirts without over-heating!

I have been doing a lot of gardening and the leaves are falling from some of the trees in the yard. Yet some of the other trees are starting to blossom which I admit is all too confusing to me but I definitely enjoy the mixture.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Tackling the Mold

Within the past few weeks, we have been trying to get a handle on the mold problem that has crept up on us. Patrick noticed the “plague of blackness” first. Honestly, I thought he was imagining the spots at first. Having moved from the upper Midwest, I have only seen the green form of mold before this move. Now I know it also has a more subtle black color that can be deceiving at first glance. Some of the mold I believed to be dust but upon further inspection and Patrick’s insistence, I gave in to my fear and had to admit that we have a problem.

The biggest concern turned out to be Azure’s bedroom. Even though we had initially cleaned all the walls in the entire house with disinfectant before the furniture arrived, Azure’s bedroom wall had turned black. Not entirely of course, but enough that Patrick had to hard scrub two walls. Then he changed out her light bulb from the energy saving then to a 60 watt. So far, it seems to be helping.

The strangest place that we have found abundant amounts of mold growing has been on the back of the tv. The hardest things we have found to clean and somehow prevent the mold from growing on again has been our shoes. Patrick’s Birkenstocks were horrendous.

The best thing we can hope for would be to keep better control of the mold by opening and closing the windows at the appropriate times of the day (which is harder than you would think because of all the rain) and getting more light in the rooms and closets.

Wish us luck!

How about some more photos from the Independence Day festival and parade (which I promised to post for my Mom a long time ago)!

Monday, October 8, 2007

Laptop repaired

We finally have our laptop back. Yeah! We went down to San Jose last week after receiving an email saying the laptop worked. Turns out they replaced the entire system board - which is cool since it works better than ever now.

When we arrived at the shop, I turned in our receipt and waited a while. Finally, a woman arrived with the laptop and told us to turn it on. It seemed it took a while to boot up but all was fine. Then Patrick signed something and we left. Simple as that. None of the hidden charges that we were worried about and no hassles at all. We are very lucky that we found complete warranty coverage here in Costa Rica and are very pleased with the result.

I’ve been meaning to post these photos for a while now, but never got around to it…
This MotMot enjoys some of the fruit in one of the trees in our yard.
I’m proud to show the first bunch of bananas we enjoyed – these were picked right in our yard from one of the trees behind me.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Still hanging in there and enjoying life

I know it´s been a while but we still haven´t gotten our laptop back from the repair shop and now our desktop has ¨died¨. Otherwise, things are going well.

We met Azure´s teacher for a conference today and she had high praise for Azure´s adjustment to our new life.

Nothing else new to report. Same old same old. Rain, learning Spanish slowly, and as always Patrick has been dodging cars, motorcycles, dogs, and walkers on the roads!


I hope to have more time to email everyone soon!

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Happy Independence Day, Costa Rica!

Saturday September 15th Costa Rica celebrated it’s Independence from Spain. Azure’s school invited parents to enjoy a kid’s parade followed by a program of singing, dancing, and refreshments Friday morning. Each elementary class performed something different. Azure’s class performed a traditional Costa Rican song on the ocarina and then sang a song. Patrick and I had been listening to Azure practice her song on the ocarina for weeks but when the class started to sing, I was shocked. Azure loves to sing and this was the first time I knew about the song. She told me later she had been trying very hard to keep it a secret. Nice job, Azure (she can never keep secrets)! I enjoyed the entire program!

Saturday the three of us walked downtown because we heard every town in the entire country would be having a parade at 10am. We arrived in town shortly before 10am and were lucky to catch the beginning of the parade. After 90 minutes into the parade with no end in sight, we decided to head to the church. We all loved the parade but it seemed almost every school in the entire area attended which wouldn’t be so bad but they all played the same song on the drums and wore almost the same costumes. The strangest part - which I feel inclined to share because I need to know from the readers if this is something that happens everywhere or just in Costa Rica - the kids were roped off with parents holding the ropes and walking alongside the kids. They literally blocked the kids making it impossible to get good photos! Why? Only a handful of schools didn’t do this…

Friday, September 14, 2007

Sunsets

After all the storms these past few weeks, we finally had two days in a row without any rain. It seemed very strange indeed. The best part as far as I was concerned were the gorgeous sunsets. I love sunsets which you can probably tell by the header photo. Anyway, since nothing much else is happening here, I thought I would share my most recent photo.

Azure would like me to let everyone know that the next blog post will be regarding Independence Day so stay tuned!

Monday, September 10, 2007

It’s always something…

I feel bad that once again I have dropped the ball and not kept up with my blog. Hopefully you’ll understand when I explain that we haven’t even been to an internet café since last week Tuesday. I will however recap for you our past week.

I’m sure everyone heard about Hurricane Felix? Well, we did feel the affects of that storm. We were hit here the hardest on Monday afternoon. The drive to get Azure after school was interesting considering we drove through one street and I was positive the water would start to flood into the car, We made it safely to the school but the on drive back home we noticed a van full of students stuck in the ditch on the same stretch of road we had just passed. Needless to say, we turned around and took a different road home.

Wednesday we planned to pick Azure up at school at her normal 12:15 early release time and head to the US Embassy to get our passports renewed. After enjoying a quick lunch at Campio Pollo, a local fast food chicken place, in San Jose, the heavy rains turned to hail! I don’t think they get much hail here in Costa Rica because half the cars on the road pulled over and stopped. The guy in front of us actually got out of his car and grabbed a handful of hail! We weren’t sure if he thought he was going to show his buddies once he got home or just wanted to touch it (since no one was in the car with him)… Azure didn’t get it since she knows it just melts immediately. Anyway, we found out the Embassy only processes passports from 8am-11:30am!

Okay, so it’s always something. If it’s not one thing it’s another. Our hot water heater was leaking at it got to the point where we had to replace it. Thursday we went to the local hardware store to try to explain what we needed. After some time, everyone understood one another and we purchased the “new” hot water heater and the pieces of pipe we needed. A plumber recommended by the hardware store told us he would be by later that day to help with the install. He didn’t show and so Patrick installed it by himself. Good thing is that we now have a larger tank and therefore more hot water! Yeah! Thanks, Patrick!

Monday, September 3, 2007

A funny thing happened on the way to the ….

Thursday after leaving the internet café, we were all in a good mood. Laughing and joking until all of a sudden, our car alarm went off and wouldn’t stop. With the horn honking loudly and all the car lights flashing, we panicked. People passing stared but no one said or did anything out of the ordinary. Finally, Patrick turned off the car but it was too late. There was no turning off the alarm.

I kept praying a policeman wouldn’t pull up next to us asking (in Spanish of course) for proof of registration. Since we just received an email from our lawyer stating she had the document at her office and when would we like to pick it up, it was not in our possession. I was sure I would be making a call to our lawyer from the nearest police station!

I was busy standing on the corner trying to push all the buttons on the key chain when Patrick screamed, “hand me my tools”. Azure dug them out of the back and passed them out to Patrick. He screamed, “Pop the hood” and then next thing I know Patrick was removing the battery cable. Sure enough, the alarm stopped. Convinced that the alarm would start again the second he made the connection, I tried to cover my shock when he started the car and we drove home, nervous but all laughing again. Until…

Friday morning, sure enough, the alarm started again as soon as we pulled out of the driveway. After some hassle (of removing and reconnecting the battery cable) and screaming at each other, we all made it to Azure’s school with time to spare.

BUT, Patrick had to turn off the car so he could speak to Jeremy in accounting since he was helping us get a bank account started here (long story). I definitely was much more embarrassed when the car alarm went off in the school parking lot. Plus, Patrick removed and re-connected the battery cable SEVERAL times but the alarm just wouldn’t stop! I tried to stay out of his way and keep my mouth shut but I have to admit I wasn’t very hopeful about getting home. While pretending to read my book, mentally I went through all our options - call a tow truck, walk to the mechanics? What exactly were our options when neither of us could explain in Spanish what the problem was?

Finally, I noticed that there was a wire to the alarm cut-off that was not connected. I pointed out the potential problem to Patrick and immediately he went to work trying to connect the wire again. At this point, the school guard figured he better check with us to make sure everything was ok. Again, we can’t speak Spanish so Patrick tried showing him the loose wire and just said “esta bueno”. The guard appeared to understand and he walked away.

After about 15 minutes and lots of cursing, Patrick started the car. No alarm sounded this time (which was good because it probably went off 5 times before). We left the parking lot with a wave to the guard and my fingers crossed. Even though Patrick pronounced the situation permanently resolved, I asked if we needed to stop at a mechanics on the way home. He firmly said “NO!”
He was right. It’s resolved and the car doesn’t even beep anymore which was not the case when we purchased it 2 weeks ago. At that time, we used to have to wait until the car alarm started beeping then push a little button to signify it should stop. Now when starting the car, Patrick can push that button before the beeping even begins. Therefore, in the end, this experience actually resolved a slight problem….

Wow!

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Finally an Update!

I know it’s been a long time since I have written. I’ve meant to write a few times and have had some stories all mapped out in my head but between unpacking, reading some good books, and competing for time on the computer, I just haven’t gotten around to it. Remember that we don’t have internet at home so it’s not so easy… Rest assured that no news generally means good news from me.

First, I thought I would like to let everyone know that we signed a purchase agreement for our house in Big Lake. We faxed off ten pages of documents Thursday (costing $23) agreeing that the family could rent our place starting that weekend and up to the closing date of November 30th. Friday we heard back from our realtor that all terms of the rental were agreed upon and he was meeting the family over the weekend to sign final documents and give them the keys. Fingers crossed that this transaction goes smoother than the duplex. All seems okay, though.

Next, I did add several posts today so just scroll down to see more regarding the rain, Santo Domingo, and the symphony.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Santo Domingo Saturday and Symphony Sunday

I had been looking forward to this weekend for a while. Why you may ask. Well, I purchased tickets to the symphony back when we were in San Jose the day we dropped off the laptop for repair. Ever since I read an article about the amazing process of building the National Theater and how acclaimed acts perform often, I’ve been dying to take the family to a real cultural event. Azure thought I was joking and figured it would be boring but I continued to pump up the experience. Patrick expressed slight interest but I knew he would enjoy it also he just likes to make me work for things sometimes.

We were not disappointed. The place was beautiful and our seats were perfect. I purchased first row balcony seats (only $15 for all three tickets!) since Azure and I have hard times seeing around people. We heard the orchestra play Rachmaninoff, Dvorak, and Castro and it was wonderful. I am psyched to go back again sometime.

Now since we went to the symphony Sunday, I made Patrick take us to the farmers market in Santo Domingo on Saturday. The market was much larger than San Rafael and again we scored some delicious fruits and vegetables for cheap. Can’t wait until this next weekend!

Friday, August 24, 2007

Bridge washout!

Something we hadn’t considered before we moved sort of shocked us when we arrived. There appears to be a large complex being built on the hill to our West. Due to the construction, the ditches were dug deeper and some cement culverts were placed at the bottom. BUT no one finished the project and now with the awful downpours we’ve experienced lately (due to Hurricane Dean as I understand it) the runoff has been running right into the road and flooding the bridge. It is the rainy season here now but some of the downpours have been incredible. We are too far south for hurricanes but we can get their rainy effect. A couple weeks ago, the water built up so deep the cars could hardly cross the bridge and the spray was heading right into our neighbor’s house. Patrick and I watched from the balcony as Don Isidro went out in the storm to dig the ditch deeper. Being the “nice neighbors“, Patrick decided to go out to help (even though our things hadn’t arrived yet so he didn’t even have a shovel). Even though Don Isidro appeared to be surprised to see Patrick, he still wouldn’t give up his shovel so Patrick could only pick up large rocks and move them. I’m not quite sure their efforts paid off or not. The bridge did begin to clear of water but then again the rain slow downed at about the same time also. Anyway, ever since then, there have been many crews trying to correct the runoff into the river. It’s better but not perfect. I’m just glad our house is up hill and not down -although the lower house seems to be avoiding the runoff just fine!

I hope you enjoy the photos I so happily took while staying dry (mostly) on our balcony!

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Oh, happy Day!

We had a great Thursday! We purchased a GEO Tracker and had our lawyer submit all the necessary paperwork so we´re legal. We paid our broker and received our first delievery of four!

Because of our low carport and steep incline to the main house, the guys had to load their trailer instead of a huge truck. They brought a load Thursday, Friday, and two on Saturday. They were trying to be kind and bring our bed on Thursday but since they didn´t realize our bed was actually in boxes, we received the final bed box Saturday morning. Even though we didn´t have our bed Thursday or Friday, we still slept much better with a sleeping bag and thick blankets!

Saturday afternoon Patrick hooked up all the appliances and we now have clean clothes. We even had mac & cheese and popcorn this weekend. MMM! But now we are back to salads and fruits since we want to stay healthy and continue to lose weight.

Last bit of good news: we have received an offer on our Big Lake house. I think we may accept but it is sticky since the person wants to rent until November. I´ll keep ya posted.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Happy Mother´s Day!

Where do I start? First, we still haven´t received our things. The customs inspectors supposedly want to look through everything again? Also, we are struggling to ensure our broker receives payment. We sent the wire back on July 23rd but it still hasn´t credited to his account yet. I hate banks!

Next, our laptop definitely is dead. I did some research and luckily we found a place here in Costa Rica that does warranty work. We took it into their ¨office¨ in San Jose yesterday. We weren´t sure we wanted to leave our laptop somewhere unknown but on the other hand, we do want to get it fixed. We received a receipt so we´ll see what happens. They quoted us two weeks for repair since they need to get the part from the States. Probably more like one month, right?

Azure attended her first soccer practice yesterday after school. She came out to the car soaking wet and muddy but said she had a great time. Now we need to find her some cleats and shin guards. We probably should have bought them before we left home since we have no idea where to buy them here. Yes, it should be easy in a soccer country but remember we won´t pay top price...

To close, today is Mother´s Day here in Costa Rica. I´m so lucky to get two this year! Anyway, most of the country is celebrating on Monday even though it is officially today. It is so confusing but Azure has Monday off which is nice (I think). haha

Oh, one more odd thing I need to mention before I forget. We have been struggling to figure out what to eat every day since we don´t have a stove or fridge. Mostly we have been enjoying fruits and salads. Yesterday, Patrick noticed some toast in a package. What? Truly, toasted bread packaged in 7 or 14 slices for your pleasure. Why?

Friday, August 10, 2007

Nothing exciting

I don´t have anything exciting to post. Our container should arrive Tuesday (fingers crossed). Until then we will continue to enjoy the hard floors and cold nights without beds and blankets.

Our duplex should be finally closing as I type this. We are hoping it goes off without a hitch.

Azure still loves school. She has been putting in many hours of homework already. She enjoyed her first week with a tutor. We´ll see how that works out. Tonight she has a sleepover at the school. She has been excited all week so hopefully it lives up to her expectations.

Tomorrow we are meeting a couple to potentially buy their GEO Tracker. Hopefully it´s as nice as they describe. First thing Patrick asked while talking to the guy ¨what´s wrong with it¨. Not very subtle but I think he got his point across!

I´ll try to get more photos up but it appears our laptop has died already. It´s still under warranty since we just bought it in June but who knows what will be honored down here...

Have a good weekend everyone!

Monday, August 6, 2007

Squirrel Saturday and Farmers Market Sunday

Saturday started as any other day this week except I planned to sleep in and ended up sitting outside with my cup of coffee at 5:30AM. One thing was different, though. Squirrels. A little after 6, a saw something out of the corner of my eye. I turned left and there prancing down the side of the house was a tiny orange, black, and grey squirrel no bigger than my hand. He didn't seem to be in any hurry as he made his way through the front garden and across the driveway to the palm trees on the other side of the yard. Then I watched him jump from branch to branch. As I watched him, I noticed several other squirrels in the trees- mostly grey ones. I know this doesn't strike anyone as strange but today is Monday and I hadn't seen these guys before or since Squirrel Saturday. As a matter of fact, they were gone by the time Azure woke up at 7:15. Strange! I hope that every Saturday will be Squirrel Saturday!

Later Saturday, we went for a walk through the coffee plantations and tomato fields surrounding our property. When the rain started, we jumped in the car to pick up a Tico Times and happened to find our way to San Pablo and Azure's school by taking the back roads. We actually drove directly to the school without getting lost which is amazing here in Costa Rica! Now we can make it to school in only 11 minutes!

We all anticipated Sunday since we heard San Rafael has a good farmer's market. We decided to walk to town and clocked the mileage in the car at 1.5 kilometers. Simple enough, right? Well, the farmers market was everything we hoped. Fruit and veggies galore. We made out like bandits! This is what we took home with us after spending only $3.65 (approximately):
1/2 kilo green beans
big pint of strawberries
1.3 kilos watermelon
3 large cucumbers
small (whole) pineapple
6 small pineapple empanadas

Okay, now the walk home. We (meaning me) were huffing and puffing on the last hill before the decline to our place. I really need to get into better shape so we will be making the hike into town at least once a week from now on! There are lots of hills in our neighborhood!

Friday, August 3, 2007

not the same

I thought I had finally found an internet cafe that had a USB port on the computer so I typed up a long post on the laptop and copied it to my memory card. Now I´m at the cafe and I can´t get the card reader in the slot so everyone will have to wait until next week for an update...

Thursday, August 2, 2007

First Report From Down South

This is the last place I thought I would be today but it turned out McDonald's was the best place to get Wi-Fi (until we figure things out).

I know everyone has a million questions for us so I will try to cover most of them but my battery is dying so I have to make this quick. I'll do this in order:

1. We had one piece of luggage (a hockey bag) which weighed in 16 pounds over the limit. We sweet-talked the guy into not charging us the mandatory $50.

2. Our airline wasn't supposed to let us out of the country with only a one-way ticket. Again I managed to sweet-talk the woman checking our passports. She actually booked us a fake return flight so if anyone at Costa Rica customs asked we could show them the flight number.

3. The airport/customs in San Jose went smoothly other than we had SO much luggage and didn't know if Colin, our realtor, was meeting us or not.

4. Colin did show up but we couldn't find the shuttle to our car rental company which may or not have been a sham- we reserved a car with Excellent car rental but Payless said they were affiliated and rented us a car for $85/week. Unfortunately yesterday I looked at the signed agreement and it says $175 (I don't know how they switched the price when I made a point to go over the costs before Patrick signed the document!)

5. Since our container hasn't arrived yet, we followed Colin to Hipermas on the way to our house so we could buy pillows and some food to get us through until morning. Warning- don't go to Hipermas on a Sunday afternoon because I think the entire Tico population was shopping there with their families- blocking aisles and all...

6. We arrived at the house at sunset Sunday. The neighbors who we hired as caretakers were there and greeted us like long lost relatives. BUT we were tired and the houses were full of dead bugs. YUCK!
7. We cleared a small space in the loft of the lower house and slept (not really) on the floor. All three of us huddled together trying to share one blanket. We found out the evenings are extremely cold in the hills of San Rafael!

8. We met Colin at the church in San Rafael so he could help us find our way to Azure's school the first morning. Plus, he had broken the faucet of the shower and needed to help us find the hardware store so we could replace the part.
9. We met the Director at the European school and her and the staff helped us get Azure settled in. Azure loves school except for Spanish class since she is so far behind and the teacher doesn't speak English. We will be finding a tutor soon!

10. Our neighbors, Donya Vicky and Don Isidro, both sweet Ticos, gave us a tour of their home so she could show us how she makes fresh tortillas. I thought she would invite us for lunch but instead Donya Vicky stopped by with her daughter and "kidnapped" us to go blackberry picking! We had no idea where we were going or why since we don't speak much Spanish and they don't speak any English. It was fun but we couldn't make Vicky understand that we had LOTS of cleaning to do!

I need to finish this later so please check back tomorrow. I would like to thank everyone at this time for their wishes of good luck to us on our new adventure. We feel lucky indeed!

Saturday, July 28, 2007

see ya Minnesota, hello Costa Rica

WOW! We did it!

We left our house in the dust this morning for the long seven hour drive to Chicago. I'm trying to wind down after repacking all our bags (twelve of them including carry-ons) so that none of them are over the 50 lbs. limit. I think I may have found the correct balance finally.

I would love to fill everyone in on more details but we need to catch the airport shuttle at 3:30 AM. Therfore, I am signing off and hope to have internet access soon. Maybe from the airport if I'm bored?

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Trash or Treasure?

The past few days have been spent emptying the garage of all the items that never sold at our garage sales. I always intended to have a couple more sales but it rained one weekend and two others we were out of town or had showings of the property. Needless to say, we had a lot of "crap" still hanging around.

Tuesday evening I happened to see my neighbor and hollered over thinking that I would offer her whatever she wanted to take for free. Well, one thing led to another and soon our doorbell wouldn't stop ringing because all the neighbor kids wanted something, anything! In a way it saved us a lot of hassle because we only needed to take one van load full of stuff to Salvation Army. But at the same time, they were destroying all the order in the garage. They would actually open boxes, pull out all the contents, then decide they didn't want it, so it would be left on the ground for someone else to walk on. I couldn't watch the chaos so I left that role to Azure. She would dole out the good stuff and holler if the kids got out of control. Some kid even took my record player (which should have been worth at least $30) even though he had no idea what it was for...

Now the garage is empty (Patrick put a lot of effort into this project-Thanks, sweetie!) and we know it's time to leave. How many people actually have an empty 3 car garage?

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

This is Costa Rica!

We received an email from Charles Zeller yesterday to let us know our container would be delayed 2 more weeks. My first reaction wasn't normal because I wasn't surprised or upset. I figure I just need to expect these types of things now. Charles even concluded the email by stating "This is Costa Rica!" I wasn't looking forward to sharing the good news with Patrick, though. When I did finally tell him, he just laughed.

I guess our attempt to avoid sleeping on tile floors didn't quite work. I told Patrick this just means he'll have to put up our hammocks sooner instead of later. He said he planned to purchase an air mattress. We'll see who wins...

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

making our list and checking it twice

I spent the majority of last weekend doing last minute things before our departure to San Jose. We found out that CarMax in Chicago will be open until 9pm on Saturday and they will inspect our vehicle and make us an offer on the spot. We have decided to do this route since the flights out of Chicago are much cheaper than Minneapolis and being able to sell our car the same day makes more sense than a rental. Since Azure starts school on Monday, we couldn't delay any longer. I purchased tickets for Sunday on US Airways to arrive in San Jose at approximately 1:30pm. YEAH!


This past Sunday I started stressing out again. Patrick and I figured it would be best to sit down together and make a list of all the items we need to finish by the end of the week and assign tasks to each day. That way we should be able to have everything done before we leave and not too much left at the end. Of course, there will still be things we forget...

The important items were making sure all statements (credit card, bank, mutual funds, etc) are paperless PLUS giving our new address to these places. We spent time making sure we will be able to access our money while in Costa Rica. Our credit union set us with a credit card that only charges $1.75 for cash advances! This should help since wires can take up to a week and the fees are steep.

I also checked in with Azure's school so they would know we aren't getting in until the day before school starts - she won't have the school polo shirt and we never turned in all the documents required. The principal emailed back almost immediately ensuring me it would be okay to just show up 20 minutes early on Monday. Great! One less thing to worry about!

I must be signing off. My list for Tuesday is quite large and I must cross items off so I know I am making progress. Later!

Saturday, July 21, 2007

the rest of the story

Ok, so some kids stole my backpack because I was relaxed and stupid. Actually, that's pretty significant because I am generally not very relaxed. I tend to be stressed out a lot and not always for great reason. Even on vacations I make the family run around and see as much possible before leaving for home. We've taken a couple of beach vacations and the one to Cozumel Azure absolutely hated because all we did was snorkel which she found too boring (I'm rubbing off on her). The point is that I need to relax more and I'm hoping our move to Costa Rica will resolve my problem since I have found it possible to relax there.

On to the rest of the story. After the guys stole my backpack, I found some policemen and reported the crime. They interviewed some of the people in the vicinity to no avail. One of the policemen spoke English which helped tremendously when it came to taking our statements but they never once asked me to describe my backpack which made it clear they had no intention of trying to find it. Patrick even drove down to the station to fill out an official report but not until after he personally made a sweep of the area checking to see if possibly my backpack and a pile of the stuff inside were dumped somewhere (we were the only ones looking around the perimeter).

The entire time he was gone, I sat at the bus station worried we would miss our bus to San Jose. Since we had an ARCR seminar to attend at 8am the next day and the 3pm bus out of Jaco was our only opportunity to be in San Jose on time it was important we catch the bus.

Upon arriving back from the police station, the English speaking cop told me they had the roads leading out of town blocked and they would definitely catch the culprits. HA! I knew already that I would never see my backpack or its contents again and since no one could give a good description of the two guys that stole it, they would never catch them either.

We did catch the bus to San Jose and then I immediately called the credit card company to report my card stolen. By the way, this is harder to do from Costa Rica than I imagined especially since the hotel room was paid for with the card that was stolen so I had to make the calls from the front desk.

Here's where the problem lies. It seems that I gave the thieves too much time before reporting my card stolen. They used my card to make a purchase at Penny Lane- $149.56 worth plus international transaction fees. Personally, I'm not sure why the card was ever accepted since it clearly was a gringo card AND I never signed it on purpose! I'm guessing a friend of theirs ran it through? Anyway, I have been fighting with Bank Of America ever since. I finally thought I had it resolved in March and then on June 13th they debited my account for $449.19 saying it is for duplicate adjustments previously made to my account. I have been furiously trying to get this resolved ever since I noticed it on my online statement but with all the time spent visiting lately this is proving more difficult than I imagined. Yesterday I expected a call from a manager and when no one called by 4:30pm I called them AGAIN. This time the call reps wouldn't even listen to me and basically hung up on me even though I was being very civil. I have worked in call centers before and I know it doesn't pay to be irate. They claim they have sent me a new statement and won't discuss this matter with me until I receive it and call back then. WHAT? I explained I am moving and need to get this handled now and they didn't care. I plan to call back every day until I get some consideration since several call reps have already agreed with me that this charge should be reversed but no one will do it...

enough ranting for today- I must relax ;-)

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Great disappearing act

I know I promised this story yesterday but we went to see Harry Potter. Patrick and I enjoyed the movie but Azure complained that they left out pertinent info that will screw up the next movie. I guess we'll have to wait and see...

Onto the incident in Jaco:

During our November visit to Costa Rica, we decided to encompass not just the moving aspect but also get in some relaxing beach time. I planned a few days in Jaco at the beginning of the trip (but after our tour at Lincoln School) because we had been to the Caribbean coast but not the Pacific. The big draw in my mind was Manuel Antonio Park so we could see squirrel monkeys -one of only a few places in the world to see them in their natural habitat. Anyway, our car rental deal fell through and we decided to take the bus for the duration of the stay. The ride to Jaco seemed dangerous with all the steep mountain roads and the bus driver handled it well so we're glad we decided to take the bus. Our accommodations for the four nights suited us well. Clarita's turned out to be a tiny motel on the north end of the beach which served good food in their sports bar. We found a terrific bakery in Jaco called Pachi Pans that makes the most amazing chicken and potato empanadas. The bus to Quepos picks up right outside their doors so that worked out well. We didn't happen to see any squirrel monkeys but the sloths made up for that!

Back to the point of the story, the day we were to leave Jaco, we had to be out of the motel by noon but the bus didn't come until 3pm. The bus terminal was close by which was good because we had what seemed like a lot of luggage (12 days worth of clothes for 3 people). We didn't want to walk to town with all our luggage so we decided to just pick up food and eat at the bus terminal. Since we needed to purchase tickets for the bus before they sold out, this made the most sense. The bus terminal in Jaco basically is just a window in a building shared with a bank and a Pizza Hut next door all sharing a dirt parking lot. Patrick purchased tickets for us and we "camped out" on the retaining wall next to Pizza Hut. We piled all the luggage between us and started to dig into our lunch. I wasn't extremely hungry so I decided to write in my journal. A young kid (twenty-something) asked us what time it was so I looked at my watch and told him. He seemed nervous like he thought he was late and told me he didn't understand (in Spanish of course). I knew my Spanish wasn't great so instead of trying to tell him the time in Spanish, I leaned over and showed him my watch. (DUMB!) He said thanks and left. The three of us discussed what time it was in Spanish and laughed about it. I started to say the whole thing seemed weird like he wanted something from us. "It's not like we have anything to steal" came out of my mouth as I reached for my backpack - and found it missing!!! I looked at the old lady sitting next to me and she just shrugged. I hollered to Patrick "they stole my backpack" and he took off running. Of course, it was too late.


After all of our traveling, I made the dumbest mistake ever. I know not to tell people what time it is and I know that I always need to keep my hand on my backpack. I blame the whole thing on my trust of people and that Costa Rica makes me feel so at ease - unlike some other countries we have visited. Even so, we were sitting in a space that only had one access point because Pizza Hut was behind us AND a security guard was standing within 15 feet of us PLUS an elderly woman sitting right next to me. Those guys were pros! After questioning the woman, she admitted seeing the whole thing but said it happened so quickly she couldn't say what they looked like. Obviously though, she could have yelled at them or me or something. We've been told since this happened that Ticos believe it is okay to steal from gringos. I'm over being mad at them and just want to let others know how easy it is to have your personal stuff stolen.

You may be saying to yourself, "ok they took the backpack, so what? At least they still had their luggage for the rest of the stay." True. But the two guys that took my backpack knew what they were doing. We figure they must have seen Patrick go into the bank and come back out and hand me his passport (you need a passport for all bank transactions in Costa Rica). We think they were really only interested in the passport because we've been told they can be worth 10k on the black market. Plus, maybe you've guessed by now that I'm not the type to carry a purse. Everything I needed for the vacation besides clothes was in that backpack. I was even carrying some of Azure's things. All in all, they got all my money, credit cards, all 3 passports, drivers license, 2 digital cameras, 2 MP3 players, medicine, several books and maps and my car key which turned out to be one of the most important items to us. We easily received new passports the next day at the Embassy. Patrick had some money and credit cards in his pocket. Because we took the time to file a police report, our home owners insurance covered most of our monetary losses. But because we didn't have a car key, Patrick had to convince the car dealership we purchased the car from to make a duplicate key. Then we had a courier service take the key to the Park N Fly at the airport. Luckily we had just barely enough time to do this before arriving in Minneapolis because we live 90 minutes from the airport and we didn't get off the plane until after midnight.



Whew! Enough of this story for one day. Maybe I will fill in the blanks later.
Now you see her...now you don't.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Time to organize

Please bear with me while I try to consolidate/organize my labels for this blog.

I will post my Jaco story later today (I hope).

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

home again, home again, jiggety jig

We left Denver Monday afternoon around 1:30 after a delicious lunch with Sean at Tuk Tuk. I love Thai food and Pad Thai tops the list. We drove straight thru only stopping for gas and a meal to go at Sonic in Kearney, Nebraska. I'm not a fan of Nebraska but extremely happy to have a cream slushie! Anyone guess what time we pulled into our driveway in Big Lake? The winner would be the person guessing 5:36am! Obviously, we slept until almost noon....


Today, in between all the loads of laundry, we made lots of phone calls to try to get things wrapped up to leave for Costa Rica. Besides trying to get our properties sold, I have been trying to resolve a credit card issue that started back in November when I had my backpack stolen in Jaco. It's a somewhat long story that I would rather describe tomorrow since Patrick is just finishing up our dinner and I should change wash loads before eating.
Until tomorrow then...
Entire Jones Family at Red Rocks minus Sean since he was working :-( (and I took the photo)

Sunday, July 15, 2007

more waiting -we're starting to get used to it!

We're starting to get nervous about the move but not in the way you would think. We are excited to get down to Costa Rica but things don't seem to be going our way. We haven't sold either of our properties in Minnesota yet and therefore have not yet purchased tickets to San Jose. I keep finding really good deals but since we are afraid as soon as we book something the date won't work because we will need to sign paperwork, we postpone the purchase until we are positive we are picking a good move date.

The original plan was to fly down to Costa Rica the week before Azure starts school so we have plenty of time to settle in. We need to sign for the keys to our new property and transfer the name of the corporation into a name of our choice ( I think we finally settled on a name). Then we need to ensure our container arrived as scheduled and have everything delivered to our place (we haven't heard anything from Charles Zellar in a while?). Of course, unpacking will be fun! Also, Azure needs to get her new school uniform and I have to complete all the application paperwork. Then there is the matter of purchasing a car. Plus, did I mention we don't know our way around very well? I know we'll need to get things set up such as electric, water, cable, etc. and that will be an adventure all of it's own, I'm sure!

At least we are trying to relax here in Denver for the time being -we will probably be leaving Monday morning for the long drive back home.
This is a photo of the Jones Family on top of Lookout Mountain in Golden, CO