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 d├ęcor?

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