Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Wearable Art

Last week Wednesday Azure's entire school performed what they called Wearable Arts Program. Patrick and I asked Azure to keep the details a secret so we would be surprised during the performance.

I loved the program and thought everyone did wonderful and looked amazing!

Basically, each class designed costumes and a few props to act out the elements and how they evolved to create the plants and animals. Other than the 3rd-6th grade principal as narrator, the classes only used music and action to convey their part of the program.

I know my pictures don't do justice to the time and energy spent but hopefully you'll see some of the beauty of this program.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Sharing the road in Costa Rica

Most roads are two car widths wide but it can choke down to 1 ½ car widths in places without warning (especially rural towns). Also, you will be sharing the road with not just other cars and trucks but also motorcycles, scooters, bikes, pedestrians, dogs, chickens, ox carts, and the occasional runaway cow. And be aware that no one uses the sidewalk. Considering cars have the right away here in Costa Rica, it’s surprising that the pedestrians don’t move out of the way. Often we see groups of six or more in the middle of the road walking side by side (and cars forced to go around them)!

There are pretty views all around you. But if you’re the driver, please keep your eyes on the road because there is a homeless dog wandering around every blind corner.

Oh yea, and just one pet peeve (of Patrick’s). I like the fact that many people pull over when they are talking on their cell phone but can they please pull all the way over and not just stop in the middle of the lane?

Monday, April 21, 2008

Squirrels Gone Wild

No, I don’t mean naked squirrels at Mardi gras. Everybody knows that squirrels never wear clothes- duh! I’m talking about the squirrels in our yard going crazy. Figure this one out.

Last week Patrick told me he heard a noise at our front door so he went to check and said he saw the squirrel in between the gate and the wooden door. We tried to figure out what he would be doing there. Chewing? Tunneling? Trying to pick the lock? What could he be doing?

A few days later, I’m in the shower and Patrick peeks his head in the door to grab some mouthwash. Then I hear a shriek. Well, it sounded like MMMPHH! I holler out to ask him if he’s okay and he yells back telling me the squirrel was sitting in our bedroom window just staring inside. Is he a voyeur or what? How did he get in the window and why? Then we realized he was really just sitting on the patio chair sitting outside the window. Still, what in the world is this crazy squirrel up to now?

Today, we’re sitting on the couch and I heard another funny sound from the front door. I slowly unlock the door (we always use the side door) and yank it open. There was the squirrel again -sitting right on the middle bar of the gate door. I expected him to be there somewhere yet I think he scared me as much as I had scared him (if at all). He jumped down and dashed to the nearest tree and up into the canopy of our “jungle” while I slammed the door shut and jumped around. Like I said, I really did expect to see him but then again my adrenaline level skyrocketed since he was at eye level and he could easily have jumped at my face instead of the ground! I always have that darn Christmas Vacation movie in my head when I think about the squirrel.

So, what’s next with this silly thing? And how do I know it’s only one squirrel gone crazy and not the lot of them?

What's so exciting about this door?

Friday, April 18, 2008

Power Problems in Costa Rica

Most of you know about the power problems is Costa Rica. The country relies on a hydro-electric power source which is great but the problem occurs during the dry season when a lot of the rivers just trickle. We tried to prepare ourselves by buying a crank system radio and stocking up on flashlights and candles. The radio turned out to be worthless and we’ve only used the flashlights a couple times now.

I can’t speak for everyone in Costa Rica but let me tell you about our experiences with the power issues here. First off, mostly they are brownouts not blackouts. We generally only lose power for 5-10 minutes. This occurred more when we first moved here. Then we received a newsletter from the water and electric company stating that they were working on a new substation to relieve the outages in San Rafael and it would be completed by January.

Well, I didn’t believe the news but sure enough sometime around January we stopped experiencing so many brownouts. BUT we were warned by some people that during the dry season the water would be turned off for many hours during the days to help conserve. Then I read in the Tico Times that the government was trying to prepare for the water/electric problems during the dry season by purchasing more generators.

So, now it’s April and the dry season should be ending soon. The last two Sundays our power has been out from 2-3 hours. I kind of liked the quiet but this past Sunday when the power wasn’t on by 5pm and the sun was setting, Patrick started to worry a bit. The power did come back on by 5:30 so all was well.

Now I would suppose these were planned outages but since we don’t read the local newspaper in Spanish and the Tico Times doesn’t carry this kind of news, I can only guess. The outages don’t bother me as long as they are during the day. The thing that did concern me happened Wednesday when the power kept turning off and on again for several minutes. That can not be good for the appliances! As a matter of fact, I’m sure this is why our computer died last fall.

I hope the country can figure out a good solution to this power problem.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008


Does this mean caution fat kids running?No wonder the kids are fat if the park is locked all the time!

Monday, April 14, 2008

Stop sign update -ALTO

Do you think someone at the San Rafael Municipality reads our blog? Sometime over the weekend someone painted the intersection we posted about on Friday afternoon. I would guess this means someone really did steal the signs so this is the solution.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Patrick’s thoughts on Road Rules in Costa Rica

We noticed something different last week at an ordinary 4 way intersection. Normally we have the right of way turning left because the other direction has stop signs. At least that was the case.

So starting last week, people were blowing through the intersection (not always uncommon) but it was happening all the time now and right in front of us. Twice we were almost hit by cars turning in front of us and missing by what seemed like inches. A few days later when we took a closer look, we realized that the intersection only has one stop sign left and that one is barely hanging on by one screw.

We wondered what happened to the other sign and in fact, the whole post is gone too! Maybe someone scrapped it for the 28 cents that they could get from the metal buyers? Maybe the city took it to make sure people were paying attention? Or they had a different intersection that it was needed at more?

That started me thinking, who makes the street signs here? No one is put in prison long enough to make a sign. Maybe that’s why there are so few signs around?

**UPDATE** We went back this afternoon with camera in hand to take a picture of the upside down stop sign and someone has taken it already! You can see the last remaining post in the photo but no sign.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Hostile Hummingbirds

I love hummingbirds and Costa Rica is a great place to see many varieties. I knew we would have hummingbirds in our yard before moving here. Sure enough, Patrick and I spotted them moving from flower to flower quite often but they were always so quick that it didn’t quite satisfy my desire to see them more often.

So in October I bought two hummingbird feeders. I purposely had Patrick place one directly outside our living room window and the other one I hung from a shepherds hook outside our bedroom window but further into the yard. I had read that hummingbirds are very territorial so I knew I had to place the feeders at least 10 feet apart.

It took a couple weeks before the first hummingbird started using the feeder located in the garden and then maybe a week after that and he was using the one in front of the living room window. Then a week or so later another larger hummingbird (almost twice as large and of a different variety) found the feeders and decided they were his (or hers). So when the smaller hummingbird would try to drink from the feeder the larger one would chase it away.

At first this was kind of funny but the chases became more violent. The birds would literally slam into one another and then the chase was on. One day while sitting in the living room, one of the hummingbirds smacked the other one into the window! We heard a thump and looked to see the hummingbird trapped between the glass and bars. He did find his way out after a several seconds as we watched in shock.

I don’t see the tiny hummingbird in our yard so much anymore but when he does show up he seems to win the battle which I love since he was here first. The larger hummingbird actually sits in a couple different trees in our yard from which he has a view of both feeders. When he sees another hummingbird at a feeder he immediately chases it away. I hate the violence but sometimes these antics can be quite amusing! Recently the large hummingbird would allow another bird to drink from the feeder while he (or she) watched and I only believe this happened because the other bird was either its mate or an offspring.

I do want to mention that I’m not worried that I am upsetting the ecosystem by having a feeder because I do still see several hummingbirds going from flower to flower. It also seems they like to eat bugs that are trapped in spider webs which I had never heard of before but Patrick and I do enjoy watching them scout for bugs.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Another scorpion sighting!

A few weeks ago we spotted a scorpion and this time I was able to get a picture before Patrick flattened the scary thing. I had just finished clapping Azure's shoes together and Patrick spotted the scorpion scurrying for cover. I guess the scorpion was in a shoe again and good thing I was prepared for it this time!

Friday, April 4, 2008

3 quarters down, one to go

Yesterday was the end of Azure's third quarter of school. Today we met with her teacher for a conference. Unlike the States, teacher conferences are mandatory at the end of each quarter. I like this method. We always have things to discuss with Azure's teachers!

For those interested, most of Azure's grades have gone up. Most importantly, she has been doing better in Spanish. Her teachers say she understands enough but needs to put her knowledge to use because she just doesn't want to speak Spanish (I wonder where she gets that from?) LOL!

Alll in all, things are good!

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Field Trip

Azure has a field trip today. Both 6th grade classes will be going to Los Chorros de Tacares. I can’t say I know anything about this location. I checked my Lonely Planet guide and there isn’t any information inside.

I do know they are going hiking then a picnic lunch and swimming in a river. Other than the two teachers, I’m not even sure if there will be other chaperones. But I trust that the kids will have fun! I like that the European School allows for frequent interesting and educational field trips. I think this will be her 6th field trip this school year including the Israel Museum and a working farm.

There is no way the public school system in Big Lake would permit so many field trips let alone a potentially unsafe one such as an unsupervised swim in a river!

The Big Lake Schools took the kids to the MN Zoo every spring as a special treat! Poor kids were divided into small groups of four per adult. The kids were told they needed to stay with the adult for the duration of the time at the zoo which amounted to less than 2 hours including lunch! They could have left earlier in the morning and spent more time at the zoo but decided against it for one reason or another –it probably cut into the total of the amount of time spent in class so they would be shy the allotted time they needed to get their federal funding or some nonsense (maybe they shouldn’t have had so many days off during the school year for supposed teacher workshops!). Anyway, Azure missed most of the animals at the zoo including the dolphin show because the mother she was assigned decided she would rather shop and eat ice cream in the food court! I don’t know why they didn’t give the kids some more freedom? They could have had an adult stationed at each area of the zoo and allow the kids to wander a bit more. But I guess I am too trusting…

All I have to say is that I am glad we left Minnesota!

Thank you European School for giving the students more responsibility!