As I sit listening to the fireworks beginning to go off to celebrate the new year, I am amazed to think back on where we started and where we ended this year. At this time last year, we were living in Moscow, Idaho and working at the University of Idaho. We had our house in Costa Rica but at that time we honestly thought it would be a couple of years before we were able to actually make the permanent move. In February we came down to stay for a couple of weeks in our new house and by the time we left we knew we had to figure out how to get here sooner than later. We had put our house in Moscow on the market to sell in late January and the first offer came in within a week even though our realtor and pretty much everyone else had said it would be at least six months before it would sell due to the downturn of the market. Once we closed on the house in April and had rented a short term house (the “barn” ) we had changed our date to leave the university to the end of July.
We left Moscow the last week of July, drove to Wyoming to see mom and brother Tom and other friends, then went on to Colorado to see all the kids. After about 10 days in Colorado we boarded the plane to Costa Rica – dogs and all – and have not looked back. Nothing to date has been much of a surprise. The flora and fauna are amazing, we love our house, and we have begun making wonderful friends in our new little town. In addition, some health issues that have plagued me for years are beginning to abate due to the amazing work of a therapeutic masseuse. I also started taking yoga classes and my teacher is perfect for me. Love your body!! she says and I try to do just that
It is not all idyllic – theft is a major concern here and it is important to not take safety and security too lightly. It also has been raining pretty steadily for the last month although today the sun has been out and we are reminded how gorgeous it is when the rain stops. Actually, although it is getting a bit old, I still don’t mind the rain. I love to read so I have spent a lot of time reading over the last month. Although books are not easy to come by here, I have a Kindle and have about 300 hundred books downloaded that I have not yet read. Now – once those 300 are read I might be singing a different tune.
Today (since it is not raining) the birds are out, the sloths are drying out in the trees and the howler monkeys have been howling. I just don’t think I will ever take for granted the amazing diversity of the wildlife, the flowers and other plant life. While I was never one to want to live near the ocean, I have found that listening to the varying tempos of the ocean at night is something I miss very much when I go away. And the ocean tells us when the weather is changing. During the stormy and rainy season, the oceans waves are huge and the beach has debris (I prefer the term “treasures”) all over it. As the rain abates, the ocean becomes very calm and the beach is busy with people walking, swimming, and playing volleyball.
Next week I will be going back to Wyoming to take care of mom for a couple of weeks. She broke her hip a couple of weeks ago and so will need some help after she comes home. This is just one more reason retiring early was such a good idea. I no longer have to worry about trying to get off of work when I need to take care of family or just visit. Sure takes the stress off………
So – next year I can only hope that it will be as amazing as this one was. I am pretty sure that it will be!!!
This is a picture of a two toed sloth just hanging out in our trees. They are very different than the three toed sloths – they move much faster and are more aggressive. I think they look like a cross between “Cousin It” and “Chewbaca”. We have had several sloths around lately. The rain seems to make them sleepy so that just find a tree and roll up and sleep or look around for hours.
We woke up this morning to some hopeful signs of sunshine – I see bits of blue all over the sky and the rain stopped about two hours ago. Yesterday the tourists were out on the beach even though it was overcast and the waves were HUGE!! If I had come thousands of miles to vacation, I guess I would be out there too. I am thinking that November and December may not be the months to visit
I will be leaving next week to head to Wyoming to take care of mom for a while. She broke her hip about 10 days ago and had surgery to repair it. My wonderful sister is flying me back using her airline miles – she flies all over the country in her consulting job almost every week so she has a bunch. It is an amazingly generous thing to do though – thanks Marla!!
I’m sitting here on Christmas morning listening to the howler monkeys who are very near our house for a change. I have been taking photographs of our natural Christmas tree – it is a green tree with bright red upside down flowers and we love having it as our reminder of Christmas. It is raining but looks like it may clear up a bit – we’ll see. Last night we had a wonderful Christmas Eve dinner with our neighbors. Rene and Sarah brought over dishes and dishes of antipasta and Tom made a wonderful Brazilian shrimp dish for the main course. I made my famous chocolate mousse pie although it was pretty flat since I didn’t have a mixer to whip the whipping cream. It still turned out quite good.
This morning I went with Rene and Sarah to The Bridge for the annual Christmas party that Barry and Nanci put on for the Bri Bri (and whoever else shows up for free food and entertainment. There were about 100 people there and it was a wonderful few hours. I got to help Rene and Sarah entertain the group. They are professional guitarists and I accompanied them on the tambourine One of the highlights of the party was when all the kids tried to break the Christmas pinatas. Each of them were blindfolded and give the opportunity to break it. When it finally broke, candy and prizes spilled out all over for them to pick up and enjoy.
After we left that party, we came back and picked up Tom and went to an open house at the botanical garden just down the road. It is an annual event that began many years ago at an individual’s house and moved to the botanical garden two years ago. It is given for anyone who lives in Playa Negra (our neighborhood) and it was great to meet so many of our neighbors. I have seen many of them at the weekly farmer’s market but I never knew any names or have had the opportunity to actually talk to many of them.
So – it has been a really wonderful day although we are really missing family today. It is a bit difficult to be so far from everyone this year but it was great to meet so many new friends. Feliz Navidad!!!
Getting ready for the pinata
Getting ready to eat
Since we moved here (and even before) I have heard about a place just across the river in Panama that sold all sorts of items for substantially less than what we can get them for in Costa Rica. Tales of a case of beer for $9, good wines for under $5, and electronics for next to nothing were told over and over and the items were said to be obtained in Chase, Panama. The sole reason for existence of Chase, Panama was to sell these goods and hundreds of other things, to people in Costa Rica. All you have to do is drive to a spot in the river on the Costa Rica side. Then you get on a canoe conveniently supplied by some Costa Rican entrepreneurs and motor across the river to go to the stores that have everything you ever need for cheap, cheap, cheap.
So this morning Tom and I, along with friends Sarah and Rene, popped in the car and headed to this most amazing place. We did make one tiny mistake which was that we didn’t have the exact directions to the place on the river where you cross to Panama. Because of this little misstep, we ended up driving to the very end of the road which was many, many kilometers past where we should have turned. The road was so bumpy that we all are still experiencing sore butts, but I have to say the trip was beautiful! When we got to the very end of the road and arrived at a town called Shiroles, we asked where the boat crossing to Panama was. A wonderful Tico tried telling us where we needed to head back to and finally drew a map in the dirt to help us better understand. The key word was “tunnel” and since we knew that there was only one tunnel on the road we had just traveled, we were able to find our way back to the place where we should have turned. For future reference (although I don’t plan on going back to Chase, Panama) it is important to take a left turn at Soda El Paso in Chase, Costa Rica This will get you to the river where you cross. The most exciting part of the trip was when we encountered a bus on a very narrow piece of road and the driver just kind of plowed on through – we thought we were going to end up in the creek!!! It was quite scary……….
We finally arrived at the point in the river where we could cross. We parked our car and headed to the canoe that we take us across the river. It took about one minute to cross and then we climbed the hill to where the shops were. Only there was only one shop. We had understood that there were several shops, each with different types of goods. Still, we headed in with great expectations but all we saw were some electronics and lots and lots of clothes. No beer, no wine, and the electronics were not nearly as inexpensive as we had thought. It was quite a disappointment but now at least we have “been there, done that”. We did pick up some Christmas lights and Rene and Sarah got a couple of items so we do have items to help us remember the day
After wandering around the store for about ten minutes, we crossed the river back to Costa Rica, and drove to Bri Bri for lunch. Then back to Puerto Viejo to be greeted by the dogs and then an early evening and off to bed. Quite a day!!
We finally got to finish what we started many weeks ago and present the Messiah in the cathedral in Limon yesterday (Sunday). I have to say it was worth the trip. The original cathedral was destroyed many years ago in an earthquake and the new one was just finished and dedicated earlier this year. It is somewhat of an anomaly in Limon as it is a very modern structure in a very old port town. It is absolutely beautiful, from the stained glass windows to the vaulted wooden ceiling to the towering cement spires. Outside, there were funny decorations that included a snowman, and penguins.
The concert itself was just okay. We had not practiced in the church so we started singing and discovered that we couldn’t hear anyone else – only our own voice. So it took some getting used to and we actually started the first song over. But eventually we got in the groove and it went okay. Now I am ready to hang out and just enjoy other people singing for a while.
Some pictures from the day:
Port of Limon – the main port of Costa Rica
Inside the cathedral
Wonderful alto soloist – she was amazing!
Shops in Limon – love the name Soxlandia
Ice Cream Shop across from the church – they are all over in Costa Rica
The day began with a walk on the beach with the dogs and it was gorgeous!!! The first really sunny beginning to the day in a while. After the walk, I went to work at El Puente (The Bridge) so that Barry and Nanci, who are the founders of the organization, could go to the graduation of the first two indigenous children who they have helped through their educational organization. While Nanci and Barry were thrilled for the two children, I was thrilled for them. Imagine coming to a country six years ago and taking up a cause to educate the indigenous children in the region and having two of them graduate today and move on to high school. It is really an amazing thing and I admire the two of them so much for doing what they do.
Another women and I and several of the Bri Bri women (and one terrific kid) helped serve soup, crackers and fruit to the families who come every Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday for a meal and companionship. It was great fun and an experience that I will repeat quite often. It did make me strengthen my resolve to become more adept at the Spanish language – I have be lax in my learning the last couple of weeks………
Nancy has decorated their house for Christmas and one of the decorations I most love is the one here of the sloth looking in at the Christmas tree. Only in Costa Rica!!
Yesterday I went with our new friends Sarah and Rene to Bri Bri, about 10 miles away and the seat of government for our district, to try to find them a couple of bicycles to buy. That mission was a success but the trip had an unexpected surprise. As we drove into the center of the tiny town we saw that there was a festival going on. Evidently the entire town had come out for a pre-Christmas bash and it was such fun to watch. While we were there there were several dancers performing in a variety of costumes. It was clear they had practiced for this day for some time and they were good!! What a day – great company and wonderful entertainment!!! It just doesn’t get any better than this.
The stage – band was on break but notice the ever present picture of Bob Marley
Kids and balloons
The dancers – they were great!!!
While we get rain all year long in Puerto Viejo, November and early December are normally the rainiest time. This November we had very little rain (comparatively) but not so in December. It has been quite rainy the last two or three weeks and most of us are glad to see it – although it is a bit of a pain sometimes when you have to get out in it. Fortunately we don’t “have” to do anything since we are retired so I have spent a lot of the time reading and working on my photographs and otherwise just hanging out. It has been great!!
The Messiah concerts start tomorrow and we will be singing each Sunday through December 26th – the first one in PV and the others in Limon. We have met some wonderful people and have had a great time and, for me, re-learning the music. We did find out on Thursday that the Banda Nacional out of Limon is going to come to the first concert in Puerto Viejo and we are all thrilled about that. They won’t play the entire Messiah but will play for the Hallelujah Chorus and the traditional christmas songs that we will sing after the Messiah. It should be a wonderful time. Nothing like this has happened in Puerto Viejo and so there is a lot of excitement in the community about the concert. It is pretty neat. However, I am glad that it is coming to an end. I am ready to move on to a new adventure now.
I am really enjoying my yoga classes. On Mondays there are normally two of us in the class and on Thursday it is just me – at least lately. So I get a lot of attention and it is wonderful. I can really feel the benefits particularly in my balance and flexibility. My teacher is about my age and started yoga when she was 50 so understands that I need to approach all of this pretty slowly I have been walking back and forth to class and along the way I have been able to see some of the Christmas decorations that people are starting to display in and on their homes. Christmas is a huge holiday in Costa Rica as it is a very religious nation so the Ticos go all out.
Today we are going to go to the farmers market, get the dogs more medication for fleas and parasites, and then have dinner with the people who are house-sitting for our neighbors. Should be a great day!!
Tree with Montezuma Oropendola nests
Kaya and pillow drying out in the brief period of sunshine
Clay colored Robin on pink bananas in our yard
Yesterday we drove to Limon with a couple of members of the Puerto Viejo choir who will be singing the Messiah with the Limon choir over the next couple of weeks. It was a gorgeous day – bright and sunny but not too hot. As we got into Limon we saw that there were Christmas trees being sold and one of the women with us asked if we thought we could load a tree on the top of the car when we were done with rehearsal. She owns a hotel in Puerto Viejo and wanted a real tree to decorate. She is from Germany and has lived in PV for twelve years and has decorations she brought with her. We said sure so when we were done we headed back to the tree sales place and picked one out, loaded on top of the car and headed back home. It was municipal elections day so there were people out all over and we got lots of smiles and waves due to the tree on the car
Heidi and tree salesman
Tom figuring out how to tie it down
Pictures from the road
Car decked out for favorite candidate
Some of the choir during a break
Main cemetery in Limon
Back home in PV – sailboats in the port