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Holy Earthquake–We’ve Been Here Eighteen Months!!

IMG_5423In honor of our eighteen month anniversary, we were surprised with an earthquake this morning around 5:00 a.m.  Well – Tom and the dogs were surprised – I slept right through it.  It seems amazing to me that we have been living here for a year and a half.  Time has flown by and every day we STILL pinch ourselves to make sure that we really are here and not just dreaming about it. 

Since I last wrote, we have become residents!  In late January, we finally got word that all our paperwork had been approved and we could go to San Jose and get our cedulas.  So, we bribed our friends Kathleen and Rick with the promise of all the Netflix they could watch and they stayed here with the dogs and off we went.  The trip over was rainy and slow.  IMG_5124There were trucks on both sides of the road almost the entire way going to and from the Port of Limon.  But we got to our hotel safe and sound and got up the next morning and headed off to get our residency cards (cedula).  We had been working for the past couple of years with The Association of Residents of Costa Rica who helped us with all of our paperwork.  IMG_5201On the morning we were to get our cedulas, we met one of their staff at the immigration office and he helped guide us through the process. IMG_5189 We sat with all the other ex-pats from the north and central Americas and in just a couple of hours were done. IMG_5206 I was lucky and got my actual cedula before we left but Tom was told that his would be mailed and that he would receive it within a week.  However, this being Costa Rica, he got a call a few days after we got home and was told that he had to go back because the picture or something was bad.  So he got up bright and early on a Thursday morning, drove back to San Jose and came home with his cedula about three that afternoon.  It was a long and very interesting process.

IMG_5266On the trip back from San Jose there were almost no clouds in the sky and we were able to see the Turrialba Volcano with steam coming out of the top.  That is a rare sight as it is almost always cloudy going over the mountains. IMG_5312The trees were also flowering and were absolutely gorgeous.  I almost didn’t want the trip to end it was so beautiful that day.

DSCF3715The Super Bowl has come and gone and this year we went to our neighborhood bar and watched with a bunch of friends and others who needed their American football fix.  It was great fun and such a great game!  

IMG_5436We also have improved our garden in the last couple of weeks.  We went to a finca close by and ended up getting twelve fruit and flowering trees and some bushes for about $60.  _MG_0339I couldn’t believe that deal.  When added to everything else we already had in the garden, we now have papaya, banana, costa rican oranges, cas, avocados, mango, and lime trees as well as several medicinal plants growing.  I can’t wait for all of this to begin fruiting and flowering!  Also – while we were in San Jose we picked up some new bromeliads IMG_5443and they look great in the places Tom picked out to put them.

So now we are off to snorkel for the first time in a few months.  My favorite way to celebrate!!

More pictures from the last few weeks:

 

_MG_0087Orchids in our garden

_MG_0078Mom and baby sloth in the backyard

_MG_0279Two Ani hanging out in the yard

_MG_0335Wasp dragging a paralyzed spider – this was amazing!

IMG_4912Ships in the Port of Limon

_MG_0366Heliconia

IMG_4895River not too far from our town – they are full this year even with not much rain

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Oh NO!!! My Kindle broke!

IMG_4887In mid December I went to read a book on my Kindle so I turned it on and the entire bottom part of the screen was dark.  I could read but not very easily.  I am a voracious reader and the Kindle has been a life saver for me in that regard.  There just aren’t many books here in Puerto Viejo and to order from the states is cost prohibitive for me. 

The Kindle was not quite a year old so I got on Magic Jack and called Amazon to see if they had a solution.  After going through all the options on their end (none of them worked) the wonderful customer service agent said that I could send it back for a replacement and would be reimbursed for shipping.  I had a month to complete the return.  The replacement was sent to my son’s house in Colorado two days later and he sent it on to friends who were returning to CR in January.  I was thrilled!! 

The agent said that I would get email instructions on how to send it back and in just seconds after I hung up, there they were.  the only issue that I could see was that they required the package to be tracked and the postal service here does not do that.  IMG_4921I found out that there is a DHL office in Limon – about an hour or so away – so one morning, Tom took off to Limon to send back the non-working Kindle.  About 11:30 a.m. I got a call from Tom saying that the cost of the return was going to be $92.00 as the only option for tracking was three day delivery.  We decided not to send the package since you can now buy the Kindle I have for $79.00 and I didn’t want to risk not getting the reimbursement for shipping.  However, I got online and “chatted” with the Kindle customer service representative and was assured that the total cost of shipping would be reimbursed – even though it was more than a new Kindle would be worth!!  I called Tom but he was already on his way back, and, since everything in Costa Rica closes down for an hour and a half for lunch and it was now noon, he decided to try another day. 

We headed back to Limon a couple of weeks later and sent the old Kindle on it’s way to Amazon.  We had a couple of issues that came up – one being that they didn’t know that it had arrived and my account was not credited for the shipping.  However, a quick phone call was all it took to give them the tracking number and we were done.  I am now happily reading away on my new device.  Pura Vida!!!

Photos from our trip to Limon:

IMG_4912Port of Limon – cruise ship

 

IMG_4929The cemetery in Limon

 

IMG_4933 Cemetery again

 

IMG_4936 A tire and brake shop

 

IMG_4941Flowering trees

IMG_4949Big trucks on skinny road

IMG_4961Warning for big hole in the middle of the bridge

IMG_4962Almost home

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Gorgeous in the Caribbean

PanoramaOn our side of Costa Rica, the weather has just been stunning lately.  Normally in December, we have very heavy rains but this year both November and December have had very little rain compared to other years.  This is not a good thing as the rain forest needs lots of rain.  However, the upside is that we are able to be outdoors enjoying the weather nearly every day. 

I have spent hours the last few days working in our garden and just wandering around the yard.  In June, Tom planted the lot that we purchased when we moved down here with all sorts of plants, flowers, and fruit trees.  While it will be a while before we are able to harvest any fruit, (although the papayasPapayas are growing quickly!!) the other plants are all really taking off and the entire yard is now one that I can wander Wiley Sofi Kayaabout and feel a real sense of peace and tranquility.  The birds, particularly the tanagers, are going crazy chirping and singing all day long.  They are also getting so used to us that they fly right through our outdoor living room – sometimes inches from our heads.  Very entertaining to the “kids”. 

So – I am heading back out to enjoy the day.  Below are a few photographs of what I have to look at all day Smile

Heliconias  Heliconias

Torch ginger  Torch Ginger

Blue Flower  Blue Flower

Flowering tree  Flowering Tree

Orchids Orchids

Elephant ear plant  Elephant Ear Plant

Another type of elephant ear plant  Another type of Elephant Ear Plant

Backyard trees  Backyard trees

Mango  Mango Tree

Sofi Sofi enjoying life.

Kaya  Kaya in her favorite spot!!!

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Rest in Peace, Jason

clip_image002It has been a long few weeks since I last posted.  My oldest son,who was thirty nine, died unexpectedly in early November and I have been in the United States taking care of all those things that need taking care of before saying a final goodbye.  What I found the hardest was just the sheer exhaustion that I felt while still having to make all the necessary arrangements.  My son Jordan and I spent hours and hours trying to tie up all the loose ends that have to be taken care of when life ends. 

I am back home in Puerto Viejo now and am just recovering and taking it easy.  There is no better place to heal and every day gets a bit less painful.  I have found that people are so kind and thoughtful, both here in Costa Rica and back in the United States.  I am so very lucky to have the family and friends that I have.  They make times like this much easier to bear.  Thanks to you all.

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Residents!!! (Well, almost………….)

imageBoth Tom and I have now been notified that our residency application has been approved.  Now we just have a bit of clean up work to do and then we will be able to go to immigration and get our cedulas!!    The cedula is the identity card that all residents have and allows you to open up a bank account as well as get the residency rate to enter national parks.  I’m sure there are many other benefits but those are two I know of off the top of my head.  The biggest benefits for us will be that we will be able to join the national health plan which is one of the reasons we moved to Costa Rica.  Before we can be issued our cedulas, we will have to pay for two airplane tickets that will take us out of the country in the event we are deported.  I am not planning on that happening Smile  We also will have to go visit our nearest medical clinic in Hone Creek and get signed up for the national health plan.  The system here is heavily geared toward preventive medicine so, once we join, we will have to make an appointment for a complete physical.  Then you are expected to go back at least once a year to ensure good health.  For this we will pay around $60 a month for the two of us.  Not a bad deal!!

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Gatherings–And Not Just The Human Kind…..

TrogonThis week has been one for getting together with friends and acquaintances.  On Tuesday afternoon Tom and I joined about sixteen of our neighbors at a community security training given by the local police.  Secuirty meetingThis was the second session of ten and I have to say I am impressed with this kind of community outreach.  The training is done in Spanish so I have to spend a lot of time out of class going over what was taught but it is really good for me and it is helping my understanding of Spanish immensely. We are learning what kind of community security initiatives make a difference in reducing crime and by the end of the course we will have a written plan in place for our neighborhood.  Probably one of the greatest things about it is that we are meeting our neighbors and that in itself goes a long way to make the neighborhood safer.

Birthday cake for MargoOn Wednesday I was invited to the 50th birthday of a woman that I recently met.  It was a “girls only” get together and it was great fun!  There were nine of us and I really only knew four of the women so I made some new friends.  Margo birthdayWe talked and drank Sangria and go to know one another.  It was interesting to note that everyone of us thought that we were living the best time of our lives right now – here in Puerto Viejo Smile

Sign at barYesterday, October 13th, was Tom’s birthday.  It was also supposed to be a meeting/party for the newly formed neighborhood association for Playa Negra.  The turnout for the party was not large but the people who came had fun.  Party on the beachI think we will probably just have meetings from now on and skip the party except for very occasionally.  At any rate after the party, we hung out at our neighborhood bar, The Point, and Tom got free beers which he generously shared with me.  We talked with friendsfor a few hours and then headed home to finish celebrating with the dogs.  All in all a very nice day.

Finally, this is the time of year when thousands and thousands of raptors from North American migrate to South America.  RaptorsOur little part of the country is one of only three areas in the world that is in this flight path and  I have to say it is amazing.  The sky is full of hawks, vultures, kites, eagles – every type of raptor.  We will see them again when they return to North American in the Spring and I will definitely be watching!!

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Milestones

Parade in PVSeptember 15th was Independence in Costa Rica and it just so happens that it also was my birthday Smile  This was the second birthday I have had here in my new home and it got me thinking about all the things that we will be celebrating for the second time now that we have celebrated our one year anniversary of the move.  Tom’s birthday is coming up next and then all the holidays.  We also are once again watching the fall migration of all the birds from North America and it is wonderful.  We have birds all year long but the fall and spring migrations are just spectacular!  Our garden is also just going crazy with new blooms and plants all over.  Again – it is like this most of the year but right now is particularly abundant.

Anyway, on Independence Day we went to the parade that they have every year in downtown Puerto Viejo and it was fun.  Tourists in paradeSince the town is only a few streets long, the kids in the parade marched with their instruments up and down the streets for a couple of hours holding flags and dancing.  There were not floats or anything – just the music and the kids and it was great!!  At the school in town the students had made TshirtsT-Shirts for the event and they were hanging from the rafters of the school – pretty amazing work!

Around the yard:

OrchidsOrchids blooming

Squirrel CuckooSquirrel Cuckoo

HeliconiasHeliconias

ToucanToucan

Passerini TanagersPasserini Tanagers

AracariAracari

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Sad news……..

_MG_8132The darling little sloth that I showed just the other day was killed when she touched the transformer on the electrical wires she was crossing to get to a tree.  That is just one of the many perilous things that the sloths have to contend with here.  The other major ones are dogs and cars.  At any rate, I will miss seeing her in our yard………..

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Snorkeling again!!

September and early October are by far the best months to snorkel on the Caribbean side of Costa Rica.  We try to go whenever we can and are getting better and better at taking pictures of the fish and the reef.  Here are a few from yesterday……………..

Camouflage fish  This fish is camouflaged by the sand but you can see it in the lower left hand corner of the picture.

Camouflage fish 2  Same fish but barley there.  It is in the center of the picture – note the two eyes.

Camouflage fish barely thereHere it is barely perceptible.  It is in the lower center of the picture but very hard to see. 

Blue fish at Uva 2Pretty blue fish – these are all over in varying sizes.

Yellow and white fishYellow striped fish

Squid  A squid – the water was a bit cloudy here but I watched about six of these just meandering about the area.  The photo doesn’t do it justice – they were a mixture of fluorescent colors.  Very cool!!

Yellow fish  A tiny yellow fish – I haven’t seen much bigger than this.

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Windstorm, Chocolate, and Army Ants…………

New heliconiaIt’s been awhile since I posted – time just seems to pass by so quickly each day and before I know it, I am climbing into bed.  There have been several momentous events in the last couple of weeks.  The first was a huge windstorm that hit on Thursday.  I don’t know what the velocity of the wind was but I do know it was scary!!  Tom was in Limon getting the yearly car inspection done so I was here alone with the dogs.  Kaya and Sofi were as scared as I was but Wiley just hung out and slept.  It is really amazing to see the huge trees swaying in the wind.  It didn’t last too long – maybe 45 minutes or so, but when it was over, there were trees and branches down all over the area.  Only one tree came down in our yard and it was one we didn’t much like so no harm done Smile 

I also am SO excited about a new hobby I have developed!!   I made chocolate the other day from the cacao pods in our yard! Cacao pods I didn’t follow the normal instruction which require fermenting the seeds for several days before roasting the seed but it still was really good!  It is very time consuming since I have no equipment or tools but well worth it.  It is a very dark chocolate so just a taste satisfies that chocolate craving.  I am excited to figure out how to get even more and better results.

On Friday we had our first visit from army ants.  We had been told that they come around every so often and that the best thing to do is pack up and go to the beach for a couple of hours while they troop through your house and flush out and kill bugs like cockroaches and spiders and scorpions.  Scorpion and army antsWe decided to stay to see what they did and it was fascinating!  They started at our bodega and flushed out one scorpion who wasn’t long for this world and then they headed to the house.  They systemically moved around the entire outside of the house walls as well as on the ground around the house.  Anything they found, they ate.  They did flush out one other scorpion who was evidently living around a window but that is all we saw.  Pretty amazing!!

Our neighbors Ron and Don arrived in mid August and it has been nice to have them back.  Ron headed back to Portland last Monday but Don will be here until September 14th.  Tom Don Ron Kathleen RickWe had a farewell lunch for Ron at Banana Azul before they left with the four of us and Kathleen and Rick from down the road.  It was great fun!  We are looking forward to the time when they are here more permanently Smile

Finally – we have been seeing some wonderful wildlife lately around the yard.  Here are just a few:

Chestnut and fiery billed toucan  Chestnut and Fiery Billed Toucans

Sloth eating cacao podYoung sloth eating a cacao pod

Young slothSame sloth smiling Smile

Four winged Dragon FlyGiant Helicopter Dames Fly 7” wingspan and 5” body – biggest in the world!

Four winged dragon fly closedSame one with closed wings

Red dragon flyRed dragon fly

 

Sofi getting bigOur little Sofi is getting big!!!

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