Two Years Today–YAHOO!!!

Red Throated FruitcrowIt is hard to believe that it was two years ago today that we arrived in our new home in Puerto Viejo de Talamanca, Costa Rica.  At about 11:30 a.m. on August 13, 2010, we rolled into the driveway of our home with our friends Susan and Rex.  Since that Baby Possumtime, we have definitely settled in and truly feel part of the community.  We have made good friends and slowly have assimilated into the culture and lifestyle here.  Every day brings something new – a new bird or bug or animal to research, the varying changes in the ocean from almost flat to seven or eight foot waves, occasional torrential rains which are wonderful to watch and listen to in our outdoor living room, and new fruits and vegetables to try. 

Baby dinosaurOur families worried so much about the fact that we were so far away and were afraid that we would not see them anymore.  I assured everyone that they would probably see us much more than they did when we lived in Moscow, Idaho and that has definitely turned out to be the case.  Both Tom and I have been able to get Orchids in our yardback several times since the move and because I have not been working, I was able to help out my Mom when she broke her hip (twice!) by being there to help her through the recovery.  I never would have been able to take that time before.  I also was able to visit my son and his family in Colorado for ten days in July and Tom just got back from visiting the girls and his friends in Colorado as well.  When we lived in Idaho we only saw them all twice in the years that we were there. 

Yellow HeliconiaOne of the things that I have come to love about our life here is the slow pace.  I know that many North Americans move here and become frustrated by the lack of urgency in almost everything but, for me, it has been wonderful to realize that if something doesn’t get done right this minute or even this day that the world will not end Smile  Patience and a feeling of tranquility are the things I now value in my life and it is wonderful to live this way. Red and yellow heliconia

I have said before that to classify Costa Rica and Puerto Viejo as paradise would not truthful and the advertisements that do so are misleading.  There are very poor people here and the crime rate, particularly theft, is high.  The roads are bad and the garbage often piles up on the side of the road for a week or two when the garbage trucks break down or if it is a holiday (and holidays happen very often in Costa Rica Smile ).  And, although this is slowly changing, corruption in both the government and the police has been a big problem. 

Now, having discussed the negatives, is there anywhere else in the world I would rather live?  That would be a resounding NO!!!  I love Costa Rica and I love my life – what more could I ask?

Calm Punta UvaCalm SeasCalm Playa Chiquita

Rough seasRough Seas

 

Iguana ready to go back on the treeIguana ready to go back in the tree

 

Our yard then and now……..

 

Our yard thenOur yard now

New backyard

Yard and house from the backNew BackyardMore backyard

 

Critters

LizardLizard

Baby dinosaurBaby dinosaur

 

Frog on BromeliadGreen frog in bromeliad

 

New praying mantisLeafy Praying Mantis

Spider hanging outGolden Orb Spider

 

Flowers

Red and yellow heliconia

Yellow Heliconia

Red flowers

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Party Time in the Caribbean!

The last few days we have met some great new people.  Our friends Toby and Tina who own our neighborhood bar and restaurant are getting married on June 23rd and some of their friends from Colorado and Oklahoma came down for the pre-festivities.  It didn’t work out for them to all stay for the wedding so a huge party was held at the bar as a kind of catch all party to celebrate the wedding and a few birthdays.  Toby and Tina fed everyone a great barbeque with all the fixings and a band The Bandplayed from 2:00 in the afternoon until late into the evening.  We met new people and touched base with friends we hadn’t seen in a while.  It was just a great time.

Big SmileWaiting for Food

Enjoying the dayMartinChatting

Yesterday we were invited to join the Colorado and Oklahoma gang for a magnificent lobster fest at the home of a couple named Alif and Junior.  Junior’s family is one of the founding families of Puerto Viejo who came from Jamaica in the early 1900’s to work.  Junior is busy all the time taking people on tours and running a successful business but he took time out to cook us the most amazing meal – barbequed lobster fresh from the sea, beans and rice, patacones, and salad.  It was such fun to get to know the Colorado and Oklahoma gang in a more intimate setting as well.  The Colorado group all live in Gunnison and Crested Butte where I lived for six years and where my son and his family still live.  It is always fun to reminisce about times past and they all updated me on recent changes in the valley.  I will actually be heading out to Gunnison on Saturday for a ten day visit and talking with all of these new friends made me even more excited to get back and see the family.  It really is such a small world. 

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Visit to the organic farm

Yesterday our Spanish teacher, Martin, (maestro de espanol) took us on an adventure to an organic farm nearby.  It was amazing!!  The owner was a wonderful man with a great sense of humor.  He was very patient with us as we trudged all over his land and asked questions.  As was Martin Smile  The views were spectacular – you could see way out on the horizon.  There was so much humidity in the air that we could not get a clear view of the ocean but on less humid days I could see that the view would be even more spectacular.  The owner grows the food for his family and there was everything you could imagine.  Bananas, breadfruit, mangoes, a variety of limes, ducks (and babies), soursop, avocadoes, mamon chino, corn, starfruit, lettuce, tomatoes, just to name a few items.  I ended up coming home with a huge squash that the owner picked and gave to me so Tom can be expecting to eat a lot of squash soup!  The flowers were just gorgeous and we saw some amazing grasshoppers – I have never seen them in the variety of colors we saw yesterday. 

We ended our day sitting  by the pool at a restaurant and hotel owned by one of Martin’s friend.  After a couple of beers and bocas I was ready to come home and go to bed.  What a great day!!

 

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Settling In……..

Bromeliad flowerIt probably seems a bit odd for me to be writing about setting in when we have now been living in Puerto Viejo for twenty one months.  But I think that it just takes longer to feel like you really are truly living here, and not just visiting,  than it takes moving from state to state in the U.S.  Obviously moving to a foreign country, especially a third world country, that is so much different than where you have been raised your entire life, is a huge step and it takes a while to assimilate.  At least for me.  But also, the locals here and the long time expats see people come and go so much that it takes some time for them to feel like someone like us is truly going to stay.  Many of the expats here come down for a few months and then head back to their home in the U.S. or Canada.  People we meet are often very surprised to learn that we do not have a home in the U.S. to go back to live in when we tire of it here (or when they think we will tire of it here Smile).  When we moved it was always our intention to make this our permanent home and now it really feels like it is.  yard

That is not to say that I still don’t marvel at how beautiful it is or that I don’t run for the camera when I hear a new bird or see an animal.  I can’t imagine that I will ever become complacent about how much I love living here.  But there is no way I would mistake my life here as a vacation.  We have friends, have become involved in the community and have put down roots.  We have even done a lot of work on the house – some because we wanted something different and some because it was necessary.  And the work on the yard and garden will be ongoing forever ensuring that boredom will never be an issue Winking smile.

I have found that there are two types of expats living in Costa Rica.  Simplistically – there are those who moved here understanding that is not the U.S. and there are those that have moved down here thinking they could make it become the U.S. – or something close to it.  We are in the first category.  Those in the second category are unhappy with their choice but often have invested everything in moving here (as we did) and now are unable to get back because to do so they would have to sell everything for at least what they paid.  That is not easy to do here.  And many who have retired here would have to go back to work since it would be difficult to live on what we can here.  I do understand that life can be difficult here.  There are often long lines wherever you go – especially to transact government business – and theft is a huge issue.  There are some people who have been robbed multiple times.  For some reason, we have not had the negative experiences that many others have.  I will not be foolish and say that we never will, or that we occasionally don’t get frustrated with the bureaucracy but certainly no more than we did in the states. 

Flowers in the yardSo – it will be interesting to see what the next months and years bring.  I am looking forward to it!!

Some photos……….

 

How cute is thisGrocery shopping with mom

KayakingKayaking in the ocean

 

Five sistersSisters walking on the beach

 

Everybody has a cell phoneEverybody has a cell phone!!

 

Buddies hangingTassle and Odie watching the world go by

Parrots in the yardParrots in the backyard

Friends dancingFriends dancing

More dancingA night out Smile

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Time Flies…………

It has been a busy couple of months since I last posted.  I still can’t get over how time just slides by and I don’t even notice.  We have been here twenty months and definitely feel that this is home.  I was most sure of this when I noticed that I was sitting in the outdoor living room watching the birds and listening to their songs and I didn’t jump up immediately to go get my camera to get “just one more shot”.  That is not to say that I don’t still take lots of photographs – I do – but I don’t take as many Smile 

In March we had two sets of guests.  Friends Betty and Bill IMG_5598from Spokane, Washington were here for a few days and we had a great time once again.  We didn’t do a lot since they were here just a few days but we had a great time and ate some scrumptious food! 

IMG_5688My niece Caitlyn and her friend Sophie came for a week a few days after Betty and Bill left and they were wonderful guests!  They both turned thirty in 2011 and they wanted to celebrate so they came to Costa Rica Smile  They spent a lot of time on the beach and did a lot of wandering around.  They also went to the local Waldorf school and observed the Waldorf experience here in Puerto Viejo.  We also went to the waterfall DSC07292and to a cacao farm IMG_5694that a friend of mine owns and learned how to make chocolateIMG_5713 from the cacao pod.  Pretty cool!!  I was sorry to see them go…………..

We had our first (fantastic) experience with the health system here a couple of weeks ago.  Tom suspected that he had a bleeding ulcer as he had had that affliction a couple of times in Colorado.  Since we are now members of the national health plan, we went to our clinic a couple of miles away.  They saw him immediately and sent him to get lab work done.  When we came back, the doctor said we had two options.   We could go to Limon, which has a basic hospital, and be reassessed to see if they would do an endoscopy or, if we could afford it, we could just go directly to the emergency room of one of the private hospitals in San Jose.  Since Tom still has money in a health savings account, we went with option two.  Before leaving the clinic, however, they gave him an IV to help stop the bleeding and relieve the pain. 

The next day, we set off at 6:00 a.m. as it is a four hour drive to San Jose.  We arrived at 10:00 a.m. at the emergency room of Hospital La CatolicaIMG_5835 and were seen immediately.  The nurse did the initial intake assessment and then the doctor came in and said that we should go ahead and get the endoscopy done to see if there was still bleeding.  So, off they went.  They put Tom to sleep, did the endoscopy, determined that the bleeding had stopped, biopsied the ulcers, and took him to recovery.  The doctor came in shortly after Tom woke up and gave us the pictures and a prescription and said we could go home.  We were on the road by 12:15 and home by 4:30.  It was amazing – the best hospital experience we have ever had.  And – it cost $150 for the hospital and $250 for the doctor!!   The main difference between going the private route and the public route would have been the additional time it would have taken – probably a couple of days.  At any rate, Tom is back to abnormal and feels great!

In other news – we have had to replace our wood floors with tile.  I was so upset initially because the wood was so beautiful.  IMG_5910However, termites and mold ate away at the floorboards and there was a danger of the floor caving in.  So – we called our wonderful carpenter and jack of all trades and he came and fixed it all – with a lot of help from Tom.  We now have beautiful tile floors that can’t be eaten up. IMG_5954 I have to say, it is beautiful and so much easier to keep clean and free of dog hair and dirt.  So all ended well…………

Other than that, we just keep keepin’ on.  It has been rainy the last week or so but we welcome the rain.  It was hot and dry for a few weeks and our trees and plants were pretty parched.  Today is absolutely beautiful – not a cloud in the sky and the sky and the sea are bright blue.  Life is good Smile

IMG_5951  Blue crab in our garden

 

IMG_5785Yummy chocolate made from scratch

 

IMG_5619IMG_5636More bananas from our yard

 

 

IMG_5641Sofi and Kaya enjoying the sun

DSCF3888Ibis by the ocean

IMG_6062Neighborhood turkeys enjoying bananas

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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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