Monday, April 28, 2008

A Quick Update

Sorry if I left you hanging after the last entry. Bill is better, not 100%, but better. It’s too hard to make an entertaining story out of all that’s happened since my last blog, so I’ll just give you an update.

First of all, a lot of work goes into living in style in paradise. Bill is working 30 hours for Fluke and doing the development. I’m trying to keep things clean in a dirty construction zone, arranging for laborers and communicating in Spanish. I’m functional but my business vocabulary needs much improvement. We are interviewing for a new caretaker and conducting employment interviews in Spanish is just barely effective. I miss the nuances that my native tongue affords me.

Our partners, Larry and Bunny, arrived two weeks ago and have since left. To spite all of our efforts, the second cabin wasn’t quite as complete and homey as we would have liked for them. I’ve found that in this country, some things are best let go, like all of my expectations for getting things done in a timely and convenient manner. Things move at their own flow here. Trying to speed up the flow usually leads to frustration and failure.

It’s a scorcher today. We have a crew of three workers building retaining walls around the cabins. Ticos are generally the hardest working people that you’ll ever meet. I have so much respect for the workers and their extreme endurance as they toil ten-hour days of hard labor in this climate. Bill is supervising a crew of two who are blazing trails in the jungle so the general public (and I) can walk to our waterfalls. Real jungle exploration is not for me. If there is a trail in the jungle, I will walk it, but I will not forge a new one by swinging a machete. It’s a useful one and a half to three-foot sheathed knife that you wear around your waste. I use a machete for my gardening.

Squirt, our adopted dog, is all tuckered out today after following Bill into the jungle. She is a valiant little trooper. We finally took her to the vet to get her spayed. She a jungle hiking dog with stitches right now. She gets them removed on Friday. The Junglemobile was out of commission for about three weeks. It’s back in now with a rebuilt engine. I’m not even going to go into the woe that not having a car for a week and a half caused us. Let’s just say that although I had a ton of stuff to do in San Jose, it looks like there is no way that I am going to get to San Jose and back to Dominical again during this trip. That means that light fixtures can’t be installed and cabinets for the bathroom and kitchen won’t be installed anytime soon. It’s a small country, but feels isolated at times.

With Bunny and Larry, we did manage a trip to the duty free zone in Golfito. Only Costa Rica could create such a strange and chaotic shopping experience. The duty free zone is a razor wired walled compound of mostly electronic, appliance and liquor stores that give you about a thirty percent discount from regular prices.

Each party is allowed $500 of duty-free goods every six months. To do this, each person goes to the customs office and picks up a ticket for the amount of $500. The ticket is good for three months. Married couples can combine their purchases for a value of $1000, if a single item that they want to purchase costs over $500, but they should tell the customs agent this when they get their tickets, so the proper paperwork can be processed. The next day, after customs process your paperwork, you can begin shopping. As you purchase things, the value of the items you purchase is removed from the ticket. To take full advantage of the Golfito process, purchase until your ticket value is zero.

We were told that you could get everything for half price at Golfito, but we didn’t find it to be true except for liquor and booze. Golfito is a great deal for alcohol. After we paid for transportation of goods back to Dominical and hotel accommodations while we were there, the discounts were only about ten to twenty percent. Golfito got me away from the torture of our construction zone. We stayed in an air-conditioned motel with a swimming pool (a luxurious pleasure) and came back with enough Bailey’s Irish Cream and Mint Irish Cream to last the rest of the trip.

Random Pictures

A Cusinga, a smaller more colorful bird than the toucan.

A disguised Praying Mantis on a leaf of a plant on our balcony. We never know whose going to drop in around here.

Squirt in her new bed. Exhausted and hammy.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

It’s a girl! – Puppy Update

Our temporarily adopted dog is coming along slowly but surely. She might steal our hearts yet. Her safety circle has been reduced to about three feet instead of twenty. She follows Bill around the property and has been all the way out to the end of the middle ridge with him, which is an amazing accomplishment for a dog whose legs are only six inches long. Other puppy-like behavior that she’s developed is that she occasionally carries away my slippers. We figure she’s not going to get much bigger. She is probably a toy Doberman mix.

She wants to be around us, but only on her own terms. She will sleep next to us in her box on the patio, yet she will not come to us of her own accord even with an encouraging, "Here girl!" On occasion, she will let us pet her, but she gets this tortured look on her face and runs away afterwards.

The electrician working on the cabins came up with a great name for the dog. Of course, there’s a story behind it.

Bill decided that the pooch needed a bath, so we prepared her tub - hose water in a wheel barrel with a little dish soap. Bill grabbed the unsuspecting dog while she was in her bed to carry her to the bath. Jorge, the electrician, was watching and laughing as the terrified dog proceeds to squeal like a pig and pee then poop all over Bill and the patio. As Jorge is witnessing the crazy gringos trying to help this dog that clearly doesn’t want to be helped, he yells out, "It’s a squirt!" We’ve been calling the dog Squirt ever since then. We both have to admit it is an apt name.

Isn't she cute? The Rescue Squirt Fund is accepting donations. Better yet, Squirt needs a home.

We’ve wanted to take Squirt to the vet to get her checked out and cleaned up for days now, but we haven’t had a car for a week! This is sometimes the most frustrating place. The barriers to getting things done around here are truly amazing. I’m beginning to think that the trick is to have no expectations of accomplishing anything. Then when you get something done, you’ll feel you’ve accomplished a small miracle.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Is It a Hospital or a Prison?

A word of warning -this is not a happy blog entry. All is not perfect in paradise. Stuff happens. I'm venting my frustration.

We’ve lived in a muddy, ugly construction zone for a month now, which is now becoming psychological torture. Constant loud noises are known torture techniques. So is a lack of privacy. We still have no door on our bedroom or bathroom. Every time I hear the high pitched circular saw, which is about a hundred times per day; I have to tell myself, "Go to your happy place." The workers start at about 5:30am and work till about 6:00pm. The rainy season has started. Sticky red clay gets tracked all over the house because the landscaper who we contacted two weeks ago is so busy that he can’t plant any erosion control for another three weeks. Mud about an inch thick gets caked onto shoes.

To top it off, there has been no escape. Our car has been in the shop for the last five days. I’m not going into the car problems we’ve had. Just that the Costa Rican way of car repair seem to be leave your car with mechanic for an unspecified amount of time and they will try to fix it. They really don’t know what’s wrong with your car, but if you leave it with them for long enough, eventually they are bound to fix the right thing. All of course while they are charging you everything they touch. Never mind that you have things to do. Never mind a taxi cost $10 every time you leave the mountain. Cost of the repairs? They don’t know. They can’t provide an estimate. They will just let you know when they prepare the final bill. Payment is in cash only, so if the bill is large enough you’re, certainly going to spend more time in the bank lines. Such easy targets, these gringos.

Bill has also been very sick for about two weeks. On Sunday morning, thankfully before the car was taken in for disrepair, he woke me up at 12:45 am gasping for air. Scary stuff. I call 911 to find out where the nearest 24-hour emergency clinic is. It’s about 45 minutes away down the Costanera highway. We have a gothic and nearly morbid experience as I’m speeding along the blacktop in the middle of the night with steam and mist rising from the damp and rainy road. We arrive in Cortez and find this expansive one-story complex surrounded on all sides by a hurricane fence topped with razor wire.

"Is this it?" I asked. "It could be the clinic."

"Or the prison." Bill replies.

With no signs or indication what kind of complex it was, it obviously fooled us. The only clue was a guy hanging out by the fence in dress in white. "Where is the Cortez emergency clinic?" I timidly asked. It turns out it was the hospital and emergency clinic, not the prison.

The word that summarizes the treatment Bill received there is interesting. The ratio of medical personnel to patients was Bill and the whole emergency staff, about 20. They very efficiently checked him in with a typewriter. He saw the doctor who was quite put out that we’d shown up at night instead of the day. Sorry, my husband couldn’t breath tonight. It was just a little impossible to have anticipated this during the day.
After a dose of oxygen, a shot in the arm, a shot in the butt and three allergy medications, we we’re released. No cultures. No diagnosis. Just treating the symptoms. Like the car, I guess if they throw enough medicine at a body, they’re bound to fix what ails it.

It’s Friday. Bill is not well yet. He still has scary moments of gasping for air. During the middle of the week we saw another doctor. The latest diagnosis is a bacterial infection. Bill is just thrilled with the treatment prescribed by the second doctor. Not one, but three antibiotic shots in the ass. One shot per day for three days. You did catch the fact that we have NO CAR yet. It’s been since Monday. A trip down and up the mountain is $20 and the shots are $40 each.

Aren’t prisoners in US jails treated better than this? To close on a positive note, prisoners don’t have the views we do.

There have been moments of fun. Here is Bill and I at my birthday celebration dinner.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Puppy Love

Bill and I have temporarily adopted a little puppy that was half-starved and hanging out under the cabin that is being constructed. Per our caretaker, people dump dogs along the road quite often. This guy, or girl, is probably about two months old. It has had no socialization, so it doesn’t even know how to act like a puppy.

We’ve been feeding it regularly for five days now. It seems less wobbly and in much better shape to run away from everyone now. He is so shy, if you look directly at him; he will run under the other cabin. Get within 6 feet of it and it will run. It’s frustrating. Especially since we know that without any social skills, no one is going to want this dog after we take it to the shelter. Our plan is to have patience and give it some forced puppy love and socialization. We have so little time to do this since we’re leaving in exactly a month. Chances are we are probably only fattening it up to be boa constrictor food.

We did corner it in the cabin one time. Since it ran my direction, I grabbed it. It squealed like a pig as it nipped me. Lucky for me, there have only been two reported cases of rabies in Costa Rica in the last ten years, per Bill’s Internet research.

After I washed off my very small wound. Bill carried the frozen scared pup back to our cabin, where I made a bed in a box for it out on our balcony. Bill fed it the last of our chicken and it finally had enough courage to eat. Stuck in the box, at first the pup wouldn’t even look at me. Then the pup and I had an eyeball to eyeball showdown and talk before I walked away and it ran away.

I guess socialization comes in small steps. I’m happy to say that for the last two nights, the little guy has slept in the bed we made for him, but will only do so after we turn out the lights and go to bed. It has to make sure the evil humans are always at a safe distance.

This morning I found the pup still in the box when I woke up and we had another face-to-face talk before I allowed it to bolt under the other cabin. It’s getting a little bolder, but for now, this is definitely a one-sided relationship and Bill and I are the meal ticket.