Sunday, November 30, 2008


I wish that the title of this blog referred to a CIA activity. Instead it refers to the creepy, crawly six to eight legged creatures that will probably survive on this planet long after humans.

Not if Bill has anything to do with it though! He’s on a personal mission every night to kill every bug in the cabin. His weapon of choice – the vacuum that we purchased at Golfito.

Bill's new de-bugging job

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving

I pulled another bone-headed move on Thanksgiving that leads me to believe that I’m too stupid to live in this country. We were driving home from San Jose. It’s a four-hour drive from heck that Bill hates because it’s so dangerous and stressful. There is no ‘delay of five vehicles law’ here. If you get stuck behind a truck going 20 miles per hour on the windy two-lane mountain highway, you’re simply out of luck. You have two choices. You can accept your fate and travel in a fast-as-snails caravan with who knows how many cars in front of you. Or you can tempt your fate by passing each car in front of you on the curvy road. Bill is not a snail, thus our harrowing and stressful drive.

I’m getting to the bone-headed part. We stopped at a grocery store about an hour from home. Bill waited in the car while I ran in and got stuff for a Thanksgiving party that we going to. Shopping here is not exactly as easily or orderly as in the US. You have to remember several things in order for the whole process to run smoothly. 1) Check in your bag. Each store has a bag check counter at its entrance. If you’re carrying a large bag or backpack, you give it to the bag checker and he gives you a numbered tag. I did that. After shopping as you leave the store, you redeem your tag and get your bag back. 2) If you buy produce, you have to have it weighed and priced in the produce area by the produce person. First hand experience has taught me that if you don’t do this, the Tico behind you in the checkout line is going to give you dirty looks. They must be thinking,"Dumb Gringo. You need to know the system." You’ll hold up the whole checkout process while they take your produce back to the produce department to weigh and price it. I did that. My potatoes were ready at check out.

It was only an hour later, within a half a kilometer from the property that I discovered my bag tag in my pocket. Oops! My mistake. Bill had had enough driving for the day, so I’m back in the car alone for another two hours just to pick up my backpack.

To spite my extra driving, we made it to Thanksgiving dinner and had a wonderful time with our neighbors. They know how to throw a party. In the eclectic style of the region, fall decorations glowed in the tropical sunshine. In case you’re wondering, Thanksgiving is a Gringo thing. Turkey isn’t readily available, so we made due with roasted chicken at our feast. There were Ticos at this party who thought the stuffing, bean casserole, quiche and pumpkin pie were very strange. We just thought it delicious.

We miss the friends and family not with us. You are in our thoughts and we hope that you had a Happy Thanksgiving.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Jumper Cables & Coat Hangers

Something happened when I came to Costa Rica. I discovered that I left my brain behind in the states. It’s not a good thing to do because you always meet more challenges here than in the U.S., at least the Gringa part of me is. The Tica part of me has yet to find herself. It’s a learning process.

Three incidents cause me to believe that my brain goes on vacation down here without me.

Incident 1 – Out of Gas

Bill was working at home and I was driving home from San Isdiro after picking up the car from the shop and running a few errands. San Isdiro is 45 minutes away, up and down the mountain in between. Driving home, just over the top of the mountain, the dummy lights in the car came on. I was out of gas in a gas-hogging car about 30 kilometers from home. Although I had thought of checking the gas right before I picked up the car, I forgot once I had picked it up. Now, after dark, I was on a curvy and treacherous two-lane road with no gas stations between me and home. I frantically called Bill and wanted to blame the whole thing on everything but me. He says, "Sorry, there is nothing I can do for you, honey. There is no way that you’ll make it home without gas. Stop somewhere, ask around and try and find some place to get a few gallons of gas."

I’m frickin’ terrified. I’m at a roadside restaurant, a lone female patron, surrounded by men just starting to come into the bar for an evening of cervezas (beers). Luckily, there was one beautiful Tica barmaid. I asked her where I could get gas. No problem, she said, 1 kilometer down the road at the first little roadside store or pulperia they sell gas.

Sure enough, although it’s not advertised and you’d never know it unless you asked, this hole-in-the-wall grocery store sells gas by the hand-filled gallon jug from behind the counter. I bought 5 gallons. The proprietress and her pre-adolescent son poured the gas into the tank with a homemade Coca-Cola bottle funnel and hose. I was on my way home in a jiffy.

Only to have the car over heat on the gravel road up to the property …but that leads to the next story…

Incident 2 – Lights

Surprise! A few days later, the car’s in the shop again with a broken head gasket. In case you haven’t surmised, this country is hard on cars. I was driving a rental car this time. Since it gets misty and rainy on the mountain roads, plus the Tico driving style is erratic, I do the safe thing and drive with my lights on. I want other drivers to see whom they narrowly miss by centimeters when they pass me.

This time I stopped by a roadside souvenir stand to buy some art for the cabins. I was in there for less than an hour. I came out and the car was deader than a rock. Again, I was on my own. Bill was at home and had no car.

My panic call to Bill is answered with, "You left the lights on! Of course the car is dead. Can you bump start it?"

"No the car’s facing up hill on a curve."

"Well, try to flag someone down."

I tried. In this case, there are two things you should know about Ticos. 1) They will do anything they can to help you. 2) They do not use jumper cables in this country.

Help came from the husband of the shop owner who told me the latter and demonstrated the former. After about an hour of trying to start the car, he finally pulled the battery out of his own car, removed my battery, put his into my car and started my car with his battery. Then he had me keep the car running while he took out his battery and replaced mine. Talk about your helpful roadside mechanic. I begged the man to accept $10 for his trouble and drove home.

But the day wasn’t over yet…

Artistic Plate from Costa Rica

Incident 3 – Coat Hangers

I’m now home safely from my morning’s misadventure. Bill teased me for leaving the car lights on and gave me a conciliatory hug for the crummy morning I had. Pretty soon, I’m off again to a nursery about 30 minutes down the road.

No matter where you are in Costa Rica, I think it’s a good idea to lock your car up tight whenever you leave it. I arrived at the nursery and did just that. Only as soon as I slammed the car door I realized in horror that the keys were in the ignition and my cell phone was still in the car.

There could be no panic call to Bill this time. (For which Bill says he is eternally grateful.)

Almost in tears, I walked into the nursery. The nursery guy asked me the perfect question, "How are you doing today?"

To which I replied, "Horrible, I just locked my keys and cell phone in the car."

"No problem," the guy said. "We can fix that. Everything is possible." Then he proceeded to tell me how he was going to break into my car. Unbelievably, he went to his own car, pulled out a coat hanger and started to do his thing.

"I keep this because sometimes I have to break into my own car," he said.

I’m thinking, yeah, right. This country is strange. Hardly anyone has jumper cables, but I bet you everyone carries coat hangers.

At this point, I was tearing up in frustration with my own stupidity, and was beyond caring. I was just praying that he could break into my car. He did. I bought an exorbitant amount of plants from the nursery and I left thinking that maybe he was right. Everything is possible in this country.

On Sunday, we had a chance to go to the beach.

Thursday, November 13, 2008


Mystery met a monster cockroach. In Bill’s own words, "That’s the biggest cockroach I’ve ever seen!" This roach was about four inches long and 1.5 inches wide. You’d think the cat would have a little fun with it. He sure likes hunting and playing with birdies in the states. I guess he didn’t quite know what to make of this creature.

The cat traveled extremely well with hardly a howl out of him in the airport, the plane, the taxi and the extremely curvy and bumpy car ride to the property. There was even the stop over at my aunt’s house with three yippy miniature poodles and three other cats. Surprisingly, Mystery came out of his carrier and immediately started eating.

Mystery also proved to be our good luck charm as we breezed through immigration and customs faster than we ever have before. Of course, credit has to be given to the airport staff for improving their processing operations immensely.

For anyone thinking of bringing his or her cat into Costa Rica, I have to say it was fairly easy to do.

You have to make sure you have the cat’s shots are up to date and a USDA accredited veterinarian examines the cat within ten days of the trip. The shots have to be within a year, but not less than thirty days prior to entry into the country. As of our on Nov. 2, 2008, the customs official was looking for either the Official Small Animal Health Certificate (International) or a U.S. Interstate and International certificate of Health Examination. The latter needed to be signed by my vet and send to the state capital to be approved by the state’s USDA vet within ten days of the trip. (Keep in mind, regulations change all the time in Costa Rica. Find out the current regulations right before you leave.)

We can’t say that the cat really likes it here yet. He spends most of his time hiding behind a mirror or in a bucket under the bathroom sink. You might say he’s a bucket case. He hasn’t shown much interest in leaving the cabin, which is good because I have mixed feelings about him leaving the safety of the cabin. After all, it’s a jungle out there.

Our Front Jungle (Yard)