Staying Busy in Costa Rica – Coffee Coasters

There’s alot of time on your hands when you retire, so finding a hobby or an activity that not only fills up the time but can actually feel like time doesn’t exist when you are doing it is imperative. I create coffee coasters.

Finished coasters

Finished coasters

A couple of people have asked how to make them, so today I’m sharing a step by step tutorial.

Supplies: poster board, paints, brushes, straight edge, ruler and lotsa patience

I use both tempera and acrylic paints

I use both tempera and acrylic paints

You will need a straight edge, ruler, a sized template for final product

You will need a straight edge, ruler, a sized template for final product

To get started, you need to paint the poster board, deciding whether you want a plain background or a colorful one. I do a colorful one, allowing the paint to thoroughly dry between each layer. I also use sponge brushes for this initial process, doing up to six layers of different colors.

In progress, this medium sized poster board has 4 layers of colors, but more to come.

In progress, this medium sized poster board has 4 layers of colors, but more to come.

Once the paint gets to where you want the background to be and it is totally dry, you’ll cut the poster board into strips, and then into individual coasters.

Here I'm showing you how a finished coaster is used to line up the ruler to cut a strip of painted poster board. Since these are handmade there are going to be some differences in final sizes.

Here I’m showing you how a finished coaster is used to line up the ruler to cut a strip of painted poster board. Since these are handmade there are going to be some differences in final sizes.

Use your primary template to line up your ruler, then very intentionally and with great concentration use the straight edge to cut a strip of poster board from the main painted piece. You then cut each individual coaster from that strip.

Use your primary template to line up your ruler, then very intentionally and with great concentration use the straight edge to cut a strip of poster board from the main painted piece. You then cut each individual coaster from that strip.

Determine now if you are ready to waterproof each coaster, or go onto the next step, which is drawing/tracing images onto each one.

Trace the outline of your image onto the backside of a cold cereal box and then cut it out and use a permanent marker around the edges.

Trace the outline of your image onto the backside of a cold cereal box and then cut it out and use a permanent marker around the edges on the coaster.

Use carbon paper to trace the images onto your coaster if your background is light enough or just one color.

Or use carbon paper to trace the images onto your coaster if your background is light enough or just one color.

Use your cardboard cutout and a permanent marker to outline the image.

Use your cardboard cutout and a permanent marker to outline the image.

This is your traced butterfly ready for decorating.

This is your traced butterfly ready for decorating.

Decorating the traced object is fun for me – and just like decorating Christmas Cookies, there are never two that turn out the same.

To finish the coasters I use the sponge brush again to paint around the coaster to give the illusion of a frame. Then I use a large brush to cover one side and then the other with polyurethane to waterproof them. Be sure and let them really, really dry at this point. You’re done! Be sure and look for my coasters in the Tico Pod Art Store when you’re next in Jaco!

A River Home in Costa Rica

Looking upriver from the vantage point immediately below my house.

Looking upriver from the vantage point immediately below my house.

Living in Costa Rica is a marvelous experience for many reasons, but for me the primary one is living with nature. I began by living on a farm on a mountain above a small town… pretty close to  my son and his family. That I had family here was a bonus for me and allowed my introduction to the Tico culture and the neighborhood/barrio I was living in a  smoother transition than for those who move here without a connection. Reputation, especially family reputation, has huge importance in this culture. Aunts, uncles, cousins, everyone is interconnected here, so just mentioning a name of someone leads to understanding which family you are from and, thus, who you are. It’s a valuable commodity. I bring up this type of connection because when those moving to this country don’t have family here, the creation of a network within the Tico community has to be dealt with consciously to ensure a comfortable living – and eventually a comfortable place to live. Getting close to the land within a Tico community is difficult without a viable network working on your behalf.

So, here is where I’m living after 2 years on the farm:

View of the front of my house from the river.

View of the front of my house from the river.

When I first moved to Costa Rica, I was lucky enough to find a place on craigslist.org and it worked out as I became acquainted with this new retirement lifestyle. I’d never envisioned living within another neighborhood where English was the primary language; the difference in cultures was alot of what drew me here (not to mention the inability to live on social security in the US or the fact that my son and his family lived here). What endears me to Costa Rica are 1) the people and 2) their connection to the Earth. There’s a respect here that is new to me between those that live with the land instead of on it.

It’s now the rainy season, and by that I mean monsooning every afternoon, so the river is roaring, swollen and loud…

This after days of monsoons... usually the water doesn't reach half the width seen here.

This after days of monsoons… usually the water doesn’t reach half the width seen here.

 

But one of the delights of living above or close to a river is the sound. It’s not white noise. Rivers have their own language, too. Their wildness and unrestrained movements are fascinating to sit and watch. And the birds! So many different types around a river. One day as I was having my morning coffee a young deer wandered into the property. A little later a hawk came charging right at my head through the trees with a baby bird in it’s claws, screeching at the mother bird hazing it from behind. And there are mot mot’s living just a bit of a drop from where I sit with my coffee, so I get to watch their blue and green feathers flitting through the forest most of the day. This is a very special place, and I wouldn’t be living here if it weren’t for the 2 years spent establishing myself in this community. I feel those 2 years were kind of like an initiation, a time during which I was observed and accepted.

View of the living room end of my house. Notice the windows... incredible, like living outside.

View of the living room end of my house. Notice the windows… incredible, like living outside.

So, I feel that I’ve earned this place. I feel that I’m living among the trees and birds and the river life. Living in a house close to the water like this is not all roses, though. Everything, even my clothes, are damp. I have to sweep and mop the floors every day because of the wind and walking in all kinds of detrius from the trees and grounds. It’s a bit moldy and there are bugs galore all day and especially at night around the lights even in the house because the house is old and not as plumb around the windows and doors as I’ve been used to… and there is wildlife that lives and then dies all around me. Squirrels who use an adjacent limb as a diving board to land on my tin roof, possums climbing over the roof at night moving from one set of trees to another, ants that are simply incessantly into everything. And then this:

Don't know if it's dead or resting and haven't had the guts to go back and see if it's still there or has slithered to parts unknown, hopefully not my yard..... the door is closed just in case!

Don’t know if it’s dead or resting and haven’t had the guts to go back and see if it’s still there or has slithered to parts unknown, hopefully not my yard….. the door is closed just in case!

It did turn out to be actually dead, so soon the vultures will gather and we’ll have a hellovatime keeping the dogs away from the carcass as well. But it’s all about the nature, the life of which includes so many wonderful surprises and mysteries and glowing fairy lights at night.

Incredible April: Granada, Granny Nanny & Great New House

Astrologically, April was supposed to be a b___ buster, and for me that turned out to be totally true even tho I’m not the correct gender. First, I had to find and move to a new home; Second, I had to go on my second Visa Run to Granada Nicaragua; and Third, I learned what being a granny nanny really means… not actually in that order, but suffice it to say, the month was one helluva ride…

Here’s a coupla pics of my new home:

View from my new front door

View from my new front door

View to the left of my front door

View to the left of my front door

View to the right of my front door

View to the right of my front door

Beautiful, isn’t it? Situated above what is now a roaring river with the recent rains, it’s a pristine, private casita… all I would ever ask for. There are birds galore, the sounds of the river, and I’ve been adopted by one of the property’s dogs who comes and goes, occasionally dropping by for a hug and a scratch. A mot-mot nest is just over the embankment from the front door and there are now baby squirrels tumbling about the trees in front of the computer window. Paradise found. This being the second move for me within six weeks, has cemented my decision never to move again.

I recently enjoyed my second Visa Run to Granada Nicaragua where I went on two jaunts – one around the Isletas in Lake Nicaragua (of which there are 136 from a volcanic eruption), and the other on land in a horse drawn carriage around the town itself. I stayed at a new place for me – Hotel Patio del Malinche – http://www.patiodelmalinche.com/

This Hotel is the bomb! I’ve written a review in Trip Advisor about my experience there. Short story: the place is a beautifully restored colonial home that I can’t even begin to imagine living in as a family because of its size. The facilities are clean and inviting; the staff incredibly accommodating and friendly; it’s one block off the tourist drag; the price is great and the pool just the right size. It’s now my go-to hotel in Granada.

The trip to Granada was on Ticabus and I’ll never travel another way there because they take care of most of the immigration/customs process and it’s as quick and painless as it can get for a border crossing. Seven hours on a bus is grueling, especially when the overhead booming tv’s are trying to show movies that aren’t interesting to me…. although I will say that seeing Jurassic Park while traveling through the same type of landscape was a little bit weird.

This was the second time in Granada and the second time I used Tierra Tours for jaunts around Granada. (Another Travel Advisor review) The Isleta Tour was incredible, not only for the views, but for the history of Granada and Nicaragua. Evidently 136 islands were created as a result of a volcanic eruption; must have been one heckofa boom! These individual islands are either inhabited by individuals or are for sale. The price of each varies but the mean is around $300k… not much for your private island, and that includes a house already built if you’re lucky. I guess the only drawback is the need to drain the septic tank regularly as they’re particularly small. Electricity and dish reception for cable and internet are already installed on most of them as well. It’s seen as a way to make money by the government and the places I saw in this teensy tour were a mix of magnificent mansions and/or very nice homes, or the tico-type…. course, most of them have to put up with these tours passing by regularly all day long… just sayin. Here’s some photos from the tour:

View from atop the Pirate Fort to one of the small islands on the Isleta Tour

View from atop the Pirate Fort to one of the small islands on the Isleta Tour

Oropenda nests

Oropenda nests

Kingfisher

And then we went on a horse-drawn carriage tour through the urban areas of Granada. Let me tell ya, if you ever want to know more about William Walker and his imperious/egoic challenge to the countries of Latin America, go here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Walker_%28filibuster%29

He was an absolute creep who burned down Granada en total. We saw many burned churches that have been restored, with the surrounding stairs or gates still showing the charring.

We also saw the original train station that ran from the port of Lake Nicaragua in Granada to other primary locations in the country carrying fruits, tobacco, vegetables, etc. When the only female President of Nicaragua created the national roads system in the country, which coincided with the train system breaking down for the last time, the station was mothballed until it’s current President decided to restore the building and create an Art Institute that could be utilized by high school aged students.

Original train station, currently converted into an Art Institute/School for high schoolers

Original train station, currently converted into an Art Institute/School for high schoolers

Quite fancy wooden train carriage for the politicos and rich

Quite fancy wooden train carriage for the politicos and rich

Steel train carriages for the poor

Steel train carriages for the poor

While touring, the driver/guide also showed us these little burial containers for the ashes of family members who died during the Sandinista uprising. They were aligned along a main arterial of the city away from the touristy avenue. We were also shown a huge, and I mean gigantic, area where the original hospital was located. It had been destroyed in an earthquake. Current plans for the location include restoring the reception areas and utilizing the remainder of the area for a University for Art, the City Hall, plus outdoor areas for vendors/ferias and indigenous art markets.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I thought this was a wonderful coincidence when taking a picture of a family playing in Lake Nicaragua

I thought this was a wonderful coincidence when taking a picture of a family playing in Lake Nicaragua

You can barely see the heron trolling on Lake Nicaragua's shoreline

You can barely see the heron trolling on Lake Nicaragua’s shoreline

 

Aside from all this frivolity, my son’s father and my ex-husband died unexpectedly mid-April. Thus my nanny granny note in the header. The day I moved into my new place my son left for the US for ten or so days. Two days in my new casita and I was off to Granada for one full day, returning to do the nanny stuff… an incredible spate of time in which the connection with the family overall was strengthened and I learned to let go of the children when parents returned. That was surprisingly difficult to do. Mostly all mine during the day, when the parent/s returned, it was time to let go and step aside. I’ve read so many books with nannys who get possessive… now I understand that fine balance between granny and nanny that I’d objectified for decades. Long live healthy successful nannies, is what I say! They deserve special grace for their ability to meet and understand this very specific challenge. So my son is now returned, and I’ve now the wonderful opportunity to simply chill in my new place. I’m in earth heaven here.

 

 

Living Arrangements in Costa Rica…

I just moved about a month ago. After two years in a rural setting in the mountains, I’m now in town..  in urban… in ticolandia. I’m paying less than half the rent in half the space and it’s an eye-opener. Don’t get me wrong. I like this new place, especially because it’s amongst locals and their lively lives. But I like it for alot of other reasons, the primary one being that I can save money at this place… which I need so that I can apply for Residency. Since it’s such a dramatic change, I thought I’d share with you the range of possible options for homes here in Costa Rica.

First of all, construction … concrete. It’s tropical here – hot and sweaty. For most of the country’s population, life in either the city or the country is fraught with not only the heat, but dust, bugs, next door neighbors, tin roofs and cats who like to hunt for birds on them.

Concrete construction.

Concrete construction.

I don’t know the ‘why’ of it, but concrete is not so much of a sound barrier… just sayin… My apartment is built onto the side of the owner’s home, which is behind a huge metal sliding garage door. Their house and my apartment are underneath a warehouse type roof structure. And the owner of the place built this little jewel himself. You can tell,  believe me. It’s a railroad apartment with myriad locks on the doors. Evidently at one point there were two different doors into the two primary rooms of the place, and these rooms shared the bathroom that was built between them. These rooms were rented separately. When I came to look at the place they were shocked I wanted both rooms, which turned into a living room and a bedroom… I guess there are many people who work so much here that having a room to simply crash in is common. I saw that in other places we looked at. I realized finally that I wasn’t seeing more than two rooms during our search, and no windows to outside. There is a law here that you cannot build a house that looks into another home, apartment, whatever. I’m sure that’s part of the reason why these places we were visiting were, to me, dismal. Sure, there are houses with plenty of windows here in Costa Rica, but most of them are covered. You can’t see in, you can’t see out. I’m sure this began with the idea that being in a sheltered concrete spot created protection from the sun. Another reason I was seeing smaller compact apartments had to do with the fact that I live alone, and how much space does one person need? That’s an interesting set of thoughts here in Costa Rica where familial generations live together in very tight spaces… In the US a 2-bedroom place usually means three or so people; here it could mean anywhere from 4-6. And did I mention concrete construction does not harbor secrets? No sound barriers? My place might be a bedroom with an open door in the owner’s house. Noise works both ways, and noises of all types.

But back to the original premise of this article… types of living spaces here in Costa Rica:

There are mansions here with fake lakes.

There are mansions here with fake lakes.

A colorful wooden house.... with a tin roof.

A colorful wooden house…. with a tin roof.

Adjacent homes in city/town spaces.

Adjacent homes in city/town spaces.

There's an out-of-country design influence here.

There’s an out-of-country design influence here.

Photo Courtesy of: helloimscott.com.  Family spending a day at the beach.

Photo Courtesy of: helloimscott.com.
Family spending a day at the beach.

All of these different types of places offer a living that’s comfortable in it’s own right. The European inspired designs are much more expensive, of course, since they’re inhabited by those who have considerably more money to spend than the ticos I know do. It’s the less generous spaces that intrigue me because they’re authentic to the country and the culture. I’m learning alot in this new space I’m living in and I’m proud to be sharing life in a neighborhood of diverse types of homes and living  arrangements. I feel like I’m in the soup of the country as a new spice for the rest of the folks who live around me here. It’s a responsibility I’m aware of to represent the expat in the midst of the locals.  One of these places is my new spot… can you figure out which one?

My new front door.

An exterior front door that’s actually interior.

 

Costa Rican condominiums.

Costa Rican condominiums.

Rural, colorful, along a dirt road.

Rural, colorful, along a dirt road.

There are colorful detached, concrete homes with tin roofs.

There are colorful detached, concrete homes with tin roofs.

Tortuguera, Costa Rica…

My second trip this month was with family to the Atlantic side of the country, into Tortuguera country… where you would expect a dinosaur to jump out from the jungle or a snake to fall from a tree at any moment.

It's wild Jurassic Park territory!

It’s wild Jurassic Park territory!

The weather is humid and hot, beautiful and wild. The Lodge we stayed at – Mawamba Lodge – (grupomawamba.com) offers round-trip bus transport to and from San Jose barrios and hotels, the last leg of which is by boat through the canals to the Lodge which is only accessible by boat or plane.

Boat that transports passengers from bus dock to lodge and back again.

Boat that transports passengers from bus dock to lodge and back again.

But let me introduce you to our guide, Frank. He met us on the bus as it left downtown San Jose and stayed with us the entire trip which lasted three days and two nights.

Frank Simms, our tour guide in Tortuguera. Find him at frank-simms.com, or call 506.8826.3305. Fully fluent English/Spanish, Costa Rican, heckofa nice guy.

Frank Simms, our tour guide in Tortuguera. Find him at frank-simms.com, or call 506.8826.3305. Fully fluent English/Spanish, Costa Rican, heckofa nice guy.

Known by all the locals, positive and totally fluent in English. He’s a Costa Rican tico with exemplary English skills and knows the country of Costa Rica inside and out. Frank’s available for private tours of all types and can hook you up for a tremendously comfortable tour of all or parts of the beauty found throughout the country (frank-simms.com) … but back to our trip…

Places to stay in Tortuguera. The little town is at the bottom.

Places to stay in Tortuguera. The little town is at the bottom.

Here you can see all the lodges located on this wonderful bank of land located between the ocean and the main canals of Tortuguera. Here’s an aerial picture of the Lodge:

Between the canal and the ocean.

Between the canal and the ocean.

It’s a large place and extremely well kept. Our itinerary on the first day included stopping for breakfast after pickup in San Jose; a look at banana plantations along the way; arrival at the dock where our boat delivered us to the Lodge after a 20-minute or so trip on the water; a get-acquainted with the property chat from the Lodge General Manager, lunch (way yummy food!); swimming in the huge pool; a boat ride to the little burg of Tortuguera with a walk back to the Lodge; and dinner.

Our second day included an early morning (optional) 5:30am tour of the local canals where lots of nature was seen and experienced in an open boat; an afternoon tour of the gardens, the turtle enclosure, butterfly enclosure and frog enclosure; and another open boat tour in the afternoon (included) of the canals…. where sunburn instead of the cold air during the morning tour was heartily enjoyed by all participants! Swimming, breakfast, lunch and dinner were included as well. Along the way during all of these activities, even in the restaurant, Frank was very busy answering questions, taking photos (of which you’ll see some of his work on his website), spoofing with the locals and other guides, and generally making everyone feel very comfortable. Here’s a picture of the kids enjoying one of the boat tours:

5:30am tour Tortuguera canals - Kids trying to stay warm in front, Frank the tour guide in back.

5:30am tour Tortuguera canals – Kids trying to stay warm in front, Frank the tour guide in back.

Interestingly, there were only those in our group who were actually Costa Rican… the Lodge was full of Europeans, people from Denmark, Germany, the US to name a few. So… Very popular international destination.

The ocean is wild, fierce and strong on this side of the country and particularly along this stretch of coastline. There are four types of huge turtles who come here to lay their eggs, so there are ecological outposts here to protect the turtles predators (including humans) and hatchlings as they make their way to the water after leaving the nest. Females return every four years to lay eggs and the males never return. We were told not to swim in the ocean as the undertows were particularly strong here.

The little village of Tortuguera is about five blocks long and two, maybe three, wide. Teensy, caribbean-like in the colors of people and buildings. You can find all kinds of souvenirs here, including fine jewelry and art. There are sodas and a couple of restaurants and a local school that serves all ages.  It’s provincial and the poverty is evident, and I hoped in my heart that the money spent in the little town helped those who looked less fortunate.

Our last day included breakfast (If I could have bought the bread back home, believe me, I would have…. I seriously considered stuffing my purse with it!) As it was I had two pieces of toast and then two pieces of french toast for breakfast… my syanara (sp!) to bread for a while – with memories I’ll cherish… After breakfast we gathered our luggage, got back on the boat, arrived at the dock to meet our bus, then stopped for lunch before arriving back in San Jose.

What a trip. What an incredible geographic and biological education. It was all busy and interesting enough to keep all of us entertained. Not expensive at all for the value received. Highly recommended. I’ll leave you with this last happy picture:

Fantastic Fun at Tortuguera!

Fantastic Fun at Tortuguera!

Recent Granada Nicaragua Visa Run…

Well friends, time for the big update on my recent Visa Run to Grenada, Nicaragua. It was SO much easier than the Panama border because I took Tica Bus who pretty much manages most of the process.

Nice, comfortable bus for an 8 to 9 hour ride.... brutal...

Nice, comfortable bus for an 8 to 9 hour ride…. brutal…

I took the tourist bus leaving San Jose at 12:30 in the afternoon. We arrived at the Nicaragua border about 5 pm. We got off the bus and into a line that included only those of us on the bus. I was sent immediately to the front of the line because I was obviously an older woman… the elderly are respected here in Latin America, and while it’s not fun being reminded that you are old, it is very nice to be given that type of respect. At any rate, I was stamped out of Costa Rica and back in my seat on the bus within three minutes. Next we were taken to the Nicaraguan side. Before we disembarked from the bus, we all gave our Visas plus the entrance fee to the driver who took them into the Nicaraguan Migracion office for stamping. While we waited for him we took all of our luggage and put it on a long table to be gone through by Migracion officials. There were many men at the door to the bus as we left it asking if we wanted help with our luggage. These guys would move your luggage to the table and back to the bus for a fee. There were also money changers there to exchange different denominations for a price. This part was the longest time spent waiting for the driver to get back with our paperwork. We probably waited close to an hour. When he returned he called out the name on the paperwork and each person retrieved theirs and re-entered the bus. This process was wonderful because we didn’t have to walk the long way between these two areas and we were in good hands. Since I don’t have very operable Spanish at this time, it was easy to simply follow the leader and carry on. Next stop: Granada, which took another hour and a half.

I stayed at La Islita Boutique Hotel, laislita.com,  located 2.5 blocks from the main tourist avenue loaded with restaurants, hotels and various types of stores, adjacent to the Cathedral Main Square.

La Islita Reception

La Islita Reception

This is a beautiful colonial hotel, as are many in Granada, built around a huge Mango tree. There are only 8 beautiful and spacious rooms. The rate includes a fantastic and bountiful breakfast. There are many hostels as well as hotels and if you do your research you can find some real deals. My decision to stay at La Islita was totally positive as it totally made me feel safe and secure. All the people working there were helpful about where to go and which tour company to use and where to eat. They don’t use the term “Boutique” loosely either. The entire place was an exquisite treat. Exploring was easy since Granada is not that large a city. The first morning I went for a walk at 6am and had a few surprises …  one of which was the kids sleeping in the middle of the street. I’m not talking adolescents, either. These were kids of 8 to 10 years of age. I don’t know the story there, but I did know that there would be quite a bit of begging and assumed these children were part of that scene. There were guards stationed all around the parks and tourist areas so I didn’t worry too much about them and continued wandering.  The main surprise for me was the colonial nature of the city -  it’s breathtaking; really amazing to glance into open front doors and see lush interior gardens. And the sidewalks are tiled beautifully as well.  At night there were many people who moved their chairs outside onto the sidewalks to catch a breeze. The temperature was pretty similar to Heredia and sometimes Alajuela, Costa Rica – probably hovered around the mid-80′s with humidity that had you swimming in your clothes at 9am. But. There are breezes off Lake Nicaragua that lighten that load pretty regularly, plus La Islita had a/c in the rooms and that helped. I can tell you that that humidity was not at all helpful to me when shopping for underwear I had forgotten to pack for the trip…. it was torture, but there were stores like Ropa Americana (new or second hand clothing from the US) that can be found along the street adjacent to the Central Market.

I found most of the information I needed for this trip at wikitravel.org/en/Granada_(Nicaragua). 

Places I shopped that I can heartily recommend include:

Soy Nica for leather goods – facebook.com/soynica.dk

and, Ole’ Ole’ for unusual pieces of art, clothing, ceramics, and furniture. Other wonderful finds included La Calzada Centro de Arte, where an expat teaches one on one art classes of all levels in an open studio adjacent to a restaurant. You can find her at: nicaragua-art.com. She provides canvases at cost plus lets you use the paints and brushes. Nice place. She’s a very generous person who really believes everyone should discover their inner artist and invite them to come out to play!

I went to three eateries while there: El Zaguen which serves the most mouthwatering, tender steak you’ll ever have; El Camello which has tremendous art and really good food and is only a block from La Islita; and Don Carlos Pizza which I was very happy with, located on the main tourist plaza.

El Camello Mediterranean restaurant one and a half blocks from La Islita Hotel... my go to place for late lunch/early dinner. Good prices and the food is marvelous.

El Camello Mediterranean restaurant one and a half blocks from La Islita Hotel… my go to place for late lunch/early dinner. Good prices and the food is marvelous.

I went on one tour to Masaya Volcano through Tierra Tours tierratour.com. It was about a 4 hour tour that included going through the Interpretive Center, arriving at the edge of the crater, then traveling to the  city of Masaya where we walked around and shopped at the Old Central Market, then off to a community center in an adjacent village where ceramic pots are made. It’s a fantastic place and was the highlight of the tour for me. The government supports the center and kids from the very impoverished community are encouraged to learn how to build these ceramics – from helping to gather the clay(s) of various colors – no artificial substances whatsoever – to learning to throw and bake the pots in the same way their ancestors did hundreds of years ago.

One afternoon was spent lazing by the pool here:

$7 for a day pass to hang out around and in the pool at Hotel Granada.

$7 for a day pass to hang out around and in the pool at Hotel Granada.

A final plug for Seeing Hands Blind Massage, located on that main tourist thoroughfare across from the blue school in Euro Cafe. The cost is very inexpensive for the professionalism and incredible work they do. I had one guy give me a massage for three days in a row – no, not really – just one hour-long massage on three consecutive days. Wow, WHEW, now that’s a kind of therapy I hadn’t expected and the breakthroughs for me emotionally were really powerful. Highly recommended. Fantastic service for those folks who learn to be practitioners of the art and really understand the body. I’ll go back to Granada just for massage!

After three nights and four days it was time to go back to San Jose. This time I left on the early bus, and this is what we bussed into:

No kidding folks... it's a busy border and this pic doesn't show you the line of people who are surrounding a large block waiting to get to this point.

No kidding folks… it’s a busy border and this pic doesn’t show you the line of people who are surrounding a large block waiting to get to this point.

First, the bus driver gathered all of our Visas as before, along with the price of departure, and we waited for his return to call out our names and re-board the bus to the Costa Rican Migracion building. The picture above is very close to what was actually waiting for us there. So many people I was disheartened. Since I’m considered an elder, I was again placed in the line for pregnant women, children and their parents along with us old folks. The Agent at the Costa Rican window wanted to see a departure from Costa Rica ticket – he didn’t say what kind of ticket, whether it was bus or plane. I had a plane ticket (make sure there are dates on your copy) and that appeased him. I noticed on the paperwork that it was asked if you’d been out of Costa Rica for three days. I hadn’t noticed that on previous border crossings. After he gave me my 90-day stamp I was processed out into an airline-like area where a big machine xrayed everything I was carrying. There were five militia guys surrounding a table next to where the baggage came out of the machine but cuz of my age and guilelessness I guess, I wasn’t asked to give up my baggage for review, so that was the end of that process. I did get through the entry more quickly because I was older, but then had to wait more than a couple of hours for those others on our bus who had to go to the end of the line at least a block away.

The trip to Granada was about the same amount of time on the bus both ways, but the process at the border crossing was much smoother and well organized then what I’d experienced at the border with Panama. And I enjoyed Granada so incredibly much more than I did in David or Boquete, Panama. I’ll definitely be a regular on this trip with Tica Bus to Granada!

Beware Poisonous Caterpillars in Costa Rica…

Crapola to the max, man…. I didn’t shake out the clothes on the line before bringing them into the house…

This is what died a month ago inside one of my blouses:

A poisonous caterpillar in Costa Rica

A poisonous caterpillar in Costa Rica

And this is what happenned when I put the blouse on without realizing there was a dead poisonous caterpillar inside the arm of the blouse…

Results of a poisonous caterpillar encounter

Results of a poisonous caterpillar encounter

The results are insidious… what started out as a major ‘ouchie’ cuz of the quills embedded in my skin, ended up continuing to move around my body with results akin to the above. Not pretty, certainly, and itchy painful besides. It happened yesterday afternoon and the pic above was taken this morning… it’s now 24 hours later from the event and I’m experiencing small blisters and peeling skin all over just this one side of my body… this is one of the things that you ‘learn’ and isn’t in any of the books I’ve read about Costa Rica… The lesson: keep away from spiny looking caterpillars! Jeesh. They’re pretty, but trechorous (sp)!