Tag Archives: Expat Abroad

Antsy…

WARNING!!!

There are pictures of those damn kitchen ants in this post… As most of you know, I am a peaceful person who has learned to reign in an Irish temper ‘issue.’ Well, I thought I had, but these Costa Rican ants are really, excuse me – bugging me!

ants3This is not an uncommon site in my house if I forget to put a spoon in the sink after I’ve served myself a meal with it.  You’ll notice that the entire area around the spoon is spotless. It takes less than a minute for a swarm to show up and attempt to get away with the goods. These ants are smart, too… they’ve learned that when they ‘hear’ me or the vibrations of my using the counter they freeze, hoping I won’t see them I guess. Or maybe they’re hearing me say bad words and that’s the freeze trigger?

ants2This is not an unusual site, unfortunately, if I haven’t cleaned off the counter for an hour after fixing a meal.

This is the deal… most of my life I’ve not had to pay that much attention to keeping surfaces relatively clean – certainly picked up – but relative is, well, a relative word, isn’t it? Yep. Since I’ve not had to deal with pests of this type before my cleaning skills were passable to spontaneous people dropping by my house and having a cup of something in the kitchen while we chatted. But after a year and a half here on a farm in Costa Rica, I’ve finally come to the conclusion that deep cleaning is on the agenda following every single meal I make… or I’ll just continue to get crazier and crazier about the issue.

This is one of the trade offs when living in an original tico house where not every surface falls flush to another surface… nothing’s actually plumb: all window sashes show the sky around at least two of the edges;  there are holes drilled large enough to move piping into the sinks in the kitchen and bathroom, without sealing or caulking to finish the job; there are holes in the walls to run wiring that have not been sealed… you understand where I’m coming from by now. So, it’s either accommodate the ants – which to a certain extent I do by telling them over and over again “I love ya, but if you’re in my house, you’re DEAD!” (maybe that’s why they freeze on the counters …)

ants1So, for a year and a half I’ve lost my temper innumerable times with the ants, none of which survived I’m happy to report, but which also doesn’t mean much cuz there are torrents of them just waiting for the opportunity to replace those who have fallen in battle…

This morning I reached under the counter to pull out a pan to make breakfast and found it covered with dozens…. dozens of ants. That was the last straw. I am now going into bitter battle mode. Time for the boric acid solution which they will voraciously eat and take back to their leader wherever she is, and then the colony will die. Yippee she said dancing with her hands in the air to a happy beat!

At least I won’t have to inhale the ever-present Raid vapors anymore once I have a supply on hand and that’s the good part… the bad part is that I do have guilt about killing an animal, even if it is an ant. I guess that’s why I’ve waited so long to do something about it.  I know, I know, I live in Costa Rica, get over myself.. everyone here deals with ants in their coffee or juice once in a while, but this is just ridiculous. Time to grow some and welcome the Boric Acid Sword of Righteousness!!

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Enchantment…

For years I’ve awoken in the morning and with my first cup of coffee pulled one of the cards from Doreen Virtue’s Healing With The Angels Oracle Cards, asking as I shuffle them three times before cutting to the card I’m going to pull “What should I concentrate on for myself today.” Last week I pulled “Enchantment” and I’ve not pulled another card since because whenever I see or remember that card something wonderful has happened in my life that I’ve saved in my heart-centered treasure chest to share on this post…

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1. Thunderheads were forming over the mountains across the valley – huge, frothy white clouds expanding as I watched. All the sudden there was a darker cloud that floated in front and formed itself into a heart! that looked just like this. Took my breath away because of the simple awesomeness of the moment and the transcendent realization that you don’t have to look for Enchantment, just be willing to accept it as it occurs.

 

two butterflies2. Butterflies have been flying around me as I’m walking around the finca, or sitting on the patio just enjoying the birds, cats, nature… they’re so playful and exhuberant and incredible acrobats. Their ‘shows’ are fantastic when played against the myriad trees, bushes and plants around the yard. I’d give them a 10 if it was the Olympics, just gasping at their ability to flexibly adjust in mid-air, mid-flight, mid-ecstacy.

 

greenhummingbird3. Whenever I’m at my computer there is a hummingbird who looks like this picture that hovers immediately in front of the window above my desk… what is it thinking? It tries and tries to find a way into my casita – or me – or the energy that’s being promoted at the time – I don’t know.  For whatever reason, this hummingbird is pure enchantment to me because it’s a sign there’s something special happening that’s attracting it.  When it gets tired, it rests on the branch of a tree and simply watches me…

 

Resting with Evangeline 4 mos

4. And, again, here’s me with Evangeline… I don’t know if she’s just a big four month old, or if this picture is a true representation of how short I actually am. Whichever, I am truly at peace with her and having her sleep in my arms is a treat beyond measure, truly enchanting.

I’ve allowed enchantment to reach my heart lately…  and I think it’s a portion of feeling gratitude for a life I cherish. We’ve all been experiencing enough options for grief lately that we need the balance of incredulousness and giddy happiness for it’s own sake.  I’m consciously allowing these moments, these instances, of pure pleasure  to reach my heart and  lift my spirits. They happen all the time… I hope you’re experiencing them too!

 

Birthdays and Facebook Fatigue…

bbqbigpicLook at all those smiles… we had a marvelous birthday celebration for everyone in the family who had a birthday in July… I’m one! Here are two of the others… Laura, my daughter in law, and Alejandra who is married to Laura’s brother.

bbqcakeThe family came to my house for a barbeque. The weather held up, there was lots of good food, the kids running around having fun, and I felt a smile throughout my body as the day went on. It’s a wonderful way to celebrate with such a large group. As the kids get older maybe we’ll see some futbol out on the front lawn…. hope hope hope. It was so weird watching the US vs Costa Rica last night on tv… I’m just getting into futbol and really enjoying it.. the time just flies by… it reminds me of a game of chess, except in motion.

Before the party, my granddaughter Lorelei came over and we made cookies.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASuch a cute cookie… both of them! HA!! And so photogenic… Here’s another shot of the decorated goodies

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMany were ‘left over’ at my house and I am sorry to report that they are now banashed into the gut of a newly 63 year old!! Loved every single bite.. but the party’s over, it’s time to go through sugar withdrawal and welcome the next 30 lb loss, while I learn the rules of futbol to replace my Facebook addiction.

Yes, sorry to say I now have too many friends on Facebook to leave it to an hour to peruse all the new posts… jeesh, too much of a good thing? Or time to cull the list of those who mysteriously have appeared as friends whom I’ve never heard of…

Dawn…

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADawn from my front porch … the Central Valley below is a glittering pink panorama.

Dawn’s a special time when the Oropendas call to signal it’s time to get to work, the rest of the birds are chirping or yelling – depending… all adjusting to what the weather has presented them with as the sun is rising.  Usually the farm cats or squirrels are crawling over the tin roof, and at one point all the dogs on the mountainside break into the most amazing caterwauling I’ve ever heard – a special kind of dog concert. … I’m sure they’re talking to one another, maybe checking in to let one another know their status? I don’t know, but they do it at dawn and again at around dusk.

Don’t know why I’ve awoken at 1 am the past couple of mornings. The only downside to it, really, is missing dawn… when I wake up this early I usually sleep through dawn, which for me is a disappointment.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis is my favorite spot at dawn, after standing at the window overlooking the Central Valley sparkling lights while filling the coffee machine, I settle down in my overstuffed chair with a cup of coffee and watch the sun come up on the jungle behind my casita… comfortably ensconced with the smell of Cafe Britt coffee wafting around me, contemplating my day and what I’d like to make of it.

Lately my life has changed. I’m beginning my second year here in Costa Rica. I’ve gone through the honeymoon stage and am now really feeling settled. Retaining the love for this country and the initial delights that captured my heart to begin with a year ago, has offered me a new depth of feeling I haven’t experienced before. To use an analogy: it feels like the flirting/crush stage I’ve had with Costa Rica has now evolved into love – there’s so much more to discover, and there’s all the time in the world to do it. I’m really here to stay and it feels as if  the country is loving me back.

So is my new granddaughter… she’s experiencing a dawn of a different type. And this is how my life has changed recently.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAObserving her discoveries has shifted me into a … what can I call it? A state of grace? I don’t know, but after an afternoon of watching her blossom, I feel a new sense of community with everything around me… and I think that must be part of what she is experiencing. When I get home from babysitting I have this marvelous hangover of that unconditional love we all read and talk about, but rarely hold onto long enough to feel the attendant bliss it provides.

Then… after a stimulating couple of hours…

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt’s time to rest in the hammock for a short, but profound nap…

At this point I’ve been awake for about three hours and it’s about time for me to hit the snore slab for an hour or two before the cacophony of nature welcomes me with a new dawn, and a new opportunity for bliss… night night…

 

 

 

 

My Favorites in Jaco, Costa Rica!

JacopicSurfMy Number 1 favorite thing about Jaco is the beach… surfers, waves…. just listening to the waves crashing is a powerful experience… and then sitting on the beach watching the surfers is a component that simply lulls you into hours of relaxation filled with laughter and gasps. Pure entertainment…. unless you’d like to learn to surf yourself? They’ve got it all here!

Jacopic2A picture of the south end of this 2.5 mile long beach… looks like morning.

Jacopic3NorthAnd here’s a picture of the north end of the beach. This end has quite a few high rise condominium projects. As you can see, the city has been careful to retain the ‘green’ of the natural geography and that lends to the marvelously laid back morning vibe of this little town.

JacoPic1Here’s a picture of the middle of the beach, where you’ll find a nice little park with benches and some tables, plus a nice play structure for the kids.

Around ten it begins to get busy with lots of tourists doing touristy things, or getting ready to be touristy, at any rate.

And speaking of getting touristy, there are lots of things to see and do around Jaco. Since Jaco is only an hour and a half from the capital – San Jose – you’re not far away from zip lining, river rafting, national parks, deep sea fishing… you name it… And that leads me to my second favorite thing about Jaco…

JacoRobertoAn absolutely fabulous tour guide who can chauffeur you around the entire country if you like. Roberto has had 12 years of experience doing just that and as a Costa Rican knows this country very well indeed. What’s special about Roberto is his fantastic attitude, knowledge, willingness to help you out, and total English fluency! I’ve been in this country for a year and a half now and he is by far – in my experience – the person I recommend and trust to make sure my visitors have a relaxing and enjoyable trip. You can reach him via his email at roberto76543@yahoo.com.

So, now we come to my third favorite thing about Jaco…

JacoCatalinaGateLa Catalina Hotel. This is their front gate. As you can see, it is immediately on the beach! It’s on the southern end where the beach is quieter, but still right next to a surf school, so the scene, while quiet, is still fun to watch. They have units with complete kitchens totally stocked with dishes, pots and pans, regular sized refrigerator… and the price is fantastic!

hotelcatalinacr.com – 506-2643-1237

JacoHotelCatalinaThere is a road right in front of the gate. Little restaurants to the right and left. You can walk the beach to the shops in town, or wander through the meandering streets and check out interesting housing choices. At the far south end of the beach a bit beyond the hotel is a rock outcrop where the locals throw nets, hopeful of catching fresh lobster for local restaurants. Do you see the lounge chairs in this picture? Well, here’s your final photo treat… exactly what you see while sitting in them passing the time of day…

JacoCatalinaBeach

Can it get much better than this ? I think not. This is my oasis in the midst of an oasis… my home away from home… my respite from the city… my favorite walking routes… my favorite views. Hope you can come and enjoy it with me sometime soon!

Morphos, Horses and Toucans…

Oh My! What an incredible experience I am having in the midst of a very humid paradise! Heh heh… it is so humid that after a walk with Lily I pour sweat for another twenty minutes and getting out of my clothes to shower is like peeling an orange….. I have more pictures for you!  Do you know the Lunesta commercial on tv where the butterfly is flying so weirdly… as if she’s swooping up then down then up then down… actually, that’s exactly how these morpho’s fly…. I was watching one at this site in the next photo where I always see them, and yelled out loud ‘It’s the Lunesta butterfly!’ with great glee I might add… even though it was just Lily and I on our Route 2 walk…

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And I have to add here that the horses, all the horses I’ve seen here are really pretty animals and once they know you, after you’ve acknowledged them, they don’t pay much more attention to you. I don’t care, I say HI! anyway… they probably think I’m a young puppy with the enthusiastic energy I’m exhibiting.

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But here’s my grand excitement of this house sitting trip thus far:

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Yep, toucans in a tree… can you believe it? I couldn’t. I just stopped in my tracks and felt like the heavens had opened and my heart with it and was totally bamboozled with joy. Never seen one, much less a treefull of toucans before… what a treat!

Lily and I on the Route 2 walk enjoyed the following sights along the way: Here she is on the rickety bridge that has steel beams under the rotting wood over a small raging river.

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And here is a picture of the local school.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Yes, the following sign DOES say that you can buy this lot along the large river for $49.5k.

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And your final picture for today…. the mountains under a cloud… this is what the locals in Ojochal see each day… well, maybe not the clouds all the time by a longshot, but you can see in this picture how incredibly close and high they are,  and they’re topped by clouds in this one…. ah….. sure you don’t want to come and visit this most beautiful place and wander with me via local bus and on foot through paradise?

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San Vito Visa Run

San Vito at the top of the world

San Vito at the top of the world

This quarter’s Visa Run was to San Vito, a small (15k population) town about forty minutes from the border with Panama. I read online that it was one of the less traveled borders and that the views getting there were terrific, so I thought, why not?  Since the bus to San Vito left about the same time the buses started running where I live in Santa Barbara, I decided to stay in town and take a cab to the terminal. Here’s where I stayed:

Kaps Kitchen Area

Kaps Kitchen Area

Kaps Place – kapsplace.com.

Kaps hammock next to fountain

Kaps hammock next to fountain

I really enjoyed the spaces there. It’s much larger than it seems, there are a couple of hammocks, an area for foos ball and table tennis, rocking chairs, a couple of burbling fountains, and a general sense of relaxed bonhomie that I quite enjoyed. The owners call it a 41-room guest house – and for good reason. The service is the best I’ve yet to experience – relaxed, immediate with multi-lingual people on site. There is a kitchen you can use that even I, the hermit, felt comfortable using, and a 24 hour tea and coffee service. I highly recommend using this as a place to overnight or stay during your visit to Costa Rica. I was so tired I didn’t mind being immediately adjacent to the common area, but if you want quiet just ask for it when making your reservation. It’s close to downtown, easily walkable; and there are many restaurants and museums close by.

Kaps Place, one of the upstairs areas

Kaps Place, one of the upstairs areas

Next I caught the Tracopa bus and began my trip.

I was surprised when we took the Cartago, mountainous route, but immensely pleased that we did. The ride was almost total switchbacks through scenery I’ve never experienced in any way in my life. Absolutely beautiful, rural, original Costa Rica. Prehistoric vistas of untouched valleys, hills, mountains … everywhere … for three solid hours. Of course there were small to medium sized towns here and there along the way to San Vito where clearing had been necessary, but once outside of each the wild countryside met on both sides of the road we were traveling on, sometimes mingling overhead which made it seem as if we were in a green tunnel. I saw many men on working horses, many children and their moms or grandparents hand in hand along the side of the road going to or coming home from school, and indigenous women wearing their tribal dress getting off and on buses.

View from the bus: hills, valleys, mountains, repeat

View from the bus: hills, valleys, mountains, repeat

I must say that being on the bus as an observer was a clever way to lull me into an acquiescent state that was immediately shattered as I departed the bus. Only once in my life before – when I lived in Honolulu in the early 70’s – did I feel like an obvious outsider. This experience provided the second instance of empathy for minority folks. I think I was the only gringa in town. I’m sure that can’t be true, but I didn’t see any other ethnicities while I was there, and as I stepped off the bus into a long line of folks waiting for the next bus out of town it was immediately apparent that I was different. It’s a good experience I believe every adult should have in order to understand exactly what that means. Honestly! It made me attach to that place in my self esteem that says Niki is a very courageous woman… But, for all that, the town was quaint, hilly, and vibrant; busy with all types of vehicles, many banks, and seemingly content people. I got lots of stares… with children turning completely around and walking backward with curious looks on their faces while their parents pretended they didn’t see me at all. It was only Thursday night, but the evening was spiced audio-wise with very loud motorcycles, buffed up mufflers on cars and trucks and even ear-splitting latino “Hurrahs” that I’m assuming were the result of watching a soccer game on tv in a local bar. Then, of course, there were the dogs chatting with one another through the night. I stayed in a recommended hostel in the middle of town. The price at $21/night was right, but it was old and almost clean with sheets so laundered they were transparent. Since there were two twin beds, I slept on top of one with the cover from the other over me…

Onto the reason I was here… to get my Visa renewal stamps. As soon as I got off the Tracopa bus into San Vito I checked into the hostel, then turned around and went back to the bus stop for the Rio Sereno (border) bus. After six hours already on the bus, I was loathe to do so, but it was my goal and since I was leaving the next morning I had no choice. I know you can’t see me laughing and shaking my head back and forth here, but that trip was an eye-opener into the REAL Costa Rica that I would not have experienced in any other way. First, the bus was a chicken bus. I’ve read about them, and now I can say I’ve been on one and when I return I’ll do it all over again. But it was a bit of a shock. Old, crumbling, dirty, dirty, dirty, it wound it’s way through Saballito then through ever-increasingly rural areas until we hit a dirt road.

After about twenty minutes of my wondering where the heck we were, we arrived…. here:

This is the border crossing... Egads! she said...

This is the border crossing… Egads! she said…

I’d had the idea that the Customs/Migracion people would be busy enough, but less busy than the more popular border crossings, and that I would be shuffled through without much notice and get my stamps out of the country of Costa Rica, into the country of Panama, then out of the country of Panama back into the country of Costa Rica on the same day. Part of the Costa Rican Migracion law states that you can do this, but there’s another part that states that if you are bringing in more than $500 worth of product or monies, you need to be out of the country for 72 hours. The law has been misinterpreted by many, including Migracion officials and it’s often that they assume or believe you need to be out of Costa Rica for three days before you can get stamped back into the country. So… here I was, obviously in the back of beyond, the ONLY person in sight that needed stamps for the two hours I was there, all the while realizing that I very well might not get through this process as scot-free as I’d assumed I would. But, since I was there and since it was the last day on my 90 day period on my Visa, I tried.  I had to go to the Costa Rican office first, and after clumping around wrong, abandoned buildings, I finally found my way to the correct location where they were not happy to see me under any circumstances, much less the fact that I assumed I could check in and check out on the same day. The Panama officials were very nice, had some English and delightedly joked around and gave me the stamps I needed. Then… back to the Costa Rican office where, again,  I interrupted an obvious meeting amongst five officials, the boss of which entertained a long – long – long – discussion regarding whether or not he should allow me the stamp or not. The consensus was to give me the darn stamp and get rid of me. Which he did with barely a look at my face he was so angry. One of the officials actually stomped out of the office, even. Evidently the woman involved in this discussion explained to them several times that I had the right to do this (thank God), but the men, they were not happy and went round and round with her, but she must’ve had some kind of clout because I eventually was given the stamp I needed. I think it pissed the guys off that this little (younger than all of them) woman came to my rescue as much as having to give me the stamp. At any rate, deep breath later, I went back to the bus stop where there was a soda – a little restaurant – and had lunch, spilling Orange Crush all over my white blouse and not caring one whit because I’d made it through by the hair of my chinny chin chin.

This is the little soda with a big heart at the border crossing

This is the little soda with a big heart at the border crossing

 

Next Visa Run I’ll spend the three days necessary to appease the male Migracion Gods and be a tourist in this most beautiful place on top of the world