Saturday, January 14, 2012

Take It For Granted

That's what we do for most things in life - especially those of us fortunate enough to live in a major North American city.  This past stay left me with a new appreciation for some of these things and the absurdity of them in rural Costa Rica.

What are those concrete phone booths?
Actually they are holding cells at the local police station - which was built by Gringos some years ago.  Oh and the locals (mostly gringos) help keep the police motorcycle repaired and funded for gas!  It is staffed with 2 officers and only until 5 pm.  I assume they have a phone, but not sure I know where to find the number, and if you could call them it would be at least 20 minutes for them to arrive (no 911, what's your problem, I'll stay on the line til help arrives) - and they only speak Spanish.  So that means you pay attention to strangers, listen to the strange noises, have a panic button and a machete, call your neighbors for help.

When will the road be paved?
Outside of San Jose, except for the major highways, most roads are dirt (dirt, clay, rock) and are like driving on a washboard while avoiding the exposed boulders and giant potholes (especially if it is raining and you don't know if the 'puddle' is 1" or 1' deep).  Road maintenance is a full time job.  The torrential rain changes the road daily - creates new holes, fills others and moves rock and dirt.  It carves out gutters - along the side of the road, down the middle of the road and sometimes right across the road. Attempts to pave these roads disappear in a single season.  You drive slowly and follow the clear track - even if it is on the wrong side or switches back and forth.

Do you have a defibrillator?
Really?  One of our friends was asked this by a potential land buyer!  Maybe not a bad idea, but the concept of emergency medicine needs to be put in context. The Hospital (fully equipped and very modern) is 40 minutes away - 20 minutes of that is on dirt road, across a river and up a mountain - there is an ambulance service, but there is no "address" so they need to be able to find you, and remember no '911 how may I help you".  Even if the neighbor had a defibrillator, unless they are ''right next door' it is likely 5 minutes before they could be there.  So, you pay attention to your health, rely on Dr. Dean, Dr. David and Nurse Barb, and if you are smart, act early.

What are we going to do with that!?
My question over the appearance of fire hydrants throughout the phase.  Do we have a fire department?  There might be one in Uvita (20 minutes) or Dominical (40 minutes), but even if they came, it is unlikely a truck could cross the river and conquer the mountainous roads. Do we have a hose?  No!  Is there a wrench to open the hydrant?  No.  They certainly are bright and shiny and red!  Given that the homes are largely concrete, the most likely thing to burn in the vegetation.

Where is the nearest mall?
Another potential buyer question - and certainly a relevant one for those of us with spouses who require regular courses of retail therapy!  The answer - San Jose - but don't buy stuff you aren't going to use regularly.  Enough clothes for a change or two (you seldom wear anything but shorts and a t-shirt) two sets of sheets (one for the bed and one in the wash).  If you aren't going to use it regularly (read daily) it will be moldy, smelly, or rotten when you next pull it out of the storage space.  My leather sandals (covered in black and green fuzzy stuff) , 3 baseball caps growing mold in a week.  Stories of dress shoes and sports jackets off to the trash.  Simplify - Minimize - Use It!

How long does it take to ...?
Get somewhere or do something - the answer is - it depends!  It took us 4 hours to get home from Uvita - 3 1/2 hours of that spent waiting to be able to cross the river.  There is the slide or washout that blocks the highway, the sloth crossing the road, the farm vehicle or the local festival.  Getting a bank card or dealing with an issue with the electric company is many trips over many days and includes legal documents and lawyers fees.  So you learn to plan ahead and be patient.

I always laugh to myself at the reaction of our friends in Toronto over these things.  We have all grown to expect a great deal of our society and infrastructure - everything organized for our convenience because we are such busy people.  In some ways it is actually nice to be able to say "all I have to do today is go to the bank"!

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Dry Season

While Ojochal seems to still be waiting for the dry season to take hold, we found it here in Toronto - woke up this morning and my sinuses were dry, as was my throat and tongue - even my teeth felt like they were dried out!  Oh for that jungle humidity!!

Travel home was fine - uneventful except for one thing.

When Lisle was checking us in online Thursday night, he couldn't get three seats together - the system wouldn't let him put James with us - then he realizes James was booked in BUSINESS class all the way back to Toronto - needless to say, someone's nose was out of joint over that!!

Toronto weather isn't bad - above freezing and no snow on the ground - today is actually sunny!

Oh well, back to unpacking!!

Thursday, January 5, 2012


It's cold and windy in San Jose - - I need my woollies - heaven help me when I get to Toronto!!!!!!

Hasta Luego

Another stay in Ojochal is over - far too brief, and even more difficult to leave than before.

To our many friends here ...

We will miss you all.

Adios until the next time!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

So Much To Say And So Little Time

We you are lounging by the pool, there is lots of time to blog but not much to say.  When you are busy, there is lots to blog about but no time.  Such a puzzlement!

New Year's Day was spent reading and swimming (finally some sun).  James and I did little - Lisle went to a pool party at Gary and Kim's - all the usual suspects, beer, food and fun - - me, I was frankly partied out!

January 2 was a day at the beach - bright sunny and clear - we went to Playa Tortuga with Dwight & Wendy, Dean & Michelle and their friends Rick & Cindy.  The tide was out and the beach went on forever.  Fortunately it clouded over a bit - some respite from the heat.  Then home and in the pool, dinner and bed (funny how lying on the beach and in the water can make you so tired!). 

The best part of the day was the flock of 20 or so Red-Tailed Macaws that flew back and forth and played in the trees behind the beach - so beautiful.


Good thing it was early to bed as it was early to rise yesterday - we were up at 4:30 to head off to the Osa Wildlife Sanctuary in Golfito.  Lisle and I were there in 2009, and can say without a doubt that it is the most interesting, enjoyable and enriching time we have spent in Costa Rica (apologies to all our friends I have just insulted).  Lisle arranged for a group to head off for the day and experience the jungle close up.  Lisle, James and I, Dwight & Wendy, Bruce & Barb, and Bruce, Mary and their girls, Holly and Jocy.  11 of us in a little van - 2 hours south - then into a boat for an hour up into the Golfo Dolce, where we climbed out onto a deserted beach to be greeted by Carol Crewes, the most remarkable women who runs the Sanctuary - over 2 hours of seeing the animals of the jungle close up, and learning about their struggles to survive, the successes of the Sanctuary in releasing animals back to the wild, and just a whole lot of neat stuff about nature and the world we live in.  I still get chills looking at the photos.

Farewell hugs, a boat ride back, and a lunch at the Banana Bay Marina where there is a resident sea turtle.

Then we made a stop to buy our Tarjetas.  Golfito has a 'Tax-Free Zone' - it is a walled compound with maybe 100 'locales' or stores - - sort of like an outdoor mall with a 15 ft concrete wall and barbed wire around it.  Every January and July you are eligible to get a Tarjeta (voucher) that allows you to purchase $1000 worth of goods in the zone, duty free.  The Tarjeta is good only for the period (Jan - Jun or Jul to Dec) and can't be used on the day it is issued.  You can buy appliances, electronics, housewares, alcohol etc at unbelievably cheap prices - but everything is cash and carry, so that full set of appliance - you better know how it is getting home, or you get to hire one of the guys with a truck waiting outside.  A very simple process to get the Tarjeta - had them your passport, they fill out a form, you sign - all done.  We were introduced to Octavio, 'the King of the Zone' - he will take you to the places where you can get the best deal for what you want, have one of his guys take it to a gathering spot while you shop for other stuff and someone watches over your acquisitions.  When you are all done, he arranges for it all to go to your vehicle and be loaded, or arranges for a truck if that is necessary - all no charge (well, the bottle/case of scotch you give him[depending on how long he spends with you, and the kickbacks he is likely getting from the vendors he takes you to).

The drive back started boisterous and ended with most of us snoozing.

So today is the last full day at home - tomorrow is an early start back to San Jose and then flight home on Friday - Sh..! 

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Prospero Año Nuevo

Well we rang out the old year in tropical style.  A new year's eve 'beach party' at our house!

A beautiful clear starry night (finally!)

Of course, the starry night comes later, as the parties here start before dark (5:00 pm) so everyone can arrive and park in the daylight (avoiding rocks, cunetas, wildlife etc.) and enjoy what is the real end of a Costa Rica day - SUNSET!

Music and chatter, cocktails and bocas (thanks to Cindy for the amazing tuna treats, Sonya for the Mexican layer dip, Michelle for the bruschetta, and Lisle for the hummus and roasted garlic dip - - YUM all around!). 

Potluck dinner (Wendy's pulled pork, Karen's pasta salad, Barb's noodle casserole, empanadas and garlic bread from Sheila, Eric and Mike, grilled chicken and beef by Lisle) - "Lisle" squares and shortbread for dessert.

At 10:30 the kids headed to Adelante (a local hot spot) to party into the night.  The rest of us celebrated midnight with champagne and fireworks, hugs and kisses.

And of course the night would not be complete without what has become an Ojochal New Year's tradition - ROY ORBISON - BLACK AND WHITE - - dancing to Pretty Woman and singing to Crying!

Welcome 2012!