Sunday, August 30, 2015

Fruits of Our Labor!

One of the great things about life in the tropics is the fresh fruit and your ability to grow it in your backyard.

We have had success with pineapples.  They take forever to grow and you only get one fruit from the plant, but fresh like that is absolutely indescribable.

We also have the forever bearing hot pepper tree.  We actually can't keep up with it.

We have about 15 fruit trees around the property - various citrus, water apple, star fruit, avocado, mango - all planted about 4 years ago, and none with any fruit ever - - - but maybe there is hope - the lemon tree, and another citrus - likely lime - hooray!!!


Storm of the Century?

Lisle is in Ojochal at the moment, and we were chatting last night around 5.  He said it was really getting dark and starting to rain - low heavy clouds.

He texted shortly after that the power was out and the winds were crazy.

Something really dramatic happen -

reports of a tornado in the village - trees down all over

People still without power after 24 hours.

Lisle just shared photos of our property.

Giant trees from the valley behind us have crashed onto the lower area of the lot!

We have had trees fall before and the noise is outrageous, but Lisle said the storm was so intense he heard nothing.  He didn't know anything was wrong until he was standing at the kitchen window and thought the treeline looked odd - he went to look and found the mess - - fortunately no damage to the house!

Time for a chainsaw!

Monday, June 29, 2015

Al Banco

There are those things you avoid like the plague - here in Costa Rica, it is anything to do with the Bank.  Not that they are bad people - and routine stuff is simple, especially with the availability of internet banking - but having to do anything significant is very scary!

The saga starts in October 2014 when we had to renew our Canadian passports - new passport numbers!  Lisle updated his with the bank in November when we bought the car - mine is still the old one as I must be present to update it.

December 2014 we decided to get a Costa Rican lawyer.  That was simple enough, and through word of mouth and some due diligence we have landed in good hands.  A review of our corporations and Costa Rican assets resulted in some changes to how things were structured.  The lawyer set about to do that, but couldn't get it all done and registered before we returned to Canada in January.

So, arrive in June 2015, and visit the lawyer.  All is good, all is registered - we sign the books to make everything official and they issue the documents needed for the bank.  Part of the recommendations is moving bank accounts from one corporation to another (OMG! I think - perhaps easier to move assets around within the corporations!!)  Oh well - off to the bank.

Now, the banks in Costa Rica are very interested in knowing where your money is coming from - especially if it is from outside the country.  We are prepared for this, and have a reference letter from our Canadian bank, copies of bank statements (his, mine and ours) from 3 months prior, copies of pay stubs and out most recent investment statement.  The lawyer has also provided a reference letter.

On top of this are the Personerias for each corporation (documents notarized and stamped indicating we are who we say we are - owners of the corporation and recording our passport numbers).

So, Friday - from the lawyers to the bank. 10:50 am.  40 minute wait.  Abierto las cuenta aqui - cerrado las quentas aqui - she takes the documents and our passports and disappears for 15 minutes.  On her return, she tells us that the passport information on one of the documents is incorrect - no, it is fine - it doesn't help that my passport and Lisle's are only two digits apart - siete Danny - nueve Lisle - - aahh si! - - then it is that the one document was issued in February and is only good for 15 days - this is the corporation registration that is only for information - the Personeria is fine and current - by this time she is overwhelmed and fed up with our lack of spanish so tells us to come back on Monday and see her colleague who speaks english.  12:30pm!

Monday 9:00 am - the colleague is great - we start in spanish but she quickly move to english.  She understands what we are doing.  We walk through the documents.  She is happy with everything.  Only problem is that my passport isn't valid in the system - they need to update that first.  That needs to happen through the office in San Jose.  That will take a day to complete - maybe we can do more on Tuesday - she will call.  She bundles up all the documentation and hands it back to us.  I guess there is no such thing as opening a file for an action - all or nothing - we can do it or we can't.  10:00 am.

The call comes at 4:30 pm Monday - the system is updated!  Wow, something actually happened faster than expected - she really did ask them to rush and followed up.  We agree to continue on Tuesday afternoon.

Tuesday 12:40 pm  The bank is unusually quiet - in fact, we are the only clients there - along with 1 teller and 1 customer service rep (another one - this will be the third person involved).  We start the explanation - she remembers us from yesterday.  Open the account - great - - but first she has to go through all the information - she excuses herself and goes to the managers office - 15 minutes later she comes back and is good to go.  Now all the information and updates need to go into the computer.  The woman who helped yesterday returns from lunch.  We reach the point of actually opening the account - roadblock - this one can't do it - not on her computer - over to the helpful english speaking one.  She reviews all the paper - all the new information in the computer - adds the corporation - creates the account - cheques?  debit cards? token for internet?  Manager comes to authorize stuff.  She goes to the printer and comes back with reams of paper - approve updates, approve corporation set up, request of account, request for cheques, request for cards, contract with the bank.  Need to put money in to activate it - - can we transfer from the existing accounts? YES - - but there is no money in the account!  WHAT!?  there is thousands of dollars in the account!  Oh sorry - wrong account!  more paper, more signatures.  All done for now.  The debit cards will arrive tomorrow morning and then we can to the internet banking set up.  3:00 pm.

There is some humour in all of this - none of the Ticos can say Lisle's name.  Sure, lots of people in Toronto have trouble with it as well, but in Spanish they pronounce every letter - -so he is Lees-lay!  He corrected the woman, and she repeated the correct pronunciation.  That lasted about twice, and then he became Ly-lay - he didn't bother trying to fix it!

Wednesday 10:30 am  Number 3 is there and we get the cards and the PINs.  This all then needs to be registered in the system and activate the internet.  She goes to get the key and register it - everything needs the number generated by the key - over and over again.  Then I enter our PIN.  All done.  We go to the internet terminal in the branch and make sure the login works - success.  Go to the ATM to make sure we can get access - success.  11:30 am   We head for lunch and then home.  I log on to set up accounts to transfer funds to - this needs the bank to send a code to our email.  Although this was done at the bank, it tells me I need to set it up - but the website wont give me access - DAMN!

Thursday 9:00 am Number 1 is there.  I explain as best I can in Spanish that I cannot set up favorites because I cannot setup the email.  She checked the activation of the key - activated it again - had me change the PIN - call the support line - talked to Number 2 and Number 3.  Some more changes - constantly entering the next number from the key. Voila - the screen to enter the email and the cell number for texting.  Give it a try and we are great. 10:15 am.  Home to set things up.  Do all the steps and wait for the code - enter it from the email - fail!   Enter it again - fail!  Kicked out of the site - message - wait 4 hours - try again 4 hours later - success.

Quite the adventure - - - never difficult - - always convoluted - just time consuming.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015


The summer solstice passed on Sunday afternoon - this gives us daylight until about 6:30pm - about 13 hours.

Not that we noticed - Sunday was horrific - some of the worst rain in a long time.  Heavy downpour for almost the entire day.  Winds that came in spurts and would drive the rain 12' across the covered terrace and into the house - we had to close the patio doors to keep dry.  Lightning lit the sky and thunder struck with such force the house shuddered and windows rattled.  We didn't lose power for more that a few seconds at a time, but were without internet for several hours.

Monday dawned with clear skies, lots of sun and a renewed calm.  A beautiful way to start summer.  By afternoon, the temperature soared to 45C in the sun.

What better way to welcome summer than a pool - a floating papasan chair - a glass of pinot - Pura Vida!!

Even the end of the day was spectacular - an amazing sunset!

Monday, June 15, 2015

In The Heat of The Moment

Just thought I would share - 7:15 am and 30C !!

The last two days have been very hot and largely without rain.

You can feel the heat and humidity build - last night was very still - thank god for ceiling fans.

I know - 18C and foggy in Toronto!!  :(

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Walk Like a Man

So in the past six weeks I have taken up walking - to boost fitness, to lose weight, to get me out of the apartment - to fill the time when Lisle is enjoying the south.

Work is a block away, so my walk to work now includes passing it by and going down to the Royal York Hotel and back - about 5 km. A great way to start the day - 45 minutes through downtown Toronto.  Weekends are a walk to the Distillery or through the University - 8 - 10 km.

Here walking takes on a different meaning - nothing in flat, and a distance of .5 km can have the same change in height.  My routine is now to walk from our house to the green house (one of the neighbors) - maybe .25 km direct distance, but on the road 1 - 1.5 km but the first 1/2 is downhill and the second 1/2 is uphill - - including up "killer hill"  - some cars struggle on killer hill, so the walk is a challenge.  So far I need to stop halfway to catch my breathe.

Once there - turn around and head back - great downhill walk - oh ya - the last half is all uphill to home - S#*T!  There and back in 30 minutes at 6:30 am - - - too hot after that!

I have a long way to go to catch up to our neighbors who walk all over the phase - several km every day - I think it is only because they have a dog - - at least a good excuse for me!

Today - another sunny one so far - 36C - you can really feel the heat - time for a swim!!

Wednesday, June 10, 2015


We got new internet!

Yes, I know that comment is so 1995, but you have no idea!

Yes, there is cable internet or DSL or broadband in Costa Rica - but not down here in Ojochal - they have some coverage in the village, but not beyond and not further south - the population centres are just too small and the topography is ever changing making line of sight placement of towers useful for only a few homes.

So, we have struggled with various versions of satellite or cellular - never able to get about 512K download (despite claims and promises).  Blogging, Facebook, banking - all painfully slow.

All that changed yesterday - SKYFIBER !!  They installed a repeater across the valley and we can get service - - - 6MB download (well 4.5 when you really measure it but hey).  I feel like I am driving a Ferrari on the autobahn.

Not without a cost - $125 a month!  Never thought I would miss Rogers service 50MB for $90.

So along with the internet came a nice sunny day - a gentle rain a few times, but beautiful!

Saturday, June 6, 2015

In the Sunny South - - well the South

Actually little sun since I arrived yesterday.

Flight was uneventful except for the fact there were only 60 passengers on the plane.  Landed about 11:20 am

Immigration at San Jose airport was a zoo - about 1,000 people zigzagging the maze - - took an hour - grabbed the luggage and Lisle was there to scoop me from the curb.  12:40 and on our way home.

Drive was fine except for a delay from the slide on the highway
By the time we were heading home they had cleared one lane - about a 30 minute delay as they switched traffic back and forth.

Not long after it started to rain - on and off all the way home and most of the evening.  Oh well, nothing stops a welcome home swim!

Indonesian dinner - cooked by Lisle - yes he is taking lessons here! YUM YUM YUM!!

Today was a slow day - settling in - sun this morning disappeared by about 11  - overcast by no real rain.  

All the neighbors have been by to say hello - all the stuff unpacked - all the sights on the property seen - - - all seems right with the world - - time for beer and a swim!

When life is that simple it is ok if the sun takes a break!

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Spring Ahead

So, for the last couple days it seems possible that spring may actually return to Toronto - still grey and overcast but +5C and the snow is melting.

May be time for this bear to stop hibernating.

Yep - that is basically what we have been doing through January - March.  Too cold to do much else!

So thinking about warm weather and outdoors, I booked my flight south - June 5 - 25.  I know it is short, but work is taking my attention this year - - then I can be done with it.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Flying High

January 6, 2015 - Left the house for San Jose at 9:00.  A beautiful day.  Too bad I need to head home.  Drive is fine.  No real traffic. At the airport by 12:45.   15 minutes for departure tax.  Change to winter clothes in the bathroom and check in.   Off to the business lounge.  Nice to have a beer and some food to relax. 

Down to the boarding gate about 3:30.  Sebastian (Liz Duncan's partner) is there.  He was supposed to leave on Avianca in the morning but they were over booked.  Good chance to visit.

On the plane and waiting to leave. So, the winds are too strong for the normal takeoff.  They need to use a different runway and a steep climb over the mountains.  Therefore they can't fly as heavy.  So they either bump 25 passengers or carry less fuel.   As you an imaging, they opt for ore passengers and less fuel.  That means we can't get to Toronto.  Therefore we are flying to Nassau in the Bahamas instead.  Apparently it is just a stop for fuel but will add an hour to the flight.  Plan is landing after midnight.  Guess we will see how it al works out.  

Should have known something was up when I checked flight status online and it said AC1807 was destined for Nassau and a search of flights SJO to YYZ said the were none scheduled.

A good start - they closed the door 10 minutes early.  But I think we just sat for 15 minutes going no where.   Hmmm

5:08 takeoff into a 50 mph headwind. Usual runway.  But just keep going straight and climbing fast.  Then a 270 right turn to give us a chance to clear the mountains.   Now really rough. Flying towards a wall of cloud  on the east of the valley. Cleared the mountains and the clouds.  Pretty smooth but just a sea of fluffy white below.  That was a new experience!

Oh, I did mention Sebastian is on the flight.  He doesn't like flying.  Would be great if we we're seated together but I am on business and he couldn't upgrade as it is full. Hope he is surviving.

Watched "In Bruges" an interesting film.  Lisle would like it.   Think it is on the media drive.

7:30 Costa Rica time.  8:30 Nassau/Toronto.  Coming in for landing in Nassau.  Full moon is beautiful over the island.

They have just spent 5 minutes trying to close he door. Now just sitting.  Windows are all dogged up so can't see anything outside.

Captain just advise there is a malfunction with systems in Toronto and they can't leave until fuel and weight is confirmed - hopefully soon!

9:30 in Nassau.  Doors closed and pushing away.  Off the ground at 9:45.  Maybe land Toronto at 12:30. 

Seems my iPad is messed up - the button doesn't work so getting out of an app means rebooting the whole thing and staring over.

More wine please!!

Too much wine.  Need water!

There is this family - mom dad and two kids under 8. Asked if we could switch rows so they could be back to back.   Sure.  Part way through the flight the dad and son in row one switched with the nice older couple in row two opposite.  Much commotion.  The kid was sleeping and not feeling well so everyone needed to move to make them all feel better.   Dunno!

Landed 12:37 - it is -10c

Home - 1:45 2:30 by the time I hit bed - wont be a pretty morning!

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Scope It Out - Part 2

This is really neat

Photo with Nikon J2

Zoom Photo with Nikon J2

Photo through sighting scope

Very cool!!

Let's Scope It Out!

Really, spending the holidays in Ojochal is present enough for any Christmas - but this year we bought a Sighting Scope - or Birding Scope - or Monocular.

It is a Nikon with a wide field of vision and a 20 - 60x optical zoom.

We can see the waterfall raging on the far mountain, try to figure out what that strange light is in the distance, or watch the birds and monkey in the tree across the valley.

These are from our terrace to a tree about 300 metres away - - sorry, still trying to figure out how to keep the focus of the camera through the scope.