Saturday, February 25, 2012

End of an Era

It seems that for us, it is the end of one era, and the beginning of a new one.  We have spent 6 years enjoying our time, figuring out how to live in Costa Rica.  Now, fewer and fewer things are new to us, and so there are fewer things that seem worth blogging about.  Some of our earlier observations and experiences are no longer current, and we don't always notice some of the things that we would have, if we had had our old "new" eyes.

While it was nice for a while to simply live - to be settled - we had gotten used to having challenges!  Without those, life became a little stagnant.  So, we're shaking things up (again) :-).  Last year, we experimented with travel and with contract work.  It seems to suit us, so we'll spend more of each year outside of Costa Rica.  Costa Rica will still be home, and we'll maintain our residency here, but we'll spend a good amount of time elsewhere.

We're Vagabonds again!

Monday, August 15, 2011

The Fast Lane

When things happen, they sure can happen FAST!  This time last week, I was thinking through my options for the next few weeks, considering taking another intensive French class, Tango lessons, painting more, and investigating possible contracts.  Then, my first-choice activity, a contract to work for a few months, seemed to be more definite.  Then, it was!  And things started hopping :-)

  • 10 Wednesday:  The contract looked promising; reserved airline ticket, good for 24 hrs (got the last non-red-eye flight)
  • 11 Thursday:  We reached an agreement; the new company started the ball rolling; I bought the airline ticket
  • 12 Friday:  The contracting agency contacted me and sent forms; I started collecting info
  • 13 Saturday:  I filled in and printed forms;  went out to dinner to celebrate :-)
  • 14 Sunday:  Completed/confirmed forms, faxed to contracting agency (17 pages!)
  • 15 Monday:  Confirmed contracting agency received documents; asked follow-up questions, completed application
  • 16 Tuesday:  Breathe, pack, take final Tango lesson :-(
  • 17 Wednesday:  Fly to California
  • 18 Thursday:  Take drug test
  • 19 Friday:  Test results known (earliest possible date)
  • 20 Saturday:  Visit, pack
  • 21 Sunday through Wednesday:  Drive to Iowa (3,000 kilometers)
  • 25 Thursday:  Start work
Yeah, it's a little complicated...

Sunday, August 14, 2011

What Do You Want From Life?

Well, ok - that sounds a little more "inspirational" than I expected.  But it is a fundamental question.

When we first decided to move to Costa Rica, we put together a plan for *how* to do it, but for my part, I purposely left the "what" part vague.  I knew it would take a few years to figure out life here, and I wanted to give that a chance without being sidetracked by "things I said I gotta do."

When you are first finding out how something works, even the negatives can be viewed as valuable learning experiences.  Take the feria, for example.  Your first trips are full of excitement - you see how to get there (follow the empty carts), you watch for cultural norms (everyone calls you "reina"), and you discover pricing and quality differences.  You're exhausted because you meander and buy too much, but that is easy to ignore when you think of how to use these newly discovered foods.  After a while, you know who to go to for the best broccoli, and you spend more time chit-chatting, and less time comparison shopping.

But shortly after you become comfortable with something, it's no longer exciting.  You know enough about how to do it that you aren't challenged.  It can become boring, and even perhaps an irritating chore.  If too many of your activities make that turn, your life is in trouble.

Now, after several years, most of my daily life is in that "comfort zone."  I've weeded out a few items that were heading towards the "irritating chore" category, but I find I'm searching for excitement, for a challenge, for a new purpose.

In my search for "different," I don't want to lose sight of our original purpose - find a way to spend more time together.  Secondarily, we wanted to give ourselves the opportunity to experience... whatever strikes us!  To find out what else might interest us, and delve in!  What I *have* discovered is that I enjoy so many things, and each new activity builds a skill.  There are also aspects that are just plain hard and frustrating, but ultimately rewarding.  I am finding out more about myself.  One thing that I pretty much knew, but which was made obvious to me is that I very much enjoy engineering - the work, the problem-solving, the pure focus, the geek-jokes, and the community.

I thought about working here in Costa Rica, and maybe that will be something in my future.  But I know that if I did that, a lot of things would have to change.  It would impact my life here, and not all for the better.  When I pick up a painting from the framers, and it takes me an entire hour to do so, I have to wonder how in the world working Ticos survive!  I see the long line of people waiting for the bus to work at 4:30 in the morning, and I don't even have to wonder for a second if I would want to do that (that would be "no!").  It simply takes a lot longer to do anything here.  When you aren't working full-time, you can usually deal with that.  So, if I did work here, it would have to be part-time.  The intriguing aspect of working here would be that I would see a whole different side of the culture.  I got a hint of that by taking classes, and it would be interesting to experience more.  So, for now, I won't toss the idea completely aside.

What I have decided to do is to keep Costa Rica as a home base, mix in some travel to explore more of the world, but take contracts for software engineering elsewhere.  I think this will keep my Costa Rica life pleasant and relaxing, with plenty of time to explore the "other" life, and still provide the excitement and challenge (in manageable bursts) of work.  No one can predict the future, but this is a plan I can enjoy following :-)

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Back to Painting :-)

I finally finished a couple more paintings, and got them back from the framers - I've branched out to abstracts

and non-tropical flowers

Tango Lessons!

We finally did it!  After nearly 20 years of thinking about, wishing for, and putting off taking tango lessons together, we finally went! 

Last Tuesday evening, Rick and I learned the "basic 8" along with a little variation.  Class was at the Alliance Française (French), in San José, Costa Rica (Tico Spanish), taught by Oscar Lopez Salaberry (Argentina).  We did all right, and had fun!  Even if we didn't have the right shoes...
To see what we danced like, click here :-)

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Art City Tour

San Jose has an ART blow-out every couple of months, called the Art City Tour - on a Wednesday evening, from 5 to 9, museums and art galleries are open to the public (free entry!).  In addition, the GAM puts together several routes that folks can follow.  They organize tours by bus, by bicycles, or on foot, with helpful people on hand to answer questions and relieve anxiety :-).

We kept missing these tours, until (yay!) this last one - we met some friends downtown, and we all trooped around gawking at art and museum exhibits.  We signed up in advance for one of the bus tours - SIX stops in FOUR hours!  It turned out that it is much looser than I expected - people were changing routes, bus-hopping, and generally playing everything by ear.  The buses leave each venue every 10 minutes, and are easy to find.  You can stay on the bus if you want to skip a gallery, and you can walk between different places, change the order, go to a museum that is not on your original route... It's a free-for-all!  And a lot of fun! (and exhausting!)

We ended up walking between a couple of places, then skipping a couple.  We'll definitely go back for a longer look at the National Museum. 

We saw a fun dance exhibit at the Alliance Française - especially interesting was the one man dancing with two women - one woman was blindfolded.  It was a very interesting way to tell a story, as well as exciting to watch as a dance.

As we walked between a few other venues, we overlapped the bike route - there were probably two dozen bicyclists, and they just took over Avenida 7.  It reminded me a bit of the Critical Mass rides in San Francisco.

When we go again (and we will), here's what I would do:
- still sign up for a bus route, but just not worry about sticking to it.  I think signing up in advance helps the organizers, but it's not critical to follow it to the letter.
- bring snacks (and not just candy) and water
- expect to drop out here and there, and take a load off; "museum strolling" is hard on your feet and back!
- don't worry about seeing *everything* in the museum; expect to return another time
- leave behind any anxiety about following a plan, and just go with the flow!

Monday, August 8, 2011

Changes at the Clinic

One thing about living here, you come to expect changes.  And sure enough, the procedures at the clinic (EBAIS) have changed again :-). 

I had gone to my clinic in May for my regular blood tests, and had been putting off going back to find out the results.  Mainly, because I am (still) not a morning person, and any trip to the EBAIS means leaving the house by about 6 a.m.  Honestly, who can even think that early in the day?!?  Well, I made it this morning (sorta - I didn't actually leave the house until quarter after 6).  I got there after the crowd had already gotten their numbers (they open the doors at 6:30), but they hadn't run out of spaces.

About a year ago, they shut down a neighboring clinic, and so my clinic absorbed all those patients.  They modified the procedures then to have two sets of numbers - when you first came into the clinic, you would grab a number (from the right stack), then wait for them to call it.  Then you showed your carnet (like an insurance card) and ID, and got an assigned time for your appointment later in the morning.  This was sometimes enough time to go back home, go get some breakfast, or just sit there and read or chat with your neighbors.  When it was time for your appointment, the nurse would call your name, take down your information, take your weight, blood pressure, etc., then send you to the doctor.  On your way out, you dropped off your records, got any prescription slips or follow-up appointments, and you were done!

Now (don't ask me why), the procedures have changed again.  You no longer get an appointment time - everyone gets "7:00 a.m." (even if your number comes up after 7).  And, everyone first sees the nurse, then goes back out and waits for another call to see the doctor.  The effect of this is (1) a lot of confusion (2) irritable clinic office workers and (3) missed reading opportunities (the latter is especially tragic!).

My first hint of confusion was when people kept going back to the office window.  Then, when it was my turn, I fully expected "the usual" - I would present my carnet, and get an appointment.  But the clerk asked if I *had* an appointment for 7 a.m.  I thought "huh? it's after 7, and I'm here to *get* an appointment!"  And, of course, I had no clue what to actually say to her.  Finally, people took pity on me - another patient explained, and another clerk made my appointment (for 7 - LOL).  Everyone kept saying they would call me soon (and they did, but I suspect they were awfully tired of saying that to everyone).  Several of the times that I was waiting to be called, I sat next to a lovely lady who was a retired English teacher.  She said that *everyone* is confused by the new system.  And proof came soon enough - she didn't hear her number called, and so missed her place in line, and had to get a new number, waiting even longer.  There was not a single time while waiting that you could relax and simply wait without listening with great anxiety for either your number or your name.

All told, people now "wait" 5 times:
- wait in line for the door to open (the only time it is safe to read)
- wait for your number to be called
- wait for your name to be called to see the nurse
- wait to see the doctor
- wait to get your prescription slip or follow-up appointment

Ultimately, I was done by 8 a.m., so I really don't know if this new system is faster per patient, or if I just got lucky. 

But the good news?  All my test results are *great!*