Monday, March 23, 2009

New Cédulas!

Last week, we picked up our new Cédulas! It was so ridiculously easy, it hardly seems worth writing about. But, it *is* a milestone, so...

It took us quite a while to get to the office - we took the Periférica bus from San Pedro to the "muy feo" part of town (a few nasty blocks North of the end of the North-South pedestrian boulevard, near Fischel and Banco National). Then we walked around asking all the green bus-drivers (drivers of the green buses) if they were going to migración. We walked around and around, and finally asked at a soda. Half a block away, we caught the direct bus to migración.

At migración, we went directly to the window (previously pointed out to us), where there were perhaps 2 people in front of us. We waited all of 5 minutes, then took perhaps a minute each to get our new cédulas. Geez! no reading time! no chatting with the other unfortunates waiting in the interminable line! what is Costa Rica coming to!

We went back out to the street and waited about 10 minutes for the green "pista" bus, took it back to Paséo Colón, took our new cédulas to the bank, took care of some business at ARCR, and had lunch at a *great* Argentinian restaurant "Aquí Es." We caught the Periférica home again.

Now *all* of my IDs have new pictures! No more strange looks ("this isn't really you, is it?") :-D.

Public Health Care - Ebais Clinic

I picked up some germ or other last week, and finally had occasion to visit my local public health clinic. These small doctor offices are called "Ebais" - the one you go to is determined by where you live. Ours happens to be just a block and a half away :-). Strange as it seems to gringos, everything at the Ebais is free (that is, it is 100% covered under the CCSS public insurance).

To see a doctor, here's what you have to do:

1) make sure you are affiliated. When you first move into your new home, find the local Ebais and register. You take your CCSS receipt (and your last CCSS card, if you have one), and your cédula. If you are a family covered under one receipt, you need to go together and take all relevant certificates (marriage, birth); these have to be "recent" copies (The definition of "recent" varies from less than 3 months to less than 6 months. Don't ask me why a birth certificate has to be recent.). Our Ebais only did affiliations between 8:30-12:30 and 1 and 2, Monday through Thursday. When you register, you get a new card and (maybe) an appointment booklet. You are encouraged to "plasticize" your card (there are street-side vendors who do this). This CCSS card is also called the "Carné del Ebais."

2) make an appointment. Go to your Ebais at about 6:00 a.m. and wait in line. This morning, we got there at 6:15, and there were 25 people ahead of us. The doors open a bit before 6:30, everyone files in and takes a number. When you number is called, you go to the window and show your CCSS card, appointment card, receipt, and cédula. You get an appointment for later that morning (e.g., 8:45 and 9:45).

3) see your doctor. Take a copy of your medical records to leave with them (you should bring these from your previous doctor). Don't expect anyone to speak English. To make it easier, you will probably want to write out your symptoms in Spanish ahead of time. Pointing and miming also helps. You will see the nurse first, then go back out to the waiting room until the doctor calls you. When you are done with the doctor, you take your file back to the desk and finish up any paperwork.

4) if needed, return for lab tests. Get there at 6:00, wait in line. When they open the doors, go directly to the lab line. A bit before 7:00, the lab opens. It is only open until 8:30. Show your lab request paper, get a number, and wait. If you need a urine test, you have to bring it with you, in your own (clean, dry) container. Jelly jars are common for this :-S.

5) if you need a prescription, return in the afternoon, between 3 (farmacia opens) and 4 (farmacia closes). Bring your prescription receipt to the farmacia window. I like to write down the names from the doctor and check them online before I get them - then I can look up and ask any remaining questions when I pick them up. Sometimes, the doctor prescribes medicine that is not available at the Ebais - when this happens, the doctor tells you, so you know to go to a regular farmacia to buy it (and you get a written prescription for it).

Timing for recent appointments:
- 6:15 in line for appointment
- 7:10 got appointment
- 8:40 return to Ebais
- 8:45 appointment time
- 8:50 see nurse, then doctor almost right away
- 9:40 done with doctor; problem with CCSS card
- 11:00 problem resolved; have new CCSS card
- 3:00 return for prescriptions

- 6:15 in line for appointment
- 7:10 got appointment
- 9:40 return to Ebais
- 9:45 appointment time
- 9:55 see nurse
- 10:30 see doctor
- 10:40 done with doctor
- 10:50 done checking out

Special note: flu shots are available at the Ebais between February 2 and March 31, in time for "winter."

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Cost of Living Part 3 - San Pedro 2009

I finally posted our cost-of-living in San Pedro! It looks a bit funny, because I had started a draft in February (so it is posted as February 21), but ended up using February / March data.
Here it is:

It's a Small World

With a name like Pequeño Mundo (Small World), wouldn't you expect to find toys and baby supplies inside?

Well, guess what - that stuff is there, but mainly this store is a great place to buy cheap household goods - plates, glasses, flatware, candles, plastic kitchenware, etc. Right before school starts, it is also a place to get uniforms.

I kept seeing this store and ignoring it - no kids, you know. It took a funny short conversation about it with a friend before it made any sense at all to me to try it out. Since then, I've made uncounted trips...

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Art Workshop - Part III

The main "event" of our Art Workshop was to start with an interesting hard surface (e.g., a piece of wood), add papier maché to all or part of it, then add water color.

I found a piece of lumber that had been scored and banged up, and did a few sketches - the scoring reminded me of falling water, so I thought of either a waterfall or rain.

I played around with it, breaking rules right and left :), and it evolved...

See Part I and Part II.

Art Workshop - Part II

Alison got our creativity jump-started with some sketching - "the hand without looking" is a fairly typical exercise for this - probably because it works :-)

Then we tried some perspective with charcoal - mine went all caddywonkus, so I focused on just one small part of it, experimented with color and deep shadows. The idea is that every part of a picture should be interesting. Well, this is as much "interesting" as I could salvage...

Later, we went our separate ways - the idea was to go on a nature walk and find something to capture in a sketch. I went a short distance (a *very* short distance), and focused on this flower.

These leaves also caught my eye.

We tried different surfaces for papier maché - this is bamboo

Then we progressed to water colors - this definitely takes some practice!

See Part I here.

Art, and the Other Side (Art Workshop Part I)

Art, and the Other Side...

After 25 years of training and working the "engineering" side of my brain, I wanted a shot at exploring "The Other Side."

We so often think that if you are a scientist or engineer, you can't be artistic. "Creativity" seems magical, mysterious, so opposed to logic. But science and art at their best require both rules *and* flashes of insight. In science, very often the flashes provide the basis for new rules. In art, breaking the rules is often the catalyst for something amazing!

In the last 2 years, I have been absorbing a new life, allowing more creativity to creep in, but until recently, not actively pursuing art. Where I've never written for fun before, now I am. I've been experimenting (e.g., playing) with different foods and cooking methods. We've taken time specifically for "photo safaris." And I tried a new approach for learning Spanish.

But until now, I hadn't done anything structured, or specifically aimed at ART. Taking a class in some kind of art has been on my "to do" list (you can take the kid out of engineering, but you can't take the engineer out of the kid) :-) So, last weekend, I went to an ART Workshop! Alison is a gifted artist and teacher.
My art-self-confidence going into this was pretty low, but I decided to take a deep breath, ignore convention, and dive in! When I started talking about vague recollections of rules, Alison threw the door open - you can do this, or that, or whatever you like - wow... When some vague doubt crept in - "something is missing, or not quite right" - she was like a guide in a maze - "see how you did this here? you can try a few more like that." When I thought something worked, she was right there agreeing :-S.

The retreat in Puriscal was ideal - our small group spent Friday afternoon through Monday morning completely focused on art. The retreat folks took care of us - we woke with the sun, had a leisurely cup (or two) of coffee, breakfast and wake-up conversation, then gathered in the open-air studio.
We sketched, painted, and papier machéd, continuing through a mid-morning snack, then broke for a late lunch. Usually we did some more artwork after lunch, then went for a refreshing swim, showered, and relaxed in the heat of the day. When it cooled, we went back to art, then broke for dinner, followed by fun and games. All we *had* to focus on was art!

More Flowering Trees!

When I was in Puriscal last weekend, the Cortesas Amarillas were in full, glowing bloom!

Some of the blossoms fell - here's what they look like...

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Flowering Trees!

Summer was *made* for flowers! Costa Rica is home to a whole *bunch* of trees that bloom after the leaves drop - they are *fabulous!*

Of course, you *need* a funky bench to sit on too...

USA Embassy Trip

We just got back from our trip to the USA Embassy - it's just across town, but it took essentially all day!

I had a document that needed to be notarized by a United States notary public - not that easy to find in Costa Rica... Well, the embassy has a notary as part of its consular services for USA citizens (no, it's not free - it was $30). We had tried to do a similar thing earlier, so we knew that this service is available Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, from 1:00 to 2:00 (or maybe 3- can't remember).

So, we headed out a bit before 11 this morning. First stop, gotta get my documents printed at the local internet cafe. Well, there are a lot, and so (of course) some never make it to the printer.

We hop on the Periférica bus in San Pedro some time after 11, changed to the Pavas bus (push the button when you see this funeral parlor (nervous? hehehe), then walk back to it)
about 40 minutes later, and were at the Plaza del Oeste across from the embassy just after noon. To get the right stop, push the button after the Mas x Menos on the left. The embassy is on the right side. If you miss this stop, there is another part way down the embassy (it's *huge!*). We decided to treat ourselves, and had some ice-cream :), you know, to kill time...

We meandered across the street and got through the embassy check-in by 12:40. At the entrance, you hand over all your electronic devices, including remote door openers, cameras, cell phones, computer memory sticks, ipods, and you-name-it. They lock all these up into a bag, and hand you the key. Then (just like at the airport) you put all your metal and bags through a screening device, walk through a sensor, get hand-wanded if you beep, and collect your things. Then we got our ticket and got to sit in line! Well, one o'clock came and went... Finally, we got our turn - I think I was only 4th in line, but didn't get to the window until 1:30! But, by 1:45, we were done - we collected our electronic gizmos, and went back across the street to catch the return bus.

By 2:15 we were eating lunch at a soda, and shortly after we were at ARCR faxing the documents - just in time for another earthquake! Well, most of the pages were done, but the earthquake messed up the fax line, so... They'll get there eventually.

No More Noise!

No More Noise!

Well, *somebody* got fed up with the noise next door! A few days ago, this showed up, and the noise *stopped!*