Monday, December 28, 2009

Inertia is my Enemy...

Inertia - arrrggg! I've been away from posting waaay too long - at first, I was away from Costa Rica, and I was working full-time, so I decided to take a break from posting. Then, we moved back to Costa Rica, and were busy. Finally, every time I thought "hey, that would make a good blog post!" I immediately thought "but I haven't posted in so long, I have to explain first!" - and so inertia won.

But no more! The next few posts will be chaotic, and this one has a bunch of snippets from emails and forums, but inertia will now work for *me!*

So, on to the snippets!

We went to California in March for a contract, and came back in August (more on that later). We had decided to make our longer-term home in San Pedro, on the East side of San Jose, near the main campus of the University of Costa Rica.

August 25
We made it!!!
We got in about 8:30 pm - got our bags right away, and were checked into our hostel in Los Yoses a bit after 9:30. Our 5 (FIVE) bins made it - none had been opened, although a couple lost some latches :(.
We're beat! And it is kinda warm and humid...
Tomorrow, we go to the bank (to fill out paperwork), to ARCR to get our permanent residency paperwork started, and then on to our storage locker (I need my shoes!).
Then we start looking for an apartment :D

August 31
We got an apartment!!!
It was our first choice, no fall-backs needed (and we had several, just in case) - whew!
It is a 2 br, 1 ba, new-ish one in a very nice neighborhood. It is quiet, and sunny, and right next to a small park by the river. We arranged to do the paperwork and $ transfer tomorrow, and we move in after the 15th of September. So, meanwhile.... :D
We're planning to go to the Caribbean for a bit - haven't been there yet, so looking forward to that. We'll hopefully visit some friends also.
We've been traipsing around the East side of San Jose for almost a week now, so we are ready for a vacation - LOL.

Sept 12
We're staying in Alajuela through Sunday, then back to San Jose to move into our new apartment.
Since our first day is the 15th, and that is also a national holiday - Independence Day!!! - we probably won't be able to actually move in that day (
We spent all of one night on the Caribbean - it was nice, and I'll go back - to a different hotel (especially if someone comes to visit and just *has* to see it). But, I don't recall a more miserable night - hot (it got down to 82 F by 4 am, and pretty much stayed at 75% humidity), and the mosquitoes would not leave me alone! We came, we swam, we conceded (temporary defeat). So, we stayed in Grecia with our friend for a bit longer than originally planned, and now we are in Alajuela.
Yesterday, we saw our first big "rainy season" storm - kept a constant mop on guard at the door (unusual wind direction), counted a couple of lightning strikes less than 2 seconds from the boom, and discovered that saying that I had to check on the laundry triggered another bout of heavy rain.

Sept 16
Rick got sick yesterday, so we will stay in the hostel in San Jose for at least another day, instead of moving to our apartment. We did get the keys yesterday.

Sept 24
We're getting settled, but **very** slowly! Still no fridge, washer, dryer, oven, couch... sigh. We do have our gas counter-top stove, so we get breakfast (eggs aren't normally refrigerated here). We also have our table, our bed, and one guest bed (important things first lol).

Oct 5
Long-haul - finally, we are settling for a long stay! It is subtly different; no more student-quality about our life here. We actually bought new appliances - went all out; did 4 loads of laundry right off the bat. Baked brownies, even. But, we still have almost no furniture. We have plans to look for a couch this week, but probably not today. We have a few leads on where to start, but I don't expect to find exactly what we want for a while. Still haven't found that dratted slow leak in the air bed...

We have found out about the bus (it passed us by twice now - we're hoping it is just because it was too full, and not because the driver has a thing against us - it's a microbus that goes all the way from UCR to the Fischel/BN on the pedestrian mall in downtown SJ). So, it's a nice way to get to the Alajuela bus terminal, about 3 blocks away.

I went to the Feria in Guadalupe Saturday - first time since returning. Now *that* was nice! I had a little inertia to get over, mainly due to (1) the first time since returning and (2) new route. But it was about a 35-40 minute walk each way, not too difficult to navigate, not too unpleasant (but not nearly as nice as last year, when I walked a good part of it through UCR - and took a bus to get to the Feria). My broccoli lady remembered me (although this time, no one really had good broccoli). Afterwards, I went to my butcher, and *he* remembered me :-D. Said was I in the states, 'cause he hadn't seen me in a while... Chatted w/ a nice lady in line - discussed chicken soup and leeks (I know know they're called cebollinos here). Wrapped my head around the numbers (Spanish) again - always difficult for me somehow. Started to get back into the swing of the Feria - negotiated some, but not enough. OK for the first time back tho.

We've been listening for bothersome noises
- *none* from any construction (except one day when the apartment folks were fixing our garbage bin, so short and acceptable).
- *none* from our neighbor who rides a moto - it's not one of those loud ones, and he doesn't gun it.
- *none* from dogs, babies, loud neighbors, etc.
- if we listen hard, we can hear some truck noises on the main road, but completely ignorable
- we can hear the train hooting in the morning and evening, but it too is ignorable (I was especially worried about this, as it is really only 2 blocks away)
- occasionally, we hear a plane (big or small), but not rattling the windows

The AutoMercado is the closest store - ugh. Thank goodness for the Feria! AM is nice, but I don't like it for everyday purchases. We have a Jumbo, but it is across the river - we've only been once, when the apartment manager gave us a ride to pick up stove-gas. We have to explore a bit; hoping to find a foot bridge for a nice direct route to the commercial center there. (not holding out much hope, since the river is pretty big)

We're kinda wondering what the neighbors will think of us when we start having music here - we'll invite them, and we don't play late, but you never know.

We're also starting to wonder what is the proper thing to do at Xmas time - we have a guard and an apartment manager, but they are paid by the landlady (I think as part of the condo fees). So, legally we don't owe aguinaldo, but I feel like it would be a good idea to at least give them some baked treats. I'm thinking that would be a nice thing to do for the neighbors too - we've met them (and borrowed some tools already!).

re: pots, pans - I saw some cast iron in AM, but didn't look closely. Friends have complained that they aren't the same here - not as heavy, etc. I did get a heavy pot and pan at the Agriculture store (forget the name) up the street from Jalapeno's. But *very* expensive ($60 for one) - wouldn't do it again; better to bring your own, especially since you're making trips anyway.

One of our first, best investments was in a gas plantilla - 3 burner counter top type. It takes months to use up the gas, and Alajuela has a gas-delivery guy who "sold" us a used cilindro (we officially borrowed it w/ a c9000 deposit). He brought it up to our kitchen, and attached the manguera even! I have to admit, I do like my new 6-burner estufa :-D. With gas, I don't worry at all about electrical outages (I have matches!). (And we did have a short one last week)

Our side of town - we have a nice soda, and just discovered a good (!) Chinese place near us.

October 28
Rick and I are going to the local clinic to get our tests done - we take them unmentionable body wastes, and they take our blood.

November 3
The biggest, and latest news - Rick sprained his ankle - we confirmed that today w/ the doctor (and x-rays, and a CT scan). There was no single event that stands out, but about 3 weeks ago, his ankle started to hurt, and was pretty swollen. He heated it (no real help), and iced it (helped some), and elevated it (helped some). We've been housebound for most of that time - I got out to the farmer's market and grocery store, but we had to put on hold any more furniture shopping. So, we're housebound WITHOUT comfortable chairs - ugh.
Yesterday we got a recommendation for a bone doctor, and he fit us in - got there at 6 pm, finally saw him about 7:30. We were able to walk next door for an x-ray, brought it back, and it was inconclusive. So, doc said to get a CT the next day. That was today - it showed a small chip on the inside of the ankle, but not big enough to put a cast on - so, tomorrow we go out to get an ankle brace, and Friday Rick start physical therapy. He'll be stuck at home for at least another month, and won't be able to walk much for 3 months. It should be fully healed in 6-12 months. I'm wondering if we can count the last 3 weeks in all that (sure hope so...).

I've been going to the Feria (farmer's market) every other Saturday, and stocking up. My trip includes a stop at the post office and butcher as well as the feria. This last time, I also stopped at a material shop, and got some ribbon - used it to finally hang my painting from the art workshop last March - it looks *great!*

ugh - had to take a moment to kill off a giant cockroach (not *quite* as big as my thumb, but obviously too big for the gecko to handle). The price we pay for living in the tropics, sigh.

Speaking of the tropics! Costa Rica is well below the hurricane belt, but *BUT!* News is that there is a tropical storm becoming "better organized" in the Caribbean - we are getting some rain from it now; who knows what will happen in the next few days. Hopefully, November will give us enough rain to make up for our exceptionally dry October. They are already talking about having electrical outages (remember those rolling blackouts in California?) in the dry season because of the lack of rain (hydroelectricity, don't ya know).

Rick took a look at our budget for the last month - we're just about at what we expected. But we've hardly eaten out at all (housebound, remember?), and our local grocery store is the expensive one. And, I have gotten a bit carried away at the Feria (trying a lot of different cheeses). Oh! AND my butcher had a special on tenderloin (oh man! was that good!) - couldn't resist it, but it was something like $17 for an entire one (about 3 3/4 pounds), and we're still eating it...

We went out one evening to the Jazz Cafe - went to see live music and Flamenco dancing. Unfortunately, the sound system wasn't so great; we left early. The group (and more of them) is coming back in March - this time to the National Theater (gorgeous building!), so we'll get another chance. What we did see was fabulous, as expected. (check it out:

I've been baking brownies in my gas oven. Haven't yet used all 6 (SIX!) of my burners, but you never know what will happen ONCE WE GET FURNITURE... hehehe.

I have a small book of typical Costa Rican recipes, and that has been my "reading material" for all these doctor visits. This afternoon, I saw something that seemed a bit strange (2 tablespoons of baking powder for an 8x8 pan of something-like-moist-cornbread). So, I asked the family that was also waiting whether they thought it was perhaps a mistake. Had a nice conversation about all sorts of food - and ends up they figured it was probably not a mistake. Guess we'll just see (vamos a ver)...

Between all this sitting around and cooking, I sure am enjoying the sunny mornings! Just realized that it sets the mood for the entire day, so even when it rains all afternoon and evening, and I have to walk to the store for consumables (yeah, yeah, more food) in the rain, it still feels delightful! And even though I don't know all the street guards by name, we always exchange an "adios" or "buenas."

November 4
Yesterday, we left a book (difficult-to-get research book) in a San Jose taxi.
Of course, looking for the taxi was a lost cause ("there are 4 million taxis!"), and we figured it was gone for good.
Later that evening, we got an email - we had been using the shipping order as a bookmark, and it had our email address on it. The taxi driver's brother had our book, and we could come to his business at any time to pick it up - WOW! We immediately called to thank him, and today went to get the book. All very friendly, lots of smiles, no ransom :-D, and lickety-split, we had our book.
I'm betting that they run the business just as honestly - it is "Cromo Tico" in Calle Blancos, 125m Oeste de Embotelladora Tica. Unfortunately, we didn't find out what they do there, but it looks and sounds like the do chrome work (on cars?).

November 11
We're not doing a whole heckuva lot - Rick started Physical therapy for his ankle, so we get out of the house at least 2xs per week. Enjoying the gentle rains and sunny mornings.
Heard Christmas music yesterday in a store - sigh.
Still on the hunt for molasses so I can make ginger snaps.

November 17
We kept fine-tuning our location, finally decided on San Pedro. It is almost always in the 70's (F) and anywhere from 55%-77% humidity - that's inside, where I have my "weather station." It's a little cool for me, but I have slippers and sweats, and a husband who doesn't pass out from the heat :-D.

November 19
Went to Sarchi today for rocking chairs. Took the bus from SJ to Grecia, then met a friend and drove together to Sarchi. Did the reverse, but with two enormous boxes!
The bus driver was great! The boxes just barely fit in the under-compartments (only one per side, at that). When we got to the terminus in SJ, I asked him if there was a place I could put them while I flagged down a taxi - he said to just leave them, get the taxi to drive into the terminus, and get them then. And he pointed out where he would park the bus. So, I got the taxi, he came to the gate and told the driver to come in (taxi driver was yakin on the phone, grrr - after starting the maria...). Anyway, we drove in, and the bus driver had already taken the boxes out, and he and another guy put them in the taxi for me - when I thanked them (sans menudo), they simply looked delighted - one even patted my arm. Que dulce!
Traffic was horrific, as you can imagine, but got home in one piece; came to 2400c - worth it!
Tomorrow, I'll be rockin' and a-rollin'

November 21
I went to Sarchi Thursday, and bought two leather/wood rocking chairs and footstools. And I got a nice carved wood vase for my flowers! A friend and I met in Grecia, and she drove us around Sarchi (Sarchi is known for its wood artisans and furniture, and so I was drooling the entire time.). We put the chairs together Friday, and have been enjoying the heck out of them since. :-D.

November 23
Bull riding to start soon!

November 25
re food: "yogurt, cottage cheese and lots of fruit and vegetables, sunflower seeds and raisins. Add some kind of fish..." Yogurt is pretty popular here, although you won't find very many flavor choices. I usually get a large tub of strawberry at the AutoMercado; Mas x Menos only had the smaller containers. I can get low fat, no sugar, which is more than I can say about most stores in California. Cottage cheese is definitely not the same - it is still cottage cheese, just different. I like it fine. It is almost always 1.5% fat; pretty much impossible to find 4%. Fruits - there are a *ton* of them - many will be new to you. If you're like me, you will have fun discovering what the heck to do with them. No blueberries tho. sigh. And cherries are scant and outrageously priced. (saw them today for $20 for a small double-handful). The farther you get from the mountains (e.g., towards the beaches), the harder it will be to get strawberries. But they are available at my farmer's market year-round. Vegetables - if you like a lot of variety, you will have some adjusting to do. I regularly get green beans, zucchini, broccoli (now that i know where to get the good stuff), all the root vegetables (and a new one - camote; yummy), and a million different kinds of squash. The corn looks tempting; have heard it's just so-so; bought some, ended up not using it - so we'll see. Again, near the mountains, you can easily find lettuce, celery, leeks, etc. Fish - quiet a bit to choose from. My market usually has tilapia (these are farmed here), trout (not brown or rainbow; cachi trout is definitely different), corvina (seabass), dorado (mahi mahi), salmon. Haven't seen halibut. You'll have to look for a good fish market - many places don't have enough turnover for really fresh stuff (this includes bakeries). Just be careful until you find a good place. This will be an advantage for you living near the ocean (I know a few people who regularly go to Puntarenas for their fish). Sunflower seeds - no info on this, but I know sunflower oil is easy to get and one of the cheapest "good" oils. Raisins - available all over. Cheeses - your basic is Turrialba (usually called queso fresco, in the states). Farmer's markets, butchers, and supermarkets almost all have some kind of cheese. Usually, you can get (1) low-salt, low-fat, "tierno" (young), (2) maduro (aged, and a bit drier), (3) ahumado (smoked), usually pretty salty and dry. Sometimes you can get mozzarella and Parmesan. Rarely, you can get cheddar and swiss.

November 26
I am putting off getting a rolling pin, etc, so "real" pies will just have to wait.
I did just finish making an apple crisp - yummy! AND

ginger snaps! Yes, I finally found molasses! They sell it in macrobiotic stores (sort of health-food stores, or places to get "natural" medicines - you would have a blast talking to the clerks about all the products). The directions on the melaza say to dissolve 1 tsp in a cup of hot water, and drink - 3 times daily! Made me remember when I used to eat molasses by the spoonful.
So, anyway - the ginger snaps came out pretty darned good - they are considerably darker and more molassesey than what I make in California. Use soy oil instead of wesson, use the melaza I can get here... But they still have that chewy texture.

November 30
I did not see this one coming - missed it...
To be fair, I would have missed it anyway - we had our dinner on Sunday; barely enough room at the table for our plates!
Dry season is definitely coming! Sun is shining, sky is blue, humidity is below 60%!

re bulls - the "bull-fighting" here is more like bull-riding, but after the guy is thrown, a lot of the young men from the spectators jump into the ring and try to catch the attention of the bull (sorta like the clowns in USA rodeos). After a little while, usually rodeo people on horseback come into the ring and either chase the bull into the pen, or rope him and "encourage" him back.

December 2
cost of living
bad news for us - between the cost of living increase, drop in dollar, and moving to a new place that has a more expensive supermarket, our "basic basket" of shopping items has increased about 20% over last year. That's a lot, no matter *how* you slice it!

December 10
I just went to the Dr. (at the clinic, so it was FREE!) today for a checkup, and got the results of my tests (done in late Oct).
todo bien!

December 11
We like to say about our lives here, that we can "plan" to do say 4 things in one day. If we get them all done, we are ecstatic, but we usually get 2 done, and then have another day to get the rest done.

December 12
Festival de la Luz!

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