Thursday, September 24, 2015

SUP, Surfing, Spanish Classes and a Visit from Lisa!

OK, I admit, my blog updates have been pathetically few and far between.  Going to try and do better with them.  It truly makes no sense that when I worked 80 hours a week I kept up better with this blog than I do now not working at all.  Pura Vida!

Sooooo, my friend, Lisa, came to visit over Labor Day for the second year in a row, this time without her hubby as he did not have the vacation time.  She opted to stay with us, which was fun!  We had an absolute blast, and Lisa got me to do some things I have been wanting to do since I moved here but have not.

First, stand up paddle boarding!  Lisa had done this before, but only on lakes in Michigan.  We decided to head over to the Playa Aguajas area as the waves are smaller there and you can find some calm ocean.  The beach is near Punta Leona, but easier to get to.  We stopped at a place called Kayak Jaco, which had been recommended.  They appeared to be closed (rainy season many places are not open as much).  We called the number on the building and the man who answered seemed annoyed I was calling.  He asked how many of us there were and when I told him only two, he said he could be there in two hours to help.  Or, we could do it tomorrow.  So, I said ten am.  To which he said, are you really going to show up?  Total sour taste in my mouth from the treatment to potential customers, but I made the appointment anyway.  Then, Lisa and I decided to walk the beach.  Playa Agujuas is simply stunning.  So many rock formations and literally nobody there.  I think we only saw two people and a dog our entire walk.  We walked back to the car and decided to drive into Herradura or Jaco to look for a place to SUP that day, not wanting to wait until morning.  Could not find anywhere in Herradura, so we headed to Morgan's Cove, where I heard there was a place on the beach.  Headed down to the beach and there were no times available until later so we headed into Jaco to The Surfer Factory.  Total different experience here than Kayak Jaco.  The employee there got the owner on the phone for me and he showed up ten minutes later to help out.  He suggested going out around sunset, so we made a time to meet  up with them at 330 PM at Herradura Beach. 

Showed up at 330 PM at Playa Herradura and soon, Andres, pulled up with our boards.  He showed us what to so while on the beach.  Then we got in the water and he pushed us each past the waves.  We got to calmer waters (which were a little choppy that day) and practiced standing up.  I fell a few times getting the hang of it, but once I got up and got the balance, I did great!  Lisa was a pro from having already done it before.  It is a very relaxing sport and great for your core and arms.  We stayed out about two hours.  One weird thing, I started to feel seasick!  I think the balancing and the choppy waters combined and having eaten some cereal right before. I never get seasick so that was kind of weird, but I was fine.  We got to see the sun set and it was a wonderful afternoon.  Was so happy I finally did this.  Not sure if I will buy a board or not as they are pretty cheap to rent and very pricey to buy.  I since have gone SUPing one other time with my friend Linda and borrowed one of her boards.

Two days later, Lisa and I decided to try surfing.  Again, Lisa had done this before twice, but many years back.  I have always wanted to surf, but you hear a lot of horror stories here of people drowning and getting hurt, so I have kind of stayed away from it.  So glad I changed that too!  I was nervous I would not get up at all.  A friend of mine told me she went and never stood up once.  Anyway, I got up pretty much every single time!  The first time, I got part way up and got scared and purposefully fell over.  After that, I stood up on time two and was hooked!  AWESOME sport and we had an amazing instructor, Andres.  At the end of our time, the sky opened up to a huge thunderstorm and I stayed out a little bit longer.  How cool to surf in the pouring rain.  Lisa and I went surfing one more time the day before she left and we both improved a lot.  I plan on going out again next week with Andres and want to take weekly lessons until I am ok going out alone.  I will most likely have a board custom made for myself at some point once I figure out what size board I want.

While Lisa was here, we also went to Rainmaker Park and to the Monkey Tour in Caldera.  At Rainmaker, it started to pour once we got there, but we went anyway.  We saw a TON of poison dart frogs, which was so fun.  I love the colors.  It was so different seeing this park in rainy season.  We went once in dry season, and in rainy season, its even more beautiful (but a harder hike since things are super wet).  The waterfalls and rivers have even more water and its just spectacular.

After Lisa left, Kurt and I started taking Spanish classes the next Monday.  We will be done with Week Two tomorrow.  Classes are two hours a day Monday through Friday and since its rainy season here, Kurt and I are the only ones in class.  We are learning a TON.  Classes are pretty advanced since Kurt already knew a lot of Spanish going in, which is forcing me to learn twice as fast, but that's ok with me.  I cannot believe how may verb conjugations there are in Spanish, its insane.  I am getting super good at reading Spanish, and am slowing starting to understand more.  My speaking is kinda slow, but you have to start somewhere, right?

Projects at the house are winding down as well.  We would like to have some time without people working here though, so we are going to hold off on other projects for a while.  Coming up next will be building a gym, turning the bodega/car port into an apartment, putting glass block up in both bathrooms for the showers, and putting in a pool side shower.

I think that's enough of an update!  I am going to try to update more often!  Pura Vida!




Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Meet Miggy Pierre Haskell Born February 26, 2015

So.  Just the other day, Kurt desperately wanted to rescue a kitten at the vet.  I told him I didn't want any more pets since we already have three dogs and a cat.

Fast forward to May 26, 2015.  Kurt and I were in the San Jose area running errands.  And we had a TON to run.  Had to meet up with two different bankers, two different lawyers.  One after the other.

And then we saw the cutest little french bulldog puppy in the world.  I again said, no we don't need another pet.  But then, I held him.  Yep, he is now home with us.

We named him Miggy Pierre.  Miggy, after Miguel Cabrera, and Pierre, simply becuz he needed something French in his name.  And Pierre was the only French name Kurt could think of.

Miggy is slowly learning things and getting adapted to the house.  So far, the pugs and cats have no clue what to do with him.  He likes to bite while playing and none of them like that much so they avoid him.  Eventually, I have no doubt him and Midas will be the bestest of friends.

It is weird for us to have a nonpug.  But Miggy Pierre has been a blessing to us and we love him so much!  I leave you with pictures.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Can't believe it's been two months since my last post.  A lot has happened, but a lot of the same things happen daily so I feel like I don't have anything worth blogging about!  :)

Dry season has been, well dry.  And hot.  It's nice with the scooter not having to worry about rain though!  I think it only has rained a couple times this entire dry season and for short times. 

We finally got our car back!  however, at the moment, we cannot drive it.  Once we got it back, the lawyers have to register it in the country and order the plates and stickers.  We can't drive it until then, so it sits in my yard.  The never ending saga, I swear.  We got it back after 7 months, 11 days.  And now have to wait another month to drive it.  They ordered the plates and registered the car on March 23 so I am hoping to have the plates no later than April 14.  I am going to throw an absolute fit if they are not here by the time my mom and Ronnie come visit, which is the 22nd.  Renting a car is not cheap here and I should not have to do it when I have a perfectly good car sitting in my yard.

This upcoming week in Costa Rica, the week before Easter, is called Semana Santa, or Holy Week.  Apparently, most people take the entire week off and head to the beach.  jaco is supposedly a madhouse, but I guess we will see!  I have a feeling it may be like Xmas where everything was busy all the time.  Great for business, but kinda makes locals just avoid town until it is over. 

My friend Katie is coming to visit on Tuesday!  Yay!  She is our first official "houseguest".  Can't wait.  I have booked a couple things for us to do, but don't want t book too much, so we will just see how it goes. 

Since last post, we have had a ton of work done in our yard.  Our new garage is almost done.  We still need the garage doors put in and the electrical finished, but that's it.  And the sidewalk going from the garage to the pool is done.  The driveway is being done right now, and after that the electrical front gate is going up, and then the second gate is being replaced.  After that, a much needed break from having people here.  It has been almost two months of people being at our property.  We also had a door made for our laundry room and a bed made for the second spare bedroom.  Both were installed today!  Both look awesome.  We are going to have more work done by the guys in the future. 

Tomorrow night is the third monthly expat dinner.  I started these dinners three months ago and they have been a hit.  both times there were about 15 people in attendance and I think there may be more this time.  They started at Jaco Taco, but I moved it to The Green Room after Jaco Taco gave us a hard time about doing separate checks.  Food is much healthier at The Green Room so that is good for us.

So that's about it for an update.  Hope everyone is keeping warm in Michigan and doing well!  Pura vida!

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Green To Not So Green

So "dry" season in Costa Rica supposedly starts in mid-November and continues to mid-May.  This has not really been the case this year.  We had rain going into like mid-late December and then it stopped.  Until this week there it has poured four days.  Not the entire day, but for a couple hours.   Which i guess is weird for dry season.  My plants like it, so I am cool with it!

Speaking of plants, I have started planting some seeds to grow some of our own veggies.  I know NOTHING about this, so we will see how it goes.  I am so far growing garlic, bell peppers, leeks and radishes.  Planted all at different times.  Leeks were just planted today.  The garlic, which was only planted two days ago is already sprouting up!  And the bell peppers and radishes were planted less than a week ago and are already sprouting like crazy plants!  It's insane.  Such fun seeing how fast stuff grows here.  I think it will not be long before Kurt is building me a garden area, as the pots will not work for the bigger stuff I may want to plant if I continue to be interested in gardening.  So far, I love it! 

With the house, Kurt finished my closet in the bedroom, and installed the solar lights around the pool and all the way down the walkway in the yard to the bodega.  Both projects look great.  He is also almost done painting the third bedroom.  Also, the two new AC units we bought are here, and we are waiting for them to be installed.  once they are, we will have units in all bedrooms and the living room area, which is basically the entire house.

Today, we went to a local place to talk to a furniture builder.  We need some stuff done.  In specific, beds for the spare room.  If we like their work, we have other work for them too that needs to be done like cabinets in my bathroom, a door for the laundry room, etc.  I also want two small tables, one for each spare room, which I plan to hang a mirror over.  Don't want clutter in the spare rooms so I am keeping it simple.

Back when we did our border run, we took a trip the next day to San Jose.  Stopped at Stihl to get a part Kurt needed for his weed wacker.  Then went to Pequeno Mundo where we got two pool chairs, Kleenex, and some various food items.  Stopped at Pricesmart next to stock up on bulk stuff we buy (toilet paper, cheese, paper towel, solar lights, peanut butter, vegetable oil).  And stopped at EPA where Kurt bought material to make me a full length mirror for the bedroom as well as hoses for the yard.  Had lunch at Subway. 

Have been cooking a lot of new things, which is fun.  I made chickpea rosemary soup the other night that I loved!  See recipe here:  Kurt does not like rosemary (we found out) so it was not his favorite, but I ate it for three days and will make again for me for lunches.   Made this Spanish Rice just to mix things up since we usually eat white rice with soy, and loved it as well:  I am always trying new bean burgers.  Kurt said this is his favorite yet, which I made last night.  They are baked instead of grilled:  Oh, and this was awesome! I subbed ahi tuna and mixed up the veggies some, but it was great and lasted for two meals as well:   I have been trying to buy a new veggie every farmers market trip.  This week, I bought what I thought was something new, but it was in fact a variety of the chayote, which I already purchased and made.  A guy on one of my boards told me how to plant the chayote to have my own in the yard, so I am going to use it for that.  Chayote vine, here I come!  :).

We also heard from our lawyers today and they are *thinking* we may have our car back as soon as Friday or early next week.  Crossing my fingers that can happen, but not counting on it.  I hope so! 

Other than that, have just been enjoying life.  Love laying by my pool every day, and going for swims after my nightly runs.  Been going out more and meeting new people.  We met a couple who lives in Hermosa Beach who we had dinner with and gelato.  And, they work out at our gym!  :).  They have similar personalities to us, so I think we will be seeing a lot of them once we have our car back.  We also went on a hike with another couple in Jaco that was amazing.  It overlooked Jaco and had amazing ocean views.  Cant wait to do the hike with them again.  And, he works out at our gym!  How funny.  Super nice couple.  They live here half the year in Jaco.

Anyway, just wanted to update everyone on life in my Paradise.  Pura Vida!

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Wednesday, January 07, 2015

Panama Border Run Trip

Kurt and I have applied for residency in Costa Rica.  Until we are approved though, which generally takes about a year (give or take), we have to leave the country every 90 days.  Our last two trips have been to Nicaragua.  This time we decided to go to Panama.  I think I have avoided Panama in the past because a lot of people on the expat message boards I am on talk about having more problems at this border, i.e. not being give 90 more days, etc.  Also, Panama requires proof of more things at the border sometimes, like having a certain amount of cash per person and proof of travel back to your "home" country, which or us would be a plane ticket back to the USA.  It just is a lot of paperwork to get ready.  However, Kurt really wanted to check out this area, as there is a duty free shopping area between the borders, which is local outdoor shopping and two malls, so we decided to bite the bullet and go!  SOOO glad we did. 

To prepare for this trip, we did the following.  Converted colones to $500.00 dollars and printed out a bank statement showing over $500.00.  This would prove we each had $500.00 to Panama.  We also went to our travel agent in Jaco, and obtained proof of travel back to the States from Panama, as well as proof of a bus ticket from Costa Rica to Managua for the Costa Rican aduana.  I also made copies of our passport because they sometimes ask for that as well.

We got up early for us and left the house at 655 AM.  Got to Paso Canoas at 1035 AM.  Parked across the street from Costa Rica Aduana at a lot that watched your car for 800 colones per hour.  It was located next to a car wash.  We were given a ticket to show upon leaving to pay.  Crossed the street and went to Aduana (customs).  We were given a form to fill out & told to pay a fee at the bank to exit (the bank was in the same area at Aduana).  Went and paid the $7 per person fee and were given a receipt.  Filled out the form and hopped in line between two other people.   We were stamped out quickly and left.  Went to the Panama side, which was a short 5 minute walk.  And Wow, Panama seems a lot warmer than Costa Rica, weirdly.  For Panama, waited in short line and we were directed to two separate windows.  Kurt was asked for passport, proof of funds (he showed his $500 cash) and proof of onward travel (he showed the plane ticket).  I was asked for the same, except NOT asked for proof of onward travel.  We were stamped in. 

Proceeded to walk around the shopping area for 2 hours 45 minutes.  Lots of good deals here.  Great deals on electronics like TVs and good deals on some food as well.  Kurt bought 4 baseball caps and I bought some beauty supplies.  We ate lunch at Subway, and were both tired, so we headed back to check out of Panama and back into Costa Rica.

Checking out of Panama was simple, short line.  At the Costa Rica side, we were only asked for passports.  No proof of anything else.  Were given the max, 90 days.

Drove home.  Drive home took a tad longer since there was some more traffic, but the drive was still far superior to the Nicaragua drive.

Overall, super long day, but if we have to do another border run and are not approved for residency before April, we will be doing Panama again.  I had heard so many horror stories, but we did not run into any issues at all.  I highly suggest going on Wednesday if you ever have to go.

Pura Vida!

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Driving In Costa Rica, The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

Driving in Costa Rica is.................interesting.

I found out from a friend recently that there are no driver's training courses here.  It is very apparent when driving, and Kurt and I only drive from our house to town, which is about three miles away, only about 1 on the highway.  Here are some strange things you will encounter in Costa Rica while driving.  And for those of you who use your phone while driving?  Not even possible here with all the driving distractions.

1.  People do not use blinkers.   And those that do generally turn them on to turn the opposite of which way they are turning.  If you see someone using a blinker properly, they are most likely not from Costa Rica.  We still use our blinkers, but I don't really know why.  Habit, I guess.  So, if you see someone with a blinker on, NEVER EVER assume they are actually turning.  There is a good chance if you do, someone will veer in front of you doing a U-turn to drive in the opposite direction.

2.  Drivers are either insanely aggressive or so timid it's painful.  Speed limit 40?  People will either be driving 70 or 5.  Not kidding.  And the kids (meaning teenagers) in our neighborhood are insane on their motorcycles.  Riding at death speeds with no helmet and laughing hysterically.  I shake my head as they go by on my walks and then I instantly feel like an old person, LOL.  I guess someone died riding like that that lived in our neighborhood, but it has not stopped anyone.

3.  Bikers.  People who ride motorcycles, especially delivery drivers, are truly insane.  They veer in and out of traffic, cutting people off, pass on the wrong side, etc.  I am shocked I have not seen more accidents with bikes while here.  Kurt and I were already hit once and totaled one of the bikes because of crazy drivers and we were not doing anything wrong. Luckily, our insurance is covering it completely.

4.  Driving in busier areas, you will encounter a lot of road issues.  People will cross the road without looking or caring.  People riding bicycles will ride down the center of the road, sometimes with 4+ people on a bike.  they also ride on the side, but will veer into the road where you are driving, simply not paying attention.  Also, at night, people on bikes use no reflectors, so you cannot see them while you are driving.  And even though people seem to love bright colors here, at night while riding their bikes, they tend to wear black from head to toe to compliment their lack of reflectors.  Also in the road, you will encounter various animals.  Cows, horses, snakes crossing, dogs everywhere, toads, cats.  In short, you need to be careful and pay attention while driving.

5.  Downtown Parking Guys.  If you live in an area with a busy downtown, there are guys "working" who seem like they are working for the city.  They don't.  They basically tell you that they will "watch" your car and you have to pay them to do so.  Kurt & I almost never have small coins to give them and they truthfully kind of annoy us since we don't need someone to help us park a scooter or watch it in a lit busy area, so we generally park further down where the parking guys don't go to and walk a couple blocks back down to town.  They basically demand money and to help you and it annoys me.  A friend of ours said, just park and give them a little bit, but I don't want to feed into it.  They all look like they are high and I don't think they are providing any kind of useful service at all.  In fact, one night we parked our scooter and they tried to make us move it as they wanted to keep the space open for a car.  Sorry, not sorry, leaving my scooter.

6.  One interesting tidbit.  Police officers don't pull you over here like they do in the States.  You are not going to see an officer behind you with his lights on.  Basically, they sit on the side of the road, and motion for you to pull over.  There is a great program called Waze where people will mark where officers are doing this to alert you, so you know not to speed through there.  We never speed in our area as there is really no need to, but in other parts of the country where you are on nice, long stretches of road, this program would be helpful.  Officers will also do random checks of passports.  And, they are allowed to pull you over for no reason here, simply to check your passports and make sure you are legal here, or your vehicle is legal.  The only two things the police really seem to care a lot about here are wearing your seatbelt and speeding.  So, if you follow those laws, you should be golden.

Don't get me wrong, driving in the States has it's issues too.  I am glad I almost never have to deal with standstill traffic here, or police officers constantly being on the side of the road with radar guns.  Just wanted to give people an idea of how driving differs here.  I will say one positive is I always have my phone in my purse while driving and won't even glance at it or answer it.