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. 

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Christmas in Herradura 2014

So, this was the first Christmas that Kurt and I were actually home!  Normally, we travelled on Christmas, as it was a down time at work and the one time of the year we could get away for more than a few days at a time.  Now, I live in paradise and truthfully have no desire to leave.  I would like to see family for the holidays, but there is no way I am going back to Michigan in the cold.  Thus, I decided to invite over our neighbor, RJ (who is also from the States) and make my first Christmas dinner ever!

I started preparing dinner the day before.  I prepared the dough for the rolls, the corn side dish made and ready to pop in the oven, the ahi tuna marinade made and put in the frig with the fish, and the cheesecake.  The pasta I waited to make until Christmas.

Here are the recipes and dishes below:

Creamy Baked Corn with Parmesan.  The only thing I changed in this recipe is I made my own half and half since I could not find it in the grocery store here. I also only made half the recipe.  It was a good amount for the three of us with a tiny bit leftover.

Dinner Rolls.  I think I wanted to make these because they looked so amazing in the picture.  This recipe makes 24 rolls, and I only wanted to make 6, so I quartered the recipe.  And when I did that, it still made 12 rolls.  So beware, recipe makes about twice what it says.  Anyway, these were awesome, may be my fav part of the entire meal.  And lots leftover.

Peanut Butter Cheesecake.  Kurt and RJ really like cheesecake, so this was dessert.  I bought a ready made crust.  Yes, I was lazy with that.  It was an Oreo Crust.  I then made the peanut butter filling.  I did not put anything on the top either.  So, basically, I only used the filling portion of this cheesecake.  It is a process too, so be prepared to be at home a while.  The initial cooking is 2 hours 15 minutes and then it has to sit in the oven 2 hours after that with the oven turned off, then be in the frig overnight.  But.  I tried it even though I am not a cheesecake fan and it was awesome.  Had a lot extra, so Kurt has had cheesecake since Xmas like every day. He finally finished it off last night.

Spicy Baked Pasta.  I actually make this about once a week for Kurt and I.  I generally add some extras, like chopped up bell peppers or onions.   I sometimes also make my own pasta sauce out of fresh tomatoes and spices.  Enough leftover for me to have dinner the next day.

Sriracha Lime Ahi Tuna.  I subbed ahi tuna as I like it better and I don't think you can even get salmon here unless it's imported in.  This was super yummy, especially the sauce on top.  I made extra on purpose so I could have leftovers.  Two pieces leftover.

So, we had a very nontraditional holiday meal, which is pretty much the norm for Kurt and I since we don't eat meat.  We had a full house, as RJ brought the pugs friends, his two Yorkies.  I think all the pets enjoyed the meal as well.

The holidays have brought a LOT of people to this tourist area.  It is crazy how different town is right now vs the rainy season.  I have never seen this many people in Jaco in my life, but I have never been here for Xmas either.  It almost makes me want to avoid downtown.  We have found alternate ways to the gym vs going through downtown, and alternate ways to stores we need to go to like the hardware store.  We also ate out in Herradura last night as we did not want to go into Jaco.

Also, weird thing about Xmas here.  Fireworks.  People are obsessed with setting them off.  From before Xmas to even last night.  I don't understand it, and the pugs hate it, LOL. Hopefully it's over soon!  :).

Hope everyone had a nice holiday!  Pura Vida!

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Happy Holidays!

So, I loved sending out holiday cards in the States.  However, it is not very cost effective here in Costa Rica, and mail takes weeks to the States, so I have decided to do a holiday blog post instead!

So, Kurt and I had a pretty crazy year!  One filled with the most changes I have ever had in a year in our lives, I would say.

Our nephew Kory passed the bar exam and I did his swearing in with the help of Judge Connie Kelley before I left.  Kory then opened Haskell Law Offices, which allowed me to start making the move to get the heck out of Michigan!  Congrats Kory!

Biggest news, our move to Costa Rica!  Kurt arrived in Costa Rica in early May, after driving from Michigan to Costa Rica with the three pugs and Persian cat and two friends (this took him 9 days and he had to drive through the States as well as Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica).  I moved on May 18, flying from Detroit with our other cat.  We have been here since, getting settled in and used to life in a foreign country.  There are pros and cons, but for the most part, we are happier than we have ever been.  Life not working suits us for sure.  :).  We have slowly been making our house our own, by painting and doing work outside to the yard and pool area.  And as we speak, solar is being put in which will eliminate our household bills (no more electric bill, satellite, cell or home internet bills)! Super excited about that.  We have had friends from the states visit twice now, once over Labor Day and another time in early November.  We had a blast showing them around our little Paradise.  Looking for more guests in the future.  The pugs and cats have adjusted well to life here.  They enjoy being able to spend as much time as possible outside.  Our yard is fenced in, so they can play outside any time they want.  The cats spend a lot of time being lazy in the yard, and Lucie loves to look for creatures to stalk.  Luckily, she is not killing anything.  Yet.  We bought two scooters when we first got here and have fun zipping around on those as well.  We have had wildlife encounters in our yard, from toucans in the tree right outside the window, to macaws flying overhead daily, to poisonous snakes in the yard and a scorpion crawling up Kurt's stomach while he was taking a nap right day!  We are in the jungle, that's for sure........

I have been back to the States twice since I left--the first for a fabulous wedding and the second to visit my Maga in Florida with my Mom.  Both visits were nice, and I was able to stock up on things I cannot get in Costa Rica that I like to use here.   Kurt has not been back to the States at all.

I have been having a blast too cooking and taking care of my house here.  Had no time for that in Michigan, but it's so nice to be caught up on laundry, do dishes by hand in the sink, and cook all the time with fresh ingredients.  I try to buy almost nothing in a can or package, if possible.  We buy all our fruits and veggies at a local market on Fridays, and stuff is super cheap.  For example, a pineapple is around 80 cents!  We also enjoy the variety of restaurants in town, and eat out about twice a week.  Once on half off sushi night, and another night some place else. 

We are looking forward to our first full year in Costa Rica!  I hope everyone has an awesome holiday season and safe and happy New Year!  Pura Vida!

PS  We love hearing how everyone is doing, so feel free to write any time!  We can also call the States, so any time you want or need to talk, let me know and I can call you for free!  XXOO

Thursday, December 11, 2014

TOPE Jaco, Solar Power and End of Rainy Season

I can slowly feel it getting busier in my little town, which corresponds totally with the end of rainy season.  From my reading, when they said rainy season was from mid-May until mid-November, I think I kinda thought on November 15, all rain would just STOP.  Nope, still rains SOME, but for very short periods.  Anyway, going into town now, especially on weekends, I can tell busy holiday season is starting as it is sometimes difficult to even find a parking spot.  Tourists from out of the country as well as in country are flocking to my nice beach town!  :).  Kinda like Manistee was in the summer months, except the Pacific Ocean kicks Lake Michigan's ass.  For one reason, Lake Michigan was always freezing and the Ocean is always warm........

A couple weeks ago, Kurt and I saw signs up in town for an event called Tope Jaco.  We had no idea what it was, so I googled it and found a Facebook page and other info online.  To break it down, basically it is a horse parade through town.  Local farms and owners bring their horses into town with fancy outfits and gear, and take the horses through downtown.  It is estimated it is 300+ horses.  The event starts at 200 PM.  This is 200 PM Tico time though, which meant it started at 530 PM.  We went down around 215 PM and decided to park by the gym to store our helmets and walk into town to have lunch.  Ended up at Pajara Pinta and had wraps and lemonade.  The restaurant is right on main street so we sat there chilling until the event started.

 I was a little annoyed it started late as that meant it was dusk and difficult to take pictures.  So, we went and stood on the street for the event and it was pretty kewl!  SO MANY horses.  More than I have ever seen at once in my life.  It was a neat event.  Apparently it is modeled after a parade held in Spain each year with thousands of horses.  That would be awesome to see as well.

I had posted previously that our solar was delivered.  It was sitting in boxes at my bodega as well as in my house.  Well, they are finally installing.  They had to get approval from the municipality for the project and finally got it last week. In typical Tico fashion, first they were supposed to start on Sat at 7 AM.  No show.  Then Monday at 700 AM.  No show.  Then Tuesday at 700 AM.  No show.  Finally, at 1030 on Tuesday they showed.  Installed the two solar boxes in the laundry room and did a little work outside.  Yesterday they showed at 730 AM (most timely they have been thus far LOL) and did more work on the area in the yard the structure is being built to house the units.  Today they came for like a short period to do some more electrical work and are now not coming back until Monday to start building the structure.  I thought it was amusing because at the start of the project the one guy said three days. My project manager said, no way its being done in three days.  Three days Tico time is what should have been said, haha.  Cant wait until its done and I eliminate my electric bill as well as some other bills.

Thanksgiving, we sat around watching football most of the day (GO LIONS!) and then RJ picked us up and we watched the night game and had dinner at Los Amigos in Jaco.  I had shrimp pad thai which was MUCH more up my alley than traditional Thanksgiving food, which I dont really like at all.  It was a nice night.  The next day, Black Friday, places in town had Black Friday sales, which I thought was funny since they dont celebrate Thanksgiving here.  I ended up going into my fav place, Tico Pod, and buying a new piece of art for a wall in the house that needed one.  No lines or the craziness like in the US, so that was nice for sure.

Haskell Law Offices is hiring an associate as long time attorney (and my good friend) Angie is leaving.  Sad she is leaving, but it is what it is and they have to move on.  I am helping Kory collect resumes and go through them.  He is super swamped so hopefully this takes one thing off his plate.  Jennifer has been setting up interviews with the ones I have found thus far.  Hopefully, he finds someone fairly quickly.  And Angie is staying on to help train the new person for the month of January at a minimum so that is really nice for Kory!

OK, pic below is a water pipe that had burst in town the other day!  It was crazy high water!

Not much else going on!  Hope everyone had a nice holiday.