Sunday, October 22, 2017

Our Journey - Part One

A lot has happened this month that does not involve internet trolls. Hurricane Nate hit Costa Rica just as we were trying to get home for medical appointments, banking and investment business and family visits. It did not go well, and then we got word as we were sleeping at the San Jose airport that my Maw in Law was at the end of her days. Things went nuttier from then, including a hurried trip to Texas and a family death. These are my notes hand written on those days sleeping at various airports. Going to take days to unpack.

Thursday, October 5th, 2017 – Tamarindo Costa Rica

Today seems to fully encapsulate the frustrations and challenges of living as an expat in Costa Rica.

It's been raining for days off and on as a tropical depression formed off the eastern edge of the country in the Caribbean. We have been told that in addition to the usual rains of the rainy season we are getting high winds and heavy rain bands that started Tuesday night, just as we climbed into the bed.

This trip has been planned and tickets purchased three months ago, we cannot cancel or reschedule because too much needs to happen.

Wednesday is crunch time. We needed to pack to fly out on Thursday afternoon for our 90 days out of country, pay our electric, cable, water and rent and pick up money for the trip. The bus tickets to the airport had been purchased a couple of weeks beforehand.

We pack and fret over the rain because the road in front of our house is flooded over to the depth of around 6 inches.

Once the rain eased up from monsoon to sprinkling we grabbed our umbrellas, waded down the street, making straight for the taxi stand and go into Tamarindo proper to pay bills.

The taxi driver lies right to our faces. We ask him before getting in if he'll take one mil (about $1.75), and he says sure, he'll charge us a mil. We go a block or two, the rain picks up again and he (Gus) announces it's now going to cost 2 mil. Why? Because it's raining. Seriously? Me? I would have gotten out of the car and given him 25 colonies tops before hailing another taxi.

Jim says okay, but only because we're pressed for time. Remember this taxi driver, Gus, because he makes several appearances this week.

So we go to town, for the high price Gus is charging us we make him wait at the bank and stop at the coffee stand before going home. Bills paid at the bank, traveling money received, both dollars and colonies and we stop for our afternoon coffees. Jim loves his mocha frios. Gus asks very charmingly if we'll buy him one. We chuckle and buy him a coffee too.

Turn out that paying the electric bill is a good thing. After a month of hearing our fun and lovely German landlords have heart failure over our use of the air conditioning we end up with an electric bill of sixty bucks. I laughed hard at this because literally everyone has been moaning about how expensive electricity is here. It's peanuts compared to our electric bill in Northern Virginia.

Packed and went to bed around 11 pm, after having cleaned the house. We were laying in bed when the lights suddenly went out. Pitch blackness, jungle darkness, for one night I will not need my light blocking eye mask to sleep.

The roof has started leaking in a few spots, so upon getting up the next morning we checked the pots and pans strategically placed to deal with the drips. The landlord tells me than only once every few years during a terrific storm with wind the roof leaks. I see I'm going to have to add that to our list of things to fix if our contract to buy goes through.

We arise at 4 am, getting dressed for the trip in the pitch blackness. The plan was to walk out to the bus stop to catch the 5:30 am bus to San Jose and get off at the airport stop to catch our 12:30 pm flight to BWI and our kids.
After getting up and ready in the dark we hoofed it outside in the still pouring rain, trudging through high water to the bus stop. Jim's shoes were sodden. I'd been a bit more practical, wearing my Tamarindo uniform of rubber flipflops and beach dress. Even sheltering in the overhang of the bus stop our suitcases and ourselves quickly got soaked. We waited and waited and waited with a crowd for over an hour. No bus, no one answering the phone at the bus station.

After an hour a lady taxi driver we know well, Annie, stopped and said no buses were running in Tamarindo because of washed out roads, but she could try to take us an hour away to Liberia, where we could get a bus to San Jose on Ruta 1.

Piled in our baggage and squeezed in with a couple trying to get to Nicaragua and off we went through the raindrops. Downed trees everywhere, several times we had to skirt around the trees on the shoulder or drive through after waiting for road crews armed with chainsaws. Water covering the road in many places, lapping at the edges in others. When we were almost to Liberia we discovered that a bridge was washed away and we had to turn back around.

Annie tried to take us to nearby Santa Cruz where we might be able to catch a bus, but yet again we got nearly there and came upon a closed road. Houses stood three and four feet underwater and many places were huge churning lakes of roiling brown water.

We finally had to stop and regroup near Filadelphia, stopping at the only open soda to get cold pastries and drinks. Annie warned that we needed to eat up hearty because we might end up stuck on the way back to Tamarindo.

To be continued......

Saturday, October 21, 2017

DisGUSted - People Always Tell You Who They Are

Recently I had an experience that for me summed up what can happen when you're openly deceptive, yet behave like you're a person of integrity. A few days before Hurricane Nate I met a new taxi driver here in Tamarindo.

We've become known enough in the community that some taxi drivers know where we live and openly shout up how much to take us to our beautiful house named after a local bird. Most are nice people, you get in the car, you hand over the money and chat while you're on your way.

What happened was one day at the taxi stand by our house we were approached by a driver we'd not used before, Gus. Gus quoted us one price so we climbed into his lovely and cleaner that most taxis car. We hadn't gone more than a half mile when Gus turned to us and said that because it was suddenly raining the fare would now be double. Usually when one tries to pull a bait-n-switch like this we demand he pulls over and we get out. That day we were in a hurry, but my husband Jim argued with him a bit before acquiescing to the inflated price. We swore we would never use him again because he'd tried to hustle us.

The very next day Jim and I were grocery shopping at the Mega Super by our house. Jim was dealing with the cashier while I was bagging our stuff and transferring it to the shopping cart. When I turned to put a third bag in the cart there was Gus at the cart, telling me that he would be taking us home. I said no, I'd already arranged a ride with my favorite driver Annie, thanks but no thank and turned back to keep bagging. When I went to put the fourth bag down I saw Gus rushing out of the store door holding my other three bags. He took my bags, put them in his cab and refused to give them back. I told Jim what was happening and we both agreed in the store that after this ride we'd avoid Gus and he was due for a serious karmic realignment from what we'd seen.

On the way home that second ride with Gus I warned him again about the steep drop off on either side of our paved driveway and he waved me off. But mere seconds after Jim and I got out of the car Gus tried to turn around by driving right off our driveway and down into an 18 inch drop off, popping a tire and scraping up his car badly. Jim and I shrugged and said the same thing at the same time “Karma”

Gus demanded we pay for his tire and trouble, and while we expressed sorrow for his troubles Jim pointed out that we warned him and we don't own the property that damaged his car.

We see Gus around still, but we never ride with him, even preferring to walk from the supermarket with full bags instead of use his service. He grins and shouts out 'Mi amigos!' when he sees us, even offering discounts, but we still don't use him. He showed us very clearly who he is during those two rides and who he is happens to be a person that resorts to guile and something less than truth.

If you observe people they will eventually show you who they are. Even the baddies, although it might take you awhile to figure out which are crooked evil users or severely damaged people who thrive on hurting others. We were lucky with Gus. His intentions were easy to read and quickly determinable.

Sometimes in recovery and survivor groups it's just not that easy to pick out the manipulators, or the ones grappling to be the top authority, the gaslighters, the gossips and the ones who turn out to be rotten to the core.

In the last few days I've seen a couple of people in recovery circles be outed for manipulative toxic behaviors. One of them a man using his status as a blogger to groom and take emotional and sexual advantage of women. That's pretty bad, yes indeed, but it was the reveal of the other writer that is much worse on the scale of damage wreaked on unsuspecting people.

Yesterday one of my friends who's suffered at her hands was brave enough to step up and say she would put up with no more after this writer's husband issued what seems like a threat in a private message. She spoke out and the dam burst. Many more people than I ever dreamed had been victims of this lady came out with their own tales.

I'm not going to talk about the tales of others, but I do seek to document the damage done by this person. I actually more feel pity for her at this point because her actions cannot possibly be those of a happy fulfilled individual.

The writer I am talking about is Libby Anne of Love, Joy, Feminism. Yeah, the same writer trained and launched by Vyckie Garrison of No Longer Quivering. I was around NLQ in those early days when Vyckie was encouraging and launching new writers among the Quiverfull second generation escapees. Somewhere I have the chatroom transcripts from those early days stored in one of my hard drives with the other documents from No Longer Quivering.

Libby Anne showed her true colors eventually with NLQ and Vyckie too, but there were red flags from the beginning that we all missed. Shortly after Libby Anne garnered some small publicity she conveniently forgot who had helped her at the beginning, completely failing to ever thank Vyckie, or mention her help at all. Libby's narrative evolved into one of her own heroism of escaping, rising above and bravely forging on solo to speak for all the other 2nd Gen.

During my time before taking over the day to day posting duties from Vyckie Garrison at NLQ I didn't have a lot of interaction with Libby Anne. I did what I still do towards those that work in recovery in some fashion, felt supportive, wished the best of, and tried to encourage the work. Thought it was odd she ignored everything Vyckie helped her with at the beginning and suspected a lot of what she wrote about her children and relationships was possibly not true, but it was none of my business. I didn't determine who wrote for NLQ.

Vyckie had this to say on Facebook about Libby Anne:

Honestly, they're like a pool of piranhas ... and their bullying has incapacitated the spiritual abuse survivor movement. When I realized the extent of their zealotry, I truthfully just gave up and moved on because I no longer feel compelled to work things out with tyrants at the expense of my own happiness.

She could have steered "Libby Anne's" devotees in a healthy, productive direction and HA had the potential to make a genuine impact for the benefit of all the kids being homeschooled in QF homes today and in the future, but she chose to use her influence to capitalize on their worst tendencies. Together, they've become exactly what they say they hate - abusers.

It's too bad ... because we had a good thing going and a lot of Christian fundamentalists were waking up and getting themselves and their kids out. Not so much anymore

Stupid innocent me, in recovery myself, suspecting little, but being behind the scenes supporting the site and what needed to happen. It was not long after I took over administration of NLQ I felt a distinct frost between myself and Libby Anne.

Eventually I did notice that Libby Anne borrowed ideas and content from many other sites without crediting any of them. I wasn't pleased, but this was one of Vyckie's proteges, so I said nothing, just filed this away as another indication of who she really was inside. Another indicator that she wasn't much like she was attempting to project.

After a few more years I went through a pretty dark time emotionally, dealing with a situation with my adult daughter that distressed me greatly. She was involved in relationships and behavior I did not approve of for a married woman with children. Especially since some of the behavior was happening right in front of my grandchildren. In my distress I wrote about my daughter and her situation in this blog, my personal blog, a blog where I do link to NLQ but mostly do not share the posts on NLQ.

In the middle of this Libby's friends started attacking me. I got ugly threatening messages and emails. If I recall correctly Libby Anne contacted Vyckie demanding I be removed from admin of NLQ because of my words on my personal blog. I had to be interviewed by the mods of another organization we helped launch to determine if I should be tossed from the board. I resigned from several board positions because of the rancor.

The attacks were pretty relentless, I cried every single day while this was ongoing as some of her supporters contacted my children and tried to drive a wedge in between us. It was unrelenting and heinous. Eventually I started forwarding everything to my attorney and discussing the possibly of suing as well as contacting the media company we both were affiliated with to inform them of the doings of her fans.

The thing about all of this is that she claimed to others that she had nothing to do with the harassment I was experiencing, but someone sent me screen caps where she was indeed talking up how 'horrible' I was. People that manipulate others into doing their dirty work so that they can appear Simon-pure are worse than those that actually carry out the actions.

But here is the thing. We're human, we're all human and make mistakes. We muddle through life trying to do the best we can, while frequently doing the wrong things. The problem happens when those wrong things continue and repeat.

When a recovery group starts focusing down and demanding absolute perfection to a set of rules set by the leader, demanding everyone in the group be focused on 'purity' they're no different than the damaging cult that they all left. You're just exchanging one horrible mindset for another. This is not freedom and it's not recovery.

My daughter and I moved past that bad time quickly. She learned I am sometimes right about human behavior and I learned that she has a deep capacity for changing her life for the better. We're closer now than we've ever been and I'm extremely proud of her growth, as well as knowing I need to talk to those I love when I have a problem with their behavior instead of staying mostly silent and ranting about it to others. I learned a lot from that bad time.

After Libby Anne and pals started leaving me alone, finally, mercifully, they moved on to others. Here's just a few of the things that happened.

  • A very recovery-oriented former pastor ran afoul of them by something he said and they came very close to completely ruining his online reputation.
  • A writer struggling with sexual addiction issues had his children contacted by them and they attempted to drive another family apart.
  • Another person found themselves tossed from the very organization they founded. If that wasn't bad enough now Libby Anne claims publicly in interviews and media that she is the sole founder of that org.
  • Another writer dedicated to recovery from evangelical cults found herself harassed and maligned even to the national organization she volunteered for, ending up leaving the org.
  • Several ex homeschooler organizations were blown apart and those dedicated people working to ensure that homeschoolers had options for recovery were marginalized and run off.
  • Libby and pals attacked Vyckie Garrison over remarks on Facebook before angrily demanding their stories be removed from NLQ.
  • ….and there are many more stories I've heard, a trail of people hurt.

Let me state this again – People will tell you by their actions who they are. Are these the actions of a good person, a compassionate woman or a good leader? Let's examine the evidence.

  • Does not show any thankfulness or gratitude for those that helped and supported her.
  • Possible theft of intellectual property and borderline plagiarism.
  • Takes control of groups or organizations started by others and claims she founded them.
  • Leads witch hunts against others and spreads false information of those disagreeing with group.
  • Possibly encouraging others to contact minor children to tattle on the parent.
  • Gaslights people she dislikes.
  • Manipulates others into doing those unpleasant things so she can accomplish her goal and deny any responsibility.
  • Pretense of innocence while denigrating others.

A different list than Gus the cabby, but just as revealing.

Recovery is not recovery if you use it to bully others into doing everything your way. You are just wasting time, resources and hurting others trying to recover.

I know I've waited a long time to tell my story, but for a long time I didn't realize I wasn't the only one. Now I just want to make sure no one else is taken in, used and tossed aside by that group. I've moved on and am living the happiest life ever on the beach in Costa Rica. That is revenge enough, living well.

I hope that those hurt heal and the bullies get the type of inner healing they need. This just needs to stop.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Climbing Bullshit Mountain

This has really been one hideously terrible week! Another round dealing with the government over importing out possessions combined with worrying about my husband's mind.

Things took a loop into crazytown mere hours after my last post. Once Jim got back he wanted to walk back to that same store I had just visited. I agree to go because I'd forgotten to poke my head into the souvenir stand in that same shopping center that sells yarn so I could pick up a few skeins to crochet up a few more wash clothes.

We set out on foot to the farther away store, about a mile. Jim got to talking to the guy in the store working the Moneygram counter (leading to further crazy doings a bit later), while I got my yarn and a bottle of Costa Rican chocolate/coffee/cream liquor to give Jim for his birthday on Sunday. As we left the shopping center it was twilight, and it turned nightmarish for me.

Let me back up, about four weeks ago I was driving hear San Jose, near Escazu, when I suddenly lost a lot of peripheral vision, seeing a new huge floater in my left eye and seeing big flashes of light. I know it's likely my retina or cornea is starting to tear or fray. It was pretty scary driving in high speed hwy traffic and losing some of my vision. I made an appointment to see my eye doctor when I'm back in the States a week from tomorrow, because this was back when we still lived in Copey de Dota. I haven't been bothered with it much and don't seem to be losing any more vision, but it still needs to be seen. Soon.

We're walking back from the shopping center along our narrow paved road, the one that runs past our house and turns towards the beaches of Tamarindo as it got darker and darker. As people started switching on their car lights I literally could not see, I just saw the crazy flashes of light in my eye compounded  by the headlights. I was stumbling along, yelling to Jim that my vision was almost nil, narrowly avoiding be squashed by cars.

He could hear because he'd done that thing I absolutely fucking hate that he does, that I have told him I hate, he's way way ahead of me and cannot hear me over the noise of the traffic. I don't entirely blame him. His legs are at least 8 inches longer than mine and he towers over me by a foot. I have to run to keep up with, he has to significantly slow down for me. It very rarely happens.

By the time we mad it home I just lit into him for his thoughtless running ahead of me bullshit while I literally could not see! I. Was. Livid! He could not understand why I was so completely out of control angry. He found out the next morning when I woke up sick with lungs and another sinus infection. We both should remember by now that if I get that type of over the top serial killer pissed off there is significant asthma/lung problems getting ready to happen.

The other thing I am noticing in the last few weeks is that Jim is exhibiting suddenly a lot of signs that he might be developing dementia. I'm after him to get a complete physical while we're in the States. I'm so afraid he is losing it.

The bullshit of the rest of the week is of him listening to the advice on wiring in money from the US to have the funds to pay the taxes on the car and trying to do just that. Pissing off our kids by asking them to do it, refusing to listen to me when I point out that the website for Moneygram says something completely different than what he was told and the advice of our CR banker and others. He's living in La-la land over what needs to happen and has gotten increasingly cranky when his schemes and misunderstandings do not work out.

Never use Moneygram overseas because we were unable to retrieve our money from them at any of the listed receiving branches here in Costa Rica. Had to cancel the transaction and have the money refunded. Which means our car is still sitting at Porto Limon. We'll not be able to pick it up for three weeks and they're going to hit us with storages fees.

It's not entirely on his malfunctioning brain either. Getting money here is not an easy task. Anything having to do with the local government is three times longer and more expensive than they tell you.

On the other side I think I keep getting sinus infections from my new VPAP machine. I haven't been the most virtuous about scrubbing the various masks and hoses down with disinfectant. I am now, even going so far as to come up with an organic germ killing procedure and solution.

Most of all this bullshit meant endless trips into town to try and resolve all of this and zero time on the beach. Ugh. I need coconut rum right now.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Mad Dogs, Englishmen and Elderly Cajuns

... go out in the midday sun. I just got back from walking to the grocery store, the far one and holy crap my sweat has sweat has sweat.

I was trying to sneak away while Jim wasn't here so I could find some inexpensive little geegaw he's like for his birthday in two days. Plus, I'm out of butter, and meat. No Southerner can live without butter (and mayonnaise if that Paula Deen is to be believed) I'd take butter over mayo any day of the week.

Going to the grocery store makes me glad my late father is not here. He had a thing about mayo that came from his great aunt Gloria making him eat sandwiches with too much mayo, and that mayo brand was Hellmans. He hated Hellmans like Trump hates Hillary. Hellmans is the only mayo brand available from the States here. He would die, or throw a fit to end all fits by Southern men.

He also had an excessive love of mayo, making a scene if a family marrying, burying or other mass gathering of our Cajun clan happened. If mayo was not on the sandwiches and not on the table he would leave, get a jar, preferably of Zatarain's mayo and plunk it right down in the middle of the feast. When we buried him we slipped a jar of Zatarain's into his casket just before the lid went down. Dad needed mayo no matter which way he was going.

There are some things that have happened as part of our settling into Tamarindo that would have appealed to my dad's sense of humor.

Example? Getting our cable and internet last week. The guys showed up with new and ancient equipment. A brand new Motorola Surf Board modem identical to one that I had from Comcast back before they started with this Xfinity nonsense nearly twenty years ago. They also climbed the electric pole across the street. Now, that pole, like most of the poles in Costa Rica, has wires going this way and that way, tangled like some sort of crazy hyperactive monkey threw black spaghetti in the sky. Once up the pole one dude had to disconnect and reconnect each wire individually to figure out which one was ours. The other technician stood in our doorway, staring at our blaring television screaming to his partner 'No!' or 'Si!'. Something that in the States would be plugging that old modem in and flipping a switch, here it turned into a traffic jam with tourist bus drivers and taxi drivers screeching while they played with the wires and blocked the road. It was sort of surreal and all kinds of funny.

Afterward the guy that spoke beautiful English asked me what I thought about Donald Trump. This seems to always be the litmus test here for if Ticos will accept you. The Trump issue. He's, understandably, upset over the immigration policies and deportations going on under Trump. Had to tell him I completely agree. He then moved on to telling me that something very similar has happened here with the locals and the Nica's, the Nicaraguans. They, like Mexicans in the US, do the jobs that no one else seems to want. We both agreed that removing either people group from our countries would be a very bad thing. In the US it would have a impact on the costs of food, the construction industry and other industries.

Wow, that took a more serious direction than I thought.

Since returning from the store I've been laughing over one of the cleaning products I bought. Mr. Musculo. It seems that Johnson Family products gave Mr. Clean a Latin American makeover.  See for yourself:

Doesn't he look like the kind of very macho guy you might pick up at the club, dance with, share illicit substances with before breaking some of the sexual activities laws of your state, but you never give him your phone number because you know he's gotta be boring outside of the dance floor and bedroom?

Mr. Clean cannot compete with that. He's more like your asexual uncle you're pretty sure is gay but you know he does not come out of the closet for fear of making your great aunt Giselle have heart failure. What gives Johnson family? Why the hunk for Central America and the asexual bald dude for America?

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Costa Rican Math: 7 Beaches in 7 Minutes, 3 Times Longer and More Expensive and 5 Hookers and Blow in 5 Minutes

We've moved into the big house, but haven't been doing much. I've been felled by a cold that moved into my chest, spending most of my time horizontal either in the bedroom reading or laying on the sofa watching one of two television stations out of Miami when I'm not watching HBO. I've slept most of the last three days with the exception of yesterday morn when I staggered out to the nearby grocery store to get milk and juice. Our internet is down too until they show up to set up the new connection and equipment. Like I've stated before everything in Costa Rica takes three times longer and it three times more expensive than in the US.

I'd also run through my box of hard-won Kleenex with all the nose-blowing and coughing I've been doing. Getting Kleenex in CR isn't always easy either. The only reason I ended up with a box is that I was driving the nice Chinese man in the grocery store in Santa Maria nuts for it. I'd asked him twice a week like clockwork for a month before he finally stocked a couple of boxes. I bought one and when Mary showed up she bought the other one after complaining that she'd looked at the stores between San Jose and our tiny town for Kleenex on her trip down. Kleenex is rare here. But the advantage of being in a tourist town like Tamarindo is that you can find things like Kleenex, paper towels and other American things much easier.

We took a taxi back and it was all haggling with the pirata driver over the fare. We did discover that the piratas charge exactly the same from our house to the beach as the local bus. We're seven minutes from seven beaches in our new home. From our swimming pool I have a great view of the beachside mountains near Playa Grande and several national parks. It's beautiful here. Photos of the house coming soon.

Haven't been to the beach since we moved in on Monday, but I've been too sick. Jim has gone into town a couple of times now, to go to the sports bar to watch football. He came home from that first night of football shocked, immediately confessing to me that he'd been approached five times in five minutes to buy hookers and blow. Hookers and blow! LOL!!! Innocent, staid, white bread Jim, who I happen to love so much was approached for these things and it was mind-blowing shocking to him.

One of the funny things about being so sick that I cannot get off the sofa is that for the first time in many years I found myself watching the afternoon game shows on the Miami stations. I hadn't seen 'Wheel of Fortune' since the 1980s and I have to say I now wonder if they screen the contestants to find the stupidest ones. Watching was an exercise in frustration. Jeopardy is more my bag. Not that I could ever compete. While I can smugly call up the answers to the questions laying on my sofa with a snotty nose, I know if I ever tried to go on the show I would experience immediate brain-lock, staring into the camera like a bumper-stunned deer in the headlights. It would be a disaster. Likely I'd be ever worse on 'Wheel of Fortune' because once I got over the fear I'd be calling the other contestants naughty names and berating them for being so dull.

I'd not seen 'Dr. Phil' more than a handful of time through the years. What an exploitative, pompous, self-important gasbag that man is! Why on earth would anyone go on his show and air their extremely dirty laundry? Seeing Sinead O'Conner with him made me weep. There has to be a special place in hell for him. I was cringing for her the entire time. I know someone that was approached by his show several years ago and shut that down rapidly. I don't blame her as I have no doubt Phil would have put her ex on the show too.

Jim is sleeping in this morning because he was up all night dealing with his fantasy football lineups online. Yes, I am a fantasy football widow again this year. He always says he'll never play again at the end of the season, but he always does.

I had trouble sleeping last night because I was pissed off by a Realtor near our home in Virginia. It's been up for rent for six weeks now through a local property manager with lots of viewings but very few people who actually qualify to rent it. We knew going in that it might be awhile to rent because of the price. It's not a cheap rental, it has been beautifully remodeled, and our agent has a pretty strict set of requirements. We're prepared to wait for the right renter for three or so months.

Last night both Jim and I got emails and texts from a Realtor we do not know, with a rental application attached, begging us to rent our house to her client, who happens to have one of the lowest credit scores I've seen in one very long time. Working a just over minimum wage job for only a few months with a pile of teenagers and no references. This Realtor thought she'd bypass our agent and make a personal appeal to us to give her client a break.

While I might have given her a break if I was living locally and could check on the tenant frequently there's no way in hell living across the globe from the house I'm going to do that! This annoying spamming and begging is one of the very reasons I am paying for a property management company to do the day to day and thoroughly screen the potential tenants. I'm going to have to be a lot more desperate to even consider renting to someone with a credit score in the low 500s. Nope.

Damn, I'm starting to sound like a Trump supporter! But I'm worried there's no way she can afford the deposit, the rent and the utilities on the house and we'd have to eventually evict her and her teens. Would just be another enormous hassle. More math problems and I hate math. Hell, I cannot even balance my checkbook.

Saturday, September 09, 2017

If It's Not One Thing It's Another Gringo

My updates have been so sporadic this last month because I'm insanely busy here and I'm stuck in a sort of down mood.

Damn gringos! That's a big part of the bummer for me here.

The Monday night almost two weeks ago that I updated from was the beginning of my 'damn gringos' phase. Remember the last time I updated Jim and I were rushing about like the Keystone Kops, tripping over each other trying to figure out who we could bum a car off of to go fetch Jim's replacement from the airport. His replacement found her way to the person that was supposed to meet her and transport her up to the guesthouse before we could finish contacting folks to get to the airport.

She arrived very late, after 10 pm, in a farming community that goes to bed at 8pm. She showed up, we all welcomed her before the landlord showed her the her bedroom, and we all shuffled off to our beds and piles of warm blankets. She seemed quite nice on first glance.

The next morning Jim and I got up, did our morning routine and went to breakfast. The replacement teacher, Mary, finally came out of her room and we talked over breakfast. Once she opened her white entitled older Southern lady mouth it was pretty much insta-hatred on contact.

The guy that showed up at the same time to take over teacher Ferrari's slot is pretty awesome. We all just clicked, Gary (teacher), Jim, our Peace Corp volunteer Jon and I. Not so much with Mary.

That first morning I was gently prying as to what she'd brought with her just to make sure she had everything she needed. We were also trying to warn her about how to deal with things here, including the fact that her bathroom had no hot water, even offering to let her shower in our room because a month ago they'd installed a new hot water Suicide Showerhead and we had all the warm water you could need. She immediately told Jim and I that we were 'too negative' and she came here with zero expectations. She said she didn't bring a raincoat, umbrella or rain boots because she knew she wold not need them. That the water could not possibly be cold, the food bad, this or that.

We both shrugged and said, 'Well, suit yourself. We're going to the next town over later today and you're welcome to join us to check it out so you know where to get replacements or things you need.

Mary was snippy with us both, insisting she had everything she needed. The impression she gave was that she thought we were entitled ugly gringos. Which is pretty far from the truth. So many volunteers to this program lasted less than a week before going home. We'd been there quite some time. I only reached out to her because no one did to Jim or I and everything we learned was the hard way. Remember that letter I wrote and posted to her here last month? I didn't want her to flip out and get back on the plane. The best way to prevent that is to help her acclimate.

I'd say she's around late 60s, very opinionated and head strong. You do it her way or the highway. She's recently widowed and has 30 plus years experience teaching in the lower grades of elementary school. Which is really needed at the school, the teaching experience, not the attitude0.

Right after breakfast everyone converged on the school, and Mary and Gary went into training with the school head. I've never seen such a gratuitous display of ass-kissery and flattery going on since being involved with my old church. At one point they got the rich American that funds the school on Skype and she took her brown-nosing international.

Most of us there had to speak to the main donor/board president and most had offered a few suggestions on how things might be improved. There's a lot that needs to be improved at the school because it's very unorganized, chaotic and there is zero curriculum. Everything gets made up as they go along.

Turns out that the rich donor is close friends with Mary and asked her to go down to teach and figure out what needs improvement. She was running around bragging about it. She's decided to teach English to the kids by having them read aloud classic books, like 'The Diary of Anne Frank' and 'A Wrinkle In Time'. Good books, but I'm not sure that's the best way to teach the kids Jim has been working with – from 4th grade to young adults. He'd worked up a curriculum based around an English book we'd both studied in college 'Patterns of Exposition'. It's worked well and afforded Jim the opportunity to teach English grammar, critical thinking skills, spelling and vocabulary. His curriculum also allows him to break down what they are doing into chunks of time daily. Like ten minutes for reading, ten for looking at the new vocab words and grammar issues before moving on to discussing the story and the implications of the story. It's pretty interesting the way he keeps the kids moving through small chunks of learning, constantly shifting so that many subjects are covered over the ninety minutes, including writing, current events and impact. At the end he lets the kids do something fun, like DuoLingo on the computers.

When Mary started teaching after she sat in on a few of Jim's classes it's apparent that there are two big issues with her. 1- she's not flexible as she teaches. She expects preteens, elementary school kids and high schoolers to sit there learning by rote without varying the teaching. I saw a lot of kids just mentally checking out during her teaching. 2 – She is very strict and will not interact with the children outside of school. 3 – She's insisted that every student in her classes is going to learn crocheting whither they like it or not.

Yes, one of her three suitcases is filled with yarn that she raised charity funds to buy for a subject/need that no one in the school has ever expressed they wanted. Teaching it those that want to learn might be a good thing, outside of school hours, but not forcing it on these kids.

You'd think we would have bonded over the crochet. She looked at the project I was working (plarn being worked up into a storage basket for my sock yarn) and pronounced it a disaster. I tried not to take her words too seriously because, hey, it's just plastic yarn made from sliced up plastic bags, it's not fancy or important. It's utilitarian. I always crank out things I need with plarn. Right now I'm working on a shallow basket to put on the countertop to hold my fresh fruit - bananas and apples.

In some ways Mary reminds me of my sister in law that has been trying to isolate and control my mother in law while lining her pockets with money. I think it's the idea of her way is the only right way and the rest of us are shit. There are a million different ways to do things. I'm not a big believer of only one right way. I like experimentation too much.

It was interesting she tried to tattle on Jim the second day she was here to her rich American friend. One evening before the high school class started something happened to the village water system. We didn't have water and the landlord said she could not cook without water. Jim and Mary met the kids down at the school and most of them were complaining that they couldn't get a meal, just a few snacks because of the water outrage. For months some of them had been wanting to hold a class at the local pizza place two towns away and the school board said no. They wanted to do something special for Jim's last class with them.

Between that evening's flickering electricity and the lack of water in the town Jim decided to take the entire class to the restaurant at the edge of town, which was the only place to running water (well) and we'd all order and share a bunch of different appetizers and apple juice. We went and had a best time. The kids loved it. Much cutting up, joking and fun happened. Mary sat there as stiff as a ramrod and as silent as the grave in the midst of this and said maybe three whole sentences. Disapproval oozed from every pore. She told the kids not to expect this type of shenanigans in her class. Party pooper.

The next day she ran right to the director and the rich American to tattle on us. Which was funny because we called each parent to get permission to go to the restaurant and we picked up the entire costs.

Jim and I laughed over it because what were they going to do? Fire him? He's already extended his contract by six weeks. Plus he and the younger teacher Ferrari had been the only two teachers ever at the School that had exactly zero student or parent complaints against them.

I bit my tongue again and again and again over that week when things happened like Mary waking into the landlord's bakery just in time to see me sweating over kneading the King Cake dough and crusty French bread I was making for the host family. I was cooking that night, blood, sweat, tears and flour on every surface. Mary walked in, took one look at my dough splattered shirt and made a reference to Charlie Brown's friend Pig-Pen. I shot her a look and replied I was too busy cooking to make like a fashion plate, which is not me in the first place.

Even when Jim and Ferrari weren't good friends, in fact he thought she was pushy and shallow, everyone acted like adults and didn't verbally harass each other. Mary does. It made for a very long week.

By the third day there Mary regularly ending up every day during the daily deluge of monsoon like rain looking like a hen that had tumbled into the creek. Mary did ask how to get down to the nearest town to buy an umbrella. We went with her and Gary and we showed them around, where to buy what and the two most important places in town, the bank and the coffee cooperative coffee bar. She started complaining that there were no nail salons nearby because she never does her own nails. It's just not done! The teenage daughter of our host family and myself had to explain that's something you either have to do yourself there, or you take the bus to the mall in San Jose 90 minutes away.

Mary stayed scornful, sneery and cold until the day we left. Even through the wonderful goodbye party that the school threw for us to our get together with Jon at the restaurant and the copious amount of bourbon and rum shots even our landlord joined in on. She sat there not talking while we laughed and everyone joked and did shots until the very late hour of 9 pm. Late in agricultural areas that is.

I fear for the kids and did tell Jon and the school director that they might need to switch she and Gary because she's terrible with the ages they assigned her but she seems to be great with the 7 year old and younger classes.

I hope against hope that I'm wrong about this. But I think this Southern lady archetype might be problems for the school.

Onward to the future. I guess.

We took a series of buses from the school to the beach resort town Tamarindo, clutching 9 – count 'em 9 suitcases and assorted bags filled with things like local coffee and a plant I'd been given for my new home. We are staying at the cabinas (cabins) of the large estate owned by the German couple. Jim and I had come to an agreement that we were going to spend the week there, and continue to look for houses, but we'd already decided that if we got near Friday and nothing better turned up we'd be renting the smaller of the two homes on the property. There are six buildings here and a swimming pool. A two thousand square foot six sided house with all modern kitchen and unheard of luxuries lik a dryer and a dishwasher.

So this week has been all house hunting. We looked at an apartment within walking distance of the beach. Two bedrooms, very large model kitchen. Modern and clean, attractive. Jim is turned off on the idea of an apartment and there were a few drawbacks. First, the manager gave both of us the creeps. Second, the complex seemed noisy and filled with unsavory types. Third, there are zero parking spaces, meaning you have to park on the street. Fourth, no laundry facilities, only a drop off laundry service next door that would charge a good 30 or 40 dollars a week. There are no, not one, self service laundromats here. Expensive gringo-oriented drop off laundries only. So it's a no. It's on a rutted dirt road does not make it any more attractive.

We looked at a few smaller Tico houses but each had things wrong with it. Usually two or three rooms with a kitchen either outside or along one wall of the house, a big cement double sink outside as your washing machine. Cheap enough, between two and three hundred dollars a month. Again, this is a resort area and there's a huge selection of either very small local houses for little and many fancy houses in the two to five thousand a month range. Not a lot in our price range, right between those two extremes.

Yesterday we looked at three places, any one would be acceptable. The first was a tiny loft cottage, rent half of most everything we've looked at but definitely in the price point we wanted. Small place but well-designed with a bedroom in a loft overlooking the open living room. I like it a lot but it's pretty bare-bones furnished. I'd have to buy a desk, two night stands and a few other things, including one of those tiny washers Ticos use for their clothes. It is doable, but like I said we would have to add a few things to make it work for us. Adorable cottage. It is a maybe.

The same owner has an apartment building that is so close to being finished that if we sign the lease we can move in on Monday morning. Gorgeous, like something out of a dream. Modern design, accent walls painted beautiful shades of blues, turquoise, gray and white. New everything with top of the line washer and dryer plus kitchen. It has a swimming pool and they built exactly four units. It's at the very top of our price point, unlike the cottage which is the real amount we wanted. It's a definite maybe.

As we've been staying here we've looked a couple of times at the German house, and it's still number one pick. The problem is that two days ago, after the house being empty six months, another American couple is looking at it, and yeah, we're in competition with them for this place.

Here's the real rub, we've already gotten a local real estate lawyer to draw up an intent to buy letter, spelling out what needs to happen and giving us a length of time to line up the funds, either from our broker account, or from the big retirement fund we've not touched. The letter gives us time to decide if we like the property enough to buy it while we're renting the house. Having another couple looking at it makes this nerve wracking. I have cried a couple of times in the last few days because I'm worried about being homeless come Monday. We were so so close and now might not get the house. We want to run it as a vacation rental. The entire property is lovely. We would have upgraded all the buildings and rented them out. The people that own this place don't even list it online anywhere, so the cabins are rarely rented. I could have turned all of that around.

I'm mad at Jim over this because we'd decided this is what we wanted to do before leaving the school, yet he, as usual, took his time. It might have cost us this place. I'm going to devastated if it has because I urged him to negotiate as soon as we got here while looking at fall back places.

I absolutely hate living out of a suitcase.

And just as I'm verklempting about this I find out that the German owners have accepted our letter and we move into this big house on Sunday morn. Almost enough to make me go back to church.

We're without internet right at the moment because of the rainy season so I didn't get a chance to update NLQ. Last night we had our nightly thunderstorm and while I was laying in bed read I heard a sonic boom sound of thunder. So deep and resonant I knew it had hit nearby. Hair on my arms standing straight up, every appliance that runs on electricity in the apartment sounded off at once and the electricity blinked. Twice before I've come so close to it so I knew this was close. It hit our new landlord's house, sending a fireball down the drainpipe, but thankfully it was raining so hard that it didn't spark a fire. That house is entirely made of wood.

So today no internet. The lightening strike did fry the modem and router and do some electrical damage to the main house.

I spent my day off-line doing huge piles of laundry in the house we're renting starting Sunday. I schlepped back and forth from the cabina and the house laundry room, that's when I wasn't sulking in the swimming pool surrounded by an iguana, parrots, flocks of chickens and butterflies. See why I was eager to stay? That and the beach daily baby! We are seven minutes from seven beaches.

Jim spent the afternoon at an internet cafe and I didn't want to be anywhere near him because he's dealing with family dysfunction, ranting and angry outbursts while firing off emails. Financial chicanery over my maw in law's money yet again involving the new sister in law. She really is a piece of work. The new broker she picked out after we started moving maw in law's money to another broker is insisting that we fly immediately to Texas for a meeting with him. Like that's possible right now. Jim had to construct a long email to the new broker explaining his position. I'm still staying out of this deal, it's not my decision what needs to happen with the maw in law's money, the same money that the sis in law called 'chicken feed' back in March. I don't know about you but I do not consider a low seven figures balance 'chicken feed' or 'small potatoes' no matter how many times sis in law insists that it is.

In our recent discussions on housing one of the things we wanted badly was a two or three bedroom house so we can host family and friends comfortably. I made it plain to Jim that everyone in both families is welcome here, everyone but the sis in law. She can stay at a hotel.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

So, Does This Stuff Really Come In Threes?

We had a long frustrating ride from Tamarindo to San Jose to catch our bus back to Copey.

A word of caution using the GPS in Costa Rica. It does not always work right, sometimes has outdated data or cannot pick up the right place you want to go. We had a time with it on Thursday night when the people at Adobe car rental programmed in we wanted to go to the Tamarindo Condos in Escazu. We were seriously delayed getting on the road towards Guanacaste.

On the way back it kept malfunction whenever we asked for the closest gas station, twice trying to send us down a dirt road or a residential area a couple of miles away from the local gas station. It refused to take the programming to get us back to the car rental place so we ended up pulled off the highway in Escazu (yet again) with me crying and mashing buttons like a monkey on speed while Jim rotated between yelling and yelling into the phone at the rental car place.

This is all after I hit one of those car-swallowing pothole on a major highway and popped a tire first, meaning we had to change a flat in massive high speed traffic. I was sure we were about to be hit by another driver as the shoulder we were perched on was tiny.

After limping into the car rental place and a quick taxi to the bus station we got there just as our bus was departing. We ran up and the station held the bus at the gate so we could board. Whew, because we would have had a 2 and a half hour wait for the next one.

A pirata (pirate) taxi ride from Santa Maria and here we were. Our landlord was out and the house locked up, meaning we weren't going to get dinner, so we made plans to walk back down to the only restaurant in town, but by the time we'd unpacked our luggage and put away the suitcases the restaurant was locked up. Thankfully our landlady arrived and warmed up soup. Did I mention it was raining icy rain yet again? Quite the contrast from that morning swimming in Tamarindo.

Today hasn't been much better. Jim taught his classes while I tried to finish dealing with the paperwork to get our belongings here and appointments for this coming week in Tamarindo with a few realtors to see what else is available for rental. Jim is starting to come around to my way of thinking about the German house. Likely we'll end up renting it, but as Jim says, it's best to have a couple of options.

Before I could finish up printing out six months of the bank statements we needed for the Costa Rican bank to transfer money between our U.S bank and this we got another downpour. Regardless we still took the bus into San Marcos to the bank to finalize the ability to do a wire transfer. We thought we were going to be limited to transferring in $1.500 a month we were authorized to transfer up to five thousand a month which is way more than we'll ever need. That was a success and I'm set up now to transfer in the money to pay for our rental house. But, as everything 'official' here it took way too long. We tried to run for the bus back to the school but missed it by five minutes.

Jim had a class to teach at 3:30 pm and here we were stuck several towns away at 2:20. So we went around the Catholic cathedral and snagged another pirata taxi, a young extremely tattooed lady in an older car that seemed not in the bet shape. Still raining cats, dogs and ignuanas we took off for the extreme ups and downs in the mountains to the school. We got way up the mountain passes when the pirata taxi could no longer go up and down the twists, turns and grades. Stuck on one of the curviest road with no place to go, and the car sliding backwards. There were sheer sheets of water rolling down the mountain pass and the taxi was smoking and misfiring. Our driver backed down the mountain pass in reverse for a long way until she came to a turn around spot. Again I thought we might die.

When we got down to the town before our town we decided we should just give up and go get coffee and pastries at the coffee co-op shop and wait for the bus. Just as we were about to text the school that we were stuck in Santa Maria until the bus came Jim was contacted by the school director who said classes were cancelled because of the extreme rain. Coffee and pastries it was before a  little grocery shopping and the bus.

We got back to a house with no power or internet. Sometimes that happens when the weather is severe. More soup for dinner and Jim had to go teach his adult classes, because they weren't cancelled, just the middle school and high school classes.

Darn, the lights are flickering here now while I'm writing..

But he came back home in a panic. Someone was supposed to pick up two new teachers for the school from the San Jose airport and he'd gotten a frantic call around 8 pm from one of the teachers saying she got off the plane and there was no one waiting. While we scrambled around trying to find her a ride for the ninety minutes from San Jose to Copey her ride finally showed up. She showed up here around 10 pm and has settled in. Created quite the kerfluffle here because the landlord is usually in bed by 8 pm.

To quote Scarlett O'hara, Tomorrow is another day.

I did pick up and buy the funniest thing this afternoon in Santa Maria. A bag of cotton balls with a name that makes it a contender for the site I'm still not sure what  'Fuxing' is and how you care for it.