Friday, August 18, 2017

Rashomon

I'm not sure if you've seen the Akira Kurosawa film 'Rashomon', but it fits my memories, recent events in my personal life and the ugliness going on with the White Supremacy riot in Charlottesvill.

Here's how Wikipedia describes the film, "The film is known for a plot device that involves various characters providing subjective, alternative, self-serving and contradictory versions of the same incident."

I've had a great deal of time today to ponder why it is that two or more different people can look at the same thing and come up with vastly different explanations. I made the discovery yesterday that not only am I allergic to hearts of palm and some types of palm oil, I'm also very allergic to palm being burned, the fumes that is. Our landlord decided to make a vast quantity of tamales and her tamale recipe calls for using seared palm leaves. She spent much of yesterday evening waving green palm leaves over the outdoor tile oven in the back of the house very close to the door of our apartment. The fumes were everywhere, but I didn't react very badly until I got up this morning. Sick and straining for every breath. My lungs are fucked right now, so I lay in the bed most of the day madly medicating, which got me started thinking about different interpretations of the same event.

Back well before I met and dated my husband Jim I dated a guy named Tony. Tony was a well to do chemical engineer at one of the big chemical plants in Louisiana. I wasn't interested in Tony when I first met him, but he pursued me relentlessly. We got engaged, but never married, breaking up a time or two before getting back together again. The last time we were together pretty much decisively ended the relationship. Tony had some quirks.

The last day we went to a friend's house to watch LSU football on the big screen. I'd asked my father to sit my young daughter because the party was no place for her. I knew there would be copious drinking. He said he could do it but I would have to pick up my daughter by 6 pm because he had plans. Fine.

As time went on at the party Tony got drunker and drunker. I was not exactly drunk, but I was feeling no pain. Tony started getting meaner and more belligerent as the afternoon wore on. LSU wasn't playing well and Tony started to gripe mightily about having to leave the party before it was over to pick up my daughter.

Eventually we did go out to the car, driving over to my father's home nearby. When we pulled into the driveway Tony jumped out of the car, kicked in the fence gate and the screen on the back door. Once he was inside he started screaming at my father in a drunken fury. My father didn't try to reason with him, he punched Tony. Dad had apparently been drinking too. The two men scuffled, with my dad wrenching off Tony's glasses and breaking them. Then Dad whipped out his gun and tried to shoot at Tony, who ran for his life back to his car, peeling out of the driveway leaving a trail of smoking rubber, abandoning my daughter and I.

Eventually the police showed up, took statements from everyone. No one was arrested, but they wrote a report so my father could sue Tony for damages to his gate and door. They kindly gave me a ride back to my apartment with my daughter after my father refused. I got a gentle lecture from the police, and I decided this was it. No more Tony. I never heard from Tony again.

My father didn't speak to me for six months over this.

But my father sued Tony and Tony counter sued for the destruction of his glasses and both men subpoenaed me. We went to court, Tony got up and told his side of the story, claiming that he walked calmly into the house and my father attacked him.

Dear old Dad told the judge that he'd been sitting on the sofa minding his own business when Tony kicked in the screen door while screaming (true) and proceeded to beat the shit out of my father. My father also claimed he never fired the gun, he just pulled it out to scare off Tony and he never touched Tony's glasses.

When I was called to the stand I told the judge a third story, that both men were drunk, yes Tony did kick in the door and gate before running in yelling at Dad. That Tony hadn't gotten more than two sentences out before Dad punched him, grabbed his glasses and stomped them into shards. That there was a physical fight between the two until the gun was pulled out and fired.

After the responding officer read his report and testified, with much of his report matching what I said the judge went off on both men. He awarded Tony two hundred dollars for his glasses and my father two hundred dollars to replace the kicked in screen on the door and fix the wooden gate. The judge also warned both that if they appeared ever any in his courtroom he would assumed they were guilty as charged and sentence them both to the maximum.

Four narratives, three different stories. What I took away from that shameful incident was that people love to tell their version of the truth that puts them in the best possible light, rather than what is legitimately true.

I have noticed this week that the white supremacists and Nazis from the Charlottesville rally are now doing the exact same thing, contradicting the reporting of CNN and other media outlets and the first person stories coming out of the protesters on the other side. They are now crying victim. I'm sorry, I'm not buying it. Like my father they threw the first punch, and like he and Tony they're going to have to take the consequences of what they've done.

This is one of the things I hate about Christian conservatives, they always spin a tale when things happen that holds only the slightest semblance of truth. We have to hold them to the truth and only say what is true.

During the last few weeks I've been watching lots of drama going down on Patheos blogs between two members of the Secular section. I cannot tell for sure which story is true between the two combatants, but I do know the one that came up with the Truth Pledge seems to be not exactly telling the truth, but a version of it that puts him in the innocent victim light.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

To the Next Volunteer at the CLC

In three short weeks we're going to be leaving this place for the warmer and sunny climes of the Tamarindo area of Costa Rica. The school has already recruited a replacement for Jim, who will have stayed more than a month more than he originally contracted for.

I wish I could contact this person and let them know all the things I had to learn the hard way in the last almost two months here. The school admin is not very good about helping people acclimate to the area, which is a shame. When we lived in Germany I worked for the USO doing just that, helping the wives settle in quickly, and providing information on everything from bus routes and costs to shopping, dealing with the utility company and navigating in a very different society.

The lady replacing my husband is older, recently widowed and leaving the U.S. to teach here just to do something different while dealing with her grief. I'm worried for this unknown woman.

This place is incredibly beautiful, at least in the morning before it rains. She needs to know what I didn't. Pack a raincoat, boots and a sturdy umbrella. You'll use them daily. I stupidly only packed a small folding umbrella after reading through the literature sent to us upon signing up.

I'd tell her that the most useful item I brought with me seems to be a  two dollar and fifty cent fleece blanket/throw I bought at Wal Mart. It works to wrap yourself up in under the copious bed covers you'll be cowering under when the rain makes the temps drop into the low 50s. It can be used as a dirty clothes bag by tying it like a hobos bindle. You can spread it on the beach to lay on instead of a beach towel. It's small and thin enough to fold and use as a makeshift scarf when you travel by bus and the driver is super enthusiastic about the bus air conditioning. On the colder nights I've used it as a quick wrap over my clothes.

Speaking of clothes... bring more than you ever dreamed you might need. I failed at that too, bringing 2 pairs of shorts I have yet to don, 2 pairs of jeans, a pair of capris, a pair of capri leggings, 2 long sleeved shirts, 4 sleeveless or tee shirts, 1 sweater and 4 dresses. Much of this stuff I cannot wear here, it's more suitable for the heat of Tamarindo, not the cool weather that dominates this area. I was advised to bring a sweater for chilly evenings, never dreaming that it would rain every afternoon and tank the temps for the afternoon and evening. Bring warm clothing, or at least more sweaters than I did.

Clothing brings up another point. All of the guesthouses here that host the teachers, while they do wash your clothing, use cold water and no pre-treating of spot. It's not unusual to have your clothing come out of the washer with undissolved detergent and still with the same dirty spots on them. I learned early on in late June that to keep my clothing very clean without spots you really need to buy upon arrival a small box of laundry soap, or a bar of laundry soap, a small scrub brush, a bottle of vinegar and a hanging drying rack to hang off the shower curtain bar. I have learned after ruining two shirts and an expensive new dress that you must spot treat any dirt on your clothing and hang it in the shower to dry before putting it into the laundry basket. There is no Spray n Wash here. You have to fight the spots old school style.

The other problem with the laundry is that pesky rain. If the landlady washes your things and places them under the covered part of the carport to dry they will dry in two days. If she puts it in the morning sun, and toddles off to do something else. Forgetting that hanging laundry it might be a week before she remembers and moves it to a shady spot out of the rain. 

The food. I have spent so much time talking here about the starchy carb-laden food that it's ridiculous and petty. I finally just shut up and went back on Metformin until I leave. It didn't dawn on me that this is a farming community and the 3 to 4 servings of carbs at every meal is how farming families sometimes eat until the last week. Just be prepared for rice and beans as a side at every meal and don't be surprised if you get a meal that is rice and beans, mashed potatoes, potato chips and some sort of pasta and tortillas. You cannot fight it, you cannot make them understand. What I do is keep tuna, cheese, fruits, veggies and whole wheat crackers in my room for those days when the meal is 'Carbs! Carbs! Carbs!'

They're not going to tell you but the bus goes into a bigger nearby city every 5:30 am, 12:30 pm and 5:30 pm. It only costs less than a buck and that you can go to one of the grocery stores to stock up on things in eat in your room. There are also many excellent fruit and vegetable stands, and a few discount stores to pick up things like cutting boards, knifes, etc. if you need to fix your own meals.

The good part of that is this is where some of the best coffee in the world is grown. The coffee shop connected to the local coffee farmers co-op has some of the most delicious coffee (some with delicious adult beverages poured into the coffee. They have pastries to die for at the same place. Try their que-que (pronounced kay-kay - it means 'cake') and the rollos. Just a short walk from the shopping district in the next town over.

The bus is very inexpensive and you can take it just about anywhere you can imagine. We even took a bus into Nicaragua! The bus station is right behind the coffee shop. But a word of caution - a ticket to big cities, like San Jose, or to the tourist areas like the volcano parks, you need to buy your ticket at least a day in advance, or you might find yourself standing the entire way. I stood all the way to San Jose once, several hours and it was no picnic.

The confusing thing about taking the bus is that there are a thousand different bus companies so if you take a bus into San Jose and need to get on another bus headed to Arenal or Quepas, you might have to take a taxi ride to another station. No one tells you that ahead of time. A word of caution about the taxis. Everyone tells you to take the official red taxis, but in the bigger cities I've had the experience of the driver driving around and around and around until I've asked him what the heck he's doing and ended up with a fifty buck taxi fee. Always insist that they turn on the meter when you get in 'Taxi metro'. I no longer use the official taxis unless forced to.  I have learned to look for the 'Piratas' - pirate taxis. They are usually a block or two from the bus station. You haggle with them, agreeing on the price before getting in. I now pay the Tico price from the shopping town to here of 3 thousand colonies - or just under 6 American dollars.

Cellphone service really sucks in this town. The only place besides the school where you can get decent cell tower coverage is down by the village soccer field. The internet is spotty everywhere you do and the speed is not fast. But it is fast enough for Netflix and Hulu, so you do have some entertainment options, which is good, because the nearest movie theater is over an hour away in Cartago.

I do recommend the mall at Cartago for clothing. I found the prices and quality to be very close to what we get in the US. Everywhere you go you see 'Ropa Americana', but I've found that most of those places sell very worn looking second hand clothing mixed with a few newer things.

This is already getting to long so here's a few other quick tips.

The people here are friendly and nice. People actually greet each other on the street. Most folks say 'Buenas' instead of 'Hola' because hola is used when you expect a conversation instead of a quick greeting.

Always, always, always try to speak at least a little Spanish when you can and say 'please' 'thank you' and 'I'm sorry'. People here are much more polite.

Bugs, big bugs are a reality here. Ignore them as much as possible and try not to stress over them.

The showerhead with the crazy electrical wires poking out will give you hot water if you adjust it just so.

You cannot flush toilet paper anywhere.

Washclothes are not a known thing here. Pack as many as you need. Also, you can make your bath and bedroom much more comfortable by the purchase of a few luxuries, like hand towels and bath mat, a rug by the bed, whatever it is you cannot live without.

Some of the guesthouses here do not use top sheets and only change the bedding every few weeks. I deal with this by using what I call the 'Norwegian Bachelor Scheme' - turning the sheet every week until the landlady gives me a new clean bottom sheet and blankets.

There are three things in every house, big or small, rich or poor, you can count on. 1 - there will be a satellite dish on the roof. 2 - Most of the yards will have beautiful flowers growing everything and 3 - there will be a display or alter to Jesus, Mary and God in the home.

But here's the biggest benefit of living here besides the adventure of figuring out how to deal with the culture shock and work arounds - there is virtually NO continual fear mongering news or constant drum beat of the awful shenanigan of our president. It's calm, it's relaxed and a much slower pace of life, at least when the church isn't burning down or you are not dealing with government red tape.

That's it! The kids at the school are wonderful and the community here really wants you here teaching their children English. There are so many fun things to do. Never turn down an opportunity to judge a spelling bee, or to share a holiday with a local family.

I wish you success and happiness here.

Sunday, August 06, 2017

A Long and Strange Night

Tonight the Catholic church in Copey, Costa Rica burned to the ground. Jim and I were sleeping when we started hearing panicked voices, screeching tires and shouts. For once I am very thankful that the walls here are paper thin.

I got up to see what was going on, thinking it might be a drunken fight spilling over from the local bar, the Kamakiri. We've been warned to stay away from the town's sole bar because of the occasional drunken fisticuffs. But the church was on fire, the church right across the street from our host family.

This is what I saw when I got up.

 We grabbed our passports and wallets, plus I grabbed my great grandmother's jewelry and asthma meds and we ran!

It's over now. Took 30 minutes for the fire department to get here and there wasn't much they could do besides wet down the roofs of nearby buildings, like the high school and our house.


Monday, July 31, 2017

Small Town Blues Part 2

Kind of a very sucky day today. Jim and I had a yelling knock down drag out disagreement in the streets of Copey.

Why? I think it was a couple of factors. First, by this evening it's pretty obvious that we're both trying to fight off a cold or virus. We both have hair triggers when we're not feeling well. Secondly, I heard from the company shipping our car that the pickup date and delivery date has been pushed back yet again.

Jim is demanding I cancel the delivery, get a refund and use someone else. I'm pretty much refusing, but I am getting a third round of quotes just to shut him up. The company I'm using is one of the biggest and they ship all over the world, good rep and the most reasonable. There went the entire morning.

Why the delay? I didn't have one of the documents they needed and had to order it from DVM, a title stating the fact that the car was fully paid for. When I finally got the right document and scheduled the pickup there was some miscommunication between the family member they are picking it up from and the representative. The misunderstanding delayed things a few weeks more.

I hate that this happened right in the middle of town because this is a small town. Small enough that everyone minds everyone else business, to the point that everyone knows what you buy at the one store in town, who goes to the town's sole bar and everything else you do.

More than anyone else I want that car here asap because the sooner the car gets here the sooner I can leave this town for somewhere warmer and less remote. I don't like that to get something as simple as Panadol for 'le grippe' -  Tylenol for colds, I literally have to take a bus 20 minutes.

Feeling my First World Problems attitude.



It rained miserably and hard most of yesterday and I tend to get moody and unhappy when that happens, trapped in the tiny room. Everything in the room is still damp. I think tomorrow I'm going to escape back to San Marcos to shop.

On the upside I did manage to trim my hair and did a decent job. There is that and I saved the usual fifty bucks I pay at the salon. I was worried about that because having decent looking hair has always been something I feel strongly about.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Small Town Blues





I have learned a lesson that translates from the Deep South of American to Costa Rica is that in small towns everyone knows your business, making it their business too.

It's no secret to anyone that reads here that I have struggled with the host family we were placed with. The mother does not understand 'Hand wash only' so I bought detergent and a drying rack. She serves piles of carbs, which for me and my borderline sugar levels is not a good thing. I've spoken to her repeatedly and it has done no good. If the food is not 85% carbs, it's processed or over-salted.  The food situation has been dire, to the point where I now keep fresh fruits and veggies in my room along with canned tuna, crackers I can eat, cheese and protein bars.

I can't have all those carbs. I cannot have very salty foods because it causes breast pain where I've had surgery in the past. I cannot have lots of processed things because many times the preservatives throw me right into an asthma attack. Like this morning. The host mother served the most delicious and super bad for you sweet rolls she made in her bakery. I should not have eaten one sliver of it because carbs and super sugary, but I did. I reacted and the only thing I can figure out that I reacted to was the prepared canned coconut filling she stuffed the rolls with. Wheezing and coughing coming right up.

The tiny room in the garage, the crappy health-impacting food and the lack of all privacy and warm water has started to get to me. So... when one of the young ladies also teaching here suggested we take a look at the rooms at the guesthouse she's staying at for the exact same price (picked up by the school) we went along. Walking on a late Friday afternoon up the hill and into the mountains for this guest house.

It was beautiful and the rooms much larger. The bath had continuous hot water, the grounds of the building was a lovely garden. Very nice. We looked at the rooms but did not commit, telling the owner we wanted to think about it for a few days. That's all we did. We did buy a few things from her small grocery store on site and walked down the hill in the rare afternoon sunshine. Nothing more.

We decided against it for a couple of reasons. It was a very steep climb up to the place and the owner didn't seem that eager to rent to us. Plus we didn't want to create ill will with the original host family, who have been good to us. It's just they really are living like people did a long time ago in America. It's not comfortable staying there. But even with the several extensions to Jim's contract we'll be out of here in late August. Our leaving date now is pushed back to August 24th to accommodate the lack of teachers at the learning center.

You can tolerate just about any type of situation for mere weeks, even bad food and no privacy. Less said, soonest mended. Right?

The day after we looked at the rooms I ran into a board member for the school who asked me why I was looking at different places to stay. I lied. I told her we'd just gone up there to see the other teacher's rooms and the guesthouse. Not totally a lie, we did want to see the place.

I noticed early in the week that our host family was acting odd and it's since come out to pretty much the entire town that we were looking to skedaddle to another place. Turned into a big big deal and we had to sit down and talk about the problems with the food, lack of privacy, et al. It's still not completely resolved clearly because the host did serve that delicious but toxic sweet rolls for breakfast and the lunch I got the day before was salad and a fried ham slice, clearly improvements over what she had been serving, but both were so salty I literally could not eat them.

We've started eating our evening meals at the one restaurant in town from Thursday through Sunday night because I can get a kale salad and a grilled chicken breast for very little and I've gone back to eating very little of the host mother's cooking when the restaurant is not open, preferring to eat what vegetables she serves and tuna and fruit in the room.

Damn, I've ranted so much about healthy foods I sound almost like deluded and eating disordered angry female cultural enforcer Lori Alexander now. The difference is that I have to eat a certain way to stay healthy, not because I'm blaming it on God.

But the food is the biggest issue for me. I've been having stomach troubles on top of this too. I think it's more to do with the issues of how the host mother stores her food and her hygiene. She made tamales the other day, a huge barrel full of them on the wood stove out back of our room. Our room filled with smoke, so we pretty much ditched for the day. I love tamales. I am all about tamales since I was little and my father and I used to go to a local tamale shop in New Orleans. I was excited she made all those tamales. But what I wasn't excited about was after the tamales were cooked she stored them in plastic crates unrefrigerated in her dining room. For days!

On the non-complaining front I've now taken the bus to San Marcos now and gotten enough yarn to start a much needed sweater for this area. It's beautiful hairpin lace and crochet I'm working with.

I can survive this, even if it means sneaking food in the room and taking the bus into town to get meals and supplies. This is just for a short season.


Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Just Roll With it, Baby

I was about to whine and cry about everything that has gone haywire, but I'm learning that I must be much more flexible. I was when I was a young Army wife, packing up and moving, sometimes internationally, on a regular basis.

What happened is that I got a panicked email from the company shipping our household goods wanting to know why we could not be reached at any of our phone numbers. Our things were in San Jose and we needed to pick an import specialist to deal with the inspection, import duties, etc, etc.

I've run into a number of difficulties. It's very hard to reach me because we're living in a town literally surrounded by mountains on all sides and there is exactly one spot in the village I can get more than one cell phone tower.

But, we're dealing with it. Picked someone to help out and they are doing their thing right now. I'm miffed that it looks like the government of Costa Rica is seizing three of my boxes because they contain otc drugs and pharmacy things and personal care items like shampoo. Apparently you cannot bring that. It was not listed anywhere on the forbidden list.

The other difficulty is that they want to seize the box containing all the masks, filters and supplies for my VPAP machine and my personal air filter, but I think they're going to accept my letter of medical necessity and allow me to have them. It's just now I have to register both machines with the Ministry of Health here, and pay more fees.

The car is finally going to be loaded onto the boat and shipped here. I finally have the right paperwork. There was some drama with my mama about it. The car is at her house, but I enlisted my aunt to help out. Fingers crossed this happens. The shipping contact had called my mother and she speaks no Spanish and his English is sparse. We communicate primarily in Spanglish.

Both of these things took piles of crying, screeching, hair-pulling phone calls and emails to accomplish.

Yesterday I finally developed some chill and started going back to my old it is what it is self, that long-ago Army wife that kicked ass and took numbers without stressing out. Yesterday morning we were both supposed to get on a bus for San Jose for a little trip to the American Embassy. Jim is trying to get the final power of attorney paperwork set up so that he can handle his mother's investments instead of the evil sister in law.

We took a taxi to the bus station in Santa Maria, arriving in plenty of time for our ride. It was only when we started to board the bus that things when into goat rodeo territory again. We discovered that the tickets for the express bus that Jim bought days before were for the 5 am bus, not the 7:45 am bus. We were told we could stand for the two hour ride.

Normally I would have panicked. Jim had to be there! It was important as you have to schedule these appointments with the Embassy four to six weeks in advance. But I just told Jim to go ahead, go ahead without me because they did have an extra seat for one person, and I'd find my way back to Copey and just go on with my day.

This is exactly what we ended up doing. I left Jim on the bus and went shopping, getting a few more towels, getting hand sewing needles, fruit and snacks for the room for the week. I walked all over Santa Maria, stopping to get coffee at the coffee cooperative cafe and going into many shops, talking to folks and shopping for the first time at the fruit and vegetable market.

Then I took a taxi back to Copey, paying the Tico price after scaring up enough Spanish to tell the taxi driver he better switch on the meter. The rest of the day involved taking long walks, reading and a little crochet while watching Netflix on my computer.

Jim returned at dinner time with a long tale of his own crazy just roll with it day spent getting this power of attorney done. We laughed over the crazy. I guess living here we're going to always have to be open, flexible and not married to one idea to the exclusion of everything else.

I do wish my Spanish was better and I'm starting to carry my conversational Spanish guide everywhere with me, which was how I knew what to say to get onto the taxi driver to turn on the meter and avoid paying Gringo price.

One of the big reasons I wish my Spanish was better is that I'm dying to know the back story of one lady I see every time I go to Santa Maria. An elderly lady with a beard. I think she's homeless because I always see her on the streets, literally living on the streets. But I've noticed she is always crocheting the most beautiful lace and other items, surrounded by plastic bags of her crochet supplies. I long to know her story, to ask her about her mad crochet skills. The lace is so beautiful.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Part 1 Feeling Like David Copperfield

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. And so it holds true for me.

When I last blogged Jim and I were at a resort in Arenal and on our way towards the beaches of Tamarindo, Playa Grande, Playa Hermosa, Manuel Antonio, and Matapalo. Quick rundown before I head into the goat rodeo of this last week since I've returned.

Warning: If you ever consider moving to Costa Rica be forewarned that every single thing you do to achieve that goal will take three times longer and three times more money that you are told. I have almost completely demolished my money market account in this dream of Jim's just getting everything done, from the house remodel to shipping our belongings and now just trying to get everything past customs. It's an expensive travail to get here. That's not even counting the thousands we're going to have to lay out to pay for residency. NO ONE tells you this. I researched all of this thoroughly, read books about moving here, talking to piles of Americans living here. Truthfully, it is a crap shoot sometimes depending upon the mood of whatever government official tells you.

Arenal: In Arenal we asked around about houses to our local friends there we've visited a couple of times, but there wasn't much open at the moment. Which turned out to be a good thing because although today was supposed to be Jim's last day teaching we got a call in Arenal begging him to stay another three weeks because his replacement teacher from the States flaked out and decided not to come. And now that we've returned from the trip the school is now begging him to stay at least until September. This puts us in an awkward situation because I'm not liking where we are at all. More on that later.

I did have a good and relaxing time in Arenal. We spoke to our pipe connection there and he's making us a special sample assortment to use on our website and in a sample case. This is for Jim's import business he's going to launch doing artisan made craft importing into the States. Beautiful things made here!

That left me time for birdwatching at the resort and I got to see toucans again, plus hummingbirds and a plethora of beautiful birds and flowers. The resort is really one of the most refreshing, soul-restoring places on the planet, no television, no cell phone reception and limited internet in a beautiful rainforest. A few photos.



When we left Arenal and drove to Tamarindo we stopped for lunch at a German bakery on Lake Arenal and had the best authentic German meal. It also gave us both the perfect opportunity to brush up on our lapsed German, which turned out to be a good thing..

Sadly I saw no monkeys at the 'Do Not Feed the Monkeys' place on the road. Here's the sign.

Tamarindo: On the way to Tamarindo Jim started to become fixated/obsessive with the idea that  we were going to live in Guanacaste near either Liberia or Tamarindo and spent a lot of our time where going first to universities and later to private schools to ask about a faculty position teaching English. I don't think it's a bad or unreasonable idea at all, but my patience was stretched pretty thin as he spent all three of our days there traipsing from school to school to apply. We were supposed to be looking for a house and spending some of our time on one of the most beautiful beaches in the world. The most we were at the beach was during breakfast and right afterward. Here's the view from our breakfast table every morning.

Here's the claim to fame for the restaurant at our hotel. Do they even realize how big that could be?
We did get to reconnect with friends we'd made on our last trip to Tamarindo and heard about an awesome house for rent about five minutes by car from Tamarindo beach proper. We went to take a look. Turns out it was owned by an elderly German couple and we spend a full afternoon with them speaking a mixture of German, English and Spanish.

I love the house! It's been vacant for five months now and smells musty. Needs a serious scrub down but those are things that can be easily overcome. It's octagon shaped and set in the most beautiful garden with stones and Costa Rican statuary. The inside was very nice, nicer than the usual Tico house and it had that rarity of rarities here - A DRYER!! An electric dryer. It has granite countertops, brand new stainless steel appliances, beautifully done granite bathrooms and most importantly of all, AIR CONDITIONING IN EVERY ROOM!!! and comes with a swimming pool. Can you tell I'm excited? It's $750 a month including utilities. A bargain.

The drawbacks. There is a loud Evangelical church right next door that was doing that rollicking Jesus rock when we were there. But that's nothing that cannot be overcome by having a shaker of martinis in the pool if it gets too annoying.

But... with Jim's extension here we have to put it off as a rental. They know we're interested and when we'll be free. But Jim wants to look at other places too.

Playa Grande:

We also went house hunting near the national ocean park there and there were plenty of rentals but all Gringo prices. The ocean was so wild and beautiful there. I got some photos of a bird I've never seen before - the magpie jay.

You cannot see it but this pretty blue bird has a quail-like curl of feathers on his head.

Playa Hermosa:
We left Tamarindo to house hunt in parts south along the coast. We stopped in Hermosa at the restaurant right along the beach to have a late lunch and started talking at the restaurant to the people we'd met there in January, asking about house rentals in the area. Turns out one of the houses right near the restaurant would be coming open in August. We toured it. Torn to shreds because the person living there now has ten dogs in it. Needs major fixing up. The owner swore he'd repaint it and fix all the problems and give us the bargain basement price of $1,700 a month plus utilities. I was so turned off by the dirty that we're not even considering this place.

I did get to see a huge flock of Scarlet Macaws, another of green parrots and some sort of pelicans during lunch. I would love to live near Hermosa, but that price is crazy. Pictures of the beach.

Manuel Antonio
Once we got to Manuel Antonio we had a huge fright. We weren't staying at any of the other hotels in that area we have before and didn't know where our hotel was. The GPS would not pick it up and the map only gave us a vague idea where it was. Raining down buckets, pitch black darkness on windy unlit roads. We came to this steep driveway marked with the name of our hotel and tried to get our tiny wheezing rental car up it. It took several tries before we got up the hill. Once we were there the hotel was dark, looked uninhabited like something out of a bad horror movie where people wandering into the place stand the risk of being added to the stew in the hotel kitchen. No one around, pitch black. Eventually a surfer climbed the hill clutching his surf board and pointed to the twisted tiled unlit path down to the registration office.

Now I'd already made a few corny jokes out of 'Rocky Horror Picture Show' during the drive and Jim tells me that this is one of those Brad and Janet situations walking up to the door of the mansion looking for help. During the long dim jungle walk I could not help but start singing 'There's a Ligt' from RHPS.

Yeah, like that exactly. But we did find the manager, get our room and get settled in. He let us park next to the office, a space closer to the road instead of high in the trees up that pitted driveway to heaven. The next morning we got up to the most spectacular view of the beach, worth the scariness and the muddy trek.

We looked at apartments, but they were not exactly what we had a mind plus located five minutes from the park and subject to hordes of tourist traffic. Hung out with friends and got a little toasted one afternoon in a bar overlooking the beach.

One of the days we went back to Matapalo to see if the house I loved in January was still up for long term rental. It is, right now it's being used as short term AirBnB house, but the owner is looking for someone to rent for a year because he's burned out on the work involved in turning the place around for a stream of visitors. The price is still doable. However they've since paved a road on the edge of the beach right in front of the house, making it much less attractive to stay it.

It is likely the only really good paved road in the area. The ride through Matapalo to get to the place was bone-jarring, much worst than last time and the town does not look like it's as prosperous as it was back in January. We stopped by a guesthouse on the beach owned by a guy we'd friended a couple of years ago and he told a tale of a very depressed economy in CR since Trump took office. He's having much less tourist traffic to the point where he does not know what he is going to do. It was sobering and quite depressing. Strike Matapalo off the list of possible places to live.

And then thing go really crazy... more later.