So, last week, Kevin and I had to drive down to San Jose (2 hrs) to renew our cedula (residency documentation). We made an appointment two weeks prior for this appointment.
So we drove down to the capital to the designated Bank of Costa Rica, and Kevin's paperwork was no problem. When it came to my stuff, they told me that our health card had expired even though we share the very same health card (we had no idea there was an expiry date). Why was it fine for him, but not for me? Who knows... Costa Rica, baby!
So, I'm told I have to renew our health care before they can process my cedula renewal and they give me another appointment for the following week.
I drove down this past Wednesday on my own and decided while I was in the city I would visit my dear friend, Jodi, and stay the night. Jodi works in a spa and retreat hotel and I thought it would be nice to just relax, maybe have a massage, then leave early in the morning.
I left early on Wednesday morning, got to the bank in good time and when I announced my arrival to the clerk at the door, he checked the roster for my name. He looked a little confused. He stepped away then came back a few minutes later and I'm told my appointment was the day before!!! PARDON? I couldn't believe it. I begged them to give me an appointment later the same day. Pleease!! (To be fair, it was my fault for getting the day wrong... I was POSITIVE it was on Wednesday at 10:30 am... but nope, it was Tuesday... God bless language barriers). The woman gave me a phone number to call (a call centre... in Spanish) for me to reschedule another appointment, but I couldn't get through. I tried several more times. Then my phone (pay as you go) ran out of money, so I had to find a place to top it up. I asked a few passersby if they knew where I could do this and a nice gentleman pointed to a shop up the road. I topped up my minutes, but by this time I was feeling too stressed and frustrated to make the call again. I was worried I wouldn't understand the person on the other end of the line and get all muddled up.
I decided to go meet Jodi and let her know what was going on. She greeted me at the entrance of the hotel. I was a hot mess... totally frazzled. Although I had a GPS, driving in San Jose in the best of times can be nerve wracking, but when one is already stressed out, things just tend to feel more intense. Oh, and did I mention the temperature was a 99% humid 35C/95F. I was drenched and feeling drained. Jodi reassured me that everything would be okay and not to worry. She dialed the call centre. After quite the run-around, they told her that the next available appointment at that same bank (which was my preferred choice since I knew where it was and knew there was easy access to parking) was September 8th... my cedula expires September 10th... way too close for comfort. I shook my head, telling her to ask them for an appointment sooner ANYWHERE in the city... after a few minutes, they told her there was an opening at 10:30 am for the very next day (Thursday)... Oh my goodness! YES please!
I had no idea where this bank was, but Jodi did, and said we could look it up on Google maps. Jodi found the coordinates and I plugged them into my GPS, crossing my fingers they would get me to my destination the next morning. It was smack dab in the centre of the city. And traffic could be horrendous, I was told. I decided I would leave at 8 am (it's only 18 km/11 miles from where she lives, but it's not about distance, it's about how long it takes).
Once that was all sorted, Jodi and her husband, Coco, served a delicious dinner. We had a great evening of catching up. I slept over, but got zero sleep. I tossed and turned all night... it was stinkin' hot (I'm used to cooler nights in the mountains), with city noises I'm not used to.
In the morning, I thanked Jodi and Coco, and off I went. The GPS directed me to the bank without incident. No traffic: I got to the bank at 8:45 am. It only took me a few minutes to find a parking space a couple of blocks away. I thought I might wait in the car, but then I was tugged to go and make sure I was at the right bank (I had lots of time to find the right one if it wasn't). The man at the door said I was indeed at the right bank (yay!). I told him I had an appointment, but I was super early. He said to go in, sit down and as soon as that woman in the corner was done serving her client, to let her know that I'd arrived. I did as he suggested. Five minutes later, the woman was available. I told her who I was and that I was early. She motioned to the seat in front of her desk and said she'd be happy to help me immediately. Woot! She didn't ask for half the documentation that was requested of us. However, when she saw the stack of photocopies in my folder, she did mention how organized I was. It all took less than 10 minutes. I was out of there by 9:15 am and on the road back home.
I haven't felt this stressed in a very long time. I don't like driving in cities not knowing where I'm going. I despise being late for any appointment (I'm a little over the top compulsive with this one). But, all is well in my world again. I should receive my new cedula in the mail in a few weeks. Nice to be back in paradise where life is pretty darn stress-free. I'm reminded just how blessed I am. Contrast is a great teacher.
Well, that went by quickly! Three years ago today, we landed here and started a whole new life. And never doing anything by half measure, we've certainly jumped in with both feet. It's been enjoyable to write about our adventure along the way, and we're ever so grateful for all our readers. We get so many comments here and emails encouraging us... it's really lovely. Thank you!
This last week, we had to drive down to San Jose to renew our "cedula" (the name they use for temporary residency). Everything went well for Kevin, no problems. When it was my turn, apparently our joint health card (one card for both Kevin and me) had the wrong expiry date. Although it was fine for Kevin's application, it came up as invalid for me, which was all a bit odd (but as we say "Costa Rica, baby!"). I had to go into San Marcos on Wednesday to update our health card, which was easily done. Now that's been sorted out, I have to go back to San Jose this coming Wednesday to go through the process again. No biggie, a bit of a nuisance, but it's rare that we have these types of issues, so we're counting our blessings.
We've been enjoying some beautiful weather these past couple of weeks. The calm before the gush of rain in September and October. We're enjoying the sunshine while it lasts.
I know, I know, first I'm late posting my weekly blog... and then I post two entries in one day... what's going on?
Well, after posting my last entry, Kevin and I took Frankie for a walk up the driveway to our entrance gate. We have to make a point of walking her now or she would happily lounge on the couch all day. She's getting lazy in her old age. Anyway, as we walked by our little orchard, we noticed one of our avocado trees was full of fruit. This tree has never bore fruit while we've been living here (3 years), so what a surprise to receive such bounty. Most of the avocado trees on the property were almost dead when we first arrived. We nearly chopped them all down, but we decided to see if we could revive them with organic fertilizer and organic pesticides. Kevin pruned them right back and we added lots of natural compost, too, then waited.
This particular tree has exceeded all expectation... the fruits are perfectly shaped with shiny skin. They look so amazing. We will let them ripen and within a few days they'll be ready to eat. Yum!! We LOVE avocados and there's enough on that tree to feed us every day for quite awhile. I was so excited, I just had to share... I couldn't wait for next week's blog.
Kevin and I sit on the Rio Blanco board of directors... we're the treasurers (it means a lot to us that the community trusts us with the accounting of its funds... but the truth is no one really wants the responsibility of managing the money, so they're relieved we've agreed to it). The board members meet to discuss how to spend the money the community has raised through different activities... usually a fun day of Bingo. Our last event raised enough money to build an outdoor covered addition next to the main community centre building. The municipality agreed to pay for the materials if the community would pay for the labour. We hired a worker or two to build the main structure and pour the concrete floor, but mostly, the people of the community volunteer their time. A few months ago, Albarito, Martin, Primo, Guido, and Kevin worked together to install the walls and roof. Although the plumbing and electrics have also been added, the finishing touches remain to be done. And momentum has waned over the last couple of months. People are busy. We're all farmers and our own businesses take priority.
We had a board meeting a few weeks ago to decide whether to go ahead and build the front gate. At the moment, without a front gate, the roaming animals (sometimes cows, but most definitely stray dogs) can meander onto the concrete terrace and do their business, leaving a mess to clean up. It's rather unpleasant. And having a gate also offers more security (which in our remote little village is hardly an issue, but the community seems to feel it's a good idea). The decision was unanimous and money was allocated to build the gate. Kevin and Albarito volunteered to make the gate once the steel bars were delivered. One of the items on the list was to paint the washrooms. The centre received leftover paint from the one-room school. There were several tin cans of different colours, but not much of any one colour. I volunteered to do the painting.
I had painted the first bathroom two or three weeks ago. I found two cans of paint that were each a little less than half full... two different shades of blue. I thought these would work well together and I would be able to stretch both colours with a little creativity (it was that or bright pink and pale mint green... you see my point, right?). I went back last week to paint the second bathroom and remembered to take some before and after pictures this time. I decided to take advantage of the big concrete blocks and create a checkerboard effect.
So this is the before....
And this is after....
I spent the day painting one of the washrooms at the community centre. Again, we waste nothing around here, so we use up whatever extra paint is given to us. Our little one-room school had recently refreshed the inside and outside walls with two shades of blue. The teacher was kind enough to donate the remnants of each colour. The washrooms are all built of concrete blocks, so very porous. That was my first challenge... we didn't have any primer and we only had a small amount of paint. As I was painting, I could see the paint soaking through the rough concrete surface. I thought I would need three coats to get an even finish, but surprisingly, it looked fine in the end with only two coats (I forgot to take pictures, but when I go back to do the second washroom tomorrow, I will take pictures and show you all the result in my next blog post).
I just have to mention that there is an open gap at the top of the wall (quite a large gap, but still high enough to allow complete privacy). There are no window glass panes. It's open all year round. There's no real need to closed them up. Well, while I was in the room, even with the door shut, it was like being in a wind tunnel. It was loud and VERY breezy. It was nice to have ventilation, but this was ridiculous. I was almost forced to keep my eyes closed.... which I assure you is not good practice when one is painting! It was the oddest phenomenon considering it wasn't a particularly windy day.
We had our dear friends Cindy and Larry and new friends Bonnie and Joe come for lunch. Bonnie and Joe have only recently arrived in Costa Rica and have decided to settle in San Marcos. Bonnie had sent us an email to introduce herself and husband, Joe, and mentioned that they were friends of Cindy, Larry and our mushroom farmer friend, Tony. They also stayed at our friends' Annika and Roger's guesthouse when they were scouting out the area. Bonnie had read my book and said they'd like to meet us one day. Kevin and I thought "no time like the present", so we invited them up with Cindy and Larry (Tony was unable to join us).
Kevin smoked some trout. I made Ceviche, guacamole, soup and homemade bread. The weather was perfect: warm and sunny. We shared stories, got to know each other a little better and had a lovely day. It's always nice to make new friends.
After painting the bathroom and feeling so relieved at how much nicer it looks, I decided to tackle the last room in the house... the loft. I have no 'before' pictures, but basically the walls were plain white and we used the space as extra storage so it never felt cozy. We had boxes strewn here and there... we had two portable racks where we hung are heavier coats (the ones we rarely wear here) and a few of my dresses. It wasn't a disaster area or anything, but it was far from inviting.
When members of our family visit, they stay in the guesthouse so we've never felt the need to make a big deal of this room. It's tucked away and no one other than us goes up there. However, as we're getting busier with the B&B, it's more likely that we'll have to lodge our family upstairs (especially during the high season) if they're here while paying guests are here at the same time. And since I was in the painting mood, and we had enough paint leftover, I rolled up my sleeves. This is how it turned out...
We brought one of the cream duvet covers from Canada, but the other one was left here... and they're identical. How lucky is that! And as I was digging through our linen box, I found the plaid pillow covers, which match perfectly with the colour scheme (I had forgotten we had these pillow covers). The two beds are part of a bunk bed set, but we prefer them side by side. We didn't buy anything new... just using what we already have. I love transformations! It makes me feel all giddy.
Kevin was making projections for the next year and decided bumping our baby fish by another 2,000 was a good idea to meet the demands we're anticipating. We're now up to 9,500!
Two weeks ago, we had lovely guests from Turkey. Last weekend, we had guests from Costa Rica, just two hours down the road. It's always nice to share our place with people of this country since many Ticos don't travel to the mountains, and exploring this region is a new experience for them. Our challenge is speaking Spanish -- I won't lie, we don't get to practice as much as one might think. All our Spanish-speaking friends are far too forgiving.
These guests are friends of a man we've never met who lives in Copey (the next town). This man, Carlos, apparently asked around and our friend, Seidy, recommended our place (nice, eh). After several phone conversations, he booked the guesthouse on behalf of his friend, Father Andres. We were told there would be a married couple joining the Father. Carlos left the deposit with our mutual friend, Violeta, to secure the dates. On Friday (July 24), our guests arrived three hours late, at 8 pm. We urge people to arrive before the sun goes down because it's tricky enough to find us during daylight. It always makes us a bit nervous then our guests are running late, but it is what it is. We can only recommend, the rest is out of our hands. Carlos called at about 6:30 pm to warn us they were on their way, not to worry. Luckily, they had not ordered a meal, so I didn't have to coordinate food preparation that night.
Although pitch dark, it was a warm night without rain, and they seemed happy with their lodging as I explained where they could find everything. They were especially thrilled with the wood stove because they planned to cook their own meals. In the morning, Kevin and I gave them the tour of the property. I don't know which was used more... Spanish or sign language... but we managed to communicate just fine. The weather was gorgeous all weekend: blue skies without a drop of rain. After the tour, they decided that even though they brought their own food, they would love to catch some trout. They requested one trout cleaned and fileted, and one cleaned with the head removed only. Apparently Father Andres is quite the cook and he looked forward to impressing his friends.
Francie, Juan Daniel and Father Andres were lovely. We thoroughly enjoyed being their hosts. They wrote a kind note in our guestbook (all in Spanish) and said they'll be back... we hope to see them again soon. We went down to Copey to meet and thank Carlos for coordinating their visit, but he wasn't home. We want to invite him to come visit the farm for himself.
After Francie, Juan Daniel and Father Andres left, I decided it was high time to paint our bathroom. I've been meaning to paint it since we first moved in, and yet for whatever reason, I've been putting it off. It's a very small room with a shower stall, a small sink and a toilet. That's pretty much it. But, it was the one room that Kevin and I cringed at the thought of other people using. It was one of those scenarios where no matter how well I scrubbed, it always looked dingy and dirty. Anyway, the time had come where more urgent projects had been dealt with and where we had a block of time we could dedicate to it. It was time.
Kevin agreed to do all the prep work: fill in the hole and sand, get rid of the old sink and fit the new pipes, and seal the obvious gaps. God bless him... I hate prepping, especially sanding. Kevin hates painting, which is convenient because I love it. We make a pretty good team. We bought a new sink and tap (the old one was cracked and chipped), but the goal was to freshen up the room with a lick of paint... and preferably paint we already had. The shower stall and floor tiles had to stay. We decided we were not going to replace them, which means we have Butternut Squash coloured tiles to work with. Oh joy! You'll have to imagine the 'before' ... dingy white-grey walls. Very uninspiring. So, this is the transformation (keep in mind I'm standing in the shower stall to take this pic and I don't have a lens to zoom out):
We used up the same butter cream yellow paint and putty green from the living room. All walls, including above the shower stall, are all cream, however, for a bit of depth and interest, Kevin agreed that the green accent would be nice. Kevin removed the useless hooks under the shelf and replaced them with a handy towel bar we had stored away and I chose to hang a burgundy towel. I unpacked a piece of artwork that was created and given to us as a wedding gift by our good friend, Louise. It's the perfect size and adds some 'pop' bringing all the colours together. The letters on the canvas spell "Lucky in Love"... "Anne and Kevin" ... and "27" ... We were married on Sept 27 and our wedding theme was "lucky in love". We think it looks perfect.
Although a small room, it took most of the week to complete this project between all the prep work, some minor plumbing, waiting for things to dry properly (during the rainy season where the humidity is higher). We are very happy with the end result. Wished we had done this 3 years ago! Oh well... it's done now. Next project... I will be tackling the loft area. And then we're done with the painting projects (I know, I know, famous last words).
Oh, and I should mention, we bought another 3,000 baby fish this week as well. We're up to 7,600 (more or less). The baby trout will be kept in the concrete tank in the hatchery until they're about 2 months old. By that time, we will have sold all our big fish.
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Dave and Krista are a couple from the Pacific Northwest that led overwhelmingly busy lives.
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