The weather predictions were correct; the rains have come….or not?

Published: May 15th 2006
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New seating area at the B&BNew seating area at the B&BNew seating area at the B&B

We recently created a new seating area at the B&B. Fairly colorful eh!?
It’s officially the rainy season in Costa Rica, at least where I live, about one hour north of San Jose. It started in earnest on Tuesday of this week with a fairly soaking rain much of the day. So soaking were the rains that we learned our pipes are clogged somewhere near the house and some unclogging is definitely required. Wednesday was a bit better and what I had hoped for during the rainy season: rains in the early evening and at night. We’ll see what the season brings. Since it has taken me a week to write this entry, I’ll note this late-breaking news: I’m not sure now if the rainy season is hear or not as the last three days have been rain-free. Stay tuned!

My lawn is parched so I’m actually looking forward to seeing it green again. Not to mention the rains are good for my gardens—and the rains are regular too—nearly every day so there are some benefits to this season. The dry season did go by too quickly though. It is odd as I am used to four seasons in the northeastern U.S., but I am getting used to it. I definitely enjoy the

I am not sure of its name but I am told this plant growing in our yard is an orchid.
fairly constant temperatures around 70 to 75 degrees or so.

A big test for us during this season is to see how our dirt road holds up particularly now that we have smoothed it out in some places. The water drained fairly well but it is obvious that some spots need drainage trenches. Our local handy man/jack-of-all-trades Chico, will definitely be doing that for us soon.

There are other precautions one must take during the rainy season, particularly during electrical storms. We always shut down and unplug our computers, television and even the phone sometimes, during storms after having blown two modems and two phones last season. The other day someone from the states asked me, “So, what’s exciting on the horizon this season?” He meant it as if this were the Hamptons or Palm Beach. For those of us in tiny Los Angeles Sur, what is on the horizon this season is rain gear and boots! And, for those of us with dogs, trying to keep them out of the mud!

Comida Italiano....

I often crave certain foods that are hard to find in the greater San Ramon area. While there is some decent Chinese food, and plenty of rice and beans, it is hard to find decent Italian food here. Recently, however, I was introduced to small Italian restaurant called “Mi Casita” on the road just outside of San Ramon. I’ve driven by it many times but just recently learned it is becoming the ex-pat Italian hangout. For about $3 I can get a large plate of homemade pasta and a drink. Now if I could only find a decent slice of pizza! If there are any Italians out there who know how to make certified neopolitan pizza (yes, you have to get certification from an official body in Naples, this I know!), please move here and open a restaurant. I’m banking on my soon-to-be-new neighbors Trisha and Ernesto to make pizza occasionally (hint, hint, hint!)—they’re wonderful chefs!

El Jardin....

The vegetable garden continues to provide a wealth of produce. Lately, I’ve seen cucumbers coming up, radishes, and we have more cherry tomatoes than anyone could possibly need. Soon we’ll have dozens of beefsteak tomatoes and I’ve told myself that I will try to learn to make fresh pasta sauce—no more canned sauce for me.

Yes, all dogs hate going to the vet....

We took Osita and Reina to the vet the other day as we had been a little remiss in getting this done. Getting them into the car wasn’t that bad. It was hard to tell whether they were nervous or curious; Osita just sat in the back and panted heavily during the entire trip to town and Reina stood up for most of it, trying to keep her balance while looking at all the new things in her life through the car window.

Once we pulled in front of the vet’s office, they definitely could smell where they were and they were not happy. We put leashes on them, which they hate, but I had to carry them most of the way into the office as they just wouldn’t get out of the car. In fact, Reina jumped from the trunk to the front seat. Meanwhile, Osita’s legs were quivering wildly. We felt very bad for them. Surprisingly, they were well behaved while the doctor examined them. When Reina was on the table getting her various shots, Osita sat quietly under the table—you could tell she knew she was next.

When their examinations were done
B&B todayB&B todayB&B today

I'm sure someday with future owners it'll look still different.
and Beth was taking care of the paperwork and paying our bill, the dogs became very curious about the other animals in the office, particularly Reina, trying to get at a hamster in a cage. In fact, they both didn’t want to leave so I ended up carrying them back to the car! When we got home, Reina jumped in the front seat again, perhaps not realizing she was home. Finally, I managed to coax him out with some biscuits and she followed Osita back to their pen where they both promptly fell asleep. It was definitely an exhausting morning for them.

More patience required....

I’ve written in previous blog entries that if you are going to live in Costa Rica you have to become a bit more patient with things. “Type-A” personalities can find it a bit hard here at first, and I know as I was one of them—in a former life that seems decades and decades away from today—even though it was only about 1.5 years ago. For example, we recently bought some items at “EPA,” an IKEA/Home Depot combination store in San Jose. As often happens, these items did not work in the house. So, I carefully re-packaged the goods, found the store receipt and credit card receipt and took them all back to the store. The woman at the return counter was friendly enough but like in many American stores, she wanted to give me store credit rather than reversing the charge on Beth’s credit card (Beth had originally paid for them but I went to return the items). The staff behind the counter discussed the issue in great detail, though luckily I had my neighbor Fernando with me. I was getting impatient but every so often cooled my heels as Fernando skillfully negotiated with the staff. Obviously, he’s lived in Central America much of his life and has learned to have a great deal of patience. After about 30 minutes, they finally agreed to reverse the charge on the credit card. However, I think the staff realized it was a bit of an ordeal for me because even as we shopped the woman who finally relented to our insisting we get the cash back came up to me numerous times offering assistance. Funny thing about it, the receipt clearly states “no refunds or exchanges after 30 days,” and we were on day 42!

Another area that tries my patience (again, I’ve written about this before), is in dealing with government offices here. Recently, I got several vaccinations (we’ll talk about where later), as it had been more than ten years since my last updates, and with my traipsing around Central America, I thought it was a good idea to get them done. One of the vaccinations required me to get it certified at the “Ministerio de Salud” (Health Ministry) in San Jose so if I traveled to a country requiring this vaccination, I would have an official record of it and the Costa Rican immigration authorities would let me back in the country when I returned home. Going to the Ministry would not be a problem and the cost of having a clerk stamp my vaccination certificate (after she carefully reviewed the letter from my doctor for about 15 minutes) would only be 200 colones (about 39 cents). However, what drives me crazy in situations needing an official government seal is that one has to purchase these special stamps that the clerk affixes to the certificate, and, of course, you cannot buy them at the offices of the Ministry, rather, you have to go to another office to buy the stamps—in this case the “Cruz Roja” or Red Cross—which is down the street. It didn’t take very long however, it is just another stop in a seemingly simple process. And God help you if you don’t have every piece of required paper.

I see similar processes in various stores. For example, at a hardware store I frequent (yes, I’m becoming a tool junky since moving here!), after finding an item to purchase, you have to get a receipt from the clerk, take it to another counter to pay for the item (the “caja”) then take the receipt to yet another counter to pick up the item. What I had to go through one day last week to buy a 75-cent flashlight! The newer and more modern stores have the place you bring your items and where you pay in once place. I think they are called “checkout” counters in the United States—LOL! I asked about this arcane process recently and someone told me that shop owners, particularly in family-run shops in smaller towns, want someone they can trust handling the money and generally keep the sales people and “money people” separate. I can see why countries like Costa Rica are often considered “full employment” countries!

Full employment holds true in another time-honored profession in Costa Rica: security guard. It seems every store from the mammoth “EPA” to a simple shoe repair shop has a security guard. I’m not sure if theft is a real problem here or if it is simply a defensive mechanism but I still get a little discombobulated when seeing a uniformed guard with a sub-machine gun outside of my bank. I’ve been wondering, at the banks in particular, if a simple side arm would be enough. It certainly would keep me from entering into a life of crime! If someone tried to rob a bank, is the point of having the machine gun so that the guard can be sure that he completely riddles the perpetrator’s body with bullets (and perhaps taking out several innocent customers/bystanders in the process) or is to let the bank’s potential criminals know, “Don’t $#%@% with us!” If anyone can shed some light on this issue, please drop me a note.


The other night we went to a birthday party for our house manager, Karol. It wasn’t really a birthday party, rather just some cake among a few friends. Much to everyone’s surprise, about 10 minutes into the event we could hear music emanating from the street. Apparently, Karol’s husband, Ernan, hired a mariachi band to serenade Karol. There they were, seven of them, dressed to the nines, in Karol’s tiny house playing traditional music and singing. They were quite loud however. So loud that it made Karol’s 5-year old son cry and run into the other room. They were really terrific, through, and I immensely enjoyed their music. I may have to hire them for events at the B&B some day.

I mentioned a few blog entries ago that I had been gearing up for the rainy season, in particular, working on our road and preparing our gutters for the onslaught of the season. I needed to do some additional work on the gutters this week as a leak had developed, largely from a weird right-angle in the gutter system that kept the rain water from flowing normally through the system. While there are many more important things in life to get upset about, the whole gutter design made me irate for various reasons from the bad design of the gutters, to the fact only a 5-year old could get his hands in the gutters to clean them out to the lack of covering the prevent leaves and other debris from getting in them. I keep asking myself why it appears to me that Costa Ricans aren’t the best at issues like this, but a friend reminded me recently that it was only about 30 years ago that the country was electrified and hardly any Ticos had cars back then. In fact, most Ticos still don’t have cars. With that knowledge, I’ll let them slide and hope that the current and next generation will continue to seek and gain knowledge.

Thanks for reading and keep up the comments!

Pura Vida!



23rd May 2006

Thanks for the update
Got to love the security guards all over! Do you hear/see a lot of crime in the press?
26th May 2006

The weather predictions were correct: the rains
so nice to read up on your doings Andrew, i will be moving there soon. Type A's are the most challenged there I bet. Just happen to be one myself. Thanks for the good writing and sharing. cheers from California.

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