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Central America Caribbean » Costa Rica
September 16th 2005
Published: September 21st 2005
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Angel Valley Farm B&BAngel Valley Farm B&BAngel Valley Farm B&B

View from the main road where the tourists take pictures of our area.
There is so much to write, and so little time, but I’ll guess I’ll put off what I need to do until manana. Why not? Everyone else does here! Yes, it has been about 7.5 weeks since I last updated my blog, so this could be a lengthy one! I did not purposely avoid writing my blog however. As some of you know, I had some surgery in the states and was not allowed to fly for one month. So, I knew I’d be in the states for about that time. However, what I didn’t know then is that I’d develop DVT—or, better known as a blood clot—in my left leg and have to stay two extra weeks, just when I was preparing to leave the states. That almost killed me; certainly the blood clot could have done the trick! Between the pain from the surgery for a few weeks afterwards, and the pain from the blood clot initially, I just did not feel like “blogging.” I do now thankfully.

I had a blood clot once before, five years ago, and I was told I was susceptible to them in the future. What I learned this the second time around,
New Paint JobNew Paint JobNew Paint Job

Traditional Costa Rican colors.
besides becoming expert at injecting into my legs and stomach large needles twice a day (four times a day for a week because the pharmacy didn’t have the right dosage and I had to “add 2 and 2”), is that I really cannot do things that keep my legs in one position for long. I must walk around at least every hour on a long airplane ride and I must stop each hour during long car trips. By and large, I must stay limber in my legs and let my now thinned out blood flow.

Being in the U.S….

I am not going to discuss my stay in the states in a lot of detail because you are reading this, I assume, to learn about Costa Rica and our hilarious and sometimes heartrending antics here. I must though mention a few things about being “home” in the U.S. Surprisingly, it no longer felt like home and I’d only been gone six weeks. It surely was a familiar experience but I learned quickly that my own bed, my own “stuff,” the house I now own in Costa Rica and the new people I’ve met here is where home is now.

Surely, the many friends and extended family I saw were absolutely TERRIFIC! I cannot say enough about them and you know who you are. They cooked dishes they know I like, took me out, helped me get slightly drunk and make a fool of myself, picked me up, took me places, let me recuperate in their homes, and generally made me feel like a million dollars. I cannot thank them enough. Did I mention I have to have another surgery next year? 

My aunts Diana, Peggy and Joanne and my Godmother/cousin Marina, were particularly nice to me when I visited them and the rest of my relatives in New Haven. Joanne and Marina cooked me incredible meals. Marina’s was so incredible I ate way too much of everything and had a very bad case of acid reflux (which I get sometimes) for about six hours. That was a terrible evening for sure, panting and trying to breathe, my heart on fire and beating wildly, my stomach turning and tossing like a Category 5 hurricane making its way through the Caribbean.

My aunts Diana and Peggy, my father’s sisters, and both in their 70s, just crack
The Queens of the B&BThe Queens of the B&BThe Queens of the B&B

Our new girls, 3 months old, Ocita on the left, Raina on the right.
me up. They are both huge “characters” which I suspect they know to some extent. I know my aunt Diana does. They’ve both had tough lives for different reasons and I think being bold, loud and most often, amusing, is their way of dealing with life.

My aunt Peggy kept trying to pawn off a painting of the last supper my mother gave her in the 1950s (which I suspect Peggy didn’t like), commenting, “It’ll be good to have God with you in Costa Rica.” I didn’t take the picture because it was took big, but I think it would amusing to guests so perhaps I’ll have her ship it to me. She did, though, force a small, orthodox bible on me, which I took gladly because she wrote a sweet note on the inside cover—and also left the $.75 price tag on it! Between the two of them, I must of heard, “S/he’ll send me to an early grave” about a dozen times!

I also found it amusing that when Diana and Peggy, along with my cousin Maria, wanted to take me out for a meal at a local seafood place Peggy wanted to eat at 4pm
New KitchenNew KitchenNew Kitchen

Much more functional, cleaner. I bought the stuff on the walls behind the stove from Ikea!
so she wouldn’t have to drive home in the dark. However, her home is 30 minutes from where we were, and it doesn’t get dark until 8pm or later in the summer. I guess it’s an age thing. They’re all terrific nonetheless!

Here’s a quick “compare and contrast” between the good ole US of A and Costa Rica. Well, it is more about what I learned I really didn’t like, or got tired of, in the United States.

I’m definitely over traffic particularly in New York City (where I had my surgery) and in Washington. There are so many, many, many better things to do with one’s time than sitting in traffic jams. I also very quickly took a shine to living el cheapo in Costa Rica. $2 lunches, $1.50 movies (first-run too!) and so on make it very livable here. I was amazed, better still, reminded, just how much it costs to do things in the U.S. Every time I stepped out the door for dinner I dropped $30 or $40! I suppose for a few weeks it is okay but my income here is much, much lower than it was in the U.S. Funny, I just
Dining areaDining areaDining area

Note the cool candle lamp above the table.
realized I have not had a full time, regular job in one year. I’m still alive and doing well though. For that, I’ll take all of the credit.

What I’ve learned….

I also realized I had enough with having to earn a fat salary just to have the things everyone is told they should have in the United States: Big SUVs, more electronics gadgets than anyone should ever desire, the nicest home, furniture, big and expensive dinner parties and well, in some cases, but not mine, many fair-weather friends who are nice to you as they climb the business or social ladder but would kill their own mothers to get ahead.

I’ve also realized even at age 40 (okay almost 41), that I didn’t want to live just to have stuff any longer, and in some ways living in a somewhat third-world country on a meager income would force me to focus on what I’m doing in life, not what I have.

I also suspect that because my father died at 71 and my mother died at 63, that I’ll either get my “calling,” in that age range or only slightly beyond my father’s age. Of
Mural in the sitting areaMural in the sitting areaMural in the sitting area

A guest came back and painted the mural for us.
course I could go before my mother’s age—that would really bite—or I could live until 103. No one knows. However, I figure I should enjoy the rest of my life, which is now, rather than taking the chance of dropping dead at 65 and realizing I hadn’t done everything I wanted to do. This is one of those things I’ve always wanted to do: live overseas and adapt and integrate into a new culture. So far, I’m making one dream come true.

In Costa Rica, particularly here in Los Angeles Sur on this big farm I call home, the air is as crisp as it could get, people are not cramped for space, I don’t hear police and ambulance sirens all night and the people are as friendly as can be, really living to the fullest their short lives on earth. They don’t say “pura vida” for nothing when they greet you.

Don’t get me wrong, I’d never renounce my citizenship because when things get tough, I’d rather be in a country I know and was born in, than one I’ve adopted. I believe there are many major problems in the U.S. right now and country is WAY off track. These problems partially pushed me into leaving (among other things), however, even at it worst whether it is an utterly and completely moronic, no-brain President, or a horrific, mismanaged natural disaster, I’d still take a bad U.S. government over a foreign one particularly when times are rough.

Back at Angel Valley Farm Bed & Breakfast….

All I can say is WOW! What a difference between what this place looked like when I left for the states and when I returned seven weeks later! It was just starting to come together when I left but Beth really turned up the heat while I was gone and obviously kicked some arse with our contractors—and it’s impressive. While I was gone here’s what I think was done on the renovations, and forgive me if I miss a few things, as I find new things each day:

1. Painting of the house inside and out;
2. Putting on a new roof;
3. Upgrading the electrical system;
4. Building a shelter for the horses;
5. Completing the chicken coop;
6. Adding hot water to the kitchen sink;
7. Throwing out the “suicide showers” in two bathrooms and adding a hot water tank for those showers, now with normal, 21st century shower heads;
8. Putting in new lights in the living room and kitchen;
9. Adding new outlets—with dimmers—throughout the house;
10. Installing a doorbell—I always gave a few of my neighbors on S Street in DC, including Beth, a hard time for not having them;
11. Adding new curtains to all of the guest rooms;
12. Completing the enclosure of the shed/storage area and putting in a secure door;
13. Getting the remainder of our newly built furniture including a kitchen island on rollers that will make cooking in the kitchen much easier;
14. Adding a new door to one of the bedrooms;
15. Putting in a new parking area for guests—yes, Beth hired a backhoe and had a guy apparently dig into the side of a hill next to our house (it would have been fun to actually see Beth work the backhoe though!);
16. Making a nice flat area for the horses to roam in front of the house; and
17. Firing the previous maid and hiring a terrific new maid—who appears will be quite a hit with our male guests—who speaks English, is trained in tourism and will help me with the marketing! At around a buck an hour, I couldn’t be more pleased!

The place was pretty clean and livable before I left and was generally good for guests, and we had quite a few of them, but now it is a real, functional B&B with great colors, furniture but also a warm and inviting home. Oh, and in the midst of all of this, Beth suffered through what I believe two complete floods in the house, losing power and phone service, among many other things. Amazing is all I can say. She should be proud. I surely am!

The First Few Days Back in Los Angeles Sur….

My first day back at the B&B, September 11th of all days, kept me busy from the start. We arrived from the airport around 2pm and sure enough, there was a “community meeting” at 3pm at a neighbor’s house. Our B&B, as many of you know, is situated in the middle of a growing ex-pat community of about 20 or so residents with more coming every few months. The community group was initially formed to share the expense of having a night time security guard, but over time began to address other issues such as environmental concerns, future development of the area, etc. More generally, it is just a good way to interact with our fellow ex-pats (there are some Tico residents as well).

I should have mentioned earlier that I was welcomed back by our two new little girls, Ocita and Raina. They are both 3-month old puppies and well, they quite active little devils. It’s too easy to fall for them and immediately I did. Now we just have to train them!

“Ocita” means “teddy bear” in Spanish, and looks like one. She’s sensitive but can be a tough cookie when needed but overall is the sweeter of the two in my estimation, and the calmer from what I can tell so far. “Raina” means “queen” in Spanish and she fits that billing. The wilder, more aggressive of the two, Raina knows she is special and it shows.

They are great puppies and will serve as good guard dogs down the road (they are outside dogs) but so far they have eaten away at most of the new screen door in the back, scared the living hell out of both the horses and the chickens, got dirt on almost every pair of pants I’ve worn this week, and well, did one other very amusing thing….

On Monday, both Beth and I heard this very loud thumping noise all over the roof of the house. Apparently some very small animals and birds will get up there once in a while and just perch for a short time, but this noise was too loud for either. Well, as you guessed, Ocita and Raina figured out, via a low roof area at the back of the house, how to climb up onto the roof. When I ran outside and looked up at the roof, there they were, on their backs sliding down a part of the roof where the incline was fairly moderate and having the time of their young lives. They did it again today (Thursday). Imagine how much fun they’d have on sleds in the winter!? I guess I need to build a barrier where they’ve discovered they have access to the roof!

Also on Monday, we decided we needed a few of the workers who work with us regularly to help install a bunch of kitchen shelving units, knife holders, racks for pots and pans, and other utility items I had brought back from the states. No, we are not totally useless mind you. However, we just painted the kitchen and did not own drill bits capable of going through our concrete walls. So, I took the Trooper, drove up to the work site where we knew our workers would be, and found two of our best workers to help us. Not bad getting someone right away to help us on my first day back. Well, as you know, our neighborhood is all dirt roads traversing the various hills and valleys of our community. There I am with two non-bilingual Ticos in the back driving down towards the B&B, and of course, I went too wide on a turn and sure enough the front end the car went right down into a fairly deep, water drainage ravine. The two of them tried to push the Trooper out of the ravine but it was just too heavy and at a bad angle to be moved. The car needed to be lifted up a bit and pushed by several very strong men to get it out. A 1991 Trooper is a big, solid car, not to mention heavy. With fast thinking and complete calm, Mauricio yelled up to the other workers at the house being built and in about 30 seconds here come 10 Costa Ricans running down the hill to help this hapless American and his car. It was a site to see. I was so embarrassed which they knew, and mocked me a bit while I cussed profusely. As they went up the hill, I could hear the laughing and saying the “s” and “f” word under their breath.

My embarrassment quickly dissipated when I learned from Beth that she drove the car into ditches, not once but twice while I was gone, and apparently was away from home and had to get a neighbor come get her out.

Today, Thursday, Beth left for 10 days of R&R with as she calls them, “the Maine crowd,” and for the first time I am alone in Costa Rica and tonight at least, alone in this big house. I like the tranquility, except that the puppies will surely send me an early grave!

I’ll end this now and go watch a re-run of the “The West Wing.” That is one thing I do miss in the states! More in a few days and thanks for reading this!

Pura Vida!

Andrew

Am4cr@hotmail.com


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20th September 2005

Great read!!
Am hoping to take a trip to CR in the spring, and really enjoyed reading your blog. Looking forward to the next one.

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