Monday, February 28, 2011

Rain and Return!

This is Augusto Ceasar! Cousin to the Chavarrias and a good friend since we have been here. Yesterday he went with us to talk to his Uncle, he is related to 85 - 90% of the people in Berlin, about purchasing a "house" and a little land at the start of our property. Our thoughts are that we can fix it up and stay there while our house is being built and then use it for help to stay in while working at the B & B or on the coffee. As his Uncle said, while almost falling on the floor laughing, it's not 5 star!! He had used it for his Nicaraguan coffee pickers to stay in. It's basically a shack but has a septic system and is already existing so we wouldn't have to go through the permit process. It has a concrete floor, tin roof and wood covered windows!! Talk about a remodel job!! We were hoping to walk to the property and snap a picture but it rained and we didn't want to tackle the mud!

Today we went to San Ramon early with Josaletta who has saved our bacon. Her "husband" has built some houses in Costa Rica and she speaks Spanish and understands all the hoops you need to jump through. Our trip to town ended up being quite an adventure. The little bit of rain we received turned the thick powdery dust on the shortcut Josaletta likes to take to slick mud and the shortcut is down a steep hill and around a curve! After feeling foolish and full of second thoughts a car pulled up behind us and we had to go forward! Don drove and we very slowly and slickly made it safely to the bottom of the hill and across the bridge! Never a dull moment in Costa Rica!!

Although Augusto Cesar has been helping us with I.C.E. and translating with the Chavarria's, Josaleta and Eric have also been a big help. We applied for Permits today with the Minicipal to allow for grading our property for a building site. Hopefully that will get done while we are in the states! Thank you very much Eric and Josaletta!!

Augusto and his Uncle are also working on I.C.E. for us and, if all goes well and the creek doesn't rise, they may get us electricity much less than the $50,000 we were first quoted! Keep your fingers crossed!!

A couple days ago we had Danilo's workers cut down the very tall grass that was hiding the terrain of the property. Two men worked for two days with machetes to do the job and charged us $24.00!! Amazing! Next it needs to be burned before excavating begins!

This is a Mango tree and it's on our property! YEAH! And the plant with the flowers in front of Don is one of our coffee plants!

Last is the walk from our property back to Chavarria's house! It's about 2 miles straight up and/or down!

Off to San Jose tomorrow for a last visit with the Doctor to hear all the test results!! We will spend the night at the Ritz again and then fly home about 1:00 p.m. on Wednesday, March 2nd!

Sunday, February 27, 2011

End of Days!

Looks like a no photo day, however, I can still write! We spent the morning talking with Eric and Joselita. They have lived in Costa Rica for quite some time and are from Canada. French speaking Canada, but the do speak English and Spanish quite well. Listening to our friends here speak English and/or Spanish and do both so well makes us feel a bit slow!! Anyway, we went to the property and talked about excavating and, of course, I.C.E.! Eric and Joselita have built a couple of houses here and are starting another one in a development of 12 lots which they have created. They are a wealth of information for us and sooooo nice! They offered to take us to San Ramon tomorrow a.m. to get the Permit we need to do the grading we need to create a place to build our house! And....even more, they offered to get someone that they have had work for them do the excavating and have their employees check the property during the rainy season to make sure there are no slides!! Time and again we are amazed at the selfless generosity of the people here!

Yesterday, Augusto Cesar, our friend who has been translating for us and helping us with I.C.E., took us to meet his Uncle to ask if he would be willing to sell us a small piece of property with a "house" on it that is located at the beginning of our property or give us an easement for power lines over his property! The little "house" was used for Nicos, Nicaraguans who pick coffee, and it is very crude. They laughed when we told them we would like to live in it while our house is being built and then use it for someone who would work for us on the coffee or the B & B. They were at first embarrassed to show it to us but we are leaving now to go see the house!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

I.C.E.--One Big Hurdle!

I.C.E. (pronounced ECEE) is the electric company in Costa Rica and they have a lot of control regarding how we receive our electricity and what it will cost. One architect we have worked with suggested it may be as much as $50,000 which means we may have to go to "Plan B"! Our visit to I.C.E today, with the help of Augusto to translate, has I.C.E. going to our property to find out exactly what our options are going to be! So...we wait!

Enough about I.C.E.! Everyday something unusual happens in front of the home we are staying at. Yesterday a
"herd" of pigs came by on their way to other pastures! This morning a man riding a horse had a cow on a leash walking behind him! I was not quick enough with the camera to catch a photo!
We also picked up Don's new glasses today but that is a story for him to tell. Still need to get with the Doctor in San Jose once again to go over all my test results! Hope to hear from him soon as time is running out!!

The 2 photos below that we have posted are of a banana tree just beginning to produce bananas. They start with a large bulbous thing that blossoms into bananas!! Amazing, and they are growing everywhere! The large bunch of bananas pictured was picked, rather cut down with a machete, by Danilo and it is the second bunch we have enjoyed eating from. Yummmm!!

This photo is of an Iguana up in a tree in the park at Palmares. We also took photos of a female laying eggs but they were to dark to see much! There are at least five of them that live in the park and are protected by the Policia that patrol. The Iguanas were brought to our attention by a local lady who came running after us crying 'Iguanas, Iguanas"! At first we thought she was a little off. However, in the end, we were glad we turned around to discover what she was about. She brings fruits and vegetables to the park to feed the creatures and seems to also alert all the Gringos that walk by!

P.S. I have no idea why the above paragraph is underlined, nor do I know why they type is a different color!! Sometimes creating this Blog is a real adventure in itself!!

Bingo Anyone!

Sunday we took the road back to the school and church near Maria's parents to play bingo! You can purchase as many cards as you wish for 100,000 colonies or $2.00 each and the corn is free!

This particular Bingo meeting was very special as it was also a thank you presentation to a group of Canadians who have been donating generous amounts of money to the school. The Canadians were sitting in the middle of the building with white table cloths, water and eats and treated like royalty! . After many speeches in English and Spanish, each being translated for the other, the games finally began!

Although none of us won anything, we had lots of fun and were able to enjoy another wonderful Tico experience!

After a number of games, people started getting a little restless and at that point we were rewarded with entertainment and more speeches! Some of the local children were dressed up like butterflies and did a little dance. When they were finished, one little girl took over and danced all by herself. Very simple but fun for us!
As we were leaving, we walked to the back of the building to a very large, and unfortunately unclean , window to watch a beautiful sunset. Believe me the photo does not do justice to the scene we experienced!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

50th Wedding Anniversary Celebration!

On Saturday we were invited to Maria's parents 50th Anniversary Festival and the preparations started early. While the Hombres were out trying to recover the truck, Maria, myself and two other young ladies chopped and chopped and chopped in the kitchen. We picked chicken off of about 7 or 8 chickens and chopped some more. Once the rice was finished everything was combined and mixed up in a large cooler for traveling to the Festival. The logistics of getting everyone to the party, about an hour away on unimaginable roads, was an experience. Seven of us rode in a small 4 x 4 Tracker! We arrived safely and soon came a truck carrying the men and the Mariachi Band!

Once there we met many friends and family and enjoyed a truly Tico experience. The table was set with cake, flowers and a pinata which all the children enjoyed trying to break open for the treats inside.
The band played and we danced and chatted and a good time was had by all!

The family posed for a photo! All Marie's brothers, sisters and, of course, her parents who were celebrating 50 years of marriage! Congratulations!

Oops! There Goes The Truck!

On Saturday the truck was scrubbed and rinsed with the hose inside and out ready for a new week. Everyone pitches in and this old truck shines like new!

And then....the emergency break did not hold and the truck took off and went over the hill into the ravine! With the help of a backhoe and many hombres the truck was dug out and brought back up the ravine to the road and home. The truck is now in the shop being repaired and the remarkable thing about the whole event is that Danilo found a truck exactly like his with a bad motor for very little money and so...a somewhat happy ending! The best news---no one was injured!

Giovanni was the person who had taken the truck to feed the chickens at the large coop near our property. He was one shook up young man! He is Danilo and Maria's youngest son at 23 years old. The whole affair was handled very well by all!

Expect the Unexpected!

So much has happened since my last posting! My attempt to post a lot of photos and fill in later was not successful, so I am starting once again. Today we rode to Palmares with Danilo to just see the town and do a little shopping. While there we were yelled at by a lady in the park who was saying "Iguanas! Iguanas"! Returning to the park we discovered a female Iguana laying eggs under a large tree and a family of full sized Iguanas up in the trees!

Just before we left for Palmares a "herd" of pigs was guided up the street to a new location!

Friday, February 18, 2011

Close to Home!

Yesterday Don went and took pictures of the grade school that is just down the road in Berlin. The lady who cleans there is a friend of Danilo and Maria's and so he was able to get inside and show the adorable artwork on the walls, the bathrooms with the sinks outside and the class room. I forget how many class rooms there are, maybe 5 or 6 and and office where the principle and a secretary spend their time.

Rose, who cleans the school also has the Soda (Cafe/Store) at Maria and Danilo's home and is a very good friend of theirs.

Don's glasses bit the dust and he had to get an eye exam here for new glasses! Would you believe that all his complaining about not being able to see with his glasses was verified by Gladys, the Eye Doctor. His prescription was located improperly on his glasses making it impossible to see with both of his eyes at one time! Another young lady Doctor that we have been very impressed with and Don looks forward to having his new glasses in a few days and being able to see!

Today we rode to San Ramon @ 7:30 a.m. with Diego, Maribel and their neighbor, Marie! People share rides up and down the hill because the bus only runs 3 or 4 times a day and not always at a convenient time. We are meeting Jose, our Realtor friend who just spent time in the hospital here. He and his wife, Joanna, are meeting us for lunch. The rest of the day we will spend in the Cafe writing our Blog... and exchanging some more money into Colones at the bank. Also we will spend part of the day wandering around San Ramon trying to become acquainted with what is and is not available here. Yesterday, while doing some checking, we discovered a little shop that had foam for upholstery work and upholstery fabric! We have also located a number of fabric stores but cotton is not the norm and the prices are about $4.00 for a meter which is a little more than a yard. We are finding that many things are more expensive than 5 years ago. We looked at a lot of appliances checking on prices and want to get a wood cook stove for our kitchen like the one that Maria uses. Hers is located in a separate room with her washer and dryer but we think we want ours in the kitchen. It would take the chill off in the morning and cut down on our gas and electric expenses.
Still working on the electric and water situation. Looks like we are now about to ask ICE, the electric company, to check out our property and see what our options are. We are probably going to put in a well and may have our Tico friend, Agusto, oversee the project while we are back in the states.

We received a bit of bad news the other evening. When Diago and Maribel arrived home from work their home had been robbed. Maribel's beautiful and quite expensive diamond ring and 5 other rings were stolen along with some perfume and clothing. They left the t.v. and other electronics that were in the home. Very sad for all!

Danilo and Mario's home is so comfortable and Maria is constantly cooking and sweeping and mopping and just keeping everything nice. We now know the routine and after she makes us breakfast, as soon as we get up, we eat and clean up the dishes and then start sweeping the floor. Next, is laundry which is washed in a semi automatic washer. That means that the clothes are agitated in soapy water and then you put the clothes into the sink and rinse them in cold water. Next you put them in the other side of the machine that spins them so you can put them out on the clothes line to dry. Maria does a lot of laundry and very few days go by without clothes hanging on the line. I'm getting real good at rinsing out the suds!!

Ticos are very clean. They take wonderful care of their autos and are constantly cleaning, repairing and painting them. It's not uncommon for Giovanni, their 23 year old son who lives with them and goes to school, to be up at 6:00 and out cleaning a vehicle. They have a motorcycle, 4 wheeler, truck and an auto that they all share, except for Tony who has his own car. They even share with their friends. They have an amazing system of shifting people and vehicles around that is a mystery to us.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

San Jose for Tests!

Today started out with washing the dogs and a bouquet of flowers. Rolando is a "special" friend who comes by a couple times a day and works around the yard or house wherever he is needed. They say he speaks neither English or Spanish but he talks constantly and seems to communicate quite well. The flowers were a gift from Maria's garden given to me by Bianca. Then she too had her own bouquet!!

We arrived back from San Jose and all the medical tests are over! The photos are where we spent the night. Unfortunately, I spent most of my time in the bathroom!!

We arrived home last night----barely! The bus ride from San Ramon was the bus ride from hell! The other day our bus broke down so we have had a number of different buses to ride on our trips up and down the hill. Yesterday, however, the bus wasn't the problem it was the driver! He was about 20 minutes late to pick everyone up but finally we were off. Most of the vehicles here have standard shifts---you really have to know how to stop and start on hills! Anyway, our bus driver needed to go back to school! He tried to climb the hills in too high a gear and almost didn't make it and when he shifted it was like riding a bucking bronco!! Everyone on the bus was laughing, including us, but not without a dose a healthy fear. To add to the excitement it was very foggy.

When we finally arrived home Diago and Maribel were there and we chatted on the computer. We use Google Translate and actually get to almost understand each other. I was pooped after being up in the bathroom most of the night and I guess I looked pretty tired. All of a sudden Maria and Maribel are guiding me into our room and telling me to lie down on the bed. The proceeded to rub lotion on my back and give me a massage!! It doesn't get any better than that!!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Critters of Costa Rica!

Another beautiful day in paradise, however, there are a few unpleasant residents here. We have seen spiders as large as apples, a scorpion and a poisonous snake that a coffee worker had killed! We have been told they are not usually so large and do not bother unless stepped on. Now when we walk the property we look down!!!

Yesterday we met our closest neighbors who are not well liked in Berlin. They are Americans with 2 small boys that attend school here in Berlin. Unfortunately, they have 4 large not very friendly dogs and we had to call first so they could be tied. The locals are not happy that their dogs run loose. Costa Rican dogs are very well behaved. Maria & Danilo's 2 dogs remain in the back yard and never set foot in their house!

Meeting our new neighbors was a pleasant experience, sans dogs, and we enjoyed seeing their home finished. The style is similar to what we would like to build. Sherry Ann and the boys speak Spanish fluently, but Mark does not. We gathered as much information as we could in a first visit and left with a wonderful bag of coffee from their property. They pick all their coffee and take care of their plants for extra money. It seems we should have some income from our coffee when we are here!

Today we are going to have lunch with Doug and Barb an American couple that lives here in Berlin. They have a very beautiful "American" home which is much fancier than we hope to build.

After much confusion because of the language differences, we are staying here for our entire visit. We are pleased as we really enjoy being here and feel very comfortable. The Chavarria family, including their 3 boys and their families make us feel like we are also family!

Friday, February 11, 2011

Questions, Questions & More Questions!

The photo is of the young girls that carried the PVC down the hill to fix the water! Wow! I posted a photo!!
We seem to spend a lot of time waiting to meet people to ask questions which only seems to create more questions! Sunday we are invited to have dinner with two Americans from Texas, Doug and Barb that Augusto was nice enough to take us to visit. They have a very grand "american" home here in Berlin! Communication has also been a challenge especially with the phone. For some reason we cannot seem to connect with people by phone. E-mail seems to work well!

This morning we finished up at the dentist and arrived back in Berlin about noon.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Carlos's Daughters Helping With The Water

Words only!

O.K. So it looks like I can only post words until I have some time at the Cafe in San Ramon.

We really wanted to share our experience of repairing a water line for La Berlina a grand house here in Berlin. Danilo received a phone call before 6:00 a.m. that his friend, Carlos the caretaker at La Berlina, need help repairing a water line. Danilo invited us along suggesting long pants and good shoes! Don, Danilo, Jose (Danilo's young helper) and I headed up the road to La Berlina carrying shovels. When we arrived Carlos and his 2 daughters were ready to descend the very steep and lush hill with PVC pipe 20 feet long, shovels, and 2 full bags of cement. Don and I very carefully picked our way down the steep hill using the shovels to assist us as Danilo, Carlos and the 2 girls carrying the cement and PVC pipe went down like it was a stroll in the park! Amazing! It was so beautiful and on slip would have been quite serious!

Once we reached the broken line the men went to work and the girls went back up the hill. I was the official photographer. They dug, mixed cement, cut an inner tube into material to tie plastic around the end of a "T" PVC connection to cover one of the holes. It was like watching MacGiver on T.V.! The water system consists of pure water leaching out of the hill side and directed by PVC pipe to a holding tank and pumped up to the house about 500' straight up the hill. Once at the top it is held in a holding tank for the house!

When we were finished Carlos's wife, Pauline, came out of their casa with juice for Danilo, Jose and Carlos and Coffee for us. I guess the town has the word that the Gringos like coffee!! Fun adventure!

Try, try again!

Today is Thursday, February 10th and I'm hoping to be more successful at blogging. So much has been going on that we want to share but the internet connection we have isn't working well.

Monday, February 07, 2011

Monday, 2/7/11--Dentista

Time seems to be passing so quickly and computer time has been scarce. This post will be short, however, at 11:30 today we hope to have the data key that will allow us to use the Internet in Berlin where we are staying!! Don is currently at the Dentista. She is a young lady and her name is Marcela. Daniol recommended her and Don had been to see her when he was here three years ago! I'm at a Cafe near by and will be in the chair next. There is so much to tell and we do have more photos which I will be posting, hopefully this evening!

We are learning a little Spanish, however, figuring out how to be at a certain place at a certain time is quite a challenge. We went to Grecia the other day to meet with the Architect and pretty much decided that we will be working with someone in San Ramon that the Chavarria family knows at the Municipal. The Architect in Grecia, Rodrigo, talked to us for over 4 hours!! He showed us many photos of a $1,000,000 home he had built and we think he thinks we are rich Gringos!! Man is he in for a surprise!!

Yesterday we went to visit Diego and Maribel, Danilo's Son and Wife, at their casa up the road. They are so gracious and offered us Baileys, wine, soda and cookies and it was only 1:00 in the afternoon. We took lots of photos of them as they do not have a camera and they were thrilled to download the photos to their computer.
I have many more photos but have run out of time. The process of posting is slow! Love to all!

Thursday, February 03, 2011

We are Here!!

We arrived safely in Costa Rica pretty much on time and enjoyed sharing the flight--would you believe--in the seats next to Joe, Sandra and Steve from NC! As we had booked separately and met only recently we were thrilled to have the time to become better acquainted!

Donilo, Maria and family have been so accommodating and gracious we feel like royalty! The photo above is the entrance to their home. Yesterday we went to our property with Donilo and met three different "neighbors". Everyone was so kind and happy to meet us and offer food! Don loved meeting one of Ramon's sons, Donald, who is a wonderful oil painter and sketch artist! And... with the help of Ramon and Theresa's daughter, Veronica, I have a new Facebook friend! Although we are struggling with the language problems, we are communicating well. With some of Donilo's friends and relatives speaking English, we have made progress! Donilo is working very hard on English writing down all the words and using them quite well. We also are trying to use Spanish, however, Donilo seems to
be a quicker study! Maria takes care of their adorable 4 year old Granddaughter, Bianca, pictured here with Don and Donilo, every day and cooks all the time! Bianca is also learning English and seems to just absorb the words. Maria is very gracious, smiles constantly and rules the home with quick and firm Spanish!

Last night we introduced Donilo to Sequence, a board game, we brought with us. Maria wasn't interested in playing but Donilo won his first game. Spanish instructions helped greatly explaining the rules and even gave Donilo the opportunity to let us know we were playing incorrectly! We laugh constantly and, so far, are having a great time! The last photo is a view from Maria and Donilo's driveway!

Today we rode to town with Diego, Donielo's son, and Donielo to visit the Dentist and some American ladies who meet at a Cafe in San Ramon. The Dentist is a young lady and adorable! She fixed one of my fillings and gave us appointments for Monday! Meeting with the ladies wasn't quite so successful---we are at the wrong Cafe!! Better luck next week! The good news, we have internet and can Blog!

Donilo is visiting his good friend who is their nations Congressman!! He is meeting him to give information to the government on farm trade negotiations and domestic farm prices! We are to meet up with him at 1:00 to head back up the hill and hope to walk to our property and meet one of our neighbors, Mele. Her husband, Jim, is back in stated for a few days.

Tomorrow, Friday, we are traveling to Grecia to meet with an Architect, Rodrego Torres. The logistics of getting from one place to another has been a challenge. The bus runs only a couple times a day from Berlin to San Ramon and back. We have been fortunate to ride to town with Diego and Tony who work in San Ramon at the Minicipal. Many have offered to drive us anywhere we want to go but we feel that is a lot to ask and do not mind using the bus system. As we mentioned before, Ticos are gracious and generous.

Although the logistics of all our appointments and meetings has been a challenge, Donilo and Maria have gone above and beyond to avail us of needed information and clarification by introducing us to English speaking people. One in particular is a cousin, Augusta Ceasar, who is going to school to learn to teach English and translates very well. He too has offered himself and his brother for anything anytime!! Wow!!

We will Blog as often as possible but it probably won't be on a daily basis. Also, we promise more photos---forgot the camera yesterday when we walked around the roads near our property! Oh, and that was quite a walk on gravel roads that are very steep up and down!! We were definigely winded, Donilo wasn't fazed in the least!

For today, adios amigos and love to all!