Saturday, February 15, 2014

Farwell Pickers!

The middle of January we finished  our first picking season and decided to have a thank you, bon voyage pizza party for everyone who helped us gather this year's crop of coffee.  We started out the year with the two of us, Roberto, Jeffry and Estefany.  About a week into picking Roberto told us he had 3 lady pickers that needed a place to stay, beds and a cook stove!  O.K.  Fortunately, Roberto's Sister and Brother-In-Law had an empty pickers shack that they were willing to rent us.  We purchased foam pads which I covered and a 4 burner gas cook top and Maritza and AdaLuz started picking. We never did find out what happened to #3! They were wonderful pickers and always had a big smile and a willing attitude.  As the season progressed, we were introduced to Sixto and his family and took on 3 more pickers.  Jose and Maria were two Nicaraguans that would stop by our house on occasion and "chat."  I use that word loosely as we all "chatted", however, I'm not sure how much was understood on either side.  At one point we thought they were looking for work--No!  At some point we figured out that Jose had a friend that needed a job, Sixto.  We told Jose to have Sixto meet us by the Receivador and we would pick him up in the morning at 6.  The next morning Don, expecting to see Sixto, was surprised to see Sixto and two women!  As time passed, we figured out that the two women were Sixto's wife and his 11 year old daughter!  They were wonderful!  Shy at first and not sure what to make of their new Gringo employees, but put the rest of us to shame picking.  They all picked and 11 year old Karen even brought sacks of coffee down the hill.  She was tiny and we were amazed!

In this photo Maritza, front, and AdaLuz, back  (also sisters), are sitting on the sofa.  Angie and I are in the kitchen working on the Pizza and Jose and Gilberto (Angie & Errol's boys)  at the counter not wanting to miss out on any pizza.  Errol and Angie have the finca next to ours and have become good friends and have taught us a lot about coffee and Costa Rica.  They picked some coffee for us and our pickers picked some for them so they too were invited.  Next to Gilberto are three ladies and I'm afraid I do not know their names.  They are Jose's sisters and arrived with him.  Next to the two sisters is Sixto's daughter Karen.

Here in the foreground is Sixto's wife Dinara.  She was very shy and a bit overwhelmed by all the people and activity.  AdaLuz, Jose, Maria, Sixto and his family are all from Nicaragua and we were surprised and touched when they arrived dressed up ready for a party.  Roberto is in the background!

Roberto is being Roberto entertaining in my apron with his arm around Sixto.  Across from Sixto and Roberto is Errol and Maria is only half in the photo!

Jose and Maria and, although they did not pick for us, they introduced us to Sixto and his family and we really enjoyed getting to know them.

Sixto and Errol deep in discussion, probably about coffee!

It was a wonderful gathering and we managed to feed 17 people pizza in our little rental and everyone seemed to have a good time!  A special thanks to Errol and Angie for helping things go smoothly!

Finally! Gravel!

Before watching this video turn your sound down a bit and double click to enlarge!  I can be a bit loud when startled!
It seems that we have finally located some gravel to improve our driveway and ready it for our use and use by construction trucks!  With the return of Skeeter we are feeling like things are about to move forward, after what seems like a very long period of little getting done!  In this picture Paco and Don are applying water to the steep part of the public road to assist the large gravel trucks. During the process, and while I was shooting, one of the barrels of water tipped over and gave the backhoe a washing.  Thanks to Paco's quick thinking, all was not lost!  The reason for watering the road is that going down the hill with a full truck is no problem but trying to go up empty has proven more difficult!

Don and Paco, with his backhoe, spent last week working on improving our driveway and spreading the gravel that was delivered.  There is a bit more work to do next week but it is looking good!

This was the first load of gravel.  In addition to gravel we also added 3 truck loads of soil to soften the grade of the driveway.  In doing that, we also covered the metal boxes in the driveway used for the electrical.

The driveway has been widened in places as shown here.  I was sad it took some flowers I had planted but it does look nice and I can always plant more!

We now even have a place to park or sit to let someone pass.

Paco and his backhoe have also been busy pulling out a few trees and coffee plants to give us a larger front yard.  Possibly, where the hot tub will be sitting!  Also, we plan to trim back and remove more trees but have decided to wait until we are finished building.  

It feels really great to be doing something once again.  We have sent our window designs and the number we need to a couple welding companies and are waiting for their bids.  Next week we are planning to get together with the Architect, Juan, to start creating blueprints!  We've been told we have a couple months of paper work and permits before any building can start so.....once again we will hurry up and wait!!

This beautiful butterfly landed on our window and I couldn't resist taking her picture with the clouds in the background.

Yahoo, It's Skeeter!

In the 4 months since we were robbed and our dog, Skeeter, was poisoned and disappeared, (thought dead by us), we would occasionally see a dog that would make one of us say:  "That dog looks like Skeeter!"  Unfortunately, none of them were!

And then the impossible happened!  We had spend the morning in Palmares with friends and decided to head to San Ramon to run a couple errands.  While there, we changed our minds about where to go next--not unusual for us--and were turning around when Don said, "That dog looks like Skeeter!"  I just took it in stride as I'd heard the refrain many times before. As our car was making the turn in the road, however, a dog nearby suddenly had perked up his ears and headed in our direction.  At this point, I hadn't been able to see him but Don seemed very interested.  We headed off down the road with the dog running behind our car, and us becoming more and more curious about this dog that "Looks like Skeeter!"  Passing through the stop sign, we pulled up along side the curb and parked the car.  Don got out and was immediately attacked by this dog that was "crying" exactly like Skeeter used to do when we would leave him for any length of time!!  This was getting more and more interesting!!

        Even though we were starting to believe that this may be our dog, Skeeter,  we were still hesitant to become too excited as things unfolded!.  His next move convinced us!  After showering Don with an exuberant welcome, the dog jumped into the car and proceed to jump into my lap, put his paws around my neck and nuzzle me while emitting that very special Skeeter cry of greeting!  Don and I looked at each other, with not too dry eyes, and said, "I think it's Skeeter!!"   What to do next??  We noticed that he was wearing a choke chain and we weren't quite sure what to do.  While we were pondering the question, Skeeter jumped into the back seat, sat down facing the front window and looked at us as if to say, "O.K., let's go home!" So we did!

       We have no doubt that we have Skeeter back!  He's a bit thinner but has settled in as though he has never been gone.  It is our believe that he recognized the sound of our car, but beyond that we have no idea where he has been or what he has been doing for the last 4 months.  As with Spanish, our "dog" speech is lacking, but it's not important to us where he's been.  We're just very glad to have him back, to walk me to and from the finca and keep us company with his special personality! Welcome home, Skeeter!

Pura Vida!

Wednesday, February 05, 2014

Festival Palmares!

The Festival Palmares is the largest festival in Costa Rica and lasts for over two weeks.  We are not big fans of the crowds that attend these festivals so chose to miss the event last year.  This year, however, our friends Errol, Angie, Jose and Gilberto insisted that we needed to go!  We arrived early in order to stake our claim to a spot in front of the gathering crowd.  It was decided that we would watch the Carnival Parade behind the plastic stools that had been placed there before our arrival.  

Venders were everywhere selling everything including the plastic stools in the photo.  The young man is Jose, our friend.  All kinds of foods, toys, lights and just about anything you would "need" to celebrate were available from a vender!

Sliced fruit!


Look, Erin, even Mickey and Miney Mouse for you!!

The parade consisted of many bands all dressed in different and colorful costumes.  As the evening progressed, so did the complexity of the outfits worn by the participants.

Many of the bands were made up mostly of drummers!  They were very talented and very loud!!  Some of the players were throwing and catching their base drums in sync---amazing to see!  I was holding my breath wondering if they were going to drop one!

In addition to all the bands and dancers there were many different "Mascaradas" which are people walking in these very tall costumes with a window that allows the individual to see where they are going!  

The characters were many and varied!  Some funny and some scary!

All different!

Some just walked by!

While others interacted with the spectators!  Many of the participants were throwing gifts of beads, candy, horns, etc. into the crowd!  We all ended up with beads and whistles and horns like those used to celebrate New Year's Eve.!

This photo shows the window used by the wearer to see.

There was a huge section dedicated to motorcycles!  At least two motorcycle clubs were represented and the motorcycles were all tricked out and spit shined!

One group was called the Steel Angels of Costa Rica.  We had no idea such large and beautiful motorcycles resided in Costa Rica.  In Berlin we are only blessed with the little noisy ones!

This Mime was very entertaining and gave the long red horns to individuals along with sun visors.

Every age was included in the bands from very young to very old.

One particularly scary nun!

Dancers from all over Costa Rica!

 The bands were all dressed in colorful costumes!  Some very tasteful and others pretty bizarre

Some of the costumes left little to the imagination!  Don requested this photo!!

 More beautiful costumes!

 Another band.


Jose, Gilberto & their adorable little cousin enjoying their horns!

This video is to give you the feeling of being at the Festival Palmares!! didn't have to stand there for 3 1/2 hours!!  This band was at the end when it was dark so I hope you can see what's going on!!  Enjoy!

Days 2 and 3 at San Juan Del Sur!

We walked all over San Juan Del Sur and truly enjoyed all the quaintness everywhere!  Beautiful large flower pots sat along the "boardwalk" and this one was full of Bougainvillea.  On the finca we have been trying to start plants (vegetable, floral and fruit) so they get a head start for  our landscaping and eating!   So far we have 2 Avocado trees, many Bougainvillea in different colors, Hydrangea, Amapola (Hibiscus), Impatiens, Culandro, Garlic, Mora Berries, Mangoes, Beans, Pineapple, and Eucalyptus.  These are only a beginning, my list wish list is endless!

 Lots of variety in the buildings!

Cute little street lights and even a Laundry Service, something I have not noticed being available in Costa Rica.  Humm..maybe a new business for us??

Art work decorating the sides of buildings.  Our pickers from Nicaragua knew this man well, however, we didn't quite understand who he is or was when they were explaining.

I especially found the thatched roofs and brick buildings very appealing.

 This was a church we discovered while walking the hills to see the town from above.  As we walked by, we heard people praying and singing.  Yes, it was a very steep hill!

One view as we were headed up!

Notice the palm trees blowing in the wind.  It was so windy that when we tried to sit on the beach to get a little sun we were covered with blowing sand!  Hence, lots of walking!  The boats moored in the bay are a combination of fishing and sail boats and make for a very picturesque scene!

The higher we climbed the more we could see!

 At the top we discovered this wonderful house and their view is spectacular and well worth the climb!

Once we made the walk back down into town we did some more exploring.  As in Granada, there a number of small carts being carried by small horses used for a variety of purposes.

Walking in one of the neighborhoods we came across a group of men with a furniture repair business that was being conducted right on the side of the street!

Another restaurant on the beach with a great Happy Hour and great food as well as entertainment!  Both nights these 2 men juggled fire and other objects and then came by the tables for a donation.  We were also visited by people selling ceramic pots, vases, etc.  and they all have the same story:  I am doing for my family's business, see the signature on the back?  That is my Padre!  We chuckled because we heard the same story in Granada from similar venders!

We viewed numerous modes of transportation, taxis, horse drawn carts, cars, buses and these three wheeled covered bicycles.  There were many of these in both Rivas and San Juan Del Sur and they were used to transport both people and products!  Fortunately, it is flat there and not like Berlin!!  This particular "Tricycle" was in Rivas the morning we headed home.  The bus got us to Rivas in plenty of time to watch the busy street and find coffee and food for breakfast!!   

We'd like to say our trip home went smoothly, however, because this is summer or vacation season here going across the border on our return trip was a very long process making the possibility of our getting the last bus to Berlin questionable!!   As we neared San Ramon, we were feeling confident that we could get to a bus stop in time to make it home, until, the bus driver drove right by our stop!!!  Needless to say, we were not happy!   I banged on the door that closes off the bus driver from his passengers and yelled "San Ramon" more than once! I'm sure the passengers thought I was a Crazy Gringo?  The bus driver said "San Ramon" back and kept on going!!  He continued on his way until we reached Naranjo where he stopped to let off another passenger!!  At this point we had missed our bus to Berlin and needed to figure out how to get to San Ramon!!  After exchanging a few words with the bus driver, we crossed the Pista (big highway) to wait for a local bus to return us to San Ramon! We waited about 20 - 30 minutes and no bus came.  Then we noticed the man who had been let off with us  calling to us across the street and offering us a ride!!  Gratefully, we crossed the Pista once again and rode to San Ramon with our "new best friends"!  The ride greatly improved our spirits as we discovered that our "new friends" were involved in a very interesting business both here and in the U.S.  They are growing Talipia and Vegetables together and have designed a process called Aquaponics.  We were very interested as we are putting in a Talapia pond on our property!  Anyway, we are planning to visit one of their sites when they are back from the states in April.  For more information, they have a Facebook page:  Aquaponic On- Site Training for Communities.

We arrived home very tired about 7 p.m. thanks to our friends Errol and Angie who picked us up in San Ramon!!