Saturday, June 07, 2014

Friends, Fun and Flowers!

Today's blog is a combination of a number of different things that we get to experience living here in Costa Rica, but don't necessarily require a full blog page.  
First off, I would like you to meet my neighbor and young friend, Marisol, and her two cousins, Martin and Sergio.  Marisol stopped by one day and asked if I would help her with her English studies and, so our friendship began.  Not only have I helped her with English, but she has helped me with my Spanish.  She and her cousins are all taking a very intensive one year course to learn English before going on to University.  Their next step, after the year of English studies, is to work in a call center in San Jose.  A "Call Center" is one of those places that takes care of customer complaints for companies in the U.S.  I'm sure you've run into one or two!  I now have a greater appreciation for the individuals doing that job! These are very bright, ambitious and fun young people and I'm pleased we are friends.  On Fridays we all take the bus to San Ramon which arrives about an hour before all of our classes begin.  For them this is an everyday occurrence.  I on the other hand only go once a week to class!  I head to the coffee shop to have a cup of great coffee and study some before class.  Lately, Marisol has been joining me and we are able to do some studying together or just chat.  The boys have also stopped by on occasion.  I not only have an opportunity to work on my Spanish, but because Marisol speaks and understands English so well, I also learn a lot about people in Berlin, Customs and interesting things about Costa Rica!

We've gone for walks and invited other family members to join our chat.  One Saturday Marisol, Martin and Sergio and I walked to our finca.  It was a great walk full of Spanish and English conversation, beautiful views, fresh oranges and fun company.  

Here Martin and Marisol are checking out something very important on their cellphone.  Probably translating some word.  The young people here are so proficient with their phones.  They use them for everything and very efficiently.  I am even doing some texting since meeting them.

I think Sergio is watching them try to figure things out on the cell phone!  Maybe!

Here all three are posing in front of one of our spectacular views.  I am always pleasantly surprised by the young people I've met here who have a serious appreciation of the beauty that surrounds them.  Thanks for a great walk, hope we can do it again! :)

This photo isn't the greatest but it gives you an idea of the size of the place where we went to play Bingo.  Our friends took us to this event and mostly we had a great time.  They were raising money for soccer and the turn out was incredible.  What was more incredible was that it lasted for 6 hours!!!  By the time it was over, we were not even sure what Uno, and Dos were on our cards!!  We were amazed not only at the length of the event but that no one left until it was all over!!!  Believe me, we were ready to head home a bit sooner!  Why you ask would anyone sit for 6 hours and play Bingo??  Well, there was food to purchase, and raffle tickets to buy and all the drawings came at the very end.  Tico's must love to win prizes, that was all we could figure!!  There was also entertainment which I'll share in the following video.

Eight years ago when we first came to Costa Rica and impulsively invested in our future here, there was another piece of property that we purchased in addition to our coffee finca.  This particular property was located in a new development called Butterfly Dance and was a little less than 2 acres.  It is a beautiful lot with a spectacular view of the Nicoya Peninsula, the Nicoya Bay and the Pacific just like our view from the finca.  The difference is that it is a bit closer to the ocean so everything appears larger.  The almost 2 acres are located in a little town called Rio Jesus and this is how we came across this very unusual house.  In the 8 years that we have owned the Butterfly Dance property we had not returned and were unsure exactly how to get there so...we went looking.  Although we knew which direction to go the exact turn off had eluded us in past attempts.  It was decided that maybe we had not gone far enough.  The property entrance is just off the Pista (main highway) and we were right, we had not gone far enough in the past.
Who ever thought you'd see a castle on a back road in Costa Rica!!

When we finally arrived we discovered a number of changes!  The main entrance road had been improved and Butterfly Dance is now a gated community with a "caretaker".  There are houses, which did not exist before, and the roads are much better.  The lot is still there, still beautiful and sporting the same spectacular view.  We considered our trip a success and now that we know how to get to our property, maybe we can get it sold!  Our finca is more than enough property for us to take care of so we have decided to sell our Butterfly Dance property!  Anyone interested??

It is not unusual for us to have birds flying around inside our house.  We love having our windows open and this is the reason we often have visitors.  One day, however, we had our first hummingbird.  There are many outside in the yard attracted all the flowers and, even though they come up to the windows on occasion, we have never had one in the house.  She was beautiful and it was wonderful to see such a special creature up close.  As much as we enjoyed her visit, she needed to be on here way after a very short time.

There is always something going on in San Ramon.  One Friday when we were running our usual errands we came across all these unusual bikes that were advertising for a show to happen in the near future.  Knowing we wouldn't be back for the show I took some photos!

Can you believe the size of this one?

Back to Berlin, there's always something going on here also.  In fact, we are always amazed at the activity this little village generates.  The following videos are of "local" skateboarders riding our steep hills!..   It scares us to death to watch them and we wonder why we don't see more bodies on the side of the road.  The riders cruse past our house at a very fast pace and are carried back up the hill in a friend's pickup or on the back of a motorcycle.  This isn't an every weekend occurrence, but it does happen frequently!   Although the videos are not long, it took Don a good chunk of a Sunday to get the shots.  Enjoy!

Now for the "Flowers" part of this blog.  I'm starting with the flowers that create our coffee.  They bloomed a few weeks ago and only last for a little over a week and then the berries start forming and will grow until we start picking at the end of the year.  The have a fantastic aroma and are beautiful to see in the large quantities of a coffee finca.


Orchids grow all around us here.  We have a number of different kinds growing on the finca.  These belong to a friend who has a very green thumb!  The one on the left is one we have on the finca, however, the unusual white one does not.

I'm not sure what this flower is but I came across it in San Ramon and have since seen it here in Berlin.  Unfortunately, my flower book is packed ready to move so I cannot even try to look it up and I had no luck on line.

This flower is called Amapola and is very common here.  This particular variation is a double --  wish ours were doubles!!  They come in many colors and we are currently trying to replace all our Cana with Amopola on the finca.  

Thursday, June 05, 2014

Puntarenas Up Close!

 The first 4 photos of this blog show our view of Puntarenas we have enjoyed for the past 20 months from our front window.  Puntarenas is the little spit of land on the right side of most of the photos that juts into the Nicoya Bay.  We've enjoyed watching all the ships that come and go.  And, the view is constantly changing with the weather and time of day.  In the evening, when the sun goes down, the lights of the city and neighboring towns create a spectacular scene. One Sunday awhile back we decided we need to check out the city we knew so well from a distance but not at all up close!

It took us about an hour and a half to get to the Puntareans area and we discovered it seemed as dirty and grungy as everyone had told us!!  Along our way to the end of the spit, we stopped at a large lot that appeared to be a type of marina.  Believe me, I use the word loosely!  What looks like gravel on the ground is, probably gravel, but covered with trash.

 The "Pier" was also covered with all kinds of trash including, paper, electronics and, of course, lots of miscellaneous plastic!

There was a couple fishing of the edge of the seawall and we got out and walked around to get a closer look.                                       

There were a number of boats docked near by.  We weren't sure we would want to ride in too many of them and wondered how long they had been there and if they were used.

These boats looked a little more seaworthy and to us appeared to be shrimp boats.

What do you think, Jimmy, shrimp boats or some other type of fishing boat?

 As we were were leaving the "Marina", we spotted some local artists work on the wall.  It was actually a bright spot in a pretty grubby place.  We decided we preferred the graffiti to the old microwaves, washing machines and who knows what other kinds of trash!

As we progressed to the end of the Puntarenas Peninsula, we were pleasantly surprised to see a number of attractive changes being made.  Beautiful walkways and lamp posts along the waterway.  A very pleasant place to walk and enjoy the many distant islands and the Nicoya Peninsula.  Unfortunately, none of the many ships and boats were visible that we enjoy so much from our Berlin window.

A lighthouse was being restored along the boardwalk and added a lot of charm to our experience.  Across the street, although well done but not so picturesque, was a huge, many faceted swimming pool.  It was completely fenced in and was a private club of some kind.  Sorry, no photo all I could get was the fence!

 Just to the right of the lighthouse you can see a cart of typical Costa Rican food that was being sold.

As we looked out to sea we saw turbulent waters and a small vessel.

Behind Don and to the center of the photo you can see the ferry that takes people to the Nicoya Peninsula.   With my fear of ferries, I'll be taking the road to the Nicoya Peninsula thank you very much!

We ate lunch out side this little restaurant at the corner and were disappointed to discover a number of beachfront options on our way out of town!  Maybe next time!

Fortunately, the view across the street was of a beautiful Bougainvillea. And, a wonderful tree growing up through a brick sidewalk.

Heading out of town, we discovered a number of beaches along the side of the road.  Puntarenas is not know for having great beaches and we probably wouldn't choose to spend the day on one.  However, as we passed by, there were some people enjoying the day without feeling crowded!


As you can see, it was a bit windy and cloudy but the temperature was perfect.  All in all we enjoyed our little adventure to Puntarenas and now when we look out our front window we will actually have an idea what we are looking at!  Also, it was nice to see someplace other than Berlin, San Ramon and Palmares!

So...What is a Cuneta?

This is what our driveway looked like before the installation of Cunetas.  After much grading, many truckloads of dirt and gravel and more Colones than we like to remember, it was necessary to protect our investment from the torrential rains of the rainy season.  This is where Cunetas come in.  They are a 1/2 round of concrete about 19" at the mouth and a meter long.  We purchased 100 to do the job.

The Cunetas were first laid alongside the driveway at the steepest incline.  You can also see our wheel
barrel and the cement used to seal the Cunetas together to keep water from seeping through the area where they come together.

A little further up the driveway.

 Wilson, his son and another worker did most of the work and we were very pleased.  Don pitched in a little but it is not a job for someone who doesn't do a lot of physical labor in their every day life.  Youth is also a wonderful advantage!

As you can see one of the men wore a back support!  Smart!!  

A Cuneta is installed by gently setting it into place and then wiggling and snugging (don't you like my technical terms) the new Cueta up against the previous Cuneta and so it goes all the way to the top.

The is the "snugging" action!

Don was helping with the digging.  Before the Cunetas can be set into place, the ditch must be dug to fit. Once the Cunetas are installed, dirt is snugged up around the edges on both sides to encourage the water to use the Cunetas to get where it wants to go.

These last two photos show what the job looks like completed, including the cement that is added to seal the Cuntas together.  We also dug and created narrow ditches that go across the driveway to the Cunetas. These too were cemented.  We are happy to announce that all of our Cunetas and ditches are working fantastic.  Our driveway still looks great after a number of serious rainfalls! And, you now know what Cunetas are!