Setbacks of the past week long forgotten… It’s all relative…

We noticed these bead-like strands in trees in Hawaii during our eight-month stint in 2014/2015 on four islands; Oahu, Maui, Big Island, and Kauai.

“Sightings from the Veranda in Costa Rica”

Tom captured this unique cloud formation. The progression continues below.
Cloud formation is evolving before our eyes.
Finally, it wafts away, losing its shape.

We’re over it; the plumbing problems in the three kitchen sinks, the power and Wi-Fi outage; the car rental fiasco in San Jose; the lack of availability of necessary prescriptions in Costa Rica. It’s all relative.

When we watch news stories of the loss of lives, injuries, loss of homes, and livelihood, our minor issues are but a blip on the radar, hardly worth mentioning compared to what has transpired in Texas and the other US gulf states as a result of Hurricane Harvey.  

Peacock was strutting along the grass.

For many, it will be months, if not years, until they recover from the loss of their homes and businesses and a lifetime of sorrow for losing their loved ones and from suffering severe injury.  How sad this is.

In a perfect world, the inconveniences of our lives, free from such horrors as Hurricane Harvey, would remain paltry and inconsequential in how we see the world. 

Unusual blooming flower.

But we’re human. And, although most of us possess varying degrees of empathy and compassion for the losses of others, we tend to stay stuck in our little worlds. 

Today, tears will be shed worldwide for losses that in no way compare to Hurricane Harvey’s rage across the gulf coast of the US or other disasters that strike people’s lives throughout the world.

Houses close to the road as we drove along the highway.

In today’s world, one may cry over a lost set of keys, a wine stain on a favorite article of clothing, or a sad scene in a TV show or a movie. We were thinking about the losses of others at such times does little to put an end to our whimpering and momentary sensation of failure for even the most insignificant of things. It’s all relative.

We always say, “If we’re safe and healthy, we don’t have a complaint in the world,” as we live this life of world travel. But, we’re not exempt, no matter how hard we try, from getting ruffled by the most meaningless of scenarios.

A popular garden store near the Zoo Ave rehab center.

Who cares if, for some reason, eggs are hard to peel in Costa Rica? Are they hard to peel because they’re so darned fresh from the farm? Who cares if the whole cream we finally found won’t whip due to a lack of emulsifiers added to make it possible?  Is it possible Costa Rica puts less “junk” in many of its products?

Who cares if we can’t find decent imported cheeses or smoky-tasting bacon? Costa Rica is not known for either of these products. They use their queso (cheese) for their meals. They don’t need a fine quality Dutch Gouda to line their deli cases and fill their refrigerators. 

Pretty blooming plants for sale.

Who cares if at night we spot cucarachas (cockroaches) running along with the kitchen counters, which all but disappear during the day? After all, we are living in the rainforest.

Who cares that we find gecko poop on the floors, counters, and furniture. With a quick flick, it’s gone.  Who cares that we can hardly find an English-speaking person in a local shop or market with whom we can have a conversation? It’s their country, not ours. They don’t need to learn our language. We need to discover theirs. (We’re trying).

Pineapple for sale at a farm stand.

Who cares about the loud music wafting through the air at night when we’re trying to sleep? It’s their culture, not ours, that inspires them to celebrate life. Above all, who cares that it rains each day without exception, giving us a reprieve and sunlight for a few hours most mornings when every day the temperature is comfortable with no air-con needed?  We came here in the rainy season based on our schedule, not for some pre-planned sunny vacation.

Who cares about a less than half-day power outage, a temporary plumbing problem, or a ripoff car rental? In the realm of things, these are merely inconveniences that are easily forgotten in no time at all. 

These hedges were trimmed into letters.

Sure, I cringed when a cucaracha ran up my arm when I slipped my hand into a kitchen oven mitt. I got over it. Now, I shake the glove before slipping my hand inside. It’s all relative.

Remain well and safe, dear readers.

Photo from one year ago today, August 31, 2016:

Colorful shrine in front of a property in Phuket, Thailand. It was on this date one year ago that we posted the final expenses for Thailand. For more details, please click here.

Warning to all tourists taking prescription drugs…Could result in a Costa Rica nightmare…

Yesterday we shared a photo of an Owl Eyed Butterfly, and today, we have a winking Barn Owl.

“Sightings from the Veranda in Costa Rica”

Ulysses was creating a perfect trim on the hedges at the villa.

After yesterday’s scathing tongue lashing on Monday’s less than a pleasant attempt at renting a car, we hesitated to go down a somewhat negative path two days in a row.

For the majority of tourists, today’s post will have little significance. You book a vacation/holiday in Costa Rica, staying at a resort for a week or two. If you take prescription meds, you bring along a sufficient amount for your entire stay. If innovative, you bring enough for an additional few weeks in the event of some mishap or delay in returning to your home country as initially planned.

Creatures in Costa Rica are colorful, including this massive spider in her web.

However, suppose travelers like us plan to stay for an extended period. In that case, it’s an entirely different scenario when no prescription drugs (including non-narcotic meds) may be shipped into the country. Also, no vitamins or supplements may be shipped into Costa Rica and will also be confiscated.

Why is this? These are stringent drug laws, coupled with Costa Rica’s intent to create a revenue source from selling their prescription medications in the local and chain pharmacies. As a result, other than prescribed narcotics, mood-altering, or brain function medications, most medicines are sold over the counter without a prescription.

I take low doses of three non-narcotic meds for the following conditions (bad genes); hypertension, thyroid, and a hormone…fairly innocuous items, all typically requiring prescriptions from a doctor in the US.  (Other country’s laws may vary).

It was frustrating, taking photos through the fences, but these birds weren’t ready to return to the wild after their rehabilitation.

When I noticed my supply dwindled these past months, I decided to purchase over these next few months from ProgressiveRX, where I’ve been buying refills regularly over these past five years through their online service, comparable to buying from any online pharmacy in Canada.  

Easy as always? So I thought. This has never been an issue in any country in which we’ve lived over these past years. So I’d make the online purchase well before I needed them (slow delivery times) and have them shipped to wherever we may be at any given time. 

Although one shipment was lost while we were in Italy, the company happily replaced the lost items at no additional charge. Luckily, I’d planned the shipments months before I needed the pills and never missed a dose through the lengthy process of replacing the lost items.

Three Barn Owls at Zoo Ave, the bird and animal rescue facility in the Alajuela Valley.

While in Australia, for the sake of convenience, I received new prescriptions from a doctor we’d visited for physical exams while in Trinity Beach. But, unfortunately, I couldn’t get more than a six-month supply, which is typical, even through online pharmacies. 

Thus, again with a several months supply on hand, I ordered more from ProgressiveRX, which we had shipped to us in a box of supplies from the US from our mailing service.

I’d also considered making the purchases of a few month’s supply while here in Costa Rica since both of us must have physical exams no more than 60 days before the upcoming cruise to Antarctica. So we’d have the necessary exams and purchase my meds while here at any pharmacy.

Three Barn Owls were sharing a tree branch.

On Monday, the day of the rental car fiasco, I’d brought along the pills in the bottles with clearly marked labels to the Walmart Pharmacy. As it turned out, I’ll run out of two of the meds before the time we leave on November 22nd, thinking they could easily be replaced by some Costa Rica versions of the same frequently prescribed drugs for these conditions, common throughout the world.

Oh, foolish me. Walmart could not supply me with any of the three meds without changing doses and brand name components. One of the meds required the brand name when I tried alternates to no avail in years past.

After the pharmacist and I counted what I had left, we discovered I’d run out before leaving. “Local pharmacies don’t carry what you need,” explained the kindly pharmacist. So it’s a lost cause. I contemplated my options which included taking wrong doses and wrong meds and decided against it.

These birds were too high up to get clear shots without a tripod.

During the last month, when I’ll run out of two of the three meds, I’ll take doses every other day.  Doing so should not be life-threatening, although it may create some unpleasant symptoms. I’ve experienced worse. I’ll be fine.

In the interim, I’ll place an order from ProgressiveRX to arrive at our mailing service in September or October (at the latest) and have them shipped in a box of other supplies we’ll be sending to our hotel in Miami, where we’ll stay one night before boarding the 30-night cruise to South America.

How will we ensure the proper timing? We’ll have the shipment arrive from Nevada to Florida at least two weeks before our arrival on November 22nd. The hotel will hold the package for us until we arrive. 

Parrot sitting atop a perch at Zoo Ave (Ave means “aviary” in Spanish).

At that point, I’ll have enough to hold me for a few months until I place another order for a shipment to South Africa. That will work. We received a shipment while we were in Marloth Park in 2014 without incident.

The result…bring enough medication with you when you come to Costa Rica unless you’re confident you can purchase refills from a local pharmacy of the products/brands/doses you typically use. You are allowed to bring a regular supply into the country commensurate with your stay, plus extra for unexpected events.

Did I learn a lesson? I suppose regarding Costa Rica, I sure did. And, of course, in the future, I will check if there will be an issue receiving medication by mail from countries where we aren’t quite sure. But, after five years of world travel, this is the first time we’ve run across such a situation. 

A bit blurry from afar but a pretty parrot nonetheless.

But, like the rental car situation (BTW, we did get a refund from for which we’re relieved and pleased), one never knows what may be encountered in unfamiliar territory. Neither of these scenarios would be an issue for a typical short stay by most travelers. 

Our unique nomadic lifestyle can be challenging at times. And we continue to learn as we go.

Be well.

Photo from one year ago today, August 30, 2016:

Shorter than he’d usually prefer, Tom’s buzz cut in Phuket Thailand held through the 33-night cruise, which began on October 31st. For more details, please click here.

After five years of experience…Even we can be fooled!…Car rental warnings….More Atenas Farmers Market photos…Stunning sighting from the veranda…

A farmer with several coolers of homemade sausage cooked us a sampling of his Italian sausage, which we have trouble finding in many countries. After tasting the delicious, perfectly seasoned sausages, we purchased six packages to use for our next batch of low-carb pizza.

“Sightings from the Veranda in Costa Rica”

From this website: “The owl butterflies, the genus Caligo, are known for their huge eyespots, which resemble owls‘ eyes. They are found in the rain forests and secondary forests of MexicoCentral and South America. Owl butterflies are enormous, 65–200 mm (2.6–7.9 in), and fly only a few meters at a time, so avian predators have little difficulty in following them to their settling place. However, the butterflies preferentially fly at dusk, when few avian predators are around. Therefore, the Latin name may refer to their active periods; caligo means darkness.”   
This morning’s sighting of this Owl Butterfly sent us both to the moon with sheer delight! Can you imagine the magic of this amazing creature with spots that appear to be eyes resembling an owl to keep predators away? Wow!
After tasting the above Italian Sausages, as shown above, we purchased six packages from the farmer.

When we spotted this butterfly on the front veranda this morning, I couldn’t grab the camera quickly enough. Tom witnessed it flying, but by the time I grabbed the camera, it had landed in this spot by the sliding glass door.

The small but fun-filled Atenas Farmers Market.

We’ll be sharing more photos of butterflies over these upcoming months in Costa Rica due to the fact we’ve seen more butterflies here than in any other part of the world. So please check back for future stories.

There are plants for sale along with produce and handmade goods.

Speaking of our remaining 85 days in Costa Rica, yesterday’s experience at the car rental facility in San Jose will be emblazoned in our minds forever. Never once in the past five years of world travel, having rented cars for approximately 50% of the time, have we ever had such an outrageously awful experience.

Sure, we anticipated the US $9 (CRC 5,169) a day rate (included all taxes) would never end up at that rate when we went to pick up the car. In addition, we anticipated add-on charges for our age which were listed at US $5 (CRC 2,871) per day, per person. But even at the US $19 (CRC 10,912), we could live with that with both of us able to drive. 

We were impressed with the elaborate displays.

In many countries, we’ve rented cars for around US $600 (CRC 344,574) to $700 (402,003) for a monthly rate which we’ve always felt has been fair. But, the discovery we made after our taxi ride from Atenas to the Europcar facility (franchise owned) next door to the Walmart store in San Jose, where we planned to pick up a few items after getting the car, threw us for a loop.

Huge bananas picked in giant bunches caught the eye of many shoppers.

It all started fine when the rep behind the counter began processing our booked rental, asking for our passports, driver’s licenses, US address, etc. Of course, we’d brought along the printed documents with our confirmation number and pertinent information to ensure nothing would infringe upon our getting the decent rate we’d derived online at our usual, a reputable company.

Belts, wallets, and other leather goods.

And, we’ve used Europcar at least 10 times over these years, expecting they’d honor the online pricing without gouging us. But, after finding they were franchise operations and subject to any peculiar laws in a country (so they say), we were shocked over the “bait and switch” tactic we were presented.

Local farmers and butchers have a wide array of beef, pork, and poultry for sale.

Aad has warned us about “bait and switch” type rental situations frequently occurring in Costa Rica, the reason why we’d chosen to do the five-day rental through his regular guy from “Thrifty.” Having used Europcar many times over these past years, we didn’t anticipate any problems.

Refrigerated cases with traditional and uncommon cuts of meat.

Here’s the prices we’d have had to pay, had we taken the tiny car yesterday:

1. the US $9 daily rate, plus the US $5 (CRC 2,871) for one driver over 64 years old (Tom) PLUS…an additional US $44.95 (CRC 25,814) per day for insurance (we already have insurance through our credit cards and a separate liability policy) for a total of US $58.95 per day (CRC 33,854) for a total for US $5,070 (CRC 2,911,444) for our remaining days in Costa Rica.
2.  Plus, they wanted a letter from our bank stating we have sufficient funds to pay for the car in the event of an accident (what the heck was the US $44.95 (CRC 25,814) per day supposed to be for?
3.  Plus, they required a US $9,000 (CRC 5,168,610) deposit!!!

Specialty flavored sea salts.  We purchased a similar item in Tasmania, smokey Himalayan salt which we continue to use and enjoy.

Why in the world would we pay any of this? But, of course, none of these above three would send us walking out the door in a huff, which I did, this time, not so much Tom. Yep, I was the “overly grumpy” traveler this time, appalled by this unbelievable trickery. 

I couldn’t resist buying one of these containers of two dozen quail eggs.

Sure, if someone were renting a car for a one-week holiday, it wouldn’t seem so bad, but still, they’d required the outrageous deposit! Who’d be willing to put a US $9,000 (CRC 5,168,610) deposit on a credit card?  Not us!

Over a period of a few days, I boiled these tiny quail eggs and had them in my taco salad. They’re tiny and fun to pop in one’s mouth for a tasty treat.

We left…no car…as frustrated as I’ve ever been in our years of world travel.  We walked across the road to the Walmart store, our yellow Costco bag in hand with a shortlist of items we needed to find, some of which we did find and others we did not.

For illustration purposes, I placed one large regular chicken egg atop the boiled, peeled quail eggs. About four quail eggs are comparable to one chicken egg.  I ate all 24 of them over a period of three days. Tom didn’t care for them, although they taste almost identical to a regular egg.

Until tomorrow, folks, when we share the story of what transpired at the pharmacy at Walmart that left me with a dilemma for which there’s no logical solution. However, by the time we paid for our few items, we were both in a better state of mind, and we found a taxi outside the store that drove us back to Atenas. 

Since Tom’s been eating fruit, we purchased this watermelon which he hadn’t eaten since we left Minnesota. So today, I used this cauliflower as an ingredient in my favorite meal; Chicken Sausage and Cauliflower Bake. Could you email me this amazing recipe?

Round trip taxi fares from Atenas to San Jose?  The total came to US $54.83 (CRC 31,485), which actually wasn’t as much as we’d expected. That was one pricey trip t0 Walmart!

We used these small purple onions in taco salad over these past few days.

No one ever said it was ever easy. So we’ll be back with more.

Photo from one year ago today, August 29, 2016:

Final photos of Chalong Beach in Phuket, Thailand, are preparing to depart on September 1, 2016. For more final photos, please click here.

We’re here!…Power is back on after 10 hours…We’re off to the big city…More Atenas Friday Farmers Market…

When this sweet and friendly butcher at the Farmers Market spotted me with the camera, he willingly posed! The people of Costa Rica are approachable and warm.

“Sightings from the Veranda in Costa Rica”

A breathtaking ridge of low-lying clouds.

Two things are of most concern to us when there’s a power outage; one, that our food in the refrigerator and freezer will spoil, and two, the prospect of boredom at night in the dark.

Check out the size of those bananas!

We can easily entertain ourselves during the day by playing cards, chatting, sunning and swimming in the pool.  But, once darkness falls, life without power is daunting.  Our phone batteries are usually dead by dark, and thus we’re unable to read online books, and our laptops may only have enough juice to watch one to two downloaded shows or one movie.

Last night would have been incredibly annoying in the dark had the power not come back on at 1:00 pm yesterday. As it turned out, my laptop, which contains all of the downloaded shows, was dead when I attempted to fire it up when the power returned.

Some vendors offered handmade crafts.

Somehow, on Saturday night, the plug-in came loose, totally draining the battery. We wouldn’t have been able to watch a thing or…to transfer a show to Tom’s laptop. Thank goodness we got the power back yesterday.

These handmade shoes were beautifully made.

In the realm of things, none of it’s a big deal. We could be like the folks dealing with floods and devastation after massive Hurricane Harvey over these past days. Who are we to complain?

Then again, with us humans, it’s all relative. We each live in our moment in time, and although we may feel empathy for those less fortunate, we do tend to get caught up in our own “dilemma of the moment.”

Handmade candles.

Besides the 10-hour power outage on Sunday and the resulting lack of WiFi, which doesn’t work without power, the three sinks in the kitchen had begun leaking on Saturday night to the point where we can no longer use them. Julio is coming today to make the repairs.

These perfectly shaped tomatoes may have been imported, which we’ve discovered is not unusual at markets throughout the world. Instead, we purchase a big bag of uneven, less perfect tomatoes, as shown below.

Luckily, we already had last night’s meal prepared, which required reheating the meat for our taco salads.  No worries there.  We’d have managed even without power when the gas range still worked, power or not.

On Saturday, when we went to Supremercade Coopeatenas, we waited at the outdoor cafe for the rental car #1 guy to pick up the car at 10:00 am after our five-day rental. (This morning at 8:30 am, taxi driver Henry picks us up to get rental car #2 near the San Jose airport).

These are the tomatoes we purchased.

While we waited, we met a lovely couple Pat and Jim, from the US, who owns a home nearby but happen to be returning to the US this week for an extended stay. Gosh, it was fun chatting with them. Their five years of experience living in Atenas were helpful to us. 

They even followed us into the market to show us where to find whole cream and unsweetened coconut milk. Yeah! The cream wasn’t located in a refrigerator section but instead was on a dry shelf in a shelf-stable container. The coconut milk was situated in the liquor section near the rum. Oh, I get it.  In three and a half months, we’d never have found those two much-needed items.

There are many apple orchards in the area.

While checking out, we met another lovely person, Sarah, who wrote down her phone number and whom we’ll call for a get-together in a few weeks. Her husband had just had surgery and needed a few weeks to recover before socializing. Most certainly, we’ll make contact.

Gorgeous flowers for that special occasion.

After the visits with the ex-pats, we purchased several kilos of organic chicken breasts and pork chops when the market was having its special Saturday sale. We filled our insulated bags to the brim, grabbed a taxi in front of the market, and were back to our villa a little after midnight.

We purchased six heads of this lettuce for our big daily salads.

With no car over the weekend until we pick up the rental this morning, we felt a bit stranded on Sunday, exacerbated by the lack of electricity. If we’d had wheels, we could have gone into town to buy bags of ice to keep the food cold. 

Instead, we dumped all the ice from the ice maker into a large cooler and added all the perishables from the refrigerator. Everything survived, and the frozen meats in the freezer stayed frozen. 

More locally grown fruit.

I’d prepared a short post yesterday to inform our readers that we weren’t able to post. I’d considered doing the post in the afternoon. Still, after changing my usual morning posting routine, I decided against it and took the rest to re-organize after the power outage and get caught up on a few tasks.

Now that we’ll have a car, we have many exciting tours on the horizon. Please stay in touch as we continue to share them with all of you.

Have a wonderful day!

Photo from one year ago today, August 28, 2016:

The elaborate sign at the entrance to the Muay Thai Kickboxing facility down the road from us. Many nights we can hear the activity. For more photos, please click here.

No power, no Wi-Fi, plumbing problems.

What a day! At 3:00 am, the power when out. Nine hours later still no power or Wi-Fi. Three kitchen sinks leaking. Food in fridge rapidly defrosting after a huge grocery shopping. No car until tomorrow.
Thus, no regular post today. We are currently using phone SIM for this short notice.
Already swam in pool, played GIN and keeping cheerful. If power returns later today we’ll be back.
If no power tomorrow, we’re still taking off to San Jose to pick up the rental car at 8:30 and will post as soon as power and WiFi return.
Happy day!

A small Farmers Market with a big punch!…Wow!…

This is, by far, the largest carrot we’ve ever seen. We couldn’t stop laughing over the size of this!

“Sightings from the Veranda in Costa Rica”

Last night’s violent thunderstorm was one of the worst we’ve seen.  Check out our video from the veranda.

As mentioned in yesterday’s post, we were out the door by 7:00 am to get to the Atenas Farmers Market which is highly regarded by locals, expats, and tourists who have the opportunity to spend time in this cozy community.

Check out the size of these radishes!

Although the market wasn’t huge like Rusty’s Market in Cairns Australia, the largest we’ve ever seen, it was diverse in a way that piqued our curiosity as well as sending us on a shopping spree to partake and savor many of the fine products offered by local farmers and vendors.

There’s something magical about visiting farmers’ markets throughout the world. It gives us an inside view of the foods the locals consider most likely to provide them with sales but also indicates those products they use in their day-to-day lives. 

These, too, are some of the enormous carrots we’ve seen.  The others in the bin are typical full-sized carrots.

Indeed, some of the non-food items, mostly local crafts and handmade goods, are expensive and often rightfully so, based on the quality workmanship and attention to detail we often see exhibited. 

The produce, both fruits, and vegetables are reasonably priced. We purchased a wide array of food items from quail eggs (a first for us), to homemade Italian sausage. 

CRC 1000 is equivalent to US $1.75. Prices are very reasonable at the Atenas Farmers Market and the organic products are excellent. We’ll be returning every Friday morning from here on.

Lately, as mentioned, with Tom finding he can eat fruit without gaining weight or suffering ill effects (lucky Tom), we purchased apples, bananas, and watermelon. 

We hadn’t purchased a watermelon since living in the US. Once he finishes the cut pineapple that’s in the fridge, I’ll cut and seed the watermelon for him. Much to our delight, this villa has numerous large Tupperware-type containers that will work perfectly. 

Many local farmers bottle their own products such as this spicy sauce and bottles of honey (to the right).

Unlike the US, none of the watermelon grown is seedless. Whenever I’ve cut watermelon with seeds, I’ve permanently removed every source, which I’ll do again. The hard part will be to avoid snacking on it while preparing it for Tom. Indeed, my mouth will be watering over the watermelon although I won’t take as much as a taste.

There are 18 grams of sugar is one typical sized slice of watermelon, equivalent to 4.5 teaspoons of sugar, with 21 grams of carbohydrates. When consumed, the body doesn’t perceive the fructose in the fruit any differently than it would if one downed the sugar it contains in teaspoons. Research is now coming to the forefront to substantiate these facts about the dangers of sugar in any form, fruit and starches included—enough about that.

The last time we saw dragon fruit was in Australia. 

As we walked through the rows in the farmers market before we put anything into our grocery cart, we had a hard time deciding where we’d purchase such items as tomatoes, lettuce and purple onions. Each stand looked lush and ripe with its variety of succulent produce. 

It was easy to determine that the produce was organic when we discovered bugs and worms as we handled the products when making our selections.  Also, the uneven shapes and sizes further exemplified that few, if any chemicals were used in growing these products. They reminded me other organic produce we’ve purchased from farmers in countries throughout the world.

These red beets are enormous.  I love beets but they contain too much sugar for my way of eating.

Back “home” a few hours later, with Isabel still here engaged in her usual cleaning frenzy, we monopolized the kitchen while we washed, prepared and bagged the clean produce. 

We always eyeball the baked goods but never purchase any.  These buns looked delicious.

She usually cleans the kitchen last so we had plenty of time to get everything under control and put away. I chopped tomatoes, lettuce, and purple onion for last night’s taco salad dinner. 

Within an hour we were done in the kitchen allowing time to finish posting yesterday’s story and photos and uploading it close to our usual time. I’d prepared part of it prior to leaving the house making the completion easy and less time-consuming.

These red hairy-looking fruits are rambutan. Atop the rambutan is an adorably decorated squash.

This morning at 10:00 am we’re meeting the car rental guy at Supermercado Coopeatenas, to drop off car #1. Afterward, we’ll arrange a taxi to return us to the villa where we’ll be stranded over the weekend. On Monday, we’ll take a cab to San Jose to pick up car #2 which we’ll keep for our remaining time in Costa Rica.

Tom checked out the cafe in the Farmers Market.  He’s always on the lookout for donuts.

So far, after last night’s wild thunderstorm, the sun is shining and the day is lovely. May you have a sunny and bright day!

Photo from one year ago today, August 26, 2016:

Chalong Bay in Phuket.  For more Thailand photos as we wound down our time in the country, please click here.

Continuing photos from visit to Zoo Ave in Costa Rica…Off to Friday morning Farmers Market…Back tomorrow with photos…

This was a first for us, seeing red bananas, which are supposedly sweeter than yellow bananas.

“Sightings from the Veranda in Costa Rica”

We were in awe of this view from the veranda when the afternoon clouds roll in each day.

This morning at 7:00 am, we took off for the Atenas Friday Farmers Market. A few weeks ago, we attempted to visit the market in the early afternoon, only to discover the times posted online were incorrect. Its correct hours of operation are from 6:00 am, closing at 1:00 pm, Fridays only.

We’d heard this was a familiar spot to meet ex-pats and locals;  buy produce, flowers, and spices, and get the natural feel of the energy of this small town with a population of about 5,000, with 27,000 in the entire district of Atenas.

Isabel and I couldn’t figure out what type of fruit this is.

Tomorrow, we’ll be back with photos from the Atenas Farmers Market. Although we’d grocery shopped on Tuesday, purchasing most of our needed produce and other items, we made a list of a few things we’d buy at the market to last over the weekend until we shop again for next week. 

We hope to redo our grocery shopping day to Fridays, enabling us to purchase all of the produce at the Farmers Market. Most of the produce is locally grown and organic when shopping at the local grocery stores, although not explicitly certified in Costa Rica from what we tell thus far.

We were disappointed not to get a better photo of this sloth. Nevertheless, they are fascinating animals commonly found living in the trees in the jungles and forests of Costa Rica.

This weekend we plan to make one of our favorite dishes, taco salad, using grass-fed ground beef, lettuce, olives, onion, tomatoes, avocados, and homemade taco seasoning. I often add hard-boiled eggs to my salad and a little homemade salad dressing.

It’s now 10:00 am, and we returned from the Atenas Farmers Market about two hours ago, loaded up with goodies we’ll share with photos in tomorrow’s post. It was a great market!

Another failed attempt at a sloth photo when we were trying to shoot through the fence.

Once we returned, we found Isabel, our cleaner, chatting with Ulysses and just about ready to enter to clean our villa.  She has a key and doesn’t need us to let her in. So, loaded up with our fruit and vegetable(Tom’s been eating some fruit since we arrived) and other foods, we hustled to get indoors to wash the produce, put everything away, and start the pot of meat cooking on the stove for tonight’s taco salads.

We wanted to hurry and get out of the way to allow Isabel space to clean. But, this house is so big, it would be hours before she’d get near the kitchen. So, busily, both Tom and I got to work washing, drying, and dicing vegetables for the salad. What a treat it is that there’s a salad spinner here. We hadn’t had one of those since Trinity Beach, Australia, in the summer of 2015.

This Giant Bamb0o tree, as shown in the two photos of us, was no less than 4 meters in diameter.

Finally, we got the meat cooked, and it’s now cooling in the refrigerator to be reheated later for dinner.  We love hot taco meat topped with melted cheese atop the other salad ingredients. In addition, two ripe avocados are waiting to be sliced that I’d left out to ripen these past few days.

While we were gone, we downloaded season eight of Master Chef, another bit of mindless drivel we enjoy from time to time. Part of the simple pleasures of our daily lives includes a day just like today. 

Tom is standing next to the Giant Bamboo tree to gain a perspective of its massive size.  The vegetation at Zoo Ave was almost as interesting as the wildlife.

We were out the door at 7:00 am to head to the Farmers Market. We took tons of photos and spoke to many locals in our very choppy Spanish as best as we could. We’re prepared, chopped, and diced vegetables for a beautiful dinner tonight, somewhat befitting Costa Rica’s style of food. 

At the moment, the sun is shining with rain predicted, as always, in the afternoon. Around noon, I’ll call my sister Julie in California to wish her a happy birthday and then, shortly after, call my sister Susan to remind her to contact Julie. Since Susan had a brain bleed six months ago due to a severe fall, her memory isn’t quite so good anymore, and I’ve made a point of calling her to remind her of important events.

I used repellent at the facility but did get a few mosquito bites but indeed not as many as expected on the hot, humid day.

Oh, we all must grab what we can from life, living it to the fullest, embracing every single moment to fill our hearts and minds with good thoughts and great memories.  Our lives are but fleeting moments in the realm of the space and time of the world around us. Grab it all. Treasure it…for as long as we can.

Photo from one year ago today, August 25, 2016:

BBC news photo of earthquake rubble as rescuers search for victims of that week’s 6.2 catastrophic event. See details below. For our post about this disaster, please click here.

Accomplished another task…Plus, sightseeing in Costa Rica..

Tom shot this excellent photo of a leopard high above the ground on a perch.

“Sightings from the Veranda in Costa Rica”

Early last evening, before the most powerful rainstorm since our arrival in Atenas, this fire was burning on a hill. We took this photo from the veranda. Only moments later, thunder and lightning filled the sky, and pouring rain put the fire out in a matter of minutes. Our pool was almost overflowing from the rain.

When the shipped package from our mailing service became lost in the mail while we were in Tasmania, one of the main reasons we were worried was the fact that, as requested, had placed our paper mail and tax documents into the shipped box along with many other essential items.

Ducks and lots of turtles.

When we didn’t receive the package in time to do our 2016 taxes (it was later found and shipped to us in Sydney), our new accountant in Nevada filed an extension for us. Our prior accountant had decided to quit the business that eventually led us to Donnie Castleman who proved to be fast, efficient and reasonably priced in getting our return completed. 

With the extension, we had until October 15, 2017, to file the return. But, with a plan to put anything weighing heavily on our minds behind us, I got to work over this past week and sent Donnie everything he needed to complete the process.

We’ve seen these “flowers” in many botanical gardens throughout the world.  Thanks to friend Louise in Kauai Hawaii, she’s identified this as Pine Cone Ginger.  Thanks, Louise!

This morning at 5:00 am, I received an email from Donnie that he’d completed the return and all we needed to do was print the signature page, sign it, scan it and send it back to him. By 6:00 am, we’d reviewed everything, completed the few tasks, saved the documents to our external hard drive and cloud, and paid his bill via PayPal. Whew! That’s a significant relief.

The only significant items to accomplish between now and the next few months are extending our visas for Costa Rica by 23 days. Tom is waiving Part B Medicare when the documents arrive in the snail mail in Nevada before his 65th birthday on December 23rd. 

As in my case, Part B does Tom no good outside the US which results in the necessity of us having International Health Insurance.  Neither of us has made a health insurance claim of any type in almost five years. We’ll write more on these two topics as it transpires. 

There are six varieties of Toucans in Costa Rica.

Also, by November, we’ll need to select our clothing for the Antarctica cruise and have a physical exam by a local doctor certifying we are fit to travel to this remote location. Neither of these items causes us any concern and we’ll be diligent in getting them done on time.  

In the interim, we can begin to relax a little and check out some sightseeing venues here in Costa Rica. We’re not going to go crazy and go out every day. However, we do plan to do something special at least once a week while spending plenty of time exploring on a variety of road trips.

We’ve yet to see a Toucan in the wild, but indeed, over these next many months.

Many have the perception that Costa Rica is run rampant by wild animals, birds, and colorful frogs. This is not necessarily the case when staying in a vacation home, resort or hotel.  No doubt, there are plenty of colorful birds flying about but we’ve yet to see a colorful frog.

Many tourist activities include hikes through the rainforests where one may be more inclined to encounter unusual wild animals. Right now, as I continue to recover from this outrageous gastrointestinal thing, I’m not feeling like hiking in a rainforest.

I gushed over these baby rabbits as they crawled out of a hole in the ground.

Instead, yesterday we embarked on a two-hour hilly walk at what is called Zoo Ave located not too far from Atenas. As many of our readers know, we aren’t big fans of zoos.  We prefer to see native fawn and flora in a natural setting, not behind bars. 

However, when a facility advertises itself as a rehabilitation center we’re more inclined to check it out. As it turned out Zoo Ave (ave means “bird” in Spanish), located in La Garita, Costa Rica was well worth the trip, especially when we observed signs that depicted they’d rescued over 1000 animals in the past year.

White and black bunnies were hanging out together.

It doesn’t appear that Zoo Ave has its own website so we’ve included tourist’s comments from TripAdvisor here. With positive reviews of 4.5 of out 5, it seems others have enjoyed this facility with its intent to return rescued wildlife back to the wild when they are sufficiently healed and able to do so. 

Of course, some native animal can’t ever be returned to the wild when they’ve become dependent on human supplied food sources, making them incapable of foraging on their own. This is an unfortunate but necessary reality of rescue facilities.

We had the opportunity for numerous Iguana sightings at the facility including some not in cages with one walking across the path we walked.

The hard part for me was being unable to take good photos of delightful creatures who were ensconced in cages. Although none of the animals were housed in small or inadequate cages they had plenty of room to wander, fly and navigate. 

Taking photos through chain link fences is impossible for an amateur photographer like me. So I apologize for any of the less-than-clear images we’ll be posting over the next several days. We enjoyed ourselves and easily managed 10,000 steps on my FitBit, a goal I try to reach as often as possible.

This bird is giant, about half the size of an Ostrich.

It’s funny how during our two-hour walk through the facility, I kept thinking of Africa and how practically face-to-face encounters with wildlife has become so crucial for both of us. And yet, we’re still drawn to the opportunity to see what each country has to offer in the way of its native wildlife and we often seek rescue facilities when we’re unable to spot them any other way.

Actually, even in South Africa, we visited a few rescue facilities finding them dedicated and exciting in their commitment to returning as many animals as possible to their natural environment. 

Any suggestions on what this bird may be?

Now as I look back, I could kick myself for ever going to a facility that “trains” its inhabitants to perform for humans. We’ll never visit such a facility again if we can help it.  Over the years, we’ve become more educated and informed about wildlife which has had a tremendous impact on our views.,

After last night’s massive rain storm today is damp and humid. We plan to stay put, continuing to work on small tasks and perhaps relax and enjoy ourselves a little now that some more significant tasks are behind us. 

A green Parrot, comparable to the one that had flown into the glass on our veranda and survived.

May you have a pleasant day!

Photo from one year ago today, August 24, 2016:

Many residential streets are narrow with room for only one car to pass without a bit of maneuvering. The previous night there was a bombing at a nearby location. At this point, we had nine days remaining until departure and we were anxious to be on our way. For more details, please click here.

It’s great to have a car!…We’re off this morning for an adventure…Modern Costa Rica…

Statue in a roundabout on our way toward San Jose, known as Rotondo de las Garantias Sociales Zapote.

“Sighting from the Veranda in Costa Rica”

Cattle grazing at a distant pasture.  We can hear them mooing all day long but can’t always see them.

This morning, we’re rushing a bit to get the post uploaded early to head out the door for a bit of sightseeing before it starts raining. We’d considered waiting to do today’s post until we returned later in the day. But, as our long-time readers know, I prefer to get to work on it first thing in the morning to have it uploaded by noon our time.

We were up at the crack of dawn after a fitful night’s sleep, anxious to get the day started so we could be on our way. At the moment as I write it’s 7:30 am and I have one hour to get this done and uploaded after I’d already added the headings, photos, captions and the “one year ago photo” earlier this morning.

We were surprised to see a mall with many American chain stores.

Yesterday, for the first time we drove ourselves to the market for the week’s groceries. Tom waited outdoors at the cafe while I shopped with a watchful eye on the registers so he could dash indoors and help load the items. (There’s no moving belt).

But, in many ways, Costa Rica is modern and updated, more so than we’ve seen in many countries throughout the world. Indeed, tourism has been highly instrumental in inspiring this country to become more appealing to tourists from all over the world.

The easy and relatively short flight from the US (it was six hours with one stop for us from Las Vegas, Nevada but is only three hours from Houston, Texas) with many non-stop flights from certain large cities making it highly appealing for those who like to go international without spending days of travel time.

Most likely, the large malls are frequented by expats and tourists.  With high tourist prices on many items, we imagine the locals shop in the locally owned stores.

Our perception had been that Costa Rica was wild and relatively uninhabited. This is the case in most parts of the small country, fantastic, untamed, rich with wildlife and rain forest, rife with adventurous activities for those seeking thrills in its many remote locations.

But, for many, the hustle and bustle of city life can be found in a few of its major cities including San Jose,, the capital with its population of 333,000, and other cities such as Alajuela with a population 293,601 (including surrounding towns in the valley). 

A pond along the highway on our way to Curridabat.

Here are some demographics about Costa Rica from this site:

“Demographics Of Costa Rica

Costa Rica is located in Central America between Nicaragua and Panama bordering the Caribbean Sea and North Pacific Ocean. The country has an estimated population of 4,872,543 people who mainly reside in the urban centers. The white or Mestizo group makes up to 83.6% of the people, followed by 6.7% Mulato, 2.45% indigenous, 2.4% blacks of African origin. The Costa Rican residents are mainly Roman Catholic with 76.3% adherents, Evangelical 13.7%, Jehovah witness 1.3% other Protestants 0.7%, other religion 4.8% with 3.2% of the population adhering to no faith. The country has a high dependency ratio of 45.4% and a poverty rate of 20%. The population growth rate is at 1.19% with 15.7 births/1000 population and a death rate of 4.6 deaths/1000 people. Maternal mortality rate is at 25deaths/100,000 live births and infant mortality rate is at 8.3 deaths/1000 live births. The life expectancy for males is 75.9 years while that of females is 81.4 years.”

With the country’s almost 5 million residents, including many expats and foreigners with year-round and seasonal homes, it’s a much busier place to visit than we’d expected.

Church along the highway.  I couldn’t get much a photo of this colorful building. But, we did our best with GPS and no places to stop for pictures with the problems we were having with GPS.

Fortunately, for us, we’re located in the quiet area of Atenas which is located in the Alajuela Valley. Its charm and old-world feel make it especially appealing to us. Had we stayed close to San Jose, we surely would have been disappointed by the traffic and the hustle and bustle. 

We had enough of that while in the USA for nine weeks, which, now that we’ve been here for over three weeks is rapidly becoming a distant memory. But, of course, the time we spent with family and friends was meaningful and memorable.

We were driving through a town.

Tom and I both feel most at home in the more remote locations.  Other than the month we’ll spend in Buenos Aires, Argentina beginning on December 23, 2017, our upcoming year or more will be precisely what we strive to achieve…quiet locations with abundance culture, wildlife, and vegetation.

Sure, there’s a price to pay to live in remote areas usually centering around lack of availability of specific products and foods; often a lack of air conditioning and, of course, the constant presence of a variety of ugly insects, some venomous, some not and the likelihood of snakes, again, some venomous and some not.

The towns along the highway had numerous shops, many of which we had no idea what they offered for sale.  This sign translates to, “Welcome to low prices.” 

Wherever we travel, we find each location to have its pluses and minuses. Whether it’s sand flies on a pristine beach as shown in the “year ago photo” below or there is a greater risk of pickpockets when sightseeing and visiting local venues. 

As they say, “there’s no free lunch.” As much as any one of us would like to believe in Paradise, one only need watch an episode of “Naked and Afraid” to see the realities and harsh conditions in many parts of the world.

It was cloudy, as often is the case, impeding good shots of the surrounding mountains.

We have no desire to be stranded in the rain forest or the bush for 21 days but living in remote locations gives a but a peek into the challenges that Mother Nature can present, both divine and terrifying, in many parts of the world. It’s this very mix of good and not-so-good that keep us reeling with the challenge and the excitement.

As matter of fact, we’ll be back tomorrow with some photos that hopefully will provide our readers with a more “inside look” of what Costa Rica is really about, beyond the cities, the malls, the tourist traps, and the MacDonald’s restaurants.

Have a beautiful day. We’re out of here!

Photo from one year ago today, August 23, 2016:

Talk about a pristine sandy beach! in Phuket, Thailand! This was Chalong Beach, a popular tourist destination. For more photos, please click here.

Trip to the dentist in Curribatat…Good toll roads…GPS issues…

Tom, walking toward the dental clinic. It didn’t seem to be in a great neighborhood with bars on windows and doors, but we felt comfortable.

“Sightings from the Veranda in Costa Rica”

We couldn’t see the eclipse of the sun here in Costa Rica, but we sure had a lovely sunset.

We’re never thrilled with the necessity of visiting a dentist. Who is? I suppose, in a way, we use our world travels as an excuse to postpone dental appointments based on the inconvenience of finding an English-speaking dentist and finding a clinic we find suitable. No doubt, it’s undoubtedly a case of avoidance in one way or another.

When we made plans to stay in Costa Rica for over three months, we knew we’d have a hard time coming up with an excellent excuse to avoid going to a dentist when this country is known for its good dental care at reasonable prices. So what reason would we have now?  None.

Shortly after we arrived three weeks ago today, we made our appointments with a dental clinic with nine highly trained and qualified dentists, most of whom were trained in the US and recommended by our property manager, Marian.

Two of the dentists contemplating a patient’s treatment.

Many foreigners travel from the US and other countries to have their dental work done at prices as low as one-third the cost in the US. This makes sense for seniors on fixed incomes, especially when flights are reasonable from the US to Costa Rica, along with affordable hotel rates and costs for meals.

No more than a minute after we arrived (early, of course) at the Costa Rica Dental Clinic Lab found at this site, we felt comfortable and at ease that we had come to the right place. 

We met an American from Texas who was completing an entire mouth restoration, priced at US $50,000 (CRC 28,823,500) for which he was paying only US $15,000 (CRC 8,647,050) at the Costa Rica Dental Clinic Lab. He’d been flying back and forth over the past many months to have the massive amount of work done and was thrilled with the quality work and competent dentists.

This is the dentist who did a fine job on my filling and cleaning.  I’ve always dreaded dental appointments but did fine without numbing injections.

A short while later, we met a woman from Maryland, US, who’d also been flying back and forth to have considerable work done at reasonable prices. In each case, the “tourists” enjoyed their time in Costa Rica whenever they returned for more dental work. This made sense to us.

The last time we had our teeth cleaned was on July 30, 2015, as shown in this post, for which we were content with the results. The pricing and details are described at the above link.

While in Maui for six weeks, we’d booked cleaning appointments for November 4, 2014, for both of us. Once we arrived at the facility, Tom felt surprisingly uncomfortable. Something just wasn’t right.  They’d moved our appointments around, requiring a long wait.  We canceled, unwilling to wait for the extended period, especially when Tom was so hesitant. See here for details.

This is the lovely Geovanna, who works with patients in the office, appointments, and billing and makes arrangements for hotels and transportation.

Later Tom had the abscessed tooth situation in Fiji in November 2015, requiring treatment on two separate occasions which resulted in the necessity of the tooth eventually being pulled in New Zealand in early 2016.  As a result of all of the above, we hadn’t had our teeth cleaned in 25 months, and it was long overdue. 

Yesterday morning after picking up the rental car at the outdoor cafe at the grocery store, Supermercado Coopeatenas, promptly at 10:00 am as Aad had arranged for us for a total of five days. Although we were a little surprised by the US $1250 (CRC 720,588) deposit required, the paperwork went quickly and smoothly. 

It seemed like a huge deposit for a five-day rental. However, with our appointments set in Curribadat for 1:00 pm, we accepted the terms and paid the US $167.50 (CRC 96,559) plus the deposit.

The dental office has a pleasant modern decor.

In no time at all, we were on our way, paper copies of directions in hand plus GPS directions on my phone using the SIM card. I don’t know if this has ever happened to any of our readers, but once we were within a few miles of our destination, the GPS kept changing, telling us to go another way, after another, and then another.

Poor Tom was driving and trying to stay calm. I’d say, “Turn left here! No, turn right in two kilometers at Calle 42!  No, turn right in 400 meters! No, make a u-turn now!” Later we discovered that google maps had an error regarding the clinic, showing it has two locations when it only has one. Most likely, that contributed to the crazy directions.

Oh, good grief, I don’t know how he maintained his cool while I went helter-skelter with the directions. The paper map was useless.  Finally, 30 minutes later than we expected to arrive, we found the dental clinic. Good thing we’d left as early as we did for the 1:00 pm appointments.

Geovanna stays busy ensuring each patient’s dental experience is top-notch.

In any case, the dentists were great, speaking excellent English.  The receptionist and dental assistant, Geovanna, was fabulous; warm, friendly, and inviting. The clinic was impeccably clean and organized, and from the two patients we spoke to, we were totally at ease.

I had one filling repaired, and both of us had our teeth cleaned with better results than either of us had ever experienced, even in the US. The total bill for both was US $250 (CRC 144,118), certainly much less than it would have been in the US or many other countries.

The drive back to Atenas was easy, and once we returned to our gated community, we drove up the mountains to see the many areas we’d been curious to see which were too steep to walk. This area is lovely, more than we’d expected from our comfy world in the exquisite villa overlooking the valley.

We ran into lots of traffic on the return drive.  Curridabat is close to the capital city of San Jose.

Today, as soon as we’re done uploading today’s post, we’re off to the market to get the remaining ingredients needed for tonight’s meal, Low Carb Chicken Pot Pie (please email me if you’d like the recipe), a favorite of ours and, to purchase groceries we’ll need for the balance of the week.

Tomorrow, after posting and weather permitting, we’ll be heading to an exciting and popular tourist venue. We’ll be back with more new photos.

Have a fabulous day!

Photo from one year ago today, August 22, 2016:

We took this photo at a local resort in Phuket. The placement of hands, Mudras, 
as gestures in Buddhism is explained here. For more details from that day’s post,
please click here.