Learning as we go…The language barrier isn’t easy…

Tom walking in the yard.  We’re in Alajuela, the canton with mountains surrounding the Central Valley, and the yard has many elevations.

“Sightings from the Veranda in Costa Rica”

For several hours, this bird family hung around in the yard.  It’s easy to tell who the parents are, isn’t it?

Yesterday, Henry our new driver, picked us up promptly at noon to take us to the health food store.  Tucked away in a difficult to find location, luckily our property manager Marian had carefully explained to Henry in Spanish where Macrobiotica Atenas is located in the tucked away location.

The owner of the Macrobiotica Atenas spoke a little English and with my few words of Spanish, we managed to communicate well enough for me to find US $35, (CRC 20,095) worth of products.

I was so excited to find almond flour, Himalayan salt, baking soda and raw nuts, that the high cost didn’t make either of us raise an eyebrow.  They didn’t have organic apple cider vinegar (with the “mother,” the stringy residue adding to its medicinal value) but I didn’t complain.  That’s one product we definitely won’t find here.

Bird of Paradise, commonly found in the tropics.

Now I have all the necessary ingredients to make those delicious low carb, grain, sugar and starch free hamburger buns I raved about while we were in Henderson Nevada.  (The recipe may be found at this link). 

My mouth waters thinking about these buns to use with the grass fed “mince” (ground beef) we purchased at the market at our next stop.  We’ll definitely be making hamburgers and these buns later in the week when we finish a delicious casserole we made yesterday.

When our property owner Bev explained we won’t be able to dine out in most Costa Rican restaurants (based on my way of eating) we decided to make especially good meals in this fabulous well-equipped kitchen.  With every pot, pan, bowls of varying sizes, and utensils, cooking is so easy here, I’m enjoying it more than I have in most countries.

Gorgeous purple flowers blooming in the yard.

The difficult part is in finding ingredients to make our favorite dishes when so many familiar items are hard to find.  After the Macrobiotica store, we asked Henry to take us to MaxiPali, a Walmart owned small warehouse type store with household goods and groceries.

Since my flat iron had died a few days earlier shopping at this store instead of the Supermercado Coopeatenas was the logical solution for this week’s groceries.  If anywhere in the small village would have such an appliance it would be there. 

Upon entering the MaxiPali, with hardly a car in the parking lot, compared to the commotion and crowds at Coopeatenas last Wednesday, I was a little worried we wouldn’t be able to find any of the items on our grocery list, let alone a ceramic flat iron.

This appears to be a Zinnia.  Any comments?

Since no one spoke English in the store (why would they?), I used my hands to show the female cashier what I was looking for.  It didn’t take her but a second to know exactly where to send me…to the electronics department where all small appliance were kept under glass and lock and key.  There was one such item and I didn’t hesitate to acknowledge that I wanted to buy it. 

The young man behind the counter wouldn’t let me put the item in the cart.  Instead, he took it to the cashier who’d hold it until we checked out with our groceries.  It was priced at US $34.83, (CRC 20,000), not too different than the Remington brand would have been priced in the US.

From there, Tom and I perused the remainder of the store, looking for items on our list.  I’d hoped we’d find real whole cream but each time we’ve asked for “crema” we were directed to the powdered Cremora in the coffee aisle.  No thanks. 

Double garage below the screening room.  The maintenance man and groundskeeper, Ulysses has an apartment to the left of the garage.  Otherwise, there are only the main living quarters where we’re living.

Since we arrived in Atenas last Tuesday night on August 1st, and grocery shopped on Wednesday and then again on the following Monday, we’ve already spent (including the flat iron) US $460.33, (CRC 264,307.68).

We have enough food on hand to last another week or even a little longer, especially if we head out on Friday to the farmers market to fill in on fresh veggies which never seem to last longer than about a week anyway, especially those that are directly from the farm without the use of preservatives and other chemicals. 

After all the bugs I’ve picked off the produce when washing it so far, I don’t expect pesticides are frequently used in this area.  From the uneven look of most of the produce, it doesn’t appear that any chemicals were used, except on what appears to be imported (from Mexico) tomatoes. 

Another entrance or exit to the main quarters.

Most tomatoes offered at regular markets in the US are also imported from Mexico and are highly processed resulting in a bland taste and uniform look.  Maybe we’ll do better finding tomatoes at the farmers market on Friday. Talking to Henry the driver, was tricky.  He spoke no English at all.  

We attempted to exchange a few words to no avail.  The awkward silence in the car was an oddity for us when usually, we become very friendly with our drivers throughout the world, chatting on and on about local customs and our mutual adventures.  That’s unlikely here in the Central Valley. 

Sure, we can say enough to get general information across but engaging in a full fledged conversation is difficult.  Although, when Isabel, the cleaner was here she and I managed to find out a little about each other with my few words of Spanish.  We actually had quite an enlightening “conversation” that made me smile and I’m looking forward to her return on Saturday.

This flower has the shape of an Iris but is a bright reddish-orange.

After all, we’re in “their” country and it’s up to us to learn the language.  Based on the fact that I know French fairly well, I’ve been able to manage a few words in Spanish and Italian which have some basic similarities. 

After spending three months in Boveglios Tuscany Italy beginning in June 2013 where literally no English was spoken we both realized we can manage for extended periods in non-English speaking countries.

Many travelers may scoff at our discussions of language.  However, when staying in hotels and resorts that cater to tourists for a one or two-week vacation/holiday, where most staff members speak English along with their native language, it’s an entirely different scenario. 

Living in a vacation home with a staff that speaks no Englis and shopping in the same markets and shops the locals frequent presents a totally different situation in trying to communicate.  Surely, it is equally frustrating for them that we aren’t able to speak their language.

Usually, after 2:00 pm, the skies become overcast with low lying clouds.

No matter how many times a day we look up words on Google Translate or on an app on our phones, we’re only going to learn a handful of words in this short period without a structured classroom environment. 

I even contemplated taking an online course but with the hours I already spend sitting at my laptop each day I just can’t get myself motivated to do so.  In the interim, we’ll figure it out as we go.

Tomorrow, we’ll include photos of the interior of the property which has some interesting and unusual features we’ve totally fallen in love with!

Have a fabulous day!  We plan on it!


Photo from one year ago today, August 8, 2016:

A coconut stand in Phuket Thailand.  Neither of us cares for the liquid but the meat is delicious.  For more Phuket photos, please click here.