5 Month Progress Report

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Huh?  FIVE MONTHS ALREADY!?!  How did THAT happen?  In Puerto Viejo the time dragged on forever it seemed.  Here in San Antonio the days seem to fly by.  At least I have four more months here but am already feeling sad about leaving.  After 20 years of staying put in the same area, I’m finding that moving to different places regularly brings me much more joy.  It’s easy to find beauty in every place here, so that’s reassuring.  I used to say I hated change but now I’m embracing it and looking forward to it.  There’s something to be said about not being tied down with a mortgage and 9-5 job anymore.  I’ve found little problem with only having what fits in a suitcase.  All of my apprehension and fears about living in a foreign country have diminished, if not completely disappeared.  Once again, I’m proud to report that life is good and have no regrets about taking this leap.

To make things even more interesting, I’m now considering leaving Central America to live in Italy, Spain, Argentina, Greece, Chile, Fiji, Indonesia…the list goes on and on!  It’ll be hard to compare to Costa Rica, although I won’t know until I try.

No toucans in Italy!
No toucans in Italy!

I intend on finding more house sitting opportunities in order to keep my costs down.  So whatever happens to come up in the places I have chosen and if I get hired to do it, will depend on where I go.

My original fears of going to a strange place, not knowing the language and being alone have disappeared.   Knowing that I may be in a big country, I’m really only staying in one particular area.

Life grows on
Life grows on

As long as it has the basic necessities like a grocery store nearby, then I don’t need a car.  If there is a bus line, then I can learn where it goes.  I will always be able to get back to home base somehow.  All that really matters is staying safe and alive, right?  I think I can manage that.

My original intention of getting into the animal husbandry business got me to where I am now.  And although I have not been practicing that lately, it’s ok.  I am still helping animals when I can and will always do that, no matter where I go.  As far as changing my career, I’m still working on finding a way to make money on the Internet, which so far has done a good job of paying my bills.  I’m updating my business website and will create a new one for more exposure and a different line of products.  There will always be a way to do it,  so making the money now is what matters and I’m happy to report that I haven’t even touched my savings account.

Life really is better now than the one I had before.  I still wish I had a boyfriend to share it with and I miss my friends and family.  I dream about them often but spending time with them in that way helps me keep connected somewhat.   I have everything I need here and more.  P1010863I have beautiful flowers that I can bring inside to enjoy; I can listen to the birds sing and fly about; I can eat good food and still have all of the comforts of ‘home’ without the commitment of owning one.

Keeping my options open and not having a definite plan is exciting.  I’m sure there will come a time when I’m ready to settle back down but where and when that will be is anyone’s guess.  Doing the opposite from what I’ve always believed in is paying off, big time!

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Close Encounters of the Bird Kind

Stunned but recovering
Stunned but recovering

These poor little birds…and they have mostly been small ones…hit the large windows of the house a lot.  I hear the unmistakable thud and run to where the sound came from.  There are big windows in the bedroom and living room and I can usually tell which one it comes from.  The birds are sometimes hard to spot from inside but I always check to see if any are on the ground.  Sometimes if I don’t see them, I go outside and walk carefully and slowly to see if I can spot them.  I’d say half the time they have already flown away which is a relief.  I have walked up and seen some on the ground but they get spooked and fly away.

But one day, a hummingbird hit and I saw it on the ground.  By the time I got out there it had died.  I held it’s still very warm little body in my hands and watched for it to breathe or move at all, which it didn’t.  I held it for quite a while until I realized I needed to bury it.  I put it under the big shady guava tree.  That was when I knew I had to find a solution.  The fastest thing to do was to use some CD ROM’s since they are very reflective so I put one in each window pane.   Actually, I hung a nice bird mural the last family had made in the bedroom window figuring that would be more of a deterrent.  For the next few days afterward, I didn’t hear as many hits so I think it is working.

However, I heard one hit again and saw that it was a hummingbird, so I went outside and was able to pick it up.  I couldn’t tell if it’s little neck was hurt or if a wing was broken, but I carefully cupped it in my hand and held it still for a while.

Poor little hummer
Poor little hummer

It seemed a little dizzy and its eyes were closing half way then opening back up.  After a few minutes it started becoming a little more alert and I laid my hand out flat for it to stand up.  It did, looked around, stood up a little straighter and then flew off!  Phew!

I did fail to put one CD in a window in the living room though and today, I heard it again.  Arrrrggghhhhh!!!  I looked out the window and saw a small bird, but not a hummingbird sitting on the rocks, wing partially stretched out.  That kills me because I think the wing might be broken.  It had some really pretty yellow feathers and was so cute and tiny.  I carefully picked it up and tried to assess the wing, which appeared to be ok.  I looked at the feet and those were fine.  It was cold outside so I gently cupped my hands around it to keep it warm and let it recover a little bit.  There was noise from the neighbors and the street so I started taking it to the back porch.  That’s when I heard a tiny ‘cheep’ and I wondered if it was a baby!?  It then promptly spit up a small seed.   In that case, we’ll go back to where you came from in case mom is looking for you.  I took it near the eucalyptus tree where there’s a vine growing out of a pot.  I stretched my hand out hoping it would hop onto the plant and it did!  It took a little leap and flew to the branch and stayed there looking around for a while before flying up into a tree nearby.  That’s the little bird at the top of the post.  So thankfully I think that one was ok too.

I have an order in for some bird decals to put on the windows to try and keep it from happening,  but until then the CD’s remain!  If any of you have suggestions for deterring birds from windows, please post them in the comments section!

Odd Things Abound

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There is definitely no shortage of strange things here, from food packaging to plants and animals.  I’m always amused when I go into a grocery store how everything seems to be packaged in bags or paper cartons.  For example, the isle where the cleaning products are tend to be mostly squishy plastic bags of disinfectant or bleach.  I suppose it’s a good way to cut down on having to buy large plastic bottles of the stuff every time you need it.  Instead, you just refill the original container with what’s inside the bags.

It’s no secret that I have an issue with milk as it is.  I drink whole milk in the states and here, I’ve only been able to find something with a percent sign next to it which makes me cringe.  I have never eaten cereal here.  Ever.  But I did find whole milk (at least I’m pretty sure it is) at Maxi Pali so I bought two.  The other strange thing is that you’ll find it on a shelf unrefrigerated.  I mean you can also find some in the refrigerated section, but most of it is just sitting on the shelf.  That took a while to get used to.  Same with orange juice.  I saw something funny by the eggs (which are also not refrigerated here) and that was a plastic bag with about 5 or 6 eggs in them.  Good luck getting those home!

The other strange thing is that I bought a big package of oreos one time and when I opened it, there were a bunch of individual 4 packs inside of it!?  I can only assume it’s meant to keep things fresh although even those were stale somehow.  I think I just got unlucky because I’ve had others that were fine.  So when I bought the Ritz crackers shown above, that was no different either.  So much for being ‘green’ with how they package things.  Seems like more waste than necessary.    I’ve never seen mayo in a jar here…that comes in a bag too.  Come to think of it, jars of things aren’t too popular here.  Heck even my cheap wine comes in a paper carton!  There are some cereals in boxes but a lot of those are in plastic bags like those Frosted Flakes above.

Speaking of eggs, I went into town the other day and stopped in at a nursery and found this crazy easter egg plant.

IMG-20130814-01297 The ornamental eggs look and feel just like chicken eggs and turn different colors!  I had to have it and it only cost $6.00.  I’ll try to propagate the seeds in the ground somewhere and see what happens.  Seeds in eggs!?!  Huh??  Weirdness.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the pink bananas as well.  I noticed those too and did a search on them to find that they are edible but the seeds are large.  The one I picked was not ripe yet but I hope to find out more about them soon.

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I also have been noticing a huge stalk in the yard and I wanted to chop it down but I haven’t because I felt that it wasn’t a weed.  After thinking on it for a few days, I realized it might be sugar cane.

Sugar cane
Sugar cane

A quick google search confirmed it, with the tell tale white stripe down the center of the leaves and the bamboo looking stalk.  Very cool!  Looking closer there are a few more near it.  I read that you can make skewers for meat or seafood from them which would be neat to do.

I’ve also noticed that sometimes I can’t tell what is a weed and what is a flower so I often err on the side of caution and don’t pull things out unless I know for sure it’s a weed, like this beautiful red dandelion.  The cute little yellow flowers in the yard can stay put because they aren’t bothering anyone.

Even the weeds are beautiful!
Even the weeds are beautiful!

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I was stopped under one of the guava trees yesterday when I noticed this beautiful butterfly.  It actually let me get pretty close to it so I could take its picture.

The inside wings of that weird zebra looking butterfly
The inside wings of that weird zebra looking butterfly

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Here’s a strange insect trying to blend in on a leaf:

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Oh, that reminds me…the hummingbird babies have fled the nest.  I was outside when I noticed the mama in an unusual spot and when I approached it after she left, I saw this:

Whose little butt is that?
Whose little butt is that?

The baby blended in pretty well with the leaves and the flowers.  Amazing.  The other baby was in the brush closer to the nest.  Here’s another look at the nest too: P1010726

Comfy little bed!
Comfy little bed!

 

 

It takes a lot of work to feed a village!

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My friend, whom I met at the BBQ here, told me her family was having a benefit for a relative of theirs who had a heart attack.  They were going to make around 800 tamales!  So starting this past Friday night, they were hard at work at the church across from my house. P1010651

Prepping the banana leaves
Prepping the banana leaves

I went over there and quickly dug in by helping to clean the banana leaves.  The leaves were beautifully stacked and laying across tables.  Some of the women cut them down the middle and others cut them into sections which is the pile I grabbed from to clean off with a cloth.

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Rice boiling

In the kitchen, huge chunks of pork meat waited to be cooked.  Potatoes and rice boiled in large pots while other people chopped carrots and chiles.  P1010637

Chicharones
Chicharones
A slice for each tamale
A slice for each tamale

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Cooking the pork
Cooking the pork

My friend explained that when someone is in need, people come together to help them in ways like this.  Not unlike the times I would often see a huge BBQ pit on a street corner back home.  But this was different…because everyone knows everyone else and it becomes that much more personal.  It was nice to be a part of it.

They would be selling the tamales for 1000 colones for a little two pack, which is $2.00.  Not a bad deal if you ask me.  I assumed that all of the ingredients were from peoples’ own farms, with the exception of the rice.  I won’t include the picture here, but later that night, the man who was cutting up the meat brought in the huge head of the hog and was trying to split it open by pushing the snout and the jaw apart.  My friend’s mother wasn’t keen on putting any of that in the tamales, but he insisted that the jowels would be good.  He got some laughs from everyone when he tried and tried to get the thing apart and couldn’t.  It was certainly not something you see everyday!  I’m glad to report that they sold them all and raised $2000.00!

Tons 'o taters
Tons ‘o taters
The assembly line
The assembly line

The next day, they were in the process of putting the tamales together so I went over there to help again.  We had a not-so-assembled assembly line going.  The leaves were lined up on the tables (two leaves per tamale), then on went the potatoes, rice, meat, carrot and chile.  It got wrapped up then sent to another table where a man and woman wrapped them together.  The poor guy…he was so tired and his hands hurt from the wrapping.   I think he had the most difficult job.  Then they were taken back to the huge pots to steam.

Steaming the tamales
Steaming the tamales

Come Sunday morning, they were for sale along with fruit cups, drinks and other food items.  They sold them in two different places.  So those little bundles of joy up at the beginning of this post took 2 days to make and a lot of people-power (and love).  It’s nice to be able to help people in need.

And speaking of food, I got to go to a nice grocery store today in Turrialba called Maxi-Pali.   I walked in and was taken back to the feeling I got when I went to Wal-Mart in Virginia a couple months ago.  Haha!  i said, ‘Wow!’ and grabbed a cart.  I knew I would be taking a cab back home (at a steep price) so I’d better make this trip worthwhile.

Maxi-Pali in Turrialba
Maxi-Pali in Turrialba

And boy, did I!!  $140 later (actually add $20 for the cab home), I was set!  I bought a three pack of non stick frying pans, three pairs of socks, tons of food, even a big bottle of ginger ale, charcoal, meat, wine, rum, cheese…the important stuff, you know.  The list goes on and on.   The walk there from the bus station really wasn’t bad at all.  I had to ask for directions a couple of times (even after making mental notes, taking multiple pictures of Google Maps on my phone to refer to and having written directions), but I found it!  And what’s pathetic is that I really only had to go over one street then go straight.  Yeah…my sense of direction is seriously lacking.

I got sidetracked by all of the shoe stores and attempted to buy jeans but had no idea what my size was in this part of the world…they were all in the 30’s and 40’s so I have no clue what that equates to.  I gave up on those.  Then I failed to even go to a bakery!  Aaaaggghhhh SINNER!!!  But I think I’m going back on Wednesday with my friend, so I’ll stock up then.  I really did rush when I intended not to but I was disoriented and eager to get to the store.  Boy…you know your life is in the slow lane when you look forward to THAT!