The Dry Season is Here…FINALLY!

Amazingly the rains continued into December.  We received 14.75 inches!  Most of it happened within the first week.  We were beginning to think that the rainy season would never go away!  Slowly, but surely, the heavy rains have petered out and the sun has returned.  It was not a moment too soon for me…cabin fever was setting in and had me wishing for a mall close by for some shopping therapy. img_1567e

The rainy season didn’t seem to affect Eddie much…he spent time catching up on the indoor projects as well as doing some cooking.  He had some fun making pizza and it was delicious!

For several months we had been looking for a piece of furniture for our living area for extra storage and to display a few trinkets.  We had trouble finding something ready-made, so Eddie designed a hutch and a furniture maker built it. It took three months start to finish, but it was worth the wait.

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The piece is made from Cenizaro wood.  The glass shelves for the top were too big and we had to have them re-cut. 

In mid-December, we drove to Nosara in Guanacaste to pick up the newest addition to our family, our dog Wylder, who had finished her training.  Wylder is 15 months old and a mix of Belgium Malinois  and Dutch Shepherd.  She is an awesome dog!  img_0416e

Wylder has adjusted quite well to her new home.  Olivia seems very happy to have another dog around the house and Rusty seems glad to have another “buddy,” too.  All three of them are getting along well.img_0460e

As Christmas approached, Toni (our neighbor just up the hill) suggested that we have a little Christmas party for all the Tico children on our mountain and for the children of our workers who live in our town.  Word spread quickly and before we knew it, we were planning for a huge crowd.  Toni offered to host the party.  Her husband Gib put up their snow village complete with motorized cable cars and a beautiful Christmas tree.  Toni, Liz and I came up with some activities for the children – decorating gift bags (for all the treats) and cut-out sugar cookies, and a piñata filled with candy.  We wrapped some small gifts for each child and Toni’s son played Santa’s Elf.  The weather cooperated and we had a gorgeous sunny day!

Last week, we took Rusty and Wylder to the veterinarian for check-ups.  We found out that Rusty weighs almost 14 pounds!  Wow!  He should really weigh about 11 pounds, so he has been put on a diet.  And, he is NOT happy about it.  The experience going to the vet seems to have brought Rusty and Wylder closer together.

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A selfie with Rusty on the way to the vet. Rusty doesn’t like to ride in the truck.

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On the way home…they both survived!

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Now they are best buddies!

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Walking the dogs on our crowded beach.

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Wonder how many calories are in this bug?

New Year’s Eve at Toni and Gib’s.  Toni (on the left) and Liz (on the right) of me. Toni calls us the Tres Amigas.  We have a lot fun doing things together!

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A pineapple growing in our garden.  Looks like something took a nibble.

 

Enough Already! Rain, Rain Go Away!

There’s no doubt, November has been a rainy month.  Over 40 inches fell, making it the wettest month this year (about 200″ total).  There have only been two days this month without any rain!  When Hurricane Otto was heading our way last week, we all were expecting a deluge.  To our surprise, total rainfall in our area was only a few tenths of an inch.  Other parts of Costa Rica and Nicaragua were not so lucky.  However, after Otto passed and headed out into the Pacific, we have had nothing but rain…16 inches in the past four days.  Historically the rains taper off by Thanksgiving and the dry season is in full swing by December.

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This morning our rain gauge showed 5.8 inches for the previous 24 hours.

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This has been our view for quite some time.  Most days we can’t even see the beach.

So, what have we been doing to occupy our time when the rain has been falling?

We went to our friend’s party with a great mariachi band.

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and had lots of fun…img_0368

We celebrated Thanksgiving with our friends on our hill.  Gib, our host, cooked a fabulous turkey on his grill.img_0376img_0377

We had a jam session with bongos and drums.

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Ellen worked on macrame jewelry.img_1495e

Here are some of her creations.  Beautiful!

Of course we watched lots of movies and TV shows.

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Eddie did some repairs in the master bathroom.img_1478e

And we did some napping, too!img_1491eimg_1486

I imagine that soon we will be complaining about too much hot sun and wishing it would rain a little (we hope)!  Pura vida!

U.S. Passport Renewal in Costa Rica

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Our U.S. Passports were due to expire in May 2017, so we needed to get them renewed before our next trip back to North Carolina.  So how does one go about that in Costa Rica?  The U.S. Embassy provides passport renewal services and the following is the process of how we did it.

The first step is to make an appointment at the embassy.  So, we went online to the embassy’s website (www.costarica.usembassy.gov), clicked on the “U.S. Citizens Services” tab and selected “Passport.”  There we found a link to download the Passport Renewal Application (DS-82) and another link to request an appointment.  A screen with available appointment dates and times appeared; we selected one for each of us (separately) which were a couple of weeks out.  An appointment confirmation is emailed to you which needs to be printed and brought to the appointment.  We then printed and filled out the application form to bring with us.  Other items needed for the appointment are your current passport, new passport photograph and payment of $110 (cash or credit card, no checks).

A single passport photo is required which meets the new regulations (such as no eye glasses allowed).  You can get this done inside the embassy for about $2, which is what we decided to do since we wanted to make sure the photos passed muster.  It was quick and easy.

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United States Embassy is located on Ruta 104, northeast of La Sabana park in San Jose.

On appointment day, we drove into San Jose early and arrived at the embassy about one hour before our appointed times.  We found a small public parking lot on the side street directly adjacent to the embassy.

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U.S. Embassy building

As we approached the building, we saw a very long line of people waiting to get inside.  Everyone in this line appeared to be Costa Rican, so we asked the guard at the entrance where we should go for passports.  He said the line was for visa applicants and that we should go directly to the door at the top of the stairs.

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Entrance door to U.S. Embassy on the left

There we were met by another officer who confirmed our appointments.  He asked to see our passports and appointment confirmations.  Inside the door is the security area with x-ray and metal detector like at the airport.  No cell phones, remote keys or other electronic devices are allowed past security, so they put your stuff in a locked pouch, give you the key and keep the pouch until you leave.

Once inside, we saw the photograph station.  The line was short and we were on our way with photos in hand after a few minutes.  In the same area, we noticed an electronic kiosk that appeared to give you a number, but we were told we did not need to do that and to proceed ahead past the long lines of visa people waiting to get into the next area.  We walked through the door and asked the attendant where to go for passports.  She directed us to the passport windows on the left, which were not busy at all.  It was interesting to note that most everyone we saw or spoke to up to this point was Costa Rican.  We approached one of the windows and spoke to the woman (finally an American).  She took our completed forms, passports, new photos and reviewed them.  All was in order, so we were directed to the next window to pay the passport renewal fee and return with the receipts.  When we returned, we received renewal confirmations and were told that our new passports would be ready within 10 business days.  We were on our way in less than 15 minutes.

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To our surprise, we were notified after just five days (by email) that our passports were ready for pickup.  Passports can only be picked up between 8:00 – 11:00 a.m., no appointment needed.  All new passports have 52 pages and an RFID chip embedded in them.

All About Rusty

We have a lot of fun with our cat Rusty.  We adopted him as a kitten (eight weeks old) about a year ago from a local rescue organization.  He has grown into a very complex cat that has many talents.  As a Costa Rican cat, Rusty has adapted to life in the jungle.

Rusty the Helper

Rusty the Hunter

Rusty the Explorer

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Rusty the Cool Cat

Rusty the Covert Cat

Rusty the Napper (This is his best talent.)

Rusty is best friends with our little dog Olivia.  They enjoy playing and grooming each other.  Being that Rusty has spent most of the time around dogs, he thinks he is part dog.

Rusty has become one big boy!  The other day, he weighed in at a whopping 13 pounds.  He outweighs Olivia by three pounds.

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Rusty is missing Olivia who sometimes spends the night with her boyfriend Zorro, the miniature poodle that lives next door.

 

Projects During the Rainy Season

It has been raining quite a bit these past few months.  Since all the landslides in August, we have been staying close to home when it rains a lot.  To keep busy, we have been working on a few projects.  And of course, Rusty the cat is always there to help out!

Eddie worked on and completed the coffee table for the living area.  It’s made from a slab of Guanacaste (Costa Rica’s national tree) with teak stumps for the base.

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I have been busy hemming flat sheets to use as curtains.  My niece Megan gave me this idea.  They work great, too!

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We have a rain gauge out by our pool to record the daily rainfall.  The amount of rain is always a topic of conversation here (especially with us Gringos) and you might even say some of us are obsessed.  To give you an idea of how much rain we have been getting, Eddie has compiled the rain chart below.  So far this year, we have had 143 inches (12 feet!).  The average for our area is around 160 inches per year.  We should easily surpass that this year.

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With all the rain, we are having a problem with mold in the kitchen cabinets, bathroom vanities and on some pieces of furniture that we brought with us from North Carolina.  So, I spend a tremendous amount of time cleaning.  Finally, the mold seems to be under control, thank goodness!  Maybe now I will have more time to devote to my hobbies…after all, I’m supposed to be “retired.”

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Taking a break from cleaning to catch up on our reading.

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Rusty is taking care of some business while Eddie looks on.

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Rusty and Olivia enjoy the view as much as we enjoy it.

After the Storm

The clean up after the storm took several weeks.  We thought everyone would enjoy seeing a few photos after the big storm.

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One of the landslide areas on the mountain road after repairs are done.

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Our driveway after repairs and replanting.

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Repairs to this slide in front of the pool area will wait until the dry season.  Rusty is making sure everything is secure!

Cleaning up the dry muddy film from the tile was very time consuming.  It all had to be scrubbed by hand. Eddie worked on the carport and front entrance and I worked on the tile floor inside the house.  Rusty was always close by either trying to help or supervising!

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Just when I thought everything was good, we discovered mold in the bathroom and kitchen cabinets.  It took several days to clean the cabinets with a special solution.  All the dishes had to be washed, too.  Who knew that living in “paradise” would be so much work?  Go figure!

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Meanwhile in between all the cleaning up, Eddie worked on several projects.  He managed to find time to make the tile framed mirrors in both the guest and master bathrooms.  They turned out beautifully!   Also, he worked on the coffee table.  It will be a while before it’s finished.

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A rack of home grown bananas hanging to ripen – probably 40 pounds.

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Look closely at the yellow palm fruit and you’ll see a pizote (inset photo) eating them.

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Give me a smooch, baby!

 

10.5 Inches of Rain = Landslides!

During the rainy season in Costa Rica, you expect to get rain (duh!).  But when good ol’ Mother Nature dumps 10.5 inches in just four or five hours, well that’s a lot of rain and so stuff happens.  It started mid-afternoon on Thursday, August 25.  We were coming back home from our friend Helen’s birthday party in Tinamastes. Heavy rain fell hard and steady, but it had let up some by the time we reached home.  Out of curiosity, I checked our rain gauge. It read 5.7 inches, and since it only holds six inches, I emptied it.  The lull didn’t last long and the rain picked up again.  It couldn’t have been much more than an hour later when I noticed that the rain gauge had another three inches recorded.  Wow!

About then it was beer o’clock, and as I headed to the beer fridge to grab a cold one, I heard Ellen scream, “Eddie, come here!  There’s water coming in!”  I ran inside to see muddy water coming in underneath the front and side doors.  OMG, in just seconds, the kitchen floor was flooded and water was heading into the living room.  WTF!  This can’t be happening!, I thought.  As I ran outside to investigate, Ellen grabbed every towel she could find to try and stop the mucky water from advancing further.  The carport and front entrance were a flooded, muddy mess.  Water, mud and gravel were streaming down the driveway towards the house.  Then I saw what had caused this disaster…a portion of the hillside above the driveway had slide down covering most of the driveway and the drainage canal that runs alongside it.  With the drainage ditch blocked, the water was diverted across the driveway and into the carport and entryway of the house.  I grabbed a shovel and began making a dike to direct the water away from the house towards another drain at the back of the parking area.  Soon, I managed to get the water flow under control and ran back inside to help Ellen.

At this point, it was about 5:30 and starting to get dark.  Then, as luck would have it, the power went out.  So, with flashlights and candles to light our way, we spent the next several hours mopping up as best we could, still in shock as to what had happened.  The next morning, we went out to survey the damage.  On our property, we found a second landslide had occurred on the slope below the pool.

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Landslide on the driveway

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Landslide below the pool deck

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Clean up crew…they’re awesome!

 

We have a neighborhood WhatsApp group and were alerted to the fact that there were several landslides on our mountain road, one of which took out an electricity pole.  ICE, the power company, was called and we also made arrangements for a backhoe to come in the morning to start digging us out.  Thankfully, the rain soon tapered off and finally stopped falling around 8 pm.

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The situation on our mountain road was very bad.  There were major landslides in four different sections that completely covered the road.  The backhoe worked all day on Friday to get through the first landslide.  Amazingly, ICE workmen were able get up to the problem area, bypass the downed pole and re-string the lines to restore power by Friday afternoon.  Hats off to them!  By mid-morning on Saturday, the backhoe was able to clear through the next two smaller slides.  Then the last slide, a big one, was cleared on Sunday afternoon.  I realized that in order to repair the slopes the right way, we were going to need to call in some heavier machines.  So, on Monday, August 29 an excavator and dump truck arrived to start the process of sculpting the slopes where the slides occurred in order to stabilize them and greatly reduce the chance of another slide.

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Late Monday afternoon, the backhoe was finally able to make it to our property to clear our driveway and start the clean up.  It was a good thing, too, as Ellen and I had a meeting to go to the next morning.

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We also were scheduled to head back to North Carolina on September 1st for a visit.  As much as I would have loved to take off and see our kids, I made the decision that I must stay behind to look after our property here.  This year’s rainy season has been predicted to be a fairly wet one and September and October are the months of the heaviest rainfall.  Ellen did make the trip and arrived safely in Chapel Hill for a 3 week stay.  It wasn’t until yesterday, Friday, September 9 that the excavator finished working.  People who have been here for many years say that this was one of the worst rains that Hatillo has seen.  A Tico friend of mine said it is a normal part of living on the mountain.  I guess he’s right, but hopefully we won’t have another one like it anytime soon!  The best thing of all is that no one was hurt during this crazy time.  Pura vida!