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Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Rooster

Let's talk about roosters. I did not grow up on a farm. I did not grow up near a farm. In fact, what I know about farm animals comes from children's books and Sesame Street. But I believed that the ego-centric, macho birds crowed at dawn to wake everybody on the farm up.



Nope. Uh uh. It just ain't that way.



I still do not live on or near a farm. In fact, I live in a nice little barrio (neighborhood) with many embassies, guards, nicely paved roads. But one of our neighbors has a rooster. Barry thinks it is a fighting rooster. And he crows. A lot. Whenever he wants to.



Just thought I would let you know.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Thanksgiving

So tomorrow is Thanksgiving. What are we going to do?

This is the first year it is just us. We have spent the last few years back and forth between Barry's family and mine. I have never been the master. I have been told what my contribution will be and I have done what I was told (make this, sit here, eat that) and LOVED it. So what will we do now?

I first have to mention what has happened on the last few Thanksgivings spent with my Filipino family. In the beginning, there was a very big "American" style to it. I guess for me and for my brother-in-law Brad from Minnesota. It was nice, but I have to say - if it ain't Toots doing the cooking, it ain't Real Thanksgiving. The food that woman puts out is amazing. Did you read my post about losing weight? Wonder how it got there in the first place? I do love me some good eating.

Over the years, the California Thanksgivings have become more casual, more diverse in food selection and more fun. I always sneak in a little from home. Usually something straight from my Mom's recipes (for example jello salad with sour cream - deliciouso). But I also have enjoyed pancit, teriakyi salmon, salads, lumpia and many other delicious things. So Thanksgiving has really shifted over the years.

I LOVE the BIG EVENT of my youth which had my Mother in the kitchen all day, as a participant.
I also LOVE the casual gatherings with my husbands family.

So what will we do this year.
1)Send the kids to school. It is a school day here after all, although Friday is off for teacher appreciation day.
2) Go to a Gringo hang out here that serves a Thanksgiving buffet.
3) Feel a little homesick for the families that we will miss this year.
4) Start decorating for Christmas, we are really behind by Costa Rica standards - things have been up since around November 1.

Have a happy Turkey Day everyone.
Lots of Love.
Jen

Sunday, November 18, 2007

The Golden Gate Bridge and Visa



This is a billboard image here - kinda makes me homesick.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Make New Friends

This past weekend we met up with our blog friends the Jones Family. They live in Heredia (about 45 minute drive from us) and were coming to town for the women's bizarre. By chance I saw Jodi's invitation and we decided to meet up. When we got there, I didn't think that we would ever find them. After drifting through the food aisle, and the lunchroom with crafts, foods, books - I mentioned this fact to my husband - who promptly pointed them out. That is why I keep him around.

We chatted for over two hours and got along real well. It was nice to spend some time with them. The kids got to go play on the school play yard. I have one last comment. Azure - you rock!

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Cold in Costa Rica

It is pretty cold here. People are donning sweaters, although no scarves and mittens. It is also pretty windy and gloomy. Kinda like Northern California in January. I feel a little chilled as well and so I looked at the thermometer in my car. It is 20C - this is like 60F - now coming from the northeast - that is spring!

Guess it is all relative.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

On Weight in Costa Rica

In California I felt like I had the best behaved kids and was only a little overweight.

In Costa Rica, I am very large and my kids are out of control.

Okay, not really.

I have lost a little weight and changed the way I dress, so I look only a little heavy and if I would stop yelling at the kids so much, they would appear just as well behaved as all the other kids. I just can't stand kids laying on the floor in public. Yuk.

Enough about the kids, let's talk about something infinitely more degrading - my weight.

After three kids, fat genes, no exercise and a lifetime of, well, less than perfect eating and a long-time love affair with all things carbohydrate (and I mean the bad boy kind - white bread, pasta, potatoes) and REAL butter, I am extremely overweight. Probably by the numbers I am "morbidly obese." Due to big boobs and big clothes I just appear, really fat.

So we move to Costa Rica. And in the first three months I drop about 20 lbs.

Here is how I think it happened:
1) No GOOD Butter
2) Hence, not much bread - my carb cravings were replaced by whole grain cereal
3) It is a little warmer, I "glow" a little more
4) Busy, busy, busy moving, unpacking, hauling boxes
5) Good sleep when there was no television to watch
6) Once good things like this start, they seem to snowball
7) Everyone wears pants and tight shirts (see #3)
8) I was cooking myself here and didn't know the "Tico" way to make food delicious. Turns out the secret is oil.

I was feeling pretty good. Mommi noted that my face looked thinner on the webcam and said lots of nice things about that fact. My Dad when he saw me made the statement "You look good, Jen" (this means that I don't look sloppy) although I was cautioned not to wear shirts too tight, that "skin" tight only looks good if the skin is tight. I didn't explain that dress-code is a little different here. I will save that for another post.

Then I discovered the bakery section at the markets. Awesome, fresh, cheap bread. It seems Italian to me (Barry says it reminds him of Filipino breakfast bread). It is delicious. Also, Bagelmans is pretty good. So the scale still is going down, however the middle is a little fluffy.
Today I bought multi-grain bread. We will see if that works. Could certainly stand to loose some more. Wish me luck.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Dona Nobis Pacem



Monday, November 5, 2007

My Heart on the Road

They have these hearts painted on the roads. I think that it is where there was an accident and somebody died.

Some have borders, some do not. I am not sure what that means. If anyone knows and wants to fill me in, I am very curious. Sadly, they also seem to be mostly near the bus stops and other places where people run across the highway.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Red Sox Revelations

I know it is late. The world series is long over, but I want to talk about the Red Sox.



First, I must confess that I don't really watch baseball. I don't really follow baseball. Most years I could not even tell you when it is over or who has won.



Except when the Red Sox are involved.



Being born and raised in a household where "Yankees" is considered a bad word leads to certain formative thoughts, and realizations. The most obvious having been that one is always free to dream. The most negative being that there will always be next year. It has been exciting to watch them rally, to come from behind, to fight back to even and then not quite make it to the top. There was a certain reliability there, as gambling addicts always hope to win but know that they will lose. Having faith in the Red Sox was like believing in God. How do you know he's real, it all about faith.



Except now.



Now they win.



In the past foreigners that followed baseball, invariably rooted for the Yanks. I married one (I know, sacrilege). Now, I've met people here (i.e. Nicaraguans, etc.) who prefer the Red Sox. They have become popular. That is all well and good. Congratulations on another series to the new and improved Red Sox. But frankly, I kind of want my Red Sox back.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Halloween

Happy Halloween to everyone.

Yep we had it here, thanks to one of Bella's classmates we attended a party last night. Kids dressed up, Moms dressed up, overdose of sweets - the usual.

The party was held in an upscale condominium here. A condominium is really what we would call a gated community in the U.S. This place was really nice. Large houses, largish plots of land, nicely mantained streets.

Now some kids did not come, devil worshipping implications and all. But those that did had a great time. Around 5:30 pm the rain slowed to a drizzle and off we went to trick or treat. This would not have been possible in the regular neighborhoods, but the people in Parque Valle del Sol did it up. Not every house participated and we only hit about 20 houses out of a couple hundred, but wherever we went the decorations were out of control. Hanging skeletons, strobe lights, inflated ghosts in huge jack-o-laterns, you name it, we saw it. And the place was crawling with trick-or-treaters. It was typical flow, younger kids first and then older kids with minimal costumes out for mucho candy. I swear that I saw at least 250 people trawling the streets in the few hours I observed. On the other hand, the take was not typical. There are many hard candies (for example the strawberries that have strawberry cellophane covering). No way would this fly in the U.S. due to safety concerns. Here, it is accepted. No problem.

The similarities to the U.S.:
costumes, kids, candy and crazy

The differences:
Over the top decorations and weak candy collection

All in all a wonderful time.

Monday, October 29, 2007

More on Driving

I don't know what it is here, but everything seems to look old almost instantaneously.

We have to drive past the Multiplaza to get to the Autopista twice a day to deliver the kids to and from school in Santa Ana. There has been much road work this past month. This has caused delays, detours (and by that I mean the road is closed here, find your own way around). This, in turn, has caused for grumpy driving Mom.

Thankfully, all the work seems to be concluded. It seems that the main point of tearing up the road was to add a huge bump in the road to be a pass through for pedestrians? I am not sure. It is wider than a speed bump and higher. To alert drivers of this ..... thing.... yellow paint was applied. It was painted this Saturday. I saw it. Today it looks like it has been there for several years.

I want to know - how do they do that?

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Manual Labor



This is some road construction that we have driven past. Look how many workers. Look how few machines. Again, just seems a little different.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

The Mailman rings twice



This is the mailman. No official uniform and only a motorbike. BUT the two pieces of mail that I knew were coming got to us just fine. Big test coming up though, Toots sent a package. It should take a couple of weeks - we will see.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Celebrity Saratica comes to our house

So we have met the famous, prolific Saratica. Surprisingly her real first name is something other than Sara, and we call her that when we see her, but we still refer to her as Saratica to each other. I mean it is not often that you actually meet a celebrity.

If you haven't seen her blog, you should really check it out. She is funny, deep and relevant. Reading her stuff has made me laugh, it has made me tear up and it has made me move to Costa Rica. Okay, really we did the last one ourselves. But still, reading her blog "pre-flight" made us feel that we had a definite nod of approval, a green light, that what we thought we would be getting, was indeed here to be found. And it has been.

She is a hoot, a holler and a kick in the pants. I hope she enjoys that description.

But I must say that it is a little weird to meet someone you already think that you know. As I read her blog I often think, that sounds like us. She is so nice and funny. We have now "socially engaged" twice (she was nice enough to invite us up to her house for a brunchy thing during our first weeks here - what a nice touchstone as we had been surrounded by Spanish and a little strangeness and mostly each other and now we have had their family for pizza at our house, now that we are mostly settled in).

It seems so nice to socialize and have buddies. Her kids are great, Hal is funny too, and I already told you about her. But, there is a tiny awkward feeling, like a blind date set up by your aunt - we know too much about them or something. The stories that you tell when you first meet, we have already read about. Still, I am sure we will get past this and it is just a phenomenon of meeting fellow bloggers. I had better get used to it.

By the way - Hi Saratica and as I posted on your blog, wear all the lipstick you want but you must know that you could never be replaced!

Friday, October 12, 2007

TLC - Si

For months there have been signs, banners, placards, handouts about the Costa Rican National Referendum on TLC (this is known as CAFTA in the US) which is a trade agreement between Central American countries and the US. Not surprisingly, there are some good things and some bad things for Costa Rica. However, many neighboring countries had already signed, so there was some pressure to approve it.

The signs were nice. Colorful (red, white and blue) and many to do with the heart. "My heart says yes" "My heart says no" "TLC Si" and "TLC No" and "We are with TLC"


There was also a small amount of graffiti. It was obvious that the money (businesses, etc.) were behind the yes contingency. Walls that were spray-painted with "Si" were done in an organized, artistic fashion - perhaps using a stencil and in red. I have also seen bus stops with "TLC NO" done in basic black spray paint in a hurried hand. This pretty much shows the difference in the financial backing of the supporters.


The YES side seems to be made up of the businesses and higher class. The NO supporters are academics, government workers (one part of yes is that the government-run monopolies on telecommunication must go), and workers.

The vote was this past Sunday (Sunday?) and the results were in and announced by Monday (that is EFFICIENT). It seems that the country was evenly divided.
A little more than half of the people entitled to vote actually voted.
Of those that voted ~52% for Si, ~48% for No.

So it has passed. After alot of publicity, it seems that the results have been swallowed. There has been no calls for recounts or protest marches that I can tell. What I can say is that it was really hard to find any of the banners, stickers, etc. now that it is over.

That being said, I am sure that this is an oversimplification of the issue, and really only time will tell what all this really means.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Driving in Costa Rica - Part 1

This is an older entry on cars and driving from late August, but still, an interesting story:

We have been renting the entire time that we have been here, and frankly it is getting a little tiresome and very expensive. Our first car was a Suzuki Aero. It seemed small after leaving behind my beloved Volvo cross-country. With five of us, a station wagon is really nice. Also, because we are moving things, changing cars, etc. we keep taking out the car seats. This means that often the kids get a free ride. I mean sit in Mommy's lap for a quick trip to wherever or something like that. I am not overly worried about their safety for this short time, but getting them used to going back in the carseats is not going to be fun. Especially la bebe, who hated it in the first place. And Gus thinks that he is ready to drive.

So we rented that for a few weeks, then when Auntie Myra was here and we were planning some sightseeing trips, we upgraded to a Suzuki APM (All person mover), kinda like a tall minivan. Worked well, but not a smooth drive and $100 more/week. Downgraded back to ol' trusty for another week. Then decided we have been paying too much (more than we want to, anyway) and found a dirt cheap rental. It stinks. It squeals. It is TINY. Many things do not work or work very hard (i.e. radio, roll down windows). It definitely does not make us a target (nobody would dream we had any money). BUT, it is manual and so I can drive. Don't get me wrong - I can drive a stick, but it has been awhile and there is so much more going on here (with the condition of the roads, the interesting tactics of the drivers and the kids) so stick was just one thing too many for me to feel comfortable right now.

Funny side story: When Ibarra went to get the car, the guy asked him (several times to make the point),
"you are over 21, aren't you? I mean because my insurance won't cover you if you are not...." Ibarra is 37. Just doesn't look it. I am 35 and do look it. As time progresses, this should be interesting what people may think (I got me a cute Filipino house boy - okay actually I do, but to have people think he is so young!)

Back to the driving. I have been riding shotgun for about 6 weeks now. There are go-arounds that take a little getting used to. There is a left hand turn into the road to the kids' school that has constant traffic and so you have to wait for a gap, or some nice person to wave you through/blink lights at you. There are buses that stop randomly and people running across the highway (someone described it as a human game of Frogger - pretty apt). All these things seem like I can negotiate.

So last week I started off at 12:10 to get Gus from school at 12:30. It is about a 10-15 minute drive and there is usually a line up of cars to get the kids, so plenty of time. Got there with little problem. Got him buckled in. Got back to the on-ramp to the Autopista. Now it gets dicey. To get on the Autopista in the direction I want to go, you go up a ramp, past the entrance to the Forum (business park), up a little hill and over a one-lane bridge, do a 180 degree turn, and down onto the highway.



Except today. Today there is a tractor trailer stuck/caught on the bridge. So the whole line of cars starts backing down the little hill. Then they cross the grassy area separating this road from the Autopista going the other way. Then they merge across the two lanes of highway traffic. Then they cross the other grassy area separating the two directions of the highway (perhaps median is the word, but au natural), then they turn and merge with traffic going the other directions. See, who needs an over ramp? Remember, this is my first time solo.

So what should I do. There's this old saying, "When in Rome,...."

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Mi Amor - Or a trip to the hardware store in Costa Rica

My husband sent me to the hardware store by the kids school the other day. We were looking for the little metal pieces that hold the bookshelves in a bookcase. Hard enough to explain in English (is there even a proper word for it?) So I go in and try to explain this in my limited Spanish. Keep in mind that I do not know the words for the item I am looking for or for bookcase or shelf.

I try, with lots of hand waving and gestures. The old guy smiles sadly and says, "No, mi amor."

I try again, I manage this:
- "in the furniture for books" he nods.
- "the tree" (hands sweep across like flat) he nods.
- "I need a small (hands show pushing in the piece to the side of my imaginary bookcase) for the tree" (hands flat again) he smiles, nods and directs me to another girl.

I do it all over again. She walks me to the aisle. They only have plastic, but close enough. I buy two boxes for something like $1 and go on about my day.

I am pretty happy to have gotten this done. And how nice that he called me "mi amour."

And that is how I get things done here.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Turtle Feet, Surfer's Beat - New CR YA Book

There's this lady I met online who wrote a book. Not only did she write the book, she took it to the next level and is publishing and selling it. She's also has lofty, charitable goals to help save the world (or at least the turtles). I thought that this would be a great opportunity to ask some questions and help her spread the word. Here's what we talked about:



Q: I love the title "Turtle Feet, Surfer's Beat." It seems to bring together the natural element of the turtles and the the cool kid sports world. Which part inspired you first and how did you think to marry the two in your upcoming book. Are you more of a surfer girl or a nature girl?
A: Actually the book came about when I visited the park for the leatherback turtles and became inspired to help them out. I’ve always loved young adult books and decided that it would be a great topic to write about. But, since teens are a hard group to capture their interests, I realized that the neighboring beach to the park is the world famous surf beach Tamarindo, so I decided to make the other main character the Latino Pro Surf Champ, with full moon parties and risky get-aways from the turtle poachers!


Q: Your main character Penelope has what sounds to me like a "geek girl" name. Did you do this on purpose? Do we get to see Penelope grow in self-confidence as she "gets the guy"?
A: Yes and no, I think her self-confidence grows more from her wanting to help out the turtles. She sees that she, a suburban brat, can make a difference, too.


Q: It's obvious that Costa Rica plays a big role in your story. How long have you been living there, where did you come from and what prompted the move?
A: I’ve been living in Costa Rica for almost five years. I followed my husband out here from NY for his masters program, but that’s over and I’ve fallen in love with the country and decided to stay with my son.


Q: It seems like you chose to self-publish this book. What a brave path, I applaud you. What made you take this route and are you doing a traditional print run or a print-on-demand method? Are you planning to sell on Amazon as well as through your own great website?
A: You have a lot more control when you self-publish, and also with my online teen community growing I decided to work solely through the site. Eventually I do plan on selling my book through amazon as well, but for now, if anyone buys any version of the book 10% goes directly to the leatherback fund.


Q: Before becoming a published author/naturalist/social networking genius - what was your career path? How did you take the journey to authordom?
A: I’ve always had an interest in writing, and have been writing on and off for awhile, so when the inspiration for this book came my way, it was the right time!



Now for a little plug from Marina:





Thank you for having me on your fun blog,

and I hope to see everyone at our online community



ciao for now,

Marina Kuperman

TURTLE FEET, SURFER´S BEAT

Take the ultimate ride!!!

Friday, October 5, 2007

Sera's First Word

It is BRAGGING time. That is what I call it whenever I discuss how brilliant, humorous or beautiful my children are, either in the singular or plural.

So today it is Sera's turn to get discussed. She is soooo smart. She is starting to understand and react appropriately to the verbal. You ask her where her shoes are and she goes and gets them. Things like that. Now I know that non-parental dog-baby owners are probably thinking, big deal. But she also looks at you and babbles a long drawn out discussion. You know that the wheels are turning. And sometimes, she mimics back a word. Okay, she has done it once. Her first "word" ..........HOLA...........Go figure.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

I'm Back

Okay, not the most original title. But beware, I have lots of things to post about and will try my best not to lag like that again. As I mentioned to a friend, I was just taking a break to build suspense. (Just kidding).

Sorry to say, nothing that exciting has been going on. I have just been really busy just getting our lives set up here. I HATE moving and every time we do it, I vow it will be easier next time. I pare down, and yet it still stinks the next time around. We just have TOO much stuff. And, everything just seems to take a long time here. I can see why some people get tired of that. Lucky for me,what else I got to do - besides blog?

But after many questions about why I have stopped blogging. From California, Florida, the Philippines - okay, that is really just family - I will start up again and vow to do better.

Exciting, upcoming topics will probably include: driving in Costa Rica, a visit to Florida, some differences in US and CR, Disney school play, more driving in Costa Rica, fist fight at the mall, my first streetwalker, meeting a celebrity, Sera's first words, starting our business, birthday parties galore, the weirdness of writing about real people........ and MORE!

Saturday, September 1, 2007

Mother's Day

I want to tell you about Mother's Day in Costa Rica. It is a BIG deal. To begin with it is on August 15. It is hard to miss, there are signs everywhere advertising how you should get nice presents for your mother. Alvaro got his Mom a new refrigerator. We are talking big time stuff. I had to get new glasses and when the transaction was completed, the sales girl told me she could give me a 30% discount with a Banex card. 30%! I don't have a Banex card, as I don't yet have a bank account, so she gave me 10% discount for cash.


Then there were the school parties. About a week before "the day" I got a note from the teacher for $10 for each kid for present and merienda food. And then I got an invitation to the performance. Bella had been practicing a song all week, which basically says "You're wonderful. You're marvelous. Do do da do de do." And there is a little dance that goes with it, complete with shimmy. So I went to the school. It was very nice, they had chairs set out in the back with a makeshift platform stage. They brought out the classes and one at a time they "performed" their tributes. (The youngest kids just cried, but after that it got quite good). Then we went to the rooms for merienda (snack) and gifts. I got an apron decorated with red tulips (via hand print) from Bella and a satchel with a butterfly and the words "mamacita" embroidered on it. The card on Gus's package said "No language can express the power and beauty of heroism of a mother's love." Wow do I feel heroic.




Friday, August 31, 2007

What to bring?

I got a comment. I love when I get comments. Seems some people are actually reading.
Here is what Cindy wrote:

Hi Jen,I just happened to find your blog as my husband and I are doing the same thing as you and I'm going crazy. We have 45 days to close on our house in San Diego, and we are going to drive down with a trailer full of stuff....still trying to figure out what stuff. How is it going for you and do you have any more advice since you have gone and done it (I'm assuming by now)?cindy


Here is what I think. EVERYTHING. We are just about finished unpacking and so many things that we tossed that I wish we had brought (i.e. dish rack, garbage cans, welcome mat, filing cabinets, crutches, potholders, hangers, a car).....

That being said, you can find just about anything you want here. Find is one part of that statement. For instance, I had to go to 3 stores to find a dish drain with a tray under it. The other is cost. We got rid of a couple of filing cabinets and now spent over $100 at Office Depot to get a new, not as nice one. But it holds papers. What more do you really want.

Electronic gadgets are expensive here (coffee makers, waffle irons, tvs) and there is not a lot of selection of high quality linens (i.e. sheets, towels, dish towels). Floor rugs don't seem outrageously expensive, but not much selection.

But, if you are trying to downsize your life (not keep three kids under 6 entertained), don't get bogged down with Chachkis and such. Also, how much space do you have? Do you actually like your furniture?

The answers are different for everyone. But I think if you are bringing stuff, bring everything you can that fits. I would imagine that you can always get rid of things here, probably to a very needy/worthy place.

And if you have extra room, hop over to my friends site for suggestions for needed items at some very worthy sounding (I have never been personally, but my friend has and I trust her) charities.

Accidents

Today we saw an accident. Well, not actually the accident, but the aftermath of an accident. We were driving the kids to school and there was a slow-down in both lanes just before the bus stop, just before the exit to Santa Ana. As we got closer, we could see why.

Accidents here can be hard to see. When things like this happen in the U.S. usually as you go by everyone rubbernecks to see what is going on. Usually you see banged up cars, cracked windshields, dented fenders, blown airbags, maybe people on the side of the street. You don't usually see the injured, they are behind the tinted glass.

In Costa Rica, in this case anyway, you see a man lying face down in the street with a group of people around him. You see his shoes off his feet and a few feet away. You see someone bending down and talking with him, so he must not be dead, in fact the way that his head is lying on the crook of his elbow makes him look like he might have just decided to lay down and take a little nap. In the middle of the road. But there are the shoes and you know that is not the case. You know that this guy must have been running across the road and got hit. And he got hit hard enough to knock him out of his shoes.

And you hope this never happens to you. That you are never hit by a car and that you never are the one that hits someone running across the road. And you hope that this guy "wakes up." And you hope that your kids are not too freaked out by seeing it. And you hope that they will listen better in streets and parking lots, at least for a little while. And you hope that this guy "wakes up."

Wake up guy.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Quick Update

Wow - August has been bloglame. We have been so busy getting things taken care of, although it certainly doesn't seem that I have been missed.

So here is a quick update for those that might care.
Got House (rental)
Got Stuff (our shipment)
Got Car (unfortunately a new one)
Got Car Insurance (took two times to give them money)
Got Cable (Harder than you think!)
Got School (Kids still love it)

Need Jobs

More later

Friday, August 17, 2007

All that stuff together?

"when the moon is in the seventh house
and Jupiter aligns with mars"
then we will get our House AND stuff
and possibly our car!

Wish us luck....

Monday, August 13, 2007

School Days

So the kids have been in school a few weeks. Bella LOVES it and Gus is getting to really LIKE it. Bella has done swimming and ballet last week and came home bragging. Seems she swam in the pool without floaties. We were getting really close, but whenever I tried to get her to do it, she um sank - so this is good. Shows what a real teacher can do. Also, in ballet she learned this spin (squat, stand, spin) that looks really good and she likes to do. So that is very nice.


Gus is now wearing big boy pants (underwear) to school and staying dry and clean (mostly). These feel like advancements. By the way, 2 more party invites for Bella and we have only been late 2/9 times in the morning. Those who know us should be impressed. This is like a record for us. It is almost 80% - that is a passing grade.

Still, it is a little bit of a full day to take them over at 8, get Gus at 12:30 and get Bella at 2pm. It's about 45 minutes round trip. Lotta car time. We will look into the bus. Although I like getting them and seeing them so happy from school.

This is the school. This is the dropoff/pickup area. They have this really neat system. You drive up, teachers are there to load or unload your kids. Perfect if it raining. Or if you have another baby in the car that you don't want to have to unload. Also, my bad picture taking allows you to see their very cute uniforms.




School is GREAT!!


Sunday, August 12, 2007

To buy or not to buy

To buy, or not to buy: that is the question. Whether 'tis smarter at this time to invest and get something of our own, or to play it safe and test the waters with a rental. (Apologies to W.S.)

We went back and forth on this for a long time. I always thought that we should rent. I know that it is a little bit tougher on the kids (we have been renting for several years now and moving about once per 15 months - Bella will be moving into her fourth home in five years) BUT there are so many good reasons to rent.
1) It would be easier to leave if we don't like it (or have chosen the wrong type of house/area) - whether that means a different area of Costa Rica or back to the States - either way ----- easier.
2) There are good rentals to be had.
3) The real estate market here is still a little high, and with what is happening in the U.S. (I speak of the loan/bank situation) there should be people selling or at least not buying like before pretty soon.

So after seeing many houses for sale (Barry was fixated on buying to begin with, don't know why - he is one of the downest downers I know on the real estate market, but he eventually came around). Putting lower offers on two that were rejected. Looking at several rentals. We are decided. We gave a deposit and get to see the contract tomorrow. We should be able to move in by the end of next week. We are pretty happy about this.

It all seems like it was meant to be. The timing lines up pretty good (we finish up here next Saturday and will probably be able to get in to the house on Friday). Also, Barry the shipping guy says that the stuff should be ready by then. This is three events all lining up. I didn't know that could happen in Costa Rica. Fingers crossed everyone.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Only in the Philippines

I have mentioned before that I am married to a Filipino. I still am. His culture is somewhat different than what I grew up with in the U.S. - still, he is not a typical Filipino. For example, he says he can't dance and most other Filipinos can. Here is some evidence of that......

Thriller

Just had to share it.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

School Update

So they have had two days in school and both seem to like it. Gus less so at drop off. He cries. This is not unusual, he never wanted to go to school in California. But he is very happy when we get him. Says he had a good day. Bella really likes it and came home on the first day with a friend and a bracelet that the friend gave her. Still can't remember her name, other than it has a 'v' in the middle. Also, after two days, we have two invites to kids parties.

We noticed from waiting in the car line to get the kids, these are definitely the soccer moms of Costa Rica. If I can just learn some Spanish, we should fit in just fine. I am still thinking that we made a good choice.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Check it off the list

One of the reasons that we moved here is that there were great, moderately expensive private schools for the kids that had happy kids in them. We had visited one such school in our November trip. It was great. It was conveniently located. It was beautiful. It was somewhat reasonably priced. It was not going to be a problem to get in (said Barry). It had club options. It had art and music and gym. It was taught in English, but majority of kids were from here. It was nice because it had one set of classes starting in August that would roughly follow the U.S. schedule. It was FULL.

I had said to Barry, if we had trouble, if we couldn't get the kids into school - we would return home.....to make sure that Bella would start kindergarten. But, alas, I knew that I would never follow through with that threat.

So - thus began the hunt. We visited and called several other schools. We were down to two Catholic, more local schools. We finally decided on St Jude's. This is not a website that does it justice and it is all in Spanish, but a small idea.

Here is more info about the school we picked.
They teach all major subjects in English.
They do teach in Spanish the following (one per day of the week) - music, art, gym, enrichment (Catholic and morals), and French.
Gus and Bella are BOTH enrolled.
Gus's classes go from 8 am - 12:30 pm.
Bella's classes go from 8 am - 2 pm.
They have cute uniforms - red shorts and a tee-shirt with school logo.
They have clubs. My hope is that both will take swimming, Bella ballet and crafts and Gus pre-gymnastics.
We can hire a school bus (think ecovan) to take them back and forth.
We had to buy school supplies for them and that is a story for another time.
We still need to buy mud boots for them - so far I have looked in about 5 stores!
They started TODAY and are there right NOW.

I think that we picked well, strike something else off the list.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Red Sox and Technology are Universal

The other day, we spent a good couple hours sitting outside on the little stoop and watching the kids play on the sloped common road down through the condominiums. We are at the top of the hill of 6 townhouse types that face in toward each other (three on each side). The complex guard is a guy named Alvaro and we spent much of this time chatting with him. Mind you he only speaks Spanish, so this all took awhile. It takes patience to go slowly through these conversations, but is usually worth the effort. Barry got more, but they were guys talking. It is a little different in a Latin country.



This is what I learned:

  • He is from Nicaragua
  • He is 28 years old
  • He has 5 brothers and sisters, 4 are here in Costa Rica along with his mother
  • He has an 18 year old girlfriend
  • He is taking English classes in San Jose, they are expensive for him but he feels that it is his best opportunity for better work here or abroad
  • He is Evangelical (I think that means Born-again Christian here)
  • He has a cool cell phone that plays music - including Bee Gees and "Take My Breathe Away" from Top Gun
  • Nicaraguans (in general) tend to follow baseball more than futbol (soccer)
  • He likes the Red Sox

So there Dad - all the way to Costa Rica to meet a Sox fan.... No Yankees here!





Things that make you go hmm..

Everyone here seems worried about security. There are bars on the windows. On private residences there are often extra measures on the big walls (i.e. glass shards, razor wire, or even electric fence). In the complexes (called condominiums here) there are guard houses and often guys with guns. There are guys with guns in many public places.

BUT - alot of it seems for show. We have noticed that often these "extra" precautions seem to take care of one method of entry, but completely skip other ways.

I recently finished reading Robert B. Parker's Appaloosa, (good book by the way), in which the main character, Virgil Cole, Marshall of the town, mentions that "Clausewitz says you gotta plan for what your enemy can do, not what you think he'll do."

They don't seem to do that here. Point in case. Lets put shiny stuff in place, but in a condominium, we don't need to have bars or even really good locks on these huge sliding windows. They are just a hop, skip and a jump from the roof of the terrace. The terrace roof is just over the short wall on the side where there are no guards. Hmmm.....

Friday, July 20, 2007

What we're Eating

Thought someone might be interested in what we are eating. This is a shot of a few items in our frig. Grape (Uva), Orange and Apple juices. Hellman's mayonnaise and Heinz ketchup and milk. Not that much different from back in the States.

Haven't found good deli turkey, ham, roast beef cold cuts. But mostly everything else is somewhat available (or with a good substitute).

Looks Yummy, yes?

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Potter Fix Available

Just wanted to let everyone know that I should be able to get my Harry Potter. Auntie Myra is coming to visit next week and should be bringing The Book (I ordered it from Amazon to get to Mommie's along with some other things) ..... AND (most exciting) it is playing in the Cinemark here. So basically, we can (once we ditch the kids) go to the mall, order popcorn and watch the movie. JUST LIKE THE U.S. Only difference, we may have to have subtitles in Spanish. We can definitely deal with that!

YEA!

I am sure everyone is just thrilled for me.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

We want ditoys

I may have mentioned that we have been watching a lot of tv. A lot of discovery kids. This is a channel for little kids so there are a lot of commercials geared toward kids. Particularly a lot of toys. I am frequently told, "I want that." There are some neat things here and some things from the States that are either new to me or didn't do too well in the U.S. market and are being aggressively marketed here.


For example:


Bella wants this as her dog. Of course the cool part is that it comes with a Barbie too. She has explained to me numerous times how much cleaner it would be to have a toy dog do poo-poo. Easier to clean up and isn't it neat. (You should see the commercial where Barbie uses the vacuum tool to clean up and dispose of the dog waste). To me it just looks like a tiny thing to be left around for Sera to try and eat. As I think Tanner is doing in the image. We will have to see about this.


Barry wants this. He thinks it would be fun to play with the kids. I am not sure how PC this would be and if it is available in the U.S.


Sera is too young to want everything. Luckily, Bella has selected several things that she might like (I am not sure if it is Bella or Sera who would like them?) and informed me we should get them for Sera's birthday.


Gus wants everything.


I just want to see Harry Potter.

We did something

We have actually accomplished something from beginning to end. We are now bonafide card-carrying members of ......................





Pricesmart....

Monday, July 16, 2007

Not Whining

I just want to make it clear. I am not whining. We are still glad we did this and very happy to be here. We are having a pretty good time of it here. Things are hard and we are trying to get to settled as fast as we can. This means a lot of running around. This is harder on the kids then us. Also, we have not settled into an "our house" yet where we can let them run around and do whatever they like. That is hard on them too. Hence it is hard on us.

We have been doing a lot of tv watching. Discovery kids, Nick Jr, Disney channel in Spanish. All good stuff but an awful lot of it. It will be so nice when we have the type of place we want - with some outdoor place for them to play and no "don't jump on the beds" policies in place.

We are all looking forward to that.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Up and Running

You may think I am talking about us and our adventure in Costa Rica - and while it is true that we are - this post is all about the baby.

She did it folks. For the past few months she has been standing up and putting one foot forward, then falling. Last night she put together 8 steps and then sat down on her own accord. She did it a few more times, just to show she can. And while crawling is still her preferred mode of transportation (after being carried by her mama), can running be far off?

Friday, July 13, 2007

Boxing Day

We are tired. It has been a bit of a let-down to be here. Kind of reminds me of the day AFTER Christmas (known as boxing day in Britishy countries). It was so very, very hectic to get everything done to come. In fact, we didn't get everything done. We left a trail of unfinished tasks for our family to do behind us (thanks guys). We also had many, many nights to bed after 2 am and up by 7 am. Bars was pretty upset at the time. When we booked tickets, he had wanted to push it out a week. I still maintain that it would have been same way, only later and with less time here before Bella's school started. Bars has said he has never been so stressed. Ha - I do this to myself all the time. Of course on the upside - we didn't have to think about the big change coming. It just kinda happened to us. So, I think overall that is less stress. More tired, less stress.

Not surprisingly, there were no welcome signs in the airport. No waiting friends or family. Costa Rica seems not to be impacted by our arrival. We have gone from being the weird friends doing something weird, that nobody is particularly thrilled with, to just the new kids on the block. Someone (she will remain nameless so as not to get into any trouble) told us that the local expats won't really befriend you for two years. Kind of a testing period to make sure that you stick. I can understand that with the kids - it would be kind of hard to keep having your kids' friends leave. Still, for my kids' sake, I hope that isn't true. We all need friends.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Not out on the streets yet

It feels kinda funny here. Feels familiar and still very strange. Of course we sometimes seem like chickens without heads, not sure which task to do first or how to do it. Buy the car, set up the corporation, open a bank account, get a drivers license......Sometimes it seems like I am a kindergartener and this is the put the pictures in order test.


Still, I guess we are making progress. We saw a furnished townhouse in a condominium in Los Laureles area. We took it for five weeks. Hopefully in that time we can find a house. At the very least,we are not out on the streets for 5 weeks.


I can not believe it, but my husband is forging aheadwith the idea to BUY. My husband who rails against the market, talks about bubbles, etc. I am a little in shock. Still, I thinik his reasoning is sound. If we get a long term unfurnished rental, we are still yanking the kids around. He really is ready to be able to do what we want with a place. And at theprice range we are hoping for, it is not like CA real estate. We have always been good in the past. Neither of us gets hooked emotionally and "gotta have" this house. Although I am a believer in "knowing" when you see it. Hopefully our luck in chosing well will remain strong. We dove in this far - might as well keep going.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

First Home

My blogfriend in the slow lane wondered how we were all doing without our stuff. This is what I told her.



As far as not having stuff, that is a joke. You should have seen our travel. I spent days with my 5 balikbayan boxes (Filipino boxes for "returning home" 20 x 20 x 20 white cardboard - much cheaper than the home depot and designed to be approved by the airlines, depending on how heavy you load them) and a scale. The 50 lbs is a killer - 70 would have been soooo easy. As it turned out I missed by a couple of pounds (heavy) but luckily the guy at the airport was in a hurry or he would have made me repack or pay $50 per box. So we had 5 balikbayan boxes, one homemade box that fit the pack and play plus other items and two car seats loaded up with other stuff and wrapped. Plus a double stroller, a single stroller, six assorted carryon suitcases, backpacks, diaper bag, purse, and three kids under 6. That's alot of stuff. It took an Izuzu Rodeo and a Volvo station wagon to get us all to the airport. Well all of us plus three family members to drive the cars back (and just generally help). We must have looked very "pack-mulish" going through the airport. Thankfully, everything from there on out went smoothly. (Except they made me throw out the opened jar of jif at security - no biggie, I just thought if we found nothing else for the fussy kids to eat, I could spoon it in them - but everything worked out fine).


We are staying at a furnished 2-bedroom condominium in Santa Ana called Blvd. del Sol. It is perfect for now. You probably already know, the term condominium means something different in Costa Rica - it translates to an enclosed compound with a guard. Our place is more like a townhouse. But we have been able to cook and let the kids play out back.


BUT, we only have this place for a week. Original plan was to take it for a month, however someone else has rented it for our second week. Now we are scrambling to find something else. We had an appointment today to meet a realtor person (not sure what to call them here, there are so many) to see a similar place near the multiplaza and the school for Bella. We also were to go by the school and enroll her. School was closed (I knew they were on vacation, but it was empty - no office personnel), and I forgot to change my watch so we were late for our appointment by an hour. We have rescheduled for tonight at 6:30 pm. So we accomplished McDonald's and buying little toys for the kids. It is hard enough to accomplish errands here when you Don't put yourself in the way. Ugh. Still totally my fault can't be too mad at Ibarra.



So hopefully we will like this place and take it for the 5 weeks it is definitely available. In that time our stuff will get here, and hopefully we will have found the place to buy.

Monday, July 9, 2007

Double Yolk Sunday

So we finally did it. We got through the packing, loading container, cleaning and returning rental house, moving to mother-in-laws (thanks mommi), packing for airport, sorting through remaining....uh crap and leaving errands for our family to do (thanks everyone).

We left through SFO on 07/07/07 at 7:30 am.....

And for those of you who wonder, I did not pick that intentionally, it just worked out that way - but hopefully it will be for good luck on this endeavor. I know that our whole family and friends are wishing us luck, even if there is a betting pool on how long we will last in CR before coming back to the US permanently. Sadly, they wouldn't let me in the pool - I could have made us some money!

So we made it to the plane on time, kids behave like CHAMPS on the plane, arrived safely, whisked through immigration and customs. Got help with our mega-load (8 checked items consisting of 6 balikibayan boxes (20 x 20 x 20) and 2 car seat plus stuff. All of us and 6 carryon items of various sizes. We all fit into one big taxi van and for $19 were off to our first week condominium. No trouble getting in. "Uncle Charlie" our driver took us right back out to the automercado for a few necessities. And we were back "home."

So Sunday was mostly a get settled, set up stuff to do for the week (like find a place to stay after this week is up!) and rest. Now Monday we will hit the pavement running.

But for further luck. First thing Sunday morning I made breakfast and the first egg cracked - double yolk. That's supposed to be good luck too, right?

Thursday, June 28, 2007

The beginning of the end

It is really strange. When I was a kid, I was always very maudlin about goodbyes. I remember one summer at about 13, after taking lifeguard classes with the red cross, I had my Mom drive me to the beach so that I could "say goodbye." And there was crying involved. Did I mention that we lived in town? Okay, there had been a couple of cute, older boys in the class. My family still teases me about that to this day.



But we have started seeing people, friends, for what will probably be the last time. They may come visit once our twice after we are settled, but you know how that goes. Most of the relationships sort of drift away. Still, I don't feel any clingy need to hold on and be sad. I guess that I must feel that the people who are meant to stay in our lives, will stay in our lives. If only for the occasional phone call and Christmas card. It has always worked before. I can still pick up the phone and talk to Jen O. months and years apart and it is as if we saw each other the day before.



And actually, we usually only see our friends 3-6 times per year anyway. Usually at large birthday celebrations with very little time to talk deep. That is the way it goes with three little ones running around. I feel lucky to have a complete, coherent and sane thought - an actual conversation is just a dream. A dream I will continue to have.



So I stand by what I said. The people who are meant to stay in our lives, will stay in our lives. And I will miss them. But for now, no drive to the beach is necessary.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Signs Again

Signs again.



We are working with a company in Costa Rica to move our stuff. It has been really funny because the guy that I am working with is named Barry. It is not that unusual a name, but other than as my husband's nickname, I haven't run into it that much. He has been really helpful and when this is all done and I still have good things to say, I will state the company.



Yesterday when I talked with him, we talked about setting up the date for the container. This morning I got a phone call from the Logistics company to set up the actual date. The name of the lady that called me........Jennifer.



We must be destined to go. Or maybe I am reading a little too much into this. What do you think?

Thursday, June 21, 2007

And Puppy Speaks........

We keep working with Bella to get her comfortable with relocating to Costa Rica and with leaving California.

She is more worried with the former than the later and frequently asks, "Can't we just move to Florida?" Or maybe she just really liked Disney World and thinks that if you live in Florida you
go all the time.

That being said, she seems more worried about living in Costa Rica. We have told her lots of good things that could happen there, like getting a dog. She has seemed happy about that. Though last night, we figured out what she was really thinking when she asked:

"Do the dogs in Costa Rica speak Spanish?"

Now what do you say to that?

Saturday, June 16, 2007

How do you know what you want?

I have been listening to Into the Woods. Really good stuff. Sondheim is so clever. It makes me feel a little smart just to realize how clever he is, and how far I am from being that clever. But a particular lyric really hit home. Especially as we keep telling old friends the plan to such mixed reactions. We get everything from "Really?" to "Are you crazy?" to "I don't blame you a bit."

So here's the line:

Cinderella: "How do you know what you want, 'till you get what you want and you see if you like it?"

Guess we won't know for sure until we get there.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

More Shopping Frustrations and Sucess

You would think I was starting a bridal registry. I have surely gone small appliance CRAZY. I started out with a small and simple list.



  1. Replace hand-me-down apartment sized microwave we have gratefully been using for the past 14 months.

  2. Get a family sized food processor to replace mini-cusinart (besides being too small, the plastic around the blade has cracked and I am sure it is a safe-haven for all sorts of little nasties).

  3. A Shark or similar plug in sweeper/vacuum. I have a great and heavy Dyson. I want something lightweight, easy, inexpensive for quick jobs like under the dinner table so that our crawler doesn't snack on the the crumbs of the last meal. Had a shark for several years, finally wouldn't hold a charge and had to go.

But I start reading, and then I get IDEAS. Ideas about gadgets I have never had but will certainly use mucho tiempo in our new lives. Of course I am still a frugal chick so some research is required. I spent all yesterday on amazon, Bed Bath and Beyond, Costco and of course epinions. Now I want the following:



  1. Food Processor

  2. Microwave

  3. Shark

  4. Popcorn popper

  5. Juicer

  6. Karaoke machine (okay, now I might be getting carried away)

So after spending all day yesterday debating: Cuisinart or Kitchen Aid for the food processor? Does it have extra attachments? Can I grind ice? Julienne? Good reviews? Cheapest way? Fastest way? I determine that for $159 at Costco I can get a Cuisinart 11 cup processor. I can get extra blades at Amazon to do Julienne and ice shaving (~$99 if I remember). Also, there is a good popcorn popper there ($29). The best juicer deal seems to be at Bed Bath and Beyond. I am planning on a Breville for $159.

I know that I have to order from Costco a topper for the king bed we got. (Update on that - loving the size. We don't even notice the extra kids that sneak in in the middle of the night, but it is still too firm - but for $1K for the bed + ~$200 for a topper will get the same feel as a $3k mattress - my husband is getting all hot just reading this - this cheap streak may just be the real reason he married me. Oh and I got sheets and a quilt at Ross for about ~$30/set - 4 sheet sets, one to sew into a duvet cover, one quilt set plus a mattress pad = $180, instead of $80/set at all the name stores.) But they may have the food processor and the Shark at the store. So a visit is in order.

Juicer, there is one on Craig's list in San Fran for $58 - I call, we talk about a visit.

I head off shopping:

Cosco - nothing. No topper, no shark, no food processor. But a karaoke microphone and a weird but good guy singing to "advertise" it. I resist. Onward.

Walmart - need new big boy pants for Mr. G - he is almost there and nothing motivates a 2 year old boy like Spidey can. And socks. And sandals for the baby, almost walking. And aluminum foil, laundry detergent and a quick stroll down the kitchen appliance aisle. Ah..... a Hamilton Beach 14 cup food processor. No dough hook, but $59. A Hamilton Beach juicer $49. Don't remember seeing this on Epinions. Pick them up and check the reviews later, just to maker sure not awful.

Target - Popcorn popper - same as on Amazon (okay I'll pay tax but it is done!) and still no Shark. Try a Bissell stick vacuum wet/dry thing ($35). Again, plan to read Epinions at home. King down comforter $79.

Go home and order topper from Costco online.

DONE! mostly.

Reviews on Hamilton Beach are good. Bissel not so much.

By my recollection - I saved my husband ~$1200. He will laugh when he reads this in the morning because I spent, um, a little bit more. And we still need to buy a microwave. And eventually a house.

This doesn't have much to do with moving to Costa Rica. More about me being Crazy. Is it starting to show?

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Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Harry Potter Added

I have added my buddy Harry above for two (okay three) reasons

  1. In the continuance of the blog, I am hoping to make a little moolah on the side and I am testing out how the amazon associates thing works and Harry is great (plus the colors match up nicely).
  2. I am SO SO SAD that we will not be here for either the book release or the movie.....
  3. HARRY IS GREAT!

That said, goodnight everyone.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Troubles of a 5-Year Old

So Bella (the 5 year old) knows we are moving to Costa Rica. I didn't think she needed to know about the move just yet, but when she asked directly, "Are we moving to Costa Rica" I could hold back no longer. I don't believe in lying to kids unless you have to, so I told her.

I had been trying to shield her from this information for as long as possible because I didn't want her to be worried, or at least to worry for as little time as possible. I keep telling myself it was going to be a traumatic fall anyway because she was going to have to start kindergarten and who likes that? So part of the rush has been to get her to Costa Rica to start school with all the other Costa Rican kindergartners.

Meanwhile, we have been talking about CR in code and in hushed tones around her. Also, I have been trying to talk up our trip to Costa Rica last November. But how can that trip possibly compete with Disney World last month? So instead, I have been trying to figure out why she wasn't more thrilled with the Costa Rica vacation. Also we have been trying to give her a Spanish Booster Shot (a few Sunday classes at the home of her Peruvian pre-school teacher). While the class will be in English, I am sure that the playground will be in Spanish.

So we have had a few breakdowns about this topic.

She doesn't want to go. Doesn't see why we can't just move to Florida instead. Cries about not ever seeing her cousin Rachael again.

She doesn't want to learn Spanish. She doesn't want to learn Tagolog either. She likes English.

Earlier, she told me that one of the reasons that she didn't like it so much before was because she missed her toys. I explained that we would pack them and take them with us, some on the plane, most in boxes on the boat. She worries that the toys on the boat will get lost and thinks we should just leave them here.

I explained that we were giving back this house, so we couldn't leave them here. I explained that we would be looking for a new house in Costa Rica and maybe we could have a pool, a trampoline, a dog....

She started to perk up. Now she wants a parrot. Where did that come from?!?

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Lady needs a vowel

I know that I am going crazy. Three kids will do that to you, however this move is accelerating it. I spoke with a Peruvian lady this weekend and found out that technically I should have called myself jenpocoloca (because I am a feminine article). Oh well, pocoloco sounds more fun. Kind of reminds me of the train bearing down on us (July 7!!!).

So I am keeping it jenpocoloco and I just hope that my Spanish will improve quickly after we get to Costa Rica. Or I will hope that people there will be forgiving of a Gringa who knows a lot of words, just not the right tenses of verbs or the gender of nouns or adjectives. Do I get credit for trying?

Monday, June 4, 2007

Fire in the hole

We did it!

We booked our tickets. Four seats going from San Fransisco to Phoenix to Costa Rica. For July 7......
So now, so much to do and such little time (expect a list coming up soon), but now we have a deadline.

Yikes......

Friday, June 1, 2007

Uneffecient Me

I've been reading lots of blogs from gringos living in Costa Rica that detail how convuluted it is to accomplish anything there. But I've been practicing dealing with that here. I know that sounds strange, but listen to this:

So we decided that we would treat ourselves to a new mattress to take with us, a King size - we have always wanted to upgrade from our queen, however not had the space. We figure we will now have the space and it would be cheaper/more selection to buy here. Of course that will mean new matress pads, sheets, comforter, etc. But as our baby approaches one-year old and hopefully all the kdis will be sleeping through the night, I am hoping that nights of blissful sleeping are coming. So, yea - king size bed to be.

Now we really like the queen we currently have. We bought it about 5 years ago. After laying on every mattress on the store (this took hours - remember, we had no kids yet) we were down to two matresses. We finally picked the firmer mattress, which turned out to be cheaper (by about $400 if I remember). So I pulled the sheets off and looked at the tags and called the store.

After confirming that we had a record at Mattress Discounters (so it was indeed where we bought the thing), I told the guy the name of the mattress. No dice. He took my number and went to find anybody that worked there five years ago. He called back and we all were on the same page and knew what was lying upstairs in my bedroom. A wonderful mattress that had been made specifically as an in-house brand for Mattress Discounters (hence the good deal) and that was NO longer being made. So now we will have to go in and lie on mattresses. Again.

Okay, no problem, let's move on to sheets. That's got to be easy. I have one set from JC Penney that we got as wedding presents that we LOVE. We love so much that I usually wash it and replace in one day. Only tag on the sheets says 100% Egyptian Cotton. I head to the internet and learn about thread count and cotton types and stiching methods and so forth. I look at the JCPenney website and several things match out to what I think I have. I look at a couple other websites to see what else is out there at Target, Bed Bath & Beyond and Linens and things. JC Penney seems to be having great prices for similiar things. While doing this, I also peruse for any quilts, coverlets, or spreads that are what I have in mind. Don't see anything like what I want. So I don't know what color sheets to buy. That's okay, I'll buy white. Besides JCPenney is having a sale right now (through Sat.) for like half off. That makes buying luxury sheets a little less painful. I could probably sway for different colors later if I wanted to. So I go to the store, prepared to plop down some moolah. They have nice samples. I figure out two types that are close to what I want. No Kings. Cal-kings out the wahoo, no kings.

So a few days later and I have no new mattress, no new linens, and a headfull of knowledge on sheets. Does this seem effecient or easy? Maybe I am far too much of a control freak, but if I am going to spend a couple hundred dollars, I want it right. Maybe this is nothing like Costa Rica either, but gotta chalk up another couple days of not accomplishing anything for the move to Costa Rica. Sigh. Maybe things will jump into boxes all by themselves this weekend.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

What to Bring?

We need to figure out how much stuff we are bringing and what things we want to go buy here so that we don't have to find there. Here's the list so far:

Kitchen:
Microwave (new - we have been surviving with a friends toss out from college)
Other kitchen implements (rice cooker, blender, veg steamer, quisinart, kitchen aid mixer, slow cooker, salad shooter, thermometer, single serve coffee maker, bean grinder, toaster, electric griddle)
China, glasses, silverware (wedding presents)
My favorite 3 calphalon pans, 2 dutch oven pots, grill pan, small calphalon pot, strainer (never saw good ones there), cutting boards, lobster pot, 3 cookie sheets, a few square pans, knifes, some storage containers, kids plates

My spices (can I do that?)
Medicines like tums, aspirin, ibuprofen/tylenol on advice from http://www.abroadincostarica.com/2007/05/expat_wish_list.html

All are hanging wall art
Decorations
Photos and photo albums
Digitalized my 350 cds, down to 2 backup dvds!
Also digitalized 2 old boxes of audio tapes!
DVDs
Working on way to get rid of videos (to dvds)
Many boxes of books

Washer and dryer

Vacuum Cleaner

Shark

Lots of kids toys

Old files that we need to keep

Our clothes, including clothes for little one to grow into (i.e. hand me downs)
Hair implements (dryer, curlers, irons, barrettes, bands, etc)
Small amount of mostly costume jewelry

Electronics - computers, printers, stereo, hopefully new (to us) smaller speakers), tv, dvd player, video, one cd player, mp3 speakers

Cords, Extension, computer, etc.

Tools - electric drill, saws (circular and reciprocating), etc. and hammers, etc)

Gardening stuff (rake, broom, weed wacker, edger, clippers - this category is iffy).

My old skis (what else you gonna do?)

Some sports equipment (balls, weights)

Linens (sheets, comforters, mattress pads, towels, small amount of table clothes, place mats, etc)

One nice armchair and ottoman

King mattress, Queen mattress

Baby crib

Christmas decorations

Baby gates

A few boxes of .....what?

Undecided about:
A lawnmower (new)
One dresser
One buffet
One antique armoir
2 garage sale chairs we bought to refinish
Desk chair

I am sure that I am forgetting lots of stuff and as I pack I will find large caches of stuff we "just can't live without" I will try to fight that urge for the sake of not starting with too much stuff....

Am I missing some stuff? What is too much? Any suggestions would be welcomed

The Order of Attack

Okay, here is what is really stressing me out. I can't figure out the end. The right order to do things so as to:

  • minimize cost
  • minimize inconvenience to us
  • minimize upsetting the kids

Here are the tasks that I can't put in order:

  • Last day in current rental house
  • Stay last night in hotel by airport for early morning departure
  • Finish packing into garage
  • Get container at our house
  • Close container and have it picked up (or truck our stuff to someplace to share a container)
  • Figure out if we need a whole small container or can share
  • Garage sale (one or two) - final one to sell off most of furniture
  • Final dump run
  • Clean rental, give back keys, vacate, hope to get back security deposit
  • Stay somewhere?

I don't want the cost of living in a hotel for very long, nor do I want to sleep on the floor at my mother-in-laws. It would be hard to live here for long without some stuff.

Right now I am thinking if we keep the following: queen mattress to be thrown away, refrigerator, microwave, tv to be gotten rid of and some clothes, shampoo, toys - we could get by at the rental for a little while. But all this is still swimming in my head....

Any suggestions out there?

This doesn't seem to bother my husband. I finally put the list on paper and said, put numbers by these tasks and I think he finally got it. Anyway, we'll figure it out.

Break it Down

There seems so much to do to prepare to go, however I feel paralyzed to do much of anything. I am a list maker, an organizer, I used to work as a program manager and short of entering the tasks into MS Project - I am a little lost.

But I feel that I must divide and conquer, so:

I have broken down the tasks into three major areas (okay actually five, but you'll see)

  • Stuff - figure out what goes, what gets sold (garage sale, craigs list, ebay), what gets donated and what gets junked. Figure out and do those things (pack, hire container, prepare and hold garage sale, figure out how to get rid of leftovers). I have done some work on this already. I have been culling through everything and reducing by half, but I am quite a pack rat and the job still looms very large.

  • Documentation/Accounts/Paperwork - This is a terribly boring but essential category. I am trying to assign as much as possible to my significant other. This includes getting all paperwork complete for our residency package, closing accounts (electric, water, cell phones, etc.), banking consolidation and preparation (i.e. getting it on the internet, etc.), minimize mail junk, forward mail, set up mail for CR, skype stuff, and bundling kids stuff (i.e. immunization, school stuff, etc). Yuk.

  • The Going - buy tickets, set up short term rental (i.e. 1 month), Hotel here for the end, figure out the car situation, know what we have to do when we get there.

  • Appointments - finish up dentist, eye doctor and get my hair done (haven't had it done since the baby was born - been doing the ponytail.)

  • Shopping - this is the fun one. We are going to get a new tv (the 18 year-old cable guy informed us we could get HDTV and the laughed when we declined and showed him ours. It is about 12 years old, but really, how HD do you need Barney?) Anyway, this is a luxury that we have been promising ourselves when we finally get a house, but now seems smart to buy before moving to CR as it seems to cost double there. King size mattress (yea), nice new linens and a stockpile of Target tee-shirts for me.

I know that I am being naive, but that seems like everything, right?

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Breaking the news

So the news is out. I told my parents and they did flip. I think that they are still flipping.

The funny thing is that in an earlier conversation, they were re-hashing my thoughts of 7-10 years ago, when I told them I didn't think that I would want to raise kids in California, but here we were. They also didn't think that my husband would ever concede to move away from his family. They were going through all this because they not so secretly wish we were back on the east coast.

I can't say that I blame them. It is hard to be the kind of grandparents that they want to be when they only see the kids about twice a year for an intense, 24-hour/day for 1o -14 days. They wish we lived within an hour drive so they could pamper one kid at a time for an overnight visit and then return to us. It is also hard that it takes my kids about 5-7 days to re-warm up to them. I wish we could have that too, but we don't want to live in upstate NY - too cold, too limited, t0o not diverse. Maybe if one of my two younger brothers would get married and have some kids (they both live in different parts of NY), it would take some pressure off of me.

So it was kind of funny to later tell them that we weren't going to continue raising the kids in California and that Bars was going to move away from his family. That we were going to move to Costa Rica.

They didn't find it so funny.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

So Now What?

Okay - so now what? I have gone through the who (our family), what (relocate for at least a little while), where (Costa Rica), and why.

Now we are on to the when and the how. We are targeting end of June, beginning of July because the school we picked out for Bells starts around July 24.

Now for the how. That is what I will be dealing with mostly in the continuation of this blog. How in the world are we going to do this? What stuff should we bring? How do we get it there? What about bills and mail and all that other stuff? Also, all my fears I will write down so that later I can laugh or say, "See, I told you so..."

That is what I will be doing at least until we get there and then it will probably be the how are we living and are we glad we did it? That will unravel as we continue.

For now, we are back from Florida. Had a great time, but now must really buckle down and start to prepare. I am going to try for a garage sale this weekend to at least clear out that one corner of the garage where I have been stockpiling....

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Disney and the Signs

So we have spent a wonderful ten days with Poppi and Toots. We had a great time at Disney World and I broke the news to them. That was probably the least fun thing and I will deal with that in a separate post.

But, I just needed to say that the signs are everywhere that we are making a good choice. While at Disney-MGM, we stopped and got a caricature done of Bella and Sera. While waiting there we chatted with another family (father, mother 10-12 year old girl). The girl was an artist and interested in watching the guy draw. As we were chatting we discussed names of our kids, he wondered about the Mediterranean theme, I explained my husband was Filipino and I was matching the last name (and I liked the names). He asked if we had been to Philippines, I said not yet, he said it was lovely.

Later in talking with his daughter about her art, she mentioned that she had won some contests. The best contest was actually a coloring contest and she won a trip to ...... Costa Rica. The father said it was the best trip they ever had (and from above you can see that he seems well traveled). We compared notes, he had loved Monte Verde and was surprised we had gone up there.

So I take this as a sign. Costa Rica is everywhere. I think it means we are doing the right thing. At least I hope so.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Broken toe to Disney and breaking the news

So the kids and I are off tomorrow to Florida to meet up with Poppy and Toots. After a few days at their place, we are off to Disney World. That should be fun, except Bells did a cartwheel this morning and managed to break her big toe. After spending all day at the doctors (also, we figured out that Gussy has a sinus infection which equals antibiotics).

This is a bit of a nerve wracking trip, for the following reasons:

  • Traveling alone with three kids, at least it is a direct flight SFO to Orlando.
  • A broken toe in Disney World
  • At the end of this trip, I will be breaking the Moving to Costa Rica News to my parents.
I figure that they will flip out. They have never been out of the country. So we will focus on the closer to Florida benefit. But I am a little nervous, about all of those things.

Wish me luck.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Dogseller



It seems that if you drive around long enough, you really can find anything that you need. On Sundays near the Multiplaza you can buy a pet. Really.

The Visit - Part Two (Funstuff)

Now this is the vacation I was thinking about all along. We had a good time just being together in Escazu, but there is so much more to Costa Rica. Here's what else we did.

Zoo Ave. - This was meant to be a little day trip, our first excursion beyond gringoland. However, we took a left off the Autopista, rather than a right. (Don't know how we missed it, there is a huge sign and if you have heard anything about Costa Rica driving, there ain't hardly ANY signs) and drove out to Grecia and Atenas. Beautiful. Tranquil. Had a great lunch at roadside place called Papa Something. My memory is foggy, but it is on the left. Saw leafcutter ants walking across the parking lot. Very cool. Got back to Zoo Ave and little boy blue was fast asleep. So he missed the first part. Now for my first dumb gringa confession. I thought the Ave. stood for Avenue, um, nope it's for birds. Lots of birds here. Beautiful birds, including free-range peacocks. Bars wanted the kids to stand real close. I thought it was a bad idea. Guess he forgot our last encounter with peacocks. The time in Napa when he stood for a picture next to one behind a fence and snapped at his back pocket. I think if it hadn't been for his wallet that bird would have gotten a piece of him. And that bird was behind a fence. We move through the zoo and the two best parts were:

  1. We saw a huge iguana thing in the trees (i.e. not caged)

  2. We were just finishing up when the weather started to change and this caused for some very active pumas.

Definitely a fun trip that I would recommend. But a zoo is a zoo. For older kids there is real wildlife to see.




Then we went on the road:


Lake Arenal/Arenal Volcano - We drove to the Lake Arenal area and found a cute little place to stay first night. We enjoyed their pool, ate their food, couldn't see the volcano and enjoyed speaking with our hosts. In the morning we went and did a walking tour in the rain forest. Mostly what we got was wet and tired. For the last half of the walk, Barry wound up carrying little boy blue fast asleep in our toddler hiking backpack (one of those many pieces of paraphernalia we brought that were bulky to get around, not needed that often, but a godsend at the right time!) while I had Sera in the baby bjorn. Luckily, Bella has boundless energy and walked the whole way, and was the only one NOT tired at the end. Go figure.

The next day was spent at the Tobaccan Hot Springs (http://www.tabacon.com/). This place is AWESOME. This was my favorite thing and I really want to go back sometime with just my husband (hint, hint Barry). We were tired idiots, unable to decode the map and realize that the spa was, a---(wait for it) ---cross the street and that you needed to ride the shuttle. We wasted a lot of time going back to the town of Arenal to find food, and taking naps, etc. I could have easily spent more time submerged. But it was so nice. And since we were only there one night, we sprung for the Volcano view room - so glad we did. After the kids were asleep, it was clear and Barry and I got to sit outside and watch the lava flows. And when I was up in the morning, I got a picture.



Monteverde - This was a long and beautiful trip. We found a cute little cottage to stay in. One bedroom, and a living area with kitchenette. The owner was very nice and had visited Niagara Falls in NY so we had something in common. He and this place reminded me of the family lodges on Lake Luzerne and Lake George back home. We did not do any walking or zipping trips here. We were all too pooped out. We went to a butterfly farm and at night the Serpentaria. More our speed with the little ones. Not sure it was worth the long drive for us to go here (and back) with the kids at their current age and ability.





But we found this great place on the back side of town were the guy sold fried chicken. That is all. Fried chicken in a plastic bag. Mostly locals buying. Cheap and delicious. And just like the Philippines, Barry said. He also said, "See, you just find something here and do it well and you can succeed."

Playa del Coco - From Monteverde we went on to Playa del Coco. We also picked up Barry's sister, Wilma at the Liberia Airport. We kinda felt a little like locals, waiting on her plane. We spent a few days here. Spent time at the pool. Took a day trip to a beautiful beach, Playa Conchal. During the drive, had to ford a small stream in the middle of the road. On the way back we took a picture driving through the water (yea for 4-wheel drive, remember this is the actual road) and felt like tourists for doing so. Bars got stung by something and the kids liked the beach. On the way back, we stopped to eat at a restaurant that looked like a castle. An American family lives there and runs it. They were very nice and the food was pretty good. It was nice to talk with someone with small kids that made this change. I would recommend stopping here for a snack. You can't miss it, it looks like a castle.
Jaco/Manuel Antonio Park - From here, we traveled south as far as we wanted to drive in the day. We got as far as Jaco. Looked like a good place to spend a couple of nights. We found a place to stay, ate and waited for daylight. During early evening (around 6 - 7 pm) I tried to go from the hotel down to the beach. There was a night guard. In my limited Spanish I asked him if it was okay (safe) for me to go there. Eventually I understood the answer to be no. So we waited for the next day. We drove down to Manual Antonio Park. It was beautiful. After parking, the dry path to the ticket booth/park entrance is shown in the photo. You pay some guys to help you stumble across their boat. We had a nice walk, we saw monkeys (howler and capuchin, unfortunately no spider monkeys for me), coati and some kind of crabs. My kids seemed to like the crabs the best. I am not that much of a nature girl, however it was really nice to watch the monkeys. We also took a swim at one of the beaches. I hung out with sleeping baby under a sheltered picnic area. Great time. We stayed until closing (~4pm). Had to walk out in the rain. And the boat guys weren't there when we left, so we left really soggy, but happy.

San Jose Area - The rest of the time, we spent in Santa Ana. We took a day trip into the city to see the Teatro Nacional and the gold museum and the market. I've been through open air markets in Taiwan, so this market wasn't that unusual. It was a nice day, but definitely not the most unusual. Still, nice to be in the hub-bub for a bit.
The rest - After that, we put Wilma on a plane home in San Jose and just hung out some more as a family. Grocery shopping and such. We did spend sometime shopping at the mall and looked at a few properties for sale to see what kind of options there were. But there will be more on that later. This is too long already.

Kids on Blog



Now for a slightly sensitive issue. Posting photos of my kids. Probably not going to happen. At least not in anyway that would allow someone who did not know us to recognize them. So anyone looking for just that can exit stage left. This is one thing that my husband and I came to agreement on without any discussion. It just seemed too scary and unfair to them.

Take it from me that they really do exsist. Take it from me that they are beautiful. Take it from me that they are wonderful.



Monday, May 7, 2007

The Visit - Part One (Administrative)

So to catch you up, we are thinking of moving to Costa Rica. We have been thinking about it for a while. As part of our research we went on a "vacation" there last November. We bundled up our three kids, including a 3-month old baby and took off for 3 weeks. Here is what happened:

We flew from San Jose, California to San Jose, Costa Rica - which for some reason, just really tickles me. We had a few hours in Houston, which worked out good for the kids. So we land, deplane, and find the line for immigration. It is quite long and quite late. As we wheel up with infant, a beautiful lady in incredibly high heels with a clipboard gestures for us to follow her. She takes us around this long line to a special short line. I believe because we have small children (or a baby - Costa Ricans seem BABY CRAZY). WOW! - this kind of consideration would never happen in the U.S. If kids get you this kind of treatment in Costa Rica, might be a good reason to have more. Just kidding. It takes about 30 minutes to get through.

We move onto baggage and get all our stuff (believe me - alot of paraphanalia - baby bjorn, baby backpack, baby pack and play, and luggage). This is tough because we need to get the stuff together and coral the kids. We get through customs and out to the taxi que. This is efficient as can be. We are quickly assisted into a large van type taxi to take us and our stuff to the Adventure Lodge, where we will spend the first night.

I know this is a lot of detail on the airport, but I was impressed. I have traveled with these kids alot, and they have been good about it, but the amount of assistance we received far exceeded anything I've experienced other than family meeting you at the airport. I hope it will always be this good.

We stay at the Adventure Lodge for one night. Seems nice enough. Cool things to note - the bathroom has a bidet. Cool foreign country. Bars wakes early and goes out to rent the car. We wind up with very nice Toyota w/ Four wheel drive. Very necessary for us and all our stuff. This is all our stuff (except one big suitcase that the nice neighbors at the Escazu condominium let us leave with them during our walkabout portion and Bar's sister, Wilma and her luggage that we picked up in Liberia). So quite full. Did we need it all. Pretty much. But look how nicely my husband packs a car!

Back to the story. We eat breakfast (complimentary) at the hotel. The nice lady serving it starts chatting with Ibarra because the father of her kids is Filipino. Ah, it's nice not to be solo-gringo family. And so far our few years of Spanish schooling is making basic exchanges slow but pleasant.

We go from here to find our VRBO rental. We have used VRBO a few times now and always with great sucess. Can't say enough about it. We stayed at Matt's place in Escazu for one week. It was a great place in a condominium. We then went on the "vacation" part of the trip which will be the next entry. After "vacationing" for about a week and a half, we return to Santa Ana for another week in a conduminium. Both places in the central valley were great. Most of our time was spent just living. Grocery shopping took up a lot of time. We also spent two days with an agent to see some places for sale. We went to the mall. We visited a school for Bells. We ate at KFC and Soda Tipico (I think that is right, at first I thought it was "typical" but with my limited Spanish, learned that it is the family name. Pretty nice place). We also spent one day doing administrative stuff. Met with our abagoado (lawyer) for signing paperwork for our residency, went to the San Jose Police Central for fingerprinting, good fun stuff. Definitely was helpful to have an escort. This is all part of the service. We have hired someone recommended on the We Love Costa Rica Site to do this.

So with two non-consecutive weeks of "just living" (for the most part) - we are hooked. We like it. And thus the plan was born, named and weighed in at a healthy 5 lbs (people in our family).
More to come.