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Monday, March 31, 2008

School Clubs for the Kids

I may have mentioned this before, but I will say it again, I really like the school we send the kids to. They offer after school clubs. To show off some of the options, one morning this was on the road into the school. You can see chess, ballet, arts & crafts, yoga, taekwondo. They also have modern dance, painting, theater, soccer, gymnastics, swimming (offsite), and Costa Rican folk dance.

So for about $100/month we have the following:

Monday - Gus has soccer
Tuesday - both have swimming lessons (well not Bella right now, due to cast)
Wednesday - Gus has gymnastics
Thursday - Bella has Ballet
Friday - Bella has modern dance

While that is enough options to make a Mom's head swim and any kid find something they would like to try, that is not even the best part. They happen right at the school after classes. You don't have to drive anywhere, just pick the kids up an hour later. Now what Mom would say NO to that?

Friday, March 28, 2008

Haiku Friday - Shark by the Shore

Haiku Friday

Easter Sunday spent
On the road 3 A M to
Manuel Antonio

No easter bunny
The excitement of the day
A shark by the shore!

See all the people
Guard says out of the water
We all watch in awe

What is it? we say
Though some say it in Spanish
as "Que es esto?"

And we all see it
In the sea a dorsal fin
On a tiny shark

Only One Foot Long
If I had to guess it's size.
But so very close!

No picture to show
He's too fast - ten feet away
Have to believe me.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Wordless Wednesday - Down a dirt road in Costa Rica

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Semana Santa Procession for Good Friday

Sometimes I forget that this is a Catholic country. A Latin Catholic country. I was raised Roman Catholic in upstate New York. But that was english/irish Roman Catholic. We didn't do this kind of stuff.

It reminds me of The Godfather. It surprised me how nice this was. It made me feel religious again. And boy did the smell of incense bring me back.

We went to Santa Ana for the afternoon procession. It was scheduled at 5:00 pm. We got there about 5:30, perfectly timed for a Costa Rican event. We were there just in time for the outside procession.

In a glassed in casket, is a statue of Jesus.

And three statues (Mary in the middle).

These get carried through the streets and the faithful follow. We followed the procession for a few blocks, however we were not sure where it would go, it was getting dark and we needed to get home.

All in all a wonderful experience.

So Happy Easter.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Wordless Wednesday - How does this help?

You often see this in Costa Rica - a sawhorse blocks off the handicap spot. Not sure about the logic here. I guess the guard is supposed to come help. However, I once saw a lady get out of her car, move the blockade, get back in and park. Probably her passenger is handicapped, but it tickled me nonetheless.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Elbow blues and CIMA Song

This is not how a six year old's elbow is supposed to look:

On this past Friday, the last day of school before a week long vacation, I took Bell and Googie off to the Multiplaza to see Horton Hears a Who. In Spanish. We met up with another Mom and about 6 of Bell's school friends. We had fun. After the movie, while waiting for other Mom's to collect kids, we decided to go to the play area. Bells took off her shoes and got busy. Older kids were climbing the fence, climbing on top of the tree house. I walked over and suggested she NOT follow suit. She walked balance beam style away from the tree and jumped off. Unfortunately, another kid ran in front of her mid-jump and she kung-fued him in the head and fell backwards. Other kid (also mine) fine, although emergency doc detected just starting ear infection. Bells, not so fine. Obviously broken arm. Other Mom got us to hospital pronto. Bells screeched the whole way. For those of you familiar, the new little bridge that connects the backside of the Multiplaza to Office Depot, Pricesmart and CIMA is A GODSEND. From fall, to parking garage, to emergency room, to right in to doctor, to sedation was probably within 20 minutes. Although it FELT like an eternity. You can see why. Just look above. In this family, when we do something, we do it right!

Emergency Doc FANTASTIC. Orthopediac surgeon WONDERFUL. Bells was in surgery by 9 pm. Casted. Overnight hospital stay. Home the next day. ER doc was back to us before release and even gave us his cell phone number. He told Bella that if there was pain, "tell Mommy and she can call me for more meds." But seriously, look what a great job the surgeon did.

So we now have an intimate opinion of CIMA. All I can say is that they took excellent care of my daughter. They had her taken care of with only my name and phone number. No long forms, no triage (granted it was slow), no wait. Everyone I needed to have important conversations with spoke enough English to accomplish it. A few nurses, etc. were patient enough with my Spanish to get the job done in other cases. The nurses didn't hover, although I would have liked that a little more. And when we asked for lunch early (she had been on liquid diet and was starting to cry over her hunger) it still took too long. But on the important matters - Top Notch Care.

On the strange side, once she was in a private room, we looked for stuff. You know, towels, extra sheets, pillows, etc. NADA. Nothing in any of the cabinets. This goes back to the thievery and no trust issue. Still, they were very forthcoming with the stuff when asked.

Now for the price tag. Remember, no insurance. Mid emergency room visit and pre surgery we had to put down a deposit of $3000. No idea how much this would cost. Not the primary concern at the time. My only point of comparison was my own leg break ten years ago in Aspen, Colorado. One week in the hospital. Full bill over $100K - my portion with insurance, $3k. But the final bill came to $4100. That includes the surgeons charge, the assisting surgeons charge, the hospital stay, the emergency room visit, and all the extras. Only thing not covered was parking. We are now seeing the surgeon regularly. Saw him today, appointment next week. Didn't pay today. Not sure when next payment will be. Had X-ray today at $40.

So current breakdown is:
Hospital stay: $4100
Parking to stay overnight with her: $8
Elbow healing and kid back to normal: priceless

It was a rough couple of days. Went to Doc today. X-ray shows healing already. Now, we can't get her to take it easy. You know what they say, you can't keep a good six-year old down.

What's bothering her the most now, those were her favorite shoes!

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Baby Nursing on Billboard

This is a nice billboard I see on the way back from taking the kids to school. It translates to "her world is you" or maybe "you are her world." Very nurturing. I can't imagine a magazine ad, let alone a billboard showing a nursing mother in the States. But tell me, is it indecent?

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Wordless Wednesday - Spring Costa Rica Style

This one's for Kathryn after her Haiku of Friday.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Details of the Queen's Stay

For those of you who have been following, my parents just came for a visit. Of course it was nice to see them, but it is always hard for me when they leave. It is especially hard that there is no certain next time. We do no know when (or even where) we will see them next. It probably doesn't help that my Mom cries when she leaves. Or that I do too.

It is also tough to entertain them, because what they like best is to sit, interact and watch the kids and chat with us. Could be anywhere. Still, here is a little description of what great hosts we are and some highlights of the trip.

1)Picking up the kids at school, we parked and Poppie and I walked over. The pure delight in my daughter's eyes as she yelled "Poppie" and ran and jumped in his arms. Love like that can not be bought. After these things, it saddens me that there is not more togetherness. However, when we are together it is full-time. I do not worry that my children don't know my parents. They do. And will.

2)I had put some of my parent's laundry in with ours. At night, my Mom was looking for it.
"I gave some laundry to be done, where would I find it?"
"Folded and put on your bed"
"You've got to be kidding me. I could get used to this."
Some things here are definitely worth it.

3)Rosti Pollo's. We decided to eat out on Sunday night so that if there were to be any digestive issues (these would be the people from whom I inherited my sensitive stomach) it could pass before Tuesday travel day. We also decided to stick with something we knew (and liked) that was somewhat Costa Rican. So we decided on a drive around and dinner out. Escazu, Santa Ana, Belen, back to Escazu. This place was like a ghost town. Then dinner at Rosti Pollo's (okay so I hear it was started by a Nicaraguan, it is still different from home). My Dad is in love. We also had lunch and dinner at a Rosti Pollo's on Monday and I think he would have put chickens in his carryon if he thought they would last. For those of you who don't know. Rosti Pollo's serves chicken that is roasted rotisserie style of a fire of coffee wood. It is delicious. Everything else at the restaurant is mediocre. But the chicken is OUTSTANDING.

4)And of course multiple trips to the Multiplaza.

We had lots of discussions. About the good and bad of living here. About what we will do in the future. About my upcoming book. About Barry's career. About safety. About where to look in the US when we have to go back. Nothing is resolved but I hope that they feel more comfortable with us here now that they have seen the region of our daily exsistance. It may not last forever, but for now we are happy.

Monday, March 10, 2008

The Queen's Companion - A guest post

I have asked my father to post his impression of Costa Rica as my parent's visit draws to a close. Here is what he has to say:

You may have heard reference to the Queen's visit... Well that visit is nearing it's end and "Crazy" has asked for a comment on the visit. I am the Queen's Companion and, as such, have been asked to make that comment. Costa Rica from my eyes so to speak. The most important part of this trip has been absolutely phenomenal. Granddaughters 1 and 2 Grandson 1 are just about as wonderful as any grandchildren could be.. they would be wonderful in Costa Rica, California, Kalamazoo or anywhere they chose to be.

That being said, let's talk of Costa Rica living. Of locking doors, setting alarms. Of being constantly aware that the poor of the world are not always honest in their pursuit of a better life. That, when the poor collide with the rich, the poor somehow are not always as noble as the rich.

Lets talk about the food.. not bad, not noteworthy, not spicy, not rich. The meat is chewy and somehow different from the meat in the States. The chicken, however, is excellent.. as are the bananas. And the coffee,the coffee is excellent.

The roads are beyond bad (by States standards) and the only rules of driving seem to be fight for your space, be nice to others and stay out of accidents. Traffic signs are all "optional" and motorcycles need not even be concerned with traffic lights (the few that exist)

A trip to the mall was exciting and fun. People of all ages and classes seemed to be courteous (and the vast majority were well dressed). The casual visitor wearing shorts stands out as under dressed. Driving around the towns of Costa Rica was quite like driving around a very poor, very rural area of USA. However, walking around in the mall was like going to a grand opening. Everything was immaculate, the floors shone and the bathrooms were just unbelievably clean.

All being said, some good some bad... but for me, I still chose the evils that I know in the States.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Haiku Friday - Queen Delayed

Haiku Friday

Another whole day.
The Queen has not yet arrived.
American sucks.

Four hours then cancel?
Please tell me - why this delay.
Ready yesterday.

Florida may be close.
But it's not Costa Rica
We want them today.

Leaving in one hour to FINALLY get my parents from the airport.

Mi Casa es Su Casa in Costa Rica

Welcome. Come on in. How was your trip? Did you have any trouble finding this place? Costa Rica is beautiful, isn't it. You are so going to love it here. But it is a little different than "the states," isn't it?

For anyone interested in moving to Costa Rica, visiting Costa Rica, or just on learning one family's take on this beautful, strange place - you've come to the right place.

I share things here like: our crazy family life (I am a small-town girl, worked in the tech business in Silicon Valley, married a Filipino and have three kids (6, 3 and 18 months), strange things about Costa Rica, beautiful images and the messages about how deep-down we are all the same.

I hope you enjoyed your stay and that when you are feeling tropical, you'll visit again.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

The Queen is coming

I am pretty excited today. Today, my parents will be arriving in Costa Rica to visit us for a long weekend. I must remind you that my parent's were not are not thrilled with this move. In fact, my mother's first words were, "I'll never visit you there."

But have three little kids, their only grandkids and true heirs to the throne. You see if you can keep them away. Also, they are currently in their "retirement" place in Florida, so it is a no-stop three hour flight. And they can come for just a four day weekend instead of a see-each-other-for-two-weeks-straight visit.

We won't do anything more exciting than:
Sit in the living room and watch the kids

  • Go to the mall and watch the people

  • Go to McDonald's and watch the kids

  • Go to the Big Chicken and watch the kids

Are you getting my drift? A family hang-out session that just happens to be in Costa Rica. Still, they won't be able to not see the place, at least a little. And it is different than the states. I am very interested to see what they think. I will keep you posted.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Costa Rica Super Nanny Just Kicked My Butt

I just finished lunch. We had a delicious meatball soup, my husband, the maid/nanny, and I. We also had a great conversation. Somehow, we got on the topic of the behavior and habits of our children. She recommended a tv show that shows here. As she described it, guess what, The Super Nanita.

We spoke for about 30 minutes on the topic of dinnertime in the loco house. And ne'er a truer statement could be made. We always have good intentions of family dinners, but after a few tough nights we give in to the easy way, the fast way. We feed them only foods they like and we chase them with dinner. My husband never had regular family dinner (youngest of eight), and doesn't see the importance of it. I am weak and give in to the easy way.

So L. told us how important to change now because it is harder/worse later. She also went on about the diapers at night for all the kids (3 and 6 year old included) but we will save that challenge for another day. She went after us pretty good and we have agreed to try it again. The family dinner thing. I think this time my husband and I will be a united front and I hope we can draw strength from each other through the difficult transition.

Now this conversation went on in Spanish, so I hope I got it all. But I really want to say - if they ever want to do a Costa Rican version, she's your girl!

Wordless Wednesday: Hooters - We have it here too.

But seriously, I hear they have great wings.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Party Time

Okay, I am very late with my RSVP to this happening party, but I just gotta go. Mom would be so embarrassed that I sat on the RSVP for this long. But what are you gonna do? Maybe I will offer a hostess gift? Do you think that will smooth things over?

So, 5minutesformom (doesn't that sound nice) is hosting a blog party starting on FRIDAY. It will last for a week and the way I understand it, it seems like an open house tour. So I will try and straighten up for all my new neighbors.

And there are door-prizes!

Hope to see you there.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

And now for something completely different

After the last post, which was pretty serious, I thought something lighter was in order. It has been back to school time and this was a window display at a department store in the Multiplaza. Pretty funny, eh?

Hint: Look at teacher's butt....

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Crime in Costa Rica, some facts and some opinion

A guy named Jack posted a question about crime. Thanks Jack. He asked if there was much crime in Costa Rica. He linked to an article on Costa Rica HQ. This article gives some great common sense advice. I think that most of this advice can be related to any travel for sightseeing. I would be as careful in San Fransisco or London as here. Cities have a lot of people, and not everybody is honest. This is true anywhere. Tourists in tourist areas are often targeted. You must be somewhat cautious whenever you travel. But then I am married to a paranoid.

Now what about if you live here? We live in Escazu, probably the swankiest suburb of San Jose. Lots of expats. Lots of rich Costa Ricans. Lots of targets. What is the crime like here?

First some historical opinion. When we considered this move, we did some research. What I recall is that there was a fairly large amount of burglaries. The ladrones breaking into houses while you are away and take everything including light bulbs, toilet seats and the kitchen sink. Here is one first-hand account of this type of event. It seemed that this risk could be combated (or at least the risk lessened) with some safety precautions, i.e. live in a secure area, have good alarms, barred windows/compounds, good locks, perhaps a dog. Also, having employees (maids, gardeners, etc) around would help as well. We did all this. Rented in a very secure (at least we think and this is probably the most important factor) area. Every house we considered my husband was reviewing the break-in possibilities. We think this house is pretty safe. To top that off, I have always said (much to my husband's disagreement), take it all - just don't come in when we are here - don't threaten my family.

We belong to the Costa Rica Living group on Yahoo. For those considering spending some time here, I strongly recommend this board. Lately there have been many reports of exactly this kind of attack. This scares even me. Still, I am pretty secure in our setup. There were complaints on the board not to publish this kind of information. Anyone who is against publishing true, factual information is probably trying to sell you something. While I feel secure, I don't plan to take the ostrich approach regarding the safety of my family. In particular, Costa Rica may have overbuilt in anticipation of rich, retiring baby boomers from the U.S. With the current real estate conditions in the U.S. this is probably not going to be the flood that was expected. I believe that this will eventually have a backlash effect here. If sentiments become too Anti-American, we would hop the next boat home in a heartbeat.

Now let's talk about some statistics and specifics:

  • Many people cite that there is a much lower crime rate here than in location x,y,z. This may be true, but is probably not the most applicable piece of information. What is more relevant is the crime rate against ex-pats. We are certainly targets. The impression is that we have money. All of us.
  • There was a recent letter by some big wig Embassy guy that portrayed Costa Rica as having an excessive amount of small property crime. This may or may not be true, however this is where your common sense comes into play. There are "good parts" and "bad parts" of any city. Try not to go places that there might be trouble. For example, LA is beautiful, but I have no interest in a tour of East LA. Likewise Boston versus South Boston.
  • Crime happens everywhere. I have been reading some blogs of Silicon Valley Moms (it is nice to be reminded of home) and recently saw this. Unfortunately in this world, you have to watch yourself.
  • You can always lie with statistics.

Truly, common sense and a little vigilance goes along way. This has been a heavy topic, but I don't live my life in fear. I don't flash the money when I take it from an ATM. I do lock my doors. But that is no different than anywhere else I might live.