Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Chapter 77 - After the Absence (the lost chapter)

    It has been some time since I have attempted to write in the blog.  First of all we were having trouble with computers, the only working computers were little notebooks and they were too small for my fingers to type on a regular basis..  We were also having trouble with the internet.
    I took a business trip back to Canada on July 18 coming back to Costa Rica August 2.  It took me a few days to get caught up here and get over the very arduous trip.  Going back to Canada I had a first class ticket and travelled to Dallas, then Seattle, then Kelowna.  Coming back I had only a coach ticket and travelled from Kelowna to Vancouver, waited several hours, then couldn’t find my print of the E ticket.  I tried airline after airline, and finally phoned Melaney and luckily caught her at home and she gave the information that I needed.  Once I had the correct airline, it was roses.  They had all the information that they needed in their computer and I checked all the way through.  I checked the one big duffle bag that I was carrying through to San Jose, and took the small bag and computer bag onto the plane with me.
    Our itinerary took us first to Phoenix ( I waited an hour on that plane because it was the same one going on to Las Vegas.)  I didn’t have to go through customs, that was in South Carolina.  There was a long wait there.  I had flown through the night, and arrived at six A.M.  I didn’t leave until nearly eleven.  I arrived in San Jose at 1:30 P.M.  Also, the only food on the plane was at one point to buy a chicken salad, or chicken roll-up for $7.00 on Visa.  I had anticipated this and had purchased two boxes of granola bars.  By eating a couple every so often, I kept hunger at bay.  At least the airline served plenty of liquids.  They will reduce that soon, I am sure.  In most of the terminals I had a wheel chair service.  I could have walked, but not dragging two heavy bags.  Some of those terminals go on forever.  At least the wheel chair attendants knew where they were going.  It cost a few dollars but not too much.  It was not mandatory to pay the pushers, they have salary, but I am pretty heavy and the pusher had to juggle my bag on wheels.  I could carry the laptop on my lap.
    Well---I got to Costa Rica.  On the last flight we had to fill out customs slips.  I can`t write worth anything, and I convinced a stewardess to fill it out for me.  
   As a backward thought, when I presented my boarding pass at Charleston to get on the plane for Costa Rica, I had some problem with the agent.  She wanted to see my return ticket and of course I had only a one way ticket.  She wanted me to provide some kind of proof that I had the right to stay in Costa Rica.  I told her that I had an application for residency and that was why I went back to Canada, to get some more documentation.  She couldn`t accept that and made a call for a supervisor.  It took some time for the super to get there, and in the meantime, they were loading the plane.  My anxiety level was getting pretty high.  The super finally arrived, and when I told her my story, she just waived me through.  Now the wheelchair....
When I arrived in Costa Rica, I had no problem.  The fellow at immigration gave me 90 days, and I was on my way to the exit door.  They didn`t do any more to check my bags than run them through a scanner.  The wheel chair attendant had been very helpful.  I paid him $5. At the baggage claim, and told him I would give him some more if he stayed with me to the exit.  He had translated for me when it was needed.  When we arrived at the exit door, I could see Melaney through the window and I gave him calones worth about $15.  That was more than his wages for the day.  He was very pleased.
   MEL took my bags, and I walked to the car.  She was ticked because the attendant at the exit made her go further around the corner from the door. She tried to tell him that I needed help, but he indicated that she could not stand in the proximity of the exit.  I had no trouble walking that far, and Mel had no trouble with the bags.
    When we arrived at home, we were both relieved and happy to be back home again, and I have 90 days to get my paper work back from the foreign affairs office.  I had put a postage  paid envelope with the correct address on it, so it should be back in about six weeks.

Chapter 76 - Mango Mango Mango

         I have never seen so many mangoes,  They are everywhere.  We have so many trees here but there are mango trees everywhere.  They are in the front yards, the back yards and anywhere that a big tree will grow.
Here at the orchard, we have several varieties of mangoes.  Behind the house are two trees which bear very large fruit.  This past three days we have been paring and slicing mangoes for the freezer.  I did up another basin full of fruit this morning and had to take out the two litre milk cartons that I have been filling with water to keep the freezer full.  Now it is filled with mangoes (and a few incidentals like chicken and fish). By the time we get tired of eating them, we can let them rest for a while, and then dish into the freezer.
This week I made a pot full of chutney.  I seem to always make things by using up ingredients that I have in the fridge.  This time I had four cups of water boiled with a cup of sugar.  I had made this nectar for the hummingbirds but my feeder failed and I put the nectar in a jar in the fridge.  This amount of liquid made the chutney too juicy, so when it was done, I scooped the fruit out with a slotted spoon and there remained a nice portion of well flavoured remains.  I cut up a large portion of chicken into it, cooked the chicken and some rice, and we enjoyed a tremendous curry.  This was enough for two large meals.  Mel really enjoyed it, but I told her I could never duplicate it.  That is the danger of cooking the way I do.  I make something really tasty and I may come close another time, but it is never the same.
Yesterday a couple of men came to the orchard and picked a truck load of mango.      They used a long flexible pole to pick the top fruit.  It looked like it may have been bamboo.  They filled crate after crate and finally loaded up their truck.  It was agreed to leave the two trees by our house.  That will be more mangoes than we can possibly eat.  This week we should take a box full to church.  Tomorrow I have to make something with pineapple.  I am making pizza tonight and using one carton, but I have three more cartons in the fridge that I cooked last week.  I use the half litre cartons from yogurt as fridge containers.
I will have to check to see if the ice is melting.  I also store water in gallon milk jugs.  We were told ahead of time this week that the water would be shut down for some hours.  That was much more convenient than it has been.  It didn't take us by surprise.  The municipality has been laying new water lines along the roadway in front of our home.  They have been making connections this week.  These lines are much bigger than the puny pipes that we have been using.  Modernization is coming to the rural areas.  It is slow, but we see progress.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Chapter 75 - Triscadecaphobia

            For those who don't know what that is, it's the irrational fear of thirteen. 
Yesterday was that day, and Friday to top it off.  It would have been a good one to feed the fear in people.
            It started as a very good and bright day, like most here in Costa Rica.  We readied ourselves and went toward the big store.  On the way we stopped at our favourite little roadside vendor to try to trade a box of mangoes for some tomatoes and onions.  She always gives us her best produce.  We told her it was Melaney's birthday tomorrow, and she grinned and gave us a huge pineapple.  She still charged us two rojas ($4) for the four kilos of tomatoes and three kilos of onions. But that's OK.  We have more mangoes than Croesus....At the big store I caved and bought a box of donuts.
      Our produce friend was at her stand, and we stopped and gave her a donut.  Her mother was just behind and we gave her one as well. They both seemed delighted.
       By the time we were inside with all our groceries, the clouds were darkening.  It began a light rain at around three.
        I make dinner early and by four thirty, we were eating our salad and chicken.  I had picked up a roasted chicken at the store. 
            This is when the fireworks started.  The sky rumbled and lightening in the distance played over the sky.  Soon the storm was serious.  It escalated to some loud crashes in our vicinity.  The lights went out.  There were massive flashes of lightening with simultaneous thunder claps that sounded as if the Heavens were ripping open.  We were trying to eat. I got up and got the candle in case the lights were going to be out for a while.  I sat in my chair beside Melaney and our chairs shook like a ride at the fair.  The standing fan swayed from side to side.  We had to pick up our juice mugs because the juice was splashing from side to side.  WE WERE EXPERIENCING ANOTHER EARTHQUAKE.  It was a tremor but at least two or three times as intense as the other one we experienced. For those less hardy, it could have been nerve wracking.  The tremor lasted about a minute.  The rain lasted another two hours.  There were great sheets of water.  The earthquake measured 6.0 on the Richter scale and the epicenter was right underneath us 70 miles deep.
            Next morning, Saturday, it is Melaney's Birthday....The day is beautiful and sunny and except for all the plants in the yard being well watered, you wouldn't know it rained.
            Victor and Rita were out early picking mangoes.  They came to the house to wish Mel a happy birthday.
            She is off to town now.  My watch needs a new battery and she has made the acquaintance of a jewellery store owner near Ellie's little lunch counter.  She took a couple of small pineapples to Ellie.  They have become friends and Mel likes to sit and try out her Spanish with her.  It is a little change of scenery for her.

Chapter 74 - Pudding

     I started to make lime pudding this morning from some little green fruits that Mel thought was lime.   We like lime pudding.  They were apparently immature oranges, and didn't taste good, so I switched to lemon.  We knew the lemons.  There is such a mixture of fruit trees out here that it is hard to decide which is which.  We do know the mango trees and their fruits are hanging in clusters, some of which nearly touch the ground. 
     As well as many different kinds of fruit there are many varieties of each fruit.  There are mangoes the size of baseballs which are small but very sweet and there are mangas the size of a small football.  One fell on the roof over Mel's bed the other morning and made such a clunk that it woke her.
     The lemon pudding turned out very well, and it is sitting on the stove lidded and cooling so I can put it in the fridge.
     All dry food commodities here come in plastic bags which are sealed.  After I open the bags I like to put the food into cans and bottles that I have saved and cleaned.  We buy a special cookie treat that are long pencil like rolls of sweet flaky pastry with hazelnut filling.  These come in nice sized tins, which I like to store food in.  I keep sugar in one.  I opened it this morning to make the pudding and a zillion microscopic ants cruised around the top of the sugar and up the sides of the tin.  I never figured in a year that those little pests could get into that tin. I FOUGHT them out.  They are so tiny that you can scarcely see them until they scurry.  I always have an ant dance fight when I first go to the sink in the morning, or anytime after a lapse of time.  They are persistent and so am I.
     For special occasions like birthdays, we buy a key lime frozen pie in the big store.  I will have to go in Friday to pick one up for Melaney's special day on Saturday.  I know it will be started on Friday night, but there will be plenty to celebrate with on Saturday.
            As a finishing thought, Mel went through the final agonies of getting all the paper work done in San Jose yesterday for her residency.  Mine will have to wait as the lawyer didn't get my birth certificate from the post office, and by the time I send for another one my RCMP document will be expired. So, when I come back to Canada in July I will start the process all over again, and it will take another six months to get it all together.  Yuck!
            Mel didn't take me to San Jose yesterday because she knew it would be a long and trying day, and it was.  It was also a good thing that she didn't have me along to drag around.  She had to do a lot of walking between the bank and the lawyer’s office and I would not have been comfortable doing it.  I think even she came home a little tired. 

Chapter 73 - The Wake

     On our drive into Poas this morning, we saw a wake.  This is what a group of vultures is called, and a wake it was. (Cool name, but a little on-the-nose—Mel) There must have been between 25 and thirty of the large birds gathered in the middle of the road.  We slowed down to approach them slowly so we wouldn't distract them.  Another vehicle and a bus and a dog from our side approached, so the birds scuttled to the side of the road. Some flew into the trees near the road, and some hop-skipped into an adjoining coffee field.  We had to do some juggling to get by the vehicles and the mess in the road, but we were on our way into town to do some business at the bank.
     On the way home, there were still a lot of the birds in the road. We were in the only car around, so we sidled up to them and Mel took some pictures. There birds were trying to feast on some bones and skin that had been scattered in the road.  It was quite a mess, but they will eventually clean it up.  I wrote about the clean up committees at the beginning of this blog.  There was also a mutt dog who was trying to get a share of the spoils. (Note: the following day the road crud was completely gone. Thank goodness for Zopilotes – that is the Costa Rican much prettier name for vultures—Mel.)    I have no idea who or what left the bone debris on the road. It may have fallen from a truck, but I don't have any idea what kind of truck.  Today isn't garbage day in this vicinity.
     When one watches these ugly birds in flight, one would think they were extremely elegant, but on the ground, all of their homely features are exposed.  There is some good in most things,  and these birds are champions of the cleaning committee. They have been flying in the area since the sugar cane was harvested across the road.  Speaking of the cane, some of the fields are in two month regrowth, and are already up to four feet.  This is such a terrific crop.  It regrows from the root and must provide nearly three crops a year.  We have been here five months now, and have seen the majority of the growth, then the harvest and now the regrowth of the cane fields. 
     I have notices a few farmers have plowed their fields and incorporated the fibers of the cane into the ground, but it isn't the normal way.  Also, there are a few places that I have seen them use sprinklers for irrigation, but that is rare.  Mostly, they rely on the rainfall for their irrigation.
     We are beginning the rainy season now.  It is early May and the start of the winter season.  That sounds funny to me because it is hot and humid.
     My original IBM laptop gave up the ghost this week. It had been fussy for a while and Mel says it was very old for a computer, so I am trying to type on a little notebook.  It isn't perfect.....

Chapter 72 - After the Rain

       We have had four glorious days with sunshine, and today the rains returned.  The mangoes are getting bigger and bigger.  We showed them on Skype to Linda and Joline and they wanted us to send them some.  The mangoes that are this big are never shipped.  I had seen some from Trinidad, but a sister in law brought mangoes and avocadoes in a suitcase when she came to visit.  The bag was sincerely overweight, and she was tiny. We did enjoy them, and I am enjoying these.  The really big ones are still too green for me.  The locals eat green mangoes, but that doesn't interest me.
    We are scrambling for time to get all the necessary documents for Melaney's  residency requirements.  We drove into San Jose to talk to the lawyer at his request, and he wasn't at the office yet. So we asked directions to the Canadian Consulate, found it, and a lady met our requirements, so we didn't need to go back to the lawyer.
     On the way home I asked Mel to drive through La Garita where all the beautiful garden shops are so I could buy an orchid.  When we stopped we were the only customers, and the staff was very obliging.  I found two orchids with buds and two lovely African violets.  There were also gloxinias that were mouth watering and tempting, but I left them for another time. I also got a nice sized bag of fertilizer and the total for all of this was the equivalent of $22.80. I will pick out another orchid later to make a triad.
     We always admire the flowering trees and shrubs, and a neighbour has a vigorous specimen that was our envy.  Yesterday morning when Mel was walking Gigi up the road, she told me that he had cut down huge branches of this bush and they were laying in the area where the garbage is placed.  I suggested that she take the pruners and cut a handful of nice ends and bring them home.  I did some more pruning on them and put them in a big bottle of water and hope they will form roots.  I have a small wicker table that the landlady had brought over, but it took so much room in the front room that I decided to take it outside on the north deck for my flower collection.  It's an ideal place for the plants.  They get only a little late afternoon sunshine and free flowing air. 
     I picked up a bug sprayer at the store last week and we are using it now.  This rainy season is what they call winter down here, and all the outside bugs want to come inside.  I have to take care of any spiders because they are Melaney's nemesis. 
     It's such a quiet day today, and Mel is having a siesta.  She is having a sinus attack and just wants to rest. (Note: I learned later that I didn’t have a cold afterall. Apparently I poisoned myself with the bug spray fogger. My “sinus infection” lasted 2 days. Don’t ever spray up.—Mel.) I think I will join her.  I have been playing Mah Jong and I am a little tired too.
HaHaHa....tough life. 

Chapter 71 - My Birthday

    Today (April 27th)  is a special day for me.  I have celebrated my 78th birthday.  Melaney and I spent the whole day doing whatever we wanted.
     I was awakened early this morning with a small dog barking below my window.  Sometimes I want to get up and throw a shoe at it, but I would just lose the shoe and I don’t have that many anymore.  I used to have a shoe obsession, and must have had at least as many pairs of shoes as my age. Now I am hoarding what I have left, and won’t spare one for an errant dog.
     It was oatmeal day for Melaney this morning.  She says that is the world’s most perfect food, next to lasagna.  After taking care of the morning chores, we took off for the big store in Alajuela.  Just for my birthday, we splurged on a standing fan machine that has variable speeds, and oscillates. After loading up our truck with food, we started home and stopped at our little friend with the produce stand.  She really treats us well.  We wanted the tomatoes and peppers.  She reached under the counter and bagged us some of the prime, fat tomatoes.  Those which were prebagged were small.  When she brought them to our truck, she smiled and Mel told her it was my birthday.  She held up her finger, and grinned and went back and brought me a lush fat avocado.  I can barely wait to fix it tomorrow.  They are just for me.  I love them, but Mel doesn’t care for them at all.
     For the birthday meal, I had purchased a beef loin.  It was difficult to explain to the butcher that I wanted the whole thing, as the locals really only buy minimal things.  Finally he understood that I wanted to roast it.  I did it in the toaster oven in a pyrex baking dish with potato, carrot and onion.  It made a nice brown stock, which I made into gravy and we enjoyed the meal.  The beef is tough, unlike Canadian beef.  I thought until today that it was primarily the way it was badly cut, but I bought the whole tenderloin and cut it myself.  When I do another one, I will marinate it for 24 hours before I bake it.  The beef here is mainly range fed cattle.  They aren’t the beautiful grain fed tender beasts that I am used to eating.  To top it off, they are Brahmas.  I have never heard of using them for beef, only for rodeo riding.  The part of the meal that was best was dessert, a nice fresh key lime pie….yummy…..
      It’s nice to feel special once in a while, and I feel special today.  Pretty soon, we can have turn around because it is only two and a half weeks till Melaney’s birthday.  I’ll see what she can really enjoy…Oatmeal for breakfast and lasagne for dinner…………Pie of course, too.  She has always preferred pie for birthday to cake.  It will be a fine excuse to enjoy another key lime pie…..
     The day isn’t finished, and I am in my chair enjoying the nice breeze from the fan.  We had a downpour of rain this afternoon.  It came down in earnest today, not just a shower.  It didn’t last more than an hour though.  Soon we will have to turn on our new dehumidifier.  I set it up in my bedroom yesterday and turned it on long enough to check the reading of the humidistat.  It was mid 70’s and that’s not bad.  When it crosses 80 I will turn it on.  We can’t give mould a chance to form.
     So much for another day……….