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……….

Chapter 70 - Just For The Hummers

     Since visiting at the neighbours’ the other day and seeing their humming bird feeders, I wanted some for myself.  They said they had seen them in town but they were $40.  I find that hard to take for the conservative in me.  Melaney Googled hummingbird feeders and found directions to make a homemade one.  I have been working the past two days to put one together.  She found a three litre pop bottle complete with lid at the back of the property and I had a lot of small plastic containers. 
     I put it all together, and fixed some sugar water and put it into the bottle, and it all leaked out.  There was a small hole in the bottom of the bottle, and with that it won’t hold the vacuum to retain the water in the bottle.
  Try again. It was a good excuse for Mel to get a bottle of local cola.  It took her a couple of days to drink it, and finally yesterday I put the thing together in earnest.  For attachment cords, I used a couple of the clothes lines in the back yard. (I wouldn’t be hanging washing anyway, and the cords were nylon and deteriorating in the sun so I thought it would be all right to use them).  I had found a large bobby pin in the garden while I was puttering around, so I took the pliers and made an S hook out of it for hanging the feeder. 
     Melaney hung one cord up over the beam on the porch.  She had to climb on a chair and then on the porch railing, and I can’t do these things anymore.  I Googled the internet for a recipe for the sugar water, I couldn’t remember the sugar/water balance.  It is four water to one cup of sugar, boil and cool. Then this morning I filled the bottle.  When I turned it upside down to let it fill the small plastic container the sides of the bottle collapsed a little.  I don’t know whether it will work or not.  I used epoxy (the only glue that I have in the house) to attach some cut squares of red box cardboard to attract the attention of the hummers. The internet said they are visual only and can’t smell.  The contraption is hung so that both of us can see it from our big chairs.  At this time the only thing it has attracted is a flying insect, and that was immediate.
     Last evening while I was holding Gigi, she had her nose down in the side of my chair and came up sneezing, and sneezing and sneezing some more.  I had worked on the nylon cords in my chair, and I had to sweep out a large quantity of nylon pieces that had broken off when I was working with the cord.  Gigi must have inhaled a piece, and it sure caused a strong reaction.  When I let her outside this morning on the end of her tether, she started to sneeze again, but it didn’t last as long as it did last night.
    NOW, we wait to see if there will be any hummers.

Chapter 69 - A Hurtful Story

    We knew that there were villains here, we just didn’t know how close to the house they were.  Melaney goes out for a mile walk every other day with the dog, and this morning she had a tale to tell.  When she got back, she said she saw a coiled snake that had been run over in the road.  It was black and yellow and red……..Eeek!  I recognized that from the color.  It is a coral snake.  She looked up the snakes of Costa Rica, and found the picture immediately.  Apparently, they are very common…..I don’t like that a lot.
     I had to think back to my childhood, when I lived in rattler country for many years of my life, and yet I never saw one.  They were so thick one year that the girls’ father said they were all over the road where he was trucking, and getting run over right and left, but I never saw one.  Whoop Up Hill was a common picnic area just a little way from the Old Man River, and I had heard stories of kids climbing up that hill and being chased down by rattlers.  I think it was a story.  I was there several times, and still never saw a snake.
     We had a lot of garden variety snakes in that area, and I saw plenty of them, but they are only a foot long, and are more afraid of humans than humans are of them.  Mel’s sister, Laura, didn’t like to have baby sitters.  She was still young enough (about eight) that I needed to have a sitter if I left for any length of time.  She chased one home with a garden snake.  We have laughed about that many times.
     Costa Rica is different.  We are in an element that we aren’t familiar with and there are many creatures here that must be respected and avoided.  In Mel’s reading on the internet about the coral snake, she found that they have a reverse fang, and can’t bite anything that is very big.  The article said that if a person wears boots when hiking, they can’t bite.  Most people who get a coral snake bite try to pick them up and then they got a bite on the hand.  I won’t be picking them up really quickly…..
     Rita and Victor were here this morning, and we told them about the snake.  They just shrugged it off, and said there weren’t any snakes here at the orchard.  I replied by saying this dead one was only a block away.  Victor said the only coral snake that is dangerous is the RANI Coral and they weren’t around here………Good hope!  Sometimes I am sure they just don’t want to take a chance on losing a good tenant.
     It is Good Friday today, I hope something good happens.  I made empanadas last evening, and we have lots of masa and filling for some more today.  I put some curry powder in the dough and made them with beef.  I have only a tiny bit of beef left, but I can use the rest of the dough with potatoes and cheese.  I am getting pretty handy at this food item.  I can’t understand why people that I have talked with think it is such a great thing to have empanadas.  They are tasty, with a little salsa, but quite easy to make.  I guess I will forget the snake, and be a Tica after all.  (That’s a feminine Tico).

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Chapter 68 - Start of the Rains

            The past couple of days the clouds have come in the afternoon and a strong shower fell.  It makes the air so sweet and that is great after the sugar cane burns.  I thought there would be rules against that kind of think in Costa Rica because of their clean and green policies, but out here in the country they don’t seem so particular. 
            I must cut back my fingernails. They are getting in the way of playing the keyboard and typing.  I need a good manicure right now.  I was out scratching in the dirt trying to get some handle on the peanut grass that tries to creep into the flower bed.  I do have some nice roses that I tend.  My Amaryllis Lilly out front bloomed.  The flowers are spent now.  It didn’t last as long as I thought it would.
            I walked next door to the neighbours’ a few days ago.  She has a nice veranda in the front of their house on the north side.  It is well covered but has direct airflow through from east to west.  She has a large display of growing things.  I salivated over two orchid plants.  They are available at a little town not far from here, so that will be my next investigation.  She had aloes and two stag horn ferns growing on stumps and hanging from the rafter.  There were two plants that are like the Florida bougainvilla.  They flourish around here and make shrubs ten to twelve feet high with broad waving wands of gorgeous flowers.  There were other pots that I can’t remember right now.
            John, the neighbour’s husband, is making dirt.  The soil here is volcanic and very course.  It is all right for trees and shrubs, but altogether too rough for tender plants.  In North America one can run to a greenery and buy moss and prepared soil in bags by the truckload, but that isn’t the case here.  I wonder if that could make a business for some of the poor people around here. I should look into it.
            The negative side of the rains is that it will bring about an influx of insects towards the house.  I murdered three large beetles which were writhing on their back on my back veranda.  I don’t have any hesitation to getting rid of that kind of pest.  After the experience we had last week with the ants, I keep a pretty sharp lookout for bugs.  We also purchased a can of bug spray.  As a freebee to the can, there was a small package which contained an electrical unit that heats a pad of the insecticide (like the glade aerosol fragrances).  Mel claimed that for her bedroom.  Perhaps it will discourage the spiders from sending her into a panic. (No, it won’t. I will still panic.—Mel)

Chapter 67 - More Ants, I Think

           Yesterday afternoon, Mel and I cleaned the veranda.  I took a bucket with water and a brush and scrubbed the bird droppings off the rails that surround the veranda, and Mel swept.  We ended on the north side of the house at about the same time.  I don’t know why I looked up at the wooden cross beam on the underside of the roof, but I did and I didn’t like what I saw.  In a small cluster, about the size of a saucer, there were large black ants, I think, building a big nest.  It was so organized, with cells like in a bee hive and the workers were building around the edges of the structure.  The first thing I thought of was termites.  I thought termites were larger than what we saw, but these were large for ants.  Whatever it was, I wanted it gone, and I had no way of getting it there.
            Each evening, but before bed around nine, Mel takes Gigi out front for a final pee and she turns on the porch light.  I wait in my chair for them most times, and she called for me to come out and see.  Marching along the joint of the veranda and the house was a whole string of ant, going in the direction of the north side of the house.  I felt they were a part of the colony that was building.  I took the broom and swept along the file and killed as many as I could.  The crippled ones were picked up by the still whole ones, and they were going to pack them back to the compound, but I killed and killed until I got all of them and swept the remnants over the edge of the veranda.
            When we came back into the house we phoned Rita, and she said she was on a holiday with her girlfriends, but she would tell Victor about the ant problem.
            This morning, fairly early, Victor came out with his brother and took a look at the ants.  He said he would come in the morning and take care of them.  We told him we wanted them gone. I was concerned about the wood.
            At the other side of the house at the back standard holding up the corner of the roof, the water damage had rotted away the bottom of the wood.  I was so concerned about this, and told Rita about it some time ago, and she said that under the wood there was a cement post, so I gave up thinking that the corner of the roof would come down.
It is difficult to believe with all the erosion around the house that it is only four years old.  There are places on the surface that the cover plaster is peeling off.  Before long, a coat of paint won’t cover it.
            While sweeping at the back of the house this morning, I placed two large beetles, that had been writhing on their backs, into the land of Morte…..I don’t like bugs and we have so many varieties that I can’t count them.  I really thought they would be more in the wild jungles of Costa Rica, but there are bugs of all kinds here.  I guess I will have to invest in a big can of RAID…..

Chapter 66 - Kindle Technology

            Mel went to the airport yesterday to pick up a parcel that she had ordered through the internet.  It was for my birthday coming up at the end of the month.  She had only a little complication getting it, and I won’t go into that because I stayed at home with Gigi. I knew it was for my birthday, and when she got home the parcel was about the size of a book, which she knew that I would be delighted with.  The books that I gave away are the one thing that I miss the most of all my worldly goods.  I had been collecting for almost 70 years. 
             She was quite secretive when she got home, and went directly into her bedroom with the parcel.  Later in the evening I asked if she was going to share the info about the parcel.  It took her a little while to finally come out with a new electronic gadget, of which she is the expert.
            She said, “this is the newest in Kindle Technology”.  I had heard the word before, but actually knew nothing about them.  It is a small black unit about the size of a paper back book with the screen covering most of the size.  It has a little tiny alphabet pad at the bottom and a few other buttons on it.  It weighs less than a small paper back book.  It hooks up to the computer to charge it and it will hold 3500 books.  Can you believe a library like that?  She downloaded about 150 into her computer from Amazon at zero cost and if you can believe, one old Wilbur Smith called Cry Wolf that was the only one in his collection that I could never find.  This one cost just under $10 and all of this done by way of the internet.
            Once the kindle is charged, which supposedly takes four hours, it is good for a month of reading. 
            Most of the books at no charge are my special old history and very old author books, which are the ones I like to read. 
            I will be hard pressed to read all the books that she has put into the computer, but I am surely going to give it a college try.  I believe when our internet comes back on (yes it is off again) we will try to download the scriptures onto my Kindle.  She has them on her ipod and that is so much easier than packing those big books to church.
            The Kindle is a gift for my birthday, and yes for Melaney’s use as well.  I promised to get her a new calculator for her birthday, and we will begin looking for one next week.  I have to let her pick, because she knows just what she wants in a calculator.  She brought three from Kelowna in her baggage, but not one of them works.  They are all quite old, and the jostling probably didn’t work for them.  They have fresh batteries, so that isn’t the problem.  The old calculator that I used in 1980 when I was in Real Estate still operated at the time of our departure.  It had a special battery in it that was top line when I got it, and I never replaced it.
            I am so fortunate and we share such a lot of joy.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Chapter 65 - By Candelight

           Many years ago, while working in the bush building roads, I finished my day by candle light.  I have also used the practice with some lovely candle lit dinners with fine food and better friends.  That has been a while too.
            Last night Melaney and I ate by candle light.  We were about to have our meal and watch a little TV when all the lights went out.  We aren’t impressed with the utilities so we had bought a hand full of candles some time ago, and they came in very handy.  We had been in the dark for about half an hour when our neighbour came by with her flashlight to let us know what had happened to the power.  About two miles to the left of us, near Chillimate, someone had failed to negotiate a sharp curve in the road and took out a power pole.  Our neighbour had been coming out in the bus and all traffic was stopped.  She got out of the bus and walked home.  We now had an idea that
someone would be attending to the electricity but didn’t have any idea how long it would be.
            I didn’t have a proper candle holder.  I gave at least a dozen of them away in Kelowna.  I couldn’t put the candle in a plastic dish (of which I have several saved from cream cheese and yogurt).I did have a small glass bottle.  I lit the candle and turned it on its side to let some wax drip into the bottom of the bottle so as to hold the candle upright.  Dripless!!!  The candle was sitting in the bottle a little above the lip of the bottle, but on a slight angle.  By the time it had burned for half an hour it did melt enough to send a stalagmite into the bottom of the bottle and I figured it would prop the candle up till it had burned out.  WRONG!!! By the time the candle was well below the lip of the bottle, it was burning right on the edge of the glass and in very short time there was a bang and the side of the bottle shattered.  It blew glass in shards over an area of the floor and tiny table we had it standing on.  It burned better now, but I got another candle and made a good stand for it with some aluminum foil.  We didn’t stay up very much longer.  I thought we would be more comfortable waiting for the dawn in bed.
            We turned the TV and the fan off, so there wouldn’t be a loud noise in case the power came back.  I got up at 11:30 and noticed a light under my bedroom door.  Good going, that was a fast fix considering the damage.  It could have taken them three or four days, but everything is working fine, including the computers.  We played them on battery last night until they powered out.
            Today it was business as usual.  As a precaution, I have some large ice blocks in the freezer to keep the food frozen in case of short shut off.  I still think that’s a good idea. We are now looking into the prospects of buying a generator. As we know, Melaney must be entertained.

Chapter 64 - Day By Day

           We enjoyed the program of American Idol and the music was comparably good.  I was disappointed with the choice of the woman that was turfed, I kind of liked her, but I guess the American public didn’t agree.  It is going to be a difficult task to weed out eleven of the players and leave the most popular.  There is a terrific amount of talent in the group this year.
            As a guest star last evening, they brought out Lee DeWyze who was the winner last year.  I was more impressed with his singing when he was in the contest.  He does have a nice voice, but not spectacular as I thought it was going to be.
            It’s a quiet Monday today.  I put on a machine load of laundry, but I am going to let it soak until one this afternoon.  There is a peak time overcharge on the electric bill for the use between 10 am and 1 p.m. and also between 5 and 7 p.m.  Consequently, we almost always have our dinner at five, making advantage of the lesser priced electricity.  You can take the girl from the city but you can’t take the Angus out of the girl.  I do support anything that lessens the pressure on the circuits.  Some of the utilities are sporadic at best and I don’t want to add to that pressure.  We do have a little fun trying to keep our internet on line. 
            Take this item for instance.  We got the internet company out to rectify the last problem (and it carried on for nearly two weeks) and a new wire was stretched into the house which is also on this orchard.  That is where the original internet hook up went in and our line runs from their modem to our router.  If this is too much electrical talk, just skip this paragraph.  Well, the new wire running into the next house was run over with the lawn mower last week and severed.  How stupid can you get to lay lines on the ground.  The company is a government monopoly and they claim that covering that wire isn’t their problem. With all the wiring running across the yards, we can just hang bobbles on them next Christmas and have the basis for our decorations…..Ha Ha, I didn’t even decorate in Canada when I had a couple of boxes full of great decorations, so I won’t be making any effort here. (We are more likely to celebrate Cinqo de Mayo now - Mel).
            Yesterday, Sunday, we went to the chapel as usual.  Both Melaney and I work in the primary, so that keeps us at the Church for the full time.  I do get pretty stiff by the time I have been sitting for three hours.
            In the primary, we have one little boy named Jose.  He is small for his age of eight but he is very bright.  He is also extremely active.  The teacher is a good friend of mine, so last week after primary ended, I made a couple of suggestions about letting Jose help her with the white board.  When it needs wiping, let him do it.  Let him pass out papers and collect them, and also the books.  Keep him busy and helping.  This Sunday I could see a marked improvement in his behaviour.  I mentioned it to the teacher, and she agreed.  I hope it helps for a long time, until Jose can mature into the fine boy he can be.
I taught primary about sixty years ago, and I had a similar child in my class.  My method worked with him, so I was confident it would work with Jose.

Chapter 63 - Saturday

            Yes, it’s Saturday today.  We had plans for company.  Two of the ladies from church were coming over this morning, so I got up early and put together a banana muffin cake with walnuts.  The bananas in the little bowl that I had been saving in the fridge  looked just awful when Melaney came out to walk the dog.  I wanted to get them whipped with the eggs before she came out.  She is such a visual person.  Well, I put all the dry ingredients together, and whipped up the banana mush and eggs, milk and oil in a separate bowl, waiting for the ladies to phone.  They were going to take the bus from Grecia out to Poas, and when they got here, they would phone and Melaney would drive into town to pick them up.  To come all the way to the house, where they hadn’t been before, would require a bus change, and that is too time consuming.
            We waited, and waited.  Finally I decided to bake the muffin cake anyway so I mixed the two bowls full of ingredients together, scraped it into the little pan that goes in the toaster oven, washed out the bowls and dried them.  I knew the cake would take about 20 minutes to bake, so I showered and put on fresh bright clothes.  This melon coloured top and pants always looks cheery.
By the time I came into the kitchen again and looked in the oven the muffin cake was a little over brown.  Melaney thought it was probably burnt on the bottom.  I took the cake out and put it on the rack on the cupboard.  After it had had a chance to cool, I cut it and dished out the very centre piece for Mel.  She likes the ones without any edges…..I don’t spoil her much, I just like to give her the part that she likes best.  It wasn’t burnt on the bottom, and I was pleased with that.
In short order we had finished the first square.  It really hit bottom because we had been waiting for the ladies so long.  We had a second piece, and this time I put it on a plate, split it and poured syrup on Mel’s and liquid honey on mine.  As the cake was a little over baked, it was drier than usual.  By the time we finished that piece, we both felt better, and the phone rang.  I am not sure what the problem was, but the ladies didn’t arrive.  We couldn’t have them in the afternoon because Mel was waiting on a call from a man in San Jose to set a time this afternoon for a business meeting.  He hasn’t called yet and it’s after one.
Well, I said to Mel that today was turning out to be a complete bust.  No ladies, no business conference, but we did have our banana cake and it made us so content that we decided to nap.
It’s a good thing that American Idol is on tonight.  We can look forward to that.

Chapter 62 - Some New Birds

             The birds of Costa Rica are many and such a variety.  This morning, I was in the bedroom and taking a pill, so I missed a toucan that flew over.  Mel said it honked almost like a goose, but it was definitely a toucan.  She goes down into the orchard to walk Gigi, and has seen one before.  There are also small ones that they call toucanilla.
             A couple of days ago while we were on the porch we saw a beautiful yellow bird sitting on one of the branches of the dead tree in the front yard.  It is about sixty feet tall, with only a few branches near the top and Victor left it stand for the birds.  They often perch on the branches.
            We have one that is common that is called a mot mot.  One flew to the tree in front of the living room window two evenings ago.  It was almost dark, and I was surprised to see birds still active when the sun was gone.  I remember as a child we did have big hoot owls in our cottonwood trees.  They were out after dark, but I thought as a rule, birds have claimed their nesting area by dark.
            The fruit on the trees is getting bigger all the time.  I know when the mangoes ripen there will be many birds contesting ownership.
            I brought some binoculars with us, and I really should get out on the porch and take a good look for some birds.  Although I have never been a bird watcher of anything more than what flew into my back yard, I may be able to view a few.  I had an experience years ago in the countryside at Winfield.  I was viewing an old man’s house, and he had a large open deck at the back door and the land went up the hill into wilderness.  He fed birds of all kinds on this deck, and if he didn’t get out early enough with the food, they would come and peck on the window to get his attention.  That is remarkable for wild birds.
            At the time I lived in Scotty Creek, we had a number of hummingbirds in our yard.  I always kept a feeder going and I had a lot of flowers planted that hummers really like.  One green rufous got pretty tame.  He would buzz up to the porch where I had the feeder hung, even if I was sitting out on the deck.  He often buzzed over to the apricot tree to keep and eye on the feeder, and if another hummer came in to feed, he would buzz right back.  They make a lot of noise if they are determined, and he was determined that no other hummer got his feeder if he was in the area.  He often buzzed his reflection in the big sliding glass doors.
            I still have hopes of getting a few flowers to hang in the trees. Speaking of flowers, I pruned my roses this morning and took two sturdy lengths of stalk and planted them in the flower bed.  They may grow. The stick that Victor put in the front is growing nicely.  Also, while I was out tidying up weeds and stray grasses from the flower bed, I noticed a beautiful large bud on the amaryllis.  It should be blooming for my birthday next month. 

Chapter 61 - Mowing For Real

            Rita brought the new mower, and a young lad to operate it early in the morning.  He was mowing under Melaney’s bedroom window at about six o’clock and she didn’t appreciate that. We get a lot of bed time, but with the interruptions of neighbourhood dogs, passing vehicles, Horatio Hornblower, birds at dawn, etc. etc. she only put up with mowing at six AM. We were glad enough to get it mowed.  I insisted that Rita had told us there was a gardener to keep the place presentable and reliable internet when she was bargaining with us to rent her place, and I expected those two things absolutely. The mower had been in her possession for two weeks, and it was about time it was used.  I said, “at least 50 feet around the house”.  It was looking like some barrio.
            The boy mowed and mowed.  The new mower worked wonders and Rita had him mow through the biggest share of the orchard.  What a difference.  Gigi and Mel could take their ablution walk and not come home all festered with insect bites and grass seed picks.  They were really bad, and Mel had to inspect Gigi from top to bottom on the porch in front before bringing her into the house.
When we came to Costa Rica I had intended to start a garden, but have since decided to leave that chore to the local farmer.  This earth here is so compacted it would need forty years of mulching before it could become friable garden soil. 
            Right now Rita and her spouse are at odds.  They have so many abodes in operation and she won’t reside with him.  That doesn’t change our attitude toward Victor.  He is still friendly with us.  He came out on Saturday to put the weed eater together.  We chatted with him for a little while.
            Mel found a site on Craig’s list of someone who had a Techniques five slot CD player for sale for $25.  They were going to go back to the States, and were selling everything off.  We got a small map from her and some directions to find her in La Uruca which is just outside San Jose.  We hopped into the vehicle and took off.  It is about a 45 minute drive from here, but at noon on Saturday the traffic was choking.  We took a little over an hour.  We drove around the city for about another hour, and never saw the place she was describing.  The only landmark that we found was the Hospital Mexico, which was close to the highway.  I get so frustrated with not knowing where we are so when we were finally on the road leading back to our neck of the woods and I persuaded Mel to just keep going and we could find a player another time.  It just wasn’t worth the aggravation that I was feeling.  I’m not as adventurous as I used to be.
            When we arrived back at home, Victor was gone.  Mel wanted him to take one of the Chill Bills to test on the refrigeration units where he works in the cheese plant.  Fortunately he came back, and she was able to give it to him.  Another story later.
If anyone wants to know about The Chill Bill see Mel’s website at

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Chapter 60 - The Mowing Machinery

            When Rita was here on Saturday she asked if we could keep the mower in the house for a couple of weeks.  I disagreed with keeping a gasoline engine in the house.  The fumes would be very unliveable.
            We saw Rita’s car coming in with a young man driving this morning.  He brought the weed eater to the veranda and left.  He picked an armful of green mangoes before he left.  Somehow, the Ticos like to eat green mangoes.  I would think the unripe fruit  would give them cramps. That is as far as the mowing went.  There is a long necked padlock on the handle of the gas container.  I suggested she arrange to chain the mower with a padlock attached to the post of the deck.  So far, we have the padlock.  I don’t have any idea who the young man was, but he didn’t accomplish much.  I suppose he has gone back for the mower.  The trashy dry branches that are littered around the grounds should be picked up and taken away before they start mowing. 
            You might get the idea that this orchard is very untidy, and it is.  There are weeds a foot high growing at the base of all the trees.  They don’t understand that all that growth saps the water and starves the trees. The trees themselves aren’t in good condition.  This orchard isn’t managed well at all.  I see mould on the trunks of the fruit trees, and the fruit itself is rumply and bumply, not like the citrus fruit that one sees in the supermarket.  Melaney has found the tree at the back of the yard that produces huge good lemons.  Our tiny man knows the best of the orange trees, and he has been bringing up oranges to our house.  Even the best of the oranges are meant only for juice.  They are full of seeds, and quite sour.  People here seem to like sour better than sweet.  I would like to introduce them to some good California oranges and Texas grapefruit.
            It is still a mystery as to when the yard will be cleaned up.  I hope they aren’t waiting for us to do it.  We didn’t hire on as field hands.

Chapter 59 - Life in a Small Branch

             Melaney and I have both been given callings in the Branch.  I offered to play the organ when the man who had been playing left with his family for San Jose.  Both the President and the man who left were thankful, because I am now the only person in the Branch who has any musical training.  I have played a couple of weeks now.  It has been more time than that, one week was conference in San Ramon (which we didn’t attend) the second weekend, we were both sick with some kind of yuck.  It was like Montezuma’s revenge but it lasted two days.  This past Sunday, Melaney was given the calling of Primary President.  We were very surprised at this as we haven’t received our official membership records as yet, but the President said (pointing up) “He has the records”.  She did her first day on Sunday, and I was there with the Yamaha.  Everyone seemed delighted to have the music, and they were so warm to us.  We don’t have enough of the language yet to be very effective, but Melaney is a terrific figurehead.  The children call her Sister Melaney (at her request) and they call me Sister Gloria.  They are very familiar with the name Gloria, as it is popular here.  It is also in a lot of the church hymns.  I won’t have to wait for Christmas to have them sing to me.
            The children all gave us a hug at the end of primary.  I am always surprised with the open affection they show.  We hugged each child (there were 12) ranging in age from four to eleven) and kissed the three adults.  It is so gratifying to be accepted so openly, and they don’t seem afraid of me at all.  They seem to be more in awe of my size than afraid.  I just love it.  I can be the marshmallow that I really am.We managed to go the full three hours on Sunday.  By the time we went home, my joints were on fire.  I was thankful for my recliner.
            I think we were called to this area to be of some effect on the people.  We can love them openly and in return they seem to love us.  Our life revolves around the meeting house, and there is a Relief Society birthday affair on Thursday that we plan to attend.  They are very social.  The last party was the Valentine’s Day party, and that was fun.  I think it does a great deal to solidify the branch by being social together.
            It is Tuesday today, and I have taken a half an hour to play through the primary songs that are coming up in the next two weeks.  I am familiar with all of them, and particularly so with a few.  One is the old song, “Jesus wants me for a sunbeam”.  I haven’t heard that one for a while.  I used to sing that as a child myself. By playing, I don’t have time to watch both the music and the Spanish words, so I concentrate on the music.  It is good to feel of worth to the Branch.

Chapter 58 - Silence

               I haven’t written for some time, we haven’t had internet to post the stories anyway.  This is just under two weeks, and getting more and more frustrating.  Rita was here Saturday and I made a strong point that she had made promises to get us to rent this house, which she hasn’t kept.  One is the substantial internet.  We have tried two different paths, and neither one proves to be that dependable.  The neighbours, whose house holds the modem to which we are linked, were away for some time.  It seems the internet through their house chose to fail when they left.  It did the same the last time they were away.  They were gone for the third day.               
             Melaney knew the dogs were in the house unattended. She found that she had the neighbour’s key on the ring that Rita gave her, so she went to set the dogs loose for a time.  She tended to their water and food and locked the dogs back up and came home.  There didn’t seem to be anything wrong. Melaney had looked after the dogs at a previous time when the neighbours were gone for an extended period when they drove to California and back. When the neighbours returned and Melaney told them about freeing the dogs for a time, they made a terrible fuss about not having asked for her help, and that ended the budding friendship.  Now we want internet on our own terms.  Rita made some calls she said, but nothing has come from that as yet.
            The second most important promise that she made was that she had a gardener for the place.  That was hooey as well.  Once in a while someone comes in to do a little tinker around the place.  She had a couple of young Nicaraguan boys in to tidy up a bit, but they putter for a few minutes, pick themselves a bag of oranges and leave.  We told her it was a complete waste of money.  The grasses around the house have absolutely gone wild, and I just can’t put up with the untidiness of the whole thing.  Besides, it harbours ants by the bucket load.  I picked up one of my walking sticks the other day and my hand and arm were literally attacked by a swarm of black ants that had hollowed out that dry stick to make it their abode, and they didn’t like being disturbed.  The stick was dropped in a hurry, and I did an ant dance brushing those ants off.  They didn’t bite, but they exude a stinging acid that really gets your attention.  I don’t want that horde at my doorstep.  Rita said that if the grasses are mowed in the dry season, they burn off.  I told her I don’t care if it dries to a desert around the house, I want the weeds taken care of and removed.
            She said the internet company would be here either Monday or Tuesday.  It is now midday Tuesday, and we haven’t heard from them.  Manana is the Tico way….It is enough to make one pull hair…..
            We have really worn the computer games to a frazzle.  I have played some that I hadn’t played before. We watch a little TV in the evenings, but we need something for the daytime.  I have the little keyboard that the church let me have for practice, and I go out on the deck and play that to get familiar with the hymns again.  That’s another story.