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).