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Sunday, May 2, 2010

Falling Rain, Falling Mangos

May 2, 2010
(Click on photos to enlarge)
         Happy Birthday to both of my grandsons - Kai Josef is 12 today and Orion is 9! I look forward to seeing them both this summer. In fact, the prospect of some extended visits with family members is one of the redeeming features of leaving Costa Rica in only a week.
         The other positive aspect of our pending departure is the onslaught of the rainy season here. And what a dramatic change it has been! Not only is there predictable rain every afternoon and into the evening, but we’ve also learned something about our lovely mountain locale: There is a lot of fog up here and considerably more rain than down in the town of Atenas, some 500-600 feet below us.
         Last night we had occasion to go into Atenas for dinner with our duplex neighbors, Caroline and Cy, to try out a new restaurant, Antano’s, which had been touted as having good Mexican food. We drove out in a substantial shower but as we dropped down the hill, the rain began to slack off and had completely stopped by the time we reached downtown about five miles away. Perhaps it was that micro-climate of minimal rain even during the rainy season that prompted National Geographic to christen Atenas as having “the best climate in the world,” a motto emblazoned on every Atenas bus, an obvious public relations boon for the local community. In our experience here during the dry season, however, Layne and I found downtown Atenas to be too hot and occasionally too humid for our taste, lacking the refreshing ocean breezes that we enjoy at our chalet. Until these daily rains started, we felt that we had found the best spot here in Alto del Monte on the side of the mountain overlooking the Pacific. Now we wonder, particularly since most of these tropical storms include dramatic lightening bolts and massive booming thunder. But experiencing the rains reinforces our plan to become “snowbirds,” or perhaps more aptly “rainbirds,” as we expect to head north to the States when the euphemistically named “green season” arrives here in Costa Rica.
         This inevitable reversal of weather conditions is one reason Costa Ricans refer to the rainy season as invierno or winter, and verano, the dry season, as summer. Winter here spans the months of May through October while summer starts in November and runs through April. And indeed, local temperatures have dropped considerably since the rains began. Most mornings start out sunny and beautiful as always with clouds just visible on the ocean horizon but by early afternoon the fog rolls in off the Pacific like a grey wind, a palpable mist that quickly envelops the landscape and chills the air. It is so reliable here in Alto del Monte that a road sign just down the hill warns: Area de Neblina, i.e., area of fog. Now we know!
         Driving past that road sign last night we continued on through the fog and drizzle to El Mirador de Cafetal, the restaurant-cum-discotheque recently opened by our friend Ligia Cortes. A recent Latin dance class had added a few new steps to Layne’s and my repertoire and we enjoyed practicing our moves to the hot salsa music. The crowd at El Mirador is sociable and fun, including our vivacious waitress Rosie, who at one point dragged me to the dance floor to serve as partner for her sexy moves.
         But the sunny mornings still offer us a chance for our almost-daily walks down the side road into our local Tico community, a chain of houses along the ridgeline with kids playing soccer, riding bikes or climbing trees, dogs barking, clothes hanging on fences to dry and the local goat grazing by the roadside. Today as we came around the first big curve, we noticed that work had been done to prevent a mudslide, which could wash out part of the road. Although there is a large culvert that crosses underneath the road there, still the torrential rainfalls had already cut away part of the dirt slope dangerously close to the asphalt. Earlier efforts at retaining walls were evident, black plastic sheeting and big truck tires, but both had failed to contain the steady erosion. Now a concrete ridge had been installed at the edge of the road leading down to the new concrete drainage gutter. The gutter looks rather small to us but we hope that it does the trick. As we headed back up the hill to our house, we heard someone calling to us and turned to find a Tico hurrying to offer us a big bag of bananas from his yard. What a friendly community we live in!
         But with only a week remaining in Costa Rica, we are rushing to get some important tasks accomplished on our residency. Last Wednesday, our attorney Monika picked us up from the bus stop in La Garita and drove us to her office in Grecia to get some papers we need to open a bank account. We need the bank account so that we can pay for the Caja medical insurance online; we need the Caja membership in order to proceed with residency. Step one leads to step two leads to step three, et cetera, which we hope will eventually lead to legal status. When we walked out of Monika’s office, we found a friend from Atenas sitting in the reception area waiting to see Monika as well. Small world! After his brief meeting, Marc, Layne and I wandered around the central park of Grecia, gazing up at the unusual Gothic-style metal Catholic Church, then settled on a park bench to chat and nibble a cookie. Just as we were relaxing there, thinking we could hardly be in a safer place, a huge mango fell from the tree above us, flying by only inches from our heads, and splattered at Marc’s feet, splashing his pants and prompting us to move to a bench nearby without a mango tree above it. Which just goes to show, even tropical fruit can be dangerous!
         Only a few more days of our Costa Rican paradise before we return to the hustle and bustle of the States but at least we’ll get to see those two precious grandsons! 

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