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Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Singing in the Rainy Season

August 31, 2010
         It’s packing day here, getting ready for our move tomorrow. But I’ll take a break to draft this post and bring my devoted Followers up to date. We found our “almost perfect” apartment on Saturday. It turned out to be the very one that Dennis had mentioned before we arrived but then thought was already rented. Apparently, it was just miscommunication with the owner, so that a week later it was available after all. Just as we did last spring when we saw Hazel’s chalet, we fell immediately in love with the place. It has everything we wanted except for that second bedroom, but the “great room” is large enough to accommodate a futon for guests, there is a small office, and the rest of the place is simply delightful. All new and modern construction with lovely furnishings, it has a wonderful kitchen with a gas stove, which will make dinner parties a pleasure to prepare. There’s a big covered rancho a few steps away with a gas grill for cooking outdoors. And… ta da! … a gorgeous swimming pool. All this for $640 per month, including utilities -- not quite a Tico price but affordable. The landlords live in a beautiful home uphill on the sizeable property, which has a citrus orchard adjacent as well as acres of jungle and views of the mountains beyond. We can’t wait to move in tomorrow and finally unpack from our long summer of vagabond life.
         The day we were scheduled to go out with Gerardo and Nelson to look at housing options, there was a torrential downpour, a blustery drenching that we feared might delay the trip. In the midst of the storm, we heard a huge boom of thunder nearby and promptly the electricity went off, increasing our concern of a canceled tour. But shortly before our 2 p.m. appointment, the rain slacked off and soon our intrepid guides showed up. Still, the rain had taken its toll; as we neared town, we encountered a large dead tree fallen across the main road, requiring vehicles of all sizes to detour carefully around it. But by the time we returned to Vista Atenas two hours later, the authorities had already cut it back to allow passage and the electricity was back on, proving that sometimes things can move quickly and efficiently here.
         On our shopping trip into Atenas on Friday, we wandered through the farmers’ market and were delighted to find jalapenos, something we longed for all spring but never found. Contrary to what many people assume, Costa Rican food is quite bland in general and picante peppers are hard to find. With plenty of room for container gardening at our new apartment, I plan to grow my own jalapenos, tomatillos, basil, mint, tomatoes and turnip greens from organic seeds I brought from the States. Our new landlords seem to share our appreciation for organic foods, as well as other values such as recycling. The charming landlady we met, Odie, even mentioned her plan to get some chickens. How lovely to have fresh eggs!
         Friday night we called a taxi and headed up to El Mirador, the discothèque we frequented last spring, for an evening of karaoke and dancing. Our friend the owner seemed delighted to see us and Lenny, a Tico gentleman we remembered from earlier visits, came rushing over to greet us, a huge smile on his face as he pumped our hands in welcome. Unfortunately, the new D.J. had no English language songs or I’m sure Layne would have been on the floor, mike in hand, crooning old Eagles or Sinatra melodies. As it was we sipped our Imperial beers and enjoyed watching Lenny and others perform.
         On Saturday night, celebrating our success in finding a new home, we went downtown to Kay’s Gringo Postre for the monthly dance party. This time it was in celebration of Kay and Tom’s seventh wedding anniversary and the place was pretty packed with Gringos and Ticos alike. Not shy when it comes to dancing, Layne and I were on the floor more than most and when ABBA’s “Dancing Queen” came on, we had center stage to ourselves, flamboyantly improvising and giving expression to the lyrics. When the music ended, the crowd applauded our duet, with one man saying “I’d pay to watch that!” As the evening wore on, one of the Ticas approached Layne, inviting him to dance with her, a high compliment to his terpsichorean skills. He was flattered and delighted, reveling in the honor even after we returned home.
         The monthly dances are just one of the reasons that Layne and I feel we will settle in the Atenas area where we’ve learned the stores, made friends and know our way around. So yesterday we stopped in at the post office, or Correos, to rent a mailbox for a permanent address, only to learn they have none available until next March, when renewals come due and many will abandon their boxes. In the meantime, we’ll settle for General Delivery. No problema.         
         While we were there a Gringo entered carrying a big package to mail and struck up a conversation with us, asking how long we’d been in the country. As we chatted, he offered all kinds of cautionary notes to us newbies, from warning me not to wear fancy jewelry (what fancy jewelry?), saying thieves will “cut your hand off” to get a diamond ring, to urging us never to carry a computer in view. Although he allowed that Atenas is relatively safe, Alajuela and San Jose, like large cities the world over, are less so. There the criminals are willing to hurt you to get to your valuables. Indeed, already in our brief visits to San Jose, which have totaled only a few days, we experienced a near miss on a purse snatching while sitting at a sidewalk cafe, foiled only by the loud warning shouts of a nearby elderly Tica, so we are distinctly cautious anytime we visit the city. But I would feel the same way in Oakland, California, where drive-by shootings and random violence are so prevalent. Here in Atenas, we feel no such fear, comfortably exploring this charming pueblo and gradually becoming an accepted part of the community.
         (Drafted yesterday but unable to post due to Internet problems and photo transfer issues. Enjoy -- and look for another post soon now that we are moved into our new place.)

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