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Monday, December 26, 2011

Christmas Day in Atenas

With sunny blue skies and a light breeze blowing, Christmas Day in Atenas was celebrated by many families in the Central Park where the Fuerza Policia (local police) had set up their awning and were handing out food and gifts to the kids. There were trampolines and music and a clown to entertain. A totally festive scene with many smiling children running to and fro.

Meanwhile, Layne and I met up with friends for a relaxed afternoon at the lovely home of Glynn and Darlene, feasting on cheese and crackers, chips and dips, wine and some delicious chili made by Leonard. The hit of the day was Sally's outrageous chocolate drops made with Oreo cookies and cream cheese! Holy waistline!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Happy Holiday Party Time!

Happy Holidays to all my loyal readers! I hope your holidays are blessed with joy, good friends and beloved family and that the New Year brings you prosperity, peace and good health.

Flowers on our fence
We are in full-blown Christmas party mode here, imagining that the sunny skies and warm temperatures actually harbor snowflakes and icicles. If you delight in fall colors, winter snows and spring blossoms, Costa Rica may not be the place for you. Well, the spring flowers certainly burst forth, but oddly that happens here during what is North America’s winter season. Since the end of the rainy season a few weeks ago, colorful blooms have sprouted everywhere and the trees are neon green with new leaves and flowers, promising abundant fruit just weeks from now. So it’s Christmas in Springtime here in Costa Rica.

A beautiful couple, Sadie & Marcial
Daniel, Sadie, Marcial and David, neighbor dog Bean
This week has been party central for us. Thursday night we enjoyed grilled sausages at Marcial and Sadie’s home a few blocks from us, celebrating their 25th wedding anniversary. We sat around a small campfire they have in their yard and listened to their son Daniel play his guitar. It was a really fun evening and made Layne and I nostalgic for all the cozy wood fires we used to enjoy in California winters. On Friday afternoon there was a community party honoring senior citizens of Santa Eulalia and our neighbor had invited us. With a clown to entertain and some tasty pork stew for sustenance, the elderly crowd seemed to enjoy themselves. Layne and I were tested on our ability to follow instructions in Spanish as we got picked along with several other couples for one of the playful exercises on stage. We held hands, then let go, hugged then released, touched cheek-to-cheek then backed off and finally we danced. Everyone was gifted with a small picture frame and lotion for the women and socks for the men.

Daniel serenades us
Today it’s a pool party at our Japanese friend Hisano Bell’s bed and breakfast down the hill in barrio Rio Grande. I’ve made a big pot of Italian Sausage Spaghetti Sauce with Marcial’s great sausage (do you see a pattern in our food these days?) for the potluck and look forward to some relaxing at poolside. Then tomorrow we’re off to our friends Glynn and Darlene’s place in Turrucares with local pals Sally and Leonard, Neil and Jackie and our sidekick Marc. New Year’s Eve will find us partying with our favorite realtors, Dennis and Gerardo of Pure Life Development, an event we’re looking forward to enthusiastically. These two guys, along with their office helper Nelson, are some of the nicest people we know here and they have been so helpful to us in our long house-hunt before finally settling here in Santa Eulalia. We know they will host a kick-ass party!

So we hope your holidays are as full of fun as ours are and that 2012 brings Pura Vida to your doorstep! 

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Good Friends, Gourmet Food and Golf!

Tico chefs

What a whirlwind of activity, travel and parties the last two weeks have been for us! It’s hard to know where to start on our various adventures. There was Francis and Brian’s excellent backyard party mentioned in my last post. We enjoyed dancing to the live music and nibbling on our friend Marcial’s delicious Italian sausages, grilled to perfection by a couple of happy Ticos, plus chicken, veggies, beer and wine. Lots and lots of wine! We met so many of our Santa Eulalia neighbors and several hours into the event, Daniel, my publisher from The Costa Rica News (TCRN), joined us at the festivities. After the music ended and we were satiated with food and wine, Daniel and Layne and I returned to our house for another hour of convivial chat. Oh, and more wine.

Earlier this week we joined a crowd of expats at Mark and Nancy’s lovely home in Guacimo where we enjoyed more good food and wine and made lots of new friends. Then last night we taxied into Atenas with Marcial and his lovely wife Sadie to Colinas del Sol for a wine tasting party featuring the excellent imports of our friends Shannon and Rolando along with delicious appetizers from the restaurant and Marcial’s great sausages again. We saw so many friends there, including our dear former landlords Odie and Eduardo and our former upstairs neighbor Linda. It was a festive evening!

But the high point of recent days was undoubtedly our visit to Hacienda Pinilla, a stunning 4500-acre beach resort and residential community near Tamarindo in Guanacaste province on the Pacific Coast. If you think the place looks nice on their website, you should see it in person. The long-time owner, a North American from Georgia, has developed the property with a commitment to keeping as much of the land and beaches natural and environmentally pristine as possible. They plant thousands of trees each year, preserve acres and acres of the land in its original condition and in many ways, encourage ecological practices in the hotel, the restaurants and in the building practices used in new construction.
The Beach Club

Our bedroom 
Recycling at La Posada Hotel, Hacienda Pinilla
A mention of golf in my column in The Costa Rica News some months ago led to our visit. Their charming young sales director Cynthia apparently read my article, then contacted me and offered a complimentary stay so that we could experience their golf course and other amenities first-hand. How’s that for a stroke of good fortune?

Putting on the 15th hole
And speaking of strokes, I think the Adams Golf clubs that Hacienda Pinilla loaned us for our round took at least a stroke per hole off my game. I was hitting them long and straight. Although I prefer my own Cobra driver (which is, unfortunately, in a bag in Portland, Oregon, at the moment), I really liked the hybrid 5-iron for fairways shots. Over and over, I turned to that club for distance and accuracy. I was also pretty wowed by the putter, which helped me get a par three from a lie just off the green probably seven yards from the cup. Between the broad open fairways and smooth true greens of Hacienda Pinilla and those Adams clubs, I almost felt like a “real” golfer. And when we came to the spectacular oceanside 15th hole, we could imagine what it’s like to play Pebble Beach.

After golf we returned to our big, comfortable suite and were delighted to find a bottle of champagne and birthday greetings for Layne, courtesy of Cynthia, since Saturday the 10th was his big day. Later that evening we enjoyed sipping the bubbly as we gazed up at a full moon above. So romantic!

Then there was the food. Oh. My. Goodness. Gourmet hardly tells the tale. As usual when faced with a huge selection of appetizing options, making the decision of what to eat at each meal was the hard part. Although a tough choice, I’d say my favorite was the Herb-crusted Tuna with Ginger-Basil Aioli that I had at lunch at the Beach Club the first day. It was just delicious. Layne took the chef’s recommendation, Garlic Sea Bass, also excellent. We both so enjoyed the Fried Calamari appetizer with its delicate batter and spicy dip that we had it again the second day.

The Conchal Hotel pool 

Simon and Hilda
When we reluctantly left Hacienda Pinilla, we drove north about forty-five minutes to the tiny beach town of Brasilito and spent the night at the Conchal Hotel, a charming little boutique lodge just a short walk from funky Playa Brasilito, Run by a delightfully low-key couple, Simon and Hilda, it was the perfect place to unwind and relax after the busy two days at the resort. And while we thought the food was good at Hacienda Pinilla, we were simply amazed at the fabulous fare at the Conchal’s cozy Papaya Restaurant. Chef Hilda serves a marvelous array of gourmet seafood and vegetarian dishes. Our one night there was not nearly enough to enjoy all the area offers; we certainly hope to go back soon for a longer visit.

So now we’re home and trying to settle back into our routine, with the feria tomorrow morning, the organic market on Saturday and my TCRN column due next week. But we made enough memories in the last week to sustain us for a while. Pura Vida!

Saturday, December 3, 2011

December = Springtime in Costa Rica

What a thrill! We had a Blue Morpho butterfly flutter through our backyard yesterday afternoon. What a gorgeous creature it is with its iridescent azul upper wings. A friend said that the butterflies are returning in force now that springtime is here and the rainy season is mostly over. That’s good news for us as we love watching the amazing variety of mariposas here in Costa Rica. Of course, the visiting Blue Morpho was gone so fast I had no time for a photo so I’ll just “borrow” one from the Internet.

There was no problem identifying the fellow as we recently visited the Butterfly Farm in La Guácimo when our friend Marcy was here and learned all about the Blue Morpho as well as many other types of butterflies and moths. Although there are numerous such facilities in Costa Rica, this particular location not only breeds and cares for butterflies, from caterpillar to chrysalis through their magical transformation into beautiful winged fliers, but they also export the embryonic form, the chrysalis, all over the world to botanical gardens, other butterfly farms and nature centers. It was extremely educational and quite a treat to have the lovely creatures light on our clothes or arms.

Another wonderful feature of our new neighborhood are the incredible sweet flower smells that arise in the late afternoon and evening. I have located the source of the odors, in the white flower boles of tall plants nearby but a Google search failed to turn up the name of this tree. Every evening lately at about five o’clock, the air is filled with a rose-and-jasmine fragrance that just takes your breath away it’s so sweet. I’m led to believe that the smell attracts nighttime pollinators, such as bats and moths.

We seem to be blessed with some of the best of Costa Rica’s flora and fauna here in Santa Eulalia, including a young raptor we spotted in a tree on our latest walk. Then there was the three-foot long iguana I spied waddling along across the street today as we waited on the bus with some of our neighbors. I pointed him out to the others but no one was concerned. Just part of the local color. Welcome to Costa Rica. Ho-hum.

December marks the one-year anniversary of my trip back to California last year to put my dear horse and good friend Mojave down. After a very intense and poignant dream about him a few days ago, I have appreciated even more some of the horses that live nearby, such as this little yearling colt. He lives alone, it appears, in a large pasture down the road from us, and when we approached his enclosure he trotted eagerly over to say hello. I think he’s a bit lonely as he was most appreciative of my brief affections and followed us along the fence line when we turned to go.

Coffee plant Christmas tree - click on to enlarge
Much of Santa Eulalia is agricultural with acres of edibles nearing maturity. The coffee plants seem primed for the Christmas season, ripe red berries suspended like so many ornaments. Papaya trees are heavy with fruit and the feathery flowers of the sugarcane dance in the wind. Peanuts are laid out on canvas tarps to dry in the sun and our own naranja (orange), mandarina and limon trees are filled with fruits. 
Field of Papaya

Preparing peanuts for market
Add to that the many friends we have made here and you can understand our contentment. And if we needed anything more to please the senses, we got it on Thursday at new amigos Francis and Brian’s jam session. With Francis on keyboard and singing, local musician Barry on saxophone and young Daniel on guitar, Layne and I added our vocals on several songs as we all whiled the afternoon away. 

Tomorrow we’ll visit them again for a huge neighborhood party they are hosting to celebrate the sale of their southern Indiana property. We’ve found a good spot here in Santa Eulalia! Pura Vida!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Green Parrots and Monkey Pee

 With the turkey in the oven, the broccoli ready to steam and the hors d’oveures all prepped except for deviling the eggs (which I can’t do early or Layne will eat them!), I’ll take a moment to bring you readers up to date on our latest adventures. Our friend Marcy from California left on Saturday happily sporting her new set of teeth, so the last few days have been filled with writing my column for and preparing for Thanksgiving. The guest list has ranged from a high of perhaps eleven people to the expected seven or so today. Our good friends Patricia and Kevin (featured in my last post’s Halloween report) were planning to join us but, sadly, their beautiful big (and I mean big!) dog Splash is gravely ill. In fact, they may face what Layne and I had to do two years ago with our sweet Emily and have to put him down here during the holidays, making a sad anniversary for the future. Our thoughts are with them today and with Splash.

Last week we enjoyed more festive times with Patricia and Kevin as we took Marcy along on another one of our group gatherings at Playa Doña Ana, the picturesque private beach we like near Puntareñas. Earlier than usual, the capuchin monkeys showed up almost as soon as we arrived, gamboling through the trees and cautiously snatching a piece of banana from our hands before scrambling back up the branches. Marcy was thrilled since seeing monkeys was on the “bucket list” for her Costa Rica trip. As we sat at one of the covered picnic tables, chatting and munching on our snacks, the monkeys boldly climbed on the top of the roof, looking around corners at us with their intense and nearly-human black eyes. Suddenly, a splatter of liquid fell on the table next to me. We looked up to see one of the monkeys recovering from taking a pee right on the concrete table! Layne’s sunglasses took the brunt of it, with my camera barely missing a baptism. All we could do was laugh. Pura Vida indeed!

Life in our new house is comfortable, with plenty of space for the entertaining we so enjoy. We had two dinner parties the first weekend and assorted other drop-bys since then as friends and neighbors are anxious to see our new place. The bus service into Atenas is great with frequent runs throughout the day that take about fifteen minutes; with our cedula and being “seniors,” we get to ride at no charge. By timing our shopping thoughtfully, we can ride into town, shop for an hour or so, then catch the next bus back up the hill to Santa Eulalia. Excellente!

The bird wildlife around here is phenomenal, with dozens of varieties flitting through the skies and singing their melodious songs. But the stars of the show are the gorgeous emerald green parrots that soar through the air in huge flocks of twenty or thirty, screeching loudly in a chorus as they move from feasting in the cornfield below us to perching high in nearby trees. I love them and delight in watching them jet across the backyard, their exuberance a feast for the eyes and a shock to the ears. In jest, Layne says, “Where’s my shotgun?!” He claims their loud cries are too much for him, disturbing his muy tranquilo world. My response: Get over it, buddy. They were here first!

Happy Thanksgiving to all! I hope your life is filled with blessings. Mine certainly is. Pura Vida!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

New Digs in the Land of Pura Vida

Out for our first walk

We moved into our new place early last week and almost immediately had to vacate the premises so the new maid could do her work. (It’s awkward to hang around while someone is cleaning your house, you know? But her weekly services are included in the rent, so I’m not complaining!) The next day we had company over for dinner. Our friends Jackie and Neil just moved in down the road from us so we all enjoyed guacamole and hamburgers as we shared our adventures in moving. The day after that, we took the bus into San Jose to pick up our friend Marcy, here for dental work with my own dental implant hero, Dr. Alberto Meza. That weekend we had dinner guests both Saturday and Sunday evenings, meaning lots of work for the cook and dishwasher. That would be me and Layne, in that order. On Monday Layne escorted Marcy back to San Jose for more time with Dr. Meza and I began preparations (translation: liquid diet) for a routine colonoscopy while I worked on my column for The Costa Rica News, deadlined the day after that fun procedure. That would be today. Whew! Busy is a four-letter word.

So now the column is turned in and Marcy is still in the city so I’ll try to entertain you readers with our latest escapades. While we were packing to move, the annual Halloween party at Kay’s Gringo Postre rolled around and we simply had to go, albeit without much in the way of costumes. Layne did manage to stick a “Press” card in his hat, sling his fancy camera over his shoulders and tie a sign around his neck saying: “The Gringo Gazette -- Yesterday’s News Tomorrow!” I put my hair up in a sparkly butterfly clip, donned a short kimono-style jacket and called myself Madame Butterfly. Pretty lame but the best I could do in the midst of a move.

It was a festive gathering with lots of great costumes. It’s amazing what people here can come up with. Some folks, like our friend Nancy, are so into Halloween that they brought costumes from the U.S. when they moved here. Nancy had a terrific Dorothy from the “Wizard of Oz” outfit on -- pigtailed wig, checkered pinafore, carrying her small fluffy dog, dubbed Toto for the evening. She even had the perfect sequined red pumps to click her heels together and complete the picture. But the big winners of the costume contest were Patricia and Kevin, dressed up in elaborate “Psycho” garb, complete with a PVC pipe and tinsel “shower” atop Patricia’s head, “blood” dripping down her shoulders. Kevin topped off the scene dressed as the psychotic Anthony Perkins in dowdy dress and gray wig, totting a big gory knife. It was hilarious! 

The move to the new house went smoothly enough, although we were shocked to need three pickup truck taxi trips to carry things up to Santa Eulalia. Shocked because, after all, we moved to Costa Rica less than two years ago in a couple of big suitcases. Where has all this “stuff” come from? Fortunately, our new place has an abundance of storage space, including a secure and dry concrete basement under the rancho so everything is now in its proper place and we still have a few empty drawers. It seems that, just like in our old apartment, we have gotten lucky here with some great landlords in Isaac and Sonia. They have been very solicitous in asking us if everything is to our satisfaction, adding a fire extinguisher, a bell on our gate to announce guests and trying to get the phone jack in our bedroom to work. Yesterday Sonia even brought over some delicious corn pancakes topped with natilla (sour cream) when we returned from the hospital. Their little dog Chispa (Spark), a sweet Miniature Pinscher, comes for a visit now and then, giving us the pleasures of a dog to pet without the responsibility. All in all, we’re very happy here so far.
Horses in the 'Hood
Flowering Sugarcane
Shade-grown Costa Rican Coffee
We are enjoying the beautiful country roads we have for our morning walks. Spotted with patches of sugarcane, peanuts, corn and coffee between charming Tico houses, the area is an agricultural cornucopia. Little did I know that sugarcane sprouts a huge feathery flower on top when ripening. 
Se Vende = For Sale
If you’re interested in living next door to a peanut patch, then this lot for sale on one of the side roads might be just the one for you. 

All the neighbors have been friendly, as are most Ticos, and we look forward to practicing our Spanish along the way. Already we’ve met and chatted with several Ticos as we were waiting at the bus stop for our “shuttle” into town. The bus drivers know us now so we no longer have to show our cedula (residency card) to ride for free. It seems to be a serious case of Pura Vida in Santa Eulalia de Atenas! 

Thursday, October 27, 2011

New House -- or Nueva Casa, in Español

At last, it’s official: we are moving! In fact, we took the first couple of loads up Tuesday. After the on-again/off-again housing drama earlier this year, I’ve hesitated to mention finding a house for fear of queering the deal. But we’ve paid our rent and now have my plants and a few suitcases already in the place. The rest of our “stuff” will follow next Monday; on Tuesday we’ll help Cidia, our housekeeper here, finish the last big cleaning jobs and then we’ll be in our new home.

View of the rancho from back patio
Located just up the hill in the Tico community of Santa Eulalia, a barrio of Atenas, the house is the “two bedroom, two bath with a great kitchen” that we had hoped for. At the end of a short street, it sits right next to a huge cornfield and sugarcane field with a lovely view of the hillside beyond. It’s private, safe and very near to several of our friends. It was one of those friends, our sausage-making amigo Marcial, who served as our agent in securing the place. 
Our friend Marcial on the sofa

"Our" cornfield and sugarcane field
Our new landlords seem very accommodating, relocating the washer and dryer (the dryer, a remarkable luxury here) out to the rancho so that the laundry room could be my office, putting up shelves for me and upgrading the Internet service for us as well. In that regard, we have some concerns because even with the upgrade, the Internet speed is not nearly what we are used to. Still, we hope it will be enough for those weekly Skype calls to my mom and Layne’s sister, even if not sufficient for streaming video.
Nice Kitchen!
The kitchen is all I could ask for (except perhaps a gas stove and a double-sink… spoiled Gringo that I am) -- with a big side-by-side refrigerator and even a working icemaker (again, quite a luxury), a modern electric stove and a big expanse of counter space. And although there is no swimming pool with the house, the small resort next door, El Cafetal Inn, is owned by a friend who said we could use their pool anytime. The bus line is only a block away and buses into Atenas run frequently. We learned from an older Tica neighbor, as we were waiting for a bus, that with our cedulas (residency cards) we could ride for free! Such a deal!

With our friend Marcy coming in early November for some dental work and a vacation, the move comes none too soon. Now we can anticipate being the “magnet” for friends that we had hoped to be. Although we don’t have the budget for many tourist activities, we can provide a home base, conveniently located for easy travel to many of those tourist attractions.

Cidia and her family
Cidia, our sweet Tica housekeeper who has really become a friend, had a sad look on her face last week to hear that we were moving. After cleaning this week she insisted on returning later that day as she said her 12-year-old daughter Melanie had a gift for us. We’ve gotten acquainted with Melanie over the months we’ve lived here because occasionally, when school was not in session or whatever, she would come to our apartment with Cidia and with Layne’s help in turning on the television, would watch TV or read while her mom worked. Also, I have given her a few of my jigsaw puzzles, which she and I both enjoy. So we’ve developed a friendly relationship with her.

Melanie's handiwork
As it turned out, Cidia and her husband and Melanie all had going-away presents for us: beaded earrings and necklace for me that Cidia had made, a lovely decorated wine bottle that Melanie had created in school and a colorful picture frame, purchased for Layne. They stayed and visited for over an hour, which definitely gave me some much-needed Spanish practice. Although I didn’t understand everything that was said, it was pretty amazing just how much we were able to communicate. We learned, for instance, that in 1948 during the armed uprising that resulted from a disputed presidential election, Cidia’s father and mother, pregnant with Cidia’s older brother at the time, had to flee the violence up into the mountains. It was after that last civil disturbance that Costa Rica abolished its army and turned its resources to public education, resulting in today’s high literacy rate. We talked about Cidia’s fourteen (!!) brothers and sisters and where they all live, Melanie’s school and dance classes, our new neighborhood in Santa Eulalia, a mutual friend’s new baby and precocious 5-year-old son and many other subjects as we sipped wine and laughed at my language struggles. It was very encouraging to me to actually carry on a conversation to that extent. Perhaps there is hope for my Spanish!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

All's Well that Ends Well, Even If It Takes All Day

It had to happen eventually. After all our months of successful bus and taxi trips traveling around the western part of the Central Valley of Costa Rica, the day had to come when our reliable transportation system just didn’t work. We hit that rough bump in the road last week when we tried to combine a trip to get our Costa Rican driver’s licenses with another run to Heredia to meet with the Partido Verde Ecologista (Green Political Party) guys and my publisher at The Costa Rica News. The meeting was scheduled for 1:00 p.m. and the license issuing office is open from 8:00 a.m. until 11:00 a.m. so we weren’t entirely nuts to think we could do both in one day. But that logic failed to consider both the charmingly slow and inefficient Tico bureaucracy as well as the possibility of bad traffic. Add in for good measure the absence of street signs or numbers, a rainy day and a taxi driver that was clueless and I suppose it was inevitable that the day would be fouled up.

We planned to be among the first in line at Coseví, the driver’s license bureau located on the main road through Uruca, a suburb of San Jose, because we had been warned that the process could be slow. But surely, we thought, three hours would be enough and then we could easily get to Heredia in time for the meeting at 1:00 p.m. We had learned from the ARCR folks that we could catch a cab at the bus stop in front of Hospital Mexico, along the San Jose bus route that we use often, and be at Coseví within minutes. So we were up early to catch the 6:50 a.m. bus into the city, expecting to arrive at the Hospital Mexico stop well before 8:00 a.m. But traffic along the Panamerican highway at that hour was a bear, much worse than we expected, so it was already past 8 o’clock when Hospital Mexico came into view. OK, so we won’t be the first in line. Not that it mattered as we soon discovered.

Coseví is a big complex but we were quickly met by an English-speaking Tico in front who instructed us to walk to the last building on the right to apply for a first-time license. It was quite a distance and I was, unfortunately, not in comfortable walking shoes, but we hurried along anyway, still hoping for a place at the front of the line. When we reached the Coseví office, looking a little bewildered no doubt, as I was mentally formulating the needed Spanish phrases, a Tica was quick to offer help -- in English, thank goodness. She led us up to the official-looking fellow at the door who, after checking over our paperwork, informed us that although we had the right documents -- our California licenses, our Costa Rican cedulas (residency cards) and our medical forms, which had been completed by our local medic, Doctor Candy -- we also needed copies of these documents. The place to do that was all the way back at the main entrance where we had started.
We walked...

And walked...

And walked!
Finally... the Cosevi office!
We thanked our Tica Samaritan and began the hike back up the sidewalk to the front where the copy office was. Copies made, we hiked back to the Coseví office (our third trip, now) and were seated in the back row of a hospital-sterile room with five rows of perhaps 15 seats each. As we watched, persons in the first four rows quickly moved along, as lights came on above one of several cubicles where the first set of bureaucrats was waiting. But our row never moved at all. After a half hour of this, Layne and I looked at each other with concern. Were we in the lepers’ row or something? What was the deal? A young Nicaraguan man sitting next to me seemed to have the same question and when he asked the Tico next to him, we learned that foreigners wait until the locals file through. With a shrug of our shoulders, we settled in for a long wait.

So we waited. And waited. Until finally, at about 10:15 the uniformed official led the first four people from our row to the upstairs office. When it was our turn, Layne and I watched as a bored bureaucrat stamped our papers, then scrawled his very intricate and time-consuming signature.

But we were far from done. The next step involved our fourth walk back out to the main road to pay our 4000 colones, or about $8.00, at a bank. First we went to Banco de Costa Rica, but there we found all the windows closed for lunch. We hurried on to Banco Nacional, paid our fees, and once again, trudged back down the long sidewalk to the Coseví office, where we at last had our photos taken and got our new licenses.

But by now, it was after noon and we would be hard-pressed to make our 1 o’clock meeting. We hopped in a taxi for what we thought would be a quick trip to the Heredia bus station in San Jose. Silly us. Even at noon, traffic in the city was a nightmare. Our taxi driver turned down one street only to find a big truck blocking the entire street as it eased backwards into a driveway. Minutes ticked by, as did the taxi meter, while our driver tried to squeeze through the pile of cars. Finally, the truck moved enough for us to pass and on we went to the location we thought was the right one. But when we arrived, it was not the Herediana bus company so we urged our driver on, hoping to find the yellow buses, which would take us directly to our destination. We wandered aimlessly it seemed to us but eventually, the driver found the buses and finally we were on our way to Heredia.

We arrived at The Costa Rica News, amazingly only 25 minutes late, and spent a couple of hours discussing how to help the Green Party raise the money they need for an upcoming trip to Brazil, where they will be inducted into the Federation of Green Parties of the Americas, quite a big coup for them. As the meeting ended, torrential rains began. Oh great. Layne and I had not had lunch so huddled under our umbrellas, we scurried into the next-door restaurant for a bite to wait out the rains. Another big mistake.

By the time we caught our bus, it was rush hour and the bus was frequently delayed in our drive across the city to the Alajuela bus station, hoping to catch the 5:30 bus back to Atenas. Not a chance. In fact, with the rain storm, streets full of traffic and apparently an accident ahead that had us at a standstill for many long minutes, we were actually lucky to get to the station in time for the 6:30 bus. When we finally made it back to our cozy little apartment, we sighed in relief. At times like this, Pura Vida is an elusive concept.