Christmas Day Wildlife Photos

The 6 AM Bird Walk had a different guide, Ronald, and a lot more birds today! Of course most photos are on my SLR camera, but the guide used my phone on his spotting scope for the next three photos below. I have some better ones on my real camera. All the guides here are provided by the Selva Verde Lodge, at a reasonable extra cost or in my case as part of a “Birding Package.”

Snowy Cotinga  (A first sighting for me)
By Nature Guide Ronald on my phone through his spotting scope
Selva Verde Lodge, Sarapiqui, Costa Rica

Yellow-throated Toucan (formerly Chestnut or Black-mandibled Toucan)
By Nature Guide Ronald on my phone through his spotting scope
Selva Verde Lodge, Sarapiqui, Costa Rica

Mantled Howler Monkey
By Nature Guide Ronald on my phone through his spotting scope
Selva Verde Lodge, Sarapiqui, Costa Rica
And I haven’t mentioned that I hear them often in the forest here.

Nature Guide Ronald at the front entrance
to Selva Verde before we cross the road
for birds in a botanical garden.
Then, late morning I got out of our lodge reserve to visit Dave & Dave’s Nature Pavilion which several people had recommended. It is basically a lot of different kinds of feeders on the edge of a thick secondary rainforest with a lot of birds. It provided me with some good close-ups and of a few new birds. So it was worth the 10 km drive down the highway. The father-son project has a great story behind it but I will let you read about it on their website at Dave & Dave’s.
More hummingbirds than I’ve seen almost anywhere else.
Some eating out of that heliconia flower.
Dave & Dave’s Nature Pavilion, Sarapiqui, Costa Rica

There was a group of German photographers there with their big lenses.
Dave & Dave’s Nature Pavilion, Sarapiqui, Costa Rica

Dave Senior putting out more fruit for the birds.
Dave & Dave’s Nature Pavilion, Sarapiqui, Costa Rica
Tonight I am going on the “Night Hike” and hope to get another good shot of a red-eyed tree frog. We will see. Animals are unpredictable. The restaurant has had this Christmas tree up since I’ve been here and they play Christmas music.
Christmas Tree
Selva Verde Lodge Restaurant #1
Sarapiqui, Costa Rica

Tomorrow I’ve scheduled an early morning boat trip, Guide Evan is going with me. And oh yes, in the rainforest there are still afternoon showers, even in the Dry Season. A shot from my room this afternoon during the short shower to keep everything watered!  🙂

Rain seen from Riverside Room 45, Selva Verde Lodge, Sarapiqui, Costa Rica

¡Pura Vida!

And all these photos were made on my cell phone!

Merry Christmas Day!  ~Charlie

Animales Fantasticos!

I saw the first Harry Potter prequel today, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (Animales Fantasticos) and of course you find them in Costa Rica!  🙂

And I also picked up an old dead branch along the road, lightly sprayed with gold paint, and put it in a vase of rocks for my árbolito de navidad (little Christmas Tree) this year and will decorate it with hand-crafted artisan birds. Here’s 4 of the first ones added. There will be more Fantastic Beasts! 🙂

And yes, Costa Rica is into Christmas decorations and the whole celebration in a big way! Every store is heavily decorated and the malls have three story tall Christmas Trees. 

Christmas in San Jose Photos

Big Cities like to do everything bigger and better and San Jose, the capital and largest city in Costa Rica is no exception. See a few photos of Christmas decor and events by Tico Times:

Tico Times photos – this of the lighting of tree at Children’s Hospital


I’m hoping to stay home all day with no interruptions to the many things I want to do and some rest! 

It actually started some a couple of weeks ago, but it is here full force now! I’m having to keep the sliding door screen closed and my garden door with no screen closed because so many leaves, flowers, bugs and dust blow in! This will be the norm through February or March with it getting more dusty the longer we go without rain. And if Turrialba erupts again, we will get ash or gray-black dust! That is just part of living in paradise!  🙂

And the crazy thing is that it is during this windy, sometimes dusty period that we have the most tourists and snowbirds trying to get away from cold weather up north. I think I’ve decided I like the rainy season (Jul-Oct) or “green season” better and it’s two shoulder periods (May-Jun & Oct-Nov) which have very little rain but are greener and more pleasant. So for the next 3 months or so we put up with wind, dust and snow birds! Then tranquility begins again!  🙂

And for my Canadian friends:

día de Navidad: Jesus, Family, Friends and Food!

Christmas Morning Breakfast View
My tamales came from La Coope Supermercado, 2 to a package, 2 meals.

Here’s a recipe for making Costa Rica Christmas Tamales. (Mine didn’t have as many vegetables.)
And to watch them being made, see this YouTube video of a family making them.

I’m sure the homemade ones are better than the ones I got at the Supermercado, but to be honest, I did not care for them. Mine had very few veggies and only a small piece of pork. The cornmeal and lard wrapping is what I don’t like.To much fat and cholesterol and not that tasty. I had to add sauce. These tamales are not part of my tradition unless I find better tasting ones! And maybe a healthier version?

And some more local Christmas decorations:

Maybe typical of governments, but the city hall had one of the few secular
Christmas decoration in town plus their decorated tree in the park.
This is a very contemporary tree with reindeer of all things!
The “Municipal Building” is opposite one corner of Central Park.

And the Catholic Church in center of town had this indoor nativity
and an outdoor one with live people at certain times which I never caught.
More homes have nativities. Jesus is more popular than Santa here!
My nativity collection went fast at the silent auction earlier.

Christmas Dinner with neighbors at Hotel Colinas del Sol nearby.

There is never an excuse for being lonely here! In fact, I sometimes have to work at finding my needed solitude!  🙂

from Charlie in Costa Rica

VIP Star Wars in Costa Rica!

 A STAR WARS Christmas Present . . .

Me and Jason with BB-8 at theater.

One of my Spanish language helpers, Jason Quesada in Atenas, has so far not accepted payment by the hour, just lunches, etc. So for his Christmas gift, regalo de Navidad, I took him with me by bus to Alajuela to see his first ever Star Wars movie. Hard to imagine not having the background of 6 previous movies, but he enjoyed it and I guess the plot kind of stands alone with me giving him a little background on who some of the characters are and a little of what happened in the past.

The new theater is nicer than any I have been to in the States! I bought our tickets electronically with a credit card at kiosk out front not knowing what “Premier” meant, but I chose it because the sound tract was in English with Spanish subtitles. I’m not yet ready for the one with Spanish voices dubbed in.

Well we were both shocked! When we gave the ticket taker our tickets he did not point or give directions to our theater but personally escorted us to the Premier door and introduced us to a hostess.

We entered the VIP private lounge area with restaurant as well as usual movie snacks and luxurious seats around little tables and a bar with bar stools. We were given a menu with a great selection including alcoholic drinks and told we could take the menu to our seats and they would come take our order. Shucks! We had already gotten popcorn and cokes at the regular people snack stand in main lobby. So we decided we might eat lunch in the lounge after the movie.

Then our hostess led us up a short flight of stairs to the Premier Balcony with giant lounge chairs with electronic controls to lift the foot rest or lean back and a little fold out table for food in addition to the built-in drink holder. Wide aisles and lots of space for the recliners! She checked on us twice during the movie to see if we needed anything. Wow! I can’t wait to go back and order from my seat or eat lunch during a movie! But lunch in the lounge after the movie was great too! This is livin!

One little corner of the mall just outside the theater with one of about 6 3-story Christmas Trees. No shopping for me today.
They have finished widening the street out front which helps traffic! The snow park is open outside and
an amusement park is on the roof with a giant Ferris Wheel seen as you drive up. Amazing!
It is the largest mall in Costa Rica and second largest in Central America. (One in Panama a tad larger.)
On the bus ride home I told Jason I really meant to get all 6 of the previous Star Wars movies and watch before seeing this latest sequel. But Netflix does not have and the down-streaming ones on are $16 each (if you order all 6) plus their site said they would not work on my browser if I understood the crazy information right. So I gave up. Jason asked, “Did you try our video store across from the ball fields?” I hadn’t, so we walked by it on our way home from the bus station.  This young man has everything! He had all 6 at about the equivalent of $1.15 each but it would be a few minutes because he had to make copies of number 5 & 6. We waited and I expect to enjoy on my computer the whole Star War series now! Legal? Well. . . just a friend giving me a copy of his DVD.  🙂  Reminds me of the video stores in The Gambia! And we will see what the quality is like.

See also Christianity Today’s online article titled: Why We Get Religious About ‘Star Wars’

Here, Jesus More Popular than Santa!

Nativities are everywhere! Usually called Pasito or Portal here.
Other Spanish names are Nacimiento, Belén, and Pesebre.

I like living where Jesus is more popular than Santa Claus! Though Christmas Trees are around in a few places, especially commercial places, they don’t believe in Santa Claus but rather the baby Jesus, el niño or el niñito who brings some of the Christmas gifts for young children. Read this neat article in Tico Times.  For where gifts come from, Santa is 3rd place after Jesus & Parents in a survey of children!

Tree in Central Park Atenas
Not much! Not a priority!  🙂

It is a religious society and the people even live like followers of Christ! I’m trying not to compare to the States where most of my readers live, but it is tempting!   🙂  The people here are wonderful!

And I do plan to eat at least one tamale this Christmas, a very strong tradition here!

Feliz Navidad!

Too Many Christmas Activities! :-)

Last night I went to the Christmas Dinner with live music at El Balcon del Cafe for a great meal

featuring a Christmas Ham! And a huge assortment of Christmas Cookies! But the best part was joining a lady from my second Spanish class and her 84 year old friend Jean who will become my new next door neighbor tomorrow! She is moving in the house that my sculpture friend Anthony left for his adventures in Spain and Morocco. It is a contemporary with lots of glass to the right of my house as the casita (little house) of another property owner, different landlord.

After the party my taxista had trouble getting through the traffic and bands for the big parade as part of that evening’s Festival de la Luz or Festival of Lights which begins the Christmas celebrations here. I’m now sorry I did not stay downtown for it because I learned later that it is the biggest celebration of the year in Atenas with a stage featuring constant musical entertainment, many booths with crafts and other vendors, the parade, and fireworks. But I was tired and had projects I was working on and decided to go on home. I heard most of it and saw part of the fireworks from my terrace. Next year I will not miss this!

Today our Su Espacio Spanish Class had our Christmas Party Lunch at Fred & Susan’s house two hills over from mine with their swimming pool being the big attraction for most, but also a great lunch! 

I was the only one not in a swim suit – just not my thing!

Thursday after the last Spanish Class at Iglesia Biblica we all go to La Finca Pizza for our end of year celebration and Christmas Party. A new friend and I are having lunch next week and then on Christmas Day I am joining other friends at a nearby hotel restaurant for a big Christmas Dinner again! At Hotel Colinas del Sol. I’m having trouble finding my needed solitude!  🙂


8 Great Holiday Songs in Spanish in case you think “Feliz Navidad” is the only one!  🙂

Peace on earth will come to stay, When we live Christmas every day. – Helen Steiner Rice

Angel Tree Party!

All we’ve been working towards was over in about 2 hours with a lot of happy kids!

Thanks to the many people who took one of the 300 angels or otherwise contributed to the project!

Thanksgiving and Angel Tree Completion

Our Angel Tree still had 6 left yesterday a.m.
but by afternoon all 6 were taken!

Friday, Saturday and Sunday I am one of about 4 volunteers staying at Su Espacio to receive the gifts as they are brought in. They are kind of trickling in with still 99 not here yet out of the 300, but Ticos do everything at the last minute David keeps reminding me – so by Monday or Tuesday most will probably be turned in (Sunday is the deadline). We have plenty of money to buy gifts for any children that are missed and until next Saturday, Dec. 5. I got more deeply involved in this than I really intended, but it has been fun with a purpose helping a lot of poor children get some nice Christmas presents – possibly the only gifts they will receive this Christmas. So a good thing! And I like to do good!  🙂

Thanksgiving Turkey Dinner at my neighbor’s house next door Thursday.
Don & Lynda on right are from Oregon & live across our shared driveway.
The lady and her daughter on left are “snowbirds” from Wisconsin
renting a house 2 doors down for 2 months. 

Snowbirds are beginning to arrive, though some wait until after Christmas. One Canadian couple I was with in the apartments are already here and will stay until sometime in January. Others will come in January. It kind of reminds me of my two years in Miami where the population increases in our summer or your winter with the cold weather residents. And I’m sorry to say that the rain seems to have stopped. We will probably get a few more showers up into December maybe, but “Dry Season” has started.

One good thing about dry season is that I won’t have to put my leather shoes out in the sun to keep them from growing mold! And I recently found a new place for mold to grow – on the sweat bands of my ball caps. They are now hung upside down to help the sweat bands air out! And I have been throwing some of them in the washing machine too! Pura Vida!  🙂

Disgustingly Like the States (Christmas before Halloween!)

Walmart (photo) and other stores started Christmas promotion in October!

Like in so many developing nations, it is the commercial world that is most “up to date” or more “developed” or shows more “progress.” That has mixed advantages and disadvantages. Like Alajuela’s infrastructure (especially streets) is simply not ready for the biggest mall in the country! And the majority of the people cannot afford the expensive stores. It still amazes me how much the rest of the world hates the USA and yet copies it! Or should I say allows U.S. businesses to come in and change the local culture. Interesting to note that all 15 or 20 Burger Kings in Costa Rica have closed. Nada! Some investor was probably losing money. Yet all the McDonald’s and KFC’s seem to do well even with multiple Latin American fried chicken competitors opposite KFC. Likewise Coke & Pepsi do well, while some big or expensive stores depend greatly on expats along with the growing rich among Ticos. I think that will be the case of the new City Mall. Catch the quote below by a North American:

We’re not going to persuade people in the developing world to go without, but neither can we afford a planet on which everyone lives like an American. Billions more people living in suburbs and driving SUVs to shopping malls is a recipe for planetary suicide. We can’t even afford to continue that way of life ourselves.~Alex Steffen