El Bastón del Emperador

I will give thanks to the Lord because of his righteousness;
I will sing the praises of the name of the Lord Most High.

Psalm 7:17

This Spanish name of what English-speakers call “Torch Ginger” flower, “El bastón del emperador” has stuck with me from my first hearing of it. The English translation is “The Emperor’s staff” (or king’s scepter). And since most of the time I have at least one blooming in my gardens, it is a reminder of who my king is and my early pledges to follow Jesus as my life guide, ruler and “King” if you please. And what better “scepter or staff” for Him than a beautiful tropical flower! 🙂 Here’s the one blooming this weekend:

El bastón del emperador

Come, let us sing for joy to the Lord;
    let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation.

Let us come before him with thanksgiving
    and extol him with music and song.

For the Lord is the great God,
    the great King above all gods

Psalm 95:1-3

¡Pura Vida!

My Flora & Forest Galleries

Morning Waterfall Hike, Almost

This morning was to be my last “organized hike,” called the Primary Forest, led by scientist Phillip who did last night’s night hike, scheduled for 8-11. At 8 one of the employees came out and apologized that Phillip called in sick and that the hike was canceled for today. “No problem,” I said, “I wanted to go down the Pacific Trail and low tide is this morning, just right!” The guy in charge asked me to wait a minute. He made a call and then said he would be right back. He came with one of the gardeners with a name that sounded like Aniavey, and said, “Now you can practice your Spanish!” 🙂 The Nicaraguan was wearing a sheathed machete. The guy in charge said, “I simply cannot let you go down that trail alone, especially all the way to the waterfall! After you go down the very steep trail, it’s another mile hike including up another hill. I did not get incensed and thanked him for his concern, still not knowing what I was in for. And thinking I didn’t really need help. 🙂

The Old Man and His Hiking Guide

Wow! It was a steep trail with 500 steps carved into the side of the mountain and in moments my knees and legs were killing me. About halfway down or a little more, my knees gave way and I crumpled to the ground. My helper came to my rescue, helping me up and I sat on one of the steps. He took his machete out, going into the forest to cut a little sapling for a brand new hiking stick and I was soon ready to go, just slowly. But I had already decided I would go only to the beach and not all the way to the waterfall, which relieved Aniavey. And by the way, the return trip back up the hill, all 500 steps, was much easier on my knees and legs, just slowing my breathing! 🙂 On the hike we saw 3 kind of monkeys: Howler, White-faced Capuchin and Spider Monkeys!

Here’ s 4 shots and I don’t know why I didn’t photograph the trail or steps?

Continue reading “Morning Waterfall Hike, Almost”

Clinic Art

With most museums closed for the pandemic and me now low on energy, it looks like I won’t be visiting Art Museums in San Jose during radiation. so I will share today just a few of the art pieces I photographed with cellphone at the clinic and tomorrow some more from the hotel.

These are from the waiting rooms and treatment hallway. I didn’t go into the doctors’ offices.

And in the parking lot I consider this sign a type of art: 🙂

TRANSLATION: We are life expectancy, for the cancer patient. Twenty-first Century Radiotherapy – Or most here translate “esperanza” as “hope,” making this “hope of life” but my online dictionary considered the context and used “expectancy” as a more modern translation. Languages cannot be translated word for word in every case. Spanish speakers know what it means! 🙂

And at 2:30 this afternoon I get the stitches removed from my left eyelid. Hoping for minimal pain.

¡Pura Vida!

Halfway!

Yep! Today, Wednesday, 19th of May 2021, I am halfway through my cancer radiation therapy and already on the downhill side of the mountain! 🙂 I will get 33 treatments and today was #17, a half treatment over the hill! 🙂

The photo is of the computer screen where I check in each day with my patient electronic card that I swipe over that little black box’s red screen that pulls up my name and appointment time, etc. This info also goes back into the treatment room where the therapists are thus notified that I’m entering the second waiting room for patients only.

Patient check-in station, Twenty-first Century Radiotherapy, San Jose, Costa Rica

For those not knowing Spanish, “Por favor, aguarde a ser llamado. Muchas gracias.” means “Please wait to be called. Much thanks.” They call me in over a PA system when ready. Depending on who calls, they call for “Mister Charles.” or “Señor Charles” or “Don Charles.” These young therapists are very professional, kind, friendly and helpful in every way, making it a much more pleasant experience.

Now before any of that, I walk up to the outside door and wash my hands at an outside sink with a hand soap dispenser. Then I am allowed in where my temperature is taken and of course I am wearing a mask – all part of the national Covid protocols. I will be doing the above electronic check-in just 16 more times now! 🙂

On the walk back to hotel today, two parakeets squawked congratulations to me from a telephone line! 🙂 Too high for good cellphone photos, but here’s a try:

Continue reading “Halfway!”

Balcony Concert Tonight

I am missing the final concert for the Summer (May begins Winter here). It is the last in a series of hotel concerts called “Summer in the city – From your balcony” or really “Verano en la ciudad – Desde tu balcón” with a Covid-safe Rock Concert at my Best Western San Jose Hotel and they’ve been doing it once a month since January or December. See the hotel’s website photos & videos of the concerts.

The only way you can see/hear the concert is to rent one of the 150 upstairs rooms with balconies overlooking the pool and watch the concert live from your balcony! Pretty cool ideal that helps both young adults have fun during the pandemic and a struggling hotel with no tourists and almost no customers fill several rooms at an advertised “special price” of $61 USD (more than I’m paying) with a limit to 4 per room/balcony. Tonight, Saturday, May 8 is this month’s concert and the final one in this summer series.

Friday before I left I snapped these cellphone shots of them setting up the stage over one end of the pool. This month American Express is the sponsor.

The stage under construction Friday.

And more photos . . .

Continue reading “Balcony Concert Tonight”

Biopsy Report & Long Range Plans

Yesterday, Tuesday, 23 March, was my big meeting with Dr. Hernández, post-surgery (though I had one earlier visit to remove the drainage tube). Here’s what we did and discussed for over an hour. And by the way, all the doctors here take as much time as needed and never rush you, yet they are very punctual with appointments, meaning that most allow an hour or more per patient for consultations. Compared to the states, better service for a fraction of the cost.

Removed the Bandages

Though we actually talked first, this was one of the reasons for this post-op visit included in the price of the surgery.

He is a young surgeon proud of his ability to provide “scarless” facial surgery by closing up the incision with “internal stitches” that I don’t understand, but there were no stitches for him to remove, just the bandages over the line that still shows right now, but will not later as it heals.

Sorry that my “selfie” doesn’t show it better, but he cut me from in front of and above my ear all the way down my neck to nearly the chin, all on the left side.

Then if it doesn’t gross you out, he peeled back the left cheek skin and cleared out all the tumor he could find, including the whole salivary gland and a part of my facial nerve, then put my face back together again. He said that when the swelling goes down, I will look younger on the left side because he stretched the skin tighter or smoother. 🙂 Like an 80 year man cares! 🙂

The Biopsy Report

He shows or explains everything to me on his large-screen computer monitor including photos of the actual tumor whole and when sliced to show what was inside. Then I receive a 3-page printed version of the biopsy including photos (only 1st page at right) but this version is en español which I roughly understand but he promised to send me an English version soon. Expats are more trouble as patients! 🙂

As expected all along but confirmed by this biopsy, it is cancer – invasive epidermoid carcinoma (translation of Spanish “carcinoma epidermoide invasor”). This is the same diagnosis as the skin cancer removed from my left cheek in 2019 by MOHS surgery which is supposed to assure one that all the cancer is removed. So much for MOHS! 🙂 Dr. Hernández said it is possible that a “root” or even a tiny piece of the original carcinoma on the surface was left in the cheek and it grows fast or matastisizes into the tumor that was not found earlier because of staying home for the coronavirus It was a large tumor, 4.5 X 3 cm.

Radiotherapy Follow Up

For the second time, a surgeon believes he “got it all” but that can never be guaranteed and the closest to a sure way is to follow up with radiotherapy. Thus I already have an appointment this Friday with “the best radiation therapist for head and neck” in Costa Rica, another female doctor who is “the best.” She works for 21st Century Radiotherapy, the only private company doing radiation. (None of the private hospitals do. They send patients to this company.) The only other radiation treatment available in Costa Rica is with the Social Security or Public Health at Hospital Mexico, where I had my angiogram. It would be “free” with my national health plan but Dr. Hernaández says they are too slow and could take months or a year to work me in while this private company can get started within a month or6 weeks which he says is essential for a spreading cancer. And of course that is a private doctor speaking. 🙂

But he also said that Dra. Bonilla would know if public health could get to me soon enough and she might be able to work that out, otherwise I will use my “MediSmart” medical discount card for up to 50% off the regular charge at 21st Century. But we are still talking thousands of dollars and me with no insurance. So Friday will be the next big decision time on this latest adventure.

I fully expect to deplete my saving a bunch more (Getting low already!) and have the radiation done with the private company, but will explore every reasonable option with the public health radiation. So another report Saturday on that! 🙂

And About the Eye and the Mouth

I have an appointment with the Ophathamologist in two weeks to discuss a surgical procedure she has done before that partially closes the eye lid and may allow me to have more use of my eye , where now I just keep it covered all the time. It will not bring the blinking back but possibly more use of the left eye.

The mouth will improve somewhat in time – months – but never back to totally normal. I might regain some muscle use on the left side to help with eating and maybe a less exaggerated lopsided smile. We will see! 🙂

And another little amusing side effect, I just learn that when I wrinkle my brow, it wrinkles only on the right side! 🙂

As Doris Day sang when I was a kid . . .

Que sera, sera

Whatever will be, will be

The future’s not ours to see

Que sera, sera

What will be, will be

And the feature image is another shot of my favorite Triquitraque Flowers still blooming! 🙂

¡Pura Vida!

“Costa Rica Culture” by 7 “Kids”

Back in May 2018 I reviewed here and told about the Costa Rica made movie “Güilas” the title of which is the Costa Rican slang word for children like American English “Kids.” The movie is actually seven short stories about seven different kids, each in a different one of the seven provinces of Costa Rica thus visually showing many parts of this beautiful country and its varied cultures by my favorite Costa Rica Photographer, Sergio Pucci (I use one of his CR Calendars every year for his beautiful photography!). This is one of the best movies I’ve ever seen anywhere and is definitely the best one on the culture of Costa Rica! Well worth $10 USD from Vimeo!

One of the 7 Stories:

One of the seven short stories – this in the Caribe, Limon Province.
Continue reading ““Costa Rica Culture” by 7 “Kids””

I Registered for a Coronavirus Vaccine Today!

On my round of errands this morning, one stop was at the public clinic to sign up for my Coronavirus Vaccine as one of an expected. 3.7 million to be vaccinated in Costa Rica this year, basically the whole population. It has begun all over the country as a free vaccination provided by the government with millions of doses already in country. As an older adult I should be called in before younger people and within the month the technician told me. I just wait for the phone call, in Spanish, and hope they speak slow enough for me to understand! 🙂

Though millions of doses are already here, more have been ordered says this Tico Times article: Costa Rica to purchase coronavirus vaccines for 648,000 more people

I also saw my female private practice GP doctor this week and already my hurting knee is much better and less swollen. Medical services here are really good! Both public and private and cheap or free!

¡Pura Vida!

Tico Youth Making Fun of Themselves

In an effort to include some Costa Rica Culture in my blog, I copied this from the Golden Gringo Newsletter, which is okay because he copied it from a local online newspaper! 🙂 He came here a year or so before me from the states as a retiree (younger than me) who chose to live near a beach and fishing place, Quepos on the Pacific Coast near Manuel Antonio NP. He’s a lot different than me, but I semi-follow his newsletter for his impression of things here.

And note that the original list below was most likely aimed at and/or written by young adult or teen Costa Ricans (Ticos) as a form of humor. But there is some real culture here! 🙂

Feature photo is mine of young adult Ticos in an Atenas parade (for a traditional look), but the copied stock photo above is more typical of young people here! 🙂 Below copied from Golden Gringo Chronicles:

10 SIGNS YOU WERE BORN AND RAISED IN COSTA RICA


This gem appeared in the Costa Rica Star newspaper recently and GG thought it was interesting . . .

“We’re Not the Happiest on the Planet for Nothing” 🙂

You had your first coffee before you were 5 years old. Your mom would mix it with extra milk so it wouldn’t taste so strong. She’s the reason you developed an addiction to it and now drink at least 3 cups a day. (But their also have been numerous articles in the press in recent years on the health benefits of coffee)

You don’t refer to someone as a person, you say “mae” (pronounced my). ‘Mae’ is everyone and anyone, either feminine or masculine (esa mae or ese mae). When talking to your friends, it’s not uncommon to hear the word mae at least 50 times in one conversation. (especially among teenagers, the closest modern equivalent to “mae” in English being “dude”)

You include partying in your monthly budget.
It doesn’t matter if there’s nothing going on, you will find a reason to celebrate. You double your party budget if La Sele (the national soccer team) is playing that month. (in Covid times you can still watch the Sele on TV)

You don’t say 1000 colones, you say “un rojo.” (rojo, a “red” or un mil)
In Costa Rica the 1000 colon bill is red in color (rojo in Spanish), so you denominate money as un rojo, dos rojos, diez rojos, and so on. For example, you say “I paid diez rojos for that ticket.” One million is “un melón,” just because it rhymes.

You use trees and house colors to give directions.
From the mango tree, turn left and keep going 2 apples (blocks), it’s the third house on the right, watermelon color with a palm tree in the front. Street names — who needs them?

You know about Tico time.
If someone says: “I’ll meet you at 4,” you know it probably means the person might be leaving the house at that time. Not proud of this one, but we Ticos are not exactly known for being punctual.

You say Pura Vida for everything.
Used a hundred times a day to say hi, goodbye, thank you, you’re welcome, to express well-being, or to say something is good or nice, Pura Vida (pure life) is your mantra.

You eat tamales for breakfast, lunch, and dinner on Christmas and New Year’s Eve.
Your mom makes a huge batch of traditional tamales for the holidays and you are responsible for eating half of them, it’s your duty.

You honed your salsa dancing and merengue skills in family reunions.
Your aunt, uncle, mom, or cousin made you dance with them at all family gatherings. You might have hated it back then, but at least now you can dance.

You secretly speak Pachuca (street slang).
Even though you might not use it often, you can speak it fluently. You know that tuanis means good, that mopri (a mix of the letters of primo) means mae, that the police are los pacos, your car is la nave watched over by el guachi, and your job is el yugo. En ‘toas…it’s good, mae!

¡Pura Vida!

And for more photos of people & culture + art, see my People, Fiestas & Arts Gallery.