Fern Haiku & My Simple Life

Today I took the bus to Alajuela, getting off before downtown to get a few items at PriceSmart (our warehouse store like Costco). Then a taxi to Walmart for some other items they have no one else does, and then walked three blocks to the big City Mall where I finally found some thicker short socks, looked at some kitchen items in the expensive but nice Cemaco Store and ate a burger in the food court. Then taxi to bus station for bus trip back to Atenas by 3. That was my day. I watched the 30 minute ABC World News which is as much TV news as I can handle now. But even that makes me continue to thank God I live in Costa Rica! 
Rainy season is good and normal this year with late afternoon showers with some into the night and the rest of the day beautiful. Everything is green and attractive this time of year. My favorite. 
For my angiogram June 2, my young friend Jason Quesada is going with me and will stay with me since I will be put to sleep. I’m also using Walter Ramirez for my transportation to and from the hospital in San Jose. So I feel good about it even with my bad Spanish, I will have someone who is truly bilingual! And they don’t speak much Ingles in Hospital Mexico!
No more trips until July. I love my simple life!

Monstrous Mall Opens Today!

See Living in Costa Rica’s new Blog Article on the Mall

In addition to theater, gym, and 1,600 seat food court, it will have an amusement park with snow-sledding!
The man-made snow will be the first snow some Tico kids will ever see!
350+ stores, 2,000 parking spaces and all just 45 minutes from me on a bus.
Unfortunately it will be expensive and focused on rich people. But us poor like to go see these places!

This afternoon (Tuesday) I went to Walmart in Alajuela and on my way back to the bus station my taxi drove by the above mall that opens tomorrow (Wednesday, 11/11). Traffic was terrible and it isn’t even open yet! The road in front is being widened but of course they are not finished with the road yet (sounds like the states). My driver said there is a big fiesta planned for the grand opening tomorrow. I enjoyed his characterization of the mall as “Gringo Landia” or Gringo Land. You can be sure the gringos here will certainly support the place! At least the rich ones, which is a bunch! And just in time for Christmas!

Shopping at any level is a bit of therapy for my medulla oblongata.
~Theophilus London


“American Experience” in the Malls

Cell Phone Snap, Food Court, Multiplaza Mall, Escazu, Costa Rica

I’ve been here almost 6 months and haven’t been in a Mall until yesterday and again today. I did not shop in malls in the states, so why here? They are too expensive in the states, but you should see the prices here! Out of sight! But the rich (both Tico and Expat) who want the “American Experience,” love these malls, mostly near San Jose. The above Multiplaza Mall is in Escazu, a wealthy suburb of San Jose where our American Ambassador’s home is located. Yesterday I checked out International Mall in Alajuela near the airport. It is older and smaller, but only until November when the new one being built next door will be larger than Escazu’s Multiplaza AND claims it will be the largest mall in Central America with 300+ stores! 

Since I am not buying the $100 Levis or the $44 Columbia brand cap I liked, why did I go? Partly out of curiosity and partly to check out the multi-screen theaters in both malls, so Anthony and I can go see Jurassic Park next Tuesday. We want a 3-D with English sound track and Spanish subtitles. Their phones are recordings in Spanish. Scratch that! The websites are almost as difficult to follow. So I go talk to live people! Alajuela had only Spanish soundtracks during the day with their only English one at 9 PM – not for us old men! The Escazu theater staff told me today that the 1:25 afternoon 3-D show is in English with Spanish subtitles – just right for us. (Maybe a little help on learning Spanish through subtitles!) And we get a bonus! It is in a “DBOX” theater, meaning the seats will move, shake, vibrate or whatever with the movie, like Disney World! You will get a report Tuesday night. And the price of a ticket is about $8, meaning movies aren’t as overpriced as clothing, etc. 
So, you see, we don’t do without all the modern science things here! Plus I now have a new baby lizard in my living room and he mostly stays on the wall near the ceiling above the outside windows, waiting for insects! Wonder if they live in the Mall?
A Baby Lizard on wall by crown molding in my living room.
Sorry about bad photo, but I wouldn’t turn light on because it would scare him off.
In fact I tried getting closer and he scurried off! Costa Rica Insect Control!  🙂

A Typical Day?

Ate lunch around the corner from these trees at the Catholic Church Atenas

There probably is no such thing as a “typical” day in anyone’s life, never-the-less mine! But this relaxed Monday in Atenas, Costa Rica seems worth reporting as almost one for me.

As always, I was awakened early by the birds singing, but stayed in bed until about 6:30 when I got up for a shower, breakfast of fresh fruit, nuts, cereal, and some Costa Rica Coffee, while overlooking a vista of the Atenas Valley and mountains, and watching birds in my trees. I put all the trash in one big bag making it easier to take to the gate and put in our big metal basket where we place only bagged trash for pickup.

With a backpack of Spanish learning materials, sunglasses, and my Panama Hat today (David calls it my “bonita sombrero.”) I walk the 1.1 mile under a sunny blue sky at around 80 degrees to my Spanish class in town. It is always a fun 2+ hours with two new students today and the temporary loss of others who are traveling for awhile. After class I walk back to my old apartments, Hacienda La Jacaranda, to return two cups I accidentally packed with my stuff and pick up my last electric bill there.

Then I walk to the center of town to the Post Office to see if a letter has arrived that was sent 4 weeks ago from the states. It has not. Make a note to tell people to use the Miami PO Box to get mail to me quicker! Then two blocks away (or here we would say 200 meters) to the Vargas & Sons Hardware for a couple of items I need for the house. Then I decide to eat lunch out today since I have not in awhile, preparing most of my meals at home. I was going to try a new place but it is closed on Monday, so I go to my old standby Tico restaurant, La Carreta.

For a little over $5 I get a casado (plate lunch) of fish, beans, rice, mixed veggies, and instead of my usual green salad, I choose the Picadillo de vainica y zanahoria, (right click on site for English Translation) always liking to try something new and it was great! Its a green beans and carrots relish or salad with delicious seasoning, my favorite item on the plate today. As always here, the meal was served on a banana leaf in a tray. But of course that was not all for this sweet tooth guy! For just the second time for me I ordered a Lechemulla which is their version of the Horchata rice & milk drink, but they use vanilla ice cream instead of milk which adds to the cinnamon flavoring and wow is it good! During all this delicious eating, I’m both watching people walk down the street and reading more in the lengthy Lord of the Rings book. I finished both the Happier than a Billionaire books which were fun, but I’ve had enough of Nadine & Rob for awhile! And yes, the Rings books are heavy and lengthy, but also some great writing and story-telling! My Kindle Fire says the typical reading time for it is 27 hours and I’m about half-way through.

Then I walk all the way back past Su Espacio, where my Spanish class took place, to CoopeAtenas supermarket for my little shopping list and pay the electric bill. While finishing there it begins to rain really hard. So I call a cab for the trip home with enough groceries that walking would have been tough anyway. It was about $2 for the taxi.

It was a good long rain, more than usual, that I’m sure made my new flower garden happy. Sun is shining now. After writing this, I have some bookkeeping to do, then  may read or try to photograph birds from the balcony or walk with camera through the neighborhood. By then a sunset snack and more reading or time on the computer before bed. I haven’t watched a single TV show here and no Netflix movies since moving to new house. Real life is more fun! Plus I’m working on three different books and about to have my shipped boxes delivered, so never a dull moment! And I have done very little of the traveling around Costa Rica I expected to be doing by now. Maybe soon!

I’m looking at the Strangler Fig Tree outside my office window and continue to be amazed that I really am living in Costa Rica! It is not paradise or perfect by any means, but it brings me more joy and relaxation than any place I have ever lived. The rain just cooled it off, the birds are singing happily while I smile and think to myself what a wonderful decision it was to move to Costa Rica! Pura Vida!

Shopping at “Vargas e Hijos”

My friendly neighborhood hardware store in Atenas, Costa Rica

With my move to a different house, there is a good chance I will need some hardware as I set up housekeeping again. The nearest Home Depot type store (different name) is in San Jose and I hear they are more expensive with employees who are less helpful than the hometown hardware store. Plus hometown store is surprisingly well-stocked and I can walk to it! The one I use is Vargas & Sons where I have found everything I’ve needed thus far! Now get this “interesting” way all “ferreterias” (small local hardware stores) operate:

  • A lot of the merchandise is not on display, so I may have to ask for it, be specific in Spanish, wait until it comes from the stock room, and if it is not the item I want, repeat the process. Patience is a high virtue in Costa Rica!  🙂
  • There is often someone shadowing me. This can be annoying, but when I need help it is great, so I try to be nice! I’m likely to need help! And my limited Spanish adds to the adventure! The young ones are more likely to speak some English, so I tend to favor them. 
  • Checking out is a regimented three-step process: 
  1. First the person helping me with the product(s) has to write-up a “factura” (invoice) on their computer terminal. They ask for my “nombre” (name) to attach to it. 
  2. Next, I visit the “cajero” (cashier), where I give my name, pay, and receive two receipts, one for me, the other left at the next step. 
  3. At the “entrega” (delivery) counter, I provide both receipts, the person there checks the itemized receipt against the product(s) in a basket, stamps both receipts (rubber stamps are big here!), and assuming they match, he/she bags my stuff with one of the stamped receipts. More often now he asks if you want a “balso” (bag) before bagging. (Going green or saving money?)

It sounds like a lot of trouble, but actually works very smoothly and quickly! And it provides several jobs!  🙂   The photo above is of their building across from the bus station as featured on their Facebook Page like an advertisement.

Farmers’ Market Today

Best place to buy fresh fruits and vegetables!

I walked to the Central Park (where the weekly Farmers’ Market used to be on a street downtown)
but has now moved to a big pavilion outside of town with a big parking lot for all the rich Americans to park their SUVs. Like while I was in The Gambia, I continue to be embarrassed to be an American. 

From Central Park I ride the free school bus to the market with the local Ticos and I think 3 other gringos. There are a few of us without cars, but the contrast of rich Americans and locals seemed to be more evident at the “Feria,” their name for the Farmers’ Market which is literally translated “Fair.” I bought coffee, blackberries, tomatoes, cantaloupe, avocados, lettuce, and a smoothie to drink while there, fresh-made from local pineapple, strawberries and mangos. Yum! Here’s a couple of photos to show that it looked pretty much like the Nashville Farmers’ Market now that they have a big shed and more expensive space rent (meaning higher prices).  The price of progress and American intrusion! 

Atenas Friday Farmers’ Market

Us Poor People Road the Free Shuttle Bus to Farmers’ Market

There was going to be a long wait for the shuttle after I finished shopping, so I splurged and took a taxi to my door for $3.

Relaxing Day in Atenas

Central Park Atenas

I slept late and after breakfast walked to town for some items the Cooperative Super Mercado doesn’t have like a USB Cable extension and small wastebasket for my office, plus for the kitchen a paring knife, measuring cup and cutting board. Little towns have lots of little shops, so you just go around town looking and asking and sure enough I found everything I needed in three different shops and got to walk through our Central Park (at right) in the process. Then I grabbed three items at the Super Mercado and a lunch to go at Restaurante El Mejor Climate and then stayed home all afternoon, catching up on several things. Was planning a fruit plate for dinner, but a neighbor invited me for pasta with sausage and came back in later for a little saucer of fresh Papaya, Mango and Strawberries, a nice ending to a nice day!

And oh yes! I did get my appointment with the Social Security Office at the U.S. Embassy for Thursday morning which will be by bus this time! They were very nice on phone and told me where to get off the bus from Atenas to have the shortest and thus cheapest taxi ride to the embassy. So Spanish class tomorrow and then another San Jose bureaucracy adventure Thursday. 🙂 The fun never stops!

Plus, this afternoon I found the Costa Rica Classical Music Station, 96.7 FM, in case you are ever looking for it! I love it when a plan starts coming together! 🙂

As a daily walker through Atenas now, I have some locals who recognize me and we greet at each passing. This morning I walked by the house where an old man is usually sitting in the yard and we greet, but I didn’t notice him. He hollered “Hola” at me and I responded with “Buenos Dias!” A really friendly small town. And I daily pass houses with various tropical flowers like this Hibiscus I snapped with my phone this morning walking home.

Hibiscus in Atenas

The infrastructure is not great here, like a lot of small farming towns everywhere, but it is the people and relaxed, simple, happy spirit that makes Atenas a good choice! Plus the good weather helps too! Pura Vida! The new name for my website! Over the next year or so it will be transforming more I expect.