Car in Ditch

My rent house is on the side of a hill above a residential street inside the Roca Verde development. I can look down through the trees and other plants to the street if I wish – not my favorite view!   🙂

A week or so ago I heard a crash below me and a car driven by one of my Tico neighbors had gone into the concrete ditch made for rainwater going down the hill. No curb or barrier or guardrail along the rainwater ditch. Here’s 3 shots on my cellphone of the guy in the ditch, the flatbed truck preparing to pull him out and the guys helping the truck by pushing on the car (which they always do here!). The car was all scratched up and probably had some wheel, axle or alignment problems, but he drove away it away without needing the big truck to take him into a shop. Pura vida!   🙂

Daily I thank God for not owning a car!   🙂


“Walking is the only form of transportation in which a man proceeds erect – like a man – on his own legs, under his own power. There is immense satisfaction in that.”
― Edward Abbey

¡Pura Vida!

A Special Atenas Taxista

A taxi driver here is called a taxista and there are all ages and all kinds of taxistas with virtually all in Atenas being very friendly and very helpful. I don’t call just one driver, but the dispatcher and get a different one most times plus in the line downtown I always accept whoever is first in line – just seems fair! And most of the taxistas know me now and some mimic my southern drawl in saying my address (which many know)“Ciento cinco Roca Verde por favor.”  Of course I don’t notice me saying it any different than them!   🙂

Occasionally I get this one man who is one of the oldest in one of the oldest cars and the only one who is always playing Mexican Music on his car radio and enjoys being kidded about it. Well, the other night I got him after eating at Poco Loco and I told him again that I like his happy music! (Pleased him!)

Since the route he chose went right by Escuela Central (public elementary school), I asked if he would slow down or stop for me to photograph their Christmas tree at night. (I’ll include in a future post.) He stopped. Then when we later got to my house and I was getting out, he said, “Whoa, whoa! Necesita fotografié mi decoraciones.” He took me to the back window of his taxi for this elaborate manger scene packed full of many farm animals across the back shelf of his car along with Christmas balls and tinsel. Not a good photo with street light above, but an interesting story & man!    🙂

Merry Christmas!

¡Pura vida!


How did a continent go from shooting birds every Christmas to counting them? Discover the Audubon Christmas Bird Count – a holiday tradition that has transformed bird science. And maybe participate this Christmas?   🙂

Movie Adventure & Rufous-tailed Hummingbird

Rufous-tailed Hummingbird, Atenas, Costa Rica

Photographed this little guy before breakfast this morning when I walked out and saw two hummingbirds flying in and out of my garden. I try shooting them in flight but very difficult! And as good fortune continues to smile on me, this Rufous-tailed Hummingbird landed on a flower. I guess they do have to rest occasionally! This is my 5th species of hummers to photograph in my garden, almost as many as the butterflies. I have a total of 13 species photographed in my Costa Rica Hummingbirds Gallery.  This milestone was before breakfast and my movie adventure today.

One of my neighbors, Anthony, is a single artist my age renting a house in the next compound. He and I got a taxi a little before 10 AM to go to the bus station without the sweat of walking there ($1 each). We took the 10:30 freeway bus that makes a stop by the Mall in Escazu ($2 each). We first bought our tickets from the computer kiosk with touch screen that didn’t always work, but finally got it to. Then we ate lunch at the American chain restaurant Chili’s next door to the theater. Same menu as in the states. 
We could have seen Jurassic Park for $8 but chose to go all the way with the 1:25 PM 3-D and DBOX, which is a special row of large, wide-aisle seats that moved and vibrated with some scenes in the movie. That was about $14.50 each. DBOX is not worth the extra cost, at least for this movie. Not as effective as the ones in Disney World. The movie is very well done but didn’t make good use of 3-D either, so really the $8 regular movie would have been just as good. And I hope this is the last in the Jurassic series, though they set up something at the end to help continue it. They are covering tired subjects and the story line is weak. But it was a good “first movie in Costa Rica” for me since the fictitious park is supposedly here (though filmed in Hawaii and Louisiana). 
I also learned today that there is an IMAX theater in San Jose and this would have been a good movie to see in it, though even more expensive. I will not go to theater movies as much here as I did in Nashville, but good to know how to do it and that the theater is as good or better than any I’ve seen in the states. All seats are nice, large, comfortable, and with drink holders. Good sound, screen, etc. 
Uneventful 25-minute taxi ride to “Coca Cola Bus Station” on the other side of San Jose in rush hour traffic for the only place to catch a return bus to Atenas (pricey $10 each!) and then our $2 each bus ride back to Atenas where we walked home before dark. An interesting day! And I meant to photograph the theater but forgot in all the busyness of doing it the first time in mostly Spanish. But movie was in English with Spanish subtitles. Whew! Big Day! We were home around 5:15. Tired.

And if you can’t add it up in your head, that is $15.50 each for all but lunch which was about $7.50 or $22 USD for the whole day. Not bad for being in Costa Rica! And it would have been less than $20 if we had been wise enough to choose the regular movie instead of 3-D DBOX.  🙂

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!

Expat Party, A Comedy of Errors!

I greatly admire the lady with the big covered patio whom I understands gives parties regularly. That’s a great idea for us foreigners to get to know one another and create new relationships.

I got invitations to this one twice from two different sources. A widely distributed email and a call from a Tico friend with an invitation. She said our new apartment manager Hans was going and she would pick both of us up. That is when I decided to go. At least I would know two people when I got there.

The day of the party arrives and Anna calls to say that Hans can’t go because his security guard is off that night and he needs to be the security. And she will be late if she makes it at all (she never made it), but “It will be easy to find with a taxi” she says. They all know Calle Alvero (I asked her to spell it) and it is the black gate on the left and something about the end of the road. So, what the heck, it will be another adventure and I’ll just go on my own.

It is a BYOB and a snack, plus we will chip in 3 mil colones each ($6) for the pizza. No problem. I get my 3 liter bottle of Ginger Ale (the only non-alcoholic drink brought) and some pricey banana nut bread from my favorite bakery. I’m ready, so Anna and Hans will just miss eating the most wonderful banana nut bread and mixing ginger ale with whatever!

I call the taxi number saying “Necesito un taxi en Hacienda La Jacaranda, en barrio fatima, al lado de rio cajon.” Then I get the same reply as always, “En cinco minutos. Su nombre por favor?” They always say they will be here in 5 minutes and always want a name, which I guess is in case someone else tries to get my taxi? Strange thing is it actually takes right at 5 minutes every time! Small town!

I’m talking to Hans when the cab arrives and the driver doesn’t want to waste time, so I say a quick adios to Hans. Then I carefully read the address that Anna says every taxi driver in town knows. He gives me this questioning look. So I show it to him in writing on the back of an envelope. “Calle Alvareo” then added “Puerta Negra” for the black gate. He still looks puzzled and I thought that maybe this would be how I get out of going to this party that I had now lost enthusiasm for.  Then he says something like, “Oh . . . Calle Vareo.” I asked if near CoopeAtenas (which I had been told)? He responded “Si,” and we are on our way. We turn on a street near the Coope (remember that there are NO STREET SIGNS OR HOUSE NUMBERS!) and the first little house had a black gate but I said “No” and we kept going until we found a big black gate on the left near the end of the road.

We drive in the dirt driveway where there are several houses. I ask the lady at first house if this is Gail’s house? She says “No, go to the end of the road.” (so that is what Anna meant about end of road which is actually the end of their shared driveway) past other houses side-by-side in the same compound. The invitation said 5:00 but to be there before 6 if you want pizza. So I arrive at 5:45 and I’m the first one there! These expats already behave like Ticos! Fortunately Steve was right behind me, coming all the way from Sarchi! We talked and hung a white bed-sheet for Gail’s movie while others start arriving – maybe 20 total.

The first hour we stand around talking with drinks in our hands, sorta getting acquainted. Then she collects money for pizza and asks if meat or vegetarian. It arrives soon from La Finca, my favorite pizza place so far. Enjoyed the meal and table conversations. Everyone there was from Canada, U.S. or somewhere in Europe. One guy bragged about having three passports. Wow! Its all I can do to keep up with one! Another guy explains why his little Canadian-made jeep is by far the best 4WD vehicle to have in Costa Rica. Okay, I’ll make a note of that! Didn’t tell him I hope to never buy a car again. Another guy talked about spiritualism and how he went from a Pentecostal to a meditation guru. The guy from Sarchi says he is now moving to San Isidro del General in the Talamanca Mountains. Now that did interest me. That’s where I photograph the resplendent quetzal. Finally she announces that the movie is starting.

It is an Indie film winner from Argentina in Spanish with English subtitles. But she could not get the

Gail’s photo from last year’s movie party.

subtitles to work on her player nor could the 2 computer expert guys (every group has them). It seems she lost the remote for that machine and the guys say you can only go to subtitles with the remote. I watch about 15 minutes in Spanish of some criminal heist movie that I can’t understand. I go whisper to Gail how nice she is to do this, but I have a big day tomorrow and haven’t learned enough Spanish yet to follow the movie. She was fine with me going! Four others had already left! I walked the mile or so home (How would I order a taxi in Spanish to this non-address?) and then I had a nice rest of the evening. Sometimes it is harder to adjust to the expats than the Ticos!  🙂   Our parties at the apartment went better than this as did the expat potluck lunches from the little evangelical church. I’ll keep trying! And I do know several people here now! I also expect to become part of an ARCR birding group in the coming months.

See what an exciting social life I live?

How I Know I’m in Costa Rica

Peacock photographed at Rescate Animal Zooave – More about it tomorrow.


  1. The first week I used the washing machine and microwave with my Spanish-English Dictionary in one hand!
  2. People write emails of concern when I go 4 days without a blog post. (And Thanks!)
  3. I use Google Translate to write out questions and directions for bus drivers and taxi drivers before I leave for a trip! And still they don’t always understand me!
  4. Then when I still get lost or have trouble finding my bus stop there is always a friendly Tico to help me out. Like today a worker from Zooave stood out front with me to make sure I got on the right bus back to Atenas – Then when the bus zoomed by without stopping, he called the cab for me since after an hour I was tired of waiting. Still don’t quite have Tico patience yet!
  5. I’m averaging about 5 miles of walking per day with much of it uphill and feeling great!
  6. Have I mentioned that everything is in Spanish and I am still in Beginner 1.1 Spanish? Unlike the tourist towns where it pays locals to know English, a farming community has no motivation to learn English. (Can you imagine a farming community in Tennessee learning Spanish because a few migrant workers live there?) So communication is still the biggest challenge!
  7. I’m eating more fresh fruit and veggies than ever in my life and feeling great!
  8. I’m in shorts and T-shirt all day every day while sleeping under a comforter with the windows open at night.
  9. I already have two visits from Nashville scheduled on my calendar and I’ve only been here 4 weeks! And I’m excited about both! Though a little nervous about the first group that includes two Nashville restaurant owners who want me to take them to one of my little farm town restaurants. But . . . I think they’ll like it!   🙂
  10. The word I hear most often from the maintenance man here is “manana.”
  11. Today a letter was slipped under my door addressed to “Senor Charles Doggett, Apartado #3.”
I gave up on my Iolo System Mechanic support for my latest malware problem and went online to Geek Squad (since my new computer came from Best Buy with the geek service – I used Live Chat since calling them even with an 800 # is an international call.). They were wonderful! The poor guys spent 3 hours on my computer but everything is back to normal again. Think I wills stay with Geek Squad! And renew after my one year free subscription expires!
I’ll catch you up some more tomorrow and hey! Life is still good!


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.

Su Espacio -Your Space

Su Espacio is located in that corner building by the white pickup.
It is across the street from our only gas station in town which is part of
the largest Super Mercado, Coopeatenas – an important intersection for me!

The Spanish words Su Espacio mean “Your Space” in English and is the name of the community center where I had my second Spanish lesson today, located in the building pictured above across from the closest super market for me and the only gas station in town also owned by the super market. Like in small-towns in the States, there are sometimes monopolies by one person or company, though Coopeatenas is technically a cooperative owned by local farmers. 

“Your Space” could also be the theme for my first bus ride yesterday. I walked the 8 or 9 blocks to the bus terminal in Atenas and waited in line for the Alajuela Bus. It was packed with people standing. The 25 to 30 mile ride cost about $1.50 with multiple stops along the highway with people getting on and off. In the city of Alajuela, second largest city in Costa Rica and home of the San Jose International Airport, I get off at their bus terminal in central district and catch a taxi ($2) to Aero Casillas to deliver my last paperwork to make my Miami address work here. It was a notarized form from the U.S. Post Office saying I give Aero Casillas permission to receive and deliver U.S. Mail. One package and two letters are still in Customs waiting for this document before they will release the items. Thus I could not pick them up yesterday. A very nice clerk, the only one to speak English, said she would email me when the mail was released and ready for pickup, possibly by Friday. So I may make another bus trip soon! While in town I took a taxi ($2 again) to Walmart where I ate lunch and checked out the store aisle by aisle. It is pretty much the way I remember it from the August visit. I bought only 4 items: 2 cereals, a big towel, and ice cream on a stick, plus lunch in their cafeteria with typical Tico food. I had fish, rice and guacamole! Weird combo, I know!
After class this morning, I walked back to the apartment first so I could use my bathroom. The water line to Atenas from Grecia is broken, so no water in town meaning public bathrooms don’t work like the one at Su Espacio! Our apartments have a deep well and pump, so we always have water except from 10 PM to 4 AM when they let the pump cool off. Then I walked back up the hill to town to look at a house for rent and eat lunch. La Trilla (my plan) was closed with no water as was Antano. But fortunately the owners of La Caretta have a friend that stores water and they were still operating. I had a chicken casado (plate lunch) and met a couple from Iowa – snow birds! I then went by Coopeatenas and got three cardboard boxes for my move upstairs tomorrow. My friends from the August trip, Mark and Tina are moving to Panama tomorrow to try out that country for four months. I’m getting their 3rd floor end unit with better view, more air flow, more privacy, screens on windows, two balconies and no millipedes!  🙂 I’m literally and figuratively moving up in the apartments! And some of Phons family members are getting my downstairs apartment tomorrow night. 
So I am packing the rest of today, plus friends are picking up me, Mark and Tina for Wednesday night church. I had quit going on Wednesday night in the States, but will start again here since that is the English service each week. I’ll normally walk, but Mark and Tina wanted to be picked up because they are going to finish their yard sale at the church. Me and some of the apartment neighbors have already bought a lot of their stuff. I got the printer, desk chair, bath mats and plastic coat hangers, all at garage sale prices! I let the ladies have the kitchen stuff. The younger couple from Switzerland was so excited to find the muffin tin. It is funny to watch American and European expats function in this culture!
In addition to learning basic Spanish, I’m learning local ways to say things. Only older people still say Buenos Dias, Buenas Tardes, and Buenas Noches. Most just say “Buenas” regardless what time of day it is. So I’m learning to do that. When asked how you are (Como esta usted) and you are just “so so,” as we say in English, you say “mas o menos” which is how Rudy the caretaker answered me today. That is opposed to saying “bien” (good) or “muy bien” (very good). And the teenager on the bus yesterday saw a friend, did a fist bump and said “mae” which is like “hey dude.” This is fun! And everyone is very friendly here, maybe like small towns everywhere. A good place to be and no regular tourists because we don’t have tourist sights here. 
For those few, if any, readers who live in Atenas or are familiar with it, I should add that the rental house I looked at today is where the famous Kay of “Kay’s Gringo Postres” lives and I got to meet her and her husband Tom. They have  been here 7 years, but health issues have caused them to move back to the states near their son in Phoenix which is why the house is about to be available. It was a fun visit and would be a good deal financially and space-wise, but simply not as nice as the apartments. So we will see what happens. A younger couple from Texas bought their restaurant and still operate it under the same name. I haven’t eaten there yet because it is a further walk, but I will soon! Well, got to start packing!

Dos Toucans, Uno Parrot!

Raphael, my driver from the airport Wednesday.

I’m still not well and the nearest clinic I found today was not open, but my neighbors swear that if I take a gin and lemon juice tonight it will make me well overnight. Not sure I’m brave enough to try, but Jean Pierre said he would make it for me. (Note next morning – I declined their gin treatment and will stay in and rest today and go to clinic Monday.)

Jean Pierre & Elizabeth live next door and are from Switzerland. They speak good English. Then above me (I’m in a 1st floor apartment.) is Ivan & Eloise from Quebec. French is their language, but they do a little English. They let me share a cab to town this morning for them to get some stuff at a health food store and for me to get my cell phone activated at the ICE store, but alas, ICE was closed. It is Christmas week Saturday. Ivan cannot walk well using a crutch, so they go everywhere in taxis. It cost about a $1.80 (800 colonnes). They invited me to join them in a cab tonight to eat at Carreta’s, a popular expat hangout cafe, if it is open!

The apartment is fine, needing some maintenance which they are working on little by little. The setting is beautiful and while drinking tea on my veranda this morning I saw two toucans fly into the the trees down by the river and one green parrot fly into a tree next to the apartment building, plus many other small birds. Just not been up to trying to photograph birds yet.