Thursday, March 30, 2006



We have had a busy week. Mike Montgomery and his two daughters Alexa and Taylor came for a visit over the weekend. They arrived around 2:30 pm on Friday, March 24. We visited our neighbors' Rosewood Souvenir shop, where our neighbor sells wood bowls and wood objects d'art that he makes in his workshop. He also has an amazing garden behind his shop, which attracts lots of birds. He showed us a hummingbird nest in a small tree, which had a just hatched hummingbird in it. It was so tiny! We went to dinner at Marquez in town.

Jim and his assistant and friend Dorothy Chadwick arrived really late that night. They took a taxi up from San Jose and made it here in under 3 hours. I think that beats Jim's record.

On Saturday the kids and Jim and Mike went on 4x4's, and went up to the farm to drive around. Taylor drove a 4x4 and did a great job. In the afternoon we all went horseback riding on the farm with Raol. Dorothy was awesome! Kevin and Alexa rode for hours; we all rode for 2 and a half hours, and then Mike, Taylor, Alexa and Kevin rode with Raol back to stable. When they got to the stable, Lex and Kev kept riding in the meadow there. Jim bought Kev his horse, although Raol will keep him at the stable for now. More about that later.

On Sunday we all went to Selvature, where Dorothy and I walked on the hanging bridges, and everyone else did the ziplines. They had a blast, and everyone except Taylor did the Tarzan Swing.

Thursday, March 23, 2006



Kev has had a rough week. A few days ago when he was giving Joe the puppy a bath he got the flea shampoo in his eyes, and we made an emergency run to the doctor for eye drops and assurance (for him) that he wouldn't go blind. Dr. Douglas assured him his eyesight was safe. Last night Kev woke up around midnight with an earache that had him screaming in pain. Those of us who know Kev well know he has an extremely high tolerance for pain, so this was scary. What to do at midnight in a tiny town that doesn't have an emergency room? I called the clinica and the night guard suggested I drive down the mountain to Las Juntas to go to the clinica there, which might be open. I ruled that idea out, as Catie was asleep, and I was nervous about the hour plus ride and then roaming around Las Juntas looking for the clinic.
We tried everything we could think of: hot towel on the ear, ear drop, Benadryl - but nothing eased the pain. He finally fell asleep in my arms around 4 am. As the mother of 4 children, you would think I would have had a lot of nights like this, but I've (we've) been lucky, as this was a first for me to be up all night with a sick child. It was so hard not to be able to really do anything.
The good news is that we went to see Dr Douglas as soon as he opened up his Centro Medico this morning. He diagnosed a bacterial ear infection, gave us antibiotics, better ear drops and some pain medication. He also gave us his cell phone, and told us we can call him next time we have a sick child at night. What a Godsend!
Kev's feeling a lot better now. Cate skipped school today, and we are all home taking it easy.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006


Me llamo Kevin

A group of Canadians visted the Cloud Forest School yesterday, and spent some time in Kevin's classroom. One of the volunteers spent a lot of time talking to Kevin and when he was getting ready to leave he commented on how well Kevin spoke English, and asked where he learned to speak English so well. Go Kev!

Tuesday, March 21, 2006


The Coffee Tour

Our neighbors have opened a new business, a coffee tour to teach visitors everything about Costa Rican coffee growing, processing and even consuming. They have a fantastic restaurant that offers traditional Costa Rican food that I can see from the second floor of my house (it's the red roof hiding in the trees), surrounded by fields of coffee plants. They also have a place to roast the coffee, which I will visit next week when I pick up 15 cajuelas of coffee from a neighbor. That's a lot of coffee, by the way. I think things are looking up in the neighborhood!

Monday, March 20, 2006


Banana Man

We noticed last week that a banana tree in the area in front of our house (garden makes it sound too civilized - it's pretty much been overtaken by jungle growth)was sporting a pretty decent crop of bananas. I'm sure that this huge clump of bananas hanging from the tree must have a name. Kevin assured me that the proper way to take down this clump of bananas was to cut down the entire tree. This sounded extremely wasteful to me, so I checked with our local authority of most things, Dona Marta, and she assured me this was true. So, Kevin and I, armed with a saw and and axe, attacked the banana tree, and were successful in felling it. Dona Marta pointed out tactfully that this is normally done with a machete. There is another tree ripe for the picking, and so I guess we'll try a machete on that one. The banana tree is very fleshy, with a white, porous interior. I can see why you can make paper out of banana fiber. I was almost inspired to try it myself.

After cutting down the branch of bananas, we had to find somewhere to hang it so the bananas will ripen. (If you leave the bananas on the tree to ripen all the animals in the neighborhood will eat them before you get a chance to.) We figured the pila (outside sink area) was the best place to do it, so we strung up a rope and - voila! Bananas ripening! I hope the kids like bananas bread.

Sunday, March 19, 2006


The Road to the Farm: Before and After

Our farm in Canitas is exactly two miles from our house in Santa Elena. The first mile is on a frequently travelled road that leads up from the Pan American Highway, and it is usually in pretty good shape. The second mile is on a sparsely travelled public road in Canitas that the municipality doesn't seem to maintain. There is a particularly challenging part before you get to our farm, because the road is quite steep and strewn with boulders that fall from the mountainside. We have a Land Rover which manages most roads very well, but even for us this road has been challenging.

Enter the neighbors with a plan! A delegation of two neighbors visited us last week. Henry, Don Fausto's son, and Gilbert, who owns the farm below Don Carlos. They were polling the various people who own property along the poorly maintained road to ask who would contribute to paying to fix it. The plan was to hire a tractorista who would work by the hour. The cost was 20,000 colones (about $40) per hour. We agreed to participate, as did a number of the other neighbors, and I saw the tractorista start the work last Friday. I can see the road to our farm from our front porch, and could watch the tractor's progress with binoculars.

The kids and I went to the far to hike today, and we were quite impressed with our new, improved road! The next plan for the tractorista is to have him repair the road down into Don Carlos' old farm so that we will be able to drive to the corral at the bottom of the road.

Saturday, March 18, 2006


Hot Springs in Guacimal

I have been hearing about the hot springs in Guacimal for a couple of years now. Last summer Jim and I looked for them on our way to Tamarindo, and didn't find them. Jim is back in Winter Park for the week, and I wanted something to do so I asked my new friend Margarita and her daughter Janisse (who is in class with Catie) if she knew where the hot springs are, and if she wanted to come with us. We left this morning around 10, and came home around 4. Guacimal is only about 16 miles from Santa Elena where we live, but it's down a rather tortuous mountain road and my maximum speed was about 25 mph max. It's hard to concentrate on driving because the views are so incredible, but the thought of falling off the narrow road kept my mind on the road. I did stop to take one photo of the view.

The hot springs were a bit of a disappointment. There were a four concrete pools, 2 big ones and 2 small ones, painted blue with water tubes leading into them from the river below. There are supposed to be 2 hot pools and 2 cool pools (in theory so that you can soak in the hot pool and then cool off in the cool water), but a truck had driven over the cold water tubes earlier in the week, so there was only hot water coming from the spring below. It is pretty hot in Guacimal, so we didn't stay in the hot pool for very long. The pools also weren't very clean, and in fact there were some shrimps (cooked a bright pink) by the hot water in the big pool. The man in charge explained that the shrimp come in the with the spring water. We all agreed that it was worth the trip though, as we had been curious to see the hot springs, even though we hadn't expected them to be encased in blue cement.

After the hot springs, we visited a friend of Margarita who has the most incredible collection of plants around his house, some of which were for sale. He also had hundreds of fruit trees, and gave us bags of mangoes and star apples and another fruit I had never seen before. It's bright red when ripe, very sweet, with a cashew shaped handle on top. The kids tried to catch some baby chicks running around the outside kitchen. I'll try to post a picture of that; it reminded me of the outside kitchens on Saipan.

We all decided that it had been a most satisfactory day. We had left Jumper at home guarding the house, and she seemed a bit put out when we got home. Jumper loves to go riding in the car, and I suspect she knew we had gone on an adventure.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006


Newest Member of the Family

On Sunday when we came back from horseback riding we saw the cutest, smallest puppy marching down the road in front of our house. He looks like a minature Rotweiler. Catie immediately claimed him and named him Joe. Later she asked me what "Yo no sea" (sounds like "Joe no say") means, so I have a feeling Joe's name is actually Yo. Joe is probably about a month old. Jumper doesn't seem to mind having a puppy around and mainly ignores him. There are a lot of street dogs here, and I don't want to make a habit of taking in every stray that walks by our house. I'll try to get Joe's picture posted so you can see how cute he is. I'm going to take him to the Vet today to have him checked out.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006



We went horseback riding for about 4 hours on Sunday on our farm. Raol brought three horses, and Catie rode with him. Raol's 9 year old son Brandon also came along. Kevin rode a new horse, 4 year old Imperial, and I rode Whiskey, my usual horse. Raol asked about Alex, and said that he hoped that he would be coming to Costa Rica soon.

We rode along the road, and then went down the road into what was Don Carlos' farm. It's lot easier to ride in the dry season, because the grass is shorter, and the horses are less likely to slip. We rode almost all the way to the river, and then walked the rest of the way. On the way back, we visited a waterfall, but had to hike for about 15 minutes to get there.

Raol wants to sell Imperial to Kevin, and also give him riding lessons. He'll definitely take the lessons; I'm not so sure about the horse.

Friday, March 03, 2006



Here is a picture of Kevin and Catie waiting for the bus in front of the panaderia on the first day of school. This is also where the bus drops off Kevin every day at 3:25 p.m.

Thursday, March 02, 2006


Farewell Dinner with Alex and Tiana

Alex and Tiana invited me, Kevin and Catie to dinner at Ruth's Chris on Monday, February 13th. We ate a wonderful steak dinner, which will most likely be our last until we return to Florida!

Alex wore his new white sports jacket, which looked extremely good on him. Kevin sported Angelo's leather jacket, which went with his GQ look.

Thank you Alex! We miss you and T!

Wednesday, March 01, 2006



Yesterday Catie and I got off the school bus in front of Chunches, the local bookstore/laundromat/coffee shop where I figured I could buy index cards to make flash cards for Catie's reading words from LHPS. They had boxes to hold index cards, but no index cards, so we'll make do with sheets of paper. Then we went to the butcher where we bought all of the available chickens - 2 of them. There's a new ice cream shop run by the Cheese Factory next to the Catholic church, so went there to buy Kev some of his favorite ice cream - choco-menta, and Catie got a chocolate cone. Then we went to the produce store to buy carrots, celery and onions to make soup.

I thought we should take a taxi, as I was carrying all the groceries, but Catie wanted to walk home, a distance of about 2 miles. It was slow going at first, as we had to walk up a steep hill, which is a pretty good shortcut, as it cuts out the road going past the soccer field. Cate slipped and fell on the gravel, and was feeling pretty upset until she saw a daisy growing by the side of the road. She carried it to the Virgen Shrine, where she left it after kneeling for a few minutes. I thought she was saying a prayer, but she told me she was casting a spell.

Kev came home at 3:25, and was upset that I hadn't been waiting at the Panaderia for him. He had a much better day, and for his homework he had to do some reading. He has started to read King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table.

The surveyor arrived in the late afternoon to start his work surveying the farms. He's staying in the casita, so I quickly washed and dried the sheets and blanket on his bed. He was already gone this morning when we left to catch the school bus.

This is probably my last morning sitting here in Catie's class. I found out how to get wireless at home; Jim has to buy the equipment in San Jose, you install it, and use it. There isn't a monthly charge. I have no idea why this would work, but apparently it does. Let's hope so, or I'll have to keep coming to Prepa every day.

The Cloud Forest School's philosophy embraces educating the whole child. It's a very laid back approach that is very foreign to Kevin and Catie's experience. For example, class is supposed to start at 8 am. I went to speak to someone in the office, and when I came back to Catie's class is was about 8:15. No sign of the 2 teachers, and only 4 of the 18 children, including Catie, were in the classroom. Catie and her new girlfriends were making cards. The teachers showed up about 8:40 and the rest of the kids trickled in. Beth, who wasn't in class yesterday, announced that she had heard from Luz Marina, the other teacher, that the children had been very "active" (that was an understatement!) yesterday, and so today she had wanted to give all of them the opportunity to expend some of their energy so that they could sit more quietly in class. It really worked; the little boys are more receptive today.

Kev likes the school's relaxed atmosphere. Everyone is on a first name basis, which strikes me as odd because Costa Rican culture is actually fairly formal when it comes to titles. Next week when they are more settled, I'll start in on their work from LHPS. So far, they have both been reading at night at home. They haven't watched much TV or played video games since school started. Last night they were both asleep before 8:30. You get pretty tired out here!

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