Sunday, July 09, 2017

Escape From Nicaragua or We Rode the Tica Bus

This morning we very sadly had to leave the paradise behind at Playa Marsella, Nicaragua, leave the beautiful beach and the lovely cabina for a return to Costa Rica with renewed 90 day visas to stay in country. We took a last long look at the beach as we packed up and made our way down to the waiting taxi.

On the way back to town to catch the Tica Bus we both clearly saw that the area was lovely, no lurking French robbers on motorbikes, no dumped trash or anything else negative, at least until we came to the obstacle in the road, two large dogs merrily screwing and refusing to move over for our taxi. There were fields of horses, cattle, the occasional mule-drawn cart containing a farmer and lots of lovely countryside. Even the river we'd forded three days before had trickled back down to nothing.

We made it to town and caught that bourgeois Tica Bus, with the wifi and air conditioning. Because we had to leave so early we didn't get breakfast at the hotel and by the time we got to the bus we only had time to board. So no breakfast, and most importantly, no coffee for me. I distinctly do not do well without coffee, but I knew we'd soon be at the Nicaraguan-Costa Rican border and the border had hordes of vendors, both junk and food. I'd just get coffee and food then. Not quite how it played out.

When we'd crossed three days before we'd walked, having plenty of time to do whatever we needed. Riding over in the Tica Bus we had to surrender our passports, 4 bucks each and an exit form, which the bus driver presented to the authorities while we wandered around for thirty minutes at the border. Oh sure, there were plenty of food vendors, but no one with coffee, save one elderly lady with instant coffee. After viewing the cooking food offerings I was afraid to buy anything, open grills cooking meats, every possible candy and prepackaged cooked chicken and plantains. But the cooking/serving areas were pretty filthy and the last thing I wanted was projectile diarrhea while riding another four hours on the bus. No fresh fruit, but plenty of cigarettes. I was reminded of my trips to Mexico many years ago so I decided to play it very safe and buy some baked goods from an elderly lady. These tiny pastries were supposed to be stuffed with a bean and cheese combo in a poppy seed pastry shell. Gross and disgusting tasting and hard a a brick. Literally could not eat more than a spoonful serving. So all I had for breakfast/lunch was a tiny piece of this stale pastry and a diet coke. Not enough if you suffer low blood sugars or high.

While I was puzzling over what to eat and what would make me sick as a dog (a real fear - you cannot drink the water in Nicaragua, even the hotel insists you only drink from their supply of bottled water) Jim spotted Leticia, our border crossing buddy. She was trying to get a free ride on any bus going back into Costa Rica. She told us what happened after we departed over the river to the hotel.

The taxi driver abandoned her on the riverside, telling her to get stuffed and she walked for miles in the dark before bedding down and sleeping by the side of the road. The next morning a local took pity on her, driving her back into the city where she'd ended up in the hospital. She mentioned nothing further about visiting her sister or having surgery in Nicaragua.

What I noticed today that I didn't on Wednesday evening is that Leticia had track marks on both arms. She's an addict of some substance and before we reboarded the Tica Bus she wanted money from us. Yeah, not happening after the crazy things she'd claimed and now turning up strung out with more crazy sounding stories. I wish her well, but once I found out she'd tried to claim to the hotel that she was with us and sleeping in our room I was done with her. I hope she gets off drugs, but I am not prepared or capable of dealing with another person in my life with substance abuse issues. I've fought that battle with loved ones too many times.

We got back on the bus and I told Jim I knew that the bus would stop again in the beautiful rest station that they'd stopped at on the way up and I'd get something to eat then. I had the shakes by then. Because the bus was running late it ended up bypassing the stop, but a local man got on the bus with Fantas, Cokes and sandwiches for sale.  Yeah, so I paid 4 dollars for a coke and a grilled cheese and baloney sandwich. It didn't help. Started developing nausea and a bad headache which spiraled into a migraine an hour later. The sandwich was delicious, but I'm still quite confused by baloney turning up randomly in things where you least expect it. The man selling the sandwiches said they were all grilled cheese.

By the time we got to the San Jose airport I was sicker still. Jim had some drama when the guys on the bus could not find his laptop case in the cargo hold for ten minutes and then we had to fight off a pack of taxi drivers fighting for our fare not knowing that when we emerged from the bus we were planning on taking an airport shuttle to the rental car company.

Picked up the rental car and now we're off to look for a place to live in areas of the country we love. Right now we're at our favorite resort in the Arenal area and we looked at a beautiful place on the way down here owned by one of the managers at the rental car company. We have some leads, it's going to take time. We're looking near Lake Arenal, the Atenas area, near the beaches of Guanacaste area and down near Quepas/Matapalo/Dominical.

Sadly enough Jim has decided to extend his teaching of English at the school in Copey for another three weeks beyond his contract ending in late July because his replacement flaked out on the school and they begged him to stay. So a few weeks longer in our pokey little room. I just hope it stops raining.

Friday, July 07, 2017

If It's Not One Thing, It's Nicaragua

So bright and early on Wednesday morn Jim and I left Copy, Costa Rica for three days beachside in Playa Marsella, Nicaragua. We got a beautiful beach cabina for a great price for our 72 hours outside of Costa Rica to meet our visa requirements.

While I haven't been here the 90 days you can stay Jim is getting close. We both qualify for residency in Costa Rica, we have the monthly income, etc, but I'm reluctant to file for permanent residency certification this soon. Quite frankly I'm not really loving life in Copey between the daily cold rain, shivering at night, substandard accommodations and food situation I'm reluctant to commit so soon and fork over the rumored 2,500 we're told we must pay before finding our new home and happiness.

So we decided to do what long lines of Americans here tend to do, take the bus into Nicaragua and have ourselves a little mini vacay. Boogie in, boogie out clutching new 90 tourist visas in our hot little hands.

We ended up taking a taxi through the mountains back to Santa Maria, then catching a bus into the capital city of San Jose, changing buses again into one going up to the border. Most Americans catch the official Tico bus in San Jose, taking a modern double-decker air conditioned bus with wifi up into their vacation destinations in Nicaragua. We could not. You have to buy your Tico Bus tickets a couple of days in advance, you cannot just wait until you show up at the bus station.

Didn't matter. You can get tickets pretty easily to what I call the local milk run buses. No wif, no air conditioning, but way way cheaper and about like our average bus ride into San Jose. There was just one problem, when we got into San Jose we discovered that the bus station we were at was the WRONG one. Taxied to the only bus station that had space for us on the bus, but were taken to the cleaners by the taxi driver. He drove us around the city of San Jose, running up the meter to over fifty bucks even as I kept protesting that he was driving us in circles. Tourist taxi, they see Americans coming and automatically assume we're rich, behaving accordingly.

Turns out we had a two hour wait for the next bus to the border, so we decided to get lunch at the only place to eat at the bus station. Jim had pizza that had the texture, colors and consistency of Playdough. My hamburgeusa wasn't much better. It had a thick slab of bologna on it with the ground meat, tomato and lettuce. Now I've had hamburgers in this country before and been surprised by things like a layer of cucumbers, but never bologna. This meal was something of a harbinger for the rest of the trip. It looks one way, but it's something else.

Once we bordered the bus we found a mother and toddler sitting in our assigned seats. I felt very guilty about having to kick a mother out of our seats. She stood with the child for the entire five hour journey. We found out later that she, and others standing in the bus, didn't have tickets. Apparently sometimes the poor ride these things and hope that there are seats for them.

I noticed that one of the ladies standing was crying and making a big scene over not having a seat, demanding a seat because she was disabled and had a letter of medical necessity. Later at the meal stop she asked me for money and I gave her enough so she could eat.

The bus ride was pretty miserable, back roads, bumpy riding and hot as hell even with the windows open in the rain. No way to even read because I don't do well on bus rides or cars because of motion sickness. Jim was so sick with a cold, was shivering and sweating against me in that tiny confined space.

As we got closer and closer to Penas Blanco, the Costa Rican bordertown, I noticed that the roads got worse. I didn't think that was even possible, but it was. All southbound traffic was routed on a detour and the southbound lanes closed. We arrived at the border at sunset, paying our Costa Rican exit fees, declaring we were exporting nothing beyond personal possessions. The bus dumped us out at the border and hightailed it out of there. The Costa Rican side seemed pretty normal, a big building, a restroom, a well lit fully staffed government building. But.... when we exited the building we had to trudge down a dirt road with our suitcases, dodging mud puddles and semi trucks about 300 meters in the pitch black dark.

While we were going through Costa Rican passport control the lady who'd been making a scene on the bus and who I'd given a few bucks approached us crying. She could not read and as a result could not fill out the customs form to leave the country. We helped her and she attached herself to us, going with us through the rest of the border crossing. Her name was Leticia. 

When we got to the Nicaraguan border control it was one lone guy in a paramilitary type uniform with an assault rifle slung over his back presiding over a wooden picnic table, who proceeded to search Jim's suitcase, seemingly disappointed that all Jim had was clothing in his bag.

This was repeated many times over a few hundred more meters, a picnic table or rough shelter like  bus stop, showing our passports again and again before getting to the actual visa and immigration office. I was seriously scared! Everyone had assault rifles and it was very clear we'd arrived in a third world country.

But the immigration office was modern and well lit. We had to each pay a buck as soon as we entered, it was never explained to us what this was for, but we got a stamped piece of paper showing we'd paid our buck before we had to pay another 12 bucks as an entrance fee each. They xrayed our luggage and we were off.

While all this was going on a young guy started pestering me, insisting that he would drive us to the town we were staying, San Juan Del Sur, for fifty American dollars. I kept telling him to talk to Jim, the Big Boss, the Jefe and he kept shouting lower and lower prices until he'd finally agreed to drive us to the hotel for 24 bucks. Leticia kept whimpering that she was coming with us and would get a room because the bus for her sister's town didn't leave until morning.

We took the taxi because we'd just missed the last Chicken bus for the night (old American school buses that are used in Nicaragua as local buses). Armed border patrol checked our passports one more time in the parking lot of the taxi area. There were a ton of what Jim terms 'Le Tourista Traps' at the border, chockablock filled with junk, but I didn't get a chance to check for a souvenir thimble. We left because it was well after dark and we had a forty minute ride ahead to the hotel.

I kept asking Jim if he'd given our driver the name of the hotel, the Mirasella Beach Hotel, and he said he had, but when we got in the middle of San Juan Del Sur the driver stopped, wanting to know what hotel we were staying at. Why, the Mirasella on Playa Mirasella. The driver went nuts, refusing to take us there except if we paid him another twenty bucks. He kept repeating how far away it was, how horrible the road and ranting about 'French robbers' on motorbikes on the back road. Jim and he had heated words with Leticia trying to translate/intervene.

What choice did we have? None. We agreed to pay him. The taxi driver pulled onto the beach access road and we were plunged into pitch blackness on the most rutted dirt road through the jungle. There were houses for sale along the road that looked like Italian palaces deserted and dark and we passed gated developments here and there while the driver muttered semi-hysterically about robbers in the woods and trash dumping illegally and other weird things and crimes as we rode around. At least that's what my pigeon Spanish and Leticia's translation was...

We were following the signs through the pitch black night to the Mirasella Hotel when we hit the weirdest obstacle yet, the road was washed out into a deep pit, half the road five feet deep into a sink hole and the road ended at a river bed, a river bed holding swiftly flowing water. The taxi driver refused, flat out refused for any amount of money to try and ferry us across.

It was about this time I came out of the taxi to try and access the situation, doing what I do best, tripping over my feet and face planting right into the mud and rock road.

Now the taxi driver was screaming about ghosts and robbers and calling on the powers of the Lord and Mother Mary while Leticia was freaking out too.

You can't see it well in this photo but there is a foaming river in the middle of this photo.

Finally Jim decided to call the hotel and beg for rescue while our driver was counting off and calling on all the saints in heaven and the manager said he would send someone down to pick us up and carry us over the river and the last 200 meters to the hotel.

We wait, and we wait, and we wait, in the darkness with a screaming praying Latin caricature of a cab driver, a woman also freaking out that looks like she might just be strung out on heavy drugs while she's somehow attached herself to us. I start wondering if this is some sort of shakedown and if we're going to die here, but eventually we hear the sounds of some vehicle missing a muffler and misfiring madly making it's slow way towards us. Hooray! It's the hotel manager and the handyman come to rescue us! They load the trunk with our suitcases while we climb in the back.

Leticia starts speaking rapidly with the manager, in Spanish, begging to stay at the hotel for free as far as I can tell. Later the manager tells me that she has insisted she is with us and will be staying in our room. No way did we ever discuss this! The manager rebuffs her, even after she claims that she's afraid of the cab driver possibly raping her (ha! He's too busy calling on JesusChristo and assorted Catholic deities to be thinking about that!) Later, he tells me he was pretty sure she was strung out on drugs and all sorts of trouble. Our last view of Leticia is her standing on the other side of the river with the cabby as we ford the river.  He's still calling out 'Dios Mios'

Hopefully he took her back to town and dropped her off at one of the very inexpensive hostels back in San Juan Del Sur.

We get to the hotel, get our room and flop into bed, exhausted by a crazy day where we thought we might die a couple times over. The room is all wooden, old fashioned but so clean and beautiful. We can hear, but not see the ocean mere steps from our front door.

And the next morning we're treated to the most beautiful private beach.......

For the last several days we're swam in the ocean, swam in the beautiful infinity edge pool. I've climbed the cliff over to the next beach, eaten squid and worn a swimsuit that Lori Alexander would so not approve of with a bikini bottom that's French cut showing off more of my lumpy booty than I have in years now. I've been wearing almost no clothes here and I don't care. This is paradise.

Sadly tomorrow we are returning to Costa Rica, but we're taking the spoiled entitled peoples bus with the wifi and air conditioning. Then we're picking up a rental car in San Jose and heading out to first Arenal, followed by Tamarindo, a few days in Playa Hermano before going down to Manuel Antonio. The official househunting in paradise has begun.

There's a house on this beach for sale but the asking price is over 700,000 bucks and it's repped by Sotherbys. Out of our price range. I did find a mountainside lot with water and electric hookups in a gated community with a view of this beach for the firesale price of 8 thousand. Might be perfect for a tiny home. Just not sure I want to live in Nicaragua.

Tuesday, July 04, 2017

Finally Adjusting

Well my oxygen levels finally came back up again to low-normal and it's helped with the mood I've been in. Yesterday when I talked to Cindy Kunsman I described what I'd been feeling since arriving in Copey as 'Cranky as fuck' Not so cranky now and it's not just the oxygen levels.

Jim has a cold and is rather cranky himself. Right before the cold manifested he picked several rather dumb fights with me over my mother, her plans for her estate and the fact that I refused to pay a high price in Culpeper to get my will notarized. The will is the only one I have any real control over and I was told that since we're likely going to be staying in Costa Rica that I need to have it notarized at the Embassy in San Jose. It would certainly be cheaper. Not sweating it because it's pretty simple and I think my children would divide everything the way I listed anyway.

After a morning of working on NLQ and trying to take care of various things we took the bus into Santa Maria after lunch, back to the bank in order to pick up the debit card for our colones account. The funny thing is that the bank makes you keep your accounts separate if you use colones (local currency) and dollars. So we have a dollar account and a colones account. Seems redundant to me.

The interesting thing about the bank is that it took forever and we were shuttled between departments just to get the debit card for the colones account, get online banking and to add my name to both accounts. In the states doing these things at our local bank would have taken mere minutes. Here in the CR it took well over two hours and I had to fill out the same damn forms again and again for each thing we did. A lot of hurry up and wait.

It was pouring down raining during our day too, complicating matters by soaking both of our feet, in leather hiking shoes no less and soaking our clothing even with umbrellas.

After the bank we managed to catch a ride up to Larry's house. Larry is a local American living here and he and his wife graciously agreed to meet with us, as we both had a million questions about relocating here. Over coffee an marzipan cake they answered our questions and I started to feel just a little bit better about our decision to relocate here. Jim had been agonizing over the fact that I shipped 35 boxes of household goods here, but they told me that I should have shipped everything. Apparently we're not going to be hit with very high tax rates on household goods and it's impossible to get many of the things we're shipping.

Also they gave us contact information to those that can help us navigate the complex residency maze to get our residency approval. For now we'll have to leave for 3 days out of the country in Nicaragua to keep on the right side of the immigration tourist rules. We're going to leave in a few minutes to purchase bus tickets, on the Tico bus up to the resort area in Nicaragua. I've booked a beachfront room for three days there. Excited to add another country to my world map.

After a taxi ride back into Santa Maria proper after a long visit with our new friends we dashed around in the monsoon like rain to get Jim some cold medicine, using Spanlish and a few other things we needed. Took the bus back from Santa Maria and ended up very sick to my stomach from the twists and turns of the road combined with the fogged in windows of the bus. I've always had motion sickness problems

One shower using the suicide shower method of jumping in when the water is warm and leaping out the second we heard the heater conks out and a pile of Panadol cold medicines for Jim we got into the bed to cuddle and read as soon as it got true dark outside and the temperatures dropped again. We didn't stay in the bed long because as I was reading a spider almost as big as my Ipad leapt into the bed, between Jim and I and landed right on the screen of the Ipad. We both screamed and leapt from the bed.

Our bedroom here:

And the plastic paneled bath:

Thankfully only our home until July 23 and we'll be traveling the next two weeks. Photos and stories from on the road coming.

Sunday, July 02, 2017

More First World Problems

Friday we managed to catch the bus into Santa Maria and change money. After I did a little shopping. Things I ended up with:
  • Hand towels (apparently the landlord does not use these?)
  • Thread
  • Bathmat
  • Drying rack to dry my underwear in the shower 
  • Basket to hold toiletries
  • Assorted yummy snacks
What I could not find no matter how I looked or looked up item in in English-Spanish dictionary.
  • Wash cloths - Everyone was puzzled by my requests for these and our landlord does not have them. I'm not sure why no one here uses washcloths, but I had to sacrifice a half skein of nice yarn I'd brought with me to finish up a scarf and now have yarn crocheted washcloths. 
  • Yarn - Again something that puzzled the shopkeepers even if I brought a sample. It was my fall back for turning out a few washcloths. Turned out to be easier just to use what I had with me.
We had the most delicious iced coffee at a cafe connected to the local coffee co-op before spending some time in the park before the bus hauled us back up the mountains.

Yesterday evening we went with our hosts/landlord to a restaurant a few towns over.. Learned on the way there that the constant rain we've had this last week has knocked out power in many areas of Costa Rica, including San Jose, and in large swathes of Central America.

The ride to the restaurant was sort of terrifying, we were riding over those narrow windy mountain roads with our driver driving RIGHT IN THE MIDDLE OF THE ROADS at a high clip of speed. Between the crazy ride and the fact that I started having an asthma attack because of the driver's huge amount of cologne I wasn't in the best of moods when we arrived.

The restaurant was an interesting place. The guy that runs it kept bringing us shot glasses of some sort of secret liquor he makes that tastes like a combination of Kalua, cherries and chocolate. I had some problems with the food because they mostly serve huge racks of ribs and I'm not really a ribs kind of gal. Ended up with a burrito, filled with rib meat. Tasty, but not at all what I wanted. While I was ordering the landlord jumped in and ordered it for me. Uh! But the array of homemade candies and pastries made up for my distaste over the meal.

Today has been all day myself engaged in trying to rectify Jim's dying laptop. Literally, all day spend updating software and tweaking the damn thing. Not like we can replace it easily or cheaply here.

Tomorrow, more bus rides to Santa Maria, visits to the bank and store and planning out the next two weeks traveling around the country and a possible side trip up into Nicaragua. Thankfully it seems to have cut back on the rain now. And napping, still lots and lots of napping.

The clouds creeping down into the mountains around Copey.

Saturday, July 01, 2017

Coping With Copey

Today was evidence of some of the glaring challenges of living in Costa Rica. I awoke when the electricity hiccuped and shut off my VPAP machine. Little did I know that small electrical skip-jump-hop also meant that the telephone and internet died suddenly in the tiny town of Copey.

I've been here a week today and I have to admit it hasn't been as easy and charming as I fantasized in my frenzied rush to remodel the house and get here. Copey is lovely, a tiny town of tin-roofed ramshackle houses painted a fantastical array of pastel pinks, blues, yellows and every other shade suitable for the grand Victorian homes in San Franciso. It sits in a valley, surrounded by mountains so steep that the clouds obscure the mountain tops. There's a beautifully landscaped community soccer field, an antique Catholic church wearing peeling yellow paint the same shade as butter, there are terraced apple orchards on the mountain slopes and even farm animals on those tilted meadows.

Most of the locals I've met seem to be very nice, if devoid of much English. I am forced to use more Spanish than I anticipated every single day. There's a small store, the contents of which would not be out of place in an American 7-11. We stop there daily for fruit juice and snacks as we wander the town on foot since our car is being shipped overseas right now. There's one nice restaurant we visit daily for freshly squeezed local apple juice, that is when it's actually open and not on the distinctive Tico Time.

Tico Time is a tricky thing. It means that people here don't always stick with posted times, preferring to operate their lives and businesses when they feel like it instead of on schedule.

Stray dogs wander the streets and it's not unusual to see roaming cows, chickens, horses and the rare cat. The streets are rutted and patched, but still nowhere near as awful as those leading up into the mountains out of town. We took a treacherous ride with a local teacher twice upon twisting, winding roads filled with potholes up into the mountain communities in the clouds to judge at school spelling bees.

Twice now Jim and I have judged at local community school spelling bees on the grand round leading to the area spelling champ and we're slated to judge the regional and finals at the end of next month. The spelling bees have been a lot more fun that I anticipated, smiling school children wearing a grand array of elaborate hairstyles and pretty starched uniforms. We're both treated like celebrities at these things, asked to get up and speak about our lives briefly before being given beautiful gift baskets stuffed with local fruits, candy and houseplants.

Jim has been teaching his classes religiously, sometimes for long hours. I usually come with him to the school, sitting in another part of the lone classroom working on posting for No Longer Quivering since the english language school has the strongest internet connection in town.

We're going to Santa Maria today, a much bigger town, to convert dollars to colones, make a bank deposit and for me to get a few extras we need in our tiny apartment in the local guesthouse. That means a bus ride up over these mountains over hairpin curves, steep dropoffs into the valley and past a beautiful waterfall.

The apartment isn't much. It's bare bones, one medium sized room with a closet, a bed, a nightstand and a desk. We do have a private bath, with what I always laughingly refer to as the 'Suicide Shower', one of those Latin American horror shows with electrical wires affixed to the showerhead so that if you time it exactly right you might get a few minutes of lukewarm water instead of bone-chilling icy needles pouring onto you.

Costa Rican Suicide Shower....

And it's cold here at night. Very cold, like maybe in the 40s or 50s degree range. We sleep under a pile of blankets, six or so, huddling together like little puppies trying to steal each others body heat to stay warm. I didn't bring enough warm clothing since my only experiences with Costa Rica is the tropical heat, so I'm wearing my lone pair of jeans, unwashed, every single day with my lone sweater.

The food here has been a continuing problem for me, our landlady, who also fixes all our meals, has no idea about nutrition and carbs. Since having all those bouts of MRSA and having to find ways to control my blood sugar flares I've been vigilant in what I eat. I did well our last trip here, but had much more control over what we were eating and were eating clean, no processes foods. Our landlady is all processed foods and uber-carbs. I saw the family and noticed that everyone is pretty large, figured out quickly that it's the way they eat. I had to have several conversations with her about what I need to keep well.

She tries, but it's been frustrating when you explain to her more than once that you cannot have french fries, noodles, beans and rice all at the same time and she immediately serves you soup containing a sliver of chicken, two types of noodles, potatoes and rice at the same time. This family is eating meals that are comprised of perhaps 90 percent carbs! I see this as the terrible eating habits of America infiltrating another culture.

It kind of shocks me how incredibly bad for you most of the food here is. Our guesthouse host also runs a bakery, a soda (small snack bar) and has apple orchards plus avocado orchards here, yet she virtually never serves us anything like avocado, apples or bread. I've had a few bad reactions to some of the processed things, like something she served one night that tasted like strawberry flavored Nestle Quik powder.

I have had a number of things when I go out and about I've never had before, like fresh passion fruit, the best fried fish ever, raw sugar cane juice, every type of juice imaginable. Some of the fruit I have back at our apartment are things I don't even know the name for. So the food here isn't entirely bad, there are some great things to eat, just not where we're staying.

I'm still struggling with my asthma because of the high altitudes and the fact that it has literally rained for days here. The rains are affecting my moods, it's depressing and since the house and nowhere else has anything like heaters or air conditioning when it rains here for hours on end everything you own is quite damp. I've had underwear that's been washed and hanging to dry for three days now in the shower. Speaking of which, the bathroom is constructed of all corrugated plastic panels, sort of a sturdy version of those huge political signs that sprout on American lawns during voting season.

But this is just temporary. There is light at the end of the tunnel, we leave for a few weeks on Monday, going to house hunt near the beach. It will be warm, there will be better meals and I can wear the pile of thin cotton beach dresses and shorts I packed. When we get back to Copey it will be only for a week

Monday, June 26, 2017

First World Problems

Cranky today. I barely slept last night and I think it's an indicator of my asthma getting ready to ramp up into an attack. I have all the precursor symptoms, bad mood, lots of coughing, no sleep.

It does not help that we're up above Denver as far as altitude and I'm having issues with low oxygen levels. 

I'm a little less enchanted with this place today. The room is just awful, small, pokey and filled with bugs. Not enough electrical outlets to run my various lung appliances. Electrical problems. Every time Jim turns on the light in the bathroom it cuts off the electricity to my VPAP machine.

But... I'm writing a list of what I need to buy on Friday when we take the bus back into Santa Maria to make that pokey room just a little less awful. I feel sort of like this today, I know I'm judging this place on my first world standards, which is so unfair.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

I've Finally Arrived!


That's the main thing I've been doing since landing here in Copey, Costa Rica. Sleeping.

It's hard not too. The remodel of my house was fraught with stress, problems and was turning into an endless money pit. I finally broke, tossed a few things in my suitcases and blubberingly hauled ass across the country to my mother's house. Things didn't go any better once I got down to South Louisiana. I discovered the day that the car was supposed to ship out that I was missing one of the crucial documents for shipping and had to contact Virginia DMV to get a copy sent out. The shipping company handling my household things suddenly decided to bill me and demand payment right then after me calling them for two weeks wanting to pay the bill, at a bank that does not even exist in Louisiana. Add in my mother and her myriad issues including her panic over the Tropical Storm and you have me getting a rental car and decamping early for New Orleans to wait out the time for my flight to Costa Rica.

In other words I've barely slept for months on end, when I wasn't eating Xanax like M&Ms that is. I have hit the wall and crashed. Every afternoon here in Costa Rica during the rainy season you can count on it raining and raining copiously. The rhythm of the downpour on the tin roofs puts me right to sleep.

Jim picked me up at the airport yesterday. I came trotting out in all my glorious white privilege with a train of redcaps hauling my numerous suitcases. That's the funny part of all of this, since leaving my mother's house I've been operating in a very bourgeoisie way. It has nothing in common with our usual simple life. I stayed at a 500 buck a night hotel for next to nothing because I had saved a boatload of travel points with that chain. It's the high end hotel of the chain that uses 'Game of Thrones' actor who plays Tormund Giantsbane as their advertising mascot. I got to see his smiling face all over the place. First time I've stayed at such a luxurious place! But I did the most middle class thing and swiped all their nice toiletries. Lots of room service food too! I rented a bag cart at the airport and even sprung for uber overpriced food on my Spirit airlines flight. Tiniest glimmer of what being rich must be like. I even got to bypass the long lines for immigration and customs courtesy of the redcaps.

The not so fun part of the trip included having to leave the rental car in outer Cajunlandia at the New Orleans airport and schlep all those bags through criminally high humidity levels and heat before getting anywhere near the terminal. Did I mention that Tropical Storm Cindy was bringing driving rain at the same time? Sodden luggage and I made it into the terminal just in time to check in for my 5 am flight.

It was a two hour ride in a tiny car from the airport to Copey. Beautiful countryside, hair pin turns up and down the mountains and the most spectacular views down sheer drop offs into the valley. We passed a waterfall visible from the open road and groves of coffee and apple trees.

The place Jim is staying at, that's about to be my temporary home for three weeks, is a far cry from anyplace I ever imagined I would live. Our 'apartment' is a half of a converted former garage, cobbled together from tin roofing, plastic paneling and tile. It's about 180% from the place I stayed the night before. Yes, there's a Shower of Death, but it seems to be properly grounded, but like all those types of showers you get a minuscule amount of lukewarm water in between rushing gluts of cold water. I am learning to step out for the bouts of cold and wait for the electrified shower to do its thing and make with the lukewarm water.

I guess you can live with anything for a few weeks. I'm so thrilled to have a bed, sheets, pillows again that I'm not even concerned about the third world nature of the accommodations. It is scrupulously clean.

The tiny village is charming, chickens, cows and horses wander about at will and there is virtually no traffic. The mountains surrounding the village have clouds dipping down obscuring the tops. We went for a long walk in the village in the morning. Jim took me to the small store to get drinks this morning, juice and his favorite drink – local chocolate milk. After lunch and another in a series of naps I started taking immediately upon arrival we took the bus into the next town, slightly bigger than Copey.

We hadn't been in town more than a few minutes before we spotted that sight you can count on seeing, no matter how tiny the village, worldwide – Mormon missionaries. We talked to them for a few moments, but they immediately tried to convert us, but they quickly figured out that it was the impossible task.

I have been trying new odd things this afternoon. First freshly squeezed raw sugar cane juice, a local delicacy. Was very curious about this because growing up in South Louisiana you get to see the fields of sugar cane growing, the blessing of the sugar cane by the local Catholic priests and you get to dodge the cane trucks hauling the harvested sugar cane to be processed. It's not very clean or appetizing when they first extract the juice, it's gritty and brown. The juice undergoes processing, boiling and skimming to remove the impurities (squashed bugs and dirt) before being reduced down into sugar.

Sure enough, fresh sugar cane juice has gritty dirt a-plenty. Didn't much like it no matter how 'natural' it is, or what the locals claim about it's health boosting abilities. Yep, I drank dirt.

We had ice cream, and I got to encounter one of the things I loved about living in Germany years ago – booze ice cream. I had a double cone of rum ice cream studded with dried fruits heavily soaked in rum. Kill your sweet tooth and get a buzz on at the same time.

Followed by a taxi ride back into Copey and more napping.

Tonight we walked down to the town's only restaurant and had pork, potatoes and steamed vegetables with a tamarind mousse pie. Deliciouso!

More sleep about to happen. I have three months of crappy sleep to catch up on. Pretty easy to sleep with the pounding of the rain on the tin roof and the fact that we're close enough to the equator to get about 12 hours of night.

Tomorrow – mass at the local Catholic church by the local priest – a Tanzanian with limited Spanish skills and likely a lot more napping.