Thursday, May 29, 2008

Here comes the rain again

A couple of weeks ago the rains began, and we knew the green season had arrived. Now? It's been raining for days, literally. We've had at least 72 hours of rain—steady rain, not just drizzle—without a breather thanks to a bunch of weather factors (including Tropical Storm Alma) that came together to keep us soaked here in Santa Ana. I haven't seen the mountains for days, and while I know our beautiful valley is surrounded by them, they're hidden by heavy, gray, water-laden clouds.

Dan's coworker is trapped in her home in Escazú and sent this photo, showing the water rushing down the gutter and standing on the road.

On the good side, everything is green and growing, and the temperature is in the mid-60s today, which is so comfortable. Last night we all fell asleep early, listening to the rain outside our open windows and resting in the cool air.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Gone to Kentucky and Indiana

Nah, we didn’t make a trip to the Midwest this past weekend, but we did the next best thing for two gringos living in Central America … we went to dinner and a movie, of course.

On Friday night, Dan and I stopped at the huge food court at the mall outside the movie theater for a quick meal. Usually we go for tacos, but for some reason both of us broke out into grins when I mentioned the KFC on the far side of the court. Ohhh, it was so good—the food tasted just like KFC at home! It was the first time we'd had KFC since arriving here, and we may have to stop back again.

Funny thing is, the Costa Ricans call KFC "Kentucky." Last summer our relocation counselor told us that she loves Kentucky, and it took us a minute to realize she meant the original-recipe, biscuit-making, potatoes-and-gravy Kentucky and not the bluegrass, basketball-loving state.

Here’s another for instance: A boy in Erin's class mentioned to the teacher that he went to Kentucky over the weekend, and the kids' teacher, an American, was skeptical.

"Well yeah, it's just food," the kid said, and then someone chimed in that Kentucky is a chicken restaurant. It looks just like the KFCs at home too, complete with the image of Colonel Sanders and the slogan, "para chuparse los dedos"—which is about as close to finger-lickin' good as things get here in Ticolandia.

After our dinner we walked to the theater; the new Indiana Jones movie premiered here on Friday night! We don’t go to the movies too often, but it’s always fun when we do—especially because regular tickets cost only four bucks, about half the price of a movie in the US last time I looked.

The movie was showing in several theaters, both dubbed and with subtitles. Sometimes we get a kick out of the subtitles (we can’t help but read them as we’re watching) and the translations. For example, in the Harry Potter movies, Voldemort is Señor Tenebroso (Lord Tenebrous, Dismal, Gloomy, etc.). I don’t know why they don’t just call him Voldemort. I mean, it’s his name—it’s not like Voldemort means anything in English, right?

Anyway, we enjoyed Indy, as silly as it was. Sometimes complete suspension of disbelief is a great escape after a long week—and two kids from the US enjoyed a virtual trip home for a few hours.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Slightly rattled

We’ve felt a few earthquakes since we’ve been here, but yesterday’s was the strongest of them. At about 4:45 pm I was sitting at my desk (IMing with Dan, actually) when things shook violently but briefly—only a couple of seconds—and by the time I realized why my chair was shaking and rolling backwards, it was over. Dan and I simultaneously IMed each other: “Earthquake!”

The shock was centered near Santiago de Puriscal and, according to the Observatorio Vulcanológico y Sismológico de Costa Rica, was a 4.8 magnitude. It didn’t knock anything off the shelves, though it did cause a separation between two floor boards in our family room. Not enough to be very dangerous, but certainly enough to add interest to an otherwise ordinary afternoon.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Beware the wily lime

Something interesting happens when a person lives nine degrees above the equator, forgets to wash her hands after juicing raw limes, and then ventures into the bright sunshine. She ends up with a horrific burn on her skin, leaving it raw, pink, and very tender.

I’m relieved to say this didn’t happen to me, but unfortunately it did happen to a friend of mine. The chemicals from the limes were activated by the strong sun, leaving her with a nasty looking case of phytophotodermatitis—a lime burn—that is still painful weeks later. Ouch!

I have a love affair with limes, and thankfully they are plentiful and cheap here, so I use them a lot. Now I’m extra careful about washing up after handling citrus fruit. I’m more interested in eating ceviche than becoming it!

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Ribs and cake (aka: basketball injuries, part two)

Yesterday, Dan joined a bunch of guys from the office to play basketball for a company program encouraging everyone to get active and be healthy. The games were held in Escazu at a local gym. It was fun to visit with friends and see the brightly painted floor, the refs in their blazing orange shirts, and the scorekeepers flipping papers with numbers on them for the score.

That was the good part. The bad part—other than Dan’s team getting walloped—was that basketball is just not a big sport around here, and most of the guys on the court didn’t seem to have much experience. This led to some amazingly wild passes soaring through the air and, unfortunately, a lot of elbows and bodies flying too. And not much refereeing!

I told Dan before we left for the gym that my goal was to avoid a trip to the ER at the hospital. We managed that, but halfway through the game I saw Dan sitting under the basket pleading with the ref for a call. I knew he was hurt when he got up and didn’t have his usual spunk—and sure enough, he injured a rib again (on the other side this time).

Erin felt sorry for her dad, so when we got home she baked him a cake from scratch in hopes that he’d feel better.

Thankfully this morning the rib is just sore and it’s not nearly so bad as last time, but I told Dan that his days of b-ball in the land of flying elbows are over.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Pump it up

We now have a constant supply of water here at our Costa Rican casa. Yippee! The last water outage spurred me into action: I spoke a few times with the landlords’ representative and explained the situation, and eventually they agreed to pay the nearly $1K to have a pump installed. What a relief!

We have a tank under our driveway (we’d always wondered what the metal lid was covering), and a plumber came out to drain it, sanitize it, and fill it. It has a lift arm and float, just like a toilet—which I excitedly pointed out to the plumber (as if he didn't know, oh, and I'm sure he was highly impressed that I knew the Spanish word for toilet).

Once the tank was filled, the guy installed the small pump next to the hot water heater. This made a huge mess in my storage room and laundry room—there was water everywhere. I wasn’t too upset though, mainly because I was giddy with the thought of taking a high-pressure shower and not having it wane to a trickle, and there are also drains in the floors making it easier to clean. (Thank goodness, since the sink the washing machine hose empties into overflows frequently because the hose pops out of the drain—but that’s another story in itself).

On Tuesday, the construction foreman stopped by the house to let me know the water would be turned off for a couple of hours. I gave him a big smile and told him it is No Problema here because of our shiny new pump. Sure enough, I soon heard the pump spring into action and I happily went about my day without a water worry.

¡Pura agua!

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Swimming for Sports Day

It was so good to see my girls swim competitively again—even if only for one race.

The kids recently had Sports Day at school, complete with an opening ceremony and pledge, indoor events, track and field, and relays at the pool. All the elementary school kids participated in at least one event, and (not surprisingly) my two were chosen to swim. (A few kids were missing from Lauren’s class, so she also did a free throw shoot and something else which I didn’t get to see and can’t remember what it was.)

Sometimes cultural differences are glaringly obvious to me at school functions, and this was no exception. Guess which parents were sitting on the side of the pool, socializing quietly as they watched the kids? Well, certainly not the Americans. No, we were the moms and dads at the end of the pool (for the best view, of course) enthusiastically cheering the kids on. We weren’t obnoxious, but I will admit, we US moms and dads are generally a spirited, competitive bunch.

After all the games and races the kids got medals—bronze, silver and gold. They’re not even cheesy and have the school logo on one side with the event and date on the other; they are great mementos for the girls.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Look who’s eight!

It's just Lauren’s luck that May 1 is a national holiday—Día de los Trabajadores (Labor Day)—here in Costa Rica. Meaning my brand-spankin’-new eight-year-old had a day off from school on her birthday. What a fun twist of fate!

Lauren, Erin, and L's classmate Isabel—her best amiga and partner-in-crime—spent the day together to celebrate, starting with lunch at Wendy’s. (This was the birthday girl’s choice, of course, because what better meal is there than chicken nuggets and fries for a kid turning eight?)

Next stop was Go Bananas, an indoor playground just a couple of kilometers from our house. This drop-the kids-off facility has plenty of space for the girls to run and climb, so I left them to play while I parked myself in a cozy, padded armchair with a drink and a novel outside one of my favorite restaurants, just around the corner from the playground.

Lauren’s teacher stopped by for lunch shortly before I was leaving to pick up the girls. She asked us to come back and say hi, so I told the girls I had a surprise for them as we made our way to the restaurant. Of course Lauren got a big hug from Ms. Fernández, and she and Isabel acted all goofy when they saw their teacher outside of the classroom (yes, teachers are normal people too!), while Erin was just relieved that her teachers were nowhere in sight on vacation day.

Everyone enjoyed homemade birthday cupcakes at our house (we sang two lovely renditions of the birthday song in English and Spanish), and then the girls went swimming so Lauren could try out her new goggles and float.

We were worn out by the end of the day, and everyone got to bed early since the kids still had school on Friday (and I did too, since I was chaperoning a field trip). We missed having Dan here—he’s in Cincinnati for work—but Lauren says her eighth birthday was still just ducky (her word, of course).

As I’m sure I say every year, it’s hard to believe my baby is getting so big! ¡Feliz cumpleaños, Niña!

Friday, May 02, 2008

Fish out of water

Fair warning: I'm cranky, and so are my kids. Even Lauren, and that's saying something.

I've got all sorts of nice, cheery things to blog about—and I'll have to do it another time—but tonight the only thing on my mind is that we have no water in our house. Again. Yesterday we didn't have water until nearly 3:00 in the afternoon. (Around lunchtime I gave in and took a shower at a friend's house.) Today I got up at 5:00 to take a shower, do a load of laundry, and clean up the kitchen before my busy day was underway. No water—at 5:00 in the morning!

I had to feed the kids, make lunches, and get out of here by 7:30 because I went on a field trip with Erin's class. Thankfully I had set enough water aside to wash my face and take a sponge bath, but now, it's 8:30 on Friday night and we have zero agua. Nada. The whole neighborhood is out of water, and I've got a guy coming tomorrow to see if he can install a pump so we can avoid this happening again. (I’m pretty sure the homeowner is going to consent to having this done, thankfully.)

Meanwhile, I'm jonesing for a shower and crossing my fingers that the pipes will start gurgling soon and we can cook, clean, shower, flush, wash, and all those good things by the morning.

Isn't it ironic, since I just mentioned a couple of posts ago how this happens frequently enough and I usually roll with the punches? Not this time. It appears I've reached my breaking point, and while I know there are worse things in the world, I feel justified in venting my pent-up frustrations. Dan's not here to fuss with/listen to me, so the blog is tonight's therapy session. Thank goodness we still have electricity!

Oh, and as a parting shot, it is raining outside. Not enough of a downpour that I can run to my yard with a bottle of shampoo and a bar of soap, but enough to tease us all with fat drops of water on the windows. Bah!