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Archive for October, 2007

Up the hill in Barva

Another nice clear day, with puffy white clouds. We took my suitcase to Ily’s sister Leny’s house in Barva. We looked at some more houses and lots, one being developed by the same helpful guy, Alexander, who we talked to yesterday. These places were the nicest we’ve seen so far. Now we are at an internet cafe slightly down the hill from there, with old IBM 300PL computers. My keyboard is really sticky. The software is old (IE6) and the connection is slow. I can’t upload my photos.

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Looking for a Home

Saturday, October 13, 2007

This morning I looked out our bedroom window toward the east as it began to get light. I was surprised to see a clear blue sky, with Venus shining above the mountains. It was 5am, and I suggested we go to the Feria de Agricultor, the farmer’s market. Last week we went over there around 10, and it was crowded and hot, not too much fun. Ily says it is best to go really early.

On the way we stopped at Mr. B, the 24 hour cafeteria down by the park to get some breakfast for Ily and coffee for me. There were police at the bar next door, one holding his baton, for a “borrachito,” someone a little drunk.

At Mr. B, Ileana ordered her usual breakfast, rice and beans (gallo pinto), and eggs. The guy at the counter said they were out of gallo pinto, but they were serving it to other people. Eventually we got some food and continued on to the Feria as the sun rose, where we looked again for leche agria, this time without success.

We looked at some fish the man said was corvina (sea bass) but the pieces were too big. He found some smaller pieces and we bought them.

On the way home we went to the mercado and bought leche agria, since I am obsessed with probiotic lactobacillus cultured products. We took it home and I had some, and we made a pot of coffee.

Then we decided to go look for a house to buy. Ily had heard there were houses available in La Aurora, near the high school where she teaches, also near Hewlett-Packard, where I might be able to work.

We took a taxi over there and drove around looking at numerous new developments, security-gated suburbs sprouting up everywhere among the coffee plantations. I took a picture of the street, and a small video of leaf-cutter ants (sampopas) near a coffee planation that turned out to be out of focus.

Finally we found an area that still had units for sale. We walked down the road and looked at places, called one on the phone. We looked at Ily’s faded green school and the great shiny green offices of Hewlett-Packard, planted like a glittering spaceship behind a great spiked fence in the poverty of La Aurora.

We took a taxi back to the development sales office and talked to a very helpful guy who showed us the insides of a couple of condominiums. The prices seemed reasonable and the quality good. We liked the places and we liked him. He even said his construction company could build a house on Ily’s lot in Heredia. He drove us over to a brand new section with only empty lots, a beautiful view over a stream with coffee bushes on the other side. Some cows were visible reclining on the grass over there. I heard a soothing sound that could have been the stream or wind rustling the coffee leaves. The soil of the empty lot was rich brown sandy-silt loam, totally fertile in appearance.

Then we talked to a woman across the street who showed us a couple of units in her development. They weren’t quite as nice, and more expensive as well. She wasn’t as rich and powerful as the other guy either, but she was very nice. Her Spanish had a bit of a French sound and I imagined she was from South America. Now Ily says she was from Argentina.

After this, we were feeling famished, so we hailed a taxi and went back to the apartment to cook the fish we bought this morning. It had a strong fishy smell, and Ily quickly determined that it was not corvina, but eel (anguila). She was angry about it, since she doesn’t like eel. I cut up celery, red peppers, cucumbers and tomato for a salad, as directed by Ileana. She cooked the fish and it was delicious. I ate a huge portion and felt really sleepy. We took a nap for awhile and my arm felt tingly when I woke up. I felt a bit cranky.

We went downstairs to Cafe Flores for coffee.We looked at the newspaper for houses again, and saw few possibilities. Ily called a couple of them. One lady said this was the only time she could show it, so we headed out into the rain and found another taxi to take us over there.

We called her from the taxi when we arrived and she came out to greet us. She spoke excellent English, which was nice for me. It turned out she was from Iran, and actually had two houses for sale, one for $75,000 and one for $120,000. We looked at the cheaper one first, inside a security gate and down a hill. The owner, an American from Chicago, was still living there, making his dinner when we trooped in to look it over. It was a nice little place, but too far down the hill for Ily’s taste.

The other house was much nicer as was to to be expected for the extra money. Then the lady, I think her name was Cynthia, invited us to her house for tea. Her house was a few doors down, with the front turned into a little grocery store (pulperia) where she worked with her husband. She is a psychologist and an artist. Her husband, Hooshidar, is a sculptor and musician. He brought out an Iranian instrument kind of like an autoharp and invited me to play it. Ileana played too, sounding much more musical than my experimental plinking.

The tea was from Iran too, and very good, with a bit of an Earl Grey flavor. Ileana noticed a blue color in the aura of our hostess and spoke about it, turning the conversation in a spiritual direction. We had a really nice time with them.

When the time came to go, the rain was pouring down in a true deluge, streaming deep in the gutters outside. No taxis were available, the line to the company was busy. It was rush hour. Fortunately, our hosts had a friend who had dropped by, and was heading in our direction. He took us down to the Mall nearby where we stood in line for about 15 minutes to get a taxi. Ily’s cotton shoes were wet and she needed to get home immediately to get warm and dry.

It was a really long day.

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Trip to San Jose

Friday, October 12, 2007

This morning we had coffee, tortillas made with cuajada, and some other food.

We washed the dishes and set out on the bus for San Jose. Ily’s friend in the Teatro Nacional (National Theater) gave her free tickets to a dress rehearsal of Oscar Wilde’s ballet, “El Cumpleaños de la Infanta (The baby girl’s birthday).”

The building was a gift to Costa Rica from France in 1897, a beautiful beaux arts, baroque piece of architecture, all made of different colored marble and lavishly trimmed in gold-leaf-covered twining vines representing coffee plants.

The ballet was fine as far as I was concerned, but Ileana, having helped direct many such productions in this very theater, was much more critical. She kept nudging me to point out defects in the performance, and after it was over, she even wanted to speak about it to the director, but decided not to. The one outstanding performance was a guy who played a hunchbacked clown, who could really jump and twirl.

Then we went to the Balmoral Hotel café and had chicken lasagna and salad, with guanábana juice to drink. For only 2900 colones (less than $6). The place was really nice, teaming with gringos (my “compatriotas” as Ily calls them, whether they are Europeans with suits, middle-class U.S. tourists, or drunk hippy college kids).

After that we went to the Casa Amarilla (Yellow House, government buildings) to have our marriage license translated for Costa Rica. It cost 23000 colones ($50) and took an hour while we waited down the street in a park. When we got back to look at the translation we found lots of typographical errors and the poor guy had to do it again three times.

By the time we got out, rush hour was starting to peak. Ily said yesterday never to go to San Jose on a Friday for this reason, yet here we were in the middle of it. We walked downtown in the rain to wait it out over coffee. It was wall to wall people on the street and in the cafe. I thought we might as well be on the bus, so eventually, that’s where we went, along with lots of other people.

The way home was choked with cars. At one point in the middle of the busiest intersection in the city there were several accidents in progress at once, with ambulances stuck in traffic, police, and a sudden close crunch that suggested possible impact with our bus. Fortunately this wasn’t the case, only another nearby collision. As it got dark and the windows fogged up, it seemed like we were inexplicably stopped. It appeared our bus was been examined by the transit police for being overloaded.
Eventually we got home, in time for “Destilando Amor,” a novela about a corrupt family of tequila makers you can watch on Univision.

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I’m soaking now in warmish rain, down by the coast in Puntarenas.
We are at a big ClubMed-style place with wrist-bands and everything included (except internet), with Ilys mom and step dad. My punctuation is weird due to the Spanish keyboard. I’m paying $4 an hour for this connection, in town it is $1.

Food is great and cheap everywhere. Plants with exotic fruit grow everywhere, more lush than Hawaii. Coffee Trees too. It rains everyday, wherever we are.
The beach has a nice churning coffee-colored surf. Someone died in it the day we arrived. The guy who died saved a baby.

Heredia, where I live with Ily, is a beautiful small city, 3 hours by bus from this beach (1 hr by car). There is a cafe near the university that is really nice, and a bunch of other nice places as well. Also near the college I saw a line of leaf-cutter ants, called Sompopas. I need to look closer to see how they carry the leaves. Ileana tells me at this moment that they are sweet and delicious, but not many people eat them.

Since arriving, Ive been adjusting slowly, quelling my feeling of disorientation by eating and sleeping quite a bit more than usual. Today I went to the gym in this complex (my first time in any gym) and I feel much better. I’m going to start going to the Palacio de los Deportes in Heredia on a regular basis. I’m going urban!

This started as an email to Arthur that I recycled into my blog, I don’t know if that is cheating or just efficiency.  Repurposing, that is the word I was trying to think of from my corporate days.

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4th Day in Costa Rica

Today is Sunday, my fourth day in Heredia. It has rained every day in the afternoon, and once in the morning. The food has been good everywhere and the weather is beautiful. Internet cafes are everywhere, some open 24 hours. This one is across the street from a nice cafe where we just had coffee. A huge moth rested on a beam above the table next to us. It is said here that you can read winning lottery numbers on the moth’s wings, but all I could see was an upside-down y.

This morning I went with Ileana to vote on TLC, otherwise known as CAFTA. Everyone is driving around waving Si or No signs and Ileana says every election is like a big party. After she voted, we went to Alajuela on the bus and in a taxi, to buy better-fitting wedding rings and to have lunch at a “typical” Costa Rican restaurant. It was really good, but not as good as what Ily makes. Last night she made plantains and they were perfectly exquisite. On Monday we go to the beach in Puntarenas for a few days at a fancy place. This place is the best. If all goes well, one of these days something will click and I will wake up speaking perfect Spanish.

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