Well, this post has nothing to do with Costa Rica or our adventure... it's dedicated entirely to my son, Jude. It's his birthday today... he turns 17 and I'm feeling nostalgic and sentimental. He's no longer that little boy... the one with the Spider Man costume... yes, the one he never wanted to take off... nor is he the boy who was known throughout the neighbourhood by his unique spider winter hat (this hat had a felt spider perched on top of his hat with eight legs dangling on all sides, which was rather distinctive and defined Jude as Jude for several years)... nor is he the boy who walked his dog, Frankie, before and after school on sunny, rainy and snowy days. That little boy has grown into a young man. He's not a follower: he stands his ground, and stands on principle. So much so, at the age of 16, he decided he would not follow us to Costa Rica, but rather stay in Canada and live with his paternal grandparents. That was a pretty big decision... an adult decision. i won't lie, it was hard to hear, but Kevin and I understood and respected his choice to stay behind. He's with family and obviously in good hands, so that certainly helps. We're in touch nearly every day through Facebook and today, we Skyped, which was extra special. Sometimes, nothing beats a face-to-face chat.
I have every confidence that he will find his way in this world. And I'm so proud! I can't wait to see where his journey leads him... or should I say... where he steers it.
As I was writing yesterday's blog entry, the power went out. I lost the paragraph I wrote... it happens. When we first arrived to Costa Rica, it was the rainy season and we experienced a few power failures, but then during the dry season, we hardly ever had this problem. Now that the rainy season is upon us, it will be interesting if this becomes a regular occurrence. We don't really mind, we turn on the battery-operated lanterns and candles. It's kind of nice. Kevin picked out an hour's worth of iTunes songs and played it on his laptop. Lots of great songs from the 80s, which brought back some great memories... until the battery on his laptop ran down. By that time, it was time for bed anyway.
Earlier in the morning, the sun was shining and it was really hot. I worked in the garden again, weeding. Kevin had to point two aloe vera plants out to me. They were being suffocated by overgrown grass and weeds. I love aloe vera and I'm thrilled to learn we have more plants on the property (I make my own facial mask with fresh aloe vera get and combine it with cucumber. I then mix it in my blender. Not only can I put it on my face, but I can drink it, too! The more I read, the more I'm realizing what an incredibly healthy supplement it is). I can't believe I hadn't even noticed these two plants before, but in my defense they were completely hidden. Then true to form, at about 1pm-ish, it started to pour and within minutes the river swelled and rose at least a foot. We haven't seen it like this since last October. The rainy season is, without a doubt, upon us. Call us crazy, but we like it!
So here's a picture of what the waterfall area looked like before we got our hands on it. It was completely overgrown and it was full of old bramble branches and tree limbs. Basically, it was a dumpling ground. There was no garbage, or anything like that, but it didn't look particularly inviting. In fact, it was impossible to see the waterfall... at any angle. What was once my least favourite areas on the property has become one of my most favourite.
This picture was taken from the same angle as the picture above, but this time showcasing the new pond that Kevin and Martin created by building a stone wall and diverting water from the waterfall.
Martin and Nacho cleared all the trees that were obstructing the view of the waterfall. I just love this feature.
And after doing all that work to create a new pond and clearing out the area where the waterfall flows down to the meet the river, we figured it might be a good idea to build a retaining wall by the riverbank. We're hoping this stone wall will help prevent any damage (or extreme flooding) to this area during the rainiest months. During the dry season, there isn't any real concern since the river remains quite low, but during the rainy season, we definitely experienced the rushing river. Seeing the river so low right now, it's easy to lull ourselves into complacency, but Mother Nature has a way of surprising us so it's best we don't forget what a torrent the river can be.
It took Martin, Primo and Kevin 5 hours this morning to build this stone wall. When I went down to take pictures, I couldn't believe the size of some of the boulders. The wall is approximately 100 feet long, 3 feet high and 4 feet wide. I know Primo is as strong as an ox, but still, that's a huge amount of work in only 5 hours! No wonder Kevin collapsed on the couch after lunch. Poor guy is knackered, and rightly so! I can't imagine... I was working in the garden, just puttering around weeding and preparing the beds for more planting and I'm aching.
This wall will surely help!
While Kevin and I were inspecting the new wall, we discovered this little guy. We have several kinds of lizards on the property, and we love them all. They are fun to watch, they eat bugs, they're completely harmless, and some have the most beautiful colouring. I have get sick of watching them. This little guy, however, we had never seen before. He looked more like a salamander. Always something new to discover around here.
Now that the new grass and dandelions are emerging between the rocks, more butterflies can be seen as well. This butterfly is called a Gulf Fritillary. Truly beautiful. This picture does not do it justice.
Kevin spent the morning finishing off pruning our avocado trees. These trees have been neglected over the years and we thought we might have to get rid of all of them and replant brand new trees, but we decided we would try and nurture these ones back to health: nothing ventured, nothing gained. If it doesn't work than at least we can say we tried.
Kevin has removed all the dead branches and the moss that was growing on the bark. We need to add some good, rich compost mixed with lime to neutralize the soil. We want to find a way to spray them against pests and disease in an organic way... that's always our first goal. We're looking into our options.
This morning was warm and sunny. We thought we'd take advantage of the beautiful weather and ride the ATV down to Santa Maria... we needed to buy some cereal for tomorrow's breakfast. I rode on the back, while Kevin drove. He was careful not to splash in the puddles, without mud guards on the right-hand side, things can get pretty messy. We made it to Santa Maria in good time, bought some cereal and came back. On the way back, we took the old road from Santa Maria to Copey: the same road we hiked with my English class a few months back. WOW... the paved road turned into a dirt road and the incline was steep. It was quite the climb. We hadn't hiked that far up so we hadn't seen the spectacular views. It seems every twist, every turn shows us something new... something special.
When we got back, the clouds came rolling in and it started to rain hard a few hours later. Kevin got back to the grind... and by that, I mean grinding the metal frame tables. And I spent the day writing.
It was a good Sunday.
Our leeks are growing really well in our garden so I decided to make a potato and leek soup for lunch. I love this soup, but sometimes I find it a bit bland. I noticed our Rocoto chili pepper plant has exploded with fruit with a bountiful of small dark green (almost black) little pepper. My research tells me that these ones are so hot, we shouldn't even handle them without gloves... they will burn our skin. So, I'm very careful not to touch them, but we also had a few bright red chilis, which are also hot, but less so than the small, dark ones. I read that as they ripen and get bigger and red, they become slightly milder. The last time I picked them, I was so paranoid (I like spicy foods, but not so hot it dissolves my intestines), I wore gloves and promptly soaked them in vinegar (I read that soaking in vinegar neutralizes the hotness). After soaking in vinegar for an hour, I removed the peppers, sliced them and added them to my spaghetti sauce, hoping to give it a nice kick. Well, I shouldn't have bothered... the sauce, although tasty, had no particular bite to it at all. I figured I got it all wrong and they weren't Rocoto peppers after all. I hadn't tried cooking with them since.
So, yesterday, feeling much less worried about the level of spiciness of the peppers, I picked a few red ones. I was still cautious, cutting them with the stems still attached so that my skin would not be in direct contact with the fruit itself. I grabbed a few leeks, too. I thought I would slice and sauté some sweet red peppers with one Rocoto chili pepper to infuse the caramelized flavour together before adding it to the more subtle leek and potato mixture. I didn't bother with the whole soaking-in-vinegar step this time since the whole idea was to spice it up a it. Well, as the pan was sizzling, the room started to fill with smoke... I felt my throat constrict making me cough, my eyes started to burn and my nose instantly became decongested, clearing whatever sinus issues my allergies were causing. I opened both the front and back door to get a cross breeze in hopes of clearing out what I could only imagine tear gas would feel like. Kevin was sitting on the couch at the time and he started to feel the effects of these noxious fumes, too. I couldn't believe it. One little red chili pepper... I can't begin to speculate what kind of damage the smaller, dark green one would have caused.
I had read once that to subdue any kind of spiciness, milk should be added, not water. So, in an attempt to dilute the potion, I added some milk... had a little taste to see if it worked... my lips stung... so I added A LOT more milk, some tomatoes and cucumber... anything to help diffuse this culinary bomb. Finally, what was supposed to be a soup for two filled a huge pot... I could have invited the whole village and we probably would have had some leftover, and although it still provided quite a kick, it was now edible. It was actually quite tasty in the end. Kevin only managed one bowl though... with three pieces of bread to dunk into it. I ended up having three bowlfuls. My mouth was tingling and I was a little afraid of what the after effects might be, so I stopped. I won't be doing that again! Next time, a little vinegar soaking will definitely be in order. Vinegar is our friend!
I'm happy to report that we've not suffered any ill effects except a tickle in our throats that makes us cough. Phew. I'll tell you one thing, if you suffer from the chills,
We took our ATV (quad) in to be tested and certified for road safety today. Our road sticker, called the Marchamo, expires at the end of May so we had to get it done soon. We (meaning Kevin) wouldn't have been able to complete all the cosmetic surgery before the end of next week, and without the approved Marchamo, we would have had to transport it on a trailer to San Marcos. Kevin replaced the melted tires, got the seats recovered and all things mechanical are running well and as they should. It still looks like hell on the one side, but apparently cosmetics are not an important factor.... it PASSED! Hallelujah!! We will still order the parts we need and Kevin will eventually rebuild the body... but for now, we're happy that it is considered road worthy. That's a load off our minds. And being able to drive it on the property is very useful, too. Things are looking up!
Our friends, Andrea and Beto, who run the Casa Al Revez (Upside Down House) organize projects for young tourists who want to experience the Costarican culture through volunteerism. We were asked if we would be willing to give a tour of our property and explain what our day-to-day life consists of and talk about what we've learned since we've arrived.
It was pouring when they arrived, but they were all enthusiastic and their spirits weren't dampened. We pressed on. The rain stopped about 20 minutes later... the tour lasted over an hour and a half. Everyone seemed to like the guesthouse, and especially the outdoor shower (it made quite an impression on them). They had lots of questions and were all engaged in the conversation. I think they enjoyed themselves. We certainly did.
Today was a honest to goodness rainy day. It was beautiful in the early morning, but by about 10 am, it started to rain... and it hasn't really stopped all day. It's so very rare that we have all-day rain. And it was chilly, too... I was chilled to the bone. We had a fire tonight for the first time in months... it felt nice and cozy.
This afternoon, I was a judge for a Spelling Bee contest at the Copey elementary for grades 4, 5 and 6. Twelve students participated and it lasted about an hour or so. The kids were so excited and most did particularly well. The three finalists will be moving to the regional Spelling Bee... and then the nationals. I was joined by the two Peace Corps volunteers, Eve and Joseph, who will be moving to Copey in early June. They'll be here for two years. And Manolo, the head honcho of the public school system in the Los Santos region, was on hand to help as well. The kids had a great time... and so did we. It was nice to be able to help Catalina (the English teacher) out.
Kevin and I went to San Marcos this afternoon. One of the tires on the SUV got a puncture, so Kevin replaced it with our spare. We wanted to get the damaged tire repaired as soon as possible. We needed to fill up one of the propane tanks, get some fresh fruit and some meat. And Kevin needed to buy some fuses, too. We got to the tire repair place and they charged us... wait for it... $2.60 to fix the tire. Then, Kevin asked for some fuses and he paid 6 cents each (to put things in perspective, they cost approximately $2.50 for just one fuse in Canada). Six large mangos cost $2.80 and 8 cents per banana (yes, they charge per banana).
Then, we went into the Vehicle Registration office to replace our yearly sticker for the one that melted in the fire and they didn't charge us a penny! Awesomeness!
We're always careful how we spend our money... we've become quite frugal, trying not to be wasteful. Living like a Tico definitely helps. We rarely buy packaged foods now, preferring to practice a more 'from earth to table' mentality. We stopped by a nursery to have a look at avocado and sweet mandarin plants. We bought three mandarin plants... they will take three years before they produce any fruit, but we already look forward to plucking some fresh mandarins right off our own trees. Each tree cost us $4 each.
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Dave and Krista are a couple from the Pacific Northwest that led overwhelmingly busy lives.
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