Rural living in Costa Rica

The children walk this path to the main road to catch the bus to school. It must take them at least 30 minutes in the hot afternoon sun to get home.
A Caballero and his Ox and cart on a ranch outside of our town.

Rural Ticos live a family centered life in very close knit communities.   Each evening the community center has a party with music and laughter we can hear from our balcony.

Just a few hundred meters off the main road and it looks like it must have 100 years ago.  Clap-board and corrugated metal homes and many generations live on the same driveway.  Their yards are kept with pride…pretty flowering hedges outline their property…free running chickens…turkeys…pigs in a pen…and fruit trees.  Lots of fruit trees!  🙂  Beauty and bounty grow easily in the climate with a little TLC.

Very few people own cars in rural Costa Rica.  Ticos walk everywhere…to the bus stop, work or church.   

Daily we see people who walk 7 kilometers to the bus and back along our road.  Lots of people use a bicycle to get around.  We often see Dads or Mom’s with a kid dressed in their school uniforms riding the handle bars on their way to school in the mornings.  Some families have a motorcycle and balance everyone on including the dog to go to town (no joke!).  It’s another post altogether to talk about the crazy things we have seen loaded on motorcycles..ladders, pulling wheelbarrows like trailers, even a toilet once!)

Grapefruit is not popular here. The fruit his family doesn’t eat usually rots on the ground. He didn’t want to charge us at all for this amazing fruit! He finally settled on 100 colones which is about .20 US. per grapefruit.

Our next door neighbors seem to have this life.  Federico’s multi-generational family live together on about a half acre.    In the evening I always hear laughter of the young cousins horsing around.  In the mornings I hear their chickens scratching in the lot below.  As I walk by their gate I get a smile and a friendly “hola” and maybe even a short conversation. 

living fences line the property borders Everything is open.

A few weeks ago we were invited to get some grapefruit from a friend’s neighbor.  You can’t find grapefruit in the stores here and I love love love grapefruit.  Well, I was like a kid on a field trip, picking up this grapefruit.  We parked at a gate which was on a very steep dirt road and no houses were in sight.  We passed through the gate and walked half a mile and finally to a walking path that led to their home.

Can you see Jorge high up in that tree?…DH shading his eyes to watch

He climbed these 40′ trees with a home made ladder in his bare feet to pick the grapefruit! He filled a giant feed bag with grapefruit 4 times.  Amazing!

the sweetest grapefruit I have ever tasted. What a treat!

The walk to grapefruit


Make room in the garden

I started reading my Bible every morning somewhere in July. Yes, I’ve been a Christian for 25 years…and have ‘found’ time for study in the past…even consistent study for a few weeks. Always, after a short time something felt more pressing and my study time fell away. Like seeds rooted in rocky soil the habit had nothing to hold it to it’s place in my day.

I love this old worn out chair!

In order to create room for anything new, something old needs to be removed. We always fill all the space we have with things…the time we have with ‘to-do’s… I think about when I rearrange furniture. Something has always got to go to make room for the new. It is common sense, yes, but it’s not easy. What needs to go isn’t always something useless, bad or unhealthy. It’s hard to get rid of what is comfortable and familiar to make room for something that is better or healthier…It’s hard to get rid of our old worn out chair that is comfortable and full of memories…the one I read to my kids in…the one in all the Christmas pictures for the past 25 years… The new chair will be just as comfortable, no holes in the upholstery and look fantastic! I’m even excited about the new chair. But still, the familiar and comfortable has to go. I need to make room for the new and better.

This story I read this morning says it well from Discovering Joy in Philippians by Pam Farrel, Jean E. Jones and Karla Dornacher. It’s a garden analogy which is always easy for me to understand. 🙂

“One spring I decided to grow lettuce. I bought a pony pack each of romaine and red leaf lettuce. I nestle some among just-sprouting amaryllises and planted the rest in the empty pots. I figured when the amaryllises finished blooming, the growing lettuce leaves would hide their fading leaves and within weeks take their place entirely.

All went well…for a while.

But by mid spring, the lettuce tucked among the amaryllises was stunted and tough, while the other plants were round and tender.

I don’t have amaryllis in my garden but I do have beautiful Iris

That’s when it hit me. Amaryllises aren’t annuals-plants that completely die back after blooming. They’re bulbs, so even though what’s on the surface dies back, what’s under the soil multiplies. The lettuce roots had no room to grow and couldn’t produce healthy leaves.

Amused at my cluelessness, I thought, Isn’t this like what happens when we try to add a new spiritual habit without making space for it? After all, adding a spiritual habit doesn’t happen magically. We usually need to eliminate something to make room.

Nestling lettuce among amaryllis bulbs doesn’t work, so if you feel God tugging you to take on a spiritual habit of eternal value, creatively make space for it.”

It’s true for any healthy new habit. We need to remove something in our day for the new habit to have room to sink deep roots.

Colorado September 2019

Glorify the Lord with me;
let us exalt his name together.
I sought the Lord, and he answered me;
he delivered me from all my fears. Psalm 34:3-4

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There will be bugs

Costa Rica has 1,251 species of butterflies

I am a shrieker when it comes to bugs.  If a crawly, leggy insect surprises me I shriek…loudly!  My feet do the tap-tap ‘girl’ dance.  I stand on something high.  Sheesh!   Drives my DH nuts.  This happens a lot here in Costa Rica.  Because, in the jungle there are a lot of bugs!

Year round, no matter how clean I think I keep my kitchen I get these super tiny ants.   They tell all their ant friends from miles around about the one drop of watermelon juice that I missed on the counter.  And, in they march.  In the dry season, for the most part, it is just the ants.

This year, the rainy season started in April instead of May.  So I have enjoyed the greening of the jungle, gorgeous flowers and the sound of the rain on the roof.  It is beautiful.  We have sunny mornings and then the afternoon rains cool down the day.  We have rainbows.  We have amazing lightning shows over the Pacific in the towering thunder clouds.  It’s really cool!

Grasshoppers hatching. This whole nest is less than an inch long

Millenium Falcón – flat as a piece of paper

When the rain arrived, so did the bugs.  There are lots of beetles, moths, spiders and lots and lots of different little tiny bugs that fly to the lights.    The first couple weeks it was like the bug-door openned and they all came in at once!   Thankfully,  shortly after the rain and the bugs showed up we started to witness things come back into balance.  The frogs and toads showed up.  Where have they been for 6 months?  And, (yippee!) the birds have returned, too!  We didn’t have birds for several months around the house.    And, guess what birds and frogs eat?  Yes!  bugs.  🙂

Long story made short, I am trying to get used to them.  People lived in the tropics with bugs long before I arrived, right?.   I am trying to not be such a weenie.  After all, God created them too.  And I’m sure he has a purpose for them.  Some of them are very pretty.  And, some look like prehistoric monsters. (tap-tap-dance)

cocoon only 1/4″ long. I think it is some kind of bagworm. Please let me know if you know what this is.

While I still shriek if they surprise me, they don’t send me running…most of the time.   Our DS#2 took some of these amazing pictures   I appreciate bugs more when I can look at them in a picture.  😉

The pace

Macaw feathers

I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.  Phil 3:13,14

It’s April already.  Next month is May and our return to the US.  Our return to ‘normal life’.  Our days seem louder and busier when we are in the states.  I prefer the relaxed days I have here. Sunrise in my rocker…Parrots and Howlers as my alarm clock..The deep greens of the jungle canopy as it contrasts with the bright colors of birds and flowers….the heat of the day…the breeze on my face…my view of the Pacific…my small town.

Dawn on Playa Samara

We have found a rhythm here.  We have settled in.   We shop with Ray, our grocer, and his cousin, our butcher.  Occasionally, we suffer the Pali (a 5 aisle grocery owned by Walmart) that brags “Bienvenido a los precios bajó!” on a huge green sign.   DH has made good friends at the small gym, cycles 3 times a week along the beach and jungle roads.  I love my early morning runs on the beach.  I have a few expat friends and as my spanish has improved I have made a couple made a couple Tica friends as well.  It is a very small town and many faces have become familiar.  When Charlie and I walk they smile and say,  “buenas dias!”  or “Pura Vida!”.   We work during the heat of the days.  talk, read, go to the beach.  While we are not cut off from the news blasts of home, we are not bombarded with them either.  It is easier to focus on what’s important.

DS2 being silly with Charlie

This pace gives me time to see and appreciate what’s around me.  I am thankful God infused so much beauty and detail into everything.    I don’t know if the beauty has a purpose beyond my simple delight, but  I am thankful for the amazing color and plumage of the Quetzel… the gorgeous  flowers that bloom on a dormant tree after months with no rain creating a canopy of pink overhead… the macaw feather so full of color in the sunlight…  I want to hold on to my un-distracted sense of God and connection with my family and  nature when I go back.

A canopy of pink blossoms pop out overnight on dormant branches on these 50′ trees in March

I haven’t laid hold of it yet and feel like I only have a glimpse of it.   I pray when I return to the states old patterns won’t return with all their noise, hype and distraction.  Costa Rica, and my small town have opened my eyes to see God’s real desire for us.  His desire for us to worship him with awe and trust him and his design for our lives.

For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse.  Romans 1:20

Working in Costa Rica – my third year…

cyber security

As snow birds to a small beach town in Costa Rica from our small mountain town in Colorado I have enjoyed this perk with an internet job.  Each year working online in Costa Rica has gotten easier. Last year the electric company, ICE (pronounced EE-say) installed fiber optic cable with very reliable high speed internet and the electricity flickers off much less frequently. Conveniences like e-sign, video conferencing and online meeting platforms have become universal and easy to use.  From a day to day standpoint my actual work goes as smoothly here as it does in Colorado.

At the same time, however, each year increased layers of security have been implemented to meet the compliance requirements of client information. In February I switched to another employer with an international footprint.  Prior to hire and many times in the few weeks after hire they assured me that I could work from Costa Rica.  Surprise!!  Three weeks after I was hired I received a call and an apology telling me to stop work immediately while in Costa Rica. The CEO and IT decided that effective immediately no employee can  access client information while outside of the US.  Since my whole job involves being completely in client data…I suddenly was faced with a big dilemma.  My boss and HR both told me they would try to find a solution which would allow me to continue to work for them but no one was optimistic.  They gave me a week to fly back to the US to continue my job.

If you are IT savvy you are rolling your eyes, I think.  And, I am no expert.  But, even with VPNs, RDPs, verification keys, passwords, etc., my company did not feel they could verify the security of my internet enough to satisfy their compliance concerns.

Based on the initial understanding with my new employer that I could work from both our homes we began a big expansion of our home here in CR, family planned visits, and we even considered renting out our home in Colorado and living here full time!!! That phone call put a sudden and shocking stop to our comfort and peace of mind and our plans.

After much discussion, prayer and consideration my DH and I decided we would follow our plan to stay in Costa Rica regardless of what my company was able to do.  We felt we had too much invested in CR to change course now.   I told my company that I earnestly hoped a resolution would be found so I could continue to work for them, but that DH and I had decided to continue our plans and remain in Costa Rica.  If I couldn’t work for them, I would take a sabbatical year.  (I’m not gonna lie, that sounded great to me!!)

It took three weeks, but my company came through!  They found a job for me in developing / editing educational materials while I am in Costa Rica.  And, when I am in the states I will do my original job as planned.  I feel pretty lucky to have landed with this company.  Most employers might not go to so much trouble to accommodate my two country lifestyle.

So, back when we were first planning our snowbird life, I naively thought the internet was the internet and with an online job I would be able to work from anywhere in the world.  That is true, but…  If you are planning to work in Costa Rica be upfront with your employer.  Talk with IT (IT will know where you are.  Believe me.  They track IP addresses).  Talk with HR.  This planning and conversation may save you a lot of stress and surprises.  Every department in my company became involved with this issue.  They even wrote their first international IT policy…all my fault.  😉

Working in Costa Rica- the dream vs reality

For years I worked in an office tied to a desk, daily commutes, traffic and water cooler politics.   I found a way to be happy with that and I liked my work most of the time. Then my husband started to dream about a second home in Costa Rica…  Well, knowing him as well as I do,  it was clear to me that I would need to be mobile.  When he starts dreaming, things start happening!!  I began the search for an online job.

When I thought about working on the internet I pictured bare feet, laptop actually ON my lap, icy drink in my hand with the beach or pool within reach for a quick dip anytime I wished.

Screen shot of Google results for work online

That’s what is in the pictures on the internet, right?  I would love to hear from others  who actually get to work that way please!  I found that I can’t read the screen very well outside in the sunlight or even under a shade umbrella.  I work with 2 laptops with extended screens…not very portable.  And, in order to care for our clients I actually need to concentrate on my work.  So, the dream quickly faded to reality for me.  However, I am in paradise.  No snow.  Beach minutes away.  Pool even closer.  But, when I am working I am in my office, curtains closed taking care of my clients and getting my work done. 

I love my morning and evening walks.  I love the amazing birds, flowers and jungle all around me.  While work is still work…I am blessed with the flexibility the internet gives me to be with my husband in Costa Rica.  Life in balance!!

Working in Costa Rica- the internet

One of the reasons we chose Costa Rica is that the Internet and electricity infrastructure seemed reliable.  I work remotely for a US company from our home in the states.  I sought this job because my husband no longer wanted to spend the winters in the snow and cold.  So, if he was going someplace warm in the winters I wanted to be sure I could go too!  I am a homebody at heart anyway and even if we never became snowbirds I knew working at home would be a great fit for me.

Here we are 1.5 years later and I am waking up to “go to work” for the first time in 2017 in my office in Samara, Costa Rica.   Overall it looks like I can get my work done here.  I have had a few challenges to overcome which have been very stressful!

We visited Samara in October 2014 for the month to first, see if we wanted to live here and second, find out if I could actually work here.  It was our test visit.   In booking our casita I had asked the owner 20 times about the internet speed and reliability.  She knew I worked online and the internet was critical for me.   As we were checking in to our apartment she mentioned in passing that the next day (my first schedule work day in CR) was a “planned” power outage from 8am -2pm!!!

The entire region was without power (and of course that means Internet too) for those 6 hours!!   It turns out power outages are scheduled periodically as the linemen work to fix or improve our service.  So, as long as I know the outage schedule  I can take vacation on those days or flex my time.   Sharing how the restaurants and grocery stores continued to serve and sell during these total power outages is a good story for another post!!

Monkeys on the wire

A second challenge is the power wanes and surges throughout the day and goes completely off a few times each day. Unless it is a scheduled outage, the power comes right back.  It flickers off only long enough for the internet to go off and for me to lose connection.  Then I need to await my laptop to find the wifi, re connect, re login the the VPN and then into the RDP.  Frustrating!  Last week we bought a surge protector with a built in battery for about $80US in Nicoya.  Genius!  Now we do not lose internet with every power flicker.  Work has gone smoothly ever since.

I have only had one other issue which scared me into thinking I would never be able to work here.  My company contracts with large corporations across the US.  The IT department from one of our largest clients  called me directly (something that never happens as I am a relative peon in my company) to say that “if I don’t stop using that VPN that routes through Costa Rica their security department would cut off my access!” :0!  Apparently they are looking at IP addresses from outside the US as potential security threats.  He seemed ok with it when I explained that I am actually IN Costa Rica.  He said in the future I should let them know so their security department does not get alarmed and turn me off.

It did not occur to me that my IP address would be an issue.  I thought the internet was the internet.  However I work for over 20 different clients and haven’t had any other issues.

So, there have been some adjustments but the joy of being here has been

worth these few problems.  Each day I start  on the deck…birds, yoga, howler monkeys’ chorus, the sound of the waves on the beach and my view of the fading stars and the emerging dawn.  Lucky me!!

Costa Rica Christmas fiesta, rodeo and New Year’s fireworks on the beach

Rodeo arena on Samara Beach, Costa Rica

Carnival and bull riding arena. Playa Samara, Costa Rica

Delicious treats

Jack waving from the arena

Cowboys drawing their bull

The Fiesta rodeo on Playa Samara, Costa rica

Samara, Costa Rica hosts an amazing Christmas Fiesta with carnival and rodeo every year Christmas Day to New Year’s Eve.  Tico’s come from all over Guanacaste to be part of this annual celebration on the beach.

We went to opening night of the rodeo and sat high in the stands.  For 4,000 colones (about $7.50US) several hundred people filled the arena.  The Cowboys, cheered by their fans, were introduced as they pulled the name of their bull out of a hat.

8 seconds of the cowboy on the bull or less and then the real show begins!   (No offense to the talented athletes riding the Bulls intended!!) A bunch of men jump in the arena to encourage the bull back into the pen.  They never succeed and then the Cowboys ride in and lasso the bull.  These skilled horsemen where the highlight of the show.  How can they ride so fast while at the same time lasso the bull by the neck so accurately?

Outside the arena the carnival delights with bright lights, rides, a DJ and salsa dancing and lots of food and beer.  And, notable to me, somehow a banos vendor puts in flush toilets and charges 500c for their use.  Far nicer than porto-poddies…but where do they flush…?

Every night the rodeo draws crowds.  During the day the beach is the place to be.  Families, honeymooners and mostly Costa Rican’s are swimming, surfing, building sand castles and sun bathing.   This is a great vacation spot for Christmas week.

Anticipation for New Year’s Eve on the beach was high.  Many of our new friends here told us about the Bon fires and fireworks.  The local hotels and restaurants hold parties and sponsor these fireworks.  We walked along the beach like kids, holding hands and delighted with the romance of the evening.  The sky was clear, stars brilliant in the new moon sky and the beach lined with the glow of the restaurant lights.  Several bonfires were lit along the beach with young people laughing, talking and closing out 2016 In Costa Rica.

We walked home to our deck on the hill to bring in the New Year.  The fireworks started about 9pm and went on and on to midnight!  It was a magical evening for us.  Sitting on our deck was like being in a planetarium.  The stars were awe inspiring and the fireworks show was beautiful.

Happy New Year!  May 2017 bring you the desires of your heart.

 

The Southern Cross – from the deck

The first time I saw the Southern Cross I was 20 years old on a backpacking adventure in Maui.  Camping in the crater of the Haleakala volcano I looked to the south in the darkest night sky I’d ever experienced and there it was!  I’m no astronomy expert but I have always loved stars.  In New England and the Midwest my constellations had been (and until now still were) Orion, casiopaea and the Big Dipper.  So for me, seeing the Southern Cross was otherworldly.  I was in awe.

Flash forward 30+ years to our Costa Rican adventure.  I have been here 4 times.  Each time hoping to see this south-of-the-equator constellation.  I was never able to see it.  I had been thwarted by timing, clouds and business each visit so far.  Well, for no apparent reason I woke up this morning even before the Howler Monkeys and before the dawn broke, went out on the deck with my delicious coffee and there it was!  The southern cross…it felt like a special gift to start my day.  I hope you have a day that starts with such a gift this week!

Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.  Mathew 5:16  (from my readings this morning)

Now every morning here I will see the Southern Cross off my deck and be reminded…  🙂