Sunday, December 26, 2004

Countdown to the New Year

Yesterday was Christmas. It was a beautiful day in Monteverde. The puppy (his name is now Squirt) didn’t wake us up through the night so we actually slept for the first time since we got him on December 3rd. Ryan woke up at 7:30 declaring it Christmas day so we got out of bed to see if Santa had come during the night. Although we didn’t have a Christmas tree this year (we don’t have a chimney either) he still managed to find us. Ryan got some toys and mints (her favorite) and a tree swing. The swing is so much fun!

We opened gifts and had a relaxing morning. Then Ran pushed Ryan on her swing while I made breakfast. I had a hankering for breakfast tacos (I’ve never even seen flour tortillas— lots of corn, though). I’ve discovered in the short time we’ve lived here that you either live without the things you miss or you figure out a way to make them (or have someone ship ‘em--- thanks girls!). So I made my first ever flour tortillas and we had bacon, egg and cheese tacos. They were great!

After a leisurely morning, Ran left for the Pension. Ryan and I stayed at home to relax and clean up. I spent the afternoon making rice krispie treats, deviled eggs and chocolate cakes (from scratch… I have become a crazy dessert lady). After Ryan’s nap we got dolled up and headed to the Pension with our food and gifts for the Christmas party. It was a huge success! Ran grilled a bunch of meat (with his fantastic secret dry rub) which was the hit of the night. Everyone pitched in with food (mashed potatoes, salad, pasta salad, veggie lasagna…) or money or dishwashing help. All of the employees as well as many friends and guests were there. We had a Secret Santa gift exchange and it was such a fun night. The surprise of the evening was that Daniel’s family (dad, mom, brother, sister-in-law and two nieces) came from Cartago without telling anyone they were coming! They brought gifts and tamales and desserts and were so nice. I wish we spoke more Spanish since they don’t speak any English.

Ran went to work early today. Now he’s doing a canopy tour with Daniel and his brother and sister-in-law, then he’ll go back to work. Ryan is walking around in my shoes and a feather boa and singing to herself. Tonight we’re going to the Pension for dinner (Ran’s grilling the rest of the meat) and a fire show. Ro is a guy who works at the Pension. He spins fire poi balls and two guests at the hotel happen to as well. It should be an interesting night!

Here the supermarket closes at 8. There’s just one gas station. I can’t get a cheesesteak or Chinese food or a real hamburger. But it’s beautiful here and we’re spend a lot of time walking and playing outside. I’m learning to make my own tortillas and the other day I made a sandwich that would give any deli a run for its money. And there are so many great people in this town. We have always believed that it takes a village to raise a child. We had it in Austin and somehow we lucked out again. I can’t wait for you to come experience the tuanis (cool) lifestyle in Monteverde!

Pura Vida

Friday, December 17, 2004

Eight Days 'Til Christmas...

... and we're not ready for it! Our house looks a bit more festive, though. Lorena bought us the last strand of garlands in town as well as some Christmas dish towels and an oven mitt. I hung up our stockings and bought a lighted ball ornament at the supermarket. The supermarket is pretty big and you can buy everything there… shoes, underwear, dishes, clocks. The interesting thing is that there’s not a single roll of wrapping paper! All paper is sold in individual sheets. Or you can buy gift bags. Not that it really matters… we haven’t done any shopping yet anyway. Ran did mention that he wants a basketball so hope I can find one at our local department store, Vistosi.

We’re going to try to make it to Cartago for Christmas Eve with Daniel’s family. Then we will be back for Christmas at the Pension with our group of friends. We’re going to have a Secret Santa gift exchange and a nice big dinner. Tamales are the traditional Costa Rican Christmas dish. I hope to have some of those as well as a nice, fat turkey. We’re going to miss your green bean casserole this year, Ryder.

The weeks keep flying by. Ryan had fun at the farm on Wednesday. She played with the bunnies and was so happy to see Cotton Candy Ho again. Then she and Tara rode the ponies and played. When we got home she took a nice, long nap, then we met Ran, Bodi, Shannon, Daniel, and Samantha for dinner at my favorite restaurant, Sofia’s.

We were without a phone the other day. I was talking to Shannon and the line went dead… Clara bit right through the phone cord! And I thought we’d have to worry about the new puppy chewing on things. The puppy is no longer called Brownie Kacrownie. His name changed to Dragon for a couple of days, then Sugar Bear, and now Copper. I think we’re sticking with Copper. (Although “Whiner” would fit him quite well also.) It's hectic having four pets. Maile is the same trouble-making sweetheart she has always been. Moki is his demanding and loveable old self. Copper is loud, loud, loud and frisky! And then there's Clara. Sticking with the theme of mischevious pets, she breaks out of her cage every day. She chews and scratches at the door until the latch loosens, then she pushes it open and runs around the house. This morning she jumped right into bed with me at 5:30 this morning (Ran was already at work). It kind of freaked me out since I didn’t know she could jump that high. But she snuggled right under my arm and started licking me. When I moved my arm, she put her head on my pillow and started licking my face. Before we got Clara I had no idea that rabbits can be such sweet pets with so much personality. I'm trying to get all four pets together (with Ryan) for a Christmas photo but I haven't been able to work that miracle yet.

Yesterday was our last day at CPI. School won’t resume until February so we had a little party in our classroom and invited the two other classes and Samantha (the director… she also works at the Pension two days/week). We played hangman and ate snacks. Then we talked about our holiday plans. It was a fun night.

Ryan and I are going to art class on Saturday and a Christmas program at the Friend's School on Sunday. Ran will be working all weekend and Shannon is in Nicaragua for three days. Then next week Bodi, Ryan and I will head to San Jose to do some shopping. I'll probably be able to post a blog before Christmas but in case I don't... hope it's wonderful! Miss you all!

pura vida

Monday, December 13, 2004

Life goes on...

We’re still a four-pet family. Unfortunately Clara never accepted Cotton Candy Ho so we had to return her. She has been welcomed back to her bunny family at the farm where we bought her and all is well. But now we have a new pet… a little brown puppy that Ryan has named Brownie Kacrownie. I am reading to Ryan as I type this and her words were, “And I love him so much it makes me want to have another dog.” Ran, being the sucker that he is, took Brownie Kacrownie in because a man was going to throw him away—literally! So while Ryan and I were at the grocery store, Ran was being persuaded by someone at the Pension to save the puppy. Brownie is 7 weeks old and he’s pretty sweet. Maile and Moki aren’t so sure about him but he and Clara seem to get along just fine.

Yesterday was our day to see wildlife! Ran saw a toucan in the morning and we all saw a bunch of capuchin monkeys in the afternoon. Then we saw two female quetzals. All of this took place in our back yard! The monkeys are so cute until they bear their teeth… then they look pretty darn intimidating.

The hotel continues to be full every day. Ryan really enjoys hanging out with the guests. Shannon took a trip to San Jose and bought some Christmas decorations so the Pension looks nice and festive. We don’t have any decorations at home, though. We brought our stockings with us so I’m going to hang them today. I can’t believe that Christmas is two weeks away! I hope to take a trip to San Jose next week to do a bit of shopping.

We’ve had a guest for the past few days. Lorena just got back from a month-long vacation visiting her family in the U.S. and she and her live-in boyfriend broke up. So she’s staying with us until she moves into a new apartment. Ryan loves having a house guest, of course.

We had a pretty full weekend. Lorena got here on Friday afternoon so we got her settled, then went to dinner at Flor de Vida, a vegetarian restaurant in walking distance from our house. (They have the best tomato gorgonzola soup.) On Saturday Ran went on a three-hour horseback ride. He had a great time and came home with a sore bottom. Ryan, Lorena and I went to art class. Ryan made a Christmas card and an ornament. Then we stopped at Lazy Frog--- a coffee shop and gallery. Ryan played with a bunch of the kids that were at art class and I bought her a cool sweater. I magically found one bottle of Tostito’s queso at the little grocery store near our house so we added tomatoes and peppers to it and indulged in cheese and chips! Then Ran came home with some pizza for dinner. On Sunday Ran went to work for a while and us gals went to an open house at Bromelia’s. It’s a gallery that has jewelry, clothing, books, music, aromatherapy--- all kinds of cool stuff. They also do massage therapy and yoga there. I bought some lip balm and eucalyptus oil. Ryan played with one of the owner’s sons—a little cutie named Kyle who is 5 days younger than Ryan. They are so alike that we (the parents) were laughing that the kids had met their match. We came home and Ryan took a nap, then we went to a birthday party at Moon Shiva, a restaurant/bar. There was a bonfire outside and a DJ inside and tons of people everywhere. Ryan, being the true party girl, ate cake and danced all night. She slept in until almost 10 today which was very nice!

It’s another beautiful day in Monteverde. Ran and Lorena are at work. Ryan and I had a Cheerios for breakfast and we’ll probably clean the house and go for a walk. I’ve got to go into the village (Santa Elena) today to get some craft things so we can make some Christmas decorations. On Wednesday Ryan and I are going to visit Sabine and Tara. We’re going on a horseback ride, then we’ll play with the bunnies (they now have 40), and Ryan really wants to milk the goat.
It’s the last week of classes at CPI before winter break. We might go to visit Daniel’s family in Cartago for Christmas. It’ll have to be a quick turnaround trip since the hotel is always open. Daniel has been taking English classes at CPI and he is doing so well! Last night at the party Ran gave a toast to Shannon and Daniel because they are getting married in January! Of course Ran cried as he called Daniel his brother and friend. And Daniel went to hug him and said (in English), “My friend, my brother, my life.” It was so touching and even kind of funny because you’d think Ran and Daniel were getting married the way they were hugging! So life keeps goes on in Monteverde. This is an awesome community and we are so blessed to be a part of it. Can’t wait ‘til you get here!

Pura vida

Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Some Things Change, Some Things Stay the Same

Today I was making soup for lunch. (That’s a new one, isn’t it?) As I was cleaning up the potato and carrot peels, I saw a huge tarantula on the kitchen floor next to the garbage can. Usually when I see an insect that creeps me out I put a glass over it and wait for Ran to come home and free it. Well, a glass wouldn’t fit on this sucker so I got a colander and put it over Mr. T and got out of the kitchen. That thing gives me the shivers!

Yesterday I went to the grocery store. I’m getting used to buying meat by the kilo instead of the pound. I also went to the department store to buy some fabric to make curtains for Ryan’s bedroom (we’ll see how that works--- I may just pay someone to sew them for me). I had to remember to measure her windows in meters instead of feet. I’m still converting colones to dollars in my head whenever I shop so I can figure out how much I’m paying!

We finally got a Monteverde phone book. All of the emergency numbers (including 911) are on the first page but it’s a lot easier to navigate than the Austin phone book since it’s just twenty pages long. Some of our friends don’t even have a phone at home. I guess I shouldn’t find dial-up internet access so archaic when I take that into consideration.

Ran and Daniel are in Puntarenas today. They’re shopping for things for the Pension that we can’t get here (or we’d have to pay a lot more for because we’re up here). I hope that Ran will also pick up some hangers and pillows and maybe even a blanket. And a doll for Ryan. There isn’t much to shop for here. I know I keep saying it… it’s true! But this weekend there’s a craft fair at the Friends School. Maybe I’ll find some cool knick knacks or Christmas gifts. I need to get to know more of the community because I think the way to get “stuff” (besides traveling to San Jose or “the States”--- I can’t stand that expression because people would always use it while visiting Hawaii, forgetting that they were in one of “the States”—but enough about me and my issues), is to have people make them for us. Like cool shirts for Ran or sheets that aren’t scratchy and too small for the bed.

Maile is having fun chasing the wildlife and getting into the trash… same old Maile. Yesterday we had at least 20 pizotes in our yard digging through our organics. (Here everything organic gets put out in the compost pile--- not just veggies and fruit. Maile was freaking out so I wouldn’t let her outside. Being the dog she is, she jumped through the window and chased them away. Yesterday and today we also saw an agouti in our yard. It’s an R.O.U.S. (rodent of unusual size--- like in The Princess Bride but not as ferocious). Ryan loves to run outside and look at all of the animals and bugs. She thinks the tarantula is really cool. Thank goodness I’m not raising this child alone… otherwise she’d be a wimp who puts a glass over insects instead of picking them up, declaring them beautiful.

We still haven’t decided if we’re keeping Cotton Candy Ho, Ryan’s new bunny. Clara doesn’t like her and doesn’t look like she’s planning to change her feelings. We aren’t willing to have two bunny cages so they’ll have to learn to tolerate each other (and hopefully eventually love each other) or CCH goes back. In the meantime, Ryan is loving being in a four-pet family. She’s our little Elmyra--- she defines “smother with love”.

Well, there’s no Rotel or Velveeta or soy sauce or canned soup or comfy pillows here. But fear not! When you get here you’ll find: Hershey’s syrup, Pillsbury cake mix, good coffee, great folks, a terrific lifestyle and the Smith gang waiting to show you a good time. Some things never change…

Pura vida

Saturday, November 27, 2004

Real Life Has Begun

Well, we’re hotel owners. It took such a long time to get here but we’re thrilled. Ryan worked with Ran for an hour yesterday while I did the grocery shopping for our party. Ryan likes to sit at the reception desk and deliver her standard line, “Do you need anything?”

The party was a success. I was surprised that so many people came. I made Korean chicken (always a big hit), potato salad (thanks, Tonya and Erma) and seven-layer dip (hooray, Teeny). Sabine brought homemade goat cheese… very yummy! I also baked a chocolate cake which was well-received since ovens are rare in Costa Rica. Ryan gathered everyone together so we could sing happy birthday to Ran.

Our house here is spacious enough but we don’t have any furniture yet so the typical thing happened: everyone gathered around the food table, then went outside to hang out and talk. The boys built a fire at the beginning of the evening so it was nice to sit around it as we enjoyed the full moon. Ryan had several costume changes and was a wonderful hostess.

So now it’s Saturday morning. Clara is sitting on my lap (licking my arm) as I type and Ryan is beside me reading me a story in Spanglish. Ryan is getting her second bunny today--- a white one--- and she said she is going to name her Cotton Candy Ho (maybe we can call her Candy or CC or Cotton Candy). Ran is working all day so Ryan and I are going to hang out this morning and do some post-party cleaning. She has art class this afternoon and we’ll head to the Pension tonight to meet Ran after work.

Thanksgiving was uneventful (except for the phone calls) but I think we’ll be able to have a semi-normal Christmas. (I’m going to start decorating the Pension next week.) Of course we’ll have to go out of town to shop for gifts since there’s nothing to buy here… you’ll see when you come.

Well, we can’t wait to see you all! Time to eat a piece of cake. Aah, the good life…

Pura vida

Afternoon update: Clara doesn't seem to like Cotton Candy Ho. Maybe it's the name that turned her off--- she took a huge bite out of Candy's backside. I spent some time applying antibiotic ointment on the wound and we'll just have to see what happens next. Poor CCH must be miserable. I'll keep you posted on life at the Smith farm.

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Lucky Me

I wrote this on November 19 and it's for my family... you know who you are.

My husband, daughter, dog, cat and I have been living in a foreign country for a month… to the day. We’re going through a chaotic transition and it’s during times like these that I depend most on my family. When I say family I don’t just mean the people I am related to by blood or marriage. I also mean the family that I have chosen… my family of friends.

The blessing of friendship is one that I have an abundance of. And at a time when I need my family of friends the most, I find that I am without some of the communication comforts that I have become accustomed to. I can’t see my friends every day or every week or every month at girls’ night. I can’t get online and send corny emails whenever the fancy strikes. I can’t pick up the phone without first purchasing a long-distance calling card. But somehow I am happy. And I feel lucky to have such an amazing network of strong, beautiful, intelligent, supportive people thousands of miles away. Because they are a short distance from my mind… right here in my heart.

pura vida...


Wednesday, November 10, 2004

We don't need no stinkin' humidifier!

The bad news is that I have been out of touch. Ran has been working a lot and Ryan has been sick (nothing to be alarmed about... just a cold). But the good news is that we're getting settled and enjoying life here. I hope to have internet access at home next week. It'll be dial-up and on the same phone line as the home phone. It could take a year (I'm not kidding) to get a second phone line. Either way it's only 56k but I'll just be glad to not have to leave the house to check my email or post a blog.

A quick recap... Ryan had a great birthday. She rode a pony and got a beautiful brown bunny that she named Clara. We spent a couple to days at Los Lagos and saw the volcano. Ran has been working a lot. I have only been working a little. Very little. It's kind of like Austin! I'm going on a tour of the coffee plantation for the co-op job tomorrow. The coffee co-op is in walking distance from our house. And tomorrow night I start my teaching job. I will be teaching English at CPI (google it) on Tuesday and Thursday nights. It's also in walking distance. This walking thing has been great for my lungs as well as my waistline!

We moved into our house on the 2nd. It needs love and furniture but we're excited about it. It's close enough to everything to be convenient but far enough away to be tranquilo (peaceful). We have seen all kinds of wildlife in our yard... even a river crab at our front door! The other day there were 15 pizotes in our yard... they're kind of like raccoons I think. And the birds and butterflies are incredible. And the foliage too. And the sunsets. I could go on and on. It's pretty wild living up in the clouds. Everything is very moist. We have to paint the walls with mold-resistant paint. Our cement floors sweat when it's cold and rainy because of the humidity. We miss you all and we're going to have so much fun showing you our new home! Don't forget to bring house shoes and a sweater.

More to come... especially once we have internet access at home!

pura vida

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Miercoles... yep that's Spanish!

I think today is Wednesday. It's hard to keep track since I am still feeling like I'm in some kind of whirlwind... or cloud forest. We were supposed to go to Spanish class today but our teacher forgot so we sat at her house with her son for 40 minutes before giving up and heading to breakfast. Guess what I had... rice and beans with eggs and ham and cheese. Yep, my heartburn is gone and my appetite is back. Last night Ryan, Ran, Shannon, Daniel and I went to an awesome restaurant called Sofias. We'll all have to go there when you visit. On Monday night Shannon and I went out to Taberna and shook our booties a little. It was fun!

Today Ryan and I took a taxi to our future new home. We gave our landlord our deposit and we should be moving in at the beginning of November. The first is Ryan's birthday and we are going to pick out her bunny. Daniel is building the bunny hutch and Ryan is going to be thrilled. We walked to the co-op after visiting with our landlord. Ryan fell twice. She'll have to get used to the rocky roads--- gotta pay attention to where you're going around here. I met with Lorena and we talked about my new job which I start next week. I'll be making coffee and telling people about the co-op. Their website is under construction but you can find out about it . Funny how things are so inter-related.

We are going on a two-day vacation to Los Lagos. We'll be taking a taxi-boat-taxi ~it's just what it sounds like it is~ and we'll go to the volcano, swim in hot pool, etc. We're looking forward to it!

Ryan is being great singing as I type this blog at an internet cafe. I don't want to push my luck, though. We're still stressed out from the transition but we are glad to be here. I'm still trying to figure out what everything is at the grocery store and I continue to look for things that don't exist... like a can of cream of mushroom soup. We bought Ryan bandaids with dragons and dinosaurs on them. She keeps falling down but she's a tough chick.

My time is up. Ryan said she needs to go potty. Our Spanish is getting better little by little and we're looking forward to taking Spanish classes. Daniel ~ Shannon's boyfriend~ starts English class on the 1st. (Oh, I finally found parentheses on the keyboard... yahoo!) Oh and I've been offered a job teaching English. We'll have to see if I can juggle Ran's schedule at the Pension with Ryan being at home and me having two part-time jobs.

So much to tell, so little time. More to come...

pura vida

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Looks Like We Made It

Well, here we are in Costa Rica. It's hard to believe that we live here now. Considering how much stress we went through to get here, you'd think this would feel more real than it does! Our flight was a breeze-- Ryan was awesome on the plane-- and we got through customs very quickly. We spent last night at a pretty hotel in Alajuela and we came up to the village early today. We're exhausted but thrilled.

I have had heartburn for four days but I think it is finally subsiding. We're going check out some houses tomorrow and Ryan will go look at her school next week. Reality will kick in soon, I'm sure. It's a beautiful day today... life is good.

I'll have to get used to going to an internet cafe for a while since we don't have access at home and we are not likely to get it any time soon. I'll keep you all posted!

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

On Our Way

At this time next week we will be on a plane heading to Costa Rica! Reality is setting in and I am getting excited and sad. We're going to miss our family, friends, home, food... so many things! But I know we will have tons of visitors (hint hint) and just think of all the cool stuff we'll get to show you. Ran and I are celebrating our 8th wedding anniversary the day after we arrive and we are looking forward to the new life we have ahead of us. Ryan will be four soon and as you all know she is really wanting a baby brother or sister. We're planning to get her a bunny for her birthday (don't tell her---it's a surprise). The sibling and pony will just have to come later.

So what will I miss? Besides my village, my peeps, my ohana, mi gente? Well, I'll also miss English reading material, queso, high-speed internet, MGGTs, going out to eat, quick trips to the mall just in case there's something waiting there for me that I didn't know I'd been missing. And I imagine that, at least on occasion, I'll miss speaking English and having everyone generally understand me. But you wanna know what I'm most looking forward to? Having a cool, bilingual kid(s). Living in a rain forest again. Sleeping through the night (it's all about the little things). Meeting new people. Really knowing what pura vida means.

More to come...