Sunday, 29 September 2013

Beach find

Something YS found on the beach this afternoon at Playa Ocotal,

Saturday Afternoon Walk.

Routine dictates that usually on a Saturday afternoon, myself and the boys would meet up with our dear friends back in Farnham and go for a long walks; the Bourne Woods of Gladiator fame and Frensham Ponds were always a favourite. Up hill and down dale we would leisurely wander, stopping only to feed starving kids (our own of course, not some random country urchins left over from the filming of Robin Hood). Occasionally we would be lucky enough to spot a deer in the undergrowth, but usually the only animals we had the pleasure of regarding were horses or dogs, out on similar Saturday afternoon jaunts. However as of now, five weeks in to our adventure  we have yet to make any friends that we would wish to carry on this tradition with (please, no violins!). 

Instead then, yesterday afternoon, DH, YS and I went on a short ramble through the hillside and greenery behind the back of our condo. ES has yet to be torn away from the Ipad! The heat was high, so an hour was long enough; walking downhill was fine, but the return journey uphill? Wow that was a struggle! I am sure I am going to lose pounds, hopefully stones, in weight due to sweat! Sorry Great-Grandmother, Louie, for my coarseness, for if I remember correctly only horses sweat, men perspire and ladies glow!! 

No horses were to be seen and the only dogs noticed were the ones barking, guarding their property no doubt. However, I would like to share some photos of the wildlife we did see - or at least the ones I was quick enough to point the camera at: forgive me, they are only snaps of an amateur.

Butterflies can be found everywhere, all shapes and sizes and colours. 

I think this one is my favourite, because it looks yellow when flying around, but is almost camouflaged when on the leaf. Not sure what it is called though, nor the one below! Another thing to add to my list of things to find out.

I do know however that the birds that sang to us continually on our walk are parakeets. There are plenty of them where we live; they do a fly past at least three times an hour every day. Haven't managed to catch them in flight on camera though, but did spend an age trying to get snap them whilst they were still on the trees. Shame it came out so dark though, as you can't see their beautiful green plumage.

Lastly though, on the home straight up the hill, left dawdling behind DH and YS, I spotted what I think was a Four-Striped Whiptail, a small lizard, with fours pale yellow lines running down its back, that can be found sunning itself most places in the Caribbean and Costa Rica. As an adult, its thin tail is greyish-brown, but as a young juvenile lizard, its can be easily spotted because its tail is bright blue; the one I followed had radiant red and yellow stripes all down the length of its body! Unfortunately, it moved too quick, and my skill with the camera is not great, so my photos will not make National Geographic, but here they are:

I hope to get some pictures of the howler monkeys soon - they wake us up most mornings!!

Saturday, 28 September 2013

Mistaken Identity

In the UK, when he got home from school, YS always without fail would have a cup of tea and a sandwich, possibly followed by a few biscuits and an hour of CBBC. Now when we get back from the school run, YS has a freshly made fruit smoothie and a splash about in the pool for an hour or so; I mean, who wouldn't?

So far this week, I have joined him most days and  I can usually survive about half an hour before I realise that my extremities have turned a paler shade of blue! I have noticed that my reptilian blood will then stay nice and cold until the next morning and no need for the a/c, just the ceiling fan. Naturally, within fifteen minutes of waking up the next morning, the heat has returned, and I spend the day looking like a beetroot!!

However, I digress. Yesterday, after school, lazing in the pool, YS, DH and I (yes, DH managed to get in the pool which he believes to be the coldest pool he has ever had the pleasure of enduring!), we spotted some dark shadows in the bay. Firstly we thought they were probably rocks as maybe the tide was low or something; but rocks do not move! These dark shadows were definitely moving. There were three large shapes in the bay, two fairly close to the boats and one moving out into the ocean.

Grabbing the binoculars, we watched these shapes being swooped at by the seagulls. Occasionally a large black ridge emerged the sea, a back perhaps? Sometimes a flip of a tail. One of our neighbours asked if we were watching the whales? Whales? Real, live whales? Never in my life have I seen a whale in its natural habitat - as far as I can recall the only whale I have seen was the beautiful Orca they used to have in Windsor Safari Park many, many years ago!! Naturally YS desperately wanted us to drive down to the beach to see if we could get a closer look, but unfortunately darkness falls promptly here between 5.30 and 6pm so it would have been too dark for us to see them very well. We may be lucky enough another day perhaps.

Sitting on the balcony this morning, with the eagles diving for some invisible prey, I detected the dark shapes were back in the bay, but this time the shadows were larger. So I have done a little bit of research, in between loads of washing, and the wonders of the internet has procured that these creatures are in fact either bottle nosed dolphins or spotted dolphins. So not whales, but dolphins, just as exciting. If we want to see humpback whales, we have to travel further south along the Pacific coast: one day!!

So yes, dolphins in the bay! Amazing! 

Tuesday, 24 September 2013

First Day of School

Sunday night: couldn't sleep! The recurring stomach cramps that have plagued me since childhood reappeared once again. Sunday night always means that Monday morning is not far behind. Sunday night usually leads to questions such as "Is your back packed? Have you got your pencil case? Do you need your PE kit?". As an adult, no matter who you are, Sunday night ALWAYS means "Oh God, it's work tomorrow". To me Sunday night has always been similar to a trip to the dentist: the thought of it is always worse than the actuality. However, the dread I feel on the Sunday night before starting a new school, or job, well, that is like a trip to the dentist, combined with both toothache and earache and perhaps some labour pains thrown in for good measure. Needless then to reiterate that Sunday night: couldn't sleep!

Monday morning: the alarm trills its happy tune at 5.45 a.m!!!! Yes, that is correct - 5.45 in the morning! The sun is still rising. After at least eight weeks 'time off for good behaviour  I have to prepare two packed lunches. The boys start school today!!! A bi-lingual school  called Teocali Academy. Out of the schools we visited, the whole family preferred this one even though it is about 30 kms away. Hopefully the boys will be 'hablar Espanol' in no time and can teach me!

So the boys struggle out of their pits about 6 o'clock, flop down on our garden chairs that are indoors (as yet still no container with out belongings)  and partake in a subdued bowl of cornflakes. Just as before in England, the three of us communicate little with each other in the mornings: DH gets up however and speaks a great deal; "Do you want this? Do you want that? Are your excited? Are you nervous?" and so on and so on... 

Both look very smart in their new uniforms (white polo shirt and beige trousers). The obligatory 'First Day at New School' photo shoot then takes place. September in England is usually quite sunny, as most of the photos I have of such occasions are usually set against a late summer sun. Little girls often return to school in their summer dresses and boys in their shorts. However, it still seems odd that these 'First Day' photos are taken in front of a pool with the ocean view stretching out behind. Naturally I am banned by the kids to publish said photos!!

Whereas I feel positively nauseous and nervous all day, the boys appear to take it all in their stride. When we collect them from school, both are smiling (that chips away at my anxiousness); both have made friends (another chip) and both chat all the way home about their day (anxiety nearly all crumbled away). They even want to catch the school bus in the near future; more time with theirpeers, after such a long and uninterrupted time with us!

So another 'First' conquered here in Costa Rica. Real life is beginning and a routine will no doubt follow.

Bonus! As kids have to get up at some un-godly hour, they are both cream crackered and are in bed by 7.30!

Monday, 16 September 2013

The House with A View!

Few words today, just some photos of our home for the next year.
 We have been camping here for the past two days, with no TV and only limited internet. Looking forward to our furniture and belongings arriving!!

So welcome to Corona Del Mar, Playa del Ocotal.

This is our house

Come On In ...


Downstairs from another angle

The Kitchen
The Staircase!

And most importantly, a Walk-in Wardrobe!
Just need some more clothes and shoes to fill it!

Well, that is our new abode: four bedrooms, three bathrooms, three balconies and a laundry room for me to hide in when the going gets tough.

So how about the pool and views? Get ready to be jealous!

The Room With A View - Our Room!


View from ES Room

View from Front Door

The pool

The pool again

The View of Playa del Ocotal

Think I will leave it at that for now ...

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

La Sele are through to Brazil 2014

Just a quick post tonight.

La Sele, otherwise known as the Costa Rica national football team, are through to Brazil 2014. 

According to Wikipedia, they are the third most successful team in Central America.

Finally, a bit of Latino spirit is evident in these laid back people! What with defeating the USA on home turf on Friday night, San Jose and the whole of Costa Rica has gone football crazy tonight! Avenida Segundo (2nd Street) is full of partying Ticos, all dancing in the street waving their flags. Cars are maniacally  driving around the city, tooting their horns, flashing their hazard lights (if they have any bulbs in them), waving even more national flags. The city actually looks and sounds alive tonight! Music can be heard drifting through the air from the numerous bars that can be found in the city and people are actually wandering through the usually deserted streets.

Celebrations in La Sele's locker room in Kingston, Jamaica, are being aired continuously on the national television screens. There is also a constant stream of videos of partying Ticos in various towns around the country. What is noticeable from these images however, is that unlike the UK, this nation seems to be celebrating without the aid of beer!! I am sure that the amber nectar will be consumed long into the night tonight, but for the moment, the Ticos are just too excited to stop beeping those car horns!

Saturday, 7 September 2013

House Hunting in Playa de Coco

So after five days in the city, we moved down to the coast, to our chosen
destination, Playa de Coco, Guanacaste, north-west of Costa Rica.
(Note to self, I really must start taking some photographs and upload them!)

First task is to find somewhere to rent long-term; we can't live in our holiday rental apartment for ever, however warm and inviting the pool is! I think we looked at roughly ten different properties in about three days, some of which where great whereas others were .... Interesting! In one house I think they were starting up their own national collection of dead wasps and flies. In another, all sorts of cultures were being grown both inside and outside the fridge - Kim and Aggie would have a field day! I hope not to compare too much with the British way, as it is so different, but the Costa Rican people could learn a thing or two about presenting a house; even opening a window might help shift those properties, let alone a good clean. 

The realtor, Mari, whom we went on some of the viewings with, is in her mid-twenties I guess, and she owns the agency. A bi-lingual Costa Rican who speaks so, so, so fast in both Spanish and American, (I'm sorry, but with her accent, I really can't say she speaks the Queens English), that we both struggle with what she is saying in either language. Every time her mobile phone rings, of which she juggles about three, she immediately stops whatever she is doing to answer it, and then paces up and down like a madman jabbering instructions to the person on the end of the line. If the floor was made of stone, rather than ceramic tiles, I think Mari would wear them down very quickly. 

DH likes her because her skirts are rather short; naturally he denies this saying it is her knowledge of real estate and the surrounding area that he appreciates. Hmmm, silly bugger! However its obviously an office where uniform is not obligatory, unlike other places of work in CR, as her brother, Mauricio, rocks up wearing surf shorts and flip-flops! A very cool laid back surfer dude, who also paces a great deal when on the phone, but it is he who shows the best properties ultimately.

Armed with a long list of pros and cons, we all discussed our favourite properties: there was Tim's house, high on the hill, wonderful view, cool breeze drifting throughout, garage, open living space, permission to have an animal, but only a plunge pool. (Tim was from Florida and knew about house presentation as he had some ribs smoking on the barbie). Youngest son (YS from now on) campaigned strongly for the Golf House - large garden and room for a game of football and his goalie net to be erected; Eldest Son (ES) reasonably keen as hoping for a quad bike, which he thought would be useful to get around the golf course! 

A winner was eventually decided and a deal was struck. A four bedroom house in a small condominium of just twelve other properties will be our place of residence for the next year. We have a pool right next to our house, albeit a shared one, and a small gym. most importantly though, we have a view of the PACIFIC OCEAN!! I have never totally understood the desire for a sea view, probably because I have never lived by the sea before. But wow, totally amazing. We took a trip up there in the evening too and it is even more spectacular in the dark; all the little lights on the boats bobbing up and down on the water. Very impressive!

Back to the condo, it seems that only three of the other properties are regularly occupied, with the others still for sale or rent, so with any luck we will have the pool to ourselves mostly. It will be an experience living in a condo as we are used to our own space, but hopefully we won't aggravate and annoy the other residents too much with our noise!!

All I need to do now is take some photos and upload them. Oh yes, and move in!

First five days!

Well, we have been here two weeks already and I have yet to put fingertips to keyboard and start blogging. I am very apprehensive of putting my thoughts down as I am prone to ramble. But hey, what have I go to lose? This blog is for my friends and family as well as for me, so here goes!

Well what can you achieve in 2 weeks in Costa Rica? Quite a lot, so I think I will break down this blog into two or more parts!

Having arrived on a Friday evening, in San Jose we had visited 2 museums by Saturday afternoon; bijou I would call them, and not really very exciting, to me at least. We did however, have the pleasure of listening to an orchestra practising in the Teatro Nacional, which was rather uplifting.
Two beautiful Cocker Spaniel puppies were spotted in a vet/pet shop for sale - extremely tempting with their doleful eyes, but like a responsible adult, temptation was resisted! Sunday morning was spent in the Sabana Metropolitan Park, enjoying a stroll, watching various ages and sizes of Tico's (Costa Rican people) engaging in all kinds of physical activity.

By Monday, we had had our first meeting to present paperwork to start the process of becoming residents. Plus we had our first meeting at the bank to set up accounts. To my surprise, we were only there an hour and all seemed complete; but alas, no, we had to return on the Tuesday to pick up our bank cards, another hour of form filling. To my delight (note hint of sarcasm) on my bank card, I have the word 'Mujer' emblazoned on the top right corner. This to the non-Spanish speakers is 'woman'!! Is it that difficult to tell what gender I am? I was wearing a dress ... perhaps I look like a cross-dresser or transvestite, I'm not sure. Needless to say this 'bristled' me somewhat and the obligatory 'Imperial' beer at lunchtime did not lessen the indignation!

A quick trip to the British Embassy was also scheduled in. Not very exciting, other than it is on the same floor as the Israeli Embassy in a very unassuming high rise building. An ex-copper, with the same name as a certain headmaster is in charge; he was convinced that he and DH had met before!!! Very odd room, no hint of Britishness other than a large poster of Wills and Kate with Baby George!

So enough of the big city for a while and off to the beach in the next post!