Sunday, April 27, 2008

Life in the Tropics

We are still very much enjoying life here. Although we haven’t had time to do any traveling/exploring of the country, we are surrounded by beauty and interesting critters. Our nature sightings have been from the house and yard here. A few nights ago, the cats alerted us to an intruder. A good sized toad (about 2.5 inches long) had hopped into the house. We quickly caught it before the cats could get it, and relocated it to the safety of outdoors. About 10 minutes later the cats were excitedly peering out onto the terrace. The porch light revealed another toad, larger by an inch or more than our first visitor. Norm shooed it away so that it didn’t come inside and risk cat mutilation. Then, ten minutes later, the cats and we were attracted to a loud fluttering of wings. At first we thought that a hummingbird was between the screen and the door, but it was a very large moth. After photographing it, we shooed it away. But the nature program wasn’t over After a 10 minute intermission, fluttering sounds made us think that moth was back. This time it was a giant beetle. We know that this is a country of huge insects, but this was the first large beetle we’ve seen.

We have seen but not photographed a 3 inch walking stick like insect. What we initially thought to be a large ant is a very brightly colored insect shown here.

A couple of new birds in the yard: Golden-olive Woodpecker, Yellow-faced Grassquit, and a Purple-throated Mountain-gem rescued from the adjoining cabin.

Yikes, a squirrel is in the house! Today a squirrel jumped down from the beams on the porch onto the make-shift screen door we have to keep the cats in. From the top of the door it jumped to the floor and immediately climbed up a wall and onto the loft. Of course both cats awakened from their naps immediately. Jelly was behind boxes in the loft, his usual napping spot. He came out to see what was going on as the panicked squirrel was zooming around, climbing walls, looking for a way out. We mistakenly thought that Jelly was afraid and went back into hiding behind the boxes. But moments later we heard scrambling sounds and then the high pitched squeaking cry of the squirrel. Fortunately for the squirrel, the cats carry their prey around and then put them down to play with them. Jelly released it at the top of the stairs and in a flash the squirrel made a flying leap off the stairs to the floor---8ft laterally and 8 feet down. Its second leap put it on the screen and Norm was able to quickly open it so that it could escape. As I write this, 15 minutes later, the cats are still looking for it.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Nighttime in the Tropics

At dusk we have discovered a new phenomenon. Lightning bugs! These fire flies have a green lamp which is exactly the color of a LED. The first time we thought something was blinking in the house and being reflected in the window, but it kept moving. That was about a week ago. For several nights we saw a few scattered bugs, but now there are hundreds. Of course it reminds us of our East Coast child hood, catching fire flies by the jar full.

Another nightly occurrence is the sentinels at the threshold of doom. That would be our cats, Jelly and Fred waiting for victims to crawl across the threshold into the house. Once the unsuspecting frog, lizard, scorpion, beetle, or spider enters the house they could end up in the Jaws of Jelly. Spiders, scorpions, and beetles are batted at tentatively. Jelly was pawing a large beetle one day and it pinched his paw and wouldn’t let go. Jelly was crying. Once it let go he made short work of it. We have killed a few large spiders and one scorpion before the cats could play with them. I want to know what kind of spiders we are dealing with. Have not yet been able to identify. I am anxious to get my field guides out of our shipment. Of course I will need more field guides
Getting back to our Jaws story, we found Jelly carrying a small lizard---about 3 inches long. The lizard was fine and Norm was able to rescue it and put it outside. We don’t know if it is the same one, but Norm saw one zoom into the house a few days ago and was able to catch it and put it back outside while the boys slept. Another evening we noticed tiny legs hanging out of the Jaws of Jelly and got him to drop his victim. This time it was a tiny frog or toad smaller than my thumb nail. Another creature saved and returned to the yard.

A few new birds:
Bronzed cowbird—all black with a red eye
Montezuma’s oropendola
Blue crowned Motmot

The Motmot and oropendula are really gorgeous birds. The web site below has good photos of CR birds. If you are interested, just copy and paste it into your browser.


Friday, April 4, 2008

Our first experience with Costa Rican Medical care.

A few days ago, Collie decided that an earache and sore throat getting progressively more painful for 36 hours was not something that would go away. At 4:15 in the afternoon, I called our friend Mary to ask if she could tell me where to take Collie for care. She called me back in a few minutes with directions to her otolaryngolist (an ear, nose, and throat specialist).

We arrived at his private clinic around 5:00 pm and the receptionist was expecting us. Mary had called ahead, but the doctor had a few appointments scheduled before he could see us. We settled in for what we expected to be a long wait. Less than 40 minutes later, we were ushered into his office. Much to our relief, he spoke very good English. After taking a brief history, he examined her throat and quickly diagnosed her. Tonsillitis! He prescribed a course of treatment of Ceftriaxone injections and spray anesthetic for the discomfort. He wrote out a prescription and told us where the closest pharmacy was.

An interesting aside: In Costa Rica, pharmacies have PharmDs on staff to diagnose and treat minor ailments, give injections, or refer the patient to a specialist. They provide a sort of urgent care service.

We paid the Doctor $40 directly, which includes the follow up visit next week.

When we passed by the receptionist, she stopped me. Mary’s husband Pablo was on the phone for us. “Come get us, and we’ll show you where the best pharmacy is”. Since they live less than 5 minutes from where we were, we went to their house, where they were both waiting out front for us. As it turned out, their favorite pharmacy didn’t have the exact medication prescribed, so we all piled back into the car and drove several blocks to another pharmacy. There are literally dozens of small pharmacies all over town.
The PharmD recognized Mary and was very nice and professional. He took Collie into the back, gave her the injection, and instructed us to return for the second shot in 24 hours.
The pharmacy bill for all the medications and injections was about $50.

Total cost for private, specialist care: $90; less than the deductible would have been in Seattle.

Last evening, we went into town for her second injection.
This morning Collie’s informed me that she’s noting an improvement with less pain!