Friday, August 15, 2008

Construction Update Aug 15

The columns and beams of the veranada, on the view side.

Our workers have been making excellent progress on the house. As I’ve mentioned before, construction methods here differ from what we’re accustomed to in the US. The block walls are up, and a steel reinforced concrete beam tops all of the walls. The top of the beam is approximately 3 meters from the floor.
On the back side of the house, the wood ceilings will be at this level, with attic above. In the great room and master bedroom, we’ll have a cathedral ceiling. The men are now working on a block wall above the beam which will separate the attic space from the lofted ceiling of the great room. Once this wall is up, another reinforced concrete beam will top it, supporting the metal trusses and exposed wood beams.

Pouring concrete into the forms for the beam. No concrete pumpers here!

The steel for the trusses is here. When the beams are ready, the welders will fabricate the trusses on site. The metal roof and wood ceiling will go up as soon as wood beams and trusses are in place. Our metal roofing material has been delivered to the local warehouse in San Ramon.

Our ceramic tile was delivered this week. Enough tile to do the floors of the house and casita is now stored in the bodega onsite.
While part of the crew is working on the wall above the beam, several men have been building the retaining wall behind the house. It’ll be two meters high and approximately 30 meters long. It’ll stabilize the slope and define a nice level area behind the house. We’ll fence part of this area for the cats. They’ll love being able to go outside again!

Once the wall is up, part of the crew will start on the casita, our small guest house.

As most of you probably know, Costa Rica has two seasons. Dry and “Green” (read WET). The temperature doesn’t really change, just the amount of rain. But unlike Seattle, where it drizzles all day in the winter, most days have been clear and dry all morning, with rain (read torrential tropical downpour) in the afternoon. So far, the rain hasn’t really slowed construction. The local people tell us that the worst rain is yet to come in September and October. Juan Carlos, our builder/architect plans to tarp the entire structure if need be to stay on schedule.

We’re still planning (hope, hope) to be in the house around Christmas.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Patience, Patience, Patience

Life here continues to be excellent. We are experiencing some of the ridiculous bureaucracy, but it is better that working in the states and dealing with the politics and drama of the work place!

Our land line was disconnected accidentally when the tech mistook this house for one down the street. To have it re-connected our land lady had to go stand in line at ICE, the telephone monopoly, only to be told that her husband had to do it, even though she had a note from him. So he had to go stand in line. They told him that the tech would be by in 8 days to check on the line.
When we checked back with ICE to find out the status of his phone and our application for our own land line, they told is that the tech had been on vacation, so come back in eight days. Eight or ten days later, we learned that they couldn’t find the house. Have we mentioned that their aren’t any street addresses here? Everything is so many meters from a landmark (whether the landmark still exists or not). Our address is Frente de los Torres de Berlin (in front of the towers of Berlin) Most people have not had any trouble finding us. ICE managed to find us to disconnect the phones, but finding us again-----.
Well they did eventually find us and last Friday the phone rang and it was ICE checking to be sure it worked. In the meantime, Norm was back at ICE with our architect/engineer to find out the status of both phones. They informed Norm that the box has room for another phone, but they had to make a bunch of calls to find out if there is an actual phone line available. There is, but now Norm needs to have the original documents proving we own the land, our corporation documents, and his passport before they could proceed to the next step. Sheesh! Back to the lawyer to get all of the official papers with stamps and seals. Finally on Monday of this week they said we would have our own phone line in 8-15 days. This Friday is Mother’s Day and government offices are closed, so that could further delay things. Before coming we were told the three most important things to bring are patience, patience, and patience. Good thing we are retired!

Shopping at the Ferria (farmer’s market)
We get most of our fruits and vegetables at the market.
Here is what we purchased a couple of weeks ago for 9500 colones or about $17.
Our most expensive purchases are always strawberries and flowers. This time we spent a bit more to buy the small grape tomatoes, which are more expensive.

Piano Concert
The National Theater (Teatro Nacional) provides free concerts throughout the country. This past Sunday evening we attended a concert here is San Ramon featuring an Italian pianist. Francesco Libetta played Chopin and Beethoven in the cathedral. The series of concerts is the 18th Festival of Music, lasting for two weeks in August. Musicians from Holland, Germany, Columbia, Austria, USA, and Costa Rica perform at venues all over the country.

Stick bug
This bug was plastered against the window one morning. Norm took a look at and was convinced it was just a stick blown against the window during the night. After a few hours, I decided to check it out. It was alive! After I touched it, it opened its antennae walked several inches. Before I touched it, its antennae had been pressed tightly together and looked just like a single stick. The camouflage is incredible. I read up on them a bit and in the Guanacaste region of Costa Rica, they can reach 2 feet in length!
We have had one here before, but this one was larger. We had a “katydid” or leaf mimic a couple of moths ago. It looked exactly like a dead leaf. We lost the photo of it, but I am sure we’ll see another one of these days.

We found our tile for the floors and patios last week. Finding a good quality tile at a decent price is a real challenge. The prices range from about $7.50 per square meter to more than $50. Ouch! Since we need about 400 Square meters, for both houses, finding enough was also a challenge. We found a very nice porcelain tile from Spain at a reasonable price, but not enough for the whole house. We were able to find another Spanish porcelain for even less at a nearby store. So we bought it! We learned our lesson a couple of weeks ago when the tile we chose sold before we made the decision.

My gardening gene has been crying due to lack of activity. While walking along the road each morning I discovered a few plants that are promising. They have been “relocated” to our yard to see how they perform. One is a polka dot plant and might make a good ground cover or base for taller plants. Another looks exactly like Indian paint brush. The third found plant has a nicely variegated leaf and looks like it spreads by runners. I’ll be keeping an eye on them. The relocation of these plants has appeased my gardening cravings briefly, very briefly. The retaining wall in back of the house is being built this week. Perhaps one of the levels is safe enough from the construction to be planted. We'll see, but likely not.

We just purchased a refrigerator, freezer, and microwave. We are using them in the house that we’re renting, so have more capacity now. The house looks weird with the fridge and freezer on the same wall as the big screen, but who cares! Neighbors/friends here brought us (from the US) stands for BBQing whole chicken with beer cans. We had never had “Beer can chicken” before and we are now convinced that it is the only way to BBQ whole chickens. We will be buying a bunch of whole chickens at our next Pricesmart run (Costco cousin). They also brought us a chunk of imported aged pecorino romano, so we have a bit of pesto in the freezer. It used to be that we called the basil green gold, now it is the Romano. Basil is plentiful and inexpensive here but the cheeses here are very mild. You can get imported parmesan, but at a small fortune for a teensy wedge. So if you will be visiting, us you already know one item that you’ll have to have in your bags!