Thursday, November 20, 2008

Flowers & PJs

Flannel pajamas? Yikes, what happened here?
We have had four windy days and are in for a few more. There is a big storm in the Caribbean that has been sending us cool temperatures and lots of wind. Last night the outside temperature fell to 51 degrees; the lowest we had seen previously was 58.
The wind gusts on our side of the mountain have been up to 33 mph.
A couple of nights ago we could here sheet metal or roofing blowing around. In the morning we found that the roof on one of the temporary work sheds had blown away completely. It is now somewhere down the mountain. The house itself is just fine.
In the previous post I mentioned flowers that are in bloom. Here are some photos.
The first is Kohleria spicata. It is a wild roadside plant related to African violets and Gloxinias. The photo doesn’t really do it justice. The flowers are tubular and the plant can reach 3 feet.

A tree that reminds me of magnolias is in bloom again. Spheres open to a star like flower. Here are two photos of it. I haven’t identified the tree.

These beautiful white epiphytes are only about 3 inches tall and are growing on a branch deep in the tree, shaded by the leaves. At first I thought that they might be orchids, but the white flowers are very small tubes with slender pointed ends. I lack the terminology to give an adequate description.

Epidendrum radicans the terrestrial wild orchid is in bloom again! The flowers are less than an inch long and the cluster is about 1.5 to 2 inches in diameter. They grow on a branching stem with succulent like leaves.

Monday, November 17, 2008

November Construction Update

The house is really coming along. The wood ceilings are done in the entry, living, dining, kitchen, and master bath. These areas are cathedral with exposed beams. They are made of a very dense native tropical hardwood wood called “laurel”, but nothing like the laurel that we’re familiar with. The work crew is currently sanding and finishing the boards for remainder of the house where the ceilings will be about three meters high.

The roof is done on the casita and the main house roof is nearly completed. Because there are anywhere from 14 to 18 people working on the house at one time, there are multiple projects happening simultaneously.

Some of the crew have been working on a stairway and retaining wall which will come from a parking area above the house. Others are putting the finishing cement on the walls. The rough plumbing and electrical are nearly done. And they are compacting the gravel floor throughout in preparation for pouring the concrete floors, which will then be covered with porcelain tile . The house should be done sometime in January. We will hold off on completing the casita (guest cottage) until the stock market has recovered some.

The dry season is approaching and we have had less rain in the afternoons. Some days no rain at all. There are many new small flowering plants appearing. The wild orchids that we saw last Spring are back.

There are many little and big challenges to living in a country with major infrastructure issues. We are still waiting for a land line phone for the house, it looks promising, but we are not holding our breath. Everything is quite the bureaucratic nightmare with forms in triplicate with stamps and seals. People here are used to waiting in line for everything. It is a good thing we are retired!

I think we have mentioned the wild thunder and lightning storms that we experience up here on our mountain. Yesterday was one of the extra wild ones. We lost a router after a very close lightning strike. We have finally figured out that the power surges are frying our routers. Even though we have the router and computers plugged into heavy duty UPS’s the surge is coming through via the network cable from the microwave antennae and frying the network card in our router. Nothing else is damaged, but network cards are VERY sensitive to any surges. So after losing another router (the third) Norm has found a solution and has ordered a network cable surge protector for that line. Hopefully, that’ll take care of that!

We’ll be joining a big group of expats for Thanksgiving dinner. It will be fun to meet some other Americans and exchange stories about living in Costa Rica.