Saturday, December 27, 2008

Holidays in the tropics.

Holidays in the tropics. We like it! The weather has been much dryer; humidity has dropped from always being 100% to 50-75%. Christmas day was perfect, sunny with a slight breeze. We enjoyed an excellent sit down dinner with a large group of expats and a few locals at a home in San Ramon. The dinner was preceded by the typically crazy white elephant gift exchange. I am still wondering who put the Forensics for Dummies book in the exchange. Glad we didn’t end up with it!
At the beginning of the month my brother Mike was here from New Hampshire. The house project kept us close to home, but we did go to Carara National Park at the coast for a day.
There are approximately 2000 American crocodiles living in the Tarcoles---estimated to be 25 per square kilometer.
We could see 17 from the Tarcoles River Bridge.
After studying the crocodiles, wood storks, and the black vultures from the bridge we hiked in the park.
The park has monkeys, anteaters, sloths, and lots of birds. It was 95 degrees and mid-day so our hike was not fruitful in terms of wildlife sightings, only one macaw. There are not very many macaws in the wild, having become endangered because of the illegal pet trade. About 450 scarlet macaws make their home at Carara. These are the largest parrots in the world, weighing between 2 and 2.5 pounds. They can measure 33 inches from beak to tail. They nest in empty tree cavities and we did see one in a nest. We could only see half of it, head, shoulders, and chest. Big bird! If we had been there early or late in the day we might have seen them flying between the forest nesting sites and the coast mangroves. We’ll go again and spend the night.

We went to hear the Joe Anello Trio play the jazz brunch at the new location, the beautiful Vista del Valle Plantation Inn VISTADELVALLE.COM owned by Mike and Johanna, expats who have been in CR for many years. Mike came with Peace Corp, fell in love with Costa Rica and has been developing the property for over 20 years. The open air restaurant perched high on a cliff, overlooking a private nature reserve, is a perfect setting for Sunday afternoon jazz. After the music, we explored the stunning grounds, including this beautiful stand of bamboo.

CR is a Catholic country and holy days are always celebrated in some way. In the San Ramon area there is a special celebration on the eve of the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. People gather in the central park and then run through the streets of San Ramon in packs of 50-100 children and supervising adults. They visit homes with women named Mary who throw handfuls of candy into the crowd. After receiving enough they tear off running down the street to the next Mary household. Our friends Mary and Pablo invited us to watch and participate from their home. Mary told me that I would be a Mary for the night. As the large groups arrived yelling “Aqui Mary! Aqui Mary!” (here Mary, here Mary), I threw handfuls of candy to the crowd. Norm tried to capture the madness on film from outside, but of course the photos do not really capture the experience. Mary and Pablo had a huge plastic basin filled with small individually wrapped candies, about $40 worth. We added more to the bin and it was all gone in about a half-hour.

We have discovered that the emerald toucanets
are frequent visitors to the trees near the rental house. They come in groups of four, perhaps more, because they blend in with the foliage. See photo. We are recognizing the Keel Billed Toucan’s call and hope to get a good photo one of these days. Stay tuned!

Friday, December 26, 2008

Construction Snapshots Dec 27

All of the walls now have texture, primer paint and one coat of paint. The final coat of paint will be applied at the very end of the project. The wood ceilings are just about finished, all concrete floors (inside and out) will have ceramic tile installed. It should start going down within the next few days. The entry and interior solid wood doors are being built in a small shop just down the road. Brown aluminum windows and patio doors are under construction in San Ramon and will be installed after the ceramic tile is laid. The cabinets are built and will be delivered and installed after the doors and windows are in. The gutters and downspouts will be installed shortly after the New Year. All of the rough plumbing is completed, and sinks, toilets, etc are on-site, to be installed after the floor tile is done. Since several houses rely on water from a spring, and the pump feeding the system has failed twice (and repaired within a day) since we’ve been here, we decided to install a 2500 liter water storage tank under the garage floor. We’ll pump all of our water from this tank, so future pump failures with the community water supply won’t leave us dry. The rough electrical is finished and all of our custom handcrafted light fixtures are ready. We still need to buy a few ceiling lights for laundry, pantry, and closets.
Still looks good for finishing by the end of January!

Retaining Wall & Main Entry

The stairs to the front door

South side yard

Veranda (looking South)

Veranda (looking North)

Back yard / main entry stairs and retaining wall (looking North)

Pit for water tank under garage floor (tank in background)

Looking towards the dining room and kitchen beyond

The living room