Thursday, December 2, 2010

Costa Rica at last!

For months, we had planned on driving through Mexico and Central America in order to eventually reach our final southern destination of Costa Rica, where we wanted to spend the winter. For months, we had also been feeling pressure from my family to AVOID driving through Mexico because of the many publicized dangers currently associated with the drug cartels there. As we got closer to Mexico, we did more research and talked to more people who used to travel frequently south of the border. Much of what we heard sounded dangerous and not worth the risk, especially since we didn't speak Spanish. So when my mom offered to let us use some of her frequent flier points in order to bypass Mexico and fly directly to Costa Rica, we could not refuse. Thank you, Mom and Scott!!

We flew into San Jose on November 12th, spent one night at a funky little hotel in San Jose, then got a taxi to Uvita, on the south pacific coast of Costa Rica. We chose Uvita because we have friends who have a farm here, and George had visited them once before and really liked the area. Indeed, it is a beautiful place. The nearby beach is a national park, Merino Ballena, which protects miles of pristine beaches and this amazing "whale-tail" formation which is visible at low tide.

We stayed in 2 different "cabinas" during our first week in Uvita while we found a house to live in for the rest of our stay. Our favorite of these cabinas was a place called "Pequena Luna", or Little Moon. The folks there were very nice but they spoke no English, so our Spanish dictionary and phrase books were quickly broken in. This establishment also had a "Soda" attached, which is a small, open-air restaurant that serves simple, local food. A woman named Xiomara was the chef, and we all fell in love with her cooking; gallo pinto (beans & rice), pescado (fish), and platanos fritos (fried plantains) were among our favorites.

Finally we found a great house to rent for the next 3 months! It's right in the the town of Uvita, on the main dirt road. We needed something centrally located because we were not going to be renting a car. From our house, we can walk to the beach, 2 supermarkets, several restaurants and bars, and our Spanish school. It is exactly what we've been needing after 6 months of living in a van: a big house with multiple bedrooms and a large outdoor kitchen, located where we are able to walk to everything we need! This is our "casa rosada" for the next few months.

I love this view from our kitchen window out into the front yard:

We even had a little welcoming pineapple growing in the front yard!

Another reason we wanted to rent us this house was that it has a little pool. We all enjoy it on hot days, and Adalaya's swimming has already greatly improved!

But what I like best about this house is it's outdoor kitchen! It is so nice to be able to live somewhere where it's warm enough to cook, clean and eat outdoors all year long! It's also very nice to have a large covered area so that we can be outside even when it's raining. Here's "Jorge" fixing a feast in our outdoor kitchen.

It was still the height of the rainy season when we arrived in mid-November. The rainy season begins in May and ends (hopefully) in mid-December, with the rainiest months being September, October, and November. This place is rightfully named a rain forest! It rained nearly every day and night for the first month we were here, often in downpours. We are so thankful that we have a nice house to live in, and do not live here in the van where we would have definitely killed each other by now!

We have frequent tropical visitors to our backyard. We've seen iguanas and lizards of many colors and sizes, blue morpho butterflies (which I would love to get a photo of), and a rainbow collection of birds. We've started putting out over-ripe bananas and papayas for the birds, and we've seen Kiskadees . . .

Baltimore Orioles . . .

Cherrie's Tanagers . . .

and this cool Blue-Crowned Motmot.

Our most common dining guests, however, are the Chestnut-Mandibled Toucans.

Sometimes we even see several at a time, like the 3 in this photo who all came for their lunch.

We've also had a troop of 3 howler monkeys come to feed in the trees in our back yard. While I was taking this photo, Adalaya went and put her arms around the base of the tree they were in, thrilled that she was touching the same tree that held 3 monkeys. Well, the monkeys were not at all happy about their tree being "threatened" and they started howling at Adalaya. I thought it was pretty comical!

We also have this lovely pair of parrots living in this hollow palm tree in our back yard. I'm hoping we'll get to see some parrot chicks while we're here!

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