Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Carson at the Restaurant Alone

Carson walked alone to a nearby restaurant, ordered, and bought some fried chicken that he brought home.  The kids Spanish skills aren't great, but they are learning enough to navigate on their own.


Ice Cream at Fortuna Park

At the center of La Fortuna is the Catholic church -- Parroquia San Juan Bosco -- and Fortuna Park.  Fortuna Park is a beautiful area where people tend to relax and talk.  We were hopeful to find good ice cream at the nearby gelato shop, but the results were mixed.  Some flavors were good and some not.  To make it worse, they don't give samples.  As Tucker was taught in school in Atlanta: "you git what you git and you don't throw a fit".

Sunday, January 27, 2019

Things that are different here II

  • eggs are not refrigerated in stores, they are stacked in cardboard crates wrapped in saran wrap. 
  • salt is granulated, (with fluoride and iodine) but the texture is different than in the US. 
  • jam and mayonnaise are in bags with a tube at the top to squeeze it out of. 
  • Peanut butter is in jars, some high-end (imported) jams are in jars.
  • no one seems to bake in their homes. We have an oven at this house, but it isn't plugged in. The common thing to do is go to the local bakery and pick up french loaves or other pastries.
  • McDonald's has a "McPinto Deluxe" meal, a plate with rice, beans, scrambled eggs, fried sweet plantains, and a couple of corn tortillas.
  • Christmas decor was seen all over when we first got here after New Year's, and now at the end of January, there are still some Christmas lights and other decor up here and there. Nativities in churches and city squares.
  • the only liquid milk available in stores is 2%; there is a lot of powdered milk on the shelf
  • can't find heavy cream
  • no half and half
  • no butter without yellow food coloring added
  • no cottage cheese
  • the only good chocolate is imported Cadbury, Nestle or Hershey's
  • there are armed guards that patrol the parking lots at Walmart and other bigger grocery stores, usually there is razorwire around the property.
  • also, there are armed guards walking around inside the grocery stores as you shop. 
  • dishwashers are a luxury here, they barely exist.
  • the clothes washing machine is mostly manual - there's another post about that in "New House in La Fortuna, Costa Rica". 

Hiking Volcano Rincón de la Vieja, Costa Rica

It's just fun to say that you are on your way to hike a volcano for the day.  Volcán Rincón de la Vieja was our primary reason for going to Guanacaste -- Tamarindo Beach was a nice bonus.  We wanted the family to learn more about Volcanos and to get some exercise.  Volcano Rincón de la Vieja is one of the most active volcanic areas in Costa Rica and it straddles the Continental Divide.  Just like Volcán Arenal, the clouds all tend to form and hover over it.  It is about a 40 minute drive from Liberia and about a 4 hour drive from La Fortuna.

As we were reviewing the trail maps, we overheard one of the National Park employees tell another person that there had been explosions at the volcano just the week before and that they had shut down the trails to the summit.  I don't know if it is fortunate or unfortunate, but we didn't have anything quite that exciting while we were there.  

The volcano had great fumaroles, water pots, and mud pots surrounded by the characteristically smelly sulfuric fumes of an active volcano.  

While there, we also saw two beautiful Blue Morpho butterflies, who were too quick for us to get pictures of.

The small visitors center had a table with some specimens of animals and bugs:

Playing at Tamarindo Beach, Costa Rica

We went for a quick overnight trip on Friday, stopping in Liberia, Guanacaste, Costa Rica for some lunch, then proceeding to Tamarindo Beach on the Pacific Coast.  It is only about 130 miles from our house, but takes about 4 hours to drive there due to slow, windy, steep roads and construction along the way.

It was so hot when we first got out of the car in Tamarindo, but we quickly reached the shore and cooled off in the clear, clean water with the most comfortable ocean temperature we have ever felt.

Beyond the smooth sand and perfect water, the family loved finding unique seashells.

Milking Cows in our Back Yard

Behind our house is a small dairy farm (about 12 cows), so we see cows wandering around all day.  I was talking with the person that runs it (practicing Spanish, but also to meet the neighbors) and he invited us to watch while he milked the cows.

So Savannah and I went at 6:00am and watched him milk the cows.  Pretty neat experience.  Savannah especially liked seeing the calves.

They feed the cows locally grown yuca.

Locally Grown Pineapples in La Fortuna

While driving around La Fortuna and the surrounding areas, we see vendors on the street selling various fruits grown in the area.  We bought pineapples at this one.  4 pineapples / 1000 colones is about $0.41 each.  Great price and they taste delicious -- a little sweeter and less acidic than the ones we had in the United States.

We also have a plantain farm a few houses away from our house.  They cover the plantains with blue bags to help them ripen more quickly.

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

El Salto (Rope Swing) Swimming Hole Near La Fortuna

El Salto (The Rope Swing) is a nice swimming hole on the edge of La Fortuna.  After finishing school work, we tried it out today.  It had beautiful waterfalls, and as the name implies, a rope swing that would launch you about 20' into the air.  People would swing on the rope, flip, and dive into the water from it -- very impressive to watch.

We had a good time swimming.

We saw this spider on a rock, including its legs, it was about 4-5" in diameter:

Monday, January 21, 2019

Collared Aracari and other animals in our yard

Today while we were studying at home, we saw:

10-12 Collared Aracari:

A Golden Hooded Tanager:

A Spotted Woodcreeper:

Plus a sloth and about 50 vultures and many other birds that we see regularly like the Cherries Tanager and Great Kiskadee and some hummingbirds that we haven't identified.

Sunday, January 20, 2019

Things that are different here

Things that are different here: 
-when you go to a restaurant, usually you just walk in and seat yourself, the server will come to your table when he/she is ready
-no tipping, cause the tip is included at every restaurant
-all US branded products made here have a different flavor
-most if not all stuff in the grocery store is in bags, pretty much no boxes
-in smaller grocery stores, you need help to get meat. An employee takes your order and puts chicken or beef in a plastic bag with a price sticker for checkout, bakery also.
-no self-serve at gas stations! You have to give your credit card to a guy and he pumps for you
-dogs and cats are not social. They keep their distance and do not seem to crave human attention
-no addresses. no mail service (in areas outside of San Jose at least)
-you can walk and ride your bike in the streets here and people just go around you
-if you want to pass a car in front of you, you just do it, you don't have to wait for them to pull over and let you pass.  you can pass anytime you feel it is safe, regardless of lines painted on the road.

Fried Sweet Plantains - Platanos Maduros

I (Angela) love fried sweet plantains for breakfast. You can't make them with regular bananas, you have to get plantains. They're the green, larger bananas and they're at all markets here. I looked it up online, and you can fry plantains in oil, but you will get very different results depending on whether you use green or ripened plantains. You can find the ripened (yellow) plantains at markets, but it's hard to find ones that are super ripe and beat up, probably cause everyone else is looking for those as well. I did buy some green ones, but they've been sitting on my counter now for like, 2 weeks and they aren't really getting very yellow. I bought some yellow ones and fried those up. They have to be really beat up to turn into the super sweet, mushy plantains. I finally cut up a green one and cut the pieces smaller and thinner, cause I knew they would come out like potatoes, and they did; kind of crispy on the outside, fluffy on the inside. I salted them and they were a lot like french fries, but you have to eat them right then - they don't keep very well. All you do is heat some vegetable oil in a pan and put the plantains in there, about 3 minutes on each side and that's it. The really ripe ones already have plenty of sweetness.

US Food in La Fortuna, Costa Rica

Now that we have been in Costa Rica for a few weeks, the rare restaurant that serves US food is so tempting. 

We went to Pizza Ranch for dinner and loved the pizza.  We had breadsticks, chicken wings, and a large pizza and drinks for under $30 USD (including tip) -- delicious!

Swimming in the Rio Fortuna

There is a river near our house, so the kids went for an afternoon swim:

Neighborhood Animals in La Fortuna

Carson asked how he could earn some money, so I told him if he spotted a sloth near our house and showed it to the family, then he could earn a few dollars.  I didn't really expect to see any, but Carson did it.

While studying in our covered outdoor living room for school, Carson jumps up and says: 'I see a sloth!'  It was a really cute blond colored sloth in a tree about 20' from our house.  It stayed in the trees by our house for a few days.

This week, while at home, we also saw:
6 Keel Billed Toucans
A Two Toed Sloth (we saw it on three separate days)
2 Laughing Falcons (we heard more, but didn't see them)
Lots of Tanagers, Vultures, Egrets, and other birds

Carson's Photos:

Lake Arenal

Lake Arenal looked so beautiful at a distance while we hiked near Arenal Volcano, so we wanted to see it up close.  Yesterday we drove to it, hoping for some amazing views.  Instead, we found really windy roads, surrounded by trees that blocked all possible views of the lake.  Well, there were a few places that had nice views, but they were on bends in the road with no shoulder, so you took your life into your hands if you stopped and got out of the car.  

Eventually, we found a small community that had cleared enough trees that you could see the lake.  We stopped at a small German Bakery, got some treats that looked much better than they tasted, then headed home.

Kids Shopping Alone

Tucker and Savannah walked to a nearby store to buy some treats.  They brought their Colones (Costa Rican currency) and a cheat sheet with common shopping phrases in Spanish just in case.  Pretty brave of them to handle the transaction in Spanish without their parents.

Tucker bought:
Pinguinos (like Hostess cupcakes - 540 Colones or $0.90)
ChocoMax (frozen ice cream cone, 300 Colones or $0.50)
Oreos (540 Colones or $0.90):

Monday, January 14, 2019

Rock Stacking at the Rio Machuca

We perfected our rock balancing and rock stacking skills at the Rio Machuca.

Arenal Volcano National Park

As we finished breakfast, six toucans flew up to our house.  An amazing way to start the day.  Despite the overcast, slightly rainy day, we decided to head to Parque Nacional Volcán Arenal (Arenal Volcano National Park).  Clouds are almost always covering the peak of the volcano, for a few minutes, we were able to see the entire volcano.

On the drive there, we saw two sloths in a tree and noticed that one of the sloths was actually holding a baby sloth.  It was an incredible sight.  If you look closely, you can see the mother and baby sloth together in this picture that Carson took:

In the National Park, we saw amazing birds and animals.  Below is a Laughing Falcon.  They primary eat venomous snakes, especially the Coral Snake.

It took us a while to figure out what these birds were, they had browning red backs with a yellow tail, and an orangish/red beak.  They are called Montezuma Oropendola:

A neat tree:

We also saw quite a few Coatis in the park:

This tree looked like a dinosaur:

A large hornets nest.  We also saw a really huge hornet (maybe about 2" long):

We saw several Great Curassows.  They kind of looked and walked like turkeys:

Tucker is walking on some of the lava flow from the 1992 eruption.

We are all standing on cooled lava from previous eruptions.  In the distance, you can see Lake Arenal.

Strange tree roots:

This is El Ceibo, a 400 year old tree near the base of the volcano.  It was huge.

A large group of Coati, blocking traffic on the way back from the Volcano.  Pretty neat, cute, animals.