Commercial & News Free Living

Not having a TV has been so very nice.  The house came with a TV but I gave it to the owner to put into storage.  He wanted me to keep the TV and continue paying the cable bill, saying that there was a disconnection fee, but why would I pay for a service that I’m not going to use!

Every once in awhile, I log into my VPN (Virtual Private Network) and it gives me a US computer address so I can sidestep international law and watch a few shows on the major networks.  And one thing I’ve come to realize is it really is nice not having any access to the news and commercials, especially now with the election fast approaching.

No longer am I inundated with tragic and horrible stories that they plaster all over the daily news. I don’t have to bring the negativity into my life from the horrible political campaign ads. Except for things that get posted on Facebook by friends (which I generally ignore), I’m not being force-fed commercials in which politicians bad mouth each other.

The only major piece of news that I knew about was a few months ago when Paul Watson, the Captain of the Sea Shepherd, was being detained in Germany with a possible extradition to Costa Rica.  The only reason I knew that is because I monitor the Visit Costa Rica Facebook page and the story had dominated the page for so many weeks that hardly anyone else was posting anything that I could respond to for my personal and hotel pages.

Oh, and of course, there’s the “news” that I get from the Daily Show with Jon Stewart…which really doesn’t count.

Other than that, I only know what I see before me.  And it’s honestly kind of nice.

Pura vida…Chrissy

Chasing Mavericks

I grew up at the beach.  Every summer, playing in the water, building sand castles and boogieboarding.  I didn’t actually learn to surf until last year in Nosara but surfing has always fascinated me.  And really, waves and the ocean are what draw me in.  There is something so awesome about the ocean.  The waves, tides, sealife, everything.  It’s a remarkable phenomenon of our planet.

Living in the bay area before moving to Costa Rica, I had two opportunities to go out on a boat to some of the biggest waves known in the world…Mavericks.  Once on competition day in 2010 and once in 2012 when some of the largest waves of the season were hitting the area but the conditions weren’t good enough to call the competition.

Today, Chasing Mavericks is being released in theatres in the US.  I’d love to hear your thoughts on the movie and live vicariously through you since I will have to wait for it to come out on Netflix.  Although, I did get to see them filming the movie the day we were on the boat in 2012.  The helicopter below has a camera in a plastic bag attached to the cable – they accidentally ran into one of the large waves and the camera was destroyed.  It was rumored that the camera cost over $100,000.

Here’s a short video from that day.  Warning: may cause sea sickness. : )  The Chasing Monsters movie trailer is below.

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[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6YYc3jRoua8&feature=youtube_gdata_player]

If it smells like a lemon and looks like a lemon…

Then it must be a lemon!  Right?

For a very brief moment, I thought I had found a lemon.  Walking on Playa Guiones last week, my friend and I came upon a very yellow, lemon-like, fruit.  It looked like a lemon, it smelled like a lemon…but I would come to find out later that it was not a lemon.  But for that moment, it was like I had found a lemon mirage in a world of limes.

It’s another type of lime.  There are many types of limes in Costa Rica and I just have to wonder…of the 4 or 5 lime varieties that they grow here…why can’t they just grow one lemon variety? A nice Meyer lemon would be so great.  This one here looked like a Meyer lemon and my friend and I thought maybe it had fallen off someone’s tree and into the river, eventually making its way to shore. I was so ready to take it home, cut it open and plant the seeds!

But no, it was a lime that tricks people into believing it’s a yellow lemon.

I recently had lunch with a Lebanese Jamaican (really, quite funny to hear him speak, especially when he’d end the sentence with the typical Jamaican “mon”).  He had a Lebanese restaurant in town for many years and since Lebanese food uses a lot of lemons, I asked him how he handled the “no yellow limon” situation here.  He told me to just continue using lime juice but less than the recipe calls for, as they tend to be stronger.

I guess it’s back to the drawing board…

Pura vida…Chrissy

Happiest Country in the World!

It’s official…Costa Rica is once again the #1 happiest country in the world (note the word: AGAIN).  And even the smiling sloths know it.

So for all my friends and family who think I’m a little crazy for moving here, just take a moment to think that for those of you in the US, you’re living in the 105th happiest country in the world.  And there’s only 151 countries that are on the list.  You moved up a few spaces this year…I think you were 111 last year.  Although the countries that follow you, with the exception of a few, really aren’t places most people want to visit or live.

For those of you wondering about my two other favorite countries…Nicaragua is #8, Cuba is #12.

There are several factors that are involved in choosing the country happiness level: “The new HPI results show the extent to which 151 countries across the globe produce long, happy and sustainable lives for the people who live in them.  The overall index scores rank countries based on their efficiency, how many long and happy lives each produces per unit of environmental output.”

Learn more at the Happy Planet Index website.

Pura vida…Chrissy

Winter in Costa Rica

The rainy season finally started here in Guanacaste around the 8th of October (note: I still refuse to wear anything but sandals, hence the sign above – it is ALWAYS flip flop season here!).  It rained for about 2 days and then stopped.  And then it rained again on Wednesday and Thursday of this week.  I heard there was a total rainfall of 4.5 inches on Wednesday morning – that was when I was driving home from Nosara, hence using the word “torrential” was not an exaggeration in Wednesday’s post!  Compare that to someone who lives in the Palm Springs, California area in which 5 inches is the average amount of rain they get in an entire year!

And in the weeks leading up to that first real rain, the weather was a hot topic.  Mainly because it was hot and sunny…with no rain.  Those who have lived here for a long time told me this is the dryest winter season they’ve seen in years.  They tell me I’m fortunate to have this experience because normally it’s nonstop rain for several weeks at a time (weeks, not days!).  But they also tell me that it’s not a good sign – we need the water.  You’d think being a tropical country, we’d have an endless supply of water all the time but that’s just not the case.  You can tell when we’re having problems because the pressure coming out of the faucets diminishes drastically and I’ve been told that sometimes there just isn’t any at all.

While not located below the equator, the seasons here in Costa Rica tend to follow the Southern Hemisphere patterns; although they only have two, not four.  Winter is from May – October and Summer is from November – April.  From 08-11, I made an annual trip every May.  It’s just at the start of winter, the trees are all getting their leaves back and they are bursting with colorful flowers.

I recommend planning your visit during the green season.  It’s so beautiful and yes, while it does rain, the rain is refreshing, warm and tends to cool everything off.  Plus, it often only rains in the late afternoon and evening.  And while it’s winter here, it’s still 90+ degrees on many days (here in Langosta) and a little bit of tropical rain is a welcome retreat from the heat.  There’s also less tourists, it’s generally less expensive and like I mentioned, everything is so beautiful.

I love that it’s winter and 90 degrees with 65% humidity.  I know that may sound crazy to many of you.  But after seven cold, dry winters in Northern California, I’ll take 90 degrees and humid any day.  Plus, I know summertime will be hot and dry(er) so I’m enjoying the moist heat while it lasts.

And today…I woke up to blue skies and sunshine.  Although I anticipate rain later.

Pura vida…Chrissy

When a Road Becomes a River

I drove down to Playa Guiones on Saturday, making record time in just under 2 hours (I took the long route through Nicoya, not the river-crossing, shorter, coastal route).  Even though we’re at the tail end of the rainy season, the road was actually better this time than when I was there in June.  And I was so bored that I started making mental lists of what I noticed in the road (and what I had to try to avoid) to keep myself entertained:

  • 26 dogs lying in the street
  • 3 men with machetes
  • 1 sabanero
  • 2 groups of cattle
  • 2 motor scooters with dad, mom and baby, no helmets
  • 1 chicken crossing the road

But the drive home today was not so much fun.  At some point last night, it started to rain.  I woke up around 2:30 to the sound of loud thunder overhead.  The rain came and went over the next few hours but there was about a 2 hour lull between the rain and the time I left which I thought would be enough time to dry out the roads and make them somewhat safe to drive on.

15 minutes into the drive on the dirt road out of Guiones, I came up to a small, one-lane bridge in which the opposite direction had the right-of-way.  There were several cars pulled over to the side and I quickly realized they were all parked, not crossing because the river had overflowed into the road on the other side.

I’ve driven through a lot of rivers here – but I was never the one driving.  A few minutes went by and a few cars drove through from the other side – all large SUV’s.  Still none of the cars on my side were attempting it.

One of the cars from the other side parked his vehicle near mine and got out to talk with friends.  I asked them if I would be able to get through in the Rav4 and they said, “sure, no problem!”.  But the Rav4 is a lot smaller than the Montero they were driving which was not only bigger but had a higher clearance.  One of them could sense the fear in me and told me he’d take me across but I felt kind of bad since he’d then probably have to walk through the muddy waters to the other side again.

So I shook my head and said I could do it.  I waited for a larger SUV to go in front of me so I could follow them through.  Being a dirt road and not being able to see the potholes (or where the river ended) made it that much more of an excruciating experience. There were times when the car felt like it was leaning to one side or the other but I couldn’t stop nor could I figure out how to get it to level out.  It took just over a minute to get through and it was probably 1/2 kilometer.

At the other side was a very long line of people, cars and motorbikes, including a few police officers, waiting for the river to subside.

The rest of the drive was also a nightmare considering the torrential downpour that (thankfully) started after I got through the river.  But it wasn’t just the rain and overflowing river that I had to deal with – I also had to swerve around 2 different sets of goats that were running right towards my car.  But 3 hours later, I arrived safely home and have settled back into reality.

To watch a video of the experience, visit my Facebook page here.

Enjoy the slideshow:

[slideshow]

Pura vida…Chrissy

When Life Gives You Limes…

I was so excited the other day when I went into Automercado and saw the fruit in the photo above.  I really thought they had gotten a shipment of lemons in.  But they turned out to be yellow oranges.

When I used to travel with Troy, he’d tell me that limon is both lemon and lime – that they’re the same. I never understood what he meant.  After all, one is yellow and one is green.  And they taste different.  But I never had to actually buy lemons until moving here. I always just thought that we had a translation issue and that he didn’t understand that I wanted a yellow lemon not a green lime.

But I have come to accept the lemon situation here in Costa Rica.  Although I’m still hoping to find a lemon tree at a nursery.  I just don’t understand how, in a country that produces so many limes, why they cannot plant a few lemon trees as well or import them.  They import apples and pears, why can’t they import lemons!

So I’m embracing the lime.  I put lime slices in my water (mainly because it tastes a little funny which has made me add Pur/Brita water filter to my list of things I need from the States), I squeeze it into freshly made hummus, I put it on rice, I add it to my cold cucumber/avocado soup and recently I made Lime/Ginger bars (a spin on lemon bars) and they all turn out pretty good.  Of course, I still want yellow lemons.

On the bright side, unlike lemons, the limes don’t have seeds.

Pura vida…Chrissy 

My Costa Rican Easy Bake Oven

Yucca chips

So I’ve gone from having a tiny oven (which my Tica friends told me was actually large for Costa Rican standards) to a toaster oven.  I still can’t believe I’m trying to cook with a toaster oven.  And the stovetop was recently referred to by one of my neighbors as one that “you’d find in a winnebago”.

In the little oven at the old house, things seemed to cook differently… but it wasn’t like I was at a different elevation than I was in California and it was gas which I’ve cooked with in the past and not had any issues.  I’ve also got a temperature converter on my phone so that’s not a problem.  But nothing seemed to cook correctly and I was always have to make adjustments.

Now, in the toaster oven, I’m still faced with food cooking unevenly and everything taking so much longer since I can only do small batches.  It took me several hours to make cookies for my neighbors a few weeks ago and I can only make one pita at a time.  I’m also finding that having to leave the toaster oven on for so long really heats up my house, which considering it’s already 80 degrees inside, I don’t really need to make that worse by running the toaster oven for hours on end.

I like to cook and I’m a good cook (ask any of my neighbors!)…but I have to figure out a way to get some type of small oven in this house without breaking the bank.  I’m still hoping to find a convection oven like the one in the post a few weeks ago.  After all, I’m losing out on tanning time at the beach when I’m stuck indoors in front of a toaster oven all day! : )

Enjoy the slideshow…(and can you tell that I LOVE mango?)

[slideshow]

Pura vida…Chrissy

Adrenaline Rush

Between the puddle jumpers, horseback riding and ziplining, I had a week of fun-filled adventures in Santa Teresa.

First there was the little plane (AKA puddle jumper).  I love them as you get to fly low which is great for taking photos.  Admittedly, the first time in 2009, both me and my traveling partner were a little nervous, but once we were up in the air, turbulence free, I knew everything would be okay.  I’ve now been on over 20 flights and each one has been just as easy as the first.  Thus far, my favorite airport to fly into and out of is Tambor (see video below to learn why!).  And my new goal is to fly into every airport that the two domestic airlines fly to in Costa Rica, Panama and Nicaragua…I’m about halfway to reaching the goal right now!

On my second day at Latitude 10, Maricela (one of the hotel’s team members), her seven-year old daughter and I went horseback riding.  I grew up around horses but the last time I was on one was about 12 years ago in Mexico.  No matter what they say, it is not just like riding a bike.  It wasn’t so much that I was afraid, it was just an issue of letting go of control (which is so difficult for me to do).  And of course, I got the crazy horse, Pedro, who did whatever he wanted.  He’d stop when he wanted to, trot when he wanted to, eat when he wanted to…He also didn’t seem to like some of the steep, rocky terrain we had to descend to get through the jungle and to the beach.  Although he loved the river as I’m sure it helped him cool off.

The next day, Pablo (another hotel team member) and I went on the Sun Trails Canopy Tour.  If you’ve read my book, you know that I’m terrified of heights.  So careening down a cable a few hundred feet above the ground made me just slightly panic stricken.  This wasn’t my first time ziplining but it’s still scary. Two girls who were staying nearby and going through a month long yoga teacher training joined us but somehow I was nominated to go first.  I would say that for the first three cables, my legs wouldn’t stop shaking and I could feel my heart pounding like it wanted to pop out of my chest.  At one point, Pablo asked me, “did you see the river?”.  I told him no, I was really just trying to look ahead and remember everything I was supposed to do – feet crossed, knees up, face forward, brake 20 feet before the next platform, don’t brake beforehand (or you’ll end up in the middle of the cable, have to spin around and pull yourself to the next platform with your arms).  He told me I needed to look down and experience the beautiful view.  I really just wanted to make sure I made it to the next platform.

But eventually the fear subsided and I did have the opportunity to check out the awesome view.  From some of the cables, we could see the Golfo Nicoya and below us was a massive canopy of trees.  About halfway through, we removed our helmets and gear and hiked down to a waterfall that was refreshing….It was also nice to feel my feet on solid ground again.  The last cable of the morning was the longest – 300 meters long or almost 1,000 feet.

We drove through a few rivers both to get to the horses and to the canopy tour which, as long as I’m not driving, is always exhilarating as well.

Just like with surfing last year, sometimes you have to let go of control, although I’m learning that after being on a horse and dangling from a cable, I really do prefer to have my feet on solid ground.

Enjoy the video and the slideshow…

[slideshow]

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Pura vida…Chrissy

A visit to Latitude 10 Resort in Santa Teresa

I spent the last few days at Latitude 10 Resort in Santa Teresa.  Santa Teresa is at the very southern tip of the Nicoya Peninsula, about a 4-5 hour drive from where I live or a 2.5 hour flight.  I flew this time because of the rainy season but it’s actually a very nice drive as you get to experience the countryside and all the little towns and vista points along the way.

In January 2011, I stayed here and went to Isla Tortuga.  On that tour, we saw dolphins and whales in the Golfo Nicoya and then went snorkeling and had lunch on the island.  It was a beautiful day.

This time, I was there for a few extra days and went horseback riding through the jungle, farmland and beach as well as a canopy tour to a waterfall.  I originally just thought I was going to the waterfall by the local trail but it ended up being a full zipline tour.  I’ll write more about those and a visit to one of the local schools in future posts.

My first day there I visited the local town and checked out Playa Carmen, which is the beach just south of Playa Santa Teresa.  On my flight, I was joined by the Executive Chef for Cayuga, Jose, who was flying to Harmony Hotel in Nosara.  He told me I had to check out “The Bakery” in town.  I did try to go there as I was walking around but unfortunately, it was closed due to low season and won’t open again until high season starts, probably in November.  That happens a lot in Costa Rica’s tourist areas; stores and restaurants will close in October, and sometimes in September, and then re-open once the summer season begins.  But the nice thing about visiting during the green season is that, besides everything being green, there are also a lot less tourists and often you’ll be only one of a few people at the hotels and on tours which means much more personalized service.

The hotel is one of my favorites.  You really do feel like you’re staying at your friend’s luxury house.  The team there will help you in any way that they can and the environment is one where you will instantly feel relaxed.  Ivette, the chef, will prepare for you delicious breakfasts and lunches that are not only good-tasting but also beautiful.  I think I ate more veggies there than I have in the last 2 months!  She also taught me how to make tortillas – something I have tried several times but have not quite succeeded.

There are 5 free standing casitas on the property, set apart from each other and with unique elements and decorations.  A surprise for some people is when they arrive and realize their casita has no glass or screens in the windows or locks on the doors.  There is always security and staff members so safety isn’t an issue there.  Insects rarely get into the rooms and the bed is surrounded by a canopy of mosquito netting.

Another surprise for many are the outdoor bathrooms in the casitas. With just the birds and monkeys overhead in the canopy of the trees, it’s an experience like no other.

Late afternoons and before going to sleep would find me lounging on one of the chairs on my bungalow’s patio, listening to the sounds of nature.  The waves crashing, the crickets, frogs and the soft breeze rustling the leaves of the trees.  No other distractions were necessary – no music, no TV, not even books.  Latitude 10 is a place to relax and sink into the natural world, letting go of all your cares.

Enjoy the slideshow…

[slideshow]

Pura vida…Chrissy

Note: While I am now paid and/or receive comped services at many of the places I visit, I will always offer my unbiased opinion to you, my readers.  Fortunately, I almost always have experiences that exceed my expectations.