Thursday, September 30, 2010

The Birth of Butterflies, Bacas and Blades

About two weeks ago we noticed a chrysalis hanging from our kitchen windowsill directly above the sink. Like many creatures that around the house, we let nature take its course and take its course it did. While tackling dishes one day, Sally was delighted to see a butterfly emerge. At the time, I was heading to the cloud forest reserve with the boys, but on our walk we decided to adventure down the ‘trocha’ to San Luis to visit Goudy. The trocha is a steep winding concrete road that connects Monteverde and San Luis. It was the first time we ventured down on foot and the boys, including me, enjoyed the views during a pancake snack and then running when we could. Almost two hours and three miles later, we reached our destination at the farm to an excited family awaiting the birth of a calf. From a distance we could see Goudy’s sister in law, Cindy, assisting the mama cow by pulling the calf. After navigating under barbed wire and through the tall pasture grass, we arrived to see the cow cleaning her calf. (Translation of cow is vaca, pronounced baka.)

The all purpose outdoor tool in Costa Rica is the machete. I finally purchased one to beat back encroaching vegetation around the house and just because I wanted to have one! The boys and I worked one day in the yard hacking away at tree branches. Just like using any tool, they work within perimeters and learn to respect its power. For the boys, it was like swinging a baseball bat – its effectiveness was noticeable, but I knew something was wrong. With a ptoing, ptoing and a clang clang, I swear this thing should slice right through thin branches, not be stinging my hand. Why is just the top ten centimeters sharp? Why is most of the blade like the back of a kitchen knife blade? I explained my problem to Raul, and he laughed, promptly giving me a tutorial. I discovered that in my haste, I bought an unsharpened machete and needed to use a sharpening tool called a lima. I started telling the story to students, and a few chimed together "you need to sharpen it." As in, 'you ignorant foreigner, even we know that!' While the machete sits high and hidden from small hands, the lima sits at the top of my shopping list.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Update: 1000mm

Today has been a total windy washout filled with 100mm of rain since this AM. We have thus passed the 1000mm for September. It is a little windy and we are stocked with a new propane tank and groceries in the event of any road closures which are more likely to occur due to landslides or tree falls in this soupy soil. Oh, for a moment of sunshine!!!!!!!!!
Much of Monteverde is not linked to steep terrain, and since we are near the top of the mountain, flash floods are not an issue here. Keeping on eye on those suffering in Mexico. . .

Monsoon (Cont)

Cumulative Precipitation September 2010 at our house

Sept 7 263mm 10.3in

Sept 14 477mm 18.8in

Sept 21 538mm 21.2in

Sept 27 909mm 35.8in

Sept 30 ??? ???

The skies have dumped an average above 50mm (2in) per day this past week. We remain in a low pressure system so reaching 1000mm (39.37in) is probable.

I think the dreariness of this past week is starting to wear on many, including myself. Up until last Thursday, mornings have at least been bright if not sunny and thunderstorms typically arrived in the afternoon and trickled down into the evening. This current pattern, known as a temporal, brings off and on drizzle and rain for days. Temperatures remain cool in the 60s.

The result? People spending more time indoors, student absence rates are high, and the constant drip drip keeps me and John up at night. This is winter in Costa Rica, so we put on our boots, and rain gear to keep our bodies comfortable. I get a kick out of the many kids and adults wearing gloves, knit hats and fur lined jackets when its 60 degrees! Well, I am sitting here in fleece, always wear socks and have now been heating water to do the dishes. I think I’ll turn on all the lights, go to the kitchen and cook something.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Central American Monsoon

You might be excited about who will win the MLB home run title, or the 3rd week in NFL, or your looking over the college scores from Saturday. I have my excitements also. Every minute, day and night, 7 days, I have been observing, recording, analyzing and predicting – yes- you guessed it – precipitation amounts here in Monteverde! I know you can’t wait to read on. This actually reminds me of the home run contest in 1998 between Sammy Sosa and Mark McGuire when they were on pace to beat Roger Maris’ single season record.

Instead of hoping for 62 home runs, or for the White Sox to win the pennant, I am hoping for 1000 mm rainfall this month. I know – metric system heh , rain, easy does it weather man. Precipitation is normally measured in mm then converted to inches for U.S. citizens, so allow me to make the conversion. 1000mm = 1 meter = 39.37 Inches. Yes, we are on pace to receive about 40 inches of rain this month. OK, so it rains a lot in Costa Rica, what can I compare that to? Most places in the US receive less than 40 inches in a full year. Those of you in Chicago and Florida get about 35 and 55 inches in a year respectively.

To the North of CR, Guatemala had its wettest August on record and we in Monteverde have so far had a very wet ‘winter’ (May thru December) compared to last year, which was speckled with downpours but not an everyday occurrence as they are this year. The past few days have been especially dreary reminding us that we should stock up on some 100w light bulbs to help us get through October, the really super duper wet ‘monsoon’month.

What does that mean for life here? We always carry an umbrella or rain jacket and rubber boots keep our feet dry. Most of our mornings (except since thursday) have been sunny and the rain falls in the afternoon. Life goes on as normal but the soccer field and our yard is “mush gush.” The boys enjoy stomping in puddles, showering under downspouts, diverting streams that line the driveway catching raindrops on their tongues, and any other thing four year olds dream of.

Photos of rainy day fun include determining if one classroom visitor is venomous, John noticing the male horse, the boys and friend making treasure maps, and a deer in our yard this AM.

Friday, September 24, 2010

TS Matthew

Just a quick AM post regarding Tropical Storm Matthew: It is heading into Nicaragua right now and is expected to sit in the region for a few days. It will remain north of Costa Rica, yet we should receive plenty of rain and little wind. Countries such as Nicaragua, Honduras, Belize and southern Mexico can really get hammered with landslides. Our soil is saturated and we are glad that we are not living near any steep terrain. For our family, it means splashing in puddles and clothes drying in the oven this weekend.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Last week, Central American countries celebrated their Dia de Independencia, to mark the anniversary of freedom from the rule of Spain. A torch is lit in Guatemala City, the former capital of the entire region, and then spread by torch runners through CA countries, including Costa Rica. On Tuesday morning our classes headed to designated spots along the road through Monteverde to meet and bring the flame up to the school. The boys had a chance to carry the torch a few steps.

We went to Santa Elena the following day to blow up balloons and to march in the Independence Day parade. It was a warm sunny morning, but we suffered through a much too long civic ceremony before the parade got underway. A few locals basically told me "relax, this is 'Tico Time,'" but I think its torture to hold families with children in a gymnasium before a parade and spend an hour blablaing. Our boys put up with it for about ten minutes, and outside they ran looking for more interesting amusements.

Sunday, September 12, 2010


So you are probably wondering why it has been two weeks in between posts...well, life here is very busy and with meetings upon meetings every day last week, I simply had to let something here I sit, with another Monday staring me in the face with that dreaded question lurking in my mind...."what to pack my kids for snack tomorrow"?

We are incredibly busy, Mike with school, me with the new building project and oh, yes, lets not forget the boys!

We continue to have rain in the afternoon, lots of it, so laundry is still an all-consuming task. The boys are enjoying school, are making more new friends and learning how to sit quietly in the meeting room during assembly with the other students. Truly a stretch for our boys, but they are doing well and we are proud.

I had a week full of meetings as I struggle to put some organization around this new building project. We presented the draft designs to the faculty on Tuesday, the School Committee on Thursday and the Meeting for Business today...WHEW! We look forward to the end of the month when the Director will fly to the States with the concept designs to meet with some folks in hopes of raising awareness and funds to boot! Thankfully, Gaudy has been able to stay late a couple nights as the meetings have taken us into the 'bewitching' hour.

We celebrated Dia del Nino (Children's Day) in Costa Rica on Friday with a 1/2 day of school packed full of songs, activities and yummy snacks for all. I helped in the kitchen to organize the snacks when I was quickly handed the phone. It was the alarm company stating that our alarm was going off...this was about 9:15 a.m. Thinking to myself, "really, what's the possibility that this is 'the real thing'?"... "probably an animal" I thought, but I sneaked out of the festivities and hailed a ride with Kattya who was meeting a client in Santa Elena and offered me a lift. She dropped me off at the pasture gate and thought to herself that she better accompany me up to the house to make sure all is well. The house and grounds looked untouched on first glance. I opened the house using my keys and did a quick mental check "boots, backpacks, loose change, rain coats", all accounted for - so all was well. So I thought! We did a quick scan of the outside of the house where we found two small window louvers gently placed in the garden and the screen cut in the back bedroom. The plot thickens! I come to find out later that thiefs do this kind of thing....gingerly place the panes of glass away from the house as to not break them....that would count double against them :)

A neighbor heard the alarm and confronted an older guy who was clearly not from this zone heading away from the house, into our pasture. He tried to pull a fast one "hey, I'm a friend, just eating some guavas"! What, did he think, we just fell of the guava truck? The guy quickly hot-footed it up the road never to be seen we thought! The police arrived shortly after the call placed by our neighbor, shortly after that, the director of the school and Mike pulled up. Thinking that my Spanish was better than Mike's, we decided to have Mike return to school to be with the kids while the Director and I went to file a report. In walked the police with the assumed suspect. 'Boy, that was quick work' I thought to myself. A very unassuming, mousey older guy, clearly in poor health and about 80 lbs. We quickly found out that he had a record and there would be little doubt that the prints (once lifted from the window panes) would be his! Two hours later, we drove back to the house with the police following close behind with their fingerprinting tool box in hand. Mike and I will have the option of continuing the investigation in Puntaranus if indeed the fingerprints match up. The two guys from the police agency asked me to stick my hand through the screen in hopes of determining whether the thief actually made it all the way into the house or if the alarm sounded when he started to crawl through the opening he had made for himself. First I waved my hand through the opening...nope, all was quiet, next, I tried to crawl through the small opening and my hips got caught! Two observations... clearly I am more than 80 lbs :) and the thief was indeed 'all the way in the house'.

The police were quick to respond to the thief and we were impressed with his quick capture. Perhaps he was begging to be caught as perhaps he would be assured three meals a day in prison. So life here continues to prove to be interesting.

For all our friends and family - we are fine, nothing taken from the house and we are happy that our alarm works! I suppose it was a matter of time as most homes here have been broken into or attempted. Rest assured we will continue to use our alarm and patch up the broken screens. The kids are none the wiser and for now 'moms the word'.

We are hoping that the only excitement from the upcoming week is as a result of the parades and festivals that are planned for Independence Day on Wednesday. No school so we'll spend the day in Santa Elena watching the parade and spending time with friends.

Signed: S