The Year of Change – 2017

Well…it’s been quite the year, hasn’t it? I can’t believe 2017 is over. It’s been quite a life-changing year! Hubby changed jobs in early part of the year….we came to Costa Rica in February and by April had signed paperwork to buy what is now,  our sportfishing business. Sold my brand new car in April; sold the house in June; quit my job in July; sold almost everything else we had in July; trekked to Florida for a week or so and arrived here August 3rd. Now, just about everything in my life is different.

There was a rodeo near town last weekend. The “rodeo” (they don’t call it that, but I can’t remember what they call it) here is very different from those in the USA or Spain.  The Costa Ricans are very humane to the bulls…more so than the “cowboys”. Funny to see the riders that aren’t always “in condition” to ride a bull. Falling off…getting stepped upon…and limping off of the field. The stadium/arena is built by hand. Takes about 2-2.5 weeks to build and about 3 days to take down. Interesting to watch things constructed like “the good ole days”. No metal….everything is constructed of wood. Around the arena were carnival vendors selling various foods and wares. There was SO MUCH TRASH in the mornings…but the people cleaned up everything early and prepared for the next night of activities. People either love it or avoid it….

In December, we  had to pay our employees their “aguinaldo”. The workers of Costa Rica get 13 months of pay per year. The aguinaldo is like a Christmas bonus. The employees are paid 1/12 of their monthly wages earned January-November 30 as a 13th month payment. Whatever the total of all of those months of pay are, you divide by 12 and they receive that bonus no later than December 20th. It is paid to every salaried employee, whether employed by private company or the government. It is not taken lightly here either as it is obligatory. Failure to pay the aguinaldo brings the Ministry of Labour immediately in to intervene. The fine for not paying is anywhere from 7 to 23 months of the employee’s basic salary.

We had a HUGE frog in the house. The question we are stuck with is HOW did he get in here? He was as big as my entire hand!! Got up in the morning (I get up between 5-5:45 am on days we don’t have charters going out in the morning), and went downstairs with the dog to let him out and feed him. I go to grab his water bowl and the ENTIRE bowl is filled with a FROG. AGGHHH!! Now, I don’t mind frogs at all..(unlike my sister who is dreadfully afraid of them….I mean DREADFULLY), but this frog was HUGE. Just hanging out in the water bowl. How does THAT get into the house unnoticed? We don’t leave the doors open. We have screens when the glass doors are open. Not only that…but he found the water bowl! Crazy! Thank goodness he wasn’t in the toilet!!! I saw a small frog going down the drain of my sink one day…but can you imagine sitting on the toilet in the middle of the night and finding THAT?…. I have become much more aware in the middle of the night than I used to be….

I remember having conversations with a friend of mine in Virginia YEARS ago about men and cologne. As I was in my 40s and single, I was really curious as to why men hardly ever wore cologne. I don’t know about everyone else,  but a man that smells good is  a HUGE asset! Think about how your sense of smell dictates so much…whether you will enter a room/restaurant, whether you will eat it or throw it away, whether you will stand next to him/her or not, whether you feel nauseated or not… but it also plays a huge part in the law of attraction. So many U.S. men don’t wear cologne any more. Some of them only wear it to “hide” smells. (I remember the teenage boys in middle school who didn’t bring home their gym clothes to be washed and sprayed them with AXE instead.) Gross… not the same. Well…guess what the men wear in Costa Rica? Cologne. A LOT OF IT. I mean, they must go through a bottle a week. OMG. Sometimes I can smell them coming from 6 feet away.  It’s like they rolled around and slept in the Brut warehouse all night. As with many things…there CAN be TOO MUCH of a good thing…

TRASH. It is definitely an issue here in many ways. First of all, I never know what day they are picking up the trash. Apparently, it is different everywhere. One of the other fishing charter owners gets his trash picked up 3 times a week. There are weeks we’ve gone without a single one. Most residences have these metal bins/boxes which are on a metal stand that are at the road where they throw their trash. Most places have one specifically for that home or complex (doesn’t mean others don’t throw their crap into it). The garbage people will only take what is properly secured in a plastic bag of some sort. So if people throw in cups, or other loose objects, they are likely to stay there until you add them to one of your bags. The house we are renting does not have one of these receptacles at the end of the driveway and so we hang ours in a tree. (as the owner has done since he built the house). It has to be off the ground to not get destroyed   by the raccoons, possums, etc. Ours hangs in a tree that has 4 inch spines growing along it’s trunk and branches…so I’m guessing that is why this tree was chosen. It’s a bit unnerving to pull up to the driveway and see 4 big black plastic trash bags hanging from the tree. The owner is a single man, so I’m assuming his trash load was quite different. We are a home of 3 and also bring home the trash created by our customers on the charters. Basically,  our tree looks like a spindly tree of black plastic pinatas.  I have no idea who the trash company is, no idea when they are coming (usually Thursday),  and no idea what time of day. We were giving the yard guy $20/month to pay the trash people until they showed up at the house the end of November demanding payment for April-December. (Remember, we had just moved in the end of October.)…so much for giving the yard guy the money.

If the trash wasn’t a big enough problem, we had another experience with having no water. When the yard guy showed up on the Saturday before New Year’s  spewing off some Spanish to me about the water being turned off and me not paying the bill. NOPE. I paid it. November AND December. Mind you, here… we don’t get bills. No mail. No bills. You either look up how much you owe online (through your online banking which connects you to services need to be paid) or you go to the office of the supplier and ask how much you owe and pay it. I pay my water bill at the local school. They accept payments  between the 20th and 23rd of the month (or was indicated in written instructions from the owner) from  4-6pm. Since we move in late October, I paid November. I paid December. Saturday, when Jose (the yard guy) tells me my water has been turned off, I freak… AND I don’t understand why. As Jose speaks NO ENGLISH WHATSOEVER…I am trying my best to understand why it’s turned off. He thinks I didn’t pay. I show him my receipt.  So he walked to the house of the ladyn charge of receiving the payments at the school and comes back and tells me it’s an error. They will turn it back on by the end of the day. GREAT. It’s Saturday. Tomorrow is Sunday and they won’t do it then….Monday is New Year’s Day and the Ticos must celebrate the CRAP out of New Year’s as they have cleaned out the grocery stores and invited every family member they have to celebrate with them.

Saturday comes and goes and no water. We drive around trying to find the lady’s house where Jose went to ask for assistance. to no avail. Great. We had spent the afternoon at the beach, and the sand grit in my hair and ears feels great. Nevermind the sticky oil on my torso and the sand grit stuck to the nape of my neck and hairline.  Out of desperation, we go back to the house looking for the water meter to see if there is a valve or something we can turn on.  We find it! Hubby  looks at me and says “should I turn it on or do you think we will get in trouble?”  My response, “HELL YES turn it on”.  So, he gets a wrench and turns it on…and it starts filling up the hole and overflowing where we are…..wait…it’s not getting to the tank!?!?!?!? It looks like that “bubbling crude” coming up in the pre-empt of the Beverly Hillbillies TV show except it’s not “black gold” it’s “brown muddy water”. UGH. How the heck to get it turned off? So after much cussing, bug crawling, scooping, panic and turning of the wrench (yes…now it’s now dark outside and his hand is in this muddy hole that is filled with water and trying to close the valve)…he gets it closed again.  Well..Hell. That didn’t work. So he feels around a bit. (something I wouldn’t do in a scorpion, cockroach, tarantula laden country)Why didn’t it work? Because they have REMOVED the meter/pipe connector that ties the municipality water line to our water line. We are SCREWED. Crap. Bathing will apparently consist of a dip in the salt-water pool….ugh.

The next morning, through connections on the beach, we are told where this woman lives. We go to her house trying to figure out why they have cut us off. There are MANY days I wish I had taken 4 years of Spanish and not 4 years of French. To make a longer story short. The bills we paid in November in December only brought the water bill current to October. Yep. The owner was behind. THANKS for that. We will take it out of the rent. And the instructions to pay from the 20th-23rd? No bueno. It’s due on the 15th. PERIOD. After that, you pay late charges. After the 20th, they may cut you off. Duh. Another Costa Rican adventure….

That is how 2017 ended. What a year. As I previously stated, APPARENTLY the Costa Ricans like the New Year. The town was FILLED with people. I mean FILLED. Not just foreigners..but every land-locked 20-30 something year-old Costa Rican must’ve come to the beach ready to PAR-TAY into the New Year. New Year’s Eve morning at 5am…they were boom-boxing electronica on the beach. Dancing, smoking, drinking, gyrating. Mad house. It was crazy and difficult to get  our vehicle through the parking lot to get the supplies to the boats for our scheduled charters.  We had 2 charters heading out in the morning and we had to arrive extra-early. By 7am…the BOOM BOOM BOOM of the beat (which carried the same base-line through every tune) was about to drive me bonkers. One of our guests said they had heard it going on all night long. The beaches were PACKED. And the grocery stores utilized primarily by the locals was PACKED. We had been told that Christmas-New Year’s is the busiest week of the year..and now I believe it.  Heck, we had 17 charters in 7 days! Wall-to-wall traffic and people lined our little town…many of them Costa Ricans. The trash they produced was immense.  Hoping the trash pick-up in town is more dependable  than they are in the outskirts….




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