Posts filed under ‘Travel’

Spanish Lessons: Day 1

I am sitting in the Spanish school‘s open air cafeteria enjoying a big bowl of bananas, pineapple and coffee as my boys have their first Spanish lesson upstairs.

An aside: There are no indoor restaurants here, and even businesses rarely have walls. There are roofs for when it rains, but no doors.

They boys are in the open air classroom to the left in this photo – actually I just looked up and noticed the classrooms do have sliding glass doors to close them off for quiet or rain:

Their teacher’s name is Silvia. It so happens that she has a two-year old son who is at the same school that the boys will be starting at next week – it also has a daycare component.

Lil D was reluctant to come here this morning. He whined quite a bit but realized he had no choice and went with the program. As we were waiting for the teachers to come greet the students (most from Switzerland; some from Canada and the US) Lil D told us he had a dream about his regular school last night and he is starting to miss it.

I have to remember that this a child who likes routine and clearly defined expectations. This transition may be more difficult on him than on his little brother.

After the introductions, Silvia took the boys up to her classroom and Derek and I listened to the school orientation (which included a presentation from the surf instructor who offers lessons in Spanish for extra practice, of course).

Silvia asked me to go upstairs after the orientation and I did. The boys had each drawn a picture of themselves. They looked happy.

The boys start their real school next week. I will begin taking classes here when they get to full day school. I’m pretty excited about that. I’ve always imagined a few weeks in a Spanish-speaking country at a language school and here I am!

I have figured out that four weeks of four hours per day of classes is the time equivalent of two semesters of university Spanish, not to mention the opportunities for immersion.

I figure I can commit to four weeks, doing my work in the afternoons. After that, I will re-evaluate. Perhaps the surf lessons in Spanish will be enough – ha!

Derek is going the Rosetta Stone route for language learning. He knows himself well and is not a group learner. If he gets started now with the basics, he will have ample opportunity to practice while we’re here no matter what method of learning he chooses.

Okay – the boys will be done soon so I’ve got get my work in while I can. After morning lessons, we’ll spend the rest of the day at the beach with my little niece, her parents and my parents who all arrived (very tired) late in the day yesterday.

Coming soon are posts about running in the heat (oy!), a metal utensil phobia in one son, and grocery price comparisons between Ottawa and tourist town Costa Rica.

It’s not too late to join the Plank to Plunk Down challenge. Today is Day 1!

Ooooh – just as I was about to hit publish the boys walked by me with their teacher as they went for a walk. Cute!

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January 2, 2012 at 3:23 pm Leave a comment

Supermercado

Yesterday morning, with our belongings still in the Continental Airlines vortex, I set out in my new dress (purchased on my way into town from the airport) and my sneakers to get us some groceries, toiletries and a few more clothing items at the supermercado. Here’s the lovely look I had going with my sneaks:

With a slightly nervous hand, I hopped into our car – a Daihatsu Sirion – and booted my way through the busy downtown to the supermarket in a plaza on the other side of town. This drive took about five minutes in my maneuverable little car. We have taken over the lease from our  local property manager.

This is what the roads look like in the busiest little area – so one MUST be paying attention:

Photo credit: Lil D

It’s also important to note that the police do not need probable cause to stop a vehicle here so they often have checkpoints to check your “papers” i.e. passport, driver’s license and to make sure children are in booster seats. I gathered those items in my bag before I headed out.

I arrived at the grocery store exhilarated to be driving myself around town. I parked and headed into the AutoMercado. The selection was similar to what we have at home. Prices are similar if not slightly less expensive on produce, but significantly more expensive on American packaged goods (makes sense).

I selected fruits and veggies, five types of sunscreen and three types of bug spray along with many other items to fill my eventually overflowing cart. As I proceeded through the store, reading labels for allergy information (listed in bold like in Canada- phew!) and ingredients, I could feel my heart rate steadily increasing. I really had no reason to be stressed at that point, but I was (maybe partly because I couldn’t find sunflower seeds).

After the efficient and friendly cashier scanned and his colleague bagged my very large order (Loblaws could learn a little something here), neither of my credit cards worked.

I went to Scotiabank next door. My daily cash limit is small. I have just never needed to change it and it’s been the same since I was sixteen. I got as much cash as I could but realized it wouldn’t be enough. I drove back to the beach, grabbed some cash, and Skyped Visa.

“Yes, you did inform us that you would be traveling to Costa Rica, but we would just like to verify the last couple of purchases with you”.

That sorted, I headed back to the grocery store where the manager had kept my order aside. The Visa card worked. I left the store feeling relieved and broke 12 of 15 eggs in the parking lot (I boiled them right away at home).

Lost Luggage Update

  • All five pieces of luggage recovered and delivered late last evening
  • Missing from one duffel bag: two pairs of kids’ Umbro soccer cleats, Garmin GPS watch, iPod, and men’s flip-flops

Kid Update

When we left Ottawa, Lil C had a cold. Last night around 4 am he woke up with a mid-grade fever. Medicated, he fell back to sleep in my bed. I was up for a few hours imagining various scenarios if he woke up feverish.

My worrying worked. He woke up cool and refreshed, barely chewing his toast as he urgently ushered us out toward the pool.

Exploring low tide

One of the resident howler monkeys at the neighbouring Hotel Capitan Suizo:

Linda the howler monkey playing in the hammock while Lil C looks on

I imagine I will have a lot to write about over the next few weeks, but while I’m going to incorporate many things about life here, I still want to stay true to the theme of my blog – keeping my family fit, healthy and happy.

Friday this week, I will have the usual Fitness Friday post.

Thanks for all of your Facebook and blog comments. I love that I can stay in touch this way!

December 29, 2011 at 2:54 am 5 comments

Tico Tuesday: We’re Here in Costa Rica… Just Barely

We set out for Tamarindo, Costa Rica at 4:30 am yesterday morning. We had packed the car the evening before and the morning preparations went smoothly. The boys and I arrived at the Continental check-in counter at 4:50 am while Derek went to return our rental van – we had exchanged our rental car for a van for the trip to the airport (we had an opportunity to break our lease in October and we rented a car for the last three months).

We had done a web check-in so the document verification and bag check was quick. Derek arrived 5 minutes later and had his passport verified.

We proceeded to the very long security line with 65 minutes to spare. If you have ever been to the Ottawa airport, you know the lines are rarely long and the small airport means an easy flow to the gate.

I have never seen the line that long. Thirty minutes later, we arrived at the very long customs and immigration line. There was no way we would make our flight if we had to wait through the line. Fifteen minutes into our wait, I started getting nervous and wondering if the gate personnel might come looking for people. The young twenty-something in front of us was on the same flight and so were another half-dozen people in line. Twenty minutes into our wait, I decided I needed to act. I turned to Derek and said,”I can’t handle this. I’m gonna just barge through.”

I told the girl in front of us, “just follow us”.

In my best “Francoise voice” (my mom , Francoise, was never afraid to speak her mind when I was a kid and then it embarrassed me to no end. Now, I’m glad I learned from her – she’s mellowed some now and I would say that we are pretty much on par these days), I said loudly, “we have a 6:15 am flight and we need to go through – and we just started weaving our way through the line.

Someone stopped and us eventually, a guy who said he was on our flight. So I let him go ahead but I cut in front of everyone else. Another young woman made herself known too… and some others who had 6 am flights (which I’m assuming had long since departed).

We were probably the third or fourth group to get to the customs agent after my little performance. We would otherwise have been about thirtieth. We made it through and onto the plane along with the second young woman I mentioned. But the first girl who had been in front of us, who in deference to my helping her get through the line and to having small children, allowed us to go first. She must have had a slow customs officer because she did not make it onto the plane.

Of course, then we sat waiting for de-icing for 45 minutes.

So, 45 minutes on the runway and a 53 minute connection in the huge Newark airport made me less than optimistic.

The plane gods were on our side yesterday. We arrived, caught the bus to the other terminal and boarded the plane with just minutes to spare.

The bright side

  • No waiting in the gate area
  • DirectTV from Newark to Liberia, CR
  • Sweet, well-behaved children who understood that we were adding excitement to our adventure

The down side

  •  No food except granola bars which the boys kept refusing, the breakfast snacks for purchase on board which almost all contained nuts or looked unappetizing; we survived from 3:50 am to 3 pm on candy, Pringles, Two-Bite Cinnamon Rolls, and juice.
  • Slightly higher parental stress though Derek and I both had a “what shall be, shall be” attitude throughout
  • Quick connection = no luggage; still waiting. We understand it should be delivered to us this evening.
The bright side of no luggage
  • New clothes for all (I did have one change of clothes for the kids, but inadvertently packed pants instead of shorts for Lil C)

No shorts? No problem. Cut-off shorts for Lil C

And this morning I went to the grocery store for the first time… that’s a whole other story for tomorrow.

December 28, 2011 at 3:20 am 8 comments

Tico Thursday: What I Want to Know about Living in Costa Rica

I’ll be blogging from Costa Rica in two weeks. There are so many things that I want to know about life there that I haven’t been able to find any articles about online. I look forward to answering some questions or at least giving my perspective on them here in my little corner of the online world.

Here are some of the topics I’m thinking about:

  • Education for my children
  • Medical care and prescription medication
  • Community and friends for both the kids and ourselves
  • Extracurricular activities for the kids
  • Speed at which each of of us learns Spanish
  • Local environmental and development concerns
  • Wildlife
  • Lifestyle (i.e. daily schedule, meals, etc)
  • Healthy living – is it easier, harder?
  • Life with a child with a nut allergy in Central America
  • What life is like for the locals in a tourist-driven community in CR
Is there anything that you are interested in knowing about? I would love to add to this list and am curious what might be of interest.

Here’s our to-do list progress for this week:

For Ottawa

  • Organize home insurance as rental property
  • Purge our household contents
  • Pack up house for renters; rubbermaid bins and wardrobe boxes on my shopping list this week
  • Make contact list, instruction list for renters
  • Pack for our trip
  • Get worksheets for Lil D from teacher
  • Redirect mail to my parents’ house
  • Inform security company of renter
  • Modify cable, internet, phone services for renter
  • Modify mobile phone plans

For Tamarindo (our Costa Rican town)

  • Stock up on Cdn pharmaceuticals including DEET-containing products
  • Second visit to travel clinic for last two shots for boys
  • Doctor – Lil D annual physical
  • Buy new linens for CR
  • Rebook renters of our condo in March for another unit in our building; we don’t want to back up and leave for that week.
  • Plan trip in March to Nicaragua to renew tourist visas
  • Plan trips for March/April Semana Santa holiday

December 15, 2011 at 2:14 pm Leave a comment

Tico Tuesday: Travel Health and Basketball

We’ve made some good progress on our preparations, some fun stuff and some must-do stuff.

Travel Health:

Last week our family paid a visit to the travel health clinic to get the low-down on how to keep ourselves healthy in Central America. Before that day I had not a hint of anxiety about this trip. Now I may have a little twinge.

The thing is, we have been to our soon-to-be adopted town three times before and I’ve never been worried… so why now?

It may be the length of our stay and thus the increased exposure to health risks that is bothering me… but I’m not sure.

Vaccines can protect us from (as of last Thursday) the following local threats:

  • Hep A & B (not Derek for the B); since the boys will be in school with other kids Hep B was recommended
  • Typhoid Fever
  • Influenza (seasonal) – not that weird new one I read about yesterday
  • Tetanus, diptheria, pertussis
Vaccines cannot protect us from:
  • Dengue fever which exists throughout Central America: We need to protect ourselves from mosquitos two hours after sunrise and two hours before sunset – DEET 25% for adults and 10% for children. Herbal repellent can work but needs to be reapplied every 20 minutes. We need to wear all unscented products, wear light coloured clothing and long pants/sleeves if possible (last one not likely).
  • Foodborne stomach issues: we have a “just in case” prescription for anti-biotics for very bad cases of this. On our past three visits this has been bearable, and much better than any trips to the Dominican Republic or Mexico. We never stayed in a resort and still ate salads and fresh fruit wherever we went.

At the end of the visit, after some tears, maybe a little screaming, some sugar and some interesting discussion about the photos of children around the world on the wall, my children came away knowing how lucky they are to have the protection they do.

The Unicef gift catalogue came last week and now Lil D is interested in purchasing the polio and measles vaccine packs as gifts.

Basketball:

My sweet husband Derek is a HUGE basketball fan. Up until last week, upon waking each morning he would check his iPhone before his feet hit the ground to see if the NBA lockout had ended (and boy is he happy it has!)

Well, Derek has been searching high and low on the Tamarindo websites for basketball and soccer programs for the boys, as well as some men’s basketball for himself. Through much search and much emailing, he has found soccer, and two full covered basketball courts, one with weekly pick-up.

He emailed the guy who organizes the pick-up run asking about the existence of kids’ programs. The funny guy emailed back something to the effect of,

“That’s a great idea Derek! Thanks for volunteering for the new Saturday morning kids’ basketball program.”

First Derek asked me if this was a misunderstanding or if the guy was a joker. I suggested that he was indeed being funny. However, Derek didn’t think it was funny. He thought it was great. He has now recruited that joker to help him get a basketball program for kids going in January…

If you’re you’ve got a basketball fan in your family and are planning a trip to Tamarindo or really anywhere in Guanacaste, let me know and I’ll hook you up with some hoops!

Here’s our to-do list progress for this week:

For Ottawa

  • Organize home insurance as rental property (still waiting for quote)
  • Purge our household contents; feeling the urge to pare down (solid wood crib, well-loved Step 2 playhouse and plastic piknik table are the next items…)
  • Pack up house for renters; rubbermaid bins and wardrobe boxes on my shopping list this week
  • Make contact list, instruction list for renters
  • Pack for our trip – I bought 3 MEC duffle bags (so reasonably-priced!) as lightweight luggage for our clothing
  • Get worksheets for Lil D from teacher
  • Redirect mail to my parents’ house
  • Inform security company of renter
  • Modify cable, internet, phone services for renter

For Tamarindo (our Costa Rican town)

  • Stock up on Cdn pharmaceuticals including DEET-containing products
  • Second visit to travel clinic for last two shots for boys
  • Doctor – Lil D annual physical (booked for early Dec)
  • Buy new linens for CR
  • Rebook renters of our condo in March for another unit in our building; we don’t want to back up and leave for that week.
  • Plan trip in March to renew tourist visas – looking like Nicaragua (Panama would require anti-malarials)

So, with all this list-making, you can see that the holidays are not really on my radar. I am outsourcing that to extended family this year. I’m hoping that even the kids’ gift-opening can be done outside our home to minimize clean up. I hope everyone else’s preparations are going well. It’s hard to imagine Christmas and Hannukah are in 4 weeks…

November 29, 2011 at 3:17 pm 1 comment

Tico Tuesday: Moving Through the List

It’s been a whirlwind month. We just returned from a birthday trip to Disney/Florida for my dad’s 65th birthday. Yes, a 65 year old man wanted to celebrate his birthday at Disney World with his grandsons. It was fantastic! And today is my dad’s actual birthday. Happy Birthday Dad!!

We insisted he wear this pin for a day.

Everyone, from street sweepers to bus drivers to servers, wished him a happy birthday. I found it funny. He “lost it” the next day.

And now that we’re back we have just about a month to prepare for the trip (and the holidays). I met with a very nice woman who spent two years in Costa Rica with her family. She gave me lots of great insights on life there and information on various day-to-day life things that will make things easier for us – ways to get internet shopping items to us, local medical care (it’s good!), pharmaceuticals, driving, school meals, social things… it was great info.

To-Do List Progress: I have removed all the completed items. You can see those here:

For Ottawa

  • Organize home insurance as rental property (still waiting for quote)
  • Spanish lessons/babysitting for boys before we leave 
  • Purge our household contents; feeling the urge to pare down (solid wood crib, Ikea futon, small fake Christmas tree, etc… anyone, anyone?) – working on this
  • Pack up house for renters
  • Make contact list, instruction list for renters
  • Pack for our trip
  • Get worksheets for Lil D from teacher; buy other resources
  • Spanish lessons for Derek and I – not gonna happen until we’re there
  • Make all billing paperless (pretty much done)
  • Redirect mail to my parents’ house
  • Organize direct deposit of business accounts receivable payments through our banks; apparently, if they don’t do electronic funds transfers, we can get our customers to send their cheques directly to our bank for deposit – how convenient!!
  • Inform security company of renter
  • Modify cable, internet, phone services for renter

For Tamarindo (our Costa Rican town)

  • Stock up on Cdn pharmaceuticals including DEET-containing products
  • Family visit to travel clinic for all boosters, vaccines (booked for this week)
  • Flu shots for all
  • Optometrist (booked early Dec)
  • Doctor – Lil D annual physical (booked for early Dec)
  • Allergy retest for Lil D  – this deserves a separate post and it’s not good news
  • Buy new linens for CR
  • Investigate luggage limit for air travel – we’ll have to pay $40 for each extra bag… not too bad
  • Rebook renters of our condo in March for another unit in our building; we don’t want to back up and leave for that week.
  • Plan trip in March to renew tourist visas – looking like Nicaragua
  • Register Derek and me for Spanish school – I’m registered. I’m still figuring out what Derek would like to do.

Hope everyone is getting through the dark days of November; Disney was in full holiday season mode. It will be here before we know it!

November 22, 2011 at 2:33 pm Leave a comment

Tico Tuesday: November Purge

Yesterday my mom made a comment about not being sure we’re coming back at all from our extended stay trip in Costa Rica (she wasn’t going to buy me a funnel for my kitchen which I needed to pour the spaghetti sauce into the freezer bag because we “might not come back”).

While I can say with 100% certainty we will be back, there is a slim chance that we might fall in love with life there and just come back to regroup before a more permanent move. But that is definitely not the plan at this point in time.

All this preparation has given me a huge desire to get rid of “stuff”. I have been bringing “stuff” daily to the donation bins, listing on Kijiji.ca, and dropping off at a children’s consignment shop. Each time I take another “something” out of the house it makes me smile. I’m still going through the obvious too-small, never-wear-that, kids-have-outgrown-that-toy, tired-of-looking-at-that stuff, but sometime soon, I’m gonna run out of that and I may start divesting myself of anything that’s not nailed down.

If you happen to be in the market for anything at all, or happen to be at my house and notice something you might like, feel free to ask; you might be making me really happy by taking it off my hands.

The nice byproduct of this fear of packing (which is really what it is), is fall/winter shopping has been pretty much non-existent. I broke down and bought Lil D a new fall coat and bought the boys some extra gloves, but otherwise, I keep telling myself that we’ll only wear new stuff a handful of times before we leave and upon our return it’ll be too small for the kids.

As for me, I know I can easily get by with what is in my closet.

I may have ordered a few warm weather items which I “need” for Costa Rica, but I am not revealing that secret until I see the package contents; I’ll be sure to share if it’s worthwhile.

To-Do List Progress: I have removed all the completed items. You can see those here:

For Ottawa

  • Organize home insurance as rental property (still waiting for quote)
  • Spanish lessons/babysitting for boys before we leave (maybe?)
  • Purge our household contents; feeling the urge to pare down (solid wood crib, Ikea futon, small fake Christmas tree, etc… anyone, anyone?)
  • Pack up house for renters
  • Make contact list, instruction list for renters
  • Pack for our trip
  • Get worksheets for Lil D from teacher; buy other resources
  • Spanish lessons for Derek and I
  • Make all billing paperless (pretty much done)
  • Redirect mail to my parents’ house (this is the first they’re hearing of it)
  • Organize direct deposit of business accounts receivable payments through our banks; apparently, if they don’t do electronic funds transfers, we can get our customers to send their cheques directly to our bank for deposit – how convenient!!
  • Inform security company of renter
  • Modify cable, internet, phone services for renter

For Tamarindo (our Costa Rican town)

  • Stock up on Cdn pharmaceuticals including DEET-containing products
  • Family visit to travel clinic for all boosters, vaccines (booked for late Nov)
  • Flu shots for all
  • Optometrist (booked early Dec)
  • Doctor – Lil D annual physical (booked for early Dec)
  • Allergy retest for Lil D (booked for this week)
  • Buy new linens for CR
  • Investigate luggage limit for air travel
  • Rebook renters of our condo in March for another unit in our building; we don’t want to back up and leave for that week.
  • Plan trip in March to renew tourist visas – looking like Nicaragua
  • Register Derek and me for Spanish school
  • Continue to plan for friends/family visits
Why are these lists getting longer?
Since my If Not Now, When? post, four separate individuals have told me they realize from my post and our family plan, that they too can make this happen. At least a dozen more have expressed interest, though they are just at the “sounds interesting” stage.
I am going to continue documenting my experience (not all here), from the preparation, to the to-do lists and checklists, to our to-dos and to-don’ts, so when it comes time for you to make your move, just let me know and I can share it all with you!

November 2, 2011 at 12:58 am 4 comments

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