La Boda

I am getting married in 113 days.

To you that may seem like a long time from now, but I assure you to me it is not. Actually the ticking clock in the back of my head has grown rather loud lately, and so I decided to get back to writing my blog and chronicle a bit of the process of getting married here in Costa Rica.

I run a small hotel in Jacó, Costa Rica, though I’m originally from Canada. I have been with my partner in crime for over 16 years – in fact we are highschool sweethearts – and we already have a 2 year old son who was born here (see my posts about Having a baby in Costa Rica and Preparing to have a baby in Costa Rica ). So it surprises many when we tell them that we are not already married. Well, there are a few reasons for that. First, we just kind of never got around to it. When you’ve been with the same person for all of your adult (and part of your teenage) life, it is easy to put getting married on the back burner. We had so many other things we wanted to do. We opened a record store, went to university and college, and then went back to school to study other things. We wanted to travel as much as possible. And weddings are damn expensive, especially in a big city like Toronto Canada, where we’re from.

The wedding industry is a complex, multi-billion dollar a year business, and even if you want something simple it is pretty hard to avoid paying thousands and thousands of dollars for just one day. A good friend of mine did hers DIY to a tee, and still spent over $10,000. They say the average wedding now costs around $30,000 which is crazy to me – I look at that kind of money and think “downpayment on a house” not “one special day”.

So why even get married at this point? I too have mulled this over many times. And maybe it isn’t the smartest thing to do. Though we have found the cost of getting married here in Costa Rica is significantly less (which we’ll get in to in more detail in the following posts), there are still thousands of dollars to be spent.

But we deserve this. I look at us and think: wow – look at how much we’ve been through together, how many times we could have given up but worked at it to keep going. I think this is a good reason to get married. I think there are so many people who rush into marriage without truly knowing who that person is at their best and worst. We know that and we make each other better. That is a good reason to get married. We are each other’s best friends, we are learning and growing together, and we make each other laugh. Really I could go on and on….and I just really love weddings.

A big part of it is I can’t wait to celebrate with all my best friends and family, here in our new home, to show them why we’re here, and to extend our relationship to include those vows. Plus I think it will be pretty special for our son to see his parents get married.

Anyway, I’ve gotten my head in the clouds too quickly. My idea of writing this stuff down in my blog was to get my feet on the ground and get cracking on some of the important things that need to get done. Only 113 days!

So in the following posts you can expect to hear about:

Getting overwhelmed on Pinterest and wedding blogs

Finding a wedding dress that I don’t hate

Dealing with venues: important questions to ask (and take notes about!)

Being your own wedding planner (the pro’s and con’s of frugal brides)

DIY’s – we are making napkins, table runners, table number pineapples, marquee sign etc..

Getting the proper paper work in order for your legal marriage

Getting in shape for the big day (ie: fitting into that dress!)

ETC ETC.

So join me on this journey toward wedded bliss – or bridezilla nightmare – whatever may come.

Qué será, será.

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The Pura Vida Project

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We just got back from Canada and have landed back into our lives in Costa Rica.
I think being away from your day to day life, and being somewhat back in the life that you had before in another place gives you a lot of perspective – something I’ve been needing lately.

Today, coming back to the warmth, to the humid air, the plants, the sun, the water, the beautiful smells, the lack of concrete, the spanish language floating over airwaves while people double-riding bikes and ladies smiling on the side of the road distill for me the lifestyle I have chosen. Pura Vida is a thing here. It’s not just a cheesy tourist phrase.

I moved here with the intention of paring down, simplifying, and in the process, searching for my true path, passion, and self. I have made some big changes in this beautiful country, but I need to make some more, to challenge myself and to feel more present and mindful in each and every day. I need spirituality. I need artistic expression. I need to improve my languages and interactionas with the people I meet.

I need to cook as it is a great passion of mine, and give it my full attention with planning and organizing. Today I got to go to the feria, to fill my basket with delicious fruits and veggies, to see my old friends (and recieve awesome gifts) and to nod at those who are always there, but whom I haven’t yet gotten to know. I want to get to know my town better, to become involved and to help do good here in some way. I know I can find it, I just need to make some connections, some friends.

I want to become reliant on myself for as much as I can. To take responsibility and to become more disciplined in taking care of my body (food – excercise – mind – personal time)
and make a commitment to love myself each day. I want to do yoga, and to join a class and make it a daily practice.

I want to be a Conscious Parent, to be connected to my son and to take care of him both physically and mentally as best I can. I want to enjoy my time with him, to prioritize him and give him my full attention. I want to learn as much as I can about myself, looking to him as a mirror and being cognizant of my issues.

I want to do as good a job as I can in the office and with guests here at the hotel. I want to get one important thing done each day, no matter how slow it is. In the high season, I want to be everywhere and anywhere I am needed. I want to communincate with the guests and with our staff on a more fluid level.

I want to live the life that I have dreamed. I know it’s only a few short steps away, I feel that some days I am already there. I just need to be more confident and trusting, less sorry for myself, that I am busy or stressed.

My body has the power of the universe inside. Everyday is important. It is time for me to use that power to transoform my mind and live the Pure Life I was meant to have.

Dar a Luz – Having a baby in Costa Rica part 2

You’ve been asking for a part 2, so here it is (and sorry it’s 8 months late, but the baby is a bit of a time-sucker LOL!)

As a preface, at my last prenatal appointment at 37 weeks, my doctor informed me that the baby was breech. He had not flipped into position yet. I was a little shocked because I could swear that I felt his feet kicking me in my ribs at night. So I did everything possible on my own to try to get him to flip. I did handstands in the swimming pool, I did inversions off my couch. I played music for him down there, and put an led flashlight in my underwear. I thought I might have to have a c-section, which I really didn’t want until…

2 Weeks before I was due…
I felt the baby move around a LOT, I presume he finally decided to get into the proper position, and it kicked off some contractions.

They weren’t very strong and I assumed it was Toni Braxton Hixxy contractions (as James calls them lol ) or false labour. But when I woke up later in the night with more painful contractions coming regularly every 10 minutes, I knew it was time. I let James sleep awhile until at 3AM my water broke. I woke him up, called my mom and my doctor (with whom I was supposed to have an appointment later that day) and made a plan to get on the road to San Jose where the hospital is, about 1.5 hours away from Jacó.

We didn’t actually get on the road until 5AM, because my mom took forever then had to go back home for her purse (!) and by this time the contractions had sped up to every 3 minutes, lasting 1 minute… I was more than a bit freaked that I would be having this baby in the car. This was not how I expected it to go – they say your first baby usually is a long labour, but not in my case!

So we jumped in the car and BOOTED it along the twisting mountain roads, my mom driving like a demon, sometimes doing 160 km in an 80km zone. My mom is a really good driver, and the scary ride sort of distracted me from the pain. Also there weren’t many people on the roads since it was so early. I saw the most beautiful sunrise and in between the contractions when the pain let up I felt elated and euphoric (!!!) probably from the oxytocin my body was producing. Of course that only lasted a minute lol and my contractions were coming every 1-2 minutes by the time we reached the hospital – I was in “transition” in the car – and the sent me right into the delivery room as I was fully dialated to 10cm! Ready to push!

James put on scrubs that were too small with little booties over his flip flops, making me laugh as I was wheeled into the bright delivery room. With some amazing support and no drugs at all I was able to give birth to a healthy 7lb baby boy 45 mins later – and we named him Desmond because James has always loved the name, Charles after my mom’s dad who I was very close to.We hadn’t decided on a name before we got to the hospital, but they made James fill out some paperwork, and that was the name he put down, figuring we could change it later…but I agreed it was the right name 🙂

He has a lot of James’ features – dirty blond hair, blue eyes, chin, fingers. He has my nose, forehead and toes. He had a full head of hair, and is pretty perfect in every way. He scored a perfect 10/10 on his Apgar tests!

I got to hold him and breastfeed him a while before they brought me pancakes and bacon for breakfast – I was starving! We stayed in the hospital for that whole day and night and checked out at noon the next day. Our private room at CIMA was so nice, it had WiFi, flatscreen tv and free international calling so I tried to talk to as many people as I could in between nursing, gazing at our beautiful baby and napping.

The nurses there were so attentive and sweet. They made sure I was comfortable and that the baby was healthy and happy. I was really happy to have Dr. Johanning there as well as my Spanish went out the window when I was in labour, and he spoke good English to me and was very reassuring and encouraging while I was pushing.

All around it was an amazing, beautiful experience. I’m so thankful that Desmond decided to turn around, that he came 2 weeks early, and that my labour was so short and fairly easy. It was not at all as bad as I thought it would be. And I’m so happy to be a mom!!! Desmond is a really good baby. James is incredible with him. We are so so so lucky!

El Parto – Having a baby in Costa Rica part 1

I am a  30 year old Canadian woman living in Costa Rica and 27 weeks pregnant so obviously I haven’t had my baby yet, but with the due date quickly approaching I have done a lot of research and spoken to a lot of people about their experiences here. There is not enough online about having a baby in Costa Rica as an expat in English, so hopefully others who are thinking about it or are in the same boat as me can use the info I’ve gathered to their advantage.

In Costa Rica, there is free healthcare for any child from conception through to 1 year old. This means that any mother, of any citizenship, regardless of residential status can get free medical care while they are pregnant through the CCSS (Caja Costarricaense de Seguridad Social)  at their local EBAIS clinic, and can deliver their baby for free at any public hospital. Costa Rica has a good health-care record, very low infant and maternal mortality rates (the 2nd lowest in Latin America) and high levels of breastfeeding success.

First off, let me say that as a Canadian citizen I have always taken good quality, free healthcare as a given. If I was in Canada, I would go to my regular family doctor, and if there were any complications or if he/she deemed me to be “high-risk”, then I would be sent to an OBGYN or specialist and all of my appointments, medications, treatments, ultrasounds and finally the delivery of my baby either naturally or by c-section would be covered by OHIP (Ontario Health Insurance Plan) which is paid for through provincial taxes.

When I found out I was pregnant here in Costa Rica, I started going to my local EBAIS clinic. At first, this experience was a little overwhelming. I speak some Spanish, but didn’t have the vocabulary necessary for a medical setting, and the system is very different than it is in Canada. Basically it’s like a walk in clinic, emergency clinic and doctor’s office all in one. So there are different secretaries who are in charge of the various areas. The first time I had an appointment for a prenatal check-up I went to the emergency/walk-in secretary, and she spoke to me very harshly and shoo’d me over to another secretary down the hall . It took me awhile to figure out where I was supposed to go and what I was supposed to do, and I felt a little worried that I’d be able to navigate the system alone.

Once I found the proper secretary’s window (fyi they call it “control“) she created a file in my name and asked me some questions about my citizenship, birthday, marital status, employment, address etc… She then sent me with my file in hand to the enfermeria, the nurses’ station. Here they asked me about my age, how long it had been since my last period, my family history of illness (this took a little game of charades) and my allergies and medications. They weighed me and took my blood pressure. Then they sent me out of the room and down another hallway to see the doctor. There must have been 20 pregnant ladies or new moms waiting in the hallway. I waited about 1.5 hours in the busy clinic before finally I met with the doctor. He did not speak any English, but we got along fine. He prescribed me iron and folic acid pills, and requested blood tests and a urine test to determine for sure that I was pregnant and to check for STDs, Hepatitus and other problems. I made my way back to the secretary with all of the papers and prescriptions from the doctor. She scheduled my next prenatal check up in a month’s time and she forwarded me on to the testing area to get my blood and urine test date (8 days prior to my next prenatal appointment so the results would be ready) and to the dispensary for my pills. I paid nothing.

I walked out of the clinic feeling like I’d gotten somewhere in this foreign system and it felt good. The level of care the doctors and nurses gave me felt like what I’d expect in Canada. Everyone was kind and professional. The place was kept very clean, even if it was a little over-crowded. I felt that if this was the quality of care I’d received locally, than I was sure I would be fine to give birth in the public hospital. Let me also say, that as a student of cultural anthropology I felt a little like I should be open to this new experience in a different country and be aware of my own bias towards the North American system, trying hard to allow myself to acclimate to this culture knowing full well that women give birth to babies here with success every day and that just because things may work a little differently doesn’t mean that it’s not the proper way to do things here.

I went online and tried to find information in English about women giving birth in Costa Rica and their experiences. I found this article provided a good overview but didn’t give me enough details. Most of the stories and testimonials I’d found on message boards, websites and blogs were written by American expats who had given birth in one of the private hospitals in San Jose. I couldn’t find anything much about the public system, and figured this was probably due to the fact that Americans were used to paying for their health care, and to most of them the Costa Rican private care costs seemed cheap at about $2000 USD for an average delivery (about $1000 in hospital fees and $1000 in doctor’s fees). I figured I’d need to talk to some people to get the real scoop on the public hospital.

My first line of questions were directed at my Nica housekeeper, who had given birth two years previously at the hospital in Puntarenas. She told me her experience there was good, but they didn’t give you any pain medications and you were quite on your own for most of the process. She did not know whether they allowed men in the delivery room as she was a single mom and had only brought her mother with her to the hospital. Overall she was happy with the level of care she was given. I inferred that she was impressed  with the Costa Rican system because it was of much higher quality than what she would have gotten in Nicaragua (one of the poorest countries not only in Latin America but the world).

So I vowed to find someone who had used the public system but had a similar background to me, and therefore would have similar expectations. This proved quite difficult. I asked friends of my mother’s if they knew anyone who had used the public system and got nowhere – it seemed to be that all expats went to hospital CIMA or Clinica Biblica or Cathólica in San Jose, or had their babies at home with a midwife. I started to contemplate this option – I knew I wanted as natural and intervention-free birth as possible, but I wasn’t sure I’d be comfortable giving birth here at the hotel (not private enough). We are also more than an hour away from any hospital and I feared that in the case of complications I would not be able to reach one in time. I looked online for any info on midwives in Costa Rica and found out the practice of midwifery is actually illegal here, which really surprised me! I found a link to Mamasol Partos Costa Rica, an NGO/Grassrooots association of midwives whose mission it was to make midwifery and more natural births acceptable and available in Costa Rica.

This website was some of the best information I could find online; I read a couple of their scholarly articles which were available as .pdf’s, but the article about Childbirth in Costa Rica‘s Public Hospitals made me change my mind completely about where I wanted to give birth, for a variety of reasons (read the 1 page article and you’ll probably see where I’m coming from).

I also spoke to a Canadian friend of my mother’s who has had two children here. When I told her I was thinking about using the public hospital in Puntarenas she almost choked on her coffee – she was totally in shock. She claimed that the public system was fine if I was okay with “laboring in a room with up to 20 other women, on a blood-stained thin mattress, with no company,” as visiting hours are only 2 hours long. She said I would be stuck in bed as they use an internal electronic fetal monitor, forced to labor on my back without any pain medication.  She said that I would for sure be induced to speed up my delivery, which if it didn’t happen within a short-enough time-frame would lead to a mandatory c-section.  And I would have no say in any of these matters. I was horrified. She assured me that some of the other public hospitals, especially those in San Jose such as Hospital Mexico would be a little better, but that the one in Puntarenas was one of the worst of them all, and I would be crazy to go there. She also assured me that it would be better if I had a doctor who spoke some English, as one tends to lose all traces of Spanish when in labor. I asked her for the name of her doctor and the phone number for his office and she gladly referred me.

Fast-forward to September 5th, 2012 where I experienced the biggest earthquake that Costa Rica has had in over 50 years. A 7.6 on the Richter scale meant that our hilltop hotel was swaying, things fell off of walls and tables, a huge wave of water was sent out of our swimming pool and we all feared for our lives for about 40 seconds. Luckily we didn’t have any structural damage, and there was no tsunami to follow. However, I did find out that the public hospital in Puntarenas suffered major damage from the 5th floor upwards and was to be closed indefinitely:

As this hospital was the only public one within a 1 hour drive of my town, and also because I was now suspect of the structural integrity of the publicly-owned buildings (I mean, can you imagine?! What if I had been in there giving birth that day?!  A hospital is supposed to be one of the most solid structures…there wasn’t this much damage to people’s homes in the area!) I decided that the best option for me was to travel  30 minutes further to the privately owned CIMA hospital in Escazu (San Jose suburb).

CIMA hospital is by far the fanciest hospital I’ve ever been in. There are several other private hospitals that specialize in maternity care – Clinica Santa Rita and Clinica Biblica are both supposed to be cheaper options than CIMA. But the reason I went with CIMA is that it is located directly off of the highway, and I can get there quickly no matter the time of day. For anyone who has ever driven in downtown San Jose where those other hospitals are located, you know it can be a nightmare – traffic jams, one-way streets, no street signs (but that’s going to change soon apparently). But under the stress of being in labor there is nothing I’d like my partner to avoid more than trying to find his way in San Jose. That was for sure.

I had called CIMA to set up an appointment for a tour of their maternity unit. I was told on the phone that they didn’t do this by appointment, but that you could just show up and speak to a security guard at the front desk, and that he would radio to a nurse to give you the tour. So of course, when I drove 1.5 hours from Jacó and asked for my tour I was told that I needed an appointment.  I pleaded with the nice man at security and he eventually found someone to give us the tour (in Spanish). The maternity suites are all on one floor, private rooms with laminate wood floors and adjustable beds, a day-bed/sofa for 1 guest to stay overnight, a flat screen tv, wifi, private bathroom with shower…it was like a hotel room! Apparently the suites are sound-proof so you can make as much noise in labor as you want without fear of scaring other people. I asked the nurses about electronic fetal monitoring as I’ve read it’s good to walk around in the early part of labor, and they said they use external monitors, and walking around was fine. They told me I was allowed 1 person in the delivery room (my husband) and up to 3 people with me in my suite before that. I asked about what was covered by hospital fees and was told one night accommodation in the suite, all the medical supplies for the birth, the vaccinations for the baby, use of the incubator for 1 hour, a crib and blankets for the baby in suite, free international calls, WiFi, parking for 24 hours and a fancy dinner for the mother and father. These last two things made me giggle a little. I had read that in some San Jose clinics they have a stylist who comes in to do the mother’s hair and make-up right after birth so she looks good in the first photos with baby. No WAY I’m paying for that one!

Overall I was quite happy with the nurses at CIMA and the tour. Although the nurses didn’t speak English I left feeling like I could definitely communicate with them and they were very patient with my bad command of Spanish medical terms. I knew that my doctor at least would understand me if I needed to get something across in English, and it put my mind to rest a little to see where this big scary event was going to take place.

I continued my monthly prenatal appointments at the Ebais clinic in my town. I was lucky to have my husband with me on the day we got our first doppler reading and heard our baby’s heartbeat aloud for the first time. I laid there in the office with the cold gel on my belly while he moved the doppler around looking for the little beat. It took awhile. I looked at my husband and he looked worried. After about 5 minutes of fuzz we finally heard a steady beat and the doctor smiled. Then it went away. He moved the wand over to the other side of my belly and found it again. He joked that maybe it was twins. NOT FUNNY. He said it was good the baby was moving so much and that made me happy. I asked about when I would get an ultrasound and he said that he would order one for the 5 month mark, but that the system was so bogged down I might not get one at all unless I had priority, “high-risk” status. I was disappointed as I really wanted to know that everything was progressing normally and maybe even find out the gender of my little one. So I waited….

When I was 5 months and 2 weeks along I had a 2 week vacation in Canada. The 2nd trimester is the best time to travel because you feel almost normal again – the queasiness of “morning” sickness had subsided, the tiredness was gone and I felt good. We decided that since we wouldn’t necessarily be getting an ultrasound in Costa Rica, that I should get one done for free while I was home in Canada. I set up an appointment with my GP and he checked me out and then sent me on to a clinic for the ultrasound. Although the ultrasound technician is not supposed to interpret the results, she knew I was leaving the country to go back to CR in a week and that I wouldn’t have them quickly from my doctor, so she told me everything she was doing. I was so thankful. Having the ultrasound made me so much calmer about the baby – everything was normal, healthy, good. We were going to be having a boy!

The next big step was making an appointment with my friend’s recommended doctor in Costa Rica. We drove to his office which was right in CIMA hospital and had a consultation. I asked him a lot of questions to find out what his positions were on certain topics – if I was going to hire a specialist I wanted to be sure he had the same ideals as me and would support me in trying to have a drug-free, intervention-free hospital birth. He was very straight-forward and didn’t try to sell me at all, which I appreciated. I let him know that I would prefer to continue my prenatal check-ups at the Ebais clinic in my town as it was inconvenient to drive to San Jose every month. He didn’t mind this and said that as long as everything was normal, I could just see him once more a couple of weeks before the main event.

In order to determine that everything was normal, he gave me a 4D ultrasound. Now this was really amazing!!! I got to see my baby’s face for the first time. It was so much more detailed and so much faster than my last ultrasound and at the end of it I walked out with both photos and a DVD. He said that everything looked normal and I could schedule my appointment now or take some time to decide and call his secretary. I decided that I wanted to have him as my doctor and we scheduled the appointment after paying $80 for the ultrasound (the consultation was free). I was very impressed, as I expected a 4D ultrasound to cost about $200.

So that brings us to present day. I have my next prenatal check-up in a week at the Ebais clinic. I’m happy with the decision to go to CIMA over the public hospital even though I could be having my baby for free in Canada. I feel that it is worth the peace of mind as having a baby is already a scary prospect – but having a baby in a foreign country is even more terrifying as there are so many unknowns.  I hope that some of you who read this can use any of the information to help you make your own informed choices.
Part two to follow in a few months after the big day!!!!

Great Snakes!

Living in Costa Rica has the added benefit of being closer to nature – a wonderful and diverse amount of flora and fauna that we get to experience on a daily basis. Living here we often get to spot and learn about different plants and animals and are often wordless with wonder at the majesty and beauty of this country’s unique biodiversity.

We recently spotted our first pair of beautiful Toucans, sitting in a tree nearby, their gorgeous bird-call only topped in beauty by their lovely beaks. We were mesmerized and watched them for a full half hour. I’m constantly in awe of the colourful Scarlett Macaws who fly directly over our property – I first hear their loud parrot-speak, and run outside to spot them yelling “Lapas! Las  Lapas!” so the guests can spot them too. We also have a great array of reptiles on our property.

Out front of the hotel, where the sun shines most directly on some rocky ledges (our retaining wall), live at least 10 huge iguanas, who can nearly always be spotted basking. On nearly every ceiling of every room you will find a gecko or two – they are great to have around because they eat the mosquitoes and their call has become rather comforting to me – a sort of gecko chuckle that lulls me to sleep at night. We have plenty of toads who like to try and swim  in our pool at night, and little wall-climbing froggies whose suction-cup feet are just too cool.

Then there are the bugs. Some are huge black horned beatles that look like scarabs, we have the loud cicadas (about whom I’ve blogged previously), praying mantis, all sorts of gorgeous butterflies (and caterpillars) and about a million other kinds I haven’t mentioned. Ants and mosquitoes are the most hated of this group, as the former come in so many varieties and are so prevalent – the leafcutters eat our garden and sting our feet while the sugar ants invade every kitchen countertop that has a speck of food on it. The latter for obvious reasons. But I don’t hate these animals. I may not love them, but I can deal.

A couple of days ago, James and I got to visit a butterfly farm and frog/serpantarium. It was really interesting learning about what types of plants the Blue Morpho butterfly will lay their eggs in, and what birds are their natural preditors. I got to hold a Red Eyed Tree Frog, the most famous and beautiful specimen in Costa Rica, who is on the endangered species list. But then we got to the snake part. I was glad we were in a bit of a hurry to go horseback riding, and wouldn’t have time to take out any of the snakes. Because they give me the creeps.

I learned that the poisonous ones don’t have shiny skin, or pretty colours – they try to blend in with their surroundings. Vipers also have triangular shaped heads because of the shape of their fangs. I saw the bright green vine snake (we’ve seen a few of them since we’ve been here) and some boa constrictors, and when we got to the vipers I saw my first Fer de Lance, or Tetiopello (sp?) as they call them here. He was so creepy looking. I found out that the babies are actually more dangerous as they let go of 100% of their venom when they bite, since they haven’t learned to control it yet.

We happily left the snakes and went horseback riding, but the next day as I came upstairs with a plate full of chicken breasts ready to hit the BBQ, I thought to myself – “Wow. It’s crazy that I still haven’t seen a Tetiopello in person considering all my time spent in Costa Rica”. I put the plate down and glanced to the side of the barbeque, and out of the corner of my eye I saw something small coiled near the foot of the grill. One glance told me this was a snake, and as I wasn’t wearing any shoes in the darkness, I could have nearly stepped on it. I backed up, ran into the house to find my shoes and screamed for James (my partner) to “Come up here please and bring the machete!!!”

I’m lucky to have a guy who can deal with all the creepy crawlies. He regularly catches huge spiders and scorpions from guest’s rooms, and I knew he could deal with this small snake. I shone the flashlight directly on the little bugger and for sure it was a baby Tetiopello. A couple machete swings later, he was decapitated and tossed down the hill.

I’ll be quite happy if I don’t have to see another one, but the fact there was a baby means there are more babies in the area. We are going to be on ultra-alert for the next few weeks.

A week of guests from Hell

Here at the Hotel, we’ve had our share of nightmare guests.
I’ve found the hotel to be sort of a microcosm – you can relate your findings in this closed environment to generalizations about people in the world.
Of course this isn’t perfect since we really cater to a certain income level and possibly are skewed to certain age groups and ethnicities. But generally I find that most people are friendly, if forgettable, but every once in a while you get someone you could imagine becoming really great friends with – and then someone comes along who you actually loathe.

My mom always told me about guest horror stories – and I always loved to hear about them so I thought it would be a good place to get them down on my blog.

Jason Van Deushen and the Douche Bags

I had been in correspondence with this guy for a couple of months. You never really know much about people until they arrive – our booking form asks for country of residence, but we don’t always get the city so if they’re from the USA they could be from California or Texas. Big difference. We only know the number of adults and kids, and kids ages (we ask because we charge for kids over 13) so the person could be young or old and we only find out when they get here unless it has come up for some reason or another.

Jason and  his 2 buddies had wanted to go white water rafting, so I booked that for them before they got here (and noted that white water rafters are generally on the younger side). He wanted to pay for his room in full before he arrived (a strange request) but I got the authorization and processed it. I set up the taxi to pick them up at the airport. And when they arrived and James checked them in we met three 20-something year old guys.

The first night they were here, we didn’t think there were any problems. Until the next morning, when another guest came into our office almost in tears.
You see, she had been staying in the room next to the 3 guys and had been kept up all night by them. They weren’t just partying. They had picked up some working girls in town (sadly fairly common here), but that wasn’t what had bothered her. The reason she was upset was because they had kept her up half of the night explicitly describing every detail of what they had done with their hookers. At top volume. It was very disturbing to her and she was horrified that people like this existed in the world.

I felt so bad that I gave her the night free and moved her to another room far from the guys. I then had James go over and talk to them, telling them what had happened giving them an ultimatum. They were totally embarrassed, and apologized profusely. They basically snuck in and out of the hotel for the rest of the week, like dogs with their tails between their legs. I lost all respect for them and they couldn’t have enjoyed their vacation nearly as much after the incident on the first day…

Rick P. and the Troublesome Five

This group was 3 couples in their mid to late 30’s. They had bid on an auction that we had donated to a certain charity. So essentially to us they were staying for free for the first 3 nights. They paid for the last 3.

The first night they arrived late and stayed up partying until the wee hours, so our guard Rafa had to ask them to be quiet. Luckily they were one of the only rooms that night so they didn’t disturb people much. The next morning I met them all and they seemed decent enough, though slightly drunk at 9am.

Later that day, I saw them come back from town with no less than 3 cases of beer. I knew they were big partiers so I pre-emptively told them that I wanted them to have a good vacation but that they should know we had a lot of families coming in that day and there would be children staying at the hotel who would be going to bed early. If they wanted to party late and be loud they should go out. They agreed.

Then they proceeded to get WASTED for the next 3 hours of the afternoon. They were dominating the pool, yelling and being ridiculously loud. None of the children who had arrived even wanted to go near the pool because of these rowdy adults. I went over to them and let them know they needed to tone it down a little and they gave me some attitude like “you said we needed to be quiet tonight – it’s only 5pm” so I walked away, hopeful that they would just pass out sooner than later.

As James came out of the office he saw one of their flip-flops floating in the pool. This angered him so much that he took it out and threw it in the garbage. I told him to take it out, and as he walked over to the room to give it back to them he saw one of the guy’s wives so he tossed it in her direction. She took that as him “throwing a shoe at her” and an argument started. Out came Rick. James asked him why they are acting like teenagers and said “How old are you guys anyway?!” Rick got very defensive and a physical fight nearly broke out. I separated the guys and sent James downstairs. Rick went to his room. I called my mom and asked her what to do and she said she would come and talk to them.

My mom used to be a lawyer and she is very good as reasoning with people and playing up the “fairness” issue. She tried to explain our position to them but they were so drunk that one of them kept saying to her “So why did you leave Canada to move to Costa Rica??” all slurry and shit. So she gave them an ultimatum and explained that this was a family place and it was not appropriate behaviour. They said they “didn’t know” it was a family place (which is total B.S. because it says so all over our website) and that they were thinking about leaving. I was hoping they would leave.

Then I didn’t see them for 2 days. Like the VanDouchens, they snuck in and out of their room, embarrassed to see me. Then a couple of days before the end of their trip Rick came up to James and I and apologized for his behaviour. James admitted he had acted unprofessionally and they shook hands. Then they left a day early but paid for the full length of stay.  It was such a strange group and I was so relieved to have them gone!

It was such a brutal two weeks but we have had nothing but good guests since, so I guess when it rains, it pours. Speaking of rain we are coming into the rainy season here in Costa Rica. I hope all of you North Americans are enjoying your lovely spring/summer! ❤

Chanting Cicadas

The Cicada‘s claim to fame is its singing. The high-pitched song is actually a mating call belted out by males. Each species has its own distinctive song that only attracts females of its own kind. This allows several different species to co-exist.

Cicadas are the only insects capable of producing such a unique and loud sound. Some larger species can produce a call in excess of 120 decibels at close range. This is approaching the pain threshold of the human ear!

They are so freaking loud at this time of the year.

Every night they pipe up just outside my window, and around 5 am they come back again. They chime in the middle of the afternoon for no apparent reason.

I’ve been told that when they vibrate so hard to attract a mate, the males can physically explode.

I don’t really care.

They are magnificent creatures, that look like they could be from prehistory.

But they need to get it on and get on with it.

Nowsies.

Really Real

For those of you who have been to our hotel, you know about how amazing the view is from here.

I love having all this air around me – all this space to breathe.

The minute something starts to go awry, I find myself looking around, and thinking that I cannot possibly feel too upset because of the sheer beauty of the rolling green hills, the soft breeze and the ginger flowers surrounding me.

Now don’t get me wrong – it’s not all hummingbirds and waterfalls all the time, but I think that living closer to nature has had a really positive effect on me.

There is space to think. Sometimes I catch myself entranced by the ocean staring at the waves crashing,  or watching a hawk glide on the air currents and it’s sort of like meditating without even having to try to shut off my brain – which in turn feels a lot more natural than sitting in a dark room trying not to think.

Life feels real here.
There is this feeling I get, it’s a heightened energy.
I don’t know why it feels more real here than it did in Canada.
Maybe if I lived out in the country in Canada it would have felt more real…
I hope to put some more thought into this.
But it feels good.

MACAW! MACAW!

So just a few minutes ago something totally surreal happened.

Just around sunset I was walking down the stairs at the side of the hotel. As I approached our terrace, I heard James’ macbook blasting out of our little out-door speakers. He was playing some oldskool rap music – I think it was Ice Cube. Just then I heard “Caaccaw!” and I glanced to my left to see two Scarlet Macaw parrots (the really pretty red/blue/yellow ones) flying about 20 feet away from where I stood.

As Ice Cube asked “Who the fuck got the camera?!” the two colourful parrots tousled in the air and cartwheeled past me. It a sublime moment that seemed to happen in slow-mo since the rap song was so damn slow. That just blew my mind.