Sunday, November 29, 2009

Christmas Spirit

Su Espacio, the community center located in Atenas, Costa Rica, was collecting presents for children who might not otherwise receive a present for Christmas. Over 300 angels hung on the Christmas tree in the center; each angel represented one child and the back of the angel described what the child would like for Christmas. Anybody wanting to act as “Santa” for the child can adopt the angel and provide the gift. Our own 3 children were very excited to be able to play Santa and each of them adopted an angel.

It was heartwarming to find out that all of the angels were adopted before the end of November.

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Monday, November 16, 2009


It is difficult being far from extended family especially in times of need. When Léah was ill, we couldn’t just call Grandma and Grandpa to come over and take care of the younger ones. In those situations and on a day-to-day basis, we feel extremely fortunate that we have “adopted” an extended family member like Isa.

Isa is originally from Nicaragua and lives just across the street from us. She could not possibly have a bigger heart and would help us out at a moment’s notice. She loves the kids and they love her. Isa doesn’t speak a word of English so it forces me to practice my limited Spanish. She is in her early twenties and like many Nicaraguans, had no choice but to leave her country of birth to find a better life elsewhere.

Some facts about Nicaragua:

  • The 1980s were the backdrop to a savage civil war which saw conflict destroy the nation of Nicaragua
  • Already the poorest country in the Americas, the situation has only gotten worse with the global recession
  • A country of 5.7 million, 48% of the population live on less than $2 a day; 80% of the indigenous people (who make up 5% of the population) live on less than $1 per day
  • 27% of all Nicaraguans are suffering from undernourishment; the highest percentage in Central America
  • Many Nicaraguans emigrated during the 1990s and the 2000s due to the unemployment and the poverty; the majority of the Nicaraguan Diaspora is in Costa Rica and the United States
  • Today, one in six Nicaraguans live in either Costa Rica or the US; it's difficult to estimate the number of Nicaraguans living abroad because many of them are living in host countries illegally

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Friday, November 13, 2009

Moderate Earthquake

I had my headphones on and I was busy working when it felt like one of the kids was outside my office door jumping up and down. I dismissed the fact that it might be one of the kids when the slight rumble turned into the equivalent of a Mack truck passing by my desk.

We all happened to be home when the earthquake struck. The rest of the family had already run outside in case the 2nd floor (with me inside it) collapsed on top of them. Only Naimah seemed completely unfazed because she was on the trampoline when it happened… how convenient.

SAN JOSE, Nov. 13 -- A 5.1 magnitude earthquake shook Costa Rica Friday, without immediate report of victims and material damages.

The Costa Rican Vulcanology and Seismology Observatory (OVISCORI) said the earthquake occurred at 3:20 p.m. local time (2120 GMT) and its epicenter was located 20 km northeast to Parritain Puntarenas province, 70 km southeast to San Jose.

The earthquake had a depth of 19 km and it was produced due to a local geological failure, the OVSICORI said.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Road Construction

In North America, it is a common sight to see five men working on the construction of a road; often one or two of them are working with the heavy machinery while the rest are watching. In Costa Rica, all five of those men are working very hard building the road with the same methods that they have been using for many years; the process is fairly manual and in this sweltering heat, it involves a lot of sweat.

DSC_0002[3] All of the rocks that make up the foundation are laid by hand.

DSC_0005[1]A sample of the finished product (notice how in this case, it just ends all of a sudden and then continues as grass).

DSC_0026[1]While taking these pictures (specifically, this next one), I stepped off the road for a moment and as the shutter went, I felt an intense burning on my ankles. Clearly the fire ants weren’t too keen that I was stomping on their territory.



Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Driving in Costa Rica

We are nervous every time we get behind the wheel of our car. It is not so much the tight, winding roads barely wide enough to be considered two lanes, or the lack of guardrails to prevent cars from perilous drops into valleys miles below, or the idea of the roads disappearing in sudden floods during the rainy season. The real fear factor when it comes to driving in this country is the other drivers; their lack of fear – playing chicken with oncoming traffic on blind turns, passing stopped school buses at double the speed limit – only increases our terror.

Did you know that the traffic-related death rate in Costa Rica is twice as high as Canada’s?



Monday, November 9, 2009

Punta Leona

This weekend, we spent 2 days and 1 night at Punta Leona (Lioness Point) which is less than an hour drive from our house and definitely one of the nicest beaches in close proximity to San José. Since it is the off-season, we were able to stay for a very reasonable rate which included breakfast, lunch, and dinner. We inquired about the rates in January and let’s just say that we won’t be heading back in that time period.

Our photo album can be accessed here.

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Friday, November 6, 2009

Project 365

I heard about the concept of Project 365 from a friend who is an amazing photographer. The idea is that you take a photo a day for a whole year. Now, I won’t attempt that just yet but I do take many pictures and it is amazing how some of them speak volumes.

I was cleaning the playroom when I came across Spiderman using a Playmobil notebook computer. I asked Gabriel about it and he replied, “it makes him look more real”. I guess Gabriel sees his Dad (who works in the technology field) in that position a little too often.


Sunday, November 1, 2009

Festival de Danza

Léah performed in the Atenas “Festival de Danza” last night. For a small town, we couldn’t believe how many people were in the audience. It is always a wonderful thing to see one’s child perform on stage; seeing them dance in front of a large audience in a different country with a different culture takes the experience to a whole new level. Léah loved the experience and is already wanting to be part of the next show!

Halloween in Costa Rica

Halloween is not celebrated in Costa Rica. We noticed this at least a month ago when the stores started stocking Christmas items and skipping over Halloween completely. There are many creepy Costa Rican legends meant to scare children and adults away from things like overindulgence of alcohol or infidelity which make the likes of Dracula and Frankenstein tame in comparison.

Our kids look forward to Halloween all year and Gabriel still wanted to dress up despite the fact that there is no place to go Trick-or-treating.

Annapurna, Nepal

There is an iGoogle gadget called “Places to See” which features different places around the world; this week, Annapurna, Nepal was featured.

In October 1999 (already 10 years ago), Mélanie and I did a 12-day trek to the Annapurna Base Camp. This site provides a good summary of the trek.

For a short trek with few altitude problems, the Annapurna region provides you with unparalleled access to spectacular horizons of snowy peaks, so high that you'll find yourself looking twice before you believe that they are not clouds. As well as providing the views for which the trek is famous, the trail takes you through an ever-changing landscape of rice fields, misty forests and tiny local villages.

On October 10, 1999, just before we reached the British Expedition Annapurna South Face Base Camp (4234m.), I proposed to Mélanie. I could swear that the rock on which I had her sit when I popped the question is the one pictured below. With the thin air and lack of oxygen, I figured I had a better chance of her saying “yes” to my proposal. :)