Monday, February 22, 2010

Fiestas Sabana Larga! Ole!

For 3 days this past weekend, there were big festivities in Sabana Larga (an area 8 minutes drive from where we live).

Getting ready for the fiesta

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The fiestas started with a Tope Caballos (horse parade). It was supposed to start at 1pm in the afternoon but scheduling in Costa Rica is very loose so we waited for 2 hours for it to begin. (Interestingly, the Costa Ricans who came to watch the parade arrived at the exact late hour as if they own watches that are set to this alternate tardy time zone.)



Stopping for a beer during the paradeDSC_0020[1]

The center of the action


The ticket booth for purchasing tickets for the rides




Ceremony before the bull fighting

(commencement of which also started 1.5 hours late; nobody is in any rush in this country)



Buying some churros (which were so deliciously greasy)


Gabriel loved the fact that the guys holding onto dear life on the bulls wore hockey helmets.




Seeing bull fighting for the first time whet our appetite to head to the Calgary Stampede one day.

Hockey Night in Costa Rica

The Vancouver Olympics are taking place a mere 69 Km (43 miles) from our house in Victoria but we have missed so much of the action because there is zero coverage on TV in Costa Rica. All of the sports channels here cover Football (aka Soccer), Fútbol, and more Futebol. It is almost like the Winter Olympics are not taking place during these 2 weeks. Perhaps this shouldn’t be surprising since the climate of Costa Rica is not conducive to participation in winter sports. How many Winter Olympic medals have been won by a tropical nation? None.

Last night, it was Canada against the USA in hockey and I came up with a way to watch the game on the Internet. With our slow bandwidth, the experience was a bit painful but at least we got to enjoy a little bit of the Olympic spirit.

When our kids are old and grey, they will tell stories about how the Internet was once so slow that you couldn’t watch a TV program without it constantly pausing.


Saturday, February 20, 2010

Laughing Cow

Last year, we struggled a bit with the food options in this area of Costa Rica. Unlike the capital, San José, with its larger international population, Atenas doesn’t have any real selections of ethnic foods. We enjoy casados and gallo pinto but sometimes we need variety. And to add to the challenge, Mélanie and I are vegetarian and Costa Rican cuisine caters to the carnivore. If you are a chicken or a pig, you should stay far away from this country.

Now that the highway is open, we can more easily purchase ethnic and vegetarian options in the grocery stores in the outskirts of San José.

Middle Eastern


Veggie burgers


We have even found “La Vache qui Rie” to quench our needs for spreadable cheese. (This laughing cow is so popular worldwide that we have been able to find “La Vache qui Rie” in small towns in Vietnam, like Hội An.)


Bug of the Week

I don’t want to sound like a wuss but I nearly puked when the kids pointed out this bug on the screen door right next to our dining room table.


Thursday, February 18, 2010

Black Vultures

Vultures have the unfortunate reputation of being dirty. The truth is that they not only clean up everybody else’s mess by consuming carcasses that would otherwise encourage diseases and pests such as rats, but they also are meticulous in washing themselves, finding water to bathe in daily when they can. (Source)

These large black birds are often hovering ominously in the sky above our house searching for carrion and then stop to perch in the tree right in front of our deck.



Monday, February 15, 2010

Make sure you hit the pool

When we moved to Costa Rica 8 months ago, Gabriel was very nervous around water. I wouldn’t say that he was scared the way that he was when he was really little but he still lacked confidence.

In this hot climate, Gabriel spends an inordinate amount of time in water when he is not in school. He is now over his discomfort of swimming to the extent that we have to remind him that when he makes those kamikaze jumps into the pool, he needs to make sure that he lands inside the water and doesn’t overshoot the pool completely.


And speaking of pool, here are pictures of our two “sun princesses”.




Saturday, February 13, 2010


There is nothing like a homemade crêpe to Frenchify your Costa Rican morning.


The Grammys

I would love to have a transcript of many of the conversations that our children have amongst themselves. I happened to overhear this exchange today between Léah and Gabriel.

Background: The Grammys were on in Costa Rica today nearly a full 2 weeks after they were aired at the end of January. They were dubbed in Spanish so that might account for the delay.

(Léah heads outside this morning to tell the two younger ones.)

Léah: Tonight’s “The Grammys”!

Gabriel: What’s “The Grammys”?

Léah: You know… Taylor Swift, Céline Dion…

Gabriel: What about “High School Musical”?

Léah: *Not* “High School Musical”…

Gabriel: Michael Jackson!

Léah: No, he won’t be there. Céline will be singing for him. (Pause) We are going to be eating popcorn in front of the show.

Gabriel: Oh my G-d! I love to eat popcorn in front of the show.

(10 second pause)

Gabriel: What about “The Jonas Brothers”?

(End of conversation)

Both High School Musical and The Jonas Brothers are properties of Disney which clearly indicates that the Disney Empire own the hearts of today’s youth.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Fiestas de Cumpleaños

Birthdays are a big deal in Costa Rica. This past weekend, we attended a birthday party that had horseback riding, relay races, face-painting, and a number of other activities.


One of the best ideas at the party was the loot bag – each of the kids “fished” for guppies to take home.



The kids named their fish (in order from left to right):

- Iron Man: Gabriel’s

- Sushi: Léah’s

- Bottom: Naimah’s (for the first few days, it insisted on staying at the bottom of the tank)


It is a jungle out there

Gabriel and Naimah often have some project going on. When they are outside and it starts to get too quiet, it is time to check on them.

This weekend, they appeared to be gathering some items on the ground and when I asked what they were doing, they explained that they are, “running an insect hospital”. Their patients? These enormous green flies.




The variety of creatures around our house is a veritable zoo for the kids and they spot everything. Before I sat on a chair outside, Gabriel spotted one guy hanging out on the leg of the chair and one on the back.



Luckily, I spotted the following house guest on my own before I stepped on it in the middle of the hall late one night. (This isn’t the same spider that I posted the last time.)


Monday, February 8, 2010

Autopista del Sol

The excitement has been mounting since we arrived in July. We knew that it was coming. We watched its construction, eager to try it, yearning to enjoy it. Alas, the moment came this past weekend.

I have never been excited for the opening of a new highway before. However, all last week, Mélanie and I couldn’t wait to drive on the new autopista that officially opened on January 27, 2009.

The entrance to the highway is close to the center of town, east of the church.


The one to two lane highway pales in comparison to some of the monstrous four to six lanes that they have in some areas of North America, but for this country and the rural area in which we live, our newborn autopista is pure pleasure. Anybody who has visited us can attest to the fact that the regular Costa Rican roads with insane vertical drops, and crazy twists and turns, really test the stomach and the nerves.



We can now reach “the big city” (i.e. the outskirts of San José, the capital) in less than 20 minutes. We timed our return at a mere 14 minutes; it used to take us around an hour.

To try out the new highway this past Saturday, we drove to Santa Ana to enjoy the international cuisine that Western Canadians love… Asian! :)


Saturday, February 6, 2010

Prince and Princess Party

To celebrate the last day of their “summer vacation” (still feels weird to refer to it like that considering the time of year), the kids attended a “Prince and Princess Party”.


(In the picture, notice that Naimah is holding a microphone because in Disney’s world, all princesses sing, right?)

It was a great way to end the long school break; a new school year starts this week. The kids have been out of school since the end of November. For all of the readers who are parents of school aged children, imagine 11 weeks of kids being out of school in an area without the concept of Day Camps. Yes, you get the picture.

On the subject of going back to school, last week Naimah was so in the mood to be back in school that she insisted on wearing her uniform for a good part of the day.


Thursday, February 4, 2010

Famille Godin

Mélanie’s sister Martine (with fiancé Steeve and baby Noah) just left to head back to Québec yesterday after spending a great 2+ weeks with us. They enjoyed the difference in climate (it’s a big swing between minus 30 Celcius and plus 30 Celcius).

The kids already miss their little “adopted” brother


Quality sister-time


Banana harvest in our backyard


Lots of cuddles