Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Am I a Bitch, or Am I Real?

Am I a bitch,
opening my fingers
to let loyalty and devotion
slip through?

Do I shush the me
that lingers in trepidation
hovering over a panic attack
of instability?

And then welcome the
confidence of desire and ego

And strut in long skirts with mirrors
And spaghetti-straped push-up tank tops?

Walk with lengthy strides
And swishy hips in
Fuck-me boots
And painted lips
And wear eyeliner
Under Vogue librarian glasses?

Or am I real?

If I close my fingers tight
And let loyalty and love
And all my lover's organs
Pool up in my hands --
Held fast,

Will I preserve my peace?
Will I be accepted?
Will I be honored?
Will I last?

Would I be real?

Am I a bitch,
Selfish and singular,
Or am I real?

Or am I both?

Can I be both?
Do I have to be a bitch to be real?

Can I live with my fingers closed
And still be real?

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Self-Description #1

I am a rosey blush with teal sparks,
a curvy goddess
that swirls and bops to 
a jazzy ballad in a smoky room.

I am the number 18, full of beginnings,
a roll-top desk with hidden compartments
living in a sunset
in a sultry, mountainous forest.

I am a deciduous tree
shedding fear each year with
passionate acceptance hidden 
behind my eyes.

A curious conundrum,
I let go of nothing
and everything.

I've forgotten how to forgive myself, 
and then I remember 
that my soul is old
and knows all the answers 
to my questions.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Costa Rica -- Day Seven and Eight

(Paul at breakfast this morning)

We've been working the last couple of days, mostly. Though there always seems to be time to read our books or sit by the pool, too. :) Just the thing for tired out folks.

On Friday we had a leisurely breakfast at the hotel (free) and then we drove into Dominical, which we hadn't yet explored, and finally made it to a beach!

We walked along it a ways, picked up a couple of rocks to bring back home and got our feet wet. The water was warm! Not the Pacific Ocean I know. :)

We've started noticing itchy bug bites on ourselves. Strangely, we notice the read mark with no symptoms, and then a day or two later it starts itching. Weird. And some of the bites visually present differently then mosquito bites, too. So we are thinking it's coming from some other biting bug. And my guess is they are biting (me, at least) at night, because I never see bugs around me during the day; I never feel bugs biting me. I haven't worn bug spray since I got here. And I had maybe three bites. I don't need bug spray for three bites. However, these delayed itchy bites have a cumulative effect, as Paul says, so that all of a sudden (it seems) on our last day here we have all this itchy bites. :)

After checking out the beach and walking through the town in Dominical, we had lunch there at a Thai restaurant called Coconut Spice. Yummy.

Then we went to a bank to see about a construction loan for the house. Big Fat Zero.
Due to the economic crisis, they aren't loaning money to non-residents. 

We let Ricardo and Jim know and they said over here it's really important if you know someone who knows someone. So, Ricardo called his friend Alex and the two of them met us at a bank and then a credit union on Saturday morning to have Alex introduce us at the banks. Strike Two. Strike Three.

Across the board -- they won't loan money to foreigners. You need to be a resident for eight years before you could qualify for a loan. Or. Marry a Tico.

Ricardo says to not give up hope. Jim knows some private mortgage companies that lend money.

We go back to Dominical and talk to a guy from the States (but was actually born and raised in Panama with American parents) that worked in a real estate office and was affiliated with Alliance Mortgage Company. They have a pool of fifteen lenders that they can access so he was real hopeful we could get a construction loan. Especially when we told him we'd own the land.

We came back to the hotel fairly confident and then also received pone calls and emails from Ricardo and Jim about three other banks to try -- one a for sure deal (Scotia Bank) they say, because it's an international bank. 

So we have four or five leads in our pocket now to take home with us. We're feeling much better and we'll know -- most likely -- within the week if we qualify for a loan with any of these lenders. If so, we close on the land, we close on the construction loan, we start building in january and we have a house built by July or August.

The plan is to take a family vacation there then, to see the house all done and pretty and then to start renting it out to tourists. And then when Aniela's out of college and Paul's not helping to pay her rent while she's in Portland, and Aubrey's out of private middle school and Paul's not paying the tuition for that, and he's done paying off the 401K loan he borrowed against himself to buy the land, we can move to Costa Rica and our Spanish Colonial house with a courtyard. (We've been talking house plans with builder today.)

It'll be tight, but doable. When Paul quits his job in three-ish years after all that stuff I just listed happens, we'll have my social security and VA income for a couple more years and hopefully by then (when my survivor benefits stop) our businesses over in Costa Rica will be creating enough income for us to live comfortably. Our living expenses will be lower with most all our food being provided for.

Check back in the coming weeks to read more about our businesses for Costa Rica and how we get those started remotely. Jim would like the ice cream shop to be operational by December. !!!! Recipes, C.R. corporation, equipment and hiring someone to make it, hand out ice cream and collect the money. All in a month's time? I don't see how, but we'll get it going asap anyway.

Tomorrow we pack up here, settle our bill, drive to San Isidro in the mountains to visit Jim and meet his family and see his house, drive to San Jose by 4pm to return the rental car, and get checked into our hotel. The next morning (Monday) we fly out for the States. With all the changing of flights and layovers, we won't land in Eugene until just before midnight. We'll taxi home and sleep in our. own. bed. <3

(relaxed at lunch this afternoon)

(Ooh! Ooh! And we finally had banana flambee for dessert tonight!
They've been out of bananas every time we order it and get the pina one
instead -- which in some ways is better -- but finally Paul said he was walking 
through the bar today and Olmar "waved his banana" at Paul (we laughed at Paul's 
choice of words there) and so we finally got to experience Olmar's own recipe. Delish.)

Random observation: Apparently my Costa Rican name is Ballerie. Even when I correct them with an accentuated "V" they just smile and nod and say, "Ballerie." So, Ballerie it is.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Costa Rica -- Day Six

After breakfast, our day began with the zip line/canopy tour.
11 different zip lines, 2 rappelling stations, and one Tarzan swing -- which I did not partake of.

 (Paul says this is my you-fucker-I'm-gonna-get-you-while-you-sleep look.
I didn't know I had that look.
Did you?)

 (he had so much fun!)

 After the almost-two-hour adrenaline rush, we went to check out our land again and found our first squatter. :)

 (more views from our lot)
Then we had lunch in town and came back to our hotel, which I haven't shown you yet, so here you are:
 (view coming downstairs from the recepcion)

(the building on the other side of the delicious pool is the restaurant/bar)

We hung around and rested from the excitement of the morning. I read on the patio off our room and Paul wrote a skit for No Shame. Then we had dinner and treated ourselves to Pina Flambee. OMG.

 (This is our favorite waiter, Olman.)

 (here he has set the liquor on fire, turned the lights out and pours the liquor back and forth to mix the two -- brandy and triple sec -- in two different pitchers.)

(it's super rich and to die for)


Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Costa Rica -- Day Five

(my favorite thing I've seen here so far)

It has been noted by one of my readers (how cool does that sound?!) that I haven't written about any of the people or wildlife here. At the hotel I see very little accurate representation of either. The people at Cristel Ballena smile and laugh and are extremely gracious -- but that could be because they're paid to be. :)

And the 'wildlife' here at the hotel mostly consists of butterflies, hawks in the distance that ride the thermals in spirals, and this really cool spider I saw today. Also, an occasional little lizard that looks like the sticky lizard toys my son used to throw at the wall.

Yesterday on the property we saw an animal meander across the road called a pizote. It's kind of a racoonish animal with a longer snout and bigger everywhere. And I've heard howler and congo monkeys in the distant jungle around the hotel.

So, sorry to disappoint on the wildlife aspect. :) Though up in the mountains and earlier in the morning -- like 5:30am -- I've heard that the monkeys and macaws come to life and make a delightful racket. I'm looking forward to hearing them. But that will have to wait until I move here, as I don't anticipate being up in the jungle at 5:30 in the morning within the next four days.

We met with Jorge, a local realtor, who is so super nice that I feel guilty not buying anything from him. I almost want to pay him some commission just for the amount of information he's given us. He's given us names of some reputable real estate lawyers in San Jose, he's taking us to the bank on Friday and translating for us so we can get a construction loan (or at least the pre-approval process started.) And he's also given us specific things to ask the developer for, such as: do you have the water concession already? are the lots already separated and can I get a legal copy of the plan to take to the bank?

Jorge's just awesome. He works for Century 21 right now and has been a realtor for many years and lived in a handful of towns around this area. His English is charming and says a long drawn out "A" while thinking of his next word -- like a monotone Fonzie.

He's in the process of starting a sports bar for the tourists in a couple of months. He's going tomorrow to buy "four big screen TVs, plasma." He told us three times. :)

He's generally interested in how things go with Osa Mountain Village and wants us to keep in touch. he admires the concept and approach of OMV and says they are pioneers. That this concept they have hasn't been done in all of Central America, he thinks.

Today we were stopped by the policia (for the third time this trip, btw. The first two times was because they were looking for someone ... one officer even had a rifle. We had to show our passports.) I'm not sure why we were stopped today. The officer's motorcycle was parked on the side of the road, and he stood a little into the highway. He walked towards our oncoming car and waved his hand for us to stop. We did.

"Buenos Dias," we say. 
"Buenos Dias. Como esta?" 

"Fine," we answer in English, cluing him in that we didn't really speak Spanish. Though I'm sure he could tell by our accents.

"Habla espanol?"
I handed him my passport and I fished out my driver's license, too. 

It turns out in Costa Rica it costs $400 (as in US Dollars) if you are not wearing your seat belt.

Paul. Paul. Paul.

I always wear my seat belt.


Through very bad Spanish and English on both our parts (the police officer and us), we discover that the way it works is this: he writes a ticket, we take it to a bank and pay it there.

"Ok," I said, a bit haggard. I'd even pulled out the cash I had on me to both show him that I didn't have $400 (in case he required the $ then -- that's when I found out about the bank), and also to make it available to him in case he decided to not write the ticket. If you know what I mean.

When Paul finally handed him his passport, the police officer asked if we were on vacation. (Paul caught that, I didn't understand it.)

"Yes. Yes. On vacation."
"Ok," and he flicked his hand. "No ticket."
"No ticket?! Thanks!"
"No ticket. Ok." And he stepped back.

And we left -- with Paul's safety belt on.

We continued our search for an open restaurant. It was lunchtime and after a couple of misses, we found a nice open air on on a hill with views of the ocean. The waitress didn't speak English and we'd left our dictionary behind. Two only-Spanish speaking people in one day. Not that I'm surprised that people speak Spanish in Costa Rica, but I guess I'd fallen into a false sense of complacency due to every other person I'd spoken to up to today had spoken English.

But we do fine with pointing and asking for Coca and aqua.

And the newest news: Paul talked me into going on the zipline with him tomorrow morning.


After lunch, we tried to find one of the beaches here. Playa Tortuga (Turtle Beach) didn't work. We found it alright but the tide was in so there was hardly room to walk between the water and piles of driftwood, let alone lay down. So we opted to go back to the pool and try to find the other recommended beach tomorrow -- after talking with Gary and going on the zip line.

We saw the entrance to it, though, on the way back to the hotel, so I spontaneously swung in.

I haven't yet mentioned the state of the roads here.

We were warned by our friends, Dr. Matt and Robbin Freedman about those roads. But when we got here, the highway was perfect. Ok, there were three potholes in a section of the highway that I've driven back and forth on since we've been here, and , it's true that when you turn off the highway and drive into the teeny towns, you will experience a bumpy ride, and I've had to shift into first gear to get up the road to OMV. But the road to this beach ...
(this looks deceptively easy)

Well. It just wasn't passable for a couple of tourists like us. At least with Paul in the car. :) (His lunch hadn't agreed with him.) So we turned around -- which was educational all by itself.

We laughed at ourselves all the way back to the hotel.

It started to rain on the way. Sigh.

Paul went and laid down and to check if any emails came back from the builder or Jim. I went to the pool, dammit, despite the clouds and drizzle. Because it was still in the 80's! It's the rain forest, doncha know! :)

Olman, my awesome waiter, helped me open a pedestal umbrella over my deck chair and brought me a pina colada. (I'm having one for you, Robbin!)

Does anyone actually know the next line of the song: "...if you like pina coladas, and dancing in the rain...."? That's all I ever hear anyone sing. It's a famous line, to be sure, but I don't even know who the singer is, or if it has any other lyrics. !!! LOL

The rain has stopped. It's not hot at all. The sun is taking a break and only shining silvery on the ocean which I can see from the pool side. Perhaps I'll hang my feet over the edge of the pool while I read my book.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Costa Rica -- Day Four

(the view from the tarzan swing on the property)

Just back from the property again. We met Jim Gale, a couple (Robin and Lea) that have already moved here, and had lunch in the nearby town of Ojochal.

I'm sitting by the pool in humid 80 degree weather with a slight breeze. I've left my camera at the room and now, of course, wish that I haven't. I see my strawberry daquiri approaching, so all is well. :) My towel is coming soon so I can slip into this delicious-looking swimming pool. I'm not a huge fan of swimming pools -- I don't begrudge or discourage them for others, but I don't swim gracefully and without effort, so I've never seen much use for one personally. A couple of feet of water to wade in or sit in socially to keep cool in the summer -- sure. But, like, swimming laps? I can't really do that. I'm more of a: keep-my-head-above-water-after-I've-fallen-out-of-the-boat kind of swimmer. But this pool looks divine and I so want to share it with you. Thus, the missed camera. Perhaps another day.

On the Costa Rican adventure -- I think we're sold. After meeting Jim Gale, we shifted our original villa idea to purchasing a home lot. Because the value of our homes in Oregon dropped along with the housing market, we have far less money to purchase property with. 

With the purchase of a villa, you also received shares in the company (that collects rents from the tourists staying on the property, among other things) -- but no actual deed. So, no bank would lend money on it. It needed to be purchased free and clear. 

With a homesite, however, we can get a bank loan for the construction of the house. (We can buy the land using a loan off Paul's 401K and a line of credit off our Albany rental.) Plus, our line of thinking was corrected today on the case of building a home here. We assumed we wouldn't be able to afford both a plot of land and building a house on it. In the States, that could easily run us $350,000. Here, you can build a nice three bedroom house for $57 - 80K. The labor costs are considerably less expensive.

Jim's wife built their house here (she was the general contractor) for $57,000. Jim's invited us to go and see their home on Sunday on our way out of town. So, we'll see how much house $57K can buy. :) Our's would be closer to $80K because we'd have to hire a contractor instead of doing it ourselves, and it'll cost more to truck the supplies in. Osa Mountain Village isn't on the highway; it's quite a haul up the mountain and getting a truck there will, frankly, cost more.

Looking at the property again today -- with more of a focus on home lots -- I admit, I shifted out of if we decide to move here, to I really want to move here. I don't know if it was: considering the benefits of a home lot to a villa (like: we'd get to keep our dogs with a fenced yard), Jim's extra energy and excitement about the place, or if it was the amazing sob-inducing views from the lots -- but I did find myself tearing up.

Can you imagine? Living an expat life, in dream jobs, with like-minded people, off the grid, growing and raising all your own food (oh! I found out they'll have pigs for food and goats for dairy on the property, too!), and having a loving, accepting community around us from the start?!
Ok. That last one was wishful thinking, but I'm calling it "manifestation" instead. I'm visualizing into being.

I was worried about the schooling for the kids, but the teacher they'll have on site will be a lovely substitute for a Spanish-only speaking high school. It'll be kind of like homeschooling/HomeSource, but not. And if they want to go to the public high school, we'd be happy to take them. Jim also said that if we had any schooling ideas, the parents had a ton of say in what and how the teacher taught. If I find a Waldorf school high school curriculum for Aubrey, for instance, I can have the teacher use that to the best of her ability. If Aubrey wants to learn Japanese, she can be supervised by the teacher there. Giving the kids the choice between the two schools will give them some sense of control.

And ultimately, though I hate to play this trump card because it feels so righteously unfair -- we are the parents. We can make this choice whether the kids are on board, or not.

But the stance I think I'll take against their opposition -- which might not happen, but I'm thinking it will -- is this:  This is our dream. Mine and Paul's. We really want to do this. We understand that this quite probably isn't Aubrey and Robert's dream -- though it could become so -- and when they are 18, they can go and live their dream. And we'll totally support them 100% of the way in whatever capacity we can. And we think this move will give them the courage to go and live those dreams. 

Because they saw their parents do it.

(Paul keeps telling me there's something wrong with the glasses that keep coming from the bar. The pina coladas keep emptying too quickly -- there must be a hole in them.)

Tomorrow we'll meet with a local realtor (the one from the other day) and see if plots of land in the less-than-quarter-of-an-acre, distant ocean view and 300 degree mountain and jungle views go for $110K around here. 'Cuz that's what Jim is selling our favorite of his lots at.  (Then we'll hit a beach or two in the afternoon.)

 (view from our favorite lot)

 (the lot we want)

On Thursday we're meeting with Gary, the builder for Osa Mountain Village (but we could use anymore we wanted), to talk about plans and permits, etc.

If we bought the land before we left, or shortly after we got home (after having a real estate lawyer look over the papers) and got the building of the house started right away (after securing a construction loan, of course), we could have a rentable house by the summertime.

We'd go up and see the construction at least once during the building probably, and then Paul wants the family to stay in it first, before we rent it out to any tourists.

We'll have to furnish it, too. Hmm.

We've also been talking to Jim about the ice cream shop idea. That is an excellent business that could be run without us here that would generate income for us now. We could have two locations for the shop. One up the mountain for the people getting off the zip line tours. ("Whoo-eee! I just flew down a mountain! I need me some ice cream!") And one on the highway where the Osa Mountain Village office is.

It costs about $350 to get a limited corporation here, and then Jim would provide the locations for us, so it would be simple and easy to get it started. We'd hire a local person to serve the public and collect the monies. And a really nice wage around here is $500/month (taxes included). Sounds easy enough to me.

Now all we have to do is make up some upscale recipes -- using local ingredients, of course: coconut, mango, etc., try them out and buy the equipment to make it with. And the freezers to keep it cold. :)

Stay tuned to hear about whether this is a good local deal, and if the beaches are, in fact, awesome here. :)

Pura Vida!

Monday, October 18, 2010

Costa Rica -- Day Two and Three are a blur

"... and we're driving, in my car ... " ~lyrics from a Cake song

Jesus! We've done so much driving in the last two days.

We landed in San Jose, Costa Rica on Sunday afternoon, found our rental car company, rode in the shuttle van to the office, and I drove out in a manual four-wheel-drive SUV. (It's been fun using a stick shift again ... which reminds me of another Cake song ... )

(following a plantain truck on the new road to Caldera)

We drove from San Jose west to the Pacific coast, and then south down to Uvita. Osa Mountain Village was supposed to have housed us in one of their villas while we were there, but the villa wasn't ready yet -- I think the rainy season slowed down construction a little bit. They found an awesome place for us to stay though: Cristel Ballena. One of the admin/sales people from Osa Mountain Village emailed me and asked me if it was ok to reserve this space for us. It looked way too beautiful to be in our budget, but when I asked him, it turned out to be less than it would've been if we'd stayed in the rental villa. So I confirmed the reservation through the Osa Mountain Villa dude. (Can you hear the foreshadowing?)

We reached Uvita in about three hours of driving from the airport. It gets dark early here, so at 5:30 p.m. we are driving slow, trying to find the entrance off the highway. We find it, we drive up the long driveway, park the rental rig, drag our sweaty, stinky, travel-worn, haven't seen a shower in 36 hours asses into the recepcion and. find. it. full.

At this point we are ready to sleep in our car, we just want a shower and brush our teeth, maybe some food.

We explain the situation. They explain the situation.

Apparently there was a reservation, but they had no credit card info or contact info to hold the room. They held the room until 4pm with a family waiting in the restaurant just in case we didn't show. So they finally released the room to them.

I would've done the same thing.

They were so gracious. So accommodating. Totally bent over backwards so far I'm still feeling guilty for it. See, they have this spa. It's a lovely suite of rooms that has a waiting area, a huge bathroom, a massage area, a place for other spa-like treatments, and a manicure station. And then called someone up at 6pm to come into that room, shove everything in there up in a corner behind a curtain, and bring a king size bed in.

We are mortified at all the effort put into this. But our evening is marvelous. We were given complimentary drinks while we waited for the manager (who also came in special to talk with us), had dinner in the restaurant and had a delightful waiter who made us pineapple flambee in the dark (!!!), showered for many hours (not really), had a romp in the king-size bed (!!!) and slept forever.

The next morning, well-rested, we had a complimentary breakfast (it comes with price of the room -- which is only $67/night!).

(the view from our breakfast table)

(this is Paul-well-rested) <3

After breakfast, we drove into Uvita and found a realtor to chit-chat with. We talked about different locations, which towns he recommended living in, schools, and factors and tips to consider if we decided to move here. Then we drove down to the Osa Mountain Village office and met up with Ricardo. He's the sales guy/realtor for OMV. We talked to Glenn, who is designing all the greenhouse verticle growing systems for the village. It's way high-tech and super simple at the same time. And then Ricardo hopped in our rental 4x4 and we rode up the mountain in first gear (the road's still unpaved) to see the property and the building sites.

 (a ginormous mango tree)

 (a pineapple growing wild on the property)
(Ricardo let one of the workers know that he was low on plaintains and when we were done with the tour, we found these by the SUV, waiting for him.)

The goal for the food production at OMV is to be able to grow all the community's food. Whenever you need something, it will be available for you. There will be a "market" on the property, but when you "shop", you just collect what you need with no money changing hands. Your $150/month in "fees" covers all the food your family can use.

(the first set of villas in construction)

 (This villa is a four bedroom unit.)
(The site for the community center.)

(Ricardo is cutting up a citrus fruit for us to taste -- it tasted a bit like grapefruit to me.)

(one of the zip lines on the property)

(the start of a small nursery ... plantings will be provided for any resident that wants to grow something in their yard.)

(a mango tree that sprouted up in the middle of the road)

(a tiny chicken coop ... for the time being. chicken will be one of the foods OMV will provide for its residents.)

(a "marker" for future tilapia ponds -- another food provided)

(building materials that now stand in the future location of a big tilapia pond that will house mature fish ready to be caught and eaten. any resident is welcome to go fish and catch dinner!)

After the tour, we drove into a couple of the neighboring towns and Ricardo showed us a bakery one of the community residents owns, a few supermarkets, the place where the farmers/saturday market is held and introduced us to an American woman that opened a private elementary school in Uvita. Then we went out to lunch.

We're meeting up with the landowner, Jim Gale, tomorrow and will check out Dominical -- a town close by that supposed to have some night life. Hmm. We shall see. Also, I bet we check out some beaches tomorrow, too.

With thoughts of starting up businesses like coconut ice cream shops, bookstores and yoga studios, I am ready to slip into bed next to Paul -- who has been sleeping for an hour and half.

Our only real concerns so far have been: the kids being bored. Sure there's zip lines and waterfall rappelling (cool! maybe we'll run that business, too!) and having your own machete to harvest bananas whenever you want them, but what about going to a Spanish high school where you can barely speak the language?

Maybe we can bribe them with their own personal lap-tops and Skype accounts ....

Anyway, bedtime.