Hola Costa Rica
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We arrived on the last flight to Daniel Oduber Quiros International Airport in Liberia, Costa Rica on November 4, 2016. Luckily, arriving late worked out in our favor. As mentioned in this post, we brought 12 suitcases (We bought these colorful suitcases specifically for this trip. They are cheap and come three to a set, have grooves for the collapsible handles so it was easier to pack, and are somewhat hard sided protected our stuff.), 2 large boxes, and 4 backpacks with everything we own.
After we exited the airplane we had to go through Immigration, pickup our luggage at baggage claim, head over to customs to declare goods we are bringing into the country, and lastly scan all the luggage. We were a bit nervous about declaring goods because we brought several questionable items like; essential oils, natural sunblock, supplements, and packaged nutritional yeast and Xylitol. During our research phase we read that they sometimes confiscate those types of things or charge a lot on the import tax. Based on that research we decided not to declare them and hope things went well. We were also nervous about scanning our luggage because of our experience leaving Arizona.
When we went through security in Arizona, TSA set aside 5 of the 18 bags to open and inspect. Two were boxes that they just asked what was inside and then passed them through without opening them, which was awesome! I was not thrilled however about the 3 bags being opened because every nook and cranny had been strategically organized to maximize space and stability, while also keeping inside the weight requirement.
The TSA agent was very kind and careful as he searched through our bags. He made jokes and kept the mood light while he used the tools to detect bombs and anything else they look for. It was a bit stressful trying to cram everything back into the bags and I knew it now was not as stable as it originally was but was happy to move on.
Back at Liberia airport we were the last people from the last flight to go through security, (kid…bathroom event!) and they were ready to close and waiting for us. They rushed us through every step of the way. The agent who scans the luggage kept trying to ask me what certain things were on the screen. I assumed since the bags he was asking about were the same bags that were flagged in Arizona we were in for another long search and possible troubles but I was very distracted.
I was frantically trying to pick up the luggage that was rolling off the short belt onto the floor while also trying to wrangle our daughter, one of the side effects of her having special needs is trying to run away. My husband and son were loading up all the bags they could on the dollies with the help of another security agent. The guy finally gave up asking me and just passed it all through. Guess it pays to be a basket case sometimes, hehe.
When we walked outside into the muggy wave of humidity that instantly frizzed my hair, we noticed our hotel shuttle was just getting ready to leave. Luckily there was a couple luggage hustlers still there who spoke English to flag him down. The driver did not have anymore room and said he would come back for us. Suddenly the airport felt empty but the wait for the hotel shuttle was not long. We tipped the luggage hustlers and headed to our hotel for the night.
Relax And Enjoy The Ride
We woke early to eat some breakfast before our pre-arranged driver was to arrive at 8 am. When we walked back to our room at 7:30 am we figured had enough time to go to the restroom and load the hotel dolly. We were wrong, our driver had arrived early (so much for this Tico time we hear so much about). We rushed to get everything loaded and everyone to the bathroom before we left.
Once settled in the van, on the road, and relaxed enough to look around we were able to appreciate the beauty of Costa Rica. The lush green foliage is everywhere you look and the breeze felt wonderful. I loved showing the kids all the different trees and animals along the way.
Where We Gonna Eat?
The ride to our new home in San Rafael Norte was scheduled to take approximately 6 hours, which included a stop for lunch. Our driver, George, did not speak any English and we had yet to learn enough Spanish to communicate, so conversation was minimal and a bit awkward.
My husband used his translator and limited Spanish training retained from Duolingo to tell George that we are vegan (vegano in Spanish). Right away George knew of a place we could eat. He took us to a Soda (a family owned restaurant, generally attached to a home, that serves traditional Costa Rican food) somewhere around Monteverde to eat lunch.
The soda was adorable and the food was delicious. The kids had spaghetti with red sauce and veggies, and my husband and I had the casado. A casado is a traditional meal consisting of meat, rice, black beans, a salad, steamed veggies, and fried plantains all for around $6.00! I asked for the “casado vegetariano” which swaps in eggs and cheese for the meat. I then say no huevos (eggs), no queso (cheese), no salsa (salad dressing which is usually dairy based), and throw out the word vegano. Luckily she understood and our meals came out perfect.
The Long Drive Home
The kids did an amazing job tolerating the long ride and loved the wind blowing in their faces because all the windows were down. Many vehicles in Costa Rica do not have air conditioning and it is normal to drive with the windows down to keep cool and prevent the windows from fogging. With each gust of wind that blows into the window you also get a big ole whiff of exhaust from all the diesel vehicles. Unless you are moving down the highway at a good speed, the exhaust lingers and is a bit nauseating.
As we passed through Quepos we were able to finally get a good view of the ocean through the clouds to show the kids how big and beautiful it is. We could see the clouds rolling in on each wave and the rain picked up pretty quickly. We learned that rainy season on the Southern Pacific side of Costa Rica typically runs May through mid November.
It continued raining as we drove up the mountain from Dominical toward San Isidro. As we neared the city of Tinamaste heavy fog rolled in and our driver did the sign of the cross while he tried to explain the dangerous conditions. The rain, fog, and very curvy roads made for a nail biting ride for the next hour to our house. As we entered the town of San Isidro the heavy fog cleared and we were left with drizzling rain.
Welcome To Your New Home
We drove through San Isidro (the second biggest city in Costa Rica) and onto another highway. After only about 7 minutes we turned and drove up a very steep and narrow road. We passed a mini grocery store, a restaurant, a church, a school, and a small hotel, before pulling up to our new home. George had to pull into the neighbor’s driveway to turn around and then park at an angle so the van would not roll down the hill.
When we got out of the van two women were waiting for us. Liz, the broker for the rental was the first to greet us. She quickly put two large stones in front of George’s tires then scooted our way and immediately gave us all a big hug and introduced herself. She then introduced us to the owner of the house.
The owner of the home did not speak English so Liz translated as we took a tour to learn all the ins and outs of the house. We then reviewed the plan for the new few days with Liz. We did not have transportation as of yet and planned on taking public transportation until we found a car to buy. Liz told us she would pick us up and take us to get whatever we needed.
We paid the driver and said goodbye to the owner of the home and left with Liz to go grocery shopping. It was Saturday and we would not be seeing Liz again until Monday morning, so we needed the basics to get by until then.
Liz took us to a store called Maxi Pali, which is owned by Walmart. It is the most popular store in the city for budget shopping. As she pulled into the turn lane headed for the parking lot of Maxi Pali, the security guard closed the gate to the lot. Liz drove up in the middle of the road, in front of on coming traffic (YIKES!), and started yelling at him while waving her hand about. They spoke back and forth in a heated fashion and then he opened the gate and let us in.
Liz said that today is the biggest sale of the year so it was very busy. The security guard only lets a certain number of people in at a time. I’m guessing she talked us in over the maximum amount of people. Shopping was a challenge because maneuvering around all the people was a bit difficult for me. For Liz this was a normal day, she just whipped in and out of the crowd, pushing people aside where needed. If it weren’t for her I would have been politely waiting behind a crowd for a very long time.
The lines to check-out were so long they winded down the aisles. Liz stood in one line for us and we stood in the other to see which one would move faster. Ours ended up moving faster and she jumped lines. After paying we loaded her car up with everything and headed to another grocery store.
From Maxi Pali we drove to a grocery store called BM, which is like a grocery store in the states before they had a bakery, deli, or a Starbucks in them. This was a very nice store that had a lot of American imported products in it. The imported products, as I mentioned in this post, prices are generally double and even sometimes triple of what you might see in the states.
BM was not busy so we were able to look at things a bit more. As expected, both of these stores had a lot of products that we had never seen before and are all labeled in Spanish. They even put labels over the imported products in Spanish for the locals. Because of this we mainly stuck to fruits, veggies, rice and beans, and pasta. We also bought imported Sriracha and Tostitos salsa along with the basics like; toilet paper, paper towels, and dish soap. I brought our own natural toiletries so we were set with those for a few months until I could find what we needed.
OH NOOO, F&&K, GD-IT, And All The Other Swear Words!
Liz dropped us off and we went into our new, temporary, home to unpack, eat dinner, and get settled. The first thing I had to find was my Instant Pot. I cook in this baby every day and it, along with my second most used appliance, the Vitamix, was on my MUST bring list.
Of course I could not remember which bag held what exactly after having to rearrange them so many times. We looked through every bag to finally find the Instant Pot in the last one. I kept guessing wrong! So far, all the appliances, pans, toiletries, and other possible easily damaged items had gotten here unscathed. Then I found the Instant Pot……
I open the bag and instead of pulling away all the thick clothing I used as padding, I picked up the airport inspection paper. It was sitting over the front panel of the Instant Pot that was now dented in. The WHOLE panel, was dented in! I was so upset that I said “OH NOOO, F&&K, GD it!”, and all the other naughty words I know! BUT, when I plugged it in it still worked and does to this day! WHEW!
We unpacked our belongings while the black beans, and then the rice cooked cooked in the Instant Pot. Dinner was ready just as we finished putting the basics away. We like to eat black beans with extra bean sauce over rice, topped with a ton of avocado, tomato, salt & pepper, and then drizzle with Sriracha. NOM!
When we finished dinner we put Spanish dubbed Sponge Bob on the TV for the kids in their room. Then put Spanish dubbed Just Like Heaven on in our room. I love that movie so much that I could almost remember everything they say, so hearing it in Spanish was cool. I thought, “learning Spanish will be easy like this”. HA-HA (not)!
After tucking the kids in, we went to bed a bit early in our furnished matrimonial size bed. A matrimonial sized bed is the equivalent to a double sized bed in the states and is the typical size bed for the master bedroom in Costa Rica. The California King bed we were used to sleeping on had plenty of room to roll around when you sleep without disturbing the other person. The King size pillows we brought hung off both sides of the small bed. We like to cuddle but this might be interesting, hot (and not in a good way), or painful.
Before bed we stood on the deck looking at the city lights below us. As we admired the beautiful view, we talked about how exciting it is to have finally made this dream a reality. We left everything we knew and many people that we love, to arrive in a new country to start a new life. Tomorrow is the beginning of our new adventure living in Costa Rica.