19 January 2016

Will I Get In Trouble For That?

Let’s talk trash. Once upon a time I took for granted the fact that little (or burly) elves arrived at our curb twice-weekly to remove trash. Then arrived this pesky save-the-planet era when something called recycling began. No longer could trash be hauled to the curb in a willy-nilly fashion. 

But think of recycling this way: how many jobs would be lost if someone wasn’t required to cull through my garbage at a landfill located in some unknown part of my world? Are you getting the impression that I rebelled?
But wait . . . those elves were not Superman, endowed with x-ray vision. They and could not possibly see through our opaque plastic trash bags to determine contents. 

Then I moved to Africa . . . a land where little black plastic shopping bags are everywhere . . . sachets, they were called. Sure, you could place that tiny packet of soap in a purse; but in the third poorest country in the world, a woman with a sachet was a woman who could afford to spend money. It was the Burkina Faso version of carrying a Barneys bag. Sadly, these little sachets found their way to tree tops, blown there by wind. They were under foot on every inch of the earth, en masse in gutters in cities. It was horrifying. 

13 January 2016

I Told Those Guys What They Wanted To Hear . . . I Said, Uh, Yeah, Sure. But It Was All Lies.

Green Bee Eater, Botswana
So why weren’t the bird photos on the last post my own photographs? I’m a photographer. Believe me, I’m a photographer. Sometimes I amaze myself; though I concede that when you take over 5,000 photos, the law of averages states that you'll get a few dozens great shots. Still, this photography-in-the-tropics thing is different. Very different.

My friends, Maggie and A.Kaye are both artists in every sense of the word. A.Kaye is a professional photographer; but to describe him only as a photographer doesn’t scratch the surface of his talents. Maggie’s artistic skills span all mediums, including video/film-making. Anyway, they are always inspiring to me. Recently A.Kaye and I have had a little eMail discussion about my willingness (or lack thereof) to broaden my use of our very sophisticated camera equipment. Of course I balked. I’m a creature of obsessive-compulsive habit. 

I was sharing this little eMail relay with Rusty when Rusty pronounced that Pinterest would tell me, step-by-step, how to shoot anything I wanted (with a camera . . . I sold my 20-gauge and 300 Win Mag). I replied, sarcastically, I bet there’s even a YouTube video to teach me. Right? Only about 400 million, Rusty announced. Again, creature of habit. Books! I’m a read-a-book kind of gal. You can learn anything and everything from an actual book. What a world, what a world . . . we’re all so accepting of the Internet, and I’m no exception. How are the mighty fallen!

So I said aloud to Rusty that Pinterest is the new heroin dealer. Then I realized that Pinterest is far more powerful with a longer-reaching arm than merely one single drug dealer. 

Dear God, Pinterest is the new Cosa Nostra. 

They supply all manner of ills/vices; are accountable to no one; and creep dangerously, often covertly into your email and personal cyberspace life. Pinterest is an insidious addiction. It will consume you . . . and I've had my first taste of its heroin-Kool-Aid.

11 January 2016

Life Moves Pretty Fast. You Don't Stop And Look Around Once In A While, You Could Miss It.

The new year brings us just one more good reason to move to Costa Rica: the month of January. With January come large flocks of parrots and toucans, the chicle fruits, and explosions of bougainvillea blooms. Why January? Why now when everything is dry with no hope of rain?

As if we don’t always have multiple troupes of howler monkeys, we now have a monkey lure. It’s called a chicle tree and it bears fruit. Who knew? We have several of these protected chicle trees. Monkeys love this fruit, which is popular world-wide for human consumption, too. Just behind Rusty’s garage/play-room our closest chicle is only about 10 meters from our railing. You’d think that 35 monkeys would do some real damage to a tree, but they’re very careful in their fruit harvest. 

The parrots and toucans are less careful. Let’s have a quick tour of the birds in our neighborhood with the clear understanding that the descriptions below (while accurate as to each bird) are only my opinion; and I'm not an expert on anything.*

The Amazon kingfisher can always be spotted on a branch at the river crossing that leads up our mountain. I learned to love kingfishers in Africa. They will dive-bomb into the water to snatch a tiny minnow-type fish in that long, strong bill.

The orange-chinned parakeet looks like a parrot in size. Don't think little pet-store birds. These fellows have some heft, and they're loud. We spent weeks trying to confirm this parakeet's identity. Indeed, our birds are the orange-chinned parakeet . . . though you'll see little orange in this particular bird. The orange is most easily spotted while they are in flight passing within just a few feet of our terrace high above the forest floor.

The blue-crowned motmot is easy to spot, especially in silhouette due to his tail. But sunlight brings out his beautiful blue color.

08 January 2016

This Is Either Madness Or Brilliance. It’s Remarkable How Often Those Two Traits Coincide.

Reason number 25 to move to Costa Rica: That happy surprise about the Tico genius and sense of humor.

I always had plans to retire in Africa. My neighbors were to be hippos in our river, baboons and vervet monkeys, and of course, the big cats. And giraffes. We would have a journey of giraffes visible as they crossed the delta. To this day, I look at our home with an eye toward making it into the style of the great camps of Botswana or Zimbabwe. Chitabe is shown here.

There may come a day when Rusty and I are unable or unwilling to perform most home and garden maintenance. That day is not today. True, I have a housekeeper to perform tasks of which I’m really not capable. For instance, I absolutely cannot immaculately clean our floors the way Janet can. My mopping action looks the same, but somehow Janet does it better. How she can clean spotlessly mirrors and glass without Windex® remains a mystery. So most every Tuesday morning Janet arrives to magically clean things that I honestly cannot clean as well as Janet. As in any home, before the mopping and vertical-glass-surface cleaning must come some amount of dusting. Now don’t picture me lounging and eating bon-bons six days a week awaiting Janet. I do a considerable amount of daily dusting and sweeping and vacuuming. If you, gentle reader, have never dusted a home, 1) you should try it, and 2) it involves picking up items and returning them to their original spot.

05 January 2016

In Every Job That Must Be Done There Is An Element Of Fun. You Find The Fun, And Snap, The Job’s A Game

There’s this product in Costa Rica called Duranza. Think varnish. I suppose that in some areas of Costa Rica home maintenance presents only a minor challenge due to a cool, dry climate. Perhaps that maintenance issue is similar to parts of the U.S. 

In North Texas we’d semi-annually clean gutters, hose-off window screens, etc. And occasionally even a brick home requires areas of new paint – but not often. Well, living about six kilometers from the salty Pacific, less than 10-degrees north of the equator, up a mountain with wind (and now with dust in the dry season), home maintenance becomes an entirely different game. 

In this climate, just as one can sit and literally watch the grass grow, one can also watch the sun leach-out the wood’s moisture and color, not to mention its original coats of Duranza. It’s freaky. And our home is made of two things: concrete and wood. Wooden ceilings, doors, cabinets, eaves, and window trim. Obsessive-compulsive gal that I am, I made a quarterly little to-do list. Hah! Quarterly? Did I really believe that we’d only need to perform these little to-dos quarterly? Clipping shrubberies is a weekly task. And don’t get me started on weeding the majority of our 1.65 acres.