Monday, April 25, 2011

Circo Del Mar

One of the joys of not working is that we have the opportunity (i.e., time) to get involved in Sadie's school. Sometimes very involved.

The month of April was dedicated to producing the world's greatest kids talent show ever. Also known as Circo Del Mar. Ian was the first one to get pulled in ("I hear you have experience in theater. How about you direct this year's talent show"?), followed quickly by me ("hon, you're gonna have to join me"). This year it was decided that the talent show should be in the form of a circus, Cirque du Soleil style, and we had a fabulous group of teachers, administrators, staff and parents dedicated to pulling it all off.

And boy, did we need it. A circus format on the school's basketball court presents a unique set of, um, challenges. Audience on all sides, no backstage, a stage, sound, lights .... But our crew was up to the challenge and determined to pull off a fabulous show where the kids could really display their talents. With a water conservation message, no less.

Audience on all sides? No problem, the kids all rose to the challenge and choreographed their dances, skits, and songs in such a way as to make sure no one was looking at their backs for any length of time. No backstage? Fine, all the kids will be in costume and watch the show and quickly and quietly get up to get ready for their routines. In addition, we had "hosts" - mother nature and a Nosara tourist - to smooth over all transitions. A stage? Hauled the one the school had onto the basketball court, painted it, and draped it with blue cloth. Lights? Bought four floodlights from the hardware store, and witnessed a very impressive (albeit a bit unnerving) afternoon of wiring. Sound? Half the schools and half rented from a local band. Then Ian with two Macs and some editing software created and ran an hour's worth of music and sound effects.

Four floodlights hung on two trees and two basketball hoops

Yes, it's safe. Really

The on/off switch for the lights - 15 feet up

I hope I didn't make that all sound easy, because it wasn't. Challenging and fun, but not easy. One thing we quickly realized that this sort of heat is no problem when you are lounging around in a hammock reading, but quite a different thing when you are actually in it and working for hours on end. How did we ever work all day long? How do people actually work here?? We have a new found appreciation of those who have to make a living in this weather.

Ian and the Stagehands

Me and Melania, the Stage Managers (aka, kid wranglers)

But in the end, of course, it was fabulous. The crowd was great, the technical aspects were smooth, and, most importantly, the kids were absolutely fantastic. We had a real clown who happened to be visiting and agreed to help out, we had popcorn sellers roaming the crowd, we had folks wrangling the kids, we had great sound and lights, and we had an amazing group of performers.

Preshow snack

Sadie showing off her famous hulaneck move

Thank you everyone for a wonderful experience and a fantastic show!

Here are a few videos for your enjoyment.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

More checks and more visitors

Lately we've been checking things off our Costa Rica list that we hadn't intended to ever PUT on the list. Well, at least Ian has.

The other day our gardener brought up two cashew fruits from a tree on our property. Personally, I had enough interactions with cashew fruit during my time in Brazil years ago and wanted nothing to do with the nasty things. But naturally Ian and Sadie were curious. For those that don't know, the cashew nut is actually the seed of the cashew fruit, and the large fruity-looking thing above is an "accessory fruit" or "false fruit," known as the cashew apple. The cashew apple is a very popular thing to eat and make juice out of in some places, but to me it tastes terrible.

Anyway, Ian and Sadie commenced to exploring the cashew apple while I excused myself to do something else. "Hey Caitlin," hollers Ian from the kitchen, "is the cashew nut poisonous?" "Yes, it is, don't eat it!" I reply. "Uhhh...too late...." Sure enough, they had managed to get the nut (seed) out of the casing and had both tried it. "My lips hurt," says Ian. "My tongue feels funny," says Sadie.

The cashew seed is surrounded by a double shell containing an allergenic resin, anacardic acid, a toxin related to what is found in poison ivy. "Raw" cashews sold in stores are not actually raw - they have been roasted in order to destroy the toxin.

Thankfully, it was Ian who had done all the hard work of busting through the shell to get to the seed, and it was he who suffered the most severe reaction. Sadie's tongue stung for about 24 hours, but was fairly mild. Meanwhile, Ian's lips blistered, he developed a rash on his arm that soon spread to his torso, and the skin on his hand began to peel. Not life threatening (though believe me we did lots of internet research) but very annoying. More than a week later, most of his symptoms are gone with the exception of a rash on his belly which is taking its time to run its course.

Learn the hard way to not eat raw cashews.

This past weekend we were treated to another round of visitors - Libby, Rich and Kalin. Kalin is a good friend of Sadie's from home and she was thrilled to pieces to have her visit. While they were here we did all sorts of the usual fun things, including going to the beach of course.

We were enjoying a nice Sunday morning at Playa Pelada and Ian goes to take a turn with the boogie board. He had barely walked out into the surf when he stepped on something painful and came back out of the water to take a look. His foot seemed to have a small cut and it was bleeding. It must have been a stingray we guessed. Sure enough, within seconds Ian was in absolutely excruciating pain. He looked and sounded like he was in labor, as he rode wave after wave of horrific pain that went from his foot all the way to the backs of his eyeballs.

Well, lucky for us, Rich happens to be an aquatic biologist and diver who is trained to respond to all sorts of underwater emergencies, including from poisonous marine critters. "Hot water" he says. So we gather the (somewhat frightened) girls and all our stuff and make our way back to the house, Ian writhing in pain in the front seat, unable to talk or even hear what is going on around him.

Once at home, we deposit Ian on the deck, put his foot in a cooler and begin to pour in hot water. Almost immediately Ian has some relief from the pain. Rich monitors him closely as we continue to pour in hotter and hotter water (again we take to the internet to make sure there isn't some other type of even more poisonous creature that could have caused the injury - but all agree it was definitely a stingray). Ian suffers waves of progressively subsiding pain for the next 90 minutes. Within two hours he is able to get up and put pressure on the foot and soon after it is as if nothing ever happened. Everyone stayed calm, the girls did a great job making themselves scarce until the scary part was over, and all was fine in the end.

Stingray barbs - Hot water. Immediately. For 90 minutes.

Despite the drama of the stingray, we had a great visit with Libby, Rich and Kalin. We did lots of bird watching, critter hunting and bug playing. In the mornings we watched birds and at night we watched fireflies and geckos. Keeping their promise to the girls, Libby and Rich managed to catch a baby gecko, which spent only a terrifying half hour in the bug house before being let go.

Sadie gave Kalin a scorpion we had found and had the surf shop guys encase in resin (it was already dead, I promise), Libby gathered cicada skins to adorn our hair and clothes, and Rich took some great photos of the bats that live under our house.

We also ate a lot of course. We celebrated Rich's birthday with calamari, tuna and octopus at our favorite restaurant. (Check out his blog posting on his birthday meal)

We hugged them all goodbye yesterday and as they headed inland on a little plane for more Costa Rican adventures, they managed to find our house and captured us waving to them from the balcony.

Hasta luego!

Monday, April 4, 2011

Spring in Nosara?

I've noticed a lot of talk on Facebook lately about spring back in the States. Folks all over the country are finally seeing some flowers poking out, the chill of a long harsh winter making way to warmer spring weather, switching out boots for sandals....

Here, as you know, it is hot. In fact, it has gotten significantly hotter over the past week or so. We have not suffered a long cold winter. However, as we near the end of the "dry" season and closer to the "wet" season, things are changing in many of the same ways as back home.

Nosara is blanketed with deciduous trees that lose their leaves during the long dry season, significantly changing the landscape from when we first arrived.

View from Deck - September

View from deck - April

But as we now move towards the rainy season, the air is getting more humid and the landscape is changing again in preparation. Trees are regaining leaves and flowers are beginning to show in what seems to me unexpected and random places. It is beautiful in its unexpectedness, charming in its surprise. Intriguing to see signs of "spring," in the change from hot and dry to hot and rainy.

We did have a nice little storm move through here about a week ago. It was short but strong, bringing rain of the type that we haven't seen in months, enough to even wash off some of the layers of dust from the sides of the roads. Shortly after the storm, we were treated to a nasty home invasion of flying ants. Large winged queens, smaller winged males, and wingless workers suddenly appeared at dusk, swarming around any and all light sources in our house. It got so bad on the second night that we couldn't even have the light from the computer on, or we would be swarmed by dozens and dozens of the things (thankfully they don't bite). I read to Sadie by flashlight under the covers and I spent the early morning sweeping away hundreds (really!) of dead winged ants from the floors of the house. On the third night, Ian finally came up with the smart idea of opening up all the doors to the house, turning off all the lights inside, and putting a couple of lamps out on the porch to lure them outside. Thankfully, the worst of it was over after that night and on the fourth night we actually turned on a light or two for a short time inside. By the fifth night it was over and we could again eat dinner, write emails, and read. Springtime for hormigas alas.

Luckily, winged ants aren't the only things exploding this time of year. We're seeing more birds around our house, the monkeys seem to have more babies, is MANGO SEASON!

Finally, after seven months of waiting, not only are there mangos all over town, but we have them within arm's reach from our house! Time for mango smoothies, mango margaritas and mango ice cream.

Happy spring, everyone!