So we did it, again. We moved from Playa Samara to San Francisco de Grecia. The move did not feel quite as epic as that from California but it had a certain Grapes of Wrath feel as Matt strapped our foam mattress to the top of Janet, our Costa Rican lemon. As you may recall, Janet is no spring chicken. She starts to shimmy and dance anywhere over 60 kph and usually overheats on most trips involving an elevation change of more than 1000 meters. So it was with certain trepidation that we loaded her up. In addition to our possessions we brought along 200+ pounds of driftwood, carefully collected on the beaches near Samara with an eye toward future furniture. The house we were moving to, you see, was completely unfurnished. And when I say unfurnished I mean nada. No oven, no fridge, no washer, no shelves. But we took it as a challenge to see just how much we could do without. Who needs to buy furniture? We’ll build it! For free!
The kids were good natured about their squishy conditions for what turned out to be a five hour drive. We did, indeed, overheat just as we arrived in Grecia. In a now-familiar task of making lemonade out of lemons, we got some ice cream at Pops, right off the central square. One of the highlights of moving away from the beach was access, once again, to delicious ice cream.
Our plan had been to buy mattresses when we arrived but the inevitable Janet-related delays meant we arrived close to sunset when everything was closing down. On the bright side, the gorgeous view from our new little house awaited us.
This is from our porch, looking out across the Central Valley. And here is our casita from the outside.
Since the friends who helped us find our house invited us to spend the night, we were able to delay buying the essentials until the next day. And essentials we needed. Here is our blank slate of a kitchen when we moved in.
Ironically, I now have things I always desired in a house in the States but could never achieve: a pantry, an eat-in kitchen and a door from the kitchen directly to the yard. Heaven!
As one might recall giving birth, the memory of the next’s days shopping extravaganza is indelibly etched on my mind, yet fuzzy on the details so as to spare the psyche too much trauma. Costa Rica takes its love of bureaucracy, forms and receipts to new heights when shopping for home appliances. When walking into a store of any size, one is immediately struck by the large number of employees completely available to assist you. Additionally, even in large stores, prices are negotiable so shopping is a very personalized experience with an employee noting down what you might need to buy and coming up with a customized price. Since we needed an oven, a fridge, a washer and three mattresses we got very personalized attention. I spoke more Spanish in 5 (exhausting) hours of shopping and negotiating than I had in the previous five months.
What is fascinating and maddening when buying things here is the process of paying. The employee who has been helping you will ask your name (to put on the receipt) and appear to begin ringing things up. This involves writing every item’s name, item number and price down on an invoice that is either handwritten or entered into a computer. You are then to walk to a different part of the store to pay the cashier (that’s where the name on the receipt comes in). Then you walk back to the original employee who will review the receipt demonstrating that you’ve paid and s/he will then stamp your receipt. Mind you, this happens in large stores and stores the size of your living room.
At the end of this day we did indeed have everything we came for, minus a mattress for Matt and me and a frame for the kids’ beds; both were arriving the following week. But we had a borrowed futon to sleep on and the kids were excited to “camp” in their room on their new mattresses. Sleeping bag covers were our bedspreads until I could figure out where to buy decent blankets, since we would actually need them for the first time in months.
Matt and I feel asleep, exhausted but pleased that we found what we needed without feeling ripped off. We were excited to make coffee in our new kitchen the next morning with our very own stove, until we realized at dawn that we had a new gas range but no gas. Doh!