Friday, April 20, 2007


I think I spelled it correctly... For most of us an iguana is an iguana. But for ticos there are two types. An iguana is a green iguana, like most you find in pet shops or on posters and T-shirts - and the ones that Nicas love to kill and eat. But a garobo is a spiny iguana. They're a bit more aggressive too. All iguanas are territorial and the males will defend their territory to the death.

Anyway, the morning malais at the dog bowl this morning changed up a bit. The dogs were sleeping. In their place were 4 big garobos - and a squirrel, Mr. Spock. All eating the dry Ascan dog food nuggets in near perfect harmony. Mr. Spock was dwarfed by his fellow dinosaur dining partners but it didn't seem to phase him.

Unfortunately, my phone memory was too low for me to snap a picture or video clip, and my camera was in the safe closet. By the time I had made room, Madona had scared the garobos off and Mr. Spock was high up on the sliding screens.

Something tells me I'll have another opportunity for a future post.

Thursday, April 19, 2007


Pronounced ar-DEE-ya. Spanish for 'squirrel' (See March blog "Mr. Spock" and February blog "Mascotas"). I'm surprised to be writing this, actually. If someone would have told me a few months ago that I would have had a pet squirrel, I would have asked them what they were smoking. But this little guy has really captured our hearts, and the hearts of many members of the community.

Spock is an adolescent now. We're waiting for his testicles to drop and for him to join the wild community of his kin. As I type, he is free to leave any time he wants. He's up in his favorite papaturo tree next to the house taking a siesta in the shade of the tangled tree canopy, escaping the heat. Normally, he'll spend the afternoon in a tree next to my in-law's house at the beach where my wife goes to escape the heat in the afternoons. Its quite amazing, but he never ventures far from either our house or my in-laws'.

Spock slept in the house rolled up in a washcloth in a plastic ice cream container up until a few weeks ago. I still let him in sometimes to sleep in the crease on our bed between the headboard and mattress. It's amazing to watch his sleeping positions change - very human: stretched out in a line on his side, flat on his back with his feet in the air, flat out on his stomach in the "splat" position (pictured above on a bar rail), or bunched up with his feet tucked below him and his tail along his back.

But I figured I'd better get him used to sleeping outside in his natural environment. So I bought a steel bird nesting box for him to sleep in. He likes it. He also likes to sleep in an abandoned bird nest in the papaturo tree next to the house. The nesting box makes a great travel case too. Spock usually crashes at dusk. If we're on the road or at the beach, I just place him in the box in the car with the windows cracked and put the box on the balcony with him in it when we get home. He also likes to curl up in the map pocket on the back of the passenger seat in my pickup. Or in my lap rolled up in the hem of my T-shirt. Or in my wife's purse (pictured above).

Spock's day begins at sunrise when he descends from his tree or the box on the balcony to molest the dogs. He usually starts at the dog bowl, munching nuggets with Garcia and Madona. We leave mangos, banana, jocotes, mariñon, fresas, naranjas, uvas or piña on the armrest for the leglift on my universal gym also. He eats alot. He rarely eats the same fruit two days in a row, however, self-rotating his dietetic intake. He also loves yogurt and cream cheese!! After breakfast he'll make his way up to our bedroom balcony to climb the sliding screen doors until we let him in to molest us in bed. If we're eating breakfast on the porch below, he'll boing between us for awhile. He also plays this game where he grabs your wrist with his whole body then flips underneathe your hand and kicks and bites your fingers on his back - like a cat would do when you tickle its belly. Eventually he gets tired and comes to rest on my thigh or spreads out on the edge of the table.

As the day heats up, he'll siesta in a tree, on the balcony, on the universal gym or on my (if I'm at the house), or my wife's shoulder. The dude loves riding in the pickup. He plays with the flexible Costa Rican flag I have suction-cupped to the windshield, boinging it up and down with his forepaws as he stands on the dashboard, garnering many puzzled, "no, it couldn't be" looks from oncoming vehicles. Or he'll ride on my knuckles on the steering wheel, digging the carnival ride round and round when I make a turn. Or he'll stretch out on my shoulder or on a headrest. But his favorite spot is on my thigh, stretched out in the cool stream of the A/C, looking like some kind of rodent superhero flying through a slipstream.

Mr. Spock is extremely portable. I can walk around town, go into stores (we take him grocery shopping on occasion - big hit!), or hang at a watering hole or restaurant and he always remains close by, though he likes to shoulder hop sometimes, which freaks gringos out - "What is that thing, a skunk?". I bite my tongue so the words, "Did ya pick up a book before ya got on the plane!!?" don't erupt from my pie hole. After the bleeding stops, I give them a very scientific and biological reply: "No it is not a skunk, though we have them here too. This is a variegated squirrel. He's about 3 months old. Variegated squirrels range in color from brown with a black stripe to white with a black stripe. They eat fruit, not nuts and are found throughout Costa Rica and much of Central America." They usually follow up with, "Does he bite?". And I reply with the lie, "Yes. ATTACK, MR. SPOCK!!" (There's a big difference between a traveler and a tourist. I can't stand tourists and enjoy torturing them as often as I can.)

I was at the barber in Liberia the other day for a haircut and left him in a tree on the street outside the barbershop door. After about 10 minutes of play, he came hopping through the barbershop door and, to the amazement of some of the customers, climbed up my leg to my shoulder, then hopped onto the shoulder of the non-flinching barber where he remained during the rest of my haircut, occasionally molesting the earlobes of the barber, throwing him into giddy schoolgirl laughter. The kids in the shop were beside themselves. It was hilarious!

I suppose once he finds a girlfriend he'll return to the forest. I hope he visits once in awhile. I will surely miss him if/when he goes.


Water. We're at the height of the dry season, just before the rains. Though we did receive rain on a couple of days and nights very early in the month - highly unusual for that time of year for the amount of rain that fell. It's incredibly hot right now - 40 degrees Celcius (104 degrees Fahrenheit) mid-day. I love it!!

The first rains of the winter (invierno), or wet season, here in Guanacaste usually begin between now and 1 May. Things green up in about 2 weeks. The transformation is rapid and mind-blowing. The landscape turns from dry brown to verdent green, seemingly, overnight. The transformation is especially obvious on the mountain and hillsides which haven't seen water since December of last year. It's a bit different in the green valley where I live, over the aquifer. The trees here are able to tap into it and remain green year-round. Two worlds, existing side by side.

But how long the aquifer will be around remains a question here in Playa Hermosa. Uncontrolled development, illegal wells and a leaky AyA (Instituto Costarricense de Acueductos y Alcantarillados - the water company) distribution system have been taking their toll.
The ICT (Instituto Costarricence de Turismo - Costa Rican Tourism Institute) recently directed AyA to cut water to Playa Hermosa in order to accommodate the water demand of resorts around the Polo Touristico (the Papagayo Development Project that encompasses all of Bahia Culebra). They pulled rank. That left a lot of people in new million-dollar homes without water. Imagine spending all of that money and not being able to take a shower, flush your toilet or - God forbid - fill your swimming pool! The proverbial shit hit the fan, the gringo community got organized and petitioned the CR Supreme Court with tico signatures (gringos can't vote but are entitled to water; ticoc can vote and are also entitled to water). A mandate was passed directing AyA to deliver water to every resident of Playa Hermosa. Simultaneously, several scandals ensued involving AyA officials and heads finally began to roll. Beaureaucrats were reassigned to different positions and a new AyA director was appointed in Liberia.

Then a new project was announced for delivery of water, not only to Playa Hermosa, but to Playas del Coco and Playa Ocotal - the Coco Water Project. The water will be brought in from the large Sardinal aquifer. Though the money for the project is supposedly in escrow, no one is holding their breath.

In the mean time, AyA hand delivered notices to all residents of Playa Hermosa stating the following:

"The AyA would like to inform you, that as a result of the high temperatures lately, and the accelerated rate of construction in Playa Hermosa, the demand for potable water has now surpassed the supply."

"Given this situation, we have implemented a WATER RATIONING PROGRAM, in order to assure that all of our clients will have potable water every day, although we cannot ensure a continuous, 24 hour supply."

They then went on to describe three water rationing zones in Playa Hermosa and the times at which residents could expect full water pressure.

I'm on a well that draws on the same aquifer that AyA currently uses to supply a portion of the water in Playa Hermosa. I am worried that the aquifer will not be able to replenish itself and will be depleated to a point where the salt water from the ocean will begin to make its way into the aquifer - an environmental disaster. The Coco Water Project will alleviate the draw on the Hermosa aquifer. The Coco Water Project needs to happen now! I'm keeping my fingers crossed. It's the only thing I can do.

Pura agua! Pura vida!

I'm Out!!

Haven't blogged for awhile and miss it. I've immersed myself in the real estate business which, as it turns out, just like in North America, is a 24/7 business. I really love it, though it takes a lot of time away that I would normally spend with my wife and "kids" (Mr. Spock, Apellido and The Virgin). As I write this, I realize I've been using the real name of my squirrel, Mr. Spock. And since I'm the only resident of Hollywood with a squirrel, I've pretty much given my identity away. So I'm coming out.

My name is Mike. I work for Better Homes Real Estate Costa Rica in Playas del Coco. I have a pet squirrel named Mr. Spock who continues to amaze us and just about anyone who we encounter. I have two dogs. If you've been following this blog, I've given pseudonyms to my pets. The real name of 'Appellido' is Garcia (named after Freddy Garcia, ex-Chicago White Sox pitcher). 'The Virgin's' real name is Madona. 'Hollywood/Deadwood's real name is Playa Hermosa, Gte., CR. 'Center City' is Liberia. I may disclose my wife's name in a future blog - or not. We're still deciding on a name for our expected daughter. It'll come...

There, I'm out!!