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How I Spend My Day: Life In The Costa Rican Paradise

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If we'd retired to Paris, I would be lingering over overpriced coffee at a sidewalk café; if it had been the Cotswolds in England, I'd likely be trainspotting. But my husband and I retired to Costa Rica, so I spend a large part of my day sweeping poop out of the house.

Our casita has a big open porch, along with big wide imperfectly screened windows on all sides, and the various fauna Costa Rica is famous for seem to like our house has much as we do. The geckos thoughtfully eat insects, but because they scurry up walls and even across the ceiling, their distinctive poop (small elongated ovals with a distinctive white tip at the end), goes everywhere -- which means removing poop not just from the floors, but from tables, counters and bannisters as well. At least one bat has taken up residency in the downstairs bathroom. Bat poop varies in color and texture, depending on what fruit is in season. I considered the Costa Rican solution of tossing a boa up into the rafters, but wouldn't I just be swapping bat poop for snake poop? Then there is whatever is rustling nightly above our bed (Iguana? Opossum? Kinkajou?) and depositing its poop (green and grainy) into the mosquito netting (and once, a short but unsettling stream of something...)

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open house; for better and for worse

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red poop at night: no one's delight

Once the daily poop is swept, the next chore is figuring out what the hell we are going to eat that day. I daydream about Whole Foods and Publix -- oh, for a salad bar, a deli counter, a rotisserie chicken. Putting together a meal takes several stops though town on the bike -- we have a fish store, a butcher, a bakery, an organic chicken ranch, and a handful of grocery stores, which carry different items at different prices -- along with a hailing down of the fruit, veg and egg truck, which passes twice a day (¡Fruta, fruta, fruta! ¡Huveos, huveos, huevos!).

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to market, to market, to buy... whatever they might happen to have

Once, craving eggplant parm, I made the bike trip to the store furthest from our house, which carries the good mozzarella; after snagging the last one, I found that they had no eggplant. I biked from store to store, until it became clear that there was not a single eggplant in town. (We had mozzarella and tomato sandwiches for dinner.) Sometimes there are no avocados, in a country that exports avocados. On the other hand, one grocery has had a 22-pound frozen turkey for over a year. Yes, just the one.

So meal planning (and re-planning) and food procuring and cooking and then the washing up (never had a dishwasher in NYC, so don't mind doing dishes by hand, although I do miss hot water in the kitchen sink) take a bit of time. I recall that drawer full of food delivery menus as fondly as I do old boyfriends.

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spotted: the elusive costa rican eggplant

But complaining about the food here is like retiring to Paris and complaining that there's no place to sun bathe. I moved to Puerto Viejo, CR, so I could get in the ocean every single day. It takes about an hour in the blue Caribbean -- snorkeling, floating on a raft, sitting in tidal pools or swimming -- to wash off a big poopy sweep-up or the sweaty hour shopping on my bike that resulted in a pound of chop meat and a bunch of bananas. Floating on a blow-up raft on a calm sea is Paxil on steroids, to mix pharmaceutical metaphors. Jeff likes to go out as far from shore as possible; now that he's swapped his orange raft for a blue one, he just disappears into the horizon and my mind drifts off to selecting my second husband. (Just trying to scare some sense into you, darling.)

But eventually I pull myself out of the water because the damn dog has to be walked. It is a peculiarly Costa Rican dog habit to sit at the edge of the water while its owner is swimming. On a nice day, the coast is dotted with patient dogs looking out to sea. So while Bitey could have spent the hour we swam trying to catch pelicans or sandpipers or digging up crabs or playing with the dog that is 10 feet away, some genetic default setting has her scrunched up in the sand watching us in swim. But as my pal says, "A tired dog is a good dog" so off we go down the beach.

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(some kind of) fruta, fruta fruta!

No day is complete without some time spent in the hammock reading. What golf is to some retired people, reading is for me. After years of book time being mostly five minutes in bed before falling asleep, exhausted after a day spent at the office, riding the subway, and, for 24 years, dealing with kid stuff, I am back to my 12-year-old reader self, happily drowning myself in character and plot. I take detours into biography and history, mostly so I can annoy Jeff: "Did you know that Karl Marx and Abraham Lincoln were pen pals?" "T.E. Lawrence was a vegetarian? What the hell did he live on in the desert, dates?" I'm furthering our education.

Since retired people spend A LOT of time together, we fall into arguments about incredibly stupid things: can you play sitz in Scrabble if sitz bath is the only entry in the dictionary you're using? What is and isn't to be considered a novelty song? At which snorkeling spot did we see the octopus? Is atonal music annoying or are you simply closed minded? If you loved me, you'd bike to the store and get me an ice cream bar. Not the one you got last time, you KNOW I don't like that kind...

What else do we do? Visit our pals. Go out to dinner once in a while for sushi, pizza or whatever else I can't conjure up in my little Tico kitchen (forget about that turkey). Jeff plays baseball, coaches Little League, works with one of the schools here, and records music at levels that have the howler monkeys frightened ("Did you hear that? Why are the humans so loud... and pitchy!") and the neighbors eventually checking in to make sure no one's been stabbed.

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sea to table: plate fishing the caribbean

I also like to pick fresh flowers for the dinner table; eat unusual fruit (have you smelled the durian?); go fishing (check out Wahoo Fishing Tours if you're planning a visit)... but mostly don't go to work. Hurrah!

We traded our NYC apartment at the corner of 1st Avenue and 2nd Street for a thatched roof dwelling at the crossroads of Central American rain forest and Caribbean Sea; as far as a daily agenda goes... we have plenty to do.

Earlier on Huff/Post50:

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