Archive for the ‘critters’ Category

For three days and nights I started then stopped writing, blocked by some unseen force that crippled my brain and prevented the words from flowing into my fingers and onto the computer keyboard.

The rain just kept coming, often with such force that it caused vehicles to pull off the pothole-laden streets.

Normally I love the rain. But on these days it only darkened an already dark mood as self-doubt set in and began to feed on my confidence, like a lion ripping at the throat of an antelope.

Why did we leave our home, our family, friends — a good life to live in a prison, behind the bars and gates of a home in a small town not far outside the blight called San Jose?

The isolation, made worse by the cultural and language barriers, gets worse with each passing day instead of better.

The mission to find a beach-side retreat is overwhelming. There are plenty of mansions and luxury seaside homes for rent but nothing that fits the budget of a middle-class Canadian family without a large source of income.

The best of Costa Rica, it seems, is reserved for the rich.

On the third day of this pity party, something strange happened.

As I sat at a table in the tiny backyard, the bubbling of a small fountain drowning out the cacophony of honking horns outside the front door, a frog appeared.

At first I thought the frog, almost black and just bigger than a softball, was a garden gnome it was so still, its throat unmoving. Its bulging dark eyes stared, unblinking, as if it were engaging me in a contest to see who would break first.

We’re in the tropics. Frogs shouldn’t seem such a strange occurrence, except that we live in a very urban area, and our backyard, though rife with greenery and flowers, is surrounded on three sides by a 10-foot high concrete fence and fronted by a busy street.

We’ve been here almost a month and in all that time I’ve never seen so much as a hint of a frog. Hummingbirds, carpenter ants and cockroaches? Yes. But not frogs.

Soon after, the rain came again, pelting the backyard so hard it was like thousands of tiny rocks being dropped from the sky.

The frog, which had by then hopped away after my daughter poked him a few times, suddenly reappeared as I stared out the patio doors.

He sat still, this time in the small patch of thick, green grass. The rain bounced off his hard back and he stared so intently it made me uncomfortable, like he was trying to tell me something through his bulgy, black eyes.

After some time, the two of us just starting at one another, the frog ambled away and disappeared under the foliage at the bottom of a large mango tree that provides shade to the postage stamp-sized yard.

Why did this frog suddenly hop into my life?

Curiosity led me to the computer, where I began to Google all things frog. Frog mythology. Frog symbolism. The meaning of frogs.

It seems the amphibious creatures hold a special place in many cultures and religions. They spend the first part of their lives under water and shed their skins, all of which are symbolic of resurrection and spiritual evolution.

According to one website, the appearance of a frog in your life indicates it’s a time to find opportunities in transition.

It goes on to say that:

In China the Frog is an emblem of Yin energy and thought of as good luck. Feng Shui practices recommend putting an image of a Frog in the east window of your home to encourage child birth and/or happy family life.

Frogs are also good luck symbol in Japan – especially for travelers. Images or charms were worn during long voyages to assure safety (particularly across water).

It said to call upon the energy of the frog when:

  • You need to easily swim through some tough life-transitions;
  • You need a little assurance while traveling;
  • And when you are working to enhance your intuition, and strengthen your connection with the spirit world.

Call me crazy, but there was no coincidence in the frog’s appearance, and its timing. It broke whatever dark spell had taken hold and bewitched me with fresh perspective. The words once again flowed.

The frog encounter allowed me to refocus my energy on the reason we’re here and get out from behind the walls of our prison to enjoy the morning sun and explore our town and the cultural, albeit urban, richness it offers. The beachside home will find us, when we’re ready.

Thanks frog, my prince.

I could just kiss you.


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We came to Costa Rica for adventure.

Between a rental ripoff, cockroaches and ongoing Internet outages in the month and week we’ve been here it has proven more of a misadventure. This is the real Costa Rica, not the swanky five-star resorts, spotless beaches and crystal blue swimming pools that gloss the pages of travel brochures.

After two sleepless nights listening to the skittering of legs running across the marble floors in Casa Roach, the fumigator arrived. Our landlords, to their credit, were quick to respond to the problem and hired someone to come in and blast the buggers with something they assured me would only kill the disgusting devils — and not us.

It can only be described as a horror show as the usually nocturnal and hardy creatures were forced from their hiding places and into the broad daylight as some sort of liquid spray choked the life out of them.

Within an hour the house was like a battlefield, littered with dead bodies of all sizes. The bigger ones ended up on their backs, their long, crooked barbed legs sticking up in the air like some sort of roach rigor mortis.


Thankfully, the fumigators took with them the carnage, serving as both executioner and undertaker.

It was such a relief to fall asleep to a quiet house, at least inside, without fear of having to run the roach gauntlet on a midnight trip to the loo.

I woke up to one lonely dead roach in the bathroom.

The same day our Internet finally began to work after three days of runaround from the local cable company. For some unexplainable reason, there are continuous web service problems throughout the country. The cable guy was unable to give a reason, only saying the government-owned company was switching to a new system it hopes will work better.

Perhaps it has something to do with a rampant cable theft problem.

The local English weekly newspaper reported this week that thieves are stealing up to three kilometres of electric cables during the night, pilfering them for the copper wire inside that is sold to scrapyards. Communities across the country have been left without electricity and phone service as a result of the cable thefts.

“We are in a permanent state of war,” an electric company official was quoted saying.

The company, ICE, has taken to coating telephone polls with slippery oil and barbed wire to deter thefts but it’s not working.

These issues have given me a new appreciation for the level of service provided by utility companies back home. I used become irate at spending 10 minutes on the phone with the cable company when my Internet went down. A power outage for mere minutes resulted in a similar reaction.

Here, roaches and power and Internet outages are just part of an ordinary day for most people.

I can live with the latter two. Fingers crossed our dirty roommates have moved out for good.

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I am sitting on the roof of our new house on a tiny little square of concrete accessible via a steep set of stairs which up until a few moments ago was safety locked with a gate.

I’ve climbed up here because it is the only place I feel safe from the cockroaches.

My escape to the roof came just hours into our first evening in the new place, which is a completely different one that we had originally secured. That is a whole other story.

After tucking the kids into bed and getting them off into slumber-land I stepped into the kitchen, which only a couple of hours earlier I had finished scrubbing, on my hands and knees, with bleach to ensure it was clean for my kids to crawl around on.

In the glow from the oven light left on after cooking home-made pizza I saw dark specks on the white marble floor. Wondering what they were flicked on the ceiling light which sent the specks scurrying, back into their dark hiding places and me into a frenzy.

Hearing a screech, my husband came running and began furiously stamping out the disgusting little creatures I’ve only ever seen live once, at the Victoria, B.C. bug zoo. He captured one in a bottle my daughter has used to catch butterflies and no kidding, it was nearly two inches long, its unmistakable barbed legs sticking out from its sides like razor wire.

It’s a good thing I had already opened a bottle of wine because at that moment, alcohol was the only thing that would calm my frayed nerves.

I immediately collapsed into a heap of tears. I must have done something really shitty in my past life because the crap just keeps coming.

We are in this house instead of the one we originally rented because our landlord there ended up shafting us, switching out all the furnishings he’d promised and generally making our life miserable by constantly contacting us with some kooky question or another. and we weren’t even living there yet.

The last straw was when we returned from our short trip to the beach to a series of e-mails, one of which said to call him right away. When I did, he said he’d thought we left the country because he hadn’t heard from us, and said he’d just as soon stay in house the now if we wanted to get out of the contract. Happy to do so because it was becoming apparent that he was stark raving mad, we searched and found a new place. But the next day, he reniged on his offer and refused to return our deposit — a full month’s rent.

Money isn’t worth our sanity so we decided to forgo the deposit and rent the home we saw in the a little town nearby to where we first landed, called Santo Domingo.

It seemed to be everything we were looking for — and now roaches. Spiders, ants, flies — I can live with those bugs. But roaches?

It’s going to be a long night. I only wish I’d brought a sleeping bag.

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A cat conundrum

My cat’s name is Tucker.

He arrived at this name in earnest. A fluffy, black and white little thing that looked like a tiny lion, he was cute but crazy. He used to eat my plants and tear up the house. It drove me mad, causing me to shout out, ‘You little . . . .’ Think of a word that rhymes with Tucker.

He grew into an amazing feline who thinks he’s human, learning to pee on the toilet without any training.

But he’s old, nearly 16 now. And while we’ve made alternative living arrangements for our family until we leave next month, I’m stuck at what to do with Tucker.

A few months ago I took him to the vet. He’d been puking all over the house (including my bed) and yowls all night long, waking us and the kids up at all hours. I had hoped the vet would tell me, “It’s time.” Instead, he said, “He’s in great shape. Lots of years left in this cat.”


It’s impossible to pack a cat in a suitcase and expect him to survive so we’ve been trying to figure out what to do with him while we’re away. There are few places to put a senior cat, not like sticking your aged parents in a nursing home when they start walking around in circles and unable to string words together.

While my parents (still able bodied and not yet in need of sticking in a home) have kindly agreed to take him him for a year, I’m worried that my dad — a great man but a little gun happy — might take him out for a walk on the back 40 at the sight of the first soggy hairball.

I love my cat but frankly, after having kids, he’s been reduced to just that. A cat. I’m afraid his nine lives might have expired.

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