Helping Neighbors

I am not writing this just to get people to think I am a good person.  I am writing this to encourage people to pay it forward.

When we moved here almost five years ago we rented a fully furnished house, if you could call it that.  We stayed in that house for three months and came to realize that the person we were renting from was pretty much crazy.  She was also a control freak.  Our house and her house were on the same property and she was not taking care of the property like she said she would in the contract.  The only things we brought with us were clothes, a few personal items, and two cats.  We had absolutely no furniture.  But we had to get out of that house and away from her.

We met a nice lady from Germany who had property about a 30 minute drive from where we originally at.  There were a total of three houses on the property; her’s, a nice Tico family who cared for the property, and another house.  We decided to go and have a look at the house.  It was a cute house, kind of in the jungle and very peaceful.  There were a couple of tables in the house that we could use, a couple of stools, and a couple of office chairs with the backs missing.  We had also bought two plastic chairs at a supermarket one day and took them to the new house.  We pretty much had nothing.  No plates, silverware, stove, cookware, bed, glasses, or anything else.  There was another nice family that we had met while living in the first house; they were from South Africa.  They loaned us so many things and gave us a lot of stuff.  They gave us plates, silverware, a couple of cooking pots, a small folding table, and a mattress; they also loaned us a washing machine.  One thing that we were definitely missing was a refrigerator.  We went three months without one.  We borrowed a cooler and traded out ice bottles with the Tico family living next to us.  Everyday I would go over there and exchange the bottles and they would let me keep meat in the freezer until I needed it.  This family has become like family to us.  It was kind of sad when we moved out and bought a house of our own.  But we still see them often, this is actually where we are having our wedding at.

My neighbor across the street was gone for many months taking care of her sister.  She would come back and bring stuff back to the house but would never stay.  During the time that she was gone her utilities got shut off.  I am not sure if it was just because she could not pay them with where she was at or what.  Her sister passed away last week and she has been here ever since with her brother.  She came over the other day asking if she could get a few big rocks out of our yard.  (We had plenty left over from the fence building we just got done.)  Turns out she is using the rocks for a fire pit in her back yard to do some cooking on.  But I thought about it for a minute and realized that she had no way to keep anything cold.  My husband and I had bought a cooler not that long ago, we hadn’t even used it yet.  So we decided to ask her if she wanted to borrow it.  I already had a bottle of ice in the freezer, I always keep one there in case the power goes out.  She was so happy with the cooler and ice.  Yesterday when I took a new bottle over she gave me a t-shirt for my husband, it’s really awesome.  We definitely weren’t expecting anything in return, after all someone had done this for us.  Then later last night she brought over some ice cream and a fresh pineapple thanking us again.  It’s so sweet.  I did tell her that someone had done this for us before and I know how it is.  We charged up a couple of flashlights for her also.

I just feel this is how neighbors should treat each other.  With respect and helping each other out in a time of need.  We have some really good people in our neighborhood, all Ticos except us.  I love the small town feel and how good people are to each other here.  Kind of like when I had my surgery, my other neighbor brought me over something to eat everyday for a week.  That is usually something reserved for family.  I love it here and don’t want to be anywhere else.  Until mañana, Pura Vida!

Update: Biopsy results

I got the results yesterday, it’s good new but not great news.  It’s NOT cancer!  That is such a relief.  But I did sit down and talk to one of the doctors at the clinic about the results.  There is some stuff still going on with the tumor and it is causing problems for me.  He is thinking that it is causing some hyperthyroidism and I need treatment for that and then I need to have the tumor removed completely and biopsied again.  I really do not want another surgery but it seems I don’t have a choice in this.  The doctor wanted to me to go and see my regular doctor, but we were about an hour away from home and it was getting late.  It was a really long day yesterday, and it’s already been a long one today.

We had dropped the car off for a radiator flush and then went to see if our new cedula cards had come in.  After waiting a month we finally had them!  This is the longest it has ever taken.  The radiator flush ended up only costing us under $24, way cheap for that.  Then we went to Pequeño Mundo to return a couple of shirts, and of course I picked up some more dark chocolate espresso bars.  After that we stopped by the clinic and got the test results.  I am still not sure how I am feeling about it.  I know I should be happy that it’s not cancer, but I just still feel down about everything.  Maybe it’s because of having to face another surgery.  I hate having my neck touched, and to think of someone having to cut into it just freaks me out.

Then on the way home we get a flat.  We just bought these tires in December.  But something definitely cut the tire causing it.  So we pull over, my husband and I get out and he starts getting everything out of the trunk.  He pulls out the spare tire…that one is flat too.  This is not fun.  I started calling some people, but they are either not close by or didn’t answer.  About then is when someone pulled over to help.  We loaded both tires in the trunk and I rode with him to get air in the spare and to see about patching the other one.  I got that done and it only cost $8, I bought the guy who stopped a small soda and asked him how much for the ride there and back, $6.  Not bad, I will take that.  We finally get the spare on, we decided we didn’t feel safe with the patched tire, and we finally made it home.

I got up early this morning to go and see my regular doctor.  I didn’t even think about this being Holy Week.  Everyone in the town is trying to get in before the clinic closes on Thursday and Friday.  There were no more appointments left for today.  This is actually the first time this has happened to me.  So, I will get up earlier tomorrow and see about getting one.  (Thursday, I am sleeping in!)  We went and picked up some more materials for our fence that we are building and then went and got a new tire.  Turns out when we got the flat we bent the rim also.  At least we have a full size spare so it’s not too bad.  My husband then took me to the other clinic to see about refilling my medicine.  Now, we just got our new cedulas yesterday.  Our carnet, which is like an insurance card, expired with the old cedula.  We couldn’t get a new carnet without a new cedula.  Even though we have our cedulas and proof that we paid for the insurance, they wouldn’t let me refill my medication.  Even after I explained to the woman why I didn’t have the new carnet.  So, I said “F” it and had my husband take me to the pharmacy and paid out of pocket for it.  It was about $16.  That was actually less than my co-pay in the States.  He asked me if I wanted to go back to our clinic to see if we could get the new carnets today; nope, just take me home so I can relax.  It can take several hours of waiting to get a new carnet and I was already frustrated.

So, that has been my yesterday and today.  I am tired and grumpy right now.  I am thinking of taking a nap, or taking up drinking.  I haven’t decided yet.  Until Mañana, Pura Vida!

Nicaragua Border Crossing

First I am going to tell you step by step about the border crossing.  We went through by Los Chiles.

I would recommend paying your exit tax before getting to the border, it is much easier and it was $9.  There is a place to pay it in Los Chiles next to the bus terminal which is across the street from Gollo, it is at a little soda.  You can pay it at the border, but it is done at a machine, which is similar to an ATM machine, and it will be the same as doing a cash advance on your bank or credit card.  I know many banks charge an extra fee for this and you cannot get money out of this machine.   When you go up to the office there is a tent outside with a table and a couple of border police there.  You need to show them your passport, they will write down your name and passport number.  You will need to fill out the form for leaving, make sure to take a pen with you.  Next you will go to a window marked “Salida”, this is for leaving Costa Rica.  There you show them your exit tax form and the form you filled out inside the building.  After that you will proceed to the border.  There is another tent with two border police at it, you need to show your passport again here.  After that you can finally get to the Nicaragua border.  You walk through a gate and show your passport to the guard.  You continue up to the building where there is another tent with a table and some more border police, again you must show your passport and you will need to fill out a form for entering Nicaragua, it is the exact same form that you filled out for leaving Costa Rica.  (Get used to filling this form out)  Next you will pay your entrance fee for Nicaragua, $12.  Now you can finally be on your way.  It is the exact same procedure for leaving Nicaragua, the exit tax is $2.

I would recommend having local currency for Nicaragua, it would have really made things a lot easier there.  I was told to bring US dollars and that is what I did, so everywhere we went it was a matter of pulling out the calculator or phone to do the conversion.  There are vans at this border crossing now and they will take you to San Carlos, Nicaragua for $3 or 70 Cordobas.  $3 is more than 70 Cordobas.  The ride up there took us about 40 minutes.  They dropped us off and told us that they would be running about every 30 minutes, this is not entirely true, they run when they have a full van.  Remember that the border does close at 4pm.

The lake and water front was very beautiful.  The breeze was very strong, but the heat was unbearable.   Even in the shade it was ungodly hot with the breeze.  We did have a nice lunch for cheap and picked up a few items.  My friends got some alcohol and some gifts for family.  I got my husband a wooden hand painted turtle, and I got myself some ibuprofen.  I know it sounds weird, but it was extremely cheap there.  I didn’t like the market, it was too dark and dingy for me and it seemed that all the stuff was of really low quality.  Then there were the guys walking around selling jewelry and belts,  and no matter how many times you said no if they seen you again they would still ask.  I had one guy shoving spices in my face.  I really didn’t like it there.  I am thankful for the experience though.  I am not judging all of Nicaragua based on this one experience in this one town.  I have heard that other towns are very nice and would possibly like to visit those someday.  But if you have to do a border crossing to renew your visa, this one is very easy to do.  Just cross over, take the van, and then grab some lunch and come back.

This is the soda in Los Chiles where you can pay your exit tax.

exit

Update 4

I got some good news yesterday.  My blood test results came back normal.  This was the thyroid hormone test.  So, maybe there is light at the end of the tunnel.  Just still waiting on that biopsy result.

I also had a cyst removed yesterday on my back.  I believe I am genetically cursed with these things.  The worst part about the hole procedure is getting the anesthesia injection to numb the area.  I could tell that part way through the procedure it was starting to wear off.  I didn’t complain because I definitely didn’t want another shot.  He got it completely out and even showed it to me.  They all kind of giggled when I said, “Cool.”  I do have a medical degree so these things rarely gross me out, I usually find them fascinating.  I got three stitches in my back and I go back in a week to get them removed. (I don’t know what it is either but every time I get stitches the first one always pulls out, it doesn’t matter who does them or where I get them done at.)  He put me on some antibiotics to prevent infection.  All of this was covered by the public healthcare system that we pay into.   My husband was right there by my side the entire time yesterday; just like when I had the biopsy done.  He is such a great man and I feel so lucky to have him.  Also, he has been making sure to wash my wound for me since I can’t really get to it.

Tomorrow I am going to Nicaragua with some friends.  My husband told me that I need a vacation after this week!  I agree.  This is my first time making the border crossing and I will be sure to tell you all about it.  We are just heading up to San Carlos for the day.  I am hoping to find something special for my husband, he is staying home with the furry children.  I am looking forward to going, just not looking forward to getting up before the sun.  Until mañana, Pura Vida!

Update 3: Biopsy

I am really tired now from today.  This biopsy took a lot out of me, plus I didn’t get a lot of sleep last night; probably from just being worried about today.

We got up this morning around 7, that is a little early for me.  I usually get up around 8.  It is difficult for me to get a good night sleep because my back always hurts so I am always changing positions during the night.  We had our coffee and a bowl of cereal, yup I still eat cereal, and then headed out around 8.  My appointment was set between 11 and 1, but we were expecting heavy traffic.  Of course today, there wasn’t any traffic on the way there, there was a road closure so we thought there would be more but in fact there was less.  We get to Guapiles early and went and made the house payment at the bank.  Actually got in and out of the bank quickly today.  Then we decided that since we still had plenty of time we would head over to the Maxi Pali and do some shopping.  There was a tour bus in the parking lot and a whole bunch of gringos in the store.  I am not used to being out in public with a bunch of people from the US around me.  From there we stopped by the vet and stocked up on cat food for the month.  Some things are a little cheaper in Guapiles than where we live so we stock up on those few things for the month.  After that we headed to the clinic.

The same greeter was there again, always smiling, she walked us over to the counter to get registered and to pay.  Total cost of the biopsy was less than $250, cheaper than our monthly insurance premium in the States.  Then we waited.  We did wait quite a while until I got called back.  My husband went in with me.  I had the same, very nice, gentleman that I had before for my ultrasound.  He remembered me and made sure to speak English, even his assistant spoke good English.  He sat me down on the edge of the bed and got me to relax, he knew I was nervous.  My legs hung off the end and I had a pillow under my back so it made my head lean really far backwards; this makes it easier for him to do the ultrasound and biopsy.  He found the tumor again, it is still the same size.  Then he took the needle and inserted it into my neck.  Keep in mind that I had no numbing agent either.  I felt a little pinch going in, not so bad.  But then he had to take the needle and move it in and out a little to collect the cells, he did tell me everything he was going to do before he even started the ultrasound so I was prepared.  The needle was going in and out, think of a plunging motion, and boy did it start to hurt.  I wasn’t allowed to talk or even to swallow, I had to stay perfectly still.  My husband was next to me holding my hand, more like me squeezing his hand really hard.  At one point I noticed tears in my eyes, but I stayed still.  I just kept twirling my feet.  He pulled the needle out, then informed me that he had to do it again because he didn’t get a big enough sample.  I wanted to cry at this point.  But I went through it again.  I remember feeling myself tense up and he would calmly tell me to relax, then I would take a deep breath and try to relax a little.  It worked.

He finally collected a big enough sample to send to the lab.  He got a paper towel and wiped off my neck and he and my husband help to get me in a sitting position.  I got so dizzy at that point.  I was so hot too.  My neck was super stiff and it hurt to turn my head to the side.  The technician told me to take all the time I needed, there was no rush.  He was very polite the whole time.  Even as I was leaving he did the tradition Costa Rica farewell of a small hug and a kiss on the cheek and shook my husbands hand.

This is not anything that I would wish upon anyone, but it was a good experience.  The staff and personnel at this clinic are absolutely amazing.  Now we just play the waiting game on the test results.  Anywhere between 10 and 15 days.  If they call, it’s not good news.  If they don’t call, it’s good news.  These next two weeks are going to take forever.  Until mañana, pura vida!

biopsy