25 February 2016

Meet my beautiful Aguacate tree I grew from a seed

Almost 5 years ago, our gardener gave me a couple of avocados from an old tree in his yard. At the time he told me he feared it would be the last harvest from this old tree since the annual yield had been diminishing over the past few years. Lucky for me, John doesn't like avocado, so I didn't have to share these two delicious avocados with anyone. I decided to try my hand at raising a tree from seed.

I let the seed dry for a couple of weeks and then carefully removed the brown paper-like skin from the seed, inserted 4 toothpicks and propped in over a glass of water so the water covered about ½ the seed. I changed the water frequently and was finally rewarded with a thin stem poking it's head up from the top of the seed. I continued to nurse it until the roots were nice and long the and stem was about 6 inches high and had started to leaf out. We planted the seed in rich soil in a small pot. It wasn't long before it outgrew the pot and we moved it to a larger pot. When my baby tree was about a meter tall, we decided it was time to plant it in the ground.

We picked a sunny spot in the garden, directly across from our terraza and bedroom window, and planted my baby avocado tree where I could watch it grow. The December winds of 2011 almost ripped my tree out of the ground, so John had to rig up some rope anchors just to keep it vertical.

My beautiful avocado tree has been growing for several years. It must be close to 8 meters tall (25 feet) now, and so healthy it can withstands any wind mother nature wants to whip up. I wasn't sure it would ever produce any actual fruit, but I never gave up hope. This month I was rewarded with hundreds of blossoms. If we get some help from mother nature, these blossoms will get pollinated, and we just might have some avocado fruit to share in a few months.

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10 February 2016

The Great Atenas Wed-In

Never in my wildest imagination did I ever envision being the wedding planner for more than 70 couples!

This all started as a way to work around the discriminatory practices of CAJA (Costa Rica's socialized medical system) toward foreign residents. First of all, it important to state that all resident expats are required by law to belong to the CAJA and pay a monthly affiliation fee. Every time an expat couple has to renew their residency, they also have renew their affiliation with the CAJA, and the dependent spouse has to prove once again they are still married. The proof has to be in the form and a new certified copy of the original Marriage Certificate and this certificate has to be sent to the Secretary of State where they were married to obtain the Apostille guaranteeing it's authenticity. When the certificate is presented as proof, it can't be more than 30 days since it's certification. This is very difficult for U.S. Citizens to pull it off in a 30 day window, and it is almost impossible for many expats from other countries around the world. The cost of this document and courier fees could easily exceed $100 USD,

Citizens of Costa Rica, also have to prove to the CAJA that they are married and eligible for dependent benefits. The difference for a Costa Rican is that they can order a certified copy of their marriage certificate online, and then they can pick it up at a convenient government office for the cost of about $0.10 USD.

So, it was time to find a permanent solution to this problem. We contacted an attorney here that has always been an advocate for the expat community. He researched the problem and confirmed the discriminatory practices. He agreed to accept the case pro bono, and he will be filing law suits with the equivalent of the U.S. Supreme Court to get the CAJA policy changed for the expats' benefit.

But before we can get a ruling, we decided to go ahead and re-marry each other so we can get the marriage registered here in Costa Rica's national registry. We had no idea when we invited a few friends to join us in renewing our vows, that so many couples would jump on this bandwagon. We now have more than 70 couples registered to get re-married in our Central Park, this Sunday, St. Valentine's Day, February 14, 2016.

If you're not doing anything, come out to the park and watch. It promises to be an historic event with a party at our place afterward.

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