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editor’s note

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RAINFALL - June/July San Roque Meteorological Observatory San Roque

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Total rainfall: 34.6 cm


Are you reading the last issue of the Mountain Howler?

2.0 1.0 0.0

The publisher, along with editor, writers, and sales representatives certainly hopes not. We think we know what your answer would be too.




In the six months of its existence, this magazine has built a reputation for excellence. We have a style all our own. The quality of the writing and reporting, and the reliability of the information in our in-depth articles have gone to create a magazine you want to keep. No one lines his or her cockatoo’s cage with the Mountain Howler!


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But as a loyal reader, we have to level with you. Despite our unrelenting best efforts, we seem unable to make the magazine an advertiser-supported publication. We’re not sure why. It’s undoubtedly a combination of factors compounded by the bad luck of our launch just as the world faced the worst economic recession of generations.

RAINFALL - July/August San Roque Meteorological Observatory San Roque

5.0 4.0 3.0

Total rainfall: 26.8 cm

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Rainfall June-August 2009: 61.4 cms Year-to-date 2009: 131.4 cms

September 2009 ( a l l

t i m e s

l o c a l )


1st - rise 5:34; set 5:53 15th - rise 5:33; set 5:44 30th - rise 5:32; set 5:34 Full: Last quarter: New: 1st quarter


4th 11th 18th 25th

10:03 a.m. 8:16 p.m. 12:44 p.m. 10:50 p.m.

We’ll continue to try to give you the same high-quality magazine every month, but now there’s a catch--we need help. I propose that our loyal readers support us by making a donation into the Mountain Howler bank accounts. How much? It depends on how valuable we are to you. In the nearly 200 pages of the Mountain Howler that we have published thus far, has there been something that helped you understand Costa Rica better, something that has given you tips about living more wisely, about cooking, gardening, nutrition, health and exercise, legal information? Have you met interesting people in our pages, found out about the best restaurants, and where to go to listen to the best music? Have our travel articles helped you dance the visa renewal tango? Can you live as well without us? You need us, and now we need you! We hope that our loyal readers will rally to our aid to support a worthwhile enterprise that contributes so directly and usefully to their lives as expatriates in Costa Rica. With your help The Mountain Howler can achieve the same level of recognition and respect that is enjoyed by its parent, the 14-year-old Howler of Tamarindo. Maybe when we celebrate our tenth anniversary you will be able to claim: “I was a proud supporter of The Mountain Howler when it needed my help, and look at it now!” As a benefactor of the Mountain Howler, you will be graced with an appropriate status and listing in the magazine’s pages—“Valued Benefactors of the Mountain Howler.” The expatriate community at large will know about your good judgment if you want to let them know. We can’t give you a free tee-shirt or a printed coffee mug. All we can give you is more of the same high-quality research, reporting, writing, photography, design, and printing. We think that’s a good deal and we are counting on you. Please contact Jeffeny Metz for information on how to make your contribution to better understanding and better living in Costa Rica. It’s easy and it will help so much. E-mail Jeffeny at Her phone number is 8-881-6084 Look for the Mountain Howler to soon join the growing ranks of print publications that are making the transition to a digital magazine format. Online digital magazines provide a great reader experience with an excellent graphical presentation that rivals the beauty of print, and makes so much sense in our environmentally-conscious age. You’ll be able to see the new magazine on our website

The Mountain Howler September/October 2009

FEATURES 6 Dining Out

Our reviewer taks a backward look at his recent columns and notes some changes to these fine restaurants

7 The Green Man

A true symbol of the “green” movement in Costa Rica is Efraín Sánchez, whose coffee plantation is a model to the world.

8 The Blue Butterfly Association

An informal organization in Atenas provides a wide range of voluntary community services.

18 The Spices of Life - Turmeric

Turmeric is a widely-used spice, with many properties benefical to our health. Here we take a close look at this wonder herb

19 Your Natural World

Much of the produce used at El Sendero Restaurant is grown organically in the restaurant’s garden.

21 Caring for the Elderly

Planning for the time when you, or a loved one, face problems due to the aging process is appropriate at any time of life.

27 Profiles in Pura Vida

The weekend ferias in many towns are great places to buy your fresh produce and really get to meet the locals.

Since 2009 DEPARTMENTS 4

Sun & Moon


Rain Gauge




Central Valley Events


CD Review


Book Review

23 Meet the Neighbors 23 Christopher Howard 24 Going Green 25 Around Town 26 September Forecasts 30 Bodywork 31

Word Puzzle

29 Day Tripping

Finca Luna Nueva, in addition to growing organic herbs, is a spa offering a wide range of services.

Cover: Mysterious faces peer out from a leafy bower––these are images of the archetypal Green Man, the personifications of the phenomena of growth and regeneration in nature. Also, Pan is seen playing his pipes. Pan, and his avatars, Puck and Robin Goodfellow, are fitting symbols for the people in Costa Rica who grow and promote organic produce and the healthy living it represents. Cover design and photography: Stephen Duplantier.


The Mountain Howler Founded in 2009 Vol. 1, No. 7 - Sept/Oct 2009 Issue No. 7

Joe Richard


’ve received so many wonderful emails telling me the restaurant reviews in The Mountain Howler were an enormous help in finding the right restaurant for food quality, solid nourishment, and all the other reasons we go out to eat. With that in mind I’d like to revisit the wonderful restaurants I have already reviewed and note some of the things that are new and interesting. “Let’s go out to eat, but where?” Let’s find out. Vista del Valle Plantation Inn in Rosario de Naranjo has become the place to be for more than just its imaginative menu. It’s top of the heap for those with a passion for protecting our planet and sustainable living and weekend entertainment. Yes, they go perfectly together and, along with a new and very inexpensive brunch menu, Michael and Jo continue to provide a most spectacular and romantic dining atmosphere, friendly service and Music! Saturday has seen Two Can Jam excite the patrons and crowd the dance floor with enthusiasm and, on Sunday, The Joe Anello Jazz Quartet spreads oh-so-sweet jazz all through the dining crowd. Please call 8-450-0800 for information and directions. Galeria Steak House is now in a much larger space, which suits the ever-growing popularity of this Argentine-style eatery. Having moved to the old Diego’s Red Door, Tatiana and Jorge have expanded their menu, but continue to serve succulent aged steaks, perfectly seared tuna and numerous other dinner offerings as well as very economical lunch suggestions. Feel free to ask to see the different cuts of beef. It’s even fun just to look. Call them for hours, info and directions at: 8-815-4207 and 8-326-9747. Ristorante Pizzeria Alida in Atenas, the home of the tongue-tantalizing thin-crust pizza continues to serve our area’s finest Italian dishes. Now, when entering Alida’s grounds, you notice innumerable markers identifying all the bushes and trees growing and representing so many different nations. It is well on its way to being a beautiful botanical garden. But don’t be distracted outside--the tastes of Italy await inside and Alida’s personal creations will enthrall you. Calling 2-446-4060 will give you directions and information.


Mario’s Steak House has become the class establishment of the restaurants in San Ramón. Mario brought his following of faithful customers from his previous restaurant in Zarcero, and now delights new patrons with spectacular aged steak offerings and numerous other delectable dishes. Now he’s added entertainment as well. The Joe Anello Jazz Quartet entertains and adds another layer of enjoyment to the good tastes you get when dining at Mario’s. Specials are offered daily. Call 2-445-5945 for directions, specials and entertainment times. Haedel’s Restaurante dominates not only the park plaza in Atenas; it is the only high-quality, authentic German restaurant in our area. Kirsten and her husband Chef Siegfried have expanded their service to include breakfast! They’ve found a way to improve their exceptional offerings and that’s to make their mouthwatering German dishes available longer during each day. Apfelstrudel! Whoops, got carried away fantasizing about my favorite. New selections in their cooler for take-home makes Haedel’s a place to shop for home as well as one’s spirit. Call 2-446-0810 for all you need to know. Marisqueria Don Ephraim nestles on the slope just outside of downtown Grecia, but it literally shouts out through its fabulous fish and steak dinners. Its new deck, seemingly hovering over the rushing stream underneath, adds the atmosphere needed for a casual lunch or intimate dinner. Equally perfect in their preparation, the fish and steak dishes continue to satisfy both old customers and new. Call 2-494-0923 for restaurant hours and information. ••• Well my food-loving friends, you have read about and visited six noteworthy restaurants in our Western Central Valley area. I hope this update helps. Visit them again! They appreciate your business so very much and please tell them you read about them in The Mountain Howler. Feel free to email me with your suggestions for exceptional places to “Let’s go out to eat!” Joe Richard at:

Publisher David Mills Tel: 2-653-0545 - Editor Stephen Duplantier Tel: 8-398-4388 - Sales and Marketing Jeffeny Metz Tel: 8-881-6084 - Contributors: KEN WELLS JOE RICHARD JEFFENY METZ PATRICIA SPINELLI CHRISTOPHER HOWARD STEPHEN DUPLANTIER JEANNE CALLAHAN CARLA RIGIONI DAVID CULVER TONY OREZ

Deadline for Nov/Dec: Oct. 22

Mountain Howler advertising

Advertise in the Mountain Howler and improve your business. The Mountain Howler offers a wide range of advertising sizes and formats to suit all needs. Please contact: Jeffeny Metz - 8-881-6084 Advertising rates (color) Size 1/8-page 1/4 1/2 Full Back Cover Inside front Inside back Center

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Discounts: For 6 months, paid in advance, one month is deducted. For 12 months paid in advance, two months are deducted. Ads must be submitted on CD or e-mail attachment, JPG format at 300 dpi, at the appropriate size (above). All comments, articles and advertising in this publication are the opinion of their authors, and do not reflect the opinion of Howler Management.

Patricia Spinelli “A Model of Organic Living Tells us How He Does It”


fraín Sanchez is a man with a mission and a very clear message––Go green!

Efraín’s large farm, Los Nacientes (“The Springs”), is perched on a mountaintop in Berlin just outside San Ramón and just below the clouds (at approximately 5,000 feet elevation), where banks of mist nestle in the crevices of the hillsides and waft through the trees. It is this climate that many believe produces the best coffee in Costa Rica––maybe even the world! Efraín’s tentative smile belies his passion for what he does, and it only took a few minutes of conversation about organic farming and living green for his fervent enthusiasm for these topics to bubble to the surface like an effervescent spring. Who is Efraín Sanchez and why is he so passionate about organics? For starters, he is the first coffee farmer in Costa Rica to have his product certified organic, a process that was years in the making. In 1987, he began the conversion of his conventional farm to organic. This procedure took three years because all prior chemicals that had been used on the property had to be washed from the soil before the organic certification process could even begin. Four years later in 1991, he received his first certification from BCS in Germany, and shortly thereafter he was also awarded certification from the Organic Crop Improvement Association (OCIA), which is an international certification. Finally, in 1995, he received certification from the USDA. As it states on the label of his Los Nacientes coffee, the environmentally friendly methods by which he grows his coffee promote the long-term sustainability of soil and water supplies in the western valley of Costa Rica. This limits pollution and erosion, ensures a better habitat for both humans and animals and creates a better-tasting, ecologically-grown coffee bean. His top-graded Arabica coffee (SHB--Strictly Hard Bean) is grown cooperatively with a small group of producers within the Organico Los Nacientes association, and is in high demand. Currently he exports 100,000 kilos of his premium organic coffee a year to Canada, Czech Republic, Italy, and the United States, which is his biggest market. Obviously this arduous process of transforming a conventional farm to one that is solely organic is not for the uncommitted or faint-hearted. When asked if organic farming is more difficult than conventional farming, Efraín explained that once you’ve created a

balanced ecosystem, natural processes take over thereafter to sustain that ecosystem. Sounds simple, but how does he achieve a balanced ecosystem? He cultivates beneficial insects to control the ones that are detrimental to the plants. This, too, is not an overnight process. Once the beneficial insects are introduced into the environment, it takes approximately eight years to fully convert the land to this balanced state. If Efraín had his wish, everyone would go green. The biggest hurdle is people who feel it is too major an undertaking, even though they might be persuaded that organic living––and the farming that supports it––is better than using the fossil-fuel-dependent conventional methods. “It’s the mental obstacles that are the hardest to overcome. Organic farming and green living are lifestyles that require commitment, and a lot of people feel that they aren’t capable of changing their habits or exploring their relationship to our environment, even though this is much better for the planet and for individual health,” said Sánchez. “Planting ideas about organic living in the younger generation may be the only way to preserve our future and that of Mother Earth,” he muses. Two days a week he visits two of the 42 different schools in the San Ramón area where he teaches a class of 10-12 year olds. “Before this age children are more interested in playing than learning about the environmental and health benefits of organic living.” His program, Escuelitas Verdes ––“Little Green Schools”––has about 30 students in his class for which they receive full credit. Although he realizes only 10% of the kids in his class will actually make these fundamental changes to their lives, he still believes it is worth the effort. At age 44, the sprightly Efraín is the perfect example of the benefits of organic living. He is trim and fit and relies solely on medicinal plants when he gets ill rather than going to doctors and taking pharmaceuticals. His last visit to a doctor was 20 years ago. The staples in his health regime are, of course, curcuma (the Spanish word for turmeric), lemon grass, oregano, ginger, and epizote (a Mexican carminative), all of which have medicinal properties. Efraín learned about medicinal plants from his grandfather who was a Nicoya Indian and with whom he grew up in Berlin. He also learned about these plants from other campesinos who traditionally rely on herbal medicine rather than allopathic medicine. Although he holds no university degrees in agriculture, he believes his education was the best he could have received. Rather than gaining academic knowledge in a classroom, he learned ancient and modern farming techniques from other farmers from Peru, Bolivia, and Nicaragua. His education came from the people who had already done what he wanted to do. Don Sanchez isn’t just growing organic coffee at Los Nacientes; he also produces an abundance of other organic items––marmalades, (continued page 9)


ura Vida everyone! Gerardo and I wanted to take a few minutes to tell you about a new project that we are creating. Many of you know that we work very closely with the Municipality of Atenas. We are involved in helping the Municipality with many projects that they want to implement, but may not have the funds to do so. We also work with other groups throughout our community filling in the gaps or helping with other community needs. At this moment we are in the process of creating a private association that will help us expand our help to the community. It will be called The Blue Butterfly Association. Our goal is to continue the work that we have been doing for the past year and a half, but on a bigger scale. There are several new projects in the works that we will describe below. We thank you for your time and consideration in this matter and hope that you will feel as passionate about this project as we do. We have been welcomed to Atenas by everyone in a big way, and we want to show our gratitude and help the community as much as we can. Our previous projects have been as follows:

1. Atenas Festival of Lights - December, 2008. We helped the Municipality of Atenas organize a 3-day event for the Christmas holidays, which included parades, storytelling, arts and crafts, and fireworks. We were not the only contributors to this project. Much of the community got involved, and it was a complete success. We are now planning for this year, and hope to expand on what we did last year. 2. Trash receptacles - Buying and installing 15 trash receptacles throughout Atenas. Let’s help keep Costa Rica “clean and green”. 3. Soccer uniforms - Purchased uniforms for the boys’ and girls’ (adolescent) soccer teams. The girls’ team has gone on to the Nationals and is doing very well. 4. Bus stop restoration - Restoring one of the bus stops in Rio Grande that was in complete disrepair. This is an ongoing project, with more bus stops in need of repair. This is very important, as in the rainy season it is nice to wait under a roof.

Current projects are: 1. Recycle Receptacles - We have plans with the Municipality to build and install recycle bins throughout Atenas. They will consist of a rustic roof, with three receptacles below, for glass, plastic and metal. The first will be located in Los Angeles with the goal of one being located in each district, eight in total (Concepcion, Escobal, San Isidro, Santa Eulalia, Jesus, San José, Atenas Centro, and Mercedes). 2. Soccer uniforms - The children’s team in Morazan has asked that we assist them in buying uniforms for the team. They currently have no uniforms, and want to feel like a real team! 3. Home repair - We have an 80-year-old woman in the area near the Atenas Centro, who has lived in a very rustic home all her life. Her children and grandchildren have each given ¢100,000 ($200) to help rebuild her house that is basically falling down. The only thing left to do is rebuild the kitchen and utility room. We hope to finish this project for her! 4. Clean Up Atenas - We are currently organizing the first cleanup day. Our goal is to have volunteers once a month clean up the streets throughout Atenas. This is a hands-on project. We have our volunteers for the first date; however, if you are interested for future dates, we can use all the help we can get!!! Please drop us a line. Future Projects: 1. Local school remodelling - There are several schools throughout Atenas that need updating, or in need of repairs. There are also many ideas for computer labs, science labs, playgrounds, etc... 2. Restoration of the old train depot in Rio Grande de Atenas. This old depot is now used as the railroad museum. It is in need of repairs, and could use some sprucing up. If you have any questions, or can help in any way, please contact us at:;; or . We may also be reached by phone at: 8399-7953, 8-331-0631, or 2-446-4694.

(from page 7)

vegetables, milk, chickens and eggs, and cheese. During peak season he has 200 part-time workers and 30 permanent workers. Then the farm is a beehive of activity with rooms set up in the main building to create and package the marmalades, also sold under the Los Nacientes label. In addition to the coffee and other crops he grows himself, the farm processes approximately 25,000 kilos of turmeric each year, which are exported to Germany and then the U.S., for inclusion in a whole food vitamin line called “New Chapter.” The turmeric, which contains phytonutrients called curcuminoids (see The Spices of Life, page 18) is organically grown at Finca Luna Nueva near La Tigra on the road to La Fortuna, then shipped to Los Nacientes where it is placed on huge stacks of screens in a solar dryer for approximately two weeks. After that period, it is transferred to a large wood-fired cylindrical dryer that keeps a constant temperature of 50C as it turns. In keeping with his belief in recycling and not letting anything go to waste, the dryer is powered by wood that has been trimmed from the trees on his farm. Efraín credits turmeric for keeping him in good health. Each morning he takes a spoonful of ground turmeric in water because he knows, as do many health scientists, that turmeric has anti-cancer properties, is a powerful antioxidant that scavenges free radicals, is capable of cleansing the liver and stimulating bile production, and has just recently been determined to be capable of dissolving the amyloid protein plaques in the brains of Alzheimer patients. In countries where turmeric is part of the cuisine there are lower rates of prostate cancer, breast cancer, heart disease, and gall bladder problems. As if he didn’t already have enough projects on his plate to keep him busy 24/7, Efraín is taking his organic philosophy one step further. He has an exclusive agreement with the real estate company CR Communities to help create and maintain a wholly organic, sustainable development called, auspiciously, Organic Heaven, for which he has donated 12 hectares to be divided into home sites. If you are wondering why Efraín would choose to work with only one company in real estate development, he has a simple explanation. “I’ve been here all my life and I’ve seen real estate developers make lots of promises, which are rarely kept. Over the years I’ve had various offers from developers, but I’ve always said ‘No.’ And then I met Preston Gitlin and Andrew Mastrandonas (owners of CR Communities) and I finally feel confident enough to work with them because they want to develop San Ramón in a positive way rather than tear it down or bury it with a backhoe. Protecting our traditions in San Ramón is very important to me, and to them.” For those serious about a sustainable, organic lifestyle (and shouldn’t we all be), this new project will indeed be a practical, down to earth piece of “heaven.” Efraín will grow organic coffee, vegetables, and fruit, as well as overseeing the raising of trout and freshwater crustaceans. Most importantly, he will maintain the integrity of the land.

Don Efraín in the drying sheds

His big challenge will be the food production as well as teaching the homeowners how to practice green living. Homeowners will not only receive organic food at no cost, they will have no maintenance expenses in return for Efrain’s access to the land’s remaining agricultural areas. He will continue to farm the land and export his produce internationally ensuring that he receives benefit in return for his efforts. He believes organic developments will be the wave of the future and will attract like-minded people from all over the world. Plans are currently being drawn up to convert CR Communities’ other enclave, Pacific Views, to an organic community. He wants foreigners who come to live in Costa Rica to have the opportunity to live a truly green lifestyle that not only promotes the sustainability of the land, but also enhances the lives of the people who live there. “When more people start thinking this way, the world will be a better place.” Going green and organic is much more than a marketing slogan for these men. It makes practical sense and has benefits for the environment, the community—both the long-time residents and the newcomers. Organic living is Efraín’s vision of the future. It is not about instant gratification; it’s about long-haul planning to benefit everyone, especially the environment. He and his family will stay involved over the long term, continuing to harvest the benefits of land that has been in his family for generations. The Los Nacientes coffee label boasts a drawing of a pair of hands cradling Mother Earth with a green plant sprouting from the center and the words “The earth is like our children” encircling the drawing. Efraín hopes we will all treat our planet as carefully as we would a child and take care of it accordingly. Going green is that first step! Editor’s Note: The Green Man is an archetype of vegetative rebirth and the natural growth cycles of nature found in different cultures through the ages.

Coaching Futbol in Costa Rica


Geronimo Whitaker

hen I moved to Costa Rica I knew that there would be an opportunity to witness world-class soccer. What I didn’t know was that I would be in a position to see it up close and personal, as a coach. I am not a stranger to coaching soccer. In fact, I have been a coach for more than 25 years. My American Youth Soccer Organization (AYSO) Certification states that I am a “B-level” Coach. That means that I am nationally certified to coach soccer and to train community volunteer coaches how to coach as well. When the opportunity presented itself to coach a youth team at our local field, I welcomed the opportunity. And so, on a bright sunny day in March, I walked over to the plaza, where I found 18 youngsters waiting. What Costa Rican kid would not be quite familiar with the cancha (playing field) and even more familiar with el balón (the ball)? It took a few minutes of free play to see that I was not going to coach these guys on soccer techniques--they already were masters of the ball. My excitement grew, and so did my fear a little bit: Could I teach them anything at all or were they far and away more well versed in the game than I? My greatest fortune was in the form of Don Benicio, a local man in his fifties who wanted to be sure that there were healthy activities for the teens in the neighborWorking together for our youth: hood. He knew that the Benicio Escheverri and Geronimo Whitaker lure of gangs, drugs, and alcohol were ever-present, even in our rural community. His plan: keep the kids busy doing positive and healthy activities. This fit in quite well with my AYSO training, which is sharply focused on bringing positive experiences to the child player and builds character while letting the kids have fun. When I found Benicio ringing the bell at my gate, I was more than a little happy to become involved. Then, as we stood together on the field, surveying out little band of players, I silently thanked all the coaches who had been my teachers, knowing that my training was solid and that our purpose and intent was clear: “Let’s have fun!” Since then, the path has only become more obvious and more enjoyable. The players, all very skilled from years of mejinga (informal pick-up games), were like sponges for a defined program of warm-ups, drills and most importantly, strategic tactics on the field. Making the transition from the looseness of mejinga play to hours (continued page 15)


Natalia Vega

hen our closest relationships are fine in our life, we feel very good about ourselves. But when we aren’t talking to or caring about a brother, sister, or mother for any reason, we feel deep inside that something is very wrong. Nowadays I think too few people can feel good about themselves because the main relationship in their life –– their relationship with the earth -- is out of kilter. When our deepest relationships to the larger life around us are out of balance, we cannot feel good. In our shortsighted, consumerist, corporate capitalist culture, the landscape has been transformed to suit our material need. We have built “Berlin walls” of roads and highways that imprison wildlife. We kill every wild creature that dares to come into our house or yard. We cut down trees and give back only plastics and garbage, sewage and toxic chemicals. But let’s be positive and ask rather how we can make small changes that will make a great difference in our lives. My recommendation is that you try to think about and use the following information about composting and natural landscaping - not because of global warming, or because is fashionable to be green. Do it to start a conversation between you and the Earth; do it to feel better everyday knowing that you are helping instead of polluting. Do not fool yourself thinking that your field of work is not related to the land, or avoid it by saying that you are not into nature, or that it is the farmers and biologists who should take care of land. These are just excuses that, in effect, announce that you do not care about yourself and your surroundings. Composting Your garbage: Separate your paper, metal, and plastic from your biodegradables and make compost for your garden. When I tell people to do this simple thing, they find 1,000 excuses to avoid it: time, space, smell, rats, and so on. Most excuses can be summarized in a word –- laziness. By composting you are reducing by almost 60% the garbage you sent to a landfill. If you separate your paper, cans, plastic bottles, glass, and cardboard, which you can then take to various recycling centers in your area, you will be reducing your garbage output by 90%. What is biodegradable? Food leftovers, fruit and vegetable peelings and trims, paper napkins, coffee grounds, tea bags, mouldy bread, leaves, grass cuttings, ashes, hair, sawdust, egg shells, bones. (Note: Do not use dog and cat manure in compost - flush it down the toilet. There are too many health hazards with the parasites and parasite eggs in pet manure) (continued page 22)

Attention! Costa Rica Property Investors


here is now an effective way, less expensive than returning to Costa Rica, for absentee CR property investors to obtain independent legal opinions regarding their property. A new company, Costa Rica Property Rectification, S. A. (CRPR) is being formed to represent investors. CRPR will transmit legal opinions from a civil and a criminal attorney to the client. Intentions and capability of the developer to complete the project, and the physical condition of the property, will also be reported. The President of CRPR is not an attorney and will not provide legal advice or opinions. Legal work, including negotiations, property and company registry records, civil court cases and class actions, contacts with Fraud Dept. of the Oficina de Investigaciones Judiciales (OIJ, similar to FBI) or criminal cases will be undertaken by two highly regarded Costa Rican attorneys. One is a civil law specialist and the other a criminal law expert. Each has been in practice for more than 35 years. They are independent and not officers, directors or shareholders of CRPR. CRPR will be the sole intermediary between its clients and the attorneys. After initial discussions a file containing copies (not originals) of purchase contracts, details investor’s CR company, titles, property plans, correspondence, sales literature, bank transfers, receipts, mortgage etc. will be created. The Founder and President of Costa Rica Property Rectification, S. A. is David F. Sagel, a US citizen and Costa Rica resident since 1981. He is a former NYSE stockbroker. For many years he has been an investment consultant with extensive experience in Costa Rica as a developer, broker and financial advisor to American and Costa Rican clients. The President of CRPR will contact the developer and arrange a meeting and visit to the property. If the developer is unavailable meetings with others working in real estate and familiar with the development will be asked for information. At the conclusion of the CRPR analysis a report will be made available to each client. The report will inform the investor of the current legal position of his or her property, its physical condition and rectifications. By far the majority of private Costa Rican property developers are hard-working, ethical, experienced and professional. Only a small number fall into a questionable category causing their investors to doubt the security and legality of their investment. The objectives of Costa Rica Property Rectification, S. A. is to provide professional services to enable its clients to rectify the legal status of their property. With this knowledge CRPR clients should be well positioned to benefit financially when the Costa Rica property market recovers. CRPR will charge a reasonable fee for its initial report including attorney’s opinions. If a client wishes to proceed a retainer will be paid to CRPR. The client will discuss legal fees directly with the attorneys. For information, see ad on page 20 or contact investcr@gmail. com, tel: (506) 2-203-8193.

Central Valley Events Mitzy Stark

Flower Gems on Display

Shakespeare Comes to Alajuela

Orchids are the jewels of Costa Rica. There are 1,500 species of orchids here adding color to gardens, homes and forests. Some, like the Guaria Morada, Costa Rica’s national flower, and the Lluvia de Oro or Rain of Gold, with its cascade of small yellow flowers, are common because these are really ‘wild’ flowers and are easy to find and grow. Others, like the miniatures and hybrids, are harder to find and less known.

William Shakespeare (1564-1616) may not be the most prolific author in the English language, but he has got to be the best known and most performed around the world.

Alajuela Orchid Show Oct. 30 - Nov. 1

The Alajuela Orchid Association’s 29th Annual Orchid Show the last weekend of October will give us all a chance to see many varieties under one roof and in a comfortable setting. The show will run from Friday, Oct. 30 to Sunday, Nov. 1 from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. at the church hall in El Llano, three blocks behind the Church of the Agonia. Flowers will be displayed in booths to bring out the best of their beauty with prizes for plants and displays. Orchid associations throughout Costa Rica work to preserve, foster and show off these delicate, highly prized plants and periodic shows give the public a chance to see and learn about these beautiful and exotic gems of the woods. The Alajuela Association was formed in 1979 to help cultivate, conserve and reproduce orchids. The plant’s beauty and popularity has tempted too many orchid thieves who consider nature’s gifts to be free for the taking. Even the Guaria Morada which adopted well to urban yards has been disappearing. Many species of orchids are now in danger of extinction although, like all wild plants and animals, they are protected by law in Costa Rica. The orchid show will also provide answers to a lot of questions about raising orchids and there will be sales of plants, fertilizers, and books on orchid growing plus lots of friendly advice. The entrance fee is ¢1,000 (about $l.80). Parking in the church lot is extra. The Alajuela Orchid Association has about sixty members and meets at 6:30 p.m. the last Monday of each month at the Agonia Church hall for anyone interested in knowing more about these lovely plants. Tico Turnos Turnos are a Tico tradition. They are carnivals to celebrate the saint’s day of a community or parish and to raise money for church or community projects. In Alajuela one of the biggest turnos is about to happen in October in and around the Church of the Agonia on Calle Ancha. Oct. 16 is St. Gerardo’s day but the festejos, or festivities will start on the 9th with games, music, rides for the children, religious processions and activities and, of course, lots of traditional Tico food. The beautiful church will be open for visits, meditation or a look-see at the interior. Everyone is welcome and it’s a chance to get to know Costa Rica a bit better.

Carpe Diem Theater

In Alajuela during September and October the Bard’s works will come to life in Spanish on a school stage. While the setting and the language may be a challenge for many of us, the staging, acting, lighting, costumes and performing are first class and that goes double for the Carpe Diem theater’s cast because Othello and Romeo and Juliet are the ‘final exams’ for the company’s first class to graduate from its two-year theater school. Shakespeare is not easy to follow at any time and combining Old English with Spanish creates a definite language barrier. But we can still enjoy the sights, the action and the talents of these young actors and actresses without following the words. Othello’s story originated in old Rome and Greece. Carpe Diem’s version transports it to the future, at least in props and stage design (this we gotta see!) Romeo and Juliet follows the tried and true telenovela-type tale. Because the stories of Othello and Romeo and Juliet contain large casts, confusing names and titles it may be a good idea to cheat a little and look up a synopsis of the plays on the web before attending the performances. Able director Marco Araya, an Alajuelan, majored in English literature at the University of Costa Rica but his ‘first love’ was always the theater. He took courses in stage directing at Cornell College in Iowa, USA, and ten years ago he and a group of friends decided to “take a chance” and put on the musical Jesus Christ Superstar. “Everyone said we were crazy,” reports Araya but it was a success and led Araya to continue against a lot of odds. In the ten years since, his Carpe Diem troupers have put on serious drama, comedy, original works and children’s musicals. In the past year they have done “Midsummer Night’s Dream”, “Grease”, Federico Garcia Lorca’s “Casa de Bernarda Alba” which is now available on DVD, an original play called “When Parrots Talk”, the Shakespeare plays, and soon to come, hopefully in December, “Mama Mia”. Alajuela has long lagged behind other cities in cultural activities but Araya and Carpe Diem are making up for that. Othello opens Sept. 19 and Romeo and Juliet is scheduled for October. Programs are at 7 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays at the Miguel Obregon school on the corner one block south of the front of the Alajuela cathedral. Tickets at the door are ¢2,000 and a convenient, secure parking lot is half a block west across from the Juan Santamaria Plaza. For more details see

Villa Blanca Cloud Forest Hotel A Greentique Hotels Nature Resort & Spa


ituated on the crest of a beautiful mountain in the central Costa Rican highlands, Villa Blanca Cloud Forest Hotel is cradled by the El Silencio de Los Angeles Cloud Forest Private Biological Reserve. This 2,000-acre sanctuary protects one of the world’s most rare jungles — the cloud forest. With only 2% of these unique ecosystems left on the planet, that a hotel is able to operate as an integrated part of the surrounding environment is extraordinary. In doing so, Villa Blanca has become a world-recognized example of what is possible, helping Costa Rica expand sustainable development by achieving a proper balance of preservation, biodiversity education and land use. Originally owned by former Costa Rican president Rodrigo Carazo de Odio and First Lady Estrella, the Villa Blanca Cloud Forest Hotel has become a cherished Costa Rican experience. The Carazos’ vision was to capture the simplicity, charm, and deep respect for the land that is the spirit of the people of the San Ramón area. As the former president had authorized new national parks, created the University of Peace and initiated the rural medical care program, his hotel, situated where it was, would have to become something more than just a lodging destination. It needed to be an inspiration. Years later, this hotel would bring the president and his wife together with another visionary, making possible the extraordinary place that Villa Blanca has become today. That visionary was Jim Damalas. Over time, the relationship between Jim, the president and Mrs. Carazo revealed they shared the goal of having Costa Rica lead the world in the development of sustainable eco-tourism. The Carazos knew Jim as an experienced hotelier in Costa Rica, with a successful property in Manuel Antonio already recognized internationally as a leader in sustainable lodging practices, so when they wanted to retire from the hotel business, they did not put it up for sale. They decided to pass the torch to Jim. So in 2003, Greentique Hotels (formerly Green Hotels of Costa Rica) acquired Villa Blanca. In April 2004, work began to transform Villa Blanca to the kind of hotel that both the two men had dreamed about. Seven months later, Jim and his design team — architect Rita Chavez Casanova and building coordinator Johnny Alvarado, had converted Villa Blanca into an upscale, nature-oriented boutique hotel and spa. The project was a full-blown renovation and remodeling, and required a local crew of up to 157 men and women over its initial seven-month phase. Today, Villa Blanca Cloud Forest Hotel delivers one of the most compelling and satisfying guests experiences in all of Costa Rica. Its location affords guests an array of guided and self-guided cloud forest tours, adventure activities including canopy tours, horseback riding, hiking and tours to nearby Arenal volcano and to the town of San Ramón, Costa Rica’s unique City of Poets and Presidents.

(from page 10) learning team drills was not easy, in spite of the enthusiasm. I found that my Spanish vocabulary was horribly lacking in terms to describe what they needed to know. Fortunately, Ben (or “Uncle Ben” as I affectionately referred to him), spoke some English and gave me a leg-up on many terms. The kids themselves were energetic and willing to teach me while I coached them. The combination proved to be a winner. From the first meeting, our relationship blossomed and we began to develop a solid team concept and trusting relationship. The team, Uncle Ben, my wife and I have become a unit. Even our dog, Tuckielove, gets to come along as the team mascot. This past Sunday, as we all packed into Ben’s van, heading up the winding roads of the Costa Rican countryside, bound for a game with our neighboring community, I marveled how sweet and beautiful life can be -- bringing simple and yet profound rewards to my life and those who surround me. The round ball, the grassy field, the pure energies of friendly, but hard competition -- my blessings in life are quite apparent. The little pueblo of San Roque Abajo sleeps as I write this. Our little group has now grown from 18 to 63. Some of the older kids accepted my invitation to learn how to coach, so I am blessed with many capable and knowledgeable assistants. The field has been transformed through their efforts into a thriving location, used daily, a focal point for all of our positivity. My joy is that with the sunrise, we will all gather at the field for another day of practice, Gracias a Dios.

First practice: San Roque Abajo Futbol Club. “Follow the bouncing ball!”



I have been a faithful reader since your first issue came out. It is a very helpful magazine as it lets me know what kinds of activities are going on in the area and it is interesting to read other Americans’ experiences in this country. My favorite part is the restaurant review section. Being in the restaurant business, I love to read what the competition is up to and so far I have tried every restaurant that has been reviewed. I am so glad we finally have this kind of English language resource geared to this area. • Elissa Stoffel, Good Times Restaurant. I want to give everyone that works for Mountain Howler “congratulations” for an excellent magazine • Jan “Juanita” Yatsko. Very classy upscale publication. A much-needed magazine for locals and tourists, especially for the growth of Costa Rica • Carol Putnam A friend told me about your new magazine and sent me a link to your website. I was impressed and wish to compliment you on a great forum and excellent and informative articles. It was a treat! I’m currently living in Canada, but expect to be moving to Costa Rica shortly • Dave Towner Thank you for presenting an English language publication of high quality, interesting articles. I look forward to each issue for two additional reasons, the Restaurant Reviews, and the advertisers listings. You are fast becoming the “Gringo Yellow Pages” with your expanding list of advertisers who are “Gringo Friendly”. Keep up the good work! • Bob Silaghi

CD Review Gospel Music

in Costa Rica Tony Orez


eligious hymns and spiritual music have played a role in Costa Rican culture for more than two centuries. Traditionally, however, the practice of organized groups celebrating and singing these songs has been confined to within their respective church walls, primarily in Limón and San José. Enter music historian Manuel Obregon, who is also the president and founder of Papaya Music, Costa Rica’s premier music label. Obregon felt this musical legacy deserved to be shared with the general public. So he enlisted more than thirty participants from a variety of denominations to perform live for two nights for an audience at National Theater in San José, which is truly how gospel music should be heard: alive rather than canned, studio work. Appropriately, a recording of this event, “Wade in the Water” has recently been released. The disc opens with the Reverend Phil Jones singing the title track. He also sings the lead vocals for “We Shall Overcome” and the closing song, “Amazing Grace”. Other standouts on the song list include Bill Withers’ “Lean on Me” and the traditional Gospel tune, “Fly Away”. Two Kirk Franklin original songs and a Caribbean Gospel medley help round out the song selections. A variety of vocal ensembles graces the performances on this CD, including a backing chorus of ten voices. In addition, Obregon spotlights Masterkey, a six-man singing group from Limón who formed their sextet in 1998, singing a combination of traditional and original spiritual songs in a bilingual style they call “Tico Gospel”. Their counterpart, T4, comprises the four Tucker sisters, singing a style of music that has AfroAmerican Gospel style enmeshed with a Jamaican/Caribbean influence. Harline Tucker claims that their style of music can be played “only on the black keys of the piano”. The music leaves a lot of room for instrumental solos, which are handled by Obregon on piano and organ, while fellow Malpais band member Fidel Gamboa plays flute and saxophone, with the guitar work performed by veteran session man Carlos Delgado. The house band for this project is composed of self-admitted “non-believers”, who expressed delight in being able to participate in the event. The music tends to transcend traditional gospel, adding elements of soul, rhythm & blues and even jazz to the mix. The packaging has the unmistakable Papaya Music attention to detail. Obregon, a bit of a music perfectionist, also did all the arranging, producing and art direction. The disc comes with a booklet with its liner notes and lyrics in both Spanish and English. The eco-friendly jacket is a double fold-out that opens to reveal a clever photographic collage. In short, Manuel Obregon and Papaya Music have done it again, presenting a comprehensive package that preserves Costa Rican heritage by putting it on the map while adding a current spin to it that keeps it modern at the same time. “Wade in the Water” and all Papaya Music CDs are available in Playa Tamarindo and Tilaran at Jaime Peligro, where they will gladly sample the music for the customer.

Book Review The Brothers Neville Tony Orez


eing a self-proclaimed music geek, I thought I knew a fair amount of information about the New Orleans band whose core is the four brothers Art, Aaron, Charles and Cyril Neville. Now the siblings, along with noted author David Ritz, have shut my mouth wide open with a highly detailed, tellall collective autobiography simply titled “The Brothers Neville”. I was not surprised at being surprised by all the musicians these brothers had seen perform or actually performed with: the list is ‘way beyond extensive. Just for a taste, though, between them, they saw legends like Smiley Lewis, Mississippi Fred MacDowell, Guitar Slim, Johnny Ace, Professor Longhair, The Dixie Cups and Charlie Parker. Impressive list of immediate influences. My nerdishness came through for me when I read they had played with Ray Charles, The Grateful Dead, The Rolling Stones, Jackie Wilson, Allen Toussaint and Dr. John (Mac Rebennack). But I did not know they had sung background vocals for Little Richard or played on a yacht at a private party for Paul and Linda McCartney. These guys have really gotten around and each offers his unique and personal, frank glimpses at events with these people during their five-decade careers.

Building stronger and healthier communities


untos Por Niños is a local non-profit formed three years ago. We are a group of volunteers who work to provide hope and education for children in extreme poverty. Our mission is to provide opportunities for Costa Ricans and expats to work together to build stronger, healthier communities where we all live. We believe hope leads to growth and knowledge. Our annual Christmas event provides a day of gifts, food, clowns, music, and clothes for children in mid-December. Volunteers sew stockings for candy, bake cookies and cupcakes, provide chicken and rice or hot dogs and buns, clothes, gifts or money. Others donate their time and individual skills. We believe education is essential for all children. We sponsor kids into school by providing uniforms, shoes, backpacks and classroom supplies. Volunteers work to identify those in need in our different communities and to raise funds for essential items. Juntos Por Niños has many friends and partners such as the Activo 20/30’s Club International Costa Rica (TELETON for children’s hospitals); Motorola has supplied backpacks and classroom items. Our wonderful volunteers and donors come from many countries including Canada, USA, and Costa Rica. Our volunteers are local retirees, business leaders, tourists, parents, professionals, teachers, artists, students, and many others.

The real shock for me came when the brothers discussed their drug use and addictions to hard drugs, primarily heroin. Each has experienced long-term stints as junkies. Art, the oldest brother, did a six-year term in Angola. All four brothers found separate venues to kick their habits, but some of the anecdotes are chilling, to put it mildly.

We have neither office nor overhead. We work from our homes and come together when necessary. All donations go directly to those in need. We are supported by people of many faiths, but we are not faithbased. We do not advertise, but have been mentioned in local media. We have no political affiliations. Please contact us if you would like further information on volunteer opportunities.

New Orleans is a cultural melting pot, also considered by some to be the northernmost Caribbean island. The Neville brothers are known for including varied styles in their musical stew. The book “The Brothers Neville” allows them to chart the voyage, beginning with jazz and blues and sailing through rock, soul, funk, country, pop, reggae and even American Indian, as they portrayed in their band The Wild Tchoupitoulas. Along the way, they are stung by an inordinate amount of other musicians, promoters, record producers, groupies, drug dealers and general scammers and hangers-on. The strength and inspiration of their family and family ties is the recurrent theme that appears to have kept them going. The narrative is segmented into pieces by each of the four brothers, each giving a personal perspective on an event in their collective lives. The book is put together masterfully by David Ritz, who is able to augment the stories into a cohesive, progressive history. Ritz has written bios for Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin, Smokey Robinson, Etta James, B.B. King, and Marvin Gaye, with whom he co-wrote the hit song “Sexual Healing”.

With free publicity from AM Costa Rica for Juntos Por Niños activities after the January 8th earthquake, we were able to expand our reach beyond our main focus. We coordinated four truckloads of donated clothes, food and emergency supplies to the hardest hit areas, providing with food for at least one week to 40 families with children who were not in shelters. Volunteers made perilous trips on tractor roads with donations from many different communities. We provided temporary food and shelter for a family with three young children for two weeks while they found more permanent solutions. We sponsored 28 children from the affected area into local schools and provided funds to repair classroom windows damaged in the quake. Community members have assisted with the emergency response in everyway possible. Even wonderful tourists have donated clothes, shoes and more when they saw the need. It was a remarkable response by everyone.

Through it all, the brothers maintain their dream of ultimately making music together at a financially successful level. Not surprisingly, it truly does happen after all four of them clean up. When these guys sing the blues, they are emoting from personal experience. Having survived a plethora of family and personal tragedies made it that much more appropriate.

You get more than you give. Our big Christmas event is coming and we need your help. Write to me for more information on volunteering: ken_wells2003@yahoo. com

story by Ken Wells Community Volunteer

Turmeric (curcuma longa)


ardly a week goes by without an article appearing in various health newsletters heralding the new evidence supporting the health benefits of Curcuma longa. Just the name alone sounds so exotic that many will swear they’ve never eaten this, but if you’ve ever used French’s mustard or eaten curry, you are already familiar with curcuma, or turmeric, as the spice is known. “Turmeric” is believed to originate from terra merita, which is Latin for “merit of the earth,” and is what gives curry and certain types of mustard their vibrant yellow color. In fact, most curry mixtures contain approximately 50% turmeric, which has a mild, slightly bitter, peppery flavor and aroma. Curcuma is a rhizome belonging to the ginger family. Its flesh is bright orange, and is often referred to as Indian saffron. When Marco Polo returned from China in 1280, he wrote, “There is also a vegetable that has all the properties of true saffron, as well as the smell and the color, and yet it is not really saffron.” However, long before Marco Polo happened upon turmeric during his travels, it had already been used as a coloring agent for food and fabric as far back at 600 B.C. Ayurvedic medicine has touted the wonders of turmeric for centuries and it is commonly used to treat heartburn, gallstones, toning the liver, and reducing inflammation. It is also believed that curcuma has powerful anti-cancer properties and may protect against both prostate and breast cancer. A new report released last month suggests that curcuma may also reduce beta amyloid plaques in the brains of Alzheimer patients as well as mitigating certain neurodegenerative diseases such as multiple sclerosis. As if those things didn’t make it the wonder spice, there is also evidence that turmeric will reduce bad cholesterol, reduce blood clots, stimulate bile flow, and reduce the inflammation associated with osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. In India, where the average consumption of turmeric is 2.5 grams a day, there are significantly lower rates of cancer, heart disease, and gallstones. Typically a nursing

Patricia Spinelli

mother paints her nipples with turmeric thereby giving her baby its first exposure to this immunity-boosting, free radical-scavenging spice in the hope of preventing the diseases that have ravaged most of the Western world. It is also believed to enhance fertility so, during wedding ceremonies, a sacred thread dipped in turmeric paste is tied around the bride’s neck by the bridegroom. In Malaysia, it is common for turmeric paste to be spread on the abdomen of a new mother and the umbilical cord of the baby, not only as an antiseptic but to ward off evil spirits. However, as with any spice/herb that has medicinal properties, care must be taken when combining curcuma/turmeric with certain types of pharmaceutical drugs, namely those that have anti-clotting properties such as Warfarin or Plavix, as it may increase the potential for bleeding due to its anti-clotting properties. Also drugs that utilize the P450 cytochrome enzyme pathway (many antidepressants) could have the blood levels of those drugs increased with high doses of this spice. Anyone taking pharmaceutical medication should, of course, check with their doctor before using curcuma. And when curcuma is used to treat heartburn, a little bit may solve the problem but high doses and prolonged usage may exacerbate symptoms. Otherwise, curcuma is thought to be without any serious side effects and appears to be effective for all the ailments listed above. So add a dash of turmeric to your salad dressing, sprinkle it on fish or shrimp, add it to potato salad, or go out to eat and enjoy a plate of Indian or Indonesian curry. Turmeric really is one of the spices of life!

Recipe Curried Chicken Mango Salad 1-1/2 cups cooked shredded chicken breast 1 large mango, peeled and diced 1 cup celery 1 cup golden raisins 1 cup plain yogurt 1-1/2 tsp curry powder 4 tsp brown sugar 4 tsp lime juice 1 tsp salt 4 whole wheat pita breads 1. Mix chicken, mango, celery and raisins in large bowl and set aside 2. Blend yogurt, curry power, brown sugar, lime juice and salt in small bowl. Pour over chicken mixture and toss lightly until all ingredients are blended. 3. Stuff chicken salad into pita bread halves and serve immediately.

Henry Walter Bates


It Takes Brown to Make Green

or a restaurant, there is nothing better than being able to get fresh local produce and herbs. Alice Waters in San Francisco built her Chez Panisse restaurant into the institution that it has become with her simple mantra of “fresh and local.” You can’t eat meals made with produce and herbs any fresher than those at Hotel Villa Blanca’s El Sendero Restaurant, near San Ramón. Every day, the chef walks down a winding path to the greenhouses and meets Julian Campos to see what is at its peak that day. Julian is eager to show off his perfect rows of culinary herbs from A to Zeta, and the vegetables du jour, which included, when I visited a few days ago, leaf lettuce, celery, cabbage, string beans, beets, green onions, and perfect, jewellike strawberries you could eat without having to wash off the pesticides. Did I mention that everything is organic? The green and the purple basil plants were leafy mounds of bright exuberance (all buds were pinched off). You can’t control yourself from yanking off a leaf and tasting it. The flavors were impossibly fresh and full of the volatile flavor overtones that are lost when the product is older than a few hours. The tarragon, Italian parsley, cilantro, oregano, and mint were screaming at me to graze on them as well! Patience my lovelies—soon the chef will choose you too. Everyone knows that great food comes from organic, locally grown fresh ingredients. But not everyone looks in the opposite direction where the rule is that it takes good browns to make those greens. This is where Julian Campos comes in. Growing his greenhouse vegetables and herbs takes work and care, but it’s easy because of the composted and naturally fertilized soil they are grown in. You won’t find sacks of fertilizer made from petroleum products around this Shangri-la disguised as a hotel and spa near San Ramón. I toured the compost sheds next door and saw several specialized operations. First, in keeping with Hotel Villa Blanca’s serious commitment to sustainability, kitchen scraps are composted in a half-barrel that has been inoculated with earthworms and beneficial bacteria from the earthworm ranch in the same shed. This barrel, like some medieval alchemical alembic, drips a mysterious dark fluid that you wouldn’t want to drink, but which has the ability to make soil come alive with its seething nutrients. The earthworm ranch features some very laid-back California earthworms doing what they do best—a kind of underground surfing on the dung from a nearby cattle ranch. A kilo of the slender reddish worms turns a kilo of cowflop into what can only be called a beautiful, odorless brown fertilizer. Julian stays busy every day feeding his insatiably hungry little California dudes. In the last shed Julian mixes up an Asian wonder product called bocashi, a Japanese compost created by a quick 15-day “soft fermentation” process. It is made with a mixture of soil, chicken

manure, rice husks, ground charcoal, rice flour, molasses, and water. Bocashi is applied sparingly because it is still decomposing when it is applied to the plants. Julian has a rich smorgasbord of composts and fertilizers to put on his plants. There is no wonder they seem so happy to be growing in their cloud forest greenhouse. The restaurant at this time only supplies half of its needs from the greenhouse. This is because, believe it not, everything does not grow well, though it’s not from lack of nutrients or care, but from the laws of plant growth. Tomato and cucumber plants will grow in the greenhouses, but as they reach for more and more sunlight in the sun-starved cloudy environment, they become spindly and put their energy into their fruitless sunbathing rather than producing tomatoes and cucumbers like their more industrious cousins in The Brown Man -- Julian Campos Valverde, Organic Gardener and Compost Manager sunnier zones. Julian is constantly experimenting with the kitchen’s suggestions and requests. Their goal is to increase the amount and variety of the food supplied to the restaurant and there is no reason to think those drip-irrigated greenhouses and the stunning variety of composts and fertilizers won’t be able to produce what the kitchen needs. Julian will see to that. For hundreds of years, first the local Indians, and later after the conquest, the mestizos knew what and how to plant to completely grow their food supply. To demonstrate this (and to enjoy the bounty) Hotel Villa Blanca has a model Cerco—or local campesino garden–– that produces maize, beans, tequisque, camote, aracache, and yuca, and the basic kitchen herbs of culantro coyote, tomillo, menta, oregano, and albahaca, among other herbs. This antique garden gives visitors a sense of the subsistence style of the grandmothers and grandfathers and more ancient relatives of Costa Rica–– and the pickings go straight to the kitchen. There are many reasons to spend days and nights at Villa Blanca that you should find out about ( It’s a cloud forest, nature reserve, spa, and has obtained a FiveLeaf rating in the Certification in Sustainable Tourism Program, among other things. And don’t forget the restaurant and the fresh food that Julian is growing for you.


eMercado in San Ramón

an Ramon is now headquarters for eMercado, the first online shopping website in Costa Rica. Located 100 meters west of the post office (and across the street from Cafe Delicias), eMercado is your local online resource for cell phones, computers, TVs, and specialized products not previously available in Costa Rica such as the GSM-repeater antenna, which will receive a signal in mountainous pockets where cell phone service was previously unavailable. “There’s no longer a need to purchase electronics in the States and have them shipped to Costa Rica,” Boaz Raufman, Gerente of eMercado, proudly boasts. “Our online store offers a pricing structure that is far below other retailers in Costa Rica. We have a large inventory of our most popular items, and although we offer high-end products such as Nokia, iPhone, and Blackberry, we also carry lower-priced items. Our prices are often lower than in the States.” No customs forms, no duties, no hassles. All taxes and shipping from their main warehouse in Florida are factored into the price, and their products are brand new with warranties that are good in Costa Rica. When asked how eMercado could offer the latest Blackberry for ¢100,000 (yes, that’s correct) below the prices of stores in Multi-Plaza, Boaz explains enthusiastically, “We worked out/created efficient ways to handle purchases, taxes, and shipping and I am pleased to pass those savings along to my customers.” Software engineer Raufman came to Costa Rica four years ago and soon realized that technology was indeed where his interests were. Research revealed the niche for online shopping so he used his expertise to create eMercado. “We are pioneers in online shopping in Costa Rica, and we are blazing the trail in customer service. If we don’t have what you want in stock, we can get it. We encourage our customers to discuss their specific needs with us. We are up on the latest products before other retailers so we might just be able to provide them with something that is even better and more efficient than what they originally wanted.” Boaz and his friendly competent staff all speak fluent English and Spanish, and the website www. is also bilingual. When asked how difficult it was to break into this new market in a foreign country, he said, “Initially, our biggest obstacle was creating a bond of trust with customers who had not previously shopped online. Once they realized that we actually provided the products and the service we advertised, they felt more confident about making purchases. We’ve been online since February and our business is growing every day.” If you are in the market for new electronics, stop in and see Boaz and his staff or give them a call at 2445-1884.

New Classrooms at Magallanes School On August 7, there was a dedication and ribbon-cutting ceremony at Magallanes’ new two-room schoolhouse that will serve as adjunct classrooms for Liceo Artistico Magallanes. Approximately 60 local residents attended the ceremonies that featured student performances by the drum corps and the flute ensemble who attend the school. After speeches by both the director of the school and Preston Gitlin, who, along with his partner Andrew Mastrondonas, donated funds to construct the classrooms, there was an unveiling of the plaque recognizing Preston and Andrew for their contribution to their community. The school will be used for musical and other artistic instruction and was desperately needed to distance the classes in musical instruction from the academic courses at the main school. Channel 7 was there to capture the events, which were aired later in the day during a news broadcast. The new little school, which is located just off the main road into Magallanes, has made the community very proud. Congratulations Magallanes, and thank you CR Communities for your generosity.

David Culver


y mouth was dry. I clouded up. I couldn’t think. “No,” I gasped! “No. Please don’t let her go. I just can’t. I‘m not ready!” The doctor at Cleveland’s University Circle Hospital had just laid out, in words I cannot remember, that horrific proposition: “She will not be able to speak or walk; do you want to let your mother go or shall we try...?” If you have not gone through this yourself, caring for our honored elderly cannot easily be taught or understood. It’s personal, and everyone has to face this up close. Five adult brothers and sisters had just landed in Cleveland, our old hometown, from all points across the country including California, New York, Maryland, Massachusetts, and Florida. What to do about Mom? At 83 years old, she lived until this moment, alone in the house we all grew up in on Cleveland’s troubled eastside. A well-known and well-loved person in the Quaker Friends Meeting community, she also was a former Director of a Golden Age Center, which served hundreds of retirees and their families for 15 years. I was an owner-operator of a small assisted-living facility in Fort Myers. I also administered a 72-bed ACLF in the same area. We all knew a massive stroke could happen to anyone at any time, yet we were not ready for everything that was to come. Over a period of eight years my brothers and sisters, particularly one sister, who did truly all the heavy lifting, and I came to learn what care-giving is really all about. The house, the move, rehab, another move, searching for solutions, sacrifices, lessons learned. When does it end?

This mission leads me to study and compare my experience, both as an assisted living professional and as a family member, to understand deeply the best practices for serving the elderly and their family in this stage of their life. I long ago gave up slash-and-burn opinions and rhetoric. This is a very personal and intimate journey. What you will do and how you will respond when you or a loved one faces these problems cannot entirely be known in advance. But I do believe there are lessons to be learned. Groundwork needs to be done. To this end I will share in a series of articles the best of my thinking and that of others on how and why caring for your loved ones is a participatory activity –– and one which you will surely one day face yourself. Also, as residents of Costa Rica, I hope to inspire owners and developers of properties or facilities in this beautiful land to consider some of the values and practical solutions that I believe will allow them and the families whose lives they are entrusted with to be successful. Developers and homebuilders must think about the full lifetimes of the people who they are developing and building for. Barrier-free accessibility is essential! Is Elder Care in Costa Rica a real option for seniors from the States and elsewhere? Let’s explore this and other issues and topics we will all have to face in some capacity. Let’s begin a dialogue.

Mother came to live with me and my sister, who gave up an artist’s career at the School of Visual Arts in New York City for the very small town of Matlacha Island in southwest Florida. Our path together until her passing was full of arguments, negotiations, and sacrifices, yes, but also we would never have traded the opportunity to learn to speak and sing without words, to pause and feel deeply the love and smiles of understanding and deep familiarity which our mother’s disabilities opened to us. We truly cherish that time together. And, of course, now we miss her tremendously. I have since then acquired and outwitted colon cancer, sold all my properties, and invested in land in rural Costa Rica. I have now set out on a mission to engage anyone who will listen to me to help them understand how the so-called Third Stage of Life can be immensely fulfilling despite one’s condition, and then how to plan for the added years we have as a result of our now-extended lifetimes.

Evelyn J. Culver, 90, and caregiver

(from page 11) The composting process It begins with the separation of the biodegradable garbage. The most easy and free thing to do is to use a five-gallon bucket with a lid (there are plenty of them available at most construction sites) and place it in your kitchen. When the bucket is full or ripe, empty it in a spot of your garden (corners are my favorite ones) and cover the garbage with dry organic matter such as grass cuttings, leaves, or sawdust. You keep doing this, like a funky lasagna. The key is to cover the garbage, this will stop any smelling. Also avoid milk derivatives and meat in large quantities in your compost since they smell bad and attract varmints. Composting style There are many approaches to compost that depend on you, your pets, and your available time. You can just make a simple pile of compost or you can build more elaborate compartmented wooden bins. You do not have to work on it daily, or even weekly, to mix your compost pile and get good results. Your Food If you can’t grow your own, or can’t grow what you want, try to buy organic fruits and vegetables. Always try to buy locally-grown food. Go to the farmers’ markets and ask the farmers where and how they grow their produce. Tell them you want organic. Demand that they do not spray their food with poison. More and more it is possible to find organic locally-grown organic vegetables. As an example, in Grecia a small group of farmers has converted their farms from conventional sugarcane and coffee to organic vegetable production. This only works if people support them by buying organic. If you eat meat, try to reduce your use as much as you can. What it takes to produce meat, at least in factory-farmed settings, is terrible living conditions for the animals and their cruel deaths. Plus it takes huge amounts of clean water and grains that could be used directly as food for humans. Your mini-ecosystem (your back and front yard) Here you can accomplish so much by just doing nothing! The challenge is to leave at least 25% of your land wild: do not do anything, especially spraying herbicides. If you have exotic African pasture grasses, you’ll have to try to get rid of it because it smothers nearly everything else. Nature knows better than we the plants that grow by themselves. This is the natural succession of species in our ecosystem that eventually grow to a forest. What we usually do in our gardens is plant exotic grass, plants, and trees which do not feed any insects, therefore no birds will be able to raise their young, which only eat insects. If you only grow exotic plants you make it harder for the native species to make a living. The overuse of those noisy motoguadaña-- grass-cutting machines–– destroys most of the wild plants and future trees in yards and at the edges of the Costa Rican roads. Let things grow. Try to plant native plants in your ornamental gardens and landscaping. Learn about the local plants of your climatic zone. Observe the voluntary plants that bravely grow by themselves. And don’t go to commercial nurseries for that; they mainly have exotic plants. Remember, plants are the basis of the food network and plants and insects have co-evolved together for millions of years. When we bring a new plant into the ecosystem, it may take centuries before the insects and animals learn to interact with it.

Voluntary Simplicity

Meet the Neighbors

Carolina Rodriquez Dave Nightingale


o you sometimes want the help of a Costa Rican who speaks good English? I certainly do, and was pleased to meet this young woman. She speaks beautiful English and is eager to help persons here who are not fluent in Spanish. Her name is Carolina Rodriquez. Her home is in San Roque de Grecia. After graduating from school, she devoted herself to the study of English through advanced classroom training and talking with North Americans living or visiting here. Carolina then did what was necessary to acquire a good job where her bilingual skills can be put to work. Competition for good jobs with the judicial system, La Defensa Publica, is stiff. To prove oneself worthy of a good job, an applicant must work full-time for no salary at all until an opening becomes available. Carolina works in Grecia for the courthouse serving the canton of Grecia and several surrounding communities. She’s delightful, intelligent and knows her way around. If you’d like to talk with her, please call her after 4:00 P.M., or on weekends at 8950-3281.

By Christopher Howard M.A.

Living Well on Less Money in Costa Rica


or those of you not familiar with the term “voluntary simplicity”, it is a lifestyle made popular in the book “Your Money or Your Life: Transforming Your Relationship With Money and Achieving Financial Independence”, a New York Times bestseller written by Vicki Robin and Joe Dominguez in 1992 and updated in 2008. Dominguez, who died in 1997, left his Wall Street job as a technical analyst in 1969, when he was 31, and began living off the investment income from a $70,000 nest egg. He and Robin devoted their lives to teaching people how to change the relationship they have with money and live well on less. Many of those who followed the program saw their spending reduced 20 to 25 percent in six months, says Robin, while some “super-savers” cut expenses 60 to 80 percent. “Your Money or Your Life” became the bible of the so-called voluntary simplicity movement, which had started in the 1960s and has roots in frugality, environmentalism, social justice and spirituality. Now hard times are hitting older Americans directly in their wallets. With the nation’s jobless rate spiking at 8.1 percent and likely to continue rising, nearly 5.6 percent of workers 55 and older are unemployed, and many are struggling to find jobs. Those on fixed incomes have seen their retirement savings shrink by 30 to 40 percent in the market meltdown. No wonder the country is in a belt-tightening mood, with consumer spending down to the lowest levels in decades. One possible solution to the economic woes is to move offshore to a country like Costa Rica. Most Costa Ricans have been practicing voluntary simplicity all of their lives. Because of their limited earning power they are forced to live with less. Most shop for their fruits and vegetables at the weekend farmers’ markets which are held all over the country. Many buy their clothes at used clothing stores that import their merchandise from the United States. Furthermore, they pay virtually nothing for utilities because heat and air conditioning are not necessary in many parts of the country. A lot of the locals don’t own cars and take public transportation which is dirt cheap. Costa Ricans often live with other family members with everyone contributing their share to household expenses. They do all of this and still enjoy a great quality of life for far less money than most Americans. The people here also take advantage of the government’s “cradle to grave” health care system. The cost is usually under $30 per month. You would be hard-pressed to find health insurance in the States for less than a few hundred dollars per month. Besides being affordable, the health care here must be good since Costa Rica has one of the highest longevity rates in the world and boasts a large number of centenarians. Much of what I mention above are suggestions made in Your Money or Your Life: Transforming Your Relationship With Money and Achieving Financial Independence. By moving to Costa Rica people can live well. The average local makes around $400 per month. A pension from the States combined with trying to live like the Costa Ricans can enable you to live very well for a lot less than you would spend at home.

Christopher Howard is the author/publisher of the bestselling “The New Golden Door to Retirement and Living in Costa Rica”, and “The Guide to Costa Rican Spanish”, and the soon-to-be-released “Guide to Real Estate in Costa Rica”. Mr. Howard conducts retirement and relocation tours. For more information go to, or call tollfree 800-365-2342. Send him an email:

Going Green


Rainforest AID 09 Amapola, Osa

Kelly N Patterson

he gods must have a sense of humor because they put my friend, Amelia, and me on the volunteer “Security Team” at Rainforest AID 09 -- which is like putting Dyslexics in a spelling bee. Rainforest AID 09 was a three-day marathon, musical eco-orgy, June 19-21, 2009, in the middle of an isolated rainy wooded area on the Osa Peninsula, in Costa Rica. It was like living in a Turkish steam bath for a week. The Painforest, as you may not know, is home to bazillions of flying, blood-sucking insects, ants with teeth and spiders the size of Chihuahuas, who obviously do not appreciate our humble efforts to save their natural habitat. It is also home to a potpourri of single-celled organisms which announce their presence in the form of liquid bowelmovements. I am the only one I know who did not get diarrhea during this festival. Therefore, I have identified a new psychological state: “Bowel-Envy.” Amelia and I had to report to the jungle on June 16, to help set up this environmentally-correct carnival which consisted of bamboo and banana leaf structures and plates (no plastic plates); composting showers and toilets (which make porta-potties smell like lilies); amateur plumbing (I know because I did it myself!); lots of sawdust; and mud, lots of mud. (To this day, I am still finding mud in unimaginable places: How did that get there?) In addition to being the first three-day music festival in Costa Rican history, the organizers claim that it brought classical, blues, rock, and world music, for the first time, to an Osa stage. The music at the festival was a funky combination of surprisingly high-quality reggae (my fave San José reggae band, Kingo Lovers, were there), bluegrass, country, heavy metal, rock, and even a stunning classical performance by Tico pianist Manuel Obregon and an American violinist, Nancy Buchan. Overall, there were 139 musicians, who traveled from 5 different countries, and donated their time and music on behalf of protecting Osa rainforests from deforestation. My understanding of the situation in the Osa is that, due to a poor economy, locals can make a quick buck by cutting down rainforest (selling the timber.) Therefore, the rainforest is being rapidly depleted for quick cash. This festival alone created several local jobs; brought a lot of “tourist” cash to local businesses (from taxis to restaurants and hotels); implemented several local environmental programs throughout the area; installed public phones in Amapola; and over 30 new trees were planted during the festival. I think for a first time festival, things went as well as one could expect when throwing a huge international music festival in the middle of the jungle, during the rainy season. Everyone recognizes a need for more local community involvement, better festival logistics, more Spanish, but there is already talk of Rainforest AID 10. So be ready for next year—the music alone was worth all the mosquitoes, mud and diarrhea. More information? Contact Kelly N Patterson at 8-860-0852; www.

Around Town


Jeffeny Metz

ay I remind all that read and enjoy “Around Town” to please write in their events as there is so much territory to cover we need your participation to keep abreast of it all! Send info to: Coming soon on our web site we will post events as they come in and we will offer a Classified Ad Section!

of the main church) is the new expat center in town and the main pick-up spot for the Mountain Howler. Tel: 8-837-8235.

Grecia Galeria Restaurant has moved to the old location of Diego’s Red Door. Drop in for fabulous food and a great ambiance! Reservations: 2-4942337.

Mario’s Steak House continues to improve by creating a new and improved menu. It includes a great selection of desserts and spotlights Creme Brulée flamed at the table! Mario’s also offers a terrific wine selection, a perfect compliment to your seafood or that perfect steak! Reservations recommended 2-445-5945.

For all of you who are Environmentally Concerned please attend the first “Grecia Green Drinks” meeting on Sunday, September 13th, at 3 p.m. It will be hosted by Vista Del Valle, Rosario de Naranjo. For directions call 2-450-0800. The subject is “What does Sustainable Living Mean?” Maxi Bodega just opened in the new Plaza Grecia! That’s right, Grecia is growing up and now offers just about everything! The New Animal Hospital is getting better everyday! Dr. Oscar has just included in his dental equipment inventory a Clavitron. He invites other clinics to cooperatively share his mobile dentistry equipment. Call 8-827-0885 for more information. Hospital is 2-494-2596 and emergencies 8-827-0885. Zulma’s is a new unisex salon. Zulma comes straight from the USA where she has been in the business for over 15 years! Ladies, want your hair done like in the States and talk in English? Go to Zulma! Right in the heart of Grecia 125 meters South of Pali, 2-444-0289. CR-Wifi is the latest and greatest in Wireless Internet. You have to contact Tom Butynski for details but many are saying his service is the answer to your needs for internet. 2-446-5179. Galvanic Spa II is offered in Grecia by Vera del May Gomez. Vera provides the latest technology in facials and other facets of a spa such as massage. Call Vera for all that she offers: Tel: 2-494-3837 or 8-8678169. Welcome Dr. Marco Vega Quesada (bilingual) and his Clinica Cosmetica Dental. He practices the Zen of Dentistry in a great atmosphere across from the Grecia Park. Sit and enjoy the view! Tel: 2-494-4242 Sarchi Cecilia’s fine furniture in Sarchi has something very exciting happening and soon will “en-lighten” all of us! San Ramón Hotel Villa Blanca Cloud Forest Hotel & El Sendero Restaurant (a short ride from the center of San Ramón) has some special activities in September. If you love dancing, great cuisine and wine, Villa Blanca is the perfect place for you. Saturday, 12 September, a wine tasting with a professional Sommelier and a Greentique Hotels signature dinner; Saturday, 26 September, for a night of tango, special dinner and wine. Contact Gabriela at 2-461-0300. Tiempos de Café, a new coffeehouse in San Ramón (25 meters south

If you want authentic Mexican Cuisine.... Then look for Los Nopales. It has the best Tacos and Chipotle Salsa around!

Naranjo Vista Del Valle, 2-450-0800, is now offering music on Saturdays 4 - 7 p.m. On Sundays it is the Joe Anello Quartet. Soon to come is the VdV Jazz Festival starting October 18 when jazz trumpeter Freddy Jacobs leads off the festival! Vista Del Valle recently contracted and installed their cutting edge growing system at the Country Day School in Guanacaste! Talk to Glen at 2-450-0800. This issue introduces Mitzi Stark’s column on events around the Central Valley (see page 13). The Mountain Howler is now a member of Grecia Chamber of Commerce.

October Forecasts September Forecasts

by Jeanne Callahan

Visit Jeanne’s site at

Aries: 21 March - 20 April

Libra: 23 September - 23 October

Taurus: 21 April - 21 May

Scorpio: 24 October - 22 November

At the beginning of the month you may be adjusting your living arrangements because of career changes. While this feels quite disruptive it is going to be beneficial in the long term. You are confronting outmoded systems that are no longer fruitful so you are forced to let them go. Allow yourself the rest of the month to process what your needs are as Mercury is retrograde from the 7th to the 29th. New plans work out in mid-October. Your most positive days are the 6th and 7th. The energy of change is again impacting your best-laid plans this month. Be prepared to wing it as people you thought you could count on also have their own changes to deal with. Center and do your best not to get flustered, particularly between the 7th and 29th as Mercury will be retrograde in your sixth house of health and mundane work. You could get sick if you let it get to you. On the plus side, your creative juices are flowing so write down all your ideas. Days of inspiration are the 8th and 9th.

Gemini: 22 May - 21 June

Your ruling planet, Mercury, is in retrograde motion from the 7th through the 29th so your plans will be disrupted most of the month. You are well equipped to handle changes, as Geminis do enjoy variety. If you keep your sense of humor you’ll flow with it better than most. Your home and family life will undergo the most change but Venus will enter the fourth house on the 21st smoothing things out. Rise above these bumps in the road by being consistent with your spiritual practices. The 10th and 11th are days to get your way.

Cancer: 22 June - 22 July

You have a lot of energy this month but will have to deal with some frustration and anger left over from the end of August. You may need to re-negotiate a contract so use the month to work out the details but don’t sign anything until after the 29th when Mercury is in direct motion. Issues with taxes or insurances need to be looked at so consult with a professional for advice after the 29th. There may be disturbing news about one of your siblings or neighbors but let that work itself out. Nurture yourself on the 13th and 14th—get a massage!

Leo: 23 July - 23 August

This month has some rather intense situations as you have some financial situations that require detailed scrutiny at a time when Mercury is Rx and there is mental confusion. You won’t be able to grasp all the details of the problems which puts you at a disadvantage. Your frustration could burst forth as extreme anger at those who are actually trying to help you. Don’t shoot the messenger--you would be wise to listen to your advisors. Your best days for progress are the 15th and 16th.

Virgo: 24 August - 22 September

With Saturn slowing making his way through the end of your sign you are really damned sick of it all. Well, there will be a shake-up of all stalemated situations this month as Saturn opposes Uranus again creating conditions of upheaval and change. Challenging to say the least but it might be comforting to know that everyone’s in the same boat. All you can do is roll with it and know it will start improving around the 21st when Venus enters your sign. Your best days are the 17th and 18th.

You may experience rather dramatic changes with your career with Mars energizing the action at the top of your chart. Pluto at the bottom may force a change of residence that won’t necessarily be easy. Expect some chaos all month and just roll with it as all situations will smooth out by mid October. Keep your Libra cool and work at keeping others around you calm. Remember, you’re the best at that and people count on it! Best days to renew yourself are the 19th and 20th. The drama accelerates this month as you find there are some limitations with certain professional contacts that leave you feeling uncertain about the future. You may need to cultivate a new direction in your career which will be bear fruit in October. Add energy to your spiritual practices this month to dial down your fears. Mercury is Rx from the 6-29th reinforcing the vibe of change. However, the lunar position and Venus are favorable to you on the 21st and 22nd. Make the most of that positive vibe.

Sagittarius: 23 November - 21 December

You have some professional concerns this month as you may be asked to decrease your hours or take a pay cut. Some problems with taxes, your mate’s money or insurance may come up. You will have the big picture in October but it might be best to start looking around for another way to earn income on the side. Your home could be disrupted by some unexpected event or occurrence. Keep active to calm your mind and know things will straighten out in mid-October. Days to make a good impression are the 23rd and 24th.

Capricorn: 22 December - 21 January

If you have been diligently working all year which is your basic pattern you will experience the month’s planetary disruptive cycle as just a little blip on the radar—more of an opportunity that anything thing. Money is still good for you but partnerships will remain difficult for the next two months. Challenges come from your neighbors, siblings and short trips so be extra careful driving this month. The Mercury Rx happens at your midheaven then moving back into your ninth house of higher consciousness so you might want to do a little soul searching this month. The 26th and 27th are favorable.

Aquarius: 22 January - 19 February

This month’s cosmic vibe has a health signature for you so you must take measures to improve your diet and overall general habits. No slacking off from your routine. You will also have to address issues involving taxes, insurance, wills etc., so make sure everything is what you want it to be. You have the protection of Jupiter in your sign but it is weak right now until the end of October. The 1st, 2nd, 28th and 29th are positive for progress in all areas.

Pisces: 20 February - 20 March

This month has you feeling lonely and wondering if there’s ever going to be an opportunity for a good partnership. Now is not the time to even look out in the world for that...your time is better spent looking inward and what your needs are and how you seek to get them met. Pisces are sensitive and vulnerable but many times have trouble speaking up for themselves and end up getting taken advantage of. Use the positive vibes of the 4th, 5th, and 30th to gain clarity in regards to your unconscious actions


Jan Yatsko

Peeling Onions at the Ferias “Laughter is brightest where food is the best.” - Irish Proverb


ou can obviously learn a lot about a culture through its language. North Americans don’t like to waste time, so we speak directly; whereas Costa Ricans express ideas with more adjectives and they take their time getting to the point. The same can be said about food and our levels of experience in a different country. How and what we experience in a new country is like peeling away an onion. A tourist will encounter the protective brown layers. Tears of frustration and loneliness begin to fall as a recently retired foreigner starts to cut into the initial white layers of Costa Rican life. The tears subside with more layers of experience. The people who get to the heart of the onion are those who have lived in Costa Rica for many years and/or make their living by working with the Costa Ricans. By this time, the whole onion is peeled and chopped and it is ready to add its flavor to the living experience. My husband, Tom, and I have tasted the onion by living and working during the past 10 years in Costa Rica. We currently earn our living by making American-style bakery items and selling them at the outdoor farmer’s markets (ferias de agricultor) in Atenas on Friday morning and in Grecia on Saturday morning. The outdoor markets began about 35 years ago to provide a direct selling opportunity to small farmers when the produce markets (mercados) could no longer accommodate the growing demand under one roof. The feria is a place where people connect; it is the pulse of everyday Costa Rican life. Customers can purchase directly from the producer and receive the latest news that is passed verbally from one acquaintance to another. At a feria one can purchase not only fruits, vegetables, meat and cheese, but flowers and plants, clothing, shoes, homemade tortilla chips and fruit jellies, local artisan coffee, shopping bags made from recycled rice sacks, handmade baskets and a variety of prepared foods from bakery items and pupusas to a complete gallo pinto breakfast, all at prices less than those offered in the mercados. As you walk through the feria, listen to the words that the stand holders shout to get a customer’s attention. “Lleva mango, lleva cebolla (onion), lleva flores (flowers)” as they tell you to

take home their particular product. “Solo bueno” means that only the best products are sold to you. When a customer says “Regaleme una ...” (give me a...) you are in business, but when a customer says “Ahora pasamos” (we’ll come by later) that is a polite way of saying “No, thanks”. What Tom and I love most about the ferias is the family atmosphere. Your purchase goes directly to the family that provided the product and, after a while, frequent customers become “like family” and, occasionally, who wouldn’t want to give them a few extra items free? Our Costa Rican feria neighbors have embraced us as family and, at the end of the day, they wish us another good week ahead along with an occasional free item from their stand. This is an invitation to go on a scavenger hunt at your local outdoor farmer’s market. Look for this red fruit (below) to find out the name in Spanish and what it is commonly called in English. Does it grow on a bush, in the ground or on a tree? How you eat it? Taste it! Make it a habit to support your local farmers as you connect with the people who directly know the product. Practice your Spanish as you converse with them and soon you, too, will be making new friends and peeling away more onion layers to add to the soup of life!

Finca Luna Nueva Tours

Patricia Spinelli


here are many tours to choose from at Finca Luna Nueva, but some of the most popular ones are Juan’s Biointensive Garden Tour that will teach you what keeps the finca’s crops healthy, from their happy water buffalo to the wiggling worms in their compost. The tour begins at 9:30 a.m. by walking through the Cacao orchard, past a trail that leads to the 56,000 acre Children’s Eternal Rainforest that is near the finca. You will taste numerous types of plants and herbs that are served in the restaurant and you will see the cows, pigs, goats, chickens and learn how they contribute to the sustainability of the farm. The price for this tour is $30. The Sacred Seeds Sanctuary Garden Tour introduces you to their myriad collection of medicinal plants and herbs. There are 270 varieties of tropical plants and your guide will explain the cultural and medicinal uses of them and the importance of preserving these plants. Cost for this tour is $65 and lunch is included. The Secret Waterfall Tour, which takes three and a half hours, is the longest tour. You will see a Costa Rica that few people ever see. This rigorous hike takes you up back roads past local farms, and ends with a ten-minute hike through virgin rainforest into the heart of the jungle. The final destination is a 30-foot waterfall and swimming hole where you can take a dip in the refreshing water. A light lunch and refreshments are provided on this hike. Cost is $45, but the hike is only available to finca guests. Just one more reason to stay here! If that just isn’t possible, you can take the Esplendor River Waterfall Hike which will take you along a beautiful rolling creek to the true Costa Rican rainforest. Wear your bathing suit because there is a swimming hole in which to take a dip after this hike. The cost is $45.00. After your hike you can enjoy a scrumptious chef-prepared lunch made from the organic fruits, meat, dairy, and vegetables produced onsite. There are so many other hikes available that one is bound to be appropriate for you. If you’re exhausted already from reading about all this physical activity, and you just want to restore body and soul, then spending a day luxuriating at the Luna Nueva Spa and Wellness Center is a must-do experience.

Patricia Spinelli


ho doesn’t harbor in their limbic memory at least one special place, the mere thought of which elicits a wave of affection and anticipation? Recently I discovered an enchanting location to arouse my senses and imprint memories on my reptilian brain for the rest of my life – Finca Luna Nueva Spa and Wellness Center. Just two hours from Juan Santamaria Airport lies the magical kingdom of this organic, biodynamic herbal estate nestled in the verdant hills on the road to Arenal volcano. Although Finca Luna Nueva’s primary function is farming ginger, turmeric, and other tropical fruits and vegetables, it has a rustic yet luxurious rainforest lodge where you can surrender the trappings of your everyday life and unwind in the lush and peaceful grounds of this working farm. For those who only have one day to get away, this retreat offers a wide variety of tours and hikes that take approximately two hours and immerse you in the wonders of this other world (page 28). Robin Jones, Ph.D., is the director and facilitator of the Spa. With a doctorate in Holistic Theology, she is the embodiment of an approach that incorporates mind, body, and spirit to promote wellness and well-being. Even the conventional medical establishment acknowledges that high stress levels in our lives are responsible for many of the diseases and illnesses we experience. Robin can help you address these issues in a variety of modalities, from massage to floral remedies and essential oils and almost everything in between. If massage therapy is your preference for stress reduction, the Spa offers many types of massage, including lymphatic, Shiatsu, hot stone, Swedish, Thai and craniosacral massage. Each one of these procedures is designed to address a specific goal, whether it is the removal of toxins, increasing flexibility, or releasing tension. The prices for the various massages range from $35 for a 30-minute Swedish massage to $125 for a 90-minute Healing Stone Massage. There is no denying that a good massage makes you feel relaxed and rejuvenated, but Luna Nueva Spa offers many more treatments to enhance your well being. Robin offers sessions in meditation, guided self-healing, and hypnotherapy to assist with cessation of smoking, sleep disturbances, stress reduction, weight management, as well as pain management. All very interesting you might say, but what you really want is to be pampered––no hot stones, no stretching, no muscles kneaded to a pulp. No problema! Luna Nueva Spa will accommodate your most hedonistic desires. You can choose from European facials, an anti-aging facial that’s done with a soft laser, raindrop therapy with oils, a deluxe foot treatment that includes a detox footbath, salt scrub, aromatherapy soaks, and foot relaxation strokes. Robin’s most innovative treatments are the ones she does with a soft-pulsed light laser on specific points that correspond to Traditional Chinese Medicine acupuncture points, which is very helpful in alleviating pain and other musculoskeletal complaints. It also facilitates balancing organ systems much in the same way that traditional acupuncture does. This is a totally non-invasive procedure

for those who have an aversion to being pricked with needles (even though they are virtually painless!) The Luna Belavi facial uses cosmeceuticals and organic grade botanicals to cleanse, tone, clarify, and moisturize the skin. Your skin will be left firmer and glowing, and combined with the soft laser it will improve skin elasticity and increase collagen. For aging baby boomer skin, this is a very effective and luxurious treatment. The mineralrich Arenal Volcano mud mask and facial is a soothing heat pack to detoxify the skin, in addition to easing sore muscles and enhancing circulation. The mud leaves your skin smooth and supple. These treatments cost $45 for 30 minutes, and $65 for one hour. One of the most exotic and unusual treatments (even for a veteran spa-goer like myself) is the Ionic Foot Bath. Because of the polluted world we live in today, our bodies act like a giant magnet to attract and hold on to toxins and heavy metals that accumulate in ionized form in the joints, arteries, nerves and tissues creating an environment for disease, allergies, and immune system breakdown. By placing your feet in warm water treated with natural sea salt and an ionic mixture, which generates positive and negative ions, the toxins are pulled out of the body through the feet. If you don’t believe this is possible, just watch the water actually change color depending on which organ or system is being detoxified. The Spa also offers Tai Chi, yoga, Pilates, biodance, and nutritional coaching. Arrangements for any of these special features must be made prior to your visit to Finca Luna Nueva. Also, any of the treatments that are offered may be bundled so that you get the most out of your Spa experience with the added benefit of a special reduced rate for combining multiple treatments. It’s best to call Robin and discuss your particular issues, desires, and expectations and she will design a special package just for you to maximize the benefits of your visit to Luna Nueva Spa and Wellness Center. There is also aquatic bodywork that involves stretching and Shiatsu while you float in a warm, ozonated, chlorine-free Jacuzzi. The water is maintained at an optimum temperature for experiencing deep relaxation, while increasing your flexibility and strengthening muscles. Of course, after any of these treatments, you may so enthralled, relaxed, and in tune with your body and your lush surroundings that you may decide to spend a night or two (or three) in the magical realm of Finca Luna Nueva while creating memories to last a lifetime. If you call Robin she will tell you what special discounts are available exclusively for Mountain Howler readers for overnight stays and/or a day trip. You can contact Robin Jones, Director of Luna Nueva Spa and Wellness Center either through her email address or by calling her at 506-2468-1104 or 506-2468-4006. The web page for Finca Luna Nueva is

Interval Training


nterval training is a system based on working out at a slow pace and then switching to a hard workout and then back to slow.

When you mix bursts of high intensity work with low intensity periods of recovery, you overload both the aerobic and anaerobic systems at the same time and get the benefits of both aspects of training simultaneously. During the high intensity periods, you decrease your body’s ability to exchange oxygen and carbon dioxide. Obviously you would not be able physically to maintain this level of intensity for a long period of time. In the slower active recovery period, your body’s ability to exchange oxygen and carbon dioxide increases and it can deliver nutrients to your muscles. The burn goes away and your breathing and heart rate slow down slightly. The high intensity periods should be shorter than the active recovery periods, especially at first. You might walk for five minutes and then run for one when you begin to introduce your body to this type of training. As you become more adept, increase the time you spend in high intensity periods. Forcing yourself to sustain long periods of high intensity activity is dangerous, so do use caution and work yourself up gradually You can find special group classes to aid in your interval training where the routine incorporates more than one element such as abdominals, squats with weight bars, ropes, and other systems. Other benefits of interval training are: 1. You save time. If your normal gym time is 90 minutes you get the same benefit in 45 minutes with interval training. 2. You fight boredom. When a routine bores you, change your aerobic activities and interlace it with lower-paced routines. 3. You lose weight. By revving up aerobic and anaerobic systems simultaneously, you burn calories more quickly. You add new muscle and speed the metabolism of fat. You get a calorie-burning aerobic workout. You can mix up many activities for interval training. The most obvious would be walking then running, or a mix of stair steppers, elliptical trainers and stationary bicycles, aerobic exercise, water exercise and so forth. You might even jump rope or play racquetball. Be creative and change your routines often. Fight boredom and make fitness fun! You can workout once a week with this type of training going from five minutes between each station. There are many kinds of training. They all help, but they help more when you mix them up. Enjoy them all.

Carla Rigioni Soltero Adrenalina by MultiSpa Gym, Grecia Telephone: 2 495 60 30

Word puzzle Miscellany

All words from the list below can be found in the word block on the right. Answers may be forward, backward, upwards, downwards and diagonal. antagonist antediluvian avellana balloon empanizada epiglottis hermosa hierarchy innate jerarquia malinche naturalmente mandible nevada ordinary

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The Mountain Howler  

September 2009 of the Mountain Howler--the English language magazine of the western central valley of Costa Rica