how to escape the wicked witch
Tuesday, February 7 2023
high up a hill just northwest of the center of Santa Teresa, Nicoya Peninsula, Costa Rica
When one goes on vacation, it's important not to get mired in stresses, since they can easily spoil the whole experience. I get stressed-out easily in the face of change, and living for a time in a foreign country is a big kind of change. Fortunately, Gretchen always handles the logistics, so all I really have to do is follow her around. She rarely if ever suffers from anxiety and a variety of life experiences seems to help her manage her depression. But our interactions with the reliably-unpleasant April, the woman who rented us our casita, has made Gretchen miserable. The idea of living here a whole month with that horrible woman was too dreadful to contemplate, since it would likely be punctuated with an endless series of put-downs, gripes, and stonewalling. So last night Gretchen did some research to find us a place with a pool in Montezuma (over on the southeast side of this peninsula). We already knew we liked Montezuma better, having lived there for a month back in early 2019. Compared to the sunny, crowded streets of Santa Teresa, filled as they are with surfers and crypto bros, the shady streets of Montezuma (with its strolling hippies and Ticos) now seemed all the more inviting. (I'd been a little puzzled by Gretchen's decision to spend this vacation in Santa Teresa to begin with, as I hadn't been impressed by it back in 2019. But I'd assumed Gretchen had known something that I hadn't. Evidently I was mistaken.)
After not much research, Gretchen had managed to find a place just outside Montezuma that had a pool big enough to actually swim in. It didn't have the spectacular views of our casita, of course. But it was bigger, would permit guests (more on that in coming days), was about a thousand dollars cheaper per two week period, and was near our favorite Nicoya Peninsula town. Best of all, on the AirBnB website there were photos of monkeys and coatimundis, creatures that have yet to visit us at the casita in Santa Teresa.
When Gretchen wrote to ask the owner of the place questions about guests, there was some sort of mix-up and an AirBnB transaction happened, locking us in to renting the place for two weeks. I don't know how AirBnB works or even if what Gretchen was telling me about this accidental transaction was the whole truth. But it seemed to make her very happy that we wouldn't be spending our entire vacation having to deal with April. I asked Gretchen to confirm with the guy that his internet was solid, and he replied that it was fiber optic and had 50 mb/s download speeds, which sounded good enough to me.
So then Gretchen composed an WhatsApp message to April saying that, though her casita was beautiful, we were finding interaction with her to be too stressful when the goal is to relax. For this reason, Gretchen said, she had rented another place and we would be moving there on February 17th. If possible, Gretchen added, we would like to be refunded for the two weeks we wouldn't be staying in the casita. But if that wasn't possible, so be it; it was us who were pulling out of the agreement. Gretchen added that this arrangement would probably also make April happy, since she likely didn't enjoy having to deal with us either.
April took a long time to get back to Gretchen, but when she did she said this was fine and that we would be receiving a refund. She even said we could leave earlier if we wanted to.
I ended up having a better day in the remote workplace. Partly this was due to it being filled with meetings, which made it easier for me to work from random places around the casita without having to depend on my travel monitor (which I am almost forced to use when developing software). Avoiding sitting for long periods on the stool made my ass happier, and I could also more easily retreat when the ever-moving sun started flushing me from wherever I happened to be.
This afternoon a couple guys arrived with a brand new outdoor component for the air conditioning split, and once it was installed, the bedroom could be made to be much colder than any reasonable person would want it.
As usual for a Tuesday, this afternoon we had a group QA, and I was surprisingly productive despite the cramped conditions of my travel workstation. My main problem seems to be the utility of the travel monitor when running at 100% of its native resolution. At 2560 X 1440 pixels, that's a lot of screen real estate. But when it has to work against the glare of tropical daylight (even in the shade), I have trouble making out the details with my old eyeballs. I might be forced to use it at something like 125%.
I'd been concealing the fact that I am in Costa Rica from my colleagues, mostly so as to avoid making them jealous. Not only do they not have the funds to undertake such trips, their families are more complicated and they're bound by workplace restrictions that don't apply to me (they're expected to come into the office a certain number of times per week, whereas I work entirely remotely). But some weeks ago I let slip that I would be spending February in Costa Rica. I haven't brought it up since then, but I can't imagine this was simply forgotten. And so at some point during group QA, Joe the lead developer asked, "Are you in some other country?" I admitted that I was in Costa Rica and that I had a beautiful view of the ocean, but that the woman whose place I was being highly unpleasant. At that point Allee the product owner wanted to see some pictures, so I post pictures of a parrot, a gecko, and a magpie jay in the sink. A little after that, the power died for the first time on this vacation, though it recovered within about five minutes and I was able to rejoin the group QA.
Meanwhile Gretchen had spent another at day the language school, though returning home was much easier, as she caught a ride with her instructor. She still had to climb the steep hill up from Calle Cóbano, but at least that part isn't crowded and polluted.
We soaked together in the plunge pool, with Gretchen telling me about an interaction she'd just had with April at the gate, which was apparently malfunctioning. April is never pleasant, but she didn't seem to harbor any additional resentments. She even said that an additional gate-opening fob had been repaired and now Gretchen and I would each get to have one. I haven't even mentioned a huge squabble that erupted the other day over WhatsApp, with Gretchen asking April for a gate-opening fob for me and April saying there weren't any more and that usually her guests do everything "as a team" and thus only need one that they can share. Obviously, and this cannot possibly be uncommon, Gretchen and I aren't doing things that way. Am I really supposed to be trapped at the casita all day while Gretchen is the one who can get through the gate to and from the world outside?
This evening, Gretchen made another batch of Asian noodles, similar to what she'd made the night before last. As we sat out on the closer of the day beds watching the sunset, there was a huge multi-mask sailboat out on the water that I was able to photograph. I also managed to photograph a couple other huge ships traveling directly on the horizon. It's possible to determine how far away that is. Since our casita is up high (about 200 feet above sea level, or a little higher than the Esopus Valley at the bottom of Dug Hill Road), it's about 20 miles.
Some sort of big ship with cranes built in to it on the horizon.
This looks like a military ship on the horizon.
A beautiful (and very big) sailboat.
The sailboat with the sunset. Too bad they weren't closer together from our angle. Click to enlarge.
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