January Adventures

In January we had two great family adventures that we would totally recommend if you live in the central valley of CR. Both outings were fun and cheap- which counts as a major success for this mama.

One Saturday we hit a park called Bosque de la Hoja (Leaf Forest), where we had a picnic, hiked, and Mariah went down a playground slide a thousand times. The trails were just long enough to feel like we got some exercise and the picnic area was really nice.

On another Saturday, some friends invited us out for a play date at the Museo de los Niños (Children’s Museum). The museum is an old, restored prison, which I thought was cool (the baby room was in an old jail cell lol). The last time I was there, I was on a field trip with 25 kindergartners and I was more concerned about one of them running away or dying than I was enjoying my time…so needless to say, this time around was much more relaxing. Highlights of the trip: the little kid grocery store they had set up (adorbs), the archaeological sand “dig” where you could dig up a fake (human) skeleton (weird. Why couldn’t we dig up dinosaurs and not dead people?), and an excellent cheeseburger on the way home from Bobby’s Burgers. Overall, it was a win for everyone.

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December Family Adventure(s)

It’s taken me two weeks to recover from December, but I’m back. I wasn’t overly-motivated to blog again, but Albin assured me a lot of people were waiting for me to write again. I’m pretty sure that’s not the case, but his undying enthusiasm could not be ignored. For those of you that were losing sleep while waiting for me to post again, this one goes out to you.

My family came down to Costa Rica for Christmas this year and we had a fabulous time. It was slightly nontraditional for those northerners (i.e. the weather was in the 80’s, and we spent our days hiking rainforests and volcanoes), but incredible nonetheless. My house was full, my heart was full, and my children were spoiled.

Our family loves being outside and exploring new places, so we set out every day and did something different. We hit a volcano, the beach, the rainforest,  some waterfalls, and the artisans market downtown. By the end of it, the kids were a mess from not taking naps, my dad was insane from driving the rental car all over CR, and we all needed a vacation from our vacation- but it was totally worth it.

Here are some pictures from our adventures:

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God blessed us with a clear day to see the usually clouded-over crater.

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In the rainforest at La Paz with the babes in tow.

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Clearly the babies were excited about the toucan.

Our “Bright White” Biracial Kid

One of my favorite stories from the time Mariah spent in the NICU is about some confusion the nurses had over Mariah’s skin color. When Mariah was born, she was a little purplish-looking. I’ve never birthed a biracial baby before, so I assumed Costa Rican babies came out a little more plum-colored than the average white kid. The not-so-comical part of the story is that Mariah was purple because her blood was septic and her collapsed lung was preventing good oxygen flow to her blood. Sadly, she was purple from bad blood.

Purplish?

Purplish? This is right after she was born and before we knew she was so sick.

At the time, everyone assumed with me that she was just going to be dark like her daddy. Albin’s not super dark; but he’s clearly Latino, and if you leave him in the sun too long (even with SPF 90 sunscreen), he claims that he turns so black that he’s blue (what does that even mean?). Anyway, my point is, she was dark and her hair was dark at first too. After we made it through the part of us almost losing her and then her miraculous recovery, she had to stay in the hospital for a while to finish the strong intravenous antibiotic she was prescribed. She was taken off the respirator and all the other monitors, tubes, and IVs had been discontinued.

As I arrived one morning to start my all-day vigil at her bedside, I noticed that she was hooked up to several monitors again. My heart plummeted and my out-of-control emotions took over and gave me a drippy nose and watery eyes. I shakily went to ask the nurse what had happened to Mariah overnight and here is how our conversation proceeded:

Me: Why is Mariah hooked up to all the monitors again? (Sniffle)

Nurse: Because she got a little white during the night.

Me: White?! Like white skin?

Nurse: Yes, white. Very white skin.

Me: So?

Nurse: Well we thought maybe she was having oxygen problems or blood pressure issues and that’s why she turned white.

Me: Did you find any problems with her oxygen or blood pressure?

Nurse: No. It is so weird. Everything is perfectly fine. She is just so white.

Me (starting to smile): So her blood is getting better and she is turning white?

Nurse: Yes.

Me (cracking up): Have you seen her mother? Real white.

Nurse (starting to laugh): Do you think she’s just white like you? That would explain a lot actually. We don’t see a lot of bright white babies in here so it was a little surprising.

Me (thinking): If you want to see bright white, you should see my booty.

Turns out, my biracial kid is white with light hair. Everyone tells me she looks like a white Albin. I’m just thankful her blood is in good shape. The nurses and I had the rare chance to burst into laughter that day, and it was moments like those that kept me sane. We never would have thought that the healthier Mariah became, the lighter her skin would be. The good news is that she tans well because I can’t imagine the amount of money I would spend on sunscreen in CR if she was still as bright white as my rear.

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Pretty white I suppose… 🙂

Immigration is Humbling…

My last post about immigration got Albin and I thinking about how humbling the residency process is. Even if you are an upstanding citizen who works, pays taxes, doesn’t do drugs, and follows the directions down to a T in regards to filling out your paperwork, you can still be treated poorly and/or denied access. No matter what, you have to prove that you’re worthy to come into that country, and in our case, it’s not even on our own merit; I’m allowed to live in Costa Rica because I married a Costa Rican and maybe someday Albin will be able to say the same about the U.S.

Here are two humbling situations that have happened to Albin and me in our process to enter the U.S. without being stowaways:

  1.      This one just makes me look ridiculous … pride comes before the fall. Don’t forget this a no-judgement zone. When we first married, we were trying to get Albin a 10 year tourist visa into the U.S. so we could visit my family at any time. He had been rejected before, so I went into this meeting determined because now was in attendance. Albin tried to prepare me for the fact that there would be a long line of Costa Ricans waiting to be interviewed. I brushed him off and told him that I wouldn’t have to wait because I was a U.S. citizen at the U.S. embassy. Being the entitled American that I was, I passed the long line of people sitting in rows and went straight to the doors where citizens could sit inside (with A.C.) and briefly wait to be attended. Albin reluctantly followed me, but I’m sure he was pretending like he didn’t know me. In front of the dozens of people waiting in the line, the guard stopped me and asked why I was there. When I told him that we were there for Albin’s visa appointment, he told me that we needed to wait in the huge line. I told him that he must have misunderstood, I was a U.S. citizen. He asked if Albin was a U.S. citizen. Well, no he wasn’t, but surely there were exceptions for the spouses of citizens. I think the guard almost laughed in my face and I’m positive everyone in line that had witnessed my arrogance were pretty pleased I was swiftly put in my place. I then proceeded to grab Albin and do the walk of shame to the back of the line. Pride is ugly, y’all.
  2.      After we received aforementioned tourist visa, we went back to the U.S. for the first time as a married couple. Since being humbled at the embassy, I was not as pompous as I had been previously. As we filed into the border control line in Atlanta, we were told to stay together since we were married. When we were called to come forward, the official stamping passports wouldn’t allow me to come with Albin despite me saying that we were married. He (very rudely) told me to go to the window across from his. Not wanting to cause a scene, I went to the other window and the immigration official treated me well there. As I was finishing up, I heard the man working with Albin literally barking at him to put his fingers on the scanner to be fingerprinted. Albin was clearly not understanding, not because of his English (which is excellent), but because the lid was down on the scanner and the man didn’t realize it. I went over to help Albin and the man told me to leave. I started to get that protective wild hair and told him that no, I wasn’t going to leave and that I was going to help my husband because clearly they were having some communication issues. He stopped what he was doing and said, “You’re married to him?” in the most degrading voice ever. He knew we were married because I had told him that when he had first separated us. His tone dripped with intentional disapproval. If it hadn’t been a federal offense, I would have jumped over the counter and slapped the guy right there. I was livid. I told the official again that yes, we were married and that he was mistaken and needed to lift the lid on the scanner in order for Albin to be scanned. As the officially reluctantly stamped Albin’s passport and scowled as we walked away, the official that had helped me told me to ignore the other guy. Clearly we weren’t the only ones there aware of the official’s inappropriate behavior if another official felt the need to tell us to ignore him. The problem was that it’s hard to ignore someone when they make derogatory statements about who you are. It wasn’t as much humbling as it was completely humiliating for Albin. He still gets all jittery when we’re about to go through border control, but thankfully we haven’t ever been separated or treated poorly like that again.

Like I said above, it’s a humbling process. In my first example, I just needed to be knocked down a few notches, but in the second situation, we had no control over how we were treated because of Albin’s nationality. He had done nothing wrong and the official had no right to treat Albin in that way. While I would have loved to file a complaint, I was scared. I didn’t want to be marked at the black sheep of immigration since we would be spending a lot of time in customs and border control for the rest of our lives. In a way, both situations were a reality check for me. In the first, I was whacked out of my superiority complex … which was necessary. In the second, this naïve white girl got her first true taste of prejudice, and it opened up my mind to the very real problem that is racism. In a way, both experiences were good for me because both taught me how I don’t want to be perceived when faced with racial differences.

 

Family Adventures (aka let’s keep mommy sane trips)

I’m currently loving life as a stay-at-home mom. Who knew? I thought I would be restless, but I really enjoy it. I’m so thankful that my husband works hard so I can stay home with Mariah. Most days I’m pretty content to be home all day, but there are days that I get a little stir crazy. Some days Albin pulls in the garage to find all four of us (i.e. Mariah, Rocky, Luna, and me) all waiting at the door poised and ready to jump on him in our excitement.

On one such day Albin came home and saw that crazy look in my eye and made an executive decision that we needed to all get out of the house more. He told me to set aside at least one Saturday a month and plan for a family adventure. Well, that spoke right to my heart since experiencing new things together is basically my love language. In fact, when we first got married I struggled a lot because I had just come off of an 11-country mission trip that was a constant adventure and suddenly I found myself settled down with a 9-5 job. It was ugly.

Anyway, back to the present. We decided to go through a Costa Rica guide book and write down places we’d never been and wanted to go. I also found this great website called “Two Weeks in Costa Rica” which details the travels of a couple that moved to CR after falling in love with it during a vacation. We found some new places and made a point to set apart a Saturday that didn’t involve cutting the grass, birthday parties, or other usual Saturday tasks.

Both of our family fun outings (FFO’s as coined by my parents) so far have been to waterfalls here. There are a lot of beautiful waterfalls in CR and taking a day to hike to them satisfies some innate need I have to explore. Not to mention we’ve really enjoyed being together as a family and getting out of the city. It’s something small that has gone a long way to make all of us a little saner. Totally worth it. I used to travel all over CR during my first two years here, but now our calendar always fills up with everyday stuff and sometimes it is so easy to just settle into mundane routines. I want to document them on my blog for my sake, but also maybe it will motivate you to get out there and plan some FFO’s with your family.

Here are some pictures from our August trip to Las Cataratas Los Chorros:

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September trip to Catarata del Toro with some dear friends:

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Immigration

If you’ve read any of my previous posts, you know that anything that has to do with immigration gets my gag reflex going. For those of you who want to know if we got married in the U.S. or Costa Rica first (because yes, it matters in the process), we married in the U.S. first and then got it certified in CR. We turned in our paperwork almost right after getting back from our wedding, but there were some complications and one of our papers expired before we could get scheduled for a meeting with immigration. Side note: we were paying a lawyer (who was a family friend) good money to take care of these things for us, but we found out too late that she was not doing her job very well.

While reading over our documents one night, it hit me that my tourist visa would be expiring in one week and that due to the meeting complications, I was going to be illegal here. Not to mention that I already had a job … which if you don’t have the correct papers, can lead to a swift deportation. Don’t take this lightly, I’ve seen normal people deported from CR before. I started sweating immediately and we called our lawyer. She casually confirmed my suspicions and said I need to leave the country immediately (this was the moment that the family friendship started to deteriorate).

After a minor breakdown and hours of ranting, we bought bus tickets for several days later and hightailed it out of there. We went to Bocas del Toro, a small chain of Panamanian islands near the southern coast of Costa Rica. Minus the panicking and the exhaustion of several buses and water taxis, the trip turned out to be a blessing. It almost made up for the fact that we didn’t get to go on a honeymoon and it was honestly one of the first times since we had gotten married that we felt relatively normal.

While the trip was a blessing, the residency process was not. We finally were given appointments with immigration and did what we had to do, but no matter how organized I was, something always went wrong. Like “they lost our original marriage certificate” kind of wrong. I mean, I should have never given them the original document, but I was naïve to the ways of the Costa Rican filing system (i.e. possibly nonexistent).

I was also unaware of how difficult it was to get fingerprinted here. At the time, there was only one place in the capital to get fingerprinted for the residency process. The first time I showed up, I was oblivious to the line stretching out the gate and around the block. After waiting far too long, I overheard one of the guards saying something about running out of numbers. Only the first 50 people in line were allowed to be fingerprinted that day and I was not one of those first 50 people. The next time around, I decided I would be there when the doors opened at 7:30 a.m. Unfortunately, I was not the only person to have that thought. In fact, I wasn’t among the first 50 people to have that thought. Fail. I approached the guard and asked what time she thought I should arrive in order to be among the first 50. She thought getting there between 1-2 hours before opening time would suffice. Sooo, basically camp out at the crack of dawn. I’ll admit it; I had to have a crying/cursing Costa Rica session in my car to pull it together. After my pity party, I went back to the guard and asked her if there was any other way. She told me that sometimes they would give out more numbers in the afternoon if there was space. The next week, I rolled up in the afternoon hoping for the best. There were huned’s of people there. I went up to my guard (we were becoming fast friends) and she had sympathy on me. She took me to another line and told me to wait there. Besides getting the stink eye from all those people I had apparently just cut in front of, I was feeling pretty confident.

As I came to the front of the (shorter) line, another guard asked me if I had brought the correct seals. What seals? No one had mentioned seals, the instructions I had been given didn’t say anything about seals, and can I bribe someone to ignore the fact that I didn’t have seals? No. Go look around the block and ask at the banks and law offices, they probably have them. I literally ran around the block looking for the seals and of course, no one had them. Finally, desperate and furious, I stopped at a little soda (which is like a little hole in the wall restaurant), and the cook sold me some seals for 20 cents as she served up some rice and beans to another customer. What the…?

By now, I’m panting and sweating and all my guard friends are cracking up at the poor gringa’s plight. I must have done something right though, because as they laughed, they let me pass everyone in line. Success. Not only did I get fingerprinted that day, but I made friends with some guards who clearly needed some comic relief and found an unlikely love for a greasy cook selling 20 cent stamps and Diet Coke.

And then we waited … a long time. About two years in, we finally called the immigration office regarding my visa and I remember overhearing Albin talking to the lady and getting increasingly frustrated with her (which is unusual because Albin is often much more merciful in situations like these). She refused to help us because she said it was impossible that my residency had taken that long and that residencies are processed within 90 days. Albin assured her that wasn’t the case for us and that we just had a question. Nope, a two year wait was impossible and therefore she could not answer our question. He hung up with a prompt “gracias por nada” (thanks for nothing).

Two and a half years later, I was finally given my temporary residency permit; even though it would expire after one year, there were tears of joy that day. I am currently waiting for my permanent residency permit that I get through having my baby in Costa Rica (anchor child anyone?) and I was told it would only take 90 days to be processed. That’s what I was told in regards to my temporary permit, so I’m not getting my hopes up this time. The 90 day limit is today, so I’ll keep you posted.

Immigration processes and policies are definitely a complicated matter. Albin and I have been praying about and considering moving back to the U.S., but we’re trying to come to terms with the inevitable high cost, long wait, and load of work it will take to make that kind of thing happen. It’s intimidating, overwhelming, and humbling (especially when immigrantion is a hot topic right now and people aren’t careful with their comments). Trying to do things correctly and legally through the immigration system is frustrating enough to make even Donald Trump think twice about his hateful assumptions (fun fact: Did you know Trump is married to an immigrant?).

Moral of the story: residency processes just suck. Accept it and move on. No matter where you’re applying, prepare yourself to receive a different answer from everyone you ask about ANYTHING, to spend a lot of money in filing fees (and seals apparently), and to wait. If you are married to (or are going to marry) someone from another country, you said “I do” to lines in immigration offices. Embrace it.Try to have a good attitude and enjoy the ride. All that hard work means you get to live with your foreign dreamboat, and even Trump can attest to that :).

Sidenote: If you’re not going through immigration processes, try to have some grace with immigrants despite the current attitude of condemnation that is so popular in the U.S. right now.  Not everyone trying to get into the U.S. is a druglord or rapist. As evidenced by the devastating story of the Syrian children who drowned this past week as their family tried to escape the war- you never know what extreme circumstances are bringing someone to take desparate measures. That Syrian father wanted was a better life for his family, can we blame him? That could have been you or me, risking everything to give our family a peaceful future. Don’t be quick to judge, friends, almost all of our families were immigrants at some point. 

Crossing the border into Panama

Crossing the border into Panama

Marrying a Family

There is a saying out there that says something to the effect of “you don’t just marry an individual, you marry a family.” In my case, I feel like I married a country. At any rate, I’m going to go ahead and assume that I’m not the only one who felt a little out of place with my new tribe.

First off, the sheer number of this new clan was devastatingly intimidating. I didn’t take me long to realize that a family get-together included my mother-in-law’s eight siblings plus their children and grandchildren. I kept confusing Uncle Dagoberto with Uncle Rigoberto and couldn’t remember if I’d already talked to Aunt Eda or if that was actually Aunt Nidia … or wait? Second, I was still speaking three year old (or worse) equivalent Spanish when we got married. Very few people speak English in Al’s family, so I had to prove how cool I was while speaking toddler. Most of them would just stare at me … probably because I was a hot mess. Speaking so much Spanish would give me shaky hands and sweaty everything else.

I guess I assumed that I would seamlessly slip right into the family because I’m generally comfortable in new social situations. The difference with this situation, however, was that I married these people and we didn’t understand each other at all. As I’m typing this, I am asking my mother-in-law (who is here playing with my daughter so I can write and clean the house, bless her) what the hardest part of me becoming part of the family was for her. Here were her top 4 (and I think she could have thought of more but she had mercifully stopped after the overarching statement “your way of life”):

  1.      Language: She said the language was hard because “they had no idea if I could understand anything they were saying.” I thought that they knew I could understand because I would answer their questions, but apparently I was wrong. I remember on two separate occasions my suegra showed up with preschool level books and tried to get me to repeat the most basic Spanish verbs because my accent was bad. Shot to the heart.
  2.      Food: She said that they didn’t know what to offer me or feed me because I was from a different culture. Valid, but I will generally eat anything that isn’t still moving, so I had no idea this was a concern of theirs.
  3.      Physical touch: They love to greet each other with a kiss and they are very touchy. They weren’t sure I wanted them to touch me. I can handle the fake kiss on the cheek when greeting, but I guess they were afraid to go further than that?
  4.      My way of life: She said I did a lot of different things and they didn’t understand. I’m not going to elaborate because that one definitely goes both ways; basically, they thought I was a weirdo whenever I did anything.

Okay, so being the only white girl in the family was challenging and still is at times. For a while, I tried SO HARD to just become one of them, which made me feel like a wanna-be imposter in Costa Rica and a dirty cheater on my beloved ‘Merican heritage. I had a minor identity crisis. I finally realized that no matter how hard I tried, I was always going to be really tall (almost 6 feet, which is like a foot taller than most Costa Ricans), really white (no matter how much I tanned), and really loud (my whisper voice is basically non-existent). I finally swallowed the fact that while I could improve my pronunciation, my accent was permanent because I didn’t learn Spanish as a kid.  I stopped trying to impress them with my Costa Rican cuisine expertise and made them gringo delicacies like Thanksgiving stuffing, zucchini bread, and all things pumpkin. It’s just now setting in that I can go around and kiss everyone when I enter the room, but also that they understand not to be offended if I do just a general “hola” addressed to all. In short, once I got over myself and my insecurities of feeling like I needed to fit in, everyone got a lot more comfortable.

Now that we have almost four years under our belts and my Latino family is used to me being tall, loud, white, and weird, I am finally myself (well, I try to be). I listen to the opinions they have (Oh, and do they have them. Especially about my daughter :-/), I respect their customs, and I embrace the parts of their culture that I love. It’s also okay that I’m my own person and bring my opinions, customs, and culture to the family as well.

These past few months I’ve been working hard to acknowledge Albin’s family as “my family” instead of me always referring to them as “Albin’s family.” Does that make sense? Because it’s not “my family” or “Albin’s family” anymore. It’s our family. That clan of Latinos that think my accent sucks is my family. That big white wave of gringos that can’t say Albin’s last name correctly is his family. It’s become our family and we love the madness that comes from our cultural collision.

Albin's gma, mom, and me. I'm leaning, but I'm still giant.

Albin’s gma, mom, and me. I’m leaning, but I’m still giant.

Our First Car (First Year Fails: Part IV)

Our first car was an old, faithful ‘92 Nissan Sentra. Albin and that car had a profound love for one another. I, however, learned to drive a stick in Costa Rica in that car, and I’m pretty sure it never forgave me. I have a lot of not-so-fond memories of Albin trying to gently teach me how to go over muertos (speed bumps are appropriately called “dead bodies” in CR) and me freaking out and stalling every time.

About the same time we were going through our apartment disaster, it came time to perform the annual car revision. You have to pass the revision in order to get a little sticker in your window that says you’re good to drive. If you get caught without the little sticker, you can lose your license. Even though our car wasn’t in the best shape, we weren’t too worried and assumed we would pass the revision.

It failed.

I’m not a car person, but something about a hose was messed up. We got the hose fixed and about a week later we went back to do the revision again.

Failed again.

The second time, it had something to do with the muffler and too much exhaust. That little fix was a bit more expensive and time consuming, so it took a few weeks. After that was fixed, we took the car back for a revision.

Failed.

Are you kidding me? Why were they picking on us? There were much crappier cars out there and they were passing! I was starting to get mad. It was a conspiracy! We switched mechanics and this guy claimed that he had all the tools to do the revision in his shop so we would have an idea if we would pass or not. I can’t remember what he found, but he fixed that up and it wasn’t cheap.

By now, our car saga was gaining some fame. Every day we had people asking if our car had passed or not and people were recommending mechanics to us by the dozen.

This next time we were sure our car would pass, so Albin was going to swing by and do the revision quickly after work. That day, I was anxiously eating my fingernails because we were getting precariously close to the expiration date on our sticker. Since we’d spent all of our money on fixing up our car, our dogs, and on buying antibiotics to fight the pneumonia we got from our rotting apartment, one more tab from the mechanic wasn’t in the budget. As I was sitting there praying that the car would pass, I get a call from a defeated Albin announcing that we had yet again FAILED.

FAILED! WE FAILED REVISION FOUR TIMES. Who does that?

Not only did we fail the fourth revision, but Albin said that as he was in the revision and they were running the tires and engine to check for exhaust, the car literally blew up and smoke started furiously pouring from the hood. He said it made quite a scene and the guys just stopped the revision right there and Albin dejectedly pulled away. He then told me that he was currently on the side of the road and that we might be a little late to Bible study that night because the car kept exploding and overheating.

Two hours later my defeated man walked into our rotting apartment and said that he didn’t think we would make it to Bible study. I started laughing hysterically, mostly to keep from crying hysterically.

We switched mechanics (again) and after paying for a bunch of new parts and slyly avoiding all traffic officials who would happily fine us for driving far past our revision date, our car was ready to go. We both went to the revision and it was the most agonizing process ever. I got an ulcer while we waited for the results in the parking lot. Albin went back in to get our score and came out slowly.

“Well?” I screamed.

He shook his head sadly and just before I was about to lose it, he started to smile and shouted, “We passed!”

Tears of joy were flowing. I jumped into Albin’s arms and we raised a holy hallelujah. We were celebrating like we’d won the lottery. I’m sure those revision workers got a good laugh that day.

 

Our First Apartment (First Year Fails: Part III)

Getting your first apartment with your man is a fairly exciting ordeal. Once we received the appliances that we bought on our “honeymoon,” we had a lot of fun setting that 10’x10’ hole-in-the-wall up. We moved in right after we married in December and it treated us pretty well for the first several months. Our only complaint was that the bathroom was attached right to the kitchen/living space, so anytime we had people over, it was inevitable that everyone was privy to what was going down in that bathroom.

Anyway, May marks the beginning of rainy season here in Costa Rica. They weren’t kidding about this place being a rainforest; it rains A LOT. Since it’s not common to have air conditioning or heat here in the city, you have to keep your windows open most of the time–which means things can get pretty musty and moldy. I’ve lost a leather belt and pair of shoes because they literally just molded right in my closet. The month of May also marks the time we adopted our sickly little puppies. If you read my last blog about our puppies, then you know they had ringworm all over them and subsequently gave it to us. Just imagine us trying to rid our tiny, damp apartment of dog fungus. Impossible.

After about a month into the rainy season, we noticed that some slight discolorations were appearing on our bedroom walls. It almost looked like a tie-dye pattern of grey, dusty stuff. We scrubbed them and that seemed to help a little bit for a time.

As the rains picked up though, those slight discolorations multiplied and our walls literally turned black. There were streaks and circles of grey all over the place. As if that wasn’t gross enough, suddenly little bubbles started forming under the wall paint. They started out small but quickly became huge softball-sized pockets of moisture. When the wall paint couldn’t hold any more moisture, they would burst like a pimple and spray water all over our bed. I am not exaggerating people; you can’t make this stuff up. We were seriously living in Tales from the Crypt.  You can see the video below if you’re interested. It’s not great quality and I switch for a few seconds into some wretched Spanish, but you’ll get the main idea.

Turns out, there had been water seeping through the concrete walls and our landlady just painted over the moldy mess before we moved in. Since it was the beginning of dry season when we moved in, we lived in ignorant bliss for several months and she got our money. Not surprisingly, spending a few days in our moldy puss ball room gave us both a fun case of Bronchitis which quickly turned into Pneumonia for Albin. We were both so sick that we didn’t have the energy to fight with our landlady who claimed innocence and took forever to fix the problem. We just rotted in bed alongside our sick nasty walls, tried not to scratch the itchy ringworm from our dogs, and prayed for Divine intervention. I’m shuddering just thinking about it.

There is no moral to this story, nor is there any wise insight to impart. I think that rotting apartments and piece of junk cars are a sort of rite of passage early on in marriage. In my mind, being able to tell our kids someday about our first car and apartment gives us some credibility when we tell them how good they’ve got it. Then I’ll bust into some “Living on a Prayer” for full dramatic effect. Until then, though, these first year fail posts are a great reminder to me of how far we’ve come … and seeing as our current walls aren’t popping like pimples, I’d say we’re moving on up.

 

Our Poopies (First Year Fails: Part II)

About five months into the madness, Albin finally convinced me that he absolutely HAD to have a dog. At this point we were still living in our rotting apartment (we’ll get to that another day), so I was more than a little hesitant. Apparently his mother had heartlessly deprived him of his childhood dream of having a dog, so it was a big deal to him. To give you an idea of how much Albin loves dogs, I’ll recount an exact quote from Albin: “Tricia, do you know what I would do if we had a million dollars? I would buy tons of land and save tons of homeless puppies.” He refers to all dogs as puppies, even if they’re all old and crusty. My favorite part is that for a long time, he would always confuse the word and call them “poopies.”

One day, we went to go check out the “poopies” at the local refuge. Albin literally bounced through the gate. There was a gringa volunteer working that day and she saw Albin’s bleeding heart and instantaneously took over. She showed us a kennel where four little poopies were playing. As soon as we got there, Albin says, “Can we get them?” Me: “Like all of them??? Are you kidding me?” The peppy volunteer lady told me that they wouldn’t get very big. Right.

The lady told us how they thought the poopies were only six weeks old and that they hadn’t received proper nutrients since their mother had left them. I could see Albin’s eyes starting to tear up and I knew how it was going to end. We took home two poopies that day. Albin kept looking over his shoulder at the two left behind, but one of us had to be rational. I kid you not, to this day Albin will randomly mention those two poopies we left and ask if I think someone came to adopt them. Yes. Definitely yes, Albin.

poopies

Brand new poopies

We brought the poopies home and that’s when the fun began. What we didn’t spend in buying a dog with a pedigree, we spent in saving the lives of those dogs. They had every sickness possible: deficiencies in everything, bacteria, impetigo, kennel cough, fleas, diarrhea (everywhere), doggy respiratory infections, allergic reactions, distemper, and fungus. At one point, a not-so-professional veterinarian’s assistant told us in a preschool teacher-like voice that Rocky had distemper and he would die. She also mentioned that if Rocky and Luna had ever shared water, Luna would probably die too. Very encouraging. Over the course of three months and millions of vet visits later, I am too embarrassed to say how much money we dished out; however, it was substantial. I may not be as big of a dog person as Al, but we weren’t going to let them die, obviously. Miraculously, both dogs are still alive and well today, and Albin is as pleased as punch (ok, I am too).

But, there was the fungus. We started noticing that Rocky and Luna had little spots all over them.Their hair began to fall out. I was convinced it was the mange, but after an overpriced vet visit, we found out they had a severe case of doggy ringworm. The vet told us that ringworm couldn’t be passed from canines to humans.

Conveniently, she was wrong.

Not too long after, I started itching all over and quickly developed ringworm spots in EIGHT (!) separate locations on my body. The worst was the one right in the socially unacceptable itching location of my pelvic area. It tormented me. I also had a very obvious one on my neck that my co-workers identified and I adamantly denied. Albin also caught the plague and we were ostracized from society for a good period of time. Even more embarrassing was that before I knew about the fungus, two of our dear friends had come to stay with us and when they returned to the U.S., they realized they had it as well. I was mortified and so.over.it.

Somehow, we all survived and I didn’t ship those dogs back to the refuge. Fortunately, they have immune systems of steel now. They’re still scavengers at heart so they eat whatever animal’s crap they find laying around and lick poisonous frogs, but somehow they always survive.

Luna has some anxiety problems, so she is afraid of anything that moves on its own or makes noise. A plastic bag being blown around the yard is enough to make her hide in the bushes for hours. She also hates mowers, vacuum cleaners, hair dryers, blenders, Mariah’s plastic pool, billowing curtains, the stroller, the printer, open refrigerator doors, crinkly paper, tinfoil, and anything that falls.

Luna hiding

Luna hiding in the bushes while I was vacuuming the house

Rocky is a special case as well. If I truly believed in Karma, I would believe that God was punishing him for his deeds in his past life. He has no teeth, no balls, and no tail; no teeth, because he apparently didn’t get enough calcium when he was a puppy. He only has a few little snaggleteeth here and there, so he swallows everything without chewing. He is the most selfish dog on the planet, so if that means he has to swallow a six inch rawhide bone so Luna won’t steal it, he will. This also means that his tongue isn’t held in his mouth by any teeth, so it is just hanging out the side. We made the decision for him to have no balls, but we should all be thankful he wasn’t allowed to procreate. The missing tail is a mystery. Luna is his sister and she has a tail, so we don’t know why he doesn’t. We affectionately refer to his stump as the “mullet chunk.” It has short hair in the front and then a long tuft hanging off of it like a little chunky mullet. I think it must tickle his little butthole because he’s always chasing after it in circles. He is ridiculous, but makes me laugh every day.

Rocky Tongue

Notice Rocky’s Tongue

The Mullet Chunk

The Mullet Chunk

At the end of the day, I suppose the hundreds of dollars that we spent on saving their lives were worth it. Luna loves us with an undying devotion and is clearly thankful we saved her life. Rocky has no conscience and would never let us know he is thankful for anything unless it was a rack of ribs; but I know God gave him to us for comic relief. Even though Rocky’s sole purpose in life is to sneak into Mariah’s room to smell her dirty diaper bin and then run around the yard with my freshly re-planted baby avocado trees in his mouth, I really do love him. He and Luna just add yet another random dimension to this already crazy thing we call our family, and I wouldn’t change it for the world.

Rocky guarding a green bean he scavenged off of the floor

Rocky guarding a green bean he scavenged off of the floor

Luna guarding Mariah

Luna guarding Mariah… at least one of them has their priorities straight