QUITE A PROJECT


Here is the house that stood on our property when we bought it in 2006. A large family was raised here, most of whom now live in Javilla. We've been told there were once many families scattered throughout these hills. When someone started the big ranch still in operation today, workers were given a small plot on which to build a house, so they moved to the village for job security and an easier life.

The locals think we're nuts for choosing to live way out here. Had we carefully thought it through before we started building our house, we would have agreed with them. Once construction was underway, we house freaks were so excited we didn't even notice how crazy we were. As a team, Bill and I like nothing better than to choose a piece of land and build what belongs on it.

First we had to build a road up to the building site. Next we had to hold our breath for an entire day of costly drilling until we reached a good water supply 400 feet down. Then began the process of hauling in building materials in the rainy season. Delivery charges of $300 to $400 a pop wreaked havoc with our budget and then we had to pay to repair the public one-lane dirt road from Javilla every time a big heavy delivery truck got stuck in the mud, which seemed to happen every other day.

The closest concrete plant is two and a half hours away and there was no chance a big heavy cement truck could make it out here with road conditions as they are. The workers had to mix concrete for the whole house in a cement mixer. They then pushed it up this ramp in wheelbarrows to pour it bucket by bucket into the forms. Nope, nothing happens quickly here.

Having run so many building projects through the years, it was tricky for Bill to oversee the construction of his own home with no knowledge of Spanish or the metric system or tropical building practices. Bill had no other option but to communicate with the foreman using drawings and gestures.

Our clay roof tiles came on two big flatbed trailer trucks all the way from Nicaragua. Once the trucks reached Javilla they couldn't navigate the road to our house so they unloaded thousands of fragile clay tiles one by one and stacked them in an empty lot. We then paid Don Juan to load them onto his little tractor-drawn trailer and haul them out here, which took many trips over several days. With the closest hardware store over an hour away, we had to order extra everything to keep the job running. We paid the workers to correct mistakes and then we'd have to pay again to correct the corrections. We pooh poohed warnings about being too nice to the workers because then they'd take advantage of us. We were innocent and stupidly naive.

We paid for all materials before they were ordered. The English-speaking Costa Rican architect heading up our project from his office in San Jose had arranged things so that he was always several thousand dolllars ahead of us so we couldn't fire him. When our door and window frames were delivered, for the first time since the project began we weren't owed anything, so we emailed the architect that day to let him know we'd be finishing the house ourselves. Apparently, this scenario had played out before because the following morning when we arrived bright and early at the site, we found no trace of the crew or their equipment. We never spoke with the weasel of an architect again. Not worth it.

What was worth all the hassle was our magnificent new house in its jewel of a setting. While other parents our age were selling big houses and downsizing, we moved into our new castle in the wilderness before it had doors or windows or cabinets or running water or electricity. When Sally's boss at her part-time job at college heard about that, he told her the only thing she could do to rebel against her parents would be to become a lawyer.

Born to be wild.