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Apes Abroad

Adventures in... Vancouver!

Sakura House Asakusa Iriya
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Japan
Originally uploaded by apes_abroad.
We flew in to Haneda airport in midafternoon, but it could have been 2am for all we knew after 30-some hours since our heads had touched pillow. We bought Passmo pay cards which work on all the trains and subways now, and also vending machines and even restaurants around the city. Finally, a kind of debit card for hopelessly cash-driven Tokyo! We ate tempura udon (and paid via vending machine, naturally) and headed for the Sakura House offices in Shinjuku.

I'd been prepared for hot weather but the humidity (32C feels like 36) was hard to take in our travel clothes and backpacks. I noticed women daintily dabbing the sweat from their faces with tiny lace-trimmed towels and stopped to buy one for myself - it's been a lifesaver. We now understand why there are drink vending machines on every second block in this city. These are record high temperatures for September, but August often gets up to a sweltering 35C/95F.

Sakura House dominates the long-term foreiner housing market here, offering reasonably priced rooms with shared bathrooms and kitchens. Most importantly, they don't charge "reikin" which is the standard moving-in fee. Also known as "key money", it's considered a gift to the landlord, equivalent to up to three month's rent. I guess people don't move very often around here!

At their office we signed reams and reams of documents, promising to follow proper garbage separation rules, agreeing not to share files on the local lan, and itemizing everything in the apartment down to the number of spoons - 2. We took the refreshingly air conditioned Yamanote line back to our room in Asakusa Iriya house. Look, they're so organized our room even has a video on Youtube.

It's actually a bit of a dump. Not surprising given the low price, but with all the crap they made us sign you'd have thought we were moving into a palace. The furniture's cheap and mismatched, the windows are a meter from neighboring buildings, the garbage hasn't been taken out in a month (remember the heat...) and the door doesn't lock. Not that we're worried about crime here. However, it's quiet and our room is relatively big with its own kitchen and working aircon, tatami floors and two Japanese style futons that joined together are bigger than a king-sized bed! We have only one ghostly housemate who may not even speak English, and as I mentioned doesn't like to take the garbage out.

I chose this place for the location in Taito-ku, between the bustling street markets and pleasant parks of Ueno to the east, and the traditional temple district of Asakusa to the west. It's an older part of the city with two and three story buildings, and seemingly no local zoning laws. Next door is a tiny slacklining gym, and at the end of the street trucks are loaded with sheets of glass during the day. There are restaurants and combinis dotted around every block, yet it maintains the feel of a quiet residential neighborhood, lined with potted plants and filled with children playing. Our walk to Ueno takes us through the household shrine shopping district, where store after identical store blasts cool air onto the street, inticing people to browse through their shiny wooden cabinets.

Next up: the Tokyo Game Show!

Summer in the Pacific Northwest
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Sarah and Mrs Mooberry
Originally uploaded by apes_abroad.
As usual the weather in BC was totally perfect this summer. For July and August we stayed with and generally mooched off our awesome families (although I did try to do some cooking). We went snorkeling in the almost-don't-need-a-wetsuit ocean around Nanaimo, toured local farms and wineries in Cowichan Bay and Saltspring Island, and searched for frogs at Ammonite Falls. I worked hard to finish Rebuild 2 which is now in sponsor bidding.

Labor Day weekend found us once again in Seattle for PAX which was nearly overrun with indies this year, many of them our friends. We spent the usual nights drinking and playing board games with our friends from San Francisco and Vancouver. We stayed to help pack up, affording us a behind-the-scenes peek at the incredible ballet that is the expo hall tear down.

We stayed a couple extra days and went to a Mariner's game with our cousins Pete and Leah, which was my first baseball game. We had incredible seats - the first two rows right behind the LA Angels, who lost even though Pete says they were the better team. It was the most fun I've ever had at any sporting event.

Our plan was to stay in BC until the end of Septebmer but Colin heard quite suddenly that he'd been accepted to present his new game at Sense of Wonder Night at the Tokyo Game Show. Unfortunately we had to miss OrcaJam and IndieCADE this year but we squeezed in Beerfest with Colin's parents where the theme was decidedly British style cask ales.

Then it was off to catch our 3am Air China flight to Japan...

A Northway tour of San Francisco
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San Francisco
Originally uploaded by apes_abroad.
Yes, the Northways came back to SF for three months, which as Colin says fits us like a glove. We've got to move on to BC in July, but I'm already planning our next SF visit for GDC 2012. A friend asked us for advice on what to see and do in San Francisco, and listing out all the best places for him has made me start to miss the city already. Here are, more or less, our favourite things to do in SF:

If you're going to be there on a Thursday, start by planning that day around the Academy of Sciences nightlife event - adults-only cocktails in an aquarium! That starts at 6:00pm in Golden Gate Park, so you can spend the day in and around Golden Gate Park. Start by taking the N Judah MUNI train (here's a bus map), get off at Carl & Cole (great sushi for dinner there) and walk down to Haight & Ashbury and Magnolia's brewpub for brunch because it's never too early for a beer.

Stroll down to the park, check out the drummers on hippie hill, and make your way to the museums. Across from the academy is the De Young which has awesome creepy skulls and fetishes from New Guinea, and a sweet tower that's free to go up with a view of the city. Nearby on 9th is the new Social Kitchen brewpub and Arizmendi which has delicious pizza and other baked yum you can pick up for later.

If you have time, come back to the park on a Sunday when they close the first half of JFK drive for people to ride their bikes (rent bikes at Haight & Stanyan). If the weather is warm (March-April is best; in July-August expect sunny mornings and chill windy afternoons), go all the way to Ocean Beach and follow the walking trails north through the ruins of Sutro Baths to Golden Gate Bridge. The trails continue east from the bridge along the water all the way to pier 49 but it's a long way; better to head in to Geary to catch the 38 bus back. But first stop at the Russian importers for some sausage and poppyseed pastries. It's always good to have snax for later.

I think Alcatraz is overrated and pier 49 is a tourist hell hole, but it's worth going just for the Musee Mechanique. Then you can walk from there to check out the best parts of North Beach and Chinatown. Hike up to the base of Coit Tower then walk down the paths on the east side to Embarcadero. Follow that south along the water south to the Ferry Building which is cool in a yuppie kind of way, especially when they have the farmer's market on Sunday.

In terms of museums the Exploratorium is my favorite, but it's best if you can go to their monthly after dark event so you don't have to share all the cool interactive science stuff with the dumb kids it was designed for. Colin likes the SFMOMA and YBCA art galleries just south of market near 4th, and there's a comic book museum and other little galleries nearby that are cool, and free the first Tuesday of every month.

That's it for downtown though. I wouldn't bother with the area around powell, market, and union square because it's just commercial tourist blah, and busy. Avoid wandering into the Tenderloin west of union square around 6th + market unless you're looking to buy some crack or converse with crazy people.

The cable car museum near chinatown is free and cool, and if you must take a cable car, the California line is the easiest to get a seat on. You can take it to the end then walk down to Van Ness to hit up Tommy's Joynt (or perhaps somewhere classier).

Take the BART to the Mission to find all kinds of good restaurants, urban culture and people speaking Spanish. Wander between 24th and 16th, Valencia and Mission st. It's what I think of as the "real" San Francisco, and it's a little grimy. It can't be denied, SF is a stinky city and inhabited by a lot of homeless people. That's part of the... charm? Head up to the Castro for a break; it's much trendier and whiter and gayer.

If you have a car and can organize who gets to drink and who has to drive, our favourite outside-the-city thing is to do a day of wine tastings around the Russian River area to the north. It's a couple boring hours on the highway to get out there but once you do the roads meander and the countryside is lovely. There's a burger place called Mike's At The Crossroads that's great for loading up on grease first, and another brewpub in Santa Rosa for when you're sick of wine. If you don't want to go so far, buy some $5 wine from Trader Joe's and have a picnic on the hills just north of the Golden Gate bridge (if it's not too foggy - earlier in the day is better).

And of course before you go, take a look at what events are going to be on, maybe take in a concert or a play. I love a good street fair or craft fair, and then there's Bay to Breakers, Gay Pride, LoveFest, the Folsom Street Fair (scary!), etc. SF likes to throw big, weird parties.

For those who might not know, we started a new development blog at NorthwayGames.com for game and work-related stuff. We'll continue posting here again when we're "abroad" once more in French Polynesia this fall.

Byebye to Costa Rica
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Bye bye Jose & Gabe's bar
Originally uploaded by apes_abroad.
Our last weekend in Pochote was crazygoodtimes. So crazy and good in fact that we never had a chance to write about it, and then we got to San Francisco and that was the end of our free time. But here's how our last weekend in Costa Rica went:

We went to another Rodeo in a small ranching town north of Pochote. I can't remember the name and of course it's not on the maps (neither is Pochote for that matter). The entire festival was smaller and more community-based, we went with a bigger group and everybody knew everybody. But the bull riding was more intense, and bloody.

The first rider was running for the walls after getting thrown when his bull caught up and gored him in the back. The guy made it to the wall then collapsed, and the announcer joked that he'd let us know when the funeral would be. At least I assume it was a joke, but the rider didn't look too healthy as they were rushing him to the medics. The second ride was even worse. The rider was thrown off, then the bull stomped hard on him several times. It was hard to tell how badly he was hit, but it was terrifying to see. When they chased the bulls off the rider jumped up and ran to the walls, then fell over and had to be stretchered off as well. With that tragic start, every ride afterwards seemed life-or-death. Those bulls were furious, much angrier than at the Cobano rodeo. We didn't miss having drunken tourists running around in the ring with them.

After the rodeo we all went back to the beach in front of Gabe's and drank the bar out of alcohol once again while watching the stars and our bonfire.

The next afternoon we were working on the deck when an incredible racket started up from the direction of the bar. It was an 8 or so part Cimarrona band that looked and sounded roughly like this. They were the band from the rodeo, playing for their supper right next door. They lent us some instruments and let us play along, and so our last evening in Costa Rica got started early. Kwon-bum brought lobsters and scallops for another amazing feast from the sea. We danced and drank and said our tearful goodbyes late into the night.

We miss our friends in Costa Rica, and we miss the peace and beauty of our little whale bay. Every place we visit is so different and it's hard to leave each one, but we have to remember that we'd never have discovered Pochote and had such great times there if we'd stopped traveling. So, onward!

Oysters & Puppies & Good times
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Shakira & her pups
Originally uploaded by apes_abroad.
A couple days ago Colin and I went out with Don and his friend John on an oyster hunt. We crossed the estuary and walked over the rocks on the point to find a place we could enter the water without being chewed up by the waves. It was a low visibility day so we had to dive down to see the rocky floor and searched for crevices in the rocks where a little black slit of a mouth might be hiding. It took me nearly half an hour to finally bag my first one and I shot to the surface holding it high and singing the A-Team theme through my snorkel.

I found my second and third by turning over rocks, and in the process also uncovered eels, slugs, and a beautiful big cowrie whose shell was at first totally covered by its bumpy grey body. Then came the biggest, most tenacious oyster which all my tugging could not separate from the rock. The current was picking up as the tide came in, so every time I had to come up for breath I was afraid I wouldn't be able to find him again. My fingers got all cut up in the fierce battle, but after five tries I shot to the surface holding the oyster over my head in victory!

That night we had 'pirates' at the bar, which is an oyster with chili followed by a shot of rum. When I lifted my oyster to my lips (my tenacious opponent perhaps!) I saw a tiny pair of eyes looking back at me. The oyster had been home to a miniature transparent lobster, smaller than a thumbnail with perfect little lobster claws and wavy eye stalks. People eat these guys live as a delicacy that kind of tastes like sweet fish roe (Aaron ate one while he was here!) but I couldn't do it. A friend took pity and brought it down to the ocean, where I doubt it will be able to find another oyster (I now know from experience, they're hard to find!) but one can hope.

While the Mishkins were here we were all placing bets on when the local dog Shakira would give birth. Well, she looked ready to pop for the last two weeks I thought, but Ariel won the bet - she gave birth within 24 hours after they left. Gabe's wife Natalia had to crawl down under the bar floor to retrieve the puppies. Four.. five... wait there's two more.. eight.. oh there's even more over here.. ten.. eleven! How Shakira, who was not a very big dog, fit eleven puppies in her I don't know, but she is much happier now to have them on the outside (she could hardly walk before!).

The puppies still haven't opened their eyes and only have two states: sleeping and hungry. For me they are right on the gross/cute line but quickly tipping over to cute. You can see what I mean in this short video I took of them piling on Shakira to feed.

Pochote to Montezuma in four hours
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Rock shop beach
Originally uploaded by apes_abroad.
Looks like I forgot to record our epic stroll to Montezuma, although you may have seen the pictures on Flickr. We'd previously made it as far as the lone "Jesus" tree with Don before the tide cut us off, but on our second attempt we had the timing perfect. We started out after a hearty breakfast of gallo pinto and egg, and made the first hour along our beach before the sun was too high and hot. In Tambor we tried to recruit some guys who'd been keen on the idea at Neisy's birthday party the day before, but they were all talk so it was just me and Colin, Don, Riley's girlfriend Pauline and her friend Tom.

From Tambor to the Jesus tree on the point is a nice shady stroll, then you head out over some rocks, then along a stunning white sand beach, then over some rocks and another beautiful empty beach. We were mostly following the old road, which used to be the only way to get from Tambor to Montezuma before they build the inland road. People still used it to get beach access for camping and picnics, although we met very few people on the trail. The sun rose and it got hot going over the rocky points and we were glad for the breeze and the cool shady bits.

Don was usually out front setting the pace. I hung back a bit and chatted with Pauline and Tom in French, which was refreshing after all the trouble I've been having with Spanish. It got me and Colin to thinking of where we might go next that we could practice French and live on the beach - well why not French Polynesia? They seem to have been hit hard by the recession so we found a great deal on the island of Moorea just off Tahiti. The next time we saw Tom, Colin noticed he was wearing a Moorea t-shirt, because it turns out he grew up there! Coincidence, or subliminal messaging?? Anyway he has given us all kinds of hints, contacts, and a map of his favorite spots.

About midway through our walk was a long stretch of black rock, and we were all getting pretty hot. Up ahead, we heard running water. It was the waterfall! We scrambled faster to get up to it, a perfect cascade of water coming over the cliffs that at high tide would plunge into the ocean. We sat under it for nearly ten minutes, cooling our faces under the torrent of clear cold water and filling up our bottles for the second half of the journey. Don carried no water; he just filled up like a camel before we left and he did so again here.

After that we walked along the most interesting beaches: two of them had drifts of perfectly smooth stones in candy-like colors of red, yellow, blue, green. Another had piles and piles of perfect shells, mostly olive snails which I guess the hermit crabs have trouble getting into. We started to meet other people on the trail as we neared Montezuma. Some sort of bicycling event rode past us, thirty or more of them looking hot and exhausted, accompanied by cameras and water trucks. The sun had passed overhead and we were starting to flag, hungry and hot and stiff. We stopped at one last deliciously cool swimming hole and I could feel the heat radiating off me as I lay facedown in the water for as long as I could hold my breath.

Just around the corner was our destination - Montezuma! We collapsed into chairs at a beachside sushi restaurant for the most delicious food I'd had in weeks (Colin reminds me that hunger is the best spice). Then we tottered around the little touristy beach town for a bit and caught the 2:something bus back to Pochote.

Quel journeé!

La visita de mi familia
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Aunt Diane and the Falls
Originally uploaded by apes_abroad.
Last week was our long-awaited visit from the Mishkins! Colin's aunt Diane and our cousins Ariel and Aaron came all the way from Nanaimo, BC to hang out with us in beautiful Costa Rica. Colin flew up to San Jose to meet them and help with the process of getting a car and navigating the four hour drive over to the Nicoya Penninsula and our house in Pochote. They stopped at a zoo near Alajuela and saw all sorts of rare local animals from ocelots to alligators. First order on arrival was a walk on the beach (the first of many) followed by roast chicken at Gabe's place (also the first of many).

For the last five weeks we'd been making do sans vehicle, bumming rides off our kind neighbors and walking to the Super Lapa Grocery at the other end of the bay. With the rental car we were eager to get out to see other towns and nearby reservas and refugios. We drove down to the cute surf town of Montezuma (which we'd previously seen at the end of our 4 hour beach hike) and checked out the waterfalls and Cabo Blanco reserve. Colin had a bit of a headache (understatement!) but he pulled through and we finally had our first encounter with the howler monkeys that we'd been hearing for the last 2 months. Sitting in trees, they look quite a lot like big black termite nests, but it's easy to tell the difference once they start hooting. Later we walked up to a nice little swimming spot at the base of a waterfall. Colin and a local guide dove off high things together (the pool was small but 10m deep!), and I found a nice spot to sit right under the falls.

We continued our daily routine of walking down to the river to skim and swim, now with Aaron on the skim board and Ariel with me in the water. Even Diane tried bodysurfing! We took them over to the Playa de los Muertos one day to go snorkeling. Crossing the estuary was a challenge at high tide, but Ariel works as a lifeguard and was able to swim across with our food above her head, not getting it even a drop wet. On the way back we met a family of howler monkeys on the hill and stopped to watch them crossing in the trees above. It was an amazing experience seeing them right here in Pochote and knowing that these are probably the same monkeys we hear every morning.

On their last day we drove up to the Refugio Curu near Paquera. It's a hotel as well as a wildlife park so I was prepared for tourists and plasticness, but there was none of that. We took the lovely low trail that goes from beach, through mangroves, across a rickety wooden suspension bridge, into the dry jungle for quite a ways, then through an overgrown mango plantation that has been left to the monkeys. We saw all sorts of wildlife: orange crabs licking their sand balls, lazy iguanas, skittish brown lizards with and without their tails, a huge inland hermit crab, a skunk, white-tailed deer (you'd think you were in Nanaimo!), snakes, "Jesus Christ - lizards!" (they run on water, and yes you have to pronounce it that way), howler monkeys, white faced capuchin monkeys, rehabilitating spider monkeys and a nasty goat that stunk of urine.

I should explain the last few. They had a rehabilitation pen where spider monkeys that had previously been pets and were being prepared for release into the wild. One of them ran right to us when we arrived and stuck his arm through the bars. I held his hand and he gazed at me as if to say "I can't take it in here - call my lawyer, you have to get me out of here!". Then this horrible reeking goat (the prison guard, I think) chased the monkey off to the other end of the pen. The other monkeys just looked on in silence, fearing solitary should they step out of line.

The best part though was the capuchin monkeys (as seen on Friends), which unfortunately only Colin and I got to see. A big family of 20 or so were hanging out in the mango trees chewing on fruit and bean pods and for some reason breaking off all the sticks (gardening?). There were little babies and bouncy teenagers and we abandoned the path to get as close as we could. Eventually one of the males got sick of our presence and went all monkey-aggro, baring his fangs at us with his butt all up in the air. I bravely snapped pictures until a second one picked up the stance then I booked it. Scary monkeys! Turns out they wanted us to back off so they could cross the road and head over to the other side of the river. One of them followed us and sat over our heads as guard, while the rest of them crossed through the trees with some amazing leaps (and some misses).

They headed off to check out an active volcano before flying back to BC. I can't believe it was over so fast! I had such a great time with the three of them. Cooking and making smoothies, swimming and kayaking and hiking and walking on the beach. We were so happy to finally be able to share our little corner of paradise.

Pura Vida
apes_abroad

Tap Dancing Horse! a video by apes_abroad on Flickr.
Out at Gabe's bar again, where we ended up for drinks after dinner. We finish our last beer on the beach under the new moon sky so filled with unnamable constillations. Colin's been bugging Jose to have a game of pool since Thursday, but there are always too many dishes. Finally they're into their second game, so I leave them to it. Wander back tipsy through the sand and baby palms, ducking under the clothesline and stepping carefully over the ageing barbed wire fence into our yard. Our beachfront yard in Pochote, Costa Rica. Taking the secret backup key from its hiding place and penetrating the hexagonal wooden capsule, our little shiplike home. Nuking some leftover Gallo Pinto, setting the aircon to stun and settling down to my laptop on the dining table.

</wierd present tense>

I was just saying to Colin today: Colin, life is good. We were floating out in the water near the little stream where the skimboarding is usually good. Today we went out at high tide and the waves were good instead, so Colin left his board to go bodysurfing instead. He's quite good at it, and when he gets it just right you will see him coming towards the shore like a disembodied head in the middle of a rolling white wave, grinning ear to ear. We collected shells and looked for Mary's beans on the walk back.

It was our usual break to a day spent hard at work, as we have been for the last month. A writer's retreat, Colin likes to call it. There's not much to do here and we are both so excited about our games that we'd rather work on them than do just about anything (though we make time for swimming!). Tomorrow I'm sending Word Dog off to FGL for strangers to poke and prod and give me their first impressions. Today Colin sent Flora & Fauna (short for Flora & Fauna on the Isle of Ajav, his new working title) to a few people for personal review. He weighs those reviews so highly! If I had done that for Rebuild I never would have finished it, and it just won the Kongregate monthly contest and is their #3 ranked game - hah!

Colin spent the last 2 days doing art for Flora, which has taken the style of a mid-1800s botanical text. It's really quite beautiful what he's done with it and his artistic strength seems to lie in his willingness to try crazy things, like bending the entire play screen as if it was folding into the center of a book. It really looks great and the gameplay is super fun, kind of like Contraption but with more organic kinds of creations.

I whussed out again and did the art for Word Dog myself rather than getting an artist, but it was much less work than Rebuild and I did most of the character stuff in one afternoon. The gui and tiles are... well they're good enough for now. I actually spent forever on the logo trying to get it to look like the spraypaint title to Wild Style, but I am just not that cool. I picked music for it yesterday which consisted of me listening to every song in shockwave-sound's "hip hop" category and eventually picking the cutest, least hip-hoppy song in there. I got some excellent feedback from friends and family this week and I think the tutorial is pretty solid. Today I fiddled with dog barking sfx and drew a pretty halfassed dynamite explosion. Totally nearing completion!

Next up for me is a tossup between doing the iOS version of Word Dog myself (I've been meaning to learn) or jumping in to Rebuild 2. I haven't decided if I want to make that sequel 1) a straight flash game, 2) a multiplayer facebook game, or 3) some flash demo/content pack thing. I guess I could add 4) full downloadable game in there because so many people have suggested it but the scale of such things is intimidating. Just hiring an artist to do some animations has me fretting but I'm going to have to bite the bullet this time. I just don't trust other people to work hard and come through on things and I don't want to end up in a relationship I regret.

But anyway, it looks like I'm going to make my deadline of getting Word Dog done by the end of Costa Rica. The Mishkins are coming to visit about a week from now and we'll have a nice break from our writers retreat to do some of the fun local things we've been planning. I'm determined to see monkies in one of the parks nearby and go snorkeling at the popular Isla Tortuga.

Oh I nearly forgot to mention, one fun local thing we did do already was go to the annual Rodeo in Cobano. The bull riding was pretty wild, because they let spectators down into the ring where they run around drunk trying to get the bulls to chase them. This is after the riders dismount of course, when they send out guys on horseback to lasso the bulls. I was a bit disappointed nobody got gored (Colin was horrified at this remark, to which I replied, "just a little gored!") but some of the rides were pretty amazing and looked scary as hell. Those bulls really can jump. The pupusas and churros were yum and we got to practice bad Spanish (and at the same time, bad English) in a bar playing salsa music and spanish rap. A Good Time Was Had By All, or as they say here, Pura Vida.

Wild Things
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Monty
Originally uploaded by apes_abroad.
Today was a very doggy day. As soon as I opened 'the wall': our front doors which make up a full 1/6th of our hexagon shaped house, our neighbor Larry's dogs came over to greet us. Nearly as soon as they left, a trio of dogs I'd never seen before took over the deck. One of the females looked suspiciously similar to the puppies we've seen hanging out at the bar. They were probably strays although it's hard to know here, and they were friendly and healthy and content to lie at our feet in the morning sun. Larry and I hatched a plan to adopt one of them while we're here and get her spayed before we go.

Later in the afternoon the half owned, half stray pack from the next cove over crossed the river and caused a ruckus with the local dogs. We only worry if they go after the iguanas, who are cat sized dinosaurs with a tendency to fall off the roof and surprise us. The biggest, which Colin nicknamed 'Monty' (pictured here), comes out to bathe himself in the sprinklers at midday while all the dogs are sleeping.

We haven't seen a howler monkey yet but today we found tracks by a stream, and of course we can hear them in the hills every morning and evening - I can hear them now like the roar of distant lions. One morning we had scarlet macaws in our yard pulling huge bean pods out of the trees. They used to be common here but disappeared in the 80's during a time of local development. They're coming back now with the help of a raise and release program in Tambor.

This place is a birder's paradise, but so far I've only identified the macaws and the long tailed grackle which is basically a crow with an expanded vocabulary. There are lots of green parrots and yellow birds with squawky voices, hummingbirds and seabirds. The pelicans are fascinating, how they so clumsily dive into the water and bob up, then float about for a minute trying to swallow their fish.

Yesterday we watched people come to take the coconuts from our neighbor's yard. One guy climbed up barefoot then a machete was passed up to him on a rope. He tied ropes to big bunches and they lowered them down slowly so they wouldn't crack. Huge fronds were sent crashing down with a well aimed chop from the machete and a shout of either warning or joy, I wasn't sure. In the end they had too many coconuts to take away so Colin grabbed some, borrowed a machete and started practicing his coconut opening techniques.

Sometimes, in the middle of the day or night, a coconut will fall off one of our trees and land with a loud and recognizable thud. We hurry out to see if it is a tasty liquid filled brown one, or one of the sad aborted green ones which usually split on impact. I know they're not great for you but the allure of eating something from our own yard is pretty strong.

Stunning successes and stunning sunsets
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Sunny and Happy
Originally uploaded by apes_abroad.
My game Rebuild went up on Kongregate, Newgrounds and the general public last weekend, and rocketed to the top of the charts. I expected a decent turnout since there aren't a lot of Flash games like it, but I'm genuinely surprised at the number of people who have stayed up all night playing it, trying to get all four endings in one day. They aren't turned off by all the reading either, which was my biggest fear. So many players are posting their suggestions for a sequel that I guess I'll have to make one after I finish my next game. I have a suspicion Word Up Dog is going to disappoint my fans, having no zombies or visceral stories of life after the apocalypse. I suppose it could be post-apocalyptic, in some future where mutated animals find a collection of early 90's hiphop albums and base their culture on them.

It's going to be great.

Pochote's been treating us very well this last week. We've made friends with our neighbours Larry and Angie and their three dogs. We took a trip with them to the next cove over and spent a beautiful day on the secluded little beach, swimming and exploring and getting rather too much sun as usual. Larry's been in the area for several years and has lots of advice for other fun things to do nearby.

Our neighbour on the other side is actually a sleepy little bar/restaurant run by expat Canadians. We head over there every second night to watch the sunset and have some fabulous roasted chicken from their big clay ovens. They just opened it a few months ago and so far it has a very quiet and chill atmosphere, lots of families and some nights with nobody there but us.

On the same property the owners also run the free Harmony Music School for local kids, which they started out of their own pockets but the government has finally recognized and begun to fund. They are part of a volunteer program where people come to teach in exchange for accomodation. Pochote is a very small fishing village with few extracurricular activities for kids besides "futball", so this school is a big deal for the area and is making a real impact. A number of their students have gone on to play for the national symphony orchestra.

A couple days ago we walked with Don (a founder of the music school) all the way down the beach, past Tambor and another fishing village out to a place called the Jesus Tree. This was a spectacular little beach with one lone tree inexplicably growing out of the rocks in the ocean where no tree should be. High tide stopped us from going farther, but Don regularly walks all the way to Montezuma along this coastal path, about a 5 hour walk. And he does it without bringing water; just shorts and flipflops and an early morning start.

I'm getting opportunities to practice my clumsy Spanish and to cook with unusual ingredients, and we are both working hard. During our daily beach walks and dips in the ocean we talk about game design. At 5:30 we take in the sunset on a beach log or at the (still nameless) bar next door. We rise and sleep with the sun here, it just seems to make sense that way.