Monday, October 31, 2016

Halloween Trunk or Treat Costa Rica 2016

Since Costa Rica does not typically celebrate Halloween, we created a trunk or treat event for the kids. There is no door to door trick or treating here, in fact, the typical Costa Rican holiday is Festival de las Mascaradas, Festival of the Mascarades. The kids were encouraged to bring a mask to school and they participated in an Activo Civico with singing and dancing. Halloween is more of an adult scene in Costa Rica, in fact, one of the busiest nights for clubs and bars. We wanted to teach the tradition to the local neighborhood kids and let our kids enjoy some good old fashioned trick or treating. So we invited our friends to decorate the trunks of the car, line up and offer a condensed Halloween celebration and it was a big hit! 

We had zombies, witches, pirates, Smurfette and Shrek and Fiona! We also had a Grandma in her rollers, a nerd, 2 Queen Elsas a Geisha and characters from Spirited Away, Nightmare before Christmas and other scary monsters and Scary Movie folks. There was an array of Supers, Superman, Flash, Batgirl, Bumblebee from the Transformers, a Gladiator and Spiderman, of course. Our friend Rebecca brought homemade Halloween cookies and cupcakes and the Devil eggs were gone in 60 seconds! We had green chips and party dip and candied beans! The car themes were great and we packed quite a bit of fun into a 2 hour party. The fiesta ended with everyone being slimed with green goo! Enjoy our photos and Pura Vida!








































Tuesday, October 11, 2016

About the Pit Masters

We are Matt and Niki Meeks and we have come to Costa Rica to introduce our version of healthy and tasty beef jerky. We were both born in Texas where quality beef jerky is as common as peanut butter and jelly and this means we ate our fair share growing up. Throughout the years, we noticed many discrepancies when it comes to beef jerky. Some are thick cut, some thin sliced by a machine, some are even manufactured and formed into a paste to be any shape. Some are dehydrated and some are hung and smoked. We prefer the all natural kind of jerky, thick cut, free of fat and marinated in a nitrate free marinade and smoked with wood, none of that liquid smoke stuff added. We decided to bring our family to Costa Rica and build a smokehouse in the mountains of Grecia on a coffee farm. Coffee firewood is sustainable because the trees are trimmed every year, giving us an abundant amount of wood. It is a hardwood, great for smoking and; although many people ask, it does not add a coffee flavor to the meat, but it is a clean consistent smoke. 

We created a brand called Carne Rico JERKY, meaning "Good Meat JERKY" and even though in Spanish, meat is la carne, we created a mascot called "Rico", a Sarchí artisan inspired colorful bull head to represent the Brahma cow in Costa Rica and that is why our meat is masculine. Costa Ricans often say, "que rico" or "que rica" if something tastes good, it is like saying "yummy" so we are basically calling our jerky "Yummy Jerky". We really took our time while creating our product because we wanted to offer a healthy, quality meat snack. We ultimately decided on what we feel is the best slaughterhouse in Costa Rica called Montecillos. They deliver to our plant and guarantee the beef is free range, grass fed, grass finished. When we receive the meat, we slice it free of all fat which is not hard to do since the Brahmas of Costa Rica are a lean beef to begin with, after all, they climb mountains daily. We then marinate the meat overnight in 3 secret recipes. We hang the meat in our smokehouse and smoke it all day for a delicious and flavorful snack or meal packed full of protein. We offer our jerky free of nitrates / nitrates and gluten free. We are able to maintain this quality by using a small oxygen absorber packet called JerkyFresh. 

Costa Ricans did not know what beef jerky was until we hit the market. It has been a struggle to get our product on the shelves of all the stores, but slowly we are becoming a huge presence in the Costa Rican market. We researched the market thoroughly and we knew that the tourist market would be easy enough, but because of the rainy season, we definitely needed to break into the Costa Rican market to sustain our product and we have done so with product sampling and events. We are often seen at La Ruta de Los Conquistadores, known as the toughest mountain bike race on Earth. We also think jerky is a great pair with beer, so we work the Oktober Beer Fest every year. We also are involved in the Atenas Chili Fiesta every year, a fundraiser designed to raise money for the local orphanage in Atenas. We are working with the Animales Atenas Fundraiser as well. Slowly, but surely our jerky is seen all over Costa Rica and we even just started selling in the local Delta Gas Chains. We sell in AutoMercado, and Vindi's the country's leading supermarket chain. Cafe Britt in the airport sells our jerky. There are so many stores, it is hard to mention them all and our distributor works hard every day to add to our portfolio. Eventually, our goal is to offer our product on Amazon to the Americas.  We also keep a great Facebook page, so check it out!


Tuesday, October 4, 2016

A Costa Rican Science Fair 2016

This was the second year for Max to offer a tantalizing science fair project to Escuela San Francisco.

Little sister Sofia also shared in the glory of a win! Sara also participated this year as the Pre-Kindergarten winner. In Costa Rica Pre-K is called Materno. Sara build a Kaleidoscope with some odds and ends around the house using an old Pringles can, some sparkling jewels and a broken mirror, with my help of course.

Max also utilized a Pringles can to build a telescope for his 1st grade entry, but his supply list was a bit larger, needing 2 magnifying glasses called lupas to build a 30x magnifying image. Many of the kids took turns trying to spot an image and exhibitors and onlookers alike took a chance to browse the floor testing all the projects. The wind was blowing down all the boards, making for a fun-filled game of chase the project. I found out after the presentation that not all students were required to do a science project, but they were encouraged. I am so glad we did this again this year because Max and Sara both learned many things from the point of construction to the finished product. They learned about stars and constellations, they learned about reflection and light. They learned that when you do a project with a Pringles can, you get to eat all the Pringles first :) and they learned that things like Pringles cans should not be thrown away because recycling can also mean re-purposing. 

All the kids at the school had impressive projects. They made a rocket out of baking soda. The 3rd graders made a windmill and calculated the power derived with a small light bulb, my favorite. There was Newtonian putty, the epic volcano and chemicals flying! There was even a rocket.  Many offered great information and displays, but Max and Sara as a few of the youngest definitely need to work on their microphone skills because they both clammed up when it was time to explain their projects to the school. Hopefully they will learn to overcome the shyness with all the civics and arts and dancing available at the school on a monthly basis.


If your child is shy, Costa Rica is a wonderful place to send them to school because they practice a wide range of culture within the schools, allowing the kids to really break out of their shells and immerse in the culture, arts and sciences. At the end of the science fair, each kid received a gift and cake! Another great day! Pura Vida!

Monday, September 26, 2016

How To Buy Computers in Costa Rica

So now that we have a booming business, we are faced with business problems when our computer breaks down. What to do when it comes time to purchase a computer in Costa Rica? First, deciding whether or not to buy a laptop or desktop is a decision you need to ponder. Desktops are so comfortable, but they aren't portable. Laptops are great if you plan to move around or travel, but if they are too big, they are heavy and bulky and hard to carry around. I can't get much work done on a tablet because they are really just for facebook and photos and games for my kids. If the laptop is too small, you can't see anything on the screen and it can be hard to type and drag your fat fingers around on the soft pad, which will eventually stop working if overused anyway. So let's face it, once you make a decision what kind of techy gadget to buy, then you have so many choices. OMG, who in the world knows what all the numbers and acronyms mean next to the brand name? Every few years we have to spend hours researching the best computer deals just to succumb to something we really know nothing about. Well in Costa Rica, there is a completely different animal to deal with. First, we do not have all the choices. Secondly, there are only a few stores to chose from and unless you speak great Spanish, you can't necessarily pick the brain of the salesman to cater to your specific needs. Lastly, and most importantly, prices are super high. So it feels like a losing battle, but not anymore! We just bought a laptop from Costa Rica Computers and had it shipped to Costa Rica. They have an International website, in Spanish too, so it is not just for expats or immigrants, this site can be great for Ticos too!


The service was great because we were not sure what we wanted but the customer service representative answered all our questions over a skype call.  He helped us narrow down to a name-brand we trust and the perfect size for portability and affordability. To top it off, as if he was psychic, he sent us a follow-up customer service email and personal video once we received our computer. We literally plugged it in and got an email and video from him. When we moved to CR over 3 years ago, I knew I would miss Amazon ordering, but I was willing to make the sacrifice. Costa Rica Computers has completely changed my mind about ordering important electronics to my door in Costa Rica plus I get to get a great deal too. The value and knowledge level of customer service has made me a committed customer for life. I have also become addicted to the blog. They seem to write about every question I randomly ask about computers and high-tech stuff that I do not know much about. 

So we called our sales rep to ask him a really dumb question about our internet in Costa Rica, I know, as if he can help. And after a few questions back and forth, he basically told us our 6 year old router was a piece of crap. Here we have been blaming our internet company for 3 years for our crappy internet and it ended up being our crappy router. So we ordered a new one and it did not break our bank! and it arrived just 10 days later to my door!!! Safe and reliable and now we have lightening speed. I am so happy RTG has made the leap to international waters. Costa Rica is a wonderful place to live and raise a family and now we have more options than we had before. Like ordering computers and electronics in the mail and receiving great customer service to boot. Whether you are a Gringo or a Tico, check out Costa Rica Computers for great deals on computers in Costa Rica. 

Día de Independencia Costa Rica Independence Day

Each year Costa Rica celebrates a round of many holidays, some cultural and some worldly. This September we had almost a party month on our mountain. First, we celebrated Max & Sara's birthdays. Then we followed with Día del niño or day of the child, which is celebrated globally. The school celebrates all week allowing the kids to dress up in full costumes on the last day with a pizza and cake party. This is always fun because the whole neighborhood is invited and the kids feel very special. Just 1 weeks later, September 15th we celebrated Central Americas' independence. 

While the schools and cities are decorated all week with the colors of the flag, the real celebration begins on the night of the 14th with the lantern parade, known as faroles

The lantern symbolizes the story of a young Guatemalan girl who carried a lantern into the dark streets to gather her towns people to rally for independence from Spain. The next day, the formal paperwork was signed and September 15th is celebrated in every country in Central America. In Costa Rica, we begin the celebration the night before by waiting until the last minute to either buy or make a small lantern on a stick. This is our 3rd year to participate and we bought simple paper lanterns made of red, white and blue commonly sold on the streets during the week. Some kids make intricate faroles in the form of a tico house, ox carts or Bart Simpson, or other cartoon characters. I do not know why, but the majority of them are of Tico inspiration and colors. We promised the kids next year we will make our own lanterns. Sara wants a butterfly and Max wants to make a minion. Sofia tried to eat her lantern just before her arroz con leche :) Hopefully next year she will be more patriotic and hopefully her hair will have grown back better by then too.

We all gather at the school where the students sing, dance and tell the history. They often sell food and drinks to raise money for the school activities. The salute to the flag is sang as well as the national anthem, although this is practiced every morning as well. We have made it a point to learn these 2 songs in particular to show our respect and support. Max and Sara sing these every morning with their hands over their hearts.

After the celebration at the school, the marching band leads a parade, with faroles in tow around the plaza. Each child carries a lantern with a special meaning. The kids always look forward to this night and now we have the story to tell them about why it is important. Freedom and Liberty are the single most important values to any human, without there will be no peace. I could translate the National anthem for you and the salute to the flag, but if you do not do the work, you will never learn and appreciate the words. We also learned about the flag and the symbol of Costa Rica. Max was tested on the materials and we learned that the colors of the flag represented red for the blood shed during the battles, blue is for the skies protecting us and white is for peace. 

One can only be so lucky to witness how each and every town lights up at night on September 14th, celebrating the meaning behind Día de Independencia throughout Central America. Independence is celebrated many different ways all over the world. The larger cities in Costa Rica also light the cannons and set off fireworks, but for the smaller, rural areas like our mountain, we hold hands and walk the plaza with our lanterns. Pura Vida!