Sunday, December 24, 2006
Monday, November 27, 2006
I have finished Christmas shopping for the son, and two of his friends, and I know what I would like to get esposo; Mom always enjoys a Costa Rica gift basket of goodies (Lizano sauce, chilero, organic chocolates, organic coffee, etc.). So Christmas has been easy this year. I had one minor hiccup last year, which you can read all about here. Yes, I know what we did was horrible, and stealing the toy back was wrong, but in my own weak defense, the woman has more money than she knows what to do with and the toy is not missed; heck, no one has probably noticed it's even gone. I believe what I did broke at least two rules of regifting, possibly more. That is not to say I won't regift in the future, I just won't regift anything used again!
The truth is that I've regifted lots of things (brand-new things, though, I promise!) -- things I just wouldn't use otherwise. Mostly clothes for my son that either I knew he would not wear (he hates onesies and overalls), or clothes I would never torture him with by making him wear (such as the sailor suit that I'm sure was G-D expensive, but really, I just couldn't bring myself to do it). I've even received brand new baby items from online swaps that were for a girl, so I've given them to my friends here in CR who have baby girls. I once regifted a really nice Fisher-Price Caribbean baby drum set, that I actually liked a lot -- the only problem was my son already had one! So I regifted it to a friend and her daughter thoroughly enjoyed it.
Well, there you go. Either you think I am horrible for regifting, or you can see my point of view. Either way, please give me some ribbons for my story about my terrible regifting deed, and I may even win a prize or something. Who says bad deeds can't pay off?
Sunday, November 26, 2006
How does this help anything, really? When I lived in California, especially during the drought years of the 90s, the water company handed out long lists of ways to conserve water (who can forget "If it's yellow, let it mellow; if it's brown, flush it down!"), as well as introduced graduated rates for water usage. If you used an average amount of water, you got changed an average rate; if you conserved a lot, your water bill really went down; and if you used too much, your water bill skyrocketed. Why not implement a similar system in Costa Rica? I can venture two guesses: 1) It's too difficult. Such a system would need to be approved by Congress, undoubtedly, then approved by Sala IV, and on and on into infinity until the country was pumping in desalinated seawater or reclamined grey water. 2) Many people still do not have metered water (can you even believe this?) -- we don't have a meter. We pay the same rate (currently around $5 every month) for using as much water as the farm next door. How is that fair? I would much rather pay a fair rate for the water I use and have access to it 100% of the time. Item #2 contributes to the difficulty in getting item #1 passed. When faced with a difficult situation, Costa Rican government and governmental entities will take the easy route, not necessarily the best route.
What most people do is to get a large water tank installed on their property (we have our own well here, so we don't have a water tank, but I don't know how people around here live only on the muni water supply). When it rains or when AyA decides to turn the water back on, the tank fills up, and then when it is dry or when AyA decides to shut the water supply off, your water simply comes from the tank. So basically no one is conserving, they are just using their "stockpiled" water. This, I predict, will come back and bite Costa Rica in the collective ass in 5-10 years, perhaps even sooner, as the world's clean water supply continues to diminish.
A similar situation can be found on Costa Rica's highways every weekday afternoon, for example, on the highway from San Jose to Escazu and Santa Ana. The toll is 75 colones during most of the day, except at rush hour, when THERE IS NO TOLL AT ALL! Why? There are too many cars! God forbid people actually sit in line at the toll booth, perhaps contemplating their over-dependence on cars or why there are so many single-car drivers crowding the highways during rush hour in the first place. Here's a thought: How about having one lane that is free during rush hour but only open it to buses or carpools (cars carrying two or more riders)? The other lines have to pay an extra fee, say a flat 100 colones rate for everyone, so the toll booth operators do not have to make too much change and the lines of cars can move at a slightly quicker pace. Right now, buses share the lanes with every other car and truck on the road, and there is absolutely no incentive for taking cars off of the road. The air pollution in this country, particularly in San Jose, is unbelievably bad (think Los Angeles before smog controls). It's disgusting. These ideas I've put out there are not new; in fact, California did them in some parts of the state last time I drove there. But here in Costa Rica it is a different story. Until the air quality is so bad that the environmental ministry has to order "stay indoors" days will anything be done about the ridiculous number of cars on the road, especially the vast number of single-car drivers (driven by people who do the most complaining about the traffic).
I will hear some people say that I'm comparing apples to oranges, but I don't think that is the case. I'm comparing common-sense ideas for conservation and pollution reduction to knee-jerk reactionary thinking without sufficient prior planning. Yet, I know there isn't a politician out there who will listen, so it makes little difference in the long run. Sigh...
Now you may be wondering what unused band names have to do with Costa Rica, and really it is simply that I was awoken in the middle of the night by someone or other playing rather loud techno music (do people really still listen to that?) and couldn't get back to sleep until around 3:00. When this happens, my mind begins making lists of various and sundry random things -- thus, unused band names. I did, briefly, consider getting up and phoning the police, as people are not supposed to play music that loud after 11:00 without a permit. But I figured it was probably esposo's friend's bar down the street that was playing the music, and since his business has not been the greatest lately (someone was killed during a bar fight there about a month ago), I let it slide. Plus, actually picking up the phone would have meant getting out of bed. Ha. No.
So, here they are, my favorite unused band names:
1. Belf Soup -- One day my friend Manders and I were at a bagel place in Monterey getting some coffee and bagels, and noticed that on the soup of the day one of the "e"s in "Beef" had been partially erased and looked like an "l". We couldn't stop laughing, being silly as we were, thinking how much "belf" sounded like a variation of "barf." If both of us had not been vegetarians, I'm sure we would have ordered the "belf soup" just to be even more idiotic than we were being at the time, which, I can assure you, was pretty idiotic. The soup was actually "belf barley" but that did not sound as good a band name as "belf soup." There you have it, and if you use it, be sure to remember this fascinating story.
2. June Cleaver's Beaver -- I like the double entendre of it, which I think speaks for itself. Punk rock band, anyone?
3. Bankshot -- This one I actually used briefly, when I had a ska band with my friends Tracy on guitar, me on bass, and Patrick singing. We even wrote two songs, but never could find a good enough drummer, and then Tracy had a baby and Patrick moved to Oregon, taking my amp with him (you still owe me $500 Pat, don't think I forgot about it!). Bands. This is a title of an Op Ivy song (originally fronted by the great Tim Armstrong, por supuesto!), and would be a good name of another ska band.
4. Unholy Alliance -- You may not remember a band called Max Q way back in the early 90s, but I do, because I was always a huge fan of Michael Hutchence (in fact, I first was attracted to esposo because I thought he looked like a cross between Michael Hutchence and Antonio Banderas). He did this solo thing during a break from INXS -- Max Q -- and I just thought that particular song title sounded very much like a goth or metal band. Any takers? Ray?
In this internet age, it would be cool if someone started a website dedicated to unused band names. Sort of like a baby names page -- there have to be hundreds of those out there! A band is a lot like a baby, actually. In the meantime, check out the random Great Name for a Band generator. And stop by The Worst Band Names Ever, which I think is pretty belfin' funny.
Sunday, November 19, 2006
1. Instead of the typical Imperial beer or "Pura Vida" frog t-shirt, why not pick up one that helps out homeless animals? My favorite is designed by the ANPA animal shelter in Guadalupe/Moravia. It has a cartoon of a zaguate that looks like a cross between a chihuahua and a poodle, and reads (in Spanish, of course): "Don't be a racist, adopt a mutt!" You'll have to either go to one of ANPA's adoption fairs (the big one takes place the first weekend in March every year at the Outlet Mall in San Pedro) or stop by the adoption house in Guadalupe. While you're there, consider bringing a donation -- food, blankets, dog toys, or money are all greatly appreciated. I like ANPA the best because they are a no-kill shelter; AHPPA also helps out many, many animals, though they only get 30 days before they are euthanized. Still, this organization does the best that it can, and can also use donations for its shelter; by purchasing a t-shirt you are helping to save lives. Isn't that a little more meaningful than hitting yet another generic t-shirt stand? (I also have two bumper stickers on my car from AHPPA; one reads (in Spanish, again!): "I saved thousands of animals today by castrating my pet." The other: "Don't buy an animal, adopt a mutt!" Wouldn't it be great to stick one of these on your car, then be able to start a discussion with someone who does not speak Spanish when they ask you what they mean?)
2. How about Costa Rica's version of the "Calendar Girls" calender? This one also helps homeless animals through the organization SASY, set up by my friend, Miss June. I saw Miss J. yesterday and she told me how well the calendar was selling, and was so excited about the organization and all it was doing to help stray animals in Costa Rica. I'm absolutely thrilled for them, as they've only been around for about a year or so. At $15, you can't go wrong, and just think of all the comments you'll get on this calendar! You can order one online, or stop by any of these retail locations to pick one up.
3. Try my absolute favorite coffee, produced by Los Nacientes. It is 100% organic and can be purchased at the weekly organic fair held every Saturday morning in San Cayetano (and I'll post the directions here as soon as I find them). At about $1 for a 1/4 kilo bag (that's 1/2 pound for you Yanks), you take take as many bags as you can fit in your suitcase and help out small-scale organic farmers at the same time. Sure, you can get Cafe Britt organic (for about $7 per 1/2 pound/1/4 kilo) in almost any supermarket, but why not make the trip to the organic market instead and support farmers instead of large corporations (can anyone say, "owned by Starbuck's"?). While you're there, you can have a glass of fresh-squeezed organic orange juice, and try organic homemade baked goods and breads. You'll want to get there (actually you'll need to get there) by 7:00 a.m. (yep, the sun rises early in Costa Rica!) in order to get the goods, but it will certainly be a trip that's not on everyone's itinerary AND you'll still have the rest of the day to take any of the many day trips from the Central Valley.
4. Speaking of things not on everyone's itinerary, if you're one of those people who enjoys off-the-beaten-path activities (I am!), you must pick up the guidebook The Real Costa Rica. Published by COOPRENA, this book is absolutely indispensable for anyone wanting to see the authentic sights and sounds of Costa Rica. Unfortunately, it is not sold in bookstores or online, so you'll have to contact COOPRENA ahead of time via their website to see how you can get a copy of the book. It is bilingual and actually includes all kinds of fabulous information (such as turtle nesting seasons, bus schedules, etc.) and I really do find it a great source of information and ideas for trips I'd like to take (after having lived here for six+ years). 5,000 colones (or around $10).
5. I love the indigenous craft of carving dried jicaro gourds. Yesterday, at the Women's Club's annual bazaar (tip: great place to find used books in English on the cheap), another friend had her stand set up with all kinds of wonderful organic herbs, spices and teas, as well as these great carved jicaros in the shapes of tapirs, armadillos, and pacas. I have also purchased them in the past carved into candle holders and water pitchers. They are beautiful and can usually be had for just a few dollars (or less) when purchased directly from the craftspeople themselves. Check that guidebook (#4) or their website for tours to indigenous reserves!
6. If you visit Monteverde, be sure to stop by the CASEM art gallery and pick up at least one or two pieces of art made by local artists, the vast majority of whom are local women relying on their art to support their families.
7. A really, really cheap yet pretty cool souvenir is made by homeless kids that work some of the intersections in downtown San Jose (especially the one from the main highway from Escazu into the city). They create little grasshoppers out of braided palm fronds for about 100 colones (that's 20 cents US, people). I hate to see children in the streets at all, but for some of them, who have absolutely NOTHING, begging is the only way they can get any money to buy food or things for their families. Truthfully, I have not see the grasshopper-making kids in quite some time, but whenever I do, I buy at least 2 or 3 grasshoppers from them. I like them, and it reminds me to be thankful for what I do have in my life whenever I see them. If you don't like giving money to homeless people (I know, many out there will say "They'll just use it to buy booze or crack!" and in many cases you're probably right), offer them a sandwich or a box of juice. Think of what your one small gesture can mean to a child who spends his days asking for handouts in the middle of the street in a metropolitan city before you turn your head or say no.
I hope that these ideas have inspired you to take home something more than the run-of-the-mill trinkets that you see in every gift shop around the country. When you buy a SASY calendar, they are able to spay or neuter several dogs and prevent many unwanted puppies from being born. A few grasshoppers may enable a homeless kid to eat that day; a piece of handcrafted artwork or a trip to an indigenous community can help support a Costa Rican family. You'll take back more than a souvenir, you'll take back memories that last a lifetime, and you'll give something in return. Isn't that way cooler than yet another Imperial t-shirt?
Wednesday, November 15, 2006
Yesterday as we went to the house to talk with the landlords (extremely nice people, by the way), I saw two toucans land on a tree outside our new front gate. Así es Costa Rica.
Speaking of views, I keep trying to update the "view from my window" (to your right), but for some reason, it's not working. I wanted to show you all (or "y'all" for those from my part of the US) that it's been raining for the past few days, and today I am so cold (gee, it must be all of 75F!) that I'm wearing sweat pants and an old flannel shirt I dug out of the bottom of my closet. Really, I am not kidding when I say that I'm cold. I know, I know, those of you in "real" cold climes will not feel bad for me, not one iota, and I completely understand. But you'd be surprised at how quickly you can get used to daily temps that hover around 90F. And don't ask me to convert to C, 'cause I'm just not going there. I know that upper 20s is hot, lower 30s is really hot, and lower 20s is cool. That's as far as that goes. I can, however, buy something by the kilo (although I usually end up with too much of whatever it is) and order fabric by the meter (that one is easy, since a meter is approximately equal to a yard). I still can't convert liters to gallons or vice versa when it comes to buying gasoline, so I just ask for 5,000 or 10,000 colones worth, which is roughly equal to about half a tank and 3/4 of a tank on my car (and no, I don't know how many gallons the tank holds, though that would help clear things up a bit, wouldn't it?).
Dang, I gotta go find some socks. My feet are freezing (well, okay, not literally). I don't think I've purchased a pair of socks since I lived in California, where I wore one pair of Doc Marten's until the soles fell off (that took more than 10 years -- great shoes that they were!). Here I just wear flip-flops on a daily basis, so while there is no need for socks, a pedicure every now and then is a must. Or you could just do what I do (if you're a woman, that is) -- paint your toenails some ungodly color every month or so and then no one will notice how disgusting the rest of your foot is.
It's raining, I'm cold, and I'm not going to pack. Not even close. I told esposo that if he wanted to move YET AGAIN (we figured that we've moved now six times in the six years we've been here), he would have to do the packing. So he did what any good man would do: He called his mother to come and help! I sort of feel bad that she's packing while he's at the cafe and I'm here blogging, but only sort of. I'm still not packing. I will not be guilted into packing by my suegra. No. I won't.
But I am going to go find socks now. Where in the world could they be?
In other news, I noticed that my iPod plugin shows no music listed to recently. Must remedy that situation. Along with the tie for my most popular artists being between La Ley and Omar Faruk Teliblik. While I like Omar, I love Beto. (Sorry dear, it's true. Please don't be jealous.) A video of La Ley (at the MTV Unplugged thing) follows so you can see for yourself why I looove them so. Or why esposo says they are cheesy. All depends on your point of view, I suppose...
Off now, to play music, and find socks. Really.
Tuesday, November 14, 2006
This whole incident brought back a terrible memory from middle school. I had a beautiful black and white cat named Nicky, who was the sweetest thing in the neighborhood. One day, some of the older kids thought it would be fun to shoot Nicky with an air rifle in the head until he died. I've been an animal lover all my life, and when a neighbor friend found out I was frantic looking for Nicky when I couldn't find him one afternoon (he always was there to see me after school), he reluctantly told me what happened. I remember asking him, in tears, Why didn't you stop them? Why didn't you get an adult? Where is he? and my friend trying so hard to comfort me by saying, it was too late, he was already gone. It's truly an incident I never got over (some 20+ years later). I still remember that day as if it was yesterday. I still wonder if he suffered. I still ask myself why they did it. Nicky was nothing but love embodied in a cat. How could anyone do such a thing? What makes children kill for no reason, whether it be a cat or a group of monkeys? Perhaps that is a question others can answer. Right now, I'm just so sad, over both the monkeys and now over my sweet Nicky all over again.
As a brief aside, howler monkeys may sound fierce, but they are actually non-aggressive vegetarians who live in family groups and eat tree leaves.
Child welfare agency PANI is looking into removing the children from the home, as there is no way they should have had access to rifles. What kind of penalty the children will face, as well as what will happen to the parents, is still in question.
I guess the only good thing that can be said about this incident is that it has raised awareness of how serious our need to protect endangered species is, even in a country as supposedly "environmentally-friendly" as Costa Rica purports to be (but that is a whole other blog entry).
A picture of a Howler Monkey in Costa Rica. Author: Daniel Chaves Gomez. Borrowed from Wikimedia Commons.
Thursday, November 09, 2006
Tuesday, November 07, 2006
The reason I bring this all up is that, as you already know, we have decided to move and went to look at a house in Santa Ana on Monday. The two biggest concerns I had with the house were that the backyard was very small (and we have a pile o'dogs over here), and that the staircase was a little scary for a toddler. At any rate, we decided to take the house and use baby gates, etc., and called the owners to let them know we wanted to rent it. We all set up a meeting to sign the rental contract on Tuesday afternoon. (Side note: In Costa Rica, it's not usual for landlords to get a bunch of applicants and then pick and choose the tenants from among them. The market is such that, if a house comes available that you like, you usually get it. This is the opposite of say, places like California or New York.)
On Tuesday morning, our prospective landlords call to say that they had another meeting come up and wouldn't be able to see us until Wednesday afternoon instead. I immediately smell fish. At any rate, we have things to do all day, and on the way back from doing them, we decide to stop by the house for one more look, just to be sure we want to move into it. This is right about the same time that we were supposed to be signing the rental contract. Who is in front of the house at their "other meeting" but the homeowners and another couple looking at the house! They had, apparently, decided to show the house to other people to see if they could get someone better in there, and I don't blame them. But why feel the need to lie about it to complete strangers? Anyway, esposo calls them later that night to find out if we still have the house, and they make up this ridiculous story that they have decided to move closer to San Jose and rent out their house in Grecia instead. What a load of crap! Why not just say, "We decided to rent the house to someone else" and leave it at that? Again, why lie to complete strangers that they will most likely never see again in their lives? I seriously do not understand the need to compulsively lie to avoid any type of conflict whatsoever; it is just beyond annoying. Rest assured that if you know a Costa Rican, they will lie to you about something at some point, probably sooner than later. The most common lie is, "I have a meeting scheduled," when they simply don't want to do something. Another one is when asking for directions, most Costa Ricans would rather say anything than "I don't know." How is that helpful?
Monday, November 06, 2006
Anyway, baby is sick and crying, so I want to get to the ATM and back asap so that I can get him in bed. Landlady sees this, yet proceeds to ask me if she can take a look at the carpet. (side note: said carpet has been destroyed by my small dog and a cat, and we offered to either pay to have it pulled up or cleaned. Landlady said that since they were going to tile that room anyway, might as well just pull it up and they'd buy the tile. Ok, fine.) I say that no, I need to get my son to bed, can't you see that he's sick? He has a fever, etc. etc. etc.
So I go, come back, put baby to sleep, and she comes over not 10 minutes later asking to see the carpet. By this time I want to strangle her. But I restrain myself. Son has woken up, still feverish, still crying hysterically. I tell her she can take a quick look but I really need to take care of my son. I also then give her the receipts to the past two fixing jobs that WE had to take care of (because the landlady would not do so), so that she can take them off the rent. One is for about $20, for a guy who came and fixed a leak in the bathroom. Granted, that is a little pricey for Costa Rica, but we couldn't get anyone else at the time, and she (landlady) was no help in the matter. The other bill is for $50, for our other handyman who has changed the faucet in the bathroom and also the light fixture in the kitchen. This includes parts, and if you ask me, is not all that expensive. He charges a flat rate of $30 per day just for his labor. Try to find that kind of deal in the U.S.! Landlady starts bitching about how expensive the first bill is, and then goes on about how no way in the world can she afford to take the second one off the rent, blah blah blah, until next month. Did I mention I was ready to strangle her? She acts as though esposo has not said a word to her about either bill, though of course he has spoken with her at length about these two bills and the state of the carpet. (side note: Landlords in Costa Rica will often get you to either do the work on their houses or have someone else come and do the work for you that they are legally responsible for doing, which you must pay for, and later have you take the $ off your rent. This is the third landlord we've had who has pulled this crap on us, and frankly it is getting old and tiresome.)
Then she goes and looks at the carpet, and starts making a big fuss, bitching and moaning about how terrible it looks, blah blah blah. Of course it looks terrible. She has been told it looks terrible. No one here claims otherwise. We offered to pay for it, what more can we do? Is there a need for her to raise the roof? She is irritating me more by the minute. The fact that the carpet, to begin with, was old and disgusting and very thin (no carpet padding in this country; let's lay it straight on cement!) is neither here nor there. It's gross now, and let's leave it at that. Is there a reason to torment me while I have a sick child bawling in my arms?
She says that she's not going to put down the tile floor until we get rid of the cat. Because, of course, cat would pee on the tile. Never mind that tile is far more easy to clean than carpet. She makes a face at my cat and THIS IS THE LAST STRAW. My cat is 18 years old, and I've had him since he was 8 weeks old. He ain't goin' anywhere but wherever I go. I said that I'd move before I got rid of my cat, and that seemed to shut her up for a second or two. Sorry, but no house is worth my cat. She then moved on to the bathroom, and started complaining about how we didn't need to buy a new faucet since she had several and could have brought one over. Never mind that she knew the faucet needed to be replaced for several months now and could have brought one over at any point. So she basically refuses to pay for the faucet being fixed. I then, at this point, hustle this increasingly irritating woman out of the door. She expresses her fears about my dog, Cheska, biting her, and I secretly wish she would do just that. When landlady finally leaves, I give Cheska extra loves and tell her what a good dog she's been.
Something to know, if you want to rent a house here, is that most Costa Ricans are very passive-aggressive and will do anything to avoid a confrontation. If you keep this in mind, it can serve you well, especially when it comes to your house.
Well, anyway, we have found another house already, and if you don't hear from me for a while, that's why. We'll be in the process of moving house for the next few weeks. Stay tuned...
Friday, October 27, 2006
She is awesome! For about $20 a week (two days for five hours each day, or around $2 an hour, which is the going rate), I have a clean house, at least for a while. She puts the dishes away and puts the dirty ones in the dishwasher. She sweeps and mops the floor. She picks up hijo's toys and miscellaneous crap. She makes the beds. She does the windows. She vaccuums the bedroom carpet. She scours the showers and thoroughly cleans the bathrooms. She even gets the crap off of the top of the stove and the cat food particles the fluffies leave behind on the washer and dryer. I am sure she does other things as well, like general straightening and ordering and putting things in nice, neat piles. And she's a very nice person. She is even helping hijo with his Spanish (which is improving markedly).
I know I will never be able to afford a maid when we leave Costa Rica for the developed world, so I guess I should enjoy this while it lasts. Though I have a thing about classist people, and -- Jsuchristo -- I hope I am not becoming one... I mean, I do not take my maid shopping and have her put things in the cart as I point to them on the shelves (yep, seen that one on a few occasions in Escazu), nor do I take my maid to Gymbo and have her play with hijo while I sit around gossiping with my friends (seen that one on waaaay too many occasions). That to me is abuse and laziness. That to me says, "I am above putting my own groceries in the cart or playing with my kid so I have my lowly maid do it for me." That to me is disgusting.
Instead, I am attempting to see it as, I have a need (i.e., a way to clean my dirty house) and she has a way to fulfill that need (i.e., having a job cleaning that helps support her family), so it seems like it is okay. Or am I simply fooling myself into thinking so? Hey, I read Nickel and Dimed; I realize that most of the women who do these jobs don't do them because they are fun or lifelong dreams -- they do them because they have little education and/or little choice. So I'm still feeling some ambivilance about the whole thing, though I don't know what I'd do without her (well, I do know, but the thought is not a pretty one)...
Friday, October 20, 2006
Basically, it translates to "badly birthed," as in someone whose birth was so messed up that they came out a total jack. So now you know: When someone cuts you off in traffic going 80kmh (which they will if you do any sort of driving in Costa Rica, guaranteed), you can shout at them "Malparido!" Sounds better than shouting "You badly birthed jerk!" I suppose, though not as good, in my opinion, as my old standby.
Thursday, October 12, 2006
The first time I saw a billboard advertising these, I thought, that can't be right. Cowboy Balls? Esposo corrected me: Little Cowboy Balls. Little Cheesy Cowboy Balls. Does anyone else see something not quite right here?
My two-year-old son, who can't say the whole word "cowboy," calls them Cow Balls. Hee hee...
Bolitas Vaqueras are described on the bag as spicy cheese balls, though I don't think they're spicy at all, and my two-year-old pretty much ate the whole small bag (he doesn't do spicy). I know you want some! Unfortunately, though, the two online stores I know of that sell Costa Rica goodies do not carry Cowboy Balls just yet. So the first five people to drop me a line will get a free package of Cowboy Balls sent to them from me (post a comment with your e-mail address, and please say "I want to eat Cowboy Balls" or something similar! Since comments are moderated, I will not post the comment to the site for the world to see your e-mail address, but will send you an e-mail privately). Because I care. About Cowboy Balls.
Wednesday, October 11, 2006
I knew that I didn't have enough time in my life to make an entire quilt, but I could at least do up a block or two. Browsing around the 'net, I came across a website that collects blocks and then makes them into quilts, to be auctioned in May on eBay. This sounded right up my alley, so I read the requirements and got to work.
One of the requirements was that the block could use predominently pink and white fabrics, neither of which I had (is that weird? About a hundred different fabrics, but no pink or white). This necessitated a trip to the local fabric store, aptly named Villa Telas (or Fabric Village), and a session rummaging through the off-cuts bin. I love the off-cuts bin, because I 1) do mostly piecing projects and don't tend to need yards and yards of the same fabric, and 2) find some great pieces and don't spend much money. Unfortunately, they had not much in the way of pink, and only three small scraps of white-ish fabric. I asked esposo if he thought one particular fabric was white, and he said, no, more like cream. How about off-white? Could it pass for off-white? Let's compare it to cream. Ok, comparing it to that makes it look off-white, but I'd still call it cream. Great, off-white it is!
I then had to find a pattern that would give me a 12x12 (or 12.5x12.5 unfinished) block. I'd just found the CUTEST Hawaiian shirt paper pieced pattern online, and started making Hawaiian shirts with it. But, it was for an 8x8 block, which meant -- MATH! I had to figure out how much to enlarge the pattern to get a 12x12. Me to esposo: How do I figure out how much bigger to make an 8x8 block to get a 12x12 block?
Esposo to me: Well, 4 is half of 8, so multiply that by blah blah blah blah and you get a 12x12.
Me: What? I have no idea what you just said.
Esposo: You know, if 8 plus 4 is 12, then blah blah blah and you get a 12x12 block.
Me (simply not getting it): Ok, so you're saying that 4 is 50% of 8, 8 is 100%, then 12 must be 150%, right?
Esposo: Yes, that's what I've been telling you all along.
Whew. Math. Brain hurts.
Sure enough, I blow up the pattern 150% and it's a 12x12 block. Yippie! I then use my off-white (NOT cream) and pink fabrics to construct the block. The off-white, I swear, must be the wrinkliest fabric on the planet. I begin to wonder if it's even 100% cotton (which the rules stipulate it must be). I iron and iron, I steam iron, I throw water on it and iron some more, still the wrinkles persist. I begin to get irritated. Still, I have finished half of the block and refuse to stop there, so I use the rest of the wrinkly fabric on the other half. The shirt part is perfectly pressed, but the background OFF-WHITE is wrinkled beyond belief. Esposo offers this kind word of advice: You can pretend it's part of the design.
Ok, so that was not very helpful on his part. Meanwhile, I realize that spraying and steaming the block has produced some side effects: the ink on the page is now running and seeping into the fabric. I briefly consider throwing the whole thing away, but remember that I do have Oxy-Clean in the laundry room, and decide I will spray it and wash it, and try to iron out the damn wrinkles again. Incredibly, this works. When I show the pressed, lovely block to esposo, he offers another valuable piece of commentary: It looks, well, kinda... gay.
Me: It is a block for charity! Breast cancer research! You know, as in, women?
He: Oh. That explains all the... (waving hand over block) pink.
I realize he is probably imagining it should look more like this block that I'd done the night prior:
But of course it does not look anything like that. I had to remove the pocket and the collar, in case the group would end up doing machine or long-arm quilting on the final quilt, and I did not want those to get in the way (though I do prefer embellishments). Instead, it looks like this:
I am, at least, hoping it does not recall a hospital nurse's uniform, which is the opposite effect I'd like the block to have.
Hmmm, maybe I should make a second block after all. This time using the cream fabric?
Thursday, October 05, 2006
Halfway through lunch, three Americans come into the cafe. The rather obnoxious woman starts asking for water with lemon on the side. The (extremely nice) Chinese waitress explains that they don't have lemons, but they do have frescos and can make her a lemonade (all of this conversation takes place in Spanish). She then contemplates this, and agrees to a fresco. Perhaps she is thinking of Fresca, who knows, but when she is brought a lemonade, she proceeds to make a fuss about it, saying "I can't drink this, I wanted water with lemon on the side." Extremely nice Chinese waitress then has kitchen boy run to the store half a block away because THEY HAVE NO LEMONS!
Then Ugly American asks extremely nice Chinese waitress IN ENGLISH if the shrimp is vegetarian (duh, yes, it's a vegetarian restaurant) and if it tastes like shrimp (I would say that it does not, but it's damn good nonetheless). ENCW proceeds to attempt to answer her in English (and does a fine job, I might add, considering how obvious it is that Spanish is her SECOND language). Ugly American proceeds to mutter something about how expensive the shrimp is (all of 2,000 colones, or less than $4 -- cheap in my book and anyone else's who's eaten out in Costa Rica, and particularly in Escazu). Then Ugly American orders the shrimp and a plate of potstickers. After ENCW leaves, UA is heard to mutter something derrogatory about Chinese people and Chinese food in general (I have been to said cafe on several occasions and have had nothing but excellent service and friendly attention from the staff). What a freakin' byatch.
Her dining companions, fwiw, ordered burgers, fries, and pizza. At a Chinese vegetarian restaurant! Honestly, I didn't even know they HAD burgers, fries and pizza, because -- DUH! -- I go there to eat CHINESE FOOD! I guess my brain simply skipped over that page on the menu. And then some Americans wonder why they are despised abroad. Go figure. Idiots like this give us all a bad name.
I remember once, when I was in school at UC Santa Cruz, a surfer girl asking me about Costa Rica. "But doesn't everyone speak English?" was one of her questions (she obviously did not speak a lick of Spanish). "No," was my reply, "but they certainly all speak Spanish!" Why, I ask you, humble reader, why oh why do so many Americans expect everyone to speak their language? Why would Ugly American ASSUME that ENCW spoke English, when she had never met her before, never heard her speak English? I have had this conversation with a friend of mine who moderates a board for people living in CR or wanting to move here. She is equally appalled at the number of Gringos who want to find a tropical version of the United States here.
So I will say it once, for all those who may believe otherwise: Costa Rica is not the United States. If you are thinking about moving here, you will experience culture shock. Yes, we have some American television stations and products and there are even enclaves of Americans you can socialize with. But this is not the US, and you'd better damn well speak Spanish if you expect to enjoy, let alone get along with, Costa Rica and its people. No one wants to hear you bitch and moan about how Costa Rica is not like the US. We know it's different. We know a lot of things are WAAAY behind the times (I do enough bitching and moaning myself on such topics). And seriously, most Costa Ricans know what is wrong with their country. They don't need to be reminded by you. In general, you have more money and more opportunities in your life than they ever will have. As an indicator, a recent article noted that if you have a car, more than one television, and internet access, you are considered in the upper class. Hot water and washing machines were not even mentioned. Think about that before you start your whining. Please, we have enough Ugly Americans here. If you are one of those, stay at home.
Getting off my soabox now. And I'm going to go eat those lettuce wraps that I took home for munching later!
Thursday, September 14, 2006
Dough (make in a bread machine):
1/4 cup warm water
1 cup soy milk -- room temperature
1 tbsp ground flax seeds mixed with 3 tbsp water (let sit for about 10 minutes)
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) margarine softened
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 cups all purpose white flour
1 package instant vanilla pudding mix (3 oz box)
1 tbsp bread machine yeast
1 cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) margarine softened
1/2 cup (1 stick) margarine softened*
2 cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 tablespoons hot water (add more if necessary)
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
*if you have vegan cream cheese available, I'd use that instead of the margarine, but since we don't have any in CR...
Add the dough ingredients, in the order listed, to the bread machine and prepare using the dough setting.
Separate into two halves; prepare each half separately. On a lightly floured surface, roll out one of the halves to a large rectangle.
Spread half of the softened margarine over the rolled-out dough, then sprinkle with half the cinnamon and sugar filling. Starting at the long edge of the dough, roll up tightly. Mark the roll every 2 inches. With a thread, cut the roll by placing the thread under the roll at your mark, crisscross over and pull to cut. Place rolls into greased 8" or 9" baking pans 2" apart. Repeat with the remaining half of the dough and filling. If you use regular yeast, you may want to let the rolls proof for 15-30 minutes after assembly.
Cover rolls and let rise in a warm, draft free place until almost double, approximately 1 hour. After rising, rolls should be touching each other and the sides of the pan. Bake at 350 degrees F. for 15 to 20 minutes, or until golden brown.
Mix all frosting ingredients together in a bowl. Spread on warm rolls and serve immediately.
I have no idea, but they are likely to be highly fattening with all that margarine and sugar! However, you do get your omega-3s in there by using the flax seeds, right? I am not a vegan because I am trying to eat light (though I do try to eat healthy); I am a vegan because I care about animals. So this is some seriously good, not-terribly-healthy, cruelty-free muchies!
I am taking these to a lunch with the girlfriends tomorrow. I am not going to tell them they are vegan, so let's see if they're fooled...
Wednesday, September 13, 2006
Since we drive only one car, taking it to the shop involves getting a taxi, and up in San Antonio de Escazu, you are not going to find any legal taxis, only "piratas," or pirate cabs. Also, since we are one of the few families in Costa Rica using a car seat for their baby, I refuse to use pirate cabs, as they generally don't have working seatbelts. So this time, we stopped by the taxi parking in downtown Escazu and got a so-called "real" taxi to follow us up the hill, then take us back home to Ciudad Colon.
On the way back, this idiot of a cab driver began speeding like a bat out of hell through the narrow and sometimes barely navigable streets of Escazu. I had sat in the front seat, thinking this would avoid me getting carsick, but with his bad driving, that turned out to be a non-issue (I got carsick and had a raging migraine by the time we arrived home). When he asked esposo if he should take the highway, a little voice in my head said, "No! Take the back way!" but as usual, I didn't listen to it. And well I should have.
As this moron pulls on the on-ramp to the highway, I see we are behind a bus. No big deal, right? Oh, but no! No no no! We mustn't be slowed down by a bus! So moron taxi driver decides he will try to pass the bus ON THE ON RAMP, with oncoming traffic doing about 80-90kmh in the left lane! FREAK OUT TIME! The bus driver either does not see this idiot cab driver, or does not care to let him pass, so he keeps on trekkin' up the on ramp; meanwhile, the cab driver is still making an attempt to pass him. I have my 2-year-old in the car, for chrissakes! I am white-knuckling it, and at one point, the cab driver barely squeaks between the bus in the right lane and a Land Rover in the left lane. I have to put my hand in the car to avoid it being taken off by the side of the bus. All the while I am praying to the angels to please, please keep us from having an accident. We somehow manage to get by the bus, and does the taxi driver pull around sensibly, finally passing the bus as he so badly wanted to do? NOOOOO! But NO! Instead, he shouts at the bus driver, "I'm going to report you, idiot!" Who is the idiot here, I'm thinking, while muttering "Hijueputa" under my breath (yet loud enough for the cab driver to hear me). He then attempts to explain his insanity away by telling me how the bus driver was wrong, but all I can think of is my baby in the backseat, thankful that we have the carseat and wondering how in the HELL can this guy think that what he did was okay?
This is not the first time I've had a scary cab drive experience, and actually, any ride I've had in a cab has been scary at at least one point. So I avoid both cabs and busses like the black plague (which, by the way, I cursed the cab driver with -- "A plague upon both you and your taxi!").
The worst part of the whole thing is that we could not report the guy, because cab drivers are known to be jackasses who will take revenge (I had a cab driver throw money at me and threaten to kill me simply because I gave him some coins as a tip after a ride in downtown San Jose; honestly I still can't figure out what I did wrong -- is a small tip not better than no tip at all, particularly when one has nothing but coins?). Since he knew where we lived, we would not take a chance on having him come back and poison the dogs or something worse. (Dog poisoning is a favorite way for jacks to take out their anger on someone they dislike.)
So now we have new rules for taking taxis:
1. Always get the full fare up front, especially for long rides, and if they say, "Let's see how the meter goes," move on to the next cab in line.
2. Make sure the seat belts all work.
3. Tell the driver he must drive slow and carefully right up front. Tell him I have a weak stomach or that I am pregnant (that actually worked quite well when I was pregnant, to tell the truth).
According to the U.S. State Department's website:
Costa Rica has one of the highest vehicle accident rates in the world. Traffic laws and speed limits are often ignored, turns across one or two lanes of traffic are common, and pedestrians are not given the right of way. Roads are often in poor condition, and large potholes with the potential to cause significant damage to vehicles are common. Pedestrians, cyclists, and farm animals may use the main roads. Traffic signs, even on major highways, are inadequate and few roads are lined. Shoulders are narrow or consist of drainage ditches. All of the above, in addition to poor visibility due to heavy fog or rain, makes driving at night especially treacherous. Landslides are common in the rainy season. All types of motor vehicles are appropriate for the main highways and principal roads in the major cities. However, some roads to beaches and other rural locations are not paved, and many destinations are accessible only with high clearance, rugged suspension four-wheel drive vehicles.
I wholeheartedly agree with all of the above, though I wonder why the State Department does not warn travelers that they are putting their lives into the hands of idiots when they decide to use public transportation?
You probably already know my feelings about public breastfeeding, so I thought I'd share this gem of a poster with you. This one is near my home in the small town of Piedades, and I have also seen them all over San José, our country's capital and largest city -->
It reads: "Thanks, Mom! Mother's milk is the best food for the nursing baby."
Hooray! Costa Rica got something right.
Sunday, August 13, 2006
I realized that I have not been updating my blog lately, so here are a few quick updates until I can write a full (read: interesting) post.
1. Today is Mother's Day, which is actually Assumption, or the celebration of the Virgin Mary's rise to heaven. Naturally, in my town, you know what this means -- FIREWORKS! Yep, they started around 9 last night and continued well into the night, including sonic booms at around 3:00 a.m. Is there any call for this, I ask you? WTF is it with this town and it's freakin' fireworks? Of course, all SEVEN of the dogs were freaked out so they got a free pass to spend the night indoors.
2. My dog Lizzy was attacked by five of the others last week. She plays rough, and they don't like it, but this time they went too far. They ripped her open and she ended up in emergency surgery on Monday night. The vet said she was lucky to be alive. I could not pull the dogs off of poor Liz, who is about half the size of the rest of them. Esposo had to run out of the house and literally kick the other dogs to separate them, and still one (the incorrigible Numi) had her by the neck in her mouth. So she is getting better now, though she still has a large, gaping gash under her right front leg from pulling out the stitches. I am at a loss. I love Liz, and probably for her own good, I should find another home for her, but she likes it here and seems to get depressed when I bring up the subject, so I've stopped talking about it. (I am currently reading What the Animals Tell Me by Sonia Fitzpatrick (the Pet Psychic) and it is incredible how she can communicate with animals. One important thing I got from the book is that animals do understand us, our intentions and what we say. But I haven't got to the point where I can find out what to do about dogs who won't stop fighting with each other. There is something they obviously don't like about Lizzy, but really, I can't seem to figure out what it is.
3. I so appreciate my girlfriends! The ones who live thousands of miles away, but still keep in touch, as well as the ones I've met since moving to Costa Rica. I was invited to a girlfriends lunch last week, and to be honest, I was a little apprehensive, as I had never left my two-year-old for such a long period of time. Well, let me tell you, several glasses of wine and a few hours of BS behind me, I realized how much I needed the time away, to let my hair down and have a little fun; not worry about being a mom for just a few hours. Son and husband survived their time by themselves (probably relished it, to be truthful). People who know me well know that, though I lived in California most of my adult life (excluding my time in Costa Rica, of course), I grew up in Ohio, surrounded by black people and hillbillies. Most of my friends were the former, though I tended to have an accent along the lines of the latter, which I tried very, very hard to lose while living in California. Now that I no longer live there, many of the English speakers I know are from the south or the UK (how's that for disparity?), or they are ESL speakers from CR. So when I have a few too many, my hillbilly accent slips back -- scary! I can't help it. Oh well, it is me, and no one really seems to mind.
4. I bought a new computer. I had been using a second generation iBook (Mac), and have since moved over to a PC in order to run my online website. I hate to admit that I am beginning to like my PC. It is FAST, with a BIG flat screen, the only problem is that I have no software to speak of (a minor problem easily resolved in CR if one knows the right people). Esposo spent an hour on the phone with Ament trying to get the ethernet cable modem connection working on the PC, and the tech guy kept telling him to do the same thing over and over, which was not working. Tech guy finally gave up, telling esposo to call Dell. I then got on the computer (mind you, I have been using a Mac for about ten years!), started turning things off until the ethernet worked. That took all of about 15 minutes. It turned out to be a relatively simple problem -- one must log into one's internet security system before one can access the internet. As a side note, I ordered this computer online through a Dell special deal (around $700 for the computer and a very nice printer/scanner/fax), had it sent to a drop shipper (which cost about $300 for the computer and printer), and it arrived in about a month. A friend who works in tech support here for HP said that the computer would probably cost at least $2,000 if you bought it here in CR, and, in fact, esposo did call Dell CR to see what the price of a comparable system would be -- for about $900, I could get one with half the power and hard drive space, set up in Spanish without any software installed at all. Um, gee, no thanks...
5. I found a Bollywood station on Live365, strangely enough, broadcasting from Toronto! I am a huge, huge fan of Bollywood, loving all of its cheesiness, and all the dancing, all the singing. Well! People who know me know that, though I love punk and ska and "cool" music like that, I also love the cheese, and am not embarrased to say so.
I guess that's it for now. I added some of my photos to Flickr (see upper left hand corner of this screen); feel free to visit and check them out if you like. I added lots of pics of Costa Rica.
Sunday, July 30, 2006
Today we broke down and went to Port City Java over in Lindora (across from AutoMercado) in Santa Ana. Besides Saudi Arabia, Costa Rica is the only other country outside of the U.S. with a Port City Java café. I had tried to avoid Port City Java, since I knew it was a chain and hoped that it was not in any way, shape or form related to Starbuck's (who now own part of Café Britt, though few Costa Ricans know that). It turns out (thank goodness!) Port City Java is not related to Starbuck's (at least not as far as I can tell), so I can now go there for a cup of coffee with a clear conscience.
I must now confess: I love Port City Java! I had a mocha freeze with a gingerbread shot, and it was absolutely delicious. (And they use Monin syrups, much much better than "the other brand," which are far too sweet for my tastes.) Esposo had a simple iced coffee, done better than most anywhere else I've had one in the country. Prices for both are cheaper (and the drinks far, far superior) than the cappuccino chillers at either Pop's or TCBY. He also ordered a brownie, which came warmed (!!) and it was just chocolate heaven. (Side note: What would heaven be without chocolate, anyway?) They also had several vegetarian choices for lunch, surprisingly listed before the other menu items (I have never seen that anywhere in a meat-serving estabishment), so we'll definitely go back for eats one of these days. All in all, Port City Java is the kind of place that we have missed since leaving California, and it quite reminds me of Santa Cruz Coffee Roasting Co. quite a bit.
Why aren't there more coffee shops in Costa Rica like Port City Java? Costa Ricans love coffee and grow the best in the world, in my opinion. It's amazing to me that this is one of the very few coffee houses in the entire country serving a full menu of various, different coffee drinks. Sure, there are many cafés that have cappuccinos, espressos, lattes, etc. But how often do you see a steamer or a milky way on the menu, or just something fun and different, like chai?
When we had the café, invariably the locals (read: small town folk) would order a black coffee, sometimes with sugar, sometimes with milk, but rarely a mocha, latte, or something — god forbid — even more unusual. However, I think with Costa Ricans traveling outside the country more frequently, and the influx of foreigners into Costa Rica, this is all slowly changing (for the better). More international restaurants have opened in the past few years, and more will continue to open (we finally got one authentic Indian restaurant, though I'm still waiting for real Thai). This can only be a good thing, right? I mean, we're not talking about Wal-Mart setting up shop all over the country... oh, but wait -- Wal-Mart recently purchased a majority of shares in MultiMercados (which owns Perimercados, AutoMercado and Mas x Menos, the "big three" of C.R. supermarkets, among others). What this means for local farmers and businesses, and consumers, remains to be seen.
But I am rambling. Back to the topic at hand: Hooray for Port City Java! I, for one, am glad they're here.
Saturday, July 29, 2006
Some years ago, I read about a guy who'd gotten fed up with the incessent honking in New York City and created what he called honkus, posting them all over the city. I thought at the very least it would be cathartic to write a few of my own, and since my Spanish was not all that at the time, I didn't post them up all over town. Though now that my Spanish is better, I may give it another go... Here are the ones I wrote all those years ago, for your enjoyment and driving enlightenment:
driving lesson one:
green light? yell and honk
bus coming my way
driver wants to play chicken
one lane street? so what!
a game anyone can play
oops, there goes muffler
taxi in a rush
five o’clock work traffic jam
he makes his own lane
Chepe, on Tenth Ave.:
lock your car doors — don’t look now
crackhead on your left
we could be here for hours…
nope, it's just a cow
phone case? newspaper?
flag? fruit? lottery ticket?
risking my life
an uninsured pirate cab
am I that crazy?
late night, San José:
scary cab driver pit stop
thank God, we weren’t robbed
bus doing ninety
praying for my life to keep
I need my own car
driver stops taxi
grabs guitar, sings a love song
best cab ride ever
neighbors, home at 3
a.m., honk their arrival
don’t sleep much lately
honking your car horn
the new national pasttime
move over, soccer!
Since I know that terrible driving is not restricted to Costa Rica, I'd love to hear your honkus, no matter where you're from.
Monday, July 24, 2006
Last weekend, my son turned two. Two! Where does the time go? Well, I know I've spent a good deal of it breastfeeding! At his party, there were a couple of new moms (one from Canada, the other from the UK) who had 1-month old babies and -- YEA! -- they were breastfeeding them. What was odd to me, though, was that they both chose to breastfeed away from everyone else, in another little "rancho" down the way from the party. I thought this was strange, as I bf my son in front of God and everyone (as my grandma used to say), and don't think twice about it. But then I did realize that when I first began breastfeeding in public, I was a bit self-conscious about it and tried to find a bit of privacy wherever I could get it.
It took me about a month of sitting in a car, on a public toilet, etc. to get over that.
I have noticed that I've never seen a single Costa Rican breastfeeding mom hesitate to whip out a boob in a public place when her baby is hungry -- why are we (for lack of a better description) English speakers so apprehensive and insecure about our own bodies? That is a subject I could go on and on about, having recovered from an eating disorder many years past. Let's save that subject for a later date, shall we? The point is, not once have I received even a sideways glance at my public breastfeeding in Costa Rica; more often, it is a warm look and a smile, even from men (and no, they're not trying to cop a glance -- they do that quite openly here, so it's obvious when it's happening). No one is disgusted, no one is embarrassed or shocked that a woman would breastfeed in public. If anything, I've seen several negative reactions to someone pulling out a bottle -- and honestly, who can tell if it's filled with formula or breastmilk?
At said party, a woman from France relayed to me how natural it is in her country for women to breastfeed in public, much like it is in Costa Rica. She was surprised that the two women with newborns chose to breastfeed separately, especially since they were among friends. Another woman, from Arizona, said she was once asked to leave a public pool when she tried to breastfeed her daughter because, she was told, "it is indecent." I suppose at least in the case of the US, we do need a breastfeeding culture after all.
At two years old, my son is still breastfeeding and shows no signs of stopping any time soon. I have tried gentle weaning, but it only gets him terribly upset, and I figure there is no real reason for me to do so (other than the fact that I'm getting worn out by it), so I've stopped that. If it brings him comfort, so be it. My mother knows this fact, yet she still insists on asking me every once in a while, "Are you still breastfeeding?" Perhaps she doesn't realize how much that small question irritates me. Mostly she has -- and I'll give her credit for this -- kept her opinions to herself. Considering esposo and I are a couple of left-wing, tree-hugging, vegetarian/vegan neo hippies, we do, I suppose hold some radical ideas compared to mainstream society. I won't go into them here, because frankly, the choices that esposo and I have made for ourselves and our son are ours, and no one else's business. We are doing what we think is best for our family. So yes, Mom, I'm still breastfeeding.
Incidentally, many women in Costa Rica choose to breastfeed their children to the ages of four or five; one midwife I know breasfed her daughter until she was six. I don't plan to go that far, but I have stopped putting artificial time limits on how long we will breastfeed, either.
Another thing that I do find at odds with Costa Rica's openness about breastfeeding is that it is a very hospital-birth oriented culture. When we first began looking at hospitals, the big one gave us the requisite tour, and were proud of the fact that they had about an 80% cesarian rate (!!), with over 95% of women choosing epidurals. In fact, they seriously questioned why I would want to have a natural childbirth, and I seriously questioned whether the women were getting 100% disclosure on the risk factors associated with cesarians and epidurals (doubtful, in any case). At said big hospital, you can even plan your cesarian in advance, complete with dinner and a glass of wine (you're going to need it!) the next day. Almost all of the women I know who did not previously plan a homebirth ended up "having to" have a cesarian (usually in one of the public hospitals). When asked why, they usually say that their doctor said it was necessary (again, why?), that their labor was not progressing "fast enough" (what is fast enough?), etc. The only two women I know of that had legitimate reasons for having cesarians both had planned homebirths with midwives, but did run into complications. There is even a woman I know personally (yoga teacher, well read, informed about natural birth, etc.), who ended up with a cesarian because her doctor said she "had to have one."
So you may be thinking, as I was, in light of the medical establishment's obvious hold on pregnant women's bodies (midwives are not legal here, though the practice thrives), why is the public so amenable to public breastfeeding? I can't answer that question. I have thought of possible theories, but each one is riddled with holes. If you have any ideas, let me know. In the meantime, I am grateful that the need for a breastfeeding culture in Costa Rica is not as urgent as it is in the US. I certainly would have told that guy at the swimming pool in Arizona where he could stick it! Of course, since breastfeeding was only exempt from indecency laws in Arizona in May of 2006, I probably would have been thrown out anyway.
Saturday, July 22, 2006
So when I get a "Quien habla" call, "None of your G-D biz" is what I say! Actually, I don't, but I don't tell them who I am, either. I usually say, "¿Con quien desea hablar?" (With whom do you wish to speak?). At this point, they do one of two things: 1) realize that they don't know you and don't want to talk to you, and hang up, or 2) haltingly give you some other stranger's name (er, ah, Gonzalo? Ofelia? Emilia? Raul?). This has led to me doing one of two things 1) letting esposo answer the phone or 2) letting the answering machine get it. The only time I will answer the phone now is if I recognize the phone number in caller ID. AGHHH!
Another good one is when you answer the phone and they simply say someone's name. "Raul?" Sometimes this name is phrased in the form of a question that sounds like they're asking you "Is this Raul?" Other times the single-word response is in the form of a statement, as if they're saying "Raul, glad you're home!" Either way, do I friggin' sound like Raul? J. Sucristo*, I hope not! Maybe my OB-GYN needs to recheck my hormone therapy dosage. In these cases, I will say, "¿Me parace Raul?" (Do I sound like Raul?) And then I usually get a "Er, um, ah disculpe señora..."
*J. Sucristo, sort-of meaning "J. Your Christ" but which originally meant "Jesus Christ!" and came from the back of a car esposo and I saw one day that had giant stickers reading (in Spanish, obviously) "Jesucristo" with the "e" missing. We have, since that time, used "J. Sucristo" in place of "Jesus Christ!" This way we can be sacreligious and inoffensive to the Spanish-speaking populous at the same time! Whee!
Thursday, May 18, 2006
This particular e-mail had to do with some movie that the recipient was asked to sign a petition banning, based on the claim that it "mocked Jesus." (I admit I was so angry that I just deleted it, steaming as I did so, or I'd reproduce it here.) Now, who in their right mind sends an e-mail petition to a magazine editor asking them to participate in censorship of any kind? It's true that I do not report the news, but I am a 100% believer in freedom of expression, as long as it isn't something that forcibly harmed someone or something in its making (child porn or animal snuff films, for example, which I find beyond reprehensible). Adult porn? Not my thing, but whatever, I am not going to say how someone else should live. A movie that purportedly "mocks Jesus"? I have never even heard of said movie, so how could I possibly take one COMPLETE STRANGER'S opinion on the movie and blindly accept that what this person has said is true?
Here in Costa Rica (as I said earlier, a Catholic country), there is a great debate going on about the movie "The Da Vinci Code." Catholic leaders in this country are asking followers not to see it, even though they themselves admit they have never read the book! I just find that, at the least, irresponsible. I loved the book and can't wait to see the movie, and neither can my husband. It was great to be able to talk to someone who comes from a Catholic background about the ideas in the book as mature people without anger or defensiveness. What if...?? This is basically the premise of Brown's book, and I see nothing anti-religion in it. In fact, as my husband pointed out in a forum specifically about "The Da Vinci Code" on La Nacion, wouldn't it strengthen your faith to know that Jesus was someone even more like you; somone who had a wife, a child. Personally, I have always believed Jesus to be something other than what is in the Bible (which is, at its core, a collection of stories written from several individuals' points of view -- many gospels were never included in the Bible because they lacked mass appeal, so who knows what information they might have contained?): An extraordinary person who did extraordinary things, but a person nonetheless, like you or I might have been.
Back to the junk mail: let's assume that it is true, and the movie in question "mocks Jesus." Is there no room in this world for dissent from mainstream religion, or are we all supposed to blindly follow along, doing whatever we are told simply becaus church leaders say it is so (I am led to believe the latter is true). Perhaps the filmmaker had something thought-provoking to say, or perhaps the movie was truly anti-Christian, but we would never know it if the movie was simply banned and there was no room for public discourse on the matter. We would never be given the chance to agree or disagree with the filmmaker; we would never be given the chance to think for ourselves. Perhaps Christians would despise the film, but perhaps also it would strengthen their faith. Who knows, if we all simply blindly followed along and signed a petition to ban the movie we had never even seen, let alone heard of.
Personally, I was apalled to see 27 names ahead of the sender's, and I seriously doubt any of them actually saw the movie. Sheep. I refuse to be a sheep, and I hope that my son will never be a sheep, either. I'd much rather he saw, read or participated in something I disagreed with and we could discuss said activity, perhaps seeing (at least respecting) each other's point of view. Perhaps we could come to an agreement; perhaps we wouldn't. But at least he would decide for himself and use his head to consider what he was doing, instead of blindly following someone's order "not to read that book, or see that movie." To think for oneself: I am led to believe that institutionalized religion is adamantly opposed to this, otherwise the sheep might start to think for themselves. How sad.
Update: It appears this whole thing started as some kind of joke to get Christians all riled up. I tend to check out Snopes.com whenever I get something ridiculous like this, and when I looked this one up, sure enough, there it was.
Sunday, April 23, 2006
There is also a Burger King commercial that I (and my husband) find completely offensive. There's a woman in a hospital bed, having just given birth, and who seems to be having difficulty breastfeeding her baby. The nurse, with her gigantic, silicone-enhanced breasts, takes the baby and — you guessed it! — immediately the baby begins nursing. The tagline goes something like, "Bigger, better, grilled." Aside from the ridiculous offensiveness of a stranger with big boobs being able to nurse the baby better than his own mother, GRILLED? Yeah, yeah, the BURGERS are "bigger, better, grilled," but the boobs, hopefully, are not grilled. What would happen if you grilled breast implants, anyway?
And on the topic of random fireworks for any given celebration, last night was someone's birthday here in my neighborhood in the boonies, complete with mariachi band and — you guessed it! — fireworks. Gah! The mariachis I can handle, at least. But WTF with the freakin' fireworks?
Sunday, April 16, 2006
My dogs hate fireworks. Isabella is already at the back window crying and scratching the wall to get in. Normally the big dogs sleep outside, but tonight I manage, to the chorus of never-ending sonic booms, to crawl out of bed and let the three who hate fireworks the most inside.
Costa Rica, and this town in the boonies in particular, has a "thing" for fireworks. There are fireworks on all the usual occasions — New Year's, Independence Day, etc. There also seem to be firworks for holidays one would not normally expect fireworks on, such as Mother's Day, or, so it seems, Easter. And of course Costa Rican holidays like Juan Santamaria Day get fireworks. So do birthdays, christenings, weddings, 12-year anniversaries, etc. The week or two leading up to New Year's Eve is a virtual fireworks insanity, with cherry bombs (these appear to be the explosive device of choice around here) going off every 15 or 20 minutes from sundown on, every night. You would think it was the Costa Ricans, not the Chinese, who invented fireworks. You would think, too, that the Costa Ricans feel somewhat nostaligic for those good ol' days of military might. What is New Year's Eve without a good air raid? Or Easter, for that matter?
I hate it, and my poor dogs freak out during all of these episodes. Last night, as I finally managed to stumble around in the dark, get the dogs in, get back in bed, all without waking up the baby, they miraculously stopped.
What WOULD Jesus do about Easter fireworks, anyway?
Sunday, April 09, 2006
We have a major tick problem out here in the boonies. I have tried just about everything to get rid of them: Advantix does not work at all, Frontline works for a few days, and a special vaccine made for both mange and ticks seems to work the best. Someone told me about a product called Ectol (sp?) today, so I'm going to check into that one. At any rate, at $10 a pop, it would soon get too expensive to use Frontline once a month, so in a way it's ok that it doesn't work well. The vaccines are around $1.50 and I get them at the agro next door to the cafe, where they'll give the dogs the shots or you can take them home to do them yourself.
It has been quite a hassle taking two dogs at a time down to the agro for the shots (since no way am I doing them myself), and they just seem to pass the ticks around each other that way. So last week I had the idea to ask someone there if they could come by the house and give all the dogs the shots at one time. One of the guys who works there said he would do it — on his day off, I might add — so we arranged for him to come by the next day. He gave all the injections, we gave him a little extra for his time (which he did not ask for and which is unlikely he would have asked for anyway), and this seems to be doing the trick. Now how many vets in the U.S. would do that for you?
Yesterday, I walked the baby down to the cafe and noticed they had two guinea fowl for sale. Guinea fowl are known for eradicating ticks from any area in which they live, so I was very excited to see them, considering I've been trying to find some for a year with no luck. Esteban has a few on his property and not one single tick among his dogs. So I asked about the birds, and the same guy that came to do the vaccines said I was welcome to borrow their cage and even pay on Monday, since they were closing in about 10 minutes. Great! Now all I have to do is figure out how to make a chicken tractor, as I won't let them run around the yard in case Numi the Escape Artist gets out and goes after them.
So these agro people sound nice enough, you're thinking. So did I, until Luna made an appearance.
Luna showed up at the cafe on Saturday; we let her hang out, and gave her some food and water. She is a beautiful little black Lab-mix puppy, probably not more than 3 months old. One of the things I really, really hate about Costa Rica is the way many people think of animals as disposable things. That someone could dump this puppy, assume that someone else would take her in and take care of her, or just not even care what happens to her is beyond irresponsible, it's reprehensible.
I start sending out "this puppy needs a home" e-mails, asking various people if they want a dog, etc. etc. Today we do a regular Sunday catering job, and on the way back esposo picks up the camera to take a photo of Luna (I named her that because she looks like our big black Lab Chloe, whose middle name is Luna). When we get to the cafe, the camera's batteries are dead (of course!), so I figure I'll go home and recharge them, then come back later to take the picture.
As I'm getting ready to leave, a wonderful, dedicated woman (Luz Marina) who helps with rescued animals in the area (as well as checks on abuse/neglect complaints) stops by the cafe, looking for the puppy. Apparently, what had happened was that a man asked the agro people if they would try to adopt out the puppy on Friday, and if no one took her, he'd come back for her at closing time. Somehow Luz Marina either heard about it or saw the puppy, and asked them to please call her if the man did not come back to claim the dog, and she would pick her up. Of course the man never showed up, and the people at the agro (who must know Luz Marina quite well) did not call her. Instead, they just let the dog loose on the streets.
Now, the cafe is located on the 2nd busiest street in this small town. Why on Earth would they dump the dog on the street when they could just as easily have called Luz Marina? I have no idea. She came by on Saturday, the agro people said they didn't have the dog anymore, she was sort of frantic looking all over town for her, and here Luna had camped out at the cafe.
[Side note: I sort of think dogs have a separate "sense" about these kinds of things, like where they're welcome, as Luna is the third dog to have made herself at home at the cafe. Others have come and gone, and we had a cat come and stay as well until someone stole her.]
All they had to do at the agro was pick up the phone. Instead, the let the puppy loose to possibly get hit by a car, poisoned, who knows what. Why would they do that? What would be the reason? I had heard from other people that they did the same thing with other kittens and puppies that did not get adopted "in time." I found it hard to believe then, but can't deny it now. And I simply do not understand it. Luckily, Luna made her way to our place, where animals are never turned away. Luckily, too, Luz Marina thought to check with us about her, and tonight she is sleeping in a warm bed. She will be spayed, de-wormed and vaccinated, and then put up for adoption. I do believe that Luna will find her forever home soon, and I know she will be a loving (and hopefully very loved) member of some family. She is a gentle soul who deserves better than she has been handed so far in her short life. And she's definitely one of the lucky ones.
[Side note 2: I want to point out that it was the agro's owner, not the vaccinating guy, who promised to call Luz Marina but neglected to do so, though anyone at the agro really could have/should have called her.]