Sunday, April 23, 2006

I Just Want Someburger to Love

On the topic of stupid commercials, there's another one that pops up fairly frequently. It's for a company called Paty that makes hamburgers. The tag line goes, "Paty te cuida, Paty te quiere," or "Paty takes care of you, Paty loves you." Really? Now hamburgers love me? Or some anonymous Paty person who makes hamburgers loves me? Maybe she just loves me so I'll buy her hamburgers, which means I guess she doesn't love me, since I'm a vegan.

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

Hooray for Easter Fireworks — NOT!

I am awoken at 10:45 by what sounds like an airstrike, or perhaps an earthquake, or maybe the ICE's transformer blowing out again. I grab esposo's arm, mumbling something along the lines of "What the hell was that?" Another sonic boom, and I realize it's this idiotic B-F town celebrating Easter. Oh joy.

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

The Story of Luna

I really wanted to write something nice about Costa Rica, since I seem to be doing more bitching than praising lately. So here it is — veterinary care is excellent and inexpensive here. I have seven dogs, three cats, and a bunch of other animals (chickens, a rabbit and now guinea fowl), so having access to both good and cheap veterinary care is essential.

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.]

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Toilet Paper: Your Best Friend

There are some truly ridiculous comercials one will experience in Latin America. I despise about 90% of them, particulary the overly-sexist ones. You know, where Dad is working hard all day, Mom is watching the kids, making dinner, doing laundry, all with a smile on her face. Yeah, right! I can't imagine women in the U.S. putting up with these kinds of commercials, and to be honest, I don't know a single Costa Rican homemaker. A short list of professions, just of women I know personally, reads thus: lawyer, doctor, pharmacist, psychologists (3 of those!), customer service rep, online bookie, yoga instructor, pilates instructor, small business owner, waitress, restauranteur, hotel owner.

So exactly who are the companies behind the laundry detergent, ready rice, and floor cleaner selling to, exactly? The only women who come to mind are mi esposo's relatives, who have some 30+ years on the women in the commercials.

Then there are the horrible commercials on channels that I actually let my son watch, such as Discovery Kids. While the shows are all about diversity, girl power/boy sensitivity, healthy lifestyles, the commercials shown during the breaks give kids a completely different message. Boys get action figures and war toys, girls get princess dolls. Bleh! Didn't we get over all that waaaay back in the 1970s? And then there is the crap food marketed to kids. It's all enough to make one sick.

However, my current "favorite" commercial is for Scott toilet paper. It features a cute yellow lab puppy, which one assumes is named Scott, and the tagline goes: "Scott, tu mejor amigo (Scott, your best friend)." Ok, I get the whole "the dog is Scott, the dog is your best friend, thus the toilet paper is your best friend" thing, but seriously, now. My best friend is not toilet paper.

Some years ago, I was at the UCR campus with esposo and had to use the bathroom. Not a single stall in the women's bathrooms had toilet paper. When I asked then-novio what the friggin' deal was, he said that if the university put toilet paper in the bathrooms, people would steal it. Um, okay... Steal toilet paper? Here are our future doctors, lawyers, pharmacists, psychologists, and customer service reps, all out to steal the University of Costa Rica's toilet paper. I wasn't sure what to make of it. Apparently, students carry their own toilet paper to school with them, knowing they won't find it in the stalls. I guess if you really have to go, and I mean go, toilet paper can indeed be your best friend in that moment.

But do I get the puppy, too?

Monday, April 03, 2006

We're Going to a Party, We're Going on a Trip...*

I am invited to a friend's baby shower on Saturday, which is great -- she's a lovely person and I had been planning on going to this shower for about a month. Unfortunately for me, esposo decided to surprise me with a paid massage that Saturday afternoon, which I had been waiting for for a loooong time, and I had to cancel it. :-( Oh well, next week, maybe.

In Costa Rica, it's fairly common for people to rent out a hall and then charge the guests a few thousand colones to come. Though I must admit I thought it was weird the first time this happened some years ago. "What? You have to bring a gift, pay for your own drinks, AND pay to get in?" I disagree with the whole idea, so when we had our baby shower, we chose a place that didn't charge for renting the space, and we just paid for the food and non-alcoholic drinks. Thinking back, that was probably silly, because even the previous baby shower I was invited to had an "entrance fee" listed right there in the invitation. I just couldn't bring myself to charge people to go to my own baby shower.

Back to the story at hand: I am told that this one will be a "traditional Costa Rican tea," which means no guys allowed, cake, coffee, silly games, ete. Ok, fine. No big deal, girls' day out, right? Except for my son and my friend's son, it was solamente chicas. It is supposed to start at 2:30, so my friend picks me up around 1:45 (we have to drive up to Heredia to get there). There's some kind of motocross thing happening, so the road we'd planned to take is completely blocked as cars line the road from one end to the other. This means driving to San Jose and going from that direction. We get there "late" at 2:45, and we're the 2nd people there. In typical Costa Rican fasion, everyone arrives late, with some guests just getting there as we're leaving four and a half hours later.

Yes, FOUR AND A HALF HOURS later! If I had had someone to leave my son with, I would have done so, because toddler + nothing much exciting for toddler to do = boredom = screaming fits in the middle of the room. Of course, esposo is at work, so the baby goes with me. If I had been smart, I'd have just driven myself and followed my friend, but nooooo, I am not smart. I did, at least bring food for him and ate quite a bit before we left (I didn't imagine a typical Costa Rican tea would heavily feature vegan food).

So there are the silly games: Who can blow up the largest condom balloon in 20 seconds? Who gets baby bingo? Who can drink a baby bottle full of blackberry juice the quickest? Personally, I prefer the showers where you eat, open presents, and go home. This was not one of those showers. (And neither was mine, thinking back, though I'd wanted to leave after about an hour -- at eight months pregnant, I'd get worn out just thinking about doing anything besides sitting down).

My son sees the ladies drinking blackberry juice from a bottle, and pesters me until I find one that's relatively full and give it to him. He has not drank from a bottle since I was pumping and he was about a month old. He goes to sit on someone else's lap, and I'm thinking, great! Keep him busy for a while and perhaps even a little quiet (this whole thing is about two hours after the official start time, and son has begun getting a bit punchy -- who can blame him?). I swear, not five minutes later, he comes back and it looks as though his BRAND-NEW t-shirt has been tie-dyed purple! It is at this point that I begin to get a migraine. Son starts whining, and I try everything -- look at the balloons! how about nursing? want some food? coffee? tea? valium? Nothing works. He is ready to go, but they haven't even begun opening presents.

So it's "walk around the block time," and since he has napped for about a half hour today (as opposed to his usual two hours), I figure he'll get worn out and fall asleep. No go. Too much stimulation! At least by the time we get back, the presents have begun to be opened. Got to see the presents! That's the best part! At least one can live vicariously through the gift-receiver...

Surely but steadily, we're working our way through the presents, when Auntie decides to STOP and PLAY MORE GAMES. I am ready to strangle the woman. Then it's main course, salad, coffee, cake... And back to presents. At this point it's something like three and a half hours after the official start time, and time for us to take another walk around the extremely large block. When we get back, the presents have resumed being opened, and she's got ours on the floor next to her. I'm sort of bummed that we missed our own present being opened, but turns out she was waiting for us to get back (so sweet!). Finally, my friend's presents and mine have been opened, and it is time for us to begin making our exit.

And we get out of there almost FIVE HOURS after the "official" start time.

I have to say that the length of the tea would probably not have bothered me in the least if I hadn't had my son there. There were some very nice people there, and I guess it is just the Costa Rican way for the ladies to get together without the men around, relax, gossip, and in general have a nice time. I have slowly (hit me over the head with a two-by-four, why don't ya!) begun to realize that I cannot really go to things like this, or out to dinner, or to a movie, with a toddler. So I am accepting that, in fact, life does change with a baby in ways I didn't want to admit. Ah, such is life. And I will plan in advance next time, drive us myself, then if leaving early is necessary, I can just take off.

Ok, you're thinking, so the day was not that bad, all in all, right? Well, the day was not quite over! We stopped at a farmacia to pick up something for my oncoming migraine, and I down two Cafiaspirina (the Latin American version of Excedrin for migraines), forgetting that I hadn't had all that much to eat that day (other than breakfast). So I start getting the caffeine shakes on the way home, and call esposo to make me something to take out, but the cafe is packed and he doesn't have time (apparently!). When we get there (I've left my car parked there), I run in and grab a travel mug full of soup, which I proceed to pour all over my crotch as I'm getting back in my friend's car. I grab some aloe from the cafe, but wait until I get home to put it on my leg. Son has awoken (he had, thankfully, fallen asleep in the car), so we go ahead and switch the car seat back into my car, and I take off for home. Once there, I liberally apply aloe to my burned leg, and notice something between first and second degree burns on the inside of my leg. Son is irritated, and keeps poking the red spots. Um, like, OUCH! He finally falls asleep at 10:30, and the bed looks better than it has in years...

*Sing to the tune of that silly song about the closet in Zaboomafoo... yes, clearly I have a toddler at home!