Friday, October 27, 2006

Having a maid is...

...nice. Really, really nice. Because I am a slob. And I really do not have time to clean up after myself and a toddler. When esposo was at home (i.e., not at the new cafe), he would be so kind as to do most of the cleaning while I was working. (Yes, I know, and I am quite grateful! He did most of the cooking as well.) Now that he is back in the restaurant biz, he has no time or energy to clean, and I just have no incentive to do it. So we broke down and got us a maid.

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

Oh, Those Badly Birthed Jackasses!

Yesterday I got the lowdown on one of my favorite Costa Rican swear words: malparido. I have heard esposo use it during times when I prefer the English equivalent (as in, "Did you see that mother fu*&#$? He just cut me off!"). So anyway, I finally asked esposo what, exactly, malparido means.

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

(Little) Cowboy Balls

Can you believe they ("they" in this case being the Jacks snacks company) actually make a product called Cowboy Balls?

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

An Adventure Quilting in the Pink

A while back, I read about the Quilt Pink initiative, by which quilters the world over either make quilt blocks or entire quilts, which are then auctioned off to benefit cancer research via the Susan G. Komen Foundation. Being a quilter, I thought this was a pretty cool idea, and when I read that October was Quilt Pink month, I made an effort to help out in some way.

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.
Me: Grrrrr....

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

The Ugly American Rears Her Extremely Irritating Head

Today we had lunch over in Escazu at a little Chinese restaurant called Tzu Jan. They are 100% vegetarian, and perhaps are the first Asian restaurant in the country that is all vegetarian (mostly vegan, too, which is great!).Esposo and I love Tzu Jan because we can eat like pigs, not feel guilty, and generally not spend more than $10-12. For example, today we had three green tea shakes (sooooo good!), a plate of 12 potstickers, sweet and sour tofu and veggies, a plate of 6 vegetarian "jumbo shrimp," and lettuce wraps to take home. All of this cost about $12. And it's delicious to boot!

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!