Monday, November 27, 2006

It's a Wonderful Time of the Year!

It's that time again -- time to think about gifting, and/or regifting, as the case may be. Since there is no Thanksgiving in Costa Rica (unless you go to an event or dinner held by an American friend), the Christmas shopping season starts pretty much in August, though it goes into full swing after around mid-October. Truly, avoid the malls on the weekends at all costs, particularly in December. This goes for PriceSmart, too, that place is CRAZY! Avoid like the plague.

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

What Costa Rica's Water and Toll Booths Have in Common

In parts of Costa Rica, especially where we have lived in Escazu and now further west in Ciudad Colon, there is a serious water problem in the summertime. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise; real estate agents will be the first to say, "No! There is no water problem here, where did you ever get that crazy idea?" They lie. Anyway, when we lived in Escazu (San Antonio up the mountain, to be exact-ish), and now in Ciudad Colon, we were/are on the municipal water supply provided by A y A (which stands for Aquaducts and something else beginning with an A). AyA has this brilliant plan to curb water use by simply cutting it off during peak usage hours of the day -- thus we have had no muni water from about 8 in the morning until 3 in the afternoon for about a week, including today (Sunday). This to me seems an incredibly dumb idea -- it does nothing to teach people how to conserve water, it simply keeps them from using it for several hours each day. Then, when the water comes back on, everyone does their laundry, cooking, showering, dishwashing, toilet-flushing, etc. etc. as they would have if the water had been on in the first place. Right now, as I write this, we have no water, yet the guy across the street is watering his exceptionally green lawn. Why? Because he has a well and apparently feels no particular need to conserve water. Conservation? We don't need no stinking conservation!

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...

Unused Band Names at 2:00 a.m.

This morning at around 2:00 a.m., as I was lying in bed wide awake, I began, for some as-yet-unknown reason, thinking about names for bands I had thought up in the past (one I even used, briefly). In Love Monkey (which I sincerely hope never goes off the air because I like it so much), Tom Farrel hears odd phrases or words every now and then and he thinks to himself, "Hmmm, that's a good name for a band."

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

Costa Rica Souveniers That Give Back

I don't really know why I was thinking about this subject -- perhaps it was reminiscing about the crap that most people tend to take home from Costa Rica with them (Imperial beer t-shirts, engraved machetes), perhaps it was seeing a friend yesterday who is raising money for homeless pets with her own version of a "calendar girls" calendar (see item #2 below) -- but I got to thinking that there are a bunch of great things one can take home from a visit to Costa Rica as souvenirs that will actually help out small organic farmers, homeless animals, and indigenous and low-income craftspeople. Here is my short list, which I will add to in the future as I think of other things to add.

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

And so it goes

It appears we really are moving, after all. We signed a contract for the new house yesterday, and will definitely be outta here by the end of the month. I'm excited in that I love the new house and I love the area -- a quiet part of La Trinidad (between Piedades and Ciudad Colon on the old road) in a private residential. I don't love that we had to rent the entire house in order to get it (there is an apartment in the back that the landlords had used when they came to Costa Rica; apparently, they no longer need it), but so be it. Now we have to rent out the apartment, but I guess that will just lower our rent, so it's a trade-off I can live with.

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

A Bad Feeling of Deja-Vu

Regarding my last post about the killing of a troop of howler monkeys in Guanacaste: I should have mentioned that the rifles were actually air rifles that shot pellets, not bullets. And there was more than one female killed; however, only one female with a baby. A representative from the World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA Costa Rica) said that it is likely that, if the monkeys were not killed instantly by the pellets, that they suffered greatly for several hours before dying. So if you think a lack of respect for living things is relegated to suburban brats in first world countries, think again.

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.

A Sad, Sad Day for Monkeys

Last Thursday, according to an article published by La Nacion, five children aged 10 to 13 shot and killed 10 howler monkeys, including a mother and her baby, because "they had nothing else to kill." One of the parents was quoted as justifying the crime because it was "kid's stuff." The parents were apparently okay with what happened, and it seems fairly obvious where the children got their attitude about wildlife. This sickens me, and from the reaction of other Costa Ricans, it is angering and sickening all around the country.

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 Passive-Aggressive Tendency of Costa Ricans

I don't really know or understand how or why, but passive-aggressiveness is a widespread trait among Costa Ricans. The vast majority of Costa Ricans will do anything to avoid a conflict (maybe that has something to do with the reason there is no military here, and why it is so easy to bribe a police officer?). This usually manifests itself as lying right to your face. A poll taken by daily newspaper La Nación a few months ago showed that some amazing percentage (something like 96%) of Costa Ricans believe it is okay to lie. Wow. That in itself is incredible to me, and something I truly do not want my son to think is okay. One reason I will be moving out of this country before he is old enough to learn that trait.

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?

So frustrating.

Monday, November 06, 2006

I'm moving, so it seems

This weekend I had a minor blowout with my landlady. To preface, my son was sick with the flu, crying and feverish, I was sick with the flu, and not in the best of moods. My landlady had come over (like she does once a month) to pick up the rent and mow her empty lot (which is located behind our house). What started me off on the wrong foot was that she came into my yard without asking my permission first and went into our shed to get her lawnmower (which she was keeping there so esposo could mow our yard). Now, I have no problem with her getting her own lawnmower out of our shed, it's just that she could have at least let me know ahead of time and I would have put it out for her. I have since realized it was she all along who has been coming in the yard and cutting the bananas off the tree before we could. How rude! Then, after taking back said lawnmower, I noticed she was in the backyard, the shed door was wide open, and she was hacking down a bush. I went out to let her know I'd need to hit the ATM for the rent money and would be right back. She then proceeds to let me know that my dog almost bit her. Well, DUH! She's a guard dog, that's what she does. If landlady was dumb enough to come in the yard without asking first, she is dumb enough to get bitten. Sorry, but I really feel she overstepped her bounds there.

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...