Monday, January 29, 2007

Coulda just flushed it down

A couple of weeks ago, I took $200 out of the bank (in the form of two $100 bills) to give to a friend who had been so kind to sell me her sofa, a desk, and a birthing tub (don't ask!). It was about all I could afford to give her, but I wanted to pay her something for offloading all of this stuff on me (great stuff, by the way), so I figured I could manage $200 for the moment. Then she went out of town with her family and I never got a chance to pay her.

Now, she called me this past weekend, and I called her up today, thinking I could stop by and give her the money. She has been gracious enough to say, "No, don't worry about it, pay me when you can," but I hate being that person who owes someone else money. Anyway, I take a look in my wallet and one of the $100 bills is missing. I am livid.

I had checked in my wallet a few days ago because I was restocking my vegan creamer and tea bags, and sure enough, the money was there. Then I went to the CRL party, and while I didn't check my wallet there, if someone had wanted to steal it out in public (and judging from the crowd, I seriously doubt anyone there would have done such a thing), they would have taken both $100s, right? I mean, why go in the wallet and just take one?

The other possible scenario, the one I find most disturbing and also most likely, is that the maid took it. This has not been the first time money has gone missing from my wallet since she's been working for us. The first time, a 5,000 colones note was gone, and although I was sure it had been in there before she got there, I was equally sure I might have miscalculated, and perhaps it wasn't in there in the first place. The next time it was 10,000 colones, and this time a $100 bill. I have heard that maids who rip you off will do that, take just one bill to make it seem as though you might be mistaken, you might question yourself. But who the hell doesn't miss a $100 bill? Not me! I miss it! That is a lot of groceries (at least a couple of weeks' worth for my family), several bags of dog and cat food, many tanks of gas for my car. That is money I worked hard to earn. I am not independently wealthy, and what irks me is that, if it was the maid who took it, she thinks I won't miss such a large amount of money. Not to mention the feeling of being violated when someone has been in your purse, digging around in your things looking for money to steal. It's not the first time I've been robbed, but every time it feels quite similar. I guess the amount of irritation is proportional to how much one has been violated. When our house was broken into in the middle of the afternoon while I was taking a shower (never live in Rohrmoser if you can help it!), I had nightmares about the men who came into my house for years. I am only now able to recall that I had a gun in my face without breaking into a cold sweat. So truthfully, taking $100 out of my purse was nothing compared to that experience.

At any rate, she will be fired by esposo when he gets home tonight. No more second chances. I've freaking had it.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Love is in the Air

If you thought the cockroach was huge, how about this baby?

Don't fire 'till you see the whites of their eyes, boys!

I guess this is one of the problems with living in the dry forest: bugs, and plenty of them! We get lots of geckos (I like those, actually), other spiders, giant cockroaches, several species of ants, centipedes, scorpions, and these crazy hairy black caterpillars that seem to pass through the house once a year, though this is the first tarantula I've seen. Esposo tells me they are not really dangerous (just big and hairy and yucky, OKAY!), yet he won't pick it up to take it outside. Two-and-a-half-year-old son is first to alert us to the tarantula, saying "Stider, look Mommy, a stider!"

Um, yeah, that's one big stider all right! Esposo thinks he will get a mug (a MUG! can you believe it? the thing was too big to even fit in a mug!) to get it outside, but I sort of think a dustpan and broom will work better. Rather large and hairy tarantula, however, has other ideas, and rears up on its back legs, waving its fangs and front legs threateningly at esposo. Just lovely.

I remember to grab the camera before said tarantula is out of our lives for good (hopefully!), and really, it is so big that it gets redeye from the flash! Later, esposo chides me, saying, "Oh gee honey, you should have set the anti-redeye on the camera." Yeah, that's exactly what I was thinking about right at that moment!

Finally esposo manages to get it out of the house and dump it unceremoniously over the side wall. I hear, however, that tarantulas only come out of their hidey-holes to look for mates and eat, and if it was in the house, it's probably looking for a mate. Does this mean tarantula love is in the air and I can expect the pitter-patter of baby tarantula feet someday soon?

Some good news, for a change

Seems one of the rebel factions in the Congo has agreed to stop killing and eating mountain gorillas.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Even Princess Shopaholic has a bad day once in a while

I have decided to turn over a new leaf and try to view my remaining time in Costa Rica as a positive thing. I am going to be positive. I really, truly am. Positively positive, that's me!

So I bought this gorgeous top/shirt/blouse thing at my favorite boutique in Costa Rica, Guarana, which is in the Via Lindora shopping center (along with playplace extraordinare Gymbo and the ever-delicious Pasteleria Eiffel). Before Christmas, I'd spotted said shirt while on a reconnaissance mission with my friend while our kids played at Gymbo in the very capable hands of Alex, who could have cared less, most likely, about fawning over lovely clothing in a women's boutique. Said shirt was in window on mannequin, and I was fairly sure I needed it, what with the holidays and all, one should have at least one nice going-out-in shirt. Yes, it was $60, but I rationalized the expenditure as 1) that's still damn cheap for a boutique, 2) I could wear it with anything from flowy black pants to jeans, and 3) it was just really nice and I had to have it! Christmas came and went, and I'd spent all the money I had on things like food, rent and gifts for son, and still my shirt hung in the window, looking sad, waiting for me to rescue it from its post. "Buy me, take me home, wear me, love me," I could hear it calling. But it was not to be.

After the New Year, I finally had a little cash to spend on myself (merry Christmas to me!), and went straight to Guarana for my lovely shirt. Perhaps I should back up and explain lovely shirt in a little more detail. It is a gorgeous thing to behold, sheer fabric, plunging neckline, embroidered with flowers... Anyway, Guarana was closed until January 6th, and I went in that day, and discovered my shirt was no longer in the window! But, good news -- there was one left and it was 20% off! So I bought it.

Fast-forward to today (January 23), and I feel like wearing my lovely shirt. I'd told myself that I could wear it with anything, even jeans, so I dig a pair of old, worn Gap denim out of the closet and pair them with a cute little black tank top and my lovely shirt. I feel like Shopaholic. Or a princess. Or Princess Shopaholic. Whatever, I feel great! I decided to take my son out to lunch at another of our favorite spots, Giacomin, because I need to pay my cable bill and who would not look glamorous paying their bills in such a shirt?

In the parking lot (I've found a spot an aisle away but directly in front of Giacomin), as I'm getting my son out of the car, a big green Honda CRV starts pulling out of her space. I can see that she's about to back into my car, but I figure, she could pull in, so she should be able to pull out, right? Wrong! Right into my front bumper this moron goes, cracking it and bending my license plate in the process. I start waving at her to stop, but she just takes off. I am so freaking pissed. Then some silly girl (who apparently works at AutoMercado, judging from her hideous red shirt) passes by and starts telling me that I should stop worrying, she didn't hit the car, nothing's wrong, blah blah blah (in English, except for the "blah blah" part). I look at her and say, "What are you talking about? She cracked the bumper! Look!" Silly byatch then looks at the bumper, feels slightly idiotic (as well she should), says, "oh..." and drives away.

All I can do is sigh.

And as usual, I've forgotten my cell phone so I can't even call esposo to find out what I should do. At any rate, I managed to have enough presence of mind to get the license plate of this woman's car, and will be filing out a hit-and-run report. (Was it mere coincidence that I found that MOPT website just a few days ago? I think not!)

Lunch at Giacomin was nice, though the whole "cracking the bumper and taking off" thing put quite a damper on it. I paid my cable bill, and then went home, feeling not so much like Princess Shopaholic after all. Oh well, there will always be another opportunity to wear a great shirt.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Giving Props, Again

Yesterday I took two furbabies into the town vet (Dr. Rojas of Ciudad Colon, in case anyone out there is looking for a great vet). Tiny, a little old chihuahua mix, has been having incontinence issues, and Sebastian looked to have an infected tooth. I knew it would be somewhat of a challenge, having a toddler in tow and with esposo working and all, but I didn't want to put off the appointment any longer (which, by the way, I called to get that morning and got for that afternoon).

He first took a look at Tiny, thought that her inability to hold it could be due to a urinary tract infection or possibly just old age. So he decided to try antibiotics first, and if it didn't go away, we would try hormone therapy (which worked really well when my first chihuahua, dearest sweetest Lucy, had the same problem). Then he clipped Tiny's nails, checked her vitals, ears, etc. and said she looked pretty good for a girl her age, otherwise.

Then came Sebastian (aka Boo Boo Man, or Boo for short), and he's really getting up there in age -- almost 18 years old at this point. He looks kind of a mess -- matted hair, bad breath, dandruff -- but really he's not in bad shape at all. He's a pretty tough little guy, even though another vet gave him a few months to live two and a half years ago. However, when Dr. R. said that we'd probably have to pull the tooth, I was worried, because that meant he'd have to go under anesthesia. So again, we're going to try a round of antibiotics first, to see if the infection goes away. If not, then he'll have to go back.

For a visit like this in California, with two animals, I'd expect to pay about $75-100, maybe more, including medications. Yesterday's visit was 10,500 colones, or less than $20. As I was leaving, I remembered to ask about a worm pill for Livvy, which he didn't even charge me for. How nice! Good, inexpensive veterinary service is one thing I will really miss when we leave Costa Rica, especially with all these dogs and cats we've got.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Just Another Victim, Kid

The other day, I went with a friend and her son to Multiplaza to have dinner at Te Con Te (they have this ridiculously huge kids' playground inside for the moms to let the smalls loose while they sit having coffee). On the way home, we got to talking about how so many people get killed crossing the streets (mostly highways) here in Costa Rica. (Every heart you see on the roads represents someone who has died there in an accident.) They have recently begun work on the pedestrian bridge from CIMA hospital to the other side of the highway. My friend told me the story of the woman who was killed there a couple of years back, and how the woman WORKED AT CIMA, but since she didn't have insurance, they took her all the way downtown San Jose to San Juan de Dios public hospital, and she, of course, died in transit. This woman's life could have been saved -- I'm still shocked that CIMA would turn her away. There really should be a law against that, here and everywhere. No one should die because of lack of insurance.

But I digress...

As we passed over the hill into Santa Ana way, we noticed some flashing lights on the other side of the highway, and I looked over to see a body of someone who had been hit by a car. Another heart on the highway.

The following night, esposo told me that on his way home, he saw a bicyclist in Piedades who had been hit by a car and killed also.

Why does this keep happening? I can't believe the number of people who are hit by cars on roads in this country. It is disgraceful. Shall we put the blame on drivers, who think they own the roads and drive like no one's business, or on the severe lack of highway patrol officers and their inability to patrol the highways? Or shall we lay the blame on the pedestrians and cyclists (several of which have crossed in front of me at night -- and scared the heck out of me!), who don't pay attention, cross where they have no business doing so, don't wear bright or reflective clothing at night, and drive their bicycles at night without lights? Perhaps all are equally to blame, I don't know. I just think it's terribly sad.

Here in my very small town of Ciudad Colon, we have one heart on the road in front of the church downtown (downtown is all of a good 8 blocks long, I believe). From speaking with my friend, however (who was a nurse back in the States), it seems at least three people (to her knowledge) have been hit by cars and died downtown. Are there just too many hearts to paint on all the roads? Where is the traffic education? Every time I see a parent running across the street with a child in arms or by the hands, I shake my head. Granted, crosswalks are few and far between, but really, should we be running across highways? Cross at a light, for god's sake! Anyone who takes a child's life into their hands by running across a highway should not have children in the first place, sorry, don't think so.

I just read a report put out by the MOPT (Costa Rica's highway patrol), that gives some of the following statistics:
* Last year, 22 people died crossing the roads, the 2nd leading cause of death on the highways (car accidents accounted for 44 highway deaths last year).
* Since 2000, 422 people have died crossing the roads, or 18% of all people who have died on the highways and other roads here.
* In the period of 2000-2006, 141 cyclists have died on the roads, and 8 of them died in the first quarter of 2006 alone.


While visiting the MOPT site, I ran across an area where one can make a complaint against another driver (I wish I had known about this when that @$$hole cab driver almost ran us all into a bus!). I heartily urge everyone who comes up against an idiot driver, bad cab or bus driver, etc. to fill out a report, as I will be doing from now again.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Who Gives a Rat's Ass?

From La Nacion

Why, for the love of everything that is good, does anyone care what these people do? So they spent Christmas with Colombian refugees before jetting off to the Four Seasons in Guanacaste for New Year's. Oh, please. Enough already.

Catch of the Day

Look what the cat dragged in:

La Cucaracha, La Cucaracha, ya no puede caminar...

Now that is one seriously big cockroach! Back in the good old U S of A, I have seen cockroaches that were little, itty bitty things (but still nasty in my book). On my first trip to Mexico back in 1985, I had a "friend" living in our hotel bathroom for a week. Pablo was a good couple of inches long, and for some reason, not as disgusting as the little ones. Fast forward 15 years, I move to Costa Rica, and can't seem to get away from cockroaches. At our last house, Kiki would regularly catch and kill cockroaches and leave them (in bits and pieces, usually) around the house for us to pick up each morning. Nice.

Cockroaches are a way of life in the tropics, but I'm still grossed out by them. Somewhere between Mexico and Costa Rica I realized how disgusting and filthy the things are (I think it was that entomology class I took in college). I no longer name my cockroaches, and tend to squish them and then flush them down the toilet at first sight. At the old house, we'd get the regular-sized ones that were a couple of inches long. But this thing is big. Really big. We're talking like a good 4 or so inches big. That is esposo's hand, and he is not a small man. I refused to pick the thing up, even though it was already dead. Bleh. Do cockroaches have any redeeming qualities? I know some people keep them as pets, which I just can't figure out. Double bleh. I'll stick to dogs and cats, thanks.

New Kids on the Block

Since we moved, we have acquired several more animal companions. Allow me to introduce them...

First is Olivia Siobahn (thanks, L7, for giving me the idea for her name!), a little white kitty who arrived just as we were packing up the moving boxes. She was a darling, adorable little kitten, and when I realized she was also deaf, I thought that her being let outside meant it was only a matter of time before she was hit by a car, so we kept her. Now, I know the people who she belonged to -- farmers down the road from us that sort of let their cats and dogs breed like mad -- so I knew she wouldn't really be missed. So she came with us, and she's made a great playmate for Kiki.

Then, a couple of weeks later, we went to visit our friends (who, as coincidence would have it, also moved into a new home, though they are buying theirs and we're just renting 'cause we're getting the heck out of Costa Rica in the next couple of years, but I guess they intend to stay). I saw that their little old dog was in a pen in the back, and my friend proceeded to tell me about the dog biting their 1-1/2-year -old and her husband being so angry he was ready to put the dog to sleep. She (our friend) seemed sort of stuck in the middle, and I offered to take Tiny (what's one more dog at this point?, I figured). By the end of the night, we'd made arrangements to have Tiny come live with us, and it's true she doesn't like kids in her face (she's already nipped at our son a couple of times), but I suppose since he's a year older he is better able to understand that he needs to stay away from her more than the baby. She's really sweet, and reminds me of my little Chihuahua Mable, albeit with long hair.

The house we moved into "came" with two dogs, a mutt named Mun(y)eca and a Rottweiler named Alaska. The landlords were either going to take them to the shelter or they could stay here, so, HEY! surprise, surprise -- they stayed here. They (the landlords) have said that if someone wants to take them, they can. So if anyone out there wants one or two lovely dogs, let me know. The Rotti, in particular, is fantastic with kids, a great watchdog, sweet as can be (think Good Dog Carla), happy to see you when you get home without getting overly excited, etc. I wish I could trade her for Numi, who has, since we moved in here, killed both of my rabbits (Mariah and Hunny Bunny).

I'm starting to feel like we're running an animal shelter here. This now makes 10 dogs and 4 cats. I never in my wildest dream thought I'd have 10 dogs (ok, two are not really ours, but for all intents and purposes, they might as well be). Who wakes up one day and says, Gee, I think I'd like to have 10 dogs? No one in their right mind! Of course, it's easier to end up with 10 dogs here than in the U.S., as there are so, so many stray animals on the streets it can be overwhelming. Oh well, you do what you can, right?