Monday, July 30, 2007

It really is a small world after all

While browsing around the internet, as I am wont to do every morning before I get to doing real work, I saw one of those Google ads that read something like "Get Married in Costa Rica / Officiate to Pink's wedding /" I asked esposo if he thought it could be the same Marcelo Galli we know, from the Costa Rica Vegetarians group, and he said it was possible, since he is a lawyer and he does speak English and all. And I thought I read somewhere that Pink was a vegetarian... Not sure if that's true or not, but at least she's done some animal rights stuff. Anyway, I went to his website, and yep, it's the same person. So that means only one degree of separation between me and Pink? How weird. It really is a small world.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Some Things to Know About Costa Rica

I have friends here on their honeymoon, and it got me to thinking of all of the things I should have told them before they took off in their rented car to drive around the country. So here is my list of some things everyone should know about Costa Rica.

1. This is a kissy culture. Women always kiss both men and women when saying hello or goodbye, or upon first meeting someone. Men kiss women but usually not other men (generally speaking). Usually just on the right cheek, but if you have European friends or friends from Montreal (like we do), you get it on both cheeks. Not to kiss is considered very rude. This was super weird to me when I first moved here, having come from a not-kissy culture in the U.S., where here you hug and kiss everyone. I felt awkward at first, and now it seems to me that the other way is weird. I like kissy culture!

2. When ordering something, Costa Ricans say "Regalame [whatever it is they want]." This literally translates to "Give me the gift of...," though they are not asking to be given something for free. It's just being polite. So don't say, "Yo quiero..." because that's considered rude. Always say "Por favor" and "Muchas gracias" and "Muy amable" (very kind) when appropriate. You'll also hear, "Que Dios le bendiga" (May God bless you) from everyone from the security guard watching your car to the girl at the supermarket checkout. While it may seem uber-religious, and it many cases it is coming from that place of uber-religiousness, in fact people are just being polite. People are extremely polite here, even when they're stabbing you in the back, they do it with a smile.

3. Related to #2, Costa Ricans do not really use the "tu" personal form when speaking. Parents use "usted" with their children, acquaintances use "usted" with each other. Sometimes you will get, between very close friends, a weird form of "vos" that isn't really "vos" at all but more like "tu" verbs with the word "vos" thrown in. Costa Ricans do not use "vos" in the Spanish (from Spain, I mean) sense of the word. It is confusing if you are not fluent in Spanish (sometimes even if you are), and Gringos who haven't a clue about how to use the Costa Rican vos sound truly ridiculous. So please don't, unless you get lessons from a Costa Rican speaker.

4. Speaking of sounding ridiculous, you will hear "mae" thrown about between Costa Rican speakers on a friendly basis with each other. It drives me right up a wall, but apparently the Costa Ricans don't mind. If you are a Gringo, however, please don't use the words "mae," "que chiva," or "que rajado." It just sounds ridiculous. Acceptable slang includes "pura vida" (it's sort of expected, actually) and "mejenga" when referring to a soccer game.

5. Don't expect anyone to be anywhere on time, ever. Don't expect anything to get done by a specific date, either. Get used to it. Time does not work the same way down here. We call it Tico Time, and that is for good reason. The only possible exception to this one might be dinner reservations, and even that can be pushed back a good 15-20 minutes, sometimes later. If you want people to show up for dinner at 6, tell all of your Gringo friends 6 and the Ticos 5 or 4:30, or even earlier. They'll still show up around 7 or 8. My son's birthday party is at 10:00 this Sunday, and I can guarantee you that our Gringo friends will make it around 10, with the Ticos showing up just before or during the afternoon downpour. You know, which is why we made it at 10, not 2 in the afternoon.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

The Babies

For some reason, at this house, we have LOTS of barn swallows. Two different sets of parents made nests, one in the rafting in the back of our house, and another in a hole in the side of the neighbor's roof that looks onto our driveway. I was concerned for the babies because Numi the Nutcase is in the backyard, and then there are three other dogs in the side/front yard. The babies in the back seem to have escaped a nasty, dog-laden fate, but unfortunately, one of the babies on the side wasn't so lucky. We came home from a birthday party today and esposo found one of the babies next to the dogs' bed in front. I don't know if they picked it up (likely) and brought it there, or it managed to flap itself over there, but by the time we got to it, it was nearly gone. It died in my lap as I was pulling the car into the driveway. Then I noticed another baby flapping around in Numi's food bowl, and I went out and grabbed it before a dog noticed it. It seemed fine, so esposo stood on the car and put it back in the nest-hole in the neighbor's roof. He was a little worried that the mama would reject it, but as soon as the mama saw it was back in the nest, she brought it some food. So it's fine, as is #3 who managed not to fall out of the nest at all today. I am hoping these little guys will survive the dog gauntlet -- I'll let you know.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Obama? Or Guiliani?

Maybe this will help you decide. I'm not voting for either one of them, though I thought this was freakin' hilarious:

Thursday, July 19, 2007

To go to a resort or not to go

when one (and one's entire family) has the flu which develops into bronchitis, that is the question. I thought "go" was the answer, as in "go, the room is already paid for, might as well be sick at a resort than at home." Then we went to said resort, everyone coughing, headachey, nauseous for most of the trip. Now I'm thinking, "not to go" is probably right. The six-hour bus trip home really sucked. The food at the resort sucked. It maybe would not be so bad if you are not a vegan, and a vegan who is desperate to lose weight at that, thus trying to avoid carbohydrate overload in the form of potatoes, pasta, and rice. Also, if you are a vegan who hates salad. So this vegan (who hates salad) ate her fill of potatoes, rice and pasta at every meal. I think I am five pounds heavier, when, in reality, doesn't being sick cause one to lose weight, generally speaking? Not I.

So anyway, we did go to this resort, and our three-year-old son had a great time. He loved the pool by our room, a first for he who hates going into swimming pools or even getting his face wet in the shower. The staff there are, overall, fairly nice and helpful, though Nathalie at reception is a raging bitch of a person. At check-in, she told our friends (who have two young kids, 4 and 1) that the pool next to our room was for adults only, not children something like three times, even though the water in part of it came as far as my three-year-old's waist and there were a LOT of kids in the pool. There is no way on this earth that pool wasn't made for kids. In fact, none of the pools were lacking kids, and there were no signs at any of the pools that said they were for adults only. So what was her trip? Then she went on about how you could only make reservations for the a la carte restaurants if you were staying three nights, and then you had to have these tickets (even though she didn't bother to give our friends, who were staying three nights, any tickets at all), or you could have a "premium plan," otherwise you had to go to the restaurant and see if there was space, and if there was, you had to come back to the front desk and get a ticket, blah blah blah. When what we did was find the guy who makes the reservations, see if there was space (there was), and just make the reservation. No problem, no questions about how long we were staying or any of that nonsense. You know, I didn't see her on the way out. I wanted to complain about her. Maybe I still will. What a bad first impression.

Anyway, we're all home now and instead of blogging, I should be working, which I will do after breakfast. I just have so many things to tell you...

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Catholic Church is at it again

I read in The Tico Times the other day that the Catholic Church has reiterated its stand against gay unions, in light of a bill in Costa Rica's Congress to allow gay couples to form legal unions (stopping short of calling them marriages, of course). They (the Pope, the dyed-in-the-wool Catholics, etc.) brought out the same old tired arguments against the bill, citing such things as gays being an abberation (even though God made gay people they way they are), and that gay marriages somehow threaten the sanctity of hetero marriages. Sigh.

What century are we living in, people? I would like someone, anyone, from the Catholic Church to explain to me, a woman in a hetero marriage, how, exactly, gay people threaten to destroy my marriage. Short answer: They don't. And by the way, I am really, really sick of hearing people use God and religion to justify their prejudices against homosexuality. Marriage is not a religious institution unless you want it to be. Esposo and I did not get married in a church; in Costa Rica, you may legally get married by a lawyer, which is exactly what we did (two lawyers, in fact -- one did the ceremony in Spanish and the other in English). And I know lots of people who were never married in a church. Does that make their marriages worthless in the eyes of God or whomever? Sorry, don't think so. Marriage is a social contract between two people, and I'd like to say between two people, no matter whether they're straight, gay, blue or purple. Once upon a time, a lot of people would have thought I was disgusting for marrying someone outside of my "race" (even though I believe there is only one race -- human). It is more accepted to see people of different skin colors together, and I do hope and believe it will, sooner or later, become acceptable to see couples of the same gender together. People are people. I hope this bill becomes law.

On a similar note, I recall a few years back the Costa Rican courts allowing a cross-dressing homosexual man to adopt a child that he had cared for since the child's mother dumped the kid in favor of crack. The courts found that he was an excellent father and there was no reason not to allow the adoption to go through. I remember thinking at the time, Hooray for Costa Rica! For being an officially Catholic country, we do have a few progressive thinkers here and there.

Speaking of bills in Congress, I also read that there's another one pending that would make it illegal to punish a child by hitting them. I can't tell you how much I'd love to see this one pass! It is, disgustingly enough, the old-fashioned Costa Rican way to hit first and ask questions later. I hate that. I hate seeing anyone hurt a child, especially physically, when I know there are better ways to handle the situation. But since it is not yet illegal here, the PANI really won't do anything unless it is a serious abuse situation. Stay tuned...

Country Quilt Redux

I decided, since I had only made 12 of those 9-patch blocks, to redo the country quilt layout, using alternating rows of various blocks. I like this a lot better, and it fits my personality better, which is to say that I don't like doing the same thing too damn many times. This way I only have to make four of each block. And I found some chicken and rooster blocks that I really like. What do you think?

In High Praise of the Stinking Rose

I have a bunch of dogs (9, I think, though I stopped counting two or three dogs ago). In the area where I live, ticks are a terrible problem on pets. We used to give our dogs these injections that would keep the ticks away (really, I don't even want to know what poison was in those injections -- I'm sure it is horrible, but I figured having ticks all over the house -- especially with a baby -- was worse). The guy would come by once a month, inject all of the dogs, no ticks for at least a month. The last time he came, he said there was a new product out that would keep the ticks away for six months. Wahoo! we thought. Less poison in the dogs and more time until the next round of shots. Now, unfortunately, the shots did next to nothing for the ticks. They all still had ticks, and after a few weeks, had ticks as badly as they did when he gave the shots. Grrr....

Fast forward a month or so, and I've picked up a book called The Nature of Animal Healing by vet Martin Goldstein. It's fantastic, and for everyone out there with animals, I urge you to read this book. You may never feed your cat Friskies or your dog Alpo again! He also gives lots of ways to get rid of parasites naturally, one of them being fresh garlic. I thought, what the heck, it can't hurt. So we started with a little freshly grated garlic in each doggy bowl each morning, and after a couple of weeks of this, guess what? Not a single tick! Not one! No fleas, either! I'm so overjoyed I can't even express it. It's hard to get away from ticks here, but at least the ticks are away from us.

Now if I can figure out a way to make my own pet food AND make it affordable, I'd like to do that. At least the dogs get plenty of vitamin C by way of all of the mangoes they half eat and then leave lying around the yard. One cat, my 18-year-old Boo Boo Man, loves to eat veggies and cheese, so he gets a lot better food than the other three who only eat the canned tuna and dry stuff. When I have money, I like to get Tiki Cat for Boo, because it's nothing but fish, no by-products (think about how disgusting that word is for a minute) or fillers. And he's done incredibly well on it. A year ago, I thought for sure we were going to lose him. But an improved diet has completely turned him around, and though he's very old, losing his sight and hearing, in other respects he's like a two-year-old cat again. I know, of course, I can do better with my animals' diets, and I'm certainly trying to do so, one step at a time.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Electric Quilting

(Sing to the tune of "Electric Youth" by Debbie Gibson -- oh, I'm sorry, Deborah Gibson -- which esposo does every time I mention the software...) I got this freaking fantastic software called Electric Quilt a couple of weeks ago, and it lets you design blocks and quilts, play around with colors and fabrics, even scan and import your own fabrics or download swatches from the web, before you ever make a cut. I *love* it! It's so much fun. Here are a couple of quilts that are in the design phase:

I'm thinking of calling this one "Migraine-Inducing Headache."

This one is just something I've been playing around with because I made country 9-patch on-point blocks for this block lotto, and then was sick for a week and didn't get them in the mail in time. So I have these blocks that I needed to do something with. I'm thinking of calling it "You Were Too Slow Mailing Those Blocks Dumbass."

What does any of this have to do with Costa Rica? Not much, except that I'm skipping quilt group tonight. Guess why.