Monday, October 29, 2007

My new car

I'm gonna get me one of these. Ya like it? Yes, I'll be paying for it forever, but I want a new car. And, in its favor, it does have all kinds of great safety features a mom wants, and gets good gas mileage, and is a Consumer Guide "Best Buy" car for 2008. But it doesn't come in green. I do promise not to park like an asshole with it.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

As moving day approaches

I've been sitting on the porch out back, enjoying the last hours of our time in this house. It's a beautiful, though HOT, day, and that means the birds and butterflies are out in force. One of the plants that esposo stuck in the ground when we first moved in here in February is now a huge flowering bush that the hummers and butterflies just go crazy over. I will miss them. And my other feathered friends -- my many, many swallows that live in the little nooks and crannies around the house, my great kiskadee and his new girlfriend, who both come to the porch now to steal dog food. I'll miss them, too. Not to mention my human friends who live in town, Amy, J. always riding her bike around town, E. and M. and the chickens, who we never get to see enough of, even los viejitos, among many others... it is a really, really small town (a lot like living in Pacific Grove, CA, once upon a time), where you see someone you know every time you go out of your house. (Which, really, can be claustrophobic after a while, and I think esposo is not going to miss living here as much as I will.) Today, I would like to walk a few blocks to the farmacia, pick up more Benadryl (thanks, Amy, for the tip!), stop off at the ice cream place for the last time. These are things I probably won't be able to do in our new town, which doesn't even have a supermarket within walking distance (currently, we can walk two blocks to Super Mora).

It is a time for a change. I'm actually looking quite forward to the move, the new house, the new life, lest you think I'm not. I still have so much packing to do, and I'm battling a chest cold that has pretty much knocked me out for the past few days. Esposo is so much better at packing. Most of the rest of the house is packed, save for my sewing room and my office (which is TONS of stuff, actually). Since there are no closets in the new house, we've been purging quite a bit, donating three big bags full of clothes and another big box of kitchen stuff to the Red Cross, who will see that it goes to those who have lost everything in the recent floods. We have so much "stuff," it's ridiculous. Feels good to purge. How we are ever going to leave this country, I have no idea...

Ok, back to packing.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Do you park like an asshole?

I just discovered this site, It's great. There are so many asshole parkers in Costa Rica, mostly driving their gas-guzzling SUVs taking up more than one space or just enough of your space so that you have no room to park your little Haunted Hyundai. More than once I've come out to my car to discover a hole has parked too close for me to enter my own car, at which point I usually have to get in through the passenger side and then, what I do just for fun, is to open my door with a vengeance, and bang it as hard as possible into the hole's car next to mine, repeatedly if necessary, until I make a nice dent in the door of the hole's car. Yes, I do. I don't give a rat's butt about how my own sorry excuse for a car looks, so one more dent isn't going to bother me any. And I really hate rude people. So they deserve it. There are so many rude people in Costa Rica, you probably wouldn't believe it unless you lived here.

Back to the site. You can download "parking tickets" for asshole parkers. I'm gonna get me some and translate them into Spanish. And you can also take pictures of the asshole parker's car and upload them to their gallery.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Bucket of cat poo, anyone?

Another oddity of this town: people are always going through your garbage. The other day, in anticipation of our big move, I threw away about a lawn-sized garbage bag full of old videotapes, most of them too moldy to play in a VCR. I saw a guy hauling the bag away, and though I tried to explain they were total trash and not usable, he didn't seem to understand me, so I had to ask esposo to tell him to put the trash back.

This morning I saw two women trying to decide whether or not to haul away a bucket of cat crap. Let me back up. We buy the cat litter in the big bucket size from PriceSmart, as they are the only ones in the country who carry clumping cat litter. Then, we dump the clumped litter (aka waste) back in an empty bucket, which is later taped shut and set by the curb to be hauled away as trash. Last week, esposo set out two buckets that were gone by mid-day; however, the garbage picker-uppers had not yet been by. So I guess someone just wanted the buckets, but after they opened them and realized there was cat poo inside, I can't imagine them wanting to keep said buckets. Now this morning, I hear the littles barking in front, go out to see what the deal is, and two ladies are trying to determine what, exactly, is in the bucket. Never mind that there is a big picture of a cat using a litter box on the front. One of the ladies was going to attempt to untape the bucket, at which point I asked if they were looking for something, they sort of mumbled and put the bucket back. Then they tried to sell me some towels.

I will be glad when we move.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

This'll gross you out

I removed one of these disgusting things from our dog Bonny today:


Doesn't look familiar? It's a lovely botfly larvae, which is laid as an egg by mosquitoes and then hatches under the skin. Believe it or not, this is actually the third botfly larvae (or torsalo, as they are known in Costa Rica) that I've removed from a dog, the first one was on Isabella, and the second one was on Muneca, a dog that lived at a house we rented. I first noticed the bump on Bonny's leg a few days ago, and though I tried squeezing the botfly larvae out then, it was too small. I am not going to describe how to get a botfly larvae out of the skin, but let me just say, it is one of the most disgusting things I've ever seen. If you want to read more about it, this site has a lot of "great" information. Please be sure to scroll down and read about the guy who got bitten by a botfly in his scrotum, right here in Costa Rica!

Friday, October 19, 2007

This is weird...

Ok, so... I took the kitten in last night to get spayed, and just went down to pick her up. When I did, I realized the baby blanket that I'd given her was not in the carrier, so I asked the vet tech about it. He said that he'd thrown it away because it was covered in feces and urine. I said, Oh, no, I need it back because my son's grandmother made it for him. I can wash it if it's dirty, etc. So then he goes in the back, puts it in a plastic bag, and I take kitten and blanket home. When I get home, I go to soak the blanket in a bucket of soapy water and realize there's no feces or urine on it, but it does reek of cigarette smoke.

It just seems weird. Any clues as to what's going on here, or am I just reading too much into it?

P.S. Not to mention that someone would throw a baby blanket away without asking you first, even if it was as filthy as he made it sound?

And I really should be packing!

Forgot to tell you, we took that big house in Grecia (the two-bedroom with the big garage). The one weird thing about the house is that there are no closets. In the whole house. Who builds a brand-new house (it is only a couple of years old) and puts in NOT ONE CLOSET? It's bizarre. So we have to figure out what we're going to do for storage. Other than that, it's perfect. Beautiful big kitchen, only one neighbor, lots of space. We should be moving on the 30th, though esposo of course is going out of town for training the 26th-28th. I am also trying to figure out how, logistically, we can make as few trips as possible back and forth with the dogs. Nine dogs, in case you didn't realize we had a zoo going over here. One of those dogs (Cheska) does not get along well with others, so she has to go with the bigs, but I can maybe take the smalls all at once... It would be easier if our new place was only a town or two over, but it takes an hour to drive from here to there, so... Seriously, though, after this I am NOT moving again for a long time!

Don't look down

When I lived in California, I also lived in my Doc Marten's. Those shoes were the most comfortable things I'd ever owned in my life, and it showed, as I wore them pretty much every single day for about ten years. By the time I got to Costa Rica, they had all but given up the ghost, and were really too hot to wear here anyway. And thus, I became the Queen of the Flip-Flops. Beaded flip-flops, simple flip-flops, platform flip-flops, I live in them. This type of behavior can wreak havoc on your feet, particularly your toes and toenails. Quite frankly, after several years of nothing but flip-flops, my feet were, well, disgusting, actually. One day it dawned on me, after seeing my friend M. wearing flip-flops with well-manicured toes, I should break down and get a pedicure. I was, at first, embarrassed to do so, because you know, my feet looked awful. But as I sat reading Cosmo in Spanish for the umpteenth time waiting for esposo and son to finish getting their hair cut, I thought, why not? I asked the lady at Wendy's if she had time, she did, and that was the beginning of the end. If you've never had a pedicure, it's really a luxurious experience. Not only do your toenails get cleaned, buffed and polished, but you get a nice little foot massage, and a sanding of your feet's calloused regions. I had never felt so pampered. And glamorous.

Yesterday was haircut day for esposo and son again (esposo made the mistake of trying to cut son's hair; there will come a day when he notices what a bad job Dad does!), so I got my second pedicure ever. I have to say, big props to Angelica over at Wendy's Hair Studio in Escazu, whom I must highly recommend. She was even better than the last pedicurist, and my toes look so good, I think I need a new pair of shoes to go with them!

Monday, October 15, 2007

Happy Blog Action Day!

It's a new international holiday! Today, bloggers from around the globe are uniting to write about our environment. Last time I checked, 15,861 bloggers had signed up, and I'm one of them.

Here's a tidbit about me: My degree is in environmental studies from the University of California at Santa Cruz. I only got a university degree because the monolith of a company where I worked thought I should have one. Otherwise, truthfully, I probably wouldn't have bothered. Of the courses of study offered at UCSC, environmental studies seemed most up my alley. So there you have it. And the irony is, I moved to Costa Rica after graduation, never actually putting my degree to any use with said company.

While at school, I was far more involved in environmental action than I am now. I had high hopes of doing something, anything to get interested in environmental issues here. And then something happened. I realized that a lot of Costa Ricans don't seem to care very much about their own beautiful country. They throw trash all over the place; allow rampant, unchecked development (especially in sensitive coastal areas); pollute their own sources of drinking water (rivers and lakes); and on it goes. My favorite vet in Escazu once told me about a project he had going to clean up the rivers (Escazu spends more on public sports activities than it does on the environment). He publicized a volunteer day everywhere; of course lots of people said, "Yes, yes, what a great idea! We'll be there!" And only one person showed up. Costa Ricans can be very self-centered (ask any one of them, they'll tell you the same). There just isn't the social activism here, unless it has to do with taxi drivers losing their jobs, or CAFTA (me, me, ME! activism, in other words). It can get depressing after a while. It is depressing. Because you can't make people care. They either care or they don't. So I realized the only thing I could do, is do the best for myself and my family.

On that note, here are a couple of small things I've learned that are very easy to do, maybe you can try one or two of them and help make the environment in which you live a little better for yourself and your family. You don't have to solve global warming on your own, but every small thing you do helps solve global warming.

1. Eat less meat. No matter what naysayers say, the scientific fact is that energy is lost every step up on the food chain, so the lower one eats on it, the better. A plant-based diet, therefore, is going to have less of an impact on the environment, and an organic plant-based diet, even more so. If you're not ready to give up meat entirely, try just one meal a week. Meatout Mondays is a good place to start. At the end of the year, you'll have added an extra 52 plant-based meals to your life. And if you don't believe me when I say that a plant-based diet is better for the environment, read this. Or this.

2. Eat fewer pre-packaged foods. Save money and reduce garbage at the same time. I know a lot of us don't have a great deal of time to devote to cooking, so here is an idea. Make a big batch of something that freezes or cans well, and store the rest. Spaghetti sauce, for example, or chili. You can probably make about 10 jars of either for what you'd pay for one jar of pre-made stuff, and yours made at home will undoubtedly taste better.

3. Vote for politicians who make the environment a priority. Simple enough. Even though we should, by all rights, have had a President Al Gore by now. (And if you want him to run again, sign the petition.) And can I just say? Props to him for winning the Nobel Peace Prize!

4. Support environmental organizations that make a difference. We can't all be out there on the front lines, but luckily there are plenty of NGOs that can. A few of my favorites are Caribbean Conservation and Sea Turtle Survival League, National Resources Defense Council, and Wildlife Direct. And by supporting, I don't necessarily mean monetary support (though I'm sure it's always welcomed). Sign up for action alerts, send letters, and it's easy to be an armchair environmentalist.

5. Do one little thing for the environment every day. Ideal Bite is a good place to look for tips. They'll send you one a day for free.

6. Educate yourself. Did you know that in the Virunga National Park, rangers are putting their lives on the line every day to save some of the last remaining mountain gorillas on the planet? I didn't, until a story ran in National Geographic News a few months ago. Now I read their blog, Gorilla Protection, every day to keep up with what's going on and to see what I can do to help. Find something that interests you and read up. There are blogs on every conceivable topic nowadays, so it shouldn't be too difficult.

7. Don't let it get you down. There is actually a medical condition related to the stress some people have over the state of our environment: eco-anxiety. It won't do anyone any good to make yourself sick over it, so fight the good fight, do what you can, and hope for the best.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Tomorrow, tomorrow

Tomorrow we are off to look at two houses in the Grecia area. One seems very promising: it's a 2-year old house of 2,000+ square feet, 2B/2B with 3-car garage (which the Haunted Hyundai and I surely don't need), plus another 3,000 square feet of yard for $700. The other is a smaller place, 3B/2B, actually in downtown Grecia, but no parking at all and a smaller yard for $500. I'm hoping the first works out because we're running out of time here. We've even decided to give some of our furniture away; our dining room table, solid wood that was once beautiful before the cats discovered it (that being the day we brought it home), now looks like a giant scratching pad and I'm hoping my friend H. will take it. Her husband and his father are master woodworkers, so I know they will be able to restore it beautifully. Actually H.'s mother- and father-in-law bought an old couch and chairs set we had at the cafe, refurnished them, and now they look amazing. So, in order to get rid of a dining room set, the house needs to at least have a breakfast bar. Breakfast seems to be the only meal we eat at the table, which is otherwise occupied by piles of books, bags, magazines, and other various and sundry objects, but not usually food.

We'll also be stopping at my father-in-law's, to see how he's doing and to pick up a couple of kittens for another friend, M., who used to run the first no-kill shelter in the country (and that is how we first met her). M. thinks she is only adopting one kitten, but there are only two that have survived, and I am going to attempt to talk her into taking both. I know, I am evil. But really, how many people can resist the cuteness of a baby kitten? Don't tell esposo (and hopefully he won't read this until tomorrow evening), but if M. really really doesn't want the other one, I would like to keep him. He reminds me of my cat Morrison James, AKA Bug and/or Mo, when I first got him. An adorable little gray tabby. I thought the kittens were fairly feral, but apparently they are now coming into FIL's house to eat their food, which is a very good sign that they can eventually become nice housecats.

Costa Ricans, for some reason, do not generally care for cats very much. Actually they're not that big on pets at all. Plus, most people do not get their cats fixed and let them roam around the neighborhood, breeding like crazy. So there are kittens everywhere, though they usually don't live very long. My FIL is the worst, but I'll give him this much, at least he really does love his cats! I would like to also take the adult female he has and have her spayed this week, since our wonderful vet charges very little for the procedure. I don't know how difficult she will be to handle, though. I may have to head over to Alley Cat Allies for some suggestions.

Wish me luck, on both counts. I'll let you know how it goes tomorrow.

P.S. I found a deal on a new Suzuki Grand Vitara today, and esposo agreed that it sounded great. We will be paying it off for the rest of our natural-born lives, but damnit if I am going to drive the Haunted Hyundai forever. HH, your days are numbered! Muahahaha...

Isn't he great?

Here's one reason I love Costa Rica. This is what was sitting on my porch a few minutes ago:

Great Kiskadee

I put some sunflower seeds out for the dogs to eat, of course they hated them. But Mr. Great Kiskadee seems to love them. He keeps dashing back and forth from the dog bowl to the railing. That's not the best photo, so here's one Michael Fowler took in Manuel Antonio, found on Wikipedia:

Also in our backyard, we've seen Blue-gray tanagers, Squirrel cuckoos, and a variety of LBJs ("little brown jobs," in birding lingo). A flock of green parrots flies over the house every day. We also put in a few hummingbird- and butterfly-friendly plants a few months ago, and have at least 10 different species of butterfly visiting our yard (including the beautiful Blue morpho, though they seem to prefer dog poo and rotten fruit. Really.). The wildlife in this little ithsmus is definitely incredible.

P.S. Mr. Sunflower-Seed Snatcher has returned, with a few friends in tow. He is extremely possessive about "his" dog bowl, however. hee hee...

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Thank you, Rudy Giuliani!

For giving me yet another reason not to vote for you. Not that I needed another reason, mind you, because I never intended to vote for him anyway. What did Rudy do this time? Bought a Philly cheesesteak. No, I'm not here to gripe because he ate meat and cheese, vegan that I am and all, but that he did so at a place called Gino's, owned by someone who seems to have a problem with people who don't speak English.

I first heard about this guy, actually, from a blog that I love to frequent called "the 'blog' of 'unnecessary' quotation marks." The readers of that blog almost always have some snarky/funny comments to make about submissions, and this one was no exception. Then today, on the same blog, I read about Guiliani's trip to Gino's, who has in his window a sign reading "This is America -- When Ordering 'Speak English'." Oh, Joe Vento also sports a Confederate flag tattoo and has several on his Harleys. Great guy. I guess he is unaware that the United States has no official language, English or otherwise. How about all of those Spanish speakers in Puerto Rico (part of the U.S.), or those who speak something other than English in U.S. territories. Or how about the Native American Indians, from whom we stole a whole lotta land? According to Wikipedia, there are over 50 native languages still spoken in the U.S. Not to mention three different types of Native sign language. Despite all of these language differences, the 2000 U.S. Census reported that only 0.8% of the population speaks no English at all; an overwhelming 97% report speaking English "well" or "very well." I guess those 0.8% of the people are just lining up in droves to order Philly cheesesteaks.

Want some more racist food for thought? And I quote: "He told a reporter that Mexicans carry disease into the U.S. because they 'play and drink out of the same water.'" Um. I am speechless here. Furthermore: "He defended himself against critics with a quick recourse to that last refuge of the demagogue: 'I say what everybody's thinking but is afraid to say.'" Really? Does everyone think that about Mexicans? Huh. Who knew. I guess this a-hole is a mind reader, too. Here's something that I'm thinking. Joe Vento, you're a racist a-hole. And Giuliani? That was just a really stupid move on his part. Why he would actually support someone like that is beyond me. Wait...oh yeah, maybe it's not.

Costa Rica's official language is Spanish, though lots of people speak English (from a few words to complete fluency). Here, it is seen as a benefit to be able to speak more than one language, unlike in the U.S., where it is often seen negatively, especially if your first language is Spanish. In Costa Rican schools, most children begin instruction in English starting in first grade. There are also quite a few very good private schools that are bilingual in French and German, as well as English. When strangers first meet our son, they are usually impressed with his English-speaking abilities, though that is about all we speak at home (unless we have Spanish-speaking relatives or friends over). Most people think, hey, that's great that he speaks English! Our son, at 3-1/2, understands Spanish just fine, and is finally starting to speak a bit more in Spanish. I know he will be fluent in Spanish by the time he's five, because most of his friends speak Spanish along with English. In fact, one of his friends speaks mostly French and Spanish, so the two of them tend to communicate in Spanish, sometimes in French, sometimes in English. How I wish I had learned Spanish, French, or any other second language at a young age! I wouldn't still be struggling with Spanish now. Esposo, for example, began learning English in first grade and is completely bilingual. So maybe Joe Vento is onto something: "everyone" is so closed-minded and ethno-/ego-centric that they don't want to make an attempt to communicate in another language or learn something new; their way is the best/only way. Maybe the Joe Ventos of the world feel so secure in their little, closed worlds, that they can't imagine why anyone else wouldn't want to live that way. I wonder if Joe Vento has ever stepped outside of the U.S.; or his own state, for that matter.

As far as "saying what everyone else thinks"? I actually think most people are a hell of a lot more intelligent than Joe Vento.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

CAFTA/TLC has passed; what now?

The colossally bad idea known as CAFTA/TLC has passed by a narrow margin. Being one of those people who lived through the colossally bad idea known as NAFTA -- watching people I knew lose their jobs, watching the loss of self-sufficient communities in Mexico, watching pretty much no one benefit from NAFTA except big businesses -- I never really thought this was a good idea for Costa Rica, and about 48% of the voters apparently agreed with me. A friend of ours was one of the international observers, making sure that the vote went properly and no tampering was involved (why we don't have that in the U.S. is beyond me, especially considering the Florida fiasco). He told esposo that all of the propaganda was basically aimed at those uneducated about the issues at hand -- those who knew what CAFTA/TLC was all about already had decided yes or no and were not going to change their minds. Which made me wonder why we do not have here a similar type of system that we had in California, whereby the government puts out informational booklets that every voter receives in the mail, giving a breakdown of each ballot measure, with a set number of words pro and con. I always read it, otherwise it would have been incredibly difficult (back in the pre-internet days, at least) to get all of that information in one place. Costa Rica really needs something like that.

It seemed obvious to me, in the weeks leading up to the referendum vote, who was for and who was against CAFTA/TLC, and who would benefit from it and who would not. Almost every gigantic, road-hogging, environment-polluting, brand-new ridiculous SUV on the roads had a "Sí!" sticker, as did construction sites and businesses. University students (as evidenced by graffiti all over buildings surrounding the university) tended to favor "no," as did most people driving around in their less-than-pristine, less-than-SUVs. The business had to scare people into believing that they would lose their jobs if CAFTA/TLC didn't pass, so a lot of those people who will be negatively affected by the passage voted in favor of it anyway. Sigh.

University students seemed to be mostly against CAFTA/TLC.

Anyway, PAC members of Congress have vowed to put the brakes on passing laws that need to be passed by February in order for CAFTA/TLC to be valid. Considering the "speed" with which most laws are passed in this country, there's still hope. According to Latin Business Chronicle, "...if Costa Rica fails to pass the laws by February and implement them by March 2008, it will violate the agreement signed with the United States in May 2004." One can only hope. Or at least 48% of the "no" voters can hope. 3%. Damn.

(Speaking of Latin Business Chronicle, can anyone out there translate this into English?: "We view DR-CAFTA very good news for the credit and expect the positive referendum outcome to elicit a favorable near-term market response.")

Friday, October 05, 2007

Do you know the way?

Today we spent most of the day in San Jose. I wanted to go fabric shopping for some new stash, which you can read all about on my quilty blog. Otherwise, we took a couple of pictures just driving around that I thought you might enjoy. Yes, we carry our little digital camera with us everywhere, because (1) I'm in the publishing business and you never know when something newsworthy will cross your path, and (2) it's just plain fun to take pictures of random, weird things. Originally, we (esposo and I) thought Asi es Costa Rica would be a photo gallery/blog/website dedicated to showing weird photos of life in Costa Rica. It has "evolved" somewhat since the early beginnings. I think...

This is a "bumper" sort of attached to a car next to us at a stoplight. I can't believe this person is actually driving this thing around. That can't be anywhere near safe. And? The fact that the car is called a "Cielo" (Heaven or Sky, depending on how you care to interpret it) is pretty funny/ironic. Wishful thinking, I guess. You're going to need Heaven if you keep driving like that, buddy!

Check out the shoes hanging from the telephone/electrical wire up there. There must have been like 20-30 pairs up there, and a doll (who appears to be holding a tiny jump rope), which you can sort of see in the middle of the photo. You see the shoes tied together and thrown over electrical lines here all the time, but I've never seen so many in one place. And certainly not with a doll. It's weird.