Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Maybe someone out there could explain this one

I do work for various companies in the States, so this means I get checks from said companies, which I deposit here, which clear the banks in the States within 24 hours but which are held by my bank so that they can accrue more interest on my money (which I don't actually get, of course) for 10 business days. Anyway. That is not what I want explained.

What I want explained is this: When I deposit said checks in said bank (that being BAC), half of the time the teller will fill in my name and account number on the back of the check, and the other half of the time they will ask me to do it. Not sign my name, except for that one time when I got a stupid/new teller, but just print my name and account number. Why, on this green earth, why oh why can they not write in the blessed number themselves? Are their fingers broken? Is their penmanship that bad? Because, you know, half the time they do. Shouldn't there be a standard policy for this? Either write in the customer's name and account number all the time, or have the customer do it all the time (though why the customer should be asked to do it is, again, beyond me. It's not like they're checking my handwriting. Esposo has deposited checks of mine in our account with no problems.)

I know, I know... It's Costa Rica! You can't really expect anyone to explain these things now, can you? No. That's why I write them on my blog. Así es Costa Rica.

Oh, and Happy New Year / Feliz Año Nuevo!

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Money, money, money!

I added a little exchange rate widget to the right-hand side of this blog. I figured it's something people are probably interested in knowing. I used US dollars because it's the currency of choice here after the colon (maybe even moreso than the colon, come to think of it). I am pretty sure that most, if not all, banks offer accounts in dollars, and a couple of them have started offering accounts in Euros as well. Something to keep in mind is that the exchange rate system changed a year or two ago, whereby there is not one rate as there used to be, but a "band" that the rate floats between, depending on the bank. Don't ask me more than that, because accounting is not my strong point. I generally do business here in colones, though I keep my money in a dollars account. Whatever my bank's exchange rate is is what I go with. So even though my account is in dollars, I can use my debit card for that account anywhere and the bank automatically does the exchange to colones.

If you are coming here for a trip, you might be tempted to buy colones before you get here. My advice is DON'T! The exchange rates are so poor abroad, and US dollars so widely accepted here, that there is absolutely no need to do this. You can pay for almost anything in dollars here. If you really feel the need to exchange your money, there's a bank or two at the airport, and you can do it there. It is easier to pay for things in colones, but there's no reason to make the exchange before you arrive in Costa Rica.

Buses are an exception. You have to pay with colones on public buses, as far as I am aware. And they will bitch and moan if you pass them a large bill (anything over 1,000 colones), so it's best to have a few thousand on you if you plan on taking buses. Cab drivers, especially airport cabs, will usually take dollars, though I'd play it safe there and ask before getting in. Again, cabbies will pitch a fit if they have to break a "large" bill (why the equivalent of $10 is considered large, I can't say, but that's just the way it is!), so have small bills on hand for paying cabs. If you're taking private transpo (like Interbus), you can most likely pay with dollars.

The other thing to know is that if you give someone a $10 bill to pay for something in dollars, you will get colones back. And you cannot pay for anything with coins; again, don't ask me why, it's just the way it is. Make sure you know the exchange rate if you plan on using dollars, or you may get ripped off. I have to admit I've been ripped off this way, and I even knew what the rate was. It wasn't much, but just the fact of the matter is enough to piss you off. When the rate is around 500 colones to the dollar, it's easy to calculate in your head. Or pay in colones and you don't have to worry. If you are paying with a credit card, just make sure the exchange is correct before they run your card. Having a transaction reversed or removed is a serious pain in the ass here and can take up more of your time than you may wish to give (ask me how I know).

I guess that's about it! Unless I've forgotten something, which is entirely possible probable. I hope I haven't confused you too much! If there is anything else you want to know about using dollars vs. colones or the exchange rate, feel free to leave a comment and I'll answer it if I can.

Friday, December 19, 2008

How not to decorate for Christmas

Christmas Light Stringing for Beginners:
Step 1: Purchase lights.
Step 2: Remove lights from packaging.
Step 3: Hang up strings of lights.
Seems simple, right? Not so much, I guess... Someone needs to go back and read Step 2.

At least it's not as bad as this guy, spotted over on Chris' blog, who didn't even bother to leave them in the package, but instead just threw them up on the roof like a Christmas light hairball.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Adventures in miscommunication

Sometimes, when you're learning another language, you'll say silly things unintentionally, such as calling the Pope (el Papa) a potato (la papa) in Spanish, for example. Or ordering toad (sapo) instead of soup (sopa). It's the same with kids. Our son, who is 4-1/2, has English as his first language, even though he's half Tico. We speak mostly English at home, as esposo and I had read that kids who grow up in a bilingual household should hear mostly one or the other at home, otherwise they get confused. I don't know how much of that is true, though. He's never seemed to have a problem figuring out which language was which. Often, in fact, he'll just make something up in one language or the other if he doesn't know the word for it, something my Spanish prof. in college was always trying to get us to do, though I could never really wrap my head around it.

Well, anyway. He gets to watch a little bit of t.v. at night, and about the only thing he likes to watch is Discovery Kids (all in Spanish here) or Baby TV (also in Spanish), thank goodness. I think we're still a year or two away from Cartoon Network. It has never bothered him to watch t.v. in Spanish, though it drives me right up a wall, unless it was originally produced in Spanish. Overdubbed movies and t.v. shows I just can't deal with. One of the shows he still likes is Barney (hey, don't laugh! may the innocence of childhood last a while, ya know?). There's a song on Barney about cleaning up that goes something like (in English), "Clean up, clean up, everybody clean your room." He sings it when I ask him to pick up his toys or clothes, but in Spanish, of course: "Limpia, limpia..." The next part is supposed to go "todos a recojer," but son has obviously misheard said line, and instead sings, "todos a cojer." Instead of singing, "everybody clean your room," what my son is actually singing is, "everybody start fucking." It was pretty hilarious the first time we heard it; hell, it's still funny! Not that he knows what he's actually saying, but I did ask him to promise not to sing the song around his abuela.

Other than those little things, though, his Spanish is excellent. He knows the words to "La Camisa Negra" pretty well, and insists on singing it when it comes on in the car. I'm a little jealous. I'm betting that his Spanish will be better than mine in a couple of years.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Last-minute Christmas gift for Costa Rica

Give a gift that helps Costa Rica and the planet, and will only set you back $10: plant a rainforest tree.
Costa Rica is best known for its lush rainforests and spectacular wildlife. Yet many of those species -- spider monkeys, jaguars, ocelots, and yellow and blue macaws -- are in great danger of extinction.

The major culprit? The destruction of forests.

And deforestation hurts more than wildlife. The slash-and-burn clearcutting of forests across the globe emits more CO2 than all the world's cars, trucks and planes combined.

You can take one simple step to help reverse this trend: Plant a tree.

For only $10, you can be part of NRDC's exciting new Revive a Rainforest campaign. With your help, we're going to bring a bare field in Costa Rica’s Turrialba region -- which was once a lush rainforest -- back to vibrant life by planting 20,000 trees.

This rejuvenated forest will be a sanctuary for rare and threatened Costa Rican wildlife including toucans and monkeys.

And it will also help fight the climate crisis by capturing carbon pollution from the atmosphere and storing it away for centuries.

When you plant a tree in your own name … and as a gift in the names of your friends and family … you'll be planting a better future for our planet.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Had me a little chicken...

...but now she's gone... only for a little while, yeah... It's a blues song, can you hear it?

We went to our friends A. & M.'s place last Sunday for a little catering job esposo did there. A. & M. live on a boarding school campus where M. is a teacher, and A. is a residence supervisor or some such title for one of the dorms where a group of teenage boys live. I was a little concerned that esposo might be overwhelmed by having to deal with 20 teenage boys at dinner time, but honestly, they were just an extremely nice group of kids. (Including the guy from Romania or somewhere who tends to answer questions with the opening line of, "Don't be stupid..." And? I think that is my new line whenever esposo asks me to do something. Don't be stupid, of course I'm not going to clean the cat box! Of course, this will only be effective if spoken in a thick Eastern European accent, otherwise he might just think I'm being a right royal bitch.)

So as esposo was cooking dinner, I was hanging out with our son, who is best of friends with A. & M.'s daughter H. At one point, A. tells me they have a chicken in their washroom, and do I want it? Apparently, the chicken had somehow managed to appear on campus, no one knew where it came from, and A. had to rescue it from a couple of dogs. So then he stuck it in his washroom, where it immediately went to work pooping all over the clean clothes, tools, and appliances. I went to see the chicken, and it was incredibly sweet. Let me pick it up, no pecking or trying to get away. So I sat with it in my lap on the couch for a while, and as I stroked its chin and feathers, it went to sleep. "It" turned out to be a "she," so I asked H. and my son what we should name it. H. came up with Chicky-Chicky Bop-Bop (hey, she's four!), though later I thought Francis would be nice, since she reminded me of my best chicken ever, Frank.

We took Francis/CCBB home, and called our friends E. and M., who have a nice little farmsita in Ciudad Colon, to see if they could chicken-sit for a couple of months while we get our act together and build a chicken coop. You see, we used to have chickens, lots of them, but after the great chicken disaster of 2007, I have been very reluctant to keep them again. I love chickens, but that incident hit me really hard and I was just so sad afterwards, I thought I would never want to keep chickens again.

And then Francis showed up, and I am rethinking. Chickens are nice. If you have never known a chicken personally, they have distinct personalities. I've had a few that were downright bastards (Foster! Worst Rooster Ever.), but most have been lovely. Frank was my favorite of all time; he loved to snuggle up in my arms and sleep, or jump up on my lap to see what I was doing/eating outside, or just follow me around the yard. Even though humans have tried very hard to breed intelligence out of chickens (because it's a lot easier to kill and eat stupid animals), they are not stupid. Birds in general are a lot smarter than we give them credit for (you should hear the stories Amy tells me about her parrot -- he's so much like a person, it's amazing!). Anyway, I love having pet chickens. E. and M. said we could take a couple more back with Francis when we pick her up in a month or two. I was a little worried when I stuck her in their coop last night (there's a reason they call it "pecking order"), but she snuggled up next to a black chicken sitting on a roost, and seemed just fine. E. said she was already part of the family.

Besides about 20 or so chickens, E. and M. also have two baby pot-bellied pigs, some hamsters, six dogs, three cats, a big tank full of fish, a rabbit... and I think that's it. And those baby pigs are about the cutest things ever. Next time I'm going back during the day so I can play with those pigs! They are too adorable.

Side note: Converstion between M. and me at her house, while I'm sitting on the couch with the chicken.
M.: It smells really incredible, doesn't it?
Me: Yeah, I forgot how stinky chickens can be!
M.: (laughing) I meant [your husband's] food! You can smell it all the way over here.
Me: Oh you meant incredible in a good way! I thought you were talking about the chicken! Hahahaha...

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

In the Christmas spirit

We finally got a Christmas tree, put it up, strung the lights, and randomly stuck ornaments all over it. At the tree lot, it looked a lot smaller than it is. Here in the house, it towers over us all. Christmas trees in Costa Rica are fast-growing cypress trees, not the nice Douglas firs I was used to in the States. At first, I couldn't stand Costa Rican Christmas trees -- I used to tell esposo they were more like Christmas shrubs. I guess you get used to it. Though I still don't like that they're usually too tall and not wide enough. Eh, whatever.

They (the big amorphous "they") didn't used to sell Christmas tree holders when I first moved here, so you dug up the tree by the roots, and put it in a pot with dirt (which, you know, I wasn't so thrilled to have in my house for the cats to dig and poop in). The past few years, though, I've seen the regular holder-waterer things, though I neglected to pick one up at Mas X Menos this year, and now they're gone.

The tree we ended up picking out was already cut and nailed to a wooden stand, so you'd have to take that off anyway in order to stick it in a waterer-holder thingy. I asked the guy how long it would stay green without water, and he said at least two weeks, so that should take us up to Christmas, anyway. If he wasn't full of crap, that is. We considered taking off the wooden stand and putting it in an old ice cream tub or something, though how it would stand up I have no idea (rocks, I guess?). At this point, that would require entirely too much work, so we're just going with the I-hope-it-will-last-at-least-until-Christmas-day idea instead. Oh, and it cost about $13, in case you wondered what trees go for here.

I met up with a couple of women from my son's playgroup on Monday at Multiplaza, and afterwards we walked around, and stopped in the (absolutely insane) toy store. Esposo heard a woman telling her son (in Spanish) "Stick up for yourself, guevon!" (that basically translates to "lazy ass"). The kid was not even 2. And later I'll bet she'll be wondering why her son is so pleasant and nice to other kids. Wow. Appalling. Let's hear it for Christmas spirit. We got out of there as fast as possible.

Every year, our playgroup does a thing for charity. Last year we collected toys for kids at the Children's Hospital downtown San Jose. This year we decided to choose the Sisters of Magdala as our charity. They run several homes for severely disabled (physically and mentally) children who have either been abandoned or removed from an abusive situation. They take care of children from ages of 6 months to 19 years on a shoestring budget. Esposo gave them a call to see if we could help them out and what they needed, and I thought I'd share that list with you in case you'd like to help out as well. They are most in need of a crib and a dresser. They also need clothing, especially warm pajamas for the babies and toddlers. And clothes do not need to be new; they are happy to take used clothes in good condition, so check your closets! Additionally, they can always use donations of non-perishable food items, such as rice, dry beans, canned fruits and vegetables, etc. If you'd like to give them a call, the number is 2228-9998 (Spanish only, I believe). One of the main homes is located on the street behind Pequeno Mundo in Escazu, next to the church.

Go Dog, Go!

My dog jumped up on the couch while we were out shopping last night. You might think, don't you try to keep your dogs off the couch? But the answer would be no, my standards are pretty low at this point, and if I can keep the cats off the table and most of the kitchen counters, I'm happy. The dogs even have their own couch, a really nice sofa-bed from Altea, in fact. We rarely use it, so they took it over as their own. In fact, I should say we never use it unless we have a party (and yes, we do clean it beforehand, though it's surprisingly still in great shape; go microfibers!), after which the dogs glare at us for letting those people sit on their couch.

Anyway. We have one little Chihuahua who is about 15 years old now. Her back legs started going out on her a few weeks ago, and I was worried the end was near for her. So I took her to our vet for a checkup, and he said that she actually was in great shape for an old dog, all things considered. He started her on pain pills for 10 days and a daily arthritis pill (Arthroflex), and said that we should start seeing improvement. After a few days, she was standing better on her back legs, and lately, she rarely has problems getting up at all. Then last night, when we came home, there she was in her favorite spot: On the couch, barking at us because we'd arrived home (because she can still hear a bit, but she's pretty much gone blind)! I was so thrilled. She's even started trying to climb the stairs. Wow!

The moral of this story is, if your older dog is having trouble walking, don't wait until it gets terrible to start on the arthritis supplements. I actually didn't think they would do that much good, but the improvement is remarkable. Yay!

Friday, December 05, 2008

News Flash

Well, here's something most of us women who are or have been married already knew: Mother-in-Law Problems: They're Worse for Women.

No surprise (to me, anyway) that psychologist Terri Apter "...discovered that more than 60% of women felt that friction with their husband's mother had caused them long-term stress." I wondered what the cause of my heartburn problem was. Now I know. Blame it on the MIL.

Apter also found that "Conflict arises when the newcomer and the more experienced matriarch wrestle over whose way is best." Gee, could that be because in my house I like to do things my way? I mean, seriously? If you ain't paying the bills, it's myob at my house. Our house, I mean. Of course...

Got kids? MIL can be a royal pain:
Apter found that, in all the ethnic cultures included in her research and across the generations, child-rearing was one of the most constant and stressful sources of conflict between daughters-in-law and mothers-in-law.
Here in beautiful Costa Rica (maybe everywhere, I don't know, as I've only had a child here), everyone wants to give you advice on your kids. "You should do this, you should do that, you should bundle up that baby in a snowsuit because it's down to 70 degrees today!" For the most part, you just smile and say thanks. But sometimes you just get fed up with it. Especially if you're the kind of parents who have done a lot of reading and researching and talking to other like-minded, modern parents about things like cloth diapers, extended breastfeeding and bed sharing. Or having a baby at home without (gasp!) a doctor present. Or homeschooling. Or any of the other million issues that come up when you're a first-time parent. Quite frankly, unless a child is being abused or neglected, it's no one's business how you raise them. Not my own mother's, and not my mother-in-law's. It just isn't. You had your chance, this is ours. If we want advice, we'll ask you for it. And sometimes I do ask for advice, from other parents or from my mom (as I would guess esposo does with his mom). Otherwise, butt out! Seriously. Have fun with your grandson, but please complain about the way we raise him to someone else. We just don't want to hear it.

My favorite part of the article was this, however:
In Apter's study, two-thirds of women said they felt their mothers-in-law were jealous of their relationships with the sons, while two-thirds of mothers-in-law said they felt excluded by their sons' wives.
Hmm, my own mother-in-law disliked me from the day we first met. She tried to drive a wedge between esposo and me way before we ever had any inkling of getting married. Let's face it, I wasn't probably what she had in mind for her son. I was not Catholic, I was from California (thus, probably going to take her precious baby boy away at some point), I was older than he was. I had a mind of my own and a successful career. Though honestly, what's not to love? is what I say. :-) And then we did get married. And as someone very close to me once said, Those weren't tears of joy. I think my only saving grace in her eyes was producing a son. And a wonderful son he is, and I would not dream of trying to come between him and his grandmother. She and I, I think, have finally come to a meeting of the minds: you be polite to me, I'll be polite to you, and let's leave it at that. Fine by me.

Now, my father-in-law accepted me as part of the family right away. He always treated me like the daughter he never had. Sadly, though, he's gone now. I miss him. I had such a great relationship with my own grandfather (short-lived as it was; he died when I was 11), that it makes me sad my son will never have that (my own father was never a part of my life and died a couple of years ago). He adored our son.

A good friend of mine has a great set of in-laws that live next door to her. I once complained to her, Why can't I have your in-laws? H. is in that 40% minority of women who get along well with their MILs. P. (H.'s MIL) once told esposo that we were like part of the family, even though I could be a real bitch! I laughed. Coming from P. it's endearing and makes me like her all that much more.

Finally, guys, this next part is especially for you:
"Daughters are better at reassuring their mothers that even though their lives are changing, they're still attached to their mothers," Apter says. "Men are less proactive about that reassurance."
Basically, be nice to your mom. But don't forget to stick up for your wife.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving!

Today I gives thanks for my kittehs and puppits. And my sponge mop. And my lovely family, my awesome friends, my wonderful life in Costa Rica, and you, my dear readers. And Beto Cuevas. ;-)

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Christmas traditions in Costa Rica

The first year I came to Costa Rica, I thought it was strange to be walking around wearing skimpy clothes and sweating my bewbs off in boiling hot weather. I remember seeing a huge, blow-up snowman in front of a store in downtown Escazu, and thinking that was the funniest thing ever. Even though we didn't get snow where we lived in California, it was still cold during December. A warm Christmas was just... odd!

These days, though, I'm used to all of it. In fact, I don't even find summers that hot anymore; more like a nice warm. I would never go out of the house in shorts (and you'll rarely see Ticos doing that either), though I still wear tank tops often enough. If the temp falls below 70F, I'm freezing! Break out the sweaters and thermal underwear! So a warm Christmas is normal now, I guess.

As are the other traditions I thought odd when I first moved here. For example, in Costa Rica, traditionally presents are not brought by Santa, but by the baby Jesus. When I first heard this, I was like, what? Ok, that's just something I'd never heard of growing up in the U.S.! If anything, shouldn't we be giving him gifts? When we had our son, and neither esposo nor I being religious people, we wanted to avoid the whole baby Jesus thing, so we went with Santa. Nowadays, most little kids know about Santa, but quite a few families still do the baby Jesus thing. Speaking of baby Jesus, here in Costa Rica, he doesn't actually appear in the manger until Christmas Eve. That's right, if you put up a nativity scene, it's considered wrong to put Jesus in it before Christmas Eve. We don't do the nativity, either. But if you pass a nativity on the street or see one at someone's house before Christmas and wonder where the heck is Jesus, now you know.

There's a big Christmas festival every year in downtown San Jose called Festival de la Luz. I guess it's as close to a Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade as we get here, though it's at night (thus the "la luz" part of it). We watch it on t.v.; fighting crowds downtown San Jose at night to see a parade isn't exactly my idea of a great time.

If you are part of a Tico family, it would be really unusual not to have Christmas tamales. Esposo's grandma used to make them with many of his aunts every year (and the woman also made fresh tortillas for her entire family, which consisted of 11 children and all of their children, every single day until she passed away). Now that grandma is gone, esposo's mother makes the tamales with her sisters. In fact, my suegra won 2nd place in a country-wide tamale contest a couple of years ago (and word around town was that she only lost due to political reasons -- ay yai yai, only in Costa Rica!). Now, I am partial to the Mexican-style tamales that are drier and wrapped in corn husks; here in Costa Rica, they are mushier and wrapped in banana leaves. Since esposo and son and I are all vegetarians, they make a special batch just for us without any kind of chicken broth or pork inside. By the time January rolls around, I'm so sick of eating tamales that I'm thrilled not to see them for another year! Oh, and if you aren't lucky enough to have a Tico family, you can buy ready-made tamales all over the place; AutoMercado has them year-round, and I saw that Spoon is also selling them. Just heat them up by boiling in a pot of water for 10-15 minutes, and you're good to go. Esposo has a recipe for tamales using yuca; if you're so inclined, here it is.

On a side note, esposo and I go back and forth on the correct usage of the word "tamale." I insist that the Anglicized version of tamal is tamale, so when you're speaking about them in English, you can say "tamale" without being incorrect. He says that the word is tamal no matter what language you're speaking, and tamale is always wrong. And some people hate the word Gringo, too, but I could care less. And don't even get him started on "American."

Thanksgiving dinner

If you happen to be in Costa Rica looking for a restaurant cooking up Thanksgiving dinner, your first stop should probably be this week's Tico Times. Most of the restaurants that are doing Thanksgiving are doing it very traditionally, so if you're sort of sick of that shtick, or if you're a vegetarian, esposo is cooking Thanksgiving dinner with his friends at their new cafe in Escazu, Oasis. (The friends have a new cafe, that is, not esposo!) Here are the particulars:

Thanksgiving Dinner @ Oasis Café with Chefs Marco González & Mario
Bello previously of Earthly Delights Café and El Silencio Lodge & Spa

Directions: From Vivero Exotica, 100N 225W, across the street from
Aparthotel Maria Alexandra, San Rafael de Escazú

Reservations suggested: 8835-8992 (English) or 8816-9387 (Spanish)

Dinner served from 3-9

$25 per person / $15 children 12 and under, taxes included

Drinks – Sparkling Cranberry Juice

Salad – Spinach Salad with Cashews, Cherry Tomatoes and Gouda, served
with Balsamic-Cranberry Dressing

Soup – Curried Cream of Calabaza Squash

Main course – Vegetarian Vegetable Pie or Pan-Grilled Tilapia Fillet /
Turkey with Macadamia-Sage Sauce

Sides – Roasted Garlic and Rosemary Tropical Mashed Tubers, Green Bean
Casserole with Fresh Mushroom Gravy

Dessert – Coconut Pumpkin Pie with Ice Cream

After-Dinner – Mulled Warm Apple Juice or Coffee

Do you know this artist?

Well, I'm having a harder time finding out anything about the artist who made this print than I thought I would. It looks to me like the signature says "J. Pasos M.," though I can't be 100% sure of that. Actually, I'm not even sure if the artist is from Costa Rica or not. The title of the piece is "Jaguar y la luna," which is also the title of a book by Nicaraguan author Pablo Antonio Cuadra. Maybe someone out there recognizes the style of work and name and could point me in the direction of more information about the artist who made this?

"Jaguar y la luna"

Closeup of artist's signature

Monday, November 24, 2008

The Saturday sale

Saturday was the Women's Club bazaar at Country Day School. Normally, I go crazy buying books, because it has traditionally been the best place to get books in English on the cheap. This year, not so much (though I still left with a box of 15 books for less than $10, most of those hardbacks). The kids' books were slim pickings, and I guess I've come to rely so much on sites like Bookmooch for my used books, that there just weren't many things I wanted. Is my love affair with the WCCR book sale over? Sigh. It might be, indeed, time to say goodbye. Or at least budget my affections and wallet a little more in the future.

I did pick up a couple of other things, including a really neat print by an artist I've never heard of in a rather ugly frame. Two of my friends had also passed by the print and thought about picking it up, but I figured for $5 and the cost of a new frame, you can't really go wrong. Plus the world needs more art in it. And I got a small jacket that doesn't fit because I went apeshit over the linen print fabric. I'm planning on taking it apart and making a scarf out of it.

The food court was great; several area restaurants bring samples of their yummy things for $1 or $2. We partook of the vegetarian dim sum and egg rolls from Don Wang, and eggplant caviar, hummus, and dolmas from the Casa del Moro (which we really have to try one of these nights). Son had some pizza, but threw in the towel on his second slice when his friend H. brought a big bowl of TCBY with all the toppings to share with him.

The kids played on the playground for a little while, until the guard kicked them out, because, you know, "those kids" might "ruin" the "new" playground equipment. Sheesh. Give me a freaking break. Ok, let's let them run wild in the auditorium around all the sale tables instead! Ooh, which reminds me, I finally bought some earrings to match a necklace I'd bought from Hazel a year and so ago. She makes the most amazing glass jewelery; if you ever saw her stuff, you'd know it was hers! Very distinct. It's my favorite necklace, and now I have earrings to match. Yay! And Hazel is so sweet; I had broken the clasp on my necklace, which she noticed immediately, making me take it off so she could fix it right there. (I actually had to go over to her house one day to get a replacement piece of glass for the first time I'd broken it -- lesson to me, never drop a glass necklace on a tile floor.) And I met a dog groomer who was really sweet. I'm going to take Madeline to her soon.

And I can't remember if I told you this particular story, but at the same place I bought my favorite necklace from Hazel, I also bought a handmade, extra-large coffee mug for esposo (who loves his morning, afternoon, and evening coffee). Someone broke the mug, and all that remained of it was a suspicious part of the handle I discovered hiding under the living room couch. We never did find out who broke the mug and threw it away without mentioning it, but I, at least, have my suspicions. Anyway. The mug-maker was there on Saturday; I saw him on the way out, but had spent all of my money by then. Poo.

And that's that until next year. I used to belong to the Women's Club, years ago, but between moving and having a child I didn't really have the time to travel to meetings. Still, many of the women there remember me, esposo, and our son. That sense of community is something I really need in my life, with or without the book sale.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

80s y Mas v 2.0

If you haven't seen 80s y Mas on VM Latino yet (Sunday nights from 8-10 p.m.), you should! It's so funny, it's almost ridiculous. For people of a certain age, we sit there and wonder, my God, did I really dress like that in the 80s? Did I really have big hair like that? Oh good Lord, what were we thinking!?! You, too, can feel like Beavis and Butthead (the watching-videos-and-making-stupid-comments part, not the going-around-town-doing-stupid-things part) in the privacy of your own living room.

We always end up getting a little late to the party (I think Project Runway is on at 8), so you are spared a whole hour's worth of crappy videos. Instead, I bring you the evening's second hour, with the exception of the video the played at 9 (because neither esposo or myself recognized the video -- some very, very bad hair band; my son was sure the lead singer was a girl, even though we convinced him that men, too, could wear spandex pants, sparkly shirts, long hair, and dangling earrings. He was so not believing us, however. And the frontman to this band was, in my friend Alex's words, "a baboon" desperately in need of a body waxing). Our groovy host, Mauricio, was hanging out in a t-shirt shop all night, so we never did get the names of any of the bands/songs. We knew the rest of them anyway. How sad is that?

First up: Duran Duran's "Hungry Like the Wolf." Ok, sorry, I don't have many smart-ass comments for this one, as I liked both the band and the song! This video was definitely a romp through the bandmembers' Indiana Jones wet dreams -- finding the native girl, getting busy in some fetid pool, booty shots, drinking their sorrows away in the local bar. What's not to love?

Next: Styx and "Mr. Roboto." Remember the good old days when everyone was afraid of technology? Robots will take over the world! We're doomed! Run for your lives! And we were also sure everyone would be speaking Japanese. Well, neither of those things has happened (yet, Domo arigato!), so this just looks silly. As well as the techno-garb that passed for trendy clothes back in the 80s. This one falls under the "Good God, what the hell were we thinking?" category. Esposo was cracking up through the entire thing ("Secret, secret, keep it to yourself!"). (Side note: My friend Ray in California used to love Styx. Dude! Seriously?)

Then: Joe Jackson and "Steppin' Out." Holy crap, is this a cheesy video or what? Joe Jackson himself was not so bad (anyone remember "Is She Really Going Out with Him?" I loved that song!), but this video...a little too Pretty Woman, or maybe that one where Jennifer Lopez plays the maid who gets the rich guy? Maid in Manhattan? Yeah. And why, oh why, do I know these things? P.S. I am happy to report that esposo still has more hair than Joe Jackson.

Next up: Pat Benetar pretends she's a teenager in "Love is a Battlefield"! I was thinking that the "dance sequence" (if you can call it that) in this video was the inspiration for the living dead "dance sequence" in M.J.'s "Thriller," though I'm not actually sure which video came out first; it could just as easily be the other way around. See it, gape in wonder, vomit in the toilet, and come back for more!

You're gonna love this one! Soft Cell with "Tainted Love." Motion-capture technology in action! I'm sure there's some metaphor about ... something ... happening there, but I can't figure out for the life of me what it is. Is the singer head in the sky supposed to be God? I have to just admit here that I don't get it! Help.

Lionel Ritchie stalks a blind girl in "Hello"! Oh man, who thought this was a good idea? Even if you're not vibing the whole stalker thing, it is, at the very least, unethical for a college professor to screw a student. Ew about sums this one up. I like the song, though, especially David Cook's version.

Hang in there, kiddos! We're almost at the end. After the Lionel Ritchie creep out, here's one I really like. Dave Gahan is the King of the World in Depeche Mode's "Enjoy the Silence." Nothing to say here; I'm still a fan.

Whew! You made it! Pat yourself on the back, and go pour yourself a stiff drink (if you haven't already). Madonna closes us out with a couple of videos. First, some weird version of "Disco Inferno." All I can say is, I wish I could move like that on a pair of roller skates! Last, "La Isla Bonita." Both from her Confessions tour. Was she always this skinny? Or does the unitard (second video) just make her look kinda... I don't know... anorexic? I think if you pause the video at certain spots, you can count all of her ribs. I've said it before and I'll say it again: Ew.

Until next time...

In which I offer up proof...

...that I am not quite as fat as I think I am. We still haven't unpacked all of our boxes, and we have no working washing machine, so between washing clothes in the sink (about one load a day of that nonsense is all I can handle) and trying to find something to wear in one of the many boxes, I don't have all that many clean clothes right now. I was digging through a box of esposo's clothes this morning looking for some jeans I could steal borrow, and came across an old softball jersey I had in sixth grade. I looked and it, wondering why my mother would send a shirt so big when my son won't be able to fit into it for at least eight years or so. Then I realized that I have some shirts that are smaller than it is, so maybe I should try it on. And voila! It fits! Ok, it fits a bit tightly, especially in the chest area (I guess 6th graders don't generally come with big mom boobs), but with the right pair of jeans it could work. Only thing is that it's bright (as in neon) orange. I'm really liking it, though. And especially the fact that I can still fit into it after all these years.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Fun with addresses

Because here in Costa Rica, we don't really have any. Well we do, if you consider "go north from X building about 200 meters, then west another 100 meters, and down to the big tree, turn around and touch your toes, do the hokey pokey, etc. etc." I don't really consider those addresses though, more like terrible directions.

And after eight years here, I still haven't quite gotten the hang of it. Today, I was e-mailing someone about a friend's new cafe and its location in Escazu. I said it was 100 north and 125 west of a certain plant nursery. The person e-mailed me back to ask if I didn't mean to say south, because if you went north, you'd be going into the mountains. I asked esposo, and he said, no, north is correct. South would be in the directions of the mountains. She wrote back again, still confused about where the hell I was talking about, thinking that north was in the direction of Hipermas/Wal-Mart. So at this point I really wasn't sure, and esposo and I looked it up on Google Earth. Sure enough, even though the satellite of love pictures weren't taken recently and there was no Hipermas/Wal-Mart on the picture, you could tell the main road into San Rafael de Escazu, and the way of the cafe was, indeed, north. Rather, north-ish. But let's say north, because you don't tell people to go northwest. Looking at Google Earth also made us realize that we should have said 225 west, not 125 (a city block is about 100 meters long here, so you figure about two and a quarter blocks are 225 meters). I wrote her back again to say yes, it was indeed north, but change that 125 to 225.

Sigh. This all would be so much easier if I could have said the cafe was at 127 Oak Street. Or something.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Beto Cuevas rocks The City

Most of you probably know that I went to see Beto Cuevas on Wednesday night, because I couldn't keep my mouth shut about it since I heard he was finally coming down here. So herein lies my rather unorthodox "review" of the show. I tend to go off on a tangent, as in, Ooh, shiny things! or, Ooh, man nipples! If you want to know more about the actual music, read this. Otherwise, I offer you my take on things.

First off: We had never been to The City club, they have no phone number listed, and we weren't sure if there was any parking close by. So for those who want to know for future reference, it's right behind the Pricesmart in Zapote. There are lots of guachis "watching" cars parked on the street, and one parking garage close to the venue. We got there before 8 (show started at 9), and the parking lot was already full. I do not fully trust guachis, especially with Margot, so instead we drove over to San Pedro, parked in a guarded lot there, and took a cab to The City (which is only a few minutes away really). Getting a cab afterwards was a little more difficult than we'd thought it would be, and we ended up waiting for one near Multiplaza Oeste for 20 minutes or so. However, in the future, I'd either get there a little earlier and use the lot near the club, or do the same thing and park in San Pedro again.

Opening "act": You really have to wonder, as I'm sure many in the audience did, who in hell's bells booked this guy. It was one man doing like four karaoke songs and one of his own. Weird. Not good. If any promoters out there are reading this, I have some suggestions for great local bands for next time. When you are paying $60 a ticket, you expect to see at least one decent opening act, and this definitely wasn't it.

The main event: I wore a little black dress over sheer black pants with my strappy beaded black heels. Oh wait, you wanted to hear about Beto? :-) He wore a jacket and black gloves and those The Fly sunglasses, none of which lasted very long in that hot club with no air conditioning. I think the first song was Miedo Escenico, then Are You Sorry, then some other stuff, all of it really great. I cannot believe the man is older than me; he pretty much didn't stop moving the entire 2-hour show, except to remove himself from stage briefly to change clothes and also during one acoustic song. Plus, he's really hot! What can I say. (The women in the audience went crazy, in particular one woman in front of me who kept screaming "Rico!" throughout the evening. I wanted to slap her in the back of the head by the end of the night, believe me.) He did quite a few La Ley songs -- and I really wish I hadn't waited so long to write this review, otherwise I might recall what they all were -- Cielo Market, Aqui, Dia Cero, El Duelo and Mentira were a few of them. He was totally messing with the crowd's head at the start of Mentira (which begins "Mentira, mi vida..."); "Me...da mucho calor aqui, no?" ha ha ha. If you have not yet downloaded from the internet picked up a copy of Beto's new CD, I highly recommend it (of course I do!). (You can hear clips of the songs here.) I am pretty sure he played most, if not all, of those songs. It was a great two hours of music that even esposo reluctantly had to admit he enjoyed. The band was good too; they totally rocked some of the slower songs live. And the bass player had not only my guitar, but a Pastor Oviedo afro Latino to die for. (Digalo así!) Overall it was rockin', and great, and definitely in my top five best live shows ever (that list includes, for reference, Fugazi's last show in San Francisco, Rancid at some little club in Oakland, the Deftones in Sacramento, and Joe Strummer in Portland). It was worth waiting three years for the new CD, and worth me waiting seven years to see Beto live. Well worth it. I'm already looking forward to the next time he makes his way to Costa Rica, which hopefully will not be another three years from now. If he happens to hit your town, go, is all I can say.

The crowd was... interesting, to say the least. You can't bring cameras in, but everyone has a cell phone, and most of them take video, so as soon as Beto walked on stage it was all cell phone cameras straight ahead. Pretty funny. Esposo had warned me about the women in the crowd screaming and going nuts ahead of time. Every time Rico Girl screamed, I rolled my eyes and the guy standing next to me laughed. I guess women are still screaming for Barry Manilow and throwing their underoos on stage at him, so why not Beto Cuevas, who's about a million times better looking? Personally, though, I would never do such a thing. I try to keep it together, even when I am only a few feet away from an exceptionally beautiful human being doing a one-man wet t-shirt contest. So it was not me who screamed when Beto removed his shirt for the last couple of songs (was Dia Cero one of them? I think so) and there were [cue angelic chorus] a lovely set of man nipples directly in front of me. No, no, really, that wasn't me screaming. Wow, is it hot in here, or is it just me? Two words for you: Fucking. Delicious.


Ok, so The City was a great place for a show. It actually reminded me of a club we used to frequent in Santa Cruz called the Catalyst, with one large space and balconies on either side. We got there just before the opening "act" and ended up about 6 people from the front of the stage. It really couldn't have been much better (ok, maybe an actual opening act would have helped). Here is the one half-decent crappy video from all the crappy videos I took with my cell phone, and if I find any more, I'll post them. Though I can't figure out why, considering the many people taking videos with their phones, there aren't more on YouTube. I can't believe they all came out as crappy as mine. See how close we were to the stage? Awesome, right? Warning: You might want to turn down the volume before you play this. Sorry. It's not that great a phone.

It was so quiet in San Jose that we made it all the way from Zapote to Santa Ana in about 15 minutes. We stopped off at Living in Via Lindora for drinks (what's up with the velvet ropes? in Costa Rica? come on now!), and of course esposo knew someone who worked there (actually I knew him also, that never happens!). We had a couple of Grey Goose martinis and esposo, of all people, made a toast to Beto. I added, "...and his nipples!" Definitely the best night out I've ever had in my eight years in Costa Rica!

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Dream jobs

You probably thought I was going to write about the election results, didn't you? Ok, ok: I'm extremely happy that Obama won the presidency, thrilled that CA Prop. 2 passed, and quite disappointed that it looks like CA Prop. 8 is going to pass as well. Why religious beliefs should be allowed to dictate civil policy and deny civil rights I will never understand. Here in Costa Rica, where Catholicism is the official religion, I can understand it. But not in California.

Anyway. I was talking to a friend tonight about working. Perhaps both of us are feeling a little mid-life... not crisis, exactly, but maybe questioning is a better word. As in, What am I doing with my life? Her husband has a possible job opportunity in the music business. Without even knowing what the job is, I told her it sounded fantastic. It wouldn't matter to me if someone in the music biz -- small label, major label, radio station, whatever -- wanted to hire me as their secretary, I would totally do it. Because I just love music. The best "job" I think I ever had was being a DJ on a public radio station, unpaid. I did it for five years -- the longest-running late-night show in the station's history! -- because I loved it so much. I'd do it again in a heartbeat.

In fact, esposo interviewed for a job yesterday, and told me afterwards that the company is going to have a full-time DJ. My immediate reaction was, did they hire someone already? Because I'd totally want to do that. But they already had.

I was telling my friend that my dream jobs would be anything in the music industry, and anything in magazine publishing. I would love, you might be surprised to know, to work at a fasion mag like Vogue or Elle or something. Again, hire me as a secretary, I wouldn't care! Along with five years as a DJ, I have another five years as a magazine editor. Granted, it was a magazine with rather small circulation numbers, but I think that should translate into a decent position somewhere in magazine publishing. It was another job I loved, and the pay totally sucked, but I did it because 1) I was bored at the time and needed something to do, and 2) editing a magazine is really a dream come true.

Right now, I am courting the idea of getting a job in Costa Rica whose title does not include "Mommy." It doesn't have to be a full-time job; in fact, part-time would be more up my alley, so that I could continue to do freelance writing jobs that come around. So if anyone out there reading this needs a magazine editor, DJ, or something else that sounds fun and interesting, call me. Along with a majority of U.S. voters, I am due for a change. (You see? I did get around to writing about the election after all.)

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Here we go.

We have lived in this new house for all of three days. Apparently, since we moved in, the guy across and down the street has been complaining to anyone and everyone who will listen about our dogs. Finally, esposo tried this afternoon to be nice, say hello, and the first words out of this asshole's mouth were, What's up with all those dogs? Esposo said, I don't know, what's up with them? Asshole: They're too loud, they bark all day and night. They absolutely do not bark all day and night; the first night, it's true, they did bark a bit, but they were getting used to the new neighborhood. Last night they didn't bark at all. I was really impressed with them. For nine dogs, that's a feat, I think. Yet the jackass had to bitch anyway. They do bark when another dog walks by (what dog wouldn't).

Anyway. He pisses me off. I really, really hope he says something to me one of these days, because I'll probably tell him to fuck right off. We are paying good money to live here, and that includes our dogs. This isn't his personal neighborhood, and there are no regulations as far as I know on the number of dogs one can have. Of course, this jerk is a Gringo; I've never heard a Costa Rican complain about their neighbors. I guess that is one thing that differentiates us from them (though I guess I'm becoming more like them [Costa Ricans] than us [Americans] these days): the "live and let live" attitude. Yep, it can be pretty darn noisy here, with dogs barking, horns beeping, loud music at all hours of the day and night. If you think you're not going to appreciate that, you probably will want to buy yourself a big piece of land away from anyone else, because the fact is that it's just noisier here in general.

Ugh. Maybe he is just one of those people who need something to complain about. He told esposo that our dogs were waking up their baby. And? Baby better get used to noise, is all I have to say. I had a baby here, and if you don't totally and completely shelter them in a padded room, they'll just get used to it and sleep through anything. Personally, I'd rather have a baby who slept through anything than one that wakes up every time you drop a pin.

Eh, fuck it. I just had to get that out of my system.

Whew. Glad that's over.

We're here. We made it into our new house, and in my new car it only took two trips to Grecia and back to bring all the animals here (9 dogs and 4 cats). Everyone but Phoebe seems to love the new house (actually I'm not even quite sure where Phoebe is; she's relentlessly pursued by Kiki Monster every time she dares come out to explore). I love the new house. Right now I am looking at my big backyard from a wall of windows, listening to birds sing at almost 7:30 in the morning. Life is nice.

Then I come around to remembering how many boxes I still have to unpack. And that I have no idea where my underwear are, so I had to buy some at Pricesmart last night. We're having some friends over tonight for an election night party (as good an excuse as any to drink wine with your friends, I'd say), and though the house is a disaster, what with unpacked boxes all over the place, I don't think anyone will mind too much.

And tomorrow night I'm going to see Beto Cuevas (*swoons*)! I have no idea where the club is or where the heck I'm going to park my car, but hopefully that will all get worked out before we leave. If anyone knows where Club The City is, I'd be ever so grateful for your help! (I do know, at least, that it's in Zapote.)

Also? I blew out my knee a few days ago by getting lost in another friend's neighborhood while trick-or-treating with son and his friends and my friends and wandering for a couple of hours around trying to find our friend's house. Do you think if I went to the show on crutches I'd get some kind of special treatment? At least maybe a chair? Because for some strange reason, a pair of crutches was left here in the storage room (along with a ton of other random and useless crap).

And now I'm going to enjoy some coffee on the porch and take in this beautiful day. Before I get back to unpacking.

To my friends in the U.S.: I know I don't need to tell you to vote. So I won't. To my friends in California: Yes on 2 and No on 8!

Monday, October 27, 2008

As moving day approaches

We're moving on Wednesday, in case you haven't heard. Though I think anyone within a 20-mile radius should know already, as I've been shouting it from the mountaintops. In the words of Lightning McQueen, I've been stuck in Hillbilly Hell. Get me out of here. It can't come soon enough, and all that.

So we found a great house in Santa Ana that I absolutely love, and I'd tell you all about it, except that it's for sale and I don't want you to buy it, because maybe I want to buy it myself next year. Maybe. Depending on how the economy down here is looking. It is a great house, though, in a great location.

The thing about moving that sucks majorly is the moving process itself. The acquiring of boxes, the filling of boxes, the getting sick with the flu and lying in bed for days while wishing boxes would pack themselves, the packing of boxes two days before the moving truck arrives. Ah, moving. We've done it so often (9 times in the past 8 years, not including moving from California to Costa Rica), that I think we could do it in our sleep.

Today we spent two and a half hours (yes, you read that right) getting our cable and internet stuff worked out at CableTica. Turns out that when we canceled our last CableTica service, they didn't actually cancel it, and wanted to charge us like $150 for three months of service that we weren't even in the house. Including some pay-per-view movies (and we have never used pay-per-view!). F that, is what I said. Esposo worked it out, and we got a new service without paying all that old nonsense. But he did have to sit there for more than an hour arguing with the customer service guy, then arguing with his manager. I have to hand it to him, though, he did it. And I think that in a week or so we will have cable and internet at the new house. Hooray.

As I was going through things, figuring out what to throw away, what to pack, and what to donate, I found some old photos. This one isn't too great, but it is really special. These are my girls, Lucy and Mable. I have very few pictures of them together where May-May isn't sick (even in this picture, though, you can see that she's blind in her left eye). This was taken during better days. I miss these girls so much. You know how you have one special dog in a lifetime, that dog that would do anything for and for whom you would do anything? Lucy was that dog. I loved her (and still love her) so much.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Want a real Halloween pumpkin in Costa Rica?

I saw some today at Pricesmart. They were 6,000+ colones, or around $11. Each. Oh, and AutoMercado has them as well; around $13 each over there. And none of them was a really nice, big, round, unblemished Halloween-y pumpkin.

Ouch. I'm thinking pumpkins are not so expensive in the States. Of course, they have to ship them from there to here, so you should expect to pay exorbitant pumpkin prices here.

You can buy a watermelon for a couple bucks, paint it with orange poster paint, and carve that, if you want to save a few bucks. I might do that. Or carve a papaya. Actually I've seen friends do just that. You could carve pinhead.

If you're looking for something political to do with your Halloween pumpkins this year, Associated Press has some ideas. Otherwise, enjoy this small bit of pumpkin humor.*

Why you should not leave alcohol around your Halloween pumpkins.

*Sorry, I don't know where this photo came from or who took it; it was one of those silly things that gets sent around the internets and forwarded and forwarded on into infinity until it finally found its way to my inbox. If anyone knows who took this pic, I'd love to give them credit, because I think it's pretty freaking funny.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Well, that's a first

This morning as I was going in the laundry room to do the wash, I noticed something that looked like a brown ribbon or yarn on the floor. Imagine my surprise when, upon closer inspection, I saw that it was a snake. A small one, only about six inches long, and most likely a harmelss garden snake, but a snake nonetheless. Unfortunately, the poor little thing was dead, but esposo and son and I had a good look at it before I put it on the other side of the fence. It was strange; it had sort of curled up with its head up, and didn't look as though the cats had gotten it at all, so I couldn't figure out what it had died from. Esposo thought it may have come in through the grate in the hole in the laundry room floor (and if I hadn't mentioned it before, our laundry room looks like it was, at one time, an outdoor space that someone slapped a roof over, as it has rain gutters on the inside of the room).

Life in the tropics.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Is it weird?

Rachel Ray is making dog food. As weird as it may, in fact, be, that's not the weird part to which I refer. She is also donating profits from the sale of said dog food ("Nutrish," naturally @@) to animal nonprofits. (Good for her, on that point.) She was on Food Network the other night talking about the dog food with her dog, Isapoo. What is weird is that we also call our dog (my "baby") Isapoo. How many dogs out there can possibly be called Isapoo, and why does Rachel Ray's have to be one of them? That is the weird thing.

Actually my dog's name is Isabella, though we often refer to her as Pooh, and just as often shorten it to Isapoo. Now, in all fairness, she might have been calling her dog Isaboo, and not Isapoo, so maybe I misheard her. Still... still... it's weird.

My Isapoo

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

I have my tickets!

Woo-hoo! I've been waiting like seven years to go see Beto Cuevas. Actually I wanted to see La Ley, but then they broke up, and it's been three years in the making of B.C.'s own disc. Anyhow, he's playing at The City Club in Zapote on November 5, so I will be celebrating President Obama's win on that night with Chris. If you want to go, Credomatic has the tickets.

And the below is especially for Manders, just so all of you out there know I am not gratuitously posting Beto Cuevas videos without having good cause. :-)

P.S. I am thinking about getting a real j-o-b. That thought is both scary and kind of exciting.

Friday, October 10, 2008

It's about time, part II

The tiny state of Connecticut has seen the light; when will the rest of the country follow suit? When will the time come when it just isn't an issue anymore?

High Court Grants Gay Marriage Rights

The Supreme Court released its historic ruling at 11:30 a.m. Citing the equal protection clause of the state constitution, the justices ruled that civil unions were discriminatory and that the state's "understanding of marriage must yield to a more contemporary appreciation of the rights entitled to constitutional protection."

"Interpreting our state constitutional provisions in accordance with firmly established equal protection principles leads inevitably to the conclusion that gay persons are entitled to marry the otherwise qualified same sex partner of their choice," the majority wrote. "To decide otherwise would require us to apply one set of constitutional principles to gay persons and another to all others." Read more...

She lost

Did anyone else out there watch the Latin American Idol finale last night? We did, of course (me for previously stated reasons, esposo because he was hoping the Costa Rican girl would win). I have to admit, I think the Costa Rican girl, Maria Jose, was a lot better than the Panamanian girl, Margarita, but Maria Jose didn't win, despite esposo's sending of not one but two text messages to vote in her favor. Oh well. It's all kind of silly anyway, since a lot of people seem to vote on who they like best, not on who is the best. That asshole guy from American Idol always says it's a popularity contest, and I would have to agree with that. I mean, not that I watch American Idol or anything! [cough, cough] I am pretty sure Maria Jose will do just fine without winning.

And Beto Cuevas was, as usual, hot. Do not listen to Chris when she says he has a Rick Astley thing happening. Hmpf.

File under: It's about freaking time.

If any of my friends have ever wondered why I refused to buy gas at Shell, read this article. And the perps are finally being brought to trial. I read Ken Saro-Wiwa's book A Month and a Day about 10 years ago (published after his sham trial and execution). All I can say is, it's about time. May justice finally come for Saro-Wiwa and his fellow protesters.

Royal Dutch Shell to Go to Trial for Complicity in Torture and Murder of Nigerian Protesters

NEW YORK - October 8 - Yesterday, Judge Kimba Wood of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York set a trial date of February 9, 2009 for a human rights and racketeering case against the Royal Dutch Shell company (Shell) and the head of its Nigerian operation, Brian Anderson. The case was first filed in 1996. The judge rejected Shell's attempt to file additional legal motions to postpone a trial date.

"We are looking forward to finally bringing Shell into court, where we will prove their role in the torture and murder of our clients and their pattern of human rights abuses," said CCR attorney Jennie Green. "It's time for our clients and their families to see justice." Read more...

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Yes, Virginia, there is a Latin American Idol

And a Brazil's Next Top Model, but that is a post for another day.

Next week is the Latin American Idol finale. Latin American Idol is like the sad stepchild of American Idol, aspiring to be so much more than its current station in life. American Idol is filmed in some big theater in Los Angeles. Latin American Idol, I'm not even sure, though the finale is shot at a Hard Rock Cafe (in Panama, I believe). The American Idol wannabes hawk Fords; their Latin American Idol counterparts, Hot Pockets. The American Idol wannabes are pretty good, generally speaking; Latin American Idols? Not so much. They usually sound more like a karaoke contest than anything else.

Anyway. One of the two finalists this year is a Costa Rican. Last week, when they take the last three contestants home for a little tour (though this year it was four), the Costa Rican girl showed us around her town in Heredia. Esposo, of course, knew it was Heredia (and said at the time, Thank goodness they shot this at night), though to me it could have been any little town in Costa Rica, as they pretty much all look the same. The finale is this Wednesday night on the Sony channel (31 on Amnet cable). I don't usually watch Latin American Idol, but esposo and I will probably be tuning in this week. Just, you know, for fun. And to watch Beto Cuevas. At least, that's why I will be watching. For esposo, I guess he's rooting for the Costa Rican. Me? I could care less.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Houston, we have good beer. And soap.

Finally! AutoMercado has gotten some microbrews in, good news for those of us who enjoy a beer that does not smell (faintly or otherwise) of cat urine. At least, I am pretty sure they are microbrews. At least, they aren't Pilsens or Imperials! Reason for celebration, I think. I am guessing, though I haven't confirmed it, that this recent stocking of the brew may be due to friend Vicky, who gathers lists of things we ex-pats wish we could get down here* and passes them on to a buyer she knows who works for (or maybe even owns, I'm not sure) AutoMercado. For my part, I always request "good beer" and "eco-friendly cleaning products," and lo and behold, AutoMercado now carries both! I mean, hey, where else in Costa Rica can you get a pale ale and eco-dishwashing detergent?!?! Go, Vicky! Thanks!

So here's what we've got:

From left: Pranqster, Scrimshaw, Red Seal Ale, and Acme Pale Ale.

I haven't decided yet if my favorite is the Acme Pale Ale or the Pranqster, both just yummy as can be, both of which remind me of my California home (esposo says the Acme is "California in a bottle"). I also enjoyed the Red Seal Ale, but the Scrimshaw, not quite as much (though it's still better than anything the Cerveceria Costa Rica makes). I'd give you a better review (ala, "it has a bold, full-bodied hoppy flavor"), but they went far too quickly to take notes. Maybe next time. They are not exactly cheap (from about 1600 to 2000 colones a bottle, or around $3-$4 each), but for someone who can appreciate good beer, they're worth it. Try one out and tell me what you think.

And? You can now buy a whole bunch of Ecover cleaning products, from dishwashing liquid to fabric softener, but if you're tempted, forgo the "eco-friendly bleach" and just do a mix of hydrogen peroxide and water yourself (since that's all it is). Yesterday, I noticed they're carrying another brand of eco-friendly cleaning stuff as well! Does it get any better? Woo-hoo! I jest, but for people like me who have uber-ridiculous chemical sensitivities, being able to buy something that isn't loaded with chemicals and smells is like a dream come true. Just walking down the cleaning aisle in the store is enough to bring on a migraine. I think the last thing we have here in the house that still has nasty chemicals in it is a bucket of laundry detergent, but when that's gone, we'll have as close to a chem-free house as one can have here. So Vicky, if it is you I have to thank, thank you! (I do know it was Vicky who got us Ben & Jerry's.) You've made my life here so much easier.

P.S. I discovered that all the beer comes from North Coast Brewing Company in Mendocino, California. And they have lots more, hopefully some of which we will get to try down here soon. Hooray!

* Inevitably, someone always requests friggin' lima beans. What the hell is wrong with people? Of all the things you could get from the States... lima beans? Seriously? Bleh.

Good morning to me

We have this incredible view of the Central Valley from our backyard. But not for long. I awoke this morning to a backhoe being unloaded in front of our house, and not long after that, it was hard at work digging up and flattening the coffee field directly behind our house. The smell of backhoe exhaust filling my office first thing in the morning -- wonderful! Or instant migraine, you choose. Ugh. At least we're only renting here, and that not for long. I can't imagine the landlord getting what he wants for this house with the construction going on (it is on the market, in fact). Anyone who came to look at it would soon figure out one of the major selling points -- the view -- is soon to disappear.

The view from son's porch first thing this morning.

Guess I'd better start packing...

Sunday, September 28, 2008

If you missed it...

This post is especially for mom, who never stays up late enough to watch SNL, and esposo, who I know was watching something else at the time.

Sept. 27, 2008:

Sept. 13, 2008:

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Election Day

Yesterday started out as one of those days. A day where you ask yourself, "Could anything else go wrong?" and your esposo tells you, "Yes, it could. Don't tempt fate." I tried to get some work done (and did actually manage a few hours of work), but on the whole, it was a day spent running around trying to get things done.

I did, however, buy a new dryer. I am so excited. In case anyone out there is in the market, Importadora Monge has the Frigidaire Gallery dryers on sale for around $600, which is not much more than they are in the States (and that means it's a really, really good deal here). Both gas and electric, even! But only until the end of this month. So we bought one. I was just so sick of buying used appliances that have a 30-day warranty and then go dud after a few months (did I ever tell you the story of the gas dryer I bought more than two years ago that is still sitting in pieces in a shop in downtown San Jose? No? Well... maybe another time!). So we shelled out the $600 for a new dryer. And I couldn't be happier. It arrives on Wednesday. And it comes with a two-year warranty! Two years! It's the little things, you know?

Then, because some dumbass at Interlink lied and told esposo that she had sent my mail on Thursday, yet it still had not arrived by Friday afternoon and lo and behold come to find out the package had, in fact, never been sent at all, we had to drive into San Jose at 3:30 on a rainy Friday afternoon to get our mail. That, my friends, was so much fun! Not. But, I had to get it because I knew there was a check from a client in the U.S. in my mail just waiting for me to deposit it. At the bank I now use for most of my transactions (BAC/Banco San Jose, as opposed to the other four where I just have accounts for the hell of it), I deposited my check at the drive-through and the teller sent it back, asking for an endorsement. Now, I don't know about you, but to me and to esposo, an endorsement means to sign the check. Right? But no. The teller actually meant for me to write in some information on the back of the check that I can't even figure out why she didn't do herself (i.e., my printed name and my account number -- I mean, why ask me to do that? I don't get it). So I did that, and also signed the check. Big no-no. If you need to deposit a foreign check here, do not, unless specifically asked to do so, and even then, ask again just to be clear, do not sign the check. This is what they call a "double endorsement," and I was then informed that the check might be returned to me. WTF. I now have to wait 15 days to see if the check shows up as cashed in my account, otherwise I have to get the returned check, return it to my client and ask them to cut me another one, wait another couple of weeks for it to get to the States and back here again, wait another couple of weeks for it to be cashed. All in all, I figure about a month and half should do it. But I'm hoping for the best -- that they'll see the signature is mine and won't return the check to me after all (what damn difference it all makes is beyond me anyway). Aren't you people in the U.S. particularly happy you don't have to go through this sort of crap?

Then after the banking nonsense, we went over to one of our old cafes where the owner still owes us like $1,000 that I am sure neither esposo nor myself will ever see a cent from. Our other (still good) friend manages the cafe, though he is soon leaving as well. Since the jackass owner owes us money, we sometimes go there and eat for free. Ok, well not really free, since he owes us all that money. It was great food (hey, esposo designed the menu, so it ought to be good!), and we have a potential job lead for our real friend, so that was all nice and good. It's funny to be in San Pedro; it's really like stepping into another place entirely. Very much a university atmosphere. I love going there.

And to finish the day, we went shopping at Aliss, where I found a Darth Tater (a Mr. Potato Head dressed up like Darth Vader) for son for Christmas. (Yes, I do start Christmas shopping in September! And if you live here, you might consider it, because otherwise all the good stuff is gone by the time Christmas actually rolls around. All the Ticos do their shopping at the last minute. Here, if you see something you like, get it, because you may never see it again. I love Christmas.) And I got a skirt for me, and a shirt for son, and some stuff for esposo.

One of the packages contained son's Halloween costume, so as soon as we got home, he had to try it on. He was the cutest pirate with fake dreds I've ever seen! And, my absentee ballot had also arrived, so I voted. Yes! The day started out crappy, but ended high.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Old chair, new chair

This is what I spent this morning doing, with help in no small part from my mom.

Old chair:

New chair:
It may be hard to tell from the photos, but old chair had yucky white vinyl on the seats and backs. Yesterday, Chris, my mom and I took the kids for lunch and then we all went over to KG Quilts to look for fabric for various things, including reupholstering my two icky dining room table's chairs. I had taken the back off of one chair about a month and a half ago, thinking I could use leftover fabric from our old cafe where I'd also reupholstered all of the dining room chairs there. But, when I realized I didn't have enough, I left the chair back off until I could go get more fabric, and that didn't happen until yesterday. I was thinking of a heavier-weight toile, but then I saw these yummy flannels, and this particular print was decided upon by a committee of three. So thanks, guys! It was a great choice. I figured I'd get them done before esposo got home from work, so that if he didn't like the print, I could tell him to reupholster them himself, which of course he would never do. Ain't that right, dear?

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Get yer mail here

Herein you get one of those rare posts where I actually give you what may be useful information.

Ex-pats who move to Costa Rica from the U.S. usually are leaving an entire life behind, even temporarily, and that means a whole lot of mail. I've found the Costa Rica mail system spotty at best; many, many things I've had sent directly to my post office box here in the country never arrived, including a magazine subscription (until they started sending it in manila envelopes!), anything from the IRS (not that I really mind), and a rather substantial check that was stolen and then illegally cashed. So I don't put much faith of anything of importance actually reaching me via my CR post office box. I haven't had a problem getting postcards, though, I guess the people working at the correos can plainly tell there's nothing to steal there.

Sending from Costa Rica is a different matter entirely. So far (knock on wood), I've never had a thing go missing that I've sent from here. And the postal rates are about half of what you might pay in the U.S. (guessing here, but I know sending mail from Costa Rica is very cheap). So I don't really use my courier service except for receiving mail.

Which brings me to my next point: What is the best way to get mail from the U.S.? Answer: A courier service. These are basically mailboxes in Miami, Florida, where you have things sent, and then the company gets them to you from Miami to Costa Rica. There are several companies to choose from; personally, I use Interlink/Trans Express and have for the past nearly 8 years. I've rarely had a problem, though none of the companies are without their drawbacks. For one thing, they are expensive. Most companies charge a flat rate (I believe Interlink's is $15 per month), for which you get a certain number of pounds of mail, and then they charge you per pound after that. I get a lot of books from the U.S. that get sent through Interlink, so my bill runs anywhere from $50-100 per month. One thing I do like about Interlink is that they don't charge any additional "handling/customs" fees or taxes on any media, including books, DVDs, CDs, etc. Other companies, I have heard, do that. However, you usually will get smacked with rather hefty taxes for other goods, especially electronics and sometimes even clothes. I remember when I was pregnant with son ordering some maternity clothes because I couldn't find anything here I liked, and having to pay like an additional 50% in taxes on everything I'd ordered. Ouch. I don't think that is exclusive to Interlink, though; all of the companies have to charge import duties on certain things because they go through customs when they enter the country.

There are two other companies people use that are popular: JetBox and Aerocasillas. From what I've heard, Interlink is the least expensive. But of course, do your own research and see what option works best for you. There is a Mail Boxes Etc. here as well, but I've heard of nothing but problems from people who use that service (such as mail never arriving, being charged various amounts for the same item depending on who the clerk is that day, etc.).

If anyone else has any other service they used that I haven't mentioned, or any comments about MBE, JetBox or Aerocasillas, please leave a comment!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Vuelve a la vida

After coming down with a nasty virus (in my person, that is, not on my computer), I'm finally coming back to life. If you are not born in the tropics (like me), a strange thing about getting used to living here is that you will pick up weird viruses every now and again. This particular one was a knock-you-on-your-ass headache that moved back and forth across the front of my skull, combined with bouts of nausea. It's been excessively fun. I think, though, it's finally going away. I think...

There's a drink stand at the Multiplaza (and I've seen it at other malls, though I can't recall which ones right now with my head still full of wet cotton balls) called Cosual Fruit (I always wondered if they meant to say "Casual"). If you feel the need to return to the living, try one of their "vuelve a la vidas," it's kind of like a good, spicy bloody mary without the booze. If you like it spicy, and ask for it so, it may be near undrinkable. I go for the medium-spicy and it's perfect (though esposo, who eats entire jalapeños, thinks the spicy-spicy is just fine).

In other news, Juanes is coming to Costa Rica Oct. 2, to the football stadium in Alajuela. Anyone going? If you need convincing, here are a couple of videos (you know me!) for your enjoyment. Kinda old, yes, but still good videos and music in my estimation.