Sunday, February 24, 2008
Raven: So Amy, what do you like about Ciudad Colon so much to freakin' live there?
Amy: Well, it's just a hop, skip, and a jump to CIMA's emergency room, and I try to make it down there at least once every six weeks. If I go in the middle of the night, there's hardly any traffic on the freeway and I can make the trip in about 12 minutes. It's awesome.
Raven: How about the local color? The local culture?
Amy: You'll have to repeat the question... the what?
Raven: The culture, the local scene, what's it like in Ciudad Colon?
Amy: Oh! Culture! I thought you said VULTURE. We have some of those. Well, we used to have a coffee house in town, and that was great. We'd go there all the time. Then some hippie types bought the place and opened a vegetarian restaurant. Really great food, but you know how most restaurants close on Mondays? Well, these freaks would close on Tuesdays, which made all the other places in town follow suit, and it totally fucked up my take-out schedule. I had to rearrange everything. So, I guess all in all the town rocks! Except the vegetarian people left, and now I'm back to ordering "pizza no cheese" again. I mean, granted, the most action you see around here is on Sundays when the bicycles come through town, which is awesome, they're sparkley, but who really needs more than that anyway? We have a fountain too. With trees.
Raven: Anything else you'd like to add?
Amy: Yeah, sure, the Post Office steals stuff from me. Can you put that in there? Those fuckers piss me off. And the furniture guy who keeps telling me he'll show up to make me new couch cushions, too... if you're reading this dude, I'm tired of waiting around for you! Plus, I should say, we used to have parties out here, too. But then [name removed to protect the guilty party] stopped drinking and we don't do those any more.
Editor's note: Girlfriend forgot to include our town's yearly tope, or horse parade, that clogs up the one road leading into and out of town, as part of the local culture. Perhaps I should make mention of it in my article?
Saturday, February 23, 2008
Thursday, February 14, 2008
It's Valentine's Day. Go hug someone.
ETA: They obviously used an OCR and scanner to lift the text directly from the mag, because I can assure you that those typos do not appear in my magazine. Okay, one or two will get through, but not as many as they have. Last night, I checked back on the site and they had just uploaded another one of our stories yesterday(!!), that was only published a couple of weeks ago, the cover story for the current edition, in fact, and in a strange move, actually included the author's name on this one (of course I immediately asked her if she'd given them permission to reprint the story, and of course she said no way Josefina). I would love it if someone out there would do me a favor and ask how they were able to obtain these stories that were published in CRO, and why they don't have the authors' names on them? All innocent-like. Just to see what they say. Putos...
Here's an ad from the back of a bus (I can't believe esposo was able to take this while we were driving down the highway!) for a place that loans people money if they can't afford to buy school supplies. Kids here are required to wear uniforms to school, which consist of blue shirt, dark blue pants or skirt, black shoes and white socks, along with having to purchase the usual pencils, notebooks, etc. This is such an expense for some extremely not-well-off people that they simply cannot afford to send their kids to school at all. Besides my personal beliefs that school in general is a big waste of time, I think if the Costa Rican government is going to require that kids wear uniforms, they should provide them as well. At least to kids whose families fall below a certain income level. If you are interested in helping keep kids in
Tuesday, February 12, 2008
Ten days after we moved to Costa Rica I was robbed in my own home at gunpoint. I had almost nothing of value for thieves to take; only what I had brought down with me on the plane. Unfortunately, that included my iBook laptop, with all of my work information and personal contacts. (The OIJ got it back, but that's another story entirely.) They also took off with a box of CDs and a $5 telephone we'd picked up at Wallgreen's before leaving California.
I was taking a shower at the time they broke into my house. We had those "security" gates on the front fence, and on the front door, plus a deadbolt on the front door itself. I think it took the thieves all of five minutes to break through all three. My then-novio had just gotten a new job, and I thought he'd come home early (I did hear some stirring downstairs). When I called his name and he didn't answer, I put on some clothes and went downstairs. Imagine my shock when I came face-to-face with a complete stranger instead of my boyfriend. He seemed shocked, too, and turned tail and ran out the door and into the waiting car. His accomplice was in my bare-bones office, stealing my laptop. All I could see was my work and how badly I needed that computer to do anything, and here he was running out the door with it. I started screaming and running after him, pleading, please don't take my computer! I'll give you whatever you think you can get for it! Please, please... Instead, he turned around and pulled his shirt over his face and pointed a gun at me, saying, effectively, back off, we're taking this computer. I threw up my hands in defeat, and that was that.
I called the police, but it took them almost 20 minutes to get to the house and by that point the thieves could have been halfway to Nicaragua. I didn't speak much Spanish back then, so I tried to get someone at 911 who spoke English and that took an extra five minutes. When the police got there, they questioned me, tried to calm me down, and tried to get in touch with my boyfriend. I didn't even know the name of the place he was working at (he quit that evening when he came home and found out what had happened). After the police left, I tried to calm down, but it wasn't easy. I had my three cats (Venus, Bug and Boo) and my sweet Lucy girl (my chihuahua-terrier mix), and realized that if the thieves had hurt any of them I would never have been able to forgive myself. I was so grateful my babies were okay. Novio finally arrived home a few hours later, and I was out of my mind with worry. I wanted to leave that house immediately, but our friends assured us that no one would be stupid enough to break into the same house twice, and that we should spend the night there, and find another place in the morning. Oh, and we'd called the landlord and he didn't seem at all concerned about the fact that there were no locks on the front of the house, saying that he'd fix them the following day. Well, guess what. Someone did break into the house in the middle of the night! We had all the furkids and the two of us sequestered in a bedroom on the top floor, and actually there was nothing left to take. Apparently that didn't matter. Novio dropped an encyclopedia on the floor, which I guess might sound something like a gunshot if you are a nervous thief trying to find something to steal in an empty house in the middle of the night, so the guy took off out of a back window, down the roof and through the backyard.
The next day, we moved everything into our friend's house and started looking for another apartment, although all I really wanted to do was go home to California. In case you were wondering, this all happened in Rhormoser, home of the U.S. Embassy.
For years, I could not sleep alone, and if novio/esposo was out or working late, I would just stay up with all of the lights in the house on. I would have panic attacks for seemingly no reason that didn't seem to be triggered by anything specific. In short, I was afraid to live my life and I felt miserable. It was the first time in my life I had ever been the victim of a crime, and it pretty much rocked my world. I got very little support from novio/esposo, who sort of thought I should just "get over it" after a while. Well, it's not that easy. This was almost eight years ago, and I'm finally able to sleep at night without jumping out of bed every time I hear any little noise. Mostly, what gives me peace of mind now is my dogs. Nine dogs. It may be that I've subconsciously taken all of these dogs in in an effort to feel more secure, I don't know. But I do know that if anyone tried to come into this house, the dogs would rip them to pieces. That's a lot more security than a few silly bars on the windows that only serve to keep you in, not thieves out. One of the things I like most about our current house is that, though there are bars on the windows, all of the bedrooms and the living room have sliding glass doors, so it would be easy to get out in case of an emergency. (I worry about these things since that one time when my son was a baby and I fell asleep with a pot of rice on the stove -- woke up to a smoke-filled house, and couldn't get out through the bedroom window because there were freakin' bars on it.)
So, is crime getting worse? I think it is. I don't have statistics to back me up on this, but I think you do hear more about it, and of course it goes underreported because everyone knows the cops will do next to nothing when they eventually arrive on the scene. Recently, a friend of mine was robbed at gunpoint in her own home with her two babies and her maid there. She was terrified, rightfully so, and her family is planning on leaving soon. I don't blame her. I hate when I read that somehow the victims are to blame for this crime, as though having something worth stealing is a crime in itself. I don't buy that, and as someone who's lived through this, I find it highly insulting. You will see some people suggest that crime here isn't any worse than in any big city, though let's not compare apples and oranges. Escazu, Santa Ana, are not big cities. I think that esposo has been robbed in every way possible. We did count it up one day; he's been mugged several different times in several different ways, had his car broken into, his house broken into. I think the only thing that hasn't happened to him is carjacking (knock on wood, because our friend H. has been carjacked in San Jose). Once we even had the HH broken into in a five-minute time span as we were stopping by a friend's house to drop off something. They got away with our car CD player, and two Costco-size bottles of bleach and a bag of cat food. The image of crackheads running down the street with bleach and cat food was enough to lighten the mood on that one.
The problem I see is that the administration seems content not to do much about crime; when you can bribe a police officer for $10 and a bag of marajuana (I know someone personally who's done this!), how much faith can you really put in them? They get paid so little, to put their necks on the line -- do we really expect them to get in the line of fire? There are solutions, but I think the fact that this country does not have an army or military of any kind speaks to the idea that people do not want a strong police presence, either. People do not want to see Costa Rica become a military state. I don't want that either, but I'll tell you what, I felt a lot more secure in Colombia with all of the military and police officers -- who take no crap from anyone -- all over the place than I do here, where you rarely see police officers, and if you do, they don't seem to be doing anything. It is going to take a change in the consciousness of the Costa Rican people and the leaders they elect before any real change will happen. Costa Ricans have to give up this attitude of "Oh well, crap happens, it's all in God's hands" BS. Until then, I'm afraid crime is only going to get worse, and we'll probably be long gone by that time. I have no interest in raising our son in such a society, and when Obama gets elected, I'll be happy to hang up my ex-pat label.
Well, anyway, didn't mean to bring the mood down! The little day trip was great. We had lunch at the hotel, son got pizza all over the floor, and we checked out the organic garden (which is doing beautifully, I must say) and some trails. I have to admit, I'm sure glad we decided against living in Bajos del Toro, because there is just nothing up there at all. If I thought Grecia was boring, jeez, it's like New York City compared to Bajos del Toro! Here are some pics from yesterday.
You can see the color of the river a little better in this shot. I don't know exactly how far up the bridge was from the river, but I'd say pretty far! Enough to make me nauseated looking down at it. What's interesting to see in this picture is how the water from the volcano has bleached the rocks below the water level so that they are nearly white. Cool, huh?
Saturday, February 09, 2008
To make a very simple breakfast plantain, use a ripe one (or more) whose skin has turned black. Peel, and slice (you can do rounds or lengthwise or somewhere in-between). Heat up a skillet (I use cast iron) with a little oil and margarine (maybe 1 tbsp. each). Put the slices in when the oil is hot, and sprinke with a little raw or brown sugar, cinnamon and black pepper (or sometimes I use Chinese five-spice powder -- yummy!). When they're browned on one side, turn and repeat with the sprinklings. Take them out when browned and enjoy! Very simple, and if you're living in Costa Rica, very, very cheap. These are great to serve with gallo pinto and fresh tortillas.
Another traditional way to make ripe plantains is to cut them in half lengthwise, then top with shredded cheese and bake in the oven until the plantains are cooked and the cheese is melted (oil the pan, of course, so they don't stick). Costa Ricans usually use their typical cheese (I think it's called Turrialba, though any semi-dry cheese without a strong flavor should work fine). Sometimes they make a plantain "sandwich" with the cheese in the middle and the other plantain half on top. These were delicious back when I ate cheese!
By contrast, my friend Treeza up in The Great White North (aka Wisconsin) sent me this picture yesterday:
I'm guessing she's not wearing flip-flops in that weather! I would like to be able to go to the snow, but then leave after a day or two. More than that I don't think I could take anymore! In fact, when it gets "down" to the 60s here, I get cold. In the 50s, I'm freezing. I think I would turn into an icicle in weather like this. (Thanks for the pics, T.!) And in case you're wondering, I did grow up in weather like this, in beautiful northeastern Ohio. I can safely say I've had my fill of snow (and northeastern Ohio) for a lifetime.
Also, Treeza points out that I was remiss in not giving props yesterday to Wisconsin, though I am pretty sure she is the only person from that part of the U.S. who actually reads this blog! Woo-hoo! Wisconsin in the house!
Wednesday, February 06, 2008
Hello, you out there from Hawaii! Thanks for reading! Love your big dot on my map down there to the right! Though most of my readers seem to be from California (gee, I wonder who that might be?), Hawaii, New York and Florida are definitely in the house. As is my mom, who probably represents that big dot on Ohio. Costa Rica comes in second in numbers of readers, thanks probably going to Amy and this website. Even though (I think) I don't know you, thanks for sending people my way! And what up Canada! Hello! Oh, and can I just say that even though most of you are still using Internet Explorer, I'm glad to see that quite a lot of you have seen the light and made the switch to Firefox. Cause it's the bomb.
And now, to answer some questions, based on top search queries that land people here.
What can you tell me about Black Cock Scotch? It tastes pretty bad, but the label is freakin' fantastic. I bought some at cheapo Super Mora in Ciudad Colon, so I'm guessing that it was also pretty cheap and available in just about any supermarket. Read more here.
What about Costa Rican tamales? They're Christmastime musts, squishy, and take some getting used to (in my opinion), but if you want to try making them, esposo has a yummy recipe for vegetarian tamales, along with a nice photo he took, here.
What is the Costa Rican state flower? Good question. I had to look this one up. It is Guaria Morada (Cattleya skinneri), a type of orchid. Surprisingly, the Costa Rican embassy, which gives the name of this flower, doesn't state that it is an orchid. Here's a photo I found on Wikipedia:
How do you join Pricesmart? It's pretty easy. You do not need a business license or anything like that, just show up with your i.d. and some money. If you do have a business, the cost is $25/year, and for those without a business, $35/year (both memberships include one extra card). You can download a membership application from Pricesmart's website here. Would I recommend getting a membership? That depends on your needs. If you are a Costco/Sam's Club kind of person, you'll probably want to join Pricesmart. I like that I can get a good brand of dog food there, as well as the big buckets of scoopable cat litter. And the prices are definitely better than buying everything at Automercado, though I get plenty there as well. Pricesmart has locations in Escazu, Heredia, and San Jose (Tibas and Zapote). Go for it.
How about vegans in Guanacaste? I'm in the central valley (Grecia area) and haven't been to Guanacaste in years, but my guess is that with all of the new development, plus the new Automercado, it wouldn't be too difficult to be a vegan there. At least, not any more difficult than anywhere else in Costa Rica. If you want to hook up with more vegans/vegetarians, I would suggest giving my pal Marcelo Galli over at Vegetarianos.co.cr a call. He speaks English, and would probably be delighted to welcome more vegans and help them make connections here.
I'm looking for unused band names. I don't know why my website comes up so often for this one, as I only know a few, and those were ones I thought of personally, way back when. But if you're really, really curious, feel free to read this. And if you like one of my unused band names for your band, I'd love it if you let me know! (You're more than welcome to use any of them, of course.) If you think my unused band names suck badly, I have a couple of links there that you could try instead.
What's good about Costa Rica? Oh, dear reader! So many, many things. Sometimes you may get the impression all I do is bitch about this adopted country in which I live. But I prefer to think that I can see the good with the bad; every place has its high points and low ones. The short list of what I like about Costa Rica includes the wildlife, the wild places, the proximity to active volcanoes (yes, I know that would be on some peoples' lists of what they don't like, but not me), the fact that esposo and our son are both Ticos, the freedom I feel here (moreso than I ever did in the U.S.), the fact that family is very important culturally to the Ticos, the ability to rent what would be a mansion in California for about $700 a month, the fact that I can wear flip-flops every day, the wonderful and inexpensive private medical care, the ability to rent said mansion with 9 dogs and 4 cats without handing over my firstborn, the knowledge that, when you make friends with Ticos here, you've made friends for life, the ability to keep chickens in my backyard, my view, the iguanas on my roof... I could go on, these are just off the top of my head. There are also things that I don't like about Costa Rica, such as the self-centerdness of most Ticos, the bad drivers, the selling out of our open spaces to developers for the highest bidder, our president, the fact that when you make good friends with foreigners, they usually end up leaving, the lack of compassion and respect many Ticos have for animal life, along with the lack of animal shelters and effective laws protecting animals... and I can't think of much more! Though I'm sure there are more things I don't like, and more things I do like, it seems clear that I have a lot to like about Costa Rica!
I hope this has been somewhat informative, and answered some of those burning questions about Costa Rica that are floating around out there. ¡Pura vida!
Anyway, we went from Grecia to Ciudad Colon, then all the way across San Jose to San Pedro, then to Alajuela, and took the back road back to Puente Piedra. And how much gas do I have left in my car? About 1/4 of a tank! Which means my new car spent about two gallons of gas doing all that running around. The HH would have used up the entire 16 liters and we probably would have had to put more gas in before heading home. Did I mention that I love my car?
Oh, here's something else. I noticed when we got home that there was a big scratch on the bottom of the driver's side door that wasn't there when we put the down payment down on the car. Luckily, I had taken pictures of the car when it was sitting in the lot. When we got home with it the first night, esposo took more pictures of the scratch, and then sent them, along with the old pictures of the car in the lot sans scratch, to the dealership (Vetrasa, in case you wanted to know). Without the pictures, they may not have agreed to fix the scratch for free, but since I had them, they didn't have much choice. A lesson! In Costa Rica, as Amy and I were discussing yesterday, it's always best to cover your behind, whether it's having receipts or photos or whatever. I only wish I had written down the mileage when we put the down payment down, which I neglected to do, because I would like to know 1) how it got that giant scratch when it was supposed to be just sitting in a lot, and 2) who was taking a joy ride in my car!
Monday, February 04, 2008
But the gas gage is weird. It has "1/1" for a full tank, and "R" for empty. Maybe Sylli can answer why that is, since she lived in Japan
Ok, so other than the weird gas gage, everything else about it is totally cool. No more HH. I think a new stage of my life is being ushered in. Jeez, I hope I'm not having a mid-life crisis or something!
Sunday, February 03, 2008
SAN JOSE, Feb. 1 (Xinhua) -- Costa Rican Foreign Ministry on Friday expressed deep sympathy for millions of Chinese people who suffered from recent heavy snow falls in southern China."Win the final victory in the fight against bad weather?" No offense, but are you friggin' crapping me? He might as well have said, "We are really hoping your people can get back to work in all of those factories, because boy, we sure do want you to ship us your cheaply made and lead-infested goods! And as soon as possible! Never mind that Costa Ricans are pretty racist when it comes to Asians! When it comes to anyone who is not Costa Rican, actually! We want your crap! Did I mention cheaply?!?"
Since mid-January, continuous snow falls and low temperatures have played havoc in China's southern provinces, and at this time of difficulty, the Costa Rican government sends its solicitude to the Chinese government and its people, the foreign ministry said in a statement.
In related news, I read that San Jose's mayor and chamber of commerce want to build an official Chinatown. Where does it end? No, wait ... it doesn't! Commercialism and greed, one of Costa Rica's top imports.