Saturday, April 26, 2008

Cows on Parade!

There's a very cool outdoor art exhibit going on now through August in downtown San Jose. It's called Cow Parade, and was first started in Switzerland and has since spread throughout the world. Basically, artists apply to receive one of the fiberglass cows, which they then decorate. When Cow Parade San Jose is over, the cows will be auctioned off and donated to charity. You can read more about Cow Parade here.

Here are a couple of videos about the cows. If you're here in CR, be sure to go see them before they're gone!

Amelia Rueda's reports in Spanish:

For those not Spanish-language inclined, here's a words-free video from Susan over at MotherJungle:


Thursday, April 24, 2008

Life-defining moments

This is not a post about Costa Rica. It's just a post about me, so if you're looking for Costa Rica info, you can skip this one.

The other night on VM Latino I happened to come across that weird guy's show (Junkie TV?), and he happened to be playing a documentary on The Clash. (By the way, is it just me, or does that weird guy remind you of a punk rock Barney [as in big purple dinosaur Barney] -- always talking with his hands and such? It drives me nuts.) This station usually plays hip-hop and reggaeton, and not much else, so seeing The Clash was like, woah! I had to stop and make sure I wasn't hallucinating.

I think they only did part of the documentary (because Barney had to keep his running commentary going, and going, and going on and on and on between cuts), though I'm hoping they play the rest of it next week.

The Clash is the band that changed my life. I think I was 12, your typical 12-year-old girl, listening to Duran Duran and going roller skating on the weekends and dreaming about cute boys. I was also addicted to MTV, which was still quite new (and still actually played videos) back in the 80s. Then one day in 1982, I saw this video:

It was love at first sight (especially the last few seconds of live footage of that video -- wow!). Joe rocked my world, and I was forever hooked on punk rock. All other men in my life would heretofore be judged by the Joe Strummer standard (which, now that I think of it, wasn't entirely fair -- there was and will ever be only one Joe Strummer); he was cool, and hot, and creative, and a great musician and singer...what was not to like? My first real boyfriend (I think I was 14) in Ohio was a guy named Sid who sported a mohawk. My mom used to drop me off at the mall, where I'd meet him and he'd go around to different stores, stealing things for me. He also taught me the dine and dash. Wow, was I smitten! :-) Later, I moved to California, and in some sort of attempt to have a Joe of my own, I started dating musicians. There were a few; some more memorable than others, but after one in particular not only broke my heart but ripped it out of my chest and squashed it in a pile of broken glass, I swore off musicians for good. That has been, I think, a good thing. I still like the creative, artistic types, though, which is one of the reasons I fell for esposo. Not a musician, he is one of the best and most creative chefs in this country (and possibly also in Latin America).

Unfortunately for me, I came late to The Clash scene, and they broke up not long after. I still devoured all of their older music that I could get my hands on (the opening bars of This is Radio Clash is the ringtone on my cell -- I wonder what Joe would think of that?), and they did start me down the road to The Ramones, Agent Orange, X, and eventually Rancid and The Deftones. But you never forget your first love, and for me that was The Clash.

One of my most prized possessions is my Combat Rock album signed by Joe himself. Actually, meeting Joe was one of the most memorable moments in my life; even though he was heavier and older and looked a little tired, I still felt like a giddy little girl meeting him (there was an in-store meet-and-greet in Portland where a friend of mine was working at the time). I actually got to shake his hand and tell him what an honor it was to meet him; he seemed genuinely friendly, even though I really wanted to vomit on his shoes from the nerves of it all. A couple of years after that, Joe passed away. What a loss.

So there you have it. The making of a punk rock mama.


Spanish. Sigh.

I know I live in a Spanish-speaking country. A country where Spanish is, indeed, the official language (unlike the U.S. where English is widely spoken but not the official language). However. However. It is really irritating to eternally have to set preferences for sites (like Blogger! and Google, etc.) to English yet always have them come up in Spanish. Yes, okay, I can read Spanish just fine, I just prefer to read English. I know these sites read my IP and are trying to do me some kind of favor, but J Su Christo, I don't want Blogger in Spanish, or, or even those stupid MySpace pages (gah, can I reiterate how much I despise MySpace?) that always come up in Spanish, even though I swear I've set my preferences there to English too many times to count.

Oh never mind. This is just my little silly rant of the day.


Tuesday, April 22, 2008

O, (dude from) Canada!

So Saturday night I actually went out to the first concert I've been to since before son was born (the Festival Imperial). And it was great. Really, really great. Smashing Pumpkins totally rocked it. We got tickets from our friend M., who works for the Cerveceria, so we had the great fortune to sit in the Cerveceria's VIP lounge, up above it all and away from the throngs of people down in general admission (which is fine, you know, if you're into that -- been there, done that myself for too many years, personally speaking). Esposo and I met up with M.'s wife, D. and her friend V. during the third act or somewhere thereabouts (Cafe Tacvba? Babasonicos?). I would like to just mention that Le Pop was great, and you should check them out. This is the lead-singer-from-Ghandi's new band (the lead singer Luis who used to look like my husband before my husband cut all of his hair off). Also Cafe Tacvba. Great. Babasonicos not so much, though. I thought the lead singer was very dwarf-like, both in his voice and in his stature (and what was up with those Davy Jones-inspired pants? sheesh). Incubus was eh...okay, but I was really surprised that a lot of people left after their set, thus missing the headliners. Oh well, too bad for them.

Inside the Cerveceria lounge were tables, chairs, a bar and even beanbag chairs (how fun is that?). We managed to snag a table early on, and a couple of beanbag chairs later on. During Incubus, when everyone else was standing watching the band, I was sitting with D. on the beanbag chairs, and we see someone come up to our table and open a pack of smokes belonging to one in our party (whose name will go unmentioned), taking out several of said smokes and passing them around to his friends. At this point, someone in our party says something to the cigarette thief, and the guy starts saying, Well if you leave a pack of cigarettes lying on a table you can't expect people not to take them. In English. As though none of us spoke English. Then I say, It's okay, take one, whatever. And then he's surprised to have found another English speaker. And then he presumes me to be Canadian. And I'm like, No, I'm American. What about you? He says, Oh, Canadian! I'm not a fucking American! Don't confuse me with an American! I didn't get your country in this mess, and then some stuff about George Bush, blah blah blah. Well. At this point, D. speaks up.

D. reminds me of a Latina Lauren Bacall or one of those classic actresses in their heyday. She's tall, beautiful, smart, and just a very classy person. So when she says, What's this about fucking Americans? to the guy, I must admit I'm more than a little stunned. Happily so, though. I'm a fucking American, she says to him. And she's an American (pointing to me). And we're proud to be Americans. Don't think just because we're Americans we like George Bush or something! I mean, she is really mad. The guy gets the hint. The two girls he is with feel the need to tell us that one of them lives in Canada, but she's really Russian. The other one says she's a Brit. At some point he starts telling us that he found his bracelet on the ground (the bracelet that allows one admittance into the Cerveceria's private lounge), and he only paid $20 to get into the show, and here I am in the lounge and aren't I a smart one, blah blah blah. Honestly, I've rarely met someone more full of themselves. Finally, though, D. vibes him away, and they all leave.

At several points during the night, D. says to me things like, Can you believe that guy? Fucking Americans, indeed. What an asshole. I tried to explain that I thought he wasn't trying to insult us personally, it's just that Bush and his ilk have so ruined our reputation around the world that he felt the need to puff out his chest and claim moral superiority. I'm sure lots of people feel the same way he does, they just aren't so likely to say so to your face. Whatever. He didn't ruin our night, at any rate.

Here are some crappy audience-made videos from the show for those who didn't make it. "Enjoy!" (You've got to love YouTube; videos from the concert were posted by the time I got home at 3:00 a.m. that morning.)

Check out Billy Corgan's shiny silver skirt, which was quite the envy of me and my fellow chicas at the show.

I like this song by Le Pop, even though it doesn't sound too great here.

Cafe Tacvba


Friday, April 18, 2008

Happy Birthday, Your Majesty!

The Queen's Birthday Party is tomorrow at the British Ambassador's house in Escazu from 9 to 3. Come one, come all, it's always lots of fun, especially for the kids! Get there early if you want to buy any of the packaged yummies, because otherwise all the good stuff will by gone by 10 or so. Cost is 2,000 per adult, 1,000 per child and kids under 5 are free. This is the one time of year I get to buy my Boddinton's (and save a few for esposo to drool over throughout the rest of the year). Son and I will be there; hope to see you there! Here's some more info about this year's festivities from, but you have to be a member to read it (though membership is free).

And then tomorrow night is the Imperial Festival! And esposo and I will be there, but unless you're also in the VIP section, you probably won't see us. Sorry, I had to mention that I got VIP tickets! Not rubbing it in or anything, just celebrating the fact! Woo-hoo!


Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Iguana update

Stumpy Stumpleton was spotted on the roof this morning and is not only alive and well, but starting to regrow his/her tail! Yea! The tail looks really strange, though, like a little point coming out of the stump. She/he does not appear at all afraid of dogs, however, and I think this cannot be a good thing in the long run.


Rude jerks por todo lado

Yesterday we did our sort-of-weekly PriceSmart run. You know, with nine dogs and four cats, you find yourself running to PriceSmart at least weekly... At the checkout, there was a woman standing in front of us without a cart, and I left to go wash my hands (that place gives my hands the creeps). When I got back, the woman's husband had apparently arrived from doing all of his shopping and was now loading all of their crap onto the conveyor. I said to esposo, WTF is this all about? He responds that she actually said to him, in Spanish of course, I was here first; I was holding this place in line. Since when do you get to save a place in line at the grocery store? (I said as much, loudly, to esposo.) Then I said, you should have stood your ground and told her to move, and he said it wasn't worth the hassle. Which I concede it probably wasn't, but then I think these kind of jerks are just going to keep doing it to everyone else. So I said, rather loudly, "That's Ticos for you, always so rude and unpleasant!" She gave me a rather nasty look, indicating that indeed, she did understand English. But, I really just said that because I wanted to be a bitch. Then I went to get something we'd forgotten to pick up, and by the time I'd gotten back, they were gone, apparently having left their cart in front of esposo after emptying it. At which point esposo said to her (in Spanish), Don't move your cart or anything! And she replied, I wasn't planning to.

Now, I don't actually believe that all Ticos are rude (even though I said as much to that ... woman), I do think there are plenty of rude Ticos out there who will stab you with a smile on their faces, there are also plenty of really nice people here. But let's face it, there are jerks and a-holes and rude bitches everywhere, as evidenced by this incident and one L. wrote about yesterday. Sigh. What is the world coming to? All I can say about it is, that I'm thankful I'm not them. They didn't seem like very happy people; they were rude to complete strangers, each other and to their little boy (I felt sorry for him, though). They certainly didn't seem like the kind of people who started rocking out when the demo stereos set up in PriceSmart were playing "More Than a Feeling" (that was actually me and esposo, thankyouverymuch!). I'd rather be the person who tries to be nice and give back the car keys even when I don't have to than the person who sees the worst in everyone she meets or thinks the world owes her something for some reason only she can fathom.


Saturday, April 12, 2008

For anyone who cares

I moved my quilty blog from Serial Quilters to Wordpress and it's now here.


Friday, April 11, 2008

More bad "advice" for new parents

Sigh. When I see crap like this stupid study of how "too much coddling" of a baby can cause bad sleep habits, it makes me shake my head. To think that parents will actually follow this advice just makes me sad. One wonders if Dr. Elsie Taveras even has children of her own.
"It is very hard to let your child cry it out when they are toddlers," says Dr. Elsie Taveras of Harvard Medical School, referring to parents' tendency to pick up their children or bring them into the family bed to help them sleep. "But if you approach it differently — 'I am not even going to start my child making these sleep associations' — it's much easier to prevent [future problems]."
Yes, because as we all know, babies know the difference in your approach. I'm sure that when you explain to an infant, I'm letting you cry because I don't want you to make these sleep associations, he'll completely understand and go back to sleep.
She found that certain "maladaptive" parental habits — such as the mother staying with the child until he or she fell asleep, or the parent giving a child food or drink upon nighttime awakening — appeared to develop in response to babies' early sleep difficulties, at 5 to 17 months of age.
Well, DUH! You know, we tired moms and dads are trying to get the kids to sleep the best we know how. Most of us rely on what feels right to us, such as picking up a baby when she cries. Apparently, this is a "maladaptive" habit we need to start breaking right now, people! Damn you, woman! How dare you stay with your child until he falls asleep! Cut off all of your maternal and paternal instincts and let that baby cry! Because if you don't, she's never going to sleep on her own! Never! Oh, for crap's sake. Aren't we tired of hearing the same old thing over and over again? I thought this whole "cry it out" thing went the way of big hair and A Flock of Seagulls. Apparently not:
"It might be appropriate to be present in the room, comforting the child for a short time," Simard says. But it's most important "to let the child develop a capacity to comfort himself on his own."
Yes, that's right, you stand over there, parent, while baby "comforts himself" by... crying? Huh, I guess I don't get that. Crying oneself to sleep doesn't seem comforting to me. Ask yourself: If it was your best friend who was crying, would you stand there, watching, saying, It's okay, everything will be fine. Or would your first instinct be to go to that person and put your arms around him and give actual comfort? I think most of us would choose the second. Yet, when it is a helpless infant we're talking about, somehow it's okay to let them figure it out on their own. Please. Pick up the baby. Here is a clue the "researchers" appear to have missed: babies need their parents.

Here's another good one:
Babies who grew accustomed to falling asleep with a parent in the room, being held until they fell asleep, or being taken into a parent's bed when they couldn't sleep were also more likely as older children to have trouble falling asleep and to sleep fewer hours during the night. "Co-sleeping with the child does not seem to be a good solution for comforting a child after night awakenings," Simard says.
Do you think the researchers ever considered the possibility that babies and children who are left to fall asleep on their own just give up? They realize their parents aren't coming to comfort them, so they, at some point, give up asking for comfort. Is that what they mean by "self-comfort"? Seems to me that this would lead to worse long-term problems than having trouble falling asleep (which, honestly, I kind of doubt lasts very long into childhood -- the article didn't specify what they considered "older children" -- all of the parents I know who have co-slept with children don't end up with older kids with sleep issues). If the first thing you teach a baby is "Don't rely on me, kid!" what kind of message is that sending?

Bleh. These kinds of dumb studies irritate me to no end.


Sometimes you do what you have to do

Normally, I try not to use harsh chemicals in or around my house. I can't stand the chemically smell floor cleaners give off (and you really do have to clean your floors frequently here since most of them are tile); I don't use pesticides or fertilizer on the plants, not even Frontline or any of that stuff on the dogs or cats (garlic works just fine, thank you!). Most chemicals give me a raging migraine; plus, I worry about the effect they have on a young child and the animals. So I try not to use them.

However. There comes a time in everyone's life when you have to take the bull by the horns, or the bull takes you. The bull, in this case, is mosquitoes. I've been battling mosquitoes in our master bedroom for the past couple of months. They have been getting worse and worse; mosquitoes in my wardrobe, mosquitoes in my hanging clothes, mosquitoes on the walls and ceiling and in the bathroom. Mosquitoes everywhere. The night before last, I killed something like 15 mosquitoes in the bathroom with an old Tico Times (hee hee... it's good for something!). I had been looking on the internet for information about how to get rid of mosquitoes naturally, and everything I've read was how to repel them, but damn it, I wanted to KILL them! There had to be a pool of standing water around here somewhere, but I'll be damned if either I or esposo could find it. So I'd had it. It was the last straw.

I should back up just a little and mention that I am allergic to mosquito bites. If I get bitten by a mosquito, my skin swells up and gets itchy to the point where I can't stand it, and usually I'm left with scars. Not nice. Plus, the damn things carry all sorts of diseases (hey, I took entomology in college, I know dengue isn't the only thing that's bad about mosquitoes!). If you don't already know this, the first time you get dengue, you get a terrible flu that can put you in the hospital; the second time, you have a likelihood of dying. Not that these were dengue mosquitoes, mind you, I think they were just the regular, little nasty ones. Anyway, the mosquitoes had to go.

I went to Wal-Mart/HiperMas yesterday to do a little shopping, and headed straight away to the mosquito-killing-sprays aisle. There actually is a company that makes a non-toxic fly killer (Fuera Moscas), but nothing of the sort for mosquitoes. So Baygon it was.

When I got home, I sprayed like a mad woman. I sprayed inside my wardrobe, my hanging clothes, at the ceiling, in the bathroom, all the while yelling, "Die, mosquitoes, die!" This morning? Not a single living mosquito to be found. Though I think we'll still have to find out where the water is collecting if we don't want them back.

P.S. You can also sleep with a fan towards you at night to keep the mosquitoes away, and if you can find eucalyptus oil, spray it around and it keeps them away also. Neither will kill mosquitoes, though.


Common Costa Rica plants poisonous to dogs

Hey, here's something I just read about in the ASPCA newsletter: the Brunfelsia plant is deadly poisonous to dogs. It's pretty common here (the purple flowers eventually turn to white), so I thought I'd get the word out. Here are a couple of pictures for reference; more information about the plant can be found at this Wiki article.

Another one I already knew about is Datura, called "Queen of the Night/Reina de la Noche" here. This one is poisonous to all pets and children.


Monday, April 07, 2008

The Bear Rub video

If you haven't seen this, it will really make your day! At least it did mine. And is the music perfect or what? Love it!


The latest dumb thing I did

This weekend, I wanted to get some plants in the ground because YES, indeed, rainy season has actually and officially begun. The first two trees I planted in the yard went fine (who ever heard of a yard with no trees? weird.), but then I had the bright idea to put a row of butterfly- and hummingbird-attracting plants along the back fence. With the very first hole I dug near the fence, I broke a water line. And not just any water line, the water line that brings water from the street to the patio sink and to the master bathroom. Within minutes I had a rather sizeable hole full of water in the backyard. Crap. This is not what I needed. However, I did finish getting the remaining plants in the ground, then shut off the water to the house and let the pond recede.

The broken pipe was a 1" PVC pipe located about 3" from the surface. I ask you, who lays pipe 3" from the surface of the ground? Costa Rican "contractors," that's who. I suppose they never imagined anyone would ever have any reason to dig more than 3" into the ground. Anyway, once the water had gone down, I tried wrapping the pipes together with duct tape, and just in case you're wondering, no, duct tape will not stop a leak. In fact, it did pretty much nothing. So I've been going back and forth, turning water on and off at the main valve for the past two days as I need it. Hopefully the landlord will be coming by tomorrow to fix it.

Lesson for the day? If you feel like the shovel is stuck on something, it may not be a rock after all.


Saturday, April 05, 2008

Anyone out there in Jacó?

If so, is Hong Kong Phooey's still open? Because I want to go, but I'll be disappointed to drive all that way and find them closed. So if someone out there knows if this place is open or closed, would you let me know? Big thanks!


Friday, April 04, 2008

Come on baby, light my fire

So on two sides of our house are coffee and sugar cane fields; on a third side, an empty, overgrown lot, and in the front is a dead-end street. Thus one might be concerned when the coffee field behind one's house catches on fire at about 8:00 at night, filling one's house with smoke so that one cannot breathe without choking on it. When one's esposo calls 911 to get the fire department to come put out said fire, one expects the fire department to do just that. However, one would be wrong.

Our closest neighbors on this side of the street (on the other side of the empty lot) were even closer to the fire, and when we walked up the street to see just how bad the fire was, we could see smoke pouring into their backyard and (one would assume) windows and house. Their kids were a little hysterical, understandably so. By the time we got there, they were debating whether or not they should leave. (Some did, some stayed.) Were I them, I would have been terribly worried about the fire spreading to my backyard, but since I don't understand hysterical Spanish, they may or may not have had that concern (again, though, one would assume they did).

To put the size of the fire into perspective, and because math ain't my strong point, let's say it was about the size of a typical lot in the U.S. So pretty good sized.The fire department never showed, and in the middle of the night the fire finally (thankfully) burned itself out. I ask you, though, can you imagine a big ol' fire in the U.S. and no one responding to it? I cannot. And this is dry country here in Grecia, my friends. When I said the other day that I thought rainy season might be starting, I was full of crap. Ha. It may indeed be starting, but not here in Grecia. Every afternoon, a big dark raincloud passes right over the house, sometimes sprinkling two or three tantalizing drops of rain on us. Otherwise, it has not rained since. So you can imagine, after a long hot summer, that everything is super dry, including my backyard, and including the empty lot next door.

When I relayed this story to a couple of friends yesterday, one of them said, Well, they probably sent someone over there to look at the fire, and he came, and said, eh, that's not so big, and just left. And we all laughed. Because it's probably true. The same friend said he knew someone on the volunteer fire department in Escazu, and one day they were standing there and a big fire started up in the hills. My friend asked his friend shouldn't he go put it out, and he replied, nah, unless it's black, it's not burning a structure, so we just leave it alone.

You know, couldn't they put the fire out before it burns a structure? Like my house or my neighbor's house? Oh no, that would be too easy.


Tuesday, April 01, 2008

"And so I said to that heifer..."

I took these photos on the way home from dropping off esposo at work today. Aren't they cute? A few years back, Sylli and Treeza came down for a visit and we all were driving around the Nicoya Peninsula and came upon a big herd of cows in the road (as one is likely to do in this country full of cows). We beeped, yelled, tried everything to get them out of the way, and then I mooed at them. That was a poor choice. Then the cows started to come after the car. After we escaped the herd of angry cattle, we all had a good laugh about it.

I think this picture is just itching for a good caption. The cow on the right seems to be saying something to the cow on the left, like, "Check out that stupid Gringa taking pictures of us." Anyone out there want to caption this photo, ala AC 360?

LOLCOWS in the making?
"I can avoid being made into cheezeburger?"
"I can has grass... no, the other kind!"

Cows in Costa Rica? Moo... (That's cow for por supuesto!)


And so the rape begins...

When we moved into this house in November of last year, we had a beautiful, unobstructed view of the central valley. Of course, I just knew that wouldn't last long.

To the right, you can see someone is starting to build a new housing development:

To the left, they've been bulldozing trees and other greenery to clear a flat area. We're not sure if they're going to build on it yet or if they're just clearing it for planting. This was the view a couple of days ago. You can see the plateau through the trees.

This was the scene this morning, when I awoke to the smell of burning.

Welcome to Costa Rica, where everything is available to the highest bidder.