"Green iguanas are generally arboreal, meaning that they live in trees. Their long claws are superb adaptations for this lifestyle. Although they may appear to be quite clumsy as they tip over your furniture, knock things off shelves and fall off of perches, they are quite good climbers. They spend the majority of the day high in the forest canopy, and venture to the ground only to move from tree to tree, to mate, and to lay eggs. They are also good swimmers and jumpers."Son will be pleased to know I found the answer.
Friday, May 30, 2008
On the way back home, at the toll booth before the airport, the ticker-sign thing said something like (in Spanish, of course), "MOPT has been responding to an average of 60 accidents every 3 hours -- Do not leave your house unless absolutely necessary!" Yikes.
By the time we got home, though, around 3 in the afternoon, the rain had let up. This morning, I awoke to the sounds of iguanas scrabbling around on the roof and a beautiful, bright, sunshiney day. Hooray!
On a side note, son asked me why iguanas don't like rain and where they go when it rains. While explaining the difference between endothermy and ectothermy to him was difficult, I actually had no idea where they go when it rains. That's on our knowledge quest for the day.
And on a related note, can I say how much it totally and completely sucks not to have a dryer in this weather? My dish towels and rags have been hanging on the outside line since before the storm began, I think almost a week now. Since the sun is actually out today, they may get dry. One can only hope. I had a load of clothes hanging on the line that is covered by the porch, and they still weren't completely dry after four days. If you are thinking of buying a used appliance from that guy in Santa Ana who imports them directly, can I just warn you against that? The gas dryer we bought that never worked properly is now sitting at a repair shop waiting for a $100 computer card from the U.S., which I refuse to buy, so it will be sitting there for a long, long time. In other words, if I had simply flushed $300 down the toilet instead of buying the used gas dryer, it would have been less hassle. So, I am in need of another dryer, and if anyone out there is selling a good used one under $300, please let me know. Not gas this time. I tried, I really did, but I'm not going that route. Unless, of course, you have all of the connections for it already attached. It took us six months to get the attachments to the other dryer, after which we discovered the dryer did not actually turn on. And of course it was no longer under warranty... asi es...
Monday, May 26, 2008
Besides being a massive invasion of privacy, here are a few other reasons why I think this idea sucks.
- Of all of the people who hold Costa Rican driver's licenses, what percentage of those do you think will be in a car accident? And of that percentage, how many do you think will be in a car accident serious enough to require a blood transfusion? I'm just guessing here, but I'd think a very miniscule percentage overall. Is it worth the expense for this very small percentage of people needing a blood transfusion after a car accident to make it worthwhile?
- Don't most ambulances carry "universal donor" blood anyway? Wouldn't that just be easier?
- If you were in a serious car accident, and, let's say you're a woman like me who carries her life in her purse, would you want the paramedics scrambling to try to find your license and then find your blood type, or would you rather they just take some blood there at the scene and type it and give you the transfusion? I mean, how long does it take? A minute? Two?
- What if the DMV makes a mistake in your blood typing and you end up getting the wrong blood transfusion in the ambulance? (Ooh, I know the answer to this one! You die.)
- What if you're in a car with several other people and in the confusion, you end up getting the wrong blood because you look a lot like your friend, who happened to have been sitting next to you? (See answer to #4.)
- Wouldn't the paramedics have to type your blood anyway, just to be safe?
Friday, May 23, 2008
As an example. A friend of mine who has lived most her life in Costa Rica, speaks Spanish like a native, but whose parents are Gringo and Nica, is not considered a Tico. She's around my age; she's lived here just about forever. If she ever has kids, they will be considered Tico, but she never will. It's just the way things are here, culturally.
The other thing is that (and I'm saying this from my own experience plus the experience of people I know personally and people I don't but whom I've written about) it can be hard to make friends with Ticos if you're not from Latin America (and even if you are, to some degree). I don't know what it is, but Ticos are very closed off to people who are not Ticos. (They can talk quite a bit of smack in regards to Nicas, Panamanians, Mexicans, Colombians, etc., let me tell you!) Again, I think it's just cultural and I don't really let it affect me. All of my friends here are either Americans, Brits or Canadians (with a few other random nationalities thrown in the mix for good measure :-) ). I don't really take offense, and neither should you. It's just the way it is.
Despite what you may have heard, cats actually do hear you when you call their names. Whether they choose to respond or not is up to them. Most of my cats will come when I call them, except, of course, Olivia. There have been times when I've freaked out looking all over for her, looking in the backyard, looking around the neighboorhood in the pouring rain, when all along she was asleep in some closet somewhere, and after all of this looking around the neighborhood in pouring rain, coming back into the house very upset that I can't find her, she comes strolling out of wherever she's been hiding, yawning, as if to say, oh hey what's up?
She likes to knock glasses (full or otherwise) from the kitchen counter onto the floor in the middle of the night. "Oh hey does this one make noise? Hm, nope. Ok, how about this one? No, not that one either..." More than one morning I have had to get up at the crack of dawn to clean up broken glass.
She does meow, or rather growl-meow, at Phoebe not-quite-a-kitten-anymore. Since Olivia was the only one who would give Phoebe the time of day, Phoebe sort of adopted Olivia as her mama-cat. They still play together, or rather Phoebe pounces on Olivia whenever she has the chance. To this Olivia will sometimes growl, if she's irritated enough. Otherwise, you could hear a pin drop when they play together, they are so quiet. It's as though Phoebe picked up Olivia's habit of quietness when the two of them are together. She (Phoebe, that is) does meow at me, though.
Olivia lately has been tapping me on the leg when I'm sitting here at the computer and she wants some lovin'. The other cats meow, but I suppose by now she's figured out that since she can't hear anything, maybe I can't either, so she'd better tap me just to make sure I know she's there. It's so cute.
She is the only one who doesn't run and hide during a thunderstorm (for obvious reasons). Actually, she seems fascinated by rain, and sits by the back door or the sliding doors for a very long time, just watching the rain fall.
Anyway. I don't know why I wanted to tell you about my cat today. I suppose because it's a funky, overcast, rainy crappy day and cats are always good at snuggling up to you while you watch movies all day long. Or maybe it's just me who does that? I bet the rest of you out there are far too motivated to sit and watch the telly all day with your cats.
In other news, I have finally got some freelance work that will keep me busy until October-November. Hooray! I haven't done much of anything since January. Well, except be a stay-at-home mom to a three-year-old, and quite frankly, that's a job in and of itself. But I still need to do that other kind of work that actually pays you with money.
And, along with starting my new work stuff yesterday, I got in the mail an ARC (advance reader copy) of a book that I signed up for though LibraryThing's Early Reviewer program. How fun to get free books! You can choose the books that look interesting to you each month, and then they select people based on various criteria (not that I know what those are, necessarily, as this is the first time I've ever gotten an ARC). So far the book is great! (Just for fun, if you go to this list and correctly guess which book I received, I'll send it to you when I'm finished.) So I should mention that I don't just watch the telly on boring, rainy days, I also read. There you go. My (not so) exciting life in Costa Rica these days!
Wednesday, May 21, 2008
For each onion, you need:
1 tsp. each olive oil, balsamic vinegar, brown or raw sugar, panko or regular breadcrumbs
salt and pepper to taste
Take the onion and cut off the top (stem end). Peel off the outer layer, leaving the root end intact. Cut into the top of the onion so it looks like a pizza with 6 slices; make sure not to go all the way through the onion (make it so the onion is held together at the root end). Stick the onion in a piece of tinfoil; top with olive oil, vinegar, brown sugar, and breadcrumbs. Salt and pepper to taste. Twist up the tinfoil and throw it on the grill. It is ready to eat when soft and almost translucent. Tastes great with veggie dogs! Though personally I can just eat it by itself.
If you can get sweet corn in the husks, use that, peeling back the husk but not removing it. If you get sweet corn like we do in Costa Rica, stick it in a square of tinfoil. Add to each ear a pat of margarine, the juice from half a lime, and a good sprinkle of your favorite chili (I like cayenne; powdered chipotle is also really good). Put the husk back on or wrap up in tinfoil, and throw it on the grill. Make sure when you unwrap it to smear the marg-chili mix, otherwise you might get a mouth full of chili flames!
Tuesday, May 20, 2008
Gone are the days when vegetarians were served up a plate of iceberg lettuce and a dull-as-dishwater baked potato. With the growing variety of vegetarian faux meats like bacon and sausages — along with an ever-expanding variety of vegetarian cookbooks and restaurants — vegetarianism has taken the world by storm.
With World Vegetarian Week beginning on Monday, here without further ado are PETA’s picks for the top 10 reasons to give vegetarian eating a try.
1. Helping Animals Also Helps the Global Poor
While there is ample and justified moral indignation about the diversion of 100 million tons of grain for biofuels, more than seven times as much (760 million tons) is fed to farmed animals so that people can eat meat. Is the diversion of crops to our cars a moral issue? Yes, but it’s about one-eighth the issue that meat-eating is. Care about global poverty? Try vegetarianism.
2. Eating Meat Supports Cruelty to Animals
The green pastures and idyllic barnyard scenes of years past are now distant memories. On today’s factory farms, animals are crammed by the thousands into filthy windowless sheds, wire cages, gestation crates, and other confinement systems. These animals will never raise families, root in the soil, build nests, or do anything else that is natural and important to them. They won’t even get to feel the warmth of the sun on their backs or breathe fresh air until the day they are loaded onto trucks bound for slaughter.
3. Eating Meat Is Bad for the Environment
A recent United Nations report entitled Livestock’s Long Shadow concludes that eating meat is “one of the … most significant contributors to the most serious environmental problems, at every scale from local to global.” In just one example, eating meat causes almost 40 percent more greenhouse-gas emissions than all the cars, trucks, and planes in the world combined. The report concludes that the meat industry “should be a major policy focus when dealing with problems of land degradation, climate change and air pollution, water shortage and water pollution, and loss of biodiversity.”
4. Avoid Bird Flu
The World Health Organization says that if the avian flu virus mutates, it could be caught simply by eating undercooked chicken flesh or eggs, eating food prepared on the same cutting board as infected meat or eggs, or even touching eggshells contaminated with the disease. Other problems with factory farming — from foot-and-mouth to SARS — can be avoided with a general shift to a vegetarian diet.
5. If You Wouldn’t Eat a Dog, You Shouldn’t Eat a Chicken
Several recent studies have shown that chickens are bright animals who are able to solve complex problems, demonstrate self-control, and worry about the future. Chickens are smarter than cats and dogs and even do some things that have not yet been seen in mammals other than primates. Dr. Chris Evans, who studies animal behavior and communication at Macquarie University in Australia, says, “As a trick at conferences, I sometimes list these attributes, without mentioning chickens and people think I’m talking about monkeys.”
6. Heart Disease: Our Number One Killer
Healthy vegetarian diets support a lifetime of good health and provide protection against numerous diseases, including the United States’ three biggest killers: heart disease, cancer, and strokes. Drs. Dean Ornish and Caldwell Esselstyn — two doctors with 100 percent success in preventing and reversing heart disease — have used a vegan diet to accomplish it, as chronicled most recently in Dr. Esselstyn’s Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease, which documents his 100 percent success rate for unclogging people’s arteries and reversing heart disease.
7. Cancer: Our Number Two Killer
Dr. T. Colin Campbell is one of the world’s foremost epidemiological scientists and the director of what The New York Times called “the most comprehensive large study ever undertaken of the relationship between diet and the risk of developing disease.” Dr. Campbell’s best-selling book, The China Study, is a must-read for anyone who is concerned about cancer. To summarize it, Dr. Campbell states, “No chemical carcinogen is nearly so important in causing human cancer as animal protein.”
8. Fitting Into That Itty-Bitty Bikini
Vegetarianism is also the ultimate weight-loss diet, since vegetarians are one-third as likely to be obese as meat-eaters are, and vegans are about one-tenth as likely to be obese. Of course, there are overweight vegans, just as there are skinny meat-eaters. But on average, vegans are 10 to 20 percent lighter than meat-eaters. A vegetarian diet is the only diet that has passed peer review and taken weight off and kept it off.
9. Global Peace
Leo Tolstoy claimed that “vegetarianism is the taproot of humanitarianism.” His point? For people who wish to sow the seeds of peace, we should be eating as peaceful a diet as possible. Eating meat supports killing animals, for no reason other than humans’ acquired taste for animals’ flesh. Great humanitarians from Leo Tolstoy and Mahatma Gandhi to Thich Nhat Hanh have argued that a vegetarian diet is the only diet for people who want to make the world a kinder place.
10. The Joy of Veggies
As the growing range of vegetarian cookbooks and restaurants shows, vegetarian foods rock. People report that when they adopt a vegetarian diet, their range of foods explodes from a center-of-the-plate meat item to a range of grains, legumes, fruits, and vegetables that they didn’t even know existed.
Sir Paul McCartney sums it all up, “If anyone wants to save the planet, all they have to do is just stop eating meat. That’s the single most important thing you could do. It’s staggering when you think about it. Vegetarianism takes care of so many things in one shot: ecology, famine, cruelty.”
So are you ready to give it a try? Check out VegCooking.com for recipes and meal plans and to take the World Vegetarian Week 7-Day Pledge.
Bruce Friedrich is vice president for campaigns at PETA. Before joining PETA in 1996, Bruce spent six years running a shelter for homeless families and the largest soup kitchen in Washington, D.C. He has been a progressive and animal activist for more than 20 years.
My personal note: Reason #11 is that meat-eaters are complicit in the murder of gray wolves, wild horses and burros, bison and other wildlife that roam on public lands and are considered a "threat" to livestock. So next time you eat that burger, say a prayer for all of the other animals that were killed to make it along with the cow itself.
Sunday, May 18, 2008
Costa Rica is ranked #36 on the WHO's ranking of world health systems. The U.S. is #37.
Here in Costa Rica, everyone has access to emergency medicine. Yes, they want you to pay for it and will ask you for either your social security information or your relatives, but failing to provide either will not get you ejected from a public emergency room. For other, non-life-threatening procedures, you will have to pay into the social security system and probably have to wait quite some time to either see a doctor or have the procedure done at a public hospital. Paying into social security is not difficult and is dependent on one's income. For example, esposo has social security insurance at work that also covers me and our son, but he pays into it from his paycheck each month. This allows us to go to any public hospital or clinic for anything, but like I said, I have not heard of anyone being turned away for an inability to pay.
Some anecdotal observations:
- Several years ago, when we were struggling to make ends meet, esposo fell and tore the meniscus in his knee. This required surgery, so he went to the hospital to which we were assigned (San Juan de Dios in San Jose), saw a doctor during regular hours at his practice outside of the hospital, and set up an appointment to have the surgery done. Admittedly, the surgery could not be done for quite a few months (six if I remember correctly), but when you have no other real option, what do you do. After the surgery, they put a cast on his entire leg (which I thought was not good medical practice, considering most doctors in the U.S. would put a removable brace on it, thus encouraging some movement and rehabilitation of the knee), and he could not get an appointment to have it removed until a month after it was supposed to actually be removed (I think it was supposed to be taken off at 8 weeks and the appointment was for 3 months later). We ended up taking a hacksaw to it and removing it at home.
- When son was about two years old, he fell off one of the bridges at the University for Peace park and into a dry (thankfully) creek bed, injuring his back and hitting his head. I was freaked out; he was screaming all the way from U Peace back to Ciudad Colon (which is a good 20 minute drive at the least). When I got there, I took him to the nearest public clinic, where they asked me for his information (was he Tico, did I have his i.d. number [no of course not because I'm never prepared!], etc.). Even though I couldn't give them all of the information they needed, and didn't have any money with me to pay, they took all the info they could and asked us to wait to see a doctor. After about half an hour (though it seemed longer), we were seen by a clinic physician, who checked our son over thoroughly and said that he looked fine, just to keep an eye on him and watch out for signs of concussion (he didn't have one, by the way). Cost: $0.
- When you have a kid, something is bound to happen. Like shutting your child's hand in a door. I was worried that his hand was broken, so we looked for a doctor in town (couldn't find one open after 5), called our own doc on his emergency line (who said he was probably ok but we might get an x-ray to be sure), and finally went to the private hospital CIMA in Escazu. Went to the ER, where he was seen by a doctor about 10 minutes after we arrived (do you think that would happen in the U.S.? I daresay probably not.). The doctor looked at his hand, felt the bones, and was pretty sure there were no broken bones, but suggested we have an x-ray done anyway. So we waited about another half hour to be taken up to the x-ray room, where son's hand was x-rayed, back down to the ER room to wait for the doctor to read the x-ray, and after being pronounced whole and healthy, out for ice cream. The total cost for this emergency room visit, including x-rays, at a private hospital was about $75. Yes, we could have gone to the public hospital for free, but the wait would have been much longer, and with a screaming toddler I just would rather go to CIMA.
- In fact, I'd rather go to CIMA any time I have a choice. It is a top-notch facility, and we've always been treated there much better than at any hospital I've been to in the U.S., and I've gotten better service and better care. CIMA is associated with Baylor University in Texas, and is considered one of the top hospitals in Latin America. So when I went to have a growth removed from my leg, CIMA was the only place I considered. My doctor is also at CIMA; she charged me $60 for the office visit (which was actually her charge for a whole OB-GYN workup, including a PAP and ultrasound). And it wasn't a five-minute, in-out visit; she took a good 15 minutes talking to me about my history, my family, my future plans for more children or not, etc. The exam itself took another 25 or so minutes; she was very careful and thorough, unlike my previous OB-GYN in the U.S. (as has been my experience with other doctors here in Costa Rica; I've never had an office visit under half an hour here). Anyway, she noticed a growth on my leg and asked me if I wanted to have it removed; I definitely did, so we set up an appointment to have me come into CIMA for the outpatient procedure the following week. I arrived, checked in, got wheeled up to the surgery room, and the whole thing was over in a couple of hours. Then I went back downstairs to recovery, where I have to say, the nicest nurse I've ever had put on the cable for me, brought me some pillows and blankets, brought me a cup of tea (tea! he brought me tea!), besides taking my vitals and pronouncing me ready to go (but only after he was sure I rested for at least half an hour). I spent all together most of a morning there, and afterwards felt pretty great and was never pressured to hurry up and leave. Total cost: less than $200, including my doctor's fees, anesthesiologist, and rental fees for the surgical room. The biopsy was another $50 (negative, thank you very much!). I think you can see why I would choose to pay the miniscule amount to have a procedure done at CIMA by a doctor I know rather than go through the public system for free and have to wait for a spot to open up at the hospital. Plus, I sort of feel like even though we pay for the public system, I'd rather not burden it any more than it already is when we have the ability to pay for private care.
So do I believe the U.S. should have universal health care? I believe everyone should have access to health care, regardless of their ability to pay. No child should die from an infected tooth, for example; no cancer patient should be denied treatment because of their lack of insurance. This is inhumane and simply wrong. Call me a socialist commie, I really don't care! Yes, so we do pay into Costa Rica's public health system even though I prefer not to use it if possible. Do I feel angry or bitter about this? Not at all. We've used the system in the past when we couldn't pay, and now that we can, one more low-income/no-income mom/child/husband/grandma can get treated for free when they need it. I'd rather have it this way, than the way the U.S. does it now, where you pay exorbitant rates for insurance that you may or may not get to keep if you loose your job, and which that doesn't necessarily cover every treatment or prescription you might need; where you're always one catastrophic event away from being bankrupt.
Saturday, May 17, 2008
It was difficult for her for a long time, because she doesn't speak English and our son's first language is English, not Spanish. I recall one time, when our son was first babbling and learning to speak, that she said to esposo, "I have no idea what he's saying!" and esposo said, "Well, don't worry, neither do we!" It was pretty funny at the time. Then, as his language skills improved, he'd get very frustrated with her when she didn't understand him. We explained over and over that Grandma speaks Spanish and you speak English, so you have to try to help her learn some English, and you learn some Spanish from her. That way you can talk to each other. I'd say within the last six to eight months, his Spanish has improved by leaps and bounds. At first, he would only speak Spanish with his Grandma, refusing to speak Spanish with anyone else. Now, though, it's pretty cool to see that not only is his Spanish very good, but he will speak Spanish with other kids who don't speak English. For example, I was at my friend A.'s house a couple of weeks ago; she speaks French, Spanish and English, and her middle son (who is about my son's age) speaks French and Spanish. Her older son speaks French, English and Spanish (at five years old; and yes, I am impressed!). At first, my son tried English with A.'s middle son, and that didn't work, so he switched to Spanish. They played for a while, conversing in Spanish all the while, and then the older son came home from school, and my son started speaking with him in English. I find the whole language acquisition process completely fascinating. I wondered, before my son was born, if kids who grew up in a multi-lingual household ever got confused, or if they understood the concept of "this is English, this is Spanish." Now that I see how my son is going through the process, I can see that he does understand the concept of two separate languages. When he goes into "Spanglish," I see that it is an attempt to try to say something in one language or the other that he doesn't quite know, using language rules that he does know. For example, this morning, he said to me, "Can I have un esnacka?" which was pretty funny! (I don't even know the Spanish word for "snack." The sign at the grocery store says "Snacks," so maybe there isn't a direct translation.) A lot of the time he will say to his Grandma, "Give me eso," though I think the more he gains Spanish, the less Spanglish he'll use.
Back to Grandma. It has been so beneficial to our son to have her around, in many ways. As far as the Spanish is concerned, son just picks up more and more every time he's around her, because he has no choice but to learn and use Spanish. Plus, he adores his Grandma, and he likes spending time with her, so that in itself has been great, as I have no relatives here in Costa Rica, and very few relatives anywhere to begin with. Ok, she and I will probably never be close friends (certainly I will never really be accepted as part of the family, no matter how long esposo and I are married), but she accepts and loves my son unconditionally, and what mother could ask for more?
P.S. Can I just add here that the woman is a coffee-drinking machine? Jeez Louise, I've never seen anyone drink so much black coffee in my life! I do like one, two at most cups with Silk and sugar a day; she's making a pot in the morning, a pot in the afternoon, and it's usually down to drops by the time I smell it, so I end up having to make my own. It's kind of incredible! And she's in her 60s. And she falls asleep by 8. Me, I'd be bouncing off walls, floors, ceilings with that much caffeine in me.
In other news, something fell on the roof last night, probably a big branch from the very, very tall tree behind our house, and must have loosened a tile or something up there, because an iguana got in to my ceiling this morning and I heard it scrabbling around just over my head. Since Kiki Monster also goes up into the ceiling (because, you know, an architectural "feature" of this house is several square, open holes over the front door through which Kiki and Olivia jump to get into the ceiling), I was worried she'd get into it with the iguana. But I think that the back of the house and the front of the house have separate ceiling spaces, if that makes any sense. It will be weird to leave the iguanas when we leave this house. I feed them scraps every morning and now they don't even run off when they see me throwing food up on the roof; they actually run toward it! We have a new iguana (I think it's a green iguana whereas most of the others are grayish-green garrobos) with the back spikes and throat wattles and everything. He/she is quite beautiful, very different from the others (who are smaller). I think it's a he because he does that head-bobbing thing that male iguanas do to attract female iguanas, and I have seen Stumpy Stumpleton cozy up to him, so who knows? Maybe Stumpy is a female after all and iguana love is in the air!
Wednesday, May 14, 2008
Instead, I thought we'd go shopping and then over to Nau at the Intercontinental Hotel in Escazu and then have dinner somewhere, preferably Bacchus. Well. Best-laid plans and all that...
I wanted to see if there was anything this kinda fat girl could fit into at Aliss, because sometimes they do have "large" sizes (not really large, just L, which is really like M here) that can almost fit somewhat large people. I found a great pair of pants, but nothing else. Being my birthday, of course esposo had to go shopping, too, and bought a bunch of stuff for himself. I ask you, was that rude or what? (Yes, dear, it was. It was rude of you to shop on my shopping day.) Then on to Nau.
Nau was horrible. It used to be a cool, lounge-y type place with great music, relaxed atmosphere, and extensive drink list (with something like 50 different mixed sake drinks). Not anymore. A real circa-1975 lounge act was playing when we went in (anyone remember Barry Manilow's Mandy? Oh yeah. Manders I thought of you, girl!), and the drinks menu is gone. I really wanted to order something off of their menu, and the rather stupid waitress was like, well, tell me what you want and I'll just have the bartender make it! No, no, I want to know what you have. A cosmo is not going to cut it on my freaking birthday! Never mind, I'll just have water. So she brings us two half bottles of Evian (Naive? Yes we were.), and esposo orders a vodka and soda with a twist. That's it. I'm ready to leave about 10 minutes after we arrive, so we get the check and ... wait for it... $6 for a half-bottle of Evian! Oh fuck! Are you kidding me? So the total bill for two half-bottles of Evian and one vodka soda was something like $18. Nau is so then. I will never go back there again.
After getting that bill, I was starting to get a migraine, but somehow esposo talked me into having dinner instead of going home. We first tried Bacchus in Santa Ana, but if you don't have a reservation on a Friday night, you can pretty much forget it. Which is too bad, because it looked wonderful. We wanted to try somewhere we hadn't been, so I thought, how about Essentia? It's just outside of Ciudad Colon, and esposo said, why not, so there we went. First off, the building is amazing. It's an older house completely decorated with artistic flair everywhere. The courtyard was booked (note to self: make reservations!), so we sat in what was like a patio. There isn't all that much vegan food on the menu, but I did order the summer rolls, miso soup and a salad. Personally, both the summer rolls and miso soup were entirely too heavy on mushrooms for me, but if you like mushrooms, like esposo does, you'll probably quite enjoy them. I didn't. I did, however, love the salad. It was simple: baby arugula, cherry tomatoes, and pesto dressing. That's it. Yet, it was the best salad I have ever had. Ever. Hands down. So I ordered a "giant" salad, though what came was what I'd call a side salad (and actually the bill showed I was charged for half a salad). I really could have eaten four or five of those salads. At the end of dinner, they brought us out a little chocolate terrine on a spoon; just a taste, but honestly I don't think I could have eaten more than that. Quite rich and delicious. Esposo also had a four-cheese pasta (again with mushrooms -- bleh!), though he said it was disappointing. And the meal came with homemade bread and two different kinds of spreads -- yum! Anyway. I'd definitely go back there for salad and desert. What more do you need, really? Oh and wine. Salad, desert and wine.
Happy birthday to me! Did I tell you I'm 40 now? Yep. The big 4-0.
Here are a few things that leaf-cutter ants seem to like (and thus, if you have an ant-infested lot, you may wish to learn from my costly experience):
- Roses. They can devour a rosebush in a matter of hours.
- Scorpion tails. I actually don't know what these are really called in English; I'm translating from Spanish here. Hummingbirds and butterflies love them; so do leaf-cutter ants.
- Hydrangeas. Forget it.
- Gerbera daisies. They even take the petals off all of the flowers.
- Orchid trees (buy a big one and it should be okay; they keep eating the leaves off of my little one every time it tries to come back).
- Pomegranate trees (same suggestion as above).
- Canna lilies.
- Raspberry canes.
- Bird of paradise flowers. Mostly the leaves, thus not actually giving the flower itself a chance to, well, flower.
- Butterfly weed.
- Most herbs, including parsley, lavender, and basil.
- Not much else.
The ants are so-so on passionflower/maracuya/passaflora so far. Sometimes they cut them down, sometimes they don't. I think if they have better plants to destroy, such as my beautiful roses or scorpion tail plants, they'll leave the passafloras alone.
Well, today I put all of my roses in pots, so let's see how they do.
And just for fun, here are some pics of leaf-cutter ants doing what they do best:
Monday, May 05, 2008
Sharkwater on Blu-ray Disc: Review By Brandon A. DuHamel
Canadian underwater filmmaker, photographer, and biologist Rob Stewart set out in 2002 to make a film -- his very first -- about sharks, with the modest aspiration of, to paraphrase, capturing some pretty pictures and debunking some of the myths about sharks as gruesome killing machines. He hoped, at the very least, to enlighten some people along the way. Read more...
The making of Sharkwater:
Rising crime in Costa Rica
01 May 2008Renowned for being one of the safest countries in Central America, Costa Rica is beginning to suffer from increasing rates of violent crime and murder. An April 2008 opinion poll indicated that Costa Ricans view insecurity as the most important issue facing the government, even above the rising cost of living. Read more...
Sunday, May 04, 2008
We just so happened to visit the park on a day when they were having a Dutch festival. We tried Dutch cheese, liquors, beer, and crepes. The crepes were so delicious, I could have eaten a dozen. And they were a fargin' bargin at 200 colones (about 40 cents) each, filled with Dutch applesauce, cinnamon, and two kinds of sugar. Yum. I also saw that the guy had real licorice, which I love and can never find here, so he was kind enough to offer me several pieces of that. I also picked up some little necklaces made by a couple of girls, the purchase of which benefited the burn unit at the children's hospital. One of the little girls had what looked like third degree burns over most of her body, and I tell you, she was so positive and outgoing and sweet, that I thought to myself, I have nothing to complain about. Not lines at Banco Crapional, not Tico Time, nothing. Our son picked out two necklaces for his girl friends (shhh, don't tell them!), and though I thought he got the black one for I. who loves to wear black, he actually wanted it for himself. ;-)
Aside from the wonderful food and drink tasting, there was the fun of the park itself. If you live here and have never been, it's one of my favorite places to spend the day. You can go through a rain forest, visit a butterfly garden, walk underneath a freshwater lake, and visit a typical Tico finca. Our son just loves it there, and one thing that I think is great about him is that he never lacks for enthusiasm. "Come on! Come on, you guys! Look at this! It's a crocodile! Wow! There's an iguana! Hurry up! Over here!" and so on.
I pet a little pig and a couple of bunnies, which made me miss my bunnies so much more than I already do. The pig was so cute. It ran over to the fence, grunting little pig noises all the way, and put his head right up to my hand. The whole thing reminded me of the quote by Franz Kafka: "Now I can look at you in peace; I don't eat you anymore." I don't really know how you could get to know a pig or a chicken and continue to eat them; I guess people do, though. I still miss my chickens.
Well, anyway. I took some photos but haven't downloaded them to the computer yet. I'll have a few to show you tomorrow. Good night, all.
Friday, May 02, 2008
So yesterday is May 1, Labor Day, a national holiday. I actually knew this on April 30, because my car payment and rent are due on the first, so esposo and I were talking about how the banks would probably be closed on Thursday. Still, we both got up Thursday morning and went into San Jose to first make the car payment, then pay the rent. When we pulled into Banco Cuscatlan's parking lot, and saw that there were no cars in a usually full parking lot, we realized what stupid shits we had been, and that we'd driven all that way for nothing.
I had talked to D.'s husband earlier in the day because I wanted to see if he knew anything about Monster Jam and where we could get tickets. It should have dawned on me at that point that, since he answered the phone at home and obviously had the day off, that many businesses would be closed. (This was actually Clue #2.) But no. It did not.
Even before that, C. e-mailed me about playgroup for this week (which didn't happen at all, apparently) because her husband had the day off and wanted to meet the adult half of playgroup. Clue #1.
If esposo and I could have bought a clue that day, I'm not sure we'd have been able to find anyone selling one.
But, in the end, we had lunch at the Plaza Mayor Food Court; Pau Tu Tu's Chinese cuisine, which I have to admit was some of the best Chinese food I've had in this country. They give you gigantic plates full of food for not much. Esposo had the fried tofu thing; I had ma po tofu, and son had noodles with veggies. I think this is probably the best food to be had in the food court at Plaza Mayor.
Afterwards, we went to C.'s house and the kids played all afternoon. So it ended up being a good day, and I didn't even have to use my AK.
Today rolls around, and I still need to go do the car payment and the rent payment. Wouldn't life be easier if I could write a check, stick a stamp on an envelope, and drop it in the mail? Yes, it would. It would take me all of five minutes, maybe. Instead, you people up there in the developed world can laugh at what I had to go through to pay two bills. You people living here in Costa Rica can sympathize with me, because either you've been through something similar, or you will, given enough time in the country.
The car loan is through Promerica. My money is in Banco Cusc. I thought there might be a Promerica closer than San Jose, so I found on their website that indeed, there is one in Alajuela. Also the site of Cusc and Banco
They are building boulevards in downtown Alajuela. So a whole bunch of streets are closed off while they're under construction. You really have no idea from one week to the next which streets will be closed and which will be open. Esposo assured me the street I needed to go up was open, and in fact it was, but unfortunately, a moron in an SUV and a moron in a taxi ran into each other, blocking all traffic in both directions until the INS could get there. So you had people driving the wrong way on a one-way street to get out of this mess (including me, I'll admit that!), making more of a mess in the process. Finally, I managed to get out of the mess, and drive through exceedingly slow traffic for the next 40 minutes trying to figure out which streets were closed and which were open and which would take me past Llobet (and thus past Promerica). When I finally found Llobet, I had gone as far as the TUASA bus station and backtracked, then at last! Promerica! I think we arrived around 1:00-ish, and there were about 20 people waiting in line ahead of us, with two cashiers open. We finally managed to get out of there around 2:00, and headed for Banco Crapional (if I've said it once, I've said it a thousand times -- why anyone in their right mind would get an account there if they didn't need to is beyond me). As we're driving down the road, I realize that Promerica is only one block over from Banco Cuscatlan, and I could have avoided the entire driving-through-boulevards-and-closed-streets-and-slow-traffic thing altogether, had I purchased a clue beforehand.
Banco Crapional also has a drive through, however, since this is the most-used bank in the country, there were at least four cars in each of the five open lanes. When I finally got up there (somewhere in the vicinity of 2:30), I asked for a simple transaction: I wanted to take money from the Crapional account and put it in my landlord's Crapional account. "We can't do transfers at the drive through," was the response. Oh, and this is after I waited an extra five minutes just for the cashier to even answer the call button. Did I tell you we are all on Tico time here? Indeed. Well, you can imagine I was working on a migraine at this point. I was like, Como? WTF? "No can do lady." Crap. Crap crap crap and many other expletives inserted here.
As I'm driving away, I think to myself, why didn't he just do a withdrawal, and let me put that money in the landlord's account? So I figure I'll go to the drive through in Grecia at La Fabrica and try this tactic. It's now closing in on 3:00, and pouring down rain. I am third car in line here, which moves a hell of a lot faster than the line in Alajuela. It's finally my turn, so I ask to do a withdrawal. The cashier at this Banco Crapional is much more pleasant than the one in Alajuela, but he tells me, sorry, no withdrawals at the drive through. I would have to go inside. Now there is no point in asking why you can't withdraw money at the drive through, like I can at the other four banks at which I have accounts, but I can tell you why: Because Banco Crapional is Crap On A Stick. Ok, thank you anyway. I park the car, take out son and head for the inside of the bank. There are like 50 people waiting in line (there were even more in Alajuela). I say, fuck this! and go instead to buy us some crappy burritos and let son play a game of Jurassic Park (he likes shooting the velociraptors, even though I'm actually doing the shooting on the sly with the other gun, otherwise the game would be over in seconds).
By 4:45 I've given up for the day on trying to pay the rent; I've already spent more than three hours and have only managed to make one payment. The rent will just have to wait until Monday. Hey! We're all on Tico time anyway.
I get home and try to buy tickets to Monster Jam online. I know what you all are thinking (monster trucks? what the--?), and all I can say is, if you had a son, you'd probably be going to Monster Jam, too! The specialtickets.com site is not working, or probably I'm too late as they stop selling tickets 48 hours before the event starts. Supposedly, you can also buy tickets online through Banco Crapional, but I have not for the life of me been able to find the link to do so (and it's not like I'm technically inept; the link is just not there). So I have no Monster Jam tickets, and if they are not selling them at the gate I have one little boy who is going to be seriously bummed out. It's not like Monster Jam ever comes to Latin America; this is pretty much it.
Sigh. Crap. And as L. would say, Pants. I'm so mad we drank all the wine last night, because I could really use about five or six glasses right now.
1. Carry a ziploc baggie of dog food in your car at all times. If you already have dogs at home, this one is pretty easy to do. Even better is to carry a can of dog food, especially for pregnant and nursing homeless female dogs who can really use the extra fat and protein. Homeless dogs don't worry about a doggie dish, just dump it on the ground and it will soon be devoured. Often, pet food supply stores and veterinary offices will be given sample-size packages of dog food by dog food companies; I take as many as they'll let me carry and keep them in the car for strays. I tell the vet or salesperson what I'm doing with them, so they don't think I'm just trying to feed my own dogs on the cheap, and they're usually more than happy for me to take extra.
2. Carry a pack of disposable paper bowls and a bottle of water (tap is just fine, as long as it's clean) for the strays, too. With the crap (both literally and figuratively) that is dumped in the gutters here, it breaks my heart to see dogs drinking out of the gutters.
3. If you can get close enough that the dog will let you pet it, cut off any tight collars or wire that may be around the animal's neck. You might want to pack a pair of wire cutters and/or scissors in your car as well (these can also come in handy for the occasional car jacking and yes I'm being facetious!).
4. If possible, take the dog to the nearest shelter. Yes, they will probably ask you to pay to take the dog in. I know it's annoying (they should be charging people to adopt instead, IMHO). What else were you going to do with that money? If you can afford it (I realize not all of us can), save a life instead. Think of what your $40 or so will buy -- a loving and deserving dog the chance at a new life. If you're picking up a pregnant or nursing mama dog, please please please be sure to take all of the puppies, too, otherwise they will surely die on the streets without her.
I know a lot of people are going to say they just don't have the time to stop for every stray they see, and aren't there so many of them, what difference are you going to make anyway. To that, all I can say is this: I'd rather be the person who's five minutes later because I stopped to feed a starving dog. Let's face it, we're all on Tico time anyway, what's an extra five minutes? How sad this world would be if no one ever stopped to help anyone because we just didn't have time. And yes, it can seem an insurmountable challenge to help the strays in Costa Rica; perhaps the problem won't even be solved in my lifetime. That's okay. I once read a quote that went something like, you can't save every stray in the world, but you can change the world of every stray you save. So instead of forwarding on that e-mail about the one starving dog who is already dead and gone, sad and sick as that was, how about we all make a small commitment to help the strays that are here, that we pass every single day, as best we can?
press release in response to the tremendous outpouring of public concern over a 2007 art exhibition by Costa Rican artist Guillermo Habacuc Vargas that featured an emaciated dog. Because reports on the duration of the exhibit and the condition and fate of the dog vary widely—including those issued from the Nicaraguan gallery involved and Vargas himself—it is impossible at this time to know conclusively what happened, or if the images and stories flooding the Internet are real. However, the ASPCA understands and shares the outrage felt by animal lovers over this alleged act of cruelty that, if true, sadly is not a criminal act in Nicaragua.By the way, the WSPA is also present here in Costa Rica, though I sort of wonder what they actually do. Since I've been here (almost 8 years now), they've managed to ban live animals in circuses and put up signs (but not actually stop) denouncing the practice of selling backyard-bred puppies around the routunda at Multiplaza (in fact, those signs are gone now). I guess the "real" problems we have with thousands upon thousands of stray animals roaming the streets, poisoning of dogs and cats, poaching of wildlife, and animal abuse and neglect are too much for them to tackle?
“The ASPCA is opposed to cruelty to animals of all types, in all societies,” says ASPCA President Ed Sayres. “However, it is also not the policy of the ASPCA to condemn entire communities or countries for the cruel acts of individuals. What we need to do is step up our efforts to educate the public on the humane treatment of animals so that such events do not occur again.”
Online activity regarding this incident has increased steadily over the last several weeks after many websites have reported that Vargas is planning to participate in the VI Central American Visual Arts Biennale later this year in Honduras.
While the ASPCA’s programs are limited to the United States, we are a member and supporter of the World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA). WSPA and member society the Honduras Association for the Protection of Animals and their Environment (AHPRA) have persuaded organizers of the Honduras Biennale to make AHPRA official exhibition observers. Additionally, although Vargas has stated that his exhibit will not feature a dog, the Biennale has agreed to codify rules prohibiting animal abuse. WSPA has also indicated to the ASPCA that it will increase efforts to enact stronger animal protection laws in Nicaragua.
The ASPCA asks supporters to advocate on behalf of animals through their own actions by supporting international, national and local animal welfare organizations, and by educating their own communities about how to detect and combat animal cruelty. To add your voice to the chorus of those working for the humane treatment of animals, please visit www.fightcruelty.org to take the ASPCA’s Pledge to Fight Animal Cruelty.