Saturday, June 28, 2008

This is the hard part

Last night esposo and I attended a going-away party for some good friends. This is the hard part of living abroad in Costa Rica, perhaps living abroad in any country, really -- many of your "Gringo" friends are probably going to leave at some point.

We met A. and E. through our son's playgroup. A. and I joined about the same time; her son and ours are almost the same age. The boys were about six months old when we started going to playgroup, and I remember A.'s son E. pretty much slept through the first several playgroups! He'd always seem to fall asleep on the ride over to wherever it was being held that week. That was three years ago, and A. and I got to be friends over the years. The boys are no longer babies; they're big boys. Where does time go? I was telling esposo last night on the way home that A. and E. are like magnets -- they just have a knack for attracting great people. It was quite a nice group that had gathered last night to say goodbye/hasta luego/au revoir. The last thing we did before leaving last night was dance to some 80s tunes; fun, silly, and a good way to remember good friends.

A. and E. and their three fantastic kids are off to another adventure, and we of course wish them all the best on their journey and in life!

On a side note: One thing I've come to love about our little playgroup is that the core group of people who go most every week have become more than just other moms and dads -- they are real and true friends, and honestly, they've saved my sanity on more than one occasion. It hasn't been easy for me to make friends here with Tico/as (and those who know me would probably be surprised to hear me say that), and at the time I "discovered" playgroup I was ready to pack my bags and leave. Now I'm in no great rush. Though I know someday, we will be the ones having the goodbye party and leaving all of this. Still, like my dear friends in California, whom I haven't seen in years, I know that we'll always be friends, and that in itself is a comfort. A reason to travel wherever life takes them.


Monday, June 23, 2008

Taxes suck.

I have spent the better part of the afternoon doing my taxes. I swear, I swear, this year I will get organized, I will actually use my accounting software, and I will not need to spend half the day figuring out how and why the amounts on my 1099s do not match up to my invoices.

You might be wondering, if you don't live here in Costa Rica, why I'm doing my taxes on June 23. Thought I'd celebrate my mom's birthday with some REAL fun! (Just kidding, mom! Happy Birthday!) Actually if you live outside of the U.S., taxes are not due until June 15 because you get an automatic 2-month extension. But yes, I am still a week late. And several thousand dollars short. Crap. Did I tell you how much I hate doing my taxes? And every year I screw up. Although, really, it's not that hard to screw things up when you work for yourself, and you live outside of the country, and you're trying to figure out this credit and that credit, and on and on into near infinity. I mean, something is bound to go wrong. So every year, I spend half the day diligently figuring things out, filling out forms, copying numbers from this form to that, and every year they send me back another form (which I expect to arrive in a few months) explaining exactly how I screwed up this time and how much more money I owe them. So, you know, Bush & Co. can go spend billions more on this stupid war insanity.



Thursday, June 19, 2008

Why I should stay away from Mental Floss

It's posts like this one. Those are evil, evil people over there. Because you know what they really wanted was for me to remember this crap-ass song, and have it going through my head the rest of the night (go ahead, watch it, you know you want to):

Anyone who was in Latin America a few years ago will remember this song, and probably groan as well (I hear ya, believe me!). While it sounds like they are singing gibberish for the chorus, I always thought that it was really that they heard Rapper's Delight by the Sugar Hill Gang and couldn't figure out what the hell they were saying, and it sounded like gibberish to them (because they were too stupid to go find the lyrics), and so they thought they'd pull one over on everyone and make a "new" song out of what they thought they heard. And in fact, they did pull one over, as this dumb-ass song was a big big hit and I'm sure they made some bank out of it anyway. So with that thought in mind, watch this video, and tell me if I'm out of my gourd. (It's toward the end of the song where he goes, "I said a hip, hip hop and you don't stop, rockin' to the bang bang boogie said up jump the boogie to the rhythm of the boogiedy beat..." or something like that.)


The List

I recently was contacted by an old friend that I haven't seen in years, maybe ten years, via Facebook. That is the greatest thing about Facebook, being able to find people that you haven't been able to contact otherwise, because you lost their e-mail or you moved or your laptop was stolen (yes, all of the previous happened to me when I first moved to Costa Rica!). It's nice just to be able to see what people are up to, and to be able to let people know what you're up to, etc. On the other hand, the sketchy thing about Facebook is being found by people you'd rather not find you, such as my "friends" from the 'hood that I hung with in high school, or the stalker who keeps bothering esposo. But then again, you can always choose to ignore those "friend" requests. Ignore, ignore, IGNORE, I said!

Anyway. This other friend I was talking about, he also moved halfway around the world (literally!), and it was nice to hear from him. We both used to work at the same company and also used to spin tracks at the same radio station (which has now become a totally sucky NPR station -- bleh!). For some reason, I had the idea to Google myself and the name of my show and see if anyone out there actually remembered it, other than me and the people I can count on both hands... ok, one hand... And the only hit I got (hey, this was back in 1998 that I did my last show, give a girl a break!), was from Steve Koepke's The List. For those outside of my lessfewer-than-ten listeners circle, my show was a mix of mostly punk rock, some ska, and even some Latino rock/hardcore when I felt like it. I loved doing my show, even though I was on late at night (all of the "hardcore"/"different" shows got relegated to the hours of much darkness). The List was the source for info on punk and hardcore shows in the central coast. Every week, I'd get a copy of The List (text only, because you know, this was back in the good old days when you couldn't actually get HTML e-mail), pick out the shows I wanted to highlight, and let my listeners know what was coming up. Amazingly, after all these years, The List is still up and going strong, and still in text format! Gotta love it. That's punk. Steve, he's more punk than me! ha ha... If you're in the Bay Area and into the punk scene, signing up for The List is a must do.

One thing that surprised me, though, is that in my last listing on The List (that's me, Attitude Check with Raven at the bottom under Radio Shows; my friends Sid and Melissa were on there, too), there were far more punk-related shows on the air than there are now. Bummer.

P.S. One of the funny things I remembered about my show is that when I first got started on the air, I did a show with a friend of mine from Sunday mornings midnight to (I think) 5:00 a.m. Yeah, we're talking "Big Gulp-sized cups of coffee" nights. The show on after ours was a gospel show, and she'd always start off by saying, "Come out of the darkeness, and into the light..." and I'd be so insulted, as though we were the darkeness of which she spoke! Even though I knew she was being literal and not metaphorical... then again... And? I had the longest-running late-night show on that station ever. I'm quite proud of that fact! So I guess someone was listening, after all.


Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Picture day

This is the waterfall one sees when driving one's esposo to work. And, because this is Costa Rica, there's a shrine next to it.

My two favorite cars in all the world right next to each other at a classic car show over at the new plaza in Lindora (the one where the Spoon is). Car on the left is an MGB (I actually owned one, though it was newer and not nearly so cherry as the one in this picture), and the one on the right is a VW Karmann Ghia (I always wanted one in pink--esposo, dear, are you listening?).

The flowers we planted when we first moved in are finally blooming. This one is an orange cosmos, which are popping up all over the yard.

Not a great shot of my peach-colored roses, but I was trying to get the black bee in the center of it in the picture. Moving on...
Son likes to buy flowers every time we go to the home store (EPA in Escazu has a nice selection of plants). He bought these marigolds last time and they're doing great.

Orange and yellow canna lillies, which amazingly survived the leaf-cutter ant onslaught. These grow great in Costa Rica, come in several colors and varieties, and spread quite nicely to fill in a patch of yard or give color to a fence. At one of our houses in Ciudad Colon, we had them surrounding a well house that was painted bright white, and they were just beautiful against the walls. I think this particular flower is a descendant of those flowers from that house, as we always keep a few when we move.

The scorpion tail flower in pink. If anyone out there knows the correct name in English for these (common or scientific), I'd greatly appreciate you letting me know. I've been searching and haven't come up with anything so far.

This is the scorpion tail in purple, the more common color. Now here is something interesting. These are the two plants growing by our front door:

As you can see, the purple (on the left) are doing far better than the pink (on the right). I planted them both at about the same size and time, and from one side of the path to the other shouldn't make much difference in soil, and they get about the same amount of rain and sunlight. But obviously the common purple plant is hardier (and survives leaf-cutter ants better, as the poor pink plant has been ravished). Also? I've cut the purple plant back at least twice already, otherwise it would be growing right into the path. I just wanted something nice around the entrace because there was nothing here when we moved in. And, there are these beautiful emerald-green shiny bees that love this plant, but unfortunately I have never been able to get a picture of them.

Even the cactus plant is blooming!


Tuesday, June 17, 2008

I think congradulations are in order

To all of the gay and lesbian couples in California who are now allowed to legally get married: Congradulations! It's about time, is all I can say. I'm proud of my home state. I was there in 2000 when the ballot initiative banning gay marriage passed. I was pretty surprised at the time; I mean, hey, it's California! Aren't we supposed to be a liberal state? I was also quite disheartened. I think this was also the year (or close to it) that bilingual education got the big axe due to a ballot initiative that passed. Because we all know what both initiatives were really about: keeping people in their place. Or the place that those who wished to maintain the status quo wanted them to stay in. To that I say: to hell with that! We will never advance as a society until and unless every single one of us is allowed every legal equality. So you see, as the mother of a Latino son, I'm in no great rush to get back to the United States, or even my beloved California, because the racism and hatred is just too much for me to take. It's bad enough to have to listen to someone like Lou Dobbs on the telly (which yes, just for the record, I turn off when my son is in the room -- I have no desire for him to grow up thinking that being a person of color is wrong, and he's too young to wade through bullshit to get to the heart of the issues).

Well anyway, I know that some uber-conservative groups are trying to get yet another ballot initiative passed in November banning gay marriage in the state constitution (though, honestly, I thought it was a lot more difficult to amend the state constitution than just passing a ballot initiative). I won't be there to vote against it this time. So I'm counting on you Californians out there to do the right thing. I do, however, get to vote for president, and let's just say it ain't gonna be McCain.

As long as the Catholic church is in power here in Costa Rica, I think we can safely say that there will be no gay marriages any time soon (hell, we don't even have reproductive freedom here, and I'm including the right to in-vitro; we are the only country in the world to have banned the procedure). I think that society is pretty open to gays and lesbians, however, so perhaps someday we might see, at the very least, "civil unions" legalized. One can only hope.


Sunday, June 15, 2008

Happy Father's Day

I've never been big on Father's Day. I didn't grow up knowing my father, so the day never really meant that much to me. Since son was born, I've at least said "Happy Father's Day" to esposo, but I'm afraid I don't go all out on gifts and such. After today, though, I think that will change.

Every Sunday I read PostSecret. And today I saw one that I could have written myself:

It made me think of my own Grandpa, or Pa as we all called him. He was tall as a tree, and gentle and quiet. He was a farmer who taught my grandmother how to quilt. Though I had two cousins, I think he loved me the most. He was a man I loved dearly, and truly, he was my Dad, I just didn't realize it until I had my own son. I, being a kid, thought he'd be around forever, and I was devastated when he passed away when I was 12. I still think about him, and wish he could have been around to see me graduate from college, walk me down the aisle at my wedding, hold my son after he was born. We gave our son my grandfather's name as his middle name to honor his memory. The truth is, I never missed my biological father at all, and I think it was largely due to the fact that I had a dad, my grandfather. I wish I could have told him all of this when he was alive. I wish we had had more time together. And I hope that wherever he is, he's smiling on us, and knows how much I love him, how much he meant to me. Thank you, Pa, for everything you gave me. I hope you are proud of me, as only a father can be. Happy Father's Day. I love you.

For esposo, thank you for being the kind of father your own never was. I know I don't say it every day, but you are awesome. And for all of you great dads out there, thank you.


Thursday, June 12, 2008

Fun with kids

If you have younguns, here's something fun to do. Take them to the Children's Museum in downtown San Jose. We went yesterday with Chris and her daughter, whom son adores to no end. When we arrived, we noticed a Teletica 7 van parked next to a Bailando por un Sueño (Dancing for a Dream) van out front of the national auditorium (next door to but actually part of the museum). Here I have to make a side note: If you haven't seen Bailando por un Sueño, you're really missing out! It's sort of like, as esposo explains it, Extreme Makeover: Home Edition meets Dancing with the Stars. There are local celebrities paired with ordinary, local people (the "dreamers") who are dancing to make their dream (usually some hard-luck story) come true. In its first season, the show earned the nickname Bailando me da Sueño (Dancing Makes Me Tired), because it seemed to go on forever, with changing rules, couples who had been voted out getting a chance to come back, and on into what seemed like infinity.


I asked the guard yesterday what was up, and he said the auditions were being held . I begged to go in and watch them, because, you know, how cool would that have been?, but I got the big Costa Rican no-with-a-smile. Oh well. Esposo took a picture of son in front of the van anyway, and here he is in his typical "I'm looking at you through binoculars" pose:

The kids had a lot of fun at the museum. The place pretty much covers everything kids ever wanted to know about most anything (except sex, perhaps): the solar system, the planet, Costa Rica's history, the rainforest, how a radio station works, the human body, a farm, what airplanes and helicopters and trains are like, ancient Egypt, music and sound, etc. etc. We spent about three hours there and still didn't see everything. There is also an art gallery attached, as well as the national auditorium. As the Children's Museum is the site of a former prison, you can still see some of the old prison cells, along with a prisoner's drawing of Our Lord on the wall of the now-women's bathroom. Some of the prison cells have been turned into government offices, and I thought that was weird (and I certainly wouldn't like to work in a converted prison cell), but Chris thought that was about right for a Civil Service job. heh heh...

Here are some highlights of the museum:

In Costa Rica, even the fake ant farm is Catholic...

A support pole on this model of the human body was rather unfortunately placed.

Ok, yes, there were other photos, but they all had the kids in them. I still feel a bit uneasy about putting photos of my kid (and certainly other people's kids) on my blog. At least photos where the kids are recognizable (re: above picture). So I guess you'll have to trust me when I say that if you have kids, this is a great place to take them! Admission was 600/child, 1100/adult, and the best times to go are during the weekdays when Costa Rican kids are in school. Just watch out for the school groups.


Tuesday, June 10, 2008

80s y Mas

Ever wonder what happened to all of those videos from the 1980s? Wonder no more. They have found a home here in Costa Rica. Every Sunday night from 8-10 on VM Latino (channel 29 on Amnet cable), you can have the "pleasure" of watching the show "80s y Mas." As for us, we try not to miss it. At our house, the scene is something out of Beavis and Butthead meets MST3K. It's hard not to vie for one-upmanship while watching crappy videos: alternate lyrics, what the hell the directors were possibly thinking, etc. If you missed the show last Sunday, here are some of the videos to whet your appetite for next week.

This was the first one we saw when we turned the show on. I think this video probably is a big, big contender for worst video ever made. And for worst song ever. Neither of us had ever heard it. What is she doing? Is that dancing? Oh, dear God. It's so bad, I hesitate to bring it to you. But you know I must. Because I love you all so. And you know you want to click that "play" button...

I didn't actually know who this girl was until I searched YouTube for this video. Isn't Vanessa Paradis the girl who's been Johnny Depp's longtime lover? All I can say is, thank God she grew out of this phase!

Come to think of it, maybe this next video is the contender for the worst video ever. Take a guy who's so arrogant that he not only clones himself twice, but has nothing else in the video but himself (oh, I mean himself and a cane), and some really stupid lyrics, and hey! you've got a shitty video.

For this next video, I need to admit, in the interest of full disclosure, that I actually liked the Thompson Twins back in the day. Now that I see this video, I just have to ask: What the hell were they thinking? What the hell was I thinking?

Here is your last 80s y Mas video of the day. KC minus the Sunshine Band. Take a freaky little girl, a bunch of freaks in a house, a completely undefined plot line, stupid lyrics, and hey! you've got a shitty music video!

As much as I want this post to end (and I know you do, too!), I just remembered another crappy video from last Sunday's show. Here's one where it's all about the singer, and I do mean all about her. From various angles. And absolutely no plot/story whatsoever. Gag. She really must have thought she was the bomb.

And just so you don't forget, VM Latino every Sunday from 8-10! I'm like a freaking promo! You! Must! Watch!


More wild wildlife

Here's what I saw sitting on my back fence last night:

While barn owls are the most common owls in the Americas, it was still the first time in my life I've ever seen one close up (this was like five feet away from the back door). Of course, it was son with his eagle eyes that saw the owl first: "Mommy, what is that?" "What is what?" "That thing on the fence... what is it?" (It had its back to us, so all I saw was a big white mass.) "Huh, I don't know... (upon closer inspection) OMG, it's an owl!"

It turned its head to us, checked us out staring at it, blinked a couple of times, and flew off into the night to resume its hunting. I take back what I said about living on the edge of a valley. Benefits like these definitely outweigh the possibility of the house being struck by lightning.


Saturday, June 07, 2008

When lighting strikes

I've been saying for a while (to esposo mostly) that I like how, when a storm is coming or when it rains, you can look out of our living room sliding doors and see what's coming in the valley below us. After today, I am thinking that being one of the few houses on the edge of a valley isn't such a great thing after all, as lightning struck the house this afternoon. I saw sparks flying out of the power strip that we have on the t.v./stereo setup (lesson: keep your electronics on a surge protector!), which is something I've never experienced before. Son was in his room, and right after this happened, I heard him screaming, so I thought he was hurt, but it turned out he saw sparks coming out of his outlets also. "There's lightning in my room!" He was fine, and in fact the power bars really did their jobs, as none of the electronics were affected in the least (save for a slight blip on the t.v. during the fireworks show).

This is just the start of rainy season, and I'm not really looking forward to this kind of thing happening too often.


Thursday, June 05, 2008

It's a wild, wild life

This morning, I awoke to see a blue-crowned motmot sitting in the big tree behind our backyard fence. They are quite distinct birds, and very beautiful. Its long tail was flicking back and forth like a clock, and I knew without seeing it up close exactly the type of bird it was (and I was right -- I love it when that happens! because it so rarely does). We used to have them in our first house that we lived in in Ciudad Colon. They had nests built into the side of a dirt retaining wall, and would zoom in and out of that hole at supersonic speeds. I don't have a good picture of a motmot, but here's one from Wikipedia, in case you haven't had the pleasure of seeing this bird for yourself:

Later this morning, I saw the very first bird ever using the little birdbath that son and I put together about a month ago. This one was a clay-colored robin, Costa Rica's (dull) national bird. I asked esposo why, exactly, Costa Rica chose a clay-colored robin as its national bird when you have such wonderful bird species to choose from: motmots, trogons, quetzals (okay, technically they are trogons also, but you know what I mean), bellbirds, even the little blue-gray tanagers would be more interesting than the clay-colored robin. He had no idea. Anyway. It was so cute splashing around in the birdbath that I forgave it for being so dull. Another Wikipedia pic because I don't have one of my own:

Stumpy Stumpleton's tail has almost completely grown back at this point, and he/she/it (does anyone out there know how to tell the sex of an iguana from a distance?) now actually begs for scraps in the morning! Stumpy hangs out on the roof above son's bedroom, as opposed to the roof closer to the big iguana tree over our bedroom where most of the other iguanas hang out. Stumpy is completely unafraid of any of us, and will sit there on the roof cocking his/her/its head back and forth, until I bring out scraps (this morning it was grapes and watermelon and some cucumber skins and lettuce). He/she/it then runs after the scraps I throw up on the roof, and comes back to the side so that I can see he/she/it is eating them. It's so cute. I am such a big, big Stumpy Stumpleton fan. I will try to get a picture of Stumpy one of these mornings.

Then, later in the afternoon, I heard a loud thunk on the back fence (it's a chain-link fence, fyi, you know, the kind of fence which most birds would fly right through), and then saw a rather large bird flying in the opposite direction. It was a red-billed pigeon, which I now think must be either the dumbest birds in existence or the most nearsighted. This is the same type of bird that flew a good 12 feet into our back porch and into our sliding glass doors, knocking itself out cold and dying in the process. It is a very beautiful bird (as pigeons go), and in fact I do have a soft spot for pigeons, having had two as pets (though Silvio, who couldn't fly, didn't live very long -- Cheska killed him; Claudine lived for a couple of years with our chickens and one day I just went out to find her dead in her nest box). But, but... red-billed pigeons, I don't know what the heck is wrong with these birds. Here's a photo of one from the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department:

P.S. Wikipedia says this about the choice of clay-colored robin as Costa Rica's national bird: "In 1977 the Costa Ricans chose the yigüirro (over many much more colorful birds that inhabit the country) as a tribute to its strong and melodious song that always comes during the start of the rainy season. In addition, unlike many of the forest songsters of Costa Rica, the present bird has been familiar to the general population since the country's early history, thanks to the species' tendency to live near houses and settlements." Well there you go. I think I still would have chosen the motmot, or even the red-billed pigeon, if I had had a say in the matter. Ok, maybe not the red-billed pigeon...


Sunday, June 01, 2008

It's my birthday, part 2

I finally got to celebrate my birthday the way I had originally wanted to -- by going to the movies at Cinepolis. Now, a lot of you might think that having dinner and drinks with your s.o. and without your small child would trump a family movie day, but not so in my book. I haven't gone to the movies since son was born, almost four years ago now. In fact, the last movie we went to see was also at the Cinepolis VIP for a Christmas shindig put on by the Mucho Gusto/Pets y Mas magazine people; it was The Last Samurai, which I really had no interest in seeing, though it was nice to get out because I was just barely pregnant and knew we wouldn't be doing this again for a long time (and I was right).

Anyway, we went to see Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, which was really good! If you like the original Indiana Jones movies, which I do. This was heavy on the alien stuff, and that was ... interesting, to say the least. Best part is having a waitress bring you popcorn and beer and sushi and a glass of wine to your big, cushy seats that recline and even have footrests. I was worried that they might not let son in because it's rated PG-13 (or "B" here), and he is, uh, um, well... three.... but I guess as long as the parents don't mind, kids can go. He's seen the original Indiana Jones movies and loves Star Wars in all its many incarnations, so I thought he would be fine with it. I also wanted to go during the day on a weekday, so that there would be fewer people to bother should he get bored and start acting up, but we had the "it's a movie so that means you have to be quiet and talk in only whispers" discussion, and honestly, he was better behaved than some of the adults in the audience (who "forgot" to turn off their cell phones and had the nerve to actually answer them during the movie! sheesh...). He loved the movie, too, but we did promise to take him to Kung Fu Panda next time. Even if it's only overdubbed in Spanish.

So if you haven't gone to Cinepolis, I'd like to plug the VIP theater. Tickets, I forgot to mention, were 4300, or about $8.50, which is the price of a regular movie in the U.S. without the cushy seats and waitstaff. I guess in some places it's even more. And you don't pay $10 for a bucket of corn here, either. Well worth it if you ask me! Right now Cinepolis is the nicest theater in the country, located east of San Jose at Terramall (just follow the highway to Cartago and you'll see the signs).

One nice thing I've noticed here lately is that movies open on pretty much the same schedule as they do in the U.S. At least the major releases. So you don't have to wait months and months to see movies that are already in video in the States. I guess that's because if the theaters didn't do it that way, we'd already have the DVDs by the time the movies were showing.