Sunday, September 28, 2008

If you missed it...

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

Sept. 27, 2008:

Sept. 13, 2008:

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Election Day

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Old chair, new chair

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

Old chair:

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

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Get yer mail here

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Vuelve a la vida

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

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

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

Friday, September 12, 2008

Sarah Palin supports aerial hunting of wolves

There are lots of reasons to dislike Sarah Palin. My top two are her anti-choice stance and the fact that she spent government money to defeat a bill that would have put an end to the aerial hunting of wolves in Alaska. Personally, I am against hunting in all forms, but even hunters have come out against this as cruel and meaningless, since it is the predators (such as wolves and bears) who cull the weak animals from the herds and thus allow the moose populations to remain strong and healthy. To kill these beautiful, magnificent creatures from an airplane, where they really have no chance of escape, is beyond disgusting. Really, I don't even have adequate words for how sickening I think this is.

At any rate, if you haven't made up your mind about her, or somehow think she's great, I urge you to watch this video. If you are so inclined, you can donate to get this ad on the air. I think everyone should see this, or at least know what a mean-spirited person she really is. God help us, should McCain be elected, something happen to him, and this woman becomes president.

And here is more information from Defenders of Wildlife about Sarah Palin's pathetic environmental record.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Before and After

I put a towel in a juice box case for my little old chi to sleep in. It was immediately taken over by Boris the Grande. Here's the Before:

And the After, when the box was no more:

And another cute picture of my dog, Maddie, who is desperate for a grooming, but isn't she cute anyway?:

Two days in Manuel Antonio

We all took a little trip to Manuel Antonio for a couple of midweek days last week. I'm always slightly apprehensive about leaving my home in the hands of another (my MIL, in this case), what with four cats and nine dogs and all, but they were just fine and I really ought to quit worrying.

On the drive down, we stopped at the Spoon just outside of Jaco, where we were all hungry for palmito rice. This particular Spoon doesn't have palmito rice, so it was a simple lunch there instead. There's also a Chinese place there that looked decent, and an AutoMercado if you'd rather just get picnic-type stuff instead. Or bring a lunch from home. I'm sure there are other decent places to stop along the way, but I don't know of them.

After about a 4-hour trip from Grecia, we arrived at Arenas del Mar a little after 1:00 p.m., where we were greeted with fresh fruit drinks and cool towels. We stayed in the apartment suite, which had its own jacuzzi tub on the balcony overlooking the forest and beach, and we put that to use almost immediately. The beds at the hotel are absolutely divine! Probably the most comfortable bed I've ever slept on -- right up there with the one time I stayed the night at my friend H.'s house in Pacific Grove, and between the pillow top and down comforters, her bed was seriously like sleeping on a cloud. These beds were right up there! All in all, the hotel was really quite nice.

Comfy, comfy beds.

The view from the balcony of our room at Arenas del Mar.

Two things I have a gripe with the hotel about, though: 1) They say they are 100% sustainable (on cards you find inside the rooms). That is absolutely impossible, and a pretty disingenuous claim, if you ask me. No hotel can be 100% sustainable. They had to cut down trees to build the hotel; they had to bring in all of the furnishings (none of which can be considered 100% sustainable, either); all of the paint, bricks, wood, etc. used to build the hotel; all of the water used to run the hotel; all of the meat served at the hotel; to say that you're 100% sustainable is a really poor idea, when you are sure to have people staying at the hotel who know about these things. They do a lot of sustainable things, granted -- such as solar power, recycling -- but it would be far better to say that they strive to be the most sustainable hotel in Manuel Antonio or some such thing instead.

2) Breakfast on the second day was an almost total disaster. Breakfast is included with your stay, and it's a la carte, not buffet, which is nice. The first day we had no problems whatsoever. The second day, however... I ordered a chorreada, which is a typical corn pancake that comes with sour cream. Our waiter brought mayonnaise instead (bleh), which I didn't even notice until after I'd slathered it all over my pancake. Son had pancakes, and of the two, one was completely uncooked in the center (how do you cook one and not the other?). I can't recall what esposo had, but I do remember it wasn't right, either. Only my mother had no problem with her omelet. And granted, the waiter was a young man, but he made far too many excuses for himself instead of just saying, I'm very sorry, I'll fix it. I don't want to hear excuses. When you're staying at a hotel with prices like theirs, you do expect a higher level of service.

We went to Manuel Antonio National Park, of course, because there really isn't much else to do in Manuel Antonio! Son made his first foray into the Pacific Ocean and enjoyed himself thoroughly. Esposo got stung in the face by a wasp, so when you're at the beach, be very careful where you hang your clothes! We saw several animals, including a beautiful green snake on a banana leaf, a coati, an agouti, a couple of raccoons, and a sloth asleep in a tree. But no monkeys. I read a few years ago about the monkey population dropping drastically in Costa Rica over the past 10 years (by about 50%). Several other international tourists we spoke with were also disappointed not to have seen any monkeys during their visit. No one we spoke with saw monkeys in the park that day. Of course, you could always head over to that restaurant that will remain unnamed where they illegally feed the monkeys to get them to come around, making them dependent on humans for food and possibly passing on human diseases to them in the process, but personally I would never support such a business. I would hope that you out there reading this would not support such businesses, either. Right?

Iguana on the beach at Manuel Antonio National Park.

Look out badgers, it's a snake! A snake! Ha ha ha...

We had a couple of nice meals, for the first time since I've been going to Manuel Antonio. I don't know why, but food there has been (in general) piss-poor and very expensive for years. Well, it's still expensive, but at least we found a couple of spots that were worth it. One is Plinio's, located not too far up the road going into M.A. They had wonderful Indian food, and lots of vegetarian choices. I had ghee bhat (Indian friend rice), some veggie thing I can't quite recall, and naan. Esposo had sag paneer, rice, and some lumpia and naan. Son had a fit, luckilly there were no other diners there at the time. Once the bats started flying around the trees, though, his mood improved greatly.

We also ate at a little Italian deli in downtown Quepos called L'Angolo. We had eaten there before, and loved it years ago. It's still there, and still as delicious as ever. I had eggplant parmesan, esposo three-cheese pasta, and my mom had penne with porcini mushroom sauce. They made a nice plate of cheese and antipasto veggies for son, and they have these wonderful Italian sodas in the cold case (the lemon soda in a can was great!). They also make things to go, and we picked up subs for everyone the last morning for the ride home. Their prices are still very reasonable, and I highly recommend this little cute spot. Guaranteed not to leave hungry!

The deli at L'Angolo in Quepos -- don't miss it!

We tried to visit the Bat Cave Bar at La Mansion Inn, but no kids under 12 are allowed in. Maybe by the time son is 12 they'll still be there.

On our last morning, as we were packing up and getting ready to head out, we finally saw monkeys. At first, one capuchin was spotted flinging through the trees, and in a few minutes, it was followed by a mother with a baby on her back. So precious! And just a few feet from our balcony. On that note, we headed home, where we ran into hurricane weather (how fun!). Thankfully Margot (my RAV-4) did great, and the only sketchy moment came when we came upon a mudslide being cleared, and did a little slip-sliding on the mud.

Finally! We saw monkeys just before we left.

Mama capuchin and her baby.

Manuel Antonio used to be one of my favorite places in the country. Sad to say, it is no longer so. For being rainy season, it was absolutely full of people, and I can't imagine what it would be like during dry season. New developments are everywhere, surely affecting the wildlife (or lack thereof). I would think the city would be smart enough to curb some of this, because when the wildlife goes, there isn't going to be much of a draw to the area -- you can see much less crowded beaches at quite a few other areas in the country without having to pay such premium prices for everything (though there are several backpacker hotels and hostels in M.A. now). I think this will probably be my last trip to M.A. for some time; I'd rather go to Arenal or Monteverde or the Caribbean. How about you?

Could overdevelopment be a reason the monkey population is dwindling? This massive hotel is being built right on the edge of the National Park (the trees on the left are the park borders. It's shameful.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Oh, that princess of mine!

I'm not entirely sure why, but sometimes people think my son is a girl. I think it's the combination of long hair and blonde hair, but honestly, he looks, acts, and dresses like a boy. He's very boyish. He likes boy things. I suppose that since most boys here have short hair (and son refuses to get his cut other than trimmed up -- he keeps saying he wants long hair, and fine by me, it belongs to him), a kid with long, blonde hair on first glance appears to be a girl.

So I was at a book signing for a friend of mine this afternoon*, and someone asked, "Who is this princess?"

Dr. K. said, "This princess's name is C. [an obviously boy name], and if you call him a princess again, he'll likely kick you really hard in the shins."

I know the guy meant no harm. But if was awfully funny.

* You can order Dr. K's book, Feasting and Foraging in Costa Rica, through any Libreria Internacional. If you live here and eat here, I highly recommend picking it up.

A public service announcment

Author Event & Signing


September 6th, 2008

Presenting Ms. Jo Stuart, author of Butterflies in the City & columnist for the online news site


Dr. Lenny Karpman, author of many titles, 2 of which will be feature at this event, one being Feasting and Foraging in Costa Rica (printed by Cafe Britt, SA) and the other Noni, Baloney, Puddin & Pie - not normally sold outside the United States.

All three books will be available for purchase and signing

Event to be held at Big Mike's in Los Anonos

Directions to Big Mike's are 50 meters east of super market Sorreto's and 25 meters enter the Urbanization Los Anonos, turn right past the guards and then 300 meters east to the rotunda and casa #96

Also, please called 2289-6087, in case of geographically challenged

The authors will receive guests from 3 to 6 pm

The first 24 guests to buy Ms. Stuart's Butterflies in the City

will receive a jar of her "World Famous Chocolate Fudge Topping"

Beverages and small bocas will be available from Big Mike's