Saturday, November 28, 2009

Learn Spanish for free!

A friend of mine shared this link with me, which I will share with you. He's learning Portuguese, and I'm thinking I'll try either that, or refresh my French, or maybe do something completely different and try Arabic (which I've always wanted to learn).

Foreign Service Institute Language Courses

I know at least a few of you out there read this blog because you're planning on moving down to Costa Rica (or thinking about it, at least). If so, I implore you to, if you don't already, learn some basic Spanish! You'll find life here a lot more pleasant, and you'll get ripped off a lot less (yep, the rumors are true: Gringos who can't communicate in Spanish are likely to get charged more). You might still get someone who tries to charge you more, but if you can communicate (and argue) your point in Spanish, well... you get what I'm saying?

One of the most annoying things anyone has ever said to me on the subject was back in college. A girl in one of my classes was planning on coming down here to Costa Rica for a year, like, you know, to surf and have fun and stuff? (That last bit needs to be said in Californian -- hee hee...) I was surprised, and asked her if she knew any Spanish. She said, "No, but like, doesn't everyone there speak English?" And then I was all, "Seriously?"

If you have any of these delusions as well, no, not everyone speaks English. Many people speak very basic English; some people speak English really well. But to go to a foreign country and expect people to speak your language is beyond rude -- learn their language, even if all you can manage before you get there is a few simple phrases. Trust me, it goes a long way!

And now you have one less excuse for doing so, as I've just given you a link to a whole Spanish course for free!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Woof, Woof!

The World Woof Tour 09 hits Costa Rica on November 21, and I hope you'll be there! (Click on the poster below for a larger image.)

The most important thing about the fair will be the pet adoption program, and there will also be fun things for people, auctions, contests with your pets, plus low-cost vaccine and spay/neuter clinics, etc. It's at Country Day School in Escazu, which is just a couple of blocks up from the Red Cross in downtown. Esposo and Mrs. P. will be providing deeelicious savory and sweet treats, so stop by and ask them, "Hey, are you esposo/Mrs. P.?" That would probably freak them out. Ha ha!

Thursday, November 05, 2009

"The Snatchback"

Yesterday, while looking for something on a completely different subject, I came across this article in The Atlantic, about a guy who had to kidnap his son out of Costa Rica from his biological father. It's a bit long, but compelling, so I'll wait while you go ahead and read it.

Whistles. Twiddles thumbs.

Done? Good. Ok, there are some things about this story that just don't add up to me. The father, Jason, did not have custody of Andres when Andres and his mother, Helen, came to Costa Rica. In fact, Todd secured an injunction against Jason to retrieve his son. But the Siquirres police wouldn't take Andres out of the home, saying they didn't have that authority:
So Todd got an injunction from a San José court ordering Jason to surrender Andres, and he and Helen accompanied the Costa Rican police when they went to Jason’s office to deliver it. Jason still refused to relinquish Andres, and Todd says the police told him that they didn’t have the right under Costa Rican law to enter Jason’s home and take the boy.
I call bullshit. Now, to me, what Jason did is kidnapping. Sure, he's the biological father of Andres, but Andres was raised by Todd and Helen. They were his parents. Jason did not have custody of Andres. So how in the hell did the Siquirres police not do anything about it? Do you mean to tell me that if a child has been kidnapped, you know who did it, you go with the police to the kidnapper's door, and the kidnapper says, No, I'm not handing the kid over, the police can just walk away? Oh. Hell. No.

At that point, why didn't Todd and Helen get, at the very minimum, the PANI and/or the OIJ involved? Surely they both have the authority to remove the child from the home if the police are too pussy to do it. (And, as an aside, pretty much everywhere in Costa Rica, the police are next-to-worthless. If you really need something important done, go to the OIJ.) Instead, Todd spends a ridiculous sum of money ($25,000 iirc) to get his son out of the country. Granted, I'd do it too, if it were my son. I'd spend every last cent I had, and then go find more. But I think the whole surreptitious snatching Andres back could have been avoided if he'd have tried other avenues than simply the local police (not making any accusations here, but sounds like something else was going on there, you know what I mean?).

Well, at any rate, I'm glad it all ended well and that Andres is back with Todd in the U.S. To me, family is what you make it. Blood ain't always thicker than water.

(I'll grant that this story is fairly one-sided, from Todd and somewhat Helen's point of view. La Teja apparently also wrote an article about the case, but since they couldn't even be bothered to spell Todd's last name correctly, and in general seem to be more concerned with photographing women's big butts than anything else, that "paper" would be the last place I'd turn for reliable information. I also found this article from, but it's basically just a rehashing of The Atlantic's piece. Apparently no other newspaper in Costa Rica gave a shit, sadly.)

P.S. Mr. Hopson? I'm glad you got your son back, I truly am, but please don't call my country third-world. Sure, parts of it look like Appalacia, but the politically correct terms are "developing" and "developed" countries. Saying Costa Rica is third-world just makes you look like a rich asshole. Maybe you should visit some truly "third-world" countries before throwing terms like that around. Just sayin'.

Sunday, November 01, 2009


Night before last, about 1:00 in the morning, esposo and I were awoken by a blast that, I swear, seemed like a bomb being dropped nearby. The whole area lit up with white light and the explosion made the house shake. We both jumped out of bed, going, "What was that?!" But then nothing else happened, our son was soundly asleep, so we figured it was just some idiots shooting off fireworks too close, and went back to sleep.

Then, about an hour after that, we woke up to what sounded like a cherry bomb going off near our house. Again, we go through the "What was that!?" routine, figure it's nothing, and go back to sleep.

Around 3:00, we hear a zapping sound that is similar to what passed for science and technology in old black-and-white sci-fi movies. Or a bug zapper that was maybe a 5-foot-square box. Anyway, it was loud. And scary. We look out the window to see that, lo and behold, all that noise previously had been coming from a blown transformer on the electrical box across the street from our house. We know this now, because it's on fire.

Personally, I'd never seen an electrical pole on fire. Luckily down here in Costa Rica, cement is the material of choice for electrical poles, otherwise that thing would've lit up like a Halloween Christmas tree. As it was, wires were dropping from the box and remained on fire on the ground, while at the box, the fire was tearing up the connecting lines. (Strangely, though, we didn't have any loss of electricity.)

We called 911, and as esposo is explaining to the person on the other end that the electrical box is on fire, he (the operator) asks, "Is anything burning?" [slaps forehead] Even so, the fire department managed to get there within two minutes, although they did stop down the street first (clue: look for the electrical box on fire). [slaps forehead again] I was a little concerned that the whole thing might blow up; even so, esposo managed to take a photo of the whole affair before the fire department arrived:

Did you know electrical boxes had those light-up-in-the-dark code numbers on them? I never did, until I saw this picture.

Well, that was fun.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

QuickPass for Dummies

If you live in the Central Valley, you probably know you can get a QuickPass for the newly-refurbished highway from San Jose to Orotina. That way you don't have to dig around for change every time you go through (it's 320 colones one way on the San Jose-Escazu toll, and some of the other tolls, like the one into Ciudad Colon, are even higher -- ouch!). So after a few months of working in San Jose a couple of days a week, digging for correct change, touching other people's dirty money and breathing in exhaust, I decided to buy a QuickPass. Here's what you need to do if you want one, too:
  1. Go to the closest HSBC. You'll fill out a form, pay $30 (just for the pass, that doesn't include any toll money), and they give you the QuickPass. If you have an HSBC account, you can buy the pass for $15, but personally I didn't think it was worth saving $15 to go through the hassle of opening yet another bank account.
  2. You then go to the cashier and pay for the QuickPass plus however much you want to put on it for tolls. Then, whenever you want to top up your QuickPass, you have to go to an HSBC and put money on it. You don't need to remove your QuickPass, however; all you need is your license plate number.
  3. You might want to RTFM. I am a dipshit, so I didn't read the booklet, and put the QuickPass on the back of my rearview mirror, and then wondered why it didn't work properly the first few times. I even kept flipping the damn thing around and was ready to exchange it, when I thought, hmmm, maybe you do stick it on the actual window... Well, duh! Yeah, stick it on the window. Away from window tinting, too.
  4. Now it should be ready to work. When you drive through the QuickPass lane, you hear a beep, then the toll gate goes up. If there are several cars in the lane, it appears you don't actually have to wait for the toll gate to go back down before you can go through. As long as the laser thingy reads your QuickPass, the gate will stay open and it still takes your 320 colones, so you can go through.
  5. If for some reason it doesn't work when you go through, one of the toll booth workers will take your QuickPass, type the number into their computer, and then you can go through. That sort of defeats the whole "Quick" part, though. I suggest if it doesn't work, RTFM, and, barring that, ask the toll booth worker if you've put it on properly.
  6. It beeps two times (or three times? anyway, more than once) when it's time for you to go top up. You have a couple thousand left on it when you hear it beep more than once.
That's it! It seems a little less like highway robbery when you pay a chunk in advance (no pun intended!). Plus, during work traffic, you get to go right through while dozens of other suckers wait in line. Ha! Ha, I say! It's sort of like FastPass at Disneyworld, only those are free.

Edited 28 Oct. 09: Just got this in e-mail today. It would have been nice if they'd have sent it before I had the damn thing in my car for two weeks, but that's probably asking too much. Sigh. Asi es.

To cheese and rain

To cheese:

Oh, my dear cheese! I think our relationship has finally come to a screeching halt. It's true, I've loved you for many, many years, even during these last few years when you didn't love me back. I thought I had given you up for good, but then you'd come back every few months, tempting me to have just a taste of your goodness now and again. And I believed you. I really thought that this time you would change. Maybe this time I'd be able to finally live with you. But after last night, I have to tell you that it's finally over. You've broken my heart and made me want to vomit for the last time, I swear. So don't come running back, offering extra sharp cheddar or herbed goat cheese or an excellent Swiss. I've had it, I mean it. Leave me alone. True, I may dream about you from time to time, but that's all you're getting from me. Goodbye, cheese! And take milk with you while you're at it. Don't let the door hit either of you in the ass.

To rain:

Ok, dammit, enough of this already. You do nothing but bring me down these days. I'd like to say goodbye to you, too. It's all about you, isn't it? Nonstop, day after day. What about me? What do I get out of this? You make my car filthy, you create mud that gets tracked all over the back patio and into the house, and now you're starting to kill my lovingly tended little garden. My veggie plants can't take much more of you, and neither can I. Sure, you were great at first: providing a respite from what seemed like a never-ending dry spell, showering me with your gentle, loving embrace. I looked forward to your visits eagerly. It seemed everything around me responded to your touch, growing, blossoming, awakening. But now? You're here all the freaking time! Sometimes a girl just wants to be left alone, you know? You're overbearing. You show up in the morning, stay through dinner, and you never seem to know when it's time for you to go home. There are things I'd like to do too, you know. Like have a barbecue or a picnic in the park. But how can I, when you're always there? So pack it up, and head out with cheese and milk. Sun and I have been Facebooking each other lately, and I've realized how much I miss him.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Help needed for Sea Turtles in Playa Caletas!

I first heard about this story on Michael Alan's blog, and it's pretty appalling. What's happening is that company Agropecuarios Caletas, owned by the same a-hole that also owns "eco-resort" Casa Caletas, is illegally draining a wildlife refuge that supports nesting olive ridley and leatherback sea turtles (all sea turtles are endangered, see below!) in order to plant corn. They've already been fined $21,200, but apparently just didn't feel like either paying the fine or stopping the illegal draining, and so far the courts have done nothing. Why is this guy allowed to keep giving the law the middle finger and still in the country, you ask? Follow the money, is all I can say.

You see, Costa Rica has this fabulous reputation as being so environmentally green and wonderful and all about saving land and wildlife, but what happens when the laws have no teeth? It all means nothing.

So I am standing with Michael and Pretoma and anyone else who cares about what's going on, and asking you to join me in doing something. I honestly do think we can make a difference here by standing together and putting pressure on this company, whether by boycotting the so-called "eco-resort" or calling and emailing the company to ask that they stop, or sending money to support Pretoma in their efforts in this and many, many other battles to save sea turtles, or just getting the word out about what's happening. Costa Ricans (I know there are a few who read this blog out there): This wildlife is your heritage; fight for it!

Here is Casa Caleta's website; phone number in Costa Rica: (506) 2655-1271. If you're in the U.S. and Canada, use their toll-free number to let them know how you feel: 1- 800- 850 4592. Write to La Nacion and The Tico Times and ask them to cover this story. International pressure would help -- NRDC, World Wildlife Fund, Humane Society International are just a few organizations off the top of my head you could contact. How about we contact El Presidente Oscar Arias? (Don't worry if you can't write in Spanish, his English is great! He's said he is a defender of the environment, so let's ask him to put his money where his mouth is.)

If you have other suggestions, please leave them in the comments. I know together we can make a difference. (Thanks again, Michael, for bringing this important news to my attention!)

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Yummy things

Yesterday I had lunch with Mrs. P and her lovely daughter, and I thought I'd tell you about where we went because it was really good.

If you've lived in Costa Rica for any amount of time, you already know good Mexican food here is hard to find. (If you haven't lived here, you might think Costa Rica is a lot like California, with a taco stand on every other corner. Ha, I say. Ha.) I needed to get out of the office for a little while, so I asked Mrs. P if she wanted to go to lunch and if she had any suggestions. She'd heard about (or maybe been to?) a place called Picante Grill in Pavas, so I thought, why not?

Now, I have to say, there aren't a whole lot of things on the menu for vegetarians, and vegans have it even worse. That's pretty typical of Mexican food, though. But if you're neither of those things, you'll have lots to choose from. I had a veg burrito minus the portobello mushrooms and cheese, and it was efemente delicioso. Reminded me a lot of this place I used to go to in Monterey, actually. But anyway, the prices are decent, and the food was really good. So good, that we (esposo and I) ordered delivery for dinner the same night (yes, they deliver all the way to Santa Ana! And Heredia! Woot!).

Two things: Mrs. P had to ask for sour cream about four times and then go up to the counter herself before she actually got any; and when I asked if they could throw some lettuce or guacamole on the burrito in place of the portobellos, the counter guy said (and I quote) his boss "would yell at him if he did that." Because, you know, lettuce is so much more expensive than portobellos. @@ Other than that, I really enjoyed it (obviously!).

After scarfing down Mexican food, we went next door to a place called Tea Leaf Tea Land (at least, I'm pretty sure that's what it's called!), which is something, honestly, you'd never expect to see in Costa Rica. It's a lovely little tea bar with a few edible menu items as well. P the Younger had a ham and cheese sandwich, and we all had lovely little pots of lovely tea -- mine was chocolate orange, and the girls had roobios. It's a very relaxing spot, with couches, nice music, and chill atmosphere. (Don't tell my boss, but I really didn't want to go back to work after we went here! I still did, though.) They serve the tea at precisely the right temperature, and give you little tea timers to tell you when your tea has sufficiently brewed. Each tea service has its own color-coded pot and tea glass (nice touch!). Then esposo called, and asked me to pick up a bottle of vino on the way home. I had to decline, because after work on a Friday afternoon all I want to do is take a nap or watch Project Runway or something. Anything but stop at a store on the way home. Instead, I brought a couple of tins of tea, pure lavender for me (works wonders for migraine sufferers), and the chocolate orange roobios for him (he loved it). Perhaps the only negative here were the tea mints (I thought, vegan and sugar free, how bad can they be? Yuck.). They have tons of different kinds of tea that you'll never find anywhere else in this country, such as organic rose buds, artesianal tea, black teas, green teas, and herb teas of all kinds. Plus, the owner is a super nice guy and I want to see him succeed so that I can keep going back for more tea! So if you're in the area, please stop by and check it out; if you love tea, I guarantee you won't be disappointed.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Fun with Riteve

And now I'm going to try to go an entire post without swearing! Or using obscene/offensive language of any sort! Which is difficult, considering my two-year-old car didn't pass Riteve yesterday.

Riteve, for those who don't know, is the car inspection you have to do every year. Sometimes you'll see it shortened to RTV. Mine is like 8 months overdue, but esposo claims that they don't really care as long as you 1) do it within a year's time and 2) do it before your marchamo (that's the circulation rights thingy, like registration in the States) expires. The marchamo on my car expires around Christmas (I know, lucky, lucky me!), so we have a while before I have to really worry about it.

I wanted to get the darn Riteve taken care of, though, but turns out my car's rear disc brakes are poop (see? no swearing!) and caused my poor little car to fail the test. Here's what to expect if you've never gone to Riteve:

1. Make an appointment. I use their website. You can't just show up and expect to get your car inspected, but you can pretty much get an appointment within a few days, unlike, say, trying to get your cedula renewed at immigration (though you could do that at BCR, if you could manage to actually get through on their phone lines -- which is another, curse-filled post entirely).
2. Show up 15 minutes before your appointed time. Bring your registration, title, marchamo, last year's Riteve, all that stuff. There will be a line of people (probably) waiting to check in; go wait in that line. And then check in. ;-) You have to pay almost 10,000 here (you didn't think this would be free, did you?).
3. You then bring your car around to the back and get in line. If you're lucky, there will only be one or two cars ahead of you. If you're really, really lucky, you'll be the only one in line. That doesn't usually happen, though.
4. One of the inspectors will come out and you hand him the paper they gave you when you checked in. Then just sort of follow the lead of the car in front of you. Hopefully you speak Spanish or bring a Spanish-speaking person with you. Because I don't know about you, but my Spanish is pretty good, and I still don't understand when someone in a loud garage is telling me to put the car in neutral, pop the hood, slowly press on the brakes, etc.
5. They will sometimes check to see if you have a jack and triangles, but they didn't check that when we went. They will check that all your lights and directionals work, brights, winshield wipers, windows go up and down, window tinting is factory installed (if it isn't, you're gonna have to take it off, and believe me, we've gone through that before! this time the guy really picked at each window to make sure it was factory tinting, which is allowed), the seats go forward and back, the horn works, the seatbelts work, etc.
6. Then they test your exhaust and the steering, and the shocks.
7. I think at the next station they test your brakes, front, rear and handbrake. I knew we were screwed when the rear brakes only showed 38%. (Ooh, is "screwed" a swear word? Or offensive? ;-p Dang, I tried!)
8. Then you drive over an open pit, where they check something else, and shout at you from a speaker. I could not understand a word the guy said, but luckily esposo could figure it out. (Did he say Grand Central Station or your aunt's constipation?)
9. Then you wait at the end, and someone will either give you a sticker, or tell you to go to such-and-such window to get your results, or something. It sometimes gets a little disorganized at the end of the line.
10. Hopefully your car will pass and you'll get your new sticker which is good for a year -- hooray! Or, you will get a piece of paper that includes the ominous word "grave" and what's messed up on your car that you have to fix in order to pass -- boo!
11. If you don't pass, you have 30 days to fix whatever needs fixing and bring the car back for a 5,000 colones recheck. If you wait more than 30 days (me! me! me!), you'll have to go through the whole inspection again and pay almost 10,000. Which is what I'll be doing sometime in early December. Hooray for me! I still love my car, though.

Infected, addicted... you know where this is going!

On the way to work this morning, I was listening to Bad Religion's Stranger Than Fiction, and the track "Infected" came on. The chorus goes like this:

You and me / have a disease
You affect me / you infect me
I'm afflicted / you're addicted
You and me / you and me...

After my son's confusion of "addicted" and "dickhead," of course that's all I could hear while listening to the song. And, since the song kinda sorta reminds me of two different assholes, "dickhead" worked great in this instance! "I'm afflicted, you're a dickhead..."

For your listening/viewing pleasure:

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Mouth, meet babe.

I bought esposo Monopoly for his iPod a few weeks back, and ever since he can't stop playing it. I told our son the other day, Geez, your dad is really addicted to Monopoly, isn't he?
He said, Yeah, Daddy's a dickhead!

I couldn't stop laughing. And then I did, in fact, explain the difference between being "addicted" and "a dickhead."

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

New transit laws take effect September 23, 2009

I've written a little about the new transit laws due to take effect soon, but my friend Amy has written an in-depth examination of the laws in her new e-book, Shorty's Guide to the New Ley de Transito. It's an inexpensive investment ($9.95), and if you drive here (cars, motorcycles, even bicycles), it's worth making yourself knowledgable on the subject. (Plus, it turns out I wasn't completely correct on some of the laws. Oops. Blame it on La Nacion.)

Here is just a sampling of the things you need to know:

On September 23, 2009, there will come into effect a sweeping legislation intended to transform Costa Rica's roadways from the hazardous - free for -all that has developed in recent decades, into a network occupied by safe, conscientious and prepared drivers.

Shorty's Guide To The 2000 Ley de Tránsito is a complete guide for the English speaking driver to know the rules and be prepared for the changes, that include:
» Computerization of Licenses, where points are deducted for infractions
» Dramatic increase in the amount of fines
» Safety seats for all minors under 12 years of age
» Harsh penalties and jail time for driving under the influence
» Immediate loss of license for multiple offences
» New devices requirements, like hands free cell phone adaptor, fire extinguisher, first aid kit, GPS transponder, etc.
» Sanctions for left lane slow pokes and no passing on right, even on multiple lane highways
» Foreigners and their drivers license
» Pedestrians will be required to cross at a corner or crosswalk
Now, all these new laws are fine and good, but what is the MOPT going to do about things like this? Can we fine them?

Yes, that's a telephone pole in the middle of the right-hand lane. Could they have possibly moved the pole before repaving the street? Nah, that would mean two government agencies actually having to coordinate with each other! This pole has been here, in the middle of the street, for over a month now. Let's see how long it takes to get the pole moved, or if the barriers just keep being shifted around. I'm betting on the second.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Not blogging, waving.

I suck. Truly, I do. I haven't been blogging lately, and I have to apologize for that. (Though I'm not as lame a blogger as some of my friends, not mentioning any names or anything ahem Mrs. P.!) I started a j-o-b, and it's been like 9 years since I've worked in an actual office for someone other than myself. Talk about culture shock! But it's going well so far, thanks for asking! I guess just having a job in this economy is something to be grateful for, let alone one I actually semi-enjoy doing. So, I haven't decided yet if this blog will go away or not (probably not), but if you don't hear from me for a while, well... what can I say. Think fondly of me. I shall be thinking of you, waving, from a distance.

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Money talks

C. and I wanted to take our kiddos to see the new Transformers movie. C.'s daughter is 7, and my son is 5. I know, I know... some of you out there will say that the movie is completely inappropriate for a couple of kids so young, and while for some kids it might indeed be so, for ours it isn't. We know our own kids and what they like and what scares them and what doesn't. And they wanted to see Transformers, so one way or another we were going to take them to see the movie.

I mentioned this to another friend of mine, who related a story that a friend of hers tried to take her kid to see Transformers at Multiplaza and they insisted on her bringing the kid's birth certificate to show proof of age.

See, here's the thing: There are two movie ratings in Costa Rica. A and B. A is definitely all-ages, what would be considered G-rated movies in the U.S. I cannot tell you, however, what, exactly, B means. I haven't been able to find out on any website or movie site, whether it's equivalent to an R rating or a PG-13 or PG or what. Personally, I think the B rating is used so that movie theaters (and especially their $2-an-hour ticket sellers) can decide on a whimsy whether or not a movie is appropriate for your kid. Thank you very much, but I think I can decide that for myself.

So we figured if a friend of a friend couldn't get her 12-year-old in to see Transformers without producing proof of age, the only option we had was to go out to the VIP theater at Cinepolis (not that I mind, so far it's my favorite movie theater ever. Anywhere. Period.). Because, you see, as in the rest of Latin America, if you throw more money at something you are less likely to be hassled (witness the prevalence of bribery everywhere in Costa Rica). A ticket to the VIP theater costs 3,500 or the equivalent of about $6 U.S. (That's considered expensive here, by the way!) For your 3,500 you get big, reclining leather seats, waitservice, the ability to buy cocktails with your popcorn, and only maybe 100 seats in the whole theater (there are only 8-10 seats per row, I believe). Not bad, if you ask me. A regular movie costs about half that. Also, we had the Costa Rican national trait of non-confrontation working for us (after all these years, I have finally gotten esposo on board to using that to our advantage whenever possible). If you don't ask, they have to come out and actually tell you, "No, you can't do that," and that just isn't likely to happen.

So. Yesterday we went over to the VIP theater and bought the tickets. When esposo was buying the tickets, he made sure not to mention the fact that two of them were for kids (all tickets cost the same anyway), even though they were standing right there next to us. Of course, the ticket seller didn't say a thing, nor did the ticket taker as we all five strolled into the theater to take our seats. Success!

As for the movie itself? Not much to say, really. Loud, long, and not something I'll be watching again, but the kids had fun and seemed to enjoy it. At least I got to look at Josh Duhamel for the better part of a couple of hours while having popcorn and beer for dinner. Esposo is so good at picking out characters' voices; I just checked and he correctly figured out Tom Kenny (voice of Spongebob) was also the voice of the twins. Not bad!

As a post script, generally speaking, kids' movies are usually shown overdubbed here, but Cinepolis does have Ice Age 3 and Night at the Museum in subtitles. Just in case you have any use for that information. ;-)

Sunday, June 28, 2009

My life, lately

It's been a while since I blogged. Sorry. Well, unless you count the comment I made in response to a rather nasty comment someone left on an old post last night.

I started a new job last week, and by new job I mean a job which requires me to actually get up early, leave the house by 7:30, go to an office, and work at an actual desk. A desk that is currently much cleaner than the one in my home office, the fact that esposo made the huge mistake of "straightening" it up for me one day while I was at said job notwithstanding. It's srange -- I haven't had an office job in, oh, nine years. Some things are great about having a "real" job -- you can always count on a paycheck, you get to interact with colleagues, and honestly, sometimes I just want to get away from the house (the dogs, cats, esposo and son) and be able to think and work in quiet. So far, I am quite enjoying my job (it's in marketing, which is a new avenue for me), and it's only part-time (thank goodness!), so I'm not in complete culture shock. I'm still doing freelancing on the side, as I just can't quite bring myself to give that up yet. Maybe in a year or so. We'll see.

Upon moving to Costa Rica (those nine years ago), I ditched the corporate wardrobe for sandals, tank tops, and cool skirts and pants (and by "cool" here I mean in the sense of breezy, not necessarily hip by any means!). While flip-flops, jeans and tank tops are fine for me in general, they are not so fine for going into an office and giving the appearance of being a professional. So. The exercise in frustration that is clothes shopping in Costa Rica begins.

Now, I will preface all of this by saying that though I think I'm fat, a lot of people don't. I am used to being on that side of thin most of my life, and after a fall during pregnancy, I was left with a knee injury that flares up whenever I try to do the least bit of exercise. So I really am not happy with the way I look at the moment (though, somehow, that will change by the end of the year, I swear it!). However, I'm still the size of the average American woman, maybe even a little bit smaller. I recently came across this article about how retailers have come up with the excuse that they have to cut women's sized (read: larger, real-sized women) clothing in order to save money in this tough economy. Despite the fact that 68% of American women are now considered "plus-sized." So I guess by offering us only "skinny model-sized" clothing, we will feel bad enough about our bodies to want to diet ourselves into fitting into those clothes, and really, they are doing us all a favor! Sigh.

And, ladies, if you think shopping for real-sized clothes is a pain in the ass in the States, you should try shopping here. It is an exercise in utter frustration, at the end of which you often want to lock yourself in the bathroom with a pint of Ben & Jerry's and just cry. Or is that just me? Anyway, finding nice clothing that fits is next to impossible. In the interest of helping out some of you out there who might be looking for decent clothes on a budget, I now lay bare what I did last weekend in my attempt to find just a few items of professional-looking clothing for the office.

I thought to hit the Ropa Americana stores (what gets left over from Salvation Army and Goodwill is sent down here), but of course it was Sunday and the two I like most were closed. So then I went to one of my usually-favorite places to buy clothes that actually fit, Aliss near Multiplaza. Aliss often goes through these personality changes, whereby they'll have the entire department full of things I can wear, to the entire department full of things I can't wear. Guess which personality was on last Sunday. (Though if anyone needs khakis in a size 16+, they have lots of them in the back.)

Next stop: Ekono in Santa Ana. I found what I thought was a cute skirt, only to try it on and realize it was a maternity skirt. How embarrassing! The fabric was all loose at the stomach, so I put that one right back on the pole. Next...I picked out a top that was really pretty, chocolate brown with tiny pin-dots all over. Supposedly a XXL, but when I tried it on it didn't even go over my boobs (and trust me on this one, they aren't that big). Before breaking down in tears, I noticed on the way out of the store that the "skirt" I had tried on was really a "dress," and the loose fabric in the front was supposed to cover one's chest. Oops. While that made me feel a notch better, it wouldn't have been work-appropriate either!

Moving on: I hit Pequeño Mundo in Escazu, not really expecting to find much of anything wearable. Imagine my surprise when I actually walked out of there with three dresses, a skirt, and a shirt! Woo-hoo! Most of the clothing in there is made in China for actual Chinese people, and since I am not Chinese, most of the clothing in there doesn't fit too well. And they don't have dressing rooms, so you sort of have to eyeball it. I started going there when my son was a baby because their prices on baby clothes were ridiculous; I still buy him t-shirts and shorts from there. We left with a few other things and I spent in total less than $50. Can't complain. Pequeño Mundo is sort of like the Marshall's of Costa Rica.

Last stop: Wal-Mart/Hipermas in Escazu. Not a damn thing in the store worth buying. Which is just as well, since I hate shopping there anyway. Something I did see, and which made me laugh (in a sad sort of way) were these t-shirts that had all of these "green" slogans on them, like "Save the Earth," "Reduce, Reuse, Recycle," etc. I figured, cool, organic cotton... or something. Nope. Nothing of the sort. I guess we're supposed to save the Earth by buying more crappy t-shirts we don't need? Way to go, Wal-Mart!

So that was it. I try to avoid the mall (Multiplaza) at all costs, particularly on a weekend. A friend of mine who is exceptionally tall and used to be a model often finds clothes at Zara, though I haven't had much luck there with things for myself (I'm 5'7"). (I sometimes find things for the boys, though.) Nothing else at Multiplaza seems worth the effort of trying on and getting irritated with.

When we first moved here, I used to see big women stuffed into clothes that were obviously two or three sizes too small for them (still do, truth be told). I used to think, Don't they look in the mirror before they go out? Ha. Now I know -- it is just next to impossible to find clothes that fit the large body here. It sucks. And guess what is on the first order of business when I go back to the States in a couple of months? Shop shopping at Ross, Target, Marshall's, Tuesday Morning, and wherever else I come across!

Friday, June 12, 2009

So modern...

We have a new highway. A super-duper, wider, newly paved and newly lighted highway from San Jose to Piedades, heading out toward Orotina and the Pacific coast. We have new highway signs, and even a big lit-up thing that is supposed to tell you things like highway closures or where roadwork is happening, but at the moment only gives you the name of the company that built the highway and the number you can call to complain about the increase in toll.

Costa Ricans, in general, are cheap. The toll used to be 75 colones (around 15 cents), charged only in one direction, with no charge during rush hours. Now it's up to 310 colones (around 75 cents), charged in both directions and during rush hours. I am not one to carry cash (like, ever! which is maybe not the best habit to be in), so I didn't have 310 colones on me this morning when I went over to C.'s place and then the one-and-only English-language library in the Central Valley. This was a mistake, as, even though there are 20 or so brand-new toll booths, none of them take credit/debit cards. So, I instead got off the highway at Guachipelin in Escazu and went the back way to Pavas.

The traffic was outrageous. It took me something like 45 minutes just from Guachi to Pavas at 11 in the morning. It would have probably taken 10 minutes on the highway, had I only brought change. (Note to self: Throw some change in the car!) Because Costa Ricans are cheap, many of them who would otherwise have taken the 75-colones highway are taking the back road and avoiding the charge altogether. Or, perhaps it's not that they're cheap, but that they're protesting the ridiculousness of the toll increase by inconvienencing themselves and others on the back road. Either way, avoid it at all costs. Pay that 310 colones both directions, seriously. It's worth it. There was almost no traffic on the highway on the way back (thanks to C2.'s lending me 310 colones, I could actually take the highway back home!), and that's definitely a nice change from the way things used to be a year or so ago before all of the roadwork began.

Anyway. I wanted to tell you about the little library. You might already know about it, but if not, the Lexicon Lending Library is over behind UCI Med in Pavas. It's not big, but it does have a nice little children's section (very little) and some decent novels. I'm not normally short of reading material, but I needed to find some stories for a project I'm working on, so besides the net, it was the first place I thought of. Anyway, check it out if you are in the area, and if you have books you don't know what to do with, consider donating them to the library. Membership for a year is only 5,000, and the people who run the place are very nice.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Saving Mother Earth, Wal-Mart style

Today I was at the Mas X Menos (which translates as "More for Less," just in case you were curious!) in Alajuela. MXM is now owned mostly by Wal-Mart (what isn't, though?), and along one half-wall they had this display of drawings by local schoolkids about saving the planet. The cynic in me thought, Well, most of them just did it because they took a "field trip" to MXM and their teacher made them do it, but then the optimist in me thought, Even so, can't hurt, right?

Some of the kids did a really nice job. I think these were the ones that actually "got it," and good for them (and us!). (Note: I didn't take pics of all the outstanding ones, and there were quite a few of them. These are just a sampling.)

"Our Mother Earth
we inherited forests and trails,
What will we leave behind?"

I couldn't make out most of this one (took the pic too small; sorry!), but the center says,
"Because we only have one Earth!"

No words, just beautiful.

"The Earth is not an inheritance from our parents, but a loan that we must return to our children."

Some of the kids obviously either didn't get it or just didn't give a shit. For example, you can file this one under "Unclear on the concept":

Actually, if my son had been given an assignment like "Draw a picture that shows how you feel about our Mother Earth!" I would not be surprised if a dinosaur, robot, or pirate appeared in said picture. Not surprised at all.

You can file this one under "Went right over her head":

I don't get it. Maybe I'll ask my own four-year-old (soon to be five!) what he thinks she was trying to draw.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009


My dog, Roxy. She has an extremely long tongue for a small dog! She once won "best mutt" at a dog show in Ciudad Colon. She was so proud of herself! P.S. Those are my feet in the fugly Crocs.

One-legged duck at the U. Peace Park out past Ciudad Colon. Esposo named the duck Lego. If it's not a birth defect, the foot probably came off from fishing wire, which is left all over the park. I don't know why they let people fish here, but they do, and then the fishermen often don't bother to pick up after themselves. Not a surprise, though, really. Unfortunately.

Behind this truck in Escazu. I couldn't believe this thing didn't fall right over. But it never did!

How... inappropriate!

A couple of friends and I took our kids over to Gymbo Fiestas in Santa Ana this morning for some play time. They tend to get restless this time of year (rainy season). Anyhoo. I was reminded of how the sexualization of children (especially girls, but boys are not immune) begins at the very beginning in Costa Rica (and probably most of Latin America, though I haven't lived anywhere else to make that judgement) -- girls get their ears pierced, so, like, it's obvious they are girls, boys just do not have long hair (mine does, and even though he's 100% boy, dresses like a boy, acts like a boy, he still gets called "ella" all the time by strangers; oddly, though, esposo, who also has long hair, is never mistaken for a woman), the toy aisles are very obviously laid out to show which are boy toys and which are girl toys. It's pretty gross, really, if you ask me.

So they play music in Gymbo, and this morning it was some very, very strange remakes of songs such as "YMCA" and "La Bomba" (the reggaeton song, not "La Bamba" by Ritchie Valens!) sung by kids. Weird, right? I have to say, hearing a chorus of children singing "La Bomba" was just a bit disturbing. Here's a video of the original; what would you think if you had heard kids singing this song? Am I overreacting? I should be used to this by now? Yikes.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Dog missing from Piedras Negras

I received an e-mail from Christine at Pets y Mas magazine about a dog who is thought to have been stolen from Peidras Negras (west of Ciudad Colon). Patricia runs a shelter for animals out in Peidras Negras called El Arca de Noe (and believe me, it really is like Noah's Ark out there!). Any of you who have ever lost a pet know that feeling in the pit of your stomach, not knowing what has happened to your beloved friend. So please, if you see this dog, contact Patricia immediately, and pass on this info!

Querid@s Amig@s,
Hoy más que nunca necesito de su apoyo. Por favor: máxima difusión de la foto adjunta y si pueden pegármela en varios negocios por donde ustedes viven… sería aún más fantástico. Pues, el viernes pasado me robaron a mi amigo Jack, lo he buscado como loca en toda la montaña, he pegado rótulos por todas partes, he hablado con medio mundo, pero nada. El es un perro adulto que conoce bien la zona y sé que no se ha perdido. Siempre sigue el carro cuando me voy y luego regresa a casa y la noche, me viene a topar de camino y regresamos juntos a casa. Este ritual me hace terriblemente falta y siento un dolor tan profundo porque no se si el esta en buenas manos, ojala cayo en buenas manos. Este perrito ha sufrido mucho, lo abandonaron y lo rescate en un estado de desnutrición muy avanzada. Es uno de mis mejores perros y el más fiel Amigo, Dios quiera que me lo devuelvan, con el apoyo de todos ustedes. Gracias, gracias, gracias a todos.
Patricia, El Arca de Noe, tel 8813-5118.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Updates from my corner of the world

I haven't posted much lately. I'm feeling a little blogging burnout, I suppose. I guess that can happen after a while. Well anyway, there hasn't been all that much new and interesting to tell you about in any case. But here are a few recent highlights:

1. The new bank is kinda sucky. I had such high hopes; I suppose that was my problem in the first place. I have the same sort of basic problem with my courier mail service, and also with a lot of businesses in Costa Rica. The problem is that they've sort of got you by the you-know-whats, because there just isn't that much competition and so they really don't give much of a rat's behind if you go somewhere else, because 1) there aren't too many other banks/couriers/cable companies/etc. you can go to, and 2) since there is so little competition, there's always another sucker lined up for their shitty service. Sigh.

So anyway. The bank. I had only two very minor (in any developed country, that is) requirements: a debit card I could use internationally, and the ability to cash international checks in a timely manner. The second requirement has been met with flying colors, so I have nary a complaint there. The first requirement, however, not so much. The debit card apparently does work if I were to leave the country and try to use it outside of Costa Rica, but it does not work on the internet, and it does not even have raised numbers so I can't use it to, say, order a pizza within Costa Rica because it can't be used on a manual credit card machine. So my hopes of closing my BAC account and moving over to Scotiabank has gone out the window. Now, I have to withdraw money from Scotiabank and deposit it in BAC just to buy something online. What a pain in the ass.

Furthermore, there was this little incident: I opened two savings accounts there, because I wanted to use one as a real savings account and the other as the account from which I would make purchases, pay bills, etc. Normally people don't have checking accounts here (unless you own a business) because you just don't write checks here, for anything. You never pay bills with checks, and you don't buy groceries with checks, so a checking account is basically useless. So I have two savings accounts instead of a checking and a savings. This must have thrown someone at Scotiabank for a real loop, because they could not figure out how to get both accounts to show up on my online banking. At first, I had one account on there, and when I asked to get the other one added, the first one disappeared. I had to go into the bank not once, not twice, but three times before someone finally figured out that the problem was that they had set up another user number for me and thus only the second account was showing up. That someone was me, by the way, not anyone who actually worked at the bank. They deleted the extraneous user number and voila, both accounts magically appeared in the online banking! Now, to transfer money from the regular savings to the savings savings would be a simple thing, one would think. And one would be wrong. I was not authorized to transfer money between my own accounts. Yet something else no one at the bank bothered to mention and thus necessitated another trip to the bank to figure out what was up (turned out I had to authorize myself to transfer money between accounts -- seriously, how stupid is that?).

Thus ends the latest chapter of my ongoing banking saga in Costa Rica.

2. My son takes karate lessons two afternoons a week, and usually the traffic isn't too bad, but last Thursday it completely sucked going over the hill on the back road from Santa Ana to Escazu. Without any traffic (like this morning, on the way to the Queen's Birthday Party), you can get there in about 10 minutes. We sat in bumper-to-bumper traffic in about a two-mile stretch of road for a good half hour. Uphill. When we finally got over to Paco in Escazu, we noticed a little fender-bender had taken place, thus accounting for the ridiculous traffic jam. One car had a light that had fallen out, and I couldn't really see any damage on the second car. Here in Costa Rica, you can't move your car out of the way after an accident, no matter how in the way it is. So the cars sit there until the MOPT arrives, they take pictures, statements, etc. and finally clear out the accident an hour or two later. I took photos for you, because I was doing nothing but sitting anyway and I thought it would be funny. I waved at the MOPT tow truck driver, who laughed at the silly Gringa taking photos of the accident. I guess now you can officially call me an ambulance chaser.

Strange, the damage doesn't look so bad from here...

The highway patrol officer. Dude, are you done yet? Because, like, we've got a karate class to get to?

I waved at the tow truck driver as I took his picture. You can just hear him thinking, "Silly Gringa!"

Something that drives me absolutely nuts about car accidents here is that they always leave the crap all over the road for you to drive over. What the fuck is that all about? I swear it is the Tico mentality that someone else is going to come and clean up after you, therefore people have no problem throwing garbage out of the window or dumping their trash by the side of the road or leaving debris behind after a car accident. I mean, hey, someone is going to come along and pick it up, right? So after this accident, of course, there was broken glass all over the road, and no one cleaned it up. Grrrr.....

3. I went to the Queen's Birthday Party today. It is held at the British Ambassador's house in Escazu every year, and is mainly a charity event. We always spend more money than we should. I have been craving licorice allsorts for a couple of months, so I got three bags of those (4500) and six bags of salt and vinegar chips (3000). Then I had a Pimm's for breakfast, which was not high on my list of best ideas I've ever had. A Pimm's is sort of like a British sangria, only with some sort of booze that no one I asked (including two Brits) had a clue what it was. (I looked it up; apparently it's vodka-based, which would explain why drinking one at 9:00 a.m. is perhaps something I'll refrain from doing next year.) I also had a dish of curry, and now I am thinking that, coupled with the Pimm's, was not a brilliant idea, either. (Mental note: pass on the curry next year.) My son spent almost three hours playing in the bouncy castle, while esposo and I chatted with friends and watched all the groovy peeps wander by the food tent (the theme this year was the 60s -- sad fact: I didn't actually have to go shopping to find appropriate clothes). Anyway, we had fun, Foster's, and I have enough licorice allsorts to last at least a week or two.

4. My cat? He's 24 pounds of super cuteness. That's all I have to say about that.

Boris sleeping on a purple monkey. Is he cute or what?

Monday, April 13, 2009


On first glance, I thought this was a leaf, but upon closer inspection, realized it was a cocoon. Cool, huh?

I wondered what had been eating my chayote vine, and one morning saw this cow out there munching away at it. Mystery solved. The cow was also drinking from my birdbath. I wonder how many "gated communities" in Costa Rica have cows wandering through the fields? Not that I'm complaining...

This is the cow that ate my plants. He also likes apples. And he made out with my dog, Maddie. His tag says #43, but I like to call him #43.

Peacock spotted at the picnic area at Zoo Ave. The children ran around him nonstop, which I thought would be terribly annoying, but he was too busy showing off for a girl to even notice them much. He had a very fuzzy behind.

Gratuitous shot of my cute cat, Olivia/Kitters.

Another gratuitous pet shot, this time of Liz.


I am not sure what this plant is called; it doesn't flower frequently, and it looks like it is a succulent, which grows in a sort of zig-zag. Anyone know what this is called? It's a very cool plant we originally rescued from a lot that was being cleaned out in Escazu.

This one is a type of ladyslipper orchid. It blooms like crazy. Normally I have a brown thumb for orchids, but this one almost takes care of itself.

This is one of Costa Rica's many leguminous trees. This time of year, it has hardly any leaves but is covered in these bright yellow flowers. This is one of my favorite trees here. You might also see the pink ones.

This was some formerly beautiful bamboo at the gardens in Zoo Ave. What is wrong with people that they have to do this to plants inside a freakin' park? Sigh.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Lies, lies, lies, yeah

Have you ever watched House Hunters International on HGTV? We get HGTV down here on the cable channels, and it's one of my favorite channels, beside BBC Entertainment. So I tend to see House Hunters International on a somewhat-regular basis, and lately it seems they've been doing Costa Rica a lot. Esposo and I both think that someone there has an interest in selling Costa Rican real estate, due to all the shows they've been doing down here.

One of the things that really irritates me is the tendency by real estate agents to gloss over all the negatives about Costa Rica just because they want to make a dollar or two. For example, a recent show had a couple looking at a house in Jacó (I think it was a couple, anyway, or it may have been a single guy. whatever). The couple or guy was buying property in Costa Rica without ever having even visited the country. I mean, seriously, how stupid can you be? I guess you must just be rolling in the Benjamins to buy property in a foreign country without ever having lived there. Or you're really, really stupid. Either way, he gets down here, looks at a few places, and on one of the houses there are bars all over the windows. He asks the real estate agent about this, and the guy flat-out lies to his face, saying basically they're a holdover from Spain and really just for decorative purposes. Ha! Are you kidding me? They're a vain attempt to keep theives out of your house (it doesn't work most of the time anyway, so I say forgo the stupid bars altogether). The dumb Gringo didn't even question that. Wow.

Yesterday I picked up a real estate magazine, one of those freebies they pass out all over the place. In it was a list of common household expenses and what things cost here. One of them had a live-in maid, with Sundays off, as costing $200 a month. If you paid a live-in maid that paltry amount, you'd be committing a crime. The minimum wage here is (according to esposo) 167,000 colones a month, or about $300. That's not including insurance through the caja, mandatory if you have a full-time employee (a friend of mine, in fact, pays her part-time employee's caja because the woman's other employer refuses to pay it at all). This is going to cost around another $200 or so, perhaps a little less. But let's just say for the sake of argument, a full-time live-in maid will cost you about $500 a month. That's still really cheap, people. $500 a month means you a paying someone $125 a week to clean your house, wash your dishes and clothes, scub your floors, dust, straighten up, all that stuff maids do. (In my opinion, it's still not enough.) So why lie about it and say it costs $200? So you encourage the Gringos to rip people off, thereby creating even more resentment in the locals towards us? Yeah, great idea. And people wonder why their maids steal from them. Pay a decent, living wage, treat people with respect, and if you can't do that, don't have a maid at all. I personally cannot afford to pay a maid what I believe a maid should be paid, plus I just don't like the whole inherent class thing that goes on, plus my last maid stole my wedding ring (and yes, we actually did pay her well), so I don't have a maid.

I receive on a bi-weekly or so basis a newsletter that is full of real estate info for Costa Rica. I really don't know why I'm still subscribed to the newsletter, as I find most of it bullshit and nothing I really care about. It's obvious the lies and half-truths told in order to sell real estate, and truly, it just pisses me off. For example, the writer of the newsletter once stated that there was no water problem in Escazu. What? Surely you don't mean this Escazu, here in Costa Rica? Cause I beg to differ. Ask anyone who lives there how often their water goes out during the summertime. Ugh.

Look, I live here, I even like living here, most of the time. But it doesn't do anyone any good to tell people they're going to find all the ameneties and infrastructure and this and that like they'd find back home; if you want to go live in the middle of the rainforest all by yourself somewhere, then maybe you'll find paradise, otherwise this country is a lot like any other country: it's got its good points and its drawbacks. Some of the reasons I live here are because my son can grow up without fear of being shot at school or arrested for bringing an aspirin to class, no one really bothers me about the fact that I have 9 dogs (other than our idiotic neighbor who complains about everything), the weather is good, and I have great friends. Some of the things I don't like are the always-increasing crime and the government's refusal to do anything about it (sticking their collective heads in the sand doesn't count), the way Costa Rica positions itself as so very eco-friendly when it is anything but, and the way Costa Ricans are so self-centered (along with their poor treatment of animals). I bet my neighbor has different things he likes and dislikes about living here (e.g., pros: legal prostitution, cons: cows in the lot next door).

So all I can say is, if you have any thoughts of coming down here to live or stay for an extended period of time, do your homework. Don't be that dumbass on House Hunters who bought a house without ever having lived in Jaco. Hell, we moved around the tiny town of Ciudad Colon five times! Even within one small town you'll have a whole bunch of different neighborhoods. By the time we finally figured out which part of town we liked best, esposo got a job offer and we moved to Grecia. Hmpf. Rent, walk around town, get to know some people (evne if they aren't Costa Ricans, try to get to know some other Gringos who have lived here long-term).

And, I will now take this opportunity to plug Michael Alan's blog, Do'in Costa Rica. My regular readers know that I rarely plug anyone's blog, but I think this one is great. He sometimes comments here, and I have to say, his blog is really, really funny and he always tells it like it is. And he swears a lot, like me, so what's not to like? :-D So go over there and check it out, especially if you're thinking of moving here!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Random sillyness

1. A sign at the Parque de Diversiones:

Danger, Will Robinson! If you have been recently cut in half and sewn back together, or if you have a giant tumor/basketball/triplets in your stomach, do not ride this ride! Which just so happens to be a very mild little "train" that takes people around the park! Danger!

2. My son says to me the other day, "Mommy, how do you say 'effin' delicious'* in Spanish?"
"I don't know, I think that's one you'll have to ask your dad."
"But how do you say it?"
"I said I don't know. Ask your dad!"
"I know how to say it."
"Really? How do you say it?"
"Efemente delicioso!"

* We are trying to cut back on the swearing around here, so we say now "effing delicious" instead of "fucking delicious," though personally I prefer the latter.

3. On a teabag from the Asian market:

Sing along with me, now: "Oh, if it's homely tea, it must be for meeeee...."

Saturday, March 14, 2009

One of those things

...that grates on your last nerve, gets under your skin, makes your teeth grind together, etc.

L. wrote about this very subject on her blog quite a while back, and ever since then I've noticed more and more people mispronouncing the French word voilá. It is not "wa-lah." It is certainly not "mwa-lah." It is "vwa-lah." Are Americans just that freaking lazy? I mean, seriously? The last straw was watching something the other day on Food Network with a chef, who really ought to know better, in my opinion, saying "And walla! You're done!" (I think it was Tyler Florence. I could be wrong.) It really jerked my chain though. Dude, come on! If someone like that can't pronounce a very common French word correctly, someone in production should have alerted him to the fact and corrected him.

I know this is a Costa Rica blog and people speak, for the most part, Spanish here, but I spoke French rather fluently long before I could speak Spanish (not anymore though, damn Spanish has replaced the more elegant French in that part of my brain that has only room for one foreign language at a time). So here's a Spanish example for you: When I lived in Monterey, California, there was (is still, I suppose) a road that runs through the main part of downtown, Calle Principal. Those of you who can speak Spanish properly will know how to pronounce this, but in California, everyone says "Cal Princy-pal." And it sounds so ridiculous. (It's "Cah-yea Prin-see-PAL" for those who don't know.) However, if you go around saying to someone, I'll meet you on Cah-yea Prin-see-PAL, no one will know where the hell you're talking about. So you have to say Cal Princy-pal, as much as it pains you to do so. For as much of California as has Spanish names (because, along with the rest of the Southwest, it was all part of Mexico not all that long ago), you'd think Californians would have some sort of clue about how to prounounce these things. They don't.

Ok, that's my rant of the day. Have a great weekend! ;-)

Friday, March 13, 2009

The people in your neighborhood

If you've ever driven, or more accurately, sat in traffic in Escazu, you might have seen the mentally-challenged bald guy who hands out flowers at various intersections. I find him friendly and he never fails to bring a smile to my face. It could be from living a few years in Santa Cruz, where we had our very own brand of crazy, that he doesn't scare me like he seems to do to some people. Sometimes I miss the Santa Cruz crazies. I'm pretty sure he gets the flowers for free somewhere, but I always give him a few coins anyway.

Well anyway, the other day we were driving through Escazu sitting in Escazu traffic and I see the fella up ahead at the light, trying to give these rather beautiful bouquets of lilies to various drivers but having no luck (and I should mention that he never asks for a handout for them, ever. But I figure he probably doesn't have a job and could use the money so I give him some anyway). The light turned green, we slowly moved forward, and as my A/C is on the fritz at the moment, I had my window down. Suddenly he was there, throwing the lilies in the car at me! I was a little taken aback, but man, they smelled so good, so I dug out a few coins and handed them to him. Did I mention how much I like this guy?

Acosted with a bunch of flowers. Asi es Costa Rica!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

A $20 cup of coffee

Tonight I had what is, in all likelihood, the best coffee I've ever had. Ever. A friend's husband works for a specialty coffee exporter here in Costa Rica, and we just so happened to be next door to his office this evening. She asked us if we wanted to come in and see the office, and who could say no? Of course! The smell emanating from the building was unbelievably good -- sort of like the chocolate smell that permeates the air when you're anywhere in Hershey, Pennsylvania, only here it was coffee.

They just so happened to be doing a cupping today, and asked us if we wanted to taste a cup of coffee, which just so happened to be 8-time internationally award-winning Herbazu coffee. Again, who could say no?

I am not one for drinking black coffee. Usually black coffee, to me, is too bitter and bothers my stomach. But I figured at a place like this, one drinks black coffee. So I asked for just half a cup and steeled myself for the experience. I should not have been concerned! It was so smooth, with a natural sweetness and cacao-like aftertaste that was simply coffee heaven. (So, yes, I had a second, full, cup!) Absolutely no sugar or milk-like substance necessary -- in fact, that would be downright wrong with coffee this good.

Another girl who was there with us also never drinks black coffee and loved it. So there you go. She asked the barista how much a cup of coffee like this would go for, and he said from $10-20 per cup. Well, I've never had such expensive coffee before! But I can see why it would cost so much, and honestly, if we could even buy it in Costa Rica (we can't; it's only for export), I would, definitely. If any of you out there get the chance to buy a cup of Herbazu at your local coffee shop, try it! I think you won't be disappointed. And I found a place where you can buy it, in the UK, here. It seems silly to buy Costa Rican coffee from the UK and have it shipped to Costa Rica, but I just might!

P.S. My friend's husband's coffee is called Cafetin San Martin and it's also really great!

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Raven's 80s y Más

I may have mentioned before that esposo, a chef, likes to listen to 80s music when he's cooking. Don't ask me. Anyway, I acquired for him Billboards Top 100 Hits of Every Single Freakin' Year of the 80s. Yes, that's 1,000 songs. From the 80s.

Tonight we were listening to 1983, one of his favorite years, apparently. Now, back in 1983, I was in high school and let's just say esposo was a youngun'. So I kept asking him, Do you remember this video? And typically, his answer was, No. Ok, so there was no MTV during the 1980s in Costa Rica, either, which could have had something to do with his severe lack of 80s music video knowledge. And thus, I am here to enlighten him on all that he missed. Thank the FSM for YouTube!

A selection of music videos from Billboard's Top Hits of 1983

Dexy's Midnight Runners, "Come On Eileen"

I'm sorry, but if you don't totally and completely love this song, you either didn't live through the 80s or there's something wrong with you. The overalls? The fiddles and banjos, and they weren't even from Appalacia? Seriously! When you're finished watching the below, check out Save Ferris's version. Because they really kick ass on this song. And is that the dude from Dexy's making a cameo or is it my imagination?

Men at Work, "Down Under"

Who didn't want to go to Australia during the 1980s? Between Men at Work, Midnight Oil, Kajagoogoo, and INXS, we all wanted to take a trip to the strange and interesting land down under, admit it.

Golden Earring, "Twilight Zone"

This song just rocks, that's all there is to it. The director was obviously in love with spy movies ala 007 (well, who wasn't). And? I'm pretty sure naked chick did not appear on MTV.

Toto, "Africa"

Seriously, though, I still love this song. Even though the keyboard player looks like he has, uh... issues. Ok, you can start making fun of me now. "Gonna take a lot to drag me away from you, there's nothing that a hundred men or more could ever do..." Uh huh.

Eddy Grant, "Electric Avenue"

Along with "Pass the Dutchie," a stoner classic. This sort of sounds like the precursor to reggaeton, which I can't stand. But I like this.

Kajagoogoo, "Too Shy"

Speaking of weirdo Australians... "Honey, do you remember this video?" "Nope." Peg leg pants alert! Woo-hoo!

Adam and the Ants, "Goody Two Shoes"

Not mentioning any names or anything, but this was my personal theme song for a very good friend of mine back in the day. I can safely say she is now anything but! :-) Personally, I liked the song "Strip" better, but that was 1985, and thus, sadly, not eligible for inclusion in this particular list.

Marvin Gaye, "Sexual Healing"

I loved Marvin back in the day. Loved, loved, loved Marvin. The day he died I stayed home from school and cried in my room all day. Anyway. Who could listen to this song and not want to do it? Not me.

So just out of curiosity, and because I know there are a heck of a lot more readers out there than comment, I would love to hear what your favorite videos/songs from the 80s are!