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.