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.