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Monday, October 29, 2007

More on Driving

I don't know what it is here, but everything seems to look old almost instantaneously.

We have to drive past the Multiplaza to get to the Autopista twice a day to deliver the kids to and from school in Santa Ana. There has been much road work this past month. This has caused delays, detours (and by that I mean the road is closed here, find your own way around). This, in turn, has caused for grumpy driving Mom.

Thankfully, all the work seems to be concluded. It seems that the main point of tearing up the road was to add a huge bump in the road to be a pass through for pedestrians? I am not sure. It is wider than a speed bump and higher. To alert drivers of this ..... thing.... yellow paint was applied. It was painted this Saturday. I saw it. Today it looks like it has been there for several years.

I want to know - how do they do that?

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Manual Labor

This is some road construction that we have driven past. Look how many workers. Look how few machines. Again, just seems a little different.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

The Mailman rings twice

This is the mailman. No official uniform and only a motorbike. BUT the two pieces of mail that I knew were coming got to us just fine. Big test coming up though, Toots sent a package. It should take a couple of weeks - we will see.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Celebrity Saratica comes to our house

So we have met the famous, prolific Saratica. Surprisingly her real first name is something other than Sara, and we call her that when we see her, but we still refer to her as Saratica to each other. I mean it is not often that you actually meet a celebrity.

If you haven't seen her blog, you should really check it out. She is funny, deep and relevant. Reading her stuff has made me laugh, it has made me tear up and it has made me move to Costa Rica. Okay, really we did the last one ourselves. But still, reading her blog "pre-flight" made us feel that we had a definite nod of approval, a green light, that what we thought we would be getting, was indeed here to be found. And it has been.

She is a hoot, a holler and a kick in the pants. I hope she enjoys that description.

But I must say that it is a little weird to meet someone you already think that you know. As I read her blog I often think, that sounds like us. She is so nice and funny. We have now "socially engaged" twice (she was nice enough to invite us up to her house for a brunchy thing during our first weeks here - what a nice touchstone as we had been surrounded by Spanish and a little strangeness and mostly each other and now we have had their family for pizza at our house, now that we are mostly settled in).

It seems so nice to socialize and have buddies. Her kids are great, Hal is funny too, and I already told you about her. But, there is a tiny awkward feeling, like a blind date set up by your aunt - we know too much about them or something. The stories that you tell when you first meet, we have already read about. Still, I am sure we will get past this and it is just a phenomenon of meeting fellow bloggers. I had better get used to it.

By the way - Hi Saratica and as I posted on your blog, wear all the lipstick you want but you must know that you could never be replaced!

Friday, October 12, 2007

TLC - Si

For months there have been signs, banners, placards, handouts about the Costa Rican National Referendum on TLC (this is known as CAFTA in the US) which is a trade agreement between Central American countries and the US. Not surprisingly, there are some good things and some bad things for Costa Rica. However, many neighboring countries had already signed, so there was some pressure to approve it.

The signs were nice. Colorful (red, white and blue) and many to do with the heart. "My heart says yes" "My heart says no" "TLC Si" and "TLC No" and "We are with TLC"

There was also a small amount of graffiti. It was obvious that the money (businesses, etc.) were behind the yes contingency. Walls that were spray-painted with "Si" were done in an organized, artistic fashion - perhaps using a stencil and in red. I have also seen bus stops with "TLC NO" done in basic black spray paint in a hurried hand. This pretty much shows the difference in the financial backing of the supporters.

The YES side seems to be made up of the businesses and higher class. The NO supporters are academics, government workers (one part of yes is that the government-run monopolies on telecommunication must go), and workers.

The vote was this past Sunday (Sunday?) and the results were in and announced by Monday (that is EFFICIENT). It seems that the country was evenly divided.
A little more than half of the people entitled to vote actually voted.
Of those that voted ~52% for Si, ~48% for No.

So it has passed. After alot of publicity, it seems that the results have been swallowed. There has been no calls for recounts or protest marches that I can tell. What I can say is that it was really hard to find any of the banners, stickers, etc. now that it is over.

That being said, I am sure that this is an oversimplification of the issue, and really only time will tell what all this really means.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Driving in Costa Rica - Part 1

This is an older entry on cars and driving from late August, but still, an interesting story:

We have been renting the entire time that we have been here, and frankly it is getting a little tiresome and very expensive. Our first car was a Suzuki Aero. It seemed small after leaving behind my beloved Volvo cross-country. With five of us, a station wagon is really nice. Also, because we are moving things, changing cars, etc. we keep taking out the car seats. This means that often the kids get a free ride. I mean sit in Mommy's lap for a quick trip to wherever or something like that. I am not overly worried about their safety for this short time, but getting them used to going back in the carseats is not going to be fun. Especially la bebe, who hated it in the first place. And Gus thinks that he is ready to drive.

So we rented that for a few weeks, then when Auntie Myra was here and we were planning some sightseeing trips, we upgraded to a Suzuki APM (All person mover), kinda like a tall minivan. Worked well, but not a smooth drive and $100 more/week. Downgraded back to ol' trusty for another week. Then decided we have been paying too much (more than we want to, anyway) and found a dirt cheap rental. It stinks. It squeals. It is TINY. Many things do not work or work very hard (i.e. radio, roll down windows). It definitely does not make us a target (nobody would dream we had any money). BUT, it is manual and so I can drive. Don't get me wrong - I can drive a stick, but it has been awhile and there is so much more going on here (with the condition of the roads, the interesting tactics of the drivers and the kids) so stick was just one thing too many for me to feel comfortable right now.

Funny side story: When Ibarra went to get the car, the guy asked him (several times to make the point),
"you are over 21, aren't you? I mean because my insurance won't cover you if you are not...." Ibarra is 37. Just doesn't look it. I am 35 and do look it. As time progresses, this should be interesting what people may think (I got me a cute Filipino house boy - okay actually I do, but to have people think he is so young!)

Back to the driving. I have been riding shotgun for about 6 weeks now. There are go-arounds that take a little getting used to. There is a left hand turn into the road to the kids' school that has constant traffic and so you have to wait for a gap, or some nice person to wave you through/blink lights at you. There are buses that stop randomly and people running across the highway (someone described it as a human game of Frogger - pretty apt). All these things seem like I can negotiate.

So last week I started off at 12:10 to get Gus from school at 12:30. It is about a 10-15 minute drive and there is usually a line up of cars to get the kids, so plenty of time. Got there with little problem. Got him buckled in. Got back to the on-ramp to the Autopista. Now it gets dicey. To get on the Autopista in the direction I want to go, you go up a ramp, past the entrance to the Forum (business park), up a little hill and over a one-lane bridge, do a 180 degree turn, and down onto the highway.

Except today. Today there is a tractor trailer stuck/caught on the bridge. So the whole line of cars starts backing down the little hill. Then they cross the grassy area separating this road from the Autopista going the other way. Then they merge across the two lanes of highway traffic. Then they cross the other grassy area separating the two directions of the highway (perhaps median is the word, but au natural), then they turn and merge with traffic going the other directions. See, who needs an over ramp? Remember, this is my first time solo.

So what should I do. There's this old saying, "When in Rome,...."

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Mi Amor - Or a trip to the hardware store in Costa Rica

My husband sent me to the hardware store by the kids school the other day. We were looking for the little metal pieces that hold the bookshelves in a bookcase. Hard enough to explain in English (is there even a proper word for it?) So I go in and try to explain this in my limited Spanish. Keep in mind that I do not know the words for the item I am looking for or for bookcase or shelf.

I try, with lots of hand waving and gestures. The old guy smiles sadly and says, "No, mi amor."

I try again, I manage this:
- "in the furniture for books" he nods.
- "the tree" (hands sweep across like flat) he nods.
- "I need a small (hands show pushing in the piece to the side of my imaginary bookcase) for the tree" (hands flat again) he smiles, nods and directs me to another girl.

I do it all over again. She walks me to the aisle. They only have plastic, but close enough. I buy two boxes for something like $1 and go on about my day.

I am pretty happy to have gotten this done. And how nice that he called me "mi amour."

And that is how I get things done here.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Turtle Feet, Surfer's Beat - New CR YA Book

There's this lady I met online who wrote a book. Not only did she write the book, she took it to the next level and is publishing and selling it. She's also has lofty, charitable goals to help save the world (or at least the turtles). I thought that this would be a great opportunity to ask some questions and help her spread the word. Here's what we talked about:

Q: I love the title "Turtle Feet, Surfer's Beat." It seems to bring together the natural element of the turtles and the the cool kid sports world. Which part inspired you first and how did you think to marry the two in your upcoming book. Are you more of a surfer girl or a nature girl?
A: Actually the book came about when I visited the park for the leatherback turtles and became inspired to help them out. I’ve always loved young adult books and decided that it would be a great topic to write about. But, since teens are a hard group to capture their interests, I realized that the neighboring beach to the park is the world famous surf beach Tamarindo, so I decided to make the other main character the Latino Pro Surf Champ, with full moon parties and risky get-aways from the turtle poachers!

Q: Your main character Penelope has what sounds to me like a "geek girl" name. Did you do this on purpose? Do we get to see Penelope grow in self-confidence as she "gets the guy"?
A: Yes and no, I think her self-confidence grows more from her wanting to help out the turtles. She sees that she, a suburban brat, can make a difference, too.

Q: It's obvious that Costa Rica plays a big role in your story. How long have you been living there, where did you come from and what prompted the move?
A: I’ve been living in Costa Rica for almost five years. I followed my husband out here from NY for his masters program, but that’s over and I’ve fallen in love with the country and decided to stay with my son.

Q: It seems like you chose to self-publish this book. What a brave path, I applaud you. What made you take this route and are you doing a traditional print run or a print-on-demand method? Are you planning to sell on Amazon as well as through your own great website?
A: You have a lot more control when you self-publish, and also with my online teen community growing I decided to work solely through the site. Eventually I do plan on selling my book through amazon as well, but for now, if anyone buys any version of the book 10% goes directly to the leatherback fund.

Q: Before becoming a published author/naturalist/social networking genius - what was your career path? How did you take the journey to authordom?
A: I’ve always had an interest in writing, and have been writing on and off for awhile, so when the inspiration for this book came my way, it was the right time!

Now for a little plug from Marina:

Thank you for having me on your fun blog,

and I hope to see everyone at our online community

ciao for now,

Marina Kuperman


Take the ultimate ride!!!

Friday, October 5, 2007

Sera's First Word

It is BRAGGING time. That is what I call it whenever I discuss how brilliant, humorous or beautiful my children are, either in the singular or plural.

So today it is Sera's turn to get discussed. She is soooo smart. She is starting to understand and react appropriately to the verbal. You ask her where her shoes are and she goes and gets them. Things like that. Now I know that non-parental dog-baby owners are probably thinking, big deal. But she also looks at you and babbles a long drawn out discussion. You know that the wheels are turning. And sometimes, she mimics back a word. Okay, she has done it once. Her first "word" ..........HOLA...........Go figure.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

I'm Back

Okay, not the most original title. But beware, I have lots of things to post about and will try my best not to lag like that again. As I mentioned to a friend, I was just taking a break to build suspense. (Just kidding).

Sorry to say, nothing that exciting has been going on. I have just been really busy just getting our lives set up here. I HATE moving and every time we do it, I vow it will be easier next time. I pare down, and yet it still stinks the next time around. We just have TOO much stuff. And, everything just seems to take a long time here. I can see why some people get tired of that. Lucky for me,what else I got to do - besides blog?

But after many questions about why I have stopped blogging. From California, Florida, the Philippines - okay, that is really just family - I will start up again and vow to do better.

Exciting, upcoming topics will probably include: driving in Costa Rica, a visit to Florida, some differences in US and CR, Disney school play, more driving in Costa Rica, fist fight at the mall, my first streetwalker, meeting a celebrity, Sera's first words, starting our business, birthday parties galore, the weirdness of writing about real people........ and MORE!