Saturday, October 29, 2005

Tico Nick Names

I think I'm starting to understand Tico culture. Ticos have a habit of calling people by names. For instance the parking guard on our street always greets me with 'buenes linda' (linda = pretty). At first I was a little put off. What does he mean hey pretty? Should I be nervous should I walk on the other side of the street? The next guard up the streets always calls me guapa (beautiful). And the orange juice grocery cart vender calls me reina (queen).

Now, I was trying to make friends with the guards because you never know when you might need them. A sheepish smile and a nod, nothing big you know. This is a third world country and there is a reason why every three cars needs a guard. If you didn't know this about Costa Rica there are parking guards for every block. You pay them around a dollar for parking in their area under the theory that they are guarding your car. They carry a stick that was probably an old broom stick and they wear an orange safety vest usually crusted with dirt. If anything happens to your car you don't have to pay them because they probably won't be around. Sorry got off topic.

So I think all of these terms are just friendly banter. Ticos are flirts that's just what it comes down to. They are so nice it becomes flirtatious with the opposite sex. Nobody actually thinks they are seriously trying to get with you that's just what they do. When I go to the gas station I will be called a cute name, but only if Adam's not in the car. But these names don't really mean anything.

I realized this when the old lady selling cheese in the market called me mi amor, meaning my love. You would never hear that from a clerk in the states but here it comes naturally, and I'm loving it more and more. What I don't like though, is being called dona. Our apartment guard calls me dona, which I think translates into ma'm of the house. I'm not old enough to be called ma'am, how do you spell that anyways?

Also the nick names can be quite funny. On Wednesday's I take horseback riding lessons (super cheap). Last Wednesday I rode a horse named Mr. Clinton. And seriously they named him Mr.Clinton because he's a studly stallion, you know like Lewinsky?!? My instructor had a good chuckly explaining that. Yes I understood your spanish...

So whatever the Ticos say, there still is a small miniscule element of truth in the nick names. It's just a cute thing they do, which is becoming more endearing not threatening.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Should I tickle her feet?

A week ago I was on a flight back from Houston and had a wonderful experience. I had an window seat and there was a guy in the aisle seat but no one in the middle. He didn't seem too twitchy so I started up a conversation with him. Turns out he lives in Nicaragua and runs a tour guide service and seemed like a nice guy. His name was Lawrence. You know the conversation is good when you are trying to talk over a takeoff.

When the plane was boarding I noticed a surly guy get on and sit in the aisle seat opposite of Lawrence. Something told me that he was going to be trouble. As we continued our conversation the web site of the CIA World Fact Book came up(Link to factbook). I have found that it was a great source of information. The surly guy, on the other hand, thought that it was a load of crap and wanted to heat up the discussion over it. He started yelling profanities about how it was worthless and you got better data from encyclopedias from the 50s. Lawrence was able to talk him down and then we continued our conversation.

We had sort of a gentleman's bet on whether he was crazy or just drunk. I took crazy, luckily we didn't bet colones on it. There was a girl ahead of the guy who had all three seats to herself and was laying down sleeping. He was leaning around the seats asking us if he should tickle her feet. All that he could talk about was tickling her feet. He asked Lawrence if he should do it. Lawrence calmly told him that it would be a bad idea.

Then he proceeds to down a pint of Southern Comfort. That is the point where I lost the bet. That is also the point where the guy started to get really rowdy. He started leaning over the seats and talking to the girl who was obviously scared to death. He started cussing a bunch and interrupting our conversation which after two and a half hours was still going well. Then he started talking about chopping the windows out of the plane with an axe.

Luckily we landed so he didn't have time to find that axe. Then he tried to change seats and sit next to girl while we were still on the tarmac. I would say this is the point where the major breakdown happened. She told him to get lost and he started calling her the B word and the F word and some other words with first letters that I can't repeat here. I leaned over to tell the guy to shut the hell up and Lawrence put himself in front of me and convinced me that it wasn't the proper course of action. Sadly I agreed and instead we hit the Call button. The stewards came and he started yelling at them. The stewards called the pilot and he yelled at the pilot.

As soon as the fasten seat belt light got turned off Lawrence hopped up and put his bag in front of the drunk man's seat so that he couldn't get up. That worked amazingly well actually. He couldn't physically harass the girl any more.

On the way to customs we apologized to the girl. It was her first trip to CR and she was traveling alone. Then we were waiting in line at customs and saw the drunk man being wheeled away in a wheel chair by airport security. Hopefully they do a cavity search on him and then permanently ban him from the country.

Roberta and I gave Lawrence a ride to his hotel and found out that he was giving a talk to the Costa Rica Residence Association the following day on the benefits of tourism in Nicaragua. Did anyone see it?

Costa Rica and Corruption

The Transparency International Corruptions Perceptions Index uses up to 16 surveys to determine the overall corruption index. All sources measure the extent of corruption including; frequency and or size of bribes in the public and political sectors. Evaluation is performed by country experts, non resident and residents, non-residents business leaders from developing countries, and resident business leaders evaluating their own country. This study was performed by the Passau University in Germany.

Year / Ranking / Score (0-10, where 10 is high)
2005 ; 51 ; 4.2
2004 ; 41 ; 4.9
2003 ; 50 ; 4.3
2002 ; 40 ; 4.5

The only Latin American Country to do better consistently than Costa Rica is Chile, which consistently ranked one below the United States. Uruguay also appeared at times higher than Costa Rica, and El Salvador shows some improvements as well.

I believe what this shows is that while Costa Rica has a lot of room for improvements, it's higher ranking as a developing country indicates that CR is one of the better managed Latin American countries.

For more information Transparency International
Corruption Perceptions Index 2005

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Another weekend at Puerto Viejo

Well Adam and I are nursing sun burns. My back is aching with bug bites and sun burns. Adam and I really like Puerto Viejo. We don't usually go out drinking, but Puerto Viejo is different. It seems as if your body can handle a lot more sun, food and drink than in the Central Valley. It is something about the easy Caribbean sea, blaring reggae and the sun. Also just a quick drive or bike ride out of town and you are on an isolated beach snorkeling and watching fishes swim by. Its like your own personal aquarium. We stayed at the Coco Loco Lodge and would recommend them. The owner is german and not very friendly but the cabinas are clean, neat, and far enough away from the town for a noise free evening. We've also stayed at MiraFlores Lodge and had a good time. Pamela the owner is really sweet and helpful when planning your daily outings.

We travelled down with Shar, Ryan and Lydia and had a good time. Next weekend outing we are going to have to go somewhere different, Shar will definately boycott another Puerto Viejo weekend. I think our next weekend is going to be at Arenal.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

U.S. vs Costa Rica Soccer

Well last Saturday was the infamous soccer game. If you are not a soccer fan (neither was I till I moved here) you may not have been aware that there was some sort of playoff game between these two teams. US already was in, but Costa Rica needed to win to get into the World Cup finals. Well US sent their B team and they played like crap. I don't even know much about soccer but I could tell that the Costa Rican team looked way better.

But what is more interesting to me than the game was the after game mayhem. I'm talking serious chaos. Ok here is the run down. In San Pedro there is this major round about (big highway intersection without lights). In the middle of this round about is a fountain. A friend who has lived for a while here thinks what's weird about Costa Ricans are that they are proud of this fountain, which is just an extension of a public works water infrastructure. Costa Ricans are proud of their infrastructure. And right in front is Mall San Pedro which has a view of the round about.

Well, whenever there is a major Costa Rican win everybody storms the fountain and the round aboutwaving flags, screaming, singing and just having a good time in a sort of anarchic and chaotic fashion. One picture turned out! Notice the police men guarding the fountain on the left, no way in hell they were going to let the people into the fountain, but they couldn't keep them out of the round about nor did they care when they started shaking and rocking a car. I thought the revelers were going to flip it, until they remembered they were nice Ticos, backed away from the car very friendly like singing and clapping and let the car go through. The other funny part was that a big group of kids would just start running around the round about with flags and drums and than turn around and run back the other way. Nothing better than beating the gringos! Nobody seemed to remember that it was the B-team and Wednesday night Costa Rica just got slammed cause they were playing their B-team against Guatamela.

I really should not have walked up to this area especially at night. My neighbor tells me he's been held up by gun point six times in the last six years. But, I wanted to experience a Costa Rican phenomenon. Unfortunately though I will avoid walking alone at night in the future, but this was worth it.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Costa Rican Timing

Costa Rican timing is hard to describe. People are late here or they just don't show up.

In los Estado Unidos it's OK, you just call up and cancel or you apologize or make up some kind of white lie. All of which are quasi-acceptable. but if you do this often people will think of you as a flake or they'll just stop returning your calls and you get one less christmas card in the mail.

But no... In Costa Rica no apologies or excuses are given. To some expats this sort of cultural phenomonon is 'liberating'. If something comes up it's OK, you don't have to twist your leg to make it. You don't have to get dressed and go just because you promised. If you are too tired, it's OK. Whoever you flake on will not take it too seriously. They won't get mad, in fact they weren't actually expecting you to show up anyway. People often make plans but than nobody shows up.

This seems like a cultural phenomenom that we just have to get use to. But, this trait makes it's way into business. We can't seem to get the water delivery guy to show up on one particular day, he just shows up when he feels like it. Working is like a side hobby to drinking coffee with your friends who happen to drop by. But remember, these cafecitos aren't planned.

Adam made a great connection. This mentality of not being on time, if at all makes its way into government and than not a lot gets done. I guess this is just one thing that we have to get use to. Still beats rainy cold weather.

Here's a new saying I just learned: when you cheer with your wine or beer glass you must look your fellow cheerers in the eye or you jinx yourself for seven years of bad sex.

YIKES don't want to chance that one!

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Life Lesson Learned

I have been making Ginger Ale recently by mixing fresh ginger, sugar, and yeast in a 2 liter pop bottle. You let it ferment for about a day and then throw it in the fridge so that it doesn’t blow up. It actually turns out pretty good and has a very low alcohol content.

I got the bright idea to replace the sugar with a whole blended pineapple to see how that would be. I blended the pineapple, grated the ginger, added it all to a bottle with some yeast and let it sit. Typically it is supposed to take 24-48 hours before it is ready to go into the fridge. After about 8 hours in the bottle it was rock hard. I threw it in the fridge last night and pulled it out this morning to try some.

Since it was rock hard I knew that there was a chance that it would explode so I put some paper towels over the cap and got near the sink as I started to unscrew it. In hind sight I should have put a real towel because as soon as the cap saw its opportunity it shot off and bounced around the room. At this point I was basically holding a pineapple and ginger fire hose. It was spraying all over the kitchen. Luckily I was right next to the sink and dumped it in there. After I cleaned up and everything settled I tried some and it tasted like crap.

Life lessons are fun to learn when you don’t lose an eye.

Here is a link to the Ginger Ale recipe:

Ginger Ale Recipe

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Zoom zoom

There is a funny story from today that I have to share.

We have a new favorite sushi restaurant called Moby Dick's in San Pedro that we have been going to. We went to it for dinner and on the drive back we had an amazing driving experience. Down here the drivers are absolutely insane. We were driving back our normal route when we came upon this traffic jam. We are at a stop sign at a T in the road and we want to turn left. Well we can’t because there are two lanes of cars going in the opposite direction. This is a two way road mind you. So I am sitting at the stop sign for a while with my turn signal on and noone is getting the point that they are in the wrong lane. Well I see my chance and I gas it and turn into oncoming traffic. I am literally splitting down the center of two lanes of cars coming at me, laughing the whole time. Then the cars started to part and they let me through like nothing was wrong. An extreme example of Costa Rican driving but very typical. Ha. We got a good laugh out of that one.

Also, Shar made it back safe and sound. They ended up going to Tamarindo instead of Nosara since the plane couldn't land there. It sounds like they had a wonderful time. Shar is burnt crisp like a lobster and Chris has a bad rash from surfing but aside from that they are safe and sound. It sounds like they really enjoyed Tamarindo and thought that the guide book was way off base about how overdeveloped it is.