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A Reader’s Opinion of Costa Rica – Change and Perspective

June 11th, 2008

As you might imagine, I get a pretty fair amount of email. I try to reply, but I am often a few weeks backlogged as the stuff is arriving at the rate of maybe 200 emails per week. When I get a “good one”, I like to share it with other readers, and Neal from Canada has granted me permission to print his email.

I first came to Costa Rica maybe 15 years ago. It has changed significantly. My 15 years pales, however, next to Neal’s long term perspective of 46 years. I hope you enjoy it.  Click continue to read it.

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Travels to Monteverde, Costa Rica

June 2nd, 2008

Karen HangingAs my regular readers know, Luisa and I enjoy mini-vacations around Costa Rica. We do these regularly, and I often like to blog about what we did, the hotels where we stayed, and general info that may be useful if you are traveling or living here and are looking for an escape.

Recently, my daughter Karen, 40 something mom of three, well actually two but we often count her husband as one of the kids, came a visitin’ from Chicago, and we all made the four hour trek to Monteverde, Costa Rica. With us was son Bill, his wifey and my granddaughter, Lucy all of whom live here.

I had the cool idea of renting a van and driver for the trip. Normally I drive, but there is a 10-15 miles stretch of nasty road and I figured I’d save wear and tear on the car and use taxis when we got there. Turned out to be a great idea. Even a blind squirrel finds an acorn every so often!

If this interests you, read on!

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US Voting Process

February 26th, 2008

I was shocked and dismayed at this. Although I have no issue with the candidate who was elected, I am sad that much of the political drama in the upcoming 2008 election will now be somewhat less meaningful. I am, however, glad to see that the overt silliness of our political system will remain intact!

Diebold Accidentally Leaks Results Of 2008 Election Early

Costa Rican Typico – Typical!

February 20th, 2008

On a road trip, I stopped at a little “Typico,” which mean typical restaurant, in Costa Rica. I had eaten and swallowed everything in my cooler from chocolate covered coffee beans to Mentos to two bottles of coconut water. Wasn’t doing the job. Finally, after many hold ups for construction, I made it to a place. I ordered the “casado de la casa,” which is the married plate. Basically a large amount of ingredients end up on the plate, married. If I wandered to the restaurant across the road, they’d have the same thing. It’s actually a sure thing at any typical restaurant. And it’s cheap. If you stay away from the pork rinds, nothing’s fried and it’s pretty good for you.

I pulled out my computer to read something I had downloaded and to my surprise! Internet connection. Who’d have thought in the middle of Central America, in a small mountain town I could read about the latest news on the latest book that’s come out about Diana. It’s freaky. A marriage made in heaven.

Thanks for stopping in to this blog.

Discover Spiritual Truths in Costa Rica

February 1st, 2008

Someone told me spiritual truths all stem from the same root. Every few months, I get invited to a very typical, Costa Rican family event. Kids birthdays go like this: give a gift; have a cup of coffee; eat rice and chicken with macaroni topped with potato chips all on a plastic plate handed to you by the host or the person in charge of the kitchen that day (usually a tia -aunt); sing happy birthday; eat cake; bash pinata; more coffee; ice cream cone; and then mill about until it feels socially acceptable to leave.

This event went as usual except for the blessing of the birthday child, her mother, and their home. A woman took out her rosary, a prayer book, and older ladies gathered in a U around a small nativity set with a candle burning in the middle. In my earlier days I would have scoffed and rolled my eyes at the whole thing. Life sat me down and taught me a thing or two. I’ve mellowed. Now I love listening to the rosary. I can watch the mouths of the women race over the prayers in harmony. I can laugh because after many years, I can still whip out a quick Hail Mary with the best of them.

It is such a peaceful thing to pray. No matter the language or religion. It is a moment of thinking about unity, love, forgiveness, and others. Upon finishing, the ladies were served up treats by our newly blessed mom and her three-year old daughter. My daughter came up to me and asked for more candy. My son woke up from his nap, and little ladies who’d come to pray all left for home, holding a piece of birthday cake in their hand and a rosary in the other.

I’m Returning to My Roots

January 11th, 2008

When Whole Foods Market came to my town in the United States, I was ecstatic. I’d shop for an hour or two, milling over which brand of organic eggs or beef or celery or salad dressing to buy.* On my way out, I’d load three neatly packed, sturdy, brown papers bags into the back seat of my car. After awhile, I purchased the cloth bags to tote the vegetables home. I even brought back those sturdy brown bags to use again.

Then, I moved to Costa Rica. A plastic bag free-for-all. There’s no question these bags with handles are handy, and since it does rain in Costa Rica, paper bags aren’t always a good solution especially when one has to take the bus or walk home. But the other day when I came home, my AAA batteries (which are encased in plastic to begin with) were inside a plastic bag inside another plastic bag. After a shopping trip, I will easily accumulate about 15 bags. Recycycling? Remember what it was like in the 1980s to recycle? Lugging the bags to faraway bins. If you were lucky you lived by the Goodwill. That’s kind of what it is like here. I moved to a city that used to recycle, but the program stopped. Now I’m back to driving my bottles to a bin, or finding a fellow I can take them to who will gladly haul take them from me every few weeks.

There’s no place to recycle these bags other than the bathroom. For those who do not know, living in Costa Rica is much like living on a boat: you can’t flush the toilet paper down the bowl. Those plastic bags come in handy for the little garbage pail that sits in all bathrooms. But we just don’t use the bathroom enough to recyle about 30 bags a week I end up brining home. I feel like I’m drowning in the things.

But, I’m returning to my roots. While shopping for curtains, my daughter and I came across this great orange, zippy looking pull-cart. Kind of an up-to-date, stylish model of the metal cart with two wheels.

Hey! Let’s get it. It’s not in the budget, but think of the gas we’ll save by walking to the store!

We choose orange over all the other bright colors.

The next day, we walked to the grocery store. I put the grocery cart next up to the cashier and started unloading the items onto the belt. My daughter started in on her deep desire for M&Ms. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw the grocery boy pulling out little white plastic bags.

NO! Stop!

I had even brought cloth bags to pack the vegetables in. I snipped at Coco to forget the candy and dashed for the vegetables. The young man looked at me as if I was looney. In a manner of ten seconds, he’d already packed up about eight plastic bags with an average of two items in each bag. My daughter still loomed long-faced by the chocolate and the cashier was ready for money. I felt like a defensive player on the basketball court: no matter how big I spread my butt, I couldn’t keep my court safe.

The grocery boy flung up his hands, rolled his eyes (crazy Gringa!) and went back to the his bench. I paid and began taking items out of the plastic. I left a pineapple and some plantains in bags so they wouldn’t leak in the cart. It’s not easy being green. But darned if we aren’t going to keep trying. We tipped the orange cart back and started walking for home.

*You can get fresh, organic food delivered right to your door in the Central Valley of Costa Rica from the fine people at NaturaStyle.

Hooked into Costa Rica

November 26th, 2007

The end of the school year in Costa Rica is the beginning of December. Thus cometh November, we parents bringeth thy children all over the place. We’ve got to be everyplace at once….end of the year ballet receiptal;several theater productions; gymanstic’s holiday show; tests; grades; first communions, graduations, and on and on it goes.

I pack snacks; drive; wait; drive; empty snack packs and repeat.

My kids are exhausted, and so am I. I wonder if all this running around amounts to anything other than bags under our eyes. The problem is the hook. What’s the hook?

I laugh at the plays. I cry at the ballet performance. I’m a sucker for anyone, or anything, giving it “their all.” My eyes well up the moment I see the effort; the moment performers – ballerina, thespians, dolphins, volleyball players – take to the stage, field, or course.

It’s like that great shot in golf. The entire game may suck, but then on that one hole, you step up and whack….it’s a perfect shot…and you’re hooked. You return to play again despite it all.

When anybody gives it their best shot, reel me in because I’m hooked.

It’s Chilly Here

November 12th, 2007

As most know by now, it’s chilly for Costa Rican standards. For the last few nights, I’ve donned my toasty ski pants and two pairs of socks (one of them being wool) while at home. But, I’ve tried to see the good things in through the chill in the air. For one thing, I get to wear those three jackets I brought down with me nine years ago. All my “warmer” clothes are getting a work out, which is a good way to keep away mold. And finally the most important thing of all is: IT’S NOT SNOW OR ICE OR FREEZING RAIN! And odds are, the sun will be out tomorrow.

It takes so little to makes kids happy – even in Costa Rica.

October 17th, 2007

Addison loves the car. He’s the complete opposite of my daughter who usually threw up or threw a fit when she got strapped in. If Addison just gets a glimpse of our car, he starts scooting across the floor in delight. He stops occassionally to slap his hand on his knee and giggle in delight.

If I am running a little late or need just a second to gather keys, phone, money, bottle, diapers before we leave (for even the smallest of trips), I can safely put Addison in the car and he happily chats away while kicking his feet up and down and anticipating whatever journey we are going to take. If I am not taking Addison in the car, we have to sneak out the side door or he starts to cry when he sees the car pull away, which breaks everybody’s heart.

My daughter now loves the car, but once and awhile will throw up, just for old time’s sake. I’ve found one of the easiest ways to entertain the kids on a Saturday night is to load them up in the car, throw on the rain coats, and slurp down some Italian Ice at the cafe down the street (Costa Rica is growing up in gourmet!).

It just takes so little to please a kid, and me for that matter, most of all it is about feeling safe and knowing exploration is welcome; discovery is paramount; and raspberry ice a must.

Susan’s Got a New Name

October 10th, 2007

Did you remember Cheers? The bar where “everybody knew your name?”

I loved that show. No, I’d say it was almost religion. (I’m being satirical here.) I didn’t miss an episode. And, I felt like a regular when I placed myself on the couch to watch it every week. I was so sad to see it go, but I forged on.

When I arrived here nine years ago, Costa Rica was my Cheers. I worked for years to develop a neighborhood, “regulars,” a system, and a routine where I felt at home. Many began to know my name.

My show was cancelled. Like Frasier, Ted, and Carla, I found myself written out of the script I had written. In other words, in a matter of very short time, I became a single mother in a foreign country, and of course as many of you know, my son has Down Syndrome.

How did all this happen so fast? This is not as important of the new
life ahead of me.

So, I’ve developed a “spin-off.” There are a few new characters in my play, and a few old familiar faces. My name has changed, but really, I’m still the same. With a few changes to the script, the stories will continue. I’m staying in Costa Rica, and “belly-ing” up to the bar for the new and exciting episodes.

By the way, instead of Susan Carmichael, you can now call me Susan Lutz.

Thanks for tuning in.

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