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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.Costa Rica, Culture, Culture Shock, Expatriate Life, Humor, Life in Costa Rica, Living in Costa Rica, Moving to Costa Rica, My Readers Write, Susan Lutz (Carmichael) | Comments (3)
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.Filed under Costa Rica, Food and Eating, Humor, Life in Costa Rica, Susan Lutz (Carmichael) | Comments (7)
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.Filed under Costa Rica, Food and Eating, Humor, Life in Costa Rica, Susan Lutz (Carmichael) | Comment (0)
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.
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.Filed under Food and Eating, Humor, Living in Costa Rica, Shopping in Costa Rica, Susan Lutz (Carmichael) | Comments (8)
December 15th, 2007
The Internet connection in this country, Costa Rica, works slower than mold. There are days I will come up to work on the computer and poof! No Internet in the morning. Again in the afternoon, and on and on.
The Internet, I believe will – and is – changing the world. Living in a developing country and creating a viable income could really only be possible with the Internet. Democracy will grow much faster than mold through the Internet. Voices will connect, and no one can fight the power of souls connecting.
But the sketchy characters will continue to try. Instead of fiberglass lines, we’ve got cable and phone company monopolies. Thus back to our problem in Costa Rica. There’s too many people and not enough lanes of traffic. Sound familiar? The Internet takes planning and thought. It’s sketchy characters that benefit from a quick, short term buck that leave us all clicking that mouse with no results.
I’ve learned it can be a very good thing to be without Internet – our new life addiction. Many of us run to it like we used to dash to the answering machine the moment we walked in the door. Yet listening to a few messages wasn’t quite as time consuming as hours and hours and hours of Internet surfing.
Paradise has it’s bumps; bruises and blemishes. And when I get frustrated and want to scream at the computer, I grab a shot of morning sunshine or watch the stellar moon and listen to the palm trees rustle in the wind and connect on another level.Filed under Internet, Life in Costa Rica, Susan Lutz (Carmichael) | Comments (6)
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.Filed under Humor, Kids in Costa Rica, Life in Costa Rica, Susan Lutz (Carmichael) | Comments (5)
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.Filed under Humor, Life in Costa Rica, Susan Lutz (Carmichael), Weather in Costa Rica | Comment (1)
November 1st, 2007
There is a new baby down the block. She’s a cutie, with the adorable outfits to boot. She cries, as babies tend to do, and her father dutifully walks her up and down our “shared” walk-way trying, hoping, praying, she’ll stop and go to sleep. These parents are a fine couple, and I feel grateful to have met them and have them for neighbors. Then, I remember it’s Costa Rica. I already know they are going to leave, not permanently, but part-time they’ll return to their “other” home. I’ve made some fantastic friendships here; I am always delightfully surprised at the assortment of people that pass through my life. I’m getting a little more accustomed to watching them leave, and quite a few have – it’s part of the ex-pat life. When I get sad at the news of another ship sailing for a different shore, I try to shake the stick the other way and think about the fact that I’d have never met these adventure going souls who brighten my life had I stayed in the good ol’ Midwest,* even if it’s only for a month or a year or two. And, there’s always espresso and chocolate mousse to cheer me up.
* Now I’m not knocking the Midwest, there’s a lot of fine folks there too.Filed under Life in Costa Rica, Susan Lutz (Carmichael) | Comment (0)
October 19th, 2007
This is sappy, I know. But there is so much to be grateful here. There is something about the simplicity of this country that nudges me to slow down. This is good. We make films at motherjungle.com and if you have just a minute to slow down enough to watch it. I thank you.
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.Filed under Food and Eating, Humor, Kids in Costa Rica, Susan Lutz (Carmichael) | Comment (0)