31 January 2010

More Pics From the Trip

Volcan Concepcion, which is in Lake Nicaragua. We passed it both ways, but I missed it on the way up because the sound system on the bus had a (nearly) rage-inducing high pitched whine that almost made my head esplode:

Two shots of the garden at The Garden Cafe, where Jen and I ate lunch the last full day there:

And two shots of the courtyard of the hotel in which we stayed:

29 January 2010

It Is the Very Model of a Modern Serendipity*

  1. Jen's dad is visiting.
  2. He wants to make the family recipe anise cookies.
  3. The milk we bought this morning is already soured.
  4. To return the opened boxes of milk (the corner of the box is cut off for pouring) without major spillage, a portion of the soured milk must be poured out.
  5. The cookie recipe calls for soured milk.

*with apologies to Gilbert & Sullivan:

(once upon a time -- when I was a kid -- I could sing that whole thing)

28 January 2010

Truth In Advising

"If there's a delay, it will be at the entry into Costa Rica."

So said Jen's boss to her before we left on our trip to Grenada, Nicaragua, and truer words were never spoken.

On our way to Grenada, the Costa Rica side was -- off the bus, into the building, scan the passport, stamp, back on the bus -- and the Nicaragua side wasn't much longer (although we did have to wait about 30-40 minutes for the TransNica bus company employees to get our passports stamped -- a service they include with the ticket is taking care of things on the Nica(ragua) side.

On the way back, however... the Nica side was about the same, but when we got to the CR side of the no-man's-land (you've left one country but not yet entered the other) there was a line of a couple hundred people snaking across the open space next to the immigration building -- a large chunk of it in the hot tropical sun. After determining that it was indeed the line in which we had to wait, we took our places. After a few minutes, Jen said, "Oh, look. There's Steve and Margaret!" Steve and Margaret had left Grenada on an earlier bus (one hour earlier) and were still in line. So at that point we knew we were going to be there for a while.

About three hours (I'm a bit unclear on the actual times, as my brain was partially fried by the tropical sun) later, we finally got through the extensive customs search (I'm being sarcastic here, because we Gringos got a "move along" as our baggage search -- they were more thorough with the Centroamericanos) and got back on the bus. Although, to be fair to the Costa Rican Migracion people, they close for an hour for lunch.

So, if you're ever crossing the border from Nicaragua to Costa Rica, remember to have two things: A good hat and a couple bottles of water.

Here's some pictures from the trip:

There was a thriving carriage tour sector, and members of our group took it in. They said it was a lot of fun and worth it at $10/hour (that's 200 cordobas (C$)).

I didn't take these photos until we were leaving, and wasn't sure if these particular ones would be the last I saw. All to explain the poor lighting. Life is life, you know.

One of the things I really found interesting was the prevalence of horse carts for hauling stuff around. I saw lots and lots of things being hauled that way, from lumber to flat screen TVs (and, boy, was that an odd juxtaposition). The horses were much smaller than what we in the States would consider draft horses, but I suppose on the flat land (and in the tropical heat) smaller is not just fine, but better. In the photo above, the wagons are queued up at the hardware store, waiting for use.

25 January 2010

!Hola desde Nigaragua!

We´re in historic Grenada, Nicaragua for a couple of days (among other things I needed to renew my visa for Costa Rica before the laws change in March) and went on a charming (if a bit lengthy) walking tour of the old city today. Jen is working on a post with lots of photos, but here´s one spot that I especially liked:
On the edge of what I learned today was once the Native market, back when the Spaniards still ruled the (New) World. Yes. It´s a half-dead building. But I love the way the portico supports stand sentinel in front of the husk of the building.
See y´'all soon!!

23 January 2010


We're leaving for Granada, Nicaragua early in the morning and will be returning sometime Wednesday evening.

I probably won't go out of my way to look for an internet cafe, so the blog will prolly be dark until I return.

Don't let the corporations take over while I'm --- oh, wait, thanks to the Roberts Supreme Court, they already have, so .... keep your powder dry.

Teaching Update

Just got back from my (two) Saturday classes, both of which are Level III -- or Intermediate -- English as Second Language. This was the fourth meeting of these two, and what started out as a 20 student early class and 4 student late class has more or less evened out (both by attrition and by getting some of the early students to move to the later class). Up until today, I managed to keep both classes in basically the same place in the book, but today the second class was a lot more talkative (which is exactly what I want... they're in class to learn to speak English after all), and so we didn't cover as much book material as the early class. Hopefully next week the early class will be talkative so I can keep them in the same place.

Also, we finished week two in a Level II class, which is on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 7pm-9pm. This class has ten students and has also been a lot of fun. One of the best things about the Level II class is that I've gotten to see the Level II book, and I can better see how the overall program is supposed to work. And I approve. :)

And a week from Monday, I'm to start another Level III class, Mondays and Wednesdays from 7pm-9pm. A third Level III class means a third place in the book to keep sorted in my head. But oh well, that's teaching.

21 January 2010


W00t!!!! We have joined the 21st Century here at the house! The DSL guy came by today and we're, as the saying goes, "cookin' with gas now!"

Which means I finally got to watch the following clip, which friends pointed me to a couple days ago.

A li'l context: the 'outdoor drama' mentioned is Horn in the West, a production that I was proud to be a part of for six summers. And yes, it most definitely draws the 'wrong kind of people'. :)

20 January 2010


I didn't post yesterday because I didn't want to go online and find out that Massachusetts voters had spit on Ted Kennedy's grave... which I heard on the radio this morning had indeed happened.

Seriously, Bay Staters, what the hell?

Consider this a new entry in my "Glad I'm Not in the US" series....

18 January 2010

Even Though I Can't Watch It Right Now

...because our connection is dial-up right now, I feel it is my duty this night to (re)post the following video:

Why, yes, my loony bun is fine, thank you very much.

17 January 2010


I have decided (as I said in a comment over at MauiGirl´s place) that I am suffering from reverse-SAD. Instead of being berflibbeted by a lack of sunlight, I am off my game because of too much.

Here in the Tropics (a mere 10º North of the Equator) "day" varies by only about ... well, I can´t find the info right now, but it ain´t much. Sunrise around 5AM (yes) and sunset around 6PM all year long.

So I´m not getting that welcome break (for me, freak that I am) from daylight that winter normally brings. And the sun is also, as one of my students said yesterday, "heavy" -- that´s apparently how Costa Ricans describe the intensity of the Tropical sun. Even when it´s cool, it´s hot.

Anyway, I´ll get used to it as time goes by... and I get to wear shorts all the time!


16 January 2010

Brace Yerselves....

'Cause it's gonna get "cold" here. This past week we caught the southern edge of the deep freeze that hit the US. And by southern edge of the freeze, I mean that nighttime temps here on the slopes of the Central Valley got all the way down to the low 50s (stop laughing, Ralph and Vikki), and I saw people wearing heavy coats, gloves and wool caps.

I actually put on socks (with my sandals) and a sweatshirt one evening, because the wind was blowing and -- for once -- it wasn't hot. :)

And one of my students told me today that a meteorologist friend told her that another cold snap is coming.

Where're my mukluks????

15 January 2010


New year, new term, and all that.

I started a new class this week, a Level II (low-intermediate) class with upwards of a dozen students. These are adult classes and people have lives, so I say "upwards" because I don´t expect to have all 12 of them show up at once... but we´ll see.

Also, I´m not going to be with the beginner´s class I was working with. They are true beginners, and my Spanish is (still) pretty limited, and I was getting a lot of blank looks. So the boss and I talked about it and we decided that it would be in the best interest of the students if the bilingual teacher they have on Mondays and Wednesdays took the Friday class back -- and that maybe I would rejoin them nearer the end of their term, when they have a bit more grounding in English.

And I found out that I´ll probably be getting another Level III (intermediate) class starting sometime in the next two weeks, so that's 4 hours a week to replace the 2 I'm losing.

In other news, the friend of mine in Virginia who loaded his backpacks and started heading this way on his motorcycle has taken a detour. He worked Search & Rescue with his dogs in New Mexico for several years, so he´s flown back (he got to Texas) to pick up his top dog and the two of them have headed to Haiti to assist there as they can. I´m sure he´ll make a positive difference.

Still no word on the DSL, so it´s still Stone Age Browsing at home....

¡Later, phriends!

14 January 2010

Fast Things Changing Are

Today began a new chapter in Life and All. The girls were home with me all day while Jen was at work. Before now they hadn't stayed at home with just me, because in certain parts of Costa Rica (okay, just one house not too far from here) I'm Evil Incarnate. But now that we're all living in the same house, Jen said there's no reason for them to not stay with me on the days that we have them and there's no school.

I had ropes handy, but as it turned out they weren't necessary. Julia played outside with her new friends all day and Robin kept busy reading, playing on the computer, and playing cards with me.

And tomorrow we'll do it all again. Here's hoping the neighborhood kids are out in force again so that Julia will be occupied.

13 January 2010

Things Happen Fast Here

We´re no longer the "new kids on the block" on our li´l country lane. A new family has moved in. The young´n was a bit camera shy, but when I asked the adults if they had any qualms about being photographed, they responded, "Neigh":

And that´s the way it is.....

12 January 2010

The Daily Dose of "Glad I´m Not in the US"

This could become a daily thing, with all the ridiculously bad things happening... we shall see. Today´s thing is:

The first-ever public study of the health effects of genetically modified corn shows that three patented crops developed and owned by agriculture giant Monsanto cause liver, kidney and heart damage in mammals.

The FDA has approved all three varieties for sale and consumption in the U.S. and all three are in our food supply right now.

From Change.org via Bob Cesca, who adds:

We don't know which foods, of course. Oh, and by the way, the data used in the study originated from Monsanto's own research.

Jen and I were discussing sweet corn just yesterday (there´s a patch of corn growing along our "Country Lane"), and although she tells me that Costa Rican corn isn´t anything like what I´m used to, I bet it beats liver, kidney and heart damage by a country mile.

11 January 2010

Wherein I´m Reminded That I´m Happy To Not Be In the States

Sitting three cubicles to my right here in the P@nd@ Net internet café in San Rafael is the quintessential "Obnoxoius American". He´s using Skype to talk to someone in the States, and *every* thing about Costa Rica, this café, and, apparently, his life, is WRONG. At high volume.

Oh, geez, it´s even better. He´s an Obnoxious New Yorker! (no offense intended or implied to the fine residents of the Empire State) He´s that specific specimen that thinks that the only point of civilization on the entire planet is what is contained in the Five Boroughs. Why do people like that ever leave The City, if all they´re gonna do is bitch about how things elsewhere aren´t like The City? I bet he´s a Sarah Palin fan, too. Maybe he´ll be the one who watches her Fox News show....

10 January 2010

Ah. Well. There It Is, Then.

I´m back, and still can´t remember what it was that I was going to say last night. I guess the tiredness didn´t really have any bearing on things. I´m just forgetful.

So, what´s new.... told you about the phone, and as Jen relayed yesterday, it could be a month or so until we have at-home internet. I´m hoping that my co-worker´s estimate of a week or so (once the paperwork clears) is closer to the truth. Only time will tell.

Had my two Saturday classes yesterday, and they went well. There was some cunfusion about how many and which classes the students had paid for, but they worked that out with the boss-lady.

And one thing that I had asked about at our staff meeting before Christmas was (I think) addressed. The early class has 20 students, and the later only 4. Boss-lady talked to the earlies about some of them moving to the later so that the class sizes will be more balanced. Also, so when the normal attendence rate of about 60% is reached, I won´t be having a class with only 2 students.

I got a message on Facebook just a few minutes ago that one of my friends (in Virginia for the moment) has decided to fill his backpack and saddlebags and mount up on his motorcycle and head down the Pan American highway (which runs about 5 miles west of here) and work his way here. I´m looking forward to that. I haven´t seen him in a long time.

I guess that is all for now.... See y'all later!!

09 January 2010


I had something I was going to post tonight, I really did.

But after catching up on emails and such, I´m all tired and forgetful. Mayhap I shall remember it tomorrow so that I may pass along its gemnitudiness (the act of being gem-like) to you, my faithful horde.

Until then, fare thee well, phriends!

08 January 2010

What´s This Thing?

So, I'm sitting at my computer today, a little after noon, fighting for world dominion in my newest game (Rise of Legends - the "sequel" to Rise of Nations), and I hear someone at the gate.

It´s the install techs from the phone company, come to install (technically?) the phone!!!

After a brief attempt at communication (result, I give him Jen´s cell number to call if they have questions), they go to work and mere minutes later we have a telephone!! Apparently, doing the inside work is more than they are supposed to do, but 5,000 colones and two beers (one for each tech) seemed to be the proper incentive for them to do it.

So, at home right now, over in the corner next to the birdcage, there´s this wired telephonic device thingy. I ain´t had onea them in a decade!!!

So, next step is Jen goes to the ...wherever one goes to interact with the phone people and puts in the request for DSL. I was talking to a co-worker this evening and he said that it should only take a week or so for the DSL to happen and then we'll have internet at home again!!!!

07 January 2010


(yes, I said flarbish)

Spent some time working on a couple li´l projects today -- a stand for an LCD monitor that we´re trying out, hoping to retire the behemoth CRT that Jen´s been using... and prepping some new support rails for the dining table, which was manhandled and jounced during the move in a way that did it no good. Right now the table has to be against a wall to be stable, which eliminates one of the four sides for seating.

Also have chili in the crockpot for when we get home, and I plan to bake some cornbread muffins to go with it.

My classes are starting back up beginning tomorrow with the Beginner´s Conversation, and then the two Saturday Level III classes. And supposedly more new classes to come over the next few weeks, but we´ll see about that. (Learning from experience, is what I´m doing)

Once we get internet connectivity at home I plan on posting some photos of the things I´ve built. Hopefully that will be soon.

Later, All!

06 January 2010


You´d think after missing a day of posting that I´d have something to say.

Alas, I do not. But I´m still here, and doubtless shall return.

I hope all is well for each and every one of you!

04 January 2010


Short post because I´m on a machine with only Windows Exploder and ever single page I try to load I get error messages (something about expired certificates), the cubicle is too narrow for tower, keyboard and mouse to all be in a usable spot at once, and the letter (sixth of English alphabet) doesn´t work -- well, it works too well.

Here, look:


So note to all readers, if you´re ever in San Rafael de Heredia, Costa Rica at the Panda.net internet cafe, stay away from Number 4.


03 January 2010

Day of (Not) Rest

This morning I went to the local hardware store (all by myself... it´s easy to say '60 3/4" tornillos') to get some 3/4" screws so I could build the bathroom shelf unit. I spaced when we were there yesterday and when Jen asked me about 1 1/2" screws, I didn´t realize for what purpose they were meant and said yes.

I used the long screws (well, and some wood) to make a stand for the bird cage, so she´d have a place up off the floor (and hopefully a bit out of Raxi's line-of-sight), and then did the bathroom shelves.

Oh, and I assisted the house electrician as she put in another of the ceiling fixtures we got yesterday.

I need to build a workbench soon, preferably before I do any more projects. Working on the floor of the carport is not my idea of fun, for one, and I need a solid spot upon which to mount my new mitre box so I can begin doing some finer work -- especially since the next project is going to be shelf units for the kitchen, and they´ll be on full display for anyone who pops by.

And now we´re going to get some seafood.


02 January 2010

A New Year

So this morning we left the house with the intention of popping over to the local hardware/lumber store and getting some pine boards and such for to build a couple li´l things for the house (a shelving unit for the bathroom and a "table" for The Bird). But as we were pulling out onto the street I mentioned the possibility of going to the new big Lowe´s-like store, EPA, instead.

Being a (former) worker in The Trades (that´s construction), Lowe´s and places like it are like my Disney World. Well, okay, Disney World is like my Disney World, but you get the idea. Jen finally gave in and off we went.

We ended up buying some light fixtures to replace the cheap-ass bare bulb hanging fixtures, and a couple other things, as well as pricing some of the other things we are going to need. Then we went to the local place for the lumber.

So instead of spending a few minutes buying and then a large amount of time building, we spent a lot of time shopping and only did a couple li´l things.

But now I know that Jen is an excellent electrician*, and we have lumber for the bathroom shelves, a 'pantry' for the kitchen, the birdstand, and more.

(*I already knew that, ´cause she fixed the 220 wiring in her old apartment, and not many people would even have an idea where to start that -- beyond turning the Yellow Pages to the Electrician page and choosing a number)

01 January 2010


I hope this comes out the way I want it to, because I´m coming to you from an internet cafe in San Rafael... and while the keyboard itself is English layout, the computer settings are Spanish, which means that keys such as ¨<¨ and ¨>¨ and ¨@¨ aren´t where they´re ´supposed´ to be.

Anyway, hope your new year got off to a bang -- ours did, as seemingly everyone else in Costa Rica had a trunkfull of fireworks that were about to pass their born-on date and therefore had to be ´sploded. The Bird was jumpy and Teh Kitteh was ´wev´ and the turtle had no comment.

And then at 3:30am, some really drunk dude ambled all over the cul-de-sac looking for ¨Señor!¨... over and over again.

In any case, it´s all good and we´re going to go get some ice cream when we leave here. As usual, it´s sunny and about 80º here.

See ya tomorrow!