May 30, 2007

Two Notes

First of all, if I happen to be shot by a seemingly "random" bullet, let me say this now to the authorities: investigate my seventh graders! I gave all of them a discipline referral because they were behaving terribly, and they're super pissed.
Also, I read an article on titled "28 Die in Heat-Related Drunk Drownings." Apparently, Moscow is having a major heat wave, so in order to cool off, people are:
1. drinking and
2. getting into water they shouldn't be getting into, especially not while drinking.
Like the title says, 28 people have died, and it mentions that they were bathing in "ponds, fountains, and canals." This is bizarre enough, but the most bizarre thing (to me, at least) is that it says the temperatures have reached above 30 degrees Celsius (around 86 Fahrenheit), which the article calls "sweltering"! The thing is, 86 degrees is not that hot. It just isn't. Even if it got up into the 90s (after all, it said temperatures "above" 86), that's still no real good cause to get shithammered, drown in a fountain, and scare the children.
Just my two cents for the day.

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May 23, 2007

Zee French Kees

So, this posting has a pretty stupid title, but it's the only one I could think of to introduce the fact that I'm housesitting for the French teacher from my school, who is in Canada with her husband. They are both very nice, as is their son, who happens to be one of my 8th grade students. He also happens to be here in the house, still. Originally, I was supposed to be in charge of driving him back and forth from school (seeing as we go to the same school) and keeping an eye on things when he's out, but since their car broke the day before they left, we've been taking taxis to school, and I'm basically hanging out and being a bit of a mooch. It's not too bad, actually.
In any case, when I arrived at the house, I was surprised to find that they had a little chocolate lab puppy. Evidently the puppy was also surprised that they had a big gringo housesitter, because she started cowering and peeing all over the front porch. I could see why they had elected to hire a housesitter in lieu of relying on their "guard dog" to protect their house. And what a nice house it is! It's got 7 rooms, a pool, cable TV, and internet!
Anyhow, it's been pretty fun hanging out here, especially when playing with the dog (her name is Luna). It's especially interesting because she has a fondness for beetles, in that she likes to catch and eat them. May is the major beetle month here, so she's had no shortage of snacks. I decided to take a few pictures of her last night with one that she was playing with in the living room:

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May 22, 2007

Some Pictures

It's been a little while since I posted any pictures. There hasn't been too much going on, so there haven't been too many photos. But here are a few:

First of all, congratulations to Angela, who graduated with her degree in English Education! Here is a picture of her and her dad at her graduation. There were other pictures of her and her mom and sister, but for some reason in all of those pictures, either someone wasn't looking at the camera, or they were practicing the Costa Rican art of Not Smiling During Pictures. I don't know why they do that, but they do. Still, great work, Angela!

If you know me, you know I like ice cream. Especially elaborate ice cream. Here's a girl at an ice cream shop in Palmares preparing me and Angela a sunade inside of a freaking pineapple! I'm willing to put up with a baffling amount of car theft in a country if it makes up for it with things like this!

Finally, here's a picture of Angela in a dress she wore for graduation. I know I'm biased, but I think she looks beautiful!

Anyhow, that's it for now. Hope everyone is doing well!

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May 20, 2007

Wut Gegen Die Maschine

As I mentioned before, I have a bit of a vendetta against the Costa Rican electricity and phone company, the ICE. I also am trying to go up against the Ministerio de Migracion or something like that to get my permanent residence, and now I've added yet another formidable rival to my growing list of Monolithic Nemeses: The Holy Catholic Church. Whether it's holy or not can be a matter of interminable discussion; I just think it sounds much more impressive if you call it The Holy Catholic Church, as opposed to "The church in Palmares." Anyhow, they're asking for all sorts of crap and papers and certifications and other things in order just to talk to a priest, including the best man's ID card number and possibly his baptismal certificate. They're very firm on these strange matters, and talking to the people in the church office is akin to talking to a Stalinist bureaucrat from the Ministry Of Permanent Visas To Capitalist Countries. So Paul, if you're reading this in Australia, why don't you just send those things to me, you know, immediately...or three months ago, if possible? No big deal, right?
Anyhow, things are also being held up because Angela and I are now in sort of a No-Man's-Land of marriage status. Since we've been legally married, we can't tell the priest we're single (and the civil registry doesn't show us as single any more). But, the central registry in San Jose hasn't recorded our legal marriage yet, and it's three and a half months and counting that we've been waiting for those fucks to do so. Apparently, we need to give them a bribe, but it's a pain in the ass to get to San Jose and all. Yes, that's right, the Registro Civil is made up of a bunch of corrupt fuckers. Shocker. Since we don't have any legal marriage status now, you'd think that at least we should be able to commit some misdemeanors without reprucussions, but you'd be thinking wrong.
Anyhow, please pray to God that He'll help us and protect us from His supposed followers, and the He will let them realize that the church should be a tool to help people (especially people who just want to get married and have been jumping through their flaming hoops for six months), and not a bureaucratic institution that is too busy to even listen to its adherents if an arbitrary bullshit protocol isn't followed to the word (and notice I didn't say The Word).
In related news, if you're coming to the wedding in July, surprise! It might be a nice, al fresco affair in a field somewhere! Be sure to bring an umbrella and a dish to share. Also, a related job posting: Now Hiring Minsters! Must be able to at least seem like you should be marrying people. Priest-y looking collar and retro priest hats both a plus. Apply at the main office of

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May 17, 2007

"Tortilla Flat" Tortilla Quote

Like I said earlier, I've been reading like a madman. I made it through Vonnegut's "Slaughterhouse Five" (which is good) and am almost done with Bill Bryson's "A Brief History of Nearly Everything" (the illustrated edition) which sounds almost as impressive as it actually is. I also decided that Steinbeck is getting better and better, and that "The Pearl" must have just sucked because we had to read it in fifth grade. Anyhow, I read his book "Tortilla Flat," and it had a good quote that I wanted to share which is about, of all things, tortillas and beans. I like it because even though rice is the grain of choice here, tortillas are still damn popular, and people still love their beans. Plus, there's the mild bit of possible blasphemy which Spanish speakers seem to relish throwing into conversation. It made me laugh, anyhow:

“At about this time in California it became the stylish thing for school nurses to visit the classes and to catechize the children on intimate details of their home life. In the first grade, Alfredo was called to the principal’s office, for it was thought that he looked thin.
The visiting nurse, trained in child psychology, said kindly, “Freddie, do you get enough to eat?”
“Sure,” said Alfredo.
“Well, now. Tell me what you have for breakfast.”
“Tortillas and beans,” said Alfredo.
The nurse nodded her head dismally to the principal.
“What do you have when you go home for lunch?”
“I don’t go home.”
“Don’t you eat at noon?”
“Sure. I bring some beans wrapped up in a tortilla.”
Actual alarm showed in the nurse’s eyes, but she controlled herself. “At night what do you have to eat?”
“Tortillas and beans.”
Her psychology deserted her. “Do you mean to stand there and tell me you eat nothing but tortillas and beans?”
Alfredo was astonished. “Jesus Christ,” he said, “what more do you want?”

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May 15, 2007

Some Short Things

Here are various semi-random thoughts, ideas, and stories that have come to me recently. For each one, I thought, “Hmm, I could write a blog about that!” But none is really long enough to flesh out into a longer, coherent entry. So, like most of my toast-based sandwich creations, I’ll just kinda throw all the ingredients together and see what it tastes like.

First of all, somebody spilled the beans (and in this country, the only thing more critical than beans is rice), and basically everyone at the school now knows that Angela and I are together. It’s not like that’s a problem, and we weren’t keeping it secret, but we just had a hunch that it’d be easier on both of us if we kept it under the radar until after the marriage. But one by one, our students and coworkers are getting wise. Usually, I can just silence my students by speaking a rapid-fire flurry of English (the ones that’ll try to give you crap for things like having a girlfriend usually aren’t so hot at English, so that often suffices to shut them up). But recently, I was assaulted by my fifth graders with a chant of “Ryan Loves Angela!! Wooo!!,” and the same thing happened with my eighth graders today! It’s strange, but I get really red when that happens, apparently, according to reports from my fifth graders. It’s like I’m one of them again. I suppose it’s a compliment to a girl if she makes you feel young…I’m just not sure that feeling like a fifth grader isn’t a bit too young.

Secondly, I’ve been thinking of some mottos for Costa Rica. Two of them, which you might not understand if you’ve not been here:
Costa Rica: More Rice and Beans Than You Can Swing a Machete At!
Costa Rica: Living and Dying By The Hyundai Elantra

Also, yesterday I went to a little convenience store that’s usually known simply as “Los Chinos,” since its owners are Chinese. I wanted to get some baking powder, since I was wanting to make a loaf of beer bread. I looked at the rack of spices and baking supplies, but I couldn’t find “polvo de hornear,” the Spanish translation for baking powder. Anyhow, I asked the guy at the counter, and he showed me a little plastic bag (all the spices in this store come in little plastic bags) that said “Royal.” He, as well as a lady looking at the spices, told me that it was the same thing as baking powder, just under a different name. So I paid for it and left. Walking home, however, I realized that I was kinda hardcore, since I was walking down a dark street in Central America carrying a little plastic bag full of white powder identified only as “Royal.”

Finally, in a similar vein as my earlier ass-cutting story, I have another tale to tell you involving a piece of tail. The other night as I was reading in bed, I kept hearing a rustling in the kitchen. I went in and saw a lizard on the wall. Not too big, mind you; it was only about the size of a pencil from head to tail. Still, he was making a minature racket, and since it was about bedtime, I wasn´t too big on the idea of the little fucker running over my face or anything. No matter how many bugs he caught.
So, I opened the door to my back porch, and tried to shoo him out with a fly-swatter. He ran back and forth across the wall in the kitchen, and kept running over the door frame, but he didn’t actually go outside. So, I got closer to him, which must have scared him, because he ran closer to the window. I thought he was going to leave through the window, but then he lost his grip and fell in my fucking toaster!
Now, if life were an SAT test, the correct answer to this problem…
Rice and Beans : Costa Ricans :: __________ : Ryan Sitzman
…would be “Toast”
I love toast and I try to eat it whenever possible. Needless to say, I was distressed to have a frightened creature stuck in my (brand new!) toaster. So, I unplugged it, took it out to the back porch, and began to shake the toaster vigorously. Apparently those suction cups or magic or whatever lizards use to (sometimes) stick on walls works very well inside of toasters, because he wasn’t getting out. In fact, he even went deeper into the inner workings of the toaster.
So, I decided to do what any rational person would do: I got a screwdriver and dismantled the toaster. After about five minutes of concerted effort, I managed to get the toaster into various pieces, one of which the lizard was clinging to. I flicked him off into the gravel, and he stayed in place for a moment. Then he tried running up the outside wall and made his way toward the window, trying to go BACK INSIDE the house! I panicked and grabbed the first thing I could find, which happened to be a mop towel, and started trying to hit the lizard back into the rocks.
It worked. He fell into the rocks, but in two pieces: tail and non-tail. Non-tail seemed as pissed off and confused as a lizard can seem, and tail just kind of bled and flopped back and forth on its own volition. Non-tail sulked away from the house, and I sort of felt bad for the little guy. I didn’t want to hurt him, but let’s face it: you don’t just go jumping or falling into a toaster. A man’s toaster is sacred ground, off limits.
Plus, they say their tails grow back anyhow.

So, those are a few updates about some stuff that’s been going on here. Hope things are good for you out there!

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May 14, 2007

All Politics Is Loco

We all have our experiences with corporations and/or government agencies that are so huge and monolithic that it is simply exasperating to even think about them, let alone try to get a service out of them. In the US, we have numerous federal and state agencies, as well as a number of horrible private companies. In Germany, there were so many agencies that sucked so bad(Deutsche Telekom, Deutsche Post, Deutsche Bank, Deutsche Bahn) that we eventually started to suspect that "Deutsche" meant "rape" and not "German."
However, I have a new nemesis that may top them all: The ICE, or Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad. It's the monopoly government agency that controls not only the electricity, but also the telephone service for the country. So far, I've been waiting for a telephone line to be turned on that I paid for over three weeks ago. The best part is, they don't even need to enter the house to turn it on. They just have to turn a switch on the outside of the house. They've even come to the house two times, but I wasn't there. Of course, they asked for contact numbers, so I gave them Angela's phone number and her cell phone number. Neither of which they called. Also, Abuela even has keys to the apartment, so I gave them her number, so they of course didn't call that number, either.
Anyhow, I'm looking forward to yet another visit to their office, so that I can take a number, sit down for a half hour, talk to some sweaty bureaucrat, and eventually make another appointment for them to come when I'm not there.
So why is the title of this "All Politics Is Loco"? Well, there is a proposal for a free trade agreement between the US and Costa Rica, called CAFTA in the US, and TLC here. There's not a lot of support for it here, from what I can tell, and I try to not get too involved with the discussions. Basically, though, a lot of people think that the Americans are going to come in and try to take over and tell them how to run their country which, frankly, probably isn't too far off the mark.
But then one day I heard the argument that if the TLC passes, it'd threaten institutions like the ICE. Like that would be a bad thing. From this point on, I'm starting to support the TLC. I don't give a shit if Sprint and AT&T come down here in tanks and use F-14s to carpet bomb the ICE headquarters in San Jose. I just want a damn phone line.

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May 6, 2007


I´ve not been doing too much of note lately, but I have been working a lot and reading a lot of books, as usual. I just finished the book "Foucault's Pendulum," by Umberto Eco, and found this quote that I thought was kind of funny:
"When I was in school, if you knew German, you never graduated. You just spent your life knowing German."

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May 1, 2007

Labor Pains

In honor of International Labor Day—or whatever they call the holiday that is currently allowing me to have a free day—I decided to complain a bit about work. How very Lumpenproletariat of me.
Anyhow, teaching at the school was really going great last year, but then this year the Powers That Be decided to restructure the English department. They thought that it would be a good idea if each grade had two teachers, so they could hear two accents. Um…huh? Basically, as often happens when the Powers That Be bumble around a bit, things got pretty shitty. I have the same number of work hours but almost twice as much work as last year, since I now have twice as many groups to teach. That’s why I am teaching grades 5, 6 (A and B), 7, 8, 9, 10, and 11. It sounds like a lot, and it is, because after a certain point, you stop giving a shit, and everyone’s worse off.
Anyhow, the best thing about it all is that the Powers That Be is really just a kind of board of directors for the school and—surprise, surprise—of the seven members, only one is a teacher, and she doesn’t speak English. The others are just investors.
So, I’ve helped join the English department hissy fit, and have threatened to quit a few times. At the very least, I’ll quit in December if they think of continuing this hare-brained division of labor for the next school year. That would leave me without a job, though, and that’s a bit troubling because I’m not really qualified to do…anything. Most of my jobs have been geared towards building an interesting-sounding resume, and I guess I’d have to add “technician” or “engineer” to make them seem more interesting. Like:
--“Dog Kennel Cleaner” changes to “Shit Shoveling Technician”
--“Bus Driver” changes to “Transportation Engineer”
--“Dairy Worker” changes to “Hand-Up-A-Cow’s-Ass Technician”
--“German Teacher” turns into “Nazi-Jokes Deflection Specialist”
--“English Teacher” changes to “Whine Absorption Manager”
Anyhow, if anyone knows of any sweet jobs opening up in the Central Valley region of Costa Rica—especially if they pay well and allow me to play LEGO Star Wars and/or eat ice cream at my desk—send me an email as soon as possible.

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