November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone up where they celebrate it! Since I work for an American company, we actually had turkey in the lunchroom yesterday, and it was pretty good. The mashed potatoes were substituted for a potato salad with apple, though. And the live music was a pan-flute band that played salsa music, as well as holiday classics like "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" and "Killing Me Softly" (seriously). Still, it was very tasty, and a really nice gesture.

Just know that I was jealous of you all as I was working today!

Also, I'll explain this thing more soon, but if you notice on the left of this page, there's a lot more crap lately. One of the pieces of crap is probably a sidebar with a bunch of pictures of CDs. If you click on that sidebar, it'll take you to an "aStore" that I've been setting up through Amazon (Or click here to visit it). So far, it only has links to the CDs mentioned in the A-Z Music Review Revue (it's the list on the left of the site that opens up), but I'm adding more. Still, you can always search for any item that Amazon sells from that page (click on the little icon that says "Powered by Amazon").

The way it works is, if you buy things from Amazon, but pass through my store first, I'll get a small referral fee. Basically, I'm trying to find ways to pay these 15-minute increments at the internet cafes. Plus, this way I can also promote music and other items that I reviewed or liked. You can also search through the whole Amazon catalog from that site, and I believe I'll still get a small referral bonus for that, too. So, if you're thinking of doing any holiday shopping online, I would appreciate it if you check out that site. I was actually amazed at some of the prices; are CDs cheaper nowadays? There was an Eels CD (Electroshock Blues) on there for only $5.99!

So, why go hang out with all the maniacs and scumbags on the Biggest Shopping Day of the Year when you can shop while staying in the comfort of your internet-equipped home and help out a friend at the same time? Thanks for your consideration!

Now, enjoy some turkey leftovers!

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November 25, 2008

Oh! Deer.

I've begun to notice these weird deer things on my drive to work lately.

Of course, their leader is hard to miss. He was even standing more proudly until the incredible vientos de Navidad recently blew his head over, snapping his spine in a single burst of wind.

I wasn't sure what they were at first, but the other day after I went to Migracion, I stopped on the side of the road to take a closer look. Turns out they're made from a sort of pine sliver thing, and then wrapped with string. I guess they're for Christmas decorations. I asked my students what they were, these strange animals from the highway between Naranjo and Grecia, and they all said, "For decoration." But they couldn't tell me exactly HOW they're used to decorate.

So, I bought one for my mother-in-law and one for my sister-in-law Toni. They seem to like them very much, so I guess I'll see what they actually end up doing with them.

Is it just me, or do this remind anyone else of those pictures of the Chinese terra cotta warriors?

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November 24, 2008

Apocalypse Sugar Cane

Last Thursday when I was driving home from my previously-mentioned adventure at the Ministry of Migration, I stopped on the highway and took this picture I like. So at least the trip to the ministry wasn't a complete waste of an afternoon.

The picture shows rolling fields of sugar cane, and at this time of year it gets a cool white flower on the top. It's also really tall, about 15 feet in some areas! I put my sunglasses over the camera lens to take this picture, but I still think it turned out OK. Tomorrow I'll put up a few more pictures from the drive home from the ministry.

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November 23, 2008

El Ministerio de Migración: A Gentle Rose

I took this picture on Thursday when I had to go to the Ministerio de Migración. If you were able to stay awake in your Junior High Spanish class, then you can probably understand the meaning of the name "Ministerio de Migración," namely: "The Go-Fuck-Yourself of Migration" (it's hard not to talk about Costa Rican government ministries without using lots and lots of profanity). I seem to have to go to this ministry every so often to ask for residence, renew an ID, make a request to renew an ID, or do some other bureaucratically fabulous bullshit task.

I was talking to my coworkers and my mom about this whole ID renewal process, so I figured I'd share it with the world. If you don't like reading the blog when I rant about Tico Bureaucracy, then maybe you'd prefer looking at some pictures of our house that I just put up?

OK, begin rant: See, I have a cédula de residencia, which is basically the national ID card that Costa Ricans carry, but with a slightly different design (which includes the vaginal-looking Costa Rican national orchid). Also, for them foreigners like me, they are only valid for a year, after which you have to renew it. This sounds easy enough in theory, but of course it isn't.

See, my cédula expired in October, so I wanted to make an appointment to get a new one. The catch is that you can't make an appointment to renew the cédula until the actual month of expiry. So, I had to make the appointment in October. The appointment can't be made at the Ministry of Migration; instead, you need to call a 900 number to make it. That also takes extra steps to get your telephone set up to be able to call 900 numbers. Many foreigners are fleeced by unscrupulous people who wait outside the building and offer to call the 900 number on their cell phones, and then charge the foreigner 10 dollars or more for a phone call that only costs 20 cents. So, that's the first step: requesting an appointment by phone.

Second step: Get the date of the appointment. Mine was for March 24th. Oh, cool! Only 5 months after my ID expires. I asked many, many questions during my 900-number call about why this was so, but no one could tell me. Also, despite getting the new ID in March, it will still expire next October, and I can't renew it--or request to renew it, that is--until next October. This will be the case for the first 5 years I have a cédula, apparently. After 5 years, they'll be good for 2 years each. After 10 years of this, they'll apparently good for 5 years at a time, but if that's the case, perhaps a foreign power will invade this army-less paradise in the meantime and institute some logic and order to the immigration process (Germany? Austria? Turkey? Any takers...?).

Then, if you want to leave the country in the 5 months while you're waiting for a new ID, you need a third step. I had to get a little document that says I'm waiting for my new cédula, so that I can use it to go through the Migración lines at the airport when Angela and I go to the US over New Year's. Said document is literally a form that has a long declaration that the cédula is in process, and then it has four spaces that need to be filled in by the Migración officials; the spaces are for "name," "ID number," "date of appointment," and "time of appointment." Oh, and it has a rubber stamp! That's literally all the document says. It would make sense to just give you this document when you make the appointment for the renewal, but since that's over the phone, it doesn't work that way. Also, you'd think that the Ministerio of Migración could set up some sort of "internet system" so that their officials at the airport would be able to see that people are waiting for their new IDs. But that's not the case; you have to go to the ministry in person with a photocopy of your ID and request the little paper. Depending on the whim of the attending agent and also depending on who you actually talk to, you'll have to wait from one day up to two weeks to actually pick up the paper. It will never happen on the same day, though.

So actually I went to Migración on Wednesday and Thursday of last week. Once to drop off the request, and a second time to pick up my little rubber-stamped piece of shit.

This should work till March 24th, the day I go to get my new cédula. Wait, did I said "get my new cédula"? I mean, "go ask for it again, for some fucking reason." Because I'll go in on March 24th, but that's just to drop off a letter asking for a new cédula, as well as a proof that I've deposited 58 dollars in Migración bank account. I don't actually get the new cédula until two weeks after that, at which point I'll have to go back to Migración to pick up the little printed-off piece of plastic shit with my ugly mug on the front and a hologram on the back.

Thankfully, next February Angela and I will celebrate two years of official, state-sanctioned marriage, if you remember that. After that point, I'm legally allowed to apply for Costa Rican citizenship, and it also appears that I won't lose my American citizenship. I've gotta investigate it more, although it goes through the Civil Registry, which is another, completely separate bureaucracy. Still, I'll be willing to try anything that lets me avoid going back to Migración for a few (or seven) more appointments every year.

(By the way, I took the above picture near the highway. It's about the only indication of how to actually get to the main building of the Ministerio de Migración. Oh, and "Musmanni" is the name of a bakery near the Ministerio...)

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November 19, 2008

Another Mexico City Pic

Since Angela and I are going to Mexico next month, I decided to put up another picture from my trip there with Paul a few years ago. This particular picture is of a statue of the Virgin of Guadalupe--I think--in a parking garage in Mexico City.

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November 18, 2008

A Few Days Off

It's been a few days, so sorry I've not but up more pictures lately. Angela had her birthday this last weekend, so we ended up going to the beach. I'll try to put up a picture or two from that excursion, but here's an older picture that I took earlier this year in Esterillos. I just like it, so that's why it's here.
It shows guys fishing in the sunset, so what's there not to like?

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November 12, 2008

Concert Periscope

I chose this picture to examine a bit closer because first of all, I like it and second of all, it's from Mexico. I took this picture--and many more, if you check out this link--in 2006. I went there with my brother Paul to visit my friend José. It was a great trip, and it sort of helped lead me to where I am today: in Costa Rica.

See, I visited José on a whim, because it was spring break and there were cheap tickets to Mexico City. After being there, I decided that I'd like to learn more Spanish. At the same time, José mentioned he was going to Argentina to visit our mutual exchange student friend Andrés, and I ended up tagging along on a great trip to South America. While there, I learned more Spanish, but I wanted to get even better, so I asked my friend Christa if she still had connections at a school in Costa Rica that she'd taught at. She did, I came here, and the rest is history.

In any case, this picture is from a free Manu Chao concert in the Zócalo in Mexico City. Many people were too short to see over the tall people, so some marketing genius was selling these homemade periscopes throughout the square. It's not terribly amazing, but it's still one of my favorite pictures that I've taken, for some reason.

Also, Angela and I just bought tickets yesterday to go to Colorado over Christmas, and we're going to make a stop in Mexico to go to my exchange-student friend Aurora's wedding in Veracruz. The last time I stopped by Mexico, my life began to follow a remarkably different path, so who knows how this next week-long visit will change me and Angela. Perhaps a year from now we'll be blogging from a military prison in North Korea, or volunteering at a food kitchen in Estonia...

I guess you never know.

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November 11, 2008

Updated Construction Sblog

Yesterday I put up some new pictures of our house construction. It's moving quite quickly now, so check them out!

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November 10, 2008


If you can tell me what number this represents, then you probably can't do long division, either.

For today, I'm going to depart from pictures that I've taken because I just stumbled upon this very special picture above. If you're my age and from Fort Collins, or at least if you went to Timnath Elementary School, then this image may cause a mix of nostalgia and/or nausea. For me, it's mostly the latter.
This is one of the notorious "minicomputers" from the CSMP math program that was unleashed upon unsuspecting children on the Front Range in the early 1980s. I ranted a bit about this program a few months ago, but it was just in passing. So, I made a note in my little calendar to do some research into CSMP, and to find out whatever became of it.
As it turns out, CSMP doesn't actually stand for "Crappy Stupid Math Program," as we all thought. It's actually "Comprehensive School Mathematics Program." Evidently, it's been decommissioned--or perhaps the correct word would be "disarmed"--and is currently no longer a threat to our world's children. However, there is still a group out there called the "CSMP Preservation Project" which is trying to save and reinstate CSMP. Follow this link to read more. This site has enough PDF files of "String and Minicomputer Games" to cause a former CSMP student to suffer through another acronym: PTSD. (Oh, and fun fact: Among other things, CSMP also stands for "Committee for Sensible Marijuana Policy," an advocacy group in Massachusetts).
In any case, if you didn't take part in this program, then most likely none of this post makes any sense. But if you were in this program, I probably just either made or ruined your day, depending on how hipster and/or retro you're feeling today.

(Picture from Wikimedia Commons)

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November 9, 2008

Guiding Light

I believe I put this picture up when I took it around a year ago, but I still like it. It's a picture of the magnetic Virgin Mary statue on the dashboard of my father-in-law Honorio's 1985 Land Cruiser.
Many cars here have little magnets, decals, air fresheners, and other doo-dads that display saints, prayers, and other religious imagery. I guess in the US people have the "Jesus Fish" bumper thingy, but that's about it, usually. Here there's like a whole little subculture based around these trinkets.
I do wonder, though, in which direction Mary is supposed to face. Should she be placed to look at the drivers to better protect them, as well as provide a happy face to pray to, or should she be placed looking forward, providing her with a nice view of the oncoming road?
Maybe it's one of those things--like taking communion--that I'm not allowed to know about since I'm not Catholic.
Who knows.

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November 8, 2008

Oh, Deutschland...

For today's picture, I chose this one that I took of the "New" Town Hall in Hannover, Germany. I mainly chose it because I like it, but also because it makes me think of Germany. A few years ago, as I was getting my Master's Degree in German, I would have never imagined that I'd end up living in Central America.
But here I am. Don't get me wrong; I'm happy to be here, and I'm elated to be married to Angela. At the same time, though, I notice that I'm forgetting German slowly but surely, and probably a month or so ago, the total time I'd spent in Germany was eclipsed by the total time I've spent here in Costa Rica.
I guess it just goes to show you that no matter how much you try to plan your future, the future may have other plans for you.

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November 7, 2008

All You Need Is Just A Little Patience...

Here is the close-reading picture for today. I was looking for pictures to feature, and this one caught my attention because it shows our lot before the house was there. It's hard to believe that this was taken at the end of March! There have been many, many delays with the house, but when I compare how it looks now (see below) with this picture of an empty lot, it's actually pretty amazing how fast it's going. We're actually thinking that most of the work (aside from painting, cabinets, and moving in) will be finished in a week or two.

In any case, I guess that this picture just helps keep things in perspective. And by the way, check out the pictures from the Construction Sblog that I put up last weekend. I'm hoping to get some more pictures up this weekend, but I accidently forgot my memory card reader at an internet café, and I think some little shit walked off with it. So, we'll see what happens.

But the lesson here is clear: If you want a house, just buy one that's already built.

The house now.

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November 6, 2008

Other Receding Lines

I took a day off yesterday so that you could all have a chance to catch your breath from the frantic pace of the November picture posting. Plus, I was lazy.

In any case, today's picture is of the lovely Angela and my mad-doctor dad. I put it up because it's a good picture that I took, but also because I have teeth problems these days.

When I was a kid, I was one of the lucky few that never had to have braces because I had great teeth. But lately, my gums have been receding even more than my hair, and I'm not sure why. I asked a few dentists, and some said it was from not flossing enough, and others said it was from flossing too much. The dentist here in Costa Rica said that it wasn't a problem. Many people have blamed all the coffee I drink, but they don't realize that coffee is delicious. This has been going on for a while now, and when I was a Teaching Assistant for the Scandinavian Department, my boss even gave me the Viking name of "Ryan Battle Tooth."

Anyhow, who knows what's going on, but my teeth sting sometimes when I eat...well, almost anything. As I said, I've talked to a dentist here in Costa Rica, but I don't trust her much. She's Angela's dentist, so that should be a bit comforting, but Angela also comes from a culture where "dentalwork" can mean throwing the baby out with the bathwater; many people around Berlín and in her family simply had all their teeth pulled and replaced with dentures. Plus, the dentist's office here is less clean-looking than my dad's dental clinic in Colorado...and he's a veterinarian.

So dad, can you book me for some gum grafting when I come home for Christmas?

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November 4, 2008

The Revenge of Bryan Sitzman

Last Friday I dressed up for Halloween, sort of:

I told my students that Ryan was sick, and that my name was Bryan, Ryan's Evil Twin. It was actually pretty fun, because they played along. For example, when I couldn't name the capital of Uganda--it's a long story, but we talk about capitals a lot in my class)--they said, "Oh don't worry Bryan, I'm sure Ryan would know." And my coworkers were freaked out, too. Mainly just because they weren't used to seeing me with hair. Quite a few people didn't even recognize me in Clark Kent mode.

In any case, though, it's interesting to observe how the hair really makes the man. Obviously, this was just a shitty wig, but I looked completely different. And in my class yesterday, my students found out that I was 28. Many of them were very surprised, possibly because I look like I'm in my 40s, hair-wise. They laughed when I told them, "The years haven't been kind." I got the same effect when two of my coworkers who look younger than I do, learned that I was actually a bit younger than them. It was all a good moment of Schadenfreude, but I'm not sure if the Schadenfreude was at their expense or at mine.

Basically, hair on your head is great. If you have some, enjoy it while you can, you lucky, hairy bastards.

Bryan Sitzman

(Photo credit: Carlos Cascante)

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November 3, 2008

And You Thought Many Roads Led to ROME...

A week ago Angela and I were going to a construction material depot outside of Palmares and we came across this sign in the road:

Well, the good news is that someone finally got my memo about either naming the streets in this country, or at least putting up a few signs to show the way to major cities and tourist attractions.

The bad news is that the whole system still needs a bit of tweaking. But at least it's better than "Follow the cars," which were the verbatim directions to the Caribbean that one of my students gave me.

It's a good thing that we weren't going to San Jose or I probably would have just driven my car right into the signpost out of desperation.

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November 2, 2008

New Construction Pictures

I just updated our Construction Sblog, so you should head on over to the site to check out some new pictures. It's even more fun than inhaling varnish for hours on end!*

*Results may vary depending on the type of varnish you use.

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Picture Close Reading: Who Would Jesus Tailgate?

I decided to put up this picture for a closer look because it displays something that I find disturbingly interesting: The Crucified Jesus Head.
As if the crucifix alone wasn't gory enough, they've now modified it by focusing on Jesus' thorn-crowned head and stylizing it a bit. Then, they put it on every third taxi, delivery truck, and private car in this country.
I don't mean to make light of the crucifixion; in fact, I almost feel that that's what the people who put these decals on their vehicle are doing. And for some reason, the people in these trucks and cars seem to be some of the worst drivers, and the vehicles seem to belch out even more black smoke all over.
This might be symbolic, but I don't know what for. All the same, I just thought I'd share it with you.

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November 1, 2008

Picture Close Reading #1

This is my first "Picture Close Reading" for November. For this project, I'll more closely examine a picture that I've taken or that I am featured in.

I chose this picture because it's a good demonstration of how I could improve my blog, my website, and my writing in general. I have a tendency to write notes on my hand so that I don't forget things. This is OK in theory, but in practice I often have no idea what the hell I wrote. This especially happens when I'm driving in the car, and I have to write with one hand on the wheel and my eyes on the road.

So the other night I got home and saw this note on my hand, and I have no idea what it's supposed to mean. I wrote it while I was driving in the dark, and I obviously was paying more attention to the road than to my penmanship. This may not even be written in Latin script. Unfortunately, the same thing even happens when I have time to concentrate.

Every day when I go to and from work, I get two little tickets of paper to prove that I paid at the tollbooth. I've started to use them as a replacement for Post-It notes when I'm at work. As a result, when I empty my pockets at the end of the day, numerous little yellow slips of paper fall out, and all of them have illegible notes scribbled on them. Or if they're legible, they make no sense. For example, last night I found one that said: "Lighting 24 hr." Sure, Past Sitzman, whatever.

In any case, if you ever wonder why my blog seems so schizo, that may be the reason why.

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Well, now that it’s November, I guess I should feel obliged to end Blogtoberfest. I know it wasn’t a huge output of writing or ideas, but at least it was a slight increase over what I’m normally able to post to this blog.

As I mentioned before, now that it’s November, I’ll be writing a novel. I now officially have only 29 days left to go, after all. You can follow the progress, I believe, by clicking on this link. My brother Paul is also doing this project, and I believe that my friend Brad will be doing it, too, at least if he can hide it from his wife. The site seems to be very busy now at the start of the month, but apparently the traffic slows down within a few can search for me by looking for "Sitzman," and Paul is "P Sitzman." Brad thinks he'll be "BBonner." Also, my word counter is only changed when I change it, so without internet access, it may stay the same for a few days at a time. But rest assured that I’m using all of my free time to write a coffee-drunk novel to make you laugh, cry, and cringe.

Finally, I’ll be trying to load up a bunch of pictures throughout November so that Sitzblog won’t be completely neglected. My ideal plan will be to have one picture a day, but we’ll see how the logistics of that work out. Some of the pictures will be new, some will be old, but I’ll try to find ones that are interesting or significant to me. The idea will be to do some sort of “close reading” or analysis of the pictures. I will also try to only use pictures that I took, or else that feature me in some way. It’s all part of the ego-tripping that is Sitzblog--and it’s also an attempt to avoid copyright-based litigation.

In the meantime, I hope you enjoy the pictures, and I hope you enjoy November. And in the immortal words of the gentle poet Axl Rose*: “Nothing lasts forever, even cold November rain.”

*PS: Apparently after a few centuries of eager anticipation, Guns N’ Roses fans will finally be treated to the new GNR album, “Chinese Democracy,” sometime near the end of this month. I imagine there might be a bit of lag time before it makes it to Palmares, but you can be pretty sure that when it does, the November Novel will have to take a backseat for a few days!

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