August 21, 2009

My Stamp Collection

Today I had to take a Bureaucracy Day. When you live in Latin America—or Germany—you occasionally have to set aside these days to do tedious paperwork and run around town trying to obtain documents, signatures, and various stamps of the rubber, postage, and embossed varieties.

Today’s Bureaucracy Day was related to my birth certificate. In my naturalization process, I need to have this document up to Costa Rica’s strict bureaucratic standards, and a simple document issued in 1980 by Poudre Valley Hospital in Fort Collins with Baby Sitzman’s footprints just won’t cut it; neither will the fact that IF I am here now, talking to you and attempting to be naturalized, then it mean that I must have been born… so why all the fuss about the who’s, where’s, when’s, why’s, and how’s?

If you ever try to get either Permanent Resident or Citizen status in this country, you need to get all your documents—anywhere from 4 to 12 documents, depending on the circumstances--certified. A few times, by a few different people. Here’s an example, detailing how to do get your birth certificate up to bureaucratic speed:

First, you’ll need an official birth certificate. To do that, you may need to sign a lot of Power of Attorney documents so that your mom can request a copy of the birth certificate (Thanks, Ma!). Then, either you (or your mom) will have to send or take that birth certificate to the Secretary of State of the Great State of Colorado (if you were born in Colorado, like me). There, the secretary of state (or a machine that can copy his signature) will fill out a piece of paper stating that the signature on your birth certificate (that of one “Ronald S. Hyman”) was authentic and that Mr. Hyman was the duly appointed State Registrar of the State of Colorado at the time he signed the document. They’ll also put on a nice embossed stamp with the Great Seal of the State of Colorado. Then, you (or, again, your mom…thanks, Ma!) will have to get the birth certificate and the certification sent to the Consulate of Costa Rica in Houston, Texas. There, Consul Dania L Garcia Diaz will partially fill out another form stating that Bernie Buescher was actually the Secretary of State of Colorado, and that his certification of your birth certificate was authentic. Wait, did I say “partially fill out”? Yes, I did. Because then after that document gets sent back to you (or your mom), you (or your mom) has to get that document to Costa Rica. That honor fell to our dear friends Dustin and Sam when they visited us, schlepped document in hand. The next step is pretty simple. That partially filled out form from the Consulate in Houston needs to be taken to the Foreign Relations Ministry Consular Services Department in San José to be authenticated. There, Eduardo Cubero Barrantes will testify that “the preceding signature, the one of the Consul of Costa Rica in Houston, is authentic.” Yep, Señor Barrantes will authenticate the authentication of a certification of a certificate of my birth. Notice the usage of the future tense, with “will” in that last sentence. Because first you have to go to the Banco de Costa Rica and deposit 625 colones (approximately $1.10) for the legal “timbres,” which were basically like little postage stamps, but which have since been eliminated due to corruption and overcharging by people who would hoard stamps when the authorities would run out. So now, the deposit is just a 45-minute wait in line at the bank away.

At this point, you may be thinking, "Can't we just trust each other, and maybe use the honor system?" How charmingly silly of you. If we used the honor system, then how would the Republic of Costa Rica know that you weren't associated with Al Qaeda or --even worse!-- Nicaragua? Why are you complaining about this process, if you've got nothing to hide? You're not some sort of criminal or terrorist or foreigner, are you??

So when you get the receipt from the bank, take that and the little packet of authentications back to the Foreign Relations Whatever Place. They’ll glue the bank receipt to the back of the authentication, and put three nice stamps on it (also, make sure the bank teller puts a stamp on the receipt, or else it will not be accepted). Finally, you’re ready, and all that’s left for you to do is get the document translated into Spanish by a translator who’s certified by that Foreign Relations place. They have a list of a couple hundred of translators, but with addresses in Costa Rica being relatively vague or nonexistent, you may want to ask the lady at the information desk for advice. She’ll tell you that 200 meters south of the Parque España (which itself is 100 meters south of the Foreign Relations building), there’s a guy who can do the translation. This is true, but when you go 200 meters south of the park, there’ll be no sign of this translator's office, nor of the “Edificio Borges,” which is the name of the building where his office supposedly is. You’ll have to ask a pair of police officers loitering on the corner, and they’ll point you another 100 meters (one block) to the south. There you’ll have to ask a crazy old lady looking out the bars of her window, a guy in a staircase, and another guy in the furniture store, and they’ll all have no idea what the fuck you’re talking about, an Edificio Borges? So, you’ll have to double back 100 meters, try not to make eye contact with the cops who gave you bad directions, and then call the office. Obviously, it’s about noon and there’s approximately 1,200 buses in that intersection, so you’ll have to slip into a church to try to make the call, but there’s no reception there. The secretary at the translator’s office will complain that she can’t hear you and then pass you to another guy, who’ll say he’s looking out the window at two police officers; do you see them? Sure, you’ll say, and then you’ll have to go wait near the cops and the guy will come meet you there (and a guy on a yellow moped will eat shit when he ditches his bike, after running a red light and nearly plowing into a girl, Thank God she’s OK, what a freakin' dickhead on his yellow moped anyhow, am I right?). Finally, the guy from the office will find you, take you up to the office, and then the translator will translate your document for a relatively low fee of $20 (plus another 15 colones for three more timbres…what?? that about 6 cents, or is my math off?). Signed, sealed, delivered! Or, more accurately, “signed, sealed, sealed, stamped, stamped, stamped, stapled, and delivered”! You’re set!

Now, be on your way, young man! Your birth certificate has been deemed appropriate by just about everyone except the taxi driver who’ll take you to the bus station or the drunk homeless guy who’ll try to open your door at the curb to “earn a tip.” Your birth certificate has been baptized in stamp ink and sponge water used for moistening stamps; it’s been converted from a mere document to a sort of booklet, una novela de autenticacion, if you will. You can now go home and rest assured that you are successful, and that you’ve got one document gathered, and only about five more to go.

365: Picture a Day Project    365 Leftovers    All My Pictures    Sitzbook

August 18, 2009

Coming To America

Just a quick note to let you all know that Angela and I will be going to Colorado this next week. We'll get in on Saturday the 22nd at noon and leave on the following Thursday evening. We're already pretty booked up on the weekend, but if you have a bit of free time during the week and want to try to meet up, send me an email or give us a call at my folks' house.
Hope to see some of you soon!

365: Picture a Day Project    365 Leftovers    All My Pictures    Sitzbook

August 16, 2009

Mother's Day, Costa Rican Style

Yesterday was Mother's Day here in Costa Rica. It's always August 15th, which probably does wonders for having children remember it, as opposed to having it on a random Sunday in May or so (and the fact that it's a national holiday probably helps, as well). So, last night we went to Angela's parents' house to celebrate. Here's her mother, Cecilia:

Last weekend, Angela and I took her mother and her sister / godmother Antonieta to the Termales del Bosque hot springs, one of our favorite tourist spots. I wish I had remembered to bring some pictures of that excursion with me to the internet café today, but I didn't so I'll have to put them up another day. Needless to say, it was a fun time, and they seemed to enjoy it quite a bit.

The Man Table on Mother's Day. Quite similar to the Man Table on Father's Day, actually, only perhaps with a few people sitting in different chairs. For these holidays, the guys tend to congregate around a case of beer and some jaibols, which is just the Spanish spelling of "highball"... the Costa Rican version is whiskey with Ginger Ale.
In the meantime, the women sit in the kitchen and talk, while the assorted kids and grandkids roam the house, free-range style. It's a pretty fun and noisy enterprise!

Finally, we took a lot of family pictures near the end of the evening when the guys were all nice and buzzed. I won't put up all the families 'cause I've been at this internet café for five hours and NEED to get outta here, but here's the "family picture" of me and Angela, with a computer simulation of what our adorable children may look like in the future.

So, to all you mothers out there, including people who'd be called la pura madre, Happy Mother's Day!

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August 11, 2009

Why Can't We Just Be A Normal Country?

So it turns out that our Costa Rican president, Oscar Arias, has come down with swine flu (AH1N1).

Seriously; I'm not making this stuff up.

Hm, this is weird. He's also an old guy with asthma. We'll have to see what happens with this.

365: Picture a Day Project    365 Leftovers    All My Pictures    Sitzbook

August 10, 2009

KYRY (No, It's Not A Radio Station)

Well, last Friday we took in Cucho and our other cat, The Other Cat, to get fixed. Cucho's operation went off without a hitch, except for the fact that we can no longer call him Coochie-Balls. Aside from an afternoon of slamming his head into a window (there was a bird outside, and he was still high on anaesthesia) he's recuperated fine, and doesn't seem to have noticed that anything's missing.

The Other Cat, on the other hand, is another story. First of all, we got caught totally off-guard when the vet assistant asked us the cat's name, since the cat didn't actually have a name. We usually called her "The Other Cat," so we stammered for a moment or two until Angela or I finally just said "Kitty," which is what we call her when we say things like, "Kitty, get your ass outside!" So apparently we have a second cat named either The Other Cat or Kitty (although the vet's assistant spelled "Kitty" as K-Y-R-Y, which, although it may seem incredibly dense of her, if you know about Spanish phonetics and pronunciation, the spelling actually makes sense).

So, we wanted to get Kitty fixed, too, since she, being female and all, was a lot more likely than Cucho to give birth to a bunch of other cats that we didn't really want. We were worried she may not be able to get the operation, though, since she was obviously sick with some sort of mucus and breathing problems. And, as it turns out, pregnancy. Dammit!

In any case, if the little cat gets through the antibiotics and whatever other medicines the vet gave her, then she may or may not give birth to 2 to 8 little bundles of mewing joy. And now we sort of feel more sorry for her, so we're trying to be extra nice to her. I'll keep you updated, but just in case, does anyone want a free cat??

(Picture by Dustin Colburn)

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August 5, 2009

Return of The Dude!

It's been quite some time since we've seen our favorite Jeff Bridges character in film, but he's coming back soon! Check out this link to see the trailer!
Finally, a movie that speaks to MY lifestyle!

365: Picture a Day Project    365 Leftovers    All My Pictures    Sitzbook

August 4, 2009

Free Food From The Montaña

First of all, I should say that my friend Brad came up with the title for this post.
Second of all, I should say that it's a good title, since it's true. Since we moved into the new house, we've already started to get free food from our lot, and we've given exactly zero effort in that direction. The picture above, for example, is of a guyaba tree that was in the lot when we moved in. Good stuff, although not as good as the ones from the store. They'll be really nice in a month or two, I think.

Let's look at a couple other things that have sprouted up of late:

If I had seen a tree like this back when I lived in Colorado, I probably would have called it a "palm tree." And I'd be a dumbass. It's a sort of banana tree, actually. In this case, the particular kind of smaller, harder banana is called a guineo. These trees are all over here, and the fact that it's surrounded by dead branches in the area where we burn our trash testifies to the fact that one needs to do very little to promote this thing growing heartliy. Anyhow, the guineos themselves are good cooked, either in soups or in a ceviche.

A bunch of guineos after I cut them off the top of the tree-- with my machete, of course! The tree behind me in this picture is the guyaba tree, next to the Crappy Casita, which is getting less and less crappy every day!

Angela cooked these guineos and put them in a black soup, which is basically soup made using bean broth, onions, and hard-boiled egg. Tasty!

Next up: flor de itabo! This is supposedly the national flower of Panama or Guatemala --depending on who you ask and how drunk they are-- but here in Costa Rica it's good eatins! I put up about 10 of these plants with my father-in-law Honorio around 3 months ago to keep the dirt from washing down the side of our mountain. A week ago, one of them suddenly shot out this big flower! And supposedly the season for this flower is sometime around February. In any case, it looks like this when it's on the plant: like a cactus about to get married.

Anyhow, for our weekly visit to Angela's folks' this past Saturday, I talked to Cecilia (my mother-in-law) and asked her if she'd be willing to cook it and let me take pictures while she did so, for the edification of my readers. She heartily agreed, probably 'cause I didn't actually mention the part about the pictures... In any case, the first step after washing the thing is to take the flower petals off. Those are the best part, but you can also eat the little pods inside, as long as they've not sprouted some weird flower parts (some of which are doubtless used for flower sex, which makes it something I'd rather not eat).

Then, put them in a pan with a little butter or oil (you can also put in onion or pepper, I suppose, but we didn't). If you use the little green pods instead of just the white petals, the whole thing will turn out more bitter, but pleasantly so, at least to my particular palate.

Then, mix in some eggs, and scramble the whole lot of it.

And that's about it for the itabo! Here Cecilia served it with some homemade tortillas (left) and some tortas de yucca (right), which are a tasty side for any meal.

So that's it for now, but I'll keep you updated if more edible stuff crops up in the yard. And remember, there's nothing quite a rewarding to be able to look at a plate of home-grown food and say to yourself: "I'm Agricultured!"

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August 1, 2009

Your Ticket To Weekend Success

If you want to make a special end-of-the-week treat for your loved ones, follow these directions:

1. Take leftover lasagna noodles and heat them up in the microwave.
2. Add leftover sauerkraut.
3. Grate some cheese on top (any cheese will do).


This recipe is best served with Manischewitz on ice, while watching an Australian sitcom series on DVD--Kath and Kim, anyone?

365: Picture a Day Project    365 Leftovers    All My Pictures    Sitzbook