July 30, 2010

Quote of the Day

“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and
narrow-mindedness, and many of our people
need it sorely on these accounts. Broad,
wholesome, charitable views of men and things
cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little
corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.”
-Mark Twain

I read this quote in a guide from The Art of Nonconformity, a great website that I've been following for a year or so on the (ever wise) advice of Brad.

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July 29, 2010

Tuna Tune-Up

I know that tuna and all other fish generally make me nauseous, woozy, sweaty, vomity, and generally not feel so good, but I think I still might give it another try if they advertised it like this:

I found this on the engrish.com "brog," by the way.

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July 28, 2010


San Ramon, Alajuela.
A little spot where young men and young women go to experience their first little taste of the nightlife.
Me? Well, I've never been there... well, perhaps once but I was so engulfed in the ol' hamburgers I never made it to the door...

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July 27, 2010

I Can't Believe There's Not Butter!

(Note: I changed the title of this post after hearing Angela say something similar to that)

Angela walked down to the main "pulpería" here in Berlín just a little bit ago. For those of you who don't know, a Costa Rican pulpería is basically like a general store or a convenience store, only less general and less convenient. There are now three of these stores in Berlín, two of which have opened in the last year. Basically, it's where some dude or woman decides they want to open a business in their own home; to open your own pulpería, there are three main steps:

1. Buy or steal a display counter, along with a few bags of chips and some assorted candies
2. Move your TV to your garage
3. "It's business time!"

This way, you can stay home all day watching TV while ostensibly "working."

In any case, we almost never buy anything in Berlín because there's just not that much to buy. Plus, I guess I like "weird food," which is basically anything beyond rice, beans, and chips. I also enjoy weird things like "cheese," "cream," "soup," and "flour."*

Still, Angela wanted to make a cake, and we didn't have butter. So she walked to the pulpería and asked if they had butter. The lady --mind you, this is a lady who runs a general store-- asked what butter was. Not, "No, we don't have butter" but rather, "Butter? What's that?"

Every time someone visits us, they ask, "Why do you guys drive all the way down to Palmares to go shopping? Couldn't you just buy things at that store over there?"

That's why.

*Note: These are four real examples of items that I tried --in vain, and while receiving incredulous looks-- to acquire at the pulpería before I simply gave up.

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July 26, 2010

Artisanal Pencil Sharpening

If you've not heard of David Rees, he's the guy who used to do the "Get Your War On" cartoons. He's now moved on to Artisanal Pencil Sharpening. You should check out the website. It's brilliant.

This picture is from there. I love everything about it, especially since it's not a joke. If you send him $15.00, he will sharpen a pencil and send it to you, along with the shavings and a certificate indicating that it's a sharp object.

I wish I had thought of this.

(Photo credited to Meredith Heuer)

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Pictures of the Day, July 23, 24, and 25, 2010

The last few days have been filled with work, rain, and fog, but I still managed to get a few pictures out of them:

July 23, 2010: Angela found this huge, weird caterpillar on a branch in our yard. It was a little larger than my middle finger, and it was hard to tell its butt from its face at first. Plus, if caterpillars turn into moths or butterflies, this must mean there are some HUGE beastly butterflies out there... or else this one will form a cocoon and will eventually morph into a toucan (hey, they have to come from somewhere, right?). Nature is gross sometimes.

At least they're easy to prepare. Just chop them up really fine, and cook them with a bit of oil or butter. Serve with tortillas.

Just kidding. I also made barley soup because the weather was so crappy. Thanks again for the Krupnik recipe, Martha!

July 24, 2010: Angela's nephew Maikol was at the in-laws' last night, and he kept trying to stack these little plastic ninjas. The picture isn't the sharpest and certainly not the most in focus, but it captured an interesting moment, and I like it for that reason.

July 25, 2010: Oh lemon bars, I just can't quit you. We have tons of lemons (enough that they can occasionally get mold, as you saw the other day), so I made lemon bars. They were great, but short-lived.

Also, here is a picture that I took out back this afternoon around 2 pm, just to prove it was a pretty boring Sunday. Believe it or not, this is a color photo (in the corner you can see a little red... that's the Formerly Crappy Casita).

Anyhow, that's it for now, and I hope that you found something you liked. Thanks for reading, and have a great day!

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July 22, 2010

Pictures of the Day, July 21 and 22, 2010

Hello! Here are my Pictures of the Day from July 21st and 22nd. Hope you enjoy them!

July 21st: This is Nelson's car. Nelson and my brother-in-law Ronald came by two mornings in a row to work at our house. They were building a small door to go next to our gate, so people coming over by foot (like our army of nieces) don't have to walk through the bushes or open the huge car gate. In any case, Berlin is full of these old Land Cruisers. They're very cool to look and and they're very rugged and durable, but they are also horrible to drive behind. I especially hate coming up on the tail of one of these while going up a hill, since they're really SLOW and somehow manage to belch out blue smoke. As long as you can keep your car going, you're OK, but if you have to slow down so much that it stalls, then you have to go backwards down to the bottom of the hill and then try it all again, hopefully with a bit more momentum this time.

July 22nd: I'd like to do a "close reading" of this Picture of the Day.

This is the relatively new EPA store near Real Cariari, on the western outskirts of San Jose. I really love EPA, but I'd never been to this new one. EPA is basically like a Home Depot that takes its styling cues from an IKEA (although I must admit that the scorpion is a bizarre touch which seems to have been dropped from the Swedes' plans). If you look at the picture, it's got a few interesting things going on.

First of all, ferretería is the Spanish word that means something similar to "hardware store" (Alas! IF ONLY they sold ferrets!). Secondly, whoever designed this store really didn't place the sign well. I'm a relatively tall person, but even for me half of the sign is cut off, making it look like "CDTriangle." Plus, the area around is even lower, which means that you see even less of the sign. And finally, the front really DOES look like an IKEA, doesn't it? Or am I just nuts?

EPA is great because it has actual aisles, and you can look at the products. This may sound like a very basic feature in a "store," although it's something I took for granted before coming to Costa Rica. In Costa Rica, there's almost always an attendant, be it at a gas station, a bakery, a clothing store, or, yes, a hardware store. I guess it's more personalized attention, but it's also a bit annoying if you're used to walking around a store and just looking at crap on your own schedule. It's just weird when you're looking at polo shirts and the lady wants to display every one to you.

And you might not realize it, but having to talk to someone when you go into a store can lead you to pick up a TON of vocabulary. In some cases I now the Spanish word for something, but I don't know the English equivalent (like cuneta, cumbrera, ficha, and soldadura... and those may not even be correct spellings, since I've only heard them spoken and not written out). At the same time, I have picked up a lot of specialty vocabulary that I suppose could be useful if I ever have a build another house in Costa Rica, but God help me if that ever comes to pass again. Somehow, I know know the Costa Rican Spanish words for things like "hinge," "grout" (both gritty and smooth), "masonry drill bit," and what seems to be like 4 or 5 different words for "handle." I probably wouldn't have learned those words if I had known about EPA before... still, I think I prefer just wandering the aisles until I stumble upon what I'm looking for. Plus, how about you try to explain "a sheet of vinyl lattice" in Spanish... it's much easier to just walk around, eventually find it, and point and say, "this thing here."

Anyhow, the reason I went to EPA today is because I was actually looking for a piece of vinyl or plastic lattice to use on the crappy casita, but I couldn't find it anywhere, and at every store in Palmares where I walked in and had to explain what I was trying to find, the attendants looked at me like I was an insane man speaking Martian. But EPA indeed had exactly what I was looking for, and I found it right away! Now I just need to find a way to transport a 1.22 m x 2.44 m piece of lattice, but I have a feeling our Sentra won't be up to the challenge. The saga continues...

That's it for now. Thanks for reading, and have a good day!

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July 21, 2010

Picture of the Day: July 20, 2010

One of these things is not like the others in yesterday's Picture of the Day:

Did you figure out which one? If you guessed "The lime covered in thick, powdery, disgusting mold," then you're CORRECT! The others are just plain limes. I still marvel at how one piece of fruit can go so bad so quickly, when the rest are completely normal and delicious.

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July 20, 2010

Chubby's Tribute to the King of Pop

The top picture is Chubby, hunting a moth in the garage the other evening. I think it's hilarious.

Chubby's been a great cat for us. He's kind of a pain in the ass sometimes (Angela calls him a "terremoto"), but now that Cucho's gone, our former Backup Cat has has really had to step up to play first fiddle. We have to be sure to not compare him with Cucho, since he's actually pretty young still, and he still does a lot of dumb crap. But we're still really glad he's around.

Also, the other night we were looking at some older pictures of Cucho that I've not put up yet, so I may upload some of those sometime soon. I also had an on-going project on flickr to upload older pictures as a backup, but I think I only got up till my pictures from 2006. I should get that going again.

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Picture of the Day Catch-Up, July 12-19, 2010

I know you've all been anxious, but don't worry, the wait is over! Here are my Pictures of the Day from the last week or so:

July 12th, 2010: Angela was making some pillowcases for some of our shabby pillows throughout the house. Angela's quite an adept sewer. Sewer? That doesn't seem right. I guess it's "seamstress." But what do you call a person who sews?

July 13th, 2010: Finally got the grill assembled! Thanks to my family for schlepping it down here during their visit!

July 14th, 2010: My class during a "fashion show." I know it's a Barbie kind of thing to do, but they were learning vocabulary for clothing items, as well as related description words. So, they got to wear some of our weird clothes for a fashion show.

July 15th, 2010: The new National Stadium in San José. It sort of officially marks Costa Rica's abandonment of its old ally, Taiwan. See, Costa Rica used to recognize Taiwan as a country or whatever, and because of that Taiwan helped Costa Rica with a lot of development projects, including the "Costa Rica - Taiwan Friendship Bridge" (seriously, that's its name... hopefully Taiwan is building an "Up Yours Costa Rica! Bridge" in Taipei).

Anyhow, a couple of years ago Costa Rica basically ditched Taiwan for China, because China offered us a handful of shitty police patrol cars, as well as a shiny new National Stadium. It's pretty sad, really.

In any case, on Thursday evenings I teach a class right across the street from the stadium.

July 16th, 2010: My mug from Portugal. Nice trip, nice country, and nice mug.

July 17th, 2010: The stomach's been feeling a bit weird lately, and the generic Pepto just isn't working.

July 18th, 2010: Finally, we got to try out out new BBQ with some steak-like things from the supermarket! It was great! The only odd thing is the charcoal in Costa Rica. I had imagined they'd have briquettes, but it turns out that it's definitely wood charcoal. When it comes out of the bag, you can see the wood grains, and sometimes even nails!

It doesn't stay lit very well or long, but I may not be starting it right. I may have to search out some "normal" briquettes... Still, lunch was great!

July 19th, 2010: Mmmm, pistachios. It's strange, but they are in the category of foods that I've gone from hating to really liking overnight. That also includes papaya, cilantro, and tomatoes.

So, that's all for now. Be sure to check out the Leftovers. Thanks for reading, and have a great day!

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July 12, 2010

We'll Miss You, Cucho.

This is surely the saddest Picture of the Day (and I hope to not break this record).

This is the last picture of Cucho, who died yesterday morning. The last couple of days he had suddenly gotten really sick, so we took him to the vet. It turns out he had had FIV, and because of that, he didn't have the defenses to fight other sicknesses, including chronic kidney failure, and anemia. He was in lots of pain in the last few days. The doctor said that they could treat some of the symptoms temporarily, but that he'd likely never permanently recover, and he'd have been in pain. He recommended we put him to sleep so he wouldn't have to suffer anymore. It was a very difficult decision, but we know it was the right one, but we've both still been really sad since then.

It really hurts to lose a friend you love so much, but we're happy that he's not suffering anymore. And we're also content knowing that we were able to give him a good life in the time that he was with us. He really was an excellent cat, and he was as lucky to be with us as we were to have him.

Cucho's grave in our backyard.

Cucho's kennel. We'll miss you, little guy.

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July 11, 2010

Picture of the Day, July 10, 2010

Here's today's Picture of the Day (wow, it's been a while since I said that phrase!):

These strange-looking things are actually candied figs which have been stuffed with a sort of sugary condensed milk mixture. This is the kind of food you can buy from roadside stands in Costa Rica. We bought these the other day while returning from Zarcero with my family.

Thanks for checking out the pictures, and have a great day!

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July 10, 2010

Picture of the Day Catch-Up: June 28-July 9, 2010

Well, I think I'm finally about caught up, at least until yesterday! I'm really pleased with some of these Pictures of the Day, so I hope you like them, too. Without further ado:

June 28th: These are some letter dice I occasionally use in my classes to play a "bootleg" version of the game Scattergories. It's pretty fun and it gets students' brains going. Until someone rolls an "X" or "Y"... those are like brain poison.

June 29th: The dial on our exercise bike. It's a recumbent bike, which is great because it means you can comfortably watch TV, read books or magazines, or even play video games while "exercising."

June 30th: This is a poster sort of thing that Angela and I had to design in our pre-marriage classes a few years ago. I have it hanging on my office wall. Note that they didn't give us many materials to work with, but I still managed to find three squirrels.

July 1st: A cow's nose. I saw it walking from our house to my in-laws' house.

July 2nd: It was a pretty busy day. My family came on the 3rd and I had to teach classes all day, so on the 2nd I was planning. This is my desk, even AFTER I'd tried tidying it up a bit.

July 3rd: A "pipa," which is basically a coconut that you can drink the watery milk out of. They're tasty, especially on hot days. Plus, according to local folklore/witchcraft, they're also supposedly a contraceptive (Note: HA HA!), so that's an added curiosity.

July 4th: A pepper growing in Lucy and Wilson's yard. It looks really spicy, but it was just like a strange-shaped bell pepper.

July 5th: The "Hotel Los Héroes," a Swiss-themed hotel in La Fortuna, in the northern part of Costa Rica. We went there with my family.

July 6th: This picture cracks me up, especially since Angela's got two aunts who used to be nuns. In any case, this is Angela wearing one of the disposable towels that they give you at Termales Del Bosque. We went there with my family.

July 7th: This is a picture of my sister Di's hands, after Angela had given her a manicure. I think one of Angela's dark, secret dreams is to run off to the US and become a filthy-rich manicurist.

July 8th: A sunset, as seen from the back corner of our yard. You can see some clouds, mountains, and even part of the Gulf of Nicoya. I really should go back to that part of the yard more often.

July 9th: Our new camera, which I got for Angela and myself as an anniversary present (our anniversary was July 7th). Her old camera was eating through batteries after only three or four pictures, and this one came highly recommended from Brad (plus I'd seen great results from Hayley's camera!). So, I still have the old cameras, but I'll likely take some pictures with this one, too, since it's more portable.

Well, we're caught up, at least until today ends! I'll also probably try to post some extra pictures from the family visit, since that was a nice little photographic event. Until next time, please check out the links below if you want to see more pictures.

Thanks for reading, and have a great day!

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July 9, 2010

Picture of the Day Catch-Up: June 21-27, 2010

Well, my mom and siblings were just here for a few days, so I got behind on uploading my Pictures of the Day. Let's see if we can get caught up now, eh?

June 21st: My friend Mike, in the Armadillo parking lot. I'm glad we got to see him, although I wish we could have spent more time with him. I feel that way about all the other people who I wanted to see on our trip, but just weren't able to visit.

June 22nd: Denver International Airport's terminal. I really like the airport, and once my friend Mike and I spent the night there... and we weren't even traveling anywhere. It just seemed like an interesting thing to do. And I guess it was, since I'm telling this story now.

June 23rd: While we were happy to see Costa Rica again, we quickly realized that we had no food. This is our refrigerator the day after we got back: a can of Coke, a little bit of coffee in a brown bag, a pair of tamales Angela's mom made us, a pitcher of stale water (guess I forgot to empty that, but glad it didn't have mold), some random liquor (triple sec?), and a little rice Angela's mom made and left for us. As I write this, a day later, it's even more drastic, since we ate or drank the rice, tamales, and Coke.

June 24th: No, this isn't the famed Chupacabras. It's my Father-in-law Honorio with a headlamp we gave him as a thank-you present for looking after our house while we were gone.

June 25th: I'm not sure why, but I liked this picture I took of the hotel I was staying at in Liberia. I had to go up there to sub for another teacher. Somehow, it was the first time I'd been to Guanacaste in the nearly four years I've been living in Costa Rica. I still have yet to go to a beach in Guanacaste, though. They're supposed to be the nicest in the country, although so far I've really liked the ones in Limon, Costa Rica's Caribbean province.

June 26th: An old, sort-of busted marimba. I guess that's the official instrument of Costa Rica.

June 27th: This picture is a bit boring, but it was a pretty busy day. What do you want?

So! I'm gonna keep uploading pictures tonight until I fall asleep or until the enormous rug in our dryer catches on fire... whichever comes first. Thanks for reading, and I'll hope to get more pictures up ASAP! Have a great day!

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