Sunday, January 22, 2006

Parks and ponies and presidents, oh my

So we went to the park. It was José's idea, and it was a good one.

The girls have been begging to go to this particular park for ages because it is right across the street from the airport and they see it every time we pick someone up there and/or go to Rita's house. And if it's a weekend, which it so often is, they can see children, so very much more fortunate than they, getting pony rides.

This morning the grandparents pointed out that it would be a good day to go there, and so we did.

So here's something different about Costa Rica (different from the United States, I mean). You go to a park. It's a good sized park and not at all crowded. There are, I don't know, maybe 15 families there? Maybe 20? Total? I'm sitting here with my eyes closed, trying to count people I wasn't paying the slightest attention to when I was there. It's hard.

Anyway, a semi-popular park on a Sunday. Pony rides over here, playground over there.

Costa Rica's presidential election is in two weeks (Dad! History in the making! And you'll be a part of it!)

No, I'm not changing the subject. Half an hour after we got there, presidential candidate Ottón Solís showed up with a very tiny entourage (one giant flag in his party's colors, one guy with a video camera and, oh, 20 people kind of tagging along) and proceeded to make his way around the park, kissing hands and shaking babies, as it were.

(Reminds me that in 1994 I saw José María Figueres--who went on to win that year's election--ride by on an open campaign vehicle, waving to passerby while I was sitting in a restaurant in a not-very-major town outside of San José.)

Canya picture this in the United States? Granted, this year's elections are largely considered to be a foregone conclusion (Oscar Arias back again). But still, Solís is a serious candidate who won 26% of the vote in 2002, forcing Costa Rica's first runoff election ever. And here he is in the park two weeks before the election, proving to one smallish video camera that he's a regular guy.

He never actually got to us because, by finishing our lunch and moving over to the ponies, we cut across the circuit he was making of the park.

I don't know much about this particular candidate, because I try hard to avoid political discussions with Costa Ricans. (No. Wait. It's not just Costa Ricans.) But I have noticed, when the topic is raised within earshot, that most of the Costa Ricans I associate with (who may or may not represent the population at large, but who do at least make up a pretty decent spectrum of society) will preface any discussion with "well, of course they're all corrupt."

Now, I'm pretty news-averse. I don't take a newspaper, I don't watch local TV at all, and most particularly not the news. [Aside: This is a very small country. A very, very small country. Anything terrible that happens to anyone anywhere in the country...hey presto, it's national news. Car crashes and drug busts and fires, oh my.] I'm usually not even close enough to the radio to hear the once-hourly pre-recorded news and weather clips on the radio station I listen to. I do actually get a bit of news through Boing Boing, but it's intensely filtered by the predilections of the five contributors to that blog, and it's not a political blog, per se.

My theory is, if it's really important, I'll hear about it. And of course I do. I heard about Katrina. And (getting back to my point) I heard about the fact that two of Cost Rica's three most recent past Presidents (1990-1994 and 1998-2002) have been arrested and charged with corruption (currently awaiting trial) and that the third (1994-1998) is under investigation. (See the last three paragraphs of "Political Conditions" here.)

So I guess in this case "they're all corrupt anyway" may hold a little more water than your usual political griping. (And yes, to perhaps a lesser extent, they do include Arias in that blanket statement.)

Anyway, that's not what I came here to talk about. I didn't even take a picture of Solís because I figured if I went over with my camera, they'd probably waste valuable flesh-pressing time on my apparent interest, when of course I'm not even eligible to vote.

Getting back to the matter at hand, then:

Kites! Pony Rides! Trampolines! Car Crashes! (Oh yeah. Quick aside before we return to the sunshine and horsey rides...there was a car accident on the highway that runs alongside the park, so traffic was backed up for a half hour or so. I didn't actually see or hear it happen, so I don't have anything to say about it. But I bet it was on the news.)

Onward, once again. Horsey rides!

As usual, a plug for the Costa Rican economy: 300 colones a ride = $0.60. Interestingly, 10 minutes on the trampoline (which an enterprising soul carted in and set up himself, quite independently of any park regulations or anything) cost 400 colones ($0.80). Sure, the pony ride was a bit shorter, but still it was a good 5 minutes. At least. And. Horses! Real, live horses!

And then, Kites!

There was a guy there selling these little kites--made of fabric, not paper--for 1500 colones ($3). The day was perfect for them and they flew really well.

I originally tried buying just one. In order to forestall the argument about who got to choose it, I went over alone and picked out a purple and yellow one, which both girls know to be MY favorite colors. (In my household you are legally required to have one or more favorite colors. Hey, don't look at me, I don't make the rules. Not the inane ones anyway. Er, I mean...Moving right along...).

But as soon as I let Robin fly the kite (Julia had the first pony ride), Yolanda scrambled to get one for Julia. And really, once I saw how nicely they flew, I was glad to have them both. But still.

And finally, what park is complete without: Large statues for climbing!

Coffee is a major part of Costa Rica's economy and this setup is in honor of the coffee farmers. The statue is made of metal, and the big concrete thing behind it represents a coffee bean. (Which is not a bean at all. Did you know...ah, forget it.) The child in the statue, by the way? Is a boy. Yep.

Well, it's nearly past my bedtime, but what say we end with a pop quiz:

How many Basic Rules of Kite Flying (not to say, you know, federal laws) are being violated in the picture below?

Answer: The individual pictured is in violation of 55 percent of the Basic Rules of Kite Flying, as enumerated by Multiple Kite World Champion Ray Bethell (Rules 3, 4, 5, 7 and 9...out of nine)


Dad January 23, 2006 6:05 PM  

I'll be in on the presidential election? Maybe they'll let me be a corrupt poll-watcher.

One time you and I were sitting on a bus in a city (Alajuela?) after dark waiting to get back to home or wherever...maybe on our way back from the Posada Mimosa??... and a presidential candidate rode by on a flatbed truck, complete with floodlights (on himself) and loudspeaker. Lots of green and white. You said, "That's...The Candidate." I expect two different party flags are flying all around the country.

See you Friday! (Or Saturday if I can, and do, get a bump. I'm not sure which way I'd go on that!)


lisa January 23, 2006 6:29 PM  

I was going to ask you...

I saw on Oprah last week where they captured a fugitive child molester (American) working at a school (or college?) in Heredia. I wondered if you'd heard about it. I figured it'd made The News there.

...but maybe you didn't notice.

Jennifer January 24, 2006 9:38 AM  

Dad: That's the time I was referring to. I guess I wasn't sitting in a restaurant after all.

Lisa: Umm, yeah, not so much with the noticing. But I'm sure it was in the news. It was probably a high school, which (annoyingly) are called "colegios" here. Good they caught him (her?) before the school year begins in two weeks.

Jennifer January 24, 2006 9:41 AM  

And by the way, YAY that people are commenting again. I mean, I may not have any lurkers, more's the pity, but those of you who are out there need to hold up your end here. They blow up my neighborhood and nobody has anything to say? Come on people...

lisa January 28, 2006 9:00 PM  

Okay, but in fairness....I've written a few lengthy e-mails lately.

Cool picture of Julia, by the way. I couldn't open it at work, so I just saw it. (My computer's back from been being fixed after 2 weeks.)

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