Friday, June 30, 2006

State your case

Okay, if you are a US citizen, you're doing this with me. (All others may color quietly at their desks.) Get a piece of paper and the writing implement of your choice. Or better yet, open up a blank Word document or something on your computer there.

Now, make a note of the time and start making a list of the US states. According to the official rules, you have six minutes to get all 50, but we're sooo not playing by those rules. I think I had 30-something of them at the end of six minutes. After 25 minutes I had 40, and now I've got 49 (it's been an hour and a half, but I've been doing other things with at least half of my brain.)

To win the game, all you have to do is tell me which freakin' state I'm still missing. Honorable mention to the one who figures out how to get me to stop going "Denver! No, wait. That's a city."

Thank you for your support.

Spoiler warning: Dad has included not one but two lists of all 50 states in his comment, the smug, prideful so-and-so. (Does this really come as any surprise?) Anyway, if you want to play, do it before opening the comments.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

All's well that ends well

I was so impressed when I got an automated phone call from the insurance company earlier this week to inform me that my quarterly car insurance payment was due. (Up until now, I would get a call from the agent who processed the policy, and I would either pay it online [by transferring the money to the agent] or ask José to go in to the office and make the payment there.)

The phone company has recently started sending computerized calls a day before the phone bill expires, and again at the end of the grace period, when you're in danger of having the line cut off (I know THAT because my phone bill never arrived last month.) The automated calls are a great service, and I was glad to see the insurance company getting on board.

I asked José to go in and pay the insurance bill when he had a chance, since he's down that way every day anyway. He went in this morning, but was told that we had never made our April payment. I thought I had paid it online, but when I checked I found that that hadn't happened. Did I get the call and then forget about it? Did I not get the call? There's really no telling at this point, but what I could do was call José back (he was still at the insurance office) to ask if he had enough money on him to go ahead and pay both installments.

Well, it turns out he did, but is anything that simple? I suppose some things probably are, but not things that take place in fluorescent-lit government offices in Central America. (Yes, the insurance company is a government institution, and is a monopoly. Like the phone company. Like the ISP. No shopping around here.) It turns out that having missed the April payment resulted in the cancelation of the entire policy. Be nice if the agent or the insurance company would have clued me in about that, wouldn't it? Maybe things will be different now that they have a fancy computerized calling know, the system that called me three days ago to say that my regular installment was due by July 13. Right.

José passed his cell phone over to the lady at the desk and I asked her what I needed to do. She started listing the steps, most of which sounded like a pain in the neck but doable, until she got to "and then Alexander needs to come in and sign the application." Unfazed when I tell her that Alexander is out of the country, she says that whoever has his power of attorney can do it. Well, I say, I don't think he left one this time. (We both left one with José when we moved to the States years ago, but apparently these things have a half-life in Costa Rica; I'm not even sure there is such a thing as a permanent one here.) She's out of information then: It's Alex or his PoA. Or I can come in to the office and speak with the supervisor to see what else could be done. Fortunately, just before passing the phone back to José, she does allow as how the agent might have some other idea.

Wondering how long I've been driving without insurance and how long it's going to take to get this untangled and re-insure the car, I called the agent and explained the situation. First off, he said, is Alexander's wife available? Well, yes, that would be me. Okay, then there's no problem, he said, and you know what? He was right. One can insure one's spouse's vehicle, no additional signatures required. Well, wouldn't it be nice if the drone at the desk had known that?

Actually, I'm glad she didn't, because SHE was talking about inspections and signatures and photocopies, and I liked the agent's way better. You know what he needed me to do? He needed me to wait for him. I felt that was pretty reasonable. Three hours later, he drove up to my house, photographed the car from all four sides, took my credit card and gave me a form to sign.

Oh, and since this is a "new" policy, I wasn't charged for the missing quarterly payment. Oh, and since the car has now been insured for whatever-period-of-time with no accidents, he gave me a 5% discount on the new policy. Oh, and the policy was effective immediately - we'll meet on Monday for him to give me the formal paperwork, but until then I just carry the receipt he gave me.

Let's add Victor the insurance agent to the list of things I'm glad they have in Costa Rica now.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Go fetch!

Because this is me throwing you--the reader--a bone, you see, in the form of a photo, since I don't really have anything to say but, now that new people have started stopping by and leaving comments and stuff (and I really love that), now I feel obligated to provide a bit of content, since it's so disappointing when my favorite blogs go for days and days without being updated.

And, too, it's a nice opportunity to see just how long a sentence I can write.

Anyway, this is our house. Big, isn't it? I didn't realize just how big it was until we got here. Alex designed it and I saw the plans on the laptop, but it was a really small screen and I guess I just didn't comprehend. See all that lovely space in our two-story living room? Think about all that empty space. Picture an attractive tile floor below it. Think about those four girls (my two, plus six-year-old twins) in all that space. Think of the squealing. Can you hear the echo? Enjoy being thousands of miles away from it. There, doesn't that feel nice?

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Hey, Mom. A suggestion.

So according to Dad's comment on my Poetry by Numbers post, on Friday you wondered aloud, in the privacy of your own home, about what we remembered from our childhoods. Within 48 hours, and without any direct contact with either of us, you had a poem from each of your children about our experiences, impressions and sensory memories.

In case you're wondering--or think you might like to--about other things, I've taken the liberty of putting together a little list of suggestions:

  • "I wonder if Jen's car is finished acting up..."

  • "I wonder if José will win the lottery..." (For something like this, you should really go with someone who actually plays the lottery, is my thinking.)

  • "I wonder if airline prices will drop as drastically as long-distance did..."

  • "I wonder if the Bush administration will ever come to its senses..."

  • "I wonder if scientists will come up with cures for cancer, poverty and global warming, all in one week..."

No pressure or anything, but I'm just saying. If you've got the power...

(Anyone else wondering about anything?)

Finally! A perk! Oh. no. wait.

Whee! I am soooo in the know. I am totally privileged. So far ahead of the game, the game is a dot in the middle distance to me.

Twelve years of tedious, urgent, repetitive translations has finally paid off. Yesterday my client sent me a Power Point presentation for a McDonald's marketing campaign based on Shrek 3, so now I know not only that there IS a Shrek 3, I even know what it's going to be about. Hah! Revere me, mere mortals.

Oh. Wait. Maybe it's common knowledge. Maybe it's not even called Shrek 3. Maybe I'm quitting again.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Poetry by Numbers

This poem by George Ella Lyons, titled Where I'm From, lends itself to immitation, and was used as the basis of a writing assignment for a class at the Campbell Folk School in North Carolina.

I heard about it from Veronica at Toddled Dredge, which is the blog before mine on the Crazy/Hip Blog-Mamas web ring. (You used to have to click the tiny little "-" on the left there, but now I've added her to my list of links, so it's easy to get to. [Mom, I think you would especially enjoy her.])

Here is Veronica's version of the poem.
Here is a contest with many versions.
Here is a template if you'd like to write your own.
Here is mine (Lisa, check your E-mail before you read this):

Where I'm From

I am from a Snoopy lunchbox,
a rickety cart with a tiny black and white TV,
waxed paper and Strawberry Quik.

I am from the red house on Bayside Avenue
the rambling parsonage on the hill
the splintery-sided duplex
white siding in the suburbs.
Loyal Smutley, orange Volvo, fresh cut grass
Grandpa praying for unwitting sinners in the Sunday leaves.

I am from the woods behind the house
woodchucks, rat snakes, box turtles,
the allure of touch-me-nots--but only the fat ones pop.

I am from "not before six o'clock" on Christmas morning,
Saturday special breakfast,
From Earl and Louise and the far-off Moores.

I am from towering stacks of library books in crinkly plastic
and from moving boxes never unpacked.

From the marriage of "one right way" to "shades of gray."

I am from Sunday School, peace rallies,
boxes sent to a Mississippi family,
rice and tea like the children in Cambodia.

I'm from Tunkhannock, the Dutch rub,
brownies and maple walnut ice cream.

From great grandfathers black with coal dust,
a great aunt (or cousin once removed?) in France,
Nicholson File, Lincoln Bank.

I am from thick, crumbling sepia photographs:
Is that Grandma? Who's he?
Did they really take a picture of her after she died?

I am from jumpy, faded, silent home movies:
Mom in polyester and cat-eye glasses
Dad in shorts and knee socks, trips I never knew I took.

I am from a scrapbook for each child and another for the whole family:
Combing through childhood photos to recall
that couch, those shorts, don't you still have that teddy bear?

Scrapbook photos of a family reunion 30 years back, long-lost cousins.
Digital photos of another family reunion, cousins found.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Uh-oh. I made a clean spot.

Check this out: I got me a storage solution.

But, umm, this doesn't mean I have to do the whole thing, does it?

I will say this though: if I could spend another 28 bucks and make that go away, I'd totally do it.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

A little knowledge is a humorous thing

This is what it looks like when a bilingual child is taught to read in a Spanish-speaking classroom, then puts her newfound skills to use in an English-speaking household, using as her medium a generous but by no means inexhaustible supply of refrigerator magnets.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

A good game for transplants like us

This is a fun test, and much more rooted in science and research than most of the online quizzes I've pointed you to. (I found it on Anita's blog, and she says she got it from NPR.)

Are you a Rebel or a Yankee?

The cool part about it is that you get a little feedback as soon as you make your choice, and you can click on the other answers to see what they say too. Then leave your real answer, and at the end it calculates your score.

My results: 33% Dixie. You are definitely a Yankee.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Wow, Site Meter is really cool. In that creepy kind of way.

Thanks to Site Meter, now I can say things like:

Hey, you there. In Salt Lake City, Utah. Thanks for stopping by so regularly. Do I know you at all?

Of course I mean that in the friendliest, most welcoming way possible. And, too, I just figured out who you are, so never mind. (And, again, Hi!)

I mean, how creepy is that? And how cool? Ooops, just missed me. You stopped by 15 minutes ago, but I'm still writing this so there's nothing new to see.

Now I'm wondering, if the Raleigh person is Alex (who pulled up the blog on his office computer while we were on the phone this now I know that's him), then who's that there in Durham, who seems to stop by every couple of days? Fred maybe?

Check this out. You're visiting this page right now, right? Click here (have it open in a new window if you know how) and let the map load. See that red dot? That's you!

Technology. Yikes.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Just because it's Fathers' Day

We were out all afternoon visiting some friends of the girls', but stopped by to wish José a happy Fathers' Day before going home. Today was the last day of the teeny tiny neighborhood fair near their house, so we all walked over to give the girls one last chance to go on the rides.

Ordinarily I would go to bed and post the pictures tomorrow, but since it's Fathers' Day I'll stay up late and do it now, so the fathers who were not around for the actual day can at least enjoy the photos sooner rather than later.

Here's the one father figure we did see in person today:

And Yolanda, who smiles a lot in real life and very seldom in pictures. Unless, as it turns out, Julia is the one taking the picture:

Here's the little row of rides - off to the other side there was also a strip of food vendors and a row of games of chance.

There were three illuminated rides, and a trampoline lurking in the shadows. Apparently there was some kind of light on it when José and Yolanda brought the girls before, but this evening all it had was some stray bit of street light and the illumination from the back of the Tornado sign. Of course, none of the children seemed to care that it was dark...

They rode the merry-go-round a couple of times:

And Julia gave José and Yolanda each a mild coronary by doing (gasp!) this:

And, finally, the Tornado. When the girls went to the fair without me last weekend, they said this was their favorite ride, and they described it something like this:

When I saw it in person this evening (and used my flash), I found it to be more like this:

Then, after the ride stopped, I turned the flash back off and got this:

Friday, June 16, 2006

Things I'm Glad They Have in Costa Rica Now

  1. ATMs

  2. Actually, they've been around for a while, but I so love that I hardly ever have to go inside a bank. Partly because, who wouldn't be glad. And partly because, on the inside, the banks are still closer to the third-world mode, with pretty long lines for most of what you want. Although there, too, they've made strides. Now you can show your ATM card and ID and just tell the teller how much you want to deposit or withdraw - no more filling out little slips, no more passbooks where the current balance prints on top of the previous balance and the ink ribbon is so old you couldn't have read it anyway.

    Oh, and too? Costa Rica's unit of currency, the colon (pronounced cologne), is so small that when you key in the amount you want to withdraw, you can play "Shave and a Haircut," all the way through the "two bits" part, if you count "enter" as the final note. What's not to love?

  3. Networks

  4. Yesterday I went to an ATM to withdraw some money but no money came out. I was at PriceSmart, which is like Sam's Club. There's a bank in the store (which is not actually that common here yet), but the teller there said that even though the ATM is theirs, I would have to go complain to my own bank.

    This morning, I checked the account balance online (whee!) and found that the money was in fact debited from the account, so I printed out the statement and took it to the bank. The teller there very nicely pointed out that--right there on my own printout--next to the line showing that the the ATM had debited $78.43 (it was an even number of colones), was a line showing that the bank had credited $78.43 back into the account. Networks. I'm a fan.

  5. E-mail

  6. Because, who can live without E-mail, right? Now take that and put yourself 3000 miles away from a whole bunch of people you want to keep in touch with. Actually, these days it's not even E-mail that keeps us in touch, but this blog. With the added bonus that I don't feel bad about my scrapbooks being 12 years behind anymore. The girls can come back someday and see not just pictures, but a running commentary, with comments and everything. Awesome.

  7. Cappuccino

  8. I guess it's not everywhere yet, but it's easy enough to find. They even opened a little coffee shop across from the girls' school. Although when I tried to go there this morning it was closed, but it is brand new, so hopefully they'll get the hang of it soon.

  9. Thrift stores

  10. This used to be on my list of things I missed about the United States, but now they're all over the place. (A lot of the clothes, incidentally, still have stapled-on white, yellow or pink slips of paper with prices in dollars written in black grease pencil.) (Others have little grocery-store type sticky tags that have a five-digit code and what I believe is the symbol for yen.)

    But the best part is that, as a group, they're known as Ropa Americana (American Clothing) stores here, so if I talk to someone about thrift stores in the States, I get to say, "of course, there we just call them 'Clothing' stores." That joke will just never lose its charm for me, although I have to admit it really hasn't done that well with most of the Costa Ricans I've told it to.

And now, a brief list of Things they have in Costa Rica that, frankly, I can take or leave:

  1. Outback
  2. (Not that I don't like Outback, but I've heard that the prices are the same here as in the United States and, here, that's a LOT of money.)

  3. Hooters

  4. McDonald's
  5. (Okay, the girls love the play places, but ever since I saw Supersize Me at Lisa's that time, I have actually never gone back to a McDonald's. It just seemed like maybe it wasn't necessary. I wasn't sure how long it would last, but it's really not that hard to avoid, so I figure I'll keep it up. Plus, José & Yolanda take the kids there sometimes, and there are a few other restaurants with playgrounds now, so if I really wanted to, I could still take them to one.)

While we're at it, here are a couple of Things Costa Rica Doesn't Have, But Could Use:

  1. Dollar stores

  2. All you can eat buffets

  3. Yard sales

  4. A beltway
  5. That goes all the way around. (The capital city. Around the capital city. Not all the way around Costa Rica. It's not that small.

  6. Shoulders
  7. On the highways. Oh, and turn lanes. I heart turn lanes.

And, in closing, I leave you with Something That Should Not Exist Anywhere, But Does, Here in Costa Rica:

  1. A major department store called Carrion.

  2. Hmm. Says here it means 'The decaying flesh of a dead body.' Fabulous name for the new store, old boy. Let's advertise it on the radio!

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Someone should totally do this

From an old To Do list resurrected on BoingBoing today:

  1. Get $25 worth of paper currency from one of those countries where $25 worth of currency fills up two wheel barrows. Divide it into five lots and send them, along with an incomprehensible letter, to the addresses listed in an email chain letter.
(There was more, but this was the only really good one.)

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Well, color me productive

There's this quilt I'm going to make. I have some general guidelines, but nothing very specific yet. I've had it in the back--and sometimes the front--of my mind recently, kind of hoping for inspiration but not getting all that far as yet.

Yesterday it was rainy and cold and the girls were with José and Yolanda for the weekend and I decided to try pulling out some fabric as an alternate first step. I had been assuming that, in order to do that, I would have to clean off my sewing table first, and maybe even find a permanent storage solution for the fabric, which has been in the top of the girls' closet ever since we moved here. Safe and sound, but not terribly accessible.

Obviously, that's too big a project to take seriously on any given day, so it has been postponed on a regular basis.

Anyway, yesterday I thought I'd get out some fabric and look at it and think about it, and THEN worry about where I would keep it. I got down every last piece from the closets, and even the smaller stash in a box on my table, and the bundles I was given at the last retreat. Everything.

I put in my Friends DVDs (for once putting them to the use for which they were intended) and began to sort and fold. Most of the fabric was at least somewhat folded, but a lot of it had been on piles that had fallen over or been riffled through in pursuit of whatever, so a lot of straightening and a bit of refolding was in order.

Boy, it takes a longer than you'd think to get a closet full of fabric into relatively neat stacks, but by the time I went to bed I had...

A medium-tall stack of odd-sized fabrics:

A collection of threads, knots and scraps too small to keep:

A big box 3/4 full of neatly folded quarter-yards
(and other sized fabrics that could pass for a quarter):

And four stacks of yard-ish (and up) pieces:

Oh, and also a bag of scraps and a collection of things that should never have been put away with the fabric:

This morning I went back and re-folded the many larger pieces that, while neat, had come out of the closet folded to the wrong width. I just put all the wide ones together last night, but ultimately they all have to be about the same size so they can be stored together.

Then I sorted by color which (lest anyone get the wrong idea) is not an anal thing to do. It's necessary because otherwise there would be no way to really know what's available when planning a quilt or a color scheme. It's not like arranging the books on your shelf by size or color. Really. Quilters, back me up here - I feel judged (hard to say by who, considering that nobody has even read this yet...).

Anyway, here are the folded, sorted fruits of that labor:

And let's have another close up of the re-sorted quarters because they're just so pretty:

And then I was able to pull out some preliminary fabrics. No real specific thoughts yet, but we know that sage green is going to play a part in it, so I started with that, added some lights, and threw in some accent colors (which would probably be used sparingly). No idea if this is the way it'll go, but it's nice to have created a starting point.

Friday, June 09, 2006

A good time was had by all

Government employees have the day off today. Public schools are closed. The streets are all but deserted, and why? Costa Rica is playing in the World Cup. (That's soccer.)

Now, I knew that. You can't live here and not know that. Like the Olympics, the World Cup happens every four years. I think. Or maybe six? Anyway, it is a very big deal - that much I knew. What I didn't realize until this morning was that not only had the Costa Rican team made it to the World Cup, they were playing the very first game of the entire World Cup, against the host country. (That's Germany.)

Now, Costa Rica takes its soccer seriously. There's no football or baseball or hockey or basketball to speak of. It's all about the soccer.

Let's look at something. Physically, Costa Rica is about the size of West Virginia. It has a population of four million (apropos of nothing, it was three million when I first came here in 1989).

I rarely pay any attention to the whole soccer thing, but even I know that--in the Americas--Mexico and Brazil are the teams to beat. These countries each have over 20 million people in their capital cities alone. Germany's not that big, but the city of Berlin does have a population almost exactly equal to that of Costa Rica - slightly higher, actually. These countries' teams are drawn from a talent pool that is exponentially larger than Costa Rica's.

So you can see how not only making it to the World Cup, but playing the very first game, would be something of a big deal.

As I said, the public schools are closed. The girls' private school was open, but the principal said there would be a television upstairs and students who wanted to watch the game could go up there. Abel had two televisions set up at the gym, with one of them connected to the stereo for added volume.

The opening ceremony was a lot like an Olympics ceremony, but with less flamboyant technology. (Remember the lake in the stadium and that thing that broke into pieces that floated up into the air? Not quite like that.) But there was music and dancing and ethnic costumes and flags and pyrotechnics. And children, of course, and past champions and all the fanfare.

The ceremony ended an hour before gametime (probably so they could prepare the field). Abel did actually give a spinning class, although it was a little stunted - we quit when the teams were ready to take the field. I decided to stay and watch the game, and it went pretty well. I mean, they didn't win or anything--it went 4-2--but they played a good game and did make two goals against the Germans when a lot of people would have predicted a final score of 0-0 or 1-0.

Something I like about Costa Ricans. They're passionate about their soccer, but they're also realistic. They can appreciate that it was a good game and that their team did really well. Not that they wouldn't have been disgusted if the team had played badly, but they can acknowledge a good job in the face of unfavorable odds.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Report Card

(Click to enlarge)

Long day

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

That Fateful Day

Although by "fateful," I refer simply to That Fateful Date (06/06/06), not to anything that particularly happened today. As always, thanks to Sheryl at Paper Napkin for encouraging people to share their own Day in the Life posts.

In case anyone is new here (hi!), "the girls" are Robin (7) and Julia (almost 5). Alex is my husband, who has been working in the United States--for economic reasons only--for a little more than a year. He's been back for a few visits and expects to move back home in July or August. José and Yolanda are the girls' Costa Rican grandparents.

Oh, and Tina, Scruffy, Emily and Ellie are dogs. Fifí is the cat. Loren is the parrot. They may not all come up, but for sure you want to know who I'm talking about when I mention Tina. Tina the dog.

To the seasoned regulars (all--what?--like, eight of you?), I've only written the first four lines of this post but it's shaping up to be as long as the "Day in the Life" I did last April, so once again, feel free to get yourself a snack or a refreshing beverage before committing to the scintillating minutiae that is June sixth.

5:04 a.m. - Wake, check clock, think "5:04 a.m. Wake, check clock...oh man, THIS is going to be a long day." Go back to sleep.

6:01 - Wake, hear girls talking among themselves. Think it's still five a.m. but check clock and discover it's six.

6:03 - Girls come in, get into my bed. Nobody's feeling talktive so we just lie there.

6:15 - Get up, put on slippers and a fleece shirt over the sweats and Alex's t-shirt I wore to bed. Hit the "Disc Direct Play" button for CD number 2 (Twentysomething by Jamie Cullum). Experience not one iota of surprise when the disc fails to play. Try a couple of things then give up and switch to radio. Consider getting the stereo fixed before Alex comes home. Wonder if I'll actually do it.

6:20 - Call girls, take their hands, walk downstairs, let go of their hands.

6:21 - Uncover parrot cage, greet parrot, open cage. Open curtains. Seethe at Scruffy, who throws himself against the sliding glass doors when the curtain opens. Every. Single. Day.

6:25 - Hear garbage truck up the street, slip out back door to check on Tina. Still breathing. Awake, in fact - haven't seen her awake for days, except when I've woken her up myself. Wonder, once again, what she's holding on for and what I'm going to do with her when she finally lets go. Elberth's not around to bury her in the field behind the house like he did with Perla. And we don't really have access to the field anymore anyway, now that the other lots are all fenced in.

6:30 - Put cornflakes in the girls' bowls, momentarily lose my head and sprinkle raisins into one bowl. Snap back to reality and ask if anybody wants raisins. Nobody does. Pick out raisins.

6:35 - Put coffee on, get out my own bowl, pour in granola, add raisins and banana. Obtain authorization to slice bananas onto and pour milk into Robin's bowl. Pass Julia her dry cornflakes and--for my own sake--a spoon, which will remain untouched in favor of individual corn flakes that are bent enough to support a second flake. Look at my spoon! Child, it's awfully early for this. Put your food in your dish.

6:40 - Add milk to my bowl, pour large glass of water. Sit down to eat.

6:43 - Robin's tummy hurts. Tell her to go lie down. She doesn't want to be alone. Then stay where you are. She stays at the table.

6:50 - Get out tortellini I cooked yesterday for today's lunches. Love that I did that. Cut apples into eighths, spread with peanut butter. Add two chocolate chip "blondies" for each of the girls, pointing out that this leaves two for me and that there are none left after that. Robin asks, if she shares her cookies with her friends, will she be able to have more after school? (Did I say that out loud? About the cookies being gone?)

7:00 - Tell girls to get ready for school. Pour coffee, add lots and lots of creamer, dollop of milk, some vanilla. Bring coffee upstairs, make bed, get out backpack, choose a sleeveless shirt and the cleaner of two Scruffy-ed up pairs of jeans to wear later (the third pair has a broken zipper). Put full change of clothes in backpack. Consider gray, drizzly day and add a long-sleeved shirt.

7:10 - Drink coffee. Choose shorts and tank top to wear to the gym. Consider yesterday's outfit, now clean, which I favor because I inexplicably consider them my "cute" gym clothes. This is inexplicable not because it's not a cute outfit, but because I am not given to using the word "cute" to describe myself or my clothing, and wouldn't expect anyone else to either. Decide not to wear yesterday's outfit.

7:20 - Get out the envelope with the family passports and find my current one. Count seven passports in the envelope for our family of four - and Alex has his current one with him of course.

Aside: The US government is all about the globalization when it comes to economics. How long do you suppose it will take until they accept that international families are a logical offshoot of that? I'll save the Green Card rant for another day, but I'm just sayin'.

7:22 - Add passport and current cedula (Costa Rican residency document) to the backpack. Count money for girls' school and put in the zippered change purse I've been using for the cell phone ever since Scruffy ate the regular case.

7:25 - Take out braid (which I've taken to wearing for bed), brush hair, make bun. Brush teeth.

7:30 - Compliment girls on getting ready for school without fighting. Send Julia to make her bed. Put Robin's hair into her favored style of two ponytails low on her head and toward the back. Clarify that having worn it that way the day before last really doesn't qualify it as "the way you always do my hair."

7:35 - Tell Julia that if she wants ponytails it has to be now.

7:36 - Really, Julia, there won't be time if you don't come now.

7:37 - Do you want them or not? Okay, then. Stand here. Brush the top layer of Julia's hair, make ponytails. Accept that no brush or comb will penetrate the layer beneath until this hair has seen some conditioner.

7:40 - Pack up girls' clothes for tomorrow, along with towel and umbrella for Robin's field trip to the woods tomorrow. Place in separate bag and put Robin in charge of giving it to Yolanda when she picks them up after school today. Realize that there's an evening meeting tomorrow too, but figure if the girls stay over a second night, I can always stop by Yolanda's house sometime tomorrow with their Thursday clothes.

7:45 - Stow parrot back in cage, unlock front door, open passenger-side car door (grass needs cutting), pop car hood, go tie up dogs while girls get into car. Call Scruffy names but appreciate that his new collar has stayed on overnight, so might work out until the next time the dogs work it off of him and he consumes it.

7:50 - Unlock and open gate. Check car radiator, add water. Check oil. Close hood. Close passenger door. Lock front door of house. Start car. Rev engine for a moment, back out of gate. Close gate, untie dogs. Lock gate, return to car.

7:57 - Pull out to drive to school. Robin notices that it's 57 minutes after seven o'clock. Explain that this means it is three minutes before eight. If it takes us eight minutes to drive to school, how late are we going to be?

7:58 - Robin announces that we will be five minutes late for school.

8:04:57 - Arrive at school.

8:05 - Go inside to pay June tuition: about $190 for both girls, for a small, private Montessori school eight minutes from the house. Including Julia's "stay late" fee so I can pick her up at 3:00 instead of noon four days a week.

8:17 - Drive down to the gym, where Abel is going to change my weight routine today. I won't be staying for spinning, partly because I'm still getting over a sore throat and don't want to overdo. Partly because I have to go to Immigration and don't want to get there too late. The new routine includes probably twice as many exercises as the "beginner" one I've been doing since joining the gym. It also calls for four repetitions of 20 (instead of 3/15) for each one. I can see it will take some getting used to, but don't actually get to go all the way through it because Abel is called away for a while and then has a lot of people needing attention when he gets back.

9:15 - Finish the last exercise Abel showed me, then watch part of the spinning class (which he teaches). It feels strange to sit out. I'd rather be doing it, but go get dressed instead.

9:45 - Leave gym, head to Immigration.

9:58 - Arrive at Immigration, debate whether to park in a paid lot ($1/hour) or on the street (pay the self-appointed guards whatever you feel is right). Opt for the lot, notice a traffic cop pulling somebody over and figure it was probably the right decision (although it seems clear that the street parking is permitted. Who knows what the ticket was for.)

10:05 - Fret gently about the fact that my residence is two months overdue for renewal. This never used to be a problem - you just paid a symbolic fine and renewed whenever. But they have gotten more strict in recent years, and when I went to renew last year I had just moved back to Costa Rica from our time in the States and it was two years out of date. I had to present a letter of explanation and was warned not to let it happen again.

10:10 - Find the appropriate line - it's moved since last year and settle in with a novel (Plantation by Dorothea Benton Frank - not bad, but the title and cover are completely inappropriate to the tone of the book.)

10:45 - Hear from others in the line that the computer system is down but is expected to come back up.

11:35 - Hear that the system is back up. Observe that the line has begun to move again, if slowly.

11:55 - Comment to someone behind me that we'll soon find out whether they close this particular office for lunch (12:00-1:00).

12:10 - Fortunately, they don't. Get the coveted appointment for renewal, including notice that I must pay a series of fees, including a 250-colon fine for renewing late. This is good news - a fine should mean there won't be any other problems as a result, and two months is hardly two years anyway. Plus, 250 colones is 48 cents.

12:30 - Back in Heredia, take myself out to lunch at a vegetarian restaurant.

I'll post the rest later - right now it's time to leave for my quilt guild meeting....

. . .

So. Where were we?

12:30 - Back in Heredia, take myself out to lunch at a vegetarian restaurant, after debating whether to go to the food court at the new mall, where I could have lunch and a cappuccino. Opt for the vegetarian place, where they have this salad that will keep me in veggies for a week. Or rather, take the place of any veggies I may have neglected to consume in the past week.

12:55 - Chat with Emilio from Friends World, who was eating in another section of the restaurant and saw me when he came up front to pay.

1:30 - Decide to stop by the mechanic's shop on the way home to see about the water pump. (Oh, I guess I didn't mention...the water pump needs to be replaced and, interestingly, isn't covered by the guarantee on the new (rebuilt) engine. In fact, it's explicitly excluded from the guarantee, right there on the receipt.) I didn't want to get into it before tonight, when I need the car for the guild meeting, but it does need to be done before it gets any worse. Marvin comes out when I get there and I ask if he's missed me. Of course I just saw him on Friday, when he came up to the house because the car wouldn't start. (Turned out to be a very minor thing and, most importantly, unrelated to the new engine.) Make appointment for Thursday to have the water pump fixed.

2:00 - Stop by the humane society on the way home to ask about options for Tina', once she decides to let go. They offer cremation & burial for 15,000 colones (about $30), so that's an option, but an expensive one. The lady said that, since she's not a terribly large dog, they might be able to throw in the euthanasia for the same price. (She said it in a much nicer way, though.) I guess we'll just have to see. Thing is, the dog doesn't seem to be suffering - just existing. She can't see much of anything, doesn't seem to hear too well, isn't walking well and has apparently lost much of her sense of smell. But yet, she hangs on. And on and on.

2:15 - Window-shop the pound animals before going home. Mentally select one dog and one cat. Oh, okay, and one kitten.

2:16 - As if.

2:30 - Arrive home, leaving car outside gate.

2:35 - Put coffee on, open parrot cage, turn on radio and computer, check phone messages, put gym clothes in laundry room.

2:45 - Check E-mail. Receive two documents for translation. Make faces, then remember that I sent them the name of a new translator to try over the weekend.

2:50 - Call Luis Diego. Did you get my E-mail this weekend? (What E-mail?)The one with the new translator's phone number and E-mail address? (Oh, yeah, I guess I did.) Hey, how about giving her a try? (It's just that...) You know you're going to have to do it sometime, right? I am quitting. I am. (But they all want youuuuuuuu.) But I want herrrrrrrrr. (Okay, I'll try her out, I swear. But I really need you to do this one. You don't understand how they get. "Why didn't you send this to Jennifer?" they say. They get mad.) They're going to have to get over that. (I know. I know. Next time.) *Sigh* (*Sigh*)

3:00 - Go downstairs for coffee.

3:01 - Turn on coffee maker.

3:02 - Check blogs.

3:30 - Get coffee. Consider starting the translation, but begin writing this entry instead so I don't have to do it all after the meeting tonight, and don't end up doing it too late and miss all the (four? five?) casual visitors who come and say nice things about my blog. I love that.

4:45 - Oh crap. I let it get late. Come to a stopping place - lunch will do nicely - and post partial entry.

5:00 - Okay, not toooo late.

5:01 - Oh, right. Probably should change out of the dog-printed jeans. Change. Fast.

5:05 - Grab pile of things to take to meeting. Hope it's all there.

5:07 - Call Jan to let her know I'm on my way. Throw some dog food out the back door (you know, into the waiting dish). Toss the parrot two peanuts and the end of a banana. Tell cat to get over herself because her food is still half full from the last time.

5:10 - Close curtains, turn on living room & outdoor lights, lock door, lock gate, get underway.

5:30 - Pick up Jan and begin talking.

6:30 - Get to meeting, still talking. Wonder if Jan had anything to say. Am I always this talkative?

6:32 - Get photocopies of the block of the month pattern.

6:45 - Arrive at meeting, help out by counting a pile of change, locating the raffle tickets, taking dues, making out receipts, talking with someone who is not part of the guild but wants to contact quilters interested in selling their work through her website.

7:10 - Remember that I'm supposed to be translating for the English speakers. Fortunately there are only two and they are getting most of what is said, and are sitting with Rita who is providing the translation that they do need.

7:15 - Give treasurer's report.

7:17 - Sit. In an actual seat. For minutes at a time, and listen to the meeting.

7:25 - Get up to buy raffle tickets.

7:40 - Get up to help hold a quilt being used to demonstrate how to measure border size.

8:05 - Get up to clarify a point under discussion.

8:15 - Get block of the month entries for this month, have someone choose a winner's name from the box. Explain system for any newcomers, pass out sheets with next month's block design. Review colors & technique.

8:18 - While meeting is concluding, head to back of room to pay my own dues (oops), pick up extra instruction sheets, get the paperwork I'm supposed to take home, count the raffle & dues money.

8:30 - Chat with others as we leave the building. Arrange to go to Rita's house next weekend to meet Alana (her granddaughter, born on Sunday!) if my sore throat is completely gone.

8:40 - Head back toward Heredia with Jan. Begin talking.

9:30 - Drop Jan off at her house. Jan says she enjoys riding with me because she likes hearing my stories. Good thing, because she apparently doesn't have much of a choice. Do I have an Off button?

10:00 - Arrive home, tie up dogs, open gate, drive in, lock gate, untie dogs.

10:10 - Feed cat, check that dogs have food (Tina eats after the others so there needs to be plenty left), give parrot some bird food.

10:15 - Check phone messages. Two. Both from Luis Diego: They really really need that translation by noon tomorrow; how much can they get by then and how much will they have to send somewhere else? Gauge attention and energy levels, decide to finish this entry tonight and work on the translation in the morning.

11:00 - Done. Time to post this and go watch my Friends DVDs because that is what I do best.

Sunday, June 04, 2006


Rita's granddaughter Alana was born a bit after 10:00 this morning.

Terry went to the hospital in early labor at 3:00 a.m. Saturday morning--which was in fact her official due date. She was sent home with instructions to call in at noon. She was still fairly comfortable at that point and did not go back to the hospital until 9:00 p.m. Terry was admitted at that point, but Rita was sent home with instructions to come back at 8:00 a.m. unless she got a call in the night. She returned at eight, was present for the birth and is sooo proud of Terry!

It was fun to get phone calls with updates every so often, and to hear that Terry was doing so well...reassuring her mother in fact!

Congratulations to all and welcome baby Alana!

All existential and stuff

Robin had a play date with a friend yesterday. I think it's actually the first one she's ever had, which doesn't seem right given that she's seven years old. She spends time with the kids in Yolanda's neighborhood, but this is actually the first time she's been invited to just go over to another kid's house without me or Julia and play. Or, wait. Maybe it's the second time. Anyway, that's not what we're here to talk about.

While she was there, the family apparently watched one of those pseudo-documentaries about ghosts. She came home very concerned because this was not a story about ghosts. It was the news, and it had just informed her that ghosts are real.

It soon became clear that "there's no such thing as a ghost that can hurt you" wasn't cutting it, and we were going to have to go into a little more detail.

She and I have already talked about the fact that different people have different ideas about God and spirits and, well, life, the universe and everything. I have explained my 42: that each person is a part of God and that the reason God has created these "pieces" is to experience it all, to be everything. To be good, to be bad, to be forgiving, to be vindictive, to have the entire range of human experience. That we choose different bodies, lives and circumstances at different times, experiencing it all and, eventually, returning to the perfection of the whole.

So last night we started with what ghosts are (or aren't). We talked about how some people believe that when a person's body dies, that's it and everything is gone. Other people, including myself, think that the body dies and the spirit does not. If there are ghosts, that's what one is. She brightened. "So a ghost is really just a soul?" Ah, progress.

I explained that, if a person someone loves has died, that person may see, feel, hear, or smell something that makes them feel like the person is near them, and that it's usually comforting, not scary because they feel like the person has come to check on them and see if they are okay.

I told her that every once in a while I have a dream about a college friend of mine who died, and that to me it's more than a dream - it's like he came for a visit, and it's nice.

Then we got to talk about Hollywood and how people who make television and news shows want them to be exciting and interesting. So they had this story: a family moved into a house and heard footsteps. That, in itself, wasn't terribly interesting. Their cameras couldn't even pick it up [side trip to the land of "lots of people see or hear things they think are ghosts but, to my knowledge, nobody in the whole world has ever managed to film or record one"] so when they told the story they added mysterious music and moving shadows and talked about it in intense voices. But really, the story is the same: a family heard footsteps.

We also went over some options for when she's at a friend's house and they want to watch a show that she doesn't feel comfortable with...hell, that still happens to me.

All in all, I think we did pretty well. Of course, she still didn't want to sleep alone and I eventually let her get into bed with Julia, who had fallen asleep within the first 5 minutes of the conversation. (Julia's contribution was that she knew about someone who had a ghost problem, but they put out poison so all the ghosts died.)

This morning Robin wanted to know if anyone she loved had died and, at this point, it's only been pets. But I did get to work in the fact that Tina (our geriatric dog) is very probably about ready to move on. Been meaning to mention that to them.

She also wanted to know what would happen if you locked a soul into a box or poured concrete all around it. Would it be able to get out? I asked if she could think of a way to lock "being sad" into a box and she conceded that she couldn't, and agreed that a soul couldn't be trapped that way either.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Disoriented much?

If so, sorry. It was time.

Thursday, June 01, 2006


I've described myself as news-averse. I figure if it's important enough, I'll hear about it.

In addition, I've developed an advanced skepticism regarding most news sources. Due, perhaps, to my education, I find that consuming what are generally considered to be authoritative sources - CNN, say, or a major newspaper - feels, to me, like watching a campaign ad on television.

Except, of course, that you have a pretty clear idea of the agenda that drives the campaign ad, while the motivations behind news stories are not always clear. I suppose most people would concede that any given journalist or publication has a tendency to favor certain points of view, but it feels like more than that to me.

As a result, I do not feel that paying attention to the news actually keeps me in touch with what's going on in the world. Rather, I feel like it shows me what things powerful economic interests want the public to see as important.

I guess this, coupled with living outside of the United States for (nearly) my entire adult life, keeps me a bit detatched from things. I vote in presidential elections, but definitely view the politics of my government--when at all--from a bemused distance.

I'm sure that the "what difference can one person make" feeling contributes to this as well but, for better or for worse, I am not someone who agonizes over the things that I feel unable to change. What does that make me, an apathetic conspiracy theorist?

I'm not sure that I have a point here, and maybe I don't need one. I actually started out trying to introduce this article, which I just read. It's a very long, extensively researched article citing dozens of sources, published--online at least--by Rolling Stone magazine, of all things. It appears to have been posted/published just today.

I wonder if it will get wider attention.

I wonder if there is any straw, anywhere, that can break this camel's back.

A click a day for good causes

The Hunger Site The Breast Cancer Site The Child Health Site The Literacy Site The Rainforest Site The Animal Rescue Site

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