Yum, pocky sticks are a good snack. I prefer chocolate-covered pocky sticks, but, apparently, I'm reverse. What are you?

You Are Reverse Pocky

Your attitude: rebellious and clever
Non-conformist, but curiously a trendsetter
With you, up is down... and it's a wild ride!

And if pocky sticks are not your thing, how about Eshtar Vars?

Star Wars Horoscope for Libra

You are on a lifelong pursuit of justice and determined to succeed.
You convey the art of persuasion through force.
You always display your supreme intelligence.
You have a great talent in obtaining balance between yourself and your surroundings.

Star wars character you are most like: Obi Wan Kenobie

No, I haven't finished If On A Winter's Night A Traveler.
No, I haven't completed The Once and Future King.
No, I haven't gotten past Chapter Three of The Final Solution.
No, I haven't had a chance to dip into The Road to Makkah.
No, I haven't even reached the halfway point of America (The Book).

But when Osman and I were discussing The Kite Runner and he said, "Did you ever read the book Bel Canto? It was VERY good. If you did, I'll tell you why I'm mentioning it. If you didn't, then you stink and you'll not get the analogy," and when I saw it sitting right there in a bin amidst stalls jam-packed with fresh strawberries, antique furniture, oil paintings by a 10 year old girl of bucktoothed animals, painted bowls, hand-crafted jewelry, and flapping batik fabrics at Eastern Market today and when I heard it screeching at me to pick it up, I had to get it.

*Adds another book to the mountain.*


Friday morning began with a lecture on a "likelihood of confusion" refusal of a trademark pursuant to Section 2(d) of the Lanham Act and the example the instructor discussed, Vaccaro's Italian Pastry Shop vs. Vaccaro's Inc., came complete with free cannoli for all. Lunch was enjoyed outside with some dearly missed sunshine. The commute home was traffic-free since most of the city's denizens fled to their Memorial Day weekend haunts early. Dinner consisted of pizza from the newest Mount Pleasant restaurant, Radius (NY-style crust, but that's about it), preceded by two healthy scoops of triple shot espresso hand-made ice cream (Grade: A+) from Dos Gringos. All in all, a fine start to the weekend.


Second week at the job and still feels like high school. Grouse about having to wear nice clothes to school and try to get away with casual-borderline-pajamas. Go to class in the morning and whisper to each other until the teacher shushes us. Figure out where to sit for lunch in the cafeteria: "cool kids" table or "anti-social/loners/snarky" table (guess which one I invariably choose). Return to class and fill out attendence sheet lest you be counted as tardy. Get homework and study hall before we break for the day. Jeez, how *old* am I anyway?

Well, this evening I am going to be a fancy-pants adult and attend the Shakespeare Theater's "A Midsummer Night's Dream" at the Carter Barron Amphitheatre. And, you'll be pleased to hear, it's my favorite type of play: FREE! What are all y'all doing this weekend?


Bad News: Watermain break early Saturday morning means extremely limited bathroom and kitchen privileges.

Good News: Lunch at Udupi means excellent food and running water.

Bad News: Missed out on seeing Gang of Four play at the 9:30 Club on Friday night.

Good News: Finally got to see the movie Kontroll: a brilliant and innovative story of the lives of the Hungarian metro ticket inspectors. Funny, dramatic, and clever, it's filmed completely underground with a fantastic mise en scene, a collection of amusing and charming characters (and their rivals, of course) and a pulsing, throbbing soundtrack.

Bad News: Basement still is not completely repaired.

Good News: 75% of the basement walls have been painted, 90% of the floor has been carpeted, and all of the band equipment has been moved back downstairs which means I can actually see my bookcase again and can navigate between rooms without the accompanying crash of cymbals.


Wellsir, either all y'all have become blurkers or the membership drive has dipped drastically. For you three or four readers who still visit, apologies for the cliff-hangery ending of the Costa Rica travelogue, but I just ran out of steam, imagination, and wit. What with the new job and all, I have had little time and energy to dedicate to creative writing. Speaking of the new job, here are some highlights of this week:

Monday: Got photographed and phinger-printed. As the burly guard rolled my digits over the inkpad and onto the paper grid, I jokingly mentioned that I was getting the old-school treatment whereas my new co-workers were getting the high-tech version where you simply place your fingertips on a screen and the computer scans the images. The guard responded, "Yeah, that one there is digickal." DIGICKAL. Winner of the word of the week.

Tuesday: Upon learning that we might as well dress casually since we'd be in training classrooms for the next several weeks, I was quite pleased to saunter into the building sporting my cords, my t-shirt (logo-less, but still), and my bouncy kicks (sneakers that could have passed for dressy if you don't look too closely).

Wednesday: Shaved five minutes off of my 45 minute commute.

Thursday: Upon exiting the metro at a stop where (1) I don't normally get off but wanted to experiment this one time, (2) no less than four train lines met at that station making it one of the busier stops, and (3) right at the height of rush hour that particular platform was more populated than normal because another train had broken down along the tracks, I disembarked from my metro's cabin and practially ran right into my husband who happened to be (1) taking the metro at that exact same time, (2) waiting on the platform that my train was arriving on, and (3) standing directly in front of my open door.

Friday: Gave a presentation (on which I was complimented by the instructors) to half of the incoming attorneys without getting nervous, dry-mouthed, or incoherent. *pulls muscle patting self on back*


May expand and expound. May not. Meh.

Day Six: 05.06.05
Things seen in Manuel Antonio:

Things zipped passed on the drive back to San Jose:

  • Bony Goats
  • Bony Cattle (each with its own personal bird valet)
  • Crocodile (Crikey!)
  • People selling watermelons and strawberries on the highway
  • Turtle
  • Traffic

Things said at Hotel Brittania upon arrival in San Jose:
"Do you have a reservation?"
"No, but I was told I could just walk in on Friday and a room would be available."
"Did you get the rate?"

"Um, $80?"
"Ah. Yes. $80 plus tax." (pause)
(aware of pause) "Is there another discounted rate you'd like to tell me about?"

"Well, if you want, you can pay in cash and not pay for the tax. Flat $80."
"Ok, I'll do that."
"Do you know which room you have?"

"No, but I'd love the best one you have." (huge grin)
"Ok, I can give you the king-sized bed with A/C which is normally $120."

"That's great! I'll be sure to tell everyone how awesome Hotel Britannia is."
"Yes, please do! Ha ha."

Things seen and/or smelled on evening walk through San Jose neighborhoods:

  • Cigarette Smokey Luxury Room of Hotel Britannia
  • Creepy, Shaking Drug Addict Teen picking the paint off of a corner of a dark alley
  • Puddles of Urine on the Sidewalk
  • Black Skies threatening storms but not delivering
  • Piles of Garbage in the Gutter (if the storm had come, the piles would be converted into rivers flowing through the streets)

Things enjoyed on our last night in Costa Rica:

  • Low-season rates, room availability, and dearth of guests at the hotel
  • Asian Cuisine at Tin Jo (oh, ginger and garlic, we missed you!)
  • Finding out breakfast was included in the rate
  • Saying goodbye to my tough Tevas and TP's too-tight tennis shoes (which we gave to a homeless man the next morning)


Day Five: 05.05.05 (make a wish!)
After being called down by the hotel's roosters to come and eat our breakfast with some apricot yogurt to help choke down the papaya, we went to the room to prep for our walk through the hotel's private biological reserve. We got about 2 minutes into the hike before we realized that the Espadilla Reserve had something the Manuel Antonio Reserve did not: mosquitoes. I went back to the room to apply the repellant liberally even though it was too late for my arms and ankles. We managed to conquer about 5 minutes of the hike before TP found out that these blood-suckers meant business. We returned to the room to allow TP to lotion up. Third time's a charm and we finally started up the hill completely coated in DEET and, soon enough, sweat. The crystal clear starry skies that were glittering and dizzying and fantastic as we walked on the beach the night before had given way to a thick, stultifying layer of clouds that held the heat and humidity close to the earth during the day. Farther inland than the National Park, this reserve received none of the occasional wafts of forgiving ocean breezes.

Although we kept our eyes and ears out for any parrots or squirrel monkeys (mono titi), the only life coming out in full force were the salamanders, bees, and crabs. The highlights of the strenuous walk were the incredibly quick hummingbird that flitted from flower to flower and the brilliant black and emerald poison dart frog who was too swift for me to photograph, but not for Tim, from whom I shall now steal:

The trial had a rope guide, but it was deliberately kept in a 'natural state' (which is code for completely unattended and unused). Leaves, thick and slippery, covered the path and made navigating the uphill and downhill portions tricky. Branches (liberally sprinkled with itty bitty bitey ants) and, at one point, an entire tree created obstacles to climb, crawl under, and yank aside. Keeping in mind Angelus's warnings about the Fer-de-Lance , we fashioned a sturdy walking stick from one of our obstacles which we used to pound the ground along the way to alert and hopefully scare away any potential snakes. Unfortunately, I suspect that we scared away everything else as well. Everything, that is, except the mosquitoes. Ten bites on my hands, ankles, and back (I forgot to apply the DEET to my clothing or else they flew up my shirt! Fresh!). And Costa Rica and I were getting along so well. Not so pura vida after all.

Upon our return, we peeled off the sopping wet hiking clothes, rinsed off, changed into resort clothes, and spent the rest of the afternoon sitting in lounge chairs by the pool and drinking pina coladas complete with funny straws, wedges of fruit, paper umbrellas, metal gears, antennae, and a GPS device attached. For lunch, we hit the Blue Marlin for some ceviche and tunaburgers and then walked along the street to see if there was any more to the "town" than what we had already seen. There wasn't. We returned via the beach and stopped along the way for some fresh, chilled mangos, agua de pipa, and a game of billiards (which was very pathetically played by yours truly and the only saving grace was that I still won).

Now, as many of you know, each travelogue comes pre-packaged with highlights and lowlights. Per tradition, each trip seems to include an awful, hideous, atrocious thing that often receives the most attention and glee. In China, it was the mephitic nastiness of the Hangzhou train station bathroom at the end of the day after being visited by countless travelers with their full bowels. In Scotland, it was the black pudding that Gojira seemed quite content to enjoy eating. Here, it was the white-nosed coati. Part raccoon, part R.O.U.S., this fuzzy, cuddly guy ought not have won the coveted "Travelogue Travesty Award." Even almost stumbling over a dead one on the beach didn't elevate the coati to that honored status. What did it was this: he was completely stripped. His fur had either been shredded by another animal or else loosened and separated by the ocean. The once fluffy creature had been transformed into a raw, puckered pink slab of meat. It looked as though the heat had gotten to him and he just pushed his furry sleeves and bared his arms and legs in order to cool off. After making out some of its features and determining what it was, we turned away to enjoy some more pleasant views: the natural rock formations, the sun setting on the ocean, the clouds blushing and darkening. When we walked back to photograph it for you fine folks, the coati was gone. My theory was that the tide took the body away. TP's theory was that the Ticos who came bounding behind us when we first discovered the coati took away to cook it up for unsuspecting tourists. Either way, we have a winner! Just so as not to leave you with such a gruesome image, here's a pretty one instead:

Next up: Bargaining at Brittania


Day Four: 05.04.05
The anticipation of seeing all of the wildlife in its natural habitat had me (and by default and design, TP) awake and out early. Girding our bellies with the "breakfast included," we filled up on coffee, juice, a plate of fruit (note: white pineapple is not as sweet as yellow), saturated pancakes, gallo pinto, eggs, and plantains. Eavesdropping on our neighbors (all American), we learned that to enter Manuel Antonio National Park, you had to cross a stream by foot. The rest of the breakfast conversation was spent on the flip-flops vs. sneakers debate. Soon-to-be-ratty sneakers won.

I got DEETed up, TP got SPFed up, we put on our long-sleeved shirts and (as Iman called them) long-sleeved pants, and we walked to the Park. Along the way, we were beset by tour guides (official and not-so-official) who wanted to lead us through the Park. We decided to wing it this day and if we felt we missed out on a lot, we'd hire one tomorrow; and so, we "manana"ed our way to the entrance. If not for the proof of Costa Rican citizenship requirement, I could have paid the locals' price ($2) instead of the foreigners' price ($7) as LB and I did in Cairo when Gojira secured our discounted bus fare by claiming we were Egyptian. From morning to noon, we hiked through, up, and down the Park. There was really no need for a tour guide because any time something interesting rustled along the trail, a glut of shutterbugs stopped, stared, and snapped their photos. One really doesn't need to keep an eye out for the wildlife so long as one keeps an eye out for the wildlife-lovers.

Even at the cusp of the rainy season, the rainforest was lush and dark. The first denizen to greet us was a three-toed sloth dangling in the trees. It was hypnotizing to watch how. Slowly. He. Moved. The sloth languorously lifted his hairy arm as though it was made of lead. His long, yellowed claws sluggishly appeared. Scratching himself took a good long five minutes and probably longer, but we had to move on. For a closer look at this smiling slacker, check out this picture. The huge and lazy sloth won TP's great admiration and yet, when I sprawl on the couch and scratch myself, I get reprimanded.

In sharp contrast, our next host was a collection of frenzied, frenetic white-faced capuchin monkeys. They leapt from limb to limb with aerial grace. They cleverly scraped and pounded on the coconuts to drink the water. They threw stuff at us. One cheeky monkey came down, nonchalantly strolled over to the beach area nearby where a girl had left her backpack, and tossing a quick glance over his shoulder at us, proceeded to grasp the backpack and open the zipper. With eyes in the back of his head, he sensed when the girl came forward to rescue her bag and he shot back up into the trees. If the bag were lighter, I have no doubt he would have taken off with it; as it was, the bag was half open. Color me impressed. Later, this dude got all up in my grill.

The flora became denser as we ventured further along the trail. Curiosity had TP picking up and tossing around one of the abundant small, round, green fruits that carpeted the ground until we came upon the placard about the Manzanillo tree that warned of the toxicity of the fruit and the poisonous sap which, upon contact, could cause swelling, blistering, burning, inflammation, and temporary blindness. Whoops. TP let go of his new toy, dashed off to the shore, and washed his hands immediately. At least he didn't suffer the consequences of getting too friendly with the Manzanillo tree like this guy did.

Everything seemed hushed and muted as we hiked over the damp leaves and soft earth. For that reason, the sharp scratching sounds that broke the muffled ambiance had us freeze in our tracks and look around for the great beasts that must have been making that racket. Eyes darting above and below, we tried to visually penetrate the foliage to determine what could have been making that quick, high noise. It wasn't until we came upon a fork in the trail that we realized what creatures were responsible: hundreds of red land crabs. Also known as the red land crab, these critters danced over the branches, hovered near their holes, and looked as though they had just come back from voting since one (sometimes two) of their claws was painted purple.

The hike took us up to the Punta Catedral Peninsula where we caught a much-desired breeze and had a fantastic view of the beach and bay below. Sitting on a rock, we tried to cool down and dry off but one step back into the rainforest had us sweating again. The film of sweat that coated my arms was like oil; I would wipe my arms from elbow to wrist, but my hands just slid down with no effect. Once I gave up trying to stay dry and accepted the moistness, I could focus on my surroundings more. Zippy chameleons, slow iguanas, industrious crabs, and hoppy nutria kept us company. The beautiful coves below provided wonderful resting grounds and were fairly uncrowded.

The forest was full of dangers and beauty. We didn't see any parrots or jungle cats, but we also didn't see any mosquitoes or fer-de-lances either. Gotta take the good with the bad. And sometimes the ugly.

Next up: the winner of this travelogue's coveted "Grossest Thing Ever" award.


Day Three: 05.03.05
Sheets of rain. Blankets of rain. King-sized duvets of rain. Rolling thunder, bright flashes of lightening, and torrents of rain smashing down on the tin roof kept us company all night long. The few moments of short-lived silence were punctuated by the piercing croaks of the toads who preferred the areas right outside the cabin doors to the jungle nearby.

When morning finally came, the air was thick with humidity. You'd have thought that the rain showers during the night would promise a crisp, clear day. You'd be wrong. Breakfast at Blue Marlin consisted of a plate of fruit (sin papaya, por favor), scrambled eggs (with a hefty but unwanted dollop of mayonnaise on the side), gallo pinto (cooked in vegetable oil and not lard), and coffee (the day just got better).

A walk along the beach to observe the waves and gauge the crowdedness of certain sections yielded us (a) an appreciation for the low season turn out of surfer dudes and loud, obnoxious tourists, (b) a reminder to watch where we stepped lest we end up with a foot full of crabbie patties and (c) a sip of the sweet agua de pipa (water of a green coconut) from a beach vendor near the Park's entrance. Note: the dude next to the entrance to the Park charges 500 CRC for lukewarm agua de pipa, but the dude on the beach across from the Restaurant Lobster charges 300 CRC for nicely chilled agua de pipa. See? Now you don't have to bargain hunt for coconut water because we've already done the homework for you.

By 10:00 a.m., we had decided that we should treat ourselves to a break from the heat and humidity by upgrading to the Hotel Espadilla. We paid for our room at the Cabinas, carried our luggage across and slightly up the street, and checked into the air-conditioned, cable tv'ed, second-floor (and therefore toadless) room. Because the hotel's driveway was under construction, the normally discounted low season rate of $101/night was further discounted to a total of $80/night and included breakfast, a private nature reserve, and did I mention the A/C? Sold!

Finally completely unpacked, we returned to the relatively unpopulated beach (well, unpopulated by people anyway; there were many tiny hermit crabs scuttling around) to swim in the incredibly warm ocean. It is quite possible that the water was warmer than the air. We topped off the ocean swim with a swim in the completely deserted hotel's pool. Ain't no season like low season. Gazing placidly at some iguanas who gazed placidly at us in return, TP and I spent the lazy afternoon alone letting the sun slowly melt our brains. Only here for a day, we fell into a routine pretty quickly. Walk to Blue Marlin for lunch and iced mochas. Walk to the room to cool off during the hottest part of the day. Walk to the beach to watch a sandy soccer game. Walk to the agua de pipa man. Walk to the hotel for a nap.

After sunset, we strolled down to the main street and stood for a moment in awe at the cacophony of toady chatter coming from the creek nearby. The wall of sound was nearly deafening. When we came across some gawkers looking up and pointing, we followed suit and saw playful monkeys dangling from the trees! It was too dark to make out any more than their silhouettes, but it was exciting nonetheless.

We checked out the menu of Blue Marlin's rival, Restaurant Lobster, but opted for dinner at the hotel's restaurant: chunky ceviche, tender tenderloins in black bean sauce, and sweet plantains grilled to perfection. We counted the number of stupid toads facing the walls along the sidewalk back to the room (10), caught up on some of the world's news (same old, same old), and basked in the air-conditioner's glory (until the electricity cut out at 1:30 a.m. for an hour).

Next up: Road-Song of the Bandar-Log
Here we go in a flung festoon,
Half-way up to the jealous moon!
Don't you envy our pranceful bands?
Don't you wish you had extra hands?
Would n't you like if your tails were -- so --
Curved in the shape of a Cupid's bow?
Now you're angry, but -- never mind,
Brother, thy tail hangs down behind!
--Rudyard Kipling


Day Two: 05.02.05
First stop: public phones to use the $2.00 telephone card to call home and announce safe arrival. Second stop: ATM to get thousands and thousands of colones (fun fact: the exchange rate these days is $1.00 US to 472.00 CRC so we pulled out about 50,000 colones. Ca-ching!). Third stop: breakfast at Morazan's only the place was just open for lunch and dinner so scratch that and return to the hotel for Tico breakfast accompanied by oldies songs piped in above.

Me (singing along): She seems to have an in-vis-i-ble touch, yeah, it takes control and slowly . . .
TP (interrupting my solo): You shouldn't know those lyrics.
Me (defensive b/c I can't help the fact that my brain retains useless knowledge, stupid stats, and lame lyrics): Why not?
TP: Because they are so bad.
Me: What if a villain captured us and tied us up to a rope dangling over a pit of lava and the only thing that could save us is if we could correctly answer trivia questions about Phil Collins' songs?
TP: Then perhaps death would be better.

Fourth stop: back upstairs to pack (took all of five minutes), back downstairs to pay ($66/night), and back outside to catch a cab (with no meter which means we may or may not have been cheated when the initial quote of 600 CRC ($1.26) increased to 1000 CRC ($2.11) once we arrived at the bus terminal - it's not the amount, it's the principle of the matter. *looks in LB's direction and recalls blistering walk through Cairo because the cabbie wanted to charge us a quarter more than he should have*).

We arrived at the "Coca-Cola bus terminal" which was basically a marketplace that happened to have a large parking lot in the center through which busses came barreling through. A cabbie attached himself to us and tried to convince us that at $45 US per person, we could travel to our destination, Manuel Antonio, in air-conditioned luxury, we could smoke if we wanted, we could stop anywhere along the way, and we could arrive in style. When we didn't take him up on his offer, he sported an expression that was part flabbergasted at our passing up such a sweet deal and part disdainful that we were too stupid to realize that he was the best and everyone else (i.e. the cheapo bus-riders) was the worst.

After much confusion over where to purchase our tickets, we finally deciphered a small, hand-painted sign indicating where the booth was and secured our $5 seats. Finding a spot to sit in the bright sun, we spent the better part of an hour watching the locals do their local things: a young man painting a store front while balancing on a shaky, rusted scaffolding; a worker mucking out a sewer or sludgy hole with his bare hands; a woman with powerful lungs selling everything from earrings to cheap, plastic radios; a decrepit old man aimlessly wandering around in a battered cowboy hat, stained pants, and a Star Wars, Episode I t-shirt. The guards in their yellow uniforms were very alert and helpful, telling one woman to keep her purse closer because there were thieves around and informing someone else which bus left and what time. The Coca-Cola guards ROCK!

We boarded our non-air-conditioned but not too shabby 12:15 p.m. bus, put our luggage underneath, and began our steamy drive through Costa Rica's ubiquitous coffee plantations, cloud-covered mountains, and mango groves.

With only one stop along the way for stretches, bathrooms, and snacks, we arrived in Quepos and then Manuel Antonio about three and a half hours later. Following the directions from the website of Cabinas Espadilla - "Once in the beach, turn left at Marlin Restaurant and follow the street" - we learned that our reservation, while taken, was not held. Luckily, since this was the "green" or "wet" or "low" season, there was one cabin available with a ceiling fan for $52/night with the possibility of upgrading to a cabin with an A/C for $64/night the rest of the week. Sweaty, tired, and hungry, we agreed and were shown our cabin complete with one double bed, one set of bunk beds, a little kitchen, and a clean bathroom. We dumped our stuff off and went back outside for some reconnaissance.

The beautiful beach, Playa Espadilla, was about a two-minute walk from the front door. The National Park was a mere five-minute walk away from that. There were two busy restaurants across the street from each other book-ended by souvenir shops, surf lesson stalls, and internet cafes. And so ended our recon.

Before dinner, we stopped by the pharmacy to get some DEETlicious repellant for my mosquito-buffet skin. We went to the Blue Marlin restaurant for dinner and luckily chose a table under the shelter because within ten minutes, heavy rain poured down and soaked the plein air diners who scrambled inside. Our waiter, Omar from Quepos who spoke his English with a Californian accent courtesy of all the time he spent with the West Coast surfers, was friendly enough but drove us crazy with his constant use of the alleged Costa Rican phrase "Pura Vida" which means "pure life" but can be used for any response from "ok, I got your order," to "I'm doing well, thank you," to "it really is great being here during the low season because then I have the hotels, the pools, the beaches, and the jungles almost all to myself!" We started off with the salty, limey, delicious ceviche (hopefully parasite-free) and shared the mahi-mahi and yellow fin tuna dishes. By the time our plates were clean, the rain had stopped. We strolled over to the sister accommodations to Cabinas Espadilla, the Hotel Espadilla, and contemplated a change in rooms to the fancier hotel after returning to our hot, sweltering cabin for the night.

Next up: hanging out on the beach with the mobile home crew.


Day One: 05.01.05
Indulging in a hot but thin shower with the Bliss products LB gave me, I started the day fresh and hungry. The hotel offered an all-you-can-eat buffet that consisted mainly of gallo pinto (black beans and rice), fruit (marvelous mangos, piquant pineapples, and pass on the papayas), eggs, toast, and all-you-can-drink Cafe Britt.

Tummies full, we took a circuitous tour of the historic Barrio Amon neighborhood and the center of town. Located in the Central Valley, San Jose is arranged in a grid that is bisected by north-to-south Calle (street) Central and east-to-west Avenida (avenue) Central with all of the odd streets to the east, even streets to the west, odd avenues to the north, and even avenues to the south. Good luck finding the street signs which are more often than not spray-painted over, mutilated, or completely missing. We were in the north-east quadrant at Calle 5, Avenida 11 so our first stop, a mere three blocks away, was the Parque Morazan at Calle 5, Avenida 5. The centerpiece was the Templo de la Musica which houses concerts but which, today, was empty. After sidestepping some of the many homeless people sleeping on the streets this early Sunday morning, our next stop was the Central Park where the birds in the trees were having quite a heated debate.

Nearby, we saw several police officers clustered around an ice cream vendor's cart.

TP: (shaking his head) "Look at those cops shaking down that vendor."
Me: (ever the optimist) "Maybe they just want some ice cream."
TP: (
Debbie Downer) "No, everyone in power here is corrupt."
Me: (triumphantly) "Look! They are paying him money and getting some ice cream!"
TP: (reluctantly) "Yeah. This time."

We passed by an open-air market where one Tico (Costa Rican) claimed the long cotton shirt with the Indian elephant motif was worth $13.00 (yeah, right, you know how much I can get that for in Pakistan?! Interrodesi!) on our way to where the two Center streets intersected. The sun was getting pretty intense, the crowds were picking up and by the afternoon, the bottomless cups of coffee were making their presence known. Falling back on a habit I picked up in Paris, we ducked into a fancy hotel to use their facilities. We couldn't find any on the main floor, so we headed upstairs. There was an open and completely empty room around the corner with the maid's cart nearby but no maid to be seen. I thought we could totally get away with closing the door, attending to business, and leaving, but Prudence McPrude wouldn't hear of it. Dios Mio! So back out to the main street we went until we found a bustling restaurant with unattended bathrooms below.

Amid the shoe shops, the clothing stores, and the pharmacists, we saw Pops, touted by one of the travel guide books (can't remember which one, I just grabbed a bunch from the library before we left, jotted down some notes, and returned them - I loves me them free books!) as being the best place to get ice cream. It was ok, but it was no gelato. Mango = C, Raspberry = B.

Since it was International Worker's Day, it was only fitting that we stumbled across the TLC (Tratado Libre de Comerio) protest march against the U.S. Central American Free Trade Agreement.

We watched as some of the 4,000 protesters chanted slogans, waved banners, and stomped their way across the city center. A look at our unprotected faces told us we had been in the sun too long so, for our last sight, we climbed up to the top of the hill near the Children's Museum, (where, despite my hatred for him, I pitied a poor sweltering Barney and his friends who must have been dying in their thick, foam costumes under the burning sun) to get a view of the city below:

After a stop at the supermarket for some water and juice, we returned to the room to find it bereft of electricity and just lay in the dark until the blades of the ceiling fan slowly started moving again about an hour later. We got our fill of the Food Network, CNN en Espanol, and Animal Planet en Espanol before we showered again and changed into some fancier duds (i.e. not jeans) for our dinner with TP's former Spanish professor, Magda, and her family.

When TP came to Costa Rica ten years ago to study Spanish, in total nerd fashion, he befriended his teacher. Since the unspoken rule is that every country we visit must have someone we are related to or at least know who lives there, we contacted Magda and arranged to meet her and her husband, Cilo, and their seven month old daughter, Estella. That evening, after exchanging names, kisses, and presents, we were whisked away to experience a typical Tico restaurant. On a Sunday night, the place was not crowded at all and we were seated on some rickety wooden chairs (mine precariously balanced and teetering over the edge of the platform) and served immediately. The standard fare was good and filling: beans and rice; chicken and beef; cheese and chilies. After dinner, the waiter brought out an interesting instrument when Cilo ordered coffee. Called a chorreador de cafe, the traditional Costa Rican coffee maker was basically a wooden frame supporting a cloth filter suspended above a carafe. I would liked to have tried some of the rich, steaming coffee, but (a) I had already scalded my tongue sampling Magda's Agua Dulce - hot sugar cane juice -and (b) I was on Estella duty carrying her around the restaurant to check out the bored mariachi player, the forest of onions hanging from the rafters, and the smiling, friendly cooks behind the counter.

We had a lovely time with the family, learned more about the protest we witnessed that afternoon, and called it an early evening at 10:30 p.m. Back at the Hotel Dumb Inn, we packed our belongings, counted out our few remaining colones (the bit we got earlier from the ATM was blown on the we-take-no-credit-cards dinner), and slept to the dulcet sounds of our neighbors bellowing "whar's mah cigarettes?" which were only slightly drowned out by the buzzing whir of the ceiling fan above.

Next up: Go west, young man! And then, head south. And then, go east when you hit the ocean.


Are you ready, kids?
(Aye, Aye, Cap'n!)
I can't heeeeaaarrrr you!
Ohhhhhh, here's the Costa Rica travelogue:

Pre-Day One: Having packed the night before, I was up at 5:00 a.m. and seriously contemplated beginning my vacation by slamming the doors and waking the neighbors (especially the no-named rat-dog) to exact my revenge for their countless pre-dawn antics. But there were still things to be done and so TP and I attended to those instead: throwing away any stinkables, locking down the fortress, and securing the chariot. By 6:30 a.m., we had picked up a sleepy but gracious LB, hurtled through Rock Creek Park in the driving rain, and checked in at the airport. Then, we waited. We shared a cappuccino and an atrocious invention called a "tomazzo" bagel pizza and waited. We read the newspaper from front page to the comix and waited. We listened anxiously as the reports of the storm in Atlanta and the grounding of all planes continued and waited. Our 8:00 a.m. flight became a 10:00 a.m. flight and there was no way we were going to make our connection.

When we touched down and scrambled out at noon, we found out that we missed our flight by five minutes while we were standing in line to find out the status of our flight. Disgruntled, we shuttled over to the international terminal and stood in line to rebook our flight at the Delta counter. With lunchtime approaching, we watched in horror and disbelief as there were four little, three little, two little clerks working the desk for the coach passengers (business class had almost a one-to-one passenger-clerk ratio going on). Inconceivable! An hour and a half later, the line had snaked around the velvet ropes, doubled up on itself, and was nearing one of the gates. Outrageous! When one of the business class patrons tried to jump into the peons' line, there was much gnashing of teeth and preparations for a battle royale (not to be confused with a royale with cheese) until the one remaining coach clerk apologetically explained that she had to attend to the coach passengers. Revolution! We finally reached a second clerk who had appeared out of the woodwork and was huffing in exasperation even before we got there. No smile, no greeting, no apology. But, we did score some business class seats. Grudging acceptance!

With five hours to kill until our flight, we spent the majority of the time snacking, people-pointing, and clock-watching. Our connecting flight was also delayed but sitting in the comfort of business class, we didn't mind so much. San Jose came into sight around 9:30 p.m. - a mere nine hours later than scheduled. The immigration line was much more organized and faster moving than the Delta quote customer service unquote counter (Fie! Fie on Delta!). One disturbing observation: not only printed on the entry forms but also plastered throughout the immigration and customs areas are warnings that supporting child prostitution in Costa Rica is illegal. Apparently, the child sex trade is so rampant that they have to drive the point home before you even step foot into the country. According to the National Institute for Children, as many as 3,000 children in Metropolitan San Jose alone are involved in prostitution. Where are those air-sickness bags when you need them?

After a slapdash custom's inspection of just one of our two bags, we were thrown into the throng of sweaty, determined, and aggressive taxi drivers squawking for our attention. Luckily, we already knew to use the official airport taxis which are sanctioned, safe, and had a set fee: $12 to San Jose. Passing by an extremely fit and voluptuous tranny, we rolled into Barrio Amon, checked into our non-air-conditioned, window-overlooking-the-internal-stairwell, earplugs-offered-at-the-front-desk room at the Hotel Dunn Inn (isn't it redundant to call a place a 'hotel' and an 'inn'?).

Next Up: potential corruption, pathetic ice cream, and power outages.


I wonder how much sand the washing machine can take before it starts to shudder and smoke. Laundry beckons and so just a few blurbs today:

1. This is what I'd look like if I were a South Park character in Costa Rica:

Find your own inner-South Parkian here. Idea gleefully stolen from Upyernoz.

2. Just saw the movie Word Wars, a documentary on the obsessive world of competitive Scrabble. If not for all the drugs, hookers, and foul language, I'd recommend this to several of you. You know who you are. Looks like the next documentary I should check out is Promises which was recently reviewed by Upyernoz and Yasmine.

3. News clip from The Onion:
Hayward, CA -- Dinesh Parekh, 9, continues to struggle to find a bicycle license plate with his name on it, the Indian-American child reported Monday. "This is the third store I've checked today," said a dejected Parekh, exiting a Toys "R" Us near his Hayward home. "Derrick, Diane, Dillon and Dylan, Dirk... no Dinesh." Parekh, who has pedaled his brand-new Schwinn to more than a dozen stores during his three-week search, said he plans to ask his mother to drive him to the KB Toys in San Leandro next weekend.


Ahoy, me hearties! Land ho! We've returned from our trip to the tropics with plenty of pictures, muscled and bronzed bodies, several stories, and about ten to fifteen mosquito bites to show for it. Shout out to me first mate Abez for watchin' o'er me blog to defend it from other buccaneers and keep it updated. Happy Mother's Day love to Cybermom and Literaunty. And just to tide you over until I get the travelogue up and running, here's a pix of our tour guide through Manuel Antonio National Park:


Avast ye lubbers! This here is First Mate Abez, keel hauler of scallywags and designer of piratey layouts, prepare to be boarded!

Long ago, when sailing ships ruled the waves, a captain and his crew were in danger of being boarded by a pirate ship. As the crew became frantic, the captain bellowed to his First Mate, "Bring me my red shirt!"

The First Mate quickly retrieved the captain's red shirt, which the captain put on and led the crew to battle the pirate boarding party.

Although some casualties occurred among the crew, the pirates were repelled. Later that day, the lookout screamed that there were two pirate vessels sending boarding parties. The crew cowered in fear, but the captain, calm as ever, bellowed, "Bring me my red shirt!"

Once again the battle was on. However, the Captain and his crew repelled both boarding parties, though this time more casualties occurred.

Weary from the battles, the men sat around on deck that night recounting the day's occurrences when an ensign looked to the Captain and asked, "Sir, why did you call for your red shirt before the battle?"

The Captain, giving the ensign a look that only a captain can give, exhorted, "If I am wounded in battle, the red shirt does not show the wound and thus, you men will continue to fight unafraid."

The men sat in silence marveling at the courage of such a man. As dawn came the next morning, the lookout screamed that there were pirate ships, 10 of them, all with boarding parties on their way.

The men became silent and looked to the Captain, their leader, for his usual command. The Captain, calm as ever, bellowed, "Bring me my brown pants!"

You know where to leave my dubloons. Har har.