Saturday, January 31, 2009

A Teaser: Plane Ride. (In Reverse because Blogger is making me nuts at 11 PM.)

My plane?

No, this is the plane.

Over San Jose.

Over Ballena National Marine Park Reserve.

Loop around these rocks to the right and...

... see the airstrip?

Look at that! Short strip, talented pilot. Y la jungla!

Looking back the other way.

A roadside bakery stand and a roadside bodega.

Tomorrow... from the jungle!

Friday, January 30, 2009

Big Plans Gone Awry.

I promised pictures for today, but it won't be happening - yet. I want to post pictures of the flight from San Jose to Uvita in the Osa of Costa Rica, and I will, because I took the photos, and even if they're not perfect, they give a wonderful sense of the wildness, the jungle, the beauty of this place.

But until I'm able to do that, for now, I can tell you how I'm falling asleep. The room is tidy and cozy and gorgeous, in dark native hardwood, and the "windows" are doors that open into, quite literally, the jungle. Primary rainforest.

I am surprised by how loud the jungle is... or, la jungla in Spanish, but you gotta say it right... La Hoong-la. Que un sorpresa, so loud!

The cicadas, the howler monkeys, the falling leaves as big as my hand or more, the toucans that whistle to me, the breezes, the sound of the ocean below... and yet... I am bathed in a tropical breeze, I am glowing with the sea's humidity, I am safe in a warm and loving home. I've never fallen asleep in a place like this, and I wonder how it will go.

It is very, very dark. I can smell tropical flowers and I had fresh dorado for dinner with a mango salad on the side. The fan turns above me, and as I blow out my candle, I'm shutting down the computer and going to sleep, ready to try it in the jungle, in a tree house, under a slim moon and the brightness of Venus.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

10 Things New to Me, From Today.

1. In place of remembering if "dias" is masculine or feminine, and "tardes" and "noches", people just say, "Buenas!" in greeting. It is much easier.

2. Listening to native Spanish speakers is very challenging. But what is more challenging is listening to deaf, native Spanish speakers. (Yes. Today. At a meeting to rent a new office for the non-profit. It was cray!)

3. When watching "Gossip Girl" in English with Spanish subtitles, you quickly learn the word embarrassing: verguenza, because it shows up a lot in the translation.

4. Just when I was feeling good about understanding the gist of a conversation, I was introduced today to a woman who speaks seven languages. English, Spanish, French, Arabic and Japanese were five of them. (She is a real estate agent, natch.)

5. The avocado and tangerine-clementiney thing from yesterday were both amazing. Peeling said thingy was a religious experience. Fresh, unrefrigerated fruit? Apparently the peel is meant to just pull off, away from the pith, and it is ripe and juicy. Ahh.

6. San Jose, Costa Rica is at 4,500 feet above sea level. This is why the weather is perfect here (to me) - breezy, warm, sunny but not too hot. When I go to Uvita tomorrow, I am apparently in for humidity and heat. (But also the beach, so this girl ain't complaining.)

7. The office we are renting is a house, and it is gorgeous. I'll post pics once it has been painted. It was rented by a Colombian family previously and it is, right now, electric orange, jungle green, lemon yellow and more. My room in this house is the maid's quarters, and they're adorable and nice and private.

8. I am starting to wonder how, when and where I will do laundry. It is currently neatly folded in a laundry bag. It's weird to fold dirty laundry.

9. The men in Costa Rica are well-dressed. From the clothes to the hairstyles to the facial hair, the cologne, the manners... it's very gentlemanly. I like it. I also get a sense, as has been well documented, that these sorts of men aren't big on feminism or homosexuality or any other green, hippie, Portland type of thing. However, for the gazing, it's nice. Plus I am quickly scanned for the ring, and treated like a married woman.

10. The most glamorous woman in the room at the breakfast buffet the last two days: cafe au lait skin, long wavy thick hair, probably 5'10'' and 115 pounds, but it wasn't that... she was confident. She was sexy. Her hair was mussed and awesome. She had grace and attitude. She was a little pissy and I liked it. She had a young daughter who looked just like her. She was no nonsense and she glided through the room like it was dinner at Jean-Georges. And when she opened her mouth... ladies and gentlemen, she was French. Of course!

Wednesday, January 28, 2009


OK, there aren't any guayabanas in the photo, but at the fruit stand today (a truck, actually) my bosses and I couldn't figure out what a fruit was, so they sliced it open with a huge knife and tah-dah! Guayabana for everyone! It's not exactly my cup of tea, but it was interesting... only slightly sweet, it reminded me of passion fruit (I think?) in Hawaii. Big seeds, good texture.

The photo above is my fruit for today - an avocado, some strawberries and an orangey-clementiney thing. Total cost? Like $3. I had to laugh at the fruit display, in the bed of a truck, on the side of a busy road. Apparently this farmer is always there during the day and his produce is muy bueno, muy rica. But I laughed at the wonderfully sliced and displayed cantaloupes... what would they say at Elephants Deli!? (This is where I work catering a couple times a month.) I've been told melon can breed some kind of bacteria or something if it sits out too long, and I imagine that cantaloupe had been sitting out for a few hours, anyhow.

But these strawberries smell incredible. Wish I had smell-o-vision for you! And I apologize for not taking my camera. It was a good image but I felt silly being a tourist. But the promised weekend photos are a go, 100%. I'm off on Friday for Uvita, the Pacific Ocean, and what promises to be a rather incredible villa en la bosque.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

No Captcha and No Cell Phone.

NO CELL PHONE Living without a cell phone is amazingly easy. I see what Arthur's been talking about all this time. I honestly don't even think about it, but I admit, this is probably because I couldn't use the phone anyhow. Case in point: dinner tonight. I'm in a hotel, still, for a few nights, so I was wanting takeout after seven hours of meetings today. How to order takeout when you don't speak the language... ask the front desk! Armed with two phrases, and an order written down for a nearby Chinese restaurant, I had food within thirty minutes! Success! Admittedly, it wasn't great, but I thought of Ray because the sweet and sour had fresh pineapple. Ray, it was killer.

COMMENTING ON COMMENTS No captcha means that I can't log in and comment on my own blog! Ha! So briefly... I love reading your comments, everyone, and that address was a fake one, Arthur, as an example. I would post mine, but it will be changing on Thursday! As soon as we have la oficina con apartamento, I'll send it and we'll test the Costa Rican postal methods. (And Jen... yup. Our current office address, in English, would be: 225 meters north of Amistad Park and 125 meters northwest; orange house with two stories. San Jose, CR. I would add: triangulate that address, bitch!) And Kelly, you're right - the example address was a nod to NYC and everybody's favorite sex scandal para el dia, Mayor Sam Adams. And Kathryn, I would LOVE to see how your 6th graders would do with this! Or even Aly's trig or algebra students, with the triangulating from above, ha!

Thanks again for reading this, it makes me feel much more connected to my friends and family.

Pictures are forthcoming. I promise. This weekend there will be major stuff to photograph but tomorrow I'll still try to post some views from around my hotel. Which, in case you're wondering, is located at: Costado Este del Costa Rica Country Club, San Rafael de Escazu, San Jose, CR. That is, literally: Flanking the East Side of the Costa Rica Country Club, Neighborhood of Escazu in San Jose, CR.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Saith Bowie: People on Streets.

I've had a couple requests for my address in Costa Rica. Well, funny that. There are no street names in San Jose, CR, the capital city of around one million people. Mmm hmm. No street names. (Lin, I see you cackling like mad. At least the iPhone GPS would be doubly useful.)

So imagine hailing a cab. You get in, and you say... I need to go 225 meters north of Central Park South and 100 meters west of the Sam Adams statue. It's a green two-story house with a white picket fence. THAT'S how you get around. Now, if your Spanish isn't too good, this prospect is terrifying, and I'll let you know how that challenge pans out when I get to it. (Which is tomorrow morning.) Also... this is how the electric and garbage companies bill you. Your address is, how shall we say?, a narrative to them. The writer in me is amused, but holy cow!! I'm amazed that it can work. There are neighborhoods, so that does narrow things down a bit, and there are a few main roads that are numbered, so that helps too. But try to imagine it... putting an ad in the paper for your business, giving directions or getting mail.

So. No address. Honestly. You can rent PO Boxes of sorts, but we don't have one, and I'm just going to live without mail for a few months.

And now the money. The phenomenon of foreign money feeling fake has been well documented. Even in France, the Euro was like play-money, and cash was pretty easy to burn through. But today I had a pizza for 6,000 dollars! Well, not dollars. Colones. And a glass of wine for 1,500! John will be so proud of the money system, because it makes me better at math... although 500 colones is $1, so it's pretty quick, yet it does still get me thinking.

But, man. A 10,000 bill ain't no thang. And that feels pretty sweet.

First Impressions. Or, Hello, Jealousy!

I've been here almost eight hours now... so a few observations. My hotel (for four nights) gets E!, Fox and CNN in English. Oh and whatever channel airs "The Simpsons"? It's true... SmartCarts at the airport are free, as long as you're not in the USA. There IS a breeze at night that is chilly, enough for a light sweater or jacket.

At a social/slightly business BBQ/party tonight, I said hello to major jealousy. I've no doubt it's the same way around the world, but man... the American-connected international community makes you (me) say to yourself (myself), "D'oh! You idiot! You speak only one language?! Sheesh."

Does it surprise you, however, to find out that I made a tentative friend tonight? I have to say, I arrived at the party and after three minutes said to myself, "No listening to your feelings, Em. Just talk and be nice and who cares if you end up being stupid, or standing awkwardly in the corner, or if everyone speaks Spanish and you're deaf and dumb." Between Guitar Hero, the futbol game on TV and a very casual, delicious buffett/bbq table, it was fine. Fun, even. So, a native Costa Rican who grew up in Miami and who has lived in Istanbul, London and Paris, who is married (and her British husband doesn't speak Spanish, like me!) was incredibly nice and interesting and outgoing and we plan to hang out sometime. Um, basically... yahoo!

I haven't plunged into speaking any Spanish yet, but was proud to answer the gentleman who helped me with my bag off the plane, when he said, "Solamente uno?" and I said, "Si." No, no, I know... seriously impressive. I even remembered to add, "Gracias."

The Costa Ricans, the Ticos, give one kiss in greeting and goodbye. There is a Pizza Hut, McDonald's and a freakin' TGIFridays here! Ack! The air is tropical and humid, the dry season flowers are still impressive. Today we freed a hummingbird who flew into the house. I have yet to experience the drivers, since on Sundays it's so mellow. The airport was manageable and not intimidating at all (unlike in Paris!) and the actual job begins tomorrow. The planes were light - I had a row to myself on both legs, and was able to sleep, making the red eye much less crushing.

This is a rather unfocused update, but I'm sort of scattered at the moment. More coherent, carefully constructed blogs will come. But for now, I wish you were here. I think I found the SAG Awards on TV, so I'm gonna fall asleep to that tonight (one channel has them in English, one dubbed in Spanish. Which to choose?).


Saturday, January 24, 2009

T Minus One Hour

I'm sitting in PDX airport, with more than enough time before departure because I am a worrywart who arrives at the airport ridiculously early, every time. The picture at left is me at home around 4:30 PM. It is snowing. You can barely tell, but there are a few smears on the photo - big white flakes. At the airport right now, it's still snowing. So that's a pretty good note to leave on.

I'm hoping to sleep on the plane, and I'm thinking how nice it is that I leave at 11:59 PM and when I return, it is also on a Saturday, at 11:57 PM. So as Bill and I laughed about, I like being gone for two minutes shy of exactly 14 weeks.

My bags weighed exactly 100 pounds, so with a little finagling and John's help, we got each one to weigh exactly 50, no overage fees! I have a sweet new green passport cover, three pairs of sunglasses and every single tank top I own. Upon landing tomorrow, I have a BBQ/party at night to attend with business associates, a big meeting Monday afternoon and an all-day meeting Tuesday. Talk about hitting the ground running.

Next dispatch from Central America. Pura vida here I come!

Thursday, January 22, 2009

I'm Gonna Miss You the Most.

And I mean you.

But I also mean John.

And after him, I am gonna miss this little precious bundle of joy, who arrived last Friday. I have gotten to see her twice, and she is beautiful - really, actually beautiful. She's the new, wonderful baby girl born to my dear friends M & R. Look at that dark hair and those great facial expressions... and I won't get to see her again till she is almost 4 months old!!!

I know I'll miss some things while I'm gone, but one of the most bitter things is missing the tiny infanthood of this little lady.

Monday, January 19, 2009

It's a Sign.

I was told I need a pair of hybrid-style water shoes for this trip. Like Keens or Chacos. I consider it a positive sign that in REI, in Portland, in January, I came across one pair of water shoes, on sale, in women's size 11. What are the odds?

So footwear is covered. As recommended, shampoo, soap, toothpaste and the like are covered. Headgear, raingear and ear plugs are next on the list.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

T Minus Nine Days

I'm nine days from departure to Costa Rica, and I'm setting up this blog to post updates, photos and to generally keep your inbox from clogging with mass emails, which are pretty lame. So you can come here and see what I'm up to in Central America this winter and spring.

I will try to update as I can, at least with pictures, and when internet is spotty, I can post a quick update and you'll know I haven't contracted malaria or anything.

The blog title is thanks to Lin. Explaining it is probably less funny than just letting your imagination run wild about what success means, who the pig is, and why that phrase even means anything at all.