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"Doing Latin America, Mostly by Luck"

Episode 22 - June 2010

Click here for GGC Archived Episodes
Broken News (Quepos Welcome Sign, Laura Takes Over, Monge Memorial Bridge, Shaking & Swimming),
Jbug Jenny, R.O.M.E.O. Corner (ACAI Redux)


Broken News

Editor's Note: Since the Chronicles are published only once per month and not daily, we can't keep up with Fox, CBS News, CNN etc. and their "Breaking" News. Consequently, the Golden Gringo decided to rename this section "Broken" News. Now it's suitable for all the news that's fit to print, just one month late. The absence of a need for breaking news may cause a strain in our relationships with AP, UPI and Reuters but they'll have to get over it.

Quepos' New Welcome Sign

Quepos' New Electronic Welcome Sign

Time, tide and technology wait for no primate.

Fresh from a challenging experience getting a new cell phone (see Episode 21), our hero was recently made aware of a new electronic sign put up at the main entrance to Quepos (see picture to the left - taken with the new cell phone).

The top section of the sign displays advertising in full, explosive electronic splendor akin to that found at Yankee stadium and other important locations. The Quepos sign, of course, is on a somewhat smaller scale. When I snapped the picture, the sign was flashing something about Chicken Bros, one of Quepos' better known domesticated bird emporiums. Remember, Quepos and for that matter Costa Rica, would be a barren society without chicken.

Below the advertising section on the sign is a ticker-tape like banner proclaiming "Welcome to Quepos and Manuel Antonio" alternating with "Bienvenidos a Quepos y Manuel Antonio". We're bilingual here, amigos (thank God, but then I suppose I'd learn Spanish faster if we weren't).

Note the bridge next to the right of the sign. This is the final bridge before entering metropolitan downtown Quepos. It's also one of the last one-lane bridges on the road between Quepos and San Jose. Buses, trucks and cars vie for their turn to access this right of way. The bridge has no red/green light system to control traffic, so once one side starts moving, the other must wait until all the traffic from the opposite direction plays out. GG likes the juxtaposition of modern high tech versus the old ways as exemplified by the sign being next to the bridge. This is not the first time our hero has waxed melancholy at the "progress" being made in our infrastructure (see Episode 9).

Laura Takes Over

Transfer of power: Newly inaugurated President Laura Chinchilla and outgoing President Oscar Arias hold hands during Saturday's swearing in ceremony at San José's La Sabana Park. (For the Rio Lindans, the one on the left with the red, white and blue sash is La Presidenta and that's old Oscar on the right) I believe that's Oscar's wife in the lavender dress in the background scowling about La Dudette holding hands with her man.

In the picture to the right La Nueva Presidenta has fun with the kids.

So now it's official; Saturday, May 8, 2010 saw the inauguration of the first lady president of Costa Rica (eat your heart out Hillary).

La Presidenta took office with the usual fanfare and muchas fiestas about town (don't these diplomats ever get tired of the endless string of cocktail parties, lunches and receptions? - guess not; I'm jealous -wasn't invited).

La Senora said her government would take up the banner of ethics, transparency, the family, personal effort and "moral leadership." In short, the typical politician promising squeaky clean government and something for everyone.

Laura mildly surprised some by issuing, as one of her first decrees, a moratorium on open-pit mining. The key loser at this time is a Canadian company that was working on a project of 200 hectares (in Rio Linda that's 500 acres) near the Nicaraguan border to extract 700,000 ounces of gold (current market is about $1,200 per ounce making the deal worth $840 Million (!). Something tells me this decision will be revisited.

According to one report (did I mention that this reporter was not invited to the inauguration? - bummer) "Chinchilla also spoke of making the country safer, amid growing concern over drug-related violence, as Costa Rica follows down the path of other neighbors as a transshipment point for illegal drugs from South to North America." Just live up to your campaign slogan amiga, "Firme y Honesta".   

Monge Memorial Bridge

While outgoing President Oscar Arias was busy running around the country putting up plaques wherever a public infrastructure project had been completed during his administration, or even where one was started, or maybe even where one had been contemplated, the mayor of Quepos was not to be outdone. Our Acalde, The Honorable Senor Oscar Monge Maykall was busy assuring his own legacy by marking his development projects (politicians are sometimes like cats and dogs. spraying markers everywhere).

About four months ago, the guard rails on a decrepit one-lane bridge a few blocks from where the ROMEOS live was hit twice by motorists ( the inebriated kind I suspect) knocking over the cement rails that bordered the very narrow walkways on both sides of the bridge. Crossing the bridge became even more dangerous than usual due to the lack of a rail and a heavily pitted walking surface. Our hero lost his footing one day, nearly tumbling into the creek and onto the rocks below. Only gg's instinctive reaction and a couple of quick arabesques turned the trip into a ballet of sorts and permitted him to reach the other side where he and a companion issued great sighs of relief.

Plans were then formulated by the Acalde's office to replace the bridge. Was there a connection here? Probably not - I don't get invited to mayoral events either. Rats.

New Bridge on "Paseo Colon de Quepos" - Is That a ROMEO Lurking in the Shadows?

So one more Costa Rican one-lane bridge bites the dust, thanks to Oscar. The particular street where the bridge in question is located is probably the busiest in Quepos.

Of course, since official policy demands anonymity for street names in Quepos, we (I use the term "we" in a Royal fashion here) can call this boulevard anything we wish.

I personally thought it would be logical to call it Airport Road because it is, in fact, an extension of the road coming into town from Quepos International. In Brussels it would be the Ring Road, in Sarasota it would be Tamiami Trail. A friend here suggested we call it "Paseo Colon" de Quepos, in a similar fashion to the busiest street in San Jose. I like that.

So let it be written, so let it be done. Paseo Colon it is.

Monge's Modest Marker Manifested

Shakin & Swimmin

Epicenter for May 20 Terremoto, 19 Miles from Quepos

On Thursday, May 20 at around 4 PM, I was doing what is proper for many pensionados to do in the afternoon, taking a siesta. All of a sudden the bed jumped, the walls shook and the whole building did that well known Jello shimmy. It was the most intense tremor our hero had been subjected to in the one and a half years of residency in Quepos. The most serious shaking lasted about 10 seconds with another 10 seconds needed to fully play out the episode. I must say that some local English language newsletters reported the event lasted 2-3 minutes; not sure where they were but it was nowhere near that long in Quepos and I suspect the damage, which was virtually nonexistent, would have been much more prevalent had it been that long. For more on living on top of the Pacific Rim see Episode 17 and Episode 20.

About an hour after the earthquake, gg was sitting in a room in downtown Quepos exchanging random and mostly unoriginal ideas with a couple of other ROMEOS when we were subject to a downpour. Now, sometimes when it rains in the rainforest, it really rains. This was such a time. The double doors at the head of the room were open and after about 15 minutes we noticed a rather substantial amount of water moving across the floor toward us. The rain had flooded the street outside the building. Before the event was over about half the streets in Quepos were flooded with up to six inches of water. The large drainage ditches that line the streets here (some of them could swallow up a medium sized dog) just could not handle the flow. The town is also below sea level (some say Quepos is the only town in C.R. that is) making drainage even slower.

Two environmental adventures in one day; life is never dull in the rainforest. By the next morning, the water in Quepos had completely retreated, the sky was beautiful again and the creeks and rivers were busy carrying away the excess.


Jbug Jenny


"I've been a puppet, a pauper, a pirate , a poet, a pawn and a king...", so goes the popular tune, That's Life, by Frank Sinatra, a gentleman well known to those of us with significant yardage on our bones. It occurred to me that this song is a pretty good description of my own adventure on this planet, having had jobs in plastics, engineering, marketing, business management, strategic planning, computer products , financial services (banking & insurance) and management consulting. This involved at least eight companies, three of which were my own. I'm certainly not bragging, just a bit surprised at the perspective looking back.

I've never understood how someone can spend 40 years with one company, let alone in one area of expertise or job. I was in banking for a few years and many in that field were quite content to have careers that were uninterrupted from leaving school all the way to retirement. This is not necessarily bad; I kinda like the idea that people holding my money are steady and conservative. Yet self-confinement to one activity for 40 years still bewilders me. But I bet those "steadies" look at my "career path" above and ask themselves: "Whatsamatta, amigo, can't hold a job?" (no response from gg)

And, of course one great advantage of a steady career is that most who choose that path end up quite financially secure at retirement, something I can't confirm in my own story. But you know what, I regret very little. If you take risks, the odds are you're gonna lose stuff along the way, maybe more than once. (Anyway, this is my rationalization and my experience)

So, what about avocations? It seems many of us end up in vocations that put bread on the table but there is often something else we'd like to do better, something that pulls at us, our avocation. If we're lucky (or is it determined?) we get the opportunity to practice our avocation and, sometimes, we can convert our avocation into a vocation. (Koool, I just managed to use "vocation" and its derivative seven times in the last two sentences). Did I mention that my avocation, learned late in life, is writing? Yeah, I know, I'll never be a Stephen King with stuff like that above but who cares (nyah, nyah), I'm having fun.

Covered Bridge Near Allentown, Pennsylvania
Looks Like a Crocus to Me

A case in point concerning avocations is Jbug Jenny.

For some time now, I've been watching my daughter Jenny's interest in photography develop. This young lady is a teacher and administrator by training, a business software trainer by election and recently got her MBA (yeah, I am bragging here). She prefers to be called Jen but she'll always be Jenners to me. (I'm not sure how these nicknames get started or perpetuate themselves but my other daughter, Cynthia, has never been Cindy to me, always Cinders. And my son Jeffrey - Jeffers of course)

But how Jenners does love those pictures. She just sent me a slew of pics on everything from architecture to still lifes to flowers, birds and animals. A small sampling is to the left and right of this paragraph.

Of course, if you take enough pictures, someone is going to ask you to take some for them and actually pay you for it. So when does the urge reach irresistible proportions and the avocation become a vocation? That's an individual matter, of course, and a risk. What was it that someone said: " When you get to the end of your life it's not what you did that you'll regret, it's what you didn't do." Yes.

Jenny's gotten so may requests for photography assistance, she recently set up a website to show her work. Here's the link: www.jbugphotog.com.

Good luck, Jenners.

Jbug herself
Yeah, It's Pretty The First Time, Jenny - But You Can Have This Stuff The 2nd Day


I always enjoy coming across miss-speak, double-speak or unintended double entendres in the media. Take for example this little gem that was in a local English newsletter report about a man who was murdered in the northwest of the country recently:

"Investigators said that perhaps as many as 13 shots were fired from a 9-mm. handgun. N----- was hit with seven bullets, investigators said, suggesting that the motive of the crime was to kill him. "

I laughed for hours on this one. Come on compangneros, I think you meant to say the objective of the shooting was to kill him and yes, having been hit by seven bullets, it's quite probable his assailant meant him no good. The motive might have been a bad drug deal, a love triangle discovered, the theft of a chicken (serious here) or perhaps the murderer just had a strong dislike for his victim.

R.O.M.E.O. Corner (Retired Old Men Eating Out)

Restaurant ACAI Redux (Quepos)
(N.B. this restaurant has been CLOSED since this review)

The ACAI Restaurant Above Super Mas Across from the Bus Station

In Episode 19 we reviewed a new restaurant in Quepos called the ACAI (pronounced ah-sigh-ee, the name of a famous fruit acclaimed in Brazil for it's antioxidant properties, similar to the reputation for the Noni and its juice. We revisit the restaurant here because it has expanded to include a breakfast menu.

In addition to the new menu we note with pleasure that the rickety high chairs originally provided on the balcony have been removed, as suggested in the first review, and have been replaced with solid high stools that are much less likely to tip, thus avoiding the possible result of this old fossil getting broken bones. Good work, amigos!

The breakfast menu has several goodies including Omelet ACAI (bacon, ham, mushrooms, tomato, cheese) and banana/macadamia nut pancakes (my favorite).

There is also the perennial local favorite Gallo Pinto ("Spotted Rooster"-see Episode 13) and also light fare such as a fruit plate with yogurt. And never miss the opportunity to get an ACAI smoothie, the most delicious around this town. The last time I was at the ACAI I had the Red Forest Smoothie (strawberries, blackberries and yogurt - yum).

The ACAI deserves an upgrade in rating to five sloths, our highest award. Buen proveche!

(5 out of possible 5 )


Don Roberto de Quepos,
El Gringo Dorado
Pura Vida!