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In This Issue:

  1. Broken News: New Border Bridge; Border Pros Losing Money; Once More - Eat Chocolate!; Orcas, Elephants and Baby Boomers; Driverless Taxis Being Tested; Stolen Cell Phones; Quepos Quickies - Another Bridge Closing; Changing of the Guard; Futbol Tremors)
  2. Rumble Talk (Turrialba is Where the Action Is)
  3. ¿Que Es Eso? Department: It's All About Color
  4. Feature: Legend of the Ox-Less Carts (a Legend and Myth from San José)
  5. Feature: Anciano Anxiety (How the Time Flies)
  6. Feature: Croc Crossing (But Never Cross the Path of a Croc)
  7. What's-in-a-Word (Answer to Que es Eso, Juancho, Adobe, Bolaños)
  8. ROMEO Corner (La Casita Azul - San José, La Casita Azul - San José; Marisqueria Velamar - Quepos)

Wisdom of the Ages

On the first day at the new seniors complex, the manager addressed all the new seniors pointing out some of the rules:

"The female sleeping quarters will be out-of-bounds for all males and the male dormitory to the females. Anybody caught breaking this rule will be fined $20 the first time." He continued, "Anybody caught breaking this rule the second time will be fined $60. Being caught a third time will cost you a fine of $80."

Are there any questions?"

At this point, an older gentleman stood up in the crowd and inquired:

"How much for a season pass?"


A Selfie

 

 

 

If you would like to read a version of the Golden Gringo Chronicles

in a narrative format, as a hard-copy novel or an e-book check it out HERE

 

 

 

 

 


Broken News
(All the News That's Fit to Reprint)

New Border Bridge

 

If you cross the Costa Rica/Panama border on the caribbean side, you will pass through the town of Sixaola, a small burg about 75 km and an hour by car south of Limón. You then cross the river of the same name that separates the two countries in that area. GG has done it only once and it was an adventure.

 

Our destination was Bocas del Toro, a small group of very beautiful islands on the northeast corner of Panama and the farthest point (from Europe) in the Americas that Christopher Columbus reached on his last visit to the Americas.

 

The Bridges at Sixaola

The group of us decided to go from Quepos by bus, a grueling trip as it requires a three hour bus ride to San José followed by another three hour ride to Limón, then a one hour local to Sixaola, then another one hour taxi or bus after that to Almirante Bay and finally a 45 minute water taxi to Bocas. Whew, just remembering that trip was tiring. Another way to get there is to take a plane from San José to Bocas (Nature Air - less than an hour).

 

Once in Sixaola, the border crossing, like everywhere, requires checking out of Costa Rica on one side of the river and checking into Panama on the other side. To get to the other side involves walking across a very old bridge. I asked about the bridge, which is obviously a railroad bridge as it still had the old track in it's base, and a local told me it's probably more than 100 years old and and has been judged unsafe for trains anymore as well as heavy trucks. The trucks and vehicles now go over the bailey bridge (see photo above) on the east side of the RR trestle, one at a time.

 

Thankfully (I'm being just a little cheeky here), it seems the railroad bridge is still deemed acceptable for fifty to one hundred people to cross it in both directions at the same time. And viewing the crocodiles swimming below is always fun. That fun at being intimate with nature will disappear in the (near?) future as it was just announced that a new $15 million bridge has been approved to be constructed to cross the river and the border. The new bridge will have vehicle lanes, bicycle lanes and a pedestrian walkway.

Damn, progress takes the fun out of everything.

 

Border Pros Losing Money

 

While the caribbean side of the Border with Panama was all concerned about building a new bridge over the Sixaola River, there was a bit of anxiety developing on the Pacific side of the same border at Paso Canoas.

 

Working Girls in Jacó

Readers may (or may not) recall that prostitution is legal in Costa Rica but pimping or underage sex is illegal and the latter is strongly enforced. That leaves the single working girls (here they are simply called "sex workers") who abound in most towns and cities, as well as shore areas like Quepos and Jacó,particularly after dark. The girls work the streets and also work out of some very well known hotels and public places (the Delray Hotel in San José, for example) and there are quite a few "cat houses", the owners of which somehow get around the law regarding the illegality of pimping even though the house receives rent from the girls.

 

Border crossings are notorious for this kind of activity and the busy south pacific side crossing at Paso Canoas is no exception. You may have been following the recent difficulty at that border caused buy a large number of Cuban emigres showing up without visas (see Cubans). Now some recent press reports have focused on a new problem. Evidently some of the Cuban girls are undercutting the sex workers market and offering their services for considerably less than the going Tica rate.

 

Remember, the average or median wage for typical non-sex workers in Cuba (or as close to the real figure as the unreliable data can get) is about $20 per month whereas in Costa Rica it's just under $600 per month. So the Cubanas of that persuasion see the local business rates as quite a boon over what they were used to.

 

But before you cuban ladies cut your prices too much you might want to check the local supermarket for the cost of beer, rice and beans? There's a reason for higher service prices here, chicas.

 

Once More, Eat Chocolate!

 

As if someone had to encourage us to consume this stuff, it seems that a few times per year, we see reports about chocolate being, virtually, a health food (like coffee, yuk, yuk).

Now comes a joint study from the Luxembourg Institute of Health, the University of Warwick Medical School, the University of South Australia and the University of Maine where "It was found that those who ate 100 grams of chocolate a day, equivalent to a bar, had reduced insulin resistance and improved liver enzymes. Insulin sensitivity is a well-established risk factor to cardiovascular disease." Whodathunkit.

 

The study was based on following some 1,100 people between the ages of 18 and 69. Further, more extensive studies are planned (I hereby volunteer to test all the chocolate they'd care to send my way)..

Were not talking about Hershey's or Snickers bars here but a simpler and purer form with less sugar and milk. The more one moves toward the pure, dark chocolate, the better the nutritional advantages say the medical experts studying this. These forms of chocolate have a higher concentration of the chemical polyphenol, an antioxidant naturally occurring in chocolate and also in coffee and some teas.

 

Chocolate might be the reason why the Aztec king Montezuma, who reportedly had up to 100 cups per day of the sacred brew, could handle three wives, many concubines, managed to live into his seventies in the 14th century when most only made it to their forties and ruled a large empire for nearly thirty years. ¡Viva Xocolati!

 

For more on the health benefits of chocolate, coffee and tea go here: One More for Chocolate.

 

Driverless Taxis Being Tested

 

In last month's Chronicle, GG expounded on his obsession with robots (see Robot Infatuation) by painting a fictitious trip from the airport to downtown San José in an advanced Uber, driverless taxi.

 

Chevy Bolt
Porsche Panamera

Just this week General Motors announced they would be working in collaboration with Lyft, Inc. (an Uber competitor) to test the Chevrolet Bolt (left) as a driverless taxi. It appears that GM is behind in this technology and this is their way of trying to catch up to pioneers Tesla Motors and Google, both of whom have been developing the technology for years.

 

Actually, GG was thinking more along the lines of a Porsche Panamera (the inside of one is shown at right) than a Chevy. Now that Porsche is a real limo.

 

The least GM could do is assign this project to the Cadillac Division. Hold the Chevys amigos.

 

Orcas, Elephants and Baby Boomers

 

First it was Sea World with their announcement that they would no longer use orcas in their live shows and would then stop breeding them.

John Ringling

Then came an announcement in May that Ringling Bros. Barnum & Bailey Circus would retire their last 11 performing elephants to their farm in Florida at the end of the season. I guess all good elephants, like all good golden gringos, move to Florida in their golden years.

 

Ringling is a familiar name in Sarasota, the town from which I moved to Costa Rica. While living there I learned that it had been Ringling's winter circus headquarters for years. The name Ringling is a prominent one in the town, John Ringling, or his estate, having founded and funded the Circus Museum and a widely respected School of Art. If you haven't been to the Circus Museum, it's well worth a visit, as is the Ringling Art Museum which is also the official state art museum of Florida.

 

Now, for the baby boomers part. The same press announcement that carried the news about the elephants also mentioned that, for the first time in American history the number of people in the baby-boomer generation, heretofore the largest of the U.S. population segments at 74.9 million, has been surmounted by the millennials who now number 75.4 million. Millennials are defined as those having been born between 1981 and 1997 (ages 19 to 35 this year).

 

What bothered me about the announcement was that their definition of a baby-boomer was "someone born after World War II, those who now are ages 51-69". Now, GG was born in November of 1943 (I'll be 73 in November), a year and a half before the end of WW II but he always thought of himself as a baby-boomer. Now I find that I'm actually a pre-baby-boomer. Yikes.

 

Is there no end to the cold characterizations we seniors must tolerate?

 

Stolen Cell Phones

 

I saw a report recently that said some 16,704 cell phones were reported stolen in 2015 in Costa Rica. My-oh-my, thought GG, that sounds like an epidemic of theft. Then I said to myself, self, "what was the theft rate for cell phones in the U.S. of A. last year?" So I looked it up and sure enough, I was shocked to learn that there were 3.1 million reported cell phone thefts in gringoland (the data was actually for 2013).

 

So I made a comparative statistic out of it by dividing each figure per hundred thousand of population, sort of like a murder rate statistic (sorry, sometimes I cannot repress the engineer in me). The result: Costa Rica - 371/100,000 population and the U.S. comes in at just about an even 1,000 per 100,000 population. The epidemic is in the U.S.

 

Other interesting stats uncovered: 1) one in three robberies in the U.S. is a cell phone and 2) one in ten people in the U.S. who own a cell phone will suffer a robbery.

 

Better watch those little electronic devils all the time, amigos.

 

Update: Towards the end of the month a press report came out highlighting a new government service available through Sutel, the Superintendencia Telecommunicaciones (c'mon, you can figure that one out).

 

To identify if a used cell phone might be blacklisted (i.e., stolen) or not, one dials *#06# to get the IMEI number of the phone, then proceeds to the Sutel’s Webpage, then one enters that number into the “El Sistema de verificación de dispositivos”  section. If it's on the list, it's stolen or lost. The hope, of course, is that this will help decrease the traffic in stolen phones.

 

This is why GG likes to buy new phones. Gonna look at some of those Chinese S5 knock-offs that are coming in at less than half the cost of an i-phone. 對了 ! (Chinese for Go for it!)

 

Quepos Quickies

 

"Lolo" the Diversion Bridge

Another Bridge Closing. The Chronicles reported last month that the last one-lane bridge in Quepos, located at the northern entrance to the town was closed for replacement. We also noted that a smaller, weaker one-lane bridge (the "diversion" bridge also known as the Lolo bridge) not far from the one being replaced would be used to divert some of the lighter traffic. As it turned out, that bridge couldn't handle the increased car and truck load (busses had already been forbidden to cross it), so it was closed for safety for about a week, then reopened to cars only.

 

Pylons for the New Bridge
Have Been Poured

That leaves downtown Quepos with only one access road, the seven kilometer/four mile extension from the Costanera Sur near the hospital and airport. Traffic quickly backed up big time and reports of delays as long as an hour or more in going those four miles were reported. Part of it had to do with the fact that there are no traffic lights either at the Costanera Sur intersection or at the first downtown street intersection with the road that goes up to Manuel Antonio. Part of it may also have had to do with the fact that MOPT (Ministerio de Obras Publicas - the equivalent of a DOT in the states) decided this would be a good time to re-pave part of the route in question.

 

We've been told it will take until December to complete the new bridge. My bet is that it will be more like a year unless they assign an "emergency" status to the project. I think it's time to order up a couple of traffic lights on an emergency basis, don't you think so amigos?

 

Update: Later in the month the diversion bridge (above, left) was reopened but restricted to cars only (note the steel beam set at 2.5 meters or just over 8 feet) and the paving on the back access road was also completed. Now its just a matter of funneling all those cars through that one lane bridge - things in the center of town are moving slowly as drivers adjust to the new traffic patterns.The picture above was taken on a Sunday morning when traffic was light - during the week it's not uncommon to see 25-30 cars backed up in either or both sides of the bridge.

 

Changing of the Guard. The Chronicles noted the election of a new mayor (or Acalde but in this case it's an Acaldeza, a lady mayor) in Quepos last February (see Costa Rican Municipal Elections). On the first of May the new mayor was installed and the new government took possession of the Municipal Office in Quepos.

 

Patricia Bolaños Murillo
Alcadeza de Quepos

Señora Patricia Bolaños Murillo (Doña Patricia) was sworn in on Sunday, May 1 as the new mayor of Quepos amid fanfare, flags, tents and political salutes from officials at Plaza Bolivar in the center of town. Our crack reporter (guess who that is) was not present at the ceremony, having been under the false assumption that the ceremony would be the next day, on Monday, a workday. But when they said May 1, they meant May 1, even if it was a Sunday.

 

This is GG's third mayoral experience in Quepos since moving to Q-town in 2008. I'm simply hoping for an honest executive this time as the previous two acaldes, both men, were both arrested and jailed on different types of corruption charges. Let's hope that's all behind us.

 

Doña Patriciacarries the same name (Bolaños) as the previous mayor but I had our crack investigative reporting team (guess who that is) talk to one of Doña Patricia's closest advisors, her Asesora de Educación(and my landlady) and determine that she is not related to the ex-mayor. Bolañosturns out to be a rather common name in the Spanish speaking world (see What's-in-a-Word section below).

 

Futbol Tremors No, I don't mean football games can cause earthquakes, although some games in the bigger stadiums may seem like that. No, I'm talking about psychological tremors.

 

It all started in the week of May 9 when my favorite team, Saprissa (being a fan of that team makes one, like GG, a saprissista) lost to the Alejuela team, also known as La Liga. La Liga then lost to Heredia in the final for the seasonal championship. Guess I'll have to wait until next season for the purple to rise again (Saprissa is also know as " la morada" or The Purple because of the color of their uniforms).

 

As if that wasn't enough, the next day I went for my usual after dinner stroll in the neighborhood that usually ends up at the futsal (indoor futbol arena) to watch for a half hour to an hour of whatever game is in progress. The manager of the futsal greeted me warmly but said, "Oh no senor, there will be no futbol in the futsal for the next two weeks because they're replacing the cancha" (floor or field - it's actually artificial turf).

Update: On May 19th I asked the futsal manager if they would open on Friday the 20th as planned. 'No señor, it won't happen before the end of the month - trouble with the underlayment" (I made that last translation up as I have no idea what the Spanish is for "underlayment" nor what he was actually referring to).

Arrrrgh. The hands tremble, the gods rumble at times like these, they try men's souls.



Rumble Talk
(Beauty and the Beast)

 

After a couple of months of relative quiet, everyone thought Volcan Turrialba was going dormant again; everyone except the volcano itself. On the 12th of May it awakened once more; check it out on the video below which is quite dramatic (2 mins):

 

 

I presume the "DIST" shown in the video is the distance from the edge of the volcano to the unmanned camera in meters, 450 or about a quarter of a mile. A second similar eruption occurred there on May 24.

"Moooo....is it snowing?"
Turrialba Ash Eruption

The eruption on May 12 was the strongest since October 2014 and, as the month progressed, more eruptions deposited great amounts of ash around the area and even many miles west of San José. Schools and the national park in the vicinity remained closed while farmers and businesses for miles around dealt with the ash fallout. A fine mist of ash was reported creeping into offices and homes in and around the capital. Some pharmacies were reporting high sales of and a shortage of face masks.

The ash eruptions continued throughout the month. The main international airport, Juan Santamaria, and the secondary airport Tobias Bolaños had ash fallouts but not severe enough to interrupt operations, yet some airlines (American and United), for at least one day, cancelled flights to the country and other airlines delayed a few flights. The ash fallout closer to the volcano could be 2-5 cm deep (figure it out amigos at 2.54 cm/inch).

What shall we do with all that ash? Here's one answer: QCosta Rica was reporting at month's end that you could buy Turrialba Ash (unspecified amount or container) for $15 plus $10 shipping (about two weeks for delivery in the U.S.). It's on eBay. Don't miss out, get yours today!

Turrialba has presented eruptive episodes since 2010 and how or when it will go dormant again is as unpredictable as how severe it might get.

Update: Towards the end of the month, a few days before this edition was published, the Red Seismologico Nacional (National Seismological Network) issued a report stating that “the volcano is gradually inflating”. Does that mean a major eruption is coming? Possibly, but no one knows for sure - these things are always unpredictable.

So goes life on the Pacific Rim.

Check Out Recent Earthquakes Around the World
Posted by the U.S. Geodetic Survey:
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¿Que Es Eso? Department
(What is This?)

What's is this?

It's a bush, it's a tree, it's plastic???

GG's looking for the correct name amigos. See What's-in-a-Word section below for the answer.


Legend of the Ox-Less Carts
(a Legend and Myth from San José)

Costa Rica abounds with legends that have come from it's indigina (native) history. The Chronicles has written about a number of them and you can find them here: Legends of Costa Rica.

The exact timing of the Legend of the Ox-Less Carts is not known but probably comes from the early 1800's after Latin America declared itself independent of the Spanish crown (1821) but long before Costa Rica became a stable country.

Population in what became known as the Central Valley, by Spanish speakers, only began to be significant by the mid-1700's, even though Costa Rica had been visited by Christopher Columbus over two hundred years earlier. San José would not become the capital of the country until 1847 when the first republic was founded under Juan Maria Castro Madriz, considered the first president and "founder of the republic". The current republic, the Second Republic, came about in 1949 after a civil war.

The current capital of Costa Rica, San José, was not much more than a village in the mid-1800's and was called San José de la Boca del Monte (literally Saint Joseph at the Mouth of the Mountain). One of the things that spurred the growth of the central valley was the decision to move the capital from Cartago to San José in 1824.

Making Adobe Bricks

The leaders at that time encouraged people to come down from the mountains and form a proper city and, with difficulty, that was done. Blocks of land were laid out to give a form to the city and the "mud parties" began. Large pits were formed and the straw- reinforced mud was shaped into large building blocks with which to build houses and buildings.

This type of building material is called "adobe" construction and is very simple and easy to produce but, unfortunately, is also the most sensitive to damage by tremors as they collapse relatively easily and can bury inhabitants. With modern construction codes, there is very little of adobe construction left in Costa Rica today. (Adobe was the prevalent type of construction in and around the capital of Haiti in 2010 when an earthquake there killed over 220,000)

One of the problems the fledgling city had with this rapid growth and burgeoning population was obtaining adequate amounts of fresh water and dealing with increasing production of human waste from the growing population. Effluent treatment is still a concern today although greatly improved, and continues to improve regularly with new sewage treatment plants being added.

In the 1800's, outbreaks of cholera often spread throughout the country underlining the need for improved sanitation methods. (Wikipedia reports that, even today, "Cholera affects an estimated 3–5 million people worldwide and causes 58,000–130,000 deaths.") Even the Costa Rican army that included national hero Juan Santamaria at the Battle of Rivas (1856), was plagued by cholera and when they returned home, had to be quarantined in San José de la Boca del Monte for months. Cleaning up the fledgling city and maintaining sanitary conditions became a top priority in San José during those years.

Not surprisingly, and like many legends, there are several versions of the Legend of the Ox-Less Cart and one of them is based on the sanitation problem prevalent in the early days of San José de la Boca del Monte. In this version, the story goes that town leaders called together a meeting of all the influential people in the new town who then brain-stormed a solution. One of the more influential voices at this meeting was Juan de Dios Pacheco, better known as "Juancho" (see What's-in-a-Word section below for info on the name Juancho). Juancho was considered instrumental in helping to improve health conditions in the early San Jose days.

Rio Virilla (Blue)

The solution arrived at was to construct special, larger oxcarts and equip them each with huge clay jars in which the waste of the citizens would be collected from individual sumps typically found behind each house and building. The material would then be carted off to a disposal area, probably a creek or river. This version of the legend mentions the Rio Virilla which runs from the central mountain range through the central valley and into the Tarcoles River west of San José. The Tarcoles today remains a major target for cleanup by new effluent treatment plants.

The suggestion was made to keep the collection process as unassuming as possible by doing it only at night when people were sleeping. Furthermore, cart workers were to wear only black robes with a hoodie so that no one would see them. In addition, the lamplighters were to put out the street lamps. This low profile, or formula for secrecy, of course, would produce all kinds of rumors, misperceptions and false conclusions.

So under this version of the legend, stories started to be told that chickens were disappearing, nests were ransacked of eggs and even that girls were becoming mysteriously pregnant after the carts passed in the dark. Other stories were being circulated that blamed the pregnancies on the Holy Spirit - pure blasphemy, many cried angrily! So many bad stories were told and repeated that the jump from reality to fiction happened easily and people began reporting that they even saw ox-less (and sometimes driver-less) carts passing in the night.

In another version, the thrust of the legend takes on a religious tone. A witch falls in love with a much older man who is a fervent Christian and greatly respected in their village. Using her witchy wiles, she tricks him into marriage. He later contracts an incurable disease and extracts a promise from his wife to have the last rites of the church performed on him if he should die, which he proceeds to do. When the wife attempts to fulfill the promise, she shows up at the church with her husband laid out in an oxcart.

The priest, knowing the witch is evil, refuses the rites and she unleashes a torrent of blasphemy on him. The priest forgave the oxen but not the cart, the witch or the deceased. As a result, the witch, the cart and the deceased, but not the oxen, now travel the earth at night and, if you listen carefully, you can hear the sounds of the oxcart wheels clogging through the streets: “traca, taca, tarata".

In yet another version of this legend, it's all about wood. A laborer peasant named Pedro, who had been dubbed "Pedro El Malo" (the Evil One), brought his oxcart to a blessing ceremony on a major saint's anniversary day. He tormented the priest by saying he had already had it blessed by the devil. Pedro tried to rush into the sanctuary with the oxen and cart but the oxen would have no part of it. The priest forgave the oxen but put a curse on the cart and Pedro saying: “You will forever roam with your oxcart for all of eternity”. At that moment, and in the confusion, the oxen broke away from their yoke leaving the cart and Pedro standing alone. "Since that day the oxcart of Pedro El Malo, which had been blessed by the devil and cursed by God, roams the streets alone without oxen to guide it, causing panic for the passersby."

A Modern, Decorated Tico Oxcart

It is natural that oxcarts pop up in Costa Rican legend frequently as they became important to the country's economy beginning with the Spanish occupation (1520's). Prior to that there were no beasts of burden or even horses to power the carts; in fact the wheel, though seen on some toys or jewelry, had not been adapted to larger uses.

While the Spanish occupation was harsh and often brutal to the natives here, it did bring with it the equivalent of an industrial revolution that eventually would bring the country into the modern world. In later years, Ticos would also become known for their artful decoration of oxcarts (see photo left and also this article: Las Carretas de Costa Rica).

As for the various ox-less cart legends, I personally like the sneaky, poop-remover version; it's more colorful (albeit, probably more malodorous).

¡Solo Bueno!  

TOP

Anciano Anxiety
(How the Time Flies)

GG mentioned above, in the report on disappearing mammals (Orcas, Elephants and Baby-Boomers), that he was surprised to learn he was a pre-baby boomer, having been born one and a half years too early to qualify for that dubious designation.

What? I'm Too Old for This Crowd?
Susannah Mushatt Jones

Since evidently I'm too old to be a baby-boomer (that group to the left), I guess the only category left open to me is "anciano" (Spanish for elderly). Is there no category between Baby Boomer and the oldest person in the world? How about names like slow- but-sagacious or even quite simply well-experienced? Is there no justice? Is the Pope still Catholic?

I don't strive to be the oldest person in the world, I leave that title to Susannah Mushatt Jones, born July 6, 1899, a date which also happens to have been my father's birth date exactly. Ms. Jones, at this edition's press time, was 116 years and 308 days old. But remember, the oldest people list gets updated almost daily, necessarily so. Perhaps my readers can suggest an appropriate designation for GG's age group (c'mon, be kind now); just email gg@goldengringo.com.

As I was going through this mental befuddlement, a friend sent me an interesting email. In it he provided a link to an internet page where you input your year of birth and then watch as bunches of things that happened during that year pop up. Actually what pops up is a slow scroll (important to the slow-but-sagacious crowd like GG) highlighting major events and popular music etc. Here's what it included for GG's 1943:

Top movie was "A Guy Named Joe": Spencer Tracy, Irene Dunne; billed as "A Guy, A Gal, A Pal, It's Swell!" (Stop laughing you millennials.) A war film, it was available in theaters all across the U.S., but nowhere else, not on DVD, VHS or Netflix, none of which had been invented.

The top selling book was "The Robe" by LLoyd C. Douglas about the garment left over from the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. It hit the NY Time's best seller list in 1942 and stayed on it for over two years, being #1 for over a year. In 1953 it was made into a film (in CinemaScope yet) starring  Richard Burton, Jean Simmons, Victor Mature and Michael Rennie; also with Dean Jagger, Jay Robinson, Richard Boone, Jeff Morrow. How's that for a cast? (email me millennials and I'll tell you who these people were)

A number of other significant events occurred in 1943, or in some cases, in the ensuing years of the forties:

What fun nostalgia can be! The website that allows you to wander through the past will do so for any year. If you would like to try your own birth year, go here:

http://whathappenedinmybirthyear.com/

Tip: Type the year only, then click the question (?) mark. The screen will fade to  black, then begin it's presentation.

(Thanks to reader Roy W. for this interesting website)

¡Pura Vida!

TOP

Croc Crossing
(But Never Cross the Path of a Croc)

Every country that has highways has highway signs that establish speed limits, give directions and, in some cases give warnings. Animal crossing signs are one way of trying to protect animals by encouraging drivers to slow down and keep aware. Animal crossing signs are common throughout the world but sometimes the animals mentioned are not. To wit, look at this assortment from around the globe:

Common in U.S.A.
Africa
Canada
Australia
Argentina

In Costa Rica we have a couple of crossing signs that are a bit different.

One sign that you may see in the coastal areas, particularly where streams or rivers feed the sea, is the crocodile crossing sign. This type of sign comes in a variety of types and a few samples of them are shown to the left.Oh sure, I know, you have alligators and alligator crossing signs in Florida and along the Gulf Coast but, believe me, our crocs are bigger and meaner than your gators (nyah, nyah, nyah, nyah, nyah). But another recent press report stated that juvenile Nile (or African) crocs, the kind we have in Costa Rica, have now been found in southern Florida, so maybe Floridians will be catching up to our 18 footers. Give them wide berth, amigos - just a suggestion.

The second photo down-left looks suspiciously like the beach at Manuel Antonio (Playa Espadilla) and may be near a pool of water that contained crocs which GG encountered on one of his first visits to Costa Rica back in 2003 (see Reptile Shenanigans). It is always advisable in Costa Rica to know the waters in which you want to go swimming and, if you don't know the waters, ask a few people about them before plunging in.

We also have monkey crossings as evidenced by the sign to the upper right. Now I've got to admit I have never seen that "Surfer and Monkey Crossing" sign (center) but I bet it's somewhere along our coast here. Actually, I didn't even know surfers were a protected species.

Monkeys are usually smart enough not to cross roads with traffic but one way they get around this problem is by using power lines that crisscross most of the roads and highways. But that puts them in mortal danger of electrocution, GG personally witnessed an electrocution of a sloth a few years ago. The fully-grown adult lowered himself from a high tree onto the top cross beam of a high tension pole and was dramatically zapped with God knows how many volts. The voltage drop was enough to actually cause the local transformer to shut down and many of the houses and businesses in the area to lose power. The animal, of course, fell to the ground dead. Very sad to watch.

To help minimize electrocution of monkeys and help the animals in other ways, a friend of mine created an organization (KSTR) some years back that, in addition to offering animal recovery services, has installed a large number of monkey "bridges" in the area. A monkey bridge is nothing more than a strong rope (the KSTR one is blue) that is placed between two trees on opposite sides of the road. The monkeys (mostly Titis and Carablancas) cross them quite easily and successfully using their tails for balance. An example of one is shown above to the right being used by a Titi (squirrel) monkey.

A croc crossing is one thing but crossing the path of a croc is another. Some Ticos and also some Gringos have tried their luck at being an entrepreneur by developing a performance-for-fee-or-tip where they feed the crocs by hand or actually kiss them (see My Friend Pocho). Some of these are no longer with us. Some folks swim in the wrong pool or have a suicide urge (see Swimming Anyone?). Take a look at this tourist as he demonstrates for you why you should stay on top of the Tarcoles Bridge and not go to the banks to feed the big lizards (no gore here - just a very close call):

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xdfrjbsd9fU 

Use your head amigos, getting in the path of a croc is "muy estupido".

While researching this article, GG came across quite a few unusual animal crossing signs, samples of which are below. I leave it to your judgment as to which are real and which are a spoof.

I guess elephant dung, and the beetles that love it, are protected species also.

¡Solo Bueno!

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Travel Quote of the Month

Something Lost in the Translation

In a Vienna hotel: "In case of fire, do your best to alarm the hotel porter."

In a Yugoslavian hotel: "The flattening of underwear with pleasure is the job of the chambermaid."

Outside a Hong Kong tailor shop: "Dresses for street walking."

 


What's-in-a-Word

Answer to Que es Eso?

Malinche Tree (top) and Blossom (lower)
frt

It's a Malinche Tree (Caesalpinia pulcherrima), one of the most beautiful flowering trees on the globe, native to mesoamerica and found in tropical and sub-tropical latitudes all over the world.

When I first saw the malinche's incredible orange flowers in Costa Rica it seemed unique to me until I found out this tree is in the same family as the poinciana. That other version is abundant in Florida but when I lived there, I thought they were always red; now they tell me it comes in yellow also. Some call the malinche "dwarf poinciana". Whatever, it's still beautiful and I choose to refrain from getting into a technical discussion of species so as not to expose my total ignorance. I just love the orange color.

The south central part of Costa Rica blossoms prolifically with malinches at this time of year and it's easy to enjoy them just by riding around Manuel Antonio or the countryside. They also pop up in backyards even in downtown Quepos.

The malinche is truly one of the more beautiful natural plants here.

Juancho

Juancho is a nickname for Juan or John and can be thought of as the equivalent of "Johnny". It is doubtful that the well known general hospital in San José, San Juan de Dios hospital was named after the legendary hero Juancho mentioned in the Ox-Less Cart story above; more likely it was as the name implies: "St. John of God" from the bible.

Adobe

The word adobe has been around for several thousand years, with relatively little change in either pronunciation or meaning. Scholars say the word came from the Egyptian language and evolved through more than 2,000 years into Coptic, then Arabic then Old Spanish arriving at the modern spelling adobe. English simply borrowed the spelling and meaning as is.

Bolaños

The name has origins in Spain; the word comes from the Occitadin word "bola" or the Latin "bulla" which means ball. True to form, many of the more recent historical figures named Bolaños were futbolistas (if you're from Rio Linda, that's what a soccer player is called here).

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ROMEO Corner
(Retired Old Men Eating Out)

La Casita Azul, San Jose

Location: Barrio La Granja, 700 meters south of National Bank, San Pedro
Hours: Monday thru Saturday, 12-10 PM
Parking: Attended parking near the restaurant 
Contact: Tel.: 506-2283-2740; Email: N/A; Website: N/A

Reviewing ROMEOS: Carlos C., David J., Maria L., Michael M., Bob N.

To Review Our Rating System and Procedure, go here: R.O.M.E.O. Rating System

GG had the opportunity to experience this restaurant some weeks ago when he was in San José for a writer's group meeting. A fellow writer and friend invited GG to join him and three others and we ended up, after a short drive from Barrio Amón, in San Pedro, Barrio La Granja ("the farm", the fincas long gone of course). Casita Azul is an old, small house tucked away very unobtrusively on a narrow street in the center of the barrio and, appropriately, painted blue. It is a small, intimate restaurant; I would estimate the seating capacity at 40 or less. It bills itself as typical Costa Rican food but occasionally they offer a special night where Spanish paella is prepared as they did the night we were there.

Paella Under Construction
The Entertainment

We were seated in one corner of the room quite close to a feature that couldn't help but grab your eye, a portable cooker centered between tables upon which the cooks would construct the paella. The restaurant sometimes (not always) features this Spanish dish and along with it, a Spanish guitarist or two.

While we waited for layer after layer of this concoction to be built we heard a guitarist play Spanish classics, popular songs and funny little ditties (as best my Spanish could pick them out). The restaurant is quite plain but the music adds a lot. For atmosphere we give Casita Azul 4 sloths.

GG had sampled paella several times in Spain in a previous life and this peasant dish of chicken, sausage and seafood intermingled and redolent with saffron laced rice has always been a favorite of mine.

While the main course paella was being prepared, we were treated to a few diversions such as an assortment of breads and something described as Spanish pizza. It was delicious and kept the hunger pangs in check until the main course arrived. The paella was also delicious but I must admit that the plate of it that was served to me was a little light on seafood content.

For dessert we received a small plate containing a pear that had been soaked in a mora (blackberry) sauce, and two little pastries, one stuffed with whipped cream, all delicious.

.2
$$$.5
Value Index = 120

For food quality we gave La Casita Azul 4.5 sloths.

ROMEOS at Work - Counterclockwise - Carlos, David, Maria, GG, Michael

Service was friendly and efficient once you accept the slow process involved in the construction of the paella. The pic to the left shows our group enjoying a casual evening of good music, good food and good company. (Not shown in the pic was the lady owner standing nearby holding a copy of my co-writer friend Michael's (pink shirt left) "Guide to the Real San Jose" (Michael is a shameless purveyor of his book). For service we give Casita Azul 4 sloths and as a combination for atmosphere, food quality and service we average 4.2 sloths.

Cost rating is much more difficult to write about because, at cuenta time, Mike and I were surprised by our hosts who stated "it was on them". Now that's a fun meal! But by the glance I had at the menu my guess is it would come in around 3.5$ in our rating system (another case of a restaurant in San José beating our standard which is based on the south central coast). That yields a Value Index of 4.2/3.5x100=120, putting the restaurant in the top third of ROMEO rankings.

The ROMEO group can easily recommend La Casita Azul for a fun evening of good music and good food (especially when paella is offered).

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Marisqueria Velamar, Quepos

Location: 2nd Floor of building across street from Chicken Bros (Aidrosa Building) by the futbol field
Hours:  Monday to Saturday 12-10 PM, Sunday 3-10 PM.
Parking: Usually ample on the streets surrounding the restaurant
Contact: Tel.: 8860-1169; Email: ; Website:

Reviewing ROMEOS: Brian M., Jessie P., Lance M., Mary M., Tom O., Bob N.

To Review Our Rating System and Procedure, go here: R.O.M.E.O. Rating System

This restaurant is on the second floor, open to the atmosphere on two sides. During the day there is a view of the Quepos futbol field across the street. The dining room itself is very simple with glass tables and aluminum chairs and few decorations. Our server Jhohan made sure he showed me the function rooms (weddings and parties etc.) aside from the main dining room which are available for events. The group gave a rating of 3.2 sloths for ambiance or atmosphere.

The restaurant builds itself as a marisqueria, a seafood restaurant. The menu consists of one page, front and back, which contains a surprising number of offerings including Tico favorites like casados as well as a filet of beef and several pasta dishes.

Several of us ordered an assortment of appetizers and shared them. Two of us ordered a bruschetta topped with a creamed crab that was quite delicious (what kind of crab it was or if it really was crab, became a topic of discussion. Others ordered some deep fried chicken fingers and received an enormous, tasty portion of same. Another had a dish called "Fries Velamar (Chicken, Beef)" that turned out to be kind of a nachos platter in which the chips had been replaced by french fries. Interesting, tasty and very filling, a good lunch by itself.

For main courses we took advantage of the seafood in several forms including blackened filet of corvina (sea bass, my choice, delicious), pasta scampi and pasta with assorted seafood. Everyone reported their food was fresh and tasty. All were delivered with generous portions.

For food quality our group gave a composite rating of 4.3.

gty
fgt
$$$.4
Value Index = 117

Service from our three restaurant workers, led by Jhohan was attentive. There was a minor mix up on one fruit drink order and the time between appetizers and main courses was a bit long but but, other than that we fared well (ROMEOS are used to Tico Time - it provides added opportunity for more conversation. Our composite rating for service came in at 4.4.

Most of the ROMEOS felt that the pricing was better (lower) than average in the are and we ended up at a cost rating of 3.4. This yields a Value Index of 4.0/3.4x100=117 and puts Velamar in the top third of value ratings for our area.

Some of the written comments from the ROMEOS: "Very good, I'd come back again.", "I liked everything.", "I normally eat here 3/4 times per month, the blackened fish filet is excellent.

The ROMEO group can easily recommended Velamar for good food at a reasonable price.

¡Buen proveche!


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GGC Book CoverThe story of the Golden Gringo Chronicles is also available as a hard copy novel of 192 pages available through Amazon and all major online retailers. ($9.95)

Amazon link: GGC, the Book. (Kindle Edition available)

Follow GG through the first six years of his odyssey in making the decision to retire in Costa Rica, overcoming the trials and tribulations of moving and obtaining residency there and the fun and experience of actually living in Ticoland.

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Whether you are already a Costa Rican resident, someone contemplating a move here or just a traveler who enjoys different cultures, you will find the Golden Gringo Chronicles interesting, entertaining and informative about Costa Rica.

Part 1-150 Part 2-150 Part 3 Light

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Becoming Tico, Maybe

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