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¿Que Es Eso?

Teatro Nacionál

Valentine's Day

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In This Issue:

  1. Broken News (Drama at MA Beach, New Coporate Tax Coming, Platina Problem Promises Pickle, Nica/Tico Border Spat Update)
  2. Rumble Talk (Little in the Way of Shaky Problems, Country Still Dealing with Aftermath of Hurricane Otto)
  3. ¿Que Es Eso? Department: Is That Who I Think It Is?
  4. Feature: Teatro Nacionál (Culture at the Center of Things)
  5. Feature: Valentine's Day (A Rose By Any Other Name)
  6. Health Stuff: Sticky Placque and Prickly Pears
  7. What's-in-a-Word (Answer to Que Es Eso, Piripo, Maldición)
  8. ROMEO Corner (Picador, Manuel Antonio)

Wisdom of the Ages

I am a Seenager. (Senior teenager) 

I have everything that I wanted as a teenager, only 60 years later.
I don’t have to go to school or work.
I get an allowance every month.
I have my own pad.
I don’t have a curfew.
I have a driver’s license and my own car.
I have ID that gets me into bars and the whisky store (and provides free local buses - GG).
The people I hang around with are not scared of getting pregnant.
And I don’t have acne.
Life is great.

(Thanks to subscriber Jacques C.)

A GG Selfie


Publisher's Corner

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


RECENTLY RELEASED! Mariposa, A Love Story of Costa Rica



gthFive hundred years before the Spanish found the American continent, around the end of the first millennium, Native Americans lived and prospered in Central America, including the land now known as Costa Rica. Truly a natural wonderland then and now, the natives were able to employ their farming skills and prosper from the rich soils, the forests filled with game, herbs, and spices, and the lakes and two oceans rich with fish and crustaceans.


Mariposa, or butterfly, is a story about two young Native Americans, each a favored child of a chief, but of different tribes. These two tribes, historically hostile to each other, lived a few days march apart in the mountains north and east of Costa Rica’s central valley.


The two natives meet by accident, fall in love and begin to plan a life together only to be frustrated by events beyond their control. The lovers are eventually drawn to a mountain volcano which is thought by many to be the home of the gods, particularly Sib'ö, the Great Spirit, who they believe had created the world.


The story as written incorporates the classic ending of Costa Rica's Legend gtyof Zurqui, one that reflects the beauty, mystery and spirituality that is Costa Rica.


Mariposa is available in both English and Spanish versions:


Preview the Book (English) on Amazon.com at: Mariposa Preview
(This is Chapter 1 in its entirety)

ORDER IT HERE ($8.95):

Mariposa (English Version)

Mariposa (Versión Español)


(Kindle Version Available in Both Languages - $6.99)

See All the Books by this Author Here: Books by Bob Normand


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

Drama at MA Beach


On the first day of January of the new year GG had just finished a two hour stint at Manuel Antonio beach, having been properly ensconced in a chair with an umbrella, celebrating the new summer just arrived. Air temperature in the sun was around 90F but a cooling Pacific breeze under the umbrella overcame the heat of the sun. The water temp was around 80F, maybe 82 and a calm ocean with small waves was perfect for older dudes like me. The prevailing emotion for GG was gratitude.


I caught a bus on the downswing into the beach center and we reversed direction at the oval which is the last stop, near the national park. As we came back onto the main drag where the several beach shops and restaurants line the main street, we were stopped cold by a car surrounded by a large crowd of people. The driver of the car was the crowd's center of attention. I took the photo to the left from the bus while standing next to the bus driver. The top of the small, green compact is barely visible in this pic.


The few police who had gathered (both Turisticos and Fuerza Publicas) were having difficulty controlling the crowd. They seemed to be trying to protect the driver from the crowd and were yelling instructions at the driver not to move. As the crowd milled around I caught a better look at the vehicle and noticed that both driver-side passenger windows had been broken out as well as there being a big hole in the rear window. The crowd seemed quite angry and some of them were throwing liquid from their drink containers at the driver and all over the car (a bit of a waste of Imperial, eh what?). What could these guys have done to warrant such treatment, thought GG?


All of a sudden the car lurched forward about 30 meters scattering the crowd on both sides and provoking strong yelling and screaming from the crowd. Two cops immediately ran full speed trying to catch up with the car and driver on foot. When one actually did, he thrust himself through the broken driver window and seized the keys from the ignition turning off the engine. He yelled a couple of "maldiciones" at the driver. The cops then spent most of their time restraining the crowd as some of the larger, muscled boys (probably blown up with courage from an Imperial or two) wanted at the driver.


After about fifteen minutes the bus driver was getting concerned that he'd never be able to negotiate his vehicle through the crowd. A considerable number of vehicles were backed up in both directions including another bus coming south. In good Costa Rican bus driver form our driver laid on the horn and was soon joined by a chorus of car horns from both directions. As he did this, he crept the bus forward hoping the crowd would move aside as he passed. In good Costa Rican crowd form, they eventually did. As we passed the vehicle I caught a photo of the driver (right) and realized he had a friend in the back seat. Note that not only were the side and rear windows punched out but the front windshield safety glass had been smashed in with something like a big rock.


Later I ran into my landlord's son José who happened to also have been in the crowd. He made a video of the car being harangued by the crowd (2 mins - left - be sure to click on the TV expander to get the full benefit of the video). After the bus freed itself from the crowd and about two thirds of the way back to Quepos we heard a siren behind us and were passed by a police van that contained two dudes handcuffed behind their backs.


The story that came out later was that there had been three men; perhaps there had been another one in the car that I didn't see or perhaps he had run away by that time. These three attempted to rob a foreigner in broad daylight near the end of the road where the only way out of the area was back through the main street (even in the Robbers Manuel that's gotta be under "estupido"). Bystanders saw the confrontation, became angry and started pummeling the would-be thief's car with rocks and bats and whatever they could find. Enough of the onlookers crowded around the vehicle to stop its progress, yelling more "maldiciones" (see the What's-in-a-Word section below for the definition of maldición).


We learned from press reports later that no charges had been brought against these punks because the foreigner who had been the object of their desire declined to file a complaint; therefore under Costa Rican law no crime had been committed! Dude, what about attempted robbery or at least driving endangerment from racing through the crowd?


After hearing how the slow wheels of justice turned (or didn't even rotate) I began to feel more empathy with the crowd's hostile action. The only loss the bad guys suffered was that their car was beaten up - is that enough for attempted robbery?


New Corporate Tax Coming


For varied reasons, Costa Rican citizens, foreign residents and anyone owning property of different kinds, find it convenient or necessary to cover those assets legally with a corporation. The net result is that the figures say there is a corporation for about every 8 people in Costa Rica. In the U.S. that number, including all "S" and "C" type corporations is one for about every 55 people.


The Costa Rican Asamblea (legislature) has been working on a new version of a corporate tax that revises one they put into effect a few years ago; this one being more severe in penalties for not paying it. This tax is not related to sales or profits, those are taxed additionally and separately; this one is basically an annual fee for just having a corporation whether it's active or not.


The fee schedule is variable depending on 1) whether the corporation is active or not and 2) what the annual revenues of the corporation are. Inactives need pay 64,000 colones (~$115). Actives start at 106,000 colones ($193) and max out at 212,000 colones ($385) after revenue reaches 119 million colones annually ($216,000). Looks like with that progressive structure an awful lot of small businesses including B&B's and local stores get to pay the maximum.


Platina Problem Promises Pickle


(OK, so I love weird headlines)


The Current Bridge and the Plan

There have been numerous problems for quite a while now in an attempt to rebuild a key bridge in the central valley. This bridge, popularly known as the Platina Bridge, spans the Rio Virilla and happens to be part of the busiest highway in Costa Rica, the General Cañas expressway. The road is said to carry over 100,000 vehicles per day between San José and Alejuela including access to the major airport, Juan Santamaría, which is in Alejuela.


The Platina is already a bottleneck as the six lane highway drops to four lanes at the bridge. Beginning in late January and lasting at least six weeks until at least March 7, in order to finish the rebuilding project, the road will be constricted further to one lane in each direction. A monumental clusterf...k is likely to ensue as the alternate routes through the local streets of Alejuela and Heredia are already clogged each workday.


The only other alternative might be to find a back road (Turucares, west of the airport for example) and cross over to the Caldera Autopista which is south of the airport and come into San José that way. Nevertheless, the Autopista, which was opened less than seven years ago already backs up easily east of Atenas coming into Escazu.


It was not long into the closyre period, just a few days, when a horrendous accident occurred on this highway killing two people. The accident scene is shown in the photo to the right; that's a car squashed beteen the bus and the van. Ironically, the two men were on their way to work at the Alejuela Hospitla. In addition another fatality occured when a man made a "mad dash" across the pista and was struck by a vehicle.


Proceed with caution and patience amigos; take no "short-cuts".


Late Update: By late January the traffic jams had developed as expected and some travelers were experiencing two hour commutes between. the capital and Alejuela. The buses and commuter trains could not handle the overflow and some were even hiring $50 helicopter rides between Pavas Airport (West side of San Jose) and Juan Santamaria, the main airport, in Alejuela.


Nica/Tico Border Spat Update


Camp Nica at Isla Calero
(Troops in Full Rain Gear)

The Chronicles has been watching and reporting on the fallout from a Nicaragua/Costa Rica border incident that occurred back in 2010 when Nicaragua forcibly took over a small island called Isla Calero in the northeast corner of Ticoland which happened to be owned by Costa Rica. After a couple of years of complaints and adjudication at the World Court, Costa Rica won it's case.


The ruling was that the island belongs to Costa Rica and the two countries should sit together and negotiate reparations, which Costa Rica placed at $6.7 million. But Señor Ortega, the President of Nicaragua said long ago he would not honor the World Court's ruling, and so far he's kept his word.


A new incident occurred in December of 2016 when Nicaragua decided to make a military camp on the island. Diplomatic complaints directed directly to Managua from the Costa Rican foreign minister had no effect, so here we go again. I've noticed that in times like this, the loud boasting among Ticos about having no army fades into a murmur.


For more on the history of this dispute, go HERE. And HERE.

¡Pura Vida!


Rumble Talk
(Shaky Happenings On or About the Pacific Rim)


Nothing major happening here in January in either the weather or the earthquake front. Summer is upon us and it's disgustingly beautiful almost every day now. Don't remember one shower in the afternoon throughout the month of January.


The northern border area of Costa Rica is still cleaning up the mess caused by Hurricane Otto, a Category II storm that made landfall here in November and cut a swath across the northern edge of the country from the Caribbean to the Pacific. Many trees and power lines were felled and the storm caused 12 fatalities and created flooding and general havoc in many places. The central and southern parts of the country escaped serious damage and in the Quepos area we didn't even feel an increase in the breeze.


The government recently announced it would cost an estimated $3 million just to repair water lines that were damaged by the storm.


Shortly after that announcement, a second announcement from Casa Presidencial (the Costa Rican equivalent of the White House, only it's not white, it's grey and not the president's residence, just his office) said that the United Arab Emirates has made a grant of $10 million to Costa Rica to help with the reparations needed from Otto's damage.


Thanks folks! Salaam Alaikum.


Check Out Recent Earthquakes Around the World Posted by the U.S. Geodetic Survey: Today's Quakes

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¿Que es Eso? Department (What is This?)



Naw, that can't be what I think it looks like, can it?


Answer in What's-in-a-Word section below.


Teatro Nacionál
(Culture at the Center of Things)


From time to time, the Chronicles has published articles or excerpts from a city guide by Michael Miller; articles such as these: Statuesque San José, Barrio Amón. For more references, simply search Michael Miller in the Google Search Routine above. Michael is a friend and co-writer who has produced the best English downtown guide, The Real San José, about our capital city. (I dislike even using the language qualifier but I can't judge what's available in Spanish)


Michael's most recent article is about a national heritage building right in the center of San José, the National Theater or Teatro Nacionál. The theater was completed almost 120 years ago and opened to the public on October 21,1897. But let's have Michael tell the story:

The National Theater of Costa Rica, The Nation’s Cultural Treasure
by Michael Miller


National Theater of Costa Rica is an architectural/cultural gem in the heart of Downtown San José, Costa Rica.

If you ask the average Costa Rican, what feature of San José is he or she most proud, you will get two possible answers. Some will point to the national football (soccer) stadium, which is located in Sabana Park, about two miles west of the Downtown area. Others will say without hesitation, that it is the National Theater (Teatro Nacional de Costa Rica).


When you visit the National Theater, you will understand why everyday Costa Ricans are so proud of it. It is an architectural and cultural gem. And it is a vital part of the country’s history. The story of Costa Rica’s National Theater, and how it came to be, is a fascinating one.  To understand this, you need to keep in mind that San José was not the original capital of Costa Rica.


During the Spanish colonial days, the country’s capital was the city of Cartago, about 15 miles to the east of San José. When Costa Rica became an independent country in 1821, the capital was moved to San José.  At that time it was a small, dusty, ramshackle town, whose economy was based on the hardscrabble agriculture that took place in the surrounding area.

The lobby of the National Theater, with marble floors and columns, offers a stunning first impression.

Then, in the middle of the 1800’s, something amazing happened:  The world discovered Costa Rican coffee!

Once that occurred, money started pouring into the Costa Rican countryside. Within a couple of decades, Costa Rica’s farms and plantations that had, for centuries, been barely surviving, suddenly discovered prosperity.

The successful coffee farmers, now flush with cash, typically did two things with their newfound wealth:  1. They built beautiful town-homes in the new capital city of San José, mostly in the area known as Barrio Amon.  And, 2, they sent their children to Europe to be educated and to tour the continent.



The rise of the plantation owners (known collectively as the “coffee barons”), created a class of sophisticated, educated and well-traveled residents of Downtown San José. As their numbers grew, these residents became keenly aware that their city was an economic and cultural backwater, especially when compared to the artistic and intellectual centers of Europe. They yearned for the finer things in life.


After many years of talk, persistence paid off, and the nation of Costa Rica finally decided to build a national theater. Initially, it was to be funded by a tax on the exported coffee. Later, a general tax was imposed to cover construction costs. Historians tell us that this is an important point, since it meant that all Costa Ricans helped to pay for the new National Theater.


Ornate marble staircases are decorated with paintings and gold leaf detail.


Construction began in 1891. After three years of mis-steps, cost overruns, and missed deadlines, Costa Rica hired a famous Italian architect who was an expert on building theaters. Under his guidance, the nation created a masterpiece.


When you visit the National Theater today, the first thing that will strike you, will be the beauty and elegance of the lobby. The floors and the columns are made from Italian marble, there are statues from Italian and Costa Rican artists, the ceiling panels are hand painted, the doors to the interior feature etched French glass. The effect is breathtaking.


You can visit the lobby for free. From there, you can go to the gift shop on the right or the coffee shop to the left. If you want to see the rest of the theater, you must either take a guided tour or attend a performance.


The most famous painting in Costa Rica, titled “The Allegory of the Coffee and the Bananas” was supposed to be a composite of typical scenes in the country.

When you walk through the French doors, into the interior, you will continue to be enchanted. Majestic marble staircases go up either side of the interior lobby. The walls are adorned with gold-leaf details. There are antique bronze lamps, which your tour guide will be sure to inform you, were electric lamps since the Theater’s beginning. (Ticos are very proud of the fact that San José was the third city in the world to have electricity, after New York and Paris.)


Take the stairs to the second level and you will see the most famous painting in Costa Rica. It is “The Allegory to the Coffee and the Bananas,” by Italian artist Aleardo Villa. This image has been reproduced in several places, most notably on the back of the 5 colones bill (that’s right, a 5 colones bill) that was in circulation in the 1980’s.


Ticos have a love/hate relationship with this painting. It is supposed to be a composite of typical scenes in Costa Rica. But your guide will point out that the artist never set foot in Costa Rica, and that there are a number of “mistakes” in the painting, including the bunch of bananas that the artist portrayed upside down. (Note plaque below the painting reads "1897"-ed.)

The Foyer, which is on the second floor above the lobby, is an elegant room used for receptions and recitals.

At the top of the stairs is The Foyer, an elegant room that has been used for meetings, receptions and recitals. Here are more classical statues, elegant ornaments and angelic ceiling art. You will also see that the ceiling has a coat of arms for each of the seven provinces of Costa Rica.


Some of the angelic ceiling art
in the Foyer.

Finally, there is the auditorium. This is laid out in the style of European opera houses, with seating in a horseshoe shape, that will accommodate just over 900 theater-goers. This is a small theater, compared to the grand concert halls of Europe and the U. S. But it’s small size assures you that there is not a bad seat in the house. No matter where you sit, you are close and intimate to the performers.


The auditorium is designed in the classical horse-shoe shape, so that virtually every seat has a great view.

The best way to visit the National Theater is to see a performance. I can tell you about a concert I attended a few months back. I was the guest of Jerry Ledin, a fellow member of the Association of Residents of Costa Rica. Jerry is an expat from San Diego who has season tickets to the National Symphony Orchestra performances. We sat on the second level balcony, not far from the Presidential Box, and had a sweeping view of the entire room.


Costa Rica’s National Symphony Orchestra, along with a chorus and soloists, bask in the applause after a fabulous performance of Beethoven’s 9th Symphony.

During that concert, I watched as two symphonies were performed. The first was an exquisite piece by Joseph Haydn that required only strings. That was just the warm-up act for the main event: Beethoven’s 9th Symphony.


After an intermission, the entire orchestra assembled, along with a fifty-voice chorus and four soloists, to perform Beethoven’s last symphony. From the powerful first movement, to the triumphant final Ode to Joy movement, it was clear why this work has inspired millions for nearly two centuries. I found myself shaking as Costa Rica’s National Symphony Orchestra brought the work to its exciting conclusion.


U. S. President John F. Kennedy, makes his way through a cheering crowd and arrives at the National Theater, March, 1963.

The National Theater of Costa Rica hosts more than classical music. During any month, you may find performances of Japanese music, plays, folkloric dance numbers done by Costa Rican school children, or conversations with noted speakers such as Nobel Peace Prize winner Oscar Arias. The Theater has been the venue for meetings with U. S. Presidents John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan.


On the evening of October 21st, 1897, thousands of citizens of San José crowded the dusty streets and sidewalks near the new National Theater of Costa Rica. This was the night of the grand opening.


It was a glittering event that was attended by the city’s elite citizens, by visiting diplomats, and by military men in full dress uniform. Costa Rica’s president, Rafael Iglesias, and his wife, decided to walk from their house to the theater, and they were cheered by the crowd.


The performance that night was an opera version of “Faust” by the renowned Aubry French Opera Company. By all reports, it was a great success. . . . the first of many great successes at the National Theater.


Members of the Costa Rican National Symphony Orchestra pose in front of a statue of Ludwig von Beethoven.

The National Theater is one of the most treasured buildings in the country. Costa Ricans of all classes take great pride in it. For visitors to the Costa Rica and for expats living here, I will tell you this: If you care about Costa Rica, if you want to learn about the people, if you want to learn a little about their history and about their culture, the National Theater of Costa Rica is a must-see.


The National Theater of Costa Rica is located between the Plaza de la Cultura and Avenida Segundo (2nd Avenue). The Theater faces Calle 3 (3rd Street) which is a pedestrian walkway at this point. It is open to the public from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Guided tours in different languages are scheduled throughout the day, and cost $10 U.S. To learn about upcoming performances, visit the Theater’s website at: teatronacional.go.cr

_ _ _

Michael mentioned the restaurant at the Teatro. It's called the Alma de Café (Soul of Coffee) and is an excellent restaurant. It's a good place for lunch or to reconnoiter after taking the Teatro Tour or after just walking around San José. Here you can have a full lunch or just a great cup of Costa Rican coffee with one of their dynamite desserts.


Section of the Main Curtain

Later in January some press reports were released stating that the collection of curtains at the Teatro, some 38 of them including the main curtain and each 10x12 meters or 33x40 feet, were being evaluated for restoration. These drapes were brought to Costa Rica from Italy and France in 1897 when the Teatro was first finished and are, in and of themselves, excellent representation of European art work, so much so that it is expected to require ten people for one year to restore one curtain properly.


Sounds like a budget problem to me. The Teatro is now seeking recognition by the U.N. as an international historic site which might raise enough support to accomplish the restoration.


Many thanks to Michael Miller for sharing his article with us. Michael does an excellent job of taking San José out of the ordinary and bringing it up close and personal. If you really want to understand the culture in the Costa Rican capital and the country better, get a copy of Michael's walking guide at Amazon/Kindle here: The Real San Jose or at any of the major booksellers in San José.


¡Solo Bueno!


Valentine's Day 
(A Rose by Any Other Name)

I believe that I've mentioned, a few hundred times, that Costa Ricans love fiestas. So, what could be more enticing to a Tico than a good reason to party while heating up their Latin blood to an emotional high on romance. Both of those come together on Valentine's Day, celebrated here like in most places, on February 14


There doesn't seem to be a single name for this widely celebrated, working holiday in Latin America. In Costa Rica it's often called El día de los Enamorados (Day of the Lovers). In other parts of Latin America it may be called “Día de San Valentín” or “Día del Amor y la Amistad” (Day of Love and Friendship). On this day Ticos, like Gringos, give each other many greeting cards expressing amor or friendship. GG saw a report recently that said there will be as more than 200 million cards exchanged in the U.S. alone, making Valentine's Day the second largest card exchange day of the year after Christmas.


Lupercalia Anyone?

The story of Valentine's Day is nearly 2,000 years old but is as mysterious as Saint Valentine himself. The history of this day goes back even to pre-Christianity periods in ancient Roman times when a "festival of fertility" called Lupercalia (I can imagine what went on at those fiestas) was celebrated by the Romans in mid-February from the 13th to the 15th (love those 3-day Bacchanalias).


Enter Christianity. By the third century the struggle between the new religion and the tottering Roman Empire was in full conflict. Many of the early saints were martyrs as a result but the public records from that period were understandably vague and incomplete, as were the Church's. Apparently the early Church records do reveal, however, that there were three different men designated as saints who were named Valentinus and who were martyred by the Romans. The legend that developed may be a composite of at least two of them.


Actually there were as many as a dozen martyred saints in the Roman Church records with the name Valentinus so it might be forgiven that it was not clear as to who the character in the legend was. There was even a Pope Valentine but almost nothing is known of him as he reigned for only 40 days back in the ninth century.


The most popular legend has it that Valentinus (a Latin word meaning worthy, strong or powerful) was a priest in the third century who defied Emperor Claudius II by helping people escape the torture that was often administered in Roman prisons. Beyond that, Valentinus also married Roman soldiers against the will of the emperor. Claudius evidently believed that soldiers who didn't marry made better soldiers (well, at least that should make them angrier soldiers). The story goes that Valentine was executed in one of the Roman prisons after falling in love with the daughter of one of his captors and that he sent her a note just before his demise that ended "From your Valentine" (at that time priests as suitors were common as Church-imposed celibacy didn't come about until almost 1,000 years later).


Rick and Anne

But the romantic celebration of Valentine's Day really didn't start until the 14th century (1375 to be precise) when Geoffrey Chaucer wrote a poem for King Richard II who was in love with Anne of Bohemia. Evidently some Europeans have long held that February 14 is the day that birds begin the new spring and summer season by getting together to mate. Geoff believed it anyway and he referred to it in the poem "The Parliament of Fowls", which he wrote in honor of the marriage of Richard, the boy king (It's good to be King) to the beautiful Anne.


Heavy duty public celebration of Valentine's Day, i.e., exchange of cards and flowers and gifts and romance-speak and public adornment of stores and restaurants, didn't come about until the mid-1800's. Yet flowers have been a common expression of love on this day for centuries. Chocolates and other candy, as well as stuffed animals also are important as gifts.


Roses predominate as the flower of choice on Valentine's but GG didn't know until recently (I've led a sheltered life) that the color of the rose should be chosen carefully, to wit: red roses say you love her as a lover (probably not a good choice for your landlady especially when the landlord is around); pink is a lighter form of admiration; white roses signify purity, innocence, sympathy or spirituality; yellow roses are "platonic" and are intended for a good friend. Orange roses supposedly express stronger romantic ideas like passion and desire (hmmm, even more than the red?).


Did a Romantic Tico Crab Do This (I see no footprints)?

But flowers and chocolates and stuffed animals are sometimes not enough. Many Ticos and other Latin Americans send flowery text messages that are quite ardent and even sometimes border on the risqué. Here are some examples:


"I lived without knowing you and when I met you I understood that I had not lived."
"You are my dream, you are my illusion, you are a rose sprouting in my heart."
"Do not be afraid to be naked because I will clothe you with love."
"I would like to be a butterfly to fly to you, and tell you, beautiful life, that I am dying for you."
"I would like to be wine to be with you, I would like to be a glass to kiss your mouth."


When the sayings become overly ardent or even risqué, they are known as piripos, a term used widely across Latin America but not always appreciated, rightly so, by many women (see What's-in-a-Word section below).

So I guess I'll be careful of the color of the roses, especially those orange ones all the while refraining from the piripos.


Better yet, a bouquet of more common flowers for the landlady will keep me out of trouble.

¡Feliz Dia de Valentin!



Health Stuff

Note: The material given in this section is offered as news information only and does not indicate GGC confirmation or denial of the accuracy of the treatment or of the efficacy of the product nor a recommendation to pursue it, nor can we or do we guarantee the efficacy of the results nor the validity of the conclusions proffered. (How's that for a disclaimer, amigos?)


Sticky Plaque and Prickly Pears


I hope I can remember enough of the facts to write them into this article.


It is a truism to say that people's memory changes as they become older. No kidding Dick Tracy. GG for one can verify the loss of short term memory. It's sometimes, not always, rather humorous to realize I can still remember what I had for lunch at La Tour D'Argent in Paris in 1973 but not what I did with my house keys ten minutes ago (of course, the former was rather memorable and the latter just frustrating).


Medical science continues to do research on why this phenomenon occurs and they now attribute it to the formation of a "sticky plaque" that deposits on the memory parts of the brain with age. Rather an unscientific term don't ya think. And no further explanation of what it is and how it got there has yet been proffered, e.g. tar from smoking or caramel from too much sugar etc. Well, actually, they did mention the presence of an abundance of beta amyloids, whatever they are.


Nopal, Chumbera or Prickly Pear. Growing (top), Ripe Fruit (center), Pared (bottom)

This sticky plaque affects brains in both Alzheimer's and Parkinson's patients. But the good news is that a recent study by the Universities of Malta and Bordeaux suggests that the buildup of the plaque can be retarded, perhaps reversed, by the chemicals occurring in a couple of naturally growing foodstuffs, namely brown seaweed and prickly pears.


Of course studies like this aren't normally conducted right off the bat with humans and this one wasn't either. Enter the humble fruit fly. Researchers genetically modified fruit flies to have Alzheimer's symptoms and then treated the brewer's yeast with extract from the two plants. The brown seaweed increased the lives of the fruit flies by two days and the nopal increased it by four days. Evidently one day in the life of a fruit fly is equal to one year in the life of a human (but how in the hell do you monitor the life of a fruit fly, do you tag 'em)?


Brown seaweed, something I used to curse as a boy fishing in New England because of losing fishing lures and bait in the sea grass, doesn't strike me as interesting on a dinner plate; but then I've never really had brown seaweed prepared by a knowledgeable chef and I presume there are dudes who are knowledgeable in this regard.


The other fruit mentioned in the study was the prickly pear, also known in Latin America as chumbera or, more commonly, nopal. Nopal is named after the cactus upon which the fruit grows. This fruit is indigenous to the Americas and is common in dessert type environments from the U.S. Southwest all the way down to the desserts of South America. It also can be grown in tropical areas in direct sun such as Costa Rica and is reported in the literature as being grown here.


Like brown seaweed I can't say as I've ever knowingly tried prickly pear either but the article sent me scouring Quepos for a sample. I first tried the feria (outdoor fresh market) but no luck there. There were none to be found in the supermarkets either so I went to the owner of a local fruit and vegetable store (Tienda Cosecha) that has a wide variety of vegetable and fruit products and he told me... "no se amigo", he doesn't know either.


So while the fruit is reported to be grown in Costa Rica, no one in Quepos seems to know of it. Sounds like a trip to one of San Jose's larger markets is in order. I'll report more later (if I can remember to).



Travel Quote of the Month

“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one's lifetime.”
― Mark Twain


Answer to Que Es Eso


No, your eyes aren't fooling you, that is a nun fighting a bull. Of course, the "fighting" that is going on is harmless (at least to the bull) and you might notice that the bull is young, very young.


Injuring the animal in any way has been outlawed in Costa Rica for a long time but getting into the ring with a bull and teasing it in a mock fight is still a popular activity at many fiestas including the annual Fiesta de Quepos.


The nun's name is Hermana Aracelly Salazar and the occasion of her fight was the 2016 Zapote Christmas Festival. Teletica, a local TV station had issued a challenge to the general public to participate in the bull fighting and Sister Fearless signed up.


When not "doing pastoral and religious education work at the Oblate Sisters of Providence, in Siquirres" sister is an avid futbol (soccer) fan. When not kicking the ball around, Sister Aracelly hosts a TV show on a religious channel to relive the national (soccer) team’s best moments, with thousands tuning in every Saturday to hear her analysis.


"Vamos sele..." (that's kinda like "let's go national team" which is called the selection or sele).


A flirtatious remark, flattery. Echar piripos a, to make a flirtatious remark to.



This is a favorite word used to clean up bad language. If you watch local TV in English with Spanish subtitles, this is the word almost exclusively used to translate the f word as well as other nasties. The official Spanish to English translation is "curse" or "damn it", but that doesn't due justice to the tenor of the typical script coming out of Hollywood these days.



ROMEO Corner
(Retired Old Men Eating Out)

Picador - Manuel Antonio

Location: Top of Manuel Antonio Hill, Promerica Shopping Center Second Floor Next to Emilio's Rest.
3-10 PM Daily
Ample Around the Base of the Building.
Tel.: 506-2777-9334, Email: N/A Website: N/A, Facebook: Yes

Reviewing ROMEOS: Alma L., Jerry C., Kevin F., Lucius H., Bob N.

Review Our Rating System Here: R.O.M.E.O. Rating System


This is a new restaurant in Manuel Antonio that builds itself as a tapas bar but actually offers considerably more.


The view, which is of the Manuel Antonio rock islands is as good as it gets with the exception that the angle excludes the sun itself at sunset (it's behind Punta Quepos out of view). But the panorama of the jungle, Punta Catedral at the National Park and the Pacific Ocean is always stunning from whatever angle (see photo right taken from their Facebook page - our ). We came early and captured the prime table in the protruding corner of the room with the best overlook.


The decor at Picador is plain, with wooded tables and simple seating (but seating that is more flexible than the stereotypical hard wood chairs offered in restaurants here) and little in the way of table decorations or adornment about the room. The words that come to mind are modern, sleek, functional.


The ROMEO Group voted a composite score of 4.0 sloths for atmosphere.


The menu is also sleek and simple with a series of appetizers (tapas) and a list of maybe a dozen or so entrées, much of it offered parillada (grilled) style. Several of us started with appetizers, three of us choosing a small tapas breadboard with about four different cheeses (I recognized a hard Parmesan, Brie and a soft cheese of the Camembert family). Also included were a couple of small pieces of ham like prosciutto. The board was served with small, warm, soft bread rolls - all was delicious. (A second bread was served after the main course and we noted that both breads were not standard Tico fare - they either make them themselves of get them somewhere special)


The only disappointment with the menu was a couple of missing items - there was no lamb for the souvlakia (lamb is hard to find in Costa Rica) and when one ROMEO asked for the lobster parillada, there was no lobster to be had either.


GG and two others selected a grilled seafood entrée and what came was a bowl full of assorted items like a piece of blackened fish, whole small calamari, clams, mussels, a crab (one of those small ones from which you can never extract any meat - must be there for flavor) and a couple of very large shrimp (unpeeled - another Tico ritual practice). The herb sauce that basted the seafood was excellent, especially when the excess was absorbed with the bread.


One of the pleasant surprises we received during the course of our meal was a finger bowl (photo left) after the grilled seafood course. A common practice among many fine restaurants of the world, I can't remember ever being offered one in this area or even in San José for that matter. This finger bowl was laced with mint and lime slices.


The dessert menu was a bit limited but we did manage to test a reasonably good crème brûlée.


The ROMEOs gave Picador 4.5 sloths for food quality.


Value Index = 118


Our two waiters, Andre and Ignacio were very friendly, attentive and helpful. We thought the music a bit loud (it may be a generation thing) and they turned it down immediately. We came up with a composite score of 5.0 for service, the highest possible. That yielded an average score for atmosphere, food quality and service of 4.5 sloths out of a maximum of 5.


For my tapas board appetizer, the grilled seafood entrée, the crème brûlée, a soft drink and an espresso coffee my bill came to 29,214 colones (about $52) including the legally requisite 23% tax and service charges. The ROMEOs gave a composite score for cost of 3.8$ which yields a value index of 4.5/3.8x100= 118


Individual comments from ROMEOs: "Creative and decorative in their food presentation", "Service is fantastic!", "Food well above MA average", "Excellent Value", "Comfortable chairs" (Amen - GG), "Fantastic view!", "Disappointed in no lobster".


The ROMEO Group has no reservations in recommending Picador for an excellent meal at a reasonable price in a very pleasant atmosphere.


Golden Gringo Chronicles Novel and E-Books Now Available!

GGC Book Cover


The 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.


Ride along with the Golden Gringo as he learns about the rich, varied culture of Costa Rica, the incredible bio diversity, the charming nature of the Costa Rican people and the ease with which a sometimes clueless ex-pat can assimilate into a small southwestern town on the Pacific coast.


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

A narrative version of the Golden Gringo Chronicles is now also available as a trilogy of E-books in formats compatible with virtually all electronic platforms.
Part 1: (FREE!)
Leaving the Homeland

Part 2: ($3.99)
The Early Years

Part 3: ($3.99)
Becoming Tico, Maybe

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