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In This Issue:

1. Broken News: Rock Star President Elected; Futbol News (World Cup Passes Through Costa Rica, Color the Sele Blanco); International Convention Center Inaugurated; Don't Move That Corpse; Is Nicaragua the Safest Country in Latin America?; First Costa Rican Satellite Launched.

2. Rumble and Weather Talk: Low Rumbles; Rainy Season Has Started

3. Feature: Esferas (More on the Mysterious Diquis Spheres)

4. ¿Que Es Eso? Department: Eggs in the Open

5. Feature: Ciudad de Mexico (Reflections on Mexico's Capital City)

6. Health Stuff: Propoleo, Measles Warning

7. What's-in-a-Word: Answer to Que Es Eso, Sphere, Concretion, ¡Que Guay!

8. ROMEO Corner: Hotel Mono Azul (Blue Monkey), Manuel Antonio

Wisdom of the Ages

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

Rock Star President Elected


It wasn't even close. The Costa Rica presidential run-off election was held on April Fools Day which also happened to be Easter this year. Polls up to the day before had predicted an election too close to call with Fabricio Alvarado slightly ahead..


Señor Carlos Alvarado
President Elect of Costa Rica

Despite predictions by some that turnout would be low because of holiday interference and the traditional exodus to the beaches on Semana Santa (Holy Week), yet this election managed to set an all-time record turnout for a run-off election (66% of those eligible voted). When the smoke had cleared the Alvarado named Carlos had received 61% of the vote while the Alvarado named Fabricio received only 39%, a smashing victory for Carlos.


Señor Alvarado will take office on May 8 and his term will run for four years after which he will not be able to succeed himself. To run again after that, he must wait out a term before doing so. Alvarado is 38, born January 14, 1980, almost making him a millennial. He holds a Bachelor's degree in communication, a Master's degree in political science from the University of Costa Rica, as well as a Master's degree in development studies from the University of Sussex.  


Senor Alvarado has been a writer (having published an anthology of stories plus two historical novels) and a journalist. He was Minister of Labor and Social Security for a time under the current president whom he is succeeding, Luis Guillermo Solis. Alvarado has been active in his party's politics, the PAC the Partido Acción Ciudadano or Citizen's Action Party, for a long time. His personal history also includes being a guitarist in a rock band in his earlier days.


Sr. Alvarado has a lot cut out for him to solve. The financial situation of the country, while not critical at this time, is moving in a dangerous direction because of mounting national debt. Politicians like to quote deficit as a per cent of Gross Domestic Product because it masks the size of the problem. That figure is expected to come close to 8% of GDP this year which, if you go to the trouble of looking up the national budget, could be equal to an operating deficit of 30-35% of budget. The operating deficit needs to be reduced substantially as debt and financial markets have been reacting for several years now by slowly lowering bond ratings which, of course, augment and accelerate the deficit problem even further.


The answer is likely to be a combination of an increase in taxes, a better efficiency in collecting taxes, i.e., a crunching down on the "informal" market where transactions don't include tax collection, as well as catching those that do not pay their taxes for whatever reason. It will also take a strong constraint of expenditures, something that has evaded previous administrations. Can it be done? Can Carlos do it? Hope so, but it's going to take singing a new tune sir. Rock on Carlos!


One small indication that Carlos has gotten the message was a recent statement he made regarding the upcoming inauguration ceremony: “We have to face the fiscal crisis, and for this reason the transfer of power will be done under democratic principles of austerity and inclusion.” Recent presidential inaugurations have cost as much as $350,000 (Laura Chinchilla) and Sr. Alvarado is planning to accomplish his ceremony at about half that cost. Go for it amigo and good luck!


New Veep Epsy Alejandra Campbell Barr

In a related story, recall that a Costa Rican president gets two vice-presidents elected with him. When the President leaves the country, the first Vice-President becomes acting President. In Sr. Alvarado's case his first vice-president will be a lady named Epsy Alejandra Campbell Barr. In addition to having an incredible smile (left) Campbell "will be the first person of African descent to become the country’s First Vice-President". Not only that, she will be the first of African descent to hold that high a position anywhere in Latin America.


As the inauguration came closer, President-Elect Alvarado selected Campbell to be the focal point for drawing together different legislative parties to form a majority coalition in the legislature to support the new administration. That won't be easy as the administration's party, PAC, has only 10 elected legislators and a majority for passage of legislation will require 29 (there are a total of 57 deputies in the legislature), meaning that at least two more of the six other parties would have to join PAC in the effort.


Felicidades Sra. Campbell y Buena Suerte!


Futbol News


World Cup Passes Through Costa Rica. To stimulate excitement about the World Cup Futbol games in Russia due to begin next month, the world cup trophy is making a tour around the world visiting countries that are participating in the games. The cup arrived in Costa Rica on April 8 at Juan Santamaria airport on a red Boeing 737 amid a water cannon salute.


Outgoing President Guillermo Solis and a number of officials were at the airport to welcome the cup. Under FIFA rules President Solis is the only Tico allowed to hold the cup at this time (smart rule, otherwise it might end up at a bar in Manuel Antonio). Solis had no problem raising it in a (future) victory salute as shown in the photo to the right.


Now the Tico trick becomes securing the cup's possession here permanently by winning the championship. Go Ticos!


Tico "Alternate" Uniform

Color the Sele Blanco. Last month the Chronicles noted the new official uniform for the National Selection Team (the "Sele") going to this year's World Cup games in Russia. The uniform was primarily red with accents of white and blue, colors that match the national flag.


Recently, the Costa Rican Futbol Federation, "Fedefutbol", unveiled an alternate uniform (didn't know we had one) which is basically white. It seems that white is a luckier color for Ticos that red. Somebody researched the color of the uniform that was worn in past World Cup games (not that we're superstitious) and found that 33% of the games were successful when wearing red while 52% were successful while wearing white. Whatever.


If white does it for you amigos. go white. I don't care if you play naked, just bring back the cup! Go Ticos!


International Convention Center Inaugurated


Convention Center Outside and Hall Inside

After almost ten years in the planning and building, the new Costa Rica International Convention and Congress Center was inaugurated in early April. The new center is located only about 8 km or 5 miles west of the Main Airport, Juan Santamaria (SJO), a proximity to travel that will not be lost on users of the facility.


The center contains about 15,600 sq mtrs (about 165,000 sq ft) under roof, can accommodate up to 4,500 visitors at one time and is expected to generate about 1,000 new direct jobs and some 2,000 indirect ones. Costa Rica's objective is to become competitive in the international convention business in Latin America, particularly in competition with the Central American leader for these things, Panama.


Costa Rica went ahead with the $35 million project despite a rather weak endorsement by the consultant firm who did the feasibility study; they concluding that the lack of nearby hotel space could put a damper on the project's income and may result in required government subsidies of up to $650,000 per year after the third year of operation.


Come on amigos, let's get one of those hotel biggies to build a sizable inn there; outfits like Hilton, Marriott, Sheraton, Trump.


Don't Move that Corpse


Traffic jams are common here, particularly in the greater metropolitan area of San José but also quite often in virtually every town across the landscape . Part of it has to do with being a country that is expanding at a quick pace in population, number of vehicles (both cars and motorbikes) and affluence. Another cause can be attributed to accidents and the rules surrounding them.


It's not unusual to be hung up for an hour or more because of a traffic accident. That's because the law currently requires nothing be moved until the police and insurance officials arrive on the scene, conduct interviews and take pictures. The injured, of course, will be transported to medical facilities as soon as possible by rescue personnel who are usually the first outsiders to arrive. But, by law, the scene may not be disturbed, such as pushing the wreckage to the side to clear the road for traffic.


In case of a traffic fatality the process is further complicated and may back up traffic for hours. In this scenario a judge or coroner must arrive on the scene to take notes and construct a report. Until then the corpse (my guess is they don't interview it) cannot be moved and the crash scene cleared away until they have done their thing. A recent press report described the scenario this way: "Generally the ambulance and rescue bodies arrive first, they notify the Judiciary Police for the agents to arrive at the scene and work the scene, then the communication is sent to the coroner and public prosecutor and they have to show up at the scene, however, if they are in the middle of another case or handling other work matters they run behind."


Discussions continue on how to simplify the process. Methinks there is too much emphasis on procedure and not on result and public safety amigos.


Is Nicaragua the Safest Country in Latin America?


Nicaragua recently released crime statistics including murder rates(intentional homicides) for 2017. Nicaragua achieved an 11-year low of 7 murders per 100,000 population. That gave them the lowest murder rate in Central America and the second lowest in Latin America (after Cuba). The murder rate in Managua brought them in as the second lowest for a capital city in the Western Hemisphere after Ottawa, Canada. Some selected regional comparisons of murder rates are in the table right (the murder rate is expressed as intentional homicides per 100,000 inhabitants).


The Latin American Herald Tribune (Caracas) reported that the Nicaraguans attribute their success to their sophisticated “Containment Wall” public safety strategy. “We have a comprehensive public safety strategy.” said Managua deputy police chief Fernando Borge. “It is (due to) the joint effort by all institutions and the National Police, with the population playing a major role.” It also includes a police response time of "seven to ten minutes after a call is terminated".

Other statistics for muggings/robberies, car theft, assaults and property crimes were significantly less in Nicaragua than in Costa Rica and much less than in other Latin American countries.


Update. Following on the heels of the above press release came an advisory from the Costa Rican government that people here might want to exercise caution in visiting our neighbors to the north at this time because of recent civil unrest there. The government recently announced measures to stem the growing gap in the social security system by increasing personal and company contributions (currently 7% for individuals and 23% for employers) as well as reducing retirement benefits by 5%.


Riots broke out, particularly in the Managua area in which some 10 people were killed including a journalist (several non-profit organizations report the death count was closer to 30). The government then opened discussions with labor groups and other interested parties in an effort to resolve the matter. The Episcopate of the Catholic Church in Nicaragua agreed to be mediator and witness for the dialogue.


In a related story, both TransNica and Tica bus lines had suspended service to Nicaragua late in the month. At about the same time the Nicaraguan government announced the revocation of the rate increases and benefits cut.


So, in a matter of a few weeks the country has gone from bragging about its crime statistics to almost general rebellion. Let's hope the controversy and violence can be resolved quickly.


First Costa Rican Satellite Launched



No, not from Quepos, we're fresh out of rockets here amigos (no hay los cohetes aqui amigos).


For some time now, the Chronicles has been following the story of the first Costa Rican satellite, called a "cubesat" because of its small size: 10 cm on a side - that's it on the desk, photo right. The unit was included in an April 2 launch from Cape Canaveral and delivered, along with 5,800 pounds of other hardware and supplies, to the international space station where it will be installed. Our cubesat weighs only about one kilo.


The satellite was developed as a joint project of the Central American Space Agency (didn't know we had one) and the Costa Rica Technology Institute (ITCR). The unit is designed to measure forest growth in the country as well as the levels of carbon fixation in the forests.


Cute little devil; GG has already renamed it TicoSat.


¡Pura Vida!


Publisher's Corner (skip section)

GGC Publications Group is the parent organization that publishes the Golden Gringo Chronicles as well as a number of books and paraphernalia related to the Chronicles and Costa Rica.

We now have a web page, separate from the Chronicles, that describes our book and product offerings in detail.

The page is called GGC Publications Page - Products and has 3 sections:

Section I: Books from GGC Publications Group

This section of the GGC Publications Page consists of descriptions of the following books published by GGC Publications:

Golden Gringo Chronicles - The Novel (details HERE)

Mariposa, A Love Story of Costa Rica (English - see description and details HERE), also available as:

Mariposa, Una Historia de Amor de Costa Rica (Versión Español - ver descripción y detalles AQUI)

Entreprenewal! Business Management Guide (see description and details HERE)

Or go here for all of them: GGC Publications Page - Products Section I


Section II: Recommended Inspirational Books - Life Changing Stories


S.O.B.E.R. - How the Acronyms of AA Got One Drunk Sober - by Ian Asotte (description and details HERE)


◄To Eternal Happiness - by Abelardo Garcia, Jr. (see description and details HERE)


A Woman Awakens: Life, AfterLife - by Jan Hart (see description HERE)



Or go here to see all of them: GGC Publications Page - Products Section II



Section III: T-Shirts and Coffee Mugs All About Costa Rica and the Chronicles


In addition, GGC Publications Group now also offers t-shirts and coffee mugs that are related to the Golden Gringo Chronicles with Costa Rican themes, to wit:


gtyderT-Shirts: a. Golden Gringo Chronicles with Logo, b. Official Golden Gringo with Monkey on Banana Hammock, c. ¡Quepo en Quepos! ("I Fit In Quepos!") with Photo of Quepos, d. Wanna Monkey Around - Come on Down! with Photo of White Face Monkey and e. It's OK to be Slothful with photo of Three-Toed Sloth.



Coffee Mugs: a. Golden Gringo, b. Wanna Monkey Around?, c. OK to be Slothful

Go here to see more: GGC Publications Page - Products Section III

¡Solo Bueno!

Rumble and Weather Talk


Low Rumbles


Not much in the rumbles area to talk about but Poas and Turrialba continue to percolate mildly, with Turrialba in particular throwing off occasional fits of ash. Both of those national parks remain closed. The national park service keeps saying they plan to open the parks but the operational philosophy still is safety first. Good idea amigos.


Rainy Season Has Started


In late March the national weather service forecast an early start to the rainy season this year, i.e., mid-April rather than mid-May. They were right on the money this year. By the third week in April we were getting afternoon and early evening rains in the Quepos area during at least half the days in a week. These are not deluge level nor do they last for hours at a time but just medium strength thundershowers that keep the dust down, the jungle green and the rivers and creeks flowing. Chock one up for the weather dudes, amigos.

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


Search the Golden Gringo Chronicles Archives for Topics That Interest You


You can use our Archives to search for anything that has been written in more than 220 feature articles of the Golden Gringo Chronicles plus find Broken News items and ROMEO restaurant reviews. Enter your topic or item to search in the Google Search Routine below and follow the links offered from the search results. Suggestion: Enter only a simple, precise and unique as possible keyword or two in order to narrow the number of references retrieved:


Golden Gringo Chronicles - Enter Search Here


Readers: Our publication is open to suggestions regarding future articles and will accept pieces written by others but we reserve the right to decline anything that the editorial staff (that's GG) thinks is inappropriate for this format. Send proposals, comments, suggestions, ideas, meaningless statements and jocular observations concerning the Chronicles to GG here: gg@goldengringo.com.


(More on the Mysterious Diquis Spheres)

If you wander about Costa Rica, particularly in the south-west quadrant, you will likely come across stone spheres (esferas in Spanish; also called Las Bolas or The Balls). There are several in the Quepos/Manuel Antonio area, both downtown (at Plaza Bolivar) and at the end of the main road to Manuel Antonio beach (HERE). It's also not unusual to find one or two decorating the head of a driveway to some houses in the more affluent areas.


These spheres have been turning up since the 1940's when the banana company, which then called itself United Fruit and which is now part of the Chiquita company, turned some of them up while excavating for new plantations. The wife of one of the local company's managers realized that they had accidentally discovered something that could have archaeological significance and called in experts from San José who first organized preservation efforts and urged the government to codify regulations on how they would be treated. In the early days a number of the spheres were destroyed by unknowing individuals cracking them open to see if there was a precious prize inside. Nope, no cupee doll, nothing, just more stone.


Eleanor and Sam Lothrop

In the 1950's, famed archaeologists Eleanor and Sam Lothrop (a Massachusetts-born Harvard graduate - photo left) began studying the balls. They, along with renowned National Museum Director Doris Stone uncovered, classified and arranged protection for a number of the stones so that by 1963 the number found had reached 186. The true count today is complicated by the fact that many of the spheres have been moved around to other parts of the country; there are even two that ended up in two different U.S. museums. New stones are occasionally still being found.


Museo de Esferas, Finca 6, Palma Norte

In 2013, a new national museum (Museo de Esferas) dedicated to the spheres was opened in the heart of the territory where they were first found, a farm area called Finca 6, located about half way between Palma Sur and Sierpe. The museum is an easy one and a half hour drive south of Quepos along the Costanera Sur highway (photo of the new museum photo is at right). GG and a friend had the pleasure of visiting the museum recently and learned that the site not only is in the center of the area where the original ball was found but that the nearby fields have produced many more spheres.


We also chatted with Señor Carlos Morales Barrantes, an anthropologist at the Museo. He told us that there are over 300 of these balls of stone now inventoried and it's quite probable that the count may eventually reach 500. The area is an important archaeological site not only for the spheres but also for studying the indigenous Diquis people who lived in the region from approximately 700 CE to 1535 when the Spanish came. The tribe's origin is believed to be from the Boruca tribes who, in turn, came by way of immigration from South America (like Colombia or Chile).


The Diquis, like several other indigenous groups in southern Costa Rica faded out by the time the Spanish arrived in the early 1500's. Other indigenous tribes faded out because of the Spanish occupation. The spheres are attributed to the Diquis because they were found buried with the remains of several villages that were covered for hundreds of years by sediment deposited from floods of the nearby river systems. The implication is that if the balls were found amongst the Diquis ruins, the Diquis made them; yet there is no concrete (no pun intended) proof if they were really produced by the Diquis. How they were produced also still remains an important mystery.


My Assistant Demonstrating One of the Six Foot Diameter Spheres

Almost all of the balls are made of granodiorite, a coarse-grained acid igneous rock which is basically the cooled product of direct lava flows. The known balls range in diameter from a few centimeters (2.5 cm = 1 inch) all the way up to three meters (ten feet). Granodiorite carries a specific gravity of 2.7 times that of water so that a ten foot diameter ball of it would weigh 88,283 lbs or just about 40 tons. An unfinished cube of this stuff from which a ball might be carved would be at least 75 tons. Turning one of those blocks over or onto its side as you carved it sounds to GG like a task for the entire Diquis tribe.


Since the quarry from which these stones came is believed to be some 50 miles from the Palma Sur/Sierpe site, it all begs the question: how in the hell did they get the stones (either the blocks or the finished spheres) to where they have been found? Yet more mystery amigos. GG loves this stuff.


There are many unanswered questions, here's just a few:

  1. Where were they carved (at the quarry and then transported to the region or were the blocks moved first and then carved on site)?

  2. How did they achieve their incredible, almost perfect, spherical shape (many of the balls were shaped to a tolerance of 2 millimeters (0.08 inches)? It's been pointed out that the ability to achieve that level of tolerance was not available to contemporary man until lasers were invented.

  3. How were they carved? Iron tools normally used to carve dense stone like this were not available here during the Diquis period; did they use stone tools?; really? at that kind of precision)?

  4. They've been found over a broad area; how in the hell did they move them around? The indigenous peoples of that time had invented wheels only for toys and they had no wagons as a result, let alone something that could haul several tons.

  5. Did the Diquis actually carve them or were they there long before the tribe's existence, which was between 700 and 1300 CE? Could they have been the result of some natural process, or maybe formed by some mysterious beings (the alien theory)? This is how mysteries give birth to myths.


Bosnia-Herzegovina Stone

Naturally occurring stone balls are not unheard of around the world. For example, a large stone ball has been uncovered in Bosnia-Herzegovina that apparently is made of stone much older than the Diquis spheres. Note in the photo of it right that there are layers to that ball and that it has an irregular surface indicating it was likely formed naturally rather than being man-made (or other creature-made). It also differs from the Costa Rican stones in the type of stone it is and the fact that it has a somewhat red color due to higher iron content (the Diquis spheres are gray).


Moeraki Boulders

One of the more famous congregations of stones is in New Zealand and they are called the Moeraki Boulders. They inhabit a certain coastal area and become exposed by ocean wave action on the mudstone cliffs existing along that coast. They take circular or ovoid shapes but can also come in odd shapes and they have a high concentration of mudstone in them.


Geologists classify the Moeraki Boulders as "concretions", meaning: "a hard, compact mass of matter formed by the precipitation of mineral cement within the spaces between particles, and is found in sedimentary rock or soil. Concretions are formed from mineral precipitation around some kind of nucleus". Of course, GG knew that. Note that these rocks are dissimilar in composition, formation and shape compared to the Diquis.


Bowling Ball Beach, California

Then there's Bowling Ball Beach, a stretch of the Pacific coast north of San Francisco near Mendocino. There, the nicknamed stretch is formally known as Schooner Gulch State Beach and many sandstone balls and ovoids can be seen (photo right).These balls and shapes seem to be formed by natural action of the ocean (sounds like more imprecise speculation to me) much like the balls and ovoids of the Moeraki Boulders of New Zealand.


Perhaps they should call it Concretions Beach.


Easter Island

And then there's Easter Island, some 2,000 kilometers west of the Peruvian coast, where some carefully positioned, carved stone balls have been discovered from various excavations. Where did they come from? Who knows.


Easter Island, of course, invokes an even greater sense of myth and mystery because of all the famous statuary about the place that does not appear to have been mined on the island. Add the stone spheres in the photo left to the Easter Island story but note that the ones shown aren't even close to the spherical precision found in the Diquis spheres.


So, 75 years after the first modern discovery of the Diquis Spheres, we are still left with a mystery as to how they originated and were formed; indeed, even if they were formed (as opposed to being placed there - yuk, yuk). Sounds to GG that this story is good fodder for someone to expand it into a romantic novel of historical fiction; you know, a tome like Mariposa, A Love Story of Costa Rica.


Hmmmm... now who might that someone be?


¡Solo Bueno!




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


So What's Different About the Photo to the Left?


White Eggs, Brown Eggs, Big Deal


Just Another Street Vendor


Whoa, Wait a Minute, Where's the Refrigeration?




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



¡Solo Bueno!


Ciudad de Mexico
(Reflections on Mexico's Capital City)


Tim Dwyer

Tim Dwyer is a fellow expat, a Canadian, a B&B owner and operator in Manuel Antonio, a fellow member of the Quepos Manuel Antonio Writers Group and a friend. He recently took a brief vacation trip to visit Mexico City and I asked him if he'd write an article about his experience. Tim is fluent in Spanish so that little will have escaped him on his visit because of the language unless, perhaps, it be related to colloquialisms.


Downtown Mexico City Skyline

Mexico City is listed in the top ten cities of the world for population, being around 9 million within the city limits and over 21 million in the metropolitan area. As the eagle and aeroMexico fly, Ciudad de Mexico is about 2,000 km (1,200 miles) from San José, about the same as San José to Miami. It's also about that same distance from the California border.

That all boils down to a two and a half hour plane ride.


But now let's let Tim tell the story in his own words:


Mexico City - ¡Que Guay! by Tim Dwyer

Or…“How’re you gonna keep him down on the farm, after he’s seen Mexico City?”


Ubiquitous Taco Stands are
Throughout The City

I knew before I arrived that metropolitan Mexico City has the largest population of any city in the western hemisphere. What I did not realize is that it translates into lots and lots of tortillas, tamales and tacos. Everywhere you go there are street vendors, small kiosks and tiny corners where you can buy foods, sauces, cheeses and drinks that hail from the 31 states and the ‘Distrito Federal’. And at all hours of the day, gathered around each stand selling tacos, quesadillas, chorizos and enchiladas are a dozen or so of the 21.5 million inhabitants. Mexico City doesn’t ‘bustle’, it pulses and vibrates at a frequency that is far above what this denizen of Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica is used to experiencing! And I loved it!


Castillo Chapultapec from My Airbnb

I had loosely planned my trip before arriving. I had a place to stay: an Airbnb in an upscale high-rise condo overlooking the Chapultapec Park in Condeza, a neighbourhood to the west of the historic centre. I wanted to see the Pyramids at Teotihuacan and the Frida Kahlo Museum. Everything else was going to be by luck and instinct. On the fortuitous date of Friday the 13th, armed with Google Maps, and the Uber app, I landed for the first time in this cultural paradise.


Jacaranda in Bloom

Probably the first thing I learned when I got there was the enormity of the place. The whole basin which averages 2300 m above sea level, including the slopes of the surrounding mountains is covered with buildings, roads and people. There are cars and trucks and taxis everywhere. The 50 minute Uber ride to the condo cost $8 US. We drove through side streets and neighbourhoods that varied from shacks of concrete block and tin, to towers of 40 stories. In many places tree lined streets shaded the way. The Jacaranda trees were in full bloom spreading a periwinkle blue canopy and carpet wherever I went. My driver filled me in on what to do and where to avoid during my visit.


My first full day began, after a stop at a local stand for a ‘taco al pastor’, with a trip on the Metro. A ticket costs five pesos (less than $.30). There are 12 lines and almost 200 stations. There’s an app for the system that allows you to plan the line and the station closest to your destination. It’s crowded and fairly warm to travel on, but it is definitely the cheapest and fasted way to navigate the city.


Cathedral at El Zócalo
in the Historic City Centre

I arrived at ‘El Zócalo’ around noon. This plaza is at the city’s historic centre; pyramids and palaces of the Aztec once stood and now covered by the 400 year old cathedral. To the east is the market district and a bit to the west is the Palacio de Bellas Artes (Fine Arts Museum) which houses incredible murals, including some by Diego Rivera, and Alameda Park, the oldest public park in the Americas. There are people everywhere. The streets are crowded. The sidewalks are crowded, the shops are crowded. It is a fast-paced city and everyone is in a hurry or trying to sell you something. I learned a few things that first day out: wear well broken in shoes, use lots of sun block and wear a brimmed hat.

I booked a tour for Monday via Urban Adventures. It included a bilingual guide, a visit to five different markets via bus, metro and Uber, lunch at a family run ‘fonda’, private, air conditioned van to Teotihuacán, a tour the pyramids, a visit to a family run obsidian carving business along with an explanation and tasting of various beverages made from the maguay (agave) plant: pulque, mescal and tequila, and ended with a home-made dinner with a local family. Throughout the tour we tasted horchatas, tamales, Mexican ‘truffle’, prickly pear cactus, various fruits and vegetables, salsas, moles, even roasted grasshoppers. The tour was $81 US, all included, lasted 13 hours, left me exhausted and was worth every peso!


View from the Pyramid of the Moon Down the Avenue of the Dead to the Pyramid of the Sun, 2 km Away

Teotihuacán is a city that was already abandoned and in ruins when it was discovered by the Aztecs in the 13th century AD. The two great pyramids, The Moon and the Sun are enormous structures that one can climb and survey the valley in which they are built. It is stunning to note that every grassy hill that stretches beyond the pyramids covers the ruins of an ancient culture about which little is actually known and of which only 20% has been mapped out. It is said that from the top of the Pyramid of the Sun the Aztecs espied the lake in the valley beyond where they found the sign of the gods that they were looking for: an eagle perched on a cactus eating a snake (the national emblem of Mexico) and where they founded the city of Mexico. It grew and flourished into a city more structured and organized than any European city of the time until it was conquered by the army of Cortez in 1521.


Frida Kahlo Museum

The highlight of my visit was to the middle class neighbourhood of Coyoacán, seven metro stops south of the centre of the city to the Casa Azul, the blue house where the 20th century artist Frida Kahlo lived and died. There aren’t many of her paintings here, but the house, the gardens and the atmosphere are well preserved from the time of her death. The famous and the infamous were entertained by Frida and her husband Diego Rivera and their fierce appreciation of their culture and heritage is visible throughout. (I’d recommend seeing the movie ‘Frida’ starring Selma Hayek if you are unfamiliar with this iconic Mexican artist.) Best to buy your tickets on line a day or two beforehand. The audio guide is excellent.


My final morning was spent at the Anthropology Museum which houses a collection of the main, precolonial civilizations that are found throughout the country. I came to the conclusion that through trading, various tribes of people saw and copied the pyramids of neighbouring areas. There are great pyramid structures at archaeological sites spread throughout the country. Olmec, Toltec, Aztec, Maya, along with many others I had never heard of are covered in this well curated museum. In the afternoon I walked up the winding trail to El Castillo Chapultapec that I had seen from my Airbnb. This is the only castle of the Americas and housed a garrison, royalty, presidents and governments of Mexico during its history. Its panoramic view of the city is not to be missed and it was given to the people of Mexico as its National History Museum in 1939.


The Mexican Flag: The National Seal in the Center Depicts an Eagle Sitting on a Prickly Pear Cactus Eating a Snake

I walked a lot through neighbourhoods, sampled lots of salsas and foods and thoroughly enjoyed the visit to this great city. I never once felt unsafe, even after dark. I took Uber cabs after 10:00 pm to be on the safe side. There were plenty of police around at all hours. I found the people very friendly and helpful. It doesn’t have to be expensive. My most expensive meal was under $15 US. Fluently speaking Spanish helps but I’m sure people from around the world will be welcomed. There are still hundreds more museum, shops and places to explore in and around this vibrant capital, not to mention the foods I didn’t get to savour. I loved the cultural mosaic that is Cuidad México.



I will return!


___ ___ ___


Thanks Tim for a great report on Mexico City. Very interesting and I'm sure a number of our readers have reacted to your reflections like me; gotta put Mexico City on the bucket list! Gracias amigo.


(P.S. - Tim also writes a blog called Recovery River which can be viewed here: https://recoveryriver.org)



Health Stuff

Note: The information 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 a recommendation to pursue it, nor can we or do we guarantee the efficacy of the results nor validity of the conclusions proffered. (How's that for a disclaimer?)





Over the first few years here GG discovered a couple of local (i.e., tropical) treatments for common problems that I've found to be both simple and effective. The remedies deal with 1) upset stomach/diarrhea and 2) colds, "flu" or the gripe (pronounced gree-pay in Spanish).


It's not unusual for a visitor to contract a case of stomach problems. Some cry that they have food poisoning but, in fact, it's much more likely to be a simple reaction to the different bacteria in the food here than found in other parts of the world. It's not unusual for the reverse to happen also, encountering stomach problems in the U.S. after living here for a period.


One time, in the early days, I had such a case of upset stomach and rumbling digestive system and a Tica friend said: "Go get a fresh papaya, cut it open and swallow a couple of tablespoons of the seeds". I did so and the three-day stomach episode stopped overnight. Since then I've learned to take a preventative spoonful every time I process a papaya, roughly every two weeks (I love papaya, the "Fruit of the angels" as Christopher Columbus called it).


The other common problem people encounter here is something like a cold or with flu-like symptoms. I'm sure some of these situations have to do with inhaling other people's exhaust from a closed air system in an airplane for hours, but some of it also seems to come from our own local environment. Let's face it, the jungle is pristine but it also is wild and home to vigorous bacteria, both earth bound and air laden. There's nothing like a hot and wet medium to grow bacteria.


Busy Little Fellas

Catching a "cold" here is easy. In the beginning GG "caught a cold" that often turned into chronic bronchitis (45 years of smoking helped that - I'm now 9 years tobacco free). I was catching those colds two or three times per year. Another Tica friend said: "Go down to the natural foods store and get some Propoleo"). "Wazzat, says I". "Bee glue (the wax a bee uses to cement the hive together - also called propolis) - it's dissolved in honey."


Say what? I tried it and It worked. Now every time I feel a potential "cold" coming on I take a little Propoleo (it works best and quickest if you catch the symptoms in the earliest stages). Because of papaya seeds and Propoleo I haven't had an upset stomach or cold/flu thing in several years now.


A student at the National University recently conducted some research which showed that the sons o' bees in Costa Rica produce some of the most potent forms of propolis in their content of anti-fungal, antibacterial and antioxidant ingredients. That was particularly true in samples collected from bees living below 400 meters where the material was somehow more homogenized. Low altitude bees are best - live and learn.


The student who did the research suggested that this product could be an important export product for local honey farmers. I 'll buy that, as a couple of years ago I was in Sarasota for a visit and started to come down with a cold, I think from the airplane trip. A quick trip to a natural food store produced a small bottle of propolis in a liquid form rather than dissolved in honey. I can report that it stopped the onset of the cold flat.


For more on these remedies, go here: Some Home Remedies.



Measles Warning


Speaking of airborne illnesses and diseases, Costa Rican health authorities have issued an alert for measles. Although no case has been reported here since 2014, their have been outbreaks in Venezuela, Peru, Mexico, Guatemala, Colombia, Brazil, Argentina, Antigua and Barbados, as well as the United States. "Measles is a disease that can cause complications and even death, especially in children under 5 years of age and people over 30." stated an official. An expanded immunization program is planned for August of this year.


¡Pura Vida!



Travel Quote of the Month





"Tell me and I forget; teach me and I remember; involve me and I learn"
– Benjamin Franklin


Answer to Que Es Eso?


One of the first things an expat or visitor may be surprised to see in Costa Rica is fresh eggs sitting out on shelves with no refrigeration, even in a supermarket.


It turns out that only a few countries (U.S., Canada, Australia) routinely refrigerate their eggs. The reason why refrigeration is necessary is because in these countries the practice is to wash the eggs first. Say scientists: "As the eggs are scrubbed, rinsed, dried, and spritzed with a chlorine mist, its protective cuticle may be compromised. This is a natural barrier that comes from the mother hen that lays the egg, and it acts as a shield against bacteria".


Unfortunately, washing the eggs can remove a good deal of this protective barrier and make them more liable to penetration of the shell by bacterium, particularly salmonella (typhimurium).


So fear not amigos, the unrefrigerated eggs here are not a problem. Nevertheless GG still sticks them in the fridge when I get them home, I suppose out of habit (and also because I don't eat them very fast).




Mid-15c., Latinized spelling of Middle English spere (c. 1300) "cosmos; space, conceived as a hollow globe about the world," from Anglo-French espiere, Old French espere (13c., Modern French sphère), from Latin sphaera "globe, ball, celestial sphere" (Medieval Latin spera), from Greek sphaira "globe, ball, playing ball, terrestrial globe," a word of unknown origin.




In addition to the more technical definition given in the artcle on spheres above, a concretion can be thought of as "the act or process of concreting or becoming substantial; coalescence; solidification".


¡Que Guay!


Pronounced kay-way. Used in the article title above on Mexico City. This is a Spanish expletive meaning "How Cool!" or "How Interesting".




ROMEO Corner
(Retired Old Men Eating Out)

Mono Azul (Blue Monkey) - Manuel Antonio


Dining Area at Mono Azul

Location: About 1/3 the way up Manuel Antonio hill across the street from Mimos and Tico-Tico; bus stop in front of the restaurant.

Hours: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner Monday thru Sunday

Parking: Limited, if the hotel and restaurant are full. Street parking around the corner.

Telephone: 2777-2572


Reviewing ROMEOS: Alma L., Brian M., Bob N., Glen N., Jerry C., Julia S., Jordan S., Justin S., Katie S., Sari H.




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


The Mono Azul, or Blue Monkey. has been a landmark in Manuel Antonio for at least 25 years. GG stayed there at least three times in my early visits to Costa Rica between 2003 and 2008. Both the hotel and restaurant have been under new management for a couple of years now.


The place has a jungle feel to it with extensive use of wood and Costa Rican native art. The dining room (photo above) is warm in earth colors and the lighting is subdued but adequate to read a menu. The dining room runs parallel and only about ten feet away from the main Manuel Antonio road but the sound level is not obtrusive, at least after dark. The room and the road are separated by an extensive use of natural plants and foliage helping to reduce noise and providing more ambiance.


The group gave the restaurant a composite score of 3.9/5.0 sloths for ambiance.


The menu is fairly extensive and features thin-crust pizza, a selection of several main dishes including casados as well as snapper, chicken parmigiano, meatloaf, burgers and sandwiches and even some Latin favorites like tacos and burritos.


The ROMEO group made a broad and varied sampling of the menu including two different kinds of tacos, meatloaf, the house special salad, caesar salad, pepperoni pizza and a fish casado. In general comments ranged from good to excellent with a couple of exceptions that seem to be related more to personal tastes than to quality of the food.


GG had the meatloaf, the first time I've seen that on a menu here. It was a generous portion, well-flavored including crisp bacon strips and served on a bed of mashed potatoes with a small amount of steamed vegetables and onion rings.


Value Index= 105


When all the results were in, the group gave a composite rating of 4.0/5.0 for food quality, the highest rating of the three qualifications (ambiance, food quality, service) we look at.


Service was friendly and personal with one of the owners being attentive to needs and personally serving us. She also gave us a tip on the cheese sauce that helped us move it to a side dish rather than coming to the table drowning the meat. When evaluated from another standpoint however, the service would have to be characterized as slow with some orders not reaching the table for over an hour. This area received the lowest rating of the three qualifications at a group composite of 3.7/5.0. That resulted in an overall rating for ambiance, food quality and service of 3.9.


GG's meatloaf and a lemonade came in at just over 11,000 colones or just under $20. The composite rating for cost came in at 3.7 yielding a value index of 3.9/3.7x100=105 putting the Mono Azul in the lower 1/3 of our rating system for restaurants in this area for value.


The Mono Azul provides another good alternative for a varied meal selection for local residents and visitors at a reasonable cost.



¡Pura Vida!




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