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"Doing Latin America, Mostly by Luck"


Quepos, Costa Rica, June 2011 - Edition 34

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Hey Guys, Wazzup? We're the Ones Who Are Supposed to Nest in Trees, Dude ►

Magic Moments in Marriage ►

"Honey, I've Got This Really Great Idea for a Place to Build Our Vacation Home in Costa Rica; It's Really Off the Beaten Path and Close to Nature; You're Gonna Love It"

(So, Among Other Things Bright Guy, What Are You Gonna Do About Garbage Pick-Up, Amigo? OK, Well At Least You Don't Have to Worry About the Lawn)

IN THIS ISSUE: Broken News (Muslims Benefits Cut, Good Rad News), Man's Best Friend,
What's-in-a-Word (Pura Vida!), ROMEO Corner (La Galeria at Parador), Founder's Quote Department


Travel Quote of the Month: 

         “A journey is like marriage. The certain way to be wrong is to think you control it.”
                                                               - John Steinbeck

Broken News

Muslims Benefits Cut  

Chronicles Field Reporter Jeff M. based in Sarasota, Florida, filed this breaking news report (well maybe it's a little broken as it's pre-bin Laden's demise):

"Muslim Union Cuts Benefits for Martyrs"

"Muslim suicide bombers in Britain are set to begin a three-day strike next Monday in a dispute over the number of virgins they are entitled to in the afterlife. Emergency talks with Al Qaeda have so far failed to produce an agreement.

The unrest began last Tuesday when Al Qaeda announced that the number of virgins a suicide bomber would receive after his death would be cut by 25% this February from 72 to 54. A company spokesman said increases in recent years in the number of suicide bombings have resulted in a shortage of virgins in the  afterlife.

The suicide bombers' union, the British Organization of Occupational Martyrs (BOOM) responded with a statement saying the move was unacceptable to its members and called for a strike vote.  General Secretary Abdullah Amir told the press, "Our members are literally working themselves to death in the cause of Jihad. We don't ask for much in return, but to be treated like this is like a kick in the teeth".

Speaking from his shed in Tipton in the West Midlands, Al Qaeda chief executive Osama bin Laden's replacement explained, "I sympathize  with our workers' concerns, but Al Qaeda is simply not in a position to meet their demands. They are simply not accepting the realities of modern-day Jihad  in a competitive marketplace. Thanks to Western depravity, there is now a chronic shortage of virgins in the afterlife. It's a straight choice between reducing expenditures or laying people off. I don't like cutting benefits, but I'd hate to have to tell 3,000 of my staff that they won't be able to blow themselves up."

Spokespersons for the union in the North East of England, Ireland, Wales, and the entire Australian continent stated that the change would not hurt their membership as there are few virgins in their areas anyway.

According to some industry sources, the recent drop in the number of suicide bombings has been attributed to the emergence of Scottish singing star Susan Boyle. Many Muslim jihadists now know what a virgin looks like and have reconsidered their benefit  packages."

Thanks Jeff for keeping us up on the latest news; the world will somehow go on despite these labor disputes.

Good Rad News

There are a couple of international organizations that published some good news for Costa Rica recently. They are the German Federal Institute for Geosciences and Natural Resources and the Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization, based in Vienna, Austria. Both these organizations have radiation monitoring stations around the globe. The Preparatory Commission was set up in 1996 to monitor compliance with a nuclear test ban treaty. It has 63 stations around the world that monitor radiation.

Dudes and Dudettes Enjoying Good Rads on Manuel Antonio Beach

One news organization reported on the story about the results from the Preparatory Commission and the German Institute this way:

"Based on reports from these stations, the commission said that radioactivity from the Japan nuclear plant has spread nearly all over the Northern Hemisphere but has not entered the Southern Hemisphere. The German institute has produced a map that shows negligible radiation has passed over Costa Rica."

I may be a little rusty on my geography amigos but I do believe Costa Rica is in the Northern Hemisphere (9º Latitude above the equator) not the Southern Hemisphere. But perhaps the writer didn't mean to imply that.

The main thrust of what they said, however, was in that last sentence; no significant Fukushima fall-out here. We still share only our physical position on the Pacific Rim with our Nipponese neighbors (let's keep it that way).

It was hard for our hero to get worried about the extra radiation possibility. After all, for the last dozen or so years I've been trying to develop that South Florida alligator skin so prevalent among those retired dudes in Miami. There's nothing that man has wrought that will penetrate that kind of hide.


Man's Best Friend

So we're talking about dogs, perros, mutts and the like, right amigo? Well not really, not in Costa Rica my friend.

Some people here have a different view as to what constitutes a friendly animal. To see what I mean, check out the video below on the left (takes only about a minute).


I Love You Pocho Baby; Let's Take a Roll in the Pond

What a cute little puppy. Now, before you go adopting a 15 foot croc as a pet and start kissing it every day, you might want to remember that Pocho is not the only reptile in the pond.

Crocodiles in Costa Rica are a protected species and scaly dudes up to 20 feet long have been reported in the Corcovado wilderness about 90 kilometers south of Quepos.

For an example unlike Pocho, look at the picture to the right where a fraulein was surprised by an aggressive croc during a mangrove tour. Ach du lieber, vot ein grouch.

12 Foot Croc Lunges at German Tourist
(That Would Scare the Kraut Out of Anyone)

Some seven or eight years ago, on one of our hero's earlier visits to the area, GG stopped at a bridge north of Jacó that spans the river Tárcoles. This is a favorite tourist stop if you're driving from San José proper or from the main airport and headed to southwest Costa Rica. The reason people stop at this crossing is simply to look at the cocodrilos that bask in the sun on the river banks below the bridge.The bridge is a relatively modern reinforced concrete type that seems to have only one slight drawback; the guard rails along the walkways on both sides of the bridge are quite low. If you suffer queasiness brought on by heights, expect it to be compounded by hesitancy to lean over the rail for fear of becoming a meal for the reptilian dudes sprawled out below.

Lunch on the Tarcoles Anyone?

So there I was, standing on the bridge clutching the rail and admiring about a dozen crocs in various stages of lethargy wallowing in the mud below when an hombre came walking by. I could tell by his uniform that he was the equivalent of a U.S. Park Ranger. I was a bit dismayed that he wasn't carrying a gun like most police here do. If I do slip and fall over I'd like to think a guy like this would be there to fire his weapon and chase the monsters away.

Using my best Spanish (which was virtually nonexistent at the time) I said to the ranger, while pointing down at a 15 footer: "Muy grande, eh?" (clever gringo, huh?). His response I roughly translated as: "If you think that one's big señor, you should see his momma". No thanks, amigo, I've seen enough already to develop a proper sense of respect.

Now GG, having lived 10 years in Florida, is no stranger to oversized reptiles. Alligators still abound along the coasts and over much of the lower half of the state. Their numbers have increased substantially over the last 25 years because of protection programs similar to Costa Rica's. At the same time that the gator population was increasing in the Sunshine State, so was the human population. Inevitably there was conflict, especially when the gators started going after dogs, cats and even small children. So the state instituted a program to control "nuisance" alligators and licensed private trappers to catch them. Now, about 2500 naughty gators are taken each year and the trappers are allowed to sell the hides and meat for profit.

I've tried eating gator meat twice amigos. Maybe you think it tastes like chicken dude, but I think it tastes like greasy, sinewy gator (para mi, no gracias, amigo- yuk).

Quepoan Gators (Iguanas) Fighting Over Food Scraps

When you live in the rainforest you're liable to encounter reptilian monsters at any time, anywhere. Why just the other day I was walking though downtown Quepos and came across the two dinosauers in the picture to the left.

They were fighting over a small plastic bag that may have had a scrap of food in it. Each lizzard had one end of the bag in his mouth and neither would give in. The iguana on the right was trying to get through a small hole in the fence but the other wouldn't let him.

Then I scanned about five meters from the Iguanas and saw one of our street people (picture right) sprawled out on a cement bench (gotta be uncomfortable). Methinks he was trying to recover from too many cervezas the night before.

This particular bench is a favorite amongst our town drunks. The police are very accommodating considering city hall is just at the end of the fence (pink building).

Lonely Lazy Lizard Languishing

A few years ago, there was a interesting report in Florida about an encounter that one dude had with a gator; it went like this:

"A man fleeing police by jumping into a retention pond adjacent to the Miccosukee Resort and Convention Center was killed by a 9-foot 3-inch (2.8 m) alligator on this date according to the Miami-Dade Medical Examiners office. Padron (the perp - ed.) and an accomplice were suspected of burglarizing cars in the parking lot of the resort which is located at 500 SW 177th St. in southwest Miami-Dade County when police closed in. Witnesses said they could hear Padron screaming before he disappeared underwater."

Crime didn't pay that day, did it amigo.


What's-in-a-Word Department

Pura Vida!

Costa Rica does not have a national motto, but most would agree that its unofficial slogan is “Pura Vida”. Though the origins of the phrase are not definite, Costa Ricans reportedly began using the expression after watching the 1956 Mexican movie titled "Pura Vida!" By 1970 the phrase was widely used throughout the country and continues to this day.

Pura vida has become so uniquely Costa Rican that the expression will always identify the speaker as Costa Rican. The phrase is important to locals, as it means much more than just pure life. Throughout the country, the expression is used to express satisfaction, happiness and peace. It reminds Costa Ricans of their country’s beauty and the warmth of home. Today, pura vida has many idiomatic meanings and has been incorporated into everyday use.

Pura vida literally translated means pure life, but "Pure life" in proper Spanish would be "vida pura". But the way it's commonly used, it's closer to "plenty of life", "full of life", "this is living!", "going great", "real living", or "cool!" It can be used both as a greeting and a farewell, to express satisfaction, to politely express indifference when describing something or even to say thank you. Some foreigners view the phrase as an expression of a leisurely lifestyle, of disregard for time, and of wanton friendliness. However, Costa Ricans use the phrase to express a philosophy of strong community, perseverance, resilience in overcoming difficulties with good spirits, enjoying life slowly, and celebrating good fortune of magnitudes small and large alike.

Here's how Wikipedia describes the distinctive uses of this term:

"To Greet Someone: When friends meet on the street, shake hands, or wave hello, it is common to say "pura vida!" In English, this is similar to greeting someone with “Hey, how are you?” or “What’s up?” A response of “pura vida!” implies that all is well. 

To Say Good-bye: When Costa Ricans leave a restaurant, friend’s house, or bar, it is common to hear “pura vida!” If lots of fun was had, another farewell is “Hasta luego, todo estuvo pura vida,” or “See you later, everything was amazing!” 

To Show Appreciation (for a person, object or situation): Costa Ricans often use “pura vida” to express their satisfaction with a situation, object, or situation. For example, if someone says “Usted es pura vida,” that means “You are a great person.”

To Say Thank You or You’re Welcome: In informal situations, pura vida may be used to say thank you or you’re welcome. It is not uncommon to hear both meanings at the same time, for example when exiting a taxi, the passenger may say “pura vida” as thank you, while the driver responds with the expression as you’re welcome."

So, unless you're angry, it's pretty hard to use Pura Vida in a bad context. Pura Vida, amigos!!!!                                                                       

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

La Galeria at Parador

Location: At the Parador Hotel, about 3 kilometers down the road to Playa Visanz and about two hundred meters before the Playa. Accessible 
               by car, taxi or the Playa Visanz bus from downtown.
Hours: 7 days per week, breakfast, lunch and dinner
Parking: Ample
Contact: Tel: (011-506) 2777-1414; USA/Canada Toll Free: 1-877-506-1414; Fax: (011-506) 2777-1437; Email: info@hotelparador.com

Reviewing ROMEOS: Brian M., Mike L., Bob N.

The three ROMEOS had heard that the Parador is expensive, being one of the choice, landmark hotels in Manuel Antonio. As a result we elected to do lunch rather than dinner on our first visit. Also, like all the restaurants with a view here you have to arrive for dinner around 5 PM in order to be able to see the view as sunset is at 5:30 +/- 15 minutes all year long. So lunch fit that bill also.

The Hotel is located on Punta Quepos. one of the most impressive promontories that jut into the Pacific in this area. When entering the lobby and walking towards the restaurant you have to be impressed with the extensive use of Costa Rican woods that finish the lobby area as well as the copper and brass ecoutriments that line the rooms. The lobby also has a glass case with a number of awards given the hotel including the latest: Worlds Travel Awards Winner: "Costa Rica's Leading Resort 2010". The lobby also has a glass-enclosed figure of Santiago de Compostela, the fiery Knight-Saint who, according to legend, appeared on a battlefield in the middle ages and spurred on some very outnumbered forces to carry the day. The troops reported that it was actually St. James the Apostle. For more on Santiago go here: Santiago

La Galeria is the largest of the three restaurants in the hotel and is located on a two-tiered terrace with a full breathtaking view of the Manuel Antonio jungle that runs down to the ocean. Also the coastal islands beyond are in full view (see picture below). The tables are open to the atmosphere and benefit from the cool breezes prevalent on top of Manuel Antonio. (I'm still somewhat amazed at how little problem outdoor restaurants here have with insects, especially considering we're in the midst of a jungle - there must be secrets that repel them that are unknown to GG at this time). The tables appear to be made of a rich burgundy Costa Rican mahogany and were appointed simply with colorful place mats.

It was the menu that provided a pleasant surprise both in the extent of the selection and the prices which were posted in U.S. dollars (kinda signals who the marketing plan is focused on). The three ROMEOS chose different selections; one had a chicken and cheese pannini, another a simple cheseburger and I went for the Vietnamese clear noodle salad. Both sandwich dudes reported fresh, tasty ingredients (although ROMEO Brian, a cheeseburger aficionado, reserves his vote for best burger in town for Wacky Wanda's). My salad consisted of crudités wrapped in a Boston type lettuce and mounded with clear noodles and accompanied by two small spring rolls. The whole thing was drenched in a very mild, different and delicate dressing.

Our service was polite, courteous and attentive. At one point one of us mentioned that the coffee that he had been served was lukewarm and the item was replaced immediately with apologies.

The ROMEO team concluded that, for ambiance, food quality and service La Galeria deserves 5 sloths.

Having been pleasantly surprised by the prices on the lunch menu, we called to examine a dinner menu. Again the selection was large and the prices not startling. The highest priced item on the menu was $32 (I think it was a filet of some kind) and most entrees were priced from the teens to the low twenties). Several of the items provoked comments like "oh, I'd like to try that".

Elephant Island in the Center Background
No This Isn't the Swimming Pool with a Few Left Over Guests


The reader should be aware that we are not saying this is an inexpensive restaurant, simply that it is not excessive compared to similar restaurants in the area. If fact, I can think of at least two restaurants here that are more expensive. For this reason, we couldn't bring ourselves to giving the place the highest price rating, 5$ so we trimmed it to 4-1/2$. Picky, picky, eh?

The ultimate compliment given the restaurant was on our departure; there was enthusiastic banter about coming back to try the dinner menu.

You could do a lot worse than having a meal La Galeria at the Parador.

Founder's Quote

Insights from the dudes who put together the United States of America.

First from Tom Paine:

"If, from the more wretched parts of the old world, we look at those which are in an advanced stage of improvement, we still find the greedy hand of government thrusting itself into every corner and crevice of industry, and grasping the spoil of the multitude. Invention is continually exercised, to furnish new pretenses for revenues and taxation. It watches prosperity as its prey and permits none to escape without tribute." --Thomas Paine, Rights of Man, 1791

It's still going on T.P., even in the new world.

Then from my favorite rebel:

"Taxes should be continued by annual or biennial reenactments, because a constant hold, by the nation, of the strings of the public purse is a salutary restraint from which an honest government ought not wish, nor a corrupt one to be permitted, to be free. ... We must not let our rulers load us with perpetual debt. We must make our election between economy and liberty, or profusion and servitude. ... The multiplication of public offices, increase of expense beyond income, growth and entailment of a public debt, are indications soliciting the employment of the pruning knife." Thomas Jefferson

How about a pruning axe amigo Tom?

Don Roberto de Quepos,
El Gringo Dorado
Pura Vida!

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