Nerve Block : My Costa Rican mama is so sweet She speaks about….

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Equestrian Concierge Shampoo Horses-store.comNerve Block : My Costa Rican mama is so sweet She speaks about….

Saturday, October 23, 2004 HEY EVERYBODY welcome to my blog (welcome back if you visited before).

Just to spare your time, and because I’m an organization freak, I will summarize relevant points in convenient note form.

- I’m heading to San Jose, Costa Rica for a 7-week tropical medicine elective (2004/10/30-2004/12/18)…

I leave ~6:30am this Saturday
- first 4 weeks in San Jose (capital city), last 3 weeks in San Pablo de Heredia (suburb 20km outside San Jose)
- I will probably get into some seriously weird sitches as I will be hanging out w/ Americans and plenty of Ticos/Ticas…

Plus as you probably know, I am basically a good-for-nothing delinquent to start off with
- love you all!
- write me at HYPERLINK “mailto:fong.fong@utoro*nto.ca”fong.fong@utoro*nto.ca or click below to comment – I check my email compulsively – and if you’re too busy to say hi, at least give me a home addie so I can send you a postcard if I have time
 Saturday, October 30, 2004 15 mins until I leave my apartment for the last time.

Thanks to everybody who showed up tonight for hotpot! I am serious.

I never see anybody nowadays because of distractions.

And I rarely have access to such awesome desserts.

Distrikt was fun – I just wish I wasn’t wearing grungy ketchup-soaked scrubs.

I told you it was a dumb idea man.

I also have lots of stuff to get off my (manly, well-sculpted) chest.

My chordae tendinae have been feeling a slight tug these past few days, and this hasn’t happened for about 3 years actually.

It feels awkward and quite frankly not worth my precious brainjuice.

So I will leave and gratefully overcome these distractions with some old-fashioned tropical R&R.

Please feel free to reach out and e-touch me anytime. Tuesday, November 02, 2004 Whoa damn.

Lots of stuff has happened since I left Toronto!

My flight
My flight should’ve originally been Toronto => Atlanta => San Jose.

Got to the airport 30mins before takeoff time! Luckily, the customs line-up was going so fast early in the morning that I made it to the front in time.

Plane from Toronto took off 4hrs late due to fog.

Then a series of dumb things happened with the flight scheduling that led to me basically arriving in San Jose 10 hours late! Needless to say, no one met me at the airport at 10:30pm and I was in a bit of a pickle:
- no Spanish
- no address to go to
- no phone numbers to call except for an office number
- no Costa Rican cash and I don’t remember my Visa pin
- airport phones won’t call to an operator!
- baggage with all my clothes got lost!
So I ended up calling collect to the Ottawa Canadian Embassy Emergency Line and they basically told me that they’d do an Internet search of my preceptor’s contact info and get back to me.

In the mean time, I checked into an overpriced hotel for the night ($77CAD).

Everything turned out fine though, so now I just hope I’ll be reimbursed for not being picked up at the airport…

Mi mamatica
As part of the program I signed up for, I am required to basically homestay with a Costa Rican family.

My Costa Rican mama is so sweet! She speaks about as much English as I do Spanish (um, almost zero right now) and on the first day basically took me to meet her whole family, including a one of her cousins in the hospital who developed meningitis from a nerve block for back pain…

Mis companeros de clase
My two classmates for the program are Ted, a hilarious surgery-wannabe native of Washington State who’s in the 4th year air force medicine program in North Carolina; and James, an extremely worldly, well-traveled hipster dude in 4th year at Minnesota State Minneapolis.

Both extremely fun guys, who continually remind me that some Americans are decent, ethical, and learned people who are open to the international community.

Blah blah.

Spanish learning
Evidently, my background in French (5 years of a lot of writing in French) is a huge asset with Spanish.

I can understand most of it magically if people just slow down…

Then again, I can be pretty helpless in a conversation if they refuse to slow down.

Um, kinda like my Chinese actually.

This should only get better though.

Tuesday night
CaRMS (residency applications) is driving me loco.

I just have no control over things while I’m away from Canada…

Still have one referee who hasn’t sent in his stuff and no way to contact him besides an e-mail address which he probably doesn’t check.

Oh well, I guess I can just hobo out a 5th year of med school…
Tonight James, Ted and I went bar-hopping to watch the US elections on TV.

I’m a Kerry supporter but to tell you the truth I think it’ll be pretty close…

Looks like it will depend on the electoral college split on Ohio.

BTW in Costa Rica people make their opinions clear by writing graffiti all over the town, “Bush es el Diablo” (Bush is the devil”) and similar quotables.

In the midst of our bar hopping we made our way to a famous bawdy bar, the Blue Marlin.

Funny place, with clientele of questionable intent that we decided we’d rather not hang around.

Remind me never to mix my drinks in the future, my mind is slowly descending into a haze of nothingness…….

Life in general
People here get up ridiculously early (6am) and go to bed equally ridiculously early (8pm).

The result? I wake up prematurely at 6am to the sounds of hot-blooded latinos shouting at each other, motorbikes revving their engines, dogs barking, and construction machinery starting up.

Damn.

More to follow, it’s kinda late and I should get home before my mama gets worried about me. Thursday, November 04, 2004 Addresses in Costa Rica
Definitely one of the funniest things about living in CR is that nobody has an address.

Nobody knows street names, few know street numbers…

Everybody goes by landmarks here.

For example, if you wanted to send a letter to my house here, you’d have to write the following on the envelope:

De “Café Maravilloso” en Curridabat, 2 cuadras norte hasta encontrar la torre del ICE, una cuadra al oeste y 25 mts al norte, la casa 17C (familia Zavaleta Fallas), San Jose, Costa Rica.

The translation is roughly:
From Cafe Marvelous (the name of a restaurant) in Curridabat (the suburb), go 2 blocks north until you reach the ICE (a phone company) tower, then one block to the west and 25 meters to the north, at house 17C.

No wonder everybody has problems with directions here!
 Tuesday, November 09, 2004 Monteverde
On Friday afternoon we were given the afternoon off in order to get an early start to a weekend getaway.

After eating a “plato del dia” (the national dish here, with rice, beans, and meat of your choice), Ted, James, and I headed to the Coca-Cola bus station.

After being stalked for 3 blocks by a guy whom we only asked for directions, sharing grapes and easy nonsensical laughter with a teenager, and witnessing the decay of American society sitting behind us (hereafter referred to as La Chiquita Gordita), we finally arrived at Monteverde, knocked back a few while visiting the local salsa clubs, were accosted by a fat drunk guy looking to shake hands with random people, I was burned by an a guy I now call “Afroloser,” and then we slept in our luxurious 3-bedroom 3-bathroom “Cabin in the Pines” (Cabinas los Pinos, $22.22CAD).

On horseback
In the morning we were awoken by a rap on our door – we were to go to the town of Fortuna to see the volcano Arenal, and the guide had come to take our luggage there by car separately because we had chosen to get there by a 3-hour ride on horseback ($33.33CAD).

This being the first time I had ever ridden a horse, I think the road necessarily had to be downhill, treacherous, mudridden, and narrow with leg-scraping boulders and the occasional river crossing that of course left our legs all soaked.

To top it off, evidently riding on a cantering horse feels like getting kicked in the ass 100 times a minute! Oh well, the pain is part of the experience I suppose.

Arenal
What a dumb tour. $33.33CAD for basically a tour of an invisible volcano, with a guide talking about animals you can’t see, and Hollywood movies and foreign countries (Canada?) that he’s probably never been to.

Plus I seemed to be the feast of the day for the local mosquitos, getting over 10 bites on my face, neck, and arms…

And getting soaked in the rainforest.

I seriously doubt 90% of travelers taking this tour actually get to see the volcano they came here for – the reason it draws so many people is that it’s the most active volcano in Costa Rica, being dormant for thousands of years until erupting in 1968 and killing like 80 people.

Oh well, at least I got a picture of a drawing of it :p

Baldi Hotsprings
LUCKILY, the $33.33CAD for the tour included a 3-hour stay at the local hotsprings, which made the trip pretty much all worth it.

Nothing like some friends, random women in bikinis, pools that go as hot as 60C, and a daquiri to unwind after otherwise pretty stressful “R&R.”

Fortuna
After coming back from the hotsprings, James and I decided to visit “Discotheque,” the largest discotheque outside of San Jose.

At least a 100 people in a pretty enclosed area.

We ran by some Americans we met earlier at Arenal, had a beer, watched some youngin’s (and some not-so-youngin’s) break into salsa fever, and then left.

Salt
Food here is wayyy too salty.

My body is shriveling up as I type this.

Or maybe I’m just being a granny.

At least my legs aren’t swelling.

Merecumbe
I signed up for an intensive latin dance class at a local studio ($2.96CAD per hr)…

The first class is next week.

Hopefully I can get some extra practice in with Andrea, my mamatica’s niece who is 3 months pregnant right now – she did offer to teach me, but I think I prefer to know a few steps so I don’t lose face by ruining a pregnant woman’s feet 😛 Later.

And a Random Fit of Vanity?
For some reason, people here are obsessed with looking at me.

I guess I shouldn’t be surprised – only 1% of the population here looks visibly Asian in the first place.

And I should expect to be stared at because, let’s face it, I have impishly good looks and chiseled features.

The funny thing is, here people can shout “Hey, Chino!” at me and it shouldn’t be considered offensive at all.

And people who downturned eyes, regardless of ethnicity, are said to have “ojos chinos” (Chinese eyes), and can be greeted with a prompt stretching of one’s eyes by placing one’s fingers on his temples and pulling them apart.

All in good fun I guess.
 Sunday, November 14, 2004 Blood Pressure
Was studying in a soda (an informal Costa Rican diner) on my favourite street in San Jose, “Calle de la Amargura” last Wednesday, when this guy came in with a blood pressure cuff and a cheap stethoscope looking to take my blood pressure.

At first, I staunchly refused, thinking he was just some guy off the street looking to make a quick buck, much like the people in Cambodia who charge 10 cents to weigh you.

Well, it turns out that this guy was a second year medical student just looking for people to practice his clinical skills on! Admirable initiative I thought, so I agreed to let him do it, at a price – while he was taking the pressure, I was pimping him in Spanish on how to take it properly! Oh what fun.

I know just enough Spanish to annoy people.

My pressure by the way is 110/80 assuming he took it correctly – I guess the diet here hasn’t killed me just yet…

Beach Town – Friday night
In the weekend Ted and I decided to make an excursion to Manuel Antonio, the most popular beach town in Costa Rica and home to one of the most famous national parks.

The bus there (5.80CAD) was a pretty comfortable 3.5 hours and we arrived at the small town at around 9:30 Friday night, whereupon we dropped our stuff off at our rooms at Cabinas Piscis (33.33CAD for 2 nights) and headed down to the beach to look for food.

After a 10-minute walk, we found the premier night restaurant/bar/disco of Manuel Antonio, “Mar y Sombra.” After eating and realizing the place looked pretty empty and shady, we headed back up the hill to look for other hangouts, finding a pool/restaurant place, “El Byblos.” Had nice waitresses who knew about as much English as we did Spanish, and OK-priced drinks, so we played a couple games of pool (5.71/h CAD) and decided to head back down to see if the disco picked up before heading back to our rooms.

It did, so we stayed for a couple drinks, practiced our Spanish with a couple peops, and turned in at around 2am.

Relaxing night.

National Park
Woke up on Saturday morning and headed off to Manuel Antonio park (9.33CAD admission) with the expectation of seeing some big-time wildlife and even better beaches.

It was unbelievable! Not only did we not see any wildlife (except for the plentiful iguanas which are like pigeons here… we were expecting monkeys and sloths), we kept running into tourists along the trail – the worst kind of wildlife.

Not that I don’t like tourists, but talking to them in English wasn’t what I came here for.

Oh well.

For those of you are wondering what the difference is between these beaches and say, Vancouver beaches – this place really didn’t disappoint.

It was everything a tropical paradise should be, and if I were there for any longer than 2 days I would’ve certainly felt guilty for going to pristine beaches, tropical forests, sipping on daquiris 2-for-1, and going to latin beach discos if it weren’t for a having a particularly stressful week.

Rocks to Be Italian
Had 2 pot-smoking Italian dudes as neighbours at our cabina.

They look like they were having a good time.

I think I have Italy-envy.

Back to El Byblos
By far the best meal I’ve had in Costa Rica thus far – apparently the chef of El Byblos is French, and he cooked up a “Bruchetta” which actually isn’t what it sounds like – it’s mixed meat kabobs with steak, chicken, and shrimp, and was pretty much grilled and marinated to perfection (14.86CAD).

We followed that up with another couple games of pool.

Technically I’m a novice player but somehow I manage to win a game on every night I play :p hmm, what else… there was a waitress at El Byblos who didn’t speak much English, and did a number of things that annoyed the heck out of us.

When Ted tried to ask her what she usually does during the daytime, she mistook that as some kind of twisted proposition.

Secondly, she asked us for a tip despite it being already included in the bill (we didn’t leave any extra).

Thirdly, she kept calling us “mi amor” (my love), despite knowing we didn’t particularly appreciate her comments.

Lastly, when we were practicing our Spanish with another waitress later during pool, she butted in and tried to take over the conversation, thus scaring off the other girl (who was far more polite).

This experience kind of gave us a bad impression of this town – it’s obvious that a LOT of shady stuff goes on here, and we don’t really want anything to do with it.

Not only in that particular restaurant, but in this town in general.

After heading down again to Mar y Sombra again – it was overcrowded that night – we turned in a bit earlier at 1am, glad to avoid the havoc.
 Thursday, November 18, 2004 Some guys
Met some guys at the local Cultural Centre who were making a living teaching English.

Pretty funny life stories…

One guy from the States actually came here with the intent of learning Spanish, but with no idea how to go about it, and was offered a job/housing at the Centre while sleeping in the airport.

The other guy is an Australian from Melbourne that came to Central America intending to do some traveling and then return, when he was stuck because he completely ran out of money – so he ended up working at the Centre and, in the last 2 years, fell in love with and married a Nicaraguan girl! My life seems so tame by comparison.

Dance class
Had my first dance class yesterday.

When I signed up for the class, I thought I was just learning salsa and maybe some merengue – but it turns out that in each 2-hour class they teach merengue, latin swing (weird dance), cha-cha, salsa, and a couple more I didn’t quite pick up.

Crazy! My calves hurt like the dickens from yesterday.

Oh well, I should be grateful I can even understand what the teacher’s saying…

Soccer
Soccer is the national sport here.

Not that the Costa Ricans are really terribly good at it (they’re generally worse than Canada, that has to count for something).

Well, I have to give credit to them for being enthusiastic though.

Yesterday night, Costa Rica had a soccer match with Honduras that, if they lost, would eliminate them from advancing to the next round of the World Cup qualifying.

I sat through part of the game at the local Cultural Centre Library, and the caf was packed with fans, male and female, that would totally gasp and shout even when the ball went out of bounds for a free throw.

Heh, furthermore, not a single goal with scored the whole game – I’ve never seen a city get so hyped about a 0-0 game! People were flocking to the streets in hordes with red flags on their backs and in their jerseys, couples making out on the sidewalks and on the buses, and with more than ample cops hanging around ready with ugly sticks.

It was quite the scene, and that wasn’t even in the downtown core – the next day, I heard rumours of girls who pull off full frontal nudity in celebration of the tie game.

I’m certainly not in Kansas anymore.

Subjunctive
The subjunctive is the coolest tense ever.

You can’t go wrong with it.

Seriously, it is the tense of the gods.

Pics
For those of you requesting for pics, I’m so sorry! The truth is, I travel with a film camera and usually post pics when I come back when I sit down and scan them like the dog I am.

Bye!
 Monday, November 22, 2004 El Pueblo
On Thursday, Ted, James and I made a night excursion to a prime entertainment district of San Jose, El Pueblo.

It’s actually pretty much only a single building complex, probably only about 4 square blocks in area, but built like a small city in itself, complete with a front gate and a maze-like complex of paths leading travelers to random little candlelight bars, pizza places, and several discos.

After eating possibly the worst sushi of our lives (uncured mushy rice, partially decomposed fish, and even disappointing ginger), we walked around until we found a bar/disco.

Was very interesting – the inside was set like a jungle, with random vines growing down from the ceiling.

On a central stage and bar, there were three large women dancing hip-hop while a much smaller latino man (not the DJ) tried to get the crowd worked up by shouting, singing, dancing, and announcing happy hour deals at the bar.

And every half hour to an hour, the place would erupt into salsa fever with the best local dancing I have seen since coming here.

Puerto Viejo de Talamanca
On Friday, James, Ted, and I got off class a tad early again to get a start on a weekend trip to Puerto Viejo, a beach town on the southern Caribbean coast of Costa Rica.

After a 5-hour moderately comfortable bus ride (8.74CAD) that was delayed 2 hours due to unknown reasons, we arrived at this chill town…

And not 30 seconds after setting foot out of the bus, we were offered marijuana joints twice! Of course, being retainers of the medical throne, we refused and walked to our “Cabinas Jacaranda” (26.24CAD for 2 days) – probably the place with the most personality I’ve stayed at in CR, further spiced up by the owner, an eccentric middle-aged Dominican woman.

Spent the night at some local candlelit discos on the beach, partying with (probably stoned) rastas.

Apparently at this time San Jose felt a 6.2 Richter scale quake, which we were glad to have missed.

Jah man!
Da Rasta culture (identified as a “cult” by a particularly observant local) is chill mon.

From my understanding and careful people-watching, it seems most of the young local men spend their time lighting up the pot, slapping each others’ fists, and shouting “Jah man” at each other (Jah apparently is a Rasta term for God). “You don’ hafta have dreads to be a Rasta mon, it’s all in da heart.

Jah man!”

People in Puerto Viejo
Seems to be a healthy (or unhealthy?) mix of Bribri (aboriginals, of whom I saw only four), Caribbean black people, latinos, and white people.

And proudly, I do believe the addition of me made the Asian population expand by 150% or so.

Expat town
There seems to be a healthily large population of hipster expats and backpackers who come here to chill…

For several weeks to years.

All the power to them I guess, but I don’t know how they can stand it – there really is so little to do here besides surf, people-watch (James and I are convinced we saw half of the village pass by just sitting down for breakfast), and look for “El Chino,” a local Chinese fatcat money-changer that apparently has a very dirty mouth and two sons who drive around town in their pimpin’ Honda Civics (actually, didn’t quite pay attention to what cars they drove).

Caribbean beach
The beach here is beautiful.

We spent the majority of our time just sitting quietly studying Spanish in the shade, just twenty metres from the water.

Met an American woman with a 3-year old son who was having the cutest “young love” relationship with a similar-aged Costa Rican little girl.

I think he was more interested in his plastic trucks though.

Lots of wet smelly sleeping dogs here, probably the only truly unpleasant thing on the beach here.

Medical Spanish classes
Contrary to popular belief, I am NOT having vacations all the time! I only go away for the weekends, to explore the country.

During the weekdays, pretty much all my time is spent either reading up on tropical disease (we’ve learned about malaria, Dengue, leishmaniasis, and venoms so far) or studying Spanish.

Having only studied it for a few months before coming here, I’m pretty surprised at my proficiency (intermediate probably, whereas when I came here I couldn’t make a sentence longer than 4 words) with what my mamatica calls a “perfect accent”.

Must’ve been all those French classes in high school? Or maybe I have a latino ancestor way up in my family tree somewhere? :p Dunno.

At this rate though it’ll surpass my Chinese by the time I leave, because so many words, especially medical terms, are just directly convertible from English – and it just sounds so darn cool.

Chinese food
Ordered some “chop suey” and rice noodles w/ beef at a local Chinese restaurant yesterday.

It was run by an expat Cantonese family who moved here 19 years ago.

Was a weird exchange, as I had to, according to decreasing proficiency, switched from Mandarin to Spanish then to my fetid Cantonese.

Eh, the food was OK I guess.

First time I tried chop suey and I can’t say I like it at all.

The gon chau ngau ho fun was just bearable.

WINTER BREAK UPDATE
I’m gonna be in Toronto from Saturday Dec 18 midnight to Monday Dec 20 morning, then in Vancouver from Monday Dec 20 to Thurs Dec 30 morning, and finally back to Toronto after that.

Had to choose to return to TO before New Year’s because the fares on the 31st and 1st were like twice as expensive.
 Saturday, November 27, 2004 Taxi experience
On Thursday, I had to wake up at 4:45am to catch an early taxi because we were scheduled to go on a class trip to the region of Tortuguero, a spot on the northern Caribbean side known for its abundance of tortoises.

I just happened to catch a bus driver that morning who was particularly chipper, starting his shift at 5am and ending at like 4pm.

If you recall, there are no addresses in Costa Rica, only landmarks – so when I told him I needed to go to the Britannia Hotel at the corner of Street #3 and Avenue #11, he actually asked me to give me another landmark! After lamenting to him that HE’S the Costa Rican, not me, he started driving like crazy all over town, in what clearly was the WRONG DIRECTION, and we ended up taking like 10 minutes longer because he had to ask 5 random people for directions along the way.

All of this madness was while honking at every young woman on the street and shouting “Hola Mama!” and giving me a lengthy lecture about how hot women are here.

Anyway, the way taxis work here is that they charge 0.77CDN for the first kilometre and then the meter (the “maria”) goes up according to an algorithm based on time and distance…

My ride, which was about maybe 4km and took about 20mins, cost me 2.92CDN (after I demanded a discount of course).

Tortuguero
The 3-day 2-night trip to Tortuguero was an all-inclusive package, part of the program I’m studying under right now.

The gang that went was basically the class (Ted, James, and me) plus our wonderful guides, Marcelo (a Costa Rican paramedic / med student / instructor at my school / expectant father) and Manuel (a Spanish/Costa Rican resident who’s applying to do Internal Med in the States after this boards).

The first day we basically spent playing beach soccer (painful!), heading to town baring our chests, and people-watching.

Oh, and there was this cute little kid that kept going up and down the sidewalk using his training wheels, shouting “honk!” whenever he wanted somebody to get out of the way.

By the Pool
I will always remember sitting by the pool of Pachira Lodge at night, with an eerie ring around a full moon above, a cooler of beer at our feet, and lively discussion about such in-jokes as Ronnie, “the ocho”, Chinese food, la pica en la cara, chiquita gordita, the muneco waiter who brought Ted soup in bed, and the creepy chulo who had a fascination with young boys.

Ted had a bit of gastro and had to drink saline (straight from the IV bag) for half the night, but he recovered due to our wonderful rehydration therapy just in time to join us at the pool.

Kayaking
Went river kayaking.

Was my first time, and I stayed almost on pace the way to the ocean, but on the way back I got tired and had balance problems, so ended up coming back like half an hour late! It was fun though, I don’t have any complaints.

Need to check out some books on kayaking technique…

Bugs (“bichos”) in Costa Rica
Mosquitos – mostly a problem in rainforests and the ones on the Caribbean coast can give you Dengue fever.

While on the Caribbean, being a sweet-blooded Canadian with bicho allergies, I have to wear two coats of crap at all times – sunscreen + DEET.
Zancudos – my bedroom has these things – apparently they’re smaller than mosquitos and only come out at night – Ted is guessing that they are actually sandflies.

Anyway, I apparently have allergies to these too, and furthermore they tend to emit a high-pitched buzz around my head, keeping me up for hours on end.
Cucarachas – there are one- to two-inch cockroaches in every household here.

There is no exception.

The lucky upper-middle class gets to fumigate their households every few weeks.

Right now my mamatica is having a fumigation war with her neighbour – every time one fumigates, all the cockroaches run into the other’s house.

The method of choice to kill a roach? I heard they carry eggs on their back so stepping on them will only spread the eggs…

Therefore, I prefer to drown them in Costa Rican hair gel (ultra-hold!) and flush the little bastards…

A little change-up
I’ve finished my Spanish and Tropical Medicine course! For the next 3 weeks I will be working in clinics across San Jose and having more contact with locals than anybody else.

Stay tuned! Other journal topics to come – washrooms, buses, and “street dudes” in Costa Rica.
 Wednesday, December 01, 2004 Sick
I’ve caught the Costa Rican cold.

Lost my voice, and have a dry cough.

As I’m writing this I really should be at my clinic, but I had to excuse myself for being too disruptive during the clinic.

I guess I should consider myself lucky – besides the cough and a b*tch of a sore throat, I’m well enough to go out and people-watch on Central Avenue.

Costa Rican medical students
Went out with some final-year medical students on Monday night.

Shirley (who is Ted’s “ticasister”), Joselina, Laura, and Ricardo – they had just finished the exams for their 2nd last rotation, and finish their medical school careers the coming month! We went out to “Bar 83” in San Pedro (I think), had a few while chatting in Spanish.

Washrooms in Costa Rica
Washrooms facilities are actually for the most part nice in this country, compared to some mosquito-infected holes I’ve been to in Asia.

A funny thing though – outside of San Jose, it seems that it is unacceptable to toss toilet paper in the toilet – there is a trashcan beside every toilet for everybody to dump their waste.

Also, people seem to have pretty primitive versions of “trough-style urinals” here – in that they aren’t urinals at all, but WALLS against which men aim, hoping to hit at such an angle as not to backfire at themselves…

Ok, onto the next subject…

Street people
There seems to be a culture of selling things on the street here…

From your morning newspaper to candied corn to lottery tickets to pamphlets telling you how to say “100 common words in 50 languages,” all of these can be purchased by honking at random dudes hanging out in the middle of traffic between cars and tossing them a few pennies while trying to not run over them.

Alternatively for bus riders, there are street salesmen that climb aboard random buses (evidently they don’t need to pay to do this) and make an announcement in a loud radio voice, followed by soliciting money from the passengers.

Buses
Buses rule the city of San Jose.

They pollute, maim, and carry the load of the student population around the city all for the bargain price of 26-40 cents CDN.

That alone isn’t so special…

The main difference here is that buses don’t stop for people.

The driver can see 10 people waiting at a bus stop, and unless one of them basically risks his/her life to jump out onto the street and wave down the bus, or actually jump onto the bus while it’s still moving (which I have done not too seldom), you will never get anywhere.

That’s about all for now.

More topics to follow include “the more locks the better!”, shotgun-toting grocery store guards, and what I like to call “the hot mama phenomenon”.


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