Letters From Exile

...Scott Bidstrup's Life And Living In Costa Rica

Sun, Feb 27 2005

Summer Arrives In Arenal

It's been hard to get myself to sit down long enough to write a blog entry. The weather in the last three days has been nothing short of truly spectacular - the sort of weather that the tourism institute loves to brag about.

Not that it hasn't been a long time in coming - more than a month late - but as of Thursday, it is finally here. Weather in the afternoon that day slowly cleared off and warmed up, as it often does during the rainy season, but it stayed warm. Through the night, even, and I had to turn on the ceiling fan to stay comfortable. Friday and yesterday were spectacularly sunny and clear, and I have been enjoying the cloudless nights and warm sunny days. Looks like the cold, rainy winter weather is finally over with, at long last. It is dry enough now that cars rushing by on the street in front of the house raise clouds of dust, which, fortunately, is carried away from the house by the breeze remaining from the greatly diminished trade winds.

Friday was too good a day to stay inside, so I spent most of the day working on getting the upstream end of the driveway culvert re-done with cinder blocks to stop some of the erosion of the soil and gravel from on top of it. I also wanted to get the decorative cinder blocks set so I could get them filled with soil and prepare to start planting them with the small shrub cuttings I was given. They are all rooted now, and are quite ready to be planted.

During the yard work on Friday, the gardener noticed that there were several spots in the fence where the wires are loose enough that they can be spread apart and crawled through. So most of the day yesterday was spent installing anti-spread wires on the fence and it is now about half completed. There is enough secure fence that I don't have to worry much about casual trespassers nowadays trying to poach the guapote fish in my pond - if they want to poach, they're going to have to look for a way in. The fence work is far from done, but at least the easy entry points have all been fixed - so far as I know. I am delighted to report that the bougainvillea cuttings that were planted about three weeks ago still have some of their original leaves, which have not wilted, so it looks like most of them, if not all, will root out and grow, so my living barbed-wire will be doing well and should be quite beautiful in a year or two.

The tourists seem to be getting far less lost than they have been. Lots of them around - when I am in town, there is almost always two or three groups of them, mostly backpackers, wandering around Main Street. But the endless parade of lost tourists past my front door seems to have abated. I think that the "human sign" I described here a few entries back, seems to be getting the job done. I went to the trouble of drawing up a map and taking it down to the bookstore and having it copied, so I could give out the copies to the tourists as they stop here, looking for the road to Tilaran. But I have only handed out one map - and that was to a Tico truck driver looking for the road to Tronadora, a village on the south shore of the lake.

Went to town yesterday to get a sheet of sandpaper at the ferreteria (hardware store) and the place was half-empty. Most of the goods were gone, and there was only one clerk in the place waiting on customers. He told me that they are moving into one of the two new buildings being built on Main Street, and they'll have a lot more room - the new place will be open on Monday. Good news. It's a small hardware store, but well stocked, and they always seem to have what I need, and the new store will mean more floor space for bulky stock. The building they were in, I am told, was bought by a gringo, and he is going to rent it out to the Banco De Costa Rica, which means that we'll have three banks in town now, but still no farmacia (pharmacy), which everyone agrees is what we need the most.

Seems that every time the police apprehend a burglar, two more take his place. The cops arrested a gang of burglars operating in the area about two months ago, and the town heaved a huge collective sigh of relief. But I found out yesterday that new burglars in town hit the bookstore overnight and pretty much cleaned it out. And some robbers also hit one of the small hotels in town yesterday, and cleaned out the front desk - and this was in broad daylight. So now, the owner is hiring security, which may end up bankrupting the place - it is a small hotel with only about five rooms and quite low rates. It is getting serious enough that the police are actually considering getting a telephone installed - right now, if you want the police, you have to actually go down to the cop shop and ask directly - if they're around. Often they're out on patrol, and they do take the middle of the night off, so unless you happen to have their home phone number, you have no police protection at night. Yet in spite of all this, the vast majority of people in this town are as honest as they ever were, and most folks still park their cars unlocked on Main Street, often with groceries or shopping bags in them. Most of the trouble seems to be caused by people from out of town, and they mostly confine their activities to the main highway and the Main Street loop around the park.

I continue to be amazed at the hospitality of the local Ticos. Last evening, just after sunset, I was out for a walk, enjoying the star-lit sky and the warm evening, and was invited in to the home of a group of construction workers, in town to help with an ICE construction project. The four of them had rented a small shack (with a million-dollar view) that can't be costing them more than $100 per month, if that much. It is a rude little place with a single small bedroom, a kitchenette with nothing more than a sink and a two-burner stove, and a slab of cortesa wood used as a counter. It has no furniture at all except a double bed and a cheap and very battered dinette set with four mis-matched lawn chairs. The floors are simple, unfinished wood planks. We enjoyed a good chat, and it turns out that one spoke English quite well. He had returned from living as an illegal construction worker in Phoenix, and had some good war stories about narrow escapes from the Migras, the U.S. Border Patrol. He still has a girl friend there, and wants to go back and marry her. These guys were all dirt poor, and were still quite willing and eager to share, and friendly and happy. Amazing to me how the values are so glaringly different from the values back in the States. The United States, which lectures the world endlessly about how to live, certainly has a lot to learn from the people it lectures.

|| Scott Bidstrup, Nuevo Arenal, Costa Rica 08:04:43 AM

Tue, Feb 22 2005

Warm And Cold

The weather continues to play its now-its-warm-now-its-cold trick, trying to decide if it is going to be winter or summer here. It continues to be unusually rainy and cold, but with moments to days of warm, sunny weather. When the rain quits and the sun comes out, it doesn't take long at all to warm up and be quite pleasant; but as soon as it clouds over, it gets chilly again. Strange weather.

The cool, damp weather is ideal for planting cuttings, so when the gardener was here on Friday, he brought with him a huge pile of bougainvillea cuttings, and we got those planted along the fence line - a kind of living barbed-wire fence. He told me that they are mixed varieties, so I won't know what colors I have and where until they bloom, but that's OK. I'm planting them for the thorns anyway. Once they're all grown in, I'll have a long line of them - more than six hundred feet of unbroken bougainvilleas. That should be quite a show at the end of the dry season when they are in their peak bloom.

Yesterday I was out for a walk and bumped into my neighbor, who was somewhat surprised to see me. I've been inside so much, with the door shut because of the cold weather, he thought I was in the States! Another neighbor was harvesting the remaining manzanas de agua (water apples) on the large, mature and very beautiful tree in front of his house. He was lamenting that he is going to have to cut that tree down - it is in the way of the power line that is being relocated to make way for the new house he is going to build on the corner of his property. I asked him why he hadn't started construction yet, and he tells me that the national registry has not yet issued the final permits. That really kind of surprised me, as I didn't think the Registro had anything to do with it, but apparently they do. I figured that the only permit he needed was from the municipality planning board.

Saturday's paper brought news that a man whose gay lover has died, is suing to get his lover's pension, as he would be able to do easily if he simply happened to be of the other sex. The case was filed with the Constitutional Supreme Court, and that means they will have to rule on it. But that doesn't mean anytime soon. Back in 2003, a court challenge of the ban on same-sex marriage was also filed with the same court, and the arguments heard, but so far, the court has simply not announced a verdict. And the news in today's paper is that the corruption scandals continue - the head of cellular department of ICE, the telephone monopoly, is finding himself the defendant in a suit from ICE - seems he set up a voice-over-internet operation and routed some of the cellular users' international calls through it. ICE figures it lost about $120,000 in revenue. Well, I am glad to see it come to light. And another corruption case - a Chinese fellow who was applying for citizenship was asked for a bribe by a clerk in the Registro Civil (Civil Registry) before his cedula (ID paper) application would be processed. The fellow agreed and told the clerk he didn't have the money immediately, but would return with it. Well, the foreigner went to the police, who gave him some marked bills to give the clerk, and when he went in and gave him the money, the cops swooped down and arrested the guy. So I guess they're getting a handle on the corruption here, slowly but surely. One corrupt clerk at a time.

|| Scott Bidstrup, Nuevo Arenal, Costa Rica 03:34:07 PM

Thu, Feb 17 2005

Medical Emergency, Maybe - And Marriages Of Convenience

Yesterday morning, I had quite a scare. When I woke up in the morning and tried to get up, as soon as I moved my head, I got an incredibly intense case of vertigo - the worst I have ever experienced. No headache, no ringing in the ears, no inability to stand up, nothing that would indicate a problem other than what I was experiencing - ordinary vertigo, but extremely severe. Hey, when you're my age, you expect this sort of thing from time to time, but it certainly was unpleasant. As soon as the vertigo subsided, I sat down in a chair for the nausea session, which hit full force. I did not throw up, but just sat there feeling like I would, and sweating like a stuck pig. When I finally got up, there was a puddle of sweat on the floor around the chair where I had been sitting.

After a while, I went back to bed and laid down for a while to try to get over it a bit. I noticed that if I moved my head at all, the vertigo would come back to some degree, and the faster I moved it, the more pronounced the vertigo. So I laid on my side for quite a while and tried to be still.

After a couple of hours, this episode was over with, and there was no more problem, just a bit of light-headedness. I called a lady I know who happens to have been a registered nurse, to see if she felt it was worth seeing a doctor about it. After some discussion, we decided that in the absence of continued symptoms to speak of, it would probably be best if I kept a log of any such future incidents and take it to a doctor in the future if I have any further trouble, and so I am going to do that. Today, I have been feeling fine, and haven't had a problem, though I have had a bit of tinnitis and a very mild headache this afternoon. In poking around on the net learning about vertigo, I found one site that suggested that a reaction to medication can cause it. Well, I had taken a ranitidine tablet for my heartburn during the middle of the night - about four hours before this happened. And it was cheap Nicaraguan ranitidine that has been only modestly effective. I think I am going to go back on the Costa Rican made medicine in spite of the price, if only because it works better - it might have been a reaction, and I would like to make sure it doesn't happen again.

I had a call this morning from my friend in Alajuela. Seems his newly opened bar is doing well, and he is quite pleased with the traffic he has been getting through there. As I reported some weeks back in this space, his semi-nude statue of the "goddess of peace" out front is still attracting its share of local gropers, mostly in the middle of the night, apparently. He's armed the staff with a digital camera with flash to try to get a picture or two if they see it happening again.

And now it seems he has a new cook for his food operation. He hired her in an act of emergency compassion. She is a Costa Rican woman who has been living in the United States for decades, nearly all her life, and doesn't speak a word of Spanish. Seems she went to the United States as a small child with her parents, but the family never became legal residents. She had been living in Miami all that time - had married, raised several children, and is divorced from an abusive husband. She was living alone in her apartment when U.S. Immigration agents burst in, arrested and handcuffed her, and hauled her to the airport, and put her on a San Jose-bound plane, no notice, not even a chance to pack a suitcase. She ended up here, with nothing more than the clothes on her back and the change in her purse - no money, no friends, no job and no way of making a living or even a place to stay. She turned to a local church who found a very unsuitable place to sleep, but she still had no way to make a living. She heard about my friend's bar and went down there to talk to him. She is a pretty good cook apparently, so he hired her to cook for his food operation, even though he already had a cook, and found an apartment for her to live in. He took her down to the Ministerio de Hacienda (Home Ministry) to get her paperwork (all-important cedula - national ID document) application started. So she is rescued for now. But she does not know this country at all, is totally frightened and bewildered, and is not sure she feels she can adjust, and would sure like to go back to the States.

My friend got to thinking about this situation and decided that there may be a way to do that. She needs an American to be married to, so she can get a family visa and go back. And there are Americans here who would love to be married to a Tico woman, so they can get a residence permit to live here. Hmmm... each needing the other's citizenship... And apparently there is no shortage of takers. They're lining up already - marriages of convenience were legalized by a recent Supreme Court decision here about two weeks ago. As a result, there are lots of gringo guys that would love to claim her as their new Tica bride, so they can get cedulas of their own. I'll keep you posted.

|| Scott Bidstrup, Nuevo Arenal, Costa Rica 04:00:54 PM

Tue, Feb 15 2005

A Human Sign

Yesterday was as cold as it was in January, and that is surprising - last year at this time, the temperature was in the 80's by now. Fortunately, today is considerably warmer than yesterday - a flannel shirt and an occasional hot cup of coffee or chocolate seemed to do the trick, and even though there was a steady drizzle this morning, and the air is somewhat chilly, I'm comfortable with the weather. All I was able to do in the garden yesterday, with the cold, wind and drizzle, was to get some begonias planted in my front flower planters. It has cleared off now, and the sun is out, with the garden beckoning me.

The bad weather doesn't seem to have deterred the tourists. There has been a steady stream of them this year, including past my front door as they continue to search for the road to Tilaran. Most maps show the road going around the lake, counter-clockwise in the direction towards Tilaran, but they don't show the peninsula on which Arenal is built - so people assume that the thing to do is to keep left. If they do so, they end up on dead-end roads poking around the peninsula, looking for the right road, one of which will take them past my door. Eight turistas perdidos (lost tourists) yesterday, of which two stopped and asked directions. Of course, they need to turn right at the Arenal crossroad, and that will take then to Tilaran directly, but, with the lack of a sign, that is not the intuitive thing to do. So most end up wandering around the village, which is just exactly what the local merchants want to happen. That is why the municipality has twice put up signs marking the proper turn, and both times the sign was taken down within a day.

And the lack of a sign created an opportunity. For some time, a lady with a small vendor cart has been hanging around the crossroad, with a large "Info" written on the side of it. She hangs out there, rain or shine, offering help to the tourists, in exchange for a small amount of money - a kind of human tourist sign. There was an article about her in the paper, indicating that she recently lost her husband and was left destitute. She has a sodita (small refreshment stand) that she has operated near the city park and soccer field, but with Arenal's rather rainy weather, and the fact that the park has little landscaping in it, not to mention any seating to speak of, not many people hang out there like they do in most Latin American towns - there is simply not enough traffic past her sodita to make it pay, so she had to close it as it was losing money. That left her with a four-year old child to feed and no income at all - so she has been evicted from her rented house, and has been living out of a tourist restroom in the city's lakeside park. She hit on the idea of putting her vendor cart at the crossroads, and offering directions to the tourists, in exchange for a small voluntary gifts. The article said that she makes about 1800 colones on a good day - a bit less than $4 at current exchange rates. If she had a place to prepare food and sleep, she could probably get by on that. But it is not enough if she has to confine herself and her child to buying and eating ready-to-eat food.

Unfortunately, that kind of poverty is becoming increasingly common in Costa Rica. As the Costa Rican government is powerless to stop illegal immigration, and the one-way globalization, imposed by the U.S. and other developed countries continues to erode agricultural markets on which the rural economy of Costa Rica depends, poverty in the hinterlands increases. Along coasts and near the borders - read: furthest away from San Jose - the poverty is the worst and is increasing the most rapidly. Squatter shacks are becoming increasingly common in the countryside. And that means that what has, for many decades, made Costa Rica, especially rural Costa Rica so special among the nations of Latin America is slowly being lost. It's a sad thing, too. Costa Rica's uniquely egalitarian culture and resulting lack of poverty is one of the reasons why Costa Rica has been such a favored destination for retirees for so long, but that is quickly becoming a thing of the past as America's "rugged individualism" cultural values take over here, and backs are turned to the poor and dispossessed. No wonder that the retiree traffic is moving to Nicaragua and Panama faster than it is increasing here.

|| Scott Bidstrup, Nuevo Arenal, Costa Rica 11:08:07 AM

Fri, Feb 11 2005

Problems In Paradise

At last I am getting up in the mornings without a chill in the house. Looks like the record-breaking cold we had in January here is finally over. The high in San Jose was supposed to be 77 degrees today, but it didn't get that warm here - not much past 74, I expect. I would really like to find a thermometer in a ferreteria sometime, and if I ever do, I'll buy it. It would be interesting to watch and see how much it changes here.

This evening, I have my flannel shirt off for the first time in a week. There is still a bit of a chill, but it is warmer than it has been since Christmas night. Certainly a welcome change.

The grass in my lawn has certainly appreciated the improved weather and increased sunshine, and the variegated ginger is showing a bit more green - it may survive after all. The plantain that died during the rain isn't dead after all - it sent up an offshoot that is growing rapidly and doing fine. The lawn has been growing back in a bit, crowding out the sedges that had begun to replace it during all that January rain. When the gardener got here early this morning, he started cutting the lawn before I could get out there to discuss it with him, and apparently his decision to cut it was a good decision. It has grown back in enough now that there are few bare spots anymore, and where it has been cut, it looks like a putting green now. Really looks sharp. The mosquitos are a lot less, too, and so I'm glad he went ahead with it.

The improved weather has brought with it a healthy crop of tourists. The country is enjoying a record tourist season, and there were three touristas perdidos (lost tourists) passing my house today, an increase over what I have been seeing, and I wasn't out there that much. My friends over at the real estate offices tell me they have been busy, too, with sales the best they have been in quite a while, and are scrambling for listings to keep their businesses going. Their inventories of unsold properties are way down, and I have noticed that there are considerably fewer for-sale signs around town than there have been. One of my neighbors told me the other day that he has a house for rent, so I walked over there yesterday to see if the renter was out, and he is, so the house is vacant. I suspect it won't be vacant for long, at least this time of the year. It is a nifty little cottage with a truly stunning view of the lake and volcano, and it has a porch where one can sit and watch the sunset over the Tejona Hills. The place needs some work, but it would be a nice place to spend the improving spring weather. Had it been vacant when I moved here, I would have been tempted to rent it while doing some serious re-hab on the house I am living in.

Wednesday, I went over to the North Forty and set out some Omitox bait pellets for the huge leafcutter ant colony on my neighbor's place, where the trails were coming onto my property. Twice, those ants have denuded my new starfruit tree, and my cas (Costa Rican guava) bush that I planted a few months back. Both have survived, but they have clearly been set back, and I hope that this time, I have that darned colony under control. Earlier, I set out a lot of Mirex pellets, and they set the colony back, but it came roaring back. So I resorted to some of my precious Omotox. I set out a half bag of those pellets, which I can't buy anymore, and when I checked the trails this morning, there was no more activity. That Omitox sure works great, and I really wish I could get some more, but I suspect that since the active ingredient is persistent, they have pulled it as an environmental measure.

I have been getting out and doing some walking, trying to build my strength back up, after the typhoid fever of last fall. I think I am finally getting over it enough now that with some exercise, I'll be back to normal fairly soon. I sure need to get back to my gardening activity. The garden needs my attention, and I have lots of projects to do. Anyway, my circumnavigation of the large block I live on no longer takes me an hour - I can get around it now in about two thirds that.

Unfortunately, I made an unpleasant discovery during my walk today. As I walked up the hill, I noticed a small trickle in the roadside drainage ditch that had the look and smell of the open sewage trenches that I grew so familiar with during my time in Nigeria, and the sewage is eventually draining into my pond at the bottom of the hill (though the trickle dries up long before it gets there - it is a problem for me only during the rains). As I walked up the hill, following the trickle, I found the source right at the top of the hill. It appears that a house, built close to the street, but about six feet above the street on a rise, has a septic tank between the house and the street, and the soil in front of the septic tank has eroded away and the end of the tank is exposed and visible from the street. It appears to be leaking into the drainage trench, and that is apparently where the sewage is coming from. Well, I could call the health department and complain, but that would make an enemy in town and I don't want to do that. Or I could do what I have been threatening to do, and that is to put a culvert under the street, and just drain all the street runoff into the stream that feeds Lake Arenal, so the sewage doesn't end up in my pond - but that doesn't get the pollution fixed. There was an article in the paper recently, indicating that the contamination in Lake Arenal is unacceptably high, and is getting worse, as the population around the lake continues to increase. What to do? Perhaps a word or two dropped in the right place might stimulate a response when the health department hears about it, without a formal complaint from me and doesn't implicate me as the complainant. That is probably the best solution. And once the culvert I'm planning is installed, there won't be an issue with it anyway.

|| Scott Bidstrup, Nuevo Arenal, Costa Rica 07:02:10 PM

Tue, Feb 08 2005

The Tax Man Cometh - Part II

The weather continues to improve a little at a time. This morning, I awoke to a partly cloudy sky, and warmer morning temperatures than I have been experiencing since winter arrived in November. It appears that this long and cold winter is finally behind us. I hope. Warmer weather has been a long time coming.

This morning I needed to get something of a move on, as I needed to take a trip to Tilaran to go pay my taxes. Seems that the government-owned bank will not accept them anymore, and I have to go to the nearest branch of the country's largest private bank to do that nowadays. I don't understand that - I am sure there must be an explanation, but I have some rather dark suspicions as to what it may be.

The tax thing started on Friday - I had a phone call from one of the other expats in town, indicating that her accountant was there and had told her that all S.A.'s (corporations) that exist to hold property, have taxes due in March, and that I should come over and give the accountant my information so he could write up the forms. I did that - and was told I would get a phone call when the forms were ready. The taxes are the Education and Culture tax - something new, apparently. Well, the call came yesterday. My friend called to indicate that the accountant had left the forms with her, and had billed her 10,000 colones (about $21) for their preparation. So I went over there to collect the forms and pay her, of course in a pouring rain, and got there just in time - she was preparing to leave for a trip to San Jose. I was told I needed to pay them today for certain. I am not sure why; others told me they aren't due till March. I have two such corporations, and the taxes for the two of them came to a grand total of 12,000 colones - or $25.80 at current exchange rates. Not exactly a crushing tax burden - more like just a nuisance, really.

It was a good day for a trip today. Not much sun, but no rain either, and so I had my usual breakfast, but with some fried bananas. I got my things together and departed, stopping at the gas station for a bit of air for my tires. I figured the road would be in bad shape again, and I wanted to be sure the tires were properly inflated. The road was going to be crowded with tourists, too, who have no idea how to drive on potholed roads - this is the very peak of the tourist season.

As I expected, the recent rainy weather has taken quite a toll on the road from Arenal to Tilaran. The recently patched potholes have been replaced by quite a healthy crop of new ones. There was an article about that in the paper recently, and it pointed out that this is not good for tourism - this country's main foreign exchange earner - as that road is one of the country's principal tourist routes. But the road is a municipal route, not a federal highway, and the municipality seems to be rather indifferent to the condition of it, as it is in an outlying, sparsely populated area where there are few votes for the politicians to curry. Ah, politics are the same all over the world.

Anyway, by eleven, I was in Tilaran, and went to the bank and paid my taxes, no problem. I stopped at one of the town's two grocery stores for a few things I can't get in Arenal, and headed back. On the way home, at the Tronadora junction, a vendor had set up shop, selling watermelons and cantaloupes. I had not had either in a long time, so I stopped and dickered with him. The watermelon was rather dear, going for 500 colones each, a bit more than a dollar, but it had been so long since I had had one, I couldn't resist. They are quite small - a bit smaller than the size of a soccer ball, but looked good and I bought two. The cantaloupes appeared to be good quality, ripe but not bruised or with soft spots, and were much cheaper - a bag of three for 500 colones. Considerably cheaper than in the stores - when they are available.

For desert tonight, I had watermelon for the first time in six months. I was delighted at the quality - perfectly ripe, sweet and good, and a relatively thin rind. Sure tasted good to bite into a piece of watermelon again. I am tempted to try planting the seed and see if I can grow some in my garden. Would be nice to have a steady supply.

|| Scott Bidstrup, Nuevo Arenal, Costa Rica 09:13:03 PM

Sat, Feb 05 2005

Crocodiles And The President Of The Republic

Another quiet week here in Costa Rica's answer to Lake Wobegon. Not much happening around here again, and so there hasn't been much to write about, but here goes...

The weather has been improving, but it still is chilly and unpredictably rainy. My gardener told me that the lawn is so saturated at his patron's estate that some horses that got loose in the yard sank in as much as a foot, and had to be rescued. Nobody can recall a January this wet, and the rain isn't over yet.

Like most tropical climates, the sky can cloud over and start raining in minutes, so it's still a bit dangerous to go outside and commit to doing anything that you can't abandon at a moment's notice. But at least the rain has tapered off enough that the squishiness in the lawn is starting to subside a bit. And I noticed today that the plaintain that died back has sent up an offshoot, so apparently the root isn't completely dead. If I nurse it along, it might make it, though it is set back about six months from the others that I planted some time back. And my little cacao tree has made it, too, and I think it will survive the soil saturation. The variegated ginger looks like it's history, though. I fertilized it late last week, along with several other things in the garden, and it is starting to put out some new leaves. New growth flushes too, on my lemon, navel orange and lime trees.

The begonias that I planted in my front flower box are doing nicely, too. Some of the new cuttings that I planted just two weeks ago are in bloom already, and I am amazed at how quickly they are getting established. The perlargoniums are not doing anywhere near as well, so I am officially giving up on trying to get them to do well in this climate. I just don't think they are worth the effort, in spite of the attractive flowers.

Enough of the quadrado bananas that I was given some weeks back were finally ripe today, to be worth baking up and so I gave that a try. The recipe I was given, that I described in a blog entry last week, was what I tried. Got them all the bananas ready for the oven, only to discover that I don't have any aluminum foil. And I don't have any lid for the baking dish, nor do I have any non-plastic plates I could put over the dish in the oven. So I had no choice but to bake the bananas uncovered, and, predictably, they ended up a bit dry.

But the flavor was great. And I fixed the dryness with a bit of cream, and wow! What a great dish it ended up being. So the baking dish was emptied out and the baked bananas put in the freezer to be frozen for a future treat. I'll be doing more of the baked bananas as soon as more of the quadaradosare ripe. That will be a few days - unlike the usual table bananas, these ripen two or three at a time, leaving plenty of time to eat them as they ripen.

Yesterday there was a lot of construction noise up the street, and so I went out to find out what was going on. Turns out that the huge piles of river gravel that was placed in the street a few houses up in storage for the marina project, was being loaded by the junta that is building the marina out on the point of the peninsula. I just had to go over and watch, and chat with the man that is running the job. They picked up all but one of the truck loads. The street's a mess, but a few rainstorms will take care of that. And most of the mud and sand will end up in my pond, but I suppose that's not a big deal. Lots of mud and sand is going to end up in there anyway.

And speaking of construction, there was a fun article in the paper yesterday about crocodiles and the sewage disposal problems in San Jose. There is a collector system in part of the city, but it is old and in poor condition, and dumps the sewage untreated, straight into the tributaries of the Rio Colorado, one of the largest rivers in the western half of the country. Needless to say, the situation isn't acceptable, and so the government of the day is proposing to the Assemblea Legislativa that money be allocated to begin a big construction project to fix the problem once and for all. The collector system is to be repaired and expanded to include all of the incorporated city, and send the water to a treatment plant to be treated before being released into the Rio Colorado drainage.

In order to drum up support in the Assemblea, the president gave a speech, in which he described the problem in rather graphic terms. At one point in the speech, he noted that the problem has, ironically enough, inadvertently created a rather unique tourist attraction. It seems that sewage-contaminated streams are rather attractive to crocodiles. And in the Tarcoles river, they have found a haven and have gathered by the hundreds, where they can be seen basking on the banks and swimming lazily in the water.

"I have seen many gringo tourists arriving, happy to see the crocodiles in the Tarcoles, the most contaminated river," the paper quoted Pacheco as saying. "There they are, taking pictures: 'Oh, look at the crocodiles!' Until they ask what (the crocodiles) eat. When they get an answer, they leave."

|| Scott Bidstrup, Nuevo Arenal, Costa Rica 08:22:01 PM
Copyright © 2003 Scott Bidstrup. All rights reserved.