Friday, September 30, 2011
Thursday, September 29, 2011
Making applesauce is the easiest thing on the planet. I suppose the only thing easier to make is a glass of tap water with ice. I don't know why I didn't do this years ago!
So how did you do it, Signe? Well after scouring the internet and seeing somewhat daunting recipes with lemon, vanilla, sugar and cinnamon, I decided to just wing it. It turned out exactly the way I wanted it-- appley. I don't like my applesauce with sugar or anything else in it. I want a healthy snack, not a treat. The only applesauce available here is the treat kind. And runs you just about 3000c ($6) because it's imported. So here it is, my easy-peasy applesauce recipe!
- Get some apples, a naturally sweet kind. Not granny smith. I used the reddish-yellowy ones they have at the feria. I'm going to guess they are gala or something similar. Some sites recommended using a variety. I just used my reddish-yellowy ones.
- Wash, peel, and cut the apples into chunk-lets. I'm going to try with the skin on next time because I'm lazy and the skin has lots of goodies in it.
- Put about 1 inch of water into a pot. Throw in your apple chunk-lets. Turn stove on HIGH.
- When the water starts to boil, turn stove to medium high.
- Cook the apples until they're soft, stirring occasionally (about 10 or 15 minutes). So soft that if you try to mush them with a spoon, they mush.
- Scoop out soft, warm apple chunk-lets and put into a blender. It's a good idea to do this in 2 batches.
- Press the "PULSE" button about 10 times or until all chunk-lets have turned into sauce.
- Pour into containers (no jars needed). It will last in the fridge for about a week and a half.
- Cool. Enjoy!
Oh and here's the math for making yogurt vs buying yogurt:
Store Yogurt My Yogurt
500g = 1500c 1800g = 900c
1g = 3c 1g = 0.5c
colones saved: 4500 (or $9.00) wooo!
Tuesday, September 27, 2011
So this is a post I've been wanting to write for a while. Five things about Costa Rica you WON'T find in a guide book.
1. There are no legit video rental stores. If you want to rent a movie in Costa Rica you will be picking up a pirated version. But these are high quality versions. So much so that one video we watched had a anti-pirate commercial on it. Oscar says that Blockbuster once foolishly tried to open a chain in Costa Rica. Evidently it failed in a few months time.
2. Guaro is the liquor of choice in Costa Rica. It is made from sugar cane and is sort of in between rum and vodka on the liquor chart. You can't buy guaro anywhere else in the world. The name of the company who makes the most guaro is Cacique, the two words can be interchanged. "I want some Cacique"/"I want some guaro". It is also used in the way that southerner's use the word "coke". "I want a coke" = "I want a soda", "Vamos a tomar guaro" = "Vamos a tomar". I've never been a big liquor drinker, but a guaro sour is freaking delicious!
3. The slang here is rampant. It is called "pachuco" and not only do the "pintas" (drug dealers) on the street use it, the newspapers and president do as well. I'm becoming more accustomed to hearing it, though every once in a while I need something translated into regular Spanish to understand. I firmly believe that someone whose first language is Spanish could come here and still not understand everything. Here's some pachuco I remember off the top of my head.
-pinta: drug dealer
-sele: the Costa Rica national soccer team
-majenga: a soccer game
-una fria: beer
-pintico: gallo pinto (rice and beans)
-un rojo: 1000 colones
-una teja: 100 colones
-guila: a girl
4. WalMart has invaded! Three years ago there was a WalMart-esque type store calle HiperMas that sold basically everything you can find in a WalMart. About a year ago WalMart bought out HiperMas. Oscar and I went to the WalMart to buy some appliances. I hate WalMart with a passion, but I must say it was quite convenient to only have to go to one store for everything we needed. Stores here are so specialized that a home decor store might only sell sheets and curtains and to get a lamp you'd have to go to another place. That and everyone who worked there was so kind it sort of surprised me. So although WalMart was convenient and the people nice, the prices are not amazing. In fact most products are more expensive (all the ticos agree) in WalMart than in other stores.
5. Money has recently changed. The local currency in Costa Rica is colones. About 500 c = $1.00. Very recently, Costa Rica has introduced two new bills. The new bills are the 1000c and 2000c. Previously all bills were paper and the same size (like USD). Now the 1000c and 2000c are different sizes (similar to the Euro) and make of plastic. The plastic was something to get used to. They don't fold very well and I can't imagine they will last very long. With that being said, you can put them in your swim trunks pocket, go to a swim up bar and pay away. I guess that's a pro!
Monday, September 26, 2011
I am a yogurt lover. Not liker. Lover. I eat a bowl of yogurt for breakfast. I eat smoothies with yogurt. I eat yogurt for lunch. As dessert. In the States, you can buy big containers of yogurt, but in Costa Rica the largest size in yogurt is about 300 mL. This lasts me about 1.5 days and costs between $3-$4. Now they do have 1L bottles of drinky, fruity yogurt. But I like mine plain, preferably no fat. So I began looking up recipes for making your own yogurt.
It was quite intimidating at first. Most recipes called for all sorts of equipment that I have none of. All want you to have a thermometer, and the rest vary from using an oven, stove, double boiler, cooler, glass thermos, electric blanket, jars, lids, etc. They were all labor intensive and finicky, ie: heat milk to exact temperature, reduce milk to exact temperature, add yogurt, keep yogurt/milk at exact temperature for 6 hours. I had almost given up on the idea when I found a way to make yogurt with a slow cooker. You can google "yogurt in crock pot" and you'll get tons of hits. All recipes are basically the same as the one I've linked here. The only equipment you need is a crock pot and a towel. Yesterday, Oscar and I bought a slow cooker for 17,500c in WalMart. Equivalent to about $35, the cheapest we could find.
Following the recipe is simple and easy. I began the yogurt at 3pm yesterday. Oscar and I went to drink coffee with his mom and by the time we got back, 2.5 hours later, the milk was ready for the next step. Then I cleaned up and we watched a movie. As soon as the movie was over (at 8:30pm) I completed the last step. I let the crock sit over night and this morning after taking Perlita on a walk, I scooped out a perfectly solid lump of yogurt! I couldn't believe it worked and was so easy!
Right now most of my fresh yogurt is in the fridge but I left a little to drain through a coffee filter to turn it Greek-style. So here's the steps in case you don't want to read through the other pages.
Equipment: Crock pot (slow cooker), towel
Ingredients: Yogurt with active culture (en espanol: con probiotico), milk
Steps: 1. Put crock pot on LOW. Pour in how ever much milk you want to turn to yogurt. Let sit for 2.5 hours. Don't take off the lid.
2. Unplug crock pot. Let sit for 3 hours. Don't take off the lid.
3. Take out a couple cups (I used like 2 mug-fulls) of warm, stinky milk. Into this milk, stir in some of your active culture yogurt. Pour milk/yogurt combo back into crock pot and stir.
4. Put top back on. Cover with towel. Let sit overnight (8 hours or so). Mine sat for about 12 hours.
5. ENJOY. Now you can add in honey, fresh fruits, or any flavor. You can also let it drain through a coffee filter to make Greek-style. I'm also thinking about making some fro-yo pops! YUM!
Thursday, September 22, 2011
Today I went in to an interview at a university. Oscar's sister used to work at this same university and hooked me up with the interview. I was extremely nervous that the interview was going to be in Spanish. And it was. *heavy sigh* But the director was extremely nice. Turns out there is no room for me to teach at the university, not that I want to or have the knowledge to anyways. But they do have some really interesting global environmental projects going on.
The interviewer presented me with about 3 different things that I could potentially do with the University. The option I think I'm liking the best right now is that I would work part time with the enviro projects and also get my masters. Because I'd be working, the masters would be without cost. CHA CHING! I never thought that I'd want to get a masters, but I never thought I'd be living in Costa Rica with a boyfriend and a dog named Perlita. The masters would not be in education, rather some sort of project management something-or-other. But I believe that the scientific experience I will get working with these projects is just as noteworthy.
I would still be unpaid (though I might get a stipend every once in a while) and am not 100% whether the University will sponsor me for a visa, but I am excited for all the possibilities I have now. Both the coursework and the projects are based online which I think is awesome. Gives me the ability to travel when I need to/want to. Plus I still plan on enrolling in Italian classes which start the first week of October. If I really do start all of this, I predict in two months I'll be day-dreaming of the times I spent all day doing nothing.
Tuesday, September 20, 2011
Oscar and I went to rent a few movies yesterday and as we were flipping through the "recently rented" pile I saw a gold mine: "Behemoth". The cover is a picture of a monster and a blonde girl screaming. The back raved of a tale of the giant monster who embodies the entire planet. It wakes up after some earthquakes and it's only purpose is to destroy the world!!
- Rugged Man: "Get headquarters on the phone and find out what happened. And don't take earthquake as an answer!"
- Scene- A tree falls on a man's leg. The man then dies.
- Scene- A crazy grandpa has a wall full of pictures of volcanoes and monsters.
- Woman Scientist: "What would you do if I told you there were dead squirrels at my feet?!"
- Crazy Grandpa (who ends up being right): From the depths ascends a creature with only one purpose-- destroy humanity!"
- Woman scientist: "Evacuate the entire city and you'll have saved hundreds of lives!"
- Scene- The sherif of the town gives the evacuation notice to about 20 people over a loud speaker in the street. (Maybe there really are only 100 people living in the city...)
- Scene- Government worker gets hit by monster tentacle. Government worker dies while uttering these words "get the.. case, get the... case... weapon... inside!"
- Daughter of crazy grandpa: "My dad was right! He said a monster was going to destroy the world but I thought he was just crazy!"
- Crazy grandpa: "It's here." Diner worker: "Nooooooooooooooooo!!!"
- Woman Scientist: "We have to get out of here!" Rugged Man: "But what if Jack was right?" Woman scientist: "Then we have to leave!" Rugged man: "What if that's the only thing that stops it?" Woman scientist: "It doesn't matter!" Rugged man: "What if it does?" *intense stare*
- Scene- Rugged man and woman scientist find the case. Rugged man tries to throw the case up to the scientist woman. Scientist woman drops it and it almost falls off a cliff. Rugged man throws case up again and this time scientist woman catches the case. RELIEF! Turns out the case has straps like a backpack. Why did he need to throw it?
- Rugged man to Scientist Woman: "I need to figure out how to fire the weapon, you start the chopper!"
- Rugged man to case with weapon: "Please be simple... please be simple..."
PS- The part of the trailer that says "A MASSACRE" is a bit of an overstatement. One person dies.
Monday, September 19, 2011
Remember my previous post about how ants are inevitable? Well what I just witnessed is beyond belief. We've been seeing a good amount of ants in the bathroom sink, which I find funny because there's nothing really there to eat. But I kill them, wash them down and go on my way.
Today as I was cutting up fruit for my smoothies I went to the bathroom to wash my hands when I see a freaking NEST of ants in the sink. It totally grossed me out so I quick grabbed Mr. Musculo (Latin american version of Windex) and sprayed like crazy. I was completely grossed out so I put on my rubber gloves and wiped up the black masses of ant corpses. YUCK!
(of course I took some pictures too!)
Thursday, September 15, 2011
Today, September 15, is Costa Rica's Independence Day! The festivities started when outside the Guardaria where I volunteer, a parade of irritated high school students and ecstatic young kids marched by. I didn't have my camera on hand but the girls played stand up xylophones and the boys hit drums. They were followed by toddlers chaperoned by adults. This is about what I saw:
Oscar came to pick me up, we hurried and put the fancy bow on Perlita and walked over to where the big spectacle was. As we were walking around, Oscar explained to me what exactly was going on. After all, this took place last night, September 14.
The history of Costa Rica's Independence: (as told by Oscar) Costa Rica never fought for their independence. Instead, when Guatemala won, they declared all of Central America free as well. The way the word was spread was a torch (representing freedom) was ran all the way from Guatemala to Panama. To this day, a torch is ran from San Jose to different schools to reenact the famous day in history. At exactly 6:00pm, September 14, everyone in the country sings the national anthem. After a larger torch is lit, people march to their houses with their own lanterns.
This is what we saw last night. A dozen students run with the torch escorted by a firetruck. The students are selected based on academic merit (Oscar was never selected). At exactly 6:00pm everyone (except this gringa who has yet to learn the words) sang the national anthem. I think perhaps my favorite part of the night was seeing all the different types of lanterns. Back in the day, traditional lanterns were used. But now students make all sorts of lanterns representing different parts of the country. They stick these models on top of sticks and throw a candle inside. Viola! Lantern! I attempted to get pictures of the lanterns, but it was dark and people were moving quickly. Some of my favorites were a helicopter, glowing red-eye frogs, ox-carts, a volcano, and houses. Here's some of my pictures, though they're not the greatest.
I also made a bow for Perlita and she was a big hit at the parade. Though I ran into one of the ladies I worked with and she (very seriously) asked if Perlita was a girl or a gay male. *sigh* This is a side note, but I've been noticing how intolerant the people I work with are. But that's for another post. For now here's my cutie puppy being adorable in her independence day bow!
Monday, September 12, 2011
This past weekend Oscar and I finally made it to La Fortuna. Our plan was to go last weekend, but Oscar got sick so we stayed in San Jose. Everything worked out for the best though because we were able to go both Saturday and Sunday this weekend.
Our first task was to take Perlita up to her doggy day-camp which is way up in the mountains near Escazu. It took a good 30 minutes (in the wrong direction) to get her there and she barfed all over the car. Great way to start the trip. But the gringo (can't remember his name... Mike?) in charge of "Perrodise" was a nice guy and Perlita was very well taken care of. It is a "free range" doggy camp. The dogs are allowed to run around the land all during the day. They only go in crates at night. Plus it is only 5000 colones ($10) a night!
With Perlita taken care of we began our winding journey to La Fortuna, the town right outside of Volcan Arenal**. The roads are twisting, narrow, steep and have no fences. The plus side to this is you get some beautiful views. But I did spend most of the car ride petrified as I was sure the car would slide off the road and we would plummet to our doom. To ease the horror, we did have a lot of fun spotting all the different street animals. Most people are only familiar with street dogs. Well on just our one trip to La Fortuna we spotted street horses, street cows, street chickens, street roosters, street turkeys, street quail, and street goats. We didn't manage to find a street pig, nor a pig in a pool.
Once in La Fortuna, we checked in at our hostel called Arenal Backpacker's Resort. They are a self-proclaimed 5 star hostel. We paid a hefty amount for a private room, but I believe dorms are only $14. There is a sweet swimming pool, a swim up bar, a great common area with a restaurant, and a view of the volcano. The rooms are well kept and clean.
Next we headed to La Choza, a restaurant right down the street and had some lunch. The food has a fair price, the portions are huge, and it is fantastic food!
After taking a dip in the hostel pool, and a nap, we took off towards the volcano for a trip to Baldi Hot Springs Resort. The fee to get in for residents is $14, and foreigners is $28. I don't know if it was quite worth $28, but the place was beautiful. It has 25 pools, though we only went to about 10. Each pool has a different temperature, some cold, some so hot you can't even get in. There's various jacuzzi style pools, waterfalls, rock seats, loungers and even-- slides! Yes there are 3 slides you can go down. And not just any pansy slide, if you dare to plunge on the middle slide you will reach a top speed of 45 km/hour. Even the "baby slide" gives you a deep wedgie in the nether regions and shoots a good amount of water up your nose. It's a good time to just sit and watch the poor souls go down the slides. We went at night because we wanted the cooler weather, and the pools were lit up which was a neat effect.
Weather for the following day was cloudy and rainy. We went for breakfast at the same restaurant and then had a beer (don't judge) while discussing whether or not to head to the waterfalls. We didn't want to go and it be so muddy it's unpleasant. We eventually decided "yay" and drove up to the falls. Fee for nationals is $3, foreigners $10.
The "hike" to the falls is basically a whole bunch of steep rock stairs. There was a chain handrail most of the way, which is important to this crippled gringa. We got to the falls and took a swim in the freezing water. The current was so strong from the falls that it was difficult to even stand knee deep in the water. After another beer, we hiked back to the car and scooted inside just before it started to down pour.
Happy to have my Perlita back who vomited not 3 minutes after we put her in the car on the way home.
**Volcan Arenal has been active for thousands of years. Three years ago when I went with my family you could hear eruptions through the night and see red lava flowing down the sides. As of about 10 months ago the volcano is now dormant. This actually worries the residents as they make their living off of showing tourists "Costa Rica's most active volcano". Of course there are still plenty of exciting ways to explore the volcano, the waterfalls and the town. You can still buy photos and postcards of Arenal in all it's lava glory.
Thursday, September 8, 2011
On Monday and Wednesday I went to the day care to volunteer with the kiddies. I wanted to wait until today to do a blog on my time there. I don't think it's fair to judge a place based on a one-time deal. And now that I've put in 2 days I am quite justified in scrutinizing all I want!
The first day I was told I was going to visit each of the groups for a little bit and give them each little lessons. So I had 2 small lessons that I planned on giving 5 different times. Of course when I got there plans had changed and I would now spend the entire 2.5 hours with the oldest group, 6- 10 year-olds. I started off with some things I had planned and the kids enjoyed the lesson. The kids supposedly have all these problems (come from bad families, etc) but I found them to be fairly well behaved and lovely. I mean they're kids. They can't be that corrupt yet! When the kids finally left the main teacher and I talked briefly. And she somehow decided it was a good idea to divulge to me that her husband is cheating on her and wants a divorce. I told Oscar about this and he told me "nothing is private in Costa Rica". Well I guess not.
On Wednesday I arrived a little later and the kids were working on painting Styrofoam cups to look like the Costa Rican flag. (September is "el mes de la patria" because Independence Day is September 15.) We reviewed what I had gone over the day before and then introduced colors. It amazes me how much these kids already know. And it's also a shame our gringo 6 year-olds aren't taught Spanish like these kids are English. All the kids got picked up earlier than normal that day, and the main teacher left too. I spent the 40 minutes waiting for Oscar to come pick me up watching the world of Pavas go by.
So what does all this mean? I'm surprised to find myself enjoying working with the kids. They are mostly attentive and eager to learn. They seem to like me, and I really enjoy being called "profe". I like that when little kids say crazy things it's just cute and you don't have to worry about their sanity like you do with high-schoolers.
I don't return until Monday because this Friday is "El dia del nino", Kid's Day. That's right mommy, Kid's Day does exist! (When I was little I always asked why there wasn't a kid's day when there was a mother's and father's day. My mom would always say "every day is kid's day".)
On a side note, I think my Spanish is slipping. Oscar and I talk in English almost all the time just out of habit. I blog in English, facebook in English, and have been listening to English music. So I'm going to attempt to get back into the swing of Spanish. I've got a book I'm reading in Spanish and I'm currently listening to "Te Mando Flores" by Fonseca. A song I'm sure Oscar (and probably Jay) would claim is terrible, but I love poppy, cheesy, dancey Spanish music!
Sunday, September 4, 2011
Friday night Oscar took me to a delicious sushi dinner at Ichiban where the tico waiters wear samurai outfits. After a few rolls of sushi, a couple beers and a fried ice cream we headed out to a bar to drink some more. We settled with a bar called La Finca El Corral (aka: Patacos, aka: El Corralito), where live music was being played and the majenga (football game) was on. The band was pretty good and I really enjoyed hearing latin music that I knew! My "Mana" Pandora station has paid off. I knew a good 60% of all the songs played and could sing along like a tica. It made me feel great to "be in the know" so to say.
The bar was also offering 100 colones (about 20 cents) tequila shots for every goal the sele (Costa Rica national team) scored. The game was CR vs USA. Oscar asked me if I wanted USA to win and I assured him I would sell my country for a few cheap tequila shots. VAMOS TICOS! Luckily, Costa Rica won! When they scored everyone in the bar yelled "TEQUILA!" Unfortunately the final score was 1-0. Though I probably didn't need anymore than one basement-quality tequila shot that didn't even come with salt. (I sent Oscar to go get some. I mean I have a great little salt bowl in my thumb made especially for tequila shots. Not going to not use it!)
When we got home I saw a giant moth fluttering about that had earlier been in our bathroom. I thought "how lovely" just in time to see Oscar knock it to the ground and stomp on it while it attempted to get away. I screamed in horror and asked Oscar why oh why did he kill such a beautiful creature? He laughed and replied "You're such a gringa! Those things give you allergies and eat your clothes!" Later, we had a similar moth return to the house and I forced Oscar to just knock it out of the house instead of crushing it. He again accused me of being a gringa, but obliged my wishes anyways. Here's a picture I snapped of the one hanging in our bathroom before Oscar murdered it.
So I was feeling a little bit tica singing latin songs and drinking shots to the sele, but, alas, I still have a long way to go before being full tica.
(Oh and just as a side not, en El Corralito the bathroom doors read "Bulls" and "Cows" [in English]. I attempted to explain to Oscar how it was offensive to call women "cows" but I'm not sure it got through. I found it hilarious.)