Not long ago, an L.A. Times columnist wrote an article about mailing addresses in Costa Rica. Although a few streets in larger towns here are numbered and called calles (running north/south) or avenidas (running east/west), most locations are described in relation to landmarks, current or former. For “old-timers,” a direction like “300 meters east of Bar Victor” makes perfect sense and they know the exact location (even if they don’t, they’ll often give you directions to get there anyway!). What makes this so confusing for a “newcomer” is that there is no Bar Victor anymore. It may have closed, been re-named, burned down or been torn down years ago, yet it is still used as a reference point. Recently, I was making plans to meet someone in Bello Horizonte, Escazú. I had to laugh when we finally decided where we would meet … at the mango tree! After umpteen years, the road just grew up around the tree and it has become a charming, colorful reference point. Ya gotta love it! (The address for this home is “de la esquina sur de la iglesia calle Viquez, 100 m. al este, casa esquinera, mano derecha, con verjas azules.” No kidding.)
I just returned from a trip to the grocery store. On the way, I passed one of the many roadside vendors selling freshly picked produce. This vendor’s pick-up truck – loaded to over flowing with vegetables – was too much to resist. I stopped and bought 4 cantaloupe, 2 large avocados, 10 huge tomatoes and 8 mangos for ………. eight dollars! I’ll make guacamole, for sure, but what to do with the tomatoes is up for grabs. Pico de gallo, pasta sauce or gazpacho?
Normally a hustling bustling town filled with cars, buses and people, Heredia was dead quiet today.
Costa Rica is a country rife with color. Trees bursting with bright orange, soft periwinkle and brilliant yellow blossoms dot the countryside in huge swatches of color during different seasons of the year. These intense technicolor displays are not limited to trees alongside the road, however; multi-colored impatiens grow rampant in ditches, beside rocks, next to trickling streams and around fallen branches. Mother Nature imposes herself upon the environment and produces lush vegetation in locations you would never expect anything but rocks to survive. What a perfect place for someone with no plant knowledge – you can look like you have a degree in horticulture with little or no effort. I am proof positive. Some time ago, a friend gave me an orchid. I had never had an orchid and immediately put it in a pot of dirt. Fortunately, I was informed that orchids don’t grow in dirt and purchased a bag of chips (redwood?) at a greenhouse and re-potted the plant in a hanging, chip-filled pot. I was also advised that orchids shouldn’t be in direct sunlight or watered very much. I translated this to mean “forget about it,” which I did. Recently, as I was walking under the cas tree, I bumped into a large collection of blossoms – the orchid was blooming!!! This was perhaps 3 years after hanging it in the tree. What a wonderful surprise. If I were seriously trying to grow orchids, they’d die so I will continue to ignore the plant, but will watch it so I don’t miss any future flowers. (Here’s a home where the owner’s green thumb is very much in evidence.)
At certain times of the year different insects make their appearance … uninvited. There seems to be a season for gray slug-like looking creatures that slowly climb the walls and sit there. Harmless, as far as I can tell. Recently, the season began when large, light brown ants appear at night climbing on the walls. A fly swatter takes care of the obvious ones, but they aren’t the problem. The ones you don’t see, the ones lurking out of sight, DO present a problem, however. Today I planned to make a photocopy, but when I lifted the copier’s lid, I was immediately repulsed. Inside the copier were ants scurrying everywhere amidst their rice like eggs. GROSS! This is not the first invasion I’ve experienced. A few years ago, the same kind of ants made a nest in the printer. I didn’t realize it until I printed something and little black ant shapes showed up on the pages. Cringing and saying, “Yuck” over and over, I cleaned them out and the printer continued to print (until it ran out of ink, of course). Not long after this unpleasant run-in, I was awakened one night at 4:00 AM to the radio blasting away in another bedroom, scaring me half out of my wits. Another ant invasion! I managed to take apart the radio, clean out the nest and get it to work again, except for the volume control. A third invasion that year involved the microwave. Ants crawled inside the walls and ran and hid the minute the door was opened, making them very hard to catch. (A word of advice/caution: the smell of bug spray lingers for months inside a microwave.) As for today’s ants, I squeezed the photocopier into a plastic garbage bag, took it outside, sprayed bug spray into it and then sealed the end well with tape. Hopefully, the ants will die of suffocation or as a result of the bug spray. I’ll give it a few days before checking. Then I’ll have to take apart the copier and hope that all the ants and their fuzzy nests can be cleaned out and that the copier will work again. Wish me luck.
If you are in your late thirties (aren’t we all 39, like Jack Benny?), this site is guaranteed to give you “flashbacks” of your younger days. Maybe you danced to Wonderland by Night in a sweaty high school gym following a basketball game. Or sunbathed in your back yard (at a beach, if you were lucky) singing along with the Mamas and Papas to California Dreamin’, Dedicated to the One I Love and Monday, Monday. Or maybe you and your buddies rode around in an old “clunker” with a dollar’s worth of 29 cents a gallon gas in the tank shouting 96 Tears or Surf City. Not a care in the world! Do Duke of Earl, Woolie Bully and Mashed Potatoes ring a bell? The Platters? Connie Frances? Johnny Mathis? Sam the Sham and the Pharoahs? Maybe you were a carhop at the local drive-in restaurant hang-out where your friends “cruised” in and out, their car radios blasting The Mountains High, Sherry Baby, Venus, Blue Velvet, Hats off to Larry or Poison Ivy. Did you splash on Tabú, Emeraude, Aqua Velva or Old Spice while Crying with Roy Orbison? Ah, those painful, joyful adolescent years where a pimple could “destroy” your social life or the wait for a phone call from your latest heartthrob could take FOREVER! To take a trip back in time to your teen years – those moments that flipped from bliss to abyss in a flash – just go to this site. Once you select a year and a song, you can sit back and relive the days with Peggy Sue, Mary Lou and Charlie Brown. Songs cycle, so you’ll be entertained for hours. http://www.tropicalglen.com/
If you have never tried cas, you are missing out on a treat. The taste is hard to describe. It’s sort of like grapefruit and lemon, but not as sour. Cas (cases?) grow on small trees and are used to make a refreshing “refresco natural.” The mature fruit is about the size of a plum and can be lime green, yellow and blotchy brown. To make a drink, boil about 4 or 5 ripe cas for a few minutes. (Ever since I noticed fruit flies depositing eggs in the cas in my backyard, I have boiled them before blending them. I’ve never asked at a soda if they do the same thing. I don’t want to know.) After you’ve boiled them awhile, drain the water off and throw them into a blender with some water and ice. When they are blended, strain the liquid into a pitcher and add some more water — so you end up with about a quart of liquid. Add a little sugar to taste, but not a lot. If cas gets real sweet, it isn’t as refreshing. Fresh cas can be frozen without compromising the flavor so you can enjoy it all year long. The next time you are in a soda, ask for cas. Try it, you might like it! (Here’s a home with its very own cas tree.)