Friday, June 30, 2006
Big up to me, too, for I am off gallivanting tomorrow to the beach and forest, oh yes indeedy. Yikes. Slightly nervous, but actually very excited, too. Off to buy bus ticket very shortly.
Not much else to report, other than this interesting piece on women bloggers and politics. I've been meaning to link to The F Word for some time, and from now on it'll be handily poised on the right of your page, dear reader, to get your feminist fix, along with Antonia Bance's column, which sounds grand. Do I blog about politics? Hard to say, really. I publish on women's issues (the kiss of death, according to this article) but generally about stuff that gets my goat. Let me know what you think, peeps.
Hasta el lunes - here's hoping for the victories in the Mundial that will make me happy, and muchos, muchos commiserations to Argentina. You were much the better side, by all accounts. I genuinely am sorry. Football should have been the winner, and Argentina played the best football by miles. You deserved better.
Thursday, June 29, 2006
Other note: Costa Rica is not cheap cheap, but for $16 you can, as I did last night, feast on the finest pizza San José has to offer (not bad, actually - better than law school pizza), buy it for your friend who is leaving, drink a considerable number of beers, have yet more patacones, frijoles and yuca, and get a taxi home. And however great happy hours at Verlaine are, that ain't happening.
However, those beers did not fortify me to deal with the roach that was in the sink in the bathroom when I got home. Instead, I chickened out and took my toothbrush to the kitchen and brushed my teeth there. What with that, my startled leap away from the scuttling thing that was by my glass in my bedroom a week ago, and the rain, the beasties here are beating my sorry backside. However, I think my stomping around to alarm and repudiate the bedroom bicho plus bravely closing the door to face off to it (it never did emerge again) gives me one goal. Hence 3-1. I always like to think that I can handle insects, because that makes me not conform to the cliché that all women are afraid of them and need men to deal with them. However, I may have to see it instead from the perspective that admitting I'm afraid means that I am being true to myself and not non-conforming for the sake of it. Or something.
In the news today: some good things that made me very happy, some less so.
Good: First, finally someone decides that vaccinating women against cancer is a good idea.
Second, albeit far too closely to be happy about entirely, the Senate rejects a constitutional amendment (NO HILLARY NO) on flag burning.
Third, Guantánamo tribunals are illegal. I don't think much more comment is required on that one.
Fourth, although we shouldn't have to celebrate ridiculously basic steps like this, women are voting in Kuwait and standing for election for the very first time.
Bad: if this is true, which sadly, I think it very probably is, then something needs to be done about the Spanish participation in the World Cup. Start them on negative points for the next qualifiers, anything, just do something important and keep doing it until people realise that it is not acceptable. I realise the contradiction between my anger at this and belief that flag-burning should be allowed in terms of free speech. Yet, and yet... not sure I'm going to justify myself here.
This one, I'm not sure about. The Tico government has said it's going to delay the immigration law I'm working on for a year, to work out whether they can afford all the extra costs - more police, more lawyers etc.. So not because it's an overly-aggressive and abuse of human rights, then. Rats.
Wednesday, June 28, 2006
This morning I washed my clothes, with difficulty. I just cannot get used to the washing machine here - I'm very much an all or nothing kind of gal, dealing with handwashing and full on machines but not the system at Mayela's where you have to keep watching, and she washes everything about three times, and thinks I do it all wrong. It reminded me to be grateful for washing machines, but also brought to mind the time when we were in Olinda, Brasil (I know that's annoyingly poncy, but for some reason I now can't spell it with a "z" - and that's zed folks, not zee), aroundabout my 21st birthday, and we splashed out in the very sweet place we were staying on getting some clothes washed for us. It seemed like a fortune at the time, in our meagre budgets, but was probably about $10. Either way, it was utterly worth it - they smelt milky, not like a pint but that warm, sweet and soft smell like babies have, or the comforting drink with honey (or, more likely, kahlua) in winter when you have a cold. It was so so so good. And, scarily, a long time ago as the late twenties approach with a vengeance.
Anyhoo, to get off that topic, here are some photos of the rather fab people I work with, taken at the goodbye party we had for Paula last week. Paula's Argentinian, returning to Buenos Aires in two weeks, and knows more about long-distance relationships than even M and I do, having been in one covering about 8 different countries over the last few years. No one wants her to go... there will be serious tears when she goes. Sorry they're a bit dark, but if you click you should be able to see them better. And I promise to mess around with my camera to get better, lighter shots in.
Las Extranjeras, as we are known, Paula (Argentina), Larra (euskaldunak, or Basque - from Bilbao/Bizkaia), and me (from London, if for some reason you have no idea where Lewisham is - which is a disgrace).
L-R, back row/standing: Ligia (Tica), me (looking particularly frazzled), Larra, Pau, and Xinia - she's worked here for years and was the first Tico I met - she picked me up from the airport. L-R, seated: Mariola, Auxi (with whose aunt and uncle I am staying), Ana (the Madrileña who runs the whole place) and Paloma (Madrileña also, intern here).
Maria José, rocking woman, my age, mother of a 9 year old, working on women's rights and reproductive rights, and Pau again. They are a seriously lovely bunch of people - I have fallen on my feet here...
Tuesday, June 27, 2006
Second, an observation on what I'm doing. I'm investigating the new immigration law which appears to be fuelled by xenophobia and... not much more. Anyway, it turns out that one of the more extreme instances is before the court in the Hague. Nicaragua has accused Costa Rica of violating the human rights of its citizens by failing to investigate speedily and charge the people responsible for the death of Natividad Canda, a young Nicaraguan who, while trying to commit a robbery, was mauled to death by two rottweilers with, apparently, lots of onlookers during the 90 minutes it took him to die, possibly including police officers. 90 minutes - that's a whole football match. Maybe the next game in the Mundial you watch, we should all think that from the start to the end, that was how long it took for that man to receive help. Further to this is the case where a Nicaraguan died in a fight with Ticos after they joked about how amusing this all was - apparently the popularity of Rottweilers has increased exponentially here, and there were a great many "chistes" about it all. For an international perspective - the only English one I've found thus far, go to the entry 4/3/2006 on this blog, which reprints the LA Times article. The blog also highlights the problems of Ticaragua, which doesn't seem to exist except in conflict at the moment. It's very, very... awful, basically.
On yet another downer, I saw something on Saturday which horrified and chilled my soul. I saw a 15 year old girl, walking down the street with her family, heavily pregnant. This always slightly distresses me, but what was really disturbing, however, was that she was wearing a t-shirt that said "I (picture of lips) sixty nine". Are you kidding me? I'm not for parents controlling the messages their children put out with their clothing, but there has to be a limit, seriously, or the possibility that you raise your daughter with enough self-respect that she doesn't want to wear anything like that. The sad thing is, I doubt she knows what it means, and it wasn't that position that got her six months pregnant before the age of sixteen.
Am I a bad person for reacting so strongly? I don't have a problem with her being sexually active, so I suppose I shouldn't have a problem with one of the possible consequences of that. What makes me sad is that she will, in all probability, never get out of here and have a chance to explore her life. That decision has been made (by her - I'm not disputing that, necessarily), and she has someone else to think about. Having children is a wonderful gift, but I think you're entitled to be a bit selfish and live a little before you start having to live for another being. Who, when they're sixteen, chances are won't be thinking about just what you've sacrificed for them...
Sorry to sound so grumpy. On the brighter side, there is a sweet new intern here, who speaks way less more Spanish than I do so, rather meanly of me, that makes me realise just how far I've come and how much I do understand - it's made me see the glass half full rather than empty. Plus, it was gloriously sunny this morning after some bollox weather, I now know where the InterAmerican Court for Human Rights is, so I can walk there to use the library if I need to, and I have my bearings a little better after walking around this morning. So not all bad, really.
Monday, June 26, 2006
Crap movies I have watched since being in CR (Part II): I started watching the beginning of this Billy from Neighbours film basically because it's Billy from Neighbours and he retains a certain charm for me that just won't die, and won't let me call him Chase from House. I also switched between some movie which I can't even remember and the Jesus Channel here (seriously, it's called JTV) which gave a wonderful intro on how they didn't want to stop you listening to rock music, just that you know the truth about it and then make your own decision whether to continue. They then proceeded to show us how John Lennon's death was due to his heretical statements, and all the different rock stars who'd died due to their sinful lives, and how Iron Maiden like to invoke the devil. It was brilliant, and almost as good as this, which is one of my favourite websites ever. Reminds me of an inspired birthday card my friend received for her 27th, listing all the rock stars who died at that age: Jimi Hendrix, Kurt Cobain, Brian Jones from the Stones, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, and, of course, Helmet Koellen from Triumverat who died of an accidental poisoning, apparently.
Then yesterday I found myself horrified at Kim Cattrall's hair in Big Trouble in Little China, which was actually much more tongue-in-cheek (the film, not the hair, obviously) than I had previously recognised, but remained, nonetheless, bollocks. I hadn't realised big KC was in that as well as Eighties Classics (TM) Mannequin and Police Academy. But then, I hadn't realised then, in my innocence, that the unbelievably wonderful Grace Slick, to whom I owe in part my moniker, actually became part of Starship for "Nothing's Gonna Stop Us Now", the theme song to that horror (HONESTGUVFACTCHECK). Woman, you were in Jefferson Airplane. WHAT WENT WRONG? Anyway, my point was, KC, you must watch these movies just to think back to how desperate those times were, and smile at the thought of Samantha. I still wish I didn't know that about Grace Slick. I can't remember who told me, but you killed a small part of my soul when you did.
IMPORTANT ANNOUNCEMENT: GFY has a wonderful set of tributes to Aaron Spelling... youmustmustmust see them all (1, 2, 3). I also am going to limit my blogging to once a day. Honestly.
I never eat well after swimming. When I was a very little girl - and by this I mean definitely under four, which I can calculate due to no little brother to share my Dad with - I used to go every Sunday to Eltham Swimming Pools with the aforementioned father. After that, we would return home where I would proceed to eat a fried breakfast. I don't remember anything other than fried bread, which I adored. I went through a period of about 15 years of being off it until a recent stay in a B&B in Dorset where I was able to recall just why I loved it so.
Later on, we used to go swimming on Saturday mornings, very early - Mum, me, the Bro and the usual family friends - where I would swim my heart out, thinking up millions of games, most of which involving me retrieving something from the pool floor or throwing myself in the water to splash as many people as possible, then stuff my face with sausage sandwiches. I presume this tradition is why the only time I vaguely miss meat is after swimming. There's a part of me that just wants to scoff bacon or sausage sarnies with tons of ketchup.
All this led to this morning my consumption, after swimming, of the Tico version of Cheese on Toast. BAD GRACE - and not good cheese on toast, either. However, I did polish off a plate of papaya, watermelon and pineapple, too. What is it about fresh pineapple? The smell is utterly glorious, and the taste - it's hard to mess that up, no matter how cheap your pineapple is, whereas rubbish papaya sin lima can be remarkably tasteless, lacking that creamy loveliness, and watermelon too... This weekend I also discovered the Tico equivalent of butterscotch angel delight, went out for beers - at last! - and that was about it.
You were also saved from the mother of all unfocused rants - ill-written and awful - by the technology failing me on Friday afternoon. Needless to say, it may return, given that it's about attitudes towards women that seem particularly prevalent here, but will be enhanced by what I learnt while out on Saturday night and people's attitudes in general towards women, love and marriage. But I need to work myself up to that one.
Friday, June 23, 2006
I'm not sure what the Spanish equivalent is of this phrase, so I'll leave it, I think, in English. Ah, according to diccionarios.com, it's hacer una montaña de un grano de arena - to make a mountain out of a grain of sand. How beautiful. The Spanish word for molehill, by the way, is topera. Before I get distracted about language, the point of this gabbling is that my friend has just got back from a trip to his homeland after ten years' absence. That is just beyond my comprehension, it truly is. I live in countries where my culture is still fairly similar, the differences are minimal - so complaining should, therefore, also be. Yet I moan about the four weeks every year that I get with friends and family and how rushed I feel. Perspectiva, como siempre, is the most important thing to make you realize just how lucky you are.
Sin embargo, I owe thanks to those of you who have commented on my post yesterday on migration. You can, of course, comment on the website (for goodness' sake, WHY OH WHY DOES NO ONE POST ON IT???), but I appreciate the comments nonetheless. I suppose I feel I adapt to places, I am happy in them - I'm not pining for home all the time. But my identity - in my head, at least - is so strongly based in my being from London. The rolling green hills of Albion and much about the place I do love, but a lot of missing it comes from extrañando a family and friends who are there. But even if they weren't there, I'd miss London. It's the same for me and Barcelona - I knew almost no one there, and I still get pangs for it.
Anyhoo, self-pitying aside, onto language. It's extraordinary, what we have as the same, and what we cannot translate. Phrases, and so on, that make sense in one language - e.g. volver la tortilla - but not in another (return the omelette? No, our equivalent is the tables have turned). To get the hang of something is, apparently, to catch hold of a wave in Spanish (at least, according to the fifth Harry Potter). I like that. It will do me in good stead for next weekend when I go to the beach. This weekend, I shall explore San José (apparently it won't take long), and do some washing. And read, read, read on the Tico identity. Wundebar.
New Spanish learnt: chimar=to rub (as in a blister) in CR, but to hacer el amor en Guatemala; queque=cake. ¡En serio! Every day, something new. I feel as if I'm regressing at the moment, speaking in pidgin occasionally, but I'm surviving - managed to buy a subscription to the pool so will actually have to go to justify the expense. Fabulous. Tomorrow morning, in the blue. 8am.
Thursday, June 22, 2006
I have just got back from a talk on migrants' experiences, and it was... in some ways, you hear the same things over and over again: the lack of power, the poverty that drove people here, the abuse, the exploitation, the sadness. But some of the reflections manage to strike you anew with their accuracy; the strength of the survival instinct of the Nicaraguan women, their ability to joke and laugh through it all - the ability to retain that sense of self-preservation, dignity and ability to enjoy your life through all the mierda is miraculous to me.
But less about the immigrants who genuinely suffer, more importantly, let's talk about what I feel. What really struck a chord was the concept of being split. This is something I refer back to in my mind time and time again. Today, though, bizarrely, hearing it in another language, in another country, from another immigrant, really brought it home to me, and made me realise how much I resent the schism in my life. Cuando una persona se migre, empezará vivir en dos mundos... or something in better Spanish. It is as if I am living several lives. I have my heart, my soul, my identity in London. But M and I live together, as a couple, in NYC - that's where our life together really has its base, and will therefore always have a piece of me. It's one thing to be together, another to have your base, home, place of peace and return in the same place. The people who know me there know me as that person.
I don't know what I do from here. My life is in two places. That's how it works. I am in a position of absolute luxury, in that I have a secure place to live, am with my other half, have long-term friends there, and am not doing shitty work for $1 an hour. But the loneliness that comes from being the only person with your accent, who knows what London smells like after a storm, who understands that silly mid-off is not an insult, who understands the allure of jaffa cakes, the concept of last orders, is sometimes overwhelming. And I will never feel 100% secure in the US. I feel secure in NYC in the culture, with my friends, that I belong there, but not in the US of A - someone, somewhere could always pop out and send me home, for whatever reason (probably for fighting the absolutely DISGUSTING laws on visitors with HIV). Which they couldn't do at home, which is why I suppose I will always return to it in my heart. Whether they like me or not, the Brits are stuck with me. And that kind of commitment could only inspire love and devotion, really.
Wednesday, June 21, 2006
I have been warned by my hosts against going to the beach on my own, and particularly to avoid swimming. Given that it's very good surf coast, I can probably work that one out on my own. However, given that every time I leave the house they tell me I need to be careful crossing the road, maybe they are indeed overly cautious. Perhaps I shouldn't have told them the accident story. Here, accidents are remarkably common - the taxista on the way to the office on the first day was paralysed in a car accident where one of his friends died. Clearly not enough gun crime here, because these atropellados make the news all the time.
Anyway, this has all been prompted by my $2 swim this morning. Two flaming dollars. However, as there are fewer (i.e. NO) cockroaches in the water, I consider that money well spent, unlike at the pool on 58th between 10th and 11th in NYC. Name and shame, that´s what I say. However, of course, it took two attempts to get there this morning as I did the classic it's-the-first-thing-I'll-do-today-so-I'll-wear-my-swimming-cossie-there-but-then-forget-that-I'll-need-pants thing. Oops. Luckily, remembered in time.
It also reminds me of a serious regret: that I never swam in the olympic outdoor pool in BCN. What was I thinking? I also missed out on Hampstead Ponds in the scorching heat when I was at home, which was a ridiculous omission on my part. Next time, dear reader, that I am in London and it's 30ºC, I shall go. Which will probably be in about 10 years' time. If I'm lucky. So if you are in London Town and it is warm, please please go. It is a glorious glorious thing.
BREAKING NEWS: I've learned how to actually use an apostrophe, not just the thingy to make accents, así. HUZZAH. My life may have changed for the better, friends.
Tuesday, June 20, 2006
We struggle to a 2-2 draw against Sweden. Owen's out. Rooney´s furious. Costa Rica don´t even manage a single point. My countries are DOOMED, doomed I tell you.
What´s interesting is that everyone thinks that Costa Rica should win the ethics awards, or at least get credit for their wonderful system. Gary Younge for one, and at Who Should I Cheer For? they´re ranked fourth - use the chooser to see. Yet the government is about to put in place immigration laws which would mean they could indefinitely hold people for "as long as is necessary" to investigate their immigration status, barring people with HIV/AIDS, among other things... I´ve also been exposed to a rather unpleasant amount of racism given that I´ve been here for a week. It worries me. This is an amazing country with a wonderful record for its status and poverty levels; it´s not ranked 47th for Human Development for nothing. However, much like when I went to Brasil, people have accepted a certain view of a country, and seem reluctant to accept the fact that it´s different to one´s expectations.
On the other hand, given that the WSICF ranks Saudi Arabia above the US - admittedly, only one place, this may not be the most reliable or qualitatively well done study. Above the US? COME ON PEOPLE - this is a country where women aren´t allowed to drive, vote, and their word legally counts for half of that of a man. Really, this is a more ethically acceptable country? Plus the Ukraine, whose coach calls non-whites... well, see for yourself, is ranked tenth. Maybe we should start up a WSICF? for women´s rights. That might change things, somewhat. Any takers to help me out?
Monday, June 19, 2006
Anyway, it turns out that I am a moron at uploading, don´t really know what I´m doing. But here are a few more photos... I could not believe it when (after nearly a week) I finally noticed the lampshade in my kitchen which means that I really should be here because it is clearly MEANT TO BE. Here´s also a view of the atrium, and the kitchen (the blue thing).
This is the view from my terrace... well, when you avoid the big green building in the middle, that is...
This is the kitchen, which I love - the dark blue tiles, ENORMOUS fridge, splattering tap... all good!
This is the atrium - you can´t see the craziness, but it´s there. I promise you. And up those stairs is where I live...
This is the utterly fab lampshade in the kitchen. It ROCKS.
The weekend basically consisted of me being a homebody. I´ve still not been into the centre of town, but am hoping to do so soon, although maybe for the first time to catch the bus to the playa, which is what I´m planning for next weekend. Huzzah!
I spent yesterday with Mayela and Ricardo´s family, and watched many many many crapola movies - 1) The Next Karate Kid, 2) Cats and Dogs, 3) Harry Potter II and a bit of 4) Hija de la Luz. My assessment was thus 1) ohmylord I cannot believe JUST how bad the movie was. Mr Miyagi, what were you thinking? The monks coming to see her off for her first dance, the authorized fight between Hillary and the tough guy, the healing of the hawk? Only good things in this movie were the "Wax on, Wax off" references (which don´t work in Spanish - somehow "Cera, Quita" doesn´t quite cut it) and the bowl-off between the monks and the sweaty nylon-shirted louts. And that´s pushing the definition of "good". 2) Only thing I can say is "Creo que no, perro bebe". 3) BAD BAD BAD. I hate what they´ve done with Hermione, it´s just WRONG. But Ken Branagh was wonderfully camp. 4) TERRIBLE. TERRIBLE. which is why I watched HP instead.
Friday, June 16, 2006
There is something so, so, so primordial and elemental about the release of a storm. It had been unbearably hot here yesterday - around 31C (that´s around 90F for you yanquis) but sticky sticky sticky. And the first drops of rain - maybe even the first fifteen-twenty minutes - were glorious. The evocation of the release of long-simmering sexual tension is obvious - crashing thunder, sparks of lightning, the cool and refreshing and calm feeling in the air as the humidity dissipates... I´m sure there was a DH Lawrence poem I liked about this sort of thing, but can´t find it over the Tinternet. Although it ended up being vaguely unsatisfying - the poem, that is. Poetry always does slightly disappoint me, feeling contrived. I must learn to read it better, although I do like Lorca. In the original Spanish, of course. Is that pretentious enough?
Anyway, another wobbly moment this morning, feeling... disjointed, lonely. However, yet again something or someone intervenes in my life and I realise how lucky I am. My boss here kicks arse, essentially - a tough, bright and principled woman who was kind enough to speak English to me at lunchtime and make me feel welcome and at home again.
I have also realised that Argentina will win the World Cup. Therefore no point sweating owt else. Torn as well - in Spanish and in American English, you´d say Argentina is going to win the Mundial, and I nearly wrote that before trying to equivocate by using the future form. Which is grammatically correct, but just feels wrong, particularly as it doesn´t take into account the spirit around the team, doesn´t include the plural which makes us feel part of a team... Still. Enough. Buen fin de semana a todos.
Thursday, June 15, 2006
Anyhoo, not much more to report other than I have learned several more things about the world and myself today. Namely:
1) The full title for Mexico is actually the United Mexican States.
2) The full title, even better, for Paraguay is the Oriental Republic of Uruguay. What exactly is "oriental" about it? I´d love to know... answers on a postcard please! (or, of course, email or comments will do!)
3) My sense of direction, combined with my memory, is a good thing for a young rubia (or macha) indeed. This morning had a wobbly moment when my landlady, bless her sweet nature, DID NOT KNOW WHERE THE NEAREST BUS STOP IS. How is that possible? But people here don´t really seem to know where anything is, just where something is relative to something else. But I pieced things together and got to work, on my own, caminando, having been shown the half hour journey once. I rule.
3a) Following on, self-reliance is an extraordinarily powerful emotional - at least, the realisation that you can get by and do something in difficult circumstances. This morning I asked for directions - something I HATE doing and certainly in another language and it was empowering and uplifting to know I´d done it and now had the knowledge that meant I could get to work. Not much, but something. Ladies, don´t always rely on everyone else to get you around. Please.
3b) When you ask directions, LISTEN to what they say. I.e. to the difference between "ya se paso" (please forgive lack of accents here - haven´t worked those out yet) and "ya se pasa" - the latter being what the driver told me i.e. "it´s coming", not that it had just gone. DUHBRAIN. Listening always important - don´t ask a question unless you´re prepared to hear the answer...
4) Tica cerveza, according to both my guidebooks, is best represented by Bavaria. However, I was distinctly unimpressed by my first encounter with said beverage in its "Gold" variety, but am prepared to be convinced by repeated consumption.
5) It doesn´t always pour down by lunchtime in SJ in the rainy season! I wish it would, however, it´s very very very sweaty here, which doesn´t make for happy Grace. Furthermore, I may have to walk home given my promise to myself that I´d only catch the bus when the weather dictated. And it´s fair to surmise that, on a day like today, the bus would be miserably humid and so does not demand I get myself on its un-airconditioned self. I would be saving myself a massive 200 colones by not taking the bus (roughly 40 cents, 20p, 35 cents in Euros for you international folk unfamiliar with this noble currency), too. Looks like it´s the long trek home for me. Huzzah. Then a night in with a dvd on the racism Nicaraguanses experience, reading about the Tico mentality, and possibly Scrubs, too. Ricky Martin would be proud (and if you don´t get that reference, you have NO BUSINESS READING THIS BLOG). I thank you.
Wednesday, June 14, 2006
1) The people here do not believe in street numbers, but useful addresses like 100m north and 100m west of Burger King. Seriously.
2) They are as obsessed with the football as us.
3) It is scorchingly hot in the mornings, rains for three hours in the afternoons then is cool and bearable.
4) How to say the time in Tico - not the same as Spain. Falta cinco minutos para las tres, por ejemplo.
5) I really am bad at Spanish. But am getting by. Not sure how long I can play the knackered & jetlagged card. Oops.
6) We start work early but, more importantly, finish early!
7) You need to read your watch the right way up and try not to get up at half two in the morning thinking it´s half seven. Oops.
8) You can get a great meal of frijoles y arroz and plantain stuffed with tomato and cheese for less than two bucks. BRILLIANT.
LOVE IT. Apart from not having a clue where I am - I need a map. And soon!