Monday, July 31, 2006

La Tortilla Ha Vuelto

I love that phrase, have ALWAYS wanted to use it.

Point being, when I was a child, I hated Mel Gibson. And now, the nutter has proved why - that I had reason and it wasn't just because I was bored with my mum watching Tequila Sunrise for the umpteenth time. It's all down to gut instinct, it appears - and my bowel was spot on.

Soundtracks and Serendipity

My 21st birthday was rather infamous for its drunkenness, length of hangover (forty eight full hours - a record for me), and surprising levels of ebullience and enthusiasm over Dutch techno. However, what I will remember is that, after the diving and enormous chocolate cake and banner and streamers that my wonderful friends had prepared for me, we got back and, somewhat fortuitously, they were showing Cocktail on Brazilian tv. AWESOME. Dubbed, rather than subtitled, but still - a joy.

Hence maybe you can understand the elation I felt on arriving back in San José yesterday to find Teen Wolf on tv. I understood most of it, and it was just... so nostalgic. Particularly apt as I've just seen the episodes of Scrubs where MJ guest stars. He is just a complete hero, and if he's willing to share the fact that his children call him "Shaky Daddy", then he's even more amazing. Even better, looking for actors making their starts, saw Lynnette's irritating husband from Desperate Housewives in it as a fellow basketball player put out at the Wolf's success and showboating on the court. That's serendipity.

So was, of course, feeling depressed that my usual internet joint was out of action, only to walk into a cheaper (and, admittedly, crapper) one where The Girl Is Mine was playing. You can't buy fortune like that - it's destiny, my friends.

I like life. The only thing I wish is that I could have a soundtrack. The ipod does help, but of course that gets in the way of actual conversations. Right now everything would be something by Sting because my legs are revoltingly covered in insect bites. And, of course, anything mixed by the Scratch Perverts.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Woman! Know Your Limits

Today's Lessons:

1) Don't dare be a 16 year old experimenting with sexuality in Iran.

2) Don't think about having sex before marriage - true rebellion lies in only having sex with one man, as long as that ring's on your finger, staying in the kitchen and dressing modestly because men can't control themselves otherwise.

3) Zink is bad for you.

A more sweeping objection was exercised by an Iowa lawyer, TM Zink, in 1930. He left $50,000 in trust for 75 years for the eventual foundation of the Zink Womanless Library. Signs saying "No Women Admitted" were to be posted at each entrance and no books, works of art or decorations by women were to sully the premises or its environs. He graciously proffered a full and frank explanation for the decision in his will. "My intense hatred of women is not of recent origin or development nor based upon any personal differences I ever had with them but is the result of my experiences with women, observations of them and study of all literatures and philosophical works." Alas, his family successfully challenged his post-mortem plans and the Zink monument to misogyny was never built.
4) Will Smith can no longer be trusted.

5) Don't worry your pretty little heads over why 99s are called thus - no one knows.

Here endeth the lesson.

Me Hace Falta...

These are the things I am looking forward to on returning to NYC. Obviously, loved ones are at the top so I'm not putting them in. I'm talking about the quirky, little things. Well, most of these are probably incredibly obvious and not quirky at all. But loved ones is a no brainer.

1) Going out after 8pm. Here, everything is so... early. Wake up early, go to bed early. Certainly don't stay out late drinking.

2) Law school. I miss it, I actually do. I miss working my brain like that. Here is fabulous, but it's not exactly the same. Plus, in addition to 1), I liked to work and then head out with the lawschoolpeeps for a well earned beer or two.

3) Using my mac. And I mean actually using it with internet, not sat, impotently at home for scrubs watching and not using its airport to full effect. Sob. The joy of macs cannot be underestimated. PCs - fine, they're functional and if you're a programmer, probably much better. But macs are joyous, aesthetically pleasing - every day it was a pleasure to use my computer, rather than a normal, everyday thing.

4) Not being ogled. The family here think I'm crazy - after all, it's only natural that people comment every time I move. But in NYC, I'm bigger than a lot (I was definitely in the heaviest 5 women in our übersection) but not buxom or voluptuous, unremarkable looking (blue eyes? so what! dyed blonde hair? wow, never seen that before) and that anonymity is actually something I'm looking forward to.

5) SPORT. Playing football, watching NFL, BASEBALL (although the spelling béisbol always brings a smile to my face) - all these things and more. cannot wait. Here it's football and nothing else, and now the Mundial is over, there's nothing on the telly. Rats.

6) TIVO. My god how I miss having hundreds of channels and TIVO. You have NO IDEA how awful telly here is. I really should watch less television, but I promise to take it very very very seriously and watch only good stuff and no more Charmed. I weaned myself off Dawson's Creek, I can do it with the Three Evil Ones.

7) Hot showers. This morning I got a blast for about 30 seconds and it was a joy. The single best thing in this holiday (not counting the whole time with TOH) was the hot shower in Monteverde, after we'd got soaked by an aguacero and were freezing. It was fabulous.

8) News. Nothing happens here - they have so little to say that they report car accidents, and yet think it's an incredibly dangerous place. And maybe for some it is. But people, I live in New York. It reminds me of the comparison between Look North (sorry, M) and Newsroom Southeast (as was... RIP). I wonder what Kent news is like now that London's been taken away from it? Possibly like Channel Island local news, which is the best thing in the entire world - the two top stories when we watched a broadcast in Le Havre were that the local constable had been reappointed as constable, and that the miniature train in a local garden centre/stately home was working again. AWESOME. Include in this section Roger Clarke. I LOVE YOU ROGER. Pat Kiernan too and your smug Lego hair and smirk as you read the morning papers.

9) Food and drink. I miss Wine Warehouse and its cheap rosé Rioja, vegeburgers (although I currently have both in my fridge due to my beloved M)

10) Confidence. I feel that I know the city, that there's ever more to explore. But I feel generally safe, happy, as if I can handle things. And glamorous - New York just gives you glamour walking down the street to school in a way that Costa Rica just cannot.

I am now very upset, however, as Steve Harmison appears to be in severe injury trouble. No. No. No. The photo below is therefore to remind me of a happy place.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Salty Air

I have travelled around a bit now, Pacific, Caribbean coasts, seen mountains, rainforests, volcanoes, cloudforests... it's good here. Very, very beautiful. But in Puerto Viejo I finally found a place that was a nice small town - geared up for the tourists but also for the locals - it's not just a black hole for your cash to disappear but somewhere where people actually live as well as providing gringos with beer. It was good. Particularly the crab in the bar - that was amazing, it was easily as big as my hand - it just scuttled around. And the incredible sunset on Sunday night that I managed to enjoy, rather than trying to take a million photos of something that really truly resembled a postcard, not reality. It was wonderful. And it was normal to see people who aren't european in origin - a change for Costa Rica.

I'm going to post a few photos every day, rather than all in one, but will be doing the snapfish thing if you want to see them that way...

This is the house that belongs to Auxi's family. It was airy, light, and FREEEEEEEE!

Apparently every time they go they normally paint a bit of the house, but this weekend it wasn't possible - the ferreteria was shut (and that means a hardware shop, not a place that sells ferrets) so instead there was lots of cardplaying and eating.

Need I say more?

This was Playa Cocles, about 5km outside Puerto Viejo, on Monday when it was glorious weather. We bathed, in sun and sea, and I got bitten to pieces.

More beautiful sea and sand at Cocles.

More bragging via the medium of photo to come tomorrow. Yay!


- Forgot to mention yesterday that another aim for the next year is to WAX my friends - I cannot shave my legs properly to save my life. Wax until Christmas, epilator afterwards. SWEET. You needed to know that.

- CRICKET: Grievous Bodily Harmison (probably TM The Sun) is BACK! I cannot begin to tell you how happy that makes me. His morning was good, afternoon even better.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

When I Grow Up

I always make the self-improvement lists, but here are things I genuinely plan on doing on my return to NYC:

1) Take more photos, using both the snazzy little digital thang I have, and the behemoth which takes glorious photos and is criminally underused by yours truly.

2) Spend more time in museums, particularly in light of the fabulous new Spanish Painters exhibition that is coming to the Guggenheim (and I believe a friend's girlfriend is helping to curate).

3) Try to go to the cinema once a week, certainly at least once a fortnight. I shouldn't have to catch up on films as fabulous as Transamerica on planes.

4) Limiting myself to Burrito Box once a week - and that's a maximum, not something to aspire to.

5) Eating more fruit and also finding ingenious ways to prepare the mountain of apples, pears and oranges we get in our organic fruit box.

6) Reading. Reading. It's going to be so hard to get back into reading cases again, and I let my reading for pleasure/improvement go to pot last year, although I probably ended up reading more than most. However, I shall use this fabulous website, the author of whom actually believes in reading for pleasure as well as to stimulate the intellect and not being one of those horrific pretentious arses who, when given the opportunity to say what they will be reading this summer, talk about it as if it were a contest to see who can be the most masochistic and obnoxiously well read. So it's bookclub, library, Strand, Housing Works and READING for me.

7) I am going to learn to drive. YES. Finally. I CANNOT WAIT. M is terrified.

8) I am going to learn to speak French. Properly. Now that I've mastered (ahem) Spanish. Speaking a language other than your own, fluently, is an amazing thing. This weekend I went away to the Caribbean (have I mentioned that yet?) and there were seven of us in the house, only one of whom spoke Spanish as a native language. Yet we conversed, debated, ate and laughed together in the one language we had in common. I want to do that with French. Plus, it will help me find work in Africa and the UN. And when we own that house outside Carcasonne it will also be helpful.

9) I am taking pen and paper into classes next year. Or, at least, I was planning to, as a very smart woman I know at FLS does that and she did spiffingly this year. On the other hand, I somehow did ok so maybe the sudoku, blogs and chat didn't do me too much harm. Hmm.

10) I am going to maintain my Spanish - intercambios, Mexican soap operas, you name it, I shall try it.

11) (Not traditional number of points, but it is one louder, isn't it?) I am going to listen to more music, and DANCE MORE. I need to go out and do the horrible white overbite thing I do and enjoy myself. And listen to more music. And go to more concerts - one a month. Local bands, too, might make a change from the fact that I have only seen British bands since I moved to NYC (although saw Thievery Corp first time I was there - does that count?)

Next listing: I shall attempt to list the albums I have most listened to in the last ten years - and genuinely loved, although that will go on myspace, not here... HARD. Particularly as my internal time warp means that I seem to think 1993-1995 are still in the last ten years. Oh, my creaking bones.

And in a further inspirational note, this was fabulous in many ways. The man punished in question is a drug addict, has been banned from driving every year since he was 15 (not inspiring no. 7 at all, I promise) and has already knocked over a 12 year old child. Not fabulous, but at least he has gone to prison now (didn't for the child-knocking). Anyway, I suppose my point is this lawyer is AWESOME and who I want to be. Only joking. $110,000 of education for that some may see as a waste...

At a previous hearing, Manderson's tally of 48 offences of driving while disqualified was labelled "unique".

Outside court his lawyer Mr Ross said: "Jamie is a likeable idiot, really. Jamie suffers from a very serious addiction to cars. He just can't leave them alone.

"During the 1980s he used to steal cars to order and he made a lot of money.

"Then, a few years ago, he got addicted to heroin, but it's the cars he's really hooked on. He just doesn't understand the words 'don't drive'."

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Great Expectations

Growing up where I did, the Caribbean always held a fascination for me. The gentle (at first, at least) debates between schoolmates as to which was the better island, Barbados or Jamaica. The cricket - playing on the beach, actively and noisily enjoying the Tests. So to finally go was a thing of great trepidation - would it be as wonderful as I'd hoped?

The answer is yes it was, dear readers, yes it was.

I paid though. I have been bitten to pieces by the insects. By, note, the TROPICAL and CARIBBEAN insects.

Friday, July 21, 2006


Who cares if the world is imploding? I'm off to (fingers crossed YET AGAIN) the Caribbean coast this weekend and we have a lovely lunch planned at work today (where I get to bring potato salad - homemade, of course - then scoff everyone else's gorgeous food). I also have a bar of the chocolate on your left to share. I may not actually get round to the sharing part. Just because we always eat so much that we don't end up eating dessert. Ahem.

However, I have now detected a disturbing trend among columnists, in Spanish and English, in a variety of publications, that is upsetting me and I'm trying to work out why. This was a typical article in the aftermath of the Zidane meltdown. Title: Zidane put Family Honour before Ad Campaign. But it wasn't his family honour, but the honour of his mother and sister - i.e. the women in his family. You can't imagine him having the same reaction if Materazzi had insulted his father or brother, really - unless he'd said they were gay, of course, which is what happened with Sol Campbell's brother. It is upsetting that the only real way, it seems, that a lot of men get angry about insults to male members of their family is a question of their "manliness" - i.e. they must be straight and not likened to women.

This is discomforting to me. I think it's due to the idea that it's women who bring shame on the family; women whose virtue must be uncontested and protected and saved at all costs. Let's ignore the sons' ruttings. It's on the continuum with "honour killings" (the most horribly ironic name, in my opinion). Again, our sexuality must be hidden; if it comes into the open or is commented upon, denied and either in private or public, acted on with violence. My reaction to this is, well, I understand perhaps contradictory and hypocritcal. But if the insults had been racist, as I thought they were originally, there would be more understanding on my part. Because they weren't, simply about virtue of women, I have retracted my sympathy, somewhat. And that relativism probably isn't a good idea. But there it is...

not going to explore it further. I am, however, going to direct you to this, which is the now surely infamous headbutt-as-seen-by-different-people and the most amusing thing to come out of all of it. The Japanese one is, by far, the best.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Que llore

Today is not a good day. While this is somewhat revealing as a blog, I try to keep my very personal stuff to myself. However, I am having trouble raising a smile today. People are publishing complete crapola in the newspapers about Nicaraguans here ("there are good figures to show a million undocumented people here, 23% of the population" - really? where did you get these figures? Ah, that's right, you don't actually say where because it is RUBBISH and MADE UP and with NO OFFICIAL FIGURES TO BACK YOU UP), the Middle East may just explode and take us all out, Bush is a hypocrite and an awful human being, and I wish that if someone agreed to do something for you, they would actually do it. Or just say NO. It's not hard, as Zammo eventually taught us all.

STILL. Good things are happening to people I love, so it can't be all bad. And Bill Gates has given nearly $300m to AIDS research. David O'Leary has finally left Villa, good for my family. The US has approved implanon, which is a wonderful thing. And my favourite ex-PLO leader has done well in county cricket yet again.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006


There are many things to be scared of in this world. Sadly, showing my vanity, I think the thing I am most scared of is that my blog actually might sound, on some teeny level (no matter how insignificant) like Britney Spears.

Más y Más

I messed up with Snapfish, folks, which apparently does require registration. EVIL. Therefore, for those who don't feel like subscribing (although it's free and handy) I will slowly be uploading various photos from the viaje we took last week. However, not in any order (chronologic or thematic) or anything useful like that. Still, breakdown of the days for those who need it:

Thursday - bus to Monteverde (tiny, tiny seats, poor M could genuinely not fit his legs in, had to sit sideways); walk up to MTV Biological Reserve, got drenched, heard howler monkeys, all very lovely.

Friday - puentes (hanging bridges) and canopy (zipline over top of cloudforest) tour; panic over time but easily made it back for horseride through forest for the evening sunset - which we didn't see. Oops.

Saturday - Jeep Boat Jeep (actually, as another guest put it, more accurantely "van boat van") to Arenal in the morning, walk in the rainforest and volcano trip in the afternoon, followed by thermal baths in the evening, heated by aforementioned volcano!

Sunday - early morning (i.e. out of house by 8!) hike (11km in total) to La Catarata de La Fortuna, the local waterfall. Bathing there, divebombing by toucan, then home, shower and panicked wait for the very popular bus for which you cannot reserve seats in advance. Panic paid off as sat all the way home, unlike some...

Monday - M went home... sob. But I did get to read the Glamour he'd bought me on the bus back to work.

We took a van-boat-van thing from Monteverde to Arenal. Reason? For around $5 we could have got there by bus, taking eight-nine hours. For $25, it took three. Somewhat preferable. Plus, we saw some of the most beautiful scenery along the way, and many, many vultures (zopilotes, apparently). That was cool.

We were not allowed to swim directly under the waterfall, so just dipped ourselves in the water around it. Sadly didn't capture a photo of the unbelievable electric blue of a butterfly that flitted around the rocks of the cascade, but it was incredible.

This main square in Arenal apparently used to be a football pitch, but according to the 2003 Lonely Planet, was becoming a park, bit by bit. By the time we got there, it really was just a park. Gringos played American Football on it. Sick and wrong.

Pretty flowers on a pretty tree which we were suspended over on a hanging bridge. Wasn't too much of a fan of the bridges - creaked an awful lot. Made me feel less safe than the ziplines (more of which mañana!)

Saltos y Corridas

Something which has always interested me is the complete lack of interest in sport that some women display. There is a very good article (which I found on F-Word) about women's participation in sport. I have conflicting feelings about these things... Basically because part of me can't help thinking that if women just got to play sports, rather than standing around in teeny skirts and being forced to do cross-country and not being taught about comfortable and useful sports bras, then maybe they'd love it. Competitive sports are held up to be the "bad guy" here, but I know enough women who utterly adore them (and play extremely hard) that this doesn't seem to be the complete picture. Look at the league I play in in NYC - one of many, and on average over 90 women going for it every Saturday at full tilt running after a ball. Crazy. But we do it. And while we're there, hundreds of fit young women scampering round at a ridiculous pace in the cross-country competitions that go on there.
Underlying these negative feelings, there is, as Dr Tess Kay of Loughborough University explains in her research, "a mismatch between girls' view of their bodies as passive and decorative and the use of the body as active and functional in sport". For any strategy to succeed in persuading girls into sport it has to take account of their complex and often hugely unconfident feelings about their own developing femininity.
This taps into one of the real areas of interest for me. Simulation of starvation conditions, painful surgery - be it elective caesareans or liposuction - in order to make oneself thinner. Bodily actions, physically tough, but without any positive effort - all about denial and what someone else can do to you. And yet, sport is a powerful, active thing to do. Running makes me feel stronger, happier, more powerful - with my knee knack I genuinely miss the feeling of being able to run up a large hill at the end of an hour's run. You cannot get that feeling anywhere else... Sport gives us endorphins, positive body images - not just for burning calories but a concept of the body not just as something to be valued for its thinness, its breasts, its lack of flab, but for its power, strength, reliability. That would be nice.


1) Angry about this, which has weird echoes of the "Tutsi cockroaches" radio broadcasts, which may well be a strange reaction on my part, but is what I thought of. Particularly resonant as well given the hostility at the moment here towards Nicaragüenses, as Nicaragua is currently before the CIDH (Interamerican Court for Human Rights) in San José regarding the tardiness in bringing murderers of Nicas to justice.

2) Glad these women have been released, but the concept of these women being in prison or charged for this is outrageous. Until you realise that in fact adultery is still a crime in most of the US... still, for both sexes, not just women!

3) Something I already knew - swimming pools in NYC are RUBBISH. Well, to be fair, the one where I live is nice - a big, Olympic size pool, clean and warm water in the showers, plus with an outside pool, good in the current sweatfest that is the Big Apple. Compare that to the one near my school, which is cockroach central and, basically, horrible. Yet I cannot afford the $1000 it would cost to join the local Y (very charitable, that), so it's Riverside or nothing, quite frankly.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006


Yesterday it rained for at least eleven hours - started just before one in the afternoon and was still going when I drifted to sleep last night. At points it was so loud I genuinely couldn't hear what anyone was saying in our "Economy and Women" seminar last night. Good welcome back to the smoke. Being here with M made me realise what an unbelievable setting this city is in, surrounded by mountains, and with lush green foliage everywhere and just so... brightly coloured - the houses, roofs, flowers... I love London, Paris, but they seem so grey in comparison. On the other hand, they have pedestrian crossings, believe in tarmac for roads, and despite legend, don't have rain every single day. Swings and roundabouts, my friends.

M and I went on a fabulous trip to cloudforests, rainforests, an active (Strombolean, apparently) volcano and waterfall. It was utterly amazing. Gringos in every direction, but what can you do? It was a bit overwhelming in that sense, but I was undeniably impressed by the level of Spanish spoken by the travellers in general, and everyone's friendliness... it was good stuff, basically.

En route to the waterfall. It was an 11km hike there and back, and we almost got divebombed by a toucan. That was utterly, utterly brilliant. In fact, we saw four toucans in three days, including two different breeds, one with a green bill and the other more orangey brown. This guy from Valencia we met got attacked by a toucan in his hotel in Tortuguera - scratches all over his arm were the price for not giving up his papaya and mango to the bird. They rule.

You just don't get enough men who look like this. M and I had a substantial debate over whether his hair was natural. I say yes, just with some grease to separate the curls. He says grease isn't natural. You decide.

Our hotel in Monteverde was very nice - a step above in terms of price and quality. Well worth it, because we got DRENCHED in MTV Reserve, and headed back like drowned rats, only for me to have my first hot shower in a month. It was glorious. Utterly, utterly glorious.

This waterfall was beautiful, and you could bathe in the pool by it, which we did. In the cold. And after clambering over very slippery rocks indeed.

Monday, July 17, 2006

The World's Gone Mad

So I go away for four days and the world implodes with craziness.


What is wrong with people?

Examples of the craziness:

1) Wear nice knickers in case you pass out while mashed.

2) I know that it was a time of terrible tension and worry - I was there. But this ranks alongside the geniuses who murdered a Scotsman with a table leg because he was suspected to be an Irish terrorist - you cannot simply excuse these mistakes due to fear. Someone should pay some kind of recompense.

3) Girls - and I do mean girls - getting pregnant because it's a better option than working. What are we doing about educating women if this is really their "best" option? Children are wonderful things, but really, the choice boils down to Tescos or motherhood? Nice to know it's not due to lack of sexual education, though... hmm.

And all of this entirely fails to mention you know where and you know what. I cannot even go into that because it is utterly... soul destroying. Crushing. I don't normally shirk the bad stuff - I love me some depressing documentary over a Kate Hudson piece of fluff any day. But the Middle East at the moment is too much for me. Just too much.

HOWEVER: I read a bloody brilliant book over the weekend. I love the author - anyone who turns down a prize from the Mail for its attitude towards immigrants is my hero anyway, but I loved this book, his second, and the first was a beautiful, melancholy study of nationality, race and identity. IMHO. But what do I know?

So that's good. It should also be made clear that I am grumpy because I spent five glorious days with TOH and now he's gone. I won't see him for five weeks. That makes me miserable. On the other hand (let's hope no one from U.S. Customs reads this) he brought me vegetarian kielbasa, which I shall eat in his honour tonight. And watch a mere two episodes of the third series of Scrubs. Joy. After attending my study group on Costa Rican Economy and Gender. Possibly while drinking a glass of my favourite wine, also brought over by TOH. Sigh. You will be regaled, almost endlessly, with the glorious photos and stories of our wonderful time together, which has not been tarnished by the misery people are propagating throughout the world. Or that England scored 528 yet couldn't beat Pakistan.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

...and I think I like it

Strange reference there to 1990s chocolate adverts in Britain. Sorry. Reason = T minus 10 hours. YIKES. YIKES. Now, what will happen this evening - when I arrive at the airport - is one of two things. I will either have decided to get there for when the flight arrives, meaning that he'll take three hours to come through customs. OR what will happen is that I will decide to take the chance that he'll take an hour to get through everything which means he'll be waiting for me on his own for ages, poor soul. This is what always happens to me when I go to meet someone at the airport, which, having lived abroad for nearly three whole years now, is something that I do often, unfortunately.

I know a lot of people like airports, but for me they are only just losing their air of misery due to the year M and I spent commuting between la manzana grande and BCN. I'm more with the Douglas Adams theory which is that they are designed to suck your soul out and be the most depressing things on earth.

And more with my obsession with the big gorgeous Frenchman. This is genius.

Zinner the sinner?

John Hegley
Tuesday July 11, 2006


The world, his No 1 fan:
Zinedine Zidane.

The game

dancer's shame.

Why, why, did he lose his head?

Abuse his head?

What was said

that made him turn so quickly on his


The king of ball control

who lost his self-control,

can the man -

and should Zidane -

say sorry?

Did Materazzi call him Baldy?

Or say, "I'm going to poke you in the


with a French stick?"

Je ne le crois pas.

Le roi

comme ci?


L'Italien, qu'est-ce qu'il a dit à Zidane?

Soudainement, le roi n'est pas chouette.

Il est fou - mal à la tête.

Une bête noire.

C'est mauvais pour la France.


de sens.

Je commence à croire

qu'il doit dire "pardonnez- moi" avant son "au revoir".

· John Hegley will be performing, mainly in English, at the Pleasance Theatre during the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, August 8-28.

Guardian Unlimited © Guardian Newspapers Limited 2006

Monday, July 10, 2006

Le Bien, Le Mal

I'm sure I've used that title before, but tough. Can't think too much, as have to prepare for interview for human rights scholarship this afternoon that I am in no way going to get. So forgive me for the repetition. Plus it's the title of the MC Solaar song he does with Jazzmatazz that I love. Ooh, Prose Combat mood coming on! Favourite tunes: Obsoléte, Nouveau Western (of course).

A weekend of mixed fortunes and emotions. The mighty Crouching Tigers won their very first game, which makes me incredibly happy, tinged with a small amount of envy due to not being there. But it's wonderful, unbelievable news and I am so proud of how far everyone has come, it's amazing, particularly given that some had barely kicked a football eighteen months ago. Fabulous women, fabulous football - I miss it so, so, so very much.

Of course, Italia won. They had been the better team, more or less, up until now, but I am very very angry with Zizou for getting himself off and, more importantly, therefore allowing Trezeguet to take a penalty (although he probably would have done anyway), and also for headbutting someone (violent, bad) and looking so absolutely mindblowingly good in the photos on his return to France (see below). Or maybe that's just me. But that one with Chirac... And somehow being named best player of the tournament - he was wonderful, but the violent conduct surely mars that - Cannavaro must be wondering what on earth he had to do to win that?

I also had some fantastic sushi yesterday, ate a lot of Mexican sweets, and had a grand afternoon. However, it was marred by being made absolutely petrified by a man who was a pirata i.e. non-official taxi driver. He decided to beep us (not uncommon for taxistas here - you become able to ignore it after a while), but normally they move on when you indicate you're not interested. So we shook our heads. And instead of driving on, he slowed down, shouted things out the window at us and then stopped and got out of the car, walking towards us. Why would you deliberately terrify people like that? It was dark, 8pm on a Sunday which for Costa Rica means there is NO ONE around. We scarpered indoors, wandering around a shopping centre for a while, before realising that we weren't going to catch a taxi that way, but there were a few people around on the other side of the street (including guards with guns - useful, very useful), so went there instead, and finally got into a safe taxi. Still, home safe and sound, and only about 33 hours until I see M, so all in all, a good weekend had by all.

Friday, July 07, 2006

I Think of Her Wherever I Go

A year ago I was walking home from Docklands, from 1CP.

Not going to be morbid, or overly sentimental. Although I think this is interesting, but may well be a very grauniad, white way to see it. Instead, I am going to regale you with some of my top things about London Town. Not exhaustive by any stretch of the imagination, mind.

1) The Eye. It's bloody brilliant. It's beautiful, and lots of other cities may have copied us (I'm looking at you, Birmingham - and NYC was going to do the same for the Olympics... small gloat here).

2) Yauatcha - eyebleedingly expensive Chinese cakes that are mindblowingly lovely.

3) 1 and 2 both lead to the South Bank, which I love (see 5 below), and Berwick Street, which still has the best best shops (Zest, Yauatcha for two) - although I have not forgiven them for selling up Selectadisk - how am I supposed to spot hotties now? You could always rely on there being a gorgeous creature in there somewhere.

4) Poste Mistress and the Office Sale Shop. Need I say more?

5) The River. And not a river like the Hudson, but one that really is the heart and soul of the city, that, if like me you worked in the city, was a part of my day everyday. I used to love strolling down it to go to the NFT after work, or the NT for a beer on their weird fake grass and hear some crappy jazz. Brilliant.

6) Hampstead Ponds - very Bloomsbury set / 1920s feminist feel to it, and I absolutely love it. London people without fixed schedule (I'm talking to you, WUB, and you, Le Scutt), get out there for me!

7) The Yacht in Greenwich. Views of London not unlike the Trafalgar's, but less 17 year olds from Tallis and Crown Woods, essentially.

8) Pub Quiz at the Dean Swift on a Sunday night. Unremittingly high quality questions and teams.

9) Knightrider Street. It exists. Right by the Millennium Bridge, yet another amazing thing, linking St Paul's and the Tate Modern.

10) The Oval. Although Southgate gets a special mention, The Oval is still my favourite cricket ground (although non-London Canterbury is rather wonderful too). I have had some of my favourite days of my life just whiling away the hours, drinking, doing the crossword, eating a LOT of food and occasionally deigning to applaud a boundary.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Sin Rastro...

Having mused on the purpose of my blog - which I decided internally was just because I cannot stop talking - I think it's probably a culture clash narrative. What I love about being away from home is the chance to compare cultures, perspectives, beliefs, customs, rituals... all these things and more. To do it between the US and the UK is always interesting, given that we share the foundations of a language, despite the divergence subsequently. Living in a country where the language really truly is different makes it much harder to pick up nuances. It's easier to feel stranded or isolated because you're not sure of the formality of the situation or suchlike - all these things become magnified, exponentially, due to this uncertainty and lack of surety.

The aim is generally not to rate which is better, which is worse, but to be that horror of all horrors - the RELATIVIST, as I was last night when trying to explain that indigenous people not wearing clothes didn't make their lives "ugly". My point being that it's not for me to judge, unless it is something so far out of whack, so absolutely fundamentally wrong that it must be stopped.

I think I've found it.

If you want to send me a letter here, you can't. Well, you can, but you would have to direct it to the post office. Why? Because my road doesn't have a name. Or if it does, no one knows it. There are no numbers. There are no letterboxes (and I don't mean pillarboxes, I mean letterboxes on the doors). My home address is: 100m to the north and 100m to the west of Palí, Novacentro, Guadalupe, San José. Why am I not afraid to post that on the web? Because there's no way you'll find it. Because all my address means is that I live 100m northwest of a pet supermarket in a shopping centre in a certain area of San José.

No one knows where anything is here. Just where it is in relation to something else. Which you can get used to, although it's not easy. My problem is that I don't know which way's south, north, east, west. So that's bad enough, and because everything is so short here, there's nothing like the Wharf or Empire State Building to orientate yourself around.

However, the icing on the cake. I am going to visit a B&B for M and I to possibly stay at next week. I found it in the Rough Guide, and it sounds fairly nice - pretty garden, near university (which is where I work), cheap. The address is 50m south of the antiguo higuerón. Which means old fig tree. Except by old, they don't mean that it's been there a long time. They mean that it's not actually there anymore. So I have to find this place by looking for something that is no longer extant and the location of which I didn't know in the first place.

If the US is going to insist Costa Rica should sign the TLC (making, by the way, it a treaty for CR but only an "accord" for the USA - nice, nice), they should make the renovation of street names and numbers their utmost priority. However, one of my Oprah moments yet again - something comes along to remind you that for some, roads, regardless of names, are a luxury.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Veal Always Have Paris

Oh Happy Day indeed - T-minus 6 days until M arrives. Huzzah! Why else is it a good day?

1) Viejo verde means, apparently, dirty old man. So there you go.

2) I didn't have to watch smallville last night as I was being kept company by a very fab person instead.

3) The cucaracha has not returned.

4) I am about to eat some queque.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

The O'Reilly Factor

This is something that has been playing on my mind for a long time, but has recently surged to the surface of my concerns, as can be seen from the number of new entries on Hollaback and Anti-Harassment. This is, at least in part, because I rarely make it home here without someone hanging out of their window to stare at me, saying "mi amor", hissing... How I hate the hissing. I cannot understand why people do it. And why you would demean "love" by calling everyone by that name?

As a result of my internet searching, have found this amazing blog by some women in India - although I was disturbed to see it highlighted, in a good way, members of the "BNP", then realised of course that those letters stand for Blank Noise Project. This is fabulous because it is women taking control and taking action to work against prejudice and actions that humiliate them on a daily basis. It will be added to my usual column on the right, but I would like you to a) read it and b) read the Times of India article that is linked to on the page. It is disgusting. Time and time again we are blamed for what we wear; this not only makes it easy to denigrate women, make them take the responsibility for whatever happens, but it denigrates men, the concept that they have no control over their actions, it just happens, they are enflamed by us so.
What really makes it strange is the contradiction inherent in this behaviour: the handing over and accrediting of so much power to women, yet in a way that keeps us subjugated, feeling out of place in the world, in order to keep us down.

If that appears heavy-handed, just read the stories from these women to get an idea of the fear and humiliation. What gets to me is the conflicting messages within, the "I consider myself attractive" business - as if that has any bearing on the responsibilitiy of the women or whether it actually matters to these men. And how much being called "saggy" or "ugly" hurts, given that someone has to make the effort to think this up and shout it at you.

Lo vencí, el demonio

Warning: Just in case some of you, somehow, think of me as an eloquent, articulate and genteel sort of lass, there may be language ahead to shock you.

Last night, as I was preparing some lists of stuff for M and I to do next week and what vittels and essentials from the US of A I wanted brought, I started thinking about how to sum up my time here.

You know, what's the silliest thing someone has tried to sell me on the street? TV antennas. He had two.

How fast do Costa Rican people walk? Maybe 2.5 mph if you're lucky. No wonder they all look so surprised when you say you're going to walk somewhere, because what takes me 20 minutes probably takes them 45. If they're going for it.

This, however, is what I ended up writing:

What M and I should do:

 Monteverde – nature
 Volcano? Arenal, Poas?
 Buceo – Playa de Coco, Boca del Toro?


[And so on. This went on, intermittently, for what felt like several hours.]

Huge tactical error in going to find broom. First, because couldn’t find broom. Second, because roach has disappeared and now I don’t think I’m going to be able to sleep until I see it again. Disgusting, disgusting horrible thing. Why couldn’t it be a lizard? Where did it go? Do I want to find it? And trust it on the day where I thought I’d sleep due to having bloody earplugs. Little did I know. Fucker fucker fucker fucker. Just seen it over by the chair. I may never sit there again. Fucker. Disgusting little thing. Ugh ugh ugh. Want it out of my room. OUT.

It has now retreated because I couldn’t kill it. And now I will worry about it scuttling around, Will stay up for a while and try to kill it. Now I am firm – while I hate the thought of killing it, the thought of it scuttling around just ready to get me - I don’t know what, but that makes the idea of killing it much, much more appealing.

Finally, however, I saw it trying to get in at the coving at the top of the room. It couldn't manage it and I was grateful I had moved the bed away from the wall. Anyhoo, it finally found a corner where it could get up into the coving and hide (and it was hiding from me, as I'd been chasing it round with paper because Mayela had moved the broom but I didn't want to kill it). Ingeniously, I then stuffed a small plastic bag to cover the hole into which it had disappeared so that it couldn't get back down. Then I put my trainer over the hole in the floor from where it may, possibly, have come.

And that's what I did last night.

This morning, I then saw a dead one on entering our office. They are tormenting me.

Still, found a website, Hollaback NYC, that should be good, but I fear moaning about leering is not going to cause much of a shock, and these women keep reporting saying nothing - the point of HollaBACK is that you, well, hollaBACK. However, this was utter, utter genius: read and learn, ladies. Plus, this website has a somewhat more mature approach, perhaps, where you can vent your rage and there are some good tips for technique. That's what always gets me - what to say that isn't raging and swearing? Now I have an idea. Which I may have to put into practice next time it happens to me.

Monday, July 03, 2006

WARNING: Ridiculous number of posts below

I went away for the weekend and hence have a mountain of posts below, due to excessive photo-taking and so on. Sorry. This is the view from my cabina in Manuel Antonio.

Anyway, not been back long and yet still things to make me angry/take notice in the news. So here are some things that caught my attention enough to distract me from itching the MILLIONS of bites that I hadn't realised I'd got until last night in bed. Not a pretty sight.

Terrible, utterly shameless and tasteless segue, but this was also a horrible thing to see. Rape as a weapon of war is disgusting whoever commits it, but again, made worse when you have to see it in light of these "liberating" forces, freeing people from tyrants. While this man may not represent the values of the USA, it is hard to separate the actions of the forces there from the rhetoric of their President, the Commander-in-Chief. Rights or wrongs of the war there, this is beyond contempt.

This, however, is fabulous. I have been flashed, at a bus stop in Lewisham, and groped on a train, and I think her description of the powerlessness and how it makes you feel as if you are not welcome in the everyday world is extremely apt. It is horrific. However, turning round and screaming at the horrible man who touched my arse made me feel better. Humiliation IS the keyword here - how it makes you feel and what you need to dish out to take back your power. A girl I knew at school got groped while standing waiting for the last train home to depart. As she was 14 at the time, but looked considerably older, and had huge guts, she and her friends chased him through the carriages screaming "you fucking pervert, I'm still at school, I'm a child, I'm 14, what the fucking hell is wrong with you?" and suchlike. That man did not stay on the train. I hope he got fleeced by a cabbie on his way home. Fucker.

This was unsurprising, but disappointing. Le Pen is just a turd, there is not much more to it. But I loved Lilian Thuram's very dignified response, especially when you consider that his name is Lilian, which has always tickled me. Therefore, the goal on Saturday could not be more perfect - created by Zizou, scored by Henry. I know who I'm supporting from now on - Allez Les Blues!

La Viajera Sola

A bird I know was musing on the topic of living alone and, at the time of reading it, I thought I could say that I had lived alone, and I liked it. I hadn't realised then that I really haven't lived alone, and that this weekend was genuinely the first time for me to get out in the world and do something truly alone.

When I was ten, Mrs. Barker gave us a task: Come up with adjectives that describe you, starting with the same letter as your first name. I can't recall what I had said about myself, but Mrs B. suggested the word garrulous. That was the first time I remember hearing that word, and yet, it fits perfectly - or, at least, the Chambers definition does. A tendency to drone on about trivia. I'm not - that is, I really, truly hope not - the kind of person who shares just too much information about herself on first meeting someone. But I can talk for hours about absolutely nothing to people I barely know. I like to think it's a gift. I wanted to be more mysterious, a loner, but I can't hold myself back.

Anyway, this weekend, although I had distractions, I was alone. It was strange. I do like my solitude, to pad around on my own, but I like to have control of that, for it to be a conscious exercise of separation from people that I can reverse at the moment of my choosing. This weekend I didn't have that power, I was forced to cede it to others who might decide to talk to me, to chance meetings. It was hard. On the other hand, probably good for me.

And having said I don't give up too much information, there it all is. And this is nowhere near as personal as the post I lost half an hour ago.

Regardless, please see below for photos of my meal at Mar y Sombra, where I sat by the beach, looked out, and ate fresh fish, and possibly the worst french fries (they don't deserve the word chips, before the Brits protest at my Americanization) I have ever had. Maybe I am developing some self-control, as I barely ate 1/4 of them. And dear reader, please note how blue being sunburnt makes my eyes.

El Mirador

This is the lookout point that I sweated to get to, and was, as you can see, fully worth it. Sadly, I didn't take any photos of the multiple mapaches that circled us, just wandering around, but they rocked. However, I thought it was a bit much to take photos given that I'd seen one, bigger, in Central Park the week before I left. However, I did take a photo of me. Priorities, priorities. Check out those pink shoulders!

Godzilla - Part II

The best bit of my weekend, bar none - not even the hazelnut ice cream at Escalófrio, which is my favourite flavour in the whole world and is far too rare - was the last piece of wildlife I saw before leaving the park. A big fat German man was bitching (in English) about having not seen even one monkey (I had already encountered the Capuchin and heard the extraordinary screeching of the Howler Monkey - genuinely amazing, I thought it was some kind of pig in pain, but maybe that's because I saw Deliverance recently). I was tramping off, more trying to sweat out the patacones than concentrate on the wildlife, as I'd been up since five and was worried about getting back in time to shower and checkout before midday. So stomping about, I got to the beach and tripped over a log and then stopped dead having almost tripped over... well, see for yourself.

He was beautiful and didn't even move a muscle at my thundering approach. Just standing there, sunning himself on the beach. I always think lizards are male - don't ask me why. Glorious. I was so, so, so happy. Seriously worth the burn and the insect bites for that moment. Just look at him. Fabulous.

Godzilla - Part I

I hate the bichos, as I have mentioned previously. But the lizards - thems I like. For example, on Saturday night, I moved the stand with my fan on and found a rather long lizard hiding behind it. If that had been an insect of similar size I'd have absolutely died. But because it was a lizard I tried to take a photo of it, not in time, sadly. Anyway, I do love the lizards. Which is why I took many, many photos of them.
This cheeky one was just stood on the path, and didn't really want to move, which I thought was bold and rather fab.
This was by the showers...
And this is not a lizard photo, obviously, but fungi. But rather pretty and I didn't know where else to put it...

There's a Creature in the Sky

So, the point of Manuel Antonio is that there is beach, and there is forest with animals. Not that the enormously fat German man moaning yesterday as I strode around the forest saw any ("Not a single monkey!"). Admittedly, at first I felt foolish, given my Lonely Planet told me it was "dificil para no verlos [los monos - monkeys]". However, I had arrived at just after seven when the park opened, and having waded through the small lagoon where, apparently, "Aquí habitan los cocodrilos" (Cocodrilos being my favourite word in Spanish, so had to mention that, and it makes me seem brave). Because it was early, after a bit of meandering I noticed the gentleman in front of me stop and look up. And there, lo and behold, jumping around, was a white-headed capuchin.
This is it. Sort of. Admittedly, you can only really see the demon eyes looking out at you, but that's because, and I swear this is true, the cheeky monkey actually would look at you, see you raising the camera and turn with his back to you. So this was about as good as it gets.
Or this, where you can see its outline but obviously it's blurred. There goes my nomination for Wildlife Photographer of the Year - I imagine I'll be overlooked yet again.
There were tons and tons and tons of crabs - you got used to the scuttling away as you walked along and the very un-camouflage like bright orange of their legs. It was cool.


There are worse places to pass the hurt hours after losing a Mundial Quarter Final than in Manuel Antonio. However, to then hurt yourself by getting burned and covered in insect bites seems foolish, and yet, that's precisely what I did. However, I whiled away the hours well enough, reading a glorious book by Anne Michaels, which I really need to read again to fully comprehend, but Fugitive Pieces my friends, is what you need to read - beautiful, compelling (I wolfed it down), touching - or pretentious drivel if you read the Amazon reviews!

I also had a chance to reflect on coincidence and how much joy it brings into our lives. For example, finding a Dorothy L Sayers book I want to read on Amazon - expected, extremely frustrating if I don't. Finding the one and only DLS you have left to read (and were thinking of asking your other half to bring next week when he visits) in a small bookshop on the Costa Rican Pacific coast when you'd resigned yourself to choosing whatever wasn't Dannielle Steele, Jackie Collins or Robert Ludlum and it being the ONLY DLS in the bookshop and a mere $1.50? Utterly priceless. It made me extremely happy. However, the bus home not having lights that worked in the darkness so I could only read it when the bus stopped and the driver deigned to turn the lights on = unhappy Grace. However, I have devoured it today, and am nearly finished already. Definitely going to re-read them all when I get home.

And by the way, this view is that from the path between my cabinas towards the beach - a mere 100m away.