Sunday, March 16, 2008

"Ayer nunca pasó, y mañana no existe."

I've been getting a lot of laughs, followed by sheepish grins when I sum up my take on Costa Rica in conversations with ticos with whom I'm talking casually or doing business.

The essence of Costa Rica, for me, may be summed up as follows:

Spanish: "Ayer nunca pasó, y mañana no existe."© 2008 Michael Poynton

English: "Yesterday never happened, and tomorrow doesn't exist."© Michael Poynton

Ticos laugh heartily, at first. ¡Pura vida! Then they think about it a little more - about what I'm really saying in so few words. And, without exception, they get a little embarrassed.

Living for the day is what it's all about here. No one thinks about yesterday, and no one thinks about tomorrow (unless it's a vacation day). You live in the moment. No future, no past. Every day is the first day.

Works well when you're on vacation. Doesn't work at all when you're trying to do business. You just get used to repeating yourself over and over again.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Marañónes

Spanish for "Cashews". The singular is marañón (mah-rah-NYON). It's a sure sign that semana santa (Easter week) is upon us when the pungent smell of cashew fruit permeates the air! Many people don't know that the roasted marañón is a fruit seed, not a nut. The fruit looks like a red bell pepper and is redish yellow in color. The cashew seed hangs in a pod on the outside of the fruit. You can eat both, but you have to remove the seed from the husk and roast it before eating. The fruit part is ready to go from the tree!

Pajaros (birds), loras (parrots), ardillas (squirrels), abejas (bees), avispas (wasps), garobos (iguanas) and pericos (parakeets) all go nuts (yes, it's a pun) this time of year when the marañón trees, branches heavily laden with ripened fruit, start emitting the irresistible smell that draws them all by the dozens. The fruit has a distinctive, pungent sweet/sour aroma that can be smelled for meters around the trees - especially when they fall to the ground and begin to rot and ferment. Many people don't really like the smell. But I do. I eat the fruit like an apple, though it's much softer, especially when it's really ripe. I usually need to take a shower after eating one, as the juice drips everywhere.

The smell of roasting marañónes (the seed part) is one of the richest, hunger inducing aromas in the tropics. It's pure Costa Rica for me. Vendors sell bags of them in different sizes on the beach and in town. Aproned, Nicaraguan women balance pallets of the neatly stacked and sorted bags on their heads as they walk the sand and streets selling them. They're everywhere right now and the prices are low.

To the marañón! One of the best "two-fers" nature has to offer!

¡Feliz Pascua! Happy Easter!

¡Pura vida!

Friday, March 7, 2008

Pura Mierda

Spanish for "Pure Shit". It's the negative take on Pura Vida (Pure Life).

First of all, I won't even get into the 5 weeks my truck was in S. Jose for "repairs" only to arrive on a flatbed, unstartable!

Monday, I was paying phone bills online and, in a mistake, I checked my cell phone number. Normally, my cell phone is paid via autopay by my bank. I noticed 4 months of unpaid bills. I was in awe that ICE had not disconnected my service.

Tuesday, I went to the bank to find out what the deal was. After several phone calls, the bank representative said that there was some error, but that the bills had been paid, excepting February, the current billing period. Fine. Peculiar, but fine.

After the bank I went to Liberia to drop my cell phone off for repair. I have a Motorola U6 and the LCD screen went black. Meaning I couldn't navigate menus, see incoming numbers, find numbers in my phone book, etc. I changed my voicemail message so that people would know to call me at my other cell number.

Wednesday, my cell phone service was cut. That meant that people who were calling it were not able to get my voicemail to know to call me at my other number. I had to pay all 4 months online. Unfortunately, my office has been experiencing serious Internet problems and maintaining any connection, let alone maintaining a stable one, has been impossible (this is a whole 'nother blog entry). I paid my bills while sitting at the bar at Vida Loca. To ICE's credit, my service was activated within about 5 minutes.

Yesterday, Coopeguanacaste showed up to turn off the electricity at our office. Another autopay failure, but with a different bank! I asked the guys to come into the office and enjoy the A/C while the power was still on, and while I tried to get to the bottom of it all. My secretary called Coopeguanacaste and, sure enough, the bills had not been paid. The solution was easy - pay the bill online. I would deal with the bank later.

But we had no internet connectivity at the office. So I had to grab my laptop, get in my truck and head down the road to Coconutz to mooch WiFi from a parking space in front of the bar. No connection. So I went to my buddy's Century 21 office and begged. No biggie. I logged on to the secretary's computer but soon realized I could not pay the bill from my corporate Banco Cuscatlan account - you can only pay Coopeguanacaste electric bills from a national bank.

So I logged into my persona BCR account and paid the first of two bills. I needed to print a receipt as proof. No paper in the printer. In the end I was able to get the two receipts as proof of payment so that the guys wouldn't shut off the power.

Today, I was planting a couple of palm trees in the yard. We're cleaning up some of the landscape in front of the office to make it more visible from the street and I took home some of the uprooted souvenirs home with me. My first swing with the pick axe resulted in neatly severing the underground conduit and wires that lead to the lighting at my entry gate. If I had been looking for the line, it would have taken me a week to find it. But I wasn't, and that's why I found it.

Also today, a technician came from S. Jose to fix our Internet problem. He left after not fixing it. Then he tried to charge us for the trip.

I will be planting more landscape tomorrow while I monitor the Internet from my house, where my good ol' DSL connection serves me just fine. This is killing my business.

But the weather's nice!

Pura vida!