Sunday, January 25, 2009

Long Weekend at Betty's Beach House

Betty invited me to spend a long weekend at her family's beach house in Tarcoles, just before the infamous Jacó surfing town, on the Pacific coast. I was supposed to go last year during her kids' school vacation, but it didn't work out for various reasons. This year (kids have their summer vacation here in December, January and early February) we made sure that I accompanied them for a few days of fun in the sun.

The weather was perfect - sunny, 80s, lovely tropical breeze. Since I didn't get out of Dodge in December, I was ready for a little R&R. Children are not usually my favorite breed of people, but Betty's kids are great to hang out with! She and Eduardo are doing a wonderful job of raising them. In the picture from left to right there is Daniela, 11, Mateo, 9, me, Diego, 8, and Betty. That's Tao (dog), the fourth sibling, in Betty's lap. This was the second time I've spent time with the kids. We once went to the amusement park, so I already knew I liked to be around them.

One morning we drove down the dirt and rock road to the beaches behind the Punta Leona resort. We parked Betty's new little Yaris and trekked to Playa Blanca, a beautiful white sand beach (sort of like Siesta Key in Florida). Mateo was my hero - he carried my beach chair so I didn't have to strain my bad shoulder. We sat under a shade tree, the kids built a sand castle, and we swam in the warm, turquoise water. Did life get any better than that? Betty and I asked each other.

Back at the house, which has its own beach with black sand, we read a lot, napped, the kids played in the pool. I had brought easy Sudoku puzzles, and showed Diego and Mateo how to do them. I also brought Pass the Pigs, one of my favorite, simple games. It was a big hit with the kids.

Saturday night Eduardo, Betty's husband, took the bus from San Jose and joined us. Betty had been telling me about Eddy for two+ years, and I was beginning to think he didn't really exist because I had never met him. But I finally did, and he was easy to talk to. He brought a bag of peanuts in the shell, and we sat around eating, drinking, and relaxing.

After three nights and a very relaxing time, it was time to head for home. I feel totally chilled out.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Inauguration Day Party

I finally felt proud to be an American again on January 20. My friends felt the same. We came together, about a dozen of us, plus two Canadian friends and two tico (Costa Rican) friends, to celebrate the hope that Barack Obama and his family stand for. Tears flowed as we watched the pomp and ceremony leading up to the making of the new president.

Obama's speech covered all the bases; we heard what we needed to hear. Whether all or even many of his goals can be achieved, time will tell. He will need everyone's cooperation - that of Congress, world leaders, and every individual.

Starbucks is offering a free cup of coffee to everyone who commits to doing five hours of community service. That's the kind of cooperation and corporate leadership that's needed.

I talked to a few tico and Argentinian friends who have real jobs here. They all stopped what they were doing to watch Barack Obama take the oath. They, too, are hopeful for a better world.

Hearts, not Swastikas

I walk most mornings. It's the only form of exercise I can do without taxing my bad shoulder. There's my usual route, which takes 30-40 minutes, my long route, which takes an hour and 10 minutes (I only do this once a week), and my Sunday route, which takes about 30 minutes.

On my usual route, I noticed a swastika drawn in white chalk on a brick wall a couple of weeks ago. I was appalled to see it - one, because it was outside an evangelical church, which I presume preaches love, and two, because I live in a peaceful area without gangs or skinheads (that I know of).

On one of my walks, I tried to erase the swastika with my rubber-soled sneaker, but I just smudged it a little. Every time after that, I would walk past it and think about how I could erase that evil sign.

I designed a little project. I went to Hipermas (Wal-mart in Costa Rica) and bought some white chalk. Chalk in Spanish is tiza. On my walk this morning, I stopped at the swastika, and took the chalk out of my pocket. I filled in the open lines and made them boxes, then inside the boxes I drew hearts.

Out of hatred comes love. I hope whoever drew the swastika will notice the change and leave it like that.