Thursday, March 26, 2009

Carly Simon Is Singing to Me

You know that song, "You're So Vain." Well, I guess I am.

Little by little, I'm starting to look older. I still don't look my age (59 in a few weeks), but telltales signs of aging are creeping up on me.

I can live with the vertical lines above my lips that make my lipstick bleed up, and I can live with the flab that waves under my arms. And I can live with the purple veins on the sides of my knees. But when I saw more of those purple veins on the backs of my legs, I reached for the phone and called my dermatologist.

Technically, they are not varicose veins. They are capillaries, and I can live without them, according to Dr. Freer. To get rid of them, he injects them with something (can't remember what - saline?) that collapses them.

I had the procedure done today. I think of it as my first step toward cosmetic surgery. I lay on the table in his office, he filled a syringe, and punctured me in all (I hope, I haven't looked at my legs yet) the spots that were purple. Then he taped a cotton ball over each spot, and wrapped an Ace bandage around each leg, from below my knee to above it. The Ace bandages will keep pressure on the injection sites, to keep the capillaries from filling up again. I have to wear the bandages for three days.

Driving home, the injection sites stung, but it was pain I could live with. Gradually, the pain has subsided, and what's left as I write this are two legs wrapped like mummies with knees that can't bend too well. I'm not supposed to get the bandages wet, so I'll be taking sponge baths.

I made sure that this would be a non-dancing weekend. I got a lot of merengue out of my system last weekend. Tonight I'm in, and I'll prop my mummy legs up on the couch while I watch Grey's Anatomy and Private Practice. Tomorrow night I'll wear slacks to dinner at a friend's house then four of us are going to see the University for Peace's production of The Vagina Monologues. Saturday will be tough because it's summer here, and hot during the days. I'm going to the Democrats Abroad picnic and I'll have to wear long pants to cover the bandages. And on Sunday I'll expose my legs for the first time at Olga's birthday party.

I never thought I'd opt to change my appearance as I aged. I'm still not running out to lift the turkey wattle under my chin, but cosmetic surgery is no longer out of the question. I live in one of the cosmetic surgery centers in the world. People come here from all over to have work done, at very low prices. The kicker is that today's visit cost $61, but after insurance pays me 80% back, I'll have gotten rid of those unsightly purple veins for only 12 bucks and a little discomfort.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Ladies, Start Your Engines

Well, today was another interesting day with unexpected activity. I was rushing to do errands, make my 10:30 chiropractor appointment, then drive to Multiplaza (Mall) to have lunch with a new friend. I drove downtown Santa Ana, parked my car, went back to it and it would not start. Deader than dead. With no warning.

Fortunately, I was diagonally across the street from a gas station with a mechanic, so I got three of the guys to come over and figure out the problem. They tested the battery, the fuses, then figured out that the problem was with the starter. One of them hit the starter with a screwdriver and then the car started.

The only English-speaking mechanic told me to go to the central car parts place to buy a new starter. So I went to Don Esteban and asked for a starter. They needed to know the Spanish word. I didn't know the Spanish word. After much discussion by everyone in the parts shop, the guy waiting on me called someone to get the phone number of the bilingual gas station guy, Ernesto, who helped me, to find out what I needed. Turned out I needed un arrancador (starter in Spanish - remember this word; there will be a quiz). The guy looked up the arrancador for my car, but he didn't have one in stock. Meanwhile, a mechanic named ChiChi who was at the parts store told me he could fix my arrancador today for $35-44. I waited to hear what a new arrancador would cost if he could get one: $300. !Ay caramba!

So I followed ChiChi around the corner to his shop. There was an English-speaking customer just leaving who vouched for ChiChi's work, so I left my car there. "Come back in three hours," he said. Okay, that would make it 2:30. The shop was around another corner from my chiropractor's office, so I walked over there, and Dr. Jim took me right away (I've had a headache for two days and I needed an adjustment). By then it was 11:35 and I was supposed to be at the mall to meet my friend who has no cell phone five minutes ago. I knew I couldn't make it to the mall in good time if I waited for the bus, so Dr. Jim called his favorite taxi driver and I ended up paying $4 to get to the mall. There has been construction going on for the last several months to widen the highway, and some offramps have been closed, including the one to the mall, so Weymar had to drive all the way around the mall to get me to the front door.

I found my friend and we were just washing our hands before we sat down to have lunch, when my friend, Maria, walked in with a friend of hers. I told Maria about my car, and she offered to drive me back to Santa Ana after my friend and I had lunch, which was a godsend because I didn't know where the bus stop was anymore since the offramp was closed.

So my friend and I had lunch, then Maria and I did a little shopping. I finally bought a rice cooker, which is supposed to cook perfect rice every time (unlike my soggy or stuck-to-the-pan rice). Then Maria and I headed to Santa Ana, where she dropped me off at the mechanic's place.

Of course, the car was not ready. "Ahorita," ChiChi said, which can mean in just a minute or in just a few hours; in other words, tico time. Then he said 20 minutes. Of course, being a gringa, I thought he actually meant 20 minutes. I walked around Santa Ana, did a little window shopping, stopped at the post office, then arrived back at the shop in 30 minutes. Nope, not ready yet.

Summer has finally arrived, which I didn't even realize because inside my apartment it is cool; so cool, in fact, that I still wear socks and long pajamas to bed at night. Walking around the hot and dusty town made me thirsty. So I walked down the street to a new German restaurant and had a cold soda. This time when I got back, the car was ready. It started up right away. And the price: only $31.

Can you say "starter" in Spanish?

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Free Concert and Asian Market

I decided at the last minute to drive into San Jose late this morning to attend a lunchtime concert and to shop at SuperSony, the Asian market. I called a couple of friends to see if they wanted to go with me, but they already had plans. Which was fine. I like venturing off by myself.

Both places are on Calle 3 (Third Street), right in the heart of downtown San Jose. I parked in a lot and walked down the pedestrian mall that Calle 3 has become to the Teatro Nacional (National Theatre). The cultural commission wants to introduce more culture to ticos, so they are offering Tuesday lunchtime mini-concerts lasting 30-40 minutes inside the beautiful theatre for only $1. Since I have legal temporary residency, that's the price I pay, too. Everyone else (read: tourists) has to pay $9.

I was standing in line to buy a ticket when an usher told the people behind me that today's tickets were sold out. This was only the second Tuesday mini-concert and I was surprised that it was already sold out. I could buy a ticket for next week's concert, but I didn't want to shlep all the way back into San Jose again (it's really not that big of a deal, but I do like the comfort of staying put in Santa Ana, which is only about 10 miles from the theatre).

So I left the theatre and stood outside where 200 or so people were milling around. This is a very popular area, with the Grand Hotel and the Cultural Park right there. I started talking to a tico tour guide who was waiting for people to take a walking tour of San Jose (I've already taken it and it's fascinating) and told him the tickets were sold out. He went over to a gringo and asked if he had an extra ticket.

The gringo, Gordon, happened to have four tickets, two for him and his wife, and two that he was not going to use because they were for his friend who had a heart attack and had to go back to the States. So he gave me a ticket. Free! I offered to pay the $1, but he waved me off. He wanted to give me the other unused ticket, too. He said, "Do you have a boyfriend?" I said no. He said, "Well, go find one and he can have this extra ticket." It was very funny. I looked around the square and didn't see anyone remotely likely to be a boyfriend of mine.

All of a sudden the tour guide came up to us with another woman (no, sorry, this does not have a boyfriend happy ending) who needed a ticket. Mayra is a tica about my age who lives and works in Manuel Antonio (tourist resort area with howler monkeys and a pretty beach on the west coast) and took a few days off to come to the city for vacation. Gordon gave her the ticket, and we all went into the theatre together.

We had about 25 minutes before the concert began, and Mayra and I talked for the entire time in Spanish. She loves to travel, and I'm starting to get wanderlust, so we had much to talk about.

The concert was fantastic! Four young pianists each played a piano piece - WITHOUT SHEET MUSIC! They played pieces from Beethoven, Chopin and Liszt with mucho gusto. Gordon had bought tickets in the front row center, so we were able to see every emotional facial gesture that the pianists made, and they made a lot. The concert was thoroughly enjoyable.

As the full house let out, I lost track of Mayra, which is too bad, because we had much in common, and I would like to have gotten her contact information.

From the theatre, I walked back down Calle 3, and stopped in at a friend's B&B. Alf Richardson is a Brit who came to Costa Rica from Kenya several years ago, and was my first date after I moved here. He took me to the annual Robbie Burns dinner at the Costa Rica Country Club (a very hoity toity place). Alf bought a B&B in a great location and recently finished renovating it. Just this week I had an opportunity to refer some people to his place, so I thought I would stop in at Casa Alfi and see what he had done. I got a tour of the place, which is very nice, and the prices are extremely reasonable (starting at $30 for a single).

My last stop was SuperSony. I have no idea why it's called that. I bought fresh tofu (I'm going to make stir fry tonight), potstickers, chili paste, sesame oil, rice crackers and a few other things that I can't get at my local yuppie supermarket.

Somehow I got lost driving home. All the streets in San Jose are one-ways and I couldn't drive down the street that was going in the direction I wanted because a hospital was plunked down in the middle of the street. So I kept veering left and finally ended up just where I thought I might, which made me feel really good that I have a sense now of where I am, even if I'm not on a street that I recognize. After 3.5 years here, I can finally find my way out of a wet paper bag.