Friday, February 19, 2010

I Rode a Horse!

Unfortunately, no one had a camera to capture this fear-overcoming event, but it happened just the same. Horses are B I G creatures. I like to talk to them when I pass them in a field, but mounting them and holding on for dear life is not something I've wanted to do.

Until tonight. We were at El Picadero, a new horse place in Rio Oro, Santa Ana. Susan, Yalile, Lupe, and others plus I were sitting at the bar, tossing back a few on a Friday evening. This place has stables that board horses and a ring for riding and for breaking horses. A pretty (can a horse be called pretty?) beige horse was standing in the ring, and Lupe said she wanted to ride. The horse's name is Cariñosa, which translates into "affectionate."

The owner of the place, Santiago Montes, helped Lupe mount the horse, and off Lupe went on Cariñosa, walking around the ring. Lupe has a bit of performer in her (she was La Reina, the Queen, of Santa Ana a few years back), and waved an arm with a flourish at the crowd.

When she got off, my friends pushed me to get on. The stirrup was so high up, I needed a boost to get my foot in it, and then I could barely swing my other leg over her back. But I got on and it felt great! Scary at first, but freeing, as though I were casting aside a long-held fear.

Santiago gave me instructions for how to turn - in Spanish, of course - but it didn't click for me right away. Yet Cariñosa figured out what I wanted her to do. She is a gentle horse, probably used to neophytes like me.

We rode around the ring three times. When it was time to get off, Yalile helped to hold the horse steady, and Cariñosa stepped on Yalile's foot - oh no! I sort of slipped down the side of the horse (not the right way to do it) to dismount.

I felt so great! I plan to go back to ride again.

Riding on the high (excuse the pun), Susan and I went to Coyunda's later where karaoke was going on, and I sang a duet with Francisco (he has a great voice) in Spanish! I have only sung karaoke there once before - Satisfaction by the Rolling Stones - a duet with Jefferson that we both sort of screeched. This time I sang A Mi Manera = My Way by Frank Sinatra. Everyone applauded in support. Susan and some others looked shocked that I could actually sing. I just need to find a song that lets me sing in my mezzosoprano voice. Usually songs are too low for me.

I overcame two fears in one night. Now I want a karaoke machine with Spanish and English songs for my birthday so I can practice at home. I might want a pony, too.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Election Day

The first female president of Costa Rica was elected on Sunday!

One thing that I love about elections here - this was the second that I have witnessed - is the positive, happy attitude that ticos have about electing their representatives. Sunday was a party day. Cars honking their horns with political parties' flag waving drove up and down the streets. Party was in the air, and there was no animosity between the parties or the candidates.

In fact, I watched a little of the TV debate with the top four contenders, and several times the candidates walked over to another candidate and hugged them. That would NEVER happen in the U.S. Here, it's possible to have different positions and to still treat each other with respect and love.

Alongside the election for adults Sunday was an election for the children. It was done electronically, same as for the adults, to teach the children that voting is important and easy. Some 70% of the population of Costa Rica voted on Sunday, and Laura got 46.78% of the vote. She needed to get at least 40% to avoid a runoff between the top two contenders.

La Presidenta Laura Chinchilla will take office in May and run the country for four years. Neither the president nor the members of congress are allowed to run for consecutive reelection.

SuperBowl at the Fiesta

This year a small bunch of us went to the Fiesta Casino near the airport to watch the SuperBowl. The last couple of years we went to Diane's house in Cariari, but for some reason, we switched venues this year. I started going to the Fiesta a couple of years ago to watch some season football games and met a few guys who were regulars there. One of them, Christopher Howard, the #1 authority on retiring and moving to Costa Rica, said he'd reserve a big table for his and my friends for Sunday's big game.

Since my team, the New England Patriots, weren't contenders, I threw my hat in for the next best team, the New Orleans Saints. Actually, I just wanted any team other than the Indianapolis Colts to win. There's something about the Manning dynasty - one year Peyton, another year Eli, another year Peyton - that rubs me the wrong way. Plus, the Colts pair up against the Patriots during the season and are the hardest team to beat.

The Saints were the underdogs this year, well, at least that's how the betting was going until the middle of last week, when a lot of people must have plunked down a lot of money to make them the favorites. The Saints had never been to the SuperBowl before Sunday. Thus, I bet on the Saints.

It was so much fun! Diane, Sam, Carl, Carolyn and I sat together. Laurie, Allan and some others sat at a different table. Not sure why. Some of Chris's friends spilled over into the seats across from us, and we got to know them. There were big-screen TVs all over the room, and one was directly in front of me. The picture was crisp with brilliant colors. The nachos were a little cold, but the pizza was good. As was the Imperial beer.

Diane had made up a football card, and I bought two squares. Sam and I pulled numbers randomly from a deck of cards to set up the rows and columns. I won the second quarter bet, which made me $11 richer.

There was a table of three young guys near me, one wearing a Patriots shirt, so I went over to talk to him. He was tico, which surprised me, since most ticos don't know the rules of American football. He, too, was rooting for the Saints.

At halftime, we unglued a big SuperBowl balloon from the table and started tossing it around the room. What fun!

It was a very good and close game, until the fourth quarter, when the Saints pulled out way ahead. The final score was 31-17 in favor of the Saints. Yay - my team won!

To make it even better, I won this year's bet with Shell. He and I bet every year on the SuperBowl. Whichever team I don't want to win is the team that he bets on. The last two years I had to pay him. This year he finally owes me. Our bets are small, only mil colones, or about $1.75.

So all in all, a good time was had by all.

Our table

Picking numbers for the football card

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Mosaic Wall at Vara Blanca

On January 8, 2008, a strong earthquake struck the beautiful area in the mountains around Vara Blanca, here in Costa Rica. Many homes, schools and businesses were demolished and people were left homeless and jobless. Little by little, the area has been rebuilt, and life is setting a new normal.

The Little Theatre Group, of which I am a member, and the British Embassy rebuilt an elementary school and kindergarten. A famous artist and stage designer in our community, Deirdre (Didi) Hyde, thought it would be a great idea to add some beauty to the functional school, so she came up with the idea of a mosaic mural made of ceramic tiles saved from the area of the earthquake. The wall is right outside the school, and the children will be able to see our contribution every day.

Didi drew an idyllic design on the wall, and we volunteers got to smash different colored ceramic tiles with a hammer (what a satisfying feeling that was! Take that, you stalker!) and cement them to the wall. It is a work-in-progress and will take a while to complete, but five of us got a good start this week.

When we were done for the day, Lisa, Arnie and I stopped at a wonderful French restaurant tucked away up in Vara Blanca. The food was delicious and we shared chocolate mousse and an eclair for dessert.

Lisa and me


Indian Cooking Class

Oooh weee! Can Corinne cook!

Corinne is part of my Thursday lunch group, the Bruhos. Usually we have lunch at Robin's Kitchen in Escazu, but once in a while we branch out and do something different for lunch.

Last Thursday we went to Corinne's for lunch and instruction on making her yummy Indian food. Corinne is married to an Indian from India and has learned over the years to make great dishes.

She cooked ahead of time so that while we were eating, she demonstrated how to make the different items. Corinne brings her show on the road, too, and recently did an Indian cooking demonstration for many people.

Corinne is the friend who has a karaoke machine, so after dessert, we all took turns sounding our very worst to American songs. I never thought I would sing karaoke, but with this forgiving group, it's a lot of fun to belt out songs with gusto.

Corinne sets a beautiful table

Goodbye, Ellen

It was hard to say goodbye to my good friend, Ellen. After 3.5 years in Costa Rica, she moved back to Florida where she bought a condo in Tamarac with her cousin from California. I hope she will be very happy in Florida.

Ellen and I met a few years ago. Our mutual friends, Jenny and Tony, who have since moved to Belgium, introduced us at a Halloween party that Ellen threw. Ellen lived in Cariari, two towns over from me, and introduced me to all of her Cariari friends, who have played a big part in my social life here.

She is a big football fan, and loves the Miami Dolphins. We have watched many games together, and as I write this on SuperBowl Sunday, I will miss her being with me and talking about the teams.

Ellen is a wonderful hostess and threw many parties for New Year's Eve, my birthday and other birthdays, Rosh Hashanah, Passover seder, Chanukah - any reason for a party, and Ellen got us together. She loves to talk politics and play games and dance. She is just one fun person to be around.

So there were a few going away parties for Ellen that she didn't have to plan. We hold her in such high esteem.

We all miss Ellen. Have a great life!