Thursday, April 29, 2010

Susan's Birthday and Despedida

There sure are a lot of tico birthdays in April and May. So many that I wasn't sure that we'd be able to celebrate Susan's early (May 6) before she left for Canada for 2-3 weeks on April 28. But our tico friends came through.

The night before she left, Susan and I were scheduled to have our (almost) weekly dinner at Chaka's, a restaurant that serves very good and cheap typical Costa Rican food. Our favorites are garlic shrimp or breaded fish with salad and rice.

So we were sitting at our regular table when in marched a bunch of tico friends singing Happy Birthday (Feliz CumpleaƱos) in Spanish. She was totally surprised, and I have to admit, I was a little surprised, too.

For two weeks I had been telling our friends that I wanted to have an early birthday and going away party for Susan. Yalile, our ringleader, said there were birthday parties scheduled for every day, and she didn't know when we could fit in Susan's. Yalile herself celebrated her 45th birthday over the four days leading up to Susan's party. Her big party at a local stable, El Picadero, complete with tables with tablecloths, her brother, Alex, playing keyboard and singing, dancing, food and much merriment was a lot of fun.

So it looked like it was just going to be Susan and me at Chaka's on Tuesday night. Until I called Yalile at 4:30 to ask (again) if she wanted to join us. She said that everyone had been asking her if we were going to have the party for Susan. In the space of three hours, she called a dozen of our friends, some of the friends got gifts (or maybe they already had them), one friend bought a cake, and they piled into cars to arrive at Chaka's around 7:30.

Our group took over the place, asking to listen to ranchero music instead of the heavy bass teeny bopper music they were playing, and being our boisterous, fun-loving selves. Susan is very well thought of in this Spanish-speaking community, and her friends turned out to wish her an early 51st birthday and a safe trip to and from Canada.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Turning 60

Me with birthday cake frosting on my face

How could this be happening? Turning 60 means I'm old, right? Wrong!

My 60th birthday celebrations have been the best in my life. Starting on April 8, I had dinner at my favorite restaurant in Costa Rica, Lubnan, which serves middle eastern food. Some of my Cariari friends and I got together to celebrate three April birthdays: mine, Sima's and Carolyn's. Ada and Joy celebrated with us. The food was very good and there was a belly dancer there that evening.

Carolyn, Joy, me, Sima and Ada at Lubnan's

The biggest party was held on Sunday, April 11. Susan, my Canadian friend, organized a big birthday bash at our favorite Sunday restaurant and bar, El Coco. She put up decorations and made food (with the owners' permission). There were about 35-45 of us - all ticos except for Susan and me. I felt very honored to be accepted by these wonderful friends. Hugo played music, and we danced, ate, drank and partied. What a blast!

The Birthday Queen wearing her crown

On Monday, I had lunch at Brad's Grille with Patty, Maria, Sharon, Fermina and Suzanne. This is the fourth birthday get-together that this group has celebrated.

Patty, Suzanne, Sharon, me, Fermina

April 13, my actual birthday, was spent teaching students I love. Then at night Indio and I went to Los Cebollines for dinner.

Indio and me

On Wednesday, my scrapbooking group - Lisa, Marilyn and Corinne - plus Bethea and I went back to the Cariari Country Club for a pool day birthday celebration. They gave me a huge gift basket full of gourmet foods.

Marilyn, Bethea, me, Lisa, Corinne

And finally, on Friday, my Thursday lunch group, which has been reduced to my scrapbooking group, Bethea and Pilar got together at Bethea's condo complex and enjoyed another pool day. Thank you, Pilar, for the bottle of tequila and shot glasses for my birthday!

Me, Bethea, Pilar, Lisa, Marilyn, Corinne

I am about partied out now. But my final celebration will be the 60th birthday present that I am giving myself: a 20-day to Spain. I leave May 5 and return May 20. I wanted to celebrate this milestone birthday in a spectacular way.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Semana Santa 2010

Susan, Nano and me

During Semana Santa, the Holy Week leading up to Easter, ticos take off work and head to the beach. This is a good time for gringos to stay put in the Central Valley and enjoy driving around without traffic jams.

The holiest days (and thus least worked) are Thursday and Friday. On Thursday Indio (my beau of two months) and I started out at 9am for a day at the beach. I was driving and planned to take the new toll-road highway. As soon as we got on the highway in Santa Ana, the backup started. Uh oh. I got off quickly and aimed for Plan B, the old highway going through San Jose and the mountain area of San Ramon. That was also a non-starter, as we were waved off the highway at an early exit. I thought there had been an accident, but it I learned later that the road was plugged up with motorists.

Plan C came to me in a flash. We wanted to go somewhere cooler than where we were. It is summer here, and the dog days in the sun are draining. I headed southeast from the capitol, where the weather comes in from the Caribbean side and tends to be cooler.

We drove through Cartago and into Paraiso (Paradise). I knew of a beautiful, free park there, El Mirador (the view), and that's where I pulled in. We spent a lovely day under a big shade tree, picnicking and napping. There was a small group of men piloting RC (remote control) planes, which was fascinating to watch.

Friday's plan to accompany Dolores to the tattoo artist fell through as the artist realized at the last moment that it was Good Friday. His cancellation made for a relaxing catch-up day for me.

On Saturday, Susan and I headed out past Cartago and Paraiso to Orosi to visit a friend of hers, Nano. Orosi is a lovely little town in a beautiful valley. We parked the car at the bottom of a mountain, and hiked up a very steep incline for 45 minutes. I am still sore three days later. Nano is a mountain man who subsists on growing coffee beans, giving tours of a waterfall, and with the help of visitors who come from all over the world and bring him things. We brought him rice, juice, bandaids, and a few other things.

We spent several hours visiting with Nano, who is a jokester and gracious host, and three other ticos who were visiting him. Susan had brought a pasta salad and we dined well, al fresco.

On Sunday I went to a pool party. There are four of us (Corinne, Marilyn, Lisa and I) who pal around together (it's our scrapbooking group, although interest in this hobby seems to be waning), we converged at Marilyn's, along with another woman from our Thursday lunch group, and their spouses. We played in the kiddie pool and ate a delicious pasta meal that Avram (Marilyn's husband) prepared. My peppermint patty brownies were a hit, too.

The last hurrah was going to the Cariari Country Club as Corinne's guest. Lisa, Corinne and I swam in the olympic-sized pool. Well, Corinne did a lot of laps; Lisa did some, and I went up and back a couple of times then pooped out. Corinne, who is married to an east Indian, helped Lisa plan her October trip to India, while I read People magazine, smug in my already-set plans for Spain next month.

I got to spend time with a lot of my favorite people, and I also had enough down time to make me happy.