Saturday, October 30, 2010

Wheelchair Accessible?

Yesterday, I watched three people help a wheelchair-bound man get on a bus.  This particular bus did not have a wheelchair lift, hydraulic lift system, or any other specialized equipment for helping physically challenged riders.  While the rest of us waited in our queue, the bus driver and two others held the wheelchair while the man pulled himself on to the steps at the back door.  He was able to use his legs as leverage enough to turn around and sit, then pull himself up into a seat.  His young helper (perhaps his 9 year old grandson?) held his personal belongings, and then the others put his bag of goods (a big net bag of maduros) and wheelchair in the storage compartment below the bus.  We all got on, and the bus took off.  I got off before he did, so I didn't see how everyone managed the reverse.  But I imagine that the driver stopped, got out, removed the wheelchair and stuff, and helped the man get settled before leaving the stop. 

Another bus line that I use regularly has a wheelchair lift.  I saw it used once, and it was pretty elaborate.  Everyone waited patiently (and curiously, I think) while the lift was let down to the sidewalk, the man wheeled on, it lifted him up, and he settled into the space right at the lift.

So much of Costa Rica is not set up for those who use wheelchairs (or walkers or scooters, etc).  The sidewalks are so rough, it's even a challenge for us to walk around without falling (it used to be our "rule" that each time we came to Costa Rica, one of us had to fall).  I have seen a couple of service dogs, and quite a few red-tipped canes, but I honestly don't know how they do it.  Many (most?) houses and apartments don't have much doorway clearance, several steps at the entryway are common, as are sidewalk steps when the roadway gets steep (often, in this mountainous country).  I grew up with stairs, and am used to running up and down - you get used to a certain space between risers and so you bound just that much.  Well, my bruised knees are here to tell you, that is not a good habit to have here...

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Have License, Will Drive

We've been coming to Costa Rica since the beginning of 2006, and we have had our Costa Rican driver's licenses since the day we got our cédulas in early 2007.  In all that time, it has been sort of fun to say that we've never driven here.  Well, no more!  Last weekend, I house-sat for friends - early in the morning of day one, I drove them to the bus station, and late in the afternoon of the last day, I picked them up.  So, not only have I now driven here, it has *all* been done in the dark!  Thankfully, I had ridden the bus often enough that I knew my way around, and had very few guesses, and no wrong turns :-).
On the other hand, Rick wasn't with me, and *he* still gets to say that he has his license, but has never driven here...

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Sunny San Jose

Today, in the middle of rainy season, we had a soft, sunny day in San José - we took full advantage!

We had a slow, easy morning, then walked around downtown.  We saw some brilliant flowers (and their visitors on the way.

We made a quick stop at the cathedral - there was a service in progress, so we didn't take any pictures of the amazing interior - stained glass windows, woodwork, painted ceilings, and processional statues.

  Across the street, we found a shady bench and had a snack while we people-watched.  Camera out, snapping shots, we were watched in return :-).

Some of the "people" were entertaining, but not entirely real...   

 The breeze snapped the flag...

Across the street, we *finally* saw the Teatro Popular Melico Salazar - we had been past this building uncountable times, but never made the connection until now.

I put the camera away (that made Rick happy), and we walked back to the National Theater in time for the MedioDia, a lunch-time concert - this time it featured a *great* pianist, playing the romantics.

After the concert, we walked around downtown a bit, hitting up a few fruit-stands, the post office, and the cheese shop.  We got lunch, then caught our bus home.

And it was *still* soft and sunny!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Zapote Cake with Rum Sauce



I updated this recipe after a second experiment - use the one called "Zapote Cake with Carambola Sauce" instead - I promise, you'll like it better :-).


mmm mmm mmmmmmm - I *love* successful experiments!

Zapote Cake with Rum Sauce

Mix in a large bowl:
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 1/4 cup flour
- 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp soda
- 1/2 tsp salt

Mix in a smaller bowl:
- 2 Tbs melted butter
- 1 cup Zapote pulp*
- 1/2 cup milk
- 1 1/4 tsp vanilla

Stir the wet ingredients into the dry, then add:
- 1/2 cup chopped pecans
- 1/2 cup grated coconut (unsweetened)
- 1 cup raisins

Pour batter into 2 loaf pans, and bake in a preheated oven at 350 degrees (F) for 45-55 minutes.  The cakes should be very moist.  Cool slightly in the pans, then turn out and slice.

Serve warm, with warm Rum Sauce spooned over (microwaving for 15 seconds works great).

Rum Sauce

Mix in a heavy saucepan:
- 1/2 cup butter (no substitutes)
- 1 cup brown sugar
- 1 to 1 1/2 Tbs flour
Add 1/2 cup very hot water.  Cook over low heat till mixture becomes clear.
Stir in 1/2 tsp Rum Extract.

* for zapote pulp, blend pieces of peeled zapote with enough water to facilitate movement.  It will be creamy and fluffy.

This was originally a family recipe for persimmons.  I had been thinking about a fruit that would make a good replacement, and zapote was the first one I tried.  I'm also thinking that papaya would work.  I replaced half the nuts with shredded coconut, and replaced dates with raisins.  I'm not sure where to get rum extract in Costa Rica - lovely brother brought this from the states.  I will probably check Tips when I need more, since I know they have some flavorings.  Since I don't have a bundt cake pan, I halved the recipe for the experiment - I like how it turned out, so I will probably keep the loaf-pan approach.  Added pluses - I don't have to butter and flour the pan, and it bakes in about half the time.
Believe it or not, with the original nuts and dates, this would be a $30 cake!  Without persimmons! Now it is reasonable at about $6 and *tropical*  :-).

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Feeling Like Christmas

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas! La la la la la....

Today, after days and days of rain, saturated ground, landslides, road wash-outs, electrical outages, and more rain, we finally had an entire day of sun!  The humidity was all the way down to the mid-50's, and the air was soft and breezy.  Lovely!

In the midst of all this sunny, balmy weather, *several* Ticos commented on the day, saying that is was very Christmas-y.  Whaaaaaa?  All the Gringos together now, say it with me - WHAAAAAT? Now let's add in the Canadians and Europeans...

Of course, once you think about it, it makes complete sense.  Christmas here is at the beginning of summer - days full of sun and soft breezes, and no more rain.  Just as people in the Northern Hemisphere are reveling in that Autumn snap to the air, we relish the few days here and there that are rain-free. People in both places are celebrating the change in the weather, and anticipating the holiday to come...