Monday, May 30, 2011

Costa Rica Census!

We've been counted!

The 2011 Census started this week in Costa Rica - it will be going on all week.  We had a lovely young woman come to our place and ask us all sorts of questions :-)

Years from now, people will be able to look us up and see what sort of house we lived in, what our education was, and what we did for work.  An interesting thing (to me) is that there was no question about nationality.  Yes, we said where we were born, but there is no way (from this questionnaire) for people to determine whether someone is a citizen, a resident, or a tourist.

It was an interesting experience; I hadn't participated in a one-on-one census before, not even in the states.  It feels a little odd somehow.


We had HAIL this afternoon!  In a tropical paradise!  In May!  What else is there to say, but "weird"...

Sunday, May 15, 2011

My Just-Sew Story

I've decided to get back into sewing a bit - I have my sewing machine here after all!  I used to do quite a bit, including prom dresses, and my wedding dress.  But all that was in the states, where the art of sewing is managed a bit differently.  There, you walk into a store armed with your measurements and some idea of what you want to make.  You pour over the pattern catalogs, collect your chosen pattern from the many drawers full, and read the "ingredients" list.  Then you browse for the perfect material, and swing by the notions section for matching thread, zippers, lace, and all the trimmings.  You take your pile to the counter, they measure out the amount of material stated on your pattern, give you a smidgen extra (although I saw less and less of this as time went on), and you're on your way!

Here, just to get off to a good start, there are no patterns.  Already you know it's going to be tough.  So, you start with some piece of clothing you have, but would like to change somewhat.  I chose a pair of shorts - I wear these almost constantly at home, and they're wearing out here and there.  I decided to make a pattern from the "sample" so I would have it for another time - I also think it is easier to modify and double-check measurements with a paper pattern.  I found that the paper the grocery store uses to wrap glass wine bottles works pretty well - especially if you've just opened that bottle, and have a glass of it handy.  I drew out my pattern, but forgot a seam allowance.  I discovered this in time, and so was able to tape an extension on :-).  I also discovered that I did *not* in fact have my french curve with me.  So I just winged it.

Next, I needed material!  I went to my neighborhood Yamuni - a department store that has a nice selection of material.  They had a large selection of curtain/drape material, some fleece and toweling, some suiting, and some basic blends.  It is very difficult to find cotton or silk, and wool is just not to be dreamt of.  Not that I *want* wool in the tropics, but these are things you need to be aware of.  Since I have no handy-dandy pattern telling me how much material to get, I'm back to winging it - I get a meter.  Turns out it was on sale, so that it cost me all of $1.25...

However!  Yamuni has no notions!  Here in Costa Rica, they have a type of store called a "pasamanería" - *this* is where you go for all your sewing notions!  Not knowing (yet!) where one of these is, and knowing that I have some basic notions in my kit, I feel like I'm in good shape.  Can you say "famous last words?" 

I got my material washed and straightened, lined up and cut out.  Remember those nice instructions included in a pattern? Sew this part first, line up these notches, start in the center, etc. Hah!  Fortunately, I remembered a lot.  I sewed a few seams, then pinned up the sides, and tried on my pseudo-shorts.  Looked good, but I want to adjust a thing or two.  In the end, they do the job, but there is an entire list of "oopses:"
- I wanted to use the selvage, but after adjusting the seam allowance, the selvage shows.
- When I clipped the excess material from the inseam, I snagged the leg.  Sigh. Now it's patched and zigzagged; doesn't show :-) but I know it's there.
- I added enough to the pockets to account for the waist, but not enough for the stitching - Pockets are now definitely just for looks, since my hand won't quite fit.
- I was careful to keep the embellishment on one side from flipping, but the other side... bent.
- When I measured the sample, the back curved up at the waist.  When I put the new shorts together, it didn't really work that way.  An easy adjustment to make :-)
- At the leg, the two halves *almost* line up at the hem.  Also easy to fix.
- I knew I didn't have enough blue thread for the whole project, so I went with the white thread I had.  I got to the final hem, and ran out!  Fortunately, I had enough bobbin thread, and I could work it so that it was what showed :-)

Not bad for a prototype...

Friday, May 6, 2011

Law of the Titans

I had an interesting conversation today about the laws (specifically immigration laws) of Costa Rica.  I had noticed that the most recent immigration law, effective March 1, 2010, was published and available to read, and it didn't contain a lot of the rules that the previous law had (e.g., a rentista resident under the old law must spend at least 122 days out of each residency year in Costa Rica in order to maintain this type of residency.  But the new law says nothing about a time-in-country requirement.)  So, I asked if the new law superseded the old law completely, or if it was additive.  It turns out that the answer is not simple!

Costa Rica has three levels of "law" - first, the law is written, passed, and published.  Then, the "regulations" are written and published.  Then, various "clarifications" are written, but not published (that is, not necessarily available to the public, but issued as a type of memo to the officials involved in enforcing the law and regulations). 

However, if the regulations are never published, then the old regulations (governed by the old law) are still in force!  In the case of immigration, the last *several* laws had *no* regulations published!  This means that the regulations in use are OLD - several version of law changes old!  So, to be safe, even though the new (1 year old) immigration law says nothing about a time-in-country requirement, you must still plan on spending 122 days each year in Costa Rica if you are a rentista resident.

This set of rules also governs what is commonly known as the "perpetual tourist" - someone who lives in Costa Rica on a tourist visa.  This PT must renew his visa by leaving and re-entering Costa Rica.  If this person is a citizen of the USA, the visa is usually for 90 days, but this is entirely up to the border official, who may give less than this.  In this case, there is no law against living in Costa Rica as a tourist, and the immigration regulations don't address this.  However, there may well be "clarifications" in the form of memos from the director of immigration to the border officials that we simply do not know about.  These are the documents that set the tone of the law, and determine what the border official is likely to do.

Keeping up with this would be a nightmare, and I don't envy those who must.

Note: don't use this as any sort of legal defense - I might easily have misunderstood something important.  Just be aware that it is not as simple and straight-forward as one would think!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Pineapple Drink

There I was, cutting up a pineapple (nice and ripe!), when my housekeeper said "don't you use the shell?"

After a few moments of confusion, I finally understood that she was telling me how to make a drink from all that stuff I normally throw away! 

Piña con Arroz

Boil in a pot, for approximately 1/2 hour:
  • approximately 1 liter water
  • one handful uncooked rice
  • one stick of cinnamon
  • all the shell, core, seeds and plugs from one large pineapple (piña)
 Using tongs, fish out the cinnamon and pieces of pineapple skin and throw them away.  Put the rest in a blender and liquify - some of the core will simply never get chopped up.  Add milk if you prefer.  For a stronger cinnamon flavor, leave in the cinnamon stick when blending.  Pour through a strainer and cool the liquid.  Makes about 1 1/2 liters.
Sweeten to taste.
I added some mora juice, because I like the mixture of the two flavors.

The pineapple itself is excellent eaten as is.  Or you can chop it up and freeze it for later.  Fresh or frozen, it's good cooked in stir-fries, curries, sprinkled over salads, or used as part of a glaze for roasts (especially good with pork or chicken).  Note: if your pineapple is ripe enough, you can eat the core right along with the flesh, but this reduces what is available to put in your drink.  Either way, enjoy!

Monday, May 2, 2011

Routine without Ruts

I had a nice little routine going here - some structure, but not so rigid that it was suffocating.  But then visitor season hit, followed by major holidays, and some serious and multiple changes to my class schedule (I have to blame something, right?).  I found myself a bit rudderless, and didn't really realize what was happening.  Then I suddenly saw!  And remembered how important it is to have purpose and structure in life.  So, I made a little schedule, and a few rules. 

The number one rule is:  every day, say "where will I walk today?" instead of "do I have to go out for something?"

Supporting rules include basics like get up by 7:00, have a real breakfast, no more than 2 cups of coffee (that one is tough, and may very well go by the wayside), and get ready for bed by 10:00 (but actual sleep time will take care of itself).

Today was the first day of tryouts :-).  Rick and I walked to Guadalupe, mainly for the walk, but also to stock up on meat at the butcher.  I hadn't been there in a very long time, and never any day but Saturday.  Saturday is feria day in Guadalupe, and so I used to combine that with a number of other chores - as did many other folks.  And the butcher was **busy!**  But on a Monday?  Not so much! :-D

Once I started to think about what I could do when I go out, instead of how to accomplish everything efficiently, life got a bit nicer.  No more groaning about having to go out to do a bunch of chores, no more over-stuffed shopping cart, no more saying "where did the day go?"