Alligators 'n Roadkill

Alligators 'n Roadkill
On The Road


Tuesday, November 23, 2010

A very busy week

I guess it might be a good idea to acknowledge some of the pending/current goings on for the extended Dungan family about now.

This weekend just ended saw our daughter, Blanca, and her family traveling to Austin, from Arlington on Saturday. First, they picked up Andy, the oldest boy, at the airport in Austin, and then they all attended the UT vs. Florida Atlantic Football game. They then got together with Blanca's two brothers, who live in Austin (AD & Bucko), and partied.

This week will also mark these special occasions:

  1. 22nd – birthday of AD²'s bro-in-law, Gene Perez. Happy Birthday, Gene.
  1. 23rd – Anniversary of youngest brother, David, and his wife, Sue. Happy Anniversary!
  2. 24th - birthday of our favorite niece, Melissa. Happy Birthday, Meli.

    4. 25th – birthday of older brother, Dennis. Happy Birthday, Bro.

    5.   25th – Thanksgiving. We have a lot to be thankful for, here, and want to wish everyone a very Happy Thanksgiving. Hope to do what everyone else does, too, and watch football until I fall asleep in front of the TV.

    6. 26th – The most happiest of all occasions, a wedding! Big Brother Mike, and his lady, Miss CJ, will tie the knot in Virginia, which used to be known as the state for Lovers (lovers of what, I know not). Felicitations and congratulations to you both!

    7. 30th – birthday of our youngest, Andrew. Happy Birthday, Bucko!

    Hope everyone has a great week. We will try for one down here!

Monday, November 22, 2010

You (still) Can’t Fight City Hall

Problems with a local Water Authority……

Mr. Steve Doyle wrote a very long report/opinion piece for AMCostaRica the other day. He titled his piece "When the approval process runs into lack of accountability." He started out by explaining that he has purchased some acreage in the area, and has plans to develop all but three acres for sale to others. He claims that he has no expectation to make money out of this effort, but does expect to offset his own costs. And, then he talks about how he is planning to put in what he calls infrastructure, mentioning electric, water, and roads. He reports that all has progressed well since last year, except the connection of water to the property.

He makes reference to how "The Volio ASADA (which he identifies as his local source of water) consists of selected local citizens serving as a board of directors making decisions on the management of their water lines and sources," and other things. It does appear that, while he says he made serious effort to prepare himself for his project, that he is still ignorant of how things work in Costa Rica, and that troubles me. He should be aware, if he has indeed done his homework, that his local water authority is not "a selected" "board of governors." In fact, if this authority is anything like ours, these folks are elected, not selected (and, there is a difference), and while they make decisions, their function is not quite that simple. They are first and foremost responsible for maintaining the water system, and ensuring that the members of the water district (paying customers) continue to receive an uninterrupted supply of potable water.

He complains that these folks are "by no means professionals, nor do they necessarily have expertise in running a coop or any other business enterprise for that matter." Actually, I think if he was aware of how they come to serve on the water 'board,' maybe he would not have had such high expectations. They are NOT businessmen, nor do they pretend to be. He goes on to say that he had taken great pains to be sure that water would be available to him, but that appears to have centered on talking to folks, rather than getting anything on paper. Beyond that, after he gets done excoriating the local ASADA, he then takes on AyA (the common abbreviation for the Instituto Costarricense de Acueductos Y Alcantarillados, but he misidentified and misspelled the name of this agency), the federal agency that oversees water for Costa Rica.

My take on his explanation is that he did not adequately explain to the local water authority just what it was that he was expecting from them, and he may well have overestimated their ability to provide sufficient quantities of water to meet those expectations. He complains only that, after initial encouragement from the local folks, they pushed the final decision up to the national level. His apparent lack of knowledge of their proper name further suggests to me that perhaps he has not done his homework.

He complains that the local folks "could not make a move without the national water company providing their advice and counsel." Again, this indicates to me that he misunderstands this entire situation. The AyA is NOT a water company, but a government agency. The local water authorities around Costa Rica do indeed depend on AyA for their legal existence (I know that ours is inspected annually by the AyA, and cannot continue to exist without essentially renewing a license; incidentally, our local system always passes with flying colors, because we have some really good people running it). He talks about his project is going to require six water meters, and that right there suggests further complications. That's also interesting to me, because we don't use water meters up here in the boondocks, and we all just do fine.

OK, let me first provide some very general disclaimers: I know I am behind the curve on this one, as the guy wrote his piece in AMCostaRica some days ago now, and some folks, who are truly experts have already weighed in on this topic. I also know that I am not an engineer, not a developer, not a big land owner, not a 'realtor,' and I certainly have no dog in this hunt (or, horse in this race). But, I do live in Costa Rica, and I do know just a wee bit about how things are done here. I would suggest that one needs to fight fire with fire, and act as a Tico would act. I did not say to think like a Tico, but act like one. So, I have two scenarios for Mr. Doyle (and, yes, hind sight is always 20/20):

One, from the get-go, without ever mentioning that one is planning anything even remotely resembling any sort of 'development' (remember this is very likely to be a dirty word to a lot of people just now), only ask your local water authority for a water connection for your own three acres. You, to your ASADA: "One normal single household water hookup, please." Then, go from there. Go ahead and run whatever lines you think are necessary within the other seven acres, without hooking any of them up to anything. Wait for each new owner to seek his/her own hookup. Then, either share the cost, or pay their cost, or let each pay his own way (carry his own water, so to speak), whatever it takes to get the remainder of the properties hooked up as they are ready. This would have been the path of least resistance, also known as acting like a Tico.

Two, if you insist on doing everything on the up and up, aka gringo-style, you should have started with the AyA, and bypassed your local authority entirely. I say that because they obviously are not equipped to handle your needs on their own, anyway. Your engineer or attorneys should have approached AyA first informally, verbally, and then, as the need arose, submitted whatever written applications, requests for permits, etc., might have been appropriate. That way, they (AyA) could have come to your local people – on your behalf – and got things going much better.

Finally, when things go sour (and, they have a way of doing that in Costa Rica) do NOT resort to name calling, do not let anger take over your better judgment, and avoid confrontation (just like Ticos do). Yes, this means that I believe you have gone too far with your public slamming of AyA and the local ASADA (use of words like dysfunctional, poorly run, and unconscionable is very seriously counter-productive). Calmly discuss what needs to be done with your legal representative, your engineers, whoever is appropriate. Then, you might accomplish what you want. Also, keep in mind that all is not lost for you. This, too, shall pass. You will get what you need if you just patiently pursue it, one baby step at a time.

Oh, and I would avoid any reference to whatever good you think your project might do for the local community, whether you think you'll have a big economic impact, or provide lots of jobs, or improve the overall infrastructure. None of that really matters to your Tico neighbors. Just try to be a good neighbor, and avoid singing your own praises.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Polly wanna name?

They always talk who never think. - Matthew Prior

Well, it's a pretty nice day today in paradise, and just maybe it is past time that I remember (and share) just where and when I am/we are. Yes, we did after all, move here for a reason. I know I always harp about bad internet, spotty electrical service, poor phone connection, bad roads, lack of customer service, and on and on. But, you know what, I was at least semi-aware of most of that before I got here. What brought us here was obviously none of the above, but something else that I seem to always overlook, or fail to mention: It is freakin' beautiful here! Today, the sun is shining, the temperature is around 73 degrees Farenheit, there is a brisk wind blowing, and the sky is absolutely gorgeous, clean, crisp, with great big beautiful clouds.

We had a quick trip over to Tilaran late this morning (I had a dentist appointment at 11:00), and everything went well. Maybe that's one of the positives I could share. I got the last bit of work done in connection with a very important dental implant – one that started at least three years ago, believe it or not! You see, I really needed to have this work done, and it did begin. Unfortunately, I don't remember exactly when it began, but we were here on vacation, and on a Saturday, the specialist came from San Jose to Tilaran, where he placed the actual implant. The cost, as quoted at that time, was $1,500.00Dollars, half of which I paid then. I'm going with 2007 as the year I had this done, and I believe it was probably sometime in July.

Well, there would normally have been a follow up after about two weeks, but of course, we were back in Dallas by then. I knew that the implant wasn't taking, probably before we left to go back to Texas, because I remember the gum and jaw were still sore. At some point in time, I realized that the metal post was not exactly tight in my jaw, and sure enough, within a couple of weeks of our return to Dallas, that sucker popped right out. I communicated with both the specialist and my dentist in Tilaran, and they said that sometimes the metal in these things is rejected (boy, I'll say) and not to worry. We'd do it over again whenever I was back in Costa Rica.

We did return very briefly in 2008, but that was only one week, and the purpose of that trip was to look at – and, of course, buy, our lot. Then, we moved here in 2009, and for one reason or another, I didn't have time to set up the appointment to try for the do over. Meanwhile, I do remember that I had to have one bad tooth pulled right after we got here, then, sometime in January or February of this year, I went back in and had a new implant done. There was supposed to be a six month wait for this to take before proceeding to the next step, which would be the creation and placement of a crown over the implant. This was extended because I developed a very bad abscess to another tooth, near the implant, and that had to be pulled. Because of the proximity to the implant, of course there was some concern that this might impact that healing, but fortunately it did not. It did, however, create a further delay in getting the crown, because we had to wait for the area of the recent extraction to heal.

So, today was a for-real red letter day for me. Got the crown, it makes a huge difference to me, and the balance is paid in full. No work other than the placement of the crown was done, so no pain involved, and no healing time. I only had to wait for the cement to set, and now I can actually chew on both sides of my mouth for the first time in some years.

Now, we're up to date. The stereo is chuggin' out some Texas Tornados, and the silly parrot is making all kinds of strange noises. Oh, yeah, we now have a parrot. No name. Blanca wanted to call her Lola, but nobody (including me) likes that name. How do we know she's a she? Funny you should ask. We have no idea of the sex of this bird, and from my research it appears that there are only a couple of ways to know the sex of a parrot. One, take the bird to a vet, and have blood drawn for typing, or two, take the bird to a vet and have him open the bird up to see what kind of sex organs are present. Both of these seem a bit extreme to me, so we have gone with what the Ticos tell us, pending an opportunity to introduce her to another bird, so we could see if she catches or pitches.

How, you ask, do we know the sex of the bird, based on the ancient wisdom of the Ticos? Simple. A girl bird likes males (as in human type males), and a boy bird likes females (again, as in human type females). That is, providing, of course, that said bird is not either in a closet, or outright homosexual. This bird, after all that Blanca has done for her, obviously and blatantly prefers me to her. I mean, it was Blanca who spoon fed her as a baby, who cleaned up after her, made sure she had a nice, warm and dark place to sleep, who fussed and fretted over the poor thing until she was able to feed herself. But, if Blanca comes near when I'm around, the bird makes threatening (read, screeching) noises at her, while cozying up to me. She will ride on my shoulder, preen me, and generally jump towards me whenever I walk near, but none of that for Blanca, or any other female. So, that, my friends, is how you tell the sex of a parrot – at least around this house.

So, any ideas out there for a name for this bird? Whatever I decide on will NOT be a common, run-of-the-mill, ordinary everyday parrot name. So, please don't suggest Polly, or Paulie, or Lola or Lola, or any variations of same. Meanwhile, our little house is not so little any more, with the addition of a closed garage/workshop/storage space where the carport was originally placed, and a carport located to the back and the front of the house, respectively. We've overbuilt to the point that we now have no idea where we could stand to take a picture that will show the entire house in one shot. The best I can think of is to go up on the road, and take a series of shots, while walking down. So, that's what I did, and the results have now been posted on Facebook, as a video ( and now, I think I'll take a little break. Thanks for reading.


Monday, November 8, 2010

Did I ever tell ya about the time…………?

Way back in late 1965, while in Basic Training at Ft. Ord, California, I had the somewhat dubious honor to participate in a very unique experience. You see, I was drafted on November 9. Basic Training began a few days later, and the standard at that time called for our group/Company to be tied up with this very intense activity for a total of eight weeks. That would put us into about the middle of January, of 1966. Well, as it happened, Ft. Ord had been in the throes of an epidemic of Meningitis, or something of that nature, since about two years before (maybe more) and this had a real impact on how our Basic Training proceeded. One effect in particular that I can recall is that we had to sleep with all the windows open in our relatively new, cement block construction barracks.

But, the unique thing was that Uncle Sugar, as the Army was fondly referred to (This was only one of the euphemisms that we had for that patch over our left breast, the one with bright yellow letters on a black background that read):

, decided, from way, way up on high that all recruits were to be given some time off for Christmas. I believe that the thinking was that this time off, with deserted barracks all over the post, might help to break the spread of the Meningitis. So, while I no longer recall just how many days this amounted to, I do recall that we were given the opportunity to buy seats on the largest fleet of chartered Greyhound buses ever assembled for one mass movement (OK, I have no idea if this was the largest, but there were a hell of a lot of buses involved). The idea was that Greyhound was going to move however many thousands of us there were from Ft. Ord, all the way up and down the West Coast, and who knows how far inland just for those few days of Christmas holiday, that may have extended into New Year's Eve - but I just don't recall if it did - and, return us!

As I said, I don't remember how many days, but I know that I got back to Seattle on Christmas Eve, sometime after dark, and I think we were back in barracks before New Year's Eve. Now, I have to do one of those segues, sort of a flashback in time, so you can better understand a few things here. I was living in Seattle, with my oldest brother, Mike, at the time I got my Draft notice. By this time, late 1965, most of my high school buddies had either established themselves at various colleges, had jobs, or were otherwise getting on with their lives. Don't ask me how I got caught, but I'll give you a little hint here: I knew the Draft was out there, and I knew there was nothing that I could do about it.

So, even though I had finally gotten a job just days or weeks before the Draft notice came, that made no difference to anybody, except my employer, who was less than thrilled with me. I was able to get in touch with Jim Plante (for some reason, I remember we used to call him 'Plate,' no doubt thinking ourselves clever), one old high school buddy, still in Tacoma, still living with his mother, and working in Tacoma. I do not recall details, but I do know that 'Plate' gave me a very nice sendoff my last night of civilian life (I do remember that we drank what we called boilermakers, where we opened a bottle of Bud, took a healthy swig, and then filled the bottle with vodka). It was decided that I would leave my car with 'Plate' while I went off to the Army (a 1954 Ford like the red one in the ad, below, except mine was blue, and really needed a new paint job):


Jim was going to use the car to get back and forth to his work, and he agreed to fix a couple of things that we knew were wrong with it. First, just to clarify this, back when I bought it dirt cheap, earlier that same year, it featured a conversion from the original automatic transmission on the column, to a floor shift, aka as a "Hurst Kit." This was only a three speed, which was fine, but whoever had done the conversion had reversed the positions of first gear and reverse gear. So, Jim was going to get that fixed. The second problem was that a previous owner had taken out the original bench seat and put in homemade bucket seats, with a homemade center console. When I say homemade, I want you to think crude. So, Jim was to take those out, and find a bench seat.

So, flash ahead, to a day or two before Christmas. Along with a ton of other skinny GI's I boarded a bus at Ft. Ord, and we headed on up the coast. All the way through California, without a lot of stops, 'cause this bus was headed for Seattle, and points north. All the way through Oregon, through Portland, and Olympia, along Interstate 5, and somewhere along the way, it occurred to me that we would arrive in Tacoma just after dark (which occurs pretty early in that part of the world, at that time of the year). So, I asked the driver to let me off in Tacoma, where exactly I no longer recall, but I know it was not downtown, at the bus station. Somehow, I found a phone, and called Jim's home. His mother told me that he was at work, some distance South of where I was located, and I no longer recall how the hell I got to wherever he was.

At some point in time thereafter I did reflect on all this and realize that what I did to Jim was pretty crappy. I interrupted his work, and told him I was there for my car. He gave me the key without any problem, and I took off for Seattle. That means that I left him stranded at work right then, but who knows how he was going to get around once I left with his only wheels. But, I obviously didn't care. Hell, what did I know? I was 19, and free for a few brief hours. I did get some payback shortly thereafter, because I had a flat before I got to the exit for SeaTac Airport. I was able to find a gas station that had a used tire that fit my car, and actually had enough money to buy it and get it mounted (maybe it helped that I was in uniform), and continue on to my brother's house up on top of Queen Anne Hill (north of downtown Seattle). I had been able to call and let my brother know I was on my way. Upon arrival at Mike's, he let me put my car in his garage, and then we took off in his little Ford Falcon, along with his wife and dogs, and headed for "home" for an old-fashioned Dungan Christmas. Think of the old man – our father – drinking himself to oblivion, and passing out with his face in the mashed potatoes. You'd think my mother would have learned, but no, she kept on making mashed potatoes year after year. But, maybe, since this was pretty much the highlight of any family gathering – other than the old man's penchant for beating on her – she figured she didn't want to disappoint the rest of us.

This trip was another adventure after the one I had just completed. We headed over Snoqualmie Pass, through Ellensburg, headed for Moses Lake, where the folks were by then living. Actually, I remember that in the brief time that I had lived there myself, we called it Moses' Hole (don't ask). A blizzard came up, as we headed up the pass, and I remember we had to stop in the snow and put the tire chains in place in order to continue the journey. This would have been well before the summit, and I think we kept the chains on all the rest of the way. We had a mostly uneventful Christmas in Moses Lake, and then, back to Seattle in plenty of time for me to catch my bus to return to Ft. Ord to continue my torture/education/indoctrination more commonly known as Basic Training. I have no idea if this was the same bus, but it was only GI's headed back down the coast.

So, despite all the snow on the ground, off we went, down through Portland again, along through Salem (snow), Eugene, Roseburg (still snow), Grants Pass (lots more snow), all of which made for very slow going, with frequent stops for the road ahead to be cleared. This continued, taking all night, until we came into Medford, sometime in the early afternoon of the following day. At this point, our bus stopped at the little bus station, along with I don't know how many others. The drivers announced that they had all driven as many hours as they were allowed by law, and until or unless the company sent more drivers, we were not going any further. They needed rest, and I certainly can't fault that thinking. So, not knowing what else to do with us (busloads of young, impressionable GI's), they turned us loose on the town.

Literally, within minutes, the bus station was surrounded by carloads of townspeople, especially cars loaded with young, impressionable Medforites of the female persuasion, all of whom were friendly, and didn't mind chatting with us as long as we were willing to do so. GI's were invited into the homes of perfect strangers, where they were fed, and given warmth. Some of us just walked around, looking for a bar or restaurant. Now, I don't know about all of the other GI's, but you may recall that this one was barely 19, and you know that the drinking age on the West Coast was 21. Didn't make any difference, and we couldn't spend what little money we had. Everywhere we went, the locals refused our money. They bought us drinks in the bars, and meals in the restaurants. I personally do not recall ever hearing of any town putting itself out so much for so many GI's with no expectation of any return. This, remember, was late 1965, and vigorous protest against U. S. involvement in Viet Nam was in full swing (see the Wiki timeline here: GI's were generally looked down upon, and by this time were generally not showing their uniforms in public (we, on this merry trip, of course had no choice; we had no other clothing, for one thing) lest they be cursed or spit upon.

Well, the revelry continued into the night, until the drivers had gotten their eight hours of rest and a meal. Somehow, the word was spread and we all boarded our respective buses again in time to continue our journey back to Ft. Ord, where we then went back into training. For me, Basic Training lasted until sometime towards the end of January, 1966, or maybe early February. Then, I was held over for a number of days, waiting orders (I was to go to Infantry AIT – Advanced Individual Training – as a prerequisite for OCS – Officer Candidate School). The rest of my military history is best left for another tale, another time, like after y'all buy me a few beers.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Maybe I really do need to get a life (online)

Egotism is the anesthetic that dulls the pain of stupidity. - Frank Leahy

There is blog written by a Michael Alan who lives in La Fortuna. According to the hype (see: for his blog, he writes about vacation and relocation to Costa Rica, and is best known for videos that he has published on youtube. He also talks about (it says here) an investment experience gone bad. He links to another site, or is linked by that site, as do I. That site is, and what Daniel, the owner of that site, does is send an email each day to those who ask for it with links to the newest blog posts for those of us who have linked to him.

I have taken a look at this blog off and on over the last several months, just to see what is happening over on that end of our Lake. Never really paid a lot of attention to it, 'cause I am not all that taken with the writer's style. I do appreciate the fact that he does seem to try to tell it like it is, and not paint the tourism/expat worlds with rose colored glasses, if I may mix a metaphor here.

Recently, Daniel (USExpat….) linked to a new rant from Michael that described his strong dissatisfaction with an experience he had had with a company called Interbus. That rant may be found here:

Interbus, using mostly mini-buses, hauls folks all over the country, for what I consider to be a pretty steep fare. As I understand it, they haul point to point, and obviously depend on tourists for most of their clientele. We see their buses all the time on the roads around here, and folks we've talked to who have used their service describe a pleasant enough service, that, as I said, I consider to be pricey. However, that has nothing to do with Michael's rant. He was pissed because he claims they stranded him, his traveling companion (D'Angelo) and their dog (Pincho) half way through a recent trip. You can read his original rant for yourself, if you've a mind to. I did, just to see what the link from USExpatcostarica had to say. I was not impressed with his complaint. As a matter of fact, I thought it was pretty lame. The gist of it appears to be that he and his traveling companion had their passage booked for them by a friend, who just happens to be some sort of travel agent, which little factoid was definitely known to the nice folks at Interbus. None of the involved parties (Ranter, dog, travel companion, or travel agent/friend) ever took the time to read the Terms and Conditions that are clearly posted on Interbus' website, and I would bet, on whatever contract was ultimately created (as in, their tickets, or receipts).

So, when someone at Interbus became aware that this guy was carrying his pet, which is clearly against company policy (and, easily found under their policies, from the link on their home page - item #14, for his edification), he, his companion, and their dog were told that they would have to find another mode of transport for the return portion of their journey. Please note that his friend had booked a trip from point A, to point B, and back again, and that they were carried all the way to their destination (halfway through a round trip), even though he reported that an employee of Interbus became aware that they had an animal with them. So, it is not as if they never even reached their intended destination. As I said, I was not impressed with his complaint, and really did not (nor do I now) see what all the fuss is/was about. Yesterday, after reading his second rant, I went ahead and posted a comment to his blog for his consideration:

I read your first rant, and pretty much dismissed it for what it was. Most of the world has learned to live without allowing some little four-legged 3# yip-yip-gator-appetizer to dominate our lives, but apparently y'all can't take a crap without taking along your dependent. The simple fact of the matter is that y'all violated the policies of a legitimate company, and got caught. Get over it already. It was bad enough that you had to rave and rant, and use foul language that ill becomes an adult. But, now, after someone representing that company has taken the time to respond to you (very politely, I might add), you act as if you have been insulted. The only insulted party here is Interbus. As for you having been called a liar, I sure don't see that in the person's response to you. And to think that your latest tirade ends by indicating that you expect them to apologize to you. You got some nerve! If I was you, I would consider obtaining legal representation in preparation for their pending defamation/slander/libel demanda or denuncia, 'cause they certainly have grounds, under Tico law for one serious legal action against you.

    He then posted this response: November 1, 2010 10:49 AM

michael alan said...

John, you're as STUpid as they are. Take the cussing out girlie man and re-read the post. We didn't book it... if we were hiding a dog, wouldn't we hide it for the entire trip... good Lord man, READ. This was not professional by Interbus, JOHN, " you did hide that fact to Interbus". Obviously you don't believe us either...whatever. Slander? Defamation? paa...leeeez. Look up the words on WIKI and get educated John. Did you really think I expected or even want an apology... take the stick out of your ass and don't take it so seriously. For you or anyone else who believe I 'rant'.... this blog is strictly fodder for me... a little INFO and perspective and I try to make it a bit entertaining... but John, if '_ _ _ _' bothers you, feel free to stay off my _ _ _ _in blog. (Editor's note: blanks are mine).

Now, this is really weird. Interbus wasn't professional? In my opinion, the first driver could have left them at the side of a road, and Michael wouldn't have a leg to stand on! He seems to think that I have accused him of somehow contriving to hide his dog from the drivers. I never implied any such thing. It looks like he believes that once Interbus found him out, it was on them to provide alternative transportation for his party! Where did he get such an idea? Strikes me that this might be considered akin to the standard "no shirt, no shoes, no service" of American restaurants, or "We reserve the right to refuse service to anyone," also commonly found in U. S. businesses. What is particularly puzzling to me is that it appears that this guy wants to plead ignorance of the law, which I thought we had all learned long, long ago simply just don't fly!

As for my remarks about his crude language, and his absolutely outrageous attitude toward the folks at Interbus, didn't his mother ever teach him that you can catch more flies with honey than you can with vinegar? Then he says, "this blog is strictly fodder for me." What the hell does that mean? He tries to make it entertaining? Foul language sure wasn't part of entertainment where I grew up, or where I raised my family (other than watching George Carlin when possible). I guess he just possesses a sense of humor foreign to me and/or my nature, but I don't find this kind of rage at all entertaining, and it certainly is not funny. The word that comes to mind, actually, is pitiful. And, the reader will note that I said all this without calling anybody any names (bravely resisting the obvious temptations). The only foul language used, btw, other than direct quotes attributed to Michael, might be my use of the term 'pissed' in reference to his state of mind, at one point. It is actually very easy to avoid foul language, Michael. You might try it some time.

Oh, by the way, Mike. If I was inclined to look up the meaning of legal terms in Costa Rica, the very last place I would look would be Wiki. Can you say abogado, Mike?

I Want My MTV?

"Why do you sit there looking like an envelope without any address on it?" - Mark Twain

First, let me provide you with a statement, that is relatively current: According to figures by the Instituto Nacional de Estadística y Censos (INEC), 30% of Costa Rican homes are connected to subscription[sic] television (cable or satellite), which represents a market potential of 330.000 subscribers. - - - from Inside Costa Rica, July 26, 2010

Now, based on that statement, I have a rhetorical question for you (or, if you can answer it accurately, please feel free to do so): How many of those subscribers do y'all suppose are subscribed primarily so that they might obtain English language programming? Maybe 5,000? I doubt if the number is that high, but let's go with it. That's less than 1%, folks.

So, to the meat: I am going to try to avoid being behind the curve yet again, so this is written in some haste. Let me say first that it seems that all of a sudden certain online forums are full of complaints about Amnet and the recent changes that cable company has made to its channel lineup. This has now culminated (just this morning) with a letter to the editor of AMCostaRica, from a Mr. Barbour. Rather than be summarily dismissed by Jay Brodell, the editor over there, I figured I'd just create my own little editorial/précis on this subject.

On the one hand, we have the ostriches who have taken their heads out of the sand long enough to complain that these changes occurred without their knowledge (and, they imply, their consent). On the other, we have those whose primary concern is just that they feel that their access to English language broadcasts is of primary importance in the general scheme of things, and is now being further restricted than previously.

Well, guess what folks? No sympathy here. For the ostrich crowd, this was not a sudden, unannounced change. It was publicized everywhere that it was appropriate by the company in question, just as American cable companies and satellite providers do. As a matter of fact, the very forum where so many of the current complaints are now appearing contained information about the changes before they took place (most places would consider that advance warning). But, the ostriches live in such a tiny world, that they only notice change after the fact, when it pretty much smacks 'em upside the head. Actually, fyi, and for those who are always complaining about a lack of communication from ICE, CableTica, et al, they should know that there is communication from all of these entities on their various websites – in Spanish, the language of the country. Granted, there is not much back and forth, even in that language, but there is a lot of information available to customers, if they will just avail themselves of it.

And, for the others, why is there this constant whining about a lack of English language usage in a country that has Spanish as the official language, and where the percentage of non-Spanish speakers remains miniscule? Didn't anyone tell you this simple fact of life in Costa Rica before you came here? Do I have to repeat the numbers for you? Remember simple economics, or supply and demand, folks. How can it pay any provider to provide a service for such a small percentage of the market, at the risk of losing the majority, which would probably be where the money is, ¿que no?

First, how many of these same whiners complained at the number of Spanish speakers in the states, and thought it was wrong to cater to them, without taking into consideration how many more millions of them there were and are, than there are English speakers here in Costa Rica? And, second, why didn't y'all take some measures before arriving here to satisfy your need for English language entertainment? Ultimately, as my friend, Andy Browne is fond of saying, "It is what it is," and we all have to live with it.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Do I need to get a life (online)?

Do I need to get a life (online)?

(Note: this is a follow up to an earlier post, from Oct. 8, and has already appeared at on Oct. 29, in a slightly different form).

When they discover the center of the universe, a lot of people will be disappointed to discover they are not it. - Bernard Bailey

I know that I have touched on this before, but since this is such a constant and recurring thing on various online forums about Costa Rica, I just can't leave it alone. I guess this is just so annoying to me, that I can't let it go. All of which leads us to yet another rhetorical question: Why do people jump onto a forum about CR, having never so much as visited the place, and announce to all and sundry that they are "READY TO MAKE THE MOVE," (have to put that in all caps, 'cause they always start out so enthusiastic), and then they proceed to ask a dozen open questions that were likely answered (many times) before all over the very forum on which they have posted their announcement?

One of the most irksome aspects of these posts is that they proceed to tell you certain pertinent facts about themselves, then list their personal requirements (prerequisites for happiness?) for their own space, and then demand (by implication) that the forum members now satisfy those demands. As in, "I have done such and so for x number of years, and am tired of that, so now I want to (fill in the blank). I live in a wet/dry, hot/cold, arid/temperate, good/bad, climate, and also have hay fever/asthma/emphysema/psoriasis/creeping crotch disease, and really need to be in a (fill in another blank) environment." Or, "I googled maps, and like the looks of the terrain around such and such a place, so who can tell me all about that place? Will I be happy there?"

Here's another I just love: "I don't speak Spanish, but I plan to learn" (as if one can just go out and tackle a new language after a lifetime of ignoring the fact that the world extends beyond the borders of their own ethnocentrism) "just as soon as I can. I already bought (another blank for you, naming the software program they have been conned into purchasing, guaranteed to teach them Spanish in just a few short weeks), and I have already finished the first two lessons."

And, you should already be aware that I just cringe when I read: "I have/I think I have _________disease/condition/syndrome/symptoms." Or, without mentioning their perceived medical condition, they will just start out with: "Please tell me the name of a good specialist in [blank area of medicine] who speaks English/is in the Caja/will let me see him in his private office (so I don't have to associate with all those Ticos/Nicas/Latins), and who will explain everything to me in excruciating detail, and answer all my questions, give me all of his/her time, and do all this for next to nothing." And, let's not forget, this specialist must be within a ten minute drive of their CV location, with ample free and guarded parking, English speaking car guards, and also close - in proximity - to American style shopping.

And, then you encounter a couple of variations of another type. They have either lived in CR already for anywhere from 2 months, to ten years, and now they want to be legal residents, or they have blindly and blithely decided to seek legal residence, without ever having visited the place. These two categories do have one thing in common, however. They haven't bothered to look up obvious things like, say Costa Rica, immigration, government websites, Costa Rica Embassy in Washington, D. C., their local phone book for a Costa Rican Consulate, or any of the clearly marked links at whatever forum they have come to. This category is further characterized as all of a sudden being in this tremendous hurry to get this whole thing done overnight, as in this is extremely urgent.

A very interesting variation on a theme is the gushing idiot who suddenly appears on a forum, posts something (more questions, but soon, his personal opinions start to creep into his posts, as he becomes an active member of the forum), and then, for days or even weeks, they are posting more and more and more, many times a day, virtually dominating the forum. You can easily visualize these freaks sitting in a little, cluttered room somewhere, frantically trying to get a life, however vicariously through their new internet/forum persona. They will announce – in all caps – that they are ready to make that move, and even describe in excruciating detail how they are progressing toward their goal of pulling up stakes, packing everything of importance, pulling the kids out of school (they frequently voice their intention to home school at this point), having the wife quit her job, making reservations (or, worse, asking the ageless question: "Should we drive to Costa Rica, with six kids, four dogs, three cats, and the cockatoo?"). The day approaches that they have announced as their departure from the old, dull, boring life dominated by the always interfering U. S. Gov't, and their arrival in paradise where they just know everything is going to be wonderful………..guess what? All of a sudden they disappear from whatever forum they have dominated for the last many months! Never a further peep out of them! How strange……..and, yet, I remember very clearly one such situation where I dared to point out the many inconsistencies in posts from one such poseur, over a period of some months. The end result was that I got jumped on for not being accepting of whatever crap he posted at face value, and – of course – for not encouraging the new kids on the block, and so on.

You see, I spent some years working as an investigator, and more than thirty years as a Nurse. If I learned one thing in those years, it is that, as one of my favorite TV characters (Dr. Greg House) is fond of saying, "Everybody lies." Everyone! No exceptions! And, yes, that includes me! I learned in my work to read people, and to look between the lines of what people write and behind the words that people say. If they reveal a certain thing about themselves, it usually implies something else, so, by asking pointed questions, one can actually pull a close approximation of the truth out of them. However, the questions you have to ask them usually make them uncomfortable, and they may well decide to decline to answer or continue to lie. What happens with these folks on online forums is that they usually just ignore my questions, and sit back and let the other forum members jump on me because I am not being sensitive enough.

I guess what gets me in trouble with all the feel good, PC, kinder, gentler folks is that I presume the negative about newcomers whose posts lack consistency, where they insist that one should assume only the positive, as in these folks are assumed to have good intentions. We all know what happens when we assume anything, and I think that I have come out being burned fewer times with my attitude than have the goodness and light crowd. Besides, let's not forget that Costa Rica has for a very long time been known as the land of the wanted and the unwanted, and that is no less true today than it was thirty or fifty years ago.

At any rate, there is now a forum about Costa Rica, where one can learn about living – legally - in the country from existing forum members. Newcomers should not expect to be mollycoddled, "nurtured," or in any way catered to. Instead, they will be encouraged to do some basic research in locations that provide real information, and real efforts will be made to share information for those seeking the path to legal residence in Costa Rica. It is called (coincidentally) CRRealists, and can be found at: If you have any interest in Costa Rica as a possible place to live, take a look, and/or join in.