Wednesday, November 30, 2005

One head too many

A two-headed Olive Ridley turtle hatchling is seen in this photo made available by the World Wildlife Foundation that was taken near Ostional, Costa Rica, on the northern Pacific coast , Nov. 20, 2005. Ostional is one of the three main beaches in the world where Olive Ridley turtle arrive in mass to lay their eggs. The turtle was set loose into the ocean on Nov. 25. (AP Photo/WWF/Carlos Drews)

Monday, November 28, 2005

Tiquicia's tradition

Unidentified girls eat ice cream during the 9th parade of the traditional oxcart in San Jose, Costa Rica on Nov. 27, 2005. The oxcarts, a symbol of folk culture in Costa Rica, were recently recognized as intangible heritage treasures by UNESCO. (AP Photo/Cristobal Herrera)

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Costa Rican ox carts added to list of cultural treasures

SAN JOSE, Costa Rica (AP) - Costa Rican ox cart traditions were among the seven intangible treasures from Latin America selected Friday by the U.N. cultural body (UNESCO).

Costa Rica, officials welcomed the inclusion of the country's ox cart traditions.

Decorated with brightly colored swirls and figures, the carts have long been a symbol of Costa Rica, even though their use has declined.

''Fifty years ago, the carts were used for everything, but not now,'' said 72-year-old Fido Rodriguez, who organizes a cart parade each Feb. 2 in Costa Rica.

Carlos Chaverri (pictured) still produces the carts in Sarchi, 25 miles northeast of San Jose, the capital. He says there is still demand for the simple, wooden vehicles, which have become popular with arts and crafts collectors in the United States, Europe and even Japan.

''People like the sound of the wheels,'' he said. "They say it's like music.''
The carts were originally used to transport coffee during colonial times.

''In many areas, they still use them because there are many regions that aren't designed for machines,'' Rodriguez said. "It's cheap, they don't have to build roads, and it doesn't erode the soil.'' (AP Photo/Cristobal Herrera)

Friday, November 25, 2005

CAFTA Supporters Demonstrate in Costa Rica

SAN JOSE, Costa Rica (AP) - Thousands of supporters of a free trade pact for Central America marched through Costa Rica's capital on Thursday, an unusual event in a region better known for protests against the pact.

Wearing T-shirts emblazoned with slogans like "Yes to Jobs," and waving Costa Rican flags, the group of about 5,000 mainly workers and business owners urged Congress to approve the pact known as CAFTA.

Costa Rica has yet to join the trade bloc with the United States. Nicaragua, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador and the Dominican Republic have already joined.

"The free trade pact will create a lot of employment opportunities, more foreign investment and more choice for consumers," said Anabel Gonzalez, who served as a negotiator in CAFTA talks and joined the demonstration Thursday.

The march came just one week after thousands of union members and farmers demonstrated against CAFTA, saying it would hurt local businesses and farms by allowing unrestrained, unequal competition.

Costa Rica's president sent the pact to Congress in October. The free trade deal is expected to go into effect in early 2006, but Costa Rica will have two more years to join. (AP Photo/Cristobal Herrera)

Last week those against CAFTA were able to take to the streets and let their voices be heard. This week was the turn of those in favor. Not surprisingly, both weeks the protests took place in a respectful and peaceful way, without skirmishes and arrests related directly to the political battle being waged.

Mr. Miyagi dead at 73

Pat Morita seen here as Mr. Miyagi.By TIM MOLLOY, Associated Press Writer

LOS ANGELES - Actor Pat Morita, whose portrayal of the wise and dry-witted Mr. Miyagi in "The Karate Kid" earned him an Oscar nomination, has died. He was 73.

Morita died Thursday at his home in Las Vegas of natural causes, said his wife of 12 years, Evelyn. She said in a statement that her husband, who first rose to fame with a role on "Happy Days," had "dedicated his entire life to acting and comedy."

In 1984, he appeared in the role that would define his career and spawn countless affectionate imitations. As Kesuke Miyagi, the mentor to Ralph Macchio's "Daniel-san," he taught karate while trying to catch flies with chopsticks and offering such advice as "wax on, wax off" to guide Daniel through chores to improve his skills.

He lost the 1984 best supporting actor award to Haing S. Ngor, who appeared in "The Killing Fields."

"The Karate Kid," led to three sequels, the last of which, 1994's "The Next Karate Kid," paired him with a young Hilary Swank.

He is survived by his wife and three daughters from a previous marriage.

Ok, ok, you may be wondering what this article has to do with Costa Rica, and the answer is not much. But this was one of my favorite movies growing up, and in Costa Rica, as in many other countries, this flick was a success at the box office. This is for all the "80's kids" out there.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Over 200, 000 new voters for 2006 elections

According to figures disclosed by the Supreme Elections Tribunal (TSE), during the 2006 presidential elections almost 220, 000 Costa Ricans will be entitled to cast their ballots for the first time. The new voters represent 9.4% of the overall number of registered voters. The electoral register includes 2,550,613 citizens of which about 50 percent are women.
(Picture courtesy of the TSE)

For more info on Costa Rican presidential elections go to the TSE site. Unfortunately, available only in Spanish.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Commuter train free on Tuesdays and Thursdays

(INSIDECOSTARICA.COM) - To boost ridership three private companies (television station Repretel, the Banco Nacional and Demasa) have made an agreement with the Costa Rican Railroads Institute (Incofer) to provide free urban train service on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Incofer says that the three companies will absorb the operational costs on those days, but did not offer more details on the agreement.

On November 11, the urban train started charging a fare of ¢300 colones to passengers for a trip from Pavas to the West and San Pedro to the East, this after almost a month of free service, as the Incofer was waiting on the fare approval by the Public Services Regulating Authority (Aresep).

During the period that the train was free of charge, 16.900 people took advantage of the service between September 10 and October 30. When Incofer began charging, use of the train dropped dramatically in the first few days, but has slowly begun to grow.

Incofer has also been working on improving the train stops, including building new ones like the stop at La Sabana. Infocer president, Miguel Carabaguiaz, recognized that they have fallen behind on the train stops in between the station points, but shortly that will be history.
(Photo: Allen Campos/AlDia)

Friday, November 18, 2005

CAFTA protest

Thousands of Costa Ricans march towards the Legislative Assembly (Congress) to protest against the proposed free trade pact between Costa Rica and the United States in San Jose November 17,2005. Opposition from labor groups, environmentalists, prominent academics and political figures brought together thousands to protest against Costa Rica's participation in the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) with the U.S. With the exception of Costa Rica, all the Central American countries which have signed the trade pact with the United States have ratified the agreement. (REUTERS/Juan Carlos Ulate)

Personally, I support the CAFTA and think all this is embarassing . The agreement should have been approved a long time ago. Although I wish and hope that by early next year Congress ratifies it, that is unlikely. With presidential elections looming in Feb. 2006, we'll probably have to wait for the new government to take office in May 2006 to decide CAFTA's future.

The City of Witches

The name Escazu derives from the indigenous word "Izt-kat-zu", which means "resting stone". The first inhabitants were natives from the Huetar or Huaca tribes.

Escazu is called "The City of the Witches", which explains its soccer club name and logo (which you can see on the left).

According to legend, all the witches of Escazu are "good witches". Several historians have looked at the tradition and suggested the reputation comes from the use of herbs and blends, prepared by the indian "witches" to cure all kind of ailments. They also dispensed mysterious love potions and magic objects to repeal the evil.

With thearrival of peasants from Galicia, Spain, the marriage of the old traditions and the indian legends gave birth to the late 19th century stories and characters that can be found in today´s literature.

Escazu is less than 5 miles west from downtown San Jose. It takes only about 25 minutes to drive to the Juan Santamaria International Airport.

The climate is beautiful and mild all year round, and the tropical rainy season (locally called "winter") lasts from April to November.

There are some neighborhoods where the residents are predominantly foreigners , because this beautiful areahas attracted people from North America, Europe and Asia. (Info provided by the The Rotary Club of Escazu)

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Picture of the Day

A coffee taster takes part in the cupping competition at the XIX Sintercafe International Coffee Conference in San Jose, Costa Rica, Monday, Nov. 14, 2005. Coffee industry experts from around the world participate in the showcase event of the world's fine coffees. (AP Photo/Kent Gilbert)

Monday, November 14, 2005

Copperleaf provides great foliage contrast

Home Gardening

By Ed Bernhardt / The Tico Times

Here's a dazzler of an ornamental that adds lively warm colors to the home garden. The copperleaf plant (Acalypha wilkesiana) is a member of the Euphorbiaceae family and is a relative of the poinsettia. It is native to the South Sea Islands, but is now found around the world in tropical regions. In Costa Rica, the plant is commonly found in just about any barrio, and many nurseries offer several varieties.

With its large, colorful leaves in shades of copper-red, purple, green and yellow, copperleaf is easy to recognize. This hardy, bushy shrub needs little in terms of fertilization or pest control, and grows vigorously in a wide range of soils, including red clay. During the rainy season copperleaf is immune to leaf diseases, and in the dry season it requires little or no irrigation, which places this plant high on the list of ecofriendly ornamentals.

Copperleaf is especially useful in landscaping for contrasting green foliage plants. Its bright colors highlight any garden arrangement. Ticos often use this plant as a privacy border hedge. However, overuse of this plant in a landscaping design tends to create a “hot” feeling, rather than the refreshing, cool, green sensation that is preferable in a garden environment.

Copperleaf is another plant that has evolved favoring vegetative, instead of seed, reproduction. You can use woody stem cuttings from mature plants to propagate new ones. Wood stems 20-30 centimeters long can be planted directly in the soil or in plastic nursery bags with regular soil.

If you plant directly, it's best to try it in the early part of the rainy season, so the cuttings will have plenty of time to form a good root stock before the dry season arrives – or be prepared to irrigate your plants.

When planting in the nursery, keep the newly planted cuttings in partial shade and water frequently. As they begin to sprout new leaves, move them into the sun. Be sure to transplant them early to prevent the roots from becoming overgrown in the containers.

Annual additions of compost to the soil around the plants and foliar spraying with natural fertilizers, such as seaweed extract and compost tea, will keep your plants vigorous and healthy.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

San Jose designated Hispanic American capital of culture in 2006

On October 27th our capital was acknowledged as the Hispanic American Capital of Culture for 2006.

San Jose will be the meeting point of music, art, culture and fraternity among the Hispanic American Countries. The capital will offer a series of activities –such as the International Arts’ Festival- and other cultural gatherings will begin in January and end on December of the coming year.

These cultural activities want to promote the integration of Hispanic American peoples, and to make known the cultural and intellectual richness of this city.

To Johnny Araya, Mayor of San Jose, “our capital cities, possess a series of characteristics that grant them their own identity, not defined in their streets, monuments or public spaces, but rather by the people’s identities.”

The declaratory received by San Jose as Hispanic American Capital of Culture 2006 opens a gateway to attract tourists interested in knowing about the culture of Costa Rica and of the Hispanic American countries. (Photo and text by the Costa Rican Tourism Institute)

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Picture of the Day

A school child holds the flags of Costa Rica and Mexico as he attends a welcoming ceremony for Mexico's President Vicente Fox at Juan Santamaria airport in San Jose, Costa Rica, November 2, 2005. Fox is on an official visit to meet Costa Rican President Abel Pacheco to discuss commercial relations between the two countries, and will travel together to attend the summit of leaders of the western hemisphere from November 4 to 5 in Mar del Plata, Argentina. (Photo: REUTERS/Juan Carlos Ulate)

Welcoming international dignitaries with groups of students waving colorful flags, instead of army troops presenting their weapons, is a tradition in Costa Rica. The country abolished its army in 1948.

Uri R.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Students' trip to Costa Rica builds character, homes

The Lantern (The student voice of Ohio State University)
By Veronica Walker

For 11 days of their summer 2005 vacation, a group of nine Ohio State students and three faculty advisers embarked on a service learning trip to San Ramon, Costa Rica, to help construct homes for families in need.

The group worked alongside members of the three families receiving help with newly constructed homes and Habitat International. They helped complete the foundations of three houses, dug huge holes for septic tanks, painted walls and helped with roofs and floors.

Before heading for San Ramon, the group took Family Resource Management 694 last spring quarter to teach them about the history, politics, economics, substandard housing and demographics of Costa Rica and other countries around the world.

Jason Wimmert, a senior in transportation logistics and marketing, formed the class along with Andrew Hong, director of international programs for the College of Human Ecology. Students received credit for taking the class. "As a group, we became much closer by taking the class," Wimmert said.

Wimmert is coordinator of the Global Village program, and was the Costa Rica trip leader. Through the Global Village program, this was the first international trip for the OSU chapter of Habitat for Humanity. He said they donated $4,200 to the affiliate in Costa Rica. "Most houses in Costa Rica cost about $4,500," he said.

Wimmert said he is working with the Office of International Education to incorporate the class and trips into OSU's curriculum. He said Global Village is planning three international trips for this year - to Argentina, Romania and Honduras - which he will be leading.

"When you look domestically at housing needs, conditions here in (the) U.S. don't even compare to those in other countries," he said.

He said people came back from the trip with a new interest and grander picture of life. "People know that they've been blessed and a lot of people were humbled by the experience," Wimmert said.

Katie Siros, a sophomore in exercise science, said she thought Costa Rica was beautiful and the people were extremely friendly. "I spoke some conversational Spanish. It comes to you so fast. It's exciting," she said. "It's such an amazing trip and it broadens your horizons."

Siros said it was impressive to see how hardworking the families were. She said some people who are not familiar with Habitat have the false belief that the organization gives houses away to people. "

The goal of Habitat for Humanity is to eliminate impoverished housing throughout the world," she said. Families in need go through a selection application process with Habitat for Humanity, and put in a certain amount of hours of help, known as "sweat equity." Siros said the families also pay money, which goes toward paying for materials for the house. " Habitat's motto is 'We give a hand up, not a hand out'," she said. Siros will be leading the trip to Argentina next summer.

Erin Hutfilz, a sophomore in dance, said she had been getting information about volunteer opportunities from Habitat for Humanity. She said she always wanted to be able to travel and work."It was really rewarding to get to work with the families. One of the mom's gave a speech and we all ended up in tears because she was so grateful," Hutfilz said. Hutfilz will be leading the international trip to Romania at the end of August 2006. "I'm very excited but nervous at the same time because it will be a lot of work," she said.She said she feels she will become totally prepared for the trip as time grows nearer. Britany

Hoeffer, a junior in social work and Spanish, said she has volunteered with Habitat for Humanity since she was in high school. She is the volunteer coordinator for the OSU chapter."Habitat (for Humanity) is one of my favorite organizations and Spanish is my area of study, so I thought the trip to Costa Rica would be an awesome opportunity," Hoeffer said. She said her Spanish speaking skills helped her and the group get from place to place while they were in San Ramon.

"I have been studying Spanish for about eight years now. My Spanish skills allowed me to talk with the Habitat (for Humanity) families and I developed great friendships with some of the women. (Basically), everything needed a translation!"Hoeffer said she had the opportunity to speak with two students from the University of Costa Rica and translate a meeting between OSU professors and the head of the Department of Education at the university.

She said that during rest and relaxation times, the group saw an active volcano, hot springs and ate at authentic Latin American restaurants. Hoeffer said they went bungee jumping off a 300 foot high bridge, zip-lining through the rainforest, surfing and swimming in the Pacific Ocean by Punta Arenas and dancing to salsa, meringue and reggaeton music. "

I loved the people and their culture. These people are living in a third world country and are still extremely content with the little they have. They value and take pride in their family, hard work, dancing and music, authentic food and their beautiful environment more than anything else. This, to me, is amazing. The people reminded me of what is important in life, and I believe that is what I was supposed to take out of the trip," she said.

(Text: Veronica Walker / Photos: Habitat for Humanity) Pictures used for illustrative purposes only, individuals shown are not those involved in this article.
I have always praised and appreciated all these exchange programs that come to help Costa Rican people while forming the character of the students involved.

Thank you!

Uri R.

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