Costa Rica’s Christmas Light Festival.

BCR FloatThis was the BCR float (Bank of Costa Rica)

Every year on the second Saturday of the month of December, Costa Rica celebrates “El Festival de la Luz”. Literally translated it would mean “The Festival of the Light”. The festival is relatively new, it was organized for the first time in 1996 by the Municipality of San José. Since moving to Costa Rica my family has this tradition of going every year, I took a point and shoot camera and snapped a few pictures so I could share with you all. Bombetas

Usually the festival kicks off with a fireworks show, this year we got  a great view!
After the fireworks, the parade starts.  The floats start off at La Sabana (Translated: The Savanna), which is a well known urban park in Costa Rica. In the 1930’s the government decided to locate the country’s first international airport thereLa Sabana International Airport continued to work for  44 years, until the inauguration of the current Juan Santamaría International Airport in Alajuela.
ICTUnder The Sea ManThis float was by the ICT (Costa Rican Institute of Tourism) With sea Men creatures and all! 
We usually stay by La Sabana park, where the crowds aren’t that crazy. Farther down the street the bands, and cheerleaders, mesh together with the floats. Forming the parade’s true starting point at El Gimnasio Nacional (The National Gym). El Festival de la Luz is very popular, seeing as it is the only time of the year when there is a parade, and I feel like it marks the beginning of the christmas season. You seriously want to have Christmas shopping done before el Festival de la Luz! Shopping centers get really congested after it, and sadly I made this mistake this year.
Kids ClimbingThese kids climbed the fence to get a better view. 

CrowdsMany families attend the festival with young children, who are drawn by the bright lights…
Santa One little guy that I spotted that seemed particularly young, and enjoying himself immensely is this one right here:
Super Baby  His dad would raise this him over his head, so he could get a good view of the floats. This little guy kept making me laugh as he wiggled around trying to dance to the music that was playing. I mean, did you see the Santa outfit, too? So cute!
Claro que si. Claro’s (a phone company)  float

We usually only stick around long enough to view all the floats, and then head off to a little restaurant near by to eat something. The parade isn’t that long, it starts at el Gimnasio Nacional and ends at la Plaza de la Democracia. (Plaza of Democracy). It’s a fun event to attend and really gets you in the holiday spirit!

BCR 2Little Dreams

Advertisements

The English, Gold, and My Mother´s Hometown

DSC_0496

I once told a lady that I knew the story of myself, my parents, and their ancestors, and when I was done she said “Wow, you could write a book on that.” I had never thought my family´s history so interesting, but today I have decided to tell a small part of it. Although I was born and raised in Chicago, I am one of three daughters of a Costa Rican girl, who had a dream that reached beyond the borders of the little town and little country she was born in. My mother was born in Atenas.

DSC_0453

 Atenas is cited by Forbes and National Geographic as one of the best places in the world to live, due to the longevity of its inhabitants. My grandmother had 4 or 5 siblings that lived to their late 90´s.  The University of Florida came to study the inhabitants of this small town, who by the way were all related to some degree, and came to the conclusion that there is a gene that is passed from mother to daughter  and her descendants. It is also passed from mother to son, but a son cannot pass it to his descendants.DSC_0467

My mother who died at 37, unfortunately was not one of them; I believe she died from consequences of a genetic disorder called hemochromatosis which she inherited from her English ancestors. In the early 1800´s the politicians of Costa Rica established commercial relations with England. The planting of coffee, as a major export at that time, was one of the results of this relationship. Another  was the establishment of a gold mine in Atenas, by the Anglo Costa Rican Economical Mining Company in 1834. A gentleman ?,( I have often questioned this) named John Jenkins arrived in Costa Rica to work as a smith for this company, who was my mother´s great-great- grandfather. I have often kidded with my aunts that he was probably the last of the pirates, given he was from Cornwall and the extreme wealth he acquired supposedly as a smith. He married a woman, whose family was involved in politics at the time. He also had an affair with a relative of hers and thus my mother´s great-grandfather was born, Jose Carlos. Even though he was illegitimate, he was recognized by the Jenkins family,  went on to be a diputado (senator) and made his own fortune in cattle ranching.

DSC_0472

Upon graduating from high school, my mother decided she wanted to go to the United States to study business. This was some unheard of in the 1940´s. Women were supposed to settle down and have a family. If you studied, you studied to be a school teacher. Also the cost was great, sending your children to the U.S. to study, was the equivalent of an American sending their children to Switzerland. But somehow my grandfather gave her permission, with the condition she would go with her elder sister. Her elder sister was not too keen on the idea, but eventually ceded.

CSC_0831

After finishing her studies in Kentucky, she went to visit some friends in Chicago. There she met my father, fell in love, married him and had my two sisters and myself. The rest is a story I will tell another day.

DSC_0476

I often go to Atenas just to see where my mother spent her childhood. My aunt told me once that she had a happy childhood there, to which I was much relieved, because she suffered much in her struggle to overcome cancer as an adult. It is a peaceful town.  A new wave of immigrants have come to settle there, seeking the fountain of youth, due to the publicity I have mentioned before.

DSC_04600

I´m sorry if I have bored my followers with the story of my family, but I would like to dedicate this post to my children,  nieces, and nephew, so they know where they have come from, and also to my mother, who died 41 years ago on August 17. I have included pictures of Atenas, for those who follow us for my daughter´s photography.

DSC_0416

Thoughts on Tranquility

DSC_0162

In starting this blog besides an insight to Costa Rican life, I wished to convey a sense of peace and tranquility.
Bird

Costa Ricans have been rated in several surveys, one of the happiest people on earth. I think this is because people live in relative peace.

102_0852

It´s not that Costa Ricans aren’t plagued with issues common in the Northern Hemisphere, but people are tolerant of each other. Which I think is fundamental to peace anywhere, be it in your home or in society.

102_0859

102_0850

Another characteristic I´ve noted is patience. I rarely see anyone yell at their children, parents are patient.

100_1766

There have also been in situations where I´ve often wondered how people can be so patient, when I myself feel my impatience boiling up inside of me.

DSC_0457

I’m working on controlling my fast paced city girl impatience.

102_0887

DSC00055

Our dog looks so tranquil most of the time, I´ve often wanted to see his world through his eyes. Maybe he could give me some insight in tranquility.

Ducky and Marshmallow: A Chicken Bittersweet Love

100_1358

I enjoy keeping chickens, they entertain me immensely.  When I get stressed out, my youngest son’s favorite saying is, ” Mom go to the backyard and relax and watch the chickens.”  I specially like watching the relationship between Ducky , my rooster, (don’t ask me why a rooster is named Ducky, my children named him) and Marshmallow my top hen.

100_1442

Marshmallow as a chick.

If you never have had chickens, chickens are very socially organized. Like dogs or wolves, there  is a top chicken and so on down. They also form strong loyalties and friendships within the flock, usually in groups of two or three. Ducky and Marshmallow have this bond where Ducky is never far from Marshmallow.

102B0351

Ducky as a chick.

Marshmallow is very fussy as to where she  lays her eggs. She will make honking sounds and look around the yard forever before she lays her egg. It drives me nuts sometimes. But Good Husband Ducky will go around the yard finding  her different places to lay. When he has found one he calls to her, most of the time she will continue to look. But eventually she will find a place that is up to her standards. What I find unusual is that Ducky will occasionally sit with Marshmallow until she lays her egg. Theirs is the great chicken love affair.

DSC_0059

Ducky keeping eye over Marshmallow.

Oh, but don’t let Ducky see Marshmallow go broody, blood will be drawn. A chicken gone broody is a hen that decides to sit and warm her eggs to hatch chicks. Most of the time a hen lays her eggs and moves on, but occasionally she will decide to start a family. The problem is she will not let anyone or anything by her nest and in Marshmallows case, this includes Ducky. Ducky having his feelings hurt, will chase her around the yard, or grab her by her neck and peck her. It gets so violent that we have to separate them. Ducky does this with no other hen. The good thing about it all is that when Marshmallow decides to snap out her broodyness they’re soon lovey dovey.

DSC_0515

DSC_0553 (Top) Ducky and Marshmallow eating together. (Bottom) Ducky waiting while Marshmallow grooms herself.

Theirs is a bittersweet chicken love story. Ducky is an excellent rooster, he shares food with the other hens and watches over them jealously. His only flaw is his possessiveness over Marshmallow.  It’s funny but they remind me of some human relationships.  But like my son says, I’m going to relax and watch chicken TV.

DSC_0561

Gallo Pinto: The Costa Rican Breakfast of Champions

Gallo Pinto is the Costa Rican equivalent to Chinese fried rice. It is made with left over rice and beans, a Costa Rican cuisine staple. Traditionally, it was made in a comal. A comal is similar to a wok only shallower, made out of cast iron, and instead of one handle it has two smaller handles. The tradition of cooking with comales has been lost in many homes. It has been replaced by teflon coated frying pans.

Gallo Pinto

If I would have been feed Gallo Pinto growing up, I wouldn’t have passed many a sad and hungry mid-morning at school, my empty stomach growling, eyes riveted to the classroom clock, waiting for lunch to roll around. Gallo Pinto is a staple for breakfast in my home now. It is a filling and energizing way to start my morning. It is easy to make, just follow the following recipe.

2 cups DAY OLD rice

1 cup black beans  drained reserve 1/4 cup of liquid

1/2 medium onion,chopped

1 clove garlic, minced

1/4 red bell pepper, chopped

In a wok or frying pan, saute pepper in 2 tbsps olive oil for about a minute. Add onion and cook till it just turns translucent. Add garlic, briefly saute, DO NOT BROWN.  Add beans and liquid from beans. Let saute for 3 minutes. Add rice. Toss until warm and liquid is uniformly absorbed into rice. Serve. Top with a dollop of sour cream.

Gallo Pinto is usually served with eggs, fried plantains, tortillas and farmers cheese, but bacon and sausage can also be an accompaniment. Disfrute!