Thursday, November 16, 2017

The Long and Winding Road

We finally picked up our car on Monday. I'd left it at my mother's house for pickup to ship here to Costa Rica in late June. Discovered when I got to Mom's that my title didn't state that the car was free and clear so they refused to ship it until I got another title from the state of Virginia with a stamp and signature certifying that there were zero liens against the car to be sent to my mother. She was supposed to let me know when she had the new title and I would call the shipping company for a new pickup date.

The title took almost a full month to get to her. She and the shipping agent whose English is not the greatest did not understand each other so there was some delay and we missed the July date due to the misunderstanding. It finally left the port of New Orleans in late August - arriving at the port of Limon in early October.

Then we had that hurricane and had to go to the States for Jim's mother taking a turn for the worse, delaying pickup even more. Add in getting the needed import fees wired in from our US bank and the endless paperwork and money to get the riteve and marchamo paid. Dumb things like having the original car title take a plane to the import lawyer in San Jose/Limon and we didn't get pick up our old Honda CRV until Monday afternoon.

This is the thing about the experience that sort of blows my mind. We're out about a grand total of $5,500 bucks total for a car only worth about $2,000 in the States. Here the taxed value was a shocking $12,000. Yeah, I was blown away by that amount, but SUVs are worth their weight in gold in Costa Rica and I discovered why on my way home to Tamarindo.

Tamarindo is a good four or five hours from San Jose and to get the bus there we would have had to either hop the 3:30 am or 5:30 am bus ride, so we broke down and rented a car to take us to the import lot.

The drive down was largely uneventful and we had some errands to run before we left. We stopped at a restaurant named after Princess Diana for lunch. The place had typical Costa Rican dishes in a buffet line with a faded poster of the Princess tacked to the wall. This isn't the first time I've run into someone named for her down here. The funniest part is that I was so excited to see carrot raisin salad on the salad bar, got a heaping helping and prepared to have one of my old favorites from childhood. Took a heaping spoonful and discovered that their version had very hot peppers chopped up and mixed in, the kind of peppers I like to call Guatemalan Insanity Peppers. Burns going in, burns coming out. That's saying a lot considering I usually douse my food with Tabasco. The salad was very tasty even with the peppers.

By the time we picked up a new car battery and got to the import agency it was 3 pm. We finally met the older lady that handles all the import registration and paperwork and she was nothing like I imagined by her voice on the phone, a very sweet older lady who seemed more like someone's grandmother than a business woman.

Her office was right across the street from the airport and our car was being stored on the median near the big Holiday Inn hotel and casino. This stretch in front of the hotel and airport is one of the scariest intersections in the entire city of crazy drivers in San Jose, so we wasted no time getting the heck out of Dodge.

Jim took the rental car and I took ours. When we were on Route 1 headed back up north just at dusk I ran into an unexpected difficulty. A car with one flickering headlamp, no back lights just reflective stickers glued onto the back light lenses. The backseat was full of small children, at least four of them that looked under six or so.

I almost rear-ended the car because it's so dark on that road. No overhead lights and I feel pretty certain that the oncoming traffic wasn't seeing him either.

So I did the only thing I could do in good conscience, I got behind him, stuck with him the entire time I was on the road. At least others could see him while I was shining a light on him. He was driving so slowly that the entire drive took longer than I thought it would. But I just could not put those kids at any further risk.

Lately I've been thinking about just being helpful and encouraging as much as possible. At my old church one of my friends used to say when she got irked over something 'Thank you Lord for another opportunity to offer mercy and forgiveness!' While I'm not jumping up and down for joy to be doing just that I'm convinced that doing just that is the way to go.

Friday, November 10, 2017

When Comedians Are Just Creeps

I wasn't going to share this story any longer. But the Louis C.K. news and news of so many others being exposed as sexual predators has triggered me so badly that I'm vomiting up my tale of sexual weirdness with a well known comedian yet again.

My family knows it. They witnessed a fair part of this too. My eldest child who is now in her forties was involved in this episode too. Neither of us took it laying down. A tale from the late   90s/early 00s.

This was right around the time when I first started questioning what I'd learn at my old church, around the time of the yoga incident and the cracks were first starting to appear in my evangelicalism. How badly was I impacted? I'd gone back to work against all advice of our pastor and everyone I knew at church, not as a social worker, but I was working in the national licensing office in the D.C. area, working helping others obtain nationally recognized licensure.

One of the things that happened to me there was that the organization wanted to put up a website, making registration for the exams both available over the phone and online as well as streamlining and offering study guides and training for the tests on the website. It was decided that I would help out with that project and they paid for me to take classes in website design, coding, various internet things and yes, eventually I and several others did those things listed above.

I started to do websites for others as a sideline, on top of my regular job. Designed many local churches web presence including my old church. But around the same time I ended up connected to a couple of small indie film companies, even designing websites to promote films premiering at smaller film festivals. I started attending some of the smaller festivals. It was an ego-trip after the years of being ground down by my theology.

Still had not abandoned my beliefs, in fact I was still actively trying to have more children, rationalizing it that I would re-retire from working when I ended up pregnant and past the first trimester. Truthfully I was changing inside, and finding I was having less in common with those at church, while still spouting the party line. But I was starting to get some pushback for working and the trips to the film festivals.

At one festival I met a young film maker with a low budget and a cute comedy film he's put together on a shoe sting that needed social media help and websites a plenty. Saw the film, loved it and ended up helping him for very little. After I'd known him for about a year he asked me if I'd help out one of the actors of the film, who'd scored a television show that was soon to premiere, a 'clean' comedian. I did as he asked, setting up a Yahoo Clubs fan page for this comic, even if I rarely checked on it more than once a week to make sure the conversations were respectful and nice. Yes, Yahoo Clubs, you know that was a long time ago when that was state of the art social media. Cannot remember if My Space was around yet or not.

I forgot about the comedian mostly even after watching a few episodes of his show and adding in screen caps to the show. He contacted me, asking me to do screen caps from his highlights reel for a possible website. Did the screen caps and charged him very little since I was trying to help out someone just starting out. Exchanged a few pleasant emails, wished him success and that was that. I wasn't a fan, I'd done the club as a favor to someone that was a friend.

And then the trouble started. I got a private message followed by a pile of emails from the angry father of a teenage girl. This girl was a 16 year old of Asian heritage who'd joined the club and her father was claiming that this comedian was sexually harassing his daughter, begging for nude photos, asking for cyber sex and a host of other inappropriate things. I didn't believe him at first because this guy was billed as a clean comedian, but then the father sent me screen shots of the exchanges, I still didn't believe it was Mr. Comedian because the Yahoo ID this person was using could have been anyone.

The most disturbing thing was that the profile photo this person was using was a nude shot in what looked like an anonymous hotel room in a big city. The pasty white body was bent over, exposing glowing white buttocks, an anus and below that the scrotum and penis being pushed into view. I immediately messaged the offender to knock off the behavior and remove the profile photo or I would ban him/her. Saved screen caps of everything on my external harddrive, shrugged, thinking there's a new weirdo online born every day and moved on.

 By this time I'd left my job at the licensing agency and was doing website design and content provision full time from home. Everyone at church that had expressed concern seemed to be fine with me doing that, and I've done that in one form or another ever since, even with the fact that post-church I worked off and on outside of the house in my field.

A few months passed and I started getting a flood of messages and emails from underaged teen girls, all Asian, all under 17, that claimed they were getting sexually harassed online by Mr. Comedian through the Yahoo Club. I started investigating and found that whoever this was had returned, same profile photo, same modus operandi. Once is a careless mistake, over and over is a toxic pattern.

My daughter and I decided most meanly to Catfish this weirdo and try to figure out who he was. We both put up fake Yahoo profiles with photos of young Asian women and profiles to indicate we were high schoolers that liked Mr. Comedian. It didn't take long for the creep to strike, friending both of us, chatting for a few days before begging for three ways, cyber sex, phone sex, nude photos etc all the while claiming he was Mr. Comedian. I finally said I would have phone sex with him, having him call my business line. Time to find out if this is a random creep or really Mr. Comedian. The caller id flashed that the call was coming from Universal Studios in the Los Angeles area and I answered. It was Mr. Comedian..........

.......who was calling from his dressing room, telling me he was currently having cybersex with his girlfriend (now wife), but he really wanted phone sex with me. I made some lame excuse about my mother coming home unexpectedly and hung up. I immediately closed the Yahoo Club, called my friend at the indie film company to tell him exactly why I did it and that I wanted zero contact ever again with Mr. Comedian. My friend told me I was seriously mistaken because Mr. Comedian was nice, normal, kind blah blah blah! He couldn't be a predator on the internet of teenage girls! He refused believe me, even after I forwarded him all the screen caps.

One of the victims put up a hate page for him on Yahoo. I wrote about Mr. Comedian there and a couple of other places warning others he was a predator, posting up the screen caps. I got threats from fans and his management and had to take down the warnings. His manager was completely uninterested and unperturbed by his attempts to lure in teenagers for sexual purposes.

But interestingly enough I received many emails from women working behind the scenes in the industry with tales of Mr. Comedian's behavior towards them during movie and television projects he was in. His sexual harassment was in real life too, not just online.

So for years now I've gagged every single time I've had him cross my radar, when he appears on television I turn the channel, which is hard to do considering he's starring in a series of car commercials right before I left the U.S. for Costa Rica.

I am not going to name him here, in fact I am kicking myself that the external harddrive containing all the information is stored right now in our storage unit stateside because I would so out him right now. He's still out there playing the righteous good clean family man and I seriously doubt he's not still up to his dirty antics. I've met him at film festivals and the Improv in D.C. and I have photos to back up everything.

Hoping that someone who worked with him outs him soon publicly. He's not as famous as Louie C.K., but he's pretty well known now.

Karma is coming.

Tuesday, November 07, 2017

Unboxed Red Tape

On Saturday morning our possessions from the States finally arrived! Delivered by a nice Costa Rican man who spoke no English. Jim speaks Spanish pretty well, but I've still not far past my ugly American one semester in college Spanish. I can get around, I can shop, I can find the restroom, but not much beyond that. But between the three of us we managed to communicate plenty well enough while unloading the truck and putting the boxes in one of the spare bedrooms.

In a few minutes flat we had the 31 boxes of household things we'd shipped down. the largest amount being kitchenware and art supplies. I worked like a grunt all day Saturday unpacking boxes and washing the contents. I'd forgotten from our other overseas moves that the USA. some shipping by boat companies and other countries frequently insist that your boxes all be fumigated before they are loaded. Ours obviously were, and I reacted, it was wheezy day.

Pleased we didn't have more broken items. The ones that did break were a surprise. Both of my small crockpots ended up with the inner crock part broken to pieces even if I wrapped the crocks before putting them in the crockpot and overwrapping the entire thing in bubble wrap. There were a few plastic bowls that broke. No big loss. But I did discover that our microwave seems to be possessed or broken as it's working on low no matter what setting you nuke it on.

What is always interesting in an international move is what turns up missing. Let's not kid ourselves. somewhere along the line I always end up a few items short on these moves. This time we are missing a brand new toaster, I'm missing a fancy blowdry with some sort of op art motif on it in loud colors and I'm missing my turquoise blue Swingline stapler. They complete ignored the 1 Direction in drag lunchbox I keep drawing pens and markers in.


Saturday and Sunday were filled with unpacking and putting things away but this morning we had to go take care of one of the more frustrating things to deal with here involving mucho red tape - simply paying our electric bill.

Remember last moth when I was so thrilled to have a sixty dollar electric bill? This months bill ran right around one hundred and sixty dollars and last week we had to go by the electrical co-op and ask why so much this month. It was a silly exercise in the fact that local Costa Ricans do not like to say unpleasant things that will upset you. They may jump in front of you in lines all the time, or try to shake you down for more money that the average Tico for the same taxi ride, but they will not usually stand up to you and tell you bad news.

First they had to write a report about our claims that our bill jumped suddenly and we weren't even in the house for the full month. Then I had to get a digital photo of the meter and email it to them. After that they had to come out and test the meter. We went back today to find out what they'd discovered and pay the bill. They claim that they found nothing wrong with the meter and have no explanation for the huge increase. I am wondering if we're suddenly paying a gringo price on the electric. It is still cheaper than any electric bill from the summer in our house in the States, but it's just the idea of the price jumping around and all the hoops we had to jump through last week just to get them to take  look.

Jim's still dealing with trying to get the car delivered to San Jose, and there's been some red tape, requests for more money that is starting to feel like bleed the gringo. I guess it's the price you have to pay to live near the beach.

On better note Negrito is doing well. He gets into every single thing. Even going so far as to chew the hell out of the top of the pineapple in our kitchen.

Tomorrow is likely to be a heap of red tape too. Jim has to send the car import people more money.

Anyone considering coming to live here in Costa Rica really needs to budget three times the money they planned to bring just to help with the red tape.

Friday, November 03, 2017

The Stinkster

Last week we got a kitten, a poor miserable tiny kitten who the vet named Negrito - meaning 'Little Black One'. His markings look like someone stood over him and poured black paint over his white fur. We got him at the veterinarian clinic that also does animal rescue across the street an down a little bit from our home here near Tamarindo.

Here he is the first day:

Silly little thing!

We'd met the vet and her assistant during Tropical Storm Nate hitting this area. As the rains got stronger and weaker and stronger again they showed up on our doorstep wanting permission to leave food out for strays on our spacious tiled porch. Of course we said yes, and got to talking about animal rescue, how I ended up involved in it by default when people started dumping stray animals behind my home in the States. We told her we'd already decided we had to have a cat when we get back from our trip.

Get back we did, and yes, I visited my new friend the vet, who had a crate of four kittens. This guy was clearly the pushiest, demanding petting and to be picked up. Jim loves himself a pushy obnoxious kitty, he picked Negrito.

He should really be called 'Tornado' or 'Hurricane' because he's the most high energy kitten I've ever seen. There's nothing he cannot climb, jump, bite, crawl under, undo, you name it. When he's not leaping tall buildings, biting my feet or climbing you to get to whatever it is that you are eating he's snugging up on you purring asking to be petted. Unfortunately that seems to be when he farts a lot too. We sometimes call him variations of the name 'Stinky'. So so tempted to change his name to 'Pepe' for 'Pepe le Pew'

The funniest thing about this little guy is that he 'talks' to you. When you come in the door he meows 'hi', when you get up in the morning and are stumbling around before coffee he greets you. When you talk to him he talks back. When Jim and I talk to each other he chimes in on the conversation.

The most heartbreaking thing is that when Jim and I were in the States the vet placed him with a family in the nearby apartments and they returned him to the vet after a week, said he was 'too rambunctious'  Makes me sad that Negrito has been rejected at least a couple of times. I could never, even if we have a crazy day with him like yesterday. If I didn't cut off his tail behind his ears yesterday I never will.

Yesterday morn I got up first, staggered out into the living room, cheerfully greeted by Negrito surrounded by a sea of plastic shopping bags, unrolled plarn, a partially unraveled afghan I'm crocheting for the living room, yarn unrolled and various and sundry things. The living room was a sea of crazy things. He murped and meowed proudly showing off his destructive handiwork.

I went a little nuts, yelling and tutting 'Bad kitty! Bad kitty!' unable to figure out how he had managed to get into the little drawer in the coffee table I store my crocheting supplies and in the cabinets I had the bags and other things in. I did a fast pickup and power clean of the living room before coffee

When Jim finally got up he told me that, oh yeah, he'd opened the coffee table drawer and cabinets to get a few things he needed this morning and must not have closed them. Negrito had human help.

If there is one single thing that Jim does that drives me absolutely nuts, that I've gone from mentioning with a smiling face all the way to shouting at him about is his tendency to NEVER close a drawer or cabinet door. I've walked into open cabinet doors in our house and given myself a black eye in the past. I've pitched my request for closed cabinet doors from most polite to scary mommy and it seems like after 31 years of marriage he sometimes still forgets to close those cabinet doors.

So I started the day on a cranky note, knowing that this must have happened during Jim's morning ramble before I get up. We have had such different sleep schedules for years now. I go to bed at 11 and usually sleep soundly till 7. I find I need 8 full hours or I am totally useless.  Jim, on the other hand, goes to bed at midnight or 1 am, sleeps till 4, gets up for  couple of hours then goes back to bed from 6 till 8. I don't know how he does it because I would be a freaking wreck sleeping like that. I'm after him to get a physical because I think his crazy sleep hours are affecting his functioning in daylight hours and his memory.

Around 9 am I'm folding laundry and Jim is watching the fantasy football report on ESPN when Negrito jumps up on the bed next to me, sits down, then gets up and jumps on me just as I notice a weird spot where he'd been sitting. Then Jim starts yelling that he put his hand in cat diarrhea and I can see a drippy little trail of poop drops coming out of the room with the litter box leading to the living room and on to the bedroom. By that time I realized I was going to have to wash the quilt on the bed, the quilt on the sofa and the sofa cover and mop everywhere.

As I was getting the quilt off the bed to wash it Negrito jumped up on the bed and started doing the booty scoot across the sheets. I was something less than pleased and hurdled a few more curses.

Later that day we had to take Negrito back to the vet for his worming appointment and I told the vet about that morning's disgusting diarrhea antics. Turns out Jim has been giving him the milk from Jim's cereal bowl in the mornings before I get up. Negrito got a clean bill of health and has gained weight!

I finally managed to de-poop the house and this afternoon as I was making banana bread he was up in it, watching everything I do closely as always. All is well. I guess I need to remember that you can always pick up things he drags out and the most important - poop cleans off so it is really not that big a deal. Life lesson - you can clean up poop.

From this afternoon. Negrito trying to get right in the middle of baking.