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¿Que Es Eso?

History of
Colombia - Part 2

The Marimba

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In This Issue:

1. Broken News: Costa Rica Enter's the Space Race, Now That's Inflation, San José Underground, Narrowing the Futbol Field, Woe Is Me?! Rumble Talk (Shaky Happenings On or About the Pacific Rim) It's Volcan Poas' Turn

2. ¿Que Es Eso? Department: Egg Question

3. Feature: History of Colombia - Part 2, The Columbian Period, Spanish Occupation

4. Feature: The Marimba (The National Instrument of Costa Rica)

5. Health Stuff: (Yellow Fever, You Are What You Eat)

6. What's-in-a-Word (Answer to Que Es Eso, Belen)

7. ROMEO Corner (Selina's - Manuel Antonio)


Wisdom of the Ages

"We do not stop playing because we grow old, we grow old because we stop playing"
- Benjamin Franklin

(Franklin lived to be 84 in an era when the average lifespan was 36. He took many trips to Europe (average sailing time 60-80 days), first as a representative of the Colonies to the Crown and then as Ambassador to France and Sweden for the United States. He held several other positions including U.S. Postmaster General and Speaker of the PA House.

In between these activities he had time to invent the lightnening rod, the Franklin Stove whose efficiency significantly reduced the amount of wood used for heating, the glass armonica, bifocals, the odometer and several other things not in use today. He became known as Dr. Benjamin Franklin – scientist, diplomat, philosopher, inventor and a Founding Father of the United States - GGC Editor)




A GG Selfie


Publisher's Corner

If you would like to read a version of the Golden Gringo Chronicles in a narrative format, as a hard copy novel or an e-book, check it out HERE





gthFive hundred years before the Spanish found the American continent, around the end of the first millennium, Native Americans lived and prospered in Central America, including the land now known as Costa Rica. Truly a natural wonderland then and now, the natives were able to employ their farming skills and prosper from the rich soils, the forests filled with game, herbs, and spices, and the lakes and two oceans rich with fish and crustaceans.


Mariposa, or butterfly, is a story about two young Native Americans, each a favored child of a chief, but of different tribes. These two tribes, historically hostile to each other, lived a few days march apart in the mountains north and east of Costa Rica’s central valley.


The two natives meet by accident, fall in love and begin to plan a life together only to be frustrated by events beyond their control. The lovers are eventually drawn to a mountain volcano which is thought by many to be the home of the gods, particularly Sib'ö, the Great Spirit, who they believe had created the world.


gtyThe story as written incorporates the classic ending of Costa Rica's Legend of Zurqui, one that reflects the beauty, mystery and spirituality that is Costa Rica. Mariposa is available in both English and Spanish versions:

Preview the Book (English) on Amazon.com at:
Mariposa Preview (This is Chapter 1 in its entirety)


ORDER IT HERE ($8.95):


Mariposa (English Version)


Mariposa (Versión Español)


(Kindle Version Available in Both Languages - $6.99)

See All the Books by this Author Here: Books by Bob Normand


Broken News
(All the News That's Fit to Reprint)

Costa Rica Enters the Space Race


Well, at east they're putting their two colones worth in.


Satellite Frame
Tico Satellite

The project, called Proyecto Irazú or Irazú Project (Irazú being one of the most famous volcanos in Costa Rica), is appropriately sized to fit the Tico budget (see photos right) and is being funded by private and corporate donations that have pledged a total of somewhat in excess of $500,000.


The Instituto Tecnológico de Costa Rica (ITCR) – Costa Rican Technological Institute will take about six months to asse.tion system, power system, solar panels, and a secondary or backup computer.


The satellite, called the Tico Cubesat, will first be carried to the International Space Station in 2018 from where it will be launched into orbit. It will be utilized to observe and measure climate change around the globe.


Franklin Chang Diaz

This is not the first experience in space for Costa Rica. One of the more famous names in Costa Rica is Franklin Chang Díaz, Costa Rica's first, and to-date only NASA Astronaut.


Born in San José and receiving his primary education there, Chang Diaz graduated as a mechanical engineer from the University of Connecticut and went on to take a Ph.D. in Applied Plasma Physics from M.I.T. He went on several shuttle missions in the 1980's and even designed a long-range plasma engine that may someday be the basis of intra-galactic travel.


Move over Russkies, there's a Tico in your plasma trail.


Now That's Inflation


Costa Rica ended 2016 enjoying one of the lowest inflation rates in the country in modern history, 0.7%; while in the U.S. it was 1.3%. In Venezuela it was 404%.


What? Surely you have the decimal point wrong GG; perhaps you meant 4.04% or even 40.4% but surely not 404%.


Yes Dorothy, the inflation rate in Venezuela in 2016 was Four Hundred and Four Per Cent. That means that a liter of milk (assuming you could find it) that might have cost 100Bs (Bolivars) on January 1, 2016 cost 504Bs on December 31, 2016. This is just an example as I have no idea what the actual cost of a liter of milk in Venezuela is or was, the target and the availability moving as fast as it does. Ditto for the exchange rate.


This is the country that has the most proven oil reserves in the world. But, unlike the previous owners of those fields (ExxonMobil, ConocoPhillips, Chevron and Total), 1) the Chavez government and it's successor spent money as if the flow of it would never end; then the price of oil collapsed to half its its all-time high and 2) they spent none of their windfall oil money maintaining those oil fields with updated equipment, unlike the fields previous owners did.


The result is an economy that is collapsing and there has been a dire shortage of food and basic items including medicines. The country is moving towards social upheaval and what little stability there is now is being maintained by the army which is backing the president; but I'll leave that story to the professional pundits and commentators to report.


San José Underground


Proposed Subway System for San José

No, we're not talking about a shopping plaza underground but instead, the need for a subway system in San José.


If you've ever driven in San José during a normal business day you've encountered the congestion that sometimes makes a couple-of-mile jaunt across town a half-hour or hour hassle. Long bumper to bumper backups, horns blowing to no avail, the town often turns into one giant clusterf..k. An extensive bus system and a hapless, above-ground railroad system have had little positive effect on relieving the problem.


So once more, a Metro subway system is being proposed, this time by the College of Engineers and Architects (CFIA) in San José. It would start with three lines as shown on the map to the right, the Blue, Red and Yellow lines. Not included, but obviously necessary in the future, would be extensions of the Blue and Red lines to 1) Escazu and the airport and 2) Heredia and Alejuela.


But here lies the rub McDuff; just the Phase I system as shown on the map is estimated to cost over three trillion colones ($5.4 billion). And what the real cost might be is uncertain as these kinds of estimates tend to be low by the time they get around to actually doing it? That's $5.4 billion in a country with an entire annual federal budget of only $15 billion, half of which currently are expenditures financed by debt. Doesn't bode well for the ability to self-finance.


Clearly it's going to take a special private-public initiative or an extremely generous international partner to carry this off.


Narrowing the Futbol Field


The Chronicles has been regularly reporting on the progress that Costa Rica's national selection team has made in their ongoing bid for a berth at the Futbol World Cup to be played in 2018 in Russia (see CONCACAF Gaff).


GG recently read a press report that included a letter written by one of their readers that explained the extent of the effort that goes into achieving a playoff berth at the World Cup. Only the three top teams in the CONCACAF Division will be able to be in the final competition and currently six teams are still in competition. Here's what the reader wrote:


"Your article Wednesday had one small error. It made it look like CONCACAF would get an extraordinary percentage of teams into the World Cup, Russia, 2018.  You wrote: "This region with six teams will send at least three teams to Russia. A fourth spot is based on the results of a playoff with a team elsewhere."


I just wanted to remind us that: This region CONCACAF actually began with 35 countries, not six. 

Round 1) Qualifying started in March 2015 with 14 games, when seven teams were eliminated. 
Round 2) Then in June 2015, 20 more games, with 10 more countries eliminated. 
Round 3) September 2015, with 12 more games, six more countries eliminated.
Round 4) November 2015/March 2016 and September 2016 another 36 games, and eliminated 6 more countries. 

So now, 29 members of CONCACAF have been eliminated with 82 games having been played throughout North & Central America, and the Caribbean Islands. 

It's a very long process, and Costa Rica is pleased to still be a part of the Final Round. In this round, six teams known as 'The Hexagonal,’ play a total of 30 games and then we get to, "This region...will send at least three teams to Russia." And maybe four! 

__ __ __

CONCACAF action this past month saw Costa Rica, which was in #1 position in February, lose a game to Mexico, dropping the Ticos to #2 and elevating Mexico to #1. CR then tied a game with Honduras. The CONCACAF point standing for the playoffs as of March 25 was Mexico (10), Costa Rica (7), Panama (5), United States (4), Honduras (4) and Trinidad&Tobago (3).


Перейти, Коста-Рики! (that's Russian for Go, Costa Rica!)


In a related announcement: Q SPORTS – The Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football (CONCACAF), member nations the United States, Canada and Mexico on Monday declared their intention to submit formally a unified bid to host the 2026 FIFA World Cup." But where, amigos? How about Quepos?


Woe Is Me?!


About three to four years ago I started using a Pepsi product called H2OH! It is just that, nothing more than water with a little carbonation, no sugar and a little fruit flavoring like lime, grapefruit or passion fruit; basically it's just lightly flavored water. I liked the product so much that I made it my standard drink while I was home. Many a good Golden Gringo Chronicle was written while sipping it. I've come to love the stuff as my elixir of life.


gthIn the second week of April GG was noticing that certain stores in which I often shopped were beginning to run out of H2OH! This is not that unusual an occurrence for any product in Quepos because of the relatively small shelf space in any one market. One simply adjusts by going to a backup store, which I did. But when I questioned the Pepsi/Tropicál driver (Tropicál is the Central America distributor for Pepsi and a couple of thousand other products) who was filling the case at my backup store he reported that the product had been discontinued, effective last Wednesday. No!!!


Strike me dumb (no comments please), stab me in the heart why don't you; give me a machete, I'll do hari-kari on myself!


I immediately shot a poignant email to Pepsico Headquarters U.S. demanding to know what flash of marketing brilliance was behind this heinous act. Have you gone Coke Classic on me? Do you still believe in the hula-hoop and telephone booths? Are the gods angry? What gives, amigos? Oh woe is me!


Update April 20: Woooops. The product is back in our local stores; chock one up to my bad Spanish. When I thought the driver said the product was discontinued last Wednesday he was saying a new shipment was not due until next Wednesday (evidently the product was short because it's so popular). Nevermind, GG can sleep soundly now and well hydrated.


Pepsi did respond eventually, referring me to their Mexico City office. No need amigos, desculpame.

Maybe it's the heat and humidity this time of year that makes certain people like me act silly.


¡Pura Vida!

Rumble and Weather Talk
(Shaky Happenings Around the Pacific Rim)

derWhen you're living on an isthmus that was created by the crunch of two tectonic plates a short time ago, geologically speaking, you can expect active volcanoes.


Poás Getting Hot; That's the Lake in
the Background Behind the Cloud

For the past year we've been reporting about heavy ash periodically spewing out of Volcan Turrialba, east of San José and causing health problems and even closure of the main airport for some hours. Just as Turri was quieting down, her sister volcano, Volcan Poas, started to heat up. Poás' location in Alejuela Province northeast of San José is shown by the white circle on the map above and is about 35 km or 20 miles, as the ash flies, from the capital city .


Poas (foreground) and
Turrialba (background)

It all started in the early days of April when vulcanologists (dudes from the University of Costa Rica's Nacional Observatorio Vulcanológico y Sismológico - come on, you can figure that one out), commonly known as the " Red", started to see "phreatic" changes in the crater. A phreatic event consists of steam and ash output without magma.


During the first week in April the Red boys also noted the lake inside the crater had increased in temperature by 3 degrees celsius or almost 6F. Then the next week there was a stronger eruption and the lake temp had gone up 5 more degrees , reaching more than 40ºC or 104ºF (it's highly acidic so you wouldn't want to swim there at any temperature). On the 13th there were too stronger phreatic eruptions of eight minutes each in duration.


Check out that unusual and striking photo to the left that caught, in one photo, both Poas and Turrialba throwing off phreatic plumes. It was taken one morning by a helicopter flying above the low-hanging clouds. Nifty photo amigo.


Check Out Recent Earthquakes Around the World Posted by the U.S. Geodetic Survey: Today's Quakes

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¿Que es Eso? Department (What is That?)




Oh sure, it's an eggstand all right, but what's unusual about it?

Waddayamean an Eggstand, what the hell is that?


(Answer in What's-in-a-Word section below)








History of Colombia - Part 2
(The Columbian Period, Spanish Occupation)

This is the second part of a three part series about Colombia and Cartagena. To read the first part go here: History of Colombia - Part I, Pre-Columbian Period.

Alonso de Ojeda
Cristóbal Colón - Chris, the Curls are Awesome

The first Spanish "conquistador" to arrive in Colombia was Alonso de Ojeda who briefly landed on the Guajira Peninsula, north of Cartagena in 1499. Al didn't conquist long enough to name the place but probably had enough time to plant a flag in the sand in the name of the Spanish monarchy as was customary in those times among los conquistadors.


The country would eventually be named after Christopher Columbus (in Italian it's Cristoforo Colombo and in Spanish it's Cristóbal Colón). Remember there is a difference in spelling in English between the explorer (Columbus) and the country (Colombia). Somewhere along the way the English conversion of Colombo was spelled as Columbus with a "u". This spelling has been extensively replicated in North America (like in Columbia, South Carolina; Columbia University; British Columbia; District of Columbia etc.).


So Colombia remains the correct spelling of the country reflecting the name of the explorer Colombo who is called Columbus in English. Now that I've made that trivia perfectly clear...


In 1502, Columbus sailed the ocean blue for his last time and went all the way down the Central American coast to northern Panama. He set up a garrison at the mouth of the Rio Belen (X on the map left) and deposited his little brother Bartolomeo there to start the first settlement, which he named Santa Maria de Belen.


Then, a year later in 1503, Bart decided to temporarily leave the garrison and ended up stranded in Jamaica. Local Amerindians took advantage of his absence and chased the remainder of the Spanish troops away from the garrison all the way to the shore. They were eventually rescued from the beach but the settlement at Rio Belen was no more. It would return later, in 1519, as another settlement somewhat to the east that would eventually become Ciudad de Panamá or Panama City.


Leif Erikson in Vinland
(Gotta Believe That Outfit Would Scare the Locals)

Thus began the conquest of the American Continent by the Spanish more than 100 years before the English would establish their first settlement in the American continent in Jamestown, Virginia. It would also predate the Puritan settlement at Plymouth Rock by more than 115 years. Of course, eventually, it would be discovered that a Norwegian who was probably born in Iceland, one Leif Erikson, was the first "European" to land on the American Continent at what he called "Vinland" which, in all probability, was in the Gulf of Saint Lawrence, Newfoundland. He landed there around the year 1,000.


Vasco Núñez de Balboa

In 1508, a party of conquistadors led by Vasco Núñez de Balboa established the first permanent settlement on the American Continent at Santa María la Antigua del Darién in the area that is the conjunction of modern Panama and Colombia and near the Gulf of Urabá (refer to map above). Balboa had come from his base on Hispaniola, which is the modern island of Haiti/Dominican Republic and where Columbus originally landed. To establish Spanish rule, Diego de Nicuesa was installed and became the first Castillian Governor of Darien.


Balboa was one of the more important figures of his time and displayed a high energy in his explorations. Along with another famous conquistador, Francisco Pizzarro, he crossed the Panama isthmus on land and discovered a new (at least to Europeans) body of water called the Pacific Ocean. In humble conquistador form, Balboa claimed the whole ocean and the lands attached to it for the Spanish crown. Pizzaro satisfied his ego by going on later to conquer Peru.


Shortly after Columbus' first voyage, the Spanish had come to an agreement with Portugal (treaty of Tordesillas in 1494) to divide the new world between the two Iberian countries and in 1500 the Portugese conquistador, Pedro Álvares Cabral landed on the shore of what is now Brazil and claimed it for the Portuguese crown. All the rest of the territories, except for Brazil, were for the taking and the Spanish did just that.


Clock Tower of the Old City of Cartagena
Modern Cartagena in the Background

In 1525, a permanent settlement in Colombia happened at Santa Marta (see map above) and was founded by conquistador Rodrigo de Bastidas. It is currently the oldest surviving city in Colombia. In 1531, the Spanish landed in Peru and encountered the greatest and richest Amerindian culture and empire in the new world, the Incas.


Then in 1533 Cartagena was founded by Pedro de Heredia (he was not from the Heredia near San José, but from the Heredia in Spain) The closest English meaning of heredia is "to inherit" and Pedro had plenty of that in his family. Of course, the Catholic Church, particularly the Jesuits, was also an integral part of this colonization and at one time actually charged the Indians for instruction in religion.


In 1538, another conquistador by the name of Gonzalo Jiménez de Quesada took an expedition into the heart of Colombia in the hope of finding a land route to Lima which had become the defacto capital of Spanish South America because of it's riches. He never found a good route but on the way he established Santa Fe de Bogotá (called Bacatá by the indigenous) and he also suggested the whole area including modern Colombia, Venezuela and surrounding territories like Panama be renamed New Granada. Although Panama is considered a Central American country today, it was a part of, and subservient to, Colombia for a long time.


For the next one hundred and fifty years or so, up until the early 1800's, the Spanish consolidated their control over their South America empire. During this time society stratified into several classes. On top were the "peninsulares" or persons of Spanish descent born in Spain. Next were the "criollos", persons of Spanish descent born in the colonies; then came the "mestizos", persons of mixed Spanish and Indian descent who were relegated to low-prestige positions. Lastly came the indians (Amerindians) who were relegated to working the fields and gold mines and when their numbers had dwindled from overwork, were supplanted by slaves from the Caribbean and Africa and who were imported by the peninsulares.


Viceroyalty of New Granada
Bogotá Coat of Arms

In 1717, to recognize the importance of the territory that had prospered, the Spanish crown conferred the title "Viceroyalty of New Granada" to a region composed of the countries of Colombia, Ecuador, Panama, and Venezuela, all of which previously had carried the title "Audiences" and had been individually subservient to the Viceroyalty of Peru. The Viceroyalty of New Granada was based in Bogotá. After that, Spain governed its American colonies up until the early 1800's by way of three Viceroyalties: New Granada, New Spain (based in Mexico City and including the Caribbean countries) and Lima, Peru that spanned the rest of Spanish South America.


By the early 1800's, after almost 300 years of Spanish occupation, the relations between the Spanish Crown and the Spanish colonies had become strained. In many cases the crown tried to alleviate or lessen the rough treatment of the indigenous peoples but the locals saw them as interfering with their hard lifestyle and management authority while extracting from them much of their wealth in the form of gold, precious stones and various products of trade. By 1800 there were strong tensions between the Spanish colonies and the crown.


In 1783 a Creole-Spanish nobleman was born in Caracas, Venezuela, a man who would change much of the Spanish world as it was known then. His name was officially Simón José Antonio de la Santísima Trinidad Bolívar y Palacios (1783-1830) but is now better known as Simón Bolivar. At the age of sixteen (1899 or 1900) Simón was off to Europe to get a proper nobleman's education, first in Spain and then in France. Had the Spanish crown realized how much Bolivar would embrace the then rebellious mood in Europe, they probably would have tried to stop him. He absorbed what he thought was best from the intellectuals of that time including Montesquieu and Rousseau and became dedicated to reason, freedom and progress as a political philosophy. He would later describe liberty as "the only object worth the sacrifice of a man's life" (shades of Patrick Henry amigo).


"When Tyranny Is Made Law, Rebellion Is a Right"

The fact that the 1700's in Europe were the "Age of Enlightenment" (also called the Age of Reason or the Century of Philosophy) did not go unnoticed in the Americas. Monarchies were rapidly losing favor because of their harsh policies towards their colonies, policies which many came to believe were tyrannical.


Europe and it's colonies were awash with "...a range of ideas centered on reason as the primary source of authority and legitimacy, and came to advance ideals like liberty, progress, tolerance, fraternity, constitutional government and the separation of church and state".


How dare they, thought the monarchies. In North America it all came to a head with the U.S. Declaration of Independence in 1776 and the subsequent successful war of independence. Bolivar took note; he also took note that the successful rebellion against England ended in producing the United States.


In 1808 Bolivar was a twenty five year old soldier when the Peninsula War broke out in Europe, a seven year conflict for control of the Iberian peninsula between Spain, Britain and Portugal on one side and Napoleon's France on the other. Bolivar took advantage of Spain's preoccupation with that war to rouse the Criollo population in New Granada for independence and began his campaign. Then he created a national congress in less than three years. During this period Spain eventually sent a large force to take New Granada back but the revolutionaries prevailed. The final battle in 1821 (Battle of Carabobo) sealed the fate of the dissolution of the Spanish empire, achieving individual independence for the countries of New Granada.


Once Bolivar had accomplished independence from Spain, the other viceroyalties also declared independence from Spain in a fairly short period of time. The American colonies of North (including Mexico), Central and South America were now free and independent states.


Bolivar would go down in history as El Libertador (the liberator) and would have many things in Latin America named after him including the currency of Colombia and that all important honor, the central plaza of Quepos, now known as Plaza Bolivar.


Next month: History of Colombia, Part 3, The Modern Era


¡Pura Vida!

The Marimba
(The National Instrument of Costa Rica)

Every country gets around to designating national examples of its culture such as flags, anthems, flowers, birds etc. Costa Rica is no exception.


Ticoland has all of those things and more: a national flag (Independencia), national anthem (Noble Patria), a beautiful orchid national flower (Guaria Morada) and a national bird (Yagüirro or Clay-Colored Robin - shown left).


The country also has a designated national musical instrument, the Marimba. This is one instrument you'll hear played anywhere and everywhere in Costa Rica and is widely used across Latin America and the Caribbean.


The origin of the Marimba is a bit foggy as it was reported in use in both Asia and Africa many, many centuries ago. Why not, it's basically a concoction of natural materials available anywhere there are good hardwoods. It is believed that the instrument was brought to the Americas in the 16th Century by African slaves imported by the Spanish. Scholars tell us the Marimba was first introduced to Costa Rica in the 1700's while under Spanish rule and that the instrument was brought here from Guatemala (which by the way, also designates the Marimba as their national instrument) by Franciscan priests.


A Marimba

A Marimba is basically a percussion instrument like a xylophone in which the keys are made out of a hardwood. Most often the material used is rosewood, a richly hued, grainy dark brown wood (photo below). It is often known as Brazilian Rosewood, but sometimes as Bahia Rosewood. It has a strong sweet smell, which persists for many years, explaining its name.


Several species of rosewood trees are prevalent throughout Central and South America. The prevalent scientific specie in Costa Rica is Dalbergia. The wood is prized for use in guitars (fret-boards for both acoustical and electric), marimbas, recorders (woodwinds), billiard cues, fountain pens, chess sets, handles, furniture, and luxury flooring. It's richness is so attractive that it has been over-exploited and is on the endangered species list in many areas. 


hyuThe bars or keys of rosewood are polished and set on a frame like piano keys. Note in the photo above that tubes of varying length (called resonators) are hung below the keys and this produces the distinct pitch of each note. The tubes are usually made of aluminum (I can imagine them using bamboo in the early days when aluminum was not available) and, particularly in Mexico and Central America, have a hole at the bottom of each tube covered with pigskin. This produces a characteristic “buzzing” or “rattling” sound known as charleo.

The mallets used with Marimbas tend to be a bit stiffer than those used for standard xylophones. Wrapped mallets are commonly used on Marimbas to avoid damage to the keys and may be made of kelon (a mineral composite with nylon), rubber, nylon, acrylic or other medium-hard materials wrapped in softer materials like yarn, cord or latex. A single Marimba might be used with one, two or three different Marimba players or more than one instrument may be assembled together with separate players.


Marimbas have sometimes been included in large orchestras and have even performed in Carnegie Hall. There once was a gentleman, a native of Pennsylvania, named Clair Omar Musser who fell in love with the xylophone as a boy and then later, the Marimba. He wrote symphonic music that included the Marimba and in 1935 he was invited to bring his 100-piece orchestra, that included a Marimba, to perform in Carnegie Hall. No less than the New York Times reviewed the performance this way: "The perfection and intonation of the ensemble, its rich sonority and the uniqueness of the effects gave last night's concert exceptional distinction." You can credit the Marimba for a lot of that "rich sonority". Musser died in 1998 at the age of ninety-seven.

Marimba at Quepos Bus Station (3 mins)

But one on the best things about the Marimba is that it is truly a folk instrument. You're apt to find them at any time, anywhere in Costa Rica whether you're walking the streets of San José, negotiating a mall or passing through a small community on a country road.


Take a look at the Marimba, depicted in the video to the left that, one day, out of the blue, was being played at the Quepos bus station next to Plaza Bolivar. My guess is the occasion was Costa Rican Independence Day (September 15) because of all the flags and banners. Also, it's not uncommon to see two or three Marimbas lined up side by side for a festival. In this case there are two, side by side, being played by two chicos.


And Marimbas are virtually omnipresent at festivals of every kind (need I say again that there is a festival of some kind virtually every week in Costa Rica?). GG is compiling a national list of festivals in Costa Rica and will share the file with readers when it's available.


The Marimba was designated as the Costa Rican National Instrument in 1996. The organization of a national Marimba festival has been in the works since then and a different location of the festival is selected each year, often ending up in Guanacaste or Limón provinces where the tradition is strongest.


So, lisen up mon, da moosic is tuanis!


¡Pura Vida!


Health Stuff

Note: The information given in this section is offered as news information only and does not indicate GGC confirmation or denial of the accuracy of the treatment or a recommendation to pursue it, nor can we or do we guarantee the efficacy of the results nor validity of the conclusions proffered.
(How's that for a disclaimer, amigos?)


Yellow Fever

kioIn planning the visit to Cartagena, we turned up an interesting tidbit which, if ignored, could have made it difficult. Evidently Costa Rica requires a certificate for Yellow Fever if you're entering the country from certain other countries, like Colombia for example. Furthermore, the certificate must be dated at least 10 days prior to your arrival in Costa Rica. Duh, that's nice to know when your trip is planned for only four days.


The map to the right shows the areas of Colombia that are considered places that are susceptible to yellow fever virus. The dark yellow regions are deemed the most susceptible areas and, as you can see, that is pretty much the entire country except for the central mountain spine and the islands captured in the box top left.


The islands highlighted in that box are called San Andres and are in fact much closer to the mainland of Nicaragua than to Colombia. Back in the days when GG had to leave the country every 90 days to get an updated visa, I took a four day jaunt to this island (45 min flight from San José to San Andres).


San Andres is an absolute gem of an atoll floating in crystal clear water in the eastern Caribbean Sea. The fact that it is much closer to Nicaragua than Colombia (see map left) has not been lost on the Nicas but I did notice a sizeable Colombian military attachment stationed on the island which I presume is to discourage the Nicas from any misadventure. (Not a bad duty for a military dude to draw).


You Are What You Eat



How many times have we heard that phrase in our lives? Not enough times for GG, evidently. The phrase is reported to have come from a weighty tome published by Anthelme Brillat-Savarin in 1826 called Physiologie du Gout, ou Meditations de Gastronomie Transcendante. Methinks only a Frenchman would write a book called Physiology of Taste, or Transcendental Meditations on Gastronomy.


We old farts, er...excuse me, maturing intellectuals, find a need to change our lives in a number of ways as we grow older. The onset of memory loss is an indication of approaching senility or even Alzheimer's. I feel particularly sensitive to this issue because I had a brother die of early-onset Alzheimer's in his late fifties and I learned a few months ago that my sister (who is six years older), the only sibling of six of us left besides me, is entering into advanced stages of the Big A. With a predisposition for Alzheimer's in the family, I decided to seek out possible remedies to avoid or reverse this debilitating process.


Ayahuasca Vine - Left
(The Dude on the Right is Not a Vine)

First I looked at the pills (there's always a pill for everything) but I read in a few places where they are only partially effective and come with side effects like most drugs. Then I found things like Ayahuasca, an Amazonian vine (banisteriopsis caapi) that reportedly helps retard diabetes and also senility but is actually a psychotropic and hallucinogenic and has been used as such, ritualistically, by native peoples for centuries. But does it really help those conditions that it is reported to ease or is it the case that once you're in its spell you just don't give a damn if you have them or not? This stuff is not for me.


So then a good friend of mine, knowing my interest and plight sends me an article that finally connected all the dots. In the article, a psychologist/nutritionist suggests that the problem is caused by insulin resistance which, in turn, is a result of eating too many carbs. Shades of Dr. Atkins! It so happens GG has experience with low-carb diets having read Dr. Atkins book about 15 years ago and practiced it for seven months, losing a total of 68 pounds and feeling more energetic than ever.


Since I've been in Costa Rica, GG has been careless about diet, opting for the easy life. So I just made a commitment to try a reduced carb diet, and I'm working down the (considerable) inventory of carbs I now see in my pantry. I'll report back in three months (if I can remember that I promised to do so, yuk,yuk).


If you're interested in this topic and would like to see the article, go here:


Article on Carbs vs Alzheimer's (That's not GG in the header picture on this article)


¡Solo Bueno!



Travel Quote of the Month


A person needs at intervals to separate from family and companions and go to new places. One must go without familiars in order to be open to influences, to change. – Anonymous



Answer to Que Es Eso


What's unusual (at least to gringos) is that all those eggs sit out in the open, unrefrigerated in the heat of a Costa Rican day although there is a roof for shade.


It is reported that most countries don't refrigerate their eggs. The refrigeration of eggs is a practice most favored in the United States and Australia. I didn't know that before moving to Costa Rica and It was surprising to me when I first saw eggs laid out on a table in the middle of a supermarket rather than in a refrigerated case.


Biologists tell us that eggs have a protective coating on them received directly from the hen that inhibits salmonella from penetrating the shell. Washing, done by the egg producers, a favored practice in the U.S. and Australia, removes the protective coating and makes them more susceptible to the salmonella. Of course, it still may be a good practice to wash the eggs when you get them home, or just before using. And I always put them in the fridge afterward.




Belen is Spanish for Bethlehem, as in the birth place of Jesus. So the name of the first settlement on the American Continent, Santa Maria de Belen was Saint Mary of Bethlehem, The Spanish "santa" can be used interchangeably as "saint" or "holy".



ROMEO Corner
(Retired Old Men Eating Out)

Selina's - Manuel Antonio


Location: Top of Manuel Antonio, across the street from El Avion Restaurant (the airplane)
Hours: Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner
Parking: Ample in front of the restaurant. It's also a bus stop
Contact: http://www.selina.com/contact-us/

Reviewing ROMEOS: Alma L., Anita M., Bob N., Lance M., Lucius H., Mary M., Nick S.

To Review Our Rating System and Procedure, go here: R.O.M.E.O. Rating System


juiSelina's is a chain of hostels currently having six locations in Costa Rica (San José, Manuel Antonio, Jacó, Tamarindo, Santa Teresa and Puerto Viejo). There are also four in Panama and two in Colombia with another dozen or so locations planned or abuilding from Colombia to Mexico.


The building housing Selina's restaurant in Manuel Antonio formerly was the home of another restaurant, the Gato Negro but it has been renovated. The operation is now also the restaurant that services the hostel which was the old hotel that was also part of Gato Negro.(Casitas Eclipse).


A couple of we older dudes noticed that the winding stairway leading from the street to the second floor restaurant was void of handrails. Naughty, naughty; we're not all 20 years old or have good knees.


Because of the nature of the place (hostel) we half expected it to be geared toward a younger crowd and we were not disappointed in that regard. Music was blaring on several loudspeakers spread about the place and we tried to find a quiet table but in the end we settled for a manager who toned down the sound slightly. The tables are rough-hewn wood and not adorned with anything except utensils. Very basic. Surprisingly, the lighting was above average to make reading the menus easier.


Our composite score for ambiance/atmosphere was 2.7 out of 5 sloths possible.


The menu is simple and short and leans toward vegan but includes a couple of meat dishes and the always venerable hamburger.


GG had a shredded Asian salad composed of raw, unripe papaya and mango with some kind of chopped, leafy vegetable that may have been culantro. The vegan mixture was lightly bathed in a delicate sauce which was slightly picant. Excellent (and low-carb for GG).


Others reported that the burgers were good and the chicken dishes also got favorable ratings.


Desserts offered included a chocolate ganache with vanilla ice cream and a dash of caramel, or a banana nut cake with ice cream or fresh fruit with a cream sauce. I can personally vouch for the yumminess of the chocolate ganache (not low-carb).


The ROMEOs gave a composite score of 3.6 for food quality.

Value Index = 110


Service was friendly and helpful even if the delivery of the meals was a little spread out in time. There was also a bit of confusion at the caja when we asked for separate checks which we resolved by going individually to the lady operating the cash register to confirm what we had and hadn't had (no reprimands from the English teachers out there please). The composite score for service came in at 3.6, resulting in a composite score for ambiance, food quality and service of 3.3 sloths.


The good news came with the checks. For my Asian salad, chocolate ganache and one soft drink, the bill came to 7,500 colones (about $13.45) including the obligatory 10% gratuity and 13% sales tax. The composite score from the ROMEOs for cost was a low (for Manuel Antonio) of 3.0$ yielding a Value Index of 3.3/3.0x100 = 110 which puts Selina's in the middle of our value ratings for area restaurants.


Comments heard from the ROMEOs: "Music too loud", "Overpriced for what you get", "For the younger Crowd".


Summary: If you don't mind a typically loud restaurant and the basic atmosphere of a hostel, the ROMEOs can recommend Selina's for a good and light meal at a reasonable price.

Golden Gringo Chronicles Novel and E-Books Now Available!

GGC Book CoverThe story of the Golden Gringo Chronicles is also available as a hard copy novel of 192 pages available through Amazon and all major online retailers. ($9.95)

Amazon link: GGC, the Book. (Kindle Edition available)

Follow GG through the first six years of his odyssey in making the decision to retire in Costa Rica, overcoming the trials and tribulations of moving and obtaining residency there and the fun and experience of actually living in Ticoland.

Ride along with the Golden Gringo as he learns about the rich, varied culture of Costa Rica, the incredible bio diversity, the charming nature of the Costa Rican people and the ease with which a sometimes clueless ex-pat can assimilate into a small southwestern town on the Pacific coast.

Whether you are already a Costa Rican resident, someone contemplating a move here or just a traveler who enjoys different cultures, you will find the Golden Gringo Chronicles interesting, entertaining and informative about Costa Rica.


Part 1-150 Part 2-150 Part 3 Light

A narrative version of the Golden Gringo Chronicles is now also available as a trilogy of E-books in formats compatible with virtually all electronic platforms.

Part 1: (FREE!)
Leaving the Homeland

Part 2: ($3.99)
The Early Years

Part 3: ($3.99)
Becoming Tico, Maybe

Click on Part Number above for E-book sample downloads or click the price above right for purchase. (The best price is on Part 1; it's FREE)

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or Email me at gg@goldengringo.com, and see our Website at: www.goldengringo.com

Bob Normand, Editor
& The Golden Gringo

Pura Vida!

To Contact GGC World Headquarters (yuk, yuk) to make comments, suggest topics or criticize my bad jokes, just send an email to:gg@goldengringo.com.

Be pithy but kind; I'm sensitive.





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