Culture

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Have you ever eaten a flower before? (No, I’m not talking about the couple of dandelions that you may have swallowed as a child) Well we just had some for lunch!

Here in Costa Rica, a white flower that grows on the Itabo tree (shown in the large photo) is now in bloom, and, on many street corners and country roads, one can see vendors selling bunches of these. Known as “The Flower of the Dead” in Nicaragua, this flower is a regular meal here in Costa Rica.

Our friend Mayra had us get some from the property of CINCEL in order to make what is shown in the inset picture. The green, bitter part is removed, and then the flower is boiled with potatoes before frying with eggs, onions, some pepper, and salt to taste. The resulting mixture is then placed over tortillas in order to make a delicious “gallo”, or snack served over a corn tortilla.

Reactions were mixed here in the household. I enjoyed the meal, eating four of the gallos de itabo. Kelly and Rebekah as well commented that the food was delicious. Jonathan ate all of his, without asking for seconds and Joseph had to be told to finish. All in all, I would rate it a success but designed for more mature taste buds.

Interested in seeing some other interesting dishes? Head on over to missionary-blogs.com to take a look at The Kautz Family Blog’s enty: “La-la-la Lengua

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There is a saying in Costa Rica that reads, “Lunes ni las gallinas ponen”, which means On Mondays, not even the hens are laying. We certainly can relate to Mondays in that way. With all of the activities and projects, it sometimes seems like we need another weekend in order to rest from our weekend. For this reason, it is important to start off with a good breakfast to get our energy going, and on days like today, Costa Rica’s national holiday of Labor Day, we have the time to prepare it.

For starters:
Of course, no breakfast is complete without a good cup of coffee, but how to prepare it? Prepare it Costa Rican style, café chorreado. First, you need a chorreador, the coffe maker pictured in this post, which essentially is a cloth bag suspended by one of a various arry of wooden frames. I picked up what I thought was a fairly attractive one for about $12. The coffee, ground fairly fine, is placed in the wet bag at the desired strength. (I prefer 2 tbls. per 6 oz. of water.) Then, water, just off of the boil, is poured over the grounds slowly, so as to create a stream, or “chorro” from the bag into the cup. The result is a fine brew that allows the natural oils of the coffee to pass through to the cup. And although many Ticos have switched to the “coffee maker” because of convenience, the choreador is still the most repected way to make coffee.

The main course:
OK, the coffee is taken care of, but what to eat? Gallo Pinto of course! The traditional breakfast food of Costa Rica, Gallo Pinto consists of beans, (normally black) and rice to which is added cilantro, bell peppers, onions, and the top secret ingredient, Salsa Lizano. A truly Tico flavoring that gives gallo pinto it’s charateristic taste. Added to this is usually eggs, the tomato for color, and in this picture, some Mexican chorizo or spicy sausage. We added it to give the meal some Mexican zing. (We are missionaries to Mexico.)

So there you have it, a good Monday morning pic me up. Sorry that this came on Tuesday for those of you who are subscribing via email.

I was working in the kitchen by the window that overlooks the cul-de-sac between CINCEL and our house, when I saw an ambulance arrive. Concerned that there might be some kind of injury in our park or some kind of emergency, I watched as it came to a stop outside our gate. However, imagine my surprise, when the door opened to reveal teenagers passing out phonebooks.

Yes, things are different here in San Jose than in the U.S. Some other differences include:

  • You have to ask for the bill here in any restaurant. If you don’t, you could be waiting for it the entire night.
  • It is extremely impolite to throw anything. If you need to pass something to someone, you need to hand it to them or have another person pass that object.
  • There are no area codes in Costa Rica. All phone calls to every part of the country are local calls.

I’ll add more to this list as differences come to mind.

Coffee is more than a morning beverage here in Costa Rica. It is the product that transformed this country into what it is today. In the 1800s when coffee was first brought to Costa Rica, this country was a small, remote, unimportant part of the Spanish Empire. But when coffee was introduced, the people found that the product flourished in the rich volcanic soil and high altitudes that were readily available.

The superior product soon created a demand, and the Costa Rican government, wanting to speed production, provided incentives for farmers to begin to cultivate coffee. Not only did this bring about the Costa Rican coffee industry that is know world-wide today, but it also created a strong, independent middle-class that has hosted the 2nd oldest democracy on the continent. (US has the oldest.) For Costa Rica, coffee truly is the “bean of gold.”

The students and faculty of CINCEL recently took a trip to Britt, one of the most recognized producers of coffee here in Costa Rica, in order to gain a bit more appreciation for this wonderful drink that has played a large role in the shaping the Costa Rican culture.

Click on the picture to the left, or here to view the photos of the tour.

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The Feria

Where can you get fruits and vegetables unbelievably cheap and fresh, feed the entire family breakfast for less than $9.00, and get a lession in culture at the same time? The supermarket? No, you need to go to the feria.

Each Saturday and Sunday in Plaza Viques in Central San Jose, and in Zapote, east of San Jose there are ferias, or open air markets, where you can take in the sights and the sounds of the everyday life of the Tico people.
There are farmers selling everything from ajo (garlic) to zanahorias (carrots), chanceros selling lottery tickets to the passersby, and artisans selling handmade jewelry. You can hear vendors yelling prices and people catching up on the latest news and opinions of day in the various stalls along the avenues. Among all of this is the smell of typical Costa Rican food like gallo pinto(beans and rice) and of course coffee! (Unfortunately the booth we stopped at only sold coffee with sugar.) All of the produce that is grown in the country can be bought at the feria.

We had the opportunity to drive to the feria this weekend with the kids and take much of what it had to offer. We came away with full stomachs, great strawberries, watermelon, and carrots, money left to spare, and a new perspective of life here in Costa Rica.

The 10th Annual Festival of the Lights was held in downtown San Jose this past Saturday. Knowing that this was an event that families travel from miles around in order to see, we felt it worth 15 minute trip to experience, and wow, what an experience!

By the time that we made it to our spot, about 15 minutes before the 6:00 start time, both sides of the street were packed. We had to pick our way through the crowd in order to find a spot to stand. Few were available but we were able to fall into line with some very gracious families. In, fact. One group gave Rebekah a front row seat while others helped us by giving us water and catching candy for Jonathan and Joseph. We had planned to sit with another missionary family, but we were unable to find them. The funny thing is that we found out later that we were probably only a matter of yards from them, but unable to reach them through the sea of people

The parade started promptly on time, around 6:45, and after one group filed by, it ground to a halt. It stayed that way for another half hour as a generator had to be replaced in one of the floats. After the repairs, the parade started rolling, and it was a sight to behold. I’ve added some pictures in order to convey the idea. Unfortunately, our camera doesn’t do the best in the dark. Still, click here or on the picture in this post to view the shots we were able to capture.

We made it back to our apartment around 9:30 exhausted, sore, and ready for bed, but certainly enriched by the experience that we had standing shoulder to shoulder sharing a moment with the culture to which God has called us!

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Words cannot describe the frenzy that I experienced as I attended what some would call the premiere Latin cultural event, a futbol (soccer) game. Some of the men from CINCEL hopped aboard the school bus in order to witness the championship game between Olimpia of Honduras and La Liga of Alajuela, Costa Rica.

Futbol in Latin America has no real equivalent in the US. There are baseball fans, there are football fans, but here they have fanatics! I had trouble getting a good shot, as it was nighttime, but the group of “fanaticos” in the picture were truly a sight to behold. Things got started as a flurry of fireworks erupted from the stands. Firecrackers, bottle rockets and sparklers exploded and flashed as the area was literally covered in a plume of smoke. Then the jumping began. The Ligistas jumped for 1 hour and 30 minutes singing and clapping their hands, only stopping to try to pick a fight with the contingent of Hondurans that attended the match. It mattered not that La Liga was putting on a subpar performance in front of them.

The game ended with Olimpia beating the Alajuelans 1-0, but because of a game with the opposite score in Honduras the week before, the series needed to be decided by penales, or penalty shots. As the final kick of the Ligistas entered the goal, sealing the victory, the staduim erupted into a deafening roar. With the game, the fans, the police in riot gear, and the smell of pepper spray in the air, it was truly a night to remember.

There is no word for Thanksgiving in Spanish and no holiday either. So while most of the people in the US have the day off, for the people of San Jose, today was business as usual. The Gringos among them were celebrating though. We’re planning for a holiday complete with the turkey, the cranberries, the dressing, and, of course the running.

Here is a shot of field of the Inaugural San Jose Turkey Trot, 3.5 miler. We even had a total crowd of spectators of 5! Not a bad turnout if I say so myself.

There are more pictures of the run, along with shots of all of the festivities available by clicking here or on the picture to the right.

How do you drive in Costa Rica, referred to as Ticoland by the nationals? You get a license of course!

Pictured to the left is Dave’s new “Tico License.” He spent the afternoon following classes this Friday getting his medical examination as well as standing in line to purchase his license.

The “vigorous” exam, administered by a chain-smoking doctor, consisted of about 4 medical questions, most answered by the doctor, some gym class style calesthenics, and an eye exam. After another hour of standing in line following the exam, Dave became licensed to drive anything from a small car to a large truck here in Costa Rica.

Not that he has plans to do much driving. Cars here in Costa Rica are expensive, and the purchase of a vehicle takes time and lots of money. Costa Rica imposes an additional 37% tax on all car purchases. Most Ticos use public transportation including the numerous taxis and public buses, but the license will provide a necessary form of identification as well as provide discouts throughout Costa Rica.

Here in Costa Rica, September 15th is the day that the Ticos celebrate their independence from Spain. The festivities began last night with the singing of the national anthem at 6:00 in the evening. Today, a day off for most Costa Ricans, the celebration continues with a parade and other activties to mark the event.

We thought you might like to experience a bit of Costa Rica for yourself so we have included this short video clip of a trip to the Plaza de la Cultura, located in central San Jose. These guitarists play most days in the plaza. If you take a close look, you might notice that they are all blind.

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