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(506) 2223-1327         Published Friday, March 28, 2008, in Vol. 8, No. 62            E-mail us
Jo Stuart
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And rainy season is coming early
Weather experts predict another wet year in 2008
By José Pablo Ramírez Vindas
and the A.M. Costa Rica staff

2008 will be another wet year with rainfall from 15 to 30 percent above normal in some sections of the country. In addition, the nation will be at the mercy of the backlash from seven hurricanes and six tropical storms.

That's the official prediction of the Instituto Meteorológico Nacional, which also says that the rainy season will arrive about two weeks early because of the La Niña weather phenomenon in the Pacific.

According to Wagner Stolz, forecasting chief of the weather institute, the usually drier north Pacific coast in Guanacaste will see 30 percent more rain than normal this year, an estimated 590 mm., about 23 inches more.

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The rainy central Pacific coast will live up to its reputation with rainfall 25 percent more than normal, said Stolz. The estimated extra downfall will be 900 mm. or about 35 inches greater than normal.

Rainfall for the southern Pacific is predicted to be about 15 percent above normal at an estimated 550 mm. or 21 inches above normal.

The average rainfall is based on accumulations of the last 30 to 40 years, said the weather institute.

In the Central Valley, including San José, Alajuela, Heredia and Cartago, the prediction is for about 20 percent more rain or some 550 mm. (21 inches) of extra rain.  Stolz noted that 2007 was a wet year, too, with rainfall accumulations higher than normal.

The Caribbean coast and the northern zone are expected to have about a normal or slightly above normal amount of rainfall. This is the area that is suffering now from an unexpected dry spell. In January the areas were 30 percent below normal and in February they were 40 percent below normal, said the weather institute. Both areas usually get more rain during the periods from December to April when the rest of the country experiences the so-called dry season.

However, it is not the extra rain that is worrying emergency commission officials. Daniel Gallardo, the nation's emergency chief, said that the biggest problem in the metropolitan area is the accumulation of trash and garbage in drainage ditches, streams and rivers. He predicted flooding when the first heavy rains come because the drainage system will be blocked.

The Comisión Nacional de Prevención de Riesgos y Atención de Emergencias is the primary respondent when flooding takes place. At one time last year 80 percent of the country was under emergencies. There are 380 local emergency committees and some 90 warehouses around the country where food, water and other emergency needs are being stockpiled.

Flooding and other rain-related problems cost the country nearly $90 million last year, according to Gallardo. In addition, some 200 bridges were damaged and 135 collapsed because of raging waters, he said. Major work is being carried out in Parrita, Filadelfia, Corredores, Desamparados, Aserrí and Heredia.

Emergency workers were kept busy last year. In October two consecutive weeks of torrential downpour resulted in widespread flooding in parts of the Guanacaste and Puntarenas provinces. 18 people were killed and more than 3,000 were evacuated. In Parrita Centro, the town was flooded after a dike burst. Water flooded some 1,500 homes and evicted perhaps 2,000 persons 
Predicted date for start of rainy season*
in 2008
North Pacific
April 26-30
May 16-20
Central Valley
April 16-20
May 6-10
Central Pacific
April 16-20
April 26-30
South Pacific
Feb. 15-19
March 22-26
April 16-20

*Source: Instituto Meteorológico Nacional
rainfall predictions
 Predicted percentage of rain above normal

in that central Pacific community. A week later the rains hit with a vengeance in Guanacaste.

The biggest single loss of life was in Barrio Fátima de Acosta in Atenas where 14 persons were entombed by a landslide Oct. 11.

Hurricanes never hit Costa Rica directly, but the nation has suffered heavy damage from the influences of Atlantic hurricanes. The heavy rains in October came from strong low pressure areas that parked themselves over México. The rains in Costa Rica were heavier than those spawned by Hurricane Felix, which came ashore Sept. 4 as a category 5 storm on the border between Nicaragua and Honduras. However, Felix and other earlier storms did saturate the ground and were precursors to the disasters of October.

The weather institute's estimate of seven hurricanes and six other storms is in line with predictions by the Tropical Meteorology Project at Colorado State University in the United States.

The report marks the 25th year of the university hurricane forecasting team, currently led by Phil Klotzbach and William Gray.

The team's first extended-range forecast for the 2008 hurricane season from June 1 to Nov. 30 anticipates 13 named storms forming in the Atlantic basin between June 1 and Nov. 30. Seven of the 13 storms are predicted to become hurricanes, and of those seven, three are expected to develop into intense or major hurricanes with sustained winds of 111 mph or greater.

This year's prediction, issued in December, is based on a new statistical forecast technique that explains a considerable amount of hurricane variability from 1950-2007. Over this time period, the university correctly forecast above- or below-average seasons in 45 out of 58 years.

The entire 28-page forecast report is available on the Web at The next update is scheduled for April 8.

"Despite fairly inactive 2006 and 2007 hurricane seasons, we believe that the Atlantic basin is still in an active hurricane cycle," Gray said. "This active cycle is expected to continue at least for another decade or two. After that, we're likely to enter a quieter Atlantic major hurricane period like we experienced during the quarter-century periods of 1970-1994 and 1901-1925."

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Robber who mocked justice
could be back in country

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A man who said robbing in Costa Rica was a joke, could be back in the country, according to the immigration police.

Álvaro Castiblanco Hernández, was arrested for robbing tourists and deported back to Colombia twice already. Earlier in the week someone reported seeing Castiblanco in downtown San José, said an officer at the Policía Especial de Migración Thursday. The Fuerzá Pública notified the Policia de Migración, of the report, said the immigration police officer. “As of now it is really just rumors,” said the immigration police officer. He added that police units had been notified to keep a look out.

When arrested for the second time in February, Castiblanco bragged to immigration officials that he returned illegally to Costa Rica to rob more tourists and that he would enter a third time with no problems. Castiblanco said he had traveled the world robbing people. “Out of all the countries he had been, he said Costa Rica was the easiest,” said Francisco Castaing, the chief of Policía Especial de Migración.

Boy, 8, remains missing
in strange Naranjo case

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Investigators still are searching for clues in the disappearance of an 8-year old boy in San Ramón, said the city's judicial director.

The boy, Winston Esteban Vargas, is still missing and it has been two weeks now, according to the Judicial Investigation Organization. The boy disappeared at a recess break at his school in Naranjo the morning of March 18, said Eladio Torres Mesén, a Fuerza Pública director in the town.

The boys parents live together in Alajuela, but the boy had been living in a children's home in Naranjo.

Investigators are now taking phone calls and verifying leads, said Ronald Montero, director of the Judicial Investigation Organization in San Ramón. He said some people have said they have seen the boy in different places. “The case is very extensive” said Motero, referring to the vast area where the boy could be. “The hospitals, Cruz Roja, and the Fuerza Pública are all helping with the investigation,” he added.

Bank account opened up
for Santa Ana fire victims

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A friend has set up a bank account for Olga Efimenko, the Santa Ana waitress who lost her home in a fire last Saturday.

Olga's mother Maria Paula, 86, was left severely burned after she tried to fight the fire, said a friend. She is currently in Hospital San Juan de Dios and is not doing well, said Colina Carrero, a coworker of Ms. Efimenko.

Ms. Efimenko, originally from Russia, had been working at the popular Santa Ana Rock & Roll Pollo restaurant for about two years said coworkers. Joanne Loewen, a friend of Ms. Efimenko has been collecting donations with the help of local restaurants like Rock and Roll Pollo.

People can donate in person to Banco de San José in account number 907-556-004. Anyone who has a Banco de San José account may make a deposit via Internet, said Ms. Loewen. A raffle will be held on Sunday at Rock & Roll Pollo. More information about donating items or money can be obtained from Ms. Loewen or Rock & Roll Pollo.

Inheritance rights sought
for taxi concession holders

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

When a licensed taxi owner dies, the rights to the business does not revert to his heirs.

In fact, more than 40 Costa Rican families are facing the loss of the family taxi license because the principal breadwinner died, according to the Movimiento Libertario.

However, lawmakers are considering a change in the law governing taxi concessions to let the rights to the license remain with the heirs, and the change is being supported by the Libertarios, said a release.

The current law leaves helpless the families of drivers who daily earn their sustenance honorably, said the political party.

School in Hermosa plans fundraiser

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Escuela Hermosa Pochotal hosts a fundraiser Sunday at 5 p.m. at the Hermosa Beach House outside the school. They are asking that neighbors in Playa Hermosa come out and support the school by donating time, materials and funds. 

For more information, contact Julie Mauro at 2643-7180.

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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, March 28, 2008, Vol. 8, No. 62

Special prosecutor picked for Osa environmental crimes
By Helen Thompson
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Just three days after the creation of a prosecutor especially for the Osa Peninsula, residents are due to meet in protest against the uncontrolled development in the region.

Tuesday saw the inauguration of the new fiscal program, in a ceremony that took place in the Tribunales de Justicia in Golfito, where the Osa fiscal will have his seat.

The post will be taken on by Elías Villalta Dávila, who will have the job of protecting Osa's marine, wetland and woodland ecosystems from the constant intrusion of human activities, covering the areas of Golfito, Osa, Corredores and San Vito. Francisco Dall'Anese, fiscal general, created the post as a subsidiary of the Fiscalía Adjunta Agrario Ambiental de San José.

Representatives of environmental organizations were in attendance. Dall'Anese said at the ceremony that he greatly appreciates the work done by organizations such as Fundación MarViva and Conservación Internacional in their attempts to protect the local environment, as they have become a crucial ally in the government's own attempts to combat environmental problems.

He added that some bad jurisdicial decisions have been
made, citing as an example the tuna fishing boat the Tiuna, who have been linked with environmental crimes and whose operators have not been fully brought to account.

Government officials were keen to indicate that preservation of the natural environment is a key policy for Arias' administration.

“The protection of natural resources in the Osa peninsula is a fundamental part of the green agenda of the Poder Ejecutivo,” said Rodríguez Quirós, viceminister of Ambiente.

Despite the gesture, community members intend to make their presence felt at today's session of the governing body of the Municipalidad de Osa, which will take place at 4:30 p.m.

They will be looking for answers to the problem of development in the area that is causing damage to nature, and will be asking the mayor to make a moratorium over rules of development in the area until the plan regulador is ready.

The plan regulador is currently in the hands of the Universidad de Costa Rica, and Jorge Lobo, a member of the university, intends to give a presentation about the problem.

Even the drug-sniffing dogs are strutting their stuff at expo
By Elise Sonray
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A smiling girl swinging a white body bag. Men in masks laughing as they carry their machine guns. And a drug-sniffing dog lounging on the sidewalk.

It's all part of the second annual Feria del Poder Judicial hosted by the judicial branch of the Costa Rican government. The event started Thursday morning and continues today until 4 p.m. at the court complex.

“We busted through the doors of a house where there where two robbers and a dead person,” said an officer from Servicio Policial de Intervención Inmediata, explaining a demonstration in which he was involved Thursday.

The event included a theatrical scenario in which a store was robbed and forensic experts, investigators and intervention agents worked together to solve the case and capture the robbers. 

Today at 2:30 p.m. dogs from the canine unit will sniff out drugs along the sidewalk in front of the court building, said Alejandro Castillo Cerdas, an investigator with the canine unit. The Unidad Canina has eight human investigators and 10 dogs, said Castillo.

The first group of dogs were given to the judicial organization as a gift from the U.S. Embassy, he said.
The dogs were trained in Guatemala and the United States, but now the judicial investigators have learned to train the animals themselves, said Castillo, who has worked with the unit for 10 years. Not only do the dogs
swat team awaits
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It's not a good idea to mess with these guys.

sniff out drugs, they help investigate cases of arson, said Castillo. The animals are able to smell out the gasoline or the initial object that started the fire. At times they match the smell to the actual person who started the fire, said Castillo.

The Poder Judicial who is hosting the event, includes the Judicial Investigating Organization, the courts, the Ministerio Público or prosecutors as well as the Dirección Nacional de Notariado, the agency supervising notaries. Many informational booths are set up at the judicial fair, including a table where visitors can apply for a job as an investigator.

There are some people who are quietly doing good works
A number of people responded to my column on cultural creatives.  Among them were two teachers from Canada.  One, Linda Cloutier, has written to me before to tell me about the work she and her group are doing in a San Blas school (San Blas is on the Pacific side of the country.)  She, her volunteers — students and adults — have been here before bringing art supplies and holding art workshops for San Blas students. 

At the same time they have been raising money to build some additions to the school — two classrooms, two bathrooms and a computer room. Their fundraising has been gratifyingly successful and they plan to start building in June.  Ms. Cloutier is so enthusiastic she is already planning phase two of the construction — a cultural center for the school, and perhaps an art room, library and pottery shed. 
One of the members of her group, which is now back in Canada, immediately started a campaign to raise money to buy 147 knock off Crocs for the kids, and Linda already has gathered over 300 pounds of school supplies for their next trip.

I found it interesting that, in spite of the whirlwind trip, being in charge of the 14 volunteers and the work they had cut out for themselves, Linda wrote, “Arriving in Los Almendros in Ocotal I felt the stress slipping away. . . . ” I think my stress would just begin, but that’s the Costa Rica Effect.

Margot Sippel is a college professor in London, Ontario.  She came to Costa Rica in January with a group of her students who are spending the last semester of a three-year program working with students at La Victoria school in Liberia. They are using their studies and training as child and youth workers to help children who are at risk as a result of many things including violence, abuse, poverty and change.  The Canadian students use art and play therapy, self-esteem work and one-on-one counseling, among other approaches, in working with the students. 
Living in Costa Rica

. . .Where the living is good

By Jo Stuart

Their training and studies have been in understanding of human development and behavior, family systems, cultural diversity, and the needs of exceptional children. 

To facilitate their ability to help these children, the students have been learning Spanish and live with Tico families while they are here. 

Meanwhile, I have just learned from my friend Alexis, that Suzana Heisse, who is a passionate environmentalist and spoke to our group when we were in Guatemala, is receiving an environmental award from the European Union.  Her idea?  To build houses from plastic bottles stuffed with other plastic and dry trash. Now isn’t that an idea whose time has come!

And at the risk of pushing my luck – the CowParade is in town, well, it is not exactly a parade because the cows don’t move.  There are some wonderful ones, but the one I like best is in the plaza in front of the National Theater and Gran Hotel Costa Rica.  The artist has chosen to simply print in large letters the values of Costa Rica.  I copied them.  “Esperanza is writ large and twice. There is also arte, educación, cultura, igualdad, dignidad, progreso, bienestar, desarollo sostenible, respeto, amor, libertad, alegria, optimismo, solidaridad, tolerancia, positivismo, trabajo and paz.  Good place for cultural creatives to be. 

(If you would like more information on what Margot and Linda and their groups are doing, write me and I will put you in touch with them.) 

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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, March 28, 2008, Vol. 8, No. 62

Scouts will seek to clean up the Río Tiribí this weekend
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Many of the rivers in Costa Rica are not too pleasant too look at, and locals often complain about the garbage and contaminated waters, especially in places like San José.

One day 18-year old Adriana Aguilar of La Unión, Tres Ríos, got sick of the complaints and decided to do something about it.

“It bothers people so much, but they never do anything,” she said. That's why Ms. Aguilar asked her scout leader to help organize a clean-up campaign at their local river, the Tiribí. 

This Sunday Ms. Aguilar and about 100 others will participate in the river cleanup project, she said. Grupo Guía y Scout 180 de Tres Ríos along with community members will begin picking up trash at 8 a.m. between the Instituto Costarricense de Acueductos y Alcantarillados and the Palí supermarket in Tres Ríos.

Scout leader Gustavo Ortíz said the event is symbolic and is aimed at calling the problem to the attention of the community. This is the first ever clean-up campaign aimed at the river, according to Leonardo Jimenez Campos, a journalist at Crónicas de la Unión. 
“People have customarily seen the river as a trash can,” said Ortíz.  “We want to educate the community young and old about caring for the river and recycling materials,” he said.

One of the main goals of the project is education and working together as a community, explained Ortíz. The community would eventually like to start a complaint hotline in which neighbors can call if they see people dumping trash into the river, said Ortíz.

The community has been wanting to do something for a long time, said Ortíz, but it was Ms. Aguilar, a civil engineering student at Universidad de Costa Rica, who got his attention, he said. Ms. Aguilar has been a scout for about six years, she said.

The Cruz Roja and fireman will patrol the area during the cleanup in case of any mishaps, said Ortíz.

Ortíz said he was aware that there was not only garbage but also sewage draining into the river. “That is something the municipality needs to help us with,” he said. “We are just taking it one step at a time.”

As for the new sewage system proposed by the government, Ortíz said “As things in our country go, it will be probably be a little slow in coming.”

Colombian official says that Ingrid Betancourt is suffering from several diseases
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Colombia's ombudsman says former presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt, who has been held hostage by terrorists for six years, is seriously ill with hepatitis B and malnutrition and is in a very delicate state of health.

Ombudsman Volmar Pérez told Colombia's Caracol Radio his office has received reports that Betancourt has become so ill that her captors sought medical attention for her last month in southeastern Colombia. Pérez also says his office has been told that Betancourt is suffering from leishmaniasis, a parasitic skin disease caused by insect bites.

The French-Colombian Betancourt was kidnapped in
  February 2002 while campaigning for the Colombian presidency. Both the French and Venezuelan governments have become involved in efforts to win her release.

Concerns about Betancourt's health began to grow following the release of a video in which she appeared gaunt and depressed. Authorities seized the video late last year during an arrest of suspected members of the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia.

The terrorists are holding at least 700 people in secret jungle camps for ransom or political leverage. Three Americans are among the hostages. The United States, European Union and Colombian government have designated the group as a terrorist organization.

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Dutch politician's Koran film
finally released on Internet

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Dutch politician Geert Wilders has posted on his political party's Internet Web site an anti-Koran film that Dutch television refused to broadcast.

The film, called "Fitna," alternates pictures of terrorist attacks — including the attacks on the United States on Sept. 11, 2001 — with quotations from the Muslim holy book. The film also was rejected by U.S.-based Network Solutions, which closed down his previous Web site.

Wilders says one of his main points in making the film was a belief that rising Muslim immigration threatens democratic values in the Netherlands and the rest of Europe.

The film ends with a picture of a hand grabbing a page from the Koran with the sound of paper tearing.  The sound comes from a page ripped out of a telephone book.  Wilders says it is up to Muslims, not him, to tear verses out of the Koran that he says incite violence.

Dutch Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende says the film has no purpose other than to offend and he rejects the film's premise that equates Islam with violence.

The Dutch leader says he is pleased Muslims have shown restraint following the film's release on Wilders Web site.

Special round of soccer
will be played Saturday

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The soccer games Saturday at the Estadio Nacional in Parque la Sabana will have an added dimension of helping youngsters from poor neighborhoods.

The event will bring 180 youngsters, including two players per team who are girls, from all over the country. The soccer matches start at 8 a.m. and end with an awards ceremony at 4 p.m. Each team has 22 players between 12 and 16.

The event is sponsored in part by the United Nations Children's Fund and the Presidencia.

In addition to the sports aspect of the program, organizers say that they are interested in promoting the mental wellbeing of children, too. All the youngsters have been selected from low-income neighborhoods.

President Óscar Arias Sánchez will open the event in a 10 a.m. ceremony. His brother, Rodrigo Arias Sánchez, minister of the Presidencia, will officiate at the closing ceremony.

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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, March 28, 2008, Vol. 8, No. 62

Distinctly different concerts bring jazz and classical to Valle Central
Young musicians from Costa Rica and America will be playing two rather different concerts in San José and Alajuela this weekend.

While a group of students from the Julliard School of Music will play an upbeat selection of jazz and gospel pieces in a concert presented in memory of Martin Luther King, young Costa Rican pianist Daniela Rodo will play a classical program in the Teatro Nacional.

The Julliard students will mark the 40th anniversary of Martin Luther King's death with a show at the Centro Cultural José Figueres Ferrer, Alajuela, Saturday.

Californian Kristopher Bowers, who has in the past played in front of people such as Clint Eastwood, Barack Obama and Morgan Freeman, and won many awards for his music, will be playing piano alongside Greenville singer LaFredrick Coaxner.

Brazilian actor Maxwell de Paula will also be giving an interpretative monologue about the theme of immigrants and their civil rights.

The concert commemorating the Nobel prize-winning civil rights defender is part of the Centro Cultural Costarricense Norteamericano's Promising Artists of the 21st Century program. It will start at 5 p.m., and entrance is free. More information can be found on the number 2447-2178.

In contrast, the 16-year-old pianist Daniela Rodó will play a program focussed around classical music by Bach, Beethoven, Chopin, Schumann and Debussy, ranging from the baroque to the romantic styles.

Alongside works from the European composers, she will present Costa Rican composer Mario Alfagüeli's piece “Eclipse del Sol, Op. 154.”

Less than a week later, the young musician will play the same program in Moscow, in the city's central music school.

daniela rodo
Teatro Nacional image
Young pianist Daniela Rodó will be playing at the Teatro Nacional this Saturday

Rodó finished her bachelor's degree in Piano at the Universidad Nacional this year, and intends to go on to further studies in Europe.

The concert takes place Saturday in the Teatro Nacional, at 8 p.m. Tickets cost 2,000 colons, and are available from the theater box office or online at

Art Galleries ....

Rembrandt exhibition opens to high acclaim in downtown San José

Rembrandt etching
Hailed as the most important exhibition of the year, a collection of the Dutch master Rembrandt's etchings opened amid much praise Thursday.

The 48 etchings usually reside in Amsterdam's Rembrandt House Museum, where the artist lived for about 20 years from 1620-40. They were collaboratively chosen from a wider collection by Dora Maria Sequiera, the director of Museos del Banco Central and Ed de Heer, the director of the Rembrandt House Museum.

Although now better known for his marvelous paintings that capture intense emotion, facial expression, and deeply contrasted light and shadow, the etchings that are now on show in San José are considered by art buffs to be just as important.

“Rembrandt was the most influential and original etchers possibly of all time,” said de Heer. “He is a shining beacon because he changed etching from a reproductive medium to a fully fledged artistic medium.

“He used all sorts of different techniques to get all the possibilities out of the medium — he printed on copper plate, parchment, even sheepskin to make luxurious editions of prints. He didn't want any two to be the same.”

There is no sheepskin involved in this exhibition, as some of the finer materials are too fragile to export for exhibition in humid tropical countries like Costa Rica. The collection does, however,  but include something from each of Rembrandt's main themes.

Read more - click here

Imagen V show has a few gems but a pack of clinkers, too

videoartshowNew media art is always a bit hit and miss with the potential to come across as a foundationless piece of pretension if it is not done well.

The Bienal Iberoamericana Inquieta Imagen V, a competition for video artists from across Latin America, is a good example of this, containing a few pieces that engage well with the subject and make the most of their medium, but many that leave the viewer cold.

Read more - click here

Mistaken identity? No such thing, says new exhibition

historiaoficialCosta Rica is a land of volatile volcanoes, orchids, coffee fincas, Catholicism and Ticos.

Or you could say it's a country of wide seashores, football stadiums, fast food restaurants and beach towns overtaken by Gringos.

Some are clichéd symbols of a tourist nation, while others are part of the country's changing culture, but all are involved in Museo de Arte Costarricense's new exhibition that challenges viewers to reconsider their own perceptions of the nation.

Read more - click here


Mini-mall comes to the rescue of the not-rich-but-hungry

food court

For those in the know, there is a clean, affordable, relatively quiet gastronomic surprise off the pedestrian mall in downtown San Jose.  Between Arenas clothing store and the Patio Restaurant, behind a perfume counter and a Pops Ice Cream sits a food court without a McDonald's, Wendy's, Subway or Church's Chicken in sight. 

Tropical Food is a counter selling relatively healthy food.  While their batidos aren't as delicious as the ones found at FrutiLand in Mall San Pedro, the water-or-milk-
blended-with-fruit drink is a refreshing treat to carry during your walk along Avenida Central.  A batido with the fruit of your choice mixed with water costs 650 colons, with milk, 750 colons.  That's from $1.30 to $1.50.

Adding honey or granola takes you up to a still-reasonable 900 colons ($1.80).  The store also peddles fruit salads, ranging from 700 to 1.600 colons ($1.40 to $3.20).

Marisqueria produces delicious looking and smelling seafood dishes.  A customer-friendly hanging chalkboard lists their menu and respective prices.  A small corvina ceviche will set you back 1,950 colons ($3.90).  Get a small rice with shrimp for 2.150 colons ($4.30), 2,800 ($5.60) for a larger serving.  Or try one of the fish filets prepared several different ways, the cheapest being with oil and garlic for 2,600 ($5.20) colons, the priciest fish filet dish is 3,600 colons ($7.20) for relleno with ham and cheese.

Click here to read more

Festive season proves troublesome even for established restaurant

vealBeing a chef in a busy kitchen must be a pretty stressful job, but around Christmas stress is something any successful restaurant should factor in as inevitable.

On a second visit to well-reputed French restaurant Le Chandelier, it soon became obvious that the staff were poorly equipped for the onslaught of Christmas party diners on a Tuesday night, leaving the usually decent food to deteriorate into a procession of almost inedible starters and bland entrees.

Set in an old San Pedro house with brick ceilings and wooden beams that was converted into a restaurant around 15 years ago by Swiss owner Claude Dubuis, Le Chandelier purports to offer French cuisine that has been developed over generations of experience.

Click here to read the full review

A great meal is not all in the presentation

musslesandfondue120407With a vaulted glass ceiling, palm trees lining the pathway and posh lighting, one would not expect Saga restaurant to be settled behind a dull parking lot in Escazú.

Although this restaurant may look out of place, it doesn't deviate much from the norm in Escazú, an area many would classify as suburban sprawl.

The majority of the cuisine at Saga seems to fit with the setting: classy presentation, yet lacking any profound flavors. Although the restaurant boasts itself as an “international food restaurant” on its Web site, much of the inspired cuisine is lacking the depth which would be found in authentic dishes.

Click here to read the full review

Film and Dramatic Arts ...
Brazilian flavors to entertain diners at Women's Club fundraiser

Brazilian musicians will be the guests at the Women's Club of Costa Rica's next fundraising night, filling the El Rodeo Country Inn in San Antonio de Belén with exotic sounds and dancing. The Fiesta Brasileña offers a full night from welcome drinks and dinner to dancing and a silent auction.

Dance group Bailando Brasil will be in charge of the entertainment, dressed in elaborate costumes and dancing to the rythms of bossa nova and samba played on traditional Brazilian instruments.

Proceeds from the $30 (15,000 colons) tickets, the raffle and auction go to scholarships for economically disadvantaged high school students and to the development of libraries in public and primary schools in Costa Rica. The event takes place on April 5, at 6 p.m. For tickets and information, call 285-1276.

Costa Rica's cinematic heritage shared with all at public libraries

All over the country, film lovers are being given the chance to learn a bit more about Costa Rica through cinema screenings in public libraries.

Viewers will probably be surprised to find out there are so many Costa Rican films in circulation, and although none is famous, they deal with issues close to the country's history.

Subjects range from the nation's love of guaro and documentaries on influential figures such as Francisco Amighetti and Juan Santamaría, to racial issues, lighter animated films, and even how to fish shrimp responsibly.

Margarita Rojas, director of the Sistema Nacional de Bibliotecas, initiated the project, making copies of the works that she considers essential to Costa Rican cinema to send around the country.

Read more - click here
Festivals ...

International acts to make rare festival appearance in Costa Rica

Excitement is rising over the announcement of headline acts for Festival Imperial, Costa Rica's most highly anticipated music festival of the year.

Costa Rica is often missed off the list when world-famous bands are compiling their top international touring spots, but the second edition of the beer-backed festival is set to attract a few top names.

Two years ago, the first Festival Imperial brought Sting and Jamiroquai to Costa Rica, while also promoting national bands such as Gandhi and Malpais, and April 2008's edition of the event promises similar quality.

Read more - click here

Duran Duran in concert

British group Duran Duran will headline Festival
Books ...

Land use in Costa Rica documented by Fulbright scholar

Forty years of living in the jungle, moving between secluded forestry stations and research labs, has led Louisiana resident and NASA veteran
Armond Joyce
Armond Joyce
Armond Joyce to write a book about the changing uses of land in Costa Rica.

After winning a presitgious Fulbright scholarship in 1998, he came back to Costa Rica to revisit forest sites that he worked on over three decades earlier as a graduate student. 

Some of the earliest satellite technology available was used in 1966 to take arial photographs of Costa Rica's countryside, and the
book compares these black and white shots with up-to-date images.

Click here to read more

New book dwells on the social aspects of food

Food is not just a selfish pleasure or a way to stifle hunger, but is central to the evolution of art, according to a new book published by Museos del Banco Central.

Artworks by Costa Rican painters are the main content of the hardback book, “Imagenes para Comer,” which follows the representation of food in art since still life painting became popular in the Renaissance.

Full-color pictures of both traditional and modern works are far more common than recipes, as the author Marjorie Ross only provides seven recipes within the book.

All are traditional Costa Rican dishes showing influences from different sections of the community, such as corn fritters, white beans and chorizo and fruit salad.

The book focuses on the meanings that food has within society, and how these are portrayed by art.

Click here to read more

Some thoughts on value betting the river
Making a value bet defines a situation where you place a bet — a bet that you hope is called — because you think you have the best hand.

Before you even consider making a value bet, try to determine if the bet will have any value at all.  Attempt to put your opponent on a hand that he’d likely call a bet with on the river.  To do this, you’ll have to mentally play back the details of the hand.  Think about your opponent’s playing tendencies.  Is he a calling station?  Is he a skilled player?  What type of player does he think you are? 

Try to figure out what percentage of the time your opponent would call a bet on the river with the worst hand.  If the percentage is low, checking would be your best option.      
Delve into your memory bank and think about your opponent’s betting history.  Is he capable of check-raising on the river?  Is he a tricky player?

If your opponent is unlikely to call with the worst hand, but he is capable of check-raising, then betting would be a mistake.  On the other hand, if he’s likely to call every bet and would never check-raise on the river, a river bet would probably have substantial value.

Think hard about the type of player you’re facing.  Will he check hands that have you beat?  Does he play semi-weak on the river?  Does he rarely miss a value bet?  Does he think you’re a bluffer?

If he senses that you’re bluffing, he may conclude that there’s more value in checking his top pair.  He’ll let you bluff and build the pot yourself.  If you’ve picked up a pattern that he’s apt to check some of his stronger hands, be wary of making thin value bets against him.  That’s exactly what he’s setting you up to do — make a value bet that only holds value for him!

A highly skilled player will pick up on the fact that you’re trying to make a value bet.  Betting is extremely dangerous in this situation as it could cause you to actually lose a pot that you would have won had you simply checked.  Play

cautiously when facing these tricky players.  They won’t call your river bet as often as you’d like when they have the worst hand.  But remember, they are capable of stealing pots away from you any time they sense your weakness. 

It really all comes down to this one question:  Is it worth the risk to bet on the river?

The essential issue is whether you need to make a marginal play at all.  If you have full command of the table, you can simply wait for higher percentage plays to invest your chips.  If the table already lets you get away with highway robbery by allowing you to steal pot after pot, why risk squeezing out a little extra value on the river in a marginal situation?  There’s too little to gain and too much too lose.
Chip stacks are another consideration.  Don’t put yourself at risk with a value bet when you and your opponent each have a healthy chip stack.  Conversely, if you’re playing on a short stack, a value bet could account for a significant portion of your remaining chips.  If that’s the case, it’s more important to protect what’s already in the pot.  Check it down and avoid a possible check-raise.  Hold on to your precious chips because there’s always the chance that you’ll end up making a value bet with the worst hand.

Visit for information about Daniel Negreanu’s new book, "Hold’em Wisdom for All Players."
© 2008 Card Shark Media.  All rights reserved.

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