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(506) 2223-1327               Published Tuesday, April 20, 2010,  in Vol. 10, No. 76        E-mail us
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Rainy season here creates a language all its own
By Christopher Howard*
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Whether you like it or not the rainy season is now upon us. Anyone who lives here knows that in Costa Rica there are more rainy months than dry months. The rainy season or invierno, usually runs from May to November but this can vary from year to year.

At times, there is an unseasonably dry spell or Indian summer at the end of June. The Costa Ricans call this pause in the rainy weather Veranillo (de San Juan), or “little summer.” 
Some years there is a relatively dry period in August which is referred to as canícula when there is a respite in the May to November rains.

In Spanish there are a lot of words and expressions that have to do with water and rain. Here are some of them. Have fun with this.

A las aguas mansas hay que tenerles miedo – be careful of calm waters (literally). Beware of the meek and mild (figuratively).

Abril lluvioso, saca a mayo florido y hermoso – April showers bring May flowers.

Agua bendita – a loose woman. Everyone sticks their hand in the holy water. Get it?  Literally this means holy water.

Agua dulce – fresh water.

Agua potable – drinking water.

Agua salada – salt water.

Agua de abajo depende de agua de arriba – upstream the cows urinate in the water, and downstream people drink it. The water downstream depends on the water upstream.

Agua de lluvia – rain water.

Aguas negras – sewage.

Agua pasada no mueve molina – it’s no good crying over spilt milk. Also No llorar sobre la leche derramada.

Agua que no has de beber, dejalo correr – If you’re not going to drink the water, then let it run. Other possible translation: You shouldn’t get mixed up in things that are of no interest to you or if you’re not going marry a person then let him or her go.

Aguacero – a rain storm.

Aguado – a boring person.

Aguafiestas – party pooper, killjoy.

Aguamar – jellyfish. Medusa is also used.

Aguar la fiesta – to spoil the party.

Ahogarse en un vaso de agua – to make a mountain out of a molehill.

Baldazo – a heavy rain. Literally, a bucket full.

Caerle como balde de agua fría – to not like something or someone. Me cae como balde de agua fría. You may also say Me cae como una bomba. If you really want to be vulgar and insulting you can say Me cae en la pura picha. I do not recommend the latter if you value you life.

Cambiarle el agua al pajarito – to take a pee (change the bird’s water)

Cuando corren los canales, no salgas de tus umbrales – when it rains a lot, don’t leave the house.

Dar agua a los caites – to flee.

Diluvio – a pouring rain.

Echarse al agua – to take the plunge (figurative) or to tell on someone.
May Flowers
Abril lluvioso, saca a mayo florido y hermoso

En su charco – to do what one likes (in one’s pond)

Estar como agua para chocolate – to be mad or estar hirviendo (boiling).

Estar con agua al cuello – to be up to one’s neck in something.

Garuar – to drizzle in Costa Rica.

¡Hombre al agua! - Man overboard!

Lo que por agua se viene y por agua se va – Easy come, easy go.

Las desgracias nunca vienen solas – When it rains it pours.

Las manos aguadas – butterfingers. Manos de mantequilla is also used.

Le va a llover – something is going to happen to you in abundance. Le va a llover dinero – You will make a lot of money.

Llover a cántaros or llover zapos (toads) y ranas (frogs)– to rain cats and dogs.

Llover sobre mojados – to have one bad thing happen after another. When it rains it pours.

Lloviznar – means to drizzle.

Llueva o truene – come rain or shine.

Lluvioso – rainy.

Mañana oscura tarde segura - rainy weather in the morning gives way to a dry afternoon.

Metérsele el agua – to go crazy.

Nadar entre dos aguas – to be indecisive or to be sitting on the fence.

No alcanzar para agua – to make ends meet or scrape by.

No dar ni agua – to be very stingy.

No hallar el agua en el mar – can’t see the forest through the trees.

No te agüites – Don’t get sad!

Pasado por agua – soft boiled.

Pelillo de gato – drizzle. Llovizna is the correct Spanish word.

Sereno – Morning dew in Costa Rica. Rocío is the correct word in Spanish.

Se me hace agua la boca – my mouth is watering.

Venir como agua de mayo – to be a godsend.

* Christopher Howard, who has a master's degree in linguistics and Spanish, is the author/publisher of the 16th edition of the perennial  bestselling  "The New Golden Door to Retirement and Living in Costa Rica," "Guide to Real Estate in Costa Rica" and the one-of-a-kind "Official Guide to Costa Rican Spanish." He also is a relocation and retirement expert who conducts custom and group retirement/relocation tours every month.  For information: Articles similar to the above may be found at

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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, April 20, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 76

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Our readers' opinions
Visiting nurse in Pavas
was conducting health census

Dear AM Costa Rica:

It is census time in the United States and local health census time in the Rohrmoser area of Pavas. Last Monday we heard the doorbell, and I looked over the balcony to see a 20-something woman dressed in what I would describe as a visiting nurse uniform. She introduced herself as the U.S. equivalent of a community health nurse, named Marcela.

The census portion was giving data about the occupants of the household and questions about food preparation. Did we have a refrigerator, stove, microwave, and other appliances? When were we vaccinated and did we want vaccinations free of cost?

Because I have been a home health nurse for more than 15 years, I was fascinated by the experience. Marcela was so professional and thorough in her responsibilities. I watched with a trained eye as she prepared my tetanus booster (recommended every 10 years). She brought her own antibacterial soap, paper towels, a cooler for the vaccines, and a container for medical waste.

Marcela conducted an assessment of our general health. The patio was inspected for standing water and pronounced healthy. We were given diet recommendations that did not include many carbohydrates and instructions on monthly testicular self examination, recommended for men under 50. I was thankful of the compliment. Were this a female household, she offered self breast exam education. Where else does your health care provider kiss you on the way out?

So when I return to the U.S. to work, I have a copy of my Costa Rican national immunization card for my work file. My compliments to our community health nurse and the local Pavas clinic.
Jon and Tim Montz Graham
Rohrmoser and San Francisco

Molesters are not gay,
and Vatican was incorrect

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:
In Jo Stuart's column April 9 she quoted a gay priest as saying that the Catholic church has been a haven for gays since the Middle Ages.  I don't buy it.
Having worked with sexually abused young people for most of my career as a therapist, I would like to clarify that homosexuals are not pedophiles!  They are mutually exclusive.  There are scant situations where the lines are blurred. The church has created a subculture of pedophiles by maintaining the secrecy and not imposing sanctions on those perpetrators when they are caught.  Every time an "altar boy" is molested, he doesn't grow up gay, he grows up to molest other boys.  Fact.  He doesn't seek an equal partner of the same sex, he wants a prepubescent boy like he was.  This is the vicious cycle that is sexual abuse.

When the church hushes this up, the child does not get the treatment and intervention he so desperately needs.   Though difficult for the lay person to grasp, a male victim identifies with the perpetrator  in his attempt to resolve the trauma and gain power over the situation.  He will molest dozens more as he ages.  Girls identify themselves as victims and perpetuate this by engaging in prostitution and the sex industry.
This type of ignorance has hurt the gay community and has spurred horrendous hate crimes.  Pedophilia is about power and abuse. When they eliminate that ridiculous vow of celibacy, that's when they can begin to eradicate the abuse.
The Vatican's recent proclamations that these child molesters are gay is an abomination; like putting lipstick on a pig!
Judith Kent
San Joaquin de Flores, Heredia

Country Day students plan
musical about reality television

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Students of the Country Day School in Escazú are presenting the musical production " JUDG’D" from Thursday through Saturday in the school cafetorium. Producer Gina Velasco said the show is about the inner workings of a television reality talent show. 

The production features the good, the bad and the ugly with singing, dancing, mime and ventriloquists, as well as those judges you love to hate, she said.  The show is directed by Lisa DeFuso and Kathryn Smith. Tickets are 3,000 colons for adults and 2,000 colons for students.  More information is available from the Country Day School at 2289-0919.

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Old pages
Each day someone complains via e-mail that the newspages are from yesterday or the day before. A.M. Costa Rica staffers check every page and every link when the newspaper is made available at 2 a.m. each weekday.

So the problem is with the browser in each reader's computer. Particularly when the connection with the  server is slow, a computer will look to the latest page in its internal memory and serve up that page.

Readers should refresh the page and, if necessary, dump the cache of their computer, if this problem persists. Readers in Costa Rica have this problem frequently because the local Internet provider has continual problems.

The A.M. Costa Rica search page has a list of all previous editions by date and a space to search for specific words and phrases. The search will return links to archived pages.

A typical edition will consist of a front page and four other newspages. Each of these pages can be reached by links near the top and bottom of the pages.

Five classified pages are updated daily. Employment listings are free, as are listings for accommodations wanted, articles for sale and articles wanted. The tourism page and the real estate sales and real estate rentals are updated daily.

Advertising information
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Contacting us
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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, April 20, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 76

Democrats Abroad book sale

ICE behaves like a monopoly in cell phone changeover
By Dennis Rogers
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

The manner which the Instituto Costarricence de Electricidad has handled the changeover from old to newer technologies has provided a test run for the regulating authorities to consider the consumer’s rights to service.

In March the government ombudsman agency, the Defensoría de los Habitantes, accused the company known as ICE of refusing to reconnect TDMA customers who had lost or had their phones stolen or been disconnected for non-payment. The agency suggested that ICE has no legal grounds to unilaterally cancel a contract.

The TDMA system is only around so long after its obsolescence because of the quirks of ICE’s monopoly on phone services. For a number of years there have been no new TDMA phones available, with a small industry reconditioning decrepit handsets. The service still is in operation because ICE wished to extract maximum rent from equipment while it failed to make better lines available. Even when superior GSM systems became available, there were never enough lines to meet demand, so the older phones stayed in use.

Those who were early adapters stayed with the old system, instead of remaining on the cutting edge, largely because ICE arranged it that way. It did this by refusing to transfer older customers’ phone numbers to new accounts, even though it had the ability to do so. Many professionals would suffer potential losses from phone number changes. Even now the company avoids transferring numbers to new GSM lines, trying to steer business to the more expensive Kölbi 3G service.

Some users were reluctant to change since the second-generation GSM system had poor service in cement buildings and some rural areas. The French company Alcatel, is a star in a corruption trial involving former president Miguel Angel Rodríguez. The trial started this week. Alcatel was contracted to provide nationwide GSM coverage but never did.

ICE has begun to persuade and force TDMA users to change over to one of the other systems, preferably the new 3G Kölbi product for which there are lines readily available. Anecdotal reports suggest the service is worsening with the company saying in a news release that “unanticipated malfunctions” due to equipment adjustments have caused problems. The need to free up spectrum for a much-delayed auction to allow other operators access has created technical problems, said ICE.

The second-hand and rebuilt handsets are most affected by the equipment problems on ICE’s end, they said. These can’t be reconnected as they are “not apt for use on the ICE system, for the reasons indicated,” though they were working recently. For this, “[we] offer apologies and ask for understanding as to the situation.”
antique phone
A.M. Costa Rica photo
An antique TDMA phone

Cell phone customers
get a new bill of rights

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

A cell phone user’s bill of rights is now in place, drafted by the public services regulator. The telecom watchdog, the Superintendencia de Telecomunicaciones, will be in charge of guaranteeing that abuses common under the current monopoly incumbent do not continue in the new open market.

The basic rights in the regulations include: number portability, guarantee of continuous service, free access to emergency services, exact billing (seconds), compensation for time out of service, quality standards, and no billing of unsolicited services.

With the publication of these rules, users now have three days after their bill is due to pay or be disconnected, with no obligation to pay for reconnection if the provider does not allow that time. The content of service contracts and minimum detail on billing statements is specified.

The Superintendencia says that the rules “…protects the user and can even combat telecommunications fraud.” Users can file a claim with their service provider, and if that is not answered in 10 days or if the reply is lacking or unsatisfactory, they can submit a written complaint to the Superintendencia, it said.

Nonetheless ICE plans to keep the system functioning until the end of the year. The Defensoria’s take on ICE’s freedom to close an individual’s account suggests it might also defend the rights of users against the total shutdown of the system.

Sabana Sur roadway finally will be open to traffic today
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The transport ministry officially opens the new lanes on the old road to Escazú in Sabana Sur this morning. The opening has been a year in the making, stalled lately because traffic signals were not in place.

Sabana street
A.M. Costa Rica file photo
Reconstructed street serves a changed neighborhood
This is the stretch that parallels the Autopista Prospero Fernández on the south in the vicinity of Parque la Sabana.

The road had been two lane and frequently was congested. The renovated section is from the Ministerio de Agricultura y Ganadería east to the Universal department store. The road passes in front of new condominiums, some still under construction, a series of buildings housing sportsbooks, Mac's American Bar and the Costa Rican Tennis Club. It also passes in front of the building housing the Contraloría de la República.

A number of the commercial establishments suffered serious loses because sections of the road were closed at various times. Also happy will be the residents of Sabana Sur because much of the heavy traffic was detoured through their residential streets. Meanwhile many new structures have replaced older buildings.

The Ministerio de Obras Públicas y Transportes is making the opening of the two lanes a big event with President Óscar Arias Sánchez being the principal guest. That will be about 10 a.m.

The four lanes are concrete and divided with a raised island. Local traffic has been using the lanes for months.
The highway construction was done in a way to save most of the trees along the north side of the roadway. The government owned a stripe of right-of-way to the south, so the reconstructed road was shifted south a few feet to spare the trees.

The highway becomes two lane again when it passes the agricultural ministry and continues that way over the reconstructed Los Anonos bridge and into an intersection in San Rafael de Escazú.

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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, April 20, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 76

Crucitas mining project becomes target of heavy criticism

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Crucitas mining project has become the lightning rod for criticism.

The Sala IV constitutional court in a 5-2 vote gave the go-ahead to the gold mining project in a decision announced Friday.

About the only people pleased seem to be those connected with the mine.

"The company takes very seriously its environmental and social responsibilities in the development of this project, and has always believed that the many years spent developing its research, preparation, practices and management plan for environmental and social responsibilities would be viewed as world class and best practice," said John Morgan, president and CEO of the mining company. "The very detailed review by a Costa Rican constitutional court over a period of 16 months including a site visit and a public hearing by the magistrates has vindicated that commitment by the company."

The mine is being set up by Industrias Infinito S.A., the Costa Rican subsidiary of a Canadian firm. The Sala IV did cite one problem in the company's application materials, but Infinito said Monday that this one specific exception to the generally favorable ruling was considered to have been cured by the date of the vote. That had to do with an underground water report.

Despite the company's measured response, opposition is growing.

An organization called the El Comité Amigos
Centroamericanos del Río San Juan said it repudiated the
Sala IV decision and also was critical of President Óscar Arias Sánchez who decreed in 2008 that the project was in  Costa Rica's national interest. The organization said that it was setting up a protest march for today when president-elect Laura Chinchilla visits President Daniel Ortega in Managua. The group said it would call upon Ms. Chinchilla to reverse the decree issued by Arias.

In Costa Rica the Defensoría de los Habitantes called for a revision on the mining code. Ms. Chinchilla is believed to be in agreement with this and has said she wants to prevent any more open pit mines.

Young representatives of environmental groups who were meeting this weekend as part of the Encuentro Juvenil por la Ciudadanía Global y Cambio Climático in Heredia came out against the project. The groups were trying to rally support with a Facebook page.

As expected the Partido Acción Ciudadana came out against the project during its national assembly over the weekend. It called for a demonstration Thursday at the Corte Suprema de Justicia. A number of groups already said they would march that day, which is Earth Day. The political party also called for reversing the Arias decree.

Infinito expects to get at least 700,000 ounces of gold from the pit mine over 10 years.

With the court decision behind them, Infinito officials are well protected against any efforts to halt their project. Government action certainly would lead to an international arbitration case that likely would be decided in the company's favor. Costa Rica could pay the company for its anticipated profits over 10 years, a substantial sum, based on existing investment protection treaties.

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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, April 20, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 76

Medical vacations in Costa Rica

found cocaineMinisterio de Gobernación, Policía
y Seguridad Pública photo
Fuerza Pública officers this weekend recovered seven packages of cocaine that appeared to have been abandoned in Bello Horizonte de Escazú. They are not expecting anyone to claim them. The amount was about 56 grams or about two ounces.

Turrialba research center
hosts fair this weekend

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

The tropical agricultural institute CATIE will put on its annual fair Saturday and Sunday at the organization’s center near Turrialba.

Research on display will include work on climate change, improvements in cacao strains, a forest seed bank, watershed management, among others, according to Felicia Granados, the fair’s coordinator. The institution is known formally as the Centro Agronómico Tropical de Investigación y Enseñanza.

Typical food from countries represented by graduate students will be available as well as local arts and crafts. Musical entertainment is Pimienta Negra at 4 p.m. on Saturday and Tico Jazz Band at 3 p.m. Sunday. There also are tours of the school's botanical garden.

Turrialba is about two hours east of San Jose on the old highway to Limón. Entrance is free and parking is 2,000 colons. Transport from the center of Turrialba will be available. For more information call 2558-2221 or

Saturday hours are from noon until 8 p.m.. Sunday the hours are from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Shark defender honored
with environmental prize

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Randall Arauz, founder and president of Programa Restauración de Tortugas Marinas has been honored for his work against the practice of shark finning. He was one of six recipients of the 2010 Goldman Environmental Prize. The prize, now in its 21st year, is awarded annually to grassroots environmental activists from each of the world’s six inhabited continental regions and is the largest award of its kind with an individual cash prize of $150,000.

The prize announcement said that by drawing international attention to the inhumane and environmentally catastrophic shark finning industry, Arauz led the campaign to halt the practice in Costa Rica, making his country the new international model for shark protection.

The announcement notwithstanding, shark finning still is an industry in Costa Rica because of poor enforcement and the use of private docking facilities, which are against the law. However, Arauz has worked vigorously to end the practice even to the extent of filing major court cases.

Shark fins are highly valued in the Orient where they become the major component of a soup of the same name. Fishermen simply cut the fins from sharks and dump the creatures back in the water to die. There are various laws requiring the shark carcass to be brought in with the fin attached, but this rule frequently is ignored.

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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, April 20, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 76

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U.S. commander in Haiti
expects U.S. exit by June 1

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The senior officer who has been leading the U.S. military earthquake relief effort in Haiti says the formal operation will end around June 1.  But the official, Army Lt. Gen. Ken Keen, says American efforts to help Haiti recover from the quake will continue beyond that date. 

Keen ended his three-month assignment as U.S. commander in Haiti Sunday, handing over command to a slightly lower-ranking officer.  The change reflects the reduction in the number of U.S. troops involved in the relief operation that peaked at 22,000 in February, most of them on several Navy ships.

Now the ships are gone and just 2,200 troops remain on land.  They are helping move quake refugees to safer locations and providing other logistical help to Haitian and international relief efforts for the current rainy season and the approaching hurricane season.

But Keen says as those troops leave by June 1, and the formal relief operation ends, 500 U.S. reserve forces will move in to conduct more normal types of military exchanges with Haiti, including training medical personnel, building schools and clinics, and helping Haiti establish an emergency operations center and planning process.

Keen, who is the deputy commander of all U.S. forces in Latin America and the Caribbean, says the lead for such efforts will be taken by the Haitian government and the United Nations, with help from U.S. and other government agencies and private groups.

The general says the $400-million U.S. military relief operation mostly went well.  But he adds that the military needs to be able to assess needs in a disaster more quickly, and should improve its logistics and coordination abilities in such chaotic and unexpected situations.

Keen says he will continue to be involved in the long-term Haiti recovery effort.  He says the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere now has a unique opportunity for progress, with world attention focused on its needs in the wake of the earthquake.

Río Naranjo work begins

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Work begins today on a bridge over the Río Naranjo in Loundres de Aguirre. This is national route 616.

The Consejo nacional de Vialidad said that the work is to reinforce the bridge structure and that passage will be limited to vehicles of four tons or less. That means mostly just passenger cars.

The work is by ALCA Ingeriería y Arquitectura. There was no timetable given for completion.

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