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These stories were published on Friday, Aug. 13, 2004, in Vol. 4, No. 160
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How important is it to research Costa Rica?
A friend has asked me if I would like to list 10 things to consider when thinking about settling in Costa Rica. That made me ask
myself: Did I consider 10 things before coming to Costa Rica? 

The short answer is no. Before I moved my family to Majorca, I considered a lot of things and did quite a bit of research, mainly looking for cheaper places to live than Los Angeles, a place where my husband could write full-time for at least a year. What finally decided me was the fact that there were no poisonous snakes or spiders indigenous to Majorca (we had two very young adventurous children), and household help was affordable. What decided my
husband was the discovery that vodka was 50 cents a bottle and they had bullfights in Majorca. Back then every writer imagined a
life like Hemmingway’s. 

Back then, too, I was more concerned about health issues, and we all trooped to the doctor’s to get shots against any disease that
might deign to attack us. At the time the doctor told me not to worry if my children could not bathe every day. No harm would come to them. That reassurance came in handy when we found ourselves without bath or shower facilities for 17 days. Basin baths worked until the sink fell out of the wall. 

But my situation before moving to Costa Rica was very different. My children are grown, and I planned to come here alone. I had
made a couple of visits to Costa Rica beforehand and subscribed to The Tico Times for six months (A.M.  Costa Rica didn’t exist back then). I wanted to live in a country where I could speak the language. And since I had kept up my Spanish over the years, a Spanish-speaking country was high on the list. I wanted to live near enough to my children to be able to visit occasionally. And I needed a place that I could afford. 

These were practical concerns. I really wanted to live in a country that had no army.

Costa Rica was certainly more affordable than the United States when I moved here. It still 

Living in Costa Rica

. . .Where the living is good

By Jo Stuart
jostuart@amcostarica.com

is, but prices are going up, and lately I have been seeing more and more high-end stores (in the ever-increasing malls) selling luxury goods. I still shop at Ropa Americana. 

I had read about the snakes of Costa Rica, but I figured I would not be living in the jungle or undeveloped areas where snakes would
consider home. Since then I have heard from friends in Escazú and others living in small towns about the presence of everything
from boa constrictors to coral snakes. 

My third floor city apartment seems relatively safe from them, although I did once see a confident looking small green snake in my street. Ants are my biggest pests.

Families with children, single men and single women of different ages, all have different agendas and hopes and dreams before moving to Costa Rica. I can speak somewhat knowledgeably only for older women. And I have done that over the years in this column. 

In fact, I am not a great pre-planner. I am not proud of this trait, but I do take some comfort remembering my Christmas trip to Costa Rica, which I was making with my friend Ellen. She was coming from New York City and I from San Jose, California. We were going to meet at the Miami airport and come to Costa Rica together. 

The extent of my planning was to make a reservation for my flight to Florida. Ellen had everything else worked out, including our flight reservations for Costa Rica. When I got to the Miami airport there was no Ellen, but there was a message from her: a blizzard in New York had cancelled her flight. I settled myself as well as I could in that over air-conditioned airport and opened the book I always carry in case things don’t go as planned. 

 

 
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Robbers target bank
that weathered rumor

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

BAC San José suffered a loss of some $44,000 Thursday morning when two armed men stuck up a small office in a Paseo Colón building.

BAC San José is the same bank that was the victim of an insolvency rumor earlier in the week.

A spokesman for the Judicial Investigating Organization said the two robbers took 15 million in colons ($34,000) and some $10,000 in dollars.

The men were able to get through an electronic door about 9:30 a.m. and get the drop on an armed guard, agents said.

College area suspect
held on drug claims

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The so-called Calle de la Amargura, the street of bitterness or grief, is Costa Rica’s version of a college town. The street runs from the University of Costa Rica to downtown San Pedro.

Bars can be found on both sides, and the area is very popular on weekends.

But police know of a darker side. The bitter street has taken lives from drug overdoses and other anti-social activities mix with the college crowd.

Anti-drug police conducted raids Wednesday night and arrested the man they claim is the principal supplier of cocaine and marijuana along the street. They said that the man, identified by his last names of Monge López, directed five salesmen who frequented the bars not only on the Calle de la Amargura but as far west as the Fuente de la Hispanidad in front of Mall San Pedro.

The man had been under police scrutiny for months, and the Policía de Control de Drogas raided living quarters in San Pedro de Montes de Oca and in Vista del Mar de Ipís in Goiecoechea.

They arrested two other men, said to be employees of Monge. They were identified by the last names of Delgado Sequeira y Corrales Chacón. A woman with the last name of Donato also was held.

Police confiscated cocaine, money and marijuana, they said.

Mother’s Day Sunday
prompts art expo

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Sunday is Mother’s Day in Costa Rica, one of the biggest holidays of the year. Mothers will be pampered and presented gifts, flowers and dinner invitations.

To get ready, the Central Cultural Costarricense-Norteamericano is holding an exposition of the glass works of artist Sylvia El Laks at the La Sabana gallery Saturday from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

The center is 100 meters north and 100 meters east of the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad in Sabana Norte.

Nicaragua may move
on open pit project

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The chancellor of Nicaragua said the country will  invoke international treaties to prevent the operation of an open-pit gold mine near the San Juan River.

The chancellor or foreign minister, Norman Caldera, made the statements on a morning television interview show.

Nicaraguans are upset that the open-pit mine will use cyanide to leach gold from the rock that contains the precious metal. The mine will be 3 kms. south of the river in Costa Rica.  That’s less than 2 miles.

The mine is a project of Vanessa Ventures, a Vancouver company,  and its Costa Rican subsidiary Industrias Infinto. The company has submitted a revised environmental impact study to the Ministerio de Ambiente y Energia. Last week, as part of the study, the company hosted a public meeting in the Northern Zone.

Long-time newslady is 100

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Anona Kirkland is 100 tomorrow, and there will be a special Mass for her at St. Luke's Episcopal Church in Ancon, Panamá, at 9:30 a.m., according to newspeople there.

Ms. Kirkland was for many years the person who did the society page for the old Star & Herald.
 
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New food writer will try to focus on the different
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A.M. Costa Rica today introduces a new food writer, Lenny Karpman, a retired cardiologist from California.

In addition to his professional knowledge about 
Lenny Karpman 
what is good for the heart, Karpman has apprenticed under the tutelage of a gifted French chef. 

Karpman has catered dinners for non-profit fundraisers and has treated friends to ethnic feasts from the Mediterranean, North Africa, the Middle East, Eastern Europe and all of Asia. He said he is 

enamored of Costa Rica’s incredible biodiversity and hopes to help add new combinations and tastes into 

traditional cuisine by popularizing the works of imaginative chefs, reviewing restaurants that reputedly are different and by offering ideas and recipes of his own.

He lives on a small farm in the eastern end of the Central Valley where he grows fruit, vegetables and herbs for his kitchen.

Karpman writes food and travel stories for American newspapers and magazines and said he hopes to combine his experience with nutrition, technique, travel and local ingredients to entertain fellow food lovers from time to time here.

As with all writing in A.M. Costa Rica, food reports are not influenced by advertising expenditures.
Once they are published as part of the daily newspaper, our food reports will be archived on the food page for reference by readers.

Karpman may be reached by e-mail via editor@amcostarica.com.


 
Every culture seems to have a meat dumpling 
By Lenny Karpman
A.M. Costa Rica food writer

Paseo Colon became a parking lot one lunch hour with broken glass and dented fenders.  We inched over into a legitimate parking lot in front of Satto, a Korean and Japanese restaurant near La Sabana. What good fortune. My wife Joan and I spent weeks feasting in Korea with an American couple who worked for the Defense Department in Seoul. 

We loved the cuisine. I particularly liked the steamed beef and pork filled dumplings called 
The boiled variety
mantu. They were very similar to the chopped lamb mandu, dumplings served in an Afghani restaurant near our pre-Costa Rican abode in California. At Satto, the 
chef offers them steamed, chin-mandu or deep fried. Both versions are tasty and the ingredients are similar to their Asian brethren. 

When he can’t get Asian imported wrapper pasta, he makes his own. The filling contained ground pork, green onions, cellophane noodles, bits of carrot and herbs and spices nicely blended. The dipping sauce, too, was perfection, a little red chili paste, quality soy sauce, sesame oil and a dash of vinegar. 

We also shared a typical rice bowl decorated with marinated grilled strips of beef and vegetables and crowned with a fried egg, called bi bim bop. Joan asked for more of the Korean smoky red chili paste to add to her rice. She asked the owner where we could buy some. His was home made, and he insisted that we take a jar as a gift. 

Serendipity. Later we joined a group from the Women’s Club of Costa Rica at a new Japanese restaurant in Escazú.  It had previously been a popular Mexican restaurant. The tasteful architecture and comfortable ambiance persist.  Nera is on the Golden Mile, up the road from Samurai, across the street from Chango. The menu is both Korean and Japanese. 

Our group loved their seafood sushi platters, tempura, teriyaki, grilled squid and complimentary flavorful rice and octopus pancakes and tropical fruits. Many of the offerings are paired with pictures on the menu. I mistook a picture of wantons for a plate of mantu, which I didn’t see on the printed part. The charming Korean woman chef admitted that they weren’t on the menu but said she always had them available. 

I ordered minced pork chin-mantu and got steamed Chinese pot stickers. Half were filled with savory pork and half with a dry, bland chicken tofu mixture. The pasta was thick and stiff. The dipping was the same as the sauce for the pancakes, tasty, but more Japanese than Korean.

Trifecta! Little Seoul, a block north of Plaza Major in Rohrmoser, serves mantu steamed and fried. The chin-mantu is a rice flour bun rather than a pasta pocket. Typical of Chinese dim sum, it is served with a soy dipping sauce. The filling is a finely chopped and well-seasoned meat mixture. Han, the owner, has been here for 20 years. Many of the other 10 or so Korean eateries seem to be attempts to duplicate his successful style and menu, the highest tribute in the trade. He tells me that the Japanese version of mantu is manju. 

He explained that there are no Korean markets in Costa Rica. Guatemala has several, but the Korean population here is too small to support one. Only Chinese ingredients are available locally.

The world-wide mandu family tree contains hundreds of cousins. Dough-wrapped packets of seasoned ground meat are simmered in Kabul and served with yogurt and vegetables, and steamed in 

Not empanadas but fried mandu!

baskets in Seoul and served with spicy dipping sauce.  Around the globe, savory meats wrapped in a panoply of dough variants are baked into little pies, fried into fritters, boiled or steamed into dumplings and rolled into blintzes to the specifications of local palates. 

Consider wantons, empanadas, fritters, crepes, filo triangles and ravioli as variations on the same marvelous theme. The ingredients are so similar, and the morsels so deliciously different. The origin of the word mandu seems to be mantou, an old term from the lamb and mutton eating regions of northern China.  In ancient times it was the name for a packet of meat stuffed into a casing of sheep intestine. 

If we look for similar names, mandu, mantu, or manti, we find them in the kitchens of Eastern and Central Asia, Eastern Europe, North Africa, and the Middle East. There seems to be a pattern. The meat-filled dumplings with similar sounding names survive to this day in many of the major cities along both the northern and southern arms of the original Silk Road that connected China and  Europe. Dumplings from China called mantu are even mentioned in the Koran. 

In Ankara, they were called by their Silk Route name, manti, and when they migrated south down the Arabian Peninsula and across North Africa they were mandu. Superimpose the waves of conquest by Mongols, Islamic armies, the Ottoman Turks, and the mandu connection reached from Siberia to southern India and from the Sea of Japan to the Atlantic. 

Eastern European and Central Asian borek (burek, bourek, boorak, boreg) share the same thin dough as Turkish manti. Similar, but a little thicker is the wrapper for Russian and Polish pirogi. Thinner dough brought us filo in every conceivable shape filled with everything from lamb to nuts. 

We had baked manti in Ankara, boiled manty in a Siberian restaurant in Moscow and baseball sized pork and beef filled manti at an Uzbekastani birthday party in Saint Petersburg. 

In Slovenia they dice pumpkin with meat in dumplings of the same name. 

Although better known for his novels, Alexander Dumas wrote in his "Dictionary  of Cuisine" 150 years ago about the most extravagant of all mandus: "Heliogabalus, that emperor who came from Syria and entered Rome on a chariot drawn by naked women, had a historian just to describe his meals. He never had a meal that cost less than 60 gold marks (about $10,000 or 4,350,000 colones). He had petite pies made of the tongues of peacocks, nightingales, crows, and parrots." 

Not quite four and twenty blackbirds, but a mandu cousin none-the-less.To savor real mantu, visit Satto on Paseo Colon, a short block from La Sabana.


 
This story was published Tuesday, Aug. 10, 2004, in Vol. 4, No. 157
and you still can respond to it!
An ethical dilemma
To pay or not to pay, that is the question
By Jay Brodell
editor of A.M. Costa Rica

The latest predicament grew from a mental lapse on my part. I accidentally left an expensive camera in the back seat of a taxi as I got out at Casa Presidencial a week ago.

The taxi was two blocks away before I noticed the loss of my small Sony digital.

We figured the camera was a goner, the cost of doing journalism anywhere. But fellow newspeople, including colleagues from Diario Extra and at the press office of the Judicial Investigating Organization came to my aid.

La Extra ran a small notice about the gringo losing a camera. Press people notified radio commentators.

The result is a situation that requires a little participatory journalism. Readers will be asked to give advice on what to do.

You see, the taxista found the camera and saw La Extra. Saturday he called to say we could have it back, but we just needed to pay the 50,000 colons to get the device out of the unspecified pawn shop. That’s about $112. The camera is used and worth about $200.

As a sign of good faith the taxi driver gave me the black cloth bag that had contained the camera. Still in it was my press identification and phone number.

The taxista came again Monday to invite me to go to the pawn shop and redeem the camera. Getting in a tax carrying $112 in cash is not something I usually do, at least when the driver knows I have the money. I stalled.

Some associates want me to forget the camera and file a criminal charge of extortion against the cab driver. We have his plate number

A.M. Costa Rica photo
Empty camera bag was returned

which allowed us to obtain his name. He is basically holding the Sony for ransom. He knew who I was and pawned the device anyway.

Others say I should be pragmatic. Pay the money, take the camera and forget it.

Curiously, every Costa Rican consulted wants a criminal complaint filed. The North Americans say I should pay. The Costa Ricans say I should not encourage this type of behavior. The North Americans say one taxi driver is not going to change anything.

So here is your chance. You can send an e-mail, with or without comments to one of two addresses.

If you think I should file a complaint and try to get the camera back from the pawn shop with the help of the police, send your e-mail to burntheguy@amcostarica.com.

If you think I should simply pay off to get the camera back, send your e-mail to paytheguy@amcostarica.com.

We’ll publish the results.

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Another
reason
to have
mosquito
worries
By Rutgers University news service

Brush, then squash. Remember those three words and that technique the next time you catch a mosquito dining on your arm or leg, and you’ll go a long way to protecting yourself from a potentially lethal parasitic micro-organism that may be in the mosquito, and is especially dangerous to those with weakened immune systems. 

That’s the word from a researcher at Rutgers University in New Jersey.

A study by Rutgers-Newark biology professor Ann Cali and others published in the New England Journal of Medicine in July says that microsporidia, a group of opportunistic single-celled micro-organisms that can invade and devour virtually any kind of human cell, may have entered and broken down the muscle tissue of a Pennsylvania woman when she crushed a mosquito over the site where it had been drawing blood. 

The woman later died as a type of microsporidia called B. algerae, known to reside in the tissues of mosquitoes, systematically consumed muscle fibers in her body, leaving the muscles unable to contract and respond to mental commands. 

Professor Cali, who serves as a consultant for the Centers for Disease Control  and the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology at Walter Reed Army Hospital, theorizes that the B. algerae in the mosquito may have been ground into the wound left by the insect’s hypodermic-like feeding tube. Mosquitoes secrete an anti-coagulant to keep blood from clotting as they drink, temporarily leaving a clear passage directly into the bloodstream. 

New research by Professor Cali and one of her graduate students will be aimed at identifying how prevalent B. algerae is in mosquitoes through the collection and examination of specimens across New Jersey.

"Microsporidia kill people because they stay below the radar," Professor Cali said.

Studies spearheaded by Professor Cali have identified many of the dozen kinds of microsporidia now known to infect humans. About 1,500 species of microsporidia have been found infecting a wide variety of life forms. Their spores — a dormant stage in the creatures’ life cycle — inhabit virtually every surface water source, becoming active 

microsporidia once they have been ingested by an animal susceptible to infection by that particular species. 

Until research by Professor Cali and her co-authors proved otherwise, the conventional scientific wisdom was that B. algerae, a microsporidium found in some mosquitoes, could only invade cells on the surface of the human body because it couldn’t survive in the higher temperatures of deep tissue. Several types of microsporidia can be lethal in human beings, although a healthy immune system is usually an adequate defense. 

Professor Cali notes that AIDS patients, organ-transplant recipients and cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy,  who have a low white blood-cell count, need to take extra care to avoid ingesting microsporidial parasites. She recommends that they always boil tap water before consuming it or stick to bottled water —  as long as the source of the bottled water is deep springs or wells where microsporidia are unlikely to be present due to the absence of food sources. 

"Prevention is so much better than cure," Professor Cali said, adding that although treatment for some types of microsporidia shows promise, "Whenever we start dealing with parasites in our cells, it’s very difficult to kill them without upsetting our body’s other processes." 

Professor Cali recommends some simple, common-sense approaches to avoid mosquito bites and resultant infections in addition to her brush-then-squash technique, which moves any B. algerae in a mosquito’s body away from the vulnerable wound site: 

If people are concerned about spraying insect repellents on their skin, they can wear lightweight, long-sleeved shirts and long pants, and spray the repellent on the fabric instead. Taking garlic capsules, which cause the release of an odorless vapor through the pores that insects find unappetizing, also can be effective. 

Another approach involves coating exposed skin areas with a bath oil product called Skin So Soft, which has proven so effective that U.S. armed forces operating in swampy, mosquito-rich areas now routinely carry it with their other gear. Avoiding being outside at dawn and dusk, when mosquitoes are most active and prevalent, is another effective tactic, she adds. 


 
Mystery novel mixes Tico cop with Colombia's woes
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Bismark Pacheco, Costa Rica’s top detective, is back in another Max Blue mystery, "Luz Stella's Tale."

Blue is a pseudonym for Paul Fritz, a frequent visitor to Monteverde from New Jersey. Costa Rica 
has served as a setting for two previous Pacheco novels.

Luz Stella Ramírez, Pacheco’s associate in the novel, is loosely modeled after Ingrid Betancourt, the Colombian presidential candidate taken hostage by leftist rebels there in February 2002.

Luz is a tough lady. She’s a great poker player who strangles a gunman in 

the first chapter using just a silk scarf.

Much of this novel takes place in the United States, including a Florida gambling ship and Birmingham, Alabama. However, the influence of Latin America and Colombia drives the plot.

This book is published by iUniverse, as were the two other Bismark Pacheco novels, "Murder At The Cat" and "Cielito Lindo."  The Cat refers to CATIE, 

the  Tropical Agricultural Research and Higher Education Center in Turrialba where Fritz, now a retired Penn State professor of plant genetics, worked from 1992 to 1995.

Wilson Abut is listed as a co-author. But the book has a character by the same name, so it is unclear if Abut is a real person or another pseudonym. The character Abut is described as a former quarterback and current journalist.

iUniverse says it is one of the largest book publishing companies in the United States. It specializes in short press runs and new authors.

The Pacheco novels always have a lot of strange characters, but probably no stranger than a sampling of North Americans in San José.

The book is available hardcover ($24.95) or paperback ($14.95).

Ms. Betancourt herself has written a book "Until Death Do Us Part — My Struggle to Reclaim Colombia." A release quotes author Blue saying:

"I would have dedicated the book to her but for the fact that my fiction pales in the face of her reality. Luz Stella is not Betancourt. Who could be? But ‘Luz Stella's Tale,’ told against the fictional background of a Bismark Pacheco mystery, tells something of
the agonizing troubles of today's Colombia."

Ms. Betancourt still is a hostage in Colombia.


 
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