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These stories were published Friday, Nov. 19, and Saturday, Nov. 20, 2004, in Vol. 4, No. 230
Jo Stuart
About us
Early Saturday morning
6.2 quake hits near Quepos and rattles country
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff
(Posted Saturday 11 a.m.)

A 6.2 magnitude earthquake struck at 2:07 a.m. Saturday offshore in the Pacific about 10 kms. north of the community of Quepos.

Officials report no direct loss of life but say that damage may be significant.

The shock was felt all over the country. Power and some telephone lines failed in the Central Valley, but service was restored by 4 a.m.
The Hospital de Quepos reported many persons being treated for hysteria and minor injuries.

Quepos and the surrounding area is still believed to be without electricity at this writing. Parrita up the coast is without domestic water service.

The quake took place in an area heavily associated with tourism due to nearby Parque Nacional Manuel Antonio. The epicenter was 

west of Plaza Damas north of Quepos, and the police station at Isla Damas collapsed. The area is 45 kms. (30 miles) south southwest of San José.

The medical clinic at Parrita suffered structural damage. The Comisión Nacional de Prevención de Riesgos y Atención de Emergencias said two homes had collapsed in Cartago Province.

The commission declared a state of emergency in the central Pacific and began an inventory of damage before daybreak. The commission also said that the Braulio Carrillo Highway is closed. This is Route 32 that connects San José to the Caribbean coast through mountainous terrain. Some landslides already have been reported.

The quake was attributed to movement by the Coco tectonic plate on which Costa Rica rides.

The commission also discounted rumors that the quake had lowered the water level in the Quepos area.

Time for soapbox treatment of paper and pills
My mouse died.  Let me rush to say I am talking computer.  Actually it has been sluggish for weeks, so this morning I prepared to get to some place and get another one.  My street was once entirely residential. 

A past president of Costa Rica lives some 10 doors away.  In recent years many of the houses have been turned into law offices and computer establishments. On the corner of the street where I live there is a computer company.  I didn’t feel much like spending the morning running around because I am still recovering from a cold, so I decided to stop in and ask if they by chance sold mouses — mice — meese?  I would ask them if they could replace my mouse.  And sure enough, they could. 

Now the system for sales in Costa Rica is a bit different from in the U.S.  First I talked to the receptionist who referred me to a woman at a desk.  She, in turn, checked on her computer to see if they had a suitable mouse in stock. They did. She got it and showed it to me.  Fine.  She then told me to go back to the receptionist to pay for it, which I did. 

The factura (bill), which the woman at the desk was typing was coming up on the receptionist’s printer.  The receptionist handed me the factura, actually two copies each on an 8x11 sheet of paper.  I paid her and then was instructed to go to the bodega (storeroom) window where I presented the factura and was eventually given my mouse the same brand but a different one from the one the desk lady had shown me.  This procedure is duplicated in most stores and businesses.

I have no problem with this system.  It certainly does take longer than say, Office Depot, but it also employs more people, which is good.  The thing I object to is using up two 8x11 sheets of paper for a transaction costing 2,582 colons ($5.70). The computer has not cut down on the consumption of paper.  I want to beg people, "Save paper, save our trees!", but I think of Dr. Ignatz Semmelweis, my hero who went mad pleading with doctors to wash their hands to stop the epidemic of women dying of infection after childbirth. 

Living in Costa Rica

. . .Where the living is good

By Jo Stuart

But back to the present: it was nice and convenient to be able to pick up a new mouse just a half block away.  I returned home to nurse my cold.  I have been trying various medications, pills, syrups, lemon and lozenges to treat my cough, which is the most debilitating part of my cold.  Besides the little confites Zorretones, the most effective thing I have found is something my son recommended — a plastic strip that you put on your nose, called Breathe Right.  I like it, too, because it is non-invasive. 

Why aren’t more medications non invasive?  When I was first in Majorca staying in a hotel, one of the other guests had a bad cold and the doctor had given him a prescription.  He could not read the instructions and since I was the only one in the dining room with any knowledge of Spanish, he ostentatiously brought it over for me to translate. 

I told him that it looked like they were suppositories.  I told him this quietly, but he shared it with the rest of the dining room to much laughter from everyone. (So much for my Spanish, was the general feeling.) It turned out, of course, that they were suppositories. 

Even at that time I wondered why more medicines were not applied as suppositories to avoid upsetting the stomach.  They are now just coming out with treatments that can be applied to the skin. I have been on the soapbox about side effects of prescription drugs that are often as dangerous as the ailment they are supposed to treat for some time.

When doctors finally started washing their hands after autopsies and before delivering babies, thousands upon thousands of women’s lives were saved.  That was certainly non-invasive treatment. 

"First, do no harm"  should be the watchword of both treating patients and the environment. 

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La Costanera, Quepos, Parrita, Manuel Antonio

Region's officials act to make formal links with Colombia
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Regional leaders will act today to incorporate war-torn Colombia into the Plan Puebla Panamá, a regional development program.

The controversial Plan Puebla Panamá is the brainchild of Mexico’s president, Vincente Fox, although critics have claimed he was working on behalf of Washington.

The regional integration plan seeks to combine the poor southern México states with the Central American republics. High on the list are new highways and a merger of the regional electrical power grid.

Although the plan is controversial, the addition of Colombia adds a whole new dimension of concern because Colombia has been at war with leftist revolutionaries and right-wing militia for 30 years.

The plan would seek to link Colombia’s electrical grid with the power lines up north. In addition, a proposal has been advanced for a gas pipeline. Colombia now is isolated from Central America because highways end 

south of the Panamá Canal and no roads exist in the Darien Gap, a area of deep jungle and militia fighters.

The incorporation of Colombia is so important that the topic occupies its own entry on the agenda for the XIV Cumbre Iberoaméricana that starts today in San José. The 2:45 p.m. session will be in a meeting room at the Hotel Herradura, which is the main hotel for the summit. President Abel Pacheco is expected to attend.

Although the Plan Puebla Panamá was proposed by Fox in 2000, it has been languishing lately. However, last May 31 Fox and Colombian President Alvaro Uribe said in Mexico City that Colombia had been invited and that the country was anxious to participate. Both men are scheduled to arrive at Juan Santamaría Airport this morning.

Critics castigate the plan as another example of corporate globalization in which the United States seeks to control the destiny of other lands. Not counting Colombia, the plan area now is a million square kilometers, eight nations and more than 60 million persons.

A.M. Costa Rica/Joe Medici
Miguel Charvarría wrestles with an oversized check used for presentation at Mac’s American Bar in Sabana Sur Thursday.

Boomer Esiason Foundation
makes $10,000 donation

By The A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Costa Rican Association of Cystic Fibrosis has received a check for $10,000 from the Boomer Esiason Foundation. 

Robert Hodell, the organizer of the event Thursday, delivered the check over to Lorena Barrantes, vice president of the Costa Rican Association of Cystic Fibrosis, and Miguel Charvarría, a young Tico who suffers from the genetic disorder that attacks the airways.

Boomer Esiason was a quarterback in the National Football League for 14 years before retiring after the 1997 season. A four-time Pro Bowler, Esiason spent the bulk of his career with the Cincinnati Bengals. 

In 1993, Esiason’s youngest son, Gunnar, was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis. That year, Esiason started the Boomer Esiason Foundation. The foundation provides financial support for research aimed at finding a cure for the disease.

The Costa Rican association was formed in 1984 and has a clinic in the Hospital de Niños in San José. The association first made contact with Esiason’s foundation three years ago when the foundation began hosting the Costa Rica Classic Billfish Tournament in Quepos. 

The third Costa Rican Classic tournament will be held March 18 to 20. 

Airline association outlines
concerns for airport here

By Clair-Marie Robertson
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Association of International Airlines has released a statement outlining its main concerns with the Juan Santamaría International Airport. In the statement the association said that Alterra Partners, the airport’s operator, must improve the service that it is providing and continue with its contract. 

Alterra Partners holds a 20-year contract to operate and remodel the airport. Construction was halted by the government when officials realized that project costs were much higher than planned. 

The association has said that it is pleased with the judicial system in Costa Rica. In addition it also said that the association is satisfied with the outcome of the Alterra case. 

The company was contracted to modernize the airport but when expenses began to spiral out of control the Consejo Tecnico de Aviación Civil terminated the contract. 

As a consequence Alterra attempted to sue the consejo for $79.1 million, claiming damages and loss of earnings. Alterra lost the case last Friday. 

Tomas Nassar, the president of the association, said, "The statement we have released is a list of improvements that the airport must undertake. We have asked that the airlines cooperate with us." 

In the statement, the association put forward its requests for the airport. It wants the Costa Rican authorities to demand that Alterra complete the service contract that required them to finish renovation work.

The association has also requested that the airlines willingly participate in any agreement that is made between Alterra and the government and any investigations that may be carried out. The airlines have also been asked to make sure that they apply the correct tariffs for flights which have been approved by the consejo and the financial watchdog, the Contraloria de la República.  Tariffs for flights will rise to accommodate the costs of the renovation of the airport.  The exact amounts have not yet been published. 

Coast Road closed

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Pacific coast road is blocked several miles north of Dominical because a truck broke through the road surface and became trapped in the soggy ground Wednesday. Traffic has been halted for more than a day, and vehicles, including many trucks, are backed up. 

The road is a shortcut for those who prefer not to use the InterAmerican Highway that runs through San José and Cartago. The largest community to the north is Manuel Antonio-Quepos.

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A string of favorites from the subjective side
Holidays are for saying thank you. Thank you, Ticos, for your warmth, kindness, generosity and gentle culture. Thank you, ex-pats, for your incredible wealth of world knowledge, friendship and penchant for entertaining in grand style. Thank you, gardeners, cooks, carpenters, plumbers, electricians, computer builders and fixers, mechanics, housekeepers, guides, musicians, artists, actors, grocers, bakers, bankers, even editors and all the others who make day to day living here a delight.

Special thanks to you food lovers who share your thoughts, elation and displeasure critically with me. This genre, food writing, has to be interactive to be fun and informative. How diminished I would be without your hints and moral support. Today’s column is for you and your favorite sources of edible pleasure.

"Favorite" is usually an alien concept to reviewers. It is so subjective, like your visceral preference for chocolate or vanilla. It has nothing to do with the quality of ingredients, authenticity of the theme, artistic presentation, balance of textures and flavors or atmosphere. It is what you like more than the first cup of coffee in the morning or the cold beer after a round of golf. 

My favorite combines three things I love — eggplant, anchovies and crispy thin pizza. The Palermo pizza at Tutti Li in Plaza Itskatzu combines all three to my personal delight. It has nothing to do with impartial analysis, but for the holidays favorites are fine. These are my friends’ favorites:

friend             dish             restaurant          location 

Anne        steak with salsa mora     Las Caletas         Drake Bay
Becky       dim sum                             Lotus                  SR de Escazú
Ben           house pie                      El Grano de Oro     San José
Bill D.        Mexican steak                 Los Adobes         SA de Belén
Bill H.    Indonesian Stuffed Pineapple    Tin Jo      San José
Carol      chicken curry            Los Dos Carreteros   Sarchí
Charlie    tongue in salsa                 Rodeo                  SA de Belén
Clara        paella                                Sancho Panza     SA de Belen
David F.   steak with four sauces  Le Chandelier     San Pedro
David M   gallo pinto                      Soda Isabel           La Guacima
Ellie         lasagne                            Peperoni              SA de Belén
Emelia     veal with peppercorns   Jurgens              Los Yoses
Emy         roast lamb                         Beirut                  San José
Erintom  ka gai                                 Tin Jo                   San José
Flory       shrimp in tequila sauce La Luz                  SR de Escazú
Frans      tilapia in herb sauce   El Grano deOro       San José
Georges  blanquette de veau          Ile de France      Los Yoses
Harry      steak                                  La Cascada           SR de Escazú
Isabel      prosciutto pizza               Sal y Pepe            Escazú
Jacques   ribs                                   Tony Roma's         Escazú
Jay           bangers and mash         Del Mar                 San José
Jerry       spaghetti with meat sauce   Sal y Pepe     Escazú 

Dr. Lenny Karpman

we eat


Jillian     salmon                              El Terreon            SR de Escazú
Jimmy     roast chicken                 Pollos del Monte   SA de Belen
Jo             salmon                             Le Chandelier       San Pedro
Joan        canoli                               Tutti Li                    Escazú
Joanne   Snapper and prawns     Lâ'Ola del Mar        Escazú
Juan        pizza                                 Pan y Vino             SR de Escazú
Laureen pasta                                 Café Mundo            San José
Leonardo   ceviche marlin          Mariscos #1            Alajuela
Lillian    chicken chow mein      Tin Jo                      San José
Linda   Roast vegi chicken salad El Grano de Oro     San José
Lizette Mediterranean salad         El Grano de Oro     San José 
Luis        filet mignon                     Rodeo                      SA de Belén
Manuel  Corvina a la Valenciana Sancho Panza        SA de Belén 
Maria-Jesus blueberry blintzes    my  house              La Guacima
Mariksel whole fried fish           Cameron Dorado  Playa Brasilito
Marna   sea bass with garlic    Banco de Mariscos     Sta. Barbara
Matt       Thai curry                         Tin Jo                       San José
Myra     shrimp and rice              Banco de Mariscos   Sta Barbara
Nancy   paella                                Ceviche del Rey   SD de Heredia
Ozzie      rack of lamb                     Ile de France           Los Yoses
Patricia lamb  brochettes              Taj Majal                  Santa Ana 
Roberta shrimp and mashed potato Macchu Pichu     SanJosé Rhoda   shrimp and beef  kebobs   Kianti                     SA de Belén
Roger   Rice and beans,                  Carib.  Wapin'         San Pedro
Rolland mahi mahi                          Tre Fratelli            SR de Escazú
Sandy   mussels                                Le Monastere        SR de Escazú
Susan F. lobster bisque          La Brasserie Frances    San José
Susan H. rack of lamb                    Ile de France          Los Yoses
Tim   penne tomato basil                Sal y Pepe               Escazú
Tom    chicharones                          Oviedo                     La Guacima
Walden  fettuccini in white sauce  Tre Fratelli          SA de Escazú

Word of Mouth:
As for more eggplant recommendations, Beirut seems to be the most often  mentioned and Sal y Pepe seems to have the most different eggplant dishes on its short menu. Five: eggplant grilled with garlic, fried a la parmesan, on pizza, in vegetarian pasta and in vegetarian lasagna. 

Big question at the legislature is 'Will Figueres return to Costa Rica?'
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Will he come back or won’t he. That’s the question revolving around the promise of José María Figueres Olsen.

Legislators on a committee overseeing public expenditures would like to talk to the former president about a number of payments made to him that seem suspect.

However, the former president has a busy schedule in Europe and Asia, even though he lost his principal job with the World Economic Forum, because that 

organization’s board members said he should not have had a second consulting job without letting them know.

Consulting is how Figueres says he earned $900,000 from Alcatel, the French telecommunications company that won major contracts here and is involved in a wide-ranging corruption investigation.

In a message to lawmakers released Thursday, Figueres said he might return in early December. But then again he may be delayed until the 16th of the month. The legislature has the constitutional power to compel testimony, but individual lawmakers say that the distances involved in this case dilute that power.

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Rural tourism trade fair will be held in Heredia
By Clair-Marie Robertson
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The third trade fair of rural tourism will be held the weekend of Dec. 3, 4 and 5 at the INBioparque, Santo Domingo de Heredia. 

The fair’s objective is to make the national and international community aware of the products and tourist services that are available in Costa Rica.  The Instituto Costarricense de Turismo supports the rural trade fair. 

Luis Garces Monge, manager of the operations control unit at the institute, said that he sees rural tourism as being the way forward for Costa Rica. Garces said that he viewed it as an authentic and sustainable option from the point of view of the environment and the culture of Costa Rica. 

Aitor Llodio, executive director of the rural tourism fair, said "The main objective of this event is to produce an image of community rural tourism and present it as a sector to the national and international public. 

Llodio said that this fair will serve as a way to let people know that the tourist organizations are actively working to protect the environment. Llodio also said that he hopes that this event will bring together and improve communication between rural tourism companies. 

At present there exists more than 60 rural tourism community initiatives that have been developed mainly in areas where there are high levels of poverty.  The offer of services and tourist products generate important incomes that are of great benefit to the families in these areas. 

Llodio said that these communities rely heavily on a good infrastructure where they receive advice and guidance to help them in their business ventures. Nevertheless one of the most serious limitations of each 

Typical scene from last year's tourism fair

of the projects has been the marketing and promotion. 
Llodio said that he hopes that the rural trade fair will continue to be successful. " These events allow the tourists to regularly see what new initiatives are on offer," he said. 

This year there will be more than 50 national initiatives participating including representatives from other countries in Central America.  Participants will have stalls relating to hostels, tours, arts and crafts and traditional food. 

"There will also be several cultural activities such as traditional music and dance," said Llodio. Travel agencies and tourism companies from several European countries as well as the United States and Canada will be present. 

The entrance fee for the tourist trade fair is $3 for adults. It is free for children younger than 12. 

Trail ride and rodeo highlight ecotourism fair in Atenas this weekend
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Cowboys and cowgirls have a rodeo and trail ride this weekend at the II Feria Agroecoturistica ECAG-Atenas.

The event will be on the sprawling grounds of the Escuela Centroaméricana de Ganadería Saturday and Sunday.

The 15-km. trail ride is Saturday, and participants will travel through a mountainous countryside of great scenic beauty, sponsors promise. More than 300 horses and riders are expected.

Also Saturday a Costa Rican rodeo is planned.

Sunday is the day for a livestock auction. There is a riding championship and a Costa Rican bull fight. Also 

on exhibit will be tilapia production, woodcutting skills and tree climbing, said a release.

The livestock school is in Balsa de Atenas and includes some 525 hectares of land, 200 of which are covered with secondary forest and revegetation zones.

The school also features areas of traditional animal production, including cows, goats, horses, sheep and pigs. But there also is a place for the raising of zoo critters, including crocodiles and others. For those who do not want to walk around the grounds, the program features tractor tours and horse rides for youngsters. An orchid exposition also is planned.

The program is being promoted by the Instituto Costarricense de Turismo. The school is an agricultural college. More information is available at 446-7000.

Jo Stuart
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