Archive for the ‘Euphoria’ Category

Sede Atlantico

Tuesday, March 6th, 2018

The University of Costa Rica has a handful of satellite campuses scattered here and there around this dimunition of a country, and for some reason figures that its compound in Turrialba has something to do with the ocean several hours' drive to its east. Overlooking the egregious decision to name it "Sede Atlantico" rather than its rightful "Sede Queso" ((Turrialba is Costa Rica's cheese mecca, a place where the cows and the coffee bushes do equally well.)), I ventured forth on the two-hour journey to audit a class or two and see if there was any wasted talent hanging about.

It's a pleasant drive; the landscape shifts from the gray roughness of San Jose to the technicolor hovels of Hatillos, the city's pseudo-squattage, soon yielding completely to the overgrown jungle-forest-desert pastiche of the rural valleys.

On arriving at the campus, I found it rather remarkably empty for a monday mid-morning. In fact, there were many more cleaning women than students about, so I snapped a few shots of the freshly-painted, freshly-waxed hallways and looked for coffee.

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There wasn't any coffee to be found, however, the cafeteria being full of peeling wooden planks and chairparts. I asked what bipeds I could find, and was pointed towards a soda across the street. Coffee just isn't as enjoyable at a plastic table occupied by squeeze bottles of ketchup and mustard, you know? So I walked a few kilometers until I found a somewhat more passable joint that had mediocre cafe con leche and fantasia de higos, a sort of parlor-game dish where you excavate poor, helpless figs from ice cream that's nowhere near up to par.

With the walk back I'd killed a little time, and went back to campus.

Which, as you've probably guessed...

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Well, maybe people don't hangabout here, all business, I guess? Let's go to class.

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Here's Room 4, which both online and right outside its door professes to be holding a class from 1 to about 4pm. At ten minutes to 1, it was empty. At 1 exactly, idem. Fifteen minutes later? I don't think PC0305-901 is doing so well.

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I tried out a few more rooms that were supposed to be holding classes. They were similarly well-attended.

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I went to the administration and asked them why their online schedule, as well as those posted outside the classrooms, were incorrect. The attendant mula, visibly perturbed to be wrested from digging through her purse for god knows what and called to some sort of duty, disappeared for a few minutes and re-emerged with the certainty that the schedules were correct. "So why isn't anyone in any of your classrooms?" "They're there, it's 1:30!" "I was just down that hall, none of these rooms have anyone in there." "We have new classes starting next week!" "Okay, but what about these?" "They're in session." "So why is nobody there?" "There must be!"

I decided to quit the carousel and check out Turrialba itself. The dozen or so girls I managed to find milling around the bus-stops and chop-suey stations near campus had either admitted there was nothing to do on the weekend around there, or else had said the place to go was a disco called Latinos. Naturally, I wanted to see this item.

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What, you can't spot it? This is the happening spot in all of Turrialba, folks! Have you no eye for excitement?

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How about now? Nobody said you can't have a great disco on the balcony of the local social security building!

On a brighter note, the thing downstairs had decent beet-juice.

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In addition, of course, to a screen-for-the-sake-of-having-a-screen ("Activate Windows!") and advertisements for a "workshop on Mayan Mysticism" and "caldosas", which is, I shit you not, ceviche thrown into a bag of corn chips.

The town's main square held the day's real gem, with a certain elusive bird from other excursions somehow choosing this spot to laze about and croon in almost full view.

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Here he is mid-gargle. It sounds about like Roman candles look, if that does anything for you.

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Anyone know who he is?

A cheesy pit-stop on the way back ends this foray:

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Until next time I feel like being delighted and disillusioned in nearly equal amounts, bon fromage.

Blinks Abroad

Monday, February 12th, 2018

I had a dream this morning that I was back in college, and that the vast majority of students had decided the organization was no good, to be replaced with a daily process in which you'd line up at a reception table, fill out forms for a while, grab a stack of other people's paper assignments to be completed by yourself, then move on to a new table with a big vat of lemon blueberry pudding and piles of plastic containers, at which point you'd ladle out some of the stuff (yes, on top of the writing assignments), grab some plastic, and write down how many portions for redistribution you were going to produce that day once the papers were written. And I felt guilty, because I wrote four, but took five containers, intending to secret away a scoop of sludge for myself.

I have no idea, really, but I was glad for having woken up, once I did. In fact, it's rather difficult not to feel serene and relieved on waking to my life, awash as it is these days in resplendent natural beauty and adventuresome delights. In part, I think it's Costa Rica itself --well, it and its marked differences from Buenos Aires, where a mere walk by the riverside could barely, and often not really, be had. There's also likely something to be said for the distance in years, in paradigm, and in practice from those college days, even if the real thing was a little less blatantly insane (it was certainly less puddinged). But those are reflections for another day. For now, there's wilderness, that space sufficiently unmolested by humans to make being one in it feel better.

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Taking in the view after a thirty minute climb behind a rickety truck full of Nicaraguan date-palm-jacks.

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The jungle path, as curated by some worthy, quiet folks on the mountaintop.

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Hello from as close to Pepperland as probably exists.

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Rounding a corner, an odd call was heard. I pointed the camera at the branches, oh hope beyond hope...

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...of finally seeing a wild toucan, and there he was.

Once back, duty required that I journey on to Bogota, to be carouseled from a to b and back in a certain diplomatic chariot.

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No such luxury on the way in, however. Boingo wifi presents: flight schedule eggog, Panama edition! No tiene precio, kay?

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I don't know what kind of dental procedures require generators-cum-soft-serve apparatus, and I don't want to find out.

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Colombia's coffee did not disappoint. Neither did the lulada, a sort of persimmon-ade.

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Bogota's most beautiful building, the Farshad rug store. I was going to use it as misdirection for a game of 'guess where I am', but the thing was too true and good for such trickery.

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This, for the record, was the most dangerous the city ever got.

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For Dad, another piece of the Stanford diaspora.

And here our journey ends, brief interval between delicious propulsions. Until next time, may your papers be your own, and your pudding non-communal.

Use your nose

Sunday, August 31st, 2014

I've always suspected that smelling's gotten a bad rap. It's even right there in the verbiage available to describe it; tasting, seeing, hearing, and feeling have no outright negative connotations, but smelling could just as well mean "to stink" as "to experience scent". Smelling is also neglected as a point of sensory praxis. Sure, there's the "stop and smell the roses" adage, but it's not too often taken literally, and what's worse, commercial parfumerie inundates people with the notion that the olfactory equivalent of Vegas blinkenlichten is the final word on what smells good. When's the last time you went to a department store and were asked if you'd like to sample having your retinas bleached? The umbrella of "entertainment" offers tasting menus, spectacles, concerts, sports, massages of various plotlines, but where are the smelling tours, the scent extravaganzas? At best smelling comes as a mostly unnoticed and unappreciated by-product of the indulgence of some other sensory inclination.

This neglect isn't the only thing that would seem to separate smelling from the other senses. As input devices for the brain, sensory organs send data along their respective neural pathways in the peripheral nervous system; data which arrives at a ganglion, a middleman for our purposes, before it can travel to the central nervous system. This isn't the case in the course of smelling. The olfactory epithelium ((Anyone wanting to test their mettle against a giant tidalwave of squeamishness is invited to take a gander at this item. It's possibly the most objectionable looking thing I've ever seen dissected.)), slightly behind and above the nostrils, transmits data directly to the brain without the need for interfacing with a ganglion. That the the process of smelling is thusly streamlined as compared to the perception of other sensory stimuli is interesting medically, as the swift and unfettered delivery of whatever therapies is prized. I'm not aware of any definitive evidence either established or sought without success, but while the cogs turn it's something to sniff on.

While you may never be able to inhale an anti-epileptic, though, you can very well make greater use of your sense of smell. Hopefully you're not stuck in a city that stinks, but even the most congested of places is bound to offer an occasional pleasant reprieve. Smell flowers when you find them. Walk a little more slowly and breathe in the scent of roasting nuts from a street vendor. Visit a spice shop and sample some things you've never heard of. There's a lot more to the life of the nose than cups of coffee, strips of bacon, and some guy's gnarly BO on the bus. Like any other sense, smelling acquires greater ability to distinguish with practice, and doing it consciously will produce greater refinement.

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Argentina and the Art of Being into It

Saturday, June 21st, 2014

It being whatever it is, and Argentina being a good place to be.

I've been to two tango shows since landing in the Southern Hemisphere. The first was at a large venue with tables and back-lit agate (a favored assemblage in these parts which casts a lovely glow on all; I quite like it). The second was a much less formal affair in a drama department-style theatre wedged into the back of a shopping mall. No agate, but a proliferation of endearingly shitty stage equipment including chintzy stenciled backdrops and a malfunctioning fog machine that gave out a little poot after every performance. The unfailing flatulence of that thing had me in stitches. I nearly burst out snorting like an unfettered donkey traipsing o'er the buttercups every time, but thankfully managed to swallow and nose-pinch myself into relative silence.

There was a little bonus-show caught two nights in a row at the intersection of two streets, performed by apparently non-busking buskers, as well. They didn't want money, they didn't need a flat surface for dancing, they were just doing it, the it they'd chosen. That's been a running theme, here; the shameless delivery of interest, an open infatuation with the thing at hand. I imagine the Argentines themselves would call this la pasiĆ³n, but on second thought it's entirely possible they're not even conscious of this, their most alluring quality.

My eyes might be called western. I grew up in California and have lived in a handful of other states, but my travels have taken me decidedly outside of that particular nest (or so I'd think). Romania, Mexico, Costa Rica, Sweden, Turkey, Serbia, Hungary...surely somewhere in there one could say my States-o-Matic Perception Unit has enjoyed a few glitches. So it's quite the surprise when I realize my eyes have as yet unmet comparable kismet --the palpable goodness of fit between people and whatever it is they're doing.

To wit, the least talented of the dancers in the second show (...poot) may have lacked the finesse of her peers, but her sheer enjoyment of every move, her wonderfully embodied delight at the trickiest parts, the smile that her partner couldn't help but mirror, despite his efforts to affect the typical tango visage of drama, more than compensated for her merely competent dancing, as far as I'm concerned.

Street musicians are in on it. One kid, sitting on an upturned bucket somewhere downtown, with a series of other such buckets laid out before him, proceeds to lay out an incredibly precise series of beats and is unmistakably having a ball. People walking down my street --the theatre street--, break into song here and there without a trace of hesitancy or shyness. Pizza hawkers and confection counter workers tie up their take-out gingerly with little strings, whistling, smiling, seemingly unaware of this western-world rule that everyone hates their job.

Perhaps an army of exceptions awaits around some corner of "getting settled" or "different district", but I daresay the positive impression is made, and will be the unblemishable first of this land.

Life in Capslock

Friday, July 29th, 2011

When I was a little girl, I'd sometimes come across a title or a proclamation in all caps, usually in the books of male relatives who had libraries and oversized chairs in which to nap and finger the fabric and leather binding of volumes that smelled like the men themselves. Such streams of important words, I thought, were likely to be read aloud by a page with trumpet and deliciously pointed shoes, should the book be read aloud at all.

Imagine my horror, then, when the capslock began to transcend the realm of secret reading scenes and enter into my everyday consciousness. You can, of course, because at some point it likely made a rude invasion into yours, as well; parading on the back of a breakfast cereal box or splattered across a contest entry form, marching onto your computer screen from the likes of unknown salesmen or following you around like a caffeinated chihuahua while you were smiting digital foes and fumbling over complicated in-game squelch commands.

Some forms of capslock seem to be more acceptable than others. While it's easy to dismiss a not-so-casual chatterbox who types as though he were trying to look as big as possible in the presence of a grizzly bear, the ubiquitous over-sizing of the word "free" somehow fails to inspire as much ire. But the prospect of something being given freely should be enough to attract and excite on its own; decorating the word until it looks like something spelled out in the Cheshire Cat's teeth is enough to make me suspect it's entrapment, not altruism, the word wishes to convey.

What truly interests me about capslock, though, is whether it's able to move past the written word. It's been with us well before the world at large began to piddle its opinions onto keyboards, though it may not always be as easy to recognize. Certainly we've all seen, or worn, or both, a pair of BREASTS CAVORTING FORTH FROM BONDS OF SPANDEX, and many a capslocked utterance has escaped the lips of a righteous man and his FAITH AND GLORY IN THE LORD. But are there more subtle instances --perhaps even positive ones-- possible? A drowsy morning suddenly made bright and crystalline with COFFEE or a SUNRISE, or the SMILE of a kid completely given over to some joyful initiation with the world. Is an orgasm experienced in capslock? If I could spell one out I'm sure not all the letters would be politely undercase.

Do you ever feel as though you're living in capslock, or know someone who does? And is it just as annoying or comic as it is when written down, or can life in capslock be enjoyable?