Monday, December 17, 2007

Christmas = Summer in San Ramon, Costa Rica

While there’s something charming about a white Christmas, it’s way overrated. I barely escaped a week of snow and ice storms in Upstate NY to return to the mild weather and festive Latino scene here in San Ramon.

San Ramon welcomed us back as family and our neighbors and friends shout their greetings as we walk the streets of San Ramon. After 6+ years here, I feel accepted as a Ramonenese (San Ramon person) and more like a visitor in my home of origin.

This year all the trees in the central park are decorated with lights as local businesses each adopted and outfitted a tree to decorate and make a beautiful nighttime glow in the center of town.

Last week, cultural festivities kicked off with a performance in the big Church of Handel’s Messiah by The Costa Rica National Symphony and National Chorus. Although this isn’t my kind of music, the acoustics were awesome and a good time was had by all. Like many cultural events here, it was free and open to all supported by the Ministry of Culture. When a society doesn’t support an Army and war… music, art and theater can be funded and given to the people.

As a former restaurant owner and cook, my first shop at the farmer’s market/feria makes me feel settled into my life here. For between $7-8 we bought the best fruit and vegetables money could buy at any price. Bill Gates could not get healthier and tastier food than this! At 10 times the price in New York State, the taste comparison would be a joke. Papaya, pineapple, bananas, spinach, broccoli, peppers, carrots, onions, garlic, tomatoes, potatoes, cabbage, cilantro, limons, fresh cheese, coffee and more … will become a bounty of delicious meals. The Friday and Saturday market is also a cool mixing of all strata of San Ramon and the interaction with the local farmers is a great way to mark another week. Of course a bottle of Guaro (the local liquor) and a few beers will add inspiration in the kitchen.

To enjoy the festivities, exercise keeps this 52 year old energized and light. We go to the outdoor swimming pool on a regular basis to keep fit and indulge guilt free in food and drink. The pool was built for a national competition some years ago and donated to the City of San Ramon.

At the pool only half the people swim; the other half are women just catching the rays with lots of skin hanging out. Whether you’re male or female, it’s hard not to be blown away by how beautiful and sexy the women are here in San Ramon. The Latinas present themselves in a way that hardly resembles the intellectual, sweatshirt clad females in my Ivy League first world home. It’s impossible not to notice and be inspired to keep returning to exercise in the pool.

Happy holiday season to all! Maybe I’ll see you here in San Ramon to share summer. I’ll return in April for a spring visit to Ithaca NY to see friends and family. This rhythm seems to be working well.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Reverse Blog ... Ithaca, NY ... Winter Wonderland!

I will be heading back to summertime in San Ramon, Costa Rica in a few days. My tradition for the last 8 years has been to spend Thanksgiving with friends and family in Ithaca and NYC and then leave as winter begins. Each place has much to offer, but the cold, darkness and snow are better to be enjoyed from a distance.

My house in Ithaca is ready for winter. My tenants, Cristian and Josh, allow me to feel mostly burden free when I am gone. I live in the City of Ithaca in the Fall Creek neighborhood, just 2 blocks from Ithaca Falls, a monstrous natural wonder. Winter is funny as ice formations shine while the water flows loudly.

Downtown Ithaca had a festival this week with huge ice sculptures on display. Activities like this get people to come out of their houses and forget how cold it really is. I love my friends and neighbors here but from my perspective, it seems crazy to spend 4 months isolated, freezing etc. when summer is beginning in San Ramon.

I am returning to summer in San Ramon with kids on vacation until mid-February. Families are taking vacations at the beach. Most importantly, the rains have stopped and endless sunny days in the mid 70's await me.

I'm looking forward to buying loads of fruits and vegetables at the farmers market and eating healthy, local and light. We will swim daily in the outdoor pool downtown and top off the day at a bar/restaurant for some drinks and dinner. Reverse sticker shock is a treat as everything seems so inexpensive compared to the USA, Canada or Europe.

Somehow I smile and laugh more and life has a simplicity that gives me a healthy perspective. I'm ready to return to my Costa Rica home and hear the birds and sounds of the cool Costa Rican street life.

If the snow doesn't limit our travel plans, I should be home in San Ramon very shortly.