When In Rome…or Reading

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While on my way out the door and quite ready to make a voyage to England, among the parting thoughts from The Good Man was:

“Enjoy the traditional English breakfast.”

I’m a fan of all things breakfast so I readily agreed, despite not really knowing what a traditional English breakfast was all about.

My first morning in country, I stumbled downstairs to the complimentary buffet and started to understand.

It looks a little something like this.





I say “a little something” because this plate is missing a couple key components, mainly blood pudding (a sausage, also sometimes called black pudding), fried tomatoes and fried mushrooms. But other than that the main items are there. Griddled eggs. Hash browns. Bacon (center cut and YUM).

And the key component: Heinz Baked Beans.





No other will do.

I’m no stranger to eating beans for breakfast. I’ve been eating pintos in many forms alongside eggs for years, so this was zero hesitation to me. That said, I usually hate baked beans because they are just too sweet. Too much brown sugar, I think (as if such a thing as too much brown sugar exists).

I really like the Heinz baked beans because they aren’t especially sweet. They are tomatoey but not sugary sweet. A perfect compliment to eggs, in my humblest of American opinions.

Here’s the thing…I started having the Full Breakfast every day. They even served it at the cafeteria where I reported for work the second week of my stay. This meal formed a good solid start to my days of battling with suppliers and the English rain and pesky coworkers.

I felt like I could climb mountains on that breakfast.

And now that I’m back home, I miss it.

Breakfast now just seems sort of…blah. Sad. Lacking. And without verve.

So I looked at a couple local grocery stores. Lo and behold, I found the key ingredient here locally.





The real stuff! The good stuff. Ok, it’s a little more work to make all the fixins myself rather than ladling from a hotel buffet bar.

But it’s worth it.

Oh so worth it.

Now that breakfast is sorted, let’s chat about British dinners too, eh? Here is a beauty shot from one night at the local pub. Big yum.

Though all of that on the table (except for the Pedigree, a proper English Ale) is quite readily available here in the US. Thank goodness!





So now I have quite a menu for my post travel life as there is plenty of can’t-live-without-it food from Singapore (laksa, chili crab and kaya toast) and Costa Rica (tostones, Olla de Carne and Cas) and now the charms of Britain.

Tonight, however, I head back to my roots. We’re cooking New Mexico style in my house. All that British culture made my green chile blood level get a little low.

Must fix that problem right away!




All photos Copyright 2012, Karen Fayeth, and subject to the Creative Commons in the far right corner of this page. Photos taken with an iPhone 4s and the Camera+ app.



From The Top

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And the cycle starts again.

Where is my passport? Which suitcase should I use? Will I be able to sleep on the plane? Ten hours in flight, really? How many snacks should I bring? How many movies can I cram on my iPad? Ohmuhgawdinheaven I’m really doing this again?

Yup.

I’m really doing this again.

A plane ride is nigh. My third international trip in three months.

April = Singapore
May = Costa Rica

And that must mean it is June and time for travel to the UK.

A new beginning. A new trip. An old country that’s brand new to me.

Ever since I was a small child I’ve wanted to go to London. I’ve always felt a yearning to be there. Can’t explain why, but it calls to me. I’ve even blogged about my rampant anglophilia. My fave of those posts is here

When my fabulous cousin made one of his many trips, I’d read his travel journals with a mixture of envy and “I gotta get there too”.

And so I finally get to go, but it’s with less excitement and a little more pondering that I face this trip.

I think when I was a kid and fantasized about being in London, it was all double decker buses and tea and crumpets and Big Ben. Never in those dreams did I image myself trapped in a conference room for hours and hours belaboring even the smallest of points with a far too large and much too arrogant telecom company.

Beggars can’t be choosers. My company is footing the bill for airfare and a serviceable hotel for me. I will stay for two weeks in a town located about an hour outside of London. I will work my butt off on this trip, to be sure. But I also have two weekends to myself to explore.

I’m actually overwhelmed. How does one see London in just a few days! London Bridge and Parliament and 10 Downing Street and the London Eye and Piccadilly Circus and more and more and more!

Gah!

I’m nervous and daunted but underneath it all I’m also pretty happy to finally fulfill a dream!

And so as I walk around my office today making plans and wrapping up details, I hum quietly to myself a favorite Roger Miller tune:

England swings like a pendulum do,
Bobbies on bicycles, two by two,
Westminster Abbey the tower of Big Ben,
The rosy red cheeks of the little children.

Hang on! Put on your seatbelt. Keep all limbs inside the vehicle.

And awaaaaay we goooooo!





Image found at World Tourist Place.

Today’s Theme Thursday is: a new beginning



Plane Spotting

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Today I have another story from my Costa Rica travels. Forgive me, longtime readers, but I have to get all these stories out and written down.

_____

While I was visiting San Jose, I had a chance to meet not only with coworkers at my own company, but some fairly high level representatives from local suppliers.

Which is to say, I was treated to some really expensive dinners by some fairly wealthy people by Costa Rican standards.

These were city folks from San Jose. The more advanced and sophisticated type.

In all of those conversations, it always became clear how proud Costa Ricans are of their heritage, and the talk would lead to stories about Costa Rica, both personal and historical.

And multiple times, over a cold glass of Cas, I heard a similar tale.

These business people in expensive suits would laughingly tell me how, on the weekends, people will pile their kids in the car and drive out to the airport. Cars park along the runways, just outside the chain link fence, and Costa Ricans spend the afternoon watching airplanes land and take off.

“They even sell ice cream!” they would say with a shade of embarrassment, and then say “well, it’s mostly the people from Alajuela that watch the planes.”

By the standards of San Jose, Alajuela is seen as farm country and the people from Alajuela are considered bumpkins.

So the implication is that only the rural folks watch planes.

But then, to a person, every time I heard this story, the speaker would finally admit “so, yeah…my dad used to take me out there too. We’d be out there with all of our family and neighbors. I used to love it, it’s a great memory.”

Then they’d also admit they had taken their own kids out to watch planes too.

Because it turns out watching airplanes is really less about being a bumpkin versus being a city sophisticate, and more about the spirit of community. It is families spending time together. It is friends and neighbors taking a break from working hard to simply feel the joy of watching modern airplanes landing and taking off.

“In Mexico, they’ve even built seats like football stands,” one guy told me, as if to say that while Costa Ricans enjoy the show, they don’t make it a permanent thing.

I smiled. Such a simple joy I heard as these stories were told. To me this is a prime example of how Costa Ricans look at life.

They may not have a lot of money.

They may work very hard.

They may have seen a lot of hardship in their lives.

They may have to ride a bus belching diesel for several hours to get to their job.

They may lament too much or too little rain.

But they never forget the simple joy of ice cream and airplanes.

That, my friends, is the heart of the Costa Rican philosophy of pura vida.

And that’s what I take home with me in my heart.

I told my coworker that after a week, I’m a little bit Tico now, too.

I’ll never watch an airplane again without remembering their kindness.




Photo caption by photographer: “Douglas DC-8-63(AF)…San Jose Juan Santamaria International airport”



Image from jetphotos.net

Today’s Theme Thursday is: community



History Is Open to Interpretation

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Just outside the town of Oñate, New Mexico, there is a statue of Don Juan de Oñate. According to the stories told by locals, this fellow wasn’t exactly a nice guy. He was known for, among other things, cutting the feet off the local Acoma Indians.

So when a statue was put up depicting the explorer near the town of Oñate, someone cut off his right foot and left a note saying “fair is fair.”

That truly New Mexico story has always amused me greatly. Mostly because so many people will quote history as though it is gospel truth. History books will say that Oñate was a great explorer and settler of many towns. A founding father, I guess, but not everyone agrees.

History depends on who is telling it.

I was reminded of this bit of statue-based controversy when I visited the town of Alajuela, which is Costa Rica’s second largest city. We stopped off there on the way to visit the Poas Volcano.

My friend and coworker who took me for the ride was raised in Alajuela, so she wanted to show me the town and the beautiful central park and Catholic church in the plaza.

We also visited the nearby park created to honor Juan Santamaria, Costa Rica’s national hero.

My friend is a very proud Costa Rican, so she walked me over to the statue so I could see.

Here it is:




As we gazed up at the statue, my friend laughed.

“It’s wrong,” she said.

As I’d spent the week trying to traverse English and Spanish, I thought I’d misheard her. So I said “what?”

She laughed harder. “The statue. It’s wrong.”

“What do you mean?”

So she told me the story as she’d learned in school. Roughly that Juan Santamaria had set fire to a building containing soldiers from Nicaragua, and by doing so (and dying in the act) it allowed Costa Rica to gain an advantage and win the battle.

However, she continued, Santamaria was only a boy, not a man, as depicted in the statue. He wasn’t actually a soldier, as depicted. And notoriously, he was unarmed when he went forward to set fire to the hotel where the other soldiers were holed up.

The only accurate part of the statue is the torch.

Other than that, it’s all wrong.

“But we love it anyway,” she laughed. “He’s our hero.”

History is in the eye of the beholder, but national pride is enduring.




Photo Copyright 2012, Karen Fayeth, and subject to the Creative Commons license in the far right corner of this page. Taken with an iPhone 4s and the Camera+ app.



Charmed

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For my week in Costa Rica, this was the view out of one of my hotel windows.

It cheered me greatly, though I had to look up what pongámosle meant.

It means “give me.”

How utterly charming!

Yes, Costa Rica, I shall give you my green heart. And you shall give me yours too.

¡Pura vida!







Photo copyright 2012, Karen Fayeth, and subject to the Creative Commons license in the far right corner of this page. Photo taken with an iPhone 4s and the Hipstamatic app.



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