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.

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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



Back In The Swing of Things

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So, I’m back in the office after a week in Costa Rica. UK Boss is in country. The pace is back to normal. Whatever that means.

Today I sat down with the boss for a much needed, long over due one-to-one session.

It was about halfway through our hour chat that Boss Man said the words that chilled my soul.

“Right, so I just got the schedule for annual reviews. You’ll need to communicate dates to your staff. Self assessments are due by mid-June.”

Just like that. That’s all he said. Easy, breezy and calm.

Meanwhile, the sound of screeching demons and terror howls echoed in my mind.

Yes, it’s that time of year: Performance reviews.

I’ve been doing this manager gig for most of a decade, and still, performance reviews are the hardest thing I have to do every year.

Mainly because I don’t just blow them off and write canned phrases. I actually put in a lot of work on my performance reviews for my team.

I give performance reviews the way I wish they were done for me.

But never are.

That said, just because I care about them. Just because I put in effort. Just because they matter does not mean I actually enjoy writing them.

It’s hard work. Add to that, since I am a middle of the pack manager and not the big boss, I don’t get the set the raises and bonuses. I give input on my team but someone else makes the budget.

So I get to convey raises and bonuses that someone else has decided.

And they so rarely match what my employees deserve.

So I have to write a performance review to match the budget and not the actual performance of the employee.

Often, this can be the least gratifying thing I do all year.

That said, performance reviews are one of the things that separate the wheat from the chaff, the men from the mice, the mangers from the dilettantes.

Writing and delivering a meaningful performance review is what makes me a better manager. I think.

Oh, and in other news, my boss attended some up with people type of training class last week. I said to him “Hey boss, I’m having a problem with this risk assessment.”

“No Karen, as I just learned in my training, there are no problems, only opportunities.”

The fact that I didn’t take that opportunity to kick him in the shins shows the power of my personal and professional growth over the last year.

I’m sure that will show up as a positive on my performance review this year.

Opportunities my ass…….





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.



Steamy!

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And sulpher-y too.

This is the crater of the Poas Volcano in Costa Rica.

I got very, very lucky that the winds were in my favor, revealing the gorgeous turquoise blue water below.

Evidently the volcanic soil nearby makes for delicious coffee. I’ll let you know, a bag managed to find its way into my suitcase.

Perhaps next week I’ll write about the epic backroads voyage I went on to get to the volcano. If I didn’t live it, I’d think I made it up.







Image originally published to Instagram May 17. Photo taken with an iPhone4s and the Camera+ and imported into Instagram.



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