Thursday, July 30, 2009

Funny Shirts in Costa Rica

I would make this blog about funny t-shirts in Costa Rica if I had the temerity to snap photos of strangers in the street. Costa Ricans often wear t-shirts with English writing on them, ones they purchase from the local Ropa Americana store (which is a store that carries second-hand clothes from the United States). Often the locals don't understand what's on the t-shirts. Case in point, I saw an older (white) man strolling down a main walkway in San José donning a shirt that read:

"Look out: Here comes one pissed off black woman"

You might not find gems like this every day in Costa Rica, but the prevalence of North American clothing mixed with the subtleties of a foreign language make situations like these all but inevitable. If you spend enough time in Costa Rica, you're bound to get a few chuckles here and there from ironic clothing.

It's quite common to see people wearing old sports t-shirts and jerseys for teams that are explicitly for the opposite sex of the person wearing it. You might also see someone wearing a humorous t-shirt that says, "Smooth Operator" or "Why am I so thirsty if I drank so much last night"? In most of these occasions when I have known the person wearing the t-shirt, the t-shirt owner did not fully understand the message and, in many cases, would not have purchased the t-shirt having known what it meant.

If you have any ironic t-shirt stories from Costa Rica or elsewhere, please share in the comments.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Word of the Day: Filo

Filo means the edge of a blade in Spanish, but in Costa Rica it is also slang for 'hunger'.

Ex: ¿Tiene (Ud.) mucho filo?

Translation: Are you really hungry?

Friday, July 17, 2009

Word of the Day: Soda

It's not quite what you expect. Soda is Costa Rican for diner. Sodas in Costa Rica won't give you a menu because the fare is pretty standard from one place to the next. Most places will send a waitress (salonera) to your table and ask you to simply come up with your order on your own.

Most people will order a "casado", which is a fixed plate that consists of rice, beans, a few sides, some plantains (green or ripe), and your choice of meat.

The sides can consist of a chopped up casserole dish called "picadillo" or an "ensalada rusa" (Russian salad), which consists of chopped up beets and hard-boiled eggs in a creamy sauce.

The meat choices can include the following:

  • Carne en salsa (literally "meat in sauce", kind of like a thick stew or a pot roast)
  • Pollo en salsa (usually a single piece of chicken cooked in a light chicken gravy)
  • Pollo frito (a piece of fried chicken)
  • Pescado (fish, most often fried)
  • Chuleta (pork chop)

When ordering a casado you only need to say "un casado con ______", with the blank filled by one of the aforementioned meats. "Un casado con chuleta", for example, would be what you order if you want the fixed meal with a pork chop. You can also order a "un casado vegetariano", which will most likely be the typical base-case casado with just more of everything, but no meat of course.

You can also order items a la carte. The only difficulty is that you have to spell everything out for the waitress. (As a side note, yes, most soda waitstaff is female.) For example, you could say:

"Regáleme arroz, frijoles, pollo en salsa, unos maduros, ensalada rusa y un huevo frito"

Translation: "Gift me rice, beans, chicken in sauce, some ripe plantains, Russian salad, and a fried egg"

(Please note that "regalar", which literally means "to gift", is the most common way to ask for something in Costa Rican culture, even when you intend to pay for something.)

When you're ordering a drink, you're expected to order a soft drink, coffee (if it's breakfast time), or one of their "natural" drinks called "frescos naturales". The frescos are a mixture of some natural source of flavor--usually fruit--mixed with water and sugar. You might be overwhelmed by all of your choices. Among those choices will be some of the following:

  • Fresco de piña (pineapple)
  • " " zanahoria (carrot)
  • " " chan (the seed of the chan fruit)
  • " " linaza (linseed)
  • " " mango (mango)
  • " " avena (oatmeal)
  • " " mora (blackberry)
  • " " maracuyá (passion fruit)
  • " " carambola (starfruit)
  • pinolillo (finely ground roasted corn and cacao)

This should be enough for you to survive your first trip to a Costa Rican soda. However, please note that your experience on the Caribbean side might be different. While the process might be quite similar, the actual food will likely be much different, but that can be the topic for another blog post.

Happy eating :)

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Word of the Day: Dialecto

Dialecto is 'dialect' in Spanish, but in the rural areas of Costa Rica you might hear people referring to dialect as a language completely different from Spanish. In my area of Guatuso, people would often explain to me that the indigenous Maleku Indians spoke a "dialect". The textbook understanding of the word would make it seem as if Maleku were a dialect of Spanish. What they mean to say is that it isn't Spanish at all. (A more pessimistic view may have the locals interpreting the Maleku language as somehow undeserving of the language status, which could be accurate for some.) It threw me off a bit the first time I heard someone say it, but I learn to tune it out when people continued to say use dialecto in this way.