Sunday, July 1, 2012

Second "pasantía" in Costa Rica from May to July, 2012

Well, I was fortunate enough to receive a second Fulbright.   This was not the traditional kind I had in 2007. This time it was the "Senior Specialist" type, for six weeks, and in Business Administration/Economics.  I was invited back by UCR to work on an exploratory research project that focuses on the logistics development issues facing small businesses in Costa Rica.  Again, I had wonderful support from the Institute of Investigation in Economic Science (IICE).

As to food,
~Pastelería Dona is no longer in business on the Calle Amargura.  It's become part of the Santa Clara chain.  The coconut flan is still yummy, but no more chocolate filled donuts!  That was disappointing, but I'm over it.

~La Caribeña in Zapote is definitely a must if you want to experience Caribbean specialties and cannot get to Limón during the winter rains.  Today we went to a special "feria," and sampled mondongo (pork tripe and chorizo) soup--riquísima; cajeta--looks like a brownie, but not.  It appeared to have coconut, ginger, and brown sugar or molasses.  Must find out the ingredients...

~Café Britt in Heredia.  If you have the opportunity to go, do so.  The tour and show are very entertaining.  The coffee...well it is all I drink.  I drink decaffeinated--can't do the hard stuff any more, and it is excellent.  By the way, there is now a train that goes from San José to Heredia and back.  Watch for the train renovation and expansion in Costa Rica.  It is definitely a plus for those who would rather not drive here.  

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Forward thinking to 2012

In 2010 I received the Senior Specialist designation in Business Administration, which will be valid from 2010 - 2015. I hope to go back to Costa Rica to continue my work related to Costa Rica with administrative support of the Economic Science Research Institute (IICE). I've already been invited, and now IICE is in the process of filling out the formularios espantosos to get the necessary paperwork submitted. I am thinking that visit will happen by May of 2012.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Starting up again 2008 - 2009

I've been back to Costa Rica three times since my 2007 Fulbright experience, and plan to be there again before 2009 is over. In retrospect, what did the Fulbright experience mean to me? Frankly, it was awesome. I am trying to hold on to that "lovin feeling" through collaboratives and more so that none of the memories slip away. So stay tuned, and I will be posting again.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Going Home... Dec. 17

This will be my last entry before returning to Maine. Five months went by in a flash, it seems. It was a terrific experience. I accomplished over 50 interviews in State, NGO, and private enterprise sectors. I have begun analyzing and discussing the findings, and trust they will be useful. I learned a lot, both in teaching and in the research endeavor. And...I managed to leave some time for diversion, which was important. I plan to return in May 2008 for several weeks. During that time, I've committed to do a workshop or two. When back in Maine, I also hope to locate other Ticophiles and perhaps get a club together that meets to share similar interests. Perhaps one already exists?

For those of you who followed this Blog and sent comments, I appreciated hearing from you. The "Food" column was definitely the crowd pleaser.

My Best. Pura Vida.


Sunday, December 2, 2007


Food is often the subject of conversation at a Tico gathering. That makes me happy as I love to cook (and eat!). I've eaten pinto gallo, a typical Costa Rican dish which can be served at any time of the day, but known more for a breakfast dish. Translated, it means "spotted rooster." It is a mixture of rice and beans. Olla de Carne is another dish I've enjoyed on several occasions. The sustancia is the broth which arrives in a bowl, of course. On a plate (aparte) there is usually a presentation of vegetables, and beef. The ingredients may include, but are not limited to carrots, elote--a variety of of corn-on-the-cob, yucca--yellow is my favorite, yam, and others not recognizable. There are many varieties of bananas here, and one variety of small banana (guineo) is also a favorite ingredient. I've never added avocado to soup--yummy. The whole dish is "muy rico" (delicious), as is said here. So far the best olla de carne I've sampled was at one of the many restaurants at the Central Market in San José. The beef was rib meat (from the costilla); so00 tender. Another local favorite dish of mine is corvina, or sea bass. While in Manuel Antonio, I was advised to eat the whole fish (here the red snapper or pargo) a la parilla (or barbequed).

Costa Ricans certainly love their sweets. Pastry shops (pastelerías) are everywhere. Near the south side of the campus, on the Calle de Amargura (which translates as Street of Bitterness), eateries (sodas) and student hang-outs are plentiful--along with copy shops and pizza places. A favorite pastry shop of mine is Pastelería de Dona. A lunch there of chicken and rice, fried plantain, and a coconut flan to go is about $3.50. Their donuts are also exceptional. My favorite: chocolate-covered with caramel inside (¡riquísimo!). Pastries here are fatal--just too good.

Love for sweets carries over to a favorite Tico beverage, or frescos. These are natural fruit drinks made from fruit, water or milk, and sugar. Popular varieties include tamarindo (tamarind), maracuya (passion fruit), carambola (star fruit), or cas (sour guava). In milk, papaya, mora (blackberry) and guanabana (soursop) are apparently favorites.

I love Costa Rican coffee--since my days of coming here in my business life. It is outstanding. Unfortunately, I no longer drink caffeinated, and Ticos look at you as if your ...well, one doesn't ask for de-caffeinated. You can ask, but it is not available. So what does one do? (I just smell it. That's all it takes.) I was able to find a bag of decaffeinated (Britt) in the supermarket. Quite good, actually.

Near Manuel Antonio (see Travel, below), there is Costa Rica's home-grown version of a coffee/cafe-restaurant (Café Milagro)--one of two locations in the country. I was able to buy decaf coffee there. The coffee was quite good along with the banana pancakes. They ship coffee to many places in the world.

Pipas. This is a greenish coconut...not fully matured as we might know it. The top is hacked off with a machete and a straw is stuck in the top, and voilá , "una pipa." The liquid is the best thirst-quencher, particularly when the coconut is chilled prior.

Sopa Caribeña de Mariscos. This was a delicious soup I had in a soda (see above). I couldn't figure out what the fish was that was in the soup. Turned out it was squid. I couldn't believe it because it was so soft and unlike the squid I knew.

Pan (Bread). There are sooo many varieties of bread available here. There is pan dulce (a sweet bread that can have many different types of fillings such as ham and cheese, or just cheese, etc.), pan francesa (like the bagettes we know), and other varieties too varied to mention. What interesting to me is the importance of having it in the house, and fresh to have early (with coffee)--for breakfast, and/or mid-morning (with coffee, a cafecito), and with lunch, and (of course) with coffee--like mid afternoon. The bread chosen is usually sweet for breakfast and morning, but that is really a matter of preference, or, a su gusto. If a spur of the moment gathering is to happen with a friend or friends, the conversation will be, "why don't we stop at the house for a cafecito?" Invariably, the inviter will say, "oh...I have no bread ...let's stop for some on the way." And so, back we go to a panadería to buy bread, rolls, and/or more. I just love this stuff!

Helado (Ice Cream). One chain of ice cream retailers is Pops. I'm hooked on their coconut.

Well, with all these food details, one might think I should be about 2 x the size I was when I left. However, this is not the case. In fact, I 've lost weight. I guess it has to to with all the running around I'm doing...catching buses and walking. I don't miss driving. I've always cooked pretty healthy; and so those habits continue here, but with what is commonly available. So I eat mainly fish and chicken, rice and beans, green vegetables, steamed. I'm liking this...a lot.

Funny...I am already missing Thanksgiving--my favorite holiday, and the food. Yep, that is uniquely ours. I'll probably seek out some turkey somewhere, as it is sold in the Automercado--a higher end supermarket.

Chicharrón. I don't know how I could have forgotten to mention this earlier, as I buy it every week after aerobics (!) and with a pipa--see above. In Mexico, it is fried pork skins (rinds). Here it can also be pork rinds. However, chicharones de carne, is pork, that is fried in pieces--crispy outside and tender in. I'm hooked on it. It is freshly made every day at this carnicería--butcher. So first the trip to the fruit stand for the pipa, and then the chicharrón.

Tamales. Many people have eaten these somewhere or another. Visit this site to understand their meaning in Costa Rica These are quite yummy and inexpensive (25 cents up to a $1.00 or so): Stuffed with maize, some carrot, some chicharrón, a slice or two of red sweet pepper, and a piece or two of potato, and wrapped in a lovely banana leaf. As they are a ritual for Christmas, there appear to be more commonly seen right now. I buy mine in the same place I buy my 1x per week chicharrón snack.

Other Christmas dishes. It is Christmas party time here. Besides tamales, I have eaten pozol, which is a delicious soup of pork, pinto beans, cilantro, hominy and other ingredients I hope to find out if I can convince a colleague to share the recipe. I have eaten many other things, and will try to list them here.

Limonese food. I went to Port Limón at the end of November to visit JAPDEVA, or the Port Authority for the Atlantic, and also responsible for development in Limón. I ate the best mixed ceviche -- a raw fish w/shrimp marinated in lime juice-- that I have ever eaten. The corvina, fried plantain, rice--all quite good. The Caribbean side of Costa Rica has a rich variety of foods, to include influence from the Islands. Some dishes are spicey. The rice and beans are often cooked in coconut oil and are seasoned with a Panamanian pepper. (I need to look for that stuff before I go home!)

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Nov. 10 - 19: Highlights...I miss Thanksgiving!

Well, if I were anyone, I wouldn't want to read anything about my interviews, etc. I wove my way this week through Ministries, etc.

So I figure that "food" is where we all need to be at this time of year. I ate some amazing dishes today at a Christmas party that the Research Institute (IICE) put together. I haven't posted those dishes yet because I don't know the names of the some of the dishes I ate! Staff cooperated to build a portal together-- loosely translated, "a Christmas Nativity scene ." What an effort is was! It was the first time they had ever done it, and it was part of a holiday competition within the University. I hope they win. Truly, it was a lovely design and combination of textures, animal groupings, sand, rocks, lights, pine branches and more. And, to accompany the event was this amazing indigenous food. So, check out "Food" sometime soon. I will probably move that section up to always be what folks read first.

Weather is changing to summer with sunny days and a breeze. Ticos complain of the cold (¡qué frío!) when, for me, it is springtime (or early Fall!). A combination of wind, rain, and 60 degrees and people feel congelados (frozen). The Tico does not tolerate this "coolness" well. The gripe (a bad cold) is commonplace right now. I am frequently asked how New Englanders survive the winters.

Of course, Christmas is a month away. How weird it is seeing Christmas trees in the trunks of cars or on trucks when there is no snow. But, so it is. I am feeling so...sad about leaving so soon. I ask, why didn't I go for a year on a Fulbright. But, alas, leaving a home in risky. And so, it was the right decision, as difficult as it was...and is still. What a wonderful experience. I hope I have the opportunity to share it with you when I return.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Travel & Highlights: November 1 - 9

Also see "Food," below, which is always updated every week.

Playa Flamingo. About 5 hours from here on the Pacific Coast, and north of Tamarindo, is some lovely area, and where I visited a friend of a friend who up'd and moved here 5 years ago. Twas lovely, and a needed rest. Development to the south has gone wild, and unfortunately, what was pristine is now becoming congested. The Leatherback Turtle groups have been quite actively compaigning against the development, and the government is considering exappropriating land that has already been developed and lived on. One can only imagine concerns among people who bought property and already moved here.

Limón. Despite concerns regarding dengue, I made a day trip to Limón to keep an appointment there. The return was scary: Torrential rains, fog, houses flooded and water 1/2 way up the sides of the house, and one bridge near collapse. The road from San José to Limón is the only major route for cars and trucks from the Port, so it gets much use, and rains do not help. I may attempt to go back to the Caribbean side before I leave, but really...the Pacific side is more reliable right now, weather-wise.

SEF2Conference. I attended the Supply Exchange Forum in Cariari City, about an hour from San José.

The purpose of this conference was to bring together businesses of all sizes—to include transnationals (TNC’s) and small to medium sized business, logistics and logistics consultancy providers, and governmental and non-governmental organizations (NGO’s) to address best practices and regional and global trends in supply chain management.

Over 86 exhibitors, 28 of which were TNC’s, exhibited at this event and were represented by individuals at a high management level. *APL, *Maersk, *Intel, *Atek Medical, *Texas Instruments, *Tyco Corp, *Intel, Boston Scientific, Sodexho were among the many.
[1] Others included the European Institute of Purchasing Management, sponsors, 3PL’s, outsourcing agents, logistics “solutions” companies, and banks. Schenker, Expeditors, *UPS and Scotiabank are a few examples. Georgia Tech. had high visibility
through their Institute of Supply Chain and Logistics. Sponsors included export promotion NGO’s (PROCOMER, Costa Rica’s equivalent to MITC here in Maine), the Costa Rican Investment Promotion Agency (CINDE), AMCHAM, Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals (CSCMP), Continental Airlines, and Scotiabank. Former Astronaut Franklin Chang Díaz, Chairman and CEO of AD Astra Rocket Company, was a main attraction speaker. They have research operations in Houston and their recently built Guanacaste, Costa Rica location. Session topics included, but were not limited to lean supply chain manufacturing, outsourcing in developing countries, development of flexible supply chains, and global transportation challenges.

[1] *denotes that these companies were also represented in keynote presentations. Examples include: UPS’s Asia Pacific Regional Director; Maersk’s Regional General Manager of Logistics, and member of their Refrigerated Product Development Team. Most of the TNC’s brought their stateside and regional management team. Many have operations in Costa Rica, which explains their presence.