Bathe naked with strangers Welcome to a Japanese bathhouse

first_img<< Previous PostNext Post >> Tags: Japan Bathe naked with strangers? Welcome to a Japanese bathhouse By: The Associated Press Share TOKYO — Japan is proud of its bathing traditions. For many Westerners, though, the fact that these traditions involve being naked with strangers is awkward at best, even though men and women bathe separately.On my first trip I tried to wriggle out of a friend’s offer to take me to an onsen, or hot springs resort. I suggested a different town that had an attraction I wanted to see, and thought I was off the hook.I should have done my research better: That town was famous for its onsen as well.It turned out for the best, though, because I’ve become a fan. Nothing is more relaxing after a tiring day of sightseeing than a long soak, and you can reassure yourself that you’re experiencing authentic culture at the same time.Two terms are basic when talking about Japanese baths: onsen and sento. An onsen has natural hot spring water. A sento, usually translated as public bath, typically uses regular water, traditionally heated by burning wood. Tall chimneys for the smoke are one visual symbol of the city sento.The distinction is noted because various spring waters are supposed to have different health benefits. Onsen are commonly found at hotels and resorts outside the city, but there are about 45 sento in Tokyo, for example, that do have natural spring water.For the outsider, though, the facilities will look much the same and more important, so are the traditions and etiquette.Stephanie Crohin is author of a book in Japanese about sento. For the past three years, she has been the official volunteer ambassador for the Tokyo Sento Association. She has visited over 700 sento across Japan and her book and Instagram feed reveal the beauty of their interiors, where photography is usually prohibited, including many traditional painted murals and immaculate tilework.More news:  Save the dates! Goway’s Africa Roadshow is backShe reassures first-timers that with everyone else acting like it’s normal, you will quickly get comfortable. “For some people it is a big challenge to be naked in front of others, but genders are separate, and everybody just doesn’t look and doesn’t care,” she says. “It is the ideal place to forget about complexes!”Although you won’t have much trouble finding a sento in a city like Tokyo, their numbers are in fact declining. Last year, she says, 40 sento closed in Tokyo. Fifty years ago, there were around 2,700 sento in the city, but now there are around 560, with 2,500 across the country.One reason sento are closing is that many of their customers are elderly. Now that every home has its own bath, younger people often never cultivated the habit. Some sento are trying new strategies to attract customers, including presenting exhibits and events such as concerts and developing English information to attract tourists.Another innovation: ‘super sento,’ more like day spas with additional facilities and entertainment. One in Tokyo, Oedo Onsen Monogatari, is basically a hot bath theme park with a re-created Edo period townscape.These may be an easy way in for the first-timer, but if you want to experience authentic local culture, make sure you try a sento too. Just follow the rules so you’ll fit in. At a typical bath here’s the routine:Leave your shoes in an outside locker.Pay the fee. If you haven’t brought your own soap and shampoo, you can buy small bottles and rent towels. You’ll be given one large towel and a small one.Go through the entrance for your gender. (You might want to memorize the characters for ‘man’ and ‘woman’ in advance.)In the changing room, undress and put your clothes in a locker. This part should feel familiar to anyone who’s been to a gym.Leave the big towel in the locker but take the small one with you. Use it for washing and/or to dry yourself a bit after your bath so you don’t drip onto the changing room floor.The bathroom has individual washing stations. The station may already have a stool, or you can take one and a wash basin from a stack. The basin is the traditional way to wash and rinse yourself, but now there are also hand sprayers.Wash thoroughly. The bath is just for soaking; since the water there is shared, you’re expected to be clean first. Be careful not to splash your neighbours.Tie up long hair. You don’t want it to dangle into the shared bath.More news:  Honolulu authorities investigate arsons at 3 Waikiki hotels; no injuries reportedNow you’re ready to soak!At this point you’ll still be carrying your small towel, which brings up another rule: never put your towel into the bath. If you’ve seen Japanese bathing on TV, people will usually be covered with towels, but that is only for filming. The most traditional thing to do with the small towel is fold it and rest it on your head while you’re bathing.Finally, sento and onsen have traditionally prohibited tattoos, which are associated with organized crime. These restrictions are loosening. Sento are usually fine with them, but super sento and onsen resorts may not be, so check in advance. Monday, June 4, 2018 last_img read more


Create your own private fam with discounted offers from Saint Lucia

first_imgCreate your own private fam with discounted offers from Saint Lucia Tuesday, June 18, 2019 Posted by Travelweek Group Tags: FAM, Saint Luciacenter_img Share << Previous PostNext Post >> TORONTO — As part of its Saint Lucia Agent Months program, the Saint Lucia Tourism Authority has unveiled exclusive discounted rates and offers for travel agents in 2019.The offers, which include up to 50% off on hotels, ground transportation, meals, tours and activities, invite agents to experience more of the destination during their personal vacations through Nov. 30.“We are deeply appreciative of the tremendous value travel advisors bring to consumers and Saint Lucia, which is why we are thrilled to recognize their continued support and loyalty with this rewarding program,” said Kelly Fontenelle, Director of Marketing, USA for the Saint Lucia Tourism Authority. “Travel advisors are an integral part of our industry, and during Saint Lucia Agent Months they can take advantage of incredible deals and discounts during their own personal vacations in order to fully immerse themselves in the destination and experience all we have to offer their clients.”Sample offers include (prices in USD):More news:  Honolulu authorities investigate arsons at 3 Waikiki hotels; no injuries reported• Anse Chastanet: Rates starting at $185 per person daily (double occupancy) and include breakfast, dinner and all tax/service charges• Bay Gardens Marina Haven: Bed & Breakfast Meal Plan $60 per night and All-Inclusive Meal Plan $150 per night• Caille Blanc Villa: 35% off rack rates, daily buffet breakfast, free transfers and welcome cocktail• Calabash Cove: All-inclusive nightly rates of $250 (double) for up to five nights; additional nights 20% off published rates• Marigot Bay Resort Spa and Marina: $99 per night for up to three nights (single or double) with full daily breakfast plus taxes and service charge; additional nights 50% off published rates• WestJet: Travel agents and one companion receive 50% to 75% off regular published fares, plus taxes and feesThe following hotels, tour companies, attractions and airlines are participating in Saint Lucia Agent Months: • Hotels: Anse Chastanet, Bay Gardens Resorts, Bel Jou, BodyHoliday, Caille Blanc Villa, Calabash Cove Resort & Spa, Casa Del Vega, Coco Palm, Fond Doux Plantation & Resort, Jade Mountain, La Dauphine Estate, Marigot Bay Resort Spa and Marina, Marigot Beach Club & Dive Resort, Oasis Marigot, Samfi Gardens, Sandals Resorts, Sugar Beach – A Viceroy Resort, Ti Kaye Resort & Spa and Villa Beach Cottages• Tour companies and attractions: Barefoot Holidays St. Lucia, CHI Shuttles, Diamond Botanical Gardens & Waterfall, Holiday Adventures, Jus Sail, Rainforest Adventures and Sea Spray Cruises• Airline: WestJetMore news:  Hotel charges Bollywood star $8.50 for two bananas and the Internet has thoughtsTravel agents can contact the hotel or tour operator directly to make arrangement before notifying their Saint Lucia Tourism Authority trade manager of the intended travel dates, as well as their preferred dates for their private fam trip. The Saint Lucia Tourism Authority will then create an itinerary, confirm the hotel site inspections and coordinate ground transportation.For the full list of offers and further information go to ww.stlucia.org/travel-trade.last_img read more


San Pedro roundabout closed at nights for repairs

first_imgThe Public Works and Transport Ministry (MOPT) this week began repairing the La Hispanidad traffic circle in San Pedro, the main access point to the east of San José.The road will be closed every night until Thursday, from 10 p.m.-5 a.m. MOPT said in a press release.Repairs include the removal and replacement of old asphalt layers from the base of the road. Workers will also clean ditches and culverts.MOPT officials recommended all drivers entering or leaving the eastern sector of San José at night to use alternate routes, such as the Circunvalación, a belt route around the capital.Traffic Police officers will guard the area and guide traffic through the route prior to the closure each night. The closure applies only for the roundabout, while passage over the bridge will remain open. Facebook Comments No related posts.last_img read more


Costa Rica bans shrimp trawling

first_imgNo related posts. The Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court, or Sala IV, on Wednesday declared shrimp trawling unconstitutional in Costa Rica, after ruling that the fishing technique causes serious damage to the marine environment.The ruling, written by Justice Paul Rueda, declared admissible a lawsuit filed by six environmental organizations against various articles of the country’s Fisheries and Aquaculture Law.“Based on extensive scientific studies, it is clear for this Chamber that this fishing technique causes serious harm to the marine environment, due to the amount of marine life that is incidentally captured and then discarded, and also the negative effects on benthic (ocean floor) domains,” the ruling stated.Justices noted that the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations has compared shrimp trawling with forest deforestation, adding that the practice “reduced fishing opportunities for artisanal fishermen.”According to Randall Arauz, president of the Marine Turtle Restoration Project (PRETOMA), shrimp trawling licenses have few restrictions, allowing boats to target other species as long as they declare them as bycatch.“In Costa Rica a license to trawl is a license to kill,” he said. “Industrial shrimp trawlers can target snappers, call them bycatch and not leave anything for local fishermen.”The Sala IV ruling urges the Costa Rican Fisheries Institute (INCOPESCA) “to halt the granting of new fishing licenses and to refrain from renewing expired permits for shrimp trawling boats.”Active licenses will remain valid until they expire, but must not be extended, the Sala IV ordered.Justices also clarified that permits may be reinstated in the future if authorities require the use of Bycatch Reduction Devices (BRD), and if it can be demonstrated that a new technology can effectively reduce bycatch.According to PRETOMA, some 80 percent of the total catch in trawling nets is later discarded. Costa Rica’s shrimp fleet discards some 4,000-6,000 metric tons of bycatch each year. In addition, trawlers snag some 15,000 sea turtles annually, PRETOMA reported.U.S. officials last year lifted a three-year ban on imports of Costa Rican shrimp issued in 2009 when U.S. inspectors found that INCOPESCA was not effectively sanctioning shrimp trawlers that did not use turtle excluder devices (TEDs) on their nets. U.S. law requires any boat exporting shrimp to U.S. markets to use TEDs to prevent sea-turtle bycatch. Facebook Commentslast_img read more


Ask an Expat 5 questions about how Obamacare applies to US expats

first_imgBack in November, I answered questions for The Tico Times about what U.S. expats needed to know about Obamacare. I explained that although certain caveats apply, many U.S. citizens living overseas will not be subject to the Affordable Care Act’s individual insurance mandate. (For a a recap on why, seemy previous story on “the physical presence test.”)Much has changed in the world of Obamacare over the past few months since my last post on the subject. The broken website was repaired, the low enrollment numbers turned around (7.1 million people signed up, according to the White house), and open enrollment closed at the end of March. With Tax Day fast approaching, today we take a closer look at how the Affordable Care Act will affect specific expat situations.Below are answers to the most common questions I’ve been receiving:I am living overseas, and I qualify for an individual mandate exemption. What do I need to do to claim the exemption?  Answer: Right now, you don’t need to do anything. The mandate is for the year 2014. It will be assessed or exempted on your 2014 tax return, which you won’t file until 2015.I am moving abroad in the middle of the year. Will the mandate apply to me?Answer: It depends on when you move. The individual mandate allows you to be without insurance or an exemption for up to three months in a year without paying a penalty. So, if you moved abroad in March you would not have to worry. If you moved later than that, you would need to have minimum insurance coverage for the months between March and when you moved. Claiming the exemption on your tax return for the months where you are abroad will be more difficult under this scenario, but should be possible with the help of a qualified tax preparer.I am moving back to the United States during the summer. Since the open-enrollment deadline was March 31, will I be able to get an Affordable Care Act plan?Answer: You can enroll in health insurance plans through the Affordable Care Act marketplaces either during open enrollment or through a “special enrollment” period. Special enrollment is a mechanism by which Obamacare allows you to enroll if you have had a major life change. These life changes include losing health insurance because of a job loss, marriage and divorce, the birth of a child — and moving back to the U.S.Fortunately, moving back to the United States will qualify you for a 30-day special enrollment period. When you go back you will have 30 days from the date of your arrival to enroll in an Affordable Care Act compliant plan.I don’t qualify for an exemption. However, I do have insurance through a company located outside of the United States (or a foreign government). Will this satisfy the Affordable Care Act mandate?Answer: Probably not. The regulations surrounding Obamacare state that foreign insurance will not satisfy the coverage requirements. Foreign insurers can apply to the government to have their specific plans cleared as compliant, so some plans may satisfy the requirement. Contact your insurer to find out if your plan is compliant.I have an Obamacare compliant health insurance plan that I purchased through the marketplace. Will this plan cover me overseas?Answer: Doubtful. The law only requires for a plan that covers you in the United States. Nothing in the law prevents an insurer from offering a plan that provides international coverage — but most plans will not offer it. If you require international coverage due to travel, contact your insurer.Ross Lustman is an attorney and enrolled tax agent with U.S. Tax and Accounting, S.A. He lives in Costa Rica and offers tax services for expats. Reach him at ross@ustaxinternational.com.  Facebook Comments Related posts:Obama hails US Supreme Court health care ruling as win for ‘hard-working’ citizens 14 upcoming changes you should know about for Riteve auto inspections What’s open, closed for the holidays Why you can’t watch ‘The West Wing’ in Costa Ricalast_img read more


Olympic official Brazils preparations for 2016 the worst I have experienced

first_imgRelated posts:Most Brazilians don’t want to host the World Cup Brazil tops Croatia in World Cup opener behind Neymar and a suspect call In Costa Rica, pride for La Sele’s historic World Cup play Costa Rica’s last hurrah in historic World Cup run RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil – Rio Olympic Games organizers Tuesday countered criticism of slow preparations with an assurance they would deliver the 2016 event on time and on budget.With the clock rapidly ticking before the first Olympics in South America, many facilities in Rio have yet to be completed because of construction delays and soaring costs.International Olympic Committee (IOC) Vice President John Coates on Tuesday voiced “critical concern” over preparations, echoing months of worries from the Olympic overseeing body.But the Local Organizing Committee (LOC) insisted in a statement they would deliver their “historic mission” with IOC support, which an IOC statement said it would provide.“We have a historic mission: to organize the first Olympic and Paralympic Games in Brazil and in South America. We are going to achieve this,” the LOC said.“In 2016, Rio will host excellent Games that will be delivered absolutely within the agreed timelines and budgets,” the LOC said.The comments from Rio came after Coates had said the preparations were “the worst I have experienced.”The problems and delays had pushed the IOC earlier this month to compile a list of urgent recommendations, including the creation of three task forces.But on Tuesday the Switzerland-based IOC issued a statement supporting the Rio team, saying “a number of recent developments show that things are moving in the right direction.”“Working together with our partners in Rio, we have put in place a number of measures to support the Games,” said the statement from IOC Director of Communications Mark Adams.Among the measures was the creation of a high level decision-making body that includes representatives from the IOC, Brazil’s government and all key Games partners.“We continue to believe that Rio is capable of providing outstanding Games,” Adams concludedWorrying signsThe LOC insisted “work being undertaken in partnership with the three levels of government — federal, state and city — is delivering progress.”However, worrying signs remain.Work at the Olympic site in Rio’s Deodoro district was due to start last year but was now expected to start in September. And a recent strike by workers at the Barra de Tijuca district in western Rio, which will host a slew of events, also caused delays. Aerial view taken on May 10, 2013 of the site of the future Olympic Park being constructed for the 2016 Games to be held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Vanderlei Almeida/AFPBeyond construction issues the city must also work on cleansing sewage-contaminated water in Guanabara Bay, which is slated to host sailing and windsurfing vents.A further embarrassment for Rio has been the closure of the Engenhao stadium, built just seven years ago and set to host athletics but which has structural problems with its roof. There, also, repairs are running behind schedule.Coates’ criticisms echo those leveled at Brazil by FIFA over the World Cup, due to start in June. Football’s governing body spent frustrating months urging the country to step up the pace of preparations.With barely six weeks remaining before that event kicks off, work still has to be completed at four stadiums, and FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke admitted last week that the São Paulo venue staging the opening match on June 12 will only be ready “at the last minute.”Nevertheless, city mayor Eduardo Paes said Tuesday Rio would meet its challenge for the Olympics.“We must accept the criticism and work hard with great zeal and dedication to ensure everything is delivered correctly,” the G1 news portal quoted Paes as saying.Earlier this month, Brazilian authorities said they will spend 24.1 billion reais ($10.8 billion) on infrastructure projects of long-term benefit to Rio, brought forward to coincide with the Games.A total of 5.6 billion reais is being spent on Games-specific infrastructure while seven billion reais of private money will go on the tournament’s organization.Rio won the right to stage the Games in 2009 but inflation and new projects have helped push up the cost almost a third above initial projections.Overall total projected spending, infrastructure included, is currently calculated at 36.7 billion reais ($16.3 billion) though costs for a number of projects have yet to be calculated. Facebook Commentslast_img read more


Talent and good policy are key targets for improving Costa Ricas competitiveness

first_imgCosta Rica is well-positioned to start attracting more high-tech jobs and improve its workforce, according to one keynote speaker at the Competitiveness Summit, held Wednesday at Escazú’s Hotel Real InterContinental and co-sponsored by the Costa Rican-American Chamber of Commerce (AMCHAM) and global consulting firm Deloitte.“The key to competitiveness is talent – it’s the ability of a society, the ability of a country, to skill and re-skill the population,” said international consultant William Eggers, from the United States.Eggers clarified: “It’s not just about having college graduates and so forth; it’s about the ability to re-skill people who are in their 40s, in their 50s, and even 60s, so they can go from low technology and manufacturing to high-tech manufacturing.”One thing Costa Rica should focus on, Eggers said, is becoming “a talent magnet where businesses would want to move in.“If you can be a place where talent wants to come and you can grow your talent, that brings a lot of other things,” he added.But in order to design good policy to meet that goal, decision makers should evaluate current public policies in education, immigration, intellectual property, licensing and regulation, Eggers said.“Ask how does this enhance our talent competitiveness in Costa Rica, [and] I think you start coming up with different policies, different approaches,” he said.The speech followed the release of a business competitiveness survey conducted by CID-Gallup Latinoamérica on behalf of AMCHAM and Deloitte. The survey polled 172 of Costa Rica’s top company managers. One in five said the main barrier to competitiveness is “tramitomanía,” an ugly-looking word that refers to lots of red tape and bureaucratic headaches.The next two barriers cited were corruption (14 percent of respondents) and the high cost of electricity (13 percent).AMCHAM Vice President Federico Chavarría highlighted a lack of long-term planning as another setback to the country’s competitiveness, which he said was linked to four-year political cycles.“It’s short-term political management and it’s difficult to carry out the changes that are required,” he said.Chavarría recognized, however, that the government can’t resolve all problems, just as the productive sector can’t work to improve the situation on its own.The survey, conducted in early July, concluded that top business managers believe the president should immediately address Costa Rica’s problematic transportation infrastructure, and he should hone the country’s fiscal and monetary policy to provide clarity and improve competitiveness.According to 58 percent of respondents, the Latin American country that best reflects a positive competitiveness environment – from which Costa Rica should learn – is Chile. Tied for having the record for the most outer space flights (seven), Tico astronaut Franklin Chang, right, knows how to spot a silver lining. Lindsay Fendt/The Tico TimesAn oasis from politicsCosta Rican President Luis Guillermo Solís, from the Citizen Action Party, also addressed the forum, calling it “an oasis where a politician can come to think.”For the president, who took office in May, another important barrier is inequality – not only in terms of income, but also in terms of territory.“Even in such a small country as ours, it is very troubling to see the inequality between urban centers and the peripheral regions, and on this issue, the state has a lot of work to do to generate the conditions for investment to move out of San José,” he said.Solís also mentioned the inequality between women and men, and the conditions faced by the young and elderly, who he said are excluded from the market. He then highlighted the widening gap between the least dynamic sectors of society and the most dynamic.“In the past 30 years, only one of these sectors has been developed, which involves the external sector and attracting investment. What’s left behind are local and regional economies, and the gap between the internal and the external is causing us problems,” Solís said.Most company managers don’t see things changing soon. Of those surveyed, 43 percent believe the country’s economic situation will be exactly the same in one year. Only 34 percent believe it will improve, and 23 percent say it will worsen.But they remain optimistic when it comes to their own companies.Two out of three respondents believe their companies’ bottom lines will improve in the next year. Just over 30 percent said things would remain the same, while only 3 percent said they expect their companies to fare worse next year.To find the silver lining in all of this, AMCHAM and Deloitte invited the Costa Rican who best understands the sky – renowned NASA astronaut Franklin Chang-Díaz, founder and president of the Ad Astra Rocket Company, which has research and development facilities in the northwestern province of Guanacaste.“When we Ticos decide to do something, we are capable of doing it well and sharing it with the rest of the world. I feel optimistic about the future of this country,” Chang said.Referring to his own company, the astronaut added: “We have more than 200 Costa Rican investors. Who would have thought that in Costa Rica, people would invest in outer space?” Facebook Comments Related posts:Costa Rica’s Franklin Chang pushes space agenda in Washington Costa Rica attracts over $2 billion in foreign direct investment in 2014 Meet Sandra Cauffman, the Tica co-directing NASA’s current mission to Mars New AMCHAM president says Costa Rica is ‘well-rooted’ in tourismlast_img read more


Costa Rican flora on display at world fair in Germany

first_imgRelated posts:Costa Rican food producers look for new buyers at international fairs Costa Rican exporters look to increase sales at international fair Costa Rican company begins exporting wood-burning stoves Costa Rica exports down 15 percent in 2015, mostly thanks to Intel exit A group of 11 Costa Rican companies from the export sector of plants, flowers and foliage this week are displaying their products at the International Trade Fair for Plants (IPM) in Essen, Germany.The event, which brings together over 1,500 exhibitors, runs through Friday and attracts visitors from over 100 countries.“Participating in this fair gives us the chance to identify new customers and keep in contact with current ones. It also helps us learn about new trends, changes and new developments in the market,” said Folkert Hoekstra, president of the exporting group.Tico companies at the event mostly will promote exotic plants including aglaonema, dracaena, palms, cycads, crotos, ficus and others.The exhibit is being presented at a stand with the concept “exotic by nature,” and follows the guidelines of the country brand “Essential Costa Rica.”“We are focusing on showing exotic varieties of plants from our country,” said Álvaro Piedra, trade promotional manager at Costa Rica’s Foreign Trade Promotion Office (PROCOMER).Piedra said IPM-Essen attendance is part of a promotional strategy for the export sector with the goal of boosting the country’s small- and medium-sized businesses abroad.PROCOMER at the fair is assisting participant companies in marketing strategies to implement their positioning, analyze the competition, close deals and begin exporting.“Our country owns 5 percent of the world’s biodiversity, we have exotic and high quality products, therefore attending events like this is a great opportunity for us to show the world our products,” Piedra said.Exports from the agricultural sector totaled $2.5 billion last year. That is a 2.6 percent increase over the $2.4 billion registered in 2013. Facebook Commentslast_img read more


Costa Rica police raid nursing home over abuse allegations

first_imgJudicial Investigation Police (OIJ) raided a nursing home in downtown Escazú Wednesday following allegations of abuse of the home’s 25 residents, according to a statement from police.Police entered the Villa Amatista senior care facility at 8:00 a.m. and arrested the facility’s 32-year-old administrator, identified by the surnames Rodríguez Sánchez, for allegedly violating Costa Rica’s laws protecting the elderly. Police handed Rodríguez over to the Prosecutor’s Office.OIJ reported that there were several complaints against the facility, including inappropriate use of tranquilizers and residents being inappropriately tied down in beds or wheelchairs with improvised restraints. When police raided the home Wednesday, they reported finding one resident tied down to his bed.The food served to residents was also inadequate for people in their physical condition, according to police.In a July 2014 Facebook post, a user identified as Marlen Incera decried her mother’s living conditions at the home before she died there.According to police, residents at the home were paying between ₡500,000 and ₡700,000 monthly —roughly $1,000 and $2,000.Most of the residents were Costa Rican along with one Chilean, according to OIJ spokesman Marco Monge. The residents were taken to Hospital Blanco Cervantes where doctors examined them to determine their condition. Facebook Comments Related posts:Costa Rican student arrested in multi-country cybercrime raid Is ‘El Chapo’ in Costa Rica? Probably not, but he wouldn’t be the first kingpin to flee here Organized crime prosecutor named new director of Costa Rica’s investigative police Men caught with one ton of drugs in Costa Rica allowed to walk free, police saylast_img read more


Catholic faithful begin annual pilgrimage to Costa Ricas Basilica de Los Ángeles

first_imgRelated posts:President Solís to sit out annual Costa Rican religious pilgrimage to Cartago La Negrita, please fix my peacock 19 photos from Costa Rica’s annual romería Pope Francis in Cuba: Mass before a packed Revolution Square This weekend, pilgrims from across Costa Rica will begin walking – if they haven’t already – to the Basílica de Nuestra Señora de Los Ángeles for an annual pilgrimage of faith known as theromería. The purpose of their journey: to pay their respects to, and ask for favors from, the country’s patron saint: the Virgin of Los Ángeles, or La Negrita.Approximately 2 million people are expected to walk the annual romería. Many pilgrims already have begun their grueling trek to the church in recent days, but the majority of devotees will make the journey on Friday and Saturday, when special ceremonies are held.The nationwide tradition, which also draws thousands from across the Central American region and beyond, is based on the 17th century legend of the Virgin, in which an indigenous woman discovered in the forest a small statue of a woman carrying a baby in her arms. The woman took the statue to her home, but something unusual happened: the next day, the statue was gone. The indigenous woman again found the statue in the middle of the woods, in the same spot as before. She again took it home for the second time, and by the next day, to everyone’s surprise, the small statue vanished once more, reappearing at its spot in the woods. The woman decided to tell the town’s priest, and after witnessing the phenomenon, he declared it a message from the Virgin Mary. The priest said villagers should build a church at the place where the statue appeared.That church is the Basílica de Los Ángeles, in Cartago, about 25 kilometers southeast of the Costa Rican capital. Since the 19th century, millions of pilgrims have embarked on the journey to Our Lady of Los Ángeles; some cover hundreds of kilometers on foot, while others make the trek barefoot or on their knees to show their devotion.A relatively new part of this tradition is the “EcoRomería,” in which the Costa Rican Red Cross and Health Ministry carry out the difficult task of reducing trash and other pollution generated by the event. During last year’s pilgrimage this initiative managed to recycle 95 percent of the waste generated by the pilgrims, earning the romería a coveted environmental “Blue Flag” recognition.This year, the project plans to cover romeros in San Pedro, Curridabat, La Unión and Cartago, where 41 recycling posts will be located. The Red Cross will also establish 10 permanent posts where ambulances and personnel will be able to care for injured pilgrims, and 25 posts on main streets where auxiliary committees will take care of public security.Planning on walking in this year’s romería? Here are some tips:Wear comfortable clothing and fluorescent colors so drivers can easily see you. Don’t forget your coat, as Cartago can get cold!Wear a hat to avoid sunlight, and thus, a headache. Don’t forget to use sunscreen.Wear comfortable shoes (make sure you have used them before to prevent blisters).Bring extra socks and change them if they get wet.Carry an umbrella for both the rain and the sun.If you are sick, ask your doctor if it is wise to make the trek.Make sure to carry an ID, and try not to travel alone.If you travel with children, look after them at all times and give them a document stating where to contact you in case they get lost.Carry enough water and energy drinks. Try to eat foods rich in potassium, such as bananas and citrus.See photos from last year’s romería here. Facebook Commentslast_img read more


ATM withdrawal limits in Costa Rica got you down

first_imgNew limits on withdrawals imposed at Banco de Costa Rica (BCR) ATMs in October left some non-BCR cardholders frustrated when they tried to take out cash. The bank implemented a daily withdrawal limit of ₡110,000 or its equivalent in U.S. dollars (roughly $200) for non-BCR cardholders at its 595 ATMs across Costa Rica. The change has made it hard for some to pay rent, payroll or a rafting trip for the family.BCR Assistant General Manager Zacarías Esquivel told The Tico Times in an email that the change was a “business decision” and that larger amounts can be taken out inside the bank without an additional service charge. But walking into a bank branch to withdraw money isn’t always an option. In some parts of the country, ATMs are the only way to get cash.Plus, unlike banks, ATMs are usually open 24/7. And cash machines are easy to navigate for non-Spanish speaking visitors.The Tico Times asked our readers on Facebook how BCR’s new limits are affecting them. We also asked some of the biggest banks here what their daily limits are.Readers said they rely on ATMs here for a mix of convenience, business and bill pay.Deborah Contreras in Guanacaste said the BCR limit has made it hard for her to get cash for her business’ payroll. Caroline McLatchie said she and her husband couldn’t access their Social Security check because of the ATM withdrawal limit.BCR’s daily withdrawal limit is far below that of other big banks here. Banco Nacional, another state-owned bank with 468 ATMs across Costa Rica, has a daily limit of ₡700,000 ($1,300). That limit is the same for BN cardholders and non-BN cardholders, according to the bank.Scotiabank allows users to take out ₡500,000 (roughly $940) per day at its 157 ATMs. Users can take out that daily max in two transactions, at ₡250,000 each.Some Tico Times readers said they don’t have the luxury of choosing another bank if they need cash in a pinch. Lisa Airaudi said she and her family have to drive an hour-and-a-half down a mountain road to reach the nearest ATM — a drive that becomes impossible in the rain — so frequent trips to the bank aren’t a good option. Mer Glesby noted that Nosara has just two banking options, Banco Popular and BCR, “and one is usually broken or has no money.” Facebook Comments Related posts:Travelers in Costa Rica can pay departure tax at airports for 3 more months White House travel exemptions to Cuba do not cover tourism Deep Discounts: Southwest Airlines starts daily service to Costa Rica on March 7 Costa Rican banks to replace credit, debit cards to improve securitylast_img read more


How Juan Diego Castro is turning Costa Rica upside down

first_imgUntil the year 2017, Juan Diego Castro Fernández was a 62-year-old lawyer from a wealthy, conservative family from Cartago, east of San José. But he wasn’t just any lawyer. During the past decade, he has been one of the most prolific voices in our media, above all on Channel 7, when it comes to security and crime – always with a popularmano dura, tough approach and always with his piquant, sometimes hurtful style. His target is usually the “establishment,” even though he served as a Cabinet minister as part of the long-standing National Liberation Party, and maintains relations with other groups with significant political, economic and media power.In May 2017, this famous lawyer became a presidential candidate after negotiating his entry into an insignificant party called National Integration (PIN), which had 15 years under its belt without ever achieving a national political post. Its president, the conservative doctor Wálter Múñoz, was a legislator from 1998-2002, perhaps never imagining that 15 years later he would convert his party into a vehicle for a driver who needed a car. That driver is Juan Diego Castro, a short and energetic man with a mustache and glasses who put his own face into his campaign logo. He is the best single example of a trend experts have been warning us about: the increasing importance of a political persona, more than the party he or she represents.But 2018 arrived and this presidential candidate, whom many people already compare to Donald Trump, is more than a significant competitor in February’s elections. As this new year begins, various polls show he is the candidate with the best chance of making it into a second, run-off round, which will take place if no one candidate reaches 40 percent of the vote. Voters, who are less and less friendly to political parties, seem tempted to support Castro, with his anti-political discourse and his strong character, as well as his theatrical abilities and an astute management of traditional and digital media. Juan Diego Castro’s campaign promises he will “rebuild to Costa Rica.” Via Facebook/Juan Diego CastroCosta Rican media, politicians and other political actors, as well as thought leaders, have confronted a dilemma similar to the U.S. predicament in the 2016 campaign: should we ignore him, criticize him, contradict him or publicize him so that voters can learn more about him? Traditional actors did not know how to confront a player who is breaking all the rules of the game.Juan Diego Castro breaks those rules through his profuse and stinging publications on social media. What’s more, he dared to question the referee – the Supreme Elections Tribunal, or TSE – one of the bastions of a democratic system that Costa Ricans value highly and that has served as an international model. He suggested that there is danger of fraud, just as Trump did in 2016. Later, he attempted to soften his criticisms by saying just the opposite, that he trusts the TSE and its impartiality, but it is impossible to know whether that will be enough to erase the initial questioning. He has contradicted himself at other times, too. On Nov. 22, he said that in his administration would have no Minister of the Presidency because it is unnecessary; on Jan. 10 he said he will name José Miguel Corrales to the post, a former legislator and PLN presidential candidate in 1998.Castro’s favorite targets include former President Oscar Arias and the ex-president’s favored candidate, Antonio Alvarez Desanti (PLN), with whom Castro’s rivalry dates back more than 20 years. He also criticizes judges and journalists, often discussing their private lives. He seems to feed off of conflict and knows how to manage this well in the media. He also likes to play with the concept of the “separation of powers,” having made many comments suggesting he would override them. Later, he says that’s not the case, that he respects constitutional order.He often blocks his critics on social media and is highly selective in granting interviews. He tends to seem to feel attacked and perhaps has more and more reasons to feel that way; in recent weeks, maybe because of the apparent success of his campaign, more public figures have set fear or excessive prudence aside and have publicly confronted him. “Maybe making invisible someone who has been in the media for years was an error. Or we underestimated him; I don’t know,” says an advisor from a rival campaign. They didn’t grasp popular discontent with politics and corruption, exacerbated by the “cementazo,” which fit Castro’s message perfectly. Via Facebook/Juan Diego CastroSo January arrived, bringing with it confirmation of Castro’s front-runner status, a rally of debates and greater campaign intensity. Three weeks after an editorial that attacked Castro’s “populism” without mentioning him, the daily La Nación published three pages of clear criticism of Castro on Jan. 6. The flames are growing, and many people are pointing at the “danger” that Castro represents. The comparisons with Trump are relentless because of his media savvy, impulsive nature and anti-establishment message. His phrase “national reconstruction” suggests that the country is in ruins, that it must be rebuilt from scratch, that Costa Rica must be made great again – although he uses, not a red cap, but a blue helmet. Nor does he lack money to publicize his messages, which flow quickly anyway through the media and cheap digital platforms.There are evident differences between Castro and Trump, of course. First off, Castro is wealthy and likes to put on a show, but he isn’t a magnate and has never passed through the entertainment industry, as some other Central American presidents have done. There’s no Steve Bannon that we know of, but neither do we know who the brains of his campaign might be; some say it’s Castro himself.Some very favorable words have been published by former President José María Figueres in favor of his former Security Minister and against Alvarez Desanti, Figueres’ rival in the Liberation primary: “Juan Diego is an outspoken man who says what he thinks, and in today’s world, that’s a virtue.” It’s easy to understand why some figueristas are working for Castro’s party. Other politicians have drawn close  to him as well, and other political leaders praise in him private. Some think that for now, he’s just putting on a show, but once he gets into office he might form a decent team.Castro, however, has an electoral problem ahead of him. More and more voices are joining forces against him and could push out a message against him. Fear of his victory may well grow in the days ahead. It’s also entirely possible that he will show more weaknesses, in substance or style, in the upcoming debates, or that some sector will take advantage of his aversion to questions or critiques, especially in a national context where political power is spread across the board and it’s urgent to achieve agreement among various parties. As January begins a second round seems probable, but we’ll just have to wait. Facebook Comments January’s here and the gloves are off: Costa Rica’s true campaign beginscenter_img Related posts:Costa Rica’s elections 2018: a primer The conversation Costa Rica should be having this election year January’s here and the gloves are off: Costa Rica’s true campaign begins Hurricane Otto: Two myths swept aside in a single nightlast_img read more


India Enough about Higgs lets discuss the boson

first_img More Valley freeways to be closed this weekend for improvements New high school in Mesa lets students pick career paths Think Tank analyzes the second round of Democratic debates Top Stories 4 ways to protect your company from cyber breaches NEW DELHI (AP) – Indians are upset over what they see as a global snub against a scientist whose work underlies the recent Higgs boson particle breakthrough _ though he was never directly involved.Last week’s announcement that scientists had all but proven the existence of the elusive subatomic particle led most media to run stories answering Who is Higgs? and What is a “boson”?Few linked Calcutta-born physicist Satyendranath Bose beyond mentioning that boson particles are named for his 1920s work with Albert Einstein defining them as one of two basic classes of subatomic particles. Meghan McCain to release audiobook on conservatism, familycenter_img Sponsored Stories Comments   Share   Natural spring cleaning tips and tricks for your home 4 sleep positions for men and what they mean For India, it was seen as a snub too big to ignore.The government issued a lengthy statement calling him “a forgotten hero.” Newspapers ran editorials lamenting yet another case of perceived snub against Indians.(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)last_img read more


Thais seize half ton of ivory smuggled from Kenya

first_img Think Tank analyzes the second round of Democratic debates Ivory shipped to Thailand typically is used to make Buddhist carvings or jewelry. Thailand is also a transit point for other markets, including China.The international trade in ivory was banned in 1989 to prevent the poaching of elephants.(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.) BANGKOK (AP) – Thai customs officials have seized half a ton of ivory at Bangkok’s international airport.The ivory was discovered Friday hidden in crates aboard a flight from Kenya. Customs officials displayed the 456-kilogram (1,000-pound) haul on Tuesday. One official estimated that the 158 pieces of ivory were from the tusks of around 50 elephants.The officials said they acted on a tip-off to seize the ivory, which was in six crates labeled as handicrafts. No arrests have been made. Meghan McCain to release audiobook on conservatism, family Quick workouts for men Check your body, save your life New high school in Mesa lets students pick career pathscenter_img More Valley freeways to be closed this weekend for improvements Comments   Share   Sponsored Stories Top Stories How men can have a healthy 2019last_img read more


French far right accuses minister of defamation

first_img How do cataracts affect your vision? Top ways to honor our heroes on Veterans Day Anne-Sophie Leclere said she didn’t think the photos were racist and were only meant to imply Taubira is not fit for office. The National Front has since suspended Leclere’s candidacy.Taubira responded Saturday that the “deadly and murderous thinking” of the National Front party should come as no surprise, accusing them of holding racist views, even if they are not always so public.That prompted the party to issue a statement, saying it would bring Taubira to justice. Wallerand de Saint-Just, a lawyer for the party, said it would file a complaint for defamation and insults.The move appears to make good on the promise of Marine Le Pen, the leader of the National Front, to pursue in court anyone who characterizes the party as part of the “extreme right.” She has complained such characterizations are smear tactics, meant to paint the party as a fringe movement that is not representative of French people.It’s all part of Le Pen’s efforts to soften the image of the National Front, stigmatized as racist and anti-Semitic during her father’s tenure. And the party does seem to be gaining strength: Last week, a National Front candidate won a local by-election, and Le Pen herself drew 17.9 percent of the vote in the first round of last year’s presidential election. Top Stories Ex-FBI agent details raid on Phoenix body donation facility Milstead says best way to stop wrong-way incidents is driving sober Former Arizona Rep. Don Shooter shows health improvement Comments   Share   (Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.) Sponsored Stories New Valley school lets students pick career-path academies PARIS (AP) – France’s far-right party said Sunday that it would file a complaint against the justice minister, who called the party’s ideas “murderous” after one of its members compared her to a monkey.On French television last week, a National Front candidate in a municipal election acknowledged she had posted a montage on Facebook that juxtaposed a photo of a baby monkey with one of Justice Minister Christine Taubira, who is black. The caption implied the photo of the monkey was a baby picture of the minister. 3 international destinations to visit in 2019last_img read more