Friday, June 30, 2006

weekend plans and bar mishaps

I have 5 minutes left of my computer time so here goes.

This weekend Im heading up to Omatepe in Lake Nicaragua for some volcano climbing with my roommate here and several of her friends from Tamarindo. Should be great.

Wednesday night is ladies night here and it is the talk of the town all week before and after. I had a little mishap stepping from the deck onto the beach, which is a very big step for someone short like me...so I twisted my ankle when I landed and totally fell and skinned my knee. Sad. Mom, I cleaned out the sand best I could and have been putting that bacitracin zinc stuff on it. But I could barely walk on my ankle the next day, but it has loosened up and is getting better. A nice lady at the B&B even gave me an ice pack. I think I{ll survive, if I can get my hiking boot on it I{m climbing a volcano this weekend. I figure if I can{t get my shoe on I have no business hiking. Also the keyboard here is weird and I can{t figure out apostrophes so sorry about all that. Hey, that only took 4 minutes! I should be back Tuesday with some sort of weekend recap. Happy Friday!

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

reasons not to leave...



Yes, I took this picture, but it looks like one of the one that comes with your computer! I took this 2 nights ago on the beach that´s about a block from the place I´m staying. I´d love to attach more pictures but it takes FOREVER here. Anyway, the beach life is fun but I used the alarm clock-thermometer from Auntie Laurie (Mom, thank her for me!) and it was 98 degrees yesterday in the shade, 104 in the sun! Crazy, huh...and the humidity is what you´d expect by the ocean. But it´s beautiful and you can usually swim or dip in the ocean to cool off. It´s rainy today, though, but cooler. There´s not much to do around here when it rains. Anyway life is good, Playa Flamingo is a different world from Monteverde, but beautiful in a different way. Say hi, let me know how you´re doing!

Monday, June 26, 2006

Yes, I´m still alive...and now at the beach!

Hey all...
It has been awhile but yes I am still alive, I just haven´t been able to do the internet thing for awhile. Since my last entry I have gone on a tour of the monteverde cheese factory, done a zip'line over the rainforest, gone to the serpertarium, gotten more wet than i have ever been in my life on a hike in the Monteverde reserve, then Patrick & I skipped classes on Friday to take a bus down to Flamingo. This is because Rachel, our friend from England, would be leaving Monday and we wanted to see her. And I needed to end up here anyway. I was sad to leave Monteverde´s beauty, and cool and nearly bug-free climate, but excited about the beach.

The bus ride was only about 4 hours and strangely enough, the hotel rooms that the school booked for us were at the same place Rachel & her friends were eating lunch! Shortly after that, she left for her horseback ride on the beach, and we found Andrew out in the ocean. We all hung out and went to a nearby, on the beach bar, which was really quiet. I guess the people who really want to party on the weekends go down to Tamarindo. On Saturday we spent most of the day at Playa Conchal, a few beaches over, even though it kept raining. Apparently it never rains here, Patrick & I brought it with us from Monteverde. We went in for lunch and the sun came out so we went out and tried again. I fell asleep sunbathing even though it was raining a little bit! We went back to the restaurant for dinner and drinks, hung out at Rachel´s hotel for a bit, and then headed back to Playa Flamingo for our hotel. Patrick left early that morning but I stayed around and eventually went up to the Cabinas Isolinas where I´ll be staying for the next 2 weeks. It was a pretty quiet day yesterday just relaxing by the pool and inside. There was a really strong rain/thunderstorm last night. After breakfast today I went for a run/walk on the beach, which was really nice but still HOT. I also walked down to the school even though there are buses. It´s about a 40 minute walk but along the beach the whole way. I have afternoon classes this week, 1:00-5:00 which is sort of a drag but it´ll be fine. The sun comes up SO EARLY here, I am usually awake by 5:30 or 6am! It´s pretty crazy.

So that´s the update for now, I think I´m going to see if I can go to the beach for about an hour before I have to get back here for classes. Oh yeah I probably haven´t mentioned it in all I´ve written, but I really am going to classes and learning Spanish. It is just the least of my adventures!

Monday, June 19, 2006

Wow...

Okay everyone....pictures will have to wait as I am in an internet cafe right now. But I just had I think the most amazing and memorable weekend EVER. I don't know how to put the emotions into words, but here's the overview:

I went on a trip the school organized to Volcan Arenal. To get there, we took a bus on the bumpy dirt road for about 2 1/2 hours, went in a boat across a big lake for 30 minutes, and in another bus for about 20 minutes. We couldn't see the volcano at all when we got there. We went to our hotel, which was pretty nice with pools and a restaurant, big beds and jacuzzi baths-luxuries! We pretty much dropped off our bags and went to lunch and then a hike near the base of the volcano called El Silencio. When we got there it was clearing up so we could see a lot of the volcano, though not the top. It turned out that different people in our group emphasized different parts of "nature hike"-I was all about hiking, others all about mountains. This guy Andrew (surfer type from California) and I hit it off talking about mountains, Mount Chirripo, etc. and got ahead of the rest of the group (flatlanders) and got to the scenic overlook first-we could even hear the volcano making volcano noises! Then we had a guided walk through the rainforest and saw toucans, some sort of white hawk (sorry dad), a toucan, and sloth, and MONKEYS! The (spider) monkeys were so cool!

After the walk, we went to some natural hot springs. I felt like I really deserved them, after the hike and horseback ride the previous day, which I have not posted about, but I was really sore the next day. The springs were great. Also got to try the local spirit, in a "Guaro sour." It is the best thing I have ever had! I'll make some when I get home and throw a party. Like drinking a sweet tart. Guaro is the local alcohol made from sugarcane. It was really relaxing and for a bunch of people just randomly thrown together from all over the world, we got along amazingly well. There was a group of 4 of us-myself, Rachel (from England), Patrick from Texas and Andrew from California that got along extremely well and we had a blast together-the trip wouldn't have been the same with anyone else. After the hot springs we headed back to the hotel for dinner. It was dark out and we could see lava from the volcano! It was one of the most beautiful things I've ever seen, I think. It wasn't flying too high in the air but it was just amazing. We could see it while we ate, too, because it's one of those open air places with only a roof. After that and then went to a club. The 80s and 90s are all the rage here....Patrick and I had to practice our new salsa skills to some early 90s song! It was hilarious. I was also whisked away by one of our guides' friends to actual salsa music. I had no idea what I was doing but apparently that doesn't matter when the other person is good at leading. Funny, I have never in my life danced in a club in the US. It's either the salsa dancing, or the guaro. ;) At any rate, it was a good time.

When we got back to the hotel, the same 4 of us sat outside and talked, and watched the volcano in the distance. I feel so lucky that it was a clear night and we were able to see it! The next morning, we got up and after breakfast headed out to our hike at "Catarata La Fortuna." It is a 70 meter high waterfall! We saw it from above (pictures to follow, hopefully tomorrow) and then walked down...the whole walk down was stairs. We got to see the waterfall from the bottom, and then swim/wade in the river. It reminded me of going to Eldorado Springs as a kid, except the water was deeper with strong currents. And it was so cold! After getting used to it it was pretty fun and we staked out some rocks in the middle and did some sunbathing. A girl on the shore was supposed to take pictures of us but she must have used someone else's camera because I don't have them! Eventually our guide made us leave and we had to go back up all those stairs. The hungover portion of our group (from the club-I have a definite advantage due to altitude...and not taking shots of guaro!) was not very happy. When we got to the restaurant our normally rowdy group of about 9 was silent, some of us had our heads on the tables! A combo of sun, water, hiking, and it was really hot there. After that we headed back to the hotel. People from all 3 campuses came and some were transferring over the weekend so everyone had to get onto different buses to go back. It was really hard saying goodbye! I have been totally amazed at how quickly I have made friends here, and the kinds of friendships they have been. Rachel I have known only for a week but I was almost in tears saying goodbye! She is someone I will definitely keep in touch with, and feel comfortable calling if I ended up in England and needed a place to stay. And Andrew and I are definitely going to get together when I go to Playa Flamingo next week. We even talked about climbing Mount Chirripo together. Patrick came back to Monteverde with me and we've been hanging out too. We found out that our "Mama Ticas" (Costa Rican moms) are sisters!

Anyway I know this post cannot capture the emotions of the trip (like a camera can't capture the beauty of things, but gives you an ideas but it was absolutely amazing. I filled 9 pages of my travel journal (thanks mom!) and still haven't captured it, but I don't think it's a weekend I will ever forget. I am even wondering what it would take for me to change my ticket and stay here longer! I still have 4 weeks to go though, so we'll see. I am having a better time here than I could even imagine! I hope everyone at home is doing well...I do miss you guys, but I'm having an amazing trip too!

Thursday, June 15, 2006

water, water, everywhere, but....




Here is today's irony. In the last 2 days I have experienced more rain than in the last year in Colorado, probably. Yet....when I woke up this morning my family told me, "No hay agua!" So I guess this happens a lot around here, especially with all the rain, that the water in the houses doesn't always work. I guess that's what I get for complaining about cold showers: no shower at all!

Other than that things are going well. Last night after I posted, I went with Rachel & Liz to a pizza place. Pizza had never sounded so good and it definitely hit the spot! The beer everyone drinks here is "Imperial." It is delicious. I think I'm going to start having it shipped to me when I come home! It's the best. Anyway after dinner we hiked back up the hill to a restaurant called Moon Shiva to hear live music there...and drink another Imperial! So that was fun; the big night out. I had to have the school call my "Mama Tica" to tell her I wouldn't be home for dinner. I can communicate okay in person but am not brave enough for the phone yet!

By the way the picture is the rain before I left for my hike yesterday! Hopefully can add more later; it just takes forever and they don't always post anyway.

Plans for the day: soak in the hot tub (the school has both a hot tub and some exercise machines on site), grab some lunch somewhere....the "casados" are the local thing to eat, and good variety, but I'm getting sort of sick of rice and beans. Then some friends are going to a bar to watch the England soccer game. There is soccer on here all the time...everyone is really bummed out that Costa Rica lost this morning. My "mama tica" and every single person that works at the school is wearing a red Costa Rica shirt. Even baby Fabricio's crib was moved in front of the tv! Anyway, tonight is the clase de bailar, which should be fun! I hope they were serious about "no horseback experience necessary" for tomorrows ride! And also, hopefully it doesn't rain the entire time. That would be ideal. But I have stop expecting anything else!

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

rain, rain, rain

Costa Rica misconception #1: It just sort of drizzles here for awhile.

That one, as mythbusters would say, was busted right open yesterday, and again today. Those of you who know me well will be glad to hear I found "La Taberna" yesterday with a friend from England and we enjoyed us a couple of cervecas. Cervasas? Hmm. I'll check on that. Anyway we are at this cool hotel bar (pictures to be posted soon, hopefully tomorrow) where the wall behind the bar was glass and you could see the rainforest! So that was cool. Anyway it started to rain and it was a major torrential downpour. The problem with morning classes is that's when the weather is nice. We thought we'd wait it out but after an hour it became clear that wasn't going to happen. So we walked back up this giant hill (did I mention no roads are paved here? All those potholes are now filled with water) and I was soaked to the bone when I got back to the place. Happily, I had my first warm shower since I got here which was a total luxury. In the morning they're freezing. And it rained for hours. (It doesn't take much time here to learn the Spanish words for rain and raincoat!)

This morning was gorgeous. At about 10am it started to rain again, and rain hard, and rain for hours. I had a tour scheduled at an ecological preserve with another Coloradan and we decided to go ahead and do it in the rain. It was pretty cool but no animals were out. Oh, except for mosquitos. So today I had the school call my host family to let them know I won't be home for dinner, even though I'm having fun eating something new for every single meal...but Rachel (the English one) and Liz (from Florida) and I are going to this Moon Shiva restaurant for live Latin music! So that should be fun. I still just think Costa Rica is absolutely amazing. Totally love it. And the rain here is different. In Colorado you actually cancel plans when it rains. Here, you just assume it will rain and do whatever you had planned on anyway, so it doesn't bug you so much. It's great. Oh, also great: plantains and chimayo. I will have to figure out how to get these things at home! There is a big Costa Rica futbol game coming up vs. Ecuador. I heard that at the other campus they cancelled classes and went to a bar for the last game. As my instructor said, it's not a sport here, it's a religion! Anyway, I'm off for now...dinner calls! Hope everyone is doing well!

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

WHY WON'T MY PICTURES POST???



pics

I'm attaching pictures of the view of the plaza at the school where I sit and drink coffee, email, and do homework, and the clouds moving in yesterday afternoon.

Now, some editorializing
Things I'm over in Costa Rica:
1. Cold showers
2 Do they really have to get up so early? And the sun rises and sets so early!
3. None of the streets have names; none of the houses have numbers. The "address" of my house is 125 meters northeast of De Lucia's restaurant. Kind of a pain if you're somewhere new. Sort of charming, though...

Things to love about Costa Rica:
1. They cancel classes to watch soccer games (now that is dedication)
2. The people
3. (duh) the scenery and beauty. Can you even comprehend what parks in the US would be like if we were more interested in preserving them than in making money? That's why the roads aren't even paved here.
4. You can walk anywhere you want to go.
5. COFFEE!
6. Okay, other than the cold showers I dig everything here. I can see why people visit here and never go back home.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Greetings from Monteverde!

So far, Costa Rica is incredible! I arrived late Friday, after my plane was late taking off in Atlanta. Initially I was really nervous about leaving late, as my information packet said my ride from the airport in San Jose was not guaranteed if I was late! I had a glass of wine and felt much better. Sure enough, I was not able to find my pickup at the airport, so I found a Taxista who knew where the hostel was and off we went. I got there at about 10:00 p.m. and everyone was either sleeping or out dancing. I was pretty wired from travel so took forever to fall asleep.

The next day, Saturday, I met several other people at the hostel who would be traveling to Monteverde with me later that day. We went to Super Snack (not very Costa Rica sounding, is it?) for lunch and I managed to order off the Spanish menu. The problem was when the waitress asked how I wanted my huevos. Uh oh….this wasn’t in my high school Spanish class! Luckily she started giving me options. For the record, fritos is fried. Good stuff. We headed back to the hostel, which was in an absolutely gorgeous area. Everything here is so green! Because it rains….a lot. Anyway a little later we got picked up to ride up to Monteverde, the first place I’m staying. The drive was breathtaking-it is so gorgeous here! The first 2 ½ hours was highway driving and then we got off the road. The people of Monteverde have fought having a paved road here to keep the tourism down. Things here are so different....they're more concerned with the environment than with making money? Huh? It's fantastic. We gained a lot of altitude once we got onto the dirt road, driving up into and through the clouds, and every once in awhile we'd drive out of the clouds and see the mountains below sitting in them. I can't do justice to the beauty here, but will post a couple pictures. Unfortunately didn't get to take any from the van yesterday. Eventually, after some complications, I was dropped at my "family's" house. Maurin and Mauricio are the parents, and they have a 9 month old boy, Fabricio. We did some introductions and were able to make small talk (the what is your name, where are you from gig) but I wasn't really able to communicate more than that. We had dinner and I hit the sack early. All this Spanish stuff is hard work! It's really hard for me, being a chatterbox, to have a hard time communicating with people! Especially when you live with them. They're very nice and understanding (and good at playing charades!) but even though I understand most things, I can't tell them much!

Today I got up bright and early. That's what they do here. I walked to the school, saw the people I met yesterday, and took a written and oral exam so they could place me in the right class. It took a long time for them to finish testing everyone, but there is this fabulous plaza with coffee (!!) and it is covered but open-air facing a garden and with all windows on one side. It is a pleasant place to sit, and where I am sitting now, in fact! Once they had all the students placed we went to our classes. I am in a class with 2 other students and a teacher and a lot of it was more casual discussion than lecture, which was nice. Afterwards I signed up for all sorts of activities! Horseback riding, dancing, and best of all, a weekend trip to Volcan Arenal-the 3rd most active volcano in the world, according to the brochure! So I'll be pretty busy this week! Hopefully next week I can see the coffee plantation and do the Costa Rican cooking class. I just want to do everything here!

I'm actually having a lot less culture shock than I expected...I know Costa Rica is the most westernized countries, but still...walking to the school this morning I decided that I've probably never seen a single one of the plants I was walking by in my life. So that's kind of weird! But it has been fantastic so far. I forgot my raincoat though when I switched backpacks to bring my laptop to the school....so I shouldn't stay too much longer. But all is well, it's really easy to meet people when everyone here is pretty much traveling alone (one couple and one father-daughter pair here). The town of Monteverde is small and easier to walk than drive. Lots of my high school Spanish is coming back, too, which is a relief! I have a lot to learn though....oh yeah, and homework. Anyway drop me a line, I'd love to know how everyone is!

Un abrazo!

Friday, June 09, 2006

practice post



Okay, I'm trying to get this all figured out before I leave and have to pay by the hour for internet access! I leave early tomorrow morning so I'm taking a break from packing.

On Monday I took one last hike here before my trip. Not only did I want to fit one in, but I'm also hoping to climb Costa Rica's tallest mountain, Mount Chirripo, while I'm there. It is a 2-day climb and they have a ranger station you can stay at overnight. So I'm considering that...I'm not too worried about the length of the climb (21 km each way-sorry, everything I have is in the stupid metric system!) or altitude...3820 m, somewhere in the mid 12,000 ft range...it's the altitude gain. So I'll try to stay in shape by running when I'm in Costa Rica and see how I feel by the end. I'm going for 5 weeks, and the last week is open right now; I haven't planned anything for sure yet, so that's when I'd do it.

Anyway I'd better get back to packing, and I have a few last errands to run today. It looks like the first family I'm staying with in Monteverde lives really close to an internet cafe so I'll try to get on a couple times a week to update you on my adventures! Please feel free to comment or say hi!

Monday, June 05, 2006

first entry...

So I decided that this would be a good way for me to communicate what I'm up to and pictures to my friends and family when I am in Costa Rica for the next 5 weeks. If I get internet access. So.....here goes!