My last moments in Costa Rica. As I sit in the airport at 7:34 in the morning looking at the mountains in the background, I am remembering all the memories that I have made during the past 6 weeks. From bungee jumping to relaxing on the beach, I have partaken in so many activites in so little time. From my host family to my classmates, I have met lifelong companions and have joined a new family that will always have a place for me in their home. From my learning of spanish to my understanding of their culture, I have grown so much as a person and have developed skills that can be greatly used in the future. I have experienced all this and so much more that I cannot fit it all into this short entry. I want to thank all the people at ICADS, especially Carolina for always looking out for us, my classmates for making this trip memeroble, my professors Michelle and Maria for their continued support, and lastly my host family for giving me a home. Adios Costa Rica and always Pura Vida.
19 June 2017
Today was our last day in Costa Rica. We took our final exam and then had a group discussion about what we learned and how we have changed. Afterwards, we went on a group lunch with Carolina. Carolina was our program coordinator who was our gaurdian angel and the rock in which we built our experiences. Maria, our professor, picked out gifts for her after we all contributed money. She picked me to be the one to present her with the gift and I was honored. The funniest part of the gift giving was when Grant said the reason he didn't go and see the film Wonder Woman was because he saw Wonder Woman everyday he saw her. After lunch, I treated Maria, Carolina, and Megan to some Pops ice cream because, you know, I am such a great guy.😉 Lastly, we played one final game of soccer to close out the memories in Costa Rica. We all said our goodbyes, and headed home. Now off to bed early because I am getting picked up at 3:45 am to go to the airport for a 7 am flight. Great.
18 June 2017
After our study session with Maria at starbucks we decided to go roller skating. As soon as I got my skates on I feel in the seating area. I think I laughed more than anyone else. While skating, Clayr went at a comfortable 3 mph pace, Natalie and I almost killed a couple kids by running them over, and Marty tried to do some tricks. After skating for an hour and a half we headed home. When I got home, my entire extended family was there eating dinner for father's day. I sat with them and shared some laughs. When then got a group picture to remember the moment.
17 June 2017
Today we headed back to San Jose and went to the National Museum. There is a butterfly garden in the museum sowe spent most of our time there trying to get butterflies to land on us. After the museum, we watched a rap battle in a small park. Although we couldn't understand what was said it was still a cool experience. Next we went to Café Rojo, which is a vietnamese inspired restaurant. It was great food although our ginger-lemonade drinks had to much ginger in them and they burned our throats. Then we stopped at a book store that had stacks on stacks of books that one man has collected over the years. Lastly, we headed to the Central Market, the place we went the first day we were in Costa Rica, and looked around for a bit. We then all went home, and I went and saw my mom and aunts before they left.
16 June 2017
After our review session we headed down to San Jose to explore some of the city. We went to some thrift stores that Natalie couldn't step away from, found Chinatown that did not have much Chinese places, and Josh, Shane, and Grant got their haircut from some 16 year old guys at Swagg Barber Shop. We then headed to "La Calle" which is a street full of bars and restaurants near UCR. We ate at a rinky dink soda and then met up with the girls at the karaoke place. Come to find out that guys must wear pants to bars in Costa Rica and they ID even though the drinking age is 18. Josh, Shane, Grant, and Trevor didn't wear pants and Megan and Grant forgot their IDs. Josh and I live the closest to UCR, so we took an uber back to our houses to grab pants for everybody. We found a bar that didn't ID and the guys put on the pants we brought them. As everyone was enjoying their night, Megan had a stomach ache that needed to be attended to, so we went on a walk to cure the pain.
15 June 2017
After our last class we went to the mall to try and watch a movie. After standing in line trying to decide what to watch for 10 mins, we decided to go to another mall and watch Wonder Woman. But before we left, we got some food and of course cake. Although I couldn't finish it, it was some of the best carrot cake I have ever had. Once we got to the other mall (10 minutes after the posted time it was to start), we bought our tickets and went into the theater. Luckily it was just starting so we didn't miss much. The movie was in English and we laughed more than normal due to what we considered were cheesy aspects of the movie. After the movie we all went home and decided we were going to go to a Karaoke bar after dinner. It ended up being just me, Marty, Josh, and Alexis who went out and we found the bar to be empty. Not to worry, we still spent $10 on Uber and $30 for pizza so it was still an expensive night.
14 June 2017
Although I was skeptical at first, my free haircut turned out pretty good.
13 June 2017
My mom (real mom), and my two aunts flew down to Costa Rica today for a sisters vacation. I met up with them at their hotel after I played a couple of games of soccer. I played in goal mostly because I was not wearing good clothes/shoes to run in and as it turned out I was "a beast" in goal. During our second game, we only needed one more goal to win so Josh took over goal and I was determined to get the winning goal. I did. It was amazing. Then I died of lack of oxygen. Once I met up with my mom, we went to my house so my two moms could meet. I had to translate between the four of them so it was great practice. My host mom loved it and was so excited they were there. Lastly, we went to a restuarant to eat and met up with my classmates and our new professor. We had a great time and got to see Costa Rica win their soccer game.
12 June 2017
Today we visited a coffee plantation and it was amazing. We first got a free frappuccino drink that was the best coffee drink I have ever had. Then we went on a tour of the plantation and luckily our tour guide spoke english so we could actually understand what was being said. Although it is the wet season and not much coffee is being picked, we still got to see how the process worked. When we were walking in the fields, we got to pick some of the leftover coffee cherries for fun. We then went to lunch and we even got Ice Cream (In which I ate more than I should have given the frappe I had earlier). Lastly we went back to the plantation and bought coffee and other products. I bought multiple bags of coffee (since they were only like $2-9 each), a coffee mug, and a huge burlap sack that they use to hold coffee beans. As we were about to leave, Megan suggested we get 2 more frappes, so of course we did. Funny thing is, she didn't even drink the whole thing.
11 June 2017
Tonight I got to help Pamela, my host brother's girlfriend, with her resumé in english. It was very cool to be able to help someone with my native language while trying to communicate in my second language. After spell checking her resumé, which was very difficult because I have been used to writing in spanish all the time, we tried to get her picture on the resumé. Let's just say it took 6 people and an hour to uplaod her photo. We all thought that we were the dumbest people on the planet after that. We continued to talk for an hour or so, in which I mainly just nodded and acted like I knew what they were saying. However, you don't have to know a lot of spanish to know when something is funny. I found myself laughing with them constantly, which is a sign that I understand some of what they are saying I guess. I'm going to miss hanging out with them when I go back to the U.S.
Thinking that it was going to take 6 hours to get back to San Jose, Megan and I went to the store to get some snacks for the long road ahead. Little did we know the bus ride would only take 4 hours today instead of 6 like we planned. Not to worry, however, our snacks still pleased us and now we have extras for Monday's bus ride. To pass some time, I got to hear stories about a wierd kid that Megan had to sit next to in a class each day last semester. The best line of the day was when Megan hit a slump of bad luck during the ride and said, "I'm just sitting here eating my pepper, getting pepper juices all over myself, freezing to death from Josh's open window, listening to my free trial of spotify music that stops playing each song halfway through, and trying to read my book while not getting car sick. Man, I'm living life."
10 June 2017
We rented bikes so that we could bike down the coast and stop at multiple beaches. On the way out, Megan and I took the opportunity to make a workout out of it and pushed ourselves eapecially up the hills. Our first stop was Punta Uva, which was great for swimming and some snorkeling. After a while we continued on and got some lunch at Manzanillo. I also got a couple beers to enjoy on the beach to really get the true carribean experience. At the beach Alexis and I made Megan into a mermaid, Josh and I went cave exploring and found treasure and some bats, and I showed everyone that you can swim and drink a beer at the same time without spilling your beer (can only be accomplished through the will of God). As we rode back to Puerto Viejo, my chain on my bike came off so a local had to help me put it back on. Once we got back to the hostel we were ready to shower and get some dinner.
9 June 2017
The Blue Butterfly hostel was an experience to say the least. As we walked up to the hostel we noticed that it was tucked away in the forest which got us excited. Lo and behold there was little to be excited about. The hostel was wooden shacks that had tiny rooms with only one bed. Most of us had to share a bed, and I was lucky enough to have Grant as my bedmate. Not only were the beds an issue but also the cleanliness of the place as well. There were cockroaches, a giant spider that looked like it came out of Jumanji, and smelly bathrooms. However, with all this in mind, the people who ran the hostel were very nice and were very accepting of our large group. They even stayed up to wait for us to arrive. Although the living conditions were not the best, we still enjoyed ourselves and looked at the experience as a form of "rustic living".
Our bus was supposed to leave at 12 but was changed to 4 because apparently they were painting the roads. With an extra 4 hours to spend, Natalie and I went and got some lunch at Pizza Hut which I advocated against since I don't even like it in the United States. However, I was convinced to go and I actually enjoyed it. We ordered a hawaiian pizza so at least we can say the pineapple is authentic Costa Rican food. We went on the bus thinking it would take 4 hours, not knowing that in reality it would take us 7 hours to get to Puerto Viejo. There was an accident on the way that left us stopped for about an hour. That plus Friday traffic made us not get to our hostel until 10:30.
8 June 2017
Wings, Beer, Sports. No, not Buffalo Wild Wings. Instead, Chicago Bar in Costa Rica. We actually went out tonight, first time during the week since being here. We watched the Costa Rican soccer game against Panama and it got intense at times. Although the game ended in a tie, there was still many laughs shared between us. These moments are the ones that I will always remember.
6 June 2017
$50 to see one of the world's best musicians on stage? I think so. The Ed Sheeran concert was better than I expected. I'll be honest, I was not a big fan of him so I wasn't even sure that I was going to go but I last minute decided to go thanks to the persuasive powers of Josh and Marty. We had to take a bus run through a private company to get there. The ride there was not that bad and only lasted 45 mins. Once there we found seats on some muddy grass, which was just barely under the roof. We were worried it would start to rain and that the rain would fall off the edge of the roof directly on to us. Not to worry, it didn't rain at all even though there was lightning in the sky all night. We got some beers and food, in which I waited 50 mins for some caramel popcorn. Ed Sheeran was really good live and I even downloaded some of his songs on spotify. Alexis amazed us by her fascination of Ed Sheeran and the fact that she knew every word to his songs. Meanwhile, I pretended like I did.
5 June 2017
¡Muchos Bananas! The Del Monte Banana Plantation was very interesting as we got to see first hand the daily process of harvesting bananas. We got a tour through the fields, the washing stations, and packaging facilities. They also gave us lunch, which I thought would come with a fresh banana to eat, but I was wrong. We did get a version of a banana in which it must be cooked and tasted more like a potato. It was good, nonetheless. While walking through the facility, we couldn't help but think that the workers must hate when tours of white people walk around their place of employment. It really puts life in perspective and I am definitely grateful for the jobs I have now and those in the past. I couldn't imagine having to cut down bananas all day in the hot sun all year round. I will think about those workers everytime that I eat a banana in the future, and hopefully so will you.
3 June 2017
Today was our tour of the area around Volcano Arenal. We had an amazing tour guide, Eric, who had the talent of being able to stop anywhere in the forest and look and find an animal of some sort. We saw frogs, toucans, monkeys, a trantula, and various other creatures. We also went swimming at the bottom of a waterfall, walked across swinging bridges, and Eric made facial tribal mud masks out of volcanic ash for us. We then had some of the best pineapple ever and headed to Baldi Hot Spring Resort. I have never been in a resort before and it was amazing. There were over 15 different pools all with varying degrees of temperature. There were slides which were about 3 times as fast than those in the U.S. Although the resort was very relaxing, Megan still insisted on us doing exercises in the water so we did pull up challenges off of a deck overhanging the water. We finished the night at Baldi with an all you can eat buffett in which we all stuffed our faces until we could barely move.
2 June 2017
We arrived at our hostel, and it is the nicest by far. It has hammocks to relax, a courtyard, and a bar (in which we got a free welcome drink). Not to mention we also have access to another resort in which there is a small pool with a swim up bar. After exploring the town of La Fortuna, which is a lively tourist hot spot, we got tickets for a guided tour of the volcano and hot springs for tomorrow. The man who owned the tour company was from the Netherlands and said he moved to Costa Rica after meeting his wife on a trip in La Fortuna over 20 years ago. We ate at a local restaurant and then headed to the swim up bar. There was one ball in the pool that we all fought over which caused some intense competition between us. In addition, we got to try some local coctails and meet students from UNC. It was a great night to say the least.
29 May 2017
Today's excursion was shorter than the past two, so it was a non-intensive day that allowed us to recuperate from the weekend. The drive to the Guayabo National Monument was through mountainous dirt roads that curved left and right constantly. Once we got there we went on a guided tour. Our tour guide asked if we wanted the tour in Spanish or English and us trying to be big shots said Spanish. We soon regretted that decision as we had little idea as to what she was saying. We got to see ruins from the indeginous people in Costa Rica before colonization. The water reserve system that they used back then was still working today as it used a nearby stream for a source of water. During the tour we even practiced pick pocketing on each other's backpacks. After the tour we ate lunch made for us by some locals. The tea was amazing and left everybody wanting more. Finally, we started the drive back with the intention on studying vocab but in reality we just slept. Who would have guessed?
27 May 2017
We cooked out again by making chicken salads with rasberry vinegret and green beans on the side. We of course played some card games, ate ice cream, and shared some laughs. We decided we wanted to go to some of the bars down the street. The first one we tried going to was inside an old airplane but there wasn't many people there. Across the street was a bar that had a lot more people, most our age. Josh and Megan played a game of pool in which they unfortunately lost a bet, Clayr met some people from Michigan who actually knew one of Megan's roommates, and Josh and I jumped into the pool at the bar. I tried to do a backflip but failed and just landed on my sunburned back. The water smelled like sewage as well. I mean it seems about right since who knows what people have actually done in there. All in all a great night with many memories of great people.
We went to Manuel Antonio National Park and got to see sloths, monkeys, crabs, among others. We spent a lot of time at the beach and we all got burned with varying degrees of severity. We had to take turns swimming because we had to make sure our bags wouldn't get stolen. The only thing that surprised us was that it wasn't the people we had to be weary of, it was the racoons and monkeys that were the thieves. Clayr and Josh had to fight off the racoons withjust sand and water bottles and Josh got a war wound from it. We took a couple of PB&J breaks with the monkeys surrounding us as we ate. Some people began to feed them and thus I ended up with a monkey sitting on my head eating food out of peoples hands. As we were wrapping up our time at the beach, Clayr had one more encounter with the monkeys as they stole our loaf of bread for our sandwiches out of her bag. She was starting to hate these monkeys, ironic since she wants to work for animal protection and conservation as a career.
We woke up at 6 today and Clayr, Megan, and I went for a walk to the small town of Quepos which we thought was just down the road. 10 minutes in Clayr gave up and headed back to the hostel. Megan and I were determined to keep going as we wanted to buy our bus tickets for the next day. Little did we know this walk was over 3 miles. Luckily for us there were two dogs that guided our way and wouldn't leave our side. When we finally got to town we walked around like tourists trying to find the bus station. As we were obviously lost, a nice man named Louis helped us out. He walked us to the bus station and asked about our studies. As we were walking, Megan accidently bumped a sunglasses display and one of the glasses broke. The man selling them started yelling at her and we quickly got away. He continued to stalk us around town so we lost him in a flea market. Oh yeah I also fell (I prefer to say I "stepped") into a gringo trap and got my foot soaked with smelly water.
26 May 2017
Great news! We went to the correct bus terminal today and didn't have to worry about missing our bus. We got to the terminal early and of course we were hungry so we got some food at a small restaurant ("soda"). Once on the bus, I had the pleasure of getting to look through Megan's entire camera roll on her phone with her. She even quizzed me on who was who in a picture of her roommates. It took an entire hour to go through all the pictures but was time well spent. When we finally arrived at the hostel we checked in and went swimming in the pool. In addition, we went to the store down the street to buy some burgers for the night. Clayr, Megan, and I went in on some PB&J supplies for the beach tomorrow which took about a half hour and three stores to determine the cheapest and most efficient method of making the world's simpliest sandwiches. We finished the night off with great food and laughs.
25 May 2017
Philosophical question of the trip so far: Being that it is vacation for us, and that it is hot and humid, is there such a thing as too much ice cream? My answer is no. In Costa Rica the motto of life is "Pura Vida" which means pure life. If I am to truly live like a local, then I need to respect and honor Pura Vida. In order to accomplish this, in my opinion, I need to treat myself to what makes my life "pure". For me that is ice cream (and for most of the others on this trip). However, some say that there is such a thing as too much because it is not bulking season or they are getting fat. For example, Megan believes that eating too much ice cream is making her look like a whale (or as farm-girl Clayr says "heifer" which apparently is a female cow?!?). Being the great guy that I am I have told them they look fine. They of course don't listen. So to all I say: you are only in Costa Rica once, you do not look like a whale (or a heifer), and respect the culture, hence, Pura Vida.
Finally an afternoon off. Marty, Megan, Natalie, and I went to the bank and Marty learned the hard way that you must take your card out of the ATM within 25 seconds or it will take it. He had to wait in line inside in order to get it back. We then went to the UCR to play some more soccer. We played two games in which I scored the winning goal in one game. Now I could tell you that it was because of my awesome foot work or that I have a great shot, but I would be lying to you. In reality I had a lot of shots on goal with probably only 20% accuracy. I did, however, make some good assists. We ended up getting kicked off the field by a security guard due to what we believe was because we are white Americans who didn't deserve to play on the field. It was probably for the best because as you remember I am very out of shape and was gasping for air to save my life.
24 May 2017
At dinner today my host mom, my host brother, his girlfriend, Pamela, and myself talked for an hour about a variety of topics. These included my trips to Monteverde and Montezuma, the fact that my host brother only watches TV and doesn't actually go and explore the country, and the differences between the United States and Costa Rica. They also asked me questions about my work at the hospital and why I want to work with kids. The conversation was very entertaining and while I could not understand everything that was said, I definitely shared some laughs nonetheless.
Today we visited a nicaraguan shanty town where immigrants from Nicaragua live. We got to speak with multiple families and ask them questions about their life in Costa Rica and how it is different than when they lived in Nicaragua. In exchange for their time we gave them bags of food. Not only were the conversations eye opening, but also the conditions in which they live. The streets were filled with trash and the air had a rotting smell to it. The houses were very small and there was little structural support to them. This experience has really made me rethink what it means to live the life that I have. My struggles and needs are no where near the kind of struggles and needs these people have. I have come to appreciate what I have and realized that although someone doesn't have much, doesn't mean they are not content with life.
22 May 2017
Today we went to Carara National Park. Our tour guide, David, was an older man who was a walking encyclopedia. He knew everything about the plants, animals, and birds in Costa Rica. On the way to the park we stopped at a bridge that was famous for the river underneath being nesting grounds for crocodiles. Next we arrived at the park and started our hike. The previous hikes that we have conquered have had rugged terrain. This park was the opposite with flat trails which led us craving more adventure. Although the park was beautiful and we got to see macaws, poison dart frogs, and a variety of lizards, David would stop us every 20 feet to go into a thorough explanation about a random piece of nature. He went on rants about soil, tree buttresses, and pollen among others. At least I can say I know a lot more about the Costa Rican ecosystem.
20 May 2017
We woke up at 4:30 to see the sunrise on the beach. Most of us were not even tired and were ready to take on the day. While Marty went back to bed, the rest of us went to another nearby beach to go swimming and found that the water was the warmest we have ever swam in. While Clayr tanned, Megan and I tried to do a workout in the ocean and to show the waves who was boss. I am sure you can guess who won. Yup, the waves. We both got caught in the current of the waves but eventually made it back to the beach. Afterwards we all went to the forest to go searching for the famous waterfalls. We had to hike through rivers, rocks, and smaller falls to get to the big ones. The great fall was the first in which we swam in the pool at the bottom and jumped off the rocks on the side of the fall. We climbed to the other falls and swam through the rivers. I lost my water bottle and was quite upset but I got over it because on the way back we saw a group of 20 monkeys that made it all worth it.
19 May 2017
Our hostel consisted of two rooms that were divided by a half wall. We bought the all 10 beds between the two rooms, but we had 13 people in total. Instead of making three people go to another hostel, we all squeezed together in the tight spaces to accommodate everyone (on the bright side we are really getting to know each other!). That night we went to the beach down the road and Clayr got her shoes stolen while my phone got wet and started acting up. We hadn't ate in hours so some of us went to a pizza place right before it closed to fill our aching stomachs. We finished the night at the Chico's bar in town and Clayr and I drank overpriced drinks and Megan amazed us with her love of dancing. We got to bed at 1 am, not realizing that we would only get 3 hours of sleep that night.
We arrived at Puntarenas to take the ferry to Montezuma. The ferry only cost about $2 so it was a quick and cheap option to travel to the peninula that Montezuma was on. We took over a corner of the top deck of the ferry and turned it into more of a party boat than an actual ferry. Marty and Josh played their music to create an ambiance, Trevor and I enjoyed some Imperial beer, and Clayr was disgusted by the drink she created. Once we were off the ferry, we had to take a city bus to Montezuma. It was completely full so Josh and I had to stand for the entire 1.5 hour bus ride. It wasn't that bad except for the fact that most of the roads were dirt and we were in the back so we were thrown around a lot. However it was all worth it since we got to meet a young lady who was a wine maker from France that was traveling throughout North and Central America. She even helped Josh and I remember our French!
Today was a day full of transportation. First, we took a taxi in San Jose to go to he bus station to leave for Puntarenas. However, when we got to the bus station we realized that we went to the wrong station and the one we needed was 15 minutes away. Our bus was to leave at 1 o'clock and it was 12:20 so we were not that worried. As we were walking we began to think we were going in the wrong direction so we turned around until we ended up back at the first bus station. At this point it was too late to walk so we took a taxi to the correct station. This was the most intense taxi ride I will probably ever endure. We were all sitting at the edge of our seats as we saw the time tick away by the minute. Once it was 12:55 I had given up hope. We finally arrived at 1:02 and ran to the terminal to find out that the bus to puntarenas leaves every 30 mins and it doesn't matter what time we take. All that stress for nothing. Not to worry, we ended up sitting in the nicest double decker bus ever.
18 May 2017
I came home earlier than normal today because it was raining all afternoon, and thus our plans of playing soccer at UCR didn't end up panning out. Since I was home early, I got to spend some more time with my host mom. She asked me if I wanted to go to the store down the street with her and I said yes. As we were leaving, I shut the door behind me. As the door closed, I asked her if she had her keys, and she said "No, don't you?". I said I didn't but it was too late. The door locked behind me. We both looked at each other with shocked faces and just stared for a moment. Then we both burst out laughing at the fact of our stupidity. To make matters worse, my host brothers were not going to be home till 8 o'clock. We continued to the store anyway. Now it is a good thing that in Costa Rica families often live in houses right next to each other because when we got back, her brother was there to let us in. This was definitely a bonding experience that we will always share.
17 May 2017
Today was our dance class. Our dance instructor taught us the merengue, the salsa, and the tango. For those of you who know me know that I cannot "actually" dance to save my life. I can however pretend to dance and mimic the moves in music videos. These skills, however, do not help me when it comes to these formal dances. Unfortunately for Natalie, she was my partner. For some unknown reason to us, the instructor always kept an eye on us and would correct us often. First, my hand was too low on Natalie's hips (oops...) and it needed to be on her shoulder. Next, it was that we didn't have proper hand on hand placement. To make matters worse, it was about 90 degrees in the room and there was about 25 other people dancing. Finally, he taught us "freestyle" moves. The girls had specific moves and so did us guys. Our moves consisted of us thrusting, popping our hips, and getting on the floor to shake our butts in the air. I'm sure it was quite a sight to see to say the least.
15 May 2017
Today was our first excursion. We went to Escazu and saw a monument that represented the life of a farmer. We then went to meet a man who made masks out of clay. Our day started with the man walking us into a forest for a hike. The trail was on rugged terrain, with rocks, mud, clay, and water in every step. The views were beautiful and the pictures do not do it justice. Halfway through the hike, we stopped at a stream to take a break. There wasn't much time spent on a break as the guys went climbing on vines, Josh went swimming in the stream, and I was trying to be cool and cross the stream where it was deeper and ended up getting my socks and shoes wet. Our tour guide showed us his workshop where he made the masks and Grant put one of the masks on to partake in a traditional dance. We also went to a small restaurant and a sugar mill. Now I have to go back home to study for my first exam tommorow.
14 May 2017
The girls, except Natalie, took the 6:30 am bus to go back to San Jose. Natalie and us guys stayed back to do one more adventure. We wanted to see the tree that the locals talked about. As were were searching for this tree in the back roads of Costa Rica, we had to ask directions five times and a 3 legged dog, which we named Stubby, showed us the way. No literally, he led us into a random path on the side of the road which led us to the tree. It's like he was our spirit animal guiding us in the right direction to salvation. The tree was amazing. It was a ficus tree which was hollow on the inside allowing us to climb up to the top. To make things even better, we met a backpacker from Canada who has been traveling through all of Central America, a guy from Guatamala, a girl from Australia, a girl from Boston, and a girl from Ohio who was finishing up 6 months study abroad. The tree was great, but the people and the experiences they shared with us was the best part.
13 May 2017
Instead of going out to eat, Josh had the idea to grill out at the Hostel. Megan, Clayr, Marty, and I made potatoes (with oil Shane and Marty "found") and cut up watermellon and peppers. Shane and Josh grilled the hamburgers, which were exreamly seasoned, but good after a long day. While the burgers were cooking, Emily, Clayr, Megan, and I walked to town to buy some beers and wine. When we returned, we found Shane using a machete to cut up more wood for the grill from a pallet Marty found on the side of the road. The guy in the hostel office looked at us in shock as the chaos commenced. After dinner, Emily, Kysia, Jackie, Josh, Shane, and I went back to my favorite local bar. The highlight of the night was a tico next to me at the bar was doing tequilla shots and I said "me gusta" (I like) and then "pura vida" (pure life) to him. I was not expecting him to then buy me a beer. I guess in Costa Rica you only have to say four words to get free drinks.
One cannot truly describe the emotions, views, and thrills of ziplining and bungee jumping in a valley in the middle of Costa Rica. Ziplining consisted of 13 lines, 2 Superman's, and a Tarzan Swing. Lastly, we went bungee jumping. We went in groups of three, with Shane and Josh being in my group. We were taken into the middle of the valley by a wire suspended platform. The guys who took us out gave us each a hard time by trying to make us freak out. For example, as I walked up to the ledge to prepare to jump off, I asked if I could go and they said yes. Right after I jumped they shouted "WAIT NO DON'T JUMP". They definitely made the experience more thrilling. I cannot explain the jump, as no words will do justice. There is however video proof of my jump, as seen through a GoPro camera on my helmet. After every one jumped we watched the videos and saw Alexis sticking her tongue out a lot, Megan giving a play by play, and Shane using vulgar language to explain his emotions. What a day.
12 May 2017
We have arrived! From the bus stop we walked to Hostel La Suerte and got settled in. The guys were in one room and the girls were in the other. After unpacking, we went into town, Santa Elena. We first stopped at a pizza joint in which 8 peolple shared a cheese pizza. Afterwards, Clayr and I went across the street to the treetop restaurant which had a real life tree growing in the middle of it. We ordered Imperial beers. They are similar to a budlight but not quite as good. Shane then came and sat with us as we talked about childhood and shows we liked. The rest of the group then caught up with us and Natalie was mad because I drank my first Costa Rican beer without her. Clayr and I decided we wanted a different venue so we left to find a new bar. We found it. It was like a dream come true. The bar was called Tapas Bar Varvilla and was a small room that was filled with locals. We drank, shared life moments, and talked to a man from Chile named Joe. I now feel like one of the locals.
On our way to Monteverde! Our travels started by riding a bus from ICADS to San Jose. From there we scavanged in a craft market in which Josh bought a fedora that he refused to take off the rest of the day. It soon began to pour which caused us to all run to any available taxi that would take us to the bus station. Clayr, Megan, Natalie and I found a taxi driver by the name of Josh. After arriving at the bus station, we soon realized that it cost 200 colones to use the bathroom. I couldn't risk the 4 hour bus ride so I coughed up the change and it was worth it. On the bus, Jackie and I shared personal stories, Josh and Marty had ample leg room, and Shane flirted it up with a girl from the United States. We stopped at a "restaurant" in the middle of nowhere in which Shane risked his health to eat the "food" they were serving. We then made it back on the bus, eager for our next adventure.
11 May 2017
In class, Shane shared a nightmare he had about our upcoming trip to Monteverde, in spanish, which left us all amazed at his vocabulary level. Then Megan shared that she tried telling her family that the food was delicious by saying "me veo delicioso" which actually means "I am delicious". We all began to laugh hysterically. After class we went back to the University of Costa Rica to play a game of soccer. Before the game, Natalie, Megan, and I took some photos on a rocky cliff overlooking the field. They turned out great thanks to Natalie's awesome photo taking skills. Since I do not partake in physical activity often, and I mean not at all, I was the first to suggest that we don't go hard out on the field. Now who do you think went the hardest? That's right, it was me. I guess that just shows you to never listen to what I have to say. While I was having minor heart attacks, Josh and Marty got covered in mud and Alexis surprised herself with her own defense. Best game of futbol ever!
Tips for living in Costa Rica:
1. Do not fall in gringo traps (deep trenches between the road and the sidewalk).
2. Do not flush toliet paper down the toliet.
3. When in doubt say "si". If they give you a blank stare, say "Que?" to ask to repeat the question then change your answer accordingly.
4. Practice your math skills for counting and converting between colones and US dollars.
5. Keep an eye out for bugs in each others food, hair, and clothes.
6. Know where your closest supermarket is so you can go on many snack runs.
7. Do not give the bus driver more than 2,000 colones for bus fare or he will in fact yell at you.
8. Use "Usted" instead of "Tu" when addressing a tico or tica.
9. Call your host mom if you will be late to dinner.
10. Say "Pura Vida" as goodbye, thanks, and anything else inbetween.
10 May 2017
Side note: I got lots of compliments on my choice of clothing today. I wore an under armour blue golf polo with tan shorts and my new blue sperry sneakers (not to mention my under armour belt and backback). My host mom said I was muy guapo (very handsome). Natalie and Michelle said I looked just like Jordan Spieth. Goal accomplished. ✔
Double side note: I was right. Shane and Josh wore their $6 shoes two days in a row. They have had them less than 48 hours.
Today we went to the University of Costa Rica to speak with students there. What was interesting was that they were in the process of learning English as we are learning Spanish. We compared schools and they gave us reccomendations on where to travel on the weekends. We also discussed our favorite movies, and of course I said The Blind Side with Sandra Bullock and a tica (costaricans call themselves ticos/ticas) said it was one of her favorites as well. Megan tried to outdue Nicole, Marty, and I by speaking lots of spanish (or should I say spurting out random spanish words (I am exaggerating a bit)). As we were leaving we all came together for a group photo in which Grant, according to Natalie and Trevor, looked like he was a regal street performer who was gonna bust out a dope dance move.
At lunch today we were determined to find a grocery store to buy food for lunch. Once we found one we all frantically raced around the store trying to decide what we wanted to eat. Clayr wanted authentic Costa Rican cheese so she talked to the free sample lady for over 5 minutes. Megan and I went from wanting a roasted chicken to turkey (pavo), but we didn't know how much to get since it is measured in grams and there were about 7 different types. Luckily the lady at the counter could tell we were struggling so she told us we wanted pavo americano (stereotypical?) and about .3 grams. I quickly rushed to get rolls, cheese, and mayo. Although it took about a half hour to find the store and another 45 minutes to shop, we eventually made it back to school to eat our lunches. When we started to eat, Clayr complained of hairy and soggy cheese (although it was good!?) while Megan found a bug in her lettuce. All in all, a successful trip.
9 May 2017
Of course I live the farthest from school out of all of the other students. There are 3 others in my direction (Josh, Jackie, and Marty) with Josh about 2 blocks away but it is just my luck I would be the farthest. My host mom told me I should only take the bus, which costs about $0.50, because it is too far of a walk. I didn't believe her at first but boy was I wrong. It is a 40ish minute walk to school from my house each way. If I take the bus it takes about 25 minutes with a 10 minute bus ride and then a 15 minute walk from the bus stop. Me and Josh usually ride the bus together and meet Marty and Jackie at the bus stop and we all walk together. Great exercise I guess!
My host mom makes the best food! Lots of chicken, rice, and beans. A typical dish includes gallo pinto which is just a version of rice and beans. In the morning she gives me a huge bowl of fruit. Usually it is watermellon and another fruit such as apples, oranges, or mellons. In addition she gives me a half loaf of a baguette and eggs. I only eat about half, but in Costa Rica it is considered good hospitality to provide lots of food. Lunch is usually the biggest meal in which she gives me enough food to feed 3 staving college students. Good thing I usually eat lunch at school or else I would become muy gordo (very fat).
8 May 2017
Today was my first day of class. Orientation in the morning after doing a quick tour of the school. The school is small, as it was a house (a large house) at one point. We are the only students here so far but there will be more in the coming weeks. My classmates and program coordinators seem great. At lunch, we went to a local bar and I enjoyed arroz con pollo (rice with chicken). It was a great authentic costan rican dish. After lunch, we traveled by bus to San Jose. We walked downtown and visited the national post office as well as the indoor market. As we were leaving, it started to pour rain in which we all huddled under unbrellas. While trekking through the rain, Josh and Shane decided to buy $6 shoes which held us up for about 10 minutes. Im sure we will be seeing those shoes often.
7 May 2017
6 May 2017
First night in my new house for 6 weeks! It was an exhuasting flight because of course the airline lost my luggage for an hour. Then I could not find the driver, Don Fernando, who was to supposed to take me to my family. During the middle of my search, while at the same time 20 taxi drivers pestered me about getting a taxi, I found my teacher, Michelle. Seeing her was like seeing a cerveza after a long day's work. We waited together until Don's daughter picked us up and we drove through the city until we dropped michelle off at her apartment. I then went with Don to my house where I met Marlene, my host mother. She showed me around the house and I got a drink of water that she promised me was mucho gusto (very good) about 7 times. It was indeed. My room is better than expected. It is across from her sons' room and in between is a bathroom and a bachelor pad. Their names are Fabricio, 32, and Juan Carlos, 28. They both speak english. Now I need to sleep for 10 hours. ¡Buenos noches!