Friday, December 30, 2011

Nicoya Peninsula Beaches

Dave got to Costa Rica late on Dec 21st. The next day we rented a car and finally made a decision where we were headed for the next 10 days. We chose the Nicoya Peninsula because it is guaranteed to be dry and warm. Also there were some good surf spots for beginners that we wanted to check out.

We did very well finding places to stay and beaches that were not overcrowded, especially during peak season. The next day, Dave came down with a cold for 3 days. But we still went to the numerous beaches. It was super hot and the water was nice and cool. We surfed for one day. It was very tiring for me as the waves just pound you and you need to paddle out. But I stood up a few times on the baby waves.

Got to eat fresh seafood every night and see tons of sunsets. Also got to experience my first jellyfish sting; it hurt but was manageable. Now off to run around Costa Rica for 2 weeks with 18 college students for the ecotourism class Dave conducts. Click here for more pix.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

San Jose again (parks and cemetery) & Volcan Poas

In San Jose, I stayed w/ couchsurfer friends I knew from Portland. Alex and his partner, Jimena, moved to Costa Rica in October. Jimena is a tica. We went out to an irish pub to play an awesome, fun game of Rummikub and try a new, one and only, microbrew. It’s a little pricey but it was way better than the other local beer options, which I have to force down when offered.

At the bar, we ran into other couchsurfers that Alex and Jimena met last Friday. I invited them to meet w/ me the next day to go to Volcan Poas. Another day, I toured some different parts of SJ solo. I’ve been enjoying food and catching up with my lovely hosts. I got to try passion fruit juice on its own. Yeah, crazy taste. Also I am luvin the fresh coconut water and learned that mangos are better here, which I am usualy not a fan of. It was nice to eat something new, my friends are great chefs and I learned a lot from them; there pix of more cool food we ate. Oh, and Alex shaved my head. I did a bad job trimming my hair the other day as usual, so off it went!
Now, I am meeting Dave (from VT) to travel for 10 days, most likely to the Pacific coast to check out the beach and hopefully do some surfing. (I may not have my computer)...Dave comes here 2x a year to conduct his ecotourism/sustainability class w/ students from UVM, which hopefully I will get to join. Then I got 3 more weeks here with no plans! Click here for pix.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Random Days at Tirimbina

Not all days are filled with butterfly collecting or bat education. One morning we set out to shoot insects for the webpage. Another time, we “shot” some bird pix with a guest. And another morning, we went nearby to drink some coconuts.   During my second week, there were still cool things to see, especially the wildlife. But I must admit, I got a tad bored. There’s only so much I can do and learn.  I was patient and made the most of it. People are nice and the setting is neat. I also attended the bat education we have for private adult groups. I learned there are six types of bats and one of them eats fist!
On my last day, I participated in bird counting day, which is a world-wide event during the holiday season. 7 of us drove 45 mins to the biological station to stay over night as we had to wake up at 4:30am to start the count.
The first 4 hours was slow as there’s lots of bird activity. We split in to three groups to cover the trails back to the center. Christian was able to identify the birds by hearing them. He also makes calls to try to distinguish similar looking birds.  145 species were identified by everyone. I collected random pix on a few different excursions to create this post and photo album. Now, I am in San Jose with friends for the next few days.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Butterfly Field Work: Trapping & Collecting

Another portion of the butterfly project is setting up traps w/ crushed bananas to catch 'em. After a bit of walking with long clothing, hopefully protecting me from the mosquitoes and ants, I feel ucky.

But it’s neat to walk and see so much vs sitting in front of a computer all day. I’m thankful that the pouring rain stopped when I arrived for the first 2 weeks I was here. It rained for the last 6 days and today was a nice one!

Though I am surrounded by nature here, I do not have the same feeling I experienced in AK. Not that I was expecting to, but just an observation.  CR is not as vast as AK. I guess CR is more crowded and perhaps the dense, humid jungle is just not as freeing as AK.
Click here for pix.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Butterfly Field Work: Larvae Hunting

Tirimbina asks volunteers to help in the field. There’s two Spanish speaking workers who are working on the butterfly project.  One portion of it is to collect larvaes. We accompany them for the daily morning walks in the forest, about 3 hours. Sometimes after lunch (which is huge and yummy), we go for another 1.5 hours. And, in the process of the walks, I take rad pix of nature and animals.

My first walk was pretty cool b/c  it’s like I had my own personal guide. I am being forced to speak my limited Spanish, but it sucks b/c I am missing a lot of learning. Gato and Emmanuel have great eyes and show us all the wildlife. We also go on more trails than just the ones for tourists. It’s pretty muddy and slippery and had a few close calls. 

Since Saturday it has been pouring ran, so I opted out of the forest walks. I've been researching insects that benefits the environment for next year's environmental ed. topis. Click here for pix.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Grounds Next door & River Boat Tour

It’s been pouring rain in the afternoons and throughout the night since Saturday; today is all day rain. I slightly hurt my ankle/leg last Thursday (long story that I will go into another time), so, I have been taking it easy and grading papers. Overall I'm healing and doing well.

I’ve been a tad bored on my free time, but I have a ton of personal reading, writing, and researching to keep me busy. And my computer has been my movie screen at night. There's no more volunteers here and it's usually pretty calm here, which is fine.

I’ve been in CR for a month now and have one more week of volunteering to go. I combined two photo albums: one is a few pictures from the lodge next door. And, on my day off, I took a 2 hr river boat tour and saw some more wildlife. Click here for pix.   

Friday, December 9, 2011

Environmental Education Volunteer Work

I was disappointed to learn that I would not be doing as much or in-depth education work b/c I don’t speak Spanish well. The woman in charge of the program, nickname EO, visited nine schools earlier this year to conduct education on bats. And she is just wrapping up the community portion of the program.

I accompanied her on my first day to help set up etc. I came in time to go to attend the last three. At least I get a little visual, but there’s not a whole lot I can do. But I spoke with her about how they started it, how they picked the subject, funding, etc.

Currently, I am grading the before and after quizzes then entering the data into excel to compare results via charts. Hopefully, I will be able to do some research for them as they prepare new subject matters for next year’s environmental education classes.  Click here for more pix.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Chocolate Process & History

After some butterfly work in the forest, in the late morning, we took a chocolate break. The chocolate tasting room was nearby. Pretty neat break!

A few days later, we joined the English-speaking chocolate tour to learn about the process and eat all forms of chocolate, again!

Click here for pix.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Hot Springs in the Forest!

AnnaBell and I took a 2 hr one way bus ride (about $2ish each way) to Termales del Bosque ($12 fee), hot springs in the forest. Sunday is our day off. It was nice to get out and not have to wear rubber boots and walk in the humid rainforest, through muddy trails :) You know, doing something different.

The setting was super nice and there were many pools to choose from, ranging from cool to super f’n hot at 48 C (118F)! It was not too crowded, but I always find it odd that people bring their kids to a hot springs. I would wanna get away from that all. We were the only English speaking peeps there, which means not super touristy, yay!

Gosh, CR time goes by so slow. I have been in the country for 3 weeks, one week at the volunteer place and have 2 more weeks here. AnnaBell leaves this Sat. Oh, I did not go rafting this weekend, but we plan to do that later this week. Click here for more pix.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Night Tour in the Rainforest

I decided to organize/group my volunteer posts by activity so it makes sense and the pix flow nicely.  One of the perks of being a volunteer is going on the tours, free of charge, when there is space available. 4 people from Sweden took our 7:30pm, 2 hour night tour and I got to go. 

I have walked through the woods at night a few times, but not a tour at night. It was in English so I learned a lot as well. Tons of creatures come out at night, but one big one that I was hoping for came out, the sloth (pix on the right). Click here for more pix. They also do a bat and chocolate tasting tour which I hope to do next week.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

I'm in a Rainforest for 3 weeks!

My taxi was 15 min late and the bus left 10 mins early but I made it and even got a seat. Need to arrive earlier to get a seat and hopefully next time by the window to take pix. One traveler told me he stood on a 4hr bus ride. 

OMG it is humid here and wet which of course is expected in a rainforest. I arrived at 8:30, got settled in, and walked a mile to town to buy some food as I am on my own for breaky and dinner. The road is busy and there’s no pathway to walk on, so it isn’t very nice. I walked on my own on some of their trails. They got about 5 miles worth. Had to buy “green” detergent and we get to use a washing machine and dryer for free.

My supervisor is super nice and the place is nicely set up. Got my own room. I work M-S from 8am till about 3;30. But they are flexible if i want to take off to explore the areas. There's world class river rafting here which I plan to do this Sunday. The Center provides us w/ a huge lunch salad, rice/beans, and chicky with juice and tea. I need the black tea to wake up since I am up so early here but there are no bathrooms in the rainforest. Been drinking tons of water too, but body quickly engulfs and absorbs it when the water hits my mouth, such an odd experience. 

There's a German volunteer here, AnnaBell, who has been here for 3 weeks and is here for 1.5 more. The other volunteers just left when I arrived. There's also 2 German PHD students doing their study here for one year. The town, La Virgen, is a mile away but the social scene I am told sucks. My supervisors work 7-6 and afterwards chills here b/c it is more interesting than town. I will compile and do a separate post about the work later on.  Click here for more pix.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Farewell Orosi, Hello San Jose

Last few days in Orosi were hectic and rainy so no more hikin for me. More travelers came through. My solo room was shared with 4 other girls at one point. We had 22 “teachers” finishing up their World Teach work here. They taught for a year w/o pay and stayed with a host family. Most of them recently graduated college. Have not been around so many younings in a while, I wondered did we all act that way?

It’s so weird livin in a hostel. Never stayed at one for so long. Met a french traveler at the hostel, he told me I am not American because I know my geography and was surprised how much I have traveled and how I wanted to protect the environment. Finished classes on Fri, headed to San Jose to chill with Mo and his fam for two nights.

Did a few hours exploring San Jose on me own, which was not too bad and saw a lot. People were actually paying to get their photo taken with the dirty pigeons on their hands. Security guards, unguarded, protecting the bathroom areas of most fast food joints, which there are many here. On the bus saw a security guard with a gun and vest in front of a store.

New home will be at Tirimbina Rainforest Center, a 30 mins walk form a small town called La Virgen, which is a 2 hr, $4 bus ride north from San Jose then a taxi ride. Buses do not go to every single town here. Catching the 6:30am one tmrw, early day for me. Click here for more pix.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Learning about CR & more Hiking

I learned that you can’t watch hulu or Netflix outside of the US; I only watch: the office and 30 rock. But I can watch South Park on the comedy central website. It’s nice to chill and laugh and take a break from talking, hiking, and learning. Two odd things I learned yesterday. 1. Some parents give their kids, starting at the age of 1, coffee up to 2x a day. 2. I have yet to be at a bar at night time, but noticed that there were only men. Another traveler from Austria told me that in CR he has not seen girls at bars. Not sure why….
Taking the bus in small towns is a social gathering, everyone knows everyone. One friend joked that you must be crazy to be a bus driver and they are kinda like a god here. The roads are windy and who knows how they see in the dark w/o lights on the roads through these valleys and mts. There’s a lot of beauty in the countryside to see while busing around. The cows look different here and are grass feed! Sadly, child obesity is on the rise due to American fast food.

CR is very hills with many green mountains and active volcanoes. It reminds me of Malta, certain "old furniture" odors in the house. The bus driver handles the fares rather than a machine. Tons of dogs roaming the streets. There’s lots of little snack shops, houses are close together, out of date fashion, high taxes on importation, old ladies wearing those floral simple dresses.
And finally, the cat thinks I am his new friend and now tries to sleep with me. There's no way of keeping him out of my room. He would be my new best friend if they killed roaches :) Last Sunday spent 7 hrs on a bus to visit the best archeological site in CR and yesterday did a 4 hr hike through our valley. Click here for more pix.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Orchid Garden, Irazu Volcan & Cartago

I forget (olvide) I need a key to get out of the hostel’s gate. I’ve been able to cook (cocinar) in the outdoor kitchenette. Making new meals. One is packed w/ protein: 2 scrambled eggs, half can of black beans, tomatoes, cheese (queso), and avocado w/ toast. I have not been eating (estoy comiendo) too much meat (carne) and hardly eat out, as it is all fried stuff. We compost here which I think the dogs and cat nibble into if there’s anything worthy in there. Happy I brought garlic salt. Also apple cider vinegar seems to help the itchy mosquito (perhaps ants too) bites on me feet. These are not my normal packing items.

It gets dark at 5 and sun rises around 5; no daylight savings. Soon it will get dark at 6, I am told. I am an old lady here. Up by 7, lunch at 11, dinner (cenar) by 6 and tired by 8, but sleeping (dormir) around 9/10. Also no booze for a whole week (semana) so far! Keeping myself hydrated. It’s just transitioning from the rainy (lloviendo)  to dry (seco) season; I can’t imagine how it will be with this humidity (humedo) and the sun (sol)! Excited to hit the beaches (playo) in January.
The cats like to go up (subir) on the metal roofs, so you often hear (oyes) commotion above. The other morning, 4:45am, I felt something jump on my bed (cama) 3 times. Scared the crap out of me; thought (pensi) I was dreaming (estoy suenando) and finally I saw (mire) it was the hostel’s cat (gatto). No clue how/when he got in my room (sala), but I was happy to let him out and not something else. More lovely surprises are the smells that I get a whiff of a few times a day. While waiting for the bus on a major street (calle) or chillin outside (afuera) at the café, an old car (carros) spews a toxic order. And the scent of rubbish roams the air once in a while.

Last week I went to the orchid garden, quick waterfall hike, visited Irazu volcano, and then checked out the city near Orosi, Cartago. Click here for more pix.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Learning Spanish & Orosi

Orosi is a small town (piqueno pueblo), population 3,900. The school (la escuela) is in town. I (Yo) am staying at the school’s hostel. Lucky for me it is low season so I have the dorm room to meself. I also have a private class (clase): M-F 3 hours a week (tres veces por semana), 8-11am. Gosh the first day (primero dia) we covered so much. Reading (leer) and (y) writing (escribir) is much easier than talking (hablar) and hearing (oir). I think I my go bald after my classes as I pull my hair out during the day.

There’s (Hay) a lot (mucho) to see in this valley but having a car would be helpful. Got to walk up a few hills for some views. People are friendly and many of them ride bikes to get around, however, there are only a few paved roads. There are a few peeps at the hostel that I have made friends (amigo) with. One taking class, the other is here for a year for (para) her doctoral thesis, the other just needed a cheap place to stay. There's been a few couples  stopping for the night or so. It’s been super cloudy (nublado); the rain starts after 2 and sometimes pours at night (noche). Tons of chickens (pollo) and roosters crow at all hours starting at 5:30am. Tons of dogs (perro) roam the streets (calle) and are in people’s gated homes barking on/off. When one barks the others join. They sort of serve as guards I suppose.

It poured my first night (noche) in San Jose, which kept waking me up in amazement. When it rains here it pours. It’s not only heavier, but the roofs are made of metal and the walls are not so soundproof here.  Showers (duchar) are another tricky game here. The lower the pressure the warmer the water they say, but (pero) I have not been successful at the hostel. We have 4 (quarto) showers, so maybe I will be lucky on my fourth try.  Also in CR, you cannot flush toilet paper, needs to be disposed in the trash bin.

The mosquito bites are much itchier than in AK; wakes me up at night. They just love my ankles. But apple cider vinegar seems to help. And lastly, my nightmare is coming true. 2nd night saw a huge cockroach the size of my fist on the dresser. I worried he would come to my bed while I sleep. 3rd night I enter my room and he is on my bed! He ran under the blanky (yeah it gets chilly at night) and then under my bed. AGH! I can handle spider, snakes, mice, but these guys gross me out.  Click here for more pix.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

At Last I am in Costa Rica

Costa Rica boasts their ecotourism and dedication to conservation. 25% of the country is protected national parks. Unfortunately , not all Ticas practices environmental behaviors. San Jose is busy with tons of people and car traffic and small stores. You see liter on the streets and the cars are not so eco friendly. Of course, I realize CR is a developing nation and they are not as wealthy as the US. I never felt so much like a foreigner till now. I’ve been to South America when I was 19 but that was with a school trip; that’s my only developing country visit.  Now I am solo and don’t know the language. I also never had American friends in a foreign country before. Two different sets of Portland couples I knew moved here recently.

It is so nice to know a familiar face in such a different country. Mo, my friend, met me at the airport to help me take the buses to his house. The buses are cheap and go everywhere. But trying to figure out which one to get on, where to get on, and when/where to get off is very tricky. CR does not display street names. Everything is off memorization and landmarks and they say we are located 300 meter from YXS park. But how do you know when to turn right, left, go up, etc is beyond me. The drivers barely speak English. If you run for one they will not wait. Even a local, old guy with a cane and one arm who was so darn close did not get a break.

San Jose was so busy. I only stayed one night and did not have a chance to take one photo!  I was a tad overwhelmed and exhausted mentally. One can only stay 90 days here however you can easily visit a nearby country and come back, but you must show when u enter that u are leaving the country in 90 days. They asked me before boarding my 2nd plane in NC. She saw I was leaving in exactly 90 days and said to me “ wow, you are living on the edge”….I am glad that I am spending so much time here to adjust and get familiar with the lingo and not be in such a hurry, especially b/c u need time to get to places. The roads are curvy and not all paved.

Mo explained to me that his neighborhood use to be a farm and all the housing plots are kept in the same family. The houses are gated, topped offed with barbwires. The residents even employ a security guard.  San Jose is not the prettiest part of CR and I am glad I will just be passing through to chill with friends and taking buses to visit other sections.

The 2nd day, I ventured on me own via two buses to beautiful valley of Orosi to take 2 weeks of Spanish, which I am happy I am doing. I was a bit nervous with the bus situation, as I don't know any Spanish. The 2nd bus driver forgot to tell me when to get off, only a 15 min delay. People try to talk to u even when u tell them u don't understand, so cute. Click here to see photos of my hostel in Orosi since I did not take any pix in San Jose.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Escape to the Cape

Spent only two nights in Cape Cod, my first time there. We spent the day at the Cape Cod National Seashore which I never heard of before. Pretty beaches, ponds, and trails with excellent weather. Got to check out cute Provincetown, which has tons of art galleries.

The hotel had an arcade and a foosball table; that totally made my day! I also got to play Super Chexx for the first time and even won a game. It’s an old school hockey game that is way tougher than foosball. 

Overall, it was a nice, little getaway. On the drive back to NYC, stopped at Providence, RI for a quick walk and lunch. We stopped at the Italian area, Federal Hill; had no clue Providence had such a place.

This week I am preparing for my three month Costa Rica trip. Had to fix my computer, get some water purification tablets just in case, and will struggle to pack light. Oh and this Friday, me and Tiffany are accompanying my dad for our usual day trip to AC. My dad enjoys it; I am not a good gambler. It’s an early day to beat traffic then Sat my flight leaves at 6:15am! Will try to post later next week after my first week learning Spanish! Click here for pix.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Halloween week in NYC

My third week back home was a busy one. Erin, a former colleague and good friend from Portland, was conducting her voluntourism fair in NYC and I gladly helped out. Same night Chris from PDX came into town too.  Later that weekend, Dave from VT was in NYC for work.  Lots of walking, sightseeing, and eating yummy nyc food to be had.

After Halloween, I went back up north to VT with Dave since we made plans to visit Cape Cod the weekend after.  It’s nice to get out of the city. I can’t believe I prefer small towns. Click here for pix of NYC & Halloween. 

And finally, I made a decision of what is next for me. I am flying to Costa Rica on Nov 12 for 3 months (using parents air miles)! I have not left this county in two years and haven’t spent that much time abroad since Australia in 2008. I am going to a Spanish school for the first two weeks. I never took a Spanish class! Then headed North to Tirimbina to participate in their environmental educational volunteering program. This will be my first time volunteering abroad.

After three weeks of volunteering, will meet up with Dave for 2-3 weeks for some traveling and maybe even join his ecotourism class. I also have two sets of friends living near San Jose to meet up with. Then venture off a bit on my own. I arrive back in NYC Feb 9 as of now. By then I should know what’s what with peace corps and make a final decision, hoping to serve by March/April, if all works out. 

I am sure my internet access will be spotty; will try to post 1x a week or two. Also my phone # will be suspended b/w 11/12 and 2/9. 

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

nyc 2 & Philly

My parents went to Puerto Rico for a week, which is kinda why I am here to babysit by baby. I spent the week mostly alone. I have not had a night to myself for a whole month. I have not had an apartment to myself since I left PDX in February. It was so nice to eat when I wanted to, not clean up after myself right away, and be on my own schedule. The following weekend, we all headed to Philly to visit my brother while the parents help him work on his house.

I’ve been researching environmental education volunteer opportunities in Costa Rica. I am still interested in ecotourism, but I like the idea of education. I want to get experience teaching and working with kids as that’s a requirement for most park ranger positions for the National Park. I don’t want to go back to school, so I hope volunteering is a loophole. I’ve been hearing great things about costa rica despite how American and touristy it has become. I also have two sets of friends who just moved down there.
I also reopened my Peace Corps application. Had to redo my dental exam, get a new reference and submit a new motivational letter explaining why I deferred in January. They don’t have programs till April-July. I can still say no, but figured I’d see where this takes me. It’s a good long term career and life experience. I get to live and work abroad for 27 months. Hopefully, I can do either environmental nonprofit work or teaching/education. Should know more by Feb.

Click here for pix.