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.