30 November 2009

Everyone's Favorite Tica

Tonight is my last night in Costa Rica (for this trip) and I'm getting
a little emotional. I have no idea what draws me to this place... I
mean I could write you a list (and I probably will in an upcoming
blog) but like being in love with a person, being in love with this
place can't be explained, it just is. With people there is a chemistry
that can't be manufactured and normally exists from the very
beginning. There are people that look like a match on paper but, in
person, "it" is just not there. Then there are people that you love
before you really even know them. You see them and you just know that
they'll be a part of your heart forever. Paola is one of those people.
I met her on a bus on our way to a camp here in Costa Rica seven years
ago and I knew that I would know her and love her for the rest of my
life. This trip with her has been such a blessing! Thank you Pao for
carting me around Costa Rica and for sharing so much with me. I love
your attitude, your heart and your laughter. I love you my dear tica.
I will miss you (and your precious family and friends) and look
forward to our next adventure. Somos gemelas de corazon y de alma. :-)

28 November 2009

Pictures: San Jose, Costa Rica

To see my San Jose Album Click Here!
There is more to come. :-)
But not today, becuase I'm off to the mountains and the beach.

25 November 2009

Lessons Learned Today in Tortuguero

- Walking through a construction site in the dark could lead to cement
covered shoes.

- If you wake up at 4:30am to take the Tortuguero National Park boat
tour, you could be rewarded with INCREDIBLE views of cayman, spider/
howler/white face monkeys, Blue Morpho butterflies, sloths, iguanas,
and turtles.

- If you are in Costa Rica and you think you may feel something
crawling on your back, don't assume that it's sweat or chills from
your sunburn. Assume that it's something crawling on your back, smack
it, and get it the heck off of you!

- Always be prepared for dinner guests... (crab story to come)

- Sometimes you have to wake up the kitchen staff during the off
season... Really they don't mind.

- Don't consider a granola bar lunch and then start dinner with a
beer... Unless that's the kind of night you're looking for.

Costa Rica - Tortuguero - Getting There

So, um... Yeah... I'm in heaven and I'm not leaving!

Tuesday morning I caught a bus in San Jose to Cariari. The ride was
gorgeous. We drove through the mountains and saw waterfalls just off
the side of the road. The views were breathtaking! I made a friend
(surprised?) who helped me figure out where to get off and, more
importantly, when not to. (I learned that the buses take rest stops
along the way... This gringa was packing up her bags just to sit and
wait for the driver to pee.) I'm learning that Ticos have a funny
sense of time. A forty-five minute bus ride seems to be two hours for
some and twenty minutes for others. I have decided that I will just be
ready at all times to get on or off a bus. I also learned that there
is always time for a cafecito or a cigarette break.

My new friend's stop was before mine, so he handed me off for someone
else to babysit. 'She is going to Cariari. Make sure she doesn't get
lost.' My newest friend was all too eager to help the blue-eyed
gringa. 'Are you traveling alone? Are you from England? Do you like
Costa Rica so far?' I had a talker on my hands... Luckily I can chat
with the best of them. :-)

Once I got to Cariari (safely) I needed to catch a bus to Pavona, but
the first stop was the bathroom where I became extremely proud of
myself for always traveling with a pack of tissues. Once I realized
there wasn't toilet paper I giggled and started hunting in my bag.
There had been a sign outside listing the cost to use the bathroom as
100 colones (~$0.20). My neighbor to the right did not find it as
amusing as I did. 'Without shame! I will pay you nothing if you don't
provide toilet paper!' she yelled. I took her lead and we both left
without paying... Me grinning and her frowning.
(Side note: She had tissues in her purse too. I didn't leave her
without resources.)

At Cariari I had to catch another bus to Pavona. This proved to be an
even greater adventure than the bathroom. There was no bus, but there
was a pushy lady who swore that there was a bus coming. A few of the
other gringos decided to walk to a nearby bus station that they new
about... I decided to trust the lady in the red polo shirt... She
looked official enough. ;-) I waited my five minutes and the most
rickety bus I have ever seen pulled up. I paid the bus driver my money
and we headed for gas and our first stop. Guess where our first stop
was... The other bus station! We all ended up on the same bus after
all... Only I got to sit with my new friend Jose and I didn't have to
hoof it over to the VERY busy station in the humidity.

This ride was bumpy and loud and hot and sweaty and... awesome! We
picked up school children and people coming to and from work. The bus
driver (Jose) was like a local hero. Everyone knew his name and was
glad to see him. We drove through farmland and fields. The cows had
humpbacks and the fence posts were growing into trees.

A 'gang' of locals started congregating in the front of the bus and
goofing around. They were laughing and threatening to push each other
out the door. I could hear them talking in the front and they were
laughing about trying to scare the gringo in the back. A few of them
were very obviously eyeing him and it took all of my self control not
to flip around in my seat and look behind me to see if anyone was
scared. It was a weird moment for me. I was very obviously not a
local, but I also very obviously understood Spanish and laughed at all
the right times.i was kind of stuck between two worlds. No one was
hurt and I'm pretty sure that my fellow gringo wasn't even frightened,
but they put forth a good effort and I appreciated the show.

Once in Pavona, which is basically a large restaurant and a boat dock,
we got on our boats to head to Tortuguero. I was the ONLY gringo on my
boat. The other boat was filled to the brim with people, almost all
tourists and I was on a mostly empty boat with locals. I took a
picture. It was hysterical. The ride into Tortuguero was magnificent.
I loved being on the water. I felt like I was in The Rescuers and
being toted around by Evenrude. I made another friend named Carlos,
who is a tour guide. He told me all about the area and his recent trip
to Nicaragua. I told him a little about myself and taught him some

I am learning that I'm pretty good at traveling by myself. In fact, I
like it. I am especially thankful for it on this trip, because it
causes me to use my Spanish and I need the practice.

So I am here in Tortuguero and I love it. The journey here was long
and exciting and well worth it!

Amy is awesome!

I miss my sister so much in Costa Rica that I just wanted to write a little post about how awesome she is :P

Costa Rica - San Jose Museums

Monday I spent the day in San Jose with Pao's mom. She had never been
to most of the places we visited; so we had a great time being
tourists together! The Plaza Cultura was very interesting. (I took
tons of pictures that will have to be uploaded later.) I loved seeing
where the indigenous people live now and where they came from. We saw
gold from all different regions and examples of houses, jars, and
weaponry. All of the museums were in walking distance from each other
and very reasonable. Pao's mom was upset because I had to pay more as
a tourist, but it only seemed fair to me. Costa Ricans pay the taxes
that build the museums, I don't mind paying more to support what I
have the priviledge to enjoy.

We had lunch at the Mercado Central with Johnn (my Tico brother). It
was delicious! Arroz con pollo is probably my favorite dish in the
world and this was the best that I've had. We sat in the middle of the
hustle and bustle and stuffed ourselves silly. I may have mentioned
this before, but I freakin' love my family here. I feel like they
really are the Tico version of my family at home. I can't wait for the
day that both families meet!

After lunch we walked around a park and saw some government buildings
(court house, etc.) and the National Museum (which is closed on
Mondays). Then we went to a museum of contemporary art. I loved it!
They had an exhibit about renewable resources and reusing things we
already own in new ways. My favorite idea was making purses out of old
jackets... Oh no, I take that back. My favorite was a display of lamps
made out of car parts. They were gorgeous! ...Oh crap; I lied. My
(actual) favorite was the exhibit of photography. There were
collections of photos from different Spanish speaking countries
separated between two floors. The bottom floor had pictures of people
from the lower classes of the countries. There were immigrants on the
Northbound trains in Mexico, children with no shoes in Peru, people
living on the streets in Brazil, etc. On the top floor were photos of
people living in excess; opulent weddings in Spain, Carnival in
Brazil, etc. It was very thoughtful and well done. Sometimes exhibits
spend too much time telling you what to think; this one left you with
the images and your own thoughts. It triggered some great
conversations between Mama and me. I am especially excited to upload a
few photos from that exhibit.

We went by the hospital that Pao did her internship at, which is the
same one her grandmother used to work at as a nurse! We walked around
San Jose some more and had a coffee date at Spoons (a great little
chain of snack/coffee shops). Then we thought we were going to tour
Teatro Nacional, but the information they gave Pao was wrong. So
instead we had a second coffee date, this time with Pao. :-) We
visited the national cathedral and their central park and it was time
to get home and let our feet rest.

For those of you traveling to Costa Rica, don't skip San Jose. It may
not be clean and fancy, but it's a great taste of the culture. The
majority of Ticos live here, so it's worth the time to get know a
little about life here.

22 November 2009

Costa Rica - Day 1 & 2

My adventure has begun! Friday night I rode up on the train to LAX and
hung out trying to stay awake for my 12:30 am flight. I started my
melatonin regimine an hour before the flight (one pill every half hour
to build up the exhaustion). Once I was on the flight with my
earplugs, neck pillow, and AWESOME eye cover (picture to come) in
place there was no chance I wasn't going to sleep my way to San Jose.
I slept sooo well. I don't think I've ever slept so soundly on a
plane. Red-eye shmed-eye... I was perky and ready for what Saturday
had in store for me.

I had a 'technical' stop in San Salvador, El Salvador. Flying in over
the birthplace of my sisters was very emotional for me. I even
surprised myself. The landscape was lush and green. There was a sweet
handicrafts shop next to my gate and I had a hard time controlling
myself. After I was already missing my sisters and all mushy about how
thankful I am for my wonderful family, I was hit with another
emotional smack. The Step By Step music video by the New Kids on the
Block was on the TV by the gate! What are the odds?!?! My family was
consumed by NKOTB for a significant portion of my childhood... So my
heart was filled with memories of lunch boxes, concerts and bed
sheets. :-) El Salvador has officially moved even further up my "I
Must Go There" list.

Saturday I spent catching up with Pao (my best friend) and her family.
We had lunch and went shopping for Christmas decorations. I adore
them! I can't even begin to explain the sweet connection I have with
my Tico family. They just love me... And I love them.

Last night it was off to the local tavern and guess what was on the
TV... Go ahead try. Yep. NKOTB Step By Step. Twice in one day in two
different countries!!! Oh yeah and don't worry the waiter fell in love
with me... Obviously.

This morning church was lovely and it was nice to catch up with more
old friends. Isn't it wonderful when even the passing of years doesn't
mean a thing? The rest of the day was spent eating, sleeping, and
planning the remainder of the week. Tomorrow is San Jose museum day
with Mama. Tuesday I'm off to Tortuguero on the East Coast for a few
days. Yeah for more adventures!

06 November 2009


Since Rihanna and Chris Brown are all over the airwaves today. I thought I would share some disturbing information I heard recently.

An American Bar Association survey found that one out of four American women are raped or physically assaulted by a current or former partner at some point in their lifetime.

The average number of times that a woman in an abusive relationship is injured before they leave is nine... NINE!

Each person reading this knows someone who has been injured... abused... raped... by someone who was supposed to love them... supposed to protect them. You may not realize that someone you love has been hurt, but the numbers say that you most definitely DO know someone. A friend is suffering in silence. A neighbor is working to recover from the unthinkable. They need your love and support.

We can't change the broken things in this world, until we start talking about them. So talk about it tonight over dinner. Talk about it tomorrow over coffee. We should be speaking up. My sisters, my friends, my neighbors, and my coworkers will not be protected if I am silent. THIS IS UNACCEPTABLE!

May we break the cycle. May we raise sons who respect the women in their lives. May our daughters rise up and declare that they are worthy of more; They are worthy of the best. Speak out. Raise your voice.

More than that may we look around and see the pain in the eyes that the smiles try to hide.... may we love those around us in such a way that they realize they were created for much more. Raise your voice, but more importantly increase your hearing. Listen in love and act in kindness.

My Hero Speaks

On Twitter I follow the funniest man alive... perhaps of all time. Tim Siedell is known in the twitterverse as @badbanana and I love him. I think you should love him too. Here is an interview with my hero. Please read and enjoy. Then get a twitter account and follow him. OR just bookmark his twitter page and check him out every morning. You are guaranteed at the very least one belly laugh. If you don't enjoy him... actually I don't want to talk about the consequences of that option. I would prefer to assume that you will all live long and happy lives without ever having to say hello to my lil' friend.

04 November 2009

Happy Birthday Besties!!!

I love me some Muppets and these ones taught me everything I know... literally. Thank you to my best friends in all of the world. Happy Birthday to you.