Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Out West

Although I have been back in KS for more than 6 weeks since the road trip out west, I finally realized today as I was posting a facebook photo and could not remember the name of "Monument Valley" that it is past due to write something about that short jaunt to San Francisco and back. I suppose driving more than 4,000 miles in roughly 11 days is not short, but it did pass by quickly.

Of course I have been west on I-70 before, but after leaving the hot springs behind in Glenwood Springs, CO it was new territory for me. However, being tired from spending the whole day in the car, I let Thomas take the wheel and woke up somewhere in Utah headed south towards Monument Valley. I was immediately confused by the two lane highway full of semi-trucks and animal crossing signs. Utah seemed like an eerie place for some reason, and I’m still not completely sure why. Maybe it was caused by a lack of sleep or the slight panic that we were going to run out of gas at one point.

Anyhow, that feeling followed me to the Grand Canyon and all the way to Las Vegas after that. I think it had something to do with being in the dry, still desert. I would definitely not be a good desert dweller. I did not enjoy the constant thirst or extreme temperatures, but the views are worth any inconveniences, of course. There is so much vast space that the sky seems to expand like never before, and the landscapes are sharp against the blue background and demand your attention. I especially found this to be the case in Monument Valley at sunrise.

After one night of driving and one night of camping, we arrived exhausted in Vegas on the third night. What an interesting place, easy to criticize for a thousand reasons, but that’s not the point of going, right? I’ll just mention that we spent a lot of time playing fifty cents chips on the roulette table at Slots A Fun, saw mind freak Criss Angel, and ate at a buffet, despite my general intolerance of buffets.

We left the oasis Saturday morning and made it to San Jose, CA that evening to stay with Thomas’s friend, Neli, which was a lovely way to spend our Saturday night. Then, we spent two nights in San Francisco before Thomas had to leave and before I had the long, lone drive home. Of course, there is something entertaining to say when it comes to lively San Francisco. For me, it’s a toss up between the break dancing that we watched by Navy Pier or the homeless guy we saw walking around Union Square at 10 pm with a backpack and headlamp singing about breaking into cars and stealing laptops.

So, now here I sit back in KS, still wondering if driving across the country had some impact on my perspective of the USA. Of course it did, after all our experiences shape our thoughts into our realities, or do our thoughts shape our experiences…? Ok, but really “Reality is in the eye of the beholder” (Michael Faraday). Tell me your version and I’ll tell you mine.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Cross country corn fields

Going on a road trip through the USA is something that I have always dreamed of doing; at the same time it has been a distant thought. I lacked the time, funds and company to undertake such an endeavor. When it's possible to travel for 2 weeks in exotic Guatemala for less than 300 USD, why would I want to spend the same amount for a weekend in NYC? Well, when I realized that I had the time, company and newly acquired skill of frugality it seemed feasible and full of adventure after all.

So, after some (inadequate) planning, Thomas and I started the East coast portion of the trip. The planned stops included: Chicago, IL; Saugatuck, MI; Niagara Falls, ON; Manchester, VT; Boston, MA; Goshen, NY; New York City, NY; Middletown, DE; Washington DC; somewhere is Smoky Mountain National Park and one last weekend in Nashville, TN. Currently we are in Middletown visiting Thomas's relatives.

Although it's always nice and neat to write something about each destination, or perhaps the highlights of the trip thus far, what I find more interesting is how my perception of the USA has changed, stayed the same and somehow grown more complex with every 100 miles of road traveled.

Being the eternal optimist that I am, I began this trip with high hopes of awakening feelings of pride and wonderment about my motherland that I knew were hiding somewhere in the crevices of my mind. However, as we crossed more state borders and filled up on gas a few more times, one of the only thoughts running through my seemingly inactive mind was: who is consuming all this corn? I thought KS was known for continuous corn fields, but now as I sit in a suburb of Delaware I can nearly see corn from the window.

Three weeks of long drives, happening city night life, beautiful vistas of Niagara falls and mountains in Vermont and I think the USA all boils down to farmlands and suburbs between fast-paced, diverse cities, really? It's obviously not that simple, and as much as I want to be able to clearly define my opinion of the USA or at least be able to describe why I have some of the sentiments that I do, I need some more time and maybe a few more thousand miles on my car before reaching that goal.

Until then, let me say something about all things east of KS. After visiting Chi-town, Boston, NYC and Philly; Chicago (in the summer) is still my favorite city. In my mind it has a little bit of everything...a beautiful lake, shopping downtown, great public transit, panoramic views from Sears Tower, fun night life and it holds it all together with Midwest hospitality. Of course, NYC outdoes Chicago when it comes to crowd watching (think Times Square), museums (think MET), Starbucks per capita, impressive skyscrapers and utter craziness in general. But Boston has Fenway Park, Harvard Square, fresh lobster, feeling like you're on the set of The Departed and of course the quaint bar/restaurant with good food and quirky decorations that Eddie and Staci didn't want us to miss out on.

Philadelphia is the freshest in my memory (we were just there yesterday) and it also has the freshest personality. It's somehow different and knows it. From the historical Old City to the famous cheese steaks, boutiques and art scene of South Street this welcoming city has something to offer every traveler, despite it's rough reputation.

Between all the cities has been a lot of time on the road, the famous "Maid of the Mist" boat tour of Niagara Falls, and camping/hiking in the "green mountains" of Vermont; which is where our lack of planning campsite was saved by a friendly retired couple who gave us a fire starter AND leftovers from the campsite owner's 75th birthday party. Only in America.

DC is coming up this weekend and I'm hoping that by being in the nation's capital I automatically understand the complexities of American politics. Unlikely, but dream big, right?

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Last few days in Guatemala

Today I´m hanging out in Guatemala City, spending most of my time indoors. It´s been raining for at least a couple hours now. I arrived earlier this morning to find the city nearly deserted. It was strange, so I asked the taxi driver if it was always like this and he explained that today is a national holiday and most people leave the city. He continued to explain that because of this, it´s dangerous to be out walking around. That was of course exactly what I wanted to hear, another warning regarding the danger in Guatemala.

Regardless, I´m staying in Zone 10 of the city which strangely resembles Johnson County, maybe because it has one of the nicest malls I´ve ever seen. It is supposed to be the safest area. In contrast, I got off the bus in Zone 1, which is the most dangerous part of the city and looks similar to downtown San Jose. The difference is so big between one end of the city to the other it´s hard to believe.

Well, since I last wrote something I visited a few more places in Guatemala. Last Saturday, I took a six hour tour of Tikal, the most famous and accessible Mayan ruins in the country. It was really impressive to be in the middle of the jungle and then just see these huge pyramids and temples. Only 15 percent of the city of Tikal has been restored. So, you will just be walking along a path and see hills with trees and grass covering them but they are actually ruins still covered by vegetation. It makes sense considering the Maya abadoned Tikal sometime in the 9th century. We were able to climb a few of the temples and pyramids to get a panoramic view of the area, which is about 16 sq km. It´s hard to imagine what life there might have been like more than 2000 years ago.

We started the tour at 6 am, so by the end it was really hot and we were tired. We spent the rest of the day in Flores relaxing. Then on Sunday I left for Salamá, which is a small city close to Guatemala City. It was a long day of travel...somewhere around 3 or 4 different microbuses. I counted 30 people on one of them, that´s 30 people with 15 actual seats. Fun.

Monday I walked around Salamá, visited the market, watched the people there, etc. It´s a pretty city surrounded by mountains. I enjoyed the relaxed atmosphere and chatting with a few of the locals.

After all this moving around in Guatemala, I´m really looking forward to going to the beach in El Salvador and staying in one place for more than 2 nights. I´m going to leave here tomorrow morning. The bus to San Salvador takes about 6 hours, so I should be there tomorrow afternoon, patiently waiting for Thomas to meet me there tomorrow night.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Finding Guatemala

So, I am back in Central America after a relaxing yet hectic 6 weeks in Kansas. I´ve been in Guatemala for more than a week now, but it feels like I´ve only been here for 5 days or so.

I arrived last Wednesday and immediately took a taxi to catch local transport (aka chicken bus, retired USA school bus) to Antigua. When I stepped off this crazy form of local transport, the first thing I see is a group of 20+ gringo tourists...hmmm not what I was expecting. Then again, it is summer in the states so I guess it makes sense. Moving on, I found a place to stay and started walking around the city to see what was going on. I found it to be a beautiful colonial city with a great market, and a long list of restaurants, hotels, and travel agencies, but few locals actually living there. It´s obvious that few can afford it.

I spent my second Antigua day walking around some smaller villages about a kilometer outside of the center, and on the third day I joined numerous other adventure seekers for a tour of Pacaya Volcano. It´s an hour and a half outside of Antigua and then and hour and a half hike up an active volcano to a point where you can see lava and melt your shoes if you´re not careful. I was surprised that nobody found this to be really dangerous...walking up hot, sharp rocks towards glowing lava is perfectly normal, but whatever you do don´t walk around Antigua late at night.

On Saturday, I left Antigua to head towards Lago Atitlan. I went with three other girls that I had met and we decided to be brave (aka cheap) and take the chicken buses to the lake. Our journey included 3 bus transfers, hours of rain, walking in the rain and taking a small boat across the lake in the rain. We finally arrived in San Marcos wet, cold, and tired, but miraculously still in good spirits (probably because we were smart enough to realize San Marcos was too small to find a bottle of wine and bought a couple before taking the boat).

The rain didn´t stop, so Sunday we took a boat to another village on the lake called San Pedro. We had a few dry hours there, not long enough to actually dry anything, and then it started raining and didn´t stop. I wasn´t impressed with the village or the weather. Despite the fact that I didn´t really want to pack up all my wet clothes and leave the lake after such a short visit, I had to get out of there. I just wasn´t enjoying it at all. Luckily, one of the other girls felt the same way, so we were off again back to Antigua for the night.

On Tuesday, we went to Coban despite the fact that "there´s nothing to do there" according to many. We easily found a cheap place to stay and some locals gave us some good information on where to go. The next day we visted a more traditional mayan village outside of Coban that was surrounded by mountains and a nice lagoon. The weather was dry, the sun was out, we were the only tourists in the village and I was happy to finally feel like I was in Guatemala.

By Wednesday night we were in a rustic hostel right outside of Semuc Champey, which is a famous place to visit water pools formed by a limestone bridge going over a river. We spent Thursday morning wandering around the park and swimming in the pools before heading to Chisec, another small village Thursday evening. I really don´t have much to say about this town, probably because my immune system reminded me that although I can take these insane forms of local transport where 22 people (I counted) are in a van made for 15, I should not eat like a local.

I´m now in Flores which is a nice tourist spot set on a lake with easy access to Tikal (mayan ruins). I´m still trying to figure out what Guatemala is all about. Two weeks is obviously not enough time, but I´ve moved around a lot and therefore seen at least a few different parts of the country.

I´m leaving out so many waking up in Coban at 4:30 am to a teenage boy lighting off hundreds of firecrackers in the middle of the street (why?), riding in the back of a pickup to get to Semuc Champey or the little boy who stared at me off and on for an hour today on the bus. I guess for another day...

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Chirripo "Land of the Eternal Waters"

With only a few days left in Costa Rica, I wanted to fill you in on what I did last weekend. Over the past few weeks I've been considering everything I've done here and I came to the conclusion that I still really wanted to climb the highest peak in Costa Rica. This is the type of hike that requires some planning. For starters, you have to have a reservation at the Summit Lodge for at least one night and since it's dry season the reservations were full. So, we had to arrive in San Gerardo a day early to wait in line at the ranger station for the 10 spots they keep open for people like us who just show up ready to make the trek to the summit.

We stayed right next to the ranger station, so we were the first in line bright and early Saturday morning before the ranger station opened. After making the reservation and paying the park entrance fee, we had the rest of the day in San Gerardo where there is not much going besides the beautiful views of the mountains.

Sunday morning we started on the trailhead right after 5 am. From the trailhead, it's a 14 kilometer hike to the Summit Lodge and then another 6 kilometers to the summit. The trail is very well maintained compared to other trails I've seen in Central America and there is even a lodge at 7 kilometers where you can refill water bottles, which makes a difference when you are carrying all the food and clothes you need for two days. Despite many stops for food, water and photos, we made it to the Summit Lodge in 7.5 hours and spent the rest of the afternoon resting and trying to stay warm.

After getting plenty of sleep Sunday night, we left the lodge around 4:30 am to start the last 6 kilometers to the summit. It was a really good day for climbing to the summit; it wasn't too cold (around 40 F) and it wasn't windy. We reached the summit (3820 m or about 12,500 feet) in about two hours and we only saw one other group who was on their way back down.

We spent some time at the summit taking pictures and enjoying the amazing view before starting the 20 kilometer hike back to San Gerardo. The hike back down was enjoyable until the last 7 kilometers or so. At that point, the sun was feeling quite strong and so was the pain radiating from my knees. Regardless, we made it back safe and sound and even found energy to walk 2 more kilometers to catch the bus instead of taking a cab.

So, it's off to the beach this weekend and back in the states next Tuesday. See you soon!

Monday, April 13, 2009

Semana Santa in Panama

So, I'm back in the office after a tranquilo week in Panama, and with only three weeks of teaching to go I'm trying to wrap things up (read: organizing, writing tests, etc.). However, there's no need to go into detail about work when I can tell you about the time I spent in beautiful Bocas del Toro and Boquete.

I left on Saturday the 4th, which was also my 90th day in CR. After 2 bus rides, walking across the border, losing an hour to the time change, one car taxi and one boat taxi, we made it to Isla Colon in Bocas sometime between 7 and 8 pm. It took us longer to get there than anticipated; then again, we had to spend an hour in Puerto Viejo waiting for the next bus to the border and then another hour waiting for the boat taxi to Isla Colon. At a first glance, Colon seemed a little more developed than I had imagined, but that could be because Subway was one of the first restaurants that I saw.

We got an early start on Sunday (anxious to see Bocas in daylight) and after strolling around the town and finding some delicious cinnamon rolls (which became my version of pana breakfast for the week), we decided to do a catamaran sailing and snorkeling day trip around the islands. We were able to snorkel in a couple different spots and see starfish, schools of sardines, bright purple coral and many other things that I don't know the name of. In short, it was a great way to spend the first full day in Bocas; I even learned a few things about sailing.

The next day, after cinnamon roll breakfast of course, we went to the other side of Isla Colon to a beach called Boca del Drago and spent the day lounging around in the shade of the palm trees that lined the water. Everything on that side of the island is muy tranquilo, which was a nice change in scenery from the main part of town where we stayed. In search of continuing the "muy tranquilo" theme, that night we took a boat taxi to Isla Bastimentos.

We didn't really know where we were going or where we were going to stay on Bastimentos, but as soon as we walked off the boat dock we were greeted by a bar owner, [crazy] Andrew, telling us that most places on the main road were full, but his friend Big John had a few cabinas at the end of the street on "the point." Luckily, "crazy Andrew" was right and "Big John" had a place to offer us right on the water. After seeing the rest of the island, I'm convinced that "The Point" is the nicest place to stay.

We had one full day on Bastimentos and used it to walk across the island to Playa Wizard. It was a nice walk, but by the end of the day we decided to skip the muddy trail and take a boat taxi back. We left Bastimentos Wednesday morning to start our "travel day" to Boquete, which is a town in the mountains of western Panama. Despite the fact that I had to stand [on a bus built for people shorter than me] for roughly three hours on one leg of the trip, it was an easy journey and we made it to Boquete by late afternoon.

The plan was to hike Volcan Baru the following day, but after the long day of travel we decided to save the hike for Friday. Thursday we wandered around the town, visited some beautiful gardens and enjoyed the famous coffee of Panama. Then, the next morning we took a taxi to the park entrance and started the trail a little after 7 am. From the entrance to the summit at 3,474 m (11,398 ft) is about 14 km and it took us almost 5 hours on the way up and about 4 hours to get back down. The weather was great, but not quite clear enough to get a good view of both oceans. We were only able to see the Pacific.

The return trip to San Jose was uneventful, although I did see my Italian neighbors and an Australian couple, both English teachers that I know from CR. Anyway, we were able to get a direct bus from David, Panama to San Jose, which saved the trouble of trying to find a bus leaving from the border, and I was home late Sunday afternoon.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Visitors and "unfriendly" Dominical

Hey all, I just wanted to write to tell you a little about Hank and Vanessa's trip to visit me and my trip to Dominical last weekend. First things first, I had a great time with Hank and Vanessa. It was a very "pura vida" week; we started in La Fortuna which is a one of the most visited places in CR due to the active Arenal Volcano. We stayed at a hostel called "Gringo Pete's" and even though Pete isn't friendly (just ask Hank) it was worth dealing with him for the cheapest and cleanest place I've found in CR.

Friday, we went on a tour of the volcano with a local guide who was full of interesting facts about the last big eruption in 1968, the surrounding wildlife, etc. Although it was cloudy, we were able to see some lava. We also visited a hot springs on the way back to the town. Then, Saturday morning I got up early, trekked the 7 km to the Cerro Chato park entrance and tried to find someone to join for the hike to the lagoon at the top. After waiting for 30 minutes or so without seeing anyone starting the hike, I decided to go to the waterfall close by. I spent some time swimming at the waterfall and realized that I didn't want Hank and Vanessa to miss out. So, I started the 7 km back down to La Fortuna and fortuitously met Hank and Vanessa as they were on their way up to the waterfall. After misleading them that we were close to the entrance and there were only a few more hills to go (haha) we forged on.

I really liked La Fortuna and wanted to stay a day longer than planned (I finally found someone to do the hike with); however, Hank and Vanessa were anxious to get to the beach, which I completely understood. So, we left Sunday morning for Tamarindo, which was our original "plan" and (considering the amount of Flor de Caña I consumed Saturday night) it was probably best that I didn't do any hiking on Sunday. The travel time to get to Tamarindo was roughly 8 hours, 3 different buses and 1 taxi. It was a long day, but well worth it.

Once we were settled into Tamarindo, we decided to just stay there for the rest of the week and rent a car for the last 3 days of their trip. We had Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday just hanging out in Tamarindo. Then, Thursday we picked up the car (a 2 door compact 4x4, manual of course) and drove to Playa Brasilito, where we pretty much had the whole beach to ourselves. Friday we went to my favorite spot, Playa Avellana, and even though the waves weren't good and Vanessa was afraid of the schools of small fish we had a great time and even stayed for the sunset. Saturday was their last day, so we visited a "shell" beach (Playa Conchal) about 30 minutes from Tamarindo. I think it was Hank and Vanessa's favorite beach of the trip.

We made it back to my apartment in San Jose around 11 pm that night and I made sure they were in a cab headed for the airport Sunday morning. I was supposed to move out of my apartment that day as well, but last minute I decided to stay at least for one more month.

My work week after they left went by really fast (this week it's the opposite), and last weekend I went to a small surf spot called Dominical. It's fairly underdeveloped as far as Costa Rica goes, but there's still a happening surf scene, and plenty of places to stay and eat. I stayed at a nice place attached to one of the only bars in town, and of course every night is reggae night which was funny at first and annoying by the third night. I would definitely go back to Dominical for the waves, but the beach isn't the prettiest I've seen and the town/people weren't that friendly.

Well, I guess that sums up the last few weeks. Next week I'll be in Panama enjoying the Holy Week holiday and renewing my tourist visa! Keep in touch.

Friday, March 6, 2009

travel just by folding a map...

I've learned a lot in the past 8 months, but I think it would bore you to read about my better understanding of English grammar or how my perspective on life has changed. So, here's a short list of some random (and hopefully entertaining) things I've learned in Costa Rica...

1. Rice and beans make great breakfast, lunch or dinner, or all three if your lucky.

2. In German roosters don't "say" cock-a-doodle-doo, but rather kikeriki.

3. In Japan, it's offensive to show "public display of affection", which is definitely not the case in Costa Rica.

4. San Jose was once featured on South Park for it's abundance of prostitution, garbage and drugs. The Costa Rican government was less than thrilled and even publicly denounced the show.

5. In Australia, the word "jumper" is used to describe what gringos might know as a sweatshirt, hoodie, zip-up, cardigan or basically any article of clothing used to keep warm that isn't as heavy as a coat.

6. It's possible to get a good night's sleep in a hammock.

7. If you act like you deserve respect, you often get it.

8. "Ahora" (now) could mean 15 minutes from now, 4 hours from now, tomorrow or never.

9. Aloe vera has a wide variety of uses, making it essential for traveling. (por ejemplo...sunburn relief, hair gel, moisturizer, shaving cream, make-up remover)

10. Intentions are often as important as the actions that follow.

11. Germans have trouble understanding Swiss German dialects.

12. It's possible to safely cross a busy round-a-bout, highway or street without the use of a cross-walk.

13. It's hard to kill a cockroach on carpet...need I say more?

14. There are far worse things than a cold shower.

15. Working for the US Embassy is not a bad set-up; it's actually quite the opposite.

16. Traveling alone doesn't have to be "scary" or dangerous; it's more likely to be challenging, exciting, and rewarding.

17. Patience is essential for living, working or traveling in Central America. Try sitting on a bus stuck in traffic for 4 hours without knowing what the hell is going on or coming into work at 7 am to find out the students aren't coming. ha

18. Some Costa Ricans take offense when people say "I'm American" because so are they. (I try to stick to: "I'm from The United States" PC ha)

19. It's possible to find your way around a city where street names/signs don't exist.

20. There's more than one way to get where you're going....

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

"procrastinate now, don't put it off"

As I patiently wait for the arrival and Hank and Vanessa (8 days to go!!), I've kept myself fairly busy. Let's see, maybe three weekends ago or so I went to Monteverde, which is a very popular tourist attraction due to the abundant wildlife, canopy tours and hanging bridges found in Cloud Forest Reserves. I went with a group of 6 people and even though we only stayed one night; we had a great time. Saturday we went to the Santa Elena Reserve and did a canopy tour and walked through the park. The longest cable on the canopy tour was around 1 kilometer; we had some really amazing views, even though it was raining a bit.

The next day, we got up very early to go hike around the trails of the Monteverde Reserve. There you can hike up to the Continental Divide and see both the Pacific and the Caribbean, well at least in theory. We weren't able to see the Caribbean due to clouds; turns out they call it a "cloud forest" for a reason. Anyway, we saw some wildlife, mainly birds (including the famous Quetzal and many hummingbirds), as well as waterfalls and amazing plant life.

After the Monteverde trip, I realized how exhausted I was from traveling every weekend. So, I decided to slow down a little, but I still managed to go to the beach the very next weekend (luckily by car, which makes a huge difference).

Besides that, did I forget to mention that I'm so excited for Hank and Vanessa to visit? haha. For me, it's like Christmas in March. Even though they are ones escaping the cold KS weather to come to paradise, there is no possible way they could be as excited as I am. I mean, I'm the one who already knows how awesome it is to travel here, plus I'm looking forward to time away from work, mostly from explaining (and re-explaining) that you CANNOT use the preposition "to" with "near". Besides the traveling, I'm just as excited to show them what my life's been like for the past 8 months.

One last thing, I just want to let everyone know that as of right now I will be home el cinco de mayo; just in time for a late night margarita! I tried (and tried again) to change my ticket to a later date so I could enjoy the end of the dry season here, but I decided it wasn't worth the cost. I don't for how long or where I'm next, but I'm going to put that off for now...and focus on enjoying my last two months as a "teacher" (still sounds weird, I know).

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Fiestas and fun in the sun

My first few weeks back in CR were slow as far as my work schedule goes; however, the past few weeks have been busier than usual. I'm enjoying the change in pace, although at times I feel like my time here is running short. On the other hand, sometimes I feel like I'll be ready to move on in May.

Anyway, I've traveled every weekend since coming back to San Jose, mostly to various beaches. However, around the middle of January I went to Palmares for the famous fiestas that take place every year. Lucky for me, I have a friend who lives there so I was able to stay at his place. Palmares is normally a quiet little town outside of San Jose, but for two weeks in January it is converted into the biggest party of Costa Rica.

At first glance, it reminded me of what a county fair might look like in Kansas. There were various rides and "carnival type" foods to sample. The crowds were full of families young and old. The main difference however was the absurd amount of alcohol readily available and the various people passed out on sidewalks, park benches or wherever they fell. As you can imagine, after nine o'clock the once family-friendly environment began to look a little different. The various bars that had been constructed solely for this occasion were full of thousands of people. My friends and I went to "La Barra Imperial" which was the biggest (3 stories) and most popular. Despite the fact that getting a beer or seeing the stage were both challenging tasks, we had a great time.

The next day I had the opportunity to see the Tico version of a "corrida de los toros". Basically, there are a few professionals but anyone can enter the ring to run around and taunt the bull. The only incident worth mentioning is when a drunken gringo got a little too confident and got attacked. After it was clear that he wasn't going to get up on his own, a group of Ticos (with no concern for spinal injuries) rushed over and picked him up to carry him to the red cross station. Luckily, he was fine and was even brave enough to enter the ring for a second time. I'm sure he was feeling great the next day.

Besides the fiestas in Palmares and a few other random weekends full of surfing, this past weekend I checked out a new spot called Playa Guiones in Guanacaste. It's a little harder to get to, making it off the beaten path. I knew of one hostel there; however, I wasn't able to make a reservation (because they don't have a phone). Andrew, Antje and I decided to just go and hope for the best.

We arrived at the hostel around noon on Saturday and were quickly told that it was full, which wasn't surprising due to the fact that there was a surf competition (that we didn't know about before arriving). Wondering what to do next, we started to walk away and were stopped by a woman who demanded to know where we were going. We explained that the hostel was full; she quickly responded that she would "make room" for us and then turned to the others and said: "Would I ever turn any of you away? Come on!" Regardless, there were no beds, just a couple hammocks and couches in the communal living area. We gladly accepted this offer.

I really enjoyed seeing a new part of Guanacaste, especially during dry season. Everything looks very different and I couldn't get over the large number of butterflies. We spent a lot of time watching the surf competition on Saturday and I even got in some of my own surf time on Sunday. Considering that and the consumption of two bottles of Flor de Caña, I was exhausted upon returning to the city Monday.

I'm hoping to catch up on rest tonight, so I'm ready for the Costa Rica vs. Honduras soccer game tomorrow night.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Back to work

A lot has happened since I last posted. Let's see, before coming home for the holidays I went to San Juan del Sur in Nicaragua. San Juan is more of a port than a beach, which makes it quite touristy. I spent most of my time staying near Playa Maderas outside of San Juan and had a really great time. I was happy to get away from the crowds in Costa Rica.

I left Nicaragua the day before my flight back to KS, which made for two long days of traveling. I arrived in San Jose Wednesday evening and left the next morning on an early flight. After a short delay in Houston, I got into Kansas City around 6 pm and was exhausted.

Despite the frigid cold weather (high of 6 F one day), I had a great time seeing family and friends. I was a bit overwhelmed trying to find time to catch up with everyone. I now realize that 2 weeks isn't enough time to say "yes" to every invitation, even though I wanted to.

I'm now back in CR and back to work. My flight back was muy tranquilo with no delays. This week has been surprisingly easy, and it feels great to be back.