Thursday, December 10, 2009


Our program gave us the Thursday and Friday of Thanksgiving off of school even though they don't celebrate it here.  Some of us decided to take a girl's trip to the Pacific for some relaxing.  We left Wednesday after school and went to San Jose.  There we had to buy tickets for the bus.  We had checked the schedules ahead of time and wanted to take the 6:30pm bus.  We arrived at the station at 4:50 and found out that the only bus to Samara was at 12:30pm.  We quickly decided to take a bus to Nicoya (about 45 minutes from Samara) since it was leaving a 5:00.  We ended up packing into a taxi from Nicoya to Samara.  Our hotel there was great.  We rented an apartment that had sleeping space for 6 people, 2 bathrooms, living room and kitchen.  The trip was really relaxing.  We went to the beach several times (and I finally was able to swim!), bought some souvenirs and hung out in the apartment playing cards. 

Some of the girls cooked spaghetti and garlic bread for Thanksgiving dinner.  They had bought 2 packages of spaghetti because they weren't sure how much we needed.  We ended up eating pasta all 3 nights and finally finished it.  We also had brownies with ice cream for dessert.  I made popcorn on the stove for everyone the next night. 

Thanksgiving dinner

these are the coconuts I wrote about last time, you can buy them almost anywhere

I will be home tomorrow night!
Pura Vida

Wednesday, November 25, 2009


Two weekends ago seven of us went to Montezuma. It was a real adventure and me with no camera. We left on Friday directly from the university. We took a bus to San Jose where we asked directions to the bus terminal for Puntarenas. There were not enough seats for us on the bus that was leaving right then so we had to wait about 45 minutes for the next bus. Soon after we left San Jose, I reached into my purse for my camera and it wasn’t there. I don’t know if it had somehow fallen out or if someone took it, but I no longer have any way to take photos. The photos on this post are ones that my friends took. Anyway, it was about 2 hours to reach Puntarenas where we asked for directions to the ferry. There we had to wait 1 hour until the ticket office opened, and then another hour until the ferry left. My friends bought coconuts from a street vendor. They cut a hole in it and insert a straw for you to drink the juice. After drinking the juice, they break open the coconut and eat it. The ferry ride was about 1 hour 15 minutes. When we arrived in Paquera, we got a bus and rode for about half hour, switched buses and rode for another half hour until we arrived in Montezuma. Then we spent a little time walking around and comparing hotel prices until we decided on one.

first people on the ferry

the line is where the salt and fresh water meet

Montezuma is a small, eclectic community. Many people there speak English and there are a lot of little shops with clothing, jewelry and souvenir type stuff. The town is literally only a couple of streets which was really nice because you could walk around after dark (it is dark by 6pm) and feel totally safe.

Saturday morning we got up and ate toast and orange juice at the hotel for breakfast and hiked out of town to go to the waterfalls. The first falls were a few minutes’ walk from the road. After we passed these falls there wasn’t really a trail. We had to walk across the rocks in the river and along the bank. The second falls was very high with a pool at the bottom. We stopped here so my friends could go swimming and jump off a tall rock.

"Montezuma Waterfalls, danger, some people have died here, don't climb or jump"

first falls

hiking upriver

and along the bank

second falls

Rachel jumping
Another group (middle aged couple and 3 twenty-something boys) and my friend asked them if they knew how get to the third falls because we had heard that it was difficult to find the trail. The man said that he knew how to get there and pointed out where we needed to go. They then said that they were going there shortly and we could go with them. We decided that it would be easier to follow them since they knew where they were going.

So we started off climbing straight up, using roots to pull ourselves up. One friend and I were right behind the other group when they reached the top, but our other 5 friends were still near the bottom. We heard some guy yelling at them that they needed to go to the left, not up. So our friends veered off and we just hoped that we would run into each other again as it would have been very difficult for the two of us to climb back down.

We never came across the path the guy said was supposed to be there. He said it didn’t matter because there should be a road at the top of the hill which we could follow to a path that went to the third falls. We came out of the woods in a pasture with a very nice view of the ocean below. We hiked through the pasture to a dirt road, followed the road to a paved road and turned left as that is the way the guy said we needed to go. By now my friend and I didn’t believe that this guy knew where he was going but we didn’t know where we were. We saw a local and asked him how to get there and he said we needed to go in the opposite direction. So we turned around and hiked downhill on the road for quite awhile until we ended up walking back into Montezuma. By now we had been hiking for over an hour. The other group went to their hotel but my friend and I continued on because we were worried that our friends were worried about us.

view from the pasture

So we walked back through town, out the other side, to where we had begun our hike. Just past the path to the first waterfall was a road that we were supposed to follow to get to the path that led to the third waterfall. So we started up this road. We walked several kilometers up a VERY steep hill. We kept stopping to ask people about the location of the path to make sure we were going in the right direction. We finally reached a zipline place where we were told we had to pay to use their trail to the falls or we could walk about a kilometer back down the hill to another path. So we turned around, went back downhill and took a dirt road that we thought the path was on. We followed the road until we came to a dead end in a little grassy area. We were at the top of a hill overlooking the ocean, surrounded by tropical forests and there at the edge of the hill was the most random site I think I have ever seen: playground equipment. At least that is what it looked like. It was a round-shaped jungle gym that was made with metal bars shaped in triangles (I don’t know what they are called). I did see a small path off to one side, but it seemed overgrown. So we turned around, walked back to the main road and went back up the hill to the next side road. We followed that road which ended up at someone’s house. We asked the lady there how to get to the falls and the directions she gave us was to the same place we had just come from. So we went back to the main road, down the hill, followed the dirt road to the dead end and the little path.

By this time it was early afternoon; we had not had any food since our toast in the morning and had been sharing a bottle of water. We had been hiking for over 2 hours nonstop, up and down hills. My friend said she couldn’t go any farther so I went down the path to the falls to see if our friends were still there. I couldn’t find them, so I returned to my friend and we headed back to town. My legs were beginning to get a little shaky and it was hard to walk back down the steep road. We arrived back in Montezuma and were walking through town when I saw our friends walking out of the grocery store. It had been about 3 hours since we had last seen them and they had no idea where we were. So it all ended well and we had a real adventure.

After that not much else happened. We got food from the store for a very late lunch (best fruit I ever tasted in my life) and then went to the beach. We didn’t stay there long as it was cloudy and nobody wanted to swim because the water was cold and the waves were really high. We watched part of the Costa Rica vs. Uruguay game during dinner and then fire dancers in the street after dinner. Sunday morning we got up at 5am to make sure we got a seat on the 6am bus. When we got to the bus stop we found out that it doesn’t leave until 7am on Sundays, so we spent an hour on the bench at the bus stop.

monkey by our hotel

fire dancers

Sunday morning

Only 16 days until I come home!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Punta Leona

Two weeks ago we went to Punta Leona for a one night trip.  It was really relaxing compared to our other trips in which we always had to get up early and had a full schedule.  Not so this time.  We stayed at a nice resort and just relaxed.  I shared a 2 bedroom apartment with 3 others.  The grounds had a very large swimming pool, a kiddie pool, sand volleyball courts, mini-golf, foosball, ping-pong and beach. that I am writing this I can't really think of much to talk about.  Mostly all we did was go to the beach during the day and hang out in our apartment at night.

playa blanca

baseball on the beach

view from our balconey

The animals are not afraid of people.  That night we had a raccoon almost walk right in our open front door.  At breakfast, the monkeys were hanging out in nearby trees.  When some people left their table, the monkeys would come down, climb on the table and steal the leftover food.

Oh, and I got burned by a sour gummy worm.  Some people were at our apartment in the evening and someone found a candle.  So of course the candle was lit and people were playing with it.  One guy stuck the gummy worm in the flame to watch it bubble up and melt.  The heat got to his fingers and he kind of flipped the worm and some of the melted part flew across the table and landed on me.

locked out

The people here are a little crazy about the security of their houses.  There is a fence with bars across the front of our property with barbed wire above it.  I have 3 keys to get into the house: 1 to open the lock on the front gate, 1 to open the barred door (like our screen doors, minus the screen, plus the bars) which you have to turn 2 times to open, and 1 for the front door which you have to turn 3 times to open.

So at about 9:15am, I am home, by myself, and stepped outside to check how warm it is and the wind blew the front door shut behind me.  There is no doorknob, you have to have a key to open it.  If this happened in the states, I would just find an open window and climb in; not possible here.  All the windows have bars on them.  So I thought that I would just have to wait several hours until someone came home or possibly walk to school for my class at 1:00 (I didn't have any money in my pockets for the bus).  Then I realized that my family had put the lock on the gate when they left this morning and, therefore, I couldn't get out.  So there I was, stuck between the gate and the house with no way in and no way out.

I was standing there thinking that I was going to be stuck there for a good 4 hours until someone came home.  I started to get a little panicky because I had a lot of homework to do and I would miss class.  I started looking around their garage area to try and find any tool that I might use to try to unlock the door.  As I was moving some stuff around, a key fell to the ground.  Lo and behold it opened the front door!

Now I am safely back inside, my heartbeat has returned to its normal pace, and I thought I would share my mini-adventure with everyone.

front gate and barbed wire

barred windows and front door

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Tortuguero, Costa Rica and Bocas del Toro, Panama

Last week we took a group trip to Tortuguero, Costa Rica and Bocas del Toro, Panama. We left on Monday at 6:30am. We rode the bus for several hours. At one point we stopped at some banana fields. We watched how they brought the bananas in from the fields, removed them from the bunches and cleaned them. Next we went by boat for about an hour to reach the hotel. The hotel is by itself across the river from the town of Tortuguero.

The hotel was large and very spread out. The main building housed the reception and dining areas. It was then about a 5 minute walk to our rooms. The rooms were in groups of 4-6 with walkways connecting them and rocking chairs on the porches.

Monday afternoon we went across the river to Tortuguero. It is a small town where there is a conservation center to protect the sea turtles and the beach where they lay their eggs. At the beach you could see the areas where the turtles had dug out the sand to create a nest for their eggs.


Tuesday we took a hike in the (very muddy) rain forest. We also took a boat tour through some canals and looked for wildlife. Some people went kayaking in the river and saw a crocodile. There was also a tour at night where you could go to the beach to watch the sea turtles come up on the beach and lay their eggs.

boat tour (it was raining)

In the evenings we hung out in my friend's room playing cards.  It was a lot of fun and our best option as there was nowhere else to go even if we wanted to.

We left Tortuguero on Wednesday, rode the boat for an hour back to the bus. We boarded the bus around 9:45am and reached the Panama border around 3:15. During this time the air conditioning on our bus stopped working and you could not open the windows. Needless to say we were all very hot and sweaty. After almost 2 hours like this, we switched to another bus. About 10 minutes before we reached the border, the driver pulled the bus over because there was something leaking out of the bus. We then had to get all of our luggage and switched onto a public bus to reach the border.

We spent about an hour mostly standing in line, then walking across the bridge and standing in line again. The bridge was interesting. There were rails down the center of it, some of the boards were loose and we saw several large trucks drive over it while we were there.

Panama is an hour ahead of Costa Rica, so by the time we left the border (in buses again) it was after 5:00pm and beginning to get dark. The last leg of our journey was a half hour boat ride to the island of Bocas del Toro. It was pretty cool as it was completely dark out and all you could see was the stars.

view of Bocas del Toro from our hotel balconey

Thursday and Friday we went out all day in the boats to visit different nearby areas in the Caribbean. We went to Isla de Pajaros (Island of the Birds), which we could not actually walk on but everyone went snorkeling there. We also went to la playa de las estrellas (beach of the stars), so named for the many starfish there, and la playa de las ranas rojas (beach of the red frogs). We also went to Bahía de los Delfines (Bay of the Dolphins). Our driver drove the boat in circles to create waves which the dolphins like to jump over. Everywhere we went was beautiful and the water was amazingly clear.

Isla de los Pajaros


at playa de las estrellas

playa de las ranas rojas

island where they filmed Survivor Panama

mountains in the clouds

Friday, October 9, 2009

cuisine class

I have forgotton to write the last few weeks about my cooking class.  It is a lot of fun and we have made many different things.  In the last few classes we have made: pasta from potatos, cheese bread, sesame bread, a type of cookie (with caramel centers and either coconut or chocolate on the outside), spaghetti and some type of dessert with bananas.  Everything is made from scratch.  My class only has 5 girls in it and we have it at the house of one of the university staff.  We have a good time (trying) to make the food and understand the teacher (who only speaks Spanish).  This past Tuesday, when we made spaghetti, it didn't turn out so well.  When we cooked it, it became a big mass and looked kind of like potatos.  Our teacher told us she had never seen that happen before and we had to make it over again.

Lauren and Miriam licking the chocolate off their fingers

caramel and coconut

making spaghetti

Michaela seperating spaghetti strands

our bad first batch