Archive for the 'Costa Rica' Category

Dos semanas en imágenes

The Loux's, Tico style...

March 5th sunset

The road to Playa Conchal

Playa Conchal

Scarlet macaws on the side of the road

On the side of the highway...


MEM on our porch in Manuel Antonio

Mi madre y me at dinner in Brasilto

La Playa…

With volunteering coming to a close, I’ve made the transition into vacation mode. In fear of depriving myself of the quintessential lounging-on-the-beach-while-sipping-a-500-calorie-tropical-beverage one tends to think of when they hear Costa Rica, I’ve abandoned my hiking books for sunscreen and salt-laden skin.

MEM (Ms. McCrystle) and my parentals joined me in Manuel Antonio for a week of ungodly heat and way to much food. Lying here now, with my shorts noticeably tighter, the AC in my new hotel is heaven. We managed to visit the national park and not see a single monkey (which every single person we speak with rolls their eyes and says that’s unheard of) and  take a 5 hour whale-watching tour in Uvita and see only 2 scared dolphins (as our boat chased them). Perhaps it’s MEM’s hatred for felines that frightens all animals away in fear that they too might experience her wrath… I say this because within only a few short hours of bidding her farewell, my mom and I took a bus to our next beach and saw about 30 gigantic crocodiles sunning themselves in the river along the highway, and the highly-anticipated scarlet macaw. We even saw a bright blue macaw. So.

Now I’m enjoying a break from the humidity at Playa Conchal, which may be the prettiest beach I have ever been to. The beach is made of all crushed conchal shells, giving the landscape a pink hue and the water a Caribbean feel. It’s lovely.

Pictures are up from the wedding, as well as Francisco’s finca and El Descanso, where I lived.

Cerro Chirripo

Total miles: 26
Total elevation gained: 7,600 feet
Time: 16 hours

My February 14th was spent on the highest peak in Costa Rica – Mount Chirripo – at 12,533 feet.

Maria and I left at midnight on Sunday, and made our way through the depths of the rainforest in the dark. With one headlight for the two of us, those 6 hours now seem like a dream. It was so peaceful. Only being able to see about 10 feet ahead kept us focused on the present, and not dread the upcoming ascents and switchbacks since for us, at that moment, they didnt exist. The rainforest is so quiet at night….much different than during the day when every particle seems to ooze with the sound of growing.

We reached the lodge where most people spend the night at 6 am, and from walked the high dessert plain-like terrain another 2 hours to the peak. Past 11,000 feet I went in and out of feeling like I was drugged – the lack of oxygen making my eyelids drop and my body seemingly move in slow motion. It was an interesting feeling while scrambling up the last cliffs. At the top we were surrounded clouds swirling around us, with tiny slivers of sunlight above or lakes below creeping through. It was sort of surreal, being among the clouds and knowing our little village was somewhere below. On clear days you are supposed to be able to see both oceans from the top.

One of Marias students was working at the lodge and gave us free coffee, which made all the difference in keeping us feeling alive for the way down. The 13 miles was filled with lots of mud and a light rain falling on the rainforest canopy of trees above us. And green. Everywhere.

Mas o Menos

After a few hectic weeks, things finally seem to be settling down here. I’ll be leaving at the end of February, in short, to make the most of my time in this country. While I love my students, there are so few of them, and I spend so few hours of my day with them, that I’ve decided two months is enough. My time traveling sans responsibilities will soon expire, and before I know it the “real” world of rents and jobs and teeth cleanings will be calling my name. But in the meantime, I want to live, and learn and contribute as much as I can.

At the end of February I’ll be meeting my parents and Meagan for a week at the, from what I hear, beautiful assembly of the jungle and ocean called Manuel Antonio. After that I’ll head north to work on an organic farm for a few weeks, fully embracing my Sussex County and sheep-showing little girl roots.  But that’s to come.

Right now, I’m in San Gerardo. After finishing up my last class for the week today, I’ll get on the school bus tomorrow morning to see the coast for the first time since I arrived, over a month ago. The extent of my Costa Rican experience this time around has been the not-so-lovely city of San Jose; San Isisdro, which is what the locals refer to as “the city”, and what I equate with downtown Newton, New Jersey, minus the ominous Wal-Marts and Home Depots; and here. That’s it. And I am craving, salivating over even, a change of scenery. I am quite looking forward to the opportunity to talk with people past 9 in the evening, and being in a place where you don’t have to feel awkward for having a glass of wine with dinner.

Maria and I house-sat for Jenny for a few days last week. It was the first time since I moved from San Francisco in November that I had a house and kitchen to myself. Almost like my own apartment, which will seem like heaven on Earth when I return. It’s all about the little things ATM… I did get a few hot showers and got to cook my own dinner – lovely. And I think the best night I had here was on Monday evening, when I talked to an old friend for hours on the house’s front porch, the moon overhead through the sprawling jungle trees; took a scalding hot shower; and fell asleep with a glass of wine next to my bed and a book in my lap. While the river roared outside. The doors to the balcony open wide to let the river in and the surround-sound of chirping birds with the sunrise. Like one of those nature sound alarm clocks. So nice.

I am beginning to love the food at the hotel where I’m staying. Yami, my host mom, manages to make things that are consistently super healthy and delicious. My aversion to beans is now a thing of the past, which is good considering I typically eat them twice daily.  They’re definitely the best I’ve ever had, and I managed to find out Yami’s secret for making such a simple thing. Lots of garlic….right from the start. Otherwise it’s lots of rice, lots of veggies, a tiny piece of fish once in a while, and fruits for breakfast. Fresh from the farm. Papaya, cantaloupe, pineapples, bananas, and sweet lemons. Lizano and the spicy pepper sauce are a new addiction.

¡Hasta luego!

Felicitaciones, Adrian y Jenny!

This past Saturday Adrian and Jenny got married.  Adrian is the son of Francisco and Yami, my host parents. The wedding was in the salon here in San Gerardo, which also acts as the exercise class room, our school, and anything the community generally needs a place for.

The house has been full of their six kids plus husbands and wives and kids and aunts and uncle and the list goes on. Craziness, so not much quiet time here. Marla, one of  the other daughters who also teachers computer classes through the Project, made the wedding dress and the dresses for the little girls. They were beautiful, and easily could have been been sold for hundreds if not thousands of dollars in the States. Add to that flower arrangments, decorations, food presentation and table settings and it was a true do-it-yourself celebration. And for do-it-yourself, it was beautiful.

We spent all Saturday morning blowing up white balloons for the trellace that we made as the couple entered the salon. I ended up making the centerpieces for the table – two white lillies, daisies and some greenery seemingly bursting out of delicate white netting and brown ribbon. The food was prepared by us the night before in bulk. Meat, rice, sauce, salad, and 300 individual plastice cups of jello mixed with cream…accomplished assembly line-style in the hotel kitchen.

It turned out they didnt have a photographer, so I got to do the official honors for the night. It was lots of fun and I felt good having something to give back to this family since theyve taken such good care of me.

Most of the customs were very similar to a traditional American Catholic wedding, except for one part where the bride and groom danced together and then people pinned money to their clothes to dance with them. By the end Jennys dress was covered in colones…somehow i could never see an American bride sticking her ridiculous $10,000 dress with safety pins.

What struck me most about the whole ordeal, including the week leading up to it with various family members at the house, helping in whatever ways their talents or drive to pitch in allowed, was what it meant for the finnished product. The smiles of appreciation for all the long hours of hard work actually meant something. They werent directed toward some stranger with the title of wedding planner whose only investment in the events success is her next paycheck, nor the brides parents who have sacraficed their life savings on a mere 6 hours. Instead  they went to family and friends, who all devoted countless hours of hard work, so the end result was a little piece of everyone.  Money is one thing, but it cant buy you heart.


Okay. So my goal is, as I learn more Spanish these posts titles will reflect my progress in mastering the language, but until then, this is where  Im at. Also, the keyboard here is a bit hard to get the hang of, so excuse my lack of punctuation, etc.

Its day 2 and here I am at the Hotel Descando, which is owned by my host family. The place is very cute, quaint, and I am guessing a little nicer than a typical Tico home, though by no means fancy. The kids are all grown so its just me, the parents, and the kids and grandkids who all live about an hour away in the city, which is an overstatment, of San Isisdro. As for us here in San Gerardo, well, were out there. I mean REALLY out there. Its like stepping into a time warp back to 1971, combined with the jungle only accessible via 45 minutes down a narrow and windy dirt road through a tiny valley. I suppose I have seen villages like this in my many hikes around the globe, which would make sense since this too is a jumping off point to summit the highest point in Costa Rica, Mount Chirripo. But the difference is I have only visited those places, for a few days at most. I live here now. For 3 months. And boy do I have a feeling Ill see things a bit differently when I leave. For all of you whose grand visions included beaches, martinis and coastal sunsets, its really quite different.

Thats not to say that this place is not absurdly beautiful. Because it is. We are about a half hour walk on the only dirt road to a protected cloud reserve, which is supposed to have spectacular hiking. This morning, after waking at 6:30 am – late – Maria, who is the other English teacher with a matching brown haircut and blue eyes, and I walked a few miles in the already hot sun up and up and up to the next village. We followed the strong pounding of the river along the road along the beautiful tiny but pristine houses nestled into the hillsides surrounded by exotic flowers galore. San Francisco, your flora pales in comparison to this place…

So now I will continue preparing for teaching, which doesnt start for another week. We will meet some of the students today to do level setting, which will then be followed by another exciting night of bed at 9 pm so we can be up even earlier tomorrow. To hike some more. And soak up some more Spanish, because being able to communicate is nice. And so are hot showers, which Ill be dreaming about for the next 3 months.