Monday, September 29, 2008

Manuel Antonio for TWO Please!

Yes, it was time! A trip for TWO....I was told that the beaches of Manuel Antonio are the prettiest in Costa Rica...and I would have to agree. The park is located on the pacific coast of the country, about 3.5 hours by bus. The bus system is great here, they are very reliable so you just get to sit back and relax!
Although Manuel Antonio is the smallest national park in Costa Rica, it is one of the most diverse. It is a beautiful combination of rain forests and beaches, trails, wildlife galore, and all within walking distance of your hotel. The forest is home to sloths, iguanas, deer, white face monkeys, the rare (and almost extinct) squirrel monkeys and a plethera of colorful birds, etc. Our Lonely Planet travel book says you are guarenteed animal sightings! Sounded perfect to me! LP also recommended a hotel, which is right at the entrance of the park, and "gets furry visitors." That sounded exciting too! We arrived at 930am on Saturday and were so happy when we reached our room.

Our beautiful, big, clean, cute room at La Posada. "private jungle bungalows" It was like an oasis! There are only 7 cabinas at La Posada and there was a little pool in the middle and we had our own porch with a table and hammack. $60 including breakfast!! Ernesto asked me if I booked the room because they had parrots on their website....BUSTED!!Look at this baby though.....ayyyy loquito!
Here ernesto sits at the common area where they served us our delicious breakfast. It is owned an run by Mike, an American who has lived in Costa Rica for a few years. He said when he walked in, he knew it was the place he was waiting for. We could see why, and told him if he ever thinks of selling, to let us know.Huge rocks lined the coast in the town of Quepos....just 10 minutes from the park. We had to stop here to buy our return bus tickets. On Facebook, TJ commented "I see that crack is not illegal on that beach." regarding this photo! HAHA! Speaking of crack, I think the bamboo is on crack here! This is on a trail inside the park. Its almost as big around as my leg...and that is pretty darn big!!
I thought there was going to be more hiking for us to do, but we were sweating so much on the hike to "Mirador la Catedral"...we were ok with just relaxing on the beach and playing in the water.
There were so many great views on this hike, forgive me for repeating...notice the sweat! I am a hard worker.
When we finally park our stuff on the beach, we ran into the water and played in the waves. We did not notice that this racoon was waiting for us to leave our goods. A guy came out to us in the water and said that the racoon had his whole head in our backpack. Ernesto knows that he had it totally zipped up and when we got to it 2 zippers were undone, and our cinammon bread was gone.
He wasn't scared, and didn't go too far either. We are laying on our towels as I took this picture of him enjoying our lunch. Other creatures came by while we hung out too, this iguana posed nicely while everone took pictures.
I know I know, not really that big of a deal, but the next group that came by.....??
....a huge group of fun to watch, and they were close!
Im standing right in front of this one.
It started raining just as the park was closing at 4pm. Perfect timing! Of course, we couldnt go two days without internet....not when sports are going on...just a quick stop in the little internet cafe.
Since it was raining hard outside, for dinner, we just ordered a pizza and a couple beers at our cabina. This may sound weird to "you people" with cable at your house, but for us non-tv watchers, we were so happy to be cozy in our room with movies on cable...and the room came with microwave and popcorn!!In the morning we got up really early, and just like Mike the owner told us, they have a daily visit from deer. This one came right up to our door. So I had the parrot in one hand and I was feeding the deer with the other. I stopped to give the parrot a cracker and look what the deer did.......
She put her pata up and tapped my leg for sweeeeeet! Neto fed her too.
After our animal encounter at the hotel, we entered the park again. (a bit pricey at $10 per person) You can hire a guide for $20/2 hours that can point out all the wildlife...but sure enough, we saw some other animals on our own while walking on the trail. It is also a big hint when people are all stopped looking at "something"
Look at this crazy grasshopper.....we didnt need a guide to point this out...Neto spotted it!!Of course there were butterflies as big as your head, I think this captures it.
Another day hike of less than an hour brought us to Playa Gemelas. This is the view above that beach. It was very ugly as you can see......Speaking of ugly......look at my HOT cross-fit husband!! (If you are curious to what he has been doing to change his body, check out his blog where he documents his workouts.)
Here we finally reached the Playa Gemaelas, but the tide was so high that there wasnt a beach, so we only stayed long enough to catch our breath and this foto opp. We hiked back to the nicest beach (in my ipinion) Paya Manuel Antonio where we just relaxed and did some more "rock climbing"
This shot captures the beaches pretty well. Not crowded (of course this is the low season) very green, blue water and nice white sand.
Before catching the 5pm bus back to San Jose, we ate late lunch at a "kitchen" on the beach...its not "street food" but it was "beach food"
Do you see? Are you starting to understand why I love it here?

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Nothing Blog-able???

I was skype-ing with Chris Bush earlier today and he was saying that by the looks of my blog, I am having a great time and really doing a lot in Costa Rica. I told him yes I am, but nothing to report this weekend.
"I didn't really have a bloggable weekend" I told him...and his response?
"What? You didn't do anything bloggable?...that is bloggable in itself!"
I said "Oh my God, you are right!"

So even though I had a great weekend (outdoor fruit & veg market, salsa dancing, cross-fit workouts, aerobics in the park, and cooking) it was a repeater of other weekends in San Jose.
I am always describing my adventures in my blog posts, but maybe you are wondering about my job with Habitat or how my Spanish is progressing, or just about my daily life here. Is it all one big party? hmmmmmm

First of all, I am loving working with Habitat! I could never imagine working for another company while working for Delta, but it is really exciting getting to know the ins-and-outs of another company, especially one as interesting as Habitat. The common thread is that it is also a global company. Habitat operates in about 90 countries around the world. Delta flies to over 100. Now, I am not denying that free flights are the best benefit possible to receive from a job (no contest! whatever you are thinking...I'm sorry, it can't compare to free flights) but to really enjoy your job? This is somthing I have be looking for, and I think I could have this with Habitat. I love the mission of Habitat and the enthusiasm
...especially of the communications dept where I work. Although my project is very specific (set up a "Global Village Sending Program" for Latin America) There always seems to be some exciting project to get involved in.
Although I am not a planner for the future, I have this idea in my head. If I would go back to work at Delta (or another airline) for 10 years...age 42 to 52 let's say, this is all I would need to be able to retire with the free flights for the rest of my life. Shit! That only gives me 8 work in a different field, maybe pop out a few kids (ha! did I just say that?) I have to make it count! Like I's just an idea! Do you ever feel like time is going too fast?

Of course you know me, my mind could change at any moment, with just the mere mention of a new interesting opportunity. I mean... the other area offices for Habitat are in Thailand, South Africa and Slovakia (eastern europe) hmm?

OK, no no no back to Spanish. October 2nd marks 4 months that I have been living in San Jose. There is no doubt that my Spanish has improved. I am so happy that I sit beside Valeria at work. She is a volunteer as well (her mom works for Habitat here) and she is from Peru. Besides the fact that she is a lot of fun, we always speak Spanish together, and I love that. She always corrects me (most of the time without laughing at me) and Im always yelling over the cube or skype-ing to ask her how to say something. Sometimes I ask her to read an email before I send it out to a bunch of people too. She will be leaving for Boston to go to college in January, so that will be sad for me. She is so excited and of course I tell her, this is going to be the best time of her life. ahhhh, to be 18 again!
Ernesto and I are speaking a lot more spanish together here, and when we chat online it is always in Spanish, so that is good. The "problem" is that in the evenings when I come home. Kate, Neto and I always speak English. This must change! Ernesto is leaving in 3 weeks to go back to Atlanta for his lights, and my goal is to plan Spanish activities in the evenings. I have to hang out with natives to ensure that I am speaking Spanish the whole day! Im in the process of setting up a Spanish tutor for extra help too. I have to make the most of my time. I know this much: Im not moving back to the US until I am FLUENT (to my standards) most likely this will take more than one year.

Maureen and I go walking/running every morning. It is wonderful, we meet on the corner at 6am (religiously M-F) and walk to the park (a little over a mile) run 2-3 miles in the park and then walk back. Its great because we really can enjoy the morning before the rain comes....and get lots of exercise!
Besides this, I do cross-fit with ernesto when I can. He has a little gym he goes to for $10 per month, but the hours are 7a-330p, so I dont go with him. Kate has been in Haiti all week, so Ernesto is using her membership at our gym...needless to say-crossfit is no joke! Im sore as shit! I could barely get out of bed! But I love it! Ernesto is obsessed, and I see why...his body has transformed in the 3 months he has been doing it!
My typical lunch is still the "casado" (meat/chicken, rice, black beans, and 2 salads) it is BIG! I either have it delivered or walk to the grocery store MegaLento down the street which has a cafe. (really its called MegaSuper, but Lento means SLOW and that is what they now its MegaLento)
Today was rare, I went out to lunch with 3 co-workers to a Lebanese restuarante. I went there a few months ago and my friend ordered Carne Crudo (raw meat) I have been wanting it ever since. Tico style is to bring your lunch and eat in the breakroom which I normally do, but today I convinced my co-workers to go.
So is life here one big party? I would not say that, but I would say...Im living almost 99% stress free, no house/bills to worry about, and Im getting lots of exercise, dancing alot and speaking Spanish everyday! Life is good!
Any specific questions I can answer for my readers?? I would be happy to ablige.

Friday, September 19, 2008

World Habitat Day is October 6th 2008

"The United Nations has designated the first Monday in October every year as World Habitat Day to reflect on the state of human settlements and the basic right to adequate shelter for all. It is also intended to remind the world of its collective responsibility for the future of the human habitat." (See more on WHD )
World Habitat Day 2008 is on October 6th. Remember the 2 animal filming trips that I went on? Well, the final cut of the video is done (great job Marco!) and I want to share it with you. Please pass it on and if you would like more details of how you can celebrate/participate, just let me know. I sent Brrrian some materials that I had sent to some American schools in South America in hopes that he will plan something for his art students. I know he can do something creative and educational. It is in English or Spanish. If you don't see the picture below, the links are here too. I love it, it will hopefully be run on CNN EspaƱol, BBC y Univision. Check it out! (english) (spanish)

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Puerto Viejo - The Caribbean Coast

We had been wanting to go to the caribbean coast and the long holiday weekend was a perfect excuse. There are so many cute beaches on the Caribbean and it is a totally different feel than the pacific coast. Taking one additional day off from work really made this trip seem long. Ernesto bought our bus tickets on Thursday just in case it was full for the holiday. Maureen also wanted to take off a day early, and Ricardo ended up surprising us at the bus stop at 5:15am. The bus was comfortable, although it didn't have a bathroom. This worried me. We settled in and were happy to be on the road. We each had an ipod, and the four hour trip went by in a flash. We only made one stop in Limon, 2.5 hours from San Jose and one hour from Puerto Viejo. Here we got out to have a stretch….and a bathroom break.
The bus let us off in the center of town, and we had a little walk to what would be our home for the next 4 days…Rocking J’s.
Besides hearing about Rocking J’s from some co-workers, I had checked the website and thought, wow! This is going to be an experience! Right upon check-in we stared in awe. “Somethin’ different”
The whole place is mosaic, which I really appreciated (being a former mosaic artist myself) or painted by former guests. It was a huge estate and had many different communal "hang out spaces" including a big grass space with lounge chairs. We especially liked the sign near the check-in desk, painted in white letters: "Prohibido fumar marijuana en esta propiedad, porfavor vaya a la playa. "
Translation: “It's prohibited to smoke marijuana on this property, please go out to the beach.”
Welcome to the Hammock Hotel! Yep, this was our "room", an open air structure with about 50 or so hammocks hanging in a row.
They handed us our keys, a sheet and a wristband and that was it! We each had a locker by our hammock which was was made out of metal. Here Maureen, Neto and Ricardo stand by theirs.
Now, I have stayed in A LOT of hostels, but this was absolutely the craziest place I have ever stayed! Not only was there another hammock hotel, (so 2 structures with at least 50 hammocks) but you could also rent a 2 man tent for $10, a dorm bed for $8, or cabin for $20.
There must have been at least 300 people staying at this place all sharing bathrooms and showers. It was kept suprisingly clean. (I still wore my flip-flops in the shower, even though Im not a germa-phobe)
Muereen, Ernesto and I gave ourselves a little budget challenge….$100/pp for the weekend. Can you imagine only spending $100 for 4 days at the beach? Yes, a crazy goal, but we did pretty well……and what was the major saver? $5 hammocks. It was a great location, right on the beach. It was very rocky, as you can see, so not great for swimming, but it was pretty and we were able to hear the waves crashing at night.
We were also able to hear many other noises while at the hammock you can imagine when sleeping with 50 other people in the same “room” (more to come on that)
Puerto Viejo is a very cute little town, very easy to walk everywhere, but even more fun to bike, which is what most people do. This is a LAID BACK town, you really can tell you are on the Caribbean coast. The streets are filled with unique restaurants and bars, most playing reggae music! Although I ate casados (like I do everyday in San Jose) they had a different style of beans and rice, and also a coconut curry chicken, a specialty of the Caribbean. Also, in light of our $100 budget, it was the cheapest way to go. Our favorite place was only 2000 colones ($4) and as an added bonus, it was right beside the organic coffee place "Caribbeans" and next to that the homemade ice cream parlor. We just went right down the line. mmmmmmmmm
We rented bikes everyday for $5 a day and that was our transportation. This was perfect because #1 we were able to check out several beaches, and #2 we got plenty of exercise. Here we are at the entrance of RJ's ready to go....notice the surfboard in the background! Too cool!Our first day we rode just 5 minutes down the road to a beach called Cocles. Ernesto and Ricardo rented boogie boards and had a great time, there were some good waves. It looked like fun, but Maureen and I just relaxed on the beach.
We were so tired that first night, I think we were in our hammocks before 10pm.
I slept really well despite all the noise. Maureen and Ernesto woke me up talking at 430am….really they were snickering. Maureen had to go to the bathroom, but didn’t want to get up…"why?” Oh... because 2 people were having sex in the “common area” right above the bathrooms. When I turned my head, sure enough, there was a little peep show going on. If only my camera had not been in my locker I would’ve snapped a shot. HA! See the "APESHIT" on the door? That is the bathroom, and right above that on the wood bench was the “bed.” Yes, yes it IS right out in the open. Did they think no one would see? My guess is that they didn't really think it through.......We got so many laughs out of Rocking J’s. "A very interesting place," Maureen kept saying. Here she is doing her morning routine at the communal bathroom. It took some getting used to, but by day 3, we had it down.
The next day we wanted to go a bit further on the bikes and Punta Uva beach was worth the 6k bike ride. Plus we made a pit stop to a little beach on a trail.
Ernesto got a coconut from one of the trees and cracked it open.
Ahhh fresh coconut milk (really it is more like water) very refreshing!
I felt like I could ride forever, yes it was hot, but it felt good. Plus we knew we would be jumping in the ocean when we arrived.
We wrode along and there was a little hotel or restuarant every 5 minutes or so. Then we passed a palapa (palm branch hut) with nothing else around.... It cracked me up....I had to stop and take a picture. It was a WI-FI palapa. There were several people sitting there with their laptops in the middle of the jungle.....when you just gotta have internet!!! For some reason, it made me think of my dad. He would be here. "Sports. Baseball"Punta Uva was a long beach and we hung out there most of the time. Ernesto and I did a Cross-Fit on the beach. (run 400m in the sand as fast as you can....3x) It sucked! ...But then we jumped in the water, and it felt so good! Neto and I rented kayaks for $5 and that was a blast.. There were about 5 of us waiting to ride the waves. The waves.....came in waves.
Here is Neto in a tranquil shot! After my cross-fit and an hour of kayaking, I was tired and ready to chill.
Ernesto stopped at RJ's to shower and Maureen and I continued into town on the bikes to get our casado for dinner and ice cream too. Maureen was feeling a bit lazy since she didnt do the crossfit, so we went walking for an hour after dinner. Ernesto HAD to find the OSU game...and he did, it was playing at the Sunset bar. We met him there around half-time. Luckily Ricardo was there, and Dean and Lina, a couple we met staying at RJ's who are from Austraila came too. So that was cool he had some guys to talk shit with. As you can see, I am not in the same sports mind-frame as he is! What wasn't cool was the final score of the game. Neto was a little sad afterwards.
Lina and Dean (far left) are traveling the world for one year, they are on their 8th month! Ahhh, one day!! They have a blog with their itinerary and highlights of the trip. Also pictured, Maureen, Kate (who drove in with my boss Steve and his family that day) Ricardo, and me and Neto. Most of the time the girls were off to the side, having....girl talk! That night we made our way through almost every bar that was open.....and found a couple great reggae bars, and one live salsa band in a tiny little bar that felt like how I imagine Cuba...
Ahhhhh, another morning after a good night sleep....2am-6am, that's enough right?
The next day we biked to Punta Uva again and met Steve and his family there.
We were going to meet them for a beach bonfire, but by the time we ate dinner and got our ice cream for dessert, we were so tired and had no energy to ride our bikes anymore. The hammocks were calling our names.
Our last day we wanted to check out a beach even further away called Manzanillo. Also, Steve has been talking about Maxi's on the beach for great seafood. It is a little beach town and the road runs right into Maxi's...straight ahead, we couldn't miss it! It was an hour bike ride and Maureen, Neto and I decided we could break the budget with this last meal! We had done so well, but we were right at the limit of $100, and quite frankly we didn't give a damn anymore!! Maureen and I ordered whole grilled red snapperNeto got the ribs, and we had ceviche, patacones (fried plantains) and cervezas to start! We deserved it...and it was well worth breaking the bank!
Stuffed and satisfied, we got back on our bikes for the hour ride back to Puerto Viejo. (I love this paint color) was 2:20 and our bus left at 4pm. We returned the bikes and took quick showers....sad, but it was our last shower at Rocking J's. Too bad we were leaving. They were having a toga party that night. If you wore the sheet they give you for the hammock....all you can drink for 1000 colones ($2). OH GOD! Imagine the craziness! I can sleep through almost anything!

We arrived home smoothly and safely on a beautiful Monday evening. Have I told you lately that I love it here?


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