Monday, April 27, 2009

My Grandpa, Henry Wellman

After a long and very full life, my grandpa, Henry Wellman, passed away Sunday morning. After 98 years, his body shut down and he died peacefully while sleeping. The funeral is later this week and I am so sorry that I will not be there for it, and especially for my mom, who was such a great daughter to him.
98 years old, and look at he full head of grey hair! He was such a cute old man. He was a father to 7 kids, a grandfather to 30, and a great-grandfather to 29! Wow!

He was the most innovative man, always looking closely at something to tell how it was made and then successfully replicating it himself. His basement is a craftsman's dream, with every tool, machine imaginable. He even had a rock tumbler. He loved to watch squirrels and birds and had a plethora of feeders around his yard. He loved to play the card game euchre with full force, banging his cards on the table with his fist. He was a wine maker. He always wore the best plaid fedora hats.

My most notable memory of my grandpa when I was a kid was that he was a teaser. Teaser of kids, and teaser of dogs. He loved to squeeze right above your knee till you squirm. He loved to give everyone a hard time. (in a good way) He will be missed by his family. RIP Grandpa.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Time Goes By....So Slowly

This weekend was a welcome change from the constant traveling and influx of visitors we have had in the last month.     We had nothing to do and it was wonderful!  I worked quite a bit on crocheting my afghan.  Look how big it's getting.  Both Saturday and Sunday we woke up at 6am...but we didn't get out of bed.  We drank coffee and Ernesto read to me.  We are reading the book, Kitchen Confidential.  It's written by Anthony Bourdain, you may know him from his  show  "No Reservations" on the Travel Channel.   The book  is quite entertaining, we are learning many new French words and laughing at his graphically detailed descriptions of  his  "adventures in the culinary underbelly"  during his career as a chef in NYC.  We are only about half way through it, but so far Im loving it.  

I took my camera out because I had been wanting to take a picture of this.  I can't say its a sign of spring (since there is no winter here) but this tree outside our apartment has been blooming for the past week or so and it is so gorgeous!  I wish I new what it is called...anyone? mom?
There are bunches of bright yellow flowers that hang like bunches of grapes.
When I panned out my lens, it wasn't as pretty since someone had left bag of trash, which was then quickly torn apart by dogs, or the man who sleeps there on the strip of grass every night.  
Did you have a good weekend?  Were you lazy like me or did you do something exciting?

Friday, April 24, 2009

Even the Mannequins....

I had to laugh (and stop to take a picture) the other night when I was walking downtown and saw this mannequin in the window. Have you ever seen a mannequin with a boob job?

I can honestly say that I have never seen as much cleavage as I have this year in San Jose. 

I Met my friend Ana from my "knitting club" downtown  the other night at Regis, a fabric store.  Yes, I have a new hobby!  I have been inspired by Ana, she is sewing up so many cute things for her new label UrbanaWear.  Plus all the blogs I read are promoting artists (mostly on Etsy)  and I keep thinking, I can do that!  I need to stop saying that, I know.  I have so many ideas in my head, its hard to get it straight what my next project will be.  All I know is that I have so much inspiration in me that I could burst at any moment.  Im going to buy a sewing machine as soon as I get to the states!  The material is cheap here and I saw some fun prints that I couldn't resist buying. Look how cute! For some reason I keep thinking of aprons.
What projects or hobbies are you feeling inspired to start in the future??

PS.  I don't know how I will get all my stuff on an airplane?!  (oh wait!  yes I do...$$$...BUT  if any of my Delta friends would like to come here in late May to check a couple bags for me, that would be greatly appreciated!  I promise to show you a good time for the favor!)

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Happy Earth Day!

Haha! This made me smile! someecards is the best site ever, if you have a sense of humor.

Even living here in Costa Rica, I hear more and more about living "GREEN." Many of the blogs I read are talking about it too and in honor of Earth Day, Inspired Room had a green giveaway, a $100 drawing for leaving tips on how you live green and how they make a difference in their everyday lives. I love the idea, and although I don't consider myself "green" I took a few minutes to think of how I live and what I do that could be considered green. I impressed myself. (although lamentable, some of my actions are not intentionally to be green, I do feel better about them now.
  • I use cloth bags for the Saturday vegetable market, and although I usually forget to take them to the grocery store, we re-use those bags for our trash cans.
  • I walk to work everyday (yes, i have to, but so what?)
  • I repurpose beer/wine bottles as flower/feather vases.
  • I don't use heating/air conditioning (that is easy since we don't need/have either)
  • I turn out the lights behind me
  • I take quick showers (this is in part because I'm scared Neto will surprise me with cold water over the shower curtain...yes, we still play that game)
  • I turn off my work and home computers at night
  • I carry my lunch to work in a fabric lunch bag
  • We dry our clothes on a clothesline (No, they don't use dryers here, but so what?)
  • I wear clothes (except gym) more than once before washing.
  • I have plants that requires little water. (so what if succulents happen to be my favorite plant?)
  • I don't flush the toilet every time I use it (much to Neto's dismay) "If its yellow - let it mellow, if it's brown - flush it down" That is usually the methodology I follow.

Not bad right? I know some of these are circumstantial, but......they are still green!

A few great ideas that I read an am very excited to start doing (once I have a house etc):

  • Composting. (my mom has done this forever and has the most beautiful garden to boot)
  • Growing my own vegetables
  • Using cloth napkins as opposed to paper
  • A not so big house (that should be easy since I don't have a job:)
  • Put a bucket in the shower to catch excess water for plants (isn't that one great?)
  • Barrel outside to catch rainwater
  • Recycle, reuse, repurpose - right? I love yard sales and Craigslist!

Come on! Leave a comment and tell me what do YOU do to live a green life

(even if by chance)

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

How Well Do You Know Your Partner?

I thought this was really fun. I saw this questionnaire on Facebook, so I sent it to Ernesto. He emailed it back, and it made me smile- he got everything right! (although#17 is questionable)

1. She's sitting in front of the TV, what is on the screen? HGTV
2. You're out to eat; what kind of dressing does she get on his salad? Oil & Vinegar
3. What's one food she doesn't like? Bar food
4. You go out to eat and have a drink. What does she order? Steak and a Malbec
5. Where did she go to high school? Orrville
6. What size shoe does she wear? 9
7. If she was to collect anything, what would it be? sand
8. What is her favorite type of sandwich? egg salad
9. What would this person eat every day if she could? black licorice
10. What is her favorite cereal? anything healthy
11. What would she never wear? jean skirt
12. What is her favorite sports team? Padres- actually she doesn't have one
13. Who did she vote for? Obama
14. Who is her best friend? she has various best friends
15. What is something you do that she wishes you wouldn't do? drink too much
16. What is her favorite color? turquoise
17. What would she say is her favorite quality about you? my lip syncing skills
18. What is one of her biggest goals in life? to speak Spanish fluently
19. What topic does she talk most about? her dreams
20. What is her favorite hobby? right now it's blogging

Send this to your partner and see what you get back!

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Bocas del Toro, Panama

Getting to Panama is a fairly easy trip from Costa Rica. Many people make this trip when their visa is about to expire and they need to get out of the country for a few days [ie. get their passport stamped and be allowed to stay for another 90 days]  We didn't need that but had heard a lot about Bocas del Toro, an archipelago of six main islands (and many smaller ones) off the northern coast of Panama. (look at the top left hand corner)
Since Brrrian, Neto and I were already in Puerto Viejo (30 minutes from the border) it should've been quick and easy to get there, right? Well folks, I had my first Latin American breakdown (not bad for being here a year) at the border of Costa Rica and Panama. We left PV at 930am. You arrive at the border city of Sixola and get off the bus, pass through Costa Rican immigrations for an exit stamp and walk across a long rickety bridge to enter Panama.So far so good. That was easy enough.. but then came the immigrations line in Panama.
We waited for about one hour and when we finally got up to the window, they told us that to enter the country they need to see a return bus or plane ticket. Ugh! So I had to walk to the bus station and buy 3 bus tickets. Next time at the window, they tell us, you need to get a tourist stamp in the office next door! UGH! I was so frustrated. When I walked into the tourist office I had to let the guy know what a CLUSTER this border operation was.  I know I surprised him by going off, but I couldn't hold it in. 

"If there is not going to be a person to guide people, can't you at least put a sign up? " 

As a matter of fact, I was so frustrated I started crying right there. cry cry cry. Take that! His demeanor changed a bit - I think he felt bad for the crazy crying Americana.

We finally got our passports stamped and got in a taxi and it was over. Done. (later that day a "monthly visitor" came by and I was relieved to have an explanation for my breakdown...oh! the joys of being a woman)

I have to say I did not research this trip to Bocas very thoroughly. I had the Lonely Planet travel guide, but hadn't really read it yet.  I think both Brian and Neto were thinking, why are we traveling into Panama?  We had to take a bus (to Sixola) to a taxi (to Changuinola) to a ferry (to Almirante) and then a water taxi (to Bocas) to get to the islands. In the taxi on the way to the ferry we had to stop for banana crossing. HA! A conveyor belt of bananas.
It was quite a process, but we all agreed it was well worth it. The biggest island in Bocas del Toro is called Isla Colon, and this is where most hotels and restaurants are. Brrrian made an executive decision that we go to a smaller, less developed island. He picked Isla Bastimentos, and we were so glad that he did. We didn't have a reservation (shocker!), so we just took the 8 minute water taxi ($3 per person) ...and our driver pulled up to different hotels and yelled for the owners to see if they had space available. The second place we stopped was called El Jaguar. It was clean, it had hammocks on the front porch, it was purple and it was $20 for the room. Sold!
On the island, houses are built on stilts in the water and the "driveways" are boat docks. There are no cars on the island. You walk or take a boat. Walking out of the back of El Jaguar leads to the sidewalk that meanders through the community.
One of the first things I saw on the island?
That's right! Parrots! Amazon Parrots! Just hanging out in trees and on wires. love it.  Our room was painted bright orange, 2 single beds and our own bathroom.  It had a swinging window out to the porch which we left open at night so we could keep it breezy and wake up with the sun.
Ernesto was the first to use the baƱo in our room, and it was so funny because when he flushed the toilet you heard him yell, "no way!" That's right folks, right into the ocean. (boy, do I have a funny sure you can imagine) Needless to say, we didn't go swimming there.

We spent the rest of the day lounging in our hammocks and enjoying the scenery. 

Here is El Jaguar himself. A cool guy who liked to hang out and talk.
This is the dock in front, and even though we weren't able to get in to the water, you can see how nice the view was.The history of Bocas del Toros is really interesting. (and i'm not a history buff)  In the early 19th century, blacks from America and Colombia were brought as slaves and then stayed when slavery was abolished in 1850.  In 1890 the banana industry took off in Bocas and this is when Jamaican blacks came.  Although many of the Indian populations were killed by the Spanish, the Guyamis Indians still inhabit the islands.  They live in wooden thatched huts with no electricity or running water, they survive by fishing and farming, and travel by wood carved canoes.  This explains the mix of people and also languages:  English or Spanish, which was fine, but sometimes they would break into some island dialect with each other, and I was lost.  Also fine. 

The banana industry still thrives and makes up the biggest work force on the islands.  It is owned by Chiquita.  Ever heard of them?

Walking through the community (which consists of one sidewalk that takes 10 minutes to walk start to finish) was interesting.  Lots to observe, island life is at slow pace, and I enjoyed seeing how it all comes together. We stuck out like sore thumbs, but no one seemed to mind. (Least of all me, I like to be an outsider sometimes) Everyone was very friendly.  Ernesto stopped to tickle this little girls feet....
We walked over to a little restaurant called Roots for a seafood dinner.  I was falling asleep at dinner so I didn't join the boys at Feria, a bar just down the street, they apparently were very popular with the locals and had a good time.  As a result, I was up earlier than them. (ps. remind me never to travel alone with 2 boys) It poured rain, but it was so nice.  I went to Seaview for coffee and did some writing and relaxing on a covered deck while the rain came down. By 11am the sun was out, and the boys awake, so we packed up and hiked the 20 minute trail to the beach.
It was beautiful scenery, and Brrian was loving it.  I guess I have been getting used to being in the jungle and seeing all the plants, so it was nice to see what caught his eye.  Check out this crazy tree. Ouch!
We even saw a red spotted frog, which I do believe is poisonous. yikes!

When we came out of the jungle, we arrived Wizard Beach. (yeah! more sand)  We were the only ones there and it was beautiful. Later, some surfers and other sunbathers joined us.  I'd love to learn to surf. It looks so fun! Brian and Neto spent an hour poking at the palm trees with long sticks. We cracked open the coconuts, drank the water and then ate the fruit. That night we took a water taxi into Bocas Town on the main island (Isla Colon) to get dinner and do some shopping.  Believe it or not, shopping was really my motivation for going to Panama.  Ernesto and I went on a trip to the San Blas Islands in Panama before we were married , and I didn't buy a mola! Molas are beautiful fabric artwork, made by the Kuna Indians (who live on the Islands)  I know I could've bought a mola on the internet, but living in Costa Rica, we are just too close to Panama - I had to buy it there. (Im weird, I know) Anyway there is a street lined with vendors and there were so many molas to choose from. I wanted to buy a bunch.I narrowed it down to 2 and Ernesto picked the black one, so walked with three.  Each design tells a story of the Kuna Indians. I plan on framing them to hang in my house...that I don't have. Aren't they beautiful?Another great spot for breakfast on the island is Tio Tom's, which is owned by a really nice German couple. It has a great deck over the water with a lot of plants... just a great atmosphere for enjoying a coffee and a $3 omellette or french toast. Diving and snorkeling are huge in Bocas del Toro. We paid $60 and had this boat and the driver, Maya for the day. He took us to two snorkeling spots. Just riding in the boat was awesome.
Maya is a native of Bastimentos and he knew his way around. Sometimes it was like we were going through a maze in all of the mangroves. How did he find this little tunnel?Our first stop was Coral Caye for some snorkeling.Neto sat out this one because it was in front of a restaurant. He was paranoid about the bathroom situation, but Brrrian and I saw pipes heading inland from the bathrooms, and that was good enough for us. We dove right in. This spot had so many fish, I think they are fed there, because there wasn't much plant life or coral on the bottom.Actually the water was so clear, Ernesto got to see many fish without going in. These are my favorite fish, although not a great picture, you can see how colorful they are. Its called a Parrot fish (how fitting...and its turquoise!)
The next snorkel spot was called Reef Caye and it was amazing! I have been snorkeling in many places and never have I seen the colors that I saw here. I have searched on the internet and can't come up with anything comparable. Im talking about the brightest colors of coral and other things (non-fish): gold, purple, royal blue, red, neon green, emerald green, orange. It was so cool. 

For the afternoon, we were dropped off at Red Frog Beach. Brrrian and Nester were hunter-gatherers again with the coconuts.  I can lay still in the sun forever reading, relaxing, thinking...they need to DO something.This time they came prepared with a bottle of rum. Coco Loco time!
This cute little puppy was running around looking skinny so I shared some of my granola bar with him. Then he wanted to share my blanket too, and I couldn't resist. We used the kitchen at El Jaguar our last night. Bought some beans and made rice and a good salsa (pico de gallo) and then just relaxed on the hammocks.  Yes, island life, I could get used to it.
We hopped on an early water taxi in the morning to start the trek back to San Jose.  They really jam pack those boats. At $4 a person, and about 20 people on the boat...running every half hour? Yes, the Austrian man who owns Bocas Marine Tours has got a good thing going. (and he is also a nice guy- he gave us a ride back to our island at 1am after waiting for a boat for an hour)

And so it was....back over the bridge to Costa Rica.  Home sweet home.  At least for a little while longer.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Down the Caribbean Coast

Although we got a late start on the holiday weekend, we did finally get out of San Jose.  My idea was to go to Bocas del Toro, Panama.  Since my brother Brrrian was visiting we made a stop in Puerto Viejo on the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica #1 to break up the trip, but #2 because I knew that Brrrian would really enjoy it. We have been there several times, it seems like the perfect spot to take visitors, because it is so different than the rest of Costa Rica. We did all the fun stuff, like rent bikes, eat seafood, drink organic coffee and eat homemade ice cream, salsa dance at Maritza, listen to reggae at Johnny's... The difference this time was the sheer amount of people due to Semana Santa (holy week).  My co-worker and fellow Habitat volunteer Bryan wanted to go too.  (Since there were 2 Brrrian's, Bryan picked a new name - it was Esteban...actually we all did- Brrrian became Ceasar, Neto was Bruno and I was Valentina) We piled into Esteban's suv and arrived in a few hours.  Of course we rolled into town with no reservations and the choices of accomodations were slim. We ended up at Coco Congo across from Playa Negra  because we really didn't have a choice.  (skip this place if at all possible) Here Esteban sits on the bed, which is separated from the bathroom by a thin piece of plywood... (I would dare to call Esteban  "high maintenance" and,  he didn't last the night here)  What's important to me luckily, is not the room that I sleep, but what is on the other side of that door: 
I could sleep almost anywhere to wake up to this.  Here are some of my favorite pics:  
Brrrian jamming with Paul,  the owner of Caribbeans, a free trade organic coffee shop.  (click here to see what he was singing)   We wanted to take Brrrian to Maxi's in Manzanillo, a 45 min bike ride from Puerto Viejo
It is the best seafood/ribs place on the beach.  This was the 3rd time we had been there. De-lish and under $10!  
Manzanillo National Park is just a bit further down the road, and we had never been there, so we planned walk the trails after lunch.  It was so beautiful, I loved the rock  formations in the water.
Brrrian was amazed at the foliage walking through the jungle and took many great shots with his new camera, a Canon XT which is very similar to mine. (all these pics are a mix of his and mine) He gave me some great tips.
I was glad when we spotted the sloth so Brrrian could see some of the wildlife (hanging at the top..see it?) 
Brrrian brought a gnome traveling from San Francisco and is now  traveling the world.

Oh! and I don't want to forget the most enlightening part of PV.....we met the lead singer of the 80's band Twisted Sister.  He is now living in Costa Rica, hanging out at Caribbeans Coffee to tell its patrons about the poison the us government is spraying on us from airplanes to kill of 95% of the population. "Do you know the poison that you are breathing everyday, and that its going to kill you?"  This was his opening line and I had to reply by saying "Do you know how ridiculous you sound saying that while you are smoking a cigarette?"  Anyway, bottom line is that  he wants people to check out (im not going to link to it)  and spread the word, he made a real impact on us - we were talking about him all week.  Mission accomplished! 

Next stop Bocas del Toro, Panama.  To be continued.... 


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