Monday, January 31, 2011

Snake Sighting!


Don't worry, it's not a fer-de-lance. It was actually quite small, and even though my professor didn't know what kind it was, he knew it wasn't poisonous. No Lees were harmed in the making of this photograph.

In other news, I'm really loving my program. It is an incredible amount of work though- we usually have three 90 minute lectures a day, plus 3 hours of hiking in the morning. We also have to catch and identify 10 different insects before we leave the station next Friday. And we don't have weekends off- today was my first free day since the beginning of the program. My next free day is a week from Wednesday.

But despite the fact that it is a lot of work, the people that I'm here with are really great, and so far I like everyone in my group, which is great because we literally are always together.

Some of my new friends: Ellen, Justin, and Manny.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Before I forget

Here's a picture of my host family that I kept forgetting to post! I'll be staying with them again in March, and I miss them already :(

From left to right: my Tico padre Henry, Tica hermana Michelle, and Tica mama Evelyn.

The beginning of a semester

Just some things.

I'm fairly certain riding in a car like this (no seatbelts, 12 people crammed
into the back of a truck) is not at all legal in the states.

Baby pineapple.

This was right before the lecture where our professors told us
that we should definitely NOT climb trees.

Hanging out, hiking.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Manuel Antonio Adventure: The Sequel




DISCLAIMER: This post contains only the above photos because my internet is slow :(

If I thought last weekend's Manuel Antonio trip was an adventure, then I'm not really sure what this week's trip was.

Sam, Liz and I all arrived at 9:30 on Friday night, not knowing exactly where our hostel was. This would normally not have been a problem, except that it was raining.

And by raining I mean real rainforest downpour.

It took us half an hour for us to find our hostel, by which time we had already forded a small river that had formed and thoroughly soaked all the clothes we were wearing, as well as all the clothes we had brought with us. But when we checked in, we immediately dumped all our stuff and headed right out to walk in the rain- a walk which lead us to have to ford yet another small river.

The next day, after a hearty desayuno, we threw on our hiking gear and took the Manuel Antonio National Park by storm (ha). We hiked for about 4 hours and saw agouti, pelicans, spider monkeys, white-faced cappucins, beautiful butterflies, etc.

Our last day we spent completely at the beach. A beautiful end to a mini vacation.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Ultima dia de la clase de espanol!

Today is my last day of spanish class. I think I've learned a lot, and it was definitely a fun and worthwhile process.

Class photo! From left to right: Jerry, Carolin, me, Ilse, Liz, Jessica, and our FAVORITE PROFESSOR EVER- Carlos!

Liz and I graduated! We even got certificates! How fancy.

As my last weekend of "freedom" (so to speak) Sam Helman, Liz, and I are all heading down for a weekend of relaxation and sunbathing at Manuel Antonio! Then my program starts on Monday. So exciting!

Thursday, January 20, 2011



My thoughts on San Jose

I think San Jose, the capital of Costa Rica for those unaware, is the kind of place I would like to live, but not to visit. The thing is, I've spent time in the downtown area of San Jose for a total of about 2 days, and I already feel like I've seen all the major tourist attractions.


Some of the gold sculptures in the Museo de Oro, in downtown Jose, which
is coincidentally also where my host father works.

I think living near New York City for my entire cultural life has raised my expectations of every other city that I encounter. I expect them to be bursting with historical museums, art exhibits, concerts, and shopping districts. San Jose has all of these elements, but I would not describe the city as "bursting" with them.

The national post office for Costa Rica.

That's not to say that I haven't enjoyed what I've seen. The national theater is very beautifully decorated, and the gold sculptures in the Museo de Oro were quite interesting. The national post office is one of the most elegant buildings I've ever seen, although perhaps that is just because it stands in contrast with many of the other buildings in San Jose and the surrounding area.

But as Sam also observed when he visited, being here doesn't really create a desire to go sight-seeing or go to museums. It's much better to spend the day in La Sabana park, for example, which is a huge park at one end of the city that is literally the most pleasant place I have ever been. I think this is really what I'm trying to get at when I say that this would be a pretty great place to live, but not to visit. The biggest touristy thing that the city has going for it is that it is in Costa Rica, and therefore serves as a base camp for travel elsewhere in the country.

The one thing I will note that San Jose has that very few other cities have is a huge amount of urban parks, and even where there is no park there are usually a plethora of trees lining the streets. These trees are not the wimpy token New York City trees, but real trees that tower above buildings. It's incredibly refreshing on a hot day to stumble across an area of greenery among the metal buildings, beautifully landscaped and highlighting the biological diversity of this country. It's a country of a strange dichotomy, though, as I think the picture below demonstrates... they have so much biodiversity and natural land left to show off to the world, yet their government leaves their main city constantly in a seemingly worse-for-wear state.

Taken in La Sabana park, which is currently my favorite place in the city.

I dunno, just some thoughts. As usual, more photos on my flickr page... more posts about my exciting weekend soon!

Monday, January 17, 2011

The Manuel Antonio Adventure (A post of epic proportions)

This past Saturday is probably the closest thing I've had thus far that I can claim to be an adventure.

The participants: myself, Liz (fellow Brown student, OTS participant, and Spanish language attempter) and Mauricio (all-knowledgeable Costa Rican native, master of transportation, roommate of my friend Kyle).

The goal: To enjoy a day at Playa Manuel Antonio, a beach within reasonable distance of San Jose and touted by local Ticos as one of the most beautiful beaches in Costa Rica.

It started out fairly simple. Mauricio picked Liz and I up in San Pedro and we set out onto the San Jose - Caldera highway, whose construction was "started" in the 70's, but only completed last March (the Costa Rican government's Achilles heel seems to be all matters involving roads- building them, maintaining them, naming them, etc). The highway gave me a very interesting look at the Costa Rican landscape. I got to pass beautiful mountain vistas, the sparkling Pacific Ocean, and at one point, we even drove through a palm tree farm:

It felt like being in the midwest, except all the corn was replaced with palm trees. Strange.

We ended up getting to Manuel Antonio later than we had expected. We first did some investigating to figure out if we could walk to the quieter beaches over the rocks on the edge of the public beach.

When getting to the quieter beaches this way seemed to require being able to jump 20 feet over open water, we headed straight to the national forest for access... which apparently was closing in one hour. But our spirits could not be dampened!! We would make it to the beach or bust!

We started walking out along the trail. Theme of the day: Things take a lot longer than you would expect them to. Liz and I were entertained by Mauricio's constant exclaimations of "Oh my god, is this trail STILL going?"

BUT WE MADE IT TO THE BEACH! Who cares if we only got to swim for half an hour- in my mind, it was worth it. The view was gorgeous, and the water was clear and warm. A perfect half hour. Oh, and did I mention the monkeys?

They collected on the edge of the forest to scavenge for food (or be fed it by tourists). I gave them an empty cookie bag that was lying around so I could take a better picture, but I think they were a little mad when they realized they'd been duped. To give you a picture of how close they were, here's a picture of one of my monkey friends, right before he tried to raid my backpack:

After leaving the park unwillingly, we concluded our short visit to Manuel Antonio with cocktails while we watched the sunset. Delicioso.

I'd love to say that was the whole adventure, but that was only about half of it. On the return trip home, part of the highway was blocked off, and we had to resort to taking the serpentine old highway through the mountains.

The most interesting/terrifying part of the trip probably occurred when we realized we were almost out of gas, and there were no signs of civilization. Panic crept in slowly, with each of us thinking we would end up having to pull the car over and sleep on the side of the road for the night (ok, a little melodramatic, I know). But before we got a chance to resort to cannibalism, we found a gas station. Whew!

After all this adventure, we were exhausted and starving. Time for a sumptuous meal of the highest standards.

We went to Wendy's.

At the end of the day, though, I can only say positive things about the trip. Every part of it was a lot of fun, and I'm looking forward to a lot of similar adventures during the months I'll be in this country.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Los Perros de San Pedro y San Jose

Yesterday, as I was waiting for my bus to downtown San Pedro, I saw a dog trot merrily up to the crosswalk. His owner was nowhere in sight, but I recognized him as one that hangs around the auto-mechanic shop kiddicorner to my house. I was instantly terrified that he would run straightaway across the street and be hit one of the two impending taxis, but instead he stopped, looked both ways, and waited for the taxis to pass before commencing his walk across the street. As he reached the middle a new taxi rounded the corner. He instantly stopped, as if to let the taxi pass, but the driver slowed and waved him on. The dog bowed his head and sprinted across the remainder of the street.

Apparently the dogs here are allowed to roam free on such a regular basis that they have learned basic traffic safety and communication skills with members of oncoming traffic.

Well done, perros.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

¡Pura Vida!

I made it!! Thank god.

Speaking Spanish (or attempting to) all day is very tiring, so I have been going to bed surprisingly early, and waking up with almost exactly 8 hours of sleep. Every day. Costa Rica is already better for me than los Estados Unidos.

Yesterday I finally took my camera with me to school, and here are some of the results. There are more photos on my flickr page.

Mi casa!!

(You can see my backpack sitting out in front of the door because this was the day that I couldn't figure out how to work the key, and was subsequently locked outside of the house for about 10 minutes before my host mom came home...)

The road to mi casa.

It's filled with potholes and is almost a dirt road. According to my host mom, the Costa Rican government is only required to maintain roads that are not main roads every 30 years. Yikes.

The view of the mountains from my walk to the bus stop.

Every day I take a 20 minute bus ride to school. The bus is super cheap- a round trip to my school costs me the equivalent of 80 cents.

I'll upload more pictures later (it takes an incredibly long time to get pictures uploaded on this internet) but until then there are a few more pictures on my flickr so if you are impatient, you can check out those ones.

¡Adios y pura vida!

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Mission accomplished!

With only a few hours before my flight to Costa Rica, I have finally squished all that crap into three concise containers. But I had a secret weapon...