Sarah, Lily, Christina and I stayed at ‘Sleeper’s Sleep Cheaper’ which is not in Lonely Planet’s guide ‘cuz it’s new but it was awesome. We got free internet, breakfast and a kitchen where we ended up making all but one of our meals. We had an awesome and very original sphaghetti night. We had bought two (different packets of tomato sauce for our lovely dinner, but upon emptying the second one we discovered it had a very different texture. We thought it was odd, but were up for trying something new, but when we tasted it we found that we had actually just dumped almost a whole pack of ketchup in our spaghetti sauce!

Culture lesson: Salsa de tomate = ketchup, not marinera. So we added a whole bunch of pepper and cabbage and the spaghetti ended up still tasting really good. Different, but good.

Okay here commences my list of 5 pinnacle moments in Monteverde. The first of which was our amazing spaghetti.

Number 2: Upon arriving Ronny the owner of the hostel showed us these crazy videos of EXTREMO, a canopy tour via zipline. Sarah and I were really nervous (especially when I thought about the rollercoaster accident that I had witnessed) but decided to do it. I’m still not sure if that was very smart, but I did it and I’m alive and now I don’t need to do it again! I also had a lot of fun doing it. There were 14 cables that were really long and really tall, a repel which made Sarah nervous but she did it and the tarzan swing. This consisted of simply jumping off of a platform 90 ft in the air and falling until you get almost to the bottom and then you start swinging on the rope that you’ve been attached to all along. Sarah told the guide “You’ll HAVE to push me off.” So he did and she had a blast after all of that anticipation. Lily, however, insisted on going first and wanted them to move her harness to around her ankles. They did not of course, ‘cuz it wasn’t built for that, but we got a taste of her dare devil side. Anyway, that was an awesome experience and I’m glad I did it!

Number 3: Jori goes pineapple. Our dear friend Jori returned home and was not able to come with us to Monteverde but before she left she had bought a beautiful pineapple. So we brought this pineapple on our journey with us to “eat” when we got to our destination. However, we got too attached to it. We had carried it too far. All of a sudden all of our longing for our dear, absent friend manifested itself into this pineapple and gave it (her) life. We started feeling this urge to carry this sweet, sweet fruit around with us. She gave us comfort and when we brought her along, it was as if we had a piece of Jori with us. So one night, we brough Jori out on the town and Monteverde just loved her.  We went around asking if people would take their picture with her. We even explained to them that this pineapple was really our friend in disguise and for some reason they looked at us funny and declined UNTIL we entered ‘Amigos,’ the bar and all I was doing was holding my friend, the pineapple and this table of people started screaming in unison “PIÑA! PIÑA!” They asked US if they could take a picture with Kajori. One fellow got a little too attached.

Number 4:  We were lucky enough to be in Monteverde on the Independence Day of Costa Rica, Sept 15th. On Sept 14th the night before, they had a parade of lanterns that the kids had decorated and at the end they had prizes for the best decorated lanterns with different categories and everything. But before they announced that, this lady got on her own little soap box and basically told off the whole town for not being patriotic enough. (Apparently no one from the town went to support these kids who had prepared a concert in honor of this holiday.) So that was a little awkward. But then they announced the winners and the next day we got to see the parade. It was great. A bunch of kids were in the traditional costume and they looked adorable. You could also tell as the parade went by the different age groups of the kids ‘cuz they all had different costumes. It was really neat to see.

Number 5: Colibris. So we considered going into one of those butterfly or frog gardens, but decided not to, to the relief of Sarah Coleman who is opposed to butterflies. Apparently they remind her of moths, which are gross and/or scary? Anyway, we found a great alternative for our favorite price : Free-ninetynine! We took a bus to this hummingbird garden. I kid you not, this place was infested with these birds! There were so many of them and they flew so close to you that you really thought one was going to hit you! I’ve got a great video of one almost attacking Sarah, but unfortunately I don’t know how to put it up on this site. Anyway, that was fun as well. I’d never seen so many hummingbirds in the same place!


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Puerto Viejo

Puert Viejo was gorgeous and awesome fun with awesome people. We stayed at Rockin’ J’s which was really awesome. There you have the choice to sleep in a cabin, a tent or a hammock. The first night Lily, Sarah and I chose a tent but woke up way too hot so we decided to join Kajori and Christina in the hammocks the next night.  This would have been really great had I not been placed next to some guy with dreadlocks who didn’t believe in personal hygene. He coughed hoarsely and smoked in his hammock. Not a fun experience. However I still loved Rockin’ J’s. Reason for this is because it was gorgeous! I took about a million pictures of this place because everything is covered in art. There’s mosaic everywhere and where there isn’t, there’s a painting. Travelers will come and participate in the artwork so you can see that it was all a big collaberation.

Lily learned how to swim in the caribean right in front of Rockin’ J’s. Now she is truly our Water Lily. We met this gal named Leann from Australia and had a lot of fun getting to know her.  There was this guy there called the human juke box and he could play ANY song in the style of ANY artist. It was insane! We fell in love with Chili Rojos because they had the best happy hour at the best time. I got an awesome sarong with a toucan on it. The beach was beautiful. We had a blast.

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Black Belt in Boarding Buses

Riding buses here is an artform. It takes skill to do it right. I myself have advanced from grasshopper to black belt and am now ready to tell my tale.

I have experienced standing on a bus for one hour straight, for two hours straight, for three hours straight trading off with Christina sitting every half hour. I have watched what I believe was a pirated Gladiator in Spanish because it cut out a half an hour before the end on the tica bus. I have been decieved by the ‘bathroom’ in the ticabus that has told me there was both toilet paper and soap. I have sat in a hot bus without air conditioning and the windows rolled up because everyone is afraid that the rain will give them a ‘deathly cold.’

But most of all, I have sat behind one of the nastiest snorers I have ever heard in my entire existence. In the ticabus from Panama, a 17 hour bus ride I was disturbed from my peaceful sleep (that was actually giving my neck a huge cramp) to a sound I had never heard before. It was a mixture of familiar sounds that together left me confused. I know what snoring sounds like. I know what sneezing sounds like. But I had never heard both of those sounds mixed with the sounds of both blowing one’s nose AND coughing.  I know it was wrong and unfair, but I did not look at that woman (if that’s what she was)  the same after that.

Needless to say I have experience in busing. I have decided now to grace you all with my expertise. This is indeed priveleged knowledge and I only share this now with the knowledge that I will not be in competition with you here in Costa Rica.

Here’s what you must do, my grasshoppers:

1. GET ON THE BUS! This is not a simple task. Sure, anyone can get on the bus, but you got to do it right and that means quickly! Every step from here on out will aid you in this primary goal.

2. Pack light! Backpacks are so much better than duffel bags even though you have to bring less – good way to force yourself to pack light. This is important because if your baggage is too big it has to go below the bus which will deter you from your primary goal because you’ll have to make an extra stop. Also a large pack makes you less agile which is a handicap you just can’t afford in this race. With a small pack you will be limber and ready to maneuver yourself straight to the first available seat.

3. Stay focused! This is not a race you can win half heartedly. Strangers around you are no longer viewed as simply other passengers, but as other occupied seats. This may sound harsh, but this is a game of the survival of the fittest and not for the faint of heart. If you don’t have the heart for this just remember; they’re all thinking the same thing. If you need motivation, think about standing on a crowded, hot, bumpy bus for various hours.

4. Say no to rational thought. You’re mind may wonder as you board the bus. You’ll look around you and see not an organized line of civilized people waiting to board, but a multi-limbed creature trying to climb through a portal too small for it to fit through. You might be shocked to find that you are a part of this creature that resembles the bunch ball you used to play on junior soccer leagues.  Rationalizing that this is ridiculous and that you are more than just one element of a crowd can lead to disaster. Swallow your pride. Belong to the creature; just belong to the front of it.

5. Once passed the portal you break free of the ruthless mob and have mounted the aisle way leading to your dwelling place over the following hours of your life. This is it. There isn’t much you can do here but reap the benefits of your hardwork on the other side. Lay your eyes on the first available seat and snatch it.

6. Relish. Sit down. Breath. Be content. Sometimes this too can be difficult. Don’t look out the front window. This will aid you in avoiding the terrifying scene of a huge passenger bus driving on the wrong side of the road to pass a semi, returning to the right side of the road just missing another semi.  Try not to notice that (if you are someone of my height) your knees hit the seat in front of you. Don’t visualize the bruises you’ll have there by the end of the journey. Don’t have bad feelings toward the person who is closing you in by their unreasonable and unecessary recline feature. No, instead appreciate the fact that the blood will not be drained from your arms from holding them above your head as you stand on tired feet.  Enjoy the restless sleep offered by the seat that replaces the swaying stance that provides no means of rest.

7. Don’t put on your seat belt. There aren’t any. Instead receive your black belt in boarding buses.


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¡Cuidado Juan Wayne!

Three of my best friends from home were able to come to Costa Rica for three weeks so every weekend Christina and I would meet up with Kajori, Sarah and Lily to travel.  Our first trip was to Montezuma. On friday August 29th Christina and I met them in San Jose and got on a 2 hour bus ride to Puntarenas. We got the five seats all in a row in the very back and commenced girl talk for the entire ride. We hadn’t seen eachother for a long while and it was slightly surreal to see them all here in Costa Rica! We all agreed that we were living a teenage girl novel like ‘Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants’ or something and we were lovin’ it!

Upon arriving in Puntarenas we set to finding the hostel we had reservations for but a security guard at the bus station told us there was one way better and way closer. We went to that one instead.  After checking in there we searched for dinner which only means one thing in Costa Rica; casados! Casados are meals with rice, beans, salad and these amazing fried bananas with your choice of chicken, fish, steak or veggies.  These are served in restaurants called Sodas which are all owned by locals and have authentic Costa Rican food. We always went to Sodas to have the best (and cheapest) meals.

The next day we took an hour ferry ride to Paquera which was lovely. We met like 7 doctors and 1 business man, Schille from Switzerland. They had been traveling for a long time and were able to give us a lot of advice about where to go.

After the ferry ride we went on another 1 hour bus ride and then we arrived in beautiful Montezuma! We went straight to the beach! However, the waves were so strong and hurled sticks and logs at us so even wading was a gamble. Lily got a pretty bad bruise from a log and I got cut up a little but we were so glad to be there!

That night we went dancing at Chico’s Bar and Lily took me to order my first drink! It was AWFUL! I ordered a strawberry daquari and got some sort of sick chocolate drink. Lily had been craving a margarita but received a martini instead! It was so loud that both orders got messed up and Lily and I just sucked it up and then went dancing!

The next day we went hiking – and I mean HIKING to a beautiful waterfall. We had to go up these monstruous hills and after going up for quite a while we were told that we went too far! So we went back down a ways to find the path to the waterfall.

It was gorgeous! And such a prize for having walked so long in the heat (and having danced so much the night before!) There was a sort of pool in between two falls where we were able to swim and it was sooo refreshing and crazy awesome to swim in a waterfall! Jori and Sarah took tremendous leaps from the first fall into the pool below. I was content with just swimming.  This was definately one of the coolest experiences of my trip so far!

That night in the hotel Lily, Sarah and I had to listen to crazys upstairs who had lost their passports. What drama! This one girl just went bizerk on these two guys she was traveling with and was screaming, stomping and slapping these two guys! I can understand an initial reaction to such a disaster, but this went on for hours! Somehow Sarah got to sleep while Lily and I stayed up emotionally disturbed! We both decided we couldn’t go to sleep with that in our heads so I told Lily stories about my older brother Kevin and his best friend Matt from when they were younger. They have so many hilarious stories so we were able to laugh and regain peace enough to sleep. (P.S. I started telling stories about you and Matt Kev, but ended up telling Lily how awesome you are. I love you!)

The next day Christina and I had to get up early and make the journey back home. We ended up having to stand for an hour long bus ride, but after that we got good. Christina and I are now skilled in the art of bus riding.

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Host Family

My host family is great! I live with Yorlene Viquez and Sandro Sanchez and their five kids.  Gabriel is still just a baby boy and everyone calls him “Gordo” which would be translated as something like fatso but it is a term of endearment.  Maria Emilia or “Mili” is about to turn 2 years old and is adorable. She wanders around with her bottle or baby stroller all day and hardly pays attention to me when I try to play with her. She already knows what she wants and is very independent.  Sofia is 5 years old and quite a handful! She is so sweet and a bundle of fun. She’s always trying to climb me so I gently remind her “No soy arbol,” “I’m not a tree.” She just thinks that’s funny, tells me I am a tree and continues to climb! She’s very affectionate and loves to hug/climb on me.  Fabiana is 7 years old and is very self assure.  She will sit me down and tell me a story with the first things that come to her head. Both Fabi and Sofi love the Disney Channel games, Jonas Brothers and  Hannah Montanna. My first week of school each night I came home they would both want to dance with me, Fabi showing me which steps I should do and how I should pose.  Daniella is 17 years old and hardly ever talks to me. She just graduated from high school and has had to take all these government tests AFTER graduating just like all other high school grads in Costa Rica. Most the time she is in her room watching tv or studying. I’m hoping to get to know her better now that her tests are all done (she just finished today) but we’ll see. I’m like the 20th student this family has had and I think the novelty of someone from a foreign country has really worn off. Plus her boyfriend who also works for her dad is always around so I think she’s pretty busy.  Yorlene makes amazing food and lent me her jewelry and purse when I went to the Teatro Nacional for a cuban guitar concert.  She is always busy with something (she has 5 kids!) and doesn’t have much time to converse with me. Sandro plays the guitar and watches latinoamerican idol with me clueing me in on who he thinks is the best.

My primary Spanish teachers are Fabi and Sofi who never tire of playing with me. I’m so thankful for them because they are adorable, fun and explode Spanish at me all the time.  I love them, but after 2 months or so with them I am very glad that sometimes I have the excuse to retreat to my room to do homework. Speaking of which, I have been helping Fabi with her English homework which is great fun. I love hearing English with a Spanish accent and hearing the word ‘called’ pronounced ‘cayed’ when read for the first time. It’s fun to have a taste of what my mom does everyday!

I’ll post some more pictures of them later.

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Orientation Week

Here’s a bunch of pictures from the tours we took with the Institute the first week of school.  We went to Heredia, Cartago, Orosi and San Jose. We saw a bunch of churches which pretty much mark the center of the town because everything else is built around them. The tours were as great as these pictures, so here they are.

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La Tortuga Feliz – The School

For the first week all the cabinas in the project were full so Christina and I and this older lady, Sheila who is exactly who Emily Pietrowski will be when she gets older, stayed at the school 400 meters away.

The school had nicer accomodations and a bunch more hammocks and so we were quite content…at first.

What we later discovered is that after our shifts we would have to walk alone on a dark narrow sandy path with grass to either side with only our flashlight.  I came to hate grass because that’s where the snakes lived. They told us to keep our eyes peeled for them and stamp our feet as we walked so that they would feel us coming and run away.

So after repeating prayers to match the rhythm of my feet walking in the dark for 400 meters I would be relieved to have survived the path. But then I would enter the gate and deal with Vicky saying a new prayer.

Sheila saw a snake eating a frog on this path and one morning I was lucky enough to see half of a snake already dead. It was black, red, and white stripes and definately looked poisonous.  Sheila was kind enough to move the dead snake off the path so I wouldn’t freak out everytime I saw it and assured me that I didn’t have to be afraid of nature and ooh look how beautiful the scales are on the snake! Agree to disagree. (Emily, that is not something she did that reminded me of you, just an anecdote.)

Christina and I were so glad to move to the cabinas at the project when we did!

Even when we did live at the school we loved our time at la tortuga feliz. I more or less write this so you can get an idea of what it was like and also, I have to admit I’m pretty proud of myself for surviving these things!

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