Posts filed under ‘Costa Rica’

The One Thing That Really Matters

.:{Hint Hint: It’s Not Money}:.

Tonight was very interesting for me. My host mom’s family that lives in the states, in Florida, is here visiting for the week. They are very nice people, but they embody the “American Stereotype” ie: only like to eat fast food—and a lot of it— like to have a lot of money, and enjoy quantity over quality.

I was talking with the dad, who used to live in Costa Rica, about if he would ever move back here or what his thoughts were about the two countries. His answer was very interesting. He immediately started talking about money. And his job. And more about money. And how he does not like his job at all, but it’s good money. And how life would be better if he didn’t have to work as much. But at least he can go to nice restaurants and has a big house and can buy a lot of stuff right?

It was in that moment, when our conversation straddled my two worlds, that I realized the main thing that I love about Costa Rica.

People here, at least where I live, don’t have a lot of money. I mean they have money, but not in grandiose amounts by any means. They have simple houses, enjoy simple but, delicious, fresh food, if they buy something they take care of it so that it lasts, they reuse most things (ie: almost all the soap in bathrooms here is in old water bottles instead of buying a new bottle of soap every time), they appreciate their health, and they don’t have a lot, but what they do have is plenty. Not once, here, have I heard someone talking about their job as though it is the worst thing ever, as though it encompasses their lives, as though it is the primary reason for living. Not once. Ever. Coming from the states where almost everyone complains about their job on a daily basis, and often center their lives around their career, it’s pretty remarkable. Here they just seem to have their priorities in line, ya know? It’s like, yeah, maybe I don’t earn crazy amounts of money, but that’s not the most important thing in life.

In fact, the other day, my host sister’s husband was talking about this exact thing. He said, “The only that really matters in life is your health. If you are healthy and happy that’s all you need. If you have a lot of money, but have some terrible disease, the money doesn’t matter. Taking care of yourself is what matters”

But why are we so disconnected from this in the states? I mean, it’s not like I have traveled the world or anything, but I have been to a decent number of places and this seems to be the consensus everywhere but the US.

QUALITY over quantity.

The basics of life come first, and are the priority.

It’s an understanding about what really matters in life.

For that, Costa Rica, I am grateful for you.

Muchas Gracias

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June 10, 2010 at 9:19 pm 1 comment

My Host Dad Makes Me Smile

.:{Life Lessons}:.

Like I said in my post about my mom’s visit to Costa Rica, and the trip to Puerto Viejo, my experience in Costa Rica has been magical. I can’t believe how everything manages to perfectly fall into place. Whenever I’m feeling down, a random event happens to occur that same day that relates to exactly how I was feeling and enlightens my perspective. In addition, I can’t believe how lucky I am, or how Kelsey-tailored my experience continues to be.

A perfect example of this is my host dad. He is fantastic, and it’s remarkable how similar he is to my real dad, which would explain the fantastic-ness. It really is eerie how similar they are (for example, as I’m writing this my host dad fell asleep at the kitchen table and when we woke him up said, “I was just resting my eyes”). This is what I mean by Kelsey-tailored. What are the odds that I would find a Costa Rican replica of my dad thousands of miles away?

And like my real dad, although my host dad is usually goofy and making some kind of joke, when he is serious or does offer up life advice it is just a random simple phrase here or there that happens to be exactly what I needed to hear in that moment.

For example, recently I have been having a bit of a quarter-life-crisis (as I like to call it) about the future, my career, life, etc. and have been distracted but my life-crisis when I know that I should be living in the moment here in Costa Rica. Well, the other day I walk into the house and Manuel (my host dad whose fast and slurred-spanish I have made a mission to understand because, to do so, would be to do the impossible) greets me with a determined fist in the air, stops me and says, “Para adelante, nada para atrás.” Which doesn’t exactly translate, but means more or less “Only continue forward, and leave the past behind.” He then continues on, talking about how life is about living in the moment and we shouldn’t worry about the past, to which he states another brilliant line, “Hoy es la película de la vida” roughly translating to “Today, is the movie of your life.” And then goes on his way laughing to himself and asking me if I would like some whiskey (mind you it’s 10am).

These are the moments to remember.

June 7, 2010 at 11:19 pm Leave a comment

Mom Comes to Costa Rica

.:{Pinch Me (4/9-4/16)}:.

(This is a long one)

Keeping with the trend of attempting to update everyone on my adventures in the last two months, last week, I finally wrote about my time at the beach during Semana Santa, and am now onto the absolutely WONDERFUL week I spent with my mom in Costa Rica. During her entire week here, my mom and I kept saying how dream-like everything was, and truly, looking back on the trip now, it all seems like a dream.

The dream started as we left the airport and headed to the La Fortuna area of Costa Rica which is famous for the Arenal Volcano. We absolutely loved our hotel, Casa Luna Lodge, as it was the perfect mix of natural and modern comforts. As soon as you stepped inside the hotel grounds you felt like you were in another world. It was so peaceful and beautiful, and the perfect start to the vacation. We spent the first night enjoying a delicious dinner and drinks and just taking it all in. The next morning we hiked to the La Fortuna waterfall [see images below], which was amazing. We actually were able to swim in the water below the waterfall, which was freezing, but absolutely worth it—There is something unexplainable about the feeling you get when you are surrounded by such beauty and wonder that is nature. After our refreshing dip, we hiked back to our hotel and enjoyed hour-long massages! This was my first professional massage ever, and I could not have asked for more. The massage was in a room that opened to the trees and river below, which was already beautiful but was topped off with a rainstorm which provided the perfect calming ambiance to my relaxation. After our lovely massages, we went on a guided-hike in the rain forest at the base of the Arenal Volcano. Even though I had already been so amazed by the beauty of Costa Rica, during this hike I really realized just how awesome our world is, and how important it is that we remember how much our daily choices affect our precious environment that is becoming more invaluable as it is dwindling away.

Our inspiring hike through the rainforest ended at the Arenal Volcano. Now, this is an active volcano so when it is not hidden by it’s usual cloud-cover, you can see lava rocks flowing out. When we got to the volcano, it was cloudy as could be, but our guide had hope. He made us wait at the volcano, just in case, by some miracle, the clouds parted. And wouldn’t you know it, the clouds parted and we were part of the 30% of tourist groups that are lucky enough to see the lava rock (one of the first of many magical moments of the trip). Incredible. And even after all of that loveliness, we got to go to the local hot springs to enjoy the naturally healing waters….ahhh.

The next day was off to Manuel Antonio (a famous beach on the Pacific side of CR) for some beachy-fun. The first day we didn’t do much more than eat and enjoy the ocean view from our enormous balcony at the Costa Verde hotel—which would become a favorite location for the rest of the trip (think costa rican coffee, beautiful views, relaxation, and monkeys galore). After a missed sunset, a longer-than-expected trek to the beach, and the steep hill/insane amount of stairs that you have to climb to get back to our hotel room from the beach, on our first day at Manuel Antonio, I was thinking that we should have stayed at Arenal, but the Universe proved me wrong yet again (as it does daily during my time here in CR).

The next day, we woke up to the pattering of paws running across our balcony roof. We went outside to see what all the commotion was and were greeted by monkeys in the trees right next to our balcony! The mix of the monkey show and fresh coffee was a great start to our first full day at Manuel Antonio. After the monkey-madness, we spent a lovely morning on the beach, followed by a spontaneous dolphin/snorkeling tour. One word: AMAZING. Between the fresh breeze from the front of the boat to the endless supply of Imperial beer, we knew we were in paradise. I had another first here, and went snorkeling for the first time, which was remarkable. So happy. And our daily afternoon rain storm held off just long enough for us to return to shore from the water (another magical moment of the trip).

The next day, we went to Manuel Antonio National Park—enjoyed the beautiful beach inside (1 of 3), saw and stood right next to white-faced monkeys (the beach thieves), stalked a potential celebrity, sweated a lot, and enjoyed more beauty. Afterwards, we went on our other spontaneously-chosen ATV tour—which, like everything else, turned out to be surprisingly magical. Although my mom looked a little nervous to get on the ATV’s, we went and had an experience we will never forget. After a slightly painful, rain-filled, double-seated, palm-oil informative, puddle-dodging ATV ride, we arrived at the Rainmaker’s forest (one of the last remnants of primary rainforest in the Central Pacific. It is home to 60% of all the flora and fauna species found in Costa Rica). Here we had a really informative guided-tour through the rainforest (seeing the plants that make up many of our commonly used products like: Bengay) and finally arrived at a river/waterfall. Our guide informed us, that if we wanted to see a truly amazing waterfall we would have to jump into the water, climb up the little waterfall before us, and hike until we arrived at the “hidden” waterfall about 10min away. At first, only me and one other guy were up for it. But, slowly, everyone agreed and one-by-one we jumped into the chest-high water wondering how the f$@! we were supposed to climb up waterfall before us. Our crazy guide went first, and used the handy rope that was secured into a rock to get up. I went next, slipped and fell at the top, almost sliding back down, but made it. My mom came right after and I was so proud of her. Being taught to avoid slippery rocks as a child, she was definitely not excited about climbing up the very slippery rocks to the top, but she did it! From there we walked through water to finally get to the hidden waterfall. This is a moment I will never-ever-ever-ever forget. The waterfall was in a kind of bowl-shaped rock formation, with a big pool beneath it, so it was like we were in our own private-chilly jacuzzi in the middle of the rainforest. Another magical moment. Suffice it to say, that day was amazing.

Unfortunately, we had to leave the beautiful Manuel Antonio the next day for my home town La Guacima (which is wonderful itself, but doesn’t have the lovely beach life), and although we debated staying an extra day, decided that going back to La Guacima would be the best choice. It was nice because my mom was able to see my home town and meet my wonderful host family and experience the awesomeness of my host mom’s cooking. The next day, after a tearful goodbye on both parts, my mom left for the states and it was on to more magical adventures in Costa Rica for me.

Like I said many times above, my trip with my mom was absolutely amazing and is definitely one of those life experiences that I will cherish forever.

Our room at Casa Luna Lodge (our's is the top balcony)

La Fortuna Waterfall

Me and my mom in front of the Arenal Volcano

Arenal Volcano (it's hard to see the lava here, but it was awesome in-person)

View of the Pacific from our hotel balcony in Manuel Antonio

Monkeys outside our balcony in Manuel Antonio

Monkey carrying its baby outside our balcony in Manuel Antonio

In Manuel Antonio, probably the best sign I've ever seen

Looks like an ad for Imperial, this was me on the boat before snorkeling in Manuel Antonio

My mom loving life in Manuel Antonio

My mom standing next to a white-faced monkey in Manuel Antonio National Park

Monkey foot : Human foot

My mom and I on the ATV about to start our crazy adventure to the waterfall

In the beautiful Rainmaker's forest

In the background is the waterfall we had to climb up to get to the other waterfall (if you look to the right side of the waterfall you can see the rope hanging)

My mom and I with our guide after using the waterfall as a natural slide to come back down after we had to climb up in the beginning.

May 30, 2010 at 7:13 pm Leave a comment

An Overdue Update

.:{So, in the last two months…}:.

Okay, so here’s the deal, I realize that it has been about 2 months since my last blog post. This is unacceptable. I know. And actually to me, it really only felt like it had been a month, so I guess that means that things are coming along speedily- which is a good, or bad thing depending on how you look at it.

So, here are my updates over the last 2 months (each update definitely deserves more attention than I’m giving it, but I realize that no one really wants to read THAT much about anything).

  1. I never found a swim suit in Costa Rica. However, when my mom came to visit she kindly brought 3 swim suits for me to pick and choose from. Now I have 2 lovely swim suits 🙂 Thanks mom!
  2. Speaking of which, my mom came to visit in April!!! We had an absolutely amazing week split between La Fortuna/Arenal Volcano and Manuel Antonio. We kept saying how dream-like this week was and thinking about it now it really does seem like a dream. I will write a separate little blog entry on this to fill everyone in.
  3. A couple weeks before my mom came I was lucky enough to spend Semana Santa (the week before Easter, which here is like everyone’s Spring Break) with my host sister, her husband, and two others at the beach in Guanacaste (1 of Costa Rica’s 7 provinces). Spending an entire week, not to mention the hottest week of the year, in Costa Rica, at the beach made me feel as sunny inside as I was feeling outside. The week was so relaxing and I just couldn’t believe how lucky I was to be able to spend an entire week a la playa while I was here in Costa Rica. Not-to-mention it was a great booster for my Spanish because I was with people all day speaking Spanish. Now, you’re probably thinking, wait isn’t that your life in Costa Rica? And yes, it is. But my daily life is spent with 3 year olds, so my vocabulary is very limited with them- and I realized just how much more I would learn if I was around adults all day. Again, like the trip with my mom, I will try to write up a little blurb about this one, or at least post some beautiful pictures for everyone to see.
  4. I am still working at Casa Luz, and boy has that been an interesting experience. From feeling frustrated at first, to happy, to confused, to excited, I am constantly learning more about myself and the world around me during my volunteering. Although it has not been anything like I imagined, it has been life-changing. That’s for sure.
  5. I was back in the states for long weekend as a surprise visit for Ray’s Graduation. A blog is in order for this 🙂
  6. And, as if I wasn’t lucky enough to spend a week at the beach for Semana Santa and a week with my mom in La Fortuna and Manuel Antonio, this last week I was in Puerto Viejo with Ray, Jen, Chayla and Tyler. Like the others, I will be posting a separate blog on this INCREDIBLE experience.

So, there is a little update for you. I am attempting to write as much as possible in my final 3 weeks here (I can’t believe that’s all I have left). Until next time, I hope that everyone is doing well and I am sending a little bit of Costa Rican happiness to all of you!

May 25, 2010 at 9:11 pm Leave a comment

Playa Dominical Part 2

.:{Buses, Burns, Beauty, Bliss}:.

A bus, a taxi, another bus, a night in San Isidro (to meet up with my friend who also went to with me) and another bus later I had arrived in Dominical: a beach town located in the Puntarenas province, a little south of Quepos and Manuel Antonio. Instead of writing a full out blog, I decided to break this post down to the main “lessons” I learned during my weekend in Dominical. Enjoy 🙂

Lessons learned on the bus (San Jose to San Isidro):

1) I am directionally challenged
2) The online schedule and the actual schedule do not match.
3) You have to pay to use the bathrooms in the bus station, and when you don’t realize this will look like an idiotic foreigner.
4) There are assigned seats. If you don’t realize this you will end up changing seats multiple times and again looking like an idiotic foreigner.
5) Don’t sit in the front of a bus in Costa Rica, unless you enjoy seeing your life flash before your eyes… several times.
6) Talk to the people sitting next to you. They may end up showing you a song that reminds them of you (old man-creepy) or they may help you find your way to your destination (could have been sketchy, but was a nice guy, and definitely necessary for my directionally challenged self).

Lessons learned in Dominical:

1) Clouds are deceiving. Just because there are clouds, don’t think you can sit in the sun longer. You will burn, badly. And end up burning the back of your legs so bad that your skin is feels like it got a face-lift, so much so that you can’t straighten your legs so you have to walk around like you’re constipated.
2) Aloe vera gel serves multiple purposes: it helps sunburns, it can act as hair gel, you can use it for shaving, for after shaving, all other burns, to prolong a tan, or to remove make-up (as it says on the back of the bottle I had to buy in Dominical for my terrible burn).
3) Go to the Maracatu restaurant for great organic, local/sustainable/vegetarian food, but not for the nightlife
4) Prepare yourself when you order a casado dish (local mixed-plate dish) with chicken as it may actually turn out to be fish-chicken/some other unidentifiable animal.
5) Stay at the Tortilla Flats hostel. It’s right on the beach, close to everything. Great simple rooms. Nice restaurant outside. Cheap.
6) I absolutely love beach towns, and could definitely be a beach bum at some point in my life. I love love love love loved Dominical. Just the feel of the place was great. More built up than Guacima, but definitely not super touristy. There is a charm to Dominical. There are lots of local surfer/hippie types there, and the beach was beautiful.
7) Go to Dominical

The many towels, sarongs, and tapestries being sold between the trees in Dominical

My view laying on the beach 🙂

Dominical Beach, one of the many surfers there

Dominical=Beautiful


March 16, 2010 at 11:52 am 6 comments

Ants in my Pants

.:{Las Hormigas}:.

Costa Rica has ants. Everywhere. Don’t be alarmed, they are very very tiny and do no harm, but they are the permanent pets of the house. I didn’t really think much of them, as they are on the kitchen counter and such, that is until I opened my laptop to find TONS of miniature ants crawling about (just killed another one). With all of the little holes in the sides of my computer for cords, and the tiny space under the keys (which they can fit into), my laptop must be a huge playground for them. However, I’m not sure what attracted them to my computer. It’s not like they are hoarding around any of my other stuff. Maybe, since they enjoy fruit, they enjoy my Mac because it’s technically an “Apple.” The good part about it is, because they are so fast (they dodge from one place to the next), killing them is a great test for my reactions skills. By the time I return I will not only know Spanish, but I will be one speedy lady.

February 18, 2010 at 11:41 am 3 comments

Taking in the Costa Rican Culture

.:{Learning Curves}:.

Well today is day 3, well day 2 if you want to count “full” days, and I already feel like I have been here for forever. The learning curve is huge and it’s amazing how much a person can take in, in just 3 days. As I said in my previous post, the language barrier was a bit frustrating, but I am learning A LOT and my host family has even said that my Spanish has improved a lot compared to the first day. I am taking Spanish classes for 2 weeks before I start volunteering, and they really helpful. I am actually the only student in the school (the school is kind of a go-to place for tourists and locals for internet, to live, etc.) so I get one-on-one lessons for four hours every day which is amazing. Tomorrow I go to Casa Luz, the place I’m volunteering at, to meet with the director and have una entrevista, an interview. I’m excited to see where I will be working and to get to know the people at Casa Luz.

Things are still going well with my family. Mi mama tica is a great cook, and I love everything that she makes. And she is so nice and considerate. For example, yesterday, I told her that I liked pineapple, and today she had pineapple out for breakfast. Since she is the ama de casa (house mom) I see her the most out of the whole family, but the rest of the family is really nice too.

More updates to come!

February 16, 2010 at 12:55 pm 1 comment

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