The Key to Feeling Healthy and Happy

.:{My Body Rejects the USA}:.

Suck.

My first morning back in Costa Rica I wake up to a not-so-happy Kelsey. Let’s just say that every part of me, my skin, my stomach, my head, my face…everything was angry. Yup. My body had floundered after being in the states for less than a week. I had no idea how healthy and happy my body was in Costa Rica until I introduced it to life outside of Costa Rica, specifically the synthetic, sugar-filled, over-processed life of the USA.

Now granted, I had probably experienced a lot of mental stress in leaving CR and coming back, and the climate of CR is very different from dry Colorado, which would definitely affect my body, but my transformation was a little extreme for that.

One of the big things I have learned during my time in Costa Rica is the importance of home-made, natural food. The food here is one of my favorite parts of the culture. And although I already knew this, the more time I spend in CR, the more I realize just how much our food affects our daily health. When almost all of your meals are made of freshly picked fruits and vegetables paired with other unprocessed and natural food, you just feel so much better.

In Costa Rica, I feel healthier. It’s like a glowing feeling. A lighter feeling. And I was so used to it that I didn’t even realize how great I felt until I experienced the States and my body freaked out. This was made even more apparent during this last week when Ray and Jen came and visited (which I still have to write about-it’s in the works). I mean, I came back from the states and over the 5 days that I was back before they came and visited I finally started feeling better and back to my normal self. However, when we were in Puerto Viejo we were eating junk food or really not junk food, it wasn’t anything that is super bad for you, and we actually ate at some awesome, all-natural restaurants, but we just had a lot of pre-packaged things that, again, I don’t normally eat here and I felt my body start to wig-out. Sure enough, everything started acting up again in Puerto Viejo (definitely not as extreme but there was a noticeable difference). And now, after being back to my usual Costa Rican life and food my body feels awesome, my skin is glowing, and I’m feeling good.

Definitely something I intend on keeping up when I come back.

May 30, 2010 at 7:49 pm 2 comments

Surprise I’m Home!

.:{Surprise Visit to Colorado}:.

On May 5th I boarded a plane in Costa Rica bound for Denver, Colorado. I was coming home for a long weekend to surprise Ray for his graduation.

Now, although the idea of coming to states and seeing everyone sounds great, it definitely took some heavy-thinking beforehand. See, when my mom came and visited me, she had the brilliant idea that I should come back to the states to surprise Ray for his graduation. Although I really wanted to surprise him, my first reaction was to say no. I just felt like coming back to the states 3 months into my time in Costa Rica, with a month left to go, would be too much for my brain to handle. I thought that coming back to the states and being re-introduced to my old way of living, my family, Colorado, Ray and my friends, would take away from my experience abroad. I thought it would be too much to handle or maybe I wouldn’t want to come back.

But, after talking more about it with both my mom and my host mom in Costa Rica, I decided that surprising Ray would just be too awesome of an opportunity to pass up. (And actually the timing worked out perfectly, because for my Visa in Costa Rica, after 90 days in the country, I have to leave Costa Rica for 72 hours, and when I come back I have another 90 days. Well, I was hitting my 90 day limit, and had to leave anyway.) So, instead of exploring Panama like I originally planned, I headed back to Colorful Colorado.

Coming back was definitely a weird experience. I totally had the reverse culture-shock that everyone talks about. I mean everything was just…so…. easy, there was air-conditioning everywhere, everyone spoke english, time was something that mattered, there were fast-food places everywhere, people worried about material things like it was their job, and I could throw my toilet paper into the toilet instead of the trash!

Besides just feeling weird to be back in the states, the other strange thing was, that at the same time, it didn’t feel weird at all. It was like my brain did a 180 and flipped back into US mode. I felt like I had never been in Costa Rica, which was insane since it had been my life for the last 3 months. It definitely made me realize that during my last month in Costa Rica, I needed to truly live it up and enjoy every moment because when I came back for real, it would all just feel like a happy, sun-filled dream.

The first night back, only my immediate family knew I was in Colorado. I really wanted to surprise Ray, so I made sure not to tell his family or any of my friends just in case someone accidentally blurted it out. It worked like a charm. The next day, my parents and I headed to Boulder to meet Ray’s family at the graduation (of course his family only thought that my parents were coming rather than the 3 of us). As I drove us into campus, and we were stuck in campus traffic, who would happen to walk right next to my window and directly in front of my car, but RAY! What are the odds?? I frantically ducked, hoping he wouldn’t see me—luckily he didn’t. Whew! So, after the almost-run-in, we went into the graduation building and first surprised Ray’s family as they saw me walking down the stairs. Their reactions alone were amazing which made me even more excited to see Ray.

So, after surprising them, Ray’s dad called Ray to come over and see his “family and my parents” before heading down to the main area for graduation. Ray’s dad stood in front of me to block my seated self from Ray’s view. As luck would have it, he walked down the stairs to us at the perfect angle so that I would be blocked and just as he came up to his dad, I popped out, holding a present in my hands saying, “I brought a present for you” (the present of course being myself). His jaw dropped, and stayed like that for a good 30 seconds before he was able to say anything. It was such an awesome moment. We hugged and hugged as he kept saying that he couldn’t believe I was there, and I knew I had made the right decision to come back. I think we were both on Cloud 9 all weekend, not even being able to believe that we were with each other in-person, after 3 months of only talking via Skype. Definitely one of those unforgettable life moments. (To see his fantastic reaction, look at the pictures below)

Not only was it awesome to see Ray graduate, but I was also able to see all of my friends who live in Boulder and were either graduating or at the graduation party the next day. We developed a pretty solid group during our 4 years of college, and this was the last of the people that still had to graduate. Now, we are all going to be going our separate ways, and who knows if we will all ever be in the same place again. Being there to experience that and see everyone was again unforgettable.

After a whirl-wind of a weekend in Boulder, I came home for one night before I was supposed to leave for Costa Rica. That night was really hard as everything was hitting me all at once. I mean, I really hadn’t been home the whole time I was back, and had been so busy that I really couldn’t even take it all in. My brain was just overwhelmed by it all—leaving Costa Rica, coming back to the states, seeing Ray, being home. I had had no time to process it all, and just needed a day or two to figure out how I was feeling before coming back to CR. So, I actually ended up changing my ticket to stay in the states a couple more days, which was definitely needed, as I did finally feel ready to return after those couple of days.

Plus, I knew that I was lucky enough to be seeing Ray and Jen and her two friends from college only 5 days after, as they were coming to Costa Rica, and we were headed to Puerto Viejo for a week 🙂 Another amazing adventure.

The moment when Ray saw me—check out the jaw drop

Happiness

Reunited

May 30, 2010 at 7:41 pm 2 comments

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

Semana Santa

.:{Week in Guanacaste (4/27-5/3)}:.

In attempting to catch everyone up on what I have been doing for the last two months, here is an overdue post about my week at the beaches in Guanacaste with my host sister and friends. Since the trip is really better explained in pictures, here was my week in the Guanacaste province at Playas del Coco, Playa Hermosa, Playa Panama and Playa Ocotal.

Sunset at Playa Hermosa

Day at the pool outside our place in Playas Del Coco

Me and Grace with the French guy we named "Chiverre." Chiverre is actually a fruit in Costa Rica that is twice the size of a watermelon, it's enormous, and the insides are used, especially during Semana Santa, to make honey stuffing for empanadas and such. Well, he was graced with the name "Chiverre" because his stomach was so huge just like the fruit. We felt the need to get a picture with his loveliness 🙂

The aftermath of a full day at the pool with a gigantic supply of beer

Beautiful beach shot at Playa Panama (my favorite beach that we went to)

My lovely view from the beach at Playa Panama

Group shot at Playa Panama (missing Grace)

Absolutely gorgeous sunset at Playa Panama

Me posing for some silhouette action in front of the sunset at Playa Panama

May 27, 2010 at 9:29 pm 1 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

I Just Want A @#%#$! Swimsuit!

.:{Perhaps I Will Go Naked}:.

I am in Costa Rica. There are many beaches here. People need swimsuits for the beach. And people need to go to stores to buy these suits. So, why is it so hard for me to find a @#%^$ swimsuit in Costa Rica?!?!?!

As I am volunteering, and trying to save money, I am looking for a relatively cheap suit. Nothing fancy. Just something that covers the places that need to be covered—aka no hoochiness— is of decent quality, and isn’t going to gobble up my monthly allowance. Well, apparently that is too much to ask for. For the last week I have been on a quest to find a swim suit.

I first went with the other volunteer to a cheap bargain store that her host dad raved about, only to find a selection of 5 swimsuits all of which would make a great wardrobe for a Playboy Bunny. So, off we went to another store, where even the largest size didn’t leave much to the imagination—apparently Costa Ricans have a thing for small bikinis—I on the other hand do not. Then I went to a local mall where there were only 2 stores selling swimsuits… let me rephrase, there were only 2 stores hoping to sell their insanely expensive swimsuits. Not only were the prices a bit much, but the fact that the lady working at the store had to look over my shoulder at everything I was perusing didn’t make for the most appealing situation. Next!

So, off to another “better” mall with my host sisters, who were also on a quest to find a swimsuit. Now, this actually is a really good mall (and I stupidly teared up a little in it because it was the first time I had experienced something that truly reminded me of the US… oh the emotions of shopping). The first store we went into only sold either insanely expensive, or insanely tiny swimsuits. STRIKE ONE. The next store actually had great suits that were cheap, but they wouldn’t let me try on the bottoms (“even with underwear on?” I asked) which really is the main factor for me in deciding on a suit… so… STRIKE TWO. Then we found this great store that had tons of swimsuits, they were a little expensive but not completely out-of-reach. Best of all, there was a section of separates, and I really only need a “top” as I already have a bottom that I can use (which is better because it makes things cheaper). So, here I am, ecstatic to have found two bikini tops, and happily waiting by the dressing rooms to try on my two finds. Well, the lady working tells me that I can’t just by a top. “What? I can’t buy just a top? But the tops and bottoms are sold separately.” I say. To which she says, “No, sorry. You have to buy a bottom if you want to buy a top.” Ugh STRIKE THREE.

Hopefully, I will have more luck next time around. Note to self: shopping in the US is much easier than in Costa Rica. Be grateful for this convenience in the future.

March 28, 2010 at 7:22 pm 4 comments

Writing for La Vida Idealist

.:{Published}:.

I’ve always had this life goal of having my writings published, and writing for La Vida Idealist is just one step closer to the “real thing.” Check out my latest post from today!

March 23, 2010 at 4:21 pm Leave a comment

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