New as of May 3rd, 2005 (poseted from Pamana)
April 17, 2005
Santa Elena, Costa Rica
Well I finally made it onwards. I enjoyed my last few days in Nicaragua at the beach. The people I hooked up with were great cooks and I was well fed for little money the entire time. There is nothing like living on four dollars a day while living right on a beach that was largely deserted.
One day I had the job of going to the pulperia to get chicken for dinner. The day before they had said the chicken would be in at 3:30 so I and someone who knew where the store was headed off. (Store is a bit of an exauation as it was really just someones house who stocked lots of extra food; it didnt even rate a sign.) As we were walking down I looked at my watch and saw it was exactly 3:30 and though, yeh they said the chicken will be there at 3:30. We are going to be early.E Central America is not known for being on time. When we got there they didnt have chicken they said probably at 4:00. The guy I walked up with and I headed back. I stopped at the big backpacker hangout for a soda and figured I would wait and head back for the chicken.
About 4:15 I headed back up the road. When I arrived still no chicken and the guy at the store said something along the lines of I said at 4:00. I pointed out that it was now 4:30. So I picked up the other stuff we needed, more garlic and spaghetti, and started to walk back. Just as I headed out they waved me back as the truckE(really a lime green compact car) arrived. I bought the six pounds of chicken, in neat little plastic bags labeled Tip Top ChickenE a local brand, and headed home.
After dropping the chicken off to defrost I headed back to the beach as the guys who had rented a surfboard for the afternoon offered me a go on it. I didnt really get up on any wave, but it was fun. That afternoon most of the waves were way larger than I was willing to try to get out and try, but I was successful in ridding the surf in which was fun. I dont think surfing is going to be my thing, but my tan is getting better.
Dinner that night was great with beans we had been simmering all day, rice, spaghetti, home made sauce, fresh guacamole (although not as good as Stevens,) and chicken grilled over the coals. John, who had been head chef, fed us well.
After the beach Mikca who I had first met on Ometepe and I headed off to Costa Rica. Our first night was in the provincial capital of Liberia. We had planned to head on to one of the national parks, but it looked like we were going to get stuck somewhere we didnt want to. It wasnt an exciting town, but it had a nice hostel and as a treat since I hadnt had lunch I ate at Pizza Hut.
Now I do tend to avoid western restaurants but pizza sounded good and it was easy and we were tired. I had the Brasileta pizza that is served with fresh lime wedges. I dont remember that being one of the ones listed back home, but it was good. Score one for trying the regional specialties at American restaurants.
Today was a lot of time on the bus getting up to Santa Elena near Monteverde. Its great getting up into the hills. It has been raining and misting and is cool. I have pulled out my warm shirt and enjoyed the change.
Its out on the edge of cloud forest so it was a misty ride through lush green. Also it is coming up on the beginning of the rainy season so things are getting wetter. There were at least two perfect rainbows during the ride up and the simple fact there is grass rather than dirt in the yards and fields.
In some ways being up here and the chill in the air reminded me of the Black Hills of South Dakota. Not that it is as lush there, but even the buildings start to turn to cabin construction.
A couple days here and then onward is the planEwe shall see.
April 18, 2005
Santa Elena, Costa Rica
This is such a pretty area. The weather reminds me a bit of the Black Hills on a chilly rainy day. Im up in cloud forest so it is always misty. (If I lived here I would _have_ to get contact lenses: I cant keep my glasses clear.) Its a bit chilly and I have pulled out my warm shirt but its nice. They have a neat community art program with a ceramic shop you can use. There are a couple nice kick wheels and an electric. If I was going to be here for a few more days I might choose to get a set of cloths dirty and go play with clay. (The problem really being that I dont really want any of my products, I just want to sit at the wheel and work clay.)
The biggest problem here though is all the tourists. In that respect it reminds me a bit of Niagara Falls. It even has a lot of the high priced side tourist attractions. (Butterfly park, zip line canopy tours, snake zoo, ect.) Its not really all that bad, but things do get expensive and focused on what they think I want to see rather than what is actually here. Mind you this doesnt prevent me from enjoying a nice coffee shop or anything.
I figure the only way to avoid tourists destroying the area is to destroy it before they do. In other words, do it to yourself before they do it to you.
April 19, 2005
Santa Elena, Costa Rica
Today was nice. A nice little walk off in a forest preserve that is a bit off the beaten track so I think I was the only one there. (I didnt see anybody else the entire time there.) It really was gorgeous with a waterfall and at one end a nice overlook that had a tree house. Sadly you can see beyond thee edge of the preserve and the difference is striking.
It goes from lush jungle directly into cleared fields. Actually the fields at first glance made me think of pictures of the English country side, with irregular shaped fields separated by hedges and a few tress scattered about. Then I remembered that England is just as much a case of deforestation a down here. Are their any virgin forests in England? (I have always though the idea of planting a forest a bit impossible, but there the New Forest stands.)
It wasnt quite so misty today but on the whole I like the weather here. Not too hot, maybe a bit moist (you are in the cloud forest after all) and some times a bit windy (but that adds some energy to the place.) Todays wondering made me think of what Spearfish Canyon in South Dakota would have been back when my grandparents bought the cabin. Lots of little loges, small homemade signs on fence posts, probably little oversight as to sewage and water and what not. And maybe just like the canyon things are getting popular here and more plastic buildings are coming in and modern buildings replace ramshackle cabins. Sewage and water codes and regulations get beefed up (hopefully before it is too late.) I dont know who is handling development better. Shall see.
One other little funny thing that happened yesterday was on the way back to town from our walk we got stopped in the road because one of the big fancy tourist busses took a turn too tight and a couple wheels went off the road into the gully. It didnt look happy. Some people from Maine that I chatted with while we were waiting for the road to be cleared are going to e-mail me a picture of it. (I didnt have my camera.) But I think I will stay in the X-school busses and the backs of pickup trucks where it is safe.
April 21, 2005
La Fortuna, Costa Rica
Well today was a day to be a tourest. I took the standard tour to see the Arenal Volcano. (I would write that in Spanish but almost everything is in English here.) It started with a little hike through cloud forest with the guide pointing out stuff as he saw it. He knew his stuff, but half the fun was listening to how he did it in two languages at once. He wouldnt say one thing and then repeat in the other language, but split it up phrase by phrase. I wanted to ask him if, Quando va a su casa, when you go home, tiene una problema, do you have a problem, hablando solo en un lingua, speaking only in one language?E It was just a little bizzare. I dont know if I have ever heard someone switch between languages so often.
After the hike we returned to the van and drove to a good place to see the lava flow down the volcano. It was mostly chatting with the other gringos as the sunset.
Unfortunatly there really wasnt any lava to see this night. I am considering buying one of the postcards with the photo of the volcano on it and sending it to someone with the first line being It didnt look like this.E
The nice part was after viewing the dark volcano, we went to one of the hot springs and soaked for a couple hours. A couple of the pools have a good view of the volcano so you can sit soaking in the hot springs while watching the top of the volcano glow. A preaty nice way to view a volcano. And I can even claim it is good for my knee.
These are the second hot springs I have been to on this trip. Some travels I met tend to go from hot spring to hot spring. If there is one in town they have been to it. The first one was back in Honduras and was a simple set of about three pools and sanck bar the consisted of a few white resin chairs, a coke cooler and probably some sort of bar. Lots of concreat not much for apearances. This hot springs had two pool side bars, a full restruant with cloth napkins folded into interesting shapes, nine pools of various temperatures and fancy changing rooms with showers and the like. (In Honduras the changing rooms consisted of your towel, or in my case Ians towel as I dont have one. There are limitations to how well a couple of bandanas substute for a towel.)
Nice day. I even am doing the touresty thing of having my clothes washed for me. Last time I had laundry service was back in El Salvador, since then it has been all me by hand in the pila. If nothing else I think its about time for someone else to try to get the dirt out of my socks.
On the hike today I was thinking about how my last couple journal entries seem odd to me. I think that most of it is that I have been out of big western trourest trade for so long its weird comming back to it. In the US even when you arnt necessarly in the tourest track there are still the roadside distractionsEand that kind of thing. Some how here it is like retuning to how the US does stuff. Sure there are sueveneer shops in other countries but they arnt the same kind of sueveneer shops as they have here. Maybe it is the increase of English on the signs or being spoken but the tourest trade here has a different feeling to it.
It is even different than Antigua, Guatemala where tourests and the servaces to suport them are thick. Part of it is I dont quite feel like there are bad cases of walking walletEsyndrom going on here. Maybe it is because so many of the tourests are so much richer than I am that they know not to waste their time on me. It does make me wonder what the realECosta Rica is like, what ever that may be.
A little local culture does slip in from place to place even here in La Fortuna. At the little Soda (which I asume derives from soda fountain although now it is more like a greasy spoon or dinner) under the natural drinks where they list juices and things like tamarindo they had a couple new beverages. Figuring the best way to discover what the local drinks are is to order them when you get the chance I did. (I was actually off with some other travelers so we figured we would each order one and share.) Chan is a local drink that must come from some kind of fruit. It is mostly clear with a very slight green-blue cast to it. You really didnt notice the color as suspended in the beverage were black seeds (or what we assumed were seeds) about and eigth of an inch across (3 mm.) This flotsam wouldnt be quite so bad execpt the beverage had a viscosity that was oddly biological. As one dinner companion put it, runny snot. You would pull the straw out and it would drip in a sorta stringy way. Something like corn syrup would have been OK but this drink was down right slimy. As the one who polished it off, it made you want to go brush your teeth, and maybe floss to. My drink Lizana was much the same with out the seeds suspended in the slime. Somehow it was a bit easer to get down. I cant wait to see what comes next.
April 22, 2005
San Jose, Costa Rica
I repeat I did not throw anything across the room; I sure wanted to though.
Today is a Friday and my first night in San Jose. I had originally hopped to arive in town on Thursday because a lot of the reason I have been looking to getting here is the lively theater sceanEand from what I have seen advertised in the newspapers an active fine arts scean in general. Its been a while, I have been missing it. Unfortunatly for my planEI missed the bus out of Monteverde and spent an extra day there putting me getting in here on Friday, a theatre night.
This ment I really didnt get to orient myself to town before I tried to go see some kind of show. After a long day on the bus I found the hostel and headed out for a quick dinner and see if I could still make something. I pulled out the tourest map that I just picked up and headed out to the two theatres in the area. The first one was dark but the second the Teatro Naticional clearly had something going on. It was now 7:00pm and judging by activity the show would be at 8:00pm. I hadnt been able to pick up the paper with the good arts listing so I figured I would hop online and try to find something out. After spending too much time misspelling the theatre name I started getting close.
The problem is the Teatro Nacional is also a major landmark and historic building so practiacaly any websight that has anything to do with the area has its name in it. An exercise in Googles NOT function. Eventualy I found the official websight and the calendar function was down. I really shouldnt be too suprised as I have had the identical probrolem back home in Minneapolis. Arts listings are just hard to find.
I didnt make any shows, tomarow newspaper. I checked the local newspapers websight, they do have an online edition but it lacks the arts listing and when I checked their news stand listing it only listed where you could buy it in the US. Not very usefull.
This frustrating time at a cyber cafe made me want to do one of the stress releavers we used back at Ted Mann. Both Sari and I had a couple of soft, throwable objects on our desks. If you really wanted to kill something you grabbed one and flung it hard agains the most convient door. Repeat as necessary. I once had an espicaly frustraiting phone call where I tossed atleast four things agains the door. (Katie who was in the office graciously retreived objects for reuse.) On the other had the client didnt have a clue. There is something to be said for imeadate anger management. Unfortunatly I figured there was a marked lack of kooshes, strees balls, and other soft throwables at the cyber cafe and I think I would have startled too many people.
Execpt for the fact I couldnt get an arts listing I have been enjoying the few hours I have been here in San Jose. I think I really have become a city kid. Event though most of the places were closed by the time I was wondering about, but I saw that there were art galleries, clean parks, a few nice buildings and the energy of a metopolitian area. In one of the plazas I walked by I stopped to check out a large group of people gathered on one edge. I dont know what was going on but they were all speaking a sign language. Just an evening in the city. Elsewhere I doubt there would be any kind of deaf community.
My first impresion is that San Jose is almost just like an American city. I suspect if I had just come from the US I would say it was a typical Central American city. Probably it is just a midpoint between the two. There is a little someting that reminds me of San Francisco. I cant remember the name of neighborhood that I am thinking of though. Part of it is probably the weather, and somehow the few homeless people I have seen are more West Coast homless than Central American homless. Also the hostel reminds me of the big North American hostels I stayed at. Its not quite as good as the Samesun in Vancover, maybe a bit more like the Green Tortus in Seattle. Either way I am looking forward to the free pancake breakfast. It will also be a good reason to get up in the morning.
April 23, 2005
San Jose, Costa Rica
Today as I was wandering around town and I was thinking about my complaint about arts listing, what I wanted was a City Pages. Even when I could find listings they missed a lot of stuff. As much as we might complain about it, it is a good resorce.
The other thing has been true for a few days now. As far as I know I have never been in a situation that I have been south of the Sun, until now. I have been keeping track of the suns declination. Back when I was at Monteverde I checked and the sun was directly overhead at 10 degree 32 minuets lattude and my lattude was 10 degrees 18 minuets. I might be wrong, but I think every time I have been in the tropics it has been winter and I have retrned north before the sun did. Its one of the those slightly geeky things I notice, but it is sort of like a mild form of crossing the equatior, which I am not sure if I am going to make this trip. Either way, as long as I am moving south is is only getting colder.
April 25, 2005
San Jose, Costa Rica
Lets how has it been going?
Night befote last I saw a small chamber recital in the foyer of the Nacional Theatre. OK. Maybe a bit too much emphisas on being period rather than trying to interperit the music. (Not that those are necessarly mutchully exclusive, but with some performers it seams that way.) One of the neat things was watching the audience before the show interact. It was just like being back in the midwest. Right down to how friends catch up on the news and chat before the show. I found myself wishing I was working the show as I was curious how the performers interacted backstage. Im used to getting to see that interaction and I missed it. (The performers didnt realy seem to gell as an ensemble and I was curious if they were the same not onstage.) I guess Ive spent too much time as a stage manager.
Yesterday I went out to two shows, a childrens puppet show and then a Costa Rican comedy. It was probably good that I did things that you could folow even when I wasnt understanding what they said. It was fun. I didnt like the lighing design, but how often do I? I did peek into the control booth and saw what kind of lightboard they had. It was a computer board so they didnt have any excuses on a couple of the things I didnt like. (It was a Strand board, the blue one with the golf ball XY encoder.) I am glad I finaly made it to a couple shows on this trip.
Today I contunded the theatre experence with a visit to the Teatro Nacional where I paid the entrace fee to go look around. Its a nice fancy guilded theatre but I didnt get a chance to see all I would have liked. I think I am mostly spoild because the last theatrer I wandered around was back in El Salvador and that one I went everywere from the trap room up to the grid with all the rigging. Here they kept it all locked up. Oh well cant do it all. Maybe next time down here I will write ahead and arrange something. Although that might be too much like planning.
The other fun this the last couple days has been the fact that almost everybody I have met in Nicaragua has come thru the hostel. John from the beach is back and we are going to cook dinner tomarow, the rest of the group from Finca Magdalena have been thru, and even the couple I met back in Estile showed up tonight. I still think when I get to Panama everybody will be there. Small world, or altest a narrow gringo trail.
April 30, 2005
San Isidro de el General, Costa Rica
I have to catch this up. I spent the last three days out in Manuel Antonio along the Pacfic Coast. Its half a beach town and half the big access to the simularly named Parque Nacional Manuel Antonio. I was there mostly for the beach. Also acording to the guide book it is Costa Ricas most popular gay destinationsEand since I dont know what a gay destinationEis like I figured I would go see. As far as I can tell, as far as Central America is concerned, it means they wont beat you up. Actually I did see on the beach several guys holding hands or sharing the same towel but that was about it. Admiditly when I started this trip nine and a half mounths ago I was in the ulitmate gay spaceEan international gay and lesibian choral festival. Of course there is nothing that compairs to a GALA festival. As is I enjoyed my time at the beach; got a little sun burned but not too bad.
The town was preaty touresty. I have enjoyed my few hours so far here in San Isdro as it is back to real day to day life.
The big draw to the Manuel Antonio area is its park preserve. I paid my seven dolars and went in the day after I got the sunburn and decided that the jungle canopy would be a good thing. It is a plesent park with lots of monkeys and dont feed the monkey signs. Actualy the wild life I was wanting to see was a sloth. I have only seen one before back when I was in Columbia and it was on a leash. A couple from my morris side had been down to Costa Rica last year and had been to a sloth rescue shelter. I have asked around about it and people have said that yes they have heard of it and no you cant go there anymore.
I did get to see a sloth when I was there. It was a bit high up in a tree for my personal preferences of viewing but hey its nature not a zoo. Someone else on the path pointed it out to me and when she left I sat down on the trail to watch it for a while trying not to put too much of a kink in my neck. As other people came along I would point it out and one group even let me use there bionoculars to get a better look. It didnt move much so most of the time I was just pointing out a darker patch of leaves than all the rest so the big camera toting tourests would go charging off to find a better picture. I think one thing I am going to miss, or atleast try to make possible when I get back from this trip, is having time to be able to sit in the woods and watch sloths. In this way I am very different than what seams to be the average Costa Rican tourest. Of course if I only had eleven days I would probably move faster too.
While in town I eneded up running into the same group of guys for dinner each night. An ER intern and a lingustics graduate both from New York. It was interesting as my last night in town there was a big party down at the beach and I ended up going down there with the guys and two other women from New York they had met. We had a nice time and I stayed up much later than I should have. At one point I was watching the part and was reminded a bit of the scene at the dance in The Motercycle Diaries. There was something about the very simple (by American club standards) place and people just having a good time. It may have also been the latin beat as well.
At one point I was chatting with the lingustics major and mentioned that my Dad is an ordinarly language phliospher and he for the first time in my life knew what I ment. He imeaditly brought up Wichistein. (This being the second time in this trip that this picticular phlisopher has come up: the last time being in Portland Origan.) Strange things do happen.
I am here in San Isidro because it is on the way to Panama. Costa Rica has been nice, but it isnt my favorite Central American country. I think mostly because it has so been done. The people are nice, but it starts to get into the Im here to serve youEaproach to things and I dont even like that much back home at restruants. Its half the reason I shop for shoes at Payless shoes is it is entirly self-service.
The unfortunatle thing is I really wish I had one or two more days to get in before May 1st. When I started looking in to the Panama section of the guide book it mentions that in the Archipr鬡go de Bocas del Toro they do a Maypole dance (Palo de Mayo) as part of May Day celebrations. As I would normaly be spending May first in Morris kit doing equaly British centered folk tradation it would have been a good place to be. As is I am still going to try to make it there tomarow, but we shall see. Maybe Ill be lucky and they will do like the US and when a major holiday falls on a weekend they move it to Monday. (May first is Labor Day and a major holiday in most countries down here. We shall see how busses are.)
Either way my thoughs are back with my Morris side right now. Just as with Haloween I know where I would be and what I would be doing, and a good guess at how much fun I would be haveing. I have clipped my toe nails and used yellow and green hair ties to tie up my braid so I am ready to try to make it up for sunrise in the morning. So now I am off to bed.
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