Thursday, February 12, 2009
Forgive me for any mispellings or strange notactions, I write to you from a keyboard in Hotel Aranjuez with features such as an individual ç key. ¿entiende? Also, spellcheck isn´t working, so this probably wont even be readable, hah.
!AHORA¡ I want everyone to know I´ve fallen off the face of the internet because the entire San Luis valley is without a connection, supposedly due to wind blowing something important off of the mountain. And given recent events (which I´ll write about later), I believe it.
I am doing very well and enjoying myself thoroughly. I´ll try to post more when I get back to campus in 11 days, as they advised us against bringing our computers. I have finished my first half semester of classes, and am half way through my Spanish and horseback riding. Classes went well, and I´m excited to see what next semseter with new professors will bring! I also survived (and even mostly enjoyed) my homestay, and was lucky enough to get a big, fun family. My mom (or mama-tica as I call her) works on campus and gives me several hugs and plenty of encouragement every day.
Tomorrow I set off on a two day rafting trip, then I will be back here in San Jose with the internet for one night, then I am off to Manuel Antonio (staying in Quepos) for my four day spring break 2009! Then I am back here in San Jose to meet the new professors. Finally in something like 11 days I´ll be back on campus, and we think the internet was going to be fixed as soon as today. I´m hopeful!
Today we went to Poas, which is looking really well considering the earthquake. I didn´t see much beyond mist and fog, but it was a fun trip. Then we headed to San Jose and we all had our first fast food of the trip! We went to a McDonald´s, and it was glorious. I don´t even eat McDonald´s in the U.S., but I thoroughly enjoyed my Sprite, cheeseburger and mcflurry with M&Ms and caramel. Mmmm. Also, in the kids play area they had Rockband? I could get used to this... I also did a canopy zipline since my last entry, WOW. Amazing. So much fun, and we actually knew a lot of the employees from San Luis. It was rainy and cold and miserable, but the fog only made it more ethereal, and the hot chocolate afterwards was amazing.
The weather is beautiful, sunny and warm. I´m getting a tan! I´m also becoming a better dancer, soccer player, spanish speaker and horseback rider. Life goals being completed, yes! I´m sorry it has been so long since I´ve been on here, I´ll do my best next time around. Thanks for continuing to read, and I miss you guys!
I wish I could type more, but I don´t want to take up hours on the one of two public computers in the hotel. Just know I am having an amazing time and miss yáll! ¿See how weird this keyboard is?
Tuesday, January 20, 2009
Today I really did have horseback riding. I was a little nervous because they do things pretty differently down here, but I think it went really well! I was with huesos (Bones) first when we were brushing them down, then I was with Cholo for the actual riding. Huesos, Chele and Moro are all white horses, Cholo is chestnut with a black mane and tail. Instead of putting on bridles, here they kinda just lasso them and tie them up while putting on the saddle. I learned how to do that and how to saddle them up. You just slip on the bridle, so that isn't much to write home about. The saddles are put on pretty much how I remember Mountain Lakes doing it, but the seat is Australian style or something? I don't actually know what I'm talking about. Chele neede a shoe and they tied one of his feet up so he couldn't stand on it. He almost fell over and started running around with one foot tied up. They calmed him down and it was kinda scary, but we all just stood by our horses and kept them calm. Confidence! The vaqueros were really helpful and complimented me on my Spanish. One of them asked Erin (our teacher) if I'd owned horses because I knew so much. Earlier he's asked me if I had experience, and I said a little - but a long time ago. Which is the truth, but I felt flattered none the less. I was really proud of myself. My knee didn't hurt at all! Today at breakfast we got cheese tico-fied empananas for the first time. They're tasty. Spanish went well again, a few resident naturalists are joining our class. We were in Geology for about 30 minutes before being let out to go watch the inauguration. We streamed it live in the library on Caitlin's laptop. It felt awesome to watch it live and kinda be a part of the moment. We had to go to Anthropology class after Obama delivered his speech, and after that was lunch. Laundry day is tomorrow, so today I went through all of my dirty clothes and rinsed the pink sharpie out that I used to label them. The socks bled kinda a lot, and I'd rather not have all my clothes be pink for the rest of the trip. Fun stuff! We went over my Geology lab today, we're going to describe rocks! How fun! I'm going to enjoy pretending to be a scientist and stabbing rocks to see how hard they are, teehee. I did my Spanish homework after dinner, but I still have Anthro and Geology to do. Tomorrow! Before the sunset tonight we spotted an agouti eating an orange! It was so cute! Just now Caitlin spotted a fox on the porch, and after lunch we went on a brief walk to see our first sloth of the trip! He was really high up so we couldn't see much besides a ball of fur, but it was a cute ball of fur. Tonight I started my tab in the gift shop with a Milky Way, my first chocolate since leaving the states! MMM!
I'll try to post more pictures later, but it is bed time at the moment. Hasta luego!
Sunday, January 18, 2009
Last night we had spaghetti with meat sauce, beans, steamed veggies, lemonade, and coffee for dinner. The tap water here comes from mountain springs and is delicious. Also, they really do put Lizano salsa on everything. SO good! After dinner we watched "Rhythms in the Clouds," a movie about Monteverde wildlife. There are "giant carnivorous snails" here. With teeth. And I found out the eyelash viper is only found on the Carribean side of Monteverde, not the Pacific (where I am) - good to know. After the movie we were walking from the indoor classroom (named Chachalaka) to our bungalows when some of my classmates stopped mid-step and said, "WOW!" All we had to do was look up. I have never seen so many stars so clearly in my entire life. It is so amazing. Venus is incredibly bright right now. Wow. I went to bed, sleeping on the pillow case Margie sewed for me.
This morning I got up at 7am. We had breakfast at 8. I ate eggs, french toast with molasses, watermelon, pineapple, cantaloupe, gallo pinto and coffee. Immediately after breakfast we started off on our hike to San Luis waterfall. I saw amazing birds, a morpho, and the cutest baby cow romping around a pasture. I also swam in the waterfall! It was so cold, but so amazing! The pool is tiny, but deep enough to swim in. The current from the pounding water is hard to battle, so its a good challenging swim despite the tiny size of the pool. Hopefully we're going to go back when it warms up just for fun, but it was a beautiful (albeit difficult) hike to a massive several-tiered waterfall. Off the trail to the waterfall is another trail that leads to an abandoned house full of bats. We're going to try to organize a night hike to go see them. We got back for lunch, which we wolfed down just in time for me to change out of my soaking wet sneakers before heading to La Finca Bella coffee farm for a tour. We got to pick coffee, see how they make it into the coffee we know and love, and got to sample the dark and medium roasts. The dark roast is probably the best coffee I've ever had. It is a family owned and family run farm. They also had home made banana jam, which was SOOO GOOD. I cannot emphasize that enough. It was served on home made bread, which looked like pita bread but was much softer and moister. The family who runs the coffee farm sometimes hosts students, and they also had a neighbor Virginia over who gave Ashely a massage when she felt sick and was incredibly sweet. After seeing how warm and friendly and caring these potential host families are, we're all less concerned and more excited about our homestays, which we go to next weekend. While I was picking coffee I got bitten by an army ant. It latched on to my foot, and instead of yelling an expletive I was able to sensor myself, find my teacher with first aid stuff and tell her it "hurts like the dickens." Army ants are so strong you can use them to suture cuts if you don't have anything else around. It was pretty big (penny sized at least), and the bubble on my foot was about the size of a quarter. After 15 minutes or so of stabbing pain and chills it went away, and the bubble is almost completely gone. We also saw a porcupine in a tree while we were out. Here the porcupines have prehensile tails, I think. It was scratching its belly, aww. The coffee farming family had hummingbird feeders in front of their house, where I saw at least 2 different kinds of hummingbirds. I'm not sure how many different ones there were or if the same ones kept coming back, but they had amazing coloring and really long necks. I also saw a mott mott flying into the woods, and several scarlet rumped tanagers. On the way back to campus we saw a really pretty baby cow and took a neat little path back, which we'll probably take to get to our homestays. At least we hope so, because it is so peaceful and secluded.
Tomorrow morning I have horseback riding class at 6:15! Then breakfast at 7, then class until lunch at noon without any breaks. Not having any afternoon classes hopefully means I'll have time for a nap tomorrow, I'm already up too late and I'm not even in my bungalow yet. We need to start planning our spring break vacation which is in February, if we wait until we get back from homestays it'll probably be too late. We're thinking beaches. We're also going to ask our professors to bring a copy of Jurassic Park with them when they come to campus, because it looks exactly like that here. I think they said Jurassic Park was constructed on an island off the coast of Costa Rica in the movie. The theme song for the movie is becoming the theme song for our trip, which we whistle while hiking through the forests.
I'm off to bed, tiene una buena noche!
Saturday, January 17, 2009
My first San Luis sunset, about 5 minutes earlier than the next picture. Both pictures were taken from the porch of the Student Union building, which is where the library, computer lab, offices and cafeteria are.
My first San Luis sunset, isn't it gorgeous?
Planting my baby! I got a really nice spot on a hillside in the sun.
Cutting the plastic bag off of my baby.
Showing off my steak knife I used to cut the plastic bag off of my baby tree.
At the end of our hike today. Beautiful views! We could see the pacific from where we were part of the time!
The cows here are a lot more sculptural here than in the U.S., I have no idea what kinda they are but they look like serious business - in a good way. I've also noticed they drive a lot closer to each other (cars and pedestrians) than we do. It makes me nervous, and I wonder if it is my American value for personal space shining through.
After the grand tour of campus we went to a lecture about the carbon offset program we've paid as part of our student fees to participate in. It sounds pretty neat, I'm sure how they'll implement everything but they certainly have big aspirations.
We saw our first San Luis sunset around 5:55. It was amazing, and supposedly it is that beautiful every night. We'll see if that is possible. We were all on the porch of the Student Union building, which faces East. Behaving like total tourists, taking bunches of pictures and freaking out. Dinner was served at 6pm, by which time the sun was completely down. The moon doesn't come out until later, so it is pitch black any time during the night that you would be awake for. For dinner we had egg salad, rice and beans, yucca, beets, green beans and carrot cake. On our way to dinner we saw an agouti in front of the student union building! We tried to stalk it and take a picture, but it hopped away too quickly. It looked like a Bunnyrat. After dinner our group just hung out in the dining hall with our computers and uno. I facebook chatted with my mom while coming in second in Uno. I also got to know my fellow students more, we talked for like 3 hours. My roommate Amy went to bed pretty early, but came back to the cafeteria with a GIANT SCORPION she found ON HER PILLOW. The naturalists said it was the biggest they'd ever seen, and that they don't have many here. Lucky us! I also went back to my room to get my flashlight earlier, and I kept seeing these sparkles on the ground. When I finally got close to one I realized they were reflective SPIDERS everywhere! AHH! I was wearing sandals and proceeded to run back to the Student Union building and squeal. People on the porch thought I was weird, but whatever. After playing Uno and computing for a few hours we decided to go to sleep. Because of the scorpion incident all of us girls planned on doing a bug sweep of our rooms. Apparently (I was still writing my blog post at this point) the girls found a rather large spider and started screaming. The bungalows have no sound proofing and we're all in the same building, so the boys ran out to see what was wrong and locked themselves out of their room in the process. The naturalists had forgotten to leave the radio in the main building, so they had to go wake them up and have them walk to find security to give them a spare key. David killed the spider, which we're not supposed to do since this is an ecolodge, whoops. After doing a bug sweep of my room and finding only a few small spiders and evidence of a larger one I went to bed. The wind howled all night long, and the door bangs every now and then, even when locked. I woke up once early, but was able to go right back to sleep. I actually woke up before my alarm this morning, shocking! My roommate was already up and gone, so I thought I was late to breakfast. Luckily I was up about 10 minutes early.
We ate breakfast at 8am, which was one of the best breakfasts I've had in a long time. Toast with fresh preserves, cheese, gallo pinto, fresh pineapple, watermelon and cantaloupe, fresh locally grown coffee, and the best fried plantains I've ever had. After breakfast we began our carbon offset program. We potted plants, planted one tree each, and weeded around trees that had already been planted. And by weeded I mean hacked around an 18in diameter with a steak knife. It was a lot of fun, and a beautiful sunny morning to be outside working with plants. While potting plants my group found a cute little froggy in the dirt! It wasn't very hard work, but it was rewarding and lent itself to photo ops. After cleaning up, Kate, Wyatt, David and I played soccer until lunch at noon. We won, but Wyatt played soccer in high school, so he won, basically. For lunch we ate salad with a tasty home made dressing, juice (maybe cantaloupe?), gallo pinto, chicken and steamed veggies.
After lunch we went on a hike on the Camino Real trail with one of the naturalists. He was really helpful and friendly, and it was informative but fun! It was a two or so hour hike and it was steep enough to feel like you did something, but not exhausting. I learned about swiss cheese plants, vermillia and epiphytes, coffee plants (most of campus used to be pasture that they're restoring into forest), secropia, strangler figs, candle plant, leaf mining beetles, ebony trees, leaf cutter ants, glass wing butterflies, brown jays, and the plant that had "deer eye seeds" and has adapted to lead bats right to where they need to be pollinated, and brown jays. We heard birds that are apparently green with a white forehead, but we didn't see them.
After the hike we met up and talked about our class schedules. I will be taking horseback riding from 6:15-7:45 am, one day this first week, but hopefully two days a week once we get back from the homestay (which I go to after next weekend - it has come so soon!). Then I have Spanish from 8:30am - 9:45am, Intro to Geology from 9:55 - 11:10, Anthropology of Costa Rica stuff from 11:20 - 12:35. No afternoon classes, yay! I should be pretty busy, but I really am looking forward to it.
Tomorrow we're going to hike to the San Luis waterfall (which I will swim in no matter what the weather is), come back in time for lunch, and go to a tour of a coffee farm. They're harvesting right now, so we're going to get to see how everything works from picking to roasting to brewing. We're also going to get to pick some ourselves, I'm excited.
Tonight I've still got dinner to eat and a movie to watch, I'll post again when I can.
Friday, January 16, 2009
Sorry it has taken me so long to get posting, thus far I’ve been kept very busy. We don’t start class until Monday, but tomorrow we’re starting on our carbon offset project and Sunday we’re going swimming (or at least hiking to, depending on the weather) in the waterfall on campus! I should also be getting started on my reading for class, but that can wait, heh. I know the burning question in your minds is “Allison, what have you been so busy doing?” I’m getting to that. In the meantime you should know I am writing this post from the porch outside my bungalow. Almost everything is made of polished wood, which lends itself to squeaking, but is very pretty. The weather is a bit chillier than most of us students expected (and packed for), but compared to Georgia I’m sure it is wonderful! (HA!) The sky is overcast, and the winds are howling, but there is a kind of tranquility sweeping over the campus. Anywhere else this force of wind would seem violent, but it just seems to be gracefully loping through the campus now and then . None of the buildings are particularly auspicious, there are always birds chirping (or squealing, as the case may be), and everything is close enough together to feel homey without feeling crowded. To the left of my porch I can see part of the pasture where a white horse is currently grazing. Directly in front of me are trees, trees, and more trees, some of which are located on a mountain side. My roommate Amy saw the first capuchin of the trip from our porch on the side of the mountain, apparently that is the place to look for them. To my right I can see the Monte Verde cloud forest reserve, although, as you may have guessed, it is partially covered by clouds. This mountain is where howler monkeys can be heard early in the morning, according to my professors. Dinner is at 6, but the sun sets slightly earlier. If it is too cloudy to see the sunset, sometimes it is moist enough to see a rainbow over campus. In the rainy season they have rainbows almost every day.
Fun fact: UGA’s San Luis Ecolodge (campus) is located in San Luis in the
If you’re ever wondering what the weather is like here, you can go to http://www.georgiaweather.net/ and on the left hand, click San Luis – CR on the drop down menu for weather stations.
Now, for the backtracking!
I flew to
On the 14th we got up at 6:30 and headed straight for the van. We drove up to the region of El Mirador on the way to Guayabo and ate breakfast at Los Bocaditos de Cielos. We ate fresh cheese, eggs, and rice and beans. Rice and beans are everywhere and in everything. I’m not sick of them yet, but apparently that is the main complaint of most students on the program about the food. I think they call rice and beans gallo pinto, which means “spotted rooster.” Apparently in
That night we had dinner at Café Mundo. We ordered a package dinner, so I got tea, pumpkin soup (delicious!), penne with sautéed vegetables, caramel onions, a white wine sauce and shrimp, and tiramisu for dessert. It was SO good! And pretty affordable, too! After dinner we all hung out and talked for an hour or so. I was worried about having cool people on the trip, but everyone is really nice and sociable and friendly. We’re also all excited to be here and ready for adventurous fun. Hooray!
On the 15th we got up at 8am and ate breakfast in Hotel Aranjuez where we’d been staying. It was amazing! Their breakfast area is all open air and they even have a nice little tropical garden in the back with dining tables. A hummingbird flew down while we were eating, and I also saw my first
The morning before last I set my alarm on my phone for 6am, but my phone time was still on GA time so it went off at 5am. Luckily my roommates didn’t mind and we all went back to bed with no difficulties. This morning I set my alarm after changing my phone time and was very careful about it. At 5:11am I got a call, which in my sleep daze I mistook for my alarm. It was an alert message from UGA saying something about HART and meeting at the first building. Then a text saying the same thing. Then a text saying there was no emergency. Sigh. So, that cost me at least like $5 to look at/hear. Then my alarm went off at the correct time. Packed up, headed out, and went to another lovely breakfast in the hotel. Our bus was a little late arriving, but our Spanish professor joined us and we left for San Luis around 7:30. The sun comes up at 6am here and goes down at 6pm, so the hours we keep down here will be quite different, and not just because we’re in school now. I saw two cats in the gardens while waiting for the bus, but sadly we’re not allowed to touch any animals for fear they might follow us around, or bite us. Poor kitty cats and doggies. It takes some serious effort to not do it.
The bus ride was uneventful, except for beautiful landscapes and luggage falling. We stopped at a store on the way, you could see the ocean! The weather was so different there – we drove West first, then North, so we went into dry country then back into rain forest. It was definitely beach weather. We finally made it to campus around noon. We had a half an hour to unload and look around, then got the grand tour. Stables, lime trees (with orange colored limes), plantains, hiking trails, it is beautiful!
I have to go to bed now as I’m the only one still up, but I’ll continue tomorrow with the events from today and the adventures that will undoubtedly ensue tomorrow. I’ll try to get some pictures on here, too.
Thanks for reading, I miss you guys!
Wednesday, January 14, 2009
I have successfully spent too long emailing and chatting with people online, so I don't have time to make a real post tonight. I got up at 6am today and it is currently 11:30ish. Long day. Wonderful day, though! We went to breakfast at a beautiful restaurant on a hillside, went to Guayabo where we explored ancient ruins and had a sack lunch, then returned to San Jose, eventually going to Cafe Mundo for dinner. I will elaborate greatly on this vague report when I get the chance, hopefully sometime tomorrow!
In the meantime, here are some cute pictures from today. Enjoy, I'll be in touch!