sábado, 11 de julio de 2009

Gypsy Family

What now?  We have travelled to another part of Costa Rica with our friend Antonio--who has been so good to us---showing us the way and doing it all local style---taking local buses, yes, which means more than one bus---nevertheless, we have saved a lot of money by not traveling with tourists or with tourists companies.  It is important to me to get as close to the culture as I can.  

We followed Antonio and his friends to sell jewelry and pottery to a beach close to Playa Hermosa.  It is a small private beach that only people from a nearby resort can visit.  We had to hike through a muggy jungle with many mosquitos (Elyza and I sprayed, did I say spray?  Let me reword, coated ourselves with mosquito repellent) to prevent getting bitten.  Elyza has become an incredible walker---she no longer complains or whines.  She seems to be a natural now and doesn't even seem to notice that we are, indeed, walking!  We get to the area---Antonio explains to me that we are not allowed to use the chairs, snorkeling gears or bathroom for they are reserved only for people staying at the resort. But, we could use their beach and coean.  I must admit that it did seem strange to be on the other side---to be on the "poor" side staring at the wealthy.  We lounged on tree branches, used nature as the bathroom, stared at the people as they ate their lunch.  We did, however, bring our own lunch, but it was strange to not be able to mingle with them.  A very powerful learning experience indeed.  They did make more money off of that tiny, private beach though.

Elyza has learned to mother nature as a toy.  In this bay, there was a floating log.  We used it to imagine us rowing our boat to Africa (we saw another island across the bay). Elyza found a small starfish on this beach.

We stayed at a strange hostel that night---you had to go through a restaurant, through the kitchen and enter a different world entirely, go up narrow spiral staircase and into the room.  The room was of wood panel with old paintings of the desert.  There were rickety chairs, many of them---enough for all three of Antonio's friends to sit.  I really can't describe the place appropriately--and am sorry that I didn't take videos of the room.  I did, however, take a video of Elyza enjoying the attention from all of us---and all of us watching her.  Try, if you can, to take a good look of the room.  Never saw anything like that before!

The next day, the three of us traveled to Playa Del Coco---it is really a beautiful, beautiful town, mixed with fancy homes and normal "Tico" homes.  There are three different beaches near that town, we visited Playa Ocotal, where the sand is incredibly soft and black.  The beach was really quiet and serene.  Check out the two below and notice the black sand.

We decided to take a vacation from a vacation.  Off we go to Nicaragua, to Antonio's country.  Again, he shows us the way.  He needed to update his passport, so we follow him.  It was a six hour ordeal---we wake up at 3AM to catch the bus, and transfer over to three different buses.  Elyza never complained!  She has been an amazing traveller and has been able to keep up with her mother's gypsy ways.  

We get to the border---oh, my!  Where do I even begin?  First of all, it pouring thick, heavy rain.  There are three long, very long lines!  Antonio was kind enough to stand out in the rain while we stood under the awning to stay dry.  This is just the beginning of many chaotic, sorry, I can't even think of the right words to use, ways.  The first line was for us to use to leave Costa Rica.  Then we have to run in the rain, remember, there are no paved roads, so the earth turned to slippery brown mud with many puddles for us to jump over.  Again, Elyza was a champ throughout this ordeal.  I had thought we were running to get to the next bus.  Nope, nope and nope.  Now we had to stand in another line just to enter Nicaragua.  Just as we approach to the window, the migration officer takes on look at us and says that we have to go around the corner of the building first!  We go around and see several people, what looked like to me lounging, at a table.  I find out that this table is where the write down our names and country---and somehow this had something to do with the Swine Flu.  As of now, I still don't get how this has anything to do with keeping the country safe from the flu.  Anyway, then we scramble to push our way back to the window---and then we are allowed in the country.  The video below is the line to leave Costa Rica.

We then head over the place to renew Antonio's passport.  I had imagined that it would take place in a cool, air conditioned building much like our DMV.  Whoo hoo, another lesson learned, those buildings are only in industrialized countries and by golly, they are a luxury!  As soon as we get out of the cab, a paparazzi of people come running to our door---open it and start talking frantically to us.  This is one way people make money---we pick a person and tell them what we need, and that person supposedly will "guide" us---after we use their support, we pay them a fee.  Here is Antonio getting his passport.  Nothing at all similar to us.  And, I'm uncomfortably hot!  This same area also has a typist who types up information---and is a restaurant.  To make a very long, complicated story short, it took him three days to finally get a receipt to pick up his passport.

We then head over to his friend's house.  There are two boys and two pet chickens.  Elyza fell in love with the chickens (sigh).  She also played soccer with the boys on the street in front of their house.  She got to experience another kind of life---one where you have to work hard for everything, take a shower by drawing water from a bucket and repeatedly dump water on your head, find entertainment with no toys (play soccer on the street), be in a place where it is hot and no air conditioner, only eat sparingly-no starvation, I promise (snacks are a luxury), watch out for fast cars (there doesn't seem to be any rules for cars), flushing toilet by pulling a string,  and etc.  

Check out Elyza playing soccer with a friend.  All of Antonio's friends and family have been so warm and welcoming.  Many were curious to know what I think of them.  I was suprised by their curiosity and in turned asked what they thought of me.  They all said that they could tell that I was a good person with a good heart.  I asked them how they were able to say that without knowing me, they in turn replied, "I may not know you personally, but it's what I am feeling..."  I like that.  I like that a lot.  Because, in the US, we tend to doubt people long before we give them a chance to know them better.  I think I'll work on that---it seems like a warmer and more gentler way to feel and live.

Nicaragua is a very beautiful country---but very, very intense.  Elyza immediately said to me, "Mommy, everything looks so poor here."  She was an amazing sport throughout the whole trip--it really wasn't easy but very interesting.  There so much more to share, but that's probably a whole different blog.

At bus station, heading on back to Costa Rica.

Ok, we come home in three more days.  My heart is already yearning for the ocean, long slumbering days---but very ready to come back to the comfort of our own home!

Hasta Luego!

sábado, 4 de julio de 2009

Costa Rica's Weird Ways (Elyza made this title up)

We really tried, we really did!  Dena, her lovely mum, Elyza and I all got in a rental car with a plan to visit Rincon De Viaja.  It's a national park that has volcanoes and natural mud baths.  Somehow, our friends thought that they had the proper maps---perhaps, they did but the maps didn't get us to where we wanted to go.  As we drove on and on---observing the beautiful stunning green view---finally we decided to ask a lone motorcyclist how to get to Rincon De Viaja.  He pointed in the direction of the park.   And on and on we went.  Hmmm...we still didn't see any National Park signs.  We got further and further away from mankind.  We saw a person on a horse, and we asked him where the park was.  He pointed in the same direction as the lone motorcyclist.  Well, heck, if there are two people who look so confident and point in the same direction---surely, we must be going in the right direction, right?  We even asked two more different people, who also pointed in the same direction.  Finally, we see a fairly large restaurant.  By this time, we are quite hungry and perplexed.  We asked the guy who works at the restaurant where the park was.  He explained to us that we were on the other side of the park and about one and half hour away from the entrance.  That was quite an experience!  And, a fun one too! 

After our try to see the park, we then head over to Playa Avenella---where surfers love to go.  There are strong, huge waves----beautiful but too scary for this mama.  We stopped at a famous spot called: Lola's.  All of sudden, we see a woman talking sweetly and happily to something---and that something was a.....big, fat pig.  It was an odd sight to see.  The woman explained to us that the restaurant was names after a pig named Lola.  Lola passed away and now they have a new pig named Rosa.  The woman was a pig trainer---training Rosa to be a pet and learn the proper living boundaries.  Hmmmm....quite a sight to see!

My darling Elyza announced one day that she wanted to try surfing!  The nice thing about staying in a small town is that it is easy to build network and a community of friends.  I asked one Tico if he could teach Elyza.  Because he is familiar with me, he was willing to give her private lessons for about half the price it is normally charged for others.  In addition, he also did it outside his work---so he was able to receive the money directly from me.  Elyza is a fast learner---and has taken two lessons thus far.  The instructor was really impressed with how quickly Elyza learned.  And, now Elyza is hooked.  Every day she says, "I really wish I could surf right now!"  See, we should move to closer to a beach (sorry to announce this mama!).

Another crisis happened with that darn sink!  Hot, muy caliente water was suddenly shooting straight out from under the sink (it looked like a very small fire hydrant)!  Did I say hot?  Luckily my darling Elyza was quick enough to move out of the way (it was literally two inches from her side).  My sister, another visitor and Elyza were not able to come out of the bedroom for a little bit because the hot water was blocking them.  I had to get one of the neighbors to show me how to turn off all the water (again).  After that mishap, steam was spurting from the water tank for a long time!  Again, we had no water for two days because the plumbers would be available for two more days.  We had two cottages---one to sleep in and one to use water in.  Check out our little flood!

martes, 23 de junio de 2009

Tell Me Why We Should Come Home....

We went horse back riding! This was Elyza's first time riding on a horse by herself. This was a pretty neat ride---we went through neighborhoods, to an off beaten path (again the view is just stunning), through a very small river---and a huge rainstorm started---and yet, we continued to ride on. There are dogs roaming on the streets everywhere---and they always bark at the horses as if it's some kind of game. The horses ignored them which made our ride very peaceful.

Friends come to visit! And, that friend, Dena, was so much fun for Elyza!

We decided to go to Playa Conchal (means beach with shells--literally). We have to take the bus to Playa Conchal---it's about a 25 minute ride away from Tamarindo. Then you walk through a small town, Brasilito, get to Playa Brasilito and then walk towards Playa Conchal---all about a 15 minute walk (Elyza has gotten so used to walking everywhere that she no longer complains!). Now, here's where it gets really interesting, we, walkers, share the beach with cars. Playa Brasilito is also the road that leads to Playa Conchal. There doesn't seem to be any rules or speed limits here in Costa Rica, and especially, on the road. There are a lot of ATV's--and super young teenagers driving them like they racing for NASCAR. Oh goodness, it hardly makes the walk enjoyable. And, then you have to walk up a very narrow path, which means you have to be squeezed right alongside the cars. I've explained to my friends and tourists that YOU have to watch for cars, for they are not watching for YOU! Check out the narrow path.

This was Elyza first time snorkling. Unfortunately, there weren't very many fish on the shallow end--and I'm not comfortable having Elyza swim in the deeper parts of the ocean just yet. She was very pleased to have seen four fish though. Look at what a natural she is!

And, then it rained! Not lightly, not gently, it poured! And, poured! We were told that the bus would come at 3PM. These buses come very infrequently, so just to make sure we wouldn't miss that bus, I wanted to get to the busstop by 2:30. Weeellllll, 3PM comes and goes. 3:30 passes. 4PM also passes. Ahem, finally, the bus arrives at 4:15. It was still raining so hard so we had to stand up while waiting for the bus (the seats were wet). I find out that the bus we were on doesn't drive directly back to Tamarindo---so we had to get off to take another bus. Luckily, we only had to wait a few minutes for the next bus. But, Costa Rica doesn't have bus transfers, so I had to pay again! I used every last coins I had left! I simply wasn't prepared for all this--no rain jacket, not a lot of cash (don't like to carry too many and refuse to bring credit cards on the beach) and no snacks! Elyza was a great sport throughout all this!

Until next time, Pura Vida!

viernes, 19 de junio de 2009

And, the Adventures Continue!

One fine day, out of the blue, while on the beach, just who do you think we see? That's right, our peaceful, kind neighbors. Check them out!

We have made quite a bit of friends here---unfortunately, no children for Elyza, but plenty of adults who just absolutely adore Elyza (children go to school year-round and we are not in the right location because, apparently, Tamarindo is too expensive--most workers live in the next town over). It's like a very small town where everyone knows your name. The longer I stay, the more welcome they make me feel. Now, I am learning a little bit more about their personal lives. Many people who live in Tamarindo are actually not Costa Ricans. There seems to be a huge mixture of Colombians (they've explained to me that the government is too corrupt) and Nicaraguans (they have explained to me that their country is now peaceful and very welcoming---but there are few jobs there). Elyza has been given several free bracelets because they want her to remember them in America. I feel guilty---so I have repaid them by buying them ice cream on hot days. Here are a few of our friends--Carol and Antonio. They are both from Nicaragua---they both keep telling me that we need to visit their country. Maybe we just will, it's a six hour bus ride. Hmmm...just maybe...

We used to have another friendly neighbor, the kitty cat. She would always manage to find her way into our house---as well as our other neighbors. We've all gotten really attached to her but, she didn't quite make it (details are too gory to put here). We all miss her.

We finally took a field trip to Monte Verde. Antonio, our friend, offered to go with us because he knew his way around very well---and it saved us a lot of money. We got to travel "local" style---public bus--talk about cheap---and six hours long. We got up at 5AM to catch the 5:30 bus. Elyza was an amazing traveller---she didn't complain at all! As we got closer to Monte Verde, the hill got steeper and steeper and rockier and rocker. Talk about stopping this mama's heart! This was a very old bus we were riding on this unpaved road. But, the view was beyond stunning, nothing I've ever seen before. Monte Verde was a nice change in weather---it is very hot and humid where we are living--and quite cool up there. We went to the SerpentHouse--which was disappointing because we didn't see any "amazing" snakes and the Butterfly Pavillion. It's such a difference here in regards to the rules---when you go to the Butterfly Pavillion at home, we are told that the butterflies are so fragile so we shouldn't touch them. Here, they want us to touch them, hold them if we can---they even let Elyza release a few butterflies.

We stayed at a really nice hostel called Hotel Tucan. It was fairly cheap--they had a lot of hammocks for us to swing on. There were people from all over the world----literally. It was nice to talk to a lot of different people along the way. They even made us breakfast--so we had a community breakfast. Check out the videos below:

We also lucked out---we happened to be there on a day some kind of important procession was going to take place. Prior to the procession, there were families on the street decorating a section on the street with designs all around the block. It was really interesting to see everyone, including children, decorating the street. I was impressed how much care and time was taken for each section. What a lovely way to spend a morning with your family! Check out the designs:

When Elyza saw that there was a nail stand (I'm sorry, I don't know what they're called)---she just had to get her nails done. And, of course, when I found out how cheap it was, how could I resist? There was a little girl watching Elyza get her nails done, and goodness, how she could talk (yes, even more than Elyza)! The girl was so cute. In addition, the manicurist took Elyza's nails very seriously, she filed every nail, cut them perfectly and pushed those cuticles back----and decorated them all in 45 minutes! Elyza loved every bit of it!

One fine day, we were in the ocean, there was a family not too far from us----I noticed Elyza moving closer and closer to them--and suddenly come swimming back to me with a big smile on her face saying that they spoke English! She wasted no time and made fast friends. We spent the whole day with them---they were Panamian but the children lived in Texas. They were a generous family inviting us to lunch AND dinner at 8:30PM! It was a fun-filled day for Elyza!

Pura Vida!

jueves, 11 de junio de 2009

So much fun here!

Whew! It's really so much fun here. I really enjoy the slow pace and the repetive lifestyle here---so unlike home where our life seems to be in such a rush, rush all the time---running from one place to another. Even though, we seemed to have created such a comfortable routine, there have been several adventures that have happened along the way. One day, we saw two people riding a horse on the beach--while carrying a surfboard! Check it out!

And, of course, just like anywhere else, things break. My teeny tiny pipe the connects the sink to the water pipe broke. I noticed one day that there seemed to be a large puddle of water under the sink. I thought that perhaps, I was being too messy. As I bent down to wipe up the puddle, I noticed that water was dripping from the pipe. I touched it, and crrrraaaaack, it broke! Just like that! I had to e-mail the cottage manager, for I have no access to phones,---thank heavens, she e-mailed right back saying that she would send someone over. My first thought was---when? Would that mean I'd have to hang out in the cottage all day just to let someone in? Luckily, someone did come quickly---but only to look at it. He shut off the water to my place (sink, shower, laundry, etc)--and said that he will be back later. I asked him what later meant. He didn't know. I asked him if there was any way he could be more specific--he said, "Tomorrow between 7:30-8:30 in the morning." He arrived at 7AM instead---no matter, now we have water--and can brush our teeth, take a shower, finish my laundry, etc. Look at the pipe below.

Here is a video of these adorable monkeys!

The supermarket here is very expensive--which I find rather annoying. I've learned to search elsewhere for fresh fruits and vegetables--and there's a truck full of of them---but they only come once a week. So, I tried to stock up with them. In addition, someone told me to get fish from the fish shack where the seafood is extremely cheap and fresh. He told me it'd be about $3. We go to the fish shack--and I managed to ask for a fish as well as ask how much it was in Spanish--which he said was $3. I also ordered shrimp--but somehow my English slipped--and suddenly the whole thing was $12! I told my friend, Antonio, about it---so now, he has to go buy the fish for me to keep the price low! Here are two different videos:

And lastly for this posting, check out the beautiful sunset.

Hasta Luego!

viernes, 5 de junio de 2009

What day is it today?

It's so easy to blend in with the simple Costa Rican lifestyle. Get up, eat---drink delicious coffee--swim in the pool, go to the beach, nap, eat, beach some more and eat again. Very relaxing.

Next to the beach is this awsome playground. Just a bunch of long cloths hanging from a tree and a bamboo platform. I can't help but look up to see if there are any rips in the cloth---there are several---but then again, Elyza doesn't have far to fall nor would she get very hurt if she did. It also made me realize how paranoid we can get back home. We would never be allowed to have this kind of playground. Elyza prefers this over the regular playground (which they also have but shc claims that it's very boring). Check out the coolest playground ever!

As I've mentioned before, Tamarindo used to be a sleeping village---and is now very touristy. The food and stores tend to be VERY expensive. I was getting a little discouraged by the high prices until one day...I found the real Tico food. This is where all the workers on the beach eat. My goodness, talk about delicious homemade food! Even Elyza enjoyed it!

More to come later!

miércoles, 3 de junio de 2009

Day 2

There are NO street signs here---in fact, there are no paved roads here---there are paths that lead to places (shortcuts, really). Those of you who have seen me get lost time and time again, due to my poor sense of direction, I mean, really poor sense of direction, may think it funny. Surprisingly, I have been able to find my way around without any help! Check it out...

As we're walking along the path, just who do you think we meet? Our friendly neighbors, so polite and peaceful---the cows! Dang, those cows are skinny--or maybe that's how cows are really supposed to look like---perhaps, I'm just used to seeing our BIG cows stuffed from oh, stuff. Our wonderful hostess, Elyza, continues to lead the way....

We hung out on the beach all day---the water is so warm and gentle. The sun doesn't have that strong Colorado glare so it's actually possible to not wear sunglasses, which is really wonderful for I so dislike wearing them. The Costa Ricans selling things on the beach are so friendly and overly trusting. Several people came up to me with beautiful pottery and jewelry---I have told several of them that I don't have the money on me---guess what they did---they gave them to me anyway and told them to pay them tomorrow! I asked them how they could b so trusting, one of them answered me by saying it's the way of the Costa Ricans! Imagine people doing that at home---would it even work for us to be so trusting? Hmmm....something to think about.

Today there is a futbol game between Costa Rica and USA---every store, every bar, every restaurant has the tv blaring---I don't think I've ever heard people shouting for joy so loudly (yes, louder than the football stadium at home) every time the Costa Ricans score. They look over to me and nod their head at me. I just smile right back at them. I can't help but feel a bit competitive...

Until tomorrow, Pura Vida!

Playa Tamarindo- Day 1

It was quite interesting to see a lot of the airport staff wearing a mask over the mouth and nose---I assume that they were worried about contracting the Swine Flu. Customs was a piece of cake and very quick. Suitcases were already on the floor after customs. Elyza was already complaining about the humidity---saying that she wanted to go home. I think any child would want to go home after travelling all day and is extremely tired. She fell asleep as soon as we got into the cab (an additional hour of travelling).

Arrived to our casita---talk about casita---I knew it'd be small---but not that primitive. It's probably a good 350 square feet---propane camping stove as an oven---water tank for sink---thank heavens, AC in the bedroom! We're quickly loving this home! We're realizing that you really don't need much to live.

Very friendly people here---a lot of people that actually look like Elyza---same hair. She is wearing her hair down for the first time in years and is loving it!

The water is so warm and clean. The coffee so delicious! Apparently, Tamarindo was a sleeping village just five short years ago and has suddenly sprawled into a strip. The strip is quite touristy---but luckily, this is off season, so there are very few tourists. However, there are locals that are suggesting where to go that's more "localized" if you know what I mean.

That's all for now! Check back frequently for I'll be updating the blog with writings and videos while Elyza is either napping or sleeping.