Wednesday, February 17, 2010


We decided that before leaving the country, we wanted to see what people call the crown jewel of Costa Rica, Manuel Antonio National Park. We took a three-hour bus ride from La Legua, over many dirt roads. Thankfully, the other volunteers from the ranch had told me about their trips here so I had a good idea of what to expect. We had a great trip here.

After we left La Legua and descended from the mountains to the valley, it became humid pretty fast.

We went to Vista Serena, a hostel at the top of a hill with an amazing view of the Pacific Ocean. We didn't have reservations but there was room. I decided that three days would be enough time to see what we wanted to see, and to take time to do what we needed (kind of complicated to explain). It's only $10 a night per person to stay here, and the owners are very kind and friendly. They used to live in California but relocated here to take care of their grandparents.

We have met people from Canada, France, Haiti, Germany, Chile, Bulgaria, and from various states back home. One 17-year-old guy, an unschooler, is here for two months to surf and learn Spanish. He also spent time in Uganda, and plans to go to Jamaica with a friend. Pretty impressive. Plus, he is traveling all alone. That's what's even more impressive.

Alex played guitar last night and made friends with some of the sweetest Canadians I've ever had the pleasure of meeting. They were, as Teodora would say, bien centrados, very centered. They were smart about Canadian as well as American politics, and were so down-to-earth and easy to talk to. We exchanged e-mails and I'm looking forward to keeping in touch with them.

Antonio has enjoyed the free internet in the lobby, spending a lot of time keeping in touch with friends and doing a lot of reading. He has enjoyed the slower pace and the ability to get up later in the morning. It's been a really nice break for all of us.

We spent our second day reading, mostly. I had proposed that we go to the national park but the kids were happy with a day of meeting travelers and reading. This place attracts the most fascinating people. Their stories, which they readily share, leave me awe-truck at times. This is one of the reasons I love traveling, and I hope the kids learn to love it, too, so they will always have a goal, something to which they can look forward and not get stuck in a rut.

The sunset tonight was gorgeous, right over the Pacific Ocean. I'll post pictures when I am near a working USB port, possibly when we return to La Legua on Friday.

I met a girl from Olympia, Washington, who was working on a chocolate farm, not too far from where we are. She stayed there for only 5 days, since she had gotten a hundred or so bug bites and was unhappy. Working outside in the elements is not for the faint of heart. Farmers are some of the hardest working people I've ever met. Ticos in general have a good work ethic, and a happy outlook on life. They don't sweat the small stuff for the most part, since they are used to
obstacles and curveballs. The people I meet on the bus and on the street are open-hearted and sincere, and ready to help you if you have a question. There are some aspects, like petty theft, that I could do without, but since it hasn't happened to us I really can't complain too much. We are way more aware of our belongings than in the US, and the kids have impressed me on so many levels with their maturity. It has been good for all of us to come here, though I will say that 2 plus months is a long visit. Antonio was right, a month would be preferrable, but I give him mad props for being cheerful during some trying circumstances.

As I mentioned, we'll go to the national park tomorrow and I can hardly wait. Stories and pictures will be posted soon.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

San José zoo, museums and a pizza in Puriscal

I did notice that the same picture was posted twice, I tried to remove it but couldn´t. Así son las cosas, as they say here. (Their equivalent of c´est la vie.)
We went to San José and visited a small zoo and two museums, one of which had unconventional musical instruments that you could play. The music sounded like it came from The Triplets of Belleville - eerie and a bit grating.
I took Antonio out for pizza yesterday and it was really delicious. I didn´t realize how much I´d missed it.
Last night some wild pigs were audibly eating, just below out cabaña where it is open on the side of a hill. Leticia thought it might be armadillos, but when I described the sounds they made she was sure it had to be wild boars. She insisted that they are tame. Ah, I think I´ll keep my distance just the same. Thank God they finally wandered off around 11 pm. I made pig squeals to try to scare them off, but I only succeeded in waking up Alex. It was completely funny and ridiculous to me. This trip has been a series o episodes like that. Just when I think I´ve adjusted to life here, something else surprises me!

Friday, February 5, 2010

Coffee Roasting

Alex is in the top photo, taken two days ago, laughing as he is staining a support beam.
All the other photos are from today´s roasting of coffee beans, from raw beans, to roasting, to separating the shells, to packaging. So much work goes into making the organic coffee, and I can buy a pound for 1750 Colones, or about $3.50 U.S. So inexpensive. Wonder what the price would be at Whole Foods?

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Machetes, oh my

The top photos is one of my favorite things about Costa Rican hardware stores. You can buy machetes of all sizes. Very useful here, where electricity is costly, and importing tools from the U.S. can mean paying a lot extra in taxes.

The next photo is at the same hardware store. I found it very amusing that you could buy spurs there. Right next to them were bits for reins. Lots of horses and cattle here. I´ll miss it all when I go.

And finally, there is a picture of the bar in the restaurant. We just finished sanding and sealing the flat part of the bar. It was a long week, but I am so proud of Alex and Tonio for their hard work. This will be an inforgettable couple of months for them.

OK, time to catch the bus back to La Legua. Hasta luego.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Work day at the ranch

Antonio and Alex are using electric sanders. I promise you that we prefer these to hand sanding! Glad that the Week of Sanding is ovah.
There are volunteer ambulances here, hence the Red Cross sign.
Fires to burn brush or household garbage are common. This fire was on our road, unattended. This is also common. I saw a fire in a public park and young kids went up to examine it, no adults around. Very interesting, and not likely something you´d see in the States!
And finally, a random picture (aren´t they all?) of mi arbol favorito, my favorite tree. Speaking Spanish almost all day makes me want to teach Spanish when I have enough time back home. Such a great thing it is to be able to talk freely with people here!

Monday, January 25, 2010

The restaurant

The top three photos were taken in Rancho Montezumo´s restaurant/bar, and the bottom one was taken in Puriscal. The flower is a hibiscus, and they are everywhere right now. You can also see lots of bougainvillea. So pretty.
Jose and Leticia work seven days a week, and almost never take a vacation. I admire their dedication.
We tried some homamade wine today, which they call chicha (the same as in Peru). It was sweet and strong, and tasted a little like corn. It wasn´t bad for moonshine! They can´t sell it in the bar at Montezumo, but they can use it as a mixer for other drinks, like whiskey. Jose told me he would teach me how to make it. Too funny.
We eat our meals in the restaurant on the weekends since that is where Leticia and Jose spend all their time. One of their patrons surprised me by taking a close look at my blonde hair and being openly flirtacious with the American volunteers. Not my scene, though I was amused that he thought it was perfectly fine to think of my hair as a kind of science experiment.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Alex and Tiago are below, fishing for tilapia in the pond on the property.

Part of a mural, above, at the University for Peace in El Rodeo, near Ciudad Colon.