Costa Rica Journal

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azbackpackr
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Costa Rica Journal

Post by azbackpackr » Jan 07 2012 4:29 pm

The countdown is on, less than a week to go! I'm off to Costa Rica on Friday morning! I have probably gained quite a few new gray hairs over the past few weeks, what with all the hassle in getting a correct authentication/apostille on my birth certificate (would you believe the California Secretary of State made an error and the Consulate would not accept the document?) I had to have that in order to get a student visa. I ought to run for President, what with all the problems with my birth certificate. I have had to order THREE of them!

So, look for me hereon this thread over the coming months, and I will post up some photos (and likely even some hikes) from time to time. It will be fun to keep in touch with everyone while I'm there, too!
There is a point of no return unremarked at the time in most lives. Graham Greene The Comedians
A clean house is a sign of a misspent life.

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azbackpackr
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Re: Costa Rica Journal

Post by azbackpackr » Jan 19 2012 6:33 am

I signed up for a Latin American Cultures class, taught in Spanish. I went to it for the first time yesterday. El profesor is very charismatic and fun. He's actually a lawyer, but has taught at USAC for 15 years. We'll go on 3 field trips. Two are day trips. The first to coffee and sugar plantations near San Ramon, where we can buy the fantastic Costa Rican coffee for about $4 a bag. The next trip will be to Isla de San Lucas, where there is a historic prison where the conquistadors kept the Indians in a sort of concentration camp. Also known as the Island of Unspeakable Horrors. After learning about the unspeakable horrors committed by the conquistadors, we'll go swimming. The third trip will be to the capital, San Jose, for three days. We'll stay in a large private house. After class, el profesor told me he will assign me a private room for the trip to San Jose, since the young students are far too lively at night to suit my quiet habits.

I love the young students, and am making lots of friends. There is only one other student from NAU.

I think my next photo project will be of houses, which are very different here. All houses have barred gates and fences. All houses have barred windows. They are all like little fortresses. Some of them have covered patios that open out right onto the sidewalk. There is often a gate big enough to allow a small car to be parked inside. These patios next to the sidewalk are usually set up as living spaces, with outdoor furniture, sometimes even a TV. And in the afternoons in Puntarenas, especially on weekends, it's customary for many people to take all their outdoor furniture out onto the sidewalk and sit, where their neighbors can stop by and visit them.

Most houses have an atrium or courtyard or backyard where they grow some beautiful tropical plants.

The house I'm living in is set back from the street, so there is actually a small front yard with plants. There is a 10-foot fence around the whole place, and a dog that will bark at intruders is kept in the backyard. The gate is kept locked most of the time. It is not that Puntarenas is such a bad area for crime, although there are burglars and pickpockets. But this way of building fortified houses has been customary for hundreds of years. The outside of my house is painted a bright blue, and the house across the street is bright yellow-green. Lots of them are painted in bright colors.

Food that is served daily in homes is usually kind of bland. It is based around red beans and rice, although my hostess tries to be a little creative. She even tried Mexican food yesterday: small flour tortillas with lettuce, chicken and cheese inside. She also serves me fish. I told her I like papayas and other fruit, so she always gives me fruit at breakfast time. She doesn't serve much beef. I think beef must be very expensive. People here don't have much money. Boarding a student is probably her main source of income, and I am paying less than $500 per month for room and 3 meals a day.

Time to get ready for school.
There is a point of no return unremarked at the time in most lives. Graham Greene The Comedians
A clean house is a sign of a misspent life.

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mikehikes
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Re: Costa Rica Journal

Post by mikehikes » Jan 19 2012 1:05 pm

Meow :sl:

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azbackpackr
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Re: Costa Rica Journal

Post by azbackpackr » Jan 19 2012 2:21 pm

mikehikes wrote:Meow :sl:
Oh ho, ho ho haha, here we go again, and poor Mike has no idea of what sort of cat-hole he has just fallen into:
viewtopic.php?f=69&t=5811&start=0&hilit ... feral+cats
¡MIAU!

(Meow! in Spanish)
There is a point of no return unremarked at the time in most lives. Graham Greene The Comedians
A clean house is a sign of a misspent life.

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dround
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Re: Costa Rica Journal

Post by dround » Jan 19 2012 3:45 pm

This is great reading, have fun.
I like hearing about the food (cat free stuff) and hiking of course.
Last edited by dround on Jan 19 2012 4:03 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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mikehikes
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Re: Costa Rica Journal

Post by mikehikes » Jan 19 2012 3:58 pm

Agreed. Cat does make a great food. :STP:

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azbackpackr
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Re: Costa Rica Journal

Post by azbackpackr » Jan 19 2012 5:27 pm

Watch out, Mike. Our fearless leader, Joe B., has been known to take umbrage at people who disparage cats. :D (Ask Alston and ToughBoots if you don't believe me!) Meow!

I just walked out to see the sunset at the beach. Odd how the sunset and sunrise are both best seen from the same beach! The sun sets behind the mountains on the Nicoya Peninsula across the Bay of Nicoya. I'll post photos later. I went out there with another student, a friendly guy who greeted a lot of the Ticos. Several greeted him back, stopped to shake our hands, we exchanged names, they talked to us, tried out their few English words on us. I doubt it would be considered proper for me to just walk up to a lot of random people and offer a handshake. I think a guy can do that more easily here.

Today it was pretty hot during the midday hours. Like Tucson in July. I stayed inside by the fan and read a book and waited until it cooled off a bit. It does cool off a lot, and is much cooler along the water.

For dinner tonight, rice without the beans, fish, french fries, some kind of punch. Sometimes there are more veggies, other times not. I just eat it. It's not that great, but it's not all that bad, either. LOTS of starchy foods. I am trying to just eat small portions because otherwise it is just too much starch.
There is a point of no return unremarked at the time in most lives. Graham Greene The Comedians
A clean house is a sign of a misspent life.

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oceanwithin
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Re: Costa Rica Journal

Post by oceanwithin » Jan 19 2012 8:16 pm

I'm enjoying reading of your adventures already :) Costa rica sounds amazing!

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azbackpackr
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Re: Costa Rica Journal

Post by azbackpackr » Jan 19 2012 9:03 pm

I just came back from a walk with two Ticas: my hostess and her friend. I'm short, but I tower over these two ladies! It's a balmy evening, as usual. Very comfortable temperature for wearing shorts and flipflops. There were quite a few people at the beach, but not as many as on Saturday night. Boys on skateboards, girls on skates, and kids playing barefooted soccer (futbol). Music spilled out onto the street from one of the little bars. Many people greeted my companions.

I wanted to see if I could spot the constellation known as the Southern Cross (made famous by Crosby, Stills and Nash). It is only visible in tropical latitudes, and south of the equator. I have seen it before when living in Hawaii, very low on the horizon. But Costa Rica is a bit further south than Hawaii. (Hawaii is at about the same latitude as Mexico City.) We stopped and sat on a bench facing the ocean, and while they debated the relative merits of major appliances from Germany, China and Switzerland, I tried to figure out the stars. Too much ambient light to see very many. There was a big kite-shaped cross over the ocean to the south, but after looking at pictures on the internet, I am not certain it was the Southern Cross.
There is a point of no return unremarked at the time in most lives. Graham Greene The Comedians
A clean house is a sign of a misspent life.

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Re: Costa Rica Journal

Post by PaleoRob » Jan 20 2012 6:47 am

azbackpackr wrote: Southern Cross (made famous by Crosby, Stills and Nash)
I prefer the Jimmy Buffett cover. Love reading the updates!
"The only thing we did was wrong was staying in the wilderness to long...the only thing we did was right was the day we started to fight..."
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azbackpackr
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Re: Costa Rica Journal

Post by azbackpackr » Jan 20 2012 7:42 pm

Today we went to Playa Caldera. It's a beach that is not easy to get to. First you have to take a taxi or bus to a shipyard, walk past the shipyard, and then along a beach and then along a trail to another beach, which is good for surfing. It's not actually in Puntarenas, but a short distance down the coast. I had a really great time. I had not bodysurfed in years, and I did bring my fins. I caught lots of waves!

Check out the photoset of the most gorgeous Playa Caldera: http://hikearizona.com/photoset.php?ID=18393

On the way home we took the bus! I felt a little sorry for all the Ticos on the bus when twenty students carrying 3 surfboards climbed on! The bus ride took a long time to get back to Puntarenas, but it was an interesting ride. Next time I'll take photos of riding the bus.

Tomorrow we're going to Isla Tortuga, where we'll go snorkeling, among other things. This will be a trip sponsored by the school. I can't wait!
There is a point of no return unremarked at the time in most lives. Graham Greene The Comedians
A clean house is a sign of a misspent life.

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big_load
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Re: Costa Rica Journal

Post by big_load » Jan 20 2012 8:55 pm

azbackpackr wrote:After learning about the unspeakable horrors committed by the conquistadors, we'll go swimming.
Great sentence! I hope the swim is cleansing.

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mikehikes
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Re: Costa Rica Journal

Post by mikehikes » Jan 23 2012 1:28 am

Como estas frijoles, caballo?

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azbackpackr
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Re: Costa Rica Journal

Post by azbackpackr » Jan 23 2012 6:38 am

Los frijoles are a lot better than the eggs scrambled with slices of hotdog, and liberal amounts of ketchup mixed in, which I was served for dinner last night. Ugh!

I was warned that everyday food in homes in Costa Rica can be pretty bland, and not super interesting. Some of the students tell me their host mama is a great cook, but I remember my daughter telling me that it was never too great at the house where she lived when she studied here. Plus, this household is clearly on a strict budget. Keeping a student is probably at least half their income, and I am paying less than $500 a month for room and 3 meals a day. Plain rice and plain beans are served with every meal, occasionally mixed together and spiced up, but usually just plain. There is usually a decent salad with a lime for dressing. My hostess has figured out I can't eat the portion size she was serving me and has cut it down quite a bit, thankfully. I truly didn't know what to do with all that food. She often gives me papaya or pineapple on the side for breakfast, along with rice, beans and scrambled eggs. The last couple of mornings the fruit was an orange instead.

We went to Isla Tortuga on a boat a couple of days ago, went snorkeling, jumped off a rock into the water, etc. Had a blast! I'll post the photos up later on. Right now, I am just about to get ready for my second week of school. I go 5 days a week, and my profs speak only Spanish in class. In fact, my main profesora for composition and conversation classes does not speak English at all, but the profesor for the Latin American cultures class is bilingual. Well, he's trilingual, actually. He also studied Polish, of all things. I can't wait to go to that cultures class on Wed. It's a blast! My daughter had the same prof, and said that one time he called to have Chinese food delivered to the classroom!

We were handed a photocopy of Gabriel Garcia Marquez' book, Chronicle of a Death Foretold. In Spanish. If you have ever read Garcia Marquez you will remember that his works are difficult to read, even in English. And I have to read it in Spanish! Ay que pena!

Oh, well, that's what I came here for, to be challenged in Spanish, and to have an experience of a different culture, and to be a bit outside of my comfort zone.
There is a point of no return unremarked at the time in most lives. Graham Greene The Comedians
A clean house is a sign of a misspent life.

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azbackpackr
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Re: Costa Rica Journal

Post by azbackpackr » Jan 23 2012 6:52 am

PS. My bedroom window, always open due to the hot climate, looks out onto the driveway and street. An older gentleman just rode by on a bicycle, singing, in an operatic voice and rolling his r's dramatically, "Malagueña Salerosa." "Malagueña Salerosa! Besar tus labios quisiera besar....tus labios quisiera...Malagueña Salerosa!"
There is a point of no return unremarked at the time in most lives. Graham Greene The Comedians
A clean house is a sign of a misspent life.

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azbackpackr
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Re: Costa Rica Journal

Post by azbackpackr » Jan 24 2012 7:04 pm

On Saturday we went to Isla Tortuga. It took an hour and a half to get there on a boat. We went snorkeling, swimming, jumped off a rock into the water, ate shrimp, and generally had a good time. The only animals I saw were the iguanas, and vultures. There is a private preserve on the island so you had to pay to go for a hike, horseback ride, etc. And my budget is slim, so I just enjoyed the beach. I was told there are boa constrictors and fer-de-lances on the island. The fer-de-lance is a particularly nasty poisonous pit viper. On the way there and on the way back we saw a modern day sailing ship, the Star Flyer, a brigantine. (A brigantine has the foremast square-rigged, the rest of the masts are fore-and-aft.) You can go on a cruise on the Star Flyer if you like to spend money.

Here's the photoset: http://hikearizona.com/photoset.php?ID=18469
Last edited by azbackpackr on Jan 25 2012 7:10 am, edited 1 time in total.
There is a point of no return unremarked at the time in most lives. Graham Greene The Comedians
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JimmyLyding
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Re: Costa Rica Journal

Post by JimmyLyding » Jan 24 2012 9:04 pm

There were monitor lizards there? I thought monitors are Old World lizards. Are they introduced? My buddy in college had a monitor as a pet, and let's just say it was not a very good pet.

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Re: Costa Rica Journal

Post by outdoor_lover » Jan 24 2012 9:33 pm

Actually they are not true "Monitors". They are called Tegus. They are native to South America, but are now in the USA.

http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/uw340
Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty & well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, totally worn out & proclaiming, "Wow What a Ride!"

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azbackpackr
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Re: Costa Rica Journal

Post by azbackpackr » Jan 25 2012 7:14 am

I guess they are iguanas. We had some discussion about it on the photo comment threads. I edited the text, changed it to monitors, then I re-edited it back to iguanas again.

Something is getting to me today, and I had to take some Immodium. Ugh! But I feel ok. Today I am going to walk to the downtown of Puntarenas, because I need a few things. Also will look for a boogey board, or at least a knock-off. I doubt I will find a Morey board in this town.
There is a point of no return unremarked at the time in most lives. Graham Greene The Comedians
A clean house is a sign of a misspent life.

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big_load
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Re: Costa Rica Journal

Post by big_load » Jan 25 2012 10:38 am

Iguanas make the most sense. When some of my college buddies traveled down there, they ate a lot of iguana tacos.

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azbackpackr
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Re: Costa Rica Journal

Post by azbackpackr » Jan 25 2012 11:21 am

big_load wrote:Iguanas make the most sense. When some of my college buddies traveled down there, they ate a lot of iguana tacos.
I think they are more protected these days. Costa Rica makes some effort to take care of the environment. It's still a dirty, scruffy, sketchy, crime-ridden Third World banana republic, with bad roads and a terrific problem with littering, though. I like it, but now that I have been here for almost two weeks, I have fewer illusions about it.
There is a point of no return unremarked at the time in most lives. Graham Greene The Comedians
A clean house is a sign of a misspent life.

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