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 » Feb 08 2012 6:44 am

I'll be doing a few hikes at volcanos and jungles, hopefully. Definitely not going camping, though. In order to do that I would have to pay through the nose for an ecotour type deal, which provides all the gear. I looked into that for hiking to the tallest peak in the country, which is over 12,000 feet, but it just cost too much. If we students go anywhere overnight, such as to a national park, we'll stay in hostels, which cost $8 to $20 per night. My budget is extremely slim.

I also have five more field trips, two of them multiday, with my school, which I paid for in advance. This Friday, we go to Isla San Lucas. The following Friday to Poás Volcano. The last weekend of the month we leave for N. Costa Rica and into Nicaragua (El Lago de Nicaragua) for 6 days. In March we'll go to San Jose for three days and to Monte Verde National Park for a weekend.
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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New2hyk
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Re: Costa Rica Journal

Post by New2hyk » Feb 12 2012 7:56 pm

that is soooooooooooooooo coooooooooooooooooool :y: I can't wait to see your journal log :DANCE:

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azbackpackr
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Re: Costa Rica Journal

Post by azbackpackr » Feb 13 2012 6:52 am

OK, I'll get caught up on it this week. We went to Isla San Lucas, and also we attended a parade at Carnaval, here in Puntarenas, which had 2,000 horses, most of them trained to do high-stepping (Tope).
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 » Feb 19 2012 8:09 am

Well, I'm getting behind on keeping this journal. Sorry folks!

COFFEE MILL: On February 3 we went to the sugar mill and the coffee mill in San Ramon. I already posted photos of the sugar mill. The coffee mill was also interesting to visit. Costa Ricans are proud of their coffee. They say it is the best-tasting coffee in the world. Furthermore, a family who owns, let's say, 5 hectares of coffee (about 12 acres) can have a net income of over $200,000 after expenses, according to my professor.

I personally think the coffee is pretty good, and they do ALWAYS brew it very strong, which I like. You are never going to get a weak cup of coffee in Costa Rica, thankfully. They do have a law here that specifies that only arabica beans are grown. What this means is they are aiming for the gourmet market. However, robusta beans are the ones with the kick. So, if you like your coffee to have a high caffeine content, then you might be disappointed. I know that I can drink three or four cups of the coffee I'm served at the house where I live, and it barely wakes me up in the morning, even though it is very strongly brewed.

At the coffee mill we were able to interview the owner and his top employee, an expert in coffee tasting. I told them I had lived on a coffee farm in Kona, Hawai'i, and I asked them for some comparisons. They were a bit scornful of Kona coffee. For one thing, they said it is legal to put only 30% Kona coffee into a blend and call it "pure Kona." Furthermore, if a bag of coffee says "Kona blend" it probably has almost NO Kona in it at all. I asked them why the caffeine content is so much higher in Kona coffee. I tried to explain that when I lived there I could buy directly from the grower, and I knew it wasn't blended. They said that either the grower has robusta coffee trees, or that it was a blend, with robusta beans added.

Later on I looked up the difference. Robusta is a different species of coffee. It is considered cheaper, harsher, and can be grown under less desirable conditions. Robusta is used to produce most of the world's supermarket coffee, such as Folger's, etc. I seem to recall that at the time I lived in Kona, there may have been robusta planted on some of the farms. I think at the time I lived there, back in the late 70's through the 80's, the debate about robusta vs. arabica was just getting started.

Personally, I do like a bit of kick in my coffee.

One thing I like about the coffee here is that it is not super dark-roasted. It's usually a medium roast. I didn't have time to ask them about that. What I remember from Kona days was that growers would use their less flavorful, "junk" beans to make French roast, since basically what you are doing is burning the coffee bean, so you don't really need the best beans for that level of roasting. Dark roasting destroys the really spicy, delicate flavors and aromas of really good coffee. It also lowers the caffeine content. So, if you want spicy flavor and high caffeine, you want a light to medium roast.

Anyway, we toured the coffee mill, seeing the process from where the coffee cherries are being dropped off by the farmers to the end process, which are beans ready for roasting. They mostly sell them to companies who will do the roasting, but they do have a roaster there, and I did buy a bag of coffee which was both roasted and ground, to give to my Tico family. I am not sure how much it weighed but I am thinking it was about a kilo, since it was much bigger than a pound, so maybe a ki, or 2.2 pounds. And it cost 4 bucks. I also bought a burlap coffee sack, new. It says "Cafe de Costa Rica, El Poeta, San Ramon, Cafe de Altura de San Ramon Especial S.A." And the logo on it looks like a harp. I am going to hang it on the wall back in the States.

During the time we were at the mill I think I saw about 7 or 8 Toyota FJ40's, took two photos. In the town of San Ramon itself I saw a lot of them, also. (We discussed this earlier in the thread, about the fact they were manufactured in Brazil until 2001, but have not been imported to the US since 1984.)

The coffee is being picked by hand, and when the grower arrives at the mill with his bags of coffee cherries, he's generally driving the FJ40 or a small pickup truck. He is not arriving in a great big truck. He receives only about the equivalent of $11 per bag, I was told. I recall picking coffee in Kona, around where I lived on a ranch. There was an old coffee grove that had been let go, and I picked a couple of bags of it. I remember I received $60 for each full bag at the mill in Kona. That was in about 1984. My professor said that one hectare (about 2.5 acres) can have about 4,000 little coffee trees. One plant produces about one bag of coffee per year, so that is a potential $44,000 per hectare in gross income. He then said that the cost of production and overhead would give the farmer about $22,000 in profit per hectare.

We wandered all over the mill. At one point they let us "swim" in the coffee. My camera didn't like the dark rooms for some reason. So, some of the photos are blurry.

After our visit to the coffee mill, we piled back into the bus and were driven to a big American-style mall in San Ramon. There is a store there called "Motor Oil Jeans." I looked it up on the internet afterward, and it is a small chain of stores in Costa Rica. Seems odd. Motor oil? Doesn't that have sort of an icky, dirty connotation, but not in a sexual way? Try googling "motor oil jeans." You will get a couple of hits for that store, but most of the hits you will get have to do with how to launder your jeans if they have become stained with motor oil. Something is lost here in the translation, and I don't think they would understand how we'd view it. They love everything American, especially naming their kids after American movie actors, wearing American styles, and of course, listening to American pop music.

Our professor treated us to KFC and Burger King. We didn't get to order ourselves, he just ordered 18 of the cheapest burgers (which were NOT very good) and fries, and then he went over to KFC and ordered piles of chicken. I almost never go to KFC in the States. It's too greasy. But it tasted SO good! Oh, my goodness.

After a steady diet of gallopinto (rice mixed with beans) and other bland and flavorless foods which I am served at the house where I live, I was ready for fast food, especially big pieces of chicken. The only chicken I get at my house is in very tiny chunks, mixed in with rice. I kid you not. It's a wonder I have not gained 10 pounds already from all the starch I eat here. There have been meals where I was served potatoes, rice, beans, and bread, with a sweet punch to drink, high in sugar. Usually, though, there are only 3 starchy foods served at a meal, not four. I think I will do the Adkins diet when I get back to the US! NO carbs! It's a good thing that diabetes doesn't run in my family at all. I think I can get through 4 months of this diet without permanent harm. One thing good, they serve me a green salad with a slice of lime for dressing for both lunch and dinner, almost every day.

PHOTOSET for coffee mill: http://hikearizona.com/photoset.php?ID=18793

Up next in my journal, a trip to Isla San Lucas, the Island of Unspeakable Horrors.
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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kevinweitzel75
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Re: Costa Rica Journal

Post by kevinweitzel75 » Feb 19 2012 9:23 am

I would have loved to visit that coffee mill. I LOVE COFFEE! Very interesting about the difference between the beans and how they are roasted. I always thought the darker the coffee the more flavor and caffeine. Good to know, I will be changing my coffee.
"Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the road less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference."
Robert Frost

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Sun_Ray
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Re: Costa Rica Journal

Post by Sun_Ray » Feb 20 2012 4:55 pm

We lived in San Ramon, CA for 20 years before moving to AZ 8 years ago. I LOVE coffee also...... our last two dogs were named Kona and Java. I would have loved the smell in the coffee plant...it's just the best way to start a day.
Brian
Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday......there is no SOMEDAY!

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azbackpackr
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Re: Costa Rica Journal

Post by azbackpackr » Feb 20 2012 6:01 pm

Sun Ray wrote:We lived in San Ramon, CA for 20 years before moving to AZ 8 years ago. I LOVE coffee also...... our last two dogs were named Kona and Java. I would have loved the smell in the coffee plant...it's just the best way to start a day.
Coffee mill doesn't smell like Starbucks, sorry. It smells very strongly of something, but not too pleasant. They don't roast the coffee there--that is what gives you the good smell. We did experience that smell in the roasting room, but they do that only on a small basis. Most of their coffee is marketed unroasted. They do sell to Starbucks, by the way.

I remembered that smell as we drove up to the mill. You can smell it all over the neighborhood of a coffee mill. The one in Kona smelled the same way. So, I got that nostalgic feeling again. I haven't been back to Kona since I moved to Arizona in 1986.
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 » Feb 25 2012 3:45 am

I'm off to Nicaragua this morning! We'll spend 3 days there, visiting the enormous Lake of Nicaragua, staying in Granada. We will also be visiting northern Costa Rica on the way back. We will be gone for 6 days, and I may or may not have internet.

I really have not kept up with this, have a lot of tales to tell.
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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WilliamnWendi
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Re: Costa Rica Journal

Post by WilliamnWendi » Mar 20 2012 1:04 pm

Just heard about an earthquake in Mexico. I hope you're doing ok.
The Tree of Understanding, dazzling, straight, and simple, sprouts by the spring called Now I Get It. - Wislawa Szymborska, "Utopia"

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azbackpackr
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Re: Costa Rica Journal

Post by azbackpackr » Mar 20 2012 4:50 pm

We had a little one here yesterday at 2 pm (1 pm Arizona time.) Epicenter was close by but it was only a 5. We had a 6 in Feb. but the epicenter was further away, felt like a 5. (I grew up in SoCal.)

I should post up some stuff on here. Just went on a trip to the capital of Costa Rica, San Jose. Also went to the city of Cartago and to the Orosi Valley. I went with my Latin American Cultures class. We visited the National Museum, the National Theater, a bunch of churches/cathedrals, and the hippie market.

Also should tell you guys about Nicaragua and N. Costa Rica where I went at the end of Feb. We went to the old Spanish Colonial city of Granada. We also went to a beach town called San Juan del Sur, and then on back into Guanacaste, Costa Rica where we went to a kind of ecoresort, with horseback riding, ziplines, a big waterslide, hanging bridges, etc. It was a fantastic trip!

I am enjoying school, although at times it is hard, since we have been learning the subjunctive tenses. Now, I have studied those before, but as anyone who has studied more than a couple of semesters of Spanish will know, they are a pain in the neck to learn. We had a big exam on them today.

Another class I'm taking is Spanish Conversation. We had a project to give an oral presentation about anything of our choosing, and we had to have PowerPoint presentation to go along with it. I chose Arizona as my topic. I wanted to show Arizona is not just desert, so I showed that. I also showed pics of cultural things. Everything from mariachis to opera, from river running to cowboys herding cattle. I showed a lot of photos from my adventures around the state. It went pretty well, I thought. I am not big on public speaking, and this was off-the-cuff, in Spanish. I didn't really plan everything I was going to say, I just made the slide show and talked about it as I showed the photos.

The class in Latin American Cultures, taught in Spanish, is interesting. I paid extra for the field trips, and it was well worth the $200, because we went places you would never see as a tourist, with transportation, food and lodging provided. We went on two one-day trips, and one three-day trip.

Any of you who have been to Costa Rica have probably visited Monteverde, the Cloud Forest. That's where we are going next weekend. It's a school trip. They told me that we will have to choose ziplining OR hanging bridges. That is going to be a hard choice, since I have already experienced both. Ziplining is very fun, but you don't see very much. Hanging bridges are fun because you can really look for birds and animals.

We have spring break coming up at the end of March. I am not sure if I am going to Panama or where I'm going. I want to see the Caribbean side of Central America, and am told that Panama is very cheap, and that Boca del Toro is gorgeous. However, it is Semana Santa for everyone in Central America, Easter Week. So, everyone is traveling. Also, my budget is very slim. My host "mom" suggests I stick around here, and go to places close by. That might be a good suggestion. Also, I met a woman on the bus who has a house in Quepos, near Manuel Antonio National Park, and she said I could stay there for free. So, maybe I will call her and see if the offer still stands.

I really love the other students. They are all very nice to me and include me in activities. A lot of them party very hard, so I just show up at a party for an hour or two, enjoy the talk and go home at a reasonable hour.

My birthday is on Friday. It is hard to believe that I will be 59 since I am going to school and hanging out with 20 year olds! It's a lot of fun. I feel very, very fortunate. I feel my parents' presence sometimes. Maybe just my imagination, but they always wanted me to study Spanish and finish college. It's never too late to change your life.
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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WilliamnWendi
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Re: Costa Rica Journal

Post by WilliamnWendi » Mar 20 2012 5:57 pm

Glad to hear things are good. I always tell myself that someday I will learn spanish but I never have. I will try the Rosetta Stone or something.
The Tree of Understanding, dazzling, straight, and simple, sprouts by the spring called Now I Get It. - Wislawa Szymborska, "Utopia"

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Sun_Ray
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Re: Costa Rica Journal

Post by Sun_Ray » Mar 20 2012 5:58 pm

Hey Liz...really enjoyed this update on what you have been up to. I dream of getting out of my conservative life and do something like u are doing but getting a tattoo is as close as I got. 59 is fine when u are in shape like u are. Happy Birthday. Id like to hear more about these parties u are going to! Give us some dirt! Later......Sun Ray
Brian
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azbackpackr
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Re: Costa Rica Journal

Post by azbackpackr » Mar 20 2012 7:20 pm

Well, they are college-type parties, at apartments, with the occasional beach party. But I don't stay long. I have a beer, chat everyone up, and slip out early. I'm not much of a partier, but I like to socialize and chat. Some of these kids are starting to get a bit unhealthy over all this drinking. The drinking age here is 18, and there are quite a few of the kids who are under 21, so they are making the most of it. (One wonders what their report cards are going to look like. Sometimes they just aren't able to show up for class!!) The best one I went to was a bonfire on the beach. It's hot here, and warm at night, so the fire is just a small one for light. You wouldn't want a great big one. Then there are guitars, and we take turns playing them. One fellow knows songs from Elvis, Dylan and Beatles all the way to Sublime, Bob Marley and rap. People sing along. That brings in a sort of time warp factor for me. Same beach (I grew up in California) same guitars, same people, some same, but some different music...And everyone knows all the songs I don't know, but only a few know the songs I do know. I sit there and have really deep thoughts such as, where the heck did all the time go? ;)

I'm glad I don't have to worry about being a parent to any of them. I just enjoy them.
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 » Mar 20 2012 7:32 pm

To William: Unless you are unusually gifted (most people aren't) learning a foreign language is a big project, and it takes years. I would suggest community college classes, the four semesters you can take: 101, 102, 201, 202. (Beware of classes called "Spanish Conversation" unless they are part of a serious Spanish program at a college.) After you are done with those four semesters you might be able to carry on a rudimentary conversation.

I already had 26 credit hours of Spanish before coming here, all lower division. I took 201 and 202 twice over the years. I could carry on a conversation on some topics before I came here. Here, I am taking 14 credit hours, upper division. Plus, I can speak it all day if I want to, at the house where I live or walking around town.

That Rosetta Stone may work, but only if you are very focused, and work on it every day for years. I think it's more reasonable to expect you will show up for class at a community college after you have paid for it, and get to know the instructor and other students, which can be kind of fun. It is a lot more attractive option, if you have time for it. You can then also use something like Rosetta Stone (or something you pick up for free at your local library) in your car. Expect to work at 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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Re: Costa Rica Journal

Post by desertgirl » Mar 20 2012 11:02 pm

Caught up with your writings after a while -- looks to be fun out there !

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azbackpackr
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Re: Costa Rica Journal

Post by azbackpackr » Mar 21 2012 5:33 am

Yup! And today I'll try to get around to posting photos from some of those places.
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 azbackpackr » Mar 23 2012 7:00 am

Today's my birthday. Looks like there will be cake at dinnertime at the house where I live, and I think (hope) the students are planning a bonfire on the beach this evening. Tomorrow we go to Monteverde Cloud Forest to ride the ziplines! Woohoo!

My "Tico mom" gave me the usual breakfast of eggs, gallopinto (black beans and rice) and Costa Rica coffee, PLUS a piece of birthday cake! Yum!
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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WilliamnWendi
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Re: Costa Rica Journal

Post by WilliamnWendi » Mar 23 2012 8:09 am

: queen : Happy Bithday! : queen :
The Tree of Understanding, dazzling, straight, and simple, sprouts by the spring called Now I Get It. - Wislawa Szymborska, "Utopia"

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Re: Costa Rica Journal

Post by outdoor_lover » Mar 23 2012 8:11 am

Happy Birthday Liz!!! And for a present, you get to start the New Scrabble game.... :D Have a good day!!!
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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big_load
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Re: Costa Rica Journal

Post by big_load » Mar 23 2012 10:50 am

Happy Birthday!

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