Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Puerto Viejo Weekend

I just can't say enough about Puerto Viejo. I LOVE PUERTO VIEJO!

Heidi, Shar and I met at the Caribe Terminal and headed to Puerto Viejo for two days. The 6 am bus dropped us off in PV around 10am. Casa Verde let us into the room early and we packed our beach bags and headed out. Casa Verde is now my favorite hotel in Puerto Viejo

Stopped across the street from Casa Verde for breakfast. Yummy breakfast, especially thank you Roger for the kind treats. But, don't rent bicycles from him. My chain fell off.

Luckily Bobby, the local builder, and rastafarian peace man picked me and my bike up. Bobby showed me all of the buildings he built with love on the way back from town. He also knew everybody and his proud little red truck beeped a tune to everybody on the way. Now, one shouldn't get in a truck with two guys (one in the back with the bike), but these things are OK in Puerto Viejo. Did I mention I LOVE PUERTO VIEJO? Tranquilo!

The rest of our time was spent eating yummy Thai food and caribean style bean and rice with coconut milk, pina coladas, and floating in the lovely Caribean sea. Roger That!

A few more weekend pictures

Friday, November 25, 2005

Arenal Volcano & Tabacon Hotsprings

Last weekend we took advantage of the half price airfare and the end of the green season (re:cheap) in Costa Rica. We flew into La Fortuna and stayed at Tabacon, which was expensive but we wanted to go to their hotsprings.

The hotsprings were really cool. There were about twenty or so springs with varying degrees of temperature. Most of them were really hot. This picture I've just about lost my bikini bottoms, and I'm holding on to them to make sure I don't lose them. The force of the water fall was pretty intense.

It also didn't help that Tabacon has a two for one happy hour until 4 and there are not rules. This combined with the hot water leads to some pretty interesting results.

Arenal volcano was incredible. We got to see lava flowing down the mountain from our hotel room. I guess we were lucky because most of the time it's clouded over. You could hear in the background big loud thunderous booms and hissing sounds. For a while we couldn't figure out what that was, but it was the volcano exploding and blowing steam out the top. Tabacon hotsprings has an OK view of the volcano from the hotsprings. Arenal and the Tabacon hot springs are definate must sees if you are coming to Costa Rica.

And for a half day we went down the rio Pina Blanca in a canoe looking at wildlife. The highlight were the monkeys. We passed a large family of monkeys and then later on we saw a mama monkey waiting on one side of the river for a baby monkey on the other side who was afraid of leaping to the next branch. Incredibly cute. And we saw a number of huge iguanas the size of medium dogs.

Here's a cute little sloth we saw on the side of the road.

This is Adam now:

I need to interject some funny stories about our trip.

I got up at about 5:00 in the morning like I always do and went out to watch the volcano from next to the pool at the Tabacon resort. It was perfectly clear out and the volcano was amazing. There was lava rolling down the north face and huge puffs of steam shooting out the top. The was an amzing view as the sun was rising. I was the only person out there aside from the people in the restaurant getting ready for breakfast. Then this guy walks up and has a bathrobe on and a drink in one hand. I instantly get creeped out by this guy. He kinda walks aimlessly around for a while and then takes the bathrobe off and hops in the pool. He had american flag shorts on that almost looked like boxers.

All the while he was kind of eyeing me for some reason. He kept nervously getting in and out of the pool. Then I was watching the volcano and forgot about the guy. Then I looked over and he was in the bushes hiding behind a concrete divider staring at me. Creepy. I don't want to know what he was doing over there. I went back to the room and got Roberta and came back for breakfast and the guy was still in the pool. We sat there and waited for the restaurant to open for breakfast. The creepy guy got out of the pool and went to the exposed shower faucet that is supposed to be used to wash off after being in the pool. He proceded to pull down his red, white, and blue shorts and take a shower. Luckily Roberta was the one to look over and see this. I wouldn't look. People were starting to show up for breakfast and this guy was just hanging out naked.

Then we kept seeing this guy all over the place during our trip. There are blurry pictures of him in the link at the bottom. That boy ain't right.

On a less creepy and more funny note, the flight from San Jose to La Fortuna was fun. On the ground in the plane in San Jose the pilot gave us the pre-flight instructions. He said that if anything bad happens just first scream, then pull on the red handles to open the door, and run because that is what he will be doing. There are certain things that I love about Costa Rica and that is one of them, the ability to laugh at life or death circumstances.

Also, I wouldn't recommend staying at the Tabacon Resort unless you have children. It was unreasonably expensive and I fealt like it took a lot of the soul and culture out of the experience. The staff at the hotel seemed to be scared of the guests. We are going to stay at a hostel on our next trip to balance out our Chi.

Here is a link to the pictures:

Link to Pictures

Friday, November 18, 2005

Mesoamerica: Central America News and Analysis

I found this great monthly magazine call Mesoamerica. It's about ten solid, packed black and white pages, with no advertising. Their website really doesn't do their printed magazine justice. So I will just go ahead and give a quick synopsis of their news:

  1. Tropical storms devastated Central America. 2,500 people have died. Mexico has hundreds and thousands of people displaced. 130,000 Guatemalans have lost their homes, and tragically the town of Panabaj was completely buried and declared a mass cemetery. They are tired and don't know where to dig anymore. 53,000 El Salvadorians have lost their homes and the Santa Ana volcano erupted poisoning water supplies and damaging public infrastructures. Honduras has 2,800 evacuees. Nicaragua has 3,000 evacuees. Costa Rica has 283 communities, 70 bridges, and 219 roads affected.
  2. Guatemala has some serious prison gang issues. The nation's prisons are bloated by a slow system where only 60% of the inmates have been sentenced for a crime. El Salvador prisoners have started a hunger strike to protest overcrowding, lack of medical and HIV assistance, and visitation rights among other things.
  3. The Kaibiles where captured in Mexico with Guatemalan military arms. They were traveling north to help out the Zetas, a group of Mexican Army deserters turned mercenaries for the Gulf Drug cartel. If you do coke or heroin, these are your delivery men. The Zetas have been accused of murdering rival drug traffickers, prosecutors, policemen, and journalists.
  4. A new Mayan city has been discovered in the northern zone of Guatemala. Amazing that they are still finding cities!
  5. 105 Chilean mercenaries joined 129 Honduran counterparts in Honduras for military training for Iraq duties. Turns out Honduras doesn't allow nonnationals to train in their country for duty in another country. Some of these mercenaries have rap sheets in their home country, but they can get between $900-$1500/month for work in Iraq. The soldiers were eventually shipped to Iraq early since Chile wouldn't take their countrymen back. The pictures in a different paper where men aiming broom sticks, because they didn't have enough guns. Why are we teaching these people to use guns, weapons of mass destruction? Right...
  6. In Nicaragua the judiciary branch and the legislators joined forces to oust the president, threatening to place Nica under a two-headed dictatorship of un-elected party bosses. The Nica ambassador to the US: "the threat to democracy is coming from an unholy alliance of legislature and a judiciary trying to overthrow a freely and democratically elected president." The U.S Sec. of State, at the request of Nica government ministers, has threatened to deny $4billion in debt relief and the exclusion of Nica from CAFTA (link scroll down). The 'unholy alliance' took an about face, deterred decision until Jan. and a new legislature is voted in, and stated that the "Yankee government" does not frighten anyone in the world much less Nicaragua. Yeah right...unfortunately.

The next magazine review will cover "The US Government and the Tactics of Deception and Disinformation in Latin America."

All of this is from the Mesoamerica news magazine, October 2005, which is unavailable on the web.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Ordered Chaos

Occassionally Adam and I have a bitch-fest about Costa Rica. We are not pleased to admit it but there are small things that annoy the living hell out of us. We could create a list right, but they would appear small and not worth the worrying. Which is true, but that doesn't stop us from saying 'well I hope in our next country we live they have covers on the storm drains so that when you step off a curb or out of a car you don't fall into a six foot dark pit of garbage and storm drain water runoff.'

That is the chaos part. You have to watch every step or you fall into chaos.

But, sometimes there is Ordered Chaos.

We have five, 5-gallon water bottles and the water delivery guy is supposed to come every Monday. We've calculated a 25% chance that he will come, maybe on Wednesday, but usually never unless we call. The last week he told us he isn't delivering water anymore. After calling ten times, and not being able to leave a message because his voice-mail box is full, I come to understand his non-employment status. By this time I was too distracted to catch the number he gave me in spanish. Speaking in spanish over the phone is still hit or miss based on the level of patience and accent the spanish speaker has.

Well, we had to take things into our own hands, literally. We were going to walk up to the store to buy some water and than catch a taxi back home. On the way up we passed a water delivery truck. They offered us some water; hell yeah we don't want to carry big water bottles home. So they followed us home (us walking them driving behind us) and we get five full bottles of water instead of the two we were going to walk/taxi home.

They said they'll be back next week. We give them a 50% chance that they will be back next Monday. We'll give them some benefit of the doubt.

Here's a story about ground water in Costa Rica and it is a good example of ordered chaos. It took 14 months for officials to declare a state of emergency after a diesel spill near the water source of some 320,000 residents. Costa Rica only has about 4 million people.

On a lighter note, here's a picture of a five gallon water bottle frog tank. Nifty!

Monday, November 14, 2005

Volcano Turrialba

Sorry we haven't posted in a while. Adam has been busy with work and I've had the Gripe. Gripe means a cold. But, I think it sounds like I should have something worse, where I would lose a lung or something. It felt like I should have.

Well, Shar's school organized another trip whereby we had the privilidge of having one student come with us. She was really smart and cool. Our goal was Volcan Turrialba, which isn't as well known because it's hard to get to and there isn't any lava flowing. But, I thought it was more interesting than the Poas and Irazu volcanoes because there weren't any tourists and you could get really close to the steamy craters.

We did see some tourists come up on horse back. They looked like serious city dwellers, with a European hint. They were having their Costa Rican adventure. Shar said they looked like they were watching a reality T.V. show. There's been two reality shows on recently plus and infamous Wild E-on! with a focus on Costa Rica. I swear though, the Costa Rica I know is way different then what I saw on tv. For one, they don't show any potholes or traffic.

Anyway back to the volcano. The bus dropped us off about an hour power hike up to the crater. We stopped for a snack and than went down to the Crater, hiked around the perimeter, and than a few adventorous souls climbed up to the ridge of the most active crater. I was having gallons of snot pour out of my nose from Gripe so I decided not to tempt my fate with sulphurous gases. There were three craters but I didn't take a picture of the oldest. It was a big hole with a marsh in it.

Oh yeah, the neighbor cat sprayed on my hiking shoes so I was in Chaco sandals. I think Chacos are only good for a couple of miles. Here are the rest of the photos... http://public.fotki.com/kingnerd/costa_rica/volcan_turrialba/

Sunday, November 06, 2005

English Style Riding

I've been taking horseback riding lessons in Tres Rios for the last month, once per week. When I was a kid we had one horse and occasionally took care of neighbor horses. We only rode western style and our only goal was to stay on, explore the old stage coach road between Florence and Eugene OR and imagine we saw sasquatch foot prints. For the shetland pony we took care of, that was an elusive concept for me.

So now I'm learning the 'right' way to ride a horse. The only 'right' way is to develop thighs of steal. Just kidding, but it helps. They've been keeping me on a short lease, literally and getting my methods down. Next week I will have lessons two times a week and graduate into a class of other riders.

I hope to get better and join some endurance runs in Costa Rica. Endurance runs are quite popular here. I've been told that they've circumvented Arenal Volcano and have other interesting rides. Should be fun. Thanks Marla for introducing me to your instructors. They are really nice and I'm learning more spanish. For instance there are spanish color words for horses that don't apply to anything else.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Nothing worse than a Costa Rican Dentist

I thought I was being a totally well informed dental client. I went to four, different, highly recommended US educated dentists for a problem I have stemming from an accident as a clumsy teenager.

Each dentist had their own very different idea for a solution. I went with the dentist who suggested the least amount of drilling (Adam's criteria), was the oldest, certified by an American Association and incidentally recommended by the three other dentists I went to.

This is how Adam puts it, "There's nothing worse than a Costa Rican dentists, wait the worst is getting ripped off by a Costa Rican dentist.." Plus the mother-f$*@#r wasn't even gentle. Yanked open your mouth and his dental assistant consistently jammed the sucker thingy in the exact same spot which wasn't even the lowest point in my mouth. GAG-GAG-ouch I should also mention that I tried to pay every time I left the building but they just said, Next time, Next time...

We get the bill for $200 for each teeth cleaning, plus some extra for the miniscule work done on my previous issue. $600 total. I was originally told the cleaning would cost $40/person and any additional work should be no more than $60.

Nothing worst than going to a Costa Rican dentist, besides getting the bill. Our friend who has been here forever said he's had that happen a few times and he just doesn't pay it. I guess it happens a lot. Milk the gringos for everything. I want to pay him something but, JMFC, it doesn't even cost that much in the states.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Vida has found a temporary home!

I just want to thank everybody for offering to take in Vida. A few people offered their homes even though it wasn't the best conditions ie; allergies, other pets, even a room in a hotel was offered! She is quite a special kitty and it means a lot to Adam and I that so many people offered a place. We found a special cat lover who doesn't currently have a kitty. So thanks goes out to Michelle and Allen. Adam and I are a little concerned that Michelle and Allen will like Vida too much and not give her back.

Right now Adam and I are going through a little bit of Vida withdrawal. Vida is spending the night at the vet because we had a small lump removed from her ear area. They are sending the lump to a lab so we will find out what it is. All of this cost $50 dollars.

Everything here is so cheap. It only cost $20 to get our teeth cleaned including a full set of x-rays. Adam has a cavity that he's avoiding. I'm trying to get him to take care of it here because it will be cheaper here than the deductible in the states. And our dentist studied in the states and speaks english. Unbeknownst to us he's an old friend of the Castro family, our friends we always hang out with. He's also a fourth generation Costa Rican dentist. His secretary calls me mi amor.