Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Mal Pais: Beach, Surfing, and Dirt Biking - Oh Yeah!

We took a four day trip to Mal Pais and it was sooo much fun. The trip to the area was precarious. We rented a four wheel drive, and needed it. We drove two hours to Puntarenas the port town and caught a ferry across the bay. Drove a hour and a half on bumpy paved road and than hit serious dirt roads. It just rained (it always just rained during the rainy season) so the mud holes where the size of houses. I felt like I was a rally car racer taking the four wheeler through the mud and sliding it around the corner. Adam's mom Charlotte was in the back and seriously scared. You're not having fun unless your a little bit scared! I'm not sure why Adam kept telling me the bumps were easier to take if you go faster, he knows I WILL go faster!

So we make it to Mal Pais and after looking at a a few hotels we settle on Hotel Casa Azul. Casa Azul was right on the beach, most hotels weren't. The caretaker was really friendly and relaxed and we would recommend this hotel. It's close to a few restaurants and shops. Most of Mal Pais or Santa Theresa is just strung along a road that parallels the beach, with most hotels on the non-beach side of the road.

The first full day we played in the water and went beach combing. The second day I rented a surf board for about $8 dollars and Adam and Charlotte went and found some tide pools. Luckily there are no pictures of me surfing, that would have amounted to a lot of crash pictures, but I did manage to stand up a couple of times. Overall though, the ocean just worked me like a wet cat in a washing machine. I was exhausted and grateful to go have dinner at Mary's for some fresh seafood.

The second day we went to Montezuma. Out past Montezuma is an island that is only accessible at low tides and this is where a cemetery is located. Kind of eerie in a Tim Burton kind of way, very isolated. We walked out to it, paid our respect, and collected huge shells on the way back. I would recommend that little trip if you are in the area, it's pretty interesting.

Later we went and had lunch in Montezuma. Montezuma is a beach town with a lot of hippies, drugs, and mom and pop tourists. Luckily we had found some home made ice cream that was delicious. I'm not sure if I would recommend Montezuma. It's OK for some people, but not Adam and I. Adam got offered coke and weed on his way to the bathroom.

That evening we returned to Mal Pais were we found that the next door neighbors were the host of the evening party. It was a dj party were you could hear the base a few hundred meters away. I'm told that Mal Pais has a party every night, except at a different bar. Our friends who were staying at the Mal Pais surf camp where the party was the night before clued us in on these party tidbits. Apparently two hundred tourists/surfers show up with a few local dealers and likely a few other scammers. Definitely not our scene but this is what we heard, thought you'd like to know.

The next day we were scheduled to return home to get Charlotte on her flight back to PDX. But before that we rented some dirt bikes and went on a two hour ride up the coast and than up into the mountains. It was some pretty intense riding for me because I have never been on a dirt bike, only street bikes. Adam told me the terrain was a challenge for him and he knows dirt biking. The hills were insanely steep with a lot of different sized gravel. The holes in the road were huge, muddy, and you couldn't see the bottom. But, we got to some isolated beaches that you just can't get to without a dirt bike, it was amazing. I can't wait to rent a dirt bike again.

Here's a link to the rest of the trips pictures.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Nicaragua Trip: Bull Fight, Historic Granada, and Ometepe

Day 1 started the evening before when we had a dinner party. We invited a few friends over where Charlotte shared the home made goat cheese she brought. It was so yummy! It's hard to find good cheese in Costa Rica. Unfortunately I've been cutting out dairy products and alcohol so my stomach was not prepared for the wine and cheese. Needless to say I required a barf bag on the bus trip to Nicaraqua, luckily didn't have to use it, but scared the hippy kids in front of me.

We crossed the border with no problems. The bus service is responsible for doing a lot of the paper work, so that made it easy.

We take a cab to downtown Granada and have lunch before obtaining a room. We must of walked across the central downtown three times comparing prices before settling on the Hotel Alfambra.

Walked around the spanish colonial downtown before heading to the lakefront. We just missed the large horse parade, but we didn't miss the bull fight. This was not a traditional bull fight, no bulls died. But they did harasas the bulls enough to make them very angry. Than they set some teenager boy on the bull and let them loose in a pin just larger than a basketball court. Than inside the pin boys and men of all ages would taunt the bull trying to get it to chase them. Some would have a red blanket. If the bull charged them they would dive under the fence or climb over it. We only saw one guy get seriously gored. We only lasted for two bulls, I think somebody said they were going to go through 14 bulls.

It was really sad seeing the bulls being taunted, the horn section was blazing in the back of our heads, the crowd began to surge forward into personal space because we had front row seats, the ancient wooden stadium was swaying precariously under the load of the anxious crowd, mothers could be seen down near the pin preventing their boys from entering the pin, and with my barf bag still in my pocket unused it was time to find our bed for the night.

Some 50
+ Pictures of Trip

Day two was spent walking historic and colonial Granada. I was happy to learn at the local museum that Granada is beautiful because of a plan implemented during the 80's and 90's to protect the historical charm of city. Successful plans are cool to see after the fact. Beautiful cities don't just happen, they are grown with plans. I went to planning school.

Day 3 was spent on Ometepe. Ometepe is the largest island in a fresh water lake. It is two volcanoes connected by an isthmus.

Friday, August 19, 2005

And I thought that I didn't like snakes.

We have a house cleaner come once per week because we are lazy bastards and its fairly cheap down here. Well she came over today and was doing her thing for a couple hours when she came running down from upstairs hysterical. She was sobbing and shaking. She was mumbling something about a serpent upstairs. I actually started to get scared too at the thought of a snake in the upstairs of our house. Then it hit me. While at the Bioparque the other day Luis had bought us a wooden snake at the gift shop. It is one of those green ones with all the segments so it kind of moves like a real snake when you play with it. She was scared to death of it. I went upstairs and just the head was poking out from under a bag. She told me that she has a phobia of snakes. The rest of the time that she was here cleaning she was sobbing.

Mental note: hide the pet snakes before she comes over next time.

My cat is not stupid.

My mom offended me the other day while she was here.  We were upstairs on the roof-deck hanging out in the sun and my cat Vida poked her head out the door.  She is not supposed to get on the roof because she will hop onto the roof which connects our apartments to our neighbors’.  If their upstairs doors are open then she will wander into their apartments.  She has been banned from the roof for a while now.

So she poked her head out the door and was just kind of staring into space like cats who are about to do something bad do.  My mom said “Your cat isn’t too smart is she?  She is just staring into space.”  I puffed up and defended my cat.  I just told her to watch and learn.   After a bit Vida slinked back into the upstairs door out of site.  Then about 30 seconds later she comes running out the door.  She runs full speed at the spot where she jumps onto to get on the roof.  I run after her and right before she makes a clean getaway onto the roof I grab her by the fur on her back and carry her like a suitcase back into the house.  The funny part was that once I grabbed her she didn’t fight it.  Busted.

That proved to my mom that my cat is a diabolical little bastard.  I also think that Vida only does stuff like that because she knows that I don’t want her to.

On a side note, Roberta and my mom will be getting back from Nicaragua either today or tomorrow.  Sounds like they have had a wonderful time.  They saw a real bull fight and went to Omatepe.  Also Roberta said that she got me a present that money couldn’t buy.  Hopefully that present is them getting back without being abducted.  I can’t wait.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Vamanos Pal Monte

Roberta and my mom left to Nicaragua for a few days so I am home all alone. Not bored by any means. Although I do eat crappier and watch more TV. For dinner I polished off a half bag of chips and a chunk of cheese. Mmmm..

Anyhow, before they left for Nicaragua we went up to the White House above Escazu for a "fancy" lunch. I quoted the fancy because it was really poor quality food at high dollar prices. My mom put it best in that the food could be served at Denny's. $4 for an Imperial and $3 for glass of Coke for example. Don't waste your time on eating up there although they went to the Spa after lunch and absolutely loved it.

Here are some pictures of the trip to the White House and the following day at the IN Bioparque in Heredia.

Click for pictures

Sculpture at the Bioparque

I have also been working on my recording projects so here is the first pass. Click on the Oral History or Music links to find them.


Monday, August 15, 2005

More on TetraPak

First off I want to thank Jim and Joan for their kind offer of help. Unfortunately the current recycling problem is with Dos Pinos. TetraPak, I'm told, has a strong commitment to environmental stewardism. The environmental committee I've been working with has had a trouble getting an initial meeting with Dos Pinos to get this ball rolling.

A student from Earth University here in Costa Rica did a major research project on TetraPak and the recycling possibility and has given me permission to post here, but blogger does not seem to support posting powerpoint. If you are interested in reading this powerpoint (in english) please e-mail me and I will forward it. Or if somebody has an FTP site that I could host it too, please let me know.

I will be in Nicaragua for the next couple days, but will respond after that.

Also one big EEEWWWW, a very large cockroach just ran across my keyboard....adventure blogging!

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Recent Happenings

I haven't posted in a while so here's what's been happening lately.

-We found the organic farmers market. It took a bit of a fortitude to find this place. We picked up our friend Clair and we go to the round about where she thinks it is, but we can't find it. She calls her friend and they speak in French and so we figure we are at the wrong round about. So we finally find it. This market was a bit smaller than the big market we are used to. There is much nicer produce though. The white pineapples are about half the size as the non-organic. There are more prepared food at the organic market such as cheese, breads, jams, and yogurt. We'll have to go back and test these things later. Seems like there is a community of people that go there every weekend. Maybe they will let us join their club.

-We went to see Madame Butterfly. Adam didn't want to go so we met up with some other friends and Charlotte and I went. Adam's mom, Charlotte is in town for the next 'not three weeks'. It's 'not three weeks' because Adam's dad Gene bought a ticket for 20 days instead of a week or two so that he could save $40 dollars. Get it, "Not three weeks" aka twenty days? Anyhoo Madame butterfly was in Italian with Spanish subtitles. I could mostly follow what was happening, but it was kind of hard to appreciate the art of opera when you are reading the subtitles in a foreign language. Shar reassured us what was happening with the plot line. At least somebody in our group new what this play was about. Costa Rica brought in some professional opera singers and orchestra director. It was mostly a very professional production. Remember, you are in a Central American country. But, you could tell the level of professionalism between the Japanese and Costa Rican artists, just the mannerism and stage presence.

-Charlotte and I are heading to Nicaragua for three day. I have to leave the country for 72 hours to renew my passport. Since I am on a tourist visa you have to leave the country every 90 days for 72 hours.

I received a bunch of e-mails with pictures of my family back in the states so I will post those since I don't have any other good pictures. We'll have some when we get back from Nicarauga.

Oregon Family Pictures

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

The Patron Saint of Costa: La Negrita

Roberta and I were driving back from seeing a movie last night and came across a huge traffic jam heading towards the San Pedro mall. We took some side streets and were confronted with huge masses of people walking down the road that goes from San Joes to Tres Rios. Thousands of people happily strolling east. Then we remembered that there was a large religious procession heading to Cartago. This was a constant stream of people about five wide for as far as we could see. Like salmon up a stream.

According to legend, on the morning of August 2, 1635, a young girl named Juana Pereira was out collecting wood to cook when she found the figure of the La Negrita on a rock that was the source of a water spring. Pereira took the figure home, but the next day the figure had disappeared and was again found on the rock.

Photo from infocostarica.com

Therefore, now over one million people walk from wherever they are in CR to the big church in Cartago and get there on the morning of August 2nd. Seeing as how there are only about 4 million people in Costa Rica that is a good chunk.

More info on La Negrita