Thursday, April 21, 2011

We Interrupt a Moment in Costa Rica for this Quick Message

It's been a while since I last posted something and a lot has been happening in the past 6-7 weeks.  I spent three weeks out of Costa Rica to live it up in Asia with my buddy Miguel and cousin Bobby to celebrate Miguel's Bachelor Party.  I know, talk about doing it up right.  I'd just like to say that this trip was planned well before Hangover 2 was even on paper.

It took me awhile to pull all the photos together and the blogs.  Here are the blog links with the photo album links attached to each blog:

Hong Kong - Day 1
Hong Kong - Day 2
Hong Kong - Day 3
Macau - Day 4
Macau - Giant Buddha - Day 5 Part 1
Bangkok - Day 5 - Part 2
Bangkok - Day 6
Bangkok - Day 7
Phuket - Day 8
Phuket - Day 9
Phi Phi Island - Day 10
Phi Phi Island - Day 11
Phi Phi - Phuket - Day 12
Phuket - Day 13
Hong Kong - Day 14

I'll be back with Costa Rica blogs shortly.  I need a break after working on all of this over the past month!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Carnaval - By the People For the People

I had the rare opportunity to partake in one of Costa Rica's annual festivals in Puntarenas called, Carnaval. This is a week long party ending with major appearances from singers and a huge parade.  The main beach road is shut down to host these festivities by lining one side with tons of vendors, stages for open-air night clubs, and people camping between the palm trees with their tents.  The energy during the last night of festivities was amazing.  The street was packed from the main stage and as far back as the eye could see.  As each famous singer came on stage to belt out a few songs, the crowd would go wild, dancing in the streets, singing with the band, and excited to share the experience with each other.

Here are a few pictures that will give you a sense of what kind of festivities occur:

Diay, Jacinto?!
Jacinto is the boy (nevermind the 5 o' clock shadow), who is responsible for teaching about waste and being eco-friendly to the children. The phrase, "Diay, Jacinto?" basically translates as, "What are you doing, Jacinto?!"  By the looks of it, he knows what he is doing.

Carnaval Dancer
  The parade was filled with tons of dance troupes and schools showing off their best stuff. The dancing was equally impressive as the costumes.

Drum Team
The drummers usually followed a group of dancers putting the soul into their step.

Leading the Charge
Each group showed everything they had to offer in the 90+ degree heat.

Carnaval at its Best
This is shortly before the music kicked off and all eyes were on the stage, all hands were in the air, and all feet were moving to the beat.

The vendors were not the only attraction.  There were plenty of payasos (clowns) around to cheer up kids, paint tattoos, and have a good ol' time too.

Front And Not So Center
The stage was just far enough to get a great show of it and the singers, but close enough for everyone in our group to enjoy the music.

I was fortunate to experience such a culturally important event to Puntarenas and Costa Rica.  This was a party organized by the people for the people.  Extranjeros need not participate to make this Carnaval extravagant.

Next time you plan on making a trip somewhere, if you have the chance, make sure to experience the culture that is meant for the locals.  I guarantee it will be amazing.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Hours of Operation

The police station of Samara has hours of operation.  They are currently remodeling the station, so there are periods in the day that the station is closed.  If I could paint a better picture for you of what life is like in Samara, then this would be it.

A sign hanging on the front door of the police station that says, "Closed.  Please behave while we are going through renovations. Pura vida."

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Dígame con Pasíon

What does it take to fall in love with a romance language?  Some people say they don't understand why spanish is one of the romance languages.  You hear the melancholy and soft sounds of french and feel compelled to declare french a romance language.  You hear the dramatic cadence and explicit demonstrative nature of italian and feel compelled to declare italian a romance language as well.  Spanish can be spoken with such speed, it's hard to hear its soft tones, it's difficult to find the passion in the sound, because it's cadence just happens to be more foreign to our ears. However, the true romance lies within the meaning of the spoken word.

What makes spanish a romance language is the passion interwined with the words conducted by the heart.  The beauty that sits in a well placed lyric or line in a book.  A context so beautiful that it cannot be probably translated into your native tongue without destroying what makes it romantic.

I had come to a crossroads two weeks ago as I sat in class and vehemently chose not to participate anymore.  My quest to learn the language was halted by a mis-guidance of why I should be learning the language.  The school system was sterile.  It lacked the key aspect of the language.  It lacked passion.  How do you teach a romance language without romance? 

I started to fight with myself to find a greater reason for the need to learn.  Why am I here to go to school and learn that a conjugation of a verb makes the verb present, future, or past without any significance beyond that?

I stopped attending the school.  It began to poison the purity of the language.  It began to suffocate my ability to learn.  The structure of the school was driving a stake between the language and its reason for living.  Spanish and passion cannot exist without each other and not understanding this bond will forever hide the beauty of the culture in the shadows of the unknown.

I was fortunately introduced to a private tutor the day I chose to leave the school.  My frustration with the school and my desire to learn were as apparent as the color of my skin.  The fortuitous conversation with the tutor emblazoned my belief in the language once again.  Little did I know, I would begin a new path of education.  I am no longer learning Spanish, but the culture that empowers the words in the language.

I am no longer calculating my need to know a percentage, upward trend of growth, or tactical approach to become fluent.  I am simply enjoying the latin culture through its language as it's presented to me day-by-day.

I now become rich with knowledge from my lessons, not because I learn about a new structure or grammar, but because I learn the meaning behind a song.  I learn about the passion from a writer.  I witness the love for the language in the people I speak with.

Tell me that spanish is not a romance language and I will feel sorry for you all the same.

Spanish is once again like a warm blanket to me.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

To Witness Life Passing in a Fraction of a Moment

Costa Rica gives a person plenty of time to contemplate many aspects of your life and that of life which happens around you.  Remember the last time you spent a moment to give a respectable minute or two to consider the passing of time and the direction of your life as it correlates to this passage?  Most people don't, because the next priority interrupts such deep thoughts that are given a lesser importance. 

Don't forget to pick up the milk with the bread! 

We are all too busy with demands of a modern culture to seriously consider how quickly time goes by.  We speak in intangible references regarding the passing of time.  We question how time passes based on a moment that has already passed.  However, we don't watch time pass in the present to gain an appreciation of how quickly it truly goes by.

I recently have been bearing witness to the closing of a day.  Sunset viewing is a common priority on the west coast of Costa Rica.  Take a moment to step out on to the beach to watch the end to a moment in your life.  My latest sunset viewing gave me a new perspective.  That moment, I chose not to watch the ending of anything, but the realization of the speed that life happens to move at.

There is a reason that people chase sunsets.  Sunsets educate us on the delicacy of time by letting us know there is but a fraction of a moment to enjoy this daily phenomenon.  A sunset lasts for roughly 2 minutes once it hits the horizon.  Some regions of the world during certain parts of the year may witness a 4 minute sunset.  The amount of time varies, but all-in-all, it's always short.

This brief moment, I contemplated the swiftness of how quickly the sunset chose to leave me that day.  Why did it have to pass so quickly right in front of my eyes?  How does this correlate to the time in my life?  More  importantly, the present realization that every other fraction of time moves at the same speed of a setting sun.

I have a new appreciation of sunsets now.  They remind me that the present is short, the future is quick to pass, and the past is the ruler of time. 

Are you doing everything you want with your life?

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Que Extrano!

In my seven weeks in Samara, I have become accustomed to some habits, or differences, that exist between the Costa Rican culture and the United States culture.  I said United States culture and not the American culture.  Another difference in perception and knowledge that I am slowly getting used to.  We are not the only Americans. tsk tsk.  Ok, enough of that.

To capture the differences, let's Top Ten this blog for strange things about Samara:
  1. It's common not to have hot water in the house.
  2. Restaurants are not enclosed.  Open air establishments year-round.
  3. Drunk in Public and Walking with an Open Container are not reasons for la policia to stop you.
  4. Dogs look both ways before crossing the street. (Seriously).
  5. Toilet paper goes in the waste basket, not the toilet. (septic tanks can't handle it).
  6. A family of four can fit on one motorcycle. (Husband, Wife, 8yr daughter, 2 yr son).
  7. Corona is the most expensive beer ($4/beer).
  8. There is a guard tower at the new grocery store.
  9. The average person makes $2/hour, but the cost of items are equivalent to the United States.
  10. Some families don't have a bathroom in the house, but they have satellite tv.
With that said, I have a Top Ten for great things about Samara.  Life may be a little "extrano" for other cultures visiting Costa Rica, but you better believe there are wonderful things as well.
  1. Guanabana smoothies (My favorite fruit smoothie, or bastido).
  2. Temperature is between 65 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit. (Stop hating and just come visit me).
  3. Natural reef creates great surfing conditions for beginners.
  4. There are "secreto" beaches that the tourists don't know about.
  5. Beer costs $2.00 unless you upgrade to the $4.00 Corona (sucker).
  6. People are extremely nice to tourists.
  7. Hammocks are everywhere.
  8. Flip-flops will be enough for all establishments.
  9. A bike ride to school or town in the morning passing by the palm tree lined beach.
  10. Drunk in Public and Walking with an Open Container are not reasons for la policia to stop you.
Don't take my top ten lists at face value.  Come on down and make your own lists!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Como Se Dice Game

I've been meaning to write this specific blog about two weeks ago, because of the mindset I was in at the time.  However, when you're in school every day of the week, two weeks feels more like two months. A person forgets how hard it is to learn something when you cannot effectively communicate.  Think as far back as possible to a time that you could not have a full conversation with someone over a basic topic and remember the frustration.  Well, come to think of it, I was too young to understand frustration due to a lack in ability to communicate fully.  Yes, that is how far back I am referring to.  I never knew how to say, "I crapped my pants, mom."  I just did it.  That's how I communicated when I was in diapers...don't judge, because you did too.

To communicate, you get used to saying the same thing over and over again.

Today, I still use the phrase, "como se dice...en espanol?"  It's just about the simplest way of saying, "How do you say....en espanol?"  Now for the creative minds out there that enjoy a good Mad Lib, this game can be very intriguing. But say it every day and it gets old quickly.  Spanish is not exactly like english with -Os and -As at the end of every english word.  For instance, "How do-o you-o say-o stupid in spanish-o?" will not get you very far in relations with the spanish speaking world.  They will respond, "La palabra es estupido, estupido."  Ok, so stupid really does have an -O at the end of it. Bad example, but a fun one.

As for the "ah-ha moment", I am sad to report that I have not had it yet.  Game over.  We'll play the Como Se Dice Game next month and see if I have broken the chains of being muy lento.

In the meanwhile, here is a refreshing picture.  If you look closely, there are clouds in the background.  Mas o menos, it was an ok day.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Rainy Sunday Afternoon

There is one thing that Costa Rica does and that is rain.  We are in the Spring season right now, so lluvia comes and goes just about every day.  Some days, it's light and refreshing and other days it's just not a great idea to go out in it with a bicycle, an umbrella in one hand and potholes the size of dogs.

I am feeling pretty lazy this afternoon, so I'll let the video do the talking!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Hey Cow!

November 11-November 13, 2010

HEY COW!  That one is in my favor.  1 for me, zero for you.

Normally I would title my posts in relation to the major theme of the subject, but this time it's going to be a little different.  A bunch of us took an excursion to the active volcano Arenal and the Monte Verde Cloud Forest National Park.  Both areas are extremely impressive.  Gorgeous views as far as the eye can see of lush green hills.

As educational as the trip was, it was also a blast!  Our tour guide, Alberto, had a good blend of ADD and expansive knowledge.  You never knew what was going to come out of his mouth.  The guys learned a lot more vocabulary than is taught in the school. 

During one of our painful road trips in between Arenal and Monte Verde (think 1 1/2 hours of driving on dirt and rock covered roads), Alberto says, let's play a game.  It's call, Hey Cow!  He hangs out the window, as we are driving 10 miles an hour past a herd of cattle and starts screaming at each one, "HEY COW!"  Most of the time the cow would turn and look at him.  Each time a cow looks, he gets one point.  Needless to say, our trip was spent yelling at cows everywhere.  Even on the zip lines, where we were a couple hundred of feet above ground and cruising at about 35mph across a distance of a couple of hundred of feet, we were yelling at cows.

You learn to amuse yourself differently when in a new country.  I imagine, while in D.C., I would be saying something along the lines of, "Hey Squirrel!"  Although, instead of looking at me, I imagine they would flick me off.

Ok, enough of that nonsense. 


Our first stop after the 5 hour bus ride from Samara to Arenal. An adult disneyland of a hot springs water park called, Baldi Springs.  There were over 6 pools in varying degrees with waterslides.  This was way more than we were expecting.  I thought I was going to be sharing a pool with monkeys and other wildlife.

This is precision in swiss engineering in effect!  One of our members, Fabrizio, came up with this brilliant solution as a replacement for a corkscrew.

You wanna fight?!

Jessie showing us how it is done on the rope swing.  We made a quick pitstop for this 20 minutes of fun before heading off to the Monte Verde Cloud Forest.

Yup, you guessed it right!  This is the Volcano Arenal. 

Oh!  How could I forget our ADD guide, Alberto?  This picture says it all.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Costa Rica In Heat

When I blog, I attempt to capture moments worth sharing with the world. We all have enough things in our lives to keep us busy rather than wasting time reading how beautiful the beach is every, single, bloody day. I promise I won't do that to you, but I will bring beach worthy news when it is merited. However, today, I bring to your viewing pleasure a treat of information. This may or may not have anything to do with Costa Rica. I believe the way of life here plays a factor, but I just can't help myself...I must share.

This is PG-17? I don't know what kids can and can't watch/listen to/read these days. It's a brave new world. What I am about to say is probably just PG. Those damn youngin's and their ability to learn about everything on the Internet!

My last blog, I wrote about the awesome power of three. How things can come in three. Remember? I know you read the last blog.

Nature has a way of being, how do we say, open with its ways right in front of your very own eyes. As I was resting under the patio of the school that overlooks the beach 100 yards away on a crisp, breezy, sunny day, I was greeted by what appeared to be a large insect landing on my knee. As I was about to kindly steer the delicate insect away, I realized, my knee had become a mating ground of two insects that appeared to be just one large one. This phenomenon, good sir/madame, shall not be disturbed. However, I was well within my rights to share my inclusion in procreation to everyone around me.

Ooohs and Aaahs around the table. Costa Rican life in the making for all of us to observe and appreciate.

National Geographic has nothing on the moment, we witnessed. Well, ok, really, they do and more. That's beside the point.

The point being!

(I don't care if that is not grammatically correct; it has flare)

I digress.

The point being!

Little did I know, I had one of three in my trifecta. One of three similar incidents to happen within a short period of time. This means I would bear witness to two more occasions of nature, essentially, doing its thing. And, I would witness them in no time at all.

One brilliant observation I had this morning is that I have a greater amount of time to take in my surroundings while I bike at the whopping speed of 12 miles/hour. I can have a quick conversation with a fellow student that is walking. I can tell the cow in the street to move its stinky ass about five times before I actually pass it. I can also witness the consummation of two neighborhood dogs in the parking lot of a hotel/restaurant.

Please note, once again, my ability now to observe moments in detail due to my mode of transportation.

You'll be interested to know that the female dog appeared to be pre-occupied with other important things, such as, did I remember to pee on the same bush this morning? Was that manure that I rolled in last night? Yes, you guessed correctly, the male dog had his tongue hanging out with what I could have observed to be a smile. He appeared to be advanced in the technique of doggy style, because he maneuvered between one front leg and then another to keep his balance. I would fathom a thought this is due to the multiple opportunities that exist in Costa Rica for stray dog lovin'.

If you ever have used the expression, "It's like watching a train wreck in slow motion." I highly recommend you change up the scenario. It adds comical relief to an otherwise awkward moment. Give it some international flare while you are at it.

"It's like Costa Rican dogs humping in slow motion."

I am two for three now. My momentum for the trifecta is almost complete. Maybe I'll get really lucky and see two monos putting all their might into it. If you ever heard a monkey make noise, just because it can, then you need to imagine what kind of noise it makes when it's getting lucky. I can only imagine as well, because my third observation was the same damn female dog with a different male dog on my way home!

Don't call me a liar; I swear I am not making this up.

This second male dog blew away the competition (no pun intended)! As I was passing by, not only was he on one front leg, but he was hopping on one back leg! These Costa Rican mutts have amazing skill. I had to stop and applaud the effort.

As I came home from dinner tonight, I knew exactly what I had to bring to your digital doorstep for some light, romantic reading pleasure. In transit, I was distracted by looking up and seeing the Milky Way for the first time in a very long time. Because you tolerated my Costa Rican dog mating story, I'll see what I can do about getting a decent picture of the stars for you!

Hasta Luego.