Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Fotos de Costa Rica

I already posted the pic of the mariposa y flor, and here are some more. I will send out the whole album once I have them all uploaded. : ) The first is my all-time favorite view of any town we have been to... this town is Juan Vinas. The second pic is a demonstration/chat we had at a banana plantation. The third is the 2nd of 3 poisonous snakes we saw on the trip (we didn't see ANY last year!). This snake was later chopped up by our hiking guide Marcos b/c the group was scared of it. Someone almost stepped on this one. The last pic is of some Univ. of Costa Rica students skipping classes to watch Barcelona vs. Arsenal European League Championship. hahaha

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Soy una "tia"!

I am an aunt. : ) Well, not through my brother, but my best friend in the world had her baby tonight!! Right on the due date too!! That is so crazy. I am entirely excited about this and extremely ecstatic. She has always wanted a baby and I remember when we used to talk in high school about how she wanted rosy cheeks and to wear overalls when she was pregnant someday. haha And now that dream has come true. Her mom called me at 1105 PM tonight and her first words were "I am a grandma!" and I went nuts. Jen had called me earlier today at around 1030 AM and said she was having contractions 10 min apart, so I knew it had to be close. When her mom called me tonight, I heard the baby crying in the background. How amazing.

One of my best guy friends Phil also called me tonight and officially asked me to be in his wedding next May 2007 (he had mentioned it before, but tonight was the official invitation, as I have been away in Costa Rica). I am very honored he asked me and so happy I can stand up there when he marries the great woman that his fiance is. : ) (Right Jess!)

My friends are having such incredible lives and I am so lucky to be a part of everything. I would never want it any other way.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Una mariposa y una flor

Just one of the many beautiful pics I took in Costa Rica.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Estoy en San Jose

Our flight leaves in 12.5 hours. : ( : ( I do not want to go back to work at all! I think the depression is setting in. haha

The farewell dinner Monday went very well. The students did a great job with the decor (balloons, poster, ribbon, table glitter), centerpieces (yellow flowers with flags they made of the US and CR), and entertainment (a nice slide show of funny pics from the trip). The families really enjoyed that and we all had some good laughs (especially me and the jardinero... ). Story to come later. We all went out after it and drank of course.

Tuesday morning was spent hearing a chat from a woman about ecological tourism, and then we had the whole day free. I went shopping (every year I buy a new pair of sandalias from Brasil and this year it was a pink pair of heels) and then went back to my host family´s house (I didn´t stay in the hotel this year for the whole time which was really nice and homey) and had dinner and watched an awful French movie and actually went to bed at like 11 if you can believe that. I was wiped out. Oh yeah, and I rode my host dad´s moto and wiped out on it. I am fine though. More to come on that. I am so clutzy.

Today was saying goodbye to the host families, and everyone was in tears. We went to San Jose and when we arrived, the hostel we had booked was CLOSED. Yes, closed. Apparently there have been some administrative changes and they were going to be closed until Friday. Great, so I had 11 students plus myself without a place to stay for the night. Luckily, the owner of the closed hostel owns another one that is even cheaper and closer to downtown and the Mercado Central. So we went there and there was room for 12 people. Phew. I was stressed out. This place actually is awesome-it has around the clock internet, a bar and pool, a free 10 minute phone call to the US per person for every night you stay there... and all this for 10 dollars per person. Well, 11 if you want a private room with no strangers. It´s called Hostel Pangea if anyone is going to Costa Rica soon and wants a good place to stay. It also has transport to and from the airport for cheap. : ) I was panicking at first, but then we all got settled and we´re okay. Being in charge is stressful.

The Mercado Central was great and I bought some things and bargained with a store owner. Some things I wanted cost 5,900 colones in total (about 12 dollars) but I told the guy I only had 4,000 and he took it (about 8 dollars). NICE. I have a tico friend who came to Tallahassee in 2001 on the exchange program coming to the hostel at 9 so maybe we´ll go eat. We have talked ever since and he´s a great guy!

Until I get back into the country................ hasta luego!

Monday, May 22, 2006

Ay que sueno.... pero que divertido...........

Well I am back from a weekend in Guapiles, and a free day off yesterday. Basically the free day was spent eating and drinking with my friend Alberto and his mom, girlfriend, best friend, and his kids and neighbors. And watching his son Danny break-dance to a group called Calle 13. : )

The weekend in Guapiles was fun. It's about 2 hours from Turrialba, and there is another branch campus there of the U of Costa Rica. We did so many things... like community service activities (building a stove with bricks, planting yuca, sawing wood), and we went to a butterfly garden/farm and learned about how they export the larvae all over the world. We stayed with host families too (me included) and it was really an amazing time.

Friday we went for lunch at a river where I fell in the river because I thought I saw a snake. It wasn't like the near-death rafting experience 2 years ago where it was class III and IV rapids though. This time I was only crossing a river which was not deep and no current really and I just got nervous from seeing the snake and tried to run but I fell in. Everyone laughed-it WAS pretty funny. One of the ticos got it on video too so that will be a laugh for years to come. My clothes smell like a*s now though.... we heard that the rio was contaminated, but who knows. Stupid me carried my camera case too and so my memory cards got wet.... let's PRAY that all 200 something of the pics I took on one disk are not lost. I almost cried when I realized I had gotten it wet.

We went to a beach on the Caribbean called Miramar on Saturday and it was absolutely gorgeous weather there. All the students pretty much got burned, and I did too, but it was amazing. We all went out Saturday night and that was fun too of course.

Tonight is the farewell dinner and I split the group up into committees for decor, centerpieces, and entertainment, so they are all out shopping right now and downloading pics for a slide show we are going to show the families. Should be fun having everyone in the same room together-FSU people, UCR families and administrators.

I have also gotten used to going to the bathroom without toilet paper and soap. Basically I just pee and that's it. Gross huh Marsha??

I come back Thurs and I am not looking forward to it AT ALL. I get so depressed when I am back home. Until next time......

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Que suerte

Last night while I was waiting for Yami to pass by my hotel to go to Edgar's house for dinner, a bird pooped in my hair. I couldn't believe it. I felt this drop, and then put my hand up to my head and then looked at my hand and this white stuff was on it. So I hurried into the hotel bathroom and got the crap out of my hair and washed my hands probably 10 times and used antibac. Que suerte. Maybe. The waiter laughed too and made sure I didn't have anything left in my hair.

Dinner was fun and yummy... Edgar's mom Cecilia and he cooked rice, chicken, fried tortilla strips, and made a salad. We had wine too and then for dessert we had fruit cocktail with vanilla ice cream. : ) Their neighbors Lorena and her daughter Catalina came over too and we laughed and laughed and took pics. Edgar gave me a present: a DVD of the sounds and images of Costa Rica. Can't wait to try it out! I gave them presents too and they loved them. I gave Catalina and her brother David some FSU notebooks and folders, and for the moms and Yami I got Bath and Body Works lotion, kitchen towels, pic. frames, candles, etc. For Edgar (since he has loved FSU since he came on the exchange in 2002) I got a tshirt and an FSU binder. He teaches English now at one of the high schools here.

I also keep having dreams in Spanish too. I guess that goes with the territory.

Today we had a lecture from an economics professor Federico Rivera that was pretty interesting. He talked about CR's debt, how they can never compete with other countries in production of coffee (b/c now Brasil produces a ton of it) and other products from the US b/c the US subsidizes farmers. He also talked about how when someone is unemployed here they cannot claim unemployment and get help like in the States. Interesting. The students asked some good questions too about the impuestos (taxes) they put on the food and drink bills here-there are 2 taxes: impuesto de venta (sales tax) and impuesto de servicio (service tax). There are no tips here for waiters and bartenders and whoever b/c it's included... and also b/c in this culture, as he said, people don't work for tips! They are nice b/c they want to be-not b/c they want more money. They are happy to help. That is why I love it here.

I also met the new person that will take over the coordination of the exchange program here and we chatted for a bit. She is so smart and well spoken-PhD from Georgetown! Maybe after my PhD I can work here. ; )

Tomorrow we will be going to another town about 2 hours away and staying there until Sat morning. The town is Guapiles and that is where they have another branch campus of the U of CR. So we are going to have new hosts for a couple of days and new families. Sat we are going to the Caribbean coast again to the beach (HOORAY!!) and tomorrow and Fri we will be doing agricultural community service, going to a butterfly garden, and going to English classes. Sunday is a free day back in Turrialba so I will get some shopping done and maybe go back to Edgar's house for lunch.

Until then.................

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

This is fun!

I am glad I have my blog this year-it has been way easier than mass emailing. : ) Look what I can do on these computers too: ñññññññññññññññññññññññññññññññññññññññññññññññ

Anyways, after going out again last night (I have been out every night here until about 1 or 130 except for Saturday and it´s starting to take it´s toll because then I get up at 5 and don´t take naps because I hate naps), we went to Volcan Irazu today and to the basilica in Cartago. It was funny because you have to pay more to visit the volcano if you are a foreigner, and so Yami (the staff person here that has coordinated our visit for many years) tried to fake out the guy at the front gate and say that we were all from Costa Rica... she had us close the windows of the van so he wouldn´t see the blond girls. That obviously didn´t work. haha BUT, the guy asked if I was a tica and I said yes and he believed it. SO, I was able to pass for a tica. GREAT NEWS!!!!

The volcano was good and the students were running around and taking pics in the clouds (we were very high up, like 11,000 feet). Then I bought some things at the gift store and talked to the guy there who has been there every year. I told him I visited every year with a different group of students. Then when I paid and looked at the bill, he had taken 100 colones discount off all the souvenirs. NICE!! Going to Cartago there was a really bad rain storm and some roads were flooded. Even inside the basilica got flooded and some workers had to put up the pews to get the water out.

James left and now I am in charge... tomorrow I told the students to be at campus at 9 and they loved it because it is so late for them now and they can sleep in and take the 830 bus instead of the 630. hahaha I have a lot to cover with them like the farewell dinner and setting up committees for that, and the schedule for the rest of the week, and sending postcards back to the FSU International Center per request from the director. : )

My friend Edgar and his mom invited me and Yami to dinner tonight so I will probably going over there for a bit. Thanks for the comments and for reading!

Monday, May 15, 2006


Okay so the Fer-de-lance was sooooo scary. James led us on a walk thru the rain forest, and we had 12 people but only 10 could go in at a time. So Rodolfo (one of the U of CR staff) and I stayed back and chatted while the group started the walk and then we joined them later. When we met up with the group, they were going nuts b/c one of the girls had NARROWLY missed stepping on this very dangerous snake (which we later read that those vipers' venom can kill people in 2 hours). So I quickly took a pic of it and ran like everyone else. It was stressful, as Marsha would say. haha On this hike we saw tons of monkeys right above our heads. : )

The whole weekend was incredible and just perfect. I cannot believe we saw ANOTHER leatherback too. I mean how lucky do you have to be to be at the same place (exact spot on the beach) at the same time as the heaviest reptile in the world... and watch her nest her eggs!! FOR 2 YEARS IN A ROW?? I even said to James that I had a good feeling about that night... that we would see the turtle. I felt it in my gut. Psychic maybe? It's like the weekend was made just for us. When our turtle guide Victor said "It is our lucky night", I went nuts when I heard that and then saw the tracks coming from the sea and the turtle's back glistening under the full moon's light (it was about 10 PM).

Tortuguero is such a carefree relaxed place. People walk on the dirt roads barefoot, there are no cars, no post office, no a/c. Just the canals, the sea, and having fun and blasting music and eating and dancing and smoking. No cares in the world. I wouldn't want to live there, but for visiting it's amazing. I was on the beach and in the sea every spare minute I had. I even got up at 430 AM Sun morning to watch the sun rise. It was cloudy (rainstorm over the sea), but I still got some quasi-good shots. We also went to the turtle museum/learning center and the person working there was someone I had met last year-the captain of the Tortuguero soccer team named Jimmy. It was cool to see him again!

*If any coworkers are reading this, even though I am not at orientation, I am still gettng up wicked early every day! haha

The group we have this year is a great group. They all are getting along well and no one is talking behind each other's backs (like in years past). There are no cliques, no outcasts, no making fun, no whiners, no chronic late arrivals, etc. I am really enjoying them!

Today we went to a middle/high school in a town about 40 km away and they did some performances for us. : ) Then we ate at the branch campus in Paraiso and came back to Turrialba so people could get more money and shop.

Okay well I have been on the net for a while so I better go. Even though it's cheap at the internet cafe (100 colones for 20 min which equals 20 cents for 20 min; 500 colones=$1), I am smelling these donuts at the bakery and I might want some. Until next time.... keep the comments coming and thanks for reading!

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Me encanta la costa caribena

Had an incredible weekend in Tortuguero seeing the animals (including howler, spider, and white-face monkeys; crocs; toucans; A LEATHERBACK TURTLE AGAIN during the turtle walk at night!!!!; iguanas; a Fer-de-lance viper (more to come on that weird and amazing story); sloths; herons; toads; spiders; crabs; and more). Can't write much now, but the weather there was amazing (no rain if you can believe that-it's Costa Rica's rainy season), and we swam in the sea..... : ) I am nice and tan.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Otro dia...

Well we got back into town early and I had time to exchange dinero and get some tarjetas telefonicas. ; ) That's always a relief. I get nervous if I don't have currency.

Today we went to one of the branch campuses and sat in on an English 1 class and partnered up with some of the tico students and made collages. That was fun-we had to cut pics out of magazines of what we might want to do as a group (like go to the beach, shopping, biking, etc.) and then explain it to the class (ticos in English, us in Spanish). Then they had snacks for us- FRESH papaya, mango, oranges, apples, pinas, etc. Then we went to these botanical gardens that the U of Costa Rica maintains (I have been there before, but it was still cool). Some students and I did some model pictures there which was fun-we did all kinds of model poses with bamboo trees and cacti and sitting on benches. haha

It was a fight to find phone cards though-all the internet cafes were out, and we finally went to where they pay phone bills here. Sheesh. And at the bank I was ready to explode b/c some guy budged in front of me. James and I just did some shopping too-he wanted to find a Saprissa shirt (the best soccer team here).

Until next week.............................. Feliz dia de la madre!!

Feel free to make comments.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

He llegado a Costa Rica!

Well I am here. : ) The trip was fantastic, and only took 3.5 hours from ATL. Along the way, the pilot announced that we were flying over Grand Cayman and to look at the cruise ships docked. It was a very clear beautiful flight. On the plane too, two guys got in a shouting match and were in each other´s faces. That was fun.

I was picked up by one of the university drivers that we have had for years named Joaquin. He has cute kids and is a very nice man. We had to stop at one of the satellite campuses too to get one of the maintenance guys named Luis. It was funny because everyone recognized me (I should hope so-it´s my 5th time here) and they said "ya es casi familia" (she´s already just like family around here). Cute.

Then when we got to Turrialba, there was a bull (well, not bulls like in Espana, but a male cow) running thru the streets and everyone was entertained by that. I missed taking a pic because he ran around a corner. Then I checked into the hotel and the lady there didn´t recognize me at first because now I have black hair, but then she did and we talked for a bit. I went to campus then to see the group. They seem to be in good spirits, and like their host families, and the food especially! This weekend will be something new too-a different change of scenery for them on the Caribbean coast.

Well I am starving, so I am going to eat with the other coordinator James and then some students are coming to our hotel to have some drinks and celebrate my first night here. Have a great weekend everyone! Pura vida! (In Costa Rica, that means everything is good-"pure life!!!"). : )

Tuesday, May 09, 2006



Monday, May 08, 2006

It's that time of year again!

I am off to my beloved Costa Rica again in 2 days. : ) Even though this will be my 5th time there, there is always something new to see, and something I have missed before. If you look at the map, we will be based in Turrialba. We also spend a weekend in Tortuguero (tortuga=turtle in Spanish) and to get there we have to go to Limon and take a 4 hour canal ride north. It's spectacular. It's also the site where I saw the huge 5 ft. leatherback turtle last year laying her eggs. This year we are also staying a few days in Guapiles, so that will be a change. After that, we're heading down to Cahuita... so we'll be covering basically the entire east coast. I love Cahuita and Manzanillo and I think the students will too. We also go to Volcan Irazu (right above where it says "central"), which everyone is always fascinated by, and we also roam around Cartago to see the Spanish Baroque basilica. The trip begins and ends in San Jose. Someday I will go to the west coast. Til then... I have a lot of packing to do!

(Map courtesy of this site).

Thursday, May 04, 2006

And my mom wanted to name me Katherine GRACE???

I am a clutz. First I threw out my back, then I got sunburned, now it's my ankle. I was at Curves Monday, and I was running on those square platform things that are bouncy so it makes it easier to run on (and do jumping jacks or march in place-whatever people want to do). I lost my balance and fell over and twisted my ankle underneath me (there were plenty of eye witnesses too). I continued the workout. When I got home it started to swell. I stayed home from work Tuesday so I could ice it and elevate it. I didn't want to take any chances since I am going to Costa Rica next week and want to be in tip top shape. It's better today-still swollen and throbbing, but the swelling has gone down. What a fool. haha