Far Away

Friday night marked the last time that almost all of my friends would be in Costa Rica. It was a bittersweet goodbye for most of them: wanting to go home and see family/friends, but sad to leave life and family/friends here. Because most of us were exhausted and had long travels the following day, we decided to choose a low activity – going to a movie: Transformers 4. While I was a bit confused as to why we would pick something in which we couldn’t talk, it was still great to get a lot of people together for a last event.

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After having our last roommate ice cream run, being “forced” to eat an incredible amount of  popcorn, laughing obnoxiously at the corny lines in Transformers 4, it was time to say goodbye to people who had accepted me for all my weirdness. Who knows if we’ll ever meet again, but they will be in my heart forever.


 

Saturday morning, we (Emmanuelle, Morgan, Breenna and I) had a 4 o’clock wake up call so that we could make it to our 6 am bus in San Jose. Long story short, accommodating people who were rather stressed about making our bus on time (I promise it wasn’t me) we ended up getting to San Jose around 5 am. Thankfully, the city was pretty alive and we were able to safely wait for our bus. Around 6:30 am we were on our bus and finally ready to head out on our journey to Tortuguero. The ride there was broken  up into a portion before breakfast, a portion after breakfast, a boat ride, and another bus ride (through a the bumpiest and most pothole filled road I’d even been on). Thankfully, I was able to fill the time with many naps, except on the last driving portion.

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Yes there is a “train stop” for the banana train.

Once we got to Tortuguero, our Tour Guide, Victor, was waiting for us to direct us to our hotel.  After being led to our hotel, directly on the beach 🙂 and settling in we found out that since it was so rainy today we were only going to our turtle tour today and save both the canal and jungle tour for tomorrow. This turned into being a wonderful gift.

We had met two fellow Americans (Bethan and Paul), who were volunteering at an orphanage in Cartago, on our bus ride. When we arrived, we had awkwardly parted ways without getting information to contact each other. However, thankfully Tortuguero (like every other place we have been to) is a small enough town that on our way to lunch we ran into them. And once we made it to lunch, we ran into the other friends we made on the bus, two Chileans. It was a little difficult for the 8 of us to communicate altogether since not everyone spoke english or spanish, but we managed.

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After lunch, Emmanuelle, Morgan, Breenna, Bethan, Paul and I went to hangout on the hammocks at our hotel. They happened to have exactly 6. Bethan (from UK) and Paul were really fun to hang out with and it’s moments like these that make you really appreciate traveling and meeting all sorts of people just by being friendly and open…vulnerable. Our hotel sold beer for $2, so everyone was extremely happy chilling especially after waking up so early. However, since Emmanuelle and I don’t drink beer, we went on a walk to the store in order to find other drinks. Our map showed a corner store supposedly right down the “street” from us. Of course, that would be way to simple. So after getting a little lost in this small village, we took the time to enjoy our explorations and got to see why this place was so cool and extremely different from every other place we had traveled.

1. It was an island.

2. Much of the town’s buildings were on stilts and surrounded by water.

3. We were in the Caribbean.

4. There was a mix of people and cultures.

5. It was not filled with english  speakers.

After we returned from our mini adventure, we got to know Bethan and Paul a little more – such interesting people! And after adding them on facebook, we realized that Emmanuelle and Bethan had a mutual friend. Not just an acquaintance, but actually someone who they were both good friends with – Thomas. Thomas had lived in Texas for high school and went to the same International School as Emmanuelle. Since then, he has returned to the UK and attends the same school as Bethan. HOW SMALL OF A WORLD? Literally. It’s incredible.

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Around sunset, we went out to beach to see the view since the rain had stopped. We ended up  spending a bunch of time there, having a handstand photo shoot. Pictures to come that will be able to show how much fun this was. Nevertheless, we got soaked and covered in sand after the waves came crashing into us.

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I am alive and I am living. (Vivi = I lived)

Victor had recommended a nice place for dinner, but when we showed up we didn’t realize how nice it was going to be. In the middle of a “run down”  village, was a waterside, gorgeous restaurant. The chefs were so accommodating and lets you change items on your order (this is a first here!!). It was a delicious dinner and great company.

At 9:30 we met up with Victor to begin our turtle night tour. For those of you who are not aware, Tortuguero Beach is a known nesting ground for green sea turtles during June – August  (?). At night, turtle conservatory workers search the beach for turtles, take research measures, and alert tour groups (no more than 20 people at a time) to come and see the turtle. It was crazy that we were able to stand extremely close to the turtle without it leaving. The nesting process takes around 1 -2 hour. First the mom has to dig a hole, release the eggs, and then cover up the hole. By the time my group got there, we were able to see the turtle covering up the eggs and the first hole she tried to dig before realizing there  were too many roots in that spot (poor turtle – so much energy extended).

We knew it was time to leave once the mama turtle startling kicked sand at us. Afterwards, it was very funny, but we were all unaware this was going to happen. We left the spot, learned a lot more about the nesting process, and then were able to see the mom again. This time, I got blinded by the turtle after it kicked sand into my face – thanks. But thankfully, I was able to get almost all of it out without a problem.

Then we waited for around 30 minutes until the turtle was making its way back to the water. It was such an amazing thing to see and a realization of how big these turtles were. Unfortunately, we couldn’t take pictures, so I guess you’ll all have to go to Tortuguero to see for yourself 🙂


June 13: 

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We woke up early on Sunday morning, with the rest of the town, to go on a canal tour. It was so cool to be in a small canoe paddling around the national park waterways but also being able to go into super narrow passageways.  We were able to see monkeys, sloths, birds, iguanas, and caimans.

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can you see the baby caiman?

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In the afternoon we went on a Jungle hike. Thank goodness for Victor because there would have been no way we would have seen all the awesome animals hidden high up  in the tree. He also had incredible binoculars. Who knew binoculars could show you something that amazingly clear. We also saw our first two sloths in the wild! So exciting 🙂 On our way back, we walked along the beach and got to see where turtles had laid their eggs last night. 10532790_10152562692293630_4804264490632641274_n

Overall, it was an incredible week. Ask me for much more details on all of our tours!

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Sidebar: VICTOR WAS AMAZING!!! We got such a good deal (hotel, transportation, turtle night tour, canal tour, and jungle tour for $115) and it was totally worth the few extra dollars for ease of transportation and extra information. If you ever find yourself going to Tortuguero, ask me for his details!!

 

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So Many Feels

What started off as a terrible morning, filled with tons of frustrations with my class and program, was quickly turned around by a quick vent session with my best friend and big. It’s crazy how talking to someone who means so much to you can completely turn around your day 🙂 I am forever grateful for all she does for me and for all the amazing days she has helped me have even when we are no together.


The concept of a waste of time is one that should be rid from someone vocabulary when he/she are abroad. Today I was going to get bus tickets for our trip this weekend.

I had checked the name and location of the bus station a million times.
I checked with people who had gone last week.
And I felt pretty competent in my ability to make the trek and it was very easy (bus to taxi, taxi to bus).

My roommate was on Skype with her boyfriend who she rarely gets to talk to due to an 8 hour time difference and so I said I had no problem going by myself. I’m sure you all know where this is going – you know I never have easy trips. Problems started when the taxi driver didn’t know where the stop was.  Then, when I finally made it to the station (which ended up being the same one we went to for another trip) it turned out you couldn’t buy tickets in advance. Thanks web articles. Talking solely in Spanish, I tried to communicate with the bus workers about buying tickets and making sure this was the only station to leave from. After getting the same answer over and over again, I decided it was time to give up and go home with complete confusion on how my friends bought their tickets early. Usually at this point, I would have been extremely mad about my time that was wasted with this trip, but instead I choose to look on the bright side and check an item off my Costa Rican bucket list: “exploring/traveling” around by myself here – sorry mom, promise I was safe about it. Additionally, I now knew the best way to get to the station on Friday. 2 bonuses from a rather unsuccessful trip.


Fear is the number one thing that holds us back, and when you say “yes” to things that scare you, you take back control of your life and open yourself up to infinite new experiences.

I’m type a. Don’t get me wrong. I like having a nice and best schedule, being very productive, things being on time and taking only the slotted amount, and things making sense. But when you’re abroad you can’t think like that. If you do, you’ll not only be frustrated day and night, but you’ll miss out on some of the best experiences. This might get annoying to some people on the trip worried about safety or logistics, but just let it be. If you keep a positive attitude and let all the frustrations go you’ll end up with a memory you’d never expect. Its pretty cool how things end up working out for the best.


The day continued to improve with an amazing dinner, it seems my Mama Tica is finally back to being herself even though another family member is sick. During dinner we got on the topic of the exercise parks in the neighborhood, so after dinner we took a walk to explore. After 10 weeks of being here, I just found out about these. It’s so comical how you can be in a place for a long time before you find out about spots that could easily become your favorite. For instance, the second park we went to is on a hill and has a great view of city. I am sure it is an amazing spot for watching sunrise and sunset (this is now on my roommate’s and I to do list).  This evening was filled with  so many laughs trying out all the different exercise equipment and I was so happy to finally get my Mama Tica out of the house. She seemed to get so much more energy, it was heartwarming to see!


Tonight, things got real when I realized I only had 2 weeks left here. Where has all the time gone? I may never understand why I am served potatoes and rice in the same meal and why there are no street signs. I may not be able to completely rid myself with frustration for my program or travels here, but one thing is for sure: I am so sad it’s all coming to an end.  I seriously can’t fathom how I only have 2 weeks left in this fabulous country.  My life has completely changed since I came here 10 short weeks ago. I still remember how awkward it was the first day: my host mom and I sat for 2 hours trying to communicate without being able to speak the language. And now, while we still can’t have in-depth conversations without translation help, I have learned so much from her, from her family, and from this country. It’s amazing to know when I leave,  I’ll always have a family and a place to stay in Costa Rica. It’s a constant motivation to learn spanish in order for me to be able communicate on new levels with my family.


Coming full circle: you never know what you can experience until you take a step outside of your comfort zone and being vulnerable. 

A Cinderella Story

And that’s a wrap – Germany wins the world cup.

But not before a team filled with heart and spirit went farther than anyone ever imagined.

Costa Rica’s La Sele became the team that found its way into the hearts of people around the world.

Our World Cup run ended may have early, but the legacy of what was accomplished will continue to live on in the hearts of the wonderful Costa Rican people, as well as all around the world. I’m so blessed to live alongside such loving, lively, and beautiful people who allow me to feel like an ADOPTED Tica. It’s not common to find fans who will still parade the streets after a loss in support of their team. Costa Rica, I love you. # costarica # vivalasele # cinderellastory -Emmanuelle Quitzau

20140709-232718-84438537.jpgWhile the day we lost, Ticos may not have stayed out long after the game, the people of Costa Rica continued to hold their heads up with pride. Although they would no longer be competing for the World Cup, we were incredibly proud of how far their team came and how well they played throughout the entire tournament. It’s not everyday that your team loses and people are still honking their horns in the street. Costa Rica made it farther than they ever had and only lost to the Netherlands in a close shoot-out. Costa Rica made its presence known and showed the world what we were capable of. We made our story known: A Cinderella Story, accomplishing what no one thought we could.

The Tuesday after they lost, La Sele (Costa Rica’s team) returned home.  The Tico times released event details to celebrate their return : 3 pm in La Sabana. Tens of thousands of fans were expected to be there.

20140709-232718-84438343.jpgThis may have been the biggest understatement I have ever heard. My friends and I show up to La Sabana around 2:15 pm and fans have already lined the street starting at least 5 miles away. Some people that we met had been there since 8:30 am. The crowd was absolutely insane, people filled streets and sidewalks that weren’t closed and waited for La Sele to join. Around 5 pm there was still no sign of the team. People were growing antsy but no one moved. Fans ran into the closest restaurants and grocery stores to refuel, but no one was moving. The news had reported La Sele left the airport at 3 pm and had been headed our way ever since. So what took a 30 minute drive so long??

People. Hundred of thousands. Fans. Crowded streets.

The welcome bus was moving so slow due to the enormous crowd of people who were there starting at the airport and continuing all the way to where I was. The bus could barely move and continuously stopped to say hi to fans, sign jerseys, and smile for a picture. Around 6 pm, we decided that the team was nowhere near us (the news showed people walking right behind the bus – like a parade) and that we should sadly go home while we still have the chance and before it gets dark.

Thankfully, there was only traffic on the main road and we were able to make it home in a good time via taxi. Once home we watched the news, continuing to see the bus make its way to La Sabana. At 7:15 pm, La Sele finally made it – 4 plus hours after expected. But not to worry there were now even more fans than before all ready for the concert and welcome ceremony to start. Around 9:30 the concert finally ended and people started to disperse home. Although we weren’t there – we still felt the pride and spirit of the entire country. It’s not everyday you get to see an enormous celebration for a team that “didn’t” go all the way. But believe me when I say this – we went all the way and more. We made history. We made others fall in love with us. We made tears. We made ourselves known. 20140709-232718-84438123.jpg

La Sele will forever be my team and I am so incredibly proud of what they were able to be. Experiencing the World Cup here was an event of a life time. I am so lucky I was able to be a part of it.

The World Cup


 Not only is it amazing to be in a country that loves futball, or soccer, it’s  amazing to be apart of the celebration. Both the love of the game and the  love for Costa Rica. On game days, everyone makes arrangements for  watching, including getting off work, moving class earlier and  shortening the time, and everyone is dressed in their jersey or at the very  least, red.

While many of my friends back in the US are talking about and Instagramig intense celebrations, I still believe that being here is an experience that you couldn’t have in the US. Like the US, the game is being shown everywhere , people are buying flags, red, white, and blue paint, but the difference is: games here mean more. You have to look near and far before you find someone who isn’t watching the game, who will be permanently changed after win or even a loss. And finally, there will be celebration all day and night before games and after wins. (Think Friday Night Lights. )

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Montezuma celebration

The first game Costa Rica played, my friends and I were in a small town of Montezuma. The entire population of Montezuma and all its visitors piled into the local bar chicos, starting 2 hours before start time. Every time Costa Rica scored, there was cheering (people, music played, shouting from the mic) for what seemed to be at least 10 minuets. And when the won, the entire bar joined together to dance, to sing, to hug, to kiss, and to smile about the pride that had over come then. Dancing celebrations lasted for at least 20-30 minutes, but even when that stopped, people were still celebrating at dinner time.

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Just some of my favorite gals before Costa Rica’s second game.

The next game, I was back in Heredia, my class was changed from 9-12 to 8-9:30 so we could watch the game. Our university was playing the game in the amphitheater and the event was sponsored by Pepsi (passing out noisemakers and Pepsi jerseys). The area was completely packed, people sitting on the ground, standing in the back, and sitting or standing way too close to those next to them. The actual watching of the game was insane. I thought I was going to pass out from all the cheering and jumping after we scored a goal. What was crazy, is that people definitely were more passionate when we scored than when we won. But not too worry, as soon as the game ended, everyone you saw shouted and cheered to you, every car in the street was honking its horns (this lasted forever) and families went out to celebrate with ice cream.

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Of course we celebrated with ice cream too.

My roommates and I walked into the mall to grab snacks and we had a total High School Musical experience. As soon as we entered, there were three other groups of people – one walking in from another exit, one on our right, and one in front of us – them emerged. As we all came together we were signing the Costa Rican World Cup song and dancing. It was so powerful. Later that afternoon, a bunch of us went down to Heredia Center (the game had been shown in the streets of Heredia and San Jose and the national Futball stadium) and the streets were packed with people, even three hours later. It was incredible to be a part of the cheering and dancing. It’s a culture and experience I will never forget.

Celebration in Heredia Center

Celebration in Heredia Center

Can’t wait to the game today! HOLAY HOLAY HOLAY HOLAY, TICOS .

Futball is in their blood.

A Magical Woman

After dinner tonight, my mama Tica asked if we wanted cafe (to warm up; it’s been cold here). I didn’t need the extra caffeine so I asked if I could have tea. She said that she was out, and I replied no worries. All of a sudden, she says wait, I do. Do you like mint tea? After saying yes, she gets up from the table, goes to the kitchen, then asks us to turn on the outside light. She walks back in with homegrown mint leaves, proceeds to let us smell them, then returns to the kitchen to make…homemade mint tea. She is a gift sent from god.

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#onlyincostarica

This I Promise You

As many of you might be aware, I like to plan things. When abroad or anywhere new this usually consists of making plans from cool things I have read do. A lot of times, it is to some area or place I’ve never been. Due to that there are a lot of things I can’t promise to those who accompany me:

1. The day going according to plan
2. Knowing exactly how to get there
3. Knowing exactly what we are doing
4. Knowing how long we will be there
5. Everyone who RSVPs “yes” coming

While there are a lot of things that won’t go right, there is one thing that I can promise:

We will leave with a story, usually filled with funny, good memories.

However, this comes under two conditions:

1. You must come with an open mind
2. You don’t let the curveballs of the day/travel get you down

Thankfully, most people I have met here and on other trips fully embrace these mindsets. I know I do. Yet, when you are the one planning it, you always feel bad when things don’t go right. These past two days have been incredibly brilliant examples of how to
roll with the punches and end up having great times.

Tuesday

As a true Nashviller, I have been missing live music since I left Vandy. When I read about a popular jazz club (thinking it may resemble the Bluebird), I jumped ok the chance to go. After deciding with my roommates that it didn’t really matter which night of the week we went (we weren’t going to know the bands anyways), we made plans to go this past Tuesday. Because events are always better with more friends, we had around 10 others who said they would love to come. Everything was squared away, we had reservations for the 8pm show, we had directions to get there and back, and we had a group to go with.

However, our problems started from the second we made it to the first bus stop.

1. 5 people decided last minute they couldn’t come (a few forgetting to tell us)
2. The directions I was given to the second bus stop in San Jose were not exactly correct. Everyone we asked led us in a different direction. Thankfully, we were in a safer area and found the stop after only a bit of walking.
3. The first thing I saw when walking into the jazz club, was a guy in scary face paint.

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4. The show really didn’t start until 8:45 – we were a little less than an hour early.
5. There were 3 bands that night and none of them were jazz…

Now you take that list and can see that pretty much everything went wrong. However, it ended up being a very fun evening. Although we were there incredibly early, we were able to get drinks and fries (that were served with toothpicks??) and talk.

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It was nice to be able to get to know a new group of people as most of my friends from Summer I are gone.

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The first band, a group of 4 college age boys, got on stage around 8:45 and even though it was Spanish rock, they were very talented and enjoyable to listen to. After our long wait and confusing evening, this definitely put a smile on everyone’s face (although there had already been several other comical moments). Around 9:15 another band got on stage – we had to brace ourselves for what we were in store for. The lead singer of this band was the guy in face paint that I had run into earlier in the evening. The thought running through all of our brains: oh shit, we’re about to hear Spanish Screamo.
After the beginning scream (scaring all of us), the band turned into alternative music. Although, not my preference of music, they were still good and the lead, as frightening as he was, had a great stage presence.

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While we had to leave around 9:45 to make it back before the last buses home and I felt awful for dragging people out and then only seeing an hour of music, the comment that made everything worth it: “I really would have loved to stay but I just didn’t want to pay for a taxi.”

The night might have gone completely off track but my promise held true: people had a good time and were happy to be out exploring local activities, especially at night.

Wednesday

A few weeks ago, one of our directors posted in our Facebook group about places to paintball near us. Paintballing is something I have always wanted to do, but never taken the chance. 1. It’s expensive 2. I have never had a large group to do it with it
And while there is nothing extremely Costa Rican about paintball, I had solutions to both of the previous problems. So again, I jumped on my chance to make paintball finally happen. Around 10 of my friends said they’d be up for it, we were going to invite everyone, and it was only $13 to play and get gear plus 50 balls and $2 for each additional 50 ball packet. I had called the arena and made sure that taxing was the best option from where we lived. They confirmed that it was close and we should taxi. So all was set, but of course if I am in charge things must go wrong:

1. Some of our friends backed out again at the last second and some never showed up to leave together
2. The arena ended up being much father than we expected turning into an $8 cab ride (expensive for Costa Rica)
3. We had no clue how to “check in” or where to go once we arrived
4. It was storming, of course

However, as usual, it turned into an extremely fun afternoon!

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1. Two of our friends walked in just as we were going over the rules with the ref. It was extremely comical and not the first time something like this has happened.
2. Although the rain made it really hard to see and limited the space we could play on (2 of the fields had two much metal on them), it made it much more intense
3. Who doesn’t like paintball or capture the flag – paintball style

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While I felt bad having people pay more for a cab (especially on our way home when we realized we could have bussed to Heredia center and cabbed from there), we all had so much fun and only ended with a few welts. In the end, the small stuff can’t be sweated and what we will remember is our ridiculous behavior: one of my teammates hanging near base and barley shooting for all 4 games; one of my opponents stepping on a nail; people being shot by their own teammates; my opponent trying to hide behind a wall but instead knocking it down and we all unloaded on him. So here is to going with the flow and making the most out of everything.

I am alive and I am living.