We’re On Each Other’s Team

I think I’m still processing my week with The Giving Lens and Empowerment International. I feel it will be almost impossible to sum up the experience in a few blog posts, but I’m going to try my best.

The one week workshop in Granada was exhausting, eye opening, intense, difficult, but above all else, wonderful. The professional photographers that ran the workshop are Jay and Varina Patel. It was their third time coming to Nicaragua with The Giving Lens and it was immediately clear how passionate they are about being here. You could tell instantly how excited the kids they had worked with before were to see them. They are both outstanding photographers. You should definitely check out their work.

 

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Jay and Varina, our fearless leaders!

The participants making up the team were from all over the US, Canada, and one guy from Australia. The group got along really well and I met so many great people who share a passion for photography. I found this to be a very unique experience that people coming from many walks of life could share.

As I mentioned in my last post, the entire week the participants were working closely with the students side by side. We went to almost all the shoots together. From our first day walking around Granada to our last day having pizza together and wiping away tears while saying goodbye, we were truly a team.

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The whole team

I loved the kids that we worked with. They were funny, intelligent, hardworking, and patient. They often taught us way more than we taught them, about photography and life. They have so much potential and I truly feel they will do great things.

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Selfies with the kids!

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The girls ready to shoot.


The non profit we worked with, Empowerment International was also great. They do so much for the community and their efforts should not go unnoticed. Their staff was so accommodating and went above and beyond to make sure things ran smoothly. The staff was also full of amazing people we got to know well and had so much fun with. They added so much to the trip.

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Margarita and Pamela, two of the fabulous women of the Empowerment International staff

Not everything was perfect, but that is part of travel. Two of the girls had their money stolen from our first hotel, so after two days there was a lot of scrambling around in order to put us in a new hotel. The girl I met up with in Costa Rica, Justine, and I were left behind the very first day of the trip due to some miscommunication about where and when we were all meeting. There were some other hiccups along the way, but not everything can run perfectly in a trip that requires as much organization and planning as this one did. We all lived through it and made the most of it.

I went into this trip hoping to become a better photographer and have a good time. Those goals were met and surpassed. I learned so much about photography and shot in manual the entire week which was a big step for me. I now understand certain capabilities of my camera that I had no idea about before. In just one week the amount of knowledge I gained is unbelievable. A big thanks to Jay and Varina for all their help. In addition to the photography, I had an amazing time, feel I participated in and was part of a great non profit, met amazing people, and got a better understanding of life and the culture of Granada, Nicaragua. Overall, this trip was very successful and I am thankful for all the great memories it has given me.

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Me and Josseling

“Team” -Lorde

Categories: Nicaragua | Leave a comment

Lend a Helpin’ Hand

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Students and their cameras!

After finishing a week long experience with The Giving Lens in Nicaragua, a nonprofit that offers photography workshops but also a chance to work with the local community and local nonprofits, I wanted to take a little time to reflect.

Before I get into my experience I wanted to talk a little about my previous travel and volunteer experience. I have recently become more involved in the travel community by becoming a member of Go Girls of the World, as well as their local Chicago meetup. I’ve attended the Women in Travel Summit in Chicago as well as various other events. One topic that comes up often is voluntourism.

When people hear the term “volunteer” especially in the context of travel, I think most people think of a great selfless act people are choosing to partake in. Recently, however, there has been controversy surrounding the idea of voluntourism that is being discussed in the travel community. Often, a problem arises where people will go somewhere to volunteer without truly having an understanding of the area they are traveling to. While the volunteers can walk away feeling good about themselves and feel as if they helped or even tried to save those they were working with, they often cause more harm than good. The volunteer walks away happy and fulfilled while those they aimed to help walk away with more of a mess to clean up. Instead of being the selfless act it was meant to be, it actually turns into more of a selfish one.

For example, I read about a group that went to build homes (a common enough volunteer activity, one that I have also taken part in) but had no skill in doing so. While the volunteers slept at night, what they had built had to be taken down and redone properly if the house was to stay standing. When the volunteers woke in the morning they were none the wiser and continued to build the structurally unsound houses that would again need to be fixed. I’m sure this has happened many times.

When I went to volunteer in Guatemala in 2009 at a school, it never occurred to me I could cause more harm than good. I went to teach the students each day, hoping and really feeling like I was making a difference. Looking back, I’m honestly not sure if the goal of helping to educate the students was really accomplished. The students enjoyed my company and I think their math skills did improve, but trying to teach reading in a language I barely spoke was pretty unrealistic.

I have kept in touch with the organization I worked with and they no longer have volunteers at the school in Guatemala. They do fundraising and have invested in the community. They now are able to staff the school with local teachers who speak fluent Spanish. This helps everyone in the community. They are now self sustaining which was the vision from the beginning, I just wasn’t aware of it. When I visited the school by the same organization in Peru, I was sad to see there weren’t volunteers. When I think about it now though, I’m able to understand that this is actually a very good thing for their community now that it is self sustaining.

When I got to Nicaragua, I was curious what the volunteer portion of our trip would be like. It was actually very different than I expected, in a positive way. We worked with a local nonprofit called Empowerment International. They run many educational programs as well as a variety of clubs for the kids in Granada, including a photography club. I figured we would visit the kids a few hours each day, helping them with the basics of photography, then go off and do our photos shoots. This was not the case at all.

One of the Empowerment International students taking photos.

One of the Empowerment International students taking photos.

The students we worked with were actually part of our workshop. They went to almost all the photo shoots with us. When the participants were up and ready to go to a location at 4:30am, so were the kids. They got the same teaching by Jay and Varina Patel, professional and amazing photographers, that the rest of us got. Many of the students have been doing photography longer than I have and are way more advanced than me. I had a lot to learn from them. Many have also been published in magazines here in Granada. Throughout the week the workshop participants really didn’t volunteer at all. Instead, we shared our experiences and passion for photography, working side by side. It was fantastic. I think everyone, students and participants alike, all left feeling positive about the interactions and relationships formed in the group. It was a truly unique experience.

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Another Empowerment International student posing for us!

Going forward, I would not hesitate to do something like The Giving Lens again. I will, however, have to think about other types of voluntourism trips. I would need to consider what kind of impact I would actually be making, and whether, in the end, I was truly doing good. If you are considering volunteering abroad I would urge you to do the same.

 

 

Categories: Nicaragua | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

It’s Oh So Quiet

After finishing my G Adventures tour it was time to make my way towards the border near Nicaragua. I had bought my bus ticket online and was assured it would be waiting for me at my hotel. Well, no ticket. Dee, my G adventures tour guide, called the company for me and they said it would be waiting at the bus station in the morning. Again, no ticket. The ticket purchased online was $75. I had to buy another ticket if there was any chance of me getting where I was going. Luckily the ticket only cost $10 at the station.

I’m sure the $75 ticket was for a nice bus. The one I ended up taking was not nice at all. No AC, ripped up seats, and very old. The bus stopped on the side of the road dozens of times to pick people up. I had no idea where I was supposed to get off. I read the ride was about 3 hours. It ended up taking almost 6! Nobody spoke English and I was very grateful for the little Spanish I knew. I luckily got off where I was supposed to and got a cab to the farm I was going to be staying at. Definitely not my favorite travel experience, not to mention one I paid $75 too much for, but I did make it there in one piece!

The farm I stayed on is called Cana Castilla. It is beautiful, very secluded, and very, very quiet. Almost too quiet. It’s too far and secluded to get to town easily so I felt a little bit trapped at the farm. No TV, barely any wifi, no pool, and so few other guests made me feel very isolated. I should have just enjoyed the quiet, but this city girl had a hard time getting used to it. I did get to play with a baby sloth though, definitely a unique experience that I would never have in the city! There were also monkeys, frogs, butterflies, chickens, roosters, and all kinds of wildlife roaming around. They quickly became my friends.

My baby sloth friend,

My baby sloth friend.

My monkey friend.

My monkey friend.

My rooster friend.

My rooster friend.

My first night there, there were only two other guests. They were from Morrocco and so interesting to talk to. I was grateful to have them around. The next day, Justine, who would be on my trip with The Giving Lens arrived. I was again thankful to have company. We explored the grounds, took photos, chilled in the hammocks and played with the dogs.

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The farm grounds.

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My dog friend.

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Flowers.

By my third full day I was very antsy to get off the grounds of the farm and the Costa Rica World Cup game was the perfect opportunity. The owner of the farm drove Justine and I as well as another guest to a small restaurant in the town of La Cruz to watch the game. There were about five other people around when we arrived, but within a few minutes a bus full of fans appeared, all with their Costa Rica spirit and loud noisemakers. It was definitely the noise and excitement I needed.

Go Costa Rica!

Go Costa Rica!

Showing my Costa Rican pride!

Showing my Costa Rican pride!

Even though Costa Rica lost it was still such a fun and unique experience to watch the game in this small town with these great fans. It was a wonderful end to my Costa Rican experience.

“Quiet” -Bjork

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We’re All In This Thing Together

In Costa Rica I took my first ever group tour. I had been on day tours and even weekend tours, but I’ve never spent an entire week traveling from place to place with the same group of people and a guide.

I got lucky but I also did my research. I used the company G Adventures, which has a very good reputation. One thing I really didn’t want was a huge bus tour with 40 other people. G adventures does not do a big tour like that. The biggest group you can have is 16, and our group turned out to only have 10. G adventures also uses many local guides, has some activities included, but many more you can choose from, and some meals included, but again, there is often choice. Another thing that led me to G Adventures was their belief you shouldn’t have to pay more for traveling solo. If you travel by yourself, they will pair you up with another solo traveler which means no single supplement.

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The group arriving at Monte Verde

As I said, there were 10 people in my group. I happened to be with a very young group, I was the oldest, but it was also a very fun group. There were 6 people traveling solo, more than I expected, one pair of sisters, and one pair of friends. It was also 9 girls and 1 guy, which was an interesting dynamic.

Our leader, Dee, was amazing. If all the guides are as good as she is, then G definitely hires the right people. She went out of her way over and over again to make sure everyone was having the experience they wanted, felt comfortable, and felt safe. She is American, but has lived in Central America for several years. Dee knew lots of locals and took us to places that a big tour bus just would not have gone, such as the local hot springs. Throughout the whole trip I saw very few other tourists, way less than I expected, and I have to compliment both Dee and G Adventures for that. They really did try to make it a more authentic experience and not just herd us around from place to place.

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Dee, our fearless leader

While traveling in a group, you are with the other people a lot, although you don’t always have to be. Dee almost always organized a group dinner, but it was not mandatory, and once in a while people chose to go to meals on their own, which was totally fine. We did a lot of activities together, for example our entire group wanted to go zipling, plus there were included activities such as the coffee farm, hot springs, and nature walk. However, a lot of us did separate activities too. It was really up to each person to decide what they wanted to do, which also made the trip great.

Of course group dynamics play a role in any type of group activity, and when you are with people for a full week or more it is very important. For the most part our group just got along. We were from all over, the States, Canada, England, Australia, and Switzerland, but that just made it even more interesting. Not everyone in the group was best friends by the end, but overall everyone got along and added something to the trip.

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Before ziplining

Another thing I have to commend G Adventures on was room pairing. Everyone, including me, was very happy with their roommates. They seemed to pair us by age, as my roommate and I are both in our 30′s, but otherwise I guess it is kind of the luck of the draw. It just happened to work out really well and my roommate, Diane, and I got along great!

If anyone wants to travel, can’t find anyone to go with, but doesn’t want to be alone, I think a G Adventure trip is the perfect solution. After experiencing this first trip with them, I really cannot say enough good things about them and would not hesitate to go on another tour with them soon.

“in This Together” -Luciano

 

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Let’s Go To the Beach

The final destination on my tour before returning to San Jose was Manuel Antonio which is a beach town. After checking into our hotel, which was called Hotel California (I actually stayed at The Hotel California!) we took the public bus that headed straight to the beach. I’ve obviously been to the beach before, but with maybe the exception of a beach we went to on my family cruise in Mexico, I’ve never seen such a gorgeous beach!

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Manuel Antonio public beach

We had a great lunch and wandered around the town a little before heading back to the hotel for some pool time and later a great restaurant in town for dinner, complete with crazy lightening shows!

The following day it was an early start as we headed to Manuel Antonio National Park for a wildlife walk and more beach time. The wildlife once again did not disappoint. We saw a deer cross right in front of us, amazing looking crabs, toucans, and sloths from a distance.

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A deer crossing our path.

Once we got to the private beach in the park, which is even more gorgeous than the public beach, there we’re naughty raccoons all over trying to steal everyone’s food. They were often successful and even managed to steal a bag of chips from my friend Teela!

 

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Naughty raccoon

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The beach inside the park.

As we walked out of the park I saw one of the craziest things I think I’ve ever seen in nature; a skinny, but long green snake grabbed a frog and swallowed it. It was just one of those things that you couldn’t believe was happening. The poor frog’s legs were hanging out of the snake’s mouth. Thanks to Skye for the picture!

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Poor frog…

The last activity I did before heading back to San Jose was go on a Catamaran. It was a blast. The guides on the boat were so entertaining and kept us happy the whole time. With Bob Marley as our soundtrack for the day, we went out to sea, saw dolphins jumping in the water, went in the water for some swimming time of our own, and had once again stunning scenery. Seriously gorgeous!

 

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On the boat

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Beautiful scenery

Overall, Manuel Antonio had a very different vibe than La Fortuna and Monteverde. It is a beach town and you could feel it. It was extremely laid back and chill. It also seemed to be the most touristy of the places we visited, but considering I feel I actually saw very few tourists on the whole trip it wasn’t too bad. I could see travelers wanting to hang out here for a while. While I am not a huge beach person (I get restless sitting on the sand all day but I do love being in the water) I really enjoyed this part of the trip and the whole beach vibe.

“Starships” -Nicki Minaj

 

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You Make My Heart Beat Faster

As soon as we arrived in Monte Verde I could feel the temperature drop. It is a cloud forest which is at higher elevation up in the mountains. When we stopped to take a few pictures my breath was completely taken away by the beauty of this place.

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Arriving in Monte Verde

Our first stop was to a coffee and coaco farm. I’ve been to coffee farms before but it is still an interesting process to see how the products are made and the scenery on the farm was absolutely stunning. It’s also great to see how much pride the people who work on the farm have in their jobs. The best part though, was taking shots of moonshine made on the farm! It tasted like pure rubbing alcohol and the faces we made while drinking it were not pretty. The ox were cool too!

 

Coffee!

Coffee!

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Oxen ready to give us a ride.

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Tractor on the coffee farm.

 

The first evening in Monte Verde was spent on a night hike. It was creepy and fun to roam the dense forest at night. We saw some wildlife but most of it was very far away and hard to see. The coolest thing we got to see up close was a big furry tarantula. It was so creepy that it was almost cute.

Tarantula!

Tarantula!

The town of Monte Verde is pretty small and really cute. I was again pleasantly surprised at how few tourists I’ve seen. There was an adorable restaurant called The Treehouse where you can sit under actual trees, where we had dinner and listened to some pretty bad live music, but still had a blast singing along.

Early the next morning we did a hike through the Santa Elena Cloud forest. The forest was absolutely gorgeous and stunning, but to be honest, at this point I was ready to just walk through and admire the beauty then hear about every type of plant and critter to be found. The tour may have been boring but the scenery did not disappoint.

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Santa Elena Cloud Forest

Huge tree roots

Huge tree roots

If we were a little bit bored on the hike it didn’t last for long because our next stop was zip-lining. Our entire group decided to go. I’ve never been before and I think my heart is still beating faster from the experience. It was fabulous and terrifying. Monte Verde is known for having some of the best and longest zip lines in all of Central America.

Ready for ziplining!

Ready for ziplining!

On about the third or forth line my glove went flying off. They checked all the equipment so carefully but never made sure my gloves fit. I assumed they only had one size: HUGE! I have tiny hands and the gloves just wouldn’t stay on. Luckily my g adventures guide was awesome and let me use hers.

On the last two zip lines you could go superman style, face first. It was one of the scariest things I’ve ever done but it was also incredibly beautiful.

The view from ziplining!

The view from ziplining!

If you are looking for an adrenaline rush, I think you will be hard presses to fine something as great as zipping through the cloud forest.

“Faster”  -Matt Nathanson

 

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Don’t Go Chasing Waterfalls

Actually do go chasing waterfalls. They are not always easy to get to but always seem to be worth it.

 

Waterfall

Waterfall

I’ve been with my G adventure tour for three days now and could not be happier. The group and our guide are fabulous! More on them and what it’s like to travel with a group will be coming up in future posts.

The past few days have been amazing and also nonstop. I arrived to La Fortunate, near Arenal, yesterday morning. After another authentic Costa Rican lunch and quickly checking into our adorable hotel we were off to walk/hike to the waterfall. Our guide, Dee, said it was about three miles away. That’s not too bad, I thought. The last mile or so turned out to be all uphill. Not so fun, but I did it. Plus we saw the Arenal Volcano.

Arenal Volcano

Arenal Volcano

Then it was several hundred steps down to the waterfall itself (which of course had to be climbed back up). The waterfall was amazing. Swimming in the water underneath it was cold but fantastic. We didn’t have too much time but I still loved it. Next time I would take a cab to the waterfall and save the walking/hiking for later! I’ve definitely realized that hiking or anything going uphill is just not something I enjoy, but swimming in most any type of water definitely is!

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Arenal waterfall

After spending time at the waterfall, our guide took the majority of our group to an experience that will be hard to beat. The area has natural hot springs that you can access from man made pools at many of the hotels around. Dee, however took us to the local free spot which is the actual natural source of the water. We sat in the steaming hot water, drinking ice cold beers, trying not to drift away with the strong current, candles lit for light, talking about everything under the moon. It was one of those experiences that almost felt unreal and we all loved every second of it. It was too dark for pictures but I felt this was something that needs to just be remembered. No picture could capture it as well as it will stay in my memory.

It was another early morning today, where six of us went canyoneering, which is basically repelling down waterfalls. I may have gotten the wildlife at Tortugero, but I got the adrenaline rush here. It was SO MUCH FUN! It was also pretty scary and at times a little difficult. There were four actual drops to go down, two short and narrow, two long and wide. The rest of the time you are walking through the water climbing down the rocks. There were times when that part was really hard. You couldn’t see where you were stepping and it was slippery, but still very fun. I have a ton of cuts, scrapes, and bruises, and one medium sized gash on my leg from today, and I’m sure I’ll hurt even more tomorrow, but it will be a reminder of how amazing it was, if you are looking for a fun exciting activity in Costa Rica, look no further.

Most of our group before canyoneering.

Most of our group before canyoneering.

Tonight commenced with a visit to the hot springs and dinner at a hotel. It was very nice and the pools were beautiful, complete with a swim up bar where we all enjoyed drinks in a pineapple, but it didn’t hold a candle to the local spot from the night before. That will be very hard to top.

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Pura Vida!

 

“Waterfalls” -TLC

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It’s a Wild World

Although it seems like years since I left civilization, it was just a few days ago I got picked up at 6am to travel to the rainforest area of  Tortugero. After a bus ride, a stop for breakfast, and a beautiful boat ride, I made it to my home for the next two days, Turtle Beach Lodge. Tortugero is known for being a nesting site of loggerhead turtles. I knew it was a little early for nesting season but hoped that I would get lucky and see a rare early turtle. No such luck. I did however see more other wildlife than I could imagine.

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Reflections of Tortugero

I decided to add on Costa Rica to my Nicaragua trip for some of the adventure activities and the wildlife. I know Nicaragua has plenty as well, so it should be interesting to compare. I haven’t done any high adrenaline activities yet, but the wildlife did not disappoint. I have seen three types of monkeys, a three toed sloth, red frogs, caimans, toucans, herons, an armadillo (yes they have armadillos here!) and more types of plants and flowers than I could ever name.

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Beautiful butterfly

Gorgeous flowers

Gorgeous flowers

Heron

Heron

Turtle Beach Lodge does feel like a secluded paradise. It’s absolutely stunning with so much green green and tropical flowers everywhere you look. I would tell you what they are but botany has never been my strong suit (I dropped it twice before finally passing on my third try. I did at least get a A that time). All the buildings are open air pavilions. There is a turtle shaped pool and you can enter the beach from the property.

The lodge bar

The lodge bar

 

The one thing the lodge does not have is wifi. That means I’ve been completely disconnected from the world of the internet for two and a half days. No checking email or texting or facebook or posting pictures to Instagram. Nothing. And to be honest, it’s been kind of fabulous. Everyone eats meals together and nobody was on their phone. It’s seriously such an unfamiliar phenomenon in these times, and yet so unexpectedly nice! I’ve met and talked to so many interesting and wonderful people here without the typical technological distractions we are all guilty of.

Another flower

Another flower

I had the chance to go on a canal tour, go to the Tortugero village (nothing to write home about), swim in the pool, walk around taking pictures, take a nature walk through crazy amounts of mud, do an awesome night tour, sit and relax with my book, enjoy the company of the other guests, and even catch some of the Costa Rica vs. England match with other people and staff at the lodge. (It was 0-0).

The Village of Tortugero

The Village of Tortugero

 

My mud boots before the walk. They were much worse after.

My mud boots before the nature walk. They were way worse after.

Fernando explaining different plants to us.

Fernando explaining different plants to us.

While I would probably not want to stay much longer and I am ready to get back to a more fast paced schedule, Tortugero was a nice place to spend a few quiet days. Actually though, the symphony of animals making their own music all day and night made it not so quiet, but still pretty wonderful.

Categories: Costa Rica | Tags: , | 1 Comment

This Has Gotta Be The Good Life

Pura Vida! I’ve heard this phrase before, but didn’t really know what it meant until taking a tour of San Jose today. Pura Vida directly translates to “Pure Life”. In Costa Rica, however, it means many things. It is used as a greeting and a farewell, to say things are going well, and a way to say thank you. It also pretty much means that things are great or wonderful. It’s a phrase I really enjoy. After arriving to Costa Rica yesterday and relaxing at my hotel most of the day, today I set off on a tour of San Jose. The tour ended up being just me and the guide, so I got a private tour without meaning to. Eric, my guide was born and raised here. image We walked all around downtown San Jose. To be honest, it was a lot like any other capital city in Latin America; big, too many American chain restaurants (McDonalds was on every block), and not particularly pretty. The history was pretty interesting though, especially about the government. While walking by some of the most important government buildings, I saw graffiti on a wall directly across the street. Eric explained that people are free to express themselves freely against the government, even a few feet away. It was also interesting how casual their government buildings looked. They looked like a few fancy houses to me.

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Government Building

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Graffiti directly across from government buildings.

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Masks

While the city of San Jose wasn’t all that exciting, you could definitely feel the excitement of the World Cup in the air. Costa Rica has already won two games and plays their third in a few days. The people here clearly show a lot of National pride when it comes to their futbol team, and their country in general. The best part of the tour was after walking around the city. We went to an authentic restaurant outside of the city where I had the most delicious Costa Rican stuffed pepper. Everyone’s eyes were glued to the TV, watching the World Cup. There were also chickens and turkeys running around outside. I was for sure the only tourist in there. My favorite part of the tour was visiting the man who makes the masks for the masquerades. Each town is named after a saint (San Jose is Saint Jose). On the birthday for the saint is a big parade in the town where people dress up in the masks and dance all around.

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The mask man.

The man who made the masks was clearly very passionate about what he did and showed me all of his handmade paper mâché masks. They were slightly creepy, but also fascinating. The business has been in his family and he hopes to pass it down to his children and grandchildren. They did a dance for me that again was creepy, yet charming at the same time.

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Masquerade Dance!

 

I am now back in my hotel watching USA play Portugal. Tomorrow I head off to Tortuguero. The “Pura Vida” lifestyle was evident in the mask maker and I hope to experience it even more during the rest of my time in Costa Rica.

“Good Life” -One Republic

Categories: Costa Rica | Tags: , , | 4 Comments

My Life is Part of a Global Life

I’m back in the US, but I had to write one more blog to talk about my last days in Peru.

I ended my time in Arequipa with a final dinner of very Peruvian food, pizza! I was with two great friends I made, Ari and Saskia.

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Next it was a crazy time at the Arequipa airport. There was only one gate, but more than one plane taking off. Several people, including me, almost got on the wrong plane. Luckily, I made it back to Lima and to my hotel. I was so excited for Peruvian sushi with Cecilia, who was also back in Lima. Unfortunately, the sushi place was closed, but we still found a place for a great dinner with ceviche, aji de gallina, and free Pisco Sours.

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The next morning I got picked up to go to one of the most eye opening experiences of my whole trip, the Shantytown tour. Two Australian sisters, a Canadian girl, and I got picked up by our guide and taken to one of the 47 districts in Lima called Villa El Salvador. It is a shantytown of 350,000 people in the desert of Lima, mostly located high in the hills. It was founded in the 70s by people who had lived in the Andes but left due to earthquakes, terrorism, and better opportunities. Our guide, Edwin, had grown up here and therefore had a unique relationship with the place and the people.

This place is not much to look at, and most of us could never imagine living in these conditions, but the community that has been built here is one to admire. They built something out of nothing and work together to survive.

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While there we were invited into the homes of an amazing medal artist and a man who played the violin for us. They have figured out how to grow gardens (remember it is one of the driest deserts on earth), and have built a community kitchen and daycare center. This place was so incredible that they were nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize.

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The big yellow stairs were the centerpiece of the community. Everyone we encountered while walking them was so friendly and welcoming. Visiting Villa El Salvador is an experience I will not forget.

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After a lunch of delicious Lomo Saltado, it was off to the coolest neighborhood in Lima, Barranco. It’s an up and coming Bohemian place with lots of artists, bright colors, and funky coffee shops.

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Omar, the guide Miranda and I had our first day in Lima, was my guide again, and gave me a great overview of this cool part of Lima. Barranco is right on the ocean. Too bad it was too cold to swim, at least for me.

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Overall, this trip was incredible. I saw so many amazing places and sights and met fabulous people. You would think my desire for travel and adventure would have been satisfied by this trip, but really it just has fueled my need to go out and travel more. The world is huge and I want to see it all! Peru was just one of the first stops…

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“Hammer and Nail” -Indigo Girls

 

Categories: Peru | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

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