Saturday, December 12, 2009

A little bit of introspection, and on to Granada


Well, sorry for the depressing post earlier this week, and thanks for the words of encouragement. I am learning a lot on this trip, and much of it is about myself. I used to get a lot of pleasure out of anything social, including going out with tons of new people and talking a lot, even if it was about nothing. These days, rather unexpectedly, I´m finding that I don´t automatically get pleasure from social activity. I still like to be around people, but I´m spending more time alone than usual. I no longer really find it satisfying to talk and drink just to talk and drink, to fill the space, you could say. And there is a lot of that to be found on the Gringo Trail in Central America, not surprisingly. I´m not sure where the new attitude or awareness came from, but I´m sure it has something to do with throwing myself into a situation where I don´t know anyone, and even the culture is unfamiliar. It´s easy to segue into questioning/reevaluating everything... It´s a little hard to adjust to these emerging feelings, but I think overall it´s a good thing for me. I´m learning how to just be with myself, more than usual anyway, and I´m valuing the experiences I have with genuine people more. Some days are better than others, but overall I feel very positive and strong.

I stayed at the organic farm and found a really nice group of people there. After a few days of getting accustomed to the neighborhood, bus schedule, local businesses, etc, things were a lot better, especially with the local people. There ended up being several musicians in my hostel, so that was fun. We had a couple of jam sessions with a ukelele and two guitars...I really wished I had my mandolin. I took a capoeira class on the beach. That was interesting... Fun, but I don´t think it´s my passion in life! I also went horseback riding with one of the French girls. That was great. The horses here are trained a little differently. I haven´t asked anyone for the details, but the most distinctive thing I noticed was their trot. Visually and while you´re riding, it´s noticeably different. The horses we rode had a really slow, smooth trot - virtually no bounce at all. At the farm, I slept in my hammock for 6 days. It was awesome, cool and comfortable (thanks, SNL friends :) ). I stayed in a dorm my last night, and I missed the fresh air.

Now I am in Granada, and I have a feeling I am going to like this city. It´s small, with old colonial style architecture, and a really busy main street full of markets. I have a closet obsession (okay, not so closet) with markets. To top it off, there´s another city a 30 minute bus ride away that´s known as the city for craft markets. Yay! Supposedly, they also have several music stores, so I´m going to see what kind of interesting instruments I can find. Tomorrow, I´m going to go for a run in the morning and try to get oriented here. In fact, I´ll probably just spend the whole day wandering around. Then on Monday, I´ll probably go to Masaya, the craft-music-rocking chair town. I´m really excited! On Thursday, I head to the airport for my flight home, which is at 2:00 in the morning on Friday. Kind of a pain, but oh well. I´ll let you know how the craft scene is...

Monday, December 7, 2009

Beach to present, and beyond!

The good...
Well, I´m a bit behind on blogging. It´s about an hour to get to internet where I am now, so I haven´t been online much. The beach was very nice and relaxing overall, although the tourists were starting to come in droves as I was leaving. It´s the beginning of the high season, so it will get a lot busier. I felt like I really got to relax there, and I gained some new perspective. I read some really good books. I stopped drinking beer :) I spent a lot of time with my Argentinean friends, who are some of the most genuine people I´ve met traveling, and let me stay with them for a week. And - my Spanish is really good these days. Not perfect of course, but I can communicate generally without any trouble. When people ask me if I speak Spanish these days, I say yes (instead of ´kind of´). Strangely, I keep getting asked (by several locals and 2 Germans) if I´m from Germany. I don´t think I have a German accent in Spanish! Either way, I take it as a good sign. Maybe, at the very least, it means I don´t have a screamingly obvious American accent :)

Thanksgiving was a huge success. I started cooking the night before, making cold salads and stuff, and cooked all day on Thanksgiving. We had about 19 people show up - 3 Americans and others from France, Belgium, Italy, Costa Rica, Argentina, Israel, England, Holland, and another little bitty country that I can´t remember the name of! There was plenty of food - I´ve never cooked for so many people in my life. Everything went really smoothly too, until about 5 p.m. I had been running back and forth from the house to the grocery store to a neighbor´s (because she had an oven), and about 5 or 5:30, she got home and ran down to tell me that the oven was out of gas. I had stuffed chickens inside it at that point and two casserole dishes waiting to go next. Eek! Fortunately, the Belgians own a bakery, so two of the guys left, balancing the chickens and the casseroles on their laps on a four-wheeler, to stick them in the oven at the bakery. What a trip :) They made it back safely and we all ate and drank wine. Overall, it was probably my most interesting Thanksgiving yet. Everyone thought it was really cool - a lot of them commented that the only things they new about Thanksgiving were from the movies. After that, I hung out for a few more days and then headed north. I did my first payed work before I left the beach though - I worked in a surf shop on the beach for 3 hours. They paid me $6. It was actually my friend Noe´s job, but she couldn´t go that afternoon, so I went for her. Crazy, huh? I don´t know of anywhere else in the world where you can send a friend to work for you if you can´t make it...

The bad...
After I left the beach, I spent a night in Liberia and then crossed the border into Nica. The border crossing was LONG and hot. First I had to stand in line for a couple of hours to leave CR, then I walked across the border (maybe a third of a mile?), then I had to stand in line to enter Nicaragua. Then I had to cross through a gate to the border town, where I got on a crowded school bus to go to Rivas. Tourism has done some not so nice things down here. The main aspect of it that I find frustrating is the people constantly trying to ¨help¨ you. It drives me crazy. When I crossed the border, every time I got to a new location, about 5 people would surround me to offer their guide services, taxis, etc. And they all talk at once, and get too close, and it´s really nerve-wracking. I think it´s worse too because I´m a girl, traveling alone, so the offers are usually mixed together with suggestive comments and lots of kissy faces. Yes, truly - lip-puckering. No kidding. By the time I got to the border town I was frazzled, and when I got accosted there, I looked up and said in Spanish rather forcefully ¨Look guys - leave me alone, I don´t need any help, or a taxi, or anything, thank you very much, excuse me!¨ That worked pretty quickly. I felt bad for shouting, but geez! I was definitely channeling someone more assertive than myself :)

The ugly...

Well, it´s not really fair to call lay all of the ugly blame on Isla de Ometepe, where I am now. All of this was fairly common in Costa Rica as well. In fact it´s really gorgeous here - the island was formed by the two volcanoes that are still here, in the middle of Lake Nicaragua. It´s way calmer and safer here than it was in Costa Rica. There are some nice beaches, and yesterday I climbed the smaller of the volcanoes. But...the harassment continues, and it´s making me feel quite alienated. I can´t walk around by myself without people coming onto me - maybe it´s a common part of Nica culture, but it really makes me uncomfortable. To top it off, the other day this kid followed me home in the dark as I was walking back to my hotel, and seriously wouldn´t leave me alone. He was 16, for christ´s sake! I told him I didn´t need help, I knew where I was going, etc., but he just kept on saying he could ´accompany´ me. Then he started trying to put his arm around me, asked me to kiss him, etc. If I wasn´t so agitated I probably would have busted out laughing. I literally had to remove his hand from my waste tell ask him not to touch me or bother me because it was pissing me off. Then he was like, ¨Oh, sorry, I didn´t mean to make you angry. Do you want to give me a tip for walking you home?¨ I just walked off. I figured it wasn´t much use to try to explain to him why I most certainly did not want to tip him for making my walk home extremely unpleasant.

So, I´m feeling a bit isolated. I can´t really blame the Tico (Costa Rican)/Nica (Nicaraguan) culture for all of it. Honestly, there are plenty of people who show up in the smallest towns down here, don´t speak a word of Spanish and have no desire to take a bus, and they want someone who speaks English to lead them to a taxi. So there is a demand for this sort of thing. To top it off, although there are some well-intentioned ex-pats and travelers, there are also plenty that are arrogant assholes, so I guess I might not have that much respect for me either, if I was from here, and I didn´t know me! There are some other travelers to hang out with - yesterday I hiked a volcano with some of them. There´s a French couple in the hostel/farm where I´m staying that is really nice, but other than them, I haven´t really connected with anyone recently. I think that I will leave here on Tuesday or Wednesday and go to Granada, which is a decent sized city. It´s supposed to have beautiful architecture, and I´m sure there´s plenty to do there. I´ll probably stay there until the 18th, when I´ll head to Managua for my flight home for Christmas.

Sorry for the downer post, I´m just feeling a bit disillusioned this week. Como siempre, estoy segura que solamente necesito tener paciencia. Espero que todo esta bien con ustedes :)

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Nicaragua...and Christmas!

Well, I made it to Nicaragua. I haven´t ever walked across a border before! The trip was interesting, but I haven´t got good internet right now. I´ll blog about it later this week. For now, I´m on an island called Isla de Ometepe, place called Venezia, which is in Lake Nicaragua. I´m going to spend a week here exploring and then we´ll see.

In other news, I´m coming home for Christmas. Long story, but I kind of already had a ticket, so... I´m flying to Atlanta on Dec. 18th, and I´ll be flying to Guatemala on Dec. 30th. If anyone is still thinking about joining me around the New Year, I plan on being in Guatemala for several weeks, starting the 30th. It´s really cheap to fly before the new year! I´m not sure what I´m going to do for New Year´s Eve yet, but I´ll find something.

Sunday, November 22, 2009


Well, I went surfing 4 days ago, which was so ridiculous you wouldn´t believe it. It was really hard, but fun. I laughed a lot, at myself, because there was nothing else to do. I did manage to stand up once, for about 2 seconds. Glory! I´ll try again one of these days. However, I violated one rule of surfing unknowingly. I wrapped the leash around my hand a couple of times in an effort to hold on to the board as the waves were trying to rip it away. As a result, I noticed the next day, I had a nasty rope burn on the side of my hand. Swollen, pussy, the works, but I wasn´t too worried about it. However, yesterday, my friend Noe asked me why I had red streaks running down my arm. I hadn´t noticed them before but we decided they must be from the same incident. Later on last night I a guy in my hostel pointed out that those lines can be a symptom of potential blood poisoning. did look rather nasty. I googled it, called my mom the med-tech, and well, I ended up being escorted through Mal Pais to the closest emergency clinic on a 4-wheeler by a Belgian guy with 30 inch dreads, plowing through the dust like we were in the movie Wild Hogs. I´ve never actually seen this movie, but I imagine it has scenes that resemble last night. His friend accompanied us on his own 4-wheeler, and they both did a little tire-squealing and engine revving. It was classic. After a long consultation with the medic in Spanish (I was so proud of myself!), I went home with instructions to take Amoxicillen for a week and to keep an eye out for blistering down my arm, which could indicate blood poisoning, in which case I should proceed directly to the emergency room.

Besides contracting a potentially fatal infection, everything is going great. I´m running again (yay!), reading a lot, and generally enjoying the beautiful sunsets and gorgeous beaches here. I forgot that I haven´t blogged since I got to the beach. I´m in Santa Teresa (near Mal Pais), visiting my Argentinian friends that I met at the ranch. I´m staying at a quiet little hostel with a few other folks, which I like. There are a lot of tourists here, and I really didn´t like the first hostel I was in - lots of loud, crazy, young people drinking all day long. Now I´m a lot happier, although I´m still anxious to get away from the crowds and actually meet some local people. I´m finding that a bit tough to do in Costa Rica! I think I´m going to stay another week or so, then go north to meet a group of friends from the ranch, then continue north to Nicaragua. A Swedish friend is going to meet up with me for a couple of weeks in Nicaragua. I´m thinking about coming home to Georgia for Christmas.

Hope everyone is well! More to come, including pictures...


Sunday, November 15, 2009

Aura's Unintentional Abuse of the Spanish Language

Ahhh...if only some of you bilingual people could have heard the things I've managed to say this month without meaning to. I think it's time for some comic relief. Here are some of the funniest slipups I've had with Spanish in the past month:

Aura (to Mosco): Me quieres hacer algo en el compost?
Literally, 'do you want to do something to me in the compost?' What I meant to ask was, do you want me to do something in the compost. Mosco almost lost it when I asked him this one day after lunch. It became a running joke from then on out...

Aura (to Noe): Que significa chino? Entonces, por que ellos dijieron que querian comprar un chino?
Literally, 'what does chino mean?' Noe tells me that chino means a chinese person. I then proceed to ask her why her friends said they wanted to buy a chinese person. Everyone laughs hysterically, even me, although I have no idea what we're laughing at. Turns out, I overheard the argentinas and another guy talking, and I thought they said they wanted to buy a chino (chinese person). What they really said was they wanted to buy something in a chinese store, like food.

I'm working and Jerry and Lolo walk up. Jerry looks at Lolo and says, 'Ovejas?'
Lolo: Si, si. Las tengo.
Jerry: Se vende? Are they for sale? Aura, can you translate for us?
Me: Sure, sure, but I'm confused. You really want to buy ovejas from Lolo? (I'm laughing)
Jerry: Yes. (He's not laughing).
Aura: Are you sure?
Jerry: YES!
Aura: Okay, okay. What do you want to know?

I proceed to translate for about 10 minutes. Lolo describes his ovejas, signalling with his hands how big they are and how old they are. We discuss when they can meet so Jerry can see them. I'm completely incredulous - Jerry is the volunteer coordinator, and he works with bees. I can't figure out for the life of me why he wants to buy a sheep from Lolo, but I play along, trying not to giggle. They agree on the details. They leave. I shrug and continue working. The next day, I hear Jerry talking again about this issue, and well, basically I figure out in front of about 10 people that they were talking about 'abejas,' which are bees, pronounced suspiciously like 'ovejas,' especially since Jerry doesn't really speak Spanish. Hilarity ensues :)

Friday, November 13, 2009

Pictures from the ranch

Here are some pictures from my last couple of weeks at the ranch. I changed my mind yesterday and ended up going to Montezuma. It went something like this: bus, bus, bus, ferry, bus, bus... Argh. Anyway, I'm chilling now and I'm going to visit some friends from Argentina tomorrow in Santa Teresa. More about the journey later - now I'm going to visit a butterfly garden and relax on the beach!


Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Back to the city...kind of

Well, I left the ranch yesterday, but I didn't make it very far. I am currently in the closest town, La Fortuna, staying in a $4 a night hostel and trying to get all my crap together. I washed all of my clothes, sent a bunch of emails, and I'm looking for a place near the beach to go chill for a few days.

The last few weeks were pretty eventful! Let's see... Noe had to leave because her boyfriend had an accident with a four-wheeler. She's in San Jose with him right now - they had to do surgery, but he's going to be okay. I haven't been working with the sheep any more, because they've been staying in the barn, but I've been visiting them every day. They were getting used to me and starting to eat from my hand.

We threw a surprise party for the wife of one of the garden guys. Francisco (the husband), who I worked with for my first 3 days at the ranch, invited me. I was already going to Fortuna for cash, so I offered to pick up the supplies. I got a bunch of beer, meat for grilling, and a cake, and then me and 3 of the other guys snuck up to their house in this little barrio near the ranch and surprised her. Mosco was playing the guitar and we were singing. It was so sweet - she had no clue, and she started crying! She said no one had ever done anything like that in her whole life. I got to meet her daughter, who is 12. I had already met Flor (Francisco's wife) and her son. She taught me how to make corn tortillas, and her daughter gave me a picture she had painted. We all sang and ate and, fun.

I went to Earth University with Mosco last week, and it was amazing. It's huge and beautiful, but there are only about 400 students. It's the oldest certified organic farm in Latin America. I did an all day soap workshop and made soap and shampoo, which was really cool. I have to wait a couple of weeks until I can use it, but I'll let you know how it turns out. I finally decided that I need to travel right now, but I'm still considering going back to the ranch later on. Mosco says he'll pay me to help out for a couple weeks or a month, so I'm going to keep that in mind over the next few weeks. Right now, I want to plant my ass in the sand somewhere sunny! I spent last night and today laying around the hostel reading...deliciously lazy.

Anyway...I'm going to post more soon, including an update of where I go to next, pictures from the last couple of weeks, and a summary of how I did when I planned my budget and packing list. Hope everyone is well!


Friday, October 30, 2009

Soap and Sheep

Well, this has been an interesting week! Two of my Argentinian roommates left, but one of them (Noe) is still here. We had an Argentinian asado the night before they left, which was also Noe's birthday. It was a fun party - we grilled meat and toasted bread and drank a lot of wine :) Since then, things have been all over the place. I had to work in the laundry for a couple of days to try to figure out what was wrong up there - there have been a lot of problems with clothes not getting clean and taking too long, so I followed around the laundry girls and wrote a little report. Then I went back to the garden (yay!) and learned how to make soap out of used kitchen oil. How interesting! It was a little chemistry lesson, and it was really cool to mix. Noe wants to start a new project to experiment with making different types of soap. I want to learn how to use glycerine, but we haven't done that yet. Mosco says the soap you can make with glycerine is better, but usually it's kind of expensive. Pop, he thinks you could be selling yours if you're not using it :)

Yesterday, Noe and I had to herd sheep! That was the most hilarious job I have done so far. I mean, I was laughing all day. We had to take the sheep out of their pen and move them to another field because there was no grass left in the one they were in. We were supposed to watch them/move them around for a few hours, clean their pen, and then move them to the dairy so they could be treated for some various illnesses. It took us a good 15 minutes to get them out of the pen and moving down the road. Noe was running back and forth across the pen, and they just kept galloping in circles. I was standing outside in the road laughing. We finally got them out to the field, lost them a few times, and then ran them back to the pen by accident. It took us a while, but overall we thought we were doing pretty well. However, that changed after lunch. After lunch, Mosco asked us to go get the sheep and take them to the dairy. We went back down to the pen, ran them out, and starting moving down the road. About 50 yards down the road, they veered under a fence and took off across a small field. I was closer, so I ducked under the fence and took off after them. Unfortunately, we were wearing flip-flops at this point, because for some reason, we thought this part would be easy! Did I mention that these sheep are very scared of people? I chased them through a couple of fields, to another road, and halfway up towards the mountain. Then I decided I had to head them off, so I crossed into some more fields and starting traversing, ducking under fence after fence, until I got ahead of them. I ran them all the way back down towards Noe, back to the other road, and they ran right around her and directly back to their pen! I was laughing so hard that I thought I was going to pee in my pants! We starting out screaming "Good sheep, good sheep" and within 5 minutes we were screaming "Puta madre! Ovejas estupidas!" We had to start all over, but the second time I crossed into the fields from the beginning and followed alongside the road, crawling under fences as we went. When we got almost there, they tried to run down another road, and I ended up running all around the stinkin' farm, for about a half a mile to head them off, yelling at the garden guys to please help us with the fucking sheep! They just looked at me like I was nuts. Anyway, we finally got them into the barn. By the time I got back from my run two guys had come to help Noe, and they were just getting them inside. I will never forget that experience, for sure!

Last night we went to the closest small town to a hotel bar with a few friends. One of the guys is leaving tomorrow, so we went to have a little party. Today, Noe and I had the day off, so we ate breakfast late, talked a lot and drank a lot of coffee, and took a nap. She's really cool, and I'm enjoying getting to know her. I think we might go to El Castillo (a small pueblo near here) for dinner with one of the other volunteers, a guy from Florida, tonight. We'll see.

Mosco (my supervisor/friend) asked me yesterday if I would consider staying for another month to help him develop an education program he's working on. He wants some help writing the English materials and putting the information on the webpage. I have to think about that a lot because I really like Mosco and I like working with him, but I'm not sure I want to stay that long. I was planning on leaving after I go to Earth University with him on Wednesday. Hmmmm...

Let's see, only one other piece of news. I heard from the job in the Galapagos, and they wanted to know if I could come earlier than the time period I applied for. They sent the email to 5 people, and I replied yesterday saying I could come at the earlier time, so I'm waiting to hear back whether or not that means that I got the job. I hope so! If so, that will mean I need to be in Ecuador at the end of January.

Well, I hope everyone is well. Post and let me know if you're keeping up with the blog, and how you are!


Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Day Off

Hello! Sorry for the delay, but things have been really busy around here. I ended up working a few shifts in the bar and restaurant because they were short-staffed, so I pulled two 13 hour shifts back to back this week. Thankfully, after that I went back to compost! I spent the past couple of days learning how to make bocashi, a fermented fertilizer, learning how to make natural insect repellent, and planting seeds. It's been a little rainy and dreary here, but otherwise good.

I'm getting pretty close to the guys I work with every day, so that is nice. I'm kind of seeing one of the garden guys. We've been spending a lot of time together, and he's really sweet and considerate. Nothing serious though :) I had an interpersonal conflict with a coworker last week, which was pretty unpleasant (because I hate conflict!), but everything's all right now. The volunteer coordinator helped me figure everything out. He's a good guy - calm, understanding, and helpful. He just started leading a daily meditation practice that I went to yesterday. It was very relaxing, so I think I'll keep going. Maybe I'll alternate days of that with days of yoga, since they're at the same time. Anyway, the vibe at the fieldhouse is changing. I got three new roommates and the old ones left. The new girls are from Argentina, and they're great. Really nice and friendly and affectionate. I'm enjoying having them around. I spent the last couple of nights hanging out on a balcony with the garden guys, listening to my friend/supervisor Mosco play the guitar and singing, drinking wine. Tonight I think we might have a girl party at my room. It's been really nice.

Today I have a day off, and I might also take tomorrow off. I get one extra day this week because of my extra hours. One day, we're going to go up on the mountain to collect microorganisms, so if that is happening tomorrow then I'm going to work tomorrow. If not, I'll take it off and maybe go for a horseback ride. I wanted to ride today, but it was kind of dreary weather and I couldn't find anyone to go with anyway. I just slept in and then laid around reading all day... It was relaxing. I can't believe that I've already been here for 3 weeks! One more week until I'm supposed to leave, but I'm going to stay at least until November 3rd, because then I'm leaving with Mosco to go to Earth University for a few days. We'll see after that. There's so much still to learn, but I want to travel too. Well, I'm going to run...

Wednesday, October 14, 2009


Let´s see if this works... I made it to Fortuna today and spent an hour uploading and editing photos...

Tuesday, October 13, 2009


Well, there's not much new here, but I figured it was about time for an update. I've been working in the compost, with a couple of breaks to work on the website for the ranch. Check out the photo gallery on Thursday - I've been updating it and the new stuff will probably go up on Thursday or Friday. Tomorrow is my day off, so I'm chilling with a beer right now. I was thinking about going to Fortuna tonight, but it's a bit of a pain, so I might just hang out here. Tomorrow, I'm going to chill, maybe go horseback riding, and watch Costa Rica play the US in soccer. I'm excited to sleep in and order breakfast off the menu!

I definitely need more clothes than I brought! Mine are getting filthy and wet, so I'm not sure what I'm going to do about that. I did a really good job of paring down my clothing before I left, and now I wish I had brought a few more things. It's been raining a lot, but it's kind of like New Mexico. It will rain for 2 hours, then be sunny and hot, the rain again...and so on.

I'm extremely happy! I really like it here - I like the people and the work, and I'm really content. I've got a good rhythm going on. My Spanish is getting quite good too. I think I'm going to leave at the end of the month, but I think I'm going to come back here, probably after I go up towards Guatemala and back. So, if anyone is interested in checking this place out, I think I'll be back here, either in December or January for a couple more weeks. I need to talk to the boss and see if that's okay. I'll try to narrow it down a little more soon :)

Hope everyone is well!

Friday, October 9, 2009

Unexpected Bed Guest...

Well, no pictures. Sorry! The trips to town are really short, so I don't think you guys are going to get pictures until I leave for good or for a few days. I don't want to spend my one day off a week in La Fortuna - it's kind of touristy. Anyway, things are going really well here otherwise. On my day off, I did laundry, hiked to a small waterfall, and then in the afternoon I took a couple of horses out and rode to the Mirador overlook with another volunteer. It was amazing. The weather got bright and sunny for us, and you could see the lake, the volcano, the farm - everything. We took our time and cantered all the way home. It totally made my day. Afterwards, I rode to La Fortuna to pick up some supplies, which was a long bumpy trip for just a half hour in town. I think I'll avoid that run in the future. I went to bed kind of early because I did so much during the day!

Yesterday, I worked in the garden for a while and then helped out with some website issues in the afternoon, which was nice. Then I hung out with some of the garden guys after dinner for a while, and tried to practice listening to very fast Spanish speaking. I had a really good night last night, actually, talking with one of the guys for while about life, etc . When I went to bed, I thought I heard something moving above my head, like an animal or something, but I looked around and listened for a while and didn't hear any more, so I went to bed. About 4 this morning, I felt something beside my head, and I jumped out of bed and scrambled for a light. When I got it on (I was still half asleep), all I could see was a little black blob. It was some kind of animal that had webbing between it's front legs and it's body, little pointy ears, and no hair. I had no clue what it was, but I was scared it might be dangerous! I took a picture of it, at which point it started running all over my bed in big, crazy circles! Every time it would get to the edge, it would turn around, so a deduced that it couldn't jump or fly. When it finally stopped, I threw a towel over it, carried it onto the balcony, ran back inside, and shut the door! I couldn't really sleep after that - I was afraid there might be more of them! Well, it turns out it was a baby bat. I thought it might be a bat, but it was small, hairless, and didn't fly, so I wasn't sure. My roommates were freaking out at first when I described it, because they thought it might have been a rat. Everyone got a good laugh out of it at breakfast, and about 3 people have been calling me a vampire all day. It was pretty ridiculous. The thing was kind of cute, actually :)

I'm still having various guy problems, but I think this is a bit of a public forum for airing all of those details! I have to have another 'talk' tonight, I think. Geez. Everything else is good. Did I mention yet that we have rice and beans at every meal? I'm learning to like rice and beans :) We usually have a few other things with them, salad and meat at lunch and dinner, so it's okay. It's pretty good for working actually, because it's filling, but it's a little hard to eat at breakfast. Rice, beans, cheese, and bread is a typical breakfast. We have granola every now and then. Interesting diet...but it's no big deal. I'm usually so hungry that I could eat anything. Maybe I'll lose a few pounds ;)

Hope everyone is doing well! I'll try to Skype one night from here...


Wednesday, October 7, 2009


Got the time wrong - I subtracted instead of adding two hours. I should be online about 7:30 EST...


Tuesday, October 6, 2009


Well, yesterday I moved back to compost, and I wasn't shoveling shit (smartass). I spent the morning finishing my lesson on compost chemistry and compost management, and the rest of the day taking temperature samples, recording the data, and "watering" the compost to increase the temperature. They actually use the heat generated by the compost to heat their water here. It's an impressive system. Then, I got put in charge of compost management for the next week or so. I'm kind of excited. I think you have to earn your respect around here, so I'm trying really hard. Anyway...I'm supposed to increase the water temperature. I'll let you know how that goes. The rock jacuzzi was pretty nice and warm tonight :) I fell down four times yesterday. Three times in the compost, and once down a few slippery stairs. I was covered in compost by the end of the day. I think I'm going to have to work on not being so clumsy. It's not a good quality to have in a place with so many machetes!

Today, I did spend the whole day shoveling shit. Literally. I spent about 7 hours moving one pile of compost to the other side of a big shed, because it had been sitting for too long and the temperature was too high (about 160 degrees F) inside the pile. This is no good because the nitrogen starts to it has to be mixed up. I was shoveling with a pitchfork for about 6 or 7 hours. Whew. I was feeling pretty good in the morning. By about 3, I thought I was going to fall over. At 4 when I got off, I stumbled to the shower and bed. I managed to make it up for dinner and then had a couple beers and visited the hot tub with the other female volunteers. Now, I'm feeling pretty good. Tomorrow is my day off, so I'm going to sleep in, do some laundry, and take a horseback ride to the overlook to see the volcano! I'm pretty excited about that.

That's about it for now...I'm studying Spanish when I have to energy and trying to memorize the verb conjugations that I've forgotten. I'm catching more of the fast conversations around me, and I think it's only going to get better. Hope everyone is well! If I make it into Fortuna tomorrow afternoon (around 3:30 EST), I'll post some pictures and try a Skype call home, if you guys are around, padres. Otherwise, I'll go another day this week after work. Pura vida!


Sunday, October 4, 2009

La Paciencia

Well well well... I re-learned a good lesson this week - remember to be patient! Thanks for the support and advice everyone. Everything is much better now. Let's see...I moved to a different bed, and I can sleep again! Yay! I have a bunch of 'friends,' I think. The night before last, there were a lot of people in the bar after dinner, and I played a guitar and sang with a couple of other people for a while. It was a lot of fun! I spent yesterday landscaping again. I'll have to post pictures, or you guys won't really understand. I was basically chopping with a machete all morning, and then carrying huge loads of branches and tropical plants on my head across a field to the tractor. It was insane. I was pouring sweat, but it felt good. Anna, you're my inspiration, I swear. I've been singing a lot :) I learned how to drive the tractor, from my friend Francisco. He drilled me with Spanish all day. I really like him; he's a nice guy. I met his wife and son, and we had a long conversation about relationships and interactions with people from other cultures. In fact, I've had some pretty complex Spanish conversations the last couple of days!

Then, I had to refuse a couple of propositions and have 'the talk' with one nice guy :) I'm determined to stay single while I'm here. Later, I got invited to a fiesta in the closest town, and I went there last night with the other gardener. It was cool - I watched the local children to a typical Costa Rican dance in costume and had a few beers. Today, I was learning about the biochemistry of compost when I got called away to the stables. They needed help, so I got to spend today over there. It was was a relaxing break from what I've been doing, and I got to ride. We changed the horses out for some others from the field, so we did some herding. It was great. I learned a few other things and got to practice my Spanish a lot. It's getting a lot better and everyone is being really patient. I'm starting to get to know the employees better, and even my roommate is starting to open up. I think maybe they were scared of me! Anyway, one of them has geometry homework that she's having trouble with, so I told her I'd be glad to help. I went to the hot tub after work today, and I'm feeling really relaxed. I'm about to conjugate some verbs and talk with some turists in the bar, and then try to get to bed early.

I'll do pictures and maybe Skype calls on my day off on Tuesday or Wednesday. I can't use facebook usually here, so sorry for the lack of communication there. Miss you guys and talk soon!


Friday, October 2, 2009

Hola otra vez

Well, I didn't have much time to write last night, so I'll try to get caught up today. I'm currently at Rancho Margot, in Costa Rica, and I'm planning on staying here for a month. I'm doing a work exchange - I work 48 hours a week, and they provide room, board, and use of their ranch. Today was my second day, and I am working my ass off. Yesterday I pulled weeds for 8 hours. Today I basically did lanscaping work - pruning, weeding, and cutting things down. I learned how to use a machete - carefully! Then we had to haul off all of the brush that we cut. It was rather grueling and very hot. I feel good overall, and strong, but very tired. Today at least, I was working with another guy, so I had someone to talk to. He was really nice, and he only spoke Spanish, so I had a good chance to practice. I'm doing the same thing tomorrow, and moving on to something else the next day. Supposedly, we will rotate areas of work every week, so I should get to do some other things - work with horses, learn how to make cheese or soap, milk cows, etc. That will be good, because I don't know if I could keep this pace for a month. We'll see.

I've managed to make a few friends, and there are a few tourists staying here right now, so there are people to hang out with in the evenings. I'm trying to get to bed early every night, though, so that I can get up on time. I have a little bit of a housing dilemma. They put me in the farmhouse, which is where many of the employees stay. I don't know if any of the people there are volunteers, other than me. The other volunteers (all English speaking) are staying in the bunkhouses, which are somewhat nicer and in a different area. I can't decide how I feel about the whole thing. My main problem with the farmhouse is that there is no hot water, and the beds kind of suck. I didn't get ANY sleep last night, but I figured out this morning that my bunk was missing a bunch of slats, so the mattress kept falling through. I moved today, so I'll try out the new bed. Also, my roommates don't seem to really care to have me invading their privacy (the 18-year old girls), so I feel a little uncomfortable. I think I could probably ask to move the the bunkhouses, but I don't want to seem like a spoiled wimp, especially not to the employees. I'd like to get to know them, so I don't want to just move because I "can't take" not having hot water, for example. I also think it's really good because I can speak Spanish more. However, I'm feeling a little isolated out there...I'm not sure what the best course of action is. Any advice?

For now, I think I'll just ride out the next few days and see how they go. As long as I can sleep, I think I'll be okay - I nearly lost it last night when I woke up for the 5th time and couldn't go back to sleep. I don't know if I mentioned it already, but it is absolutely beautiful here. The ranch is amazing - so beautiful it's surreal. Juan (the owner) really has a lot of cool projects going on, and I'm excited for my first day off so that I can go riding or hike to the viewpoint to see the volcano. So far, I've seen a spider monkey, several species of hummingbirds, some beautiful butterflies, and a lot of amazing plants. It doesn't look like I'm going to be able to upload pictures from this computer, so I might have to wait until I go to La Fortuna on my day off. Hope everyone is well!


Thursday, October 1, 2009

Hola de la finca

Well, I has my first full day of work today, and I feel for all you farm people! I weeded sweet potatoes (estuve desearbando camotes) all day, for about 8 hours. After that, my back and my legs were killing me. However, yoga in the afternoon made it a lot better :) My Spanish is getting better, and I'm feeling pretty good. It seems like the people who don't speak Spanish here kind of tend to gather together to speak English, so I'm tryin to avoid doing that. I want to practice speaking Spanish! My two roommates only speak Spanish, and they're about 18, and they're always sitting together giggling and talking muy rapido, so it's a little difficult. However, there are a lot of guys who are nice here, and they usually speak slowly so that I can keep up. Yesterday I had a tour of the farm, almost entirely in Spanish, and I understood almost all of it! My listening comprehension is getting much better already. Now I just have to work on my speaking skills and my vocabulary. Anyway...I'm tired, so I think I'm going to head to bed. I have to get up at 6:15 every morning, so I'm still getting used to the schedule. More soon...


Wednesday, September 30, 2009

La Fortuna

Yesterday was insane. I arrived at the airport in San Jose, planning to take 3 separate buses to get to La Fortuna. On the plane, I realized I was feeling pretty nervous (read: terrified), and it occurred to me that for all my globetrotting, I've never gone out of the country by myself. It was a kind of new feeling, but I decided there was nothing to do about it except ignore it and try to get through San Jose quickly. It's supposed to be a dirty, somewhat dangerous city. When I walked out of the airport, I was accosted by about 30 taxi drivers, all trying to talk me into their cabs. I had to wade through them to get anywhere. I picked the one with the nicest face and asked him where I could find the bus stop and an ATM. The directions to the bus stop were a little ambiguous, but I could spot the ATM, so I headed there. I then headed back to try to get better directions to the bus. This time a couple of the taxi drivers started following me, so I did the first thing that came to my head - walked back inside the airport to the "official" airport taxi stand to ask how much they charged. I was willing to give up on the bus because I was getting frazzled. However, when I discovered that the taxi cost $19, I got my balls back. I asked for directions again, and breezed out of that place headed for the bus stop. The bus pulled up just as I got there, and I hopped on. It cost 90 cents.

The walk in downtown San Jose was the only part I was worried about. From the bus stop where I got dropped off to the one I needed to leave from, it was about 7 blocks. My Lonely Planet advised not walking this stretch at night, but it was daytime, and it was only 7 blocks. After wandering around for a while trying to orient myself, I finally managed to get back where I started and start the 7 block treck. Now I'm pretty city-wise, but this place was SHADE-Y. I walked fast. I finally spotted a guy in business attire walking ahead of me, and I hurried to get close to him. Then I tailed him for a couple of blocks, until he started to look annoyed. Then I asked him politely in Spanish if he could tell me where the San Carlos terminal was. That nice guy walked me right there and dropped me off! From there, the journey got a lot easier, although it was very long. There was a direct bus to San Carlos (Ciudad Quesada) leaving as soon as I arrived. A nice Costa Rican gentlemen helped me check my bag and even saved me a seat in the front of the bus next to a window. He was from Ciudad Quesada. In San Carlos, I literally walked off of my bus and onto the next to La Fortuna. Unfortunately, I was getting pretty hungry, and I'd had to pee for about 3 hours, but I wasn't going to complain about not having to wait for a bus! The drive up here was amazing and really beautiful, and as far as I could tell, I was the only foreigner on any of the buses.

When I arrived in La Fortuna, I spent about 45 mins looking for my darn hostel, which was ridiculous, since it was a few blocks from the town center. Then I got a much-needed shower and met up with 2 guys from couchsurfing ( for dinner and drinks. It was a fun night! I met some of their friends, went to a poetry reading in Spanish, and then we went to their apartment and played Apples to Apples :) I had to punk out early though, because I was exhausted. It's nice to have some friends here though! Now, I'm headed to meet a shuttle to my first volunteer job. It's a place near the volcano called Rancho Margot - you can check it out at It's about 30-45 minutes from La Fortuna, so I'll probably make it back down here on my days off. I'll be there for the next month, and I think I'll have internet access. I'll try to post pictures soon...


Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Here I go!

Well, I haven't updated in a while, but it's time. In case anyone was wondering...we did get the truck running. AThe problem was a catastrophic axle failure - too bad, since we took the engine out twice to reposition the damn things. But, my dad replaced them, and now it runs like a charm. There are some minor brake issues, but I'm sure they'll be resolved shortly.

So, I am on my way out of the country! This week was a frantic mix of crossing off lists, making more lists, running around, and trying to see all my family and friends before I left. I'm feeling a little frazzled, but happy to be on the road. I'm currently hanging in the Fort Lauderdale airport, waiting on my international flight. I'm practicing finding internet on the go :) My day started bright and early (4:30 a.m.), with a drive to the airport with my parents. When I went to check in, I found out that the airline wouldn't let me board without a return ticket! I had read online that I just had to show proof I could buy one, but apparently, that is not the case. Anyway, after a frantic few minutes of negotiation, I just bought one. Hard lesson, but it wasn't that expensive. Maybe I'll come home for Christmas after all!

The first flight was fine, and I've already had two offers of companionship from the businessmen sitting next to me on the plane. I politely declined ;) Seriously, though, it was fun talking to them. I have been in such a different world the past few months that I'd forgotten what it was like to jet around in airports with a blackberry in one hand and a laptop in the other. It was fun to participate in the same old banter, and reassuring to remember why I wanted to take this trip, anyway.

Well, I'm going to run, but I'll be writing more frequently now that I'm on the road. I'm planning on catching a bus out of San Jose as soon as I get there, so hopefully that goes smoothly. I'll be headed up to La Fortuna, and I'll probably check in again once I get there. Bye!

Monday, July 27, 2009

Car Talk

Time for another update, I suppose! I've been watching time pass (rather quickly, I might add) in Georgia for the past month or two. Besides a quick trip to Kansas and Albuquerque (sorry there wasn't enough time to socialize with everyone!), I've been hanging out at my parents' in good old Rome. I spent the first few weeks of my vacation sitting on my butt. Literally. Then I remembered that I don't really like sitting around all the time and started a major project with my dad, who really doesn't like sitting around :) He really needs a truck to haul some stuff and start a few other projects at the house. He has this old Volkswagen Rabbit truck that doesn't run (major engine problem), but he also has a Rabbit sedan that does work - same body. So we decided we would just take the engine and transmission out of the sedan, and transplant it into the truck. Piece of cake, right?

Well, 4 days later we had a running truck. No joke. It took a lot of sweating and cursing, but we removed the engine from the truck, removed the engine from the sedan, and mounted the sedan engine in the truck, all using a tractor and a cable. The cars are from '81 and '82, so the wiring under the hood say the least. After hooking everything back up (minus a half a dozen wires that we were relatively sure didn't go to anything), I have to say that I was not very confident the thing would start at all, but I was trying to act optimistic. Amazingly, it turned over the first night we tried it, and we had it running the next morning! After that, my dad bled the brakes while I ran some errands, and that night we took it for a test drive. We were congratulating ourselves and laughing out loud while we were coasting down the road at 55 mph! When we were within a mile of home though, we suffered a minor (or both) or the CV joints failed catastrophically. We had to walk home (because you know we weren't going to call my mom after all of that bragging!)

So, then I left for onion-town (Vidalia) to see my grandmother for a few days and go on a juice-fast. Today is day 5 - I think I'll start eating solid food again tonight or tomorrow - and I'm back in Rome. We're going to try to fix the CV joint today; probably just replace the whole axle since we have a donor car that we know has good ones. Hopefully the next test drive will last longer :)

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Home Again, Home Again...briefly

Well, I completely ignored this thing for the past year, so it's time to get back on the wagon. I just left Albuquerque, NM to begin my retirement/sabbatical/year-of-unemployment. I've had about 3 weeks of "vacation," and now it's time to remind myself that I no longer collect a paycheck :)

Jason and I left Albuquerque on May 26th to drive to San Diego, where I ran a marathon with my good friends Becky and Dan. The marathon went great! I was kind of slow (6 hours), but overall, it was much better than I anticipated after my injury during training. My hip hurt, but not unbearably. I ran the whole thing (with some scattered walk breaks, of course), and I was really excited when I finished. I got a little nauseous afterwards, but that went away after I ate and drank. Some good stretching and a nice long ice bath ensured that I was barely even sore the next day - just some tight quads that made it difficult to take stairs! We stopped by the ocean and then headed on the longest part of our road trip - one day to Albuquerque, where we picked up my car and my kitty, one day to Oklahoma, and one day to Georgia. We spent a couple of nights in Georgia with my dad, dropped off the car and the kitty, and then proceeded to Fernandina Beach, FL.

The beach was amazing... We were in a big house a few steps from the sand, the water was cool and beautiful, and the weather was awesome. I spent most of the time sleeping, laying in the sand, throwing the frisbee, and swimming. For a week. Then I didn't even feel sad when I left because I didn't have to go back to work! I went to Athens to stay with my best friend for a few days. We ate at the Grit and went kayaking down the Broad River with a case of cheap beer. We spent an hour and a half body-surfing down the mossy rapids at the base of the waterfall. It was heavenly.

Now, I've managed to make it back to good old Armuchee. I'm about to unload the car and unpack, and start planning my around-the-world jaunt. I'm going to dig in the garden, eat some home-grown tomatoes and peaches, sit in the porch swing, read, and ponder...