CR JOURNAL

The following is the journal I consistently wrote in each day whilst on internship in Costa Rica during the summer of 2008.  It is an edited version of what I wrote at the time, however, many errors still exist.

To view the video I compiled for this internship, click here.

Mi Verano en Costa Rica

Day 1: Monday, June 16

Our plane has just arrived in Houston – 6 AM their time, 4 AM to me.  I was hoping to get some rest on the flight, but that proved difficult the moment my neighbor peeled his shoes and socks off…before we even left the jet way.  As soon as that scent made its way to my nose, I knew it was gonna be a rough flight.  I got a few winks of sleep here and there, but for the most part I had to dodge the elbow of the stinky foot man who had an early claim of the armrest.  I woke just in time to fly over one of Texas’ big cities, all bright and sparkly.  The sunrise was beautiful.  I don’t think I’ve ever seen one from an airplane before, and certainly never over the landscape of Texas.  In the beginning, the light was blood red and a vivid shade of orange, working its way over the dark city.  Before long, that primary colored world was chased away by every hue of pastels.  Without notice, the color was gone, leaving the sky dull yet awake in time for our descent, eerie as it was.  Flying over the sleepy houses provided less clarity than if we were a mile higher.  Everything seemed to be covered in a ghostly sheet of white – perhaps clouds or steam.  Once on the ground, it was a relief to see the man’s feet in socks and shoes once more.  Our layover is five hours – longer than either flight.  Although it’s super early in my time, I think breakfast is starting to sound pretty good.

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We made it!  Our flight from Houston to San Jose was right on time – allowing us to arrive around 2:05 in the afternoon Costa Rican time (which was oddly only one hour later than Seattle, whereas Houston was two hours ).  The flight was decent – I dozed off and on, but didn’t get much rest overall.  I was able to see a bird’s eye view of our flight path though, which was spectacular.  We went over the Caribbean and I was able to take some photos of the beautiful islands.  As our altitude decreased, we flew straight through thick patches of puffy clouds – so thick that all of the surroundings were completely invisible.  Upon landing, we grabbed our gear and made it through immigration and customs faster than I would have ever expected.  We were out of the airport before I remembered to phone home (like I had in Houston).  Ralph and Margarita greeted us and shuttled us all the way to Atenas (which was further than I had expected) and to the community of Alto del Monte (meaning “top of the mountain”), where the afternoon clouds are so thick that there seems to be nothing beyond the obvious.  Along the way we drove through the town of Atenas, which had some great little shops, some grocery stores, and a post office.  It would be great to get down there once in a while, but I am sad to say it’s a bit of a trek.  Once there though, taxis are available, as are buses to the capital, which I hope we can manage.  After all, I did do a bit of San Jose research.  Ralph and Margarita’s homestead is 3,000 feet above sea level with a supposedly amazing view.  We will find out in the morning before the clouds roll in.  The house is beautiful, complete with an outdoor pool, orchard, and guesthouse, where Jenni and I are currently lounging.  After the drive, Margarita fixed us some tuna fish sandwiches, which I am proud to say I enjoyed.  At the moment, we are hanging out in our quarters, listening to the tremendous thunder and waiting for dinner, which is at seven.  Other than that, chirping birds, ripening fruit trees, and very gloomy skies surround us.  The rain has just begun.  That’s one huge difference from my Ghana trip – it was not even remotely close to raining during the days while I was there.  I know it is a completely different place than Costa Rica, but at the moment, that is all I have to compare it to.  While there are similarities with poverty and hunger in certain areas, I have noticed that it seems far more advanced here.  The traffic is one of the biggest contrasts I observed along the way, as well as the abundance of green everywhere you turn.  Overall though, I suppose a big factor depends on what area of the country you are in.  For instance, the plumbing at my hosts’ house is comparable to that at home.  Along the way we also passed the first hydroelectric dam, which was really fascinating.  We had to cross it on a one-lane bridge, negotiating which direction of traffic gets the right-of-way.  Throughout the drive, we also discussed the upcoming schedule for Jenni and I.  It looks as though we will be heading to the turtle station as soon as this Friday!  I had no idea that we were going to jump into it that quickly.  We also discussed the 10-day tour we would be going on, as well as additional adventures.  I am beginning to get excited about what’s in store for this summer.

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I know one thing for sure – seventy days is a long time sleeping with wet sheets in this humidity.  It’s a good thing I don’t plan on smelling too good while I’m here, cause that’s not going to happen!  Sitting here in the quiet, I am starting to realize how long this trip is.  It’s finally beginning to sink in.  I think it will go fast and slow – most likely slow while I am here; and then I’ll look back on it and realize how fast it actually went.  It’s just like ten weeks at camp (kinda).  Except the food is way better here.  For dinner we had lasagna, salad, and garlic bread.  It was real good.  I’m just scared that at this rate I’ll end up gaining weight, rather than the other way around!  Lying in bed, I am calculating, and I think it has been just about 24 hours since mom and dad dropped me off at Seatac.  It’s going to be hard without them for so long, but I think it’s important for me to not depend on them so much.  I need to start fending for myself, but that’s a really hard reality to face when I know I have such an awesome family.  This time, I’m not traveling with a bunch of friends to distract me from that fact.

Day 2: Tuesday, June 17

Last night I had a difficult time falling asleep with the barking neighborhood dog.  It was so obnoxious!  I finally fell asleep and slept really well until I had a terrible dream!  It seemed so real to me.  Thank God it wasn’t – I don’t know what I would do if my parents were to divorce.  I took a shower this morning with hot water, which was an unexpected treat!  The walk up to the house was gorgeous.  The view is absolutely breathtaking – rolling hills, endless trees, sprawling clouds, and the faint outline of the pacific coast.  It’s amazing how fast the clouds move.  One minute you’ll be staring at the coastline in the distance, the next you can’t even see the hills.  It was very warm this morning though – so warm that Bob’s girls took a dip in the pool after our cereal breakfast.  We set off to work, with the sounds of laughter and splashing in the background.  The main objective today was for us to explore the materials that the past interns created, while looking to the future of our stay in Costa Rica.  We are to approach the next few weeks as critical observers, taking note of changes we deem necessary to programs, sites, or the websites.  We broke for a wonderful lunch of papas y pollo  on rice with plantains.  It was delicious!  After lunch we moved inside to keep out of the wind and dived back into materials, watched some promotional items, and made sure to take time to send emails and update our blogs.  We had a coffee/tea break around three in time to see the rainstorm with thunder and lightening approach.  It can really rain here!  It poured, but only for a short amount of time, unlike the northwest, where the drizzle can last all day.  We stopped working around five, so I made sure to finally send a mass email to friends and family, alerting them of my safe arrival.  It was great to immediately hear back from Robin and Carleen from work.  Now it’s relaxation time as we wait for dinner.  It is a bit difficult to distinguish between work and relaxing, since there is no going home after the shift.  The other challenge, which I believe will quickly fade, is the common American habit of feeling as though we must always be working.  Things are far more laid back here, and that is something I will have to get used to with time.

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Once again, dinner was fabulous!  This time we had green bean, broccoli, and spinach casserole with salad.  After dinner we discussed the idea of starting businesses from scratch.  Ralph says to pick a country and go, basically.  We also talked about how close-minded America is and about my stomach issues, which have been fine thus far.  After our long conversation, I got to talk with mom and dad on Skype.  It didn’t work very well, since the internet here is so slow, so we tried the camera three times, and then gave in to chatting, which didn’t last too long.  They got the jest of everything and I hope they understand the communication issue.  It is very difficult keeping a journal when I have internet access (however shaky).  I don’t remember where I write things; if it’s my blog, an email, or in the journal, so I either will be fairly repetitive, or miss things altogether.  Lying in bed right now, I can see dozens of tiny ants all over the floor, the wall, and even in my bed.  It doesn’t bother me too much; I just don’t want them in my stuff (especially the electronics) or on me.  They can run around the walls as much as they want though.  Tomorrow we are headed into town for phone cards, so I’m gonna call it a night…after I soak my sheets with bug spray!

Day 3: Wednesday, June 18

Buenos dias!  I am truing to fit Spanish in whenever I can, as well as trying to be laid back and flexible.  Today is Leti’s birthday.  She is one of Margarita’s many sisters.  I believe that three of them live here and help run the business, but I’m having a hard time counting and they don’t all speak English for me to understand.  The neighbor, Duna, was cleaning the house this morning, so she made me a fried egg and toast for breakfast.  I was at the house by about 8:15, ready to go into town.  I exchanged my money with Vilma, another sister, and my bag was packed.  It is now 11:30 and we are still relaxing and reading.  I am about halfway done with the book I started on Monday night.  My stomach acted up a bit and I had to run down to the bathroom and take some pepto.  It may be from the leaves and petals I ate yesterday with Mariella’s coaxing.  It sounds like we are about to go soon, so I better make sure I am ready.

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We spent three hours in town going through different shops, the grocery store, the bank.  I bought a phone card and belt to keep my pants from falling off.  There is an obvious temperature difference between here and there.  The lower elevation is much warmer.  In addition to the heat, the feeling of unintelligence hit me every time I tried to speak the language.  It’s an awkward feeling, because I am smart in English.  I know various words, but for the most part, I am unable to connect them into a phrase.  It’s hard, but for now it is just easier not to speak.  I had a wonderful hamburger for lunch – probably one of the best I have ever had.  It was perfectly seasoned and had just the right amount of tasty.  Walking around, the town seems pretty clean, you just have to watch your step because some of the sidewalks are broken up.  A lot of the shops seem comparable to a Dollar Tree in that they have many different kinds of goods.  I was tempted to go shopping for clothes though.  We can hopefully make time for that when we return.  Also found Rick’s Internet Café, which looked like it was made for tourists.  As I’m sitting here, back at the house, I see the clouds rolling in and I can hear the distant rumbling of thunder.

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After spending some time reading “The Color Purple”, I took a half hour nap to refresh.  After my rest I returned to the house with my laptop to do some more website critiquing.  The guide and driver from the current group were at the house debriefing the trip prior to their final dinner.  We rode with them to the Lodge that Francisco built in Atenas to see the evaluation and closing process.  It was a high school group from San Francisco that was completing their 10-day tour.  After the fabulous dinner, they filled out the evaluations, taking a surprisingly long time to do so.  One guy circled all 10s and had every comment line filled.  They were a great group – they seemed really psyched about their experience.  A few of them got up and spoke.  It was very exciting to hear about their life-changing journey.  It makes me a tad bit sad that I am not sharing this experience with a group of my friends.

Day 4: Thursday, June 19

We slept in a bit today and relaxed, reading for a while, before making it up to the house.  We checked our emails and went over goals with each other.  Now Ralph is making manchego cheese out of two gallons of fresh milk from the cow down the road – an interesting process.  He also makes wine and coffee, grows fruits and vegetables, and he does not hold back in telling people.

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We were able to help a bit with the cheese making.  During one of our chats with Ralph, we had two visitors from the Maleku tribe stop by to give the family some handcrafted gifts.  The crafts were mainly carved from coconut husks with intricate designs of birds and butterflies (mariposas).  There were some very colorful masks in the mix as well. The man spoke great English.  Turns out he lived in California for some time.  He was very well traveled and told great stories.  They joined us for our lunch of grilled cheese sandwiches and potato chips.  After they left we talked more about the tasks at hand and I started to work on the newsletter, which looks like it will be a very time-consuming process.  I discovered today that the peppermint pills mom equipped me with are odd in that I can feel when the liquid is released.  It produces a weird tingly sensation in my stomach and before long I am hauling it to the bathroom.  At least I know why now.  I always wished I could have a stomach of steel that was upset by nothing.  I’m sick of being so careful.  Jenni and I made dinner tonight, so I knew I could handle it.  I got the recipe via email from mom and dad to make meatloaf for ten.  Needless to say, it was hard to estimate ingredients.  In the end, it could have used more seasoning, but everyone said they enjoyed it.  After dinner, it just so happened that the parents were online, so we Skype chatted for a while.  It’s nice to be able to keep in touch, but it’s also kinda weird because I’m still holding on, making it hard for me to dive into this.  I think it will be easier once we leave the house.

Day 5: Friday, June 20

We slept in again today, but since I go to bed pretty early, I tend to wake up fairly early as well.  After my shower, I ate breakfast and read my book on the porch of our guesthouse, which was a relaxing way to ease into the day.  I finished my book after coming up to the house, which was perfect, because I was able to focus on the newsletter.  I have made pretty good headway on it.  It’s starting to look legitimate.  While I was working on it, the teacher’s (who we are traveling to the turtle station with) son from New York arrived.  We were also shown various office operations by the sisters.  There are a lot of things you must consider that may not even cross your mind when starting a tourism company.  For instance, they fax the group roster with health information of the students to the local hospital in case of emergency – brilliant.

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After a wonderful dinner, we sang happy birthday to Vilma and enjoyed cake and ice cream with Dan, the guy from New York, and Frank and Albert who are guiding the trip tomorrow.  Now we are packing for our departure from the hacienda – we leave before 7 tomorrow morning (!) and I made the difficult decision of leaving my laptop here.  In the end I think it will be the correct choice.  Plus, now I know my phone card works (I called mom and dad today).

Day 6: Saturday, June 21

No sleeping in today!  I woke up before 6 to take a nice hot shower and pack up to leave the house by 7.  We met the middle school group from San Francisco at the lodge for breakfast.  After Frank’s introduction, we all hopped on the bus to head for the Caribbean coast, making a few stops along the way.  We got a nice charter bus for the large group.  No longer are we in “the best climate in the world.”   As we came down out of Atenas, we could feel the temperature rising, and it’s not even 8:30 yet.  We are now making our way down the Pan-American Highway that runs all the way from Alaska to the tip of South America, taking in the sights along the way.  I don’t want to miss anything.

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After stopping briefly for a restroom break, we continued up to the cloud forest.  At the moment, we are stuck in traffic, 4,500 feet about sea level.  We went through the only tunnel in the country, and once we emerged, we could see the beginning of rain…in the rainforest!  They also mentioned that in this park, there are 6,000 species of plants (12,000 in the whole country), and various types of jungle cats, frogs, and snakes.  I’m not sure why we are stuck in traffic, but Frank said in the beginning that travelers in Costa Rica must be patient on the road.

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After the road opened up, we traveled to the Jardin Mariposa  where we were able to see many different species of butterflies, caterpillars, frogs, lizards, and some wild pig-like animals.  There were even leaf-cutter ants that paraded across the trail at our feet.  The garden receives no government funding, so it relies heavily on tourism to support the conservation efforts.  The next stop of the day was a local grade school for lunch where we enjoyed great food and a dance performance by the students, who were all too eager (except my partner) to teach us the dance.  I gave it a go, but I must say that it is way harder than it looks.  The students then played soccer with the local school children for a while before we boarded the bus that took us to the swamp, where we transferred onto boats took us directly to Estacion Las Tortugas .  The ride through the canal was amazing.  It was just like the jungle ride in Disneyland accept that the sounds and smells were all real.  The trees were so lush and green, I would not have been surprised to see a dinosaur tramp right out into the water.  It was truly a scene out of “Jurassic Park.”  Upon arrival, we were attacked by a swarm of hungry mosquitoes.  No mercy was spared upon us as we made our way to the cabins hauling our luggage.  This area of the country is very warm and humid, hence the ridiculous amount of bloodthirsty, winged pests that plague our visit.  It is comparable to parts of Ghana that I visited.  The station is very basic, which is refreshing, but I can see how it may get lonely and monotonous for foreigners, with the lack of modern conveniences.  Eager to make myself at home, I sloppily set up my mosquito net in our unlit cabin with the help of our headlamps and candlesticks.  Hopefully the light will be replaced soon since the sunsets here are around 6:30.  There are three girls from England staying here as well, who will make good company.  They are due to be here until after we leave, so it will be nice to have diverse conversations with different people.  We just finished dinner, and now we must go to bed for a few hours so that we can do the midnight to 4 AM patrol of the beach.

Day 7: Sunday, June 22

Today marks the one-week checkpoint of our adventure.  One of ten.  Nine more weeks.  Seems like forever.  Last night, the jungle and ocean sounds did not lull me to sleep as I hoped they would.  I wasn’t able to get much rest before the 11:30 alarm to get ready for the 12-4 patrolling shift.  Right away, we released 35 tortuguitas  into the sea.  They were so cute – smaller than my hand.  I didn’t help out though, so that the students could do it.    Once they had made their way underwater, we received notice that a leatherback was on the beach preparing a nest to lay her eggs.  When we reached her after a long walk, we had to wait a while for her to decide on the perfect spot to lay.  She was quite picky and in the end, she turned her back on us and headed back to the sea.  She was breathtaking – about six feet long, maybe three feet wide – totally prehistoric.  It’s amazing that the leatherback turtle, largest reptile in the world, has changed very little in the past few million years.  That was our only sighting of the night, but at least we saw one, even though she didn’t lay.  It rained off and on throughout the shift, but it was so hot!  I couldn’t even begin to keep track of how many beads of sweat dripped down my back.  In all though, we probably walked about 2.5 miles, which is a total shock to the body at that hour.  I am not used to eating and drinking in the middle of the night; not to mention the intense exercise.  When we returned to our cabin, I totally stripped and passed out until I heard people talking and dogs barking this morning.  Breakfast was good – eggs, bread, and gallo pinto .  All through breakfast the mosquitoes preyed on me, and now I am lying in bed under my mosquito net, seeking refuge from the relentless suckers.  I would also like to shower and use the bathroom, but it appears that our water tank is depleted.  I can hear the pump now, but I’m not sure how long I must wait to relieve myself.

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Sitting in the shade near the ocean has proven to be the coolest spot at the station.  There is a wonderful breeze that comes right off the Caribbean surf.  Speaking of surf, the waves are looking good, but the riptide is too dangerous.  After reading a bit, I was able to finally use the toilet before catching Stamie’s  introduction and sea turtle lecture.  There are only seven species left in the world, however, for having a brain equal in size and weight to the American quarter, they are doing something right to have outlived the dinosaurs.  Sea turtles are highly endangered for many reasons, but it doesn’t  help that many products can be made from their bodies: meat, lotion, oil, jewelry, etc.  It’s a surprise that I caught any of that information; given that I dedicated most of my efforts toward swatting mosquitoes away…and helping  Albert, the assistant guide, pronounce English words that he was not familiar with.  The bugs aren’t so bad near the beach though.  After the lecture, I hopped into a nice cool shower to rinse off the many layers of sweat, dirt, sunscreen, and bug spray.  Just like in Ghana, once you emerge from the shower, you can’t even tell that you took one the humidity is so high.  It did feel nice while it lasted though.  Unfortunately, I had to re-coat myself with the necessary precautionary sunscreen and bug spray, but at least the sweat is gone.  A local soccer game is just now completing, and it looks like lunch is next up on the schedule, followed by a boat ride through the canal at 3:30, which I am lucky enough to join in on with the students.

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We were a bit late for lunch as the soccer game ran longer than expected.  We won though, 6-3 I believe.  After lunch, I took a snooze for a little while so that I would be hopefully well rested for patrol tonight.  I don’t know what shift I am working, because it changes every night and we find out at dinner.  The boat ride was nice, a little dull after awhile, but entertaining nonetheless.  The mosquitoes loved me at least.  I have probably about 20 bites.  I hope my malaria meds work.  Anyway, the boat trip yielded some monkeys (thanks to my superior monkey spotting abilities), lots of iguanas, many birds, and even a caiman (crocodile-type reptile).  Unfortunately, we were unable to spot what I was most eager to see – a two-toed sloth.

Day 8: Monday, June 23

It’s raining, it’s pouring, and it’s only nine in the morning!  We woke up this morning to the sound of some very eager roosters and extremely powerful raindrops pounding down on the roof.  Last night we patrolled the early shift from eight to midnight and right off the bat we were told of a green turtle searching for a nest, which is really exciting since they are fairly rare.  We did get to release some green hatchlings, as well as leatherbacks yesterday.  Unfortunately, the green turtle returned to the sea before we got there, without building a nest.  Right after that disappointment, we were alerted of a leatherback that needed tagged 1,700 meters away, so we trekked all the way just in time to catch her before she reached the water.  Each turtle receives two small tags (like earrings) on her back flippers.  After watching her return to the sea, we patrolled the 15-25 back and forth a few times and once we reached the far end for the last time of the shift, we spotted tractor-like marks on the sane in the distance.  She had just finished laying and burying her eggs when we arrived, so we were able to watch her camouflage the area (stirring up the sand so the nest is hidden) while she was still in her trance, which took about 30-45 minutes.  After she began her clumsy journey back to the sea, our guide, David, was able to dig up the nest, which was surprisingly deep, and salvage the eggs.  Muchas huevos!   There were quite a lot.  We finished there just in time to head back for the end of our shift.  Patrolling at night isn’t bad, but it’s difficult.  You walk down the sectors you’re assigned, rest for twenty minutes and then head back, and rest for another twenty minutes.  You do this a few times, unless you find a turtle.  If a turtle is found, measurements are taken, both of the turtle and the distance from the sea and vegetation that she builds her nest, tags are recorded, and eggs are collected.  It can take anywhere between one and two hours to take care of the turtle.  The hardest part is wearing pants and close-toed shoes because it is still so hot and humid, but we need to appear invisible, both to the turtles, and the night bugs.  The other difficulty, walking around at night, is that it is very hard to see, especially if the moon is not shining.  If I had to describe it, it’s like walking drunk: you’re falling into holes (like I did last night), dragging your feet along to keep up with your wandering mind.  It’s also hard to balance water intake so that you are not dehydrated, but that you don’t have to go to the bathroom.  The other funny part is adjusting to walking around at night, and of course it helps to eat a bit on your shift to keep up the energy.  My body has taken well to the first two nights.  We’ll see how the next week or so goes.  After the shift I had a really good night of sleep, despite hitting the sheets dripping with sweat.  Going into this experience I had to accept the fact that I will never be completely dry while I am here.  I counted my mosquito bites before our rice and beans breakfast and it appeared that I had around 62, but now it seems that they are multiplying exponentially, no matter how much bug spray I soak myself with.  I even have an Orion’s belt constellation of them on the top of my left hand.  After breakfast, we watched both spider and howler monkeys traverse tree braches from our front porch.  The howlers were very loud as they claimed their territory.  Apparently they come this way every week in search of food.  At the moment, I am sitting on the floor of our room, hiding from the rain and mosquitoes, listening to the raindrops beat on the fiberglass roof panels.  I have once again resigned to the room as a means to hide from the mosquitoes.  I don’t know what it is about me; they must think I’m delicious.  At least I have mosquito netting around my bed so I don’t have to worry about the vicious pests while I sleep.  It was definitely not this bad in Ghana.  There, bugs only came out at night to eat you.  It’s just so wet here and swampy.  The rain has calmed down a bit, but the remnants of a powerful storm are visible everywhere in the form of dirt holes driven down by large raindrops.  I hope the weather clears up for tonight’s patrol or it’s going to be a soggy one.

Day 9: Tuesday, June 24

Yesterday we did a bit of beach clean up and hole digging to protect the hatchlings.  After that, we dinked around for a bit, reading and walking down the beach until dinner.  Food was really good.  We had spaghetti and salad.  I wish the portions were a bit smaller though.  They have me overeating at every meal.  Dinner was the last time we spent with the group, so I collected some contact information for Dan and Albert in case I find myself in New York or San Jose, which is more likely at this point.  After Stanley addressed the group and said goodbye, we hit the sheets to be well-rested for the 12-4 shift, which actually ended up being a 12-2:30 shift since sea turtles are less likely to emerge after 2 in the morning.  We had no sightings last night, but the weather was wonderful.  It was quite a bit cooler than the other nights and the sky was clear enough to see the moon and stars.  I was trying hard to focus on the beauty of the night sky to take my mind off the dozen mosquito bites on each foot rubbing into my shoes with each agonizing step.  It was very difficult to bear.  I really love those shoes, but right now I can’t even look at them.  The bugs here have no mercy.  I even have bites on my face and scalp, not to mention fingers and toes.  Yesterday after the rain stopped, winged termites swamped us in mass numbers for who knows what reason.  Today, since there are no groups here, we have no scheduled activities, so we pretty much have free time all day.  I know that I would like to do laundry and perhaps phone the parents.

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Looks like I might not do laundry today after all.  Since the group just left, the family is washing all the sheets and towels.  I think I can last another day.  But my dirty pile smells pretty rank.  You just don’t stop sweating.  It’s a bit quieter without kids around – more relaxing.  I lounged on a hammock near the hatchery and read my book “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings,” for the first time since there are no kids fighting over them.  Some Costa Rican Coast Guards interrupted me, which was funny because neither of us spoke much of the other’s language.  I gave up after a while and went back to my book.  They were quite intimidating though, carrying large guns around without much care.  I came to the porch once it started raining to read some more and chat with Steph (one of the girls from England) and Jenni a bit.  Then the three English and I decided to take a dip in the Caribbean, but I was a bit paranoid, watching out for sharks, which would be hard to see since the water is so polluted and brown.  It’s lunchtime now so we’ll see how the rest of the day pans out.

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After lunch we met with Stamie to discuss our rolls for the next week or so.  Then we got into some questions for the foundation and eventually Stanley, the director of Estacion Las Tortugas, joined us while Stamie translated.  After our hour-long conversation, I helped excavate one of the 17 nests of the day.  I found 5 live tortuguitas, one fully developed dead one, and a few slimy turtle skins.  Only about half of the eggs hatched.  Actually, 47 of the 88 eggs didn’t hatch in my nest.  It’s a very sad, messy job.  Then we measured some of the new hatchlings that were found today and since the lighting was good, I got a few photos (can’t use flash).  Now, whilst lounging in the hammock again, I can see and hear the monkeys dropping fruit on the trigger-happy camera-handlers below.  The howlers don’t sound very happy.  Their noise reminds me of a very growly, hungry stomach.  Now that I’m thinking about food, I think my stomach’s rumbling.

Day 10: Wednesday, June 25

I took a nap last night before dinner, and as I woke, I was afraid I had missed it because it was so dark.  Turns out it was only 6pm.  After dinner I got to call home and check in; I wished my dad luck on the STP, and Cody a safe trip to California.  And of course said hi to mom.  I was surprised that after our conversation I didn’t feel homesick at all.  That was really great.  I was expecting to.  The patrol shifts have switched from now on to one 8-1 shift rather than an 8-12 and a 12-4.  So we set out at 8 to a surprisingly muggy beach and right away we found 18 hatchlings so we measured, recorded, and set them loose to the sea.  Jenni took the night off so it was just Amy and me with our guide Jonathon who only speaks Spanish even though he knows a little English.  When we reached the 0 sector, there were some people on our bench drinking and being loud, not to mention annoying, shining their light in our eyes (later we returned to see that they had left a bunch of trash).  As we walked south, the sky cleared up, allowing us a brilliant view of the stars and a moon that cast shadows on the sand.  It came with a relaxing soundtrack too, as the waves roared and crashed into the beach and the night animals chirped and sang to us.  Amy and I talked occasionally, but for the most part, we walked in silence, taking it all in.  At our middle rest stop, the second time we met the other group, David picked a fresh coconut and he and Jonathon spent quite awhile smashing it until they reached the center.  I wish I had my camera as I watched the two Costa Ricans struggling to open a coconut in the moonlight, on the sandy coast of the Caribbean Sea.  It was quite a sight, as it was a racket.  I think they scared all the turtles away!  It was nice to gnaw on fresh coconut, though, despite the fact that I don’t like it very much.  It was more of an experience.  I also noticed lightning bugs dancing in the trees.  Even with the language barrier, I did manage to as Jonathon how long he had been working with turtles (Quantos anos tu trabajo con tortugas aqui?)  I’m not sure if I said it right, but he understood and answered 6 years.  After we finished, I hit the sheets hard and was out until the howler monkeys decided to try to compete with the rumbling of the morning thunder.  They sound so vicious!  It’s a very rainy morning, but the sound of it on the roof is comforting, like when it rains at home.  The mosquitoes seem to come out when the rain starts, so Jenni and I are hanging out in our room, reading and writing.  Since it is so rainy, I think I’m gonna put off doing laundry again, but I may try washing underwear in the bathroom.

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Yay!  We did laundry!  They have a machine that soaks and washes the clothes, then you must take them out and rinse all the soap from them and then it spins them dry.  The final step is hanging them outside.  I never thought I would be so excited for clean clothes!  It’s still raining a little but there’s a nice breeze, so hopefully they will dry out.  Doing laundry provided quite the forearm workout.  That’s exactly what I needed in this heat.  Today has been pretty lazy other than doing laundry.  I took a long nap, and in my dream, Cody was only 10 or so.  It was really strange because I don’t think I was any younger.  I have been having pretty vivid dreams throughout the trip though.  Nothing bad (yet), but extremely memorable.  It may be the malaria meds.  Every day here is pretty much the same, only with a different date.  There is a lot of routine and monotony (breakfast at 9, lunch at 1, and dinner at 7), but it’s a nice break from home.  I have lots of “me time” that I have been using for writing, reading, and resting.  It’s a very laid-back internship.  I can’t believe I am receiving credit for it.  I honestly don’t think it technically meets all of the requirements, but we won’t say anything.

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We released 68 hatchings this evening.  I’ve never seen so many!  I would assume there have been around 200 babies released since we’ve been here.  It’s truly amazing to watch – some go terribly slow, some go the wrong direction, others get flipped on their backs, and even some get stuck in the footprints.  Afterward, the English girls and I followed the sounds of a kitten to the edge of the jungle and then ran off in fear of it turning into a horror film.  Dinner tonight had hot dogs in it, which was actually really good.  After dinner, we helped Axel, one of the children, with his addition and timetables.  The language barrier was evident, as it is with the entire family, but numbers are the same in every language.  I’m taking tonight off in hopes that my feet will heal with rest from the shoes.

Day 11: Thursday, June 26

Today is yet another lazy day.  I got a whole lot of sleep last night since I didn’t go out on patrol – probably around 11 hours.  I’m not yet sure if taking the night off was beneficial to my mosquito-bite covered feet because none of them seem to be going away anytime soon.  It’s too bad though, because I would have seen a green turtle if I had gone, which are pretty rare at this time.  Oh well.  I woke up again to the sound of rain and howler monkeys having a fit outside.  Once again, our breakfast contained rice and beans (as did our lunch).  I finished my book right after eating and watched Flore excavate some nests.  The smell of rotten turtle eggs and carcasses gently wafted its way toward me as I lay peacefully in the hammock and listened to my ipod.  My swirley playlist seemed to suit the mood just fine.  When I revived from my music-induced trance, I found out that David, Stamie, and the girls from England were going into town.  They asked if I wanted anything, so I sent them with a request of more Bo-Kitas.   I was actually hoping for an invitation to town though.  I didn’t, however, have it in me to ask.  Plus Amy lent me her book, “A Thousand Splendid Suns” to read so at least I would have something to do while they’re gone.  Over lunch (in which I would have been completely satisfied with a mere sandwich), I began to contemplate how much I wish Chana were here.  Especially when seeing the English girls interact with each other.  I miss my Banana!  Naturally, I wasn’t in the most social mood, so I took my book to the sunny beach and read for a while with my shirt off, hoping to catch a bit of a tan.  I grew bored of lying there very quickly so I went for a walk a couple of sectors (about 300 meters) down the beach to think.  I ran a bit on the way back, trying to be graceful, but a wave caught me by surprise and went up my skirt!  I was thrown out of my daydream quite fast and gave into taking a shower finally.  My goal of running was two-fold: to work off some of the carbs that have been accumulating from the bottomless supply of rice, and to get hot enough to muster up the courage to endure the cold shower.  I did it in good time to get my fair skin out of the sun.  The water was delightfully refreshing as it cascaded down from my greasy head, to my deet-coated legs, and finally down to my sandy toes.  I even shaved, careful to avoid the dozens of mosquito bumps spread throughout my legs.  I did snag one though, but it didn’t concern me.  I wanted to scratch them all off anyway.  I think my laundry is dry now, so I might put it away to the sounds of Daddy Yankee, traced back to the neighboring office, which filled the entire porch and broke the routine silence of yet another lazy afternoon.

Day 12: Friday, June 27

The girls finally got back from town right before dinnertime and shared their adventures with us.  I would be lying if I said I wasn’t jealous.  After dinner I hit the sector 15-25 patrol from 8-1.  I was a bit nervous going on my own with two strangers who didn’t speak my language.  We struggled with meager conversation for a while but gave into silence when it became too much of a chore to interpret each other’s speech.  After our first rest, one of the guides proclaimed that he does speak English, so once again we struggled to create conversation to break the dead of night.  I don’t really like to talk much on patrol anyway.  It’s a thinking time for me, but I also don’t want to be rude.  When I got bored, I kicked sand, giving off phosphorescent light sparkles.  After about three hours of fairly clear sky, a storm struck out on the water, clouding over the stars and producing a strobe-like lightning show.  Some were so bright that it took a good few seconds before my eyes could readjust back to the darkness.  Then the rain came – gentle at first, but before long it was pouring and I was completely soaked through.  Even my waterproof shoes were filled with puddles.  After enduring it for some time, we came in a bit early to dry off and hit the sheets.  This morning was very sunny, and for once, I was actually awake before the alarm.  Now, waiting on the beach for the time to pass, I am excited for the group to arrive this evening.  I even found some sensitive plants to play with.

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I spent the majority of the day sitting on the porch, reading and chatting with the girls.  The group finally arrived after lunch, allowing for a glorious break in the monotony.  Time has actually gone faster since they’ve been here.  After Rachel’s welcome, I returned to the porch and book, while the girls went to the beach.  David pulled up a chair to make sure I was doing okay since according to him, I always look sad.  I was fine really, but a rush of emotions met his concern and before I knew it, I nearly started crying, thinking about home, friends, and family.  I was relieved when the topic switched to music and I was able to share with him which bands were from Seattle.  He said he wants to go there someday, so I told him to check out the EMP for sure.  After our conversation, I began to vent, ranting and raving to Jenni about how annoyed I am with the organization of this internship while we watched 53 hatchlings make their way to the water (which was easy today since the waves were coming clear up to the hatchery).  Apparently, the leader of the Scottish group doesn’t even know that we will be leaving with them.  We are going to break the news to them tomorrow with their guide, Inti.  No patrolling tonight.  We are going to bed early so we can wake up for a 7 am breakfast to begin construction projects before it gets too hot.

Day 13: Saturday, June 28

So we started construction of three new cabins bright and early at 8 o’clock this morning.  We began with the foundation, digging a trench around it and raising the floor.  I worked my way around, helping here and there, but ultimately, it is the Scottish group’s project and I don’t want to take all the work away.  It began raining a lot while we were hauling wheel barrels of dirt to the tennis courts to make cement for the foundation.  After lunch when the rain stopped, we mixed the cement (I use the word “we” loosely).  And somewhere in between, Rachel and I dug up 85 tortuguitas that were breaking through the sand.  I got to measure them and such, but now I’m taking a break from the group for some reading time.

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I am getting really frustrated with the lack of preparation that went into the development of my internship.  Things were thrown together very sloppily and no back-up plans were created.  At this point it sounds like the Scottish group may not want us to join them.  It would gave been a different story if it had been mentioned to the group leader prior to arriving here.  So annoying.  At least I had a nice shower and I’m not attracting flies anymore.  I need something to take my anger out on.

Day 14: Sunday, June 29

TWO WEEKS!  One-fifth of the way done.  I’m convinced that we’re in for five times the fun during the remaining time in this country.  We are not working with the group today mainly because we decided not to continue to travel with them on to the BriBri.  Apparently it was going to create too much drama – throw off the group dynamics, distract the guide, etc. (according to their leader).  It was when they decided to take it to a vote that Jenni and I opted not to push it.  We were hoping for a unanimous yes, but since that was obviously not going to happen we came to the conclusion that it wasn’t worth feeling uncomfortable and unwelcome for the ten days we would have been spending with them.  All’s well anyway.  We didn’t really want to go.  So I think now we will hitch a ride to San Jose with Stanley on Friday or so after the next group leaves.  I called grandma (since mom and dad are doing the STP) and told her about the complications so that she can deliver the message to my family later.  After all that drama, I found a hatchling wandering around the hatchery so Sophia and I discovered five more in a nest that was just breaking through.  We also found a nest that some crabs had gotten into and it looked like there were a few dead babies.  I’m laying in one of the hammocks by the beach now, resting after savagely tearing a coconut apart to enjoy it fresh.  It took me about half an hour, thanks to my knife.  Even though I’m not a huge fan of coconut, there’s nothing like enjoying it fresh while lying in a hammock on the Caribbean Coast.

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I ended up sharing the coconut with members of the Scottish group, even though they upset me a little.  We had lunch on carefully rearranged tables (they are retiling the floors of the dining area) to the sound of the Eurocup (Spain vs. Germany) playing on the TV outside.  Jenni and I went for a walk along the beach and had a photo shoot, which means I actually have photos of myself wearing a swimsuit top!  A fairly clean excavation followed that, but unfortunately there were no survivors.  My shower afterward felt great on my sunburned skin that smelt of rotten turtle carcasses.

Day 15: Monday, June 30

It’s a good thing I took advantage of the beautiful weather yesterday because last night it started pouring and has yet to stop.  After my shower yesterday, I opened another coconut (with the help of David) to shard because I got bored and it’s actually pretty entertaining.  Patrol was fun last night because it was shortened to only be from 8-11, and all 6 (including Sophia) of us girls went together, plus Jonathon for the 0-15 sectors.  We only stopped at the 15 once, where we talked about the difference between American and English junk food (it’s no wonder Americans are fat), while Jonathon kept himself busy with a coconut.  I tried a couple of Spanish phrases with him and practiced with Steph, but overall, it’s a good thing that Sophia speaks Spanish.  We also talked about the fact that we would be at the station for the Fourth of July, when Jenni said to Amy, “to celebrate our independence from you…” and without missing a beat, Amy shot back, “not this year!”  It was quite funny, but Jenni insisted that the funny part was me asking if we were really celebrating our independence from England.  AP history did not retain well in my memory.  The sky was nice – there was lightning in the distance, over the sea, and while it started off clear, the clouds rolled in to blanket the stars by the time we started back toward sector 0 again.  Amy and I sung a few songs to keep us occupied and right before we finished our section, we ran into a turtle at sector two!  My first one since the second night I patrolled.  It was so exciting!  I was determined to touch it this time.  Rachel and I ran back, tripping on crabs, to get the Scottish group so they could have a look, and we returned in time to watch her lay eggs.  I asked Steph and Amy lots of questions, and was even able to answer some that members of the group had.  At one point I realized that there was only one Costa Rican there surrounded by one Greek, two Americans, three English, and a handful of Scottish.  The whole experience was absolutely amazing.  Watching her actually lay the eggs made it all the more real.  And when I touched her, it felt like I was a piece of something bigger.  It’s very hard to describe the feeling, but it made me realize that it’s not all about me.  There’s more to life than pleasing myself and only myself.  They named her Heather, a good Scottish name, apparently.  The group went back to bed before she went back to the water, which is the coolest part.  Had they stayed, they would have watched her squeeze out 3 more infertile eggs before she hit the water.  Since I was the only remaining gloved hand, I put them with the others, to be relocated in a nest that Steph dug.  It was really great to finally see the entire process, since I’ve helped so many out of the ground and released tons of them back to the ocean, not to mention dug up old rotten nests.  To see one actually lay her eggs completed the cycle for me.

Day 16: Tuesday, July 1

Yesterday was a pretty lazy day without much excitement.  I started a new book called, “The Innocent Man,” lounged in the hammocks, walked around the beach, took a nap – the usual.  I did call my dad though so he wouldn’t worry about the cryptic message I had grandma deliver to him.  It turns out that the STP is in two weeks, and they just did the Lance Armstrong ride.  I also wanted to let them know that we pretty much finalized our plans to leave the station on Saturday the 5th, spend two nights in Puerto Viejo, two nights in San Jose, and then back to Atenas by the 9th I think.  Patrol was pretty fun last night.  Stamie, Steph, Amy, and I lost track of where we were and ended up going too far down the beach, which was more funny than anything else.  We had a good time chatting and keeping ourselves entertained, which was good since there were no turtles to do so.

Day 17: Wednesday, July 2

So yesterday was pretty lazy again.  I tried sunbathing with Steph and Amy for awhile, but I didn’t last long.  Jenni and I solidified our plans for this weekend.  We are for sure going to Puerto Viejo and Amy and Steph might even join us.  I am really looking forward to some variety in my day.  I really like it here, but it’s very monotonous.  In preparation for our travels, I looked up some useful Spanish phrases and jotted them down just in case.  Sophia and Alvaro went into town, so they brought me some butter biscuits and tortuguita chocolates.  Other than that, we watched howler monkeys from the porch again and I read some more.  Another group arrived from NY yesterday too, so I chatted with them and they went on patrol with us for the 0-15 section from 8-12.  There were no mommas last night, but lots of babies.  Unfortunately, I lost my watch in the sand last night.  Maybe REI will replace it.

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I’m pretty sure that today is the hottest since I’ve been here.  It just so happens that it is also the day that I woke up with enough energy and motivation to go for a run on the beach.  My other reasoning was to see if I could find my watch and because I was sporting my newly charged ipod.  It was refreshing, but oh so tiring – the sand, the sun, and the exercise.  There was no luck finding my watch, as I presumed, and unfortunately, on the way back, I lost my shirt as well to the sea.  It fell out of the back of my skirt since I was running in my swimsuit top.  Getting back to the cabin after my run, I felt disgusting – dehydrated, hot, sweaty, and sandy – so I changed into the rest of my swimsuit and ran for the sea to cool off.  After a few waves, I had a refreshing shower, and realized I only had one clean tank top left, so I did a bunch of laundry, taking advantage of the sun to dry them.

Day 18: Thursday, July 3

WOW – I would have been leaving Ghana by day 18, but we’re only a quarter of the way done, and we leave the station the day after tomorrow.  I’m not ready to say goodbye to the place, or to the people here.  I’ve made some really good friends.  It’s amazing how fast you can grow close to people when you’re around them 27/7!  Time has been going faster here too, whether it’s because of having groups here, or because I’m finding things to occupy my time with, I’m not sure.  Yesterday, after my post-lunch nap in the hammock, I watched the Scottish group and the Costa Rican’s play volleyball.  It was really entertaining, and I tried my hardest not to count how many illegal hits were made.  After the volleyball, they moved onto the soccer bitch, in which I moved onto the beach for a bit of evening yoga with Rachel and Steph.  That was interrupted about five minutes in because we had to release nearly 150 hatchlings, of which I got put in charge of the special ones.  The ones who were too weak to move.  I ended up taking them and basically putting them in the waves myself.  After dinner, we had a dance party until 10:30.  It was so much fun (not to mention excellent exercise), but it was way hot, so we were all super sweaty.  I tried my hand at keeping up with Alvaro, who is an amazing dancer.  I caught on after a few minutes, and had an absolute blast!  I also danced with the girls and the kids (Axel and Hilary), and Alfonso.  I really wanted to dance with David, but he was stuck on patrol.  I’m gonna miss him, but hopefully we can keep in touch after I leave.  When the dancing was finished, Jenni, Steph, Amy, and I laid down on the beach for awhile to cool off.  It’s raining now and the monkeys have finally settled down.  They were going crazy this morning, which did not help with my dehydration headache.

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After lounging around a bit to rid myself of the headache, we played a lovely game of volleyball in the light rain.  I’m not sure who won, but it was really fun and I got pretty dirty, so luckily I was able to shower before Naomi’s baptism.  It was the cleanest I have felt in a while because the humidity isn’t very high today.  The baptism lasted about an hour, and if it wasn’t awkward enough sitting through it, it was all in Spanish, with infrequent translations by Stamie.  I was able to understand bits and pieces of the priest’s dialogs, but for the most part I had no idea what was going on.

Day 19: Friday, July 4

Fourth of July!  Yesterday, we had a late lunch since the baptism was running a bit late and we were able to participate in the student presentations afterward.  That was really fun and it was cute to see what they came up with.  They’re so creative!  I gave up on the book that I most recently started – it was boring me to tears.  I don’t like John Grisham’s writing I guess.  It’s too blotchy.  The afternoon consisted of nothing more that sitting on the porch and relaxing.  It was a nice cool day, so I don’t know why we didn’t have any energy.  We were able to interview David. And then we all talked about music and busted out the iPods to share.  I practiced a bit of Spanish before dinner, after which David told me he had been laid off due to the station’s lack of financial stability, so he came on patrol with us for our last night.  No turtles, but the sky was the clearest I’ve seen it (I saw three shooting stars) and the weather was nice and cool.  We enjoyed another coconut, in which I kept half to try making into a bowl.  This morning, we all woke up at 4:45 to catch the sunrise.  It was beautiful – a Caribbean sunrise.  Today I think we might do some more yoga and I definitely must pack.  It’s gonna be difficult because I’ve made myself at home and my things are everywhere!

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The fact that today is our last here is a bit unsettling.  It took quite awhile to get used to this place and adjust to the lifestyle, but I just love it.  I will be very sad to leave.  It’s la vida mejor (the better life) without much care of worry – a total stress-reducer.  I will definitely miss the company and the sounds – monkeys, birds, crickets, but most of all, the waves.  I’ve taken advantage of the lull of the relentless crashing, but I know that once it’s gone I will be lacking.  The father weed whacking bits of grass and rock all over my legs and face has interrupted my train of thought.

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Oh!  Bittersweet goodbyes.  I hate them.  We just saw David and Alfonso off.  It’s going to be very quiet without them.  It was all too abrupt for my taste.  They found out that they were leaving only last night.  I think that is pretty cruel.  I was unable to get a proper read on Alfonso, but David was very sad.  I think I am too.  I really enjoyed the company.  At least they had one last patrol and were able to enjoy the sunrise.  I think the consensus for tomorrow is that we will leave the station around 6 am to catch the 7 o’clock bus from Matina to Limon.

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A sunny walk on the beach was a great way to relax, clear our heads, and talk about life.  It was also another attempt to get some sun.  Amy and I walked to the 18 and back, while Jenni and Rachel went the whole way down to 30.  After all that sun, I had to chill out in the shady hammock for awhile before lunch.  Unfortunately, there was no ice in the cooler, so I was not able to enjoy my Fourth of July fanta, which would have been my first soda of the trip.  After lunch I began packing, which I hate, but it’s even sadder because I don’t really want to go.  I saw that David left his hat here, and I toyed with the idea of taking it with me, but in the end, it’s just s sweaty hat.  I also saw that they left the other half of my coconut over by their room, so I cleaned it out and scraped it off so that I could take both halves home.  Wow – it’s almost embarrassing how much I don’t want to leave.  I used to think it would be easy.  In fact, when we got here I began counting down the days until we could leave, but now that the impending departure is looming over my head, I’m feeling a bit upset.  Mostly to say goodbye to everyone I think – Amy, Steph, Rachel, Stamie.  Friendships are created so quickly here when there’s not much to do besides talk.  I know that Jenni and I will have fun in Puerto Viejo.  I’m not worried about that.  I’m mostly worried about personality clashing.  She is a driver, I’m amiable; we’re completely opposite and that worries me because I’m all about going with the flow and I think that that’s where our biggest difference lies.

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Oh my goodness!  A gecko just fell off the ceiling and landed right in my backpack and crawled up my arm when I tried to get him out.  It was sure a cute little thing.  I took a shower in hopes that it would wash my sadness away, and while it felt really good, it didn’t do the trick.  Somehow, we all met up in the hammocks after that, all depressed and eager to make plans to meet up in San Jose the night before they leave.  I think it’s a bit of a long shot since neither of us has reliable cell phones, but it was fun to talk about.  Steph, Rachel, and I joined in on a game of volleyball, in which I completely ruined my clean and fresh feeling – sand and sweat everywhere.  It was a fun game though.  And then we released my last set of hatchlings.  They were particularly fast tonight – some in the direction of Limon.  Maybe they were paving the path for Jenni and me.  Dinner was about half an hour late tonight, so we entertained ourselves by taking animal face photos.  It’s almost 9 pm now, but I’m gonna get to sleep soon so that we can wake up just after 5 and finish packing before we meet the boat in the morning.  I think Steph, Rachel, and Amy are going to accompany us to the dock, that is if they can get their grande culos out of bed in the morning.

Day 20: Saturday, July 5

I did not sleep very well last night.  Not so much tossing and turning, as I heard everything that was happening around me – the rain, the dogs, the chickens.  When it was finally time to get up and finish packing, I was able to see the rest of the sunrise, and when I finished, I made my way to the beach to say adios and dip my feet once more.  The girls came with us for the boat trip back to the dock where the taxi was waiting, as planned.  Apparently poachers get to the beach by swimming across the canal and entering the jungle through a trail on the other side.  If it’s a 15-minute boat ride to the station, I can’t even imagine how long it would take to walk there.  We said our goodbyes and made our way to Matina, a 30-minute ride through banana plantations.  I opted to sit in the bed of the truck, which was a really fun ride.  The driver, a friend of Stanley’s, graciously dropped us at the stop for the bus to Limon, which came within 35 minutes of our arrival, but it was totally packed, so I had to stand up facing backward with both my bags, increasing my width about three times.  We were dropped off at a large overwhelmingly crowded station in Limon, then made our way about 5 blocks to the transfer station, with the help of a friendly, English-speaking local.  Luckily we found it and purchased our tickets for the 9 o’clock bus, with half an hour to spare.  The driver grabbed our bags and stowed them under the bus while Jenni went to the store for some drinks.  Now we’re undergoing the 59-kilometer bus ride to Puerto Viejo.  So far, it’s been a painless journey.  We’ve only run into a few things along the way – a beggar woman who wore a tanktop for a skirt, and another woman who we rode the bus with found us in Limon to tell us that a man stole her necklace right off her neck.  Since we were in Limon so early, we can’t see too much, but we walked through the market as they were setting up, and we also saw/heard these cars that travel around with huge speakers on the top blaring music.

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We’re here!  We arrived in Puerto Viejo by 10:30 this morning; with plenty of time to endure the sweaty, 600-meter walk to Rocking J’s.  We opted for hammocks to save a bit of money, plus the private room was far too stuffy.  We each got our own locker to store our belongings in, and once Jenni got back from the shower, we walked back into town to have a look around.  We stopped at various vendors along the way to check out souvenirs and such and once there, we poked around some shops and had lunch, where I had a massive sandwich and a tamarindo slushee.  We ran into one of the guys we met at the hostel (Chris from Australia, England, B.C.) and walked around a bit more.  On the way back to Rocking J’s, I purchased a shoulder bag, so that I wouldn’t have to carry my backpack everywhere.  Things aren’t too much cheaper here, but then again, our hammocks are $5 a night.  Every shop I’ve been in has had rasta stripes and/or Bob Marley faces on the items.  It’s pretty funny, but I think that if he were alive, I could see him settling down in a place like this.  When we got back to the hostel, I sent a few emails to a few people of importance and grabbed a Pilsen beer and headed for the beach, although there is not much sand…

Day 21: Sunday, July 6

Three weeks!  Our time here is starting to speed up, which I can see as both good and bad.  Yesterday after our visit to the beach, we came back and rested in our hammocks for a bit, but after we were unable to fall asleep in 12 minutes (Steph said if you nap more than that you’re gonna die yout), Chris joined us and we chatted for awhile.  He’s been everywhere!  Accept Ghana.  I had a daiquiri at the bar afterwards, followed by another Pilsen.  I met a girl there from Houston, who was only in Costa Rica for 4 days!  She is leaving this afternoon.  I can’t imagine packing as much as she did into such a short amount of time.  Even at this hostel, the maximum stay is 3 months.  After our drinks, Chris, Jenni, and I left to see a jazz show at Salsa Brava, making sure to walk along the water-side trail.  We got there only to find out that the sign was old and the show was the night before, so we walked around town looking for a place to get some drinks and stumbled upon a French place with a 2 for 1 happy hour special.  A tequila sunrise and Cuba Libre (tequila instead of rum) were my poisons, and after figuring the bill, we stumbled back to the hostel, but the night wouldn’t have been complete without some Rastafarian props (I think he liked my rasta bag).  Luckily the night wasn’t over, because when we got back there was a live DJ and people everywhere.  I ordered a brownie for dessert at about the same time a strange older guy sat sown with us at our table.  It turns out that he was Rocking J.  It was pretty cool talking with him.  He offered us the opportunity to do a mosaic, which I think I will take him up on; and toke up with him, which I politely passed up.  I was woken at 3 o’clock this morning by some idiots pounding on the bongos in the middle of the courtyard.  Other than that, I slept fairly decently, besides being awoken at 6:30 by people who were checking out.

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So we walked into town and had a cinnamon roll for breakfast this morning, and then went and bought a few souvenirs.  I feel pretty stingy though because I want everything for myself.  I got a few of my errands done, and will hopefully accomplish the rest by the end of the day.  Some of the shops were closed, though, so I might do some tomorrow before our bus leaves at 11 am.  I was able to check my email, and it looks like we might be able to meet up with David tomorrow!  When we got back to the hostel, my laundry was done and folded, so I put it away, changed my shoes, sprayed some sun screen, and rented bikes to ride to Echo Books to fill out post cards and browse.  They had some great Rastobama shirts, but didn’t have my size, so I’ll have to check online in a couple weeks.

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After leaving the bookstore, we rode the opposite way of town out or curiosity and found a great beach called Playa Cocles.  Lots of surfers and families.  I really love this place, despite the influx of gringos that roam this town.  Upon getting back to the hostel, I had a margarita at the bar and ordered an evil jungle salad.  It took about 45 minutes, so in the mean time, I chatted with J again and did the old puff puff pass (God made grass, man made booze…who do you trust?), and talked with a guy from Vegas, and another guy from New York.  I really enjoy meeting people at the hostel because chances are, they’re pretty A rate.  I am a little nervous though, I heard about two muggings that happened today.  That’s so discouraging though because I was feeling really safe here.  I guess that will deep me from letting my guard down then.  It’s annoying though, because I’ve gotten cat-called at, locals have asked for kisses, J slapped me on the ass with a poster,  I don’t know if I don’t give myself enough credit, or if it’s just how girls and women are treated here.  Right now, back at Playa Cocles, we’re just contemplating how to spend the rest of the night.  Our bikes are due in about an hour, so I think we’re gonna return them soon and walk into town and hopefully catch a live band tonight at Coco Cielos.

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After packing our bags, we headed back toward town and stopped at El Loco Natural, one of the top 5 rated restaurants in the country for dinner.  All the food is natural and a lot of it is grown in their farm.  I had amazing Mediterranean bruschetta and an organic lemonade slushee.  It was so delicious and fairly moderately priced.  We came in good time to catch a live show with a guitarist, pianist, and bongo player.  It’s pretty jazzy and laid back, and my guess is that they are transplanted/relocated Americans.

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It was a nice chilled our place, but we moved on down the road, where we lingered outside a place with live reggae by locals and eventually hit up our intended destination of Coco Cielos.  We each got a beer and chatted while a kitten checked us out for a bit.  It’s only 10 o’clock now, but I am so tired that I might be lame and go to bed.  Big day tomorrow.  I think my goal is less alcohol in San Jose.  Doing better than yesterday though.  Today I only had a margarita, a shot of limoncello, and an Imperial.

Day 22: Monday, July 7

At the moment we are eating a light breakfast at Caribeans, an organic, fairtrade coffee shop near the bus stop to the sound of the pouring rain and the roasting of coffee beans.  I got a better night sleep last night, but was woken up again by some crazy loud people whose language I couldn’t distinguish.  After packing up, we left Rocking J’s at about 8:30 for the trek back into town.  We had planned on sending some things at the post office, and I wanted to withdraw some money and pick up a few things at the pharmacy – none of which happened!  The post office didn’t have boxes, they wouldn’t let me use the ATM (I didn’t want to wait in line inside), and I didn’t know how to even begin to ask for what I needed at the pharmacy.  I did get a hammock and t-shirt for Cody, but I have to lug them around until the next post office, which is no easy task since my shoulders are peeling and the 50 pounds worth of bags aren’t comfortable.  We also stopped at ATEC. The EcoTourism shop to check it out, but the woman was really rude, so we left and settled at this place, which is very comfortable compared to the wind and rain outside.  The granola was amazing too.  Not your average hippie Bellingham kind.  This one was rich and full of chocolaty bits.  Our bus is in less than an hour so I think we’ll eventually mosey that way, dodging raindrops the best that we can.  But we first have to take advantage of the free 15 minutes of internet.

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We are in San Jose, at Tranquilo Backpackers FINALLY!  The bus ride was pretty long and I had a hint of motion sickness, so that was stressful not knowing if I needed to throw up.  Plus the seats were pretty small so Jenni and I had to squeeze tight, which does not help with claustrophobia.  A French family boarded the bus about a half an hour into the ride and since there weren’t many seats left, on sat on his suitcase in the aisle, making me feel even more uncomfortable and distracting me from taking a nap.  We stopped for a 10-minute bathroom break and the driver scolded me for trying to get something out of my bag that was under the bus.  My limited knowledge of Spanish was not significant enough to explain my intentions of getting medicine, so I gave up.  My nap helped me to feel less sick, but once I woke up, I noticed that the local woman across the aisle was making the loudest snorting noises.  She sounded like a pig – it was so annoying.  26 times in 2 minutes.  After that I lost track.  Once we arrived in the city, we got lost looking for the hostel, but eventually found it around 4:30.  Immediately I got into contact with David to try to arrange some dinner plans mabe.  I also called the parents to check in and finished off my phone card.  This place comes with free internet, so I checked my sites, and found that Simon had finally written me.  I was getting worried, but I’m really glad that finally happened.  Jenni and I got a double room after being dissatisfied with the basement dorm we had originally booked.  I’m glad we changed though because the basement smelled like cat piss and did not look comfortable at all.

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We got all ready to go out with David, and he even called to get directions, but he called back to reschedule because he wasn’t feeling well.  Hopefully we can make it work tomorrow evening.  We went out to find food on our own, but most restaurants were closed, so we made do with the supermarket, which worked out well because I was able to get my floss and a new phone card.  We found our way back fairly flawlessly, passing a few “working girls” along the way.  Our double, private room was well deserved after sharing an open-air room with 30 people mas o menos.  Tomorrow looks like we will hit the post office (and hopefully the bank) in the morning after our free pancake breakfast, and then meet Jenni’s uncle/cousin Carlos for a guided tour of the town.  As for now, I might go to bed soon – estoy cansada.

Day 23: Tuesday, July 8

Oh man!  My head is peeling hard core, so are my shoulders.  I’m surprised I still have a scalp.  It’s a quarter to seven this morning and I’m just listening to music. Waiting for a proper time to shower.  Our room is so bright in the morning – it woke me right up.  I was lame last night and went to bed around 9 after enjoying my delicious wrap from the supermarket.  It’s way colder in the city than on the coast – I had to use not only my sheet, but also a blanket!

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Holy shit!  There should be a disclaimer for this floor:  DON’T EVEN THINK ABOUT THE PROSPECT OF ENJOYING A HOT SHOWER (or even moderately warm)!  My head was able to take it, but the rest of my body submitted in silent protest.  I would have been a lot more vocal about it if it wasn’t so early.  I’ve never clung to shower walls so closely.  At least I’m awake now. ……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

Out on the town!  This morning there were no pancakes left unfortunately, so my breakfast consisted of a Clif Bar and some raisins from yesterday’s bus stop.  We headed to the post office (el edificio de correo de Costa Rica) but I opted to wait until Atenas to send my package.  It’s a good thing too, because it took Jenni about an hour.  It was the green building from my guidebook – beautiful!  We walked through Parque Morazan to get back to the gostel to meet Jenni’s cousin Carlos.  And at the moment we are stuck in traffic en route to a botanical garden and then to Cartago.

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First we went to Carlos’ house in a city that I cannot pronounce, but his casa is beautiful.  While at his place we picked up his youngest daughter, had lunch at a mall (Pizza Hut for me), stopped for coffee, went to see the old church (our Lady of the Angels I think), then made it to the Botanical Garden, which was a bit less than satisfying.  It made for a very long day.  We learned a few things along the way too.  For one, if you’re license plate number ends in a certain number, you can’t drive in downtown San Jose on a given day of the week because gas is so pricey.  We just returned to the hostel at 5 and I phoned David, so it looks like we will be going out for dinner tonight I think.  We’ll see.  For now, I’m just hanging out in the room with the cat, who has taken a liking to my rasta bag, while Jenni is getting a phone card at the Auto Mercado a few blocks away.

Day 24: Wednesday, July 9

It was so nice to see David walk through the lounge of our hostel!  I actually missed him quite a bit.  He also brought his best friend, Ronald, who was very good looking as well.  We started off the night by going to a bar for dinner and drinks.  We had a traditional dinner of Chifrijo, which is rice, beans, pork, tomatoes, and lettuce I think.  It was really delicious.  It was raining when we left the hostel, so we were pretty wet when we arrived at the first bar.  Then we moved on to a really hip place that reminded me of a lounge and enjoyed a beer, then ventured over to another bar where we hung out for a long time and met another one of their friends, who we also good looking.  After a long while there, we set out to return to the hostel to hang out a bit longer, stopping at an AMPM along the way to get some more drinks.  Once we got back, we hung out in front playing guitar and talking.  David is an amazing musician.  After saying goodbye, Jenni and I passed out upstairs and woke around 8 o’clock this morning.  Our first mission was to hit up the market, which was great, but I spent quite a bit of money.  Things were fairly priced, but it wasn’t really the place to bargain.  I got lots of earrings and some great gifts for myself, friends, and family.  After our jaunt, we got a bit mixed up on the way back and couldn’t agree on the correct way back to the hostel to grab our bags.  I ended up being right, but I’m always made to feel stupid when we don’t agree, even when I am right, which happens to be quite often.  I told Christina about the issues last night on the computer.  I was also able to talk with Chana, Chinook, and Andrew from rec.  On the way back to the hostel, we found zodiac, which sold some great beads and bulk gifts so I got some things for dad and friends.  It’s so great to hear and read about a place and be able to find it in real life.  My confidence has gone up so much in the sense of traveling and backpacking around a foreign country.  Things worked out well today too, because we caught a taxi to the Coca Cola bus station, took a bus to Atenas, and then another taxi to Ralph’s house.  We enjoyed a great lunch of tamales and plantains, and now we’re watching “Love Actually.”

Day 25: Thursday, July 10

“Love Actually” – you gotta love that movie!  Afterward, I came back to the guesthouse to upload photos and write my blog update to be put online today:

“Sorry for the delayed update, as I have been without internet for about two weeks, but no worries, here is a bit of a breakdown of what I have been up to lately…

We left for Estacion Las Tortugas on Saturday, June 21, which is on the Caribbean Coast. It was hot, wet, dirty, sweaty, sandy, and salty, with no hot water, savage mosquitoes, relentless howler monkeys, and little variety in food besides rice and beans. It was AMAZING. I loved just about every minute. I met some awesome locals, as well as some girls from England and Greece, who I plan on keeping in touch with for sure. Language was a bit of an issue in some cases, but a smile means the same thing in every country, thank God. As you can imagine, there were a lot of charade – like gestures used to communicate. In those two weeks, I saw four mommy leatherback turtles, and about 500 hatchlings, which fit inside your hand! Played beach volleyball, did laundry by hand, went swimming in the Caribbean Sea, jogged the beach, watched the sunrise, and danced the night away.

After our time was over at the station, it was a bitter goodbye for me. As uncomfortable as it was at some points, I really enjoyed myself. The company was great as well. We left the station early on the morning of July 5th – a 10-minute boat ride through the crocodile-ridden canals, a 40-minute taxi ride in the bed of a truck through the banana plantations to Matina, a 30-minute bus ride to Limon, and a 60-minute bus ride to Puerto Viejo where Jenni and I spent two nights. It was a great, laid-back town with a strong Rastafarian culture, set on the Caribbean coast and lined with beautiful white and black sand beaches. We stayed at an amazing hostel laid from top to bottom with artwork and mosaics done by guests. Our days were spent walking the town, hanging at the beach, shopping, and bike riding, while our nights consisted of live music, happy hours, and sleeping in hammocks.

On Monday, the 7th, we caught an 11 o’clock bus to San Jose, the capital of Costa Rica. Unfortunately I was motion sick for a good portion of the 5-hour bus ride. Upon arriving in the city, we got lost looking for our hostel – two gringos with bags as big as themselves wandering the streets. It was pretty pathetic when we discovered that we had already passed it… We spent one full day there, in which we met up with Jenni’s family and went to Cartago to visit a botanical garden and a famous Catholic church. After our time with them, we were able to meet up with one of the locals that we met at the station, as well as two of his friends in which we enjoyed some Chifrijo – a traditional Costa Rican dish, and then we went to a few bars and ended the night playing guitar at the hostel. I’m back in Atenas now, after visiting the market in San Jose and spending too much money this morning.

It’s a bit hard to adjust to being back here. I really miss the hot weather, the minimalistic lifestyle, and being around people my age. It’s kind of sad that I’m depressed to be back at the house with great meals, hot water, and soap, but I really enjoyed being on the go and taking part in true cultural experiences in which I am challenged both physically and mentally. I think I grew a lot in the past couple weeks, and I am really looking forward to what our 10-day tour will bring in terms of new friendships and new challenges. We are scheduled to depart on the 14th.”

After our jaunt around the country, I suddenly had an epiphany that I should either open a sweet-action hostel, or write for a guide-book… As for now, I have to play some catch-up on schoolwork that I could not complete without internet or a computer, so feel free to email! I will try to respond.”

I really needed the quiet alone time to reflect on my feelings and perception about where I am right now.  Although a bit sad, it was positive because once again I realized the importance of not being sad that it’s over, but thankful that it ever happened…which I am.  After joining the family for dinner, Jenni and Ralph and I talked a bit about our experience in Puerto Viejo and San Jose and nothing else in particular.  Before going to bed, I uploaded Jenni’s photos to my computer and downloaded Photoshop, which is great, accept that I have no idea how to use it.  This morning, I was awoken abruptly by the weed whacker at 6:something.  Who does that?!  It was definitely no good!  I took a hot shower for the first time in almost three weeks!  It was glorious!  Since then, I have been working on my weekly reports to send to Jill, of which I have finished the first two.

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After lunch, I had all the write-ups finished and after battling with the internet for a long time, I was finally able to send them off to Jill.  I wasn’t too stressed about them, but it was a relief nonetheless.  The afternoon was spent developing questions for the Scottish group and reviewing interviews and videos from the station.  I was also able to publish my blog after about 8 tries, and I changed my facebook photo!  At about 6, we headed down to Francisco’s lodge to hang out with the Scottish group for dinner and discussed their experiences.  The ride down was a bit harsh because Jenni was not giving me mush credit in my preparation for interacting with the group.  It seems to be a common conflict.  It went really well though – after a delicious, filling meal, we all sat around the table as I led a discussion about their experience at the station and with the Bri Bri.  It felt so great to hear such positive feedback.  It makes me feel that much better that I have chosen to pursue work in this industry.  After our discussion, I shared my photos with them and they uploaded some of theirs onto my laptop.  We said goodbye and I left them with my email so we can keep in touch.  Luckily, Inti was still awake and called us a taxi to get back.

Day 26: Friday, July 11

My stomach was NOT happy last night!  I even had bad dreams.  But at least I was able to use my new blanket that I bought at the Mercado Artesanos in San Jose.  This morning we are supposed to be going to the public market, but you can never be exactly sure when you’re gonna leave.  There is no schedule or sense of urgency…ever.

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We ended up going into town after a while, in which we stopped at the public market and I bought some funny looking fruit that looks like a koosh ball but tastes like a grape.  We stopped at a few other places where I bought some chocolate bars and some snacks for our trip on Monday with the group.  I think that I’m starting to feel comfortable enough to go into town on my own at some point…hopefully.  When we returned to the house, I ran down and took an hour-long nap in time to change my laundry.  You can tell by looking at my journal which days we are in Atenas because it’s so boring here.  Yeah, I try to do some work, but it’s ridiculous how slow the time goes up here.  I think that Jenni and I are going to Playa Jaco tomorrow, so I can’t eat until then…soy gorda!

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The rain came down so hard this afternoon that it chased me inside.  I spent the majority of the afternoon going through pictures from the Scottish group, weeding out ones we don’t need, and editing the ones with flaws.  It really sucked when Ralph went to load them onto his computer and the edited ones didn’t work!  Sad…  I also was able to send and receive emails from Dad and David and chat with Adam and mom.  I realized today how unprepared we were for the Scottish group.  Had I known how rare EcoTeach service groups were, I would have filmed and done interviews with them at the station and created a movie.  But no – we were just thrown into the situation without much information or specifics.  Helping with dinner was good for clearing my head of the frustration I felt toward Ralph for his multitude of shortcomings.

Day 27: Saturday, July 12

Watching “Robots” last night was a great way to end the boring day.  It reminded me a lot of the Tate boys though, which was a little sad.  Then I went to bed to wake up around 8 to get ready to spend the day at Playa Jaco on the Pacific coast.  Ralph and Bob dropped us off at the bus stop in Atenas around 9:30 and we arrived in Jaco at 11:45.  I had to stand most of the way, which was unfortunate because it made me a bit sick.  There was some crazy driving and maneuvering along the way – like passing cars on a double yellow line.  En route, Jenni also pegged my personality as a laid-back hippie adventurer, while she is a self-proclaimed grandma-nerd.  It’s no wonder we disagree on things.  After settling on the beach (and watching a guy kite surf) the rain came and chased us to an open-air covered restaurant for lunch where I am waiting for my grilled ham and cheese sandwich while trying not to touch the dirty table cloth.   The crumbs are surprising since this seems to be a pretty high-end hotel and restaurant called Copa Cabana.  At least the tamarindo is good, although slightly less satisfying than at the restaurant in Puerto Viejo.

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So, our hopes of returning to a sunny beach after lunch were crushed by the relentless rain.  With little else to do in this town during the day, we hit the streets and looked around the shops on the main drag.   After realizing that the rain is here to stay we decided that we were not eager to hang out in the middle of a thunderstorm, so we bought tickets for the 3:30 bus to San Jose.  Another hour and fifteen minutes until the bus comes, waiting at Pizza Hut.

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Overall, Jaco was less than expected.  It certainly didn’t live up to its reputation as described by Ralph and the guidebooks.  Maybe the problem was that we left before the party ever started.  Who knows…  After our fabulous spaghetti dinner, Jenni and I watched “Made in America,” an amusing film with Whoopi and Will.  I just finished an ant-killing rampage – they’re all over my clothes and bunk, and even though it’s not even 10 yet, I’m going to bed.

Day 28: Sunday, July 13

Hoy es quatro semanas – veinte ocho dias!  Crazy to think!  6 mas semanas (42 dias) – of which 20 are spent touring the country with groups.  Being here, at Ralph’s, makes me miss home a little.  Especially today.  It’s ChiChi’s birthday party, so they’re doing the family thing.  I know I’ve missed a few birthdays since I’ve been here.  At least we leave tomorrow!  I need the movement and excitement.  I was able to get a little bit of work done this morning before the party, but mostly I feel kind of like I’m impeding on their family function.  I called Cody today and made plans to go paintballing.  And to a Mariners game.  I also got news that Ralph and Margarita are leaving for the states the day before I get back from the second 10-day.  That’s kinda frustrating.  It just adds to my dissatisfaction with this internship.  Ralph also mentioned that he might send me to Bob’s for part of my remaining time, but I hope not.  I don’t know what I would do there, I would rather go back to Puerto Viejo.

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After sending my week 4 report to Jill, and updating my blog:

“Yesterday, Jenni and I bussed to Playa Jaco on the Pacific coast, where we were promised to find a happening town. We got there just before lunch to find a fairly dirty, depressed place, but we made our way to the beach nonetheless. About two minutes after watching a kite surfer, the rain came, chasing everyone undercover for the rest of the afternoon. It figures that our day at the beach would be corrupted with a thunderstorm. We returned to Atenas shortly after, with nothing to show for our experience accept a belly-full of gross beach food. It’s all part of the experience!

Tomorrow, I’m off on another adventure! We leave at the crack of dawn to meet up with a student group from New York in Atenas at the bottom of the mountain (we are staying in Alto de Monte). Our ten-day tour of the country is to include another visit to the butterfly garden, a local school, and a different turtle reserve – and that’s all in the first day.

The rest of our trip revolves around white-water rafting, hiking an active volcano, visiting a hot spring, reforestation, learning about organic farming, going to the beach at Punta Leona, working with Macaws, and zip lining over the rainforest. It’s a pretty fatty itinerary for ten days, but I am looking forward to being on the go again. I feel too stagnant here.

Needless to say, I will be out of contact until the 24th, I believe.  I hope you all are doing wonderfully!”

I returned to the guesthouse to pack, and because I couldn’t stand watching the family anymore.  And Ralph’s little comments were starting to get to me.  I’m beginning to believe that he is sexist.  Either that or stubbornly old fashioned.  He makes the women in the house do all the mundane chores like cooking and cleaning and doing laundry.  And then, after always saying that I should go to the beach or party at a bar, he has the nerve to say that we need to do our evaluation soon.  What the hell are we going to evaluate?!  My ability to go with the flow?  My tranquilo-ness?  He’s driving me crazy.  It’s a good think that I’m leaving tomorrow.  I’m so bored here.  Rather than working on projects, of which there aren’t really any, I opted to watch “Runaway Jury.” It was nice to let my mind zone out for a while.  All I can think about are my friends from the station, my family, and all the other people I left in Washington.  Even Oregon.  And China.  I think the thing that gets to me the most is that I’m not on my own time here.  I have to rely on someone else to help me out.  And I’m tied to the idea of an internship.  I really hope that the group accepts us.  I don’t know what I would do if we ran into another situation like the Scottish incident.  Ralph claims that he emailed both this group leader and the leader of the next tour I am going on.  Whose fault is it then if they don’t know?  The leader for not checking email and responding, or Ralph’s for not thoroughly confirming?  I’m gonna guess the latter…the president of the foundation.

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Damnit!  It turns out we don’t leave tomorrow.  Why did we get the impression that we were supposed to leave on the 14th?  Probably because we were given inconsistent paperwork!  So now we’re in for another boring day of trying to find ways to entertain ourselves.  At least I am.  Jenni said she likes being home all day.  To me it feels like a prison.  It will give me time to work on the newsletter I guess.  If I had known it was the 15th all along, I would have pushed for another night in Puerto Viejo.  Being this frustrated is so tiring.  The fact that I haven’t heard from Jill isn’t very comforting either.  The Sudoku calmed me down a little, but I am looking forward to sleep.

Day 29: Monday, July 14

It would have been very nice to leave today, but thus far, I have been making use of my time.  I have made quite a bit of headway on the newsletter.  At least it seems that I have since I’ve been staring at the computer screen for more than 2 hours.  I feel like this project is really insignificant since it has been done the past two years with the interns.  It has just never been sent out.  My goal is to send it out before I go back home.

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And apparently it’s their objective too.  Again, today Ralph said something about working with Bob and Leti in order to finish them and send them out.  I really hope it’s here though.  It would be pretty killer to finish early and be able to travel too.  I think I woke up on the wrong side of the bed today.  It’s likely due to the miscommunication about actually leaving tomorrow and not today.

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For being fairly down in the dumps today, I have gotten quite a bit done.  I’m almost done with the newsletter – I won’t be able to completely finish until I get more information both from other sites and Margarita.  I also did a rough write-up on the station.  I came down to the guesthouse again because I was in dire need of alone time.  Looking at pictures of friends and family, while listening to music helped a little.  I also did some packing because I thing (although I can never be entirely sure) that we’re leaving tomorrow.

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It’s official – we are leaving tomorrow!  It’s great because we get to sit in on the meeting with the guide and go with him to the airport to pick up the group, so we’re in from the very beginning.  Two movies today.  I deserved it though.  I got a lot of work done.  And I had to listen to Jenni rant about how I don’t properly take care of my needs since I avoid conflict at all costs.  She’s pushing me to over-prepare myself for my meeting with Ralph after the trip.  I really hate being pushed like that.  What does she know about my needs and me anyway?  That, along with all the other frustration factors, is making me reach for the sweet things.  I think that ironically I have gained weight while being here.  Turns out, it’s not all rice and beans!

Day 30: Tuesday, July 15

One month!  I would be lying if I said that I wasn’t counting down.  I only get in that habit when I’m stagnant for too long though.  I don’t think that it will be a problem on the tour.  I woke up this morning to a fairly clear sky, allowing me to just barely see the Nicoya Peninsula.  I saw it really well a couple days ago.  So well that I could make out the crashing of waves on the Pacific Coast.  I actually got up a bit early today because my stomach was giving me problems.  I wish I could peg exactly what it is, although I haven’t exactly been watching my diet.  Maybe it will be better on the tour, with less variation in food.

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Just got to Francisco’s lodge again after picking up the YMCA group from the airport.  This morning, after making my way up to the house, I spoke with Bob about the newsletter a bit and we discussed certain alterations that are in order.  After sitting around and playing snake on my computer for a while, the guide, Alex, showed up to pick up the group information and we headed to San Jose to get the group from the airport.  It was a very warm reception almost instantly.  I have a good feeling about the next 10 days.

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Dinner was great, as always here at Francisco’s.  Having an extended conversation with the leaders, Lou and Sydney was great because I feel like it gave them the opportunity to get to know me better and feel more comfortable having us as part of their group.  Lou actually lived in Seattle for just over seven years, so there are many fun stories and conversations in that.  I was also able to teach a card game to some of the girls.  I think I have all the names down as of tonight.  We leave tomorrow morning for a repeat  of what Andrea’s group did the first day – butterfly garden, local school for lunch, then on to Parismina (instead of Estacion Las Tortugas) turtle reserve for three nights.

Day 31: Wednesday, July 16

This morning, after breakfast, we set out for the same butterfly garden that we visited almost four weeks ago.  We took the same roads, crossed the continental divide in the cloud forest, and stopped this time to taste the air up there.  I was missing Frank and Albert a bit.  Alex is not bad or anything, just different.  I really love hanging out with this group.  They are very laid back and chilled out.  The butterfly garden was no more exciting than the first time.  It’s not really my cup of tea, but I figured out my camera more, meaning I got better pictures than the first time.  We had lunch again at Huetares School, where Vilma teaches.  Since our first time there, they actually installed a cement foundation, and today wad the first time they danced on it.  I didn’t dance this time, but it was still great to watch an almost completely different set of dancers perform.  My former dance partner looked just as unenthusiastic as the first time.  Lunch was great – we had tamarindo for juice!  My favorite.  After visiting the school, we had a 3-hour bus ride with one bathroom stop until we reached the Parismina dock.  The last bit of road for about an hour was a very bumpy stretch.  It felt like a jerky massage.  It was not as bad as the potholes in Ghana though.  Upon reaching Parismina, we took a 10-minute boat ride to the town.  The canal is much wider here and less swampy.  We saw some pink spoon billed birds, some howler monkeys, and a sloth (3-toed) on the ride.  Arriving at Parismina, I was shocked to see how nice it is.  It’s pretty minimalistic, however, it is an actual town with schools, restaurants, shops, bars, etc.  We are staying at a great hotel.  There’s a fan, electricity, running water, and a private bathroom.  I thought it would be difficult to stay at Estacion Las Tortugas for 4 months, but here it would be so much simpler.  There are quite a bit of people (120 pre-kindergarten through 6th grade students), dancehalls, and animals.  We saw a huge parrot and some rhinoceros beetles, which are like the size of a baseball!  We had a nice tour of the place, and now we’re waiting 20 more minutes for dinner.  Then bed.  Then the 12-4 AM patrol shift.  The only thing that’s missing are 3 crazy English girls!  I miss the family too and Stamie.

Day 32: Thursday, July 17

Dinner last night was really good.  So far, everything here has exceeded my expectations by far.  I was prepared for rice and beans but instead we had a lovely meat and pasta dish with salad and garlic bread.  But then again, I ate like the staff at the other station.  This time I’m with a group.  Maybe that’s why I’m ok with that.  I tried to take a nap after my entry last night, but I had a hard time getting to sleep.  It was mostly because I could hear the kids running around, yelling and slamming doors through my headphones.  Their leaders didn’t do anything, so I stepped up.  I didn’t really mind since I have plenty of experience dealing with teens, but still it’s not my job.  I had to get a cockroach out of a room of screaming girls.  That was one issue.  The other was that four of them had coffee after dinner.  Never again if you ask me.  They quieted down after I talked with them, so I tried for some more sleep, but after only a little bit I heard them calling my name, looking for me, so I got up, and the chill group that I was chatting with before, were being tormented by the caffeine triplets.  They slipped a vulgar note under their door just to disrupt the temporary peace.  I’m absolutely disgusted by what goes through the minds of young teenagers.  It made me very embarrassed and uncomfortable.  I think it says a lot that they came to me instead of their leaders.  I dealt with that issue, which wasn’t easy because I don’t want to come between them and Lou and Sydney, but I can’t help whom they trust.  After talking to the reluctant and embarrassed girls, I shared the note with Sydney.  I hate drama!  I got about 45 minutes of sleep before waking up at 11:30 to get ready for the 12-3 patrol.  Within about 10 minutes, we found a green turtle making her way up the beach (it wasn’t hard since the moon was so bright).  We waited almost an hour for her to lay, but she decided to go back to the sea after building her nest and filling it in.  I did get to touch her – very different from the leatherback.

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I hope the students who visit Parismina realize how spoiled they are.  I don’t think that this particular group could handle being at Stanley’s.  And I hope those who go to Estacion Las Tortugas don’t find out how nice this place is – they may want their money back.  But then again, the station is in more need of funds.  They have better equipment here too.  I actually feel like I’m in a foreign country again.  At Ralph’s it’s just like a suburb of California.  After our pancake breakfast, the leaders addressed the group’s behavior of lastnight, and then we set out to the beach to pick through the hatchery, eliminating all debris so that it doesn’t rot the turtle eggs.  It’s definitely a monotonous process without the convenience of shovels.  The rain taunted us in and out a bit, but we only worked for about an hour.  Now it’s nap/shower/read/write time before we enjoy lunch.

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Lunch was real yummy.  We had tasty rice, yummy salad, and to top it off, breadfruit, which is kind of like a steak fry, but it’s deep fried fruit.  As always, I ate more than I needed to, but when it all tastes so good…  Played with the cute calico (Corky look-a-like, except skinny), and then got a wrap in my hair while some of the girls opted for braids.  I would have been more apt to if it wasn’t for my annoying and inconvenient scalp condition.  Lounging around after the braiding, I got some reading in and then played some futbol in the rain.  I did actually kick it and I did actually help!  I was not expecting that.

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Our turtle talk was not as good as Stamie’s but I realized afterward that the woman who gave it was filling in for someone and had never done it before.  Our dinner was good, but I don’t think the kitchen realizes how many we are.  Running out of food seems to happen at every meal.  After dinner, I caught a cockroach in our room and put it outside Alex and Lou’s door under a basket.  Alex kicked it up and the roach went right inside.  While getting ready for patrol, they reciprocated the favor, but I got it out before it could hide in a crevasse.  Patrol was pretty uneventful.  We walked 6 kilometers from 8-11 with no turtles, but some conversation about camp with one of the boys.  Tight before we headed back, there were hatchlings to be released.  The kids let them go (without gloves) and it took forever for them to get to the ocean because they start them so far back.  By the time it was over, I was definitely ready for sleep!

Day 33: Friday, July 18

Ahh, yes…rice and beans for breakfast.  Gallo Pinto, actually.  After breakfast, we set out on a 45-minute walk to the lagoon, which I thought would be cool to see while I enjoyed one of my books.  The walk was long and buggy and when we arrived I opted to dip my feet and watch the students play.  It’s a good thing that I put my things down because I did not stay dry for long.  It started with splashing and then Alex and one of the locals had it out for me.  I definitely didn’t et very far before they pulled me in and dunked me.  All’s well anyway.  I wanted to go in, I just wasn’t dressed for it.  We splashed around and played keep away with the locals for a long time before I lost my bandana.  The black one.  We got a coconut demo before coming back.  I wish I could get away with carrying an 18-inch machete with me everywhere.  As many coconuts that I opened using my knife, I was cut the only time I didn’t use it.  Damn coconut casing sliced right into my thumb.  We can call it my coco-cut.  The way back was much easier, despite being wet.  We were given a ride in the tractor of a 4-wheeler driven by one of the locals.  It was so nice not to have to walk back dripping wet.  Lunch was good, once again full of carbs and protein.  I can’t help but eat too much.  Even while sitting outside, I decided that I wanted a frozen chocolate-covered banana, despite my allergy.  I’ve already felt the effects and I have to admit to myself that I’m a prize idiot.  Two pepto bismal pills later…

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Our canal ride yielded a lot more animals than the one we took at Stanley’s.  we saw a sloth, both spider and howler monkeys, toucans, and lots of other birds.  The boats were a lot more comfortable, with covers that came in handy toward the end when it started to rain.  We made a stop on the way back and enjoyed a snack and drink and wooed over the cute puppy.  The dance is the next activity, but I’m thinking that some packing is in order.

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Just kidding on he packing!  Will do tomorrow.  The dancing was so cute.  Little kids everywhere.  We did a group dance then broke into couples for salsa.  Two little kids fought over me, and then I shook it with a 19-year-old Rastafarian!  Always wanted to…

Day 34: Saturday, July 19

Only a 2-hour patrol last night that did not yield any mommy turtles but there were a few babies.  Apparently, as I learned on patrol last night, my dance partner wanted a little more than a dance.  He asked the kids if I could join him for dinner.  This morning all happened pretty quickly.  We had everything packed and finished breakfast by quarter to 8, loaded the boats at 8 (to Jewel’s “Foolish Games”), and were aboard the bus by half past 8.  Our 3-hour bus ride was first interrupted by a visit to DelMonte’s banana factory.  It was really cool to see but I didn’t take my camera because I felt funny about it.  It was awkward enough staring at the workers like they were zoo animals.  We also make a bathroom stop where I treated myself to some sour cream and onion plantain chips.  Very nice.  We picked up our river guides and were on the Rio Saripique rapids shortly after noon.  Our run was rated class 1, 2, and 3.  It was great, but I could have used more white water.  Maybe next time.  Our boat got stuck twice, which was unfortunately stereotypical since our guide was the only woman and the raft was full of all the leaders.  The water was really warm though.  I went swimming twice and jumped off the cliff, which was great because there was a photographer to capture the moments.  Lunch afterward was great – tortillas, beef, guacamole, pico de gallo, cheese, and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.  The timing was perfect thought, because as soon as we were dry and undercover enjoying the delicious food, it started pouring like crazy.  Now we are all packed onto the wet bus going through the windy roads to reach our next destination.

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Our new driver, Louise weathered the storm, mastering the curvy roads all the way to Don Juan’s cabinas in La Fortuna.  It rained the entire way, causing puddles to flood over within minutes.  It’s funny because people actually use umbrellas here.  Upon arriveing at the place, which could easily fit into a northwest setting, we had our laundry sent out, thank goodness, and went to town for dinner of hamburgers (with ham), sweet juice (they love their added sugar), and creamy dessert.  I’m super tired, but oh so full right now.  I packed my daypack for tomorrow but right now I don’t even want to move.

Day 35: Sunday, July 20

This morning’s breakfast was at 7:30 at a little seating area in the jungle with a view of the beautiful and petite Rio Fortuna.  Leaving at 8:30, we went to the waterfall at Volcan Arenal, which was a 350-step trek to get down there.  Fifteen minutes of descent into tourist town.  They were everywhere, from everywhere.  It was really beautiful aside from that factor though.  I thought about not going in after my toes stung when I dipped them, but I realized how stupid it would gave been if I didn’t take advantage of the crystal clear experience.  I wore my swimsuit sans shorts for the first time in front of a large crowd, but it was ok because I was having so much fun splashing around.  I even washed up with my Dr. Bronners.  We also got to take lots of photos with Jenni’s underwater camera – yay!  Our lunch was really delicious – quality pasta and chicken.  We headed into town where I got some coffee for people, but my quest for boardshorts once again ended in failure.  Perhaps I will be luckier in Punta Leona.  I was sucked into the internet café and chatted with Adam a bit and now it’s naptime.  It’s a good thing we got our laundry back, because it is very warm and I’m a bit sweaty.

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After a short rest, we met one of the workers for a tour and explanation of the organic farm where we were staying.  It was really interesting to see yucca, black pepper, citronella, basil, coffee beans, cacoa, and sugar cane in their raw form.  We also were made to try a leaf that is used as a cure for stomachaches or hangovers.  It was pretty disgusting – sort of tasted like cleaner or detergent.  We also got to see the cow where the cheese and fertilizer came from.  We fed the cow with our mouths and I got licked all over the face.  The tour ended with fresh squeezed sugar cane juice that was really great.  The students cranked it right in front of us.  Then we joined the cooks in the kitchen to help make dinner with some of the garden ingredients that we collected throughout the tour.  I made corn tortillas while others chopped some of the vegetables used in our yummy food.  We also had both fried and boiled yucca.  The puppy joined us for dinner and it was just so cute!  After dinner we headed to the hot springs.  It was natural water, but they were in constructed pools.  It was great; there was even a slide.  I did a few laps in the cooler pool and splashed around in the warmer one.  More underwater pictures were taken and afterward we headed back just in time for the rain to start up again.  I’m really tired now, so I think I’ll read a bit and relax.  All that swimming and dancing in the rain (while waiting to go to the hot springs)!  I hope tomorrow I can find shorts.

Day 36: Monday, July 21

Today marks the halfway point of my adventure in CR.  The other day, I figured and it turns out that I’m actually here for 73 days.  That’s funny that I’m on my 100th page halfway through.  It rained really hard last night that it woke me up, but it was a relaxing sound so I fell right back asleep.  This morning we had really great ham and egg sandwiches, with the puppy begging nearby.  We are off in about an hour to go back to town to use the post office, and I am going to try to find shorts again.  After downtown, we are headed to where we are doing our home stays, about 2.5 hours away.

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After finally finding our way to the bridge to get to the home stays, we had to turn back because it was under construction.  We did find it though and enjoyed lunch at the local school followed by a dance by the young students of which I got to participate.  I am staying with young Sydney, Amanda, and Lou with Marlen and her two daughters and son.  We also have a translator, who Alex told not to help us unless there was an emergency, but he is young (H.S.) and wants to practice English, so it works out well for us.  The girls shared their gifts immediately when they arrived.  I didn’t have any, but I showed them a photo of my family (they thought I was giving it to them, which was awkward).  Now the girls are playing water balloons with the daughters and I am relaxing, listening to our translator talk about how he wants to study tourism at university next year.  This place is great.  It’s very minimalistic – the walls are not even completely solid, but that’s ok because it’s so warm here.  The family is really nice too.  They are sleeping on the floor so that we can have their beds.

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We met the rest of the students for some soccer at 4.  Overall their reaction is that it is pretty awkward because they don’t really know what to say.  I played for a while, but retired after they scored two goals on me.  We played and raced on stilts for a while too.  And right before leaving, Tanner thought he would “get even” with me by pouring water down my back.  I didn’t think I did anything to deserve that.  That’s ok, I’ll get even.  When we got back to the house we fed the pigs and I helped chop vegetables for dinner.  We enjoyed salad, rice potatoes, and beans as a family and now we’re watching a Spanish soap opera, but I’m gonna go to bed so that I can milk the cow tomorrow.

Day 37: Tuesday, July 22

Last night was a bit of a hard sleep for me.  It may have been being in a new place, or due to the guilt of sleeping in the mother’s queen-sized bed while she and her three children shared a twin mattress on the cement floor of the living room.  Having gone to bed early, I woke up around 6, in time to see the kids off to school and milk the cow.  That was an experience!

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Milking a cow is way harder than it looks.  It takes a special kind of technique and a whole lot of finesse.  We did two buckets full, and by we; I mean the mother of the house had to take over in order to finish.  None of us American kids had the endurance or hand strength required to complete the job.  The amount of pride and love the family possesses for one another and their homestead is impressive to the point of inspirational.  They don’t have much, but what they do have, they cherish.  A lot can be learned from spending 24 hours with such a family.  It’s quite the sight.  After breakfast the bus picked us up so we could do some reforestation near one of the pineapple plantations.  We planted 140 trees in all, with the help of participating weather – not too hot, not too cold.  After two hours of planting, during the trek back to the bus, I bumped into an electric fence and was zapped!  It wasn’t serious, but it caught my attention!  Upon returning to our house, I immediately hopped into a refreshingly cold shower, followed by our last meal with the family.  Once again they outdid themselves, serving up rice, salad, spaghetti, and beef.  Saying goodbye was difficult, especially for the students, who connected with the daughters right off the bat.  Twenty-four hours can do a lot.  I shared my maumau fruits with the family and we exchanged addresses before the bus picked us up for the last time.  Now we are currently en route to the resort we are staying at in Punta Leona, a 6+-hour drive from Santa Elena, the town of our life-changing home-stays.

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We stopped only twice on our trip to Punta Leona.  The first store had TONS of iguanas roaming through the trees and all over the parking lot eating papaya.  There were so many!  The second stop was at a great souvenir shop where they sold all sorts of fun gifts.  I got a shirt for dad and wanted to get so much more, but I had to resist the temptation.  The ride was long, but overall it wasn’t too bad.  I had a good conversation with some of the kids about capitalization and globalization in the US, and about our hopes for the election of Obama in November.  We arrived at the resort around 6:45 and after the long drive from the main gate to our rooms we got settled and went to a gourmet buffet dinner at the open-aired restaurant across the street.  This resort is too nice for me.  I feel very out-of-place around these yuppy gringo tourists.  Our rooms are air-conditioned, we have hot water, 2 queen beds, a TV, and a telephone.  I don’t feel very “eco” right now, but I guess the goal is to end on a good note for the students before they return home.  At dinner, I practiced my Spanish with our driver, Luis.  He taught me different parts of the face, most of which I remember, and then I went to Sydney’s room to practice more and she make me a list to test myself with.  Suddenly, in the middle of my Spanish studies, the power went out during the lightning storm we were having, just in time for us to go check the rooms, of which all students were accounted for.  When the power came back, I was in the room, so Jenni and I watched “Miss Congeniality,” and just as it was ending, some of the girls called me to get medicine for a stomachache.  My role here reminds me of camp.  Hopefully she’s okay so we can both get some rest.

Day 38: Wednesday, July 23

So, after the sick call last night at midnight, I fell asleep only to be awoken an hour and a half later by a concerned-sounding Skye, who asked me to come over right away.  It really had me scared because I had no idea what to expect.  I got there quickly to find out that Clay had been missing for two hours, but luckily she turned up while we were talking.  It’s a long story, but in the end, the fact of the matter is that she was out way past curfew, and drinking is a serious offense to the program, which can land the offending participant an early trip home.  That’s not the case here, since the end of the trip is so close, but on any other occasion, that would be the consequences for her action.  The rest of the night I had trouble sleeping, partially because I was reviewing my Spanish vocabulary, and because I was upset about the series of events that I had to break to the leaders of the group the next morning.  It’s never pleasant being on the delivering end of such news.  Breakfast was too much.  I had way too many carbs – croissant, pancake, French toast, and potatoes.  I feel so blah now, sitting on the beach.  I didn’t even want to walk around in my swimsuit.  The resort is so huge that we actually had to ride the bus to get to the beach.  I don’t like it.  When we got here though, there were a ton of monkey/anteater-type animals.  They were so cute.  Overall, I liked Playa Cocles on the Caribbean more.  There are less rocks there.  The sun is a bit harsh right now, but the breeze is nice.  I can definitely feel myself burning, so I think it’s time for a dip.

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Swimming around was great.  The water was really warm.  And salty all the way up my nose.  We had lunch at 1:30, meaning that we were in the sun for three hours!  My body just can’t take that.  For lunch we had pizza and vegetables.

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We returned to the beach after our meal, but I curled up on a shaded chair too avoid excess heat and sun exposure.  We were back in our rooms by 3:30, after which Jenni, Sydney, and I walked to the souvenir shop and the mini market for rum.  It was raining so our hopes of playing a volleyball game were crushed, meaning that we had 2.5 hours to kill before our 7:30 dinner of which I spent watching CSI and other random TV shows (it’s annoying that every time we enter the room, my roommate turns on the television).  I also made a collect call home to check in and say hello since I don’t think I’ll have time to do so in Atenas.  Through that, I got the great news that I received a $300 check in the mail from the government.  Dinner again was buffet style, which is rough because it all looks so delicious, but I have to behave myself.  Dinner was followed by a group meeting to discuss tomorrow’s schedule, as well as address the solutions to last night’s issues – was a nine o’clock curfew, which is good since we’re getting up early to go zip-lining in the morning.

Day 39: Thursday, July 24

I just finished packing up to get out of this yuppy place.  This morning we hit the ziplines at about 8:30.  They were so much fun!  There was a series of nine cables and I think 11 platforms.  It really was great.  The guides were nice and funny, which helped ease the fraction of tension I had in my stomach.  It wasn’t like I was afraid – I’m pretty good at not psyching myself anymore.  It was more like I was eager to just do it and not wait around.  I could totally see myself working in a place like that.  It was excellent.  I’m sure the training is similar to what I received for the challenge course when I worked at camp.  I even went upside down on one of the cables while Jenni took a video so I have proof.  After our adventure we had breakfast at the same restaurant.  This morning there was an invasion of monkeys!  They kind of looked like Marcel from “Friends.”  They were so cute, raiding the restaurant for food scraps, or even whole pieces in some cases.  One even had a baby.  We were also joined by a large iguana, of which bit Sydney during her photoshoot attempt.  There were even those animals from the beach yesterday that looked like raccoons.  They managed to steal a whole container of sugar packets.  It looks like we have another 45 minutes until checkout and then another hour until lunch.

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We’re back at Don Francisco’s now after our trip from the macaw project near Punta Leona.  In between breakfast and lunch, we wasted some time by watching, “A Few Good Men,” in Lou’s room.  After lunch, I checked the internet before heading to the macaw project, which is led by an EcoTeach guide.  We learned a LOT about scarlet macaws , but my favorite fact is that they reach adult size within two weeks of hatching.  Crazy!  Our macaw experience ended with a sighting of two pairs (they mate for life) at the gated community of Nativa.  The ride back to Atenas was decent.  Passed the time by listening to music with Tanner.  We dropped the group off and went up to Ralph’s to get my computer and drop off all our gear, running into the two girls staying at our guesthouse along the way.  We got EcoTeach certificates like the group and download photos onto my computer once we returned to the lodge.

Day 40: Friday, July 25

Forty days and forty nights!  It’s like lent!  This morning was rough – saying goodbye to the group was really hard.  I was able to connect with them so quickly that it just made it that much more difficult for me this morning.  I actually teared up a bit.  They gave us a ride into Atenas so that we could spend the afternoon at the internet café catching up on both social and academic obligations.  I don’t know what the rest of the day will bring, but I am realizing once again how hard the last few weeks here will be for me after saying goodbye to another group.  I hope they’re as cool as the last one though.

Day 41: Saturday, July 26

The group is definitely home now, safe and sound, delving back into their US conveniences – cable, hot water, and cell phones.  Throughout this trip I have had the unpleasant burden of saying goodbye to a lot of great people – my new friends.   And it’s not over yet.  Tomorrow is my last day with Ralph and Margarita in CR, I’ll have to say goodbye to this next group, and inevitably, the rest of the people I have met, whether in person, in phone, or by email.  Yesterday we spent a total of four hours at the internet café, catching up on emails, creating a photo album, of course doing another weekly report, and updating the blog:

Afterwards, we went to El Polloza and I had the best hamburger I have had in this country…again.  Who would have thought it would be from a fast food chicken restaurant?!  After picking up a couple things from the grocery store, we caught a cab back to Ralph’s where I immediately did my laundry.  We discussed our trip a bit before putting on “Kill Bill.”  I watched as I organized photos on my laptop.  We had pizza for dinner and then I chatted with Chana on Skype.  She wants me to do SE Asia countries with her in ten days.  I would love to, but that sounds so expensive!  I also tried calling Simon, but his cell was turned off.  That sucks because every try is worth one minute when it goes to voicemail.  Before heading to the guesthouse, I learned that my group tomorrow is a bunch of private school girls from LA.  Gag me with a spoon.  I need boys.  They are so much easier to get along with.  I hope that’s not a total drawback from the trip.  Since last night, I have watched the entire first disc of season one of Grey’s Anatomy, and I’m hungry for more!

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I watched three episodes this morning.  And three in the afternoon.  I guess I’m just going brain dead in order to pass the time until I leave tomorrow.  The other reason is that I’m trying to not be frustrated with Ralph.  I can’t believe that the girls call him sweetie.  It’s like every time I talk to him he interrupts to either share his opinion or talk to someone else.  I feel like I need another swim (this morning’s was really great).  We had my midterm evaluation, if you can call it that.  He didn’t even do the paperwork.  Instead, he had me write about what I have done so that he knows, because otherwise he wouldn’t have any idea about the work I’ve done.  The whole “meeting” was like ten minutes.  So afterwards I tried to call Jill to update her on all the crap, but she didn’t answer, so I called home and left a message with mom and dad in hopes that they would deliver it to Jill for me.  As for now, I’m thinking one more episode of Grey’s.  There is a party tonight at Ralph’s so I might mosey up there at some point.  And then tomorrow I will pack for my trip.

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I went up to the house for the party to meet Deb and Greg and they are so not what I expected.  Deb has great traveling stories though.  Once again I felt alienated by Ralph, who was telling Greg that Jenni and I are boring and never party or go out.  It’s so rude.  He just makes me feel so inferior.  At least tomorrow’s my last day with him.  Being up there also made me really self-conscious of my newly broken-out and blotchy face.

Day 42: Sunday, July 27

Interesting day today.  It marks the end of six weeks as well as one month (by date) until my flight on August 27th.  I also leave with Inti and Jose today to pick up the next group from the airport.  This morning I think I watched five episodes.  I just don’t really know how else to occupy my time right now.  I am eager to be on the road again.  This time, solo.  No more annoying pitches for Flickr or stories I’ve heard a zillion times before.  That’s a relief.  And it’s a relief that I am with Inti, since I already know him.  I’m all packed up, and this time I think I’ve finally got the packing list down.  My bag is so small this time around.  I have a lot of things in the guesthouse that I left.  I hope they stay there unbothered…

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I wasted time watching more Grey’s, playing snake, reading, and organizing photos until Inti and Jose came to the house.  In the midst of their briefing session, they realized that the group’s flight doesn’t actually arrive until 9 o’clock, while all along we thought it was due to arrive at 7, so I had to waste even more time.  Jenni and I talked out by the pool as the sun finished setting.  Her negative attitude toward developing meaningful friendships really appalls me.  Why not try to make connections everywhere you go?  It’s a good thing the whole world doesn’t think that way – this place would be a mess.  After dinner I realized that I had to submit a volunteer application form for an ecotourism conference in October up in Vancouver.  I finished just in time.  We literally left the house within five minutes of me finishing.  Ralph didn’t even say goodbye, despite the fact that I will never see him in CR again.  We drove to Atenas first to drop off some supplies, accompanied to the most random mix of music, which included JT, the “Night at the Roxbury” song, and eighties jams.  My hearing wasn’t the only sense being overwhelmingly worked.  Men in this country wear too much cologne.  The driver’s musk was completely overpowering me.  I also learned from Jose that this driver was involved in an accident only three days ago.  Merely a victim.  At the moment, we are at the airport awaiting the delayed flight, which is now expected to land at 9:30, in five minutes.  Ironic that I’ll be back here one month from today, except at the departures gate as opposed to arrivals.

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The group finally made it and for sure it is definitely a lot of girls.  Inti talked the entire way back to Atenas and already broke one of the rules of guiding as described by Crooked Trails.  The girls pretty much know exactly what to expect tomorrow.  All the way to what type of animals they’ll see at the Butterfly Garden.  So far, the girls seem fine, but one of the teachers (whose been here twice before) may be a little difficult for me to connect with.  We have an early morning tomorrow, but that’s not stopping the girls from yelling throughout the lodge.  I am borrowing Deb’s alarm clock tonight because I was smart enough not to bring one.  I am pretty tired though.  Six is gonna come super early tomorrow morning.

Day 43: Monday, July 28

I think I figured out why I saw fireworks last night on the way to the airport.  Today is a holiday, celebrating Guanacaste’s union with Costa Rica.  Today started early.  I woke up with a start at quarter till six thinking I had overslept.  That was definitely not the case.  Over breakfast I met with Pika, who finally assigned me a meaningful job to do while on this tour.  I actually feel important this time.  My job is to assess the sites from an American perspective so that they can be improved, and the other task is to identify problems or issues that occur while in Parismina, since they are prone to disorganization.  We left the lodge around eight while they were beginning to set up decorations for tonight’s surprise party for Margarita.  I am very sad to miss is.  I also won’t be seeing Deb and Greg again until the states.  The ride was different.  Inti spent pretty much the whole time talking and I could tell that the girls were just waiting until they could get some sleep.  The butterfly garden seemed shorter today.  This time we saw a sloth (dos dedos – it was actually moving), and two basilisks or Jesus Christ lizards.  At the school today there was tamarindo, and even though the kids are off on holiday they danced for us.  I even played soccer today as a Costa Rican and we won!  I am pretty sure that it was my assist that scored the game-winning goal.  The sweaty drive to the Parismina docks was longer than I remember.  Especially the bumpy dirt part.  We stopped at the banana plant on the way there this time, which was equally as uncomfortable as the first time, although today we were the only tourist bus.  I did need to use the restroom though.  The rest of the ride really dragged on but at least we saw a cayman from the road, which was partially submerged under recent floodwater.  The boat ride was a surprise because we turned the wrong way, or so I thought.  We are not staying in town this time, which is sad and isolated, but rather at a great little hotel outside of the main community.  I am staying with the two teachers, which will be easier than I initially thought.  I have been able to speak with both of them at various points throughout the day, and I believe they feel comfortable with me.  This place is nice despite the cruel isolation from the townspeople.  I opened my bag to find that my bug spray had leaked on my journal, making it stick and leaking my words into each other.  Fortunately it was only a little, but annoying nonetheless.

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The turtle talk tonight was really great- much better than the last time.  He came to the Paradise Hotel where we are staying.  I don’t like how it’s away from the community.  I feel too separated and prissy.  All because some of them have hay fever…  After our carb-loaded dinner of spaghetti, we hopped in the boat, rode two minutes to town, then hiked to the beach.  Split into two groups, none of us saw a turtle, but there were four tracks.  We finished early, around 11:15 after the hatchlings were released and just barely missed the rain.  Using the boats is funny because there is an obvious junior/senior separation.  On the way back, we spotted a baby crocodile, which was eerie after hearing that one killed a Picuare volunteer a decade ago.

Day 44: Tuesday, July 29

This morning we started with the canal tour after breakfast.  There were fewer birds than last time, which was great since birds bore me.  There were a couple sloths and a full-grown cayman sunbathing on a log completely out of the water.  That was really cool to see.  We also went down a different side canal, which was a dead end, but we found a poison dart frog and brought it into the boat for a photo shoot.  There were an unusually high number of tourist-filled boats on the river.  It was surprising for a Tuesday.  Our cultural activity with the local high school was so disorganized that we were half an hour late getting started.  And then the storm came while we were on our way to a restaurant (near the pool in town) for lunch.  It was really delicious rice today.  While under cover, the rain really picked up, along with the wind, keeping us from the tour of town.  Luckily we had some decks of cards and the hair braiders came to do the girls’ hair so we didn’t have to dodge the raindrops.

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I bought something at the local market this time.  A rasta-style anklet for me and a necklace for one of the boys.  I resisted the temptation afterward to indulge in a frozen chocolate covered banana.  It was easier than I expected, but I still imagined eating it.  At least I was able to enjoy homemade coconut fudge.  We opted not to play soccer in the pouring rain today, which allowed us rest time in the hotel.  I was hoping for a nice hot shower after all the cold rain, but was upsettingly let down, even though we were supposed to have hot water.  After getting ready early, I took a nap and then we headed into town for the community dance.  I danced with a few people of varying ages, among those, my last dance partner, who made me a bit more uncomfortable this time, stinking of smoke and talking about me so I dropped him for a new partner.  I danced blisters right into my feet, being barefoot on the wooden floor.  Our turtle patrol was from nine to midnight and yielded just one turtle.  Luckily the rain held out for us and the time went fairly fast so I didn’t end up reciting all the Spanish words in my vocabulary like I did last night.

Day 45: Wednesday, July 30

We left the Tropical Paradise Lodge around 8 o’clock this morning and hit the road to go to Saripique for river rafting.  The dirt road from Parismina seemed especially lon today.  I got a stitch in my side from all the bumps.  We stopped at a grocery store along the way, which was good because it was time for a new water bottle and I needed to get toothpaste.  I also got some orange juice to enjoy on the road.  After arriving at Aventuras del Saripique and getting ready, I discovered that while lounging with my backpack on the bus, I sprayed all of my sunscreen out in my bag, so not only were my things wet and kinda smelly, but I am also out of sunscreen for the entire duration of this ten-day tour.  I may need to get more at a supermarket though.  The rapids may have been bigger than last time due to all the rain, but not by much.  It definitely was not pleasant rafting on a chaffed bum.  I would not recommend it to anyone.  Our guide was crazier this time too.  At one point he had my side turn around facing backwards and paddle forward so we went down the rapids spinning in circles.  It was really exciting.  We didn’t get stuck at all this time, nor did we have to lean in as much to prevent being slammed against the rocks.  Inti did fall out though, which was funny since he hates river rafting.  It was a little scary watching him bob down rapids to catch up with the boat.  At our resting point I jumped twice and developed a crush on the rescue kayaker.  I only jumped from the boat into the water once, partially due to the black clouds that were following us downriver.  Part of me just wanted to finish and enjoy the delicious lunch, which was just as satisfying as before.  Our ride to the town of the homestays was only about an hour long, but that was plenty of time for me to get sick from all of the potholes.  Upon arriving, we met our family and were driven to the beautiful little pink house, which varied drastically from my last homestay accommodations.  This house could very well have been transplanted to a middleclass neighborhood in California and fit in perfectly.  The couple with whom we our staying does not have children, but there is another American volunteer staying here, so after dinner we pretty much sat around and played cards.  She medicated my tennis-ball-sized insect bite and we made small talk with the help of our translator, Fabio.

Day 46: Thursday, July 31

We had a really large breakfast this morning around 7 – gallo pinto, eggs, and plantains.  The bus came at 8:15 to take us to the trailhead of our hour and a half hike up to the waterfall, which is a conservation project for the community of Garabito.  It was very uphill, but there were many manmade steps to help along the way.  It was very authentically rainforest.  Kinda seemed like a scene from a movie complete with bugs and snakes (although we didn’t see many).  The ants were awful though, crawling up peoples’ legs and biting like crazy.  By the time I got to where they were, they were extra pissed and sneaky seeking revenge for being stepped on by the dozen people in front of me.  The ants weren’t the only obstacles.  Throughout the hike we had to cross rivers and jump over muddy sections of trail.  When we finally got there, some of the girls bathed underneath the waterfall but there was no way I wanted to hike back sopping wet.  Activities like the hike make me very thankful for having shelled out the cash to purchase my trusty salomons, even though my toes began to blister from rubbing together.  The way back was much easier and after reaching the trailhead we trekked back to the house, taking about twenty minutes, which really worked up our appetites.  We made it back just in time to miss the rain and enjoy our lunch of pasta, rice, beans, hot dogs, and plantains.  Now we have two hours of free time and rest before our next activity with the community which is convenient since the rain is so loud on the aluminum roof that I can barely hear conversation.

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The rain finally let up a bit during my nap, so we walked to the community center for our cultural activity of games with the community members.  We played hot potato with a cold rock so that every time the music stopped whoever had the rock had to put on random clothes from a bag.  Once we depleted our clothing supply, we did a fashion show to model our new looks.  The next game was a little more awkward.  We each put a piece of tape on the back of the person in from of us and then turned around and had to peel it off of the new person using only our teeth.  It was definitely good for laughs.  Today is one of the girls’ birthday, so our next activity was a piñata and cake.  The cake was decent, like the rest I have had in CR – lacking quality frosting.  The best part was seeing how much we could stuff in our mouths the quickest.  I did it with two of the girls as well as the translators, Fabio and Wensor.  The soccer game in the rain was my favorite part of the community activities.  I totally went for it.  It felt so liberating to play in the mud.  We ended up losing but it was so much fun.  I think my skills are improving for sure.  I put up a fight on defense and made a few breaks offensively.  The boys we played against were intense at first but they loosened up a lot throughout the game.  Enough for water and mud fights galore.  I got my exercise for sure, but sadly no photos since I played the whole time.  I actually brought the camera, too.  Unfortunately, I forgot it on our trip to the waterfall.  By the end of the game, after falling down and running through puddles, I was completely drenched, but it was a good wet, a rewarding kind of wet.  After our walk back in the rain, I jumped into the refreshingly cold shower to return to my normal mud-less state of clean.  Dinner was yummy soup and rice and then our mother, Olga, brought her nine-month-old niece over to visit.

Day 47: Friday, August 1

My flashlight broke last night!   That’s so depressing.  I’ve had that headlamp for three years I think.  So many camp memories.  After our breakfast of grilled cheese sandwiches and cinnamon tea I went out to visit the baby chickens.  Only one of them likes me – it fell asleep in my hand.  The bus picked us up at 8 o’clock and carted us off to pick up the rest of the group.  I didn’t realize that our reforestation project was at the top of a mountain.  The hike was so intense!  Especially for not anticipating it beforehand.  The most uncomfortable part was the smell of chicken blood as it lingered from the unwelcome chicken slaughtering factory.  It seemed that we just kept going up, up, up.  The view was gorgeous though.  after we planted 100 trees on the mountainside, we raced to the very top to enjoy the view where we saw and heard a pair of scarlet macaws flying overhead.  One of the locals even found some indigenous pottery.  It’s crazy to be able to hold something that old.  The hike back was much faster coming down, but the whole way, girls were complaining of heat, dirt, bugs, and everything else that should have been expected when they decided to travel here.  It was ridiculous.

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It is easier than I originally thought to relate to some of the girls though.  before leaving the house this afternoon we had a doodle fest on each other’s hands and feet and then we headed to the community center to say goodbye.  It was really sad because I felt that we connected more with the people this time.  My mother, Olga said that next time I am in town I am welcome to stay at her house again.  She even gave me her address.  I really liked staying with Anna and Sarah better than with the teachers because it was way less formal.  Our bus ride to the hot springs began with a lychee fight and ended at the Parque Biologica Termales del Bosque, a more natural hot spring setting in the rainforest.  It is so gorgeous here, plus there are far less tourists than the pools we visited during the last tour.  The ambiance is way relaxing too.  There is a bar, and multiple pools of varying temperature next to the cool river and rapids.  I would definitely come back here.  My strawberry smoothie was delicious too.

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During the bus ride to La Fortuna we saw many people walking along the road on the trek to one of a few churches for the holy day tomorrow (Dos de Augusto).  The main church is the one I visited in Cartago a few weeks ago.  I was excited to recognize that it is tomorrow after hearing and reading about it.  Dinner at Cena Nene’s was better than the hamburgers last time.  I had fettuccini alfredo but it was CR style, meaning it wasn’t quite up to par with the Olive Garden, but still satisfying.

Day 48: Saturday, August 2

Our 8 o’clock breakfast was a meager ham, cheese, and egg grilled sandwich, but it was enough to energize us for the hike down to the waterfall.  Luckily the pouring rain stopped in time for us to descend the 400 or so steps.  The abundance of rain caused the waterfall’s pool to be colder this time, but it was so refreshing.  I bathed in it again since it has been awhile since my last shower.  The hike up was pretty exhausting and damp, but it was a relief to change into dry clothes once up there.  Before lunch, we stopped at a family’s house on the side of the road for coconut milk.  We each had our own coconut to enjoy.  Apparently the water has lots of electrolytes in it and it has the potential to abort a pregnancy.  Our lunch was super good again.  I ate so much!  It held me over through the shopping time in town.  I went with Inti and Jose to refill our cookie and water supplies, then walked around in search of a few perfect souvenirs, a couple of which I actually found!  At one point there was a sudden downpour and I was stuck in a shop so I bought a poncho in order to run across the street with some of the girls to treat ourselves to apple pie a la mode.  After returning to Don Juan’s we had the farm tour.  He was very good and funny.  We sampled more fruits and vegetables this time, but the best part was when the adults were asked to get firewood for the kitchen while the students cooked.  We got out to the firewood shed and he said that all the pieces we chose were not good enough and that he would show us the best kind, so he went around the back and returned with a bottle of firewater and eight shot glasses.  It was made from fermented sugar cane and corn.  Very strong.  I sipped and shared the first one, but shot the second half-glass.  My insides were burning!  After our delicious dinner we hopped on the party bus to watch the volcano from a good viewpoint.  The entire way there was a moving dance party.  It was a little cloudy when we got there but it cleared up a bit before we left.  It was really cool to see such a natural phenomenon.  To watch the red hot rocks cascading down one of the most active volcanoes in the world.

Day 49: Sunday, August 3

This morning after breakfast we left around 9 for the long ride to Punta Leona, but the ride was very broken up.  Our first stop was to the Iguana Shop, which is a project to increase the iguana population.  At one point they were nearing extinction, so a man began breeding and releasing them because poor families hunt them for food.  There were much fewer iguanas roaming today, meaning we had to search harder to find them.  The best part of the stop was the ice cream.  The flavor was Pithaya, made from the flowers of a native cactus plant.  It was deliciously tart with a lemony flavor.  It was similar to sorbet and had the brightest shade of fuchsia.  Our next stop wasn’t planned.  There was a semi accident up near the way to the continental divide.  The truck’s trailer tipped into the ditch as it was turning a corner, so we all had to get out of the bus to lighten the load in order for it to make it up the hill.  Our last stop before the resort was for lunch at a garden.  We had yummy buffet-style food but it was like a cafeteria-setting.  I bought some Chilean chocolate before going out to see the flowers.  There were four different designs created with the multi-colored blooms – a star, a clock, a toucan, and the seal of CR.  The garden also had a toucan in captivity which we got very close to.  It even crawled up some of the girls’ arms.  Before leaving we browsed the souvenir shop which had a great selection for a small cost.  I ended up finding a painting finally!  And a few gifts for home.  The rest of the ride was hard because I wanted to sleep, but every time I drifted off.  It was the perfect time for the guides to make an announcement.  At this point, the storm came, bringing wind, rain, and lightning, keeping us from stopping at the crocodile bridge.  We are here much earlier than the first night last time.  At the moment, we are hanging out near the rainy pool, watching the kids splash around.

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After getting back to the room from the pool (I’m staying with Emily, the younger teacher).  I took a lovely warm shower.  It was only my fourth one on this trip I think.  Then I made myself look all cute-like for the all-you-can-eat dinner.  It was delicious, but the worst part was the guys making fun of my somber face, so I had to tell the short bitter young love story of my life.  As much as I try to forget about it, I find that I can’t.  it will always be there.  At the moment, I am channel surfing, looking for the right pre-bedtime show, but so far I’ve only been able to catch the end of movies or shows.  All’s well anyway.  We have to get up early to go birding.  Boo.  Birds are supper boring.

Day 50: Monday, August 4

The big 5-0!  Today is the first day of week eight.  23 more days and plenty to do.  I just hope I can get to all of it before leaving.  This morning we woke up at 6 to go birding.  It was really boring, but we did get a great view of a sloth on the move.  About half-way through, my stomach was calling for the bathroom so I headed out early and got a bit of wok caught up in my notebook before breakfast.  The restaurant was teaming with sneaky monkeys this morning, eager to catch some free food.  Now we are at the beach for the remainder of the morning and part of this afternoon.  I was able to finish my Don Juan comparison, so now I can try to get some sun.

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I went for a little walk and did some reading, but overall I did my best to avoid excessive sun this time.  We had our pizza lunch again on the beach and returned afterward for more beach time.  Once again I overstuffed myself.  I am definitely not losing weight here unfortunately.  We visited Roy at the Macaw project this afternoon, and once again he delivered a well-informed presentation.  Apparently where we go search for Macaws, Shakira owns a condo.  It is a gated community after all.  We saw at least seven this evening, including one widow.  In between our sightings, there were s few photo shoots.  I guess you can say that the girls like me.  Before dinner, I used the internet for about 20 minutes and saw that I had 64 notifications and even emails from the first group.  Dinner was decent enough.  Jose was able to eat finally after being really sick last night and today.  There was a boy’s soccer group from Connecticut here, who the girls were making eyes at throughout dinner.  After over-eating, I headed out early for some me-time and a shower, not to mention, “Cold Case.”

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I just got back from enjoying cheese, crackers, and a beer at Inti’s room with the teachers and driver.  The informal setting was nice, but the conversation was pretty boring.  Then again, I am very young compared to them.

Day 51: Tuesday, August 5

Early morning today for breakfast before zipilning.  I didn’t really agree with the pre-adrenaline meal, but there were too many of us to guarantee that the restaurant would still be open when we finished with the cables.  It was less of a rush this time around, but some of the guys recognized me from before,  the majority of them are so good looking!  I definitely don’t mind putting my life in their hands.  There was a photographer capturing the emotions this time around and we ended up buying the CD so we have evidence of our adventure.  The rest of our morning was spent lying by the pool getting sunburned.  At least I got some reading in.  I wasn’t feeling the volleyball game so I chilled in the shade.  After our 1 o’clock lunch, we boarded the bus to Atenas, making sure to stop at the “Gringo Bridge,” where there were 23 crocodiles chilling in the river and on the bank below.  It was amazing to se them in their natural habitat.  They were of all sizes, swimming, lounging, one may have even been dead.  We made one more stop before arriving at Ralph’s, which we did before heading down to Don Francisco’s.  The only good part was to retrieve my laptop so that I can use it in town tomorrow.  I’m once again very sad to say goodbye to my new friends.  A couple of them offered to stay with me for the next three weeks.  I told them no problem, but unfortunately it couldn’t happen.  As Emily and Theresa were organizing their packs, they donated lots of goods and even colones to my cause.  It was like Navidad!  I felt like a charity case, but they convinced me that they wouldn’t be so generous if they didn’t like me.  I guess it’s kind of doing them a favor too.  I didn’t realize that me being here would be an inspiration for people, but apparently I have made a greater impact on some than I would have ever imagined.  It’s hard for me to accept that kind of good juju, but I really appreciated the kind words, especially since I am very different from everyone else here.  I was so worried about not being able to fit in.  Thankfully, it worked out better than I could have imagined with this group.

Day 52: Wednesday, August 6

Three weeks from today.  It’s so obvious that begun to count down.  But now with no more structured plans, I fear that the time is going to pass very slowly.  I hope that’s not the case.  I certainly have ideas of what I can do, but finding the motivation and courage to go by myself, or the opportune time for someone to go with me will be the challenge at hand.  Last night I began to type up one of my weekly reports before joining in on the dance party and games.  We played some dancing games and some sit down games to pass the time.  The last night is difficult, because after all the scheduled activities, it’s a lot of free time to fill.  This morning was hard.  I collected everyone’s emails, and after breakfast we sat in a circle and shared thoughts from the trip.  I ended up going last, and only got out a few words before tearing up.  It was pathetic.  We went for a short walk before leaving, and finally it came time for us to go.  They dropped me off at the park, and everyone got out to give me hugs and happy wishes.  Watching them drive off was hard, because while they are sad to say goodbye and leave, in reality, they are going home to people who love them and will take their mind off this place.  On the other hand, I get to sit by myself and stew over how sad I am about all the goodbyes.  My goal is to take advantage of these next few weeks in this beautiful country rather than pity myself for being alone.  It is a difficult task, but a worthwhile one if I succeed.  I spent two hours at an internet café catching up with my reports for Jill and emails from friends and family, but unfortunately the connection would not allow the emails I wrote to send, so I received quite a few.  After finishing, I ventured to the market, carrying all my bags, looking like a total tourist, to get a new phone card, and then to the supermarket for boxes and groceries.  Coming out of the store, I ran into Leti coincidently and was luckily able to catch a taxi in no time.  The driver was really nice, helping me with all my gear and patiently speaking Spanish throughout the ride with me.  It was actually a fairly decent conversation.  I really shocked myself with my ability to communicate.  Granted, it was not all correct, but he understood me and I understood him for the most part.  It felt good to realize that I was learning.  I have a lot of nouns.  I just need verbs.  Lots of them.  And more practice.  It made it easier that he didn’t speak English.  Being forced to speak Spanish made it come more naturally.  Now I’m just killing time, waiting for some sort of motivation to do something.

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I did finally get some motivation…to upload my photos, charge my iPod, and type up my evaluations of the organic farm tours.  I also built up the motivation to send ut along with all the other emails that were stranded in my outbox from earlier.  I dinked around on the internet for a long time, chatting with friends, emailing, and checking flights to NY to visit Sydney.  I felt really silly waiting around for dinner, but I did offer my help when/wherever needed.  Plus, I was really hungry.  After dinner, Jenni and I took a dip in the cold pool, jumping straight in to avoid the torturous nature of easing in.  There was a fantastic lightning show bringing the sky to life, but no thunder.  I watched It while doing water aerobics to avoid hypothermia.  Nothing like a hot shower to top it all off.  I couldn’t get over the photo-queen taking nonstop pictures of herself instead of enjoying the moment and taking it all in as a memory, which are sometimes better than photos.  It’s nearly 9:45 now and I’m assuming that Ralph and Margarita are nearing Seattle at this point.  I don’t know what the rush was for them to get out of here.  Of the 53 days I’ve been in Costa Rica, 38 of them have been without either of them.  I’m sure I can handle 21 more.

Day 53: Thursday, August 7

I finally put my computer to sleep!  Last night, I tried to watch “The Importance of Being Earnest,” but I fell asleep before it finished and I woke up this morning to watch “Dumb and Dumberer,” one of the only DVDs I have found in its box.  After watching that and the special features, I moved up to the main house.  Jenni’s gone now and some guests are expected to stay here,  other than that, it is nice have the internet access and I feel safer by myself up here.  After doing laundry, I spent most of the day working on t he computer, doing the site assessment, sending emails, uploading videos, etc.  I was distracted now and again by facebook, scrapbooking, and eating.  I ate so much crap food today!  It was ridiculous.  Overall, I did get some work done though and I hope to continue that tomorrow, although I am thinking our riding to town to ship some stuff home.  I felt funny eating dinner tonight because I didn’t do anything to help, and then they spoke Spanish with their niece the whole time.  Awkward.

Day 54: Friday, August 8

Check out the date!  That only happens once a year, 12 times a century!  I am such a nerd right now.  Last night I had to wake my computer up again so I could watch “Lost.”  They happen to have the entire first season on DVD.  I watched three last night and they affected my dreams!  My dreams have been crazy regardless though.  I think the malaria meds are doing it to me – death, destruction, tragedy – definitely not happy thoughts.  At the moment I am waiting for the taxi to pick us up to head into town so that I can send those packages home.

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Done and done!  I got two bottles of Guaro, packed them in my boxes, and sent them on their way.  It feels good to be responsible for less things and weight.  I just hop they get there safely.  One month shipping for $68.  Ouch.  If I ended up traveling more, it will be worth it.  I shopped for clothes finally and sadly discovered that I am a large.  I got a really cut shirt though so it doesn’t really matter.  I went over to the farmers market and ran into Jonny and her niece.  I got some tamales and oranges there and we shared a cab back up to the house.  Our driver, whom they know, was talking on a cell phone, while driving a manual uphill, and I was the only one wearing a seat belt!  The temperature up here is so different.  In town I was seating through my pants…visually.  But up here you could wear pants and long sleeves.  I also realized how isolated from people we are up here.  The town was bustling, but here it’s very quiet and there is no one my age.  I think that if I end up here until I leave, I could handle if I have to.  It’s not ideal, but it could be done.

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I took about a two-hour nap after getting back.  It felt so nice and completely necessary.  I got some more work done, and the responses from the LA group are slowly rolling in.  this evening, the teacher and student from Depauw arrived with Inti to stay the night before leaving for a week of site investigation.  It was nice to speak with people in English and know that they understand.  Alex also joined us for dinner because he needed his gear for the tour he starts tomorrow.  While enjoying our yummy dinner, a bat flew in to join and once Alex caught it he chased me around the kitchen with it.  That did not help with the anxiety that’s been bugging me all day.  My heart has been doing somersaults ever since this morning.  The only thing special about today that I can think of is that I called and talked with GG this morning.  That was really nice.  It was good timing because I will be home soon.  After dinner, I got back to wok, converting the station DVD into a file I can upload onto youtube (or trying to).  The attempts were not completely successful.  In the end, it says EVALUATION across the screen.  BOO.  It also doesn’t really look like I will get to do the WFR here.  Bad timing.

Day 55: Saturday, August 9

Woke up early this morning to have breakfast with Inti and the Depauw reps.  They left after pancakes and I dove into work, completing the site assessment and sending it off to Pika.  I had a nice break for tea, in which I spent nearly an hour talking with the niece, Vanessa, in Spanish.  I understood about 70% of what she was saying, and she helped me pronounce and form sentences when I spoke.  It’s getting easier, I even think in Spanish sometimes.  I also helped her with some English.  I’ve been wasting the day, trading off between reading “Three Cups of Tea,” working on the newsletter or video, and watching “Lost.”  My attention span is so short when it comes to this work.  I also gave aunt Lou and uncle Craig a call, in need of a voice from home.  I think it would be great to meet up with Albert or David at some point.  I just don’t want to become a burden for anyone.  It’s hard for them to take in a foreigner.  I remember the time I let Simon and his father down on the plans of a Seattle tour when I was called to camp.  Things come up and I don’t want to make it hard on anyone.  My plan of getting a WFR certification doesn’t look like it’s gonna work either.  The guy I called said it may be a 10-day course, and that makes it hard to fit into 18 days in the country.

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I’m trying not to be mopey, yet I laid in bed for three hours watching “Lost.”  I think I am just depleted of energy.  I hope to change that tomorrow.  I was able to make myself useful by helping Oscar Jr. pronounce his English story for a presentation.  That felt helpful.  I was also able to chat with Aspen a bit.  It would be really cool if I could drive down to camp for a night, but that would make it hard to let go of the past.  Not to mention the fact that gas prices are so high I probably wouldn’t even be able to afford it.

Day 56: Sunday, August 10

I finally figured out how to open the garage-like door that covers the windowed door that connects my room to the porch.  It’s nice to have access to the yard, but all the light has been giving me a headache.  I did the entire write-up on the Parismina issues today and sent it off, so now my most important task is the newsletter.  I was able to chat with the family a little on skype, as well as do some reading.

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Being here at the house, I feel kind of like a moocher; especially since the sisters don’t get to see the direct results of my work.  Whatever though.  I think, once I compete my remaining projects, I might look into helping out at the primary school in Atenas.  I told mom that on skype tonight.  I told her about Ralph and now she is worried, but uncle Jeff saw the adventure side of it.  The more I think about it, I realize that I would love to volunteer at a school.  I was able to chat with Tanner for an hour on facebook and Melanie a little.  It’s good to feel connected to home, especially now when I feel so alone.

Day 57: Monday, August 11

The rain has come, and brought with it a gloomy gray sky.  I am actually cold, wearing pants and a long-sleeve shirt.  The two cups of tea helped warm me up though.  Called grandma and grandpa this morning to wish a happy birthday and anniversary – the usual granddaughterly duties.  Did some work, corresponding and gathering various information.  It seems through email that Ralph is eager for me to move on, suggesting I go to Boca del Toro, Panama by myself.  I do have a sense of adventure; I just don’t yet have the courage to go solo, especially with my meager knowledge of the language.  If only I could find someone else…I don’t know how Chana does it.  It must have something to do with living somewhere rather than visiting.  It’s hard for me to get much done working today because I am relying on hearing back from a lot of people for further information.  I am still looking into the school idea.  We’ll see.  I was able to lend a hand in translating a kid’s homework into English.  More like do it for him.

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Not much else really happened today.  Still trying to figure out my plans for the rest of my time here.  I haven’t made too much headway in that.  I need to find out what I really want to get out of these next two weeks.  The worst part is the waiting to finish the newsletter.  I still haven’t received the addresses, nor have I gotten responses from some of the people I sent questions too.  I feel like no one wants to help me.  I called mom tonight, per her request.  It wasn’t the best conversation.  I shouldn’t have told them about Ralph.  I knew they were gonna worry.

Day 58: Tuesday, August 12

I can’t imagine if I lived at this house year-round.  It’s so boring.  There is nothing really to do close by and there is no one my age.  That’s the hard part.  I need to chat with a peer.  It’s not that I want time to go faster.  I don’t.  I’m in an amazing country.  I just want to be doing something productive.  I try, but like I said before, I feel like no one wants to help me complete my projects.  I also wish I possessed the confidence to step out on my own.  Metaphorically, I guess, as much as literally.  Wenser called today – the translator from Pital – asking if EcoTeach could write him a letter of recommendation.  I feel bad though, because they can’t, and I think I got his hopes up.  He wants me to meet him in Puntarenas before I leave.  It’s funny though, because dad suggested I go there through an email today.  I guess it’s another option, but I don’t really know him at all.

Day 59: Wednesday, August 13

I woke up super early this morning to volunteer at the Alto del Monte School at 7 am.  It was really cool to help out, but at the same time, it was hard to see how different the educational system is here.  The one and only teacher is also the principal, and his class spans six grades.  He had a meeting this afternoon, so instead of splitting the ages between morning and afternoon, they (about 15) were all together, contributing to the crazy.  The poor guy was still fairly young, and the students didn’t exactly give him their undivided attention.  The morning started with the Costa Rican national anthem, followed by physical exercises, in which the students ditched their uniforms for the rest of class.  He didn’t really teach much, but I think that was because the two groups were together for the day.  They did some worksheets, while I glued bunny faces together and mounted them, along with hands and feet onto a tin can.  These will be mother’s day gifts for the holiday on Friday.  From that I gained multiple hot glue gun burns and a new respect for artsy people.  Within the 3.5 hours of class, there was a half hour break, as well as a lunch (at like 9:30).  When the teacher wasn’t giving directions to uninterested ears, we tried to communicate.  It was fairly successful.  His English was better than my Spanish.  I got as much as he called me his angel for the day; and he wants me to help out again tomorrow morning.  It was really great to get out of the house for a while.  I was getting cabin fever.  I only wish it had been later in the day.  Upon coming back, I collapsed and took a nap, then read and answered the TIES volunteer interview questions for the ecotourism conference in October.  Having finished all 24 episodes of the first season of “LOST,” (almost 17 hours) I watched some of the bonus features, which are equally entertaining at parts.

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I entertained myself today by finishing the “LOST” special features, reading, doing a little work, and building a house of cards, while watching the sunset, out of all 52 cards.  That was my greatest accomplishment of the day.  That and all of my bunny faces.  It looks like this newsletter may happen after all.  I got all 832 address labels from Deb today.  Now I just need numbers from the station so I can finish the story and I can send it on its way to be edited.  I really hope it goes through.  I would be very sad otherwise.  For dinner we had delicious lasagna, but they eat very slowly here, so by the time I was cleaning my plate of its second helping, they were not even finished with their first piece!  And then after dinner, I happened upon the Mayfield trip evaluations.  At least four of them mentioned me and had the nicest comments!  That was definitely a boost I needed, today being one week since they left.  I even took photos of the positive feedback, hoping they could serve as part of my evaluation as an intern.  They should be more heavily weighted than anything Ralph has to say.

Day 60: Thursday, August 14

I went to school at 8 o’clock this morning to volunteer (teacher let me sleep in).  Today was more regular than yesterday.  I was only there for the morning session with the first through third graders.  Only 5 of the 6 students made it to class, but this time they managed to sport their uniform the whole 2 hours.  The electricity was out today so they didn’t get any “lunch,” but I got to help them with English by leading a few games of picture bingo.  It was nice to get involved with the students, but afterward, I got sucked into making bunny butts – little cottontails.  That teacher man has got a very meticulous crafty side to him.  Instead of gluing cotton balls, he had me sew felt into a pouch that I stuffed cotton into.  Wow.  After coming back and reading in the sun, I helped Leti scrub the plastic chairs and we talked for a bit.  We sort of figured out the game plan for Saturday before my lasagna.

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Yadi and I took the bus into town around 3 so we could pick up a few things.  We spent 2 hours picking up gifts for mother’s day (tomorrow), and I got some more colones, lots of chocolate, and a new phone card.  On the bus ride down I saw a toddler that looked just like Melanie.  She was so adorable!  It was nice taking the bus back and forth because now I know how to do it if need be.

Day 61: Friday, August 15

Yummy soup for dinner last night and I retired to my room early (after watching Leti roll string cheese) to watch “Dumb and Dumberer”…again.  That was interrupted by a surprise skype call from mom and dad.  There were a few brief seconds where we could see and hear each other, but it didn’t last long.  This morning I did a lot of computer work sitting in bed, finishing off the reeces pieces I bought yesterday.  The stuff I found myself doing on the computer did not relate to the internship at all, but rather, I found it as a way to constructively pass the time.  I ended up editing and adding photos to my Ghana trip, as well as begin typing my entries from this trip.  It’s been nice having a purposeful thing to do besides read, which I have also been doing today.  I also did laundry and started packing for our trip to San Jose and Saripique tomorrow.

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Throughout the day, I ended up typing the first week-worth of my stay here.  Its funny to read about the conceptions I had prior to delving into this experience.  Now my back hurts from leaning over the keyboard for so long.  Jose and his family finally arrived.  It’s weird to see him in a husbandly/fatherly role after spending ten days with him as a guide.  Weird, but good.  He’s helping cook dinner, which is also different for this culture.  Him and his wife have three beautiful sons, who are all currently squeezed in front of the television.

Day 62: Saturday, August 16

Last night, Leti, Jose, and I went to the airport to pick up Katherine.  She is deferring a quarter to teach English with Vilma at Huarteras and then on to UW in January.  Getting back to the house around 10:15, the fiesta was still going.  There ended up being around 20 members of Jose’s family: sisters, husbands, mother, father, kids, etc.  Some of them made efforts to communicate with me in both Spanish and English.  It was great that they wanted to integrate me, rather than to accept me as an outsider.  I tried to get to sleep after returning from the airport, but the bunch was so loud!  I laid in bed for more than an hour before I drifted off.  T one point I was so frustrated that I punched the headboard.  Eventually I fell asleep and woke up at 7 this morning with the tune of “You are my Sunshine” stuck in my head.  I was probably dreaming about mom.  We got a ride down to Atenas with family and caught the 8 ‘clock bus to San Jose.  We stopped at a few stores to pick up some gifts (Mother’s Day), and at one of the shops, Leti’s shirts that she purchased were taken, but we didn’t find out until now.  We also stopped at the central market to pick up flowers and look around.  It was much less open than Pikes Place.  More curious alleys and hallways.  It kind of had a stinky smell too.  Some of the meat cases boasted the male parts of bulls.  I don’t know why anyone would want to eat those.  Along our walk we saw some Panamanian street performers playing music in the park.  They played “My Heart Will Go On.”  No mistaking that song.  Then we took a taxi to meet Katherine and Yadi at the bus station.  I slept for most of the ride to Saripique.  Where we got off, I had to sit with all the bags while the girls got groceries.  It was a little nerve-racking watching the possessions of four people.  Everything was fine though.  Bob picked up all the stuff and I walked with Leti and Yadi to the house about five minutes away.

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The rain came in the afternoon and woke me from my impromptu nap on the couch on the porch.  I was very tired today – from the early morning to the long bus rides, to the hot weather, and finally to the lulling sound of the pouring rain.  I played with the dog a bit before we headed over to the farm for dinner.  Of course they didn’t eat as a family, they never do.  Over dinner Katherine and I entertained thoughts of adventuring together for a few days.  I think we’re leaning toward Puerto Viejo.  After the mother opened her mother’s day gifts we headed back for the homestead, and bed so we can wake up early to milk the cows.

Day 63: Sunday, August 17

Nueve semanas!  Uno y media mas!  Quiero ver mi familia y amigos, pero yo se that I will miss este lugar.  We woke up early this morning and walked from Bob’s to the farm to help milk the vacas.  I am getting really good!  I even squirted my own foot.  The funny part about milking cows is that once they’re out of milk, the “buttons” wrinkle up like raisins.    We talked for a while with Leti about the indigenous pottery that has been found on the property.  We also discussed the newsletter briefly and the prospect of Katherine traveling with me for a couple days.  Toward the end of our 30-minute walk back to Bob’s cars kept honking at us.  It’s so annoying!  When we arrived, we both totally konked out and woke finally to read, write, and squeeze some sugar cane juice.  They drink it pure here but it’s so sweet!

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After lunch we all headed back to the farm in the car so Katherine and I could help made cheese with the mile from this morning.  We also rode the horse a little.  The rain eventually chased us inside, where I sat, smelling of vaca, caballo, pollo, y perro por muchas horas while we waited to go back to the house.  What started out as making cheese turned into staying for dinner and our afternoon ended up being almost six hours.  I was so not prepared for that.  No book, no journal.  Only my camera, which is only entertaining for so long.  I’m sorry to say that I sat around so long, but it was raining and I was so tired.  The family did make kettle corn while we were there, so we indulged a bit.  After finally getting back to the house, I took a glorious hot shower.  I think everyone is thankful for that.

Day 64: Monday, August 18

It is so nice to be back to the house in Atenas.  Especially after last night.  I woke with a very unusual pain in my stomach.  I got up a lot to go to the bathroom, and then finally, around six this morning, I ralphed all the contents of my stomach, which was a lot after yesterday’s many snacks and meals.  Needless to say, my sleep was not good.  But I still went with Bob to the English class this morning, however I didn’t last long before running to the toilet.  I was just so weak and lethargic.  Moving just a short distance got me out of breath.  It was really discouraging as I faced nearly four hours of bus travel.  Once back at Bob’s I ate some toast, drank some EmergenC, and had some anti-diarrheal pill.  The bus to San Jose was packed and sweaty.  The constant swaying as the bus sped up, slowed down, and dodged whatever was in its path did not help.  I squeezed through to sit on the steps of the back exit, and there I drifted in and out of awareness, with Leti fanning me, until my hands went numb, just like my first day in Ghana.  I knew as soon as that happened that this bus ride was not gonna be fun.  It’s a good thing I brought bags because I threw up all the food from this morning.  It felt better, but I was really embarrassed.  I’m not used to being taken care of, and I was definitely not expecting to get sick this late in my trip.  I had some Gatorade in between bus rides, and the second bus to Atenas was better with a window seat.  The house was a mess when we got back.  I can’t believe the party-goers didn’t clean up.  Someone slept in my bed but that didn’t stop me from passing out for an hour and a half.  When I woke up, I had an email saying that GG was in the hospital.  That’s really depressing, but I have positive thoughts.  I also got station information from Stamie, so I finished the newsletter.  It just has to be edited, printed, and shipped.

Day 65: Tuesday, August 19

I woke up feeling much better today.  I wouldn’t have even thought I was that sick yesterday.  Katherine and I went into town this morning catching the 9:40 bus, which really comes at 10:15 apparently.  Throughout the four hours we spent in Atenas, I went to two different internet cafes twice trying to get this newsletter to the right people for editing and printing.  It’s a good thing we ran into Leti at our fast food burger stop because I forgot the email for the printers at the house this morning.  It looks like it’s gonna be a lot of money to get this project finished.  I’m beginning to come to terms with that, but I can’t help but feel like a complete failure.  I made a promise to finish it and get it mailed before I left CR.  Is it a broken promise if the outcome of the project is out of my hands?  I know it’s not my fault but I can’t stand the fact that this may not happen.  I always follow through on commitments I make.  It’s hard to accept.  Seeing the mariachi band in the grocery store cheered me up a bit.  It was really random though.  they went down each aisle in their traditional garb playing their traditional tunes.  I have absolutely no idea why they were there, but it was entertaining.  After catching the bus back to the house, I spent a lot of time trying to bet emails out to Ralph and the printing place.  They went out finally, so I celebrated by chatting with some friends (Adam, Lisa, Sydney) on facebook.  Turns out there was a hurricane in the florida keys.  I hope it is safe while I’m down there in two weeks.  Katherine and I made dinner for Leti tonight – fettuccini alfredo, scalloped potatoes, and fruit salad.  Over all, the meal was decent, but now my stomach is grumbling in protest.  To end the night, we watched “Butterfly Effect,” and I think that paired with my hallucinogenic malaria meds, it’s gonna make for an interesting night sleep.

Day 66: Wednesday, August 20

There may still be a future for this newsletter, but I am not getting my hopes up.  I got feedback from Deb this morning and additional information both from the Scottish group and Stanley.  So it’s up-t0-date with the latest revisions and now it sits waiting to hear the price of printing from a loyal shop.  I have been working really hard correcting all the flaws, so needless to say, I really need this to happen and to move forward.  I have made the decision to leave with Katherine for Puerto Viejo on Friday morning, so my fingers are crossed that we can make some serious headway by then.

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Good news!  We are going to San Jose tomorrow to take a copy of the file to the printers.  They just need to transfer it from word.

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It may take a few days, so I am coming to terms with the fact that I won’t get the satisfaction of putting them in the mail myself.  Earlier today, I finished “Three Cups of Tea,” and watched “The Polar Express.”  This, of course, was in addition to continual fixing and editing of the newsletter.  It is final now – it has been saved to the stick!  I got great news that GG is doing well after her surgery and I was able to chat with Aunt Alanna a bit before dinner.  It feels so wonderful to have backing and support from my family.  Ever since dinner, I have been frantically trying to print/scribble all 800+ address labels to have them ready for when the printing is done, but for some reason so many things went wrong with that.  1) the addresses didn’t print squarely, so for every sheet, about ten labels weren’t usable.  2) Deb left out zipcodes for the last two pages so I had to look them all up.  3) there were no USA on the labels, so I had to label them all by hand.  4) some of them didn’t have numbers or cities.  It drove me crazy for like four hours!  I’m still not even done.  I have 80 more addresses to hand-write, tomorrow will be a busy day I think, so my last day in Atenas will go quickly.

Day 67: Thursday, August 21

I can’t believe tonight is my last in Atenas.  I knew it was gonna be one of those times when it feels like forever and then when you look back, you realize how fast it actually went.  We left for San Jose today on the 10:30 bus after I finished hand-writing the excess labels.  We met Leti’s cousin in the central park and walked like 20 blocks to get to the printing place.  I didn’t recognize any of the city from my previous times there.  It’s a huge place!  The newsletter is now out of my hands.  We turned it into the printer and now my fingers are crossed that they can successfully get it converted to illustrator and printed.  I trust that after that, Leti can and will take care of the labels and stamps, but I threw my address in there too, just to be sure.  After the printers, we went around to different sores in search of a magazine Leti wanted, yet came up empty-handed.  I did get the chance to the national theater though.  So that was a highlight.  For lunch I had a wicked croissant sandwich toped off with an equally wicked churro filled to the brim with gooey rich caramel.  Not bad for my first one in the country.  I fell asleep on the bus back to Atenas just as the rainstorm was approaching.  For the most part, the duration of the two bus rides to Alto del Monte were accompanied by the sound of relentless thick raindrops coming down in sheets.  From the bus stop to the house, we were nearly soaked through.  I quickly took on the resemblance of a wet rat, however it was nothing a steamy hot shower couldn’t fix.  Since then I have been doing laundry and organizing my stuff to get all packed up.  Alex stopped by at one point to test his new camera on my not-so-photogenic self.  While enjoying last night’s leftover soup, Oscar’s son stopped by for help with his English pronunciations, so I gladly ran through his vocabulary with him.  Even though he is still in the beginning phases of learning, his English is WAY better than my Spanish.  It makes me feel a bit uneducated.

Day 68: Friday, August 22

We arrived in Puerto Viejo around 2:30 after a super long bus ride.  There were no problems, only obstacles.  The biggest being that I had to sit in the aisle halfway there.  It’s nice to be back though.  after our tamarindo slushies, we rented bikes and rode to Echo Books where Katherine stocked up.  The woman there pegged us as from the Pacific Northwest by the nalgene, chacos, and REI backpack.  It helped that she was a transplant from Bend, OR.  After stopping at the beach (Playa Cocles) we rode into town to scope out the restaurant scene, finding that Hot Rocks is now Tex Mex.  We also stopped for happy hour daiquiris –mmmm!

Day 69: Saturday, August 23

After our surprisingly strong daiquiris, we stumbled around town in search of a good restaurant, but we realized that strangely neither of us were hungry.  So we turned in our bikes and rested at the hostel, realizing how tired we really were,  I met some guys from California and had a drink with them at the pub next door.  Coming back, Katherine and I hung out on the stinky sand beach for a while, watching the lightening in the distance.  It was only eight when we cane back so we decided not to be lame and instead walked into town with no agenda.  We stopped at one restaurant that had live reggae and chatted with the rasta vendor for a bitt.  He even offered us a puff of the green stuff.  Having a headache does not make that sound good.  We continued along into town with the intention of doing a u-turn, but we heard some more live music, so we went to check it out.  It was the “human jukeox.”  He could play just about any request – English, Spanish, French,  it was pretty amazing.  We ended up staying for like two hours, but had to order food to secure our table and seats.  We chose the cheapest thing on the menu – rice salad.  It was actually better than it sounds.  About halfway through the entertainment, the rainstorm came.  Solid rain, so we waited it out at this café, enjoying the tunes.  We timed it really well though – as we were paying, he played his last song, and our walk back was in Seattle-style drizzle.  It rained harder once we got back under cover at the hostel.  It’s a good thing we had earplugs.  It wasn’t too loud by the time we hit the hammocks at 11, but I fell asleep right away, waking up in the middle of the night to put on pants because it was freezing!

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We rented bikes for all day this morning from the hostel, and after we stopped at an ATM, we were on our way to Manzanillo.  The 14 km bike ride was very long and rough.  I remember thinking that the cyclists I saw here were crazy, and yet there I was, riding through the jungle in the unforgiving sun on a bike with no gears or shocks, on a road with miles of potholes.  At least the racers could change gears.  My bike only had one – forward.  And I’m pretty sure that my tires were leaking air.  The ride was pretty flat, but there were three hills in a row.  Once that was over, the biggest obstacle was dealing with the aches in my knees.  The ride was fairly relaxing, but there were so many smells that we rode through.  We arrived around 10:50 but we didn’t stay for long.  There actually wasn’t much there.  Katherine had a soda and I bought a necklace.  We took in the beach and headed back before the storm and before our bodies tensed up.  It was such a relief to get back and shower, no matter how cold the water was.  My butt is so sore now!

Day 70: Sunday, August 24

Holy smokes!  10 weeks.  I’m down to the 3-2-1 countdown.  It’s crazy to think it’s almost over, but it will be a good thing.  After our glorious showers, we headed into town and had lunch at Peace and Love, Bread and Coffee.  Had the same sandwich as last time and I think that this time around, it might have even been better.  The internet wasn’t as exciting as I hoped for.  No one was on skype.  I did FB chat with Brittany a little while she’s in Peru, so that was a cool little moment.  Our afternoon hammock siestas were interrupted by a gang of Germans.  They were so loud and inconsiderate.  We had a long chat with J after that and he gave us a tour of his place, which he rents out to groups for $350 a night.  It was a pretty sweet pad, but there is no way I would rent my personal space to complete strangers.  That amount of money may persuade me a little though.  I did a little foot-dipping in the sea before our brownie sundae dessert.  That was amazing.  Definitely not needed, but it was a lovely treat for sure.  “Superbad” was playing in the lounge, so we enjoyed that while waiting till it got later before we went back into town.  We met a guy from Victoria, BC, and yesterday, two girls from Eugene, OR.  Small world for sure.  We walked into town after the movie finished, in search of some entertainment that could keep us busy for a couple hours.  We walked around a few locks but all the bars seemed to be full.  A car with some guys drove next to us for a while talking, trying to see what we were up to.  It was easy to tell the truth when we honestly had no idea.  Katherine was creeped out by it, but it didn’t really bother me.  I figure it’s better to acknowledge than to ignore.  Plus, I had my knife in my swimsuit top!  Finally, we settle on the French place, but since happy hour was over, drinks were pretty expensive.  The band of one of the staff members was due to play here, so we hung around until then.  At one point, we were joined by the same man who complimented my smile the day before while enjoying our daiquiris.  He bought us beers and was really interesting to talk to.  It always makes me hesitant meeting locals while traveling because I wonder what they stand to gain from such a short interaction.  In the end though, it was good.  He was super nice, very attractive, and had some good stories about traveling.  He even offered to teach us how to surf.  Ironic since I’ve been searching for motivation to do it.  I’ve pretty much decided to let that dream die for now.  Another time for sure.  Plus the music was really nice last night.  I love how much live shows there are here.  That, teamed with all the open-air bars and restaurants, makes this such a unique small town.  We walked (stumbled) back around midnight.  Thank goodness the rain stopped.  There was no drunk bike riding like the day before though.  I definitely felt those three drinks last night.  When we got back to the hostel, it was so dead.  There was no one.  It felt really eerie.  We got over that pretty quickly though.  When we left the restaurant, the sky was really clear and starry, but when we went out to the beach, the clouds had came in, only allowing the visibility of a couple.  It was really nice to chill out there.  We talked for awhile and took in the moment enjoying the warm breeze and surprisingly cool water.  There is no hope of sleeping in here.  Once the sun comes up, everyone wakes up and the hustle and bustle starts to begin the day’s activities.  It’s only almost nine, but I don’t know if all the stores will be open yet.

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On our way into town we happened upon this great café where they had great stuffed croissants for less than a dollar!  I got my bus ticket back to San Jose and some scarves that we fell in love with last night.  I also got a sweet hair wrap to show off when I get back home.  Took a nap back at the hostel and chilled in the hammock for two hours chatting and listening to tunes.  Finally we went for a dip in the pool in the reef.  It was great refreshing and nice to relax in the sun.  I got pushed into the rock by the waves a bit but it was worth it.  There were some crazy tropical fish chilling around my legs looking for Nemo.  The post-swim shower was really refreshing, as was the salad and pad thai we grubbed on.  Being all lazy and lethargic, we rented “Super Troopers” and chilled in the lounge until the sun went down.  Now, after the movie, I’m hanging out, listening to the bongos and recovering from yet another awkward conversation with J, passing up drinks and joints.

Day 71: Monday, August 25

48 hours from now I will be chillin’ in the airport!  It’s a good feeling, especially after hanging out here for a few days.  We left the hostel around 8 this morning (we thought it was 9), and headed back to the paneraria for croissants to go.  I’m glad to have something yummy for the bus ride.  Now all I need to make my day is a seat!  We ran into Jessie and Mike again throughout these three days.  I’m glad it was them.  They were pretty solid guys.  The line for the ATM was not surprising since it was out of money yesterday.  I ended up getting more than I had originally planned just to be safe.  Now I am hanging out at Caribeans after our bowl of granola.  The weather is much nicer this time without rain, but for some reason, I couldn’t eat much granola and then I remembered how sick I felt during the last ride from here to San Jose.  Maybe it was attributed to that crazy-rich treat.  Katherine just left to catch her bus to Limon, forgetting to pay.  It’s a good thing I’m nice and my wallet was freshly replenished.  It’s crazy to be sitting in this shop looking out at the Caribbean.  The colors here are so vibrant.  The Postal Service definitely complements the view.  Since I am without watch, my ipod is constantly at my side to help me out.  Twenty minutes till my bus leaves.  Will miss it for sure, but the time has come and I’m ok with it.

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I’m finally at Tranquilo!  It’s like returning home.  I’m glad I chose a familiar place for my lone travel experience.  The bus ride wasn’t too bad.  It went by pretty quickly actually.  I randomly sat next to a guy from Vancouver, WA.  Small world.  He was also convinced that I had an accent.  I guess it’s just something I slip in and out of when I’m bored of speaking regularly.  Anyway, we had a lot of random conversations (are yawns contagious?), but it was pretty effortless to talk with him, which was refreshing.  It was nice to get past the small talk.  I was really glad to get to the bus station and see so many cabs waiting for patrons.  It was very easy and I am thankful to say that I did it by myself and succeeded!  I guess we’ll see how the next day goes.

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After getting settled at the hostel, I watched TV for a while with some girls from Montana – Greys Anatomy, Friends, etc.  I rented a locker, which makes me feel so much better to leave my computer and electronics.  I took the girls to the supermarket to pick up some chow for dinner.  It was really rewarding to find it on my own.  Since the, I watched TV while enjoying my sandwich.  It looks like I may be meeting up with David tomorrow in the afternoon.

Day 72: Tuesday, August 26

I am so thankful it’s morning right now.  I think last night was my worst sleep throughout the entire trip.  It was bad.  Unlike the night before when we watched a man pay citar at El Loco Naturale, last night I watched a bit of “Saw” and was in bed bu 10 o’clock I think.  It was terrible.  People were so loud and they would turn the lights on while others were trying to sleep.  At one point the staff moved me from my room into the one across the hall because apparently the other secretary was incompetent and mixed up everyone’s room assignments, so I had to transition to a top bunk.  Finally I fell asleep and was woken up by a guy throwing his stuff around, trying to pack up.  It was so discouraging.  I laid there forever.  And then all my bug bites started to act up.  It did not make for a very peaceful sleep at all.  I had free pancakes for breakfast this morning and was greeted by Sergio, the man who bought Katherine and me drinks in Puerto Viejo a few nights ago.  It was weird seeing him here last night.  Apparently he came to pick up some building materials for work.  It was sort of nice to see a familiar face but really kinda creepy and random.  It would be less weird if he was a traveler too, but that’s not the case.

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I spent some time on my computer today, updating the blog:

“So, after returning to Atenas, I completed my final project of creating the newsletter.  We even did a daytrip to San Jose to deliver it to the printer by hand.  Unfortunately I received some bad news today that they are going to have to reassemble it in a different program, which will cost an extra $150 for the foundation.  I just hope that it works and gets delivered, but I cannot assure that since I am leaving tomorrow.

Anyway, after turning the document in to the printers, Katherine (my fellow gringo) and I left the next morning to go to Puerto Viejo for three nights where we slept in hammocks, enjoyed happy hours, went swimming on a coral reef, endured a 20 mile bike ride through the jungle, and did some last minute souvenir shopping.  It is a fantastic place, hence the reason I went back.  Live music every night, open-air restaurants and bars – it’s nothing like anything I am used to.  It was a great way to chill out after a stressful last few days with the newsletter.

We parted ways yesterday morning.  She returned to the farm in Saripique where she will be teaching English until December, and I hopped a bus to San Jose to spend my remaining two nights.  It felt really good to make it here by myself.  I sat next to a guy on the bus who is from Vancouver, WA.  That was a really random coincidence, and it provided fun conversation.  So far being alone isn’t as bad as I thought it would be.  It gives you the choice to be social or not, which is nice.  I went out for dinner with some girls from Montana last night and I even ran into a Puerto Viejo local at this hostel in San Jose.  Another random coincidence, especially since we enjoyed drinks with him on our second night there.

My day looks pretty chill today.  I might meet up with a friend I met my first week here at the turtle station, but that may change.  After last night, I am still pretty tired.  It was way loud here and they made me change bunks after I had already fallen asleep.  Crazy unorganized.  At least the free pancake breakfast was nice this morning.

Tomorrow is my flight!  Yay!  I am eager to come back home!

(yay for wireless!) and sending some emails.  It’s a good thing I took a shower when I did though because literally, no more than 15 minutes later, the water went out.  I felt so lucky!  After my warmish shower, I headed to some stores solo to pick up last-minute souvenirs.  It’s a good thing I’m familiar with the area because it made my errands so much easier.  I went back to Zodiac, the supermarket, and a random souvenir shop.  I paid for my bed at the hostel before I left, and when I returned, they tried to tell me that I hadn’t paid for two nights.  I know this place is a fairly nice hostel, but this experience sucks!  I’m just ready to get out of here.  I hope David calls soon.  Apparently the water is back on now because they just paid the bill.

Day 73: Wednesday, August 27

Wow!  I can’t believe I made it.  For so long it seemed that this day would never come and now that it has, I have mixed feelings about it for sure – sad to leave but happy to go.  I figure that about encompasses it all.  David never called yesterday so I went to the museum with a German named Augustine and a Swiss named Marina.  They are both traveling quite a bit longer on their own and only a small part of me is jealous (a fraction).  The museum was cool for a museum.  A bit pricey, but there were glass cases and history.  It was a nice way to spend some time away from Tranquilo.  I was pretty annoyed with the hostel by that time.  We went out to coffee and grabbed some groceries before heading back around 5:30.  David had called when I was gone and told the receptionist that he was gonna come find me, and that’s exactly what he did.

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We went back to the same bar as last time and had chifrijo with Ronald.  It was so good to see them again.  Unfortunately my looming departure jaded my fun a bit.  I did have a great time, but I was definitely aware that it was my last night.  We moved on to another bar and met up with two more people – an American student and another friend who had just finished a university exam.  There was some music at that bar (San Lucas), but we switched again to go see a live show.  It was really great but super smoky.  I enjoyed the music and the ambiance, but breathing was important, so we left after about five songs to head back to the hostel.  On our way through one of the parks, we could hear some excellent live salsa music, so we went to check it out.  It was happening down at the National Center of Culture.  Dancers, stage, huge band – a totally real experience.  A local experience.  I can’t pronounce or spell David’s friend’s name, so we’ll call him Jose (his real name).  Anyway, Jose showed me some really salsa steps.  We had a great time just being there in the moment.  That will be a wonderful memory.  The music ended about twenty minutes after we stumbled upon the place, so we continued on to Tranquilo, where we were then confronted by four motorcyclists on a pair of bikes, brandishing knives.  They didn’t come up to us or anything, but they sat at the corner, waiting for us to approach, revving their engines.  To avoid the situation, we ducked into a nice hotel and had them call the police.  The guys took really good care of me.  I lucked out with the locals I befriended.  Earlier, at the first bar, Ronald and I were both shaking our heads at the exploitation of women on the music videos that were playing as soon as the coast was clear of the hooligans, we returned to the hostel, safe and sound.  It was hard to say goodbye, especially since I was worried that they may be in danger.  Sleep was really good last night.  I think the beers helped with that.  I did my whole online check and was out by 11:30.  It was a good night, but I have to admit that I was really tired throughout the festivities.  It was nice not having to pay for anything.  This morning I woke up to say goodbye to Marina, as she was heading for Nicaragua, and then was joined by the cat for a bit.  My shower lacked hot water completely.  At least yesterday it was slightly warm.  I was able to have breakfast (pancakes) with Augustine before he left for Panama.  Three lone travelers from three different countries unite for a day, and then depart the next day for three different countries.  It’s kind of poetic.  The taxi ride to the airport was crazy!  Drivers here – I don’t know how they do it.  We almost hit a motorcyclist, which wouldn’t have been hard since they’re everywhere!  Grabbing my bag out of the cab, I hit my newly acquired blister from burning my finger on the pancake pan at breakfast.  I am still blown away by the fact that travelers have to pay to leave this country.  It’s unbelievable.  $26 before you can even check-in.  Things have gone smoothly though, which is great.  The only snag is that security took my hand sanitizer away due to alcohol content.  Don’t they serve alcohol on planes?!  They’re so paranoid!  Getting through the difficult part and on to the boarding area was a relief, especially since I’m alone.  I got there to see a saxophonist performing which make me smile, and as I was shopping at a souvenir place, I saw a bunch of people carrying heavy duty video cameras, so I followed and saw that they were having a press conference with the Costa Rican Olympic team.  It was really neat to see.  Now it’s about 11 o’clock, so I have just over an hour until my flight boards.  In the meantime, I purchased some chocolate covered macadamia nuts and coffee beans, and a book about Obama.  It’s a shame things are so expensive at airports, but it gave me an excuse to get rid of remaining colones.  Unfortunately, the free wi-fi is not working, so I guess I will have to give up on the notion of sending emails and surfing the internet aimlessly.

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The flight to Houston was really good.  No turbulence, great views, on time.  It was very sad to take off though, saying goodbye to people and places I have fallen in love with.  I listened to my Costa Rican playlist throughout the beginning of the flight and found myself in tears.  Essentially, Costa Rica was my home and I will without a doubt miss it.  Although the flight was good, I did spill water all over my neighbor and myself.  Luckily he was really chill and laid back.  It is a bit of a culture shock to be back in the US.  I find myself still thinking and responding in Spanish.  The sight of Starbucks at the airport gave me a twinge in my stomach.  At least customs and border patrol went well.  It was really painless.  They didn’t even ask me any questions.  The layover went real fast since we (I met up with Jenni) spent the majority of the time racing through the airport.  And now I am settled in my seat, awaiting take-off, no longer an exotic foreigner.

Day 74: Thursday, August 28

One month until full-fledged legal freedom (21st birthday)!  The flight to Seattle wasn’t too bad.  It got pretty cold, but other than that, the little girl that sat next to me kept watching what I was doing, whether reading, uploading reggaeton bootlegs, or resting.  I guess she had nothing better to do.  Taking off from Houston, there was a gigantic, vibrantly colored rainbow.  It was a cute send-off, almost as if wish me good luck in the transition phase.  Throughout the flight, since we were flying west, we followed the sunset, which I termed, “chasing horizons,” the perfect name for Cody’s band.  Or my future ecotourism company.  It was great to see mom and dad, but it was sad in that it solidified the reality that my adventure was over.  Although the overall trip had definite ups and downs, the experience was undeniably excellent.  The personal experience, that is.  As stated clearly many times already, the actual internship pretty much sucked.  But I hope that the connections I made can last well into the future.  Today was pretty cold for me.  It was weird to flush toilet paper, listen to music in English, but especially to drive.  I did a lot of the routine catching up with family and errands like the bank and laundry.  I have had such a hard time believing that it’s over.  73 days – that’s really impressive.  I’m not exactly down in the dumps.  I’m more reminiscent.  My current feeling would have been completely different if I hadn’t enjoyed my final week’s impression of the country.  Of the last five nights in CR, I saw live music four of them.  That doesn’t just happen here.

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