31 05 2012

My life has been pretty hectic of late. Sorry for the resulting lack of posts. I was promoted at the cafe and subsequently quit at the coffee shop. Yeay for only one “day job!” I’ve been working a consistent 5 days a week and for the past two weeks, 6 days a week. I’ve continued to photograph the symposiums on Friday nights at Stella (the coffee shop). I also recently photographed my boss’s son for his first birthday and took new head shots for my friend’s boyfriend. My friend’s boyfriend is a working actor, similarly to I am a working photographer… very part time, but it still counts! (:

I guess I never finished writing about Costa Rica. I have the big long, beautiful story about Volcan Arenal and La Fortuna, but none of the rest of the trip. I guess I should back track then to the beginning…

I can’t believe how long it takes to get to O’hare from apartment. Andy and I left 2 hours before before my boarding call was supposed to start, and I barely made it! We encountered 4 broken escalators between our apartment and the terminal, as well as missed our connection on the train which led to a 10 minute back-track walk. To my great surprise and relief, airport security went very quickly! The final boarding call was out by the time I ran up to the gate, yes I actually ran through the airport… I’m that crazy person! My flight had a layover in Miami. The plane was filled with, what I would presume to be “Spring Breakers.” I hate the Miami airport. I’m going to leave it at that. The second half of my flight was quiet and smooth. From the San Jose airport I dropped for a cab since I don’t speak much Spanish and I had no idea where I was! My cabbie was wonderful! He spoke decent English and told me what a few things were in Spanish. The ride from the airport to San Jose was expensive, but it was also kind of a private tour, this guy new his area and it’s history. It was well worth the 15,635C or about $30. He kindly dropped me off at the Museum Nacional, where I met my brother. My brother then showed me how to get to his host mom’s house. Seeing schools and houses all surrounded by fences with razor wire around them is a little unnerving at first. The violent crime rate is far lower in Costa Rica than it is in Chicago. It still took some getting used to.

My first full day in Costa Rica, I took a public city bus from the corner near my brother’s host mom’s house and the InterAmerica highway to downtown San Jose. From there I caught an inter-city bus to Alajuela, which I hoped would get me to Volcan Poas. Turns out I was wrong, but luckily for me I am observant and in Alajuela at a bus station noticed the bus labeled Volcan Poas and transferred. Turns out this was cheaper than taking the bus direct from San Jose to Volcan Poas, so win for me! The bus to Poas stopped at a little roadside stand for a rest part way up the mountain to Poas. The stand sold trinkets and souvenirs but also snacks. For 1 mil (1000C, $2) I bought a huge bag of fresh picked strawberries that were still warm from the sun out in the fields. My two-year-old seat mate also loved the strawberries. Her mom kept apologizing for the little girl’s continually sticking her hand out for another and telling me I didn’t have to any to her. There was no way I could have finished the entire bag alone, so I didn’t mind sharing with an adorable kid.

The weather was perfect for viewing the volcanic crater. Clouds would occasionally obscure the view, but for the most part I could see the crystalline blue green water that filled the ancient volcano. It was beautiful. I had plenty of time before the bus’ return trip to walk all of the short trails available and grab a not so great lunch in the cafe/gift shop. The longest trail was the Laguna Botos trail, which twists through the cloud forests on the way and from an even older volcanic crater that is now fully a lake. On this trail I saw at least three species of hummingbirds as well as many other types of bird species.

The cloud forest was one of the strangest places I’ve ever been. It was hot out, I was sweating, and yet, I could see my breath! Where the sun touched the paved trails, steam rose. Air-plants dominated the branches of nearly every tree and moss covered everything even near the ground. It was breath-taking.

After a quiet and uneventful bus ride back to San Jose, I headed in for the evening. My brother’s house mom includes as many meals as we’re there for in her nightly fee for staying in her home. This deal is 100 times better than a hostel. Rosie is a wonderfully sweet woman and boy does she spoil us! Breakfast before Poas? Gallo Pinto, hot dogs, something similar to a hot dog but not quite a hot dog that was sliced, french bread, and fruit. Gallo Pinto is a blend of rice and black beans seasoned with Salsa Lizano, a typical Costa Rican seasoning. For dinner after I returned from Poas she made us Italian pasta with meat sauce, some type of Italian potato, carrot and meat soup, a bowl of seasoned rice, bread with mayo and a bowl of lime jello with a slice of cake on top for dessert! Rosie is recently a widow. Her husband was Italian and they live in Italy for a few years. She loves to cook and boy is she good at it! Her elderly mother lives across the street and is the one who baked the cake we had for dessert.

One thing I never did figure out is, do Costa Ricans eat hot dogs with everything normally? Or did Rosie include hot dogs with nearly every meal to be comforting since we were from America? I did learn that Mayo as a topping is completely normal in Costa Rica. It’s used in place of jelly/jam, butter and even instead of catchup. Catchup mixed with Mayo is called “fry dip.” I have since incorporated this into my rotation of Catchup, Siracha, Ranch, Tapatio, and now “fry dip.” It’s really quite delicious, though terrible for my “healthy eating diet.”

San Pedro, San Jose



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