Monday, December 24, 2007

feliz navidad!

Atìtlan sunset

Iglesia en Chichicastenango

Los Gringos estan esperando en Chichi.

The mama y yo have been doing it up Guate styles. Avoiding incineration, taking wild shuttle rides, meeting Mayan dieties, buying way too many textiles, and generally just enjoying the Guate life. Mom says I have been doing a crap job relating exciting stories so I will work on that on my next entry, but the current fireworks display is disturbing my focus.
Feliz whatever you feel like celebrating. For me it will be a day without shopping, finally.

Monday, December 17, 2007


I got my first solid dose of christmas music last night, provided by the two british girls staying in my dorm. It got me all mushy and sentimental missing all the amazing people I am blessed to have in my life and wondering why I am purposely putting so much space between us. Traveling makes you ask that question a lot, more than I would really like. The flip side is that it makes you appreciate everything. Patricia inspired me to start a list of ¨why I love my home,¨it includes good beer, mt. Tam, the civic center farmers market, the marin boathouse, super easy super casual dinners, marin trails, and of course friends and family.
I am doubly blessed right now, because one of the best parts of home is coming to visit me in the form of my mom. It will be nice to share amazing Guatemala with someone so special. Great as friends that you meet traveling are, it is nice to have someone from home to ground you, and be bowled over by the beauty of a Lake Atìtlan sunrise while standing right next to you.
Its been an interesting last couple of weeks for me. I think that meditating twice a day, talking about astral traveling, and reading buddhist texts does that to a person. Traveling brings up all the same issues too, impermenance, uncertainty, lonliness. Issues that are easier to ignore in the rhythm of a more structured life. The thing that I am seeing is that there is a lot of truth in the statement that ¨fear is a natural reaction to moving closer to the truth.¨ And if Pema is right, and enlightenment is ¨total fearlessness,¨I am glad I am out on the road, because a lot of it scares the shit out of me. Predictability is lost out here. Comfort and familiarity take on a new meaning because they are infrequent guests in my life. But the challenge and difficulties are worth it because each sunrise, each new friend, and each good cup of coffee represents a lot of adventure.

Sunday, December 16, 2007


Well I have escaped the lake. I went out in style, a big ol´goodbye dinner at Paco Real where we literally took over the whole restaurant and cleaned the place out of pesto. A couple litros of gallo warmed us up enough to spend an hour down on the dock, where we were haunted by a silent launcha, and stared at those looming volcàns. This morning Patty P woke me up for sunrise and yoga, and after some packing and a bit of hanging at the docks I was off on the launcha to ¡pana pana pana!
There I got honkied into a shuttle to Antigua, which ended up being worth it just for the reduction of hassle that it provided. The hawkers tactic of telling me a bus was no good because I would have to ride it with strangers was unconvincing but quite entertaing. What got me was that the shuttle was leaving right then, sometimes I´ll pay for convenience. Along the way I zoned out ipod styles, got asked to go dancing with a friendly gas station attendant and discovered that Guatemalans know about the joys of Homer Simpson.
Along the road to Antigua was a stand selling carnitas y chicharrone. Their advertising tactic was a large picture of Homer Simpson carrying a pig under his arm. Brought back all sorts of apples to apples memories of one new years past. Needless to say it got me chuckling.
So there you are. I´m rolling sola, waiting for my laundry and my mom while recovering from a pupusa induced coma.

Saturday, December 15, 2007


So I am still living life in Guatemala, rolling along comfortably on central american time. My mom arrives Monday, so today is my last official day as a Moonie, tomorrow I depart for Antigua to take up again the life of a wanderer. The with-Mom travels will be a bit different, I am sure, flights to Tikal, actual reservations, plans, big stuff. But I am looking forward to a different pace, change has a way of ridding one of complacency and keeps things interesting.

In tribute to my departure, some priceless moments on the lake...
Last saturday, prior to the shenanigans of the new moon party I embarked on my first Guatemalan trail run from San Marcos to San Pedro. I would highly recommend this type of endeavor for stamina, and endurance. Yelling ¨Buenas!¨and ¨hola!¨to all the Guatemalans you encounter takes a certain level of aerobic fitness. That combined with vacas charging, climbing over rocks, getting mowed down by our canine tour guide ¨Astro¨as well as avoiding stepping in human fecal matter, keeps things interesting. Needless to say I was happy to take the launcha back.
¿Qué mas?
Oooooh... many a meal at our new favorite restaurants Paco Real, the mexican joint that serves pasta, mole, and a mean lentil soup.
Two botched attempts at skpe interview, which ended in me yelling loudly into my cell phone at a San Pedro internet cafe.
Stepping in dog shit on a dark walk home from blind lemon.
Breathing nueve tres nueve, once tres once, and trece tres trece!
Swimming and practicing Shiatsu at Russel´s dock.
Watching the Gemini meteor shower over the volcanoes and lake. esuper cool.
Just generally keeping it real, mixed in with a couple guided meditations, some siestas, and many a hot chocolate. So there you all go.
Wishing you all well with the last frenzied days of pre-christmas chaos, deep breathing and abstaining from credit card use will get you through!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

siete, tres, siete

So I´ve gotten all wrapped up in a very active social life with my fellow, ¨moonies,¨as it were. Not that that should be an excuse, but between meditation, shiatsu class, and trying to astral travel my calendar has been packed. Luckily one of the few guys that are taking the course is a talented story teller as well as photo journalist, which saves me some time in the internet cafe. You can check out his perspective at:
Who says spirituality and boxed wine can´t mix?
Well, back to some deep breathing after a quick San Pedro pizza fix.

oh and this is the link to me laughing after beating Sasha in an arm wrestling match at the new moon party.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

the om continues...

pilar y diego
chilling out with the bamboo in San Marcos
las estudiantes en Candelaria

I´m still chilling out in San Marcos keeping up the spiritual path, setting people straight that humans are in fact omnivores regardless of our enviro-spiritual-political opinions on eating flesh, and just generally being myself. Anyways thought I´d throw some photos your way so that you can keep up visually with my adventures.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

vino tinto y remolachas

Well, I have left Xela and I am back in San Marcos, taking part of the Moon Course at Las Pyramides which includes a lot of meditating, and for me a lot of napping. I´ve been exploring the more spiritual side of traveling and it is developing into an interesting process, one that is a bit strange to write about on this blog. But enough has happened since turkey day that I can entertain you with stories other than how I spent this morning detoxifying my system through breath.
I was in fact sick on thanksgiving, which combined with a lunch of remolachas developed into a late evening/early morning re-visitation of the fateful night of pink puke. Some will know of the story I speak, others will be glad not to know. Anyhow my Guate-family as well as my new french roommate were glad that I was somewhat recovered in the morning.
I met Sasha in the morning for a field trip to Mercado Minerva, one of Xela´s large markets. We walked there getting distracted along the way by two fantastic panaderias, Xelapan, as well as the Menninite run Bakeshop. I don´t know what it is about central america, but they know how to work the harina. Anyhow, once Sasha has sufficiently worked himself into a carb coma we took off to the market.
Minerva sprawls out onto the streets, it is loud, bustling and as every Guatemaltecca likes to remind us, peligroso. You can buy anything there, well within reason I suppose. I procured myself a market basket, and Sasha managed to discover a white bandanna in the piles of ropa Americana. It was a tough place to hang with the remnants of G.I. distress, raw meat and flies is not usually the most appetizing way to readjust to life after what I had experienced the previous night.
Friday afternoon I taught two english classes with Alexis from Tolouse to some very rowdy kids. We gave up on the first graders entirely and spent the hour reading them books like ¨go dog go¨and being crawled on. I thoroughly enjoyed myself.
Saturday was spent gathering ourselves up and taking off on the chicken bus to Pana. How to describe our night of the full moon in Pana might take pages. I befriended street artists while waiting for Patricia to check her email. We started drinking liters of gallo on the sidewalk and speaking in spanish to the motley crew of vendors, then transitioned to dancing to live spanish reggae, and drinking clos straight from the box. The night ended with a bonfire on the shores of Atìtlan. It was very hippy-traveler-bohemian.
So that is where I must leave you... evening meditation calls.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

gracias para aliens!

Well it is dia de gracias as it were . Just got back from a a shocking first encounter with the local take on American Malls. And I am pretty sure my body is having a second encounter with central american gastrointestinal aliens. But I wanted to say Happy Turkey day. Guatemala is a funny place to spend this holiday celebrating what turned out to be the decismation of entire cultures and the like. But it was an excuse to make stuffing, another story all to itself. It will come later. Pace!

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

¿que pasa en Xela?

Just got done with a bit of free yoga. Meaning that it costs nothing, not that it is some crazy wild guatemalan version of yoga. Things are so so busy, I´ve been biking up mountains to teach art, re-learning english (so I can teach it), watching movies about soccer playing prostitutes, all while attempting to learn a new language. The good news is that now I can speak in the present past and future, very slowly, but its getting better all the same.
On tuesday a group of us biked up to a little school in Candelaria to teach. During the pausa I played soccer with the little girls and I am pretty sure I have three new best friends. The bike ride out to the school is wild, you set off on the dusty roads of Xela, wind out onto the paved highway, and then take off into the maize fields. The school is located up the first part of Candelaria, an extinct volcanoe. The ride is tough, but the kids make it more than worth it, and the ride home is all down hill, thank god.
Tonight there is Andean music at the Che bar so I am going to dinner with the guate-fam and then head over there. I´m off, this girl´s got homework baby.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

it´s an adventure, not a vacation.

crazy tilapan perro
el centro de Tilapa
along the ride home
la lechuga del nahual

Well it is already tuesday, the week is flying by, but the weekend was such an adventure that it deserves a bit of an entry. Some of my friends from school were heading to Tilapa on the Pacific coast of Guate, and being that Xela is freezing it seemed like a great idea. I think all of us imagined clean white sand, teal waters, etc. The reality was a little different but incredibly entertaining. After spending most of saturday morning negotiating two chicken buses to Tilapa we found ourselves dumped in the middle of a tiny dusty town at two in the afternoon. All the residents witness to this seemed quite amused by the appearance of five gringos on their doorsteps. Our first interaction was a kid yelling, ¨gringo, take my picture,¨ as we walked to find somewhere to eat lunch. We ate local sea food, laughed at the bow legged squinty eyed dogs, and rehydrated with gallos. After cervesas and ceviche we felt ready to take on the task of procuring a place to sleep. Luckily only half a block from the empty place where we at lunch was an equally empty hotel. We dumped our stuff in the two rooms and headed to the beach.
From the end of town you walked across a rickety boardwalk suspended above the mangrove mud and pigs eating the garbage that had washed up there. Then we discovered that getting to the beach required a ride in a launcha something the guidebook had failed to mention. Never the less we found ourselves a lovely boat driver Lilliana who was our personal launcha driver for the rest of the weekend. Once at the beach we braved the rip tide and splashed about for a while, finally retiring to our towels for Guatemalan sangria and rum. At some point we agreed that it was best to think of this not as a vacation, but more as an adventure.
The night was spent playing cards, eating guate tacos, drinking gallo, and meeting the local kids. During one of our many card games a huge bug dive bombed our table. HUGE I tell you, I mean we´re talking tamale sized. The doña calmly removed it from our table and dumped it in the garbage. Loco.
Sunday we went for a launcha ride to see the mangroves with Lilliana, and then ate breakfast on the beach. As we were finishing our frijoles y tortillas an entire Evangelical congregation showed up and posted themselves at the next palapa over. After a enjoying a couple of their hymns I took of with Sasha to build a sand castle. Being that we were the only gringos on the beach and building a sand castle we attracted quite a crowd. A theme that continued into the afternoon with collecting sea snails. The highlight of our time at the beach was witnessing the baptism of five of the members of the congregation. The whole group was standing in the sea, calf deep in water, singing with the band, while the preacher walked people out into the waves in his shirt and tie. Once waist deep the preacher would dunk his new convert and the band would start up with a new song. It was fascinating.
Getting back to Xela was another five hours on the chicken bus, including a three course meal procured solely from vendors that borded the bus. Good times.

Friday, November 9, 2007

teacher, teacher!

Some of the ninos at Manos de Color.
Well my first week of classes/volunteering has ended. My belly is full of post-nino choco banano {we have discovered chocolate heals all wounds} and my hands are covered in oil paint clear indications that it has been a busy week.
I had my first experiences with the ninos this week when I attempted to teach art in Spanish. It was wild! Teaching when you speak Spanish at best like a two year old is a challenge, but the kids eventually got the point and got down to business. I was blown away by how hard some of the kids worked, I'm used to kids needing ten pieces of paper a class. Here it took kids close to an hour to fill up a half sheet of paper. The art was really inspiring, so different from what I am used to. The first day they drew their favorite place in Xela, the results were amazing. As good as the art was I will admit that the best part of teaching is at the end of class when a the kids come and kiss you on the cheek, a Guatemalan tradition.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

¿espeaka espanish?

So I am back in school, learning the ways from my main man, Juan Ramone. Good thing too, because being limited to the present tense was wearing on me. The past tense is great because now I can tell stories all I want, and apparently Juan-ra (as his friends call him) and I are match made in heaven because he loves to talk too.
You can check out more recent photos at the link below.
Facebook is the easiest thing to load them onto:

Sunday, November 4, 2007

lakes, kites, vino!

So, photos y´all!
They are as follow...
Little miss Gem standing in front of a huge día de los muertos kite. Dock looking out on Atítlan, woman carrying balls at the kite festival.

Things are good here, I´m now in Xela after a whirlwind week of kite festivaling, diving, and yoga. The kite festival has something to do with welcoming the spirits back to earth on día de los muertos. We couldn´t get a great description from anyone, but it was an amazing experience. I met some ¨locals¨ from ¨the lake¨ who invited me to go see the kites in Santiago. We took a three hour ride in a shuttle from Panajatchel to a town outside of Santiago. The festival was held in a dusty field filled with Guatemaltecas and the occasional gringo. Groups had constructed the kites on frames of bamboo entirely of glue and tissue paper. The largest had to be about sixty feet tall and all were designed around different themes. For expample in the picture the one I am standing in front of is about preserving maya traditions. Around three in the afternoon they started launching them into the sky with varying results. I only saw the Gallo beer kite stay in the air for more than a minute. The next closest attempt disengrated after three minutes in the air, leaving only the bamboo frame to come crashing back to earth. We left the festival early so as not to miss the last launcha back to Santa Cruz, but the ride home was almost as entertaining, watching all the niños fly kites across the guatemalan landscape and laughing at my driver.
The next day, post yoga, I went for a dive in lake Atítlan which was murky but successful, even though I still haven´t figured out boyancy in fresh water. It was cool to do a fresh water dive and at altitude none the less, plus the whole experience was a whopping $25 dollars. My budget can live with that.
Yesterday I took the chicken bus to Xela with Todd a friend I made in Santa Cruz. We arrived in the early afternoon and spent most of the daylight hours hiking around the city looking for spanish schools and places to stay. After two and half hours of hiking with our packs we ended up staying at the first place we looked at. Classic. The good thing was we got a sense of the city´s layout and knew we were getting a good deal on our room.
In our walking we found out that Xelaju, the local soccer team was playing that night. So last night was spent freezing our asses off at the local estadium. The whole thing was really entertaining, my vocabulary of spanish swear words has increased exponentially, and I am far more familiar with different central american fireworks. Xela won 2 to 1 with a penalty kick, it was awesome. The only sad part was that this weekend, being election weekend, no alcohol can be served. So Todd and I have plans to return to a wet game and check out the scene then. Should be cool.
Today the highlight has been drinking contraband wine out of a coffee cup at lunch. Wild times.
I start language school in the morning, wish me luck.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

chicken bus, guate shteeze

Well my friends, I have arrived. Well, arrived in Guatemala, which makes me happy because I am sick of forgetting what country I am in. And I am sick of trying to remember what to call things, regional Espanish has been kicking my ass.
I am now in San Marcos, on the shores of Lake Atítlan. Where I am warned it is very hard to leave.
I came by chicken bus, crammed in with my knees pressing on the seat in front of me, making faces at the little kids in front of me, crowded by women wearing indigenous textiles alive with flowers and animals. We were held up by construction for an hour during which another ten vendors loaded themselves on to the bus with fruta, papas fritas, agua pura, a veritable market marching down the aisle of the bus that was already full of people. Finally I was dropped off at high speeds at the cross roads of two highways only to find out that I had two more buses to take. On the bus to Solola I met a local who hable ingles and appointed himself as my guide to getting to Pana.
I only saw Solola at the beginnings of sunset, long light hitting the cathedral, woman grilling corn on the corner next to our bus. Then we rolled down the hill to Atítlan, the volcanoes swinging in and out of view, wearing scarves of orange clouds. The hills painted in various shades of gray blues carving silhouettes on the horizon. I jumped off in the middle of Panajachel and wandered down the street lined by vendors selling an infinite number of same same but different crafts. And I was finally, thirteen hours after leaving San Salvador, on the shores of Atítlan.
Yesterday I suffered through a bumpy boat ride to San Marcos, the spiritual center of Atítlan, where I now reside, at least for another day.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

vacas, límon, y maize

Overland travel has its perks that aren´t solely limited to sweaty knee pits. Take today for example. I bid my peace corps homies good bye and set off on my way to San Salvador. I took a chicken bus to the border full of Honduran and not a single gringo besides myself. This meant the flavors of Honduras were going full force. We had to avoid a herd of cattle being led down the roadby a man with a red flag, everyone was drinking little plastic bags of water (that is how they roll here) and I got to check out the local scenery (lots of hills and laundry drying in the sun). The border crossing at Amatillo was my favorite yet. El Salvador, Nicaragua, Honduras, and Guatemala have some agreement E.U. styles where you only have to go through customs once. So I strolled across the no man´s land bridge and right into El Salvador. I did have a pleasant conversation with a customs official who wanted to make sure I knew I needed to leave within three months of entering, but other than being harassed to change my lempiras to dollars it was a mellow country change.
Once in El Sav I jumped on the bus headed to Santa Rosa de Lima where I was told I could catch a ¨direct¨ bus to San Salvador. This bus had a tv mounted above the driver in the front and was blaring music videos at full force. The last man to board the bus had bags and bags filled with limes, the whole bus smelled of the them which was lovely until we hit a truck filled with corn. First off I want to say that from my limited experience I am pretty sure that all El Salvadorian bus drivers think they are f-1 racers. We were cruising along at top speed and ran straight into the back of a pickup filled with corn plants. Everyone on the bus had their heads hanging out the window to check out the damage, and within seconds were bailing from the bus like it was sinking. I followed their lead and joined the crowd on the street. Within a minute a hilux truck pulled up and the driver started yelling, ¨¿Santa Rosa?¨at all of us, so I along with límon man piled in the bed and went racing off to Santa Rosa, which was good because I just made the bust to San Salvador. The límon man ended up having to pay the truck driver in limes because he wouldn´t take lempiras which made all of us except the driver laugh. And then I was on my way to San Salvador on a bus that stank of windsheild fluid and oil.
The bus ride was a bit wild, we wound through hills covered with corn at speeds where it felt like the bus was going to tip over. I kept knodding off much to the amusment of my new friend ¨Sabado,¨well at least I think that´s what his name is. Sabby is a vaquero, I know this because he stuck up his pointer fingers as horns and mooed at me. I said, ¨¿vacas?¨and he said, ¨sí, bacas.¨ And then he asked me I liked to drink beer and if I wanted to get a hotel with him. I said, ¨No,¨ and then spent the rest of the ride staring out the window. Gringas are supposed to be easy didn´t you know that?
Anyways now I have my own room with no cowboy and I am going to try and obtain some El Salvadorian pupusas for dinner. I tried the southern Honduran version, ¨¡que rico!¨ right eva?

Friday, October 26, 2007

san lo y el cuerpo de paz

What have I been getting my self into? Well, Mc Gyvering up some Thai curry for my peace corps friends, watching Honduran soldiers learn how to use condoms, reading the enlightening book ¨Mongo¨, eating local Mangrove clams dug out of the mud by peasents and plotting on mercy killings for the local street dogs. That has all been punctuated by washing my clothes and dishes in Kyle´s almost empty pila and taking bucket showers. So it goes in San Lo.
I have been enjoying my days here, it has given me perspective on the life of Peace corps volunteers, and life in regular non-traveler gringofied Honduras.
San Lorenzo is the main port for Honduras, it is set back from the Pacific protected from the coastal weather by chains of mangrove islands. From the waterfront you can see two volcanoes, the names of which escape me. Views of volcáns at sunset, the moon coming up over the horizon as big as a dinner plate, lush hills with backgrounds of photo worthy clouds, it is pretty beautiful down here.
Kyle has been touring me around the place on foot mostly, though we took a chicken bus (an old bluebird school bus that has been re-born in central america to drag whoever and whatever they are carrying to various locales) out to the local military base. We walked the hour back into town along the Panamerican highway. Things like walking along the highway are, I am coming to learn, some of my favorite parts of traveling. They are unexpected and somewhat mundane, and yet suprisingly satifsying. You see more at walking speed, swarms of swirling vultures above town, the old sugar factory, getting to watch the new shipment of toyotas roll down the road headed to the capital. Along the way we took a break under a big acacia and talked for a while, just to get a break from the heat.
Where I am off to next is up for debate especially as I am now down my only pair of closed toe shoes. I sacraficed my new keens to the Tica bus, a sad sad relization. Traveling is a constant lesson in not getting too attached to your earthly possessions.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

¿donde estoy?

So my fair and dedicated readers. I am now in San Lo(renzo), Honduras which is in the southern part of the country sandwiched between El Salvador and Nicaragua. How did I get here? The long and short of it is the tica bus, but the long of it is where the story lies my friends.
My last full day in Granada I spent mostly going to, walking around, and getting home from the markets in Masaya. I headed off on my own, and doing as I do got there with no real sense of where exactly the markets are in the town. Masaya is home to two markets, the local Munincipal market, and the Market Viejo, which means that they sell tourist toot. I found the Munincipal market first, which was overwhelming, muddy, loud, filled with bananas and people. It was so chaotic and busy that I could barely stand it. I´m sure some neo-zen buddhist in some stoned stupor might come up with Masaya Market Meditation, where one focuses on finding their center in the middle of the munincipal market. It is a lesson in semi-organized chaos. Beautiful in its own right, but not the type of place one feels comfortable pulling out a camera and taking photos. Carts were stacked with melons, pithaya, oranges, limes, people were selling underwear from baskets, carts were filled with pirated dvds. The low-ceilinged and leaky back side is occupied by the artesians, shoe makers, hammock sellers, and Nicas selling guatemalan textiles.
After purchasing a pair of leather chancletas (sandals, see Carlos´spanish lessons are coming in handy) for 75 cordoba I headed down the road to the toot market. The Market Viejo is located in something that looks not unlike a decaying fortress of some kind. It is chock full of same-same but different crafts, cheap t-shirts, corona bottles with their necks stretched out (i´m not sure how you would ever get one of those home), all the usual tourist necessities.
That evening after a dinner of Mexican, I settled into bed only to be awoken at four in the morning to Aliens taking over my g.i. system. After an early morning of emptying my body of any last vestiges of food or liquid I managed to pack and drag my sorry self to Nicaragua´s capital, Managua. My plan, which has miraculously worked, was to take the Tica bus from there to San Lorenzo the next morning. I spent the afternoon in Managua hiding from the heat and rolling blackouts in the Interplaza, which is a huge american mall. I watched a movie in an empty theater with two teenage nicas, and then rolled home to a night of sleep set to thunderstorms.
Tuesday morning, only 24 hours after my alien encounter I boarded the Tica bus to Honduras. The ride was gorgeous, jewel green hills and valleys swathed in gray fog; huge clouds stacked up over volcanoes; cows and donkeys munching on grass in wide fields. The ride was easy and I got dropped off right outside of town. Now I am crashing with a friend of Mandy´s and getting to experience a bit of Hoduras that is not on traveler path, my favorite.
Off to watch my new friend Kyle make pizza dough.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

las isletas

view from Isla San Pablo, Isleta chickens, lunch
Las Isletas, Nicaragua
What a day friends, what a day. Granada has been a fun place to start off my travels alone. Every single Nica man wants to know if I am traveling alone, to which I tell them,¨sí.¨ Being alone has the advantage that people seem more comfortable talking to you, which has lead to some funny interactions including having a texan call me,¨babe.¨
Last night I went to dinner with a pack of gringas who teach english in Heredia, CR. A local tour guide told us about a concert going on down the road at Café Nuit. The band was a Nica group called Sacasa that plays an infectious combination of salsa, rock, and blues. They were playing at a beautiful little bar all lit up by candles, heaving with locals and travelers.
Today has been taken up by a tour of the locals isletas down on Lake Nicaragua. It was an adventure full of rainy bike rides, caca on the stairs, monkeys, turkeys, and ducks. Check out the photos.

Friday, October 19, 2007

the solo roll

What? Have I turned into a new kind of norimake? No no, I am just off on new adventures, which means traveling alone. The good thing about this is that now I can talk to strangers in two languages and no one is around to give me funny looks about being overly friendly. Not to worry I am sticking with Uncle John´s rule of travel:
If you find yourself in a place where there are no women or children around you should get out of there.
That being said I have heard that some of the most skilled pickpockets down here are women.

I started friday with some epic emailing and skyping, working on big plans. When I finally emerged from the hostel it was already the afternoon. The day was bustling in full force out on the streets, pop music playing, street dogs sniffing, people selling drinks in bags, all that gritty stuff that is hard to find in the states. Granada is gorgeous. Lots of pastels, with white accents, little tile faceplates with building names and history written on them. Some man made fun of me today for taking this picture of the ¨Casa Marin¨sign, but I just couldn´t help myself.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

That´s a beautiful state!

Just got back from my first meal in Nicaragua which was appropriately Mexican food. I took the bus from San Jose this morning to Granada which was eight hours of watching the dubbed version of ´look whose talking´and acting like a narcoleptic passing out. I met two gringas on the bus headed to the same hostel so we walked into town together. I´m staying at a nice hostel with of all fabulous things, a pool.
The big road block in today has been discovering that it may not work out for me to volunteer in Xela, so I am back at the drawing board trying to figure out what to do with myself. Many plans are in the works, and you will be updated just as soon as I know where the winds will take me.
After scheming on the internet for an hour or so I headed out to dinner with the gringas. Granada´s architecture maybe one of the few reasons to feel okay about colonialism, that and the baguettes in Vietnam . The city is centered on a square that is all domes and façades. Quite lovely in the evening, and a huge step up from San Jose´s cement boxes. We ate dinner at Puerto Tequila, a gringofied establishment that serves mean margaritas. During dinner drummers and two dancers, one dressed up not unlike a bobble head and the other like a twelve foot tall drag queen harassed us for money. When I say harassed I mean that they performed three times right in front of us at volume levels that would have made Mandy´s ears bleed and then asked us for a donation for their performance. I know that right now that this story a. needs a picture to accompany it, and b. makes me sound like a mean person. But drumming loudly and tired gringa just don´t mix well. Then a local Nica man appeared at our table who wanted to talk to us about the United States and quiz us on every state. It was a rough evening for my brain. He would say things like, ¨new hersey, that place is full of crazy son of bitches.¨ It was the kind of interaction you can only have in Nicaragua while eating mexican food on the street.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

the reality of traveling

Always my intent with emailing, writing, blogging, drawing, etc. whilst on the road is to some how convey or express the abundance of unexpected beauty that exists in this world. I often find myself feeling torn between just being in the moment and also wanting to some how preserve those moments especially to share. It is tough in any given day so many bizarre interactions and moments occur there is absolutley no way to convey them all. I consider Paul Theroux and his unbelievable accounts of riding the trains through Asia. His ability to remember in detail conversations and tiny anecdotes. The prospect of trying to emulate that is overwhelming.
What has happened today and yesterday, the smells, the tastes, the feelings of it all. How can I explain how San Jose smells in the rain? How Soma´s Gallo Pinto tastes?

Today we ate breakfast with a friend of Eva´s at Q Cafe, a place that is clearly catering to foreigners with its color palatte, menu and lighting scheme. We spent four hours talking about all the important things two gringas and a british 16 year old would talk about: various government structures, why English milk might be the best in the world, crazy tico stereotypes, you know all the standard stuff.
After the epic breakfast Eva and I took off for the Tica bus terminal to get my ticket changed to tomorrow, and to include a stop in Granada. San Jose will be down to one Charlie´s angel starting thursday.
The whole bus ticket situation is pretty much indicitive of how things work here. Eva had bought the ticket for me so that I could get into the country. Knowing that we would have to change the dates we had made sure that this was possible by checking the website and even further had been confirmed by one of the employees when we called earlier this week. What they failed to mention, until we showed up last night, is that there is only one man imbued with the magical powers to change bus tickets. And last night that man was at home, probably eating a warm dinner as the rain fell over a dark San Jose. So this morning we returned to meet the man and change the ticket. But was the man there? Of course not, somehow we managed to show up on his lunch break, so it was another twenty minutes before he was back at the desk ready to make things happen. I will give the tica bus people credit for something, the magic ticket changing man speaks flawless english, I mean near perfect with no accent. Which when you are me, hacking scentences together or just staying silent entirely so that Eva can figure shit out, having an English speaker makes your day. To get the ticket we needed a copy of my passport, which luckily could be procured across the street from Victor a Swede who runs a chop shop with a photocopier. He gave Eva and I his card with a calendar conveniently printed on the back. When we returned my magic bus man said something about how Victor holds everybody up because he loves to talk and then got to the important business of asking me if I was single, for ticket purposes of course.
See all that and it was barely two o´clock, which only explains why this whole blog/travel/me being my crazy self in a foreign country takes a lot of words blog entries, postcards and pages in my journal to expalin. If only someone would pay me to write about it all. sigh.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

las gringas versus Puerto Viejo

So Bocas was grand, I am not sure I made that clear on the last entry, and I would wax on about it, but way too much ridiculousness went down on Friday so we'll have to skip playing international guess-who and hanging out at the Super Gourmet.
Kerri left Friday morning to head back to SJ, leaving us again as one Panamanian put it, "charlie's angels." We had breakfast at Lili's Killing Me Man sauce, and discussed Al Gore's Nobel Peace Prize over fruit and coffees. Then we did some panamanian bargaining with a very confused man, and headed back to pack.
After a sweaty border crossing which did include some wild ferry dancing, as well as a frenzied sprint to the pharmacy to buy bus tickets to Nicaragua and to print out flight itineraries so that we could all get back into Costa Rica, we were confronted with a choice: to kick it in the lovely border town of Sixaola with the orange juice man or to pay a man to drive us in his bob marley taxi to Puerto Viejo. We opted for the taxi, in which also a piled a belgian, another american, and Fernando a tico who organizes Karoke contests. At one point while riding in the Bob Marley taxi, so named as it was covered in Bob paraphenilia, the Belgian asked, ´who sings this song?´ Now I am not going to judge people on normal music trivia, but as the said vehicle we were riding in was covered in Bob´s face and as Bob´s music is known the world over for being played in every costal laid back stoner town I was taken slightly aback. This was only increased when the other American in the car gave pause to consider who might be singing. I am not judging, I swear, just reporting this event to you with total objectivity.
This anecdote really has no purpose in this post, what is far more important is what followed our departure from our reggae ride.
This series of events has been named, ¨the day I sweat my body weight walking around Puerto Viejo¨or ¨the day of no vacancy.¨
For those of you lucky enough to remember stories of, or if you are really lucky maybe even experienced Krabi pants, let me tell you what occurred in Puerto Viejo makes that pale in comparison. To keep your interest I will boil it down to it´s most important parts:
Rolling into town on the friday of a long holiday weekend.
Realizing that not only was monday a holiday, but that there was also a huge bike race going on concurrently.
Wandering down the main dusty ass road in mid-day heat looking for lodging for four hours which included encounters with:
  • Mr. Rogers from EarandNosehair
  • One tooth, the weaver, who had two beds, and two hammocks for us to sleep in.
  • Mr. Vermont the owner of Kaya a hostel that has more dust than occupants
  • Some famous Gringo surfer who was sleeping on his hostel´s reception counter.
I am quickly realizing that no matter how talented a writer I might think I am I will never contain the ridiculousness of this day.
Some how we managed to get a nice room for one night. After showering which was much needed, and dropping off our four kilos of laundry we went to eat dinner. Soma, Eva´s friend, and his friend, Herman showed up with Pilsen in hand so we formed a plan that included Guaro, nasty local rum, and headed for the local Super. What follows is a little hazy as it involved Ticos, Chong, Guaro, Fumamos, and a long dusty walk home with Platanos in hand.
The day ended with the following score:
Gringas-- 0 Puerto Viejo-- tome chi chi.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

more from panama

Post boat ride we ate Sushi at Blow Fish and headed home for an early night. But not before meeting two texans who consider Thai food to be pineapple fried rice. Back at Las Brisas I headed out to the back porch for some journal writing, and ended up staying up late talking to Susanna, from Holland. She has been traveling with her husband and two kids for the last 2 and a half years. We talked about values, why people say they can´t travel, and how the way a lot of us feel forced to live isn´t in line with how we want to be in the world. Deep stuff all while looking out onto the carribean.
We woke up the next day and headed to Lili's Killing Me Man Sauce for breakfast. We sat on the back porch right next to the water and got so hot waiting for breakfast that Mandy and I stripped down to our bathing suits and jumped right in the water. Lili's is two places down from a fancy hotel with a water slide that we swam over to and slide down. Mandy burned the crap out of her butt cheeks but it was awesome. By the time we were out of the water breakfast was on the table. Hard life I am telling you . After eating we headed off to Isla Bastimentos, to Playa Wizard. There was no one on the whole stretch of beach except for the skinny dipping care taker at the far end who I think we scared the crap out of when we came tromping down. We settled in and got to tanning and swimming until we were absolutley toasty and dehydrated. Then we hiked back down the beach across the island and into the pueblo. Isla Colon which we were staying on is very sanitized for tourists, other than seeing men passed out on the tables of the Local's bar it is very gringofied. Bastimientos is not, there are chickens, tons of street dogs, cock fights, tvs blaring, people yelling (i have never heard more f-bombs dropped) and the coldest beers and coca-cola you can find. After crack house sight seeing we sat and drank cold beverages and waited for our boat man.
That night we wandered the streets looking for an appropriate place to eat dinner. Some locals suggested Olga's where they serve typical Panamanian food. Well at least I think it is typical, but it is the only Panamanian food I ate. We all were reminded of Otis' O.K. Corral in Seattle, and the food was really good. While we were eating a huge huge huge thunder storm started up, filling the roads with water. After a sprint home in the rain we spent most of the evening watching the best lightening I´ve ever seen from our back porch. Eva´s got some sweet photos. They will come soon.

tome chi chi!

Well shit, it has been a few days hasn´t it? So now I´ll have to settle for updates rather than some drawn out stories.

Monday morning we rose at the ridiculous hour of 4:45 to make the 6 am bus to Sixaola to get to Panama. Met Kerri there, enjoyed a delicious pastry filled with what must have been filidelfia (cream cheese) and a milkbox (like a juice box, but with cow juice). Long bus ride followed. Walked across the railroad bridge that connects Costa Rica to Panama, then had my first encounter with a Panamanian Chinese restraunt. Almost vomited in their bathroom because of the smell, then jumped in the taxi van where my ears were assaulted by panamanian radio commercials. Ate Rambutan and ferry station and watched bad t.v. while waiting for said boat. Then it was off to Bocas Del Toro. Upon arrival we ate at Lemongrass, thai food for people who are scared of thai food, and drank Panamanian beer. Played in the gringo hostel lottery, walked all over town, finally settling on the funky funky las brisas, and its floating back porch.

Martini monday at Mondo Taitu, met some canadians, drank vodka and cranberry with my toes in the carribean. Soberly wandered the streets with Mandy and Eva. Bed.

Woke up. Breakfast at the Golden Grill, where one can get coffe and a doughnut for 85 cents. Bought things for lunch, met our personal boat ride tout at the super and walked to the boat. Met Patriçia from Quebec, hopped on boat, drove boat to pick up Paul the asshole canadian, drove boat to pick up Kevin a teacher in Peru from Mass, drove boat to get gas, drove boat to drop off gas, drove boat to dolphins. Sat and watched dolphins in water, then watched people try to take picture of said dolphins. Realized that french seatmate has a Nikon D70 that he only uses on automatic setting. Drove boat to Zapatilla abandoned island where Survivor Panama happened. Walked down the beach to find our own spot, got followed by most of our boat mates. Sunscreened, tanned, swam, napped, swam, took ridiculous pictures in the water, walked back to boat. Talked to cruise ship guests who weren´t sure what city they had flown into or what country they were in (apparently if you are rich you don´t need to think) and remembered that I am way happier paying $6 a night even though I am convinced I am going to be killed by our ceiling fan. Went to overplaced lunch place, ate our budget supermarket lunch rather than paying to be fed. Fed the fish, made fun of Paul the canadian. Got back in boat. Snorkled. Swallowed half the carribean clearing my snorkle, diving down to see a huge urchin and to play with christmas tree anemones. Boat ride back home to our hotel´s private dock.

No time to edit don´t judge me on spelling, these central am keyboards are a bitch. Lunch time, I´ll edit and add later. Besos.

Sunday, October 7, 2007
Eva was published today in La Nacion's sunday magazine Proa. If the link doesn't work still go check it out and see her photos. I tried reading the article, but it is in spanish, and therefor challenging to read, but worth it.
Oh and the ticos are voting on the CAFTA referendum today so be sure to check out the results, the nyt should have something about it all.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

urban hiking costa steeze

So some of you may have been around for stories of my last crap hiking adventure in a foreign country aka, ¨forced march through Vietnamese jungle.¨ Today would be entitled ¨manuel antonio is overrated.¨ I really try not to get down on incredibly disappointing national park experiences but man when you can hike through the jungle in Havianas you are not my friend, hiking. The upside was we got to hang with Emiliano and Carlo again. Carlo, being a friendly Italian and after living in Manuel Antonio for 15 years, knows everybody. ¨Che cosa fai?¨gets yelled at everybody he knows and that is just about everybody who isn´t wearing white tennis shoes or black socks. He was a great tour guide, pointing out a small alligator, capuchin monkeys, and finally two, not one, but two sloths. Mandy was beside herself in giggles. It was in a word, awesome. The hiking out to the vista point, aside from the wildlife was underwhelming, I´ve gone on urban hikes in Seattle that have gotten me more excited.
After kicking it on the park´s playa and watching the local racoons and monkeys run off with people´s belongings we left the park and headed for sandier pastures. Mandy and I spent most of this afternoon sitting under an umbrella being served by our cabana boy. We´re on vacation, or at least Mandy is, and I figured we better start acting like it.
So it ended up being a good day. I am a little disenchanted with this national park thing, but I prefer that to the place being razed for condos, which appears to be the fate of much of this small country´s coast line.

international uno

After a ridiculous 12 hours of bus travel we finally arrived in a very wet Manuel Antonio last night to visit Eva´s Argentine friend, Emiliano. Regardless of the long day traveling, which I mostly slept through, last night ended up being one of the most enjoyable we´ve had here. Upon arrival we were informed, much to Mandy´s excitement, that we could do laundry with a washer and dryer. It was decided that we would make dinner and buy laundry soap, so the group of us set off in the rain to the local super. I dig on foreign markets, there is always a lot of weird shit to stare at. Buying laundry soap was overwhelming for me as there are about a hundred to choose from and all of them have labels written in espanish. I left that important job to Mandy. The rest of us were left to choose what to make for dinner. That morning in La Nacion, Costa´s big newspaper, we had read that they are attempting to raise egg consumption in the country, so in support we decided to make huevos for dinner.
Back at the ranch Emiliano bailed on us for soccer and left us to make dinner, do laundry and shower the mud from the road off. Upon his return things digressed into drinking rum and cokes and upon Carlos´arrival playing the uno.
So apparently Uno is big in Utah, because Grace had all sorts of crazy add-on rules that had to be explained first in english and then translated to spanish. The one that made everyone nuts was doubling down, which resulted in much yelling as the evening progressed. After three games everyone was pooped from laughing so hard and we ended the evening watching movies on Emiliano´s computer of his friends throwing each other in the mud.

Friday, October 5, 2007

chao nicoya penninsula

Miss Eva is famoso, well one of her pictures is:
check it out.
I'm sitting at an outside internet cafe listening to salsa and digesting gallo pinto and natilla. bueno. We just arrived in Puntarenas waiting for our bus to Manuel Antonio to visit a friend of Eva's and check out the national park.
We left Mal Pais this morning after having an international time hanging at Tranquilo Backpackers. That place was full of characters including but not limited to: a tico version of cheech and chong, german boys who enjoy building sand castles, aregentines with whom to drink hot mate on the beach, gary and randy a british and an american duo who were either surfing, drinking or watching surfing movies, and finally two frogs who smoked as much as they surfed. The four gringas brought some feminine flavor to the party, but as Eva pointed out we probably would have triumphed in an arm wrestling competition.
It's always a little sad to leave a fun collection of travelers, but we've to places to see.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

wild life

We spent the last three-ish days in Montezuma, which is a small coastal town on the pacific coast. On our first full day there we took a boat ride out to isla tortuga. We got to snorkle around a little islet right off the coast, but it is the rainy season so the visibility was bad and there was only so much to see. Luckily the beach on the island was nice and we scored a sunny day. Rather than ride the boat back from the snorkle site to the beach Mandy, Grace, and I decided to swim back. It was FAR. I was glad we had fins. This is a moment where a picture to show you how far we swam would be appropos but the internet here isn't up to adventures like that.
The whole chilling on sparsley populated island on white sand under palm trees was thrilling but things started to get really good on the boat ride back. First we saw some sea turtles mating in the open ocean. They were incredible looking and some of my favorite animals so I was more than stoked. And then not five minutes later our boat captain pointed out the spray coming from some humpback whales. We spent the next half an hour watching them surface and even saw one of their flukes. I tried to share all my "wonderful whales" knowledge that I learned this summer with the kids at the Marine Mammal Center with my boatmates. I'm sure they were impressed, just deep down inside.
We landed and went in search of Eva who was due in Montezuma on the 4:30 bus, but she was no where to be found. Showers and low blood sugar at the internet cafe followed and just as we were heading to dinner Eva showed up on the 6:30 bus. She knew of a good pizza joint where we got down with some bomb pizza cooked up by a colombian family. Then it was internet and off to bed for an early evening.
Today has been waterfalls, walk to the beach, taxi to Mal Pais, email, and long hours on the beach under beautiful clouds. Good stuff. Might try to learn to surf tomorrow and goal is no BLOG. I'm addicted.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Montezuma´s Revenge

I love that the morning that I wake up to go to a place called Motezuma my stomach starts acting up. Nothing a coke couldn't solve, but made me laugh all the same.

So Mandy and I bailed on the city and headed out to the Pacific coast. We had a little bit of a timing issue with buses, but people are pretty helpful here and we managed ok. Two knee bruising hours later we arrived in Puntarenas to catch a ferry to the Nicoya Penninsula. Mandy and I started walking the 2km to the ferry but some how got strong armed in to a taxi by a tico taxi driver, which was good as we only just made the ferry. Eva had described the ferry as ¨bainbridge-like.¨ I am guessing she must have rode it on a glass flat day because what we experienced was far from the mellow ride from seattle to that fair island. We were rocking over 7 foot swells, sitting on the rooftop watching tico couples make out and dance to salsa. Not your typical Bainbridge commuter ferry experience.
Along the way we picked up a like-minded soul, Grace, who hails from the glorious state of Utah. She joined us on the bus ride to Motezuma and for a late lunch when we finally arrived. After a couple of low blood sugar induced bad decisions I am now a firm believer that one should never make important decisions on an empty stomach, and as all I had eaten that day was some fluffy bread and a coke, food was on my mind before shelter. Post-casados I was harangued into checking out a room by a very persistent tica, which being beach front and $30/night wasn't Kecil steeze but was pretty sweet. My one complaint is the swamp bathroom, something I thought I had left in Asia.
After settling in we headed down the beach to check out the scene. There are huge rocky outcroppings interspersed along the beach. We hiked out onto one larger one and started checking out the tidepools as a larger set of waves started coming in. As one large one headed towards the shore Grace warned me, but I was being stubborn and figured it wouldn't come in that far. As this is a story about me I am sure you can imagine what might have happened. Much to Mandy's delight I was covered from head to toe with a wall of sea spray. She has a photo to prove it, not a flattering one but documentation all the same. After that we wandered back into town to check out all the thai goods the locals sell at US prices and then went out to dinner.
And that my friends was my yesterday.

no tlc!

Eva has been working on a huge campaign against CAFTA in Costa. And on last Sunday there was a huge march against it, but in CR, CAFTA is TLC, hence the post name. I am pretty sure the last political march I participated in was an AIDS parade in SF, I got to man a bubble gun. This was a little different, but no less colorful. Eva asked me to describe the experience in three words, they follow: energetic, inspiring....... and ¨well, really inspiring.¨ Much to Eva and Mandy´s amusement I had said the same word twice and I genuinely meant it both times. One of the main roads in San Jose was full of people. An old man looked at me as we came around this huge bend and saw just how many people were there and in Spanish he said, ¨I have goosebumps.¨I did too.
Eva said, and I agree, if you knew nothing about CAFTA, but you saw that the people against it were the mariachis, women, environmentalists, college kids, and pueblos you would know what side to vote for.
They vote this Sunday, so send some good energy south.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

el bus, el camión, el bus

Being what I call, ¨in transit,¨is hard. On travel days I usually end up missing a meal, with neck cramps, and in a general state of crankiness. Just ask Mandy because yesterday was one of those days. We woke up at 5:30 am, also known as way too early, packed and headed up to the bus station. Breakfast was milk and coconut bread that was so dry that to avoid instant dry mouth it had to be consumed concurrently with a sip of milk.
Once on the bus Eva announced excitedly that the seats reclined. Being five foot ten, which is giant in Costa Rica means that reclining seats directly translates to English as, ¨uncomfortable bus ride.¨These ones were especially bad, they were the kind that slide the rest of your seat forward as you recline, further reducing the space between your knees and the seat in front of you. This fact was combined with bus exhaust pouring in the windows as the bus driver collected the tickets. These moments are the times in traveling that make you go to your happy zen buddhist place and try to meditate on how friggin´great it is to be in Costa Rica.
Once we got going the breeze and moutain views put me right to sleep. The ride was totally beautiful, looking down into jade green valleys, brahma cows, and huge tendrils of clouds spilling over ridges. The roads were another thing all together, we were pretty much four wheeling on a huge tour bus. I mean dirt roads with rocks + huge ass bus seems like a bad combo, not unlike cheese and chocolate. And it turns out it is.
At some random jungle bus stop our bus driver managed to break the axel of one of the back tires. And rather than announcing any sort of formal plan he abandons all of us and takes off in a truck. Luckily Eva, she espeakas the espanish, otherwise all of us would have been how the french say it, le fucked. Some how we decided that rather than wait for the next bus to come and save us we would take matters into our own hands, cue the mobile disco. So we hiked our selves up the road a bit and stuck our thumb out at the first vehicle to come along, which was a truck with two ticos. Suddenly a man with the most shocking butt crack/paisley man thong combination is throwing our packs into the back of this truck. Eva tells us that Mandy is going to have to sit on my lap, while she straddles the e-brake. Turns out our two new amigos are owners of a mobile disco and are both extremely polite, friendly, and a fantastic comedy team. Eva is keeping the conversation going in both languages while Mandy is trying to avoid a concussion from the ceiling of the truck. The hour we spent sweating on each other while crammed in the tiny cab was totally worth the fact that as we stood waiting for the next bus to San Jose we saw the bus that we should have been on fly by filled with our old comrades. What I am willing to sacrafice in the name of a good travelogue.
I´ll catch you up on political marches, mimes, and costa rican farmers markets next time.

choco-queso en el bosque nuboso

Woo wee, I strong armed my way to an internet cafe so that I wouldn´t get too far behind on what is happening down this way, because things are doing just that, happening.
So I left off on our trip to the cloud forest, which is going to have to get short shrift, which I feel a little bad about. Our bus ride out was pretty unremarkable until we had to stop so that our bus driver could fill in a huge pothole that might have otherwise swallowed the bus. We arrived in Santa Elena which has the simple mountain town vibe, ala Cameron Highlands, Truckee, and you know, Aspen... ok well maybe not Aspen. Anyhow we had somehow settled on a place called Casa Tranquilo as our ¨the¨ place to stay. We wandered down there checked out the rooms which were very ¨frontier rustic.¨ As we settled in Eva read to us from ¨the book¨ (our nickname for the lonely planet costa rica) and we found ourselves overwhelmed by dinner options. After some discussion, which was really just getting distracted from the task at hand, we chose not the Super Pollo numero dos (our next door neighbor), but Morphos. Morphos serves gringofied casados at gringo prices.
Thursday was spent meeting our neighbor Roy, a crazy tico, hiking up to Monte Verde and seeing the cheese factory. Thursday also included our discovery of choco-queso. Monte Verde is famoso for their queso. Roy said that the factory was a. not up hill and b. only 15-20 minutes away. Roy must be crazy because it is a. up a huge ass hill and b. took us at least an hour to get to (and I am not including our stop for banana cheese bread). That being said the walk was entertaining as walking on roads in foreign countries often is.
When we arrived at the cheese factory we found out that they had no more cheese samples. I´m not going to complain about that too much, but it was pretty disappointing after such a long walk. Needless to say we didn´t spend too much time at the factory, after watching them stir the curds, and staring at the choco-queso we headed back down the road in search of greener pastures.
Back in Santa Elena we stalked up on essentials: galletas, beets, avacados, choco-queso. I guess now is the time to explain the bizarre cheese obsession. That morning while reading La Nacion we discovered an ad for the cheese in question. I´m not sure that I would have ever contemplated combining the two, but some crazy tico sure had. The product is a bit like if american cheese and milo or nesquick had a baby together. It´s too sweet, rubbery, and somehow gross and enjoyable at the same time. We ate it that night with crazy Roy and David. It´s not too bad with cookies or fried platanos.
The next day at Selvatura, one of the local nature reserves we met some Canadians who had been thoroughly entertained by the idea of chocolate cheese. I think they were in awe of our courage to actually try the stuff.
So I should tell you that Monte Verde is rich in wildlife as well as dairy, and just as soon as my camera and a computer get to the same place I´ll upload a picture for your pleasure. The biodiversity is overwhelming, rather than rushing around and trying to see all of it we took a little tour with bridges and checked it all out at our leisure. Mandy was on the hunt for a sloth, but the only really crazy wildlife we saw were the gringos flying through the air on the zip lines. In addition to the flying gringos we did see some cool looking bugs and a number of chiripi (humming birds) but no sloths.
And that my friends was my time up in the clouds.

Saturday, September 29, 2007


Eva needed to be back in San Jose for this big march on Sunday so it was decided that our first journey would be to the nearby bosque nuboso or cloud forests. Eva had a translating gig on Wednesday morning so she left me and Mandy to sleep in. I took full advantage, after my marathon of flights and little sleep I was pretty pooped. So tired in fact that I started talking in my sleep. I didn´t even knew I did that, but Mandy was happy to inform me otherwise. By the time I was up and mobile Eva was on her way back from work, meaning that I pretty much missed the breakfast hour completely. I didn´t go hungry though. On the way to catch our bus to Monte Verde we stopped at the Central Market to get casados, the typical fare for both lunch and dinner. The Central Market is in downtown San Jose which is your standard city. I guess it hasn´t made a huge impression on me: not very impressive architecturally, swamped with developing capitalism, lots of people and cars.
My short time at the Central Market was pretty delicious, I´m down with the tico food. We didn´t see too much there, just an eat and run, but I think there is more exploring in store. After lunch we headed to the bus station to purchase tickets to Monte Verde and hung around eating galletas and drinking cafe con leche. I love a good bev.
Well stories of mobile discos and bus drivers digging in the mud are still to come, but will have to wait until my next internet session.

getting here

I´m back in San Jose, I had been thoroughly ready to write a post to update you all while still in Santa Elena, but the internet connection was wacky and the web page in spanish, so I couldn´t sign on. Ah, life goes on.
I had thought that the whole blog thing might encourage more frequent updates and therefor shorter monologues, but alas I have been foiled, and now five days in have way too many stories of hilariousness to keep this short.
So the flying down here thing was long. Not bad traveling, more educational than anything. I had my first Vegas experience and ended up making about 4.75 on the slots, which was slightly encouraging. Then in a moment of air conditioned induced coldness I blew the whole lot on a starbucks chai. My two hours in Atlanta were spent sleeping on the floor while listening to CNN blasting from one of the airport´s flat screens. Then I was off on my plane to San Jose, during which I caught up on important things like George Clooney in Ocean´s 13. Not long after I found my self expelled out of customs and immigration and out into the wild wilderness of the taxi touters. Not to worry Eva´s friend Marcos, and his daughter there to save me and drive me to San Pedro.
Suddenly I was in Costa Rica with not only Eva, but Mandini too. Not to anybody´s suprise I arrived hungry so we headed off to a local vegetarian place for un plato de dia, veggie style. No one had informed me, but apparently many of my friends have reverted to some sort of herborvirous subsistence pattern, quite a change after traveling with the man who will eat everything (except dried squid, he does draw the line there). I´m digging on the green stuff, though I know I am going to be craving a quesoburgesa any moment.
After lunch, the afternoon was spent listening to Eva translate for some Canadian farmer talking about why Costa Ricans shouldn´t vote in support of CAFTA. It was an interesting talk, until I fell asleep that was. We ended up spending the evening at Eva´s McGyvering up a meal of thai camote tacos and drinking powdered milk with sugar, it was fun to just sit around and chat and chat.
I´ll leave you there for now and start working on stories of Monte Verde.

Monday, September 24, 2007

packing 101

Somehow I thought packing for this adventure would be easier. But I always always get hung up by the what ifs? Zach reminded me that once you are on your way that what you packed to wear isn't that important, I should have reminded him of my t-shirt jihad in Singapore. I hate having stuff along that I don't end up using, but I also hate not having along what I want. I mean last time I ended up dragging neon colored zip ties all over Asia, and not once was there an incident where I thought to myself, "self, I am so glad I have neon zip ties." On the other hand I was cursing my choice of t-shirts, and lack of emergen-c. Upon further consideration perfect packing doesn't make for good stories. So with that in mind and my bag packed I am sure this trip will be full of them.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

chaco flips

I got a new pair of chaco flips this week. Some never thought it would happen. The old pair had a good run: 3 years and 9 countries is a lot for a single pair of flip flops. You can see the right one back in the day on the beach in lanikai. That is my shameless gear plug of the day.

Friday, September 14, 2007


This photo is the result of four hours of driving, one night camping beside highway 180, another 2 hours in the car, and 11.5 miles of hiking. Two weeks ago I headed down to Sequoia to visit Ari out at Bearpaw. My trip occurred in typical Gemma fashion, leaving too late, lots of traffic, generally less planning than is probably recommended. The hike out was amazing with lots of views of the western divide and my encounter with two bears.
Not sure why, but this photo feels like a good way to start this blog. A reminder that the best experiences come with a dash of adversity, blisters, and large mugs of hot tea.