Archive for the ‘Costa Rica’ Category

Days 28-30 – 24 May – Samara, Costa Rica -> Dallas -> Los Angeles -> Mexico -> Auckland

May 30, 2010 11am in 2010 trip,Costa Rica,None,Travel | Comments (1)

22 May – Saturday
This morning I got up at 5.30am because I needed to leave the house at 6.15am bus to Nicoya to get to the airport. I’d told this to my host family last night and therefore they needed to get up in the morning to see me up. Well 6.10am rolled around and nobody was up, so I had to wake everyone up. They told me that my host father was driving to Nicoya and he could take me there at 7am. Perhaps they’d told me this last night and I didn’t understand at the time? It wouldn’t be the first time!

Anyway I was relieved because I didn’t have to carry 25 or 30kg of luggage a mile and a half to the bus stop. That was a massive relief. I was dropped off by my host father and his friend at the bus stop in Nicoya where I had to catch a bus to Liberia Airport to catch my flight out. The airport was 80km from Nicoya and the city of Liberia was 10km past the airport.

I did my best to ask the ticket guy for a ticket to the airport, and he gave me a ticket on the 8am bus. After looking on the board which said that the 8am bus was “directo”, I asked the ticket guy “are you sure that this bus stops at the airport?” to which he nodded. Sure enough, the bus never stopped at the airport at all, it went direct to the city of Liberia.

Lovely, I thought. It’s not who I am to give up and take a taxi to the airport, I’m far too cheap for that and anyway I still had 5 hours before my flight. So in Liberia’s bus station I looked around for a bus to the airport, and bought a ticket at one of the ticket windows. The woman said that I had to line up at the first line for a bus to the airport. Once I lined up there, the officer told me that it was the second line I needed for the airport. Oh god, here we go again I thought. I asked again at the ticket window where I was supposed to line up and was told something that I didn’t understand a word of. I eventually got on a bus that said “playa something-or-rather” and hoped that I would at least be dropped off somewhere where I could at least see planes flying overhead.

It all turned out to be a blessing in disguise because if I caught an airport bus from Nicoya I would have had to walk a mile or so, but by inadvertently going to Liberia first and getting an airport bus from there I ended up on a bus that dropped me right at the terminal.

At Liberia airport I had to pay my $26 USD departure tax (really, they still have that!!!) and then I sat waiting for my plane to Dallas, Texas. Quite an uneventful flight, it was very full, unlike my flight to Liberia last month which was almost empty. I had two hours to wait before my flight to Los Angeles.

23 May – Sunday
By the time I got to LA, and waited over an hour for my bag to appear on the baggage claim, it was midnight. My next flight out wasn’t until 11pm, which meant I had 23 hours to fill in. Rather than simply sleep the entire time in a hotel (I’d rather sleep during my next flight instead), I thought I’d get out and explore a bit. So I went and hired a rental car; by this time it was 12:30am.

“You know”, I thought, “I always wanted to visit Mexico”. So I headed in that general direction. After two hours of driving, it was 2:30am, and I was starting to swerve accidentally between lanes, so time to pull over and have a rest I thought. I set the GPS for the nearest Denny’s carpark where I knew it might be semi-safe to sleep for a while since all Denny’s are open 24 hours.

Sleeping in Denny's Waking up in Denny's

Four and a bit hours went by and it was now 7am. I didn’t get robbed while I slept in the car which was awesome. And thanks to the folks at Denny’s in Escondido for letting me use their bathroom in the morning. Oh wait, they didn’t see me sneak in there and use it, did they!

I went to a nearby IHOP where in true American style I ordered chocolate chip pancakes for breakfast. I wish I took my camera in because I got given the biggest stack of pancakes I’ve ever seen in my entire life. I mean, this was big even by American standards. Wow, I am breathless just thinking about it. I ate 7 pancakes and there must have been at least 4 more I didn’t eat, all for only $5 USD.

Anyway, I continued driving south. It was Sunday at 7:30am and the roads were almost deserted, so I had 8 lanes all to myself.

Driving in California I Driving in California II

Eventually I arrived at a small Californian town called Tecate. Well, it wasn’t really a town, more of a gateway village to a town in Mexico of the same name. I parked my car in a very “homemade” Mom & Pop parking lot and walked across the deserted border into Mexico.

Mexico in the background Stop sign pointing to Mexico

I was suprised how casual the border crossing was. In fact, I’m sure that if I didn’t voluntarily follow the signs to immigration, I could have just wandered into Mexico totally unannounced. But I did the right thing and followed the signs through a very scary and slightly derelict building.

Mexico border crossing at Tecate Nada que declarar (nothing to declare)

The Mexican border official didn’t trust me at all and spoke nearly no English. “Why are you here? Where are you going?” I got asked. I felt I needed to put my Spanish that I learned in Costa Rica to the test. As soon as I started speaking in Spanish the official’s attitude totally changed and he started talking about football and the weather, and then stamped my passport and let me right in. Woo, another stamp in my passport.

I’d heard scary things about Tijuana which is the main border crossing into Mexico near San Diego – things like everyone there tries to sell you stuff, or rob you, or both, and I heard it takes on average an hour or two to cross each way. This border crossing at Tecate was very quiet, I went straight through with no time taken at all, and the town clearly was not a tourist town as I felt like I was the only tourist there. Nobody tried to sell me anything, or rob me, or seemed the slightest bit interested in what I was doing. It was nice actually, even a little boring.

Tecate I Tecate Brewery
Tecate Market Tecate shocked cookies

I saw the Tecate brewery, I saw a little market where I bought a watch for 130 pesos, I saw some very terrified looking cookies in the supermarket and I saw the town square. I also bought a newspaper. Thrilling stuff!

Tecate II Welcome to the USA

After spending a couple of hours walking around the town I wandered back to the United States. Once again, it seemed very casual, there was only this one sign to direct you where to go and if I didn’t follow the sign it seemed like I could have just meandered through the open gate into the USA unnoticed. Although no doubt I would have been taken out by hidden snipers or something.

The US border guy did not like the fact I had been in Mexico for only a couple of hours.
“What were you doing in Mexico?” he asked.
“Just looking around” I said.
“Why only for two hours?” he asked.
I told him I just wanted another stamp in my passport.
“Why did you come out here and not Tijuana?”
“Tijuana scares me.”
“What were you doing in the United States?”
“I have a 23 hour stopover between flights.”
“Didn’t you want to tour LA instead?”
“I’ve seen LA before, I love LA.”
“So you came all the way out here?”
“How did you get out to Tecate?”
“I got a rental car from the airport.”
“Show me the keys.”
I showed him the keys.
“Give me your jacket.”
I gave him my jacket, and he looked through all the pockets.
“So what are you doing here now?”
“I’ve got a flight out at 11pm tonight.” I said, and showed him my itinerary.

At that point he ran out of questions, and he seemed unable to prove that I’d gone to Mexico simply to buy or sell drugs (which seemed to be what he was trying to do) so he let me through.

At that point I still had 10 or so hours until my flight out. So I went here:

Viejas Casino near San Diego


I wasn’t allowed to take any photos in the Casino. I spent $150 in total and came out with $140, and spent about 4 hours in there. I thought $10 for 4 hours’ entertainment wasn’t too bad. My first $100 went at the blackjack table, and that lasted 3 hours and a bit, but eventually I lost it all there. So I spent another $50 on roulette, and on my very last $4 a lucky spin won me $140, so I thought that would be a good time to get out of there.

I left in plenty of time to get back to LAX, just in case Sunday afternoon heralded a lot of traffic on the I-5. It didn’t, and I arrived back at LAX with a ton of time before a flight to New Zealand. This gave me even more time to admire the horrible place that is Los Angeles International Airport.

24 May – Monday
I’d decided to go to New Zealand a couple of weeks ago, because basically I decided that 10 weeks of Spanish in a row would overheat my brain and there’s a slight possibility that it would explode. The only people I told were my sister who’s in England and my Mum so that someone would be there to pick me up from the airport.

Monday didn’t even exist for me because I skipped it crossing the International Date Line in a westerly direction. Even if it had’ve existed, I would have slept right through it, because I was so incredibly tired. The instant that Qantas turned out the lights on the flight, I fell asleep. I stayed asleep the entire flight, only waking up when they turned the lights on 9 hours later for breakfast (and one other time simply to use the bathroom).

In the row of three airplane seats the middle one was empty, and in the aisle seat was a woman from Colombia who lives in New Zealand. She was great to talk to and would have been great to practice Spanish with, if I didn’t sleep the entire way.

My blog entries may take a back seat for a bit, as in New Zealand I’m planning to do little else except visit old friends and family and simply do very little. On June 13 I fly to Peru to continue my Spanish learning and to visit Macchu Picchu.

Claudia’s photos from Samara

May 30, 2010 10am in 2010 trip,Costa Rica,Samara Beach,Travel | Comments (0)

Here’s some photos from Samara that my friend Claudia took. A couple of them are here, but click here to see all of them on facebook.

I'm popular! Ice cream cocktails

Bright coloured crabs The gang of the last week

More photos here

Day 27 – 21 May – My graduation and last day in Samara

May 29, 2010 7am in 2010 trip,Costa Rica,Samara Beach,Travel | Comments (0)

So, after having a chance to get over yesterday (I had a bad day – normally the children running around don’t bother me) I feel a lot better! Although today was my last day in Samara.

We had a fun lesson the other day, here are some photos. One of us was given a picture of a strange creature of some kind, and they had to describe it to the rest of the class in Spanish and we had to draw what they were describing on the board. Here’s what we drew:

Aliens I Aliens II
Aliens III Aliens IV

In the first, I drew the creature in the top right and the one in the bottom left. In the second, the aliens along the top row are the ones I described to the class. In the third, I drew the black thing with the big head in the top left, and in the fourth, I drew the nose with the muscly arms and hawaiian skirt in the top left. In the fourth, that’s our teacher for the last two weeks.

Being Friday, and the last day of classes, I graduated today, and said my short pre-written speech in Spanish. Looking back on the photos, I seem to be happy, but I don’t remember what I said!

My graduation I My graduation II

I took it easy today. It was a bit sad knowing that today was my last day in Costa Rica. It was sad knowing that I most likely wasn’t going to see my new friends again, but leaving my host family was especially hard – for reasons that I can’t quite explain I had tears in my eyes more than once.

Oh yes, and I took this photo just for Mum, who wanted to see where I was phoning from the one or two times that I called. Right by the beach!

Samara payphones in Costa Rica

Tonight I made sure to spend a few hours with my host family, and talked to them a bit to let them know as much as I could how much I appreciated them (and their food!) and then after I went to meet my friends at Bar Olas one more time.

Day 26 – 20 May – Why all the babies?

May 21, 2010 4pm in 2010 trip,Costa Rica,Samara Beach,Travel | Comments (3)

EDIT 24 June: I’d clearly been having a bad day this day. The young children weren’t quite annoying as I make them seem here!

So the last few days I haven’t been able to relax at the school because two guys who are studying at the school bring their wives and children along with them every day. One of them has three kids all under 5 and the other has two kids under 2. The wives hang out around the school with the kids for the entire four hour class while their husbands are in class and because their classes are at opposite times to mine, I have my spare time disrupted by kids running around, switching lights and water on and off, moving everything round, screaming and crying, and being general annoyances. I wasn’t aware when I signed up that the school doubled as a nursery.

I can’t lie in the hammocks and relax because the kids are running around, and if the rain is pouring down (like right now), we’re all trapped in the very small office until the rain stops. It’s not nice. I think rather than have toddlers running around everywhere, I’m going to brave the rain soon and go home. And of course I think to myself “these kids did not pay to be here!!!!!!!” Grr.

Ok these kids are annoying me now. I’m going to brave the torrential rain and go and write the rest of this at home.

Alright, so now it’s the next day because it was raining so hard I didn’t take my computer home because I didn’t want all my stuff to get drenched. All the roads were like rivers, at times I had to wade through water that was above my ankles. I also skipped my final chance to go out with my current classmates because it was raining so hard and the other student that I live with nicked off with the umbrella which I so politely requested from my host mum! I also couldn’t do my homework because all my stuff’s in the school.

No photos today, but there will be lots soon because I’m going to get Claudia’s photos in the next 6 hours!

Day 25 – 19 May – Unbearably hot

May 20, 2010 11pm in 2010 trip,Costa Rica,Samara Beach,Travel | Comments (0)

Woah, I actually did get up and go for a run today! I set my alarm for 5:45am and at 6:00am I reset it for 6:20am but then I did actually get up and go out.

I ran from my homestay in Cantarrana to a village halfway between Samara and Carrillo (well, not quite halfway) and back. But silly me, the tide was high which made it hard to run along the beach, and so I came back via the road, which I didn’t realise was up and down and round corners and quite steep. But the temperature was bearable in the morning. Here’s my “MapMyRun” map which if you click it shows in excruciating detail where I went and how long it took me.

Of course, by the time I got back I had drunk a litre of water and in the few hours after that I drunk another 3 litres of water. That was because after the morning passed today was the hottest day out of my four weeks here. Even all the locals were pointing out how hot it was and I’m not sure if it was the heat, the humidity or the fact I’d been running but I was sweating constantly from when I finished my run at 7:30am until about 3:00pm (after I’d been sitting still in class for over 2 hours).

I have never sweat so much for so long in my life and never hope to again, it was absolutely disgusting. During the lunch break I walked from one end of the main street to the other (about 4 minutes) and in that time my shirt got completely drenched from sweat, and because it was light blue it was really obvious. Although it was so drenched it almost looked like that was its proper colour. Before in my blog I think I said I won’t miss the heat and humidity, now I’m saying that I’m almost looking forward to leaving here because it’s so bad. Now that I’ve said that, when I get back to London, I’ll get nothing but rain most likely and then I’ll wish I was back here!

Anyway that’s a thoroughly awful topic, so let’s move on. At lunchtime some students said they were going to Bar Olas later tonight, and it’s not one of my favourite places and therefore wasn’t going to go but Claudia pointed out that there’s not long to go now and she’s right. Although when it came time to go it was raining, and the temperature was still uncomfortably high, so I ended up piking out.

It was impossible to sleep because of the temperature, and at about midnight the thunder got so bad it woke me up with a big fright, it was so strong that the whole house shook.

Days 21-24 – 18 May – Samara weekend activities

May 19, 2010 5pm in 2010 trip,Costa Rica,Samara Beach,Travel | Comments (3)

15 May (Saturday)

So, another week over, and I’ve made some more friends. More iguana friends that is.

Iguana I Iguana II

Watch out they don’t bite you while you’re in the hammock. Here’s a nice view from the outside classroom at the school. The second photo is zoomed in so you can see the beach.

View from the Samara classroom View from the Samara classroom II

Here’s Tomas graduating in a typical graduation (yesterday), and another iguana because I needed a second photo to make it look nice.

Graduation day Iguana III

Yesterday we had plans to go to an italian restaurant, but at 2:30 we had a usual dose of torrential rain so it looked like our plans were in jeopardy. It was the start of a 3 hour wait at the school for the rain to stop because I didn’t want to get wet and I didn’t want to go home first to get a change of clothes. But, at about 5:45, there was a break in the rain just long enough to get to the restaurant before the rain started again!

Rainy day at school Claudia, Anabel and Tomas

The first photo is sitting at the school waiting for the rain to stop. The second photo is Claudia, Anabel and Tomas outside the restaurant having a drink first.

I tried to get a photo of how heavy the rain is. I cheated a bit and used water pouring off the corrugated iron roof for a nice effect, but I think it gives you some idea.

Rainy day in Samara I Rainy day in Samara II

We went in for dinner at 6:00pm, and didn’t make it out of the restaurant until 10:00pm! I couldn’t believe it. Because by now everybody knows everybody else in the town, and a lot of the people we see at night work in the restaurant we were at, we had to say a long goodbye to every single person that we saw in the restaurant, that included every member of staff. Call me rude but it got a bit tedious!

Eventually I excused myself because I wanted to get to Pablito’s bar because I told other people I would meet them there, but when I went past it had closed… gutted. So instead I went to the phone box and called my Dad and talked for 15 minutes or so. While I was on the phone for 15 minutes I must have seen about 50 crabs walking around. Luckily they seem to mind their own business and not come after you. I took a photo of two crabs with awesome colours. Although they look better when they are surrounded by contrasting colours so you can see their bright colours better.

Cool crabs I Cool crabs II

Anyway that talk was all about Friday. Saturday (today) I actually did very little. I spent a couple of hours downloading the last 3 episodes of Season 16 of The Amazing Race, and then I spent two and a half hours watching them. I won’t tell you who won because either you watched it, in which case you already know, or you are watching it and therefore don’t want to know, or you don’t watch it in which case you don’t care!

16 May (Sunday)

This morning my host family spent a lot of time pointing out how comical it is that I’m such a slow eater. Hey, I can’t help it! My host mum then went on to tell her daughter how I’m more healthy because I chew my food more. Interesting.

Anyway, after that I went along to church with my host family. It was certainly interesting! The church wasn’t in Samara, it was out in the jungle somewhere and was very quaint. I really must ask my host mum where it was. Here’s what it looked like:

Church in the jungle

I didn’t take a photo inside the church. Everyone was very friendly there, everyone made sure they shook hands with everyone else and there was talking and singing and it was really nice. And they passed around a collection which I’ve only ever seen happen before now on the Simpsons. I gave 1000 colones (£1.50). Aren’t I generous? I’m going to heaven for sure.

The rest of the day was pretty quiet. When I got up in the middle of the night to go to the toilet, I turned the light on, and there was a cockroach on the floor. I jumped trying to avoid it, but it ran towards me, so I jumped again, and it took off in an unpredictable direction, so I jumped up on the bed like a girl. I decided I’m never going to walk around in the dark more than I have to, and when turning lights on, always check for cockroaches!

17 May (Monday)

Oh no, we were supposed to have Nelsy as our teacher this week but now we have Carmen for the second week in a row. I liked Nelsy because she was strict and corrected every mistake. Although this time we have five students in the class and the class seemed to flow a bit better. We’re learning about direct objects (in English, that’s replacing a noun with the words “it” or “them”) and indirect objects (“to you”, “to him”, “to her”, etc). Of course in Spanish it’s complicated for no obvious reason – but easier than what we were doing last week.

Tonight we had the usual Monday night get-together at Arriba bar for the existing students and the new students to meet each other. It was really good tonight because Julian, one of the existing students, had his 20th birthday. Oh that, and I won 1 game out of 2 at darts. Oh also because I only took 4000 colones to the bar which meant that I stopped after 4 drinks – a good idea I think.

Claudia took some good photos of tonight and when I get them off her I’ll post them here.

18 May (Tuesday)

After last night, one student in our class didn’t show up at all, and Claudia stayed for half the class and then went home because she wasn’t feeling well! There was a lot of drinking last night, I went home at 1am but I hear people were out until 3:30. My decision to limit myself to 4 drinks by only taking that much money felt like a good one.

I went to Nicoya today after classes to try and find somewhere to get photos printed from my memory card. Here’s the bus turning up 30 minutes late as usual:

Nicoya bus Nicoya bus II

About halfway into the journey I heard “BANG! Hissssssssssssssss” directly underneath where I was sitting. Oh great, flat tyre I thought, we’re going to be sitting on the side of the road for an hour. But no, in true “tico” fashion the driver had a quick look at the tyre and kept on going. Perhaps bus tyres are designed that way, but I was a bit worried. Actually, I could see when we got off that the tyre wasn’t flat, perhaps only slightly disfigured.

Bus problems Damaged taxi

Although, given a choice between going on a bus with that tyre and taking the taxi with no front bumper and a slightly mangled radiator, I think I’ll take the bus. I like to think the bus driver has some training on flat tyres.

I walked for quite a while before I found a place that printed photos. The two photos I had taken of me with the host family I got printed and I’m going to give them to my host family along with some salsa and chocolates when I leave.

On the way home I saw a red squirrel for the first time. I didn’t quite get my camera out in time to get a good photo, but I did get one action shot and one shot which seems to suggest “ha ha, you missed me”.

Red squirrel I Red squirrel II

Tomorrow I want to get up early and go for a run, so I can say I did at least one run while I was here. Let’s see how that goes – I’m not getting my hopes up for getting up early. And I have to do it early because it’s the only time the temperature is anything approaching normal.

Day 20 – 14 May – Graduation day #3

May 14, 2010 9pm in 2010 trip,Costa Rica,Samara Beach,Travel | Comments (1)

Wow, day 20 huh! Another Friday, another day where people you know leave! Tomas’s last day is today, which is a bit of a shame. The day’s not actually over yet though, it’s about 2:30pm and he and I along with Claudia are going to try out one of the couple of Italian restaurants in the town – something I’ve been meaning to do since I got here.

At the moment it’s just me and Claudia in the spanish class, and that doesn’t look like it’s going to change next week. Next week we have Nelsy who is our favourite teacher but our classes are at the opposite times to everyone else so while Claudia and I are in class, everyone else will be out enjoying themselves. Not to worry.

Oh yes I meant to post a link to my scenery photos on facebook – click here if you want to see them all! Here’s a few that I like.

Nice palm trees Nice palm trees II

Anabel, Claudia, Me and Arthur Me, Claudia and Tomas


On 9 May I mentioned that I found a new drink in Playa Carrillo, well my neighbour who lives across the street from my host family sells the same thing in Samara! Here’s a picture of my new favourite drink in the whole world, and me with Kevin, the guy who sells them.

Awesome awesome drink Me with Kevin, who's also awesome

Not a lot else to report today, the days are getting quieter as fewer people are coming to the school and well, after you’ve been in a small town this size for 3 weeks options for things to do start running out.

Days 16-19 – 13 May – another whole week in Samara

May 14, 2010 8pm in 2010 trip,Costa Rica,Samara Beach,Travel | Comments (2)

10 May – Monday
The water’s back on! Woo! Clean clothes and a proper shower! Well, I say a proper shower… it’s still a cold water shower though.

When I got into school today, Tomas told me that the place where we were drinking last night thinks I didn’t pay for one of my drinks. Bah, sure, I thought. Look I even have a receipt to prove it. What happened was, normally the muchacho (guy) comes over to take your drinks order where you’re sitting and you pay at the end. But at one point I got sick of waiting and went up to the bar to get another drink and I paid for it there. However after giving him the money for my drink, the guy simply walked off out the back without doing anything. Eventually the muchacho notices me waiting and I told him I’d just paid for a drink and had got nothing, and so he made me one and brought it over. I’m sure that he also added that drink to the bill after I’d already paid for it.

Anyway, I’m not going back there, it’s the furtherest bar from the school, the food is slow, some people don’t like the drinks they get from there and the service is bad. And it’s expensive. However, something I can’t get my head around is something that happens very commonly here – you go up to the bar to pay for a drink, you pay for your drink and then the person behind the bar makes your drink when THEY feel like it – you often don’t get it straight away. I’m not sure if there’s a communication breakdown, I’m doing something wrong or if I’m simply being impatient, but if I go up to the bar to pay for a drink that means I want it now!

I got my haircut for 5,000 colones (£7.50) which my host mum informs me was horrificly expensive and her friend would have done it for 2,000. Hmm, scary, anyway the salon had air-conditioning; if it didn’t have it I would have melted into the chair during the haircut.

11 May – Tuesday
I tried to get a photo taken of my host family today. My host mum wouldn’t let me because she thought she looked ugly. Otro día, she said.

12 May – Wednesday
I caught the bus to Nicoya today after waiting for it for ages. The bus timetables displayed here show you the times for the bus from the start of the route, not for the bus stop you are currently at – helpful huh! So the bus could turn up any time between the time displayed and June, if you’re lucky. Anyway, here’s the full Samara bus timetable to Nicoya:

Full Samara Bus Timetable

Quite why I took a photo of the bus times I don’t know. Oh yes, it was because I’m lazy and couldn’t be bothered writing down all the times. And hey, maybe someone will see this blog post who’s stuck in Samara and wants to know when the buses out are! Just to add, there’s also a bus to San Jose from Samara, but there’s only one, and it leaves at 4:30am.

I was trying to find out times for the bus to Liberia where I will catch my flight out from (geez, are we getting close to that time already?) and ran into a bit of trouble communicating with the ticket lady. What I worked out she was saying (I think) was that although I can take her bus, I can get it 1,300 colones (£2) if I go down the street to the other bus stop. She pointed me down the only street leading out of the bus stop and said something that went way over my head, and by some miraculous twist of fate I walked through a rather dodgy residential neighbourhood and arrived at the correct bus station which was tucked in a corner. There I learned that buses go every 20 minutes and you can’t buy a ticket in advance anyway. Oh well, now I know!

Ok so I was able to get two photos taken of my host family today… here they are!

Samara Host Family I Samara Host Family II

In the first photo, there’s Ramon, me, Norma, and Carolina, and in the second photo there’s Norma, me and Malori, who used to be a student in the school but she still lives in the house while she travels and works.

13 May – Thursday
Our class yesterday was the hardest by far, we were learning the difference between the imperfect tense and the preterite tense, which if you don’t know any spanish is really hard to explain – because there’s not really an english equivalent which is what makes it so hard to learn in the first place.

Tonight I went to Bar Olas because I heard that some students from the school were going there. I got there at 8:30 since people were saying 8:00, and the only people from the school were two guys who I hadn’t talked to before, and didn’t seem the slightest bit interested in talking to me so I left again, luckily I saw people I know about 2 minutes up the beach so that was good. The bar had no fans and there was no breeze so it got uncomfortable real fast, so we went back up the beach to our favourite Tabanuco’s. I had some cocktails including my favourite one that contains ice-cream, but then I realised I’m starting to run out of money quite fast so there won’t be any more cocktails from now on I don’t think.

Oh boy, our exam is tomorrow. It’s not exactly a formal exam and it’s not going to determine the rest of my life but I still like to try and get a good score in the exams.

Day 15 – 9 May – cocktails on Samara beach

May 10, 2010 8pm in 2010 trip,Carrillo Beach,Costa Rica,Samara Beach,Travel | Comments (1)

Ok so today was one of those days where everything was just perfect and it’s this sort of day where I think that I wish I could stay here forever. I often feel a little bit guilty that everybody else that I know won’t get to see and experience this sort of thing but as they say, life is what you make of it.

Today I decided to go to Carrillo, the next beach over to the south, everyone else said that you need to bike but “rubbish” I thought, I can walk it. So I left at about 11am and got there at 1pm (I think – I purposely didn’t take my watch). It was a nice beach, although not that different from Samara really. But I did find this guy selling drinks out of a little mobile trolley on the beach. In a cup he put crushed ice, then syrup, then milk powder, then more crushed ice, then more syrup, then condensed milk on top. It was quite possibly the best drink ever for the price (700 colones, about £1 or NZD $2.20). I was told later that there’s the same kind of stall in Samara. I have to find it!

Carrillo is 7 km from Samara, and my house is about 1 km from Samara in the opposite direction, so I must have walked at least 16 km today in the heat. I took four litres of water with me and drunk it all. Carrillo beach was nice as I mentioned but the town was not really walking distance from the beach as opposed to Samara where everything is in one convenient place. Plus, it was Sunday at 2pm and everything was closed. On the way back, I saw Tomas from the school in Carrillo, then about halfway back I saw Arthur and walked with him, and then as we neared the school we saw Claudia who is the other student in my class. I really realised today what a small place this is – it’s kind of good in a way.

We had a few drinks on the beach as usual, I got a Pina Colada, two B52s and an Imperial beer for the princely sum of 11,000 colones (£16.50) and made my way back home. At home since I was a little drunk my Spanish magically got better and I had a good conversation again with my host family.

Although unfortunately everything has its bad side, considering though the amount of food my host mum serves me at breakfast and at dinner, and the fact that I’m doing very little exercise because it’s just so hot, I feel like I’m going to return from Costa Rica 8 or 9 kgs heaver than when I got here. I hope that doesn’t happen.

I took a lot of photos of scenery but not a lot of photos yet of the town so I’ll take photos of the town tomorrow hopefully.

Oh and I heard from someone at the school that the little insects that have green lights attached to the end of them are called “lightning bugs” in the States, and they’re very common there. I also heard from my friend Katrina that they’re “Fireflies”, so you can take your pick! I think they’re cool.

Days 10-14 – 8 May – a whole week in Samara

May 9, 2010 6pm in 2010 trip,Costa Rica,None,Samara Beach,Travel | Comments (4)

Since so much was happening this week, I’ve got a whole week in one blog entry! It’s very long.

4 MAY Tuesday
It’s 9pm on Tuesday and the power went out about 90 minutes ago now, I thought it was worth trying to sleep but it’s not gonna happen! No lights means no electricity and no electricity means no fan. And no fan means no escape from the 100 degree heat. At least with the loud fan on I can get some sleep.

You know that when the lightning and thunder gets to a certain point that usually the power’s going to go out. The rain’s eased off and I can hear myself think again, so the power and the fan coming back on can’t be too far off surely.

I keep seeing these little flying lights around, I’m not sure exactly what they are but they must be some sort of flying glow-worm. It’s like it’s a little moth or something with a little green light bulb attached to its tail. Well that’s what I assume – I can’t actually see what it is because it’s dark when they turn up.

Tomorrow a couple from the school are going to rent kayaks and go out to the island that you can see from the school. They’ve invited me to go with them and I’d love to except they’re super fit people who recently swum for 1 hour 30 mins and I’m worried I won’t be able to keep up with them.

Also today one of the guys from the school, Arthur, asked me if I wanted to go play videogames with him tomorrow. There’s a “shop” here where you can go in, pick a movie and watch it on one of their televisions. They also have playstation 3s and Nintendo Wiis. I haven’t been in yet but might be going in tomorrow it seems. Arthur’s a lovely guy but his Spanish is more advanced than mine and his first language is French so his Spanish has a real French twang to it so communicating is a bit difficult.

Alright, it’s 9:21 and the fan and lights came back on! Now it’s time to find out if that cockroach I could see climbing down the wall got into my clothes. Hmm, can’t see the cockroach, but I can see a big hory spider. Lovely.

5 MAY Wednesday
Today I went on another bike ride, this one wasn’t a guided tour, instead it was just an impromptu ride with two other guys from the school. We went to the same beach that we tried to get to last time but failed. This time it was okay, the rain wasn’t so bad.

Arthur Tomas

The guy on the left is Arthur from France and the guy on the right is Tomas from Switzerland. There’s a surprising number of people here from Switzerland, France, Germany and Austria.

We biked down the beach after crossing a river, and it was very empty although there was a surf school seemingly in the middle of nowhere. Right at the end of the beach there was a road which I assumed was the road we tried and failed to negotiate on bikes last week. A guy on a motorbike came down the road and we noticed the bike was clean so we figured the road can’t have been too bad and I even got up the courage to ask him if it was possible to negotiate the road by bike, and I even understood the answer (for the most part).

We're awesome Monkey in a tree

On the way back we saw monkeys in the trees, the first time I’d seen them since I got here – apparently before the rain started, you could see them everywhere because there were no leaves in the brown trees. I only managed to take one semi-decent photo, but you can see the mum with her baby on her back.

We stopped at a bar located out in the boondocks on the way home and had an Imperial (the local beer) then went back to Samara and had a few more beers right on the beach, which I never tire of.

6 MAY Thursday
We were told today that the water was going off at midday, although I couldn’t quite understand the rest of what my host father was saying. Apparently we have to shower this morning because the water is supposed to be off until the end of Friday. Gah.

Tonight five of us took a trip to Playa Ostional because there are giant turtles there laying eggs. We went at night because there wasn’t a chance to see them during the day without missing class – unfortunately that meant we weren’t allowed to take photos because the turtles don’t like lights at night. But, it looked kind of like the photos you can see on this page.

It was really amazing, we watched one turtle dig a big hole, lay about 50 or so eggs and then cover it up again. It would then make an effort to camouflage the nest, and then it would bugger off back to the sea. It did a real good job of disguising where it dug the hole, because you couldn’t even see it after it had covered it up again and gone.

The two guides had tiny little red flashlights which weren’t much use, and as is the style in Costa Rica, if the guides saw any of the locals that they knew, they would just stop what they were doing and have a chat for a bit while we stood there in the pitch black saying to ourselves “umm, can we have the flashlight back please?”

In fact, that applies to driving as well, whether it’s taxis, buses, guides, or the people in general, if they see someone they know (which is very common in this small town) they’ll just stop whatever they’re doing (stop the car if they’re driving) and have a chat. Very friendly, but not what we’re used to when they’re supposed to be providing a service!

We got back at about 10:30pm and it was straight over to Ladies’ Night at Tabenuco’s bar, which is the closest bar to the school and has plenty of seats on the beach, and local beers for 1000 colones (£1.50). It was a good night, apparently it’s very busy every Thursday with Ladies’ Night.

One thing I’ve noticed a lot in my time here, but really stood out tonight, is that you really often see a hot local guy “a Tico” with a hot white girlfriend, but you never ever see the reverse – there is never a hot local girl “Tica” with a hot white guy. The logical part of me can process that, but the mathematical part of me tells me that something doesn’t quite add up here.

7 MAY Friday
Today I finally got a chance to go kayaking, something I can’t believe it took me two weeks to do. It didn’t quite go as well as I hoped, but was still fun! I put on a lot of sunscreen for the trip, but because it was a bazillion degrees, the sweat started coming and meant that the sunscreen melted into my eyes, and being in the middle of the ocean on a kayak, there was nothing to wipe them with, so I had stinging eyes for the first half of the trip.

We went ashore wherever we were – I saw a sign that said Playa Samara Sur (South) so we can’t have gone too far – and asked some kind people that spoke english for some tissues to wipe my eyes. Being able to see again made the trip back to Samara much more fun!

I went out with Angela and Mike, an older couple who had their own kayak. Because there’s only the beach – no harbour – you have to navigate the waves with your kayak, and they fell out on the way out when a big wave tipped over the kayak, so their kayak was filled with water for a lot of the trip. I fell out when I got back, a big wave tipped me out just as I came near the waves, but that was fine because I was back on the beach!

Out in the ocean would have been the perfect place to take photos, but the kayak is not the best place to have a camera (lucky I didn’t take it since my kayak capsized).

I got back to my house after kayaking and there was a cockroach on my bed – lovely. I managed to not care about them up until now but that before there was a cockroach actually on the bed. Later on in the night I saw my host mum with cockroach spray and I mentioned casually that I saw one on the bed. Well, she called her daughter over and they turned the room upside down and pulled the bed apart trying to find it. When they failed, she told me about how she really hates cockroaches.

One really sucky part about Friday is that for many people, it’s their last day at the school. Today I had to say bye to Angela and Mike and also Arthur who are leaving at the end of the weekend, who have been my best friends while I’ve been here. Mike’s the older guy who was on the first bike tour last week. It’s usually easy enough to make new friends when the new people come in on Monday but it’s still sad to see your new friends go.

Tonight we watched a movie (Fool’s Gold) but it had to be in English because we couldn’t get the remote to work. After a while we realised we were trying a Panasonic DVD remote on a Sony player, and we couldn’t find the Sony remote. Then, it was a girl’s 20th birthday so we went to Tabenuco’s again. Three nights going out in a row, I’m getting too old for this! Although since I realised that I’ve hardly spent any of my spending money, I bought a variety of cocktails from the cocktail menu. One was called a Samara and was blue and smelled like meat, and another had coconut and actual blended ice-cream and was quite possibly the best drink ever invented.

While we were out, Arthur said that there’s no way I look 30, I look more his age. And since he’s 18, he immediately became my new best friend. But then he said that I’m starting to get an English accent, so now he’s no longer my best friend.

8 MAY Saturday
Arthur and I went to Nicoya today on the bus, it’s the closest place to Samara with any sort of population – to me it seemed a bit bigger than Te Awamutu but Wikipedia tells me that it’s double the size. We were due to catch the 10 oclock bus, but then Arthur’s chain on his bike came off (for about the millionth time) on the way to the bus stop and we got there at 10:08, only to find that once again the official bus timetable doesn’t match what was in our guidebook and we were there almost 40 minutes late. The next bus was not for 80-something minutes, so we had a long wait ahead.

I got a bit stressed in Nicoya because I hadn’t learned the Spanish words associated with shopping – for example, when I wanted to ask the shop assistant if I could try some clothes on, I was using the word “to try” as in “to attempt something” instead of “try on”, so I was actually asking her if I could attempt the clothes. Of course, I was met with blank stares.

Then, the bus back was completely full. I’m pretty sure that there are only two obese women in the whole of Costa Rica (seriously, everyone’s so fit here), and they were both on that bus. One woman stood in the aisle right beside me with her massive stomach pressing up against me for a while, and the buses are not known for their spaciousness. She got off quite soon luckily, but then the other obese woman ended up beside me, facing the other way so her bum was in my space for the rest of the trip!

I mentioned the other day that the water went off, well today it’s still not back on, and I don’t really know why. Couple that with the fact that it’s now a gazillion degrees (officially several orders of magnitude than a bazillion) and you have the recipe for a not very pleasant day. It also didn’t help my stress levels in Nicoya.

It was hard enough dealing with no hot water in the shower, but now there’s no shower full stop. We have a massive bucket of cold water in each shower which we need to fill the toilet with each time, and also we have to shower ourselves with it by pouring the water manually over ourselves. I’m not sure how much longer this water is going to last, but it’s affecting the whole street so hopefully it won’t last much longer. Someone else in the street who speaks English told me that it won’t be back on for another 2 or 3 days.

There’s something a bit messed up with the mobile phone system here. There’s no mobile reception in my house but if you’re lucky there’s some at the school. However, the system can’t seem to work out when it’s successfully delivered a message, so every time I go into the school (and back into cellphone reception), I get the same text message from Mum that reads “Yes. No meetings today and working from home”. I’ve received that message 10 times now.

I’m not going out tonight! Three nights in a row is enough. I had a good night tonight with my host family, I was in the Spanish speaking mood and my host mum was not in her “talking at 100 miles an hour” mood, so we had a big chat about all sorts of things. And her daughter taught me the spanish word for “farts”, so that was awesome.

The daughter said something funny tonight, she’s learning some real basic phrases in English and French – these were her pretty much her exact words, keeping in mind she can only speak Spanish:

“Yo sé como decir ‘me llamo Carolina’ en Francais, es ‘How are you?’”

which translates as

“I know how to say ‘My name is Carolina’ in French, it’s ‘[said in English] How are you?’”

I think she got her foreign phrases mixed up there! Hmm, that was surprisingly hard to explain if you don’t know Spanish.

Hopefully tomorrow is my “day of exploring and taking photos of everything”, which it will be unless some sort of get-together comes up, which it almost certainly will.