Saturday, November 29, 2014

¡Pura Vida!

When I first got my placement email saying I would be going to Costa Rica, I was disappointed.  I had really wanted Australia as it was English speaking and one of the 4 continents I had not yet traveled to.  After thinking about it, I realized I was glad I was placed in a Spanish speaking country.  Even though I would not technically be leaving the continent, I was going somewhere much different from home and I would improve my Spanish skills.  Plus, I figured it would be easier to travel down under on my own, since Australia is English speaking.  I have since learned that everything definitely does happen for a reason. I am SO THANKFUL I ended up here instead; I wouldn’t trade these past two months for anything.

Going home is very bittersweet.  Costa Rica has definitely become “home” to me over the past two months and the friends I have made have become more than family.

Though I spent $3,920.88 (yeah, I’m that dork who kept track) on this Costa Rican adventure, the memories I am leaving with are absolutely priceless.  I got to go zip lining for the first time, and see a red eyed tree frog in the rainforest.  I waded in hot springs in the beautiful Baldi Resort and saw both two- and three-toed sloths.  I met wonderful children who have forever touched my life, and vastly improved my Spanish skills.  I explored a new culture and lifestyle different from my own. But best of all, I got to do this all with a new and wonderful group of friends.

I could not have asked for a better group of people to spend these last two months with.  Everyone was always there for each other- whether it be problems at home, issues with school, or simply making sure everyone was staying safe and healthy.  When I first arrived in Costa Rica I was very apprehensive, but from the moment I met them I felt relaxed and ready for the adventures to start.  From the very beginning, they included me and I am forever grateful for that.  They quickly became some of my best friends.  We’ve shared everything from laughs and tears to drinks and inside jokes.  Despite all of our adventures, some of the best times have been simple things like sitting around the hostel playing HA!, or  going to a movie every Wednesday night.  Since David was the only male of the group, we always joked that we were his sister wives.  It was even funnier because one time when we went out for dinner, the waiter asked if we were Mormon.  It was hard saying goodbye to Darcy, David, Brit, and Sierra this morning, and I am not looking forward to saying goodbye to Becca and Sophie tomorrow.

I already know things are going to seem weird when I get back, I only wonder what other things will be strange to me that I haven’t thought of yet.  For example, it will be weird to be able to text and use Facebook whenever I want, even if there is no wifi.  It will be weird not to have to take a bus everywhere, to be able to drive wherever I want whenever I want, and to wear a seatbelt again.  It will be weird to have more than seven outfits and three pairs of shoes to choose from when I get dressed in the morning.  It will be weird to understand all the words I hear spoken and all the writing I read.  It will be weird to throw toilet paper in the toilet instead of the garbage, and to not have the front door wide open all day long.  But most of all, it will be weird not to have some of my closest friends by my side when I wake up in the morning.  I have spent the last two months with these six, everyone always looking out for each other, exploring new places, and having new adventures together.  My world without them in my everyday life just won’t be the same.


This has definitely been an adventure of a life time.  No matter how much I write, there are not words to explain what I am feeling right now.  It’s been real, it’s been fun, it’s been real fun…here’s to my next adventure!


Friday, November 28, 2014

Last Week in CR

Since we were basically finished up with all our school work for the year, this week has been full of fun activities.

Monday was a crafting day.  The students have been writing stories about space (I can’t remember if I have mentioned this or not) and they finished their final copies if they were not already done.  Then, they had to draw pictures for their stories which they would import into an app called Show Me and combined them with their own voices reading the story in computer class.  It was really neat.  Once students were finished with that, they could make bottlecap snowmen.  My teacher glued old bottle caps onto large popsicle sticks and the students painted them.  They then glued bottle caps to a paper plate with the center cut out and painted them to make a wreath.  All the will we were jammin’ to Christmas music!  In the afternoon the students worked with their groups in making their solar system models.


On Tuesday we only have a couple class periods with the students as they also have Spanish and computers so it was spent mainly working on their solar system models.

Wednesday was another fun day.  It started out with all the students in first through fourth grade gathering in the gym where they practiced their end of the year music show.   My third graders sang/danced to “Stand By Me.”  They were so darn cute.  From there we went back to class and the students completed their solar system models.  Then, the kiddos had Spanish where they made these adorable little Santa frogs out of paper and fabric.  At the end of the day was the beginning of the students yearly recycling.  They got to rip off the covers of their notebook and workbooks and throw them away.  Then, they ripped out all the extra pages to save to re-use.  Lastly, they put all the used pages into the recycling.  The kids had an absolute blast with it.  After school the whole crew went to Crepe Café for one last crepe before we head home.  It was especially fun for me because the Crepe Café was the first place I went when I came to Costa Rica so it was my full circle.  Of course I had to have the Nutella and strawberry crepe again!  After crepes, Darcy, David, Sophie and I went to Multiplaza for one last Wednesday night movie.  We were hoping to see Horrible Bosses 2 but it wasn’t in the theater for some reason.  Instead, we went and saw Interstellar again.  Before the movie we had time for a little bit of shopping so I got my Christmas shopping finished.  At the mall, Darcy and Sophie found a perfume that smelled identical to the one I have been wearing.  I didn’t believe them until I smelled it.  Funny enough, it was called “Seduce Me” and smelled identical to my “Pure Seduction” from Victoria’s Secret.  I had Wendy’s again for dinner, (it has become kind of a tradition for me) and shared a big ol’ mixed (carmel and buttered) popcorn with Sophie.  The movie was three hours long so we had to take a taxi home since the buses stop running at 10.



On Thursday, the end of the year festivities continued.  In the beginning of the day, my teacher’s pre-kinder son had his end of the year program so I went and watched it.  It was so cute to see all the little kiddos dressed up and dancing!  In the end of the program, instead of singing and dancing, my teacher’s son was playing rock-paper-scissors with the child next to him.  It was too funny.  After the program, we went back to class.  The students were going to finish their recycling, so my teacher sent me out to get garbage bags.  I had spent forever trying to track down a janitor when one of my students came running up to me telling me they had found one.  She was running so I tried to beat her back to the classroom by taking a closer set of stairs than she did, but she flew by me as I got to the top.  When I opened the classroom door, all of the students yelled, “Thank you!”  It nearly gave me a heart attack.  They presented me with a book of letters/poems they had written for me and well as a Costa Rican soccer jersey.  I gave them a surprise of my own.  Since our last unit was on poetry, I wrote each of their names in acrostic poems using adjectives that described them.  They were very impressed as I used both English and Spanish words.  I also wrote a little note on the bag and gave them each a box of nerds.  The students were so excited about their poems that they all read them to the class.  


Then my teacher and our Spanish teacher gave the students awards and we finished recycling/cleaning out their desks.  It was one of my kiddos birthdays as well so his mom and dad brought in cake and we sang to him.  Cake here is not as sweet as it is at home.  Also, all of the cake I have eaten has been chocolate with a cooked condensed milk (basically caramel) frosting; I gather it is the most popular cake here.  We ended the school day with a rehearsal for their end of the day show and playing some games in the gym.



Thursday evening I headed back to Multiplaza with the crew for “Thanksgiving” dinner.  They’ve been my family for the past two months so it only made sense we celebrated together.  We all went to KFC (because chicken, potatoes and corn are as close to the real deal as we could get).  Afterwards, we went to see Mockingjay Part 1 before heading back home.

Friday was tough.  I didn’t full cry, but my eyes were ready to spill more than a handful of times.  The kids were so adorable in their performance and they looked so cute all dressed up and out of their normal school uniforms.  After their performance, we went back to the classroom and had snacks and watched a slideshow.  It was so tough to say goodbye to everyone.  I have never had so many kisses (on the cheek) from so many strangers (the students' parents) but I’ve adapted to the culture here so much that it didn’t even phase me.  I gave my email to one girls mother so I am really hoping I will hear from here.  The parents were telling me how their kids go on and on talking about me at home and it made me feel so great.  They brought in gifts and treats and ugh..I am just not ready to leave. Brittany and I went to the mall after school with her teacher for a little while and now I am taking a break from packing.



Words cannot explain how much I am going to miss my kiddos.  They were so accepting of me right away and I had so much fun with them.  They taught me more than just Spanish, and for that I am forever thankful.  I’ve noticed that I talk a lot like them now.  For example, when they understand something, they always say, “ah, yes,” and I’ve caught myself doing that frequently.  I say things all the time and know that its something that came from the kids.  I wonder how long it will take for those habits to fade.  They’ve spoiled me with end of the year/holiday gifts and I can only hope that I had enough effect on them as to deserve being so spoiled.





As the school year has come to a close, I have noticed some more things that are different between my school here and the ones in the states.  For one, we made crafts with bottle caps from beer and my teacher explained to the students that they were from a bar from beer that people drank.  There was also a Christmas tree made out of wine bottles.  Anything alcohol related is basically forbidden in the states, but here its just a normal part of life.  Also, the teachers give students kisses all the time.  Not on the lips, but on their heads or cheeks.  I know that is a cultural thing though as people often great each other with a kiss on the cheek.  Another thing is that students often bring cake in for their birthday and they light the candles right there in the classroom.  I don’t think candles are even allowed in schools back home!

I'm a little bit sad that my blog posting is coming to an end as well.  I had forgotten how much I love to write, and it has been so much fun sharing my adventure with everyone from home.  One last blog post tomorrow, and then it is back home I go! 

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Student Beaching

Our last (full) weekend together was very bittersweet.  The seven of us went to San Jose on Friday after school and hopped on the bus to head back to Manuel Antonio.  We had booked a new hostel that no one had been to before and it was one of our favorites that we had been to.  It had a downstairs with the bathroom, a bed, and a couch, and an upstairs with a porch, a king sized bed, a queen sized bed, and a twin sized bed.  Up another set of stairs was a little landing that had swings and a beautiful view of the surrounding plant life as well as the ocean.  Plus, the hostel had breakfast and cute little kitties! :)

View from the swings on the roof

Part of the upstairs in our little hostel apartment

Part of the upstairs in our little hostel apartment

On Friday, I slept the whole bus ride to Manuel- around 3ish hours.  As soon as we checked into the hostel and Sophie and I claimed our beds, I hopped in and passed out again.  I don't know what came over me but I was so tired.  Sophie tried waking me up a couple times but otherwise I slept straight through until morning!  Once everyone was up, we went downstairs and had breakfast.  The hostel served a typical Costa Rican breakfast- scrambled eggs, bread and butter/jam, and beans and rice.

After breakfast, we got ready, then took the bus down to the public beach.  We were going to go to the beach at Manuel Antonio National Park but because it is now tourist season, the prices had gone up and we didn't want to pay $16 just to lay in the sand so we went to the public beach instead.  It was fun regardless.  The waves were big and powerful, I didn't spend as much time in them as last weekend.  We mostly enjoyed spending time with each other on our last weekend together.

Sophie, Me, and Darcy and the beach!

The tide began coming in quick in the early afternoon, so we left a little after 2 and went back to the hostel and jumped in the pool for a bit before getting ready for dinner.

Pool at the hostel

A little after five, we took the bus to my favorite restaurant- El Lagarto.  It was the one we went to the last time I was in Manuel with the delicious potatoes.  You could see the sun set from the restaurant and it was absolutely gorgeous.  I will definitely miss the beach sun sets here!  We took the time after dinner to go around and pick our favorite part about the trip.  It was definitely a difficult task, there are so many amazing memories.



We went back to the hostel after dinner and had a little wine night, hung out, and danced.  It was hard to accept that this was our last weekend.

I woke up this morning early, a little after 6, and sat out on the porch reading.  I figured I had to soak up all the beautiful weather that I could before heading back home where it will be cold and snowy for the next 5 months.  Once everyone was up and ready, we took the bus back to Quepos and had Subway for lunch before boarding the bus home.


In other news, this past week was fun.  Since this week is the students' last week of school, we finished up most of their course work last week.  They have been researching the solar system and then using the information to write stories which they will be sharing this week.  Of course I had to write one and I actually rather impressed myself with it.  The kids are super excited for it too.  My teacher and I have been working with the kids on creating decorations for the season.  We made snowmen out of lanterns and styrofoam cups last week and have been working a Christmas Tree made out of triangular prisms which I will hopefully finish up tomorrow.


A week or so ago we went to a movie (as we do every Wednesday) and on the bus ride home I ended up sitting next to this random guy who would not stop talking to me.  At least it was in English, but it was still so funny.  I swear he just about grilled me for my life story- in a friendly way of course.  He said he had only been practicing English for 5 months but it was much better than my Spanish has ever been so I wasn't sure I believed him.  He kept wanting to hear me speak Spanish but of course I got all shy and skirted my way around it.  Luckily he got off many stops before me.  He was nice and all but I didn't want him to know where I lived.

I am excited for Wednesday night movies because we are going to see Horrible Bosses 2 and then on Thursday for Thanksgiving we are going to see The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 and have KFC for dinner because we figured chicken and potatoes is pretty close to turkey and potatoes.  It will be nice to have Thanksgiving 'dinner' with my honorary family here.

Friday we're going to stay in a hotel in San Jose as half the crew leaves to head back to the states early on Saturday morning.  Sophie, Becca and I are going to be staying again on Saturday night after (hopefully) spending the day outside at the pool enjoying the sun and beautiful weather for one last time before I head back home Sunday morning.

It is crazy how fast the past two months have flown by.  Although I miss everyone and I miss sleeping in my own bed, it is going to be incredibly hard to leave this all behind.





Monday, November 17, 2014

Santa Teresa

While everyone at home was spending the weekend getting snowed on in below freezing weather, I spent the weekend with my wonderful friends at the beach where it was pushing 90 degrees!  Not to brag or anything... ;)



Last week was the first full week of school I have had in awhile.  Even though it was five days, it flew by!  On Monday and Tuesday my teacher was in the States so I was left in charge of the class (with a sub of course).  My teacher and I had planned out everything the week before so I wasn't worried about it at all.  Everything went great and the kids loved having me teach them.

Wednesday my teacher came back but the students had a presentation to go to which took up the first two periods.  A bunch of people from the bank came to present to them about money. They got to do various activities such as being a doctor or soccer player and got "paid" for their duties in paper money.  They then had to go to the bank to deposit it.  The bankers talked to them about credit cards and other banking functions.  Even though it was all in Spanish, I understood the vast majority of it.  Before coming here, I would have said listening to Spanish was my weakest skill when it came to the language, but that is definitely not true anymore!  After the presentation they had a quiz and then Spanish for the rest of the afternoon.

Thursday was our field trip and Friday flew by as well.  They had Spanish in the morning followed by art, a test, and then the last of their standardized testing.  Although it went quick, I was definitely ready for vacation by Friday!

Brittany, Darcy, David, Sophie, and I left Santa Ana around 5:30PM in our shuttle so we could make it to the ferry in Puntarena before it departed the dock at 8.  It was the same ferry we took over the Gulf of Nicoya to Montezuma a couple weekends ago so we were familiar with the process.  Right before we had reached the ferry, our driver had to slam on the breaks.  Sophie and Darcy literally went FLYING forward into the seat in front of them.  Seat belts aren't a big thing here like they are in the states but I had caught myself.  Sophie and Darcy were both fine but we could not stop laughing at how funny it had been.  Our driver apologized profusely, we had to keep reassuring him everyone was fine.  We boarded the ferry and sat up on top again to feel the cool air.  A little boy sitting on the bench facing us had gotten a hold of his mom's phone and started taking pictures of Brittany.  She posed for them as we watched and laughed.

By 10PM we were in our next shuttle for the second leg of the trip.  I personally thought the road from the dock to Santa Teresa was the worst of all the roads we have driven on.  I actually think that the roads had more holes than actual driving space.  Anyway, we checked into our hostel and went to our room.  Right outside the door there was a huge grasshopper! Lengthwise, it was probably about as long as my middle finger, if not longer.  David thought it would be funny to bring in the room and tease us with it.  He was wrong.  It was not funny.


Saturday morning we woke up and had breakfast/snacks that we had brought with us.  Once everyone was ready, we made the short hike down to the beach.  We laid our towels down jumped right in! The waves were crazy.  They were so big which meant there were a lot of surfers.  We had a blast jumping in them (or maybe I should say getting tackled by them...)  At one point, Brittany and I severely underestimated the size of the waves coming at us.  We jumped but apparently not high enough because the wave was still a good foot over our heads.  Both of us went down but came back up soon after laughing our heads off, despite all the water now lodged in our sinuses.


After spending some time laying in the sun, I went on a walk with David down the beach so I could collect some shells.  The beach stretched on forever.  I love walking on the beach because there are so many little critters to see.  There were crabs of all sizes, and even some hermit crabs!  At one point during our walk there was a large pile of rocks, however if you stopped and stared at it you could see a bunch of moving rocks.  Turns out the rocks were covered in hermit crabs.  Most of them were pretty small but there were a few larger ones.  It was cool to see how well the crabs and hermit crabs blended into their surroundings.  I was so worried I would step on one since they were so hard to detect.

After the beach, we took the long way back to our hostel, hoping to find something to eat since it was already late afternoon.  We ended up just getting smoothies with plans for a larger dinner. Once we had all showered and de-sanded to the best of our abilities, we quickly walked back to the beach to see the sun set.  Santa Teresa is said to have one of the most beautiful sunsets, and it most certainly was!


From there, we went to a restaurant on the beach for dinner.  They had 2 for 1 drinks, so Sophie and I each had a margarita which went great with my Chicken Parmesan.  One of the stray dogs came in and sat with us for dinner.  Plopped right in between Darcy and I, we couldn't help but fawn over its cuteness.  We went back to the hostel and hung out for awhile before falling asleep to a peaceful nights sleep.

Just kidding.  It wasn't so peaceful.  I woke up to Sophie and Brittany talking somewhere around 2AM.  They sounded concerned so I automatically assumed there was something in the room, given our history with hostels and all.  I just prayed it wasn't another skunk.  With the three of us awake, we tried to figure out what it was.  The girls had heard a bug-sounding noise so we had an idea what to look for.  Sure enough, we found a giant beetle the length of my pointed finger and the width of my big toe.  If it was just a bug, it wouldn't have been so bothersome, but the fact that it could fly....we weren't havin' any of that!  All of a sudden it started flying and we all screamed and jumped back into our beds.  We squealed again after finding it under Brittany's bed which woke up Darcy and David.  Then it was flying again making us scream once more.  Sophie and I finally spotted it on Brittany's swim suit hanging off the beds and since David was now awake, we recruited him to get it out of the room.  With us girls all huddled on mine and Sophie's bed, David took a shoe and swatted it off the swim suit and onto the floor.  He then proceeded to whack it with the shoe until it was outside.  With the nasty bug out of the room, we went back to bed.


Sunday morning we woke up, got ready, and went into town for breakfast.We found a nice little restaurant with what sort of felt like air conditioning and ate there.  By the time we left Santa Teresa at 11AM it was 84 degrees and we were happy to be in the air conditioned shuttle.  We took the bumpy road back to the ferry, the ferry back to Puntarena, and then the shuttle back to Santa Ana.

Not ready for the weekend to end, Darcy, Sophie, David, and I went to Multiplaza to see a movie.  If you haven't seen Let's Be Cops, I highly recommend it.  I can't remember the last time I laughed so hard at a movie!

As I am writing this, I have just completed my second to last Monday in my school here.  I know I say this every time, but I cannot believe how fast time has been going.  13 days and I will be headed back to the states.  I am excited to be home but not ready to leave the friends that I have made here!








Thursday, November 13, 2014

Fieldtrip

Today I went on a field trip with the whole generation of third graders from my school.  We took the hour bus ride to a place where an indigenous group called Guetares lives.  As a service project, the kids brought in food to bring to the people since they do not have much.  The drive there (and back) was beautiful, but really, driving anywhere here is beautiful.  There are just mountains everywhere!

Anyway, once we got there, a man whose Spanish name was Juan (I forget his indigenous name), gave us a run down about his people and how they live.  The whole field trip was in Spanish; I was surprised and proud at how much I understood.  He told us about how women there can have up to 22 children and that is not considered abnormal.  The hut that we were sitting in was made out of various logs, each which had a symbolic meaning behind it such as cabeza (head) or salud (health).


After Don Juan talked to us, the kids got to go to the little shops the people had set up.  By shops, I mean tables with stuff they had made on them.  There were spears (not dangerous ones), headbands with ribbon, jewelry made from clay, dreamcatchers, and other stuff.  I bought myself a dreamcatcher, partially as an inside joke between my teacher and I since I always have weird nightmares about my kids, and partially because I've always wanted one and it was a cool souvenir to get and support the people we were visiting.  After everyone finished buying things, we split into groups and went to different stations.

Station 1:  A man taught the kiddos how to make tortugas with clay.  The kids loved it and they turned out pretty cool.  One of my students gave me his; I am hoping it survives in my suitcase on the way home!


Station 2: From there we went to learn about sugar cane.  The man who was talking to the kids had a bunch of sugar cane and the kids got to try grinding it through the little machine here.  It was fun to watch them struggle with it!  A bunch of liquid would come out as each stick ran through; the man ran each stick through a couple times to get it all out.  What came out what essentially sugar in liquid form.  The kids even got to try drinking some afterwards!


Station 3: The kids learned about how the people make paint.  The lady who was giving the demonstration showed which plant was used to make blue and which plant was used to make brown.  She also showed how they use a type of carrots to make yellow.  She had water boiling over a small fire which had the plants in it and the kids got to paint on a small piece of fabric using these paints.
 

Station 4: A man showed us how he weaves various baskets.  He has some tiny tiny ones the size of the tip of my pinky and some larger ones.  It was really impressive how quick he could cut the grasses that he uses and then weave them.  At this time the students got another opportunity to buy things such as these baskets and wooden machetes (again, not dangerous).
 

Station 5: At our last station, a lady showed us how she made corn tortillas.  She put corn onto a large, flat rock and used a rock shaped like a small rolling pin to continuously roll over and crush the corn kernels.  The kernels were soft like they were fresh or had been stored in water.  As she rolled the corn, she would occasionally add a little more water to the mix.  Once it was very finely crushed, kind of into a dough, she patted it flat onto what looked like a large leaf of some sort and it shaped right into a circle.  Then, she put it in a pan over the fire.  Once it was done cooking, we all got to try a piece and it was DELICIOUS!
 

It was a really neat experience!  It was cool to see how some people native to Costa Rica live and how it is both similar and different to Native Americans.  The kids had a blast too (as you can see!)





Sunday, November 9, 2014

Best Birthday Party Ever! [Monte Verde]

This weekend the whole crew (Becca, Sierra, Brittany, Sophie, Darcy, David, and I) went to Monte Verde for Darcy's 22nd birthday (November 6) and David's 24th birthday (November 7).  It worked out perfectly because last week was another four day school week so we had an extra long weekend to celebrate!

On Thursday we went to meet our shuttle at the church as always.  David asked the man with the first shuttle that we found if he was there for us.  He told us that he was but he did not know where we were going/who we were or have any paperwork as proof.  A couple of guys around the shuttle were also urging us to go with him.  We were all very doubtful if it was the right one when he told us he was taking us into San Jose where the next guy would pick us up to take us to Monte Verde.  We were not having that.  Another shuttle pulled up and David went to talk to that guy, as the first guy was still trying to convince us he was taking us.  The other guy knew David's name and where we were going so we gladly hopped into his shuttle.  The first man still would not take no for an answer and came over, trying to convince our shuttle guy that he was the one supposed to be taking us.  Eventually he realized there was no way we were getting in his shuttle and left us alone.  As we sat in our shuttle, waiting to leave, we saw the cops pull up and go talk to the guys who were trying to get us to go in the previous shuttle.  They took a flashlight and dug through one of the guys' backpacks.  Nothing happened but we had no problem creating our own theories as to what was going on.  Eventually we took off for Monte Verde.

A little over two hours after leaving Santa Ana, we hit the rough patch.  I will say, it was not nearly as bad as I expected it to be.  The last hour of driving was on a very bumpy gravel road.  Luckily, I had been warned that it would be a crazy ride.  When I saw it was a gravel road, I don't necessarily mean gravel like at home.  It was BASICALLY a long gravel road, except they forgot to crush up the rocks into gravel so it was more like a long dirt road filled with large rocks.  We made it to the Visto al Golfo Hostel and checked in only to find out we were staying in the kitchen.  Okay, well not exactly IN the kitchen but our rooms were accessed by going through the kitchen.  We also were not able to lock our rooms which was a little sketchy but it worked out fine.  The hostel was pretty nice.  It was already almost 10 o'clock so we were ready to lay down and relax.  The rooms were chilly so Becca, Sophie, and I all snuggled into one twin sized bed to keep warm for the night.


                Snugglefest 2014 Part 2

We woke up Friday morning ready for a nice big breakfast provided to us by the hostel.  We each got a plate full of fruit and a pancake the size of our heads. After breakfast, we spent the morning making cat pictures of David for his birthday, because cats are his favorite animal.  (Disclaimer: David hates cats)

Happy 24th birthday, David! You are one cool cat!


Then everyone got ready and headed out into town.  We looked around at some stores and had lunch at a restaurant in town.  Around 1:30 we boarded a bus to take us out to the cheese factory.  We took a tour of the factory first.  They talked about how 11 Quaker families came to Monte Verde from AL because they refused to sign up for the military draft.  These families settled there and utilized that cow farms in the area to open up a cheese factory.  At the end of the tour we got to try 5 different cheeses and a caramel that they make in this factory.  We also bought some ice cream afterwards that was made there.



After the cheese factory, we took the bus back into town where we did some shopping.  We booked a night tour in the rainforest and then went out for dinner.  We went to a place called The Treehouse which was a restaurant with a giant tree in it (hence the name).

We went back to the hostel and put on some warm clothes before catching our shuttle at 8:30PM to our night tour.  The tour was AWESOME!  Our guides name was Donald and he was hilarious.  We each carried flashlights and he pointed out various animals along the way.  His favorite things to say were:
  • "Oh my goodness!"
  • "We are so lucky!"
  • "What the hell are you talking about?"
  • "Check this out, check this out!"
We saw a lot of really neat animals.  To name some:
  • a two-toed sloth

  • a hummingbird
  • a cool leaf-looking bug
  • a Green Viper snake (deadly)

  • a giant grasshopper
  • an orange-kneed tarantula
  • a scorpion
 
  • an emerald toucan
  • a kingachu
  • a keel-billed toucan (looks like Toucan Sam)
  • and my personal favorite: the Red Eyed Tree Frog!

I was so excited when David found the frog because this specific species has been my favorite animal since elementary school!  We went back to the hostel afterwards and hung out for awhile before going to sleep.

Saturday morning we woke up and had another plate of fruit for breakfast with eggs and toast.  We got ready for the day and then hopped on our shuttle to go zip lining.  


When we got there, we had to sign a waiver saying that the company was not liable for injury or death.  I read through the guest book and everyone gushed about how great it was which got me even more excited.  We all got harnessed up and then took off to zip line!



Holy Moly.  It was fantastic.  The company we went through has the longest zip line in Latin America at 1590 meters.  It had multiple zip lines, a rope bridge, a rappel, and a mega Tarzan swing.  I won't lie, I was a little nervous at first, but once we got going it was great!  The first few zip lines were pretty small and not TOO high from the ground.  Once I got to the third or fourth one though....it was so long I could not even see the end!  And it was so high!  I survived though.  The superman one was pretty fun.  There were two superman zip lines.  The first one I freaked out halfway through because I realized that I could just fall straight down a gazillion feet and have no chance of saving myself.  The second one I enjoyed a little more.


My favorite part however was the Mega Tarzan Swing at the end.  I wasn't sure I wanted to do it but a big part of this trip for my is facing my fears and trying new things.  To get to the rope we had to walk out on a bridge that was about 300 feet long and 150 feet up in the air.  While standing on the platform at the end of the bridge, the two instructors hooked you in and got you ready to go.  I kept repeating "Oh my gosh, oh my gosh.." and one of the guys up there kept laughing at me, saying "oh your God, oh your God..."  Then, they open up the little door and off you go!  Its a 148 foot jump and the the rope catches you and you swing!  I don't have any pictures of myself swinging but David took a video which I posted to Facebook if anyone would like to see it.  It was by far the best part of the whole experience, which is saying a lot because zip lining was great.


We went to a pizza place for lunch and then did some more shopping before going back to the hostel. We spent the afternoon relaxing and playing games.  For dinner we went to a fancy restaurant with wine bottles and center pieces and lit candles to set the mood.  On our walk back to the hostel we ran into Donald, our tour guide from the night before!


We went back and played games for the  rest of the night.  First we played bowl (which is a lot like charades except a lot more fun); then we played Catch Phrase.  At some point during our game the hostel lady came down and have us a talking to.  She told us that after 10 o'clock we had to talk slowly.  We said okay and then she left.  When she said slowly, she meant quietly, but we still joked about it all night.  There were signs every where with various rules such as "do not take the blankets out of your rooms" and "wash your dishes" and there was a $10 fine if you broke the rule.  We spent the night telling each other to talk slowly or we would be fined $10.  Eventually we hit the hay (another one of Donald's favorite sayings).

We woke up this morning to another breakfast of fruit and giant pancakes.  Check out was at 10AM but the shuttle wasn't coming until 1 so we walked into town to shop, explore, and eat lunch.  We bought souvenirs and ate at Taco Taco for lunch.  Then we had ice cream from a store supplied by the cheese factory before we went back to the hostel to catch our shuttle.

Even though the road was crazy, it was nice to be able to see the scenery of our drive today.  The mountains were beautiful!


Once we got home, Lilliana made Brittany and I dinner.  There was a giant moth sitting on the clock in the kitchen.  By giant, I mean it was the size of my palm.  Brit and I were freaking out a little bit and Lilli went on to tell us that it was a baby moth.  I didn't believe her at first but then she told us about the size of the adult ones and it freaked me out even more!  She tried using her hands to shoo it out the door but it just flew to the light instead so she got the fly swatter to push it out.  It was definitely one of those "you had to be there" moments, but it was so funny.  I thought Brittany and I were both going to choke on our food, we were laughing so hard.

My teacher is in the states tomorrow and Tuesday which means I will be in charge!  Three more weeks left! I can't believe it.  I hear there is snow back home, and as excited as I am to sleep in my own bed again, I don't particularly want to leave the 70-80 degree weather we have here!