Saturday, January 30, 2010

Volcan Barva

Last night, my friend Andy and I went to the mall to watch a movie. It is one of the nicest malls I have ever been in, and it felt exactly like being back in the states. If I get homesick, that is where I am going, although I am going to have to be prepared for culture shock again when I leave. Wow.
I am continually reminded that I have the best host mom ever! I mentioned earlier this week that I wanted to go to Volcan Barva, or the Barva Volcano (Barva is the county and city that I live in). She told me to find two friends and she would drive us up there. I didn't realize she would do the more than 8 mile trek up and down the mountain, too! It was so kind of her to take us. We got back about 2:30 this afternoon after being gone for 6 hours. What a trip! Everyone is ready for a nap, as it was a long climb up and down. Going to be sore tomorrow!

This is where we parked our car. Note where the clouds are. We are just at or slightly below the clouds. There is a great view of the entire Central Valley. We noticed very quickly that oxygen was very scarce with a long way to go.

We might be halfway to the entrance of the park at this point. Again, look at the clouds. Now we are slightly above.

Here, we have finally made it to the park. Foreigners usually pay much more, but remember that I said before that my host mom is a pretty good sweet talker. We got a 50% reduction on the entrance fee! At this point it is practically a rain forest. Moss covered everything!

We are almost there! What is amazing at this point is that the it can get down to almost freezing at night because of the elevation. The highest temperatures may not even be 70 degrees, but it is always green.

FINALLY! This is the basin of the volcano (don't worry, as you can tell it is now extinct!). It makes a pristine little lake now, thousands of years later.

From the edge of the water we followed another trail to the very top of the mountain. Words (and especially pictures) can not capture the true beauty of this view. Now look where the clouds are...we are well above them! Click on this pic for a larger is worth it.

And, of course, we had to stop to take pictures of these cows waiting to be milked on our way down the mountain. It seems that all of the dairies in this country are in the mountains, because it is too hot in the lower areas for dairy cows. Talk about dairy cows with a view! (I know, it is strange that after everything I saw today, this is one of the most exciting parts. Sorry.)
Now it is time to relax, and get ready to cheer on the KSU Wildcats tonight. Beat the KU Chickenhawks!
Pura Vida,

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Extraordinary Ordinary Day

Today wasn't too out of the normal, but some cool things did happen. I visited the ag department today to see if there were classes that I could sit in just to listen and learn new words and vocabulary. I went away with emails and phone numbers of professors and the animal nutrition laboratory. I also got a schedule of all the classes and where they are taught so I can go sit in on them later. Pretty cool! Should be a great way to meet students and practice my Spanish.

Since I didn't do anything cool enough to warrant taking pictures, I will leave you with a picture of a Hibiscus flower that I saw yesterday. Heredia, the city I live in, is known as the 'City of Flowers,' so naturally there are plenty around!

Pura Vida,

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Weekly Wednesday Trip

Today, on our weekly 'family' trip, we went to a park and country club to enjoy the pool in the mountains about 20 minutes from here. The mountains here are different than the others I have been to in Costa Rica in that it looked like Oregon. There were pine trees everywhere, with nice little pastures (I saw dairy heifers!). We started off at a park with some trails, and a lot of areas to eat lunch. It continues to amaze me what will grow in Costa Rica. There were calla lillies growing naturally all over the place, as well as impatients and many other tropical plants. It was cold on the mountain today due to a cold front, probably 65 degrees. As a result, today was another day of drizzle without any clouds. I can't figure it out.

We started off the day at my host sister's dad's hardware store. They also have '√°rboles de navidad' or Christmas trees. They look slightly different, but they still get you excited for Christmas.

The forest on the mountain

Calla Lilly growing naturally in the park.

Chapel at the country club. They didn't have golf, but it was more oriented to entertain families.

Pura Vida,

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Cooking Class

Today was cooking class. We cooked noquis con tuco y pan. Please don't ask for a translation, because I don't know (although pan = bread)! Basically, we made mashed potatoes, added a bunch of flower and made a dough out of it. Then we made it into a bunch of small pieces, and put it into hot water until it floated. The two sauces on either side made it pretty tasty. Overall, it turned out to be a lot of food, but probably not my favorite!

Pura Vida,


Monday, January 25, 2010

The pictures on postcards really do exist.
I travled to one of the most beautiful places on earth this weekend. It was called Parque Nacional Manuel Antonio, a national park. It truly looked like something from a postcard, and the pictures below don't do it enough justice. There is no way to capture the beauty on camera, or at least I can't.
We got there Friday night, and the whole weekend turned out to be hotter than anything I have ever experienced. The wind would die down in the evening, and the humidity would spike. To add to this, we did not have air conditioning. Needless to say, it was pointless to shower and everyone was absolutely disgusting all weekend. The only relief was when we jumped in the Pacific Ocean.
We returned last night about 10:30. I found out that, although beautiful, two days of doing nothing but sitting on a beach is a bit tough for a person that is bored if they aren't doing anything. Our next trips will be shorter...
Check out the photos below. You can click on them to enlarge them.

View of pastures between the ocean and mountains. There are a lot of Brahman cattle in this region only because nothing else would be able to survive due to the heat. While I'm mentioning agriculture, there were also a lot of palm tree farms for making palm oil. There were whole forests of palm trees!

A view of my favorite beach in the park.

View of the sunset over the ocean from our open-air restaurant.

"Ladron" = Thief in Spanish
These little monkeys were everywhere. Everyone thought they were cute, but you had to guard your stuff or you risked getting it stolen. What a nuisance!
Taking in the view on the second day.
In other news, my host mom told me tonight that the earthquake or tremor ("temblor" in spanish") that I felt Friday in class registered a 5 on the richtor scale. A new wave of anxiety has now taken over.
Pura Vida,

Friday, January 22, 2010

Wish Granted!!! Now, please never again!

What exactly was it that I wished for? I wanted to experience an earth quake. Check. Complete. (Before you start panicking, it was nothing really. Yes, Mom, this is written for you).

For those of you in Kansas, do you know what it feels like when Ft. Riley is shooting off it's big guns? Sometimes the earth maybe tremmors a bit. This felt a lot the same, but much stronger. It lasted for less than two seconds. It was like walking over a creek on a little suspension bridge...just kind of a quick sway or uncertainty underfoot.

We were sitting in class when it hit on the third floor. The teacher immediately freaked out and ran to the door (evidently you are supposed to stand in the door jam). By the time she got there it was over. I was one of the few students in the class who felt it. I was pretty panicked, and looking for any escape route possible...doors, windows, up, down, sliding into the natural area in the center of the building. I was thinking about them all.

Evidently it is extremely common in Costa Rica to feel tremors like this. Their buildings are made to a specific code to protect them, so I feel a bit more safe. Evidently last year there was a quake that lasted for several minutes. My host mom was standing outside, and could hardly stand. Hope I don't have to deal with that unless I am outside. Also, they are supposed to be very common in March and April.

Guess it won't be the last...

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Clase en San Jose. Class in San Jose.

We had our fieldtrip to San Jose, the capitol of Costa Rica, today. We visited the Teatro Nacional (National Theatre), Museo de Oro (Gold Museum), and El Mercado (the market).

The National Theatre was beautiful. The Gold Museum was boring. Not enough big chunks of gold. The market was very interesting...I guess I was too intrigued to take pictures. Sorry. Basically, the market is a place where venders can sell all kinds of things. There is a lot of jewelry, luggage, clothes, shoes and souveniers. It is also known for 'comida tipica,' or traditional Costa Rican food. Next to a 'soda' where you can eat, you can also see a 'carneceria' complete with all forms of dead meat, including whole fish, chicken and cow feet, cow tongue and cow stomach. I'm sure there is more, but I didn't stick around to check in more depth!
Check out the pics of the National Theatre below. One is of the entrance, the other is the view the other balcony seats from the Presidential balcony seats.
Tomorrow I am headed with a bunch of folks to Manuel Antonio, a national park and beach on the Pacific. It is supposed to be one of the most gorgeous spots in Costa Rica. Check back Monday for pictures from the trip.
Hasta lunes! Until Monday!
Pura Vida,

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The best day ever!
Wow! I just have to say that I have the best host mom on the face of the planet. She knows that I like cattle and everything agriculture. She likes to take little day trips to see things with her daughter and grandson, so she took me along. But, she decided to take me to a small university that specializes in livestock. She is a sweet-talker, and got us into the school, and asked enough questions until she finally found someone to give us a short little tour. She then traded contact info with him, and he invited us to a rodeo that they will have sometime this spring. Before it was all said and done, I walked away with two magazines that the university publishes and a calendar! Check out the pics below for an overview of the day!

Last weekend on our trip to the volcano we saw a lot of coffee plants. Today, since we were in a hotter climate (probably close to 90 degrees), we saw sugar cane.

Buena Vista (Good view) - One of sugar cane, the other of coffee and these cool trees with orange flowers.

One of the Jersey cows they have there. They have a small dairy herd. Obvious highlight of my day!

Picnic at the university with
Mom Mabel on the right, her
daughter Rebekah on the left,
and grandson Alejandro center.

We wrapped it up at a big festival about an hour from home. I found this treat and had to have it. Pineapple with pineapple and banana in the bottom, ice cream on top. It was as glorious as it looks.

Class field trip to San Jose tomorrow...check back to see what adventures arise!
Pura Vida,

Monday, January 18, 2010

Commence Week #2

Wow, have I already started my second week?
Didn't do anything exciting yesterday. Played frisbee with a couple of the guys. Also went to a Baptist church, because it is the only protestant church I can find. Two problems arose.

1. The service lasted for TWO WHOLE HOURS!
2. I understood NOT ONE WORD that the preacher said in those two whole hours. And he preached for easily more than an 1.5 hours. Ugh. Maybe I will keep searching.

Today, attended my favorite part of the week, dance class! We are learning the Meringue and ChaChaCha. Harder than it sounds, folks! I continue to receive compliments from several of the girls that I am the best dancer in the class, and the teacher likes to use me to demonstrate what we should be doing! Strange, I know. Cooking class tomorrow.

Below is a picture of a bird's eye view from my bedroom window looking into the backyard. I plan on using the hammock to my advantage quite a bit this spring!

Pura Vida,


Saturday, January 16, 2010

He visto Volcan Poas. I have visited Poas Volcano!

Today was a great day! Check out the photos below for a description.

Got to visit a coffee processing company. Would have been awesome if I liked coffee!

Ate lunch on our way to the mountains. Very typical Costa Rican food. The pineapple shake may be the best thing I have ever tasted! Fried plantains also rank high on the list.

Saw several dairies on the way up the mountain. I got very excited, but as the only ag student in the group, my enthusiasm for dairy cows was not shared with anyone else. I just got stared at when I yelled "dairy cows!" Might have to tone it down a notch.

Went to a volcano at the top of a mountain...about 8,000 in altitude. Couldn't see the crater because of the clouds, but the extinct volcano just next to it makes a great lake now! Finally got to see some jungle around the volcano. I was sure to keep watch for the poison dart frogs! Nobody else seemed to be as concerned...

Excited to explore the rest of the country in the coming weeks. It is likely that next weekend will be spent on the beach.

Pura Vida!


Thursday, January 14, 2010

Hace mucho calor! It is HOT!
Wow, the stereotypical Costa Rican weather definately kicked in today! It was probably close to 80 degrees, but it felt great to wear shorts and flip flops. Went to class this morning. I ate a sandwich at a local coffee shop...totally didn't understand anything the cashier said, but I did learn some new words. Walked home from campus today with my friend, Andy. It was probably 45 minutes, but a good break from just using the buses. Went to the gym today to exercise (I got a membership to a gym, because I am not going to run here...will twist an ankle or get run over. Neither sound fun.)

Fun Costa Rica fact:
People go to bed about 8:30 or 9:00 a.m., and wake up about 5:30 or 6:00am. Needless to say, as American students we are having a tough adjustment. But, it is light at 6, so that helps.
Below I have included a couple photos. The first is the view from the soccer field across the street from my house. The second is the mountain that I see out of my window every morning, provided it isn't cloudy.

Pura Vida!


Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Hola a todos! Hello to everyone!

Pretty slow day today. Didn't have class, so I worked on homework this morning. Ate lunch, went on a walk, laid in the hammock. Tough life, I know. This afternoon I went to a 'salon de futbol' or a place where there are three soccer fields about the size of a basketball court each, and played soccer. I don't like soccer, but I am trying to integrate into the culture I guess. Came back, ate dinner, and talked in Spanish with my Tica (tica or tico is the word for a Costa Rican) mom for an hour or more.

Strange things about Costa Rica:

-There are dogs everywhere. They wander around, and nobody seems to mind. One was chasing cars in an intersection today, but I'm sure that won't last too much longer.

-Speaking of vehicles, getting within 50 feet of any sort of road is taking your life into your own hands. These people are laid back until they get in their car. Then all hell breaks loose.

-It is windier than Kansas. Go figure.

-I had to wear a jacket all week because the cold front that effected the U.S. last week reached down here.

Here is a pic of a typical building on campus. The buildings are open to the outside. Here, you can see classrooms on the exterior of the building, with plants in the center and a giant sun roof big enough to allow rain in. When it is the perfect temperature all year, you don't need to enclose buildings!

Pura Vida!


Tuesday, January 12, 2010


I made it to Costa Rica. I finally got my computer to work with the internet here! We should be up and running now. I am living with a lady named Mabel. Her daughter is 22 years old, and sometimes stays here when she is not in her own apartment. We attend the same university!

After they picked me up in the afternoon, we had a nice afternoon in the house getting settled and drinking tea. We then went to the market and bought fruit and vegetables…the best fruit ever (and they drink a lot of fresh fruit juice!). After we left, I began having an allergic reaction to something. My hands and eyes got red and itchy, which made me start to freak out. We went to the pharmacy and got some Allergra, which made me better.

Saturday, we had orientation at the school all day. Had my first public bus ride (about 20 cents for a 10 minute ride!).

Sunday, my host ‘Mom,’ her other daughter and her 4 year old grandson took me on a tour of Costa Rica. We went to see her mother at the nursing home quickly, and then on to San Jose, the capital. We didn’t do anything to exciting except walk around. We came back and went to a caf√© and had coffee and cake.

Classes started yesterday. I don't have any on Wednesday, and otherwise I have classes in the morning. There are three times as many girls in our dance class, which works out well for me. Somehow I got the reputation of being a good dancer...guess I am better at Latin dances than American dances!

Pictures to follow!

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Perhaps I'm a bit hasty?
So what if I got a little carried away with getting ready for the beach?

Whew...I think I am finally packed! I leave for Kansas City airport tomorrow about 10:30 a.m., barring no plane delays or our road drifting shut due to snow storm #59 during this dreadful winter. Could I have picked a better time to go to Costa Rica? I will arrive in Houston and spend the night tomorrow, before then leaving for Costa Rica from Houston on Friday! As for now, I am beginning to feel a mixed bag of emotions. Excitement for the adventure. Nervousness for not being able to speak fluidly, not knowing my host family, and being somewhere completely different than what i am used to. Add that I don't know anybody and my stomach starts churning. Finally, I feel scared as I begin wondering 'why the heck am I doing this?' I guess it is all part of the experience!

I hope to be up and blogging as soon as possible with pictures and info about everything I am seeing and learning. For now, I leave you with a photo that will soon be a distant memory for me. It is of this year's Christmas tree in it's new location following an ice fishing escapade by Dad and I. Yes, it is in the middle of the pond, and if it ever thaws, it will slowly sink through the ice. Great fun!

Pura Vida,

William E. Brown, a.k.a Billy Brown