Sunday, February 28, 2010

Nicaragua Recap

I have enjoyed resting up today after going to church this morning.
I must begin recapping Nicaragua by highlighting the poverty that I saw during this trip. Nicaragua is the second poorest nation in the western hemisphere followed only by Haiti. There were many houses that we passed that were not much more than a shack put together with tin. We were constantly being asked for money by people on the street. Nicaragua has a 65% unemployment rate, an improvement over 20 years ago when it was 100%. They have not rebuilt their capital city more than 30 years after an earthquake destroyed it. Why do I mention these things? I mention them because it opened my eyes as to how lucky we are, but ultimately how selfish we are in the United States. We worry about what gadget or clothes we are going to buy next, or whether we look good enough when there are people there that don't even know where their next meal will come from. I challenge you to consider whether or not you need that next thing you want, and if you can send that money to someone who really needs it instead. Even the poorest in the US have a pretty good life in comparison to many in the world whom can't help themselves because of the idiots in power of their governments who serve themselves. Food for thought.

Very dry area...I did see some rice fields, but it is mostly cattle.

Cathedral in Granada.

Carriages that gave us a tour of the city (one of the oldest cities in the America's. Granada was built in the 1500's, and several structures are still standing today, but if they are they have been rebuilt numerous times after earthquakes).

Somebody threw me in front of the train...didn't realize I had enemies! Fortunately I escaped. They don't have a train system anymore because the first president after the civil war thought it cost too much. They had an 11 year civil war starting in 1979 that crippled the country.

Cattle and horses walking along Lake Nicaragua, and my friend, Aaron (fellow K-Stater), trying to get run over. There were constantly cattle along (or in) the roadways.
Pura Vida,

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Back to Heredia

Made it back to Heredia today.

Highlights from last two days:

-Took a mud bath yesterday morning.

-Rode horses there...they didn't like to listen. Very frustrating.

-Ziplined through the canopy...extremely fun! Did one zipline upside down.

-Danced meringue for a long time last night.

-Went on a 1/4 mile water slide this morning down the mountain.

Here is a taste of the pics from the week. I plan to update every day with pics from what we did from the corresponding day a week before to get as many pics up as possible. This is the sunset over the Pacific on our way back in from the private beach.

Pura Vida,


Thursday, February 25, 2010

Back to Costa Rica

Made it back to Costa Rica today after 4 hours in lines at the border. Very frustrating. This impacted our afternoon activities.

We got to our resort, which is in the middle of nowhere. It is a lot of pastures and hills and then later mountains. It is the most gorgeous place I have seen in Costa Rica.

When we arrived, I headed down the road to check it out. Very worth while, and it is great to be in the country. Went on top of a hill during sunset to check it out. There are some hills below that look like the flint hills. We could also see the Pacific from the hill.

Tomorrow we are going to ride a horse to a mud bath and then do a canopy tour and zip-lines in the afternoon. Saturday morning we will do a water slide through the rain forest down the mountain.

Will update again Saturday when I get home. Internet here is very, very expensive.

Pura Vida,


Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Holy Mackeral!

Today we left Granada, and headed for San Jose del Sur Beach in Southern Nicaragua. When we arrived, we spent 1.5 hours on the beach before lunch. I used this time well to get my self a nice sunburn (it was cloudy...didn´t think it would happen). Highlights of the day include:

-Banana split for $1.25

-Boat ride on the Pacific Ocean
-Catching a MACKERAL fish during said boat ride. We were the only boat of four that was a fishing boat, and I happened to be sitting in the back when the fish struck the line. They told me to real it in, and I did. I have been wanting to fish on the Pacific, and I finally got to! I will post a picture with my catch next week! (Definate highlight of my day!)
-Seeing whales during said boat ride (also a first)!

-Boat ride took us to a private beach with beautiful sand. There was also many hermit crabs all over the beach. How cool! We had hermit crab races. Some of us wandered down the beach to a more rocky area and looked at sea urchins, small fish, and of course more hermit crabs.

-While writing this blog I felt another earthquake. Definately the strongest I have felt yet...I really don´t like these things. Ugh.

Pictures of the most beautiful and amazing day yet to come next week!

Pura Vida,


Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Nicaragua Day 2

Hello, again from Nicaragua!

Highlights from Day 2

-Had a boat ride this morning around a bunch of islands in the lake made when it exploded hundreds of years ago. The volcano, a couple of kilometers away, blew off the top 800 meters (half a mile) of the mountain, and the lava rock is what makes the islands.

-Proceeded to Masaya, Nicaragua to visit a market and do a little shopping.

-Had an awesome lunch that would have been much more expensive in the US. Everything is cheap here, as Nicaragua is the 2nd poorest country in the Western Hemisphere...only beating Haiti. Very sad...tired of being asked by children to give them money or buy something.

-Headed to a volcano, but couldn´t stay long because of the fumes (don´t worry, it is common). Evidently it blew about 6 years ago, and you could still see the lava flow. When it did, tourist were up top and had to hide under the bus. For this reason, all vehicles must park facing the exit.

-Heading to dinner tonight. Will move camps tomorrow.

Pura Vida,


Monday, February 22, 2010


Made it to Nicaragua today. Not much are highlights.

Dry Season looks like north Texas in August

Took a horse buggy ride around Granada, Nicaragua...would have been fun if the nags hadn´t been so pitiful looking.

The buildings are very colonial back to the 1500´s. One of the first part of the America´s touched by the Spaniards.

Hopefully more to come later!

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Yesterday's Pictures

This first image is of Dad and the fort in Heredia. It was used during the Costa Rica Civil War. It is an interesting structure, and the openings are small in the center of the two foot walls and wide on the outside so they could see a long way, but nobody could shoot them through the small space (although Dad pointed out that it would act more as a funnel...tousche!)

This photo is of the farmer's market. You can see how far the market extends...about 1/4 mile. There were a lot of people there, and this is a very cultural thing for Costa Ricans to come here to buy their produce for the week.

Be checking back all week. I leave for a week-long organized trip to Nicaragua at 5:30 in the morning. While I will not be able to post pictures until I return next weekend, I will try to find a computer to jot down a few things that we do every day. We have a pretty neat schedule outlined, so I am anxious to go on this adventure.

Pura Vida,


Saturday, February 20, 2010

Saturday Tour

Last night I headed to Dad's hotel near here and spent the evening with him. He also had a gentlemen that he works with from Mexico still in Costa Rica, and his wife was with him, too. We went to dinner, and I took the opportunity to practice my Spanish with them. Very nice people.

Today, Dad and I got up and changed hotels. Afterwards, we made our way to Heredia where my university is. We toured the university, the park, and afterwards headed to the 'feria de agricultores,' or farmer's market. This is something that takes place every Saturday morning. All of the farmers from a wide range come to sell their fruits and vegetables. I was amazed at how many people were there. There were four rows of vendors for a quarter mile.

Next, we headed to the market, which basically has everything that is at the farmer's market, but under a roof. Then we found the bus to Barva where I live. First, we stopped at a place to get an ice cream treat for Dad, and lunch for me. We wandered to my house next, hoping to see my host mom, but she wasn't there. We left, and then realized that I forgot my passport to check into the hotel, so we came back. When we got back, my mom had returned, both her daughters and grandson, so we got to visit with them shortly.

Look for a few pictures tomorrow since I don't have my computer with me right now in the hotel.

Hasta manana y pura vida,

Billy Brown

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Thursdays are boring...

Nothing exciting happened today. Our teacher was in court for some reason (I said that she could have killed somebody, but that probably isn't true), so she left us with two and a half hours of worksheets to fill out (which about killed me). Ugh.

I think we had another cool front come through. As a result, I saw an awesome rainbow from my house and had to take a picture of it. When these cool fronts come through it gets very cloudy, and I can't see the mountain that is normally very easy to see. It also mists all day long, which can get rather obnoxious, usually because the sun will be shining where we are while it is misting. Very strange.

Pura Vida,


Wednesday, February 17, 2010

You want me to do what?!

After feeling recovered from being sick yesterday, I set out this morning to go to the animal nutrition class for the second time. I got there about 5 minutes before class was to start, with not a student in sight. I was worried, but was pleasantly surprised when they all flooded in on time. Only about 5 people showed up late, which is surprising considering that nobody is ever on time. Class is supposed to start at 8 am and last until 10:30, but the professor decided we should start at 8:30, and we don't even come close to staying until the true end time. Why can't it be like this in the states?

As we proceeded through class the teacher began calling students up to the board to practice converting dry matters, etc. They are simple calculations, and I was understanding everything very well. I got worried, however, that my brain would shut down after he asked me to come up to the board for a problem. Gulp. All I could think was, "please let me understand him so I don't look like a stupid gringo!" Success! I was the fastest to solve the problem of the group, but it also helps that I have already taken several classes in the area that they are learning!

This afternoon I got bored from studying and headed to the local ice cream shop. I thought I knew what I wanted from the last time I was there, but evidently I didn't. When I tried to order, nothing I said was right, so I finally just settled for a 'batido de piña en leche,' or a pineapple shake. It was worth the trouble, and good practice. I guess that made up for me not looking stupid in class today.
Afterwards, I headed to this park, although I couldn't get in because it was locked. It is a part of the church with statues of Mary scattered throughout. It is a pretty cool area with a natural water fall.

They also put flowers up along the fence, I assume as a part of the beginning of Lent.
Pura Vida,


Sunday, February 14, 2010

A Day with Dad

Dad arrived today in Costa Rica for work! His plane got in at 6:30, and thanks to my host mom (who, I must say once again, is absolutely amazing) took me to meet Dad and then took us to his hotel. How kind!

Dad and I sat on the patio of the hotel (a 5-star) until his room was ready about 11 am. It was pretty tough to sit in the beautiful weather and watch the birds while drinking coffee for over three hours, but we managed. We checked in, got settled, and then proceeded on to a small restaurant down the street with typical Costa Rican food. These small restaurants are called "sodas" in Costa Rica. Sodas have very delicious food for a very cheap price. Dad enjoyed his first Costa Rican dining experience.
Next, we headed to a "Zoo Ave," or the Bird Zoo across the street. They had all kinds of birds from Costa Rica, plus some ostriches and a few monkeys. It was a beautiful place, and a nice area to walk around in the lovely weather.
Afterwards, we took a small siesta (which Dad needed since he flew all night). Later, my host mom, her daughter and grandson met us for dinner at another local eatery. It was great for them to meet Dad and vice versa, and I enjoyed being with all of them.
I apologize for the lack of pictures of today's events, as I forgot my camera, and Dad forgot the cord to hook his camera up to the computer. In lieu of this, I am posting a picture of a cowboy at the agriculture school I traveled to several weeks ago during one of my Wednesday adventures with my host family. You can click on it for a larger image.
Pura Vida,

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Animal Nutrition Class

There is a small agriculture department at the university here in Heredia. Yesterday, I contacted the professor that teaches the animal nutrition class, and I asked if I could attend class to learn new vocabulary and meet students. He kindly said that I could, so this morning I found myself in a class full of Ticos (Costa Ricans) listening to something that wasn't geared toward looking at sentence structure and how to conjugate verbs. It was a nice change! I understood for the most part, and it is made easier due to the fact that most scientific words (of which there are a lot in animal science and nutrition) are pretty much the same! I am anxious to continue learning more vocabulary and meeting students through this class.
In Costa Rica, each neighborhood is named after the church. I live in San Bartolomé, and this is a photo of La Iglesia San Bartolomé. In every neighborhood where there is a church, there is also a park to the east directly across the street, and many times a school directly to the north from the park. All of the churches here are beautiful.
Pura Vida,

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Election, Cooking Class

Happy Tuesday!

Following up on the elections that occurred on Sunday in Costa Rica: Costa Ricans elected their first female president, Laura Chinchilla. Laura essentially ran away with the election, winning 46% of the vote, with the next two competitive candidates only having 23 % each. Wow, what a statement!

Last night we had another small tremmor (earthquake, essentially). I didn't realize what had happened until this morning when the teacher mentioned that she felt it, and thought of me because of how badly I freaked out during class several weeks ago. When she mentioned it, I then remembered being in my room and moving some things on my desk when I heard the window rattle. I thought it was weird, considering there was no wind, but told myself it was nothing because then I wouldn't sleep otherwise. Guess I did a good job of fooling myself.

We had cooking class today. These recipes come from the country of Uruguay. Check out the pics below for descriptions. They are definately recipes that I will be making when I come home!

"Scones" Not the scones we are used to eating. These are small biscuits that are absolutely delicious! If you have ever been to Red Lobster and had their biscuits, these are very similar and extremely tasty!

"Alfajores" Basically, these are two sugar cookies held together by carmel, with a little carmel pasted on the side. Then, you role the cookie in coconut shavings so the coconut sticks to the carmel. Delicious!

Pura Vida,


Sunday, February 7, 2010

A Shorter Than Expected Trip

A long relaxing trip on the beach got to be somewhat abbreviated this weekend. Nothing bad happened, there was just a change of heart.

I woke up at 4:30 am Saturday and my host mom took me and two of my friends to the bus station in San Jose to catch the 6 am bus to Puerto Viejo. We got to Puerto Viejo about 10:30, only to find out that the next direct bus we could get back to San Jose was on Sunday at 4 pm. We wanted to leave by at least 11, so we already weren't happy. We checked into our hostel (which we were going to sleep in hammocks), and began looking for bikes to rent to ride to the next beach where all of our friends were that had arrived earlier. We were unsuccessful in our quest. At this point, we decided to eat, and then sit on the beach where we were at, which wasn't very good for swimming because of all of the rocks. This put us all in a bad mood. I pitched the idea that we see if should get a direct ticket back on the 4 pm that afternoon, which they had none availble. After debating it, we decided that we weren't that excited to spend the night there for various reasons, so we decided to take a gamble and get a bus to a town about an hour away and hope for tickets to San Jose from there. We were successful. Moral of the story, we spent 5 hours in Puerto Viejo, 1 hour on the beach, and 4 hours wandering around trying to find bikes and bus tickets. But today was a great Sunday, and I am sure that the other two are excited to be here today, as well.

Also, today in Costa Rica were the elections of their new President. Voter turnout in Costa Rica is phenomenal, and it is a pretty exciting time for them. There were cars honking in celebration all day and the roads were packed. It was kind of neat to see the excitement compared to the US on an election day.
Check out the pics from the weekend.
The beach we were on. The rocks made it hard to find places to swim, but they made calm little pools away from the waves, which were breaking farther out. It looked like something from the movie Castaway, and was actually pretty cool looking.
Taken from a trail just off the beach. The beach you see is not is rock.
There were some neat spots where there were pools of water with fish in them, many of which you would find in a saltwater fish tank in the states. Can you spot the fish in this picture?
For my agriculture fix, I snagged a photo of these banana trees. What you can't see is the blue bags that are over the bananas to protect them from insects so they look nice for the Americans that buy them. The bananas that Costa Ricans eat are actually extremely small, and probably not much longer than your middle finger.
This is a photo of the school were the elections were taking place in our town. People of every age and background were there casting their ballot...a true example of what it should be like in a democracy as people take advantage of their right to have a say in their government.
Pura Vida,

Friday, February 5, 2010

Four Weeks Down

Today, a day with a spectacular view of every single mountain in sight, marked four weeks since I arrived in Costa Rica. I can hardly believe that it has been four weeks already, with only 13 weeks to go. Thirteen weeks sounds like a lot; that is until you put it into the perspective that I am about one quarter of the way done!

Thinking back on the last four weeks, I do not realize how much I have learned and how quickly I have adjusted to a new culture. I was reminded Monday of how far I have come when I saw a couple American students get on the bus for their first day at school in Costa Rica. They looked a bit overwhelmed, and it was then that I realized it had not been very long ago since I was in their shoes.

I have improved my Spanish tremendously in four weeks, although I still have an extremely long way to go. I am at the stage now where I can get my point across with people I don't know, but they still look at me strange (there may be more than one reason for that, I know).

I am excited to see where the next 13 weeks take me, but more excited for the true reward at the end of this experience: to see all of you at home in the United States.

Pura Vida,


Thursday, February 4, 2010

Nothing too exciting has happened lately. Yesterday was low-key on my day off since my host mom has started back working (she is a teacher at a high school). Today, a friend and I ventured to San Jose to buy tickets for our weekend trip. Didn't know exactly how to get there or how to get back, but it proved easier than expected. We are going to the Caribbean this weekend, so be sure to check back Monday for great pics. I think I might get to go snorkeling for the first time!

The picture of the day is a banana tree with a bunch of green bananas. There are small bunches of banana trees that grow in random places. I wish we had a banana tree of our own!
Pura Vida,

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Sunday, Monday, Tuesday

It hasn't been too exciting lately, so I apologize for the time lapse.

Sunday was boring. Finally about 3:30, we went to the theme park or 'parque de diversiones.' I found it odd, because I thought we were going to get coffee. Turns out you can get into the theme park for free if you aren't riding rides. We went to a section that they have done up like a town in the 1800's, and had coffee at a nice little cafe (I was glad to find out that I didn't completely misunderstand). Next, we saw a traditional dance of the same time period. Very cool!

Monday was dance class. We thought we were getting it pretty good until a girl brought her host brother. Needless to say, he showed us how we were really supposed to do the Meringue and Chachacha.
Today was cooking class. We made Mexican dishes (because it is a Latin American cooking class, not just Costa Rica). We had the best quesadillas I have ever eaten, as well as chalupas. We also made a big bowl of amazing guacamole. Can't wait to try it out on my own in the States!
Here is the table with almost everything. I could eat like that everyday!
Pura Vida,