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machita monologue: Costa Rica

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1: This is a photo book modeled after the blog I kept during study abroad in Costa Rica. Words cannot describe the experience I had in this paradise. I hope it is only the first of many adventures. Enjoy and PURA VIDA!

2: I've never been a big fan of blogging before; I don't read them and I definitely haven't ever written one. I never thought I would until I decided to study abroad this summer. I know I will want to document my trip and and the reality of writing in a journal every day is highly unlikely. My older sister Katie suggested that I start a blog for my own memories and so that family members can follow along and see what I'm up to (This will also help avoid repeating myself over and over and over again which is just wonderful). So here it is... I am not a writer and I'm sure there will be plenty of grammatical and spelling errors so hang in there. There isn't much to say about the trip yet obviously, but let me catch you up to speed... Background: I decided I definitely wanted to study abroad last summer when I (finally) picked my major... no seriously this time!! I researched study abroad programs for months. I finally decided on Cuernavaca, Mexico. It wasn't my first choice (Costa Rica or Spain was), but it seemed promising. The program had a lot to offer and more importantly, I could afford it! I researched the area for a few months before I made my final decision and found out some really great things. Cuernavaca is knows as the city of "eternal Spring" and is a popular vacation spot for wealthy businessmen. There are some great language schools (including Kukulcan- the one I'd be studying at. *sidenote* look up the ancient story of the goddess it's named after... very interesting!). It has a lot for tourists to do and a relaxing atmosphere, blah blah. I had been in contact with the program director for about three or four months when the travel advisories came out warning students to avoid traveling to Mexico, especially the northern cities (where Cuernavaca is). My family was freaking out and I literally couldn't go a day (or sometimes even a few hours) without 3 or 4 people trying to convince me to change my decision. Apparently it was even more risky for me because I probablyyyy couldn't look more American. I really wasn't concerned though, because I'm obviously stubborn and invincible. I also didn't feel like going through the whole selection process again. It's painful. Once my parents said that they could help me pay for another program using birthday money/etc. (and mainly because I couldn't handle having the same conversation four times a day) I decided it would be best to change my destination. | SO back to the drawing board!!! What made this especially difficult was the fact that 95% of the deadlines for programs had passed at this point. Super. The ones that were left were all of the most expensive ones or programs going to Mexico. Even better. Frustration. My mom and sister helped me go through pages and pages of programs and fees. Which programs include airfare and food, which don't? Which ones offer upper division Spanish courses? Which ones will I not have to sell my soul in order to pay for them? Etc etc. I combined my previous 6 months of research into roughly a week. I finally decided on Chile. I could go into the details and pros and cons of that trip but it would all be a waste of time. You see, I HATE the cold. A lot. And you know when it's coldest in Chile? July. Which is when the program was. Praise Jesus for reminding me to check the weather before I mailed in my deposit (which was going to be early the next morning btw). I am the master of changing my mind and indecisiveness. Okay, for real this time... I am studying in Costa Rica with the University of Georgia. Once I go to the orientation meeting (haven't been told when that is) I will write some more. I'll be taking nine hours (three classes) of 4000 level Spanish courses which should include Business Spanish, Studies in Literature and Culture, and Composition and Conversation. I am extremely excited to have this opportunity. I have never traveled outside of the United States before. I'm a little nervous but I know it will be a life-changing experience. I am desperately trying to become a fluent speaker (I'm nowhere close) and I know this will be extremely beneficial for my comprehension and conversational skills. And it's pretty hard to top Costa Rica :) Here's a small description of the program: We get to go on tons of fun excursions. What I like most is the fact that you get to see the country, not just the tourist attractions (which are still great, but I like to be outside!). We go white water rafting, zip-lining through the jungle, horseback riding, we visit waterfalls and volcanoes, go hiking, go to the beach, etc. For five of the six weeks I'll be living in the bungalows and for one week we do a homestay. Each person I've talked to who went on the trip said the combination of homestay/dorm living helps you make the most of your experience and really reinforces your Spanish. We'll see... Hasta pronto! | Why I Created This Blog // 30 March 2009

3: So I am asked thousands of questions about my study abroad trip every day. I love how excited everyone is to hear about the trip but unfortunately I have just as many questions, if not more. I've emailed UGA about 5 times in the past month and finally got a response today. YAY! She was wondering when I was going to send my payment and why I hadn't registered for my classes. Que? I've already missed one orientation session that I was never told about (even though I've asked about orientation sessions in every one of my unanswered emails.) The next meeting is My 16th. I'll meet with Sara after the meeting to get all the information I've missed. After that I will post anything I find out! Hopefully it'll be more interesting than this :/ >I'm going to try to write my entries in Spanish also. Forgive me if you are a native speaker!!! Estoy aprendiendo todavía y necesito practicar mucho!! Eventually my posts will be una mezcla de Spanish and English because it's so much easier for me to write when I can use both languages at once. Maybe my English speaking friends will pick up a few words!;) Todos me preguntan muchos preguntas sobre mis estudios en el extranjero todos los dias. Estoy muy feliz que todos quieren aprender sobre mis planes, pero ahora no tengo mucho información. Trataba hablar con UGA hace mucho tiempo, pero no tenía éxito. Finalmente, recibí una respuesta esta manana! Fue una conferencia, pero no fui porque nadie me informó. Iré al segundo conferencia el 16 de mayo. Con esperanza, daré información mas interesante para ustedes después de orientacion :) | progreso percusio // 06 May 2009

4: Orientation was Saturday!!! Finally! I found out a lot of great information and a little more about locations/etc. that some of yall have been asking about. Getting there: I'm still working on getting plane tickets. Since there was a month without responses from UGA, I just found out which flights to take on Saturday. Aaaaaand surprise, surprise: tickets are over $1000.00. I'm trying to find flights through other airlines that land around the same time and cost less. I'll leave June 9th and come back July 21st. Classes: While no one can seem to help me get the overrides I need so that I can actually register for classes, I have been told that there is no possibility of the three classes I need filling up due to the small number of kids going on the trip (I have no idea how many people are actually going though). One of the lower level Spanish classes only has 2 people in it! I'm assuming mine have more though. I already have homework and readings. Wheee. Classes will be really intense. We have classes from 9am-9pm with breaks for lunch and dinner 5-6 days a week. I'm taking all Spanish courses. I haven't met anyone that will be in my classes yet so hopefully they're normal. Sometimes Spanish majors are a little weird... Location: UGA has its own 162 acre campus in Costa Rica. It's in the San Luis Valley below the continental divide in the Tilarán Mountain Range and right next to the Monteverde Cloud Forest Preserve. I've been told that it is about a 4 hour windy and terrifying bus trip from San Jose, more if there's rain (there usually is). Campus elevation ranges from 3200-4400 feet and is surrounded by hiking trails. The campus itself only covers 40 of the 162 acres. We'll be living in bungalows. They said there should only be two to a room but they can hold up to four per room on busier study abroad trips. There is hot running water and toilets! Score. I'm buying those super ugly hiking boots and strappy water sandals to help trudge myself through the mud. We go on trips to a few other places but I'll cover that later. For the most part, we're on campus in San Luis with other students. It has everything we need there... classrooms, study hall, computer lab, laundry facilities (They do our laundry for us. Double score.), dining hall, bookstore, volleyball courts, etc. Itinerary: I don't have my exact itinerary yet because again UGA hasn't sent it to me for some reason, but I have a basic outline that's given to all of the study abroad students regardless of the specific program (theres about 10 different groups of majors going). We land June 9th around noon Costa Rica time. We stay on campus until the the 22nd when we go to San Jose for 3 or 4 days. We have meeting with the UN and INBio (no idea what that is) during our stay. On the 25th we leave to go white water rafting on the river (not sure which one yet). On the 26th we go to the Arenal Volcano. On the 27th we go to La Fortuna and return to campus the next day. We stay there until the afternoon of June 5th where we transfer to our homestay (after zip lining through the jungle). That lasts until the 12th. We return to campus and stay there until the 17th when we go to Manuel Antonia and Playa Hermosa. While we're here we go snorkeling and there is an optional surfing trip for an additional fee that I'll try to do also. We stay at the beach until we leave for the airport on the 21st. Other Activities: There will be a few days where we leave at 6:30 am to milk cows. Really. It's optional but I figure I'll give it a go. I've been encouraged to make friends with the kitchen staff and help them clean dishes/etc. as another avenue to practice my Spanish so I'll do that as well. We can set up night hikes with the naturalist researchers on campus which seems like a lot of fun to me! I bought a sweet flashlight that has a setting on it to be used at night. There's also bird watching, opportunities to swim in the waterfalls, day hiking (duh), and a bunch of other things we can do. Homestay: We won't get our homestay assignment until we're in Costa Rica. This kinda stinks because it's customary to bring gifts to your homestay family and I won't know who I'm shopping for :( I want to bring them something "American" and fun. Our trip coordinator suggested something like Uno cards but I think that's a little lame. When we had a foreign exchange student stay at my dad's house he brought all us girls really pretty pashminas. I don't remember what he got the guys, but it was really thoughtful and unique. Any ideas? Food: About 1/3 of our food is organically grown on campus by the agriculture majors. I bought lots of medicine today because apparently it's hard to adjust to the dietary changes. Who knows. This is too boring so I'll just leave it at that. No one cares what I'm eating. Right now I'm just working a lot to try and finish paying for all these fees. I didn't realize books weren't covered and that airfare would be so outrageous. My family members have helped me out a lot and appreciate yall so much :) You're too good to me and I keep you in my prayers! Pretty soon I will be posting pictures of my trip! Keep your eyes open for disgustingly ugly shoes, messed up hair, and gorgeous landscapes. Oh yeah | Orientation // 18 May 2009

5: plane ride in | bus ride to campus | "Home Coking" restaurant | cows on the road to campus

6: Sitting at the ATL airport right now. It's only 7:38 and my plane doesn't take off until 10:00. They told us to get here 3 hours early and that was obviously overkill. I hate being late though, so naturally I was 10 minutes early for my 3 hour early timeframe. I don't know a single person going on the trip and if you've read all of my blog entries you know as much about the program as I do right now. I'm not sure how I'll communicate with everyone while I'm down there, other than via internet. My Skype name is M-RLambert and my email is maryryan.lambert@gmail.com as most of yall know already. I'm still not too excited for the trip. It doesn't seem real to me yet. I was so busy before today that I didn't really have time to think about what was happening. It's slowly starting to sink in though. Right now I'm sitting with about 6 ticos and 4 older gringos. I'm definitely the first UGA study abroad student here. Once everyone starts showing up I'll force them to be my friends because as of right now I won't have any on this trip :( Loser. I need to befriend a big guy who packs light, as I do not, and there is no earthly way I can carry all FOUR of my bags up the side of the mountain. Well, I'm sure I could since I'm insanely ripped, but I'd honestly prefer not to. Not that there is an impressive sample size here yet, but judging by how the ticos that I'm sitting with are dressed, they'd fit in nicely in Midtown. One guy is in all white with Affliction-type designs on his shirt. The other is definitely rocking Ed Hardy, complete with rhinestones and tiger face. I finally saw a girl who looked like she could be from UGA and befriended her. Her name is Alison. Laura came next. We slowly friended everyone our age who walked by. The woman assigning our seats was wretched so I killed her with kindness and ended up with a window seat next to my new friends! I tried to sleep during the flight but the flight attendant wouldn't stop talking and the speakers were painfully loud. As we got closer, you could look down and see teal and indigo colored water. It didn't even look real. There were 14 UGA students on the flight and the entire rest of the plane was 40-60-somethings. They had on I heart Recycling lanyards so I'm guessing they're here on some sort of preservation project. Or else they just really love recycling and thought everyone on Delta flight 353 should know. We landed in a tiny little airport and got off on the runway. Then we walked into an open air airport to get our bags and go through customs. They had the biggest ceiling fans I've ever seen before. The center of them said "Big Ass Fans." Indeed. I managed to get all four of my bags at once and took them through customs and to our bus driver. Everyone was drenched in sweat and the air was so thick you could taste it. We started our 4 hour ride to campus. Halfway through we stopped for food at a little restaurant advertising "Home Coking" and gas. The restaurant had 3 walls and the cooks informed us that they didn't have enough food for everyone. I got a locally made orange soda and decided to try papaya since I wasn't that hungry. The papaya tasted like steaming hot vomit. It took all of my self control to choke it down rather than spitting it out. I told them it was "sabrosa." It was not. | The roads here are silly. There are no lines on the roads and you can pass people whenever you want. There is no speed limit but rather a maximum speed. Most people drive very slow. Their cars are all old and 80's looking. The bridges are only wide enough for one car to go through at a time and no one really ever has the right of way. Once we started climbing up the mountain things took a turn for the worse. The roads were extremely narrow and everyone drove crazy. Our driver seemed to know what he was doing so I tried to close my eyes and have faith. That's when the violent bumps and jolts started. There would be a cliff on one side and a huge rock to the other with another car coming on the opposite side of the road. I thought I would die. I would've died pretty peacefully though. The landscapes are incredible. I've never been anywhere so beautiful in my life. It was so great being on the bus with everyone because we're all experiencing the same feelings simultaneously. I felt like it was a joke, and I still do. It's like an out of body experience. It still hasn't sunk in yet. There are cattle grazing on almost entirely vertical mountains. The people walk on the already too narrow roads and seem unphased by the fact that they're seconds away from being crushed to death by our driver along with the 10 people behind us waiting to speed around. After passing by friendly ticos waving and blowing us kisses, dodging the death traps that are Costa Rican mountain roads, and passing by cattle and horses alike on the roads with our bus, we arrived on campus. I just laughed. It doesn't seem possible that I'll be living in this paradise for the next 6 weeks. I'll do my best to upload pictures rather than trying to describe it, though the internet isn't the best. And the pictures don't even do it justice. I got to room with the first 2 girls I made friends with. We got the bungalow with the best view AND there's only three of us (the others have 4). There are two bunk beds. I'm on the bottom and we use the top of mine for extra storage. The other two girls share the other one. We have a bathroom that just the three of us have access to. We have (very little) hot water (that we just spent 15 minutes figuring out) and electricity. And yes mom, there's toilet paper. But we aren't supposed to flush it... We're in Bungalow D2. The other 4 girls have D4 and the boys have D3 and D1. It's one building divided into four rooms. I really like everyone on the trip so far. We had dinner together before orientation and it was surprisingly good. I ate some sort of meat (beef maybe?), rice, salad, and vegetable mix. Then they brought dessert. Then we went onto the porch to drink hot cocoa. One of the professors has her 2 sons on the trip, Superman and Anything Man (sometimes it's Everything Man. His disguise name is Paul). I can't tell anyone about Paul's superpowers because he doesn't want to have to spend all of his time signing autographs. Totally understandable. He gave me 5 superpowers. I'm still trying to figure out what they are. I'll keep ya posted. Superman literally wore his costume, cape and all, on the plane and all day today. I love him. He's 4 and Paul is 7. Superman and Everything Man ate dinner with me and explained robots, portals, and superpowers. It's all top secret though so I can't share. Sorry. Then we went to orientation. We learned rules and about the wildlife/etc. here. Pretty basic stuff. I found out that I do NOT have tomorrow off as we were originally told. I have class from 8:40-12 and again from 4 something until 5:30 I think. That's M-F. Saturday and Sunday we have classes too. UGHHHHH. But I honestly can't complain. I have so much more to write but am exhausted. I'll try to get some more up as soon as I can. I'm 2 hours behind yall so it's only 9:00 but it feels like I've been up for a week straight. Miss you guys!!! Saying goodbye was the worst :( | First Day in Costa Rica!!! // 09 June 2009

10: So last night I fell asleep to crickets chirping and wind that sounded like the ocean. I was woken up a few times but the guys being loud in their rooms, once by a girl screaming over a bug in her bed, and finally this morning by birds singing, cows mooing, and horses neighing (no, this is not a children's animal noise book). I'm not sure if I mentioned this before, but everyone hears everything that is done in the other rooms because the walls don't touch the ceilings. Also, there is a pasture 20 feet from my window. This morning we had to meet on the porch and be ready to go at 7:00 for a campus tour. Breakfast was at 8:00 and my first class was at 8:50. For breakfast I had my first cup of Costa Rican coffee!! I am no expert, but it was SO good! Then we had fried plantains (I'm pretty sure I'm the only one who doesn't like them), toast, watermelon, pineapple, and beans and rice. These people go nuts for some rice. We eat it at every meal. It works out though because that's usually the only thing I like unless there's fruit or vegetables. The fruit here is the best I've ever had. Except for the papaya. That was offered at breakfast, but hot vomit in the morning isn't my favorite. I was told this papaya was much better, but I need about a week to recover before trying it again. My first two classes are the Cultural and Business Spanish classes. They're taught back to back, in the same room, with the same two other students, by the same professor. We're in the outdoor classroom, which only has two walls. Luckily the temperature here has been perfect. My Cultural class is awesome. We won't have to sit in class every day. Some days we get to go to town, go to a school and play futbol with the kids, help cook in the kitchen, visit a local family, etc. That's my favorite class. Business Spanish is pretty difficult and boring. I can tell she likes teaching the Cultural class better. I just worked on homework for that class for almost 3 hours and I'm still not done. My first two classes end at 11:50 and lunch is at noon. My next class isn't until 4:20, so six of us decided to hike up the mountain to the waterfall. We didn't head out until around one and we'd heard it was about a two hour hike. So it was cutting it kind of close to get to class on time, but we were okay with that. I took a thousand pictures. It was so gorgeous and definitely the most intense hike I've ever been on. There was a stray dog that kept following us. We aren't allowed to befriend the strays because they don't want them on campus, but since he wouldn't leave, I named him Cheerio after the color of his fur (racist) and the circles in it (mange). About a third of the way up we each had to pay $7 to get access to the remainder of the trail (if you can call it a trail). Many parts were completely vertical. Almost the entire time we were climbing on rocks. Others were on tree branches or mud. There were makeshift "bridges" guiding us over smaller waterfalls and streams. We went one at a time in case it broke which seemed entirely possible. I was almost always in front followed by the other two girls. The guys were so slow and kept getting distracted. I had to constantly remind them to be gentlemen and stop to help one of us cross a waterfall/stream/etc. | 2nd Day in CR // 1st Day of Classes // 10 June 2009

11: We passed a bunch of ticos and other Americans on the way there. Once we got to the waterfall there was a group of about 10 students from USC. We talked to them for a while and took turns taking pictures of each other's groups. We got in the water and it was frigid. I didn't want to go all the way under but finally gave in. It did not get better once you were all wet. The waterfall was the tallest I've ever seen and the water we swam in was the prettiest light blue-green color. We got dressed again and headed back down the mountain. Once we got back I laid in the hammock for a little while and accidentally fell asleep. I woke up and changed really quickly for class and headed out. I arrived 7 minutes early, as usual. (How many minutes? Seven...??? Both the girls I'm rooming with are in this class. It's my largest one with six people. It was really frustrating, so I hope it gets better. It's a Conversation class which sounds like it should be easy. Nope. She seemed kind of offended when we told her class was over and it was time for dinner. Dinner is at 6:00 and if you miss it there's no food. We were all starving since 5 of the 6 people in that class had been on the hike. Surprise, surprise: There was rice at dinner. I ate rice at all 3 meals today. There was some kind of really good juice and vegetables. I didn't eat the weird salsa, bean paste, or salad (we also have that twice a day). Then there was dessert and hot cocoa. Theeeeen homework. We'd been working for about 30 minutes when one of the resident naturalists said they'd found a sloth up in the trees. We all literally jumped out of seats and ran outside. He was a two-fingered sloth. The proper term is no longer a two-toed sloth because technically all sloths have 3-4 toes but either two or three fingers. The two-fingered sloths typically only come out at night but have occassionally been seem early in the mornign getting fruit. They only coem down from the trees about once a week to poop. They lose 1/3 of their body weight when they poop. So I taught you something. We didn't get to see his face but we stared at him for a good ten minutes until he slowly climbed his way up the tree until he was out of sight. Then we had to get back to doing homework with the insect infestation. There are SO many bugs here it's disgusting. We have to check our beds at night. There was a huge one on my shoulder tonight at dinner. We won't talk about it. I've shoo-ed at least 7 off my laptop while writing this. Now I'm about to get some rest and wake up early to finish the rest of my work. I love all of the comments! Thanks yall! I love and miss you guys too! I wish tonight's post could be funny, but I'm exhausted from writing all night and there isn't all that much to say. Tomorrow on my break we're either going into town or to the on-site botanical gardens and to a cemetery that's about a ten minute walk down the mountain. Alison and I have become really close. Friday morning at 6:00 am, I, Mary-Ryan Lambert, am milking a cow. I will take pictures for proof.)

14: I haven't written in a while and the past few days all kind of blend together! I'm pretty sure Thursday was the first day we had an American breakfast (ie: NO RICE!). So that was a nice start to the day. In my first class (Composition and Culture), we went on a walk to the cemetery. There are only three students in the class so it's pretty laid back. I love our professor which is good because I have her twice in a row. We were talking and taking pictures on our way to the cemetery until Ben fell pretty badly and cut his hand up. Instead of continuing on, we stopped at Virginia's house, a friend of Profesora Doyle. The path to get to her house was seemingly at a 60 degree angle. It was only about 9 inches wide, covered in rocks, and slippery. The house itself was really tiny and simple. The view was unlike any I've ever seen before. Her wobbly kitchen table was shoved in a tiny corner. It had two rusty chairs facing the window which looked over the entire mountain range and cloud forest. As she took care of Ben's hand I talked to Pablo, her 15 year old son. They were both so friendly and seemed genuinely happy to talk to us. We probably only stayed there for 10 or 15 minutes before heading back to campus. Since we had to stop at Virginia's house we didn't have time to go to the cemetery, but we'll be able to go on another day. My next class was Business Spanish. It was so frustrating that I skipped lunch to take a nap afterwards. Thank God I packed Luna bars. I was in the worst mood and I needed a break. Yall know how I get when I'm in my frustrated Spanish mode. I want to leave this trip without everyone hating me. No one else here really gets frustrated the way I do with my classes. No one in any of my Spanish classes ever does. Everyone's like "Don't worry, you'll get a good grade." But it's not the grade I'm worried about. I know I'll get a good grade but I'm genuinely trying to learn and understand this language. I'm not at the same level as everyone else in my classes and I'm not exactly sure why. I've been studying Spanish forever. I felt much better after my nap. A group of six of us decided to go on a hike. The path we took was "Camino Real." It starts in the campus botanical garden and ends near the campus casitas. It was a pretty difficult path. Everything here is since we're up in the mountains. There were a bunch of paths that were blocked off but we decided to go down them anyways to see what was that way. It wasn't anything interesting and the paths got a little more dangerous so we kept turning back around. That's probably why they were blocked off. The path was covered in leaf cutter ants and we kept passing by their anthills, or should I say mountains. They were huge. There was a dog that followed us the whole time. We first saw him at the waterfall and he followed us back to campus. We named him Oreo because he's white and black. Anyways, he kept disappearing and then popping out of the brush and scaring us. I swear he knew what he was doing. We kept hoping it would be something interesting. Maybe El Chupacabra? It took about 2 hours to finish the path. We all relaxed for a little while before heading to class again. Another frustrating class. We had to watch and discuss a short video and I could barely understand it. I go straight from my last class to dinner. After dinner I helped the kitchen staff wash dished with 3 other students. I was hoping to practice my Spanish, but they only talked to Ben, the only one of here that is already fluent. It kind of annoyed me. And it took the 4 of us over an hour to wash all the dishes. The staff was all very friendly though and I could tell they really appreciated our help. I'll do it again soon and make sure Ben doesn't come along ;) That night we all just hung out in the other girls' room watching YouTube videos, reading Tucker Max out loud, and basically relaxing. I kept saying random Summer Heights High quotes and no one else has even seen that show. Why don't you watch MTV for once? | Thursday // 11 June 2009

17: Beans and Rice. Beans and Rice. Beans and Rice. It was only day 4 and I already wanted to punch beans and rice in the face. That was my breakfast. Again. It was Friday morning and I was supposed to milk cows at 6:00 am, but it was moved to Saturday. They cancelled our morning classes so we could go to Santa Elena after eating. Campus really is pretty close to perfection, but we all needed to see a little more civilization. The taxis (buses) came at 9:30 and drove us into town. The first thing we did was stop at the bank to exchange some dollars into colones. Apparently there was a bank robbery there 5 years ago resulting in 6 deaths, so the security was insane. There was this little glass room that required you to push a button to get in. It then scanned us for metal, etc. Somehow it knew I had a camera in my purse so the security guard made me put it in one of their lockers. Then I got back in the little room and it let me through. Thankfully none of us are fat because I have no idea how we'd fit in there. The bank staff is agonizingly slow, which was a nice little reminder of good ole Suntrust back home. After we finally exchanged some money, we (all the students) headed straight to the bar/restaurant while the professors went off somewhere else. Yes, we were drinking at 10:30 am. Sorry mom. The restaurant itself was so cool! It was called The Treehouse/Casa del Árbol and was literally built around a giant tree. The menu was in Spanish and English which I didn't like, but the lower level Spanish students were happy. We got a few drinks before ordering lunch. I made best friends with our waiter/bartender and told him I needed to practice my Spanish. I talked to him for a good 30 minutes. We just talked about our lives, etc. He's worked there for three years and it takes him 2 hours to get there every. single. day. And that's not because of Atlanta traffic, people. Since he was my bff, when I asked him if I could climb the tree he hesitatingly agreed, as long as I took my shoes off. It was scarier than I imagined but I'm happy I did it. I've been doing lots of strange things here just so I can say I did. We met the buses at 12:30 because there are people with classes at 1:00. It was nice to get to hang out with everyone outside of campus. I don't really remember class, but I do remember my professor saying she's cancelling all of our Sunday classes. My hero. After dinner we all hung out for a little while before going on a night hike. Everyone went except for two people who were doing homework. There are 13 of us total in case I haven't already mentioned that. At one point, we saw two creepy red eyes way up on one on the trees. Had we been with a naturalist I'm sure they would've been able to tell us what it is, but I guess it will remain a mystery. Maybe it was El Chupacabra? It was creepier than I thought it would be out there, even though I was with 10 other people. At one point one of the guys came up behind me and grabbed me. I, of course, screamed and everyone got to laugh at my expense. Another reminder of home. It was really cloudy so we couldn't see many stars. We did a short easy trail that ended in the medicinal garden. We hung out there and looked at everything. I tried something called a Candyleaf which tastes like Orbitz's Mint Mojito gum. Then we saw cilantro and I really wanted to tear it all up. Cilantro is in everything here and I HATE cilantro. Hit List thus far: beans, rice, cilantro, insects. | Friday // 12 June 2009

18: It's the day you've all been waiting for! At 5:30 in the morning I forced myself out of my rock hard bed and into some clothes. I was confused with my decision for that morning as I continued getting ready. Alison and I walked to the stable together, half asleep, laughing at ourselves. We met up with two of the professors and 5 other students. I watched a short demonstration and then I did the unthinkable. That's right, I reached under that cow, grabbed its nasty little belly, and milked it. It was disgusting. The udders were hairy and bumpy and the whole place smelled like dirt, rotten milk, and poo. After about two minutes I weirded myself out and had to take a break. But I went back after a little break and milked some more like a champion. I felt nauseous and was happy I hadn't eaten breakfast yet. But I came I saw I conquered. Another strange thing to add to my list of Costa Rican firsts. As horrible as it was, I plan on doing it again before I leave. Don't ask me why. Breakfast was at 6:30. Cold pancakes with honey, toast with cheese made from said cow, granola with (whole- vomit) milk from la vaca, and fruit. Needless to say, I stuck with the fruit and coffee. I haven't mentioned this yet, but the coffee here is phenomenal. We got on the bus immediately after breakfast and headed up the mountain and into the Monteverde cloud forest. Once we were there, we were told to split into two groups: one to follow the guide who would speak in English and the other for us crazy kids trying to learn Spanish. My brain hurt all day. I had to focus so hard just to understand 60% of what he was saying. I felt like Chris Angel. We saw another sloth, a couple of monkeys, a tarantula, lots of bugs, some crazy birds, huge trees, etc. etc. Yall know what's in a rainforest. I also saw a snake dying. At the end of the hike we stopped in a hummingbird forest. They were so crazy. I literally thought a bird was going to zoom straight into my eye and blind me. There were so many of them and they would get within 2 inches of your face. You'll be happy to know that I escaped uninjured with plenty of pictures to share. I don't remember what we did when we got back. I probably took a nap and did homework. After dinner we all went to get ready to go out. There was a party going on in El Comedor while we waited for the taxis. We listened to two ticos play the xylophone and then we played with a piñata and limbo-ed. The salsa lessons were supposed to start at 7:30 but didn't start until 8:15. Unfortunately, our cabs arrived at 8:30 so we didn't learn much. We went to a place called Amigos. There was a $2 cover. The drinks were really cheap and the place was huge. I felt like a native when I ordered a drink and the guy brought me my change in colones. I have no idea why, but for some reason I was convinced he cheated me out of money. When I called him out on it he went to the till and brought me more. Jackpot. I kept trying to solo dance as per my specialty, but ended up with some American high schoolers, some ticos, and of course the rest of my group. I requested the same Spanish song about 338752 times. The DJ kept saying he was going to play it but he lied! Instead, he kept playing songs in English. It's so funny to see what they think Americans listen to. They played Low like 4 times. They also played the YMCA though and we all went crazy. Gotta love songs with hand gestures. I focused on my dance skills for most of the night but managed to fit plenty of Spanish in there too. Towards the end of the night Ben and I went outside to cool off. I practiced my Spanish some more with the street vendors and bought chicken. It was served to me in a napkin and I had to eat with my hands. Classy. My choice of food went nicely with the hat I stole from New David though. I'm actually wearing it right now. It says "Gold n Fresh; Genuine Georgia Chicken." The cabs came at one to take us home. Everyone else stayed up until four but I went straight to bed. We had to get up at 7 the next morning to go to the waterfall again. Night out in Santa Elena number one was a success. | Saturday // 13 June 2009

22: If you took a blind man, put him in the middle of our campus, and told him to guess where he was based solely on the conversations he overheard, he would bet his life on the fact that he was in the middle of a fat camp. Day and night, every single day, everyone fantasizes about food. Normally this would make me physically ill, but here, I get it. In case you don't already know, I absolutely hate when people obsess over food. People have this weird, romance-like relationship with food that totally confuses me and makes me nauseous. "You eat to live; you don't live to eat." Great Gramma said it best. That being said, I have to admit that I've participated in the games: "Would you rather eat beans and rice again or a 2 day old Big Mac?" "Dude, I'd give half my earlobe for a Chick-Fil-A cookies n' cream milkshake right now. Seriously." "When we get to San Jose, I'm changing into my running shoes and hauling ass to Wendy's. I'm seriously bringing $30 and won't stop eating until I've spent every cent on food. I'll sit there for hours if I need to, but I guarantee it'll only take 45 minutes." "Yall, the address of our hotel in San Jose is "300 meters north of Pizza Hut;" this is going to be the best trip ever!" After eating beans and rice with cilantro for 11 days straight, even an anorexic would get sucked into the food games. "Not eating two days a week keeps me looking really hot." | I'd give half my earlobe for... // 19 June 2009

24: The morning after we went to Amigos we had to be at breakfast at 7:00 am rather than 8:00. We had a 2 hour long hike ahead of us and everyone was dying. There were six of us who had already been to the waterfall, but the others hadn't. We went with all of the professors and one of the naturalists this time. The naturalists here seriously hate us. I have no idea why. We try to be friends with us and they just look at us like we smell or something. When I said hi to one yesterday she looked at me and looked away without saying anything. Ooooookay. Oh wait, I actually may have a little idea why they hate us, pero no estoy seguro. See, there was this one naturalist under debate for the past few days. No one knew if shim was a boy or a girl. Except me. I knew it was a guy. Its calf muscles were huge and its face was unmistakably male. Women don't have noses like that. I was really annoyed that no one believed me as the debate went on. It carried over into the next day after breakfast. That's when I saw shim's sports bra line. IT'S A GIRL!!! The investigation ensued to make sure I was right. I was. It's possible that the naturalists knew of said debate. Then the stink faces would make sense. But A. we weren't obvious about it and B. Shim has to know how confusing shim is. Okay no more sidetracks. The waterfall was just as gorgeous and just as cold as last time. The one thing that was different though is this time I wasn't too scared to jump off the rocks. I started on the shorter ones and then went to the taller one next. It took a good minute to get the courage to jump, but I crossed myself and did work sonnnnn. The guys are all over 6 feet and had already jumped so I knew it was safe. Caitlin and I were the only girls who did it. I'm sorting through my thoughts right now and the remainder of this week is a huge mess in my head. I remember the events but not necessarily what order they go in. During my Culture and Composition class one day Sra. Doyle suggested that we help cook breakfast the next day. We had to be there at 7:00 am, but we all thought it sounded like a good idea. We went to talk to the kitchen staff about it. That's when I found out that we had to be there at SIX. Ugh. I seriously never sleep here. I do homework during my break right after lunch, a little after dinner, and then we normally do an activity together before heading to bed around one. | I planned on going to bed early so that I could cook without falling asleep on the food, but we decided to have family movie night in the indoor classroom. I love it that the "classroom" is the outside one and that you have to say "the indoor classroom" when talking about the traditional room. We watched The Italian Job. Good movie. I'd seen it once before and I think I liked it more this time around. Who in the world is the bald dude in that movie? Me gusta mucho. My wailing alarm sounded a lot like I would for the next few hours. I really just wanted to whine and pout about how tired I was as I walked up the path to La Cocina with Mishi. Jaguar (pronounced ha-GUARRRRR) was already up there waiting. We didn't think he'd make it! We cooked until 7:45, ate at 8:00, and then cleaned dishes afterwards until 10:15. My second class started at 10:30. I slept on a wooden bench until I was summoned. She seemed annoyed that we weren't really participating much. I tried to focus on her as she spoke but I was so tired I kept looking through her. Mishi, Jaguar, and I are all in the same three classes. We're the only ones here who are only studying Spanish. We studied together that night so we could be really prepared the next day and make her like us again. It was a success. A different day we discussed the Carmen Naranjo readings before going on a walk. I'm not the best at analyzing poetry in English so you can imagine how amazing I am when it's in Spanish. It makes me so mad. I was excited when she asked if we wanted to go on a walk for class instead of sitting in the room. We've done that once before; we just walk and talk in Spanish about life and the material we're covering. She said there was a little store a little while away so Mishi went and got some money. We got a little sidetracked though and stopped in this little farm. The farmer Don Manuel showed us around. He was so nice. He had no idea who we were but took us in anyways. He gave us some of his oranges that we picked right off the tree. We saw the coffee plants, papaya tree, and some other vegetable tree/bush/vine thing. I don't remember what it is. We eat it every day here. We thought it was zucchini but it isn't. He invited us to come back for mangoes someday soon. I'm not sure when we're going, but I'm really excited. We said goodbye and walked to the store. THEY HAD PRINGLES!!!! I was so excited to see American food that I almost passed out. We spent so much money there. I should've taken a picture of the store. It was so tiny and made no sense. But they had Coke, Fanta, ice cream, and Pringles so that's all that matters. The walk back nearly killed me. It was about 45 minutes up-mountain the entire time. Uphill seriously doesn't suffice for the incline I was experiencing. | un poco horripilante y largo // 20 June 2009

25: I went back to that same store yesterday with one of the 2000-level Spanish classes. It was me, three students, two professors, and the mother of one of the other professors. She's from Spain. She and her husband came to help with Superman and Anything Man while Dr. Navarro teaches. They invited us to come stay with them in Spain whenever we want. I seriously may take them up on it. Three bags of food later we headed back up the mountain. There was a nice little surprise on the way back though: torrential downpour. Super. So we swam 45 minutes up-mountain. I'm surprised we didn't drown. I was absolutely soaked and miserable. I kept laughing though. What else can you do? That's one thing I wish I'd packed: a raincoat. I think I'll buy one in San Jose. It's the rainy season here and that means it literally rains every. single. day. It's actually pouring rain outside right now. It comes for a couple hours, then leaves for a few more, then returns. When it's not raining here the weather is gorgeous. You know those days where you walk outside and say "This is absolutely perfect" as you wish every day could be just as good? That's every day here mas o menos a few degrees. Thursday was Old Greg's birthday. Gigs and Stocky helped cook him a cake in the kitchen instead of class one day. We ate, sang, and headed back to the bungalows to get ready. The cabs came at 8:30 and took us to Amigos. I didn't dance with any ticos this time. They were all horripilante. Nunca Mata taught us that's the word for creepy. We also use it to mean "creeper" when we want because there's no translation for "creeper." Sad. We had a guest (I think his name was Virgilio? Or something?) come talk to our class Thursday. See, Wednesday we talked about piropos, basically pick-up lines. It was the best class ever. We shared ours and he told us some to expect from the ticos. We'd already experienced a few of them from the first trip to Amigos. The most common one I get it "Rrrrrrrrica!!!" or "machita, mi amor" etc. etc. They profess their love a lot here. We went back to Amigos last night with some girls from Berry college. No offense, but they were pretty lame, like almost everyone I know at Berry ;) It was so much fun. Gigs is always my dance buddy. He saves me from horripilantes when I need him to. All these guys are our "novios" at least seven times a night. (How many?) I danced with some of the ticos this time because they weren't being creepers. The bartenders love us. They already know what we're going to order every time we walk up to them. I love it. The ticos seem to be enthralled by Americans. And yes, I know "Americans" are from all of the Americas, but everyone refers to us as Americans so I'm sticking with that. I think they love us and are probably a little annoyed by us all at the same time. We made friends with some people from London, Ireland, Texas, and Boston. There was a live band there that was really good. I asked them if I could play with them and they said yes! So I danced and played drums for three or four songs. I'm in a band, no biggie. We had a meeting about San Jose yesterday. I'm so excited! We leave Monday!! There's so many activities planned (insert Step Brothers quote here), but I'll write about those once I actually do them. All I'm gonna say is there's a Pizza Hut, Wendy's, and Subway. Score.

26: apodos // 20 June 2009 | So I've posted a lot about what I've been doing but haven't really explained much about the people here. Our group is amazing. Everyone gets along really well and we're all starting to get really close. I feel like all of these guys are my brothers and the girls are my best friends. I was talking to Sra. Doyle during our break in between classes about the group yesterday. She said that she was talking to the other professors about how we're a really unique group. They said we're all really great students who are willing to work hard and learn but still have fun at the same time. She also said we seem like everyone gets along and that we're just a really fun group to be around. That was so nice to hear. I'm happy they like us. In this post I'll explain a little about the people here and allllll of the nicknames that have been given out. I'm in D2 so I'll talk about us first. First there's Alison. With one "L." She doesn't have a nickname, yet. She lives in D2 with my and Laura. I met her in the airport and she was my first friend on this trip!! Woohoo! We spend a lot of time together. She's in my Conversation class also. She has some pretty sweet dance moves. Laura is in my Conversation class and D2 also. She is also lacking a nickname but I'm sure that will change soon. I also met her at the airport. We all sat together and decided that we'd room together on the bus ride to campus. D3 is Ryne, New David, and Ross. Ryne actually went to high school with me and I had no idea he was coming on the trip. We weren't ever friends but we had a class together freshman year. We call him Gigs or Giggles. He hates Giggles so we shorten it sometimes. He seriously giggles all the time, especially when he drinks. It's so funny. He and I always dance together. New David is El Comedor. Anything Man and Superman are in LOVE with him! They follow him around everywhere he goes and call him "El Comedor." We had a salsa class and watching him shake his hips is honestly my favorite thing in the world. There's nothing funnier. Ross is either Puma or El Jefe (the boss). I think Puma is lame so I call him El Jefe. I love when he reads Tucker Max out loud to us. He's so good at it. D4 has Jay, Ben, and David. Jay's nickname was Yay but it's slowly evolving to be Yayo. He's crazy and he always has a smirk on his face. We fight a lot. Love fights. He's in my Conversation class. For the first four days I seriously asked him seven times a day if he was taking any Spanish classes. (how many times a day?)He was like "Really! I'M IN YOUR CLASS!" Since there's only six people in class it was really funny. Oops. Ben is Jaguar (ha-GUARRRR) and he's even crazier. But he thinks I'm crazy. He's in all three of my Spanish classes. He's from Colombia and I want to destroy him because he's already fluent. We fight a lot too. He was my dance partner in salsa lessons. David is Old Greg. On the first day of one of his classes he told the professor to call him that for some reason and it stuck. He's so goofy. Today he's wearing Mishi's pink sunglasses, a white tee with a sign that says "Big Bird" on it (it's from a Spanish activity we did earlier today. I was assigned Soulja Boy.), tall socks with UGA G's on them, and a Masters hat. Impressive. | D1 is Michelle, Caitlin, Jessie, and Stockton. Michelle is Mishi or Bird Man. She's in all three of my Spanish classes and is literally insane. Yesterday we were in class doing paper corrections on the board. She tried to write about a male bird, "pajaro macho," but instead wrote "hombre pajaro." Nunca Mata was so confused and crying and we all died. So we call her Bird Man because that's what that means. She always says "tarea para manana!' and "tequilaaaaa!" She speaks Spanish with a hick accent so we've all started speaking Spanish with the most horrific accents to annoy the professors. It's awesome. I don't think Caitlin has a nickname yet. She is normally my alarm clock in the morning because she's so loud. We were both dying yesterday on the swim back home from the store. She cracks me up. Jessie is called "Turkey Leg" and absolutely hates it. One day she was talking about how she likes the turkey legs at Medieval Times so El Jefe started calling her turkey leg to be annoying and it stuck. Last night we had chicken legs for dinner and they kept holding them next to her face being like "Which one's which?" "I didn't know you had a twin!" Stockton is Stocky and she hates that too. It's funny because she's the tiniest one on the trip. I thought she was going to be really quiet when I met her but she isn't at all. Sra. Mata is My Conversation professor. We call her Nunca Mata because matar is to kill and she always saves all these bugs. There's a spider in her room and he's like her friend. He moves around a lot and she doesn't mind him. Sra. Doyle is my professor for Business Spanish and Composition and Culture Spanish classes. We're working on a nickname for her. Dwight teaches INTL classes but I don't have him for anything. Dr. Navarro is Doctora Tortuga because she had on her pack with a green poncho over it and looked like a turtle. She has her two sons here, David and Paul. David is Superman and I hadn't seem his costume again until today. I played Disney Monopoly with him and Paul yesterday. He was Mr. Incredible and I was Nemo. When he had to go to jail he goes "but I'm a superohero" and seemed genuinely confused. He's four. Paul is seven (how old?) and he's Anything Man. Yesterday he called Monopoly "mana-POLY." I shouldn't have corrected him. I don't know much of the staff besides Giovanny. He taught the salsa class and he works with the kitchen people and doing random stuff around campus. Today he helped with our activity for Spanish. We invited him out with us but he isn't allowed to hang out with us because of the rules. Lame. There's like 4 or 5 naturalists. I don't know their real names but we call them Stick Girl (because she's insanely skinny), Ghost Girl (because she's insanely pale), and Shim. If you read my other post you know all about Shim. Yohan is just Yohan. I kinda hope they don't ever see my blog... So far I have two nicknames: Bailarina ("dancer" in Spanish) and Coqueta ("flirt"). Jaguar is really the only one who calls me Bailarina. I seriously do dance 24/7 though. Today I was studying my vocab terms for two hours by rapping them and dancing the whole time. I'm sure I annoy everyone on campus. Or entertain them maybe. ("That's not disruptive Miss, that's entertainment!")

28: 21 June 2009 | Sorry I have been out of touch with everyone! The past week has been really busy. I don't really ever have free time. Last Sunday was FATHERS' DAY and I didn't even have time to call home. Sorry :( We woke up early last Sunday to go on a tour of Finca la Bella close to campus. A "finca" is a farm, so it was a tour of all the products they grow there etc etc. After we climbed and climbed and climbed, we finally got there. It was absolutely gorgeous; the most beautiful place I have ever, and probably will ever, see in my life. I don't really remember much about it at this point, but we got to chew on sugar cane at the end. I'm not a huge fan but everyone else was. We walked back to campus, had lunch, and immediately got in a cab to go to a local festival. They were raising money for the church, and a cow auction was going on when we got there. You would've thought Shakira had just walked onto that field with the amount of stares we got. There were probably a hundred people or so there, and then us 15 gringos. A cow was only $200!!! We were going to buy one just so we could say "I bought a cow in Costa Rica!" and donate it to UGA Costa Rica. We asked the program advisor and she thought it was a great idea, but one of the professors told us she thought we shouldn't, because the people there actually need these things and UGA has enough cows. She didn't want us to drive up the price. So, sadly, I did not buy a cow in Costa Rica. Surprisingly enough, the auctioneer was the same street vendor I practiced my Spanish and ate chicken with outside of Bar Amigos one night at 1:00 am. Auctioneer by day, chicken vendor by night. Interesting. As he started walking towards me I was just like "Oh God, please don't do what I think you're about to do." But he did. He grabbed my hand and told me in Spanish that he needed to borrow me for a minute. Super. We walked down to where the auctioning was taking place and I had to hold up this giant plate of meat covered in flies and a bottle of peach wine that they were trying to sell. As the auctioning went on, he tried to include me in the sale to drive the price up. Thankfully I knew enough Spanish to know what was going on and say that I was NOT for sale. After the auction we hung out for a little while before mass. If I was looking for a husband, Costa Rica would be the perfect place for my search. I literally can't count how many times random guys have told me "I luf you lad-E!!!" It's the only English they seem to know. | They played some music while we were waiting for mass to start. Then everyone got up and kept raising their hands for me to get up too. I had no idea what was going on so I just stood up and kind of followed everyone else. Little kids in angel outfits led the men carrying this platform with a statue of San Luis on it. The town we were in was San Luis so I'm assuming it was the feast of Saint Luis. There was a big procession with lots of singing and clapping. When we got back to the church someone had stolen my seat. Dangit. I stood in the back next to two 8 year old boys who made no attempt to hide the fact that they were staring at me the entirrrre time. There was a baby in front of us who was so cute and we made faces at him the whole time to make him laugh. Then the 8 year olds loved me more. A kid came by and tripped over the pew and we laughed together. It was a great bonding experience. Liz would've loved it. The church had no air conditioning, like the rest of the country, and only half of the congregation went up for Communion. I wasn't sure if I should or not but decided to go anyways. As we left, they played the same beat they played for every single other song and I laughed. I swear they only knew one beat and played it at least ten different times with new words each time. There was a tribute to all of the dads that was really sweet. I wasn't really sure what was going on, but some of the dads cried. We were about to leave the festival to walk to a restaurant one of the ticos told us about when the auctioneer said his friend could drive us. So about ten of us piled in the back of a pickup truck and headed down the rocky road. Thankfully none of us fell out. This place we ate at was absolutely stunning. Had we not had a ride there, I'd have had no idea where it was. You can't even see it from the parking lot. We walked through some brush and mud into this little hidden paradise. There were flowers and trees surrounding little lakes. The restaurant only had two walls and all of the tables and chairs were made out of really cool wooden stumps/etc. We ordered Imperials (the best Costa Rican beer) and headed out back to see what everyone was looking at. There was a man catching tilapia out of one of the little ponds with a net. I thought it was so cool until he picked it up to throw it back. He did NOT throw it back!!! He grabbed it, ripped his head off with his bare hands, and told me that that was my dinner. I thought I was going to die. It was served to me, tail, head, fins, and all. I'm not sure how I managed to eat it, but I did and I actually enjoyed it. After dinner we stayed and salsa danced with some of the locals. I listened to everyone talk about us because they all think we can't speak Spanish. I wish people knew I was a STUDENT and not a TOURIST! Nonetheless, it was one of my favorite nights here so far. Farm, auction, pickup truck, tilapia heads; if that's not cultura I'm not sure what is.

35: Monday we got up really early again. I had to pack up alllll of my stuff. Whatever wasn't coming to San Jose with me had to go into storage, because another group was staying in Bungalow D while we were gone. The bus ride to Hotel Cacts ("Hotel Caca") was about four hours. We had five minutes to put our stuff in the rooms before we headed out to lunch and lectures. The first two things I saw when I opened the door to the room I shared with Al were stains on the wall and a giant cockroach. It was going to be a long few days. We went to a really nice little café that had great food and no gallopinto. Jackpot! The lectures for the day were right across the street. We were all tired from the early departure, long bus ride, and food babies from all the lunch we ate. To make matters worse, the lecture was in a dark room and really couldn't have been more boring. They had three people presenting. Thank God the last guy was really good-looking or else I wouldn't have made it. After we left the professors apologized that we had to sit through it and said they had been pinching themselves to stay awake the whole time. I couldn't wait to take a nice hot shower before dinner. I got undressed and turned the shower on. I'm not joking when I say I was laying flatter against that wall than a middle school make out session. My "shower" was seven freezing cold drops of water running down the side of the wall. I washed my hair in the sink. We went to dinner at a Peruvian restaurant called Machu Picchu and it was the best meal I've had so far. After a few glasses of wine we went to one of the bars while the professors headed back to Hotel Caca. The waiters recommended a place for us and called cabs to pick us up. They assured me it was a safe place. You can imagine how packed a night club is in San Jose on Monday night. There were maybe fifteen other people there. We danced by ourselves for a little while before heading upstairs to karaoke. It was hilarious. The guys with us were all actually pretty good and so funny. There were ticos there belting out ballads (in all seriousness). It was amusing. Karaoke really isn't my thing when there's no "Baby Got Back," so I went downstairs to dance again. Our waiters had come to hang out! They're really good salsa dancers. I just stuck with them the whole time and followed their lead. I don't think I would've been able to get in my dirty stained bed without my ipod and a few drinks in me. I woke up in the exact same position I went to bed in. Another refreshing shower and long day of lectures awaited me. | San Jose // 27 June 2009

36: San Jose 2 // 28 June 2009 | The next two days were just lectures. They were all pretty lame and boring. We got to go to the Legislative Assembly which was interesting. Our tour guide was kind of rude, but the tour itself was cool. The best part was when we got to go in the press box and watch Congress fighting. I asked one of the girls in a uniform what was going on. She laughed at my Spanish and explained. Then we talked about life. Her name was Victoria and she was really nice. She kissed me before she left. Lots of kissing goes on here. We went to some random poet's house who is related to Carmen Naranjo, a writer I've been studying in my Culture and Composition class. Her house was so eclectic. I loved it. The lecture we got there had nothing to do with her or poetry. It was about hunger problems in Costa Rica. We went to University for Peace one day for eight hours of lectures. They were all mind-numbing except for this one guy who was really funny and sarcastic. I think they all think we're Ecology students because we come from the UGA Ecolodge. They kept talking about saving trees and stuff and they were like "you know about this, this interests you." We're Business and Spanish students. We had an hour lecture on Earth Charter. They were nice people, but literally all they seem to do is go around and tell people things they already know about how they should save the world. They don't actually do anything themselves. It's like they teach this random document of beliefs that we all learned in 2nd grade. Waste of time. The lectures lasted most of the time, but we had an hour or so break each day. We managed to hit up McDonalds and Pizza Hut. It was amazing. I've never been so happy to see fast food in my life. Everyone laughed when 10 gringos walked into the American Food Paradise. After Mickey D's one day we went to shop in the market. We had all been talking on Sunday about how we couldn't believe that Costa Rica was a third world country. Then we came to San Jose. Dear Lord it is nasty. I've never been anywhere so dirty and impoverished. Every building looks condemned, there are homeless people everywhere, a guy asked us if we were looking to buy weed in the grocery store, stray animals constantly beg for food, the list goes on and on. I never felt clean or safe. I wouldn't walk in a crowd of less that five people and kept a death grip on my purse at all times. The market was really crowded and smelly and there were about fifty tiny food, accessory, and pet shops crammed in there. I really wanted to buy souvenirs for everyone but it closed in twenty minutes and I was really overwhelmed. Many marriage proposals and wrong turns later, I found my way back on to the street and walked around in the rain until I was soaking wet and my shoes were falling apart. We went to some awful Caribbean restaurant called Quimbombo. I just ordered nachos and watched them take chips, put cheese on top, and throw them in the microwave on high for thirty seconds. When they came out, the chips were stale and only one had cheese on it. It was so disgusting that I just threw it away and ate everyone else's food. They forgot to bring Al's food out alltogether. After dinner we went to a jazz club where a James Brown cover band was playing. Random, I know. It was sooo much fun! All the professors drank and danced with us. We were the only ones dancing; everyone else there was really lame. The band kept trying to get people to dance and no one would so finally I did, followed by the rest of our group. There was a black dude whose only job was seemingly dancing on stage. He was so good! I'm sure he was pretty impressed by my sick moves too. All in all, San Jose wasn't too bad, but I can say that it's the first place where people have been rude to us. Walking through the streets downtown, some guy kept yelling "Foreigners! Foreigners!" and pointing at us. Another guy screamed (in broken English) "Excuse Me!" and shoved me out of the way. I yelled "Excuse YOU!" back at him in Spanish. At the jazz club, some guy yelled "Get the F* out!" at us as soon as we walked in the door. Everyone spoke English too, which was disappointing. I only want to speak in Spanish. Some people just wanted to make me comfortable, I'm sure, and practice their English, but others were just being condescending. Too bad I don't know enough Spanish to dish it right back at them.

38: One of our day trips while staying at our fabulous hotel in San Jose was white water rafting down the Pacuare. I'd never been before and I was absolutely terrified when I heard we'd be rafting on class four plus rapids. The company picked us up from the hotel and our guide talked to us about safety procedures, commands, and all that jazz the whole time. He singled me out of the bus of fifteen or so to ask some questions and tease me for being scared. It was love at first sight. Seriously. I love him. He has two kids though, so there's a wife, a girlfriend, or a lot of baggage there. Sad Face. He divided us up into groups that would be going on three different rafts. Surprise, surprise: he assigned me to the raft he was guiding. Coincidence? I think not. We ate some good ole gallopinto with fruit and coffee for breakfast before heading down to the river. I geared up and headed to the raft. The guide kept telling me I had a left-handed oar and needed to switch to a right-handed one. I went back and forth, confused, about four times before everyone laughed at me and said they're all the same. I had a death grip on that raft with my feet. Because I'd never been before, I was expecting it to be like "Deadliest Catch" or something. I thought we'd be fighting for survival. We went through a lot of rough water, but there were no near-death experiences and I made it to our place for lunch in one piece. These guides were insane. They took all these random bins off the rafts and went to work. After about twenty minutes, there was this gourmet lunch set up for us on the side of the river. I was seriously impressed. We got back on the raft for the second half of the journey. Our guide kept trying to scare us and fake us out. He was really funny. We got out at one point to swim under a waterfall. I was sad when it ended. On the ride back, my boyfriend kept explaining random things to us. Once he was done we all passed out and Jaguar took pictures of everyone sleeping. I woke up when my head slammed into the window. Then I saw a rainbow and screamed about it to wake everyone up. We arrived at the hotel and I said thanks and goodbye to the driver Raul and my hubby Ivan. I knew I'd be sore the next day as I got in my disease-filled bed. I bought a Fanta before checking out of Hotel Caca in the morning. See ya San Jose, you smell. | Rafting down the Pacuare // 29 June 2009

40: Rancho Margot at Arenal // 29 June 2009 | The bus left a little late the next morning. One of the girls had to go to the hospital because she wouldn't stop throwing up. Everything was a little hectic, but we eventually got on the road, sad to leave Caitlin and two of the four professors behind. We were headed to Rancho Margot near Arenal, but stopped in La Fortuna on the way. It was seriously a tourist town. Every one there who wasn't working in one of the shops was a tourist. It was really weird. I'm sure they hate us. As we got back on the bus we were all wondering what the place would be like. We were really hoping it was an actual ranch and IT WAS!!! We cheered while the bus driver parked in front of reception. A barefoot (but pretty cute) hippie walked us inside and checked us in. He took us to the bunkhouse as a little golf cart carried our suitcases up the hill. The excitement ended there. Our "rooms" were more like old stables. They were all as long as a twin-sized bed and twice as wide. My suitcase was too long to fit in length wise. There wasn't enough room for two people to stand in there at once, and the floor wasn't even big enough for our luggage. Jessie put hers on the floor while I put mine on the bottom bunk. We shared the top twin-sized bunk that night as bugs crawled all over us. Did I mention there were no real windows or doors? Yeahhhh... Other than the disaster area we were sleeping in, the place was unreal. It was absolutely breathtaking. There were flowers everywhere. The first thing we did was find a soccer ball and head down to the muddy field. I'd never played before, and warned everyone that I am outrageously horrible at soccer. As we divided up teams I was the last to be picked. Shocker. We played in bare feet so our shoes wouldn't get dirty. I can honestly say I fell in the mud at least eight times. I was covered in mud, head to toe. Some of the ticos played with us and laughed at how atrocious we were. As I said bye to go shower, one of the guys (the same cute hippie who I later learned was the son of the owner) told me to go jump in to the natural pool first. Pool??? Yes, there were pools! One natural one with a waterfall to a lower pool, and one clean one, made from a hot spring with chlorinated water. I knew where I'd be spending all me free time. Dinner was amazing. They had pizza. I didn't even look at anything else. What else could you want if there's pizza!? I was in heaven. After dinner I went straight to the hot springs with some of the people from our group. When I got bored I headed to the bar and made friends with the people working there, and the ones drinking there who were off work. I asked the owner's son when it closed and he said whenever we stopped drinking. Hello paradise. Too bad I didn't know drinks were ten dollars before I got excited. | Needless to say I only ordered one before heading up to the workers' bungalow with some other people from our group. The drinks they had for us were free. They told us that if you volunteer there for at least a month, you get free meals and room and board. I talked to the manager and I think I'll do it once I graduate. The next morning I went horseback riding. I rode Imperio and he took me, the other ten people from my group, and our two guides up the side of the mountain. The top overlooked the lake and Arenal Volcano. It was absolutely gorgeous. We headed back down and my horse almost fell over crossing the river. Once we were safely on the other side, the guide gave me a little stick. See, I was mad before because my horse would never go fast. He called me "machita" as he showed me what to do with it. I smacked Imperio and we took off. I was laughing and screaming at the same time. We got back and laid out as more ticos told us girls of their love for us. Later on we played soccer again. I was so sore from rafting and was about to be sore from horseback riding too. I ate more mountains of pizza for dinner before we went on a "fifteen minute walk" to look at the lava coming out of the volcano. It was NOT fifteen minutes. It was more like an eternity. The place we finally got to was pretty far away from the volcano, but we could still see the lava running down the sides. I kinda wished it would erupt so I could take some pictures. By the time we got back I was exhausted. I walked through the pouring rain and attempted to sleep in my bug-filled bed with everyone talking loudly in all the rooms around me. I was sad to say goodbye to everyone there. We took a bus to a boat to another boat to another bus. Our bus broke down halfway up this mountain to we had to climb it as he tried to fix it. We'd left at 7:30 am and we were all hot and tired. I was laughing so hard that I could barely walk. No one else thought it was funny. Eventually we made it back to home sweet home and saw Caitlin again. At dinner we saw my hubby Geovanny. True love, kids. It's good to be back home.

44: Not much has happened this past week. My birthday was Tuesday!!! The kitchen made me a really pretty cake w sprinkles and my name on it, which was really sweet. There were about twice the normal amount of people there because it was another group's last day, and everyone sang to me. I had a paper due that I wasn't ready to turn in, so I asked my professor if we could get another day if Jaguar and I worked in the kitchen and she said yes! So I spent about 2 and a half hours cleaning dishes, dancing and singing with Jaguar, and practicing my Spanish the whole time. We couldn't go out because everyone had tons of homework. It's good that we stayed in though because one of the girls had to go to the hospital later. She couldn't breathe and has all these heart problems. The rest of the week was pretty much taken up by class and tons of work. We went into town one day to shop while all the sickies went back to the 23 year old "doctor". Interesting note about him... in Costa Rica you don't have to go to real college to be a doctor. So this guy was apparently 23 and Asian but he spoke perfect English. The meds he gave our girls still hadn't made any difference a whole week later, so he told them to keep taking the same meds and add a dose of Advil with them. I'm no doctor but I'm not too sure about all that. Then he asked another girl some personal questions and basically told her she was pregnant. She was like actually, that's literally impossible, trust me. And he goes "Oh right, it must be "God's baby."" WTF? And he told all of their medical histories to the professors which annoyed the girls. Luckily I missed out on that Fun Fest because I was shopping :) The benefits of drinking "Health Potion." I got a knock-off Saprissa jersey for $8! And lots of snacks and a hamburger for lunch (hold the rice). For the 4th of July we went back to Lelos's (the tilapia place) for dinner and a few drinks before heading back to ol' faithful Bar Amigos. The professors came with us this time!!! It was awesome. They even danced with us. As usual, I ended up being pawned off by Jaguar to practice my Spanish with some random tico. He thought it was so outrageous that I owned my own car. Then he tried to get me to come live in his hostile with him. Pass. Everyone except for one of the girls, the professors, and me drank waaaaay too much, so Sunday morning was pretty rough for most people. We had to be at breakfast at 6:20 am and hadn't even gotten home until 2:00. We left at 7:00 to go zip lining through the Monteverde canopies. It was SO much fun but insanely scary at the same time. I blessed myself, closed my eyes, and made the tico push me off the first platform. There was this other thing where you just jump off and kind of swing which was terrifying and cool too. I got another marriage proposal from one of the guides. After zip lining we were all wet (because it rained half the time) and covered in grease from the zip lines, so we opted out of going to town and got lunch to go at the zip lining place. The ride back made me so sick. Their roads are gravel, mud, and huge rocks. 45 minutes later, I was ready to throw up my lunch and take a nap, so I did. I woke up, packed all my stuff, and headed to the Big House. Half went to storage and half stayed with me. At 4:00 we left for our home stays!! I was really excited to meet everyone but super nervous at the same time. That situation would be awkward with a random English speaking family so it should be even more interesting with a huge language barrier... Wish me luck. | too tired to title // 07 July 2009

50: Homestay Day 1 // 07 July 2009 | I was the first one to be dropped off out of our truck load. It was really awkward but I really like my family. They're so nice. They have 3 kids (two girls, one boy): Carin who is 7 and attached to my hip, Sebastian who is 10 and seemingly nervous around me, and Paola who is 14. Their parents are the ones who make the soap we sell here in the Ecolodge. They showed me to my room and I put all my stuff down. Then the youngest told me she wanted to show me the little path to get to campus. I asked what kind of shoes I should wear and they said my Tevas were fine. Wrong. It was a half hour walk in weeds that were a foot deep and prickly and I was wearing athletic sandals and a sundress. Then the rain started... Nonetheless, the views were amazing. And I got to see where a lot of people who work at the Ecolodge live (including my husband). Everyone here is related. It's so crazy. I don't know how anyone ever finds a boyfriend/girlfriend that isn't somehow related to the family. When we got back I played ping pong while the parents cut the soap. One of the soaps smelled like cake batter. I seriously almost ate it. I miss cake. The soap has to dry in this little room for a whole month before it's ready to sell. Later we went back in the house and I gave them the gifts I brought. We immediately put "Guess Who" together and I taught everyone how to play it. They love it! We played all night and then when I woke up in the morning they were up playing already. I also gave them bubbles, sidewalk chalk, Koolaid, and t-shirts to tie-dye later. In the morning I found the Velcro paddles to catch the tennis ball that I forgot to give them before. We played that all night too. Dinner was good which I was really worried about. They drink hot sugar cane water at dinner though, so I just never drink anything. I should've saved somadat Koolaid... Everyone started disappearing around 8:30 so I figured that meant it was bedtime. The parents had to leave at 4:30 am for San Jose. When I went into my room and turned on the light (Katie stop reading) I immediately saw two huuuuge roaches run across my bed :( I didn't know what to do. I got in bed, put in my ipod, and prayed for protection from the bugs. It's going to be a long week.

51: I'm literally freaking out. I think I might die. Or run away. I definitely can't sleep. There are bugs on every single surface in sight. And not just one or two, but thousands. And weird types too. I might have a nervous breakdown. I might be in the middle of one. I don't know what to dooooo. When I got in my room, there was a four inch grasshopper near my bed. I didn't want to be rude so I just got the little boy and asked "Es amable?" I was secretly hoping he'd catch it and put it somewhere else, but he didn't. No one here is fazed by bugs. I know most can't hurt me but I'm sorry, I can't handle it. Cannot handle it. So that was bad enough. Then the cockroaches came. I chased them with spray, trying not to wake up everyone who's sleeping. The giantest one ran up the wall and over the top to the outside. One ran INTO my suitcase. THE OTHER ONE ATTACKED ME. He freaking flew at me. It took all my power not to scream. I got a towel to block me for protection. Then he landed in my bed and now I can't find him. WHAT DO I DO!? Oh my God. A cockroach is lost in MY bed. No way is this happening right now. I doused every single surface in this room with bug spray. I should've brought spray with DEET. That would be much better. I can't breathe at all and I may possibly be poisoning my family and myself, but this is absolutely necessary. I even sprayed my FACE with bug spray. Luckily we haven't used my tie-dyeing kit yet. Why does that help? Well you see, the kit comes with rubber bands. I have taken the rubber bands and wrapped them around the bottoms of my pants and openings for my hands in my hoodie. I also put the hood up and tied it as tight as I could. That way no bugs can crawl up any openings. I can't feel my feet and my legs are tingly. Not to mention it could possibly be a hundred degrees in this make-shift cocoon. ((a bug just flew into my head while typing)) When I was looking in the sheets for the roach, I found like 6 bug corpses. I'm too disgusted to deal with them. I really feel like this is a joke or a bad dream. My parents would laugh at me if they were here, but I'm just crying. I'm exhausted and there's no way I can sleep. The past two nights I've put in my iPod and chanted "Dear God, please save me from the bugs. Thank you so much for this opportunity, but please protect me from the bugs. I really can't handle it. I might die. Seriously. I'm not being ungrateful, but please protect my bed from all the disgusting bugs before I kill myself. I promise I really will kill myself if one touches me. Please just make them go away. (Repeat)" No luck yet, but maybe God is two hours behind CR time like Atlanta is. Just my luck. As Jaguar would say, "This is CULTURA! Soak it up! Pura Vida, baby." I wish there was an alternative, but I'm seemingly SOL. I'm going to curl up in a ball with my bug spray, iPod, and flashlight and pray some more. I want to die. | Dear God, Please save me from the bugs... // 07 July 2009

52: So my study abroad is almost OVER!!!!! I'm extremely depressed to leave Costa Rica but at the same time I couldn't be more excited to see my family, friends, and all the kids I babysit. I miss everyone so much and I get so excited thinking about seeing everyone for the first time in SIX WEEKS!!! Longer for other people. So I haven't written in a week or so... Here's what I've been up to... Homestay was an experience to say the least. I really tried to learn from it and make the best of it, and I think I did a pretty good job. To be honest though, I was miserable. I really dreaded 6:00 pm when my last class ended and I had to walk 30 minutes up a mountain to get home. The food was actually not bad, so dinner was alright. The dad and the seven-year-old talked to me the most. The shower was painfully cold. I mean literally freezing. Luckily I found a way out of showering there. I'd just be like "Oh noooo, I'm so rushed this morning; I guess I have to shower on campus again." Smarttt. I'll post pictures of the house and some of the family later. The bug situation never really got better but I slowly got braver. The other homestay houses were a lot nicer than mine and their families were a little nicer to them too it seems. Alison's homestay brother studied abroad in the US and is actually going to school in Georgia on a full-ride scholarship in August (impressive) and he threw us all a bonfire party one night. It was so nice of him. AND he and most of his friends spoke English fluently! Don't get me wrong, I loveee practicing my Spanish, but homestay was rough. I needed a little break. We were all excited to be back "home" that Sunday night. This past week was finals week so we didn't have much time for hiking or other fun activities. Or sleep for that matter. Sunday night I went into town with two other students for a little while. I got hit on by the dirtiest hippie and some really old drunk tico. And there was a mime there...? It was an interesting trip. Tuesday night we had a pizza party with our friends from the bonfire. They came back to the bungalows for a little while afterwards. Thursday night we went back to good ol' Bar Amigos for a final farewell to Santa Elena :( Friday we said bye to all the staff. It was really sad knowing we wouldn't be coming back. Friday morning we came to Playa Hermosa!!! I was insanely car sick driving down the mountain. I slept with my head out the window, throwing up the entire four hour ride. I couldn't eat all day and was still throwing up at 9:00 pm. Cuuuuute. I made it to the beach for a little while though! The sand is black... IT'S SO HOT! Today we went snorkeling! It was so gorgeous. The water is so clear and we saw so many fish! THEN we were attacked by jellyfish. I mean literally attacked. The first beach we went to (Playa Huevos) had jellyfish that would sting, and it would hurt, but it wasn't awful. Then we took the boat to some other beach and we all were dying. One wrapped around my leg and got stuck. I also got stung on the face, back, arms, and both legs. Sooooo, that's pretty much my entire body. I swam back to the boat as fast as I could (against the current). We put vinegar and all these weird concoctions on it that the staff had, but nothing helped. It kept hurting more and more. Anyone who knows about my weird skin thing can imagine what my leg looked like. It was hugely swollen and red and white. Ross peed in a can and put it on him and 2 other girls. I said no way in hell was I playing that game. Then the pain kept getting worse. I finally gave in. I was peed on today. Not sure what else to say about that :( | Coming to an end... // 19 July 2009

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Mary-Ryan Lambert
  • By: Mary-Ryan L.
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  • Title: machita monologue: Costa Rica
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  • Tags: stories, costa rica, study abroad
  • Started: almost 6 years ago
  • Updated: almost 6 years ago

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