Literally Leah

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Mas que Menos, la novela de mi vida… adios Costa Rica April 13, 2010

Filed under: costa rica,Travel,Uncategorized — The Under-Analyst @ 4:02 pm
Tags: , , , , ,

Thurs, beach day with Milwaukee/Chicago folks, Heidi is super sick.  I have joined an elusive sport called Synchronized Wave Jumping.  I am now a part of a team of four.  I learned the first couple of moves quickly, in fact I was a natural.  The glory fist pump/jump makes me feel alive.  We practice in the water for a very long time, perfecting our moves.  We are going to nationals.

Fri, Alex, the hostel guy, knows a private beach and has offered to take some of us there for the day.  My gang stays behind so I join the team and some others and jump in the van.  It’s a steep walk down a sketchy meadow path and then through a wooded region but it is well worth the hike.  This place is beautiful and serene. The team, minus Ems, gets some practice in and I delve deeper into my Peace Is Every Step book which is changing my life.  That night is a calm movie night as everyone is preparing for Fish’s big birthday bash tomorrow.

Day 74- Sun, last day of Casey and Zeke.. goodbye.  We realize we aren’t going to make the bus to Dominical.  Complete debauchery.

Day 75,  Mon- welcome to Dominical.  We travel,  standing room only for the first part of our journey.  Domincal is pretty, still touristy but not as bad at Manuel Antonio.  We are all sad to leave our friends behind.  Now it is Elena, Heidi, Lee and myself.  We get a beachside room, fifteen bucks per person cada noche.  I love sleeping to the sounds of the waves.  Elena gives me an amazing foot rub.

Day 16 traveling… day 76, Tues- We get up with hopes of beach fun and sun all day long.  I am determined to get this tan in gear and because Heidi and I are leaving for the middle of Panama tomorrow I need to take full advantage of this final beach day.  We walk over to Tortilla flats to take use of the free wifi to call Lost and Found and reserve our room and also to figure out how the heck we are going to get there.  This process ends up taking forever and we cannot figure out how to get ahold of Panaline (the bus line we need to book tickets with to get down there).  I receive an awful e-mail from my mom informing me that she is sick and needs surgery and hopefully it isn’t cancerous. I skype her and talk to her for a while.  I can fly back home to take care of her.  She insists that she will be fine and that I shouldn’t come home.  I try not to cry and instead assure my mother that I will continue “having fun”  and not worry if this is her desire.  Awful feelings, being so far away.  I miss my mom.  After skyping  Panaline’s incorrect number on their website over and over I start to crash and insist we all go get beers.  It’s one in the afternoon and my sun and funness is not happening and I am depressed.  We finally figure out a few details and I’ve delegated my return flight home booking to my bff in Hermosa (thanks!!!).  We go to a board store and rent a surf board and boogie board.  Finally!  We get to the beach and our Elena’s friend Justin teaches me to surf (not the best waves to learn on, WOW, but I try my best for a good thirty minutes, unsuccessfully).  I decide that I really like it and am going to give it a serious try back in Cali.  The boogie board is by far my favorite!  I love playing in the ocean and I forget everything bad from that morning.  J and D’s friends like to jam so after dinner we go back to their front hotel porch and hang out in hammocks and listen to the mandolin, guitar and bongo drums.  I am such a baby and I cry for a good twenty seconds because I know moments like these cannot ever be re-created and I am just so happy.

Day 17- Wed,  goodbye Dominical, to San Jose to go to Panama.  But shit, we get to the bus station and they don’t have tickets for the midnight bus to Panama.  We are in a scary neighborhood and I’m afraid to go to the cash machine because of course they do not accept cards here.  The guys behind the counter offer to watch our bags (well technically Heidi asks them to and they agree) we scurry to the atm and then discuss what the hell we are going to do because we are obviously stuck in this trashy prostitute haven city where fear of rape and pillage is a norm. As we are leaving the terminal an older local man stares into our eyes and booms, “cuidado”  (careful in spanish). The neighborhood is definitely undesirable and barbed wire decorates the outside of the buildings and homes. When we return we discover that the bus stop has a hotel connected to it and we book a room, although expensive, it appeared the safest option.  Our room is the nicest place we’ve both stayed in over the last 3 months.  Two full sized beds with clean white linens, a little tv with a remote and tons of channels!  We are starving and have been on buses all day long.  The guy behind the hotel counter is eating McDonalds and I want a big Mac like now.  We ask him where to go to find food and we brave the dark streets in hopes of nourishment. As we walk outside, the old local man from before looks extremely disturbed and says, “Mucho Cuidado, mucho!” (Very Careful, very), now we are officially frightened.  We decide we want pizza but after walking for about ten minutes we settle on a Taco Bell.  I get the Big Bell Box and Heidi gets herself a number 5.  We stop at a little tienda and grab some Imperials.  Dinner on our beds in front of the tv was amazing.  We watched Jersey Shore and House Hunters International.  I know that I smell and that I still have sand and ocean all over my body from Dominical but I’m too lazy to shower.  Tomorrow morning I will soap myself up and put on something comfortable for my 16 hour bus ride to a new country.  Lost and Found here we come!

Day 18 on the road, Day 78 in Costa Rica-  We wake up early and I am surprised to find myself in a nice hotel bed.  The shower is hot.  We need to find internet before our bus departs for Panama.  We are instructed to take a left 25 meters for an internet café.  We go about 300 meters and find one on the right.  The internet connection there is incredibly slow, so slow that I am only able to compose three e-mails and access the log in page of my bank account.  Frustrated but in a hurry we leave the café and make our way back to the bus terminal.  We have a slight breakdown after realizing that in order to get back to San Jose for our early flights Wednesday we are going to have to forgo the trip to Bocas Del Toro and will only be able to spend 3 days at Lost and Found, or is it 2?   We stand awkwardly trying to decide if buying our return tickets (about $35 each) and going down to Panama is really the best idea possible, considering we are both poor at this point.  Heidi sighs and then says, “We don’t even have a guidebook!”  Which I think is funny… will the book tell us what to do?  As she says this a guy sitting down offers up his tattered book and asks us what the problem is (in a stunning accent).  We go over our predicament and he advises us to head to Nicaragua, a)because the ride is much shorter and b) it is extremely cheap there.  We mull over this idea but decide that changing our tickets last minute will infuriate the counter man (who hates his life and everyone else, especially us) and also we really want to go to Lost and Found.  We buy our return tickets for Monday at 3am (no other option).  We get on the bus.  Nice, clean, a little luxurious.  Heidi asks the man next to her if he will switch seats so we can sit together, success.  Let the movies begin!  There are several small tv’s around the bus and the first movie is…. Drum roll… Jingle All the Way.  Um yeah, it’s April and we are in the middle of Costa Rica watching a bad Christmas movie dubbed in Spanish with English subtitles.  The next movie… Little Man.  We stop somewhere for twenty minutes.  We are angry.  New Zealand Guidebook Steve comes over and we have a little bit of a chat and Heidi and I are both relieved that we didn’t completely scare him away earlier with our extreme incompetence.  A cow grazes on a mountain side hill and the fumes from the neighboring gas station fill our lungs.  I sit down and touch up my toes with the same red/corral polish I’ve been carrying around for the last 3 months.  We get back on the bus and the next movie is… George of the Jungle 2, not 1, but 2.  Who knew they even made a second movie, especially when the first movie was so incredibly horrible.  We are dumbfounded at the ridiculousness of our lives.  We stop at the border where we get out of the bus and wait in line to receive an exit stamp from Costa Rica border control.  We are then asked to walk 100 meters forward to the Panama border control.  As we are walking a man is sprinting past us and he drops his sleeping bag in a big puddle.   We shout for him to stop, he runs back to grab his bag and then stops in front of us and straight faced says, “Where are you guys from?”  Umm, we answer and I remind him that he is in a hurry.  “Oh yeah, huh.”  “Where are you going in such a rush?”  “That way” and he points to the right.  Heidi looks at me and Steve and we all share the same ‘this guy is bizarre’ face and we shrug and keep walking.   There we get a stamp and are asked to provide a return ticket, good thing we bought one of those at the terminal in San Jose!  Poor Guidebook Steve doesn’t have a return ticket so I give him mine and tell him to get in the other line to give it a go.  It works and we are shuffled over to the examination area.  I opened my duffle-backpack and he gives an approving nod.  We get back on the bus and an hour later we are dropped in David, Panama.  WHOA David!  I feel like we are in a different world… there in front of us is a T.G.I.F. Fridays Restaurant.  Um What!?  Where are we?  And we are in a central commercial area with no cute little hostels around.  It’s too late to get a bus to where we need to go.  An older man who got off the bus also seems to be very concerned with our well being and tells us that he is meeting his Dutch friend and they are staying at some hotel that sounds nice, too nice for our budgeting. Confidently we assure the older man that we will be just fine and so we get in a taxi and ask the thin driver to take us to a cheap hotel nearby.  He drops us at a 24 hour motel and the lady behind the counter tells us it’s only 15 dollars for the both of us with a double bed.  That sounds reasonable, so I follow her into the neon lit lobby and through a dark hall.  She opens the door and I get goose bumps.  The room looks like a whore murder scene.  The bed is stained and lumpy and the only other thing in the room is a rusty fan that she switches on as she flashes me a smile.  Oh dear GOD, we cannot stay here.  I calmly walk out and whisper to Heidi that she needs to come take a look at the room.  She says, “is it bad?”  I say, “just look.”  She gasps upon entry and we both rush back to the woman and explain that we are sorry but we cannot stay here.  A bouncerish looking man looks at her and nods and then hands back our money.  We jump back into the taxi and I say, “let’s just go to Friday’s, get a drink, make friends with a worker there who knows where we can stay and then get a taxi afterwards.”  Agreed.  We arrive and who is sitting up at the bar but the older man from before and his Dutch friend. Lovely.  We snag a couple of seats next to them and are quickly informed that drinks cannot be served because of their religious Semana Santa rules.  WHAT?  This is nonsense.  It was one thing for the supermarkets not to sell alcohol for Semana Santa but the restaurants and bars don’t serve it either!  What kind of country shuts down the sale of, well let’s face it the most important thing to buy on a weekend.  Thursday through Saturday, no sell. Okay, two waters then.  The older man is from Santa Monica and he tells me that he lives in Costa Rica, now, retired, and that every time he goes back to LA it is worse and worse and that he can’t imagine going back there to live now.  Gee, thanks.  Heidi and I split a sandwich.  The bill comes and the two guys pay for us, which is very nice.  We all share a taxi to their hotel and they also pay for the taxi, wowzers a couple of princesas now.  I’m waiting for the catch expecting him to get creepy and try to invite us up to their room.  He’s not creepy and says safe journey. We say goodbye to them and check in at the front counter.  We stay in another surreal hotel with cable and AC.  Are we still in Central America?  This is not good for the bank account.

Day 79-  We get up and take full advantage of the wireless internet.  It feels good to get in touch with family and friends.  We grab a taxi to the bus terminal from our hotel.  The ride was an interesting experience.  We are passing locals and dirty scenery while Swan Lake is pouring out of the taxi speakers.  Classical music and poverty ridden views, how lovely.  We get dropped off and I am surprised at how indigenous the Panama people are compared to the Ticos.  We are definitely the only white/tall people around the terminal which is actually very nice for a change (the beach cities were very touristy).  We get in the bus and ride through beautiful Panama country with Mexican sounding music happily making me dance a little in my seat.  After an hour of beautiful green hills we begin to enter Mountain areas and we are dropped off on the side of the road next to a yellow sign that says “Lost & Found” with an arrow.  We knew that we had a 15 minute hike with our bags ahead of us but we had no idea that this hike would be completely uphill, steep winding uphill.  We made it up about two minutes of the way when two men shouted down for us to leave the bags for them.  We climb up to them, breathless and they ask us if we have backpacks or luggage.  I laugh and say “luggage.”  Their reply (in accents) “Oh you American girls!” They are picking oranges from a nearby tree and offer us each an orange. We watch them struggle and carry our bags as we eat our delicious snack. They groan but I am incredibly impressed as they steadily make it up with our heavy shit on their shoulders.  I already like this place!  One of them keeps yelling that we owe them beer later.  Deal!  Lost & Found is literally in the middle of the Panama Cloud Forrest up in Mountains.  It is stunning.  Nature everywhere! It reminds me of Chilamate but with Mountains. We meet some of the volunteers there and a few of the backpackers staying.  We are shown the grounds and our dorm room.  Our dorm room has 12 beds and three storied bunk beds!  It is intimidating but awesome!  Heidi and I claim beds 5 and 6 on the middle levels.  We then decide to go for an afternoon hike and they give us a map of the various trails in the area.  We begin our hike and immediately we decide we are completely out of shape, but we continue on (with frequent stops).  We get to a marking called “El Mirador”  and we follow that up (steep and precarious).  We make it up top and it is amazing!! We can see all of the surrounding mountains and valleys and the wind is strong and the trees are swaying.   It is magical and I stand in the wind with my arms outstretched, breathing deeply.  This place is incredible and I am SO happy that Heidi and I came here before flying home.  I try not to feel sad, knowing my time here is down to 4 days. But it’s times like this when I know I will be back, maybe not in this exact spot or hostel, but back on an adventure.  What is life without adventure?

Day 20-80:

Arrgghhh a treasure hunt!  Lost n Found has an awesome game for anyone who wants to play… It’s a treasure hunt out in the reserve greenery.  It takes you all over with riddles that lead you to the next spot.  We are told it is a tad rigorous and that we will need plenty of agua and at least four hours, probably more.  We are so excited and I load my hikers fanny pack with water, my swim suit, granola bars and my camera.  The first part of the hunt sends us to the Labrynth (a little garden with shrubbery) .  “I’m Marco and you’re Polo!”  I yell to Heidi.  “I’m Christopher and you’re Columbus… I’m Lewis and you’re Clarke!”  She looks back at me and says, “I’m Magellen.”  I wait patiently for who I am but nothing comes.  “You obviously do not understand this activity Gramlich!”  She laughs, agrees and then we realize that we suck at the labrynth and have been walking around in circles for the past ten minutes.  We split up and finally find the damn clue.  A couple from Switzerland are behind us and also participating in the hunt.   Heidi and I find the next clue very quickly and decide we need to beat the Swiss, it is our only mission in life now.  We race forward to the actual hiking trails and keep up a decent pace for almost fifteen minutes before we are doubled over and out of breath.  We hear the Swiss rapidly approaching and I grab my camera out and whisper hoarsely, “have some pride, pretend we’re stopping to take photos.”  It works, they pass us up and we, defeated, continue on (more slowly).  After an hour of hiking we make it to the next clue which is hidden in a black tube inside a giant tree, named Treebeard.  Let me tell you how exciting it is to open a black tube clue… REALLY EFFING EXCITING!  The riddle basically says we need to go to the river (swim time!).  We find a small steep path down to the river and all of a suddent the Swiss arrive (where the hell have they been?  Maybe they got lost?).  Heidi and I change into our swim suits, the Swiss do not, we all spread out as a search party to try and locate the next black tube full of riddles.  The water is freezing but feels pretty good after such a grueling little trek. The swiss are jumping from rock to rock avoiding the water.  We find a black tube but it’s a false alarm and it basically tells us we got the riddle wrong and therefore need to go somewhere else.  Crap.  Heidi and I put our heads together and try at the riddle one more time (I won’t give it away in case any of you ever go and do it) and we suddenly get it!  The answer is way up at the beginning of the river.  Hahahaha stupid Swiss, hurry Heidi let’s go!  This part of the hunt is a little scary because it is so steep and dangerous (well for me anyways).  We get to the place and cross the river and find the last cave spot and congratulate ourselves on being the smartest and fittest treasure hunters ever!  We start heading back across the river and the Swiss arrive.  We now know that these people are genetically engineered fitness freaks.  How the hell did they get here so fast?  “Heidi, we have to win, we have to go so fast, we have a good hour’s hike ahead of us but we can do it!”  She nods vigorously.  We start the way back, which ironically is uphill almost all of the way, what the hell?!  We stop talking to conserve energy and only occasionally do we stop to listen for the Swiss.  We get to the end of the hiking trail and we begin to run to the hostel. “The Swiss are coming, they’re right behind us!!!”  We get back and we cannot find the last thing for the life of us until I get not one hint but two (oops).  It’s only later that we find out that we suck at treasure hunting and missed 2 of the clues, although I would argue that the treasure at the end is the most important part and not how you get there.  The Swiss laugh at us when we tell them we won.  “Oh it vas a compiteetion? Ohh hoh hoh ho.  Ve stopped to haf a picnic on the vay back”  Wow, Heidi and I are officially crappy riddler solving out-of-shape treasure hunters.

Day 21- 81

I love Australians!! The one who carried our luggage is funny and charming and I decide that Australians can basically say whatever and it’s cute, in fact I do believe he says several insulting things to me at random points in time and I simply smile and laugh with a stupid American girl grin on my face.  It’s Easter Sunday and Heidi and I are supposed to leave to catch our 3am bus in David at some point, but we are soon persuaded to stay the extra day and catch a different one in the morning.  We need to go into town and get money to pay the hostel so we decide this is a perfect time of day to do so.  WELCOME TO GUALACA –  Heidi is in such a bad mood and tries not to puke on the bus there.  We walk the barren streets of Gualaca and find an atm.  She needs to pee, but where?  Everything is pretty much closed, but wait there’s some rodeo looking building that appears to have a bar in it and I spy a handful of Panamanian men with bottles in front of them.  Lovely!!  Heidi pees and I take this opportunity to order us to Balboas.  The men all seem very interested in my story and I take out my MN driver’s license to ooh and ahh them about where I’m from.  We are all laughing and I get comfortable on my stool.  Heidi comes back with a disgusted look on her face. “Damnit Leah, I knew you’d be drinking when I came back out!”  I point out that I ordered one for her and she immediately smiles, throws her backpack on the floor, grabs a stool and says, “Why the eff not.  Happy Easter.”  The nice guy to my right, Omar, buys us another round.  It is during this second beer that Heidi points out the urine scent that wafts throughout the bar and the ceiling that is caving in above our heads.  Precious.  Omar’s dad shows up and we decide that I am his daughter also.  “Papa un otro cerveza!??”  Siiiii.  Crap suddenly we are on beer number four and it’s Easter Sunday at 1:30 in the afternoon and we still have to go to the store and get a taxi back to the hostel.  Omar buys a redbull and keeps trying to pour it into my beer.  Finally I let him and take a swig.  Hhmm not super terrible, not super good either.  Heidi allows him to pour some into her beer but she hates it.  After the third swig of this little concoction I am siding with Heidi.  Beer number five arrives, much more refreshing without the energy drink.  Omar is passed out, head (face down) on bar.  Impressive! The first time I’ve seen someone pound a redbull and pass out.  Enough is enough and Heidi and I yell at the others to not buy us any more beer!  We leave.  Our taxi ride is a yellow truck.  I sit in the front.  Heidi sits in the back in the middle between a woman and an old cowboy.  People get in the bed of the truck.  Heidi feeds everyone cookies.  I am so happy, eating my cookies, watching the scenery and listening to the Panama music.  “Leah, look at me!”  I turn around and Heidi is wearing the old man’s cowboy hat.  Wow.  The woman asks what we are doing in Panama.  I jokingly reply, “buscando para mi principe azul” She immediately takes out a photo of her brother and tells me that she can hook us up and that he works at the border.  Well isn’t that sweet?  Panamanians are so generous!  We get back to the hostel and later we eat the most amazing dinner.  Turkey and everything delicious in this world.  Thank you!  J and K make the bonfire and Easter is complete.

Day 22- 82 Goodbye Lost n Found, I don’t want to go.  I desperately want to stay and I actually sit and weigh it out but in the end know that I have to use my ticket home cuz I’m broke. This time we dare to bring our stuff down the long steep way by ourselves and without the help of two men.  We are doing pretty well for the first five minutes but Heidi is having a pretty hard time with her giant suitcase.  I’m okay cuz I have mine strapped to my back, but it is steep and I’m in flip flops (like an idiot) and I am afraid of falling onto my face in any give moment.  I suggest that Heidi just push her suitcase and let it roll a little bit down the path.  She pushes it and it starts to roll, really fast, I cannot believe the speed the big blue bull is packing! Ummm Heidi…  and that’s when the boulder bag goes flying off the edge of the hill, with so much air (I have never seen a suitcase fly before) we hear it thud for some time but cannot see where it went.  I die laughing and fall over onto my back.  Heidi is laughing hysterically also.  Where the hell did that thing end up?  We make our way down and finally we spot it in some grassy patch way the hell down there.  But it’s still intact and near the bottom of the hill so mission accomplished.  We catch a bus.  Goodbye Panama!  We get to the border and we get swindled by some guy who tells us the last bus just left but if we take his friends’ taxi to some town inside costa rica we will be able to catch the 2pm bus.  We are stupid and believe him and end up paying a ridiculous amount of money for the cab.  And then we find out that there is no such thing as a 2pm bus at this little town terminal and that we will have to wait until 5.  Crap.  We go to the Pali and get some snacks and eat our tritz on the curb of the parking lot.  Heidi is upset that I chose to sit at a spot where a dirty mop head is under our feet.  I don’t care, I’m tired, hot and I don’t want to go back to the states. We find a little soda across the way and we have a lovely afternoon of cards, casados and cool water until the bus comes. The bus ride back to San Jose is long and our tickets aren’t for seats near eachother so we steal two seats and when people come by we pretend we are sleeping in hopes they will just leave us alone.  It works.  The window provides a fresh breeze during the steamy evening… until it becomes freezing cold night time and I realize the window is broken and doesn’t close all the way.  And so I sit in a fetal position with my one man sweater (thanks Austin) over my bare legs and a shirt wrapped around my head to try and keep warm.  We arrive around 1 am.  We are rejected from our hostel because it’s closed.  We find another hotel.  This bed sucks.

I hate Goodbyes…Last day in Costa Rica… I awake with a bruised ribcage from the springs in the bed stabbing me all night.  I’m sad to leave, however, it makes it easier that we are in the ugly slut town of San Jose.  We get up and are thrilled to see a continental breakfast set out.  We leave our hotel and wander the streets for a bit before returning and packing up to make the move to our luxurious hotel Heidi’s mom has so graciously purchased for us on our last night.  The taxi driver tries to drop us off at the Holiday Inn and we explain, for the fifth time, that we are going to Adventure Inn.  He grunts and says it will be more money,  “Whoaaa, No es nuestra culpa que usted no conoce el lugar mae!”  And I’m happy that I stood up for us with a taxi driver at least once on this trip.  Adventure Inn is like a surreal palace compared to the places we’ve been staying.  Heidi and I are in awe.  They even have an ice machine!  We go out and about and find a duck pond where we eat our last tristz.  We laugh and talk for hours at this little park and I soon realize that I am going to miss Heidi more than I can imagine.  We get back and shower and go down for some dinner.  We split a nachos and our last casado.  A grizzly looking man at the table next to us starts up a conversation.  I like his accent.  “Where are you from?” He grins and proudly retorts, “Australia.”  I already like him.  And so we talk for a while and I soon come to find out that he has been in Central America seeing his once Colombian girlfriend but they broke it off during his visit.  He then continues on to tell me that he doesn’t think his wife is going to be very happy with him.  Wow, we’ve got a case of the overshares.  I nod and agree that typically wives do not enjoy being cheated on and it is then that I secretly hope his lovely Aussie wife has some hot Kiwi she’s fooling around with because now I dislike grizzly Australian man. We leave.  We laugh and go to bed early cuz we have to be at the airport at 5am.

Mexico City layover=Forever

LA= ??????

 

The Sun Also Rises… March 26, 2010

Filed under: costa rica — The Under-Analyst @ 11:01 am
Tags: , , ,

And the traveling continues.

“travel day” aka “worst day ever.”  Bus after long bus ride after long bus ride.  Caranas is easily the worst town in Costa Rica, at least that I have seen thus far.  It is a dusty desert place and hot as hell with nothing there!  We had an hour wait and it made me very thankful that I had spent the last two months in beautiful Chilamate and not in this heat dust-hole.   By the time we left Puntarenas I was so crabby, hungry and tired that I could not fully enjoy the large party ferry that carried us across to Playo Naranjo.  From there we had another 2 hour or so bus ride until we finally made it to Santa Teresa.  Sleep.

Santa Teresa!!!!  You are so beautiful.  Sea shell collecting with Heidi in the morning.  The beach is wide.  A swim in the afternoon.  I have missed the salt water, I have missed this ocean. It feels so amazing to be back together!  Why did I ever leave her?

surfers and surfers and beaches and beaches, it's Santa Teresa.

We pack snacks for the sunset.  Gouda cheese and a baguette, I feel like a princess!  A late night dinner of guacamole and an avocado salad.  I LOVE salad, oh how I’ve missed it.  I am thoroughly enjoying this much needed break from rice and beans.  That evening is easily one of the best nights here in Costa Rica.  We go for a night time swim and it literally feels as if we are swimming in a planetarium.  The stars, THE STARS, everywhere in this clear sky.  Warm ocean waves crash over my body as I float looking up overhead, lost in this expansive universe.  This is love and the word spiritual comes to mind.

Jon Mark arrives!  We have the fellowship.  A late start to the day.  Breakfast and we pack up.  Goodbye Santa Teresa, hello Mal Pais.  But wait, Mal Pais is only a mile from here?  I’m pretty sure we walked that and then some the day before on our trip to the bank.  Oh Shit, we get dropped off at a hotel that doesn’t even have any vacancies and now we are stranded because Mal Pais doesn’t have nada.  We send out a scouting crew; Heidi, Casey and Zeke.  Jon Mark, Lee and myself wait with the luggage.  They are gone forever!  It’s hot, our bags are roasting under the sun but no one is motivated to move them into the shade.  We eat yippy bars.  They come back and we decide to go to some place that starts with a C, where we will have a kitchen in our room for Casey to cook and then we can day trip it to Montezuma tomorrow.  We wait for the bus outside of the liquor store and play fusball. A small crowd comes to witness the fun and two guys announce they are from Iowa.  We all embrace and yell a hooray for the Hawkeyes!  We have to run to the bus and this is hard (I often feel like a tall, clumsy turtle carrying around an oversized uncomfortable shell). The little C town isn’t even on the beach, WTF?  We are the worst travelers ever!  We check out the hotel room and there’s no kitchen.  Fail. We go back to the bus stop in this little C town, grab some more beer and wait for the next bus to Montezuma.  We get there and everything is magically better because this place is amazing!! The boys’ room has a kitchen so Casey cooks for us.  It’s delicious.  Heidi and I have the best room because it overlooks the ocean.  We play P and A after dinner. Mid game Heidi (who is President) announces that she is going to take a thirty minute nap and then the game will resume… what? Who does that!?  I demand that I take presidency while she naps, I get mad at Jon Mark for calling me a menstruating bitch so I go to bed.  Heidi wakes me up and says there’s a party in the street and I have to come.  I agree.  The party is fun and the bar Chico’s is crazy packed.  Making friends and dancing and then another late night swim.  Waking up to the sound of the ocean in our cabin room. Montezuma is a success.  Tomorrow: yoga on the beach.

 

“Backpacking through Costa Rica” March 22, 2010

Filed under: costa rica — The Under-Analyst @ 5:38 pm
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the first 3 days…

We gathered at Portones, the fellowship.  A moldy pink backpack pressed against my chest and an oversized duffle bag strapped to my back.  I waved goodbye to my Tico family, wondering if they understood I was never to return.  The others were ahead of me in the game of drink so I quickly ordered a Pilsen.  Heidi and Lee regretfully informed me that they were no longer joining us on today’s journey and were opting to stay and therefore be less of an asshole by giving some (key word is some) notice at the center.  I was a little put off because only an hour previous to this I had given Heidi a detailed tutorial on accepting the fact that on certain occasions being an asshole was necessary if not detrimental to one’s health.  With the blessing of my mother I not only accepted my status as puta but felt the need to appease the other jerks in my party.  Fail.  Zeke, surprisingly, knew not only what bus we needed to take but the time as well.  As I savored the third sip of my second beer he instinctively suggested we gather our possessions and hop over to the “stop” (stops in Chilamate are typically unmarked, like a cryptic speakeasy in the days of prohibition).  Hugo appeared to be suffering from a severe case of melancholy and so I politely asked if he was depressed.  He replied, “No, I’m high.”  Well that’s settled. Just then Zeke yelled, “bus” and I managed to gulp a fourth sip of beer as we mumbled our goodbyes, in the hopes this parting was solely momentary.  Dominating the back seats (agreed it was reserved for the “cool”) we fist pounded and yelled “pura vida” as the scenery of Chilamate passed by at a quickening pace.  Goodbye, I’m sorry to leave so quickly but thank you for allowing me the do some good for the last two months. Chilamate, you are amazing, I will miss you all.  At La Virgen we tapped into the flask-like Bicardi bottle stored in the small zipper pouch of my moldy Eastpack.  Emotions were clouded by a sudden tipsiness and I said a final prayer for those left behind; “Don’t be putas, see you at the volcano!”  Amen.

Day 2 at the volcano:  slight hangover and an amazing breakfast at Café Vienna.  Nuts, fruits, cereal and milk with a fresh fruit smoothie drink and cafe Merange!  Ambitions high we ventured out into the day.  We ended up going to a river, oh the irony of leaving our river town only to find myself in an effing river!  But it was incredibly beautiful and Zeke guided Casey and I down a ways avoiding any potential human interaction.  We crossed at a shallow spot and I thought I would possibly die, my fanny pack around my neck and my flip flops on my hands.  Slippery rocks under feet, jagged edges forced under my flesh.  We made it to a “spot” and decided it was time to take a break. We managed to get back across the river and up over the pasture to the other side where the Tarzan swing was.  The Tarzan swing was amazing!  In this beautiful lagoon like spot with big rocky boulders and a small waterfall.  This rope had a few knots and was secured to a large tree limb.  I watched a few locals do it first and then I went.  Flying in the air and letting go, feeling the water suck me down.  I did it four or five times and wanted to do it more but the boys were impatient and wanted to go.

Day 3-  The big day!  Will Heidi, Lee and Jon Mark show up!??  Yes, and no. I felt sick most of the morning and prayed I would feel better by the time of their arrival since our plan was to go to the volcano soon after.  We waited for what seemed like forever and then, like magic, Heidi and Lee showed up!  Jon Mark didn’t come. His loss. Puta.  I was so excited to see them!  We went to our new hotel, ditched our bags and then tried to organize our trip to the volcano.  We took them to the Tarzan swing although neither of them did it and then we grabbed some dinner at the Volcano shaped tourist restaurant.  We were advised to wait for night time to go up to see Dante’s Peak because then we might see lava.  This was true as it turned out.  But really we didn’t get close to her at all and it was slightly disappointing.  Seeing the lava was pretty awesome, however.  The free hotsprings spot was easily a 9 on the fun/amazing scale.  We saw a sloth cross a road!!!! and slid down a slippery hot springs sewer bridge.  Bizarre and yet poetic.  Someone had brought candles for the spot which made it all seem quite magical.  Tomorrow is Guanacaste, and I am so ready to get out of this damn volcano town and see the ocean and thank you Heidi for coming because as it turns out.. you are my best friend in this country!

 

Beaching in Costa Rica March 21, 2010

Filed under: costa rica,Travel — The Under-Analyst @ 3:14 pm
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This took place about a month ago??  I’m so behind on my blogging, but I’ve got plenty of material!

What better way to celebrate Austin’s arrival…Vamos a la Playa

A dirty pink backpack and a green duffel bag hastily packed under the oppressive force more commonly known as a hangover. Austin and I jump on the bus, the first of many, to Puerto Viejo where we enjoy a much needed cup of coffee.  After five hours of bus travel we finally make it to…. La playa!  Yes, the beach!

* I was completely misinformed when told I would easily have access to cheap and fast travel to the beaches while residing in the rainforest.  It’s actually quite time consuming and complicated.  With that said, I was ecstatic to finally leave the bugs and poison dart frogs behind for some palm trees and ocean.

Puerto Viejo de Talamanca (Limon) was everything I had hoped and dreamed of.  An intimate lively little beach town inhabited by hippies, reggae lovers and euro travelers alike.  “two coronas por favor,” is uttered excitedly as we plant ourselves in plastic chairs facing the Caribbean.  The patrons to the right of us are enjoying a fat joint and we watch as they pass it to our waiter.  He winks, inhales and then hums along to the reggae track as smoke coils from his nostrils.

We explore the town, amazed at the colorful restaurants, bars and shops.  Everyone is incredibly friendly and we check into the Puerto Viejo Hotel.  The woman behind the counter looks like the White Witch from the Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe.  Narnia informs us that its shared bathrooms and showers but that they have a lovely room awaiting us.  Oh?  She throws us the key to go check it out and we are pleased with our cabin like room.  Mojitos at Mojos followed by dinner at some restaurant in which I make friends with a mommy cat who lays on my lap for over an hour as I pet her and smile, happily intoxicated.

The next day is easily one of my favorite days of 2010.  We lazily find our way to a breakfast spot near the ocean where we devour the Spanish style chirizo scramble and laugh at all of the Barcelona futbol memorabilia on the walls.   We rent bicycles from a jolly little man who instinctively chooses a pink beach cruiser for me and a white one for Austin.  We toodle throughout the town with our newly acquired towels in our front baskets.  There’s a road that takes you from Puerto Viejo de Limon to Playa Uva another beach spot and then Manzanillo (another beach town).  We laugh and pedal for most of the morning until it’s obviously time to stop and go for a swim. We stop off at the most amazing place in Playa Uva!!  We meet a couple from Colorado who love us and we discuss work/literature over pina coladas.  (Pina coladas have been the official drink of Puerto Rico since 1978, but alas we are in Costa Rica).   We wade through a small inlet to get to the beautiful beach beyond and this is precisely where Austin drops our bike key (our bikes are locked together against a tree).  Panicked, we search with our eyes and feet, even welcoming help from the Colorado family.  By some miraculous hand of God he finds the key a foot from his, well foot.  The ocean is amazing and warm and big waves roll in, one after the other.  The sun is shining with intensity and palm tree wooded regions surround us beyond. After we have burnt ourselves sufficiently we get back on the bikes and keep heading south on the winding little beach road.  The journey becomes a tad strenuous especially after a loss of a flip flop which clearly cost us time as we had to turn around and locate it (far, far away).  We finally make it to Manzanillo and we head straight to Maxi’s where we drink Coronas and eat the most giant plates of food possible.  Our waiter is a large overweight man who is hard to understand and moves at the pace of a snail.  We name him Omar.  KoKo’s for dinner and a free filet mignon because they forgot about us!?  Yes please.

We awake to the sound of rain on our hut’s roof and lazily discuss the day’s itinerary.  We have an amazing breakfast at Mojo’s and make our way back “home.”  We basically spend the rest of the day drinking rum, playing pool and making friends with people one should normally avoid.  Austin befriends a man who has long stringy blonde hair and quite possibly suffers from a liver dysfunction.  The yellow faced man wears a 9/11 Conspiracy shirt and tells Austin all about how he has proof, just not with him.  I hold a lengthy conversation with a German girl who is thankful for my intervention (a weird French man had been talking her ear off and she appeared to hate his assface).   Then an ex marine enters our world and teaches me how to kill someone with a set of keys.  He is crazy, probably dismissed from service because of killing without reason.  He tells us that he had been training his son back home but had to stop because his son was abusing the other children in the school with his new killing techniques.  Austin and I decide he is insane and should be feared.

We eat delicious pizza and discuss intimate affairs as the rain finally lets up. Time for the reggae fest!  We go and dance and listen to live reggae and it is awesome.  The next day we travel from bus to bus and finally end up hiring a driver (notice how I did not say taxi, he wasn’t) for whom we bought burger king for.  We sat in the parking lot eating our whoppers and he asks if we can go pick up his best friend to ride along.  We say yes.  He picks up his overweight friend and they literally talk and laugh the whole forty minutes back to Chilamate.  A precious ending to a precious weekend.

 

The Diary of Leah J February 24, 2010

Filed under: costa rica — The Under-Analyst @ 10:19 am
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What’s the difference between a diary entry and a blog?  Not much, more cursing and misspellings I suppose, more candor and a little less wit.

(sometime last week)

Dear Diary,

This morning I woke up at 7, and my stomach hurt. Clearly the large amounts of rice and beans I have been continuously shoving down my throat are not only making me ridiculously fat but creating effing ulcers as well? Ohwell.  So anyways… I got up and to my delight we had acquired a baby!!! There he was, this super fat little baby sitting on the floor with these big eyes (you know how babies always kind of look retarded?  I LOVE THAT! He almost looked cross eyed haha).  I immediately scooped him  up and spent the whole morning cooing over him and smothering him in kisses.  His mom eventually showed up, this 15 year old girl!! It makes me so sad that all of these girls here get preggars at 14 and 15! Maybe in my next class I will drop condoms on all the tables. But back to the obese baby,  his name is Ian and he is 7 months. I was going to tell the mom that I’d take her baby for her so she could reclaim her childhood, but then I wanted a drink so I gave him back. Also, Susannah (the grandma) and I totally bonded this morning, mainly because the Spanish Gods smiled upon me this morning and I was somehow able to not only understand what she was saying (a miracle, she mumbles) but also respond!  Also this morning was a HUGE moment because Samuel, the son of my host mom’s sister (so my cousin?), who is 2 and adorable and loud as hell in the mornings, well anyways this morning he called me Tia (auntie), not once, but like five times!!!

*I should have not gotten excited over Samuel calling me Tia, because 2 days later he was calling me “Papi”… damnit, now I’m a dad?

(some other day last week)

Dear Diary,

Stomach pains.  I’m not sure how I managed to sleep with such an inflated middle.   As usual, I nodded off and on with the shrieking cries of my younger siblings and cousins (the circus that lives in my shanty).  I heard them all yelling while even Ho chirped in with his aggressive barking.  The one word I managed to clearly hear over and over again was ,”ratero.”  I finally got up out of bed and everyone started telling me about the ratero.  I, naturally, assumed a ratero was either a rat or some other animal.  But when I grabbed the dictionary to confirm this I was stunned to find the translation, ‘pick pocketer.’  Apparently some drunk robber had approached the house just then, as I lay listening in my bed. Oh the land of Sarapiqui…  Last weekend a local Tico here broke his wooden peg leg at the bar and was found dragging himself with his forearms in the middle of the death highway back to his house.  And because this place is so small the next day we all discovered that Peg Leg Tico is actually Kaity’s neighbor and when his wife heard that her one legged drunk husband was crawling home she simply cursed and said that’s what he deserved for going to the bar. I’m so glad I have both of my legs.

(Last Saturday)

Dear Diary,

Just got back from playing with the kids at home.  Took a cold shower, getting easier to bear, well slightly.  My hair has dried into its normal frizz ball state.  And I’m looking at my wrist in sorrow as I realize that I do not have a hair band there to pull this back when the time comes.  The rain has finally stopped!  Thank the Lord!  And now I am debating whether or not I should take a dip in the Rio…  but I feel like that would take away from my shower earlier.  Damnit.  I’m super pissed because I’m out of batteries for my camera and now it seems that there’s a photo moment every other minute.  This morning I saw White Egrets standing on the backs and heads of the cows that live in the pasture next to my house, it was adorable.  Later I saw my four hens all standing on our front bench, looking forward as if waiting for their photo to be taken.  And of course I still need solid pics of the fam and cousins etc…  I suck at taking pictures.

(Sunday)

Dear Diary,

Heidi’s birthday:  El rio, El Chante and a last one at Portones.  A lovely little Sunday. There’s another bed in my room now…  I’m not sure what that means.  There wasn’t a kid in it this morning when I woke up.  I assume it is because we are switching rooms soon?  And can I just say that I am the opposite of excited about this upcoming room exchange.  Here I am, living in the grandiose of grand rooms in the house, my own shower, toilet, a big armoire a rug, two windows with stained peach lace curtains.  Why the hell would I want to switch rooms!  And be forced to shower and defecate in the same bathroom as the rest of the household?  Damnit. Yesterday the whole family was over, again.  It is beyond exhausting.  All of them speaking the Spanish to me, usually at the same time.  The kids climbing all over me.  I tried to run away for a bit to Portones but I had to go back to change and get ready for Heidi’s party, and getting out of there was like trying to break free from a maximum security prison.

(Yesterday)

Dear Diary,

Shit.  Ruffy has a disease, similar to that of leoprasy, I presume.  We found this stray little guy (he looks like Eddie from Frasier only the Holocaust version with patches of fur missing) yesterday morning here at the center and his little brown eyes pleaded to us for help.  Obviously I am a sucker for sick little animals and apparently so is Casey.  We concocted a plan to wash him (he was disgusting) which involved me putting on my swimsuit and taking him into the shower, in our bathroom here at the center, and then soaping and sudding him up with gardening gloves.  It was successful although he definitely didn’t like it at times.  Afterwards Ruffy was a new dog, well not really, but he did smell better and he seemed significantly happier.  Casey and I snuck him lunch leftovers which he loved (Casey had already fed the little bugger like five granola bars in the morning).  This morning I found him sitting outside my front door of my house!  I threw a peanut butter sandwich out of the window for him.  He followed Heidi and me to the center.  Hilda (our cook) came cursing around the corner and then proceeded to tell me in detailed Spanish that this dog was severely diseased (thus his missing fur) and that it can spread to humans and other animals.  Well shit!  If I get dog leprosy down here because of trying to help little Ruffy I am gonna be pissed indeed. And so now we have to shoo the poor little lepper away from the center, to roam Sarapiqui, with no food or shelter.  I wish I had a million dollars and I could open a humane society here so I could at least put Ruffy to sleep!  I told Casey we should take care of him Old Yeller style, out back with a shovel…  and by we I mean he should do it, cuz obviously I could never beat anything to death, except for the bugs that live in my room.

(Today)

Dear Diary,

My new 1A class is proving to be a little difficult.  I feel like Laura Ingles Wilder with a room full of people ages 12-70, staring up at me, blank faced.  I repeat the verb conjugations AGAIN for To Be… I AM  you ARE  he/she/it IS, we ARE, they ARE.  We have been learning this now for the past 3 classes.  They all nod their heads vigorously and as I move around the room to view their workbooks I see that I am clearly failing.  I again go to the board and explain the pairing of pronoun and verb and the same three know-it-alls yell out the answers and roll their eyes.  So by the end of the class I have three different groups doing 3 different activities because some can’t figure out “I AM Sammy and he IS Geroge,”  while others are ten pages ahead going over present continuous work. AGGGHHH.  My level 2 class was much better, thank Dios.  We continued our focus on the past tense of verbs, both regular and irregular and they made bingo cards and I read out a sentence with a verb in the past tense and if they had that particular verb (they had a bunch to choose from on the board) on their card they got to put a chip there.  They are going to be disappointed when they get their boring worksheets next class.  Ruffy Mange smells terrible and looks worse than yesterday.  Poor Ruffy.

Austin comes tomorrow and I am beyond excited!  Finally someone else will experience this place!  And we are going to the beach for the weekend!!!  This morning, in the shower, there was a spider the size of my butt cheek!  It was HUGE.  And I was like, “okay buddy, I’m so not going to kill you because you are gonna eat all of these little effers that crawl around and bite me.”

 

Last Week with Ho and Dharma Initiative February 18, 2010

Filed under: costa rica — The Under-Analyst @ 11:00 am
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As I sipped my coffee this morning I took breaks from my deep ponderings to scratch the newly acquired mystery bug bites.  With my eye mask holding my wild, frizzy hair out of my face I yelled at Ho to shut the hell up.  (Remember that Ho is our dog who lives on a rope in the backyard) Another dead dog was found on the side of our death calle this week.  This is the second dog to get hit by a car and die in the last two weeks.  The main sentiment about dead dogs is one of annoyance, mainly because there is no “dead dog clean up crew” so whoever owns the property where the dog dies has to get rid of the mess.

I make myself a plate of pinto gallo (a bean and rice mixture used as a staple for every meal) and grab some cold chicken from the night before.  I usually load on hot sauce but this morning I am feeling dehydrated so I eat it plain.  The family is no where to be found.  I haven’t seen them in 3 days.  Our schedules are completely opposite.. by the time I get home at night they are asleep and dinner is sometimes left on the stove for me and when I wake up they are already gone (remember they get up at 4:30).  I notice that Ho rarely has water out back in his dish, granted he is stupid and knocks it over whenever anyone fills it for him, so I go out back and dash to grab his bucket before he can jump all over me and scratch the hell outta my legs with his claws.  I decide he should have some breakfast too so I make him a nice plate of rice and fruit loops.  He drinks and drinks and drinks and I feel bad for him wondering how long he’s gone without water out in the heat.  He sniffs at his breakfast and then looks at me like “what the hell is this?”  I tell him he shouldn’t be so damn picky and leave it there.  As I walk into the house I can’t help but think how good Manny has it back home.  His little golden retriever pampered ass gets to run free in a big back yard.  He gets to sleep in the nice house and snuggle in the bed with my mom.  He gets to go for walks (unheard of here,  I have yet to see anyone walk a dog with a leash ).  The only thing that Manny would be jealous of is Ho’s breakfast of rice and fruitloops.  All the dogs eat left overs, although I heard one Tico say that they were going to the store to buy dog food (I just assumed they didn’t sell dog food here).

On Monday we all went to La Selva Biological Rainforest Research Station.  Apparently 60 percent of what is published about rainforests comes from this place and it is where a large amount of research is conducted.  I was excited to see the “wildlife” and learn about the various current research projects.  But can you imagine my delight when we arrived and this place was seriously just like the Dharma Initiative!!!  For those who do not watch LOST I apologize because the various references will mean nothing to you. We walk into the gated community where all the buildings look similar and an old swing set sits in front of an old schoolroom to the left. Our guide, Fofo (who is the brother of my house father) explains that many researchers live here while they conduct their various projects and some have children.  He then says that it was more common in the past but that they do have a few couples that have lived on the compound for years and years.  They also host groups of research students for month long stays.  We shuffle forward, under the violent sun rays, and Fofo continues to educate us on the local fauna and flora.  I am only slightly interested in this and am trying to nudge our group on towards the actual “forest.”  Anne Louise, a member of our tribe, asks questions about everything, “Why is that part of the leaf red…?”  This is all fine and dandy except that I soon realize that our tour leader is incapable of walking and talking.  With every question we immediately stop (usually directly under the sun) and are forced to stand patiently while he repeats himself and the answer over and over again.  This is especially painful for me because I am suffering from extreme sunburn and therefore am wearing a t-shirt and long pants.  My sunburn is so bad that I’m not wearing a bra, which also makes our small trek slightly uncomfortable as sweat pools between my small “mountains.”  We finally make it to the pathway into the primary forest.  We walk about twenty feet and there is a hatch to the left!!  I can only assume a poor Tico is forced to live down there in seclusion, pushing a button every 180 minutes.  We meander out of the primary forest and make our way to the “other” forests.  We see wild boars and a few birds who all look the same to me (Yeah, I’m a terrible birder).  We saw a sloth on the bridge into the camp and that was my highlight.  We do not have much time and to my delight we head back to our cars to leave.  I want to come back, when I’m not dying of sunstroke and our guide doesn’t move at the pace of a snail.

 

Snuffy and a Cockroach January 27, 2010

Filed under: costa rica,Travel — The Under-Analyst @ 10:56 am
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I was a dirty little kid.  We lived on a farm until I was 8.

We had two dogs; Cassie (looked like Lassie) and Snuffy (an old mutt who came with the farm when we moved in).  Both Cassie and Snuffy served as a furry buffet of delight for the swarm of wood ticks living in our meager acreage.  It was up to us kids to relieve our four-pawed siblings of their blood sucking tenants.  We had a jar, the wood tick jar (I now shudder). One by one we placed the plucked creepers into their clear jail cell.  I was taught to pull as close to the dog’s skin as possible, to ensure I would get the whole tick and not just rip off the body leaving the head still embedded in their skin. Sometimes this task was very difficult because the tick had been feasting for so long it had become ridiculously fat and tan colored (I never understood why they changed colors as they got bigger?  I assume it was the blood?) so I had to be careful not to make the little guy explode during extraction. Once the jar was relatively full we burned them.  Wood ticks, when thrown into a fire, make a little popping sound similar to those small fire crackers that you throw on the ground.  Sometimes we would simply dump the whole jar into the fire pit at once and other times we would throw them in one by one or in small groups.  The bigger ones were always louder and my brother made sure he got first dibs on the fatties.  Often during naps or at night I’d have vivid nightmares of my bed full of crawling wood ticks. Upon waking, and after a significant amount of crying, I’d realize my bed only had the typical dirt or cookie crumbs that naturally cling to a young filthy child.

I bring this up because two nights ago as I pulled my blanket and sheet back two, not one, but two little creepy bugs scuttled about on my sleeping quarters.  I immediately stripped the bed and shook out my sheets.  But where did they come from?  Did my mattress become a host for some exotic jungle flea population!?  I couldn’t find any of their friends but regardless I was severely disturbed after turning off the lights and snuggling in.  Last night as I opened my armoire (yes I have a wooden armoire in my tin-roofed room) a cockroach the size of a baby’s foot calmly made his way through my clothes and into the back left corner. I didn’t know what to do.  The last time I spotted a cockroach in my room I used a piece of paper to shoo it out through my bedroom door, after it went through the hinge crack I slammed the door shut, re-opened it and discovered his sad lifeless body had been crushed from the door impact (apparently the little guy hadn’t quite made it through in time).  I honestly felt a little bad.  After reading Charlotte’s Web so many times as a kid I’ve always tried to spare the lives of little bugs, spiders and insects (except for mosquitos). So I stared at the corner of the closet and I could see his long pointy antlers moving around.  I was too tired to move him and just hoped he wouldn’t defecate on my apparel.

Sleep did not come easily as the rain pounded loudly on the shanty shelter.  As I was just about to fall asleep I felt something move under my blanket to the left of my feet.  I ignored it and began to drift off until it moved again, this time I could feel the blanket’s weight shift.  I jumped up and screamed that high pitched ‘I’m dying’ horror movie melody.  I immediately ran for the light switch and cowered near the door staring at the foot of my bed.  Nothing stirred.  I carefully nudged the blanket a few times and then bravely lifted it up.  Nothing!  Where the hell did the little effer go!?  And more importantly what was it!!!!!?  I looked under the bed, empty.  I glanced over at the bathroom, nothing except those ugly black worms that crawl everywhere in my room.  I stood there, panting for several minutes before deciding whatever it was had found a decent hiding spot.  I turned off the light (a little worried that my death screams hadn’t awoken my host family… what if I was really dying?) and crawled as close as I could up to the head of my bed, laying in the fetal position. I awoke only hours later to my host family going about their morning rituals (every day at 4am…. Although usually I sleep right through it).  I got up to go pee and saw two more of those little nasty bed bugs from the night before scuttling about my tile floor.  I grabbed a shoe and with an, “Eff you Charlotte,” I smashed both of their little brains in.

The days of Cassie, Snuffy and midnight cookie crumbs are looking pretty good right now.  At least there aren’t any wood ticks here.