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= ??????

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Beaching in Costa Rica March 21, 2010

Filed under: costa rica,Travel — The Under-Analyst @ 3:14 pm
Tags: , ,

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.

 

Snuffy and a Cockroach January 27, 2010

Filed under: costa rica,Travel — The Under-Analyst @ 10:56 am
Tags: , , ,

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.

 

7 weeks and counting… November 18, 2009

Filed under: Identity,Jobs,Travel — The Under-Analyst @ 1:36 pm
Tags: , ,

I tried, I really did. But this whole back to school Masters thing is just going to have to a) be put on hold or b) enter the discard pile. It was a responsible and logical step at the time but after hours of studying, cold Minnesota nights in my basement room and that little glitch of a break up, I have redirected my near future to be a tad more me-friendly.  

Monkeys, big trees, poverty stricken children and equator-like climate?  Maybe I’ll like these things?  I guess I’ll find out in seven weeks.  I’m moving to Costa Rica in January.  I will be “working” (for free room and board) at the Sarapiqui Conserve Learning Center in the lowlands of the Rainforest. The six surrounding communities have elementary schools with poor english education and no high schools.  Most of them do not attend school past the sixth grade.  Because tourism is a very large working sector for the Ticos, (as they affectionately refer to themselves) English curriculum is important for their future career opportunities.  I will be leading classes for both students and the parents of students along with creating curriculum to be used for other teachers.  

the center is in the La Selva region.

 

 

While helping children is definitely a plus I am more excited to learn about the booming industry of eco-tourism. The Center hosts groups and individuals that come through to learn about the culture (through dance, cooking classes, story telling…) and then help with a community project (planting trees, restoring churches, making sidewalks…).  I am thinking I want to branch into that industry, but I will have to find out if I like it first!

It feels good to have travel on the life itinerary again.  Now it is simply time to save up as much money as I can until take off. My nana came over today with a stack of books from the library with titles such as, “Exploring Costa Rica,” and “Living Abroad in Costa Rica.”  Finally something to study that won’t bore me to tears. 

 

 

A little thing called ‘Baggage Anxiety’ July 16, 2009

Filed under: Travel — The Under-Analyst @ 11:52 pm

I finally did it.  I put my suitcase back in the closet. I hate unpacking!  By putting it “away” I am confirming the sad fact that there is NO travel in my immediate future.  This could magically change but chances are it’s going to be a little while.  It took me a whole month to unpack from Thailand and that was only so I could use it to rush to MN for a weekend (which I actually left the marvelously tattered thing there and stole my mom’s new suitcase in its place to take back). For a while I let my friendcase stay in my room as an affirmation that I would soon be needing it to travel to some crazy and wonderful paradise.  instead it sat, taking up space, taunting me, morning after morning as I dumbly lurched about my tiny room for some appropriate “business casual” apparel. He just sat there, staring, mumbling shit like;

“going to work, huh?  Sucks for you.  Remember when we were in Europe? That was a lot cooler than here, huh.  Or how about when we took that helicopter to Monaco, that was awesome.  I bet you wish you were going somewhere better than the chubby clinic, huh? ”  

And in my early morning ire I’d glare back at him and say aloud, “You weren’t even there rollerdonkey! My old and apparently less offensive suitcase was!”  

As I was exiling the cruel capsule back to the mud-room closet I was overcome by a familiar feeling; baggage anxiety.  Why was I feeling that now?  It didn’t make any sense.  

Baggage Anxiety- the feeling one experiences before and during the baggage claim process.  Will I find the right carousel? Will my luggage arrive?  All of it?  Will my items be intact?  Will I get hurt in the process of retrieval?  

My baggage anxiety stems from a long history of luggage letdowns.  It all started on my first trip.  I was thirteen years old, going to visit my Nana in Arizona.  When I returned home, after a week of pre-teen fun in a desert home pool, my suitcase didn’t accompany me as far as I could tell.  I sat, waiting, no suitcase.  I eventually got it back after some old couple opened up “their” suitcase to find tweetybird slippers and a JTT poster.  Since then I’ve had one bag go completely missing, never to be recovered and several “temporarily” missing bags, including my latest trip to Thailand.  I have also been a victim of good ole fashioned baggage looting.  A pair of Stella McCartney shoes and a bag full of my dirty underwear disappeared from my suitcase before christmas last year on a flight back from Spain.  I had locks on my luggage, useless locks obviously. 

 I am continually appalled at the lack of baggage claim etiquette out there, it baffles me!  Everyone rushes to the baggage claim carousel which is dumb because you end up waiting at least five to fifteen minutes anyways.  Everyone attempts to secure the ideal position, close to the baggage shoot-slide but just far enough to have time to identify and prepare to seize. Everyone is spacious and uninterested until that first suitcase shoots down the belt.  Suddenly it looks like a five year old soccer game and the suitcase is the ball.  Some lady has pushed her way in front of you to see if it’s her bag, it’s not but she doesn’t give you your spot back, she remains, bitch. There’s pushing, grumbling and when your bag finally arrives it takes all your strength to push through the crowd only to lift the thing by yourself, no help, and use it as an oversized shield pushing the mob aside so you can escape.  

It was a small flight and therefore the carousel had plenty of space.  I moved some distance down the line to avoid the congestion.  A man came up to my left and another to my right.  As I watched for my suitcase I also kept an eye on them so I’d have time to move back when their luggage arrived.  I made a wrong judgement when I assumed the oversized hot pink suitcase did not belong to my neighbors.  Without warning the guy on my left lunged forward and grabbed the hideous thing and with an ugly grunt hurled it over the side and directly into my left shin.  I immediately yelped (worthy of the F-word) and shot him a look.  No apology, no “are you ok?” He simply elbowed past and wheeled the evil bitch away, leaving me on one leg cursing the baggage claim gods. My bag never came…

 There are many of these memories, too many to recount for you.  I’ve thought of writing a book, “Baggage Claim Woes” “Baggage Lame” “Tales From the Carousel” etc…

I went in and out of these memories as I put my luggage in the closet today.  Goodbye travel, for now. And as I walked solemnly back to my room and stared at the empty space where my fixture of freedom once stood, I reminded myself that it was just a suitcase.  And with that thought I opened the drawer, grabbed my passport and propped it on my dresser… the same affirmation… taking up a lot less space.

 

The “Itch”… June 18, 2009

Filed under: Identity,Travel — The Under-Analyst @ 9:03 pm
Tags:

poormeI’m officially frustrated.  It’s that time again… time when the current situation isn’t good enough and I have to find something better out into the unknown, well sorta.

It’s a curse, a god awful curse, in which for some reason I cannot simply stay put in one city, have a job, a great social life and be content.  I blame my semester abroad, damn you London.  Before then I seemed to be a perfectly happy resident of Indianola, Iowa.  While I dreamt of traveling it didn’t interfere with my day to day life and happiness.  Only after London did the itch start, well, itching.  Sooo I concentrated on Barcelona and patiently awaited that time.  

 I was living in Barcelona with trips to Europe and the Mediterranean Sea and seven months in I started to want something different.  Who the hell wants anything different than Barcelona??  Granted the metro is terrible and some Catalans are rude but in general… cheap wine, amazing food, siesta mentality, cheap living, a hub of international travelers, great weather and amazing art and architecture.  But, NO… I needed something different.

The original plan was to go home over christmas, get my fill of the fam and back home friends and then ship off to South America, where I would be volunteering for approximately 3 months.  I ended up securing a volunteer position in Costa Rica at a bird sanctuary (yea, a little weird).  So now you’re asking yourself, wait, I don’t remember Leah being in Costa Rica….  That’s because in January I flew out to LA to meet the novio and had an incredible time and re-united with my bestie, Kelly (a roommate from London).  I talked to the boyfriend and we both said, why not LA now?  

So here I am… it’s June, and I live in Santa Monica LA CAli. I’m 10 blocks from the ocean, 6 from the promenade and living in an adorable house with two amazing ladies.  So what’s wrong now Leah??  I’m ITCHY… so damn ITCHY.hermosabeach

What do I want?  Everything…

South America is pretty much out at the moment, they don’t pay enough there and I need to at least be able to send $350 back monthly to pay that stupid bitch Sallie Mae.  

For a while I dreamt of Thailand, but after traveling there I feel as if that’s checked off the list.

I have dreams of the blue, green sea… a rusty bicycle and cheap mexican beer. Anyone? Anyone?meandbikehermosa

Europe, damn you Europe and your EU passport working visa laws…  I could always go back to spain and work illegally, teaching, but I prefer to do something new and adventurous and possibly legal.

Ok, Hawaii??  What the hell can I do in Hawaii?  They already know English! They probably have fat clinics there that I can work for, but let’s face it, one only needs to work at a fat clinic as a receptionist once in her life.  Oh my god, I’m doomed to be a traveling waitress or something for the rest of my life because I won’t stay put long enough to create any sort of career!! And I keep getting older!! NOooooooOOooooo 

Korea, they have hefty salaries for teaching, but am I ready to commit to a whole year there?  A whole year anywhere?  

As I type this I literally have hives (yes, that I keep scratching) all over my legs, stressing out over where to go to next and the necessity of a plan. WHERE TO NEXT…?

There’s always my mom’s basement.

i look for the answer from the wise sea...

i look for the answer from the wise sea...

 

Back by popular demand…”A Romantic Getaway” April 8, 2009

Filed under: Travel — The Under-Analyst @ 4:43 pm

I have had several of you contact me, asking me to blog that little e-mail I sent out over a year ago, titled, “A Romantic Getaway.”

(ex boyfriend, keep that in mind)

Here it is…

 

Aaaahhh nothing like a little Spanish romance, or something like that.

When my Spanish boyfriend asked me to spend the weekend with him in the south of France in his family’s flat I was overjoyed! Images of croissants, candles and sappy accordion music filled my head.  Not to mention it meant a two-hour car ride together, laughing, chatting and singing along to bad Spanish music. 

Okay, here is the reality of said weekend:

Pyranees Mountains

Pyranees Mountains

 

 

 

 

 

Pau asked me if I liked snowboarding.  Hhhhmmmm, let’s see from what I could remember I did enjoy it the two times I went over five years ago, I think.  I nodded yes and told him I had gone before.  He said, ‘perrrfect, vee goo to me hoouuwse in sza souf ov fraance for snowieebord.’ I then told him that I had no winter clothes with me like snow pants and mittens etc… to which he replied, ‘ Ooo eets okay, vee use zee closses uv my seester.’  Good, that was settled.  There was one minor problem though; I had to work Saturday morning giving a class to one of my students. But we agreed we would simply leave after my class was over around two in the afternoon.

 

Saturday arrived and I woke up super early to make sure I had adequate time to shave, lotion and fragrance myself for the day’s trip.  Then Pau calls me at 1:30 to tell me he is going to go surfing in a nearby village, so we won’t be leaving until later.  That was fine, I still needed to pack but I was jealous he was going to the beach without me.  Little did I know “later” was Spanish for “in eight hour’s time”!  Skip ahead to a crabby, tired, impatient Leah at 10 pm getting in Pau’s car. I am starving and tell him that we need to stop for dinner. He is so excited that I say this because there is a futbol game on television (team Barcelona) and he wants to watch it.  So we stop at a bar and eat a sandwich and I am forced to watch stupid soccer, oh excuse me, FUTBOL, for another hour and a half. We finally get on the road and there is little laughter or chatting, only bad Spanish music, which is not amusing at the time. It’s pitch dark but I can tell that wherever we are it must be incredibly beautiful because there are large mountain like things surrounding us and the roads are very curvy.  I see small villages lit up in deep valleys and wonder what all of those people are doing.  I sleep for a while and wake up to see that we are crossing the border into France, yes, finally, my romantic weekend is going to start!! We drive into a very small, cute French village called Font Remou and soon we are at his flat.  It’s cold and late but I manage to get a little excited to see the famous “piso”.

 

The flat was not exactly what I imagined… take the decoration of an 80’s RV and mix it with a badly lit pay by the hour motel.  The place was freezing, so he turned on the heat as I looked in dismay at our “romantic” weekend flat. At least there was running water!  He made a bed on the pull out futon,  great…a futon with an ugly orange comforter that looks like it has been peed on at least a half a dozen times… well let’s just say, again… the night… not romantic!

 

The next day we get up early and I am excited for snowboarding.  I look outside and see for the first time, in daylight, the huge beautiful mountains! They are absolutely stunning. Pau hands me his sister’s snow clothes and I put them on…hhhmmm, it seems Pau’s sister is quite possibly a dwarf. The pants were embarrassingly too short, along with the sleeves to the matching coat. Pau laughed at me, I laughed at me, and then I thought, oh shit…all that fuckn snow is gonna be going down my socks! We drove to Andorra and rented boots.  I asked the man for the tallest boots he had, he looked at my pants and nodded without cracking a smile. I managed to pull the snowpants over the boots but as soon as I bent my knees they were up exposing my shins again.  We stopped for a quick breakfast and then got on the lift to hit the slopes. The Pyranees mountains are a little bit more intense than Afton Alps of Minnesota.  I was sure I was going to pee myself on the ski lift! My ears popped as we traveled up the slope for 30 minutes! Finally at the top, my stomach was doing flips. Then Pau says, ‘ok leeet’s go’… easily said.

FALL, BAM, BOOM, WHAM…. over and over and over again!!!! I must have fallen at least thirty times. And the whole time Pau is just laughing and saying, ‘Baaabbbeeee you haf ta steeer yorrr boorrrd.’ Thanks, great instruction, asshole. He would easily board down in front of me a ways and then simply stand and wait for me as I fell, got up, fell, went down a bit, fell, got up etc… I was finally getting the hang of it even though I was sure I had broken every part of my body.  Then it hits me… all of the slopes we had gone on, including the first one had big signs that were red.  RED meaning ADVANCED. THANKS PAU… so kind of you to shove my ass down the hard hill without starting on the three lower levels! By now I hate his assface and I am simply trying to stay alive as I fly down the hill. It starts snowing and I have no goggles and I am sure I am going to die.  I scream and flail my arms about and somewhere in the background I can hear the laughter of boys overhead watching my death come about.  I slam into ice and land hard.  By now, my body is immune to the slope’s concrete and I pop back up to die once again.  When I finally make it to the bottom, I tell Pau that 2 hours of snowboarding has been enough for me, and where the hell is the lodge because I need a beer!  I then leave his ass and go the lodge where thank god, they have BEER. 

 

San Miguel, my only friend that day.

San Miguel, my only friend that day.

The next hour is glorious as I sit by myself sipping a San Miguel watching other people die.  Pau tells me that he will be back by 4:30 because that is when it closes.  I get kicked out of the lodge at 4.  I wait for thirty minutes outside on the deck… no Pau… I wait another thirty minutes while my limbs start to freeze, no PAU!!! Finally He shows up an hour later!!!!! I am cold, sore, and I am crabby because my ass is wet from all the snow that has been lodged up there! We have to snowboard down another hill to get to the car, I only manage to fall once!!! I did get better!!! We get in the car and he says, ‘ Now I vill shooww youu Andorra vecuuz et esss sooo perrty’ I am thinking, ok a little car ride is fine, my ass is wet, but at least it is warm now that we are in the car.  We get into Andorra, which is beautiful, and he parks the car. We get out and walk a bit and I say, ‘where are we going?’  to which he replies, ‘Vee are gooing shooopping!’  WHAT NO, I am walking around with snowpants up to my knees and little moccassins, hobbling, because my body feels like it was hit by a semi, and my ASS is wet! I do not want to SHOP! I tell him this. He makes me sit while he looks at shoes for thirty minutes, I hate my life at this time… Finally we leave (with no shoes) and I am thinking about all the different ways I can kick his stupid Spanish ass. We get back to the ugly flat and I take a shower, the best shower of my life!!!  My right knee has swelled up and gone red by now, lovely.  I am starving, so we go get dinner.  At least we ate at a nice place and had good French fondue (the highlight of the trip). It is Sunday and we should head back.  It is ten pm but we are both exhausted so we sleep on the nasty 80’s futon, wake up at 4 am, get in the car and drive back to Barcelona in pitch dark.  So AGAIN I was unable to see the beautiful scenery on our two-hour drive.  We get into Barcelona and he walks me to my door, it is now 6:30 am, he leans in a gives me a kiss and says “baabeeee I haft sooo much Fun veeth you dis weeken, I vill miss you dis week vhile I em vorkieeing in Madrid.”  I barely kiss him and thank the Lord that he is going to be gone, out of my sights for a whole week!  I climb into my bed to sleep for two hours before I have to get up and hobble to work.

 

Oh and if I wasn’t already in a bad mood on Monday from my “romantic weekend”, here is the kicker….  while getting ready for work, I knocked my makeup bag (which was on the sink counter) into the damn toilet.. and guess what- it still had pee in it!!! Have you ever fished out your makeup from a pool of your own urine? I have IT’S AWESOME!!!!

 

So now it is Wednesday, my body is more sore than Monday, and I still need to buy new makeup that isn’t urine soaked….but there is some good news- The Backstreet Boys are coming to Barcelona on April 27th! I didn’t even know they were still together.