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A Jolly Band of Idiots

Time December 13th, 2012 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

This will be my last blog post. I had a great semester in Costa Rica and it was wonderful having the opportunity to share it through this blog. In this post I am going to focus on the last trip I took this semester which involved climbing mount Chirripo, the tallest mountain in Costa Rica and the tallest point between Colombia and Guatemala. We took pictures at each kilometer marker of the trail and I will use that to help show our progress. I would like to warn you: This is a long post.

Here I am, in our really cool hostel, relaxing before our pre mountain-climbing preparation hike.

We hiked to the “puente cubierto”. It sounded like a majestic place. It was not.

Here we are walking through the flower garden. As you can see I’m pretty emotional. The beauty of the flowers is overwhelming.

A totally candid shot of me lost in thought.

The highlight of our pre-mountain hike was Taylor going to great lengths to procure a delicious looking wild orange while I cheered him on. And Sarah stood there and gave no indication that this was a bad idea. Remember that. He fought through thorny trees.

And ventured dangerously close to the territory of the thin, climbing, Costa Rican mountain cow.

Success.

Back at the hostel we sat down to enjoy our hard-earned orange. We were quite pleased that Sarah decided it was an important enough moment to capture on camera.

And this is the moment when we realized that this type of wild orange tastes as bitter as a lemon. And that Sarah knew this and allowed Taylor to fight off several thin, climbing, Costa Rican mountain cows to get it. Well played Sarah. Well played.

I am going to go through day one of our ascent using the kilometer markers on the trail and the time that we reached each one. We got up at about 5 am and prepared to set out.

6:32 am. Km: 1 After one kilometer Taylor and Sarah look happy and fresh and I look drunk. So things are pretty normal.

Taylor and I showing how we feel about the lame English translation of a Spanish motivational quote along the trail.

6:55 am. Km: 2 Everybody happy, sleeping bag successfully tied to pack (props to Taylor), and walking stick glove on.

7:19 am. Km: 3 No problems. We’re standing for the picture because we’re full of energy.

7:44 am. Km: 4 We’re setting a good pace, and the mountain doesn’t seem that steep. This is going to be easy. We’re confident bordering on arrogant. That rarely goes well for me.

8:15 am. Km: 5 And we’ve reached the first really steep kilometer. Sarah and Taylor have smiles that are just a little too close to grimaces. They pretty much tried to smile for every picture. I wanted to give an accurate portrayal of how I was feeling so I tried not to smile just for the sake of smiling. Consequently, I’m looking incredulously at the camera thinking that if there are many more kilometers like this one we’re in trouble.

8:44 am. Km: 6 We rebounded a bit as a group, although I’m clearly still thinking about kilometer 5. Also we’re getting pretty muddy and we had a bit of trouble with the bugs since we were hiking through a sort of mountain rainforest area.

9:02 am. Km: 7 The sun has kind of come out, Taylor and I have settled in to the climbing routine and feel pretty good, and Sarah seems to be taking a quick power nap.

9:51 am. Km: 8 The long break in time is because we reached the “refugio” and sat down for lunch. And by lunch I mean peanut butter and crackers. We feel refreshed, the weather is holding up, and everyone has on their climbing gloves. We’re really coming into our own.

10:22 am. Km: 9 Ah Barbas de Viejo. I look appropriately shocked. Kilometer 9 made 5 look like child’s play. The phrase “that was tough, but it was no kilometer 9” now has meaning that no one outside of our group really understands. Kind of like an inside joke except instead of referring to something funny it refers to something painful.

11:04 am. Km. 10 Then came the rains. A bit difficult to get used to but we broke out the rain coats and were feeling fine by the kilometer marker. We were burning through our supply of crackers and peanut butter.

11:35 am. Km: 11 We have climbed out of the rainforest and into a more traditional, rockier, mountain climate. We’re up over 3,000 meters in elevation and the summit is only 3,820 meters so we don’t have much more climbing to do. Keep that number in mind. The summit is at 3,820 meters. Not 3,760. We are feeling good and I look borderline cocky again so you know we’re screwed.

We snap a quick picture of a mountain peak that we think could be the summit or at least something close. How naive.

12:02 pm. Km: 12 We’re feeling fantastic. We thought that we’d have problems at the higher elevations but we haven’t so far. We’re so excited that we barely pay any attention to the elevation sign and the fact that we spent most of the kilometer walking downhill.

12:35 pm. Km: 13 We have not yet paid for the drop in elevation. We’re going back up hill but only gradually.

1:10 pm. Km: 14 And now we have paid. Kilometer 14 rivaled 9. It was not quite as consistently steep but it was at a higher elevation and we were not mentally prepared for it. As you can see though, we had gotten used to the whole climbing thing. We had just faced a very difficult kilometer and we look alright. I don’t look shaken to my core. Taylor and Sarah are using the kilometer marker to support themselves though and I didn’t even make it up there to sit with them. I’ve just keeled over in front.

Base Camp! Which was really cold. And all of our clothes were wet. So we hung them up and I immediately got in my sleeping bag and took a nap.

Unfortunately, the pictures that we took early the next day on Taylor’s camera did not come out. So I’ll just have to tell you what happened. First of all, Sarah and I realized that we forgot to bring our tickets that authorized us to stay in the base camp. Basically we hiked 15 kilometers up a mountain just to reach a building where they would totally have been within their rights to tell us to walk back down. Fortunately they weren’t terrible human beings and they just took down our passport numbers and let us stay there. I think they were pretty confident that no one is stupid enough to hike that far without buying a ticket. People are just stupid enough to forget the ticket at the bottom. Also, we would have died if we tried to walk down the same day. The base camp was freezing and literally everyone there was better prepared than we were. Some of them were part of a program that had its own personal chef and others had brought all sorts of good food. We ate crackers and peanut butter, plain oatmeal (with a little bit of butter that we found lying around), and pasta. We went to sleep early and got up before 2am with the idea that we would reach the summit in time to see the sunrise. That did not pan out. Problem number one was that it was raining. Problem two was that we failed to read the trail signs and climbed the wrong peak. These two problems created problem three, which was that we had allowed ourselves two hours of climbing to reach the summit. We climbed the wrong peak, which only took one hour, and then shivered in the rain for about and hour and fifteen minutes before it got bright enough for us to see that we were not in fact at the summit of the mountain.

 

So we climbed back down to base camp. After a brief discussion about common sense, glory, and pride, we decided to climb to the summit. We picked up our Swedish friend Patrick who we had met at the hostel and will from now on be referred to as P-dawg, and started up the appropriate peak. We walked much faster than we wanted to because we were in danger of missing our bus back to Heredia, which left in the afternoon. P-dawg had no such commitment and as a result our pace left him a bit miffed. I think that he now believes that Americans just like to run everywhere. The top of the mountain was very steep, rocky, and it was hard to catch our breath due to the reduced amount of oxygen in the air. We powered through and reached the summit just before 8:30 am. After getting up at 1:45 and climbing the wrong peak. As Taylor would say, we were pretty “salty” at first, but reaching the summit was an incredible feeling. P-dawg wasn’t sufficiently excited so we made him stand on the highest rock on the summit so that he was the tallest point in the country of Costa Rica. We each took turns being the tallest point and then I wrote Happy Thanksgiving in the summit log book. It was awesome. Here we are at the summit sign.

I’m pointing to the altitude kind of sheepishly, in honor of the fact that three hours earlier, after a difficult climb, we reached Cerro Terbi, a nice peak 60 meters lower that was not in fact the summit.

After this, we climbed down. I won’t describe the descent, other than to say my knees did not handle it well and I couldn’t really walk for a couple of days. Despite the difficulties it was a great way to end an awesome semester. I had a lot of fun, traveled to many incredible places, and made some really good friends. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed blogging about my experiences while in Costa Rica. Thanks for reading.

 

Pura Vida

 

Evan Senie

 

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Arenal!

Time November 28th, 2012 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

I can’t figure out how to get the text above this picture so I’m going to start here. I’m a professional. We took a program trip to Arenal. Here we are eating breakfast on the way. Looks like I said something funny just before the picture based on Taylor’s reaction.


We stopped in a park and walked around for a bit. I can’t remember why but we decided to see how many people we could get into this tree. Quite a few as it turned out. Of course, we didn’t just say “hey we got a lot of people into this tree” and then get down.

We continued to add people until we found ourselves in this situation. Taylor is one arm-hold away from falling on Savannah and Shannon (which Shannon seems to find hilarious), Sarah is desperately trying to save Tracy, who is literally only touching the tree with her left foot, and I’m just laughing and trying not to fall down like an idiot.

This is what you get when you combine an awesome thermal pool with an underwater camera. You’re welcome.

I seriously made the group take so many of these pictures. Also, since my eyes are closed, I didn’t realize that I was the only one actually sitting on the floor of the pool. I rescind my thumbs up. Unfortunately I can’t find the video of us army crawling along the bottom of the pool. It was one of those ideas that works better in theory than in practice.

I don’t have very many pictures of our zip-lining experience in Arenal. But here’s our group shot. There are a number of things that I would like you to notice. First, it’s worth noting that this was not one of the “goofy” pictures. We were supposed to be serious. You can tell because the seven people on the left side are smiling nicely at the camera. Starting in the middle we run into some problems. Jessica is trying to tackle Tracy, Mara has decided that the tackling is more interesting than the picture, Kelsey and Kamille have a weird little situation going on, and Taylor, Sarah, Amanda, and I are making a concerted effort to all stare at the same non-existant camera in the distance. If you crop out one side of this photo you could make a holiday card and if you crop out the other side you’re left with pure awesomeness.

There are times in life where you find yourself with long fake hair, a hat and a kilt. You can stop, reflect, and try to figure out what happened to you or you can just go with it.

And you may as well enjoy the hair while you have it.

Here’s a more normal picture where everyone is behaving themselves.

To end this post I would like to show this rainbow. This is not my last blog post since I will be doing one about Chirripo and leaving Costa Rica. That being said, on the day of this rainbow I was kind of sad about leaving and this picked me up a little bit. It is hands down the most beautiful rainbow I’ve seen in person. If If I hadn’t taken this photo I would think that it’s fake.

 

Pura Vida

 

Evan

 

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Cahuita/Playa Buena Vista

Time October 29th, 2012 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Alright, for this post I’ve got two trips to talk about: Cahuita and Playa Buena Vista. Cahuita was a non-program trip with a lot of the group and Playa Buena Vista was a program volunteer trip to save turtles. First, Cahuita:

 

This is Secret Garden, the hostel that we stayed at in Cahuita. We arrived on a few different buses and at different times so I don’t actually know when this picture was taken. But it represents day one. Those are “I just spent too many hours on a bus with these people” smiles.

I showed up around the middle of the day and pretty much just relaxed on the beach and in that hammock until bed time.

Next day a bunch of us went snorkeling. Julian is drunk.

Not actually. I don’t think they let you snorkel drunk. We went out on a boat to a national park area and snorkeled there. We met a friendly guy named Dr. Nacke and he took some underwater pictures. They’re not that clear but I’ve put a few in here just to give you an idea. These are striped yellow fish.

And this is a spikey animal. I think that’s the scientific name.

I’m not even going to try to name these fish. It was cool seeing the giant school of them. I swam under the water to try to get closer to them but they moved kind of quickly. And at one point while I was under water I forgot that I shouldn’t be using the snorkel anymore and swallowed a bit of the ocean.

This is a close up of coral. And another striped yellow fish. Also there was a shark. We don’t have a picture. Sorry. Go snorkeling if you want to see a shark.

Karina was nice enough to style my hair while I was attempting to take a nap on the beach.

The day ended with me back in the hammock. I actually spent part of the night sleeping in the hammock instead of my bed.

We got up at like 4 am to watch the sunrise. It was kind of cloudy. I apparently thought the solution to that problem was to get marginally closer to the sky.

The last day we went on a hike. This guy just gave a raccoon a cracker. While it was funny and kind of cute, it was also very sad. Please don’t feed animals in national parks. That kind of defeats the purpose of preserving an animal’s natural habitat. At least he didn’t give a mouse a cookie.

If you got that reference you’re a champ. This looks more awesome that it was. But it was pretty awesome. We crossed a small river using low-hanging tree branches. If you take a close look, you’ll notice that I was not in fact extending my hand to help Stephanie. I was more interested in getting the water bottle she was holding. Also, go Red Sox.

Finally, I’ve included this picture for Karina. To help with the beard mourning process.

This is the second trip. We went to a very isolated beach called playa Buena Vista to collect the eggs that turtles were laying and guard them until they hatch. Here I am surveying the river that we had to cross to get to the camp for the volunteers.

Here I am, sans beard. Also, my feet don’t look real. I don’t know what happened. To the left of me are some of the protected nests of eggs.

There’s the group at mealtime. I slept in the room straight back from the end of the table. Good for Lauren for not caving to peer pressure. Who cares if everyone else had stopped eating for a moment to take a picture? When you’re thirsty you’re thirsty. The picture on the bottom shows what we did for three hours the first morning. We dug holes in the sand where eggs had hatched, carried the contaminated sand to a large pile, and then shoveled sand off the beach and carried this clean sand back to refill the holes. It was pretty tiring.

The second night a bunch of nests hatched and the baby turtles were released onto the beach. Almost all of this happened in the middle of the night so there aren’t pictures. During my shift watching the hatchery in the morning, however, Jessica and I noticed that some of the turtles had not made it out of the nests during the night. Here I am freeing one straggler from nest Q14. His name is Lone Ranger Turtle Action the First. I choose to ignore the high probability that Lone Ranger was eaten almost immediately upon entering the ocean and imagine that he’s still swimming around out there.

 

Here’s Lone Ranger waddling towards freedom, courtesy of Lauren: http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=G3ByW4TaeoE

 

Both trips were tiring and a lot of fun. At Playa Buena Vista we met some very nice volunteers who work there for more than just two days. There were several Germans, a Dutch fellow, and a Spaniard. Both trips were great and the turtle one was very unique. I’m really glad I had the opportunity to participate in the effort to maintain the turtle population. Also, I still go to school. Its not particularly exciting.

 

PS. I want to tell everyone about an experience that I had recently. I went out with friends at night and had no cash on me. A bad idea, I know. They all went to a bar after a while but I was tired so I stayed behind. I went to the ATM to take out money and they were all closed. For my safety apparently. Note to study abroad students. Many ATM’s shut off after 10 pm. Just so you know. So I was in a situation. It is dangerous to walk back to my house late at night and I had no money. I went into McDonald’s and offered a tico guy and girl that I would pay for their food with my debit card if they would pay me back in cash so that I could pay for a cab. They said yes at first but then realized they only had 20 mil bills (which are worth $40). I told them not to worry about it and waited for more people to come in to buy food but the guy, Brandon, came over to me and asked where I lived. I said Santo Domingo and he told me that they didn’t mind driving me home. They got their food, sat and talked with me as they ate, and then drove me home. I just wanted to recount this story because I felt that it was a very kind thing to do and Brandon was telling me about how Costa Ricans feel an obligation to help other people. So here’s a good example. I’m glad there are nice people in the world.

 

Pura Vida

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Irazu/Chirripo

Time October 11th, 2012 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Pura Vida folks. This is a bit difficult right now, as I am sitting in the kitchen listening to Maritza, Doña Ligia and abuela speaking rapidly about Nicaraguan immigration laws in Spanish. It’s very strange to listen to one language and write in another but I’ll try to avoid Spanglish. My classes are going well. There’s a lot more work now that we’re closer to the end of the semester but nothing too overwhelming so far. The weather has started to get rainier. I thought we had worked out a solid deal with mother nature: beautiful mornings, rain starting about 1 or 2 pm, and a clear night starting by about 7 or 8pm. Now all bets are off. We’ve had rain in the morning two of the past three days, it rained all night a couple days ago, and it was sunny this afternoon. I’m all flummoxed. I’m also very content at the moment because I made myself tea and Doña Ligia just gave me her lunch that she was too busy to eat. It’s 5 pm here. I do not know what type of sandwich this is but I’m not about to be picky. Alright, in this post I’m going to talk about my trips to Volcán Irazu and Chirripo. Irazu was a day trip. It’s not much of a hike, but a bus drives you out to a pretty cool area for walking around. Here’s the pictures:

Here’s a few of us sitting on a fence. This was right when we got there. For whatever reason I appear to be the only one not worried about falling off the fence. We’re a happy looking bunch.

Here’s the volcanic lake thing. I took a lot of pictures of it since it was one of the few things in the park. I would show you the rest of them but instead I’ll let you use your imagination. Imagine walking 5 steps to the right and then taking a picture of the same thing. Now 5 steps to the left. That’s pretty much what I’ve got. Pretty lake though.

Here’s Amanda and Kelsey smiling for the camera on what remains of a rock wall.

How cool am I?

That was rhetorical. And here’s the whole group I think. Totally ignoring the dedicated photographer trying to snap a group photo. Apparently whatever’s on the ground is more interesting. I walked over to find out what was more important than my photo-blog efforts.

Really?

Later Julian, Lauren and I climbed a small avalanche waiting to happen. Then Julian threw my camera down to me so that I could snap a picture. The throw was not ideal. I ended up diving on a pile of avalanche prone gravel. I’m a dedicated photographer. Also, Julian looks giddy in this picture. I’m not sure why. Maybe he’s seeing something we’re not.

Here I am pointing up the thing we climbed. This is not a great perspective on this picture. It appears that we either climbed a tiny hill or I’m a giant. You guys can decide which one.

After the small climb, a few of us went up to the highest point in the park. Again not a very long ascent. It took like 15 minutes. At the top we found this beetle. Totally worth it.

That probably came off as sarcastic but it was actually really cool up there. Here’s Lauren rushing to take a picture of the volcano/hills before the clouds covered everything up.

And here’s one of the last pictures before the clouds totally obscured everything. I think it looks pretty cool.

And finally, on the way out, I grabbed a picture of this little guy. I think it’s a pizote, an animal native to Costa Rica. I guess it’s cute.

Last weekend I went with Lauren to Chirripo. It’s a national park with the tallest mountain in Costa Rica. We didn’t climb it but we hope to go back in a month to climb the mountain. Here’s some pictures from the first visit:

This is where we stayed. Notice the forest surrounding our room. It was really cool although during the night there was some sort of animal cackling maniacally. It may have been a bunch of jaguars, which apparently live in the area. Do jaguars cackle?

This is Albin Jr. I could explain why we call him that but I don’t feel like it. It’s a long story involving pirate cabs and poorly paved roadways. Point is he’s a stand up fellow. So is Albin Sr. (not pictured)

This is Casa Mariposa. We will be staying at this hostel the next time we’re in the area. Jill and Jon are going to give us a good deal and rent us sleeping bags and a cookstove. I will blog about the mountain climb if I survive it.

I think this is the beginning of Mount Chirripo. I can confirm that in a few weeks.

This is a mountain that may or may not be Chirripo. You would think I would be able to identify the mountain I was standing at the base of. In my defense there were a whole lot of mountains right next to each other. Plus it’s a cool picture. It fits with the cloud theme. That’s right, there’s a theme.

This is a cow.

And this is an orange. I should write children’s books. I really wanted this orange but it was up to high. And didn’t belong to me. It is the perfect orange.

Eventually, we reached the hiking trail. The prior pictures are from the walk through the very rural and almost person-less town. We found Jon and Jill who told us to use the walking sticks that we would find near the trail. I’m not sure why we posed like that.

Here’s the bottom of one of the waterfalls on the trail.

The trail basically followed a river and passed a bunch of waterfalls. It was beautiful and a fairly difficult hike at times due to the steep hills.

This picture is more fun with no explanation.

Fortunately that last picture did not lead to my death, and when we got back we signed our names in the log book. And then we went to eat.

Only in a quiet, rural town like Chirripo will you find this on your menu.

We got the hawaiian pizza. There were only three other people eating that the restaurant. One was playing the flute. I requested Imagine by John Lennon and he played it. Chirripo is a unique place.

 

Chirripo was exactly what I needed. A quiet weekend away from everything. Now I’m refreshed and looking forward to a weekend in Cahuita to look at sloths and go snorkeling. Then the weekend after I’ll be doing some turtle-related volunteer work. I’ll try to do a joint blog post based on those two weekends.

 

Peace

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Tirimbina

Time September 21st, 2012 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Hi people. I did not post again as quickly as I was planning to. I had a lot of work this week, which I’ll tell you about here in case you’re planning to study here at some point. If you’re not, or are already studying here and have no need for a description of what it’s like, feel free to skip right to the pictures. My classes have been going pretty well and there is one thing that I was told before I came here that has really been true for me. People told me that the classes I was taking as direct enrollment (I have two) would be light in terms of workload for the first part fo the semester, whereas the study abroad program courses would have a more traditional United States university feel, with more work throughout the semester. This has definitely been the case. In my two study abroad program courses I frequently have assignments such as small papers and 15-20 minute presentations. In my two direct enrollment courses there is a lot of reading to do but the professor does not usually check if we’ve done the reading. In one course I’ve had a couple of small essays and in another I just had a big mid-term type take home exam. Those have been the only assignments to turn in for those classes so far. I guess the point of this is that if you are planning to study here and direct enroll in some or all of you classes, keep in mind that you’ve got to try to be disciplined to keep up with readings at the beginning of the semester and be prepared for a borderline overwhelming amount of work at the end. By the way, in case I haven’t mentioned this at any point, all of my classes are in Spanish. So this only applies for people taking courses in Spanish here. I have no idea what the English language courses are like. Probably wonderful.

Another daily life note is that my friends and I speak too much English together. We have been trying to switch over to using more Spanish but it’s hard to get everyone on board and it’s just really frustrating speaking in a language in which you cannot express yourself the way you’d like to. We have to stick with it though and be a bit more disciplined. I think we’ll improve much faster if we’re able to stick to Spanish.

Alright, now for the pictures. We went on a trip as a program to Tirimbina, a really cool biological reserve where we learned about the process of making chocolate, got to touch a bat, and went white water tubing. Not rafting but tubing. Like a lazy river thing except at times the river wasn’t lazy. You’ll see in a second.

 

This is the inside of a cocoa plant. We got to taste one of the seeds. It tastes better than it looks.

They gave a demonstration of the process of making chocolate. Here Mara is lending a hand.

There are more than two steps to making chocolate and I swear that I paid attention during the presentation. Unfortunately, I don’t remember much of any step besides the last one. Where you drink homemade hot cocoa. I was good at that part of the process. One of the best I would say.

This is a suspension bridge. In the rainforest. With a river below it. Walking on these bridges was a unique experience. Also terrifying when people started jumping up and down.

Another bridge. I put this picture in because the bridge basically just disappears into the forest. Also, it was equally cool at night. A few of us went back out there in the pitch black. It was quiet and we sat on a bridge hanging above a river in the middle of a rainforest, stargazing. It was probably one of my favorite moments of my trip so far.

It’s hard to gauge the depth here but I took this picture just over the side of one of the bridges following that tree down towards the ground. We were pretty high up.

Here’s the river I was talking about. Cool, but not quite as powerful as the river we visited the next day.

Here’s the team prior to beginning our white-water tubing. We’ve got our tubes, our life jackets, and an utter lack of understanding of the intricacies of tubing. We also went through a very thorough instructional session with the guides in which they gave us a whole bunch of signals to watch for. It was a nice gesture, but as it turned out, they basically just signaled randomly while we were tubing. And we paddled with our arms, so we had little to no effect on what was occurring. Also, it’s clear by our smiles that we had no idea what we had gotten ourselves into.

It wasn’t long before it started to become clear that we were just along for the ride. Lauren and Sarah are about to collide and I’m not even facing down the river.

Here I am in a slightly more tranquil situation.

Now, as you can see, I’m building confidence. Frolicking in the waves, grinning like an idiot, and even under the illusion that my paddling is having an effect. I know what you’re thinking. This arrogance must have consequences. Shut up.

Uh oh.

And here’s where all hell broke loose. Behind me there is a giant rock. You can’t see it because of all the water rushing over it in a mini waterfall. I was the first tuber for most of the time, so this was just the beginning. They gave us one of their arbitrary signals, which apparently meant “paddle like a maniac away from the giant rock”. That’s not what I took away from the gesture and as a result I went semi-over the small waterfall and collided with a guide. He handled the situation with aplomb. I seriously thought I wrecked him. We hit pretty hard and he sort of disappeared in the water and then all of a sudden his kayak went totally vertical. Turns out he’s very good at kayaking though and had the whole situation under control. And as you’re about to see, I was one of the lucky ones.

First we’ve got Lauren. Her expression says: “Oh dear. I appear to have struck a size-able obstacle. This may be the end of the line for me.” Which was actually one of the most composed reactions. Because after Lauren we have…

Chaos. Chaos is what we have.

And the aftermath. . Miki is holding on for dear life to her overturned tube. Absolutely one of my favorite pictures from the tubing experience

Jessica is like “screw this man! I’m swimming the rest of the way.”

And then there’s Krista. I don’t even understand how this happened.

And one more of the Krista situation. In her defense I guess once you get to the tipping point there’s nothing you can do anymore. You’re going to be upside down.

No worries though. Here’s the majority of the team, still alive and with tubes, floating down an easier part of the river. There was one more thing though. At the end i floated past the stopping point for the tour, lost my raft, and went through a stretch of rapids sans boat. I really got in touch with nature. In that I ran into like 20 rocks. Unfortunately nobody got any pictures. Truly a shame.

 

That’s all from Tirimbina. Also, the first day, we worked at a school, playing with the kids and painting a classroom. It was a fantastic experience and I know there are pictures out there but I don’t have any of them. It was truly wonderful though and if I can get my hands on some of the photos I’ll include them in my next post. By the way, if you visit Costa Rica and like nature stuff I would absolutely recommend Tirimbina. The place is awesome.

 

Pura Vida!

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Rorridge!

Time September 10th, 2012 in College Study Abroad | 1 Comment by

I’m still a bit behind and I apologize for the delay, but I’m trying to catch up. This post will focus on my trip to Monteverde and my trip the next weekend to Puerto Viejo, in the Limon region of Costa Rica. In terms of a general update, school is going pretty well. There’s still a lot of reading, and I had my first exam last week but it’s not been overwhelming. Here are some Monteverde pics:

Here’s Sarah and I cooking up some pasta for everyone. We chopped garlic and onion, and bought some ground beef for the sauce. And Sarah and Krista made delicious garlic bread to go with it. It was a really good dinner. If you’re a fan of foreshadowing I would encourage you to keep this cooking success in mind. Sometimes a recipe can go awry and one can get into a situation where one is eating something that one has ruefully named “Rorridge”. But that’s a story for for a bit later. Also that’s not really foreshadowing. It’s more of a teaser.

Here’s a bunch of us posing during our main activity at Monteverde, waterfall rappelling. For those of you who don’t know, its an activity that involves walking/jumping down waterfalls. You’ll understand it better in a minute, as you watch me make a mess of it.

Here I am tackling one of the easy waterfalls. Basically you’re supposed to lean back so you’re perpendicular to the rocks (which I’m not doing) and climb down while letting out the rope with the hand behind your back.

If you don’t look where you’re putting your feet sometimes this happens. I look surprisingly at peace with the situation. In case it is not clear, your butt should never be touching the rocks.

This is one of the medium level waterfalls. Things got a bit tougher in that it was taller and there was a lot of water. I seem to be managing it pretty well here, despite the fact that I’m still not leaning back.

Here we are celebrating prematurely. It’s not our fault. We had no way of knowing what the next waterfall looked like. On an unrelated note, our guide, located on the far left, seems incapable of giving us a full thumbs up. He’s given us a sideways thumb in both pictures. I know we weren’t very good at it but we were paying them. He could have humored us.

So this is the big waterfall. Instead of climbing down it like the others we were simply instructed to jump. I went first and this is me mid-descent. It was intimidating, but a ton of fun. I’m still not leaning back.

 

So that was the main highlight of that trip. We were supposed to go zip-lining but we got rained out. We should be able to go when we take a trip to Arenal in November. Let’s move on to the next trip. We decided to take a bus down to Puerto Viejo. We went in a couple of groups, with my group being the one that left earliest. We spent three nights. Puerto Viejo is on the Carribbean coast of Costa Rica and the environment is very different. It’s very relaxed, and the beaches are beautiful. The trip was a lot of fun. It’s sort of like one long party there. Here’s what I’ve got.

This is Julian and Mara in the bus station. I don’t remember why Julian was looking at me like that. At least he’s looking at me. Mara’s just flat out ignoring me.

Here’s where we spent our first of the three nights. It’s a place called Rocking J’s. They have private rooms, dorm style living, tents, and hammocks. We chose the tents.

Here’s a picture of the Rocking J’s property. It’s really pretty incredible. It’s like a huge, kind of hippy-ish compound with lots of people wandering around, relaxing and drinking. Can I say drinking? If not, I guess this will be censored. But it’s a party.

More of Rocking J’s. Just beyond that hut is the grill where we made some of the worst hot dogs I’ve ever had. Just awful. The grill just runs on wood and we couldn’t get the wood lit so we used a newspaper. Basically we grilled using a fire made of kindling. On the bright side, I could read the day’s top stories since they were grilled onto my hot dogs.

 

Here’s Shannon taking a break from all the activity.

I don’t know why they’re posing like that. This was about the point where we realized that as fun a Rocking J’s was we were never going to sleep if we didn’t find another hostel. Also the rest of our group was about to get into town. So I guess this is our triumphant departure. Now that I’m looking at it I’m starting to like the goofy poses. It sums things up pretty well.

This is my triumphant departure pose. Kind of lame. I was tired. You try going to bed at 4 am in a place that literally never fully turns off the music.

To get to the beach we had to rent bikes. This presented a problem. Julian does not know how to ride a bike. As you can see, Julian and I are trying to convince this fine gentleman to let me rent the bike and let Julian ride in the baby seat. I believe his response was “That seat is designed for a one year old child”

We were not deterred. We went with the old fashioned rent two bikes and just put two people on each. Mara rode with me. It was tricky but we pulled it off. Also, its hard to tell but the girl on the bike in the background was so confused by our setup that she has still not returned her gaze to the road. Hopefully that turned out alright for her. We got a lot of strange looks.

Ah rorridge. How do I explain? We decided to cook dinner our second night and we were hoping to rebound from the hot dog debacle. We did not. We made a rice dish that, prepared correctly, is delicious. Unfortunately, we bought a type of rice that we were unaccustomed to and therefore had to guess the water-rice ratio. Shannon went ahead and gave it a shot. She did not guess correctly. What we ended up with was an interestingly textured blob that, while vaguely reminiscent of traditional rice, was really more of a rice-porridge hybrid. We affectionately dubbed it rorridge. But not that affectionately. It was a bit difficult to eat. And it sat like a rock. I think my expression here says it all. I have committed myself and there is no going back.

We did in fact make it to the beach while in Puerto Viejo. I have only this picture. I don’t know why. We spent a lot of time at the beach. I guess I was swimming most of the time. There were some pretty cool waves and the beach was beautiful.

Thanks for staying with me there. That was a lot of pictures. The last night in Puerto Viejo was Miki’s birthday and we had a birthday dinner for her in a restaurant with live music. And lots of good food. After the newspaper hot dogs and the rorridge I needed a good meal. I can’t even describe how happy I was sitting in that restaurant, listing to a band playing something they called blueskafunkrock, and eating a giant burrito. Pure bliss. Overall these trips were both a lot of fun and I really feel like I’m making the most of the opportunity to explore the country. If you visit you should definitely stop by Limon. It’s a very different atmosphere and there are lots of new foods to try. There’s also a mix of Spanish and English. It was a really cool experience. I’m hoping to post again soon with pictures from my latest trip.

 

Pura Vida!

 

Evan

 

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Settling in!

Time August 30th, 2012 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Sorry for the long delay. Since I last posted I’ve been getting used to going to class and to handling the work load. There is definitely a lot more reading than I’m used to. Not necessarily more pages, it just takes longer since I have to spend a lot of time looking up words that I don’t know and I read slower in Spanish. I also have a bunch of small papers that I’ve been writing and I’ve had two 15 minute oral presentations. That sounds like a lot, but it hasn’t been too hard to manage. I’ve also managed to do a bit more travelling. For this post I’m going to put some pictures from where I live, because I’ve been neglecting that. I’ll also put the pictures from our  IFSA program trip to Sarchi, a place known for painting carritas, or carts that used to be used to transport goods. Here are some pictures of Santo Domingo, where I live.

This is my bus stop.

And there’s a bus driving by. It’s not my bus, but the morning that I took these pictures my bus inexplicably just drove right by. I was too flustered to even take a picture. I had my 260 colones in my hand and everything. I think the driver just wasn’t feeling it.

This is one of the many spots where we can go get copies of our readings for class. Unlike the United States, Costa Rica doesn’t seem to have any copyright laws for textbooks. So they’ve made an industry out of buying one book and just copying all the pages. It’s good for me because the copies are really cheap.

Incredibly, I still managed to be broke enough to not be able to afford 3 pieces of paper last week. They gave them to me anyway. Being the good person that I am i came back this week with these two coins to repay my debt. That’s like 6 cents. I think they thought I was screwing with them when I handed them the money.

This is street art outside my campus. It is here because it is awesome. If I could draw this is the kind of thing I would do it all the time. I would probably get arrested. Also, art reveals truth. Says the fish.

This is a snack stand right in front of the school. I never have any money but sometimes I just stand near it and look at the food.

Ok, the other pictures I have are from the trip to Sarchi. The carts there are hand painted in very fine patterns and we got to see the professionals paint and even try our hand at it. Take a look:

Here’s a giant cart. That someone took an absurd amount of hours to paint. The wheels do not work. It looks cool though.

This is a close up of one wheel. Normally I like to make some sort of sarcastic comment regarding my pictures but this one is just beautiful. Also there are pictures coming up worthy of derision.

This is where the seven professional painters sit. I studied them for approximately 8 seconds each and then determined that I was ready to be a professional painter. It looked pretty simple. Plus, that’s like 56 seconds.

We were charged with painting a small wheel. The far right one is what it is supposed to look like at the end. More or less.

Here I am completing my masterpiece. While sitting on a comically small chair. It’s like no one in Costa Rica has ever seen someone over six feet tall.

Here it is! Drawn with the utmost care and more detailed than the example!

Just kidding. That was Sarah’s. This is mine. The black lines look like they were drawn by an intoxicated 8 year old. The brush just kept getting away from me. I swear I had the best of intentions.

 

In a few days I’ll try to make a new post because I left my trip to Monteverde out of of this one. I have lots of pictures including several of me trying to backwards rock climb down a waterfall. It wasn’t pretty.

Pura Vida

 

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Manuel Antonio!

Time August 6th, 2012 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

This weekend I got to go to Manuel Antonio, one of the places I was really looking forward to seeing while I’m here in Costa Rica. We had a short week of classes this week, due to a Thursday holiday. I have no Friday classes, and I left with some friends really early on Thursday to head down to Manuel Antonio. We wanted to limit how much money we spent, so we found a hostel near the beach that only cost $10 per night. We spent Thursday afternoon on the beach, and Friday walking through the national park and swimming at a park beach. It was really beautiful, and I took some pictures so that I could post them here:

 

This is one of the rooms that we stayed in. This is also my friend Julian, who is part wolf.

While I recognize that this picture does not show much of the beach, I felt the need to include it, mostly out of respect for the dog. He remained sitting in exactly that position for a large portion of the afternoon. I think he might have been a lifeguard.

Friday we spent a lot of the day hiking through the national park. I took a bunch of really poor pictures of the trail and decided not to include them, although the trail involved substantial amounts of mud and multiple crossings of small bodies of water. This was what we found at the end of the it.

Naturally, I climbed the waterfall. And took a picture of Shannon. Notice, if you will, her left hand, specifically it’s lack of any sort of laceration. This will be important later.

This is the beach that we found in the park. It was beautiful, and very resort-ish. The water was clear and the waves were not as big as the beach outside the park. It was very relaxing swimming there.

This is what happens when you don’t respect the “smaller waves” at the beach. They sneak up on you and get all your stuff wet. This is the aftermath of that situation. The biggest casualty was Julian’s camera, which no longer functions. Also, Karina’s phone seems to have drowned. My camera survived. Obviously. On that note, I would like to give a brief shout out to the Lowepro camera case, which, to my surprise, kept my camera dry. Also to Carmen, who dove into the water to throw the bag with my camera to safety before the wave could drag it into the ocean.

This is a sloth, or “oso perezoso” in Spanish. For those of you who do not speak Spanish, that translates to “lazy bear”. This one was near the beach and I waited a long time for it to turn its head towards the camera for this picture. A long time.

One of my friends who went on this trip is Shannon, and she is an artist. We were talking about whittling on the way down to the park and Shannon decided to give it a go. She is making a turtle and it is not done yet. I will keep you updated on the turtle progress.

The bottom hand in this picture is Shannon’s and represents a twenty second lapse in concentration while whittling. It looked a bit ugly at first but a friendly man at the beach gave us Neosporin and a bandage. It did not deter her from turtle carving. The top hand is mine, and represents a chronic lack of forethought, which in this case led to the storage of a razor in the bottom pocket of my backpack. I would advise my fellow shavers not to do this. Or to look inside backpack pockets before reaching in there. My finger looks goofy in this picture but it’s fine. The bulge is a cotton ball, not something more sinister.

 

Despite the wounds, the weekend was a lot of fun and the park was beautiful. If you are thinking of going I would definitely recommend it. We went the cheap route and had a great time, so I don’t think you have to spend a lot of money to have fun there. The hostel had cheap rooms and breakfasts, and backpackers are generally pretty cool people. That being said, there seemed to be some cool options that were a bit more expensive as well. Also, if you don’t have a car, be prepared to take a lot of buses. I took five today on my way back to the house. Overall a fun weekend, and I still have Sunday to get my homework done.

Peace

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In Costa Rica

Time July 30th, 2012 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Sorry for the long delay, I’ve been here a couple of weeks now. Things have been a bit crazy, but they’ve been really good. I spent my first week in Liberia, doing an orientation program that included hiking, learning traditional dances, and taking a trip to the beach. My first host family was really great, and I hope to visit them again before the end of the semester. They are both retired teachers who were funny and very welcoming. Liberia was beautiful, and it hardly rained, but it was extremely hot outside. At night it felt like it only got down to the mid seventies or eighty degrees. This was mitigated somewhat by a fan in my room but it was still a bit difficult to sleep. I didn’t take a ton of pictures there but I’ve got a few that I can post:

This is the beach we went to called “Playa Coco”. It rained a bit but it was still fun.

This is a shot of our campus in Liberia. It was pretty even though it is under construction.

This is a blue iguana that I followed around for a while. There are a lot of them in Guanacaste.

This is a picture of me and Kelsey in front of a tree that only grows in Guanacaste. In retrospect the tree should probably have been the focal point of the photograph. My bad.

 

Since we arrived in Heredia, I’ve done a lot. We went on another hike and went white-water rafting at a local river. We also spent part of one day at a spa. They have volcanic mud that they put on your face because it soothes your skin. Unfortunately, I did not have my camera with me. We went to a museum of art and then one of history during our visit to San Jose, the capital city of Costa Rica. We took a tour of Heredia with some UNA students as guides. It was a lot of fun, but I don’t remember where anything is other than my bus stop. This is important though, since I live in Santo Domingo, a town 15 minutes away from the school by bus. And I can’t remember if I said this in my last post, but there are no number addresses. So understanding the bus routes is key. Also, it is important to be comfortable being lost. I visited a friend in Alajuela, a town 30 minutes away by bus, and had basically no idea what I was doing. The people are friendly though, and if you ask enough times for directions, you tend to eventually find what you’re looking for. Anyway, I’ve got some more pictures here from my second week in Costa Rica. They show some of what I just described and also a weekend trip back to Guanacaste to go to the beach with a host brother and a bunch of his friends. I would like to note that the city is in the central valley, surrounded by mountains, and that since I live on top of a hill the view is gorgeous. I’ll put a picture of the mountains but my camera doesn’t do it justice.

 

This is Super Yurusti. A convenience store, and the closest thing I have to an address

This is from the art museum. I don’t know what else to say about it.

Here’s the mountains I was talking about. They’re on all sides and they’re pretty amazing.

Horses.

These are the friends who took me to the beach. I know two of them have their eyes closed but whatever. Its hard to get five people to focus for any length of time.

How cool is this picture from the beach?

 

Hopefully the answer was “pretty freaking cool” because I took like 40. Fortunately I’m only subjecting you to a few.

Last one. The colors were awesome. Although I think my camera enhanced them a bit. I didn’t edit this.

 

Yesterday I started classes. It’s a bit intimidating since I feel like a foreigner and the professors talk too fast, but everyone is very nice and I think I will get accustomed to the language pretty quickly. Sorry for the wicked long post and the delay. I will try to post more regularly.

Pura Vida!

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Ready To Go

Time July 9th, 2012 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Hi guys, my name is Evan Senie, and I’ll be studying this semester in Heredia, Costa Rica. The past week or so for me has been largely made up of saying goodbye to people I won’t be seeing for a while. Last week I went down to Connecticut and visited most of my dad’s side of the family at my cousin’s graduation party. Then for the 4th of July I went to Cape Cod and spent some time with my grandfather and my brother. I also used the opportunity to try out my camera (I offered to be a picture blogger and had to go buy a camera).

Here are a few pictures from the Cape:

 

The goofy looking kid in the middle picture is my brother. He and I decided to wander around a bit during the middle of the day and ended up at this marsh next to the ocean when none of the beaches would allow us to park for free. I’ve always been close with my brother and it’s been nice spending time with him while I’ve been home.

I drove him back to our town that evening and we made it in pretty good time, despite getting stopped after a major accident on the highway.

By the time we reached the accident there were only policemen and an intimidating helicopter perched on the side of the road.

 

When we got home we decided to rush over to a fireworks show:

I’m not really sure what that yellow thing is. It showed up in a bunch of the photos.

This was one of my favorites.

I don’t really know what to write for the captions to these but since I wrote one for the first two I will for this one as well. Here is very amateur-looking photograph of a firework with an unidentified yellow light in the corner.

 

We didn’t actually make it to the field to sit for the show but we parked on top of a hill and set up lawn chairs right there. I was very proud of these photos because I had to time the picture and click before the firework went off in order to capture it at the right time. I felt less proud when I picked up the Boston Globe the next day and saw the beautiful cover photo of the fireworks show. Oh well, at least you can basically tell what they are.

 

Now that I’ve pretty much said my goodbyes I’m looking forward to leaving on Sunday. I’ve got an early flight and if everything goes well I should be in Liberia (where I will spend my first week) by 2 pm. I’m very excited about meeting all the other study abroad students and getting acclimated. People keep asking me if I’m excited and if I’m nervous and since those have been such common questions I’ll answer them here for anyone who is going to do this program in the future. I’m not sure it will help at all. I am very excited about the whole program, seeing the beautiful country, meeting the people (who I’m told are extraordinarily friendly), and studying in a different college system. Just about everything I’ve been told about Costa Rica and the program has been positive, the exception being that I picked the rainy season, so I’d better prepare myself for some rain. In terms of being nervous, the only thing I am really worried about is the language issue. I have taken some high level Spanish courses at my university but I’m rusty after the summer break and I think that switching entirely into Spanish will be overwhelming at first. That being said, It seems that the program directors are very accommodating and I’ve got a couple of orientation weeks prior to the start of the semester.

Alright, that’s it for my pre-departure post, I look forward to arriving in Costa Rica this weekend!

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