On leaving Germany and moving to Costa Rica, and then to Ecuador

Comments, compliments... no complaints, with the exception of mosquitoes, but that's biodiversity for you! :)

Thursday, March 22, 2007

SO busy...so, quiet

I had a busy week...an extremely quiet weekend...and again a very busy week, that's why I was so quiet.

I'm hoping to go rafting this weekend, but I don't know if I'm included in the final group (made up my mind in the last minute)...I'm still kinda apprehensive about it, but I think it'll be fun...so, we'll see...I'll keep you posted :)

Today is Ariana's birthday. She's my oldest niece and she's turned TEN! I cannot believe she's that old! Well beyond 1.50 m tall...She's celebrating with the dolphins today. Too bad I can't celebrate with her.

Happy Birthday, Ari Pollosa!

Monday, March 12, 2007

What a weekend!

What an amazing weekend! As already mentioned the plan was waterfalls on Saturday and canopying on Sunday. I was not prepared for having SO much fun! We left on Saturday around 10 am. In the rented car were Nellie from Belize (thanks for driving, Nellie!), Aneta from Poland, Paulina from Ecuador, and yours truly.

Left to right: me, Aneta, Nellie, Paulina

Before I continue, I have to say that it pays to take a small backpack wherever you go with a rain poncho or something similar, a warm jacket, and sandals if you’re wearing sneakers and vice-versa. It was really warm when we left Alajuela, but the closer we came to the waterfalls, the colder it got. Once we were there, it started raining, so, some of us got long-sleeved t-shirts, rain ponchos, t-shirts, etc. We spent a really long time in the souvenir shop as they were having a sale and we wanted to take advantage of it.

Also, they were offering free samples of Britt coffee beans dipped in chocolate, some banana chips with salsa dip and delicious coffee. Yum!

Drenched between the leaves

(It took us approximately an hour to get to the La Paz Waterfall Park. The view was amazing the whole way. And when we got there…What a place! I’ve already said pictures don’t show just how gorgeous everything is. Still, I took hundreds of them.)

The La Paz waterfall park is divided into areas such as Butterfly area, Hummingbird area, Snake area, and so on…then you get to the waterfalls, and a shuttle brings you back up. Except my extremely fitness-oriented companions decided to disorient the rest of the guests by taking the down-way up again (instead of the shuttle). It was great exercise, but we got some puzzled (and some angry) looks. Since I had the brilliant idea to wear my new trekking shoes for this occasion, I got blisters about half way to the waterfalls. Really great!

This is an artistic picture Paulina took of me almost under the waterfall...it looks kinda surreal, this is why I included it.

After walking for hours in the rain, we went to eat at a churrasqueria on the way back to Alajuela. It seems they’re famous for their baked bananas with cheese. And I can see why! Double Yum!

Getting up at 6 am Sunday morning was not fun at all. Most people (there were 150 of us) had partied all night and had just showered and changed clothes before getting on the bus, so it was a quiet ride. We took the same direction as the day before, but we stopped sooner. The place we went to is Las Colinas del Poas. I can highly recommend it for its extremely professional canopy tour as well as for the delicious lunch (fresh trout!).

The canopy tour was something I had been looking forward to doing ever since I found out I got the visa for Costa Rica. It was even fun getting all the gear from the Colinas guys…even the little tutorial was fun. I felt like I could handle it. Then we got on the first platform. Out of 15 people in our group (the first batch) three decided to drop out (as soon as they got the harness on the cable).

Getting hooked up to the harness

I kept going to the back of the line, because I could hear my heart, I was so scared …I could remember being this scared last January in Austria when I was supposed to throw myself down an icy hillside in the middle of the night no light except the moon and stars, on a sled track …on a tiny sled by myself (I had never been on a sled before!)…I figured if I did that, I can do this! Seems a lot safer! Plus, I’ve always finished everything I started…even bad movies and bad books, so I decided to go for it. It was FUN!!!

The only problem was that it had been raining, so the brakes (a leather thing on one of my gloves) did not brake as well as on dry days…this just meant I went faster and had to start braking sooner…still a lot of fun! I even used the brakes so soon, that I had to pull myself by hand (backwards) to one of the platforms for the last couple of meters.

I look like such an expert, don't I?

After all this physical activity, we were driven to San Jose, to a Cabaret. It was a fun show, we laughed a lot …although I really wanted to lie down, like the rest of the group…We finally got home at around 8pm. Shower, dinner and bed!

Like I said, AMAZING weekend!

Thursday, March 8, 2007

Plans for the weekend, anyone?

I'm liking this a lot! Friday I have an appointment at the hairdresser's...you have no idea how terrible my hair looks, and I'm not posting any pictures of it until AFTER this weekend. Saturday, we're renting a car and we're driving to the waterfalls. I'm not driving (I left my driver's license at home)...I'll be the quiet passenger :) Sunday, I have been included in an outing (meant to be just for students) where we will go canopying!

I will be able to tell you all about it once I've been there. All I know is that they put you in some kind of harness and let you fly from tree to tree attached to cables...something like Tarzan on a leash! :)

In the meantime, I'm putting together the theoretical framework for my dissertation. There has to be some balance in my life...and this weekend sounds like a lot of fun!

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

What I'm doing in Costa Rica and how I got here...

I was in Germany, about to get a semester off in order to be able to write my dissertation when the German university I had been doing my PhD with got a visitor. Since I speak Spanish, I was asked to take him on a little city tour. So, I did. He was the dean of an important Latin American university we had an exchange agreement with. I guess out of politeness, he asked during our tour what my dissertation was on and when I told him he got really excited. He said his university had all the experts on the subject, and I should consider finishing my dissertation there.

By the way, my dissertation is (loosely) about consumer behavior in poor countries.

All I remembered about this university was what my boss had told me: it's in the middle of the jungle and it costs $40 to get in and out of there by taxi (and there's no other way). So I politely said thank you (but was not really considering it). A little bit later, one of the exchange students we had from that school came into my office and I told her her school had invited me...and she got really excited and said: And you're going, right? And I said, no, unfortunately I don't have that kind of budget ($40 each way is a lot anywhere in this world!). She explained to me that it was not like that...that it's a lot cheaper to get out...that it's an opportunity I shouldn't miss...etc. She also said I would probably get a lot of support from the university because they were extremely student-oriented and that research was extremely encouraged. I'm not saying I didn't get this kind of support in Germany, but after that conversation, I started researching this university and discovered that she was right! I shouldn't pass up this opportunity...they really have the experts here! Wrapping up my story: I called the dean (it was really hard to find him as he's an extremely busy person) and told him I'd like to finish my dissertation here...could I do it. Well, he said yes, and here I am :)

And I soon discovered that everything else she said was true! It's a great place to work...if you've been reading my previous posts you already know how easy everything is over here, how beautiful, if I didn't have these two jobs to do (school project and dissertation) I'd feel like I was on permanent vacation!

Right now I'm working mornings for the school (otherwise I couldn't pay my rent and food) and I work on my dissertation in the afternoon, which is great because I can leave everything there, have dinner, and go back until 9:45 pm, which is when the library closes. I have to say, in that respect we had more support at the German school...library never closes there! I have reserved a corner in the library and spend there all afternoons and evenings. They're such a helpful bunch there (it makes up for the lack of long hours, plus, I don't think I'd like to spend the nights there), I really hope I can stay until I'm all done!

Friday, March 2, 2007

Ants and lizards and frogs, oh my!

Ok, I'm in the tropics, and I should expect a few of these critters every once in a while...but I was not prepared for some of them showing up on my BED in the middle of the night!

I had been talking to the maintenance department, saying that there were ants in my kitchen and bathroom, that I knew that there was a family of lizards living in my bedroom wall, and that I always discovered BIG spiders whenever I moved the furniture in the house (a gene I inherited from my mom...my dad once told her: Honey, next time you do this, please call me at the office, and let me know, just in case I have to come in through the window instead of the door -- this, after he came back after dark, and without turning on the light in the living room decided to go to the terrace and ended up on his bu ..uh behind with a strong pain on his leg...he'd bumped into a table that shouldn't have been there).

these ants are actually fun to watch, at first sight they look like a parade of leaves! I think they're cute...must be because I always encounter them on my favorite bridge FAR away from my house

So, they came and sprayed my house on Tuesday. I almost choked when I came back (I had the feeling someone would find me on my back like the cockroaches in Raid commercials when they came to clean the next day), the smell was unbearable...I expected to see dead ants and spiders everywhere, but only found three dead lizards...poor things! I was considering sleeping in the hammock, but it was too cold, so I slept in the living room with all windows open.

this lizard kinda looks like the ones that died at my house

On Thursday another team came (the exterminator type with this can type equipment...) ...Thursday evening I was getting ready to sleep around midnight (I'd just turned off the light after reading) when something crawled over my face. So I took the critter with my fingers, squeezed it and tried to sleep when another one crawled on my eyelashes...so I turned on the light and discovered HUNDREDS of these disgusting ants with wings on my bed!!! I guess they didn't like the exterminator stuff and decided it was cozier on my bed? Anyway, I spent the next two hours spraying them with some grease cutting spray I bought for the kitchen...

so-called urban termites

Needless to say I was extremely grumpy the next morning...went to maintenance, complained...so they're spraying my house again today...

About frogs, no, I didn't forget them. Last night as I was returning home, I thought I saw an extra stone by my terrace...so I came closer...and it moved...jumped, and jumped and then disappeared in the bushes!!! It was a HUGE frog...I'd never seen such an enormous kind!!! I guess I'd be scared if I saw one of those inside my house...just because it was so unexpected...but I really found it extremely cute :)

my frog was cuter, this one looks a little mean