Friday, June 24, 2011

“A daughter is a little girl who grows up to be a friend.”–Unknown Author



 Arenal & Manuel Antonio

Accommodations: Hotels

Distance: 100 miles

Time: not sure how much faster it will be in private transportation

Accommodations: Hotels

Companions: 3, my wonderful family!



I can smell the the sweet aroma of plantains drifting into my room as my abuela tica makes dinner. The rain pours down outside, just as it does every day, and I listen contently to its pitter pattering on the roof. This foreign place has become my home, and these people have become my family. I can now comfortably walk the streets of San Jose, confident of where I am at. However, I’m not in Iowa and they aren’t my real family. Luckily for me, I have a wonderful family that is coming to visit me tomorrow.

At one o’clock tomorrow afternoon I will be eagerly waiting outside the airport for my mom, my aunt Gail, and my cousin Maggie to make their way through customs. I can hardly believe they will be here in 24 hours…no less…19. I miss my mom so much. We are best friends and I have never been away from her for this long. I told someone yesterday that my family was coming and they responded with, “Wow, they must really love you a lot.” And that just made me smile. I am so blessed to have such a wonderful family.

The next week promises to be an exciting family adventure that will take us hiking in the rainforest, up a volcano, swimming and hot springs, and finally to the beach. This means there will be no blog posts for a week, but I have no doubt that I will have a lot to report upon my return!


“I love my mother as the trees love water and sunshine - she helps me grow, prosper, and reach great heights.” - Terri Guillemets

Thursday, June 23, 2011

“There is nothing in the world so much like prayer as music is.” -William P. Merrill

Normally I would be posting my upcoming weekend plans on Thursday, but I am not leaving on a trip tomorrow. I am extremely fortunate to have my mom, my aunt Gail, and cousin Maggie coming to visit me this weekend. I am so excited to see them. I miss my family a lot. I have never gone more than a few weeks without seeing them, and now I have been gone for nearly two months; it is high time for a mother daughter reunion.

I can honestly say that I don’t remember the last time I have been this relaxed or happy. Every experience in your life changes you. I learned how to work hard and accept change when I moved to Germany, I grew up when I went to college, and I have learned a very important lesson while I have been in Costa Rica. Live. I have been so focused on completing every goal, finishing every task in record time, and doing everything perfectly that I haven’t stepped back and enjoyed my life. Now I know that it is ok to take a little longer, make a few mistakes, and do things simply because you enjoy it. Now you can find me reading my book in a hammock on the beach while the rest of the world sleeps, and dancing merengue with a bunch of gringos and thoroughly enjoying every minute of it.

I have made so many wonderful memories with people here. I love the friends I have made. We have inside jokes and nicknames. We can make fun of each other one moment and have deep conversations and share secrets the next. A few of my friends recently wrote a song for our Spanish class called Pura Vida. Pura vida… it is way of life, a mentality, a mindset, an attitude that we could all use a little more of in our lives. It translates to pure life, but the ticos use it constantly. It is like a little reminder all the time that every thing will be ok, don’t worry, relax, enjoy. The song was amazing. One guy played the guitar, one played the charango, and one played the colones (he literally jingled the coins in his hands and it sounded great). My friend who sang has a beautiful voice and being me, I started to get emotional and tear up. I am so impressed by what the guys did. The lyrics and the music were just perfect.

Caminando en la lluvia

Entre las casas llena de color

Mi hermano en las calles

Estar tocando los colones

Es la pura vida

Pura Vida

En la arena estoy descalza

La lleva suave y despacia

mi amor

El sonido de los aves

Resonando y tu sabes

Es la pura vida

Pura Vida

Walking in the rain

Between the colorful houses

Mi brother in the street

Is playing the colones

It’s the pura vida

Pura vida

In the sand I am barefoot

Take it smooth and slow

my love

The sound of the birds

Resounds and you know

It’s the pura vida

Pura vida

a“A painter paints pictures on canvas. But musicians paint their pictures on silence.” -Leopold Stokowski

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

“Nature is too thin a screen; the glory of the omnipresent God bursts through everywhere” - Ralph Waldo Emerson

Yet another picture Wednesday, enjoy!

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“The most beautiful view is the one I share with you.”










“Beauty... is the shadow of God on the universe.” -Gabriela Mistral
















“I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I needed to be.” - Douglas Adams

Monday, June 20, 2011

Montezuma: “Since there is nothing so well worth having as friends, never lose a chance to make them.” -Francesco Guicciardini

Returning to Montezuma was a very different experience. This time it wasn’t a race to find Cocolito, or a mission to jump from the falls; it was simply and wonderfully a weekend to enjoy myself, my friends, and the stunning beauty around me.

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We were fortunate enough to cross the gulf of Nicoya during sunset. As we were crossing, several fins appeared out of the water. Dolphins. It was my first time seeing a dolphin in the wild and I just stood there in awe as they swam through the stream of light the setting sun was projecting onto the water. Possibly inspired by the dolphins, when we arrived at our hostel we decided to take a swim ourselves in the warm ocean water before playing some cards and heading to bed.

It was a fantastic weekend. I woke the next morning bright and early, just as the sun was rising. Montezuma is unique, because although it is on the Pacific, you are lucky enough to be able to see the sunrise over the water because of its position on the peninsula.

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Have I mentioned that I love the panoramic stitch feature on my computer? The picture above is the view from my hostel. I woke up, grabbed my book and camera, and laid in a hammock to watch the sunrise. A lone fisherman was attempting to catch his breakfast, but with little luck. Soon the sound of the waves and the swinging of the hammock lulled me back to sleep. While I usually love to have a mission, this weekend was perfect. It was missionless, yet it let me truly relax and enjoy my surroundings. I read for a while before wandering into town alone to find some strong black coffee and some locals to chat with. I bought some fresh fruit and bread that was still warm for breakfast and ate with my friends on the beach. P1050119


We did return to the waterfalls. I opted not to jump again, as I didn’t want another bruise, but we still had fun swimming and lounging around on the rocks. I also discovered that I came within about 100 feet of  Cocolito Waterfall the last time I was in Montezuma, however, it was high tide, so I unable to reach it.  As I said, this was a weekend of relaxation and so I decided not to bare the stifling heat of the afternoon to reach the falls during low tide.

I love good food. I love making it, I love eating it, and most of all, I love sharing it. Saturday night the four of us ventured to the grocery store to buy the food that would become our feast! We bought zucchini, plantains, onions, potatoes, and chorizo. We sliced it all up, seasoned it, and wrapped it in tinfoil. The guys took on the task of making a fire and soon the food was cooking away. It was by far the best meal I have had in Costa Rica. It was delicious, but it was so much more than that. It was the entire experience. There we sat, eating the food we had made, sitting on the beach, gathered around the campfire, after a day spent with friends wandering through the rainforest and swimming in the ocean. It was certainly something to say a prayer of P1050156thanks for.

We were exhausted from the day and after the guys took another quick dip in the ocean and we all played a few rounds of cards, I fell asleep early watching Robin Hood. Sadly, my friend Mitch, on the right above, is leaving next week. We have really become close and I will miss his sarcastic witty humor and his relaxed mentality. This journey has been so much more than venturing to new places; it has been a journey of making friends and of learning to truly appreciate the places you visit and the people you visit them with.


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This weekend was certainly another great addition to my Costa Rican journey.


Thursday, June 16, 2011

“Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul.” -John Muir

This Journey has taken me to almost every part of Costa Rica; every place has been wonderful and unique. One of my favorite places has been Montezuma, where I risked my life (only kidding) to jump off a massive waterfall. Last time I went, Pavel, one of my travel buddies, literally ran into a wall and had to go to the hospital to get stitches instead of coming with us. After I told him multiple times in great detail how fantastic I thought it was, he has convinced me to go back with him this weekend.

As you may recall, last time I went, I was in search of a hidden beauty, Cocolito Falls. The internet as well as the local people all have their own ideas about where this waterfall lies. I attempted to find it twice last time I visited Montezuma, spending a total of eight hours fruitlessly searching. It wasn’t a waste of time, we saw beautiful beaches and untouched rainforest, but this time will be different! I am determined to find it and as compensation for returning, I made Pavel promise to come with me on my mission. Wish me luck!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

"Sometimes I do get to places just when God's ready to have somebody click the shutter."–Ansel Adams

Picture Wednesday…enjoy



“Art is your emotions flowing in a river of imagination.”

















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“A child on a farm sees a plane fly overhead and dreams of a faraway place. A traveler on the plane sees the farmhouse below and dreams of home.” -Robert Brault






We found these cows on our hike last weekend in a small clearing surrounded by dense rainforest. I couldn’t help but think of home.


Q: Looks like another great one. Gotta love a good hike! The VW bug is a cobalt blue '69 convertible. I sold it to a German businessman thru a VW site on the internet (before Ebay)! – Rick

A: Before eBay? I didn’t know that such a time existed! I will keep my eyes open Smile.

Q; Hannah, your pictures are breath-taking and the quotes you find to match them are so inspiring. It all leaves me with a such feeling of awe-- that I have just experienced something holy. Grandma C

A: It is so fitting that you say that because that is exactly how I feel. I just stand there in a state of amazement and admiration. We are so blessed to be able to visit the wonderful creations of the earth. I feel so connected with nature and with God.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

“Where we love is home. Home that our feet may leave, but not our hearts.” -Oliver Wendell Holmes

I wonder how long my mom has been waiting to hear this. Today I felt my first pang of homesickness. I received my midterm back and, although I received a low A, I was disappointed in myself. I had this sudden thought- I wish I was home. It surprised me. I hadn’t felt that yet. Then as I walked home from school I was on the verge of tears. Emotions overcame me and I just wanted to talk to my mom. I couldn’t deny that after six weeks of living in a foreign country, I was really starting to miss some things from home. Just simple comforts, hot showers, a comfortable bed, my friends, my family. Then I started thinking about what I was missing. The corn was the first thing that came to mind.

I have told numerous people, “I’m from Iowa.” And after they give me a confused look, I continue to explain, “It’s just a bunch of cornfields.” But those cornfields are my home and they surround everything and everyone I care about. I think Iowa is beautiful in the summer as the fields grow. The corn and beans create rolling hills of green during the bright afternoon sun. The sunsets glow with purples and pinks as they set and create silhouettes of barns and silos in the distance. The lightening bugs flash like stars in the night sky above the fields after dark. By the time I get home the corn will have tasseled and I will have missed the season of the brilliant green Iowa.

But luckily I have a wonderful family, and when I got home from school I had an email from my grandma and a text message from my mom; it reminded me that although I may be more than 2000 miles away, I am fortunate enough to live in the age of technology. I hear from my friends and family constantly. Whether it is on Facebook, email, or this blog, I love hearing from people. I do not regret coming to Costa Rica for a second. I am extremely thankful to have been given this opportunity to travel, learn, and experience another culture. Nevertheless, I will also me happy to come home. Upon returning I will appreciate what I have more. I just hope that all of my friend and family realize how special they are to me.

DSC_0020     Paul cutting hay in our field


“If the sight of the blue skies fills you with joy, if a blade of grass springing up in the fields has power to move you, if the simple things of nature have a message that you understand, rejoice, for your soul is alive.” -Eleonora Duse

Monday, June 13, 2011

Dominical: “There are no shortcuts to any place worth going.” -Beverly Sills


The sweat trickled down my forehead, down my chest, and beads of perspiration covered my stomach. I could feel my pulse pounding through head, like a quickening metronome, steady and loud.  The muscles in my legs burned, exhausted, wanting to retire. The sun beat down through the narrow gap in the trees that had been cleared to make a path that led deep into the rainforest, five kilometers up into the mountains. The humidity hung like a cloud around us, making the air heavy, thick, and difficult to breath…vale la pena… on of my favorite Spanish sayings….it was worth the pain because the sight ahead of us was magnificent.

The picture is deceiving. You may think that the water cascades over two small cliffs. In fact, from top to bottom, the two waterfalls are nearly 300 feet tall. Waterfall Nauyaca was a sight to behold.  Notice the tiny figure to the right of the bottom water fall. That is my friend, dwarfed by the massive lower falls. The hike to the falls was over 3 miles in each direction.  As we descended down the entire first kilometer, on a very steep grade, we wondered what we had gotten ourselves into. The hike back was even more treacherous, especially that last kilometer, which seemed endless in the heat of the early afternoon. However, none of us could deny that it was worth it pain.

The first falls were majestic. The water they crashed into was a beautiful turquoise green and a refreshing temperature after our rigorous hike.







The cascades above (in the picture below) were, somehow, even more impressive. We watched as enormous amounts of water crashed into giant boulders below creating a beautiful haze.


While Sunday wasn’t the relaxing weekend I had anticipated, Saturday was. We went to a beach several miles down the road from Dominical, called Dominicalita, a beach with much smaller waves, perfect for beginner surfers. The boys had rented surfboards and I had brought my book. While they surfed I soaked up the beautiful rays and read to my heart’s content. After a while, Mitch, my friend came ashore and said, “Your turn.” Not one to turn down a new adventure, I tried out my surfing skills. To my surprise, it wasn’t extremely difficult.




That night we had a bonfire on the beach and made s’mores. At first we had difficulty starting a fire and when I suggested that I go get some from a neighboring bonfire, I received incredulous looks from both guys. I guess it was a knock to their manliness, so I dropped that idea and soon we had a strong fire, started with palm fronds, nonetheless.  We stayed up late into the night talking and relaxing.





It was another wonderful weekend on my Costa Rican Journey.


Friday, June 10, 2011

Half-way: "Know the true value of time; snatch, seize, and enjoy every moment of it. No idleness; no laziness; no procrastination; never put off till tomorrow what you can do today." -Lord Chesterfield

My Costa Rican Journey has been everything I had hoped and more. My time here is half over, but in no way is it a countdown. This has been an experience I will never forget. While I have lived abroad before, the experience is completely different . In Germany I was still living in the nest; now my wings have grown, I have made the initial fall, and have used my wings and learned to fly. The experience is life-changing. I plan on using my newly discovered wings to continue to explore this magnificent little country.

I have had the opportunity to travel to five amazing destinations in two countries over the course of the last six weeks. I have seen the Pacific Ocean, the Caribbean Sea, the waterfalls of Montezuma, and the crystal clear waters of Panama.I have seen monkeys, butterflies, squid, sloths, and frogs. I have met wonderful people including friends from school and my host family. It has been incredible thus far and I hope the next six weeks will be equally amazing.

June brought with it a whole new group of people for me to meet and I have met some wonderful, interesting, and fun people. This experience and these new friends have made me think a lot about myself and how I am living my life. Life is different here. What life do I prefer? Well, I prefer a color somewhere in between the bright blue of the Costa Rican sea and the dazzling green of the Iowa corn fields. My pace of life is different here, my priorities have changed. I am truly enjoying my life. I realized that enjoyment hadn’t been my priority before I came, and upon my return, I will be making adjustments to ensure that I am recognizing all that I have been given and I will take time to count my blessings and enjoy life. Life isn’t a race to the end, its all about the journey. Costa Rican or Iowan, I want my journey to be one of adventure, learning, and growth.


“There are no mistakes, no coincidences, all events are blessings given to us to learn from.”
-Elisabeth Kubler-Ross

Thursday, June 9, 2011

“Yesterday is history. Tomorrow is a mystery. And today? Today is a gift. That's why we call it the present.” -Babatunde Olatunji

I loved my adventure into the depths of the rainforest last weekend. Nevertheless, this weekend it is back to the beach. We will being going to Dominical, a tiny surfer’s town on the Pacific coast. image


Distance: 60 miles

Travel time: 5 hours

Transportation: Bus

Accommodations: Hostel

Friends: 1

Today is a Fiesta at school, although no one seems to know exactly why. When I asked my friend Mitch, he said, “Who cares, there will be beer. I’ll be there.” So, I guess I will just have to go find out.

I am looking forward to spending some time lazing on the beach reading my new book this weekend. I have used my research skills (thanks mom) to scope out a humongous waterfall nearby that I am looking forward to hiking to. Dominical is also known for its beautiful sunsets. I am hoping for another great weekend. I still can’t believe I am having this experience, I feel so blessed. 





     “Count your blessings. Once you realize how valuable you are and how much you have going for  you, the smiles will return, the sun will break out, the music will play, and you will finally be able to move forward the life that God intended for you with grace, strength, courage, and confidence.”
-Og Mandino

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

“You don't take a photograph. You ask, quietly, to borrow it.”–Unknown Author

The saying goes that a picture is worth a thousand words. Well, I truly believe that it is worth more than a thousand. While I have been blessed with a camera, I do not claim to have wonderful photography skills. However, upon occasion, I am lucky enough to capture some incredible moments. I have been sharing these moments on my blog since I arrived in Costa Rica; however, I have not been able to share them all. I am now denoting Wednesday as a day of show (and no tell). I will let these pictures speak for themselves with little commentary, except for the occasional quote, which I can never resist!



“A good snapshot stops a moment from running away”. -Eudora Welty




 P1030770     P1040061     P1040100






“If I could tell the story in words, I wouldn't need to lug around a camera.” -Lewis Hine








“Through the blackest night, morning gently tiptoes, feeling its way to dawn.” -Robert Brault

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

""Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover." -Mark Twain

I have to admit my blogging has been a little inconsistent over the last week. I have been extremely busy with school, and, to be honest, during the week there usually isn’t a great deal of exciting things that happen and are worthy of writing about. However, I did visit the National Museum today with two of my classmates. It was actually our second time visiting. The museum is very interesting. Costa Rica has a very old history starting well before the birth of Christ with the indigenous people. There are numerous different indigenous tribes that have inhabited the tiny land of Costa Rica for thousands of years. 254068_2093295213846_1289260359_2500903_7645587_n[1] 

At the museum, they have a large display of what appear to be giant balls of cement. No one knows what they were used for or why the indigenous people made them. I have to give a presentation about the history of Costa Rica with my two friends and my friend on the left is going to present the theories of why the people carved these strange, perfectly round, balls and what they could have possibly been used for. Personally, I am very interested to hear what he thinks. They are a true mystery….

The museum also has a butterfly garden. I love butterflies. I can’t wait to go to a larger butterfly garden in Costa Rica. Their colors are unreal; They look like they have been painted. The one on the right is actually a Blue Morpho,  so when it opens its wings it is a brilliant blue color. The back side of the wing is actually brown as well; however, the iridescent covering causes them to appear bright blue.  

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Sunday, June 5, 2011

Monteverde Cloud Forest: “The air up there in the clouds is very pure and fine, bracing and delicious. And why shouldn't it be? - it is the same the angels breathe.” -Mark Twain


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“A forest of these trees is a spectacle too much for one man to see.” -David Douglas

The quote really is exactly how I felt walking through the rainforest this weekend. I can’t tell you how many times I stopped along the path and said to Mitch and Pavel, “This is incredible. I can’t believe I’m here.” I have never been anywhere so P1040542lush and full of life. P1040566We weren’t able to see it, but you could hear life all around you.  The plants covered every inch of the forest, encompassing the forest in a magical green world.



P1040637Monteverde is a cloud forest. This meant that we spent a great deal of time in, near, and above the clouds. What a unique experience. Yesterday we hiked in the Santa Elena Cloud Reserve and saw Arenal Volcano, which is an active volcano 14 km from where we were. We went on a 5 mile hike around the reserve and then went zip-lining on a canopy tour, which included a superman line. The superman line was 700 m long and was strung between two mountains. We flew between them, over the valley of rainforest. I felt like a bird flying over the dense forest below.



While the park is full of life, we saw very few animals. However, I wasn’t disappointed in the least.  Can you even see the frog in the picture? I don’t know how my friend spotted him; he was only about an inch long. Also, notice that you can see the butterfly's body through its wing. It is called a glasswinged butterfly. We had planned on going on a night hike on Saturday, but finally the cloud that had been hovering nearby let loose and it rained for several hours. Instead of doing the night hike, we stayed in our hostel (the nicest we have stayed in yet) and watched a scary Kate Hudson movie while the rain pounded down outside.


This morning I  got up and read my new book. I was extremely excited to find a used book store yesterday, where I bought The Testament, by John Grisham. At a little after seven, I woke up the guys, (as usual, I acted as the alarm clock) so we could head out on our hike.  It was a half-hour drive on some of the worst roads I had every been on, over a stream, and up into the mountains, where it began at a banana farm. It was the most incredible hike. We hiked along a stream filled with small waterfalls for about an hour, the clouds hovering just a hundred or so feet overhead. I can’t put into words how lush the forest was. Even without rain, the clouds that constantly envelope the P1040731 Stitchforest supply it with a refreshing mist of water.

After an amazing hike, we arrived at our destination – a 300-foot waterfall, San Luis. I won’t attempt to describe how gorgeous it was, and the pictures don’t even come close to doing it justice, but here it is. (It was so huge I couldn’t get it in one shot, or even 3, so I took a bunch and stitched them together with my new-found panoramic feature on my camera!)



Monteverde was another excellent weekend on my Costa Rican Journey.