Thursday, July 28, 2011

“A ship in a harbor is safe, but that’s not what ships are built for.” William Shedd

My Journey has been incredible. I never expected to learn so much about myself, about Costa Rica, or about a language when I set out on this crazy adventure nearly three months ago. Another summer has passed, I have met new friends from around the country, and I have gained an unforgettable experience. While moving to a foreign country alone for three months was a little intimidating, I couldn’t have asked for a better way to spend my summer than traveling around a beautiful foreign country while learning the language. It has truly been a blessing. Along the way I have learned some very important things: P1050588

1. How important my family is to me.

2. That God’s beautiful creations never cease to amaze me.

3. Good friends can make an experience indescribably better.

4. How amazing it is to learn about another culture & language.

5. How blessed I am to have had this wonderful experience and then get to return home to my wonderful family.

6. How adaptable we are.P1050636

7. Learning about my priorities in life.

Other great, but not so profound things that I have loved about my trip:

1. All the crazy fruits, desserts, and mystery substances I have tried.

2. Living in a big city, but still getting to see the mountains every day.

3. The slower pace of life and learning to go with the flow

This will be my last blog post, so I will update the states from my first blog post:

Day 89 of my Costa Rican Journey and here are my stats:P1050574

Spanish skill level: conversational

Skin color: very tan, with a hint of pink from a long beach weekend

Number of Costa Rican friends: not many, but A LOT of new friends from the states

Number of Costa Rican boys kissed: still 0

Lowest Latitude Reached: 9° N (Bocas del Toro, Panama)

Money Spent: less than my study abroad scholarship money! Goal achieved!

Pictures taken in Costa Rica: 2423

Today I gave my final presentation, took my final exam, and ate some wonderful Costa Rican ice cream with my friends for the very last time. Tomorrow, after class, my friends and I have plans to go for coffee and spend the rest of the day enjoying each other's company. I love my group of friends here. It amazes me how close I have become with these people in just three short months. They are truly special and have helped to make this experience extraordinary.

Thank you to everyone who has read my blog, left comments, and supported me along the way. I am so grateful and blessed.


It has been a wonderful Costa Rican Journey. Pura Vida.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

“Be content with what you have, rejoice in the way things are. When you realize there is nothing lacking, the whole world belongs to you.” -Lao Tzu

Last picture Wednesday…Ever. I really have already shared all of my favorite photos and I am preparing for my final exam and presentation tomorrow so I will just give you this one and a quote.


“I adore simple pleasures. They are the last refuge.” -Oscar Wilde

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

“It's essential to keep an open mind, and to be willing--better yet, eager--to try new things” -Michael Abrash

I only have a few days left on my Costa Rica Journey and I want to make the most of them. Food is definitely  part of a culture and while in the tropics, you must eat the fruit! I have eaten a ridiculous amount of pineapple, papaya, banana, and mango while I was here; however, there were still a ton of mysterious fruits lurking in the markets for us to try… and try we did! Jason and I went to the local fruit market and bought about a dozen strange fruits for our group of friends. I’ll admit… they were not all delicious. But I did find a few that I loved!

Zapote – delicious!                                        Mamon – yum!                                        Cas – bitter and horrible


       Mangosteen – there are no words        Passion Fruit – wonderful                                     Jacote – the worst one…so bitter


Dragon Fruit – bland                                      Guanabana – strange texture, but yummy        Anon – not good or bad


Carambola – tart                                                Loquat – not my cup of tea


My Ukrainian friend, Pavel, also taught me how to make Piroshki, a typical Ukrainian bread filled with mashed potatoes and then fried. It was a wonderful meal!

P1050545     P1050558     P1050563

Monday, July 25, 2011

Nosara: “Feelings are much like waves, we can't stop them from coming but we can choose which one to surf.” -Jonatan Mårtensson

P1050691 Stitch

P1050612The weekend was perfect. Howler monkeys acted as my alarm clock, the sun was my watch, and the sunset told me it was time to eat dinner. Time was lost gazing out at the ocean, digging my toes in the sand, laughing and talking with my amazing friends. I feel so blessed to have had such a perfect weekend. Our hostel was situated un on a hillside overlooking the ocean. The beaches were stunning, undiscovered by the hoards of tourists. The waves were perfect for the boys to surf and Jessica and I to listen to as we soaked up our final rays of sun. We walked, we talked, we played. Nothing more.








The first night we made spaghetti and shared an apple that my friend broke into quarters with his hands, a feat I am determined to accomplish. Our card games got competitive but we never went more than a minute without laughing. The next night, our last, was spent on the beach. After spending as much time as our skin could handle under the blistering Costa Rican sun and sharing a fantastic meal, we ventured back to the beach, this time guided by flashlight. There we collected dry drift wood and palm fronds to start our campfire. Dustin played the harmonica, the waves crashed on to shore, the fire crackled, and I just sat there, a bundle of emotions. Overcome with joy that I was able to spend my last weekend in such a special place with such special people, and at the same time pushing away the nagging thoughts of parting. We laid on the soft white sand, warmed by the fire, watching shooting stars streak across the uncharacteristically clear sky. Eventually, Dustin made tea and coffee and we shared his unique aluminum cup, passing it from person to person around the campfire, living by his motto that coffee is meant to be shared.


I walked out to the ocean to dip in my toes, engulfed in the deep dark night sky. The fire flickered in the distance and I could see the silhouettes of my three friends. I stood there for a long time, not wanting to separate myself from the ocean, the stirring body of life, so powerful, so immense. I’m not good at goodbyes; not with people, not with places I love. The ocean is one of those spectacular things. I said my goodbyes and let a salty tear fall into the ocean.


I have five more days left in this tropical paradise; however, Nosara was the perfect final weekend on my Costa Rican Journey.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

“Always remember, it’s simply not an adventure worth telling if there aren’t any dragons.” -Sarah Ban Breathnach

My final weekend in Costa Rica has arrived. I willing be taking the bus for the last time to lay next to the ocean once more before returning to the rolling fields of corn. I am going with three of my friends, Pavel, of course, we have not yet spent a weekend apart, Dustin, and Jessica. All of us leave either the 30th of July, or sometime in early August. It is our last weekend together and we are determined to have a wonderful time. image


Distance: 130 miles

Time: 6 hours

Accommodations: Hostel for the girls, tent for the boys

Friends: 3

As we set out on our final adventure, we may not encounter dragons, but we will be sure to soak up the sun, dig our toes in the sand, let the ocean wash away our sweat, and enjoy each others company around the campfire. Tears are springing to my eyes as I write this and I wonder what life will be like when I return home….very different, no doubt.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

"Each problem has hidden in it an opportunity so powerful that it literally dwarfs the problem. The greatest success stories were created by people who recognized a problem a turned it into an opportunity." -Joseph Sugarman

As I am writing this I am sitting in a wonderful little café, the sun is inches away from hitting my already suntanned arm. The heat of the day is welcome after the extended period of rain. I am alone. I want it that way. Time to work, absorb my surroundings, think, and drink coffee. There are two Costa Rican business men sitting next to me chatting over espresso. A German couple and their little girl are diagonal from me and several empty bottles of beer sit on their table. It is an odd feeling because I understand the business men, but not the traveling family. I regret that I have lost nearly all of the German I have learned.

I feel like I have really found myself the last few months. This is where I am happy. Sitting in a café, hair blowing in the wind, thinking, working, content. I have learned to appreciate smaller things, I have accepted that my quality of life suffers when I try to accomplish too much, despite my odd obsession with stress. I only hope that these simple lessons will return with me to the the states. Every experience has the chance to teach you a great deal, and this experience has certainly been no exception.

While here I have begun to realize my priorities in life and I have designed a tentative roadmap for the next few years. Of course, the path I take will be very different than the path I am set out on. But no matter what, I know that I can learn from everything that happens, good or bad, and I also know that no matter where the path leads me I will always have my family there to support me.

Monday, July 18, 2011

“A different language is a different vision of life.” -Federico Fellini

The entire purpose of my coming to Costa Rica was to learn Spanish. Of course, traveling, meeting interesting people, and learning about another culture followed close behind. My first day of school I met a professor, and as I struggled to speak Spanish with him, I apologized and told him my Spanish was bad (as if he couldn’t tell). Right then and there, he told me that I could never say those words again. And I haven’t. I have also never said my Spanish is good, but that will come in the future. If someone asks, I say its improving, or I’m learning a lot. Nevertheless, I have been taking Spanish classes for three months now, four hours every day, and I feel that I have have become infinitely better at speaking Spanish. When I arrived I felt that my abuela tica (Costa Rican grandma) was speaking gibberish. I understood about ten percent of what she said and reacted to her facial expressions for the rest.

Now, however, I understand nearly everything she says. I may not understand every single word, but I always know what she is talking about. I converse with her every day over breakfast and say hi to the venders that regularly sell things on my street. This feeling of finally knowing what is going on around me is great. By no means have I mastered this great language. But every day I get better. Mi español mejora cada día.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Bungee Jumping: “If you don't like something, change it. If you can't change it, change your attitude. Don't complain.” — Maya Angelou"

P1050451Costa Rican winter has finally hit! Thankfully, winter here is a little bit different than winter in the states. It is still 80°, it just rains all the time. Every day. For hours. They call the seasons summer and winter; but near the equator, they have two seasons that are defined in other parts of the world as the rainy and dry seasons. No doubt, we are currently in the rainy season.


In accordance with the seasons, as I stepped out on the tiny ledge last Friday afternoon, my bare toes sticking over the edge, the rain beat down on me. I took a quick glance back and made eye contact with my friend Pavel. What was I thinking? Was I really prepared to jump off a nearly 300 foot bridge? Before I had time to return my feet to solid ground, the countdown had begun. 5-4-3-2-1. And off I went. Arms spread wide, free-falling through the air, screaming my lungs out. Were the rain drops hitting me? Was I traveling as fast as they were. Those were the last of my thoughts as I plunged towards the river below, adrenaline pulsing quickly through my veins.













The rest of the weekend didn’t go as planned. But  in general doesn’t go as planned and I still had a great time. The weather for the beach looked terrible, it was supposed to rain all weekend. I opted to stay in San Jose and see what I could find. At ten o’clock Saturday morning, I was in my room, in my jammies, when I heard a knock on my door. Assuming it was my abuela, I went to open it. It was Pavel, my best friend here in Costa Rica. I will admit that he caught me in the middle of a little early packing. He gave me a hard time about it and we did some research about what we could do in San Jose, as well as watched an episode of friends and laughed together. Eventually, two of my other friends, Jason, who always has something funny to say, and Adam, showed up and we headed off to explore San Jose. We ended up at a coffee shop drinking strong black coffee and eating tiramisu.

Naturally, it rained the whole day. However,  we walked all over town and I found my tazas locas (crazy cups). They are actually aluminum coffee cups that are used with the traditional method of coffee making here. We headed to the mall to catch a movie, but apparently the mall is the place to be on Saturdays in San Jose. It was packed with people. The movies were sold out for the rest of the night. With our plan of watching a movie ruined, I wanted to get a pedicure. I had heard they were super cheap. The guys didn’t want us to separate, so I tried to get them to get one with me… but I wasn’t too successful. They opted to head back while I had the best pedicure of my life. They lady spent over an hour working on my tosies, and it costs me $10. I returned today and had a wonderful massage and a haircut. I am not opposed to spending a rainy weekend like that.

I may have never planned a weekend like this, but it sure turned out to be a fun and relaxing weekend on my Costa Rican journey.


Thursday, July 14, 2011

“Living at risk is jumping off the cliff and building your wings on the way down.” -Ray Bradbury


Distance: 60 miles

Time: 3 hours

Accommodations: Hostel

Number of friends: 4

This weekend promises to be quite the adventure! It is going to start out with an adrenaline rush as we go bungee jumping Friday afternoon. Then we are going to hope on a bus and shuttle over to the Caribbean for the last time. We are going to the colorful city of Limón. I have no idea what to expect, but I was determined to go somewhere new and get out of San Jose. Mission accomplished…ready, set, jump!!!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

“People are like stained-glass windows. They sparkle and shine when the sun is out, but when the darkness sets in, their true beauty is revealed only if there is a light from within.” -Elisabeth Kubler-Ross



“Clouds come floating into my life, no longer to carry rain or usher storm, but to add color to my sunset sky.” -Rabindranath Tagore

Interesting fact: colorful sunsets do actually occur because of particles of matter in the air and the way the light reflects off of them. So there are some positive aspects of all the dirt the tractors in the fields turn up and of the dust that rolls of the gravel roads of Iowa.







“There is a muscular energy in sunlight corresponding to the spiritual energy of wind.” -Annie Dillard














“Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” -Leonardo DaVinci

Monday, July 11, 2011

Tamarindo: “There is abundant reason to believe that optimism – big, little, and in between – is useful to a person because positive expectations can be self-fulfilling.” -Christopher Peterson


Friday afternoon was hot. My shirt clung to my skin, sticky with sweat, the  people on the street walked lethargically, and we welcomed the occasional breeze that swept past as we walked to the bus station. Pavel, my trusted travel buddy, and I were ready for a weekend on beautiful beaches in Guanacaste. We took little more than our swimsuit and pajamas (it didn’t take me long to revert back to my almost gross traveling habits, sorry, mom) and headed on our way. What we didn’t realize, was that it is currently vacation for the Costa Ricans, as well. This meant that the only places available on the bus were de pie, on foot. Our two choices were go to Guanacaste, and stand on the bus, or stay in San Jose. We opted for the first choice and hopped on the bus, ready for the 7 hour journey.

After several hours on our feet, we resorted to sitting on the bus floor. The hours dragged on as we switched positions, leaning against each other, leaning against seats, sitting on the stairs… there are no comfortable positions on a bus floor, trust us. The trip was seeming pretty bad, but it got worse. We got caught in traffic and then, tragically, our bus broke down. When we arrived in Tamarindo, we were less than happy, tired, and very hungry. We found some food, a hostel, and went to bed.

P1050396Optimism is the madness of insisting that all is well when we are miserable.” -Voltaire

Pavel is a surfing newbie and wanted to try his stuff, so we opted to stay in Tamarindo Saturday and then go to another, less touristic and more beautiful beach on Sunday. Tamarindo was HUGE, by far the biggest beach we have visited. In addition, there were tons of people. It isn’t particularly beautiful, but I didn’t mind. I had my book and was on the beach. I was happy….until it began to downpour.

One of the best parts of traveling is meeting new people. Saturday night we met a guy from Israel and spent the evening chatting with him. You can learn so much talking to other people. I love it.


Sunday we hit another stroke of bad luck. The local buses that travel to other beaches don’t run on Sunday. Nevertheless we lounged on the beach at Tamarindo for a few hours before loading up on the bus back to San Jose. So you’d think that we had run out of opportunities for bad luck, but apparently we were bad luck magnets. Our bus broke down again on the way back. I was pretty agitated as we waited over an hour for another bus to arrive to pick us up. Finally, after grumbling for half an hour I resolved that I would not complain again. Pavel and I began to rant on and on and change all our misfortunes of the weekend into positive things. We went as far as to claim what good fortune we had that our bus broke down because the second bus had lights so we could read our books. It was a little ridiculous, but it worked to improve my mood. I couldn’t ask for a better travel partner than one who can make me laugh, even in the most annoying situations.

So maybe I can’t say that this was one of the best weekends I have spent in Costa Rica, but you have to take the bad with the good. You learn  from every experience and no matter what happens, you always have a good story to tell. It was definitely another interesting weekend on my Costa Rican journey.


Thursday, July 7, 2011

“Begin doing what you want to do now. We have only this moment, sparkling like a star in our hand, and melting like a snowflake.” -Marie Ray



Accommodations: Hostel

Distance: 130 miles

Time: 7 hours

Companions: 1

I am in the last month of my wonderful adventure. I really love my Spanish class this month. I am taking a conversation class where we sit and have extremely interesting conversations for 4 hours while learning un montón of new vocabulary and phrases.  My trip has taken me to crystal clear waters, to the depths of the rainforest, and to massive waterfalls. I have been to the Caribbean and the Pacific, visited a volcano, and tried to surf. This weekend I will be visiting the one major destination in Costa Rica that I have not yet seen, Guanacaste. The region in the northwest of Costa Rica.

On my plane ride to Costa Rica I met an adorable Costa Rican couple that told me that their three favorite beaches in all of Costa Rica were in Guanacaste. It is beautiful, or so I have heard, and I will soon be able to testify to this myself!

I hope to spend the next three weekends on the beach. There are no beaches in Iowa (which may not surprise you, but was a great surprise to my host family) so I want to take advantage of the wonderful playas in Costa Rica. My mom brought be several books and more sunscreen when she visited last week so I am prepared for a weekend maravilloso on the beach!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

“And all the loveliest things there be come simply, so it seems to me.” - Edna St. Vincent Millay


Picture Wednesday








“Nothing is as beautiful as a happy family.” –Me























Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Café Britt: “Coffee smells like freshly ground heaven.” -Jessi Lane Adams


This past weekend was the first I spent in San Jose and so I put my detective skills to work and found some things to do around the city! Fortunately for me, my love of coffee led me to Café Britt, a Costa Rican coffee producer. I invited along several girls that had just arrived from the states and we enjoyed a beautiful day drinking LOTS of coffee and eating LOTS of chocolates….what could be better?

We toured a small coffee field and learned about coffee harvesting and processing. Coffee beans actually start out inside of small fruits. First they are green (as they are right now) and eventually the green fruit will become red berries and be harvested in December.

DSC_0087“Do I like my coffee black? There are other colors?” -Author Unknown


P1050322Migrant workers come from Panama and Nicaragua to harvest the beans by hand. Café Britt is a very small coffee producing company, but they are widely recognized because they produce only top quality coffee. We took the Coffee Lovers tour and were able to tour the mill, as well. After a delicious lunch, a barista showed us how to make several specialty drinks and she even let me try out my skills! I can’t think of a better way to spend a day in San Jose!


                                 “The powers of a man's mind are directly proportioned to the quantity of coffee he drinks.” - Sir James Mackintosh

Monday, July 4, 2011

4th of July: “How often we fail to realize our good fortune in living in a country where happiness is more than a lack of tragedy.” -Paul Sweeney


Happy 4th of July! I visited the Little America of Costa Rica today. We took a taxi journey to Escazu, the most expensive town in the entire country. We spent the afternoon at a huge  mall… all I bought was some gelato and roasted almonds, but it was fun to feel like we were in the states for awhile. In the evening we went to an American expat 4th of July Celebration. We ate lots of junk food, watched a parade, listened to patriotic music and watched fireworks! Hope everyone had a great 4th back in the states, we should had fun celebrating in Costa Rica!