Good-Bye and Hello

Trip Start Apr 06, 2008
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Trip End May 10, 2008


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Flag of Costa Rica  ,
Monday, April 28, 2008

Friday started off well.  I had planned my second activity for the students--a modified version of Jeopardy that had them working in teams of 4 and offered up pizza with me as a prize for the winning team of a three-week championship.  While the students had some difficulty understanding the concept of answering in the form of a question, they later grew to understand  it after I had to disappoint a few teams by taking away points even though they had given the correct answer but failed to put it in the form of a question.  Being soft-hearted, I frequently wanted to go ahead and give them credit anyway, but was outvoted by their competitors who gleefully demanded that I honor the rules of the game.  The game was well-received and a success.
 
I returned from work to begin the sad business of saying good-bye to my fellow volunteers including my laid-back roommate Melissa, Chris my early morning companion (we were the earliest risers and would always chit-chat in the morning) and who would have us in stitches the rest of the day, 8 year-old Hanna whose energy would be difficult to replicate, and her easy-going, good-natured mother Donna.  After celebrating fellow volunteer Caitlyn's 19th birthday with cake and ice cream, we said our final good-byes, and Lauren, Kalpa and I headed to the bus station to begin our trek to the Arenal volcano.
 
Caitlyn had already gone to Arenal, and had suggested that we stay at the hostel, which was supposed to be pretty nice.  Indeed, on the website, it was a self-proclaimed "5-star hostel resort."  In the spirit of pura vida and letting go, I decided to go ahead and try out the hostel.  Weirdly, despite claiming to have wireless and flat screen tvs, you could not reserve a private room online. Instead, we had to trek to a hostel in San Jose and pay in advance.  Since we were going to San Jose for dinner on Thursday, we decided to give it a try. 

On Thursday, we arrived at the hostel, which was located in a decidedly shady neighborhood.  The hostel itself had a 7-foot barbed wire fence surrounding it, and when we pressed the buzzer, an eye-level window reminiscent of the Prohibition-era speak-easies slid open, with suspicious looking eyes staring out at us.  We explained that we were there to make a reservation, and the door slid open, depositing us in a dark foyer decorated in a jungle motif.  Off to the side, I could see a pool table and a very large Bob Marley poster (which turned out to be a puzzle)-all of which were indicia that I was too old to be staying in a hostel.  Even worse, it turned out that they only had dorm beds left on Friday, but a private room on Saturday.  Again, in keeping with my philosophy, I decided to let it go and acquiesced.

And so, after an 8-hour trek across Costa Rica that involved two buses (and the discovery that teen-agers are annoying in every country, no matter what language they are speaking and regardless of whether you understand what they are saying), we arrived in La Fortuna.  We set upon trying to locate our hostel, which proved to be difficult, as the only directions we had was that it was in the direction of the volcano which we could not see because it was dark and overcast.  Finally, we made it and were pleasantly surprised to see that it looked pretty nice and secure.  We were buzzed in and headed to the front desk/bar, where we studiously ignored the three obnoxious Americans sitting at the bar who were temporarily distracted from their task of hitting on the woman working at the front desk long enough to blatantly check us out.  Although I was mildly annoyed, I realized that I had mellowed quite a bit, because their behavior would have earned an earful a month ago.  Pura vida indeed!   In any event, we checked in and headed to our room.
 
Our room consisted of 4 sets of bunk beds, and 5 of the beds were occupied, leaving us with three top bunks, none of which had guard rails or ladders.  Thus, getting on the beds required a scramble that would have done Spider-Man proud, and then required us to hug the wall in fear of falling off and breaking an arm.  After claiming our beds, we began to investigate the belongings of our roommates, at which point I made a significant discovery: we had boy room-mates!!!!  I had very wrongly assumed that the hostel segregated its rooms by sex, but that did not appear to be the case.  Again, in the spirit of letting go-and since it was only for one night-I let it pass and we went to enjoy a dinner at Burger King (after three weeks of Costa Rican food, we were ready for something a little different) and a few drinks before heading back to our room.  At that time, we met four of our roommates-three guys from Sweden and a woman from another European country.  The guys immediately wanted to know where we would be partying that night, and at that point I pretended to be asleep while Lauren explained that we had been up since 5:00 am and would not be going out that night, but perhaps the next night.  They promised to be quiet coming in later in the evening, and we drifted off to sleep.

The next morning, I made an interesting cultural discovery.  European men do not wear boxers.  No, they wear briefs.  My favorite pair belonged to one of the Swedes-it was bright blue with "Sweden" spelled in big yellow letters across the rear.  In any event, Kalpa and I rose early-about 6, and then headed off to a morning of rappelling (me) and zip-lining (Kalpa).  Lauren had decided she wanted a relaxed day by the pool and volunteered to check us into our new room. 

Rappelling pretty much consisted of what it sounds like-we rappelled down four waterfalls and a dry wall ranging in height from 45 feet to 165 feet, and it was very fun.  I was terrified, but it was quite an experience, although we ended up soaked through.  On the way back down to town, we road in the back of a pick-up truck, and the tour guides would periodically stop the truck and jump off to pilfer fruit from the orchards lining the road.  They shared the spoils with us, which consisted of a horned melon (which tasted a bit like pineapple) and unripe mangoes (which our guide Mario told us tastes good with salt-I found them too bitter to eat, myself).  It was a great time, and I highly recommend it for anyone with a sense of adventure.

After rappelling, I headed back to the hostel where I met up with Lauren and Kalpa.  That afternoon, we headed out for a hike around the volcano, and then went to see the lava flow.  Although it was dark and overcast, we could still see the red-hot lava tumbling down the side of the volcano, which was really cool.  We then headed over to check out another one of the area's big tourist attractions-the hot springs. 

The hot springs weren't quite what I expected.  I suppose that I had imagined a facility built around natural springs.  Instead, I got a huge place filled with pools and Jacuzzis of different sizes and temperatures, and several swim-up bars.  Apparently they pump the water in from the springs.  Lauren aptly described it as a water park for grown-ups.  And some of the pools were really hot-I told Lauren I would give her $20 bucks if she went in the one that was 152 degrees Fahrenheit, and she was game-at least until she dipped a toe in and decided that she didn't need the $20 that badly.  While the springs were interesting to check out, I doubt that I would go back.  And, of course, there was the obligatory cheesy 80s music blasting throughout the facility-we heard Phil Collins, Whitney Houston, Michael Jackson and Cyndi Lauper, just to name a few.
 
Sunday was pretty low-key.  We slept in, packed up, and then wandered around town to do some sight-seeing and shopping.  La Fortuna is quaint, but a bit touristy.  We returned to the hostel, watched Chocolate the hostel lab frolic in the pool, play soccer, and steal someone's wallet, and then hired a driver to bring us to San Jose, so that we could take the bus back to Puriscal.  We were glad we did so, because the return trip was only about 3 hours, although we were then subjected to more cheesy 80s music.  Although, as an added bonus, the song I was named after "Shannon" by Harry Gross, came on the radio.  I then got to share with Lauren and Kalpa the story of my name (which if you don't know is that I was named for the song Shannon, which in turn was about an Irish Setter that had died).  After returning to Puriscal, we came back to the reality of an empty house, and were a bit sad.  But then we ordered a pepperoni pizza (that was surprisingly good) and called it  a night, ending my third weekend in Costa Rica.
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Comments

alyon1
alyon1 on

Rapelling looks scary & fun
I don't know about the hostel though -- I think I would not want to be in a bunk bed that high up. No one with hips should try it....
It sounds like you are really having a true adventure.

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