Ok, so my first week in Costa Rica is almost over. In this week, I’ve:
- Been sunburn
- Hiked at least 4 miles a day, over 12 last Sunday
- Learned a full semester of college Spanish
- Been propositioned
- Met a wonderful family
- Learned about middle class Tico lifestyles
- Ate Tico food
- Didn’t lose any weight
- Saw Heredia – a nearby city
- traveled on a bus-quite an experience
- learned about slow internet connections – sorry about the lack of photos in my gallery. My upload connections keep getting reset.
- Met some really nice people from CR and around the world.
- Was heckled by elementary students on a bus – heard this is very common.
- I’ll miss the CPI family in Heredia. They were very kind and helped me to learn faster than I could have imagined. Thanks to Karla, my teacher, for putting up with my garbage, but there is a difference between ol and d <rbg>.
- Was taken on a quick ride to church that turned into an E-ticket ride through neighborhoods, down dirt roads, picking up family members, stopping at a mom-pop quick-e-mart, driving on the wrong side of the road (on multiple occasions), being passed by cars and motorcycles, stopping to let a 2 yr old pee, and finally dropping off the daughter at church for an overnight retreat. To be fair, it was a 20 yr old Costa Rican driving. He was much safer than I would have been on the same roads/conditions. It didn’t seem to me like he broke any Costa Rican traffic laws based on what I’ve seen here already, but that didn’t take away from the thrill experienced.
Dinner was rice, black beans, a cabbage and tomato salad with a fried chicken cutlet. I washed it all down with fresh squeezed cass juice. YUMMY. Either white or Spanish rice has been provided with almost every meal at home. This is not the way to lose weight for me since I love rice.
If I mixed any Spanish in, I’m sorry. Also, if my sentences sound simplistic, I blame it on the simple Spanish that I know for this week. Coming up with sentences when you only know a few hundred words isn’t easy. I only know present tense verbs, so complex sentences aren’t conducive. Next week in Monteverde, they will cover past tense, I hear.
Tomorrow (Saturday), we’re going to Volcano Irazu for a day trip. The trip starts at 6am and goes into the evening. I think I’ll be spending 4+ hours on buses. There are hiking trails so I hope to get a few hours in after I get the major site – the volcano. I’ve been warned that clouds often block all views at volcanoes, so this trip could be just to look where the volcano is covered in clouds.
On Sunday I’m traveling by bus to Monteverde in the mountains to study there for a week. I’ll be living with a country family of Costa Ricans. The family information that I have now is the couple are both about my age with 2 girls – 12 and 7 yrs old. A taxi driver and an artist. Their address is relative to Johnny’s Pizzeria, so that’s a good sign.
Thursday was an early morning so I could study for another test on verbs. I hopped on the family scale – no lose or gain since I left home. It was yet another day with the rooster determining what time everyone in the valley needs to get up. Later today, I got within 6 feet of him and his bride, but only to take a picture. Fortunately, I didn’t have any other plans as the family that lives in the rooster house drove up. He was still announcing his presence at 5pm.
After school, I walked home and decided that it was too early in the afternoon to start studying more verbs. Verbs seem to be the key to this phase of my learning. I took a bus to Heredia, the capitol of this Provence located about 3 miles away from San Joaquin. Since I wasn’t sure where the bus ended, I did my best to guess when to get off. THEN I had to figure out where I was in a town that doesn’t have street signs, an interesting problem. Also, I didn’t get off the bus at the same place everyone else did, outside a grocery store. It just didn’t feel like the right place.
The next major stop half a mile further felt about right if not a little early. So I headed north up a hill towards the center of town until I found a Big Building with a name on it. It was a Ginasium de Regional – Regional Gym but more importantly, it was on my photo copied Heredia map from CPI. Bueno! I was only a few blocks from where I wanted to be AND I’d gotten off at the best bus stop possible.
In every Costa Rican town, there’s a Church, a Futball field and a school – usually side-by-side. Heredia was different. They have a church (actually more than a few) – HUGE church. It is next to a central plaza which was full of people walking, talking, meeting, and people watching. It really was a nice plaza. I took lots of photos of both the church and the plaza.
As I was walking around, I stepped in to an entry way to get a little better angle for a photo. Then this old lady from the street started talking to me and telling me all about the church – in Spanish. I told her my name and that I was a new Spanish student. Any way, I think that’s what I said. Well, it turns out that she simply wanted to get into her house and I was standing in her doorway. I honestly believe that she asked me my name and said that the church was beautiful. Her manner was pleasant. I took a snapshot of what she called her house – it didn’t look like a house to me and was surrounded by other businesses.
Next I headed to the tourist section of town only to find them selling clothes (mostly womens and intimates), tennis shoes, and used ipods. There appears to be a huge market here for ipods. The government taxes imports heavily, so if you are an adventurous traveler, you may be able to earn an extra $100 off a new 60GB model in good condition.
Following the map on the walking tour, I entered the central market. This is a 2 full block building full of vendors selling different types of food. Fish, meats, chicken, sausages, Jansport backpacks, and a very few leather and other knick-knack goods. It was about an 5×10 grid of rows with 5 vendors per side and all the way around on the outside. It appeared to me that people were there buying food for the next day or so. Very fresh – except the fish didn’t look or smell very good. I only snapped a few pictures from outside. If you’ve ever been in a foreign country and in a market like this, you know the feeling – locals don’t really want to be in snapshots in places like this. Don’t get me wrong, there didn’t appear to be anything illegal happening and there was a police presence at every entrance. Still, I kept my hand on my bag around front. My wallet was double buttoned in a front pocket and I only had $20 in US and CR currency total. You don’t carry your passport with you here. Rather a photocopy is used except at banks and when you leave the country.
My impression of Heredia is a 20k person town with a vibrant center with shops to support all the surrounding towns. Heck, they had 2 Pizza Huts that I saw! Ah, and the women were a mixed bag. One of the female vendors in the market actually approached me like the men do with every woman, girl, and lady here. I’ll just say, she was extremely forward and extremely large with more facial hair than I have after a week.
Next was the adventure of finding the opposite bus back to San Joaquin. In my search, I found another church and another plaza. Neither were very nice, but the bus pickup was on the far side of the plaza.
The bus had a line forming outside it, so I got into the line. There was a sign with 2 different city names on them, so I forced out enough Spanish to verify I was in line for the correct bus. BTW, the other city (cuidad) was to Santa Barbara. As I got on the bus, I handed the driver 200 colones and he handed me some change – I asked if that was all and showed it to him, since I couldn’t figure out how 2 coins would provide 65 colones in change. I was short changed, but didn’t think any more about it until later that evening. 25 cents is still money.
For dinner, I had rice, soup (beans y chicken y potatoes) and fried green beans. To wash it down was fresh cass juice. Very tasty. Cass is a fruit that I’ve never seen before, but I understand it is grown in Florida. Think of a walnut sized citrus fruit with a pear/lime taste. Yummy. This fresh juice was provided at a number of meals and tasty.
Breakfast was fruit, an inverse grilled cheese sandwich and decaf coffee.
Then I was off to school – ready for a test. Note the guard dog along the way in the gallery. He was fierce (not really) and about the size of Gayle’s Billy.
After class, I took a CR cooking class. See the photos. It was tasty and not bland, but the handmade tortillas were less than tasty. No salt (salt is bad luck in CR), and I didn’t see any oil used in making them.
Dinner was chicken-rice, salad, black beans and chips. I was good and only ate a few chips. Then I spotted a scale under the TV and stepped on it. No change. I’ll need to alter my eating to keep losing weight.
Ok, so Tuesday began with a damn rooster crowing around 4am. Then a HUGE jet buzzed the town causing all the car alarms to sound. Not just with a simple woop, but with the woop, woop, e-ah-e-ah-e-ah sounds.
My host family learned that I avoid caffeine, so Claudia picked up some decaffeinated coffee yesterday. The entire family has been unbelievably kind and open. They have only a slightly simpler life that we in the USA. Their kitchen is basically the same as mine with the exact same equipment. I haven’t seen any boxed food, it is all fresh made by Claudia and tasty.
Class begins later today at 720am, beginning with a test (written and oral). The sun has been up for over 2 hours. Costa Rica is on Central time, but they don’t have Daylight Savings, so it is Mountain time now. The country’s longitude places it almost on Eastern time – so the sun comes up very early indeed. It takes some getting used to. Also, since I’m located in a valley surrounded by mountains, the sun has to get fairly high before you see it, but not before the light and clear blue sky is seen.
My classmate was sick today, I don’t know why, so I had 1 on 1 training. That is until 3 other much more advanced students were brought in. It must have been by mistake, since they had already had 4-6 years of Spanish training. It turned out that another person in that other class of high school students had gotten lost on the way to school and had gone home. A few of the teachers and her adult escort went searching until they found her. She was from the Bahamas – like most of the students here, perhaps 30 in total.
Anyway, after class was over, I took a dance class in meringue and salsa. I suck, as expected. The class consisted of me and 2 retired ladies – just a few years younger than my mother. We had fun and sweated a bunch. My pedometer showed over 5 miles after the 1 hour class.
I was given so much homework that I had a quick bite to eat at the diner across the street – just a pollo burro con no mucho case – a chicken burrito with just a little cheese. See photo.
Back at home the studying began. Describe about 20 photos as interactions between people AND be polite. The other part of the homework was to memorize about 100 regular verbs (-AR, -IR, -ER). I haven’t been a student in years, so I was only able to memorize about 30 of them before my brain said enough, but I did look up and understand the present tense conjugations for each of those types of verbs. Since I’m a visual learner, having my teacher tell me the words doesn’t help very much.
Dinner was spaghetti-like and tasty. I took photos.
Then back to memorization – that didn’t get anywhere, so I listened to a Pimsleur lesson that I’d already heard, but found too difficult. It was very easy this time.
The wind was really blowing here all day, but really picked up over night to where a corner of the roof became loose and banged around. Jorge was up at least 3 hours doing something to stop the noise. By that time, the 5am airplane and damn cock started. No car alarms this morning, so I guess the plane wasn’t really that close today.
The first day of school and my adopted madra takes her nino to school. Sorry, no pictures of breakfast today. It consisted of a scrambled egg, rice & beans, bananas, pinapple, papiya, and some other fruit with a small cup of orange juice. She made some coffee, so I had a taste. It was similar to the instant coffee in taste.
Class was brutal. My head is overflowing with Espanol. It is just me and a woman from south Florida in the class. We’re both struggling to understand since everything is spoken in Spanish – everything. That makes it hard to understrand when you don’t have any basis to begin. Present participles – huh? Imaging trying to explain THAT when the students don’t speak the language at all.
Ok, so school is out and I don’t have any formal homework – at least I don’t think I do. Sometimes it is hard to tell whether I really understand the statement/question or assignment.
At one point, my classmate walked out in frustation. She returned 5 minutes later. I think she was concerned that I picked up a new concept quickly. It wasn’t fair to her. My Spanish tapes covered it AND I understood it. I’d read where the first 3 days were the worst.
For me, the frustrating part is that I often answer in German in my head. I expect that reflex will be turned off in the next day or so. My German isn’t that good, but somehow it is still better than my Spanish.
I attempted to upload some photos, but the school connection is shared with 30 other students. Quite the bandwidth hog. After a few uploaded, the connection was stalled. I’ll try to find an easier way to upload.
Time for lunch and I need to figure out which activities I want to do most afternoons. The Heredia visit for today was canceled for some reason. A Soda (diner), then to the grocery store to get some more toothpaste. I didn’t refill from the last trip.
BTW, I’m loving this Nokia N800.
I’m fully covered with SPF-65 and ready to head out for the morning. This afternoon, I meet my first family. They have twin 20 yr olds – a boy and a girl. I can’t wait to meet the entire family!
Ok, today I slept in until 530a after all the sleep I had last night. It sounded like another guest was on a 7am flight since they made a bunch of noise leaving. The walls were just a little too thin, if you know what I mean.
Since I missed my opportunity to get some dinner, I was famished. Breakfast was a mix of banana, pineapple, and apple pastry. Yummy.
After breakfast I decided to see the town. There’s basically two main roads with a bunch of residential streets. I walked about 7 miles [pedometer est] over 3+ hours. Even though I’d gooped on the SFP-65 sunblock, my face was fried. I’m very happy I put on a hat at the half way point or my head would be destroyed. My hair is getting thinner.
A quick lunch at a local Soda – eh – sorry I forgot the photos. Then a short siesta as I waited for my ride to the homestay familia. While waiting, I attempted to skype a few people and finalize some arrangements for the next trip – Argentina.
So my family is mucho grande than expected. The paperwork showed a mother, father, and 20 year old twins. Add two more girls to that list, a 2 year old and lots of extended family. Seems they don’t live under the same roof, so they don’t count. One of the daughters with child lives across the courtyard in the back.
After explaining to them that I knew nada Espanol and getting approval to speak Ingliss for today only, we attempted to exchange family information in mostly Spanish. It was almost impossible as I used a Spanish/English dictionary to locate key works. Only 1 daughter speaks fairly fluent English, so communication was difficult on both sides. The shock of not being able to communicate even the simplest of ideas really gets you thinking how to learn quicker.
Next we went to a church parade that the entire town of San Joaquin seemed to come to. It was a reenactment of the Roman solders after Jesus rose from the dead. Photos. During and after the parade, I met more extended family. The little one is a magnet.
Next, dinner. Fried chicken and bananas at a local eatery. I have a photo of the bananas in a sauce, but sadly, the fried chicken was eaten prior to the photo. You didn’t miss anything. It looked and tasted just like fried chicken. Yummy.
It became pitch black outside by 630p. The family was holding discussions for about another hour, before everyone headed to their rooms and everything quieted down.
They are wonderful and patient with my lack of Spanish.
No internet at home and I didn’t bring a router with me. I think they have a computer, their son, Jorge, is studying computer hw maintenance and support and hopes to get employed by HP here.
Things I’ve learned.
- TP doesn’t go in the bowl.
- Bring all your own bathroom items – towels, soap, shampoo, plus the normal stuff.
- Power is the same as the USA
- oh, and most importantly, my pedometer estimated that I walked over 12 miles today. That doesn’t seem correct, but I do believe the step count. It was definitely over 7 miles.
- Tomorrow the 100% Spanish only rule begins.
- Computer Keyboard problems
- Bed and Breakfast
- Afternoon activities
- Dinner? TBD
Ok, the computer I’m using is configured for English, but doesn’t have a US Keyboard. You’ll see that I use odd wording because some of the keys simply aren’t available. For example, the asterisk key is nowhere to be found (important for this blog), least not shift-8 or on the key that displays it. Ok, enough about that.
The flight – what can I say. I’ve never been on an airplane with more children in my life. Seems spring break and family vacations to Costa Rica are in. Most seemed spoiled too. The kids next to me lived in Raleigh, NC. When I asked about their Spanish – they’d lived in Venezuela for 3 years. The brother and sister were pleasant enough for teenagers. The last 5 minutes in was bumpy and the landing was a little rough.
Oh, I almost forgot to mention it – the airport. Warm with long lines for Immigration. I’d read in a guidebook that there would be lines. There definitely are, unless, you are a citizen of Costa Rica. No lines for them. We landed at 12:10p and I found Fernando a little before 2p. My luggage was waiting for me, already pulled from the luggage belt. They say if you are at the front of the plan – RUN for immigration to beat the lines. There was a line in the main hallway to enter the line. Turns out that line was to get to the end of the line to go into another, larger room, with an even longer line before getting to Immigration folks.
Fernando picked me up outside the airport entrance. He speaks ZERO (nada) English. That wasn’t important – he had the sign with my name on it so I got in the van with him for a 10 minute drive to the Bed and Breakfast, Santa Maria Inn. I’m only here 1 night. No crazy driving experienced or seen. Also, no charge for the drive – which was unexpected. I figure he’d waited at least 90 minutes on a holiday for me when he could have been with his family. I wish I’d snapped a photo of the madhouse at the exit with taxi drivers trying to get fairs. It was crazy and I was offered all kinds of unwanted help.
Santa Maria Inn – In Costa Rica addresses aren’t absolute. They are relative to some local landmark. The Inn is relative to the Pacific Coast Gas Station. Nice. The Inn seems nice. The razor wire all around it makes me feel secure. There is razor wire, seriously. I think this is a nice neighborhood. The home across the street has some nice trucks with alarms.
More after I get my bearings, grab some snacks and figure out what’s for dinner. There’s nothing within walking distance according to the manager. They offer a taxi service or he could order a pizza – that’s a quote.
I must have been tired. After going back to my room, I slept until 11pm. Woke up long enough to close the windows – a few mosquitoes were buzzing me. No bites. Then I watched a movie on HBO-S and went back to sleep for the night.
Today is the day before I leave for Costa Rica to learn Spanish in an intensive way. I’ll be living with 2 families, 1 each week I’m there. Neither them, nor I know anything about each other yet.
Overall plan goes like this.
- Arrive Saturday (Holy Saturday), transfer to a B&B outside San Jose
- Sunday morning, get introduced to the first family I’ll be staying with outside San Jose
- Monday morning, go to school, culture shock, figure out what the plans are for the rest of the week
- Tuesday – go to school; afternoon, do a half day tour of something
- Wednesday – go to school
- Thursday – go to school; afternoon tour
- Friday – go to school
- Saturday – head out on a 2 day adventure
- Sunday – return and transfer to Monteverde family
- Monday morning, go to school, culture shock, figure out what the plans are for the rest of the week
- Tuesday – go to school; afternoon, do a half day tour of something
- Wednesday – go to school
- Thursday – go to school; afternoon tour
- Friday – go to school; afternoon tour
- Saturday – Transfer back to San Jose, then to the airport for a flight home.
Since this is more of a culture tour than see this tour, I don’t expect to have nearly as many photos as prior trips, nor do I expect to be able to upload that quantity with the internet connection available. I’m not taking a laptop, so my N800 will have to do.
What Actually Happened
- Costa T+1 Easter
- Costa T+2 Monday
- Costa T+3 Tuesday
- Costa t 4 Wednesday
- Costa T+5 Thursday Heredia
- Costa T+6 Friday Summary
- Costa T+7 Saturday
- Costa T+8 Sunday Monteverde
- Costa T+9 Monday
- Costa T+10 Tuesday Hike
- Costa T+11 Wednesday
- Costa T+12 Thursday
- Costa T+13 Friday Bus to San Joaquin
- Costa T+14 Saturday HOME
- Costa Rica What I learned
Quick Inc Steps in GA
- Determine what type of company you need/wish to be. Assuming LLC here.
- Come up with a Name Joe’s Body and Leg Shop, LLC – LLC must be in the name.
- Get a mail drop at a local UPS Store or similar so the corporate address can be placed on all State Documents.
- Reserve that name with the Secretary of State $25 – good for 30 days only
- Within a few days, you’ll be notified if your name is available/reserved.
- Get Employer Identification Number (EIN) from the IRS
- 75 days to send in IRS Form 8832 to get your LLC classified (C/Sole proprietor, etc.) if the default doesn’t work for you.
- Fill out your Articles of Organization and send to the Secretary of State $100 to file.
- Get a local business license (County/City), as needed.
- Trade Name Registration – Superior Court Clerk’s Office does it here.
- After the state and county provide confirmation that you are a company, get a bank account
- Checks, check card, VISA are nice.
- Order these business things
- Corporate Seal – not needed
- Business cards – CEO or Director of something or other?
- Business Insurance
- Get paying customers
- open SEP-IRA for you and your employees
- Health Care Insurance
- get reimbursed for all the money you spent setting this up.
- Start tracking your business expenses – travel to the bank, mailbox, customers, etc…
- Make Money.
Ok, now you need to read and understand all the tax laws (or get data from your lawyer and/or CPA) Mileage, business meals, need to be carefully recorded and kept track of. Business expenses are not income.
Kennesaw Mtn Burnt Hickory Trail
Because this trail is near me home, it is worth while, otherwise, I wouldn’t bother.
- Trail Mileage: 4+mi – mine was 5.4mi when done.
- Parking: Parked on Burnt Hickory Rd; it was almost full on a Monday
- I took the 2 Western routes when heading south of Burnt Hickory Rd. On the return/northern trip, I took the single East trail, crossed Burnt hickory rd and continues north to the Pigeon Hill turnoff. I climbed Pigeon Hill heading west and took the western trail back to the parking. 5.4+mi. Moderately difficult, especially Pigeon Hill and the Western routes.
Kennesaw Mtn Park
- None really. There are lots of signs marking where something used to be, but nothing is left. Salem Church had a sign – no church, fireplace, benches, nothing. Good sign tho.