“Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy.” Benjamin Franklin

As promised, here is a blog post devoted entirely to the Costa Rica’s Craft Brewing Company ie the best brewery in Costa Rica. After finding their artisanal beers in a restaurant in Manuel Antonio a few months back, Ross and I have been really wanting to visit the brewery in Cartago and we convinced about 13 other friends to come with us this past Friday!

They only do tours Wednesday-Friday between 4-6pm. I believe you can go there at any time during normal business hours to purchase the beer, but if you can make it I definitely recommend the tour. It’s a teeny tiny brewery, so the tour itself only takes about 5-10 minutes, but we stayed about 2 hours for the good conversation and great free beer. Despite the fact that there were about 15 of us in total, they gave us a ton of free samples of all 4 of the beers they had on tap that day.

The two beers they always have are the Libertas (Golden Ale) and Segua (Red Ale). The Segua is by far my favorite due to all the hops, which is an ingredient lacking in all other Costa Rican beers. Hoppy=Happy 🙂 Bottles of these two are sold in a few bars/restaurants around Costa Rica. You can find a list on their website.

We also tried an American Style Wheat ale, and a dark Porter. Both were delicious. Apparently the very talented Brewmaster here can make any kind of beer you like if you can just describe the flavors to him. All in all it was a very informative, delicious, fun experience. In addition to the free samples, we all went in on a few cases of beer together (28,000 CRC for 24 beers),it was worth the cost AND having to lug cases of beer in cardboard boxes around on buses from Cartago back to San Jose.

The Brew Master!

It’s pretty easy to find the place coming from San Jose, we took a bus to Cartago and a taxi from the bus stop to the brewery (about 3,000 CRC). There is a bus that stops right in front of the brewery though (for only 250 CRC) and we took that back to Cartago.

I definitely recommend coming here if you are a beer connoisseur living in or visiting this great country. In fact, I’ll come with you, I’m down for a hoppy beer anytime 🙂

TGIM?

Despite some of the trouble in San Jose Saturday we all had a great night.

What are the odds that some girl was wearing the same shirt as me:

Haha, that girl is my friend Hayden, and we totally bought those loud, bright shirts together earlier in the day and intentionally wore them out together. We looked ridiculous and probably had way too much fun with it, but whatever. I don’t get out much.

First, we roller skated. For some reason (age?) roller skating in a rink like this is extremely frightening for me and some other friends.

And then some other people just loved it

Ross and I surprised Cara with an manual for living in Boston. Judging from her facial expression, I think she kind of liked it. I am really going to miss her!

After skating, we headed to Mas Tkila for drinks. I ended up with a margarita bigger than my head:

Which would later be paired with a slice of pizza bigger than my entire body.

Nothing is better than dancing your face off at 1 AM after eating your weight in pizza.

(I have no idea how Ross could even lift me up at this point)

Back to reality today. No classes, but I do have to make exams for all my students this week. What are your Monday plans?

Trouble in Paradise

I think I’ve mentioned before that San Jose has grown on me during our year here. It offers more luxury comforts of home than anywhere else in Costa Rica, and being a city girl the past few years it’s been nice to be able to get my ‘city fix’ every once in awhile and go out to a fancy dinner, go to the movies, shopping, bars, etc.

I had a GREAT time in San Jose with my friends this weekend, but I was also unfortunately reminded of why I hated San Jose in the first place. While the rest of Costa Rica is a very safe, peaceful place, San Jose is very dangerous, especially for tourists/foreigners.

One of our good friends in our group was mugged, at knife point, Saturday afternoon right outside of the hostel we were all staying in together. She wasn’t drunk, she wasn’t being irresponsible, she simply walked alone to the Market 5 minutes down the street, in one of the “best” parts of the city, during daytime hours. We have all done this a million times. In fact, we were all out and about at this time, we had all gone off and done different things during the day and were about to meet back at the hostel to get ready for the night out.

During our orientation, we kind of had the fear of god put in us about traveling in and around San Jose, and this is probably a very good thing. If anyone is reading this blog looking for advice on Costa Rica travel, being ridiculously careful in San Jose is probably the thing I would want you to take from this most. While it’s usually petty crime/robbing, there are people walking around with machetes. And the cops? They aren’t much help. They showed up at the hostel about 3 hours after we called them and pretty much told her she shouldn’t be out by herself and didn’t even look at the video from the hostel surveillance camera. Would it really have helped stop the guy with the machete if another female volunteer was walking with her? Or would he have just gotten away with more money and credit cards and cellphones?

Our group had a really fun time last night for the going away party and we didn’t let that awful experience ruin anyone’s evening. More on the fun stuff later, but for now some words of advice for surviving in San Jose:

-Only take what you need out with you. If you are traveling through with all your stuff this is difficult, but if you are there for a night or two lock all important things up in a safe in your hostel or hotel (any worth staying in should offer a safe). Bring only a copy of your passport, no credit cards if possible.

-When going out, don’t get drunk and sloppy. This is true for anywhere, but in SJ they are waiting for tourists to get drunk and ‘misplace’ their fancy cameras and smartphones. The guys are also waiting for girls to get drunk and ‘misplace’ their morals.

-Always take a taxi if you are alone. Even if it’s a short walk and the weather is beautiful. Make sure to take a legit taxi and ask for it ‘con maria’ (with a meter). It’s expensive, but not as expensive as losing all your stuff.

-If you are in an unavoidable situation despite your best efforts, give them what they want. Nothing you have in your purse or wallet is worth your life!!!

Don’t let this affect your plans to visit Costa Rica at all! Most city’s in the world have more dangerous places in them then this entire country put together. This is just a reminder, that sometimes there is trouble, even in paradise 🙂

Saturday in San Jose!

I am so happy to be in San Jose with all of our friends today! We have a lot planned: Pancake breakfast, shopping, (like one can only do in San Jose) haircuts, Harry Potter, and then the big despidida (farewell party) for our field director, who is moving to BOSTON after 3 years in Costa Rica. I’m sad she’s leaving us, but if she had to go anywhere, Boston is a good place to be. She has put together quite an evening for the group:

Roller Skating at a rollar rink in San Pedro

Drinks and food at Mas Tkila

Dancing at El Pueblo!!!

I hope I have the stamina! I’m feeling pretty great this morning, despite all the delicious FREE beer from last night. The Costa Rica Craft Brewery is A-Mazing and we left with a case of the best beer I’ve had in a very, very long time. Full blog post to come on the brewery later, but here’s a sneak preview:

Getting learned in all things beer

And getting happy 🙂

Off to eat those pancakes and start this busy day in San Jose.

Cheers!

Serenity

Inscence and mood lighting:

Scented Candles, Herbal Tea and Meditation Balm

Yoga with your dog

Beer?

We are headed to San Jose tomorrow for a weekend of awesomeness. First up on Friday is a group tour of the Costa Rica Craft Brewing Company. Going to breweries is a big part of traveling for me. I’ve been the the Guinness Brewery in Ireland, the Heineken Brewery in Amsterdam, you get the idea. I like beer. I’ve already tried and fell in love with one of these artisanal beers from the CRCBC

What a great way to start the weekend! If they have something pumpkin flavored I don’t think I will ever leave.

The Good, The Bad and The Bologna

Living with a host family in Costa Rica means you don’t have to cook your own meals. Those are included in the package, a long with a private bedroom and cold shower. Although I like cooking, it sounded good not to HAVE to make dinner every night. Nor breakfast nor lunch. And the truth is, sometimes it is good. And then sometimes there’s fried bologna.

Ross and I are pretty health-conscious and that is usually reflected in our diets. Here though, we don’t have the flexibility due to financial restraints and familial obligations (I mean if she cooks it for us we really should eat it). While I am also happy when there is a source of protein included in a meal (to help offset the 5 Lbs of white rice I eat daily) I’m not quite sure where to draw the line. I was a vegetarian for awhile, and a very picky meat eater after that (only organic, grass-fed, antibiotic free) and now I am eating fried bologna? I cut it up in teeny tiny pieces and try to hide in underneath my rice and beans, but it’s still there.

In addition to all the fried stuff I’ve started eating, I have seriously cut back on the fruit and veggies in my diet. We try to supplement this with our meager monthly stipend, but it could never compare to what we were eating at home. I actually had an issue with my hair falling out, like way too much hair falling out, on a daily basis. Luckily Ross’ wonderful Mom brought me a year supply of vitamins during her visit to help negate this.

Aside from the hair loss, It does make me wonder what overall toll this may be taking on us. Although we have kept up with the exercise, I’m starting to feel tired all the time and having weird health issues (headaches, ear infections, insomnia) maybe I’m still dealing with that bus travel hangover from a week ago? Maybe it’s too much exercise? This is a normal week:

Sunday- 4-8 mile run
Monday- Run 2 miles, 1 hour lifting at the gym
Tuesday- Run 2 miles, 30 minutes on bike, lifting at the gym
Wednesday-Run 1 mile, 1 hour lifting at the gym
Thursday- OFF or yoga
Friday- Run 2 miles, 30 minutes sprints on bike, lifting at the gym
Saturday- Run 2 miles, 1 hour lifting at the gym

I seriously doubt the answer is less exercise and more bologna.
I know this is a very unique situation to be in, but if anyone has any advice or opinions on this I’d love to hear them!

Okay time for breakfast, which I kid you not, is fried plantains. At least it was at one time a fruit.

Sexism Alert

What is lacking in the genes of men that makes it so much more difficult for them to take care of small, living things? Maybe not all men. Maybe just one man, who happens to be my boyfriend?

Give him something broken to fix, and he’s all about it. Give him a little healthy puppy to watch for just 10 minutes and all chaos breaks loose.

Okay, chaos is a bit of an exaggeration, BUT in the 10 minutes I took to clean the bedroom and Ross had Mango in the living room today, Mango managed to chew up the faux Crocs of two year old Aytan. Since Aytan lives down the street and had walked over to our house in those shoes, I did damage control by running to the Super and buying the only pair of sandals they had that would fit a two year old.

I came back to the house, continued cleaning, and a few minutes later our host brother Steven came in the side entrance to our room with Mango, who he found wandering the streets of the neighborhood. Apparently while Ross was explaining the whole Croc catastrophe to the family, Mango escaped out the front door.

Oh well, boys will be boys.

Despite all the Croc excitement, It’s been a sleepy Sunday here. We woke up early and went for a 5 mile run with lots of hills, and I think that drained me of all of my energy. We also spent a lot of time the past few days working for the weekend ON the weekend prepping for our upcoming exams. Aside from a little cleaning, blogging and lots of eating (what can I say, that run left me famished), I have absolutely nothing planned except a relaxing evening and an early night.

Confession: In addition to the Happy List I think making “to do” lists are really fun. Sunday is a great time to write down a “to do” list for the week. I make one for teaching and work stuff, one for workouts and fitness stuff, and one just for miscellaneous stuff. To get me started I also like to write down a few things I’ve already done, just so I can cross them off and feel productive. You should also include some scheduled fun in there too (ex. Drinks with the girls on Thursday at 7pm) just because you deserve it!

Sunday:

5 Mile Run
Clean Bedroom
Lesson Plans for 3rd and 5th Grades
Write Blog Post
Relax completely

These Are a Few of My Favorite Things

I do not consider myself to be a materialistic person. I have always tried to be conscious and to not let my life revolve around a want or need for things (and the money to buy said things). I do not need to have the newest iPhone, a flashy car or fancy apartment to be happy.

However, I knew when I signed up to volunteer for a year I would be giving up a lot of even the most basic of things, and I did really wonder how I would deal with that. Pretty much no shopping at all for a year, no highlights for the hair, no mani/pedis, no fancy perfume skin creams and shampoos, you get the idea.

While I can certainly do this for the next few months, if this were a forever thing, I’m not sure I could deal. I know some people could be happy with a lot less, others couldn’t even make it through this year. And either way, it’s all okay! The tricky part is finding the balance in life, the place in the middle where you have just enough to support your own happiness (and healthiness), without having too much excess or too little means to live on.

“Earth provides enough to satisfy every man’s need, but not every man’s greed” – Mahatma Gandhi

During my time here, I haven’t magically discovered where that balance is for me, but I have learned I can live without many things I thought I couldn’t before and have been surprised by some things I just can’t live without (when I say I can’t live without it I mean live without it AND be totally happy, obviously I won’t really die). My cellphone? I used to NEVER leave home without it, now I never ever think about it. However when my computer decided to stop working I realized being able to communicate with home (and to write this blog!) is something I don’t want to live without.

I’ve dealt with working out in the same running sneakers and workout clothes for the past 8 months and my headphones for the iPod are broken. It’s not ideal, but it hasn’t stopped me from keeping up with my gym sessions and outdoor runs, so regardless of what some fitness blogs and magazines may tell you, not having the most high tech Garmin Forerunner and Asics sneakers is NOT AN EXCUSE.

Another thing I’ve discovered I can’t live without? Yoga classes. I’ve tried doing it on my own here, it’s just not the same. I am seriously jonesing for some good yoga. And another thing? Cooking. I miss cooking and baking like crazy.

Before I left for Costa Rica my friend Carla gave me a Happy Book/ journal thing (it’s actually called “The Happy Book”) and I started writing in it back in January and have kept adding to it over my time here. I realized in this I have been making a list of things that are vital for ME. It’s very therapeutic and really helps to put things into perspective. I definitely recommend writing one down and making one for you 🙂

A preview of my Happy List (in no particular order)

Traveling, exploring, being active, reading, friends, family, good movies, running races, yoga, napping on rainy days, chocolate, wine and cheese, taking pictures, blogging, music, tiny puppies, date nights, holding Halle, Cinnamon, Michael Kors perfume, bananas, peanut butter, Ross, the North End, Boston, mountains, sleeping in or waking up early because I want to NOT because I have to, comfy jeans and cute dresses, coffee, beaches, smiles and hugs from my students, ice cream, productivity, dining al fresco, sunshine and the smell of sunblock, hoppy beer, pine scented candles and trees, fresh snow, fall, apres ski beers and fireplaces, my parents’ backyard in the summer, Christmas Eve and morning, holidays spent with loved ones, baking, eating healthy, Wholefoods and Trader Joes, understanding Spanish, random acts of kindness, intelligent conversations, people who get you, Tortilla Flats in Dominical, Big lunches, music, clean laundry, inspirational anything, any spa treatment, aviator sunglasses, boating, pancakes with fruit, road trips, Saturday and Sunday mornings, avocados and palm trees and tropical flowers, pumpkin everything (patches, pie, candles, bread), my MANGO.

Good Friends and Great Bagels

Waaay back in February when our friend Mark was in town for work we met him at Hotel Fortuna and shared a few Pilsens.

He was here again last night, and apparently not much has changed in the past 7 months

It was great to hang out with him again. He and Alejandra had to take off early this morning for Monteverde for work stuff, it must be tough actually having a job 🙂

This morning Ross and I took advantage of having no classes by walking into Fortuna with Mango and going to breakfast at the Gecko Gourmet. I’ve been dying to try the food there since our last visit for coffee drinks, and it didn’t disappoint:

Bagel with Veggie Cream Cheese, which had more veggies than either cream or cheese. LOVED IT.

Despite the look on is face, Ross really liked his breakfast sandwich too:

Much Better:

y Mango? Lol. Yeah he was there too:

A little post-breakfast frisbee anyone?

A is for Azucar

I think it is good for kids that A stands for Apple in the English language. It’s a healthy start to the alphabet. With all the fresh, available fruit available in Costa Rica year round you would think you would see more people eating it. Unfortunately, the primary food choice here seems to be anything involving lots of refined sugar. And while there are plenty of fresh fruit batidos around the most common drink of choice is Tang. While some of this may be due to finances, or lack thereof, I’m afraid that much of the time it’s just lack of knowledge that these things are SO SO BAD FOR YOU. For your health, for your mind, for your TEETH.

I’ve been trying to be really good about brushing, flossing and swishing more often than usual, but I’m afraid I’m not going to come out of this alive without having cavities and other fun dental problems. And that’s just after one year, imagine a lifetime?

One of the goals I had coming in here was to share my love of health and fitness in this country. This is much easier said than done in English than in Spanish. I would love to lead a yoga class or some sort of group for the students, but my Spanish just isn’t good enough and their attention span just isn’t there. There is still time left, maybe my Spanish will automatically improve overnight. I’m hoping to take a unit of class to dedicate to Nutrition, but that isn’t in my MEP (Ministry of Education) teachers handbook, and I’m not sure I can fit it in on top of all their educational already daunting educational requirements.

I have already taught my 1st graders to ‘Eat Healthy Foods’ as one of their everyday healthy habits. They can say it, but I’m not sure if they know what the verb ‘eat’ means, and they are convinced that all food = fruit. That would be fine with me, if only they would actually eat it.

In other news: I’m very excited because Mark, my old co-worker and current friend is back in Fortuna for the night which means we’re meeting up for drinks of course! This is his second time visiting us as he was here back in February. I mean, he has to be here for work, but he’s still putting all our other friends to shame with 2 visits in less than 1 year 🙂

Maybe all our other friends are just scared of the sugar. Or maybe it’s of the crocodiles? Yes, there are crocodiles here in addition to all the scary poisonous things. There are actually lots of them: