The Benefit of Living Under an Active Volcano

Two words for you: Hot. Springs.

It makes the up for the fact that if the Arenal volcano ever decided to erupt in this direction, you probably wouldn’t be able to outrun the lava (or sulfuric ash).

I always have intentions to take pictures showing how amazingly beautiful the hot springs are, but the combination of hot water, alcohol and total relaxation just don’t bring out the photographer in me. So, imagine if you will a giant waterfall flowing into pools carved out of volcanic rock. The water is steaming hot, coming straight out of the volcano saturated with minerals, and surrounding the pools is a tropical paradise of palm trees, exotic flowers and humming birds. Even the bar seems like it was organically placed on the side of a volcano (okay, maybe not the flat screen TV in the bar).

Last night, thanks to some fun coworkers, we were introduced to new hot springs in the area attended mostly by locals. We had the good luck of getting caught in a tropical rainstorm and while I’m sure that being in pools of water on the side of a volcano during a lightening storm isn’t the safest thing, it was very exhilarating. The cool raindrops were a perfect compliment to the sweltering water in the pools, and the designs they made while dancing on the surface of the water, which was lit from below, looked like sparkling fireworks.

After lounging in the hot springs for a few hours and having a few Imperial Lights on ice con Sal y limon, your body gets this wonderful feeling of being totally and completely exhausted in the best way possible, and you know, come December, you are definitely going to miss living under an active volcano.

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Ultimate Frisbee

When the Donovan family came to visit a few months ago, they brought Mango a Frisbee. Turns out to be the best doggie present ever. Is is such a great way for him to get exercise, and he really loves it.Here are some pictures from today:

It’s also a great way to him to meet new friends, since he’s not embarrassed to run up to anyone and try to get them to play:

A tired puppy = a happy puppy (and happy puppy parents). Thanks again guys!

We’ve been spending a lot of time in La Fortuna this month, there’s been a lot going on here with school and holidays and what not. We do have some fun Costa Rican adventures coming up in October though… I have a very exciting weekend planned for Ross’ birthday, and my friend Ashley gets here in exactly ONE MONTH from today. Stay tuned…

Illegal Border Crossing… NBD

Remember that field trip we took with our students to Cano Negro earlier this month? I may have mentioned that we saw a lot of animals, floated down the Rio Frio and had a lot of fun. What I forgot to tell was that we did some illegal border crossing! Okay, it’s not quite as exciting as all that. Cano Negro is located on the border of Nicaragua, and our guide took our boat to this border marker:

And due to all our begging and pleading he went a little over into enemy Nicaraguan territory.

We got to travel in style first in a Desafio Busetta complete with AIR CONDITIONING. It was the first time I’ve slept well in almost a year, despite the 30 6th grade students screaming the entire 1 hour 1/2 ride.

Then it was onto the boat:

Some of the animals:

Croc

White-faced Cappuchin

Howlers (If you have never heard a howler monkey you are missing out- they might not be very big but they sound exactly like King Kong)

Orange Monkey ( I didn’t really get all the information on this, but I’m sure it has a real name)

Gringos- Very rare in these parts

The Good Life

I think I should have been born a European, I’m not very particular about the country. I spent some time there in college, and absolutely fell in love with it. The lifestyle, the culture, the art, the fashion the FOOD (and drink). While I love the fact that I can travel all over Central America via bus, it doesn’t compare to being able to take a night train to Paris or Switzerland. There are many other places I still want to travel to, and I am DEFINITELY looking forward to moving back State side this winter, but if I ever get the opportunity to move to Europe for awhile, I’m jumping on it! (Being able to make some Euros while doing this would bonus).

Since I can’t live there right now, or even visit, I’m settling with reading about it. I just finished the novel ‘The Paris Wife’ by Paula Mclain. It is a bit depressing, but you expect that going into the novel, I mean you know things didn’t end well for Ernest Hemingway despite his fame and fortune.

Aside from the relationship falling apart, and the almost annoying main character, the book is absolutely beautiful. It makes you want to cry in parts, but it also makes you want to drink champagne and martinis under the olive, fig and lemon trees by the ocean on the French Riveria, Ski in Switzerland and apres ski even harder in front of the fireplace in your beautiful mountainside Chalet, and sit in the sunshine at an outside cafe in Pampalona while observing the running of the bulls. Oh, and since it’s the 1920s you get to do all this with the likes of F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ezra Pound.

Now that this book is done I’m started on The Count of Monte Cristo. Not only does it take place in Europe (although a century apart from the former novel) it is also one of the books on my summer reading list. I’ve mentioned on the blog before that I have some reading goals during my time here, and while I have read a bunch, there is still a lot to go.

Some other good European treasures I’ve read recently and recommend: Julia Child’s ‘My Life in France’, ‘The Elegance of the Hedgehog’ by Muriel Barber, ‘Tender is the Night’ F. Scott Fitzgerald

Don’t get me wrong, I love Latin America: the heat, the dancing, the adventure, the beaches, the sloths and volcanos, but to be honest, I’m going to need some more museums, wine and cheese in my life.

Blondes have more fun?

Wanting what you don’t and/or can’t have, especially when it comes to your looks and your self-esteem. It’s a worldwide phenomenon, and whether or not it is ingrained in human nature, or just strategically placed there by ingenious marketing companies, we really should try to overcome this.

I remember being in India and being shocked by a bulletin for a Skin Lightening cream. It wasn’t shocking in the sense that it was so different or risqué, but rather that It was the same add I would see all over the place in Boston for a skin tanning cream, only it was reversed. For us sun deprived light skinned Bostonians the cosmetic companies advertise bronzers and skin darkeners. For those living on the other side of the world, they push them on skin lighteners. It’s pretty genius, I mean, how do we really know what’s going on over there? Even in this globalized generation, much of the information we get via newspapers, news shows, and the like are all censored. And the information is probably available on the internet, but we’re too busy trying to figure out the newest Facebook layout to actually do any research.

I get tired of sticking out all the time while living in Costa Rica. Some people can pull off just blending in wherever they go, but blondes, they can not do this. When I walk in the room I might as well be draped in an American Flag blasting Springsteen’s “Born in the USA” out of a 1980’s style boombox. It’s that bad. On the other hand, I have many people, especially my young students, telling me they wish they had my straight dark blond hair and bluish eyes. I, on the other hand have always wanted curls, or waves, or SOMETHING, and think deep brown eyes are the prettiest. WHY???

Again, in India, while visiting the Taj Mahal one day with Ross, tons of people (Indian natives) kept coming up and requesting to take pictures with me. The whole time I couldn’t get over the fact that we were standing in front of one of the original 7 wonders of the World, and people were interested in taking pictures of ME. I went along with it, and when we addressed this to some of Ross’ Indian coworkers after they told us that it was because often times, the only blonde people Indians have seen were movie stars. And porn stars. Oh great, I just posed for pictures with people who thought/ were hoping I was a porn star. No big deal. I almost went out and bought some dark hair dye right there and then, but I’m glad I didn’t. Now thanks to me, maybe some of those Indian’s will realize there are nice blonde American girls who have careers other than starring in any kind of movies.

I really do think traveling helps open one’s eyes to situations like this. If nothing else, it gives you appreciation and understanding for other people and other cultures, and makes you realize how beautiful it all is. And then you realize the reason it is so beautiful is because we are all so different, and thank goodness for that. I definitely wish traveling wasn’t so expensive, and almost wish it was required. If everyone saw the world for what it really was, I think we’d be living in a much different place.

We are not all meant to be the same (how boring would that be, seriously!). Trying to fit into an impossible stereotype of beauty will probably only cause you to feel bad about yourself and spend a lot of money on ridiculous things that are probably bad for you in the long run (skin creams, diet pills, shake weights, etc.) Today try to embrace those things that make you, you and worry less about the things that make you different from Angelina Jolie.

Cock-A-Doodle-Do(n’t)

Our little family (Ross, Mango and me) was up and outside before sunrise this morning. Why? Because there is an evil rooster who has taken it upon himself to make sure no one gets to sleep in past 4AM. Regardless of the stories you might have heard, roosters do not only cock-a-doodle do early in the morning like a peaceful, natural alarm clock, but rather squawk at any old time they want to. Turns out EVIL roosters want to do this non-stop between the hours of 1:30AM-4:30AM. This rooster has been outside our window the past 4 mornings. Ross got up try to shoo the rooster away today, but Mango was much more alert than Ross this morning, and he took it upon himself to chase the rooster right out of the yard. We then realized we were down one rooster, but also one puppy, which meant getting dressed and chasing said rooster and dog around the neighborhood before the sun came up.

On the bright side, I took some beautiful pictures of the sunrise this morning:

A lot of craziness before 6AM, but that’s Costa Rica for you. In fact, I have been trying to think up a word for Costa Rica, if I HAD to sum it up in one word. Crazy or LOCO came to mind, but that wouldn’t work because it’s not always and sometimes it’s rather tranquilio. TROPICAL was another word I thought of, but some parts in the mountains are rather cold and there is a serious lack of Pina Coladas inland. GREEN, but some places get rather brown during the long dry season, and as far as green friendly in the environmental sense, I’ve seen far too much pollution and burning waste to be completely sold on that. But finally the word came to me: ITCHY. No matter where you go in this beautiful country, you’re bound to encounter something (or some million things) that itch. Bugs, Plants, Heat Rash, it’s all here. Yes, if I had to sum up Costa Rica in one word, ITCHY would be it.

Now, please pass the Benadryl…

Creativity is…

“Creativity is contagious. Pass it on.” — Albert Einstein

Since we were leaving for Costa Rica a week after Christmas last year, Ross and I said no presents. Well of course neither of us followed that (boring) rule. Ross got me a beautiful Moleskin sketchpad and Derwent Graphite pencils (I got him a bottle of Jameson).

In addition to blog writing, I love to draw and paint. I am not very good at either, but I really enjoy doing them. The Moleskin sketchpad proved to be too intimidating for me though, and those menacing blank pages just stared at me for months. And don’t even get me started with the pencils, I read the directions and still don’t really understand them.

Regardless, I brought these with me when we went to Atenas during our summer break, and I really couldn’t help being inspired there. If you saw the place, you would know why.

So far, I’ve only done 2 drawings but have a goal of filling the book before heading back to the States:

Atenas Zen Plant

Phil up in Smoke

(Phil is my Lucky Bamboo plant that friends brought me when I was in the hospital in San Jose. We always light incense all over him and I feel bad. I have no idea why his name is Phil, or even why he has a name.)

The real Phil

I have less talent than many of my 1st graders, but I do have a lot of fun with this and thought I would share with you!

EXCITING UPDATE: My boyfriend, Ross Donovan, has FINALLY started his Photography blog. For more creative inspiration and to see some amazing pictures stop by Ross’ blog and say hello! http://rjdonovan.wordpress.com/

(Ross in action)

I’m always looking to try something new. Do you have any fun creative hobbies? Pottery? Knitting? Making those cool candelabras out of old wine bottles? Let me know!

Watch Out Gisele…

My niece is the cutest little Tom Brady fan out there:

And can you really blame her?

Today was a full day of teaching, followed by a long session at the gym. A trainer there offered to give us a free orientation awhile back: We were measure, pinched, weighed and had to discuss really personal things, like how many cookies I actually eat during a cafecito. Although it was dramatic at the time, she put together a FREE workout plan for us. And it’s really good!

Many gyms that have Personal Trainers on staff do offer an orientation of sorts, normally for new members. I know the CAC, my favorite gym in Boston does (wwww.cambrdigeathletic.com) You are CRAZY if you don’t take advantage of this. It’s free professional advice. Even if you think you know all things fitness (I have been working out for years and have even worked in a health club), you don’t, and if by a small chance you do, you just can’t motivate yourself like someone else can. Warning: You most likely will see results.

We have big plans for the rest of the night: Grey’s Anatomy is on (in English!) and I have a rootbeer float to consume (would you say you eat or drink a rootbeer float?) Either way, Sweet dreams!

One of THOSE days

I’m having one of them. I just don’t want to deal with anything or anyone. Exercise helps. Ross and I went out for an 8 mile run, he was a trooper considering I was a terrible running partner and just listened to my music the whole time.

What are your thoughts on running with friend(s), music or no music? Normally I’m a big chatter bug, especially when I’m running with girlfriends, but today I just wasn’t feeling the normal breathless conversation (and Ross and I have run out of things to talk about anyway, lol). Despite my mood, and a few aches and pains, the run was great and the scenery was beautiful

We did run into a little traffic, lol

Waterfall

Bridge

Never too grumpy to smile for a mid-run self portrait.

The 8 miles didn’t quite fix my mood though, but maybe a little more frisbee with the dog, lanudry and room cleaning will do it. Either it will fix my mood, or I’ll just pass out from exhaustion and it won’t matter anyway.

Maybe I’m just grumpy because we’re missing yet another friend’s birthday! Today is our friend Julie’s 15th birthday. Sweet 16 might be a big one in the states, but in Latin America it’s all about the Quinceañeras. Feliz Cumpleanos Julie!!!