Sunday, January 28, 2007

Vida a hora...

So apparently I can speak Spanish now. Going out to bars and needing to speak stricktly Spanish probably helps...

Habitat is a lot more interesting now. The walls are almost done and all the volunteers know eachother a lot better. However, volunteers come and go quickly. Two just left, including one of my room-mates, Jimmy, but 12 Canadians are comming to work for all of next week... oh how I do love Canadians.
My host family took John, Jimmy, and I to Poas Volcano. It was really cool becasue it´s still active, it has the biggest crator in the world, 1km diameter, and there´s a lake in the crator that boils. The bad new was it was too cloudy to see the 1km crator or the lake. At least there´s some cool vegetation at that altitude...

Quick note: I haven´t seen a single cat since I got here. Lots of dogs, but no cats. What´s the story?

I´ve mostly just been chilling out after work at the house. John and I met some people in a town near by so we´ll probably hang with them now and again. We´re going to try to fit in some hang-gliding next weekend.

Ok. Hold the phone. I was just told one of the most important things I have ever heard in my career as a human being. Rage Against the Machine is playing a show called Coachella on April 29th. My return flight is April 23rd, my 19th brithday is April 25th, and I have to be in Southern California for the 29th. Close but totally do-able. Mom, Dad, I need the car for a few days when I get back...

Monday, January 22, 2007

Ketchup and Mayo

A quick update...

Habitat is getting a little more exciting. We are actually building the walls now, not just digging holes.

The other volunteers and I went to the beachtown of Jaco for Sat and Sun. It was, well, a crazy time. There was a beautiful white sand beach and we met some good people on the ride down. I even had a conversation with a pimp in a bar. It was, well, depressing, but interesting.

John, Jimmy, and I ate at a little restaurant by our house last night. Between the 3 of us we got 4 different dishes. Every single one was absolutely smotheres in ketchup and mayo. I do love mayo, but no, it was not a pleasurable experience.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Habitat for WHOmanity?

Well, here I am.

I just finished digging a 2mx2mx1.5m hole. We dug the foundation out then tied rebar for hours. Concrete should start soon.

My host family is pretty good. They´re super friendly. They do my laundry and cook my food. I live with 2 other volunteers from the states which has it´s ups and downs. The up is that I have people to chill with, the down is I´m not forced to learn nearly as much Spanish. One of them is is Jimmy. He´s a fairly stereotypical rich American boy. Private highschool, goes to Princeton, and plays football. He´s tall, built, has a smiling face, but there´s still that undercurrent of ¨I´m better than you.¨ that you picks at the back of your mind. Then there´s John. He has some ¨nerd-like¨tendencies, but hey, so do I. Definitely a solid guy.

Building has been, well, ok. I hope it picks up in excitement although I doubt it. I suppose I´m still a little upset with Habitat for there unacceptable lack of organization. I had communication with them for 5 months prior to my arrival and they didn´t have a placement for me until the 15th of January... Not to mention many lost e-mails and untimely responses. The meeting my group of volunteers had with them was fairly uniformative and somewhat unprofessional... However, they are undergoing huge administrative changes right now so I guess theres that. I just don´t think they should be accepting volunteers.

BUT, here I am, I have a smile on my face and a shovel in my hand and I´m ready to build a house.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Moving on...

San Ramon has been absolutely amazing. Chris and Luisa have been too good to me. They have provided me with food, shelter, and themselves as friends which has been the best part of all. Days here consisted of either helping Chris build the massive stone retaining wall around his property, or going into Palmares with Melissa.

Let´s talk about the wall. Chris and Luisa and their 2 children Lukas and Fiona are moving about half a kilometer outside the city to a property that they recently bought. They´re buliding a huge retaining wall around their property on which will stand a Bed and Breakfast. They´re hoping to cater to interesting North Americans who are interested in the true history and culture of Costa Rica. No matter how the building turns out, the very people running it will make it worthwile. Plues it has a breathtaking view of the mountains.

Let´s talk about Melissa (far right). Melissa is the daughter of a friend of Chris and Luisa´s. She´s been awesome to me and has showed me all over San Ramon. I have to say I would have been quite bored without her. (Although, I did just meet a very flamboyant guy from Ohio on an exchange, but that´s neither here nor there.) She´s studying to become an English teacher, so it works out well. She also has quite a few friends that speak a little or a lot of English.

Let´s talk about Palmares. Palmares is a city near San Ramon which means Palmtree. For two weeks of the year Palmares is turned into a massive party. It´s sort of like a big fair, but drinking in public is legal here... so it escalates to a party quite quickly. I went with Melissa and some friends to Hectar El Father, a Reggaetonista. Reggaeton is an extremely popular kind of music here that incorporates rap and reggae. The same shallow lyrics you´d expect, but still great for gettin jiggy...

Let´s talk about me leaving. On Wednesday I´ll be leaving for Volcan Poas. That is where my Habitat placement is.

Let´s talk about sex, baby.

Let´s talk about you and me.

Let´s talk about all the good things

And the bad things

That may be...

Monday, January 8, 2007

Where the streets have no name

Before I begin, yes, that is a transport truck upside-down.

There are lots of unstabilities here in Costa Rica. 1) Let´s start with the roads. In Puerto Viejo there were potholes everywhere. Despite the obvious negatives, it was kind of cool. It added to the controlled chaos. Bikes and cars and dogs and people everywhere... Aside from unfriendly holes in the road, the roads often come dangerously close to massive cliffs when driving in the mountains. Often times all you need to do is stick your head out the window and look down and you´re stairing an unending abyss in the face. Ya....kinda scary. I´d say this truck driver had it lucky.

2) Now there´s also the weather. It´s a little more stable right in the mointains, but in Puerto Viejo it would be sunny and beautiful, then within 20 mintues it would cloud over and drizzle rain. Plans would get canceled, books would open, but then no sooner had you decided to blow off the day, the sky would clear up and the sun would pump you full of good spirits again.

3) The home enertainment scene. When you rent a movie from any video store, there´s a damn good chance it´s burned. Yes, people here rent pirated movies that some Joe Blow downloaded and burnt onto a DVD. Now there´s also a chance that it´s a screener (litereally some Joe Blow sneaks a video camera into a movie theatre and films the screen... weak).

4) And finally, my personal favourite, there are no addresses. No street has a name here and no building has a number. Where I am currently staying is 150 m east of the Plaza, San Juan. Advbertising may look something like this, "Pablo Muflas - 200m south of the old KFC ("old" because it went burnt down and in it's place is a shoe store, which are freakin everywhere here) then 50m west, beside the big oak tree.

On the up side, what isn´t unstable is the people. Ticos (Costa Ricans) are very friendly. Chris (mi amigo) and I went to the hardware store for a couple things and it took us 45 minutes because everyone has to stop and shake hands and talk with everyone. ¨¿How´s your family?¨ ¨¿What´s up for today?¨ ¨¿How´s that massive stone wall comming along, Chris?¨ etc...

I´d say it´s a fair trade. A few holes in the road and some random weather patterns for a big bowl of pleasentry.

Friday, January 5, 2007

Volcanos and Pipas Frijoles

We left Puerto Viejo quite ready to leave. It was a lot of fun, we did some ziplines and flew from platform to platform high up in the canopy, but the week had been tiring; we were ready for a change. We went to Pan Pay, a lively bar, for new years eve and hit the sack shortly after 12:00. A 5:30am wakeup call the next morning and we hit up an amazing 30km white-water rafting tour through the rainforest.

Later that day we arrived in La Fortuna. It sported this beautiful active volcano, however it was often too cloudy to see it. We stayed in Hotel Monte Royal and received a ton of help from Fransisco, the owner, and Paola, his incredibly attractive daughter. We hit up Baldi Hot Springs which was complete with waterfalls, 20 different temperature pools, and swim-up bars. Despite the volcano and lava-warmed water, we decided to leave La Fortuna a day early. The food was less than amazing, not to mention nick getting served Keiser, a non-alcoholic beer, so we hopped on a bus and toured through the mountains to San Ramon to visit our friends the Panzers.
So here I am, it´s January 5th and my family will be heading to the airport to fly home in less than an hour. I still haven´t heard from Habitat as to my exact start data but hopefully it´s soon. Until then I´ll be hanging with the Panzers and helping them build a massive stone retaining wall around their new property with a gorgeous mountain view.
Oh ya, I finally saw some wild monkeys! My vacation is complete...