07.01.2008 - 08.01.2008 80 °F
Right now we are at Amistad Institute´s offices in Heredia. It´s been an interesting journey. We got picked up from the airport by Gerardo and as he dropped us off at our B and B, the theme from "Great American Hero" was playing in the van.....that was weird. We noticed bars on every house and window as we rolled in at night and this was in the outskirts of San Jose no less. I particularly tried to avoid the big city due to the endemic crime there. Evidently, this neighborhood (Cariari) is where diplomats stay, but there must also be problems.
An American ex pat from Boston runs the Cariari B and B. The house was very cool - Spanish Hacienda style. We arrived at about 9:30 PM. She was telling us that the night before, at about 8:30, a bunch of masked gunmen broke through the front gate and stole everyone's stuff. We'd learn that personal security is a bit of an issue in this country. There is a gang presence that comes from Colombia evidently. Plus, we are essentially walking ATM machines in a poor country. It was nice to relax and get settled in however.
We awoke to the sounds of a cacophony of birds in the morning. And at breakfast, we met two women who run a series of cabins near where we are going so they said to call them and we will maybe arrange a tour with them. Breakfast was a delight. We had homemade banana bread, Cas juice, fresh fruit, omelettes and the gallo pinto on the trip. Gallo pinto is probably the most popular type of rice and beans they make there. Little did we know, we'd be eating A LOT of rice and beans. Anyway, we had a pleasant stay and would be returning to the B and B at the end of the trip.
Robert from Amistad picked us up this morning and took us here to Heredia. Incidentally, we are not going to Ostional until tomorrow. It´s going to be a long day of catching multiple public buses starting at 5AM and we need to stay awake to mind our belongings. So we get to Heredia and meet 3 other girls - 1 will be be coming with us on the journey to Ostional and the other 2 are staying in Heredia to work with kids there. Kat, from the UK is a very mature 19 year old and she is going to Ostional for 10 weeks!!! Avie is an actress in San Francisco and Heather is a student from Bayonne. What a small world! Victor, from Amistad took us into Santa Barbara and we got some incidentals and basically hung out. So we got some essentials in town, like a new toothbrush, since Steve dropped ours down the drain at the B and B. Oops! And we got some shampoo and stuff.
We´re on the street and there is this lady with a puppy Chiuaha ' I mean we´re talking a pound or two and its ears were pierced! It was so bizzare. We are admiring the little dog and she spontaneously decides to plump the dog in my arms.....so there will be photos.
We tried to use the ATM to no avail. Apparently, increments over $20 are just too much to handle out here. At first, we were like Uht.....oh.....not again with this ATM card!!! After a visit at a bank, some scratching of our foreheads, and the advice of an American tourist, it finally worked out when we did small increments. Getting into the bank was no easy feat. There is an armed security guard there who instructs you to lock up your bags/purses, remove hats and sunglasses, and then enter one at a time through automatic glass doors. Actually, no hats and sunglasses is probably a good idea here as well!
So here´s the cool thing, we just found out that we´re staying with a local family tonight in their home. We knock on their door and they are the nicest people, named Sonia and Stuart. They have 2 children (a son in his late teens/early 20s named Steve, which they pronounce "ehSteve") and daughter we never saw (perhaps she's grown and out of the house?). They made us a HUGE lunch, and to be polite we tried to eat the whole thing. I thought we were sharing the large plate until Sonia put another plate down!!! It was gallo pinto, eggs, and what we would call pico de gallo here, but I am not sure what they call it. It was all very good and they were soooo hospitable.
It´s interesting to be in their home. I get an extremely good energy from these people. They're just a pleasure to be around. They speak pretty much no English, so we've been making major use of the phrasebook and dictionaries here. We actually have been able to communicate with them and it has been working out. We have learned a lot about Espanol here and are committed to learning to speaking it fluently when we get home. Here they are:
Stuart drove us back to Amistad where I am typing this now. Amistad is cool. There are lots of young people here and it's very organized. I didn't realize it at first, but after chatting with them for awhile we learned that Robert and his wife Rebecca own Amistad and started it about 6 years ago. They are the same age as Steve and me! Very inspiring. They were very cool. Here they are:
We hung out with everyone for a bit before going down to a river which was really nice. Some dogs followed us down there. The river was loudly flowing over the rocks and when the wind blew, the bamboo trees creaked and swayed. Costa Rica provides the most interesting sounds. An observation I made is that there are dogs everywhere in this country. These dogs were well cared for, but not all of them are. Many were emaciated. It was very heartbreaking to see. On a good note, there was a lazy Chow Chow hanging out at Amistad......likely the cutest dog I ever saw.....like a big teddy bear. I particularly like the big fluffy dogs. I took his picture.
Tonight we go back to our host family´s house and in the morning we´re off. We thought we´d be in Ostional, but flexibility is a necessity on trips like these. So tomorrow we are on buses for the better part of the day with a girl from Bristol in the UK. It will be the 3 of us. This is all very exciting.
Anyway, it has been interesting and Steve´s brushing up on his Spanish, big time with Sonia and Stuart and I have been learning a lot!! Total immersion. I pretty much have a dictionary on my lap the whole time. This is their kitchen. They live a clutter-free life, unlike us Americans!
Argh!!! We miss the girls. The best way to communicate with us is to leave comments here. We may or may not be checking emails. We´ll be back as soon as possible. We have more to tell but not until we return so no one worries!