A Late Halloween Update

24 11 2010

Miguel and I love Halloween.  There is something so fun about dressing up in ridiculous costumes and making a complete fool of yourself.  And in all honesty, it most likely stems from the obscenely crazy Halloweens we would have in college.  Every Halloween I can remember with Miguel has been EPIC.  From our first Halloween together when his Bunny costume (that I made for him out of old woman’s sweat pants) beat my Wonder Woman costume in a costume contest.  He won 100 dollars for that one!  Or the year we dressed up as Minnie and Micky Mouse and Miguel was randomly assaulted by a stranger, who apparently had something against Micky Mouse. This Halloween, although away from our closest friends, was not going to go uncelebrated.

It was a little hard to find costumes for this Halloween because Costa Rica doesn’t celebrate it.  The country is predominantly Catholic, and it is believed to be the “devil’s holiday”.  We had increased pressure and difficulty finding costumes when an 80′s theme was set on the party.  How do you create an 80′s Halloween costume from scratch?  Most people went as the standard 80′s workout girl, but Miguel and I aren’t really into “standard” costumes.  So, we drew from what we loved best in the 80′s… the cartoons!

Miguel went as Grumpy Bear from the Care Bears, and I went as Rainbow Brite, which ended up just looking like a girl with some rainbow stuff on… sad.  Nevertheless, we had a great time, and I snapped a ton of pictures, and I will attempt to tell you the small details in captions.

Miguel looks great as Grumpy Bear!

The Care Bear Stare!

Our friends(from left): Larry Bird, Magnum P.I., and John Rambo

At some point this strange guy started doing this cool fire-spinny show...

It looked dangerous, but he let random people try anyway... I stayed clear of that.

The food was fun! Zombie cheese ball

Cat Poop cookies... Nobody ate these

And someone brought this italian guy straight from the airport and he started cooking.


He said he brought meat and cheese with him in his suit case.

It was AMAZING. The whole thing was gone in a matter of minutes

Magnum Approved!

There was a giant Rubics Cube
Then this random drunk guy sat on it…

It slowly deflated and everyone simultanously said, "ohhhhhhhh".


But before it was squished, I took this amazing picture!

Overall, it was a good night.  We ate well, we laughed, and we made memories with new friends.  Hope you like the pictures.

This Thanksgiving we are headed out of town.  We are going to Montezuma.  Here is a link of the place we are staying. It should be a great time… but I’m already missing my family and the yummy turkey feast.  Love and miss you all.  V-


Volcan Poas!

16 11 2010

2nd largest crater in the world? I am not sure but it was big!

On Sunday we had the opportunity to take a trip to a volcano! Poas Volcano is one of the largest craters in the world. We went with a couple of friends. It was a great day full of driving through mountains, stopping to buy fresh strawberries, seeing random waterfalls and lakes, wearing warm winter clothes (it’s cold next to that volcano!), and eating at a mom and pop Italian place. The day was wonderful, and we managed to snap quite a few pictures. It was a beautiful day.  I think that the pictures will do a much better job of conveying our experience than any words, so here you go:

Vanessa and a Vanessa Sized leaf

Poas erupting

Poas Sign






I am not sure I would swim in the sulfer lake...

Lake almost as beautiful as the wife

water on flower

Together, loving CR

La Paz waterfall

blue lake through the foliage

look at it!

Everything is so green!

Leaf with flowers

Eating like a dinosaur!

Rain and Tragedy

5 11 2010

What a crazy week here.  It rained and rained and as I write this it is still raining.  We have not lived here very long but one thing we have learned pretty quickly is that when it rains, there are usually mudslides.

All of Wednesday, there was a feeling of discomfort in the air. Every time I looked out the window of my classroom, the rain blurred the trees that are not more than 15 ft away. After work, I splashed down the street to Spanish class. During class we had to stop talking multiple times because the rain became too loud.

On Wednesday, Vanessa and I laid down to go to sleep but the pounding of the rain on the roof made it difficult.  As we started to doze off, I told her a fact that I had looked up earlier:  In the some parts of Costa Rica they had received 1.5 ft of rain in two days, that is more rain than Colorado averages in a year. We slept restlessly. It’s hard getting use to such heavy rain.

Vanessa and I woke up on Thursday to the phone ringing.  It was Andrea and Brandon telling us that there was no school because there had been a major mudslide in San Antonio de Escazu, and others around the country.  San Antonio is just up the hill from us, maybe 3 minutes.  My first reaction was to be happy, it was like a snow day, but then the reality began to sink in.  A mudslide that would cancel school, not just our school but every school around the country, meant that something was probably bad.  It was, it is a tragedy.

The cable, internet and cell service was out at our house, which was nothing compared to the 800,000 people without water or electricity; regardless, we started to piece together the facts pretty quickly and as of last night it totaled to 20 people dead, and 12 missing.  They didn’t even try to count how many houses were gone, obliterated, as if they never existed.

It is such a tragic time here, you can feel it.  The damage is clearly read on the streets, and we don’t have school for the remainder of this week. If something like this happens in the States, it is sad, yes, but life can go back to normal relatively quickly.  Here, not so much. There is not much equipment helping with the clean up, it is men, friends, and families. From what I know, and have seen, the beautiful area in San Antonio de Escazu will not return to normal, ever. The scars will not be erased, like they would in the States.

Mine and Vanessa’s hearts are heavy as we think about the people that were affected, so very, very close to home.  But we are okay, we are fine.  We still love it here, but it does bring a bit of realism as we live out our dreams.

Here is a link to a Costa Rican newspaper article on the disaster:  Tico Times (in English)

Hola! Necessito un Taxi!

1 11 2010

Hey people!  I’m back!  I owe Miguel big time for picking up my slack these past few weeks.  I have been busy, but things are on the up!  Now to your long awaited post:

With the decision of not buying a car, Miguel and I have fully embraced other modes of transport.  We initially toyed with the idea of buying bicycles, but quickly scratched that idea when we saw the price of bicycles, and remembered that walking is pretty dangerous enough.  No need to add the awkwardness of two wheels, bumpy roads, keeping work clothes clean, and speed to our already exhilarating walk to work. (And in reality, Miguel would probably do just fine on a bicycle.  But, he is being kind and choosing to huff it with me, the uncoordinated way).

So for now, to get to and from work, we walk or catch a ride with our neighbors.  The rides are nice, but we are constantly reminded of why we didn’t buy a car.  Our neighbors have put so much money and time into their car for repairs, taxes, tickets, etc.  We are really fortunate to have made the choice we did.

Well, you’re wondering… “How do you get your groceries?  What if you want to go out?  The gym?  The mall?  What if it’s raining like crazy?  What if it’s too dark out to walk?”  Calm down.  We have an answer…


It took us awhile to get use to riding in a taxi.  There is something inherently awkward about riding around with a complete stranger who is singing along with Alanis Morrisette as they drive like a maniac honking at every car that even looks like it might get in their way.  And I’m not joking, this shit happens.  But, we have a choice in what type of taxi to ride around in.

First, there are the Escazu Taxis.

Escazu taxis are all red with a yellow sticker.

These guys all dress the same.  They all have very clean and well manicured cars.  They all play quiet non offensive music, and they all drive pretty cautiously.  They all have a meter and a standard rate.  Did I mention that they are all extremely quiet and nice?  What’s the downside?  None of them know where the hell ANYTHING is!  It’s crazy.  You would think that if they drove around Escazu all day everyday, they would know where the center of town is… nope.  I have had many Escazu Taxis go the wrong way after they said they understood my directions.  Good thing I live near Chi Chi’s (Costa Rican Hooters).  They all know where that place is!

The meter is called, "La Maria", because she's always watching... creepy.

The best landmark. Sad, I know.











And then, there are the Pirate Taxis.


The Black Scurvy!

The company is Anca, but they are called pirates because they run without a meter.  “Piratas” in Spanish.  These guys all dress in whatever they want.  One guy, I swear, was in Pj’s, but most are in polo’s and jeans.   They are all characters.  It’s almost like they have to pass a creepy test to become a pirata.  One guy has some gold teeth and crazy gold rings.  One guy is so big his head touches the ceiling as he drives.  Another guy has a mohawk… they run the gamut.  One guarantee is that you will always get some music: latin, Alanis, or otherwise.  Some have pretty nice cars that are well kept, others are driving cars that will stall every time they stop.  They don’t have a meter, so you have to know about how much it costs to go where you want, or they will just take your money.  If you overpay a pirate, they will let you!  What’s the upside?  There are two positives.  One, they know where everything is!  It’s magical.  You tell them where you want to go and they just take you there!  And two, they drive like maniacs!  Not only do they know every side road there is in town, they drive to get you there in the shortest amount of time possible.  They don’t waste your time.  Those positives make all the other weird stuff about the pirates pretty endearing and fun.  They are a mixed bag, you never know what you are getting into when you call a taxi, but you do know they will get you where you need to go.

Even with having a go-to taxi company, we have learned some pretty interesting things while getting in the routine of using a taxi.  Here are some questions we learned the answers to pretty quickly:

Inside of a Pirata cab. This guy was pretty normal looking.

Is it best to sit in the back seat or the front? I always assumed that it was kind of rude to sit in the back seat with a taxi driver.  I mean… they are driving me somewhere, why should I be so distant and awkward?  At first, Miguel and I would quickly call front or back like kids call “shotgun”; only neither of us wanted the “shotgun”.  Then one day Miguel said, “Why are you being so weird!  No one has to sit in the front.  Let’s just sit in the back.”  What happened was, I had called backseat first, and he was pissed that he had to sit in front… so the rules changed 🙂  Now, we both sit in the back together.  If I’m alone, I sit in the front.  It just seems right.

What is appropriate conversation with a taxi driver?  The answer to this question is pretty dependent on how much Spanish you know or are willing to risk speaking.  General topics usually range from, “Are you very busy today?”,  “Do you have a lot of work today?” “Are there normally cows on this road?” “I am a teacher of English at Country Day” “Yes I take Spanish classes” … um… that’s about it.  Obviously we need to work on our conversation skills.

Pick a card, any card..

What do you say when you call a taxi? It’s funny now to look back at the first time I called a taxi.  Talking on the phone in Spanish, is one of the hardest things to do when you don’t speak Spanish.  Go figure, right?  I know the first few weeks that we called Anca for a ride, the dispatch lady hated our English speaking guts.  Often, she would just say, “OK”, and hang up on us.  It wasn’t until a week or two later that we learned she wanted to know our NAME!  We kept saying, “Que?”  What is it that you want? To our defense, she was saying “Por Quien?” which translates to “For Which?”  it wasn’t until we asked our Spanish teacher that we realized what she wanted from us.  Now the incredibly grumpy dispatch lady was understandable.  Now that she no longer finds us as annoying, we have rapidly been accepted by her and the Piratas.  She knows us by name, and all the Piratas do as well.  The other day one a friend was trying to get to our place in a taxi, and all she said was “Vanessa and Miguel” and the taxi knew where she wanted to go!  (We’re kind of a big deal.  People know us.  We have many leather-bound books.)

How do you get them to where your at, and how do you get them to take you where you want to go (believe me, without addresses, shit is hard)?  This was probably the hardest lesson we have had to learn… and we still struggle with it from time to time.  Yesterday we just walked home because it was easier than getting a taxi to the place we were at.  If we want to be picked up at the house, only Anca knows how to get here (I wasn’t lying when I said, it’s hard).  My go-to for getting home is “Conoce Chi Chi’s?”  which means “Do you know where Chi Chi’s is?” if the answer is yes, then we’re good.  If the answer is no, usually I just revert to straight, left, and right.  Because, I know at this point, I know Escazu better than the guy driving me.  Last week, I had a really hard time getting a taxi to pick me up after tutoring.  I had to tell the dispatch lady 3 different directions and she told me a few times she didn’t understand anything I was saying.  Finally she got that I was 200 meters North of a shopping center, and we hung up.  I had to wait quite awhile for that taxi.

Taking taxis has been a crash course for us.  It has been fun and I’m sure we will continue to learn (i.e. Miguel accidentally left his keys in the cab last week) but we are having an adventure, and it’s so cool to be exposed to such new things and strange people.  I mean, who can honestly say they hang out with a pirate on a regular basis?



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