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Walking on Stars and Malaria

Denver, United States

I would like to start off by acknowledging how awful I am at keeping up with my writing when life gets full and exciting. I firmly believe in living life rather than spending most of my time writing about it, but given the fact that I disappeared from this blog for about 20 days, all I can say is,"Ooops." Lol, sorry about that.

Amy and I have been sitting in the Denver airport for about 6 hours now, with another 4 to go before we hop back on a plane to San Francisco. Where did the month go? I am simultaneously excited to go home and see my loved ones and pets and sleep in my own bed and horrified at the idea of returning to reality, especially a reality in which my most academically difficult year of grad school looms on the horizon (whose hair-brained idea was it to go back to school again? Oh yeah, that was me...). In less than a week, my hair will need to be a color that is found in nature again, and I will have to start wearing slacks instead of the same pair of quick-dry hiking shorts for 5 days in a row. Often, I am tempted to run away to southeast Asian or Iceland or Ghana or someplace of the sort in order to learn more about the world and hopefully help the underprivileged communities in it. And evade my student loans, which are accumulating interest with every second that passes. But alas, running away is not my style. Denial is more my thing, and it has gotten me through many difficult periods of my life. For instance, I am in the midst of a 10 hour layover in the Denver International Airport after waking up at 2:30 am this morning and not sleeping much since then. If I had allowed myself to fathom how long 10 hours can be when one is sleep deprived and $16 airport sandwiches are the only available form of sustenance, getting myself out of my hostel bed in San Jose this morning would have been much more difficult. Similarly, if I let myself acknowledge just how much work I am going to have soon and how much debt I am accumulating to do this work, I would drop out of grad school instantly. My semi-professional opinion as someone who will one day be a professional is that a mild amount of denial is adaptive and we humans would accomplish far less without it because we'd be too freaking scared to do much of anything.

Also, yes, folks, that's right: your therapist may indeed dye his/her hair blue and advocate denial when on vacation. Crazy, huh?

Anywaaaay...I feel that my sleep deprivation is leading me off on tangents. Back to Costa Rica! I left off in Montezuma, right after the ocean started glowing and Amy and I thought, "Hmmm, this must be what an acid flashback feels like." But good news! We went back the next night and the ocean glowed again! We also noticed that when we walked in the sand that was still wet from the waves, the ground around our feet lit up every time we took a step! It was amazing...kind of like walking on stars. Amy and I spent a decent amount of time pretending that we were walking on stars, but Amy wasn't feeling well, so eventually we retreated to our hostel for another night.

That brings up another fun topic...what to do when your girlfriend falls ill in a tropical country with scary-ass diseases. The morning after our first bioluminescent adventure, Amy awoke with a slight fever, a headache, and a generally achey blah feeling. My first thought: MALARIA (apparently I have inherited some anxious overreacting tendencies from my parents). Amy assured me that she probably did not have malaria and it could just be the flu...such minor illnesses do exist outside of the United States. I was not convinced, and proceeded to look under the "Health" section of my Lonely Planet, just in case. In this section was a list of potentially fatal diseases one can contract in Costa Rica, including Dengue Fever, Leishmaniasis, Typhoid Fever, HIV, and our old friends, the Hepatitises. Amy gently reminded me that it was possible to contract most of these diseases in the United States as well. Still, I went into a tizzy. Maybe there had been Leptospirosis in the fresh water pool we swam in?! Or maybe Amy accidentally stepped into the ocean and some of the red tide toxins had entered her bloodstream through a microscopic cut and now HER legs were going to fall off?! And potentially glow in the dark?! I found out where the nearest medical clinic was, in addition to the nearest hospital, and talked to our hostel about how we would get Amy there if necessary. Amy and I laid on our bed under the mosquito net and watched the howler monkeys outside of our window and the hundreds of ants who had decided that our room would suffice as a breeding ground due to all the rain outside. I had just started thinking about how I could evacuate Amy to the U.S. if necessary when she announced that she was beginning to feel better, lol. I think a bit of denial in the moments directly before that announcement may have lowered my blood pressure. But hey, you do what you can, right?

Okay, it is finally nearing time for Amy and I to hop on our last plane. I am going to go buy one more $16 sandwich. I will try to go back and recount more of our Costa Rica adevntures (there were lots), but there is a distinct possibility that I may not have much time when I get home. If not, maybe I'll publish a book of stories in a few years when I'm done hiding from the government/my student loans in southeast Asia or Iceland or Ghana. Until then, adios!

permalink written by  kfox on July 26, 2012 from Denver, United States
from the travel blog: Costa Rica!
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Satan and Glowing Oceans

Montezuma, Costa Rica

At 4:00 this morning, Amy and I awoke to a sound that we were pretty sure was Satan. Now, neither of us are really inclined to believe in Satan--the whole Hell/fire and brimstone package is particularly bleak for the gays--but at that moment, we were pretty sure Satan had taken the form of a giant, angry pig who was rallying his minions right outside our window. Quickly, we closed the heavy wooden shutters on our window and latched them shut. The irate pig/Satan noises continued until about 6 am. Welcome to the rainforest.

The last few days have been interesting. Two days ago, Amy and I took a 6 am bus from Monteverde to Puntarenas, where we followed a couple of people who were in search of the ferry that goes from Puntarenas to Paquera. For those of you who have not read the Lonely Planet's segment on Puntarenas, it is described as a port city of "polluted waters, seedy environs, and slow decay." Add to this delightful description the stifling combination of heat and humidity and the long walk carrying both my large backpacking backpack and my daypack from the bus drop off to the ferry (a local man insisted that it was 500 meters, a little over a quarter of a mile, away; his 500 meters turned into 500 liters of sweat that was pouring from my body, as I was wearing long pants and a sweater to keep warm through the chilly Monteverde morning and the walk was actually closer to a mile long), and you have my definition of Hell, sans the satanic pig, George W. Bush and a legion of his followers, and the Petula Clark song "Downtown" on repeat that would be necessary to make me truly miserable for all of eternity. By the time we were done following a local man ("only 500 meters!") and a fellow traveler from Colombia who had charmed this sweet but misinformed man into guiding us, I was drenched in my own sweat and ready to kill something. Amy alternated between laughing at me (she had a t-shirt!) and empathizing ("I know, it really is very hot"), while I schlepped down the smelly, fishy streets with my backpack on my back and my daypack on my front and repeated over and over, "I hate this place." I almost cried with joy when we finally got to the ferry and got a cool juice with the Colombian girl, Karin. I'm not sure that I made a very good first impression since the first thing I did was tear wildly through my backpack looking for a t-shirt and shorts and run my sweaty self over to the bathroom without introducing myself, but Amy must have done okay because Karin hung out with us on the ferry ride to Paquera, and then again on the taxi ride from Paquera to Montezuma. She even asked if she could share a hostel room with us (we said yes, only to realize that she didn't know that Amy and I were dating, so Amy gave me a look and I chased her down and told her before she paid for the room--fortunately, she was fine with it). Then came Amy's turn to make an impression. The first thing Amy, Karin, and I did after booking our room at Hotel Luna Llena was go to a lovely cafe called Organico to get dinner. Amy accidentally ate two bites of salad with honey on it and promptly began to go into anaphylaxis. The gentle, dreadlocked hippie man behind the counter kindly did not charge us for the Salad of Death, but did take his time writing out our receipt, while Amy wheezed in the corner. Fortunately, a couple of Benadryl, a Prednisone, and rest back at the hostel were enough to restore Amy's breathing capacity--we can save her epipen for other Salads of Death. Karin decided that she was going to go explore Montezuma on her own, LOL.

So, besides this initial exciting day, Montezuma has been AMAZING so far. It is a smaaaall town composed primarily of expatriate hippies who either wear bathing suits or flowing articles of earth-toned clothing with no bras. It is a sleepy beach town where local artists sell their unique and macrame jewelry, over half of the inhabitants have dreadlocks, and marijuana is culturally, though not legally, embraced (for this, it has earned the nickname "Montefuma"). Upon originally arriving, Amy and I were excited (hippies! Feels like home), and then disappointed (surprisingly, the hippies weren't super friendly and kind of stared at us a lot. Perhaps we looked too normal? But I have blue hair. Maybe we should have taken our bras off...?), and now we are blown away again. Yesterday, Karin, Amy, and I went on a walk down the beaches of the Peninsula de Nicoya, the strip of land that Montezuma is on. We would walk down one beach, have a short jaunt in the woods when this beach disappeared, and then reemerge on a different beach. It was hot and we were warned by a local not to swim in the ocean if we had any wounds because a red tide had just come in. Apparently, red tides occur when a certain kind of toxic algae blooms in the ocean, giving the waves a reddish color. Because I had fallen down and scraped up my leg earlier that day, I was particularly paranoid that if I went into the ocean, my legs would fall off. But it was soooo hot and soooo humid and we had all this water lapping up onto the shore to taunt us. Fortunately, we found a natural fresh water pool next to one of the beaches to swim in. It was so cool and beautiful, and we spent a good amount of time there,swimming and watching the local hippies play with their unkempt packs of dogs. It wasn't until we read Lonely Planet later that we learned there are several dangers in Costa Rican fresh water as well, including leptospirosis and fresh water snapping turtles, who can take off a person's hand with one clean bite. Ooops.

After wandering away from the pool and back into the woods, Karin, Amy, and I were intercepted on the trail by a large, bright orange, yellow, and purple crab that was dragging a leaf across the path. We looked up onto the hillside and saw that there were hundreds of these crabs poking out of hundreds of holes on the dirt hillside. We spent a good deal of time trying to capture these crabs on camera, but it was difficult because as soon as we got close to them, they would rapidly retreat into their holes like neon tarantulas--if they hadn't been so scared of us, I probably would have found the lot of them downright creepy. There are so many exciting and beautiful things in this country!

The best part of the day, however, was actually during the night. Karin, Amy, and I had stumbled upon a beach resort/restaurant on our way home and stopped there to get some drinks and tapas. This resort (the Ylang Ylang) was right on the ocean and has a roof but no walls, so we had a clear view of the water from our table. It was from here that we watched the sky change from a sunny, clear blue to a stormy blue as the clouds rolled in for an afternoon thunderstorm. Suddenly, we were in the middle of a monsoon as the sky dumped enough water fill a second Lake Tahoe. The coolest part, however, was that because the restaurant had a roof but no walls, we felt like we were in the middle of the storm without having to get wet at all. The sky cleared long enough to give us a beautiful pink sunset, and then darkened into night, while lightning struck on the horizon; it was incredibly beautiful. After we were done at the restaurant, we walked home along the beach. At one point, we stopped to look at the waves and were stunned to see that they were glowing. Amy and I turned to look at each other with raised eyebrows--was the ocean actually glowing, or had we consumed a couple too many pina coladas? We sat on a log and watched the dark water as it rose and curled into waves, then turned a bright, luminescent turquoise before crashing down to rejoin the dark. We looked at each other again--perhaps we had a Montefuma contact high? Or perhaps we had been exposed to an unknown hallucinogen in the jungle? Either way, we both were both hallucinating the same thing, and it was BEAUTIFUL. Upon going back to our hostel, we read that red tides sometimes cause bioluminescence in the ocean, primarily the parts where the water is moving about a lot (i.e. waves). I had seen this before once in Puerto Rico, but it had been due to phosphorescent plankton in still water that only glowed when you moved the water yourself. This ocean was glowing all on its own, and it was amazing. It was like a light show that came to life every time a wave curled over itself; everything would be dark, and then horizontal streaks of light would shoot from one end of our vision to the other, like a train speeding through a tunnel. Very, very cool. Amy and I would like to go back tonight just to make sure we weren't hallucinating.

Also, the noises that woke us up this morning? Howler monkeys, in the trees outside of our hostel room. We could SEE THEM from inside our room! And there were babies!!! Costa Rica is an amazing place. :)

permalink written by  kfox on July 8, 2012 from Montezuma, Costa Rica
from the travel blog: Costa Rica!
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Kirstendiana Jones and Crazy Trees

Montezuma, Costa Rica

Even though Amy and I have moved on from Monteverde to Montezuma, I will of course be going back and talking some more about Monteverde, lol. Amy and I had the pleasure of going on a 4 hour hike with Johnny, a guide whose parents own the hostel we were staying at. Johnny was very friendly, spoke English very well, grew up in the Monteverde area, and had a university degree in biology, all of which made him an excellent guide. Sadly for my ass muscles, the first thing he did was take us up an incredibly steep hill for an hour. If there was any bit of me that was in denial about how I had been slacking on maintaining my physical fitness since beginning grad school--where I sit on said ass muscles for 7 hours two days a week for classes, 6 hours for practicum training, 3 hours for supervision, and countless hours for homework, reading, and studying instead of exercising--this denial was quickly drowned by the massive amounts of lactic acid that immediately flooded my lower body, making every muscle scream, "Why, bitch, why?!" But this screaming occasionally subsided when Johnny stopped to show us a beautiful wild orchid or citronella fruit (yes, the kind they make candles from). We also saw a coati, a relative of the raccoon, chilling in a tree. Johnny explained how this coati was a male because it was all alone--apparently, female coatis raise their male babies long enough to make sure they don't die and then promptly chase them out of the pack, where they live solitary lives until nature instructs them to go mate. At this point, they fight viciously with a bunch of other males, and whoever wins gets to mate with anywhere from 30-45 females. The males who lose often go off and die from injuries sustained in these fights, never having sex and spreading their genes. Occasionally, these males survive and live in trees for tourists to spot. Hearing what these poor creatures went through quickly put the pain in my ass into perspective.

Anyhoo, Amy, Johnny, and I eventually made it to the top of the giant hill, much to my body's relief. From there, we hiked through some of the only primary rainforest left in Monteverde. Primary rainforest is rainforest that has never been cut down, whereas secondary rainforest is rainforest that has been allowed to regenerate after the primary rainforest has been cut down; all of the canopy tours, ziplines, etc. take place in secondary forest. You can tell the primary from the secondary because it is much denser. We spotted some random things in this rainforest, including a frogs, butterflies, and hallucinogenic mushrooms. It was a very cool walk through a lot of mud and giant, vine-covered trees, and I kind of felt like I was Indiana Jones. I also miraculously managed not to fall on my butt despite how slippery and muddy the trail sometimes was...take that, jungle!

Amy was tired after our hike and opted out of the night walk that we had scheduled with Johnny. As a result, it was just me and Johnny wandering through the rainforest. First, he took me to a giant strangler fig tree (a higuerón tree) that was hollow all the way up the inside, and whose outside branches formed a kind of ladder that allowed you to climb up through the hollow bit to the top of the tree. Johnny asked if I would like to do this even though it was unorthodox tour behavior, and I, being a fan of tree-climbing, instantly said, "Ohmygod YES!" We put on headlamps and climbed up the inside of the tree. I got a taste of what spelunking must feel like, because at one point the tree got very narrow and I wasn't sure my grad school figure would allow me through this small space. But I made it and we sat in the treetop in the Monteverde rainforest and talked about life a bit. I totally want a tree like this in my backyard someday, wherever I choose to settle down.

Next, Johnny took me to the Children's Eternal Rainforest. You know all those kids asking for money to help save the rainforest? Well, this money has gone a long way and created a 220 km nature reserve. We went to the small part of the reserve that humans are allowed into and wandered down the Sendero Bajo del Tigre, although we didn't see any jaguars. We did, however, see many awesome things, including a sleeping sloth, a sleeping toucan, and sleeping butterflies (apparently many animals sleep at night...that's another thing I haven't done much of since starting grad school). We also saw a tarantula (it took me forever to find my camera so poor Johnny had to keep bating it with a stick) and these crazy porcupines; apparently in Costa Rica, porcupines dwell in trees and have monkey-like tails that they can hang from. It was awesome, and I was sad to leave such a beautiful place. But on to the next beautiful place. :)

permalink written by  kfox on July 6, 2012 from Montezuma, Costa Rica
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Venomous Snakes and Ziplining!

Monte Verde, Costa Rica

I am always super behind in writing about my adventures. Let me try to catch up.

Currently, I am in Monteverde, a beautiful cloud forest inhabited by a good deal of biodiversity, Ticos (Costa Ricans) and, oddly enough, Quakers. Amy and I got here on the 3rd and have been frolicking in the rainforest ever since. But first things first: saying good-bye to Essence Arenal and El Castillo was hard. We felt so safe there and we want to go back. Our last day, we visited a Serpentarium, or a reptile museum down the road from our hostel. Our tour was led by Juan, a Tico about my age with an eyebrow ring and dreadlocks down to his thighs, who informed us that there are 135 species of snakes in Costa Rica, and of these, only 17 are venomous (still seems like a large number to me, lol). Juan let me, Amy, and three Belgian women hold a variety of nonvenomous snakes and lizards (well, he offered the reptiles to the Belgian women, but mostly they squealed and said, "No no no!"). He also showed us the multitude of poisonous snakes that are found in Costa Rica, including 4 kinds of coral snakes, sea snakes, 1 kind of neotropical rattlesnake, and a shit ton of pit vipers, who are named pit viper because of a 'pit' located behind their eyes that senses heat from prey. Pit vipers also have triangular wedges for heads and elliptical vertical pupils like cats. The two most abundant species are the eyelash palm-pit viper (has lacey scales over its eyes that look like eyelashes) and the Fer de lance (incredibly aggressive and poisonous and ALL OVER Costa Rica...yay!). Other species include the hognosed pit viper, the jumping pit viper, the bushmaster (the biggest viper on the PLANET), and the Godman's montane pit viper. Apparently, running into coral snakes is only a problem if they bite your toes or fingers, because their mouths only open 45 degrees and cannot wrap around bigger body parts. Vipers, on the other hand, can open their mouths a complete 180 degrees, meaning that they can bite you anywhere from the tip of your nose to your entire head. And they often live in trees; yay. We also petted a 240 pound boa constrictor named Elise, held these awesome green tree frogs with bright orange eyes and blue sides (but when they sleep, they cover up all their bright bits and totally look like green leaves...cool), and saw butterflies that are bright blue on one side and brown with eye-like spots on the other (this is so they look like owls and snakes when their wings are folded so that predators don't bother them). Then we moved on to a bunch of venomous tarantulas, and I got to hold one! Of course, this was only after Juan assured me that these spiders were used to being held and never bite humans, and if they did, the venom would make me sick rather than kill me. I was the only one dumb enough to partake in that activity, lol...Amy stood back and took pictures. :P

As cool as the tour was, one of the best parts was directly after. Amy had been telling Juan about how much she missed our dog and showed him a picture of her on the camera. Juan said, "She looks kind of like my dog!" and immediately ran up the street to fetch his dogs so they could comfort Amy. It was so sweet! I love Costa Ricans.

The next day, Amy and I took a Jeep-boat-Jeep trip to Monteverde. The only way to get to Monteverde from El Castillo besides take a 7 hour bus is to take a jeep to the lake, cross it in a boat, and then take another jeep up and down the extremely rough roads leading to Monteverde. Amy and I are actually staying in Cerroplano, a neighborhood in between Monteverde and Santa Elena. So far, we have purchased me a new pair of hiking boots (we went to a family-run shop in Santa Elena, where they only had random sizes in each kind of shoe--everyone, including a couple of five-year-olds, were scurrying around the shop looking for 8.5 hiking boots lol), eaten at a restaurant built like a giant treehouse, taken a canopy tour on a series of hanging bridges in the rainforest in which we spotted both howler monkeys and capuchin monkeys (the howler monkeys stuck around the longest and positioned themselves right above us--according to our guide, this was so they could shit on us), gone ziplining, and consumed fruity alcoholic beverages while watching an intense lightening storm on the 4th of July.

For those of you who have never ziplined, think of it as clinging to a pulley with a handle on it as it speeds across a cable 150-400 feet above the rainforest. Amy, ever the trooper, has a pronounced fear of heights. However, for some reason unknown to both of us, she selected me as a girlfriend; not only am i not afraid of heights, but i am also an adrenaline junkie (much to my parents' dismay). Due to the unfortunate combination of these conditions, Amy and I ended up on a zipline tour, and I'm fairly surprised that karma did not strike me down as Amy climbed onto the first zipline platform, the expression on her face so solemn that Medusa herself would have turned to stone upon looking at it. Even I was a bit nervous at this point: we had ridden up the mountain in a gondola and climbed about 8 stories on a bare bones metal platform, where it seemed that a strong gust of wind might surely send us plummeting into the rainforest below. But there was no plummeting--at least, no unplanned plummeting besides the initial descent in every zipline. We even got to do some tandem ziplines, where Amy and I rode down the zipline at the same time (something possessed me to yell "I love you!" every time we did one of these tandems, which may have been the reason that the guides kept asking Amy and I how we knew each other. Amy even admitted to having fun by the end of the 9 ziplines, although she also insisted that she felt no need to do it again. All in all, an excellent 4th of July. :)

permalink written by  kfox on July 5, 2012 from Monte Verde, Costa Rica
from the travel blog: Costa Rica!
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Reality and kindness at the hot springs

La Fortuna, Costa Rica

Amy and I had the interesting experience of visiting La Fortuna's hot springs the other day after our Cerro Chato ascent. The Arenal region is well known for its hot springs, which result from the same thermal activity that brought Costa Rica the 1968 eruption and mini explosions/lava runs ever since. Most of these hot springs can be found within the walls of fancy-ass resorts that cost anywhere from $60-85 a visit. We may have been lured into spending this large sum of money if it hadn't been for our friendly hostel staff and their cheapo, hippie tendencies. They told us of a place right outside of Tabacon Hot Springs (the really big fancy resort) where the water from Tabacon is emptied out into a canal/creek and anyone can sit in this nice, hot water for free. We were super excited and asked our shuttle driver to drop us off at said location so we could relax our sore legs after the crazy hike we did earlier that day. He did, and we walked down to the springs and stripped off our mud-clad hiking boots. I looked around at other flip flops that had been strewn across the side of the springs and asked Amy, "Do you think it's okay if we leave these here?" She wrinkled her nose and said, "Who would want our nasty hiking boots?" So we left them there, but brought our backpacks with us to the other side of the springs, where we set them on the shore and waded into the warm water.

At Tabacon, it is rumored that there are over ten different pools with different kinds of water, each at different temperatures and with different natural minerals that have various health benefits. There are supposedly floating bars in the middle of said pools, and waterfalls of delightfully warm water that cascade down upon the spa's patrons. One can have about 10 different kinds of massages at Tabacon for an additional fee, as well as facials, skin treatments, and other girly stuff that I have never had the know-how or financial resources to have done. However, despite the fact that we were relaxing in Tabacon's leftover water, Amy and I were definitely not at Tabacon. First of all, a good deal of the free hot springs lay underneath a bridge with cars driving over it. Costa Rican families dotted the springs, mostly mothers playing with their kids in the rushing warm water (sooo cute), and many stared at us at Amy and I waded into the water in our hiking clothes. It wasn't Tabacon, but it felt more culturally explorative and real. And then the old, fat men with the Speedos showed up and shit got realer. As they floated about in the water near us, then next to us, then "accidentally" grazing us with plump, pruney fingers as they swam by, I was reminded that, although Amy and I had not been hit on in Costa Rica nearly as much as Peru (maybe it's the blue hair?), men everywhere can be skeezy. And then, a 13 year old boy totally redeemed his gender by approaching Amy and me and warning us to stay away from the fat, old Speedo men because they were very drunk. We looked over and saw the boy's mother and her friend looking at us earnestly and nodding. I was truly touched; I like to think that for every asshole in the world there are at least two nice people to make up for him/her. Amy and I immediately got up and moved to another part of the springs, and the women and the boy followed us a few minutes later in what felt like solidarity. No one stole our backpacks or even attempted to, and I felt a connection to these people. It didn't matter that they actually lived here and we were tourists; they still wanted to take care of us, even though we were invading their free hot springs. And if our roles had been reversed, I would have done the same for them.

Then I went back to the shore and found that, of all things, my hiking boots had been stolen. Not Amy's, just mine, even in their post-hike, poo-brown glory. Even my nasty-ass socks were gone. But that's beside the point; for all I know, it was another tourist who took them. The point is that, while their are gross, horny men in Speedos in every corner of the world, there are also sweet people who are willing to help a complete stranger. I aspire to be one of these sweet people who sees the humanity in others above all else.

permalink written by  kfox on July 3, 2012 from La Fortuna, Costa Rica
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Cerro Chato climb leaves me blue

La Fortuna, Costa Rica

Okay, I only have time for a short entry, and brevity has never been my strong point, lol. Amy and I climbed a Volcano yesterday! We went to the Arenal Observatory Lodge (which is kind of like a state park, only fancier) and hiked up Cerro Chato, the dormant Volcano right next to Arenal. This hike involved a staggering 1-2 mile ascent that made up for what it lacked in length in steepness. A good deal of the time the trail was so steep that we had to use the trees around us to help pull us up it; the steps we took were big and plentiful enough to shame any Stairmaster workout, and I have not been quite so aware of the muscles in my thighs or my butt for a long while. Halfway up the already muddy trail, the sky opened up and dumped large quantities of warm, tropical rain on us (shocking for the rainforest, I know), making the trail even more slippery but that much more exciting and beautiful. After climbing the Volcano, Amy and I found the lagoon that lies in the Crater at the top. It was beautiful and very mysterious because it was so foggy at the top that you couldn't see more than 50 feet of the lagoon, and we had no idea how big it actually was. It was a difficult but very rewarding hike. I would also like to add that by the end, it had rained so much that I had blue streaks of hair dye running down my face and neck, and I had to diligently scrub later in order to avoid looking like a tye-dyed t-shirt. Sexy beast? I think so. ;) Sadly, that's all for today, but more later.

permalink written by  kfox on July 2, 2012 from La Fortuna, Costa Rica
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Sleep deprivation to AMAZING

La Fortuna, Costa Rica

Good morning beautiful people! I am actually staying in El Castillo at the moment, which is a small village that is about 45 minutes away from the more touristy La Fortuna, but apparently the map program for blogabond has never heard of it. Amy and I have had an AMAZING couple of days here, which is why I feel a need to clarify our location.

Let's see...where did I leave off? Last time I updated, Amy and I were staying at the Costa Rica Love Hostel in Santo Domingo, a suburb of San Jose, hosted by the lovely, kind, and giving Manfred and Maelene, a young couple who opened up their delightful hostel only six months ago. Those days were fairly uneventful due to the fact that Amy and I were dog tired after a red eye flight in which we got no sleep. Usually I am pretty adept at sleeping on any form of public transportation (much to Amy's dismay...I woke up after many overnight bus rides in Peru to find Amy completing a journal entry that she began at 3 am about how much she hated my sleeping self and how the iPod had died and how being awake for over 24 hours straight had left her with homicidal ideation) but this plane ride was pretty ghastly and sleepless. Amy and I were in the very back row in the middle and aisle seat, meaning that we could not lean our seats back or rest our heads against the window...instead, we draped ourselves haphazardly across each other until one or more of our appendages fell asleep (my right arm was much better at sleeping this particular airplane ride than I was) while the flight attendants chatted loudly in the kitchenette two feet away (I can sympathize with Amy's homicidal ideation now). Occasionally, I attempted to be creative by experimenting with new positions; for instance, Face-on-Food-Tray (didn't work well coz the seat in front of me was able to lean back...grrr) and Fetus (in which I would begin to roll forward off the seat every time I nodded off, only to wake up with a start when my face collided with the chair in front of me). But mostly, I laid on Amy, or on top of Amy while she laid on me, and felt my sleep-deprived soul ache. This ride, right after finals week, left Amy and I quite overwhelmed and needing a couple days of rest before setting off for exciting adventures. (Note: Amy would like me to include that this ghastliness is typical of nighttime travel for her, and she is already well acquainted with Fetus and Face-on-Food-Tray. She suggests that next time I try Face-on-Knees in which she hugs her knees to her chest fetus-style and rests her face on them, but wraps the seatbelt around her legs to prevent herself from eating shit against the chair in front of her...my girl is brilliant).

On Saturday morning, Amy and I left Manfred and Maelene and hopped on a bus to La Fortuna, the primary tourist locale for those who want to see Volcan Arenal, an active volcano nestled amongst beautiful rainforest and flanked by the biggest lake in the country. Much to our excitement, this bus was more buslike than the buses in Peru, which were either very expensive or gutted-out vans filled with anywhere from 5 to 25 people, their stuff, and potentially a chicken or two. Amy poked at me to prevent me from falling asleep, and we watched as the scenery changed from more urban Latin America (buildings comprised of various pieces of sheet metal, wood, plaster and colorful tile that surround walled courtyards for houses and "hole-in-the-wall" businesses with brightly colored signs that advertise in Spanish) to more rural Latin America (beautiful green jungle EVERYWHERE with an occasional building). From La Fortuna, we caught a shuttle to El Castillo, which was another 45 minutes along a bumpy, potholed gravel road (if you rent cars in Costa Rica, it is suggested you rent something with 4 Wheel Drive, as the intense rain leaves many of the roads eroded and speckled with mini-craters). The shuttle dropped us off at Essence de Arenal Boutique Hostel, and from the moment we stepped out of the van, I was pretty sure that I wanted to stay here FOREVER. The first thing that caught my attention here was the breathtaking views: located at the top of a large hill, the hostel has gorgeous views of both the Laguna de Arenal (the lake) and Volcan Arenal. It also has a small pool and back porch overlooking these same views, and 88 acres of land which include an organic finca (or farm) where the hostel staff raise their own vegetables and chickens. In addition, there is a fish pond, a natural spring pool, and several jungle-gym-esque structures that my hippie girlfriend has informed me are sweatlodges. We entered the reception area of the hostel and were immediately greeted by Kelly (one of the owners?) and Melissa, two friendly Americans who live and volunteer their time here. Melissa showed us around and asked if we would like to sleep in a room in the main guest house or a semi-permanent tent not far away. Me being me, I wanted the more novel option, and we were led into a large waterproof tent with a wooden floor and one permanent wooden wall that houses two large windows that let in the breeze. There is a full-sized bed in the tent with an orthopedic mattress, a locker for our things, two nightstands, and a lamp for the nighttime. We have a gorgeous view of the valley from our windows that includes a banana tree right and tropical flowers outside the tent. When it rains, we can hear the pitter-patter on the tent and we wake up to the sound of tropical birds singing in the morning. Also, because this is such a welcoming community with a hippie vibe, Amy and I can be a little less vigilant about pretending that we're not gay. Oh, and there are fireflies at night! I LOVE it and kind of want to live here. Forever. They also have a vegetarian restaurant at the hostel that has its own gourmet chef, and for dinner, you are served a three-course meal with vegetables from the hostel garden and a delicious dessert. I'm actually disappointed that Amy and I have made reservations for our next stop already, because I could imagine staying here for a week or more, relaxing and exploring and writing--Amy is working on a novel too, so it would be a perfect opportunity. Tomorrow Amy and I are going to explore the Arenal Observatory Lodge and visit some hot springs. More later!

permalink written by  kfox on July 1, 2012 from La Fortuna, Costa Rica
from the travel blog: Costa Rica!
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We Made it!

San Jose, Costa Rica

In the last year, I:

-climbed Half Dome
-met my new nephew Owen
-moved from Portland to Oakland
-started a doctoral program in clinical psychology
-had an identity crisis
-learned to navigate an entirely new living environment
-began working with homeless adults in Richmond
-made a whole new group of friends
-dyed my hair pink, then red, then blue
-completed three trimesters of grad school

In the last year, Amy:
-survived her family's house burning down (she was the only one who was home)
-figured out how to deal with the fact that all of her worldly possessions were destroyed
-dealt with my identity crisis
-moved to Berkeley
-started taking classes at a new school
-developed 3 new allergies, one of which landed her in the hospital (yay anaphalaxis)
-learned an inordinate amount of psychobabble for someone who is not studying psychology (sorry, honey)
-learned as much, if not more than me, about being a therapist, due to me coming home at the end of every day and needing a therapist of my own

In the last year, Amy and I:
-adopted a dog
-danced our faces off in the Castro one Sunday a month
-moved in together (and still like each other despite the fact that our preferences for everything from color schemes to mattress firmness is different)
-bought tickets to Costa Rica!

Now we are in Costa Rica for a month. I like to think that it is a well-deserved vacation. :) So far, we haven't done much besides sleep and explore San Jose a bit in the pouring rain (it is the rainy season here, and guess who didn't bring an umbrella, lol). I realized that all of my Spanish fell out of my head between 2010 and 2012, and spent a good deal of today asking people how to get places using incomplete, often incoherent sentences (for instance, when wanting to know where the bus picks one up, I stuttered, "por favor, el bus *points to ground* aqui?"). I also discovered that the 100 capsule bottle of Dramamine that I picked up from my pharmacy at home is actually Benadryl, meaning that it will do NOTHING to calm my weany physical self when I am overtaken by the inevitable and terrible force that is motion sickness--see my trip to Peru for more gruesome details. Fortunately, I was able to acquire some Dramamine at the local Farmacia by making vomiting gestures and sound effects until the poor women who worked there brought me an 8 pack of little orange pills. But we have many adventures lined up for the days to come, including hiking up an active volcano, horseback riding, ziplining through the canopies of the Monteverde Cloud Forest, and much more. Stay tuned.

One more thing--Spanish is not the only thing that has fallen out of my head since 2010. The currency here is approximately 500 colones for 1 dollar...do you have any idea how hard it is to do this math when someone (in Spanish) asks you for 13,400 colones and you have no idea how many dollars that comes to? You freeze and try to think of a response--is it a tolerable amount to pay for lunch, or do you do the asshole thing and say, "Nevermind!" and run away into the rain--but instead you hand the cashier a wad of paper and coin colones and hope that they can sort things out for you, only then you remember that that's probably not the best idea, and you open your mouth to say something and remember you can't speak Spanish, and all of a sudden you are saying, "Lo siento...*cough*...colones" and grabbing your more proficient Spanish-speaking girlfriend, throwing her at the cashier to handle your dilemma, and running off into the rain anyhow. I've forgotten how much I love traveling. If I ever travel outside of Latin America, poor Amy will have to learn Russian or Thai or Swahili or something obscure like that.

permalink written by  kfox on June 29, 2012 from San Jose, Costa Rica
from the travel blog: Costa Rica!
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Farewell Peru!

Cusco, Peru

I don´t really have time to write anything more than this: I´m leaving Peru tomorrow! Tomorrow morning...early. Groan. But I am SO EXCITED about coming home because I miss it! Also, hopefully when I arrive tomorrow night, I will have a cat with me. :) This is after hours of phone calls to various airlines and pleaing with people who work at pet stores to give me the airline-approved food dish for the airline-approved cat carrier, but that´s all another Story. And I have lots of adventures I will write about once I´m back in the states. Much love and I can´t wait to see all of you again!

permalink written by  kfox on August 4, 2010 from Cusco, Peru
from the travel blog: Peru Adventure!
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Altitude Sickness=Change of Plans

Puno, Peru

Our adventure just keeps getting more and more exciting. Saturday night, Amy, Melisa, and I took a night bus to Puno, the hub of activity for Lake Titicaca. Lake Titicaca is the highest navigable mountainous lake in the world, as well as the largest lake in South America...it is over 170 km in length, 60 km wide, and is shared between Peru and Bolivia. There are islands out on the lake where native people live much the same way they did 2,000 years ago. There are also island known as floating islands...they are completely manmade from thousands of reeds piled up on top of one another. Amy, Melissa, and I were signed up for a trip to see/stay the night on one of these islands. Unfortunately, Puno´s elevation is 3830 meters, or about 12,566 feet, meaning that those who are susceptible to altitude sickness are especially badly off up here. Poor Amy seems to be one of these people. When we arrived, she felt okay, but later in the afternoon we went on a tour of Sillustani (i´ll get to that in a minute) and she began feeling extremely nauseous. This morning, the morning we were supposed to wake up and tour the islands, she can´t even get out of bed. Because altitude sickness can potentially be serious, Melisa and I canceled the island tour and we are going to head to Arequipa today, a couple days early...it is significantly lower in elevation, so Amy should feel better almost immediately. Who knew that simply existing in some places could be so difficult?

At least we got to see Sillustani before leaving Puno. Sillustani is a group of crumbling Incan and pre-Incan funerary towers. These groups of people used to bury important people in large towers...they would drop mummies of important figures in the top (along with several unlucky servants) and then cover the mummies with small rocks and clay. They would also fill the tombs with food and the dead´s possessions so that the dead would have food, etc. in their next life, and the Incas would replenish this food once a year or so. The Incans made these towers by lugging these giant, perfectly rectangular rocks up wooden ramps...it must have taken years to build one. Also, the got the rocks to be perfectly rectangular by drilling a hole into the rocks with a hand drill, inserting a piece of wood into the hole, and getting the wood wet so it would expand. Once it expanded, the wood would create perfect cracks in the rocks, helping the Incas to form perfect building bricks. Cool huh? Anyhoo, I´m going to get back to my sick girlfriend now. More later.

permalink written by  kfox on July 26, 2010 from Puno, Peru
from the travel blog: Peru Adventure!
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