Monday, April 6, 2015

The best spring break ever

Please forgive my blogging absence, I've been a little busy doing cool stuff. This post is all about that cool stuff! This past week, we had school off for Semana Santa. Everyone in Costa Rica pretty much had the week off so it was like one giant spring break. So, um, let's get this party started!

Part 1: Guanacaste

Friday after class, we left for Guanacaste, a province located about six hours from where I live. We're lucky because every time we travel, we have our own private bus and bypass the public transportation system. Our hotel was pretty nice, it had air conditioning and a great working shower, so I was a happy camper. It's a good thing they had AC, Guanacaste was outrageously hot and dry. Saturday, we walked to the beach and enjoyed the waves. I'm more of a pool person than a beach person, so I spent the rest of the afternoon hugging my sunscreen bottle and chilling by the pool. Saturday night we had a bonfire on the beach. They bought us marshmallows to make s'mores and when Emily asked our teacher if we had any chocolate, he got really confused. I guess a Costa Rican s'more consists of just a roasted marshmallow? They're missing out!! I need to look more into this... Sunday, we hopped back onto the bus and returned home to prepare ourselves for the next leg of our adventure.

Part 2: Coffee Tour

Monday morning, I woke up bright and early (6:30) and boarded our little bus once more to go on a coffee tour in Alajuela. This tour took free samples to a whole new level. Coffee ranks pretty high on my list of things I couldn't live without. I've never really thought about the making of coffee, but it's actually kind of complicated. It made me appreciate the liquid gold even more.

Part 3: La Paz

From the coffee tour, we went to La Paz, a large waterfall in north of Alajuela. When we visited, there were all kinds of things to see. I'll begin with the Butterfly Observatory. It all started off chill and then the butterflies "attacked" me. 

Yeah, it was awesome until I felt their little antennas eating away at my gringa flesh. After that, we looked at more animal exhibits and I got to hold the cutest, wittlest, snuggliest bunny!!

Finally. we made it to the waterfall. It was breathtaking. I've seen pictures, but to hear the rush of the water and feel the cool mist really sealed the deal.

Part 4: Whitewater Rafting

Can I just start off by saying that this was one of the coolest things I have ever done?! I can't really tell you why I liked it so much. Tuesday, we woke up early again and traveled two hours north to the Pacuare River. We split up and began our 3 1/2 hour journey down the river. The highest level we did was a level four. We kept joking we wanted to take on six. Actually, we weren't really joking but there's no way that was going to happen. I really want to go again when I return to the states. I remember at one point, we were peacefully floating and it started to downpour. I looked around me and I wish I could share my memories with you because it was a moment I'll never forget. It was like that cliche moment when the rain starts to pour and you just take a breath and sigh to the sky. Everyday in Costa Rica, I experience more and more of God's amazing creation. I just can't believe some of the things I see. Costa Rica is gorgeous!! 

Part 5: Day Off

Everyone needs a day of rest, right? But I wasn't about to sit in my room all day when there's another country to explore! Beighlie, Stephen, Brandon, and I decided to venture downtown and go to one of the markets. Somehow, we never made it to the market. After that, we went to the mall to see Insurgent. The movie theatres here are pretty nice and kind of cheap. They offer most of the movies in two forms: you can watch it as the original (English) with Spanish subtitles or you can watch it with Spanish dubbed over. I think it only costed me about 3 bucks because it was a matinee. Gracias a Dios. We also went to Chilis because it's the closet thing to the states. It was a nice, tranquillo day. 

Part 6: Nicaragua

Thursday morning, 4 AM to be specific, we loaded up and shipped out. We are required to leave the country within 90 days to renew our visas. We stayed in Granada Thursday-Sunday. Our hotel was beautiful. We enjoyed the night life, something that we haven't really been able to do here in Costa Rica because it's "too dangerous." 

Friday, we went on a boat tour around the lake. We saw a bunch of little islands. There was even one with just monkeys on it which freaks me out because monkeys are gross and are definitely not cute. After the boat trip, we went back, swam, and then loaded up in horse drawn carriages to take a tour of Granada. 

Saturday, we went to San Juan del Sur. It was about an hour drive and when we got there, I was immediately overwhelmed. There were so many people. Like I mentioned at the beginning of this post, it's Semana Santa and everyone has the week off. What better place to spend your week off than at the beach? There were tons of drunks and super loud music. It was horrendous. We left Nicaragua Sunday morning. The trip took about 10 hours by the time we went through customs and stopped for pizza. Here are a few thoughts I have about my visit:

1. There is a lot of poverty in Nicaragua. For an area so full of tourism, I saw a lot of people begging. There were tons of kids who would make little things like flowers or bugs out of a long palm and try to sell them to you. There were also a lot of children selling things on the streets by themselves. When I say children, I'm talking young, like as young as 8 or 9. If they don't bring home money at the end of the day, their "family" puts them out on the streets. If that doesn't put things into perspective for a person, then I don't know what will. 

2. I think it's interesting to note the conflict between the Costa Ricans and the Nicaraguans. From what I've observed and have been told, both parties are not fond of each other. I know America has its fair share of racism, but this was a whole new level. Many of the Nicaraguans were pretty friendly. Although, they did take tons of pictures of us. We walked by a gate and a little girl behind was just intently watching. I heard her whisper, "United Statesians." I felt like an animal on display at the zoo. 

3. Sunday also happened to be Easter. Easter is one of my most favorite holidays, so this was a little difficult for me. Every year, my entire family comes over to my house after church and we eat a lot of good brunch food and have an easter egg hunt. They always try and tell me I'm too old, but let's be honest here, you're never too old for an egg hunt when money is involved. Spring is so gorgeous in Ohio, which is also another reason I love Easter. Being in a bus for 10 hours wasn't exactly my ideal way of spending Easter, but hey, I didn't really have a choice. It was interesting to spend a holiday like this in another country. Easter here is more religiously celebrated. There were lots of processions in Nicaragua. One procession was in the evening. There were a group of men in purple cloaks and purple masks carrying a float with crucified Jesus and Mary. It was also followed by a large group of people and a small marching band. This is totally different from the US's version of Easter. We stuff ourselves with candy, take our kids to get pictures with a person in a large bunny costume, and dye eggs. Taking me out of all the Easter fun made me realize that I forget why we celebrate Easter. My best friend, Jesus, beat death! He beat it and came back because not even the impossible could keep Him from us. What a pity that people lose sight of this. The greatest thing to ever happen to mankind, and all we want to do is make sure that we have a super cute outfit for church so that we can take pictures and post them on instagram. Don't get me wrong, I'm not trying to point fingers. Heck, I'm pointing fingers at myself. But when you're taken out of all of the holiday hoopla, things are totally different. 

So that was my spring break in a nutshell. I'm exhausted and shocked I made it. Please excuse any errors in this post, I have no energy to check it twice, Vanilla. You all are fantastic and I can't wait to see you and hug you when I come back to the U S of A. 

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