Thursday, September 20, 2007


Here are some pictures from Tres Cruces taken a couple weeks ago. Uploading pictures takes sooooo long, so these one never made it up with the blog entry.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Manuel Antono

This weekend we went to Manuel Antonio. We had an amazing weekend with perfect weather and lots of wild animals. A longer post will come about our weekend getaway, but for now here are a few pictures.

Independence Day

September 15 was Costa Rica's Independence Day, but since it fell on a Saturday this year, most people celebrated on Friday. At our school everyone dressed up in traditional costumes. The boys dressed up like "campesinos," with white shirts, jeans, white hats, and bandanas. Some also had sandals and wooden machetes. The girls wore traditional white blouses and colorful skirts that looked like the Costa Rican flag. Also, they wore their hair braided in pigtails.
At 9:00 the entire elementary school met down at the playground for a parade with "faroles," or lanterns. Everyone marched in a parade up by the office, where students, staff, and family got together for speeches, songs, and dances that celebrated Costa Rica.
It was a very fun day, and it was great to see the kids playing at recess in their outfits. The students were literally bouncing with excitement all day. Some students wore Mexican outfits since Sunday was Mexican Independence Day. The cafeteria served traditional food, including rice and beans and plantains. It was really nice to share the traditions of another culture's national holiday.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Three crosses hike

On Sunday morning Allie was still feeling sick from the miserable 24 hour flu thing that she acquired. We had made plans to hike with some other teachers from the school, but Allie had to rest up because of her condition.
I left with our neighbor, Jason, who also teaches 4th grade at CDS. We took a cab up to the campusto meet up with a few more teachers from the school, and all six of us plus one border collie loaded into Dave and Robin's 1990 Isuzu Amigo, aka the "Blue Beast."
We drove south of Escazu centro, and into San Antonio, a neighborhood that overlooks the central valley even more. It was neat to see the little town way up on the hill on a Sunday morning, with all of the soccer games, church-goers, and people just relaxing around town. We kept going above the town, and finally made it to a restaurant called Valle Azul. It is supposedly a very good but pricey restaurant, and it has a view overlooking the entire valley. From there up past a few more houses, and finally began our trek up the hill.
Tres Cruces is a hike up a mountain that overlooks our school and all of Escazu. There are three giant crosses that you can stop at during different parts of the hike. The first is a concrete Byzantine cross, I think, because it is more of a plus sign than a cross. Unfortunately it has a lot of graffiti on it, but the view sure is amazing. From there, we hiked up to the second cross, which is a narrow metal cross on top of a concrete pyramid with steps. We took a longer break for food and water here, and watched vultures swoop across the valley. We followed a cow pasture fence up the hill, and it was built in the typical "living fence" style (branches are cut and driven into the ground, where they root and begin to grow again). There were little raspberries growing along the trail that looked pretty, but tasted quite tart. This part of the hike was very hot since the sun was on our backs the whole time. We finally made it to the third cross, which is a huge metallic structure made out of scaffolding. From there we kept travelling up the hill, until we made it to the very top. It was so cool because the vegetation became much more lush. It is foggy up there most of the time, so it is basically a cloud forest, a lot of moss, and plants growing out of the branches and trunks of trees. The cloud forest opens of to a grassy ridge behind the mountain, and from here you have an excellent view of San Jose. There was another hiker who was resting at the top, and one other guy climbed up a really steep part of the mountain...carrying a little kid on his shoulders! He did not have any water or food, and when he got to the top of the ridge, he started jogging with his son still on his shoulders.
The weather was beautiful at the top of the mountain, and apparently it is usually raining or foggy. After resting for awhile and drinking water (it is a very difficult hike - it took roughly 2 1/2 hours to get to the top), we made our way down the back side of the mountain. The south facing side of the mountain was a lot cooler and steeper. You had to switch back constantly and bend your knees a lot, but slipping was still inevitable. It had not rained for a day or two (hallelujah), yet the tall grass was still so thick. Our friend Noah's border collie had just arrived in Costa Rica two days earlier, and she was loving the freedom of the hills. She is a very obediant dog and it was clear that she liked having tasks to keep her busy with, but she did not pay any attention to the cattle like Josey would have.
The bottom of the mountain led us to a river at the bottom. We had to go through some narrow openings in a couple of barbed wire living fences before getting to the water. The river was moving really quickly, and there giant lichen-covered boulders nestled into the grass. Thick trees and bushes provided shade along some parts of the bank, and we rested for a little while and got our feet wet in the water. We had to wait for a Tico to finish moving his cattle along the trail before we continued. We had to cross the river about four times, and during part of the hike we had to walk right down the middle of it for about one hundred feet. We passed some little waterfall, and also a swimming hold that was about chest deep. A couple guys opted to jump into the pool, but I wanted to keep my shorts dry.
Unfortunately we had to walk at a pretty fast pace, because most of our group was very anxious to watch the Sunday NFL games. I would have liked to take more time to look at the plants and animals, but I did notice some cool wild ginger, trumpet vine, and giant leaves the size of umberellas. Also, many of the plants had bright white, pink and yellow designs on the leaves. I have read that the purpose of this is to make animals think that the plant has a disease so they will eat another plant. The hike took us about 4 or 5 hours, and although we took some nice breaks to relax and drink water, we definitely kept a steady pace. I am looking forward to returning to Tres Cruces with Allie, but my soar legs are definitely a little apprehensive still.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Santa Ana

We took a pleasant trip to Santa Ana on Saturday afternoon. It is a close little town (only about 15 minutes from us, over some windy hills) and a lot of our students live there. Santa Ana has an American part of town and an authentic part of town, and we checked out the latter.
A little street dog started following us around the moment that we hopped out of our taxi. It looked like it had heeler or collie in it because of its blue-merle spots. We walked by a local school that was decorated with many Costa Rican flags for the upcoming indpendence day (September 15). The school's playground was very muddy from all of the rain, and part of the swing set was broken and wrapped in the razor wire that ran accross the top of the chainlink fence that surrounded the school. We went by the central park and heard what sounded like a marching band. When we got there, about one hundred children or so, ranging from about ages four to eighteen, were playing percussion instruments like drums and xylophones, and performing a dance routine. The kids were doing the routine it was the day before "el dia de los ninos."
From the park we walked to a little soda to get lunch. Allie was not hungry, but I ordered a large fried chicken meal for only a few bucks. It included a coke, beans and rice, a salad, half of a fried chicken, grilled plantains, and even spaghetti with cut up hot dog in it. After this we walked to the local church, which was really beautiful. It was surrounded by a stone wall, and many pine trees were planted on the grounds. Also, there was an old water pump and a wishing. The church had beautiful stained glass windows, and a neatly-kept garden with many flowers. My favorite part was what looked like a very oldOn wall made of crumbled, mossy stones. The back side of the wall had statues of saints tucked into its niches. It was a shame that the gates were locked and we could not get a closer look.
After seeing the church it started to rain, so we decided to look for a taxi home. The one "rojo" taxi that we found had a driver who said that he was off-duty. He pointed down the hill and said that we could find "piratas," or pirates, which are taxi drivers who don't work for a red taxi company (their rates are a little better, too). Unfortunately, we could not find a pirata, and after lots of waiting, we decided to look on our own some more. We walked past a mother and her chubby little son who had a cowboy hat and looked like a really friendly little guy. We asked them where the taxis were, and they were a lot more helpful. Finaly, we found a cab, headed home, and watched Lost on DVD for the rest of the day.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Costa Rican Birthday

I had a great 24 birthday in Escazu. Allie crept off and went shopping for presents while I worked at school last Sunday, and I was forbidden to go upstairs to the office/loft in our house all week. I received the birthday presents the day before my birthday, because some of them were dying. It was a beautiful assortment of plants, flowers (including two orchids), pots, soil, a watering can, and a shovel. Now I am ready to garden. Things seem to grow so easily in this climate that I don't see how I can go wrong.
On Thursday we went out to a wonderful restaurant called Inka Grill in the Paco shopping center (La Paco used to be a famous doll factory). We had a really tasty Peruvian dinner, which included squid, shrimp, scallop, and sea bass appetizers (a meal in itself) and chicha morada to drink. For the main course Allie ordered lobster bisque and I had pasta with shrimp, scallops, and cream sauce. I also got a big ice cream sundae for dessert. It was hard to walk after that meal, but well worth it.

Saturday, September 1, 2007