Weekend Edition // San José & Rafting with my Family

Buenas 🙂 Todo bien!?

I hope you guys are doing well, I for sure can’t complain because my last few days have been super adventurous and fun. On Thursday afternoon I checked into a hostel in San Pedro, San José (University area) and met up with a friend from school – Anna! She has been volunteering in Mexico for almost a year now and was spending some time traveling through Costa Rica before heading back home to Germany. I approached her online and we decided to meet up for dinner – and that’s what we did. We went to Arbol de Seda, a vegan/vegetarian restaurant and had a great time catching up and exchanging our experiences of the last couple of months…but also it felt so unreal to meet someone from back home on literally the other side of the world! Anyways, we had a good time and are hopefully gonna see each other soon in Munich. On Friday I met up with Lina and we went to another vegan restaurant called Mantras Veggie Café. We also hadn’t seen each other for a while (if we don’t see each other for a week, that’s already long!) so we also just kept talking and eating, sharing new stories and thoughts… then we just hung out at my hostel and waited for Wiebke (the new intern at our school) and Charlotte to arrive, when they got there we went out for dinner to Luv Burger, another awesome vegan place here. Our plan was to go out afterwards so we walked around trying to find a good spot. We ended up drinking some beers on the street, which by the way is illegal and we did know that  before the police officers approached us – but we just pulled the “foreigner card” and said that we’re not from here and that we had noooo idea  that it was illegal and they were just like ‘no problem girls’ haha. Charlotte and Wiebke were kind of not feeling it anymore so they split an uber back to the hostel and Lina and I ended up going to Casa Felix – a very big and awesome club. They have different bars and dance floors with different types of music and an inner courtyard to chill out. We ended up dancing until 3am, and then Lina went back home to Heredia and I went back to my hostel in San Pedro, SJ. I can definitely recommend this place because it has somethig for everyone in it and they let anyone in, no stupid dress code or nada! Saturday – Charlotte, Wiebke and I ended up eating out again (at this point I really don’t care about my money anymore cause I’m already broke af haha) at the other location of Mantras Veggie Café and afterwards we split, Wiebke went to a phone store to fix her phone and Charlotte and I met up with Lina to go to Freakz, our youth group where we practice aerial silks. We had a great time as always, but let me tell you it’s definitely super exhausting! Afterwards we just hung out with our friends at Taco Bell, like almost every Saturday, and later that night I went back to the hostel while Lina and Charlotte went back home. Guys, I was so happy to have been able to check out San Pedro’s vegan options because y’all know I love vegan food so much and inlcusion is so important! Yes I spent some money but it was worth every bite. If you are vegan/vegetarian or are looking for some yummy healthy food, then San Pedro is the area you wanna go to! It’s basically the University area, with the UCR (University of Costa Rica) and the UA (Universidad Americana) – there are a bunch of cool, ‘hipster’ and alternative bars, restaurants and cafés as well as cute little shops and lots of street art, which makes it one of the prettiest if not even the best area to hang out in San José (in my opinion).

Sunday. 6:00 am. I got picked up at the hostel by the rafting company my mom has booked – Exploradores Outdoors. After a 2 hour ride to Siquirres, Limón I met up with my family at the company’s meeting point. They had a bufet style breakfast to prepare us for the adventure ahead, so I really tried to take advantage of that. We drove another 30mins up the river to the starting point and we were assigned a group, a boat and a guide. Our guide’s name was Santiago (I think) and we were a group of 6 people – my mom, my sister, my brother and I plus an american couple. My brother and I were sitting in the front of the boat, and my sister and mom in the back. We started paddeling and tried to synchronize our movements while listening to the commandos of our guide. We hit a lot of different currents with different types of levels – we were told that on the Pacuare river the highest level is 4 ( 6 is apparently a waterfall), and we definitely paddled through some rough waves, really putting in a lot of work. It was very exhausting but to be honest so much fun, kind of like a rollercoaster ride but actually way better than that. After about 2 hours of paddling through currents and stunning scenery (we saw waterfalls, birds, monkeys etc.) we had a lunch break in the middle of the jungle. Under some simple, wooden huts our guides started prepping veggies that they had brought with them in a container, then we all ate in a bufet style – burritos and/or sandwhiches. After eating and a bathroom run, we all started paddling again, with about an hour left towards the base. Then this happened – were in a heavy current (I think it was a 3) and we were struggling with our paddles when the guide in the boat in front of us started yelling: “Snake!! Snake!! Watch out for the snake!!”. And I was like yeah whatever because before him, all the other guides had made jokes and told us “look there’s a Tucan (or another animal)” and then we would look and they splashed water in our faces, so when this guy told me there’s a snake, I literally thought it was a joke. Well, turned out that it wasn’t, I looked to my right and the american guy behind me was trying to throw the snake off of his paddle, as she was climbing up on it. The snake was relatively small and brown but it was crazy fast. We were still in the current when we got showered by a massive wave, and the next thing we realized is that the snake got thrown in with it! It landed between the legs of the american woman, she started screaming out of shock and stumbled back and fell into the space between my sister and my mom. We all freaked out and were focused on the snake, trying to throw it out again with our paddles but it was so difficult because there was water in the boat and the snake was moving extremly fast in it. As we struggled, our guide started yelling: “Kill it! Kill it!”, and my brother and the american guy tried strangling the snake by pushing the paddle against its neck. The safety guides that follow the rafts in single-kayaks came closer and tried to help us but it was too difficult, and it took a very long time to kill the snake because we were literally moving so fast, hitting lots of rocks riding through the current. Then finally the water was calm again and we were out of the current, I saw the blood spilling out of the snakes neck and I closed my eyes for a second. It was very painful to see her get killed I must admit… but I know there was no other option. Guys, what are the chances that something like this happens? They are very very very low, yet it still happened to us. We threw out the dead snake, washed off the blood on the boat and kept paddling. We were all still in shock, and just so grateful that nothing worse happened because our guide told us that this type of snake indeed was poisonous! *Sigh* – what an adventure that was! Nevertheless we had an amazing time rafting and I recommend it to anyone really. It is definitely a lot of work but you don’t really notice it, because you’re having so much fun riding in the currents. Once we got back to the base my family and I split up again, I took the company’s shuttle back to San José and my family continued their trip, driving towards Arenal (Vulcano) next.A few hours later I was finally back home in Poás – I laid in bed for a while, reflecting on the crazy day it has been…

I had an amazing time that weekend, and I was super glad to have been able to spent more time with my family and experience this crazy adventure with them! To many more adventures.. but hopefully without snakes…

 

//Olivia

Interview with Isaac // Teaching German in Costa Rica

HolA! Since I have been writing mainly about my travels and adventures, I decided to switch it up a bit and give you guys more of an insight about my volunteer work at the school and what I’m doing here on the other side of the world. Well, in this post I am introducing you to my colleague Isaac. We did the interview in german, but since my entire blog is in english and I wish that more people are able to read it, I translated the whole thing. I hope you guys enjoy.

The Interview

Isaac: “Hi! My name is Isaac Murillo and I am 23 years old. I’m born in Costa Rica and I have lived my whole life here in Poás. Actually I am a music teacher, that is what I have studied, but I am currently working as a german teacher since last year.”

Olivia: “Why?”

Isaac: “I don’t know haha.. it was an opportunity.. here in Costa Rica there is no possibility of studying German at university.. so there was a free position at the school, they needed a German teacher and I already could speak a little german and I had been studying for being a teacher as well, and that’s why I am working as a German teacher right now.”

Olivia: “So you started teaching last year?”

Isaac: “Yes in March 2017.”

Olivia: “Before you started teaching, did you have to do a German language course?”

Isaac: “No, I had already learned german in high school in Marco’s class (he is also a German teacher at the school). There were 3 scholarships and I won one of them.”

Olivia: “Really? A scholarship for music or..?”

Isaac: “No, a scholarship for German through PASCH (german partner schools supported by the Goethe-Institute – Liceo de Poás is one of them). In July 2011 I flew to Germany for 3 weeks, I was 16 years old.”

Olivia: “Wow I didn’t even know. Where in Germany were you staying?”

Isaac: “In Sankt Peter Ording in the North Sea. I got my A1 certificate there.”

Olivia: “Nice.. what is your favorite German word and what is your favorite German food?”

Isaac: “I think my favorite german word is ‘Entschuldigung’ (Excuse me/ I’m sorry). And my favorite food.. well I don’t know if it’s actually german but it’s ‘Döner’ (kebap).

Olivia: “What do you think about the Goethe-Institute and the PASCH program?”

Isaac: “The PASCH program is very important for us.. I always tell my students that. It is a great opportunity to learn German for free at the school and usually if you want to learn German in Costa Rica you have to go to San José and it can take up to 3 hours to get there and back.. it doesn’t cost too much but you have to invest a lot of time into it. And here at Liceo de Poás you can learn for free, it’s close and we have a lot of material to work with. Also because of PASCH only, I was able to travel to Mexico twice to do some workshops which was an awesome experience. The students here have many options, recently we did a play in German for one of the international contests that PASCH offer.”

Olivia: “If you could change anything in the program, what would it be? Or what do you wish and hope for the future of this program?”

Isaac: “Hopefully more scholarships for students and teachers, and with the help of the Ministry of Education we can improve many things in the future.”

Olivia: “If you could travel to one country you have never been to, where would you want to go and why?”

Isaac: “Hmm…maybe Spain because we have a huge spanish influence here, the language, culture etc. due to Colonialism.”

Olivia: “Okay last question.. where do you see yourself in 5 years?”

Isaac: “Ohh hmm.. well I atleast want to have a B2 or C1 level in German and complete my Masters degree. And maybe work at Liceo de Poás, or at a different school or even at the Goethe-Insititute. Also I am a musician so it would be cool to play in a band.”

Olivia: “But you want to stay in Costa Rica?”

Isaac: “Jein (Yes and no). I would like to live somwhere else for maybe a year or so.. maybe in Germany.”

Olivia: “Alright, thank you for the interview!”

//Olivia


Bienvenidos a Costa Rica! // Family Travel Edition // Tortuguero

Hola amigos! Guess what?! My family made it to Costa Rica!

So here’s what’s up – my mom loves to travel and wouldn’t miss a chance to travel somewhere new and since she has never been to Latinamerica she just couldn’t resist and booked a flight. Last year when I went back to Michigan to visit my former host family and friends, she wanted to tag along for a while but sadly it didn’t work out at the time.. so my mom, my sister and suprisingly my brother (who has just finished his apprenticeship yay!) flew out to Panama City on Saturday (7/28/18). After two days in Panama they flew to Costa Rica…

After my Tuesday morning class I cleaned up my appartement and waited for my family to arrive. It felt weird knowing they would visit me here, me being like a tour guide as if I knew all about Costa Rica.. I guess I really have gotten to know this country pretty well but there is still so much more to learn and experience here. Around 2pm they arrived with their rental car at my place and got everything organized and settled. I was very happy to finally see them again but it also felt so weird – in “my” appartment, on the other side of the world, where I myself have just spent a little over 5 months… we ate some food at a local Meditarranean restaurant, and my family got to know Charlotte after she came back from work. In the evening we all ate dinner together at our favorite Soda (Typical Costa Rican restaurant) which is right next to our house. The next day we cooked some pancakes for breakfast and then visited my workplace – LIDEPO (Liceo de Poás). My students have been so excited to meet my family and when we got there everyone introduced themselves in german and we handed out some german candy that my siblings had brought. We also got to know Wiebke, a german university student from Hannover who is doing an internship for a month at the school. Later that day we all went out for dinner at a local Soda (Wiebke, Charlotte, Lina – she came from Heredia, Marco & Isaac – the german teachers, and my family) and just talked for a while. The next morning my family and I drove out to Mi Cafecito –  a local coffee plantation and production site north of Poás (close to San Miguel). We had a great tour and learned a lot about the origin and production of coffee, and it was awesome to see a local, fairtrade workplace after living in the mountains for so long and seeing huge coffee plantations everyday. Afterwards we drove further towards Guápiles and stayed there for a night. On Friday morning we kept driving towards Tortuguero – we left our rental car at the secured parking lot and took a boat towards the little town of Tortuguero, which was about an hour long drive through the connecting rivers. We arrived at our home for the next two nights – Tortuguero Natural Hotel . Later that night we went on a tour to see the turtles – we we’re a group of 6 people and waited patiently for the turtle watchman to bring us to the beach. Disoriented we walked through the darkness, closely following our guide. A turtle was spotted and group after group we were able to see it laying eggs with the infrared flashlight focused on the turtles lower body. It was so intresting and amazing to see an animal laying eggs! We stayed a little longer and were also able to see the turtle camouflage the eggs by putting more and more sand on top of them. I learned so much about the green sea turtle – for example they return to the same beach they are born at to lay their own eggs and out of over 100 eggs only about 2 baby turtles survive as they walk towards the water (all the others get eaten by predators). I learned so much more and if you want to know more just do a little google research – or visit a hatching site or National Park! It is definitely worth it! If you are an animal and nature lover, Tortuguero is  a must-see in Costa Rica. After an adventurous night, we didn’t stop exploring and spent 2 hours on the river on a Kanu with a local guide. We saw some amazing wildlife like Caimen (small alligators), different types of monkeys and birds and some smaller turtles. We had a lovely morning out in nature and spent the rest of the day chilling in our hotel’s hammocks, laying at the beach and exploring the trails of the National Park. On Sunday morning it was already time to leave again, and we took the boat back to the parking lot after we ate breakfast. From there we drove back to Guápiles, where I took a bus to San José and from there I went back to my place in Poás while my family continued driving towards Puerto Viejo on the Carribean coast.

We had a great family reunion and I’m so excited and happy that my family is here to explore this beautiful and unique country that I was able to call home for almost 6 months now! They are staying a total of 3 weeks and I will meet up with them again next weekend for some more adventures. For now I am enjoying my last 2 weeks of volunteering at the school…

Hasta pronto!

//Olivia

Dominical y Uvita // Weekend Travel Edition

Hola!

Do I ever stay home?! Well.. barely. The reason why I travel so much is simply because I want to use my time wisely and get to know as much as I can of Costa Rica before I leave. Which sadly is very very soon… I have also mentioned before that the little town that I live in doesn’t really have too much to offer, so there really is no point in staying in and watching Netflix at home all day. I can do that when I am in Germany! I should take advantage of my time here, shouldn’t I? That being said, Charlotte and I have decided to make a short trip out to the Pacific coast. Wednesday was a holiday (Annexión de Guanacaste)  and we took Thursday off, and since we have a new schedule (it changed a few months ago) we also have Fridays off!  So we had 4 days in total for our mini vacation. On Tuesday night we slept in a hostel in San José, so we would be able to catch an early bus the next morning. On Wednesday it took us only about 4 hours to get from San José to Dominical. We stayed at the Cool Vibes Hostel, which is the most popular one, and there aren’t many others around because it’s a very small beach town. The rest of the day we just chilled, walked around a little, checked out the beach and cooked some food. I had a late night yoga session before going to bed. The next day we made plans to go surfing in the afternoon, so in the morning we just went out for breakfast and chilled by the pool at the hostel and talked to some other travelers. A few hours before our surf lesson we got a call from our instructor that the waves are too high right now and that a storm was coming.. so sadly our class got canceled and we rescheduled for the next morning. So Thursday ended up being another chill day. On Friday morning we had our surf lesson, and it was Charlotte’s first time trying it. I was super stoked to get back in the water because I’ve been enjoying surfing so much and just never want to stop learning it! We were a group of 4, two brothers from the USA joined us, and we had two instructors – Oscar and Sarah. They explained everything super well, we practiced for about 20min at the beach how to stand up on the board etc. Then we got into the water and started catching waves. It was so much fun and it was my best surf lesson so far, because the explanations were very precise and they always told us what we could do better. I was so happy that I was able to catch so many waves! Charlotte also really enjoyed it even though she had a harder time but that is totally normal, because it was only her first time and I think she did really well for that. The class lasted 2 hours and we had a little snack break with some cookies and watermelon, in total it cost 50$ – which I think is a good price because they were really good instructors! Once we got back to the hostel we just chilled for a while and then cooked some lunch before we headed to Uvita. It took about an hour by bus to get there (it’s just a bit down south) and then we walked a few minutes to our new place called Flutterby House, which is located close to the Ballena National Park. It is a super cool hostel with treehouses, a yoga terrace and a very open and light atmosphere. They focus on sustainability and recycle, compost and try to minimize their waste, and they also have a restaurant that offers many vegetarian and vegan options, with their aim to use as much organic and local grown food as possible. Definitely a very cool place I can recommend and they also have private rooms. On Saturday morning we were up on our feet at 5:30 am. We wanted to check out the popular Nauyaca Falls that are located close to Dominical (we wanted to do that while staying there but our plans changed due to the surf lessons), so we took the 6am bus towards the entrance, and started hiking once we arrived. The trail was about 5km long, with lots of up and downs, we walked through small streams, dense jungle and had some amazing views of the valley and surrounding mountains. After about 1 1/2 hours we made it to the falls and we were completely blown away! I haven’t seen that many waterfalls in my life so far, so I was definitely impressed. There were two different waterfalls, one more high up that was incredibly beautiful and a lower one which was more like a cascade. We took a dip in the lower one and it was cold but so refreshing after the hike. It was only us and another couple from the Netherlands, so we had the whole place to ourselves really. It was so beautiful and relaxing to swim, and sit by the waterfalls…we were both in awe of Mother Nature’s beauty. After about 45min more and more people kept coming and after an hour and a half we decided to hike back. We had only eaten a few nuts for breakfast so we were starving. As we left, the horse riding tours made their way up and I just gotta say – PLEASE do not support these tours here!! They’re awful. When we arrived at 7am, the horses were already sattled up and had to wait for 3 hours knotted to a pole.. also the hike is definitely manageable and if you do have health problems you can be transported by car to the waterfalls! Back at the hostel we ordered some food at the restaurant and just chilled out. It ended up raining the rest of the day so we just spent our time socializing and reading. On Sunday we made ourselves some breakfast and then headed out to Marino Ballena National Park. We had to pay 6$ to get in, then we walked for about an hour along Playa Colonia, which is a very beautiful beach. The park is named after the humpback whales that migrate to the region from about August to September and December through April. It is also famous for its whale tail that appears only at low tide, which is a 1km long “beach” of rocks. We were super impressed by the symmetry of the tail as we walked along it! Mother Nature really never disappoints. Then Charlotte and I parted our ways because I went to get another surf lesson, and she didn’t want to so she went back to the hostel. I had a private lesson with Oscar and it was sooo good! I was able to actually ride some real waves not just whitewash waves! He also challenged me with a smaller board and it was definitely more difficult but I think I did a pretty good job. After the lesson I met up with Charlotte at Flutterby house and we got ready to take our bus back home. The bus was supposed to leave at 3pm but ended up leaving at 4pm, and we got stuck in traffic pretty badly. At 10pm we arrived in San José and from there we had to take an uber to Alajuela, otherwise we would’ve missed the last bus to Poás which is at 11pm every night. We got home super late and immediately fell asleep…

We had an amazing short trip to the Pacific coast and I am so happy that I was able to go surfing again and explore more of Costa Rica’s stunning nature. Yet again we met some great people (a lot of teachers from Germany!) and we enjoyed ourselves so much. Now we’re back at work, and we only have 3 weeks left! 3 WEEKS!!!! I can’t even believe it and I have such mixed feelings about leaving and going back home.. time has passed by so fast! Right now I am actually waiting for my family to arrive! They are traveling through CR for 3 weeks and I will join them on the weekends when I don’t have to work. I am super excited to see them again after such a long time but it also marks the end of my time here which makes me feel very nostalgic… I am definitely going to make the best of my last few weeks here.

//Olivia

El Paredón – My personal Paradise // Guatemala // Part IV

We decided to do the entire route to our destination El Paredón by taking multiple Chickenbuses. From Santiago (Lago Atitlàn) our first stop was a small town called Cocales. Every Chickenbus has a bus driver and a ‘helper’ – a man who collects the money, which they do while the bus is driving and that can be very shaky and adventurous on the roads of Guatemala. The helper also gets out at every stop and yells out loud where the bus is going, during the ride he also stands in the frame of the open door, so he can easily jump out and help people get in and out. So we had asked the helper if they were going to Siquinala as well, and he confirmed so we didn’t have to switch buses in Cocales (one less Chickenbus – yes!). From Siquinala we switched to a different bus towards Sipacate. When we got to the small town we took a Tuk Tuk towards the lancha  (boat). From the small dock we drove along the river – Rio Acomé, which is parallel to the beach and flows into the ocean. Then we had to walk another 15min to get to our accommodation Soul Food Kitchen. We got a lovely welcome from the hosts and settled in at our new home for the next few days. As it was late afternoon already we didn’t do much, just checked out the beach and chilled by the pool for a while. In the evening we ate dinner at the restaurant that is part of the hotel (it’s not a hostel because they don’t have dorms, it’s more like a bed and breakfast feeling but without breakfast haha). The food was so delicious and finally something else for once – Thai and Indian curries and different types of asian noodle dishes! (Imagine my happy face right now). It was a successful Sunday! On Monday we decided to just chill out (we don’t do much more than that haha), we slept in (actually just me) and we went to a local place called Yolis, they cook out of their home kitchen and have a few tables on their patio. We ordered some pancakes and smoothies and we got huge portions for only 35 Quetzales each (4€ !!). We spent the day reading books we had borrowed from the bookshelf and enjoyed the tranquility of the beautiful oasis. We were the only guests staying there for the entire 5 days, and we loved it. We had organized some surf lessons for late afternoon and were super excited to get back in the water! It was so much fun and we had super friendly teachers, Jairon and Anderson who are our age and are local surfers. In the evening we ate at Soul Food Kitchen again, which we ended up doing every night because it was just so good! Tuesday and Wednesday were spent the same way. We got up, went to Yolis (one time we went somewhere else) for breakfast. Then just chilled by the pool, reading our books, taking a dip, reading some more, taking our surf lessons, eating dinner and then going to chill by the bonfire with the local surfers (Christian, Efren, Jairon, Anderson, Jorge etc.) – the guys were all super nice and chill and we had a great time talking and playing “Chinese whispers”  (I had to google the english translation and had no idea that you guys call this game by this name! In german it’s ‘Flüsterpost’). The best part was the sky. We could see endless stars and even the milky way as we waited patiently for shooting stars. I appreciate the little things the most… and coming from a big city with many lights I unfortunately can’t see many stars there, but the universe gifts me with its beauty in many places around the world. And all I wished for, when I saw a shooting star, was that I want tomorrow to be a good day. And it was.

Overall we had an amazing time in El Paredòn. To be honest it was more than amazing, it was one of the best places I have seen and experienced in all of my travels. Just a small surfer village only accessible by watertaxi (there is a road but it takes way longer and is not the fun way to do this haha), NO WIFI – which made everything so special and even more enjoyable. The whole vibe of the place was just tranquilo (calm, serene). No stress, no drama – literally good vibes only.  The beach was beautfiul; black sand, huts made out of palm trees and barely any people  (maybe the most was 20 people). There are only a few restaurants and hotels/hostels around, a few shops to buy snacks and then just fields and the houses of  the locals. Everyone was so friendly and welcoming, always vibranting with good energies. We were fortunate enough to be alone at our accommodation, so we got to know the owner a little bit. Gary is a middle aged man (maybe between 45-50 something) and has traveled all around the world. Originally from South Africa, he has opened up 14 restaurants in different countries. He stays somwhere for a few years, builts up a restaurant, works on it until he wants to move on and sells it to locals. He had opened up his last restaurant in Honduras where he had lived for 6 years. After Honduras he originally wanted to go to Nicaragua but he had some problems on the border so he decided to stay in Guatemala. About 2 years ago he started his project in El Paredòn, with his restaurant Soul Food Kitchen.  He actually didn’t plan on adding rooms, a pool and a hang out area but he changed his mind and did. A young couple, Caroline from the USA and her boyfriend Dani from Guatemala City, have been working with Gary for the last 6 months with Caroline being the manager. They are currently building a bar area and a small appartment for Gary. The couple is probably going to take over the place once he decides to move on. The 3 were super nice and interesting people, and we felt very comfortable and welcomed by them. I enjoyed my time here so so much, and I might have left a little piece of my heart there. I can’t even describe what it is – but if you have ever felt a strong, vibrant and unique connection to a place then you can probably understand. To me the people that I meet influence my perception and feeling of a place extremely, and in this case they have made it very special. This is the oasis I’ve been dreaming about and I have found it. Dreams do come true, and your own, personal paradise really does exist! You just gotta believe in it and one day you will find it. Trust me.  With that being said, we had to leave my favorite place on Thursday morning. I was actually pretty bumped, I could’ve easily spent a few years there. But life goes on, and I will return for sure. We took a shuttle to Antigua and spent our last day strolling around, eating some good food and Lina also did some souvenir shopping while I was sleeping in the hostel dorm (I stayed up very late so I was super tired). We went to bed early and woke up around 3am to go to the airport. Our uber driver picked us up and once we were at the airport we checked in and waited for our flight. We have really enjoyed our time here in Guatemala, and once again I am so grateful for all the amazing opportunities in my life. I can definitely recommend you guys all the places we have traveled here – Guatemala is a beautiful country, it has so much history and culture that is still alive today and the nature is unbelievably stunning (there are over 37 vulcanos!), the people are genuine and compassionate. I already see myself in the future – traveling a few months through Mexico and then going down to Guatemala, Belice, El Salvador, Honduras and Costa Rica. Hopefully with a surfboard in my arms. On Friday morning we arrived in Costa Rica and our ways parted, I went back home to Poás and Lina went back to Heredia…

Gracias Guatemala por tu amabilidad!

//Olivia

Lago Atitlán // Guatemala // Part III

Well… our bus ride wasn’t really how we imagined it to be like. We were told that we would switch buses in Antigua and then transferred to whichever hotel we were staying at in one of the villages around the Lake. Once we got to Antigua they let us wait 3 hours  until we could continue the trip. We were kind of pissed because they said nothing about that, but we used our time wisely and went back to one of our favorite restaurants called Samsara – if you’re looking for healthy vegan and vegetarian options in Antigua, this is the place! Some time later we had finally made it to the lake. We had to take a watertaxi from Panajachel  to San Pedro, where we were staying. Lago Atitlán is the second largest lake in Guatemala. There are many little towns and villages around it, that you can all reach by watertaxi. The population in this area are mostly indigenous Mayan people, which is definitely noticable since they speak different languages and walk around in their traditional clothing. We had booked our stay at the Hostel Casa Buena Vibra – a super chill place, with private rooms and a rooftop with a well equipped kitchen and a cozy chillout area. The owners were a french woman and her guatemalan husband, who is a local tattoo artist, they also had a little son who was soo precious! They were super friendly and helped us with everything we needed. On Wednesday we didn’t do much except buy some fruit and vegetables, then we made some dinner and went to bed. On Thursday we were still kind of lazy and tired so we just strolled around San Pedro, ate some good food and then took a dip in the fresh water of the lake. On Friday we decided to be productive for once and hiked up San Pedro Vulcano. It’s the local vulcano that has an altitude of 3020m. We got up early in the morning and took a Tuk Tuk (YES they have Tuk Tuks here!!) up to the entrance. We had to pay 100 Quetzales (GTQ) which is about 12 – it includes the entrance fee and an optional guide, you can choose whether he goes up to the top with you or only walks along the first 20min of the trail. We went for the 20min, and also grabbed some free walking sticks. The hike was definitely difficult because 98% of the trail was really steep, and there were barely any flat parts. Also I’m not a frequent nor experienced hiker.. soo yeah my body was feeling it. It took as about 3 hours to get to the top. Along the way were a few viewpoints, where you had amazing views over the beautiful lake and the mountains and villages around it. In the beginning there were also some corn fields and coffee plantations, and the best part was the swing. I was swinging around looking over the most beautiful view, the breeze touching my skin and hair, and I just felt so free and happy. At the top we sadly could only see the lake for a few seconds and then the clouds closed up. We didn’t have high expectations to see anything at the top so it was okay. It was also super cold, so we only stayed for about 20-30min, eating some bagels with hummus. Then we made our way back down which took as another 3 hours. Of course we had to stop by the swing again and enjoy the unique feeling one last time. I was so happy and proud of myself that I have accomplished this! It was my first vulcano that I have hiked up to the top and also the first summit I have ever reached! It was definitely difficult and on a scale of 0-10, an 8 for me. It is so incredible to see what your body is capable of! We were back in our beds around 1:30pm and just relaxed for a while. In the evening we went out for dinner to treat ourselves. On Saturday we started off our day renting some paddle boards for an hour. We paddled along the shore and enjoyed the different perspective of the lake. A little girl swam up to my board and chatted with me for a while, she called herself Angel (yes she was an angel indeed). The local people swim and bathe/shower in the lake with shampoo and even wash their clothes in it. There is also a lot of plastic waste floating around. This is the reality we live in.  A place can be so beautiful but yet so easily ruined by us humans… In a free magazine about the area, it stated that San Pedro has banned the use of plastic utensils and bags at all restaurants and shops. And we just started noticing that after we had read it! So there are definitely things that the people are doing to improve the situation, and it’s also important to do your own part of course. I try to bring my own bags whenever I go shopping, whether it’s at home in Germany or abroad during my travels. After our quick paddle session, we walked around the market and bought some handmade rings and bracelets. After lunch we decided to head to San Marcos – a little town on the other side of the lake. We walked along a small nature trail that had some great viewpoints and just chilled out for a while. They also had a platform for cliff jumping but we didn’t bring our bathing suits 🙁 It was still a great, chill afternoon just walking around, drinking some coffee and simply enjoying the atmosphere. We cooked some dinner at the hostel and went out for a beer or two at this place called Sublime. To be honest it was rather disappointing, nothing too special and the music was ehhh but also we weren’t really lookig for an all-nighter, so we called it a day. On Sunday we took a watertaxi to Santiago where we took a Chickenbus towards El Paredón

 

//Olivia

Flores & Tikal // Guatemala // Part II

A good 12 hours later we arrived in Flores, Petén. We were extremely tired and exhausted because the sleep during our ride wasn’t really sufficient. We got to our hotel and asked when we could check-in. It was only 6am so we knew we had to wait atleast a few hours. The receptionist told us that our room would be ready at 9am. We went up to the rooftop and listened to music and enjoyed the view. At 9am we asked for our room but they said it’s not ready yet, and because all we wanted to do was sleep we asked if we could switch to another room with an equal price. It was a pretty big place and you could look into a lot of windows, so we knew that they weren’t even close to being booked out. For whatever reason we could not switch rooms and we had to wait until 1pm to get into our room! To pass the time faster we went to get some coffee, and once we got into the room we passed out. The rest of the day we just hung out and rested, and booked a tour to go to Tikal the next day. Flores is located in the north of Guatemala and part of the city is on a tiny island (Lina said it’s the size of Lindau if that helps). The small lake is called Lago Petén Itza. Most people make their way up here to explore the Mayan ruins of Tikal (UNESCO world heritage) or to do a 5-day jungle trek to El Mirdador an ancient Mayan site as well. The next day we started our tour at 3am. We got picked up by our shuttle and drove 1-2 hours towards the site. Then we started walking towards the first pyramid. Before going to Costa Rica I had bought new Trekking/Hiking shoes for cases like this one. My sleepy self forgot to wear long, thick socks and wore short socks instead. Immediately my heels started rubbing against the shoe and within an hour my skin started peeling. It literally was so uncomfortable so I decided to just continue the tour barefoot. Most of the trails were grass or foresty soil, just sometimes there were little rocks. We hiked up the first pyramid to watch the sunrise, but sadly it was pretty cloudy and we couldn’t see too much of it. It was still amazing to hear the jungle awaken early in the morning, with the different sounds of the animals. We continued the tour and saw many more pyramids, statues and altars. The first constructions of the ancient city started back in 400-300 BC and probably more than 90.000 people used to live here. It was a very intresting tour but we were soo tired that at times it was very difficult to listen to the guide. We got back to our hostel around 1pm and we decided to nap for a while. Later that day we went out to get some food and just strolled around the little island of Flores. On Tuesday we decided to check out a nearby beach so we hopped on a watertaxi to San Miguel and we walked down some trails until we arrived at Playa Chechenal. It was a nice beach, it didn’t really have sand just mainly grass and some wooden picnic tables. There were barely any people there and we enjoyed our afternoon sunbathing and swimming in the fresh water of the lake. A few hours later we walked back on a different trail, passing a lookout where we had a beautiful view of the island and its surrounding towns. Back on the island we had one last dinner and then headed off with another night bus to Lago Atitlán…

 

//Olivia

Vamos a Guatemala! // Part I

Hi friends!

Yes, it has been a while since  I have updated this blog, but I’ve been traveling and doing lots of exicting things that I can now share with you guys. Where do I even begin?

As I have mentioned before, Lina and I were thinking about doing our language course in Nicaragua but due to the current protests and uprising revolution, we decided to head to Guatemala instead. Compared to any language courses in Costa Rica and Panama, the one we found in Antigua, Guatemala was definitely the most affordable one. The flights were pretty cheap as well, and the country itself is also a bargain for any traveler. I headed over to Lina’s house in Heredia on Thursday night with all my belongings for the upcoming trip. On friday morning we decided to visit the Irazú vulcano, which is the biggest vulcano in Costa Rica. All you have to do is take a bus from San Jose at 8am and it will bring you up to the top. It cost us 15$ entry which is kind of a lot, but almost every National Park or Nature attraction here is very expensive so we weren’t suprised. It was very cold, but we had a very nice view over the crater that holds a shimmery, turquois colored lake in its center. We stayed up there for about 2 hours, just looking and walking around. It was the first vulcano I have seen, and I was definitely impressed – Mother Nature never disappoints!  On the way back we got out the bus in Cartago, one of the bigger cities in Costa Rica. We visited the famous church called: Nuestra Señora de los Ángeles  and just strolled around and sat in a Cafe for a while. As curious as we are, we also wanted to try to take the train that has a connection between Cartago and San José, and supposedly Heredia as well. The main transportation here really are the buses, they cost under 1 one way and have many stops and pretty comfortable seats. The train was pretty rusty, we were standing almost the entire time just looking out of the window. It didn’t go really fast and only made about 5 stops, I think 3 of them were stops at Universities which is pretty convenient for the students. We got out in San José and decided to take the bus back to Heredia, because that definitely is the more comfortable and the easier option as the bus stops right in front of Lina’s house. In total we had a great day trip and we were really happy to explore more of Costa Rica. On Saturday we went to Freakz (youth program), where we practiced aerial silks and afterwards we hung out with our friends – it’s always a really good time and we are so happy to have found this place and made so many local friends.

On Sunday we had our flight to Guatemala – we took an uber to the airport and checked in. The flight lasted barely over an hour and once we arrived at the airport in Guatemala City, we got picked up by a driver from our language school that we had booked. We then drove to Antigua, where we would stay for one week to complete our course. We got introduced to our host family which consisted of Eluvia the mother and Gustavo the father and their son and daugther (which we barely saw though). Lina and I were sharing a room, and there were also 5 other students and one family staying with us at the same homestay. It was more of a hotel feeling rather than a close one on one host family atmosphere. For the rest of the day we just got organized at the language school – Maximo Nivel , and we got to know the other people. On Monday we started our course – we both had booked 6 hours a day because our organization Kulturweit requires 30 hours of classes and we just wanted to do it all at once. The day  before we had to do a test so they could estimate our spanish level and for whatever reason Lina and I ended up in the best group that they currently had. The first day we were 4 people in total, our teacher was Antonio and he was super chill. I immediately felt that the level was way too high for me because the problem is that I do not know a lot of grammar. I just started ‘learning by doing’  once I got to Costa Rica. And Lina has been stuying spanish for over 5 years in high school and has traveled to other latinamerican countries where she practiced even more. She ended up switching her 4 hour group class to 2 hours private, so she had 4 hours of private class, beause the level for her was basically too easy. For my private class I had a teacher named Magaly, she was nice but it wasn’t a very personal class atmosphere compared to Antonio’s class. After the second day I decided to switch my group to a lower level and I got into Sandra’s class. The level was still a little too high but it was so much better than before. We learned different types of grammar and practiced pronouncuation and speaking about different topics. Every day for that week we had breakfast at 7:30am, then I had 4 hours of group starting at 9am and Lina had 2 hours of private starting at 11am. Then we had a one hour lunch break where we would usually meet up with the other students from our homestay and eat at a restaurant together. At 2pm we both had another 2 hours of private class. The entire week seriously flew by, and it was very exhausting. I was definitely not used to studying , concentrating and sitting for such a long time everyday. I could definitely feel how my body and mind were melting from the inside. During the week I also took part in a free salsa class, which I really enjoyed and Lina and I also participated in the Photo Walk, which was basically a little tour around Antigua where a photographer showed us the secret spots for the best photos, it was really interesting! Also the city of Antigua is part of the UNESCO world heritage  which I didn’t know! Both activities were free and organized by Maximo Nivel. Another day we also hiked up Cerro de la Cruz –  a little hill with a huge cross on top of it and a stunning view over the city of Antigua. Some other night we drank a few beers in a bar, and another two nights I went to some salsa places to practice my moves. On Friday I had a field trip with my group and we took a Chickenbus  (name of the public buses in Guatemala) to a nearby town called San Juan del Obispo. We visited the local convent, a chocolate production and a wine production site. It was very intresting and felt super good to get out of the classroom for a while. Later that night all the students from our homestay decided to go out, so we went to El Barrio first, which is basically a inner courtyard that has different bars in it and a rooftop. It’s a very cool place because you have many options and there is something for everyone! Afterwards we went to Las Vibras de la Casbah – a popular club in Antigua. We danced our butts off and had a really great last night together, but sadly the party stopped at like 1am! So lame haha but they have some weird laws ya know… Anyways on Saturday we just strolled around, bought some souvenirs and enjoyed our last day in Antigua. We had checked out of our homestay and left our bags at the school, where we told the guy at the reception that our shuttle would pick us up at 6:30pm and we would come back at that time to take our bags. However  the guy either didn’t listen or understand because when we got back around 6:10 ish, the doors of the schools were locked. The guy forgot to tell us that they close at 6pm on saturdays! We tried to call all the emergency numbers that they gave us but no one picked up, we went back to our homestay and talked to the others but we had no idea what to do! Then luckily  the guy showed up, he literally came back because he had forgotten his pizza slices!! He told us that he thought we already left and that he definitely misunderstood. We got our bags and were finally good to go. The shuttle drove us to Guatemala City and from there we took a night bus (not a Chickenbus) towards Flores, Peténour next destination…

 

//Olivia

Tamarindo // Weekend Travel Edition

¡Pura Vida!

Last weekend I decided to make the most out of my free time – the students were having exams so a lot of my classes were canceled. I basically only worked 4 hours in two days which was the least I’ve ever worked since I was here. Well, Lina and I had plans to travel to Tamarindo on the weekend, but as I was free even earlier, I took the bus to Tamarindo on thursday morning. A good 6 hours later I arrived in my hostel, got introduced to a friendly guy from Peru, a girl from Spain and another girl from Atlanta, USA. I tried to take a short nap but I just couldn’t fall asleep as I was too excited to be there. The Peruvian guy then  invited me to go to the beach with them and because he had a rental car we drove out to Playa Negra. I was super thankful for this opportunity because reaching that beach without a car is very difficult. We enjoyed a late afternoon swim at an almost empty beach, and I had enough time to let my mind arrive in this new place. Everything I’ve heard about Tamarindo was that it’s really pretty, full of Gringos (Americans) and that there’s lots of partying. My first impression though, was a calm and welcoming oasis. In the evening I cooked up some leftover potatoes that I had brought from my house and later that night I went out to a few different bars with some other travelers from the hostel – it was an epic night, but I had way too much to drink and I accidently locked myself out of my room at like 4 in the morning. I was passed out on the couch in the living room, and when I woke up I still had the taste of alcohol in my mouth. In times like these I always say to myself that I will never drink again but I can’t even say that with a straight face haha. I actually do want to try to be sober for a year or so one day, just as a personal challenge, and the health benefits it has – I also am a full supporter of “sober fun”  –  which is basically enjoying life without needing many things (like alcohol). The hungover was spent with the same people, we drove out to two different beaches and just spent the day relaxing. Surprisingly both beaches were almost empty as well! Lina had arrived at the hostel while I was gone, so when I got back we decided to go out for dinner at this Falafel place. We enjoyed the rest of the night chilling at the hostel while listening to some live reggae music and we called it a day. On Saturday we had plans to go to Tamarindo beach  but as we left it started raining so we hung out at a coffeeshop until it stopped. We rented 2 surfboards because we wanted to get back at it and practice, but it was a disaster. I was still not feeling 100% energized because of the other night, and man.. the waves were just knocking us over. The beach is apparently a good one for beginners but I don’t know about that. Maybe we were just too weak and tired. Later that night we were cooking some pasta together with Marissa (from Atlanta) and we just played board games and talked for hours. We got to know Joe, an American  who’s currently riding his motorcycle through Latinamerica. He had just gotten to Costa Rica and told us about driving from Guatemala through Nicaragua to get to Costa Rica. He had decided to leave Guatemala earlier so he would be able to get through Nicaragua before the political situation got too intense and dangerous. While showing us his go-pro footage and telling us about his crazy journey, we all listened closley. Lina and I originally wanted to go to Nicaragua for our language course which we have to do during our stay abroad, but we decided not to due to the political situation. Joe contacted a news platform because he felt eager to share his story because sadly the media isn’t covering much of what’s going on there. His article got published just a few days ago and I highly recommend reading it (link down below).

On sunday Marissa, Lina and I decided to make the most out of my last half day in Tamarindo so we took a shuttle to Playa Conchal  which is supposed to be one of the most beautiful beaches in Costa Rica. And let me tell you it was definitely worth it although it was more crowded than the other beaches I had been at the days before. I really didn’t want to leave, the water was so clear and calm for once, that swimming in it felt heavenly. But I had to keep going and I left Tamarindo with the 2pm bus towards San José, then I accidentally got into the wrong bus at the airport and it took me an hour longer to get home. But oh well, that was definitely not the worst thing that has happened to me. I thouroughly enjoyed my time in Tamarindo, and I think it’s a great place to stay for a couple days or even 1-2 weeks. There is everything one can desire – party, cute cafés, shops, lots of surfing, crowded beaches, empty beaches and international people. It definitely is a mayor plus if you have your own car  because shuttles can be really expensive! Thank you to everyone who made my time there so crazy, fun and special.

Joe’s journey through Nicaragua: https://www.thedailybeast.com/my-nicaragua-motorcycle-diary-racing-through-a-revolution

Hasta pronto!

//Olivia

Pura Vida! // Feliz 3 meses

Hola amigos!

I can’t believe that it is halftime already. 3 months ago I arrived in Costa Rica with zero spanish and zero knowledge about this country and its people.. well I can definitely say that I feel so welcomed here, and that I have gotten to know this country better and better everyday. I have experienced A LOT the past 3 months, and I’m feeling the change constantly. I embrace the process that I’m in and can’t wait for what’s yet to come. My current state of mind has one big theme, and that is GRATITUDE. Lately I’ve been feeling so overwhelmed, excited and happy about everything in my life. I am living the best life here, even though nothing is perfect and shitty things happen to me, I am so grateful for all of it. Once again in my life has a bad experience shown me how short life can be, and that focusing on the good things will always take you so much further. All I can say is: Embrace the change, for life is an ongoing process and rollercoaster ride.

If you have time today, write down 3 things you are currently grateful for.

 

Costa Rica – you beautfiul, evergreen goddess! I can’t believe you sometimes. Actually I can’t even get over the fact that I live here. I am so grateful that I can wake up to the sound of birds chirping and dogs belling in the morning. I personally love the little things most about Costa Rica. Every morning when Charlotte and I walk to the school, we are greeted by every neighbor and shop owner on our way. I love when our students ask us questions about Germany or just general questions, because they are so curious about everything. My favorite thing is the bus ride from Alajuela to Poas or the other way around. The ride goes through the mountains and you pass a waterfall, multiple coffee plantations and soccer fields. At night you can see Alajuela and San Jose from above, with the lights shimmering in the distance. Just the other day I was talking to Lina about how a place really becomes special because of the people you meet. While traveling you will see so many different and beautiful places, but when you encounter the right people at the right time, it will make your time there even better, and it’s guaranteed that you won’t forget about this place. And this is exactly how I feel about Costa Rica. I get along with my students, my co-workers and I have Lina and Charlotte, who are awesome people! We also made some new friends through Freakz, the youth program where we practice aerial silks on saturdays, and I am just so grateful for all of the people that make my time here so special. Living in a little town for a while, is  a nice change as well since I come from a big city. It has its good and bad sides – there’s not too much to do here, I mainly work, cook, read, do yoga or go the gym. Poás basically consist of shops and sodas (costa rican restaurants), a church and a park. I try to take every opportunity to get out of the town, just so I can explore more of the rest of Costa Rica. Last weekend Lina and I explored some of San Jose’s nightlife and we went to a chocolate fair with some friends. I also was able to meet Annika and Theresa for the first time, who are also volunteers through Kulturweit and both live in San Jose. Theresa organizes a german cooking evening every two weeks, where anyone is invited to join. Last wednesday we cooked some “Rouladen”  and “Knödel”  which was really good, and we all had so much fun. This weekend I am headed off to Tamarindo on the pacific coast! Hopefully I can catch some waves! I am super stoked for everything that’s yet to come!

Honestly, I’m so happy to be here and to do all these amazing things. I am beyond grateful for this experience and for the process of being and becoming. Thank you for reading my blog and sharing this special time with me.

//Olivia