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…



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!”


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!