Sunday, July 12, 2009


Adultos Mayores

We took the Renfe from Barcelona yesterday and arrived in sunny, hot, beautiful Alicante. It is a smaller city, about 300 thousand people, directly on the sea. Our hotel is an older one that has been renovated and our room on the 18th floor overlooks the sea. Needless to say, it's incredible. Instead of writing a lot, I'll post some photos which are probably more interesting.

From our room

Friday, July 10, 2009

Sus amigos nuevos

We found the people here to be quite helpful and friendly, especially if we engaged them in conversation. Unlike Costa Rica, we did not hear ‘Buenos’ from everyone in the morning, but this is a busier and larger city than San Juan. We would, however, like to introduce you to our three new friends.


On Wednesday we walked all over the city and found ourselves on La Ramblas in late afternoon. This is a perfect place to sit and watch the pedestrians ambling up and down from the city to the sea. Two of the wooden chairs opened up so we took them and engaged in conversation with a woman, Soledad, who told me she is 78 years old. We talked about our children and grandchildren, what to do in Barcelona, and her apartment near la Sagrada Familia.

She was impressed that two women would travel so far from home and that we were continuing to Alicante for a second conference. She repeated cinquenta cinco numerous times and we figured out that 55was the number of the bus we would take from Placa Cataluyna to see la Sagrada Familia or her home.

Tonight (Friday) we once again saw Soledad with a friend on the street as we walked to supper and we hugged each other as if we were old friends. She gave us her address and phone number to come visit on our return to Barcelona. Kathy and I both commented that we could have missed seeing her if we had waited another 10 minutes in the room to leave for supper or had taken a different route. So, as Earl would say,…Karma must have meant for us to meet again.


On Thursday we returned to an area of Eixample where we had seen the Alexandra Theatre. The sign featured Desayuno en Pelicula (Breakfast and a movie) and we thought that sounded like a unique experience. We arrived to find a small common area with a bar and bartender and a few tables. Carlos prepared café con leche and a package pastry served in china cups and plates.

Carlos took his job very seriously and attempted to explain the schedule which we eventually understood. There was one movie we could see with breakfast for 5.5 euros or approximately $8.00. What a bargain! He was very surprised that I asked to take his photograph and also quite pleased at how he looked. Carlos: “Es bueno.” (It is good) Netta: “Es guapo”. (You are handsome).

The movie, Cerrezos en Flor was wonderful and we highly recommend it, maybe from Netflix. Although it was in Spanish without subtitles, the story unfolded rather slowly with excellent character development. There were only 6 other people in the small theatre which once again emphasized the importance placed on service and tranquil activity here in Barcelona.

Breakfast and a Movie

On our last day today we decided to return to the Catedral Gotic to have a longer look around, especially because Owen loves todos Goth. We toured inside the church and were heading back toward Placa Catalunya when we saw the Trixi Tour vehicles. Although we thought might be a bit awkward to be pedaled around the city, we also thought it a perfect way to see this unfamiliar area. So….we commissioned Oriol for 30 minutes and it was one of the best uses of our euros yet.
He took us through nooks and crannies we would never have found and also to see the Arch de Triomphe and Palau de la Musica Catalana, all the while providing historical and political commentary. Oriol said his name is strictly Catalan, but he was pleased we knew the Oriole bird. He happened to be in San Francisco during the Presidential election and spoke fondly of the celebrations upon Obama’s victory. We learned to never pass up an opportunity due to feeling conspicuous and Oriol earned a little income and, we hope, enjoyed our company.

And so, tomorrow we’re off for Alicante, hopefully toward additional memorable new friends and experiences.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Everything Gaudi

Inside Casa Batllo

La Pedrera (somehow uploaded sideways; not able to rotate in blog)

Rooftop at La Pedrera

When I mentioned to anyone that I would be traveling to Barcelona they immediately commented about Gaudi’s architecture and now I know why. He was a visionary before his time with a great emphasis on recycling materials (broken pieces of ceramic and glass for accent pieces) and ergonomic design in furniture, flooring, door knobs, etc.

On Monday, Kathy and I walked to the section of Barcelona called L’Eixample (eye.sham.bluh) where Antoni Gaudi created two large buildings, Casa Mila La Pedrera (the guarry) where Gaudi lived and a house commissioned by a wealthy industrialist, the Battlo House. Both were extremely fascinating and beautiful because of their unique design and decoration. There are no right angles in Gaudi’s works as the walls and windows are curved. Gaudi used lots of recycled materials and was ingenious with light and sound within the structures.

Gaudi never married and lived quite simple, walking to work, eating vegetables, and taking cold showers, which our guide swore was purely for his health. He was hit by a trolley walking home from work one day and not even identified in the hospital for three days where he died. Truly a man before his time with a reputation for being both eccentric and quite unusual in design.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Picasso and Universitat

My friend Kathy arrived on Friday and will stay through the rest of the trip. The conference continued through Saturday and my presentation went well. I certainly am glad to have attended as there were so many interesting sessions and I met and talked with people from all over the world. The conference dinner was held on a beautiful evening in the University gardens where I ate with colleagues from Australia, Canada, Thailand, and the United States.

I am finding how different Catalan is from Spanish, but still trying to muddle through. At times I'm sure it's quite comical. I think I'll break down and get a dictionary since many of the words don't appear in the one I brought.

Barcelona is an architectural dream and I wish I knew more to fully appreciate the diversity and creativity. Of course art played an enormous role as well. My friend Kathy and I toured the Museu Picasso which featured a temporary exhibit about Picasso’s friend artist Klees von dongel. The building was beautiful with rooms and rooms of Picasso’s artwork from 1890-1968, much of which I knew nothing about. Of course there were some recognizable ones. He certainly was gifted, but also seemed troubled.

The museum also has a nice café and gift shop with lots of items (e.g., notebooks, book marks, magnets) with favorite works of Picasso’s art. I am impressed with the level of politeness around the city which the large museum crowd reflected. I haven’t encountered any rudeness and, aside from Las Ramblas which is noisy and bustling, pedestrian and automobile/scooter traffic move along quite civilly.

From the museum we walked to the Museu de la Xocolate which unfortunately was cerrado and then to see the Catedral Gotici. Unfortunately I didn’t have my camera, so will have to return for photos of this magnificent structure.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Las Ramblas

Gen's postcards

Flower vendors

Bird cages

Caged birds and bunnies

At night from my hotel

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Barcelona Arrival

I am here after an uneventful trip. The shuttle was slick (1.5 hrs) and I passed the time (4 hrs) fairly easily in Hartsfield. In comparison to the Allegiant planes with large seats and plenty of leg room, the 767 was packed with really tight quarters making it worthwhile to be height disadvantaged. Individual TVs in the back of the seat kept me entertained as I slept only about an hour just prior to breakfast, Egg McMuffin style. I cannot recommend “I Love You, Man” and give mixed reviews to “Sunshine Cleaning”. Several episodes of a travel show by Andrea, a wine sommelier, and her tag-a-long husband John were much more entertaining. On our way out of the plane we passed through Business section where it appeared the seats converted to beds. Delta strikes again

There were several young adults on the plane and I sat next to a young man who is in Pharmacy school in Ann Arbor coming to observe a pharmacy here for a month. It won’t surprise anyone that I re-grouped my bits once more in the airport and purchased another Dash at Brookstone. It worked beautifully and I am a happy traveler.

I debated transportation options from the airport and really wanted to try to navigate on my own instead of in a taxi. The Aerobus was slick and I found the Jazz Hotel a short walk and one question for directions away from the bus stop. Hotel Jazz is centrally located, just off Placa Universitat and its modern façade in the midst of historical buildings. The room isn’t ready so I am sitting in the lobby now after walking around a bit and eating a breakfast of under cooked fried egg, greasy bacon, and French fries which the waiter and I settled on in our version of Spanglish, or maybe I should say Catalanglish. The café con leche was delicious.

Barcelona is large and sprawling, 1.7 million in the city proper, but it seems well planned and fairly easy to navigate. The plazas here are called Placas (plah.say.duh), and are the focal points for the city’s neighborhoods and business areas. The Ramblas (streams) is the very popular walking, shopping, eating, people watching avenue that serves both as a hub and a connection of city and sea. Smaller streets branch off of it and I plan to walk its 1 mile length as an introduction to my temporary residence. It’s bustling around here with tourists and locals interspersed. It’s good to see so much Spanish everywhere and I hope to improve skills by reading and speaking it these next two weeks exploring another grand city.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Mis Barrios

Well, I’m quite proud of myself because I negotiated my way to the correo (post office) which included getting directions in Spanish, walking there, crossing several busy intersections, and mailing my post cards. Then I took the autobus back to the area near the hotel. I certainly hope the post cards make it to the United States.

I’d like to describe this area a bit. San Jose sits in the center and is a city of Barrios to the east, south, west, and north. I don’t know how many, but there are several. Hotel Boutique Jade and the language school are in Barrio Dent. Barrio San Pedro is adjacent and the Universidad de Costa Rica is located there.

Addresses in SJ are quite unusual as there are no house or building numbers and most of the streets don’t have well marked names. Avenidas run one way; calles another. So, a typical address is Avenida B, Calles 2 y 4 which means Avenue B between Streets 2 and 4.
Boutique Jade is on the east side of the city and its address is: Hotel boutique Jade, Bo. Dent, near Subaru, 300 meters north. Actually some of the directions and addresses aren’t that much different from Chattanooga’s “turn right at the street just past where the old Wal Mart was”. Javier told us that some home addresses may be something like: the third house past the corner, next to the blue garage. When a postal delivery person changes jobs it causes quite a mess. Most of the people in rural areas do not have delivery, but pick up their mail at the post office.

This section of Barrio Dent is a mixed use neighborhood with homes, condos, commercial buildings, offices (e.g., Deloitte), the language school, Columbia and Paraguay embassies, plant market, commercial soccer field, one or two restaurants, and the hotel. The 3-story Mall San Pedro is a short walk away. I will describe that in greater detail later. It is quite walkable although we were warned about pick pockets, etc. which I’m sure is standard operating procedure. I have passed many people young and old and always receive a ‘Buenas’ which is Costa Rican for Buenas Dias/Tardes. However, I do not go out walking after dark.

Hotel Grano de Oro is in Barrio San Bosco on the west side of the city. Paseo Colon is the main street and it fills with both cars and buses during rush hour, so much so that it is almost impossible for cars to get across an intersection. I also have noticed that there is no such thing as pedestrian right-of-way, so crossing an intersection can be interesting. Last night a taxi to a restaurant four blocks away took almost 20 minutes because of the traffic. That’s the good news/bad news about eating early here. Good news: no problem getting in and being served; bad news: good luck getting to the restaurant.

Because there is so much traffic through the center of the city, drivers must now stay out of the city one week-day a week, depending on the last digit in their license plate. So, sometimes one must borrow a car with a different last digit in order to drive to certain locations on certain days. This reminds me of the gas rationing in the early 70s when we could purchase gas on certain days, depending on license plate numbers. This is yet another unique and interesting Costa Rican quality.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Back to San Jose

We traveled back to the city yesterday, making stops in the Orosi Valley and at Cartago the first capitol of Costa Rica. The two churches we visited with worlds apart. Orosi church was small and quite old. The windows, statues, and pews were all beautiful. We saw unbelievable art work in the museum and had a delicious lunch in a restaurant. We have had several ‘typical’ meals which consist of rice, beans, vegetables, meat (chicken, beef, pork), and plantains. This one was the best. Of course there is also always dessert and we predict (and lobby) for the favorite either ice cream with sauce or arroz con leche (rice pudding). Yesterday it was jello and ice cream which was a first and something I easily passed up.

The church in Cartago was huge and also very pretty. It sits in the center of town with a large plaza adjacent. Not only is Cartago the first CR capitol, but it also is the location of the miracle of the Virgin of Los Angeles. This is the story of a small girl’s vision and has developed into a huge pilgrimage. Thousands of people travel to the church, some walking from as far away as Guatemala, for the August 2 service. The people sleep in the plaza and all around the square. There is a display inside the corridor before entering the church with all the ‘por favors’ that people leave for blessings. They look like the Milagros we know and saw at the Mission north of Green Valley, AZ. The girls would enjoy seeing charms in the shape of feet, hands, etc. plus such things as baby beds, hearts, necklaces, bracelets, etc.

On to San Jose and our hotel right in the center of the city. It has been modernized and several of us got suites with a common sitting area with flat screen TV and two separate bedrooms that were quite large and nicely decorated. Too bad we didn’t stay there for 5 nights. Our last meal was full of stories, email address exchanging, and good-byes. I feel this must have been an unusual group as we all truly enjoyed each other and looked after each other. My dear friends from NY have invited me to visit; they have had very full and interesting lives and both are in their 80s. We couldn’t believe how well they traveled. This morning some of us had breakfast before leaving the hotel but not before planning to meet next fall in Ashville, NC. Hope it happens.

San Jose a Solas
Well, it’s a little different being here alone. I was waiting in the lobby for Javier’s brother when he showed up. Apparently there was car trouble so Javier took me to the Hotel Boutique Jade to leave my bags and then on to the Butterfly Garden. It was small, but there were lots of butterflies and flowers with even a small waterfall. I was the only one there so took time and lots of photographs. Then Melissa, the person in charge, showed me a movie about butterflies in Spanish. Oh, well, I caught some of it. We talked about my planned trip to the Doka Coffee Plantation and she asked if I’d like to see the whales, I think on the Caribbean coast. Of course there isn’t time, but she insisted on taking my email to invite me the next time.

After a trip to the Supermercado for a few things, I unpacked totally, made a pile of things to leave here, and washed some of the damp clothes. Ate a lovely dinner in the hotel restaurant and now “Something About Mary” in Spanish. It’s still hilarious and I’m picking up some new words. Somehow I managed to negotiate the language enough to get around, use the bank, take a taxi, and order cena. It’s still a bit too quiet and I’m being very careful to let the front desk staff know where I’m going. They’re quite friendly. More adventures to follow, I’m sure. Buenos Noches.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Safe, Dry, and Warm Part 2

Still safe.

Feliz Cumpleanos, Rod!

We haven't seen the sun at all this week and it continues to rain, so things are damp and cold. Some of my fellow travelers are somewhat cranky and all are ready to return to the United States. I am still enjoying the people so much that I can overlook some of the discomfort. However, we did not receive accurate information about what to pack (e.g., a light sweater or jacket for evenings) and most of us don't have the appropriate clothing. The locals here say that it rains almost all the time and although it is a bit colder now than usual, the rain is typical.

Here's an example of my daily layered attire: sleeveless top used as an undershirt, long sleeve t-shirt, button-up shirt, light jacket, San Jose heavy jacket. At no point did I remove more than the heavy jacket and light jacket. My legs were cold most of the day as I only had cotton pants. The wool socks I purchased in Chattanooga have been wonderful!

Our classes, dining room, meeting rooms are all 'afuera' or open-air and of course no place has heat. Today after class we had a nice afternoon in a restaurant in Turrialba that was covered on all sides except the front. It was actually warm inside. Our teachers went with us to visit with some people who live in Turrialba and it was quite fun to talk with them. When I return, I am to visit Lucinda and Pepe's finca (farm) where they grow organic crops and coffee, have no electricity except for a generator, and fish in the river that run along the side. We also talked with another gentleman who explained a lot about machines, but we didn't get a lot of it. Then we played bingo where we were to cover the entire board (our black-out). We joked about yelling 'Bingo' just to receive a prize, but were afraid they would make us read back each of the numbers. Too much work.

We continue to be served delicious food and lots of it. The tamale we had at Restaurant Betty in town was the best yet and reminded me of the ones we used to get in Marion. Each meal is a large one, so Weight Watchers definitely is on the schedule for February. Must head off to cena. Here's another CR saying that means 'all good': Solo Bueno! Much love, Netta

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Dia de Obama

Even though Javier made arrangements for the speech viewing over lunch, we awoke to CNN in the dining room or dining area (all open-air), Somehow the owner arranged for the connection. So.....I opted to stay here all day and skip class, lunch, and the tour. Well, actually we ate lunch here so no skipping meals.

Two other ladies stayed as well and it was terrific. No one at the hotel speaks English and I was the one who knew the most Spanish. I'm not sure what we said, but we are all very happy. After the speech, Hector the owner, had Rosa the waitress/server/everything else prepare special watermelon drinks with fruit garnish to celebrate. The photograph says it all. Pura vida!

La Iglesia (church) in Turrialba

The trip from San Lorenzo to the town of Turrialba took about 6 hours, back through San Jose with a stop for lunch. The weather in San Jose was very pretty, clear and sunny which always happens on a trip. Our hotel is in the mountain, up a curvy and bumpy road. Mario our driver is an expert, quite cautious and very safe. We checked into our rooms (more about them later, or maybe not) and looked around the area. During this time I overheard one of the other women talking to Javier about the time mass was scheduled in town, 6:00. He told her that he and Mario would drop her off when they went to get gas and then she could get a cab back. But she was reluctant to go and said she would stay back at the hotel. I had thought about going to mass in San Jose next Sun., so told Mary I would go with her, so we did. We even got two other ladies to come along.
We were in town by 4:45 so had plenty of time to look around before mass began. Turrialba is a larger town for the area with a nice business district scattered around a central park. The church commands a position across from the park and the church school sits next to it, so together they take a whole block. It seems that is typical in CR. From the outside, it is a pretty church, white with high windows and doors. The escuela (school) is pink. The park was very active with families, a pony for children to ride, and skateboarders. We went into a couple mercados, saw the pananderia (bakery) with very tempting treats, and said ‘Hola’ to everyone who responded, ‘Hola’.
We entered the church around 5:30 and were impressed with its beauty. There were large baskets of fresh flowers around the altar and sides. There also were a lot of people there already which we thought unusual for a Saturday night, but also impressive. Three men and two women were setting up instruments and trying out a loud speaker system. We got a few looks, but friendly ones. The church which held at least 300 people filled up. Very impressive attendance.
After an announcement of which we caught a few words, everyone stood and faced the back of the church while the priests walked up the aisle. Then they applauded which we thought unusual, but nice. Well, to make this long story shorter, we were experiencing the installation of a new priest and assistant and the monsigneur was heading the ceremony. We then understood the flowers, attendance, music, etc. It was quite a service and, although we didn’t understand a lot of it, we had programs and even sang along. At the point of ‘la Paz’ we shook each other’s hands and the people in front of us turned around to say ‘paz’ and then people from around us came up and shook hands and hugged us, saying ‘bienvenidos’ (welcome).
Another part of the service was quite lovely. At this point all the parents took their children up on the altar to greet the monsigneur and receive a ‘beso’ (kiss). After they finished, he proceeded to start another part of the service, but one little girl walked right up to him. He looked down, stopped speaking, and bent over to kiss her on the head, without missing a beat. It was truly a highlight of the trip!

One of the ladies here mentioned that this poem was recited by Mario Cuomo at a celebration for Ed Koch. I quite like it:

Outwitted by Edwin Markham

He drew a circle that shut me out —
Heretic, rebel, a thing to flout.
But Love and I had the wit to win:
We drew a circle that took him in!

After mass we found a cab back to the hotel, but got lost and had yet another adventure. Life in a country with a different language truly is an adventure.

Paz y amor, Netta

Arriba Arriba

17 enero Sabado (Saturday): Well, I had a new experience today, Canopying. I have seen it in advertisements and on The Amazing Race and also saw some people doing it when we were in Monteverde, but never considered trying it myself. Then I thought, who knows when the opportunity will present itself again, so I decided to try it. John, the fellow from Ohio, and I were the only ones to sign up, so we had a semi-private experience. By the way, John’s wife Libby grew up in Hillside, IL and went to Proviso West High School the first place I taught, so we have been reminiscing about some of the teachers who were still there when I was. She graduated in ’61 and I started teaching there in ’68.
Back to the canopy. A driver picked us up and delivered us at the center (a small building in the road). Lands in Love Hotel owns the canopy business and a restaurant next to it. Jason, the guide from our forest tour on Fri and Naldo assisted us in getting rigged up, harnesses around the upper body that is somehow attached to a separate section that you step into and wear around the waist. So, we had straps all over our bodies. These straps have 3 hooks that attach to the cable. We also donned a helmet and gloves with a leather patch on the palm of the dominant hand. This patch assists in slowing down at the end of the cable. I keep referring to it as the forest because they call it the Cloud Forest or Rain Forest. It’s really a jungle too, but no one says that here, maybe because of the climate?
So, the camopy process involves clipping the harness to the cable, raising both legs in a crossed position, and ‘taking off’. At the end there is a platform, the guide give a sign to slow down so, you put the dominant hand behind your head and hold the cable. This is a little tricky because if you stop too soon, you have to go hand over hand to get to the end of the cable. We didn’t have any problems, partly I think because of our guides’ skill.
Jason and Naldo were terrific, pleasant, humorous and quite caring. They shared pet names for one another and had a great laugh over the fact that we too used them. I think we knew the meanings of the words, but then again there could be some connotation we didn’t understand. No harm done. We canopied across 10 lines and also tried the ‘Tarzan swing’ where one actually swings out from the land across nothing but the forest, about ¾ of the way to the top. The guides push you out the first time, catch you and push out again, catch and push out for a third trip. We both did that series twice and the last time I went out, they twisted me so I spun around all the way out and back. That was not especially fun!
There was quite a bit of walking up and down a path along the sides of the forest which was marked and stepped out well, but still a bit of a challenge. We spent about 2 ½ hours altogether, but some of the time we were talking and learning about each other and each other’s countries while standing on the tree platforms. Sorry not to have photos, but the experience is etched in my mind and my heart.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Hey, Netta - When You Coming Home?


When are you coming home? This Rod guy is a disaster - he's gone all day, doesn't always clean out my litter box and doesn't give me treats when he first gets home, like you do.

I miss you (well, as much as a cat can miss someone) so hurry home.


Friday, January 16, 2009

Cloud/Rain Forest
Today definitely was a day of natural things. We are in the mountains at Lands in Love. I highly recommend looking at their website as it is a most unusual place more or less the transition area between the cloud and rain forests. It rained quite heavily about 5:00am and then was cool and overcast. We had an optional bird walk at 6:00 and, even though I was awake, I thought they wouldn’t go and happily went back to sleep. The two folds who did walk with Javier, our guide, saw several hummingbirds, birds of unknown origin, and two Tucans. That would have been nice.
I stepped out on the back veranda about 7:00 to see the surroundings and was thrilled to see a medium size animal inching his way up a thin tree. He looked very much like an anteater. After describing him to Javier and the teachers traveling with us, they each had a different special name I can’t find in the dictionary. It is something like Duermado, which is a derivative of dormir (to sleep). My best guess is that he was a sloth. Anyway, I got a couple of really good pictures of the little guy which I will try eventually to upload on the blog. Tali Sue will like him.
After lunch we took a walk in the forest and mainly saw vegetation and no wildlife. We passed under a canopy zipline that the hotel will arrange and I am planning to do that tomorrow with a mild mannered fellow in our group. I’m hoping that he’ll be a calming effect.
After class I came back to the room to change for dinner and was greated by a lizard scrambling across the wall to the window. He hid in the curtains for a while, but I think eventually went out a rather large gap between the screen and the window, which probably was the way he got in. I needed Cole here to catch him.
Now a little more about the hotel before closing. Several years ago an Italian man purchased the land here and established a hotel. However, for some reason he didn’t maintain it and it fell in disrepair. Around 8 years ago 19 friends from Israel got together and purchased 228 acres and the hotel. They came here with many pets (check the website for numbers you won’t believe) and worked for 3 solid months to resurrect the hotel. The wood is beautiful throughout and Genevieve would really love all the painting they have done to walls, towels, sheets, floors, furniture, bathroom tiles. There are tiny flowers, leaves, vines, etc. painted throughout the buildings and furnishings.

The food is all vegetarian and they will prepare any of the breads, pancakes, tortillas, etc gluten-free because it poses such a health hazard. Our choices have included hamburgers, tacos, meat balls, ham and cheese sandwiches (all soy based), sushi (vegetables), huumus and falafal, different pastas, and salads. Desserts are mostly chocolate (sorry, Rod) and of course delicious. Service is their priority so that everyone enjoys the visit. We are all impressed with the attention to detail for grounds, buildings, rooms, dining room, etc. I’d love to come back here and can only imagine what the rates must be.

Tonight we had traditional music in the lodge after supper and some of us even had a couple of games of pool. Actually, it was quite a group: Mario, our driver; Elena, one of the Spanish teachers from our school, John, fellow from Ohio; Phyllis, lovely woman in her late 70s from NY; and me. Aside from John and Mario, not an especially auspicious pool playing crowd, but great company.

Freezing in Florida

Hi, Poo---Hope I've been successful in my attempt to post. I've been reading your blog daily and am very impressed with your descriptions and explanations. Maybe you could be writing travelogs! Things here are chilly but very pretty, and there's no big news. I know you're having a great experience; keep up the good reports. Love, Becky

Transition to the Cloud/Rain Forest

16 enero
We are on our way to San Lorenzo for Lands in Love. The drive will take approximately 2.5 hours, but that could expand to 4 hours depending on traffic. So far the trip has been very satisfactory and the people are very compatible and we have already begun to look after each other (remembering bags, waiting at lunch, etc). Two members of the group, John and Mar, returned to the United States today because John started feeling ill yesterday and didn’t want to continue and expose the rest of us. Apparently the travel agency, Holbrook, made the arrangements and things went smoothly. My guess is also that they had purchased travel insurance. We all hate to see them leave because they were extremely interesting and nice people.
Last night we went to a local restaurant to experience a typical Costa Rican meal. The restaurant was quite large and nicely decorated. We sat on the top level which was open air with a commanding view of the valley lights. A spectacular site! The delicious meal consisted of tamale with pork and carrots, wrapped in a banana leaf, rice, diced potatoes that were sweet, refried beans, pico de gallo, and the main feature—fried pork (cincherrone). Luckily they served one of my favorite dishes, arroz con leche (rice pudding). I think I have gained 5 pounds already because not only are we eating well and large servings, but basically get no exercise aside from walking back and forth to school. Oh, did I forget to mention the cerveza? I opted for an Imperial (the local beer), but they also always serve tasty drinks of different fruits such as blackberry, mango, pear. These drinks are quite sweet and apparently have a lot of calories. That’s why I stick with cerveza.
We also toured the Museo de Oro (Gold Museum) in town yesterday afternoon. The exhibits contain pre-Columbian artifacts of gold. There are small shields, spheres, and collars worn by warriors along with numerous different small animal figures. Our guide showed us the manner in which the figures were created which was referred to as ‘old cast’. It is very similar to the molding method used today. The different animals and historic birds, or Cibos, were very intricate and realistic. Some of the ones represented were bats (Owen would love them), frogs, serpents, rabbits, and birds.
I really am reluctant to mention the weather here in light of the mess back in the United States. I do realize that it is extremely cold and nasty there now and am not sorry to miss that type of problem. However, we are mostly all very cold here! For January, it is unusually cool and windy. Our travel literature recommended a ‘light sweater’ for the mountains and cool evenings plus such things as sunscreen, bathing suit, and sun hats. So, most of us brought a couple of long sleeve shirts and light sweaters, but few had sufficiently warm clothing. At the last minute before leaving Chattanooga, I threw in another light sweatshirt with hood and thought I had over packed. At cena (dinner) last night I layered a long sleeve t-shirt, a light sweater, my light sweatshirt, and a light jacket and wore a scarf around my neck. I was comfortable under all those ‘light’ layers.
Today it is even cooler and windier. After lunch I hurried across to the mall and purchased a quilted jacket with a hood so I am now finally a happy camper. Our teacher, Melissa, recommended a store named Pronto and I even used Spanish for the transaction. The young salesclerks were quite nice, even offering an opinion about color choice.
We just stopped at a town called San Ramon to get off the bus and take a short break. The drive is curvy and at a little bit slow, but Mario our driver, is excellent. San Ramon is quite pleasant. The church in the center of town is beautiful! Across the street the park is full of people and two men are playing music. I hope I’ll be able to download and upload some photographs. I could go on and on, but must stop before the battery dies. Mas para manana.

Cacique: Alcohol producing company exported to other countries, especially Canada, plus different national liquors.
Sugar cane, Volcan Poas (Poas Volcano)

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Hi Netta

Hi Netta
I will have to get the kids to write you a message tonite, they have not quite gotten it that you are traveling for a while, Talia keeps asking if you are coming here.
Glad all is well, I am sure you are getting some great photos. We are well, owners of a new car that we love (chrysler town and country) . Cole is doing double sports, Tali back to swimming (although home sick today) and gymnastics, Gene is starting ballet and will have her first recital in June. Andrew is consumed with bar review and I am...not sure what I am doing.

Can't wait to hear more soon
Love cicely

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

A Little Bit of Shake, Rattle, and Roll

This was another busy day with classes, a walk to the 3 story mall on Avenida Central, some homework, and dinner at a Brazilian restaurant. I want to talk about our language school a little, but first must report on the 'tremblor' I felt early this morning.

Yes, there was an after shock from the earthquake around 1:00 am. It felt like a boat rocking, only from head to foot, not side to side. I was asleep, but woke up and thought I must have dreamed it. No one mentioned anything this morning, so I didn't say anything either. Then at dinner tonight several people remarked that John, one of the men in our group, also had talked about feeling a tremor. Then I had to compare notes and the reaction was very similar. Apparently he and I were the only ones to feel it. Just goes to show you that these people are heavy sleepers! Probably because most of them also are up and ready to go by 6:00 am.

I remember an earthquake in Chicago back when we were living there. Dad and I had driven to Rockford to purchase the Rambler American (Roger Rambler) he gave me for graduation and were returning to the city when it occurred. We didn't feel anything in the car, but everyone in our apartment building was talking about it.

Back to the school.
We are attending the Costal Rica Language Academy, There are many students there from all over the world, most of them in their early twenties or thirties. Our group is separated for class from everyone else with one teacher for 3 or 4 of us. The teachers are all female, young, confident, patient, and very effective. Our Spanish abilities range from beginner with no previous experience to conversational. John (fellow tremor mate) and his wife Libby have attended language programs in the United States, Mexico, Spain, South America, and now Costa Rica. Several other people in the group have studied for years.

We have instruction and practice from 9-12 and again from 1-2. From 2-3 we hold conversations. Yesterday we held additional conversation from 3-4. There also is a dance class, which is more lake a combination aerobics/line dance session, after that.

The facility is a little like a rabbit warren with a central entrance room and break room. There is an outdoor seating area and snack bar. Then there are several small buildings with classrooms on either side of the main entrance. It reminds me a little of a California or Florida school arrangement. During breaks I try to visit with some of the other students and find that they are there for at least 4 weeks and some continue with mission work or traveling afterward. It's been good to experience the school so I can tell other people what to expect if they want to attend one.

Some of us tried to speak only Spanish outside of school today, but that ended by lunchtime. It's very tiring for one thing and our vocabulary is too limited to discuss all the things a bunch of Elderhostelers want to know about each other and talk about. However, I am using Spanish more with the people working in the hotel, some of whom speak little or no English.

I have an essay to write for homework, so will close this post and act like a responsible student. Salud Dinero y Amor...(Health, Money, y Love) y el tiempo para disfrutarlos (and the time to enjoy them).

Monday, January 12, 2009

Glad to hear that J. arrived safely..........

I'm relieved to hear from J. and that everything is going well. She sure picked the right time to get away from Chattanooga as a cold front came in, yesterday, and lows are forecast to be in the teens with the possibility of snow! (We seldom get snow, here.) I probably won't receive any simpathy from the IL gang but this kind of weather is tough on a former Floridian.

Anyway, I think this blog is a great idea as it will allow J's friends and family to share in her experiences in CR as she continues to learn a second language.

Hartsfield Information and Tips:

Travelers Checks:
They are difficult to use, even in the United States. I haven’t purchased them in a long time, but should have had a clue when the young man at the bank said they don’t sell them much anymore. Today Rod and I stopped for a bite to eat at Wendy’s in Ringgold, GA. I wanted to get some more change, so offered to pay with a traveler’s check. The cashier was new and didn’t really even know what it was. Her supervisor said it’s just like cash, so I signed and put Wendys on the line. We got our food, but no change. Then the same supervisor said she called her supervisor who said they no longer take traveler’s checks. Rod bailed us out.

I usually avoid Hartsfield as planes to Chattanooga are often delayed or canceled and it’s a crowded mess. The last time I flew internationally from here was March, 2004, to visit Hal and Jean in Costa Rica. Rod and I had driven down the night before for an early flight. There was one international check-in line for all flights that morning and I stood in it for over an hour.

Departure Lanes:
Delta takes most of one Terminal. The first door is also Air France, so skip that one and try to get out around the third door (they aren’t numbered). Today there was no line at all and I had a choice of kiosks for checking in. They also still have curbside check-in.

Today was an entirely different story from 2004. There are several kiosks with an agent at each one. Boarding passes (printed at home last night) are scanned and indentification checked—all in about 5 minutes. After bags are weighed, a passenger is free to go to security.
Security: I always try to get to the airport early enough to take my time here, plus I have lots of things to put through the machine. Contrary to previous trips, I didn’t set the alarm off, but the person in front and in back of me each was searched. TSA officials were very polite, patient, and friendly.

Read the departure gate monitor carefully. After deciding a walk would be good, I left security and walked to B32 which I discovered was the gate for San Jose, CA. Turned around, took the train, and arrived at E26 a few minutes later. Lots of room and an NFL football game too, so it doesn’t get much better than this.

Shopping and eating in the E Gate area:
Believe it or not, I’m not shopping. There are quite a few shops including Duty Free, and a couple of nice looking restaurants in addition to a large food court.

There are about 5 connection options, all at $7.95/24 hours. The Hartsfield webpage is quite comprehensive.

Boarding passes:
If you fly on either Delta or North West, but sure the name on the boarding pass corresponds to the airline plane. Without any notification, they required several passengers to get out of the boarding line and have a different pass printed.

So, I hope this is helpful for those in an area dominated by Delta and Hartsfield. Safe travels.

primero dia

i am using a spanish keyboard and haven´t mastered the key positions yet, so this may look a little different. our flight was fine, just late. i finally got to my room around 11:30. the hotel boutique jade is very nice and quite modern. my room is large and very comfortable. a few things don´t work ´(safe, toilet, water, wake up call), but only minor inconvenience. my driver from the hotel told me that he lives near alueja, the location of earthquake tremors and that several things in his house are broken. all his family is safe, however. our conversation was in spanish so i may have missed a few things. people here are very willing to accommodate and very pleasant. the driver also told me that the economy here is affective by things in the u.s. which of course seems logical. tourism is down a bit.

we met for breakfast at 6:45 which was painful, but their excellent coffee helped. after a tasty breakfast we had orientation and then off to the spanish language school. we´re all really impressed. after evaluations we were grouped and there are 4 of us with a very good teacher. we reviewed present tense verbs this morning and spent the afternoon in conversation. it´s tiring. i know now how sophie felt after a long day at uhs and she was trying to learn content as well as practice english. tomorrow it´s preterite.

dinner together, homework time, and early to bed. my internal clock is screaming! oh, yes, one more thing....the weather was nearly perfecto. 70s, light breeze. lo siento for those in colder climes.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Blog Fog

Thanks for the feedback. I think I've corrected posting problems so you can make comments. This is another example of the beauty and curse of technology, especially for those of us who come into the era rather later in life. However, I do love the internet. Keep in touch!

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Safe, Dry, and Warm

January 10, 2009
I jokingly use this as my travel criteria. After sorting, purchasing, assembling, re-sorting, removing, charging (electronics), and evaluating travel necessities, the joke gets better. Today I'm finalizing my 'bits' and it's no easy task. The clothes were easy, and I'm taking mostly things I could leave, or lose, but the bits present monumental challenges. We'll see if they are as important and necessary as they seem this afternoon.

Scheduling arrangements for the last week on my own proved interesting. I attempted to do it all through the internet and got some rooms on Expedia. The Elderhostel changed our last night in CR from a hotel near the airport and the Doka Coffee Plantation to a downtown hotel, so I opted not to stay the extra night there before heading the the Pacific Coast. Then things got interesting with the hotel and airline. I think all is settled now.

I don't know the implications of the earthquake, but Hal emailed today that their friends experienced some major inconvenience while visiting near Poaz and La Paz. I think that area might be off my to do list. Roads may be affected throughout the country.

Rod has been so helpful, and patient. Today he is assisting with such chores as opening package locks, batteries, and camera memory cards to cutting out the UPC code on a new photo printer. I wish he could join me, but he will be in a very busy month at work. Plus, what would Mia do? I have visions of their eating all kinds of junk food together and napping on the couch a lot.

We saw Gran Torino last night which was very powerful, but led to some weird dreams of driving across the country in Tom and Mary Ann's van, probably on the run from some undesireables. You will understand when you see Clint in action. Tonight we plan to see the Mocs basketball game tonight which hopefully will not lead to nightmares.

Hope I am able to continue postings from CR and that you enjoy them, or at least find time to read them. Apologies now for spelling errors. Let's see how this works....ROAD TRIP!