Sunday, December 16, 2012

Pura Vida: Costa Rica is "full of life" indeed!

So, after four months of living in Peru, I am now living in Costa Rica - San Pedro to be exact.  San Pedro is a suburb of San Jose, the capital of Costa Rica.  Actually, San Pedro is one of the closest suburbs to San Jose and is just a short bus ride away.  San Jose and San Pedro are basically big urban environments, however the beauty of this amazing country is out of the urban center.  While I have been quite busy working since I arrived, I have gotten out a little to observe the beautiful landscape of Costa Rica.  Also, the national motto (and the phrase most commonly heard here) is Pura Vida which means "full of life" or "this is living!"  As I mentioned, this is absolutely the life philosophy of Ticos (nickname of Costa Rican people).  Most days, my Tico co-workers say this lovey phrase to me as they greet me in the morning or ask how their day is going.  It's a beautifully optimistic outlook on life, and I hope I can always embrace the spirit of Pura Vida in each day.

For the first three weeks of my time in Costa Rica, I stayed with a wonderful host family - Maria and Juan Carlos.  They were so kind and wonderful and when I extended my visit by 4 extra nights, Maria was so happy!  They really treated me like one of their family.  While my Spanish is limited and their English is even more limited, we somehow found a way to communicate.  I truly loved staying with them!

My awesome host parents - Maria and Juan Carlos

Their living room

My room for three weeks


Nativity scene they put up in their garden
 Over the weekend, I moved into my new home for the next several months (or however long I get to stay in this lovely country).  It seems I'll likely move to Guatemala in February, but until is my home!

The entrance to the house.  There is a main house (up the stairs) where the owners live, though they are mostly gone as they currently live overseas.  They converted three parts of the house into apartments.  Mine is on the bottom floor (where the door is open to the right).

Upstairs (entrance to main house on right) apartment to the left and the rest is this gorgeous patio we all share. 

Wonderful patio with a great view of the mountains

My place - love the funky design of the place.  Also love all the skylights which make this "basement" apartment bright at all times.  If only it wasn't bright at 7 am.  ;)  Minor complaint...I've become a morning person after all.

Around the corner from the kitchen is the bedroom.  Funky bedspread (and totally my style) and check out the cool door to the bathroom.
A few weeks ago, my friends Becca, Jeff, and I went to visit a local volcano.  There are over 40 volcanoes in Costa Rica, so we thought this would be a great start to exploring the area.

On the way to the volcano, we stopped for fresh strawberries which grow on the base of the volcano - delicious!

We made it!  Yes, this is the crater of the volcano - though sadly we couldn't see it for all the fog/clouds.

The rain made for some good pictures however

The crater - and yes, it really did feel like we were standing in a cloud

What we should have seen...

Fog/cloud and rain...

Enjoyed watching people pose with the "volcano"

On a short hike to another look out

It felt like we were in an enchanted forest!

Lots of moss...very cool!  A bit shocking to my eyes to see all this green after the brown hills of Peru.

La Paz waterfall.  I have never been this close to such a huge waterfall - it was amazing!

Gotta have a foot shot

The waterfall was so powerful!  In addition to the rain, we got wet from the splash of the falls

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Valle Sagrado (Sacred Valley): One unknowing last look at Peru

So, just two weeks ago today, I went on a day trip around the Valle Sagrado (Sacred Valley) near Cusco to see some more Incan ruins and beautiful countryside of Peru.  I had planned this trip as a way to see some more things close to Cusco prior to moving (at that time a full week away).  Little did I know, the next day I would find out I had to move to Costa Rica the following day.  In a whirlwind of goodbyes and "tying up loose ends", I was able to pack up my apartment (very thankful I only have 2 suitcases worth of things) and even spend some time with close friends before leaving.  The quick move was precipitated by a sick staff member in Costa Rica, and thus having no on to teach our TEFL course here.  So, here's one last look at Peru before the pictures of Pura Vida (pure life - mantra of Costa Rica) are displayed!  Many thanks to all the wonderful people I met while living and working in Peru - you all made my experience there wonderful!

A view of the Valle Sagrado from near Pisac (first town we stopped in)

Valle Sagrado

Valle Sagrado

Valle Sagrado

Terraces near Pisac

A woman selling barley (commonly used as a tea in Peru)

Peru is known for potatoes - allegedly over 3000 kinds!  Here are just a few...

We went to a silver workers workshop - very interesting

Beautiful stones and shells used in the jewelery pieces

Beautiful flowers in the courtyard of the jeweler y shop

The streets of Pisac




 Pisac - more weavers in front of the market

Beautiful woven items in the market

An Incan look out tower in the hills

Incan Ruins in Ollantaytambo

The entrance - you can see this a bit later too, but look how the door way is made - the Incans were prepared for earthquakes and thus designed windows and doors like this (with slanted walls)

Quite similar to Machu Picchu in many ways - but much smaller  - though very beautiful as well.

Another Incan settlement in the hills near these ruins

Our very passionate guide

View of Ollantaytambo

BIG steps (this guy had to be 6'5" at least)


This is for you Amy...

I just really dig the terraces and the steps


Another example of a window/storage space - slanted walls to be more sturdy in an earthquake

Looking out at the fields nearby - reminded me of Iowa with all the corn (but was then thrown by all the cacti nearby too)

From the top of the ruins

Top of a mountain trying to peak out of the clouds

Amazingly straight cuts on these rocks with only hand tools to do this cutting!

More fields - for you Dad!

Now back in Chinchero (end of our tour) - the bulls are placed on the roof of people's homes to bring good luck

Cows chilling out at the Incan ruins in Chinchero

Chinchero - Incan ruins and terraces

Beautiful mountains in the distance

Nearby church

If you look close to center of pic, there is a woman farmer making her way back home after a day out with her sheep (which she left out for the night)