Thursday, February 23, 2012


This past weekend I ran my third ultra marathon, a 100k race on the Island of Ometepe in Nicaragua. For more info on our adventures before and after the race checkout Tarah's post.

I definitely had my apprehensions concerning the race right until the launching of the bottle rocket to start the race. My training had been almost nonexistent since the Panama City International Marathon in December, I had been battling injury/pain in both of my knees and the back of my right leg, and the week before the race I could hardly walk. In hindsight, I should have changed to the 50k distance as soon as we got to the island, but I didn't, and at 4:00am on Saturday I was toeing the line of my biggest running challenge yet.
gearing up
waiting for the gun

My plan was to go out super conservatively and listen to my body. The sun didn't rise until about 6:00 so we had almost two hours of running by headlamp. The first section wasn't very technical, but since it was difficult to see, I managed to twist my ankle before we got to the first aid station. At the aid station (9.1k), I checked in (there were only a couple of runners behind me) and got my first of nine bracelets for the day. We had short sections of pavement before and after the aid station so I was able to run a little more smoothly in those sections. Shortly after leaving San José del Sur, the community where the aid station was located, the course moved back to trail and eventually beach and banana fields. Through this section, I chatted with some other back of the packers and found out that a bunch of runners had missed a turn and lost a fair amount of time, so for a bit we were actually towards the front of the pack. Pat, the runner that would eventually take second, caught back up to us just as we were entering the banana fields. There was a small wall and some large roots obstructing the trail, but Pat charged past us and by the time we (the back of the packers) managed to navigate the obstacles, Pat was out of sight.

the 32 photos of the inside of my hip pack
Shortly after running through the bananas, I reached the second aid station (22.57k) where I topped off my bottles of agua dulce, drank some water and PowerAde, and ate a little bit. The next section was rolling hills on pavement. I found a comfortable pace and cruised along pretty well, I passed a few people, but was still trying to conserve energy so I didn't run very hard and even power walked quite a bit. I hit the third aid station (31.52k) about 20 miles into the race right around my marathon PR so I was a little worried about how fast I was going. This aid station was located at the base of Volcán Maderas so a number of runners were changing shoes and/or grabbing trekking poles. I grabbed some energy sources from my drop bag and headed towards the climb. Despite not having gone up any real hills or mountains in over two years, save for Challenge Irazú and Chirripó, I found my groove and charged up the volcano passing a number of 50k and 100k runners. About half way to the crater, I took one of my nastiest falls running/hiking ever; as I stepped on a wet root, my foot slid sideways, like I was grinding a rail and I fell super fast and super hard. My upper lip smashed across another root and I was sure that I had lost my two front teeth. Luckily my teeth were still there and once I gathered my handhelds I was back to climbing. Shortly after my crash, I caught some more racers that were in pretty nasty shape and then made the final trek up and over the lip of the crater with Bookis, the man behind Luna Sandals. At this point of the race, running was pretty much impossible due to trail conditions. Pretty much the only solid things underfoot were roots and we were post-holing in mud that went almost to our knees. When we got to the aid station (41.13k) next to the lagoon, we chowed down on some potatoes with salt, topped off bottles and headed into the area dubbed "The Jungle Gym" - a section of trail where it is impossible to not use your hands as much as your feet to propel you forward. Shortly after the leaving the crater, my stomach started giving me fits so I bid Bookis farewell and sat for few minutes. After a few swigs of agua dulce my stomach settled and I was back on my way. With my pit stop and my cautious approach to the downhill a few of the runners that I had passed on the climb caught me on the descent, but I was still able to finish the first half of the race in pretty good standing.

I hit the aid station (50.68k) at Hacienda Merida in about 8 hours and 15 minutes. There I cleaned up my feet, changed into fresh socks, ate and drank some more calories, and dipped my kerchief in the lake. I felt pretty good leaving the station, I was tired, but the wheels were still on the track and I had gotten in and out a chair no problem. Although the next section was probably the least technical, it was still one of the most difficult. I left Merida around 12:30pm and the sun was absolutely brutal. I decided to bribe myself by allowing myself to walk when there was shade and run when there was no cover. Unfortunately I ended up walking in the sun and the shade. Eventually I made myself run more and more, but I was pretty sure I was going to drop at the next aid station. After a while, I could see Stephane, a Frenchman that I had chatted with earlier, coming up behind me. Seeing him got me moving a little quicker, but I really got going once he caught me and we were able to encourage each other to run the flats and downhills and march up the uphills. Stephane told me I couldn't quit and shortly before the next aid station (63.24k) I got my legs back and left Stephane as I was able to run the uphills too.

At Ojo de Agua, a resorty swimming hole where the aid station was located, I saw a number of runners who had decided to trade their running shorts for swim trunks, their gels for real food, and their PowerAde for Toña. Not exactly encouraging. When I sat down and started to get fueled up, a local started telling me how I didn't need to keep running, how I was going to get so sunburned, how I looked bad, that I didn't need to suffer anyone, on and on and on. Eventually I shouted  ¡Yo entiendo todo, no más por favor! and thankfully he shut up and left me alone. By then Stephane and a couple of other runners had arrived at the aid station, got their needs met and headed on down the road. After climbing and descending the hill to bathrooms I too was on my way. Even though I heard the volunteers say multiple times "left at the road" and I could see Volcán Concepción off to the left, I managed to turn right. A little ways down the road, someone asked if I was going the wrong direction, I asked a local which direction to Altagracia the site of the next aid station and turned around. I couldn't believe that I had made such a stupid mistake.

covered in maderas mud
Once I got going in the right direction, the section between Ojo and Altagracia was pretty straight forward. I moved along pretty well, alternating between running and walking and could see  Stephane, Christian and Martin in front of me, though I couldn't quite reel them in before the aid station (71.26k) at Altagracia. At the aid station, I met a Peace Corps Volunteer who serves on the island and was working the aid station. I fueled up and set off to try and catch the three guys in front of me and get to the aid station that Tarah was captaining.

En route to La Flor, I caught Christian and Martin so we chatted off and on and I also had some conversations with a couple of Nicas. My first Spanish conversation was with a third grade boy as he pushed his bike up a hill. We talked about his family and the race, he asked me if the two guys in front of me were my friends and how many other runners there were, then he asked me about using camionetas, but I was so tired that word didn't register so I had said that some of the other runners had used camionetas but I hadn't. That statement ended up being semi-true, though not how I had intended. After we had bid each other adio I realized that camionetas meant trucks, not trekking poles (bastones) so the statement that I hadn't used them was correct and since the runners that dropped had used them to get back to the start/finish line my statement that some of the runners had used them was also correct. A little while latter, a gentleman on a bike rode up beside me and we started talking about the race and faith. I explained to him the race course and how I had already climbed Maderas and how, Si Dios quería I was still going to climb Volcán Concepción. We agreed that nada es imposible si tiene fe en Dios, then I sped up to catch Christian and told him how after running for over 12 hours speaking in Spanish was exhausting. Eventually Christian pulled away from me and I came into La Flor aid station (80.96k) by myself (actually Tarah met me about 100 meters out and we ran in together).

T and I at La Flor
At La Flor I was ready to throw in the towel. I had already traversed more than 50 miles, the sun had set, and I was facing a 1200 meter climb (and descent). Tarah was awesome. She told me to sit for a minute, eat some food (pizza), drink some water and think about it for a bit. She called Josue, the race director, to confirm that there was still plenty of fuel at the top; he said that the aid station was still well stocked and that I had time if I wanted to give it a go. I ditched my headphones (my ipod shuffle died between Altagracia and La Flor), one of my bottles, my cap, my glasses, and my waist pack. I  stuck Tarah's headlamp and extra batteries in my key pocket, put my headlamp on, grabbed my bottle of PowerAde, a pack of Gu Chomps and a handheld light, and headed up the volcano. I'm sure that Concepción is gorgeous and probably not even that tough of a hike, but in the dark and with 50 Fuego y Agua miles on my legs, I hated almost every minute spent on it. On the way up, my headlight shined on a snake in the middle of the trail, it resembled a terciopelo/fer-de-lance but I'm not sure if they are on the island, luckily it moved on and so did I, but for a while after that every curvy stick looked like a snake. I eventually met Martin, Christian and Stephane (all individually) as they were making their ways down. I jokingly asked Christian if I was going to die on the volcano, he assured me I wasn't, but told me it was super exposed and windy at the aid station. I continued to crawl (literally) to the aid station (87.88k) and got there a little before 9:00pm. I ate a candy bar and downed some fluids and started the slow painful descent.

I met Mary, the only female runner still on the course, when I was 35 minutes from the top. I struggled down, staying upright and easing down the drops by grabbing trees along the trail. At one point during the descent, I heard rustling in the bushes next to the trail and then felt something brush against my leg, I tried to shine my lights on it, but I couldn't spot it. Eventually the trail forked and I knew that I was getting closer. Just as I was getting to the end of the trail, a pickup full of volunteers on its way to collect the volunteers from Concepción passed me and yelled encouraging words. A couple of minutes later, I came to a four way intersection where someone had removed the course markings. I headed in the right direction, but didn't see any markings ans heard some super vicious dogs so I turned back. Back at the intersection I decided to head straight for a bit, but didn't see any markings, and the road was turning into trail, plus I could hear the dogs from earlier trying to head me off. Once again I headed back to the intersection, I found the pickup and got directions. I headed in the direction of the dogs once again, but at least this time I was confident that I was going in the right direction. The pickup passed me once again and asked if I was okay I said yes, but I was worried about the dogs a little way up. They drove on ahead, and I had to yell ¡Pare! ¡Espere! as loud as I could multiple time to get them to stop and keep the dogs at bay while I motored by. Shortly after the dogs, I could "feel" lights on my back. Mary had crushed the downhill and was now right behind me. I was moving at a pretty good clip (given the circumstances), but she eventually caught up to me. We talked for a while (she too had gotten lost at the intersection). It felt like we were going at 5k pace. It felt both great and horrible. Eventually she broke me and I couldn't keep up anymore. I kept "running" for a while longer but with the poor light and road conditions I tweaked my ankle again and had to slow way down. As I approached town, the dogs got thicker and I ran the final stretch with a rock in my hand. Just before I entered town, I faced my final obstacle. I was confronted with a trench about four feet deep and three feet across, the community was installing a culvert under the road. Under normal circumstances, such an obstacle would have hardly made me break my stride, but at that point it looked like I was staring at the Grand Canyon. I surveyed my options, I knew that I couldn't get over the chasm, I thought I could get down into the trench (it wouldn't have been pretty), but I didn't think that I could climb back out, then I saw that I could walk around it if I went off road. I skirted around the hole, climbed the little hill back up to the road and was off once again. Shortly thereafter I was met by Tarah and we ran towards the finish line and then I sprinted the final few hundred meters by myself to the finish line, where I was met with thunderous applause and cheers from race staff, volunteers and fellow runners.

At the finish line I was presented with my metal and a liter of Flor de Caña rum. I was the last runner to cross the line, but I was received with as much enthusiasm as if I had won, and in a sense I had because I Did Not Did Not Finish.

all the bracelets from the aid stations
me and my mud
me with the best aid station captain ever
Bonus Tracks:

1) My gear: Homemade handhelds made from disposable water bottles and old bike tubes and a $3 fanny pack from a local store. (instructions for handhelds)
2) My fuel: Agua dulce (pure sugar cane "juice")
3) Time spent running: Jan. 1 - Feb. 17: 11hours 55minutes
4) Time spent running Feb. 18 -19: 20hours 21minutes
5) 100k starters: 19 (17men, 2 women)
6) 100k finishers: 10 (9men, 1 woman)
7) Winning time: 13:08 (Way to go Ben)
8) My time: 20:21
9) Feel good moments: Being complimented on both my running and power walking form by two different runners

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Ometepe Adventures

With our time in Costa Rica quickly coming to a close we have had to get serious about checking some things off of our to do list. One of those to dos was to travel to Nicaragua. It just so happened that Chris had stumbled across information for the 2012 Fuego y Agua Ultramarathon last year and so plans for a trip were in the making. We had heard wonderful things about Isla Ometepe from friends and the lure of running another volcano race was too great to pass up. And so, Chris signed up to run the 100 kilometer race and I jumped on board signing up to volunteer for the event.

Our Ometepe adventure began on Valentine's Day - not anything that we ever celebrate, but our host mom pointed out that we would get to celebrate in the city. We enjoyed a day in San Jose complete with a dance performance at Teatro Nacional. It was a lovely surprise as we had only planned on getting a schedule of events to see if there was anything we could recommend to Sarah (Chris' sister) when she comes to visit later in the month. Instead we settled in for a lunchtime show at a budget friendly $2 a person. The rest of our day was filled with cheap and delicious pizza, downtime at the hostel and later Subway subs, plantain chips and apple pie over Seinfeld reruns. It was a great way to start our vacation.

The next morning we caught an early bus to Nicaragua. The trip was very different from that to Panama. We didn't stop until we got to the border (as opposed to stopping every three to four hours on the way to Panama). There we had a little bit of a dispute about border crossing fees. We had been told we needed to pay 8000 colones ($16); that was fine until we heard other people being charged $13. After much conversation we were finally told that it was because conversion rates were different at the border - or perhaps money is being made - and so we dug out some dollars that we had pulled out to pay for our hotel in Nicaragua and used that to save ourselves $6. After that was taken care of we were anxious to just get to our end destination, Isla Ometepe.

View of Isla Ometepe, Nicaragua from the ferry

About 20 minutes after leaving the border we arrived in Rivas, where we would take a taxi to San Jorge and board the ferry to the island. First we had to find an ATM, get some cordobas (the local currency) and find a legit taxi driver. We did the first two just fine, we didn't use a legit taxi but we got a good price and had a great conversation with our driver. We passed a funeral procession on the way to the docks and were saddened by the sight of friends and family carrying the coffin of their loved one down the street. We did enjoy other sights though, those of bicitaxis (bikes with a carriage attached to the front to carry passengers), mototaxis (motorcycles with carriages attached) and horse drawn carriages. I must say they all looked like delightful forms of transportation! We also enjoyed the sight of mangos confites (small, super sweet mangoes) at the docks and bought a couple to take to the island with us.

We had a nice ferry ride. The volcanoes of Isla Ometepe loomed before us and Chris had his first glimpse of what the race might hold for him. We quickly forgot any worries though when a nice couple sat down next to me and started talking about their lives on the island. Ingelina was everything that Peace Corps had told us a host mom might be when we first arrived in country. She kept her hand on my leg most of the time, rested her head on my shoulder and frequently patted my hand as we talked. I relished the experience as it was one that I never did have with a host mom. When we landed in Moyogalpa, one of the main towns on the island, her husband Zuan carried my bag for me until we reached the main road where we parted ways. 

A welcome from The Landing

Once on tierra firma again, Chris and I checked into our hotel, The Landing, and set out to explore and find some dinner. Our walk through town was nice, most homes had a pig wandering around in the front yard, horses wandered about, we spotted a panaderia (bakery), and one little girl whooped and swung a soda bottle over her head as we passed by. Then we found what we had been looking for, delicious fish, rice, beans and cold drinks. With a long day of travel behind us it felt good to fill our bellies and then call it an early night.

We woke early the next day and walked to the panaderia. We talked to the owner for quite a while about the race and then walked away with fresh whole grain bread and a chunk of smoked cheese. We added our mangoes from the day before to the mix and had a breakfast of champions. We followed breakfast with a trash clean up put on by Josue and Paula, the race directors. We met other runners and volunteers and we able to see a little more of Moyogalpa before looking for some lunch. Lunch was delicious fish tacos (fish fresh from the lake) and batidos (milkshakes - we chose banana). We ate too much and then relaxed in hammocks until I had my volunteer orientation and pizza dinner at the race office.

On Friday we decided to go on a new adventure - a canopy tour! I popped into a "free tourist information" stand and talked to a guide about activities that wouldn't tire out Chris' legs before the race. What we came up with was a canopy tour (zip lining). I went back and talked to Chris since we try to travel on a small budget, but he told me that he wanted the trip to be about more than the race, so we went for it. It was well worth it! 


Between zip line sections
The crew at Chico Largo Adventures was great. The company is owned and operated by Nicaraguans which made it even better. The staff joked with us and made sure that we had a good time. The tour consisted of about ten zip lines (the final one has you reach speeds of approximately 110k/h), a Tarzan swing, a suspension bridge and two free falls. We flew like Superman and even went together on one of the lines. There were shouts of joy, surprise and shock. We had great views of the lake, local lagoons and of course Volcan Concepcion and Volcan Maderas. We finished our tour in time to meet the taxi that we had made arrangements with for transport back to the hotel. We stopped in at the Cornerhouse where we split a hummus sandwich and carrot cake for lunch. Then we spent more time in hammocks until we went to the pre-race dinner at Charco Verde.

At Charco Verde we had a nice pasta dinner, watched a beautiful sunset, met some amazing people and got squared away on the final race details. The meal was followed up by some baile tipico (traditional dance) and then a bus ride back to the hotel. 

Sunset at Charco Verde

Baile Tipico

Morning came quickly as the 100k started at 4:00am. Chris left the hotel shortly after 3 and I followed to meet up with him before the starting gun went off. The runners were anxiously wandering at the starting line, ready for their big island adventure. (More to come on the race with a blog from Chris).

Chris (red hat) and Ben (blue shirt & eventual winner of 100k) at the start line
I hung out at the race office until my volunteer crew showed up and then we went out to set up an aid station that would serve the 25k runners before and after they climbed Volcan Concepcion and the 100k runners at about 81 kilometers in. We had water, Powerade, Honey Stingers, peanut butter sandwiches, pizza and more. Runners (and volunteers!) were well nourished throughout the day. It was a lot of fun to see the runners come through and to encourage them to keep on going. 

View of Volcan Concepcion from La Flor aid station

The hardest part of the day was when I would receive information on 100k runners that had dropped from the race. Knowing the Chris had gone into the race coming off of an injury (he could hardly walk without pain the week before) I kept worrying that his number would be next. But then he came into my aid station at about 14 hours. He was ready to call it quits, having tired legs and a 1200 meter climb ahead of him. He sat down and got some food into him and then decided to keep going. I couldn't have been more proud (even if I was very worried - did I mention it was dark?) . After that it was a long wait. I got word that he reached the top and from there there were not any more aid stations to report his whereabouts. 

Chris made it to La Flor! 81k and 14:10, ready for a 1200 meter climb.

At about 12:21am, 20 hours and 21 minutes after he left the morning before Chris crossed the finish line. After descending Concepcion he had twisted his ankle, lost the course and was tracked by dogs. He had a rough final 6 kilometers but made it. The purpose of our vacation had been achieved. There was a crew of about 20 people still waiting at the finish line when he crossed, including fellow Peace Corps Costa Rica volunteers, Theresa and Jessica. There were even some Peace Corps Nicagagua volunteers there! A great end to a long day.

100k - check!

Sunday morning came far too quickly. I had volunteered to run with kids in the Calzado 5k (OK, so it was really more like a 3k). I hung out at the office waiting for my ride to the start line and picked up one of the kids that was running while I was there. I turned out that his community didn't show up for the run, so I became his partner. We lined up together at the start line and when the run started kids went crazy. They went from being in two lines to spreading out over all of the exposed land. They ran as fast as they could, looking for someplace where they could establish their own pace. Eventually my little guy and I found our pace and he ran all the way to the end. When other kids hitched rides in the backs of passing trucks, he kept on running. When other kids stopped to walk, he kept on running. He told me that he wants to run the ultramarathon one day. At the finish I made sure he got his participants t-shirt and finisher's medal. I may have been tired, but I got my own little race in and had a great time!

Church, Isla Ometepe

The rest of the day was pretty relaxing. We got cold drinks and went to clean up. Lunch was back at Charco Verde, all of the runners and volunteers were recognized for all of their hard work. We were able to talk to other runners and volunteers. The whole event was really amazing. The people and the places were just great. After lunch we returned to the hotel for some more hammock time and then wrapped the day with fabulous pizza. We were joined by other runners, Matt and Christian, and we spent the evening chatting about life. It was an excellent way to end our time on the island.

The next morning we hopped on a ferry at 6am and started our long journey home. We met some more great people during our travels and ate some delicious anise seed rolls. The journey was long and filled with bad movies. We arrived in San Jose at 5:30 and the last bus that would get us home was at 6. We went on the craziest taxi ride of our lives; the driver had to have broken every rule in the book. But, we made it there on time and alive. We got into Puerto Viejo with enough time to grab some empanadas before the final bus to our community. Our driver dropped us off at our door and we couldn't have been happier to be home.

Lanchas for the trip across the lake (we took a larger ferry)

It was a quick trip and we look forward to the day when we can return to the island. There is so much more to see and do (though we will probably try to go back for the race again...). It was an amazing adventure.

Remember to check back soon for a race recap from Chris!

Thursday, February 2, 2012


Well, that flew by, didn't it? It's hard to believe that we are already in the second month of 2012. January was a busy month for us, starting with our trip to Corcovado [day 1, day 2 and day 3] and ending with three weeks of summer camp. January is perhaps one of the slowest months for Peace Corps Costa Rica Volunteers that work primarily in the schools, but we managed to stay on our toes and keep busy the whole time. We're hoping that the next couple of months follow suit and that we wrap up our two years of service with a bang! 

Here's a peek into the busy days of January:

January 1

Well, I at least heard some fireworks in the middle of the night. I'm assuming that that was the community welcoming the arrival of 2012.

January 2

We'll head out bright and early tomorrow. Yay hiking!

January 3

Almost as soon as we hit the pavement a young boy was asking us if we wanted a taxi. His dad could take us. We assured him that we were fine walking. He told us that it was a long way, almost 28 kilometers. We had heard four, so we told him once more that we were fine. 

We walked, and walked, and walked. It wasn't 28 kilometers, but it was about 14. Oh well. We had a nice cool river to cool our feet in every 5 minutes or so.

Read more here.

January 4

The congos would go crazy whenever the plane came through. The spider and squirrel monkeys were also pretty active this morning.

We watched the pack of peccary and moved cautiously down the trail until one spotted us and started grunting at us.

Read more here

January 5

We could have easily handled another day in the park, but our reservation ran out so we had to pack up camp and head out.

We had heard that this was one of the most beautiful trails that another volunteer had ever been on. I had my doubts, but as the day went on I was more and more impressed.

Read more here.

January 6

We got to the bus station shortly after 4:30am and the bus was sold out. We wanted to get home though so we agreed to stand. We're hard core like that. Thankfully we had found an open panaderia on our way to the station so we at least had some freshly made bread to eat before the long journey home.

We had seats for maybe the first hour, but gradually the bus filled up and passengers would show us their tickets and kick us out of the seats we had claimed. As time went on the bus became so full that it was hard to maintain personal space while standing.

January 7

We both pulled little tick creatures out of our bodies today. Hopefully they weren't carrying any fun diseases.

January 8

Tomorrow we'll start another round of camp. Time to prepare some coloring sheets and craft materials.

January 9

Today we colored, made caterpillars and pop up frog faces. I think the highlight though was when the boys played with the magic capsules and grew an assortment of jungle animals and space creatures. They said that it was a very cool camp surprise.

January 10

Frog faces, monster masks, caterpillars and friendship bracelets abounded today. Kendall was able to make most everything by himself even - he's quite the five year old.

We walked out to the cole this afternoon. They were still hard at work which is what we like to see. Maybe they'll have it all wrapped up by the end of the month!

January 11

My favorite image of the day was of Josue making friendship bracelets while wearing his monster mask. Unfortunately I have to keep this image in my mind as the camera battery was dead.

Tonight at a junta meeting Chris was asked if they could take out a loan on the CRUSA money that still remains. Oh the headaches. Of course they cannot. He told them that the money needs to be spent now and receipts turned in. My goodness. The money is for the cole, just get it built!

January 12

I went out to Coyol this morning. One of the girls from Orquideas ran with me for a little while on her way to a friends house. On my way back through Orquideas she and her brother were waiting for me. As I approached he asked in a small voice, "a little race?" He's done this before and knows that I can't say no. The three of us raced to the nearest corner as usual. I did better than I have in the past, but I think that's because he ran backwards for the first couple of meters (so I don't think my improvement really counts).

Rafa came home for a little bit today. Maria had a little stroke last week and is staying with her family for the next couple of weeks. Hopefully she'll make a full recovery - it sounds like she is already doing much better. They'll be staying away until the end of the month.

On our way back home we ran into Michelle. We haven't seen her in almost a year. All that we could see was a shadow approaching on a bike yelling "Tarah y Chris!" She was pretty excited to see us and us her. She had thought that we already returned to the states.

January 13

Happy Friday the Thirteenth! It's funny how in the US you are more or less raised with a superstition toward Friday the Thirteenth (thank you media) but in other parts of the world it is just another day (at least here in Costa Rica). There is no mention of it. No movies. No nothing. It's just another Friday. I guess it always has been just another Friday to me too, but I'm used to hearing some mention of it at least (once again, thank you media).

We purchased our bus tickets to Nicaragua then Chris went to the mall and I to the office. I was approved for an eye exam and met up with Chris in front of the National Theater. We caught a bus to Curridabat and went to Talamanca Expedition and Sport to register for the Arenal Race. It's always enjoyable to visit the store. Phillipe came out of the office when he saw Chris was there and was super pumped to see him and catch up after last year's Irazu race.

We had an amazing lunch at the Veggie House and then I had an eye exam and ordered new glasses. I guess that means I'll be headed back to the city next week.

Chalupas for dinner and a bus ride home full of jokes from Hellen Dayana. It's been a good day.

January 14

Saturday. Chris went for a short run, but his knee is still bothering him. I started a new boot camp program. It was challenging for sure, but enjoyable (in a hard workout kind of way).

January 15

We celebrated workouts with pancakes.

Today's been a bit rainy. Chris tried patching the rusty hole in our bathroom roof without much luck. That happens when you only have tinfoil and electrical tape on hand. Perhaps later this week.

Chris found a giant beetle in the kitchen tonight. I went out to see it and when he swept it out from behind the fridge it took off in an erratic flight pattern, seemingly aimed at my head. I tried to get out of the way and hid behind the fridge door as Chris expertly batted it out of the air with the broom and swept it outside. Such excitement.

January 16

Camp went well this morning. We had an explosion of participants. We made snowflakes, frogs, monster masks, bracelets and even managed to color for a little bit.

January 17

Today blew up. All day long. 

We had to send some kids home from camp after they got out of hand with paint. They started to paint the school building. Chris had them clean up and after that they were sent trekking. Thank goodness for super washable paint.

This afternoon the guy that was chopeando (weed whacking) the yard managed to puncture one of the water lines (plastic tube conveniently located above ground) to the house. Water was spraying everywhere. He talked to the Poppy (the landlord) and for now it is taped up. We'll see when it gets fixed for real.

And the rooster got out.

January 18

We had a much better day at camp today. We colored, made more bracelets and caterpillars and Chris read From Head to Toe to the kids. They had a great time acting out all of the animals' movements.

Chris later prepped materials for monster masks. We'll read Where the Wild Things Are tomorrow and act that out.

January 19

Kids started showing up at 8:30 today. Chris was showering and I was waiting to do the same. I told them that camp started in half an hour. They hung out in our yard and asked "how long until camp?" approximately every 2 minutes for the next 30 minutes. You'd have thought that they knew Steve was coming with cake!

We made monster masks, played some tag games and then read Where the Wild Things Are. The grand finale to camp today was Almond Joy cake from Steve (our country director). [note: We had bid on this cake during an auction to raise funds for a fellow volunteer whose apartment had burned down in October (it was well worth what we bid on it). As a surprise he brought us two cakes since we would be sharing with our little monsters!] 

We had curry for lunch and wandered out to the cole with Steve. It was great to show him our community and talk a little bit about what we've been doing here and about life in general.

January 20

Chris had camp on his own today as I ventured into San Jose to pick up my new glasses. He had a hectic morning with a lot of kids and only his two hands to make things run smoothly.

Billy came to town today. How fitting that he was able to share some of the delicious cake that Steve brought us! (Billy is the aforementioned volunteer whose apartment burned down.) We had a great time catching up, it happens far too infrequently.

January 21

Crazy. Four months from today we'll be digging our toes into good old US of A soil. That is, if everything goes according to plan. It'll mean the start of a whole new adventure!

Chris worked on making sleeves for water bottles out of old bicycle tire tubes (preparing for upcoming races). They were pretty easy to put together and now he has a method for carrying energy supplements on his runs as well.

I finally labeled our world map this afternoon. It only took me about six months to track down a white marker for the dark colored countries. Thank you back to school supplies!

January 22

After breakfast I did laundry. It was a breezy, sunny day so everything dried. I could get used to this!

January 23

Abigail and Gabriel showed up for camp at 8:30am again. We now have a new rule. If you come to camp early you need to wait on the steps to the school, not in our front yard asking every 30 seconds when camp is going to start.

We made binoculars and flowers today. Camp is still fun but the kids are getting a little out of control now. They aren't showing respect to us, each other, the school or the materials that we are using. We want to spend as much time as possible with them, but we're getting to the point where it is sometimes difficult to keep on smiling. Sheirys is our star child though. She stays after every day to help clean up, she helps teach younger kids, is patient and has good manners. Can we clone her?

Work has continued next door. It is now nice and level. Perfect for the rondel (bull ring) and lots of noise during the town festivals. Can't wait.

January 24

The camp crew has started to shift to a bunch of me firsts and the gimme gimmes. If something challenges them they want to toss it aside. They don't want to wait for anything. They rush through things and then toss them aside. Are we seeing a new generation of a throw away society like the US has become? I sure hope not.

January 25

Our quiet month at home ended today around 7:30am when Maria and Rafa returned from their visit with family (they left December 24 saying we'll be home Tuesday...). It's nice to see them again and catch up. 

Camp was a little better today. It was rainy out so we had a smaller crew. We made airplanes, bracelets and woven mats.

Liseth was at the house when we got home. We played statue with her for a while, but then had to sit down and rest for a little bit. 

January 26

Place mats, origami, masks, recycled flowers and coloring. Just another day at camp!

Elvin stopped by today to talk about fund raising (or rather, he asked if we knew anyone that would give his group money). He now thinks that Chris is brilliant because Chris told him to ask each of the kids for 500 colones each week until they had raised all of the money they needed. They spend more than that each week on junk food, so they should be able to donate some if their project is important to them.

January 27

A month into camp and we had almost a completely new crew today. Go figure!

I spent a bulk of the afternoon teaching Sheirys how to make bracelets with words in them. We were chatting and working and before I knew it three hours had passed! She did a great job though and took some floss home with her to make more.

January 28

We came home to a smoke filled house. Spring cleaning. Maria was burning just about every piece of plastic that she could find in or around the house and the wind was blowing the smoke right into the kitchen. Hopefully the burning is done for a couple of weeks now. I had to hold my breath when going into the kitchen for water.

We finally finished our cake. We shared the last piece with Rafa. I have mixed feelings about the cake being gone. Oh so good, but oh so bad.

January 29

Emma got in around 3:15 and we chatted for a bit while Chris helped Maikol write a letter in English. It's nice to see her again [note: Emma is one of the students from the group that came in July]. Kennedys came over this evening and actually had a conversation with her [note: they are pen pals from a cultural exchange that we did with students from UNL]. A great change from this summer!

January 30

Camp went well this morning. We started the process of making papier-mache masks. The process should take us through the end of the week.

After lunch today Hellen Dayana showed up to talk Emma's ear off. She kept asking what time it was and after about an hour Emma gave in to her begging and took a ball to dos with her. They played some around the world and duck-duck-goose.

January 31

Oh the drama! Two of the balloons were deflated when we showed up this morning. I guess the kids will have to share now. No big deal, we can get two masks out of each remaining structure.

We walked out to the cole this afternoon to show Emma the completed student mural and the work that has been done on the school since July. Hellen Dayana (her little shadow) tagged along and talked her ear off the whole way. It was so cute. We rested for a while after our walk and Emma went out to dos again and drew quite the crowd of kiddos.

Kennedys came over to chat again. He hung out for an hour or so. It's nice to see a friendship that started in letters continue to grow. This is one of the great ways that we can connect the cultures between the US and Costa Rica.

And so we come to the end of the first month of 2012 (and the end of our second journal here in country). It's been an exciting start to what is sure to be a great year. One of big changes and new adventures.