Friday, May 4, 2012

The End is Near [April]

April flew. It was a month filled with work, friends and the tedious things that are required in order to leave Peace Corps. We once again have found ourselves questioning where the time went. Then I looked through our journal and saw that we were just using every last minute to its fullest (well, almost every last minute...).

If you're curious what we were up to last month, stick around. Here is comes.

April 1

We left Orlando and Alejandra's shortly thereafter and headed to Recreo Verde. While we didn't do the zip line we did enjoy plenty of time in the aguas termales (hot springs).

April 2

Chris went into town to get some basics. He ran into Billy and Rebecca. He also met a tico that wanted to make sure he knew where he was going (most gringos don't come to La Colonia).

April 3

Exercise class was quiet. Only Ania showed up. That's Semana Santa for you.

April 4

I got gifts packed and mailed. Billy was at the post office and Rebecca was at the bank so we ended up hanging out for a while. Then Tressa came into town so the four of us decided to lunch together. How wonderful to see friends!

April 5

We moved deeper into the pasture, ultimately running to the next pair of guava trees when we heard the aguacero (downpour) rapidly approaching. 

April 6

As I settled in to read Maria called over asking for some food containers. She filled them with fresh rice and crema de mariscos (seafood soup). Nothing like a delicious lunch from next door!

April 7

While we were in our room reading Chris looked up and saw Grevin (our 2 year old neighbor) wandering though the house. His mom called for him and he explained that he was looking at the gringo's house.

April 8  

We both worked on teaching applications for a bit and contacted potential references.

April 9

Classes got out early today as a result of only three profes showing up. That meant no charlas for us. We'll see if anyone shows up tomorrow.

April 10

Only three profes showed up again. Chris went out to the cole anyway. No charlas, but he did break up a fight. What a day.

April 11

Chris left home shortly after five this morning in hopes of getting a long run in.

Noel and Luis were in search of some help. They have a mission group coming in tomorrow to help build a new church, but no translators. This should be an interesting project for the next couple of days.

April 12

The whole translating thing was interesting. We both felt comfortable switching back and forth between English and Spanish, so that went well. 

We met people who seemed shocked to learn that we have lived here for two years; to us this is just home.

We had our final site visit this afternoon. It was nice to see Carolina and Kyle. We chatted for a long time and probably would have just kept on talking if I hadn't remembered that I had stored some meat for the mission team in our fridge and had told them I would get it to them in time to make dinner.

April 13

We had story hour today and more time translating. We've been trying to share some bits of the culture here as well though conversation. Chris took a couple of guys out to the cole to see the different style of construction out there. 

April 14

Up bright and early and COLD! It was really chilly this morning.

We met Alejandra in Puerto shortly before seven and got on the bus to San Jose. Orlando picked us up in the city and we went out to Cartago for Erik's soccer practice. After practice we dropped Erik off at one of his aunts and then we went to Atenas.

We had some birthday cake and then wandered through the coffee fields. It was a beautiful walk. We found some delicious baby cherry tomatoes. Back at the house Alejandra's mom taught me how to make chorreadas. So much good food in such a short time!

April 15

We got up around six this morning and stuffed ourselves with chorreadas, tortillas de queso and platano. Then we hiked to Vulture Rock. After a mango break we hiked back to the house for showers and lunch.

April 16

Up early and headed back to San Jose. We spent the day in and out of medical appointments so that we can get our clearance to leave Costa Rica. We also managed to spend about $70 on Costa Rican literature (sales only work if you don't use them as an excuse to keep buying more).

April 17

Medical appointments were wrapped up this morning. We also turned in a bunch of Peace Corps property and had our final LPIs (Language Proficiency Interviews). We think we did pretty well on our LPIs, time will tell.

We finished up at the office early and as a result were able to squeeze in another lunchtime performance at Teatro Nacional. It was another excellent dance performance.

April 18

Today was Lend A Hand's last day in town. Our big project was translating the thank you/good-bye ceremony. The church put on a slideshow of photos from the week and presented each member of the mission team with a t-shirt. They even gave us t-shirts for our help.

It has been such a wonderful experience to work alongside a new group of people in our community. I wish we had gotten to know some of the people sooner in our service.

April 19

Chris took final photos of the cole for CRUSA. He turned in receipts on Tuesday. It's officially done.

We've both wrapped up our teaching applications. Now we just need to get up the courage to hit send. 

April 20

Story hour, laundry, work outs. Tomorrow we'll finalize materials to take to Limon for our Dia del Libro activities.

April 21

Happy 30th to me! I started the decade in England and have ended it in Costa Rica. The years in between took me to some pretty cool places as well. 

Chris made me a carrot cake/flan type treat. We also had tres leches after dinner. Then Maria brought over some gelatina con helado. So many sweet treats, so little time.

In other news, we'll be home one month from today. CRAZY!

April 22

This is such a beautiful place. It seems super quiet and tranquilo. I'm so glad that we were able to come.

April 23

The walk was beautiful, included stream crossings and got us out and about.

We had an amazing fish dinner. Some of the best fish to date!

April 24

Today was an intense one. We taught all day long. Chris and I both had the same thought - what are we going to do next year when it is only one of us with a whole classroom and a full day of teaching a variety of topics. We'll make it work, we always do.

April 25

We ate pork stew (mine was minus the pork) out of banana leaf boats. We ate with our hands and were a bit of a spectacle for the Cabecar people.

[Read more about April 22 - 25 here.]

April 26

I'm glad I stuck around because Guicho was in town! He came into Juice House with a big smile on his face and gave me a big hug. It's been so long! It made my day. Of course when I tried telling Rebecca who he was I started tearing up. Leaving is going to be much harder than I ever imagined.

April 27

I mumbled a sleepy 'Happy Birthday" to Chris before he left to catch the 4:30 bus out of town. Maria brought him some birthday pinto, but since he had already left I enjoyed it instead. Twice, since Emma and I ate some for dinner as well.

April 28

Emma and I walked through town, saying hi to a couple of people that I hadn't talked to in a while. She played with the kiddos while I talked to some moms. It was a good morning.

Kennedys came over to see her one more time before she leaves town in the morning. He brought his whole family! We sat around talking for a while and then finished watching a moving when they left for the night.

April 29

Chris and Henley's trip went well. They ran up Chirripo and then some.

April 30

Another one bites the dust. April has come to a close and with it most projects. It's happened naturally with exams starting next week and a holiday tomorrow. I was worried about how things would come to a close, but it seems that I didn't need to.

I played with Liseth for a while this morning. We played the mini marimba, danced and did gymnastics. Sucking up as much time together as we can at this point.

We submitted our teaching applications today. A couple of days away allowed us to review them somewhat objectively. Another step in the process complete.


And now we're into May. We have so little time left here and so much that we're still trying to squeeze in. We'll do what we can and that's the best we can do at this point. It's hard to believe how far we've come in these past two years. It may be harder to believe how far we still have to go in this adventure that we call life. We're looking forward to it all.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Unrooted Forests

This past weekend, Henley, another Peace Corps Volunteer, and I headed over to Cerro Chirripó the highest peak in Costa Rica for a little fun run. Like most good adventures this one had plenty of early rising. I got up nice and early on Friday morning to catch the 4:30 bus out of town and then the 5:30 to San José and was able to secure one of the remaining two seats on the 7:30 to San Isidro de General.

Once I got to San Isidro, I walked to the center plaza to hangout and get in touch with Henley. That is where the only negative part of the trip happened. As I was digging the phone out of my bag, I set our camera on the park bench, found the phone, and dealt with the sunscreen that had exploded in my bag. Unfortunately, in dealing with the sunscreen, I forgot about the camera and left it on the park bench and didn't realize it was gone until hours later. (for those of you keeping score at home, that is the second camera lost to adventuring in Costa Rica) I got a hold of Henley and we hungout at a coffee shop where Jake, another volunteer, was wrapping up an interview over Skype. We eventually headed over to the Peruvian resturant for lunch. After good food and great conversation we grabbed some foodstuffs for the hostel, said goodbye to Jake, and hopped on the bus to San Gerardo and the base of Cerro Chirripó.

In the hostel, we chatted about a plethora of things and Henley taught me how to play dominoes. Eventually the hostel filled up with two families from France and a few hikers. We made our dinners, camotes (a type of sweet potato) and garbanzo beans for me and bean burritos for Henley, and got things laid out for our run the next morning.

After a wonderful night's sleep in the cool mountain air, we got up a little after four and prepped for the big adventure. Just after five, I hit start on my watch and began the epic climb from 1520 meters (4986 ft.). At almost a mile above sea level, I was sucking wind pretty hard from the get go. The altitude, steep climbs, windy trails, and muddy conditions made the first couple of kilometers pretty difficult, but eventually we found our grooves (Henley more so than me). We hit the shelter at about fourteen and a half kilometers and 3400 m (11,154 ft.) in just over three hours. Since we weren't planning on staying in the park overnight, we hadn't bothered to register to enter the park, but it so happened that the ranger was out crushing cans, when we ran by, and he stopped us and asked for our tickets. We explained that we didn't have tickets, but would pay the entrance fee. He told us that it was $15 for extranjeros, we told him we were Peace Corps Volunteers and had paid the fee for nationals last time we were in the park, he asked for Costa Rican identification cards, we said that all we had were our Peace Corps IDs and 5mil ($10), thankfully he gave us the rate for nationals and after signing-in and getting a couple of photos taken we were back on the trail.

From the shelter it was another 5.1k (~3 miles) with about 500 meters of climbing. All but the last push, was pretty runable and we caught a couple of parties before getting to the final ascent and passed a couple more before getting to the summit. Henley was a bit ahead of me and I heard him being called Forest and posing for photos as I caught up to him a couple hundred meters from the top. We paused together for more photos with complete strangers and then pushed to the top together. We reached the top of Costa Rica in a little over four hours. We took some photos, chatted with hikers, signed the summit register, and ate some granola bars.

On the way down, we were intercepted by some more Ticos and asked where we were from, but before we could respond, the man who asked the question answered that we were extraterrestres, then he asked if we were training for the Olympics. We told him we were from the U.S. and were just out for a fun day of running. When we got to the next junction in the trail, despite feeling pretty beat and battling pounding heads from the altitude, we decided to climb Cerro Terbi which laid another 265  meters (869 ft.) above the trail head. As we were struggling up the trail, I commented to Henley that I was sure that we were suffering from altitude sickness because our decision to go higher with nasty headaches was definitely irrational. At the top we enjoyed the views, signed the summit register, and then cruised over to the Crestones, the symbol of the park. We stashed our bottles and did a little scrambling. Our aching heads were clear enough for us to not attempt the final high class 4/low class 5 slab to the very top with shaky legs and ungrippy shoes. After soaking up the views and chatting with a Polish woman and a few more Ticos, we made the descent to the shelter.

We paused at the shelter to refill bottles and then started the final fourteen and a half kilometers of our outing. The first section after leaving the shelter is actually a climb, so our descent had to wait a bit longer. We cruised along pretty well for about seven or eight kilometers, then the pounding from descending caught up with us and we slowed to a crawl. Eventually, Henley got his legs back and started moving pretty well. With about five kilometers left I started chanting "the-shu-ffle" over and over again and made myself start shuffling down the trail, I eventually overtook Henley for a bit and then we finished the last three or so kilometers together.

We ran/hiked/walked for eight hours and forty-eight minutes (we spent another hour chilling on summits and taking care of business in the shelter) and covered around 40k (~25 miles) with more than 10,000 ft of climbing (and descending).

Back in the shelter, we ate pan-bon, drank hot beverages, and washed off the grime. After a bit, the French families returned from their adventures and we talked to one of the couples for quite a while. The two men were actually mountain ultra runners and had participated in UTMB and another ultra in the Pyrenees. We eventually went in search of a box of wine to go with our bean burritos, but we came up empty handed. After super delicious burritos (hunger is the best seasoning), we called it an early night since we had another early morning on the horizon.

We got up a little after four and hiked down in the dark to the center of town to catch the 5:15 bus to San Isidro. When we got to San Isidro, we bought bus tickets to San José then headed to Henley's favorite soda where we chowed down on pinto and (platanos) maduros. We then took the 7:30 bus to San José, and I caught the 11:30 to Puerto Viejo.

As great as the running was, it was the moments that we were stopped, chatting with Ticos that I'll always remember. I loved the looks on people's faces when they saw two crazy Gringos (bothers/twins/extraterrestrials?) with beards longer than their shorts running towards them.

I am looking forward to our 50 miler in a couple of weeks and hopefully lots of running/climbing/camping trips in the Southwest.

I'll post photos as soon as Henley sends some my way.

Photos from when Tarah and I visited Chirripó last year