Posted by: danielayjuan | June 20, 2010

El día de los padres

Volcan Arenal, with its  perfect conal shape and high altitude, is the most iconic volcano in the world. It continues to bubble and boil over, with a significant about of smoke and fiery rocks 3 weeks ago, but the most recent blast was in 1993 when half the town of La Fortuna was taken out but lava and ash. This weekend I had the honor to visit this majestic natural furnace with Juan, Luis and Ashli. Usually Arenal disappoints most visitors because it likes to hide in a cloud blanket, especially during rainy season so I wasn’t expecting to see much.

We arrived in La Fortuna early, 8am, clouds already covering the rolling hills of coffee beans trees and herds of cattle. We stayed in a lovely cabina with a view of Arenal (just in case it decided to de-robe itself during the night).  Near Cerro Chato, an old crater, there’s a beautiful waterfall near the base of the volcano where you can take a dip in the cool pools or sit in the stream and watch the water drop 75m. Juan y yo saltamos en la laguna de un árbol. Great fun! Muy frío!

To warm up, we visited the Baldi Hot Springs, 25 pools of water naturally heated by the volcano, fantastically heated for us to enjoy.  We walked around spending 10 min. in each pool, trying to avoid big crowds (yes there are crowds even during low season).  The swelled storm clouds finally released and a HUGE rainfall began. There are a few moments where I wish I could bottled up and save forever the sights, smells, sensations. Nothing was more delightful than laying in a shallow hot spring, face up to the sky, while cool rain pitter-patters on  your face like the opening scene in Bambi. Not only did the rain clear most of the tourists but it made for a very magical journey as we strolled through secluded trails on the forested property, gazing at the newly formed rivers and dewed flowers that were hidden in the tunnel of leaves. Muy bonita!

We ate a hearty buffet dinner, including a chocolate fountain and all-you-can-drink Guanábana, my favourite agua fresca in Costa Rica. During dinner, the storm clear and Arenal was in full view. With dusk back dropping the volcano, we enjoyed our vista hermosa, even seeing some lava sputter out of the top.  We slept liked sloths that night.

This morning, bright and early, we ate our pinto breakfast during the Italia/New Zealand match and went back to the Arenal. We took a drive past the lake which is famous for windsurfing. At the bottom of the lake is the old town of Arenal which was transplanted 20 km away after the Costa Rican government decided to flood the valley and make a dam, which in turn created Lago Arenal. From the viewpoint, we could see the more active backside of the volcano. Most of the trees are long gone, burned up and cover in hardened lava. Miraculously, the Gods graced us with a cloudless sky and Arenal was unshrouded, out there for all to see.  We saw the perfect conal shape, the green base of trees, the blackened sides of rocks and to add onto last night’s glory, puffs of smoke rising from the top and a little lava river crowning the crater. Incredible! We were able to see a sight that most people unfortunately do not but mother nature was on our side. I used my last 35mm photo on the great beast smoking away. I’m hoping it turns out! Many digital stills and video captured the glory of Arenal as well. How lucky we were indeed.

On the way back to home, we stopped in some famous towns, Sarchí and Grecia, to see the World’s Largest Ox-cart and a church made entirely of metal, respectively. A great weekend in northern Costa Rica, in the beautiful province of Alajuela. If you get the chance to visit, don’t forget to try the delicious queso palmito! Que rico!!

Posted by: danielayjuan | May 29, 2010

World Cup Fever

Especially down here in futbol obsessed Central America, everyone’s getting World Cup Fever. The kids all over school are trying to collect the cards of their favourite soccer stars, like baseball cards. They have books full of them. They chant “futbol! futbol!” when asked what sport they want to play in P.E. My favourite though is the recent singing of K’Naan’s “Waving Flag”, the anthem of the 2010 South Africa World Cup in Morning Music (kiddy choir). The kids love singing the song and some older ones have even started mimicking the dance. I’m so excited to be home for the World Cup, to be with my futbol-crazed 85 year-old grandfather (Happy birthday Nonno!) but I’m also a bit disappointed I won’t be here to experience this once every 4 years phenomenon in CR. Unfortunately CR was knocked out by the U.S. (ouch)! Honduras is the only Central American country in the Tournament. Argentina, Paraguay and Brasil are all in. The kids dislike Mexico and Spain. I would love to see a  South Korea game against Japan (or North Korea especially due to recent events).

So many great teams and countries. It’s going to be a great summer!

Go Italia! Go South Africa!

Posted by: danielayjuan | May 29, 2010

New Arcade Fire song

Also, if you read the last post and were wondering, “Do they synchronize their movements” the answer is, “yes, and wholeheartedly!”

Posted by: danielayjuan | May 29, 2010

Resigned for a Second Season!

I’ve come to identify neighbourhoods and streets around my house according to the street dogs that patrol those areas. I think I’ve mentioned it before, but there are two street dogs that ‘run’ the immediate area around our house at the top of the hill.  The other day we turned the corner and came across them chasing out a bared-toothed dog who had stumbled across their territory. They seemed to be a little ashamed that they exposed their brute and savage side to us; normally they’re peaceful and adorable (when they’re not scouring for food).  Anyways, last night was the breakthrough. After leaving ou home in the dark (7pm-it’s always dark at 6:15 here, no matter what time of year) the dogs approached us. We exchanged pleasantries (we pet them, they wagged their tails) and then we began to stroll down the street. This time they accompanied us, tails wagging! At one point the pair even ran ahead, into an unlit area, and barked at some other dogs, thus clearing the way. Later, upon returning a couple hours later, we hung around with them some more. This time, though, there were two new black dogs around. They saw the love and petting that was being distributed and wanted some. There was a tense two vs. two dog barking match, until our two regulars/favourites conceded and went back to their place outside a neighbours house. These two other black dogs demanded satisfaction but if we’re damsels in distress at least we have agency.  We promptly backed away from these two new dogs, gave one last longing look at our two old friends, and dashed back into our gated property.

Posted by: danielayjuan | March 7, 2010

Calle 13-“La Perla”

Another song I’ve come to love. Every time I hear it I think of Luis singing along while we’re driving back from the beach. The song “La Perla” is about growing up in Central America…Panama I think.

Posted by: danielayjuan | March 7, 2010

Late reporting:  About a week ago a male and female Boat Billed Flycatcher (or, possibly, two Great Kiskadees) were singing to each other outside of the bedroom window.   Once spotted, they fled.

Homemade submarine!

High speed trains!!

Posted by: danielayjuan | March 6, 2010

Little Earthquakes

Costa Rica had a 4.6 earthquake last night, epicenter San Jose.  Little earthquakes happen here all the time (7000 per year) and they usually go unnoticed. However, last night when I was in the washroom around 10:50pm (officially recorded), the room started swaying every so gently from side to side. I thought maybe I was dreaming, or a bit dizzy from racing to the toilet, but I realized that this was in fact the effects of an earthquake. This was confirmed by the myriad of street dogs barking (they sense the smaller quakes too). It only lasted 5-7 seconds, but if felt longer and was a completely new experience for me. Juan was unphased, he slept right through it. To commemorate this moment, here’s a song that’s both funky and educational.

Posted by: danielayjuan | March 2, 2010

Color Esperanza

The students at the European school have 15 min. of morning music every day and all they’re expected to do is sing. On Monday it’s the national anthem but the rest of the week it’s a mix of contemporary English and Spanish songs mixed with traditional Costa Rica folk songs. Lately, it’s been a lot of M.J. (“Heal the World”) but my new favourite Spanish song is “Color Esperanza” by Diego Torres. The kids get so into it, it’s catchy plus it has a really good message. Enjoy!

Posted by: danielayjuan | February 21, 2010

“That’s why they call me ‘Hawkeye'”!

Bird Sightings!

First one, not so special, a Great-tailed Grackle (female)* while walking home from the bus!

Great-tailed Grackle

The second and most impressive to date: a Blue-crowned Motmot* observed in a tree outside of the European School!

Blue-crowned Motmot

So exciting!

Keeping our eyes open!

*photos from the interweb

Posted by: danielayjuan | February 14, 2010

Happy V-Day, Winter Olympics!

As everyone knows, there’s been a lot of controversy surrounding the 21st Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver, the big ones being the over-budgeted cost and building on Native land.  That being said, I still love the Olympics. Or should I say I love the idea of the Olympics: friendly athletic competition between many countries around the world.

The Olympics has always had a special place in my heart due to my loyalties to the country I hold citizenship of and the country of my family. Whether it was the summer or winter, I’ve always took pride in the fact that I can cheer for two countries, Canada and Italia. Even if they were competing directly against each other, I was also happy when either won medals. Since spending last year in Korea, I’ve added them to the roster of countries I cheer for, countries I’ve considered my homes. Costa Rica isn’t competing in these Winter Olympics, but you better believe I’ll be shouting “Pura Vida!” two years from now when the Olympics go to London.

On a similar note, I thought the Opening Ceremonies were surprisingly lovely. I really enjoyed the projections on the floor, the broken ice and orcas especially. I liked the tribute to the Maritimes with the fiddles and tap dancing. The beat poet gave an interesting look on his view of Canadian culture.  K.D. Lang’s rendition of “Hallelujah” was phenomenal and despite the mechanical glitch when lighting the torch, I thought the show, overall, was classy and representative of our diverse and complex nation.

It’s only Day 3 but I’ve been watching NBC every chance I get (thank you cable!).



(and happy lover’s day everyone)

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