European Cruise: Day 18 long day of travel

We have a little bit of morning in Barcelona, like just enough to sleep in and have some coffee and a pastry while people watching before we head to the airport. We depart just after 1 and land in LAX around 10pm hahaha, and yet we will be traveling for almost 17 hours.

This was the only photo I took hahahaha. At this point I was tired. We ate lunch at the airport then boarded the flight to Amsterdam, it was about 2.5 hours then we hurried through Amsterdam because we had about 1.5 hours to make our connection and had to go through passport control. But we made it. Then started the long 11ish hour flight. I didn’t want to sleep since we would be getting into LA at night and I wanted to be able to get back on normal time. I watched like 5 movies. We landed in Salt Lake City with 1 hour and 5 minutes to deplane, get through customs, get our bags, recheck our bags and get the third person in our party a boarding pass because for some reason we couldn’t print their last boarding pass in Barcelona and go back through security…….we made it by some miracle however Carra’s and I’s bags did not because we got them checked only about 40 minutes before the flight took off. Thankfully we were already staying overnight in LA so we just picked them up the next day.

We got off the plane spent about 40 minutes waiting for our bags then learning that they didn’t make the plane, then we boarded a shuttle to our hotel, got checked in and walked next door to McDonald’s then ate in our room and passed out for about 5 hours. \

We woke up early, got back to the airport, got our bags and got on the plane to finally get home…….are we there yet????

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European Cruise: Day 17 Barcelona

Today is our full day in Barcelona and we are going on a tour!

First let’s touch on the Catalonian referendum that was going on. This was Sunday, the day of the vote. We drove by this on the way out of town on the cruise, it was a demonstration. If you haven’t heard of the referendum, Google it. It was very interesting to be here for this……a little nerve wracking as well, we were on high alert the whole time, no way was I going to be caught in the middle of a riot.

We headed out of town about an hour into the mountains to visit a monastery.

It was like a mini little city, there was a hotel and a hostel and a little restaurant

That is the funicular to the top of the mountain.

Inside part of the monastery.

This was supposed to be the most powerful spot, geothermal waters run under it and the original church stood in this spot.

Lots of candles

hiking!

The mist was pretty, it started to burn off as we climbed down.

Back in town, people gathered in a plaza to keep apprised of the situation.

Gelato and a church!

another church!

there is a fair type place near the water, we went and rode the ferris wheel

Bye Barcelona!!!!!

European Cruise: Day 16 Barcelona

Today we disembark the ship! The ship docked at 5am in Barcelona. I slept in until 7:30am. Everyone but me is taking a dis-embarkment so i need to figure out what I want to do. Once we get settled into our apartment its time to start cramming in those sights to see again!

I got off the ship and took the bus from the ship/port to the actual town then started walking around to find where everyone else would get let off their tour.

On the way I happened to find the Starbucks!!! And got my 3rd you are here mug!

Then I stopped and had espresso and a croissant then met up with the others and dropped our bags at our residence then headed back out.

By then it was snack time and I may have gotten an espresso with vanilla gelato in it!!!! It was delicious

Time for sightseeing!

Nice view of the city and ocean beyond

Park Guell

Amazing bakery we stumbled upon.

This empanada was so good and only 1 Euro!

Sagrada de famillia

Adventure Tour in Costa Rica

After our 2 weeks of volunteering we headed back toward San Jose to a little suburb of it called Heredia, here we met up with several other volunteer groups to form a large adventure group of, I would guess 50. Another overnight in a hostel then in the morning our group boarded a bus. Our first day was mostly traveling, we stopped at a souvenir type place then headed to the Pacific coast.

I was pretty good at keeping a journal throughout my trip.

First day of sightseeing and exploring.

Our 2nd day was a free day in Samara Beach, we explored the small town and went on a small hike and just relaxed and enjoyed ourselves. I had what still remains to be the best pizza I have ever had (at least in my head, I could be way over playing it in my mind, maybe I was just starved for pizza hahaha) It was so fresh and delicious and I love pineapple on my pizza and in case you didn’t know, Costa Rica is like the pineapple capitol so it was AMAZING!!! We swam in the bathwater warm ocean and layed out on the beach.

The 3rd day we got up early and went sea kayaking out to a small island. I hadn’t been kayaking in a long time and never on the ocean so I was not sure how this was going to turn out……..apparently I get a little seasick. I was fine in the beginning then it started getting a little choppy and I started feeling it. I started yelling out military like commands to my partner so we rowed in unison and rowed fast to get me to the shore of the island, LEFT! RIGHT! LEFT! RIGHT! LEFT! RIGHT! When we got to the island we all hung out for a few hours, had fresh cut pineapple, of course, and just explored. There were A LOT of lizards on the island. After the return trip, where I pushed my partner just has hard, we all jumped in the back of this crazy truck, standing up, and were driven back to our hostel over crazy bumpy roads where we all wondered if we were going to fall out. Later that day we had a 2 hour surf lesson, yep born and raised in southern California and I surfed for the first time in Costa Rica hahaha. It was really fun, but man is it a workout! No wonder surfers are in such good shape.

Major dork moment.

Day 4 was another mostly travel day, we went from Samara beach to Rincon de la Vieja

Day 5 was a horseback ride, tubing and a mud spa. All great things, but at this point I had been going, going, going for almost 4 weeks, I needed a break. I had a headache and was exhausted so I gave my days adventure to someone who hadn’t purchased the extra adventure stuff and stayed home and read and took a nap all while enjoying the peace and quiet of a nearly empty tropical mini resort. I don’t for a day regret that decision.

Day 6 was travel and adventure, we went from Rincon de la Vieja to the Volcano Arenal area where we stayed for 2 nights in an eco hostel. After our arrival we took a 2 hour hike into the forest past steam vents and boiling mud puddles to a clearing with a beautiful pool of water and an awesome waterfall. We all (well everyone who wanted to) took turns jumping off the rocks into the pool below. At the end of the long hike we came to this volcanic hot springs that was incredible! Right next to the hot spring pool, which was already in the middle of the amazing beautiful rain forest and totally deserted except for our group, was a rushing river with rapids. It was perfect.

See the volcano smoking?

Day 7 today was an adrenaline day. We went to an adventure park. The day consisted of 10 zip lines, some hiking and repelling next to a waterfall. It was pretty amazing. There is nothing like zip lining over the treetops of the rainforest. We also learned about an indigenous tribe called the “Maleku” That was interesting but truthfully dull after all the adrenaline. At the end of the day we went to another hot springs this time a resort though, very commercialized but still cool. There were 10 different pools starting at the top with the hottest water and only being about 6 inches deep all the way down to the bottom which was just luke warm bath water and the size of a pool.

The first step is the most difficult

Then it is smooth sailing

Day 8 Travel day from the Volcano Arenal area to the Caribbean side of Costa Rica

Day 9 Gandoca Manzanillo wildlife refuge. This place was pretty cool it was an eco reserve. Our hostel rooms had thatch roofing and tent-like siding with wood floors. But inside they had four-poster beds with mosquito netting draped over it and  hot tub in the rooms! When you left each room there was a switch at the bottom that you could put your room key in and you turned off all the electricity to the room to save electric waste while you were gone. There were howler monkeys all around which was really cool. We went on a hike in the morning and had the afternoon to just relax. And I got to relax in the Caribbean ocean! We also took a boat ride to a little island village that we got to explore in the late afternoon.


Day 10 was a relaxing morning then we were given the option to go scuba diving if we wanted. For a mere $60 we could scuba dive in the ocean, I remember the cost very well because I had to call my mom on a phone card to send me more money because I was running low on funds and still had almost 2 weeks left. This seemed like such a great opportunity though, scuba diving in the ocean for $60! I was in! We watched an informational video then they loaded us in a car and drove to the beach were we strapped in and wadded into the water. We got to scuba dive for an hour or 2 and it was pretty cool, I would definitely do it again.

We stopped along the way for swimming and jumping off rocks. Yep, that is me mid-air.

Day 11 Gandoca Manzanillo wildlife refuge to the Rio Pacuare. White water rafting!!!! This was awesome!! We drove to the river in the morning and were on the river by the afternoon. This river was class 3 and 4 rapids so it was a workout hahahaha. After a few hours of rafting we arrived at another eco hostel in the jungle, though where the other hostel was eco-luxurious, this was eco-basic hahaha. It was just wood bunk beds in a room…..with bugs and spiders. Thankfully small spiders. The hostel provided us with dinner but the dining room was overrun with a fire ant migration, these things bit and stung, most of us opted to eat standing up in a corner, a few of us made quick dashes across the floor to the tables. I made the dash and survived with only being bitten/stung by 2 ants.  The next morning we got up early and it was back to the river for another day of rafting. In the afternoon we boarded the bus tired and happy and headed back to Heredia where the adventure tour would end.

Day 12 Heredia. Everyone had arrived back from their various adventure tours and was set about to take care of last minute business before leaving for home or other adventures. It was a day of saying goodbye, getting packed, exploring Heredia for the last time, or in my and one other girls case getting a new needed vaccine to travel to Peru the next day. Getting a vaccine is a simple enough process until you don’t really know what vaccine you are getting hahaha. This girl, Laura and I, were herded off with our adventure tour guide to a Costa Rican version of Rite Aid/Health department and stood in a white room while a nurse who spoke no English gave us a shot. This is one of those moments where you just have to trust people. But I didn’t get Yellow fever and I still have an official card in Spanish saying I am vaccinated for another few years hahaha.

Thus was the end of our adventure tour, the next day I was off to Peru to start a whole new adventure. Stay tuned next month for that adventure and so much more!!!!

 

*It has been 7 years since I took this trip (wow time has flown) everything I have written happened but the order might be slightly out of sequence as I tried to remember it all.

 

Volunteering in Costa Rica

Spanish lessons ended and the next day I had to meet up with all the incoming people who hadn’t done the Spanish lessons. The Spanish lessons and the meet-up place were in San Jose, Costa Rica. I don’t remember if I took a cab or if my host mom dropped me off where I had to meet everyone but I know I made it there hahaha!

I met up with the other nine people I would be volunteering with, including our guide. We stayed in a hostel that night and boarded a bus early the next morning to head up into the mountains, our destination was San Cristobel Norte.

When we got there we played a few ice breaker games and were introduced to our host families.

Thankfully one of the nine other people was going to by my roommate so I would not be alone this time. We hopped in the back of our host dads truck (which we were told the next day was a big no-no, whoops) and headed up to our home sweet home for the next 2 weeks……to say that it was different than what I was used to is an understatement, it wasn’t horrible or anything it was just not what I was used to but it was cozy and my host family was very welcoming. We hung out with our host family that night and went to bed early, or tried to go to bed early, we had to meet the group at 7am the next morning.

We were there to build the town a new water tower. The water tower was up a pretty good hill, that got very muddy whenever it rained……..it was summer in Costa Rica, it pretty much rained everyday at some point. What we started with was just a hole in the side of a mountain, it had been leveled out already by the towns people in preparation. We laid out grids then got everything to make concrete, we had a cement like mix but also added rocks and water to it and mixed it all up and poured wheel barrel after wheel barrel until it was a big cement slab. Thankfully we had oxen pulling an ox cart to haul the heavy materials up the hill for us……………yep you read that right, we worked with an oxen! It was pretty awesome!

In just over a week we went from an empty hillside to poured concrete, rebar reinforcement and rebar legs to hold the tank up, then we had to wait for an inspector to approve the next step.

Since we didn’t want to waste our time there just waiting we painted some desks in their school, repainted their boys and girls football (soccer) locker rooms and started paving a road.

Each morning out host mama would make us breakfast: usually eggs, tortillas and GalloPinto (rice and beans, don’t ask me why it was gallo pinto when I thought arroz meant rice) and fresh cheese! We also had black coffee with sugar, they do not have cream for your coffee over there.

My host family

Our host mama would bring us lunch every day, I was full vegetarian at the time so it was always a guess what I would get. Gallo pinto was part of EVERY meal, strangely I never really tired of it. One time when we were going for an afternoon hike I got a butter and cheese sandwich………I could only stomach about half of that before I had to say no way and dig into an odwalla bar I had packed from home.

Hiking

After lunch it was back to work for a few hours then in the afternoon we would stop for coffee and snacks at the various people of the towns homes. What we did at night depended on the day, some times we would play soccer with the local kids until the sun went down or would have little gatherings in the town. One family had an area in their backyard with a wood stove and a pretty big room. In two weeks we must have had at least 4 party type nights. We danced and cook and ate. There was a woman in town with the peace corps, we hung out with her a little bit. Some nights we would head home earlier than other nights due to exhaustion. Overall it was an amazing, sometimes very trying, but wonderful experience.

Milking a cow

Two things I distinctly remember that were difficult but definitely made me a better person:

HUGE spiders. I am afraid of spiders so this was very hard for me, especially when almost every night 2 giant spiders would show up on the walls of the room I was staying in at my host families house. We are talking the size of my hand. I would flip out a bit, my host family would tease me but kill the spiders and kick them out the doors!!!!!!! That is how big they were you can’t flush them down the toilet or anything like that, you just kick them out in the yard…….. It certainly helped me deal with small spiders a lot better hahahaha.

Our room

The other one was cold showers. I grew up in middle class America, I have never really not been able to take a hot shower. Our host family had this thing on their showerhead that was supposed to heat the water but it either didn’t work or work for about 10 seconds. Now I am been camping and am no stranger to a quick rinse off with cold water but when you have been laying concrete in the mud all day or paining or paving a road all with summer bugs nesting in your hair, you want a proper shower. I would turn the water on, rise off, get my hair wet, then turn the water off while I shampooed and scrubbed the dirt off, then the water would go back on, rinse everything off, turn the water off and repeat with conditioner. I also had to detangle my hair every time I washed it because the humidity was wreaking havoc on my hair.

When I got back to the states to my aunts house I hadn’t had a proper shower in over a week and my hair was a crazy mess. I jumped in a hot shower and stayed in there forever, detangling my hair and taking care of it………..my forever shower that I would have been like an hour was 20 minutes. My idea of a long shower had totally changed.

The ox cart parade happened while we were there. The designs were amazing

And that was my two weeks of volunteering in Costa Rica.

Spanish Lessons in Costa Rica

I was going through old photos on my computer and realized I started this blog after my adventure in Costa Rica so I thought I would share some of the photos and stories. It will help me get pumped for my Europe trip!!! (as if I actually need help to get pumped to go to Europe hahahaha)

Back story:

If you have read the about me section you know my dad died when I was 20 and it rocked my world. When I was getting back on track and starting to do well in school again, I was in a class and someone came in and did a quick presentation about a student volunteer organization called ISV, International Student Volunteers. This presentation was enthusiastic and awesome and I said to myself, yep I am so doing that. I was 22. I went to their website and looked around and chose Costa Rica, mostly because their adventure tour sounded the best at the time.

I tend to do things to the extreme, remember when I walked into the wilderness by myself after quitting my job to try and thru-hike the PCT? LOL. In keeping with that I signed up for 1 week of Spanish lessons, 2 weeks of volunteer work, a 2 week adventure tour, and 1 week hiking the Andes to Machu Picchu. Here is what happened:

I had never traveled internationally alone, or even really nationally alone. I had driven from Nevada to California a few times by myself but that was it, so while I was with a group, they were all strangers to me and ISV had made it very clear that we were adults, if we did anything wrong we were on our own.

The adventure:

I got to LAX about 5+ hours before my flight took off, this was before everyone could check in 24 hours ahead on their phones and the internet. Some of the other people who were traveling from other places said they would get to the airport early so I thought I could join them and get to talk to some of them ahead of time. Checking it that early meant I got bumped up to first class!!! To date that is my first and only time in first class hahaha!

When we landed there was no guide to meet us we just headed to the front to look for our host families. I got into a car by myself with a complete stranger in a foreign country…..she knew my name so it had to be her right? Thankfully all turned out well.

I had my own little room and was given a key.


My host family said I was free to come and go as I please. Thankfully I was only a few blocks from the school where I would be studying because I walked to and fro each day by myself.

I had no Spanish knowledge so I was in the very basic class……it was so boring hahahahaha! We had Spanish lessons in the morning then were free to do as we pleased in the afternoon and evenings. They had dance classes everyday that I went to and thoroughly enjoyed. I remember that my dance partner was there learning Spanish because he wanted to be a doctor with doctors without boarders.


One day we also had a cooking lesson, or more a cooking demonstration. Best part was that we got samples!!!

 

Here was my beginners class with out teacher


We were a bunch of misfits hahahaha!!!

We went on a few outings that were guided by the school. Usually lunch around town or to look at something historical.

 

One night I also went out with a bunch of people from the school to a local bar/dance club. It was fun but part of picking myself back up after my dad died meant that I had completely stopped drinking until I could get myself under control so going to a bar with people who just wanted to get drunk was not the best idea, I was bored and miserable the whole night. I wasn’t ready to be able to have sober fun in a setting like that.

When we graduated we all got little certificates saying we had learned for a week hahahaha


This week was my first time ever staying with a non-family member or friend by myself, first time using an international phone card, first time using an internet café, first time using my passport to get into a bar, first time navigating a foreign city by myself, first time trying to really communicate with people who spoke a language I didn’t, first great adventure as an adult.

I had had one big international trip before this, I went to South Korea with my family when I was in the 5th grade, it was wonderful but this was 100% different, doing something on your own as an adult is very liberating and you learn so much about yourself. I am so excited for Europe!!!!

I’ll tell you more next month!!

Study, study, study

Today consisted of studying and watching Gray’s Anatomy. 

I got through 2 chapters for my personal training certification and realized i need some help with all the anatomy stuff. I should be finished with the book by the end of next week or the Monday after but I need to do some serious catch up with anatomy then I need to do some major reviewing. 

Today i ordered some study material to help me

I can’t wait for them to arrive!!!

Tonight after the studying I took a little break and practiced some Spanish 

Now I am in bed watching a little Harry Potter to fall asleep to

Goodnight. 

Do you speak any other languages?

If you could, what other language would you like to learn?