Tag Archives: airport

Teaching English in Indonesia

My time in Malaysia had finally come to an end and it was time to get out of the country to explore a new one.  I had been wrestling with what to do and where to go for a while and all I really knew was that I wanted to continue to volunteer somewhere, but just didn’t know where.

Tirelessly I researched place after place and continuously ran into programs that allowed volunteers to work with this or that animal, but the cost of doing so was atrocious!  Finally I came across a site called helpstay.com.  After reading reviews about the site as to its validity and exploring the various opportunities they had available in surrounding countries, I decided to take the plunge and join as a member of the site so I could contact one very specific volunteer opportunity.  In all honesty, the second I found the posting to volunteer teaching English at a home site in South Sulawesi, Indonesia that also had an organic farm, I signed up to the site and kept my fingers and toes crossed that they had availability for volunteers.

Within a few hours my inquiry was replied to and a Skype date was set so we could put faces to one another and see if we really were a match for each other, volunteer-wise.  Though part of me was a bit nervous to give away information about myself and Skype a literal stranger in a foreign country, the minute we chatted I knew I’d made the right decision.

The volunteer program organizer is an 18-year-old marvel named Faisal.  He invites people from around the world to stay with him and his family in exchange for volunteers to develop lessons and teach english to local students aged 6 to 18 years.  I was so very impressed with him during our Skype session, that I immediately committed to volunteering for a month with him and couldn’t wait to get there!

Now, all of my volunteering to this point involved animals, because that’s really where my love and strength lies.  I’d never taught English before (and I’d made sure to relate that to Faisal during our chat) but being a native english speaker I thought, how hard could it be? Less than a month after connecting with Faisal I was on a plane from Kuala Lumpur to Makassar, South Sulawesi, Indonesia.  I stayed the first night in Makassar (as my flight landed in the late evening) and first thing the next morning made my way to the Terminal Daya bus station for the 8 hour bus ride to Belopa.

Upon arriving at Terminal Daya I noted several men standing in front of the very, VERY basic bus terminal.  I spoke zero Bahasa and no one so far spoke any English (or very limited at best!) but luckily all that was required of me to say was: Belopa?.  That did the trick as they simultaeously all practically cheered “Belopa!” together.  They whisked my bag out of the taxi and walked me over… away from the vehicles that actually looked like busses… to basically a 4 door Ford truck.  Hmmmm…. is this right???  They all had stickers on the front saying “Pelopo” so I pointed to the truck and said again “Belopa?”.  “Ya, ya” was their response as they hauled my bag into the bed of the truck, took out their cell phones and typed in 150,000… the cost of the trip!

Lord knew at that point whether I was getting majorly ripped off or not, but what choice did I have exactly?  As it turned out, that was the correct and normal price 🙂  Happy day!  Moving on, I paid the fee and squished in the back seat with two other females and after a few minutes we were on our way.  There was actually a third line of seats behind my own, so in total we were a team of 7 people trundling along on the journey to Belopa (an hour South of Pelopo as it turns out).

The journey there was visually beautiful.  The mountains and the sea, vast and open rice fields, the endless green and tropical lush surrounding us.  Absolutely stunning!  The one downfall was that the driver smoked the entire way up, which was a bummer, but at least the windows were fully open to allow quick exchanges of air.  We took one break along the way for some food and a bathroom and made it into Belopa just about 8 hours to the dot later.  After a bit of miming and a game of charades with my fellow passengers in the truck, I was able to communicate that I wanted to be dropped off at the nearest ATM as I seriously had zero rupiah on me.  Luckily enough, the ATM I was dropped off at was next to a coffee shop that offered free WiFi.  So while sipping on a cappuccino (made from an instant coffee sachet) I used the WiFi to let Faisal know I’d arrived, and my exact location.

About 5 minutes later, Faisal showed up in his brother’s vehicle and we finally met in person.  Faisal, again only being 18 years of age and having only studied English for about 2 years spoke english brilliantly!  We loaded my stuff into his vehicle and made the 15 minute drive to his town called Bajo.  The town was absolutely adorable!!  When we arrived there was a football (soccer) match at the village field so there were tons of locals gathered for the game.

Just a bit further along the road we came to his lovely and humble home where I met his mom (mama as we called her who spoke zero english) and dad (who spoke a bit of english) and his cousin Irpan (a student in one of the english classes).  His family was lovely and so immediately welcoming that it just made my heart melt.  I was shown to my room and given a tour of the house and the school-house built by Faisal and some of his schoolmates Ucok and Iswan.  We had some dinner together (Faisal whipped up a deliciously spicy nasi goreng if memory serves) and I made my way to bed.

Thus began one of my most memorable months of traveling…

Visit Faisal’s website to find out more about his amazing volunteer program!!

Review of the Our Chance school

On to Favorite Memories from Bajo

Back to Indonesia

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Drug Bust en route to Paris

Though I swore that I wouldn’t take a bus long distances again (Munich to Berlin via bus was a bit torturous!!) it was quite a bit cheaper to go by bus from Amsterdam to Paris, and supposedly only about 7 hours.  So I caved in and went via bus.  I’m “lucky” I even made the bus trip to begin with!  Not because I was late getting to the bus stop, but because there were apparently multiple signs in the train station to the bus stop.  The one pointing downstairs (the only one I noticed) was only for local busses while the one just outside the entrance to the train station was for long distances.  This post isn’t about the departure however, (I’m just throwing that info out for other travelers in case it comes in handy) it’s really about the trip there…

All was going just fine.  We got to Brussels with no issue and on time and our bus drivers traded out (we started with a quiet yet nice man and ended with an unpleasant woman who acted like she couldn’t be bothered with anything from anyone).  From Brussels we headed on and were actually making really good time!  I was just thinking to myself how nice it would be to make it to Paris on schedule- I’d be there by 3 and would be able to take advantage of several hours of daylight before turning in for the night.

I really shouldn’t have thought so soon… About an hour after stopping to take a snack break, the driver announced we had to pull over for gas.  We pulled over for gas and there we sat for a few minutes waiting for the tank to fill.

Suddenly two men in uniform come onto the bus.  They spoke in French and once translated in English they said they were there to conduct a search of the bus.  Now, I don’t know if it was standard protocol to search buses coming into France from Amsterdam or whether we were just that “lucky” but yes, we were apparently chosen by the French police or rather the French DEA basically to be searched for drugs.  The two officers started making their way questioning every single passenger about where they had come from, where they were going, how long they would be in Paris, what hotel they were staying in, what their business in Paris was, etc, etc.

Normally I never plan in advance where I’m staying, how long I will be there, etc, etc but on this particular occasion I actually did!  I had all my answers and passport ready for the drill and when it came to my turn, the officer took my passport, checked it out for validity, said “thanks” and moved on to the woman sitting next to me and her the rundown on questions, lol!!

While the officers were going over each passenger, other officers had opened the luggage compartments below the bus and were taking out each piece of luggage and lay them on the ground.  In addition, a drug sniffing dog was dispatched on the bus running up and down the center aisle back and forth.  Then out onto the luggage sniffing each one for issues.

About a half hour passed and it seemed there was particular concern over one of the trash cans of the buses.  The officers kept fussing over it and even removed the trash bag to take outside for inspection.  They then asked 4 young guys sitting just across from the “suspect trash can” to exit the bus.  They stood outside while everyone on the bus watched them get a pat down.  They were searched from head to toe, shoes off, outer clothing off; this wasn’t an airport pat down (which I’m very familiar with since I always opt out of the Wave cancer scanner thing) this was a serious “we are going to put our hands on every square inch of your body” pat down.  They asked for each of the boys bags and went through every single item.  I’m saying that if they had a can of hairspray it was uncapped and a bit sprayed out to ensure it was what the label said it was.  It was VERY in-depth.

And it got a little MORE in-depth… While they let 3 of the boys back in, two officers were escorting the 4th into the little mini-mart of the gas station… You could just hear the sound of latex gloves snapping against the officers wrists!!  Needless to say, about 20 minutes later the guy who had been escorted into the mini-mart did NOT look happy!!  While he was inside however the other officers were still busy with the bus and they had even plucked yet another man (who was sitting in front of me) off the bus for a pat down.

About two hours later all the bags were back on the bus and all the passengers were back on the bus except the one unfortunate younger guy who had been taken inside for a thorough search.  He stayed behind with his things and the cops.  His friends were total punks and I wonder if he was just the “fall guy” because they kept laughing at him from the bus and taking his picture with the cops no doubt to post them on the web.

Once we were back on the road the driver did her best to catch up on time lost but the 7 hour trip once again turned into an almost 10 hour trip, lol!

I love trains!!!! 🙂

On to Montmartre

Back to Europe

SpanItalish

SpanItalish is what I’d like to call the language I was basically speaking when I arrived in Italy and throughout my time in Italy… Let me break it down for ya:

Span-Ital-ish: Span = Spanish, Ital = Italian & ish = English 🙂

After my time in Central and South America, all the conversational Italian that I did know converted completely to Spanish!  So now before going back to Italy I was trying in my mind to think Italian instead of Spanish…. That was definately easier said than done as I kept speaking Spanish to myself, desperately trying to recall the Italian words again… In fact, I was sort of doing that in my mind (converting my Spanish to Italian) while in the Gatwick airport, but obviously gave up when helping out the woman from Spain:)

When I first got to Italy, while I could understand everyone and what they were saying (depending on their speed of speech and whether they had a heavy accent or not) I would reply pretty much completely in Spanish, lol!!  Needless to say this was rather annoying to me though luckily everyone seemed patient with me as I repeated myself to them, slowly converting Spanish to Italian.  Slowly but surely Italian came back and took over my Spanish!  Now I find myself thinking “how would I say that in Spanish???” and not being able to recall, lol!!!  It’s seriously a case of “when in Rome” because when in the environment it’s easier to be and speak Italian or Spanish as needed!

I threw English in there of course because first I am fully fluent in English and second because it was my last resort if Spanish or Italian didn’t work in asking questions, lol!!!  And since neither Spanish nor Italian helped while I traveled the rest of Europe, I was glad that at least English did!!

On to Cinque Terre

Back to Europe

Florence

For those who personally know me, the next sentence won’t come as a surprise, but for everyone else… I am fortunate to have been born and raised (for the first 7 years or so) just outside of Florence.  My dad has been living here for several years now, and since it has been 4 years since I’ve been back to Italy, why not #1 spend some time with my dad, #2 use our home in Italy as a base to explore other European countries and #3 make the eventual trip to Thailand not such a painful one from a flight perspective:)

I know, I know, I sound totally spoiled.  But I can’t help where I was born, I can only recognize how fortunate I am in many ways and most importantly to be thankful for what I am able to do and to have such an international family!!

Now that that is cleared up, I am currently still in Italy writing furiously to catch up on this blog from the years past travels so that I can write about more recent adventures and ones that are still to come:)  I arrived here in Italy at the end of August (2014- I know, I’m really almost caught up with blogging about my travels to present day!!!) at the Florence airport and was greeted by my dad at the airport with one of his famous “daddy” pick-ups, as we call it in my family.  That is simply where he insists on parking the car so he can go into the airport and greet the new arrival from the gate, instead of waiting outside in the car for the new arrival to walk out of the airport:)

We had a lovely dinner at a pizzeria near where my dad grew up and has been going for over 40 years!!  Let me just say, for the record that, in my opinion, there is no better pizza IN THE WORLD than the pizza in Italy, and more specifically the pizza in Tuscany!!!  The thin crust is to die for!!  Now the further South you go in Italy, the thicker the crust gets… Just a warning for those going South wondering why I’ve described the pizzas as being thin-crusted:)  Oh and the ham too… I’ve never tasted better ham either (on my pizza of course!!) than in Italy!!  Ok, I better stop talking about food for now… I’m making myself hungry!!

We headed to the house (about 40 Km outside of Florence) after dinner and turned in for the night.  The next few months were spent catching up, hanging out, hiking in the National Park that we back onto, exploring several surrounding cities, reconnecting with Florence, a trip to the Island of Elba, going to Salzburg, Austria for a few days together (then I left to explore more of Europe on my own), entertaining some friends from Scotland, blogging (for me:)) and now we are getting ready to head out on a cruise that the family organized for my dad’s 75th birthday present!!

It’s been a busy few months for sure!!  Not to mention that while I’ve been here I’ve been making sure that my dad has stayed busy making me homemade lasagna, limoncello, meat sauce, arista, crostate di more, pasta with the favorite sauce (can’t tell you the recipe it’s a family secret:)) focaccia, pasta fagioli, and on and on!!  It’s a miracle I’m not obese!!  Lol!!  Actually, it’s not a miracle… I workout vigorously everyday to counter the calories I indulge in while here:)

On to SpanItalish

Back to Europe

Oh… I should mention I’ve cheated a teeny bit on the pictures… All are current except for the Florence pictures… They are ones from winter 2010… But in coming posts of Florence I will have pictures from this trip, I promise!!  Just wanted to give you a little teaser to start;)

Gatwick & Airport Fun (Leaving the UK)

Well, after about a month in Scotland, it was time to head to Gatwick and take off for Italy!!  After giving my many thanks to Anna for her hospitality, I left Glasgow via train and headed straight down to Gatwick.  I had booked a little B&B for the night (it took almost all day to get from Glasgow to Gatwick so it was a good thing I left the day before my flight!!) called Da Vinci Gatwick Guest House.  For 40 pounds (yea I know it was pricey but I got my own room/bathroom, breakfast and after traveling all day I enjoyed a little pamper:)) I reserved a single room only about 10 minutes from the airport.

Though a little pricey, I really enjoyed the Da Vinci Guest House!!  I found it comfortable, quaint, warming, welcoming and over all just had a great vibe!  The people who owned, or at least who took care of it are Latin American (I could hear them speaking Spanish) and the woman at least was very accommodating, polite and welcoming!  I didn’t get any actual chat time with the man, that’s why I only mention the woman:)  Though when I made my reservation over the phone, I spoke with a man (maybe the same one??) and he was very polite and accommodating too.  They even provided me with a number of a taxi service that they use that costs half what other taxis cost (according to them) and they picked you up right from the train station.

Quick note here though about taxis… CARRY CASH!!!  AT ALL TIMES CARRY CASH TO PAY THE TAXIS!!!!  Otherwise they will charge you a fee of 7 pounds to use a credit card!!!!!!  Yup, it happened to me… I was fuming!!  Though of course that was on the way to the airport, so what could I do??  The fee almost cost as much as the fare!!!  Consider yourselves warned!!

In any event, the night at the B&B was spent picking off ticks from my forearms (only 4 of them and they were babies, so it didn’t take that long!) and going out for a bite to eat at the local (potentially only) pub and restaurant just walking distance down the road.  The food was great (surprisingly very international!!) and the beers were splendid as always.  Needless to say that night was a quiet one as I prepped to take off the next day.

Because my flight was in the afternoon (6pm) but I had to be out of the B&B by 11am, I opted to just go to the airport and wait until my time to board.  Unfortunately, Vueling Airlines only allows people to check-in 2 hours before their flight, so I had to sit and wait (with my very heavy bag since I was carrying gifts) from basically 11am to 4pm before being able to get rid of my bag and go through security… I finally got checked in and through security, then the cutest thing happened…

As anyone who has ever been to the airport knows, past security there are a ton of shops and stores, and restaurants.  The larger the airport, the more there are!  Gatwick was quite busy and had a ton of places to shop and eat!  I stopped by one place to grab a slice of pizza (easy, cheap and I hadn’t eaten all day!!) then wandered around to find a quiet spot to play a game on my tablet…

I was there all of a few minutes when all of a sudden an elderly woman came by and asked “con permiso, habla Espanol?”  Translation: Excuse me, do you speak Spanish?  To which I responded “Yes, a little” (in spanish of course) and that’s all it took!  She was off!!  Thankfully I actually did understand what she was saying despite her speaking a mile a second!!  She was on her way to Orlando but her flight in Gatwick was delayed and she had no way to contact her family because for some reason she couldn’t get her phone to work and no one in the Gatwick airport spoke Spanish and she couldn’t find anyone to help her because she doesn’t speak and English…

I kinda had to chuckle, because she was just too cute!!  In any event, I explained that her phone didn’t work because she did not have a SIM card for the UK (she was from Spain btw) and I offered her to call her family with my Skype account on my tablet.  She was very thankful, made her phone call to let her family know about her situation, thanked me profusely and went on her way.

I simply went back to my game playing when all of a sudden, about 5 minutes later she snuck back around one again asking for help, lol!!  Poor thing!!!  My heart broke for her and loved her all at once!!  Anyway, she handed me two slips of paper and asked if I could tell her what it was all about.  The first was her boarding ticket for the plane.  But there was no gate assigned to the ticket, only the flight number and seat number.  So I explained that because the flight was delayed, they didn’t know what gate the plane would actually be at and that we would have to simply watch the monitors for departures to see what gate it would be once it was announced.  She got a good handle on that, then I looked at the second slip.  It was a voucher for 5 pounds from British Airways to redeem for food or a beverage at any of the food shops to make up for the delay in the flight.  I explained this to her, then asked if she was hungry.  She said yes, and I offered that if she was interested in pizza, I just happened to know of a place that sold a large slice for 5 pounds… She agreed, so I took her to the food shop, ordered her the pizza to go, paid the shop with the food voucher and gave her the slice.

At this point, as chance would have it I checked the monitor to see if my flight was announced yet, and in fact both mine AND her flight were announced, lol!!  So I told her that the gate for her flight was ready, walked her to her gate (mine was on the way anyway!) then went on to mine:)  She was very thankful, but honestly the whole experience just warmed my heart to be able to help her, so really I thank her!!

On to Italy

On to Europe

Back to United Kingdom

Back to Homepage

Crocs

The following morning I rose early and went off looking for my usual cup of delicious Costa Rican coffee.  I went back to the soda I had been to the previous day and after enjoying my coffee headed out back to a portion of the town I had sort of explored the day before but not entirely to my satisfaction.  It was down a dirt road from one of the restaurant/bars along the coast line about 200 meters south of the boat dock.  The dirt path led to a bunch of vacation bungalows.  It wasn’t the bungalows that had intrigued me the day before, but rather a little sign I noticed off to the side of the parking area for the bungalows.  The sign read “Nature conservation area.  Please limit your visit to 15 minutes”.  I was very interested in this area the day before, but since it was starting to get dark by the time I had fist discovered it, I thought it best to save going in the area for a day activity.  Now that it was daytime however, I wandered in…

The little trail led through a dense jungle area that lined a river running toward the Gulf.  Birds and several lizards, army ants and spiders could be spotted everywhere.  As I wandered in obviously taking in the beauty of my surroundings, a sudden spotting out of the corner of my eye froze me in my place.  There, along the bank of the river just about 10 feet from me was a crocodile!!!  No fence separated us, it was just him and I.  Now, I have lived in Florida and have been to Gatorland and have seen many a Gator in my time but all from the safe distance or a separation by either a fence or my being locked in a car while they swam in the surrounding swamps.  Never before had I been so close and without any barrier between a croc and myself.  As all of the little tid bits I’d heard about crocs started coming to mind (such as do not run away from them in a straight line but rather confuse them by changing paths often, crocs have tiny brains, try to gouge their eyes out if attacked, etc) in case it decided to start toward me I continued to simply stay frozen and watch the beast.  It hadn’t moved at all and my only choice of path was either to go forward past his area, or retract.  Of course I chose to retract!!  I had only wandered about 5 minutes into the area so getting out wasn’t difficult at all!!

Quite startled by what I had just seen, I decided to head back to the safety of the hostel to regroup and obviously tell the others about it!  When I got back, the others were awake and starting to plan their day.  And “F” had also made an appearance.  He was completely back to his normal congenial self as he was the day before prior to the drinking and again kept trying to get me to go with him on a special tour through Corcovado Park with him.  I again turned him down and instead joined the two Belgium men to tell them of the crocodiles and to simply get away from “F”.  Upon hearing of the crocs, of course the guys asked me to immediately take them to the area and I agreed.

Not entirely believing the advice from “F” about the park being closed either, the boys wanted to go to the official park office and inquire about its status for themselves.  So we also incorporated this portion to our outing as well.  By this point, since I had acquainted myself with the little town the day prior, I was able to lead the way via the shortcut to the airport that led to the park office.  There the boys discovered the news that indeed the park would be closing in just another day and that they were only allowed to go there, stay one night and return the next.  They asked if I wanted to join them on the trip, but I declined as first the price ticket for such a short trip was rather large ($10 per day plus all sorts of extras that I don’t now recall…) and second, it was too much of a rushed trip for my taste, especially since camping was involved!  I much prefer to spend time camping rather than hiking 8 hours only to sleep one night and return the next day.

In any event, the boys happily signed up (they were seriously the MacGyver types!!) and after all the bills were paid and formalities signed we headed back out to the crocs.  Along the way we enjoyed the numerous scarlet macaws that we passed in the surrounding trees.  They are quite easy to spot as their noise is unmistakable as is the sudden thuds of rock hard almond seeds dropping to the ground below from snacking macaws.  Finally we made it back to the croc entrance and this time, being much wiser, I made the men go first!!  We walked in following the winding path once again until we reached the same bank that I had been to before.  This time however, I wasn’t just looking ahead of myself to watch where I was walking.  No, this time I was also looking at all of my surrounding areas in case any crocs were lurking in the dense jungle around us!!

Go figure that when we got to the bank, the croc was gone!!  Great, I thought, now I look like I’m making stuff up!!  Luckily I was validated quite quickly however, as just as I was standing there stammering that “it was just HERE like 30 minutes ago!!!” like a petulant child, from two separate directions, 2 crocs swam nonchalantly to the edge of the river on the bank!!  The boys of course were fascinated and wanted to try to coax the crocs out of the water!!  Crazy boys, I know!!  And honestly I’m not at all a fan of harassing wildlife in any fashion, especially if they could easily kill you!!  But I stood by as one the boys (the more adventurous MacGyver one) picked up a stick and slap the water in front of the crocs to try to “tick them off” enough to get them to come forward a bit.  As he was doing this, I was several feet behind and started to take better notice of the slow-flowing river.  To my utter shock, it wasn’t just 2 crocs in there, it was dozens!!!  Not just crocs either, but caymens as well!!  Now really there isn’t much to fear from caymens as they are MUCH smaller than crocs and will never grow to the full size of a crocodile, so they didn’t concern me much.  I just found it so fascinating how many live creatures were and had been just below the surface of the river.

After several minutes of unsuccessfully coaxing the crocs out, the boys became bored and decided to continue on the path.  Of course as I started to cross the bank area, the crocs who had turned away from the stick slapping suddenly decided to turn back toward the bank and come toward me!!  This of course freaked me out as one of the boys stated “I think they like you!”.  Yes, for dinner no doubt!!  I once again froze in my steps but was eventually convinced to keep going, keeping a very keen eye out for my new “friends”.  The trail surprisingly was not that long at all after that spot.  We shortly thereafter encountered a barbwire fence that forced us along another part of the trail that was definitely less traveled.  Eventually we made our way back out to the main road after carefully navigating our way over and under the various jungle that was in our way.

The rest of the day was spent playing on the beach, enjoying the macaws, saying goodbye to the Belgium boys who were packing up for their Corcovado Park adventure, and meeting the French man who had come in the night before but had finally decided (yes, it was almost dark again) to wake up!!  Another couple had also joined the crew at The Corner in hopes of also going to Corcovado Park.

Funny side note here, my wonderful landlady Berta had been told by “F” as he had told me that he wanted to take me on a private tour of Corcovado Park.  Berta knew his nature however and had thankfully already become protective of me, especially after hearing of the previous night’s strangeness, and instead offered “F’s” private tour offer to the newest guest couple that had arrived.  “F” was quite furious about this as he told me, because he had told Berta specifically that he only wanted to offer the private tour to me.  I however, was delighted that Berta did what did, and I once again had to tell “F” “thanks, but I was never interested in the private tour with you” all the while thanking Berta profusely for stepping in as she did!!  For all the potentially dangerous situations that I have found myself encountered with while being in Costa Rica, there has always been a more benevolent and protective force in the form of the elder ticos and ticas!!  For this, Berta and others along the way will always have a very special place in my heart.

The night was thankfully uneventful as I simply lingered around The Corner keeping Berta company and chatting with her as best I could.  I only hopped out momentarily after my dinner at a soda for some homemade ice cream Berta had told me about and after chit-chatting a bit with Jul, the man from France, I headed off for some lovely sleep!!

Once again, I neglected to bring my camera for the croc event as I have grown quite accostomed to traveling the town with as little in my possession as possible, but fear not for the adventure continues…

On to Beach Adventure

Back to Costa Rica

San Jose

I should start by saying that I really didn’t have a plan.  None of this trip was planned exactly.  The farthest I ever got with “planning” was that I was going to sell everything, quit my job and travel out of the Country.  But that was it.  Seriously, nothing beyond there.  So when I landed in the San Jose airport (located in Alajuela) I didn’t have any further idea of where I was going to even sleep that night or what my next move was…

Many would find that crazy especially since I had the time to figure it all out, but in my mind I was just interested in the experience and the challenge of having to figure it out as I went along.  I have always done my best work when thrown into the deep end of the pool and in a way, planning to NOT have a plan was my own personal ocean:)
Walking out of the airport I was immediately ambushed by tons of eager faces and voices all asking “Taxi???”.  I turned them down and asked someone nearby where the bus station was instead.  My thoughts were to get out of San Jose immediately and get out to a more typical Costa Rica town: more nature, less city!  As I made my way toward the buses I suddenly thought “well, one night wouldn’t hurt and I could use it to get my barring”.  So I headed back to the taxis and met a couple of other people who were asking if I wanted to share a cab to San Jose.  I took this as a sign that ok, I could stay one night in San Jose!

In retrospect, had I really understood that the airport was in Alajuela (which I did have a foggy memory of my brother telling me that, yet it somehow wasn’t solidified in my mind) I would have just gotten a taxi to downtown Alajuela…

In any event, about a half our later we were in San Jose and had dropped off my two taxi buddies at their various locations.  The taxi driver then turned to me and (all in Spanish) said- “where are you off to?”  I replied that I had no idea, but asked what he would suggest?  I stated that I wanted somewhere cheap- the cheaper the better in my mind!  He politely stated however that he would much prefer I stayed somewhere a little more pricey, but it would be in an area he considered safe for a single traveler.  I acquiesced and was taken to a little B&B near the downtown area.

After settling in I spent the rest of the afternoon getting lost and trying to get directions on where downtown actually was!  I ran into a few people on the street who I trusted to ask questions of and they assisted me very kindly- but each person also emphatically told me to either get back to my B&B prior to the night-time or take a taxi back.  “Muy peligroso” was what I was told.  Mainly because the drug addicts come out at night and petty crimes apparently aren’t unusual in San Jose.  Though there are crimes everywhere, I took the locals advice to heart and made sure I was back at the B&B by 6pm (yes, it gets dark here by 6pm everyday, year round!).

San Jose was a bustling, constantly moving city!  There were people everywhere!!  In the markets, hanging out in the parks, moving on foot or in their cars or on bikes going to their destinations.  Movement everywhere you looked!  Buildings weren’t very tall but they were everywhere all squished together as far as the eye could see, thus blocking any real view of the beautiful nature that surrounds the city.  McDonald’s, Quizno’s, Pizza Hut and other U.S. food chains were also everywhere!  I hate to admit, but as I was getting a little tired from all the travels and walking around all afternoon, I did drift to a Quizno’s for dinner.  The shame, I know!!  But crowds and areas with lots of hustle and bustle tend to wear me out fast and it was nice to get a little food that I could relate to, so to speak.  I knew there would be plenty of time to taste local flavors and I was certainly looking forward to that, but for the time I was happy with the Quizno’s.

After my bite to eat I did a little internet research at my B&B for Volcan Poas.  My cousin, who is a “seasoned” Costa Rica traveler said it was a good day trip from San Jose, so I decided to check out what was available there (hostels and such) for a trip the next day.  I found a few hostels online and took down their information so I could look them up once there.  I also had to get the bus situation understood because San Jose has 4, yes 4 different bus stations all in different locations from one another.  Depending on where you want to go to, that decides which bus terminal you need to show up to.

As I settled into the B&B to sleep, a huge thunderstorm settled in overhead… Now for those of you who know me, you know that I absolutely ADORE thunderstorms!!! In fact, so much that whether a place has thunderstorms on a fairly consistent basis is actually a deciding factor for me on whether I will plan to live there or not.  I know, I know- sounds absolutely nuts picking a place to live based on thunderstorms, but hey, I follow my passions no matter what form they take!

On to Volcan Poas

Back to Costa Rica

September 17th, 2011

Dropped off at the airport around 3am, my journey was about to begin.  I hadn’t slept entirely well the night before due to many factors really- nerves, had I packed enough?, ideas of what may lay ahead, but most of all fear that I wouldn’t be allowed in the Country to begin with…

Let me explain: all the online posts I had read pertaining to traveling to Costa Rica stated that you had to have proof of leaving the Country prior to entering.  In other words a bus ticket or a return plane ticket showing that you were going to be leaving within 90 days of arrival.  I had no such proof.  I had only purchased a one-way ticket there.

What I had later learned is that many airlines- Spirit, Air Mexico, etc will not allow you to purchase a one-way ticket online.  Or if they do, once you arrive at the airport you get slapped with the happy news that you have to pony up some more money for a return ticket… kinda sneaky if you ask me, but the good news or best advice rather if you find yourself in that scenario is to simply buy a refundable ticket and cancel it after printing your proof of a return flight.

One example of the kind of trouble one may run into without a return ticket from CR was of a couple who flew in to Miami (as part of the journey to CR) then were denied bording access to the plane to CR because they didn’t have a return flight!  They ended up having to get back to the ticket sales desk, only to find one airline open, purchase a ticket, haul back through security and get on the plane in the nick of time!

Though I was nervous about not having a return flight, I said to myself that if I wasn’t meant to go to Costa Rica, then I would have complications getting in.  If not, well then that was just one more sign that I was supposed to go.

The flight was quite pleasant as I slept for most of the time.  I traveled on US Air and made one of the best last minute travel purchases while on a flight: a sleep pack that included a little blanket, air pillow, eye mask and ear plugs all condensed in the size of… well frankly this little 10″ netbook I’m currently working on:)  It has come in handy time and time again!

My most nerve-wracking moment was when I arrived at the San Jose airport (which btw folks isn’t actually located in San Jose, but rather Alajuela- but I will speak more about that later).  Would I get past Immegration with only a one-way ticket???  Indeed I did:)

On to San Jose

Back to Costa Rica