Saturday, September 18, 2010

...and then the Earth trembled!

Wow...what a week! In the past week I've experienced many new, interesting, exciting, and scary things. There was a skunk in my kitchen that made me scream, a family of raccoons visiting our trash bin (mind you now that I've made friends with one I kinda like seeing these guys around), a ginormous four inch cockroach crawling by outside (these guys on the other hand are not welcome), bright green frogs having sex on a leaf in the yard, and frog eggs from said frogs hanging on said leaf in a gelatenas clear substance the next morning (cool). But nothing was quite as amazing as the tremors I felt on Thursday and Friday.

It was my first time to experience an earthquake (tremor, really, but to me it was pretty significant). The entire house shook. I just so happened to be getting dressed (it was around 9:30 in the morning) and had to run outside to a safer spot topless...good thing we don't have any close neighbors. The house we live in is built on the side of a mountain, and there is a fault line running through Cobano and a seismogenic plate that lies beneath most of the Nicoya Peninsula. This area is basically where two tectonic plates meet under the surface of the Earth: the Coco Plate and the Caribbean Plate. Apparently the shifting of these two plates is what causes the earthquakes and tremors, and sometime in the future a very large earthquake could destroy the entire peninsula. I'm not so sure what it all means, but that's what they say. It seems to me the whole area is sort of in a constant flux, especially the tip of the penninsula where I live (Montezuma, Cobano, Cabuya, Mal Pais, and Santa Teresa). The mountains drop at a steep angle down to the coastal areas, the terrain is rough, and at any time landslides and topographic changes are possible. I guess that explains why the roads are so bad, because paving them never seems to last that long. As the land changes, so do the pothole prone roads.

The tremor was Thursday morning and it reached 5.3 on the Richter scale. There were apparently more than 6 more aftershocks, only one of which I felt. Then came the flashes in the sky. Thursday night as we were going to bed we started noticing some lightening in the sky, but there was no thunder. Heat lightening I suppose. We went to bed but kept seeing these flashes of light outside the window, so we got up to watch the storm. But it wasn't raining and there was still no thunder, just continuous flashes of light with the occasional bolt of lightening going sideways across the sky. I have never seen so much atmospheric activity - the flashes continued with less than 5 seconds between them for at least a couple of hours. It was truly unbelievable, kind of beautiful, and a little bit frightening. We are living in the beginning of the end of days, after all. Who knows what could happen, or what's normal anymore.

Again on Friday morning there was another big one, 5 point something, and then again this morning around 3 am, 4 point something. During both of these I was sleeping and I didn't feel anything. I don't know if that's a good thing or a bad thing, but I guess I'm a good sleeper like my dad. :)

So...aside from mother nature showing me her wild side this week, life has been pretty normal. It's midterm exam time for my students, so now we will really see who's got the dedication to pass the test and finish out the semester. I think most of them are going to do just fine, and I'm making an extra effort to do a whole review class so they are well prepared for the exam. The weather has been surprisingly really beautiful lately, with several full days of sunshine this week which means I got in a little beach time. Last weekend we spent in San Jose again, this time because I had to take the car in to pass her technical inspection, which after spending hundreds of dollars in repairs and borrowing a tire from a similar car at the local mechanic's, she passed by the skin of her teeth (now there's an interesting idiom to use in my classes...any ideas where that one came from?). Now that Geovanna passed inspection and we are getting close to finishing the rainy season, I'm considering selling her and keeping the quad come November. I've been planning to sell Rubi (the ATV), but in reality she is much more fit for getting around on these roads as long as it's not raining: she's newer, has fewer problems, and she's built for off-roading (or on-roading in Costa Rica). Plus she can go a lot faster, and she's a lot more fun to ride! She's perfect for the dry season, and since I'm thinking I probably won't stick around for the entire year next year, she's probably my best option. Yes, that's right, I'm currently considering wrapping things up here in May or June of 2011. But no promises. There are still a lot of things that could happen between now and then...

And there you have it. Hasta la proxima, pura vida!

Saturday, September 4, 2010

La Vida Tranquila

Livin la vida tranquila. That is the truth these days. With the rains coming more frequently things are slowing down even more around here. I can hear the waves crashing down more clearly. The monkeys are howling louder. The winds are blowing harder. I feel like my senses are being heightened from the silence surrounding me. Tourism has almost reached it's yearly low and only the locals remain. It's kinda cool to be a part of it, experiencing the vacation spot without the slew of invading vacationers. I can truly say I know this town, from both sides now.

Don't get me wrong, it's not rainy everyday (or at least not yet). August was actually really nice, a good balanced month, and lately the mornings have typically been rain free, with the clouds rolling in in the afternoon. The locals are still doing their thing. The motorcycles and quads are still bumping along the pothole-filled roads, and the hardcore surfers are still making their way to the breaks on the daily. Life goes on, but it's clear that this town was built for tourism. A lot of businesses will close for at least one month sometime during September and October, and many locals will take their yearly vacation back home to where ever home may be (San Jose, Nicaragua, Europe, the U.S., and Israel are common destinations). It's a good time to escape, and I'm hoping that my two week trip home is well planned, smack dab in the middle of October, the rainiest month of the year, when my wonderful cousin Dan just happened to be getting married in Pennsylvania. The perfect excuse.

In the mean time I plan to continue with my teaching, which has definitely become one of my passions. My students are truly a joy to work with (for the most part). I've also found myself igniting and reigniting some of my other passions: clothing design, for example. Simple cut and tie projects with big guys t-shirts that I'm turning into dresses and halter tops. The next step is to try some at-home DIY screenprinting. We'll see how that works out. Not a major project yet, but I'm testing the waters. It could be a great little business to start once the tourist season starts back up. My boyfriend Javier makes macrame jewelry to sell at the beach and so I've been toying with the idea of joining him with some homemade beachwear. Other ideas include shell and driftwood creations like mobiles and little paintings. The rainy season is definitely a good time to get creative, and I'm grateful to have a nice space in my home to do some work. Fun work, that is.

Last weekend some gringo friends of ours, Maryann and Paul, invited Javier and I to go to San Jose with them. They have recently relocated here from Cape Cod, and they are buying a jungle lodge in Mal Pais. They sort of needed help since they didn't know their way around the San Jose and they don't speak much Spanish, so Javi played tour guide and I played translator.

They covered the hotel which was basically a nice Tica lady's home, and she cooked all our meals for us. We helped them find their lawyer, do paperwork for a visa application, get fingerprints done, and go shopping around the city. We also picked up their 16 year old daughter Carly, who had just flown in from the States. She'll be living here for the next three months or maybe longer, doing an online home schooling program with a local advisor.

We had a lot of fun tooling around the city and it was nice to get out and do something different. The beach is beautiful, but I do crave a little taste of city life from time to time. We are planning to go back again in the next few weeks to visit Javier's mom and daughter, and we hope to go to the Parque de Diversiones (amusement park) as long as the rain holds off.

Yesterday we had planned to do a BBQ on the beach in the afternoon, but as you come to expect around here, we got rained out. So the BBQ turned into a dinner party. We made ceviche and fish sticks from fresh caught "dayboat" Jack and hung out at Pachamama, the lodge in Mal Pais that our friends are purchasing. Pachamama means mother earth; there's a translation that I love. We drank Chilean wine out of a box and made friends with a raccoon. At first I thought they were crazy for feeding it, but then I realized how cute he really was, and I joined the action by feeding him some tostadas myself. His little paws were super soft, and he was very gentle and careful around us. I still can't quite get used to the idea, but they are actually trying to encourage the natural wildlife to be around their lodge. No dogs allowed, but raccoons, monkeys, and other small mammals are more than welcome.

Other highlights from the past month included a visit from my girlfriend Meredith, who came for a second time after her first trip back in March. She brought a friend with her which was great since I had to teach some evenings while she was here, and they were having the best trip. They literally came during the best week in August, weather wise. During their two day trip to La Fortuna to visit Volcan Arenal, they were blessed with a completely clear night, and actually saw hot lava flows around the volcano. I've been twice and never been that lucky. Then they arrived at the beach and we had three days of sunshine. It was amazing.

We went surfing at the most beautiful beach nearby, Playa Hermosa, which has become my new favorite. It's a lot easier to surf there for beginners, plus it's less crowded and wider and cleaner than the beaches in Santa Teresa.

We also visited the Montezuma waterfalls and hit up reggae night over in Montezuma, which is about the only big party that's still happening around here. It was a blast, and the girls were already talking about coming back...again!

The other night I accidentally left my keys in my car when I went into the super to buy some groceries. I locked the car up good like I always do, bought my groceries and reached for my keys...but they weren't there. Of course, I was checking my messages on my phone before I got out of the car and somehow just forgot to grab the keys on my way out. But that's no problem because I made a spare door-only key and I keep it in my must still be there, right? Wrong. I have no idea where the extra key went, but it wasn't in my wallet, so there I was without a key and without a locksmith. Of course there isn't a locksmith here! So I called around to a few different friends and a taxi driver who is my student, but no one had any grand ideas. One friend jokingly told me that the only "locksmiths" around here were the thieves. I stood there feeling a bit defeated, when suddenly out of nowhere one of my students pulls up, jumps out of the car and when I explained my problem announces "I'm a mechanic, I can do it, just let me find a hanger." He runs behind the supermarket and comes back with a wire and a metal rod. He slides it into the door and within about 2 minutes he works his magic and voila, my door opens. It was truly a miracle that he showed up, and things just seemed to work out, as they always seem to around here, just people helping people. Pura Vida.

I'll leave you with a few more photos of the house. Saludos a todos mis amigos, I miss you all much and please come visit! November through April/May will be beautiful here ;)