Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Portobelo-- kicking myself I wasn't carrying my camera for this beauitful sunset on ruined ramparts last night

Just finished in time for Colombia

Have yourself a merry little Christmas

Hopefully I will be on a sailboat tonight on the Caribbean to the San Blaas islands, and then on to Cartagena, Colombia! So you may not hear from me for 5 or so days.

On the other hand, this trip seems rather disorganized and I just heard the possibility that we won´t be embarking until the 26th, so maybe you will hear from me...

BUT keep all fingers crossed that I will, indeed, be embarking tonight. Because if I have to wait any longer to get to Colombia I may just implode.

I am so so so so so so so happy to be out of Panama City. I am in Portobelo now, a very very small town, with ruins of forts that make you feel like you just stepped into Pirates of the Caribbean. Indeed, this town had quite a hard time with pirates back in the day.

Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Happy Anniversary Sar-- I mean, myself!

So here I am, month 2 anniversary. Casco Viejo in Panama City. Well, I think month 1 beat month 2, but I have very high hopes for month 3 as I head into South America.

-sped through El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua
-fell in love with Costa Rica
-hitched 2 long, free rides, and 1 short one
-lots of relaxation time (not my forte)
-within 6 feet of poisonous snake, 20 monkeys various times, raccoons, large exotic butterflies, sloths
-saw the elusive quetzal. I don't care a fig about this but everybody else in Monteverde seemed to
-read 4 books and so many pages of my Rough Guide
-hiked through Monteverde cloud forest
-hiked up Cerro Amigos in Santa Elena (I don't think I ever blogged about this, but it was an hour and a half hike that was all the steepest incline you can imagine without it being steps. I was pretty proud of myself. From the top I could see all the way to the Pacific! I also discovered that my favorite form of entertainment while hiking is to sing along to anything that comes up on the shuffle mode in my iPod. That includes pop, instrumental soundtracks, musicals, alternative, jazz. As loud as I generally would in a car. I am really glad I didn't meet anyone else on my way up there, because yes, I would have been exceedingly embarrassed. But it was great fun. I am so cool.)
-hiked to San Luis Falls
-hiked to those awesome falls in Montezuma and jumped off
-Fell in love with my name. If I had a drop of Latin blood in me, I would insist that my name be pronounced in the states like it is pronounced here. I. Love. It.
-Pacific Ocean! Again and again and again...
-two of the most beautiful beaches I've ever seen
-one of the most dramatic days I've ever lived (top 10)
-met a Tico boy I really liked
-surprised myself
-broke up with my best friend
-was buoyed up by surge of love from family and friends
-spent WAY TOO LONG in Panama City
-snuck into a national park
-developed an absurd tan

Tomorrow I am off to Portobelo from where my boat for the San Blaas islands and Cartagena, Colombia embarks the next day! This waiting is KILLING me. I've heard that San Blaas is paradise and that I will never want to leave Colombia. Let the good times roll!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Open up your plans and, damn, you´re free

Kathryn and I took off for Isla Taboga for the last two days. We are basically just treading water until the 23rd when we´re off on our cruise, though of course trying to fill these days up rather than wasting precious time.

Isla Taboga is an island south of Panama City. It´s where a lot of locals go for the weekends. It´s a very small island, tiny town, and one beach that gets swallowed up in the tides as the day goes by. Very calm, pretty, nice getaway. I swam, sunbathed, snorkelled, read, got stung by jellyfish. We meandered around looking for a cheap place to spend the night and ended up in this guy´s house basically. He has a few rooms I think only Panamanians generally use. I´m not going to say it´s the sketchiest place I´ve ever stayed, because I didn´t feel at all in danger. I guess I´ll say the poorest. Really nice people. As always.

Staying in this town overnight was great. The island is off the backpacker´s trail, and definitely way off at night when all the day-trippers have returned on the afternoon ferry. It felt like a more ´legitimate´experience.

We took a walk through town during the sunset and happened upon the island´s graveyard. The graveyards down here all look like little towns because tombs are built above ground. There are many, many flowers, especially now when it´s not too long after the Day of the Dead. There was a door cut out of the back wall, and leaning out we saw maybe 5 old coffins thrown out back there amidst piles of old and rotting artificial flowers. We think there may have been bodies in those coffins. And there were definitely bones in one of the tombs that was falling apart.

We sat by the waves, eating dinner and looked at the stars, water, and long line of ships waiting to get into the Panama Canal. I loved looking at that line of ships, perfectly qued up along the horizon, all lit up throughout the night. The line was always long.

Meandering home after dinner, we heard singing, and all of a sudden every single person who lived in that town turned the corner. They were parading through the town singing Christmas songs. So we tagged along the end. Everyone ended up parading through one house where they were given a drink, a muffin, and a bag of snacks. We of course tried to politely decline, and they of course pressed them upon us. That was a lovely, unexpected experience.

We spent today on the beach again, though talked a bit with a German doctor who invited us back to his place on the island for coffee, and then he gave us a ride almost back to our hostel back in the city. We have two places on that island we could stay at for free now if we wanted.

So. I am feeling pretty content. Being here right now beats being back in NYC right now any day. On the launch back to the city, Kathryn turned to me and said Aren´t you so glad you´re alive right now? Yes. Overwhelmingly yes. I am not saying it´s not hard, but I am saying I am back to having the time of my life. I am so excited to get on my way, and to get to Colombia. I can´t believe I have to wait til Thursday! The journey there sounds genuinely wonderful. I am so glad I am spending Christmas out on the open sea. That is perfect. And South America is just waiting for me.

P.S. Kathryn knows this guy who is taking a boat up the coast all the way to Oregon. Planning on making it there by August. She thought she could hook me up as crew. It was hard to say no to that.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

P.S. Costa Rica is B.E.A.U.T.I.F.U.L.

Just, seriously. The cinematic view out of the window of a bus is literally unbelievable. I hope you see it someday.

I will be back.

Panamanian Devil

Yesterday´s bus ride was fantastic. I had two whole seats to myself and an avocado. It was 14 hours, but pretty painless despite the frigidly cold temperatures. I got to the point in the middle of the night when I actually pulled the Parada (stop) cord a few times to let the driver know something was up in the back. I figured, it´s so dark, no one will know it was me. I was desperate. I was literally dancing in my seat from the waist up trying to drum up some heat. In my sleepy stupor.

I also saw a pretty terrible film. Can´t get through a Latin American bus ride without one truly terrible film I guess.

I rolled into Panama City at 5 in the morning with no other plan but to hang out in the bus terminal for a few hours until a normal time to show up to a hostel. But a taxi driver told me Zuly´s would be open, so we zipped on over and indeed it was. Much better alternative. I checked my email, practiced my spanish with the attendant guy, and then bunked down for a few more hours of sleep. (For anyone heading to Panama City ever, go to Luna´s hostel in the old city. SO MUCH BETTER. And it´s an artist´s enclave. Best hostel I´ve seen for a while.)

My previous post mentions what it was like waking up here.

I met a fellow lone traveling female, Kathryn, who´s traveled quite a bit in South America and answered a few questions for me. I settled on showing up some place tomorrow and seeing if a cargo ship was indeed going out. If not I could grab a launcha? Small speedboat going down the coast= pretty uncomfortable, long ride down to the Colombian border. I wasn´t feeling great about these options, and after spending most of the day chatting with Kathryn, I ultimately have decided to opt for a 5 day cruise she is taking to the San Blaas Islands and more, ending in Cartagena, Colombia. It is definitely over my budget, and it doesn´t leave until the 23rd, but it seems like a much safer, more plan-able option. I am getting to Colombia later than I would have liked, but I still think the pros outweigh the cons. I´ll be on the sea for Christmas! That sounds great. I´ll lie low for a week here to try to save money. You know what that means-- plenty of beach time because the beach is free!

Today I headed out to the Old City of Panama with a gaggle of randoms here headed that way. I liked it a lot more than expected. Some beautiful streets with some urban ruins tucked away alongside. Some nice architecture, with modern skyscrapers right across the bay. Street markets. I was pretty content sitting in the midst of the market with all the hustle and bustle of a 3rd world country city swirling around me. I think I may be growing more comfortable in my mighty female lone traveler shoes. I´ll embrace this yet.

I had a dream on the bus yesterday that I was on a bus back home. The feeling of relief to be heading back into my comfort zone where the arms of loved ones waited for me was palpable. And then I woke up. On a bus to Panama City. With 4 more months left to go. This is hard. I know that I wrote before I came that I was expecting it to be hard, but I did not expect it to be this hard, every day. It wouldn´t have been if things had worked out the way I planned. But they are now. And my feelings vascillate constantly between This is too hard to be worth it, let´s head home early, and This is fantastic let me stay here for a couple extra months. Talking with Kathryn today made me really excited to get to South America. I really fear I´m not going to have as much time down there as I want when you add in the work time I´m going to have to do since I´ll run out of money.

Today a friend asked how I wasn´t freaking out. This was when I was going to try for the cargo ship, granted, which had a wildly uncertain and possibly dangerous air to it. But she was also referring to my lack of funds. And all I can say is, right now I don´t have the option of freaking out. I´m not in a place where I can indulge in that. I´m not in a comfort zone, with people I could freak out to. I´m in a kind of scetchy hostel in Panama City with complete strangers, trying to pull strings to hoist myself to Colombia. Freaking out wouldn´t get me any closer to where I need to be as soon as possible.

Today I also saw New Moon. Dear internet, I am humiliated I am admitting that to you. I don´t want to talk about it. All I will say is it was the best of options at the movie theater, and it cost $2!!! You wouldn´t believe how badly I´ve been craving a movie in a movie theater. It was worth it. I still hate everything about the Twilight series, that will never change.

I also had Starbucks. The kind they sell in a grocery store, but Starbucks nonetheless.

I woke up this morning to start asking vague questions in spanish about going to Colombia. The living area is full of people drifting around talking about different ports or dollars or cities that are completely foreign to me. So far I have gathered little useful information but apparently I could go on a cargo ship to a port near Colombia, sleep on the floor or in a hammock, maybe work on the ship, show up in a town I know NOTHING about it, and take a bus to Colombia? Or I could go 2 hours away to Portobelo, take a boat out to the different ships floating in the dock, and say Hey Captain, would you take me to Colombia if I worked on your ship?

This all sounds so completely out of my element my mind is a little, and by that I mean majorly, boggled. This is when I need a partner.

Time to continue asking completete strangers what they know about getting to Colombia.

In the meantime, picture me on a cargo ship filled with latin men. Whaaaaat.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Very enjoyable. A Sorensen book.

This nowhere near does Manuel Antonio justice, but imagine howler monkeys crying as you float in the sun

Planning on continuing the journey as previously planned, but cutting out Brazil. Brazil is just so massive, and really deserves a trip in itself (though you could say that of any of these countries). But it would give me a lot less land to cover in my last two weeks, and give me some extra time if I want to pause some place to work, volunteer, or WWOOF. Because money is an issue. Making my way to Buenos Aires in 4 months sounds a lot more doable than also heading up the eastern coast of this gigantic continent.

I do not, however, have any idea how to change my plane ticket. Here we go.

it´s hard to get by just upon a smile

Hey folks.

Eva left this morning to head back north, while I must now head south. And in her absence I find many thoughts and feelings swooping in to fill that cavity. I guess now is the time for the processing of all these thoughts and feelings to begin. It´s rather daunting, as I feel a lot of things I have never felt or experienced before, and I´m not sure how to proceed. I guess all I can do is trust in my instinct. It´s lead me through foreign lands before relatively successfully. I think I´m blessed with a good head on my shoulders, combined with a pretty good gut instinct. I´ve always been inclined to overthink things rather than barrel through them heedlessly.

The last couple of days have been lovely. Eva and I make good companions, and when combined with a beautiful location it´s difficult to go wrong. On Saturday we rambled through Manuel Antonio reserve, greeting monkies, sloths, poisonous snakes, and raccoons, and spent hours on its famous beaches. The water is in a cove, or a bay, and so the waves are incredibly gentle. The forest comes right up close to the beach, so you feel like the land is curling its arms around the beach, protecting it. It´s so relaxing. The water was warm, and we could just float for hours. Sometimes I like a rough beach, to feel like I´m really interacting with, contending with the forces of nature. But this beach is just what the doctor ordered and we decided to come back the next day to enjoy it even more. Saturday night we went to a bar where those party people from Friday were playing. And I sang with their band in a sort of open-mic situation for the first time. I sang ¨Bitch¨by Meredith Brooks and Cat Stevens´¨Wild World¨. I know, natural pairing. But both songs actually do hold a lot of personal meaning.

When I was in ¨Papa Married a Mormon¨at BYU, Katie (who was stage managing) and I created a soundtrack for the show. We chose a song for every character, and the song for my character, Aunt Cathy, was ¨Bitch¨. I belted along to that song with Katie quite a few times in the car, and whenever I hear it I think of her. She´s been on my mind a lot lately, as the anniversary of her death recently passed, and this trip is the kind of thing she would be all about. She always longed to travel (though she mostly talked about NYC or Europe), and didn´t have the opportunity to before the accident. I keep thinking she´s watching over me as I adventure down here. And I keep thinking how I wish she could have seen the world like this. I thought of her as I sang, and how proud she would be of me, singing out in front of all those people. Since someone so close to me passed away so early, it makes me appreciate life more every day. Even though it happened 4 years ago. Honestly, her death was a major impetus to grab my life by the horns and come down here. To live my life the way I dreamed, to not let life pass while I´m looking the other way. It´s an effective, if morbid or painful reminder.

I was first introduced to ¨Wild World¨when I watched Harold and Maude for the first time. But it really set in when my friend, Julie Glover, put it on her graduation CD she created for her friends in 2002. It´s been a treasured song ever since, one that continues to resonate with me years later. And reminds me, as songs do, where I was in life when I first heard it, as compared to where I am now. What it communicates to me is a casting off into the world. Something we were doing as we all set out from high school to college, where we would really discover who we were. Something that I do every day down here, as I set out to discover new cultures, new places, new experiences, continuing to discover who else I can be.

There is ample opportunity for reflection when you travel.

The next day we spent all day on Manuel Antonio beach. It´s extremely easy to sneak into the park, by the way. During these days I´ve been so content to be with Eva. But I keep trying to imagine what these activities would be like when I´m on my own. I would think, I´m really enjoying myself on the beach right now, but would I feel this way if I were alone? I´m really enjoying having this drink as I watch the sunset from this terraced bar on the hill, but would I have come on my own? Would I have the guts to show up to a bar and sing with a band if I didn´t have someone next to me encouraging me? I worry.

But I also optimistically move forward in my plans.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Montezuma's Revenge

I am such a lucky a girl to have such supportive people in my life. Your messages have moved me to tears more than once. Thank you thank you thank you.

The last two days I was in Montezuma, on the southern tip of the Nicoya Peninsula in Costa Rica. I love Costa Rica. I feel a little lame for doing so, because it's a pretty typical American destination. But I have been going the places that aren't as ritzy, aren't as typical, though you just can't get away from strips of road solely dedicated to hotels and hostels. But. The people here are heavenly. So kind, so easy going, so helpful, so giving. Pura vida. That's the Tican saying, and the people here live it and love it. I am moved again and again by small acts of kindness and consideration that are practiced so commonly by the local people towards me, just another tourist. Pura vida. That's right. Some may expect that to mean a laid-back, carefree existence. For me, it has been something somewhat more intense. But pura vida nevertheless.

I was sad to leave Santa Elena, but travel is travel, and it was time to move on. Montezuma is a very chill, very small town right on a GORGEOUS beach. I took a nap once I got there, checked out the town, and then picked Sarah up at the bus stop. We had a relatively brief debate, then I passed out for 11 hours (I was exhausted, obviously). Retrospectively, I really don't know what the point of that debate was, when Sarah knew she'd be leaving in 5 days. And probably knew how'd I'd receive that news. The next morning we headed to some waterfalls I'd heard about. Fantastic. They are the hidden waterfalls in the forest you've always dreamed of stumbling upon. The first one, at the bottom, was the largest and had a 10 ft jump off point, which I conquered. After swimming around for a while there, we climbed up a wall of roots, clambered up forested ravines, hanging onto vines for an extra hand here and there. And finally we emerged above the bottom waterfall, to jump into and swim in two other waterfalls feeding into that first one. There was a tarzan swing, and a perfect high branch to jump off of. It was heavenly.

Headed back to the hotel, and you know what happened there. And then I spent the rest of the afternoon at the beautiful beach. Where I was able to appreciate the vista despite my emotional calamities.

I had dinner with a most delightful couple I'd met as I was traveling from Santa Elena to Montezuma. I am so thankful I met them, not only for their fantastic company, but especially for this perfect preoccupation which prevented me from stewing by myself at the hotel. They are both finishing up med school in Boston, they are pediatricians, and I am blown away by their ease of friendship, conversation, genuine interest in others and in bettering the world. Very optimistic couple. Spending time with them was really refreshing. I'm so thankful to be meeting so many truly lovely people. Pura vida.

I headed to bed, Sarah came in quite a bit later, and then this morning I was up and out by 5:45 and on my way back to Puntarenas to meet Eva, and then on down the coast to Manuel Antonio. Not another word to Sarah, she's out of my life for good.

The bus was 100 degrees. 9 hours of traveling. Just saying.

But here we are. Walking around town we passed a party that demanded we be their judges for a Santa tissue paper costume contest. And in exchange they gave us dinner, pumpkin pie, and invited us to come sing with their band tomorrow night in town. Done and done. Love it when random lovely things happen like that.

Tonight we're chilling with a bottle of cheap red wine, looking forward to a leisurely beach day and walk through Manuel Antonio reserve. Whilst I contemplate my future.

Having Eva here is such a wonderful support. She, another lone traveller, really is an inspiration.

I am, of course, forging forward on my own. I don't know for how long, and I'm not even sure where. But, as most everyone has pointed out, I would regret leaving at this stage. And I can always head home at any point on my journey. But I do have a lot of choices to make now, a lot of different avenues I could head down. I have to figure out where to spend Christmas (daunting day that it is), I have to figure out how to get through the Darien Gap on my own (the land border between Panama and Colombia is extremely dangerous, not generally used unless you're a drug runner. Alternatives are plane or boat. Both quite expensive.) Where will I celebrate my New Year's? I hear amazing things about Colombia, maybe I should just get there as quickly as possible.

Will I pause somewhere for a month to save money? Will I volunteer for a couple of months? Will I WWOOF? Will I follow the plan as it formerly was? There's a lot of thinking to be done tomorrow. Good thing I'll be at the beach.

Something my sister Anne wrote to me was the saying, "What would you attempt if you knew you could not fail?"

And yesterday, when I fled to the internet cafe for the comfort of my loved ones, a lovely email was waiting for me from my sister, Amy.

"Laura, I must say that you are proving to be a uniting factor for everyone. You have supplied us with hours of conversation. There is much speculation on where you are, what you are doing, how you will do this or that, lots of "I can't believe she _______" (hiked the volcano in Chacos, is hitchhiking, is actually there), when will she do this or that... I think you would enjoy being a fly on the wall. In fact, without fail, every time I have spoken with a family member, you seem to come up, you are quite popular in the Sorensen circle."

What an amazing thing for someone to say. It was encouraging more than I can describe.

So I persevere. Pura vida. On into the wild.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Sarah told me 5 minutes ago that she is leaving in 5 days.

I said "Fuck you" and walked out.

I went back and said "How in anybody's brain is this ok?"

"I didn't say it was ok."

"Fuck you. You just lost a life-long friend. All I need you for in the future is to get my shit out of storage when I get back to NY in April. After tonight, I don't want to see you ever again. Leave the key at the front desk when you leave."

And I ran straight to this internet cafe because right now is when I need to hear/read a familiar voice. I need the support of everyone right now.

I am reeling. If I were a good writer, I could write a book about this day, this moment. It's amazing how many things you can think and feel in one moment. I am trying to silently cry in this internet cafe, struggling to keep in the sobs that are going to be freed approximately 10 minutes after I leave this cafe on the most deserted part of beach I can quickly find.

My life is not supposed to be this dramatic.

I am overwhelmed. How does a girl, how does a best friend, do this? How has she known that she was going to do this and not tell me in the 19 hours we've been together? In the countless hours before that? How was she so spiteful to me when she knew she was going to throw this at me? You'd think if you had this kind of bomb to drop you would be unfailingly nice to the person you supposedly cared about previous to dropping it. You'd think you'd find a gentler, more generous way to deliver this news. I am not only reeling from what the fuck I'm going to do now? but what kind of betrayal am I experiencing right now? How can I have laid out my heart and soul to someone who has so easily spit on them? Because, read this with complete belief in how genuine it is, I loved her. Like a sister. I cared for her more than I've cared for someone in a long time. I had believed that she also cared for me like that. She's the one that used the term "best friend" first. I can't tell you what we've been through together. Really bad shit. I've had two best friends in my life. Katie Renville, who died suddenly in a car accident during college, and Sarah Wolstein, who has hurt me more profoundly than anybody else on this earth could at this moment. I am a good person. My love is worth a lot. And not only was more than a year's worth of my love just rejected, but I was severely emotionally injured. She knew me. She knew me. She knows how this is pulling my world apart.

My therapist is going to have a great time sorting this trip out.

Am I going to travel alone? Am I going to complete this trip? I have a deposit already paid on the Inca Trail the last week of January. Is this possible? To travel through Panama, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Chile, Argentina, Uruguay, Brazil, and Guyana alone?

Please write to me. I need you now. Write anything and everything you want. Write advice, support, I-told-you-so, I don't care. Just write to me.

Monday, December 7, 2009

My next read. May make me miss NYC even more

Perched in the beauty of the mountains.

Santa Elena. I feel like it´s my convalescence.

I ziplined through the canopy this morning. Great fun. And did the closest to bungee jumping I´ve experienced so far-- the ´Tarzan Swing´. I sreeched. The Tican guys working there flirted with my quite a bit, and they were very cute. Good morning.

Yesterday I hiked out to San Luis waterfall in the cloud forest. Saw the sunrise and a rainbow on my way there. It was completely deserted, AMAZING. It took me maybe an hour and a half-- 2 hours to get there, though I was taking my time. Then I spent a few hours there and hitched back. I was so happy. Tiny paths, forging streams, crossing wobbly logs. Perfect. Mossy. Beautiful. Not touristy. Special. My favorite thing here.

I really could move here.

Every morning I wake up, walk a block to the local bakery, buy some fresh baked cinnamon bread, and eat it with my free coffee. Such simple happiness could be mine, if I always find an apartment by a bakery. That should be the plan from here on out.

I finished that book. I´m a little concerned by how close to home it hit on many different levels. But beautifully written. I picked up another book the other day for $1, so now I´m carrying around 4 books waiting to get to a good book exchange. It´s ok, it´s been totally worth it.

One more day here, then on to the Nicoya Peninsula and reunion with Sarah finally. I´m really savoring my last day and a half here. And Eva arrives tomorrow, that will be a happy reunion indeed.

And now I´m going to drink more free coffee and lay in a hammock, thank you very much. And yes, study some Spanish.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

I rambled, sang, finished my book. Delicious. All to myself, 10km out.

Up before dawn, hiking to a beautiful waterfall, not another tourist in sight

Saturday, December 5, 2009

¨But Lucy had been alone too much in her life, and in her loneliness she had constructed a vision of what a perfect relationship would look like. Love, in her imagination, was so dazzling, so tender and unconditional, that anything human seemed impossibly thin by comparison.
Lucy´s loneliness was breathtaking in its enormity. If she emptied out Grand Central Station and filled it with the people she knew well, the people who loved her, there would be more than a hundred people there. But a hundred people in such a huge space just rattled around. You could squeeze us all into a single bar. With some effort you could push us into a magazine shop. If you added to that number all the people who loved her because of her book, all of the people who admired her, all the people who had heard her speak or had seen her on television or listened to her on the radio and loved the sound of her odd little voice, you could pack in thousands and thousands more people, and still it wouldn´t feel full, not full enough to take up every square inch of her loneliness. Lucy thought that all she needed was one person, the right person, and all the empty space would be taken away from her. But there was no one in the world who was big enough for that. She believed that if she had a jaw that was like everyone else´s jaw, she would have found that person by now. She was trapped in a room full of mirrors, and every direction she looked in she saw herself, her face, her loneliness. She couldn´t see that no one else was perfect either, and that so much of love was the work of it. She had worked on everything else. Love would have to be charmed.¨
Truth and Beauty, Ann Patchett

Traded Kurt Vonnegut for this-- loving it

A not uncommon state for my feet these days

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Puntarenas. Sketchy McSketchertons.

really enjoying Mill Colour application on iPhone. It allows you to tweak your pics, and it´s free! My new favorite bus time activity.

Coke and toilet paper. My hotel in Puntarenas. For some reason this sums it up for me.

My night in sketch-town. This nowhere near does it justice.

In Granada, Nicaragua, I ran into a couple of dutch boys I had met in Antigua. They were driving to San Juan del Sur within the hour, and then the next day on to San Jose, Costa Rica. I was so sick of travelling alone, that I went with them. And catching a ride is so much easier than messing with multiple buses when crossing the border.

Now, I had intended to write a whole post dedicated to the positives of lone travelling. For now, suffice it to say that is is incredibly empowering. I feel so exhilerated and strong and amazing when I am travelling alone, conquering the world alone. In a country that speaks a language I am not that skilled in. In a dangerous country. Far, far from my comfort zone. Not to imply that this is a walk in the park, the opposite in fact. I feel strong because travelling alone is hard. It strikes at my primary weakness, loneliness. I feel strong because I feel weak. I feel brave because I feel scared. I feel that after this trip, I will be able to do anything. Because I travelled alone. I climbed a volcano alone. I manoeuvred through foreign lands alone. With the patience and help of the local people, of course.

Nevertheless, travelling alone is exhausting. I have to be so vigilant. All the time. I have to do all the thinking, make all the decisions. Figure out every detail. I don´t get any help with that. And I was sick of it. I wanted a companion in travel, and I wanted it immediately. I thought Kriss would have departed by the time I got to San Jose, so I went with the dutch boys. Well, turns out Kriss didn´t leave when I expected. So the dutch boys dropped me off on CA 1 where I caught a bus to Puntarenas. A small peninsula town really just used as the point to catch a ferry to the Nicoya Peninsula. Or, for me, as a point where I could catch a bus the next morning to Santa Elena, instead of going all the way to San Jose just to turn around again.

The problem with traveling on local buses is that I know the name of the place where I´m going, but I have no idea what it looks like, so I don´t have any clue when I´ve gotten there. I always have to be asking the person sitting next to me on the bus where we are, or if they know when I need to get off to get to Basilica Guadalupe or something. Sometimes that doesn´t work so well, like in Puntarenas, where I expected the bus to drop me off at the bus terminal. Which it didn´t. And there were no road signs. And no one recognized the name of my hostel. Or recognized anything on my little map. And it was getting dark. But what I think I am learning about Costa Ricans is that they are really friendly, and will take care of a wandering traveler. 2 people helped me to a random hotel around the corner from the bus station. It is absolutely the sketchiest place I´ve ever stayed a night. But it was just a night.

What do I do with myself in a sketchy town? I finish internet cafe-ing and dinner (ceviche, and a cocacola in a glass bottle for dessert) early, and spend the night in my tiny hotel room. Which miraculously has HBO. And I watch 1 episode of Friends (one I´d never seen before, I didn´t think those existed anymore), 1 episode of Skins, 1 episode of Mad Men, take a shower, hide my valuables, and booby trap the room should someone try to enter during the night (I guess I never recovered from that one time drunken men tried to enter my room in Kenya). I watched an episode of Frasier this morning. Can I tell you how much I love Frasier? When I worked at Sephora for that year at home, I would come home from my shift every night and watch 2 episodes of Frasier. What a comforting show for me. I was glad it showed up through the wires in my hotel room in Costa Rica.

Woke up at 5, caught the first bus to Santa Elena, and I love it here. It´s back up in the mountains, and I´ve got to say, mountains are really what I´m responding to on this trip, I can´t get enough of them. It was a longer bus ride than expected, the last 35 km took a long time as that´s when we hit the slopes, in a large bus, not always with pavement beneath us. The views were spectacular. I met this Italian lady on the bus.

Against all odds, I´ve been pretty content the last two days. And today especially. I immediately felt comfortable in Santa Elena, which is nesteld alongside Monteverde, a reserve and cloud forest (love the term cloud forest, those words conjure great images). Enjoyed some local food, and then off to tour a biodynamic, organic coffee farm which is part of a fair-trade co-op. The farm was BEAUTIFUL, the farm was soooo nice (and a demonstrative member of Farms against Arms, love it). His family has been practicing biodynamic, organic farming for generations, and apparently it´s pretty common around here.

What is biodynamic farming you ask (I´ll assume you know organic by now)? It´s when you take into account the placement in the moon cycle when you plant, harvest, water, cut crops. And you´re extra caring and nurturing of the soil. Fantastic.

I was so enamored with this place, this farmer, and the little coffee trees and beans-berries, that I asked the farmer if I could come back tomorrow and help him farm for a day. But I guess there isn´t much to do on the farm just now. I was pretty disappointed. I feel at the moment that I could easily stay here and work on such a farm for a good long while.

I think I will stay a week. And take walks through the cloud forest and other surrounding forest every day. I have a cold, which sucks, but hopefully it will pass quickly and not distract me too much from this place.

It´s days like today which reminds me why I´m doing this. Even alone.