Monday, October 25, 2010

blast from the not-so-past

There is nothing like an unexpected call from that place I called "home."
One of my La Ermita teachers, one of my best friends from Talanga called last weekend. I was so surprised I had NO clue who I was talking to. She seems slightly hurt that I had to ask who I was speaking to. I was so surprised and excited, I didn't know what to say. I happened to be at a dinner party when the call came. My friends here were slightly confused and entertained at hearing my excited Spanish. Although I haven't been planning to return for a few more years. The brief conversation stirred a desire to visit soon. I want to see everyone, say hello, see what is going on in my little town. I miss my hamaca and my tiny house on the dusty road. Of all the amazing places I have seen since I left Talanga just over a year ago, none of them will ever compare to that dusty town that was "home."

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Pre PC Life

My old job comes with results!!!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Welcome to the Amazon...

Where you are always wet, whether it's rain or sweat.
While that isn't the official slogan of the Amazon and the region, it should be. After 2 weeks of city between Bogota and Medellin, it was wonderful to find ourselves in small towns again. Although we met some very entertaining and engaging people, I was ready for a break. The cities were fun but I felt like new born in a new place... over-stimulated. There is just so much going on, so much to see and so many people! I guess it was probably good since I will, at some point, after transition back to life in the US.
We flew from Medellin to Leticia, Colombia. Leticia is a small isolated town on the Amazon river at the Brazil and Peru borders. I heard a rumor that buses to Leticia exist, but for all practical purposes, you cannot get there by land. Much of the land between central Colombia and Leticia is FARC territory but the Amazon, tres fronteras region is safe and outside FARC land. Leticia is a small and buzzing with motorcycles and a few cars. We only spent one night in Leticia before heading 2 hours up the Amazon with some new made friends, an English girl and a Colombian father-son. We initially planned on one night in Puerto Nariño but liked it so much we spent the next night there as well. We easily could have stayed more but had to move on. Puerto Nariño is the town of two vehicles. Literally, they have 2 motor vehicles: an ambulance and the garbage tractor that passes daily collecting trash, organic waste as well as plastics and glass. Yes, they are a model sustainable community with recycling and a ban on motor vehicles. After 15 years they will reassess whether to maintain the ban. I hope the do. The town is not big and it is so peaceful with birds everywhere and bordering a national park. We took a ride in a peque peque, a little canoe with a tiny motor up river, through two lakes to see a giant fish, Pirarucu (probably twice my size) which had been harpooned and landed in a boat smaller than ours, and to see the grey and pink dolphins. The pink dolphins weren't as pink as I expected but still fun to watch surface to breathe around the lake and near our boat. We also took several walks to nearby villages and sweat out every ounce of water we drank. We happened to be in town for the 8th Indigenous Olympics of Puerto Nariño. We walked about an hour in the heat to the village of San Francisco hoping to see archery and other traditional games. We were disappointed to find out those games weren't until the next day but did get to watch local fútbol and girls' basketball. We took a peque peque back as the sky opened and DUMPED rain on us, completely exposed. We couldn't stop laughing as the rain chilled us and the boat man started bailing.
The next day, we stopped at Isla de los Micos, Monkey Island where a little local man snuck bananas onto our heads and little monkeys leaped for the food, and devoured the fruit from our heads. At one point, I think there were 20-30 monkeys (according to Rachel 110) climbing on our shoulders, head, arms, chest, on top of each other, anywhere they could find. Again, we found ourselves laughing hysterically. I cried I was laughing so hard. After the monkeys, the rest of our temporary adopted family headed back to Pto Nariño and Rachel and I headed back to Letcia. We crossed into Brazil to buy our boat tickets ran all over getting immigration sorted out and finally ended up in Santa Rosa, Peru, a little island in the middle of the Amazon, about 10 minutes from Leticia. We took the fast boat (10 hours) from Santa Rosa at 4am this morning to Iquitos, the biggest city in the world, not accessible by road. 450,000 people in a city you can only enter and leave by boat or plane. Crazy. Loving Peru so far, everyone wants to give you a taxi ride in 3 wheeled motor carts and everything is CHEAP! I'll get pictures soon...

Saturday, November 28, 2009


it's too amazing to spend time writing about. Beautiful beaches, national parks, mountains, beautiful cities which i can't afford. I want to live in Bogota. It has a little of everything. Cartagena is too beautiful, I felt like a scrub walking around in the nicest clothes I own. Granted, those close aren't very nice but still.
The downside of Bogota, it's the coldest place I have been in 2.5 years.
Marta visited for 2 weeks. It was great to have her here and travel a bit with her. Our group increased to for the first part of Colombia. Now we are just two. It is just Rachel and I. We keep turning around to find the rest and realize they are home eating American food and spending time with family and friends.

Oh, by the way, the 106 year old pirate ship, Stahlratte, from San Blas, Panama to Cartagena, Colombia was and amazing 3 days. Captianed by a crazy German and full of motorcycles, we spent two days anchored between to uninhabited islands, snorkeled, ate amazing food (including a fresh lobster feast) and swam in beautiful, clear blue ocean. Alice and I took to the crow's nest as we neared Cartagena and waved to local men fishing from dug-out canoes as we entered the beautiful bay. Other than losing everything of value, this life is a complete dream and often feels just as surreal and impossible. Still no camera so still no photos. Sorry! : )

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Otro Nivel

We spent Halloween in Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica then, even after a late night, caught a morning bus to the border and arrived in Bocas del Toro, Panamá by mid afternoon. We originally planned a few days in Bocas but loved it so much we stayed an entire week. Bocas is touristy but somehow retains a small town, local feel. It has the resources of a tourist trap but unlike many other places we have been, there are still locals! Biggest downside, you have to take a water taxi or bus to the beach and the chitres (sand flies) are horrible. We happened to arrive in Bocas at the beginning of a series of Panamanian Holidays. Nov 1 through 4 are all holidays (including Independence day) so there were many Panamanians on vacation from the city as well as other foreign tourists who happened to pass through. Our last full day in Bocas was definitely in the top 5 days ever. I am not sure how to explain it but is just turned out as a great day. We met a girl (who grew up on Mercer Island) who met some guys from Panama city, one of which is the lawyer of an American hostel and real estate owner. We were invited (meaning we didn't have to pay) to go on Chester's boat to an empty island with a beautiful beach. We left the island Zapatilla to the big island of Bastimientos where Chester has a small, beautiful wood hut built on a dock over the water. All the furniture was hand carved wood made by a local man and surprisingly comfortable. We wandered the waters between each island buying fresh lobsters from the locals as they free dove for them. The lobster varied in size but averaged about $2 each. Of course, we had delicious garlic lobster with coconut curry rice cooked by Chester and an amazing salad made us. We then headed to Barco Hundido Bar (Sunken Ship) and danced the night away. The weather was perfect and sunny all day and the company was good. As we trolled back to the town of Bocas for dinner we entertained ourselves and Panamanians by learning local slang. The day and Bocas fue a otro nivel.

The following day, we took a night bus to Panama City and arrived at the hostel at 4:30am. Reception opens at 8 but the night guard let us sleep on the couches in the movie theater until we could check in. We wandered Casco Viejo, checked out some artisans and the presidential palace. We plan to see the canal and Old Panama before heading to San Blas on the Caribbean coast Wed morning to catch the boat to Colombia.

I still don't have a camera but my Ipod has been recovered! I just have to find out how to get it from Mal País, CR to me. Hmmm...
If you would like to check out pictures, Rachel has been posting the highlights on facebook. I think she is the only Rachel Papernick and they should be available to everyone with a Facebook account. Otherwise, I will try to get a few from the girls posted.

Saturday, October 31, 2009


My most prized material possession for the last 2 years is no longer with me. We thoroughly enjoyed a few days in Mal País/ Sta Teresa, Costa Rica on the Pacific coast. The stop was quick but nice and we met some interesting people. Unfortunately, my ipod grew arms, disconnected itself from the charger then grew legs and walked away. We have no idea how it disappeared and NOTHING else in our room was touched. Alice's ipod was even in plain site and mine was under my exploded luggage on the floor, further from the door. The following day's 12 hours of travel to the Caribbean coast was a bit brutal. No book, no music and hours and hours of bus... I guess now I have one less thing to carry, one less thing I can lose.

Yesterday we arrived in Puerto Viejo de Talamanca. All of Costa Rica is beautiful and the Costa Ricans are really kind. My biggest complaint about them is that sometimes they try to be too helpful.

We met a local dive instructor on the bus to Puerto Viejo. Through him, we found an opportunity to help out with a regional disaster. A hurricane in Florida (I think in '92) destroyed an aquarium containing 3 Lion Fish. Lion Fish are not native the to Caribbean are very poisonous and have no predators. The 3 little fish multiplied and multiplied and multiplied. They are now threatening many species and essentially the entire ecosystem of the Caribbean. Lion Fish eggs float on the surface so they can travel and spread over long distances very quickly. Groupers have been eating the Lion Fish but their poisonous spines kill the groupers. It's a disaster in the making. We spent the first half the day snorkeling the reef off the beach of Puerto Viejo looking for Lion Fish. Unfortunately, Alice, Rachel and I were unsuccessful at finding them but the guys working for the project trying to protect native species caught 7, 6 juveniles and a small adult. It was fun to get out and volunteer a little time to help out, even if we weren't so helpful.

Next we are getting ready for Halloween and trying to make of the most of the few days we have here. Ciao

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Nicaragua was incredible. After Managua and Granada, we headed to the island on the lake, Ometepe. We climbed volcano Maderas expecting to see a crater lake. Instead, we tree climbed to the most anticlimactic summit I have ever experienced. It was freezing cold and so cloudy we could see about 10 meters into the crater. We heard later that the "lake" was rather unimpressive and others also found the hike disappointing. We have had some wonderful local guides but this was was sub par. He just didn't do much "guiding". Rachel sprained her ankle toward the bottom, in a hurry to end the hike. We did see white faced monkeys, definitely the highlight of that day. Although Ometepe's twin volcanoes are beautiful and the island tranquilo, I heard great things and my expectations weren't met. We left the island a day ahead of schedule and spent an extra on the beach in San Juan del Sur. I took a few goes at surfing on borrowed boards but since Rachel and Alice have never surfed and Rachel had a busted ankle and couldn't take a lesson, Alice decided to wait to learn until they can do it together. Costa Rica and Panama should provide opportunities. Instead, we spent an entire week on the beach. We had a few rainstorms but overall the weather was decent. Just cloudy enough to keep us from burning.
Yesterday, we arrived in Costa Rica. My first impression, Little America. Driving (we got a ride from a new friend) through winding mountain roads (paved but with potholes), a cloudy haze meeting the lush vegetation, I felt like I was back in the USA. That probably sounds weird but after a day here and wandering through the small volcano town of La Fortuna, I still feel like I am in Little America. Maybe I have just been in Honduras too long. Prices are significantly higher here than any of the other countries we have been to. We are struggling with the complicated conversion rate (575 colones to $1) and much higher prices. We knew Costa Rica was expensive but dishing out the cash is still hard when we are so accustomed to Honduran and Nicaraguan economies.
Off to a thermal river then the Pacific coast for more beach and surfing. It's a rough life...