Playa Playa Laya

So as you definitely already know, I really love the beach. I have been discovering some pretty gorgeous beaches here in Costa Rica and I love it. My little host sister Monse calles the Playa La Laya, hence the title <3. The past two weekends I spent at the Beach. First I went to Quepos and Manuel Antonio and then this past weekend I went to Puerto Viejo, Manzanillo, and briefly Limon and I gotta tell you about all of it. Right now I am back in San José drowning in school work and avoiding it by playing with my host siblings and such but anyways I gotta back up.

Two weekends ago Aidan, Lyle, and I went to Quepos, the little town next to the National Park Manuel Antonio on the Pacific Coast. They have good restaurants, bars, and a brand new very luxurious Marina with tons of nice boats. We ate bagels at a Jewish bakery called Brooklyn Bakery and we had the most enormous cheap and delish taquitos. On Saturday we took the bus down the road to Manuel Antonio to spend the whole day at the beach which was gorgeous and the water was amazing. We stayed until the sun set over the ocean.

Last weekend was a long weekend because of Dia de Culturas on Monday (Thats right, It is not Columbus day, it’s Cultural Diversity day they celebrate here). We took the bus on Friday to Puerto Viejo. Puerto Viejo is super touristy but really adorable and there is a plethora of restaurants of all cuisines and a lot of night life. We stayed at a hostel covered floor to ceiling in mosaic, sculpture, and other art. The first day there we spent the day at the beach in town called Playa Negra. It is a black sand beach and was a relatively cool day which was nice and the beach wasn’t too crowded either. That night Aidan and I went on a two year anniversary date at a nice restaurant and ate fish, super yum. The second day we met up with all the other students at another beach nearby called Manzanillo, a little town with a gorgeous but also crowded beach. We swam all day and it was really hot. At both lunch and dinner that day we waited a million years for our food and I thought I would die of hunger but it’s okay the beach that day was super bueno. On Monday we thought Carnival was starting in the city of Limon so we went but there was not really anything to see so we wandered a little to see the waterfront before our bus back to San José.

Now I am home and planning this coming weekend of course! Update on my host sister, still super pregnant and don’t know why the baby isn’t here omg but her induction is scheduled for Friday morning so only 3 days left maximum ❤

Pacuare

Whoever said study abroad is easy and there isn’t a lot of work definitely did not do this program… I like what I’m learning here but we seriously do a lot of work. I finally have a minute so I thought I’d tell you all whats up!

Two weekends ago now was our trip to Tortugero, Pacuare with the program. We all left at six in the morning which was brutal but I slept a lot on the bus. When we got off the bus we had to ride a boat to the lodge in Pacuare, it is the only way in to the community. It was so beautiful, I am such a boat ride person. We went down a man-made river for about 40 minutes and we saw everything from monkeys and crocodiles to sloths and even dolphins who swim in from the ocean and played around near our boat for a while.

The lodge we stayed at had tents with cots in them and lots of hammocks by the water. It was really lovely and the family that lived there and owned it cook us good food and they also had two super adorable boys ages 2 and 10. Jerome, the little one, was especially sweet and hung out with me a lot 🙂 I couldn’t understand half of what he mumbled in little kid Spanish but thats okay.

There is a school in Pacuare that has 8 students and needs a lot of upkeep. When we were there we spent a few hours moving dirt to help raise the path to the school which often floods. I hope we were a little bit helpful in some way, it seemed like a cool little community.

The next day we stopped by a turtle egg rescue place which was interesting. They pay locals to walk the beaches at night and get turtle eggs before the poachers do and then they relocate them to a small section of beach watched by volunteers 24/7. I guess it was pretty neat.

This past weekend we stayed in San José but decided to make good use of it. I checked out some local stores I had been wanting to see, when to a green market, a book fair, and of course we went out! It was a nice weekend but this weekend I am looking forward to beach again. I am going to the national park Manuel Antonio which is supposed to be gorgeous, stay posted and live the pura vida mae (hahahahaha I can’t say that seriously). Okay besos from San José!

Oh one last thing! My host sister is going to have a baby within the next 12 days maximo and im sooooo excited! Just had to let you know 🙂

Universidad y Jaco

Now that I am two weeks into classes I’m going to finally tell you a little about what I’m taking, if your interested! On Mondays and Wednesday I take rural and urban sustainable development in the morning and Spanish in the afternoon. My morning class is a lot of work but it’s interesting. We are going to be talking a lot about sustainable development in Costa Rica and like the world to I guess. This is an important but always depressing topic so it’s great for the morning. My Spanish class is super small just three other students and it is a conversation class so it’s pretty easy and fun. So far Ive rambled about my hometown a lot.

On Tuesday and Thursday mornings I volunteer with three other students at an organization called La Cometa in Tirrases which is a pretty underserved and poor area about 20 minutes away by bus. I posted a picture of it the other day. It’s a seriously beautiful area and I am excited to be working with La Cometa. We will be teaching English classes to young women about our own age and also helping teach and watch their children. We take the bus out together in the morning and stay till lunch time. We’ve been there twice and are making lesson plans but our class doesn’t begin until next week, Im super excited. In the afternoons I have my women and gender studies class which also focuses on Latin America and seems really interesting. The teachers cool and the readings seem interesting.

On Fridays I have a community engagement class which is sort of anthropology I guess, not even sure how to really describe it and then we get out early for the weekend. This past weekend all ten of us took our first trip to the beach for a few days. We stayed at a super nice hostel (felt more like a low key resort) in a town called Jaco on the Pacific coast. It was beautiful and so hot there. We hung out at the beach and at the pool. The black sand at the beach was gorgeous and there were a lot of iguanas chillin in town. Going out there to dance was fun too. I was not ready to go back to the city.

This week we had a cultural event and went on an evening city art walk. It was nice to go into the city and we got dinner at a Lebanese restaurant. It was bomb even though I saw a few cockroaches on the ground. I also saw some cool street art downtown that made me wanna go explore some more.

Thats about it. This weekend we are going somewhere super rural and hot im told and were doing some volunteer stuff and maybe seeing a waterfall? Stay posted. Mucho amor from Costa Rica. Pura Vida.

Pura Vida

Im currently sitting in my bedroom in San José, Costa Rica with the dog Ceci! I know, I’ll have to back up a little.

After a really nice time in North Carolina I met up with my family in Philadelphia to drop my sister off at college for her freshman year. Then we drove together back to Peaks and had a great (but too short of course) time there. My dad, my brother, and I went camping at Pocumcus which was also really fun, I hadn’t been in a while. I was sad to leave Maine but excited to get here to Costa Rica for the semester! I flew through Dallas and arrived in San José in the evening. I was picked up by ICDS along with two other students. Then we were dropped off at our host families houses. I met mine briefly but it was super late and I fell asleep pretty quickly.

In the morning my host mom walked me to the ICDS office for orientation. We got a tour of the University and then headed out in a bus to a retreat sort of place with pretty views of the city. We did the normal stuff, games, got safety talks, etc. In the evening we had a latin dance class and all stayed over at the place. It was pretty fun to get to know everyone on the program. It’s a small group, only 10 of us and honestly everyone seems cool so thats pretty lucky.

The next day we went to a cloud forest. It was basically a jungle. It is the rainy season and was supposed to be raining but it wasn’t. Our guide says it hasn’t been raining much at all this rainy season (but don’t worry guys global climate change is totally made up). Anyways, it was beautiful and we had a good hike. Then we went to a historic city near San José called Cartago. It was actually the first capitol I believe. We saw a historic old basilica.

Everyone was tired when we got back into the city and our host moms were there to walk us home. I’m starting to figure out everyone in my host family but seriously there are a lot of people that live in the house. The best part is Monse the really cute two year old who is always bouncing around. Her mom is about to have a baby in a few weeks too so I’m really excited for that. My host mom is super kind and cooks good food. I have a nice big room with a bathroom and I’m very happy to be here.

On our first weekend the students went out a bit. I think there is a lot to do in San José and I am excited to keep exploring. There is a mall nearby to where we live where we got SIM cards for our Costa Rican phones. Last night we went to a collegey sports bar to watch the Costa Rican futbol team.

Classes started on Monday and it is really exciting to be going to Universidad Latina. I live really close and so far I like all my classes but it seems like a lot of work. Anyways, Ill write more about school after the first week. This weekend we are also going to the beach for the first time so that will be exciting.

Pura Vida

No Hay Mamita

Hard to believe but I as I write this I am now back in the US and at the beach in the Outer Banks, NC. It is hot and beautiful and I am very happy to be here but I have a lot to write about the end of our trip.

Due to Social Unrest in the city of Potosi (they are protesting the government for not bringing a promised international airport among other things) we could not pass through in a bus. Our original plan was to go Samaipata>Sucre>Potosi>Uyuni and back but instead we had to go Samaipata>Cochabamba>Oruro>Uyuni which is much longer but doable. Our last morning in Samaipata was really nice but also we were quite sad to leave. In the afternoon we took a cab down the road to the next town, Mairana where there are overnight buses to Cochabamba. I thought the ride was relatively good, I had a window and watched the pretty scenery a lot of the way before trying to sleep but Aidan hated how the road is mostly on a cliff the whole way and couldn’t sleep haha.

In Cochabamba we had to sleep on the bus until the bus terminal opened and we could hop on a bus to Oruro. We were planning to spend a night in Oruro but unfortunately when we arrived we learned that the only buses to Uyuni are overnight buses so we decided to leave that night. We had to spend the day in Oruro. We did find a pretty decent bar on top of a hotel with a view of the city. Then we took our second overnight bus in a row which was long and frigid cold. We goy to Uyuni early in the morning under dressed and so cold we got a bed at the first awful alojamiento we saw.

The next day we found a good tour agency and booked our salt flats tour. Then we were lucky enough to run into Dave and Ernesto from Samaipata on the street! We knew they were passing through returning from work but we didn’t know when, que suerte. We spent the day with them hanging out and drinking beer.

In the morning we met four nice Chilean girls who would be in our jeep with us and our guide Miguel and we were off on our three day tour. The salt flats were really different this time because it is the dry season. Last time I was there was the rainy season. It’s a salt desert now but is was just as breathtaking and beautiful, very cold, but a truly gorgeous and interesting trip that I highly recommend.

Upon returning to Uyuni we decided to buy bus tickets to La Paz. Unfortunately almost every bus company was sold old. We ran around like crazy with the woman from the travel agency who oddly enough was also going to La Paz that night and the three of us ended up on a bus to Oruro where we could connect to La Paz. They told us that because of a roadblock we would be charged extra on the bus. When we got on the bus and everyone was asked for ten more bolivianos which is like a dollar but everyone started yelling at the ayudante and she almost turned the bus around. It was mostly foreigners yelling and I was just like wow please just pay the dollar and lets move on, finally we did.

When we reached the roadblock we waited nearly two hours and then our bus finally moved past another one to close and hit it a little and one of our bus windows shattered into the bus all over a family. Additionally the little boy in the family started vomiting. It was great. The bus window was taped a little but the rest of the drive was ice cold.

La Paz was fantastic, I love that city. We spent two nights there. We took the cities new teleferico, wandered the witches market, and ate good food. Our last night we went out to a club and only slept two hours before our flight back to Santa Cruz. The flight was just an hour and very beautiful, it felt like the mountains were right outside the plane window. Santa Cruz was really hot and I was happy to be back in the heat. We spent our last day in Bolivia hanging out around the city. We also stumbled upon a language exchange our last night and chatted with a bunch of people learning English. It was pretty cool. All and all an awesome trip and we made it back to DC pretty easily and now we are at the beach with Aidan’s family 🙂

In one month I will be in Costa Rica, until then! besos

El refugio y mas

Hard to believe but we are already coming to the end of our stay in Samaipata. I haven’t written in a while because my computer died for no apparent reason which was great but oh well hopefully I can get it fixed when I get back to the US. A lot has happened since I last wrote.

First there was a big car rally race here in town which brought loads of drunk people to party in the streets all weekend long. It was pretty crazy. The little rally cars say the the drivers and navigators names on the side and their blood types which is a little scary if you ask me. They had fireworks and everything so it was sort of cool except super loud all night and a pretty drunken mess and Dave had to work as a bouncer at the bar which hardly ever happens here in this tranquillo town. Aidan and I woke up early and saw some of the rally cars head out which was neat.

We also finally made it to the cuevas which are the nearby waterfalls down the road. It was super beautiful there and just as I remembered it from a few years ago when I was last here. We hiked around and then went for a little swim in the river. It was a hot sunny day and good for laying on a rock in the river with my feet in the water.

Another cool thing we heard about was an abandoned house up one of the mountains with a great view of the town from the second floor. We took a bottle of wine in our backpacks and hiked up one afternoon to be there in time for sunset. The hike is straight up and tiring but so worth it. The abandoned house was gorgeous, or was going to be gorgeous but not ever completed. We walked around the rooms deciding what they were all going to be. There was a big patio and barbecue and even a little pond. The master bedroom has a big window with an incredible view of the mountains and town. Hiking up there at sunset was one of the coolest things we’ve done here for sure.

Tomorrow night we are planning to leave on a bus to Sucre if all goes as planned which is exciting but we are also pretty sad to leave all the awesome people we have met here. It has definitely been a memorable and awesome time. besos for now

Living in a Bar (and Santa Cruz Visit!)

So another band played at the bar on a Saturday, a group of French travelers who had a brass band! The bar was pretty loco that night but a lot of fun. Working at the bar is going well. Also Aidan and I have finally gotten out a bit more here. We took a walk down the highway a ways and also finally went out to the ruins called El Fuerte. Aidan said it was his first time ever seeing any ancient ruins and I honestly thought it was pretty cool too, no Machu Picchu but cool. We also stopped in the archeology museum in town which is interesting if you like looking at a lot of old clay pots. The best was the views of the mountains from up at the fort, super beautiful.

We attempted to make a pizza the other day and for the fourth of July we made Mac n Cheese and Apple Pie, so American. Who knew that we would come to Bolivia to start watching a ton of Masterchef Australia and cook a bunch?

Now we are in Santa Cruz for the night! This morning we left Samaipata early with Dave. He was going to Santa Cruz to get some work done on the car and we thought a ride would be nice. We got about thirty minutes down the road when we came upon a roadblock of cars and trucks double parked as far down the road as we could see. Someone told us there was a mudslide and some trucks were stuck. Dave was like yup I am not going, I’m turning right around before I get parked in. Aidan and I decided not to turn around. We thought we would walk to the other side of the block and hitch a ride. We walked several miles past gridlock of buses cars and massive trucks it was completely awful and crazy. People had been there for who knows how long. We saw only one fight breaking out surprisingly.

At the other side of the block we ran into some English girls we’d met at the bar and decided to hitchhike together. A Bolivian family who had driven out from the city but decided to turn back picked us up. They were a family of four and all sat in the front seat of the car. At least one of them was a cute baby. The other four of us sat in the back seat. It was a very full car. We made it the rest of the way without trouble.

Being back in a city is a cool change of pace after almost a month out in the mountains. Despite what anyone else says I like Santa Cruz a lot. We wandered a bit and I got ice cream at Vaca Fria, a chain ice cream place that I had been dying to return to since last time I was here three years ago, strange I know, but for real it is amazing ice cream. It was just as good as I remembered. I was thrilled.

We went and lined up at the migration office a half hour before siesta ended and thank goodness we did, the line was crazy long by the time they opened the doors. After waiting nearly two hours we were called to a window and the guy told us he didn’t have the stamp to give us another month here. Uhm but it’s the migration office… We waited longer for another guy to run upstairs find the stamp and finally glance at our passports and give us thirty more days, phew! I took a deep breath and we were finally done.

We got dinner at a pizzeria and dropped our stuff at our hostel then we went to a movie at the cine 🙂 It was spontaneous and a good idea. We saw the Reese Witherspoon and Sophia Vergara movie and I swear as stupid as it looks it was actually hilarious and everyone in the theatre laughed out loud the whole time. Plus we got another Vaca Fria. Life is good and now I have a Mojito by the pool. It’s funny to be in a city and have real internet and stuff but it’s nice. Back to the mountains tomorrow. Besos Bebas.

Samaipata, Bolivia

Aidan and I left Boston at around six in the morning five days ago. We took a flight straight to Panama City, Panama which felt extremely long to me. Additionally we were very confused because when we went to Panama this winter we were on the same time as them but this time due to daylight savings which Panama does not do (smart country) we were an hour off and thought we were missing our second flight… Our flight to Santa Cruz also felt extremely long and the inflight veggie meal was way less good but I was starving. We arrived at around ten in Santa Cruz, Bolivia and it was pouring rain. In immigration we were told that the law for tourist visas had recently changed to thirty days not ninety. ‘But we are here for longer!’ I sputtered. ‘The woman in the consulate in New York told me ninety!’ ‘Well she’s wrong’ he said casually. I was at a loss. Then he told me we could get free thirty day extensions twice at the government office in the city. Great, I told him we wanted the extensions and could he just give us them now? nope. Then I literally tried to bargain with him, ‘just sixty days please señor?’ He laughed at me and wrote down the address for the government office. Then he stamped my passport so faintly I could barely see it so I made him do it again before marching off annoyed. I considered changing the amount of days written in my passport with a pen but my mom reminded me that is forgery and stuff.

When you leave the Santa Cruz airport everyone presses a button and if it makes a beep you get your bags searched. Aidan was one of the lucky ones. After having a women blindly stick her gloved hand around inside his backpack for a while we went out to get a cab. I’m sure we were ripped off but frankly I wasn’t in the mood to bargain and also I had no idea the cost to where we were going. Once inside the cab cruising into the dark, wet, city we got really excited, we were finally here! We stayed at the Backpacker Hostel. The owner was a really sweet woman who met us at the gate and showed us to a small damp room with sleeping people in it. We walked past the nice pool that we would not be swimming in because of the rain.
In the morning after a simple breakfast we walked down the street to where we could catch a combi out to Samaipata. The drive to our town is super beautiful through mountains and other small towns. We arrived right at the plaza. I love Samaipata so much and was really glad to be back. This town is small and super cute. There are a fair amount of restaurants, a shady plaza, some small stores, a market, and dusty streets with cute homes.
Dave met us and made us lunch. His wife Kirsty had gone into the city that morning because their daughter Matilde who is only ten months was a bit sick. That night he didn’t have us work in the bar we just relaxed and saw how it all worked. We are staying in a room in the back of the bar which is actually pretty cool. We have a big loft bed and just outside our door is the steps to the super adorable rooftop terrace. Their house is also attached to the bar and we eat in there and stuff. Kirsty and Mathilde arrived in the morning. The baby is super adorable and I love her already. She has big blue eyes and she is super mellow. Kirsty and Dave are both really laid back and cool. Their bar is really nice especially for here in Bolivia and I’m quite excited to be working in it.
Saturday night was busy but it was cool to jump right in. The bar opens at five and they have a license to stay open until three but that only really happens on Saturdays. Nothing is computerized so we have a notebook where we write down what everyone has ordered. If it’s a local we write their name and put pink highlighter. Locals pay a different price for everything and often pay only every few days. We don’t have to worry about checking any ID’s. Dave says he knows the kids under eighteen and he stops them at the door. Sometimes little kids come in to watch the soccer on TV which is fine. There is a restaurant across the street with tasty food and people in the bar can order their food and it gets brought over to them which is really cool. Taking orders in Spanish is a little scary but it’s fun. I haven’t made a ton of drinks yet besides opening beers and pouring G&T’s but we are getting a cocktail lesson soon. We are allowed to drink while we work and we pay cost price for anything in the bar which is very little. We also actually made a decent amount of Bolivianos in tips which I wasn’t expecting.
During the day we’ve wandered the town a lot and hung out on our rooftop reading and stuff. A big bike race came into town on Saturday which was cool to see. Next week a rock band is coming to the bar. Soon we will go to the waterfalls and ruins and stuff. Unfortunately there is not really wifi that works well in town so I can’t post pictures or get texts and stuff very often. The internet cafes have internet slower than dial up I swear, actually as I write this I’m wondering how I will even post it but it’s pretty cool to be sorta remote. I’ll have good internet when I’m in Santa Cruz again. For now life is great in Samaipata 🙂 xoxo desde Bolivia

Well I would like to post another blog post but I haven’t even been able to upload the first one so I guess ill be posting a few at a time when I get good wifi. We’ve been here a little while now in Samaipata and feel pretty settled in. Working in the bar is fun and when we are not working we hang out a lot on our roof reading or take wanders around town. I also like to sit in the cafe on the plaza and people watch. I had good wifi once there and posted some instagram photos if you want to check em out (@maxineisland).
Watching Matilde is also really nice, she is seriously such a good baby and super adorable. Aidan has played poker twice now on Monday poker night with Dave and he is actually getting better at it haha. All of Dave and Kirsty friends are quite nice and we have been hanging out with them. Yesterday we made some stuffed zucchini to bring to a bbq but I forgot them in the oven for a while and took a shower and sort of over cooked them but everyone said they were good anyways. We’ve been watching a lot of Masterchef Australia and its been making me want to cook well.
Anyways what else, this town is super beautiful and relaxing and we just really love it here. Dave and Kirsty also have two dogs, a black lab and an adopted street dog that we play with. The other day Aidan and I hiked a little out of town to a nature reserve that has monkeys. One almost bit Aidan’s face when he touched it. There was also a parrot that says Hola which was pretty awesome. Oh and the band came to the bar which made for a fun night. I took covers at the door. I guess thats about it, Aidan and I will be going to Santa Cruz in the not too distant future to get our visa extensions so that will be fun we are planning  to stay the night there and explore a bit. Besos for now, Maxx

Island Kid For Lyfe

About a week ago I rented a car for the first time ever which actually excited me an unnecessary amount and I stuffed my life into it. I like driving in cool sunglasses and singing loudly with the radio. Even though it was a small SUV I had a horrifying amount of junk in my room and it barely fit. Although I love New York I was really excited to leave and go home to Maine. I cruised up to Maine with satellite radio and everyone else going to vacationland for memorial day weekend. I freighted all my stuff to the island and then surprised my brother by picking him up at school.

Getting my stuff home on the island and all unpacked in my house was a serious struggle but it’s pretty much done now, thank god, and some help from my little bro. And okay can I just say summer on Peaks Island is the actual best, it’s so pretty and relaxing and I love it. I definitely grew up in the right place. I like to obnoxiously hashtag my instagram photos #mostbeautifulplaceonearth but seriously it’s true, I am not lying, come see for yourself. Or don’t, tourists sort of suck. Anyways, my island is perfect. I’m glad I’m here for a little bit this summer to soak it in. Ive been taking bike rides and laying at the beach. The photo with this post is from a friend’s porch the other night. Tell me that it’s not beaut. Also funny side story: I was riding the ferry boat home the other day and overheard some island kids who are like 15 talking and one of them said to his friends, “my parents took away my boat because I was hot boxing it.” I thought to myself wow that is the definition of #islandkidproblems

It is really nice to see my family and friends here but in all seriousness I get antsy when I have little to do so I am really ready for Aidan to get here in about a week and then we are off to Samaipata, Bolivia for the summer so you have to check back for when I blog about it…It’ll be awesome I think. Also it is almost my birthday in just a few days and it is a big one (hint: I can legally consume alcohol in the US) but oddly enough I am fleeing the country right after. Also one last thing even though this post is probably boring you to tears, my fall study abroad program finally emailed me a bunch of stuff so I am picking classes and getting a flight soon and stuff for the fall which is actually weirdly soon and I am so amped. I am really excited to blog about living in San Jose, Costa Rica in the fall because this blog may be shared with a bunch of students at my school which is kinda scary and makes me need to write like uhm well but it’s also pretty cool.

Okay happy summer, I hope you are in a beautiful and/or warm place! un beso desde Maine

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