andevries' Travel Journals

andevries

 
What is your funniest travel experience?

My first trip to the Dominican Republic was with a team of about 30 people from my church. We flew to Puerto Rico and then flew from there to the Dominican Republic on a very small plane. This plane held 37 people, so we took up practically the whole plane. It was so small that it couldn't carry all of our luggage, so we arrived in the Dominican Republic missing 18 luggage bags. They delivered them to all of us that evening then, but I think looking back on it now, that it is pretty funny.

  • 27 years old
  • From Pennsylvania, United States
  • Currently in South Carolina, United States

Costa Rica Adventures

I am studying abroad in Costa Rica doing an Intensive Spanish Language Program and living with a host family. This journal serves to keep others informed about my experience as well as to remain a record of my adventure for future reference or reflection.

What a Weekend!

Costa Rica San Jose, Costa Rica  |  Oct 04, 2010
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 From a volcano, hot springs, horseback ride, and waterfall to touring the jungle above ground it was by far the most adventurous weekend of my life! 

I have been here in Costa Rica for 9 days now and it has been quite the experience so far. I have one class each day from 8-12 which is entirely in Spanish. I am currently in Intermediate 1, which seems to be the perfect level for me. I have this class for 3 more weeks and then I move onto the next level class for another 4 weeks and same after that. I don't always know what's going on in class, but the professor is very willing to explain things more for us if we are at all confused. She knows quite a bit of English too but only uses it when absolutely necessary and even then uses only a couple words. It's definitely nice to be done with class each day at noon. I'm on my own for lunch everyday then since it's not included in our program package so I went to the super market to get some food for lunches and I'm actually shocked at how expensive most stuff is here. But my host family feeds us plenty at breakfast and dinner so I don't feel like I need much for lunch anyway. Except that we eat dinner really late here. Some days we don't eat until 8 or 8:30. It often depends on what time my roommates have their evening elective classes. I'm excited that I get to cook with my host mom and one of my roommates this Wednesday.

All the international students here, except maybe 3 people, are from the U.S. which makes it difficult to practice our Spanish with each other since it's so much easier to communicate in English. But I love speaking and listening in Spanish with my host family. My host family is very nice and fun to be around. My host mom did my laundry today and my clothes are currently hanging up to dry. I can't wait to have clean clothes again. I'm enjoying my room a lot as well. It's cozy and I honestly missed it after being away this weekend.

And speaking of this weekend, may the stories begin. We left the University at 1pm on Friday and had about a 4 hours bus ride to Arenal volcano, which is an active volcano. We stopped at a souvenir shop along the way that had a sign outside for "clean and free toilets". The bathrooms were actually pretty decent and to my delight I found a mini ceramic bell in the souvenir shop which I had hoped to find somewhere in Costa Rica to add to my collection but wasn't sure if I would. We checked in at our hotel which was right by the volcano and then left for Baldi Hot Springs. We weren't there very long, but it was still enjoyable. There were many different pools and even a couple water slides. It was a beautiful place, but we were there at night so we couldn't see much of the surrounding area. Then we returned to the hotel for the night. Apparently the volcano exploded during the night and I had heard what I thought was thunder initially but must have been the volcano instead so that was pretty neat.

On Saturday morning we had the option of going to La Fortuna waterfall by bus or by horseback (for an additional charge). I chose to go by horseback which was a lot crazier than I had expected. The horses trotted a lot and even galloped at times. I unfortunately lost a little brown change purse along the way to the waterfall which contained my debit card, my ISIC student ID card, and some money (not more than $10 I believe). It must have fallen out of my little shoulder bag. I searched for it on the way back but the ride was a little over an hour long and I had no idea where I had lost it so I did not find it. It definitely could have been worse though. Fortunately I brought 2 debit cards with me for 2 separate bank accounts so I'm still okay. And the trip by horse was still totally worth it. The waterfall itself was sweet too. There were almost 500 steps to go down to get to it and then of course we had to come back up them too which wasn't fun but swimming at the bottom of the waterfall was another incredible experience. We returned to the hotel around noon then and after getting lunch on our own left Arenal to head towards Monteverde. To get there we went by jeep-boat-jeep. Throughout the weekend it seemed to rain every time we traveled somewhere but at least it didn't rain whenever we we did our planned activities. So the boat ride wasn't anything spectacular due to the rain and then the drive after the boat to our hotel that night was the worst car ride of my life. It was extrememly bumpy and long. It definitely felt good to get to our hotel and then even better to find out that the hotel had free internet service which made it possible for me to reach home and have my debit card reported as lost. That was such a blessing. Later that night I had a massage too which was a first for me.

On Sunday we had to get up really early for our canopy tour, but again it was an amazing experience. I had done a zipline once before in my life but it was nothing like this. This canopy tour involved multiple ziplines going all over the rain forest. It also unexpectedly included a Tarzan Swing (basically a mini bungee jump_ which was one of the craziest things I've ever done but it was fun. For the last zipline of the tour we had the option of doing it in a superman positiong which I did and absolutely loved. It was my favorite 45 seconds of the weekend. The feeling and view was unbelievable. It was obvious why they call it the "green mountain" (Monteverde). I was attached to the zipline by 2 hooks on my back but then my arms and head were completely free so it seriously felt as though I was flying across the valley below. On the other ziplines we would brake ourselves using our right hand, but for the superman one they stopped us. However, it was a rather abrupt stop so approaching the end at full speed was a little scary. Needless to say the whole canopy tour was an adventure, hence the name of the place (100% Adventure). Then we returned to the hotel, ate lunch in the little town, and headed back home. The bus ride was extra long due to some closed roads and a bit bumpy again but not as bad as before. Of course it was raining too which made it miserable. There was acutally a huge landslide here in Costa Rica last week due to all the rain. i know at least 3 people died in it and multiple homes were destroyed. It was only about 20 minutes away from where I am living. My host dad told us that the president has declared it a national emergency. All the rain caused trouble on at least 30 roads, resulting in many closed roads. Two of my roomates are here through the ISA study abroad program and they actually canceled their excursion to Monteverde over the weekend due to the conditions of the roads and instead went to the beach. However, I am part of the group of independent students since the program I came through is not as popular or big and there was no question of canceling our trip, which I was super excited about since I had been looking forward to it all week. I was sore and exhausted upon return to my host home and am still very sore today, but there's no doubt in my mind that it was totally worth it!

I am having a great time here but at the same time I am also missing my friends at school a ton. I've met a lot of new people here but they are a very different crowd than I am used to and its difficult because I often feel as though I cannot relate or even participate in their conversations. Most of the time I simply don't even want to. Their interests are not very appealing to me. It certainly makes me all the more thankful for my friends at school but I currently feel a bit lonely here. I truly believe God has me here for a reason and love that no matter how lonely I feel He is always with me but it still isn't easy. Please pray that I would stay strong in my faith and live as a Christ-like example for all those around me. It is especially hard with no one around me to have heart-to-heart conversations with or to help keep me accountable and also not being able to attend church while away on excursions for the weekend. But at the same time it is an excellent opportunity for me to grow as an individual and be stretched in my faith.

I have uploaded many more pictures as well for you to see pieces of my weekend adventure. I hope you enjoy! I love you all and miss you lots.

Chau,

Audrey

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