Thursday, February 28, 2013

Proyecto Asis, Javillos Costa Rica

You guys.
I'm going to have to start 2x/day blogging.
Is that wayyyy too intense?!?  
I am getting so behind.  
The last 3 days have been completely out of control with new experiences and fun times.
But because I am so elated about today's events...
I'm skipping some posts I had in the que to share these photos.
And there were WAY too many photos to post them all here, so check facebook for the entire album.
Since of course, you are as excited about me getting my hair pulled as I am :)
Today we went to Proyecto Asis, a wildlife conservation center in Javillos, Costa Rica.  
We took the bus via Chachagua at 7:15 from La Fortuna.  Just tell the bus driver that you want to go to "Javillos/Proyecto Asis" and he will (hopefully) let you know when it's time to hop off!  The tour begins at 8:30am, so that worked out perfectly for us! 

(FYI:  Some of my readers are confused why I include details like this... I am writing things of this nature so that people who google search "Proyecto Asis" will have a resource and kind of know what to expect.  I've said it before and I'll say it again, the blog is mostly for MY readers, but I also want to help fellow travelers!)

The conservation center cares for animals that are orphaned, injured or need care for whatever reason.  Their primary goal is to rehabilitate and set them free again, but depending on the species and the situation, it is not always possible.  It felt very different from a zoo, and wayyyy cooler!
 Look at that eye!  Ah!

We did the "tour" portion in the morning and then paid to "volunteer" directly after that.  We are so thrilled that our volunteer portion was to feed the animals instead of clean their cages... :)  Lucky break!

This is a peccary.  They have 3 at Proyecto Asis-- 2 wild ones who are muy peligroso (very dangerous) and destroy everything: lions, trees, snakes, alligators, birds, even other peccaries who aren't in their family.  They travel in families of 45 and if you find a herd deep in the jungle, they will kill you.  They can run way faster than humans, so your best bet is to climb a tree.  But since you're deep in the jungle nobody will come for you, and you'll eventually have to get down, at which point the entire family will eat you as a feast.  They are very similar to wild boars.


They have this hump on their back with a spout to spray a VERY strong odor (which our guide touched, and made us smell...)
This is to mark their territory, much like a skunk.

This is a "Costa Rican Badger".  Very similar to a honey badger, but not the same.  He is in the ferrett family.  The guide kept telling us he cannot jump ("not yet, but soon!") but I SWEAR that this is so fast and full of energy, I am sure if he wanted to he could have jumped at us!
 Carlos was such a sweet guide.  He loves the animals and they love him.  
 The toucans bit me!  Scott let them bite his finger, so I wasn't about to walk away without the experience too!
 The baby spider monkeys are so soft and cuddly!  We are just glad we are up on our immunizations :)  More pics of these on facebook!
And, we actually let our child touch the boa constrictor.  Really?!?!  Scott kept encouraging Carlos to do it- they both say she will love the photos when she is older.  I hope so because that freaked me out!  (See Facebook for the pic with a boa around T's neck!)  Carlos held the head very tight as T was inspecting the snake.
 I love this photo soooo much!  Staring contest :)
 Oh the baby monkey!  I think this one was 3 months old.  So tiny, but they can sure bust open a banana fast!
 Ahh!  The monkey was very interested to see down Scott's shirt! Lol!  They were so funny and much like humans!
 Going into the macaw's cage was really neat.  They just bite into the watermelon and leave a beak-shaped bite out of it.  Too funny!
 And maybe my favorite photo of the day:
We got a 15 minute break after 2.5 hours and they gave us some juice to tide us over.  We ended up getting some rice and beans at a Soda down the street before our 1pm bus back to La Fortuna.

The day was quite expensive $28 for the tour and then some more to "volunteer."  To us, it was totally worth it.  Not only did we get to see new and different animals, but we got to hold them and feed them.  An experience of a lifetime for sure! Proyecto Asis offers Spanish lessons, home-stays and volunteer experiences for up to 2 weeks.  I think this would be a really neat way for a Spanish-loving animal guru to spend some of their summer vacation :)  Be prepared and come with long pants and/or mosquito repellant.  
Proyecto Asis is true jungle!!   

A Walk in the Backyard

The other day, we hadn't left the house and it was already 3pm!  So Scott had us put on our shoes and the trek through our backyard began!  First we met a cow.  All the cows here have this hump back and most of them have a saggy chin like the one pictured below.  T can almost say "MOOO" since we practice about 12x a day.
Next on our walk we came across a baby horse getting her bath!  I think that mini could only be a few weeks old- I wish you could see it try to walk! Isn't that cowboy the cutest?  You better believe that whenever I get news that a baby boy is coming to our family, my first purchase will be cowboy boots.  Too much!
Literally less than 5 minutes walk from our house!  

Scott is so good to carry her almost all the time!  His back and arms are so strong!!! 
Can you tell how green it is here?
And to think, it's not even the green season!
Stay tuned for pictures of T getting jealous of a white faced monkey, 
and a toucan eating my finger. 

Wednesday, February 27, 2013


It is so nice to reach a place where you no longer feel like a tourist.
 Yes, we do touristy things, but I think im safe to say that we're at a point where we are comfortable here. 
We know the names of dogs we pass on the way to town, 
we help my smoothie guy with his English homework when we pass by, 
we know exactly how much to pay a cab without being ripped off, 
we have neighbors we know and like, 
we have a few "secret spots" we like to go- places tourists don't really ever hear about, 
we have the bus system worked out, 
we cook for ourselves almost every meal... 
I think I will reflect on these experiences beginning with the phrase
"When we used to live in Costa Rica..."
So that is a success!
My pico turned out really well, if I do say so myself!

I CANNOT believe we only have 2.5 weeks left in La Fortuna! 
We really love it here, waking up and reading on our porch which sits in the middle of the jungle. But we planned to be here for one month before we continue on to the beach! Just yesterday we finalized our place in Samara-- a basic, two bedroom place with rockers out front and a clothesline. Because heaven knows it will be hot enough to dry our clothes in ten minutes :) We did a little calendaring yesterday so we are sure to fit everything we want onto the schedule over the next 2.5 weeks. And, we're kicking it off with going to a bull fight and horse show this weekend!! 

Until next time!

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Soda Ara

Trip Advisor is our new best friend.  We look there to decide where we eat, what hotel to stay at, which excursions to go on, who to ask for as tour guides, what to bring/wear to various places... you name it, Trip Advisor has us covered.  This soda (cafe) was recommended so we tried it out one of our first days in town:
 Their french fries are by FAR the best fries I have ever eaten.  Their "Casado" plate is good, and a little different each time depending on what they have.  We have been here twice now, and the second time we got fried cheese!  (it was gross, but a new concept!)  Their rice and beans are sooo good and we love the fried plantains and fish!  We really felt like family as we sat and ate.  The mama took our order and did the cooking, the boys were mopping the floors and cleaning things up, and Daniella was in love with T.
She made herself comfortable at our table :)  So sweet!  I even helped her drink her juice out of a plastic bag!
We are relieved that T has at least one friend, and we're thrilled that she has learned to smile and wave at people as we pass!

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Our Journey to Church

We have now been to church in Ciudad Quesada San Carlos (Quesada for short) for three weeks.

The first week, we drove there in our rental car-- 45 minutes each way.  So with 3 hours of meetings, it was 5.5 hour total experience. A little long, but not bad!

The second week, we left our house at
7am- Walk to the bus station (in pouring rain)
7:30am- Board the bus and wrestle T for the 1.5 hours to Quesada
9am- Arrive in Quesada and find a taxi to take us 10 min to church

9:10am- Freshen up and head into sacrament meeting late (By now T is worn out...)

10:15am- Sunday school begins.  Scott goes to class (and contributes!) while Stef watches T attempt to nap in a quiet-ish room.
11:10am- Relief Society begins (in Spanish, of course).  Stef goes (to enjoy the feeling of sisterhood, but not understand a single word) while Scott entertains T during priesthood.

12noon- Church ends, we visit, take a few pics and wander the town waiting for the next bus at 2:30

1:30pm- T is really melting down.  We are all hot, sweaty and crying.  Waiiiiting for that darn bus!
2:30pm- We finally climb on board.  You can get the gist of our experience from the photo below. 
4pm- We arrive home, making it a 9 hour excursion to church.  

This day was a trial of my faith.  I am proud that I made it through.  It is one thing to go through all those transportation woes for a really fulfilling religious experience, but since I couldn't even understand the meetings it was really challenging for me to understand why I was putting myself and my family through this.  

Since last week, we have made some changes to our schedule, and I have made some realizations that help me have a more positive experience :)

The third week (today) was much better.  The whole ordeal only lasted 6 hours and felt manageable to me.
We decided to leave 45 min before church ended so we could catch the 11:30 bus home.  Turns out the 11:30 bus driver also goes about 2x as fast as the 2:30 bus driver!  

It is important to me that while I may not understand what is being said, I maintain the habit of attending my church meetings.  With Scott's encouragement, I went today with a few specific gospel principles in my heart that I really pondered.  I partook of the sacrament.  Renewing my covenants with Heavenly Father is of utmost importance to me, and for this reason alone, the trek is worth it.  (Click here to learn more about my faith!)  I was able to rub shoulders with other saints.  Those Tico mamas always give me a big hug and kiss both cheeks when they see me. I think our friendship is good for both of us :)  I do feel a kinship with other mothers as we feed, diaper and love our babies- even if we can't use words to communicate.  At Relief Society, I am SO IMPRESSED that the sisters ALL come with their manuals open and even highlighted, ready to discuss the class material and contribute.  That simple example of faith has really impressed me.

So while our journey to church is not easy, it is worth it.  I have already gained much understanding and faith as I worship with the saints in Quesada.  But, these experiences make 8:30am church in Pleasant Grove seem really appealing :)

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Cooking Lessons with Maria

We are looking to volunteer at the local primary school as English teachers.  The students get 90 minutes of English class each day, and the school told us we could help in that classroom, specifically with pronunciation.  We are excited at the prospect, but need to talk with the director (principal) to finalize the details.  We have gone 2 days and the director wasn't available either day.  But, in the meantime, we made friends with some Tico mamas waiting to pick up their kids.  One mom gave T (well me, actually) the equivalent of an Otter Pop which thrilled me!  I was using a bit of Spanish and a bit of charades to keep the conversation moving with these ladies.  About 20 minutes into our conversation I asked them for any meal ideas or cooking tips.  Maria (pictured below) whipped out a laminated card, eager to show me her identification as a certified chef in Costa Rica.  You better believe I was impressed.  After telling her my pollo came out negro (chicken was black/burnt) she offered to help me!  The next thing I knew, she was shopping with us at the market (valuable as a both a Spanish and a cooking lesson!) and then following us home.  Scott wants to be sure all you readers know that we were very careful in deciding to invite her over.  We had visited with her for a long while at the school and we had a good feeling about her- we felt this Tico mama was safe to have in our home.  

Anyway, here she was instructing us on all the various meats...
In exchange for the cooking lesson, she wants us to work on English with her son, Wilber.  Maria really wants him to be good at English so that he can have a good life.  She says some days at their home they eat well, other times they eat only rice and beans for every meal.  If Wilber can get good at English he will have a brighter future!

We did mixed veggies.  Chop them all, boil them separately  then season and saute them together.  She uses chicken consume on everything!

The kitchen was SOOO hot with all the burners going mid-day!  

We bought basically half a chicken, and with the worst knife in the world, Maria cut that thing apart and into as flat a piece of bone-in chicken you can imagine.  And she did it fast too!

Here we are, Pollo con vegetales, con frijoles!  
Pretty basic, but we are going on to a more advanced meal next week at her place!  She is so sweet to have us over and we are excited to learn more!

Baby Supplies in Costa Rica

First of all:  If you are going to Costa Rica to stay in a resort for a week-10 days, DON'T WORRY!  The resort will have everything you need.  Even if they don't, resorts are in bigger areas that definitely have the supplies I show below.

As far as baby supplies goes, I packed what I needed for 1 week so that we had some time to find what we needed.  Liberia is a big city, and has anything you would need. San Jose is huge and has anything you would find in America.

The photos below were taken in Nicoya and in Ciudad Quesada.  Some of the smaller towns like Samara and La Fortuna have less options.  We always make sure to buy formula when we are in a big city like Quesada, but diapers and wipes are easy to find in La Fortuna.  If I remember correctly, they were harder to find in Samara, but I think I just need to look harder.  American brands are more expensive than Central American brands, obviously.

Various shampoos (about $6-$8 per bottle).

Sippy Cup:

 Pacifiers ($5 each)

Diapers (about $12-$14 for 48.)

Wipes (these are ~$3/pack)

Formula (~13 for a small can, $24 for a big can.  GOLD dust!)

Rice Cereal (I didn't price it in store and can't read it here...)

Just to give you an idea: Shampoos, soaps, detangler, powder, desetin... They have more options for this kind of product in beachy towns.  For example, I have not seen detangler inland... 

As far as the water situation for T- we buy her all bottled water.  She doesn't have her HEP A shot yet so we don't want to risk it.  But, we drink the tap water ourselves and haven't had any repercussions.  (If you're on the caribbean side, I would only drink bottled water.)

Stroller and car seat in Costa Rica.  We are really glad we picked up a cheap car seat on Craigslist before coming.  You can sometimes reserve a car seat through your rental car company, but when we researched it out, those cost $15/day.  So we paid $15 for a used one in the states with the option to dump it after that first week with the car.  The roads are bumpy and windy and for a 9 month old, we felt a lot safer having one.  As far as we can tell, it is not illegal to drive with an infant in arms... we see it done allll the time.  (also, if there is an extra seat on your plane coming down, maybe they will let you bring the carseat on board so the baby can sleep- luckily that happened for us!  Go JetBlue!)  So YES, Bring a carseat.   As far as a stroller, we did not bring one.  Now that we are settled it would be really nice to stroll her... but the stroller would need really big, sturdy wheels to get around.  So if you do decide to bring one, then make sure it can handle gravel roads and rocks-- no umbrella strollers here!  We have a Kelty Journey backpack that we put T in which works great for us.
If you have any questions about how to prepare for Costa Rica with a baby, just leave me a comment and let me know!  Travelling with an infant isn't for the faint of heart, but it is a lot of fun!  Memories for a lifetime!