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Costa Rica

Information on my trips to Costa Rica, I think I’ve been there twenty(?) times now. I really enjoy it there, don’t be surprised if one of these trips I don’t come back….

If anyone has any information on a job down there, I’m interested!

Written By: Gary on November 15, 2008 No Comment

It was just to be photo ID for a charge card purchase but it was better than pulling out my passport or US driver’s license.

But I was excited that I got to use it…

Written By: Gary on November 14, 2008 One Comment

If your display is set to 1024×768 or larger you should be seeing my new background. That’s a shot from Montezuma up by the waterfalls, I hike up there every day that I can when I’m in town….

Does it fit okay? Does it load to slow? It’s the first time using an image, so please give me feedback!

Written By: Gary on November 13, 2008 One Comment

Weather great!

Internet is extra awful (I guess an actually satellite the good places use are broken). So it’s computer labs sharing two dial-in phone lines.

Don’t expect much in terms of posts and photos the next few days. But scroll down because I did get a few things posted in the last 24 hours…

Written By: Gary on November 13, 2008 No Comment

So here’s a few photos from San Jose, Costa Rica.

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Written By: Gary on November 13, 2008 No Comment

So I scheduled a shuttle bus (a large van) from San Jose to Montezuma. Last night I confirmed all the details:

  • 8:20 pickup at my hotel. I guess they don’t pickup at all, but they pick up at mine.
  • I’m going to Montezuma
  • Approximate arrival time. She said 3 PM, which seemed really late, so I asked how many people were being picked up after me. She said “none” (I double-checked this and was told I was the only one going to Montezuma). I was excited because I would get the front seat, the back seat makes me a little nauseous, especially in Costa Rica.

    Ib LogoThe “Really Good” is their actual motto. I’m not sure if it was originally translated strangely and it stuck or if it’s how they were really rated on a survey or what, but I laugh every time I see their signs…

    They were actually there early. And of course there was someone else on the bus. And we were picking up 3 more people (2 stops). But, it turns out they were going to different places. Here’s the process on how it worked:

  • Pick me up (semi-English speaking guy).
  • 2 stops to pick up others.
  • Stop in Punteraeous and put me on a different shuttle (they were already waiting for me) with 6 others (who were going to get dropped off in Tambor about 10 miles before I was. Driver was non-English speaking guy.
  • Before the ferry boat another Interbus employee squeezes in (semi-English speaking guy).
  • At the ferry boat we all take our luggage off the bus and put it in a not-so-secure area on the boat. (The other bus turned around and went somewhere else with no passengers).
  • On the other side driver grabs a van he left there a few hours before from the people who were going the other way.
  • He drops everyone off at a hotel/resort in Tambor (Hotel Tambor?). Very nice!
  • He drops me off.
  • Ten minutes later I realize I don’t have my GPS, I was playing with it on the ride (an awesome birthday present from my Mom!).
  • After multiple transfers on the hotel phone (with hotel people translating) we realize it’s lying in the gutter next to where we parked when I got dropped off. Oops!

    All in all it was a great value! Only $39 (it’s $150+ for a cab). I didn’t wait anywhere, even the ferry was ready to board when we got there (not sure how long the Tambor people waited for me, but they then would have had to wait for the ferry). Air conditioned vehicles in pretty nice shape (each time I changed busses they got a little more worse for the wear).

    And I think I arrived at around 1:30 (maybe a little sooner). If traffic would have been worse out of San Jose (and it wasn’t great), it probably would have been a lot later since the next ferry probably wouldn’t have been for hours.

  • Written By: Gary on November 12, 2008 No Comment

    This is trickier than it sounds. Imagine trying to open an account in the US without a Social Security card and without a mailing address…

    I got all my paperwork in order:

  • They normally two letters of reference from banks that I normally do business with (seemed very old fashioned to me). I ended up using a letter of reference from a local Costa Rican organization and one letter of reference from a bank. I didn’t think I even needed the letter from my bank (I thought the Costa Rican letter would supersede it) but I was told a few days before my trip I needed it (definitely in conflict to other info I was given); in hindsight I’m not certain I needed it but it’s in my file now.
  • A utility bill, I used one the same as what I was using for my local address.
  • Copies of my passport and entrance stamp page.

    Once I got all that in order I went to the bank, got sent to another building, waited, got walked back to the first building to the person who sent me to the second building. Then I bet I sat at his desk for 90 minutes while he keyed in all sorts of things in the computer kept leaving the office and coming back again. All the while I’m intermittently signing things for the accounts, on-line banking, an ATM card and I think a debit card (built into the ATM card).

    I have to go back for my ATM card and I can’t set up the on-line banking until I have that card. I’ll come back to the bank to pick up the card next week (I had other stuff going on so I didn’t go back for a few weeks and it was all ready). They possibly could have sent it to another branch, but they seemed hesitant, so I wouldn’t chance it (especially since my schedule is a little grey still).

    So now as I see some other branches I’ll do a few tests depositing a check and making a withdrawal to see how it works. Better to know now then when I have an emergency.

    No one could really explain to me if I should open the accounts in Dollars or Colones. Most people said both but couldn’t say why. It seems like I can deposit into either account in either currency and withdraw in either currency also. It’s never seemed to bother my US bank if I withdraw in Dollars or Colones. If I’m in CR, I’m only going to take out Colones (unless maybe I’m at the airport leaving the country…)

  • Written By: Gary on November 12, 2008 No Comment

    I swear I packed it. I thought I saw it when I got here. I’ve searched everywhere and I had to switch rooms so I had to move all my stuff and it never turned up.

    So I broke down today and purchased a new one. It’s larger than the tiny collapsible one that I brought so I’m better off. Of course it hasn’t rained a drop since then, so it’s money well spent!!!

    Written By: Gary on November 12, 2008 No Comment

    Ups-San-Jose-Img 0140I thought the tiny UPS truck was interesting.

    I haven’t seen any other 3 wheeled vehicles this trip.

     

    Written By: Gary on November 11, 2008 5 Comments

    So went to get my driver’s license today. What a bureaucracy! The only plus was that it wasn’t very busy.

    I knew this was going to be a hassle so I hired ARCR (the folks that did the relocation seminar) to take me there and work me through the process, it was $35 well spent. I would have spent that on cab rides alone.

    Here’s the process we took: Crlicence

  • Copied my passport, entrance stamp and US license.
  • Drove to the MOPT (their Department of Motor Vehicles).
  • Walked out of the huge complex and down the street to the Doctor’s office and got a blood type test $10 and then went to a different room for a “medical” for $20 (which consisted of an eye test, blood pressure and some questions).
  • Walked back into the far side of the complex and queued up.
  • Every time someone went in, we all moved down a seat closer to the door.
  • Got approved for a driver’s license for an automobile.
  • Did not get approved for a motorcycle. She didn’t accept the “CY” in my endorsement section was for a motorcycle. Says I’ll have to go to the U.S. Embassy to get a note from them. This was even after I showed her my “International Driver’s Permit” which very clearly identifies me as having a motorcycle endorsement and it’s in Spanish (FYI, Costa Rica does not honor this permit for driving so I can’t bitch too much); if Michigan defined “CY” on the back of the license I’d have been fine.
  • Went downstairs and waited but this time we had a number.
  • This was to get everything keyed in for the license.
  • Walked back to the front of the complex to pay for the license.
  • Walked back to the back of the complex to show the receipt that we paid.
  • Got my picture taken (was allowed to smile), signed the computer tablet and had my fingerprint taken.
  • Waited for a few minutes more and got my license! Good for two years!

    Throughout this process I showed my US license, passport and the copies a million times. At some point in the process they did let us leave to make a copy of the doctor’s medical test (all the way back to the front and down the street to the doctor’s) and then they stamped it certified so I don’t have to get another test ($10).

    The $35 for the escort well spent, especially since I speak barely speak Spanish. But if they had known a little more I could have gotten the paperwork I needed to get the motorcycle endorsement and gotten both. I’ve heard they are making license’s harder for non-residents so maybe I should get it now (I’m assuming they’ll let me renew it even if they change the rules) that was part of my motivation in the first place. I can go back myself but like I said before, if I don’t have a car it’s going to cost that much for cab fare. If I have a car at the end of my trip when I come back to San Jose to leave I’ll do it…

  • Written By: Gary on November 10, 2008 One Comment

    Contrails-Img 0119Wow!!! I was just looking outside the airplane window and and there in the sky were contrails from another plane that must have flown by recently. It looked very cool and I had never seen any from the air before. I hope the pictures came out okay! Yes, I know it doesn’t take much to excite me :)

    Contrails are the cloudy streaks that an airplane sometimes leaves behind in the sky, right? That’s what I saw, even if I got the name wrong.On a side note – I need a good dictionary for my MacBook that doesn’t need me to be on-line to use it. Just a big PDF would work fine. Anyone know of anything semi-recent in the public domain or something? Or if I can purchase one somewhere? Something old enough to have copyright expired probably would not have “contrails” in it…

    Written By: Gary on November 10, 2008 No Comment

    So the first thing I head this morning as the alarm went off was all about the icy roads in the Detroit area. Specifically between me and the airport. Not a good sign, especially since I didn’t have that much extra time allocated since it was a morning flight and I didn’t know about the weather before had. But all was fine, a little slow on the roads but I got the airport fine. The airport was dead, I’ve never seen it so quiet there.Clouds Treo 111008 001

    Got checked in, got me a morning McSandwich and got to my terminal with just a few minutes to spare. Someone took the seat next to mine so I moved to the back row, no reclining but i’ll live. I’ve got an empty spot next to me, an adorable little 8 month old boy on his Mom’s lap that I was pretty excited about, he had been pretty friendly the few times I had run into him. I thought he was going to be a lot of fun but he passed out a few minutes into the flight (boring!).

    It’s beautiful up here in the clouds. We’re just above them and the sun is lighting them up perfectly. Looks like snow, maybe more of how I’d picture it in Antarctica (or some other vast snowy land). My cell phone photos just don’t do it justice at all; should have pulled out the real camera.

    Bonus! They just brought us a bowl of cereal (Total) and a banana, don’t know if I’ve ever gotten that for a non-international flight. I’m a much happier flyer if I’m snacking and staying hydrated, it really makes the flight more comfortable for me. On a side note, I can’t believe the number of people drinking mixed drinks already!

    Written By: Gary on October 19, 2008 No Comment

    I’ve posted a photo album of various animals that I’ve taken here and there (Zoo, Costa Rica, London).

    Giraffe-Detroit-Zoo
    Some came out really nice and some are just okay (but I needed a few more to make an album). I uploaded them to my FaceBook photo album section, feel free to add me as a FaceBook Friend while you’re there.So is this photo too big for my blog page? Does it expand out of the center column too much? At all? Just right? It was bigger than I meant to upload but then I thought it looked nice…

    (I didn’t realize that these public links to Facebook photo albums expire, I’m not even sure how long they last. That’s annoying, I’m glad I only used them for a few albums…)

    Written By: Gary on September 19, 2008 One Comment

    S736138968 1404800 7915
    I uploaded a album of sunsets to FaceBook. These are from my last two trips to Costa Rica. There are a few dozen and I think all of them are labeled where and when they are from.

    If you are a member of FaceBook be sure to add me as a friend while you’re there. Just click on “Gary’s Profile” at the top and then “Add as a Friend”.

    (I didn’t realize that these public links to Facebook photo albums expire, I’m not even sure how long they last. That’s annoying, I’m glad I only used them for a few albums…)

    Written By: Gary on September 18, 2008 No Comment

    So I like this town, it’s a tourist town so it’s missing some of the remoteness of some of the other towns, but it’s got every thing you might need. Lots of restaurants and hotels, a beach with surfing so it’s a got something for everyone. The beach could be bigger, especially since the tide comes up pretty high but I’ve never been very far up or down the coast from to see what else there is, maybe the next trip.

    Since it’s a tourist town, it’s got lots of parking so it’s generally not a problem parking right where you want to be. This is a big bonus if there’s a huge downpour (or you’re really sick).

    A lot of the people in Costa Rica scoff at Tamirindo because it is a big tourist town (especially the smaller towns on the coast some of them are just rude about it) but it’s completely different from the smaller towns so (to me) it shouldn’t be compared, you might as well as compare it to New York City; but if you’re looking for surfing NYC isn’t the place and if you’re looking for theatre Tamarindo isn’t the place, so the question is “what is it that you are looking for?” and this might be it…

    Here’s the Tamarindo Photo Album I put together. I’m trying this with the MobileMe service, so if it doesn’t view very well for you let me know and I’ll put it in the old format. Photo.Me.FormatNotice the buttons at the bottom of the photos for Grid, Mosaic, Carousel or Slideshow; be sure to check out how they work.

    Written By: Gary on September 13, 2008 No Comment

    So I enjoyed the San Jose area on this trip. Next trip I plan to spend a little more time in the city area to check it out more. It seems many people who relocate move to the middle of the country; while that seems anti-intuitive to me, the coast seems more obvious, there are a lot of conveniences there that I need to consider.

    When I was in San Jose, I chose my first restaurant based on a few things: It wasn’t an American chain, it wasn’t Chinese and it had hightop tables (had I known they had WiFi I might have gotten my laptop and factored that in too). It was a local little sports bar with food so I thought I could get a feel for some local “stuff”. But the people who ran this place spoke English so well I have to assume they weren’t locals. Even some of the people who appeared to be regulars conversed in excellent English with each other so it wasn’t really the experience I was looking for.

    But since the food was delicious and they wrapped the napkins around the bottles all cute and fancy it was worth it.

    Most of these photos are from the park but that’s because I was busy during most of the daylight hours while I was there. I’ll get some more next time. So here are the photos from San Jose at the La Sabina Park.

    Written By: Gary on September 12, 2008 No Comment

    So I keep saying I was trapped in Liberia, but it was a really nice town. When I started to build this album I thought I had taken more photos, but I guess I didn’t, so it’s kind of a mish-mash. Here’s a map of Liberia, the place I stayed (the El Punto) is just south of the Santa Rosa Mall.

    Liber-Bus-Bridge-SmallNext time I fly to Liberia I’ll definitely be spending the night and checking out the town some more, the nearby African Zoo and the Rincon de la Vieja volcano (which I had gotten a recommendation for).

    Here’s some photos of Liberia that I took.

    Written By: Gary on September 10, 2008 2 Comments

    El Punto B+BSo when I got trapped in Costa Rica for the few extra days I ended up staying at the El Punto B & B. It turned out to be an excellent place, it only has five or six units with a theme of colors, it might be the cutest place I’ve ever stayed. My unit had A/C, a ceiling fan, a very hot shower (but I never could get that much heat from the two sinks), two beds, two tables, three chairs and something I’d call a kitchenette but there wasn’t a way to cook anything but coffee (had a sink and medium refrigerator). I had found huge very comfy towels and a washcloth, made me feel very civilized. Outside I had another chair and table with a hammock. There was free internet but only up by the office and they also had what appeared to be a community area with couches, chairs and a television. There was also a nice double-sided page with info about the area (such as suggested restaurants), how to access the WiFi and useful info that all hotels should mimic.

    ElpuntothumbBreakfast was amazing! A mini loaf of bread with jellies and jams and watermelon and pineapple and eggs with coffee and juice. My only real complaint is there just isn’t enough space to unpack (but I have that complaint quite often).

    Here are some photos of the room at El Punto and of breakfast (breakfast included coffee and OJ which didn’t get shown in the photos).

    It’s right around the corner from a nice outside mall, across from that is a Burger King/Papa John’s/Church’s Fried Chicken and down the street a bit (easy walk) is the downtown area. I’ll stay there again sometime (on purpose). I think they’re pretty close to the Zoo (that’s supposed to be excellent) and a nearby Volcano that was also recommended to me. Plus if I’m flying out of the Liberia airport it’s pretty convenient (I think during the busier season they might provide airport transportation?) and a cab was about $15.

    Written By: Gary on September 9, 2008 One Comment

    ChocomentaSo my favorite ice cream bar to get in Costa Rica is ChocoMenta by Dos Pinos (Twin Pines). It’s is good sized mint ice cream bar cover in chocolate on a stick. It’s a generous size, especially when you consider the price, they were generally only about 75 cents! You can see in the image (click it) that it’s a decent sized stick, and I think that helped the ice creme to not fall off the stick in the heat and humidity (not that I had a lot this trip).

    Occasionally, I couldn’t find them so they were a welcome treat when I found them. At at 75 cents it was an awesome treat!

    And for my older readers: “Milky the clown says, ‘What’s the Magic Word?'”…

    Written By: Gary on September 7, 2008 No Comment

    I did make it back to Michigan (via Atlanta) problem free. Although it took forever for the luggage to start coming out in Detroit and that was after the 15 minute hike across the airport.

    One of the annoying things about missing that flight was that the whole crazy vacation timeline revolved around me getting to that relocation seminar in San Jose and flying back to Michigan in time for my Mom’s birthday. And since I ended up missing her birthday it was just digging at me on the way home since I had many many hours to dwell on it. I could have just as easily left a few days later, landed in San Jose and then headed to the coast and come home later. This would have resulted in a lot less running around and not a crunched time-line (since I could have stayed later), isn’t hind-site great!?!

    It was a disaster trip: lots and lots of rain, getting really really sick and missing that flight (which resulted in two more days there) but while I’m so glad to be home I’m already looking forward to my next extended trip in the next few months…

    Over the next few weeks I will be posting many more blog posts that I’ve already half-written and posting photos…

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    Written By: Gary on September 6, 2008 One Comment

    Made it! Way early and on time. It’s so hot here, I’m only paying for Internet since I want to hang out in this air conditioned room (I’m standing at a terminal in the gift shop).

    And they didn’t charge me a $150.00 change fee for my flight!!! I didn’t even get a chance to ask about it. The woman at the counter was the woman that I talked to on on Thursday and they had already decided it was an “Act of Nature” and they waived the fee for me…

    It’ll be a full flight since multiple people would have missed, one guy guessed half the flight was probably trapped on the other side of the bridge. He might be overestimating but even if half that missed the flight, that’s a lot of people considering there was no Friday flight.

    Written By: Gary on September 5, 2008 No Comment

    Biorhythm-Sept2008So you can see, I’m pretty much at my low peak for things under my control. The problem is most of the things that have gone wrong haven’t been much under my control. As long as things start to get better I don’t care how the chart looks, but I’m really looking forward to working my way up to the 20th!

    I used a desktop widget for my Mac to generate this, I like this one since it shows six cycles. If you’d like you can try an on-line Biorhythm generator but it’s only got 3 of the more traditional lines (I ran mine on-line for fun and the three do match up pretty good).

    Later: I just found this web site that calculates the primary and secondary biorhythms.

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    Written By: Gary on September 5, 2008 3 Comments

    So I’m at a pizza place and they don’t have bottled pop and I’m not drinking any fountain drinks if I don’t know where the water and ice is from. So I order a bottle of water and then I realize the place next door (a very nice restaurant that I ate at yesterday) has bottled pop so I went to get a Fresca.

    I didn’t realize I’d put the place into such a tizzy! I walk up to the area where the bartender (not a bar), the register and two waiters are standing and order a Fresca. They all appear to understand me, I know they all know the word Fresca, but they don’t know what to do (I guess since I’m not at a table?). I’m stunned, they must do take-out, the BK across the street has a drive-thru, but they’re stuck. It’s not like they’re busy, I olny make customer number five. They ask me two more times what I want and I clarify that I will bring the glass bottle back to them (and I know this waiter knows I’m the guy sitting outside next door). Then he mentions that it’ll around $2 and I’ve been holding a 2,000 Colones bill ($4) most of the time I’ve been there.

    Here’s how it ends: I hand him the bill and he has me go sit down outside and a few minutes later brings me the drink and my change. It’s just the little things like that which make life fun…

    In hindsight: I should have just walked over to the grocery store and got a Fresca or maybe since the pizza was pretty boring I probably should have just gone to the restaurant next door again tonight…

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    Written By: Gary on September 5, 2008 2 Comments

    So I left Tamarindo with more than enough time to spare to get to the airport. That’s it. The rest of the story pretty much writes itself doesn’t it? It’s clear I don’t make my plane but why? There’s the obvious like car problems and the not so obvious like I was abducted by aliens; I wasn’t abducted but it was certainly closer to that end of the continuum.

    When I left Tamarindo it was raining but everything was fine. About ten minutes into the ride I get a few cars flashing their lights at me, usually a sign of a speed trap so I slowed down. A few turns later I see there was some kind of avalanche but I’m not sure if it’s from the rain or the earthquake from last night. There are some huge items about a meter in diameter but I’m not sure if it’s rock or mud either way I drove around it. I did pass a few more mini-avalances but some I probably could have just driven through and been okay.

    But as I drive I notice the water is getting deeper on the sides of the road; I hadn’t noticed much at the start but I was much closer to the ocean so it has lots of options for drainage. Then I notice the fields are flooded on both sides of the road and while I’m not certain how tall the crops are I know the backs of those tires are under at least a dozen inches of water. Then it starts covering the road! What’s really nice is the few times that I can’t see what’s under the water (hopefully road) there are other cars so i just follow them along. The worst was probably about three-hundred feet(?) long. Many shorter ones but there were a few deep dips too; these weren’t wide but I didn’t know about flash flooding coming down these roads. The flooding is worse for the homes much of them are in water that is knee deep at parts but some are waist deep (some of these homes are on cement platforms but I don’t think many were more than 18 inches and most were less than a foot). No one seems panicky and some people were relaxing on a bench on a porch, it was really sad to see.

    Then I see a quantity of people walking towards me on both sides of the road and now I’m in a traffic jam and I can’t see the other end of it. What’s going on? I’m still thinking I might catch this flight so I’m trying to get around everyone and this bus seems to know what he’s doing so I’m following him; we’re in the wrong lane at this point but there is no oncoming traffic. There’s a lot more people on the road, Should I be heading into the “fire”? The a traffic cop stops us, lets the bus through but tries to explain in Spanis to me and then leaves me for some other problem; when I see he’s busy I leave and then I see the problem so merge back into stopped traffic.

    GuardiabridgeThe problem is there’s a bridge ahead so there has got of be some kind of a problem with it. But there are still refugees people coming off the bridge so it’s not collapsed. By very illegally parking and then walking to the bridge (it’s two bridges: an old one and a new one) and talking to a partially-English speaking officer and some others I determined I need to ditch my rental and cross the bridge. Oh, and at this point I’m pretty sure I’m not getting on that plane today.

    Because the bridge will not be open until tomorrow and maybe not until the afternoon! But I guess even though they are concerned about the lower supports it’s okay for people and not cars. Did I mention it’s only 7 kilometers (4-5 miles) to the airport at this point?

    Since then I’ve done some research, I believe this was the Guardia Bridge over the Tempisque River, ‘ve read on-line (nothing official or I’d quote that) that’s it’s 50 or 100 feet down. When I was on the bridge I’d say the water was 8-12 feet below but I’m not the best guesser at those kinds of guesstimates. Notice on the map (direct link) that this is the main road to get from the Nicoya Peninsula to the Liberia Airport. Zoom out and you’ll see it’s the only road to cross the river when it has any depth of water. That’s not really try if you zoom out farther you’ll see the huge Friendship Bridge (image) but since another trapped person told me she was going to San Jose (the long way) and she was avoiding that bridge for some reason that didn’t translate but I knew it was going to add hours (4-5?) to her trip it must be a good reason. And it turns out that this Tempisque River is the same river that forms the start of the Nicoya Bay (which, with the Pacific Ocean, makes the Nicoya peninsula).Back to getting off the peninsula: I think I can get a ride on the other side but I gotta get rid of the car. I can’t find a phone that takes change and I don’t know how to use these phones since I never make local calls and I normally use the computer. I try the hardware store but they’re closed, they have no power (I assume no power in this area). As I start to try to get a person to lend (or rent) me their cell phone an American woman (who just dropped her husband off at the bridge for the same flight) takes pity on me and lets me use her mobile to call the car rental place.

    The phone bounces between several people that that can’t help me and I hear them conversing between each other and I know they don’t fully understand the problem. Finally I stick to “This has had to have happened before. How can I leave this car here and have you retrieve it later?” and repeat that to someone else and I get an answer: “Leave it at the hardware store and give the keys to the shuttle driver at the airport” plus he tells me there is no charge for this retrieval! That was pretty simple! But since the hardware store is closed the gate is locked so we settle on the gas station two kilometers down the road.

    So I park there and the guy at the station speaks no english but somehow I’m truly confident he understands what I’m doing. Now I need a ride to the bridge, I can’t get a taxi or a phone to call one (or a bus) so I end up taking an illegal (which was parked near the bus stop but I didn’t know that’s what it was). The taxi driver is reading and has no idea where I’ve come from (this is important later) and knows he can’t cross the bridge so he doesn’t understand but I get him to do it for $2. So as were get to the traffic I bully him to drive around it and the traffic cop (I make it clear that he’s just “an hombre” not “a taxi”). The cop really yells at us and I can’t figure out why, but then I get realize why! I guess it’s tomorrow already because the bridge is open!!! I wasn’t going to argue about it!

    So here’s the new problem, the taxi driver wants to take me across the bridge, he has no idea I have a car back there. This did no communicate so well but I finally got him to make a u-turn and take me back, we almost made it to the bridge before I convinced him. I put my stuff in my 4×4 and got across the bridge ASAP!

    I’ve got six bridge photos posted (not the best I’ve ever taken) and I realized as I did it that it certainly looks significantly lower than an hour before. Wow! I’m definitely lacking in the earth sciences area so maybe that’s normal…

    Wrap up – Obviously it was too late for my flight. No other flights I could find until Saturday. Delta made me pay $150 to rebook. Why doesn’t act of God ever benefit me in these circumstances? It’s the only way there!!!

    I’ll tell you about Liberia and my way cute hotel later…

    Written By: Gary on September 4, 2008 One Comment

    I found the medicine that I purchased at the farmacia the other day in San Jose that I couldn’t find later. I really have no idea why I put them where I found them, it was definitely a stupid spot. The powder is similar but the pills are different (I guess they could be the same).

    Although, if I had remembered, I’m sure be have been thinking it was an excellent spot.

    This might not seem like a monumental post, but had I found it, that might have been enough to prevent me from my hospital visit a few days ago…

    LATER: Actually, I’ve taken another look at the powder I found and it’s not the same. The one is electrolytes and the other is an anti-diarrhrettic. I’m not saying it wouldn’t have helped, just that I now know it’s different…

    Written By: Gary on September 4, 2008 One Comment

    Severe flooding kept me from getting to my flight today. They closed the bridge heading towards the airport and said it was going to be closed overnight (maybe until manana afternoon); please note I did say “the” bridge and not “a” bridge; I think it’s the only way to get to the airport from the peninsula in the rain (if it’s not rainy season, you just drive across the river). Surprisingly, they opened it 90 seconds after I abandoned my car and was planning to walk over the bridge (pedestrians were allowed).

    Anyone have any contacts at Delta? They still want to charge me a $150 change fee (I’ve called two different numbers at this point US and CR). If this wasn’t an “act of God” that should cover my fee then I don’t know what is. Once they get my $150 here at the airport I’m sure I’ll never see it again…

    I’m booked in a hotel for the next two nights (no flights on Friday) and I want to be here (8 kilometers from airport).

    I’ll do a “flood blog post” later, it’s gonna be a long one (home come this never happens when it’s sunny?). Wish I had taken more pictures now…

    Written By: Gary on September 4, 2008 No Comment

    Picture 20Something just happened. I’d say a huge semi-truck or two just drove by too fast and went through the crazy potholes (or something) but that’s not really possible where I am let alone it would have had to had been a 180 wheeled truck since it lasted a bit. It really shook the place for at least 4-5 seconds (it seemed much longer but I’m guessing it wasn’t) with a short ones a few seconds later about 22 or 23 minutes after midnight. Afterwards, it sounded like a few doors opened up at the hotel but no chatter of what might have happened. I don’t know how common earthquakes are here. I know I’ve never felt anything like it!

    I’ve been looking on-line and finally found some data! It was a 4.3 Magnitude earthquake!!!! Not sure how big that is, but I’m from Michigan so…

    The event id for this is “us2008wnan” as it’s official designation (I guess). This is the closest seismogram I could find from a drum recorder (are they still actually drums?) which happens to be the Volcano at Rincon de la Vieja, you can clearly see in the second block of 15 minutes after midnight the needle went a little crazy. Here’s some info on reading the seismograms.

    275 10Looking at the attached right-hand image (the “A” is the estimated center), I’m guessing it centered about 25-30 miles from here (Tamarindo). The smaller left-hand image has some time/date info with location info (and no other earthquake boxes for the last week in Costa Rica).

    This was at 10.490°N, 85.851°W, a 4.3 magnitude and 39.7 miles (63.9 km) deep. Could this have been picked up as far os New Mexico or Oregon? Or were those coincidental marks on their graphs? Finding this I’m going to say “yes” (I found this in the morning).

    I’ll keep adding data as I find it! It’s been two hours I’ve been collecting info, I’m off to bed, gotta get up in the morning to catch a flight.

    Written By: Gary on September 4, 2008 No Comment

    The power has blinked off and on more than a few times today, but not during any of the storms so I don’t know what’s going on. I suppose there could be storms somewhere else (duh!). I did notice many more police out tonight than the last few days maybe they do that when there are power failures…

    But now it’s been off for a few minutes. So no fans, no A/C and I’m assuming no running water since I can’t hear the toilet running any more. At least it’s been cool this evening.

    It’s just surprising since there have been so many cRaZy storms this trip that I sensed no outage before today.

    FYI – It was only out about 5 minutes….

    Written By: Gary on September 3, 2008 No Comment

    Here’s a very short movie of the Waterfall in Montezuma! Click for the higher quality Montezuma Waterfall version. But people always have problems with the movie files from my Dimage XT camera for some reason so here’s an YouTube version too…

    I don’t have much more to say (other than it was awesome) since I talked about it last week when I was there…

    Is it “an YouTube”?

    Written By: Gary on September 3, 2008 2 Comments

    I was prepared to check in, looked at the time and tried it. But my laptop is still on Michigan time so it’s not 24 hours before the flight so I can’t check in. I guess that explains why they didn’t e-mail me about it yet. But I can change my seats so I did that while I was there.

    I did manage to plant myself in a big block of empty seats on the way up to Atlanta from Liberia. Not as empty as the way down but should be not to crowded (on the way down many of us had a whole row).

    Picture 18From Atlanta to Detroit I see they have this layout (see image) but right now I’m in the yellow seat. One of those double blue seats would have more room as long as no one else squeezes in. Otherwise my yellow seat seems better. Any thoughts?

    They’re pretty full so for now I think I’ll wait until closer to the flight to check again…

    Later: It’s time for check in, but they wouldn’t let me so I guess I’ll have to do it all at the airport.

    Written By: Gary on September 3, 2008 2 Comments

    It’s raining out today, pretty hard actually, but I’ve got my covered porch and my high-speed internet so I’m okay from an entertainment standpoint. I’d much rather it be sunny but it’s rainy season and I knew that before I came here. It’s nice and cool out so I don’t need to even have the A/C on. Also, knowing there are a few places to go around here that I can actually park at helps me mentally with the rain.

    Knowing how much better I actually feel mentally and physically makes me feel better:)

    But it doesn’t look like it’s going to clear up soon (see below image). Clicking the image shows you a live weather view of Costa Rica. I’m around the “155” highway marker on the most left part.

    tamarindo weather
    Maps courtesy of Google Maps and Weather Underground.

    Can you tell I’m feeling more “normal” today?

    Written By: Gary on September 3, 2008 2 Comments

    Last Friday, I went for a walk during lunch and made you a video. I’m right across the street from where my seminar was. You got the first take since I was on a short time frame :)

    I was standing at the East side of the pond about a quarter way up the pond from the road (see map below). I wish I’d had my sunglasses (squint!).

    If it won’t play above then you can go watch it at YouTube.

    This is a map of La Sabana Park in San Jose. You should be able to zoom in + out and move about like all Google maps. Zoom out a few clicks to see how large it is!

    View Larger Map

    I shot a video of the guys on the Zip Line too (sorry about the glare).

    Written By: Gary on September 2, 2008 6 Comments

    So except for the last trip I’ve never had any “stomach issues” and on that trip it was very minor and passed in few days (no pun intended). This trip the same thing happened for a few days and by Friday I was feeling fine. But then Saturday came…

    I think it was the water in something I ate or drank, I don’t drink the water or take ice, but there are vegetables and juices and all sorts of stuff with water. It could have been the bottle of water I purchased from a street vendor on Thursday, the cellophane on the bottle seemed a little loose but the cap seemed sealed but it had crossed my mind enough to check and it seemed fine (but it’s still in my head).

    Feel free to skip the rest of this blog post, I avoid getting graphic but it does have a bit on my experience with the health care here in Costa Rica.
    Let’s just say Saturday morning I made a few too many trips to the restroom that I went to the farmacia before I left San Jose. I purchased some pills and some electrolyte mixture to add to water. Then I headed out to Samara still feeling lousy. When I stopped for lunch I couldn’t find the medicine anywhere but then I got to my hotel I tore everything apart and still couldn’t find the medicine. And, of course, all the pharmacies were closed by then.

    My symptoms got worse as the day went on. That night I got up at least forty times during the night and it got worse as the night went on. The next day, Sunday, all the pharmacies and doctor’s offices were closed so I head on out to the hospital in Nicoya. If I was leaving town, then I was going to see a Doctor…

    The hospital in Nicoya was about what I expected not much of a building, no Air Conditioning (fortunately it had been raining and was slightly cool) and they said the Doctor’s did not speak English. I checked in and sat down in the crowd. I starting translating words to Spanish so it’d go faster when I saw the Doctor. I expected to be waiting for hours but I’d say it was only about twenty minutes. The Doctor said he didn’t know English but between what I wrote down and what he knew, we only had to look up a few words. He sent me for an IV and some tests; the IV was really a huge syringe and it as at least an inch-and-a-quarter around and five inches long. It wasn’t too bad but it made me a little dizzy, which they didn’t want to understand as they’re trying to move me to the next room (when I plopped on the a chair and stopped, I think they got the hint).

    All of these things had a very short wait except for waiting for the test results. The test results were at least two hours. Then waiting for the Doctor took a while which would have been fine if I could have sat down and not queued up where they had us. He prescribed what I assume to be a similar electrolyte mixture and some pills (more for the stomach pain I believe). Total time four maybe four-and-a-half hours.

    The room for the IV was the nicest and I didn’t even need to try and say “utilice por favor una aguja nueva”; it was a specific sentence in the Costa Rican Spanish book for the phrase “please use a new needle”, I assumed it was in there for a reason. Some of the rooms were more warehouse-ish than anything with roofed cubicles in and around the building. FYI – the office for the Doctor and the syringe room were both air conditioned but that was it. I’m sure the building would freak many of you out :)

    I got a receipt for the 40,000 colones (about $73) but it’s lacking info so we’ll see what Blue Cross does with it when I try to submit it…

    So, I left there and headed towards the main highway, I would have sworn there was an “American Hotel” that I was planning to splurge for but I couldn’t find it. So I drove all the way to Tamarindo (second largest city?) and grabbed the second hotel I tried (the first one was full). I was still sick for about a day and a half, but I was slowly getting better. Part of the problem was that I wasn’t eating either, I normally graze and eat 4-5 times a day but I was averaging less than I meal a day. Monday night, I forced myself out for a second meal hoping only for some soup and a sandwich, and while I’d normally avoid an American chain while I vacation, the Subway fit that requirement for me. I took it back to my room and the soup was so good and I nibbled on the sandwich over the next few hours. From then on I’ve only been feeling better.

    It’s Tuesday and I’m not perfect but I’m way better. I’m eating (most of three meals I’ve had) and I got more of a similar electrolyte solution from the farmacia today. I’ve felt well enough to wander around town and the beach a few times and I’m in a hotel I really like so that makes it even better…

    Written By: Gary on September 2, 2008 One Comment

    DomuskahunaI love the Domus Kahuna unfortunately they were full when I came to Tamarindo a few days ago. It’s this small cute place a block from the main strip (it’s behind the Voodoo Lounge?) and we only found it by accident last trip (we pulled into the “driveway” to turn around and thought we’d check). Last time we had this tiny two bedroom with living room/kitchenette, I’ve just got a plain room this time but it’s perfect and it’s more than 1/2 off what I’ve paid the last few days. No view of the ocean but it’s only 150 meters to town and the beach and that’s better. I think it comes with a minimal breakfast (at least it did last time) and the free WiFi leaks into the room.

    If you’ve been to / heading to Tamirindo, it’s the last turn before you get to the circle at the end of “the strip”; go up one block and hang a left and it’s shortly on your right (careful, the road is awful as soon as you turn off the strip).I couldn’t find this place in my GPS so here’s the info N 10°17.917 W 085°50.401. I would hope that would get you to a few meters of the spot.

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