Sunday, September 4, 2011

Belize & Costa Rica 2005 - (Part 2: Costa Rica)

August 9, 2005

Arrived at night from Belize.  San Jose seems to be a big, modern city.  We're staying in a nice hotel (Hotel Grano de Oro) that apparently used to be a mansion for one family.  Walking through the hallways is like wandering in a maze.

El Teatro Nacional de Costa Rica
August 10, 2005

Today, we toured the city of San Jose and saw El Teatro Nacional, the national theatre.  Costa Rica is apparently known for wood work and leather.  So, when we went shopping at the market, I bought a wooden bunny and a wooden Makaw.  The vendors in the market all spoke Spanish.  They say, "pura vida," when the weather is good or the day is going well.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Today we left the hotel to go to Tortuguero, a turtle research station.  We've been on a bus since 6:15 am, and it's around 11 am now.  I hope we see lots of green sea turtles.  I've heard their shells can grow to around 3 ft in diameter.  Grandma Jean, Zayde, and I are the only people in the tour group who speak English.

Me with a Banana Plant
Chiquita Banana Factory
We just saw the official Chiquita Banana plant!  They have tons of banana trees.  The factory where the bananas are cut from the plant, classified, bathed, packaged, and stickered is across the street. We're at the banana plant because the bridge we have to cross is being repaired, so we're waiting in traffic.  In the banana factory, there were four tiny rats, and they were eating the discarded bananas.

Zayde asked for a cooked vegetarian meal at Tortuguero, but our guide doesn't seem to understand.  She keeps telling us that the salad is safe to eat, but what she doesn't understand is that we can't eat non-cooked food there, or we'll get sick.  She has refused to accommodate us.  Joy, oh joy.

Friday, August 12, 2005

We just got off a boat tour of the rain forest.  Saw tons of birds, King Fishers, and Spider Monkeys.  We also saw a "Jesus Christ Iguana." Not kidding.  It can walk on water because of the shape of its feet, hence the name.  There were also lots of plants, trees, and vines, that had huge leaves.  I forgot my camera.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

This morning, we went white water rafting!  I started out by jumping off a cliff into the river to get to the raft.  A little insane, and a lot fun.  We shared the raft with three people from Italy, and one person from Miami.  The rapids were levels 2 and 3, so not too intense, but definitely not boring.  We had a great time!
We're the back three people in the raft.
After going through one of the rapids, they took a break and let us swim through the rapid through which we'd just taken the raft.  The rocks were really slippery, but you don't slip, because the river's current just sort of takes you away.  It was strange swimming and having my strokes do nothing because the current was stronger.  I was almost tossed against the rocks because I was going through the waves, but it turned out okay.  Safe, I know...  I tried it again a second time and almost lost my contacts, so I decided to stop.  I was wearing colored contacts, so when they moved, the whole world turned light brown.  Really interesting to swim as hard as you can and have it do absolutely nothing.
Swimming in the River / Fighting the Current.
The hotel where staying - La Quinta at Sarapiqui - grows pineapples.  They grow from the ground from a plant that looks like a Yucca.  When we got back to the hotel, I realized my ear hurt because there was water in my ear from jumping off the cliff with my head tilted to get to the raft...oops.

We took a walk, and our Costa Rica guide, Harry, showed us a frog called a Blue Jeans Frog.  The frog is red with navy blue legs, and it looks like it's wearing blue jeans.  They look like a mini, frog version of Spider Man.

The next page is a diagram of two physics problems I made up, formulas and all.  The first is about the maximum safe velocity around a turn for Grandma Jean when she bike rides.  The second is about the index of refraction of a green laser beam through air, then steam coming out of my tea cup, then air.  Not kidding.  There's a geometry lesson on the next page about a cone-shaped water cup.    I even left a note to make sure I'd remember to include units.  I think I'm more fun now than I used to be.  

Lucky for my family, I've been away for the past eight weeks, so they haven't had to listen to my physics problems.  I was training in the pre-professional division of the Houston Ballet's Ben Stevenson Academy for six weeks, and I've been on this vacation for two weeks.

Tomorrow is Monday - Malaria pill day!!  Our guide, Harry, says the mosquito bites are like free souvenirs, which would be cool if we weren't worried about getting malaria.

Monday, el 15 de agosto de 2005
Volcán Poás
Right now, we're eating lunch in a cloud.  We just saw the Volcán Poás (Poás Volcano).  It has the second largest crater of all volcanoes, and is part of the Ring of Fire.  It smelled like sulfur.  You could see greenish buildups of sulfur in the middle of the crater, and around the rim.  Steam rose from the crater. We were lucky to see the crater during a break in the cloud covering, because they completely obscure the view sometimes.  The most recent eruption of Volcán Poás was in the 1700s, and lots of volcanic ash still remained.  Harry said the mountain wasn't covered in hardened lava because of the acid rain.  The "pond" part of the crater is so acidic that nothing lives in or around it.

Later, we went to the Britt Coffee Plantation.  We saw how coffee is grown, and when the beans should be picked.  Coffee grows best at high altitudes in the mountains because of the weather.  It's also better with the angle on a mountain side, not growing on flat land.  For two days per year, the coffee plants get a white flower that smells like Jasmine.  When the beans turn from green to red, they are ready to be picked.  They they go through a process to remove the outer layers of the beans.  The more time the beans spend in the oven, the darker the roast is, thus giving a stronger flavor.  The flavor of the coffee also changes depending on where the plant is grown.  The soil in Costa Rica is good for a good flavor because of all the minerals in the soil which are there because of all the volcanoes. The coffee plants grown in the valleys between the volcanoes. When we went to the gift shop, I tried a sample of the light roast.  It was bad.  Well, I'm sure it was great, but I don't like coffee.  I added sugar, and it got a little better.
Our first day in Belize
The last page of the journal is about the night before we took a 3:15 am cab to the airport to return home.  On that page, I was apparently thinking about the geometry of triangles.  It was a great trip, and I'm very grateful to Grandma Jean and Zayde for bringing me along!!  

Note: I did not take all the pictures in this post.  I think some are Zayde's, and others might be scanned postcards.  I can't remember, and I don't want to take credit for photos that aren't mine.

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