Friday, November 28, 2008

Goodbyes are never fun.

Today was a bit of a sad day, I said goodbye to Tamarah as she flew back to Costa Rica to finish out the last few days of her trip and then head home to Canada. She is going to visit some faily friends and then take off. It is never easy to say goodbye to someone you have grown close to, but that is the nature of traveling and knowing that coming into anything makes the seperation easier. She is a fantastic person and I feel lucky to have gotten to know her and spend the time with her that I did. I hope our pathes cross again some day.

I learned another thing too, and that is that traveling with a girl can be a lot of fun. Now, I know to a lot of people that sounds a bit rediculous and that what makes someone a good traveling companion depends far more on their personality than their sex, but here is my reasoning. I have only ever lived or traveled with guys as an adult. With guys, I know what to expect for the most part. I assume they wont mind getting dirty, traveling in places that may be a bit intimidating, occasionaly sleeping in places that may be a bit dirty, and dealing with stressful situations that invariably arrise while traveling in a way that I am used to dealing with.
With a girl, I had a bit of a fear that there would be too many feelings involved with everything, and that there would be a need on my part to have to always look for ¨cute¨ places to stay as opposed to practical places. I was afraid that I would have to skip out on stuff that I wanted to do as most girls would probably not be interested in the same types of activities. I was afraid that during a stressful situation I would have trouble communicating and dealing with it in a way that I was used to and that would not cause friction. And, mostly, I was afraid that I would always be on high alert and stressed out a bit trying to look out for the girl with me as a lot of the places I have been are a bit on the scary side around here.

Now obviously those thoughts are stereotyping quite a bit, and that in reality there are a lot of women that would love to do out doors types of activities, explore chaotic central american cities and be fine in stressful situations but in truth, the types of girls that I am normally around, would not. So, to meet a girl that I was attracted to, that was fun, self reliant, easy going and helpful in any situation, no matter how stressful really was great for me. I was happy to have my fears disproved, and now with experience, they seem silly to me. There were still times where I was a little on edge going though rough areas with Tamarah, but that is an unavoidable part of traveling and an acceptable risk.

So now I look forward to traveling with anyone so long as they have the right charactersitics. It also makes me think that one day down the road I can live with a girl, as that was something that I have always worried about! I have only ever lived with guys as an adult and it was tough for me to imagine it otherwise, although it would be a pretty lonely life for me if I didn´t try it! These past two months have really been a great learning experience for me and have made me reevaluate how I look at a lot of things.

As for now, I am in Managua, which is a pretty rough city. I have never seen a city so impoversihed as this, not even Tijauana. People live in dirt floored houses if they are lucky, and cardboard lean-toos covered in plastic tarp if they are not so lucky. The roads are as often dirt as paved and covered with mountains of litter and the people drive like maniacs, especially the cabbies. Speaking of which, the cabbies here are absolute sharks. They try and screw every gringo out of their money. I dont mind paying a bit more than the locals, but here it is obscene. They try to charge you 20 bucks for a ride that should cost 4. They lie, beg, renig on deals agreed upon, all to try and squeeze you for ever last penny. I hate it and seriously lose my temper at times and start yelling at them. When you agree on a price, get in, and then the cabbie tries to up the fare mid trip, I just cant handle that. I dont like most cabbies much, to be honest.

We got stuck here because our luggage didnt come with us from the Corn Islands on the morning flight we took back to the mainland. So, we had to wait for the second flight over of the day, which arrived at night. That ruined our plans as we were going to go to Leon and hang out there for our last few days, but obviously we couldnt go anywhere without our stuff. So, we had to get a room in a hotel in a really bad part of town, go back to the airport and find our bags which luckily did make it over. Then to get our bags, we had to ¨tip¨ the guys who helped us. Tip here meaning bribe. Finally, we got our stuff, and then decided it wasnt worth it to go to Leon for only a day and come right back. The Corn Island trip turned out to be a really bad move as the weather was terrible and it is very expensive there. It was really dissapointing as we had been looking forward to it, but oh well. Lesson learned, always check the weather before going somewhere! We managed to warn a group of Canadian travellers staying at our Hotel about the Corn Islands and saved them from a similar experience.

The people here are very poor, too. You see kids everywhere working their butt´s off. They stand in traffic carrying all manner of food and drinks to sell for a few cordobas (one cordoba is 5 cents). Sometimes you see little kids swinging hammers or diggin ditches alongside their parents, its crazy. I am gong to bring my kids to the third world when they are young and show them how other people in the world live. Hopefully they will see how incredibly lucky they are to live in the States.

However, despite the poverty, Nicaragua is still, along with Costa Rica, the safest place in Central America. The people are really nice so long as they aren´t sitting behind the wheel of a cab and I still love this place, despite some of the downsides.

So that is all for now, all my love to everyone back home and I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Quick Update: The Corn Islands

Well, I am questioning the intelligence of our decision to come out here. First of all, getting here was a big pain in the rear, invlovling a million different forms of trasportation, including a little puddle jumper airplane that felt like it would fall right out of the sky if one of the passengers broke wind with a little too much gusto. The thing bounced and bumped its way to the tiny Big Corn Island and we arrived to pouring rain and howling winds, which have not ceased since we have been here.

Thankfully, the room we got is very nice with a pool that sits right on the water. Unfortunately, the weather has been so foul that we have had no chance to enjoy it. We were meant to meet up with friends that we have travelled with that got here a few days before us, but the ocean was so rough that they were stuck on Little Corn Island and could not get back over to the big island. They finally made the voyage back yesterday but said the boat ride over was a harrowing experience, and that it felt like it would capsize at any moment in the huge swells.

Tamarah and I are going a bit stir crazy as all we have to do is eat, watch DVD´s and look out the window at the near hurricane like weather. Well, it is not that bad, but it feels like it. I may not stay here for long as I am considering fairly strongly to return to the mainland where it is nice and sunny and cheaper. Everything out here is the same price as back home so my wallet has definitely been taking a beating.

The connection here is very slow and due to the weather, not always working, so no pictures for now.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Heading back to the Caribbean!

Day: 257

The last few days have been a series of big build ups to rather unexciting climaxes, rather like a lot of people´s Prom night.

When we arrived in Leon, we knew coming in that there had been a lot of political tension, warnings by the state department for Americans to stay out, and political protests, some of which had turned violent. We decided to come anyway and on our way in saw bus after bus of protestors making there way into Managua, the capitol, waving Black and Red flags. Apparently in the recent elections there was such a high level of fraud that the government decided to veto the results and hold a new election.

So, in light of this decision locals expected huge protests with rallies clogging the streets, cops with tear gas, rubber bullets, fire hoses, the works. The night we arrived we heard constant firecrackers, what sounded like gunshots and sirens going off. People were walking the streets banging on drums and dancing around in bizarre costumes, which looked to be culturally significant, but as for the political meaning, if any, I never found out. It razzled us a bit and the owner of the hostel here told us to expect a crazy day of political activism and that there was a good chance we wouldn´t be able to go outside. So, Tamarah and I called it a night wondering if we had made a bad choice in coming, but also a bit excited by the electricity in the air and for a chance to see firsthand people exercising their rights to protest a corrupt government (or in some cases, their support for said government).

The next morning was beautiful, sunny and hot, with people peacefully going about their day. We hung around for a few hours to make sure nothing would erupt suddenly, but in the end nothing happened. We were both relieved and a little disappointed to be honest.

So, we made our way out to a little village called San Jacinto, which was home to what we thought were hot springs and warm mud baths. We were picturing warm, bubbling mineral pools we could relax and soak in, and exotic mud pools possessed of some cleansing powers that cured the locals of all manner of illness. Well, this turned out to be another overly hyped tale, and in reality consisted of a few bubbling pools of sulfurous mud so hot that the local kids could cook corn in them. It was more like a vision of one of the middle levels of hell than the relaxing paradise we imagined.

But, it was still a fun excursion as the local kids that showed us around were very funny and energetic and made the day enjoyable. The village itself was really interesting, being built along a dusty, rocky road. It is crazy to go from Leon, a beautiful if somewhat run down colonial city some 500 years old to a tiny village just down the road and probably just as old that looks like it is just a few steps from the stone age. Every hut was dirt floored, with no electricity or running water. The kids had to run down to the river with large buckets to get water for the household. People got around on horseback and there were all kinds of livestock milling about.

The people were however, universally friendly and nice. A characteristic that seems pretty common in this country. The kids were just kids too, the boys running around kicking each other and laughing, shooting things with sling shots. The girls smiling and picking flowers. Its funny, no matter where you go, kids are all the same. Its only the culture they live in that shapes them into adults different from those of any other place.

We gave the little munchkins a few bucks for showing us around and came back to Leon. Tomorrow we head off for the Corn Islands, which we are both really looking forward to, but it will be a bit bittersweet too as it will also mean the end of our time together. That is the thing with traveling, you meet great people, bond, only to go separate ways with the chance of seeing one another again not so good. But, you never know. I have two friend coming in to travel with me in the near future too, so that will be nice.

Until next time!

The oh so luxurious mud baths...

Looks inviting, doesnt it?

It smelled like rotten eggs.

We saw a lot of people walking the streets in this strange costumes playing music.

The kids that helped us out, weird, none of them are smiling in the pic, but the entire time we were with them they were running around laughing and singing and what not.

San Jacinto in all its glory.

One of the little boys made this for Tamarah, he even put her name on it, although he speeled it wrong, but that makes it even cooler!

Rush hour!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Leon, Nicaragua.

Day: 255

The amazing man powered Ferris Wheel!

The fair with the Rodeo in the background.

Some of our new friends.

More of our new friends after the moonshine incident. Just for the rcord, I almost never smoke, that was a rare, rare occurance.

New buddy.

The city of Granada, Nicaragua.

A very happy cat.

One of the many abandoned houses near the lake, this one providing a home for a family of goats.

The beautiful lagoon.

Sunset over the crate of the volcano.

The festival in Altagracia was a fantastic time, Tamarah and I definitely blew off some steam. The day began with a parade in which the locals were wearing costumes and carrying palm fronds. I do not know why they did this, as I never remembered to ask any of the locals.

After the parade, we made our way to the fair, which was a load of fun. I really enjoy fairs back home and this one reminded me of a fair that we would have seen in a small country town in the states if we stepped back in time about 60 years.

There was a rodeo with bull riding, roping, horse showmanship, etc. A wide selection of tasty and cheap food, beer, the local liqour of choice, Flor D´Caña, potent stuff, a dance hall and some rides. The rides were the coolest part of the fair as they were all hand made out of spare bits of metal and plastic from all kinds of sources like car parts, scrap metal, and kids toys that were somehow melded together and covered with a coat of paint. The craziest part about it though was the fact that they were all man powered! There was a merry go round that used the transmission of an old truck and children's toy carts and bicycles and was powered by the owner of the ride who manually spun the thing. The kids didn't mind though and enjoyed the experience as much as kids back home enjoy our fancier merry go rounds. The ride that really blew me away though was a Ferris wheel that was made of scrap metal and was spun by two burly guys. They literally flung each carriage into the air, spinning the entire massive contraption! I was thoroughly impressed.

We met a ton of people to hang out with, including some expates from Colorado that moved to Ometepe island to farm and open a small hotel, a lone traveler from Kentucky and a boat load of very friendly, and very inebriated locals. I, being the dummy that I am, decided to take them up on a drinking challenge they issued to me. Thinking that it would be beer, I was sorely mistaken when one of my new buddies pulled a clear, unmarked bottle of moonshine out of his jacket and encouraged me to share it with them. Well, being the hyper masculine guy that I am, I couldn't let a challenge go unanswered, so I took a big chug of the stuff and it felt like someone shot a flame thrower straight down my throat! That stuff was potent! So, after going rounds with these guys, we all hit the dance floor and made quite a ridiculous site. First of all, Tamarah and I are much taller than the locals, plus we were the only two gringo's dancing, and lastly, we were both feeling pretty loose at this point and so ended up dancing like total idiots with a bunch of Nicas. Despite that and all the attention we were getting from the locals, we had a great time. We were out most of the night before we bid farewell to our new buddies and made our way home.

The next day we both strongly considered drowning ourselves in the lake to make our hangovers go away. Whatever they distill that rotgut with must be pretty crude stuff. We stumbled our way to the city of Granada, which is a great place to hang out. Its a lovely city and easy to get around.

We went on a day trip to a lagoon outside of town that sits on an active volcano and so has nice warm water. We spent the day there with a big group of travelers and floated around the water on inner tubes, played some basketball, and passed the time with fun people and good conversation.

We came back to Granada that night, had another excellent and incredibly cheap meal and got ready to head to Leon. We arrived today and are getting set up to go on a day trip to a hot spring that also has hot mud bathes. It sounds like a really fun day of relaxing and soaking up some natural beauty.

I sincerely love Nicaragua. It is a great country with friendly people and it is so cheap that you can really have a great time without breaking the bank, unlike Costa Rica which is fairly pricey. It reminds me of the stories I hear of the way America was during the great depression. I don't know if that is an accurate comparison obviously, as I never lived in that time, but from books and movies it seems like a good fit for the most part. People don't have much but they are still proud of who they are and their culture. They work hard, share what they have with each other and make up for any deficit in financial assets with a good attitude. People seem happy despite not having a whole lot. There are down sides though, things go a lot slower and there is a ton of corruption in the government, but hopefully that gets worked out in the next few generations.

Speaking of which, the state department issued a warning about traveling in Nicaragua as the recent elections here have caused a lot of protests, some of which have turned violent. We have experienced none of this and feel perfectly fine, but we have seen a lot of the protestors on their way to rally's. Things like that really make me thankful to live in a country where a pretty dramatic change in leadership can occur peacefully.

Well, I am enjoying my last week with Tamarah before we go our separate ways. Until the next update!

Monday, November 17, 2008

Goin to a watch some bull runnin!

A picture of our hotel in Merida, wonderful place.

The waterfall that I never got to see!

The new gang in front of the chicken bus that took us to Altagracia, this thing was so full you cuold barely move.

Walking from the bus to our hotel.

A shot of the lake from the beach.
The path to the beach from our hotel.

Me in the lake, busting the pose as usual.

My foot after my not so smart Ninja jump into the water.

The view from out place in Chaco Verde.

Another shot of the lake.

Our hotel in Chaco Verde

Our ride to the other side of the island.

Altagracis gearing up for the festival.

I cook a mean omlete!

Volcan Concepcion, the one I climbed last time I was here.

Making our way to our hotel in Chaco Verde.

I forgot how great of a place Nicaragua is. The people are just so nice here, for my money the friendliest people I have met so far on this trip (even the guy who tried to rob us on the bus pointed us in the direction we needed to go when we got off). It is very cheap here for traveling and the countryside is gorgeous.

After staying at Chaco Verde, Tamarah and I made our way to the other side of the island that is formed by the smaller volcano, Maderas. We intended to climb it as there is a waterfall on the way up and a lake sitting in the now dormant volcano´s crater.

Ometepe is a wonderful island full of friendly people and amazing scenery, but the infrastructure leaves a lot to be desired. Getting from Chaco Verde to Merida, which is maybe a 20km journey, was like trying to perform brain surgery. There is no bus stop there, you just have to flag down a bus, but most of them do not go to the Maderas side of the island because the roads are not paved there, but instead are horribly potholed, bumpy and muddy trails. We would have had to take about two or three forms of transportation to go the short distance. Fortunately for us, a tour was leaving from out hotel to go to the waterfall on the other side of the island. We asked the driver if we could get a lift to Merida and he said sure. Then, an Italian tourist tried to tell me that we had to pay him so that he could get his tour cheaper.

Now, I don´t know how things work in Italy, but where I am from, you pay the person performing a service for you, not some other yahoo that happens to be there as well. I told him I was paying the guy who owned the truck, and he threw a hissy fit like a true baby. After wasting everyone´s time, the owner finally relented and said I could pitch in on his fair. That isn´t right in my opinion, as if you agree to pay a certain price to go on a tour, then some other people join in, your price doesn't get divided by the number of new people, they pay their own fair. But, this guy was being a cry baby and had to save himself 3 bucks or else he was going to make every body´s day miserable. That three bucks would mean a lot to the guy operating the tour, as most of the people on the island are very poor, but this jerk had to save himself that money so he could feel like he got a good deal. As soon as we get going, the guy pulls out a camera that looked like it most have cost a good 3 grand complete with a lens that would make a National Geographic photographer turn green with envy. What an ass!

Then he and every other stupid tourist on the truck made the driver stop every time we passed some locals that were going about there business, washing clothes in the river, cooking over a wood stove, etc. to jump out, take their picture without asking permission, then jump back in the truck and drive off.

That sort of things just pisses me off so much and is what makes locals hate gringo tourists.You do not just run up to someone and take their picture without asking first, these people are not animals in a zoo, they are human beings just going about their day. How would you like it if a tour bus full of foreigners came through your neighborhood and then took a bunch of pictures of you taking out the garbage and then drove off, and then the next day a new bus full of idiots came and did the same thing? I was about to tell them all they were a bunch of morons but Tamarah asked me not to make a scene so I swallowed my protests. For the record though, she hates that too, she just doesn´t like confrontation whereas I almost enjoy it when I feel I am in the right about something.

At any rate, we got to where we were jumping off and the idiot Italian guy (henceforth referred to as the IIG) then tells me to give him double what the truck driver asked me to pay for our fare. So then I really gave it to the IIG and told him what I thought about him. It was petty but it felt good anyway.

Once in Merida, Tamarah and I hiked up to our Hotel, which was a great place overlooking the water. It was $10 a night and the restaurant had amazing food for about $3 a plate. We met some great people and had an absolutely wonderful time. It is the kind of place that you could spend a few weeks in, just hanging out, taking life nice and easy, enjoying a beautiful lake, mountain scenery and hikes, and great food served by the friendliest family you have ever met. I loved it there.

The gang went on a hike to go and see the waterfall but I had to skip it as when we were swimming the day before I managed to injure myself.

The water in the lake is very high right now as it has been raining a lot. So, there are quite a few rocks and such that are now underwater which you would normally be able to see. So I in my infinite wisdom, climbed onto a tree and swung off of it into the water right onto a rock.
Now the part that shows how dumb I was is that I knew the rock was there, but I thought that with my Ninja like agility, I would be able to land on it and balance without falling.

Well, apparently I need to brush up on my Ninja skills because I didn´t balance on it at all but slipped and my foot went down the rough side of the rock like a piece of cheese on a cheese grater, taking all the skin off the inside of my foot near the toes. Needless to say, I had to skip the hike. I should be fine though, I cleaned it up and have been taking good care of it.

Today we are in the little town of Altagracia, the place I stayed last time, as there is a big festival today and night, with bull running, food, drinking, dancing, etc. We are in a group of 8 and just got settled in and are looking forward to a fun night.

Until next time!

Friday, November 14, 2008

Back in Nicaragua

Day: 249

Well, good news and bad news, although the bad news is fairly minor. I lost the USB cable for my camera while walking down a country road here in Nicaragua, and despite going back over the route we took twice combing it with two sets of eyes, we were unable to find it. So, for the time being, the pictures I took will be safely stored on my camera, with no way of getting them on the computer. Until I work out a way to get a new cable, I will be using Tamarah´s but for now, no pics which is a shame because I got some really good shots.

The good news being that we are now in Nicaragua. I was Puerto Viejo´d out and am very excited to be moving again. We are going to be going at a pretty fast pace for the next week and a half, only spending a few days in various spots, then we will be flying out to the Corn Islands where Tamarah has a family friend that owns a resort and is being gracious enough to let us have a $100 dollar a night room for $25 a night. And just for comparisons sake, a $100 dollar a night room in Nicaragua is like staying at the Ritz back home, so I am pretty excited for that after months of either my tent or a bed in a communal sleeping space.

Getting here was a pain though, we left Puerto Viejo at 7 in the morning on 12th, and after 10 hours of traveling got to Liberia, which I would guess as a total distance of maybe 300 miles. It just takes ages to go anywhere in Central America. We spent the night there in a terrible hostel (Hotel Liberia) which was beat up even for a Central American hostel and run by the most obnoxious slob of a man. He really managed to kill what little charm the place had.

The next morning we got up early hoped a bus to the border, struggled through the interminable red tape, hustlers, touts and slow moving bureaucracy of the border crossings here, to get on another bus, to a cab to a boat. That took us another 5 hours to only go about 100 miles! To make the trip even more exciting, I caught a guy trying to steal stuff out of Tamarah´s back pack on the chicken bus we were taking (and true to form, there was a chicken under my seat pecking at my shoes). He had his hand in one of the pouches of her bag and was trying to take stuff out and put it in his own backpack but I had been watching him as he looked really suspicious and when he put his hand in her bag I gave him a whack and yelled at him. He tried to play it off like nothing was happening like a true scum bag, and I had to stop myself from pumeling the guy and let it go as he looked about as poor as they come.

After that, when we were on the boat coming to Ometepe Island (where I climbed the volcano las time I was in Nicaragua) the sea was pretty rough and a kid in front of us, about 3 years old, didn´t take it so well and got sick. The poor little guy tried to make it to the window to throw up but didn´t quite make it and ended up throwing up on Tamarah´s leg. I tried not to laugh because it was gross, but it was petty funny. Mostly I just felt bad for the kid as he looked pretty green under the gills.

We got to the island, which was as beautiful and full of nice people as I remembered it to be, got on another bus that was packed to clown car in a circus limits with people sitting and standing in every available space inside, and with about a dozen guys sitting on the roof, and finally got to Charco Verde, which is a beautiful little beach and lagoon with a hotel on the water. We are staying here for a few days relaxing at the really great and characterful hotel (and only $15 a night!) and after this we plan on exploring some more of the island. I am really enjoying myself here as it is such a great place and last time I was here I was only in one town and didn´t see any other parts of the island.

After this we are going to head up the coast and check out some more spots we both want to see.

I will get pictures up as soon as I can, so until next time, all my love!

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Getting ready to head into Nicaragua

Day: 244

I have come to my last few days here in Puerto Viejo, and while it has been a great experience, I am definitely ready to move on. I have one last project to finish up at the volunteer center and then we are heading out. We anticipate leaving on Wednesday.

I am leaving the volunteer project with mixed feelings. I came into it not knowing how I would react and now after having done it for over a month, I have mixed feelings about it. I believe that it takes a certain type of person to be able to stick to a volunteer project long term. I see myself as more of a sprinter when it comes to this type of work. I am great for short projects, but I think I would be pretty lousy in the long run. I just can't get used to busting my butt doing manual labor and not making any money! I guess its just the capitalist background in me, I can't really say, but in the back of my mind despite the fact that I like feeling good about myself for helping others which is absolutely true, its tough for me to justify the expenditure of my time doing work that is not that enjoyable for free. Add to that the fact that you have people who may not know too much about what you are doing trying to tell you how to do the job that you have been given (micro management is a BAD thing!) and I find myself getting annoyed on top of not getting paid. I am the kind of person that takes pride in what I do, and work hard to do a good job. I have confidence in my ability to perform a task well, and if I do need help, I ask for it with no ego getting in the way. I am not the kind of guy who will not ask for directions if I get lost while driving.

So, when someone is trying to tell me how to do something that I know I can do very well on my own, or gives me a job that they expect to be done in an unrealistic time frame I get annoyed. I like to do things efficiently and on my terms, especially when I am not being compensated.

At any rate, I do not intend for this to turn into a negative post, only that it takes a particularly good leader to make a non profit organization run and to keep the members of the team feeling positive about it and working well. The way I see it, if someone is willing to come out and work for free, they are highly motivated anyway and should be left to their own devices, but that is just my opinion.

So, I will leave this feeling that it was a great experience, I am thankful for the opportunity to have helped people who needed a hand and for having had a chance to get to know a very foreign culture on a fairly intimate basis. I have a friend I made, Jeanie, while traveling through this area that will be doing peace corp. work in Morocco, and I plan on visiting her when I pass through that part of the world. I am very curious to see what that entails and I will help out there for a while if I can. Also, one of my best friends back home is going to go to work in the non profit field and I would love to join up with him and do some work if it is feasible and we are close to one another at any point. Plus, it would be great to just spend some time with friends.

Tamarah and I are going to head out and meet up with some friends to explore Nicaragua for a week or two. I am really glad that I have had the chance to meet such a great person. She is a giving, intelligent, fun and a friend for life, without question. Traveling brings you into contact with so many wonderful, adventurous people. It is the best and worst thing about it, as most travelers will tell you, because these fantastic people come into your life but inevitably will leave it again in a short time frame, often to never be seen again. But, the brevity of these relationships also makes them so much more special. When you have a time limit on a friendship of any kind, it forces you to cut through the baloney and just see the other person for who he or she is and accept or reject them based solely on those characteristics.

Lastly, I just wanted to say a few thing about the elections that just took place. I will keep my personal political views to myself as that is not what this blog is for, but suffice it so say that the world is ecstatic about the result. No one here thought Obama had a chance, most of the people I talked to from other countries figured that after what happened with Bush back in 2000, that the conservatives would just take the election through underhanded means. Now, I know most Americans do not believe that will ever happen again, but that is what a lot of the world thinks looking at us form the outside. I have been traveling on my own around various parts of the world off and on since 2002, and the opinion of the world that I have had immediate contact with concerning the USA has been overwhelmingly negative ever since the Bush administration took control. It is perfectly acceptable and commonplace for people from other countries to talk trash about the states. I have seen graffiti in multiple countries with hate messages about our country and especially about President Bush. It drives me insane as I love my country and am proud of who I am and where I come from and what my country was built on and stands for, even when we stumble and make mistakes as we have seen in the past 8 years.

I had gotten so sick of defending my country from people who make constant negative remarks about it offhandedly as if it were OK to slander an entire nation of people. Most of them do not even know what they are talking about, they just have a deep seated animosity towards America. The thing that always drives me nuts, is that people say things in public that if you were to substitute American for any other group of people they would be considered to be a complete jerk and possibly a bigot. But it has been OK to say these types of things about Americans for the past 8 years. So, I feel that my crusade to defend my homeland will be that much easier in the least.

Now, from the point of view of foreign relations with the average Joe from another country, America has gained mountains of respect. I see that as a positive, and it is my greatest hope that now that we have a new President he will live up to the expectations we have for him and help to bring the United States to where I believe it is capable of going. For every citizen back home, if you wanted Obama to win or not, he is our new leader and deserves our support. I am very excited for the possibilities of what this history making event can mean for the country that I love.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Day: 237

Location: Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica

First of all, Happy Halloween to everyone! I hope that the holliday was a lot of fun, we had a blast here even though pretty much no one had a costume. We all got pretty creative and made costumes out of what ever we could find. There were some pretty ingenious get ups, I must say. One of my friends made a Tu Tu out of plastic bags and wore her bkini top and said she was a balarina and it came out looking awesome. Two guys we went out with made some fantastic tribal warrior costumes out of palm fronds, and that is just naming a few. We went out dancing all night and had a great time. We have been here so long now that we know a ton of the locals and the semi permenant travelers that have stayed here like me.

Work at the volunteer center has been enjoyable, well, not the day after Halloween though, that one was a bit rough, but on the whole it has been a great experience. I missed a few days last week as I got sick again with more stomach troubles. There are a lot of parasites around here and I am starting to think I may have some unwanted visitors living in my belly having a good old time at my expense. I have met a man named Gregroy whom the locals call the bush doctor that makes remedies for all kinds of ailments out of locally grown plants. He is a trained pharmacist form the United States who got fed up with life back home and gave everything up to come and live in the jungle with his wife. He is a really interesting guy and has been out here living in basically a hut out in the sticks for the past 17 years, studying the local plants and wildlife and trying to get by living on his wits. There are lots of people like that out here, that had ¨respectable¨ jobs back home making good money that gave it all up to come to the Carribbean and open a salon, or a little restaurant or a surf shop. It makes for a really cool mix of people as the expats come from all around the world.

On the same note, another cool effect of having so many different kinds of people living in the same spot is that the kids here grow up about as multi cultural as can be. You see a little blonde kid running around with a local kid that has dread locks and then they will hang out with a Bri Bri kid and all go to the beach together. It is very positive thing in my opinion.

I have switched hostels and I am so glad that I did. We are now in a hostel called Pagalu, owned by some German brothers. This is honestly the nicest hostel I have ever stayed in. It is very clean and sturdy looking. You can tell that these guys put there heart and soul into building the place and the end result is brilliant. I really like it and it is well worth the few extra bucks.

My time here is drawing to a close. Tamrah and I are thinking about heading up to Nicaragua for a week or two with some friends we have made here. There should be about four or five of us heading up to our northern neighbor to go and have a few adventures. We have all grown a little stir crazy hanging out here for so long plus Nicaragua is a lot less crowded and a lot cheaper. I keep joking that at the rate I am going I will end up back in the USA! Next month I will resume forward progress, but to be honest, it does not matter much to me. I am really enjoying myself and learning new things every day. This trip has changed substantially and that is fine by me. I am taking things as they come and seeking to enjoy this time and to grow as a person, and where ever that path takes me is where I will go.

In Nicaragua we want to go do some hiking in the interior, and to go volcano boarding, a sport in which you strap a board onto your feet like a snowboard, but you ride it down the slope of a volcano. Now, that sounds like something I could get into! Also, we want to hit the Carribbean coast and maybe head out to some of the islands there. Time will Tell.

This is Renualdo, my buddy at the center. This kid is going to take over the world, wait and see! Plus, the girl who´s name I forgot was Carmalita.

This is the finished Chicken coop, not bad for an amatuer!

Me in action, trying to look like I have a clue as to what I am doing!

The new hostel, and SO much nicer. This sure beats my tent!

The very nice kitchen, and as you can see, there are no windows in the place, it is all open to the outside, which is really cool.

The common area for hanging out and meeting new people.

One half of th eplace, it is sperated into two nearly identical buildings.

Halloween night, Tamarah is an island girl, and I was trying to look like a cast away, but I ended up looking like a pirate with a sexual identity crisis.