Costa Rica…it was a loooong ride here

So Thurday the 18th was our departure from the island back to Managua the capital, because Chanelle was leaving. During the night I started a fever, I was cold, hot but still managed to get some sleep. However, the day was a long one and included alot of ibuprofene. When we got to the airport Cass and I wanted to buy our flight to Corn Island, but it turned out to be more than what we were told by other travelers. We were disappointed, but it would have been very expensive to go just for 3 days, so we decided to leave for Costa Rica instead. We arrived at the airport and waited there about 5hs until Chan got her boarding pass. When Cass and I arrived at the hotel, we took my temperature and I was at 103.8F/40C. We slept a bit and took a 10 hours bus to San Jose (we arrived yesterday, the 19th). I went to bed very early and got some good sleep. But this morning, still not feeling well I went to the doctor. The clinic’s building was amazing: the inside had trees, plants, fountains. Turns out I have a bug/bacteria in my body. So I am now on antibiotics. The doctor said I would be better by Monday with what he gave me. So we took it easy in San Jose, napped, watched a movie and now we are cooking our supper and leaving tomorrow for the Caribbean Coast so we can relax on the beach. Once I am better we will go snorkeling and biking and stuff but for the next few days its relaxing relaxing and more relaxing. I need a book. And headphones because mine broke.

First week in Nica!

August 17th 2011

 

It has already been 6 days inNicaragua! When we arrived, we spent the afternoon inManagua(the capital). The city itself is not very appealing, for a tourist anyway; there is no city center per se, and you have to take taxis everywhere because it is really big, ok so actually, its kinda really crappy. So we went by the lake during the afternoon and ate and had beer. (oh by the way, beer is one dollar YAY! Ahahaha) then we took a boat ride after our late lunch and were highly entertained with the drunk Nicaraguan family that was there. We chatted with them, they danced and drank (before the boat, on the boat and probably after the boat, ahahaha). It was a nice ride.

The next day we went toLeon, which is an old colonial city and visited the streets and the largest cathedral inCentral America. The streets were colourful and it was much, much nicer. We had a good hostel as well, and it had a pool! Which was nice because it was hot and humid! We then left for the beach at Las Penitas, some 18km away on the Pacific coast. We left pretty early and were able to get some sun, had some lunch, read and watched the surfers catch some big waves. We had lots of fun swimming and it was Chan’s first time at the beach!

Our next destination wasGranada. This is another colonial city and there are more tourists. We arrived on a holiday called Asunción de Maria, and everyone was partying in the main plaza: street food, beer, cowboy hats and boots, people with horses etc etc! Apparently the partying continued in another part of the city but we did not go. The next day we went to Las Isletas, which are 375 islands on the lake aroundGranada. We only took a one hour boat to visit some of them. Many people have big and nice houses on some of them, or restaurants. One of them is calledMonkeyIslandwhere 5 monkeys live. They came to see us while we were on the boat and we fed them candy. They actually took the paper off of the starburst before eating the candy! Ahahaha. It was really fun! Then we had lunch at a friend of mine’s restaurant called Tequila Vallarta. We were very well welcomed by his mother and the staff and had amazing food!

Our next destination was the Isla de Ometepe, an island with two volcanoes called Maderas (1300m approx) and Concesión (1600m approx). Getting to the island was quite something: we left in the morning, being told buses fromGranadato our destination were every 30-45mins. We finally arrived at the bus terminal, after walking through a local market, and we were told that there was one at 9h30am, which left early because it was full and the next one was only at 11h30am. Obviously it was 9h30am when we got there. So we ordered the typical Nica breakfast called Gallo Pinto. It is rice and pinto beans and you can eat it with eggs, tortillas or chicken. Then a little kid named Julio came and wanted some so we gave him what we had left. He sat with us and ate and we talked with him for a bit. The bus ride was not quite a chicken bus but close to it. It was an old yellow school bus which could not have been any fuller. There were 3 people per seat or almost and others were standing; it was cramped. It took us almost two hours before arriving to a city, from which we had to take a taxi to another village to take the ferry to the island. We arrived and there was a ferry only at4pm, but a lancha (smaller boat) was about to leave. For half the price and right away, we took it. Chanelle did not quite like the ride, the waves at first were quite big and a few people did not feel too good. On this boat there was a box with little chicks, just by the way ahahhaha. Well, Cass and I ended up falling asleep once the waves calmed down a bit. That lasted an hour. The next transit was another school bus, this time not so full, and ended up being nearly 3hs because of the muddy roads. We finally arrived at our hostel, right by the lake, and absolutely beautiful. We were starved. With all the traveling and almost missing buses and boats we had only had that breakfast. So we enjoyed the sunset, had a beer, and some garlic bread.

 

Today, the 17th, was our Maderas volcano trek. There were many beautiful flowers and colourful butterflies. We saw a crazy crab in the middle of the path and it would jump and snap its claws at us, so we had to go around because we were scared. It was funny tho. There were a lot of monkeys too and we would hear them almost all the way, maybe fighting, maybe making love, who knows! We left at 7h30am and made it halfway due to weather and timing. But it was a good hike, I was able to break into my trekking boots, and we did some exercise, we were really tired afterwards. Tomorrow is already Thursday and time for Chanelle to leave! So all of us are going back toManagua.

FINALLYYYYY in Nicaragua!

And so the next chapter of my life, of the next few and last months of 2011, and of my next big adventure started on Monday August 7th 2011 with the drive to New Jersey with Chanelle and Sarah. It was a nice sunny day, the drive was smooth, we arrived, had dinner, hung out and called it a day. Our flight was on Tuesday the 8th at 7h50pm and so by the time we woke up, ate and took it easy it was already time to go to the airport. We arrived at about 4h15 because we wanted to avoidNew York City traffic. So we wait in line at Spirit airlines to check in and next thing we know our flight is delayed because of the rain, which is making us miss out connecting flight toManagua,Nicaragua. Great. The family in front of us, who also had to change their flight had about 10 suitcases and took maybe an hour and a half with the agent and so it took forever to actually know what we were doing. To make a long story short, we decided to go toFort Lauderdale and take a connecting flight toSan Jose,Costa Rica which was only on the Wednesday night. We stayed at the Hilton by the airport. We arrived there at4am and only checked in at6am because that way we could have the room all day on Wednesday, which made more sense than to check out at11am or pay for two days. We spent the day sleeping, at the pool and then we were back to the airport. Because Chanelle had a return ticket New York-Managua, we were only able to get her to leave 2 days later, (to make up for lost time) but fromNicaragua, as they could not change her return destination. So we planned to take the 9hs bus ride fromSan Jose toManagua directly in order to save time.

We arrived to the Costa Rican capital at1amlocal time and knew there was a bus toNicaraguaat3amwith a company called King Quality. However, this bus could not be reserved online or by phone in advance and so we were really nervous that there would not be enough room for all 3 of us, in which case, would have been a real drag and we would have all been pretty upset. But……..we made it. I am on it as I write and there is a lot of vegetation, the scenery is beautiful lots of trees, mountains, and now I even see wind mills for energy! Did not knowNicaraguaused it!

The bus ride is really nice. It’s not a chicken bus that’s for sure! Actually it is similar to the ones I was taking inArgentina: reclinable seats, tv, air conditioning, food, pillow, blanket! It took a while at migration, but we are finally back on the road.

We all can’t wait to officially be started with the trip, as we have been transiting these past few days. Although we all couldn’t complain about the beds at the Hilton that’s for sure (ahahha), now the real fun begins!

July, you have flown by and landed in Montreal

So, as promised, the monthly update. July actually flew by, maybe even faster than the other months. On the first, which was also Canada day, I moved into my friend Mila’s apartment in the city center. We were four girls living in a two bedroom place. My other friend Anne only had a week left. We spent a lot of time together, making fajitas, going to a jazz bar, studying…well a bit ahahaha. And on the last weekend before her departure we headed off to Santa Rosa de la Calamuchita, where Mila is from. There, we hung out, took a walk up the mountain, drank a lot of mate and ate lots of sweets ahaha. I cooked a lebanese meal and Anne made hot wine. It was a little cold but we slept great with all the covers. On our last day we had mate by the river which was really nice.

We had many get togethers in July: going aways, birthdays etc.. On July 20th they celebrate friends day during which friends get together to eat and exchange presents or cards. It is more popular than Valentine’s day. I cooked a full lebanese meal for Mila and Carla and received a book and a hat from them.

July was also the end of the semester for me. I had to hand in papers, write an exam and go for “coloquios”. When you have more than a certain grade in the class, you do not have to write the final exam or paper. Instead, you meet with the professor and have a presentation, discussion about something they previously assign. For literature, I had to read two books and discuss them, for another class I had to defend or explain the professors comments on my paper. But in most of these cases the professors were seemed more interested in asking me about my experience, where I come from, how the weather is back at home, what exactly I study etc etc. I had trouble with one class; the professor was not satisfied with my paper and so I had to re write and re organize it. Then when I met her, she complained about my bibliography and my sources, on how they were not scholarly enough and I should have gone to the library. I thought this was ironic considering my friends usually laugh at me for always taking books out at the library when at Concordia. But anyways, I took her comments and advice. It was a little stressful anyways having to do the work again and I was really annoyed and just wanted it to end already! ahaha. Once that was done, I had to get the professors to go to the office and sign in order for me to get my certifications. I ran around a bit getting everything done but it all worked out.

In July, it is winter. And so, I decided to go diving with this guy I met on a diving site. We called up the agency and went! It was in a lake and we were ready for the water to be cold….but really…not THATTTT cold! I was getting my gear ready and was almost ready to go when I decide to switch around the wet suit I had on and put TWO WET SUITS! and seriously…it was soooo cold. We were only in the water for 24 minutes, but at 11 degrees!

My goodbye party was also really fun. Lucas cooked thai food, and we hung out until 4am! Rosario made an amaziiiiinnnnnggggg chocolate and dulce de leche cake! It was a great way to end the month in Argentina. Saying goodbye was difficult, but not so much knowing that I will be going back in December, as I have a flight on the 15th to head back home; it was more of a see ya later aligator! Although it was difficult to leave that special connection…

So, the big event of the month of July I guess you could say was me coming back to Montreal for 2 weeks, as a complete surprise to everyone! Wow. The reaction on my parents face was PRICELESS! They came back from Las Vegas on July 25th around 8pm. I had arrived that morning at 7h30am. My brother had picked me up and told the parents to meet for sushi in Vaudreuil on their way back from the airport. Dad called when they landed to confirm. So we went. We sat at a table and waited. When we saw the parents arrive, I went to hide in the bathroom. For a while I waited there, SOOOO excited, I had so many butterflies in my stomach ahahaha. I took a peek and dad was not sitting at the table. So I waited longer. Finally I see both of them sitting with my brother and I walk up to the table and say: “Mind if I join you?”. They both look at me, completely surprised, jaw-dropped and staring for about 5-7 seconds. No reaction. Then dad gets up, hugs me and mom starts crying. They really had noooooooo idea. It was our first meal all together since December.

The next day, I had a dinner with all the girls. Turns out Julia knew, but Karine, Reb and Marieve were all shocked as well to see me there, as they all thought that the surprise was going to be Emily (who now lives in New Brunswick). And so, I made some surprise calls here and there and popped up at Eriks as well. It was fun and still is to see everyone before heading back out into the adventure. July is going to end in Mont Tremblant with all my long time high school friends and it is going to be so much fun!

 

A Calm June

July 1rst 2011

And another month flies by me. Another month of fun really, but also a busy month with everything I have had to hand in and do for school. It’s funny because although my grades do not even count in my GPA, and all I need really is a pass, they are still important and I do want more than just a passing grade. I guess at first I thought I was just grade-driven, competitive with myself and wanted to do good, but now I realize that it’s more than that. If I am going to do something, I don’t just want to do it well, but I want to give it the best I can. I think that this whole semester abroad, along with the travels, meeting new people and integrating myself into another culture has been an amazing experience. I really do encourage any of you that have a little bit of a taste for the experience to fulfill it because really, now is the time to do it and it really is great.

We had an asado last night for to say“Goodbye house” with some friends, a complete success it was great! Today I am moving out of my house and into my friend Mila’s apartment until I finish school. I have one paper and two orals left this week, and absolutely no will to do anything today. One of the orals requires me reading two novels so its going to be me+book/laptop+coffee/mate/hot chocolate. I also have to figure out what my plans are for the month of July and until I meet Cass in Nicaragua in August. So the plan is to meet her in central America and then come back to Cordoba by December to fly back home. Wow. December.

Travel wise this month was a little quieter than May, not hard to beat there because I was barely around in May. I took a weekend and went to Santa Fe to visit my friend Laurianne. We had a great time chatting, walking around the city, going to bars and hanging out. Everyone says that Santa Fe is not nice and boring but I kind of liked it. It’s quiet it’s not ugly at all, you can go hang out by the water.. Then another weekend I went to the hills with Facu. Places like Mina Clavero, San Javier and Merlo are really nice and are really different from the summer. It is much quieter and that, I really like. But it’s colder. Okay so not Canada cold, but still, it’s cold. I know its weird the Canadian complaining about -4 degrees…but I think that the main difference here is that the isolation in houses is so bad, and glass windows or doors are so thin that the hot air just goes out and the cold air comes in. So its not like aw I want to stay in my house and not go out because of the cold because really the difference is not that great. Ahahaha.

So anyways, this is definitely my shortest post yet, but really nothing much to add about June, busy with school and just hanging out really.

I hope summer in Montreal, or wherever you are has been treating you nicely,

Also, Happy Canada Day!!

O May, O May!

May 28th 2011

O May, O May! Where have you gone thou May? I don’ know! It has been so busy with crazy stories, either good or bad that I do not even know where to start this month’s update! So asides from the normal monthly fun times which include food and drinking, or the more serious lets go to class stuff, I also had friends visiting and crashing at my place which was nice. However, that eventually led to the fabulous events of me fighting with my landlord for a week right before my brother arrived. I basically left home to have a landlord worst than my own parents (actually my parents rock so I can’t even say that). He is a control freak. He does not live with me and I have to let him know if I want to cook with friends, I cannot have people over (to sleep) and if I do they have to pay (the same price as a hostel? Wtf? I had to fight for my brother to stay and not pay!) and ya no sleepovers even if its in my room. He even said that applied to boyfriends. OH BOY. Ahahaha. I just laughed and told him that whatever happened in my room was none of his business…but he tells me a bunch of bullshit because I am foreign and he tells me I don’t understand etc etc. But I informed myself and he does A LOT of illegal stuff….INCLUDING having a key to my room and he used it to go in while I wasn’t there which just did it. He says I provoked him to do it…then I wanted to leave but he wouldn’t let me, and he manipulated the situation with money by not giving back my half of the month. So I gave him my one month’s notice I also knew I would not be around much so it was easier to give us both time.

It is now the 28th and I am in a bus back to Cordoba. I have been gone for over a week and probably have to move out the day my brother leaves, oh and go to school that day too ahahaha…move out where? Not too sure yet! I am pretty sure he will reduce my rent and ask me to stay because he won’t have anyone else to rent the room to. As I gave my month’s notice, his only employee (real estate business) quit and his wife gave him divorce papers. Hmmmm…wonder who the problem is here? So that was that. My brother finallyyyyy arrived to Argentina on May 18th. It was SOOOOOO awesome and great to see him again. I think that for the next few days I repeated at least 10 times that I couldn’t believe he was here, that it was so crazy he was in Argentina with me etc etc.

So he got here the Wednesday, we had a great time and dinner and the next day, Thursday, I skipped part of my last class and we hoped onto a bus to Puerto Madryn. Wonderful 22h bus to Patagonia. But soooooooooo worth it. We were staying at a friend’s friend’s house and they were so nice and welcoming. We cooked them dinner on the first night. They did not speak English, one of them a little, and so there was a mixture of Spanish, English and sign language happening as well as a lot of translating on my part. I was impressed on how my brother was able to communicate with people fairly quickly. He took a Spanish class so that for sure was a lot of help.

We chose Puerto Madryn for the diving. On the Saturday we did three dives, one being with sealions. I do not even know how to describe the experience…we were 45 minutes under water, we were in a natural reserve and no one else was there so there were about 40 sealions, mainly younger ones, all around us. At first they would come and go, but then after a while they would stay with us and swim around, play with us and even bite our fists when we would put them out. (bite like little puppies, it doesn’t hurt!). Mich even hugged one! Time under water flew by! It was definitely an amazing experience! The rest of the weekend was an Argentinean introduction for the little brother: folklore music, mate, asado and fernet were all in the program. We had mate and breakfast on the port on the Sunday and soon enough we had to sadly head back to Cordoba. Upon return, I had a three day unlucky strike. We got back the Tuesday morning, and a few hours later I completely burn my hand wrist and part of my arm with boiling water. Second degree burn which is still not completely healed, I think its going to scar pretty bad too. Then at night I ate bad seafood and all day Wednesday I had an indigestion. No details needed here I felt like crap and didn’t go to class. Then on the Thursday, the day before we left for Chile, I forget my leather jacket in drawing class and then realize that my house keys are in it. Still have not found it but I think I know who has it, although I do not know her name (great).

So we leave for Chile. Our first destination was to be Valparaiso on the coast. Upon arrival to Santiago, all over the news is the horror of the manifestations and people recommended we do not go. So we head to a place about 20 minutes away called Vina del Mar. It was also on the coast and we walked around that night. The next day we took a bus to Valparaiso and explored the city all day long. It is amazing, we both loved it. The streets of the city are a museum, the walls are filled with beautiful graffitis and street art. We also visited one of Pablo Neruda’s houses which is on one of the main hills. That night we wanted to take an overnight bus to La Serena, but when we got to the station, the buses were full. It was Sunday and because of the protests, everyone from other cities were going back home…soo we had to leave the next day. Our next destination was our next diving destination called: Punta de Choros. From la Serena, it was a little hard to get there. We were able to get a ride in a van with locals and the landscape was just breath taking. We drove along the Pacific coast and saw the sunset through the mountains. Finally I think about 3hs later we get to our little apartment on the beach. It was night time so it was only the next morning we saw where we were. WOW. WOW. WOW. We did 3 dives there. The water was pretty cold but soooo clear and we saw some nice underwater wonders. The third dive on the second day wasn’t as pleasant for Mich because he had eaten empanadas the night before and now it was his turn to get an indigestion! After the dive, we went back to la Serena and had to decide where to go. He was feeling like crap, there were no buses to San Juan in Argentina and we needed to decide. Finally we took a bus to Santiago and then another to Mendoza and another to San Juan. Very long but we paid a little more for the overnight bus to be able to sleep. We got to the hostel in San Juan and met 3 frenchies who had rented a car to go to the Valle de la Luna and Talampaya parks. They had 2 seats left in the car and invited us to join, so we did. We had a blast in the car, we could stop whenever we wanted to take pictures, we had a picnic, and headed to Talampaya, which is a canyon. We got there and there were only 4 places left on the bus and they wouldn’t let us go 5 people so we were only able to do half of the circuit. However the guide was really nice and the place was still really impressive. The canyon is 4km long and 150m high. The earth is red and sometimes you see shades of green or yellow depending on the minerals. We watched the sun go down in the canyon as well and headed to a hostel for the night. We got up pretty early this morning to go see the other side of the park called Valle de la Luna. It was a little rainy but we decided to go check it out anyways. However, the road got worst on our way there and there was so much fog that we decided not to pay to go in and see nothing. We were all disappointed to not be able to see, especially that the previous day was so nice and the sky was clear at night, we could see soooo many stars. So we headed back to San Juan. We still had a great time, roadtrip, with great funny people and saw some beautiful landscapes.

So today, a few hours ago, my little bro left for Canada. I am sad but enjoyed every single moment with him during the last 3 weeks. I still have to decide if I am moving out or not (I was able to negotiate with the landlord and since I only have a month and a bit left I might stay..) and I am completely swamped with school work. It seems like I always try to keep my posts short, but this month so much was happening that it’s the longest so far. I really appreciate anyone who takes the time to read it all.

I hope the summer back home is nicer than it was a few weeks ago (I heard there was lots of rain)

A Month in a Life

May 2nd 2011

Well well well, it seems like its already time for another monthly update! HOLY CRAP ITS MAY! So I am actually procrastinating on a paper I started yesterday…so instead of writing that I am writing this. I am still writing though right? And I mean, this couuuuld be considered literature….but I do not think the professor is expecting this, in English, and absolutely not relevant to the Argentinean Literature. So the book he made us read is 600 pages. Yes 600 pages of Argentinean literature with a national Spanish which includes expressions that don’t even appear in the dictionary. Great. I read half…well almost half..which is okkk…considering I linked it with Plato’s Symposium somehow and it made sense to the professor…sooo…3 pages on that, one page left. But this first.

Otherwise classes are going fine, I am really into my drawing class and absolutely love it. My other seminars are going well also, so far. The only problem with the seminars is that I do not really get an evaluation until I write a final paper which is no pressure at all. Ah. The professors are all really nice to me and also helpful so it’s okay. (yay! Gotta love the accent! It does come in handy once in a while actually :p)

Speaking of my accent, apparently it has gotten better and my Rs do not sound tooooo French, well, in certain words. Anyways we were going out to the club the other night, and we were on the list but the guy would not let us in and we had to cue. So Mila tells me to just go and talk to him. So I go up to this huge Argentinean guy and I’m like: Hi! I was just wondering if my friend and I have to do the lineup because we are on the list. Ahahaha. Then he asks me on who’s list, I tell him. He looks at me, looks at my friend and he let us in. Bam. First success.

The month of April has actually flown by pretty fast, I am sure back at home as well, finals are always busy times! Mid April I took the train to Buenos Aires to visit my friends Olle and Vera. The train here is not used very frequently, it only leaves on certain days and times and you have to book it at least two weeks in advance because it is so cheap. Normally buses are the best way to get around in Argentina: the seats almost fully recline, they have tvs and hot meals..I have even gotten my own little bottle of wine on some rides! The return ticket for the capital is about 400 pesos. My train cost me 48 pesos (for my return ticket). That is about 12$CAD. It was really cheap, but damn it was a shit ride! Ahaha. The train stalled a few times, it was pretty shacky and well…really uncomfortable. What was awesome about that ride was the elderly folks I met on it. Ahahaha yes that is right. An elderly couple shared their mate and homemade cake and stories with me. The man, who is 71 years young, runs and wins marathons in Argentina! He was on national television and everything! They were really cute.

So I finally arrive to Buenos Aires and I go to Olle’s apartment. After catching up a bit and drinking mate, he went to school and I went downtown to walk around and shop. That day, a Monday, the 18th of April, was quite a day. With only two hours of sleep and one day of walking around, I finally try and buy converse and my card is declined in 4 different banks as well as the store`s paying system. I end up spending the next 2hours angry and crying (yes I wouldn`t usually but the tiredness at this point had reached its limits ahaha) on the phone with Mastercard, who’s employee misunderstood me during my last call and blocked my card (for no reason!). But they couldn’t unblock it (for some other reason!). I ended up getting a cash advance through western union the next day (because I had no debit card with me, nice one Dania.). The next few days were grey and rainy and also Easter holidays. There was literally no one downtown. To the point that we took the bikes out and were riding in the middle of the streets ahaha. I went to a few museums, met up with Vera, we had lasagna night with Olle`s Chilean housemates and all hung out until early in the morning just talking, listen to music and painting. The Saturday I was heading off to Rosario for a couchsurfing party I had seen on the site. It was a feijoada (Brazilian girl making typical YUMMMYYY food!) Many people came, it was a great success! I did meet a guy there who happened to be from Cordoba and offered me a ride back (yay no train!). And for those who are probably thinking or wondering, yes I have seen him again since.

So it is fall now, and well being Canadian, I should not be worried about the winter here because it does not go down to -30. However, it is DAMN COLD ANYWAY! It was I think 2 degrees when I left for errands this morning. 2 degrees…is this not SOUTH America?!? Ahaha. Wow. Probably should not be complaining at all to you guys considering I pretty much missed winter back at home…but still. Just letting you all know. Ahaha.

So to end the month in the best way EVER, I got the wonderful news a few days ago that my little brother has booked a plane and is coming to Argentina on May 10th and staying for THREE WEEKS!! I am soooo happy that I get to see him pretty much half way through my time away from home. Plus, we have a week break in May which will allow us to hit the road together on a nice adventure!

So definitely will be updating again! It seems as though the month of May will be filled with stories, adventures and maybe not so much school? Ahaha funny how I always try and keep these notes short…anyway

I hope all is well with you all back at home, that your semesters went well and that your summers will start off even better!

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