Monday, March 1, 2010

Surf's Up!!

photo courtesy of

Hello from Costa Rica!

"Hoolia" and I are hitting the books, or shall I say the waves, at the School of the World where we will spend the next six days - "Hoolia" in yoga and photography and me in Spanish and surfing.

We arrived yesterday late in the day, after not sleeping the night before. "Hoolia" worked until 3am and I decided to stay awake in solidarity and meet her at work. We had a smooth trip from LaGuardia to Houston and then onto San Jose, Costa Rica. Once we arrived, we waited to see if we could meet up with my friend, Mark, who was departing Costa Rica for New York, but unfortunately, we missed him.

The school is located in Playa Jaco, to the south of San Jose, the capital of Costa Rica. Our taxi driver, Christian, was very nice and had great insights into the best places to visit during our stay. He explained that the city of San Jose has a much higher elevation compared to Jaco which explained why it felt like the string winding around a yo-yo as we drove down and away from San Jose.

We arrived at the school around 4pm, local time. At one point during the trip, I struggled to keep my eyes open as the lack of sleep began to catch up. As we approached Jaco, though, my curiosity took over and I was twisting and turning in my seat trying to take in everything I could about the area. There wasn't much to see and as we pulled up to the school, we had to ask through the gate if this was The School of the World. A fresh-faced, blonde confirmed that we were, indeed, in the right place. Finally! We were at our destination.

Hannah, the Director of the school, met us upon arrival. Just inside the gate, there's a small seating area, with a hammock and a few swing-chairs. (Some of you may remember "Joolia's" obsession with hammocks from Mexico - so....yeah, she was psyched!) There's also a small pool to the right of the entrance which resembles more of a large bathtub. The girl who greeted us was taking some sun, by the pool.

We followed Hannah on a quick tour. The grounds are compact with large walls and locked gates all around, so I immediately felt safe. As we walked past the main area and through a large door, we passed two classrooms with glass-paned sliding doors on each side. A communal kitchen sits just past the classrooms with a several seating areas and high-counter where you can sit and check email while your fellow students prepare their meals. A large winding, stone staircase leads up to the office with a long walkway overlooking the garden area. The vibe seemed simple and airy in spite of the fact that it was really hot!

After the tour, she showed us to our room which, putting it mildly, was rustic. A couple of beds, one single and one queen, a few shelves, and a small, lone refrigerator next to the kitchen sink. The bathroom was clean, but not very interesting. I spotted a dead cockroach, feet up, on the floor near the window. The princess in me was less than thrilled with the accommodations, but I'd already prepared myself for this in advance. I was just happy there was A/C and it was clean.

Hannah gave us the schedule for the week and "Hoolia" read it aloud as I unpacked. "Girl, you're lucky you're in Spanish 2, because Spanish 1 starts at 8am," she said, keeping her eyes on the schedule as she read. "I don't have yoga until 7pm!" "Oh, that's good," I said, thinking that, as bartenders, we're not really the early-morning kind. "NO! That sucks," she practically whined. "I've got to wait the whole day for it."

I sensed that "Hoolia" shared my trepidation about being on a schedule, though I didn't express it as I was trying to remain open-minded. The truth was that all I could think about was surfing - and how nervous I was about trying it. And after hearing the schedule, I began to have that sneaking feeling of regret and worry. What if I hate it here and "Joolia" loves it? What if there's so much activity that I need a vacation from my vacation? What if hurt myself really badly while surfing? What the hell was I thinking? Damn, I miss Tulum. Sharing my thoughts seemed like a bad choice, so I suggested we head into town to see what Jaco had to offer.

We took the short walk from the school to the main road where the town sits. It had a nice, easy vibe at first glance and we decided to have some food at Taco Bar, a spot that Christian recommended. The menu sounded great, but unfortunately, the food failed to deliver. I'm no spice whore, but frankly, my food was really bland. "Hoolia", who loves her hot sauce, was equally disappointed and even more dissatisfied than me. We finished up, joking about finding more food somewhere else and began exploring the main road and all of its shops.

The first shop we ran into, Guacamole was fitting because I was bummed that Taco Bar didn't even serve guacamole! The clothes were really cool and I felt compelled to buy many things, however, I chose to control myself until I got a better sense of the exchange rate.

We continued on, milling in and out of shops filled with beautiful woodwork, footwear and cute little trinkets. Anywhere I travel, it's always those first few shops I like the most when I'm seeing things for the first time and I'm inspired by all of the handiwork. By the time we reached the end of the main road and made our way back on the other side, I was beginning to lose interest. It's a shame that after seeing the same stuff in all the shops that they lost some of their appeal, or maybe it was the fact that the shops didn't have A/C and my lack of sleep was slowing me down.

I suggested we take a detour to the beach which runs parallel to the main road. We're on the Pacific side, so the sand is black, which gives the water the same dark hue and a bit of an ominous feeling. The thing I liked about this beach at first glance was its vastness. It was high tide, so the walk from the shore to the water was quite long. The landscape of mountains and low clouds surrounding the beach only added to the expanse, and although, I prefer blue water and white sand, this beach was quite beautiful.

After the beach, we finished exploring the main road and made our way over to the supermarket to get some things for the next day. I suggested eggs and remembered from Mexico, that they are not refrigerated; however, I still couldn't find them. I dreaded asking for them because, apparently, when you ask if someone has eggs in Spanish - "tienes huevos?" - you're asking them if they have balls! I, of course, learned this after my last trip to Mexico, which explained the strange looks I got each time I asked. I couldn't remember the proper way to ask, so I just walked up to a man in the Supermarket and said, "Huevos? Dondes es?" He answered in Spanish of course, and I didn't understand, but eventually, we found the eggs.

After food shopping, we headed back to the school and decided we'd boil our eggs in the evening to save time. There were a few other students in the kitchen when we arrived and as tired as we both were, we engaged in the usual, "where are you from? How long are you staying?" formalities. One girl, Kim from Australia was in her second week at the school and she mentioned that the Spanish teacher gave her a really hard time about her limited knowledge of Spanish, eventually relegating her to the Level 1 class. This information didn't sit well with me because I was pretty surprised to have been placed in Spanish 2 in the first place. Great. More things to worry about - tomorrow, I'll be sent packing to the 8am class. Damn schoool.

By the time the eggs were cooked, we were too. So, we crawled into bed at 8pm and called it a night. After all, we had a big day ahead of us.

1 comment:

Chris said...

LIZ!! you aren't going to believe this! I was just in Costa Rica 2 weeks ago!! I did not get to see much because I was there mainly for dental work, but I did stay in Manuel Antonio. Which is close to Jaco! Isn't that crazy!!! We barely missed each other! This is Stacie from Tulum/Denver BTW..I am signed on as Chris apparently!! Have fun!! Let me know how you like the spanish course please!!