Friday, October 30, 2015

Costa Rican Craziness

We have arrived in Costa Rica!  Our arrival was preceded by your typical early morning less than fun airport experience.  The 5 1/2 hour flight was nice but by the time we arrived in Costa Rica everyone was tired and hungry.  We flooded down the hallway with many travelers passing our short legged companions in a race to get to the head of the immigration line.  In what to me was a sweet tender mercy an immigration officer noticed our family, (we kind of stand out) and expedited us right to the front of the line.  
   Exiting the airport was pandemonium.  I think it is a fairly common practice for the exit of an international airport in a poorer country to be filled with people wanting to make some money off of incoming tourists.  In order to get out and on to wherever you are going next you have to traverse through a tunnel of people all trying to get your attention, shouting, calling out, asking questions.  Uncomfortable!  I was grateful to have had our onward travel prearranged.  Our research prior to getting to Costa Rica had led us to discover that renting a car in Costa Rica would be extremely expensive so we had made plans to buy a car for the time that we are here.  Consequently our plans at the airport involved Aaron meeting up with a guy named Russ to go buy a car and the kids and I renting a van and finding the hotel.  We gathered all our bags, (8 checked bags plus backpacks as carryon) and then the gentlemen behind the car rental counter personally escorted us out of the airport through the throng of taxi drivers to a rental van shuttle.  Aaron helped put the kids and I and all our luggage in the van and then left to find Russ, hoping that we would meet up later that day.  We hadn't yet really figured out if our cell phones would be reliable, we didn't know where Russ was in the pandemonium, we don't speak the native language, and we also didn't know exactly where we were going.  The rental shuttle driver looked at us like we were insane, and at this point I wondered a little bit of the same thing.  But what do you do except move forward?  
     The kids were so tired that by the end of our 7 minute shuttle ride Jonah was asleep.  We got our car squared away, carried Jonah back to the parking lot and then one of the rental men proceeded to give me directions to the hotel.  It's a funny thing in Costa Rica, the country functions without the use of addresses.  Everything is based off of landmarks.  Aaron did find Russ and asked him about this during their afternoon together.  He confirmed that Costa Ricans function entirely off landmarks of varying permanancy.  For example the instructions I was given included turning right when I saw 6 giant oil barrels on the left, but sometimes it's a mango tree, or a place where a big tree used to be, or even where the the spotted dog used to lay.  Crazy!  I looked up how to get to the temple in Costa Rica and the address is:  Del Hotel Marriott, 600 metres Oeste.  So you can find the temple 600 meters west of the Marriott.  Wild!
    With a hand written map and Maggie as my copilot, the kids and I drove onto the highway, for what was supposed to be about a 20 minute journey to the hotel.  It wasn't long before traffic slowed and we saw people walking in between the lanes of traffic on the highway trying to sell what looked like bags of home packaged tortilla chips and melted otter pops.  Maggie recorded in her journal, "When we saw people walking in-between the cars selling stuff Mom said, 'Welcome to Costa Rica kids.  Lock your doors!'"  That is exactly how I felt.  Not only were there people in-between the lanes of traffic on the highway coming towards us, but there were motorcyclists driving in-between headed in the same direction as traffic.  I've come to understand that these deranged cyclist feel like that is there personal lane of traffic, (more on this later.)  Suffice to say when we finally made it safely to the hotel I was elated.  
     Hotel la Rosa de America fit the bill perfectly!  Small, gated, full of really nice people, beautiful tropical grounds, and most importantly with a pool we were set, except for food.  Unlike America, with all our travels in CR thus far we had yet to see a fast food place, so I inquired with the front desk.  They told me of a couple little restaurants close by none of which had people that spoke english.  Luckily Mike, who works at the hotel, volunteered to make us some Dutch pancakes.  They were a lot like crepes and the kids devoured them!  Yet another blessing!  After that it was swim suits and pool time for us.  No worries. 

     Meanwhile Aaron was trying to navigate car buying.  (I think I got the much better end of the deal.)   After determining that our family and our luggage was not going to fit in a little SUV he turned his focus to vans.  The first one wouldn't start, so they charged the battery and got it going.  The dealer gave Aaron and Russ some money and sent them to put gas in it.   However, when they tried to leave the gas station it wouldn't start again.  So the dealer drove over and tried to jump it, that didn't work so he suggested they just push start it.  Which they tried for about a 1/3 of a mile before finally abandoning it on the side of the road and walking back.  We know, red flag, red flag, red flag!  Finally they found one to fit the bill.  (photo to come)

     Day two we had to go back to the airport to pick up the carseats we had left behind accidentally the day before.  (We did the same thing in Baltimore, grrrr!)   Tessa summed it up nicely in her journal when she wrote, "It was terrible!"  But that afternoon we visited a rescue center called Zoo Ave just down the street from our hotel.  

Cut out boards are everywhere here.  We probably
ran into 10 in this little zoo.

We were looking at the boa climbing up the corner edge
of it's enclosure and didn't even see the 3 foot long
iguana resting on top of the neighboring cage about 4 feet
away.  By the time we saw him he had about had enough
of us and was ready to move on, you can see him walking
away just to the right of the snake pen.
It is amazing how they keep the jungle from completely
consuming the zoo.  Check out the size of that bamboo!
These huge spiders were everywhere!  I was very
grateful for cleared paths.  Tessa burst into tears at
the first sighting, but by the end she was willing to
stick her hand right behind one for this picture.
They had a remarkable array of animals.  This is an
American Alligator.  We also saw peccaries, pumas,
monkeys, squirrels, kinkajou, a sloth, and lots and lots
of birds.  We learned that Costa Rica, a country about
the size of West Virginia has more bird species than the
U.S. and Canada combined!  At the zoo they had many
species that I had never seen before.  They also had emu
and ostrich.  When Jonah got close to the ostrich he looked at Aaron,
pointed at the ostrich and said, out of the side of his mouth,
 "That bird looks like it wants to hurt me."
They also had a zip-line that the 3 oldest were able to go on.
We were so impressed that Tessa mustered up the courage to
give it a try!  When asked how they liked it it was a resounding
chorus of, "It was AWESOME!"

Eli and Jonah settled for ice cream!
Most of the signs were entirely in Spanish, which
is okay, we are practicing and getting better all the
time. (Most of the people we meet speak very little if
any English, as well.) We can understand enough to
 get the meaning of this sign, and found it rather funny.

It gets dark here by about 5pm, every day.  It also rains every
afternoon.  It rained on us most of the time through the zoo and
by the time we were searching for dinner it was an absolute downpour!
We found a restaurant, they are all mostly open to the outdoors. We
we were just about to order when a deafening clap of thunder shook
the restaurant and all the lights went out.  Luckily we were able to
dimly see our menu under the glow of an emergency back up light
and they had generators to keep the cooking equipment going. 
Everyday we make time for the pool.  That is all the kids really
want to do. Someone was so proud to be able to hold up her Father.
  It became more difficult when more jumped on the pile. 

A friendly tree just outside out hotel cabina. 
On the third day we went up to the Volcano Poas.  Aaron took this
picture as I drove up this narrow neighborhood road.  It was a main
road, but still narrow and without a shoulder.  It was also full of
potholes, and crazy motorcyclists weaving, passing,
and dodging through traffic.  

The crater at Volcan Poas.  It was releasing a
hefty amount of steam that day.  
We took the chance to take another trail to a lake that is created by
an old crater, what used to be the top of the volcano.  Along the way
we encountered this freeloader squirrel.  It cheered up our less than
enthusiastic walkers.  We usually don't feed the wildlife, but I had some
lightly salted peanuts in my bag and some kids who needed a fun
distraction.  I think he liked it.  The forest was so dense it was very dark.
Tessa wrote in her journal that night, "I didn't like the walking, but I
did like the things we saw."
An example of some of the foliage by the crater's edge


  1. I think wow sums it up. Looks like you are having an amazing experience! And that is a crazy huge leaf! Maggie looks like quite the jungle enthusiast showing it off :)

  2. It is definitely a growing experience here. We are learning so much! Thanks for keeping in touch.

  3. That spider is completely insane! I am so glad to see those kids keeping a journal, they will remember things so much better after writing them down. Thank you so much for keeping this's like I am along for the adventure:) I totally remember the long flights followed by confusion and crankiness at the airport, so glad you survived! We are off to Hawaii for the week, wish you and Aaron were coming with us:)

    1. I love see your comments! You two have an amazing time! I hope you enjoy all the beach sitting and reading you didn't get when we were with you. :) I'll be thinking of you in tropical paradise and watching for your posts soon.

  4. This trip looks great and all, but I made cheese. CHEESE! So I'm eating cheese and stalking your blog. Happy belated birthday to Maggie. We are excited to check out your adventures - better than a soap opera!

  5. Cheese! That is so impressive! You're going to have to teach me when we get back! I thought of you yesterday. We visited the home of a local couple, they had built a house using existing trees and a farm out of the Costa Rican jungle hillside. They get everything they need from their little Garden and the animals they raise including a self-made tilapia pen. He makes a little extra money taking care of the properties of a couple Americans who have homes nearby including the one we are staying at. Simple and amazing! Thanks for keeping up on us! Maggie feels so loved with the birthday wishes. We don't have any phone or internet at our new place, so I don't know when another post will come. Tell Tessa hello, I don't think you got Maggie's thank you for bday message- she was so happy! Happy cheese creating, truly so cool!

  6. We all really enjoyed checking out this blog. The kids have shared many giggles and exclamations of "awesome!". Keep the posts coming!

  7. okay, apparently we come up as Mrs. Macawber. This is the Keelers

  8. Hola Keelers! Thanks for checking and commenting. We miss you guys! We are on a break from posting only because we have no internet. Check bag the beginning of December. Good luck to your family these next few weeks of chaos.

  9. Wow! Sounds like a great adventure! So glad you guys get to have this experience. :-)