Current Date: Wednesday, June 12, 2008, 10:00 a.m. (Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica)
Current Itinerary: We stopped here randomly on our way to Panama and decided to stay. We are heading to Panama tomorrow though...probably to Bocas del Toro where we spent New Year’s in 2006. From there we will hike in Boquete and then move towards the Pacific Coast. We’ll probably be in Panama City towards the end of the month and may stick around there for awhile.
Note #1: Four months and counting!!! Everything is going fantastic still and we are still having a blast. We have been in Costa Rica for about 10 days and it is a beautiful (but expensive) country. Our map of our path is really taking form now and getting quite large.
Note #2: The rainy season has officially begun...kicking off with Tropical Storm Alma trapping us in San Juan del Sur in Nicaragua a couple weeks ago. It came ashore almost right on top of us! We had a great time in Nicaragua with Gavin and Lily who visited us from Boston. Anybody else coming?
Note #3: I’ll make no more declarations about getting these journals out...they will just come when they come but I will keep sending them. Sometime in 2010 I might get caught up:) This one is “short” and there are no pictures, which will make sense after you read it.
Tuesday, March 18, 2008
We left behind the windy Caye Caulker and boarded ferry back to Belize City. Our plan was to catch a bus from there down to Placencia. When we got to the bus station we learned that we would have to take a bus to a city called Dangriga, and then from there catch a different bus off the highway down to Placencia. The bus was pretty packed, but in transit we met a French girl and an English guy traveling to a place called the Ian Anderson lodge, a popular jungle oasis that has organized hikes and activities just outside Belmopan. It sounded cool but a little out of our price range. We have spent almost all of the last month on the beach so we are very excited to move into the mountains and experience some different terrain. We got a nice preview of how beautiful the interior of Belize is on the bus ride down...lots of beautiful jungle. Looking in the guide book on the bus I began to realize how much of Belize is conserved rainforest. A very large portion of it is protected national parks...which is a good thing of course. Anyway, just a few more days of being on the beach and we’ll be getting a look at the rainforest close up!
Anyway, as the bus ride was taking WAY longer than we thought and it was getting late in the day, we decided to make a pit stop in Dangriga before heading to Placencia. It seemed like a good stopping point and there was also a place called Tobacco Caye that is supposed to be an awesome island to check out.
We got off the bus in Dangriga and we weren’t too impressed initially. The bus drops you off on the South Side of town which we eventually learned was a bit more run down than the rest...although none of it ended up being spectacular. The city is actually pretty small and you could probably walk the length of it in about 20 or 25 minutes...we were going to a place suggested in the book called the Bluefield Lodge, which was in the center so we just walked it. I’m not sure if I mentioned this or not, but at any and all bus stations there are taxi guys waiting to hound you. They are relentless and will often lie about how far away things are...if you have a map, try to figure out before hand how far you are going. Often times it’s an easy walk. The other thing I usually do is ask a local on the bus how far away certain places are and if it’s safe to walk. Locals are very trustworthy, cab drivers are pretty much all snakes that have one goal...to separate you from your money (this was probably just as bad in Boston as it has been anywhere else I have been).
Ugh...I really get fired up when it comes to taxis...let me move on. We got to the Bluefield and it was absolutely exquisite accommodations! It was very clean with a great shower with hot water...we also had cable TV which will be perfect if we can stick around until Thursday when the NCAA tourney starts.
After a brief internet session we ended up eating at chinese place. I forgot to comment on this in the Caye Caulker journals, but there was one thing that I thought was hilarious in Caye Caulker. It’s an island that has about 1200 inhabitants and is probably two square miles...and it had a China town! Seriously...it was about a block long with a couple stores and restaurant...a local giving us directions once even called it China town. Apparently there are a lot of Chinese in Belize and Dangriga seemed to be no exception...there must have been 5 or 6 chinese restaurants! I have no idea why there are so many Chinese here. Incidently, the guy at the place we ate did not speak English at al (remember, English is the official language in Belize), which made ordering our food interesting. We ended up getting really huge portions that we couldn’t even finish and also did not get exactly what we expected. That’s a good way to keep life exciting. I really want to do some traveling in Asia someday and our experience in that restaurant made me think about how hard it will be to go somewhere and not know one single word of the language.
After dinner, we went back to shower and relax on the comfy bed and watched TV for the first time in a few weeks. We even had Sportscenter in English! Sweet. Looks like the Celtics are doing well...they just broke the Rockets 22 game win streak! Yes, I know that by the time anybody reads this, that will be old news...but I bring it up because people always ask me what I miss most about being outside of the USA...and the answer is an easy one for me...our sports culture (well, that’s a close second after the sewer systems). I’d say that in places like Brazil and in Europe, they do have a huge sports passion...and maybe one would argue that it’s greater than any following we have for any one sport, but that’s just it...they LOVE soccer in those countries and that’s it. What I miss is our sports culture...I mean, we have sports bars (like my favorite watering hole, the Boston Sports Grille...I miss you guys) that have almost 200 TV’s in them! There are places like Jillian’s and Dave and Busters that have 40 foot screens in them! You will not see that in Latin America. In fact, I’d argue that, unless it’s a really big game or the local team, you would not find even a soccer game playing in a bar necessarily. We have football, and basketball and baseball, and tons of college sports as well. The mere concept of college sports and it’s popularity is so foreign to people down here...it is not possible to explain it and if you try you will get nothing but blank stares. We just have a different sports culture back home and that’s that. I love sports and something simple like being able to catch Sportscenter is just a nice little piece of home for me.
Wednesday, March 19, 2008
I needed to make a couple phone calls to the US to handle some personal matters so I got up early to find out about phone cards and do a few things online. I’ll spare everyone the horrible details but I’ll just say that I hate dealing with customer service of any large companies. It took about 1.5 hours to get everything straightened out but the good thing that came out of it all was that I had a phone card with time left and I haven't talked to my folks since I left. I sent them a quick e-mail letting them know I would call them that night.
Not too much happened the rest of the day...during the afternoon we went for a long walk around town, checked out the beach area and sat on some swings, reminiscing about our childhoods for a couple hours. I guess something about being on a playground can spark those memories...as a bonus, I got to show Jodi why I was the “jump out of the swings” champ of my apartment complex as a kid:) I love afternoons like that...nothing really significant happened but we still had a great time enjoying each other and our stories.
We pretty much walked the entire town over about 4 hours. We finally had some food near the river and found out that it costs BZ $70 EACH to get out to tobacco key and back. Hmmmm...that is pretty expensive for us (to put in in perspective, we were only paying BZ$45 for our room) and much more than I thought it should be for a 30 minute boat ride. That is three nights accommodation! We weren’t sure but we were thinking we would probably skip it, which is too bad because it was the main reason we stopped here. It really left us with a dilemma because we had been told that everything would shut down after Thursday b/c of the Easter holiday and finding accommodation in any major destination would be close to impossible due to all Belizians taking advantage of this time to travel. I sort of wanted to stick around another day anyway...watch the tourney a little and be in a cheap city with a nice place to stay that didn’t cost much. After all we spent diving and on the Cayes, a few cheap days can bring your average spending down. We had to figure out what the hell we were going to do next...going to Placencia was no longer a real option as buses are sparse on the holidays and it would be virtually impossible to find anywhere to stay down there (plus they jack up the prices and require you to stay 3 days minimum on the holiday). It looked like we would be stuck in Dangriga for a few days.
We shelved the topic for later...Jodi went back to the room and I went to find a public phone to call my folks. It was great to talk to them but I got eaten alive by mosquitos during the hour we talked. That evening we just chilled and had another wine and cheese night.
Thursday, March 20, 2008
Before I write anything about this day I want to pause for a second to acknowledge an old friend. Today, Ryan Smith would have been 32 years old. Last summer...his llife came to an end after a battle with drug addiction. We were very close friends through my formative years and slowly grew apart as our lives took very different directions through the late 90’s. I think of this little story about him often as I travel and it is a good reminder of how lucky I am to be doing this but also now it reminds me of how precious life really is. RIP my brother...you are not forgotten.
We got up early and went to internet for a bit and found some breakfast. I had gone out early because I wanted to get a few things done before the games started at 10:30. I was lucky to learn from the girl at the internet place that everything would close early in the afternoon and would not reopen until after Easter. I ended up watching most of the first set of games but we went out for lunch early while we still had the chance and picked up food to eat for the next couple of meals. We were certain that a few things would be open...if there is one thing I’ve learned from being in the biotech field...you can always count on the Chinese to work on the US holidays. I never understood that mentality by the way...as far as I’m concerned if I go to another country and it’s a holiday, I’m taking it too! When in Rome! I remember this Jewish girl back in grad school would make it a point to work on Christmas to underscore that it didn’t mean anything to her. Attention all non-catholics: Taking the day off does not mean you’re celebrating the holiday!
Anyway, I grabbed a few beers while we were out and watched the second set of games. We lounged around most of the afternoon...Jodi was really antsy and wanted to leave the next day. Now, I know part of that is that she is a very active person who likes to stay active...but part of it something else that she hasn’t learned just yet. This is what happens when nothing much is on the agenda. This was the first time on the trip so far that we had a couple days and absolutely nothing planned and no clue what to do. I think for her it was something new...you get very few, if any stretches like this when you’re in the real world. When traveling, even if you have nothing specific scheduled...there is usually an inkling of what will happen during the next 3 or 4 days or atleast you have a destination in mind. We had nothing. I think that now she doesn’t realize it, but the coming weeks are really what traveling like this is about. There is plenty of time to hang in places for a few days, get a feel for the country and sort of let things happen and let ideas present themselves. This is especially important if you’re on the first weekend of the NCAA tournament and you have cable TV:) Seriously though...it is tough to get used to the concept of being COMPLETELY free to do whatever you want and go wherever you want. Think about that...we live lives that constantly have a schedule...there are always little errands to run and small things to do. There are meetings, and practices, and games, and whatever the hell else...probably 80% of you are thinking right now how reading this journal is interrupting your “schedule” and you should be tending to something else and I’d guess that something like 99% of you reading this know exactly where you will be tomorrow and the next day and the day after that. That’s perfectly normal. We are groomed from birth in America to think that you have to have a plan. You have to know where you’re going. Where will YOU be in 5 years? We seem to think that you have to have an answer for that...but the truth is, you don’t.
For us, life is different now. There are question marks all around us about the next day or two and not to mention the coming months. It’s scary...and that is why Jodi feels like she does right now. You don’t know what to do with yourself. It’s all part of letting go of the life style you have always known. First it feels a little uncomfortable because it’s different, but you quickly learn...it feels DAMN good! You learn to embrace it over time and that is what keeps life exciting and why I love traveling like this. I LOVE the fact that I have no clue where we will be in a week or two weeks or two months. I feed off of that and the feeling is indescribable. We are in complete control of what happens. There is no plan. I think Jodi is just beginning to understand what that truly means.
Friday, March 21, 2008
I woke up ridiculously early but was rewarded with catching an old rerun of Different Strokes on TV. Classic! I’m not sure what’s worse...that I remembered the episode or that I sat and watched the whole thing and actually laughed out loud a few times, but I enjoyed myself either way. Being older and watching it makes the improbable premise even funnier for some reason. A fifty year old white guy adopts two kids from Harlem and moves them into his Park Avenue mansion. That must happen everyday!
We just hung around waiting for the NCAA games to start. I really missed being back in Boston and being at the Sports Grill...the best place ever! I’m sure all the guys were there watching the games together...plus the last couple years my brother and Mike had come to Boston for this weekend and it was a little tradition for us to spend crazy days like this one at the Grill.
Not much happened all day...after the first set of games we decided to go for a little walk. There was not a soul in the streets and absolutely everything was closed. I was happy we stayed in Dangriga though...I was enjoying watching the games and relaxing...although by the end of the day we were getting tired of being in our small room. Just before the late games we went for another walk and there were actually a couple of stores open (I don’t have to tell you the nationality of the owners) but once again not too much happening. For me, it was just a nice sports day that was a nice pause in the action and made me feel “at home” for a day...especially since we had the excitement of four dogs winning outright in Tampa!
That was as much as I would get to see in the end though...we decided that we would head for the Cockscomb Wild Life Sanctuary the next day. It was only about an hour south of Dangriga and we figured being out in the mountains that it wouldn’t matter that it was Easter. Our few days of luxury were finally over. Things really changed the next day...but definitely for the better.