Saturday, August 8, 2015

Adventures in Costa Rica

I had an amazing time in Costa Rica for 5 glorious weeks. I tried to break up this blog post by weekends, because that's when I did exciting things (for the most part).

Daily Life:
School 9:00 am to 1:00 pm Monday to Friday.
Picture of some of the students and teachers at my school.
Then after school I would go back to my hostel and work on homework for my online graduate class called Crisis Intervention. After working on homework, I would sometimes meet up with friends for ice-cream. Yummm, yes please.
Really popular ice-cream choice in Costa Rica
Our school also had activities that they hosted...
Monday: City Tour of Santo Domingo
Tuesday: Cooking Lessons
I loved the cooking classes!
I learned how to make a lot of Costa Rican food :)
Wednesday: Social Night (always did this)
Thursday: Football Game (never did this)
Friday: Salsa Dancing (never did this)

Week 1: I arrived in Costa Rica a week early so that I could settle in, explore, find my school, and also work on homework for my graduate class. I ended up meeting a lot of cool people in my hostel, but Axel and Andres (pictured below) were my favorite. They are biking across Costa Rica into Panama (and after, who knows!) and they were the sweetest. After I said goodbye to them, I went on an adventure 2 weeks later and actually saw them biking along the road! I couldn't believe it.

For the first week, I sat on top of the rooftop terrace, read, wrote, and studied for my class.

I also wandered around a bit, but it wasn't uncommon for it to start raining around 1:00 pm and for it to continue past midnight! I was starting to go a little crazy from the rain toward the middle of the week.

One morning during my first week, my hostel owner and his girlfriend took Axel and me on a "Secret Waterfall Tour." We went down this huge meadow, down into the forest, and then came to this amazing clearing.

We hiked a bit more, went under some barbed wire, and then came out to another clearing with a gorgeous swimming area. We forged the river and hiked another 20 minutes to get to a really amazing waterfall. It was SO much better than doing homework!

Then that weekend, I went with some new friends to Poas Volcano and La Paz Waterfall Gardens. It took about an hour an a half to get there, and it was a gorgeous drive. I loved both the volanco and the waterfalls so much, but the Waterfall Gardens was my favorite. They also have rooms dedicated to butterflies, birds, exotic animals, insects, frogs, etc. It was really cool to explore around...and we also got a huuuuge buffet lunch. 

View on the drive up to the volcano


Then we hiked past this to get to a lake (it was cloudy, so we couldn't see it though)

But there were some huuuge plant leaves.
Some of the leaves around the volcano were bigger than me!
It looks like I'm not holding anything, but I'm actually holding onto a HUGE butterfly. 

Then the big exotic cats got fed later in the day, which was really cool to see. Some were really into the food, but others were just content to do nothing. 
I was pretty pumped.
 And then we went to see the waterfalls!!

We arrived home soaking wet but we had an amazing time...and then school started for me on Monday! 

Week 2:  Week 2 was pretty relaxed. I went to classes, went to San Jose with a friend, and had an overall great week. Got lost trying to get to El Club for Wednesday Night Social, but eh, no big deal (not this time anyway)

That weekend a group of friends and I decided to go to La Fortuna and see bullet ants, red tree frogs, sloths, raccoon-esque animals, and another volcano. We also swam in local hot springs and went to a huge swimming hole. 

Back row: Andrew, me, Edwin
Middle Row: Nick, Laura, Megan
Front Row: Michael, Corrine, Austin
Front Seats: Manfred and his girlfriend.
At a bridge during our trip. It's a one way bridge and someone refused to back up and our driver did too, so while we were at
a stalemate, we got out and took pictures!
Amazing swimming hole with an awesome rope swing! 

I did the Tarzan swing into the swimming hole! The current was SO strong, but it was such a great time. Also, Corrine had me laughing so hard that I thought I was going to die laughing.

After that we relaxed in the nearby small swimming areas and chatted. Edwin's selfie does a great job capturing how awesome it was.


We stopped to get some food from the side of the road and I GOT A COCONUT.

And then I fed these cute little guy called coati. They were super friendly and very good beggars. 

After that we went to the local hot springs for hours...we drank, chatted, relaxed, and explored the area. It was so perfect!!

My favorite part of the entire trip.

We spent the night in La Fortuna. We went out to eat, then we found a couple of different places for nightlife before turning in.

Typical Costa Rican dinner- it's really good.
 I also found a friendly cat during dinner time.

Week 3 was pretty typical, aside from me getting ridiculously lost and accepting a ride from a potentially dangerous guy. I quickly (and rightfully so) earned the reputation for getting lost really easily and for also acquiring a Costa Rican boyfriend (not true, but still funny).

One day during the week, a small group of friends and I went back to the Secret Waterfall. I had a  great time showing them around the forbidden area. 

Unfortunately I had an insane amount of work to do for my online graduate class, so I wasn't able to go to an all-inclusive resort with some of my friends. Bummer!

Week 4: This week passed just like the others with small adventures happening every day, but the focus was mainly on school work (Are you sensing a theme? :)) BUT this weekend, I did go to Manuel Antonio with some of my friends. 

4 married men, a priest, and a psychologist walk into a bar....
 We stayed at a beautiful hotel with a gorgeous view, 2 pools, and a 50 meter walk to the beach.

 It was perfect. Beach day/ pool day/ and then out for dinner and drinks later at night. 

I walked along the beach in the morning, and also at sunset...there's nothing better!

After an amazing two days at the beach, we came back to Santo Domingo for the final week of classes. 

 This is a picture of my view on the way to school every morning.

The week passed quickly.  I went to San Jose again, and I finished up all the work for both my Spanish class and for my graduate class. 

yay for productivity! (and more ice-cream)
My friend and I traveling to Heredia (a nearby city) and ate SO much ice-cream, Costa Rican food, and sweets. 

All this for 4 dollars.
And then on Friday I graduated! 

I spent the night at the airport and then on Saturday I came back to America. :) It's good to be back, but I definitely miss all of the amazing people that I met during my time in Costa Rica.

I still have a couple of weeks before school starts, but my summer is winding down.
It's been an absolutely priceless summer...I am so thankful for everything that I have been able to do (and for what I still have left!)
To review...
-Successfully defended my Master's Thesis in May
-Participated in REHPS Program in Parkston, SD with Emma in May to June
-Road-Tripped from St. Louis to Atlanta with my mom
-Went to Destin, FL with my parents for a week in June
-Visited Milledgeville, GA to see my 2nd parents and my professors.
-Spent 5 weeks at a Spanish Language School in Costa Rica
-Took a graduate school course for my specialization in Disaster Mental Health

Soon I'll be...
-Graduating in August with my Master's Degree.
-Road-Tripping with my mom from Atlanta, GA to South Dakota.
-Taking Prelims - a 3 day comprehensive exam over the last 2 years of graduate school.

And then...I'll be starting my 3rd year at the University of South Dakota and I'll be on placement at the Student Counseling Center! So very excited for what happened this summer and for what is to come. 

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Summer so far

*Note: This post was broken into sections (Parkston, St. Louis, Destin, Milledgeville, and Costa Rica) to better explain my summer so far. 
Parkston, South Dakota:
I applied for and received an amazing summer opportunity through the Rural Experiences for Health Professions Students (REHPS) Summer Experience Program to live in Parkston, South Dakota for 3.5 weeks. (If you click on the link then you can read my weekly blog). I was matched with a medical student named Emma and we had a fantastic time shadowing other professional at Avera St. Benedict Hospital and learning more about their jobs and how they take care of their patients so wonderfully.

The point of the REPHS program is to introduce students to integrative health care in rural hospitals. and to hopefully convince health care professionals to live and work in a rural area after the completion of their degree. Everyone was so nice and wonderful in Parkston and I feel very fortunate and thankful to have had this opportunity. 

Beautiful Parkston, population 1,600. 
Spending some time with physical therapists. 
They did a new type of massage on me and this was the result. Felt so good, looks so bad!
Story time: Emma and I woke up early to watch a natural labor and delivery process. I was pretty taken aback after seeing the labor and delivery process...and definitely needed coffee, a nap, and food to cope with all that I saw. After that though..there was a baby-sitters club going on. This is where nurses teach children how to take care of BABIES (put on a diaper, feed the baby, burp the baby, wash the baby, etc). I was surrounded by these babies and was learning all about how to take care of them. The picture below shows my face and how overwhelmed I felt. 

Here we are getting scrubbed in for the c-section! Emma was so awesome to make sure I didn't pass out and it was so great to chat with her after about everythiiiiiiing that I saw. 
C-section time!
How Luna and I spent most of our evenings after I worked out!
In the evening I would work on homework for an online class that I am taking for my specialization in Disaster Mental Health, but we also played an awesome lawn game with some new friends, Meredith and Luke.

Emma and I are back at the Hutterite colony, helping women with strength building exercises (I learned that I'm really weak, haha)
Selling food at the tournament!
We visited Delmont, South Dakota. It had recently been hit by a tornado.
Emma is trying to pull this out of a tree! High winds put it in the tree during the tornado
We also got a chance to visit the Amish community, which was so interesting to see. 

During this time one of my closest friends in South Dakota got married! I was able to attend and I had such a great time celebrating her love and bright future with Matt. 
(Euodia is on the left, and a friend from the graduate program, Ryan, is on the right)

 St. Louis:
After my time in Parkston, I drove down to St. Louis with Luna on my lap (she's obnoxious on road trips, oh geez) and met up with my mom.
She meows incessantly. 
We went to this AMAZING Indian restaurant on the top of a hotel (It was so shady, but the food was SO phenomenal). We even had a view of airplanes taking off! ice cream. My favorite.
We stayed in a gorgeous hotel for the night, had coffee and a cookie and caught up. I love just relaxing and chatting with my mom. It was perfect and Luna liked where we were too ;)

In the morning we got on the road and went to Tennessee. We tried another Indian place for dinner but didn't like it nearly as much. Then my mom and I went to the Gaylord Opryland Hotel and we linked arms and walked through all of the sections of it, just taking it in, enjoying each other's company, and relaxing.
Love spending time with my momma.
In the morning we took a 20 minute (AKA 40 minute) car ride to an amazing vegan place before getting on the road to go to Atlanta. 
Vegan food is my favorite!
I was back in Atlanta for a grand total of 48 hours before heading on my next adventure. During those 48 hours, I got SO MANY HUGS my heart was about to explode (I love hugs so much). I hung out with some middle school/high school/college friends, laughed a lot, hiked up Kennesaw Mountain, and even got to sleep in a bit!

Then my parents and I were off!

Destin, Florida:
I never get to see my parents anymore and sometimes I'm so stressed that I can't even talk to them for all that long, but we have an annual trip to Florida that I wouldn't miss for the world. I love relaxing with my parents and we always have a great time. We spent a whole week in Destin, Florida. 

Things we did:
Sleep in
Happy Hours (8:00 am, 5:00 pm)
Relax by the pool
Relax in the pool
Watch movies (Highly recommend Inside-Out by Disney/Pixar!)
Walked on the beach nearly every night
This photo makes me smile every time. 
The first night there I got to feed some ducks!
Unfortunately the first night that we were there someone tried to break into our condo numerous times....we reported him to security and thankfully we didn't have any more problems. 

Our view from our screened in sitting out here and so did Luna.

Sitting on the screened in porch drinking this....
It was perfection.

We looooove planning for places to eat :)

We took walks every night along the shore and took in the clouds, the sunset, and just relaxed.

Unfortunately our amazing week came to an end and we had to come back to Georgia.

Milledgeville, GA:
After getting back from Destin, FL I got right back on the road (We got back on a Saturday and I left on Monday) and drove to see my 2nd parents and my undergraduate professors in Milledgeville, GA.
View from my 2nd parent's backyard. The "meditation spot"
I can't tell you where the time went, but I know it was all just wonderful....I got there on a Monday and I didn't come back to my parent's place until Friday afternoon. I love spending time with my 2nd parents and catching up with my professors is always priceless. I drove back on a Friday, met up with some of my amazing extended family, and relaxed for a couple of days..

...before leaving the country for Costa Rica!

Costa Rica: 
Who: Just me. I'm traveling alone, but don't worry, I'm not lonely.
What: I'm living in Costa Rica for the next 5 (now 4!) weeks.
When: Right meow.
Where: San Jose de Heredia, Costa Rica. It's a small town between San Jose and Heredia. 
Why: I'm taking Spanish language classes for the next 4 weeks, Monday-Friday from 9 am to 1pm. I've wanted to do this for years, and this is my last free summer before I have to take grad classes on campus during the summer.
On the weekends I'm traveling and exploring the area. I recently hiked through a jungle to a secret waterfall, hiked up a mountain to a volcano, visited an animal sanctuary, and have seen an absolutely gorgeous waterfall at La Paz Waterfall Gardens.

I'm still taking my online class for my graduate school, so it's not all carefree...but it is wonderful and I've missed it so much.

Now you're all caught up and thank you for reading. School starts tomorrow!
Pura Vida