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Forgive Us Our Trespasses

As you might recall, Katie and I horned in on the guys’ plans to spend Saturday afternoon watching football at a Tex-Mex restaurant in Tilaran.

Sometime during the six hours they spent watching back-to-back football games, Katie and I got a little antsy and decided to go out and explore.

The guys enthusiastically approved our decision, almost as if they didn’t enjoy our constant chatter while football was on. Strange.

Fortunately, the 5 Corners Grill sits on a hill overlooking majestic Lake Arenal so we decided to find a closer vantage point to take some photos for the blog.  How we suffer for you finicky people.

Like Lewis & Clark.  Except, c’mon, totally cuter, right?

From our spot at the top of the hill, we spotted a nice grassy knoll a half-mile below us with an unobstructed view of the lake, so we commenced hoofing it down the steep, curving road, all the while narrowly trying to avoid an untimely death under the fenders of speeding mopeds and pick-up trucks whose drivers leaned out to wave enthusiastically and shout “grrrIIINNNGaaas!” as they passed.

This place does wonders for a girl’s self-esteem.

Only after we arrived, sweaty and winded, at the unpaved road that would lead us to our photo-op site did we notice the barbed-wire gate and “Private Property” sign.  The nerve.

After considering our options, which were: (a) Turn around and walk back up the hill, photo-less but otherwise unscathed, or (b) Go for it and risk the possibility of being bitten in the nether regions by an angry Rottweiler, we did the sensible thing.

Well, sensible for us, anyway.

We shimmied around the gate and sneakily (or as sneakily as two giggling girls who may have had a few beers can) hightailed it down the road and up the hill.

And we were richly rewarded for our loose morals:

And we didn’t run into a vicious Rottweiler, although we did encounter a different kind of beast…

While we were enjoying the view, this curious little guy (Or maybe gal?  We didn’t bother checking under the hood.) trotted up to check us out.

And if it had any qualms about us being there, it did not make them known.

It didn’t seem to have any qualms about sharing personal space, either.

The view was breathtaking and our new friend was accommodating, but we decided we’d better get back before it started getting dark.  So we made it back to the road, congratulated ourselves on pulling off a successful caper and that was the end of our little adventure.

Oh, except Katie slipped while scrambling down the muddy hill and had to trek all the way back to the restaurant with a foot that resembled the Swamp Thing.

So I guess the lesson here is:  Crime doesn’t pay.  But only if you’re Katie’s flip-flop.

Cheeseburger in Paradise

After over a week and a half of nonstop Noah’s Ark-style rain, the sun finally came out to play over the weekend, and Katie and I were hellbent on soaking up every single second of it.

Our original gameplan was to take off to the beach since we hadn’t yet been despite the fact that we’ve lived here for over a month.  (And, yes, we’re well aware of how pathetic that is.  Thank you.)  However, our ride fell through at the last minute leaving us high and dry without anything to do on a beautiful Saturday, so, naturally, we decided to horn in on the guys’ plans.

Remember these knuckleheads?

Homesick for some authentic American grub, Aaron, JJ and Matt had done some internet sleuthing and found a Tex-Mex restaurant located a few towns over.  Their plan was to spend the afternoon there watching college football, talking smack, giving each other noogies and whatever else guys do when chicks aren’t around.

Fortunately, they let us tag along and after an easy 45-minute drive through scenic countryside to the town of Tilaran, we found ourselves at 5 Corners Grill, a beachy little gem of a restaurant situated on a hill overlooking sprawling Lake Arenal.  Once there, we proceeded to spend the next six hours gorging ourselves on burgers and beer and hanging out with Jason and Cindy, the amazingly cool Austin, TX, couple who owns the joint.

A candid shot of Jason.  Cindy was wily enough to dodge me.

Despite having been open for less than a year, 5 Corners has a comfortable, well-established quality and loyal following of friendly regulars, many of whom are ex-pats themselves.  From the open-air patio bar with live trees growing right through the floor…

…to the Chicken Shit Bingo (which is exactly what you’re imagining it is) board and live scorpion on display in the breezeway…

I assume they put this down your pants and make you dance around for 10 minutes if you try to leave without paying.

…to the small garden and chicken coop located out back and assortment of squirmy, wiggly, disgustingly cute puppies of varying sizes and shapes milling about the premises, there is no shortage of interests to hold your attention.

Don’t get us wrong–Katie and I have been thoroughly enjoying the Costa Rican experience, but we had to admit that the smattering of Longhorns and Dallas Cowboys paraphernalia decorating the windows and good ol’ fashioned burger and fries were a pleasantly familiar taste of home sweet home.

This burger made my toes curl.  Don’t even ask what the bananas foster for dessert did to me.

By the end of the day, we were a few colones lighter, a few pounds heavier, and a few anecdotes richer (stay tuned, more on that tomorrow).

For anyone who happens to be passing through Tilaran or visiting the Lake Arenal area, I highly–highly–recommend this place.  No need to even thank me.

Just ship me a burger.

Here Comes the Sun (Doo Do Doo Dooo)

So far, the rainy season in Costa Rica has been, uh, rainy. Really rainy.

In fact, with a recent line of tropical storms stopping by to dump inches of the stuff on us every day for the past week, the locals are calling this one of the worst rainy seasons they’ve seen in while.

And while Costa Rica’s storms are beautiful in their own way, the constant, monotonous downpour has left everyone in the office feeling a little waterlogged.

So it was a truly joyous occasion when an unexpected visitor showed up to join us on our walk to work this morning.

Sun!  Glorious sun!

It broke through the low ceiling of clouds and a chorus of angels began singing.

Okay, actually it was us singing–and badly–but still.

We shamelessly belted out our anthems of appreciation:

Blue skiiiies smiling at meeee.

I’m walking on sunshiiiiine!

Here comes the sun, doo do doo dooo.

As we walked, we turned up our faces, spread our arms wide and basked in it like little flowers.

Even our shadows came out to see what all the commotion was about.

They were pretty happy, too.

And sweat ‘staches be damned, the hot rays felt oh so nice on our pasty skin.

We were, quite literally, walking on sunshine.

And yes, Katrina and the Waves, it did feel good.

Writing Under the Influence

Three weeks ago, I wrote a rambling list of thoughts while shivering on the couch in a sweaty, disoriented haze during The Most Heinous Sinus Infection Ever Recorded in the History of the World, Period.

Ok, maybe I’m exaggerating, but not–if I may utilize my stellar Spanish skills–by mucho.

Anyway, after the sinus infection spent the weekend torturing me and then pushed me out the back of its tinted-window van Monday morning, I was so positively elated to be over the ordeal, I forgot all about the list.

Until today.

And since I’ve had a major case of writers’ block this past week (hence the lack of posts), I figure a half-coherent list of musings is still better than anything else I could come up with right now.

So, bon appetit!

1. Why is it always that the song in which I only know five words is the one song I have stuck in my head all day long?  This constant repetition of the first two lines of “La Cucaracha” is greatly diminishing my quality of life.

2. At what point are you too old to have ice cream cake on your birthday?  Because I would like to be euthanized before that age.

3. Is there a more awkward situation than standing on the outskirts of a group photo and not knowing whether you’re in the frame or not?  Seriously, do you squeeze in and smile, stand where you are and awkwardly pose, or just get the hell out of there?

Decisions, decisions…

4. I will consider myself at the pinnacle of social self-mastery when I am finally able to refrain from the knee-jerk response “You too!” when waiters tell me to enjoy my meal.

5.  Why do I always panic and suddenly forget my phone number when someone asks for it?

6.  I’m one of those people who unintentionally creates my own bastardized language by combining words that are similar in meaning.  Like, one time, an old boss once asked me to do something and instead of saying “No problem” or “You’re welcome”, I responded with “No, your problem.”

7.  If I drop my keys on the ground, I’m more willing to believe it’s because they are spiteful things hellbent on making me look stupid in public than the fact that I might just be clumsy.

8.  Carrots are a vegetable that nobody really has a strong opinion on, but everyone has an opinion on carrot cake.

Fun History Fact:  30 percent of our nation’s wars has been caused by conflicting views on carrot cake.

9.  Does the sound of a slide whistle automatically bring perverted images to everyone else’s mind too, or is it just me?

10.  The following things are unforgivably creepy to me:  porcelain doll collections, velvet paintings of sad-eyed clowns or children, mannequins with faces and/or nipples, and ventriloquist dummies.  If I am over at your house and I see any of the above, I will immediately assume you lured me here to make a coat out of my skin.

Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

11.  Whenever I don’t want to clean a dish, I’ll leave it in the sink.  Later, if I come back around and it’s still in there, I’ll get mad that someone didn’t wash it.  What, do I have to do everything around here?

12.  To me, there are very few life situations for which “Woot woot!”or “Dang.” is not an acceptable response.

13. One of the questions I always ask myself is, if I had a twin who talked and acted exactly like me, how long would it take before I wanted her dead?

14.  It’s amazing how easily anyone can give off a completely psychotic vibe.  If you don’t believe me, next time you’re out walking in public, start swinging your arms in unison with your legs and see if people don’t look at you like you just stepped off the mothership.

(Disclaimer: If any or all of the above statements made absolutely no sense to you, let’s just blame it on the fact that I was heavily medicated at the time and never speak of this post again. Deal?)

Conversational Gems, Pt. 1

Katie: “I hate my eyebrows.  They make me look like Whoopi Goldberg.”

Me: “They do not.  Trust me, I wouldn’t look at you if you looked like Whoopi Goldberg all the time.”

Katie: “Racist.”

PB and WHAT?

Hold onto your hats, people, because the good folks at Valrico Peanut Butter are revolutionizing everything you thought you knew about optimizing your peanut butter enjoyment:

For children and adults, you say?

On bread or crackers?

Mixed with jam or even jelly?

Get out of town.

Thank  you, Valrico Peanut Butter, for opening our eyes to a world of new and exciting flavors.

Now go forth and spread the Gospel, people.

Eight-Legged Freaks

Allow me to state for the record that I am not a fan of spiders.

In fact, I am the exact opposite of being a fan of spiders.

In fact, on the list of things that bum me out, spiders rank somewhere between being eaten alive by polar bears and a nuclear holocaust.

Everything about them–from their beady eyes to their spindly, hairy legs–seems sinister and malevolent and completely unworthy of my compassion.

Mind you, I am not this way about most of God’s less fluffy creations.

Snakes?  No problem.

Lizards?  Let’s dance.

Bats?  Bring ’em on.

But spiders?

Let me put it this way:  If I had my choice of being hit in the face repeatedly with a shovel or having a Daddy Long Legs crawl on my arm, I’d go ahead and pop some Extra Strength Excedrin and clear my schedule for the next week or so.

So, it’s cosmically fitting that this would appear in our bathroom this weekend:

Allow me to reiterate: THIS…


It found itself a nice little vantage point on the ceiling above our shower Sunday morning and, since Katie and I each have a strict No Contact policy when it comes to icky things (and have been so far unsuccessful in convincing the other to amend hers), has been leering at us from up there for two whole days now.

Look, I’m fully aware that spiders are part of the Great Circle of Life or whatever, but if this is Nature’s attempt to teach me some integral lesson on how to peacefully coexist with my eight-legged brethren, it was a poor location choice because, sorry, but I find it a tad hard to sympathize with the plight of something that has seen me in all my naked, vulnerable, soaking wet glory.

This will not do.  If it’s still there after work today, decisions will need to be made.  Strategies devised.  Perimeters secured.  Attacks mounted.

And I wish Katie all the best with that.

Tonight, I’ll be sleeping at the office.

Costa Rica is So Clique-y

Remember that one common area in high school where everyone would hang out in the morning before the first bell?

Remember that feeling you’d get walking through that gauntlet as a Freshman?  Feeling the heat of a thousand beady upper-classman eyes boring into you, mercilessly dissecting your merchandise and fashion choices?

No matter who you were or how confident and carefree you felt before you entered that high school, you suddenly became the thin-skinned, self-conscious, shaky Chihuahua of Social Inadequacy.

Your JanSport backpack felt immediately uncool.  Your Sketchers, beyond lame.  Your cuffed jeans were now a crime against humanity.  And your scrunchy…

Dear God, your scrunchy.

That’s what it feels like, every single day I walk to work.  Instantly, I’m transported back to that horrible moment where all eyes are on you.  Watching you. 

Judging you.

I mean, they don’t even try to act polite about it.

I know they’re whispering about how I wore the exact same outfit last week.  And the week before that.

And the week before that.

Seriously.  What are you looking at, freakshow?

Shut Up and Smile

Today, I’m in the mood to complain. 

Boy howdy, am I in the mood to complain today.

I want to whine about how I woke up this morning with my nose stuffed up, my chest congested and my eyeballs aching… yet again.

I want to piss and moan about how my pits are perennially gnarly, my upper lip is permanently sweat-stached, and how it seems entirely possible that my feet will be constantly covered in filth and muck forever and ever until the end of eternity, amen.

I want to wail and gnash my teeth about how I miss my husband and family and curling iron.  I want to curse the gods for having to formulate complicated arrangements involving no less than three different modes of  transportation a week in advance just to get to a grocery store to buy bread.  I want to lie down and roll around on the ground while kicking and screaming about the unfairness of being sick nearly every single day of the three weeks we’ve been in Costa Rica.

And, normally, I would.  Because that’s the kind of miserable, ungrateful person I am.

Seriously, have you met me?

But, today, I can’t seem to do it.  Because, for the moment, I’m stopped dead in my tracks by all the unsympathetic beauty of the world around me.

And it’s making me remember that I’m lucky that I have a nose to get stuffy and pits to get gnarly and feet to get muddy and a husband, family and curling iron to miss.

And, for that, some small, rational part of me sends up thanks to the Great Whoever that I’m alive to experience all the loneliness and unfairness and crappiness of life.

And so, today, I think I will just shut up and smile.

What’s Up, My Nicas (Part 2)

As Katie already mentioned here, our trip to the Nicaraguan shore and back was chock full o’ crazy times.

A lot happened in three days (96.5% of it fun) and I could rattle off a lengthy play-by-play of the entire weekend but if we were to skip the polite banalities and be honest with each other here, I think we’d come to the mutual agreement that (a) I don’t want to write all that jazz and (b) you don’t want to read all that jazz.

So, let’s just skip ahead to the part of the post where I break the trip down by the numbers, mmkay?

Mmkay.  So here goes…

7 – Number of people in our Nicaragua-bound band of misfits.

175 – Approximate distance, in kilometers, from Bagaces, Costa Rica, to San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua.

2 – Number of hours it took our bus to reach the border between Costa Rica and Nicaragua.

1 – Number of hours it took us to actually cross the border.

8 – Degrees Farenheit the temperature rose as soon as we stepped foot onto Nicaraguan soil.

1 – Cost, in US dollars, of the tasty Nicaraguan beer, Toña (pronounced “TOE-nya”–do not disrespect the beverage by saying its name wrong).

21:1 – Exchange rate for calculating Nicaraguan córdobas to US dollars.

π = (ℓ)-1(t)1(ℓ /t)1 – What the currency exchange rate formula may as well have been, considering my cripplingly bad math skills.

15 – Cost, in US dollars, of our hostel per person, per night.

4 – Number of hostel beds available for our party of seven.  (Katie and I shared a double bed and Donovan kept the mosquitoes company in a hammock out in the courtyard.)

10 – Amount of time, in minutes, it took to walk from the center of San Juan del Sur to our hostel.

8 – Approximate number of times someone tripped and fell during the 10-minute walk.

9 – Average rating, on a scale of 1 to 10, of the meals we ate during our three-day tour.

60 – Approximate percentage of San Juan del Sur’s population that were gringo ex-pats with nappy dreads milling around the coffee shops and trying to hock puka shell necklaces on the sidewalk.  30 percent were actual native Nicaraguans (a.k.a., “Nicos” and “Nicas”).  The other 10 percent were us.

1 – Number of near-fatal accidents involving a seven-foot-high ledge, unreliable depth perception and poor life choices.

3 – Amount, in US dollars, of the best dang mojito I’ve ever had.

4 – Number of trips taken to the ATM for the last time, seriously.

12 – Estimated median age of the three producers of Survivor we met while eating at a pizza joint in town.

4 – Number of times I tried to get them to tell me which cast member they hate most.

1 – Number of heartfelt renditions of Bette Middler’s “The Rose” Katie was able to tolerate before evacuating the karioke bar.

1,542 – Number of beers consumed over the weekend.

0 – Number of times we swam in the ocean.

28 – Number of immigration forms filled out coming and going across the border.

0 – Number of people in our party who had proof of the exit visa that Costa Rica’s border patrol suddenly decided to start requiring for re-entry into the country.

140 – Amount, in US dollars, we were advised by a Costa Rican border patrol clerk to pay for false documentation to cross back into Costa Rica.

3 – Number of times someone suggested just running for it, man, before Becca managed to charm the clerk into grudgingly giving us all temporary visas.

30 – Amount of time, in seconds after we boarded the bus that it left for Bagaces.

No shoes or shirt?  No problem.  No exit visa?  You’re screwed.

All in all, it was a great trip to Nicaragua and we got to spend it with an awesome group of folks.

And perhaps the most important–yet highly underrated–part of what makes any trip great is:  Being able to go home.