Visiting the Poás volcano

I visited an Active Volcano…to be that close to something so magical is amazing.

The Ring of Fire is a string of volcanoes and sites of seismic activity, or earthquakes, around the edges of the Pacific Ocean. Roughly 90% of all earthquakes occur along the Ring of Fire, and the ring is dotted with 75% of all active volcanoes on Earth (Nationalgeographic.org). Costa Rica is a part of the Pacific Ring of Fire and has over 200 identifiable volcanic formations. Today, however, only 100 or so show any signs of volcanic activity, while just five are classified as active volcanoes (govisitcostarica.com). So visiting volcanoes is a must while living in or visiting Costa Rica.

One of the most popular volcanoes in Costa Rica is the Poás Volcano. It is the most accessible volcano and has 3 craters, one of which is active. The active crater is house to a boiling acidic lake. The Poás volcano is located inside the Poás National Park. Entry to the park is $15 for foreigners and less for locals. Tickets must be purchased online. It is about a 1.5 hour drive from Santa Ana.

I visited the park this weekend and a lot of things I read online about what a visit there would be like was outdated. At the entrance gate a guard asked for a verification number and then we were whizzed into the parking lot. I never showed my ticket or provided my number but my friend gave hers which was admission for one person only. The parking lot fee was 2700 colones. But I noticed that you can park outside of the park for free. Once parked, we basically just walked up a few hundred meters to the crater. We were not escorted by a guide, nor provided a helmet or given a time limit. Many blogs that I read said it took multiple visits to see the crater due to cloud cover.

However, we must have picked thee perfect day. We had a clear, unobstructed view of the crater on our first visit. We arrived at approximately 9am, which was perfect timing because within minutes the clouds moved in and the crater disappeared. Just look at it.

Panoramic photo of the Poás Volcano main crater
up and personal with an active volcano
This is a time lapse video of the clouds rolling in to cover the crater, a few minute later and we would have missed it.

The acidic lake had the appearance of the sky on the ground, with light blue hues and clouds of hot smoke rising from it. To be that close to something so magical is amazing.

Beautiful Poaz

There are several levels you can climb with landings you can stand on to take in the sights from different angles and heights.

There’s levels to this
Cement bunkers to stand under if a surprise eruption occurs.

A short walk east of the crater look out and you arrive at the viewpoint of Laguna Botos- a circular crater lake surrounded by forest and vegetation. The clouds began to cover the volcano while we admired it, so by the time we made it to the lake we didn’t have the clearest view.

Laguna Botos under the cloud cover

Currently there is a 3 mile hike through the park. The trail has a fairytale countenance with a green carpet, trees that bend and meet, and colorful leaves. You can get short winded during the trail due to the elevation and steep walkways but it’s a good workout with pleasant temperature and scenery.

Take a Hike

Tips: Take a jacket with you as it’s quite cool at the volcano. Take an umbrella; it’s Costa Rica. If you can, park your vehicle outside of the parque. Go early to beat the clouds and crowds. Go during the rainy season to beat the crowds too. If the clouds roll in before you get to enjoy the view of the crater, do the hike and circle back. View the crater first before the hike. Take a bottle of water; there is a bathroom upon entry. Take a friend to get those magnificent shots of you and the volcano.

Take a Friend

Side Note: There are many cafés along the road near Poás and after our hike we were quite hungry. On our way there, in the small town, we noticed that there were several small businesses selling strawberries. We picked up 2 packs on the cheap. Let me tell you, these were some of the best strawberries I’ve had. I also purchased some strawberry wine. I wish I had taken a picture of the shop, but it is at the top of hill. You can’t miss it. I recommend patronizing them and they will allow you to sample some drinks too.

We also stopped in a little Soda for a small bite. It’s a nice little restaurant built right outside a home. The small touches make this such a pretty place and the Gallos and Empanadas are really good.

What a lovely experience. Have you ever visited an active Volcano? Leave a comment about your experience. If you haven’t visited a volcano, would you? Why or why not? Let me know in the comments.

Adventures in Costa Rica

The Coati jumped up and ripped the bag trying to get to the food and I caught it all on camera.

I spent my 45th birthday in Costa Rica and my husband came to help me celebrate. We booked a full day tour of adventure. If ever you’re in Costa Rica and looking for some fun, this post has ideas to consider.

We were picked up by our tour company pretty early in the morning and set out on explorations. One of the things I absolutely adore about Costa Rica is how you can find these large signs posted all over the country identifying where you are. They make for great pictures.

We received some history tidbits as we drove through different provinces too.

Monumento a Juan Santamaría– Juan Santamaria is one of the most popular figures in Latin America. In Costa Rica, he is recognized as a national hero for his role in maintaining the country’s independence.
Monument of Tomás Guardia- was President of Costa Rica on two occasions: from 1870 to 1876, and from 1877 to 1882. He enacted Costa Rica’s 1871 Constitution, which remained in force until 1948

Our first official stop was to the Tres Generaciones Coffee Plantation, where we had the most amazing cup of coffee. Of course, we had to buy some. The plantation is also vast and beautiful.

Coffee plants everywhere
Green for miles and miles.
Green Coffee Beans
Coffee beans are not ripe when they are green. They need to be bright red and glossy.

Hey did you know that Starbucks has a coffee farm in Costa Rica? And they offer tours.

After coffee and sweets, we continued our drive to the Cinchona Waterfalls. This waterfall reminded Darryl and I of the Wailua Falls on the Road to Hana in Maui. There is a bridge in the front of the Cinchona waterfall that you can take pictures from just like Wailua. I recommend walking to the middle of the bridge to get some interesting pictures of the waterfall and on the other side of the bridge to get some more. Be careful on this bridge because it’s small, vehicles take turns going in either direction and they don’t really pay pedestrians any attention. The waterfall is beautiful and cool. I could spend a day right here.

We stopped at the Soda y Mirador Cinchona. Here you can enjoy typical Costa Rican food with the Hummingbirds while admiring the waterfall in the distant. The snack provided here, by the tour company, wasn’t anything I could eat so I can’t comment on the quality of the food. But being so close to the tiny birds was nice. I was also able to get a behind the scenes view of cooking happening in the kitchen and pick up some snacks.

Up close and pesonal with hummingbirds
The kitchen- behind the scenes
It’s not Costa Rica if there’s no Gallo Pinto

The next part of our adventure was seeing some animals in the wild. Along the side of the road, we met up with a Coati. It’s a medium sized rodent that favors a raccoon. My husband had the fabulous idea to exit the van to get a closer look at the coati but he forgot he had a bag of food in his hand and the coati smelled it. The Coati jumped up and ripped the bag trying to get to the food and I caught it all on camera. Hahaha. Check it out…

A hungry Coati

Along with the coati, we were able to catch a glimpse of a sloth and some large iquanas in their natural habitat.

Close up of the sloth in the tree
The sloth was in this banana tree. I think the way bananas grow is so interesting.
Iguana minding his own business

We had a Casada lunch (typical Costa Rica meal) during our travels. And the true adventure happened in the trees at “go.adventure” at the Arenal Park. It is here where we were able to see the amazing Arenal Volcano and what a beautiful site it is.

Restaurant for Casada
Arenal Volcano- An active stratovolcano, built upon layers of ash, rock and lava – and at 5,437 feet (1,657 meters), it stands high above the rest of the countryside

We got our adrenaline pumping by flying through the forest. We conquered 8 zip lines in total. Some were long and fast, while others were short and sweet. We zipped past some gorillas and through trees. It was exhilarating and fun.

Nothing like flying through the trees
Darryl enjoyed it too

I even repelled down a wall for the first time and I think I found a new hobby.

This was awesome

Before heading to dinner and back home, we stopped at one of the hot spring resorts in La Fortuna for a couple of hours. I can’t recall the name of the one we visited, but they have warm and cool spring pools that you can enjoy. Some are secluded and hidden behind trees. You can order drinks from the bar and enjoy spectacular views of the Arenal Volcano. The resort is nice but I was expecting natural hot springs not pools. The resort would be a nice place for a stay but if you’re only there for the day, they offer changing rooms for your convenience. We enjoyed this resort until the rain finally caught up with us.

Afterwards we stopped at a large souvenir shop with many handmade and authentic Costa Rican items to purchase. It was dark by the time we got dinner. Dinner was at a Soda (restaurant with typical Costa Rican food). The food was okay, but we weren’t impressed by the other patrons, dogs. The restaurant workers had to keep chasing them away. (Side Note) There are a lot of stray dogs in Costa Rica. You don’t really encounter them so much in the central valley though.

It was close to midnight when we got dropped off and we were beat. But it was a wonderful way to spend my birthday.

If I Have to Work Through the Weekend, at Least Give me a View to Remember

I attended my first Leadership Retreat 2 weekends ago. I wasn’t excited about working through the weekend but the hotel made up for it. I wasn’t expecting much since I was one of only a few who was booked for a single occupancy. My job took care of everything, including transportation via van, room, breakfast, lunch, dinner, coffee and snack.

We stayed at the Hotel Villa Caletas in Puntarenas Province, Jaco Costa Rica. The hotel is situated high in the mountains and has a private beach. Unfortunately, since I was there for work, I didn’t have time to go check out the beach. The room, however, was amazing and had the most magnificent views of the tropics and water in the distance. Just check out this video of the view…

The view from my room

The room was pretty big too, inclusive of a King size bed, 2 jacuzzi’s (1 on the balcony and the other in the bathroom), plenty of closet space and a changing room.

The bedroom is so bright
Changing Room
Bathroom with jacuzzi and view
Balcony that extends the entire length of the room including a jacuzzi

The hotel grounds aren’t bad either, inclusive of an infinity pool, amphitheater, spa, restaurant, bar and more.

Half of the infinity pool
Macaws in the tree

The actual Leadership retreat was ok but I enjoyed the resort and plan to return leisurely. With the exception of the slow food service, the workers were all very nice and the golf cart was always available to transport you around the resort.

An awesome view, from my balcony, of Lightening striking over the Pacific Ocean

These Shoes Were Meant for Walking…

…and that’s just what I’ve done. This is the cleanest these shoes have been in the last 3 months. I purchased these Merrill’s for $100+ before I came here at the recommendation of many, to buy hiking shoes for the move. I never imagined I’d get so much use of them. One of the things I have done in this country more than any other is- hike. I never thought I’d be into it, but it’s so beautiful here that I absolutely love it! I can’t get enough of the colorful flowers, large leaves, variety of trees and plants and bird songs. The insects and animals are, and I never thought I’d say this, but, pleasantly abundant.

So far, I’ve completed three official hikes but I’ve also walked miles in national parks and around the city. The Senderos Hike was my first on July 23. It’s located in Ciudad Colon near the University of Peace. It has nice trails for biking and hiking. Pets are allowed too. You do have to pay a small fee for this hike, but I can’t remember the price. It’s a fairly easy hike but can be a little slippery after rain. There are ropes along the slippery paths. I went on this hike with a family and their two children so we didn’t go too far. We saw birds, butterflies, a toad, plants, trees, flowers, a river and insects of course. After our hike, we stopped for lunch at this yummy Vegan restaurant called Tulsi, which is pretty close by. It was a good place to refuel. Enjoy the video and food from Tulsi…

Senderos Hike

The next hike was Las Eolicas de Santa Ana on August 2. It’s basically a walk to the wind turbines and it’s a free hike. Here is the view of the windmills from my apartment.

I thought it would be cool to see them up close and personal since I see them everyday from afar. My friend Shanny and I took this hike together. Neither of us did much research on it, but Shanny suggested we take an uber up and walk back down and that’s what we did. The ride up was pretty steep so we were happy about this decision but you can imagine what the walk down was like. From the top we were expecting to see the windmills unfortunately, we were met with clouds and fog. It looked like we were in a scary movie. Visibility was very low. At least we caught a glimpse of the windmills. The fog hindered the promising views of Santa Ana below too. So we began our descent. Visibility got progressively better as we made our way down. It was a long and very steep hike back down. I think it took us well over 2 hours. Our knees, calves and toes were aching by the time we reached the bottom but the views we caught on the way down were wonderful. The hike was on a car path unlike Senderos which was a nature path. I’ve heard there are several trails to Las Eolicas. (Note: It’s not the safest hike as there have been reports of robberies at the top. We found out about this afterwards but felt completely safe during the hike. I recommend going with a group.) After we made it back to the bottom of the mountain, we walked another 2 hours back into town while stopping and checking out some local shops. Finally I purchased a Casado- a typical Costa Rican meal consisting of rice, black beans, plantains, salad, a tortilla, and an optional protein before heading home. Check out the slideshow.

The third hike, and most commercialized so far was Hacienda La Chimba but it was also my favorite thus far. The school principal brought my husband and I here, when we first arrived, for a coffee tour and lunch. We didn’t do the hike that day but I knew I would return to do it, because of all the Instagram photo, worthy stops on this hike. Along with food and coffee tours, this place also has canopy, zipline, and hiking trails. There is a fee for the activities. The fee for the hike is $12.00 or $8.00 if you have a local ID. It’s a very safe location and monitored, for that reason, I would recommend this trail out of the all three to do alone. However, doing it alone means no company to take those amazing shots of you. The hike is a nature trail with hills and dips, soil and rocks. I don’t think the trail is very hard but it can be a little demanding. I assume that is why children under 7 years old are not allowed. The longest trail spans 9km with several stops and short cuts along the way. Shanny and I made this trek on September 3. We almost opted out because we thought we were going to get rained on, but we went anyway. Pura Vida! We completed a little more than the 5K. You can see from the video how wonderful this hike is…

While hiking, I recommend carrying a backpack with water, snacks, sunscreen, bug repellent, sunglasses, a hat and rain gear. Wear comfortable closed toe shoes or hiking sneaks/boots. I prefer long pants over shorts so I don’t itch from plants or insects touching my legs. Don’t forget your phone and smart/fitness watch to keep track of your steps because everyone knows it doesn’t count unless it’s recorded. A smart watch is also helpful in the case of an emergency. My Garmin has detected an emergency and alerted my husband on his phone on two different occasions while I was hiking. My heart rate suddenly spiked due to running or jumping and took the signs as an emergency. Thankfully they were not, but it was super to know that this feature worked if I ever needed it. Also for the public walks, exercise caution. Check the weather before any hikes. Morning hikes are often better in the rainy season, which is most of the year, because the rain tends to hold off until the afternoon. Also, if you reach the summit and its cloudy, wait a few minutes, the clouds usually pass with time.

Hiking seems to be the most exercise I’m getting in Costa Rica, due to my work schedule, and I am very much enjoying it. I guess Costa Rica has made me into a nature girl. These Merrills have been great hiking shoes for traction but don’t do much for keeping my feet dry. I guess it’s time to invest in some waterproof hiking boots because I see many more hikes in my future here.

There is a Monster Under My Bed- Surviving my First Earthquake in Costa Rica

It was about 9 pm when I started falling asleep Friday night. It was early but I had a long week and after one glass of Seville and tonic, I was done. I told my hubby, whom I’d been video-chatting with, I love you and called it a night. I’m a light sleeper and any light or sounds awaken me, so I put in one ear plug and covered my eyes with my blinders.

About 4 hours later, something scared me half to death. I was awakened to my bed being shaken. I felt it once and thought I was dreaming until, it happened again. This time I jumped up because I thought a monster was under my bed. Half asleep, I looked over at my vanity to see if anything had fallen over. Perhaps it was an earthquake, but I couldn’t see anything. The dogs outside were barking and then suddenly stopped. I checked under my bed, no demons there. I called Darryl and left him a message. Of course he didn’t answer, he was asleep. It was 1am here which meant 3am there. My heart was beating out of my chest and it took me 2 full hours, and 2 episodes of Making the Cut, to finally fall back to sleep.

Later that day, Darryl checked google for any record of Earthquakes in Costa Rica and there it was. At 12:53am, a 5.0 Magnitude Earthquake occurred in the North Pacific Ocean, 44 km South of San Isidro, Costa Rica. That was the monster that shook my bed side to side, woke me from my slumber and scared the shit out of me. The website www.volcanodiscovery.com provides alot of information on Earthquakes around the world. Check out this reporting from that website on earthquake occurrences in Costa Rica:

Past 24 hours8 quakes | 5 quakes M2+ | 3 quakes M3+
Past 7 days87 quakes | 43 quakes M2+ | 35 quakes M3+ | 4 quakes M4+ | 1 quake M5+
Past 30 days316 quakes | 157 quakes M2+ | 132 quakes M3+ | 18 quakes M4+ | 1 quake M5+
Past 90 days781 quakes | 340 quakes M2+ | 379 quakes M3+ | 50 quakes M4+ | 1 quake M5+
Past 365 days2,944 quakes | 1,148 quakes M2+ | 1,519 quakes M3+ | 226 quakes M4+ | 14 quakes M5+ | 3 quakes M6+
https://www.volcanodiscovery.com/earthquakes/costarica.html

The ironic thing is, we had an earthquake drill at my school just this week and my Director and I were just discussing our experiences with earthquakes on Friday morning. The only other earthquake I had ever experienced was in Philadelphia 11 years ago. I remember that earthquake clearly because I was in training at the first school I ever worked at. It was a 5.8 Mag earthquake that struck in Virginia and was felt pretty far up the East Coast.

I guess now is as good a time as ever to prepare an emergency bag. I had one prepared in Qatar when the Embargo occurred against Qatar by Saudi Arabia and talks of war were everywhere. No matter where you are in the world, it is always better to be prepared. Thankfully, I am ok and this was just an interesting, surprise experience in my new country. I just love my life!

Buying a Car in Costa Rica

Meet Skittles, my new road dog.

I’m so excited that I am now mobile in Costa Rica. It didn’t take long for me to realize that having a car here would be very helpful. The area around Santa Ana, where I live, is walkable however, in the rainy season, walking is not the best option. Also I really want to explore the country.

Skittles is the brightest colored car I have ever owned and it all started one day when I arrived at work. In the parking lot, I saw the cutest, small, lime green car and it instantly brought a smile to my face. It was at that moment that I decided I wanted a car that made me smile too. I wanted a car with personality, a bright colored car that would stand out.

Buying a car in a new country can seem daunting so here’s my experience and I hope it helps someone. The most common ways of finding a car here include: Facebook Marketplace, traveling to Grecia (an area filled with lots of car dealerships, reminds me of Passyunk avenue in Philadelphia, or a car mall), visiting local auto dealers and 2 popular websites: encuentra24 and crautos . Two of my coworkers went to Grecia and said they were overwhelmed. I had success using crautos.com.

Checking out a few cars and then taking a mechanic along with you when you find a car that you are very interested in, seems like the best choice. Thankfully, my schools H.R. department has connections and hooked me up with a mechanic. Skittles came from a private owner. The couple were/is super nice and bought the car to my condo for me to view and test drive. The mechanic also met at my condo. He charges a fee of 50,000₡ ($80) each time. Thankfully, I only needed to use him once. He completed a diagnostic check right there, took the car for a spin and then gave me his approval. I told the couple I wanted the car, negotiated a little and gave my verbal agreement of purchase. That was on Saturday. By Tuesday, my H.R. rep had arranged for our school lawyer to meet at the school, with the couple and myself to sign over the papers. The lawyer’s fee was 400,000₡ ($633). This seems expensive but it included everything needed for me to drive my new car home that same day.

So for the purchase of my used, 4×4, Hyundai Tucson Limited, mechanic check, change over and all paperwork, I spent approx $15,400. This does not include the car insurance, that I was not required to purchase straight away. I have been quoted 303,000₡ ($480) for the year, for full car insurance. This is insanely inexpensive compared to the U.S. I thought car insurance was cheap in Qatar, at approx $1100/year, but this is amazing. Full car insurance in Philadelphia is about $250/mth.

The most difficult part of the entire process was two-fold. 1) Finding a car, 2) Finding a way to pay for it, when the majority of my money is not here. My job was super helpful with the whole process and made it easier. So far, I am pretty happy with my choice. Let the adventures begin…

Adjusting to Life in Costa Rica- 1 Month in…

It’s been a little over 1 month since I’ve moved to Costa Rica and I have gone through all four stages of culture shock at different times and some at the same time. I’ve moved through most of the stages in moments rather than days. Stage 1: The Honeymoon stage- There have been times, when I have been extremely happy with the move. I do not regret my decision in the least. Stage 2: The Frustration stage- Banking was frustrating, as is trying to find a car, so is being unable to hold a conversation with my Uber driver because my Spanish is minimal, and being cancelled by my Uber driver after waiting 8 minutes. This stage comes and goes due to bouts of loneliness too. Stage 3: The Adjustment Stage- I think, this stage takes the longest because I am constantly adjusting, especially mentally. Stage 4: Acceptance- Although I go through all stages here and there, ultimately, I understand that I must accept what is so that I can thrive in my new environment. I will admit that the hardest part has been doing this completely alone, no friends, no family, no familiarity.

I’ve moved into my condo, aka- apartment. I haven’t lived in a place this small since my first apartment right out of high school. It’s a lovely, top floor, 1-bedroom apartment. Since it’s in the central valley, where most people are located, Santa Ana to be exact, it’s pretty expensive compared to some other parts of this country. My rent is $850/mth. My housing allowance is $800. During my search for my place, I was torn between the one I chose and a 2-bedroom that would have run me $300 additional per month. I settled on the less expensive 1-bedroom to give myself time to adjust financially. My condo grounds are immaculate, very green and clean. It has a nice pool and a gym.

My place is an hour walk from work, a 15-20 minute Uber ride or a 25+ minute bus ride. I’ve done all three. I prefer to walk to get my cardio in, which is the only exercise I’ve accomplished so far. But walking home from work has proven difficult in the rainy season, which is the season we are currently in and I would prefer not to exhaust myself and get sweaty before work. The bus is cheap, only $0.49 but it takes the longest time and taking it means being out the house an hour before I’m due at work. The bus is my least favorite mode of transportation, not because anything is wrong with it. I just don’t like to take public transportation anywhere and you have to leave so early to ensure you make it on time. I use Uber most days. It runs me about $5.00 each way. Sometimes it takes a while to secure an Uber and sometimes they even cancel on you, so while it is convenient due to door to door service, it’s not the best either. So in summary, I’m looking for a car.

But cars are expensive here, about $3-5,000 more than in the U.S. Kia and Hyundai seem to be the most common brands here. Once you leave the main roads, the others can be quite rocky and underdeveloped so I believe a truck would work best. I definitely don’t want to run into the same problems I had in Qatar with a vehicle. That American car cost me an arm, leg and mental anguish. I was so happy to be through with it. So now I’m taking my time and being smarter with my car buying decisions. Having my own car would be super helpful right now. My new country is absolutely beautiful and I want to get out there and explore it more.

One of things I love the most about Costa Rica is the flora and fauna. This place is the complete opposite of Qatar in that area. I look outside of the window of my workspace and see so much green.

Every morning, I am greeted by bird sounds that I’ve never heard before and a red breast squirrel even greeted me on my balcony twice. I’ve been on two hikes, so far, and couldn’t stop snapping pictures of colorful flowers, breathtaking views and natural beauty. I assume a mix of this crazy rainy season and the fertility of the volcanic ash makes this place what it is- a paradise to the eyes, and I haven’t even scratched the surface.

For my birthday weekend, I borrowed the school van, (yes this is allowed which is a wonderful perk) and along with two other teachers drove down to Jaco (pronounced Ha-kō) beach. The scenery along the drive was beautiful. We stayed only one night, and the beach wasn’t swimmable but still it was a lovely time. I spotted a black squirrel, several iguanas, and some leaf cutter ants on the hotel grounds. This past weekend, Darryl flew down and we took a tour to the Arenal volcano. On this tour, we visited the Tres Generationes coffee plantation and had the best coffee we ever tasted. We also visited the Cinchono Waterfalls, which is in the center of the Americas. I felt like I was back in Hawaii standing in front of this waterfall. It looked identical to the ones Darryl and I had seen on the road to Hana and for the first time, and for a brief moment, we both admitted that maybe we could stay here instead of moving to Hawaii. It was on this tour that I saw a sloth in person for the first time, along with some other animals and Darryl got attacked by a Couti. More on that in another post. We zip-lined through the rainforest and I repelled down a mountain. Needless to say, the last two weekends have been full of fun.

As for daily life, I get up, go to work, come home, video chat with my hubby, cook, watch tv. The same things I was doing before, just in a different place. Work is definitely different here. Some days I love it, others I don’t. I work longer hours than I have in years and I’m quite busy. Resources are less than what I’m used to and the power goes out from time to time. I’m making less money but so far I’m still able to save. The natives are very pleasant; everyone speaks and smiles. The children are sweet and affectionate but are not used to sitting still. I’m not in the classroom 100% of the time so that’s a plus. I haven’t quite found my footing as the ECE Coordinator yet, but hopefully that will change. It’s a new position for the school and for me so I kinda feel like I’m on trial and not really sure where I fit. I just remember why I’m here and make the most of it. Twice a week, I attend free Spanish classes after school, which are needed, because everyone does NOT speak English. Learning Spanish will make life easier here. My Spanish is improving because I try to use it as much as possible. I want to learn it. One of my only regrets about Qatar was not learning the language before I left. Sure it wasn’t necessary but it would have been nice and I don’t want to make that mistake twice.

Moving abroad has it peaks and valleys especially in the beginning. Some days are easy. Some days are tough. So if you’re wondering how I’m doing, I’m adjusting…

The Big Move to Costa Rica

July 9 was move day. With all the negative experiences people have been sharing about the airlines lately, it was a big concern. My flight had been changed prior from a PHL departure and short layover in Miami to a layover in Boston, then a longer layover in Miami with a next day arrival. This was not acceptable so I cancelled that flight on Jet Blue and rebooked another on United, non-stop to SJO from Newark Airport. There were some discrepancies on the weight and size limits of the baggage that I could take but in the end I used the information given to me over the phone by a representative. We were allowed a max of 2 checked bags, that we had to pay for, and 1 carry-on and personal item for free. At the advice of some other expats in a FB group I joined, I purchased some totes for odd shaped items. In total, I packed 2-62.4 dimensional containers, purchased from Lowes, 2 large suitcases, 2 medium suitcases, 2 small suitcases for carry-on and 2 backpacks as personal items. Darryl and I left with 10 total pieces of luggage, 8 which were mine. I paid $440 in total but I didn’t mind because I would be reimbursed by my job for relocation costs. A very nice United Airlines attendant helped us at the airport with rearranging our seats so that we were sitting together and in spacious seats. (Advice: wait to get to the airport and ask for seat changes rather than paying for them online)

We had to present proof of return flight, within 90 days, since we were going on a visit visa, which we would obtain on arrival. This is a Costa Rican rule. I cannot obtain my work visa until my FBI apostille comes back from Washington. The only two documents I was required to get authenticated for work in Costa Rica was my birth certificate and FBI background check. The Birth Certificate authentication is completed at the state office building, Harrisburg in my case. That was a simple task of simply driving up there, walking in and paying a small cash fee of $15.00. The FBI authentication is completed through the national office in D.C. and walk-ins are not accepted. I used the third party company ProEx again; the same one I used to get my documents authenticated for Qatar. Their services cost me $150 and takes approximately 4 weeks. I still plan on flying back home for the October break rather I have the document within 90 days or not.

Our flight departed only a few minutes late and was rather pleasant. Five hours is a whole lot less than the 12.5 hour flight I was used to taking to get to Qatar. Getting through immigration was easy. They simply asked where we were staying, stamped our passport and whisked us through. There are nice gentlemen in green shirts at baggage retrieval that can help you with your bags for $20. Containers like totes come out of the area marked with the number 1 all other baggage comes out of different baggage carousels. Minus 1 missing tote handle, all of our things arrived safely. Thankfully Darryl had the bright idea to zip tie the totes as extra security. The lines for customs was disheartening, however they moved quickly and we were out of the airport in under 30 minutes.

My new VP picked us up from the airport and she had a vehicle big enough for all of our stuff. She drove us to the Aloft hotel, where we would be staying until we found housing. In our room was a small gift bag with coffee, cookies and snacks from Costa Rica, cash of ¢150,000 ($215 approx.) and a prepaid phone with ¢30,000 ($43 approx.) credit for our use for the first few days.

After dropping off our baggage, Mrs. VP and family took us around the neighborhood and then to get something to eat. The restaurant is where I learned my first lesson about Costa Rica: I need to learn Spanish and fast…

10 Facts About my Next Home

Quick Read…

Written before the move…

Within a few days, I will be off to my new adventure. This summer was super short. I literally had 3 weeks off. I spent most of this time preparing for the move. In between, I did get in a 5 day trip to Panama (more on that coming up in a future post), some quality time with family and a little down time to do some research.  So, here are 10 facts about my soon to be new host country. 

  • A lot of people think Costa Rica is an island but actually it is not.  It is a part of Central America and borders Nicaragua on the north and Panama on the south. However, it does have several uninhabited islands.  Can’t wait to explore them. (costarica.org)

  • Costa Rica does not have a military. The Military was abolished in 1948, and money was reinvested in education, social security and health care.  The standard of living has been steadily on the rise since then, the country’s literacy rate is 98%, and the infant mortality rate is the second lowest in the region.  (ticotravel.com)

  • It is one of the most biodiverse countries in the world, with 5% of the world’s biodiversity and 500,000 species of wildlife.  (trafalgar.com)

  • Costa Rica has a high life expectancy and is home to one of the 5 blue zones in the world, Nicoya.  (asuaire.com)

  • You can see the sunrise on the Caribbean side and sunset on the Pacific side in the same day (visitcostarica.com). It is possible to drive across the entire country and catch them both.

  • There are about 750,000 species of insects that live here, including 20,000 different spiders, and 10% of the worlds butterflies. (bahiaaventuras.com) I almost declined the offer to move here because of this fact .

  • There are more than 121 volcanic formations and seven active volcanoes. Most of the volcanoes are in the northern part of the country. (bahiaaventuras.com) Costa Rica’s soil is rich in minerals due to many eruptions over the past millennia.

  • The country is about the size of West Virginia or slightly smaller than Lake Michigan (puravidamoms.com)

  • It is the most visited country in Central America due to its rich biodiversity and ecotourism. (worldstrides.com)

  • Costa Rica was ranked one of the happiest country in the world in 2012. (hidden lemur.com)

Hopefully you enjoyed reading some facts about Costa Rica and learned something new. Do these facts motivate you to visit this country?

Chapter 2- Where to Next

If you never try, then you’re always left wondering…

Just because I left Qatar doesn’t mean I’m done.  And now that I’ve closed that chapter of my book, it’s time to start a new one.  So where is the setting of chapter 2?  That is the question.  Well it begins in another country, a little closer to my original home.  But before I get into that, I have to tell you where and how it began so that if you’re considering being adventurous like me, you will have an idea of where to begin. 

When I resigned from my job in Qatar, I actually had no idea where I was going.  I knew I didn’t want to stay in that country and apply to another school.  I just knew I wanted a change of scenery and a change in my position.

So I created a profile on Search Associates and was prepared to pay a fee for this but I lucked up with going through the UK division because it was free.  Creating a profile through them is relatively easy and you’re assigned a contact person.  Through Search Associates, I was able to see postings from schools all over the world.  For some I could apply directly through the website with just a cover letter and directing the hiring representative from the schools to my profile.  For others, I was directed to apply straight through the schools website.  I knew that finding a position in leadership would be more difficult than a typical teaching position and it proved to be very competitive.  Apparently a lot of teachers were displaced during Covid and were now seeking new opportunities.  Sure, I have a pretty good resumé with a competitive educational background but I lack in leadership experience within a school setting.  Most schools, I didn’t even hear back from.  I was only invited to a couple of interviews in leadership and wasn’t offered a position.  I even interviewed for a classroom position in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, if you call a virtual interview where you answer 3 questions and are recorded, an actual interview.  Needless to say, that didn’t pan out and it was probably for the best, as it wasn’t what I really wanted.  I only interviewed there because the pay was impressive and I have friends there.  Feeling defeated, I had resolved to go back home and take some time off.  I had been out of the interviewing game for a while, was making mistakes and was not used to hearing no. 

I was tired of applying and I was excited about going home for some respite and quality time with loved ones. 

But then, I saw this position with a significant lower pay than what I was used to but in a country that I’d considered retiring.  I didn’t know much about this country and still don’t really but I’ve heard some wonderful things.  I also did not know much about Qatar but that didn’t stop me and look how that turned out.  Not feeling very optimistic, I decided to apply.  Within a few days, I received a response from the Director of this school and I instantly had a good feeling.  We met on Google Meet and talked about the position, school, country, pay, etc… Next I interviewed with the Principal and Vice Principal.  The Vice Principal who happened to work in Qatar just a year prior.  Following this interview, I also interviewed with a panel of teachers.  This impressed me.  An organization that values the opinions of all, even those not in leadership, I wondered if this was real or just a facade.  Within a few weeks, I was offered the position of ECE Coordinator- Early Childhood Education Coordinator.  I went back and forth with my decision to just go home and take some time off or accept the position.  In the end I decided to accept.  This position may not come back around for me again, and if it doesn’t work out, then I can go home.  If you never try, then you’re always left wondering.

The pay was an issue too, but during my time in Qatar, where I was making significantly more, I spent most of that money on paying off bills which put me in a good position.  A position where I can accept a lower pay.  A position that I desire and can possibly catapult my career in different directions where I will be able to make more money later, if I desire.  Besides, this almost felt fate-like.  I was ready to give up and it showed up out of nowhere. The process was quick and I got a good feeling in my gut. I love this part of the world and now I will live in it.

Chapter 2 will begin in…

Stay Tuned…

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