Wednesday, 1 September 2010

European Adventures in Costa Ricaaa

Hola Chicos y amigos, ¿como estassss? Estoy muy bueno y pienso voy a terminar hablano en Español porque no ustedes no pueden entender...

The last two weeks have been a blast I am not going to lie, I have loved them. The day after my heart episode, just when i was taking my first head pill and my host family were really quite scared as to what might happen and had tight hold of the ambulance number my new room mate turned up. trying to hide the fact I was testing out dodgy drugs from the doctor i went out to meet him with a big smile and tried to ignore how loopy my head was feeling 8yes I know its always loopy, but the drugs only enhanced the loopiness!. Anyway luckily the drugs didn't cause near heart failure or a session of passing out, only head neck and shoulder problems. My new room mate was Carsten, a German guy on a months Spanish holiday, he spoke English very well and within the first sentence we had agreed English was the language we were going to be talking in, thankfully! I didn't head out with him that night because I had learnt heart problems are not something you can just have one day and then go off the next as if nothing had happened, some rest does need to take place at some point. So I was adult, sensible and mature and rested.

The next day business as usual, hammock, ukulele and off to the beach for my Spanish lesson, feeling much better I was optomistic that the new set of drugs and the third set he had tested were good to go. No more beans and rice on the menu, only fruit, veg and that cardboard cereal women like the use to loose weight (Special K) so all was good. In the evening, I am trying to remember what day it was, i really have no clue, infact I have lsot track of which month it is so I don't think I am going to try and claim i know what day this was... We headed off for the first night out, it was ladies night at Bambu Jam (actually I know Ladies night in Bambu jam is always a Wednesday, so it must have been a Wednesday) so we met everyone in the central bus station to get a taxi up the hill. It was empty but we found a table and chatted away and I began to get to know the people I had just met and the people that i would share many many exciting and fun adventures with over the next couple of weeks. There was one girl, Kate, from Bristol (I was very excited about), Carsten, my room mate, Flo a French girl, David and Carlos from America, Bridget from I'm not too sure where in Europe and Paul from Sydney, Australia. We danced away in Bambu Jam until it shut, my first experience of it on another night beside Friday it turned out to be quite different. ladies night meant free drinks for ladies and disco music instead of salsa. more in our own territory as far as the music was concerned we were able to dance happily until the end of the Bambu jam party and then move onto the next party, in Quepos at Republik. Republik needs some explaining I think, for those who haven't experience it first hand. Girls, even if you take a guy or two for protection don't expect yourself to be immune from the hoards of guys that stand at the edge of the dance floor and try to dance with you. When i say dance what I mean is they don't ever just want to dance, you need to be quite speedy with your dancing to move away or try to avoid them. Republik itself is a tiny club that when you step inside makes you feel you are on the inside of a fridge, painted grey, the air thick with smoke, the aircon makes it feel freezing, with shilloetted figures pulsing to the beat of the music.

Anyway yeah, Republik was the usual, dance floor for a spot of dancing until the men started to close in, I think we stuck it for about an hour or so before we went home, Carsten i think in slight shock at his first experience whitnessing the men and their methods in Republik we headed home to sleep. Ok so I think this explanation is rapidly going to turn into a recall of our night time adventures over the last two weeks because days were spent learning spanish and lying in hammocks whilst night time was spent exploring. However as Flo said on the last night in El Avion "What happens in Costa Rica, stays in Costa Rica" So some adventures will remain stories for us but I shall still updates you, roughly.

Anywho the next night was a Thursday so we headed out for quiet drinks, we went to a bar called Musik that played awesomely awesome music and sipped on yummy juice and shared stories of all our travelling adventures, it was a really fun evening and after Carlos' story of how he was attacked with a macheti and four blokes the week before we were all saying be careful on the way home. Still I had a funny feeling but we got home ok. The next day it turns out my funny feeling wasn't for nothing, one of the guys had been attacked and had a really bad head, impressively though he had not been defeated, had covered his head with a sun hat and was out in Bambu Jam for friday night dancing, credit to him!! Anyway pretty much the same as Wednesday Bambu Jam shut so the party moved to Republik where the guys started to recognise me. Turns out my dancing 'style' was pretty unique and they were beginning to recognise me and actually talk to me instead of just stick their hips out at me. We headed home and spent Saturday relaxing before an epic tour of all night spots manuel Antonio and Quepos had to offer. This meant starting in El Avion for drinks with then headed to Byblos for a spot of reggae followed by our first visit to Liquid, the gay club, it was awesome. We laughed so much and were so happy to not have a single bloke approaching us, we could dance in peace to the music and giggled away. The music got a bit too much after a while so we headed off for Quepos and Arco Iris, followed by Republik. We eventually headed home and spent sunday relaxing on the beach with a night off going out to rest, four nights in a row was enough. Monday night and the only place to go really is Byblos, ladies night, more free drinks, a casino and pool. Its an outside bar (which is nice except for the mozzies) and has a good mix of music, locals and gringos. I liked it, we danced the night away until the party closed up and with no where else really to go on a Monday headed home for bed. Tuesday night and we were off on another adventure, one which I can't actually remember right now... hmm, mystery,well I will get back to that, if not I am sure it will remain a mystery!

Wednsday night was back to Bambu Jam for some more ladies night and dancing, I had got to know one of the regular faces of the dance floor who spent most of the evening trying to teach me how to dance. I did tell him i was rubbish and that there was no hope but he insisted I wasn't... until he saw my dancing. It was hilarious and good fun to have some tips from such a good dancer who was really relaxed about dancing with someone who, well, frankly wasn't really dancing at all, I like to think a more accurate explanation is moving. Anyway all pretty over the delights of Republik when the party of Bambu Jam closed up we did too and headed for bed. Thursday and the boys, Paul and Carsten wanted to see Playa Biasanz, as the only one who knew the way I said I would take them over, the walk was beautiful and i loved the opportunity to go back there. We arrived and after a really hot walk over the hill to get there didn't take to long to leap into the turquiose waters and relax. We stayed this way for about half an hour before suddenyl my leg felt like it was being cooked with acid. it was agony and i stumbled out of the sea. The boys checked it wasn't threatening to my health and then promptly got their cameras out and started clicking away between their giggles and my immense amount of fuss making. The only problem was there were no road to this beach, the only way out was ta walk and I couldn't really walk, eventually i felt ok enough to stumble up the hill. We reached the road where i found a groupd of about 15 workers, they all hovered round me as i explained what had happened and showed them the state of my leg, they were pretty impressed. They eventually got us a taxi and I dropped the boys off at their salsa lesson before heading down to Manuel Anotonio to find the lifeguards Jonny and Alex for some sympathy. It didn't take me long to find them sat chatting in the bar they were very nice to me and put lots of cream down my leg to make it better. feeling slightly better I headed home for tea. Thursday night and it was kates last night, I couldn't quite believe how quickly the time with these guys had gone, it felt like they had only just arrived and were all heading off again. She was heading home from Bristol so we had a fairwell night which started with dinner in El Avion, El Avion is a hugh fighter plane parked at the side of the road and turned into a restaurant, as you do with an old, gutted plane. The food was amazing and so was the company, we chatted and giggled away before we headed off down the road for Byblos and pool. Byblos seemed very quiet so we headed down to Liquid for another time, The music this night was amazing and I think it was so empty our presence meant there were more straight people in the gay bar than gay. It didn't matter, either way we had all become a really good groupf of friends who had shared some awesome times and adventures together, laughed and giggled and it was an absolute pleasurt to know them. Let hope we get to all meet again at some point in the future!!

Friday night was Bambu jam again and the last couple of weeks party was catching up with us, it was Carstens last night but we were all shattered, my leg was agony and none of us had yet to properly master salsa. We left it to the locals to work the dance floor and sat at a table to chat and giggle for a couple of hours before we were too tired and headed for bed. Flo bravely trying to stay out longer on her own, admitting the next morning she lasted about 10mins, because as I had suspected a girl on her own, it didn't take two minutes for the guys to start approaching.

Saturday Flo, Carsten adn i headed for the beach to relax in the hammocks one last time and to have one alst attempt at persuading Carsten he really could change his flight and stay a little longer. We failed, said our goodbyes to carsten and headed to drink juice. Saturday nuight reduced to just Flo and I we arranged to go and watch Jonny, the lifeguard in the final of his kareeoke competition. I'm am not going to say anything, all i can say is I think neither Flo or i will ever in our lives be repeating that experience ever again!!

Sunday morning we heading for the beach Flo not so happy about her fast approaching departure we lazed away the day on the beach before we said our final goodbyes and the last of the Europeans had gone. The two weeks of fun had come to a close and a new chapter is going to begin, who knows who i will meet this week or what adventures I will go on. All I know is I have my ukulele, my hammock, so many happy friendly smiley friends at the beach so I am sure everything is going to be fabulous for my last month in Costa Rica. I will not forget the last couple of weeks though, thats for sure. Gracias to all the europeans, you rock and I really do hope we can meet up in the future for more crazy adventures, wherever and whenever that maybe.

Saturday, 14 August 2010

Welcome to the not so great side of travelling...

I started this blog with the intention of making it as real to those reading as possible (despite how rubbish my descriptions or writing may be) to give you an idea of the different aspects of travelling, the emotions involved, the happy sides and the not so happy sides, because so often people at home will only ever see the happy smiley photos and not see those not so great moments. Of course they are few and far between and often make great stories but they are there and they are a definite part of travel. I have tried to be honest so far and I feel todays little adventures need to go down as well. I think it would be wrong of me to skip them and miss them out because they are not your average happy smiley memory, so here is todays little experience...

I have been unwell for a while, and in my usual way have tried to ignore it, tried to carry on with life and hoped it would go away. And as usual when these things happen to me, ignoring it has not solved the problem nor did the issue go away, it got steadily worse until I finally grew up and went to the doctors. The issue was with my stomach, it has been in pain and affecting my hunger, energy, mood etc. So yet again I whipped out the travel insurance (I seem to end up in hospital most times I go exploring, for one reason or another). Sooo I had to find a hospital to go to before I could go, I had heard the private ones are slightly more money but apparently a lot better, so thinking my health is pretty important I headed off to find one. I wondered down to the side of Quepos where I have never been before, the first doctors I came to was shut, Saturday you see. The second was open but had a big black bow on the front door. I had learnt just last night what a big black bow on someones front door means... it means someone has died. I turned around and walked away immediately, I did not want to be visiting a doctors with a big black bow, I didn't feel it would have great vibes. Anyway I eventually found a good doctor close to my house and went in to speak to him. We went through the details, I'll spare you those and he gave me instructions to stop eating beans and rice (this is practically all they ever eat here so nice and simple) then he turned to look at me and said "...and I will give you a shot". Not so pleased about this I said i hated injections and held me arm, to which he said "oh no, not in your arm... in your but" Oh no, oh really no, no no and no once again, of all my little adventures with doctors so far in my life they have never led to an injection in the but, I have always managed to avoid this, but not this time it seemed. Sooo it turned out I could have it in my arm but he said this injection really really hurts and takes about 30 seconds to give, if I had it in the arm it would hurt soooooooo much but if I had it in my but it would only hurt so much. How to make a patient feel better about something they are scarred about... tell them just how much it really is going to hurt and then tell them to relax because "it's better that way". He wasn't wrong, it fricking hurt like crazy! I stood up and went to carry on my meeting with him at his desk but there wasn't a chance of me sitting down, no way, that wasn't going to be happening. Not until my head started going, I felt slightly sick and made a mentle note of where the bin was, just incase, not wanting to inturrupt him I politely sat down trying to ignore how bad my head was feeling but it got worse and worse very quickly to the point where I had to say I was feeling odd. That was it, that was the last thing I remembered before I was on a journey. A quick, crazy high speed journey, I don't know where I was going but I was with lots of people who I knew and the pain was quite high. Anyhoo next thing I know I was awake, no longer sat in my chair at his desk but in a bed with concerned faces rushing around waving more needles. If there is an inbetween part to being asleep and awake i forgot about it on this occasion because I did not want another needle stuck in me so very quickly woke up and said, "no not another needle, pleaseeeee no more needles". He seemed hugely relieved I was awake, he told me I had seriously worried him and that my heart was not working well. Good stuff, so we've solved the stomach issue but now have heart issues, isn't this consultation going oh so well. (of course I didn't say this I just thought it in a slightly comical way, I was able to be comical because I was lying down, everything is ok when you can lie down.) Anyway he didn't stick the next lot of drugs in me and I managed to persuade him out of the bag of fluids and settled for him syringing syringe load after syringe load of seriously stong suger stuff down my throat. He kept asking non stop "how did I feel, what was wrong?", it was now my head and arms but apparently that was the side effect to the other drug in the shot, drug number one affects the heart (if you react to the drug) and drug number two affects the head, but I was only having a mild reaction to drug number two apparently. It didn't feel to mild, my head felt pretty weird but I was sat upright having a conversation with him about what the big orange box was that was now at my side and my seriously low heart rate on the monitor so I guess my head was working pretty well to be doing this.

This went on for a while, us having interesting conversations about the various bits of equipment around the room, my heart rate, with the odd syringe load of sweet stuff down my throat until he let me stand up. It was a success so he released me like a wild animal back into my habitat and I am free to roam around until Monday morning when i have to go straight back. I have his number and at any moment if there is another reaction to my pills we need to ring and they will come but I feel that while I have had a broken wrist on my birthday in France that required 4 days in French hospital and a load of metal, two days in hospital in Peru for altitude problems and there was something else somewhere else but I can't quite remember right now all followed by this mornings Costa Rican episode I am aware when i go on these trips the importance of a good first aid kit and medical insurance. For anyone who is reading this and may forget such things can Lucy please have just 10 seconds of seriousness (I don't think I can do any longer) and say NEVER FORGET THESE THINGGGGSSSSS!!!

Just to let you know, I am free to wonder around Quepos, my stomach is feeling alot better my arms and head are feeling wild but all is hunky dory, so a success i would say. Maybe next time I will be adult and go to the doctors when i start feeling ill... maybe. I am now thinking of being in Cusco with Dot, Beth and Jane after ignoring the altitude problem for almost 2 weeks before we finally decided to go. It turned out to be quite an awesome experience, two nights of accomodation paid for on the insurance for all of us and between us we managed to flood out our entire room and woke up to my socks floating across the room. It was so funny and quite a memorable experience... I think Costa Ricas experience will add to Peru and France and lets hope it is the only experience here, I feel I have definitely had my fair share of doctors for this trip and made good use of the insurance for yet another trip!!

So be sensible travelling people, have insurance. Muchos love I am off to look at apartments. Hasta Luego xxxxxxxxx

Monday, 9 August 2010

Volcan Arenal and Monterverde Cloud Forest

Hola Chicosss. Wellll I am in an internet cafe somewhere in the cloud mountains trying to sort out my photos... apparently they are quite large files, I´m nearly onto my third memory stick and im not even half way through my time here... whoops! Anyhoo, memory issues aside this past few days have been awesome. Sooo we've survived an active volcano with all its explosions and lava, trekked through the jungle to waterfalls, ridden through the jungle to waterfalls where we even swam.

We left San Jose on the bus, it took a longggg time but the scenery was beauuttiful and so we eventually arrived in la Fortuna, the final stop on the journey and the village nestled below a very big, very active volcano. A volcano that had killed 86 people and 35,000 animals in one hit in 1968, so naturally we decided this was the place to hang out and explore for a few days. It turned out, after listening to the slightly concerned comments of the locals that while it had happily been exploding everyday ever since, the thing hadn't shot any lava out for nearly a month. This was bad, apparently because pressure is building and the fact it has gone so long without exploding means the thing is due to explode anytime now and when it does its probably going to be a big explosion. The locals would casually add this to their concerns and then say "but don't worry the lava always flows down the otherside of the volcano, so La Fortuna will be ok, that is, unless it decides to flow down this side... but thats nature". I did love our explorations of La Fortuna and Volcan Arenal but I am glad that it is now a story and that we are now safely far away from its base and out of line of any spewing lava!

The first day we were there we went on an afternoon trek through the rain forest (complete with a hell of a lot of rain!) we trekked down to the waterfalls and learnt about lots of flowers, both ones that we could drink from if we were lost in the jungle and ones that we could smoke if we wanted a stronger kick than marijuana... which is exactly what a bloke had done the week before following one of Williams tours to the rain forest, he had tested some for himself and been caught in the middle of town the following night completely out of his mind. Whoops. Anyhoo following the education of the uses of the jungle flowers we headed to a look out spot to see if we could see any lava, the volcano exploded, it was loud, and scary but there was no lava. So with the sun gone we headed for an evening of wollowing in the hot springs at Baldi - it was very nice and a lot of fun to relax after our trek.

The following day we were off again for horse trekking to some waterfalls. I was expecting the opportunity to elegantly swim through the deep blue waters of a waterfall and lounge effortlessly on the surrounding rocks as the animals skipped up to lap water from the edges to be quite relaxing and picturesque. The reality didn't quite ring true to the dreamy thoughts I had had before we left in the morning. We bounded out of la Fortuna in the truck heading for the horses, after meeting our guide we saddled up and powered off into the mountains. It was so much fun and my horse was frankly a dude. He was a legend. We trekked for about 45 mins before we left the horses at the roadside and started our trek to the waterfalls. This consisted of walking down, and down... and down a bit more. Eventually we arrived to the base of the hot steamy jungle to find a cool oasis of deep blue water and the most imressive waterfall. Off came the walking boots and we started the clamber across the boulders, it was awesome fun but definitely not elegant. We clambered for about 50metres before we got to the pool at the bottom of the falls, where we swam for about 3 mins. It was practically impossible, the force of the waterfall was insane and there was certainly not going to be any elegant floating, the thing almost pulled me back towards it and I was a little nervous of getting caught up at the bottom of it, the force was so strong. So after cooling down and being very impressed by its beauty and power we headed back up through the jungle for the horses. We found them all bundled together, with the exception of my horse. Being the dude that he was he was stood, uncaring face on on the otherside of the road, as if to say "yep, i'm a dude and I know it" he he he. So we headed back home via an indian village where we had to adopt their unusual greetings and were able to hear a little about the life of their tribe. If was an awesome morning and so much fun. I said good bye to my horse and he didn't wait for his saddle to be taken off, so desperate for grass he galloped off into the distance of his lush green feild and we were left to head back to La Fortuna and a long cold and refreshing shower.

The next day we took the well talked about method of boat-jeep-boat to Santa Elena and Monteverde cloud forest. While in La Fortuna we had been in a dorm with a girl who seemed fairly switched on, we thought wrong. My careful research on hostels before we arrived to each town had meant that so far on this trip I was successfully persuading mum that yes, this backpacking stuff wasn't all that bad afterall and actually quite sociable and fun. So after chatting to this american girl who had just come from Santa Elena and the cloud forest she suggested we didn't stay where I had planned for us to stay but instead head for a different backpackers. When our jeep rolled into Santa Elena and we saw this hostel I think both mum and I were quietly thinking WTF?! THe maerican girl was an idiot and clearly totally inept at finding decent ammodation and did a very good job of undoing all my hard work on persuading mum. Rant about the american girl over and back to the shit hostel we managed one night. Then the next morning, when we were meant to be going on a riding tour we looked at each other and decided to run away. We grabbed our bags unlocked the back door and made a ash for it up the street. I think it is safe to say it was almost worth the $16 we paid for the both of us for our private room (without toilet or shower, which we learnt afterwards that for another $1 we could have had our very own bathroom) for the amount of laughing we have done over this. Mum managed to find a very grand place with horses and four poster double beds, so we headed for the place on the hill and left the hostel behind. Today, after a couple of nights in the nice place we are back in the hostel I had originally planned for us to be in... surprise surprise, its actually nice! So let this be a lesson to you people, always always take your Lonely Planet guide book with you, don't forget to read it and read it carefully and last but certainly not least, if you run into a stupid american girl by the name of Alison never ever listen to her... she really doesn't know what she's talking about - ergh!

Monteverde and Santa Elena have been an awesome experience (apart from the hostel). Our first day we spent relaxing in our lovely beautiful room on the hill with the horses and the big comfy beds to get over the shock of the hostel. The following morning we were up bright and early for zip lining, it was sooo much fun and really funny. We met a Canadian fencing team who had been in Costa Rica for a competition and were now travelling for a few days, they were a little nervous of the heights and not afriad to say, so we all giggled and squeeked aour way around the zip lines, tarzan swings, rappelling, superman things etc. It was fairly chilled and relaxing for me, as nothing could quite compare in the fear factor to the bungee jump. Added to which I actually really enjoy high ropes things. Luckily the weather was perfect, being a cloud forest it has a tendency to not only rain alot but also be completely foggy and, well, covered in cloud. The weather was dry, cloud free and perfect so we could see how high up we were, and how fast we were zipping through the canopy, it was so much fun and really nice that mum got to experience it before she left for england.

Today we were up early again and off to horse riding, rain and clouds had returned so we had big pnonchos over our western style saddles. The guide was really nice and I chatted to him as mum led the way on her horse who seemed to know exactly where it was going and I think probably knew the faster it walked the faster it could be back to its grass. We were able t see all the zip lines from the day before over head and hear the screams of todays bunch of zip lining people which was quite entertaining. It was nice to be able to have a spanish cnversation with the guide though, i have been speaking a lot of english in the last few weeks and hardly any spanish so to be able to chat to someone who coudn't speak english was actually really good.

Now we are back in the hostel chilling, me with my new favourite llama wool jumper on (because it is absolutely freeeeeeezing up here in the cloud forest, mum says its actually quite hot but Im too cold and looking forward to the warmth of the beach!)Our last night in Monteverde before we head back to San Jose for mum to catch her flight I have had the most awesome last few weeks and it will be very sad to see mum go, will be a little rubbish lying on the beach without her but I am sure in no time we will be exploring other new and exciting places together again. Now it is time to head for Quepos and then next six weeks of LEARNING ESPAÑOL!!!!! Eeeep, back to my host family, back to my spanish lessons and back to the beach with my hammock and ukulele. I am hoping my spanish will get better, fingers crossed! So until next time lots of love everyone and i hope life is fabulous wherever you are xxxxxxx

Monday, 2 August 2010

Adventures in Costa Rica (rubbish title but I'm running out of ideas!)

¡Holaaaaa Amigooossss! ¿Como estan? Welll as promised a little post birthday blog. My week at home was lovely and it was nice that mum got to meet my Tico family and the americans, she had some Spanish lessons with my teacher and learnt why I love living there. We went to Coca Cola (yes I know, funny name) bus station last monday to catch the bus to Quepos only to miss it, followed by us rocking up to the hostel only for it to be full... lets just say things weren't on our side that day but all was dandy, we were in Quepos. So obviously quickly settled back into the routine of going to the beach, have a spanish lesson, followed by lieing on the beach for Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. However as my running trainers had arrived with Mum I was desperate to get them on and get out running, I have no idea why I thought I would be able to go 3 months without running because I hardly survived three weeks. Let me just take a moment to explain the bus ride from Quepos to the beach as i feel this is a detail I have yet to explain. It costs 24p, it goes every half an hour (Tico Time) and takes about 10-15mins to get to the beach, it takes this long because there is a fricking great hill in the way. When I mean hill think of the incline and then double the steepness... maybe even triple it, followed by doubling the length. When you think you're to the top you twist around yet another sharp bend only to see it climb a little steeper and go a little further. So naturally this was the very first place I headed for with my trainers. I'm not going to lie, I felt like I was going to be sick, or faint, or both. Because you need to remember I am in a tropical climate as well, around 30 degrees with heavy rain storms everyday, I can't remember the humidity levels but they're high. Theres a loop. I learnt, thanks to my Spanish teacher pointing it out on the bus one day on the way to class. Basically once you get to the top of the hill (although I feel a more accurate description would be mountain) you take a right and head down an equally steep loose stone track, I haven't fallen over yet, but then I've only been up there three times so far. I am absolutely confident I am going to go flying at least once before the end of the summer. Anyway back to the running, when you turn back for Quepos down this track the view is simply breath taking (ha ha, if there was any breath left to take after running up that hill) to the left I can see the coast stretching up towards Nicaragua in the distance, the sky almost purple, the waves crashing the shores of western Costa Rica, to my right mountains, beautiful clouds and infront of my, nestled at the bottom of this mountain that I am running down, my little village, Quepos. I LOVE RUNNING!! So yeah I took myself on this loop followed by exercises down on the beach front in Quepos, never have I recieved so many cat calls etc for looking so terrible. Following this little exercise session I could no longer walk for the rest of the week, I kind of waddled, a bit like a duck, it was so painful. So this is my new training plan, I have six weeks after I finish travelling to devote to my Spanish, lying on the beach in my hammock... and my fitness. Bring it on!

Wednesday night Quepos disappeared under water for a little while, we went out for dinner and in the time it took us to eat some salad and fish the centre had gone. We waded, nearly to our waists up the street to get back home, it was rediculous. Anyhoo the next day we only got half way to Manuel Antonio before we were all told to get off the bus and walk. There were land slides, and the road had disappeared. It had been replaced with a hole about 4-5 metres across and deep. The three of us trekked down to the beach for lessons marvelling at one nights work from the rain. It was a little alarming! Tony warned me that what we had planned for my birthday might not work because where we were planning to go was bound to have had worse problems than home. He wasn't wrong, Thursday night was another night of storms and the village called down to say there was no chance of us getting through. So my birthday was another day of go to the beach, have a spanish lesson, lie on the beach. It was such an amazing birthday. We had to go back to collect the cake, I had ordered a cake on one of the days before, amazingly it was nearly what I had ordered, it even had Feliz Cumpleaños on it! I took it round to my host familys house and then headed to the internet to speak to my Pitts cottage family in England. It was soooo goood to talk to them and even see them on the camera, but I did wish i had a magic wand to wave them all out here. I had a quick shower and we went over to my host family for a tea party, Edith had prepared a feast, the most amazingly yummy salad ever and lasange, I was positively over excited about it, followed by cake. It fitted perfectly, the Americans were leaving the following day so they were able to be there too. It was so nice having such a fun and happy mix of people from all over the world with different languages brought together for my birthday. I felt very lucky. After a lot of giggling and laughter I said fairwell to the Americans, the last time I would see them for a long time they were a little sad, I translated the card Edith had written to them, which made them even more sad followed by more hugs, I quietly said goodbye and slipped out to my next party. Bambu Jam! :-) Nearly at the top of the hill/mountain that I now run up is an open air bar with live music, a place I love. I met Tony and we headed to a bar in town to chat about my day and have a couple of beers and Birthday Gauro (i think thats what its called) before heading to Bambu Jam. My salsa dancing was rubbish, it turns out that leaving a couple of weeks between my salsa lessons and going out is not a good idea. We met this really nice Russian girl and guy from Southern California and it turned out her birthday was just two days before so we all got excited about that and had another Birthday Gauro to celebrate us having our birthdays. They were visiting just for 4 days but it was good to have met them. The Bambu Jam party came to an end and a few of us headed back to Quepos and another place where we found Jonny and danced for a while, we had such a fun evening and it was nice to chat to everyone and realise that I really was in such a friendly place, surrounded by such warm and welcoming people who all really do want you to have a good time and to be happy.

I had two hours sleep, because Mum needed to see the park the next morning. While in Bambu Jam the night before I had organised with one of Tonys friends to meet at the park entrance at 8am, yep, that did mean being up at 6am. Soo we went to the national park that has been on my dorrstep ever since I have arrived but I have failed to actually go in. It was beauuttiffuulllll! and soo funny to watch the racoons and monkeys steel lunch pack after lunch pack from the unsuspecting gringos on the beach. he he hee! After the park we wondered down the beach to the other end where everyone hangs out to have my first surf lesson with jonny. Lets just say its not as easy as England and I am glad Jonny is the life guard because I did feel a little out of my depth, however he kept telling me to not be nervous, that I was a natural and that I need to stop thinking and just do it. So by the end I was surfing practically every wave, he has warned that next lesson will be harder, my knee, which has been skinned and is multi coloured is a little concerned for the iminant difficult surf lesson, but I am sure we'll be ok... I hope!

Anyway after that we said goodbye to Manuel Antonioa nd Quepows for a while and in the morning were up bright and early for the bus to Jaco. We joined forces with a Dutch couple who seemed to have planned everything so well they even knew where they were going to wait for coffee. Although they hadn't thought of the toilet had they... no. That would be the moment where Lucy stepped in and led the way to Subway where we marched in and used the clients only toilets, me claiming that we were devoted clients of their Taunton and Holland branches. Not too sure that was the best line but we made our quick exit and headed for the boat. It was a speed boat, with an Italian dude at the wheel wearing a slightly camp hat with two helpe3rs who were immensly strong. They seemed to carry two people backpacks at a time, I quietly stood at the back as they did this display of strength, waiting with my pack wondering whether they would manage another bag alongside mine. They didn't. Infact the struggled as they loaded it impressively onto their shoulders and asked "what on earth did I have in my bag, my boyfriend?" We laughed and headed out through the crasheding waves to climb aboard the speed boat. Yep ladies and gentlemen you heard correctly, spped boat. And I discovere yesterday very quickly that my tummy is not a fan of travel by speed boat. Luckily I have a strong stomach and mind so wasn't ill but i sure did feel ill! It was more than worth it though, we saw two turtles, as the italian skipper put it "loving turtles, stuck together for six hours" We ruined their party and headed onwards only to find about 10 dolphins jumping in the waves and playing, I must say I was pretty bloody excited! Followed by not just one whale but a whale and her baby - we were incredibly lucky and crashed through teh "calm" sea towards our destination, Montezuma. Not quite as we expected, it was a tiny place but with a lovely atmosphere, after trekking up the sand to the town we headed off down the main dirt track towards our hostel, Hotel Lucy, where they were very excited to see I was called Lucy. We spent the afternoon wandering round soaking up the laid back atmosphere and had the yummiest pizza everrrrr!! We sat in the hammocks in Hotel Lucy, where it is literally on the beach, the waves crashing up we watched the storm raging out to sea when i noticed a twister. Steadily it grew, and grew, and grew until I was concerned enough to ask the dude at the desk if a) it was a twister b) if it was a normal occurance and c) whether we needed to RUNNNNNN!!! he calmly said yes and that it was a lot bigger than normal before turning around, promptly loosing his cool calm collected self and got on the phone to someone, only to rush back out and stare at it, looking very concerend while gabbling away. Thankfully after a while it disappeared and we weren't about to fall victim to a big menacing storm so headed off to bed.

The next morning we left the surfers paradise (yeah if you're looking for a surf place in Costa Rica, put this one on the list!) by the more relaxed route of ferry because I could not face a return by speed boat. The ferry was lovely and we tucked into bread which mum had ordered with her new spanish skills and took loads of photos. Another couple of buses and we are back in San Jose for the night, going to dump a load of stuff and head north for the volcanos and Monte Verde cloud forest, ziplines etc. Should be a fun few days but I have now been typing for far tooo long and need to go eat. I hope you are all happy and smilely and loving life in England, if not come here. Muchos love people xxxxxxx

Monday, 26 July 2010

Cheese and Jelly in Costa Rica

Wow, ok, it's been a while, I've just read my last blog and realised I haven't written since my walk with my host family, which, frankly is a life time ago, a lot has happened!

Well my walk with my host family was fun, we went to the local park which wasn't your average park surrounded by the ocean and jungle, it really was beautiful. The Americans have been fun to be with, we have been on quite a few adventures together for the short time i have known them. Including a trip to the doctors... now that tested my vocabulary! Last wednesday was my last day at home before I headed off to pick up mum from San Jose, I felt a little twinge of sadness having to leave my new life so soon but it was ok as I will be living with them all again in a couple of weeks. I went on an adventure on my last day, we hiked up some serious hills, in some even more serious heat. I think it is safe to say I have never in my life been so hot and I have one word for this blog, it´s cheese. I feel like cheese most of the time and this day was definitely a very cheesey day, not the smell, or the need to eat cheese I might add. I just feel like cheese must feel when it melts. We walked to a deserted beach, it was beautiful, hidden amongst private land, we crept down the hillside, sheer drop to our right we were very careful to make sure we didn't slip. When we arrived the sea was sooo inviting. We swam and relaxed, two pelicans came along to fish for lunch, they were so close. They would hover about 15 metres up before diving down, grabbing a fish and the throwing their heads back and eating the lot. The fish were probably having a very enjoyable day until the pelicans showed up. It was impressive to watch though and i felt very privilaged to be so close to them. We stayed for a couple of hours but the sun was so strong and with no where to hide from it we headed back for Quepos. I organised my bag, sat with my host family for a while, Teo seemingly knocking up a dinner suit, without a pattern on his sewing machine, it was very impressive. Edith gave me snacks for the journey and a really big hug, I suddenly felt really sad to be leaving them behind, and it suddenly dawned on me that when i come to leave for good in September I am going to be useless at saying good bye to them. The Americans were still at school so I wrote them a note and headed for my bus, true to backpacking style I hadn't even got on the bus before my travel party of one had become four. The four of us (one girl who was also studying International relations and SPanish but in New York (I was extremely excited by this)) chatted away on the bus, lucky that it was practically empty we were able to sit together. I arrived to hostal Pangea in San Jose and noticed that Costa Rica is most deifnitely not hot everywhere, stood in my shorts and bikini top, strappy top covering it I rolled off the bus into a dimly lit Coca Cola bus station immediately swamped by taxi drivers, two of the girls disappeared, I never saw them again. The other girl and I tackled the drivers together, failing specatularly to bargain with them, we realised we weren't exactly in the most ideal of situations, late at night in the very bus station people say to avoid in the day let alone at night, two girls on their own. We took the nearest taxi and headed for the hostel.

The next morning mum rolled in from New York, I managed more successfully to get a cheap taxi and we headed back to the hostel for a day of doing nothing. After relaxing we were up early and bumping through San Jose and the mountains on a bus bound for the waterways of Tortuguero national Park. It took a long time to get there but we finally arrived to our boat, which i have to say was extremely posh. None of this handing us a half cut water bottle to bail water so we wouldn't sink like in Bolivia, nope. This boat even had a roof to hide from the sun, it even had life jackets!! Not entirely sure how useful they would have been from the crocs but hey ho. (Sorry this blog it utter crap, I am writing so badly but I have no time and need to get this down before I need to catch my bus, stay with me, i promise i won't feed you this rubbish all the time! I'll go back over it when i get home to Quepos and sort it out).

Tortuguero was sooooo hot, it took the heat of Quepos to a whole new level, cheese was the word, Emma an English girl and her boyfriend were utterly confused when i told them I felt like cheese all the time but they soon understood! We spent the afternoon melting under the fan and exploring Tortuguero, the beach and hearing about its history, me feeling very pirates of the caribbean on the caribbean beach. After dinner we headed off to find turtles. Stood under a sky of shooting stars, a full moon and distant lightening it was utterly breath taking. So that we didn't scare the turtles we had to hide back in the jungle, the guide casually dropping into the conversation that jaguars loved to come down at night and eat them, especially on a clear and quiet night. All feeling a little nervous we were glad when the first turtle showed its face and we were allowed out of the jungle onto the beach. We watched her mammoth effort as she heaved herself up the beach, dug an impressively huge hole, laid her eggs and set about burying them. Every now and again stopping to let out a huge breath of air and rest her head, I am sure she was telling me to stop watching and stop being so lazy and help dig. It was an awesome experience and once we'd said goodbye and wished her baby eggs good luck we headed for bed. The next morning we were up and heading off down stream again searching for creatures, we saw an awful lot (photos on facebook) and ended up in Parismina for lunch. Interested to see where I had so nearly ended up living for my summer we ate yummy food and started the long journey back to San Jose. It really was an awesome couple of days and far more interesting than I have made it sound on here.

Yesterday I did a bungee jump. I am insane. End of. The guy in the hostel has told me I now know what it looks like to commit suicide, its scary. Who the hell jumps of a fricking great bridge, I am just reliving the moment and its making me shiver. It was a unique experience and i really do believe everyone needs to do it at some point in their lives, but once is enough. Once I had jumped and was half way down I realised I was going to die, I knew it. There and then, in the beautiful jungle valley setting I was going to die. All I could do was wait to hit the ground and in the meantime I could squeek a little. No, wait, a lot. I met three really nice girls, two of who were jumping as well, I made sure I was careful not to tell them I thought I was going to die when i got back to the bridge, this is probably not what you want to hear just before you're about to jump off a bridge, is it. Anyway the rope thankfully saved my life. I only had a waist harness, for those of you who know anything about climbing the top harness didn't seem to feature... this scared me. When he put my waist harness on I asked him to tighten it, he laughed and said I needed to breath, I chuckled away before wondering off to secretly tighten it a lot more, I really did believe, given the curcirmstances that I would be able to breath with less space. Once I had stopped bouncing I had to attach myself to the rope so I could be pulled back up, I couldn't do this fast enough, even though the rope had my weight, I still felt like the slightest movement would cause the whole lot to give way (bearing in mind I really do love high ropes, high adrenaline stuff, this bungee didn't feel safe. I guess because it was elastic, so instead of feeling solid and as if it had my weight it gave way everytime I moved. Maybe at this point I should add jelly to the cheese. I reached the bridge and the dude pulled me back into the platform, the sheer amount of adrenline serging through my body, mixed with a hell of a lot of upside down bouncing had made my body uncontrollably wobbly. And I found it really funny, probably because I was so grateful to be alive. They handed me my certificate and DVD and I was able to go and enjoy watching all the other insane people throw themselves off the bridge on a nice sunny Sunday morning. I do believe I am insane though, this last 24hrs has just confirmed it.

I have just relaised I need to go catch my bus, I'm going home today and I am really excited about seeing my family, friends and the beach. So I must love you and leave you and I need to go to Quepos but I promise I will actually write something half decent on here sooon. IT'S MY BIRTHDAY ON FRIDAYYYY, EEEEEEE, EXCITMENT! I have the most awesome adventure planned so I will write to you about that.

Muchos love from Costa Rica, Hasta Luego amigos xxxxx

Saturday, 17 July 2010

Interpreting Extraordinaire!

Holaaaa, that title is probably completely mis-spelt but I hope you get the idea! Just thought I would drop by and fill you in on my last 24hrs where I seem to have found a new role in my house. Yesterday afternoon, while stood in the shower I listened as two American accents laughed at my pet rabbits, Edith (my host) said there were four rabbits (in spanish) the american mother said to her daughter "ahh, the rabbit is four years old" (in english) I could tell then and there this evening was going to be different to those I had spent with my host family up until now. When I emerged from my shower Edith explained that a couple of americans had rocked up to stay, only thing was their Spanish was non existant. Dinner began and it was interesting listening as Edith and the americans tried to talk but couldn{t, neither could speak to the other without first turning to me. This was exciting. Quietly sat in the corner talking to the dog minding my own business they all turned to me for help. So for the next 2 hours I had to interpret between them, I had no idea my spanish was any good. Until yesterday i considered myself someone who didn{t understand or speak Spanish... however, it appears I may be a little better than I think. My brain is tired all the time with trying to live in Spanish but then when I was suddenly expected to translate for them I got extremely tired very quickly. I was suddenly very grateful for last years speaking exam, the one that I had dreaded from the first day of second year right up until the very last day of second year when i burst out of that exam room grinning the biggest grin i skipped off down the hallway. Little did I know, taking with me a new skill, the ability to interpret at least the basic meaning for two people who can{t speak each others language. And yesterday, I put this skill to good use, for the biggest range of conversation topics. I{m excited.

This morning I got up, the Americans had already headed out for the day, my host family seem to have a new level of respect for me, instead of turning to the TV and leaving me to eat on my own we all sat at the table to eat together, asking me questions and talking to me. They completmented my Spanish skills and said I was getting a lot better. Yey, progress :-). We then started searching for salsa music. This was very amusing, the three of us, old CD player dusted off, me with towel in hand cleaning the CDs that were so scratched I{m amazed any of them worked at all. Few of them did work, but some jumped into life and a loud Spanish voice came blairing through the speakers, Teo immediately leaping up and singing along and dancing around the room, Edith tapping. Together we laughed and sang, the workers outside probably wondering why on earth at 7.30 on a Saturday morning we appeared to be having a fiesta of our very own. We didn{t find any Salsa. Every type of Spanish music except the one we needed, and then Eye of the Tiger and I was able to take over the singing. Breakfast was quite an occasion today, and a lot of fun. I am now off across town to see if I can find some salsa. The reason being if i can find a salsa CD i can have my first salsa lesson today. This is very exciting and I really want to start learning so I have to find this CD. Anyway today is looking good, my host family seeming to know me a little better, my Spanish skills improving all the time, Salsa lessons on the horizon AND my host family have even offered to take me out this afternoon. I have no idea where, I can{t remember the name of the place, all I could understand is "it{s a very beautiful place" and "we will leave at 3pm if it doesn{t rain" The rain has been nonstop in the last couple of days and so I am hoping that it doesn{t stop this trip because I think it will be an important trip. The sun is shining at the moment so fingers crossed its here to stay! Where ever this trip maybe.

Thursday, 15 July 2010

Mi Segunda Semana en Costa Ricaaa

Hola amigoss! Wellll I am trying to think of something to write because I know I should be writing something... it's peeing it down outside, being the devoted beach bum that I am I still went to the beach this morning for my Spanish lesson only for the skies to open on us as soon as we sat down. I didn{t give up hope though and went to lie down on the beach after my lesson, this 'sunbathing' lasted about 45mins before I decided that it really was raining hard enough to put my rain coat on and head back to the bus. Only trouble is everyone else had the same idea, the first bus was crammed, the second bus I joinded the locals in crossing to the otherside of the road to catch it on its way up the road, because no doubt by the time it had turned around and come back again it would be crammed... I was right, but being savvy to these things I had a seat next to a lady who had been walking up and down the beach selling Empañadas. A really cheery lady, we sat and laughed at everything. "Ahhh, that tall black man, look... he is a giant, he will be from the Dominican, he is so huge and so very very black". She wasn{t wrong, he was absolutely massive, I have never in my life seen anyone so huge, but I certainly didn{t think laughing openly at him, given his size was the most sound approach, sure enough the majority of that bus spoke little if no Spanish but I wasn{t going to be relying on his lack of language skills! After the tall guy it was the rain, "aaahhh, it rains, it always rains here, it is so dangerous, ha ha haaaa" She chuckled away, me pointing out that even if we weren{t so keen on the rain I am sure the trees were to which she said "and the taxis, they will be sooo expensive today, there will be so many customers, ha ha haaaaa" more laughter. While I sat and waited for the laughter to die down I pondered on this and thought, while its rubbish for her business of selling food to the beach bums of Manuel Antonio others will make lots, some lose, others gain. I guess thats how it is. As our heaving bus bounced back into Quepos station I said goodbye and watched her disappear of, empañadas under arm chuckling away at nothing inparticular. I decided she was a very happy lady. So here I am back in Quepos, banana cake in hand needing to write something... but what, hmmm.

Well Sunday was the day i cooked roast for my Tico family, having asked mid week last week what was my favourite food I proudly said Sunday roast, not having a clue what this was they asked if I could make it for them... on Sunday... for the final of the World cup. Yes you heard right, the World Cup. I had come half way round the world, relieved that I would be far enough away not to even have to think about it but instead I found myself providing the meal for the match. I did need to laugh at this. I hate football though. Edith, my host proudly showed me her 'oven'. It was the size of a microwave (but not a microwave) with a glass front that didn{t quite cover the edges and the temperature gauge missing, so handing me a pair of pliers to set the temperature (to what temperature I had no idea, it would just be total guess work) and a pyrex dish, bigger than the 'oven' itself to roast the chicken in I decided right then and there this was going to be a miracle if this worked. Asking if she had a pair of scales, she said no, asking if she had some fairy cake tins she disappeared off into the street only to reappear about 20mins later holding an even bigger pyrex dish. Something had been lost in the translation, that was certain. The Yorkshire puddings were doomed. I never even attempted them. I had plenty enough to occupy myself with in the 30degree tropical heat of the kitchen and to add to the To Do list was to somehow make this very impractical dish she had just produced from the house of a local friend look very useful to me, the vital part in someway to the finished meal. I decided I would place the finished roast in the dish and use it to present the thing. To add to the fun no food could be left on the side for even the shortest legnth of time because it would be swarmed by a gang of ormigas (ants). I have to say I think i deserve a michallen star because two hours later, surprised not to have melted into a puddle on the floor myself I produced a perfectly cooked chicken, cauliflower cheese, the best roast potatoes ever, broccoli, carrots and gravy. I literally have no idea how I pulled it off, especially considering the handful of times previous to this that I had offered to cook roast at home Mum had always had to dive in last minute and rescue everything. Mum was most definitely on the other side of the world in the Middle East and definitely not able to pick up the pieces if i went wrong, maybe this helped me to focus my mind. Even still for an oven that didn{t show the temperature the meal was incredible. My host family suggested when i finish university I head back to live in Quepos and open a restaurant. Kind as their complements were that is definitely one thing I will not be doing with my life. Quepos maybe, but chef, no.

In the two weeks I have been here I seem to have managed to get to know a few of the regular faces at the beach. The lifeguard always greating me with a big smile and "¡Holaaaaa Chicaa! ¿Comos estaaasss? Pura vidaaa", today greatly amused by my rain coat I missed my bus to stop and chat as he chuckled away at my hood and said how handsome i looked in such a fabulous coat. The surf dudes have given up trying to sell me surf lessons and instead stop to ask me random questions as I wonder down the beach, calling "Pura Vida" after me when I wonder on to my lie under my tree.

However yesterday, having spent the last two weeks on the same beach and having talked about wanting to swim Tony, my Spanish teacher offered to show me another beach. We wondered down Manuel Anontio beach, which is a fricking long beach, I will say that right now. Tucked away right at the other end was a little jungle path leading straight up a very steep hill. It took us about half an hour to walk to Playa Baisenz, and I don{t think I have ever been so hot in my life. The air was completely still, the hot steamy jungle refusing to offer any breeze I think it is safe to say we nearly melted like a cheese toasty. Once we got to the top of the hill we were greeted with the most incredible views ever, I couldn{t believe what a beautiful place I am living in and how lucky I am to be here. I have worked so hard to be here and I think that just makes me appreciate it even more. At the top we were also met by a gentle breeze, thankful for the air we started down the hill towards the beach. No roads anywhere near meant few tourists knew about this little gem. We wondered down through the dense jungle, the sound of small waves gently lapping the shores I figured we must be nearby, both of us saying we coupldn{t wait to jump in the sea. Suddenly the hill leveled out and the jungle fell away to reveal the most incredible little beach i think i have ever seen. I was frozen to the spot, completely struck by its beauty I know i don{t have the words to recreate that little haven of peace. The deep blue water, with tiny waves lapping the shore, soo inviting I took about 30seconds to get my bikini on. From the sea I looked out to the distant huge mountains densely covered in think broccoli jungle bursting out from the flat horizon skywards, their tips met by the almost purple clouds looming high above. The colours were magical and the quiet sounds so calming, I don{t think I have ever felt that calm or peaceful, I stood for ages. We swam for a while and relaxed in the atmosphere of Playa Beisanz before the sea decided to take back it's beauty and in came the tide. We sat back under the cover of the trees eating avacado and cheese sandwiches (yep... they were interesting, ha ha!) silent and calm mesmorised by the beauty. 4pm was fast approaching and apparently the nearest bus would leave at four, so we gathered our things and wondered back up the hill. While we were down on the beach the most impressive, slightly intimidately noise had sounded out over the beach, Tony explained they were howler monkeys and for their size, made an impressive noise. I asked if we could see them and he explained it was very unlikely, hateing people they tended to hide high in the trees and stay away. However as we quietly walked back up the path to the road Tony spotted them, about6 of them playing in the tree tops, it was awesome to see them and I just couldn{t believe what a day I had had. To me this is paradise, wildlife all around, happy people, the beauty of the jungle. We got to where the bus was meant to go from and waited, and waited... and waited. A local worker wondered by on the deserted road and inquisative as to why we were both randomly stood at the road side, clearly waiting for something he explained there was no bus anymore so we started the very long, very steep climb to the top of the hill. It was so much fun, I loved feeling so hot, climbing out of breath, every now and again turning around to see the beauty of Costa Rica and catch my breath. We eventually found the main road and waited for the Quepos-Manuel Antonio bus. Hot, hair covered in sea salt we sat on the bus, our tired legs happy to be resting, watching the beauty of sunset through the windows as the bus carried us back to Quepos. It really was a beautiful day and definitely a beach i will be visiting again, I loved being able to just wonder and explore, nowhere to be, nothing to be doing, all the time in the world, no work pressure, university pressure, nothing, just pure happiness. ¡Pura Vida Costa Rica!

Sunday, 11 July 2010

A moment of meaningful thought on life...

I{ve spent the last couple of days trying to figure out why being in such a place, so far away from everything familiar makes me so happy. Logically I should be spending some of my time in these first weeks home sick and adjusting, but instead I seem to have slipped into my new life no trouble at all. There was a moment when I felt far away and alone but that lasted an hour. When I first saw the beach thats when I had really arrived and since then have been completely content with just being. This jungle beach is so different, yet I pass day after day feeling entirely happy, snoozing and studying, animals all around, waves crashing, birds singing, monkeys calling, sloth sleeping. I am content here with just being, my English life a distant and insignificant reality, where I spend my entire life on a mission, I am 'becoming', something. I am preparing, studying, climbing the educational ladder, never entirely happy or satisfied.

I grew up in a remote (to some) country house. Cities were a long drive. My childhood days were filled with catching newts in the river, trying to figure out why only some had orange bellies. A childhood of making dens in the hedgrows and catching sheep when they escaped, always with muddy knees and a pair of wellies, I was a child surrounded by nature and a truely content child. I never had a need or desire to experiement with cigarettes or drugs, the other kids, the town kids did, sort of outkasting me. This didn't bother me, I had no need to win the affection of a load of confused and troubled, drug obsessed teenagers. they're lifes were screwed up. I was one of the fortunate ones, one of the few lucky people in England who was given the freedom of the countryside, free of the screwed up expectations and desires that filled the void and surrounded those who lived in town. It's hardly surprising these kids were lost, led astray in they're own desperate search for peace and true happiness (something they may find by fitting into the trend of drugs), how could they ever achieve this when they never even had the opportunity to hear silence, always a car rushing by or a police siren in the distance. Geographically they had grown up not far from me but the world in which we'd been surrounded by could not have been more far removed, coming together at school I was the one who was content, just being, I knew myself and had no desire in becoming, like they were, their world of constant searching was desperate and seemed, deep down, under all the talk very painful. Me, I was just me.

As childhood passed and life crept in, we moved, now in England we in the centre of town, I now live in the same territory as these kids grew up in. I am a young adult who is constantly becoming, I am studying, for what i don'tyet know. In a year I will be expected, by life to know what the next stage will be - so I can start the next stage in my life of becoming - but what? and why? So i can sit, old and wronkled, looking back at a life of constant searching never of complete satisfaction, so I can say i was manager of this, head of that, i have a big car, house, pay cheque. I am sorry but this is the part where I am going to say this life is a screwed up life - flawed from the very beginning. For anyone who is reading this and has such a life it's not that I don{t respect hugely your achievements (I actually have double respect for you and am currently marvelling at how you{ve achieved said life without going insane - you have my respect) I simply have absolutely no desire what so ever to follow in thise footsteps. Which is exactly what we{re doing in England, following and mimicing, achieving the desires of a previous generation, but why? to satisfy who?

We in England and the western world have surrounded ourselves with the cold and harsh realities of becoming. We have lost touch with our true meaning and satisfaction, our roots in nature, we spend our lives in one big whirlwind rush, running to catch trains, working through the night to meet a deadline or target. Well screw the train, there{ll be another, walk, look around and try to just be. Easier said than done, especially when in town, surrounded by man made structures and concrete, devoid of trees and nature.
If theres one thing I{ve learnt this week while lying under my tree, by English terms, doing not a lot (but that depends from what angle you look at my sun bathing and studying) I have realised that i am intouch with my childhood days. Reconnected with nature, i am surrounded by life, the magnificant colours of the trees, the way the light reflects from the water and sand, the local people, their warmth and happiness. We Brits are a nation of people who are becoming while the Ticos, they are being. they{re living today for today, they will worry about tomorrow, tomorrow. They, unlike the British say hello to one another, go off track, miss their bus so they can see how their friend is today, they have their priorities in the correct order. they are surrounded not only by a jungle that is the lungs to our planet but the life to their world and these people feel so much more alive for existing in such a place. They don{t care for a macho businessman status, for how many cars they drive or houses they own. They are happy and living, and while I am here, so am I. Why would anyone want any different.When you slow down and tune into this place you realise how much people in England are missing in their quest for material status and to become something that will only ever be something as long as the social structures that surround their status remain intact.

Personally I don{t like the life of becoming, I like being, living every moment, feeling every feeling. having a level of clarity and freedom that allows me to notice the awesomeness of my surroundings. All I say is I really hope I never truely get sucked along in the stream of british people striving to be something. Because I am happy, just the way I am.

Now I know some of you will be reading this and thinking "Shit. What's happened to buzz?!" Others will be cross, frustrated that I have just completely demoted everything they{re searching for. However, yes, this is buzz and the very reason i love to travel, because it affords me the freedom, space and time to figure out the flaws in life.

I look back to my last job. It served only one purpose - to fund my next adventure, but those people (except the few I worked alongside in menswear)never understood me. I made a point of never letting the managers know me. The guys and girls of menswear were a team I was a part of and together we giggled but everyone else would never be allowed to know me. I did not want that place to consume me like it did to so many of them (not all of them, but many of them). The shop was their work life, social life, their girl friends and boy friends but take the shop away from them and they become a shadow of the person they were. They had formed their lives around an entirely material world of targets, false light and expectations. That place was the height of screwed up for me and I felt strangled the second I walked through that backdoor, how could I ever really be my true self, how could anyone? i see truely good people in there who i just want to shake and say "why the hell are you doing this to yourself, letting your life pass you by in here?" theres so much out there, so many possibilities, yet they{ve chosen this harsh, backstabbing environment and let it consume them.

It takes a lot of courage to break the mould and sometime breaking it is a really foolish move (in material terms) that will only screw things up further (materialistically) but if you have the courage in the first place you{ve got all you need. Plan A may not work but you have adventure and life as your drug and as long as you can always see the positives in every situation you will never go far wrong.

So this may be a little deep and meaningful, especially for me, but I think it{s important that we, everyone, figures out what they want from life and then for goodness sake, find the courage to follow it. For me, I see a few years of working hard in somewhere like london, earning as much money as possible so i can then invest in the life I want (whatever and wherever that may be). Now there reality kicking in, you{ve got to except you need enough of the material stuff (money) to kick start a free life - just don{t get swept along in something you don{t want, when you have enough, bail out and head for your dreams!!

That{s the wise words of buzz for this decade, thank you very much, good afternoon, I{m going to leave you with the genius words of Pink Floyd that i read in a book yesterday and head off to cook Sunday roast dinner for my Tico family and lie on the beach. ¡Hasta luego amigos - Pura Vida!

Breathe, breathe in the air!
Don't be afraid to care
Leave,but don't leave me
Look around, choose your own ground
For long you live and high you fly
And smiles you'll give and tears you'll cry
And all you touch and all you see
Is all your life will ever be.

Friday, 9 July 2010

I want to put the date, but I really have absolutely no idea, but I can stretch to July 2010 - The Day I met a Sloth!!! Yes people a sloth :-D

Holaaaa, Nothing much to report on since my last post except for the fact I HAVE SEEN A SLOTHHHHH!!!!! I have been lying on the beach getting darker... my host family have taken to calling me a black person and say I look the same colour as their dog (who is also black). Every day "Your skin is dark... you are a black person, like my dog, she is black too" I never really know what to say in response to this, so just smile politely and comment on the rain or how hot it is, well I guess I can{t help being British... weather conversations are the answer to every awkward situation, ha ha!

The beach has been an experience this week, I have discovered that, as a girl on my own (apparently with amazing eyes... I personally disagree) I attract a fair amount of attention, from both iguanas and men... as much as I love the iguanas quietly starring inquisitively at me while I snooze the men insisting I wake up and chat to them does get a bit tiring. I really do love to just sleep in peace, but I guess as one of my friends put it, at least it{s good spanish practice. Tuesdays attention is just simply inappropriate for here and Wednesday was not a lot better, so I am still not repeating the conversation and today I had origami roses made out of coconut leaves made for my and sprinkled on my beach towel, I looked not too disimilar to a tropical florist by the end... complete with sloth!!

Thankfully Tony, my Spanish teacher came along so I was able to chill out with him for a while, however I am beginning to think I need to find ways of making my eyes dark brown and my hair black just so I can sleep in peace... maybe a wig is in order.

However my new friend the sloth was incredible. I almost exploded with excitment, I was an over excited child barely able to stop myself squeeking a lot and skipping off down the beach singing. I showed Tony and he explained that they are very rare down on the beach, they are hardly ever there, so maybe he knew i wanted so desperately to see him so came to sleep at the beach under my tree especially for me... I like to think so at least. The beach is extremely long and there are a lot of trees so for him to have chosen to sleep under my tree he must have been coming to visit me. He was gorgeous!!

Anyway I am still very sandy and damp from swimming so need to head home for a shower and some tea (am starving aswell!) and this aircon is making me freeeeeezing sooo, I think its time to go. I hope everyones got a good Firday night in store, we have dancing tonight :-D and then off to a special beach tomorrow... with no waves, so I can practice my swimming, Steve, if your reading, 250 lengths no problem... ha ha!

Hasta Luego amigos y tiene un buen fin de semana

Tuesday, 6 July 2010

The Lazy People of the Equator

I am fast learning for myself what Jose Caballero, my very wise lecturer from El Salvador meant last year when he said ´the closer people and places are to the equator, the lazier they become´. I have returned from yet another day spent lazing on Manuel Antonio beach. Half a week in and I seem to have already created quite a little routine for myself, which doesn{t yet feature any sort of volunteering or work except studying spanish and the way the hermet crabs crawl by me along the beach when i can be bothered enough to open my eyes and watch them.

I spent a long and awkward 3 1/2 hour bus nourney from San Jose (the capital) to Quepos (my new village). The scenery was incredible and as the bus tacked jungle mountain after jungle mountain I couldn{t believe my eyes at the beautiful scenes passing the bus. I even saw quite a few beasty crocs lazing at the side of rivers as we passed. I had for company a completely social inept (spelling??) old man who insisted he sat next to me no matter how many times I moved seat, everytime leaning towards me greatly invading my personal space he spent most of the time asking really annoying questions and when i tried to politely ignore him by looknig the other way out of the window he would wait about 5 - 10 seconds and poke me, to ask yet another question. Needless to say, despite the scenery I was qlad to see Quepos. I got off the bus and a wall of tropical heat hit me, there was so much to take in I was kind of dazed, I fetched my bags from the bus, heaved my far too heavy bag onto my back, wishing I hadn{t brought so much stuff I looked around to try and take in my new home. Huge tropical mountains rising around the edge of the village with low small buildings all around the central bus station was a hive of activity. People bustling everywhere, I tried to figure out where I had been asked to wait, a bar called 'Quepoa', I really couldn{t see it anywhere. Feeling very hot and sticky already, only about 2 mins after I was off the bus I was all of a sudden been spoken to by a complete stranger. Panicing slightly and wondering why on earth a local would be asking a girl who was obviously a gringo and had no idea, I suddenly figured he was speaking English. Releaved slightly that I was at least understanding what he was saying he then asked if I was Lucy. Noticing he was wearing a green T-shirt and remembering an email the day before from the contact my cousin had given me I figured this must be Tony. It was and I was releaved to see him, he was meant to be working but had kindly delayed his next lesson so that he could take me to my host family.

I must admit the host family were imtimidating at first and I felt very concerned when the first member of my new house greeted me at the front gate... an American pit bull, or something along those lines, short, stubby and stocky the thing has already attacked me once, his owner thinking its funny and that biting me is a 'game' I told thing thing in English it wouldn{t do so well next time. The man, Teo, met me, short, with grey hair, an unbuttoned shirt on revealing a scar running the length of his body i must admit I was intimidated slightly and wondering if I could leave him and his dog and head back to San Jose. He showed me to my room, a seperate building behind their house, it was bigger than their own house, a kitchen area, bedroom and bathroom I was definitely seperate from the rest of the family. I said goodbye to tony and arranged to meet him later and went to have a shower and try to relax a little. I must admit I didn{t do very well so opted for listening to Jack Johnson and a little crazy singing and dancing wishing Dorothy was there with me so we could laugh. The lady, I think called Edith knocked on my door about an hour later and welcomed me to her home and said dinner would be ready soon. My first encounter of Costa Rican food, I thought I wasn{t a fussy person. Chilli was the only thing that I really struggled to put in my mouth chew and swallow without gagging, everything else is ok, somethings better than others but generally I can cope. I thought wrong. Every meal since I have arrived has been a mission and every meal, whatever it is (dodgy stuff!) is always accompanied with these things called plantinitas, oversized, badly tasting, boiled bananas (i've never been a banana fan, they're a friut I'll eat when I'm in the mood but not especially crazy about them). They make me want to gag, and the other morning I woke up and was presented with fried slices covered in this white gooey stuff, literally took everything I had not to be sick. All I can say is I will hopefully (and better damn well) have a beautifully trim figure by the time this experience is finished!

Dinner over Tony collected me about 8pm and we headed for a sports bar (Sarah is you{re reading this Tony pointed the exact spot where you sat - crazy to think my cousin was there just a year before me!) He is a very patient person, and sat listening to my slow, bad Spanish, but at least talking about something we wanted to be talking about rather than making the conversation up to fit my vocabulary. I must admit it did help that he spoke English!! He then introduced me to the Costa Rican drink which was interesting and headed for this very cool outdoor bar for salsa. I immediately admitted I was crap at dancing and salsa there was little, if any hope of me dancing salsa. I wish Luena was there because I was prooved wrong, we danced salsa, which was so much fun with a live band, I felt like I had really arrived to costa Rica!

The next day i started my new life routine. This consists of waking up at 4am (because my body clock is screwed)it getting light at 5am, getting up at 6.30am for a shower and preparing stomach and mind for whatever i may be about to face at 7.30 breakfast. Once I've survived breakfast I head for the beach and stay there until it's time to go back home for tea, unless I am distracted by something else. The first day I met another gringo (yes, sorry, failed massivley with the avoid English people!! Well technically she was American, but she spoke English) anyway we arranged to meet for dinner, with two other ladies from Florida who i had met the day before on the bus. It was a really fun day, but me with my screwed body clock and one of the Florida girls ill from some dodgy food we decided to miss the dancing and head home. The next day I woke to no water. Yep, it's fricking hot here, it's sweaty, I'm smelly and I have no water. They also have all electricity to the town cut from 10am to about 4pm - people we have got to stop this global warming thing, these tropical countries need their fans in the mid day heat!! Anywho, I starred open mouthed stightly in shock at my host family when they announced there would be no water until early afternoon and then promtly headed for the nearest shop where I boughts a 6litre bottle of water, fished my bowl out of my backpack and had the funniest shower for my life (not for anyone else who finds themselves in this situation, make sure you have enough water to get the soap off!! Because once its gone, its gone!!) Never so greatful to be clean I headed for the beach and my first Spanish lesson (yep I now have my spanish lessons on the most beautiful beach ever - soo lucky! Complete with jungle, fresh juice and monkeys! After my lesson I had to go and lie on the beach for the rest of the day to get over using my brain for an entire hour. My host family are positively shocked at my skin, they were sat at breakfast this morning saying none of the students have ever gone as brown as me in months let alone in a few days and keep giving me advice like stay out of the sun 11am-3pm, lots of sun cream etc. (you know, all the obvious stuff) but yes, I am fairly brown.

I always start the day with good intentions, i wake up saying today will be the day that I stay on the bus past the beach stop and go to the National Park to organise my volunteering, but when this day does finally arrive I might jsut arrange it for when i get back from my three weeks travelling with mum because I really feel like taking a three week holiday on manuel Antonio beach... just because I can! I met this english guy yesterday, at the beach. He had invented the timing system that turns lights off when nothings moving in the room to save hotels money. This was the guy that had meant my spanish class had, for the last two years had to dance around waving at the sensor everytime we had sat there for so long the lights had gone off. here he was, beer in hand living his days out on the most incredible beach. Apparently with a large property, he rented out apartments to holiday people and while the gringos made him money, he sat on the beach drinking beer watching the girls go by. Clever guy, and I have to say i kind of want his life.

Today i lay there on the sand, under the shade of the jungle trees, waves crashing up, monkeys eating above me and coconuts rolling around in the tide I sleepily agreed with Jose's point... it's impossible to be anything other than very lazy this close to the equator.

Friday, 2 July 2010

Ha llegar en Costa Ricaaaaa!

Hola everyone, I have finally arrived and I can tell you all now it is a lonnnngggg way to Costa Rica! Definitely was a very sound idea to stay with Luena the night before I left on my flight, it was really good to see her before I went away for the summer and her for the year. She is definitely a lovely friend and an amazing cook, fajou for tea was possible the most exciting thing ever!! ¡Gracias Luena! We got up at 5.30 or something like that and i headed off for the plane, I have got to admit it was funny watching the people in the flight trying to fit into their seats... New York was interesting and customs definitely make you feel like a criminal, he thought it was very suspicious behaviour that I was heading for Costa Rica and paying a family to have me, rather than them paying me so i tried explaining it´s like paying rent for food and accommodation... he still didn´t get it but I got the customs stamp and got through :-)

After five hours waiting, New York was finished with and I headed for my second flight where I sat with two of the coolest people ever, we giggled and laughed and chatted so much, my flight went by so fast. One lady was from Holland who lived in America she had travelled an awful lot and with blue eyes and blonde hair we could sympathise with one another over the endless attention for having such features (not that I even consider my hair blonde, it seems many people do!!) The second guy was a Costa Rican also living in America, he was a very sound guy and I have a lot of respect for him! We chatted for ages, and it was hugely refreshing to be able to talk honestly about life and laugh at it, he lived a long way from his family and so did I and his family values were far better than those of many people in England. We chatted about some of the things that were tricky with living so far away from the important people for the other benefits in life but it was a positive thing, not negative, I jsut couldn´t help but feel this sort of conversation would not be possible in England... people would see the topic as a bad one, one to be avoid, an awkward conversation but we laughed so much. The three of us shared stories and tips (mainly the other two giving me the tips for Costa Rica!) and the five hours was gone in a flash. The Costa Rican guy took me to meet his family who helped me ring the hostel and find a way to get there, gave me their contact details and said to ring and let them know how I was getting on, this sort of kindness just left me feeling so happy. When does anyone in England help one another like this, just help a stranger because they want to help. It was very refreshing to meet some people who saw the world in the same way as me, we got on so so well and what was so lovely was that all the social barriers of normal life were immediately forgotten, what does it matter they´re 10 or 15 years older than me, business people or from a different country or culture we can still laugh, joke and still care about the things in life that actually matter.

As you´ve probably guessed I enjoyed my plane flight with the fun people and turned up to an awesome hostel and funnily enough a woman who had been on the same flight as me and lived in Bristol, this is loco (crazy)! So we talked about commuting, her explaining her boss used to live in Taunton and drive up, my friends at uni dont even know where Taunton is, so to be standing in Costa Rica having a conversation about these places felt strange. Anyway I am up, dressed... I can smell English breakfast cooking, this is reminding me of the mission Dorothy, Beth and I went on for full English breakfst in Cusco. Funny to think we were craving such a thing when we never ate it at home but it was good and this Costa Rican English breakfast is smelling mighty fine... probably because i haven´t eaten for a very long time now soooo I think this is time to go and eat!!! Just to let you know, after eating i´ll be heading to Quepos and my family, fingers crossed its all ok!

Sorry for the spellings Im not wasting time proof reading, breakfast is more tempting!! Until next time hope lifes peachy in Inglaterra.

Hasta luego amigos xxxxx

Sunday, 27 June 2010

The day I left Debenhams

Wow, well I have finished at Debenhams and I’ve got to admit it does feel slightly weird! A job I started over a year ago for a bit of spare cash definitely became part of my second year uni life and has provided many many stories along the way, some amusing, some crazy and some just plain frustrating. One thing’s for sure my friends, family and I have come to the conclusion while marvelling at the spectacle of Debenhams over the past year that there is no doubt the Taunton store could run its own soap. Personally I feel it would triumph over even the most established of UK TV soaps!! I did become a part of the soap... there were ups and downs, funny parts and annoying parts but the thing that really made it for me were the people I worked with on menswear, Kate, Sam, Peter, Kim, Steve, Sophie, Alix, Louise, I have never cared much for TV soaps but I think this is one I might slightly miss in a weird sort of way. The job was not fun, the people however have provided me with much welcome company through the last year of uni, they have provided a distraction from the endless assignments and exam stress when I really needed it, we have laughed together, survived late night Christmas shifts and the crazy hype of Mega week sales together, we’ve taken on the daily mission of the insane account targets together and attempted to win the customers support in any way we can for gold stars, we’ve shared insane challenges together (like nearly killing one another with exercise as we challenged each other to the furthest distance cycled in the cycle to the moon in a month challenge at the front of store) we’ve marvelled at some incredible customers and helped each other through the not so brilliant customers, we’ve been plain silly at times and plain serious at others but the whole thing has been an experience and one that I won’t forget. It has provided me with the opportunity to travel to Costa Rica and therefore it most definitely does deserve its place in this travel blog, as no traveller, however fortunate can travel without first finding a way to fund it! For my friends and family at home... sorry but the Debenhams soap is over.
If any of the menswear team are here reading this I would like to say sorry for my terrible waffle and writing on this blog (actually that goes for anyone who may be reading this, Debenhams related or not, writing is most definitely not a strong point of mine nor a planned career option) but also a big thank you, I won’t miss the folding or the accounts but I will miss some of you as you have helped this year along for me, as I sit here and write this I must admit I am giggling at some of the memories pouring back... the man with the umbrella was a gem though, I won’t be forgetting him!! It’s been an interesting experience and I do hope that we stay in contact, but for now I hope you have a good summer... I’ve requested summer uniforms all round and for you male managers – I’ve suggested suits with shorts (the interviewer laughed, as did I at how that might look... but he got my point) If only they could give you deck chairs on the roof for sunbathing all would be sorted!! Good luck and always follow your dreams, email me when you can, I will always really love to hear from you and probably email back a lot of excited waffle! Hasta luego los amigos de Debenhams! Xxxxx
As far as the update on organisation for the Thursday departure goes... true to student form I have still yet to start, the backpack is still leaning against Bickham and Dru and I still have a mountain of stuff to organise, tomorrow morning is the morning, I will be marching to town, list in hand to sort out my life. Bring it on!

Thursday, 24 June 2010

One Week until Costa Ricaaa :-D

Wow, well I’m getting quite excited now, I’ve just passed my second year exams, have my flights booked, insurance and malaria stuff sorted, only two days of work left to go and a hell of a lot of stuff to sort out between now and next Thursday. Sooo I thought it might be an idea to write something here quickly to give an update on not a lot really. Seeming as I haven’t really done anything to show for myself, I thought I could report on my disorganisation with one week to go... Actually the idea of 17 hours on a plane is quite appealing, I won’t be able to move or do anything except sit, eat and rest – which probably won’t do me any harm! Well a lot has gone wrong with this trip but I haven’t given up and I’ve worked bloody hard for a very long time if I’m honest so I am really looking forward to it finally becoming real, everything seems to be coming together despite it all being very last minute. Since BUNAC pulling out two weeks ago I have had to find a host family and placement, luckily my lovely cousin has been extremely kind and helpful and gave me a contact in Costa Rica who seems to have found me a family and is going to give me some Spanish lessons so I am very excited and can’t believe I will nearly be meeting them all in just a week!! It doesn’t feel real at all and more to the point I am sort of in denial about how much I have to do between now and then, kind of like an assignment, the books sit in the corner while you think of everything else you can do to avoid them and the idea of actually starting the beasty piece of work, well aware of the immense work load that is an inevitable part of starting, well... just like the books my backpack is out of the cupboard and sat here looking at me, completely empty while I watch TV and ‘sort out my blog’. Tomorrow maybe I will fetch some more stuff from town and then maybe think about possibly starting to get organised. For now though I just wanted to say ONE WEEK TO GOOOO. Hasta Luego Amigos!!

Saturday, 29 May 2010

Qatar, January 2010

One grey, over cast, freezing and wet day in mid November I had a moment. Moments, seriously, they excite me! Usually because they involve a moment of me inventing some crazy far out last minute idea, that nearly always turns out to be incredible fun. This moment was no different, I can tell you the exact spot actually, at the bus junction opposite the main entrance to university, rain lashing against the window, really wishing I didn’t have to get off the bus in a few moments I decided there and then that I needed out of this country and that waiting until May/June to leave really was asking too much of myself, especially when those six months would involve a hell of a lot of work, both university and Debenhams related. So a couple of texts later I was formulating a mad plan that really wasn’t in my budget but sometimes needs are more important than financial goals!!

I text mum to see if it would be ok to descend upon Doha in January and then, before waiting for the reply because I was certain it would be fine I text work to ask the question that petrifies me, can I have another week of work to go somewhere please? This time I decided, as the week I had available from uni would fall in the middle of January sales and god knows what other hyped up, intense week of sales Debenhams might have created for themselves I would create a long winded, suck up text to my manager... the “I know it’s a long shot...” and “...I’ll fold as many pairs of jeans as you want from now until I leave” these lines worked, “I’ll see what I can do” came back, it wasn’t a flat no, excitement! Sure enough, within two days I had gone from the moment to flights booked, insurance purchased and excitement setting in, I was going to Doha, Qatar :-D

The week before my departure I think it would be fair to say there were weather issues, that whole post dedicated to snow i mentioned back in January... that was the issue, snow and a lot of. Thankfully, seriously thankfully I managed to get out, my flight fell on the couple of days that Heathrow flights were leaving and I got out of England and arrived, 8 hours later in the Middle East. Immigration was amazing, I was positively over excited at the sight of all men in thobes (long white floating outfits with head dresses) they looked amazing and I felt I had landed into somewhere different. Different was, indeed the word. Mum was at work so I got a taxi to her apartment where I had another wave of over excitement at quite how amazing Mum’s life appeared to be, I mean come on, I had just come from my country, a recreation of the inside of a packet of frozen peas and arrived to her world, a world of sun, sea, sand and amazing outfits for everyone. Her apartment was incredible, I had enough time to run around and take a million pictures of just about everything before I followed her set of instructions of how I was to entertain myself for the afternoon until she finished work. My entertainment was the beach club at the Marriott hotel, paradise. Hummus, pittah, fresh orange juice, brought to you while you lie in the warm, no, wait, rewording needed, hot hot sun. I couldn’t quite believe it that this is how you hang out for the afternoon in Qatar, far cry from England, hmm let me try and imagine. In fact I still haven’t figured out what the average Brit is meant to do for an afternoon’s entertainment... maybe this is why I find it hard to fit in, but whatever it is I am pretty certain Doha’s beach clubs would triumph over all options available.

Mum arrived late afternoon and we began our week’s adventures. We did everything, we went to the souk, rode beautiful Arab horses, went horse and camel racing, ate the most amazing food (I love food) and hummus, met some awesome people, hung out at the most incredible beaches, you need to see them to believe them and flew to Dubai for the weekend for a little more exploring. I loved it, everything was different, nothing was simple and really you need to experience the country before you can understand quite how wacky it is – but I loved the wackiness, it was awesome. Apart from anything it was just a really nice treat to spend an unexpected week with Mum and see where she lived; thank goodness I had an understanding boss!! What I really loved was the serious lack of tourists, I can see why Mum says it is not a place for the average British tourist and I’m glad it’s not, looking at Dubai it would be a tragedy to see Qatar westernised for the masses of tourists, it’s fine just how it is. The call to prayer five times a day, starting at 5am (seriously this religion has invested in some impressive speaker systems – both in Jerusalem, Israel and here in Qatar!) you do cover up, otherwise expect the police to send you home to change. I like the fact they have an identity and they stand by it.

My week in Qatar was awesome fun and over far too fast but it meant I escaped not only the snow of England but also a week of Debenhams and its January sales and that in itself was a treat!!