Thursday, 16 September 2010

KWEST - Costa Rica!

We learnt on the first day in Evanston that KWEST reads “quest”, and not “k-west”. It stands for Kellogg Worldwide Experiences and Service Trips.

Having registered a few days after registration started, we did not get any of our top 10 choices (out of some 40 options); the trips were that popular! We were asked to choose from Australia, Costa Rica and Turkey. For various reasons, we chose Costa Rica and it turned out to be great fun!

The leaders rated Costa Rica 3 for activities, 4 for comfort, 4 for nightlife and 2 for culture. Well, we shall see...

21 Aug 2010, Saturday
Here we go!


We met at McManus at five am – thank goodness we live right there! Spent most of the day traveling – US Airways took us from Chicago to San Jose via Charlotte. Then we took a comfortable three-hour coach ride to Hotel Manoa, near Arenal. In fact, we could see the volcano from our hotel!

The hotel did not give us enough beds for this first night so some of us had to share a bed.. That seemed to pose an issue for the guys... Sito and his room-mates pushed the bed together – common misery! That provided material for some interesting shots later on…

There was some time before dinner so we went into the hot tub, which had a bar, to relax and rest after all that traveling. But with just Macs for breakfast and practically no lunch, we were glad when dinner time came round! Don Rufino at the town of La Fortuna offered plenty of options, although my steak was overcooked... Look at Sito’s meat platter!



There was a funny episode when one of the leaders Ken commented that he knew I wasn’t American from the way I held my utensils. That got everyone on our table confused for a while. I mean, I had my fork in my left hand and my knife on the right – so did everyone else! Turned out that he was the only one who held his fork differently, with it pointing up like a spoon, and turned his arm when spearing food! Gaaar!

The baton, which was introduced at the hot tub, was used at dinner. If someone put the baton over your beer, you would have to drain it! We had the firsts of many beers to come…

Some trivials:
a) Found amazing toilet seats at O’ Hare airport – the disposable seat covers replace themselves automatically! They were almost comparable to the Japanese washlet :)
b) Many of us asked the lady at the information counter at San Jose airport whether the tap water was potable. She replied, “In Costa Rica, it is ok to drink tap water. I don’t know why you people from America always ask that!” :p

Update some time in October 2010

I came across an old photo of me:


!!!

Party trumpet, the totally unrelated predecessor of the baton!


22 Aug 2010, Sunday
So packed it was like two days


We started early in the morning with canyoning, including three abseils, or rappels. The first was a short 50-foot, 45-degree slope. That wasn’t too fun. And it was really short. The guides splashed and poured water on us on our descent so that we got quite wet at the end of it. Yes, they weren’t kidding when they said we would get all wet..

The next one was better, 100 feet. In fact, it was the best of the three! I volunteered to go first for my group – or maybe I was the first girl? Don’t remember :p But it was great! I latched on, turned around so that my back was facing the ground, and I stepped off! I remember someone saying that I didn’t even look scared – cos I wasn’t! It was fun! There was a vertical wall beneath so I managed to kick off the wall and slide down nicely. After the wall, it was just emptiness so I let go and slid the rest of the way!

As we continued to walk through streams and rocky steps, we came across a guide lying across a stream - he was a dam! After going down behind him, the other guide told us to sit on the steps and hang on tight. The first guide then got up and torrents of water fell upon us! It was cold but quite fun, heh…

Finally, we reached the last abseil – 250 feet. There was a small waterfall! But due to safety reason – you couldn’t hear while going through the water -, we would abseil in front of the waterfall. This meant free slide for me! I just let go and slid all the way down!

This is Sito..


And this is mf!


After that, it was just a lot of walking and climbing of stairs to reach where we started. Had a quick breakfast and we were scooted off for white water rafting!

The Balsa river was rated class 2 to 4 at different parts. Sito and I were in the same raft. It was really fun except when I was in the river… No, I didn’t fall overboard but there was a stretch where the guide said was good for drifting downstream. So Sito and I went! But while Sito drifted back to the raft quite quickly, I could hardly move! I was eventually hauled into another raft and caught up with my raft.

Hmmm, too light? :p

Check out our great expressions!


It was amazing that we spent some two hours rafting, including a stop to have some pineapple and strawberry – a welcomed treat for the weather! We also learnt a new phrase: pura vida! (yes, with the exclamation mark!)

Lunch happened at 4+, after we took some time to pass a town where a parade was going on. The troop went to the hot tub after that but I needed to sleep, again! :p Woke just in time to prepare for the evening activity – a murder mystery night! Sito and I didn’t prepare any costumes, but he had beng beng necklace to go with a Hawaiian shirt while I chose a lian lian outfit. But roommate lent me her pink feather boa and so, here we are!



My ID was Vanessa Crooner, a slut entertainer from the late 1800s. Sito was Cash Steal. And no, we were not husband and wife that evening! :p We had to solve the murder mystery. Otherwise, it was just another booze party in a different setting :p

See my son-in-law’s mum, my daughter, me and my daughter’s step-daughter!



Many went back to the hot tub after that but I chose my bed :) I heard they did chicken fighting *.* Sito was there but sat out the fight, thankfully.. I mean, chicken fighting! For a 30-year-old?! *appalled* :p

23 Aug 2010, Monday
Sore...


I could hardly get out of bed. It was bad.. My quads were giving up on me.. Lats were stiff. And my abs were killing me…

But more activities were waiting..

Did ziplining in the morning – thankfully not much effort required, just lie back and enjoy the great views of the area :)

Somewhere in the rainforest, we had the opportunity to do a tarzan swing. It was optional and I was tempted to skip. But, oh well, I’m probably never going to do any of these any more so…

Sito went first, promising to scream like a girl but he didn’t; he roared!


From Day3-8/23/10-Ecoglide Videos

But I did!!!! It was something like bungee but a couple of guides were down there to pull us to a stop on the ground. My eyes were closed as I bounced up and down but when I heard someone say “open your eyes”, I did as I went up. And I screamed again as I came down! I couldn’t help it!!

From Day3-8/23/10-Ecoglide Videos

Turned out that it was Sito who told me to open my eyes, bah!!

We had some time before the volcano hike so we went to the cold pool, where we waited a long time for lunch… But it was good fun! The volcano was in the background. Huge black birds were flying in the foreground – hmm, that was rather creepy :p

We split up for the volcano hike. Our guide was really, really boring! He must be a new chap – he kept thinking of things to say, or deferring to his guide book… Anyway, I thought we were hiking up the volcano and in the end, it was only a short hike to..I don’t know where! But the view was good :)



And where we stopped, we formed “KELLOGG”!

Um, not the best angle...


Now that’s all the culture we’re getting from this entire trip :p

After that, we went for some hot spring park! We went from pool to pool to soak in different temperatures. There was one with slides. Sito went for it and scrapped a bit of skin off his elbow =( I didn’t cos the drop was rather deep – mf cannot swim :(

During dinner, I forgot how but we got Sito started on a series of trivials, starting with how hair could be straightened!

That night was hot tub night again, but near the cold pool. I just sat on the edge but got sleepy in no time – my KWEST-mates were really quite something after all our activities and all the late nights!!

24 Aug 2010, Tuesday
Big Reveal!


We set out early for our next stop, Tamarindo! Took us less than four hours but we were pretty hungry by the time we checked in so we had Pizza Hut for lunch :p And for $2 each!

It was free and easy after that until dinner so we just lazed by the pool despite a small drizzle… Think Sito had some drinks in the pool – not sure cos I went for a short walk in town with the girls.. Ahhh, holiday :)

Anyway, this was the day for the Big Reveal! In the past few days, we did not mention anything about where we went for college or our work. For couples, some did not even know who the student or the JV* was! The Big Reveal was supposed to be the next day but there were so many speculations on our past that our leaders brought it forward.

* The SO of the student is called a Joint Venture! :p

Sito and I could not guess the past of the rest since we were (still are) not familiar with the various collegiate stereotypes. But it wasn’t difficult for some of them to guess that we were from Singapore! But somehow, Sito was a software engineer *.*

After that was the worst dinner we had all trip. We waited a long time for our food when we were so hungry! I ordered a mango juice but it turned out to be nothing like mango. In fact, Sito said it was like some dead fish! And some of the beer came half-full! Someone had one that couldn’t be poured out! Then Robert’s main dish arrived and the steak was so overcooked it was hard. We returned these items. My main dish turned out fine, fortunately..

There was a lot of talk – we learnt something new, which came up throughout dinner between Steve and Elliott: maybe this, maybe that, maybe go fuck yourself!!

After dinner, we went to a salsa bar where Sito and I did a couple of rounds of salsa! We haven’t done that for a long time! In fact, we haven’t danced for a long time! Happy :)

Trivial:
Wrist tags are popular – we had one for the hotel stay, we had one for ziplining, and even the salsa bar!

25 Aug 2010, Wednesday
Day by the beaches


Today was the day we regretted not having enough protection…

We spent the morning picking rubbish along the beach – that was our community service part of the trip :p We were each given a glove and a bag, and we set off!

It was low tide, and there were cute crab marks and pretty seaweed marks on the sand. There were also some fish and tadpoles in the tide pools :) I picked up a metal rod (!) and one slipper while Sito picked up a used condom – yucks!

With time to spare, we had a sand castle competition – see our creations!

Sito’s team made an imprint of two persons being iced.. Um, you have to read this: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Icing_(drinking_game)



My team recreated Arenal! Our presentation was to have one guy blowing out water to signify an eruption! Using the trusty baton, no doubt… We even poured a huge bag of sea water into the moat!



Another team wanted to recreate Arenal but of course, they couldn’t match our size :p so they recreated the fat lady statue from the hot spring place – mighty ugly but supposedly anatomically correct :p

The winning team buried Elliott in the sand to form a bottle of Smirnoff Ice! At the presentation, Sito blurted out, “Wait, something is missing…” And he drew out a can of Smirnoff Ice and placed in on the “bottle”! He obviously couldn’t kneel down so someone poured the drink into his mouth… And then he had his own surprise when he sprang up holding a can in each hand and throwing them to two chaps in front of him! We were very amused :)



We headed to Playa Brasilita for lunch and an afternoon at a white sand beach. The beach was a distance away from where the bus dropped us. And we had to face a rising tide and wade through a knee-high stream to get there! It turned out to be a quiet little beach that wasn’t totally white. But it was a lot more deserted than the one behind our hotel.

Many were playing in the sea etc but a bunch of us were lazing in the shade, reading, talking, sleeping... At the end, we formed “KELLOGG” on the beach. There, Sito had his “first crotch” – he had to lean back against Mike! Oh well, it’s a male issue, like sharing beds :p

When we got back to the hotel, we formed another “KELLOGG” on the beach, this time against the sunset – pretty? :)



By dinner time, however, the terrible impact of the lack of protection started to be felt – we should have used insect repellant!! :(

I was scratching my legs like mad during dinner, distracted by only a black cat in the restaurant. It was a lovely place with good (and fast!) service and yummy yummy food! I loved those quesadillas! And there was this funny waiter who had a lot of fun watching how we used the baton – in fact, he helped us deliver the baton quite a few times!

All was well but it started raining really heavily… The group started partying there instead of heading for another place. That was when I realised that the American style of karaoke was quite different.. They just turned on the juke box and sang with a mike! No moving lyrics on the screen! A lot of boogie-ing!

A cab came by and four of us took the chance to hop in and go back to bed..

The next day, we heard two things – the group cleaned out their stock of beer (!) and when they went to another place, the waiters cleared up and joined them (!!)

It began to dawn on me that the b in b-school never stood for business; it was beer (among other drinks)!

26 Aug 2010, Thursday
Catamaran cruise!


We had a late breakfast and lazed by the pool until it was time for our catamaran cruise!

We took a motor boat to get to the catamaran. And we took a crazy photo of the room-mates...



Gaaar!! What did they do in the previous hotel…?! :p

Apparently, they slept in this order, called the Sito Sandwich!!



I got motion sickness quite immediately *.* Didn’t recover until I took two Dramamine pills.. Sito was better but took the pills too. He went into the sea with the rest while I took pictures of them taking their pool activity into the sea – drinking beer!

Those snorkelling saw only one turtle and the guide brought it to the catamaran! Although it was only for a short while, I think the poor creature must be terrified =(

We had a late lunch at 4+, just simple sandwiches prepared by the crew. Then they brought out some temporary tattoos! These were the tattoo gang!



See the butt?! Ya, crazy bunch :p

We were then hanging around for the sunset. Pretty right?



And to be fair, I gave Sito a peck too! That should give him some balance over the kiss from Robert! :p



Dinner was very near the hotel. Had pumpkin soup again – it was way better than the last one! :) And something funny happened at dinner… Robert said that he wanted to be the godfather of our unborn (in fact, unconceived!) child! I mean, sure! And we took a picture with him pointing at my stomach for proof! Then we got Sito over to tell him! Haha!

27 Aug 2010, Friday
R&R


There was no planned activity in the morning so a whole bunch of them found someone to take them out fishing! I was supposed to go but did not after the seasick episode the day before…

So I slacked the whole morning away, mostly in the pool cos that soothes the itching, with some of the girls who did not go fishing. Some went for a massage but I waited for Sito to go together :)

There was a surf lesson at 1 pm but Sito’s fishing boat just returned and he was hungry – hunger won over interest in surfing so we went to lunch with Janet instead. At lunch, we saw this sign :p



After that was our $30 (or $35? :p) massage. At first I thought the woman’s hands were very rough. Then I realised it was sand! Cos we were on the beach :p By then my aches were mostly gone, but it was still good to give our muscles a good knead!

We took a short nap by the beach. Rather, Sito took a nap while I took photos again :p

I like this – it reminds me of the song 《你的倒影》:)



We had drinks before departing for our final dinner, and I thought I might as well have beer on my own since it was the last day! Dinner was nice. Each set of utensils was tied together with a friendship band that we took home!

My table wanted to take a picture of me doing the Sito face – um, Sito’s expression when he concentrates or makes a lot of effort :) So cute right? :))

But of course I didn’t want my impersonation on polaroid!

And another funny thing – Amy said that Robert has thought of a name for our unborn kid, being so enthusiastic about being a godfather. And the name was Robert… *.* I laughed when I should have cried! It was so funny! Thanks but I think we will think of another name :p

Went to Crazy Monkey where we did more salsa – with pictures!



But we left pretty early to rest before a long day of travel the next day…

28 Aug 2010, Saturday
End of holiday but the itch continues…


It was a five-hour bus journey from Tamarindo to San Jose. Our first surprise was a departure tax of $26 – used up most of our colones for that. Our second surprise – actually, shock – was the cost of our lunch. A salad cost $8! Of course we weren’t so healthy… But our calzone and fried chicken were just slightly cheaper…

When we got to Charlotte, we had to go through customs. It was funny that the visitors’ line was shorter though each check was longer. We ended up faster than some of our group! By then, we had only a little time to dash for more fried chicken at Bojangles’ :p Ate on board our domestic flight :)

So there, our holiday to Costa Rica – my first in Central America – was over.. And life resumes to normal… More on life later :)

Found a video on happiness – apparently, Costa Ricans are the happiest people on earth (and friendly to earth too)!

http://www.ted.com/talks/nic_marks_the_happy_planet_index.html

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