The GoGlobal Blog

Author: Angela Wells

I believe in dancing in the rain. I believe in the relentless pursuit of a regret free life. I believe in inspiration. I believe in spontaneity. I believe in gaining knowledge through others. I believe in a greater being. I believe in a peaceful future.
Costa Rica Catch Up

Costa Rica Catch Up

As the semester has continued I’ve found myself procrastinating a bit on my blog so I’ve decided to play catch-up and write about some of the highlights I’ve had during my time in Costa Rica in the past month.

*Naranjo, Zarcero, Sarchi field trip: On the day of my birthday my favorite Spanish professor, Sra. Marielos, took our Spanish class of about 13 students on a field trip to the interior of Costa Rica.  We went to 3 small towns each with cultural significance to the country.  Our first stop was a town called Zarcero which had beautiful botanical gardens filled with bushes shaped in intricate designs like dinosaurs, monsters and mazes.  Then after a muy rico lunch of fish, rice, beans, and veggies we got in the bus and went to a coffee plantation.  This is the second coffee plantation I’ve been to but this time was a bit more interesting because we walked all through the fields and saw the way the land was terraced and how the farmers hand picked the beans.  I also really enjoyed the tour because it was one of the plantations used for Starbucks coffee and it was great to know that this particular field was fair trade.  The workers, mostly Nicaraguan, are granted living accommodations, education for their children, a fair wage, and sufficient food.  The third location was called Sarchi, a small town that is known for having beautiful artisans, especially ones who paint ox carts.  We went to a market and saw some beautifully decorated carts and other goods for sale.

*Santa Teresa and Mal Pais: I visited these two towns two weekends in a row and found myself almost addicted to how tranquil and beautiful they are.  The towns reside on the West coast of the Nicoya Peninsula and their stunning beaches run right into each other.  The first weekend I was there was a weekend with a full moon and I went to an amazing Full Moon Party on the beach with my friend and some people we met at a hostel.  There was the biggest bonfire I’ve ever seen, great music and an hour long fire dancing show.  Dancers twirled, hoola-hooped, baton twirled, spun and caught fire continuously while standing in a circle on the beach.  It was one of the coolest dance performances I have ever seen, I was so blown away.  Also the full moon that night was the biggest Costa Rica had seen in 20 years and the entire beach and ocean glowed white.  The next weekend I came back and stayed with some Canadians I met on the ferry the first weekend.  I spent an afternoon practicing my surfing skills and laying on the beach.  That night we cooked at their place and I ate shark for the first time in my life followed by a fire on the beach!

*Ziplining in Monteverde:  This past weekend I traveled with USAC and the rest of the students to the Monteverde Cloud Forest.  Monteverde is a town high in the mountains of Costa Rica and its name truly defines the beauty as everything is green for miles.  It was very nice to have a weekend with everything paid for complete with great meals and a nice hotel!  We spent the first day hiking and on the look out for exotic animals, while the hike proved rewarding, no crazy creatures were found.  However, we did find a waterfall and got a great workout!  The next day we zip lined in the jungle.  It was really cool because this particular zip line is the longest in the world and has spectacular views! It was pretty cool to be able to zip line and fly at the same level or on top of the tallest trees!  After canopying on 13 lines we lined up to do the “tarzan swing” which works somewhat like a bungee jump.  It’s a jump off an elevated platform that lets you fly through the jungle and swing back and forth until losing momentum! Despite me general dislike to travel in large groups this weekend was a definite success!

Nicaraguan Treehouse Adventures

Nicaraguan Treehouse Adventures

After only receiving a 15 day visa from the immigration official in Costa Rica after my trip to Colombia I have to admit I was a little irritated with the stress of having to leave the country again in 2 weeks.  However, now I have realized that what I thought would be an inconvenient border run turned out to be a blessing in disguise and created a very memorable 3 days.

I arrived in Granada, Nicaragua after a 7 hour bus ride from Puntarenas, including 2 hours at the hot and quite unorganized border.  When I arrived in Granada I had no plans, no reservations and no expectations.  I did however have a pamphlet a friend had given me of a tree house hostel 10 km outside the city, so I jumped on a bus leaving the city, got off at the landmark and hiked up through the jungle to Poste Rojo Treehouse.  After arriving and picking out the hammock with the best view (which cost roughly $3/night to sleep in) I went to the yoga class they held during sunset.  That night I ate a communal dinner with the other backpackers and met some amazing people who were so much fun to get to know over the course of the next 3 days.  We made our own pizzas and then cooked them in an outdoor oven before feasting.

The next day I hiked up Volcan Mombacho with 2 boys and 1 girl I met at the hostel the night before.  They were part of a group who had been traveling in a communal bus around Central America for a few months now.  Basically, they had each met this bus and the driver at some point during their travels and he invited them to ride with him South letting them sleep and eat on the bus along the way.  I thought this was such a cool concept and really admire the compassion and love of travel the driver Tim had, as well as the amount of time and energy he invested to make this dream a reality for him and fellow backpackers.

The trek up the volcano was no easy task for me but after reaching the top and seeing the view of Lake Nicaragua, Isla Ometepe, and the forests that lived within the craters it was worth the pain.  Later that day we hitch hiked into Granada and went for a swim in giant Lake Nicaragua, another great reward to an exhausting day.

The next day I went to the Masaya Market located in the small town of Masaya.  This market had everything I could ask for, from fresh pineapple to handmade dresses to wooden carved table ware.  I bought a beautiful handmade floral purse, a hammock, some earrings made of turtle shells, and some head scarves.  The market was so vibrant and bargaining with the different vendors in Spanish made the experience memorable.

My last day in Nicaragua was spent exploring Granada with a Dutch boy who had worked as a film maker there for 2 months before.  It was such a relaxing day just walking around the city, sitting in the Central Park, seeing the market, eating local food from street vendors, exploring the Cathedrals, and walking along the lake.  That night after a meal of spaghetti and garlic bread at the hostel, a lot of the musically talented travelers played on the deck over looking the jungle.  It was so nice to hang out with my new friends for one last night in such a chill environment and realize that maybe fate was working in my favor.

Bedtime Story Becomes Reality

Bedtime Story Becomes Reality

The bedtime story is an event which occurs nightly in the bedrooms of most little girls with their mom or dad at their side and a stuffed bunny in their lap.  Most revolve around a princess in a pink gown or a unicorn in the sky, but my mom rarely pulled out the legend of the prince who saved the day. Instead, I remember her telling me about the year she left small town Minnesota and moved to Bogota, Colombia where her life was forever changed.  Ever since those stories were implanted in my mind Colombia has always been one of those places I knew I had to visit.  So, when the idea came up of taking a 10 day trip there while sitting around a campfire on the beach in Puntarenas, Costa Rica with 2 new friends I realized it would finally happen.

So two weeks ago as the school week ended and our spring break began my friend Katelyn and I sat in my room and packed our small school backpacks with enough clothes, toiletries and bug spray to last 10 days and left with our friend Eric to Colombia.  Our flight from San Jose to Cartagena, Colombia was painless and when we got out off the plane I was approached by a young Brazilian woman name Flora who asked if we could split a cab into the city.  From that cab ride on Flora stayed with us almost the entire trip and I am so glad we met her because not only was she well traveled and educated with tons of good stories, she was so much fun to go out dancing with and reminded me so much of my Brazilian sister Tati!

The only way I can explain Cartagena is a city that resembles Sevilla, Spain in the center and Miami, Florida on the outside.  The center of the city is completely enclosed in old fortress walls and inside the architecture is amazing with colorful colonial homes, narrow cobblestone streets, Spanish style Cathedrals, and horse carriages.  Beyond the city walls the city is adorned with white skyscrapers along the Caribbean coast.  We spent the majority of time in Cartagena riding bikes around the city, cooking in the hostel, taking pictures at sunset, and going dancing with the people we met in the hostel from all around the world.

After one day and a half in Cartagena we departed for Santa Marta for one night.  The city of Santa Marta has a lot more to offer on the weekend but because we were there on a Sunday the feel was pretty relaxed.  We walked along the boardwalk and ate dinner at an outside cafe.  The next morning we went to Taganga, a small fishing village on the Caribbean Sea inside a cove which was so beautiful.  Katelyn, Flora and I got a hotel room in the town and found a secluded beach for some sunbathing until sunset.  Then, we got ready for the night and went out to a restaurant for some authentic Colombian seafood fresh from the sea.

The next day Flor, Katelyn and I woke up and decided we would go meet Eric (an avid surfer from California) at a surf camp he had ventured to earlier in the week.  The surf camp was amazing to say the least.  It was located on a piece of land sold a few years ago from a para military group to a pair of Canadian brothers.  Because most of the land has remained unsold the beach we were on was deserted for miles.  All the surf camp consisted of was a few hammocks tied to palm trees, 2 outside showers, 2 outside toilets, a picnic table, a thatched roof kitchen, and a storage of surfboards.  The camp was called Costeno Beach and there were only 12 of us or so there, all backpackers from all around the world.  It felt so amazing to be one of the only people on a deserted beach as far as the eye could see.  We went swimming in a fresh water river, cooked and ate communal meals together, had a campfire on the beach, slept in hammocks, awoke to the sunrise, and Eric even taught me how to surf! The main mode of transportation was a two seater bike that could conveniently carry surf boards on the top, holler monkeys were used as the morning alarm clock, and Mario the beloved dog was the only form of security.

After a 2 days in secluded paradise we decided it was time to go inland.  We said a sad goodbye to our Brazilian friend Flora and picked up a Canadian amigo Loren who came with us to Medellin.  The road to Medellin takes 14 hours from the North coast so we opted to take an overnight bus to save some time and money.  The bus went through the mountains and the mix of high altitude as well as a blasting air conditioner made me wish I had my North Face down jacket.  It felt so good to step off the freezing bus in the morning and breath in warm, fresh air of Medellin.

Medellin is a Colombian city notoriously known for the former violence and control imposed by drug lord Pablo Escobar.  However, today the city is peaceful and I enjoyed it very much.  The city lies in a valley but as the population has grown more and more communities have grown up the mountain.  We took a metro cable car to the very top of the mountain that overlooks the city and it seemed as though it would never end.  Also, most of the homes are an orange-ish, tan-ish color so the view from the top looks like a sea of brick.  Also, while in Medellin we took a day trip to a small town named Guatape with hopes of climbing this huge rock with a killer view at the top.  The town was gorgeous with green hills surrounding clean, clear, blue lakes.  Also, it seemed untouched by tourists as the majority of people on the streets were Colombian.  When we got to the top of the hill the rock sat on via horse we saw a sign that broke our heart.  It cost 8 mill pesos (about 4 dollars) to climb the rock.  BUT due to a lack of planning we realized hiking the rock would mean forfeitting our bus ride to Medellin.  So, we had to cut our losses and give up hope of climbing the 500 stairs up to see the view.  Instead, we found an empty lot that was for sale and climbed down a path to the water to go swimming.  I don’t think I’ve ever swam in water that clean or refreshing.  We spent our last day in Medellin touring the city with a friend of my Colombian friend in Chicago and got some shopping in as well.

After a Colombian breakfast we thought we had gotten away with a flawless trip without any major obstacles.  However, we were proven wrong while at the airport.  As we stood in line to get our ticket we realized we first had to go through another line and when we approached the man in the first line he asked for our Yellow Fever vaccination cards, we all pulled ours out from our perspective clinic and got a worried look from the man at the counter.  He left us and then came back to explain that mine and Katelyn’s were not in the correct format for re-entrance into Costa Rica and we would not be let back on the plane.  A frantic feeling entered our stomach and we tried to fight it through.  Luckily, the airline workers were so helpful.  The man got us through the line, called a Dr. for us, and gave us directions to the closest hospital.  After running around the city, paying off the doctor, racing back through the ticket line, immigration line, security, and to our gate we barely made the flight!!

While I am more than happy that I made it back on that flight to Costa Rica I do feel like I am not finished exploring Colombia.  From my short time there I learned how diverse the country truly is and also how misrepresented it is. Contrary to popular belief, I personally never felt in danger nor did I see any resemblance of the FARC presence, paramilitary groups, drug trafficking, etc.  I took the normal precautions I would take as if I were in Chicago or even Costa Rica but did not feel like I ever put myself in a negative situation.  The Colombians I met were more than hospitable and welcoming.  I have a feeling that one day I will return to go beyond the tourist sights and see more of the culture and the people of Colombia.



As my Facebook homepage becomes bombarded with Chicago “Snowcalypse” pictures and my roommates tell me about their hibernation into our ground level apartment complete with tea and incense burning I can’t help but feel a little jealous I’m missing out on Loyola’s snow day.  However my jealousy faded while remembering the past weekend and the great time I had in the sun with my new friends.  This Friday I went to a coffee farm and sugar plantation with my most charismatic professor here and some students.  We ate raw sugar cane, tried world renowned coffee, talked with some of the farmers, and even got away with swimming in a silo full of coffee beans! Since I grew up on an Iowa corn and soybean farm I found it very interesting to see the agricultural similarities and differences.  Also, I learned about the industry of fair trade Costa Rican coffee.   Costa Rica’s ability to sustain itself and fairly export its resources is the backbone behind the nation’s relative prosperity.  This made me appreciate the numerous amounts of Metropolis coffee I consume on Loyola’s campus even more than I did before.

The rest of my weekend was spent in Montezuma, a town on the tip of the Nicoya Peninsula.  A group of us students arose at 4:30am to catch the ferry at 5am and I saw my first Costa Rican sunrise over the Pacific.  After arriving to our hotel we ditched our backpacks and started Montezuma’s challenge: a half hour hike to the top of a waterfall followed by a daring jump down!  The waterfall is 40 feet high and while that does not seem extremely high, building up the courage to plummet down is no easy task.  After watching some Tico’s show us their tricks we started to line up for our own jump.  I absolutely loved free falling into the cold, fresh water.  We spent all morning taking turns jumping, filming, taking pictures and encouraging our more timid friends to take the dare.

After hiking back and getting a good lunch at a beach side cafe our day was spent dozing on the beach then dancing the night away at a local bar. Overall, the weekend was a definite success and I’m very glad I can look back with no regrets that I took the jump!

Pura Vida!

Pura Vida!

Hola amigos,

As I sit on the balcony of my school in Puntarenas, Costa Rica which overlooks the Pacific Ocean I decided that now is better than ever to start my study abroad blog.  I’ve been here for a little over a week now and feel like I’ve adapted to the way of life pretty well so far!  Here are the main highlights of my experience as a wannabe-Tica thus far:

*My host family: I live with a family of ten people including: a grandma, grandpa, mother, father, 3 brothers, 1 sister-in law, 1 nephew, and myself.  There are also 2 dogs, a parrot and a cat.  Everyone in the family is very nice to me and the parents have spoiled me with my own TV and AC.  I find this very ironic because in my Chicago apartment I don’t have either.  they also gave me the cutest bike to ride around town!  My room is dorm room size but very cute.  Also, I don’t have an alarmclock because without fail the parrot (la lorita) wakes me up every morning at 7am or before.

*My classes: I am really enjoying all my classes here and think they’re a perfect fit for me.  I’m taking 18 hours but because of the Pura Vida lifestyle I don’t feel stressed at all, I even think I may get through the semester without a single allnighter I’m accustomed to while at Loyola.  I’m taking Latin American Cultures in Spanish, 3 Spanish composition course, Latin American Social Revolutions, Latin American Cuisine, Latin American Culture Field Study and my ultimate favorite: Latin American Dance.

*The beach: I live three blocks from the beach and as I mentioned before, my school overlooks it.  I think the majority of my favorite memories from my life have occurred near or in a body of water and this is no different.  Normally my study breaks consist of a dip in the ocean or a nap in the sun.  All the fun bars overlook the ocean and last night some of us students built a bonfire on the beach.  Also, I’ve started to go jogging on the beach barefoot  after dark when it cools down and I love it!

*Curu National Park and Isla Tortuga: Last weekend the school sponsored a trip to these 2 places.  We went hiking on trails where monkeys lived, rode in little speed boats to the island, went snorkeling and saw an octopus, ate fresh pineapple, coconut and watermelon on the beach, and played a pretty intense game of beach frisbee.

Well, that’s all I have for now.  I hope everyone in Chicago and at home is surviving the winter and having a great semester.

Pura Vida,