Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Riding the Waves a Quick How To

By Graham

1. Wax three quarters of the board starting at the tail. The more wax you add the easier it is to grip on with your feet.

2. When paddling out on your stomach, make sure you are centered on your board. Let your feet hang over the tail and do the crawl with your arms.

3. If a big wave breaks right before you, push down on the front of the board and dive under it.

4. When you see a good looking wave make sure it is not going to curve over and fall on you. Turn your board and start paddling about three seconds before the wave reaches you.

5. Have your arms under your chest in a push up position.

6. When the wave has caught you, push up with your hands and bring in your legs so you are standing. Make sure to have your knees bent, and ride it in.

7. If you fall off your board be sure you do not bump your head on the under side of it. Also, if your board is further out to sea than you are, pull in before a wave knocks it at you.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

25 Ways To Annoy Your Parents

By Graham

1. Repeat the same sentence again and again. Really, repeat the same sentence again and again. Repeat the same sentence again and again.

2. If you have sibling annoy them so much that you annoy your parents too.

3. During the night, when everyone is sleeping, take your mom’s best tube of lipstick and draw a mustache or goatee on her face.

4. Walk around your house creating a big racket. Stomping on a second floor is best.

5. Sing in your worst high-pitched voice.

6. Fake laugh at anything your parents say.

7. Fart.

8. Fart some more.

9. Make gagging noises and pretend to throw up.

10. Rock on your chair.

11. Talk so fast that your parents can’t understand you. When they try to speak, talk even faster.

12. Interrupt a conversation with an occasional, What? Who? When? Where?

13. Walk around the house saying, “Vat eeez up my leetle friend?” With a bad French accent.

14. Poke your sibling in the stomach repeatedly.

15. Repeat every word your parents say.

16. Talk about disgusting things during dinner.

17. Talk about disgusting things all the time.

18. When you ask a question never wait for the answer, just ask another question.

19. Pay no attention to your sibling for a whole day.

20. Jump on the beds screaming, “Hallelujah!”

21. Do your loudest burp in your dad’s ear.

22. Ignore everything your parents say and then whine when you can’t have what you want.

23. When the moon is full act crazy. Go around the house moaning and speaking in a blood-thirsty tone.

24. Drop your dirty clothes on the floor and leave them there.

25. Every once in a while throw up your hands and say, “I Love Myself!”

Warning: Use these methods at your own risk. I don’t want to get in trouble.

Monkey in My Face

By Louise

Dios mios! Cielos! My family has turned into a bunch of whiners. They’re all complaining that they are doing all the writing and I haven’t done anything. If I weren’t stuck with them for the next month... The reality is, I can’t keep up with Andrew’s humor and our kids’ stories. I’m not sure what to write about, plus I’m feeling a tad grumpy.

See, we knew our luck had to run out at some point. Yet the loss of our travel kharma still managed to take us by surprise and has left us all feeling a bit irritated. What happened? This last house we rented was way off from the owner’s description. Before you all start muttering that we’re a bunch of idiots to believe any online rental offer, let me just state that this was not our first rental. It was our tenth and our first dud.

Still, I know some of you are thinking: Why even consider renting in the first place? To put it simply: Kids, convenience, cost.

Before Graham burst onto the scene, we promised ourselves that kids would not stop us from traveling. We’re also realistic and knew that the way we traveled would have to change. No more staying in those, ah, character-building places (to use Andrew’s words). Moving around a lot wasn’t going to happen either. Eating out every meal? Sounds like fun with a toddler in tow. Not. And of course, there was our budget. Can you spell T-I-G-H-T?

So, starting a decade ago, we started renting vacation houses and apartments online. It meant taking a leap of faith and trusting the photos and write-ups. Lo and behold, every single place we rented was just as pictured, until this one.

Last month, northern Costa Rica was shaken by an earthquake. Downed trees and other debris made the Rio Sarapiqui and Rio San Juan un-navigable. Coincidentally, these were the same two rivers we had planned to explore for a week using local riverboat taxis. The boats were no longer running. We needed a Plan B, so we turned to our favorite Internet rental agencies for help.

We had recently spent a week on Costa Rica’s Pacific coast, but we felt that the area was too built up and expensive. We could have spent another week in the area around volcano Arenal—we had a lot of fun there—but it was also beyond our budget. Instead, we decided to head to the Caribbean coast, where we had already rented a house on the beach for our last month. With high season in top gear, most of the rentals were booked, but then we happened upon a place called Mono En La Cara. It promised everything from a fully equipped kitchen to Internet service. The online description said they even had satellite TV and a DVD/CD player. We really haven’t missed TV, so that was no big deal, but it did lead us to believe that the house with ocean views in the middle of a tropical paradise was going to be of a certain quality. We emailed the owners (who live in Allentown, PA) and they responded. They sounded nice, so we made the arrangements.

A couple of days later, we boarded a bus to Puerto Viejo, on Costa Rica’s southern Caribbean coast, close to Panama. I should mention here that a few travelers, including some Costa Ricans, told us we might want to rethink spending five weeks on the Caribbean coast. Their warnings began: “Oh, the Caribbean coast… You don’t want to go there. The water is rough. The place is filthy. Snorkeling? Ha! You won’t see any fish because the reef is dead. It’s like going to Jamaica…” It went on and on. Their comments struck us as strange because all our earlier research suggested just the opposite. We’re laid-back travelers, not tourists, as the kids will tell you, so we pushed these warnings aside. We had our sights set on kicking back in a tropical house while listening to Caribbean sounds as we cooked up coconut curries and drank rum cocktails.

We boarded the bus and headed toward the coast. Arriving on the coast at Limon, the warnings turned to reality. Just 70 miles from our destination, garbage started appearing along the road. Intense rains had caused flooding in some areas and the rivers flowed with murky brown water that poured into the sea. Andrew and I stared out the bus window in horror. What had we done? The area was totally unlike any other part of Costa Rica we had visited. It looked as if we had entered a third-world country, not a tropical paradise.

Trying not to panic (while listening to Graham’s running commentary about the brown ocean and the plastic bags lining the road) we held tight. Puerto Viejo was still miles away to the south. The situation could change.

And so it did. The ocean at Puerto Viejo was clear and gorgeous. The high-tide line was littered with branches and coconuts, not garbage. The town was busy, filled with restaurants, shops, and enough American and European tourists that you couldn’t swing a surfboard without knocking one over.

The problem: the house. Not only was the area around the house not as described (picture a large pile of abandoned construction material in the middle of the yard, and the special outdoor eating area filled with scraps of wood, paint rollers, a rusty wheel barrow, bags of garbage, and two splinter-filled benches). As for the fully equipped kitchen, maybe in PA this doesn’t include pots, chopping knives, cutting board….oh the list goes on. Internet service? In our dreams. And the only music we heard was from the neighbor’s hammers. Follow up emails from an Internet cafĂ© to the couple from PA were duly ignored. But we did notice that they managed to go onto their website and reword their listing pretty darn fast.

With all this said, we have enjoyed our week — outside this depressing house — in Puerto Viejo. The kids are learning to surf. We’ve knocked coconuts out of trees. And taken long walks on the beach. We are keeping our fingers crossed that the place we’ve rented for our last month is true to its word. Meanwhile, I hope I’ve got my family off my back about not writing. Now it’s time to put a little lime in the coconut and drink it all up.

My Dad: A Champion!

By Katharine

Some caterpillars can be very dangerous. Here in Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica, they call caterpillars worms. On the beaches of Puerto Viejo grow almond trees. A butterfly lays her eggs in an almond tree and a few days later the worms or caterpillars are born. The caterpillars fall out of the trees and land in the sand. These caterpillars look like fuzzy sticks with hairs.

If a person accidentally steps on one of the caterpillars it squirts poison into the person’s foot. In 25 minutes the person’s body will be in complete pain. I have heard it feels as if you are on fire. The pain goes away in four hours on its own. But, if you go visit the Worm Bite Specialist, the pain will go away in five minutes with a special shot. The Worm Bite Specialist is also a regular doctor.

My Dad went to the Worm Bite Specialist because Dad’s ears were plugged and he could not hear well. We walked into the doctor’s office and sat down and began to read a magazine, when a man walked in. The man was so fat he looked as if he was going to have six babies all at once! He immediately started a conversation. We found out in the first five minutes that he was 70 years old and from California. When his mother died she left him a fortune. He told us about his money, cats, and about being robbed a lot.

No wonder he gets robbed a lot, he cannot stop talking about his money! Thankfully the receptionist called us into the doctor’s office. The office had a breathing mask, an oxygen cylinder, and bandages. On the shelves were lots of papers. First, the doctor handed my Dad a bowl which Dad put up to his neck. Next, the doctor took a syringe pushed water into Dad’s ears. Then he took a pair of tweezers and stuck them into my Dad’s ears and pulled out a piece of wax. The doctor was being funny and called the piece of wax ‘brother’ because it was so big. After that, he pulled out sister wax, mom wax, and dad wax which completed a small family. Last he took out the grandpa. It was a piece of wax the size of a marble. It was yellow, big, and GROSS! The doctor said my Dad was the champion of the most and biggest wax in all of Puerto Viejo. I am proud of my Dad!


Turning Blue

By Graham

The sky was overcast. It had started to drizzle. We were hiking on the slopes of the dormant volcano Tenorio toward the Rio Celeste.

The air was muggy and thick. Tall trees loomed over us, barely letting light in. This is the primary rainforest. Small dirt trails wound around tree roots and plants. The rainforest around Tenorio was different from other rainforests we have visited; it was a ton wetter. Moss grew everywhere, and giant tree ferns with monkey-like tails grew next to the path.

A little way in, the jungle thickened. We heard the sound of rushing water. We had come to our first obstacle. A small river, which we had to cross by hopping stones, flowed by at a fast pace. We stumbled across.

The trail became muddier, steeper, and narrower. We started to slip and slide. I noticed a hole in the ground and walked over to see what lived in it. YELP!!! I jumped back. The air coming out of it was super hot. The steam came from lava warming an underground river. After that, we saw many more steam vents, reminding us that we were hiking on a volcano.

I heard the sound of rushing water again. We arrived at another river, and my family froze like statues. The river water was the most gorgeous bright blue, unlike the blue that you see in oceans or lakes. This blue was formed by a chemical reaction of copper, carbonates, and sulfur coming from underwater volcanic vents. A waterfall, with a sound like thunder, shot out of the green jungle and fell into a blue pool below.

Further upstream we saw where a volcanic vent added the copper to the clear river water, turning it blue.

From there, we started to walk to a natural hot spring. The trail became so steep and slippery it was nearly impossible for Katharine and me to climb up. We were starting to tire. As we crossed a log bridge with no rails, Katharine lost her footing. Slurp! She fell into the mud. As Dad tried to pull her out, I walked on. Soon I was calling for help because I had fallen off the bridge and my foot was stuck in the mud. As I tried to pull my foot out, my shoe nearly came off. When I looked back at Katharine I burst into laughter. She was covered in mud.

The hot spring bubbled up from a hole in the rock at the edge of the blue river. Park rangers had used boulders to create a small pool where you could relax in the hot water. We stripped down to our swimsuits and bathed for a half hour.

On the way back to our car, the guide suddenly stopped. He whispered that he had spotted the bare-necked umbrella bird. It must have been our lucky day. The umbrella bird is very rare to see. The guide had only seen it once, two years earlier. We had been dying to see an umbrella bird ever since we mistook a crested guan for one while hiking in another park. The bird had a mohawk array of head feathers and a big red wattle. Behind it was the female; she was all black. The birds flew all around us, even right above us.

When we emerged out of the forest we were so tired we could barely stand. After seven hours of walking we were ready to go home.

Some people pay extra for mud baths.

This time, the hot air isn't coming from Graham.

Blue lagoon. Donde esta Brooke?

Where the river starts to feel blue

The author considers his next masterpiece