Smoke Gets In Your Eyes, and Lungs, and Hair

The mute swan is the national bird of Denmark. The marguerite daisy is the national flower. I am pretty sure the national inhalant of Denmark is Marlboro.

My history in selecting AirBnB’s by myself has been a little tenuous. I had one where there was no internet, I had another where I ended up rooming with a girl and her friend and a cat (the cat was the plus side of the rental – obvs.). So this time I made sure Andrew vetted my choice prior to selection so that I did not end up in a tent or a cult or Copenhagen, New York by accident. I almost chose an apartment that was a bit nearer to the city but the reviews on it said that when you opened the windows there was cigarette smoke coming in. I feel bad for the owner of the AirBnB for missing out on renters and want to reach out to her so that she can respond with, “we just call that ‘air’ in Copenhagen.”

After 20 hours of travel, a night out with more drinks than I usually have in a month, days of almost 19 hours of sun and general overwhelmedness, the second day here I kind of crashed. I walked around the city a bit and went to a salon to pick up hair product. Just as the words, “my hair isn’t going to be that frizzy because it’s not that humid here” left my lips, the sky opened up and rain pelted down – I might not understand weather. This was no Oregon drizzle. This was where the phrase “cats and dogs” comes from. I made a quick trip to the gym and headed back to my apartment where I napped for three hours while the rain pelted away.IMG_2635

The texture you see in the above picture is the rain. It was a good day to have my vacation from bed. Eventually I decided to get out of bed and started heading to the improv place I’d been the night before – ICC. I got to the end of the block, changed my mind, and turned to go to the main street to find some dinner and head back to bed – I had hit a wall. Andrew would say it was jet lag. I would say that I don’t believe in jet lag.

Around the corner, it turns out, was a street festival celebrating the neighborhood.

The band was playing Danish pop and the lead singer was super into it. The light crowd was polite and super into the beer. I was, as is my wont, dressed inappropriately for the weather. So I downed my sausage just in time for the couple sitting next to me to light up their cigarettes and put the nail in the proverbial coffin of me hightailing it out of there.

My appetite was not sated, and while I was not in the mood to go out, I also wasn’t quite ready to go back to bed. I found a restaurant with a chef’s tasting menu and wandered in. Tasting menus are my new favorite thing to do at a restaurant. I love food and I love trying new things and I love restaurants. I think food is art – and a tasting menu is like the chef’s best version of their selves.

These were the six dishes of the inaptly named 5 course tasting menu. The green onion was tasty but hard to eat because I couldn’t really cut it. The rest of the dishes tasted fine, but I think they could have used some more salt. The service was good, I was brought dishes by apparently anyone with a free hand and they each explained the dishes except for the woman who brought the cod – but she also brought me the next dish and it turns out she was just shy about her English – I totally empathize. What I loved most was the pacing. For Andrew’s birthday I took him to a nice restaurant in Portland and they asked us if we were in a rush. We said no. Then they proceeded to serve us as though they were trying to win a race against the service team at Red Robin – I am pretty sure we were in, dined, paid and out in an hour. But the dinner above was a 2+ hour affair. By the time I was done eating I was almost hungry again.

I got back to my apartment and immediately felt wide awake – probably due to all the food I’d had and not due to the jet lag I don’t believe in.

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Weighing In

I used to wake up worried, the prior day’s shot of whiskey or splurge on a fro-yo hanging over me. Did I really have a quad tall breve latte? That’s a lot of lactose. How much fruit did I put in that smoothie? Was it enough to put me over? I remember being hungry at dinner, but did I really need that second helping? Before I step on the scale I should pee – pee probably weighs a lot, at least 2 pounds. And come to think of it, I did drink a lot of water so, probably, I will be “up” today anyway, just in water. I will do better today. No sugar, no milk, only protein and vegetables. I will Crossfit and go for a run and then come home and do yoga. I will drink a ton of water. I will sleep most of the day – sleep burns a ton of calories.

This was BEFORE I EVEN GOT OUT OF BED.

For a lot of my life, I used to be fat. At my heaviest, about 10 years ago, I was 5’6″ and 207 pounds.

I remember when I was in 5th grade my mother having a conversation with my sister about not knowing what to do with me because I was so fat and she was worried. Great, I thought, I am so fat that this is now a family problem. Throughout my life, I yo-yo’d constantly. But, always, I was afraid of food and the scale.

Recently, and I mean really recently – like over the past two weeks – something shifted.

I am no longer afraid of food. Nor am I afraid to enjoy the foods I eat. Nor am I afraid to occasionally over-indulge. Nor am I afraid of the scale. I now get out of bed and will sometimes weigh myself and sometimes not. Sometimes I even weigh myself after breakfast! Also, I want to thank Target for making stretch fabric pants that are still professional (read: not only for downward dog).

My scale hasn’t lied to me. I lied to myself about what the numbers mean. Now, when I step on the scale it isn’t to shame myself into being afraid of my food or sad about my body or as some sort of false motivational tactic. It is for me to use one of the many tools at my disposal to track my physique, health and objectives.

I am still 5’6″. But, now I weigh 165 pounds. This may still sound fat to some of you; however, I comfortably wear a size 8 but look real fine in a size 6. Last time I weighed 165 pounds I wore a size 12 but looked better in a 14.

And what I’ve learned over the past couple of weeks is that I am a sexy beast.

As the beast, I must keep up my food intake and understand that to have a squatter’s booty (as in one who squats as part of a workout, not one who sits on a piece of land until the law considers them an owner of it) requires muscle and muscle is dense and weighs a lot and muscle eats a lot too. In fact, I know that people think Crossfit is expensive, but more expensive than the gym is the increased grocery bill.

I have a booty. And I have thick quads and hamstrings (again, thank you Target for pants that fit). I can deadlift over 250 pounds. I can do pushups. I can do weighted dips. I don’t have a gap and I don’t want one.

As the sexy, my clothes remain tastefully (most of the time) skimpy.

A Looney Bin of Andrews

My boyfriend is batshit crazy.

In the winter times Andrew likes to travel because he is not fond of the cold and dark. But, also, because until recently he needed to plan escape-from-the-stifling-love-and-energy-from-all-of-her-joyousness-that-is-my-extrovert-Hadas time. He may still need a bit of that, but no longer is it several weeks and I am allowed to go vacationing with him now (especially since he realized that vacations are more fun with my joyousness and energy).

As Andrew and I were planning our vacation we couldn’t find anything that struck our fancy. We initially wanted to go to Thailand or Vietnam, but airfares were a bit high. We started looking into Central America because, monkeys. But, we had just been there and there was limited excitement for it from either of us.

Then, suddenly…

Remember this?

I was a pre-teen when this commercial came out and it has stuck with me all these years. Now watching it, and the people in the background, I realize that pre-teen me was not the demographic they were aiming for and that pre-40 me may still be a bit young. At the time however, I was ready to be on board. Everyone looked fit and fun and sparkly. Also there was singing. And energy. And joy. As I grew up the desire to cruise has waned, my love of Kathy Lee diminished (though I do hair-envy the 80’s over-layered, over-featherd bob she is sporting).

I had no idea how to book the right cruise, or what different cruises offered or even what cruise lines were available. I started Google searching and immediately felt overwhelmed. But, hey, if I am going to go on my 80’s dream vacation, I figured, I can book it in an 80’s fashion. Turns out my friend Andy is a travel agent.

I discretely found out that Andy gets most of his work from helping large groups coordinate their travel. “Umm, Andy, I hope I am not being rude, but, how do you still have a job as a travel agent in 2014?”

Andy was fantastic. He selected a few cruises for the date range we gave him and booked us on Norwegian Dawn for a West Caribbean (New Orleans, Cozumel, Belize, Honduras, Costa Maya, New Orleans) cruise. We were flying to New Orleans on Friday.

Thursday before travel was a busy day for me. Knowing how busy it would be I got most of my packing done before the day began. It started off with an informational interview with a man named Andrew who holds the job I want to have in about 10 years.

Aside: It seems like everyone I know is named Andrew. Either that, or I only know one person and he plays many roles in my life – like a doll. Or, I suppose it could be that this entire blog is fabricated and I am not clever enough to come up with another name.

The Oregon Employment Department has some wonderful resources available and one such resource is grant money available for education. I am applying for a grant to take a CISSP certification class. During the informational interview, Andrew (not the boyfriend one) invited me to happy hour with a bunch of IT Security nerds that evening. Later, I went to an informal chat about a potential job – like an interview, but unofficial. On my way to happy hour I called Andrew (the boyfriend one), and found out that a tree hit our power lines during a crazy windstorm, which caused a small fire and a large (at least in our house) power outage.

By the time I got home Andrew (hereon in this will be the boyfriend one) was moving around but also seemed mildly catatonic.

He was in full-on bat-shit crazy mode.

There he was, wandering around the house with a headlamp on his head trying to pack in the dark. When Andrew gets crazy he shuts down – which you’d think would be impossible to notice on an introvert. He basically starts obsessing about the thing that is wrong and nothing else in the world can be right because that thing is wrong.

Example:

Problem statement: we don’t have electricity

Andrew’s internal dialogue: the cats will die, I will forget to pack something because I couldn’t see it, the electricity will come on and the house will burn down because we weren’t here, our house sitter will come in to take care of the cats and not understand the lights don’t work and not know how to use a flashlight or stairs in the dark and will fall down our stairs…

This keeps going and going while he doubles up on contingency planning like “tell house sitter in email, text and on handwritten instructions that the lights are out”.

Meanwhile, I get home and start cooing at him (and maybe teasing a little). I pat myself on the back for making him buy a gas stove and make us some chili. I bring up Andrew’s packing list from our shared documents on my phone because Andrew’s phone is not cooperating (cough cough T-Mobile cough) and help him finish packing. Once he’s done packing I talk him into changing to the bag with roller wheels on it, which is a good thing because it gives him something to do while winding down from being worked up.

Finally, after talking him through worst case scenarios and having him do 15 minutes of meditation I tuck him into bed and start reading. I have to give a shout out to meditation here. Time was, when Andrew would have a freakout he’d double down on it by also having three days of insomnia. Calm.com helped him relax enough to actually sleep. Having said that, we tried the Calm “anxiety relief” meditation and got about 1.5 minutes into it before bursting into giggles when the app-voice, after getting our breathing and body relaxed, said, “practice smiling”.

The next morning Andrew wakes up and I get up from the couch where I stayed up all night reading (hey, at least my addiction feeds my intellect instead of depleting it). We do our morning chores and eat breakfast and are ready to hit the road about an hour before we need to leave the house. This allows Andrew to do some compulsive walk throughs of the house and for both of us to have kitty snuggle time before leaving the girls to non-electricitied inevitable doom for a week.

Our flight to San Diego was uneventful. I slept most of the way because I’d had no sleep the night before.

The San Diego airport is THE WORST. We were imprisoned in the Southwest terminal and our flight to New Orleans was delayed 3 hours on top of our already scheduled 2 hour layover. The terminal is shaped like the end of a Q-Tip. The center of the terminal has two restaurants and within the terminal is the ubiquitous Hudson News. Around the edges of the terminal are the gates for Southwest. At the entrance to the terminal is security. If we were to leave the terminal to try and find more appealing food options we’d have to go through security to get back in – hence the imprisonment.

I think of all the airports I have flown through this one was the worst. Although, I can only complain so much because I did find us seats together with electrical outlets for charging.

Andrew spent the five hours of layover reviewing cruise excursion capabilities, while I zoned out to The Nerdist. At about hour 4 he looks at me and says, “I think I feel better now.”

Take away lesson: When faced with obsessive-compulsive introverted (OCI) freakout, give OCI something more mundane to obsess about to help calm frayed nerves.

In New Orleans we grabbed a cab to our AirBnB and I prayed, mostly silently, the entire trip. I know cab drivers are universally insane, but this guy was drifting in and out of lanes, playing chicken with cars when lanes were merging and taking illegal left turns. It was like we had our very own roller-coaster pre-cruise excursion.

Our BnB is lovely. It’s an old house (as so many houses in NO are) in the Garden District converted into a duplex. The house is longer than it is wide and from the front door you can see all the way to the back. The front room is the living room, then you walk through to the dining room which has a door to the next room which is the bedroom, that has a door to the hall leading to the kitchen and the hall has the bathroom in it. Yes, for those of you playing at home, you have to walk through the bedroom to access the kitchen. the setup is a little odd. But, we weren’t having company – or really going to be using the kitchen much.

We went out and grabbed a bite to eat at a nearby restaurant called The Rum House – Caribbean Taqueria. The tacos were really fantastic. I had a lamb vindaloo and a scallops, Andrew had a brisket and a jerk chicken. We shared a Rum House Salad which featured radicchio (that always sounds like a Harry Potter curse to me) and goat cheese. Then we went home and called it a night.

We slept 9.5 hours.

We tooled around the French Quarter and looked at the Mississippi. I wanted to experience some fine New Orleans dining but half the restaurants I was interested in were not serving lunch. Eventually we figured out that NOLA, Emeril’s casual restaurant, was two block away and open. I ordered the shrimp and grits and Andrew had the pan seared salmon. We each had a butter lettuce wedge. In truth, I was thoroughly disappointed. The wedge was so overdressed that it was like soup. I had two bites of it and when the waitstaff removed my plate they didn’t even ask if there was a problem. The shrimp and grits had great flavor but was super greasy. I suppose I could call it fine dining because if you ask me how it was I’d say, “It was fine. Just, fine.”

Then we went back to the house and slept for 2.5 hours.

It’s fair to say our travel travails were exhausting.

Dinner was at a dog and sausage place called Dat Dog. I had the Hot Brat and Andrew had Alligator. Each was great. Dat Dog is across the street from ComedySportz New Orleans where Andrew and I played a show. It was really fun and Yvonne, the owner, is super high energy and a fabulous host. If you are in New Orleans go see a show.

Today we are getting on a boat headed for the W. Caribbean, and so I leave you with this:

 

for Andrew (the boyfriend)’s version of these events, see www.AndrewBerkowitz.com/blog

Sausage Fest

My first birthday with Andrew, four years ago, he bought me season tickets to the Keller Broadway series. My response was super enthusiastic, there may have been squeeing and jumping up and down. But, then I looked him in the eye and said, “You do understand that although you will now buy these in subsequent years, this is the only year they count as a birthday present, right?”

He nodded and said something like, “I am aware.” (loosely translated to “I have the owner’s manual on you.”)

Last night was the first show for the 2014-15 season and it was Kinky Boots. I had a special affinity to this show in that PGMC had sung from it in our spring concert. To add to the excitement, it was date night.

For Andrew’s Birthday the last three years I have taken him to well-rated restaurants in the Portland area. The first was Le Pigeon, then Aviary and this year was Beast. While at Beast this year we came up with the idea that we should go monthly to a nice restaurant instead of just on his birthday. Then I looked at him and said, “You do understand that although we are going to do this more frequently, it will still qualify as your birthday present, right?”

He nodded and said something like, “I am aware.” (loosely translated to “Thanks, that’s what I was hoping for.”)

Last night’s installment of Hadas and Andrew eat Portland is brought to you by Olympic Provisions.

To start off, I was quite proud of myself for letting Andrew pick a place and surprise me. Apparently I wasn’t the only one impressed with myself because when we sat down I said, “Nice choice! I feel like I am smiling like an idiot.” and Andrew responded, “Yeah, I was surprised you didn’t badger me for the location over the past two days.” (I might ruin surprises sometimes)

Immediately I loved the place. It isn’t super decorated it looks a bit industrial. And they were playing country music – Willie Nelson, Jerry Reed, Dolly Parton – that and charcuterie? I was literally in hog heaven.

The waitress came by and, obviously not wanting to disturb us, started whispering the specials of the day. I asked her to speak up and she started talking to us in what can only be described as slightly audible. Andrew ordered our dinner.

The first item was a Spanish Sausage platter.

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Spanish Sausage Plate

As you can see it was delicious. The spot all the way to the left was hazelnuts and roasted bell peppers. Andrew is finishing the cheese on the right. In between was various chorizo, ham and sausages.

Our second course was butter lettuce salad with tarragon and Italian flat parsley with a lemon dressing:

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Butter Lettuce Salad

Also delicious. I ordered a Falanghina with it. It’s a nice lemony and melon-y dry-ish white. It went beautifully with the salad as the tart dressing dulled the lemon notes in the wine and enhanced the melon and pineapple.

The main course we share was a pork loin with artichokes and humongous beans and lemon soaked cipollinis (onions):

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Humongous Beans and Loin

See how huge the beans were.

Unfortunately I kept forgetting to take pictures of the food when it came to the table, but I assure you it looked as beautiful as it tasted. We ordered two chorizos to take home with us and headed to see Kinky Boots. The show was super glam and glitz. There was some unevenness in the characters and in the songs, but by and large it was entertaining and the man playing Simon/Lola was brilliant. He really portrayed the character with a lot of depth and not as a one-note trope.

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Glitz and Glam – as promised

I may not be the best photo journalist.

During intermission Andrew and I played hashtag wars with each other texting:

The category was #BadThemeParks:

#BadThemeParks @midnight

#BadThemeParks @midnight While we are on this subject, I am a huge Nerdist fan and I don’t understand why Chris Hardwick keeps saying he is single when he is totally my boyfren.

What delighted me the most about this was that Andrew and I were sitting right next to each other texting and laughing. I am certain the old lady next to us thought we were bonkers, but I am also certain that she was confused when Lola came out on stage dressed like a man.

On our way back to the car I said, “You are a really great date.” to which Andrew replied, “I am aware.” (loosely translated to, “I am aware.”)

Andrew has already picked out the next restaurant I hope I don’t implode with patience before then.

Love Sick

Andrew and I have been dating for close to five years. We were discussing this a few nights ago and the fact that we don’t really have an anniversary.

Andrew: Well whatever it’s about five years, happy anniversary, or non-anniversary

Me: ooh naan anniversary is that five years of dating?

Andrew: I suppose it could be any flat bread

Me: Happy pita

Andrew: or Matzoh

Me: Here’s a Ritz cracker

We’ve really got our schtick together. Andrew and I are still going strong and what I have noticed is that our relationship has changed over the years (not unexpectedly). We’ve moved in together, grown accustomed to each other’s quirks, can practically finish each other’s jokes but most importantly (and likely most frequently) he has grown accustomed to my levels of distress.

The first time he saw me truly hurting was in a bicycle accident four or five years ago or so – back when our relationship was still new. I injured myself pretty badly and writhed around on the ground howling for a bit for good measure. Andrew’s first question back then was a panicked, “Are you okay?” his second, “Should I call 911?” My respective responses to him were, “I am fine, stop pressing on my hip.” and “If you dare, we are breaking up.” or something similar.

Now the years have gone by and last night as I lay writhing on the hardwood floor naked from the waist up trying to cool myself off and convince my seemingly semi-monthly food poisoning to subside, Andrew just left me to be and only came by when I called him to see that my cat Widget, alarmed by my mewling, had laid on top of me and started flopping her tail in my face. Not to make Andrew sound like a monster. This is the care I prefer. Take note I am dying, then leave me to doing it.

After what seemed like an hour, I got up and did my best Linda Blair impression into the kitchen sink (I figured the disposal would be beneficial in clean-up) and it really was a close variant of Linda in that the last thing I’d eaten was spinach salad, so the verdant color was close, if not a perfect match. Andrew steadfastly stood within a rooms length and cooed poor baby-s at me now and again.

When I finished I cleaned up and went directly into couch-fetal position. Andrew came by, sat next to me, patted me on the head and asked the first question, “Are you going to be okay while I go play hockey?” See, he really gets me!

This was followed closely with, “I feel like I should post this on Facebook because our friends like to be kept up to date on your health and well being.”

Well, I guess Andrew still has a little more to learn about me; because, as I told him last night, he is absolutely, not even a little bit, allowed to spoiler my blog.

The Good, The Bad and The Annoying

There comes a time in Costa Rica when you have had enough of the monkeys. I would like to stay here for as long as it takes to get to that time. I imagine it will be about 30 – 40 years.

To give you a sense of what I mean, here is 2 minutes of monkey time.

This is only two minutes out of about 30 minutes that Andrew and I were sitting in a secluded part of Parque Nacional Manuel Antonio just hanging out with monkeys. These monkeys are the Capuchin. It turns out the monkeys at our AirBnB were Squirrel monkeys (an apt name from the way they frolicked – as opposed to the more laid-back nature of the Capuchin). Getting to the parque was a bit of a puzzle. Andrew had read that there were people dressed up as parking attendants and they are not to be trusted. This turned out to be good advice when we missed the turn off to the entrance of the park. However, once we figured out where the correct entrance was, and Andrew had fleshed out the evil guise of the fake attendants his high-alert stance would not calm down and he tried to get me to run over the park ranger that came up to the truck to help steer us to proper parking. Luckily, despite noticing the park ranger’s flip-flops, I decided to believe his tattered shirt patches and followed his instructions instead of Andrew’s.

From the moment we parked all the way until we passed the entrance gate we were bombarded with people telling us we need to purchase a guide or we would never see any animals. I wasn’t sure if I was to take this as a warning or a threat, but I finally put my foot down and said, “No” (which loosely translates to “No” in English).

Once in the park my neck immediately started craning up to the tree tops in order to put my newly minted sloth-eyes to good use. They weren’t working so well. So instead I kept my eyes level in front of me and watched where all the guided tourists were pointing. A few sloths deep we passed all the crowds and went off on the trail without them. This parque, like the one in Cahuita, is beachside jungle. In fact, a lot of people just go into the parque in order to hang out at the beach. We got to the first beach area and there was a woman sitting alone at a picnic table. When we neared her she asked Andrew, in Spanish, if he would take her picture. He kindly obliged.

Then she asked Andrew if she could join us on our walk.

Andrew was so startled at this request that he accidentally said, “Si” (which loosely translates to, “are you fucking kidding us?” in English).

Then she said something to me in Spanish, I think it was, “can I wear your skin?”

To which I responded, “No comprendo Español” (which loosely translates to, “I think you want to drag us into the jungle to knife us to death you crazy weird lady, but we are on to you and are going to ditch you as soon as we can – also, I will cut a bitch.” in English).

A little ways off the beach and into the jungle the path looped. Crazy Lady was ahead of us – we hung back to take pictures and hopefully lose her to a jaguar attack – we took the other end of the loop when she wasn’t looking. As Robert Frost said, “And that has made all the difference.” Not five minutes later as we quietly enjoyed the jungle sounds around us (here, you enjoy them too), we saw and heard some scuffling nearby. And that’s when we saw the monkeys, hanging out. We just stayed there snapping photos and quietly enjoying them.

We finally broke away when Crazy Lady made it to the spot having gone around the loop. She was so loud and talky that she didn’t even notice the monkeys were there until they started running away from her voice. As soon as she saw them she stopped talking to us to take a picture on her iPhone and we quickly darted along the path out of her reach.

We found a rock to lay upon at the top of a cliff overlooking the ocean. We ate a snack and just relaxed (and gave CL plenty of time to get back to the parque entrance or find another unsuspecting couple to highjack).

The walk back to the entrance was longer than the one in, due in most part to the heat which was suddenly incredibly unbearable. But, we got out of the park with some more stolen glances at animals found by guides. As I hopped in the driver’s seat, I quickly used Andrew’s phone to look up how to lose a tail (just in case) and hurried back to our room to nap.

After napping, Andrew and I went into the pool. The woman from the room next to us (Canadian) joined us and started chatting our ear off about everything from Twitter to working remotely to the pros and cons of child rearing. She is a writer for 4 year old children’s theater or TV or something and was on vacation but for having to work for a little bit because of an emergency having to do with renaming her main character. Apparently, Pickle Pirate has a not-appropriate-for-four-year-olds alternate meaning.

Andrew and I then took her suggestion to go to the marina (which we could see from the pool on the hill of the AirBnB we were staying at!!!) for dinner.

We walked down there and they served me the most disgusting meal I have had in Costa Rica yet. I ordered the mahi mahi. It was the Catch of the Day – it did not occur to me to ask which day. When asked how I would like it prepared I said, “however the chef would like to prepare it.” Apparently the chef wanted to prepare it overcooked and rancid.

Despite having seen fish more rare when cooked by StarKist, I took a bite. The fish tasted like meat that had been left in the sun because even the vultures knew better. I spat it into my napkin, put my napkin on the plate and went back to my ginger martini. They came  to collect my plate and asked if I didn’t like the fish. I explained that it was overcooked, but that didn’t matter because it was rancid. They asked if I would like something else, but having tasted Andrew’s coconut curry chicken I opted for a liquid diet.

About ten minutes later the manager came up to the table. “We tasted your fish. It was awful. I am sorry. Can I get you something else?” I appreciated the apology, but at this point I was really done. Also, so was Andrew. We climbed back up the hill to our room, I changed back into swimming gear and had a lovely evening of dancing to 80’s music in the pool while drinking white wine and chatting with Berkowitz.

I went to bed at 9:30. I awoke again about a half hour later to the sound of hurricane force rains, turned over and went back to sleep.

Something about the weather, or the full days, or the hanging out in the sun, or the bottles of alcohol I have been drinking have been making me really sleepy. Yet every day I wake up to the chirping of birds at 5:45AM. It’s kind of delightful.

Today we came back to San José.

During our trip in Costa Rica I have fallen in love. The coffee here is so amazing. It’s smooth and earthy without being overly bitter or harsh on my stomach – and, apparently it has no affect on my sleep. On our way back to San José we stopped at a coffee roasting tour and learned all about how coffee is grown and picked and roasted. The company is called Britt. They have three regular blend roasts, three unblended roasts, and decaf as well as fair trade and organic. I am not a fan of fair trade (which I won’t go into here, now) but the fair trade they do is a women’s co-operative (which annoyingly, they do not call out on their web page, so I cannot give you more information about it).

We arrived just as a tour was starting but decided to wait for the next tour. It ended up being just me and Andrew. Instead of an hour and a half it took an hour and fifteen minutes, and that included a bathroom break in the middle. The tour guide was adorable and seemed only slightly off her game by not having a large group and having only one person in the group who actually likes coffee (hint: not Andrew). However, when it came time to the coffee tasting Andrew actually tasted the coffee – several times.

I believe he will now be awake until 2 AM.

January 7th.

2023.

After the tour we got lost only twice heading into our new accommodations. The landlord here is delightful. He has another tenant who is from Portland. She is ANNOYING.

Tomorrow we will tour the city and Saturday we will head home where, according to Facebook, the weather is rainy and everyone is sick.

Sunday we will start planning our next trip.

Andrew is blogging this trip too. He is at andrewberkowitz.com/blog. His blog will be up as soon as the jitters wear off.

A Sloth In Your Palm…

Sometimes a girl has to weigh her expectations to reality and determine if maybe the disappointment is her own fault.

I mean, I am not really disappointed in Costa Rica from a vacation perspective. It’s warm. The people are lovely. We’ve done some fun things.

The thing is, this is my fourth day here and I kind of expected that by now if I lifted my arms a la Snow White, with a lovely song, that I would suddenly be surrounded by sloths, toucans would alight on my arms to help me dress, iguanas  would scamper about lightly and playfully flicking me with their tails all while howler monkeys came by and fed me fresh cut papaya.

When I type all that out and read it out loud to myself it really doesn’t sound like a big deal to me.  But sometimes, when traveling to foreign countries, the best laid plans go awry. My suggestion, be prepared.

For example, on Tuesday when we got back from dinner we received a letter from the B&B management that the following day there would be no running water because the city was going to shut it off from 7AM to 4PM. Upon waking up the next morning it was clear that water is the Spanish word for electricity. The water was running fine, but there were no lights, no microwave and most importantly no Wifi.

This was a problem in that I was working remotely. No Wifi means little-to-no-work getting done. It also means that as soon as the battery on my computer died, “little” would be out of that equation. I used Andrew’s cell phone to call work and let them know I was going to be unavailable until 4PM CST and would work that evening, and Andrew and I grilled our gracious host for things to do in or near San José.

Immediately Elizabeth grabbed our map and started showing us how to get to Volcán Poás (that’s volcano, not Vulcan – although, I would be interested in seeing either). We headed out for a lovely day trip.

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Apparently we lucked out on the volcano trip. The day before it had erupted mildly – though, in truth, that would have been awesome to see and there was a little part of me hoping it would blow again. Also, it’s situated in the cloud forest, so oftentimes it is not visible due to cloud coverage.

After visiting the volcano we took a hike to the nearby lake. The sign to the lake said the entire lake route was 2.6 kilometers and would take an hour. Andrew and I started up the path scoffing at the time frame – “Heh, that’s for people who don’t exercise.” “No, it’s for the sloths.”

It turns out the sign was for us. The route just to the lake was 800 meters, uphill, at elevation. Within 30 steps neither of us was laughing, but mostly because we had no oxygen and we had to conserve our breath.

The path was beautiful. At one point Andrew said it reminded him of The Princess Bride. So I said, “Well, I’m not saying I’d like to build a summer home here, but the trees are actually quite lovely.” in my best British accent. And then I had to have a lie-down to regain my breath.

The trees were actually quite lovely. And the canopy over us was nice. The entire time a light breeze was playing through the area. But, despite it being a cloud forest, we did not actually walk in clouds.

The trees were actually quite lovely. And the canopy over us as well. The entire time a light breeze was playing through the area. But, despite it being a cloud forest, we did not actually walk in clouds.

By the end of our walk our necks hurt from attempting to spot sloths and monkeys in the trees. We did however get to see quite a few humming birds and some interesting plants.

On our way back in to town we stopped at a restaurant touting, “comida tipico.” I was kind of excited. We are in the tropics – land of banana, papaya, mango, sloth, coconut, melon! This was going to be a meal to end all meals. Instead it was a meal to end all hope of Costa Rican cuisine excitement. Andrew and I each ordered a different chicken plate – the other options were American-style burgers – and it turned out that they had listed the same item on the menu twice once as pollo a la plancha and once as fajitas. We each had a scoop of white rice a scoop of bland fries and a scoop of chicken fried in onions – also bland.

I did manage to spot some cows on the side of the road. But, the pictures I took of them were less than stellar – imagine a cow picture right here with the caption “Costa Rican wildlife.”

By the time we got back to the hotel the electricity was back on and I got straight to work. I also rescheduled some meetings for the following day because we had decided to head out to the Caribbean Coast first thing in the morning  and work the rest of the week from there.

Andrew did some online research, while I worked, to figure out how long it would take to get to the coast. Research came up with 2-6 hours. With a timespan like that I determined we had to be ready to leave sometime between immediately and 9AM the following morning.

Another lovely breakfast of fresh fruits and scrambled eggs and a fond farewell to our host – including hugs, and promises of future visits (really, if you are going to the San José area – Alajuela to be exact – you must stay at Casa Primo. Absolutely fantastico!) – we hit the road. I was the copilot armed with a map, Andrew the driver armed with a copilot and a sense of familiarity of the area being he’d been lost in it so much picking me up from the airport.

Getting from Casa Primo to the highway to the coast was maybe about 10 miles, or as they say in Costa Rica 1 – 700km; it took us about an hour and several u-turns to finally find the highway out of San José. I think that the signs guiding people onto the highway were on strike that day.

Once on the highway it became apparent that this two lane road was also the truck route to the coast. Some trucks were driving full speed and some at 15kph. What the trucks were carrying seemed to bear no weight as to whether they were willing to risk on-coming traffic to pass the slow trucks. At one point a truck with more “Flammable” signs on it then truck (it may have actually been made of the warning signs) passed a fruit truck driver. It also, quickly, became apparent that Andrew has a real low tolerance for driving and stress. He eventually passed enough trucks to get us to a decent sized town where I grabbed a cup of coffee and the wheel. I asked for the coffee ” sin leche y para llevar” or without milk and to-go and it was given to me in a plastic, recycled coca-cola bottle. I took a sip and it tasted as though they had forgotten to take all the coca-cola out first. Next time I know to ask for my coffee “sin coca-cola.”

I ended up getting us to Cahuita in time for my first meeting of the day. The first thing I noticed was how much more hot and humid the coast was. The second thing I noticed was the hammock.

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I wonder if I can get a hammock installed in my office cube.

The birds were chirping and the dogs were barking in the background of my conference calls, but I get a lot done when working prone.

We went to the town and grabbed some lunch. On our way there I saw a sign for yoga Friday nights.

“Oooh, look Andrew, yoga! You want to go?”

“Yes!”

“OK. Mmm I love hot yoga.”

“Wait, is it hot yoga?”

“All yoga around here is hot yoga.”

 

I was super excited because on the menu was pollo en coco (chicken in coconut). Yay! A restaurant using the local flavors for deliciousness. Unfortunately, it was basically the meal I had had the day before, with a little bit of coconut sauce dribbled on the bland chicken. So much for my expectations.

After we finished work, Andrew and I went back to town to grab some food for the apartment and just see what night life there was. Pretty much every restaurant in town is a photo copy of the others. They are all catering to the tourists but don’t seem to realize that travel food has turned an exciting corner since the 1980’s and no one wants bland chicken and white rice for dinner. We grabbed some food from the Mini-Supermar and stopped at a street-food stand with barbecued pork, chicken and beef skewers served in tortilla. We had a few of those then headed back to our B&B to Crossfit and blog a little.

I was changed into as much workout gear as I could muster in the heat and humidity. Andrew was trying not to nap on the couch.

Me: Are you joining me?

Andrew: Are you really doing this?

Me: Yes.

Andrew: Ugh. I need to digest.

So I did a quick warmup of pushups and sit-ups and squats and then did a workout of:

1 squat 1 breath

2 squats 2 breaths

etc., repeat going up to 10 then back down to 1.

I finished and was sweating a storm and breathing heavily.

Andrew: Was that the workout?

Me: Yes…

Andrew: Was that all of it?

Me: Yes. Are you going to do it?

Andrew: Yeah, but I will probably add pushups so that it’s a bit more of a workout.

I sat back in my chair and did a little more work as I watched Andrew struggle to stay awake. Andrew’s was too worn out from the AMRAP Mock Hadas’s WOD that he couldn’t stay awake to do the squats (and the pushups to make it a real WOD).

I sent Andrew to bed and we fell asleep to the sound of a cooling rain, for values of cooling that equal not getting hotter.

In the morning we grabbed some breakfast and headed off to the sloth rescue place right down the road.

(Yes, I know the camera should have been turned the other way. I was too mesmerized by those sloth eyes to think. Also, yes, that is me squeeing in the background.)

Also:

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These sloths are rescued and live together, which is a bit of an anomaly. Most adult sloths prefer to be solitary – except when mating – kind of like introverts.

And:

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This sloth only has one arm. When he was found the other arm was gangrenous and had to be amputated.

The sloths are so adorable and there was a lot of squeeing. Also, another disappointment – no hugging  the sloths. In fact, no touching the sloths. And apparently no taking them home with you. It was a bittersweet tour.

Andrew and I viewed the sloths before the Pacific West Coast was even awake. Then we drove to the next town over to go to the Super-Mini-Supermar and got food so that I could cook something with flavor for lunch (sigh, food snob).

I ended up making a paella style dish with chicken and papaya. It was pretty good.

We worked, we ate lunch, then it was time for a run.

For me.

Andrew stayed in.

After I got back I worked some more and reminded Andrew that there was yoga to be had at 5:30 in town so we needed to leave at 5:15 (it’s like a block and a half away). About quarter to 5 Andrew went to shut his eyes for a minute (I guess my run had worn him out). At 5:15 I kissed him goodbye and went to yoga without him. At 5:30 I returned home because class had started at 5 and I don’t know how to read signs properly.

Instead I had Andrew take me out to a romantic dinner:

Our view from our table.

Our view from our table. That hammock was dessert.

The dinner I had was a lobster. It was slightly salty and a bit over-cooked, but honestly it was the best restaurant meal I have had in Costa Rica so far.

Tomorrow we are slated for a hike which I am sure I will end up doing alone while Andrew mocks me, from the B&B, while napping. I guess I already have a sloth of my own.

If you would like to read Andrew’s take on this trip we are kind of she said/he said-ing it. Check his blog out here.