Day 4- The Scariest Night of My Life

Day 4- The scariest night of my entire life

 

We were so excited to start our day, we got up early, had the hotel breakfast and got our rental car. Did you know you can negotiate the price of rental cars in Costa Rica? Well leave it to me to find that out and work my magic. Also, we named our car Stephen Blanco Jones, Jr.

 

Car

The drive started out on a highway with traffic. Kind of a bummer when we were ready to take on the open road, but don’t worry there was plenty of time for that. Soon the road did open up for us and we let the Costa Rican breeze flow through the windows. The car radio had a CD player and we both were bummed we didn’t know. How much fun would it have been to blast some old CD mixes we’ve made over the years.

A little doggie we came across along the way:

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About 45 minutes before our destination we were told by our GPS to take a left onto a dirt road. Surely this road wouldn’t last more than a few minutes. Well, 45 minutes later, hundreds of pot holes and near death experiences with other drivers, we made it to our destination, Arenal Volcano. By the way, I’d just like to say that my aggressive driving finally has a place in this world. It’s called Costa Rica and I fit in perfectly.

When we arrived at the hotel I sort of got this funny feeling. It wasn’t like the photos we saw, the people seemed unusually quiet and I could never quite tell who was in charge. Picture the hotel in the shinning.

Arenal Volcano! photo 3

We decided to make the best of it and go for a drive around town to see what else was there. We were so glad we did. Although there weren’t many more stores or restaurants than we originally saw, we did come upon some amazing beauty. First off, we were at the base of Arenal Volcano. It is breathtaking to see a real volcano in person. Then there are huge mountains that surrounded the town. And lucky for us we found a watering hole at the end of the dirt road. Without hesitation we stripped down and jumped in! We were in Costa Rica after all. And the local who happened to see us, didn’t even blink. I wonder if all Americans have the urge to go skinny dipping upon arrival.photo 1

After a few hours of hanging out, chugging some much deserved beers and taking a shower- Holly and I gathered a few belongings and went out to dinner. I noticed that my stuff was sort of scattered all over the place and I remember Holly telling me the night before I should be more careful, so I threw a couple T-shirts over my camera and laptop and went on my way. Meanwhile, Holly put all her stuff in one bag, locked it and we left. As we left they asked where we were going. Smarty Holly didn’t say much other than, “out.” No one really need to know what we are doing she figured, and I agreed.

We went out to dinner and it began pouring. Cue horror movie music. We found one place that was open and grabbed some dinner. During dinner I heard a man who was clearly from America talking to his daughter on the phone. He was trying to tell her that she has to leave her drug addict boyfriend and that she herself need to get drug tested each week in order for him to trust her. My heart ached listening. Although I’m not a parent I’ve dealt with addiction up close and personal with someone I would consider a child of mine and it is a deep pain to want to help someone who doesn’t want help. Before we left I wrote down this note on a coaster and dropped it in front of him. I’m not sure what he thought but hopefully he knew he wasn’t alone.

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When we returned to the hotel the workers watched us even closer than they had before. It was chilling to be honest. And as we climbed the stairs to our second story room, the manager (I think) told us to look in our room because there had been a robbery at the hotel while we were gone. We walked in to our room, the balcony doors were wide open, everything appeared the same but then all of sudden Holly said, “My bag!” They missed the thousands of dollars in equipment I had and grabbed Holly’s neatly packed bag. It was all of her belongings or her month of traveling. It was her passport, her money, her clothes, her jewelry, her shoes. It was everything.

We went downstairs and talked to the couple below us who also had their room robbed. They were from America as well. The poor woman who happened to look like the wife from the shinning was crying and said she just wanted to go home. I asked the manager if he had called the police and he said yes. After waiting 25 minutes, I decided to call them myself. This was the scariest part for me- it took me 8 times to get someone to talk to me. Each time I reached a person I would say “Yo tengo un emergencia a el castillo hotel de areanal.” Meaning, I have an emergency at Hotel Castillo in Arenal. I’m not sure if my spanish wasn’t clear enough but I kept be hung up on. It was so frustrating. As we sat and waited for the police to arrive the manager somehow let it slip that there was a robbery in our exact room the night before. Now- this hotel had about 10 rooms in total and instead of putting us in one of the middle rooms of the building- he put us and the other couple on the corner. I demanded to know why he would put us into a room that had been broken into the night before and his answer was- it had the best view. I was so angry.

Finally the police showed up. The type of police that showed up are called tourist police. I’m not sure what that means other than they deal with problems tourists have. But to be honest they didn’t seem to care too much. They shook hands with the manager, exchanged a laugh and attempted to listen to our broken spanish while we explained what happened. We explained that only the owner and workers knew we had left, they were also the only people that knew what room we were occupying. They didn’t seem to care to much. We felt helpless. Once again, it felt like a horror movie and everyone seemed to know something we didn’t. We didn’t know who to trust, so we trusted no one.

Once they left, the manager put us in a room 5 feet away from the room that had just been broken into. We opened the box of wine we purchased the night before, sat on the bed and tried to understand what had just happened. Suddenly we realized that the same people who watched us come in, watched us leave and watched us helplessly explain to the cops that we were robbed also knew were we were now and knew that we were alone and without most of our belongings. Fear overcame me in a way I never remember feeling before. We looked outside on the balcony to see if there was anything going on, all we saw was a person on a motorcycle go up a hill near the hotel, stop, turn around- stare at us and keep going. That was enough for us to get off the balcony, go back into the room, lock everything that could be locked including our bathroom door, and put chairs up against the balcony doors and the entryway. We had nothing to defend ourselves with, Holly’s knife had been taken at the airport. I had a whistle I picked up at Walmart the day before I left. I wrapped the whistle around my wrist, laid down, stared up at the ceiling and waited until the sun rose.

 

This song felt like the appropriate one for today:

A stranger tells me who I am

Day 3 – A stranger tells me who I am

Holly was about to arrive (my very best friend from California). Her and I had talked abut traveling together for years since we both did on our own in our early 20’s. More specifically we talked about going to Central or South America and now here we were- just about to meet in San Jose, Costa Rica.

Tuesday I spent all day in the hotel I was staying at. To go back to San Jose is a bus ride and I needed to do photographs of this hotel, plus i wasn’t ready for the day after awkwardness I would encounter with my new homeless husband.

I felt like I was at the Black Seal but I was in another country. I hung out at a bar, asked a few people if it was ok if I took their photos to help with the hotels website and everyone happily obliged. The great thing is I didn’t just ask to take their photos, I asked who they were, where they were from and got to know them. I mean I was about to blast your face all over the internet, surely we should get to know one other.

My hotel:photo 2 pool

Once I met one couple, I met another and another. I actually told the 1st and the 3rd couple to talk to each other because they were from similar parts of the US. And then it dawned on me, once again this was so much more than a job. With photography, it’s never just a job and that’s why I love it. I now have invitations to stay for free in 5 different parts of the country. And don’t think for one second I won’t take these people up on their genuine offers.

Then I decided to take an afternoon break and a man came up to me and asked if he could talk to me. I said yes and all of a sudden he started telling me my life story. He told me the type of person I am, they type of business woman I am, the types of people I’ve dated and the type of energy I have inside me. At first I thought this was a strange way to pick me up, but the more he spoke the more I realized he simply had thoughts he needed to share with me. He even told me what he sees in my future and what type of mom I will be. He also knew the exact number of children I want and  without realizing it revealed the gender as well. He also noticed the bright orange necklace I was wearing and said it was my inner color, the color that my soul radiates. And as strange as this sounds I’ve always believed that. He told me that I thrive in good energy and can tell right away when someone interferes with it. He said I havean unusual sense of people, that I know their story almost instantly after meeting them. He explained that I get frustrated when others don’t work towards their dreams because I have worked so hard. He also told me the exact type of person I am going to marry. It was pretty amazing.

Below is a sign that was in my hotel room. Enlarge it if you can. This is the rules of the hotel. #5 #9 and #14 are my favorite. It reminded myself of #14 a few times along this trip.

sign

#5 Remember when traveling around Costa Rica to observe, listen, understand and empathize rather than see, hear, take pictures and boast. Be humble and speak English softly. You are a guest but not the center of attention. No one really cares if you are rich.

#9 Remember the excellent bargain you negotiate for a souvenir is at the expense of someone feeding their family on a wage of $1 an hour.

#14 If you want all the comforts of home, ask yourself why you are traveling.

Holly arrives late tuesday night and I am so excited to see her. We throw her stuff  in the room and find the nearest place to buy boos and some food. We bring it back to our little hotel and sit there with cervesas and dinner (aka wrapped unknown meat in a sandwich from days long gone).

We cab it back to the hotel and sit and talk. Not the regular small talk. The kind of talk you have with your girlfriends after you haven’t seen them in a year and you talk every week anyway but it’s notthe same. We caught up on the good, the bad and the in between. It was so refreshing. Like energy for the soul.

We ended our night and fell asleep in Costa Rica together. Saying I love you, goodnight, in person instead of over the phone. We were ready for our trip to begin. Or so we thought.

Selfie at the hotel:  photo 3

Also this was the song of the day: Stompa- Serena Ryder http://youtu.be/Vz7jCY1cpHk 

“People, looking for the great escape
Looking for the greener side
Trying to find a better way
Slow down; open up your big brown eyes
Feel the rhythm in your heart
You don’t even need to try.”

Homeless man attempts to make me his wife

Day 2- Homeless man attempts to make me his wife 

I woke up feeling old. I say this because I have traveled to 16 (now 17) countries and I’ve never ever noticed the time difference. Even when I went to Australia which is 12 hours ahead of us- I adjusted in about a day. But maybe it’s because I have more of a routine these days that the time change really affected me. I got up at 6:30 which is 8:30 in the states. I decided to go with it and start my day.

So as I said in my prior post I am doing a few things to live outside my comfort zone on this trip. I began one of them the first morning I woke up. I decided to order items off the menu and not ask to change anything. Now anyone who knows me, knows I order something and then somehow ask for everything to be taken off of it till I’m down some sort of carb and cheese. I am the pickiest eater you will ever meet. I would compare my taste buds to those of a 7 year old but then I would be lying since my 7 year old niece eats more types of food than I do.

So I decided to order a “tico breakfast,” from the hotel menu. This included Sausage, eggs, rice and beans. So you think- that’s not so bad. You aren’t me. I just started eating sausage this year, I’ve had eggs maybe once before in my life and have convinced myself I hate them, rice is ok (although I prefer plain white) and beans- never had them, ever. This is the craziest part. I loved it. I’m looking forward to maybe, possibly eating eggs when I get home. Maybe.photo 1

From the hotel I took a bus downtown to San Jose. So let me put it this way, unless you are a photographer and you like taking photos of strangers in a big dirty city (like me) than San Jose won’t have much to offer you. But for me, I was in heaven. I roamed the strange streets where people yell, cars beep, homeless people sing and scream and where I stood out like the whitest white girl in the world. I dipped into Central Mercado. Here is how it is described in my tour book “Assuming you’ve dressed down and stuck a wad of cash in your sock, the gritty Mercado Central is the best place for hammocks and tees.” Here is my description, “If you are willing to risk your life, be surrounded by fish and cow caracas and you thrive when surrounded by the aroma of human pee, this is the place for you.” That being said I got some of the best photos of the day in this place. It’s like a human maze of shops, kitchens and workers. I went in and out of it 3 different times during the day because I was so mesmerized.

ProjectCapturedJeff-6301  ProjectCapturedJeff-6814

As I continued my journey around the city I noticed that I wasn’t as comfortable taking photos of strangers and I usually am. I think it was the language barrier that got me. Usually if I am in a big city I offer a few coins to a homeless person if they let me make their situation my art or if it’s someone who has a cool look I simply ask. But fear got the best of me. So what I did instead was pretty creative if you ask me. Well either creative or creepy, your call. I strapped my camera across my chest, made sure my settings were right and started snapping the shutter as I was walking. What I got was a ton of crooked photos of people with amazing facial expressions- truly being natural. Here are some of my favorite examples:

ProjectCapturedJeff-6623 ProjectCapturedJeff-6514

ProjectCapturedJeff-6737 ProjectCapturedJeff-6757

My personal fav-  ProjectCapturedJeff-6998

There is a park in the middle of the city which reminds me of florence- covered in pigeons. I stayed there for a half hour watching people feed them and this kid literally picked up a handful of them and allowed me to take his photo. I was stunned, he was happy and the birds look scared shitless.

ProjectCapturedJeff-7028

 ProjectCapturedJeff-7074 ProjectCapturedJeff-7097

In the afternoon I tracked down a police officer and asked him where I could buy a cerveza (a beer) and he pointed to a super cool place 2 stories above a main street. I went up there and was able to sit by an open window, have a beer and take photos of the people below me, more creeping. 3 beers worth of time I watched this homeless man strum his yukililie and move from one side of the street to the next. I thought about conquering my fear and offering him money for a photograph . Then I decided not to. Then I said fuck that and I paid for my beers, went down the stairs and walked right up to him. I showed him my coins and pointed to my camera and he smiled. I took a few photos of him and then figured I would show him. I showed him, and he looked at me like I had just given him a million dollars.

ProjectCapturedJeff-6995

Then he hugged me and didn’t let go. And for a few moments I hugged the shit out of him back. Its like we both needed it. Bu then he grabbed my hand and started walking down the street with me. And the high of the hug started to turn into the what the hell is going on feeling you get when a homeless man starts walking down the street with you hand in hand. I pulled away, smiled and pointed to the other direction to show him I had to go. So he hugged me again, but then he licked my face. If its possible to make out with someones cheek, well thats what it turned into. I pulled back said my goodbyes and walked away. Ok lets be real, I walked fast enough to be jogging into the closest fast food place, asked for the bathroom and washed my cheek for 15 minutes. OCD in full blown effect. I for sure that I contracted the HIV. (#notEVENpossibleIknow)

All in all it was a fantastic day. One of those days that you feel alive. And slightly raped.

A Whiskey Takeoff

Day 1- A Whiskey Takeoff photo 4

Saturday night I tried to go to sleep early but it was pretty hard considering I knew that in just a matter of hours I would be up and on my way to Costa Rica. I guess I will say I slept a bit, but nothing of much quality. At 4:30 am I popped out of bed. For those of you that know me I am not, I repeat in capital letters, NOT a morning person, but on Sunday I was.

I showered, grabbed the last of my belongings and got in my car and drove to the bus station. From there I took the bus to Logan airport in Boston. On this trip I was determined to live out of my comfort zone. My regular life is very comfortable and so it was time to jump out of that box. One of the things I decided to do as a part of this anti-comfort zone policy was to only bring a carry on. Now mind you, I had to pack at least one full bag of camera equipment so that left me with one backpack of clothes, shoes, excessive jewelry and of course hair dye. I packed like a pro and was so proud. So when I got to the terminal I thought, “this time, instead of paying $75 extra dollars because my checked bag exceeds the weight limit, I will simply take these two bags with me,” living light, I called it.

photo 3photo 2

So as I casually said “no,’ after being asked if I was checking any bags, (glancing around to see if anyone was listening to my proud answer) I was told that one of my bags was too big to fly internationally on board. Apparently the international measurements for carry ons are different that when you travel within America. I was so bummed. But I got over it and went to my terminal.

Before I left my parents gave me exactly what I would think each parent would give me. My mom gave me a bag of candy and a letter telling me how much she loves me. She’s been doing this for 31 years. My mum (my stepmom) gave me a bag of sandwiches for the trip with a note on the bag saying – Bon Voyage. And my very irish dad gave me 4 nips of Irish Whiskey.

I got to my gate and decided there really was no better time to start enjoying these gifts than now. So I cracked open the whiskey, ate a turkey sandwich and had some candy for dessert. Fucking awesome.

photo 1

The trip to Costa Rica was boring and to be honest I feel asleep before we took off. Thanks Irish Whiskey. When I stepped off the plane, my first thought was, “Now my feet have touched Costa Rica.” It was a very cool feeling.  And this guy only added to that amazing feeling. My new Bff.

photo 5

 

For those of you that may not know, I arranged a barter with all the the hotels I am staying at for this trip. I do professional photos of their hotel and they give me a few free nights stay. Thank you to part of my brain that still thinks like a marketing manager (queue one time I’ve ever been thankful for the day job I had prior to doing Capture full time).

I arrived at my first hotel and it was so cute. It’s called Adventure Inn- how fitting. I went to check in and when I said who I was their first words were, “oh the photographer!!!” I usually get this when I run into someone at the Black Seal in Essex and they’ve heard of me, but to hear it in Costa Rica made me feel awesome. I was wiped from the trip and made it an early night. I mean let’s face it, I was about to explore the streets of San Jose, Costa Rica tomorrow. This body needed some rest!