Tag Archives: Arenal Volcano

Curves, Dirt, Darkness and Our First Day

State Flag of Costa Rica

State Flag of Costa Rica (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The excitement of vacationing in Costa Rica reached its crescendo when we landed in San Jose.  We had researched, packed, and reviewed our Spanish.  We were ready for the first day!

First stop: customs.  A word of advice: when asked the reason of the visit, it is best to not be facetious with the agent.  Either it was a language barrier or he did not have a sense of humor.  My answer to his question: “To set up a Tanning salon.”

Second stop: rental car pick up.  We were advised to rent a four-wheel drive vehicle.  The rental car process took some time.  Nonetheless, by 2:30, we were almost ready to leave.  We needed lunch.  There was a restaurant next to the rental place, so ate lunch – a very, very, very long lunch.  (Costa Ricans don’t seem to believe in fast food.)  Despite this delay, I felt we would have no problem arriving before darkness set in.

Third stop: Hacienda Encartada at Lake Arenal.  Mapquest indicated it would take two and a half hours to drive there.

Incidentally, I have been driving for a few years – my first car being a ’65 Chevy Bel Aire sedan.  It easily sat 6 teenagers, and more if the trunk was utilized when we went to the drive-in.  I thought I had seen everything.  Silly me.

As we left San Jose, I noticed the highway was not like the Interstates at home.  There were three lanes: always two lanes uphill and one lane downhill.  Along the sides of the road vendors sold fresh food, and cars would quickly brake and stop and purchase a snack or dinner.  I also noticed that sharp turns around mountains on roads with no guard rails were a greater deterrent to speeding than police cars in the medians.  I started to believe Mapquest incorrectly estimated the drive time.

As a result of the slower speed, our excitement started to fad.  Spectacular views greeted us around every bend; nevertheless, sitting on a plane and then in a car became monotonous.  However, about two hours into our journey, the trip got a little more interesting.  The paved road suddenly ended.  No warning.  Just dirt!  Only, the GPS said I was on the highway.  In addition, this dirt highway would reduce to one lane for bridges over the numerous rivers.   I knew Mapquest incorrectly estimated the drive time.

In spite of these obstacles, I confidently reassured the family we would arrive before dark.  After all, we only had another hour or more to go, and it was only about 4:45 p.m.  Did you know that the sun sets between 5:00 and 6:00 o’clock year round in Costa Rica?  Me either.  As a result, we had to search for a dirt driveway in complete darkness.  Plus, Costa Rica does not have street names or addresses.  If you want to mail a letter, you address it: Jose Amigo, 400 meters west of the church and 150 meters south of the Best Western, Tamarindo, Costa Rica.  Luckily for us, my daughter’s super hero power is night vision.  She kept telling me to turn, but I could not see any path.  Finally, I trusted her.  We drove a kilometer on a muddy, pot-holed cow path to a house on the side of a mountain.

We cooked some food we bought at a super market, which was really the size of a 7-11 store.  Then, we hit the sack.

IMG_0168

Daylight awoke us to a spectacular view of Lake Arenal and the Arenal Volcano.

With this adventure in mind, I think of the first day for the freshmen.  Filled with excitement, they plan the routes to their classes, what they will wear, and pack their school supplies.  Next, they sit in classroom after classroom, hearing similar rules, different procedures, and becoming bored.  Once in a while, some teachers take away the asphalt and make the students sit up and take notice.  Or, lunch rolls around with discussions of classes and teachers (or cute girls and cute boys).  Of course, when the day ends, darkness arrives in the form of “nap time.”  At least I always need one at the end of Day 1.

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Comparing Freshman Year to Visiting Costa Rica

Soon the first day of high school will arrive.  The fear, anxiety, anticipation, and excitement of doing something “new.” But, school is not really new to kids.  Nonetheless, we know there are new experiences in high school, which can be compared to travelling to another country.  For example, our family of six vacationed in Costa Rica.  We have travelled across the United States and have been to Canada and a few Caribbean Islands via Cruise ships, but those day trips to a foreign country are not really like flying into one and being visitors for a week.

Like a freshman listens to advice from parents, teachers, siblings and friends on how to dress, what classes to take and clubs to join, we sought advice from travel sites and blogs to help us in deciding what to bring, what to wear, and which activities to do and what to see.

What to bring?IMG_0272

Coming from the flatness of Ohio and going to a Central American country, we thought we would pack shorts, t-shirts, sandals, and swim suits.  When in fact, we learned that we would need more.  Our first location was Lake Arenal and the Arenal Volcano.  This mountainous rain forest can be cool in the morning and evening and full of mosquitos.  Lightweight pants, a raincoat or light jacket, and mosquito repellant were necessary.

Freshmen (and their parents) should check school websites for materials lists.  Or at least, send the student to school with paper, pens and pencils, and folders.  Unlike a foreign country, additional supplies can be found easily and economically.

What to wear?

Freshmen will get advice from many people.  They have to determine what is helpful and not.  For instance, some parents, like me, haven’t been a freshman since 1981, thus their advice to wear deck shoes, Levis, and a Polo shirt with the collar up or long skirts and sweaters should be double-checked with friends.  Although my children and wife will disagree, I have noticed some changes in fashion over the last couple of decades, especially on my daughter’s first day of high school, which is another blog entry.  The best advice I ever received was to remember: “You are not dressing for this job.  You are dressing for your next job.”  I have mentioned this on occasion to some students, but they don’t always get it.  I would show them a clip from Pretty Woman, but I know I would get in trouble.

Cover of "Pretty Woman [Blu-ray]"

Cover of Pretty Woman [Blu-ray]

What activities would be best? 

Naturally, it depends on interests, talents, and time.  I was the class treasurer, and today my wife handles the checkbook.  I also dove into swimming for the first time.  Today, parents make it seem that a kid should have been involved in a sport for years, or they won’t make the team.  This is not always true.  My advice: get involved in high school.  You have the rest of your life to work.  (Unless you are like me and never leave.)

Some siblings, especially those who are still in high school, offer advice that is meant to terrify the younger sibling.  For example, some older brothers tell their siblings that freshman have to sit in the corner of the lunchroom and carry the senior’s lunch trays.  Of course, some advice is meant to take advantage of the gullibility of the neophytes.  Upperclassman use to try to sell forged elevator passes, or give inaccurate directions that force the freshman to walk a mile between classes.  Of course, due to excessive standardized testing, the juniors and seniors have lost this creativity, so I have been forced to help the freshmen learn to not trust and be self-reliant.

Therefore parents, give your young adults some supplies but be ready to buy more, learn fashion trends, and encourage involvement.

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