Belen met Joel and me at the airport and we went out to a delicious lunch in a little Italian restaurant. Later, after settling in for a good chat, dinner was goodies from the local mall in Escazu (that mall looked just like any mall you'd see here), and I got to bed by tennish, ready for my upcoming adventure.
Joel had offered to drive me to the bus depot early the next morning for my journey up-country to the Monteverde Cloud Forest, which is near the tiny town of Santa Elena. When he delivered me to the depot and bought me the ticket, I was on my own.
After settling down on the bus (and parking my pack in an overhead bin ~ with the strap hanging down over the edge so I could keep an eye on it) I worked out the currency conversion, which turned out to be pretty easy. For instance, if something cost 2100 colones, you drop the last zero and pretend the 210 is pennies. Then, multiply the 210 pennies x 2, and the conversion is $4.20. And that was the price of my bus ticket from San Jose to Sta. Elena, about four hours away. What a deal!
By the way, I fastened the colones into my journal only along a thin strip of edge (next to the spiral) so that you can flip them up to see the back side. But to keep them from flipping up at other times, I taped a piece of acetate along the outer edge of the page, which flaps back over the ends of the bills to hold them down.
The bus was comfortable, although well-used, but unfortunately the windows were kind of scuzzy (like most airplane windows) so the viewing wasn't what it might be. I did a bit of journaling, then pulled out the evaluations I had asked my students to fill after the workshop. I hadn't had time to look them over yet. The evaluation sheet started out: "Please fill out with positive or negative feedback so that I can improve or change the workshop as needed." I always ask students to fill out evaluations in order to constantly improve my workshops.
Question: Did this workshop fulfill your expectations and was it worth the fee you paid?
- Kathy: "I enjoyed the people, the class, the locale, the food, Irene is a terrific instructor."
- Jocelyn: "Yes. There was actually much more content than I expected. The price for the package was excellent and worth every penny! Thank you, thank you."
- Marilyn: " Yes. I thought the fee was quite reasonable. All my "expectations" were fulfilled."
Question: Why did you enroll in this class?
- Kathy: "For the exotic locale. I wanted to travel and was alone so thought a group workshop was a safe way to do so. Plus I was interested in the information of the workshop."
- Jocelyn: "Loved the blog from last year's class ~ wanted to be in this place with a skilled and knowledgeable teacher."
- Marilyn: "I have a great love of nature so the description of the class appealed to me. Your background was also a deciding factor in choosing this workshop. I also wanted to experiment with colored pencils. I wanted to have an adventure!"
- Kathy: "Irene is very knowledgeable about drawing, composing and setting up a treasure of a journal experience. Irene is patient and kind, but will lead you to your best performance."
- Jocelyn: "I feel that any beginner would be very well equipped to create journal pages. I learned a LOT of things that already help me in my sketchbook/journal work. Some specific tips have helped solve recurring "problems" I've had. In the future, I will also use other creative elements that were introduced to me."
- Marilyn: "Your class was really great ~ fun, informative and well thought out. The time spent outside the class with you was a bonus. You are quite knowledgeable about the flora and fauna of the Osa Peninsula. All of the people at El Remanso were so kind and helpful, it really added to the whole experience. You are a really fun person and your upbeat personality is contagious."
- more pleine air (sketching outside) activities
- less class time to allow more exploring
- drop the calligraphy but keep the initial caps session
- introduce the fun script I was using in my own journal
[Since I had asked the students if I could quote them on my blog, it's okay that I am using their names and comments here. In fact, Jocelyn Curry's art may be seen here ~ you'll be properly impressed, I think!] I tucked the evaluation sheets away for later rumination, and got back to my adventures.
The first 2½ hours going west and north on the bus went pretty fast, first on Interstate 3, then on a good paved highway. Soon we were practically to the cloud forest, according to the map I had glued into the back of my journal, and I couldn't figure out why it was scheduled to take so long to finish getting there.
But when the bus turned off onto a dirt road, it all became clear. The last thirty miles were on a steep, winding dirt road, rutted and rocky in places, so narrow in other places there was truly not room for two buses to meet and pass. I was on the side of the bus next to the outer edge of the road much of the time, with some interesting views down. But the driver was obviously a pro, who treated his bus well, and I never felt endangered at any time despite the drop-off. Still, we went very s.l.o.w.l.y.....
As an antidote, off to the west we got occasional lingering glimpses of Golfo de Nicoya (the Gulf of Nicoya) and to the north and east the forested mountains, wreathed in clouds, were rising majestically. The bus windows opened, so sometimes I was hanging out to admire the view. I DO wish I could show you my photos of the countryside! (for those of you who have just joined the blog, see the first entry on Feb 20 for what happened to all my gorgeous pictures).Finally, Santa Elena, where I had (online) rented a cabina for the night, appeared around the bend. It was quite amazing to see this small, bustling town at the end of such a dreadful, dusty road. Every second vehicle (and there were LOTS of vehicles) seemed to be either a taxi or a turismo van. I engaged a taxi (for 900 colones ~ quick now, how much is that?) to my lodging.
But there was no one at the reception office to meet me. Not a soul. I waited around for a few minutes, then went across the way to a service station (La Bomba) and asked around until I found a mechanic who could speak enough English to understand me. He got on his cell phone and called the concierge, who belatedly met me at the reception and took me to my cabina. I really liked that cabina, with comfortable bed, shower, bath, microwave, and even a TV, with a view out the window at Golfo de Nicoya. But after that first time, I never saw anyone from the hotel again ~ and no other guests, either. Weird. I had the whole place to myself.
Stowing some of my gear in my room, I walked down to the road below the cabina and waited, as instructed by the taxi driver, for the "jello bus" (sometimes the Tico "y" is pronounced like a "j") which took me the few miles up to the Reserva Biologica Bosque Nubroso Monteverde. And for $15 I spent the rest of the day wandering the beautiful cloud forest trails, seeing unbelievably beautiful vegetation, an inquisitive slaty-backed nightingale thrush, and listening to the roars of howler monkeys. This wonderful howler monkey picture was offered by Mai-Liis.
I've written about my first day of cloud forest adventures on the journal page here. I was having the time of my life, a real-life adventure, all on my own. This was an important challenge to me, because I tend to be fairly cautious. I had assigned myself this experience (traveling alone in a foreign country with limited expertise in the language ~ I don't think I know more than about fifty words, and almost NO grammar) to get me to spread my wings a bit more. And I was flapping along with reasonable success. Be sure to tune in tomorrow for more fun in the cloud forest and some nice journal sketches.