Thursday, March 18, 2010

The chris Malone Principle

Recently ive been thinking more and more about the different people ive met and about people in general. Part of this thinking was spurred on by my host mother describing me as charismatic to one of the waitresses in her restaurant. Now i have never been described as charismatic in my entire lifetime. Ive been described as shy, egotistical, condescending, a bit of an ahole, exasperating, arrogant, ridiculous and often as tall but never charismatic. So it got me thinking about how people perceive me and really how i want them to perceive me.

This brings me back to the people i have met on this trip and what i have learned from all of them about who i want to be. I was talking to my friend adam and he asked me what the people in monteverde were like and who i was hanging out with. I told him about this couple that i think are two of the cooler people i have ever met. Their names are heather and jonathan and on the surface i dont think we have much in common but i would say that they are two of the greatest people i have ever met, period. They are a couple who play violin and cello, enjoy talking and teaching about bird calls, and run english country dances on saturday nights. Not one of those things would i ever choose as my number one option for leisure activites and yet these two are extremely cool and any conversation ive had with them has left me overwhelmed with their overall greatness. In figuring out their appeal i realized it all comes down to the chris malone principle/factor.

Chris Malone is on my list as one of my favorite human beings on the planet and to know him is to love him. Now Chris has an affinity for role playing computer games, fantasy novels and action films but he is by far one of the coolest people on the planet. The major part of this and the core maxim behind the chris malone principle, is that chris is one of the most genuine people on the planet. When he asks you something about your life he is truly interested in your response. He likes the things he likes and never feels a need to defend those likes or to try and convert other people into liking them, its just what he likes. He is never afraid to put himself out there or be goofy or silly. Its all these things and that understated undefinable chrisness that makes him who he is and its that quality that i find in other people that makes me think they are great. People like chris, jonathan and heather should be the considered the coolest people on the planet plain and simple.

So i guess i wonder more and more how i am perceived and if i come across the way i hope. I hope i dont come across as phony and i hope im likeable for the right reasons. I hope somehow i have a piece of that chris malone factor.


Other updates....
-so i was totally stung by a scorpion the other night. I had heard that it was basically inevitable that i would be stung because everyone gets stung but i thought i had made it this long and avoided it so i would probably be lucky. But i was sleeping the other night and felt something like a tac on my back and when i went to move it my finger got a pinch and then some ridiculous throbbing pain. Ive heard scorpion stings described as being hit with a hammer and being as simple as a bee sting and the truth for me lies in the middle, it hurts like a bastard but is only a little sore for about a day. Now heres where i was confused with myself, i looked for the scorpion for about 5 minutes after the sting to try and wage my revenge but had no luck. I then immediately went back to bed, was that silly, i mean i know he could have just been waiting and lurking for a second sting of this sweet sweet flesh but a man needs his sleep and if its going to happen its going to happen

-went to two concerts here. One feature the 2nd place winner of season three of latin american idol. She was probably what you would expect out of a latin american pop star, i heard many stories of her divaness but i found her pleasant. At one point massimo, my tico 4 year old brother, walked near the front of the stage yelling "donde esta mi amigo" and she made some jokes and tried to help him find his amigo. We then all got our pictures taken with her and all of the girls in my class/family decided i should marry her, because thats apparently how marriage works, good to know. They began to tell all the kids at school that she is my girlfriend because i touched her butt. Also good to know that randomly touching a girls tush(wich i did not do btw) puts you in a commited relationship. The second concert was one of double basses which one of the teachers heard not as contra basses but as contra racists so she assumed that these based players would be playing many songs that fought against racism. They might have but i think they were just plain old bassists.

-Speaking of music tomorrow i am performing a rap for one of the kids' senior project, its going to be awesome and it will be my first time recording any of my rap songs since jon drew and i blew up the rap scene with our song black or white later ripped off by michael jackson(RIP)

- speaking of michael jackson, one of the recurrent jokes for the kids in my class is the word michael jackson, they can answer any question with it and they love to sing mj songs but mainly its just thriller, once they throw ben in there then we will be talking

-also had my birthday here which was a lot of fun. My tico family all made me cards and bought me a sweet tshirt and then at the school i had happy birthday sung to me about a dozen times. My tico mom happened to hear this and decided that my birthday should be a national holiday in costa rica or at least just in the school. I suggested they erect a statue, its in the works.


Sunday, March 14, 2010

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Andy beat me to the punch and posted a blog about the visit that he and Lindsey made to Monteverde so i will let him have sole ownership over the writing of the blog about said visit.

A couple of quick notes from this guy though. One: I dont know if ziplining is different in other places but it is one of the most underwhelming experiences that i have ever had. I mean you look out at nature, i get that part and you slide "quickly" while suspended high in the air but really its over pretty quick and you do a whole lot more walking than anyone advertises. Two they also dont tell you that you should probably bring a partner. I mean i have no problem with a 300lb polish man wrapping his legs around my waist as he slide gracefully through the air but they should tell you that in advance. The second time he chickened out and i had to go alone, when the guide asked me if i wanted to go alone we had this confidence inspiring exchange-

Tim-"Do people usually go alone?"
tim-"well will it work?"
tim"so should i do it?"
guide-"i dont see why not. Just dont mess up"

Other than that though it was really great to see Andy and Lindsey. I am a completely unhelpful travel companion and was basically just riding their coattails for much of the trip but they tolerated me anyway. It was actually really tough to say goodbye but they are off to bigger and brighter things in Peru and beyond. One of the highlights of their visit was hearing all of the amazing ideas they have for changing the world not just on this trip but in the future. Andy and i once talked about starting a school or afterschool program inconjunction where he would handle finances and business plans and all that stuff and i would handle curriculum and kids and all that stuff and if something like that ever worked out it would be beyond fantastic.

More interesting blogs and information on travelpod. Just follow the link above and do some searching for lindsey and andys stuff.

Just another day at the Beach

Readers note: this entry contains adult situations and partial nudity. If you are sensitive or judgemental than do not read this post, just move on and do something else.

This past weekend the I went to Santa Cruz to visit my families parents/grandparents. The school was having no classes on Monday and they wanted to take me to the beach and to see some different parts of Costa Rica. There was no ziplining or climbing volcanoes and yet it turned into a really interesting weekend.

On saturday morning we all woke up extremely early, well early for a saturday, normally the family wakes up around 11 on weekends. So at 9 we were off in a taxi to pick up the families car and then head to the grandparents house. It was basically a hellish morning of tons of driving. After the ride down to our car which took about an hour and a half, i was put to the task of loading the car. Somehow i end up being the errand boy for the family, i bring in groceries, pack cars, i move furniture in their restaurant and am always in charge of the main gate leading into the house. Not sure how i became king of all these odd jobs but its a pretty basic expectation for the family now.

The car of course was not fixed. The windows didnt work and after about 5 minutes of sitting in the blistering heat it was obvious that tha ac was not working either so we did what all kids want to do when they are expecting a two hour trip to the beach, we went to a repair shop and sat there for an hour waiting for all the stuff to get fixed. The kids were to put it mildly pissed. Not even the classic 80's videos on the tv could cheer them up, i mean freddy mercury at his glory or tears for fears, how can you be angry during tears for fears i think thats the opposite of what they are all about.

Eventually we do get to our location, the grandparents house in Santa Cruz. After i unloaded the car the and got the prerequisite your tall jokes in spanish they decided that the dad and i should head off to the grocery store and make sure we have everything for the beach tomorrow. Im not going to lie, foreign junkfood products have been one of the highlights of my trip. Junk food in general is one of my favorite things not so much because i love and need to it all the time, though i do, but i like how silly and creative people can be. There are some beyond good junk food products down here as well, im a big fan of the entire bimbo line from cakes to fruit filled cookies and have become a recent convert to jalapeno nacho chips and lime flavored nacho chips(heavy lime).

After the stop at the grocery store the dad decided i should see more of the town which implied a quick drive and then straight to a seedy chinese food restaurant where we could drink heavily. Honestly i havent had much to drink my entire trip and the family thinks im a wimp because im never up for slamming down the mid day beer(they honestly have brought beer home on several occasions and when i say i prefer pepsi they give me dirty looks). After a beer and some chat our table started filling with the regulars. These guys are what seedy bars are all about. They drink early in the morning buying bottles of liquor and then putting them half finished in the fridge and then head back at night to finish the bottle.

Since i was the new guy everyone wanted to hear all about me, but really they just wanted to all buy me a drink. This is the type of bar where when you are half finished with your beer you have another one on the table waiting for and everyone gives you dirty looks and calls you a wimp because you havent finished the previous one yet. Now ill tell you one thing though, if you want a true test of your spanish speaking abilities sit in a bar with drunk elderly and middle aged men. They talk all sorts of crazy crap and then laugh their asses off and you just have to hope they arent talking about you.

I was a big fan of the grandfather though, he just sits there real quiet and drinks slowly. He is totally relaxed and laughs subtly but its like hes got this whole thing figured out and he lets the yahoos act crazy and just enjoys the show. Though at one point he tried to ask why i wasnt a big drinker because he had only seen me have one beer, when he was informed of how many i had actually had to that point he was impressed and i think i won his respect with that.

At some point in the bar we got a call from my costa rican mom and she wanted to talk to me. Apparently someone i had never met wanted to know if i wanted to head to a different bar at a beach 45 minutes away. So i was pretty confused and had to admit i had no idea what she was talking about. This has begun to drive her nuts because generally when i dont know what someone is talking about i just fake like i do until things pass. I just nod and say "si" and hope that i can figure everything out. She figured otu my strategy first though and it began to really bug her, so now everyone time i say si she laughs and tells me and everyone around that i dont understand, although its true a good portion of the time it still hurts.

Eventually though we get back to the house and i figure out everything that is happening. There are some cousins, college aged kids and they want me to go out with them. Its a nice offer but im already pretty drunk and really tired at this point so i decline, which turns into a whole family debate. Literally everyone in the family from the grandmother(she thought i should go home and sleep god bless her), the drunk guys(i should keep drinking with them), the mom( i should go have fun but not talk to skanky girls) and the kids(i should go, im already drunk so why not). Eventually peer pressure and lack of personal decision making ability won out and i was off to a beach bar.

This ended up being a 30th birthday party for some random chick. She rented out the bar and for about 4 bucks there was open bar. For some reason only tequila rum and vodka were free. I slowed my personal night down and just taught everyone how to do the wave the sprinkler and the kid and play dance. How is it that more people arent familiar with the kid and play dance its a travesty.

Then at one point one of the cousins had her purse stolen with cell phone money and ids inside. She figured out who probably stole it and when she questioned them they had a perfect alibi, they knew who stole it...and started pointing directly at me. Now this was the worst attempt ever i had been hanging out with their group for the whole night and if they had been doing any scouting at all like a good thief should then they should have known this. It turned into a pretty interesting night. Though as i am telling this i wonder if its one of those stories that is much more interesting when you are there, which i am sure it is.

The next day at the beach was pretty typical for me. I ended the day with a ridiculous sun burn that highlights the handprints where i wasnt able to reach the rest of my back and then a las vegas bright red back. This i have to blame all on the family who wanted me to go take a walk on the beach not matter how hard i told them i really didnt want to. They literally had to all yell at me to go walk on the beach and enjoy the view. I mean i get it , ive been to beaches before you walk theres sand and an ocean but if your solo its really not all its cracked up to be, youre supposed to walk on the beach with someone and going by yourself while the sun scolds you is not what people mean when they write it in their personal ads. The other amusing moment for me at the beach was that at one point the grandmother went into the water and when she came out her bosom was completely exposed. She had a blouse on so their was no viewing but it was obvious. The funniest part about all this is that the bosom was out for a solid half hour, i mean at some point you have to realize it right. Ladies help me out if you have a bosom exposed you can feel that right. And what kind of family doesnt tell you that you are showing the whole world a boob? if i had boobs i would definitely want someone to give me a heads up if it was out.

Im going to end on that note just because i dont think i can say more. I spent the next day in utter pain and though we got to go to mcdonalds where i got to share my many entertaining mcdonalds anecdotes theres not much more to tell. Overall i got to know the family better, the cousins were really nice and one might even be going to umass next year so it would be fun to see them again, and i was able to experience some typical costa rican stuff, even if it was heavy drinking.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Update on Monteverde

Well the best I can do with this particular blog is to make it a rambling jumbled mix of all the different things that have happened over the past few weeks. Bare with me, there will be some superfluous crap that you have no interest in but hopefully there will be some nuggets of interest.

I'm going to start off with school since that is my primary reason for being here. In a lot of ways school is pretty similar to any school ive ever been in. Except for the fact that you can randomly see white faced monkeys on the library roof, or you can have gigantic spiders and scorpions in your class at any time. The classes I am working in are learning ancient rome, biographies, Buddhism and reading Asian fiction. For the most part I am just like an assistant in the room which is a whole different perspective of a classroom for me. Usually I am a control freak and I dont like other people telling me how to or what to teach but this has actually been kind of a refreshing change. I'm seeing teaching in a different light and realizing how I need to improve to work better with my co teachers in the future. For the most part though I work with small groups and just annoy kids with my incessant questions about anything and everything.
I did get the opportunity to teach sex ed to the 5/6th grade boys the other day which was an adventure all in itself. Frankly I am a terrible person to teach this subject, I laugh every time I see or speak the word penis and in fact I just laughed right now after writing it. I am far from mature, I have bizarre beliefs about personal hygiene ranging from super uptight and anal retentive to completely and absolutely lax. In essence the things I know about the human body and puberty are not beneficial for anyone let alone those who dont know much. The basic summary of the class: wear deodorant, wash up, and if and when you ever have sex dont be an idiot. Hopefully those gems of wisdom will make those gentleman into upstanding citizens that we can all be proud of.
Some other interesting notes from school. I am starting to make friends but its more with the kids in the school than the teachers, not because the teachers aren't nice but because I think 7 year olds like me better than adults. I even got invited over a 6 year olds house to play soccer , I am probably going to take him up on it and then totally dominate because I dont care how old you are im not letting anyone win at anything.
Oh I am teaching basketball as well. Its quite the class and I am super psyched that we are starting to master lay ups. Full court games are an absolute mess and its impossible to teach them how to play because they have very little attention span and for kids who have seen a sum total of 10 games in their life they have a self righteous know it all nature about the rules and the right things to do.
We also had a slight lice scare in the school which freaked me out a bit. The whole day I kept scratching my head and thinking I had lice which would be devastating because I cant afford to cut these sweet locks of mine, its one of my go to features. Long story short im clean and the school is lice free, toca madera, so I can continue to stroke my fingers through this sweet sweet head of hair.

I think ive written a little about the family but ill use this space to right more. There are 3 kids, Annalise(11), Angelina(6) and Massimo(4), so there is never really a dull moment in the house. Just a few minutes ago I had Angelina and Massimo throwing toys in my room for about a half hour and last night at dinner I was entertained as Angelina kept showing me her tongue with piles of chewed food on it. I have played a crap load of memory and made some pretty sweet stuff out of play doh over the past few weeks. The eldest daughter Annalise is actually in my class, she is a violin prodigy and completely obsessed with Twilight so ive had plenty of conversations about how cool it would be to be a vampire. (im awaiting a mugford joke on that comment). Most days it is actually a blast to have them around though there are moments where they can turn pretty nasty, like when Angelina hid the remote controls to the TV because she knew I wanted to watch jeopardy. I figured out a way around that whole debacle though.
The only big hang up that I have is that basically I am treated like a child, which most times is pretty appropriate but there are shining moments when I am a real adult. Its one of those things where they ask me questions “do you want ice in this drink” and ill respond “no I dont really like ice” and then they'll give me a look like your an idiot and just put the ice in my drink anyway. Or how much food do you want and ill say stop and then they'll add 4 more scoops because I dont know what im talking about. This week I baked cupcakes in ice cream cones something they had never seen before and therefore theoretically I should be the expert. Though through the whole process they kept telling me I didn't know what I was doing and would try and fix it themselves, changing the temperature of the oven, arbitrarily moving the pan remixing the batter. I mean I know im an idiot but I am capable of doing some things in life.
Other than that they are beyond nice. Last weekend they invited me to a wedding and I was pretty nervous about the whole thing. I mean if I'm getting married and some tall awkward foreign dude comes strolling in uninvited im probably bouncing his ass from the reception. Especially when he is bringing nothing to the table, no gift, no witty dinner conversation, and no dance skills whatsoever. The people there were incredibly nice they made sure I had plenty of food and kept sneaking me shots of tequila(it was a dry wedding due to the father of the brides drinking problem) and basically going way out of their way to make me comfy. As a wedding it was pretty interesting, it was in a beautiful location tucked into the valley surrounded by waterfalls. Everyone dresses casual, jeans and hoodies mostly, or slutty(im talking about the ladies) and then just hangs out, maybe dances(some ridiculous kind of dancing). I also pitched my idea of an all cake menu(cake for every part of the meal, possibly cake designed like steak chicken or fish for the main course) at my wedding to one of the daughters in the family and she said I was an idiot and I would never find a woman who would let me do that. So true but maybe if I pitch that idea my other wedding ideas wont seem as stupid and one of them will slip by.

Well im off for now. Andy and Lindsey visited a few weeks ago so ill blog about that as we did some zip lining and visited the cloud forest reserve, though im waiting for the pics because as many of you have told me you dont really read any of this and only look at the pictures.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Monteverde first impressions

I made it to Costa Rica even with 5 hours at the costa rican nicaraguan border. I wasnt sure if it was normal and then i saw people laughing and videotaping the line so i knew i was in for quite the day. It all worked out for the best because they didnt check anything and once you were done waiting you got stamped and sent on your merry way.

Monteverde is a much much different place then i am used to. It is an extremely small town. I got lucky that the school is right across the street, literally a minute and a half walk. My family here in Costa Rica owns a cafe/art gallery/spa/internent cafe/rental car company about thirty minutes from our house. They are slowly trying to murder me through gluttony. I eat close to 7 pounds of rice and beans a day and they try to fill in any not eating moments with snacks. I have been laughed at every day for how enormous my lunch is. At one breakfast I told her i was good with two scoops of rice and she shook her head and put on 4 then shook it again until i had about 8 and then decided i might as well finish off the pan. I have been giving myself pep talks before every meal, telling myself that i can get through it and finish this off if i just try my best, so far it has worked most times. Dont get me wrong the food is delicous but im not sure if they know im not a grizzly bear.

School is off to great start. The teacher i am working with is really talented and easy to get along with. She has been very open to my ideas and i have already picked out a bunch of stuff i am going to steal from her when i get back.

The school itself is a great place overall. The classrooms are very open and full of light and the kids are pretty similar to any kids you would find anywhere. The only big difference is that they call you by your first name which is weird at first but you get used to it quick and many of them walk around shoeless which weirds me out a bit but im getting used to it.

It was really drizzly and the wind was ridiculous knock your on your ass kind of wind the first few days i was here but it has all cleared up recently and if it stays sunny here it will be an amazing place to live. Im ok walking 45 minutes for a pepsi as long as the weather holds up like this.

Perquin and El Mozote

Throughout most of the later parts of the 20th century El Salvador found it self in one of the most brutal civil wars in modern memory. The exact rationale for its start are a little foggy, at least to me, but in general it started because some people had everything and others had less than nothing. As people began to speak out and protest for reform they were met with more and more resistance and eventually the two colliding forces took to armed conflict. The guerrillas took to the highlands and a force of us trained soldiers took to snuffing them out. The war has moments of extreme violence including the assassination of Archbishop Oscar Romero in public as he was delivering mass and the Mozote massacre.

After spending time at the beach it seemed like a good idea to check out some of the sights of the civil war and learn a little bit more about the history of the country we were staying and enjoying. We headed off for a remote village called Perquin where the rebel army had a base and recently converted some of their headquarters into a museum and walking tour through some of their camps.

The museum was interesting though a little bit scrappy, i guess would be the best adjective. Some rooms looked like they just had a bunch of pictures and tossed them up on the walls well others had authentic machine guns and destroyed parts of helicopters and plains that they shot down. They also had the sight of their radio station. The pictures though they looked just tossed on the walls were pretty interesting, showing some extremely young soldiers and you just wished you could take them out of the picture and put them in school or something.

After the museum we got a quick walking tour through a guerrilla camp. Our guide had fought and made a point to let me know that he was not a soldier, he was a guerrilla. He walked with a severe limp, having taken shrapnel in his chest and extensively in his right leg. He led us through tunnels and over rope bridges,showed us huge craters from bombings and was even nice enough to let everyone in our group know that even though the us is frequently painted as the villain there was a tremendous amount of aid and volunteers who came from the us to help the guerrillas as well as the government money that helped the soldiers.

We then took a quick hike up a mountain where every twenty feet or so tremendous craters lined the way. They were all created from bombing raids during one of the major battles of the war. It was a pretty compelling series of sights, that takes you aback a little. It is nice to see how proud all of the people are of being guerrillas and changing their country the way they did. They have incredible perspective on the situation and i learned alot just from listening.

The next day we headed off for Mozote. At best Mozote is a village of two and a half streets with a church and a school. When we headed in that morning all of the restaurants in the main square were out of breakfast food and we were walked by a tiny girl to her home which was kind of a restaurant but really just a table in their cluttered tin roofed home and we got a breakfast of basically what they had left on the shelves. In the background the family showered and got ready for their day as we ate eggs and sipped coffee, a strange breakfast in deed.

Mozote is the sight of one of the if not the biggest massacre during the war. Im not sure i have all the facts but i will do my best. The military came in looking for guerrillas and really in an effort to intimidate and set a precedent that they were done screwing around. They pulled everyone into the main square and scared the crap out of them for hours and then sent them back to their homes and told them if they step outside they would be shot.

The next day the soldiers tortured and interrogated the men and eventually executed them all over the town. When the finished they raped and executed the girls some as young as 12 years old. When the finished that they shot out the windows of the church and murdered the remaining children both in the church and other locations. After murdering everyone in the town they left the bodies out in the open, presumably to send a message to the guerrillas but no one can be certain exactly why they left the bodies out.

All in all over a thousand people were massacred some children as young as just a few days old were murdered, some of whom had never even been given names. When the army finished they went on to continue there actions in a second village though to a lesser extent. Mozote was destroyed though it served to bring international attention to the situation in El Salvador and shed a negative light on the united states who consequently started distancing themselves from El Salvador. It is widely considered the largest massacre in modern latin american history.

The town has erected two monuments to the citizens who were massacred. One is a garden dedicated to the children who were murdered. The garden is simple, it has a large mural and then a series of plaques with the names and ages of the children who were killed. The plaques are enough to make your stomach churn but they also kept many of the bricks that people were killed on and even though the massacre took place about 20 years ago you can still very much so see the blood stones, it takes you back and leaves you speechless for a good portion of time. The other is dedicated to others who died and includes a shadow figure family looking at tall of the names of the dead while they hold hands.

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Friday, January 1, 2010

El Salvador

So we headed off for El Salvador the day after christmas. Christmas in Antigua was pretty interesting, at midnight on New Years Eve the entire country goes out in the streets and lights off as many firecrackers as they can physically get their hands on and then everyone goes out in the street and hugs everyone they see. I did my fair share of kneeling hugs and received a wicked headbutt in the process. We ate tamales and exchanged gifts with our family, no one really seemed to understand the jokes that i was trying to convey with my gifts which i guess i shouldnt have been surprised at. It was a fun christmas but as i returned home from calling my family the mood was a little more somber in our house and I was told that the father of our homestay mom had passed away. She was really broken up and on top of losing her father she was going to have to travel 6 hours to get to her home in the middle of the night on christmas, just an awful awful thing to happen. Saying goodbye was already sad enough but it was just that little bit sadder with this hanging over everyones heads.

We headed off for El Salvador at 4 in the morning with a little bit of an awkward feeling in the air but arrived in our new country after a surprisingly quick and easy bus trip.

Our hostel was one of the nicest places that i have ever stayed period. It is run by a borderline alcoholic named Javier who is a painter who doesnt paint, a man who loves his fiestas and a man who believes America is a terrible place because we have school shootings every other day. During our stay we had a few political conversations with an Australian hippy named Zen, Javier and then two remarkably interesting and well informed Danish people. Not sure what makes that remarkable maybe it was just the juxtaposition at the table where Zen and Javier liked to come off as supereducated and well informed people but really appeared to just generalize and oversimplify very complex subjects like global politics and religion and the danish couple would break out facts and figures and used that silly little thing called reason. Long story short America is a terrible terrible place with too many guns, fat people, and we need to vote more, so work on that will you.

While we stayed in Santa Ana we took two day trips one to volcan santa ana and another to the lake(i dont remember the name). The volcano was about as anticlimactic as a volcano could be. We climbed up to the top, not a particularly challenging climb(im an expert on challenging volcano climbs and not afraid to brag about it suckers) and when we reached the top the wind was ridiculous. It was treadmill wind where you try to walk but you are stuck in place. I may or may not have fallen down while trying to gracefully sit and losing my footing on some loose rocks. All in all i got a ton of sand and dirt in my mouth and eyes and never was allowed to get to the top of the volcano. The lake was actually pretty nice and we had the capability to swim in it which was different from Atitlan in Guatemala.

The beach, specifically Playa Tunco, was our main reason for heading to El Salvador in the first place and after our brief stay in Santa Ana we caught a series of buses and stood in the back of one pickup at 80mph and arrived at our destination.

Let me preface all of this beach talk with a little background. I am not nor have I ever been a big fan of the beach. I burn to ridiculous life threatening degrees, I cant swim, i sweat to a disgusting degree, Im not that comfortable taking off my shirt in public and im easily annoyed by sand.Ive only been once in the last 5 years and only really enjoyed it because i was with a fantastic person who loves the beach so much you are almost compelled to like it by peer pressure. So one good beach moment in 5 years and now i was headed to a beach for 4 days, doesnt seem like the smartest plan of all time but i said at the beginning of this trip that i would try new things so there you have it.

Well to my surprise i have actually enjoyed the beach. I had some fantasy about surfing but i think that was just a dream based on too many viewings of point break, airborne and riding giants. The second i got in the ocean i realized that i was terrified of it. I mean completely frightened of the water, im not arbitrarily scared of sharks the way some people are(dont get me wrong if there is a shark in the water im not going to go pet him, well maybe if i had one of those sick shark suits) just really petrified of drowning. The second i got in the ocean i realized my dream of surfing was just not going to happen, i dont even like diving under waves and i make a full bodied protective contortion when a wave is too big and comes near me. So surfing not my thing. I mean i am not even joking when i tell you that i am pretty darn proud of myself for going out as deep as i went out. There are times i realize that i am just a little boy and its generally when i realize how proud i get of myself for extremely minor life accomplishments.

Andy on the other hand decided to ride the waves and though he had limited success you have to admire his gusto. Thats one big thing i keep learning more and more about andy, he really is a pretty fearless person when it comes to trying new things. He may do do it all in his own way but he is very willing to try things out of his comfort zone(though not trivia damn it) and you have to admire that. Lindsey as well is quite the adventurer and pretty fearless in general especially when it comes to travel, where i am admittedly a wimp. I know that i would not have experienced half of what i have if not for the two of them and i appreciate them letting me tag along, though im sure they are just about done with me at this point in the trip.

New years was not dramatically different than any other new years i have been to except that it was 80 degrees and there was an impressive impromptu dance contest that involved some serious flips including one off a 15 foot set of speakers. Other than that they lit off firecrackers and everyone drank and either walked on the beach or danced in the open air bars.

There are a couple of things that i have learned from my short time here in el salvador. One would be that el salvadorans are an incredibly nice people in general, sure there are aholes but for the most part they go out of their way to help you. I learned this on the buses where they went out of their way to help me with directions or with my gigantic backpack and on the streets where they would yell anything they knew in english at us, including at one point a very direct i love you from a guy on a bike. The other thing ive learned is that i can enjoy the beach so in the future as long as i am prepared with plenty of incredibly strong sunscreen i am up for trips to the beach.

Well take care everyone i hope you all had a great new years and are busy working on your first new years resolutions. In a day or two we are off for nicaragua and ill write again when something else happens.