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Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Costa Rica

Yesterday was a sea day and we spent it relaxing. We actually got some sun for about an hour but the sun was so hot, it made us almost feel as if we were melting. We did hop into the pool at one point and we didn’t feel the strength of the sun when in the water. On the Movies Under the Stars screen, which is right in front of the pool, they had TV trivia all afternoon. People were shouting out answers to questions about sound clips of themes from TV shows, trivia questions asked about TV starts and sitcoms, etc. I knew a lot of the answers which surprised me and made me think I must have watched a lot of TV as a child! A lot of the questions were about TV shows from the sixties through the nineties. After lunch, and a nap, I dragged myself to the ship’s gym, although I didn’t want to go. Chuck has been much better than I have about working out on this cruise. But then, he always has been anyway. Chuck had gone back to the room and I was still on the treadmill, hoping to convince myself to walk at least 30 minutes. After 20 minutes I happened to be looking out the window in front of me, and saw something jumping out of the water. I immediately hit the stop button on the treadmill and was off running out the door before the belt even stopped. Right outside of the gym is a nice walking area and from there I saw an amazing sight…at least 10 dolphins were jumping out of the water next to the ship. They were playfully jumping over the waves. One even had her baby with her and it was a beautiful sight the see a baby dolphin jumping as well. They followed near the ship for about 5 full minutes. I was hoping that Chuck was also seeing this because he had already gone down to the room. I debated about whether or not to run down and tell him about the dolphins and grab my camera, but it was one of those instances where you don’t dare move, afraid that you might miss such a miraculous sight. I stayed where I was, reveling in the glory that is dolphins playing in their natural habitat. I was so excited that I went back on the treadmill and finished my workout with much more energy! When I got back to the room later, the first thing Chuck asked me was if I had seen the dolphins. He had seen them too and I was so glad. We had a wonderful dinner last night in the more formal dining room. Chuck had beef ribs, and I had roast beef with Yorkshire pudding followed by New York Style cheesecake afterward. It was the meal I have had on the ship so far. After dinner we went to a show performed by the Coral Princess singers and dancers. It was a tribute show to the Rat Pack and was quite good. Sunday was our last cruise port. I am writing this Sunday night but it takes so many minutes to log on and post these updates that I probably won’t get to put this on the blog for a couple days. We pulled into Costa Rica this morning bright and early. Fortunately we set the clocks back an hour last night so getting up at 6:15 a.m. to get ready for our tour felt more like getting up at 7:15 a.m. After a very quick breakfast at the buffet, we headed to the designated meeting place for our tour. I was surprised to note on our way to the bus that although it was only 7:15 a.m., the beach near the cruise dock was already full of people. I have never seen crowds of people at the beach that early. Today’s tour was a train ride and an eco-boat ride through Costa Rica. I was really surprised by the train ride. First of all, it was a very old train with wooden paneling inside and padded seats that reminded me of the seats on school buses. The train had no air conditioning and the windows were open. It moved fairly slowly so I was able to take a lot of pictures that were not blurry due to movement. The train ride made me feel quite sad because it took us away from the tourist areas and we saw how many of the people in Costa Rica really live. And they are poor. We saw so many shacks with tin roofs and hardly any furniture inside. Some of the buildings that they live in had rubber automobile tires as foundations for the home. They had kitchen chairs from the fifties and sixties outside on their porches to sit on. Old kitchen tables from that same time period are in their kitchens, and some people had those types of tables in covered areas outside their homes and that’s where the family eats. Many families have one lone dog tied up by a heavy metal chain to a bush or tree in the shade in their yards. Their yards are littered with old oil cans, plastic containers, broken chairs, etc. Although we did see some nicer houses, they are not of the caliber that we live in. They are cement buildings, with cinder blocks for carports. The crazy thing is, they all seemed so happy. Lots of people, from babies, to children to adults stood in their yards and waved at us with big smiles on their faces. That made me even more sad because they seem so happy when they have so little, and we in the U.S. seem to always want more than what we have. And we have so much more than they do. Gasoline here in Costa Rica is $7.00 per gallon, and many people make only about $25 per day at their jobs. The average take home salary for a worker though is $700 - $800 per month! Yikes. The biggest employer in the country is the tourism trade. At the beach today we saw people making sand carvings and charging $1 to take a picture of it. The carvings were of men and women lying in the sand in bathing suits, and of horses in the sand as well. They were quite good actually. There was a sign next to the carvings that said, ‘This is my job. I have no other source of income and need this money to survive.” While on the train, we also stopped in a grove of trees to take pictures of a family of monkeys. They were really cute and paid no attention to us. I was able to stick my head out the window of the train and aim the camera straight up to take pictures. We also saw a lot of mango trees throughout the countryside as well as a cantaloupe melon plantation. The second part of the tour today was an eco-tour on a boat. We stopped at the visitor area and were treated to fresh watermelon and pineapple, iced tea, cold water or beer. There was also a nice gift shop there as well. We boarded the boats and headed down a river surrounded by mangrove trees. I was amazed at how large and how many roots these trees have. We saw two small crocodiles, more monkeys in trees, bats sleeping on the underside of a log, land crabs, termite nests, bee’s nests, and a variety of birds. It was a one hour boat ride but didn’t disappoint us at all. The day was hot and we were so glad to be able to get back on the air conditioned bus. The drive back was about 45 minutes along the coats and it was very beautiful. When we were done with the tour, we took a tram ride to the end of the pier where we shopped at various vendors who had tents set up for about ¼ mile down the sidewalk bordering the beach. The guide on the ship that spoke about the Panama Canal also gave port talks about each of the ports were going to, and highly recommended this area for Costa Rican crafts. There were a lot of leather products, jewelry, and Costa Rican wood products available, as well as the more touristy type goods of souvenir shirts, hats, magnets, etc. We spent about 40 minutes there, then returned to the ship for a late lunch. After a nap (the heat really does us both in) and another workout, we headed upstairs to the buffet for dinner. It was Bierfest night and almost everything at the buffet was German food. German food is not my favorite but I found a really good vegetable stew, some roasted chicken, a salad, and Black Forest Cake so I was satisfied. Chuck does like German food so he enjoyed the pretzel rolls, sauerkraut, red cabbage, split pea soup with ham, and a few other German dishes. After dinner we went to a show with a very good comedian. He has been on a lot of cruise ships as an entertainer and had some pretty funny stories about people he has met while cruising. Well, I am signing out for the night. The next 5 days we are at sea so nothing to do but relax and enjoy the ship’s amenities and entertainment and rest up to face the real world when we get back to Connecticut.

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