August 2, 2008 at 11:10 pm (Uncategorized)

I spent a good part of Friday in downtown San Jose with a few friends. Here are my reflexiones.

It was really cool to spend some time in the city, it made me feel a lot more comfortable with it. I appreciate it a lot more now, the bustling, the people just everywhere. The smells, the sodas, kids with their moms, old ladies, Ticos just reeking of cologne. Just being comfortable in a city setting.

I like the feeling of walking down these streets, chin up, a rough idea of where I’m going, and a sense of calm. Perhaps its not even a sense of calm, its just the lack of a sense of panic.

That’s one thing I’ve come to love about being here – maybe it’s even my favorite thing. The complete and utter absence of that acidic, black-slimeball-in-my-stomach feeling. That feeling of being perpetually on edge, just waiting for things to go wrong, just worrying – they don’t do that here.

It’s almost unimaginable – to live without worry. Vivir sin preocuparse. Until you let yourself go, really just surrender to it, you just can’t understand it.

But once that reality takes over your heart, something inside you changes forever. It is a beautiful change.

And I just don’t want it to slip away when I get back, so this has been my weak attempt to catch it carefully, to tie it down with words that can never truly describe it.


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Leap of Faith

July 23, 2008 at 3:12 pm (Uncategorized)

Like many that have bungee jumped, I feel there are truly no words to express the experience. However, for the sake of this blog, I’m going to try.

The whole thing started, actually, as a trade-off. I promised my friend Max that I’d jump if he came out dancing with us. Of course, I was pretty sure I’d find a way to back out at the last second as heights give my knees the shakes. However, the more I thought about it, the more I knew I’d be disappointed if I didn’t do it. This was how I justified it to myself as I signed the receipt, although I felt more like I was signing my life away.

Fast forward. We get out of the van that drove us to the bridge. The canyon is sprawling open before us, carpeted in tropical plants. A river which I’m sure is massive up close snakes down the middle of the valley, looking almost small from 300 feet up. I pull myself back, and my stomach sinks a little bit. I hate heights.

We sign waivers. The man with long wavy black hair divides us into two groups and starts suiting us up. Max is first. He insists.  He is nervous, I can tell. He gets up to the platform, looks out, and the man begins the countdown. Without even waiting for 1, Max leaps off. We ran to the edge, watching him fall like a rock. I couldn’t believe how fast he was moving, inhumanely fast, like a ragdoll. Like a corpse almost, just limp.

But then! Miraculously, the cord tightens and he recoils back. We hear a man-screech echo through the canyon. But he is fine, he is spinning and on the way back up, he is smiling. The bungee madess begins.  Five more people in our little group proceed to jump off a bridge because their friends told them to. Each one came back grinning, saying it was “unreal,” cliche, cliche, cliche. I hope to come back up with my feet still firmly attached to my ankles, and un-wetted pants.

Then, it is my turn. Hair man suits me up. I watch his handiwork intently. Very intently. I was less terrified after watching everyone else so far survive, but the second my feet touched the platform, erm, the plank, if you will, my heart was in my throat. I clutched the metal pole and looked back at Max, who was filming, in complete terror. I lowered the cord between my feet as instructed and there it was. The ground, swimming millions of miles below me. A swirling sea of trees and the river. My heart was pounding, I needed a minute but they started the countdown. 5-4-3-2-1. Shit! “Pura Vida!,” I shouted and blew a kiss, just to buy half a second more. And then I jumped. I jumped belly down, arms out, the same way I will when I get home and see my own bed.

And I fell. I fell fast. I remember thinking, in exactly this sequence: “SHIT. I didn’t not just do that. There is no way I actually just did that. Oh HOLY SH-” The cord. It snapped me back up into the air, sending the world further into a spin of blurring, zooming, green foliage. It was only then, in that split second much like swinging too high on the playground, that I noticed the heinous screeching echoing through the canyon. It was coming from me.

I bounced yet again, this time with less of a recoil, and went spinning spinning spinning. Green everywhere, I’d taken out my contacts (for fear of getting them suctioned to my eyeballs), but somehow, I could make out each tropical leaf swirling below me. I opened my arms wide and breathed deep. I surrendered. The spinning was slowing, and I heard the river rushing by. The leaves, everywhere green. And out of nowhere, as I’m hanging upside down, arms wide open, offering my pounding heart, my soul perhaps, to the universe, a song fills my ears. It is ‘Three Little Birds,’ Bob Marley, of all things.  And he’s singing “every little thing/ is gonna be alright.” And suddenly, this feeling of calm, of pura tranquila, seeps through me, as if released in that moment from my heart directly into my arteries. I breathe. The air is beautiful to me. It is the calm, the quieting of the restlessness that urged me to get on a plane to Costa Rica, on a 265 foot bridge, for that matter. Another breath. I am full of relief. It is not relief of having survived the jump. It is the relief of the calm I found in proving to myself I could do it.

I laughed my ass off as they pulled me back up. I was hanging from a giant rubber band in the middle of Central America, 2400 miles away from anything familiar, completely alone in this lush green universe.

And it didn’t bother me at all.

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La Pura Vida: Dia 5

July 10, 2008 at 4:12 pm (Uncategorized)

Hola todos!

How is everyone? Un minuto…my brian is still thinking in Spanish after, no joke, 7 and a half hours of class today. I thought I’d do an entry about la vida aqui, because we have a field trip starting tomorrow and ending late Sunday night, I don’t plan on bringing my laptop.

So I’m living in La Residencia, basically a dorm that looks like the real world house. Maria y Maru clean the house and cook us breakfast during the week. (The empanadas I had for breakfast today were tuanis – slang for too good.) We have wireless (obviously), a hammock and a patio, 2 sitting rooms, 4 bathrooms, a kitchen, and a dining room. The only downside is that it is nearly impossible to get a hot shower. Also, the electricity is sketchy sometimes because it is run on hydropower.

The food here is amazing. Tons of fruit, mangoes, limes, oranges, pineapples, bananas, avocados, all fresh. And great coffee too. Everything is fresh, it’s all local, and nothing is processed. There’s this great little place that we’ve been eating at, D’Mary, and it’s just this lady, Mary, in basically a kitchen with a countertop and a bunch of tables. She makes Costa Rican homemade dinner as well as like hamburguesas y sandwiches. The food here is similar to Mexican, but much better. There’s a lot of rice and beans, they mix black beans with rice and spices, or they have white rice with spices and veggies and red beans in sauce on the side. Then you have the meat, fresh chicken or pork or steak asado, like grilled. And to drink, it’s always always juice. Pineapple, orange, melon, blackberry, watermelon, maracuyo, mora…delicious. And dessert is platanos, like bananas that are fried with cinnamon I think. I’m trying to learn all the recipes and befriend Mary with my wicked Spanish skills so she’ll teach me. I’ve heard that when people go back to the states from CR, their stomachs can’t handle American food any more because they are so used to pure food without all the additives.

Today I went to a plantation, una finca, of coffee, as it is one of the biggest exports of Costa Rica (Starbucks buys their beans from the finca I was at today). They grow a bunch of other fruit crops there, but they don’t harvest any of it. They let it fall on the ground and become fertilizer for the coffee. Apparently, it takes four years to go from a seed to a legitimate coffee plant. They have white flowers, but only for a few days. When the beans are red, they harvest them. The workers are immigrants from Nicaragua and surrounding countries, because the Costa Ricans don’t want to do such hard labor. They get about $1.50 US per basket of beans picked. It takes about an hour to fill a 25 lb basket. We got to see a whole tour of each step in the process, and try the coffee, which was deliciousa.

So this weekend is our excursion to Puerto Viejo. We are going to do some snorkeling and traveling by boat. I have been told that there is a strong Rasta influence, and Puerto Viejo is basically as close as you can get to Jamaica without actually going to Jamaica.

Tonight Veritas, the University, is hosting a dance in the courtyard. Seeing as it is monsoon-esque rain right now, I’m not sure that will happen. However, I do need to take a cold shower and get ready, because I’m sure we’ll end up doing something.

Hope everyone is happy and doing well!

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La Pura Vida: Day 1

July 6, 2008 at 9:30 pm (Uncategorized)

My flight arrived in San Jose at 5:25 a.m. It had been a long night, ridiculously uncomfortable as we all tried to contort ourselves into somewhat recognizable sleeping positions within the confines of stiff airplane seats. My thoughts drifted through the night, slipping in and out of a light doze. One moment, I’d see myself on the ramp at DIA with the last person to see me off, Francisco. Ironically, we’d met in Spanish class my junior year of high school, and now he handles bags at the airport. My last hour in the States was spent catching up, swapping stories and admiring pictures of his new baby girl. My mind would flow into the next thought, an image of myself in Costa Rica, perhaps learning to surf or strolling through the capitol. Suddenly, a jolt and my head rolls forward – the asshole behind me, I am sure of it, had to be throwing punches at the back of my seat.

Eventually, after a few cycles of the aforementioned process, the flight attendants snapped the lights on and passed out customs paperwork with nauseating cheeriness. We exited the plane and trotted through the most illogically-designed airport I’ve ever encountered. It had to have been 14 miles of fast food and duty-free shops before finally reaching customs round 1, followed by baggage claim, then customs round 2. I shamelessly followed the two girls that sat by me on the plane; their badass nose piercings and plans to backpack through the country “for a few months or whatever” seemed like authority enough to me.

Finally I made my way to Luis, the driver taking me to my residencia. We chatted en espanol the entire way back as I watched the waves of mist covering the town retreat back to the mountains. I’ve never seen such lushness – green everywhere. Eden. I tell Luis about my family, my college, my job as a lifeguard. He gets a kick out of the last one, “La salvavida, eh? Como Baywatch.” I explain that without an ocean, lifeguarding is much less Baywatch-esque. He prefers to chuckle at some awful image of Pamela Anderson’s body with my head stuck on it.

After getting 2 hours of sleep, I go on a tour of the city of San Jose. I repeatedly find myself at the back of the pack running to catch up after standing too long staring at a building or beautiful tree or sculpture. I take as many pictures as I can at high speed, hoping maybe the magic of a photo-editing program will be able to salvage the picturesque scenes I am trotting through.

The day is long. We finally take a bus out to a hacienda and are fed a heaping plateful of native cuisine, including arroz con frijoles, pollo, carne y tortillas, bananas fritas, and sticky sweet raspberry juice. We wandered the grounds for a bit, then had an orientation at the Univerisity, Veritas. I still hadn’t unpacked.

My roommate and I managed to order a pizza later in the evening – we enjoyed our accomplishment the way a caveman would have enjoyed felling a beast.

And finally, at the end of the day, as many in the residencia head out to the bars, she and I type away at our computers, preparing for the very important oral interview we face tomorrow.

La Vista del Centro:

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The Adventure Begins

July 5, 2008 at 12:12 pm (Uncategorized)

Before I left school this last spring, my adviser instructed me to make my trip to Costa Rica “journalistic.” So, for that purpose, (and to appease my family), thisblackbird is coming back to life.

The adventure begins with speeding, swearing, and a missed flight. But we’ll get to that later.

For now, enjoy the sights of San Jose, my home for the next five weeks, courtesy of our friends at google images.

The National Theater

The National Theater

Hotel Presidente

Hotel Presidente

Birds In Flight Near San Jose

Birds In Flight Near San Jose



The Rainforest

The Rainforest

Ah, I’m so excited!!

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May 2, 2008 at 1:57 pm (Uncategorized)

As I mentioned in earlier posts, “Blackbird” is my all-time favorite Beatles song. So for this post, I did a little research on it.

The song was written by Paul McCartney in 1968. It is supposedly a reaction to racial tensions in the United States during the spring of that year. McCartney wrote it in Scotland. The song is fairly simple in instrumentation, consisting only of the guitar, McCartney’s voice, a dubbed-in blackbird singing and his foot tapping like a metronome. The guitar composition is based on Beethoven’s “Bouree in E Minor” – a song McCartney and George Harrison learned as kids to impress others.

The song is featured on the White Album, which was released on November 22, 1968. It was a tense time for the band, which was on the brink of breaking up. Their manager, Brian Epstein had just died the summer before. They were very involved in the psychadelic drug scene, and the presence of Yoko Ono in the studio only added to the tension. The album is interesting because it is more like a co-recording of four individual artists than one enified band.

Here’s a youtube video with the song if you’ve never heard it.

Research sources:


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This Idea I Had

April 24, 2008 at 2:05 pm (Uncategorized)

OK, so I took a creative writing class my junior year of high school. One of our projects was to spend a class period cutting up newspapers and magazines and taking words from them, and stuffing them in an envelope. The next day, we combined all of our words into a ‘found poem.’ It was a bit choppy, but that’s just the style.

What’s the point? It occured to me that I was feeling a bit creative, so what you’re about to witness is a found poem consisting entirely of Beatles song titles…(we’ll see how it goes).

“Words Of Love”

You’ve really got a hold on me

Oh! darling.

I want to hold your hand,

I call your name, like dreamers do.

Don’t let me down, hold me tight!

I’ve got a feeling I’m only sleeping.

“Everyone wants to be my baby,” she said she said.

Devil in her heart, honey don’t!


Let it be while my guitar gently weeps.

Cry for a shadow.

I’m so tired.

Golden slumbers eight days a week.

I’ll cry instead for no one.


Mr. Moonlight – I’ll follow the sun, and your bird can sing.

Tomorrow never knows.

Here comes the sun! Come together!

Lucy in the sky with diamonds,

Martha My Dear, Penny Lane,

Elanor Rigby,

Lovely Rita,

Lady Madonna,

Dear Prudence:

All You Need Is Love.


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Pouty British

April 18, 2008 at 9:20 am (Uncategorized)

I don’t know about you, but Spring’s inability to just commit itself to a steady, loving relationship with Colorado is driving me crazy! Rain one day, snow the next, a two-day summery stretch of 70’s, then back to the typical Fort Collins gusts that make a good hair day a near impossibility. Gah!

During bummer-down weather spells like this one, I often find myself turning to a category of music I affectionately refer to as “pouty British.” And because of the Beatles’ Liverpool roots, I figured I could tie this in. (My favorite pouty Beatles tune is “Yesterday” of course, or “While My Guitar Gently Weeps.”)

So join me in indulging your inner pouty Brit and check out these tunes. (Caution: Don’t play any of them for more than an hour or so. Just trust me, lol.)

First up is Aqualung, AKA Matthew Hales of Southampton. (So pouty here). I have his record “Strange and Beautiful,” released in 2002. The song from it that you would know if you heard it is “Brighter Than Sunshine.” (Coincidentally, it’s the cheeriest tune on the CD). It’s definitely catchy, as are the rest of the songs on the CD. My personal favorite is “You Turn Me Around,” which is this sort of inspirational song about being ‘turned around’ or pulled back from a bad situation by a loved one.

This is The Streets, AKA Mike Skinner. (Why these dudes can’t just go by their names, I’m not sure.) He is a British rapper, which gives the genre a unique dynamic. (And really, who doesn’t love accents? )
The best pouty song by this artist from West Heath in Burmingham is called “Dry Your Eyes.” It depicts a breakup step by step, and how the narrator attempts to keep his significant other in his life. But, as he says, the moral of the story is to “dry your eyes mate, I know it’s hard to take but her mind has been made up. There’s plenty more fish in the sea.”

Keane is a band from Battle, in East Sussex. They are sometimes described as “piano rock.” And yes, they rock! Their music is not the dramatic downer that “Dry Your Eyes” is, it is actually catchy and surprisingly upbeat. The unique thing about them is their sound – guitarless rock with awesome piano melody and distortion. But the undertone is definitely that of melancholy crooning about heartache. Check out “Somewhere Only We Know” on their first album “Hopes and Fears.”

The Old Pros, Coldplay of course! Some factoids: Coldplay was formed in 1998 in London. In their early years, they were known to give 10% of their profits to charity, and are also large supporters of Amnesty International and Fair Trade. Lead singer Chris Martin is married to American actress Gweneth Paltrow. Coldplay’s newest album, to be released June of this year, is to be called Viva La Vida (Long Live Life) and is said to have Hispanic influences.

Being a pretty popular band, everyone has heard of Coldplay and has their own favorite songs. I’m a big fan of a few songs on each of the band’s CD’s, but I think “A Rush of Blood to the Head” makes for good pouty background music when I’m painting. They were featured on the Garden State soundtrack, which, I’m just going to say, is essential listening material to anyone with a soul.

And now, the exception to the pouty British rule, Elliot Smith is just pouty. The artist, based out of Portland, Oregon, struggled with and sang about drug addiction, depression, and alcohol abuse. He was popular during the ’90s, but his life was cut short in 2003 when he died of two stab wounds to the chest (the autopsy didn’t determine whether they were self-inflicted or not).

Elliot Smith’s voice has a soft, genuine quality to it. His sound consists of acoustic strumming mixed with some electric sounds, and intensely poignant lyrics. It creates an overall mellow sense of melancholy. My favorite songs are “A Fond Farewell,” “Baby Britain” (more upbeat), “Needle In The Hay,” and “Bottle Up and Explode!”

Hope you guys enjoy my picks for best pouty Brits, if you have any more rainy day bands, leave me a comment!

Google Images and Wikipedia were used in this post.

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Abbey Road

April 4, 2008 at 3:12 pm (Uncategorized)

Thanks for the comments last time (they cracked me up). Across the Universe is definitely “an LSD trip through the 60’s”…how didn’t I come up with that myself??

My topic today is a shortie, but I want to share with you why Abbey Road is special to me.

Do you ever cycle through cds? I definitely do, Blue October in the fall, Jack Johnson in the summer, etc. Abbey Road is my springtime CD.

The overall feel of the album is sort of sweet and romantic (for people with spring fever, maybe). But it’s not ridiculous about it. Take “Something,” for example, a classic love song, along with “Oh Darling.” Great songs, definitely about love, but they won’t make you puke. My favorite track on Abbey Road by far is “Here Comes the Sun.” The song is so happy without being over-the-top. I would strongly recommend playing it on a nice day, because I guarantee it will put you in a good mood. The album finishes with a series of short songs including “Golden Slumbers” and “The End.” This gives the album the Beatles’ signature sort of tie-ins before finishing with “Her Majesty,” a 30-second little piece about getting up the courage to speak to a pretty girl. The album is a great musical experience, and I’d strongly suggest a listen on a warm spring day. (Hopefully there are some of those in our future!)

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Across The Universe

March 27, 2008 at 3:27 pm (Uncategorized)

So I mentioned this movie in my first post, but haven’t gone back to it until now.

For anyone that hasn’t seen the movie, Across The Universe is, above all else, hard to describe. It’s kind of something you just have to see. However, I’ll attempt to give a brief synopsis.

The movie follows a group of characters, whose names are all taken from Beatles songs. The main character is Jude (who looks suspiciously like Paul McCartney). He immigrates illegally from Liverpool to America to find his biological father. When he gets there, he befriends Max, an Ivy-league dropout, and falls in love with his sister, Lucy (who’s boyfriend just died in the Vietnam War). The three move out to New York City and live as bohemians with Janis Joplin-esque Sadie, Jimi Hendrix-esque Jojo, and Prudence, an ex-cheerleading lesbian. While Lucy becomes a peace activist, Jude works as an artist. The characters experience various ups and downs, and the movie gives a psychadelic take on the unstable political landscape of the mid to late 60’s. All the while singing, I might add, as the movie is a musical.

Some of my favorite covers included were “Because,” “Revolution,” “Hey Jude,” “Across the Universe,” Something,” and “Strawberry Fields Forever.” They were used in unique ways that I had never thought of before. For example, “She’s So Heavy” was used in correlation with Max, who ends up being drafted for the war. Uncle Sam is the one saying “I want you” (literally, he pops out of a poster) and soldiers are shown carrying the statue of liberty, singing “she’s so heavy.”

Like the rest of the movie, this scene is pretty symbolic. I interpreted each character as representing different influential people in the 1960’s, and the overall thing as a (trippy) representation of that time period, which was one of the craziest of all American history (especially in 1968).

Now, for those that haven’t seen it, I say trippy because, well, its just freaking trippy. The best example I can give is the end credits – the characters are underwater, naked, and in a crazy technicolor that keeps changing. The movie is strongly tied to the counterculture, which is strongly tied to hallucinogens. The effects are great.

The movie is a must because it is just good. Don’t let the musical thing freak you out (guys) because it consists of well-done Beatles covers. But especially for Beatles fans, this will rock your world. So go see it if you haven’t already.

(The underwater technicolor hookup)

(The Strawberries represent soldiers in the movie)

(I’ll never look at Uncle Sam the same again)

(Some famous co-stars…How does Bono end up in everything??)

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