Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Ethiopia: Synopsis, Observations, & Impressions

Arriving at Bole Airport in Addis after a long travel day
We got back from Ethiopia three days ago. I am still in a jet-lagged fog right now. At least today I woke up at 5 a.m. instead of 2 a.m. Now that is progress! By dinner time though, I am barely functioning, but need to stay awake so I can try to get back on a normal schedule. Our nearly three weeks in Ethiopia were fabulous! I have so much I want to say and write about. I plan on writing several posts about the trip over the next few weeks as I sort through the 1,000+ pictures I managed to take before my camera finally broke. Instead of starting at the beginning of our trip, I am going to provide a few highlights and impressions from our trip.
  1. Mission accomplished: We finally met K! Biggest disappointment: Our court appointment was canceled once we were already there.
  2. International adoption is a huge roller coaster ride! It is not for the faint at heart. 
  3. Ethiopians communicate in a manner characterized as wax and gold (wax being the obvious meaning and gold being the real or hidden meaning). As such, don't take everything literally. Things are what they are and you will sort it out eventually...
  4. We didn't let the disappointment of the K situation ruin our trip. In fact, all things considered, I give us a gold star for how we handled things.
  5. My kids are great travelers. They handled the 30 hour return trip about as well as I did.
  6. Traveling abroad makes you more flexible, especially when traveling on a budget.
  7. Taking kids on such a trip can be challenging at times, but worth it.
  8. Travel is some of best education your kids can get.
  9. Traveling independently is a great way to meet really interesting people. We always do!
  10. Ethiopia is a country with an amazingly rich culture and history.
  11. Don't take clean drinking water for granted.
  12. A local told me that Ethiopians use about 3 liters of water per person per day. I just looked up stats for the U.S. - 176 gallons per day. Are you kidding me?
  13. Appreciate showers... Really appreciate hot showers.
  14. Lower your bathroom standards... A lot. You'll be happier (and more relieved) in the long term.
  15. Master the art of going to the bathroom in "non-western" conditions. Your skills will come in handy more than once.
  16. Expose your children to extreme poverty at least once during their childhood. Suddenly, your conversations about not having the latest gadget or toy seem trivial.
  17. Even if we cut our family's possessions in half, we would still have 5 to 10 times the material well-being of the average middle-class Ethiopian.
  18. I will no longer complain that we are tight on space. Our modest house will suffice just fine with three kids.
  19. Giving trinkets/candy/pens to local kids does nothing to make their situation better. In fact, it makes it worse. Instead of going to school, they are out practicing their aggressive tactics on the farangis (foreigners).
  20. Westerners do this to make themselves feel better/less guilty.
  21. Should we feel guilty about our lives of privilege? I don't know... But it is a good conversation to have with yourself or a friend.
  22. Poverty should bother you.
  23. No matter how much hand washing and careful eating one does, your intestines will eventually succumb to some kind of bacteria.
  24. The only overweight Ethiopians tend to be pretty well-off city dwellers. Does this tell us anything about the "western" lifestyle?
  25. Beef and sheep costs Ethiopians the equivalent to about $2 per pound. Considering the average income in the U.S. is over 100 times that of the average Ethiopian, Americans pay far too little for their meat.
  26. Ethiopians are kind and very generous people.
  27. Finally, become comfortable with being uncomfortable. It is good for the soul.
Up next. Meeting K!
Habtamu's house and family (Steve's friend and colleague)
Steve with Yirgalem (Another friend and colleague)
Coffee Ethiopian style
My girls with Muluneh's girls (Lydia and Ruth)
Our family with Muluneh's family (Muluneh was our house guest in September)
Typical Addis housing
Lily and Semira on top of our Toyota Hiace with the kids of a really cool UK couple we met
Dinner at the 4 Sisters Restaurant in Gondar... My favorite meal of the trip
Typical old Ethiopian church artwork
The "little tuktuk that could" - our transportation in Bahir Dar and Gondar
Gondar as seen from our hotel
Shuruba - a style of braiding far beyond my abilities
Caucasian girl shuruba

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Addis Ababa!

We arrived in Addis Ababa late Friday night and have finally settled in. While we are in Ethiopia, I am going to post a few short notes to let family and friends know what we are doing. It is easier to do here than send various emails. There will be nothing elaborate as the Internet is pretty darn slow here. Also no fancy writing and typos will be included as well!

As I write, I am sitting in a tiny hot and very crowded Internet cafe down the street from our place at Mr. Martin's Cozy House. Everyone in Ethiopia is on their Facebook too! Not that it was unexpected, but the Internet at the guest house doesn't work. So Steve and the kids are strolling down the street to check out a few restaurant menus for dinner.

All in all, our travels here were pretty good (even with our big pile of luggage). Lily and I are nursing pretty bad head colds, which is annoying to say the least. On our flight to Frankfurt, the decent gave us both fits. Lily was in tears before the plane hit the ground. Of course, she didn't sleep a wink either, which didn't help. The last two days, the kids have been up at 4 a.m. then falling asleep late afternoon. So, like a good mom, I am letting them have Coke at night in an effort to keep their eyes open until at least 9 p.m.:) They never seem to object when I say, "Let's order some soda with caffeine!" I am hoping that by tomorrow, they will be on a normal schedule. 

The last two days we have spent visiting with Steve's friends and colleagues here in Addis. Yesterday, we actually left Addis for one of the suburbs called Akaki. Today, we took the kids out for a bit of shopping and had a nice lunch. I really have no idea what our plans are yet for the next few days. Ethiopians don't really make plans like we make plans. You kind of know what you are doing just before actually doing it! So, I quit asking Steve about time, who we are seeing, and what we are doing. Steve's phone has been ringing off the hook since we got here so I know that our days will be filled.

While Steve knows Addis like the back of his hand at this point, I am drawing from my single experience here in 2008 when we adopted Semira. It's exactly how I remember it...busy, loud, and interesting. It is easy to get around in taxis and on the minibuses, which the kids don't really like as much (they are very crowded). The city also has quite a bit of air pollution (no surprise). I just hate breathing it in while we are in the taxi/bus. I will post pictures when we return.

More later!

Erika

Friday, November 25, 2011

Donations Update

Our stash of donations sans the big order of cloth diapers still to come

Hello Friends,

Thanks to some very generous people, I have accumulated a lot of what we were asking for, especially in the clothing and shoe department. In sizing up the packing situation, I have concluded that I can only add smaller items at this point. Based on what I have collected so far, l am still looking for a few items... Mostly over-the-counter creams, vitamins, flashlights, etc.

Additional cash donations received in the next few days will be used to order more cloth diapers and covers (these are expensive items but of lasting, durable value). Last minute cash donations will be used to buy other items on the list that I can get locally. Instead of repeating the list, I updated my original blog post to cross off items I no longer need or have suitcase room to accommodate.

Since we are leaving in a little more than a week, if you still have anything to send our way, I would appreciate receiving any donations by next weekend. Again, thank you to everyone who has been so kind and generous! Your help is really appreciated.

Erika

Monday, November 14, 2011

Calling All Generous People

  
Lily in DC waiting for the flight to Addis Ababa with our bags of goodies in 2008

Dear Friends and Family,

As many of you know, the Prager family is leaving on December 8th for Ethiopia to meet "K," our (soon-to-be) four-year old son. When we adopted Semira in 2008, we managed to deliver four suitcases full of supplies for the care center that Semira was living at in Addis Ababa. Many of these supplies came to us from our very generous family and friends!  I can’t tell you how grateful the staff was when they opened the bags.

We would very much like to do this again. Ethiopian adoptions have slowed down considerably in the last year, which has greatly decreased the amount of donations that the various orphanages are receiving. They are very much in need of basic stuff! 

Lufthansa allows each of us two free checked bags for the trip. Unfortunately, we will have to pay checked bag fees for the domestic part of our flight. (Thanks USAir!). Steve and I will pay these bag fees for any donations we collect. We are light packers so I think we can take at least 5 -50 lb bags of donations with us. We plan on distributing the donations to K’s orphanage in Addis Ababa and the care center for our adoption agency (which is different).

I am also looking for two suitcases/heavy duty duffel bags to use to transport things. A duffel bag allows me to pack it up on the way home to avoid baggage fees. With regard to suitcases, I am actually looking for an old suitcase that someone doesn't want returned. That way I can just leave it in Ethiopia.

I know there are so many good causes to donate to! I also realize we are entering the holiday season and money can be tight. So let me say in advance that I really appreciate all donations of any sort. These donations are better than any present you could give us! 

Below is a list of things I know are current needs. Generic is fine and gently used is good (especially for clothes, shoes, toys, etc.). This is a great opportunity to get rid of some kid things that your own children might have outgrown.
  • Clothes, shoes, and underwear for children aged 5-10 (no infant clothing needed at this time)
  • Sippy cups with lids
  • Bottles and nipples
  • Sheets for cribs & toddler beds
  • Toys for toddlers, preschoolers, and older children (no stuffed animals; they are germ spreaders)
  • Blocks for stacking
  • Stacking cups
  • Wooden puzzles
  • Baby dolls
  • Plastic feeding spoons for toddlers
  • Baby powder
  • Clotrimazole ointment
  • Cloth diapers and diaper covers
  • Diaper rash cream (over the counter)
  • Disposable masks
  • Flashlights with batteries
  • Baby blankets
  • Bottle/nipple brushes
  • Thermometers
  • Mosquito nets
  • Travel packs of baby wipes (for the nannies to take with them when they travel with the babies)
  • Anti-fungal creams (over the counter)
  • Vitamins for infants/toddlers/older children
  • Educational and instructional items – the staff is setting up classrooms to teach children at each care center.

If you have an item that you think might be appropriate but aren’t sure, please let me know. Also, if you are interested in helping out but aren’t sure what to get, I am happy to take care of the shopping for you. I did this last time and it worked rather well. I was able to purchase some larger items and fill in the gaps. I promise to be a good steward of your money! If you would like to contribute via PayPal, here is the easiest way:



Donations will be routed to our PayPal account and we will access the funds from there!


We appreciate the ongoing support that we have received from everyone. Please don't feel obligated if this isn't something you are interested in. We just wanted to let you know that we don’t personally need anything, but there is something else you can do to help.

Many thanks in advance!
Erika


Sunday, November 6, 2011

Court Date...Ethiopia in 32 days!

This last week has been a whirlwind! On Tuesday, we received news of our upcoming court date in Ethiopia – December 16! This is trip #1 where we will meet K and appear at the Ethiopian Courts to testify that we wish to officially become his parents. Our agency informed us that we needed to arrive in Addis Ababa no later than December 14. This set off a panic as airline tickets are very expensive around the holidays. In addition, Steve has some pending deadlines with a couple of grant projects and two papers. Plus, with it being the end of the semester then, it is generally crazy trying to wrap things up before the break.

We had always planned on taking Lily and Semira with us on the first trip to Ethiopia because of the two required trips, the dates for trip #1 were less likely to change and we have a month notice (which is not much, but way more than we will get for trip #2). After a 24 hour marathon with the travel agent, we managed to find some fairly reasonable tickets (if you can call buying four plane tickets to Africa reasonable). The catch is we are leaving on December 8 and coming back on Christmas day. As a result, the kids will miss the last two weeks of school leading up to the winter break. I am optimistic though that the kids’ teachers will work with us so that we can take much of their school work with us. Otherwise, returning in January after not attending for a month would be ugly. 

There is still a lot of planning to do in the next few weeks. We will spend the first nine days in Addis Ababa. Steve has many friends and colleagues in Addis who want to meet us so I think we will be entertained a lot. We also have some business of our own to do (e.g. Steve has some work to follow up on and I am interested in checking out a school for when we are on sabbatical). After we complete the adoption related business, we will travel for a week. Our plan is to fly to Bahir Dar, take a minibus to Gondar, then fly back to Addis from Gondar. Aside from the coming up with a plan, we still need to buy the local plane tickets and find decent places to stay.

We are all very excited to meet K! We wonder what he will be like. We also received an update on K this week with five new pictures. He seems to be doing really well except for a recent bought with tonsillitis. He has adjusted to his new care center in Addis Ababa and really loves his nannies. I have no idea whether he knows that he will have a new family soon. Since we have done this once before, I know that asking any questions now will result in little accurate or meaningful information. So I am saving all my questions for when we get there!

Wow, it is hard to believe that we are leaving for Ethiopia in 32 days!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

A Brother for My Girls

I started this blog in August 2010 with my first post announcing that we were in the process of adopting again from Ethiopia. Well, today, I am happy to announce that after nearly a year of officially waiting, we have accepted the referral of a four-year old boy! Since he is not yet legally our son, I am not able to give any details. Let’s just say he is quite handsome. As with Semira, we won’t be changing his name. He already has a nice name and I am sure he knows it well! For now, let’s call him “K.” 

Lily and Semira are excited to finally get a brother. G-d knows we have been talking about it for a long time in the Prager household. They are very excited that he is younger than them. Lily, especially, likes to be a mother hen so she is looking forward to helping K learn the ropes. Semira is also excited to have someone with whom to share her Ethiopian heritage. And Steve will finally get a testosterone boost from having another male in our household.

A lot has changed with Ethiopian adoptions since 2008. When we adopted Semira, we received a referral and, less than two months later, we were in Ethiopia picking her up. The process is not so quick anymore. From here, we will wait until mid-October when the Ethiopian courts re-open following the rainy summer season. Then our case will be submitted to the court and when all the paperwork is adequate, we will be assigned a court date. Our best guess is that it will be in/around January sometime. This time, both parents must appear in court in Addis Ababa on the assigned date. During this trip, we will meet K, but we will leave him and return to the U.S. 

After the Ethiopian courts issue a final court decree, K will legally be our son. Then our case is submitted to the U.S. Embassy. The embassy then completes its own investigation. When it is satisfied that K meets the legal definition of an orphan and all the proper paperwork is in place, they will invite us to return to Addis Ababa for a visa interview. So yes, we must go to Ethiopia twice this time. Generally, the time between the two trips is 2 to 4 months (if we don’t encounter any bumps in the road along the way).

We are planning to take Lily and Semira with us on the first trip. The adoption related business will take about a week and we intend to travel around Ethiopia for another week or so. We have promised Semira for a long time now that we would take her back to Ethiopia. She misses it a lot. Plus, the girls will get to meet K for the first time with us! Lily was very instrumental in helping Semira become part of our family; we're sure that Lily and Semira will do the same for K. For many reasons, it just wouldn’t be right to leave them at home. We will most likely leave them here for the second trip (which will be all - well, mostly - business and shorter). I am hopeful that maybe two awesome grandmothers will volunteer to come watch the kids for a week. (Hopefully they are both reading this)!

Needless to say, we are excited! We are also nervous at the same time. We know from experience that you just don’t walk off a plane with a new child and go back to family life as normal. There is a fairly serious adjustment period with a lot of laughter and tears along the way. For now though, I want to savor this movement of excitement. Getting the call for the second time was just as good as the first!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Our Visitor & Houseguest

Muluneh, with the kids and me in front of our house

For the last month, we have had a houseguest. His name is Dr. Muluneh Abshare and he is a geography professor at Addis Ababa University. Now you might be thinking that houseguest for a month can be a drag. Au contraire mon ami, this experience was far from it. In fact, it was pretty darn delightful! So before I tell you about our experience, let me tell you about how we got to this point by telling you how we met Muluneh.

In 2008, when we adopted Semira, Steve made the decision that he would shift his developing academic research focus from Tanzania to Ethiopia. The move made perfect sense. He wanted to cultivate relationships in Ethiopia so that we would have opportunities as a family to live and work there at some point in the future. It was all part of a long-term plan to stay connected to Semira’s homeland. Steve started by emailing a bunch of professors to introduce himself and to arrange a meeting. Low and behold, Muluneh responded.

The gates of Addis Ababa University (above) and Steve in front of the building that houses the Geography Department (below) in 2008

In April 2008, Steve, Lily, and I walked onto the campus of Addis Ababa University and found the Geography Department. Muluneh was the chair at the time. We had a nice meeting where strangers introduced themselves and plans were hatched. For all Muluneh knew, Steve could have been typical of the many people who attempt to start up international collaborations by making all kinds of pie in the sky promises that amount to little. But Steve isn’t like that... Steve and Muluneh quickly orchestrated the signing of a memorandum of agreement between the University of Wyoming and Addis Ababa University. Shortly thereafter, Muluneh invited Steve to come give a short course and we used many of our frequent flyer miles to send him to Ethiopia so he could teach for the department in Addis.

The rest is history… Steve has been back five times since our inaugural 2008 visit, teaching another month long course and doing field research with both students from Wyoming and local Ethiopian geography students. Steve has many true friends over there and the the Department of Geography and Environmental Studies at AAU is definitely his second academic home.

This fall, Steve decided to try and bring Muluneh to the United States as a visiting scholar at the University of Wyoming for a portion of his sabbatical leave. This meant that Muluneh would give a few talks and seminars then work on his own research. Money is always an issue when doing these types of things so we needed to find an inexpensive place for Muluneh to stay. Long story short, Ch√Ęteau Prager quickly became the best option. Our house is not huge, so having Muluneh here meant he would be in the thick of things. There is no vacant wing of our house; practically every space is used all the time. And we have our nutty dogs, Mattie and Biggie, to contend with.

The experience was fantastic! Our family had an entire month to show Muluneh life in the U.S. and in return, we had time to have many conversations about life in general, politics, economics, and culture -- a sort of compare and contrast of life in two very different places. The best thing for me was spending a month having to really think about why we do some of the things we do and trying to explain the rationale to someone from a completely different culture. When I say “we” not only do I mean our family on a personal level, but Americans in general. Coming up with these explanations is not all that easy! These conversations definitely took me out of autopilot mode for a month.

We also wanted to show Muluneh the beautiful landscapes that we are so blessed with here in Wyoming and the surrounding areas. We enjoyed hiking the Turtle Rock Trail at Vedauwoo and a day trip to the Snowys (along with pizza at the Bear Tree). Muluneh also joined us and four other families over Labor Day weekend for our annual camping trip to Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado. Needless to say, I think he was impressed by what he got to see. Who wouldn’t be?

Emerald Lake hike at Rocky Mountain National Park...ugly, huh?

On a cultural note, we hosted a fairly large Ethiopian New Year’s party on Sunday, September 11 with our Laramie friends and students with connections to Ethiopia. Lastly, Muluneh a attended services at three different Laramie churches and even accompanied us to Shabbat last Friday to check out what the Jews do.

Muluneh getting to eat some Ethiopian food in Wyoming

Steve made another amazing vegetarian feast for our friends, some of whom are seen below

Yes, it was a busy month! But instead of being burdened by having a guest and all that comes with it, we embraced it. When it was time to say our good byes, we were all genuinely sad to see Muluneh go. Even the kids, who had grown accustomed to engaging him in their own conversations and enjoying his company, were quite touched by his departure.

Not knowing how Muluneh would perceive his time amidst the chaos that we call home, I could only hope that Muluneh enjoyed his stay with us. After all, one can never be sure exactly what the person on the receiving end is experiencing. The night before he left, Muluneh thanked us for the hospitality and for welcoming him into our family. He said the experience was more than he wished it to be or could have even imagined. I was humbled! It is people like Muluneh who will make our future year-long sabbatical in Ethiopia a great one. Who knew that a chance email in 2008 would lead our family to amazing new friends and colleagues from across the globe. Thanks Muluneh!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica

Punta Uva Beach

Our time in Puerto Viejo can be summed up like this: beach, rescue animals, and chocolate. In addition to beach time and snorkeling, we visited the Jaguar Rescue Center and spent most of another day exploring how chocolate is made Caribbean style. Puerto Viejo is in southern Costa Rica on the Caribbean just north of the Panama border. The Caribbean side of Costa Rica is somewhat different culturally than the rest of the country. It is definitely more colorful! It has a pretty big Rastafarian and hippie influence. It is a great place to spend a week. The beaches are clean and the water is clear. The food is good and there is a lot to do.

We had the pleasure of visiting the Jaguar Rescue Center. The center is a rescue and rehabilitation place for local animals. It is owned and operated by an Italian couple who have a passion for helping animals and educating people about them. The center started with mostly reptiles. Now it is full of monkeys, sloths, frogs and birds. We learned that it takes two years to rehabilitate a monkey and return it to the wild because the orphaned monkeys need to be accepted into a troop in order to survive and thrive. The sloths, on the other hand, fly solo so they are released as soon as they are physically able to go. The animals are brought here by local residents when they are injured. Many monkey and sloth injuries are from dogs, cars, and power lines. While we had already seen plenty of monkeys and sloths in the wild in Costa Rica on our previous trip, this visit was really special because we learned so much about how proximity to people can hurt these animals and the dedicated efforts by compassionate people to help them.

Our volunteer guide with one of the residents

Monkey parts...many monkeys taking a late morning nap together

A two toed sloth

Some of the many orphaned baby sloths

A few days after our visit to the wildlife center, we decided to explore the world of cacao. Our chocolate tour was the result of a collaborative effort between two NGOs (called Global Creek at Mango Walk) and Caribeans a local small batch coffee roaster and chocolateer. The two NGOs are non-profit operations that study the local jungle with a particular focus on issues related to the cacao trees. They are very interested in sustainability, ecological issues, and social responsibility. Volunteers pick the cocao pods and dry the beans. Caribeans, run by husband and wife Minnesota transplants, makes chocolate from only pure cacao and organic sugar...no other ingredients! I am not sure I have ever eaten chocolate with only two ingredients.

Cacao pods on a tree

Cacao beans drying out after fermentation

The original "chocolate" drink...a drink with subtle chocolate flavor and cayenne

My father-in-law Bob and Steve trying out our spicy drinks

My mother-in-law Bev enjoying the tasting part of the tour with the kids


The inside of a cacao bean. The beans are slimy and sweet before they are fermented and dried. The gooey stuff around the bean tastes like sweet tarts.

The humble kitchen area of Caribeans chocolate making operation

Overall, we walked away a great deal more informed about cocoa and the complexity of making chocolate. The tour was a fantastic, educational, and tasty experience. We heartily recommend this to anyone visiting the area!

Guanacaste, Costa Rica

Lily and Semira in Tamarindo

The Prager family just returned from a two week vacation in Costa Rica. This is our second time there in the last year. We also went last December for two weeks. Obviously, we really loved it... Otherwise, why go back? This time, my wonderful in-laws joined us and we ventured out to different parts of the country. With the exception of a couple of transition days, we spent our time on the coasts - the first week in the Guanacaste area (north Pacific) and the second week on the Caribbean.

We were amazingly fortunate with respect to the weather. This is the "green season" in Costa Rica which means rain (and, potentially, a LOT of rain). Luckily, we experienced most of the rain in the afternoons and evenings. We didn't have many long stretches and no one entire day was completely rained out. The rain is actually really nice because it cools things down and is a nice break from the sun. I gave up sun worshiping long ago and actually enjoy days when the sun disappears for a while.

Since we saw so much, it's useful to write about our travels in parts again. Overall, we really enjoyed the new places we visited. The highlights were definitely swimming everyday and wildlife viewing. We are not really lay on the beach all day types so the diversity of activities in Costa Rica makes it a really fun place to go.

Our first stop was Playa Hermosa, a quiet little beach on the north Pacific. Here we had the chance to swim and snorkel. We met some guy with a boat on the beach who took us out one day. Surprisingly the kids decided to try it. I was not surprised that Semira was up for the adventure. But Lily is a bit more tentative about these type of things. So Steve and I had the pleasure of swimming around with kids clinging onto our backs looking for fish. It was a bit tiring, but fun to see the kids get excited about seeing creatures under the sea.

Steve and Semira in snorkel attire

The snorkeling spot was in a little cove off an island a couple of kilometers from the beach. The water was very clear, and we saw octopus, starfish, a variety of different tropical fish and schools of little fish. One really cool think is the sound. The underwater currents make a very cool clicking sound as you are diving around. Overall, it was a super time.

My father-in-law Bob

After snorkeling, the boat captain took us to another beach that also served as something of a wildlife preserve. There, the beach was soft, clean sand and just off the beach were a few monkeys relaxing in a forest of big mango trees. It was hilarious to look at the ground, it was literally covered in mango pits - needless to say, the monkeys have a good food supply.

A howler monkey...when a troop gets going, they make the coolest sounds that you can hear a mile away

The boat excursion was fun, but it was also fun just to relax and hang out. It did rain a bit, so some relaxation was "mandatory" (so to speak). SO, just what does one do on a rainy afternoon? Well, for one, just sit and listen. Tropical rains are so intense...often with no lightening or thunder, just pounding rains. It is really cool. Of course the kids really didn't mind. All they needed was an umbrella and they were off on an adventure.

After Playa Hermosa, we headed to the southern Caribbean. Driving in Costa Rica is slow going so the thought of a ten hour day in the car was not appealing to anyone. Instead, we stopped halfway in La Fortuna for the night. We stayed in La Fortuna for four days in December so I was mostly interested in relaxing in the hot springs. The rain made it a perfect day for such a thing.

La Fortuna is a really fantastic place to visit. It is at the foot of the beautiful Arenal volcano and hosts an amazing diversity of forests, plant species, and wildlife. Not to mention, there are virtually unlimited recreational opportunities ranging from zip lines to hiking to rafting. That and, of course, some serious fun riding the slides in the hot springs!