In May we made our move from Houston to Midland (in West Texas) for my Physician Assistant Program at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center. The PA field, while rapidly growing, is also a very competitive field, so I was grateful to be accepted into the TTUHSC Master’s Program. We immediately jumped into a 16-credit Summer semester, and it was a whirlwind of graduate-level pharmacology, anatomy, physiology, and clinical laboratory studies.
I submitted an application to the Office of Global Health to join the medical team in Jinotega, Nicaragua, and I found myself fortunate to have been selected, but also to be the first PA student to attend a Global Health trip with TTUHSC. The following months included numerous meetings, conference calls, modules, and presentations to educate us, build cultural competency, and to provide us with realistic expectations. (more…)
For our last day in Costa Rica, we visited Manuel Antonio National Park. Elba, Nilla, and Mario spent the day relaxing on the beach, while Andrea, Alan, and I hiked some of the trails. What was unique about this National Park was the natural exposure to wildlife. There were capuchin monkeys running around a few feet away from us. The locals call them the “white-faced monkeys,” and they are also known for their thievery. In one of the pictures Alan was wearing a baseball cap and got a little too close. Being 6 ft 3 in., he scared the poor primate, who nervously glared as his ball cap. You can see the capuchin monkey’s reaction to his unexpected proximity. Close by, there were also monitor lizards, iguanas, and macaws. We could hear howler monkeys in the distance, and somewhere way up in the canopy there was a sloth or two. (more…)
We set out early this morning for some deep-sea fishing. We rented a charter for the day and cast some lines to go trolling for sailfish. Unfortunately, there were no fish (big or small) biting that morning or afternoon. Every now and then we would see an unsuspecting turtle floating in the water with a bird resting on its shell.
In Miramar we found the perfect balance of adventure and relaxation. We started our day with a bit of adrenaline as we headed to Adventure Park Ziplining Tour in Puntarenas. This was the longest zipline tour in Costa Rica, with a total of twenty-five zipline cables over eleven waterfalls. Fortunately, we had some great guides – they often encouraged us to let go of our riding saddles while we were ziplining and also demonstrated some stunts. After riding a few basic zipline cables, I decided to try some stunts myself, including a flip off of the platform. The view from the canopy was breathtaking.
We left the wilderness of the jungle and drove another three hours to the coast, Punta Leona, Puntarenas. We had a rental house that we were going to use for the remaining duration of our stay in Costa Rica. Mario and Nilla’s boat, lovingly named after her cat, Balloo, was docked at Punta Leona. We made plans to sail to Tortuga Island, fish, and snorkel for a while. Tortuga Island, named after its turtle-like shape was expected to have white sand and clear water, so I anticipated prime snorkeling territory, but we could not have anticipated what was yet to come.
We drove to a remote part of Costa Rica near Alajuela. Honestly, I couldn’t tell you where it is or how we got there. I only know that we passed strawberry fields as we traveled up through the mountains on a tiny road (that was currently being built). A platform for a road hadn’t even been established yet, and there were pebbles that were being laid for traction for the tires. There were several times we had to get out and heave our van forward to move it uphill. Mario’s friend, Antoine, was building a farmhouse out in the jungla (jungle). Essentially, “La Virgen Del Socorro” translates to “untouched relief” referring to the area’s untouched wilderness.
We traveled three hours to La Paz from San Jose. The road was rather rugged, and we were inches away from the cliffside, but Mario had the van under control along the jagged turns. La Paz is definitely not a place to miss in Costa Rica. It has a beautiful waterfall hike, and serves as a rescue for some unique, native animals, including several jungle cats (pumas, ocelots, jaguars), a variety of birds (hummingbirds, toucans, macaws), frogs, snakes, sloths, monkeys, and a butterfly house. The view from the climb to the waterfall was breathtaking.
Our trip to Costa Rica started April 6th as we flew out of Houston right into the capital of “Tico Land.” We traveled with our close friends, Elba, Andrea, Nilla, and Mario, whom was native to Costa Rica. We were able to stay with some of Mario’s friends in downtown San Jose, before we traveled out-of-town to a cabin in San Rafael de Heredia. Mario’s family and friends welcomed us with fried plantains (a staple dish in Costa Rica) as we celebrated our arrival at Antoine’s beautiful home. A typical phrase in Costa Rica, “Pura Vida,” is commonly used, and translates to “Pure Life.” I noticed it being used in a variety of situations – a form of greeting someone and as a way of celebrating life. The phrase seemed synonymous with “Hakuna Matata,” as if we were to say, “Life is wonderful – enjoy it.” We said it to everyone, and everyone said it back.