Winter Break (States and Nicaragua)

One of the new pieces of my job down here is that our school schedule is a bit different. My first day of meetings was on August 3rd and I go until June 17th (an earlier start and later finish than most schools in the US). However, I am currently in the middle of a 1 month vacation (December 17 – January 18) so I really can’t complain.

We’ve been using my time off to travel these last fews weeks (Em has had to work quite a bit but I drop her off and I go play).  Over the past 3 weeks we hit up the Caribbean side of Costa Rica again, went to the States, and just spent 6 days in Nicaragua. There’s a lot to recap, so here we go:

Part 1 – Puerto Viejo

Screen Shot 2016-01-11 at 3.26.24 PM.pngEm and I didn’t fly out for the States until the 22nd (a Tuesday) so at the last minute we decided to head to the Caribbean side of Costa Rica for a long weekend. We did a ton of research into internet cafes and made sure there was a reliable internet cafe for Em to work on Monday while I continued to goof off. The number of times I have sent to total strangers is embarrassing.

Over the weekend we spent time at various beaches and did some light hiking. We also made a quite stop at a sloth sanctuary (!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!).


On Monday I went for a hike in Cahuita National Park with another fellow CDS teacher.


IMG_5048One thing I did experience here were sand fleas – we’re pretty sure they got in our bed because Milo was a punk and rolled in our bed when we were out to dinner. I have never been so itchy in my life. So itchy to the point where I couldn’t really sleep for the next 4 nights – it was brutal. Small but muscular little buggers. I also have permanent scars to remind me of the experience – I am a total scratcher.

Here are some random moments from the trip.


PS – Hammock are my new favorite.

Over the break we’ve really tried to pack a lot in and have been burning the candle from both ends. We arrived home from Puerto Viejo at 8pm Monday night and had a 7 am fight the next morning. Not much room for error but it all worked out.

Part 2 – Home Sweet Home

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New Jersey

There is a direct flight on United from San José to Newark so Tuesday morning we jumped on the plane and arrived in New Jersey less than 5 hours later. We caught up with friends and family over the course of our time there. The weather was nice as it let us slowly acclimate to the cold weather (there really wasn’t any at that point). We went into Princeton on Christmas Eve and everyone was walking around in shorts and t-shirts – crazy.



It was great to be involved in some of the Hamlin family traditions. One such tradition is the Christmas morning opening of gifts in front of this picture perfect tree.IMG_5091IMG_5096

Perhaps my favorite tradition was the wearing of paper crowns at Christmas dinner.IMG_5111IMG_5113IMG_5117

IMG_5134Our Christmas dinner ROCKED.IMG_5118

As did the post-meal battle of Settlers of Catan. We hadn’t played since we left in July so I was happy to get some reps in. We only played 4 times over the course of our time at home (keep in mind this is a 2+ hours game) but it seriously was so much fun. I’m oddly obsessed with the game – I dream about it and am sweating now thinking about the fact that I don’t know when I will play again.IMG_5106

On Christmas night we went to a drive through Christmas light show at a local farm. The 6 of us piled into the car singing Christmas Carols – I felt 8 again. It was great.IMG_5124IMG_5132IMG_5133

New Hampshire/Maine

The day after Christmas we made the 7 hour hike up to New England. We spent some time relaxing with my parents up in the snow. I also remembered that I hate driving in the snow.  We played quite a bit of Yahtzee and watched some great movies and TV. If you haven’t seen Room yet – go see it. If you have Netflix, go watch Rita (it’s about a Danish school teacher – it’s crude but if that’s your type of thing you will love it).


My parents got Milo a new winter coat because he is even more of a baby now that he’s a tropical dog.IMG_5161We were also fortunate enough to overlap with the Cooper clan. So excited to once again spend the summer with them on the shores on Rust Pond. IMG_5145

One theme for me over the break was crying whenever I saw babies. I justified it by saying it’s the easiest way for us to see how long we’ve been gone. These little ones change so much so it’s hard for me to see how much we’re missing. I mean look at that face – what a cutie. So many people made such great efforts to meet up with us. I’m so glad I got to see Reg, Avery, Kate, Eamonn, Danny, Lisa, Matt, Carter, and Willy on our day trip to Westbrook. It is reassuring to know that time and distance really don’t mean a thing to these people – thank you thank you thank you.10606592_854778834355_3488923659790242453_n1930572_10153685007543046_6207006607668380507_n

Saying good bye was a little bit easier this time around knowing we will be spending the summer in New England.


We spent the last few days of our time stateside in Boston with MC and Katy – special shoutout for hosting us!! While Em was working I was able to see friends and take some drives down memory lane. I don’t miss the snow but I miss that place. I started crying at that exit too (not about babies this time, at least).


New Year’s was perfect – we went to my favorite beer store in Belmont, hit up the dessert aisle at Whole Foods, played Settlers of Catan, and went to bed at 11:05. We put on a fake New Year’s countdown (made for children but whatever) and called it a night. Perfection.



Because we missed the annual Nicholson/McDonough Christmas celebration my family was gracious enough to get together again on New Years day so we could see everyone. It was a great end to a wonderful week in New England.

New York

Milo got to experience the big city as we made our last stop before heading back to paradise. We were able to meet up with Em’s family again and also saw Tierney and Jon before they move to Florida. I was also happy to hand off our winter coats to the Hamlins – won’t be needing those for another year!


It felt really good to be looking forward to getting back to Costa Rica. I miss New England and all our people so much so I was afraid it would be hard going back. I constantly wrestle with loving it in Costa Rica and missing everything that made up our lives before this move. Basically I want everyone to move down here and we can all just live together. Essentially I guess what I’m suggesting is a commune – so if you’re in let me know.

Part 3 – Nicaragua 

We didn’t spend much time at home, however, as we landed Sunday afternoon and left for Nicaragua Monday after Em was finished working.

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Crossing the border from Costa Rica to Nicaragua was a bit of a mess – especially considering we arrived at 9:00 pm and it closed at 10:00. We made it across (in less than 2 hours thank you very much) and eventually arrived at our hotel at 11:15. It was a long day which included a full on meltdown on my part (directed at the vet over paperwork for Milo). We almost weren’t able to leave Costa Rica with him and my solution to this problem was to curl up in a ball on our bedroom floor and cry and scream. In the end it worked – so there.

Once again I sent to way too many people and found a place for Em to work on Tuesday while I explored Playa Marsella and relaxed at our hotel.


During this solo daya I also had a run in with a Nicaraguan cop – I am grateful that I had done research and talked with friends to know how to handle the situation. Apparently I didn’t purchase the mandatory Nicaraguan car insurance (THERE WERE NO SIGNS!!). So when he pulled me over randomly to check – surprise – he was going to write me a $200 ticket. Or I could pay him $20 on the spot and he could look the other way. This was all happening, in spanish, while he pulled over two more vehicles of tourists . This included a guy on motorcycle who didn’t know how to stop and eventually figured it out when the cop pulled a gun on him. Stressful. So I ended up in a Nicaraguan bank for the last hour of my relaxing day to buy the said insurance.

That afternoon we caught the last ferry to the volcanic island of Ometepe to meet our CDS friends Tara and David.

IMG_5337.JPGTaking a ferry at night in the pitch black (electricity wasn’t working) is something I probably wouldn’t do again. But it was worth it as this place was incredibly beautiful and tranquil. IMG_5231.JPGWe stayed at an incredibly beautiful hotel called San Juan de la Isla. To get there you had to drive 10 minutes through a plantain plantation.


It was made for relaxation with chair and hammocks EVERYWHERE.


We got to eat every meal at this spot. IMG_5335.JPG


Over the course of our 3 days there we did a waterfall hike, hiked to a natural spring pool, and played hours upon hours of card games. It was a blast.

IMG_5288IMG_5281IMG_5294IMG_5317IMG_5261IMG_5279IMG_5265IMG_5276IMG_5244The ferry ride back was much nicer as the boat was bigger and it was a clear, blue sky day so we were able to take in both volcanoes and truly appreciate where we had been. IMG_5341.JPGIMG_5340.JPGEm and I then spent our last weekend back in the San Juan del Sur area exploring Playa Marsella, Playa Madera, and the San Juan del Sur beachfront.

The Airbnb we stayed in was in the middle of nowhere. We had to go 10 minutes up a deserted dirt road to get there – I will admit that more than once I didn’t think we would make it out alive.



Here are some last shots from that weekend:



Nicaragua was a beautiful country and different from Costa Rica in some refreshing ways. We are so glad we had the opportunity to visit and hope to be able to go back.

Our ride home on Sunday was pretty smooth – it only took 1 hour to cross from Nicaragua back into Costa Rica. We were feeling good – ready to finally be home after an incredible 3 week whirlwind. Costa Rica blessed us with this sunset from the highway as we made our way back to Escazú.IMG_5393Home sweet home.



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