The Landmark Forum – NY

I decided to attend the three day Landmark Forum course (three and a bit days technically) while I was visiting New York.

Reviews have compared it to a ‘cult’, but I think anyone who has been through it will know that it’s not. It’s just the result of people having major life realisations over a period of just a few days – which makes it pretty exciting stuff so they keep going on about it!!  I think the best description, having completed it, is a course in ‘life skills’.

I didn’t really know what to expect, and the decision to actually sign up was in the spur of the moment.

The whole course takes place in a large room with screens and whiteboards at the front and a speaker who leads throughout. The hours on Friday, Saturday and Sunday are long: 9am – 10pm with a total of approximately 2.5 hours break per day.  On Tuesday evening we only needed to attend for a few hours.

I felt exhausted by the end of day 1, but strangely energised at the end of days 2 and 3. We learned SO much, more than I had ever expected.  I learned about my own negative patterns with certain people, and as I thought about it longer I was able to spot more patterns with other people, issues that I hadn’t even been aware of. The course encourages you to accept responsibility for your part in negative situations or relationships, and make amends where possible.  It also helps you to put the past in the past for all aspects in life and leave you free to move forward.  It was wonderful to see people on the stage sharing their ‘breakthroughs’. One person called a parent they hadn’t spoken to in 15 years. Other people finally made their peace with horrible experiences from their childhood or adulthood. Relationships on the brink of breakdown were brought back together.  (Sharing is completely optional, and apparently very therapeutic)

I learned a lot and I’m sure it will be having a positive impact on my life and how I deal with people and situations in future.  I’m glad I went and it was a great lesson in self improvement that I won’t be forgetting any time soon!

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A wonderful weekend in Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica

So I can confirm that the joy of being in Costa Rica isn’t necessarily living in the capital San Jose, but more visiting the beautiful beaches and forest areas that Costa Rica is renowned for!

I went to Manuel Antonio last weekend to visit a couple of friends, and had a really wonderful time.  It takes about 3.5 hours by bus to get there.  I stayed at the hostel where my friend works and met lots of wonderful people.  I visited some of my favourite restaurants and bars there (Barba Roja, Salsipuedes, Tiquicia and Z bar) as well as the beach and the Feria market.

Dinner with a view2016-03-13 00.29.27

At the Feria market in Quepos2016-03-12 02.59.04

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Manuel Antonio beach2016-03-13 17.28.34

I’m really glad I went and it was a good reminder to get my travelling shoes back on!  I’m making plans to visit more of Costa Rica soon…

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An update on life in San Jose, Costa Rica

So far, so good!  I feel pretty settled in and comfortable here.  Costa Rica is not very cheap, so I’ve come to terms with living on a reasonable budget!  I do miss my frivolous ways back in London, but I also feel I have learned some valuable and important life skills again!

It’s a beautiful sunny day as I write, looking out on the mountain view from my bedroom window – the mountains that are beyond the busy main road view 🙂

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Teaching is going really well, I enjoy it and I’m always so flattered to get good feedback from my students.  I’ve also started teaching online lessons, I’m really enjoying those too!

I do need to make more of an effort to travel around Costa Rica.  Most of this country’s beauty lies outside of the capital!  My last trip was for New Year’s Eve in Manuel Antonio at the beach.  Perhaps I have become too settled in San Jose!

I do love the music here.  Reggaeton is really popular and I love dancing to it.  As much as I’m enjoying it here, I do find myself wondering what I will do next…

 

 

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Costa Rica: San Jose, Monteverde, Volcan Poas and Manuel Antonio

It’s been a month since I moved to San Jose, and I have mixed feelings about it.  It’s a loud and busy city.  And it doesn’t help that I’ve been having stomach pains for the past two weeks, which is very unusual for me.  The doctor tells me I have an inflamed colon!  So I am taking medication and taking it easy.  Unfortunately, it’s not helping how I feel about being in San Jose!

On the plus side, teaching has been going really well and I was pleased to have positive feedback from my students.  I also had a friend come to visit me for a week – the perfect excuse to do some travelling in Costa Rica.  That’s one thing that San Jose is great for – it is the travel hub for the country so pretty easy to get to anywhere.

Our first stop was Monteverde for a night, about four hours away by bus.  Monteverde is beautiful and famous for its cloud forests.  We stayed at Pension Santa Elena hostel, a no frills place.  In the afternoon we accidentally joined an adventure zip line tour.  My friend and I bailed after the practice lines as it was just too scary!  In the evening we went to the serpentorium for a guided tour which was really interesting.  They have a number of snakes and frogs that are native to Costa Rica.

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Dinner was at the Tree House, a really lovely restaurant with a unique venue.  There’s a tree in it.

The next day, we went to Selvatura Park for their hanging bridges in the cloud forest and the hummingbird garden.  This was definitely the highlight of the whole week of travel.  The bridges were high up in the trees and the views were outstanding.  I intend to go back!

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We had lunch at a nice place called Amy’s Restaurant before heading back to San Jose.

The next day, which happened to be Christmas day, we went on a tour of Volcan Poas, the Dakota Coffee estate and Sarchi Arts and Crafts.  The tour was really brilliant and I recommend it highly.  The volcano was covered in cloud when we arrived but fortunately cleared after 20 minutes for some spectacular views.

volcano

The Coffee tour was really interesting and full of information.  And the Arts and Crafts was really just a big shop full of tourist stuff, but still interesting to see.  It was great that they picked us up and dropped us back off at the hotel for the tour.

And finally we went to Manuel Antonio for one night.  It takes about four hours by bus from San Jose.  Most of the first day was spent at the beach, and the following day we went to Manuel Antonio Park.  We rolled up rather foolishly at 10am to find the queue was over an hour long.  The wise thing to do is turn up early – say 8am.  It was completely worth the wait and we hired a guide so actually got to see some animals like sloths, bats, frogs and monkeys.  We stayed at the Cabinas Maria Teresa, which was a really nice treat with air con and a lovely shower.

It was a great week of travelling in Costa Rica, and I’m looking forward to doing some more!

 

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Speak of the devil, I got the hummingbird photo!

Hummingbird 3 crop

Humingbird 2 crop

What a beauty!

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One month since the move to Costa Rica

Playita sunset

Today marks one month since I arrived to Costa Rica, and it has been a great month.  I have felt so many moments of active happiness and joy, where I catch myself thinking ‘wow, this is beautiful’ and smile to myself for being here.  I have watched beautiful sunsets, swam in pristine oceans, hiked through forests, seen wild sloths, monkeys and iguanas, watched hummingbirds in my host family’s garden – in fact, there is a hummingbird teasing me right now as I have been trying to get a photo of one!  They always disappear by the time my camera is in my hand.

That is just the natural beauty side of Costa Rica.  I’ve also really been enjoying my TEFL course.  It’s been challenging and interesting, and I’ve been enjoying teaching classes this week.  I’ve met some wonderful people, teachers and students, who I have been fortunate enough to enjoy this adventure with.

I think I’m starting to miss London a bit, the convenience of so many places to go to and see.  I do love Manuel Antonio and Quepos, with its beaches and nature on the doorstep, but I’m quite looking forward to heading back to the capital, San Jose.  I have been offered an English teaching position with a school – I’m not sure if it’s quite the right one for me so I will send out a few more applications and see what happens.

I’m really looking forward to investigating more of this beautiful country…

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An update on the move to Costa Rica!

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Two weeks after my arrival to Costa Rica – and I have to say that I’m starting to feel quite at home here!

I spent a lovely few days in San Jose at the Hotel Presidente http://www.hotel-presidente.com, which was a nice way to get over my jet lag (there is a six hour time difference from London).

I then took the 4 hour bus ride to Quepos near the west coast, where I was met by my host family.

Costa Rica is certainly very different to the UK.  It’s a lot hotter and sunnier, and everything is in Spanish!

San Jose is quite a small capital (most are compared to London) but busy and lively enough.  Quepos, on the other hand, is a very small town surrounded by luscious greenery and lots of wildlife.  There are plenty of lizards and birds to be spotted in the trees.  I go to sleep to the soothing chirruping of bugs and wake up to a chorus of the local cockerels.

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My host family is really nice.  I have my own room, get to practice Spanish at home and am fed fresh Costa Rican food everyday!

So far I’ve enjoyed two hikes through the rainforest.  One was a trip to find a waterfall (unsuccessful), the other to visit a beautiful secluded bay that cannot be accessed by the public.  That was a really tough physical trek for me!  But completely worth it!

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I also enjoyed a whale watching day trip to Uvita, which is 1.5 hours away by bus.  My group was very lucky to find a mama humpback whale with her baby within 20 minutes of leaving the shore.  And we saw a pod of dolphins too!  Our guide told us it was quite rare to see both on the same day.

My TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) course started last week in Manuel Antonio, which is 15 minutes away by bus.  I have a great teacher and lovely classmates.  The course itself is a little intense, but I’m learning so much and think it is really beneficial.  This evening I have been working on a lesson plan for a lesson that I will be teaching tomorrow!  They have certainly thrown us in at the deep end – with a lot of help of course.

The pros:  change of lifestyle and scenery, adventure, meeting different people, sunshine, improving my Spanish, enjoying learning

The cons: Quepos is very humid (San Jose is cooler and drier), a lot of mosquitos

Overall, very good 🙂 and just the change I was looking for.

This weekend, I plan to visit the local market, go to Manuel Antonio wildlife park and veg out on the beach.

In the longer run, after my course is complete I will head back to San Jose to look for work.  Mainly because I prefer the climate, but also because there should be more work available there.  So far so good!

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A long weekend in Manchester

August 2015

I went to Manchester for the August bank holiday weekend, to visit a friend who moved there recently.  I have been to Manchester a couple of times before and always enjoyed it.

SATURDAY

I booked my tickets on https://www.virgintrains.co.uk/ for a total of £40 return.  The train went from London Euston to Manchester Piccadilly where my friend picked me up.  We had a little wander through town, I especially liked the Spinningfields area with its cool restaurants and bars.  We took an Uber taxi back to her place and chilled out.

In the evening, we went to a great restaurant called Red Chilli:

http://redchillirestaurant.co.uk/manchester-oxford-road/

http://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/Restaurant_Review-g187069-d2038326-Reviews-Red_Chilli-Manchester_Greater_Manchester_England.html

I really liked the food here.  The salt and pepper squid was nice and tasty (not chewy like at a lot of places) the dumplings were tasty, and my main dish of poached mutton in spicy sauce really tested my chilli spectrum!  I would have been happy to go back there.

mutton mushroom

SUNDAY

We headed out to the Whitworth Art Gallery:

http://www.whitworth.manchester.ac.uk/

I hadn’t heard of this place before, but it is somewhere my friend had been meaning to check out and I was happy to give it a go.  It is free to enter, and I was pleasantly surprised by the wide range of art they had on show, including clothes, photos, watercolour paintings and quite random displays.

art art 2

We also had lunch at the gallery’s cafe.  My friend and I both had the soup with market salads and bread, which was very tasty.  It’s a very nice little cafe, very bright and located amongst the trees of the outside park.  Worth a visit.

In the afternoon, I caught up with another friend for drinks at the Joshua Brooks bar:
http://joshuabrooks.co.uk/

This place has a nice vibe.  It was a Sunday afternoon so pretty quiet, but there were some other groups there and the background music added some atmosphere.  A good place to catch up for drinks.

For dinner, I went to Bem Brasil on King Street:
http://www.bembrasilrestaurants.com/

http://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/Restaurant_Review-g187069-d1434555-Reviews-Bem_Brasil_Deansgate-Manchester_Greater_Manchester_England.html

This is a buffet style Brazilian restaurant where you can help yourself to a buffet of salads, and people come around with freshly grilled/barbecued meats for you to have as much as you want.  Good for carnivores.  Everything was tasty – especially their sangria!

MONDAY

The rest of the trip involved chilling out.  On Monday we watched the ‘Adjustment Bureau’ on DVD and ordered some pizza.  I took the 3.35pm Virgin train back to London, which was sadly delayed by 45 minutes – I’m going to figure out how to claim a reimbursement!

All in all, a good little trip to Manchester.

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I’m leaving my job. And moving to Costa Rica.

After four years in my London 8-6 office job, I have decided to take drastic action and leave to do something amazing.

I am moving to Costa Rica to teach English.

Now don’t get me wrong, this was not an easy decision to make.  However, my need for change, adventure and my growing dissatisfaction with work meant the decision was made relatively quickly.

I had the idea in June.
I booked the course and flights in July.
I left work in August.  My last day was Friday the 14th of August (ten days ago).
I will fly out on the 13th of October, giving me some time to sort out any loose ends before I leave.

I chose Costa Rica for its abundant wildlife (I originally planned to take time off work to do a wildlife volunteer project with turtles there) and because I intend to be fluent in Spanish one day.

I did intend to teach English in the sun (Spain) one day – when I retire.  But while I was thinking about what kind of jobs I wanted to apply to now, I thought to myself ‘why wait?’.  Why wait to live a life in the sun, doing relatively flexible work and living somewhere I enjoy?

Stepping away from friends, family, a steady job and steady income to step into the unknown is a BIG STEP.  I have never been to Costa Rica so this is a big leap of faith.  And I am reminding myself that if I don’t like it, I can always come back or go somewhere else.

I do know that I will be doing a one month TEFL course (Teach English as a Foreign Language) in Manuel Antonio, near the beach, and staying with a host family for six weeks.  I don’t know what Costa Rica will hold for me in the long run, this is something I will have to find out…

This is a challenge, that I *think* I am ready for!

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That guitar man – Central Park New York

I had a wonderful time with friends listening to ‘that guitar man’ in Central Park yesterday. There was a good crowd of people and the singer is so good natured and a great performer!​  I hear he is there every Saturday in summer and has been for the past 20 years or so.  Worth a visit!

http://www.thatguitarman.com 

   

 

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